We Forgot To Talk About Pleasure…

‘The line’ won’t protect you… it can just set you up for failure.” — female student

Thoughts sparked from a follow up workshop from last week’s screening at the New School. Students watched THE LINE and had a week to process, and bring back some writing. This class was the first to tangle with and challenge using “the line” as a rhetorical tool and as a metaphor. Lots of participation and energy.

The writing prompts were: discuss a time when you asked for what you wanted, discuss a time when you had to negotiate your line, or discuss how the film made you feel. Our goal was to mirror the blogging process, where you take a story, bring it to a place beyond “personal catharsis” and share it with a larger public, and open up questions. We asked that listeners pipe up about what they wanted more of, and what were the cross-cutting themes.

I had nine students. Some questions that came up, I’ll put my group’s general responses in parenthesis:

When a line is crossed, but there’s no malicious intent… what’s that? (Hmm)

Where’s the line between rough play and real violence? (Hmm)

How do you “know” when its real violence? (You just know! Your body knows!)

Can sex become aggressive in the “heat of the moment” or is that deliberate?

Can you really be intimate with someone anonymous, or is that bullshit? (Bullshit! Its possible!)

And then dissent came over my group, and real frustrations were voiced. An outspoken mother of a teenage boy expressed  discomfort where her instincts and her socialization collide.  Her conflict came from knowing in her gut my story was a rape, but struggling to match it with her notions of rape. (I hope she contributes here, she has a lot to say!)

Mom continued with the idea of ongoing consent:

I don’t have a line. No means no and yes means yes is all bullshit. I don’t want to define it as “a line” its a feeling, a bodily response, its more subtle

Next to her a gal piped up:

Well, why do we have to label it as “rape”? Can’t we just call this “fucked up shit”, or “what the fuck was that?”, why do we need labels? And for that matter, why do I (a female) have to define my line? Isn’t that part of rape culture, making it my job?

A woman next to her was adamant:

Your line should be fought for and maintained, it is your responsibility. And if you wake up in the morning and realize what happened, and its not what you wanted and it was fucked up, well, you should just move on.

I jumped in here to suggest that “just moving on” doesn’t really change anything or effect dialogue. Not to mention that the notion of fighting or defending sort of eliminates the idea of sex for mutual pleasure.

From Melissa’s group:

My line, like, me, changes as I get to know you

Don’t make assumptions about me because of my gender

Assuming isn’t asking! It’s Cool to ask!

Can you read minds? I didn’t think so – so ask me!

Cross cutting themes: Power. Negotiation. Vocabulary. Communication. Respect. Frustration.

We forgot to talk about pleasure.

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2 Comments on “We Forgot To Talk About Pleasure…”

  1. 1 Sheila said at 2:53 pm on November 17th, 2009:

    It’s amazing what happens when there is a whole week to process THE LINE… I wonder what other questions weren’t asked? I also wonder how their conversations continued outside the classroom. Hope to see them use this space to continue exploring these questions…

  2. 2 Shira said at 12:55 am on November 18th, 2009:

    This experience sounds complicated and hard and frustrating and hopeful. We need many more of these conversations and I’m so glad you’re putting the issues out there. I’m gonna hope that some of the comments like “why do we have to label it rape?” or “move on” were starting points, not conclusions.

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