Just in time for Sexual Violence Prevention Month!
I had the recent pleasure of interviewing with Tracy Malone, the creator of Narcissist Abuse Support which provides meaningful information on recovery, as well as support, for hundreds of abuse sufferers.
Our discussion ran the gamut between the actual definition for “consent” to the concrete steps people can take to make the world a safer place.
Today’s post is written by Nicole Perry, CAN’s latest Consent Outreach Ambassador. Nicole is based in South Florida and her unique, professional background in the dance world ties right in with our mission to clearly define consent for society and in penal codes across the US and around the world!
Nicole is an intimacy director/choreographer, dance choreographer, and movement director. She is also a director, actor, dancer, and the founder of Momentum Stage, a non-profit organization providing resources for performing artists. Her credits are listed below her post.
Here’s what she has to say…….
I believe this time of physical distancing is going to make us more aware of contact and proximity when we are able to reenter the “real world.” Because of that, being able to ask for, as well as affirm or deny consent, is going to be a really applicable skill, in a different way than before.
In the world of performing arts, where I work, consent has only recently become a topic of consideration. I am an Intimacy Director/Choreographer. I create the movement for intimate moments on stage, many of which require physical contact.
The term used for my job was created in 2004 by Tonia Sina, the founder of Intimacy Directors International. My role centers around consent. The theatre, film, and opera worlds have been adding this role to their creative teams since about 2017. Even though the #MeToo Movement thrust the need for consent into the spotlight, the concert dance world is still behind. But, as last year’s scandal at the New York City Ballet shows us, it really needs to catch up.
Agreeing under pressure
Being a performer conditions us to say “yes”, even if we don’t really mean it. The myth of the Hard to Work with Actor, conveys that when the performer does not say “yes” to everything asked of them, they’ll be labelled “hard to work with,” “difficult,” or “a diva,” and will find it very challenging to get work in the future. “Yes, and…” is encouraged as the only response when conducting improv work.
In dance, a teacher models the combination, and students work to look as much like the teacher as possible. Dance pedagogy, while being very teacher-centric and allowing only one voice of power in the room, is also very touch-centric. It allows the person in power to have “at will” access to the bodies of those not in power. This creates quite the paradox:
While dancers are working to have complete control over their bodies, they are also expected to immediately surrender that control to the teacher or choreographer.
The power-differential effect
Beyond a dancer’s conditioning to say “yes”, we are also conditioned to see and respect power. The performing arts are incredibly hierarchical. The director is in charge of the actors, but answers to an artistic director and/or producers. Among the actors there are leads as well as supporting, and ensemble company members. In dance, the choreographer is in charge of the piece, but the artistic director is in charge of the company.
There are the corps or company members, but there are also soloists who rank higher up the ladder because of their opportunities, physical capabilities, and often – their paychecks. These power dynamics are part of a performer’s culture from the very first show they are in; which for many is at a very young age. All of this reinforces “yes” as the only option.
In my work, as an Intimacy Director/Choreographer, I tell everyone that the work is based on CONSENT, and “consent” is truly only “consent” if “no” is a valid answer. I assure the directors that I can make a story work and fit their artistic vision, while still respecting a performer’s boundaries. I try to ask open-ended questions to my performers, with no implied “yes,” such as, “Does it work for you if so-and-so puts her hand in such-and-such place?” or, “How do you feel about so-and-so placing her hand in such-and-such place?” in order to encourage them to answer honestly.
We are very pleased to be partnering with CAN to promote Consent Culture in the Performing Arts.
Today is a very special day. Today, we wear the color teal because it’s the day we devote to taking action to prevent sexual assault. And even though we’ve all been put on pause, there is still much we can do to bring the scourge of sexual assault to its knees!
For many people- Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) begins today. But for those who have been sexually assaulted, #SAAM is an everyday occurrence. While we all find ways to put the past behind us, and make the most of our lives, the defilement of rape is character changing. It lives within us forever.
Many of us will soon be thanking God for our ability to check into a hospital. We’ll be counting on the help of courageous, medical front-liners, who put themselves at risk to heal us from COVID-19.
As we approach the reception desk for intake, we won’t give a second thought to signing the CONSENT form that hospitals require. We’ll happily jot down our signature and scribble our initials where required. Some of us won’t even bother reading the form. Even less will contemplate the horrific travesty and social injustice Continue reading What can COVID-19 teach us about CONSENT?→
I was honored to be a speaker at this year’s Women’s March NYC, and was overwhelmed by the audience support for the Consent Accountability Rhyme.
Anyone, at any age, can learn and understand what “consent” means. This poem makes the definition for consent crystal clear. It is part of the Your Consent for Kids YouTube cartoon that every parent should watch with their children to grow a Consent Aware generation! As well, sex education classes can include it in their programs. It’s free!
We’ve had Generation X, Y and Z. Let’s create Generation “Consent Aware” for our developing kids!
Consent Accountability Rhyme
The words, “You Can,” mean “I consent.”
You say so with your voice.
But it’s not consent when you’re forced, or tricked,
Want an easy way to talk with your kids about “consent?” This engaging cartoon explains consent in terms every child can readily understand. Don’t worry, it’s not about sex! It’s about the simple things kids encounter everyday. It’s perfect for kids aged 6 through 12.
It’s little wonder that Alaska State Representative Geran Tarr is focused on defining CONSENT for her state’s Penal Code. Alaska has the highest ratio of rape from coast to coast; close to 3 times the national average!
The American Bar Association (ABA) recently attempted to provide recommended wording for “consent” in order to get the states and territories across the US on the same page. You’d think I’d be jumping for joy, but unfortunately, I’m not. And the reason is not because their attempt failed, but because their attempt so woefully missed the mark!
More and more, we’re seeing men take responsibility for preventing sexual assault. The ItsOnUs campaign focuses on men stepping in when they see potential or actual danger. And no one, neither mother nor father, wants their child harmed by a sexual predator.
In the US, states often attempt to define the word “consent” by what it’s not instead of what it is. And our system of justice ironically changes “consent” depending on what you’re consenting to.
Regardless what antiquated, inaccurate penal code tells you, whether consent is applied to cyber security, theft, medical treatment, research experiments, sexual assault, etc., consent is always the same….. #FGKIA, Freely Given, Knowledgeable and Informed Agreement.
In contrast to last year’s Hay Festival… the annual literature and arts festival conducted each year in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, comedian Jo Brand gave rousing support to the #MeToo movement. As reported by The Guardian, she stated: “I feel it is something we need to keep pushing at. It was going in the right direction until certain people said, ‘Oh they’ve had their say, can they not be quiet now?’” She blamed most of Continue reading Hay Festival- What a difference a year makes for #MeToo!→
April 18, 2019- Doylestown, PA- Steve Humanick of Stone Harbor, NJ, faced two accusers yesterday in open court. One victim is currently seeking a restraining order against him to protect herself and her family. The other previously received a settlement in a civil action against him, and testified under oath that Humanick had raped her. Continue reading Steve Humanick Is Back in Court→
Kudos to Eve Wiley from Dallas TX, who inspired a precedent setting sexual assault by fraud bill, approved by legislators in Austin yesterday! Speaking about the offender, Representative Stephanie Klick, the bill’s sponsor in the House of Representatives, said, “This is a person who you really trust and they betrayed you.” She was referring to the case of Wiley’s mother who had been duped by Dr. Kim McMorries.
Just like postal carriers delivering important mail, neither gusty wind nor heavy rain deterred our staunch “Consent Crusaders” from descending on the Pennsylvania statehouse this past Monday. I was joined by Nina Lucas, our PA Consent Awareness Outreach Ambassador, and Cheryl Carmel, Foreperson for the Bill Cosby jury. We addressed a bipartisan group of five representatives – several of whom were surprised to learn that consent is not defined in their penal code. In attendance were State Representative Wendi Thomas, State Representative Joe Emrick, State Senator Katie Muth and her Legislative Director Sonia Kikeri, Legislative Director David Kozak representing State Senator Wayne Langerholc, and State Representive Joe Ciresi. Each attendee received a copy of Your Consent – The Key to Conquering Sexual Assault and information specifically geared toward the issues in Pennsylvania.
Cheryl Carmel explained that the jurors asked Judge Steven O’Neill what the word “consent” meant in law and they were surprised that no specific definition had been codified into Pennsylvania’s statutes. They were told that as “reasonable people” they needed to use their best judgement, and they did. As the Foreperson, Carmel was tasked with pronouncing Cosby, “Guilty, Guilty, Guilty,” on all three counts.
Rep. Wendi Thomas had begun some of the heavy lifting to create a bill by reaching out to a lawyer to lend a hand. She recommended finding a way to insert a definition in existing law. We’re looking forward to seeing the results of her efforts.
What can you do to help?
I know I sound like a broken record, but the more people who watch my TEDx Talk and read Your Consent– the better informed you and society will be! Please watch, read and spread the word!
Call your legislators and demand change.
If you’d like to be an Outreach Ambassador in your state or territory, reach out to me at Info@ConsentAwareness.Net.