By Ian Aleksander Adams
I want to address consent personally and specifically I want to talk about the wrong things I’ve done, not the things that have happened to me. I think this is important.
I think I understand where a lot of the apologist posts, the waffling posts, the derailing posts come from in threads about abuse, harassment, rape. I think a fair amount of it does come from fear. There is a fear that in a culture of people being called out, of victims fighting for transparency, there will come a time that you will be accused of rape or violating someone’s consent. And perhaps this is true. Perhaps the probability over time that every person raised to be masculine will be accused of violating someone’s consent becomes 100%.
What will you do when that happens? How will you respond? Will your first response be to deny it or will it be to ask what happened and learn?
I think that by men (perhaps people in general) there is almost always a time lines are crossed, boundaries transgressed. As society becomes more likely to talk about those boundaries, for people to push back, it’s more likely you will learn you’ve crossed one. I think that learning is overwhelmingly a good thing, but we’re in a period where people are mostly learning from mistakes - there’s very little structured education. Most people’s parents hardly talk to them about STIs let alone consent.
I’m going to talk about where I’ve gone wrong. I’ll avoid specific names and details out of respect for the other people in my life.
About 14 years ago now I was in my first relationship. I’d only kissed one person before this and I feel it’s safe to say I knew just about nothing. My girlfriend and I had gone below the belt a few times and I felt it was in limits, but one time she didn’t feel like it and indicated so. A little bit later that afternoon I pantsed her - I thought of it as joking around. We did a fair amount of wrestling about in general and I thought she would find it funny. She didn’t. I didn’t understand why not - I wasn’t far from the age where stuff like that would be common among my guy friends. It was embarrassing maybe, I thought, but certainly not a big deal. I was wrong.
It doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks, it was a big deal to her.
She brushed it off at the moment, maybe not knowing how to express feeling violated or why she felt that way, but she later told me she felt like she’d been raped. I was extremely worked up about this, being very sensitive in general and reacted badly. I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t want to touch me anymore and when we broke up I told myself it was because of another person she liked and not my own actions. Seeing stuff between us, we were called into the guidance counselor one day and she said she hadn’t actually been raped and didn’t believe she had, which placated my guilt and I then went years feeling like she’d done me wrong by telling me that I’d hurt her when “I didn’t do anything.” I was wrong.
People set their own boundaries. Not me, not you, not any outside force.
Years later, at the start of what would end up being a much longer relationship, I was just entering around the same stage of intimacy. I was extremely inebriated. My partner later told me that they’d asked me not to go down on them, had said no, but I had anyway. They didn’t push it further at the time since they decided to go with it, but were upset afterwards, and needed to talk to me about it. My initial response was “But you kept going, right? Wouldn’t I have known if I’d done wrong?”. This is a common reaction and it’s absolutely flawed thinking.
My memory of the event is terrible - but let me make this clear, I absolutely believe them. I trust them a lot. What I don’t trust is myself. As much as I don’t intend to be a bad person, in a situation like that my actions are my responsibility, drugs, alcohol, whatever aside. This instance (along with some embarrassing but not quite terrible ones and some health issues) contributed to me spending most of my time sober now, especially when I don’t know people well.
Even closer to today, I was fooling around with someone and we took pictures. We were members of a group that shared pictures like that and I thought they had understood we were taking them for this reason. I hadn’t gotten explicit consent to share them, just to take them. They were understandably upset, asked me to take them down. Again, I learned.
I’ve learned that not only are my partners more comfortable when I make more efforts to communicate, I am too. Clear consent can remove a lot of anxiety from situations.
In all of these instances I’ve been overwhelmingly lucky to be with partners who not only expressed to me what I had done wrong, where I had transgressed, but even patiently explained to me the idea of consent, how consent doesn’t just mean ‘no means no’ or come into play with what people consider ‘rape’ in the sense of a stranger with a knife. How even people close to you can hurt you and people often continue relationships with those who have, forgive them, and get better. These are the instances I’ve been able to know - not a comprehensive list of every time I may have made someone uncomfortable or pushed too far. I couldn’t possibly know that.
I think about what it might be like if one of these people publicly called me out. How it would be correct to respond. I can’t say I really know. Would I deserve the lash that comes with such callings out? It would hurt a lot, but for the role I play in this culture and considering the other privileges I’ve gotten along with presenting as male, I don’t feel like feeling sorry for myself is one of the correct responses. My response is always to strive to be better and to share things I’ve learned so other people can avoid my mistakes. So they can avoid hurting the people they care about.
I don’t think I’m a monster and I don’t often tell myself I’m a good person either. Actually, it’s something I’ve been working on, not being too hard on myself. But I think things like this are places I absolutely should be hard on myself, should consider carefully.
If carefully considering your actions while being sexual sounds hard, perhaps it’s because treating people right takes work. Real work. This doesn’t mean don’t have casual sex, don’t get into situations where you’re comfortable being nonverbal, it just means think about it. Develop patterns and habits that help make consent clear and all parties comfortable.
If you find yourself in a place where you really are freaking out “What if she doesn’t remember this? I can’t tell how drunk she is.” then maybe don’t do it right then. If you’re thinking “What if this person lies about this later” maybe just ask - “Hey, I just want to make sure you’re completely comfortable - are you down to do this?” I honestly think communication drastically lowers the chances of things going wrong.
If you’re scared of being falsely accused of rape, or scared of something being ‘blown out of proportion’ when it wasn’t ‘really a big deal’ or it seemed like it wasn’t to your partner at the time, I can understand that. What I’m hoping, really begging, of society at large, is that people will also understand the fear that comes from people who are on the other side of such actions.
Maybe be scared more not that you will be accused of something but that you will actually do it.
Maybe you have done it and will only realize it later by reading a similar account from the other perspective. Hopefully you can learn from that.
Read We Don’t Have To Do Anything by Sophia Katz on Medium
The piece stands on its own and is an emotional and important read. In it Sophia pours out an all too familiar narrative. The antagonist, Stan, is a stand in, but also -stan, the land of, the country. A monster, reflecting the culture around him, the culture he, as a writer and publisher, is in a position to continue creating. This isn’t only in our scene, not only in our corner of the internet or the creative world or in just one city. But it is real. So, the following is context, support, and further reports from the NYC lit community.
About a month ago, Sophia Katz told me she was raped by a former friend and roommate of mine when she visited New York this past May. Yesterday, she published a piece chronicling the sexual abuse she experienced that week, using a pseudonym for her rapist. I shared the piece on multiple platforms and commended her bravery. I said, “This is very important, everyone should read this.” I said “We need to protect and support rape victims, defend young girls in the indie lit community against predatorial, privileged men.” Other people liked the post, shared it, added more supportive comments. But by the end of the day, there was no further discussion about it. No one asked who he is, even though he is an editor within a community we all participate in.
And then I realized, I hadn’t either.
I had felt afraid of ‘starting that war’ against him. I realized that maybe people were afraid to ask who he was because they already knew. Maybe he was someone they considered a friend. Maybe identifying him as a rapist made them uncomfortable and sad. Maybe they didn’t believe it.
I lived with this person for a year. I listened to the way he spoke about his exgirlfriend after she broke up with him. I listened when he told me he “didn’t see the point of hanging out with any of his female friends” because at the end of the day he doesn’t get to fuck them. I pulled my piece from his magazine that he had solicited me for because I no longer wanted to support the career of a casual misogynist.
We shouldn’t be afraid to discuss this publicly when Sophia has been brave enough to call out her abuser in a community where he has immense support and friendship. Stephen Tully Dierks should not be shielded because he is or was our friend. We should hold our friends as accountable as we hold everyone else, if not more.
This morning (9/29/14) woke up around 4 a.m. and scrolled through my various social networking timelines until my friend’s Instagram post with a screenshot of Sophia Katz’s story caught my eye. As I read it, my heart dropped into my stomach. I want to thank Sophia for being brave enough to tell her story, and to the friend who reposted Sophia’s piece with added commentary detailing her own experience - both so closely resembled my own that reading their accounts made my skin crawl. Without their bravery and candor I might never have found the courage to come forward with my own story and accept the reality of what happened to me.
On the night of April 17, 2014, Stephen Tully Dierks invited me along to a poetry reading that I hadn’t planned on attending. I agreed to tag along when I realized many of my friends were also going to be there. Since almost everyone present was drinking, Stephen asked if I wanted anything before going to a neighborhood bodega to pick up alcohol. I asked for a mangorita which he brought back along with his beer just in time for the reading to start. Stephen was attentive and affectionate, barely leaving my side the entire night. We chatted intermittently about the reading, about what was going on in our lives, about mutual friends.
After the reading, several of my friends decided to go across the street to a nondescript Brooklyn bar. I was nervous about being carded since I was only 18 and don’t carry a fake ID, but nothing happened when we walked in. Almost instantly Stephen and I were somehow separated from the rest of my friends. I walked over to a barstool at a table in a far corner and sat down. Stephen asked if I wanted anything to drink. I asked for a margarita, and he went to the bar to order. I began to feel slightly anxious, but told myself to calm down, that everything was going to be fine. Prior to the reading I hadn’t eaten anything throughout the day. It slowly dawned on me how intoxicated I’d become in such a short time. I told Stephen I’d be right back and stood and went to the bathroom and texted my friend Wynn that I was too drunk and very alone. I kneeled in front of the toilet and shoved my fingers down my throat in an attempt to force myself to vomit and purge some of the alcohol out of my body. When I was done I sat on the floor and leaned my forehead against the cool porcelain and let my eyes flutter shut.
I gradually became aware of the sound of fists pounding on the wooden door - a line of people waiting for the toilet had formed in the time it took me to get myself together. I stood up slowly, splashed my face, and stumbled out. When I got back to the table Stephen looked up from his phone and I can only assume my intoxication was very visible. He leaned over to put his mouth against my ear.
I nodded. We exited the bar and I began to walk toward the subway. Instead of letting me go or even walking with me to the train, Stephen insisted that I was too intoxicated to get back to Alphabet City by myself, and stepped to the curb to hail a cab. He directed the driver to his apartment, and once there, guided me up the stairs and into his bedroom.
Completely exhausted, I sat on the edge of his bed and kicked my shoes off and curled up in a ball as far from where I anticipated he would lay as possible. I left my jacket on in the hopes that it would send a clear message that I wasn’t uncomfortable removing any of my clothing in his presence at all, but he asked me over and over if he could take it and hang it up for me. Eventually, I agreed just so he would stop talking. I sat up, wiggled out of it, and handed it to him. He hung it up and I curled back into a ball and shut my eyes, hoping more than anything that he would go to sleep and leave me alone.
He didn’t. Stephen kicked off his shoes, lowered himself onto his bed and crawled over to me. He began caressing my arm and pressed his mouth against mine with feverish urgency. I protested, but it imediately became clear that my attempts were futile. I lay still and stared at the ceiling as he groped and fondled me. Eventually, as Sophia did in her story, I began to do things that I thought would make him finish faster. He used my body off and on all night until he fell asleep. I willed the sun to rise faster. After a few hours that felt more like an eternity, he told me that he had to go to work. I nodded, and he kissed me one more time before getting up to go shower. As soon as I heard the water running I gathered all my things as fast as I could and left his apartment.
My mouth was swollen and raw from where his facial hair had rubbed against it. There was dried cum on my sleeve. I went to a bodega and bought two muffins and a bottle of water. I walked to the train and unwrapped one of the muffins and bit into it. I tasted nothing. I felt nothing.
I didn’t know how to process what had happened, so I coped by lying to myself and to everyone else. When my friends expressed their concern I told them that everything was fine, that we hooked up, that it was whatever. I never fully believed that but I managed to convince myself and everyone else that I did. I began to avoid Stephen both online and in person, but after some time I convinced myself that what had happened was an isolated incident of misunderstanding. Months passed and it blew over. I rebuilt a friendship with Stephen on the pretense that everything was okay. Out of sight, out of mind.
In the course of the 12 hours since I found out about the existence of Sophia’s piece my life feels like it’s been turned on its head. Instead of worrying about the mountains of homework my professors have been steadily piling on week after week, or where my friends and I will bicker over going out to eat tonight, I’m grappling with crushing fear and anxiety. Stephen took so much from me and I will be damned if I’m complicit in letting him take anything from anyone else.
There is a long thread in ALG(Spread) on Facebook discussing this and what to do about the issues of sexual assault in our community. Click to read it and participate.
ehere are the posts about the other outed rpaists from the alt lit scene.!!!!!!!! i remeber seeing them but i cant fintd themm
Forty-six million white adults today can trace the origins of their family wealth to the Homestead Act of 1862. This bill gave away valuable acres of land for free to white families, but expressly precluded participation by Blacks.
"how do I have privilege?"
I’m using this in my essay about how the American dream is a racist myth
Examining a sample of these southern homestead records from Mississippi, Lanza (1990) estimates that Blacks had a 35 percent success rate for applying and then obtaining patent to their land while Whites had a 25 percent success rate. Thus, even under difficult circumstances, Black homesteaders were more likely to remain on land and receive final title. Given the results of this sample along with other rough historical estimates, between 4,000 and 5,500 final patents may
have been awarded to Black homesteaders (Lanza, 1990; Magdol, 1977).
However, the reality is that in light of the 1.5 million homesteads granted overall, all too few went to Black claimants. During a period where many citizens were given public land by the government, Blacks who wanted to be small farm owners had to pay for their land and struggle against obstacles their White counterparts did not. This is especially unsettling given that during the initial phase of the Homestead Act, from 1863-1880, most Blacks had just been freed from slavery, faced active discrimination, and were not in a position to negotiate on equal terms.
NONSEXUAL WAYS TO BE INTIMATE WITH SOMEONE
Link 1 <Personal & Body Care
Link 2 <Emotional & Psychological Closeness
Link 3 <Sleeping & Other Spacial Closeness
Link 4 <Life Arrangements
Link 5 <Urgent Situations
this is way too cool
I’ve been having thoughts lately about intentional relationships / non-patriarchal relationship models / the lesbian continuum / nonsexual relationships / alternate modes of connecting and expressing closeness / critically examining how heteronormativity forces us to differentiate “friendships” vs “relationships”. I think these are interesting things to think about in terms of building relationships without relying on sex as a primary factor of relationship validity?
Wear yellow on October 1st… a yellow hammer and sickle on a red background 😎