Trigger Warnings: rape, rape culture, consent
More Than “No” is a project set up by Madeleine Harris, aimed at creating and continuing conversations and education around rape culture and consent.
They’re currently in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign to create more PSAs.
I am wholeheartedly supporting this, both on a moral level and on a personal one, and I took the chance to ask Madeleine a few questions.
Unsurprisingly, More Than “No” sprang in no small part from her own personal experience, triggered anew by the events in Steubenville:
“I watched some of the video that the perpetrator’s friend posted on YouTube and read several news reports on the case. I started following the story daily. I was so sickened. Not only because it was an example of the lack of education for young people regarding consent…but because it mirrored the assault that had happened to me in high school. I had to do something.”
Using art to explore, discuss and educate is not a new concept. As part of the Illyrian Players, a sex-positive LA theatre troupe, Madeleine was already doing this on some level, but wanted to expand the field - to do something she felt could really make a difference.
“Because I am an artist, I really wanted a way to combine activism with artistry. For any kind of artist, it’s often difficult to afford giving to charity. Whether you’re a freelance director, an actor, a graphic artist, a dancer, etc., you’re constantly looking for that next job and money isn’t always so secure. I wanted to create an alternative way for performing and visual artists to give back to their community if they weren’t financially stable enough to give money.”
When I saw the name of the project, I got it right away - but not everyone does. Not everyone knows about the concept of enthusiastic consent - which is one of the things More Than “No” aims to correct.
“The group and I are also big fans of “enthusiastic consent” – a verbal, physical, emotional agreement on sexual activity that occurs and is sustained without manipulation or threats. Consensual sex is wonderful! It’s one of our favorite things, in fact. Besides highlighting the importance of respecting an individual’s declination of sexual activity, we also want to accentuate the gratifying act of a mutual sexual experience. Nothing is sexier than that.”
The problem is, we’re being taught wrong. There’s all too often a knee-jerk reaction which blames the victim, rather than the perpetrator; and it goe shand in hand with the idea that men simply can’t help themselves - which is as untrue as you can get, yet still persists.
The old conversations need to be changed, and brought forward into today.
“The phrase “No means No” has been a part of the anti-rape movement since the sixties. Although it did serve a purpose at one point, it has become more of a joke than a helpful slogan. It’s also incredibly problematic. Our society has taught us that unless there is a “no,” sex is inherently consensual. That is not the case. There are many situations that a person might not say “no” to their perpetrator, yet it is still considered rape. For example, being too drunk to properly consent, being too young, or being coerced into silence.”
As to what can take its place - enthusiastic consent is here to help.
“...a verbal, physical, emotional agreement on sexual activity that occurs and is sustained without manipulation or threats. Consensual sex is wonderful! It’s one of our favorite things, in fact. Besides highlighting the importance of respecting an individual’s declination of sexual activity, we also want to accentuate the gratifying act of a mutual sexual experience. Nothing is sexier than that.”
Short term, the group plans to make more PSAs - let me again point you towards their crowdfunding campaign. The skills of those involved mean those PSAs will be made no matter what - but every penny given will go to making them better quality.
Longer term? Well, if you’re in the LA area, they’re planning a variety show fundraiser, and further afield they’re creating an educational package for use in school settings.
Conversation and education are the best ways to counter rape culture. Showing people who have suffered because of it they are not alone is invaluable. More Than “No” has the plan and the ability to do both of these.
I’ve been at the wrong end of bad teachings around consent, and it hurts me every time I see someone else go through the same thing. Rape culture is a thing, and it’s a thing that can destroy. More Than “No” is another step towards making this better.