Event 8: Sexuality & Consent
"I am my own muse. I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to better." - Frida Kahlo
How can we make consent sexy for those who still don't get it? Are there ways to ask and give your "hell yes!" to potential and current partners that would make the moment more enjoyable for all? Why is it that women are seen as passive or shy in discussions about our likes and dislikes--or worse, assumed to enjoy or reject things based on media stereotypes? Where did we learn to wait to be asked who we are and what we like rather than proclaiming our desires and no-fly zones proudly? Is it time for us, as women, to (re)claim our sexuality along a more fluid spectrum and learn how to communicate what we really crave?
Thanks to our sponsors Cotton & Reed and Toli Moli for providing a space, drinks, and food for all of our guests. Cheers to Farrah of Dim Sum Media who helped organize this gathering and to Toli Moli's, Simone Jacobson for guiding the conversation. It was an intense evening of sharing and we couldn't have done it without everyone giving 100% Thanks to everyone.
farrah | Dim SUm Media
Living in a society that touts freedom yet surpresses bodily autonomy isn't a problem that's unique to DC. Women all over the world are raised to consider their body and their womanhood as it relates to others. Our comfort, our satisfaction, and our safety are secondary to the men in our lives- and when we put ourselves first, we are made to feel ashamed or selfish. This conversation was an optimistic glimpse into a future that could be- one in which women are unquestionably in control of their own safety and pleasure. Because that's what enthusiastic consent is all about.
Simone | toli moli
"When I agreed to lead a conversation about enthusiastic consent, I was nervous about how the other women would hold space for each other. Not only was I beyond amazed by their unconditional compassion, I also learned that our first perceptions of others are almost always wrong, that our biases need to be unlearned and examined constantly, and that sex, sexuality, and our own understanding of how we fall on the spectrum of those things can evolve over time. I am so grateful for the opportunity to facilitate this unforgettable evening, and am indebted to the women I met tonight who reminded me that radical self love is a gift we must choose to give ourselves over and over again. It's something we must practice until we get it into our bones."
Erin | cotton & reed distillery
"I came here tonight not knowing at all what I was expecting, but it turned out to be one of the most intimate experiences of my life with other women. I have a lot of close female friends and we're all open with each other and just as intimate in this way, but this is the first time this has ever happened to me with a group of strangers! I feel like I can walk away proud that I've participated in it and was great to be there to listen and share... honestly an incredible experience and we all get to walk away feeling better for this random evening together."
Claire | dim sum media
"I am so happy to be a part of this conversation with such a diverse group of women who vary in ages, demographics, backgrounds, just women from all types of areas. Apart from all our differences, we share the same experiences. We've covered sexual assault, we've covered consent, politics, pretty much everything tonight. Just when I thought everyone would be so different when I came in I realized I want to hug each and every woman here because I identify with everybody's story. I hear women being confused with consent and that grey area that a lot of us have is making me want to work with younger women. I'm understanding the importance to find the definition of consent at such an early age. There really is no age that's too young to talk about consent, it would have been very helpful to learn about consent at an early age because I think my experiences would have been a lot more positive if I had that conversation and dialogue in my life before."
"Tonight for me was really about learning more about other women's experiences and taking those experiences and applying it to my own life. Teaching myself and taking it home and growing with what other women have experienced on a day to day basis in their past lives. I'm really doing some soul searching and dealing with things that have happened in the past and acknowledging the reality, and realizing that some of these things aren't actually our fault and that I'm not alone! For the longest time I felt like my experiences defined me and while I'm the only one who lives in this body, that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm the only one that has had these types of emotions and had these experiences. It's empowering to know that I'M NOT ALONE. I have beautiful and strong women around me that I can learn with and share with."
"I really like this conversation tonight because it was nice knowing that other people feel similarly to me about consent not being just black and white. For me it brought up thoughts of both parties being enthusiastic about having sex but you also want to be on the same page about what that means and what your boundaries are with each other. You might have one idea of what sex would be like with one person and be okay with then it ends up being something different and your consent may change. So you really have to make sure you're on the same page, have a discussion, and be able to read those signs."
"One thing that had a big impression on me tonight was that I shared something that made me feel very vulnerable especially since I was the last to share something so I was just shaking waiting my turn...but as I expected everyone was warm and open. They connected with me and shared their own thoughts. Everyone seemed similar and no one was trying to one up each other which I feel is all too common outside from this gathering. Instead, they were there wanting to help me! There was a moment of connection they felt with me and they shared to add something than replacing what was being talked about."
"I moved to DC about a month and a half ago. Female friendships have always been very important to me. I grew up with a lot of close female friends and it has shaped me into who I am today. I depend on them for advice still today. So moving into the city and not knowing anyone really, I think it was the first thing why I gravitated towards this. I moved three times in the past year, I'm constantly traveling, so I just haven't had that feminine energy around me. I haven't been able to get my core group in place. When I saw Behold.Her on Instagram I knew this was the place I wanted to be and people that I wanted to meet. Talking about consent and talking about sexuality was very hard for me growing up. I was raised in a really traditional household. Being able to talk about it has been very liberating and most importantly hear other stories and learn from other people's experiences has been the best part."
"It's been a very beautiful experience to just sit amongst other women with different backgrounds, different nationalities, and cultures. To hear things that I wasn't aware of, hearing things that I am aware of, hearing things that I can relate to and things that have opened my perspective. I'm very grateful for this event, it's all about uplifting. I'm grateful for the opportunity to share space and time with these incredible individuals. I'm all about women owning themselves. We are sexual beings... we're not just sex, but we need to own it. We need to own this beautiful thing that is a part of us. Things that stood out to me were women talking about certain things that were pretty unfortunate, but how they have overcome it or how they're currently overcoming it. The fact that they're here tonight and talking about it out loud - I don't know if some of them realized that was a big step - but it definitely is. I'm very fortunate to be a part of tonight and I hope it happens again. I hope this is a continued series and well... yeah GIRL POWER, WOMAN POWER!"
"I'm really happy I came to this event. It helped me more than I thought it would. I definitely saw this as a fun opportunity to see other women do their thing, but I didn't realize I had internal questions about things that have happened to me. Things I have wondered, and how to struggle with, I feel like they have solidified in my mind 'what happened' instead of me wondering and feeling really bad about it. I'm really happy I'm able to sit here and listen to everyone else's stories; I feel more empowered. To those who think something might have happened to them and weren't sure then, maybe you're sure now... but it's okay to feel bad for a moment, but move forward, learn from it, and know what you want for the future."
"There's a quote that keeps playing in my head as I continue to listen to these women talk, it's Frida Kahlo talking about her self-portraiture and it goes 'I am my own muse, I am a subject that I want to know better,' and it's making me think about how important, healthy, and empowering it is to examine the way we react to things, especially as women and as a marginalized population. We need to examine why we receive things the way we do and why we act in certain ways and this space for discussion gives a lot of clarity to our decision making and how we're affected by society and its pressures and expectations of us. There's a lot of merit in observing ourselves more closely."
"I'm a mother and came here with my daughter and it's so important and empowering to be here. What I hear is that all of us as females have a common thread, especially when it comes to sexuality and sexual consent. What I heard this evening was 'enthusiastic consent' and the message I've gotten is how critical it is that we realize we're not only human, and all vulnerable, but we're females, and it's so important, helpful, and meaningful to come together and support each other, knowing that sexuality is a critical part of our being and it's not ok that women have to feel that their bodies have been used or that they have to give in. What I have found and what I hear happening is that you never know where a relationship is going to lead and you have to realize that whatever you give you're allowing yourself to be vulnerable. The more you give the more vulnerable you become and the more it's going to hurt. We have the right to personally and legally make sure that we're establishing boundaries when it comes to relationships whether it be with someone of the same or opposite sex. Regardless, we're in charge."
"Something I have noticed that getting together as a group of women that are like-minded, and that doesn't mean that their diversity is similar, their background is similar, it doesn't mean that anything about their current life is the same, but the intention is just to be around other women, to share stories, to keep the space as safe as possible. What I'm noticing that everyone eventually cracks open whether it's laughter or tears, it's so powerful to have fem energy all in one place. To look around and see other faces shining, or crying, or nodding, or laughing, and applauding each other for our bravery, only because we're being brave, not to have actually done anything. There's no competition and misogyny is left at the door. There's no cattiness and it's not like that when you usually work with women or when you walk down the street, and I'm the type of girl that will stop in the middle of the crosswalk and tell her that her dress is adorable. I feel like I'm sitting around with 20 other women who are that same girl. Even though we are so widely varied, we are all going YES this exists! It's empowering because it can really wear you down when you realize what we have here isn't what we have in the world we live in. But it's great to go off on a tangent and encourage each other to keep talking or stop talking, we're supporting each other either way. It's amazing."
To me, I think it's very important to be honest, to explore, and find your support group. Find that comfortable space where you can be honest about what your experiences have been. Explore what it is you might consider wanting in a relationship starting from yourself to other people, whether it's sexual or not. Don't be afraid to ask and to watch. I learned a lot watching porn on my own. I ended up discovering that there are certain things that benefitted the relationship without me confiding in my partner saying 'hey, I've been watching porn.' I think it's important to explore and not feel like what you're doing is wrong based off of what society and people might think. Don't be afraid, explore, confide and find that group where you can share."
"I think one of my overall takeaways from this is how powerful a group of women are together even being strangers. When we set the intention of it being a safe space and we all honor that, we realize we can go further and really connect than just knowing each other's name. We can dive in together with being honest and vulnerable with each other."