And by those conversations, I mean I'm not sure how long of a discussion it's going to be in this post, but I hope it proves to be fruitful and give you guys food for thought.
I debated writing this post for a few days. Anguished over it even, because I didn't know how extensively to talk about this - whether from the vein of my knowledge and experiences, or from the angle of everything that's happening surrounding the people involved in this, or other measures - it's a serious topic with multiple levels that I could not even begin to touch all bases on in one single post. But I think it's worth having the conversation.
Many of you guys have probably heard about the events surrounding the sexual abuse scandal involving two (and possibly other) popular YouTube personalities over the past several days, based under the recording company of Hank and John Green. I first heard of it here on BL via Fangirl's articulate posts (see here, here, and here for reference), followed it to Tumblr, and my mind was respectively blown reading through it all. I don't think the shock has completely left me on multiple levels over the past several days.
It was Carrie Mesrobian's post that made me realize - I should probably speak up about this too. I did try at one point to contribute to the conversation when Moonlight Reader had a great post about unwanted sexual contact, but BL ate my rather lengthy comment, I had to pick my heart up off the floor, and figure out yet again how the heck to talk about this from the ground up.
I'll start with personal so that I can get this out of the way - because if I linger too long on this account, it triggers me. So definitely putting a TW on this even if the incidents themselves are not as graphic as other accounts. Some of you may not even think it's that big a deal. (I almost hate saying that because these were enough where I suffered severe anxiety over it for years - it affected my quality of life and relationships for a while.) Putting it under a spoiler tag just so that I cover my bases. Read if you so choose.
So now you know some of the major personal experiences I've had with this. That's probably only part of why I'm so passionate about discussions of unwanted sexual contact and the people who come forward detailing their experiences and making sure that they have the support that they need. We absolutely cannot discount the voices of the people who are victims to this, in multiple measures. I've worked/volunteered in various measures promoting women's health and even did a brief shadowing/volunteer effort at a rape crisis center during my undergrad uni days. I don't consider myself an expert the way that others may who directly work in those fields, but I am interested in continuing the dialogue and am willing to forward information from multiple sources to help others in this measure where I can.
Unwanted sexual contact, sexual assault, and rape can happen to anyone. Regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, creed, or any other distinction one can think of. It's a problem across a broad scale, and I try to focus the dialogue on multiple scales that are inclusive.
Now, i could talk about the Youtube Scandal specifically, but since Fangirl did such a good job with the rundown of what happened with that and the linkage provided, I'm just going to focus on a few reactions to this in the aftermath. I'm going to start with Hank Green's response. Well meaning as he might have been, it was a video that offended me - made me even angry when I watched it back a couple of times through.
The approach that Green took in this video troubled me off the bat because of the disclaimer at the beginning of the video. The fact that he chooses to dismiss the conversation, with the message in the beginning "This is a video about sex and sexual assault; if you do not want to watch a video about that, click here to see cats sleeping in weird positions." Now I get this was made part in jest, but I couldn't help but feel the dismissal of the conversation.
"It's not a pretty picture..."
This is not a conversation that comes without discomfort and sensitivity, but this is a conversation that the lot of us need to have - not just across gender or certain lines of distinction, but all of us. I could understand if he said that this video would contain triggery topics or things that are difficult to discuss and if you trigger easily fair warning, but to say "if you do not want to watch a video about that?" No, dude. No. Many of us do not discuss these things because of social stigmas, fear, triggering recall, or a number of other factors already - but even in the vein of discomfort, it's serious and something that should be encouraged for enlightenment, education and/or even food for thought. I love kittens, and kitten gifs and videos make my day after any rough discussions or events - but I want to say - please approach the issue with the seriousness it entails. Please. And if people are upset or angry about this issue, then that's something not to shield with distraction, but rather address and listen for the emotions and experiences entailed.
When the depiction of kittens and missiles came into the picture, my reaction was pretty much like Mesrobian's. Even trying to use that image to portray the imbalance of power that occurs in situations of unwanted sexual contact, that's...not right. Too simple, too abstract (and arguably those particular references Hank chose were ill fitting because it has underpinning meanings that include and are not limited to female and male sexual body parts - think about it a moment. That is what really made me very uncomfortable when I heard that comparison), doesn't treat the matter with the seriousness it entails. We can't afford to portray this in jest or without due focus on the complexities it has to multiple people and an understanding of why. And we certainly can't afford imaging in this discussion that undermines consent, our bodies and experiences with grief and pain, and plays into arguably very sexist dialogues.
On another level, I did appreciate charlieissocoollike (a.k.a. Charlie McDonnell's) response as a way of not only addressing how difficult it was to realize his friends were people would engage in this kind of manipulation and control in their relationships, but also take ownership in his inaction with knowing that Alex Day was involved in cheating in several of his relationships, and also expressing sympathy for the victims in this situation.
I believe there's more discussions to be had of this as more of the details come to light, so this is far from over. I'm probably going to contribute more dialogues as I have the time and energy to do so on this issue, but for now, I'll leave it at that, and if I find anything more that's helpful to this topic, I'll try to pass it along to you guys. For those of you who have been affected by unwanted sexual contact/sexual assault/rape in your lives or in the lives of those that you love, take comfort in the fact that you are never alone and that your voice matters in this. Don't be afraid to speak up about it no matter who you are, and never apologize for discussing something that concerns or hurts you - we all have such experiences and the support is there for you. The support is there for you.