Hold these rocks and look out for the Piranha
Contrasting communities can be useful, because observing the differences helps us to see into the social and cultural implications of the alternative choices. Until quite recently, one of the stark contrasts between Twin Oaks and Acorn was the number of orientations given to visitors who are considering membership. Twin Oaks has around 19 over the three week visitor period, Acorn had just one.
Recently, Acorn realized that we needed a second one and Belladonna facilitated the first one this week. It was on consent. “Why do you need a whole orientation around consent?” You might ask. “Isn’t it enough to just tell people they need to ask before they can touch anyone?” It turns out it is not.
For a recent visitor group at Acorn i gave our only orientation, which is mostly a tour of the community to one visitor, let’s call him Rod. At the end of the tour i gave my rant on consent (see the official rant below). I stressed that this appears to be one of the most tricky areas for visitors to get right. That we have lost otherwise lovely visitors, because they messed this up and made an inappropriate pass at someone or were simply too physical without checking in. I explained that part of what can be confusing is parties where it seems like members who have never been intimate before are kissing and cuddling with no sight that they have had these perhaps awkward and buzz killing consent discussions. “Things just seem to be flowing, without words, can’t i flow too?”
No is the answer. Just because you can’t see or hear the consent conversation, does not mean it is safe to assume it is not happening. Rod indicated that he understood. I felt good about our communication. I felt like i had been clear about the nuances and the problem. I patted myself on the back for advancing our healthy culture. And as is frequently the case when i am self congratulatory, i was wrong. Rod would later go to an Acorn party, get a little drunk and try to kiss someone who did not want him to kiss them. His membership plans then unraveled.
So as good anarchist do, we change our internal culture around communicating consent. And while Acorn still largely maintains a “you need to figure this place out yourself” attitude towards most aspects of community life (an approach one frustrated visitor describe to me as “The way Acorn orients people is you throw them into the deep end of the pool and say “Hold these rocks and look out for those piranha”) with consent stuff we are definitely stepping it up.
I did not make it to the workshop, but i heard great things about it and a bunch of Acorners as well as visitors went. Belladonna Took and Strandbeest did an amusing role play of poor consent practices, intoxication, party etiquette and direct communication were all stressed. Afterward i told the visitors who attended. “This is what we want you to export to the world.”
Acorn’s Official Advice on Relationships and Consent Culture
We would like to cultivate a responsible sex positive culture, where sexual expression and engagement is not repressed or discriminated. That being said, idiosyncrasies and complexities of relationships here are not always readily apparent to newcomers, with premature involvement often yielding messy or unexpected outcomes. Being self-governed, we try to avoid strict policy statements that often oversimplify or fail to fully represent various member viewpoints; as such, we encourage relational choices of those involved to be made with thoughtful discretion, through an emphasis on interactive communication, personal responsibility, and clear boundaries.
If at any time you’re uncomfortable with surrounding situations or interactions, please feel empowered to communicate your needs and concerns. If you’re uncomfortable conveying your concerns face-to-face, please talk to any of your orientation cos (or anyone else you feel comfortable approaching) and we will make sure you have an advocate to support you and help you resolve discuss your concerns with.
Your involvement with current members may produce power imbalances. It is each person’s responsibility to go about relationships in a respectful, consensual manner. Your membership decision will not be influenced by romantic/sexual encounters during your membership visit.
About paxusa funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.
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