An Aside on Creating Safe Spaces

A few weeks ago I was the door bitch for A Night of Intrigue, a goth/alt/dark event. As you can imagine, explicit consent is a must in such an area, and hard to enforce. And much as it can be difficult to convey in a SFF convention space, it can be hard to remind everyone to be respectful and to ask permission and very importantly, especially in such a space, ‘nudity is not consent’ is critical.

I took on the role of gateway consent controller for the night, if I may call it that. We had signs up at the inner doorway (after paying and getting your tags and all the rest of it), and I gave the same spiel hundreds of times. We had a red tag for ‘PLEASE DO NOT TALK TO ME IF YOU DON’T KNOW ME,’ and a green tag for ‘hey, feel free to start a convo respectfully,’ or you could choose not to tag at all. And so many people were skeptical, why do you even need that? This is silly. Some people I had to explain it wasn’t a sex thing, but the traffic light was a good comparison. Some people made fun of people who were coming to a nightclub/social event and didn’t want to meet/hang with anyone new.

But there were a dozen or so people who ran towards that red armband and put it on so fast, and so obviously, so that their red stripe would be clear. And as Ju reminded me, when my voice was hoarse and it was after 1am and I was getting tired and frustrated at people rolling their eyes at me, every person who came through that door heard my spiel. So even if they thought the system was silly, they had all had the same thing personally delivered to them as they came to through the door: that we were looking for respect, and we expected it from everyone, and that we were gonna be enforcing that.

It’s not perfect; it’s hard to prevent bottleneck, and I felt at times that I was working against my own desire not to put anybody out. It’s not a system that works for everyone, but it’s a start, and I think having it personally delivered almost one on one helped.

(ps if you are interested, the next event is September 13 and you should totally come along)

4 thoughts on “An Aside on Creating Safe Spaces

  1. Pingback: A Linkspamination unto Nuggan (9 Aug 2013) | Geek Feminism Blog

  2. I know this is an old article, but I’m curious if you have considered or have thoughts on a third (Fourth?) option with this, for people who expressly would like to be approached? I briefly got to local scene events (Brisbane, AU) a few years back, and my biggest hurdle as a seonsory-sensative, naturally shy person was actually getting to talk to people. I had a lot of effort involved in just maintaining the ability to hear and see in a crowded, loud, dim environment, and I was blessed with a person willing to help me by making sure I was ok, but approaching people in that situation was near impossible, and I am sure a lot of people took my semi-stunned quietness as a preference to be left alone, when quite the opposite, I very much wanted to meet people and talk and such! I love that you have this system, and am just curious if such a thing could have helped me. I’ve since lost even that level of sociability, alas, but maybe someday I will regain it, and if I do, I hope something like this is available. 🙂

    1. Hi Jamie! I know the hope with the system is that with a green band, it signifies people are willing to be approached, but the idea of very expressly wanting to be approached is a slightly different take on that that I’d definitely be willing to explore! 🙂

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