Press!

Since Yeah Maybe, No has screened in Portland, we've gotten some press. Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 1.01.30 PMBitch Media ran a review.

"Yeah Maybe, No provides an honest and frank viewpoint on sexual assault and a rare, personal discussion of boundaries."

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 1.01.37 PMStreet Roots ran an interview.

"Through interviews with experts interwoven with personal stories and animated sequences illustrated by Lucy Bellwood, Kend offers a fresh perspective on a complicated issue. She hopes her film will complement the efforts of activists who are pushing for states to join California and New York in passing affirmative-consent laws. "

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 1.02.35 PMKBOO hosted me for an interview on The Film Show.

 

 

 

And the same intervieScreen Shot 2016-02-10 at 1.02.12 PMw ran for longer on XRAY FM on The Five Quadrants of Portland.

 

Yeah Maybe No is Done

Yeah Maybe, No is finished. It has been finished for two months, but finishing is nebulous. I'm no longer tweaking anything is the project file, but I'm still talking about it, setting up screenings, and selling DVDs. My work has just shifted from a very inward, private process to an outward, public process.

I want to say that finishing this project was a triumphant affair, but that's not quite right. The truth is I pulled it along to the very end, driven by a sense of indebtedness to the people who funded me more than anything. I believe in this story, but sharing such a personal story about such a difficult topic took more out of me than I thought it would. Getting pregnant and having a baby while working on the film ground me down into a fine ash of burn out.

I thought about putting it off for another year, but there was always the tug. I could never be at peace while the story swirled around in me, still untold.

In many ways, it's beautiful how much the process of making this film parallels my healing process from my sexual assault. I was hesitant to start at first. I knew in my gut that it was the right thing to do, but I was terrified. Then it got hard, and I had to deal with uncomfortable truths. I wanted to quit, but I didn't because I could see that it was going somewhere that I needed to be. And all along, I was expecting a big moment at the end. When I was done with weekly therapy, I wished that there was a graduation or something to signify how much the work I did in that little room mattered. Instead, there was a quiet transition from doing one type of work to doing another.

I started my film after I finished regular therapy. I wanted to transform that personal pain into something that I felt comfortable sharing with the world. It was the project that was meant to help the stifled voice in my head find its way out. And in that sense, it's been a success. I found a raw and honest part of myself and investigated how it fits into larger patterns of sexual violence. Though the details are mine, I am part of a long tradition of violence. We've just started sharing the film, and already I have heard from people watching it that it has positively impacted their healing process.

At the outset of both therapy and the film, I thought that there would be a neat warp-up at the end. But I think work that changes you so much can never have a smooth edge in your life.  Even though I'm done, I'll keep writing and reading about sexual violence. I'll keep sharing my film. Gradually, I'll do less direct work on it, but the gains will always be there. I've been transformed into someone who feels more confident speaking up and speaking out. I've found my voice, somewhere on the more personal side of the political. I have this story that I spent three years crafting that I can share with the world. I'm finally comfortable with the work.

New Series is Out!

For the past few months, I've been quietly working on a new series. However, it is out now, and I am so excited about it. I've been working with Uplift, a newly formed non-profit dedicated to eradicating sexual violence in online communities. The leadership has been really inspiring, and I have had a great time taking their vision and crafting it into reality. Right now, I'm packing (procrasti-packing) to go to VidCon as part of this project. We're going to be interviewing some big name YouTubers to get their perspectives on how to make online communities more healthy. Again, I am stoked to be putting this all together.

The series will be 26 episodes and run until the end of the year.  The first three are out now.  Check 'em out!



Why sex isn't like tea

You've probable seen the video (or read the blog post) that explains consent in terms of serving tea. It's a pretty simple idea that basically says you wouldn't force someone to drink tea, so you shouldn't force someone to have sex. There are a few reasons why this isn't as great a metaphor as the internet is making it out to be. The first is that a lot of sexual assault perpetrators know the rules of consent and don't care. The second is that drinking tea is an act completely devoid of the messy emotions inherent in sex. And it's that context that makes consent difficult. I made a video explaining why.  

Spring Progress Report

I've been hiding out for most of the winter. I gave birth to a baby girl at the beginning of January and have taken some time off to care for her. It's been an amazing time getting to know my little person, and my film's been going on the back burner the whole time. As the weather warms up, it's time to get it in high gear again! The good news is that a lot has happened since I last checked in.

One of the biggest pieces of news is that I was awarded at RACC (Regional Arts and Culture Council) grant to finish this project. Funds from that were allocated to higher-quality color for the illustrations and bringing on a more experienced documentary editor to finish up the story.

The other big piece of news is that the posters are done. I just got back from seeing proofs, and I'm really happy with them!

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Right now, I'm working with a rough cut that has the final structure. We're still tweaking the pacing and working on music to see how it all fits together. I'm also waiting on motion design to come in. Once we have all that locked, it's off to do a sound mix and THAT'S THE LAST STEP.

Yeah Maybe, No Update: Color Process

The end of the year is wrapping up, and so is work on this project. I've got the final art back from Lucy, and thanks to the support from the Vlogbrothers, the files have been sent along to an extremely talented colorist. I just got back some thumbnails last night, and the panels are looking fantastic! I can't wait to see the final results. color thumbnail crop

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I was really hoping to have this whole thing finished up by the end of the year. However, there was a large delay that came about from a curve in the story's development this fall. With that behind me, things are coming along smoothly again. The art is nearing completion, a composer has begun working on a soundtrack, and the edit is in it's final stages. It is so amazing to see this project come together. I've poured so much into it. At times it's really hard to keep working on it, but seeing the artwork come together, and seeing people respond positively makes it all worth it.

This film has been an incredible journey and I can't wait to share it with you all.

Prove it. And other problems with systemic violence

4U0A3174We’re all talking about sexual violence right now. There’s Jian Ghomeshi’s accusation and the violent threats of #GamerGate. If that corner of the internet isn’t your thing, maybe you have heard of Sam Pepper, Tao Lin, disgraced college athletes or the NFL. Pick your subculture. The details change, but the story is the same. Sexual violence has always been a systemic issue. What gets lost in all the back and forth about specific cases is the larger pattern that permeates our culture. There is certainly a gendered component at the heart of this problem, but it’s helpful to occasionally look beyond the rape culture explanation and explore more general power dynamics driving this violence.

One aspect of power is credibility. Any time someone makes a public claim of being assaulted, listeners are presented with a small snapshot of a scenario and instantly make a judgement based on their personal bias. We all do this. There’s the inevitable cry of “innocent until proven guilty” that pretends it’s not taking sides, but those calling for hard evidence or a jury trial are siding with the status quo, which is overwhelmingly in favor of the accused. According to the FBI, 92 out of 100 rapes aren’t prosecuted, and that’s not including the counts of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“Innocent until proven guilty” is a call thrown out by people who know that the system has their back. People who aren’t in that privileged position know that it can just as easily flip into presumed guilt if you don’t have the right skin color or genetics. Frat boys can rape drunk girls cause they know police won’t take a drunk girl seriously enough to start an investigation. A well-known media personality can use his fame to manipulate women knowing that his fans will defend him. It’s easy to paint women as crazy vindictive bitches or sexy vixens because there’s a ready-made narrative for that.

That narrative is in the Texas courts, where a defense attorney paints an 11-year-old girl as a spider luring older boys into her web. Or the judge in Montana who gave a teacher a 30-day sentence on a rape charge because the 14-year-old student looked older than her age. Thankfully, these narratives are being called out as inappropriate and dangerous, but they are the legacy of men’s voices being privileged over women’s.

Still, it’s not a simple matter of men vs. women in broad collective terms. There are plenty of women who love misogyny and men who are devoted to non-violence and equality. Gender alone is not a determinant factor in who will or will not be a violent predator. The problem arises when people who are prone to violence are raised in a culture of fear and intimidation that reveres dominance and rewards predatory behavior. When applied to sexuality, we call it rape culture, but more generally, a violent culture presents the world as a grand competition for limited resources, sex, and status. In this mindset, fear is abundant, anger is glorified, and threats are everywhere.

While both men and women can be predators who are quick to anger, it would be disingenuous not to point out that angry, aggressive, predatory men perpetuate the vast majority of physical violence. Women’s predatory methods are more manipulative and psychological. Also, because women have less access to the higher institutions of power, they have a diminished ability to wreak havoc of a grand scale. But that doesn’t mean that all women are benign. Predation is not limited to physical violence. Horrible people of both genders might be after your money, your resources, your time, or your productivity.

It’s also useful to acknowledge that there are both men and women who are extremely vulnerable to psychological manipulation. Gender is a spectrum, and gendered power is also a spectrum. People who use their predatory drive to scam others out of their money certainly come in all shapes and sizes. But naive people who are easy to trick also come in all shapes and sizes. Weakness is not a uniquely feminine trait. There are both men and women who are easy prey.

So, to bring it back to sexual violence, the problem is predators. But beyond that, it’s the enabling of predators through the conflation of normal and predatory behavior. It’s normal to buy someone a drink on a date to start a conversation. It’s not normal to get someone so drunk that they can’t resist any advances. But there’s a middle ground, where you help someone get drunk in the hopes that they’ll loosen up and take risks. Or maybe the middle ground where you gravitate towards people who are prone to getting themselves totally fucked up without much prompting. In these grey zones people aren’t necessarily predators, but they are in situations that lend plausible deniability to those that are.

This is where the slippery nature of proof comes in. In light of plausible deniability, how can you conclusively prove someone’s intentions? Especially when all you have is a survivor’s word that he or she felt totally dehumanized in what should be a normal situation, how do you know who to believe? If the accused is in a place of power in society, the automatic bias of most people will go with him. The audience will hear that he’s just flirting, and surely, there is nothing wrong with flirting! The underlying message to other men is that if this happened to me, it can happen to you. And that is understandably terrifying. So, otherwise decent men get wrapped up in the predator’s game and gather round to call the accuser a liar, a slut, and demand that she prove that he did something wrong.

Now, of course, due process is important and it’s not reasonable to just flip the bias and punish people based on one person’s word. But we can do better by recognizing the unequal power structures at play and understanding that this bias exists. With so few predators actually being held accountable, we have to recognize that the system isn’t working and fix it. Affirmative consent laws are a great move in this direction, but they aren’t enough. We also need to change the cultural norms so that empathy and respect are rewarded more than domination and control. We need to be better at recognizing predators for what they are and not falling into their traps.

The reality is that most people are susceptible to getting caught up in fear. The world does contain legitimate threats, and it’s important to address them. But for all the internet fighting about feminists vs. MRAs, it’s important to remember that it’s never going to boil down to a question that can be neatly summed up in terms of gender. There are biases and privileges that matter, but the root cultural problem isn’t simply the patriarchy. It’s the need for control. It’s the need to win, no matter the cost, and the mindset that sees other people as nothing more than players in one’s own game. However, as the ruthless mocking of #GamerGate spreads father through the internet, and reputable media outlets publish Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu and Laci Green, there are signs that the system is changing.

Affirmative Consent is Good for Everyone

Photo:Crop of “BW Embrace" by Tudor from Guelph, Ontario, Canada - Skin. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. California is doing something good with the Yes Means Yes legislation. The law mandates clear and conscious consent as the standard that colleges apply to sexual assault cases. However, the law is being criticized as one that will criminalize most human sexual behavior in America, and an over-reach of government in dictating behaviors in the bedroom. These fears are misguided.

First of all, the majority of sex that happens is consensual. If you are totally sure that you are engaging in consensual sex, then this change doesn’t effect you. If you think you are engaging in consensual sex, but aren’t sure, then this law mostly applies to you. Learn to check in now. If you are afraid of this because you think the people you want to sleep with are potentially manipulative liars who are out to get you, then this law actually gives you tools to help protect yourself.

It might seem counter-intuitive to say that affirmative consent laws help protect people against false accusations, but they do. Remember, the law that passed in California isn’t just about changing the standard for consent, but also about widespread education and training. When the authorities in charge of keeping people safe are trained more effectively, they will lead more competent investigations. Our current culture of ignorance allows harmful myths to spread, and that cuts both ways.

Also, if you know the clear signs of consent, you can catalogue them in your head and be less vulnerable to manipulation. Someone who is giving mixed signals is someone who is more likely to accuse you. Conversely, if someone gives clear signals, but still makes a case against you, being able to clearly state the specific signals you received will strengthen your defense.

Another critique of the law is that there aren’t any clear guidelines for how to determine affirmative consent. Do you need to check in every 5 minutes, or is every 10 ok? If you ask someone if they’re into it and they respond by getting naked, is that a “yes”? And it makes sense, sex can be hard to talk about, especially when you haven’t had a lot of it yet.

But here’s the thing. Sex is something that involves adults. If you can’t have an adult conversation about it, you shouldn’t be having it. Puritan norms that make people feel awkward or ashamed of their desires create an environment where predators — both male and female — take advantage of vulnerable people. These predators thrive on a culture of shame and silence around sexuality, and do very real damage to the people around them.

The times when it is most important to get clear, verbal consent are when you are with a new partner or when you are in a relationship that is deteriorating. If you want to have a spontaneous encounter where one person takes charge and the other person submits, you have to be able to say that. If you don’t know what you want yet, you have to let people know you are still figuring it out. If you just want a one-night stand where you don’t get to know the person very well, you have to at least double-check that they didn’t change their mind somewhere between the bar and bedroom.

If you’ve already been doing everything right, then the only side-effect of everyone being clear is that you will get more of what you want and be better able to please your partners. If you are with someone who doesn’t respect your boundaries, or doesn’t make you feel safe sharing your desires, there is now a clear, legal message that that is not ok. If, for any reason, you are not able to give or get a clear “yes,” then you should absolutely not be having sex, and there are real consequences to moving forward.

This is a change to the current norm of how society expects young people negotiate sex, and it should be celebrated by all sides of this debate. It is chipping away at a culture of silence and misinformation that allows predatory people to take advantage of others. It makes the legal definition of consent more narrow, but that is necessary for a competent legal system. Most people out there are good, respectful people, and arming them with better communication will make their sex lives better. But for the people who have been victimized, this is the legal arm they need to hold those predators accountable.

Sam Pepper is a Predator

So, a lot of people have come out with allegations against Sam Pepper. There’s the possibility of a legal case, but even before that is resolved, here are some reasons why you should take those allegations very seriously.

Here's background for people who don't know what this is all about:

First, the sheer number of people coming forward is a good reason to take this seriously. He’s accused of soliciting pictures from minors. He’s accused of groping, and he’s accused of more serious crimes, of which the details haven’t been discussed. Even if there are one or two people jumping on the bandwagon for attention, there is a clear pattern that this man makes women and girls feel violated.

Second, his attempt to convince the world that his street assault videos were planned is manipulative. He is making a spectacle of all survivors of abuse, largely so that we stop paying attention to him. In so many situations, the outrage over these images comes from a personal experience or the personal experience of a loved one. Pulling on that particular heartstring in an attempt to make a “point” about anything other than compassion or justice is a sign of someone who is seeking to take advantage of others.

He wants us to believe that he’s not just innocent, but morally superior. He wants people to feel embarrassed for their outrage because he was just playing us. But the very real and raw emotions around sexual violence are not his playthings. It’s emotionally dishonest and it works because it plays into an on-going fight between men’s rights groups and feminists, but it is ultimately a deflection.

Finally, his earlier videos make it clear that he’s very skilled at violating people’s boundaries. There has been nothing illegal in Sam’s videos prior to the street harassment one he claims is scripted, but he presents a clear predatory dynamic. It doesn’t make sense to manipulate just anyone. A predator needs to test the waters. So, they will start slow, invading personal space, being more intimate than is appropriate, and they will escalate as far as they can. A good target is someone who plays along, someone who will smile nervously, either because they recognize they are in a weaker position, or because they have been involved in abusive dynamics in the past and think this is normal.

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The most clear example of this dynamic the “prank” where he handcuffs himself to women. There’s the woman at the end, who is holding her body so stiffly and asking if he can take it off. Up to this point, she’s smiled and played along, but when she asks for it to be over, he escalates. He says he is going to release her when she kisses him, and she looks down for a moment and then agrees. This is not a real choice. This is a man using a physical restraint and his power in the situation to push a woman’s boundaries even further. And then he uploads it for laughs. If this is his public face, it isn’t very surprising that there are women claiming he did things even worse in private.

Notably, even the MRAs on Reddit don’t back this guy. They may believe in his message about bringing attention to male survivors, but they can’t fully put themselves behind a man with such a blatant history of harassment. This is because even though there is a bitter distrust between MRAs and what they call SJWs, both groups include people who have been hurt by predators. They know the real enemy is a manipulative person who refuses to take responsibility for their actions and fucks with people’s heads. And thought it remains to be seen what happens with any legal allegations, this guy demonstrates clear signs that he’s not ok.