Positive organizing: midwest consent fest

Consent Fest sign
Photo by Lauri Apple/Chicago Reader

This photo showed up this week in the Chicago Reader.  Out of context, the sign seems a little strange, but perhaps that strangeness speaks to how consent isn’t always a part of the way we talk about sexuality.

The lonely, hand rendered sign doesn’t really reveal the work and consideration that fest organizers Otter Irene and Ben put into Midwest Consent Fest.  They both said it was the most involved event they had helped organize.

The event went down on May 21 and consisted of an afternoon of workshops, a  a pitch-in meal and a show featuring punk and hardcore bands, solo acoustic performers and poets.

In the week before the fest, I talked with Ben and Otter Irene about what motivated them to organize the fest and the consciousness they hoped the event would forefront.  I also stopped by the fest for some of the workshops and part of the show.

Watch an audio slideshow of the interview and photos of the fest:

Additional audio:

  • Otter Irene talks about sexism in the DIY/radical scene 

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  • Ben talks about how sex education doesn’t usually address consent

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I didn’t take any photos of the workshops because the ones I attended involved people speaking really directly about very intimate and often painful parts of their life.  There aren’t a lot of places where people can speak candidly about mental health or substance abuse and I got the strong feeling that, even if people consented to be photographed, it would still mediate the discussions.  The ability for people to get something helpful or meaningful from the event was more important than me documenting it.

The Sex Workers’ Art Show TourThe Sex Workers’ Art Show Tour @ Whittenberger Auditorium. 7p. free. 18+

The Sex Workers’ Art Show Tour is coming to Indiana University,
Sunday, February 24th, 2008 at 7 pm at the Whittenberger Auditorium,
Indiana Memorial Union. This event is FREE and open to the public
(18+, please)!

The show is an eye-popping evening of visual and performance art
created by people who work in the sex industry to dispel the myth that
they are anything short of artists, innovators, and geniuses!

The wildly successful cabaret-style show is hitting the road again,
bringing audiences a blend of spoken word, music, drag, burlesque, and
multimedia performance art. Intelligent and hot, disturbing and
hilarious, the performances offer a wide range of perspectives on sex
work, from celebration of prostitutes’ rights and sex-positivity to
views from the darker sides of the industry.

The show includes people from all areas of the sex industry:
strippers, prostitutes, dommes, film stars, phone sex operators,
internet models, etc. It smashes traditional stereotypes and moves
beyond “positive” and “negative” into a fuller articulation of the
complicated ways sex workers experience their jobs and their lives.
The Sex Workers’ Art Show entertains, arouses, and amazes while
simultaneously offering scathing and insightful commentary on notions
of class, race, gender, labor and sexuality!

For more information, visit http://www.sexworkersartshow.com or email

Sponsored by: Office for Women’s Affairs, Commission on Multicultural
Understanding, GLBT Student Support Services, Kinsey Institute, Gender
Studies Department, Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, CommUNITY
Education Program, OUT, Crossroads, Keshet, Women’s Students
Association, Feminist Law Forum, Feminist Majority Leadership
Alliance, Friends of Middle Way House, Sigma Lambda Gamma, Progressive
Librarians Guild, PFLAG of Spencer, IN, bloomingOUT, Boxcar Books