Last Friday, two members of Philly Stands Up, a collective of individuals working to confront sexual assault with transformative justice in the Philadelphia area, came to the Womyn’s Resource Center (WRC) to lead a consent workshop.
The moderators guided a conversation among the students that discussed what consent is, why consent is important, what “sticky spots” exist in Swarthmore culture that make it hard for consent to exist and what the student body can do to change these.
Andrea Jacome ’14, a Womyn’s Resource Center intern, organized the event in light of the rising issue of sexual assault on campus and the demand for visibility on the matter. Since Genderfuck took place the following day, it seemed like an appropriate moment to have the discussion, according to Jacome.
“Because in Genderfuck last year sexual assault became a threatening issue, which almost jeopardized the event this year, I decided I wanted to bring this event as a different way of facilitating conversation on the matter,” she said.
According to MC Mazzocchi ’12, one of the Genderfuck planners, last year’s party warranted concerns about sexual assault and severe alcohol-related intoxications. More recently, the hate speech that has been prevalent on and around campus also caused the event planners to strive for a safe party environment.
“This year we thought that it was important to have increased accountability in part of the student body. Last year, we had maybe 10 PAs, a couple of public safety officers outside and that was everyone that was accountable for one of the biggest events on campus,” Callie Feingold ’12, a Genderfuck planner, said. “We decided to work on making Genderfuck a model party. We wanted to set a precedent for what a safe, fun and sex positive party looks like.”
Jacome thinks that the consent workshop should be mandatory for every student in order to attend Genderfuck, or any other big party.
“This is an issue that needs to be revisited outside of orientation,” she said. “People don’t really think that it’s a conversation that they need to have, but consent applies to everything — not just issues of sexual assault.”
Feingold, who was present at the discussion, thinks that having a mandatory consent workshop would be hard to implement.
“I thought that there was a great turn-out at the consent workshop, but it’s hard to tell everyone that they have to show up and also be present in the space, rather than just showing up and sitting there, unengaged, until the end to get a wristband,” she said.
However, she does think that the issues surrounding consent and sexual assault need to be talked about in greater detail. The Acquaintance Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) workshop, which is mandatory for every freshman during orientation week, is the only formal discussion Swarthmore students ever have on the matter, and according to Feingold, the connection between the workshop and Swarthmore’s social life is often missing.
“If more people could be part of the conversation, it would be really positive. But I also think that for the people that were [at the consent workshop], it was probably the best note to start on the next day,” she said.
The increased involvement bythe student body at this year’s Genderfuck, however, was also a positive addition to the party.
“Students got more involved and everyone felt that safety was the number one priority next to throwing a really awesome party,” Feingold said.
Mazzocchi was also very pleased with the members of Delta Upsilon, Phi Psi, Not Yet Sisters, the WRC, Drug and Alcohol Resource Team, Sexual Misconduct Advisors and Resource Team, women’s frisbee and women’s rugby for offering to help out, resulting in 60 students volunteering at the party.
“I’ve had a lot of seniors come up to me and say that this was the first time that they felt that Genderfuck was really fun and safe … But why the party was so much better wasn’t because of us five [planners], but because the community got involved and helped,” Mazzocchi said.
Joseph Hagedorn ’15, a Phi Psi and also “Fun Police” member was there to observe and ensure that all the students in attendance were safe. All of the Fun Police members received training in order to be better able to identify the kind of behaviors that could lead to potentially troubling situations and how to respond to them.
“I have never felt unsafe at a Swarthmore party, or been at a party where I felt that others were unsafe, though I understand that not all Swatties feel this way,” he said. “That being said, I do think that having sober people who are willing to help is essential at any party, and by systematizing and providing training, the Fun Police idea definitely enabled us to be more effective and facilitated providing help to students we didn’t know personally.”
According to Mazzocchi, no incidents of sexual assault, violence or hospitalizations due to alcohol were reported to have taken place at Genderfuck.