Where is Your Line?

Image from whereisyourline.org

As is usual for my job I was scanning feminist blogs and websites for news, information, anything that I can share with people who follow the Women’s Center on Twitter or Facebook or read this blog. On my most recent search I came across a piece about how regular women could learn something from the way sex workers negotiate sex. I found the article interesting and an intriguing way to look at how we view sex and how we talk about it. Mentioned in the article was a documentary title The Line and how its maker, Nancy Schwartzman, visited a “brothel” and discussed her own assault and how the workers define their sexual boundaries with clients.  I wanted to know more about the film. So following the links, I read an article about how The Line really raises questions about what happens when someone is assaulted who is not the “perfect victim” and when the assault is not clear cut.  Then I went to The Line’s website: whereisyourline.org.

Now maybe you have heard about the website and the movement, but if you’re like me and you haven’t, I strongly urge you to go to the website and watch the videos and read the blog. It just might change you. It might open discussions or affect the way you think about sexual assault or your own sexuality. The film follows Nancy Schwartzman’s search for answers about her own sexual assault and follows her along her journey to come to terms with the questions she was left with. She interviews attorneys, educators, prostitutes, and another survivor in the 24 min documentary. Although short, the film definitely addresses some key issues that our culture and many cultures struggle with when it comes to sexual assault, like victim blaming and lack of action because people are so quick to dismiss victims if they weren’t “perfect” before the attack, meaning they weren’t drinking or hadn’t had sex prior to the attack and countless other excuses people use to dismiss sexual assault.

In addition to her powerful film, Schwartzman created a movement in the form of a website where people send in photos and write blogs about their experiences. They send in pictures of stickers that they have written on about where their line is. My favorite says: “Have the respect to ask me and don’t judge me for saying no.”

For so many out there it’s hard to talk about sex, to communicate clearly with partners regarding what they will or will not engage in, or to speak up when they feel like they have been violated.  That’s why films and websites like this one are so important. Changing people’s opinions about sexual assault and victims is not something that will happen overnight and it takes the work of all different people, men and women, to facilitate that change. We need to educate people on rape and sexual assault and what is not ok, as well as empowering women and men to speak up for themselves and to not buy into victim-blaming attitudes about sexuality. Everyone needs to define where their line is and to have the strength to not only communicate that, but to also feel secure in wherever their line is; and we all need to respect ourselves and the people around us.

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