Age of no consent

This column appeared in The Gauntlet on March 22, 2012

You have never had consensual sex. The sex you have now is not consensual, nor will you ever have consensual sex so long as you continue to live as you do. Rape, sexual abuse and assault are merely the tip of a sexually violent iceberg. Given the direness of our present circumstances — the inherent barbarism of the social, economic, political, religious, academic and cultural corrals into which we are captured and contained — it is fair to claim that it is impossible for anyone to adequately consent to sexual activity in the present. And what’s most sinister is that we’ve been ‘educated’ to think that all is well. While it may seem harsh or absurd to think that a statement that echoes of the obscene charge that “all sex is rape” could be legitimate, to deny it suggests that one is suffering from a terrible case of false consciousness. We have become numb, no longer capable of feeling the flow of sinister authority that permeates the fabric of our lives. We are incapable of making autonomous and well-informed decisions, incapable of being in touch with ourselves and our own sexualities. We’ve been normalized to sexual violence and the vital force of our erotic passions has been drained, leaving the substance of genuine consent unobtainable.


The issues of consent cut a wide swath of possible discussions in all sorts of fields of interest, but none of them evokes as furious and emotionally infused reactions as the issue of sexual consent does. Clearly we are pressing on sensitive tissue. Dare I say that our nerves are so frayed perhaps because we, at heart, understand that something integral is lacking in our sexualities? That sexuality’s intimate core is missing, or has been stolen? Do we not sense that some grave and grievous injustice is being done in every porn film, night club, brothel, fatherly household or kangaroo rape trial? Yet we don’t face up to this reality, perhaps because we know that the rot exists not only on the periphery — in the porn flicks, whorehouses and violent rapes — but that its roots extend through the entirety of the whole, the bulk of matter, and into our very beds. Must I remind you that most sexual assaults and rapes are perpetrated by friends, family or acquaintances — and if we are finally being honest with ourselves and one another, even when we, men and women the same, tell ourselves that our sexual activity is mutually and genuinely consensual, we are refining our skills of disavowal. The behemoth that is our way of life is thoroughly infected. The laws, the language, the imagery — everything our senses can be imbued with, even one another, has been infused with patriarchy’s dominating, savage values. The same system that allows spliced and splayed ‘women’ to be devoured also liquidates our capacity to make well-informed judgements and to understand and appreciate our own sexualities. We live under the same roof, and eat the same stale, mouldy bread as the whore and rapist do.

We grudgingly accept the old cliche “sex sells,” not because we understand it as ‘truth,’ but because we aren’t allowed to believe anything else. Sex is pleasurable, erotic desire animates our lives; but that doesn’t justify the sort of logic that packages our passions into marketable, measurable and manageable hedons. Even if a seemingly innocuous phrase like “sex sells” contained a nugget of truth (although I don’t know how it would), it has been used against us, inoculating us from birth with a false sense that the hyper-sexualization of our world is an inevitable consequence of ‘human nature,’ of Homo economicus. Or worse, we tell ourselves that sexual violence is an exception, perpetrated by perverts. But we know better. We can do better. The bastions of patriarchy are far from being inevitable consequences of ‘the way things are.’ Walls do fall, whether through lack of upkeep, nature’s wrath or by our own hands. But rather than waiting for the situation to improve or placing our hopes on reform (which, lest we forget, only buries the problem deeper) we ought to take sexual and erotic freedom, and the revolutionary struggle necessary to achieve it, seriously. We must, as Wolfi Landstreicher told us, “ . . . truly allow the expansiveness of passionate intensity to flower and to pursue it where the twisting vine of desire takes it.”

No one wants to admit that their sex life is not and never has been consensual. But there is nothing fantastical and utopian about believing that it is possible to form new ways of life where we congregate with one another as autonomous equals, adequately informed and genuinely in touch with ourselves. Bringing to fruition the way we ought to live — where loving and erotic relationships of infinite variety are legitimately possible — requires overturning and annihilating the destructive order at hand, adopting struggle as a way of life, passionately and incessantly dreaming and doing. Accepting sex’s current non-consensual nature is a bitter pill to swallow, but perhaps it is just the right medicine to cure us of our sexual woes.

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No place to study . . . each other

This article appeared in the Gauntlet on Oct. 27, 2011.

The Taylor Family Digital Library opened to considerable fanfare, but its study spaces are absurdly busy, noisy and in short supply. The majority of MacKimmie Tower closed, robbing us of a study place of solace. Coupling these concerns with the record enrolment numbers and the bureaucratic hodgepodging of both the su and campus administration, students are realizing that our campus has woefully inadequate study space. However, there is an equally pressing concern that most students haven’t yet considered: the woefully inadequate lack of sex space.

The studying of sexuality and sex in all of its scholarly manifestations is ubiquitous in the fields of academia. But in our university the having of sex and exploring of sexuality have been denied a constructive outlet. This has condemned campus sex and sexuality to secretive trysts and regretful dorm room encounters.
If our school really wants to achieve “excellence” they need to affirm sexuality and create sexual space. Sex space would undoubtedly reduce the amount of pointless and often painful one-night stands that result from the immature sex rituals of ThursDen. If we had sex space students would waste less of their days and nights ogling their fellow students, searching for a human connection or for a fuck. It’s understood that sex is a wonderful option for stress relief. I’m certain most students don’t need the benefits of stress relief explained to them. With less nights and days wasted, with our focus regained and our stress reduced, grades and emotional well-being would improve. Our burden upon services such as the Wellness Centre would certainly be reduced. The practical element of establishing sexual space would be an incredible adventure that only a closed mind would not appreciate. While there is something to be said of clandestine rendezvouses in empty classrooms, sex space would foster a better relationship to sexuality.

Sexuality is an essential aspect of humanness — it expresses itself in a bountiful plurality of beautiful possibilities. However, perhaps resulting from the hyper-sexualized sexist corporate media, sexuality within our campus has, almost entirely, been relegated to the darkest recesses of our school. Sex space is a possible means by which we can reverse this trend. Our university needs to graduate from its immature understanding of sex — a coital convocation that affirms genuine sexual values.

It’s time we occupy Calgary – speech

On Saturday Oct. 15, 2011, participants of Occupy Calgary hit Banker’s Hall on Stephen Avenue to begin the noble movement. I was given the opportunity to speak following the smudge ceremony that started the event. The following words are the script of the speech itself.

Liberated from CTV

Right now, we are saying to our parliament, to the media, to corporate interests, to the world, that we are here to participate in a conversation of change.

 “Our politics caught up with who we are,” were the words of our new premier, Alison Redford, touting her election victory. While it is certainly momentous that a woman has finally come to power here in Alberta, it is incredibly embarrassing to hear politicians and media alike believe and announce that our present politics have in any way, shape or form caught up with who we are. In contrast with Redford’s remark, I find myself sympathetic to sociologist Jean Baudrillard’s astute observation that “today, power itself is an embarrassment and there is no one to assume it truly.”

Our political sphere continues to survive on the fiction that it represents we the people, and not neoliberal interests. In our globalized world held hostage by corporate forces the need to subvert the system and bring about serious and legitimate change has necessarily gone viral. We stand at a juncture in history where through participation in this grand act of enthusiastic emancipation we can become the terminal illness that brings an end to a system that has long propagated massive global injustices.

The Arab Spring, Tahrir Square in Cairo, the acampada in Spain, protests in Greece, London, Iceland and Portugal, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Occupy movements across America and across Canada, and we here in Calgary are all united in the desire to open up new social, economic and political dialogues, avenues, and opportunities.

When the Arab Spring ignited the stations of politics and media were caught off guard. They struggled to make sense of what was happening, what it meant and what brought it about. Observing the mainstream media sources’ coverage of the events past and event present reveals, on their part, a severe lack of understanding. Only three days ago the Herald ran an article written by Ric Mciver that called this movement a “gang,” the flavor of the month,” “wannabe Barak Obamas” and “Socialists.” Ric Mciver doesn’t want to understand. The world of media and politics have shown themselves to be utterly disgusted and confused by the idea of regular people expressing their autonomy by camping out on public property to participate in an attempt to create an altruistic, alternative space wherein a dialogue for serious change can be conceived and incubated.

Liberated from the Calgary Herald

When the mainstream media speaks about the Occupy movements you will hear them say “this movement doesn’t know what it wants” … “it has no real plan” … “it has no serious goals.” What we want — our goal — is straightforward: emancipate ourselves, our economy, our society and our politics from the crushing grip of corporate control.  Our plan, to echo Naomi Klein, is to allow people to speak for themselves — rather than having corporations speak for them as they presently do — because we believe that people, when given the opportunity, are smart enough, and capable enough, to make decisions that are the best for them.

Many of our fellow citizens, our brothers and sisters across the province, across this country, often revert to the ‘Canadian’s are calm’ card. You hear platitudes about how easygoing and peaceful we are, as if our very genetics somehow expressed a desire for non-confrontation. This is a mask too easily worn. A mask that blinds us from the very real and pressing concerns that surrounds us all.

Calgary is a colonial outpost of the corporate network in a literal sense.

The ground we stand on right now is Blackfoot land. The Blackfoot people were barriers to the interests of the few and were removed accordingly. And I assure you the injustices did not end there. Crowfoot was a great chief and the Peigan were a people before we assimilated them into roads. In the past few weeks alone, the Harper government has tabled an omnibus crime bill that is determined to enhance the extreme prejudice — the overt racism — contained in Canada’s justice system, where 70 per cent of inmates are aboriginal peoples. To say that Canada, through residential schools, the reserve system and eugenics board, merely has a legacy of racism against its indigenous populations suggests that that racism has been acknowledged and is being corrected as best as possible. Well that is bullshit, brothers and sisters. Racism is as alive as ever here in Canada — aboriginal peoples, having been violently divorced from their lands and their heritage are no longer blockades of the ‘free market’ and make great serf labor for industrial expansion. I implore you to remember that we stand on Native land. Please do not forget it.

Alberta’s economy, while providing many of us a degree of stability, is, in fact, not much of an economy. All of our resources, whether it be oil and gas, wheat, cattle, timber or people –as we too are seen as commodities — are crudely extracted without due care to the environment, are refined for transport, and are sent south to the benefit of the ultra-wealthy abroad. Our natural wealth is exploited by the wealthy. When regular Albertans attempt to speak for themselves and develop legitimate larger industry to their own benefit, and not corporate benefit elsewhere, they are promptly shut down. Borders of supposedly ‘free trade’ conveniently close. Loans are refused on the grounds that our province lacks the real capacity and manpower to develop much beyond primary and secondary industries. The oil refineries, meat and food processors and lumber mills are not in Alberta and are not owned by regular Albertans — we have absolutely not say in any of it. The economic destiny of our province is in the hands of the wealthy who do own those industries, and who extract and exploit our natural wealth at their own leisure and our detriment.

Liberated from the Calgary Sun

Our brothers and sisters who have camped, are camped and will stay camped in the plazas of Madrid, parks across America and Canada, central squares of Arab cities and the streets of Greece believe that now is the time to start the conversation. Revolutions of the past doomed themselves to the repetition of history through traditional modes of coercion, incomplete methods of representation and a tendency towards violence. We can change that too. The injustices we face — locally and globally — propagated by the behemoth of corporatist hegemony that enshrouds us can be brought to their ends through encouraging, incubating and realizing the conversation around us.

Maybe by gathering here we will give our brothers and sisters who are stuck in that a malaise of mutual indifference the courage to stand up and speak on their own behalf too. Because here we are, peacefully assembled, declaring our autonomy, and creating a space to conceive and incubate the dialogues and opportunities that will give way to the essential changes needed to set our city, our province, our world down a healthier path.

It’s time we Occupy Calgary

This column appeared in The Gauntlet on Oct. 6, 2011.

     “Our politics caught up with who we are,” were the words of Alberta’s new premier-designate, Alison Redford, touting her election victory. While admittedly it is certainly momentous that a woman has finally come to power, and in such regards Redford’s remark is a fair point, it is incredibly embarrassing to hear politicians and media alike believe and announce that our present politics have in any way, shape or form caught up with who we are. In contrast with Redford’s remark, I find myself sympathetic to sociologist Jean Baudrillard’s astute observation that “today, power itself is an embarrassment and there is no one to assume it truly.”

Our political sphere continues to survive on the fiction that it represents we the people, and not the hegemony of capital. In our globalized world held hostage by corporate forces the need to subvert the system and bring about serious and legitimate change has necessarily gone viral. We stand at a juncture in history where through emancipatory enthusiasm we can become the terminal illness that brings an end to a system that has long propagated massive global injustices.

Courtesy Tommi Watts

The Arab Spring, Tahrir Square in Cairo, the acampada in Spain, protests in Greece, London, Iceland and Portugal, the Occupy Wall Street movement and all of the additional Occupy movements are all united in their desire to open up new social, economic and political dialogues and avenues.

In solidarity with the multitude of international movements that have occurred, are ongoing or are yet to come, I urge all Calgarians to stand up on Oct. 15 and show that we too are interested in joining this global conversation of change.

When the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia on Dec. 17, 2010 provided a catalyst for protestors to take to the streets across the Arab world, igniting the Arab Spring, the stations of politics and media were caught off guard. They struggled to make sense of what was happening, what it meant and what brought it about. Watching coverage of these events through mainstream sources reveals that they still don’t truly understand.

Fuelled by an ongoing debt crisis, various austerity measures and an enthusiasm boiling over from the Arab Spring, movements for change have seen their opportunity and have broken out across Europe. The ongoing acampada in Spain, wherein thousands of people have gathered and are continuing to camp in Madrid’s central squares, began on May 15, 2011. The ‘social crisis’ in Greece has continued since May 5, 2010. The London protests held on Mar. 26, 2011 saw upwards of half a million people take to the streets. Early this week on Oct. 2, 2011, some 100,000 people turned up to protest in Portugal. And on Sept. 17, 2011 the Occupy Wall Street initiative got underway, setting up camp in Zucotti ‘Liberty’ park in downtown Manhattan, which continues to grows larger day by day. The “Occupy” movement– inspired by Occupy Wall Street– has already spread to San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Portland (Maine), Portland (Oregon) and is encouragingly anticipated to further spread to most major cities in the western world, including Calgary on Oct. 15.

In reporting specifically on Occupy Wall Street, major American news sources, in trying to explain what is going on, have assessed the situation as Marxism, Post-Marxism, Communism, Socialism, juvenile behaviour, the beginnings of totalitarianism, lefty-nutcase protesting, a non-serious non-event doomed to disaster and on and on and on. The world of media and politics have shown themselves to be utterly confused and somewhat disgusted by the idea of regular, autonomous people camping out on public property to participate in an attempt to create an altruistic, alternative space wherein a dialogue for serious change can be conceived and incubated. In an honest diagnosis of the present political and media culture, their inability to understand seems directly connected to their total reliance on the corporate system of greed which people, such as myself, hope to bring to an end.

The culture of corporate greed has liquidated values, resources and dignity. It has tied itself inextricably into our social and political institutions and has liquidated their cores. Noam Chomsky, in strong support of the Occupy movement, recently made the following remark:

“Anyone with eyes open knows that the gangsterism of Wall Street– financial institutions generally– has caused severe damage to the people of the United States (and the world), and should also know that it has been doing so increasingly for over 30 years, as their power in the economy has radically increased, and with it their political power. That has set in motion a vicious cycle that has concentrated immense wealth, and with it political power, in a tiny sector of the population, a fraction of 1 per cent, while the rest increasingly become what is sometimes called “a precariat”– seeking to survive in a precarious existence. They also carry out these ugly activities with almost complete impunity– not only too big to fail, but also too big to jail.

The courageous and honourable protests underway in Wall Street should serve to bring this calamity to public attention, and to lead to dedicated efforts to overcome it and set the society on a more healthy course.”

The title of Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek’s most recent major book, Living in the End Times, communicates so much about the state of current society. Our mode of political, social and economic existence has been on a steady decline– just look at our global situation– and it doesn’t take much insight to understand that its end is coming closer and closer. Žižek’s “four riders of the apocalypse” come not in the form of their traditional religious conceptualizations, but as forerunners of the “ecological crisis, the consequences of the biogenetic revolution, imbalances within the system itself . . . and the explosive growth of social divisions and exclusions” that will bring about an end-times for capital’s hegemony.

Each of the global movements that have gotten underway or are about to start face different issues, different problems, and require different solutions. While people such as myself are all connected by our desire to end the injustices of our corporate society, economy and politics, each location faces a unique challenge. Here in Canada we often play the ‘calm’ card. You hear platitudes about how easygoing and peaceful we are as a people, as if our very genetics somehow expressed a desire for non-confrontation. This, however, is a mask easily worn by Canadians, allowing each and every one of us to continually fail in participating as citizens of this nation, and as citizens of this world. We find ourselves in a malaise of mutual indifference.

Furthermore, Calgarians are especially guilty of failing to see their role in the continuing injustices occurring both in our own backyards and on a world-wide scale. The overt racism and exploitation of resources and people by economic and political agendas, the tight grip that capital keeps around our necks, is so often passed over in silence or ignorance by all of us. Calgary is, in many ways, a colonial outpost in the corporate network. So many of those in suits working in our downtown core believe themselves to be autonomous– working in the best interests of themselves, our city, our people. What they are, however, are compradors– the privileged middlemen between our vast natural resources and the corporate exploiters abroad. Our resources are extracted, roughly refined then sent elsewhere (generally south) to the benefit of the ultra-wealthy– exploited like the serfs we are. Corporatist hegemony’s social stranglehold and our tendency to apathy has deluded us, bound us, blinded us from the cruel reality in Alberta.

Courtesy Jason Park

It is the enthusiasm for emancipation from corporate hegemony that ties our movements together. Our brothers and sisters who have camped, are camped and will stay camped in the plazas of Madrid, parks across America, central squares of Arab capitals and the streets of Greece believe that now is the time to start the conversation. Revolutions of the past doomed themselves to the repetition of history through traditional modes of coercion, incomplete methods of representation and a tendency towards violence. The global injustices we currently face, propogated by the behemoth of capital that enshrouds us, can be brought to their ends through encouraging, incubating and realizing the conversation started by the global movements.

This time that we, as Calgarians, can begin our own version of this conversation that redefines our social space, bringing an end to injustices at home and abroad. As a press release from Jason Devine, an individual assisting the organization of Occupy Calgary put it:

“Occupy Calgary is a movement with no appointed leadership structure. It is an exercise in participatory democracy, where all members discuss, debate, and make decisions. Its decision-making process takes place through consensus and voting . . . While we share many of the issues raised by our sisters and brothers in the u.s. [and abroad], Calgary is a unique place with problems that are specific to it. Participants of Occupy Calgary are already developing a collective critique of our local society and our various demands for change . . . Each movement has something to say.”

It is in the wake of the end-times of corporate greed’s hegemonic control that an emancipatory enthusiasm like we are seeing across the globe can become capable of taking root, starting the essential conversations and creating the opportunities for the changes we need.

Anal-fisting: the fullest manifestation of the sexual act

 This article appeared in the Gauntlet on September 15th, 2011.

  Slavoj Žižek — the quick-witted, foul-mouthed philosopher — punctiliously proclaimed “fist-fucking” to be — simply — “Edenic,” and ultimately, under my auspicious observation, Žižek is correct. Anal-fisting, a sexual act whose relatively high level of difficulty to perform with success, foreseeably prompting revulsion in sensitive ears, is the fullest and most intense manifestation of sexual capacity, pleasurability and sexual expression.

  Žižek’s insights — contained in his 1997 work The Plague of Fantasies — were predominantly theological-sexual speculations about Adam and Eve before the Fall. However, with a dash of courage, the thrustful arguments made by the Slovenian wit can conveniently be extended into contemporary sexual discourse, especially in respects to homosexuality/homophobia, issues of dominance and control and the powerful symbolic role of the hand as the object of penetration. Anal-fisting is the culmination not of just unquantifiable personal sexual orgasmic experiences, which commonly limits discussions of sexual pleasure, but rather it is the fullest manifestation of the sexual act as it relates to sexual ability, limits, pleasure, expression and symbolic relations and power. But, of course, as one anonymous Montreal author stated, “Why fisting? Why not? We all are constantly searching for higher and more fulfilling planes of sexual pleasure.”

  Sexual activity involving anal play, particularly the act of anal-fisting, is seen by a significant majority of present society as being a predominantly perverted homosexual act. In the words of sex-blogger Tristan Taormino, “Most people think anal-fisting is either a gay urban legend or some freakish sexual circus feat.” The present efforts seek to dissolve and move past such judgements, which are themselves the actual perversion. Anal-fisting is not the sole property of any one orientation or partner relationship. Whether performed by a single individual, two men, two women, a man and woman, two people of whatever sexual identity or multiple people of whatever sexual identity, fist-fucking oversteps the demoded hetero/homosexual dichotomy, receiving the entire sexual spectrum much as the ass receives the hand: in a steady, lubricated thrust. As anal-fisting knows no sexual boundaries, it is the crowning jewel of omnisexuality activity — the prime pansexual pleasure.

  The next feature in favour of fist-fucking being considered the fullest manifestation — the most ‘Edenic’ expression — of the sexual act is the necessity of Will that is required to succeed in the act itself. The necessity of Will divides into two intertwined points: resistance and overcoming. From a physical standpoint the ass is a highly flexible orifice, more than capable of receiving a fist (hand) into it. The difficulty of the act resides in the psychological determination required to surmount the mind’s own opposition. In Žižek’s words, one is “penetrated in the region in which ‘closure,’ resistance to penetration, is the natural reaction.” The term ‘closure’ as used by Žižek is specially meaningful, as its antonym, ‘opening,’ is reflectant of both what is necessary physically and of the ‘openness’ of Mind required. To relax — akin to a meditation — and overcome the mental difficulties present and accept the fist of one’s partner is to lay down all judgements, physical and psychological, in the pursuit of pleasures oft forbidden to unopened Minds.

  One of the most striking properties of fist-fucking is the symbolic role of the hand. As Žižek notes, the hand is “not the phallus (as in ‘normal’ anal intercourse) but the fist (hand), the organ par excellence not of spontaneous pleasure but of instrumental activity . . . What enters me is not the phallus, but a pre-phallic partial object.” The hand, in psychoanalytic terms, cannot be rendered into the receiving subject’s ‘narcissistic illusion of completeness,’ obliterating the phallic-centred desire/dominance ego struggle so characteristic of contemporary sexuality.

  Furthermore, anal-fisting requires passivity on the part of the receiver. It is through passivity that anal-fisting transcends homophobic tendencies, extends beyond dominance and control and provides the intense experience of pleasure. Forced to remain passive, especially in a culture whose sexuality still suffers the nightmares of patriarchal dominance, the receiver must overcome their own inhibitions, so often homophobic in nature, in order to succeed in the edenic enjoyment available.

  The determination of Will required to quell the tendency towards closure and control. The pre-phallic symbolic nature of the hand as a giver of pleasure. The breaking of restrictive limits so common in sexuality, the understanding of one’s body and of sexuality imbued from the knowledge gained through exploration. The passivity required for receiving and the blurring of sexual-orientation distinctions into pansexual unity all astoundingly announce that anal-fisting is the prime pansexual penetrative pleasure — the fullest manifestation of the sexual act.