FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture

Apr 14

Force and Say it With a Condom launch a new line of consent themed condoms

Force is partnering with Say It With A Condom to promote a new line of consent-themed condoms.  The condoms are wrapped in slogans that say everything from “I heart consent” to “Drinking is not a crime. Rape is.” Through the partnership both organizations are working to find fun and creative ways to make consent part of everyday hook up culture.  

         

Force Upsetting Rape Culture is a creative and activist effort to upset the dominant culture of rape and promote a counter culture based on consent.  They are most widely known for their viral panty prank where they pretended to be Victoria’s Secret promoting consent-themed panties and thongs.  They more recently received international press for pretending to be Playboy releasing a “Top Ten Party Commandments” guide to consensual sex for college students.

“Consent needs to be a mainstream idea and practice.  We need to see pop culture examples of healthy sexuality and respecting boundaries as much as ‘blurred lines’.  Communicating boundaries, needs, and desires is hot! We need a sexual revolution that makes practicing consent at the front of having good sex.” says Rebecca Nagle, Force co director.

Nagle continues, “Looking at the history and promotion of condom use, is a great example of how we can change behavior to slow an epidemic. Condom use was promoted for sexually active people in response to the AIDS epidemic in the 90s in order to prevent the transmission of HIV. Today, communication needs to be promoted among sexually active people in response to the epidemic of rape, assault and sexual violence in order to prevent unwanted sexual experiences. Just like pausing to put on a condom prevents STIs, pausing to check in with your partner prevents unwanted sexual experiences.”

Say It With A Condom is an alternative marketing company that promotes strategic messages through condom packaging. The goal of their collection of Consent Condoms is to use condom packaging to promote the idea that a conversation about consent prior to engagement in any sort of sexual activity is essential. “Consent should never just be assumed or implied, and that is what we hope this line of Consent Condoms will convey”

"The goal here is to upset rape culture by making a conversation about consent an essential, sexy part of any hook-up,” says Benjamin Sherman, founder of Say It With A Condom. “We knew Force was the right partner for this campaign because we have the same end goals. We’re both trying to encourage consent in unique, fun ways that are just crazy enough to make a real difference."

Condoms are a great place for a consent message because knowing and respecting people’s safer sex needs is part of consensual sex. Before sex, talk to your partner about standards for using protection and then follow those standards. You might be accustomed to using condoms for vaginal or anal sex, and learn that your partner also uses condoms for oral sex. If you are in an open relationship, its good to talk about what protection to use when hooking up with other people. Decide what everyone is comfortable with and set clear guidelines. After you have had a conversation about safe sex, it is easier to follow your safe sex practices (to grab that condom) when you’re all hot and bothered.

In addition to promoting consent, Say It With A Condom is supporting Force by donating 25% of the profits to the activist group.  For a limited time, you can purchase a consent condom and support Force’s Kickstarter for The Monument Quilt Tour.  The Monument Quilt is a collection of stories from survivors of rape and abuse. By stitching our stories together we are creating a new culture where survivors are public supported rather than publicly shamed.

Consent Condoms

Support our Kickstarter and get a 10 pack of these consent condoms!!

Apr 07

Force announces a 10-city tour for the Monument Quilt.

Today, Force launched a Kickstarter to fund a tour of The Monument Quilt. The 2014 tour will give cities and towns the opportunity to witness the quilt, engage in the project and transform their local response to rape.

The Monument Quilt is a crowd-sourced collection of thousands of stories from survivors of rape and abuse.  Created by FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, the quilt creates public space for survivors to heal.  

“By stitching our stories together, survivors are creating and demanding public space to heal.” says Hannah Brancato, Force Co-director. “The Monument Quilt is a platform to not only tell our stories, but to work together to forever change how people in the US respond to rape. We are creating a new culture where survivors are publicly supported rather than publicly shamed.”

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At our first display in DC, visitors gather at the quilt to support survivors. Theresa Keil Photography

The tour will make 10 stops in cities, towns and communities across the Eastern half of the United States this August.  Tour stops are determined by local interest and partner organizations. If you are interested in bringing the Monument Quilt to your town contact us at upsettingrapeculture@gmail.com.

“We are going to work with schools, churches, advocacy groups, crisis centers and community organizations in each city to plan their display,” says Brancato. “At each display attendees will be able to witness survivor’s stories, write their own reflections, enjoy cookies, listen to music and speeches, and join in community. The tour will strengthen and deepen the impact of the monument quilt by engaging communities on the ground.”

Last May, FORCE raised nearly $27,000 to kickstart the Monument Quilt. Since then, they have also leveraged more than $300,000 in in-kind donations. With these resources they have moved into a studio, held two public displays, launched a new website, and are continuing to collect and stitch together squares from across the country.

“After holding displays in Baltimore and DC, we realized more people in more places need to see and experience the quilt,” said Rebecca Nagle, one of the project organizers. “That’s why we are taking the quilt on the road across the US, and we’re looking to you to help make this tour happen.” 

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Witnesses to the Baltimore and DC display had this to say about being with the quilt:

"I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude that FORCE started this project, because it means that my experience matters," said Melanie. "It means that what happened to me and others like me shouldn’t be kept hush-hush and shouldn’t be ignored because it’s part of a larger system of gender-based violence.  Until now, no one has prioritized survivors of rape enough to create a public space for us to heal, be safe and for others to reflect on its place in our society."

"If I had to sum up my experience of the quilt in one word, I would say the quilt was ‘safe,’” said one visitor to the DC display.  “As a survivor, my biggest struggle in life has been to feel safe.  It’s been a struggle to feel safe in intimate relationships, and it’s been a struggle to feel safe in the presence of co-workers, or just walking down the street— I have never, in my entire life, felt it was "safe" to publicly express my grief, pain, anger, or sorrow related to the trauma that I have survived.  For the first time in my life, I walked into a public space where it was safe to be a Survivor.  It’s a life-altering experience that all Survivors deserve."

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To support the Monument Quilt tour you can donate to the Kickstarter and share the link with friends and family.  If you are interested in engaging your local community in the tour contact Force at upsettingrapecultuare@gmail.com.

There are many other ways to get involved in the quilt project.  Survivors and allies can make their own quilt square. People across the country are invited to host quilt-making workshops in their school, community center, place of worship, or town.  You can also volunteer. All the different ways to engage, resources for survivors, information about upcoming events, and more can be found at themonumentquilt.org.

About FORCE

FORCE recently received international press for pretending to be Playboy releasing a “Top Ten Party Commandments” guide to consensual sex for college students. Force is also widely known for our viral panty prank, where we pretended to be Victoria’s Secret promoting consent themed slogans on undies and thongs.  We also projected “RAPE IS RAPE” onto the US Capitol Building, and  floated a poem written by a survivor in the reflecting pool of the lincoln memorial.

Their work has been covered by national press including NPR and the New York Times. The Huffington Post has said, “FORCE is doing a good job with a hard to digest topic, capturing the public imagination with their tactics.”

Mar 03

[video]

Quilt occupies US Capitol, creates healing space for survivors of rape and abuse

On a sunny, winter Saturday, 100 red quilts blanketed the lawn of the US Capitol Building with survivors’ stories of rape and abuse.  In three hours, roughly 300 visitors saw the 100 quilts.  The project, The Monument Quilt, is an effort to create public healing space for survivors.  With the symbolic capitol dome as a backdrop, supporters of the project, passer-bys and DC tourists witnessed and honored stories of sexual violence.

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One visitor stated, “The way that [the quilts] are displayed you can choose to read the stories or you can just come here and appreciate the visual effect of it.  So everyone can get the experience that they want to get from it. There’s been a lot of foot traffic. Its been interesting to watch people who didn’t know about it stumble upon it and read the stories and be exposed to the message of it. I think its been a really powerful experience.”

The Monument Quilt is a crowd-sourced collection of thousands of stories from survivors of rape and abuse by the creative activist group FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture.  Force says, “By stitching our stories together, we are creating and demanding public space to heal. The Monument Quilt is a platform to not only tell our stories, but work together to forever change how the US public responds to rape. We are creating a new culture where survivors are publicly supported, rather than publicly shamed.”

Force will be collecting quilt squares from survivors of rape and abuse across the country for The Monument Quilt over the next two years.  In a final display, The Monument Quilt will blanket over one mile of the national mall to spell “NOT ALONE”.

Many of the 300 people who saw Saturday’s display were moved by the experience. One visitor, who found the quilt while visiting the Capitol Building, said “It’s beneficial for everyone, for the general public, to be aware and know the emotional needs of victims.”

Elaine Schleiffer, a volunteer with FORCE, stated this about shame and the quilt: “It’s something that a lot of the stories here speak to, in the quilt.  A sense of shame, or silencing or not feeling community or not feeling supported by the people who are closest to you. So I think part of what the Monument Quilt accomplishes is making support public and red and giant and obvious.”

"If I had to sum up my experience of the quilt in one word, I would say the quilt was ‘safe,’” said one visitor.  “As a survivor, my biggest struggle in life has been to feel safe.  It’s been a struggle to feel safe in intimate relationships, and it’s been a struggle to feel safe in the presence of co-workers, or just walking down the street— I have never, in my entire life, felt it was "safe" to publicly express my grief, pain, anger, or sorrow related to the trauma that I have survived.  For the first time in my life, I walked into a public space where it was safe to be a Survivor.  It’s a life-altering experience that all Survivors deserve."

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Each quilt is completely different, like each individual experience with sexual violence. Some quilts contain detailed stories.  Some quilts contain parts of stories.  Others contain messages of support or statements about sexual violence.  Some squares contain no written language but are rather a landscape, an emotion, or a representation of an experience.  

One quilt stated in bold letters: “2 DRUNK 2 TALK = 2 DRUNK 2 FUCK”

One survivor wrote, “Please don’t tell me it didn’t happen or that I should be over it by now.”

One story read, ““The last time I saw my step dad in person he gave me a bunch of DVD’s. Home movies he had paid someone to transfer from tape. I watched them like a detective.

I want to know what day it was, what room we were in, what time of year.  What was I wearing? How did it start? I want the certainty of a memory that plays like a movie. I can feel what happened—when sex gets close to it—in a very specific way.  The weight of a body, the smell of alcohol on some one’s breath. The panic inside my muscles. Fear. Paralysis. My body remembers.”

And one red square quoted a bible verse, stating, “They are extinguished.  I am about to do a new thing.”

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“Many survivors don’t see themselves and their experience in our media’s narrow depiction of rape. This dominant narrative silences survivors,” says Rebecca Nagle, one of the project coordinators. “US culture narrowly defines and constantly qualifies rape, so survivors are made to feel insecure about naming their experience. There is not a correct way to be raped.  There is not a correct way to respond to being raped.  There are not grades of rape or lesser ways to experience sexual violence.  By creating an unfiltered, equal platform for survivors’ stories, we are working to upset the dominant narrative. We are creating a culture where the power of naming an experience is given back to the survivor.”

FORCE says, “The dominant narrative of rape in the United States is leaving many US residents out.  Rape is not only experienced by women.  Rape is not primarily experienced by adults.  Rape survivors are not only white, or able-bodied or straight.  A broad base of Americans are affected by rape and abuse.  People experience violence, recovery, justice and access very differently based on gender, sexual orientation, class, race, citizenship and ability.  When we correct our collective misconceptions of who is affected by rape, we are taking a necessary step to ending it.”

Visitors to Saturday’s display were greeted by volunteers, offered cookies and handed postcards with self-care tips to take home. A border around the installation reminded visitors to “breathe” and “its OK to cry, to talk, to leave, to be still.”   “The quilt airs out emotions that are usually confined to private spaces,” says Hannah Brancato, FORCE co-director. “For individuals and communities to heal from the isolating experience of sexual violence, which is so often kept hidden, we have to create a space where people can express emotions openly. Where people can feel angry. Leave. Reflect. Trauma from sexual violence is cumulative and effects just about everyone. In order collectively heal- as individuals, communities and as a country- we have to create space for people to grieve and heal and find support out in the open, in broad daylight.”

On interactive blankets visitors were invited to “SIT, WRITE, REFLECT.”  Some chose to share their own experience, while others wrote down messages of support for survivors. One visitor wrote, “I will read, believe and be transformed by every story here.  Because I so badly needed an ally to be there for me when I came forward with my own story.”

“These wounds ripple out over decades.  Who among us is not touched by them in some way?”

The statement made on the lawn of the US Capitol Building on Saturday is only the beginning.  Over the next two years, the Monument Quilt will increase in volume, reach, complexity, and impact.  FORCE plans to collect thousands of quilt squares for a final display, that will blanket over one mile of the National Mall. “The vision of the Monument Quilt is huge,” says Brancato. “The only thing bigger is the need.”

For those interested in shaping this nation-wide community art project, there are many different ways to get involved.  Survivors and allies can make their own quilt square. People across the country are invited to host quilt-making workshops in their school, community center, place of worship, or town.  You can also volunteer time or donate money to help make this vision a reality. All the different ways to engage, resources for survivors, information about upcoming events, and more can be found at themonumentquilt.org.