The Hard Questions About Sex, Consent, and Free Will

A casual encounter goes terribly wrong. A woman is raped. Later she examines her experience. She looks up her attacker and confronts him. She records the conversation using a hidden camera. She decides to include it in a film, The Line. But the personal story told by Nancy Schwartzman isn’t simple. She’s not a “perfect victim” as judged by our culture. In the film she speaks with sex workers, abuse survivors, and activists to discuss justice, accountability, and what some call “rape culture.” It’s an old question – where is the line defining consent? – but it’s told from a sex-positive perspective. Schwartzman has started a larger dialogue about consent, sex, pleasure, and boundaries through her film and a website. The issues she confronts are especially relevant in San Francisco, where a culture of sexual openness and exploration often runs headlong into a certain strain of feminism. Can a consenting, self-aware woman, for example, engage in submissive behavior at the hands of a man and still call herself a feminist? Can she say “no” when she means “yes”? On the other hand, can a progressive-minded, egalitarian man inflict pain on a woman if the context is safe, sane, and consensual without being labeled a misogynist or rapist? What are our personal boundaries, how do we maintain them, and whose rules do we follow? Schwartzman appears tonight at the Center for Sex and Culture to screen The Line. She will then be part of a panel discussion including Carol Queen, staff sexologist for Good Vibrations and a founder of the Center for Sex and Culture, as well as Tracy Clark Flory of’s Broadsheet blog.
Tue., Oct. 12, 7:30 p.m., 2010

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