An Open Letter to Bassnectar
It's been a while since I convinced a flight attendant to deliver a letter to you on a flight to Miami in January of this year. I expressed my gratitude for how the Bassnectar project has informed my healing process, and you held space by waiting for me after the flight in an extraordinary gesture of solidarity that I won't soon forget. I instantly viewed you as an unequivocal ally. I thought our paths might have crossed at that moment in time so that you and your team could support a project that I've been wanting to launch surrounding consent culture in nightclubs. Why wouldn't I want to be guided by the team that has been a leader in curating safer spaces at events?
Now I wonder whether our paths might have crossed so that I can offer perspective and suggestions for how to engage with this nuanced dialogue regarding the intersection of power dynamics and consent. The rest of the letter is addressed to the community at large.
I want to start by saying that I stand in solidarity with all all survivors of sexual assault. I also want to admit that it is hard for me to be objective since I have such a strong connection with Bassnectar's music. I will try my best, and I hope that my humble perspective as a rape survivor can offer some thought-provoking insight. I'm not an expert on consent, but I have learned a lot through nearly two years of somatic therapy and considerable research, and the following reflections are an expression of that. I am not affiliated with Good Night Out (referenced below), and my opinions do not reflect theirs.
I am not here to excuse problematic behavior, but in order for change to occur, I believe that we need to offer both direct and indirect perpetrators of rape culture the opportunity to change. We have every right to hold them accountable, especially those in a position of power.
"Rape culture exists because we don't believe it does" (The Nation). The corollary to this is that we don't believe rape culture exists because of the lack of education around rape and consent.
Rape is not black and white. But I used to think that it was. I used to think that only strangers violently raped women in dark alleys. Why did I think this? Because of the way that I was socialized and educated about rape and consent. I internalized this to the point where I normalized a traumatizing experience that I had when I was 17 because I lacked the vocabulary to appropriately characterize it as rape.
I want to propose a potentially controversial question that I do not know the answer to: if I didn't know that I was raped, then by extension, isn't it plausible (not excusable) that men didn't know that they were sexually assaulting women? This kind of behavior was normalized for so long, and the #metoo movement is helping to redefine these lines and consent.
Most of the dialogue surrounding the aftermath of the #metoo movement has focused on how women can heal. But women aren't the problem. We must also focus on how men can confront, transform, and heal from the toxic and problematic hyper masculinity under which they were socialized. We need to address the root of the problem (rape) rather than its consequences (survivors). If you agree with this, then we must give men the opportunity to do better and to meet the new standard that women are proactively defining.
I have immersed myself within the dialogue surrounding consent at nightclubs over the last 18 months. One thing I have learned is that consent is a gray area that requires a dedicated mindfulness to successfully navigate. It is an ongoing conversation in my own relationship of seven years.
Having consensual sex with a girl under 18 (as long as she is "of age" as defined by the state) is different from intentionally inebriating an underage girl to the point where she cannot consent. It is a thin line, but it's worth acknowledging. There is a spectrum of harm. What makes the former particularly complicated within the current Bassnectar discourse is its intersection with power dynamics. Here's another challenging question for the community: how is consent impacted by power dynamics?
I am not exonerating the former, but I am attempting to draw a parallel between this type of problematic behavior and sexual harassment such as groping a girl at a club. Are either of these acts technically illegal? As far as I can tell, no. Are they still problematic? Absolutely.
This is where the idea of calling in vs. calling out comes in. I recently came across this concept in a virtual workshop led by Stacey Forrester of Good Night Out Vancouver, and I hope that my platform can eventually be an extension of Good Night Out's. I used to think that taking a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment at music venues was the solution. In other words, let's kick the guy out for groping the girl without her permission, no questions asked. I learned that I was wrong. It's not so black and white. We need to hold space for people to ask questions and to learn from their mistakes. This is an essential part of growth.
In this workshop, I learned that "people who are socialized under toxic and hyper masculinity are taking cues from social norms, and they have not had people model better standards of behavior. There's no opportunity for modeling and culture change if you just remove the person." If I may apply this same logic to the Bassnectar discourse, there will be no opportunity for modeling and culture change if we just "cancel" Bassnectar, especially because Bassnectar is quite literally a model for culture change.
I believe that Bassnectar's influence is the key to this paradigm shift within the EDM community. A local music venue in San Francisco blew me off when I tried to proactively address my experience of sexual harassment at their venue, but they listened to the artist's team that stood up for me. This is why I was so excited when I randomly met Lorin on a flight. He expressed enthusiasm and support for my idea, and I couldn't help but imagine how far it could go with his platform's support. I believe that this dialogue's success within this community is contingent upon the artists who hold the power, and Bassnectar is fundamentally one of those artists. Perhaps he misused his power in the past. I suggest that we give him the opportunity to leverage his position of power to challenge and shift these paradigms that exist within the community.
I want to hold myself accountable and ask myself whether I would offer my rapist the same opportunity. The honest answer is that I am not interested in or ready for contact at this time, but I imagine that I would feel gratified if I were to find out that he was taking time to educate himself and regularly donating to organizations that spread awareness about sexual violence. He is more than welcome to pay for my therapy. I'm going to challenge myself to consider what "calling in" might look like within my personal context and how it could inform my healing process.
I want to conclude by addressing Lorin directly. I read in your public-facing follow-up statement that you feel embarrassed and ashamed. Well, we have that in common, because I also feel embarrassed and ashamed as a survivor. I'm trying to transform these feelings into action to prevent others from experiencing these feelings, and I invite you to consider using your influence to do the same.
One way to do this would be for the Bassnectar team participate in the Good Night Out workshop that G Jones and his crew participated in before their Ineffable Truth tour. Everyone on the tour had a baseline set of skills around rape culture and bystander intervention.The entire crew signed a code of conduct, and Good Night Out wrote a safety rider for the tour manager to distribute to the security staff at each show on the tour. I would love to see the Bassnectar team sponsor similar programming at all curated events and festivals that they play. Good Night Out is currently hosting virtual sessions, and this dialogue is very available to be engaged with immediately.
For the community, please consider educating yourself about how to be an active bystander. Feel free to get in touch with me about 7 ways to challenge harassment culture. I would love to share how I have integrated what I learned from these workshops into my life.
When it comes to challenging rape culture, it's not about changing the past, it's about affecting change for the future. That's how I've come to think of it. I cannot change what happened to me, but if I can further the dialogue then it will save others. Paying for therapy will go a long way in helping people confront their past, but modeling a better standard of behavior by investing in this programming is a simple and pragmatic way to help the men in the industry who likely take cues from the social norms to confront and transform their problematic masculinity.
With gratitude, humility, and respect,
~The Festival Scribe