Housekeeping notes: this post is going to be dealing with some really heavy subjects, including sexual assault and a lot of boundary crossing. If you are uncomfortable with these things, it is perhaps best to not read this post. Additionally, this post is not to condemn or villanize the SCA as a whole, but rather to encourage a spirit of deliberate conversations about where we want out of future participation and participants in SCA culture. TL;DR: sexual content, description of sexual assault.
So, let me set the scene a bit. I was maybe in the SCA for about a year at the time of this particular incident. I was so new that I didn’t have my AoA quite yet, and well, I hadn’t quite come to accept the full splendor of a full Byzantine sartorial riot. I had maybe been to a handful of events in that time period, and was simply soaking in all the things that the SCA had to offer. There I was: I was at one of my first SCA events – a lot had happened already that night. Went through gate, set up my very first nylon tent, had already started to immerse myself into the medieval mindset for the weekend, and did what seemingly every Calontiri did, which was sit around a fire pit, singing Calontir songs.
Feeling tired, I went back to my tent, but was way laid by a fighter pulling me into the shadows, speaking sweet, seductive words. Words of “I’ll fight for you,” “I’ll make you a princess,” and “you’re beautiful,” all words my geeky, gawky, somewhat romantic naïve self wanted to hear but had never been told in earnest. Kisses tasting of alcohol peppered my face and lips, and while I felt desired, I was in already in a relationship at the time and didn’t think it appropriate to be in this position and said so to the man kissing me.
The kisses didn’t stop.
I had to push him away, but he squeezed me closer and in places I was very uncomfortable with and when I finally broke out of my shell-shock of silence, I knew I needed to be elsewhere.
It thankfully didn’t go past that point, however, I was pretty mortified. I did put on a brave face, determining to be as pleasant as I could the next day.
When I waved at him in greeting the next morning, I was ignored. I saw his significant other next to him and knew that by her presence, those questions, those words that he told me the previous, would never be fully-formed realizations. It somewhat crushed me. Admittedly, I was not in the best relationship at the time, and that certainly didn’t help, but many new people in the Society often have their own ideations of a rather romantic sense of Chivalry and The Dream.
And so, I remained silent about what happened to me that night, struggling with processing the information and what that would mean for my own path. I was aware of other people being shamed for being open about what happened to them by other people and I didn’t want that to happen to me.
As my time progressed in the Society, I saw him become a Peer for his work in the martial field. I had hoped that what happened to me was an isolated occurrence, but as I am finding out now, was not.
I am disappointed and saddened at finding out that his behaviour continued and I am further disappointed that this particular man, who is now a Peer and someone marked as someone to emulate, has yet to figure out that his behaviour while drinking was affecting the rest of his Society experience. And I am saddened with the thought that we are still having to have a discussion about consent and boundaries, especially when it comes to sexual autonomy and other people’s bodies. Of course, I wish I could say this was the last time something like this happened to me with another SCAdian, but alas, I cannot.
Perhaps I have Thoughts.
While it is certainly true that while Peers are people and people are fallible, therefore, Peers are fallible, perhaps, just maybe, is it also be true that Peers have a responsibility to be an example of someone to emulate behaviour in and out of the Society? People are going to mess up. Peers are going to let people down. It is how they recover from the mistakes that they make that’s the important part.
Also, if you think that by not being a Peer precludes you from not behaving as best as you can towards others, guess what? It doesn’t.
The Society is dealing with a slew of a lack of respect towards other people within our group. If we are going to push past this, we have a responsibility to be better.
I’m going to do my best on my return from my current exile from the Society, whenever that is, to try and be better towards calling out the behaviours in as kind and as gentle as a way as I can. If the Society is to survive, we have to leave it better for our future generations, much like we have to leave our campsites better for those who use them after us.
It also means that we have got to learn how to accept that other people have boundaries, whether they be sexual, emotional, or even physical, and learn to work with people, but to also extend grace when people invariably mess up on those boundaries. Of course, if repeated incidences of boundary breaking occur, then discussions with either the offending party and/or appropriate kingdom officers need to occur as soon as possible. We need to be better about hearing the word “no” and knowing what enthusiastic consent is. I touched on it briefly here, in a discussion on consent in A&S circles, but the thing is, the concept of consent applies everywhere, in everything we do.
And I want to remind people that if you are uncomfortable, I am a safe space. I’ll urge you to seek out help (and probably give resources), but definitely will support you.