UPDATE: Thanks again to Button Poetry for capturing this and broadcasting it out to so many people. Thanks also to George Takei (and many others) for sharing. The poem is in my book, which is available here.

Also, there’s a whole section of poems on consent, from many different voices, in my big list of poems/videos for use by social justice educators.


The poem itself is maybe one of the more straightforward things that I’ve written; I wanted something that could work as a teaching tool, a resource, an additional frame for anyone doing work around this issue. In that spirit, I’d like to share a couple of links for further reading:

“Consent is a mutual verbal, physical, and emotional agreement that happens without manipulation, threats, or head games.” —more on consent from Project Respect

Here’s an in-depth primer on consent from Planned Parenthood.

“The idea of enthusiastic consent is quite simple. In a nutshell, it advocates for enthusiastic agreement to sexual activity, rather than passive agreement.” —more on enthusiastic consent from Persephone Magazine

Book: “Yes Means Yes” from Jaclyn Friedman & Jessica Valenti

The classic “Five Ways We Can Teach Men Not to Rape” by Zerlina Maxwell

Feel free to add more links or resources in the comments. Thanks!

Full text of the poem:
CONSENT AT 10,000 FEET
You ever have sex in a haunted house? Like you know, you sneak in together, and you’re both laughing, and you got it all planned out because you both worked there last year and know the layout of the building, and then like a werewolf jumps out and it’s like aaahhh but then you find that one spare room and it’s like… aahhh… you know, it’s different, it’s outside the box, but there’s nothing wrong with it.

You ever go to your roommate’s fringe festival show and end up hooking up with one of the supporting cast members, but they’re like, a method actor in the middle of a series of performances so they never break character? And, it’s cool but their character is this, like alternate universe steampunk Mercutio and their blunderbuss keeps getting in the way and you both laugh about it, and it’s like, memorable, something beyond the norm, but there’s nothing wrong with it.

You ever have sex inside an enormous bowl of fettucine alfredo that is suspended by chains between two sequoia trees because you’re dating this super avant garde performance artist and wanted to draw attention to their new vanity publishing press but they only got like a hundred Twitter followers? Yeah, it’s squishy, and definitely an experience that is not easily replicated, but there is nothing wrong with it.

There is nothing wrong with any of these scenarios, because in all of them, both partners are 100%, flamboyantly beyond any shadow of a doubt, down with what’s happening; and the communication of that, verbal and nonverbal, is clear and constant. This is consent. And wrong… would be the absence of that. In any context. For any reason.

It would be silence. It would be “I don’t know if this is what I want right now.” Because maybe that’s not a no, but it’s definitely not a yes. It would be just about everyone agreeing that rape is bad, but only when it’s called rape; how the amount of men who will admit to getting someone drunk, or otherwise manipulating, coercing, or forcing them into a sexual act is so much larger than the amount of men will admit to raping someone.

How wrong is it, to continue to talk about sexual assault like it’s always that stranger lurking in the bushes, or always that cartoon caricature of a predatory fratboy and never… the boyfriend. Or the girlfriend. Or the best friend. Or the “ally.” Or that really sweet guy from class.

This is for that really sweet guy from class, who might be asking: what about the grey areas? I’m not a rapist. What if we’re just both really drunk? What if she sends mixed messages? What if I’m trying to do the right thing but I read those signals wrong?

Have you ever had sex while skydiving? Like where you talk about consent the same way you talk about wearing a parachute—no grey areas, no assumptions like “I’m pretty sure I’m wearing a parachute.” No questions like “I asked her to check my parachute and she didn’t say anything, but it was okay last time so I’m sure it’s good this time too.”

Have you ever had sex in a burning building, when smoke and cinder wrapped itself around your neck, but coming was more important to you than going? Have you ever had sex on a liferaft in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by sharks. I’m not saying the water can’t be cloudy. I’m just saying: we are under no obligation to swim through it. Have you ever not had sex? Just watched a movie, maybe made out, maybe made plans to get up again later, and then maybe days or weeks later, when you’re both there, and both ready, and both smiling, and both completely alive in your own bodies, and both listening to each other, fully, and maybe it isn’t love, maybe it’s just sex, and that’s perfectly okay, but love is so much bigger than “let’s spend our lives together” it is also “let’s spend this moment together” as two (or more) people, present, electric, the opposite of grey—the embodiment of human—hands, eyes, lips, everything.

I’ve written about this kind of thing before, and I’d like to be clear that this framework is what I try to remind MYSELF of, not how I think all people everywhere need to operate. If other people can relate to this or use it, great, but I’m not trying to dictate anything to anyone. Especially when I think about my own identities and positionality, these points only really make sense in that context. For example, telling a Black person “you should do more to educate people” would be a super messed-up thing to say. But telling myself that would not be. So please read this spectrum with that in mind.

Also, I’m not particularly interested in being “deep” here. This isn’t some profound philosophical discussion about how human beings relate to change-making processes, or a poetic exploration of the roots of racial violence; it’s a concrete look at how social media practice can relate to movement-building.

With regards to the #BaltimoreUprising and #FreddieGray protests, a few examples:

1. Silence: So some people are silent because they’re ignorant, or because they don’t care, but there’s also a case to be made, especially for white people, that silence could mean listening, not trying to take up space: two good impulses. But as the rest of this list shows, there are ways to speak up without without speaking over others, especially when we’re talking about social media practice. And there’s just too much at stake to be completely silent.

2. Platitudes: “We all just need to LOVE each other!” Some platitudes are innocent, but a good amount of them implicitly amount to “why are you talking about this? I’d prefer to not think about it.” And then, of course, there’s the “All Lives Matter” crowd.

3. “Thoughts and prayers:” The last thing I want to do is disrespect people who are authentically trying to process tragedy and injustice. But I struggle with this one. If saying “my thoughts and prayers are with Baltimore” helps you survive, then I support that; this spectrum, after all, applies to me and yours might look different. But for me, I don’t give my own thoughts or prayers much weight. Sometimes a phrase like this can be an excuse to disengage, to say something when you feel powerless to do anything. But I don’t believe in powerlessness, as the following points illustrate.

4. Outrage: Sometimes, this is just raw emotion, and that’s fine. “This country is messed up and we need to DO something” is a great sentiment, and one I agree with. But this point is in the middle of the spectrum for a reason.

5. Outrage + links to more information: Social media can be really powerful, but not just for the vague push-and-pull of culture battles. It can be used to legitimately transmit information that can be used for the building of movements. So saying “this country is messed up and we need to DO something” AND linking to something like one of the following is more valuable to me than the previous point. A few examples:

6. Outrage + links to concrete actions or organizations: When the question “but what can I do?” is on so many people’s minds, I return to the idea that systemic problems require solutions that are bigger than just “striving to be a better person.” That means organizing: joining and/or supporting activist organizations that are doing the work. Of course, no organization is perfect, and no single event can magically “fix” things. But these are vital first steps. A few examples:

7. Signal-boosting the activists on the ground: I don’t always do this, since it can be tempting to center my social media practice on my own thoughts and opinions. But I think the “tweet less, retweet more” impulse is important. I have opinions, but I’m not in Baltimore, or Ferguson; beyond that, I’m also not Black, and this movement is very much about how #BlackLivesMatter. So shout out to people like @osope, @aliciagarza, @opalayo, @deray, @prisonculture, @karnythia, @blacklivesmpls, @nvlevy, @micamaryjane, @eveewing, @blklivesmatter, @dreamdefenders, @wintanamn, @mnnoc, and the hundreds of other activists and organizers out there. Feel free to add others in the comments.

If you’re one of the many people who feels like “I want to say something, but I’m not an expert; I don’t have anything to contribute,” then finding ways to signal-boost others can be a good option.

8. ADDENDUM SPECIFICALLY FOR ARTISTS:
I don’t think it’s unfair to say that there’s extra pressure on anyone who has a significant social media audience (whether you define that as 5k, 25k, 100k or beyond). ESPECIALLY because, as artists, it is very easy for us to veer into performative allyship, posting the hottest hot-take, being super vague, abstract, and faux-poetic. But we can do better. Artists (especially hip hop artists, my community) reach audiences that organizers don’t. When you’re tweeting/posting, please keep that in mind. Like this whole continuum illustrates– you can do some good by tweeting about the movement, but you can also actively help BUILD the movement with a little bit of intentionality.

The key word here, I think, is “specificity.” Even though so many of us are conditioned to strive for “timeless” rather than “timely,” sometimes being timely is simply more important. This is about how even though we’re all planting seeds, there’s a difference between randomly scattering wildflower seeds and planting crops.

Also feel free to add other links or resources in the comments. Thanks.

I hate to make other people’s accomplishments about me, but this was too funny. Every year, City Pages runs a “Best of the Twin Cities” feature, honoring different local artists and establishments. I’ve been in it before, as have lots of people. This year, I noticed something cool; not sure if anyone else has made this connection yet:

Best hip hop artist: deM atlaS

Best female vocalist: Claire de Lune

Best producer: Big Cats

Now, aside from these artists being phenomenally talented and wonderful people whom everyone should know about and support, does anyone see the connection between the three of them? I’ll give you a hint:

Me and deM atlaS made an album with Rube under the name Sifu Hotman. Me and Claire made an album called A Loud Heart. And me and Big Cats made two albums together, the most recent being You Better Weaponize. Click the links to listen to and/or buy them.

ALSO, the Re-Verb open mic, organized by TruArtSpeaks (the organization I work with as comm director and as a roster artist), was awarded best open mic!

All of this is less about how much impact and influence I have, and more about how good I am at latching onto talented people before they blow up, haha. Congratulations to everyone!