This is for real and certainly picks up where “sex ed” leaves off. The fraternity boys have a lot at stake individually andn this professional is gaining their respect and respect for women from what might have been seen as an unlikely source 5 years ago.– Story brought to Progressive Future by Associate Editor Alexandra Shiels
Adult actress Tasha Reign is visiting college fraternities around the country to lecture fraternity brothers and pledges about affirmative consent. This is what she’s learned.
Brett Kavanaugh has ignited a rage in women—and in our country.
Thanks to the courage of women like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who claims the Trump Supreme Court nominee attempted to sexually assault her at a house party when she was 15 years old, and Deborah Ramirez, who alleges that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a party at Yale, we are having a much-needed discussion about evidentiary “proof,” sexual assault, consent and the ideology behind “boys will be boys.” In many ways, Kavanaugh is a reflection of our male-entitlement culture—one that oozes toxic masculinity.
I began guest-lecturing at universities—starting at UCLA, my alma mater—about seven years ago. In the beginning it was nerve racking, and I wasn’t sure the juice was worth the squeeze. I always figured my speeches about the adult industry could be recorded and played in class, but apparently that doesn’t have the same effect on students. I was back on the hallowed grounds of Bruin territory, almost two years ago, when a student came up to me after class. He introduced himself as “Harrison,” and he was very amicable and confident. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “You mentioned that word ‘consent’ a lot. I am in AEPi here on campus, and I was wondering if you could come talk to the new pledges about that word, ‘consent.’ I think they could really benefit.”
At first listen I wasn’t eager to go to a fraternity house alone and talk to a bunch of young boys about consent. I was scared. I had visited my fair share of fraternity houses in college and wasn’t willing to return to that time in my life. I had also cast the same judgment that so many women do on fraternity houses. Stereotypes filled my mind and I was very apprehensive about getting involved. A few days went by and I began to brainstorm. I couldn’t get Harrison’s face out of my mind or the words that he had used. I realized quickly that instead of reading about all these fraternity horror stories I could be part of the solution.
Part of my apprehension stemmed from resentment I had toward society. Constantly being told by mainstream media outlets and religious extremists that my job as an adult performer somehow encouraged men to make bad choices like murder and gang rape had taken a heavy toll. Then it hit me: whether I like it or not, these men are learning about sex through my videos. My videos are made for media-literate viewers that already know about sex—entertainment for couples, for fun alone, for the man that can’t have sex with women, that is my target audience. However, that is just not the way it is. The rise of free tube sites has both changed the way we consume porn and the audience that consumes it. So I came to the conclusion that it was my civic duty to educate these AEPi members. What else did I have to do on a Wednesday night, anyway?
I wore a green romper from Nasty Gal and a pair of nude heels. I was nervous, not knowing exactly what I was going to say or even how I was going to present this “consent” talk. I rattled my mind for ideas, googled and read a series of sex education articles. After all, my degree was in women’s studies, not sex ed. However, almost a decade as a sex worker had taught me all I needed to know and then some. I had an idea: an anonymous bowl could be passed around. That way, the young pledges could submit their questions without the embarrassment of their brothers, and then I could answer them candidly.
As I pulled up to Frat Row, I had been thinking about how all my girlfriends told me to bring a bodyguard—advice that I’d brushed off. I was also concerned about how if something were to happen, would anyone even believe me? I didn’t know. I just had a gut feeling that AEPi would be warm and welcoming. Upon entering the historic building, I was cheerfully greeted by all the brothers that had already been initiated. I noticed that there was a young woman amongst the men, which made me feel at ease. She was there to help them talk to women; to coach the pledges, too. When I walked upstairs to find the pledges, they were all sat down in chairs in a circle. Each pledge wore white—except one little outlier who forgot. There was a candle lit, kind of like a séance, and I took a seat. I don’t think they’d seen my movies or even been told exactly what was happening. They were on their best behavior.
Most of the questions that these guys ask are both familiar and shocking. I am incredibly impressed by how many of them are well-versed in California’s affirmative consent law—the conscious agreement to engage in sexual activity throughout the entire encounter. That conscious agreement can be verbal or physical, although I warn them about the latter. In my opinion, using your words is the most effective strategy we have in the bedroom. I reiterate to them how imperative this is. I give anecdotal examples from my past that they can relate to (it’s possible that they have been on the other end of similar events, and this conversation makes it clearer). The next thing I emphasize is that they have such bright futures, and those futures depend on them upholding their reputations and responsibilities as role models; as the prestigious fraternity brothers that they are. They are in a very privileged position, so I like to remind them of that—and how it all can be thrown away. Just look at Brock Turner. He may not be serving any more time in prison but he is serving his own form of societal “time.” People will never forget.
Then, I lighten the mood and turn the conversation to more sex-based specifics. They have all this energy and emotion that no one has really allowed them to express—or so it seems. Women, in my experience, talk about details; we communicate in ways that men are ashamed of. It’s refreshing to answer their questions about how to perform oral sex on women and how to initiate foreplay without being creepy. They seem to want to learn. Maybe they act differently with a few beers in them, because they really “like beer,” so I make sure to let them know that consent means you or your partner can’t be blacked out, or even drunk. That proves to be the most challenging part of our conversation. There are unfortunately many queries like: “What if the girl makes it up—that I did something to her?” That is when I present them with their fear versus reality: Why on earth would a woman want to deal with the public humiliation that follows? What is her reward? I tell them that the chances of that are so incredibly rare that they needn’t worry.
Why am I doing this? Consent is the most important and serious issue that fraternities face, at parties and behind closed doors. Speaking to these young men on this candid level may help prevent them from making poor choices. I tell them to think of me and this conversation when they’re in positions they see as “gray.” As a feminist, I constantly remind myself that men are a product of their environment and women must help shape that environment. We raise men, mold men, and are a part of Greek life. That is why I was there that night, and that is why I will continue on with this advocacy project that’s still in the early stages of development.
Because we are all in this together.