Amy Ziering, an accomplished documentary filmmaker who co-produced “The Invisible War” and “The Hunting Ground,” gave a three-part lecture entitled “Consent is Sexy” on Thursday night in the University’s Memorial Chapel. The lecture was organized by Alpha Xi Omicron, in conjunction with ASUR, as part of the sorority’s philanthropy RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) week. The lecture was structured by three sections; it began with the topic of consent, transitioned into a discussion about storytelling, listening and responsibility, and concluded with an in-depth discussion about rape.
Ziering briefly covered the definition of consent, as she found this topic to be relevant based on new California policy and recent law attention. After establishing that affirmative consent means, “yes means yes,” she illustrated her point with a short video that substituted sexual intercourse with tea, a scenario which demonstrates how ludicrous it is to force something on someone when the answer is not “yes.” The video was humorous and effective in concisely defining what consent is. To describe how consent is sexy, Ziering explained that the best relations are built off of communication, even if that is just one word. Another tidbit of wisdom she presented to the audience is, “don’t believe everything you see in porn.”
Ziering continues to implore the audience to act responsibly. She tells a personal story about a documentary she made on Jacques Derrida, a French philosopher who coined the term “deconstruction”. She reveals that her work with Derrida taught her the weight of storytelling, listening, and the responsibility people have to action when they are genuinely called to do so. Such a call is what eventually led her down the path of making multiple films about rape.
Ziering’s first documentary about rape and sexual assault is “The Invisible War”, which Ziering extensively discussed and showed a clip from. The documentary interviewed victims from the United States Military who shared their personal stories of trauma from sexual assault and the difficulty they faced when they searched for justice. Ziering revealed how her documentary eventually inspired change by pointing out system failures that lead to legislation being passed to better protect people, women especially, in the military.
From there she described how she traveled to college campuses to promote her film “The Invisible War” and received an unexpected response. College students began revealing to Ziering similar stories of sexual assault and rape that either went unreported or the college institution made it difficult to pursue. Ziering considered this a genuine call to action which she responded to by co-producing “The Hunting Ground”. Her second documentary was also described and a clip was shown.
The topic of sexual assault weighed heavy by the end of the hour, but Ziering was encouraging and asked her audience to capitalize on their powers to create change. She encouraged students to believe victims when they gather the courage to speak up about abuse, which is a challenging thing to do. Change can also come about from simple conversation; Ziering suggested talking about Title IX or cases like Brock Turner to take the misunderstanding out of sexual assault. She said, “Consent should not be controversial, culture should not allow rape allegations to be demeaned down to a ‘he said’, ‘she said’ debate,” Ziering continued that it should be commonly understood that alcohol is not to blame because “alcohol doesn’t rape people, rapists do.”
photo contributed by Halie West, Redlands Bulldog photographer