How to pick up without the Internet: flagging in conversation

27 04 2012

Hey fans! We’re presenting a workshop as part of UMSU Queer & Wom*n’s Departments’ Rad Sex & Consent Week 2012. When I say workshop it’s just gonna be a casual chat, so come hang out, get your flag on, share hilarious hook-up stories, maybe meet someone nice, or nicely nasty. Here’s the write up:

How to pick up without the Internet: flagging in conversation

In the era of Grindr, OK Cupid and Fetlife our ways of communicating seem to be growing exponentially. But having immediate access to someone’s pictures, dimensions and sexual interests doesn’t necessarily make for the best interactions. Not so long ago queers got around with winks and looks and – of course – hankies.

Flagging hints. It invites conversations about sex acts, bodies, identities and relationships in a way that provides a radical resistance to the kind of “hands on” harassment and abuse many of us endure, as well as assumptions about our desires based on how we look or dress. Flagging conveys an acknowledgement of the need for explicit (and specific) consent. In the absence of well-tread narratives and social scripts, queer and feminist thinkers (as well as kinksters and poly folks) need to be creative in our approaches.

Join Gauche Sinister to chat about flagging, picking up, courtship and consent. Gauche writes for Flagging Opinicus Rampant, a Melbourne blog that celebrates, interrogates and reinvents traditional hanky code from a feminist and pangender perspective. All genders, sexualities, and levels of familiarity with flagging welcome.

It’s Monday 30 April, 4pm – 5pm in Room Joe Napolitano A, Level 2 of Union House at Melbourne University. See you there!

x Gauche

On rejection

7 02 2011


Swiftly and graciously accepting rejection is a cornerstone of radical consent. It hurts, but if you really believe in sexual autonomy, you just have to suck it up — without pleading or wheedling or demanding answers. You need a reason to be with someone, not to reject them.

Of course, rejection can be based on prejudice. It can be cissexist or racist or fatphobic or biphobic or ageist or ableist or anti-virgin or whatever else. And if someone voices those sentiments, you’re right to call them up on it. But nobody owes you an explanation on why they don’t want to fuck you or date you. I’ve been hearing people assume prejudice in situations where no reason was given, and I tend to think it’s likely no reason was given because no one wants to say “I’m just not that into you”.

In an existing relationship, pressing for a reason can be used to get someone to stay with you under the promise that you will change. But though it’s widely acknowledged that rape and sexual assault occur within established relationships, conversations about consent can tend to focus on the beginnings of things. Even when consent education explicitly resists the idea of perpetual consent, or conclusive negotiations (eg in this questionnaire), people can assume that certain ideas or questions aren’t applicable to their situation. The communication style and power dynamic of an established relationship can complicate negotiations, as much as it can facilitate them.

But coercion can come from a place of disempowerment — eg using your body image or mental health issues to manipulate someone into having sex with you — as much as it can come from the abuse of power. When you feel utterly powerless, it can be hard to imagine that you’re exercising coercion, but that’s exactly what’s happening when you try to beg and trade in the face of rejection.

One of our Basic Rules of Flagging is that we need to be open to suggestion and open to rejection. Consent depends on both — if you are too polite to proposition, too precious to be propositioned, too evasive to reject and too insecure to be rejected, how are you negotiating consent?


Finding Flags

3 01 2011


Ever since we started this blog a question that has been asked over and over again has been “where do I get flags?” (along with the complaint: “how am I ever going to remember all the different flags?”) There has been talk of us starting up a business selling flags but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon so I thought I’d give y’all some tips:

  • Dig through your local op shops scarf bins for flags
  • Go to a fabric shop (like Lincraft or Spotlight) and get the fabric and/or colour that you want, cut and sew it into a flag.
  • As for symbols, often the less classy (more trashy) option is taken of using a permanent marker to draw onto the flag the symbol you want.
  • If you have the time and inclination, cross stitch it onto your flag.
  • You could also have patches with the symbol on it that you could pin to your flag and then use with other flags/combinations.
  • Trade flags or share them around (this is a good way to get a collection of flags of things that you are really into but are having a hard time finding).
  • You can make gingham flags from tea towels!
  • Don’t forget Ribbons Can Be Flags.
  • And our friends at Worn Dress Designs with their Etsy store. Keep an eye on them because they are always coming out with new designs.

    A sample of their work:

  • Queers Supporting Queers

    10 11 2010

    The Hanky Code has been lubricating the navigation of the queer world for decades.  But it evolved out of an environment of fear and persecution.  Hanky flagging had trickled into the present as a positive but still somewhat secretive assertion of identity.  We wanted to re-work it – loud, proud, classy all-in-one.  Our re-appropriation of the original Hanky Code started as a senior thesis project for art school two years ago.  We illustrated dyed and screen printed an edition of 240.  Maria draw the classy ones. I drew the mangled ape looking ones.  Sometimes she added some sort of human resemblance  back into my
    efforts.  But we kept the butt licking apes exactly the way they were…

    The first trial run was our senior thesis exhibition complete with what felt like the grandparents and little siblings of every last one of our classmates.  We withstood the raised eyebrows and strategic redirecting of family members (along with the occasional open-minded curiosity) Not our venue.  But we knew that. Onto the queers…

    Within a year had sold out of our first edition.  This was awesome – queers  supporting queers.  We geared up for the second round of printing in the hopes of answering a daunting question – How the hell am I going to pay for top surgery? (for those unfamiliar, top surgery is the reconstruction of the chest from a female to male contour). Now with such amazing support from our community – MORE PRINTING! Perhaps expanding the colors available, inventing new ones – likes sexy reading of scientific texts? interpretive dance sex? Fund more tranny top surgeries? The possibilities are endless.  Thanks Queers!

    Click here to CHECK THEM OUT!!

    Worn Dress Designs

    Sea Grape bath + body

    Protest Flagging

    30 05 2010

    [by max 30/05/10]

    Since recently regaining the ability to think about street violence, I’ve been flagging black mosquito netting.

    As we continue to reiterate, flagging requires consent – without a specific and explicit understanding (and practice) of consent, flagging makes no sense. For me [right now], flagging into SM street sex also says something in protest of the actuality of street violence (against especially trans and gender ambiguous people [like me]).

    One of the reasons we started this blog (and got into flagging) was as a way of showing that femmes, dykes, women are into all kinds of sex too (nontrans and especially gay men continue to think otherwise, and that’s so lame). The way [traditional] flagging guides are set up by and for men having sex with men reinforces this. (And we resist it.)

    How do you protest flag?

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