The Feministing Five: Ben Privot

Ben Privot has made it his personal mission to, in his own words, “present consent as extremely sexy”. And he’s off to a fantastic start. His brand new initiative, The Consensual Project (TCP), was founded in mid January of this year to promote consent between partners as a method for making sexual interaction healthier, safer, sexier. The logo, website, content, workshop all reflect ways to make issues of consent accessible and doable. The website even asks for your consent through the landing page!

Once we started talking, it was clear that Ben brings a unique energy and creativity to his work, in a field that is certainly as challenging as it is crucial and groundbreaking. TCP’s youtube videos, mixtapes, and overall energy reflect a uniquely visionary take on modern issues of love, sex, hookups, and consent. Ben has been shouted out by MTV, and he’s written for Scarleteen. He also works in collaboration with the awesome organization Men Can Stop Rape.

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Ben majored in Women and Gender Studies and one extracurricular dedication after another eventually culminated in one of his greatest achievements: an award winning workshop which gets students excited about exploring consent. Now Ben is going back to school: this time to impact schools the way they have impacted him.

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Ben Privot.

Lori Adelman: What led you to begin working on consent, and why did you start the Consensual Project?

Ben Privot: I started this project several months ago. But, a long series of events has led me to this work. I studied women and gender studies in college where understanding systems of oppression was at the forefront of our education and since sexual violence is an expression of power, we spent a lot of our time studying the social conditions which allows for sexual violence to happen. And since feminist praxis seeks to politicize the personal, my initial reaction was, “how do I make sure that I understand interpersonal dynamics in my own relationships to ensure safety for both myself and my partners?” That’s honestly where consent first entered my life – I wanted to maintain trusting, accountable, and safe sexual relationships. But, what I didn’t realize at the time was that communication through words is an extremely dynamic, exciting, and downright sexy way of approaching intimacy. I’ll spare you the details, but I can’t even compare my sex life before and after consent – it is just that dramatic of a difference.

So naturally, I wanted to share everything my friends, my hookups, my partners and feminism was teaching me about consent in a way that rang true to the way I learn. Personally, I learn the most when information is simple, tangible, and enjoyable. So, for example, I’ve conceptualized tools for consent. These tools provide us easy and practical ways to introduce consent into our bedroom. Or kitchen…Or wherever it is you and your partners like to get busy.

As a project, the end goal is and forever will be to maximize the number of students who connect through consent. I hope to accomplish this by doing several things. First, I make all of the project’s resources publicly available, no matter what community you’re from, I firmly believe consent belongs there and I’m going to do what I can to make that happen. Second, united we stand but divided we fall, so I want to strive for an egalitarian model for this project where we can all contribute as much as possible to discover the forefront of the language consent. Third, messaging, I think one of our toughest challenges in feminism and as sex educators teaching consent is to make the messages of consent palatable for the mainstream to embrace. There’s certainly more, but I’d say that summarizes most of this project’s purpose.

LA: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?

BP: Growing up, every Sunday night at 8pm my family would get together to watch The Simpsons, it was the way we would all gather and have a great time. I was always very envious of Lisa Simpson. I loved how she unified her intelligence, sincerity, and kindness to have a profoundly acute sense of self. But then the thirteenth season happened and I gave up on the show and by default, Lisa too. Sorry Lisa. I promise it’s not personal.

In real life, this is such a non-answer, but I think any woman who utilizes the framework feminism offers to consciously address convention is a heroine. So for that, just about every woman in my life.

LA: What recent news story related to consent made you want to scream?

BP: I’ll think I’ll share the scream of delight I had after hearing about Biden’s speech in New Hampshire. I unfortunately had a meeting starting right as the speech started, but SAFER Campus live tweeted the event and when I read through their tweets I ended up doing some gleeful finger snaps. So any article I’ve found noting the focus the Obama administration is now giving collegiate sexual violence has given me a great supply of energy and hope.

LA: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge facing feminism today?

BP: I can think of two and I’m not sure which challenge is greater right now. The first is Lori Adelman’s tape recorder. This may be self-explanatory. If it isn’t and you’re looking for a good laugh, ask her! Or me.

[Ed note: batteries for these things can be harder to come upon that one might initially suspect!]

Secondly, from my own experience as a consent educator, I would say that inclusion/exclusion is one of my toughest challenges. This is true of any feminist message for that matter. But, as sex educators I think we that we’re creating a discourse and I also think we’re responsible for understanding what that discourse is while we develop a pedagogy that strives to avoid exclusion by actively centering the perspectives from the margin. An example of what this has meant for this project would be that when I present consent in a workshop, online through a blog post, via twitter, Facebook, or in a Youtube video, I’m looking to engage a diverse array of people to share their own experiences with consent, how they define it, practice it, utilize it, and then we all can collectively unify our ideas together. I personally think we stand to learn and gain a lot more that way. But it’s definitely been a big challenge.

LA: You’re going to a desert island, and you’re allowed to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?

BP: For food, I’d pack a lot of spinach and mushroom quesadillas with some guacamole dip. My drink without question would be watered down orange juice. Ok, before you judge me for that one, just let me explain. I think we can agree water doesn’t have too much flavor and OJ can be a little to sweet at times so why not innovate here with around 4/5th water and 1/5th OJ? The more pulp the better, too. If you like the cut of my jib, I suggest you try it. You may never look back. As for my favorite feminist, I think Saul Williams would be fantastic island companion. He is such a deeply talented artist who can excel in whatever medium he chooses while delivering a rich political analysis. His music, his poetry, his acting, everything. One of the best nights of my life was when I visited UMD to watch Saul Williams light the room on fire with his poetry. He seems like such an all around incredible person I’d probably never want to leave the island.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman started blogging with Feministing in 2008, and now runs partnerships and strategy as a co-Executive Director. She is also the Director of Youth Engagement at Women Deliver, where she promotes meaningful youth engagement in international development efforts, including through running the award-winning Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Lori was formerly the Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and has also worked at the United Nations Foundation on the Secretary-General's flagship Every Woman Every Child initiative, and at the International Women’s Health Coalition and Human Rights Watch. As a leading voice on women’s rights issues, Lori frequently consults, speaks and publishes on feminism, activism and movement-building. A graduate of Harvard University, Lori has been named to The Root 100 list of the most influential African Americans in the United States, and to Forbes Magazine‘s list of the “30 Under 30” successful mediamakers. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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