Commentary  My Eyes Don’t Speak Consent

In Response to "This is No Longer a Safe Place"

On November 5, The McGill Daily published a feature called “This is No Longer a Safe Place.” As queer people of colour, reading this piece made us extremely uncomfortable. We believe that many of the author’s statements were incredibly problematic.

First of all, we’d like to begin by acknowledging, as the author stated, that “homophobic policing practices on the island of Montreal are far from over.” The Montreal police is notorious for using extremely oppressive practices against queer peoples, Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour. We have been harassed by police, and one of us is even a victim of excessive force. We know first-hand how horrible the police can be. Although the author is trying to make a valid point, the problematic aspects of the feature detract from its overall arguments.

Person 1:

In this article, the author argues: “By dehistoricizing the defendant’s act, security and police effectively polemicized the defendant’s act — an act that is otherwise common, mundane, harmless, and dare I say, hot,” in describing the phenomenon of cruising.

However, this fails to acknowledge the consequences of non-consensual sexual acts in the context of cruising. I’m a survivor of many different acts of sexual violence, two of those being public sex crimes. Once, I entered the bathroom of a mall and I saw a man hunched over masturbating. I remember choking. I didn’t want to see this, I just wanted to pee. He didn’t ask for my consent, he didn’t even give me an option but to witness it. Another time, I was walking from my school to a park nearby, and I saw another man masturbating in his car in the park. I remember going home and crying. Although those men may not have intended for me to see them, I did, and now I will forever hold those memories as trauma.

Another extremely problematic claim the author made was, “exchanging and holding gaze is a common way of determining interest and consent.” This cannot be further from the truth. Consent is not defined by holding or exchanging gaze. As a survivor, I find this extremely troubling. Time and time again, we see insufficient definitions of consent in mainstream media. Consent is more than merely using your eyes to determine interest. Consent is a continuous agreement, it is specific, it is verbal, it is informed. Consent is mutual. Consent is not assumed by gazes, or assumed automatically. I looked at my abuser. I exchanged long glances with him. It does not mean that I consented to anything he did to me, or did in front of me, for that matter.

And yes, the Montreal police is homophobic. They disproportionately and violently target queer people. Yes, public indecency laws are homophobic and are enforced problematically. All cops are bastards.

Person 2:

Yes, I have participated in cruising culture. It is not healthy for its participants, or for the people around them. Bathrooms and parks are public spaces, and we cannot assume that everyone in that space has agreed to witness our act. There are spaces made for cruising that don’t infringe on my right to pee in peace. Bathrooms and parks should be inclusive spaces, where survivors like me can use the space comfortably. I shouldn’t need a trigger warning to use the bathroom.

Cruising is not gay culture, instead, cruising is a symptom of a heteronormative dominant culture that doesn’t allow gay people to love. Gay men should be allowed to, and encouraged to, have healthy and romantic sexual relationships that go beyond the stall. This piece only reinforces the dominant narrative that gay sex must be underground, hidden, unemotional, and “in the bathroom.” Yes, cruising was a large part of gay culture for a long time, but that does not mean that it is consensual, mundane, common, or hot.

The article is sexualizing and romanticizing a phenomenon that only came out of a heteronormative culture. Queer oppression shouldn’t be romanticized, instead, we should look to create spaces to foster healthy sexual relationships. Our sex doesn’t have to be in an Eaton Centre bathroom to be valid. The gay struggle is adoption rights, marriage rights, health rights, blood donorship to name a few. The gay struggle shouldn’t be having sex in public spaces without the consent of onlookers. Gay culture is not limited to the select gay men who choose to cruise.

And yes, the Montreal police is homophobic. They disproportionately and violently target queer people. Yes, public indecency laws are homophobic and are enforced problematically. All cops are bastards.

For all readers, this article should not in anyway take attention from homophobic indecency laws or rewrite the stories of the gay folks who have been violated by police. Instead, this article should spark a conversation about consent and healthy sexual relationships.


Read a response to this letter here