Sex, drugs, and dressing up. Most people will agree that these are a huge part of music festivals, whether or not they choose to partake in them. Festivals, especially the ones people camp at, draw a huge party crowd of young adults willing to try new things and push their limits. As festival-goers, it’s important to keep in mind that our actions have an impact on others. We must ask ourselves at what point our pursuit for free self expression and experimentation negatively affect others.
Without self awareness, and awareness of those around us, dressing up can turn into cultural appropriation; using drugs and alcohol can turn into aggression and oblivion; wanting intimacy and casual sex raises issues of consent and can turn into harassment and assault. These are all fueled by the collective spirit during festivals of people wanting to have a good time but taking it too far. As we enter festival season, let’s remember to be mindful and take responsibility for our actions. Let’s also look out for our friends and make sure that our good time doesn’t mean someone else’s bad time.
Here are some things to consider at summer festivals and in everyday life:
What should I know about sexual consent?
We’ve all heard that yes means yes and no means no. Enthusiastic consent is said to be given when a person agrees to proceed in sexual acts with a yes, rather than, as Persephone Magazine describes, “passive agreement,” like silence or a hesitant yes.
Enthusiastic consent should be granted before each new step throughout an intimate encounter, like progressing from oral sex to penetration. It’s also a good idea to check in at the end, or the next day, to make sure everyone involved feels okay about what happened. Having casual sex at festivals can be fun but keep in mind that people who are impaired by drugs and alcohol are not in the right state of mind to consent to sexual acts.
When does our own drug and alcohol consumption affect others?
Our good time should not disrupt someone else’s. Be mindful of others. If you are attending a festival inebriated, watch out for children, don’t be a jerk and block someone else’s view, and be kind to the staff.
Don’t assume everyone is there for the same reasons as you. Be aware of people’s desire to engage with you or not. Look out for your friends, stay safe, and know your limits. Be conscious of your friends’ behaviours - if they are unusually drunk or high give them the support they need.
Plan ahead before consuming drugs and alcohol and know where to go if you feel sick or unsafe. Carry around your comforts and necessities like water, lip balm, sunscreen, bug repellent, a warm sweater, and a flashlight.
When does dressing up turn into cultural appropriation?
Remember that items with cultural or religious significance should not be used for aesthetic purposes to look edgy and cool. As an Ohio University poster ad campaign said, “my culture is not a costume.”
Headdresses and bindis should not be used to enhance your free-spirit-boho-raver-chic look. It is racist and deeply offensive. Get creative and dress up in a way that doesn’t use your social privilege to tokenize people of colour. If you notice someone else doing this, use your voice and don’t be afraid to challenge them. That’s how change happens.
This summer, we can all work harder to check in with ourselves, check in with our friends, be aware of our actions, and contribute to safer and more inclusive spaces for everyone.
Part of the series: The 7th Annual Summer Festival Guide
Published in Volume 69, Number 27 of The Uniter (June 3, 2015)