For Nancy Schwartzman, there is sex-positive life after rape. A filmmaker, writer and activist, Schwartzman used her experience as a rape survivor to fuel not only a documentary, “The Line,” examining her experience, but a multi-media campaign aimed at promoting sex-positive dialogue about relationships, sex and consent. This Thursday, February tenth at seven p.m., she joins forces with SHEER, a survivor centered, sexual assault prevention coalition to screen her film at Blackrock Pub & Kitchen.
Our Town What made you decide to so publicly examine your experience?
Nancy Schwartzman [Personally,] I needed a lens to process and understand the rape, its repercussions, and how it effected my perceptions of being a sexually liberated person. Politically, I realized my particular story was a litmus test for what our society understands as rape, who we think deserves sympathy, and what kinds of violence we tolerate.
OT Can you talk a little about the idea of a perfect victim and why you say you weren’t?
NS There is no "perfect" victim. She doesn't exist. My assault occurred during sex. Asking people to understand a violation of boundaries during a sex act challenges the idea that saying yes once, or to one kind of sex, means you give up all control and autonomy from that point forward. Even a woman walking down the street attacked by a stranger will be questioned about her behavior, and what she may have done to provoke the attack. We spend astonishing amounts of energy protecting the small minority of people who perpetrate sexual violence.
OT What was it like to confront your rapist with a hidden camera?
NS When I saw him again, I realized he’s not a monster. There were times when he tried to convince me what a great guy he is. Part of me felt torn, so it was disturbing. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the camera. The camera is objective. I also had a goal: go in, say what you need to say, give him a chance to speak, see how he behaves, and then decide how you’re going to use that footage.
NS Discuss the idea of a “line.”
NS I created The Line Campaign as a way to inspire people to talk about consent. I asked the question: Where is Your Line? And I like to reference all of the amazing audience responses:
“My line is always changing. Please ask. Please listen”
“My line is somewhere between R. Kelly and What would Jesus do?”
“My line is I am a whole, not a hole…”
OT How does the film examine your experience through a sex positive lens?
NS I am open about my sexuality and my behavior, and I approach enjoying healthy, safe sex as a fundamental human right. This is the definition of sex-positive. Eschewing shame and blame, and celebrating what is natural and fundamental to who we are.
OT What are your thoughts on House Republican’s trying to differentiate between rape and “forcible” rape?
NS I’m encouraged by the outrage, and by the conversations that examine victim blaming in the mainstream media (I’m thinking of Jon Stewart), but this is a contemptible and dangerous decision on the part of House Republicans, and a colossal waste of time and energy of our governing body.
OT Who’s your ideal viewer?
NS The target audience is high school and college students, parents and educators, [but]
there’s such a dire lack of sex-education and actual, nuanced portrayal of sexual behavior in the mainstream media, that really, this film is for anyone.
OT What do you hope viewers take away?
NS The ethics for sexual behavior are fundamental to all interactions – respect, communication – how to ask for what you want, how to respond to the desires and wishes of another if they are different from your own, how to navigate changing desires, moods, wants. How to say yes, how to say no, how to accept “maybe.” I hope moving forward that viewers and educators incorporate emotional well being and self-esteem when discussing sexual behavior, and that sexual assault prevention folks make sure to include the opinions and rights of sex workers, and the pleasure component of sex.
Learn more about Schwartzman's next project, XOXOSMS here.
A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually. Follow Our Town on Facebook and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez