Playa Babe Survival Guide
Black Rock City. You may feel a greater sense of freedom here from the norms and cultural rules that bind us elsewhere, surrounding us at every moment of our carefully monitored lives. You may feel more forward, more able to do what you want. While Burning Man is not real life, the real world does filter in--especially concerning the treatment of women.
At a recent camp meeting, a group of women began to compare unsettling playa experiences which started a heated conversation about harassment of women at Burning Man. A wide variety of stories surfaced: a man attempting to drag a woman off on the open playa until her friends came to her rescue; breasts grabbed by a stranger; a woman grabbed by an unknown man on a motorcycle who sped off with her. Then, of course, there's the unwanted attention, sexual comments, leers, and photographs taken without permission.
Most of us do leave the playa unharmed. Most of us have the time of our lives joining projects, making art, dancing and tripping without fear for our safety. Yet Burning Man has serious potential for damage, such as harassment, assault and rape. As one Fandango woman remarked, 'It's incidents like these that make the leering, voyeuristic behavior of some Burning Man attendees so scary.'
We Don't want to negate the fact that men are harassed, and women are harassers. We Don't want people to dress more conservatively or change sexual names for camps and events. We Don't want people to go to Burning Man with a sense of fear or worry for their safety. We're looking for solutions to allow us freedom and for potential harassers to behave responsibly. 'I think a concerted effort is needed,' says Trashistans TheBrilliantHen, 'to let the scumbag community know they will be fought tooth-and-nail at the festival.'
Most of all, with all the police presence at the event, we demand action for inappropriate behavior. We want to know police are there to help--inasmuch the police fine people for lighting up a joint, they might as well ticket and fine sexual harassers, or eject them altogether from the Playa.
Here are some basic safety tips:
- The rules are different than real life- but use common sense and city smarts when evaluating situations. Human nature does not intrinsically change once we hit the Playa-it's not an ideal world free from harm.
- Be more careful the second half of the event (Thursday through Sunday). There are more people on the playa. People are more anonymous and can get away with more.
- Be naked, be free. But realize you risk ending up on the internet or Playa versions of Girls Gone Wild videos.
- Don't take candy from strangers. Know what drugs you are taking and who is giving them to you.
- Be aware of drug interactions. Don't mix GHB with alcohol, duh.
- Have a check-in person, or Playa buddy when tripping, especially if wandering around at night. If your judgment is impaired, do it with a friend.
- Carry something that doubles as a weapon, like a large Maglite. There may not be people around to help if you travel alone on the open Playa at night.
- Burning Man is the perfect venue for public and group humiliation. If someone is harassing you, confront them and get other people involved.
- Burning Man is also incredibly supportive. You most likely get the support you need if you ask for it.
- Help someone who looks to be the recipient of unwanted attention.
- Call attention to your plight. Be loud. Make a scene. Call a Ranger. (There are three main Ranger stations--one at center camp, two at the outposts. They also can be reached at CB Channel 9)
- Don't be afraid to veer from the Burning Man spirit and tell someone to fuck off. So be it if someone thinks you're uptight or rude when defining your boundaries.
For Potential Harassers:
- Ask permission to take photos. Let people know your intent for photos and video images.
- Ask permission before you touch another person. Treat people with respect. Just because a person is naked or wearing revealing clothes does not mean the person is up for grabs.
- Don't stare or gawk. Participate.
- The main issue is consent. Ask yourself, is this behavior consensual? Did this person agree to do this? Is this person sober enough to give consent?
Welcome to the Playa. Be nice. Be safe. Transcend. Have fun!