WERRRK.com is going all in on our 2018 RuPaul’s DragCon coverage, featuring some of our top talent with majorly upgraded equipment so this year, expect our highest quality sound, video and pictures ever! In addition to our on site coverage, our team is also providing their own thoughts on the biggest drag event to hit the west coast this year. First up is new contributor Paige Lauren as she as explains why drag is not consent! Stay tuned for more great coverage and content throughout the week! Happy DragCon Week everybody!
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Drag is not consent. What does that mean? At RuPaul’s DragCon this rule is sub-headed with a notation that you should always ask before taking a picture of someone – just because they’re dressed up, doesn’t necessarily mean they want their picture taken by a stranger. But is it really that simple?
As 2018 DragCon looms ahead, I can’t help thinking more and more about this question. Last year something happened during one of the panels that shook me so badly I had to go home and write a Tumblr post about it (as one does.) During the “Unhhh” panel with Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova, a girl decided it was a good idea to get up during the Q&A portion and spend a 5 minute chunk of time reading explicit fan fiction about the queens out loud to the queens, despite their explicit wishes that she not. The visible discomfort of both the queens and the audience went on and on, no matter how many times Trixie verbally protested. Why this girl had no friends to tell her this was a bad idea, I don’t know – but girl, if you’re reading this, find some better friends.
I know it seems like I’m picking on this girl a year later, but this is exactly the kind of behavior that begs the question “what does ‘drag is not consent’ mean?”
Drag queens – like many new media celebrities – make themselves incredibly accessible to fans. There are meet and greets at every show, and most of them go out in their home towns to support their local drag. They are almost all heavily active on social media and many will stay after shows to take even more pictures and just have a chat. This is great for those of us who just want a moment, a picture, a signature and to move on; but what about fans who take it too far?
There has always been a standard mind-set that being a celebrity means you must give up your right to privacy. Between paparazzi and hoards of fans, many celebrities don’t venture outside their homes without an entourage complete with bodyguard. But being a famous drag queen isn’t the same as being a movie star or pop sensation – drag stars rely on fan accessibility to remain relevant. There’s no studio backing their paychecks, no producer covering the payroll – if fans don’t buy tickets or pay cover charges, queens don’t get booked. But many fans – usually the younger ones – tend to take advantage of this.
It’s not just making 150 captive people and two fan-favorite queens uncomfortable for 5 minutes, overzealous fan behavior ranges from touching and grabbing queens, both on and offstage, to showing up uninvited to their homes and hotel rooms. I don’t know what the kids are calling it these days, but in my day that was called stalking. And it was highly frowned upon.
Yes, I know – as do the queens I’m sure – that most of these fans mean no harm. They just want a few extra moments with their favorite queen, and on some level, I get that. But there is no denying that showing up uninvited to someone’s home or hotel is not only posing a threat – it’s just plain creepy. If you are a server, work retail, a lawyer, or a doctor, and someone you met through your work showed up uninvited at your doorstep you would have every right to feel afraid. It wouldn’t be fun, or cute, or flattering – it would be illegal. Famous or not, drag queens are first and foremost people, and they always – and let me repeat for emphasis ALWAYS – have the right to feel safe. Most recently a violation of this safety was made against infamous Drag Race alum Willam Belli, who had a dress stolen right off her body in Costa Rica. Certain fans say she should “get over it” or “buy a new one” because she can afford it, but this is hardly the point. Kim Kardashian can afford to buy an entire new wardrobe, but that would not make the theft of her belongings any less illegal, or any less violating. There is no excuse for creating a situation in which anyone, celebrity or not, feels violated or taken advantage of.
I don’t care how well you think you know a queen because you watched them on TV, or you’ve seen every YouTube video ever posted of them, or you spent 5 minutes with them at a bar – you never have the right to put someone in the position in which they feel unsafe. And that, beautiful readers, is what “drag is not consent” means.
I know – at least I hope – that everyone’s intentions are good; and believe me when I see certain queens, I get really excited too, but let us remember that we are all humans, and we all need a certain amount of privacy and respect to exist happily on this little planet of ours. So please, next time you’re at a show, or drag con, remember drag is NOT consent – it is not consent to take a picture without asking, to touch or grab someone without permission, to ignore explicit instructions or deliberately make someone feel embarrassed or uncomfortable, to insert yourself into the show without being asked, to show up somewhere you weren’t invited, or to be an asshole. Repeat after me, everyone – Drag. Is. Not. Consent.