Thaiconsent wants Thais to talk openly about sex.
Since its Oct 16 explosion across social media platforms, #MeToo has become a full-fledged movement giving voice and support to victims of sexual harassment and assault. In the United States, the rallying cry, which began with actress Alyssa Milano’s tweet, has resulted in a nation-wide reckoning and the exposure of abuses by high powered men across the industries of media, entertainment and politics. In Thailand, the #MeToo call-and-response was subdued, but local social media activists are making headway through their own movements, in particular Thaiconsent, a platform that promotes a healthier model for intimate relationships by educating the public on the importance of consensual sex. We spoke to Thaiconsent’s founder, Wipaphan “Nana” Wongsawang, 24, on her inspirations, mission and plans for the future.
How did Thaiconsent begin?
After I helped a friend who had been sexually assaulted to navigate the legal process, I began to encounter others with similar stories. My friends and I found we knew between 7-10 people who were the victims of acquaintance rape. We were also affected by what we had watched in the documentary Hunting Ground, screened by the Documentary Club. The term “rape culture” existed in Thai society but sex without bodily harm or screams for help but which left emotional and psychological pain was not yet understood. Finally, I found the concept “consent” and wanted to widely disseminate this idea in Thailand.
What were you hoping to achieve with the page?
Firstly, to encourage Thais to distinguish between “consensual sex” and “unwanted sex”. I also wanted to show couples a win-win situation where one’s partner feels empowered to say yes or no to sex, and boundaries are respected. Thai society needs to share knowledge and experience of sex in a way that is understanding and respectful.
Where do you find inspiration for what you choose to illustrate?
I pick stories to illustrate from those our readers share. I also let others illustrate. The important thing is for illustrators to empathize with the stories or the storytellers, which sometimes means conveying a positive attitude. For example, if an illustrator is careless in depicting a person in trouble, there’s a risk that the picture condemns the person as someone who cannot love themselves again, despite the fact that they can. I need to prevent this negative attitude.
How well has your work and its message been received?
When it launched in 2015, Thaiconsent wasn’t well-received. Only in 2017, when I went back to do an edit of some unpublished content from an old file, did Thaiconsent become popular. At first, I received both positive and negative feedback since the purpose of the page wasn’t yet clear. When I posted “One Night Stand,” the question arose as to whether or not I was trying to “romanticize” the sex. When I started to post different story types, people came to understand that we all have different types of sexual experiences.
How can Thai society combat rape culture?
People should understand that there’s a range of sexual assaults, from physical to verbal to non-verbal. There’s often a lack of sympathy, for example, in situations where the victims didn’t scream for help. People should also learn how to move forward. People who didn’t understand consent before must change their conception of sex to be more progressive. I don’t think penalties make potential victims safer. Society should look at the whole system, education and culture. The media should provide a real model for relationships, rather than dreamy representations.
Do you think sex education goes far enough in school?
No, not at all. Although our teachers are quite progressive, the conservative approach to education is still a problem. It’s time to talk about sex and relationships, not just birth control.
Do you have a favorite illustration?
I like my intern’s work ,“Kham Uan Yang Diao” (Obesity). It’s about a person who ends a relationship because of their body shape—they lose confidence being naked with their partner. Mongkul Srithaviviroj, my intern, depicted that person in the story as Venus. His work shows an appreciation for physical pleasure.
What’s next for you?
I don’t want to see this end in a just conversation that doesn’t solve real problems. We are now trying to develop a service for those who were sexually assaulted and need help. They can share their stories with us in confidence.