When did you start doing this tradition?
I first did this protest for winter Undie Run in 2014. I didn’t tell anyone I was going to do it, except for my housemate at the time, who wrote the words on my body and went with me, even though she didn’t protest. When I showed up it was a major shock to everyone, which was exactly what I wanted. Interestingly enough, while it was my housemate’s 5th Undie Run, it was the first time that her butt had not been grabbed or smacked by a total stranger during the run, because she was with me during my demonstration.
Do you do it every year? Every Undie Run?
The following semester I was studying abroad so I was unable to participate, however a younger student named Serendipity, who had approached me and asked for a photo when I did this the first time, wrote “Don’t Call Me Baby” on her chest and x’d out her nipples, keeping the message alive while I was away. It was unbelievably humbling to know that something I had done had actually made an impact on someone, leading them to take action as well, and I was so proud of her for having the courage to get out there and do it on her own. I had planned on doing it again for the winter Undie Run in 2015, but there had been a threat of a potential gunman on campus the day before or day of Undie Run and the campus had been put on lockdown, so I chose my own safety over my advocacy and stayed home. Last night was my final Undie Run and even though I am very sunburnt, I wasn’t going to let a pink chest stop me.
Why do you do it?
When I first did this I had just finished taking a Women’s Studies course, which was easily the most important and most impactful class I have ever taken in all my years of education. Simultaneously, I had just truly begun to acknowledge and accept my own history of sexual abuse, both as a child and a teenager, and was finally seeking help and taking back ownership of my body. I remembered seeing this iconic image of a woman protesting with black tape x’s over her nipples and the words “Still Not Asking For It” on her body; she looked confident, comfortable, and like she couldn’t care less. I just felt totally compelled to do it, and it turned out to be an incredibly positive and empowering moment, both with my advocacy and my personal growth.
What’s your message?
My message is simple: sex without consent is rape. It does not matter what you are wearing, if you are intoxicated, if you know the person, if you’ve been flirting with them or have a history with them, or thought you wanted to have sex but change your mind. If you do not want to have sex with someone or are not in a state to give consent, that is rape. It’s really important to talk about these things because the current statistic in the United States is that 20-25% of women will be sexually assaulted in college, and more often than not they will be blamed for it, leading many to never report it. And for the record, men and non-gender binary people are regularly sexually assaulted as well. This is not just a women’s issue. This is a social issue on every level, in every class, race, gender, political affiliation, etc. and not just in the U.S.
Why is it important?
Talking about sexual assault makes people uncomfortable, but I guarantee that actually being sexually assaulted makes someone feel a thousand times more uncomfortable. It is crucial to talk about these things because in order to stop these injustices we first have to acknowledge that they are real and are happening all the time. The first step to making a change is to get the conversation going and spread awareness. That’s why I do this.
What are some responses/reactions you’ve gotten in doing this?
Overall, the reactions and responses during the demonstrations have been mostly positive; lots of high-fives, lots of hugs, taking selfies with strangers, etc. Online, however, on my Instagram in particular, I’ve gotten a lot of hateful comments saying things like “feminism is cancer,” or rude comments about my body, but I can’t take any of it personally. I am not to blame for the ignorance of others.
What impact do you hope to have when doing this?
During last night’s demonstration, a guy approached me and asked if he were to cover his penis in duct tape instead of wearing underwear if that would be the same as what I was doing by covering my nipples with tape; to which I politely responded no, because while the penis is a sexual reproductive organ, nipples are not, so his penis covered in tape would only be equivalent to my vagina covered in tape. Basically what I’ve gathered from doing these demonstrations is that the vast majority of people are just deeply misinformed. It’s sad, really, but it pushes me to keep doing this and to act as a resource. The conversations that I have with total strangers during these demonstrations are why I go back.
Why should this tradition carry-on?
Until sexual assault is no longer an issue, particularly on college campuses, this conversation needs to continue. Doing demonstrations and protests like this is just one fun, very empowering way to talk about this. I am graduating in just a few days, but I’ve asked my good friend Bri, who ran with me last night, to keep this tradition alive and pass it along to others when she graduates next year. I had also reached out to about 20 other students who I thought might be interested in joining me in this, and about 5 or 6 of them actually did! My hope is that as long as sexual assault at Chapman is a problem – which it is – at least one person gets out there and does this. The more people the better, but if I’ve learned anything from doing this, it’s that it only takes one.