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5 min

Kaleigh Trace and the Fucking Facts

Halifax-based blogger talks consent, Miley Cyrus and how language affects our conversations about sex

Kaleigh Trace is the education coordinator at Venus Envy Halifax and the force behind the blog Fucking Facts. Credit: Xtra file photo

It’s a busy time for Kaleigh Trace. As well as being the education coordinator at Venus Envy Halifax, she’s also a disability rights activist and the force behind the blog Fucking Facts, where she shares her unique brand of no-nonsense sex advice with the masses. She also gained a measure of internet celebrity when a video parody of the Robin Thicke hit “Blurred Lines,” which she co-wrote to draw attention to the importance of consent, made the rounds online.

Xtra recently chatted with Trace about sex, consent and how language affects our sexual dialogues.

Xtra: So tell me about your blog. When did you start writing it, and why?

Kaleigh Trace: I began it for a couple of reasons . . . I’ve been disabled since 1995, so I’m a person with a disability and it’s part of who I am. When I began working at Venus Envy, I had way more opportunities to kind of explore what sex and disability can be all about, and part of what I found is that there were some awesome people doing work in sex and disability around the world and in Canada, but there aren’t a lot of things that have really accessible and fun language. I wanted to write a blog that was just about sex but that spoke with a language that was inclusive, so that people with disabilities could also relate to the things I was saying, and that would occasionally focus specifically on disability. So I just kind of wanted to make a resource that was fun and really accessible and kind of provide information in a way that was a bit more sexy than the other sex-and-disability stuff that I had been reading, which can sometimes be really medical. So my blog is not all just about disability, but I definitely try and throw it in there.

Do you think that language also affects the way we talk about consent?

I think that there’s a lot of problems with language and that does play into both consent and disability. And so when it comes to disability, I think that the language around sex is often super medicalized, so for example, when I teach classes on sex and disability to some health institutions (and by far not all of them), occasionally I’ll be asked to use the word “sexual aide” or “assistive device” rather than sex toy, because that word is not as professional. And so I don’t do that, because I believe in using the word sex toy. But that’s just an example of how language around disability is so institutionalized that it really removes the fun of talking about sex. And then when it comes to consent, I feel like the language that we have is so entrenched in heteronormativity that we’re not supposed to ask questions. And so when you’re told, “Oh, get consent, ask if it’s okay” . . . when we suggest that as a thing to do it’s so foreign because you’re not supposed to be able to ask. If you’re a “real man,” you’ll just know how to do it, or if you’re really good in bed you won’t need to ask any questions. So all in all, I feel like a huge part of why as a culture we’re so limited in our abilities to experience pleasure and treat sex with respect comes back to our lack of words.

Tell me a bit about the “Blurred Lines” parody that you and some of the staff of VE Halifax put together.

I went online to watch the video that I’d kind of heard was bad and expected that I would find a way to like it anyway, because that’s what I wanted to do. And I saw the video and I realized that I couldn’t — it was too offensive for me, honestly, the way that I felt like women were being objectified in a pretty extreme way. And so I went to work, and I talked to [my coworker] Mary about it. And I had the idea of just flipping the genders, and me and her could pretend to be Robin Thicke and his friend in the video. And then it was her who was like, “I think it would be better if we just rewrote the words, ’cause I don’t think that repeating the same trope is actually that effective.” And so together we made that video with a bunch of our friends, and it only took about a day. And then it got a relatively large buzz — I don’t really know how buzz on the internet should work, but we were on the news, and that felt kind of exciting. For a short time it made the rounds — I felt like I was maybe an H-list celebrity for, like, a day or something.

We had hoped to make it still sexual — I mean, we obviously don’t think that sex is a problem. And so we wanted to make a song that was both about consent but also signified that we were really into sex, still. It wasn’t about the sexual content and more about the way that the sex was being portrayed. So it is still a little bit raunchy, our version; it has some lines that are a bit explicit, but I liked it — I thought it turned out as well as it could’ve.

Consent is something that comes up again and again, especially with things like “Blurred Lines” and the whole Miley Cyrus debacle. Why do you think that mainstream culture is still hanging on to the notion that consent should be implicit and that women’s bodies are kind of up for grabs?

I believe that maybe our sexualization and consumption of women’s bodies is so historically entrenched, and sex and the female form have been used to sell culture and signify a certain something for so long that it will be hard to tear down and reconstruct the ways in which we talk about sex and women’s bodies. And I don’t think it will be a quick process. I’ve been finding these conversations about Miley Cyrus actually really redundant, and I’ve kind of stopped paying attention, but on the other hand, I think that they’re really positive. I think it’s interesting to talk about whether or not a woman has the right to consent to show her body and what consent can mean, and I feel hopeful, even though I never want to hear the name Miley Cyrus again in some ways, that these conversations are creating a broader dialogue around what women’s bodies are subjected to in the world.

Yeah, it’s really made that conversation more mainstream.

Totally. It’s cool, it’s a really cool thing. The thing that I think is weird about the Miley Cyrus phenomenon, especially her appearance at the VMAs . . . is how little people talked about — I thought it was way more controversial the way she appropriated black culture. I thought her performance was really racist and that hardly got talked about. Instead it was about her body and the way that it was being shown, which I actually think just perpetuates the truth of the fact that women’s bodies are always the hottest topic.