A Statement from Armitage Shanks Regarding ‘Rape Joke’ Made at BHoF Showcase (Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2016)
On Thursday night at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend, emcees Dusty Limits and Armitage Shanks made remarks which were widely questioned and condemned by attendees and the wider community (read the full report here). Dusty Limits asked 21st Century Burlesque Magazine to publish a statement from him addressing a ‘rape joke’ made at the Sublime Boudoir after party, and Armitage Shanks, who hosted the Movers, Shakers and Innovators showcase, has sent the following to us today:
I would like to address the comment spoken by me in the scripted portion of our duties as co-hosts for the Movers, Shakers & Innovators Showcase at BHOF this year. I feel it necessary to clarify the intent of the comment and the context in which it was used. It was a written comment, not improvised on the spot. I wrote it as part of our collaboration to speak to the dialogue between Art & Life and the ongoing relationship therein. I feel it important to note that it was not said as a comment between two people nor was the word rape ever used. It was never scripted to imply lack of consent or agency between actual, living people but in a conceptual framework. (Continues below.)
With my partner of 14 years, there have been instances in our relationship where either one of us, after a trying day might have said to the other with a wink, “Sorry you had a bad day. Let me get you drunk and have my way with you” in a playful, consensual and loving manner, based on shared trust. And that was the spirit of the statement between Life and Art. Nothing more.
No one was more surprised than myself to discover that this line, which we had rehearsed several times, caused members of our community distress. Triggering a hurtful or difficult response was, in fact, the exact opposite of what I intended. To those who perceived it as something else and were adversely effected, I am happy to enter in to a dialogue with you via email or telephone. I welcome your input and insight.
It is regrettable when intent and perception are not aligned. I am aware of and sensitive to the varied paths that lead us all into a room together on a given night for a show. I work extremely diligently in my duties as host to present others in a way that is dignified, uplifting and respectful of their personhood and their art. I do create art that can be challenging, edgy and directly sexual, but never in a manner that demeans others. Referencing rape or lack of consent as an avenue for simply humor is not what I do.
I am hopeful that those upset by the comment have a fuller understanding of what was intended. And that what was a beautiful, stunning night of presentations by an amazing cast of performers, a dedicated production team and a fun, witty and intelligent night of co-hosting with the talented Sailor St. Claire is not overshadowed by this issue.
I greatly value and respect Burlesque and never lose sight of its genesis as a women created and helmed endeavor. The community of creators in Burlesque can make vital, living art driven by ideas, creativity, wonderfully mad and liberating sensuality. As well as being an avenue to present content of import, beauty, humor, pathos, politic and so much more. In short, Life & Art
Additional comments added 6/6/16
A respondent to my statement on 21st Century Burlesque brought to my attention a reasonable point regardless of intent. The comment made on Thursday night might have been framed in a manner that was less open to negative interpretation. The two of us tried very hard to look at what we had crafted and be aware, but it is clear from that in this instance we could have been more thorough. I really do try to be aware and sensitive to others paths and content, as I know does Sailor. I can’t speak for another but for me, I am sorry and I will strive to be more thoughtful going forward. Some have commented that the above did not include an apology and that is simply because in my initial posting through BHOF on their FB Page, I apologized. And please know I meant that as well as the above apology sincerely and without reservation. I did not include an additional apology in my longer explanation of our process and intent as I had, perhaps incorrectly, assumed that those reading would have already read the first apology. And lastly, to another’s comment, we did in no way, intend to offend anyone at any time but it is clear we have, and for me, I am sorry. Thank you for your time.
Respectfully, Armitage Shanks