Trigger warning: Sexual assault and rape
Let me start by saying that I believe and support Grace and I think Aziz Ansari has some important self-reflection to do regarding his decision to wear a “TimesUp” pin to the Golden Globes in light of his behavior (which, while he hasn’t denied it, he hasn’t exactly taken responsibility, either). He’s certainly not alone in needing to reflect on performative allyship without accompanying action, but unlike some who sported the badge—and yet very much like fellow #MeToo revelation Louis C.K.—he’s also chosen to center an apparently significant amount of his recent work around relationships and a “feminist ally” persona (and, also like C.K, even tackled sexual harassment in a recent episode of his popular tv show, Master of None).
I have lived a life punctuated by abuse starting when I was barely more than a toddler and culminating, hopefully, some time in the past decade. I have been “molested,” sexually harassed, assaulted, and raped. I have experienced abuse so many times, at so many junctures of my life, that when I’ve written about it here in detail, some people have found it difficult or even impossible to believe. Believe it or you might as well stop reading right now—and please believe that there are people out there who have experienced much worse. But that’s not the point because abuse is abuse and most of us fight for all of us when it comes to abuse. Which is the point. Sort of.
I can’t imagine how terrified I’d be if a man shoved his fingers into my mouth and down my throat, gagging me repeatedly—the way Aziz Ansari did to Grace—during a date. I can imagine what I’d be thinking: Oh fuck it’s happening again. Reading about that, it feels like a violent act to me. Who does that as a preamble to sex? Finger-sucking I get, but what Grace described feels to me like a power move of some kind. As a survivor of multiple assaults, I know that this act alone, never mind the insistence that I touch his penis and the suggestion that I suck his dick RIGHT AFTER I JUST TOLD HIM I DON’T WANT TO FEEL FORCED and he said we should just chill, would very likely bring up familiar feelings.
I can’t imagine how I’d react because the truth is you just don’t know until it happens and then you don’t know until it happens the next time. I always thought I’d react differently when it happened to me and then I thought I’d react differently if it happened again. I mean, the Public Defender pointed out that I didn’t use the hammer at my disposal when I was 12, so why didn’t I use the knife I carried when I was 16? Why didn’t I pound the fuck out of the dude who raped me when I passed out on his couch at 34 instead of fleeing his apartment in shame? Why didn’t I push my “friend” off me instead of lying there in blurry paralysis when I was 46? Why didn’t I do the things I—and all the people who think it’s ok to judge what we do in these situations who aren’t us—think I should have done?
I don’t have answers for these questions. But I do have more questions.
Why do we have to keep explaining why we don’t behave the way you think we ought to? Why do we have to keep telling you that abuse is abuse and what *we* do should not be your focus, but rather what our abusers do or don’t do? And why do I feel like I’m writing this not just because Usual Suspects need to hear it again, but because some of the people I thought already knew seem to have forgotten?
I can’t be certain what I’d do if it was me, but I can’t even begin to imagine how I’d feel or act in Grace’s shoes because I’m not Grace, who was in her early 20s and describes this as the worst experience with a man she’s ever had. I have wondered if this is the problem people have with her story, especially when I see people using the phrases “real #MeToo” and “real victims” and “real assault.” Is Grace “lucky” because she hasn’t experienced what some of us have? Is she “privileged” because this is the worst night she ever experienced with a man?
Should she just shut up, then, and not talk about how a man’s extremely bad behavior traumatized her? Do we not understand by now how this thinking silences victims of abuse?
Do I really need to list all of the ways that people in the #MeToo movement have been mistreated? Shall we, as survivors—because everyone else really ought to take a seat anyway—attempt to create a spectrum of abuse from sexist jokes to dick-exposure to public masturbation to various shades of assault, or would someone like to assign some kind of number value to each of them and tell me where Grace fits in—or more importantly, why on Earth she doesn’t?
Why are some of the same people who usually fight for survivors of sexual harassment and abuse and against victim blaming excluding Grace from the #MeToo club as though she’s somehow cheapened our stories by choosing to tell hers? When did we start requiring a litmus test to determine what “degree” of harassment or assault rates the #MeToo stamp? Who determines which of us—and which of our abuses—are worthy of inclusion in a movement to create change in the power dynamic that allows powerful men to abuse the less powerful? Who approves #MeToo membership? And what is it about the consequences Ansari is facing—a dose of public shame cut with plenty of public defense—that is so dire that it makes a mockery of a movement?
Who decides who gets to tell their story? Who decides who gets to name names?
Because right now the rules seem arbitrary. I can’t figure out what it is about Grace’s story that has people who otherwise understand that abuse is abuse suddenly willing to defend a guy who behaved really badly—arguably worse than others outed in the #MeToo movement, if we are assigning scores—while trotting out all the usual rape-culture reasons to disbelieve a woman reporting on her experience of a man’s shitty behavior.
Part of the argument seems to be that when people claim to have been abused when *I* don’t recognize their abuse because *my* abuse was worse, their claim of abuse somehow detracts from *my* abuse. But…how? Or maybe they think Grace’s “less bad than mine” story gives “ammunition” to people on “the other side”…who are going to make spurious claims about our credibility regardless? I confess I’m baffled.
As others have pointed out, there are power dynamics at work here, as well. A famous celebrity in his mid-30s asked out a young female fan and tried to rush her into sex on the first date (h/t to Ella Dawson for highlighting this point, which has been lost in the controversy over whether Grace was actually abused—whether Ansari acted as an abuser). And again, the fact that Ansari has literally positioned himself as an aware, feminist man fighting the good fight makes his behavior all that much more appalling (and certainly more shocking and confusing in the moment).
Defaulting to rape culture is part of our conditioning. But please let’s recognize it for what it is and fight it. If abuse is abuse; if Louis C.K. masturbating to completion in a potted plant is abuse; if actresses feeling pressured to give Harvey Weinstein back rubs in his bathrobe is abuse? Then Aziz Ansari shoving his fingers down a woman’s throat, pushing her hand repeatedly onto his penis every time she moved it away, or continuing to push for sexual gratification even after she told him she wasn’t into it WAS ABUSE. It may not have qualified as legal assault, but it was most certainly harassment and it was definitely coercion and the fact that this is at all controversial among feminists is mystifying to me.
I believe Grace was abused. I believe Azis Ansari was abusive. And most survivors and other feminists I know agree with me. I have heard some describe the ideological split as between people who want punitive action and people who want change, though I’m not sure I agree. From what I can see, the hyperbolic worries that temporarily powerful survivors of abuse want to round all men up and jail them because you can’t even “come on” to a woman anymore without it being called assault are just that: hyperbole employed by people unwilling (or unable) to examine their own behavior and/or experiences. I personally just want us to acknowledge that the fact that what he did—what a lot of men have done—was abusive. I want Ansari to hold himself accountable and use his considerable platform to create real change. I want people like Grace to feel as though they can tell their stories and not have people who call themselves feminists do and say the very things that anti-feminists do and say to us whenever we tell our stories.
We don’t have to accept that all abuse is the same in order to accept that all abuse is abuse. And if we accept and agree that abuse is abuse (which seems to me to be pretty foundational to #MeToo), we don’t require a litmus test for acceptance into the club. Obviously, all abusers don’t have to face the same consequences, and I don’t think anyone is suggesting that. But can we agree that all abuse victims deserve to be heard, their abuse acknowledged, and their abusers held accountable to some degree—particularly the powerful ones? And can we agree that silencing survivors of abuse is a bad thing?
It’s clear that survivors on all sides of this are hurting, but my concern right now is less for those of my sibling survivors who are angry because Grace told her story and more for the ones who will now feel that they can’t tell theirs.
I had dinner with a woman who told me a brutal story about being coerced into sex by a very famous guy. Awful. After seeing how the woman who spoke out about Ansari is being treated, she decided not to share her story publicly.
Let this lose you some sleep tonight, Twitter.
— Amber Tamblyn (@ambertamblyn) January 18, 2018
If you’re reading this and you have experienced sexual harassment and/or abuse, even if you didn’t recognize it as such in the moment but do now—even if you think it wasn’t as severe as what others have faced—you can be in my club. And while this very necessary storm rages, I hope you’ll take good care of yourselves and each other.
Note: As is often the case, this post has undergone some post-publication edits for clarity.
PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)
Stop Waiting For The Real Aziz Ansari (Andrea Grimes on Medium)
Not That Bad (katykatikate.com )
The Fake Feminism Of The #MeToo Backlash (Claire Fallon on HuffPo)
Aziz Ansari and the Struggle to Trust the “Feminist” Men of Hollywood (Cate Young on Cosmopolitan)
Trigger Warning for the many ways we experience violence at the hands of (not all) men, including CSA, SA, rape, VAWG.
I saw a quote a while back that hit home for me. I can’t find it now, but it went something like this:
The issue is not that all men are violent. The issue is that nearly all women have experienced violence at the hands of men.
The sad but true fact is that while not all men are violent, men do commit violence against women and non-binary people (and other men—in fact, according to the FBI, most violent crimes are committed by men).
I have told parts of my story before here and there. And I suspect that I will do so again. In this case, I’m reprising my tale now in order to join others who have shared their litanies of violence as a counter to the superfluous yet oh-so-ubiquitous cries of “not all men.” Because FFS, dudes. Enough already.
“Not all men” is a derailing tactic and serves literally no other purpose than to focus attention away from male violence and center it on the man decrying the unfairness of it all.
When people who are not men say “men do this,” we’re reporting that our experience is that enough men do this that it stands out that men do this. The fact that men do this contributes to an overall feeling of oppression. Men do engage in behaviors that perpetuate patriarchy. Men do engage in behaviors that perpetuate sexism and misogyny. Men do these things without even thinking about them because the men who came before them did it and because too often no one does so much as turn away in disapproval when it happens.
Not all men did these things to me, but these men did.
The man who sucked my tongue, fondled my genitals, and taught me to give him a blow job when I was three.
The man who was my uncle by marriage and came in my mouth when I was six, then spent hours trying to get into my underwear as we camped out in the yard.
The man who fondled my nipples when I was seven or eight during a nighttime hide-and-go-seek game at my cousin’s house.
The man who flexed his exposed erection at me and my friend when we were 9 via the leg of his shorts.
The man—a trusted family friend—who gave me music lessons when I was 9 and performed oral sex on me while my parents weren’t home.
The man who used a finger cot to make his penis small enough to fit inside me when I was 10. Who also gave me a cigar tube to practice with at home.
The man who pulled his truck over as I walked down the street, opened his door, stepped out naked and masturbated while staring at me.
The 14-year-old boy who violently raped me when I was 12 and smoking weed with him in a fort behind my neighbor’s house.
The man who had sex with me in his van knowing that I was a 12-year-old rape victim (but probably not really believing that second part).
The boys and men who repeatedly “pantsed” me over my loud objections and ridiculed me when I was angry.
The two men who took turns raping me while I was passed out drunk at my first kegger when I was 14.
The many, many men—adults—who gave me alcohol and drugs and got their rocks off on me when I was a troubled teen.
The man who exposed his genitals to me in a grocery store parking lot when I was 16.
The man who spent a drunken night trying to coerce me into sleeping with him when I was 16.
The man who raped me when I was 16 because I said no after a night of partying with him and his friend.
The man who attempted to grab me on a dark street as I rode my bike to a friend’s house, 16 and pregnant, and only stopped because I scared him with my primal and guttural GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME.
The man who beat the shit out of me in front of my 2-year-old for leaving a party when I was 18.
The man who decided that the fact that I was unconscious on his sofa meant he could go ahead and rape me.
The man who thought because we were friends and had been sexual in the past, it was ok to straddle my drunken body and ejaculate on my chest after I said no to sex.
The many men who have wished me harm here on my blog and on social media.
How many men is enough? How many men must commit violence upon my person before it’s ok if I just say “men did this”?
Men did these things. Not all men. But enough of them that this list is not even complete. Men did these things. And every time some dude Kool-Aid-Mans into a thread where people who are not men discuss male violence to declare that not all men did these things, the only thing he makes clear is that he is utterly ignorant and unwilling to listen to people who are not just like him.
Not all men. Just dozens of men in my case. Hundreds if you count my circle of friends and relatives. Thousands if you count their friends and the people they love.
And that’s enough.
PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)
Related on MMAS:
- A Brief History (the Bad Parts Version)
- #IStandWithDylan: My Story of Childhood Sexual Abuse
- I Am Jane Doe
- The Time My “Friend” Sexually Assaulted Me
Everyone—especially everyone writing for publication—needs an editor. Unfortunately, not all publications employ copyeditors, and not everyone can afford to hire an editor to polish their work before it goes live. As an editor with 20+ years experience, this is a need I can help fill.
I am offering one short-form editing slot per month to Social Justice writers from marginalized groups, privileging the most marginalized voices: Women of Color, trans women, disabled women of color—you get the picture. This does not mean that if you are not described above I won’t edit your piece—it simply means that these slots will likely fill up fast and I will provide these free services to the most marginalized among us first.
If you are writing for publication and think your piece might benefit from an editing pass before you submit it, feel free to contact me via my Facebook page.
PS: Edited to add that if you don’t do FB, you can DM me via Twitter at @MMASammich.
I <3 Lucy.
(I realize you were all expecting Part Two of yesterday’s post today. Sometimes, as the man said, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. And life happened yesterday and demanded I blog about it. Expect Part Two of the stats post…Friday. Maybe. Or Saturday. I don’t know. I have to go to Massachusetts tonight to watch a musical based on a Marx Brothers movie. Don’t ask.)
Yesterday, the Supreme Court met to vote on the constitutionality of two things: Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (known as DOMA) and Prop 8. If you’re on the internet at all ever, I’m sure you’ve seen people having changed their profile pictures on Twitter and Facebook to this:
“ARGH HOW WILL I KNOW WHO ANYONE IS?” you might have thought, if you had no idea what was going on. “WHY ARE ALL MY FRIENDS RED BOXES…
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[Trigger Warning for Rape and Rape Threats]
To Whom it May Concern:
“You’re too ugly to be raped. I want to rape you just to shut you up.”
Look at what you just did.
Seriously. Stop, right now, and reread that.
You started by pretending that you believe rape is about sex and desire. That rape is something you do when you can’t control your hormones any longer and must bed someone immediately, with or without their consent. You want to continue to push the idea that rape is about sex and desire because it helps you keep control, and it helps you silence those who speak out.
But you immediately betrayed yourself.
Immediately, you demonstrated that you actually know that rape is about violence, that it’s about control, that it’s about power. You know it isn’t about sex or desire. You push that it’s about sex because that helps you continue to use it as a control mechanism. If I convince you that my machine gun is really just a fluffy bunny, you’ll stop trying to take it away from me, and I can continue to use it against you.
You aren’t stupid. Rather, you feign stupidity in the hopes that your opponents will believe you or finally shut up and submit to you. It won’t work, though. You’ve shown your hand. You’ve shown that you do understand rape, and you do know exactly what you’re doing.
You can’t hide behind your lies anymore.
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
This post seems to have been written especially for me, though I know that’s because it came from a place inside the author that we all share. As she once said to me, “I’ve lived some of this. You were there beside me when I was going through it; I was there beside you when you were. We just didn’t know it at the time. The important part is, we know it now.” Thanks, Amy, for putting this out there. My tears are for all of us.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
They say you learn to be better at something, the more you do it. It becomes ingrained; it’s like breathing, or putting one foot in front of the other, or riding the proverbial bike. You learn something, you become quite good at that thing. You’re an old hand.
I don’t know if you ever learn to be good at losing things you love. You learn to be quieter about it, maybe; to not cry and wail in public, to keep the tears inside, to stiff-upper-lip the whole thing. It’s not seemly, you see. Not for adults. Children can cry over such things. Adults need to carry on. It is what we do. Or, at least, what we’re supposed to do.
Lose something every day. Accept…
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Because whenever a woman speaks out about rape, a troll will appear to illustrate what rape culture looks like.
All our shapes and patterns need to get together and figure this shit out. For serious.
Miriam Dobson has made this brilliant little infographic on intersectionality. Description beneath the image. If you liked it, you can find Miriam’s work here.
This is an infographic featuring text and descriptions
TITLE: INTERSECTIONALITY: A FUN GUIDE
1. A drawing of a triangle with a smiley face. The triangle is two shades of blue striped. A speech bubble comes from his mouth saying “Hi”. It is captioned “This is Bob”.
2. Caption: “Bob is a stripey blue triangle AND SHOULD BE PROUD.” Bob has a speech bubble saying “YAY ME”.
3. Caption: “SOME PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE BOB. BOB FACES OPPRESSION FOR BEING A TRIANGLE AND FOR HAVING STRIPES” Image of Bob with a sad face, positioned between stick figures holding a sign saying “Down with stripes” and another set of stick figures holding a sign saying “Down with triangles”.
4. Caption: “LUCKILY THERE ARE LIBERATION GROUPS!…
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There are times when I want to reblog everything The Belle Jar posts, but really you ought to just follow her. This is awesome and true. You are beautiful, and Dove doesn’t care, but I do. Anne does. Real people care and want you to know that you are amazing and unique and the best possible you that could ever exist. <3
Sometimes I feel like social media turns me into some kind of awful, gruesome caricature of a feminist. I spend waayyyy too much time jumping in on Facebook posts or tweets or blogs to explain why this specific thing, whatever it happens to be, is actually problematic. And I try not to do this, honest I do. I know that it’s annoying as fuck. I know that I come off like I’m Lisa Simpson except ten times worse and with more swears. I know that. I promise I do.
All of this is to explain why I have been so quiet and patient about Dove’s latest marketing campaign, Dove Real Beauty Sketches. I haven’t said anything about it. Nada. Zilch. Haven’t commented on anyone’s links, haven’t tweeted about it, haven’t even whispered darkly about it to myself when I’m alone at night and unlikely to offend anyone.
But then my…
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The Sin City Siren joins the #Always#Aware campaign for #SAAM. Yeah, feminist blogging collaborations are awesome. This one has evolved with feedback from readers, which is even better (working to clarify the message). Your feedback and participation are welcome. <3
I love feminist blogging collaborations! It’s why I participate in so many blog carnivals and feminist tweetchats — to hang out with other feminists! Well, not so much hang out, as type with them. But, you know what I mean.
As Rosie explains in this post, the point of the #AlwaysAware campaign is to highlight the need for awareness and education. But it’s not about making another campaign that puts the onus on victims. It’s about exposing the ever-present-threat-experience of rape culture. We live in a society that sets up a misogynistic, false-binary system of oppression of “people to-be-raped” and “people who are rapists.”
Here, I’ll let her explain:
The point is that (most)…
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This conversation needs to happen in classrooms everywhere.
Yesterday, the news invaded my classroom. I think the kids aren’t paying attention. I think the kids only care about the news as it relates to Justin Bieber. I think they aren’t listening or capable of advanced thought. Every single time I think one of those things, I sell out the ninth-graders that come traipsing through my room every day.
It started when I picked this poem to go over different ways to look at poetry:
If she says something now he’ll say
it’s not true if he says it’s not true
they’ll think it’s not true if they think
it’s not true it will be nothing new
but for her it will be a weightier
thing it will fill up the space where
he isn’t allowed it will open the door
of the room where she’s put him
away he will fill up her mind he…
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The Belle Jar rocks my world!
A is for Austen, the Regency hellion
B is for Boudica, who raised a rebellion
C is Cleopatra, fierce Queen of the Nile
D is Diana, whose voice does beguile
E is for Ella, breaking down barriers
F is for Franklin, who made DNA merrier
G is Gloriana, anything but conventional
H is for hooks (lower case is intentional)
I is Isadora, who loved modern dance
J is Jo March, who wrote and wore pants
K is for Kennedy, who understood duty
L is Lamarr, who mixed science with beauty
M is MacPhail, political and proud
N is for Nellie, strident and loud
O is for Olave, keen about guiding
P is for Parker, whose wit was so biting
Q is Quvenzhané, who lights up the screen
R is for Rosa, who sat like a queen
S is Suu Kyi…
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One man’s call to action.
No offense, ladies, but this is a letter specifically to the rest of the members of my gender (but feel free to read on).
We need to take a stand. It is time to stop letting a minority make the rest of us look like fools and idiots. It is time to be heard.
I am writing about these men who are working so hard to limit the rights of women. I am talking about these crazy politicians and religious leaders speaking out demanding that women be held to a different standard than men. I am addressing the newsmakers who are waging a war on equality, on which we can no longer remain silent.
I believe that we men who support the equality of women are in the majority. I think there are far more of us who believe women should not have to put out any extra effort…
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I recently started following Sarah on Twitter, and she tweets stuff pretty much every day that makes me say “Yeah, that!” Today I found my way to her blog. Her latest post is a grim reminder that women of faith often experience–and fight–sexism from the people who are supposed to be their spiritual leaders, teachers, etc. It’s like this whole other front that I don’t have to deal with. Thanks for the perspective, Sarah.
[I wrote recently about learning to love my body for Lent. Part of that loving so far has involved some deep contemplation about where the fear and hatred come from. And I’ve realized something.
Part of my body hatred, and by extension part of my self hatred, comes from the fact that oppressive people have used my female body to justifying oppressing me.
I hate my body and myself because, deep down, I blame my body (and thus myself) for the ways in which I’ve been hurt by others.
It was the first week of my freshman year. We had a meeting for everyone in our all-women dorm to go over the basic rules. Don’t burn popcorn and set off the smoke alarm. Be in before curfew. No sex, drugs, or rock…
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Do you know people who deny that sexism exists or claim it’s not a problem? Do you know people who think feminism is outdated and unnecessary? Do you just want to read an article that reminds you that you’re not alone as a woman experiencing misogyny on a cultural scale? Read this.
Another great post on being ok with who you are and letting other people be ok with who they are. I think we can all use these reminders.
I have wanted to write about this for a long time. I have so much to say about it. The problem is that I don’t have any stories about it– not that I am willing to share, at least. The world belongs to people who have the best stories. Sexual liberation belongs to women who are willing to stand up and say “I have sex! I have this much sex with this many people, and it’s okay!” or “I dress like this, so take that society!” Purity, modesty, and all that is pro-Virgin power comes from personal testimonies and Conservatively told bible stories.
And then there’s me.
Of course, I admire people who do tell their stories. They have changed my life, and the world really does belong to them. Stories have a neat way of improving social consciousness, evolving into full-blown movements. [Insert Pokemon evolution joke here?].
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Tolerance is nearly always better than the alternative.
I’m a geek. That’s not news to anyone who knows me, or anybody who’s even seen me. I’m all kinds of geek. Movie geek, horror geek, goth, science fiction geek, gaming geek, and so on, and so on. I’ve always been proud to be a geek. But I have not, in fact, always been kind to my fellow geeks.
When I was a very young geek and I first started going to science fiction conventions, there was a schism between the Star Trek geeks and the Dr. Who geeks. I was a Trekkie. The Whoites ran around with big goofy scarves, and we mocked them mercilessly. Of course, they mocked us right back for wearing our dopey polyester Star Trek shirts and talking into plastic communicators.
As I matured as a geek, I settled in with the pro crowd. We were professional writers, which kind of made us geek royalty…
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From my friend Nicole. If we want to end rape culture, we have to stop blaming the victim. And that’s something we can all work toward every day.
Sometimes, if you’re persistent, you get through.
I have a classmate who has a tendency to say stuff that is really offensive. Once he told the story of when he came to the United States, he expected brilliant professors, gold roads, and beautiful women. According to him, these things only exist in movies about the USA. (He then ended up sandwiched between the author and her roommate, for the rest of the car ride. My roommate asked slyly, “Shame about that lack of beautiful women, eh?” His face got ashen and we just laughed to ourselves, as he quickly backpedaled. Needless to say, he isn’t known for his deft cultural sensitivity. I had long since figured that he would never understand feminism.
Fast forward to a year later, and I have been telling him off every time that he used the word “rape” to describe exams, schedules, video-games and non-legitimate rape. After the third time I called…
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