Content Note: SA/CSA/gaslighting
To the men, related and unrelated to me, who used my body from age four to 48, who felt entitled to take from me without my consent in nearly every way,
I deserved better.
To the men who told me that I lied about what happened to me, that what happened to me was my fault, that what happened to me wasn’t really what it absolutely was,
I deserved better.
To the men who pretended until they got what they came for,
I deserved better.
To the men who told me that my emotions were the problem, not their behavior,
I deserved better.
To the men who fled after decades of “friendship” because avoiding the discomfort they felt when I spoke about my lived experience was more important to them than understanding and accepting and dealing with me as a whole person,
I deserved better.
To the men who claim to care about me who helped elect a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic sexual predator into the White House,
I deserved better.
To the men who tell me that I’m driving them away; that I would have more allies in my fight for equality and justice and truth if I was “nicer” and not so “angry,”
Please. I deserve better.
I demand better. I’m not going to accept anything less than your best effort to be a decent human being, and being a decent human most of the time is never going to inoculate you against criticism or accountability when you cause harm.
And you’re really going to have to stop taking every criticism of shitty male behavior personally.
I have come to a stage of life when I owe it to myself to give my energy only to those people whose presence results in enough joy to offset any pain they cause. I’m sick of ignoring bad behavior. I’m tired of “not letting it get to me.” I’m done trying to be “nicer” because men’s feelings are too fragile to handle the truth, even in general terms. When they can’t resist the compulsion to Kool-Aid-man into the room and proclaim “it happens to MEN too!” or drop the ubiquitous and oh-so-constructive “Not ALL men!”
I have reached an age where I have higher standards for people in general, but it really boils down to this:
If I’m going to have men in my life, they need to be better men.
We deserve better men.
PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)
Related on makemeasammich.org:
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
Trigger warning for discussion of the various types of abuse perpetrated by those humans known as “trolls” incuding rape and death threats and suicide.
Back in July, during Netroots Nation 2014, Zerlina Maxwell spoke on a panel about online harassment. I wasn’t there, but someone tweeted a quote that stayed with me:
“Don’t call them trolls. They’re assholes.”
I think this is important. By calling these people “trolls,” we are basically letting them off the hook. It’s a lot like the “boys will be boys” mentality that helps to keep rape culture thriving, but it’s also different, because boys are expected to be human. By calling these people “trolls,” we relegate them to non-human status, and we make it clear that we don’t expect them to live up to the same behavioral standards as human beings.
So, who are these assholes? Well, the subset of the population we refer to as “trolls” is mostly (almost exclusively, in my personal experience) made up of men who—for reasons that range from angry entitlement to I-don’t-know-what—make it their business to perpetrate harassment and abuse on targets who are mostly not men.
As a woman online, I’ve dealt with and watched others deal with all of these things and more:
Men who insist that we engage them because they disagree with something we’ve said.
Men who keep tweeting at us or commenting when we’ve asked them to stop.
Men who keep tweeting at us after we’ve told them in no uncertain terms we’re done and have blocked them.
Men who create sock-puppet accounts pretending to be women and use them to harass us, gaslight us, threaten us.
Men who haunt hashtags they disagree with so they can harass people who are not men who speak out about issues that matter to them.
Men who haunt hashtags about gender violence, sexual assault, and other painful topics and target the people there telling their stories.
Men who band together to create armies of sock-puppet accounts to harass us and discredit the work we do.
Men who reply to our stories of rape to tell us that it wasn’t rape. (And who are very likely defending their own behavior.)
Men who play devil’s advocate on issues that disproportionately affect people who are not men.*
Men who chime into conversations about sexual & domestic violence to speculate on what the victim should have done differently.
Men who attack those of us dedicated to fighting for equality simply because we fight for equality.
Men who call us “feminazis” and “white knights” because we identify as feminists and talk about feminist issues.
Men who use racist and sexist and transphobic slurs to attack marginalized people, often for months on end, with no consequence.
Men who send us graphic photos of everything from sex acts to gaping wounds in order to punish us for talking back.
Men who tell us all we need is a good fucking to set us straight.
Men who tell us we should get raped.
Men who tell us they hope we kill ourselves.
Men who tell us how they hope we die.
And of course, all of this is in hopes that we will simply STFU, or better yet, cease to exist.
I think Zerlina’s right: we need to start calling them what they are. Assholes, yes. But also, men who choose to harass and abuse others online, sometimes to the point of driving their victims off the Internet, out of their homes, and even to suicide. So, when you talk about these men, consider using words that describe what they actually do and are, such as “harassers” and “abusive assholes.”
These men are human beings who treat others as less than human—who purposely cause pain and suffering and sometimes even death. It is time we stopped letting them off the hook.
Note: This post has been updated to include the suggested term “harassers” per my friend Mandaray.
*Post pub note: The idea that I would include “playing devil’s advocate” in a list like this seems to have confused some folks, so I want to be clear about what I mean, here: There are people who innocently wonder about the other side of an equation and there are dudes who use “I’m just playing devil’s advocate” as an excuse to argue with women and other marginalize people simply for the entertainment value of engaging us and wasting our time and energy (and even when there’s no ill intent, it’s often really unhelpful and can even be harmful, such as when “devil’s advocates” engage in victim-blaming). Yes, there are degrees of trolling, and this is the least of what anti-feminist trolls do, but feminists—especially those of us who engage in online activism—must, on a daily basis, deal with a barrage of people who are primarily cis white males telling us what feminism really is or isn’t, what misogyny really is or isn’t, what street harassment really is or isn’t, what rape really is or isn’t, and “devil’s advocate” is one of the flags they wave when they’re reminded that they are being part of the problem, as though it excuses them. I hope this clarifies my meaning. Also, if you’re pulling this one item out of the list and ignoring everything else, you may be missing at least part of the point.
Oh, and just for good measure:
Trolls Harassers and abusive assholes who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)
This week it finally hit me like a piano out of the sky: nine out of ten* people who argue with me on points of problematic representations/treatment of women in the media and by society in general are…wait for it…dudes.
I’ve come to use the term “dude” (as in Those Dudes) ironically to mean men who are not trolls but are not my allies (though they may believe they are) and who tend to engage in a thing the Internet has come to call “mansplaining,” specifically in response to women speaking out about sexism and misogyny and anything related to it. They seem unable to understand the concept of differing experiences and perspectives or listening and learning from others, and if they disagree on a point, they a) feel they must convince you that you’re wrong or b) believe you owe it to them to convince them you’re right. Or both. Entitlement issues, much?
So here’s a note to Those Dudes. May they give it some serious thought over their next White Russian, or whatever Those Dudes drink.
To Those Dudes:
I’m writing to you today to ask a question and offer some information and advice I hope will be useful to you in your endeavor to be a decent human being.
Here’s my question: Why is it so difficult for you to understand that experiences exist outside your own; that your perspective is yours alone; that you can’t know what it’s like to live in someone else’s skin—a woman’s skin?
Because you just can’t. You can say that you empathize, but that only goes so far because it is actually impossible for you to walk in our shoes. And most of you wouldn’t if you could. (If you bristle at that, I dare you to challenge yourself to pass as a woman in public for 24 hours, because that’s as close as you’ll get, and I guarantee you it’ll change your life.) And because you can’t know what it’s like to be us, you’d think that logic (that thing you’re always telling me my arguments are lacking) would dictate that you cannot be an expert on us, on being us, on how to be us, on how things affect us, and all that stuff you always want to advise us on. I’m really hoping that if you give it some serious, logical thought you’ll understand how your telling us how wrong we are when we talk about how we experience the world doesn’t make a lot of sense.
And yet you crawl up out of the woodwork every time we speak to tell us we’re mistaken and misguided, that we’re not seeing things clearly, that our perspectives are out of true, that we’re far too sensitive and emotional and are just creating “drama”–that because you don’t see it the way we do there’s nothing to talk about and why do we make such a BIG DEAL out of everything.
This behavior has a name. There was a time when I didn’t use the name because frankly, I didn’t want people to think I’m one of Those Feminists who hates men. I don’t want to use gender-specific terms to describe bad behavior if I can help it. I’d rather just say “That guy’s a pompous ass.” But there came a day when even I had to admit there’s a damned good reason that term exists, and that’s because it’s a fucking problem. The problem I’m talking about is “mansplaining,” and the word describes what so many of you engage in when you try to sit us down and tell us how our experiences as women are not what we believe they are and that the issues we feel passionate about are the wrong issues and that we’re going about all this in the wrong way and that you’ve got all the answers.
So, here’s my advice to you, Dudes:
Stop telling women they’ve got it wrong** when they speak out about the problems they see in the world. Stop telling us we’re thinking, writing, and saying the wrong things. Stop telling us the things we see as problems aren’t—your belief is not required, and your disbelief doesn’t magically erase an issue from existence. Stop insisting on our time and energy like needy children—if you’ll read the fine print, you’ll find we don’t actually owe you a debate, a conversation, or even a hello. Stop pretending you have any idea what it’s like to be us, and for Petunia’s sake, stop whipping out your “woman-friend-who-agrees-with-me.”
Stop with the fucking mainsplaining, and I promise I’ll stop using the term. Until then, I’m going to call you on this crap, because I’m sick of dealing with it. Learn some listening skills and some humility. Put some skill points into Self Awareness and Tact and Not Being a Dick.
If you want to be an ally, you’ll take this to heart. If you don’t, you really ought to find another hobby.
*I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote “9 out of 10.” It’s honestly more like 99/100.
**(Added post-publication for clarity.) This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree. There are ways to communicate disagreement that don’t include telling a woman she doesn’t know what she’s talking about (or implying you know better than she does) when she’s talking about woman things or her perspective as a woman. But do stop and consider whether your presence in a given conversation is necessary or you just want to disagree, because sometimes it’s just not. Read some of the articles below for tips. Also, because I feel I must say it: this article is directed at men who exhibit specific behaviors, not men in general.
- Mansplaining 101: How to Discuss Politics and Feminism Without Acting Like a Jackass (policymic)
- A Cultural History of Mansplaining (The Atlantic)
- #497: On “keeping the peace” with an unlikeable mansplainer (captainawkward.com)
- Men who explain things (Los Angeles Times)
- I’m Tired of All the Damned Splaining So Check Your Privilege, Please (makemeasammich.org)
- Dear Entitled Straight White Dudes (makemeasammich.org)
PSA: Trolls who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)
Today I have a guest post up at The Outlier Collective for their week of conversation about Feminism. Have a look at this and the other contributions, as well as the conversations that have ensued. Fascinating stuff. I’m proud to be a part of it!
Here’s an excerpt from my post:
Why it took 47 years and six months or so for me to get to that place, I’m not certain, but I do know one thing: I had met the type of feminist who feels the need to speak up every single time someone says something that might be construed as sexist in any situation, and I did NOT want to be one of them. I don’t remember ever saying, “I’m not a feminist, but…” but if I did, then I was–I was a Feminist Butt. I wanted everything feminists want, I disliked everything (most) feminists dislike and work to change, but I did absolutely nothing to promote equality, and I certainly didn’t call myself a feminist because yikes, what if someone thought I was one of those feminists?
Tomorrow will mark six months since I learned that my best friend had betrayed me. Six months since he got caught, confessed, and ran out the door as fast as his cowardly feet could carry him. Four months since I gave up any hope that he was still capable of being a friend or even a decent human being when it came to his treatment of me and broke off all contact with him probably forever.
This has been one of the (if not the) most difficult periods of my life—a life that has included other betrayals as well as beatings and even rape. And though I’m doing much better than I was six or even four months ago, there are times when the whole thing hits me all over again and knocks me back down onto the floor where he left me back in December. A photograph, a dream, the bar where we had one of our first dates which I can’t avoid visiting because friends must support friends—these things and so many others poke holes in the armor I’ve built around myself these past months and stab me right in the heart.
Some folks tell me that all this only has as much power over me as I allow it to have–that it is my choice whether to dwell in the past or move on with my life. It’s true, I have no choice but to move on–it’s that or die. But this healing I’m doing is a process, and I don’t actually control how my body reacts to stimuli such as an image, a place, or just a vivid memory. There’s a sensation like a kick to the gut or chest, and then the tears come, and *then* I get to choose what to do next. And I have chosen life. And there have been good times. I have optimistic days. Sometimes I think I might be ok. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen again and that I won’t feel agony every time—at least for a while.
The support I have received from friends and acquaintances (and here I must acknowledge that even the ones who say and do things I don’t find particularly helpful are usually trying to be supportive) has been overwhelming. Social discomfort has mostly been due to the place (my old apartment building, the bar I mentioned above, a local convention, or just downtown Seattle, for that matter) or my state of mind. There are those times when people ask how I’m doing and then change the subject when I tell them the truth and it’s not happy, and that can be awkward and can leave me feeling like they didn’t really want the answer to that question. (I’ve never been one for small-talk anyway, so if you ask how I’m doing, you’re very likely to get an honest answer.) There are those people who I know are still friends with my ex, and that can be uncomfortable for me because he hurt me so much and they remind me of that by their very existence in my social sphere (it’s not their fault—it just is). There are those people I suspect are still his friends, but who don’t tell me so—don’t say anything at all about him (which is as it should be—as I have requested—if they are still friends). All of this can be awkward and painful, but it honestly pales in comparison to the outpouring of support from people from all areas of my life—especially from my online friends and acquaintances (some of whom are also RL friends and acquaintances).
That very much includes you, dear readers. Very much indeed. Without this place to share my stories and my personal…challenges? …this past year, I can’t imagine what my life would have been like. Without this place to vent my pain and rage in December and January, I’m afraid to think what would have happened to me. And without you showing up here, whether just to read or to comment or commiserate, this place would not be what it is for me. I know that I can talk about the things that feel important–whether they are about all of us or just about me–because you have helped me see that our stories are one of the most important ways we learn, grow, and connect with our fellow human beings.
Thank you for being a part of mine.
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
Guest post by Joseph Paul Haines
Joe posted this “rant” on Facebook yesterday and kindly gave me permission to share it here. Enjoy. ~Rosie
Hell, I’ll even show you how to use it with a series of statements and where it applies.
Statement: Women only pretend to be interested in cons.
WYST: (What you should think): Maybe. That could be true, depending on the woman. I’m sure that there are some women in the world who couldn’t give a flying fuck about geek culture but see it as a great place to meet fairly affluent single men. Then again, some of them could school your ass a hundred ways to Sunday on almost anything you think you know.
Statement: Women are physically weaker than men.
WYST: Maybe. Some women are, due to their physique, less able to perform certain feats of strength than a similarly built man. Then again, I’ve also had my ass handed to me in sparring matches with women of all shapes and sizes, depending upon their skill level and mine.
Statement: Women are more emotional.
WYST: Maybe. I’ve known women who on the surface seemed to react more strongly to certain external stimuli than other men I’ve known. Then again, it seems I keep running into men who I would classify more strongly as “little whiny bitches” than any woman I’d met in years.
Statement: Women need someone to take care of them.
WYST: Maybe. There have been people on this planet who have experienced situations and trauma that left them temporarily incapable of tending to their own needs in a proficient manner. Then again, maybe you can move out of your parent’s basement before you start whining about it.
Statement: So maybe? How am I supposed to operate off of maybe?
WYST: The same way you do with every other human being on the planet. Some people are better than others at certain things. It has absolutely nothing to do with their gender. As a matter of fact, the gender should be the last thing you consider when getting to understand another human being. Is it true that some women are hyper-emotional? Damn straight. Some men, too. You should deal with the state of being, not the gender. It’s not your job to somehow behave in a different manner with women than you do with men. You don’t have to behave like a “knight.” You don’t have to behave like a “perfect gentleman” although manners never hurt anyone. (Side note: If you think that your behavior has to change in so-called mixed company, you might take some time to think about your manners in a general, overall sort of way. Just a thought.)
Most of all, when you consider a person’s abilities or behavior, it should be based upon their actions and demonstrated talents. So in other words, all this clichéd nonsense about women? Yeah, it could possibly be true in specific instances when dealing with one particular human being.
STATEMENT: Most men aren’t capable of getting past their own cocks and learning this lesson.
WYST: Maybe. But maybe not.
See now? That wasn’t so difficult, was it?
Note: Today Joe posted this PSA, which I know he won’t mind me adding here:
Gentlemen, I’m going to provide you with another safety tip here today. Never, and I mean EVER, start a sentence to a woman with the following phrase:
“Jeez, don’t get so hysterical,” or “Calm down, already,” or “Let’s not get all emotional now . . .”
If you don’t understand why not, well, just take my word for it. If she’s standing in front of you and waving a gun or a knife or hitting herself in the face with a sledgehammer, then and ONLY then would the use of any of these phrases be justified.
Just don’t do it. And you’re welcome.
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
Recently Mandaray told me about the Kitten Setting: a method for dealing with trolls on the Internet. I’ve been dying to try it out. Behold my first attempt at employing the Kitten Setting. For SCIENCE!
See the ongoing saga here (see warning below):
Part I: FUN
Part II: The Troll Came Back…
Part III: Disappointment (sad trombone) [Warning: Contains porn.]
Part IV: The Silence of the Kittens
Part V: Kitten Claims VICTORY
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
Really, I ought to capitalize that: Asshole. Because that’s my name for you now. Used to be, when you popped into my head, I thought words like “love” and “sweetie” and “baby” and “honey.” Now, without even thinking about it and without my permission, I think–and say out loud every single time–“Asshole.” Or “Fucking Asshole.” Or “What a Fucking Asshole.”
I can’t believe I ever thought you were one of the Good Guys. That I ever thought you were my friend. I’m so sorry that I trusted you–that I didn’t retain some modicum of protection that might allow me to see you for who and what you really are. I can’t believe I let you hurt me–that you still have the power to hurt me.
I once told you I’d forgiven you. I really wanted that to be true. But it’s not. I can’t forgive you. I don’t know how. I know how to say the words, but not how to make them true. The last time I talked to you I told you how hard the week of our anniversary was for me, and you responded by ignoring me on that very day. Ignoring every attempt at communication and then claiming paralysis, and THEN whining about the unfairness of it all when I told you what an asshole you were. You just kept piling hurt upon hurt, but really, it didn’t matter. You had already done the unforgivable by doing everything you did and then leaving me alone to deal with it all by myself.
I truly hope you get better and cease to cause pain to every woman foolish enough to become involved with you. But my experience has taught me this:
You are a narcissist. You are a serial monogamist. You are a sex addict. You are a man who pretends to be good and then lies and cheats and hurts women over and over again. You are a man who believes you are entitled to have your needs met at the expense of other people. You are a man who has learned what he needs to say after he destroys a life (or several) that will make people see him as a good guy who just makes mistakes and never meant to hurt anyone even though you set out every single day for several months fully intending to lie to me, betray my trust in you, and fuck another woman behind my back in downtown hotel rooms while wondering aloud at home where all our money went. You are a liar and a cheater and you don’t know how to be a friend or a partner or even a good human being.
You are an Asshole.
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
Poem by MMAS reader Karl Jesse, published with permission.
when I was young, I didn’t care.
The other was a fascination.
A mystery I wanted to swim with.
Now, seeing how complex is our predicament,
I begin to understand.
But I am not afraid.
Because I have walked with you.
Talked with you.
We have wound together.
Stronger, wiser, inseparable.
Something I will never forget.
No, it never got easier,
but it sure got a lot more interesting.
Guest post by Sid
Three of those relationships were abusive.
Guy one (G1) was fine in this regard, as was guy five (G5). They each had their own issues, of course, but they weren’t abusive.
Guy number two (G2) choked me one day. We had been together for well over a year, closing in on a year and a half. Some months later, he dragged me with his car for about twenty feet. Any time I tried to break up with him, he sobbed and sobbed, berating himself until I recanted. He yelled at me if I disagreed with him, prayed before a meal, or called him out on one of dozens of pathological lies.
Guy number three (G3) also choked me, but it was much softer. It was as though he didn’t intend to actually hurt me, but wanted to remind me what being choked was like (because of course he knew G2 had done it) and wanted to show me he could do it just as easily. To my mind, this is just as bad. It was more threat than act, but it amounted to the same. Some months later, he was holding my hand while angry and crushed it. It hurt for several days.
Guy number four (G4), though…he’s the tricky one. He didn’t choke me. He didn’t drag me with a car or crush my hand. His thing was all about how much I wasn’t listening to him. He was also quite tall, so when he felt I wasn’t listening to him, he would bring himself up to his full height and grab me by the arms—tightly, so that I couldn’t get away. He would then push his face into mine so that my head went back, and he would scream at me.
I struggled away whenever I could, but often I was backed up against a wall or into a corner and had nowhere to go.
I would scream back, of course, because I felt trapped and threatened, and I was trying to understand what was happening. Any time we had an argument, if I tried to step away from it to calm down and sort my thoughts, he would follow me after just a few minutes. In one of our homes, as soon as I closed the bedroom door behind me, I would sneak out the sliding glass door and walk down the street so I could get some peace. It wasn’t long before he figured that out, though, and ran down the street after me. A couple times, when I’d gotten far enough that he couldn’t see me, he came after me in his car, window rolled down and sobbing for me to get in.
Honestly, I just wanted thirty minutes to be alone. I couldn’t get five.
When we moved, my office didn’t have a sliding glass door (or a window on the first floor), but that’s still where I went when I wanted space. When he still wouldn’t respect my request to be alone, I started sitting in front of the door. It didn’t have a lock.
This worked for about ten minutes, at which point he panicked and forced himself into the room. This happened so many times, I couldn’t even tell you how many. I often ended up hurt because the door would throw me into the wall or would hit me, or he would step on me on accident because I was right there on the floor. Once he was in the room, he would start calm, but would eventually escalate, sobbing about how we had to work this out right now and no I couldn’t take any time to work through the problem on my own. Often, it would take us back to him grabbing me by the arms and pushing his face into mine, and screaming.
Like I said, my office didn’t have a lock. But the bathroom did. Once I locked myself in there with my back against the door. He used a credit card and forced his way in. I got hurt this time because I was leveraging myself against the door by pushing against the toilet with my feet, and eventually my knees gave out.
I started leaving the apartment when we argued. But I would literally need to run, because he would be after me in about two minutes. It was kind of amazing, actually. The first time I went to leave, he looked at me and said, “Really? You really think you have to leave the apartment?” He was aghast at my lack of trust—after all, he’d agreed to give me time to think in my office. Again. Two minutes later, he was behind me on the street, begging me to come back with him.
Finally, I started heading for the stairs instead of the elevator—but I went upstairs instead of down. That was the one thing he never figured out. I finally had some time and space to think—about being a grown woman who was hiding on the floor above her own just to escape her boyfriend who literally made a habit of chasing her.
This relationship did not last.
Now, was I an angel in this relationship? Good God, no. I mean, I tried. The good times were so good that we were engaged, and we both thought our relationship was fine. (I didn’t notice the pattern, see. Not at first. Not for a long time.) At the end of the day, though, I was not my best in this relationship, as much as I wanted to be. As much as I tried to be. But that doesn’t mean—and will never mean—that I deserved what I got.
What makes him tricky, though, isn’t that he never choked me or took a direct swing. What makes him tricky is how entwined he was with so many of my other friends. They had become our friends, and it didn’t seem right to air all our dirty laundry to them. I told two of my very closest friends, though, which was difficult because they were also very close to him. And then one of my friends said something I didn’t expect.
“Well, you know, I think a lot of it came down to you two just not being right for each other. I mean, I don’t think that’s his real personality.”
I could have the very specifics of the words wrong—it was a few years ago now—but the sentiment is dead-on. And I was confused. I had been trying to attach the word “abusive” to this relationship as I sorted through the wreckage (I say “trying” because, as with many things, it is difficult for a victim to call out what is true), and this reaction made me feel all the more like I shouldn’t attach that word. It made me feel even more strongly that the problem wasn’t him—the problem was that I evoked the reaction.
I fought with myself for a long time on this one, and honestly I don’t know when in the last three years I settled on the word “abusive,” but I know it was more recent than not. Maybe it was when I heard this same friend say that she couldn’t imagine what goes through people’s heads when they defend a friend of theirs who was called out for assaulting another friend. “How can you look someone in the face and say that he wouldn’t do that? That it was just a misunderstanding?”
I don’t know. How can you?
Or maybe it was just this last week when I stood two feet away as she hugged Rosie and said, “I unfriended that guy because I couldn’t stand to hear him say on Facebook how he was…” something. I didn’t hear the end of the sentence. I was too far inside my own head trying to figure out how it was that B was so despicable she couldn’t stand to be friends with him on Facebook, yet she had managed to remain very close friends with my abuser since I left him.
Abuser. That’s such a strong word. I look at it even now and think, “Come on now, Sid. Surely that’s not the right word. He didn’t even hit you.” Honestly. That’s the thought: “He didn’t even hit you.” I know better than that, and still.
The thing with a lot of victim blaming, I think, is that it comes from a place not of malice but of pleading. When you say, “You must have misinterpreted the situation,” you’re not really saying, “You’re a liar and I don’t believe you.” At least not most of the time. Sure, there are people who outright say that, but I think even they are really saying, “Don’t let this be true. Please, just leave me any margin for error so I can continue to hang out with my friend who has never shown this horrible side to me.”
It works like this, I think:
- You acknowledge the accusation is horrible.
- If the accusation is true, then you feel you can no longer be friends with the accused.
- You have never seen the accused display any behavior like this; in fact, you would declare the accused to be one of the nicest fellows you know.
- As a result of (3), you choose to believe that it couldn’t have been as bad as it sounds. Your natural inclination is to assume there was a misunderstanding.
- You report this to the accusing party.
You aren’t trying to disregard your friend’s feelings—in truth, you’re just trying to protect your own—but what you’ve done here is opened the door for second-guessing. Second-guessing something that was probably hard to talk about in the first place. Without even intending to, you have silenced her.
Victim blaming isn’t something any friend sets out to do. (Anyone who does so openly and candidly is honestly not a friend—I have stories about that, too.) Victim blaming is something so subtle it can slip by us without so much as a glance.
After my first two abusive relationships (G2 and G3), I was re-applying for a job as a dispatcher. During one of the interviews, the abuse came up in conversation. My interviewers informed me that these relationships proved I had poor decision-making skills and denied me the job. (Before you jump into legality, I can’t prove that was the reason. It was, though.)
It took me several years to get over the shame and the self-blame of those first two, but now I won’t apologize when I tell you that I have been abused. I won’t shrink away and say, “I…I know I should have gotten out sooner, but…” I notice the signs now, and I avoid them. In the case of G4, it took a while to notice the pattern, but when I did—and I realized it was slowly getting worse and worse—I got out, six months before the wedding.
Getting out isn’t as easy as it sounds, and I won’t look down on anyone going through a similar experience. Women in these situations need help and encouragement—not shame, not blame, not doubt. Strength.
My roommate once asked me what my biggest regret was, and I said I didn’t have any. “None at all?” “Nope. Because it’s all important. Our pasts make up who we are, and I like who I am. I wouldn’t be who I am without everything that’s brought me to this point. It’s all important.”
It’s a part of my history. I can’t change it, and honestly, I don’t know that I would given the chance. Not changing your past doesn’t mean you have to relive it, after all. I love and appreciate every lesson I’ve learned, however hard it was.
I don’t make billboards about my abusive relationships, but I don’t make any effort to hide them. And sometimes people still try to shame me—whether it’s with words, body language, or a sudden, superior attitude. It doesn’t work, though. Here’s a quick tip: you can’t shame me about my life, my choices, my hobbies, my aspirations, my friends, or my past. It’s pointless trying.
You can’t shame me because I am not ashamed.
Today I saw this and wanted to share it with you.
The war on men through the degradation of woman.
How is man to recognize his full self, his full power through the eye’s of an incomplete woman? The woman who has been stripped of Goddess recognition and diminished to a big ass and full breast for physical comfort only. The woman who has been silenced so she may forget her spiritual essence because her words stir too much thought outside of the pleasure space. The woman who has been diminished to covering all that rots inside of her with weaves and red bottom shoes.
I am sure the men, who restructured our societies from cultures that honored woman, had no idea of the outcome. They had no idea that eventually, even men would render themselves empty and longing for meaning, depth and connection. There is a deep sadness when I witness a man that can’t recognize the emptiness he feels when he objectifies himself as a bank and truly believes he can buy love with things and status. It is painful to witness the betrayal when a woman takes him up on that offer. He doesn’t recognize that the create of a half woman has contributed to his repressed anger and frustration of feeling he is not enough. He then may love no woman or keep many half women as his prize. He doesn’t recognize that it’s his submersion in the imbalanced warrior culture, where violence is the means of getting respect and power, as the reason he can break the face of the woman who bore him four children.When woman is lost, so is man. The truth is, woman is the window to a man’s heart and a man’s heart is the gateway to his soul.
Power and control will NEVER out weigh love.
May we all find our way.
Text is originally rom Jada’s Facebook page. What do you think?
I admit I’m late to the party. I haven’t read The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti or seen any relevant documentaries. But sometimes you see something out there in the world and you realize that there isn’t time to know everything–you just have to speak out. So, yeah. Here I go.
Someone recently pointed me to this article at Focus on the Family’s super-crappy website claiming to explain to anyone who is wondering why chastity is so important in the eyes of the Lord. It doesn’t actually quote any scripture to back it up–just makes a number of statements about Christian* life meant to be accepted as fact. Most of this I can politely disagree with and move on. But one item…well, it seriously pissed me off.
It’s Not My Body
Chastity is important because it involves how we comport our bodies — and through faith, our bodies are no longer our own. In faith, you have become part of Christ’s body, and it is Christ through the Church, who must give you permission to join His body to another body.
In the Christian worldview, we have no right to sex. The place where the Church confers that privilege on you is the wedding; weddings are specific acts that grant us permission to have sex with one person.
As you can imagine, I have some issues with that worldview and the way it sets girls and young women up to believe that from square one their bodies are out of their control. When I was a child, the idea of God was terrifying anyway. A gigantic white man who, in my mind, wore all black (even a black turtle-neck–I was born in the sixties!) and lived in the sky looking down on us seeing everything we did even when we hid? How terrifying. But if my parents had told me that my body was not my own, but belonged to that man in the sky? Honestly, I can’t even imagine how that might have felt as a little girl. Would it have made more sense to me, or less, when adult males in my life sexually abused me? Hard to say, but how on earth can a worldview like that raise young women with any real sense of themselves as human beings?
(Note: I realize that the page referenced above is ostensibly aimed at both sexes. But let’s be honest, shall we? In this worldview–and unfortunately, in our culture–the responsibility for remaining pure lies with the girl and then the woman she becomes. Boys play offense; girls play defense.)
The worldview illustrated by the Focus on the Family article is responsible for the fact that little girls all over the country attend “Purity Balls” and pledge their virginity to their fathers in some kind of sick mockery of a mass wedding. Seriously? I pledge my VIRGINITY to my FATHER? “Dear Daddy, my virginity is yours to have and hold in Jesus’ name until such time you and he decide I can have sex.” Holy shit, people, there’s something really wrong about that, isn’t there? It can’t just be me.
It terrifies me that a generation of girls is growing up in this subculture that–in the 21st century!–teaches them they have no say in their lives. It baffles me that anyone thinks these Purity Balls are anything but a way to manipulate little girls by letting them dress up like princesses and marry their daddies. Calling Doctor Sigmund Fucking Freud. It makes me sick that these girls will grow into women who believe that God and the men in their lives know what’s best for them while they do not, and that their bodies do not belong to them–that they have no real choice when it comes to sex, marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood…except to do what their churches tell them Jesus wants them to do.
Will Smith, in a recent Parade interview, had this to say on the subject:
We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that it is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.
*I’m not a Christian, but my boyfriend is. He’s read the bible. Studied it. And when he read the Focus on the Family page I linked above his first words were, “Yeah, this is just evil.” I asked him to tell us more in his own words:
Jesus never said a single word about sex. Not one word. Jesus’ core teachings were about legalism, injustice, and hypocrisy.
In the Bible, there are four accounts of Jesus’ teachings that are directly *related* to sexuality, and one of those (unfortunately) is a later addition, but does demonstrate how his early followers understood his thinking. Those four passages are:
(Matt 5:31-32, Matt 19:9, Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18) If a man divorce a woman and marry another, it is adultery. — This is admittedly a challenging claim, one that almost no Christians in any era have taken as the last word on remarriage. It should be noted that this passage is pointedly in the context of old testament law and is being directed at the hypocrisy of legalist teachings about that law.
(Matt 5:27-28) If a man look on a woman with lust, he has committed adultery with her in his heart. — Another challenging claim, but one that is generally taken as a koan, not an instruction. The koan is intended to point to the intent of the heart as the essence of the morality, not adherence to the letter of the law.
(John 4:16-18) Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman: Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. Some things to note about this: in the first place, Jesus is passing absolutely no judgement on this woman. He is not denouncing her as an adulteress or rebuking her in any other way. It is additionally important to note that Samaritans were not Jews, and many Jews would not even speak to Samaritans. They were like an untouchable class of Israel. Secondly, in the conversation that follows, Jesus and this woman discuss the nature of prayer. This is widely thought to be a true account of Jesus, and it shows that despite what sound like very hard lessons about adultery, he really doesn’t give a shit. Sexual ethics are not interesting to him.
(John 8:1-11) The woman caught in adultery. A famous passage that turns out to have been added fifty years or so after Jesus died. It demonstrates what some of his closest followers thought of him: a woman is about to be stoned to death for the sin of adultery. Jesus intervenes, asking “you without sin to cast the first stone.” There are a number of reasons why this is known to be a later addition, but again, it demonstrates that the people of Jesus time understood his primary teaching to be one of compassion and honoring the heart and the connection to God over any form of legalistic prescription for behavior.
In all of this we see one consistent theme: Jesus doesn’t like a casual divorce, and Jesus is not bothered by what people of his day considered sexual sin.
More important than what he did say is what he didn’t. These are four short passages across four pretty long texts. Jesus had an *enormous* amount to say about the failings of his society. In order to find a mature, Christian understanding of sexuality we need to look to other teachings of Jesus that we can apply to our sexual lives. Every generation of Christians has come to understand that Jesus was bringing a new understanding of God to the world: the understanding that God is love. Jesus had exactly and only two commandments to his followers:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
“All the Law and the Prophets” — this means everything in what we call the Old Testament. All of the old testament and all of the new testament can be seen as elaborations on these two commandments. For someone who follows Jesus, this is the only law. Everything else is interpretation, explanation, elaboration. A point of conflict between Christians and Jews is that Christians believe this *supplants* all other law. That all other efforts of law, particularly in the Old Testament, are flawed attempts to codify these simple commandments.
Paul made this abundantly clear to the Corinthians: All things are lawful; but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful; but not all things edify. (1 Cor 10:23)
In short: there is nothing prohibited to a Christian. Legalistic efforts to limit action always fail to capture Jesus’ simple commandments. There is no law that restricts Christian action. Whether an action is the right thing to do in the moment is between you and God. It comes down to the intention of your heart. It comes down to the embodiment of Jesus’ commandment to love.
Must Christians be “chaste”? All things are lawful. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Do we have a “right” to sex? All things are lawful. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Is any sex before, outside of, or after marriage an “embodied apostasy”? All things are lawful. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Perhaps the most egregious and anti-Christian thought expressed in the Focus on the Family piece is this sentence: “The place where the Church confers that privilege on you is the wedding.” This is so anti-Christian in any and every sense as to be mind boggling. In every view of Jesus from the very conservative to the very liberal, Jesus came to break down the barriers between humans and God. Jesus taught, over and over, that every human is in direct relationship to God. There is no intermediary. There is no role for anything that calls itself a Church to confer anything on anyone. Each of us may pray directly to God — not through a priest, not through a temple, not through a church. Each of us is baptized directly by God with the baptism of the Spirit which connects our heart to God. I don’t care whether it’s about sex or anything else: each individual is guided in his or her responsibilities to God only by that first commandment: to love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.
Any person who teaches anything else must beware of another, darker point that Jesus made:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
A year ago this month (October 4, 2011) I was among about 300 people who showed up to occupy Westlake Center in Seattle. That night I was among the 40 or so who resolved to consummate our occupation by camping overnight there on the concrete, some of us with only a thin blanket dropped off by a local mission. I had my tent and sleeping bag and a sense that I was about to become a part of something big. For the next several days I spent every waking hour and several largely sleepless nights at Westlake doing my part, and after about a week I came home and collapsed for the next two. I had learned a lot about myself and about how and where I fit into the solution. And part of that was learning how hard it can be for a woman’s voice to be heard among men.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the second among three ways I would learn this lesson in a single year. Strange when you think that I’d lived 46 years previously without really giving it much thought.
The setting for my first classroom that year–last year, 2011–was my job. After fifteen-or-so years I’d made my way back into management and was fairly happy leading a team of writers who seemed to like having me for their boss. One of the reasons for that was that I fought for them (in conference rooms where I was usually the only woman), which meant that I sometimes showed emotion. This is not to say that I yelled or cried or anything like that–only that if you were in the room, it was apparent that I felt passionately about my team and our work and how it was presented…and if I disagreed, I said so, and if I didn’t like something, I said so, and no, I’m not shy and demure, and yes, my boss did make me a little weepy one time when we were alone, I admit, BUT! When it became a “thing” that people didn’t want to “upset” me or felt they’d had “run ins” with me or whatever and I got put on official “emotion” notice, well then I realized that my problem was not (entirely) the level of emotion people were seeing from me. I looked at how these men reacted to me (vs. one another)–listened to the words they used to describe me or to explain to me why my personal style challenged them and it became clear that my biggest issue was that I was a woman in a company full of men who don’t know how to deal with a woman who hasn’t learned to “get along” in a male-dominated corporate environment. For that reason, among others, I gave up my job, and though I like and respect my former co-workers for the most part, I believe that I left behind a culture that is not particularly welcoming to women in leadership positions.
Lastly: Early this year I attended a writing conference as a professional. The panel seemed well-balanced, at first, which is sometimes a problem at this particular con (and many others), with two men and two women. Then it emerged that the other woman–the moderator–had to cancel, and at the behest of one of my co-panelists, I took over as mod. Now, I have been attending conventions as a professional for many years, and I have seen panelists take over the show and trample everyone else into the ground. This wasn’t like that. The same guy who nominated me for moderator proceeded to moderate the panel, talking over me, calling on members of the audience, encouraging participation from the other male at the table. He had decided at some point that I didn’t have anything to add, and he figured he’d man up and give the audience what they paid for, I suppose. He wasn’t a total asshole about it. He was just louder than I was. More aggressive. More forceful. And I wasn’t willing to be rude in front of an audience.
If you’ve ever been in a situation at all like this one, you know how long it takes for an hour to pass. I’m pretty sure I bit my tongue until it bled, and when I walked out I told my boyfriend, “I think I just became an Angry Feminist.”
It’s not that I think this guy was an outright misogynist. I don’t. I’d have to paint nearly everyone in that room with the same brush, because not one of them seemed to have a clue what I was going through. This guy probably thinks of himself as progressive. And that’s the problem. It’s the everyday misogyny that has become so ingrained in our culture that we don’t even notice it. Until we do, and then it’s like pregnant people or VW Beetles*: You can’t stop seeing it.
I don’t regret any of these experiences, and I’m grateful for them as a whole, because they helped bring me to the place I am today where I’ve decided that I really do have things to say and want people to hear my voice. I know that no one set out to silence me in any of the situations I described above. At my job, they just didn’t expect me to care about things that to them seemed trivial. On the panel, a guy asserted his dominance the way we’ve taught him he ought to. At Occupy, I stood surrounded by men and boys who had no concerns about whether their voices would be heard, and many talked over me while calling themselves progressive, but to their credit, some did listen when I said, “Hey, we don’t all speak so loudly or walk so tall, so listen for the quieter voices among you.”
My homecoming was finding a voice I wasn’t afraid to use. That meant creating a persona and removing the personal and professional from the philosophical to some degree. But it also meant becoming more real than I have ever been before. And each of you have been a part of that process. You who read and comment and help me make sense of all the BS. I won’t always get it right, but damn, I’m enjoying the education.
*I am not comparing pregnant people to VW Beetles. Not that it wouldn’t be apt in some cases. Like when I was pregnant.
FEMEN activists occupied the Venus De Milo at the Louvre in Paris yesterday in defense of a rape victim.
This is one of those sammiches I feel like I have to make for all the people out there who either a) don’t understand what rape culture is or (especially) b) don’t believe rape culture exists. Let’s start with a mini-lesson from a post called Rape Culture 101 over at lifelovelauren:
As children we are told not to talk to strange men who offer us sweets. As teenagers, girls are told ‘you’re not going out looking like that’. As adults, women are told to keep their doors and windows locked, not to walk anywhere alone after dark, not to look at men ‘in the wrong way’, not to open the door to strange men, not to wear short skirts or low cut tops, not to give a guy their number, not to take public transport or a taxi alone, not to sleep with multiple people, not to drink too much, not to live alone, not to be weak, not to get raped. Because if we do any of these things, well, it was our fault wasn’t it? We led him on, we asked for it, we wanted to get raped. That’s rape culture.
I’ll add that “we” above refers to girls and that we as a society do relatively little (when compared to how much time we spend preparing girls not to get raped) to prepare boys not to rape. Something is terribly wrong with this equation.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen stories (related to the one I shared from Mandaray this week) that lit a fire of rage inside me which has smoldered and sparked and grown hotter with each passing day as more and more stories come to light. These are stories of institutionalized rape culture in the United States of America. Stories about how our system makes victims responsible for the crimes committed against them, but only if those crimes are sexual and the victims are women. As someone said recently of racism (which must be considered in any discussion of inequality), this is not something laws will change. WE have to change.
We have to change how we think about rape as it relates to how we think about women. Yes, I know, rape happens to men, too, but everyone agrees that’s a Bad Thing. Men who get raped are not generally subjected to criticisms of their wardrobe choices because no one believes that what a man wears has any bearing on whether he gets raped. Think about that for a moment. Why are women imagined to be responsible for how men react to their state of dress? Do we really think that all men are born rapists with no control over their actions? I know I’m not the first to ask this question. Hell, I’m probably not the first to ask this question today. But it must be asked because it is the very definition of a double standard and this is one that hurts us as a society possibly more than any other.
So, stories. Here’s one you’ve probably heard, because it happened a couple of weeks ago. A judge in Arizona (I know, shocking) let a cop go free after a jury convicted him of sexual assault. Read that sentence again–I’ll wait. Here’s what Judge Jaqueline Hatch had to say to the victim of the (no longer alleged) assault (via ThinkProgress):
Bad things can happen in bars, Hatch told the victim, adding that other people might be more intoxicated than she was.
“If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you,” Hatch said.
Hatch told the victim and the defendant that no one would be happy with the sentence she gave, but that finding an appropriate sentence was her duty.
“I hope you look at what you’ve been through and try to take something positive out of it,” Hatch said to the victim in court. “You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability.”
Hatch said that the victim was not to blame in the case, but that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims.
“When you blame others, you give up your power to change,” Hatch said that her mother used to say.
The fact that this victim-blaming-shaming bullshit came from the mouth of a woman makes it seem all the more evil to me. Oh, and by the way? While officer Robb Gary Evans was fired due to his conviction, he is not required to register as a sex offender. Neat, huh?
Yeah, that story made me want to punch things. This next one makes me want to punch people.
Today the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned this man’s sexual assault conviction. No one questions that sex took place, but see, this man had sex with a woman who was physically and mentally disabled. She has cerebral palsy, and while this is not always or even usually the case with CP, she is severely mentally retarded. Sinking to a new low in victim-blaming, the court ruled that the victim was capable of communicating her lack of consent, so you know, consent was a given.
The Court held that, because Connecticut statutes define physical incapacity for the purpose of sexual assault as “unconscious or for any other reason. . . physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act,” the defendant could not be convicted if there was any chance that the victim could have communicated her lack of consent. Since the victim in this case was capable of “biting, kicking, scratching, screeching, groaning or gesturing,” the Court ruled that [the] victim could have communicated lack of consent despite her serious mental deficiencies:
When we consider this evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict, and in a manner that is consistent with the state’s theory of guilt at trial,we, like the Appellate Court, ‘are not persuaded that the state produced any credible evidence that the [victim] was either unconscious or so uncommunicative that she was physically incapable of manifesting to the defendant her lack of consent to sexual intercourse at the time of the alleged sexual assault.’
So, pay attention, ladies: If you don’t say “No,” whether it’s because you’ve got a sock stuffed in your mouth or you’re just paralyzed with fear, your lack of non-consent equals consent. Got it?
Remember the girl in Texas who was told she had to cheer for her rapist at sporting events? What about the one who was court-ordered to write a letter of apology to the man who raped her because the court didn’t convict? The eleven-year-old child who news commentators accused of dressing older than her age? Does no one remember The Accused?
When are we going to put our collective feet down in thunderous unison and say ENOUGH?
Sigh. That’s all I’ve got energy for today. Over to you, readers.
From our friend Mandaray, an important post if you love fiction, games, and/or women. Follow the link in the first paragraph for the full effect. Rape culture is alive and well, but Mandaray and Seanan McGuire are helping to expose it. You can, too: Pass it on.
by Amy Sisson
Author’s Note: “Patriot Girls” is my response to news stories showing that statistically, our wars have a disproportionate impact on poor and uneducated young men, the ones for whom the military may be the only viable option. But what if our wars outpace enlistment? What if twenty or thirty years from now, even a draft doesn’t provide enough soldiers for whatever wars we may find ourselves in whether we want them or not?
Tuesday, May 16
IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE, but by this time tomorrow I’ll be a Patriot Girl. Ma tried to talk me out of it, and begged me to finish the school year at least, but I’ll be sixteen so there’s nothing she can do. I told her I have the right to do what’s right for my country. And besides, everyone who’s anyone is a Patriot Girl.
Me and Alicia are taking the bus to Austin to register tomorrow. You get free bus fare when you join up. Alicia turned sixteen a month and a half ago but waited for me so we could go together. It was really nice of her, especially since her sister Mary has already been a Patriot Girl for a year and a half. So I printed my birth certificate off the net and packed one small bag, which is all they let you bring. You don’t have to take much, because they give you clothes and everything else you need.
Friday, May 19
I’m a Patriot Girl! We took our vows the day before yesterday, but they’ve kept us so busy I didn’t have time to post until now. First they had an orientation assembly for the new recruits. They explained that our main duty is to support the Patriot Boys who are about to go off to War. These boys are already heroes because they give up everything to defend our freedom, and we need to let them know how much we appreciate it.
One girl, Callie, I think her name was, asked how many of the Boys will come back. She said she heard that most of them don’t last more than six weeks. But Sarge Grayson said that was just a rumor, and it didn’t matter anyway because a Patriot Boy is a hero no matter how long he survives. I thought Callie was dumb to ask that. Everyone knows that our Boys are smarter than the enemy, and they’re gonna come back when the War is over and we can all settle down.
Alicia’s sister Mary, her Boy’s been gone a year already, but he sent her a letter last week saying he’s safe and will be back in a few months. Right now she and little Ben live in one of the dorms for Wives on the other side of the campus, and she keeps busy helping out with the new Girls and taking care of the little ones.
They told us there’s a dance every Friday where we can meet the Boys. Me and Alicia are about to go get our dresses and then get our hair done. I hope I can find a green dress, but I heard that the newbies get the leftovers.
Saturday, May 20
So last night was our first dance! I was a little nervous, because I haven’t been around boys for ages, and I wasn’t sure what a real Patriot Boy would be like. But the dressers fixed us all up to look nice and even gave us perfume. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled anything so pretty before. The dresser who helped me was a little bit older than us. She said I had beautiful red hair, and she even put a flower over my ear, and then she said I should just be myself and I would be fine. When we were all ready, the Sarge called us together and told us to have a good time, and then we got on the bus to the dance hall across campus.
Alicia was nervous too. I’m glad I had her for company! Some of the new Girls didn’t know anybody else when they got here so they’ve had to make friends fast, but I’m lucky because my best friend is here with me. I even got a green dress! At first when I tried it on it was a little too big, but they fixed it for me by the time we got dressed. Alicia got yellow. She looks good in yellow, but thank God I didn’t get that dress, because no Boy would ever look at me twice in that color.
When the Boys got there, I just about had a heart attack! They’re so good-looking! They all stand so straight and tall in their dark green uniforms, and they looked proud but a little nervous too. They stared at us like they’d never seen girls before, and I guess maybe they hadn’t for a while. Alicia grabbed my hand, and I could tell she was as excited as I was.
One of the officers introduced the band. Can you believe it? Our first Patriot Girl dance and we got Faith Rock!
Alicia and me were standing together by the punch bowl. These two Boys came over and told us their names were Nick and Jason. Nick asked Alicia to dance, and Jason said he’d like to dance but wanted to talk to me first. He said to call him Jase. He asked me where I was from and I told him I grew up in Galveston before we all had to evacuate, and now my Ma lives in Spring, on the north side of Houston.
Jase told me he’s from San Antonio. His father was a Hero who died when Jase was only five years old. Jase has an older brother who’s already overseas, and a little sister who’s nine who can’t wait to be a Patriot Girl. It sounds like he has a real patriotic family, which is more than I can say. After the War is over, he wants to be an aircraft mechanic. It was kind of hard to hear him over the music, but it was fun talking to him just the same.
I was glad when he was finally ready to dance, though. There were some Chaperones on the dance floor, older ladies in gray uniforms. They had minibooks, and I wondered if they were taking our pictures or something. One of them said something to Alicia and Nick, but it must not have been anything bad because Alicia still looked happy. She and Nick went back over to the sidelines and got some punch. I tried to keep my feet out from under Jase’s. He’s cute but maybe not the best dancer!
Then a Chaperone tapped Jase’s shoulder. “Having fun, kids?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” we said together.
“If you want to take a break after this dance, there are rest areas where you can get something to drink and sit down for a bit. Just through that door,” she said, pointing.
Jase looked at me and I nodded, so he took my hand and led me through a doorway at the end of the dance hall. My heart started beating faster. One of the male officers was standing just inside the door.
“Hi kids,” he said. “Names?”
“Jason Stewart and Margie Campbell,” Jase said.
“Right,” said the officer. “311 is free—fourth door on the right. There are refreshments in there, and it’s a little quieter so you can hear each other talk.”
We went in, and boy, they weren’t kidding! They had all kinds of drinks and snacks—lots better stuff than I get at home. There was a flatscreen in the wall showing music vids with the sound turned down low. Jase asked me if I wanted a drink and I said yes, so he got me a Coke out of the wall fridge. Then we sat on the couch, which was long and all comfy, like you could sink into it and disappear. Jase put his arm around my shoulder and played with a piece of my hair.
“You’re awfully pretty, Margie,” he said. I was happy but kind of embarrassed. We talked for a while and had more drinks, and then Jase was kissing me. I was worried at first that someone might come in, but Jase said he could lock the door from the inside. I don’t think I was ever so happy in my whole life. And no, I’m not going to tell you all the details!
Thursday June 1
I meant to write this weekend but I ended up going to a special picnic on Saturday to welcome another batch of new Girls. On Sunday afternoon I tried calling Ma but I couldn’t get a good connection, so I t-mailed her instead. I haven’t heard back from her yet.
Jase and I went to the dance again last Friday. That was the first time I’d seen him since the last dance, because he’s been tied up with training and the Girls have been busy with all kinds of med and psych tests. Nothing that hurt, just lots of hypos drawing blood and stuff. And all kinds of silly test questions, like what do these pictures remind you of, and what weighs more, a pound of lead or a pound of feathers. Anyone could get that one!
This time I had a kind of silvery dress for the dance, and one of the dressers helped me put my hair up. Jase said I looked beautiful. We even got the same room as last time to take a break from the dance, so Jase joked it was our room and I should think of 311 as our secret code number. I can’t wait to see him tomorrow night!
Sunday June 4
I was really happy yesterday, because Jase and I had a great time at the dance again, but then this morning I found out he’s shipping out. He sent me a t-mail and said he would miss me, but he’ll be back on furlough in a few months and he can’t wait to meet me in 311 again. He signed it Jason instead of Jase, and I laughed because I’d almost forgotten that’s his real name. But then I stopped laughing because I’m scared I’ll never see him again.
I ran to tell Alicia, and she just heard that Nick is going too. He and Jase are in the same unit, so it makes sense, but it’s such bad luck. I told Alicia that we could keep each other company at the next dance. I mean, I would maybe dance with another Boy since they need us to help them take their minds off the War, but I’m not doing anything else until Jase comes back.
That girl Callie bugs me. She said one of the Girls who’s being sent home for breaking curfew told her the Boys always say they’re coming back for furlough and then they never do.
“Well, duh, it’s a War and their schedules get changed sometimes,” Alicia said. “Anyway, Janice said her sister Linda’s Boy came back home to Oklahoma just a few weeks ago.” Callie said maybe but she didn’t look convinced. I don’t know what her problem is.
Saturday, June 17
No dance for me last night after all, and I didn’t get to go last week either. Alicia got to go both times, but last week Sarge told me they needed me to help organize some events for the Wives, and last night they wanted me to be here for another Orientation, to welcome some new Girls coming in from the west side of the state. I was kind of bummed. I’ve been down about Jase being gone and I was looking forward to the dance just to get out for a while. I’ve written to Jase every day, but I know I can’t expect many letters when he’s in the field.
Alicia said she had a good time last night, even though she still wishes Nick were here. She met someone named Brent who she said was nice. She says she didn’t do anything with him, but I’m not sure I believe her.
Monday, June 26
Today I found out why I’ve been getting called for more med tests than the other Girls. The Nurse told me this morning that I’m going to have a baby. I was so scared I started to cry. I thought they would send me home for sure, and my Ma would be so ashamed of me.
The nurse was sweet. “Don’t worry, Margie. Everything will be fine,” she told me.
“But I don’t know what I’ll do,” I cried. “I don’t know if my Ma will even take me back. I didn’t mean to do anything wrong!”
The nurse looked at me like she wanted to say something else, but she didn’t. I came back to the dorm, and before I even got a chance to tell Alicia, Sarge came with a letter from Jase. And can you believe it? He wants to marry me, and he doesn’t even know about the baby! He said he misses me so much, and he’ll be able to handle being out there in the field better if he knows he has a Wife waiting for him back home. I showed the letter to Sarge right away and she said she had to check some paperwork, but she was pretty sure we’d be allowed to get married. She said that the Head of the Patriot Girls is something called in loco parentis, like a legal guardian for the Girls under eighteen, so I won’t even need Ma’s permission to get married.
I wish Jase could get back for the wedding, but the timing just isn’t right. His letter said he got emergency orders to deploy to a new location, and he doesn’t want to wait to get married. But he said not to worry, because intelligence found out if they strike at this one spot right away, there’s a good chance the War could be over in a few months. That means Jase should be back before the baby comes. I can’t wait to write him about it.
Sarge says I’m special, because not many Girls get a proposal after only a couple of dances. I remember back when the recruiters talked to us in school, they told us the best thing a girl can do is get married and have children so we have real families in this country instead of mobs of people who only think about themselves. Even after I told her about the baby, she said she was real proud of me. She said that Jase’s proposal proves that God wants us to be together.
Alicia and Mary and all the girls from the dorm are coming to the wedding next week. I t-mailed my ma a little bit ago to see if she’ll come up for it. After the wedding I get to move into the Wives’ dorm. Mary said she’ll help me settle in. Poor Mary is being a really good sport, considering she just heard a few days ago that little Ben’s father isn’t coming back. She’s proud he’s a Hero, but I can tell she’s sad. She said her Sarge told her she’s still young and she can move back into the Girls’ dorm and go back to the dances if she wants. They can take care of little Ben in a special kids’ dorm to make it easier for her, and Mary can see him whenever she wants.
Tuesday, September 12
I haven’t written in ages because things have been kind of dull, but today I found out I’m having a boy for sure! I was hoping for a boy because I think that will make Jase happy.
The only other thing that’s happened recently is that Callie went AWOL. I heard a rumor that she’s pregnant, but I don’t know if it’s true or not.
Friday, February 2
The other Wives are throwing me a baby shower this Sunday. They’ve been teasing me, asking me if I’m sure it’s going to be a boy, and saying they’re going to bring pink baby clothes just in case. They said they don’t get enough chances to buy pink clothes because not that many of the Wives have had girls lately.
The bad news is that Jase probably isn’t going to be back before the baby comes in March. I wish he could be here. I get a letter every couple of weeks, but it’s hard not being able to see him.
I’m also kind of worried about Alicia. I don’t see her that often since she’s still in the Girls’ dorm, but I talked to her a few days ago and I can tell she’s kind of depressed. I think it’s because she keeps meeting these Boys and then they leave. Thank God I have Jase! I don’t want to be mean, but I wonder if there’s something about Alicia that keeps the Boys she meets from wanting to marry her.
Alicia’s going home to visit her mom for a few weeks. We were both going to go home for Christmas but there was a fuel shortage and they had to cancel all non-essential travel for a while. So she’s going for her Ma’s birthday instead. She told me that Sarge said the dorms are a little overcrowded right now so Alicia doesn’t have to come back right away, and they may need to postpone her re-enlistment a little while until they get the housing shortage figured out. I don’t know what Alicia’s going to do with herself back at home.
Thank God I don’t have to leave. I mean, it’s a little dull right now and I miss the dances, but once I have the baby I can at least go and help the Girls get ready and watch the dances from the sidelines. But I’m a Wife and I’m about to be a Mother, and that’s more important than anything else. And when the War is over Jase can get a job as an airplane mechanic and we can get a house and we can watch little Jase grow up. It shouldn’t be too much longer now.
“Patriot Girls” originally appeared in the End of an Aeon anthology now available from Fairwood Press.
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The use of the word “bitch” in our culture has been on my list to write about, but I’m not there yet. One step closer today, however, after reading this post and watching the accompanying video, which I found fascinating. I’m going to chew on this for a while. Let me know what you think.
“Bitches Be Crazy” is actually one of my favorite things to say and I haven’t given much thought to the way that the word ‘bitch’ is now a part of everyday vocabulary; unless the context implies that the word is being used in its true sense. But Lupe Fiasco’s “Bitch Bad” made me think of what the true sense of the word actually means today and how, as empowering, funny, harmless, endearing as it may seem, in real life, it still may be pretty problematic.
In the song, Lupe raps like a true spoken word artist and tells of a young girl and boy who hear the word bitch used by their favorite artists and internalize it in different ways and when they meet later on in life “he thinks she a bad bitch/and she thinks she’s a bad bitch/ he thinks disrespectfully/she thinks of that sexually”. It’s…
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This is from late 2009, but I’m not sure I’ve read a better piece explaining to men how to (and when not to) approach a woman respectfully. Some men still won’t get it. Some will, as she puts it, “get pissy.” If you want to know what I think about them, read the article: I’m in 100% agreement.
Truth: Sandra Fluke and I and a lot of other women want birth control to be covered by health insurance (the same way Viagra is).
Why is this so hard to understand?
I’m in a long-term relationship (i.e., living in sin), but for the sake of argument, let’s say I’m married. And let’s pretend I still have a uterus. And let’s imagine that my husband has an erectile dysfunction issue, or just likes the way Viagra keeps him standing tall, I don’t know, but his doctor prescribes it and insurance covers it. And let’s say I don’t want to get pregnant right now because I’m in my late 40s and it’s just not a good idea at my age. It might actually be bad for me or the baby. But I want to have sex. I want to have a loving sexual relationship with my husband without getting pregnant. And he’s got this raging Viagra boner, after all.
So, here’s my question:
Why should my husband’s desire for an erection trump my desire to PROTECT MY BODY from an unwanted pregnancy when it comes to health insurance coverage?
It’s just not that complicated, people. It’s about health. It’s about the individual responsibility conservatives claim to value so highly. It’s about our bodies and our right to choose when and whether to carry a child within them.
Tell your friends.
A number of critics here and elsewhere have argued that my logic is flawed for a number of reasons. That may well be true, but not for the reasons they state, I don’t think. I’m going to address those now.
Argument: Viagra is used to treat medical conditions unrelated to sex.
Have you watched Ms. Fluke’s testimony? Two-thirds of it is about women with serious reproductive health issues who rely on birth control medication to treat them and the consequences when they don’t get their medication because the insurance they pay for (unsubsidized by their college) won’t cover it.
Argument: Viagra is not covered by most health insurance programs.
I don’t have numbers for the country at large, but I did find this story which speaks directly to the issue of Viagra vs. birth control and the Catholic church, which as commenter Craig pointed out below was behind the original thrust of Ms. Fluke’s campaign. (Pun intended.)
Argument: Viagra is way more expensive than birth control.
Maybe that’s so, but as commenter Mike pointed out, “birth control is far less expensive to the medical system than pregnancy and childbirth.” Not really a black-and-white thing.
Argument: The choice to have sex without becoming pregnant is not a health issue.
Ok, here’s where we’re going to have words. Let’s talk a bit about pregnancy and childbirth, shall we? I’ll just give you a quick rundown based on experience and let the readers chime in on anything I might have missed.
1. Oh, hey, I’m pregnant! I wake up every morning and vomit my guts out while diarrhea sprays out the other end with every heave. I can’t eat until after 4pm or more vomiting and stuff!
2. Check it out: my ankles are swelling, and if I’m not careful, I could develop preeclampsia and toxemia or a blood clot and die!
3. Lucky me! Pregnancy carries the risk that I might develop gestational diabetes which will increase my risk of developing regular diabetes later in life! And there are lots of other things that can go wrong in my body as well. (Good thing I’m not over 35*, or there would be even more things to worry about, and a higher risk of them happening!)
4. Oh, great, there’s this thing called toxoplasmosis I can get from my cat. It can kill me. Whoopee!
And that’s not even going into just how uncomfortable–and even painful–pregnancy can be. For nine months of your life. But I survived it! Now it’s time to deliver.
1. OHMYFUCKINGGOD THE PAIN.
2. There are so many things that could go wrong, and I could die, but I’m in good hands and I’m not thinking about that because THE PAIN THE FUCKING PAIN OH GOD.
3. My water won’t break on its own. The doc has to reach his hand up inside my vagina and prick the membrane, at which time the water WHOOSHES out and the pain…oh, I only thought it hurt before. I’m so fucking scared. I want to go home. As they wheel me down the hall from labor to delivery, I piss myself.
4. My vagina isn’t quite big enough for the baby to pass without the delicate skin between my vagina and anus ripping as it is doing now, so the doctor uses a scalpel to slice that skin open and increase the size of my vaginal opening. There is blood. Lots and lots of blood. And then, my daughter is born.
What part of this does not sound like a health issue to you? What part of this does not sound like something a person should be able to CHOOSE?
That’s all I’ve got for now. Love ya.
*I’m over 35 now, but I wasn’t when I was pregnant. ;)
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
A new feminist blog written by a man. He mentions those men who cry “misandry” when their power is threatened–those are the same guys in the online games Ernest Adams wrote about in his recent guest post who cry “White Knight” whenever a man steps up not to defend a woman, but to decry harassment. Joe will probably hear that sort of thing as well, but I think he’s more than equal to it.
The other day, while walking home from work, a man on the street made some unsolicited comments to a woman with whom I shared the sidewalk, comments that included, “Baby you look good! You got sexy feet!” The woman kept walking, paying the man no attention. Years ago, I would have thought that this was a harmless compliment, but the person I am now realized that this constituted harassment. Did I say anything to the man about it? No. Mostly I didn’t want to potentially start a fight with a stranger on the street. The point is, I did nothing.
That episode was not the motivating factor for starting this blog. I’ve been meaning to address what I perceived to be a scarcity of pro-feminist blog material written by men for a while now, and had intended to call my contribution “No Man’s Land”. I thought that both the literal reading…
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