Blargh

So, this is the first post, here, that didn’t originate with Fet, and the only reason it’s going here is that I don’t feel safe posting it, there. 

 

I’ve lost sight of the purpose I had, in wading into this fight. The people who make up the communities I’ve been trying to change. I was tired of seeing them being preyed on, again and again and again, by the predators and abusers, rapists and sociopaths, in their midst. I was tired of seeing the so-called leaders closing ranks around those damaging types, instead of actually standing up, you know, being leaders. 

 

The last few weeks, I’ve stopped caring about those people. They don’t want the changes. They don’t think it’s a big enough problem to inconvenience themselves, in order to change. They don’t want me pointing out the turds in the punch bowl, because they’ve all learned how to have a great time at the party, and drink ALL THE PUNCH, while ignoring the turds. They want me to just shut up, and let all of them get back to drinking their E.coli cocktail, and getting their rocks off with the assholes who will harm them. 

 

I’m pretty damned close to giving them what they want. Shutting up. Letting them have their shitty punch. They’ve made it very clear that I’m not a part of their community, anymore, anyway. They don’t want me there. They’d rather have the predators. 

 

I’m kind of over it. I don’t like people, much, anymore. Especially kinky people. Most especially Greensboro-and-the-surrounding-areas kinky people. They really just don’t care what happens to anyone, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of their good time. 

 

If they don’t give a damn, why should I? They’ve made it crystal clear that I’m not one of them, anymore.

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Stonewalling Rape: Police Can Investigate, But Will They?

It’s long past the time when any logical person can use this excuse. We’re too aware of the problems inherent in reporting. They’re documented, they’re real, and they’re often horrific.

If you want your voice to be a part of the discussion, make sure it isn’t saying something so damaging that it negates any remaining value from your discourse. Like, you know, “Go to the cops.”

One thing that comes up over and over in discussing rape and how to stop it is the role of the criminal justice system.  Advocates for survivors are adamant that survivors don’t have to report and don’t have to use the system.  Many other people, for various reasons, think that survivors have an obligation to go to the police and prosecute.  Some of these people are well-intentioned, and others really just want to say that any survivor who does not report should be ignored. I’ve written at the greatest length about this specifically with reference to kinky communities, where the “cops or STFU” brigade is not well-intentioned, but rather mostly composed of people who know full well that successful prosecution is almost impossible, that contact with the police will be affirmatively awful for the survivor, and just want a rallying cry to shout down all survivors.

I won’t repeat…

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A Very Good Shusher

Then I read
And it hit me harder
Right in the gut
Right where I live
where I am
in this place where

I’m just supposed to shush
Be quiet.
Stop making other people
uncomfortable

Let it die
Let it pass on
from their minds
if not from my own

Let it hide
from eyes that should see
from the next one
and the next one
and the one after that
after that
after me
after her
after them

Let it skulk
in shadows
behind toothy smiles
behind shiny eyes
behind charming guile
behind clever lies

I’m supposed to shush
Be quiet.
Let them forget
Let them be
comfortable

Comfortable
next to him
next to the hands
that flailed in my face
the eyes that
pinned me to the sofa
the feet that
Fee Fi Fo Fummed
shook my house
shook the earth
shook my soul
shook me
to my core

Doors slamming
plates flying
food everywhere
Frenzy of cleaning
hiding messes
hiding tears

I’m supposed to shush
Be quiet

Which shouldn’t be a problem
not really
I learned to be
very good shusher
To appear calm
when I wanted to run
to appear still
when every molecule
of self-preservation
of self care
was dancing
skittering
like water on grease
in a skillet
turned up on high
when my muscles
my tendons
my very bones
wanted to jump
straight through my skin
to be quiet.
Quiet in spite of
the screams blazing
hairs raising
eyes glazing
with fear
with rage
with fucking silence.

I learned how to be
what you want

A very good shusher

Then
it leaked out
a drip here
a drop there
until the hole
in the dam
of the fucking
wall of shush
was too big
edges too sharp
to be contained
behind your fucking
comfort

I found out
piece by hard-earned piece
that being
good at something
doesn’t make it
right
healthy
or even okay

And it wasn’t
not for me
not for her
not for all the
thems that come after

I am good
at other things
like shouting
getting ALL
up in your grill
with truth
hard
unfuckingcomfortable
TRUTH

Can’t she just
shush
already?

She can.
She’s a very good
shusher

But she won’t
not anymore

FUCK

your comfort

I won’t be
quiet
to make it easier
for you to
straddle ethical lines

To ride those fences

I won’t shush
ever
EVER
again.

Consent and Conditioning

When I was a small child, I was surrounded by extended family, and family friends. My parents pretty much sucked at being parents, but they did keep us involved with all of our relatives.

There were Sunday dinners, and summer cookouts, picnics and gatherings, or just a bunch of the neighborhood kids running wild in the woods around the holler.

And everywhere we went, there were things that took away our agency.

That old lady that wanted to pinch your cheeks? It was rude not to let her, not to smile, while she did it, not to thank her for compliments that felt… greasy.

That other old lady who gave kisses that left a snail-trail of doublemint-scented slime on your cheek when she kissed you? Same thing. Smiles, gratitude, not pulling away. Waiting to wipe the ooze off your face until you could get into another room.

That creepy old great uncle or older fourth cousin who always wanted to pull you up on his lap, and tell you long, involved, boring-yet-slightly-creepy tales about his first love, and how much you remind him of her? Yeah. You get the picture.

That cousin who bullied you relentlessly when out of visual range of the adults, but patted you condescendingly on the head, and gave you rib-crushing hugs when they were around? Even him. And he knew the rules, knew you couldn’t get away without being chastised. He took advantage of it on purpose.

From my earliest memories, I was being taught that my comfort didn’t matter. That people, grown-ups and bullies, could invade my personal space, touch me in uncomfortable ways, give me all kinds of sleazy, slimy, or threatened feelings, and that it was my job to not only stand there and take it, but to smile about it. To say thank you. To pretend that it was not only okay, but that I wanted it.

I’ve talked to loads of other people who were raised the same way. It seems that, though boys weren’t entirely immune, especially from the cheek-pinching aunt, most of the folks I know who experienced this were girls. It was part of teaching us how to be proper ladies. Demure. Acquiescent. Pleasing. Polite.

No one ever made the distinction, for me, between those uncomfortable touches and kisses and hugs, and the ones I was supposed to repel. Except for strangers. Especially strangers asking directions, or for help with a lost dog, or handing out candy. Yet the very same people who would insist that politeness required allowing people to touch me when I didn’t want to, tend to be the types of people who blame victims when they don’t fight back enough, don’t say “no” in just the right ways to count as a clear denial of consent.

So, when my stepfather, who was obviously in the class of people to whom I wasn’t to say no, started touching me in ways that made me uncomfortable, I did precisely what I’d been taught. I was only eleven, and my fondest wish was to be a good girl. To do what I was supposed to do, enough for everyone to love me. That was my sole purpose for existing, as far as I knew.

It took me two years to figure out he shouldn’t be touching me like that. Shouldn’t be exposing himself to me. That he was the bad guy, and not me, for him “sharing” his Penthouse Forums, because he knew how mature I was, and how much I loved to read.

It took me another three years, after that realization, to be able to speak up, to stop what was happening. And in light of my upbringing, I wasn’t really all that surprised by what happened next.

My mother and stepfather, when they weren’t busy denying it altogether, blamed me.

They said, “Well, if he did do anything, it must have been her fault. You know how she walks around the house in nothing but an oversized T-shirt and panties. You know how she flirts with every male in sight.”

My uncle even agreed to say I’d made a pass at him, in court, to try to save my stepfather’s reputation.

All of this just reinforced everything I’d been taught. My boundaries didn’t matter. As long as I kept up the appearance of purity, no one cared if someone else was doing things to me that I didn’t want.

And it took much, much longer for that lesson to be un-learned. Even when I thought I was past all that, somehow above it, there were times that it reared its ugly head.

The time that guy kept bugging me to play, and I kept trying to tell him no, but in a ‘nice’ way, even though he wasn’t taking my polite no for an answer. Even when he was pointedly and purposefully trying to talk me out of my no, like I was wrong for saying it. Like I needed it to be justified.

The time that my now-ex-husband told me he’d leave me if I so much as cringed when he tried to fuck me, less than a month after a brutal rape.

The myriad occasions when someone touched me without consent, and I just let it pass, to avoid making a scene.

That creepy douche who kept scooting closer and closer to me at a munch, pinning me to the wall on the inside of the booth.

It isn’t an easy thing to overcome. Many of us are steeped in that shit from the time we’re born. And if you weren’t? You just can’t possibly understand the pervasiveness of it. The way it seeps into interactions without you even knowing it’s there. The way it keeps trying to come back, no matter how many times you think you’ve killed it off.

And then there’s the fact that we know what a “no” looks likeeven when it isn’t an outright “no.”. Yet even when people indicate very clearly that they don’t want to participate in whatever it is that’s being done, others will inevitably say that it’s their fault it happens, without that explicit “no.”

All of this is a huge part of the reason why the concept of “enthusiastic consent,” or whatever other emphatic word you want to use, is so important. It’s another reason why “no means no” is not enough, and “only yes means yes,” has become such an important distinction.

Is it on me to overcome my conditioning? Sure it is. And I own that. I am responsible for un-learning this busted lesson.

As ethical people, though, it’s on every single one of us to be aware that this happens. It happens to a lot of us. And it might impede our ability to speak out, when we need to say no, sometimes. It’s everyone’s job to understand that, and to work towards better communication, and providing a place where the person saying “no,” knows that their no will be heard and respected.

So, my thought is, maybe we could work at this from both sides. Maybe we could stop making it a win-lose situation, and get on board with trying, instead, to understand and aid one another in becoming better communicators. Maybe we can start making sure that our partners know that we want to hear their “no,” if they need to say it, and that we will respect it. That we won’t try to push past it. That we will be grateful for them defining their boundaries, so that we’re not in danger of pushing past them accidentally. Maybe we can learn to take no for an answer, without demanding explanations, without arguing against it, without trying to nullify and push past it for our own gratification. Maybe we can start asking, if we aren’t absolutely certain, or if body language or verbal cues indicate doubt.

It’s not about blaming either person involved. It is about working together to understand why sometimes, “Just say ‘no,'” isn’t setting the bar high enough.

Makeup

A couple of months ago, I taught my then-13-year-old daughter how to apply makeup. She’s plagued by the same type of acne I’ve had since about age ten, so that was where we started. Concealer, for the unevenness of the pimples and the flaky skin and the scabs and the scars. Then, the foundation, to smooth things out, and make the tone as uniform as possible. A few more dabs of concealer, on the various spots that still peeked through, then some loose powder to keep everything in its place. I explained to her that makeup wasn’t about changing her face, but about bringing out, enhancing, all the natural beauty, while covering up the things that made her feel unpleasantly conspicuous. About hiding the things she didn’t want to show, and playing up the pretty.

 

I’ve written, before, about how very good I am at putting a pretty face on things. In a couple of different ways. I’ve had a ton of practice, for over thirty years. I got remarkably skilled at covering up the ugly bits, and playing up the appealing ones. It became a habit so ingrained in my psyche, I didn’t usually even realize I was doing it. If I ever thought about it, it was only to quiet my conscience, or my sense of what was right and wrong. To soothe my outrage in the interests of that passive-aggressive cornerstone of being a good Southern lady — politeness. To sacrifice my justifiable sense of violation on the altar of being a good Christian, and turning the other cheek. To ‘kill them with kindness.’ Now, every one of those phrases makes my lip curl in disgust. My gut churns, and I taste bile.

 

Polite. Unless we’re talking about holding a door or having a tea party, it makes me want to vomit. Why? Because it’s not what it seems. It’s not about the simple courtesy we show one another, as human beings, in our day to day lives. It’s about makeup. (TW: DV) It’s about plastering a smile on your face, in the face of things that make you ethically uneasy. It’s about covering up the scabby, pimply real face of an issue with smooth, uniform complacency. It’s about ignoring the existence of the infectious pus that lives just underneath that pretty exterior, or allowing it to be discussed only when the tone is soft and quiet and as un-disturbing as possible, because talking about that infection makes us uncomfortable. And you know what? That is seriously defective. We feel more uncomfortable in the face of the tone of voice used in discussing abuse, rape, assault, consent violations, or any form of oppression or discrimination than we do when faced with the horror of the acts, themselves. That is legitimately sickening.

Domestic abuse happens, every day.

Psychological abuse happens, every day.

  • 95% of men who physically abuse their intimate partners also psychologically abuse them.
  • Having a physical disability increases a woman’s risk of psychological abuse by 83%.

Rape and sexual assault happen, every day.

  • 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.
  • Every 2 minutes, another American is sexually assaulted.

Racial discrimination happens every day. In education:

  • Racial minorities are more likely than white students to be suspended from school, to have less access to rigorous math and science classes, and to be taught by lower-paid teachers with less experience…
  • the same racial and ethnic divide found in the nation’s K-12 schools is repeated in higher education

In healthcare:

  • Blacks received worse care than Whites for 41% of quality measures.
  • Asians and American Indians and Alaska Natives received worse care than Whites for about 30% of quality measures.
  • Hispanics received worse care than non-Hispanic Whites for 39% of measures.

(There are SO many more facets to this, and my choosing to focus on these two does NOT mean there aren’t others which are just as important.) Hate crimes happen.

  • 2012 saw the 4th highest murder rate of LGBTQ and HIV-affected people (LGBTQH) in history.

All of these things are, and should be, upsetting. They piss me off. I hope they piss you off. And I certainly hope they piss you off more than the tone in which the victims of such things choose to speak or write about them. I hope that you aren’t choosing to be more offended by the words of a victim than by that person being victimized in the first place. Because that would be shitty. Telling people who’ve been victimized and oppressed that they need to engage politely with the people who are denying the validity of their experience, or revictimizing them, or shaming, silencing, or further oppressing them, IS further victimizing and oppressing them. It’s silencing and shaming to police their tone. You do not get to dictate the level of discourse or the appropriateness of my tone, when we’re talking about me being abused or raped or victimized or oppressed. Also?

SHAME ON YOU, FOR TRYING.

It isn’t our job to make hearing or reading about our experiences more comfortable for you.

Shoes

I was raised in a pretty oppressive environment. Racism was the norm, homophobia was expected, and sexism was just the way things were. My church had a biblical justification for racism. Every romantic couple to whom I was exposed was male-dominated, and not in a fun, consensual way. More like the barefoot-and-pregnant, wimminz belong in the kitchen kind of way. Sex-negative just doesn’t seem to cover the shamefulness of any sexuality related thoughts, discussions, ideas, or actions. Even non-sexual bodily functions were taboo. “Fart” was a bad word on par with any profanity bleeped out by network TV censors.

Some of this stuff stopped making sense to me when I was pretty young. Some of it took a little longer for me to question. Eventually, I got the hell out of that place, and away from the people who raised me in it.

But it wasn’t all that, all the time. There was a great deal of backwoods Appalachian compassion and empathy in my upbringing, especially from my grandmother.

I remember these ham-handed fables she made up, and told us as truth. She’d catch my cousin making fun of the fat girl, and tell a story about her uncle, who did the same thing, bullying and ridiculing a fat girl, then, later in life, became so very fat he couldn’t get up from his chair, and had to deal with all his kids making fun of him, too. Or she’d hear one of us kids talking about somebody with acne, and tell a story about her neighbor, who bullied a little girl with acne, who then got a horrific skin condition that caused him to erupt in boils all over his body, and little kids would run screaming from him on the street.

Morbid, and kind of obvious, I know. But there was always a little lecture tacked on to the end. It varied in the details, but one line was always present.

Don’t judge somebody until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

Now, on the surface, that was a good lesson to teach a bunch of little kids. Well, except for the part where the racism and sexism and homophobia and religious intolerance ran rampant throughout our daily lives, and even in her own speech. And, of course, I made those other connections, as I got older.

The line still applies, though, and to a lot of things that she never would have considered in her clumsy fables.

I don’t have any experience that would lead me to truly understand what it is to be black, or any race other than white. I was born with white ‘shoes,’ and had no choice in that. If I had been given the choice, though, with what little academic kinds of knowledge I do possess, I probably would have chosen them, too. They would have given me better traction.

I was designated female at birth. I have always felt like a girl or woman. I’ve never identified as a boy or a man. So, I don’t have any concrete experience with what it’s like to be trans, or to identify somewhere off the generally socially acceptable gender binary. Again, just going on what little knowledge I’ve managed to glean from reading things, I probably would have chosen to exist solidly on one end of the binary scale, had I been given the choice. Because those shoes are less likely to pinch.

I figured out I was bisexual when I was in my teens. I kind of knew it, before, but didn’t have a label for it, so I just thought I was weird, unnatural, and wrong. My experiences with that have been pretty rough. I’ve been treated in shitty ways, since coming to and identifying with that label, by both the heteronormative society in which I was raised, and by many of the people in the gay communities I first looked to for a sense of acceptance, for belonging. I’ve been told to make up my damned mind, already. I’ve been labelled as something I wasn’t, just because the people around me believed it had to be either-or. Either I was gay, or I was straight… and neither ‘team’ wanted me on theirs, so the straight people called me a dyke, and the gay people called me a confused straight girl.

If I had been given a choice, with the things I now know, I probably would have chosen some straighter shoes. They would undoubtedly have been less likely to trip me, and would have matched up with each other better.

I was born a woman. My gender has been used as a tool to keep me ‘in my place’ my whole life. There are so many pieces and bits and ingredients and backdrops and bad actors involved in that, it would take me about a bajillion hours to write about all of them. Even then, I’d probably miss at least a few, because there’s an awful lot of it that I’ve internalized. Digging all of that shit out takes time, and work, and loads of conflict, both internal and external, and I think it’s probably the work of a lifetime or three.

Knowing what I know now, had I been given the choice, I probably would have chosen man-shoes. Walking in them would have been undeniably easier, and probably safer for my toes. Not to mention the rest of my anatomy, both physical and emotional.

Now, none of this is to say that there aren’t shitty things about being white or existing on the gender binary or being a man or being straight. There are shitty things about each of those things. There’s almost always a mix of pros and cons to anything. Nor have I covered all the possible permutations, here. I’ve talked mostly about tennis shoes and flip-flops, boots and high heels. There are other kinds of shoes out there, and I haven’t worn them all.

But I recognize that. I understand that, no matter how hard I try to empathize, or how similar some bits of my experience are to the experiences of others, I do notknow what it’s like to walk a mile in all the different kinds of shoes. For instance, I’ve never walked a mile in Birkenstocks. So, when somebody who wears Birkenstocks tries to tell me about their experience, I tend to value what they describe, over whatever preconceived notions I have about wearing Birkenstocks. I’ve seen people wear them. I have friends who wear them. I may even be related to someone who wears them. I’ve read about them, and seen pictures and done research, but I. HAVEN’T. WORN. THEM.

Now, this doesn’t mean I’m automatically a bad person, just because I haven’t had to wear a specific pair of shoes. It just means that some of the shoes I’ve been given to wear, in my life, probably come with a lot more in the way of benefits than some shoes, and with a lot more disadvantages than others.

Those benefits? That’s privilege. The disadvantages? Those are oppression. Most of us have some combination of experiences with both sides, but neither one cancels out the other, nor does it make us more qualified to judge the oppression involved in wearing shoes we weren’t forced to wear.

I’m white. Being white comes with inherent privilege. I’m female. That comes with inherent oppression. But I don’t get to say to a black man, “Hey, that’s not so bad! You may be black, but you’re a dude! Your oppression is nothing compared to mine, as a woman.”

Why not? Because I don’t know that, and that’s fucking douchey. This isn’t the oppression Olympics.

I’ve lived either right at, or well below the poverty line for most of my life, and I’m disabled. I don’t get to tell a transperson that the oppression they experience is something I totally understand, since I’m poor and disabled. They’re different things, complete with a different set of obstacles and concerns.

Why not? Because it’s douchey. Intimate knowledge of some types of oppression doesn’t automatically make me an authority on all types of oppression.

There are many different types of privilege. It’s not inherently douchey to have privilege. What is inherently douchey is to tell someone who doesn’t share that particular type of privilege that their experience doesn’t count, or that it isn’t real, or that they’re being irrational or stupid or attention-whoring or just stirring up drama, just because I don’t have personal experiences that make my worldview gel with theirs. I haven’t walked in those shoes, and I don’t really get to make that determination. What’s douchey is taking the struggles of those who wear different shoes than mine, and claiming them as my own, without ever having been forced to feel what those shoes are like, when walking.

Of course, those aren’t the only bits of douchery that goes on around privilege.

Most people who have been oppressed (protip: that’s the vast majority of us, on one issue or another), get understandably touchy around the subject. Especially when facing off about that subject, with people who haven’t worn those shoes. Even more especially when those with the privilege trot out some worn out old lines that are often used by the privileged to hold onto that privilege, at the expense of the oppressed group.

Those folks wearing the less comfortable shoes will often build up a bit of a hair-trigger response to the clichés. Which is also understandable. Being stuck in shitty shoes is not conducive to never-ending patience with people whose privilege helped to put you in them, or to keep you there. It doesn’t tend to give you any motivation to indulge their ignorance, when they behave as though their lack of experience in that type of oppression somehow negates your own lived experiences of that oppression.

Some people use privilege as an insult. They hurl it at their opponents as if the opponent should apologize for having the privilege, which isn’t really the point. Most of us can no more help having privilege than we can help not having it. Those people, though, really are few and far between. They’re not representative, ever, of an entire oppressed class, or of the people fighting against oppression. They’re the exception, not the rule.

And this kind of brings us full circle, because there are folks who have privilege who believe that anyone trying to point out their privilege, anyone trying to get them to see that they don’t know what it’s like to wear these uncomfortable fucking shoes, are in that last tiny group. The vast majority of the time, they’re not, and it’s really douchey to treat them as if they are.

See, it isn’t about being a bad person, because you happened to get better shoes. It isn’t about hating the people who have better shoes than yours. It isn’t even about wanting to take away those much nicer shoes, or forcing the people wearing the better shoes to wear our uncomfortable fucking shoes, instead.

It’s simply about recognizing that the shoes are different, as are the experiences of the people wearing them. It’s about wanting everybody to have shoes that are as close to equally comfortable as possible. It’s about each of us accepting that the shoes we wear don’t really give us the right to be cruel or dismissive to those whose shoes aren’t as nice as ours, or to pretend that the very different shoes we wear give us a real understanding of what it is to wear someone else’s. It’s about pointing out the blisters our shoes are giving us, and figuring out how to make that stop. It’s not about villainizing the folks who aren’t getting the blisters, but about asking them to see the blisters, and maybe to help us get shoes that don’t do that.

And when your response to that, as a privileged person, is to screech about how you’ve never done a mean thing to anyone, and you didn’t make the shoes, and your feelings are hurt because NONE OF THIS IS MY FAULT STOP MAKING ME EXAMINE MY OWN INSECURITIES, then you really do need to step back and examine why you’re being so defensive about something no one is saying. You need to look to your feet, and look to the feet of the folks with the less comfortable shoes, and really ask yourself, would you be willing to exchange yours for theirs? Would you be willing, for the rest of your life, to be treated the way our culture treats queer people, if you’re straight? Would you be willing to be treated the way our culture treats transgender people, if you’re cisgender? Would you be willing to be treated the way our culture treats POC, if you’re white?

Of course you wouldn’t. You would never willingly give up the shoes you’re wearing to spend the rest of your life in those shoes. Because, whether you want to admit it or not, you know that your shoes are more comfortable, and come with more perks, and that the others are less comfortable, and come with more problems. You know, and you feel guilty about it. Which is not helpful. Guilt is a waste of time and energy and emotion. I doubt any oppressed person gives two shits about the guilt of the privileged. It’s useless.

What we do want is simple recognition that being in these shoes is shitty and unfair. What we do want is for those of you who have an easier time walking, because of the shoes you were lucky enough to be born into, to stand and walk and fight by our side, until we can all have more equitable footwear. Until we can all walk without living in so much pain and struggle.

It’s really just that simple.