No, Not YOU.

Dear Man,

I understand that hearing about the #YesAllWomen thing isn’t easy. I understand that hearing things about how the vast majority of violence is perpetrated by those humans of the male persuasion, and how people who are not men are sometimes wary of you, because you happen to share a gender with ‘those guys,’ can feel like an attack.

And you know what? I’m sorry. I’m sorry that it feels like an attack on you. I’m sorry that we don’t have a better way to frame it, than to talk about men doing bad things. I’m sorry that it makes you feel like you ought to feel guilty for simply being a man, because you shouldn’t.

When you read the thing about the 10% of these yummy candies that are poison, I actually do understand how that can feel kind of icky, for you.

Because (and I am explicitly not talking to that 10%, now), you probably aren’t ‘that guy.’ You probably read the things written by people who aren’t men under the YesAllWomen hashtag, and they are horrifying to you. You probably don’t yell out at random people who are not men on the street, DAAAAAMN! LOOKIT DATASS!! thus making them feel threatened and objectified and conspicuous and afraid without their consent. You probably don’t get someone drunk in order to take advantage of them. You probably never raped anyone. You probably never hit a partner without their consent. You were probably socialized to believe that it’s simply not okay to rape or abuse or harass or assault someone, and the very idea that someone might believe that of you, just because you are a man, is probably deeply hurtful and offensive.

And I get that. I really do. I actually ache for the good, innocent men who, hearing about all of this, feel somehow ashamed of themselves because they’re men.

What we need you to understand, though, what we’ve been trying really hard to explain to you, is that this really is not about you. Unless you are one of ‘those guys,’ who does those shitty, dehumanizing, abusive things, this isn’t about you. What we need you to understand is, we already know that it is not all men who are doing these busted things. It’s just, we thought that part went without saying.

The problem is, the people who do this sort of thing, the vast, overwhelming majority of the time, do happen to be men. And they don’t exactly self-identify. I’m pretty sure that never in the history of everdom has this ever happened:

Hi! My name’s JoeBob. Can I buy you a drink? Oh, by the way, before you answer, you should probably know that, last year I beat my ex-wife so badly that she spent six days in the hospital, and last month I raped my best friend’s partner, and just on the way over here, I loomed over a random chick at a bus stop, demanding that she reply to my crass and unwanted comments about her appearance, and I got some other chick so drunk she could barely walk, at this very bar, last night, then took her back to my place and fucked her brains out, and called her a cab and poured her into it before she could even sober up. And that’s kind of my plan for you, too. So… about that drink? And, hey. You’ve got a really tight ass.

See? That just doesn’t happen. Sometimes, months or years can pass without any indications, even. But we all know that the one-in-ten possibility for one or all of those things to be true exists. So, we’re afraid. Wouldn’t you be? Most of us spend the vast majority of our time in public and/or crowded places with that fear living like a little knot in our bellies. It may not be the top-of-the-brain thought, but it is never not there. It can’t be, because getting rid of that wariness, that caution, is dangerous, for us.

And that probably makes you a little sick. Sex, love, and (for some of us) kink, are freaking awesome. They’re kind of sacred in some way, to most of us. That this happens within those somewhat sacred spaces is probably enough to make your brains scream against the reality. And you probably don’t feel very good about seemingly being lumped in with ‘those guys.’

You may believe that the term “patriarchy” somehow indicates that you,personally, are actively oppressing women. You may have gotten the idea that the term “male privilege” is an insult which means you don’t get to have an opinion, or that it entirely neglects the myriad other disadvantages with which you may be faced.

The thing is, NONE OF THOSE THINGS ARE TRUE.

One, most of those of us who are speaking out in this way actually do understand that not all men do these things. Two, “patriarchy” doesn’t mean that ALL men have equal shares of the power and constantly oppress people who aren’t men, only that the society is, and has always been structured, by certain men, in such a way that it is undeniably and especially oppressive towards people who are not men, and that the culture, as a whole (not you, specifically), perpetuates that oppression, almost always in ways that benefit most men, at least in part. Three, “male privilege” is not an insult. Usually, when it is invoked during a discussion, it is because a man is trying to tell people who are not men that the validity of their actual experiences is questionable or invalid, because it doesn’t line up with the life he has lived. And of COURSE it doesn’t line up, because he hasn’t been on the receiving end of the assault, the harassment, the abuse, the hijacking of personal agency, that comes with being something other than a man. He doesn’t know that fear, or that sense of resigned inevitability.

None of those things is an attack on you, personally. Whether it feels that way or not.

But I do understand the need to distinguish yourself from ‘that guy.’ And there are absolutely ways that you can do that. It’s just that, jumping into a conversation about how all people who aren’t men have been at the receiving end of some such shittiness, and demanding that the conversation center around you, by telling us something that We. Already. Know, is not one of those ways, and not likely to convince anybody that you aren’t ‘that guy.’

See, that conversation has a point. The point is not to attack all men, or you, personally. The point is to draw attention to how very messed up it is that yes, all people who aren’t men have experienced these things, at the hands of people who are almost exclusively male. The point is to try to find ways to make that stop happening. And make no mistake, the decrease or cessation of that kind of outright or subtle hostility will be good for you, too. Because, on the glorious day when that becomes the reality (or, at least, more of the norm than the exception), you will no longer feel any need to remind us that it isn’t all men. Because it will no longer be that all of the rest of us are living in that kind of fear.

We don’t want to mistrust or fear or resent you, if you’re not ‘that guy.’ We get no fun or entertainment out of being constantly afraid to walk down the street alone, or to have a drink or three in a bar, or to open up our damned inboxes, or even to speak the truth about our experiences. Contrary to what some men (certainly ‘that guy’ types) want you to believe, there is no prize for being forced to go through all this shit.

The only way in which this conversation is about you, is that we’re asking for your help. If you aren’t ‘that guy,’ there are ways to put that across, as I mentioned before.

The first is really simple. Or, at least, it seems that way, in black and white.

Listen.

Yep. That’s the big one. Listen to what is being said. Understand that, while it may differ from the way the world reacts to you, that doesn’t mean it is inaccurate. Listen. Turn down the defensiveness, and turn up the empathy. Care about the perspective of the person who is speaking enough to not try and shift the discussion to how it affects you.

Generally speaking, if someone who isn’t a man is venting to you, about this, it’s because they trust you. Because they believe you aren’t ‘that guy.’ Because they feel safe and comfortable enough with you to tell you what it is like to be them.It’s okay to say, Fuck, that’s awful. It makes me feel really bad about the way that some men treat women. It’s not okay to say, Butbutbut I’M NOT LIKE THAT AND HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE ME!!! Because that’s reframing the conversation. It’s missing the point. It’s taking away the safe place to speak and be heard, and making it all about you and your concerns – almost always unfounded – about possible guilt-by-association.

So stop defending, and start listening.

The second thing you can do is to recognize that there is actually a problem, and it’s a gendered problem, whether we like it or not. There are threats to safety that we all face, as humans. This isn’t that. These are specific threats that happen so much more often to people other than men, it is obviously something that is directly related to gender. That is NOT to say that men don’t face threats. It is NOT to say that those problems aren’t worth addressing. It is to say that these discussions, difficult as this may be to accept, are NOT the place for those things. Again, that is shifting the focus, and this issue deserves its own space.

Third, while you probably aren’t ‘that guy,’ you probably know someone who is. And you know, that’s not just you. We know some of ‘those guys,’ too. And all of us have probably, at least at one point or another, heard the ‘that guy’ we know say some busted shit, or seen him do some busted shit… and said nothing. That’s the way it used to be. We’re trying to make that not be the way it is.

So, when that guy you know, who happens to be ‘that guy,’ harasses a woman at a bar because she told him she’s not interested, or turns around to follow someone who isn’t a man on the street, telling that person how hot they are, then berating them for not responding to his ‘compliments,’ or tries to coerce an inebriated person into having sex with him, when they’re too drunk to consent, or makes a joke about how it isn’t rape if she’s unconscious, or does any number of other things that you now know is oppressive or abusive or harassing to those of us who aren’t men, speak up.

You don’t have to attack. You can simply say, “You know, when you do those things, it makes me really uncomfortable. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t do them, or at least didn’t do them around me.

Is that a really uncomfortable conversation to have? Of course it is. The thing is, we are having it, too. But ‘that guy?’ He doesn’t really listen much to those of us who aren’t men. So, your voices have more power, with him, more sway. Your opinion of him matters much more, most of the time, than ours does. You are less likely to face danger, and more likely to be heard, than we are. That doesn’t mean we’re lumping you in with him, or making you responsible for his behavior. It’s just that we’d like for there to not be any reason to keep having these discussions, too. And we think we hear you saying you’d like the same thing. And this is one possible way that you can help.

Can you face some repercussions for speaking up? Sure. People don’t generally like being called on their shit. You may face ridicule, or ostracism. They may question your masculinity. But if they’re the type of guy who believes that caring about other people makes you somehow less manly, why in the world would you want to maintain those friendships? You know, we face those issues too, when we call them out. On top of that, we face accusations of being irrational, moody, having our period, being bitches, being cunts, being too sensitive. We face possible harassment, stalking, threats of bodily harm or death, or actual bodily harm.

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them” – Margaret Atwood

Last, realize that, though #YesAllWomen isn’t about you, this is your issue, too. Jackson Katz has spoken about this far more eloquently than I can, so I’m going to drop his wonderful TED talk in, here. (I know, you’ve probably seen this link before, and not clicked on it, not watched the whole thing. I’m asking you, please,take the time to watch it from beginning to end. The message is so very important, and if you care about the people who are being hurt by this, you need to see it.)

Violence against women is a men’s issue

TL:DR

Yes, we know it isn’t all men. Telling us that, in the middle of the conversation, doesn’t convince anyone that it isn’t you.

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You aren’t entitled to my respect

I see this thing popping up, frequently, about respect.

  • …the basic respect everyone should offer each other…
  • You should give everyone a basic level of respect, by default.
  • etc., etc., ad nauseum.

I get what these people are saying, but I think most of them are either confusing respect with something else, or really are a bunch of entitled prats with terrible judgment.

Because not every single person you will ever encounter deserves your respect. In fact, I’d say the vast majority of the people you encounter definitively don’t.

Should they be given basic courtesy? Sure. Basic consideration? Absolutely. Appropriate etiquette? Usually. No one, though, is entitled to your respect. Not one single solitary soul.


Respectn.– esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.


 

That has nothing whatsoever to do with how a person should be treated upon meeting, or in a conversation, or in an online forum. It has to do with a specific kind of regard that they earn, by doing something, or showing themselves to be something, that is inherently worthy of that regard, to you.

Personally, I will generally show the people I meet a very high level of courtesy,upon first meeting. I will generally treat them in a very mannerly fashion, until and unless they give me reason not to do so.

My respect, though? That doesn’t come so easily. Nor should yours. I respect people who have shown me something that is worthy of respect. I respect people who have integrity, for instance. People whose actions line up with their words. People who are generous and helpful to others. There are tons of reasons why I might respect someone. The sheer virtue of them having been born isn’t one of them.

So don’t jump into a conversation, demanding that I give you my respect, because that simply isn’t how it works.

Yes, Virginia, There IS a Rape Culture (trigger warnings for every rape-related horrible behavior known to humanity)

This is a belated cross-post from my other blog. 

Before we jump into the meat of this post, I want each of you to ask yourself the following questions, and answer them honestly.

  • In your opinion, if a teenager is unconscious, and several people have sex with the teenager, after the unconsciousness happens, is it rape? (If ‘no,’ then never mind the rest of this, please feel free to ignore or not answer any other questions, and also to just unplug your internet and never ever leave your house again.)
  • If yes, please answer the following:
  • Is it morally okay for people to see this happening, and do nothing?
  • Is it morally okay for people to see this happening, and ridicule the victim, while it’s still happening?
  • Is it morally okay for people to bully, threaten, name-call, and humiliate the victim publicly?
  • Is it morally okay for people to imply or say that this person wasn’t ‘really raped?’
  • Is it morally okay for people to say that’s just the price a person pays for going to a party, or that the victim deserved it?
  • Is it morally okay for people to flock to support the rapists, or for any news coverage to focus on the impact of the rape on the rapists, rather than the harm done to the victim?
  • Is it morally okay for the judge in the case to reprimand the rapists, not for raping someone, but for doing something that led to them getting caught?
  • Is it morally okay for a large number of people to be more concerned about the damage done to the lives of the rapists than to the life of the victim?
  • Is it okay for someone to say that the trial, and negative attention, will likely encourage the rapists to rape again, so we should all just stop being so angry at the rapists?
  • Is it okay for the rapists, once convicted, to be incarcerated for no more than two years?

All of those things happened. They happened to the victim in the Steubenville case. A 16 year old girl was passed out, and at least two men had sex with her, while she was unconscious. Bystanders, rather than intervening, took pictures, and posted things on instagram and twitter, intended to be jokes, about ‘the dead girl getting raped’ at the party.

If you haven’t seen it, this is a rather chilling thing you should probably watch, from beginning to end. It is one of the things that was posted that night.

The assertion that only rapists are involved in the problem doesn’t take things like this into account. There are several boys in that room, none of whom were involved in the rape. The one making the video is laughing at the horrific things Michael Nodianos is saying, as are at least two other boys. Two boys in the room talked about the jokes being wrong, and tossed around the idea of doing something to help her, and were ridiculed for it.

Many people posted comments online, blaming the victim. Others threatened her life. Still others called her a whore, and said she “deserved it.”

The local football coach, and media both local AND national, when covering the story, led in with the damage done to the lives of the rapists. Not the damage done to the victim, but the crushed dreams and potential of the people who raped her.

During a hearing, the judge in the case reprimanded the boys, not for what had been done to the girl, but for posting about it online.

The rapists were sentenced to one and two years in a juvenile detention facility. This trial happened last March. The first rapist was recently released.


Further, Steubenville is NOT an isolated incident. It happens more often than any of us would like to believe.

In Torrington, Connecticut, last year, two 18 year old men raped a thirteen year old girl. Again, there were online threats, insults, humiliation, and bullying, not of the rapists, but of the victim.

Here’s a quote from that link:

Athletic Director Mike McKenna said, “If you think there’s some wild band of athletes that are wandering around then I think you’re mistaken.”

That^ is relevant, because a month later, this came to light. So, it wasn’t the first time, even in recent years, that the same football team had these issues. In 2011, three other players accused of raping a different 13 year old girl, who was given alcohol-laced Kool-aid, was unconscious when she was raped by all three. The fact that the Kool-aid was spiked, and that she wasn’t knowingly drinking an alcoholic beverage, comes not from the victim, but from the rapists’ accounts of what happened.

Another quote:

Originally, [defendants] were charged with sexual assault in the second degree and risk of injury to a minor. [defendant] was also originally charged with three counts of permitting a minor to possess alcohol (emphasis mine).

In Maryville, we see the same patterns, in a 19 year old with local political connections, who had sex with a 14 year old, then dumped her, unconscious, on her front lawn, being convicted only of misdemeanor child endangerment. The family had to move away to escape the constant threats and harassment. While they were trying to sell their former home, it was burned down.

In 2011, it happened to two eleven year olds, who were also subjected to horrific victim-blaming. In the first case, at least 17 men and boys, ages 14 to 27, attacked the girl on Thanksgiving Day, took her to an abandoned home, and forced her, using threats of violence, to have sex with them. The case only came to the attention of police because a student at the local elementary school, upon recognizing the victim and some of her attackers in a cell phone video recorded by the rapists, and passed around to others, reported the crime.

The defense attorney, during the trial, said the following, in reference to the eleven-year-old victim:

Like the spider and the fly. Wasn’t she saying, ‘Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly?’

In the New York Times, the case was reported with much ‘what-about-the-poor-boys’ fanfare. Quotes from that story:

…how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?

“It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”

They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s.

From the comments sections of various news accounts:

  • She was just caught in the act and didnt want her family to know she really like black guys. You people need to do your research you look at the fact she was 11 but you didnt look at the pros and cons. Ive seen things like this on maury.
  • The only reason the courts are calling it rape is because of the way the Law is worded because of the girls age. It is a Sad Sad story all the way around.
  • Did you guys know that in russia underage sex is legal? No guess not. In this case thats what it is. Rape is force I don’t understand were rape played to action.
  • Where was this POS mother when all this was taking place? I know where my child is, with who, and what they are doing all the time. She was probably on her back too.
  • If dumb ass like you and her patents would raise kids the right way this shit wouldn’t happen when you buy your kids slutty clothes and makeup your dressing them like slut puppies!! Asking for her to get fucked her mom or sisters or somebody taught her hoeish ways!! Guess thats how your kids are!! 11 year old girls need to b playing with barbie dolls instead she was their barbie doll u fucken idiot!
  • Sounds like a fast little girl to me…
  • Okay i dont agree w/the acts of dez boys&men but Let not act like dey went a got a “Good lil innocent 11yr old child”

In 1989, it happened in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. A 17-year-old mentally disabled girl, with the mental capacity of an 8-year-old, was lured into a basement, and penetrated with various objects, including a baseball bat, and forced to perform various other sex acts on 7 or 8 boys, almost all of whom were high school seniors. Non of the 4 who were convicted served more than 4 years. The trial was rife with victim-blaming.

There are tons of other instances of things like this happening.


Now, ignore the actual rapists for a moment. Look at the behavior surrounding the cases, by people who weren’t actually a part of the crimes, on either side. Really look.

Those people? Men, women, adults, teenagers, legal officials, school officials, witnesses, bystanders, journalists, and just random people commenting on social media?

THAT is rape culture.

Consent culture is absolutely NOT about hating men. I love men.

It is NOT about thinking all sex is rape. I don’t know a single person who’s fighting to change the status quo who has ever professed to believe that. I love sex, and I love sex with men.

It is NOT about thinking all men are rapists. Of course all men are not rapists. The most reliable statistics seem to indicate between five and ten percent. One or two out of twenty. That means that eighteen or nineteen out of twenty men are not rapists. I’ve yet to see anyone who’s fighting for change saying that all men are rapists, either, though I’ve seen a lot of those on the other side of the argument mistakenly claiming that’s what we’re saying, and often.

It is not about claiming that only men rape. In Broward County, Florida, two teenaged girls orchestrated and participated in the gang rape of a female classmate. There is one notable difference. Look at the comments section in this article. Compare it with any of the social media responses in which the rapists were only men. If you can’t see the difference in how so many people come out of the woodwork to worry about “those poor boys (rapists) lives being ruined,” or “what a whore that girl (victim) is,” in all of the cases with male perpetrators, and the lack of similar response on behalf of the female rapists, I don’t even know that you should be discussing the topic.

It is about recognizing that the behavior and expectations and beliefs of the people who are not actually raping other people are still contributing to it being more likely to happen, more often than it might, in the absence of those factors. It is about trying to address those things, and change the way we talk about consent, and sex in general, so that the lines aren’t so damned blurry, and the rapists aren’t so often defended, and the victims aren’t so often bullied by uninvolved parties, and and and.

It’s about recognizing that women and girls are NOT the only people harmed by rape culture. It’s about understanding how men and boys are harmed, too, and about working to reduce that harm as much as possible, for everyone.


I originally wrote this several months ago. Since then, one of the rapists in the Steubenville case was released. The activist who, under the name of the online hacker collective Anonymous, put the pressure on the local authorities to bring the rapists to justice, faced the possibility of more time than both of the rapists combined. If you can see that, and still believe that rape culture is an imaginary enemy created by feminists as some sort of straw man that allows them to keep hatin’ on the poor menfolk, you should probably not write, or interact with other humans, or breed. Or breathe.