How you might STILL be victim-blaming… and how to stop

Originally posted October 31, 2014


A friend of a friend wrote about something that happened to her, recently. She was attending a party. Someone asked for her consent to kiss her. She refused. They asked again. She refused again. I don’t know how many times this cycle repeated, but the person kissed her, anyway.

When she posted her account of what happened, there was a comment, asking if she thought it would have happened, had she been there with a partner, or simply been attached. The person commenting was really persistent about the question.

Now, I don’t know any of the people involved. The victim and many of the other people commenting who do know everyone involved seem to believe that the commentator’s questions were likely not intended to be victim-blaming, and I’m inclined to take their word for it. The thing is, it really doesn’t matter whether or not they meant for it to be.

Because it IS.

In another thread, someone about whom I care a great deal, someone I never expected to see blaming victims, even in the most circumspect fashion, wrote:

You are responsible for not being the easy target.

Knowing this person, I honestly do NOT believe they intend to blame victims. But it doesn’t matter. Because they are, with those words, whether they mean to do so or not. It doesn’t matter whether they mean their statement to be victim-blaming.

Because it IS.

I could intend to bake a lemon cake, and use orange zest and flavoring by mistake. My intent doesn’t change the result. I made an orange cake, and no amount of me seeing a lemon cake is going to change that. No amount of me denying that it is an orange cake is going to change that. No amount of trying to explain what my intent was is going to magically turn it into a lemon cake. Period.

It’s an orange cake. And I need to own that, and if lemon cake was my intent, but everyone around me is telling me that it tastes like orange cake? I need to figure out how not to make that mistake again, don’t you think?

The following comes mostly from a comment on the first post I mentioned.


Whenever a person who is any gender other than male is sexually assaulted, the Twenty Questions game almost inevitably begins.

Were you drinking? What were you wearing? Were you leading him on? Were you there alone?

What this line of questioning does is twofold.

First, it takes the focus away from where it belongs. In this specific instance, it takes the focus off the person who kissed someone, even after specifically being told “no,” numerous times. That information, just the last sentence before this one, is ALL THAT MATTERS. Period. He did not have consent. He was even explicitly denied consent. He did it, anyway. It doesn’t matter what she did. It doesn’t matter what she wore. It doesn’t matter if she was drinking, or if she was standing completely naked right next to him. It does NOT matter whether or not she was alone. What she did, or didn’t do, or with whom she attended the party, is irrelevant.

He asked. She said no. He did it, anyway.

Which brings us to the second point. Putting the focus on anything that she did or did not do makes it easier for some people to rationalize what he did. It puts the onus for controlling his behavior on her. Making it her job to alter her own behavior, in order to somehow control his. It’s the same thing schools do, when they create a dress code that prohibits strappy tanks or skirts more than two inches above the knee, on girls, in order to keep boys from behaving badly.

See, whether or not you’re right about what, hypothetically, may have happened, if she’d had a partner present, or if she was wearing more conservative clothing, or didn’t have that drink, it doesn’t matter. And you’re basically saying that she could have done something (not attended alone, etc.) that would have possibly made him not do something (kiss her without consent).

He is the one who chose to ignore her “no.” He is the one who chose to kiss her, even though he knew it wasn’t okay with her. He is the one who ignored consent. Therefore, his behavior is the only behavior that needs to be questioned, here. Period. To do otherwise is to relieve him of the burden of being held fully accountable for his own choices, his own behavior. And if you’re doing that, then you are, whether intentionally or not, putting some portion of the responsibility for what he did on her shoulders.

And that is why people tell you that you’re victim blaming. Not saying that you are a person who actually believes that victims are at fault, but that line of thought inevitably puts responsibility on someone other than the person who chose to act. And doing so, regardless of intent, IS victim blaming.

So, instead, why don’t we focus on the person who kissed her without her consent? Why don’t we ask what he could have done to prevent what happened? …what choices he could have made that would have kept him from violating someone’s consent? …what behaviors, and possibly patterns of thought, heneeds to work on changing, in order to not do that again? …and, in the immediate circumstances, what he’s going to do to make amends to the person he has already violated?

Because those are the questions that really need to be asked, and discussed, and analyzed, if we’re going to put a stop to things like this happening.

Not the ones about what she did, or didn’t do.

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So, where do we start? Pizza

In this post, I think it was pretty clearly established that rape culture exists. Really. It’s a thing.

And the thing is HUGE. It encompasses so many different aspects of our perceptions, our sexuality, our conditioning, our discourse, our education, and our values, as well as, I’m sure, about a bajillion things I haven’t even yet considered. It’s pretty overwhelming. Over and over again, I see people asking how we combat something so pervasive, so surreptitiously intertwined with so much of our lives. I have addressed this in kink-specific ways, before, and will do so in more depth, sometime in the near future, but let’s look, first, at the bigger picture.

American sexuality, as a whole, is some pretty crazy-making stuff. There are contradictions and extremes and uninformed ideas abounding.

I think that we start by changing the way we think about sex, and the way we discuss it with one another and our children. The way we educate ourselves and others.

Sexual educator Al Vernacchio has some eye-opening thoughts on this topic, and I’d like to share them with you.

Heather Corrina, at Scarleteen, has some very interesting thoughts on this, too. It’s a long, somewhat trudging read, but well worth the effort. If you’re not willing to slog through it, though, I’ll try to hit some of the high points with my own thoughts here.

Our cultural ideas around sex and sex education are not only heteronormative and sexist, they’re also pretty confusing. Men are seen as the pursuers, and women the gatekeepers, of sexual interaction. Sex is seen as competitive, instead of cooperative. It is focused on the result, rather than the motives and desires and pleasure involved in the process.

Our attitudes about sex are simultaneously absurdly puritanical, and highly influenced by pornography.

Society tells heterosexual girls that they have to remain ‘pure’ until they marry, or find some ephemeral “true love.”

It tells heterosexual boys that it’s their job to “score,” to pursue as much sex as possible, and be experienced enough to show their partners a good time.

And if you don’t fall into binary gender roles, or narrowly defined acceptable sexual orientations? Mostly, society tells you that you’re just wrong.

Society tells us that orgasm is the only valuable goal of sex.

Talking about sex is embarrassing. Sex is the most awe-inspiring thing in the whole wide world… yet it’s also too shameful to discuss openly.

Verrnacchio and Carrina offer some really simple alternatives.

Let’s start talking about sex the way it actually is. As a cooperative endeavor towards mutual pleasure, rather than a competition or a commodity or a tally sheet or a dirty little secret.

I know, if you’ve lived with shushiness around sex for most of your life, thatsounds really difficult, but it isn’t.

I had a talk with my daughter about this, just last night. We’ve already talked about safer sex practices and risk awareness and birth control and sexual development, several times. Until I saw that TED talk, though, I think I’d missed the most important part.

So, last night, I told her we were going to talk about sex. I told her that, when she’s making the decision about whether or not she is ready to engage in any kind of sexual activity, there was one single consideration that should be the first and most important, not just the first time, but every time. A question she should ask herself.

“Do you, without considering any other factor, really want to have sex?

Are you really into it? Would you want it without being pressured in any way?

Not because someone has ‘earned it’ from you. Not because you owe it to them. Not because they want it, and you want to make them happy. Not because you don’t want to be alone. Not because you’re married, or in some other kind of committed relationship. Not because you’ve already gone to “third base.” Not because you’ve done it before. Not because you haven’t done it before, and think you should. Not because you’re sad. Not because you’re feeling unattractive. Not because someone else is telling you that you should want it. Not because you’re ‘giving it up.’ Not because of how anyone will see you, after, or how they see you, now.

Because you’re hungry for it. Because you are excited and ready and your body and mind are both screaming “YES!!!”

That’s why you should have sex. It’s the only reason anyone should have sex.

And in order to do that, you need to be able to talk about it. Not just about the things you don’t want, although that’s essential ground to cover, but about the things you do want. About the things you think you might want, but aren’t so sure. About what you know you like, and know you don’t like. About your experiences and your fantasies, your turn-ons, and your turn-offs.

About when you want to order the pizza, what you want on it, and how you want to eat it.

Pizza. O.O

Al Vernacchio, you’re fucking brilliant when it comes to fucking.

How rape gets its foot in the door

Summer of 1994. I was fifteen years old. Like thousands – perhaps millions – of teenagers before and since, I lied to my parents. Told them I was going to the beach with my friend – we’ll call her Brittany – and her family. It was only a partial lie. Her brother and his fiancee, age nineteen, were our dubious chaperons. Her mother even lied to my mother, for us. Told her she was driving us down to the coast for a week, when she never planned to leave her home.

Instead, we rode down with the brother’s low-rider club. A bunch of ratty teenagers, looking for a good time. There’s never been a worse idea than a six hour road trip in a miniature version of a pickup truck, the vast majority of its suspension sacrificed for the low profile, except, perhaps, for cramming as many kids in every tiny cab as physics would allow. By the time we arrived, every single joint was buzzing, every muscle tight and achy.

But we were fifteen and easily passed for nineteen. We were at the beach, had money in our pockets, and were pretty much on our own, so who cared? Every day, we got dressed up, debated this top with those shorts, hands in or out of pockets, hair up or down. Does this makeup look too slutty? Does this bathing suit make me look fat? Is this too much cleavage, or too little? We’d stroll up and down the beach, or shop on the strip, or pour quarters into the crappy little bar tables and well-stocked jukebox at the arcade.

We bungee jumped off a crane, without ever showing our IDs. We got our belly buttons pierced.

We behaved like teenagers.

Only a couple of days left in our trip, Brittany and I had a falling out. I honestly don’t remember why, but we were pretty angry with one another. We’d told her brother we wouldn’t go out alone. That we’d practice the “buddy system.” And she was going, whether I wanted to, or not. I was firmly in the “or-not” camp, but I pulled on clothes and followed her onto the strip, anyway. She was walking quickly, and had a head start, so I was struggling to keep up, and maybe forty yards behind her. As we were walking towards one of the many aquamarine-painted-concrete motels, two things happened simultaneously. A young man in an orange VW Beetle pulled into the parking lot ahead of me, effectively cutting me off from my friend, and started to flirt. About the same time, a group of older boys and young men walked out from the motel itself, and started talking with Brittany, also effectively halting her.

I didn’t want to be rude, so I talked with the young man in the beetle. I didn’t find him attractive, and didn’t really care about hurting his feelings, as I’d been taken completely off guard. I was anxious, and unnerved, and worried about Brittany, who was suddenly surrounded by strangers. But I knew being rude could cause even more problems. I chatted – politely – for a moment, then told him I was sorry, but I couldn’t talk, because it looked like my friend needed me. I shuffled quickly around his back bumper.

By the time I caught up to her, Brittany was being … herded… towards a room in the motel. I jumped in, and tried to extract her from the situation, but she was still angry with me. She said she wanted to party, and they were having a party. I told her we could party back in our room, but by then they were ushering her through the door. My choices were to follow along, or to go back to our motel and try to find her brother. I’d promised not to separate from her.

I won’t go into many details, here, but we were both gang raped that night. Filled with booze, and possibly more, used, and quite literally dumped on a curb, wearing someone else’s clothing.

And it started with street harassment. It started with a demand for attention.

Rape got its foot in the door, the moment those boys and young men cut off our route, expecting us to be polite – and we were.

Really, though, rape got its foot in the door in so many ways. Ways that started long before that orange Beetle and that sleazy motel.

Rape got its foot in the door when our parents, who should have been teaching us about boundaries, who should have been keeping us safe, taught, instead, for us to be polite.

Rape got its foot in the door when we were forced to endure cheek-pinching from that dreadful great-aunt who smelled like mothballs and wore too much rouge.

Rape got its foot in the door when we were made to understand that it didn’t matter whether or not we wanted to hug the uncle who always hugged just a little too tight, held on just a little too long, we were going to hug him, and smile while we did it.

Rape got its foot in the door when those young men were little boys, being told by older boys, and sometimes even fathers, uncles, and other authority figures, that girls play hard to get, so “no” just means you’re not trying hard enough, not doing the right things.

Rape got its foot in the door when we were told that good girls didn’t enjoy sex, that sex was shameful, that talking about sex was bad, that learning about sex was tantamount to actually engaging in it. When we were only told that it was off-limits, while the boys were being told it was their job to talk us out of our “no.”

Rape got its foot in the door when we learned we were only allowed to have boundaries if they didn’t make other people feel bad.

So don’t tell me street harassment is a compliment. Don’t tell me it’s no big deal. I have seen and felt, firsthand, where street harassment can lead. It’s not a compliment; it’s a threat. It’s rape, shoving its foot in the door, demanding access. If some strange man shoved his foot into my home in that way, I’d be baffled to find a single person who thought it was then my job to make the invader’s feelings my first priority, my job to be polite to someone who was intruding on my home. In fact, there are laws on the books in most states in the U.S. that grant citizens the right to use up to lethal force, if they feel their home is being violated. And we’re talking about houses, here. Brick and mortar, wood and stone. Things.

How, then, can you excuse someone commandeering my agency, and tell me to be polite, lighten up, it’s just a compliment? Maybe not every stranger who shoves a foot in your door is a threat. Could be a salesperson, or someone handing out religious literature. Are you willing to take that risk, and welcome them in, once they’ve shoved a foot in there? Once they’ve pushed past polite, as if they were entitled to access to your home, are you willing to then offer them tea and cookies, just to be polite? Of course not. The very notion is absolutely absurd.

And so is the notion that we should have to be polite to those shoving their feet into the door of our very ability to determine to whom we wish to speak, or how we wish to spend our time, or whether or not we wish to have company at our table, or at the bus stop, or on a stroll. Whether or not we’re okay with you standing so damned close. Whether or not we want to have a drink with you, or hear your opinions about our bodies. When you assume you are entitled to someone’s attention, and demand that without concern for what they want?

That’s rape, shoving its foot in the door. And we have every goddamned right in the world to crush its fucking toes, as we slam that door in whatever way we choose.

50 Shades of Fuck It. My take on EL James’ trilogy o’craptasticness

(Written by me; originally posted elsewhere)

Someone on another site asked why so many people were so down on Fifty Shades. This was my answer, and the reason why I urge everyone to not spend any money supporting the books, or the upcoming movies.

(Trigger warnings all around for stalking, rape, and domestic violence. Please do not read this if such discussions upset you.)

I’ve been actively kinky for over a decade. Actively involved in the BDSM community. I had one Dom/sub relationship, in which I was the sub, that lasted over 7 years. Following that, I was in an abusive relationship that masqueraded as a D/s dynamic, for almost a year. I’m in another healthy D/s relationship, now, and a vocal feminist and advocate for consent, so I think I’m at least decently qualified to explain the difference between healthy BDSM and domestic/partner abuse.

The difference is informed, ONGOING, enthusiastic consent.

As a feminist, I believe that the only way it is okay for a woman to be subjugated in any way by a man is if she chooses to do so, from a place of empowerment and knowledge.

That is absolutely NOT what is portrayed in the books… and yes, I’ve reluctantly trudged through reading all three. So, I will tell you why it is glorifying abuse, and how that is insulting to me, personally, as a feminist, as a woman, and as a submissive in a D/s dynamic.

1. Christian isn’t a romantic. He’s a stalker. His being rich and handsome doesn’t change that. Without asking her outright for the information, he uses his sooper-dooper-sekrit ring of wealthy acquaintances to find out where she works, and when she would be on the clock, and just… shows up there. Three hours away from his home. To buy ROPE and ZIP TIES.

A tailor-made kidnapping kit. Because that’s not creepy at all. O_o

2. He’s a jealous, power-mad control freak, which he freely admits in their first meeting, and demonstrates in an admirably despicable fashion during his little kidnapping preparation trip. At this point, he and Ana barely know one another, yet the mere implication that some other dude may have some importance in her life, even just as a friend, already infuriates him. HUGE red flag. Healthy, secure men – hell, healthy, secure people, do NOT freak out if someone they barely know has a conversation with someone else – of any gender. PERIOD. It’s not sexy, it’s fucking dangerous.

He stalks her again when she’s at the bar, by tracing her cell phone, and shows up, ordering her around. That wasn’t a rescue, folks. It was a territory-marking pissing contest. Again, not a thing that healthy adults do.

He practically threatens her when she takes a phone call from a male friend. He tries to control her visits with her family, what she wears, what she eats, when she sleeps. And SHE HAD NOT CONSENTED TO THIS. Which brings me to…

3. Consent. THERE ISN’T ANY. One, she never signs the ridiculous contract. Two, she isn’t well enough informed to give informed consent. Three, he is manipulating her from the very beginning. Four, there’s a HUGE power imbalance between the two of them. He’s older, much more sexually experienced, much more experienced with (his fucked up version of) s&m, rich, powerful, and persuasive. Decent people who have that much power do not use it to manipulate, deceive, and control people who don’t. You know who does? Sociopaths.

4. RAPE. Yeah. That’s right. I said it. He rapes her. She is actively telling him no. And he threatens to tie her down, if she fights. He’s bigger, stronger, and more powerful in every way, and she’s already revealed that she’s terrified of him, and he’s ignoring her wishes, ignoring her struggles, and RAPING her. Furthermore, EL James has the nerve to portray a very clear rape… then tell her readers that the victim liked it. She should be strung up and beaten within an inch of her talentless life, just for that.

I’ll be honest. What’s known as “rape play,” or consensual non-consent, is a thing that exists. It’s a thing many people, myself included, actually enjoy. But that isn’t what was portrayed in that godawful account. In order for that to be something that is in any way morally defensible or ethically justifiable, both parties have to be on the same page. Something like that has to be discussed at exhaustive lengths. Negotiated. I’ll try to break it down as simply as possible, and give you a hypothetical example.

Let’s say I want to try this with my dominant boyfriend. He needs to know which things are on the table, and which aren’t. I might, for instance, be fine with him slapping my face with an open hand, but not punching me. I might be okay with him putting a blindfold over my eyes, but not a hood over my whole face. I might want him to ignore it if I say “no,” but that would mean I’d need a safeword that actually means stop, and does NOT get ignored. We need to discuss possible triggers this might set off, and what I might need from him, in order to handle them, afterwards… or vice versa. He might be triggered by it, too, and need comfort from me, after. After all, this is a deep dark thing to do with anyone, and he loves me. As a decent human being, he might very well struggle with feelings of guilt and worry and shame, even if he knows I wanted it.

Christian does nothing of the sort with Ana. What he does to her is actual, prosecute-able, first degree rape, in all fifty states. Inexcusable, and horrifying – in context or out.

He bullies her into the relationship, all the while warning her against it. Which, if you ask professionals, is one hallmark behavior of a sociopath. One of their favorite manipulation tools. A thing abusers do, in order to suck in their victims.


Outside of my utter outrage at EL James for totally, unabashedly, horrific accounts of abuse and rape, disguised as BDSM, I hated the books for many other reasons.

  • As a feminist, I am just disgusted by her portrayal of every woman in the story. Ana is a flighty, ignorant, naive, deliberately helpless, indecisive, flaky, little prat, with no self esteem, who is completely out of touch with her own sexuality, her own better instincts, and just plain common fucking sense. Christian’s ex-mistress is a pedophile, and a manipulative, controlling ice queen. His former submissive is completely crazy, mentally and emotionally incapable of functioning without this man in her life, telling her what to do. Ana’s BFF is almost a non-person, as are most other female characters. They all seem to need men to take care of business for them, in one way or another. You can practically hear the Scarlett O’Hara Fiddle-dee-dee of the damned early 20th century, before women could even vote, in every single description, speech, or dialogue.
  • As a writer… oh, holy hell. It’s hard to even know where to begin, it’s so terrible. First of all, Twilight was pretty awful. Of course, Twilight was written with preteens in mind. 50 Shades is openly nothing more than a shoddyTwilight fanfic. And the writing is even worse than Stephanie Meyer’s Mormon Vampire Tales. I swear to all things sacred and good, if I ever have to read one more Holy crap!, one more inner goddess, one more improper use of the word subconscious, I am going to puke up every meal I’ve eaten in the last eight months, all over Ana’s Inner Goddess.
  • As a reader of erotica, I am beyond underwhelmed. I’m whatever is under underwhelmed. No adult woman should, during a sexual encounter, refer to her vajayjay as down there. And does anybody actually call their hooha, their sex? James may as well have actually written vajayjay and hooha, coochie and vagoo. And that goes double for the descriptions of Christian’s throbbing meat hammer, which is referred to as his erection, his manhood. I’m sorry, but when I read smut, I want to hear about cocks and cunts, dicks and pussies. I don’t want some pseudo-clinical, dry-as-a-bone (pun intended), watered-down language that sucks (pun still intended) all the sexy right out of the sex. She made it sound like some fucked up story for kids. Richard Scary’s Trip to the Family Planning Center, or Dr. Seuss’s Better Beware of the Weather Down There.
  • As a kinky person, a member of the BDSM community, I am just pissed off. She makes it seem as though the only way anyone would have a desire to engage in kink would be if they were fucked up. Crazy. Mentally ill. This is both a blatant falsehood and a disservice to mentally ill people (as if mental illness wasn’t already stigmatized enough). Kink does not equal abuse, but her books make them seem the same. And mental illness isn’t fucked up-ness. It’s a thing 95% of us will experience, at some point in our lives.

As I mentioned above, engaging in kink requires informed, ongoing, enthusiastic consent from all parties involved. Do some assholes, abusers, and predators abuse people, under the guise of kink? Of course they do. There are dangerous assholes in every subculture. Just ask the Pope. But that’s still abuse. Calling it BDSM doesn’t make it so. Kinky people aren’t fifty shades of fucked up; they’re just aroused by different things. There are ethical ways to engage in that, and it’s irresponsible not to make that distinction, when so many vanilla soccer moms are now clamoring for their very own GrandMasterHighPoobahOfPain. If someone hits you without your consent, it’s assault and battery. If someone penetrates you without your consent, that’s rape. Legally. Literally. Everywhere.


So, there you go. The relationship portrayed is physically, mentally, sexually, financially, and psychologically abusive,by definition. The writing is inexcusably bad. And kink isn’t really like that.

Does that harsh some folks’ lady-boners? I’m sure it does. Sorrynotsorry. There’s much better smut out there, and a ton of it is written without glorifying abuse. In a time when women in the US are having to fight for the reproductive freedoms that were already won, we shouldn’t be giving this sort of thing any kind of financial support.

I urge you, instead of spending your money on such trash, to rent a decent movie, and donate the money you save to a domestic violence organization of your choice. And if you’re just hard-up for wank material, hit me up. I’ll point you in the direction of some erotica that will have your inner goddess saying much more raunchy things than Holy crap.

For the Good Men Who Don’t Yet Get It

I keep having this discussion with a man whom I love. He’s a good man. A man for whom consent is very important. A man who is utterly and completely horrified by the abuse, assault, rape, and other damaging things that some men do to women. A man who has done more to help me, personally, be able to trust that it really isn’t “all men,” than any other man I’ve ever known. A man who has stood up, in a very public fashion, spoken out, loudly and unapologetically, against abuse, assault, rape, rape culture, and those who enable them, in a way that exposed him to ridicule, cost him social outlets and friendships, and led to him being ostracized, right beside me, from our community.

 

know where he stands. I’ve seen it in action, seen him in action.

 

But there are parts of this that he still doesn’t get. It causes a lot of… I won’t say “arguments,” because that doesn’t seem quite right, but… very heated debates, between us.

 

One of the most persistent dissonances we face is around the #notallmen thing. On another site, someone I respect a great deal posted this image. Things like that have popped up, before. The ten percent of these yummy candies are cyanide, but you won’t know which ones until you take a bite, analogy, and others. Every time, he was offended. And no matter how I tried to explain to him that it really wasn’t about him, he couldn’t see it as any other thing than a blanket statement that all men, himself included, are not to be trusted, no matter how trustworthy they actually are.

 

He still doesn’t. And it’s hard, for me. For us.

 

It’s hard because he’s an intelligent person. Hell, he’s brilliant. His intelligence is actually kind of intimidating, sometimes. It’s hard because he’s an empathetic person. As a part of another thing, I wrote an account of all of the horrible things that were done to me, mostly by men, throughout the last thirty-plus years of my life. He was crying, nauseated, and shaking uncontrollably, by the time he finished reading it. He is both of those things, and he still doesn’t get it. And it breaks my heart, because that has become such a conversational minefield, we can’t even discuss that part of the advocacy in which I engage on a regular basis. Every time we try, I end up in tears of frustration and helplessness, and he ends up feeling attacked, and equally frustrated.

 

It’s hard because I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that he’s not ‘that guy,’ but when those topics come up, he says all the same things ‘that guy’ would say. It’s hard because I feel like I can’t get through to him on this, and we normally just don’t have that problem. I’d say our communication is our strongest quality, as an ‘us.’ This is alien to us, and it’s awful, and I hate it.

 

Yesterday, we watched a movie together. Lone Survivor. It’s a war movie, based on a true story, and somewhat controversial. Some people are saying it is pro-war propaganda. I’m not going into that, right now.

 

If you haven’t seen the film, and plan to, here’s your spoiler alert.

 

The protagonist, Marcus Luttrel, is a Navy Seal, on a mission with his team in Afghanistan. The mission is compromised. The gunfight is horrific. They are outnumbered beyond all reason, and survive beyond what anyone could ever expect. Every other member of his team is killed by Afghan soldiers. Luttrell is brutally wounded, left for dead, and on the run, trying to get back to the American camp through unfamiliar mountainous terrain.

 

He stumbles on some water, falls in, and is recovering, when he hears voices. More Taliban soldiers. One Afghan citizen, Mohammed Gulab, comes to his aid. He has no choice but to accept, in his dire circumstances, but he has no way of knowing if he can trust Gulab. All of his experiences in this unfamiliar place, with these unfamiliar people, have so far been of being shot at, seeing his friends killed, hearing the horror stories of the Taliban.

 

Gulab saved Luttrell’s life, at the risk of not only his own life, but those of his child, and his entire village.

 

But Luttrell had no way to know that would happen, until it happened. He had no experience which would lead him to trust this man who was offering help. For a time, after Gulab held out his hand to lead Luttrell to safety, the SEAL kept a grenade in his hand, ready to throw at a moment’s notice. He kept asking, still clutching the grenade, “Why are you helping me?”

 

It was a difficult movie to watch, but during that sequence, I recognized the parallels.

 

Not all of the citizens of Afghanistan were hell-bent on killing American soldiers. But they all spoke the same language. They all wore similar clothing. They all lived in a way that was alien to Luttrell, and he had no way to know which ones were which, until he had the opportunity to build trust with Gulab.

 

His mistrust and fear were not a statement of judgment against Gulab. They were not an indictment of the entire citizenry of Afghanistan. They were born out of repeated experiences, with other Afghan citizens, and HE HAD EVERY RIGHT TO BE AFRAID AND SLOW TO TRUST. Gulab didn’t get defensive. He didn’t yell at Luttrell for not trusting him, or for being afraid. He just did what it took to show that he could be trusted. That he wasn’t one of ‘those guys.’ Not by words; they shared no common language. He showed him through his actions. 

 

And that is how we show people we are trustworthy every day, in a plethora of situations, across our life experience. We don’t stand there and stomp our feet, demanding that people give us their trust, just because we say so. We earn it. Not by running some contrived gauntlet, but simply by doing what we do. We behave as we would normally behave, and leave it up to them to determine whether we are trustworthy, and not to be feared. In almost every other situation, we recognize that it is not up to us to decide whether or not we are trustworthy to someone else, but to the person whose trust we hope to gain.

 

We ALL realize that not all men are rapists. That not all men are abusers. That not all men are misogynists. We do. What the people who keep yelling about #notallmen fail to realize is, that is not the point. The point is, we have no way to know. You speak the same language. You wear the same clothes. The rapists and abusers and misogynists among you look no different than the rest.

 

And they demand things. They demand our trust, without earning it. They demand our agency, when they have no right to it. They demand sex, as payment on some social contract that we never signed. And when we don’t give those things to them willingly, they take it. Or coerce us. Or stomp their feet, and tell us we have no right not to give it to them.

 

So, when you demand that we trust you, on nothing more than your word, without the experience of seeing you in action, you sound like them, too.

 

#YesAllWomen is NOT about judging every single man who ever lived by the same standard. It’s about our fear, our experience, our very valid reasons to be wary. It’s about us asking for you to hear that, to listen, to empathize… and to be patient with us, while we watch and wait to see if it is safe to let down our guard. Which we will, as soon as we feel reasonably confident that it’s okay, that you’re not ‘that guy.’

 

It’s about the moments between you holding out your hand, and us being secure enough to put down the grenade.

 

Excluded, and STILL not shutting up

We learn a lot of lessons, throughout our lives. Some lessons are helpful, some harmful. Some of both are useful. Many times, the lessons we pack up in our childhoods, and carry out into the world as we seek our fortunes, are entirely busted, damaging internal monologues. Sometimes, we are fortunate enough to be able to see those destructive and limiting things for what they are, through some epiphany or slowly dawning awareness. Some of them, we may not ever recognize, or if we do, we may not have the power to do away with them.

And some of them we identify, battle, and in the best cases, overcome, with lots of introspection, conversation, research, and hard, often thankless, usually emotionally exhausting work.

I learned very early in life that things were my responsibility. All the things. If they went wrong, it was bound to be my fault, somehow. If someone was angry, I had done something to either cause or contribute to it. If I was part of a conflict, it was my job to apologize and make amends and do whatever it took to stop the contention, even if that meant admitting to being wrong when I wasn’t. It was my job to make peace.

Logically, I’ve known, for some time, that such is not the case. Apparently, the little gremlins in my head, the ones who were born to remind me how it was all my fault, didn’t get the memo. They like to point to every piece of anything that exists anywhere, and try to twist it, if necessary, to put me back in my place. That place where I placate. Where I give in to whatever everyone else wants, regardless of how I feel or what I believe, to make peace. To keep everyone liking me, and not be alone, and make as many people as possible happy, no matter what happens to me, in the process.

The last year has been a whirlwind I never could have imagined. The last six months has been a whirlwind encapsulated in a raging forest fire. It has swept away almost all of the life I knew, bit by bit, and every new piece that blew away was another devastating kick in the gut. Another chance for the gremlins to rear their nasty little heads. Every e-mail or criticism or discarded friendship (no matter which party did the discarding) was another week, another month, another three months, of picking apart everything I’d said, everything I’d written, everything I’d done, trying to find evidence to support the gremlins. Trying hard. I wanted it to be my fault. That? It’s easy. I know how to handle it. I know how to address the things I screwed up, even when I really didn’t. I have had loads of practice making peace.

About a month ago, the latest big blow fell. I just didn’t realize it, at the time. I simply thought this particular friend, who has always had a tendency to be sort of unresponsive to phone communication, was doing her usual thing. It turns out, my relationship choices with other people led her to decide that she wanted nothing else to do with me (…and, no, to you straw-grasping simpletons, this is not the ‘same thing,’ but I will get to that bit, soon enough.). I only discovered this about a week or so ago, and have been spending a large portion of the intervening time, once again, revisiting every thing I’ve ever written about consent, about safe spaces, about enabling and apologists and rape culture and victim blaming and every other piece of this thing I’ve felt moved to put down in words. I re-read all of the various Fet-mail threads with the people I once considered chosen family and close friends. I replayed telephone conversations in my head. I tried very hard to find the place where I had gone wrong.

Was my tone sometimes harsh? Um… have you met me? Snark and sarcasm, dry humor and somewhat sharp tones are a part of nearly everything I write. Don’t believe me? Here are a few quotes from some of my attempts at erotica:

  • “It’s Sunday, one of the agreed-upon days, so I left the fluffy pup sound asleep in his open crate, whimpering slightly, obviously dreaming doggie dreams of squirrels and hot St. Bernard girls.”
  • “True story. Names have been omitted to protect the….well, shit. Never mind. i just left out the names, that’s all.”
  • “The masochist in me, however, wanted no part of that whiny little loser twat.”
  • “A random thought… When did He manage to pull that out? …flitted across my mind, as his cock slammed into my throat…
  • ‘What are you enjoying? What is it that has you so soaking wet? Hmmm?’

Inwardly, I groaned. He was going to make me talk. I didn’t want to talk, dammit, and it hurt to make words. It hurt my brain to try to think of the right words to string together to make him understand the part of me that was actually angry with him for being so tender, after building me up to the brutality for which I hungered in spite of myself. I wanted to be eloquently gutter-mouthed. I wanted my words to spur him on to hurt me even more.
‘The pain, Sir,’ I croaked. Derp.

And all of ↑that↑? Was when I was trying to be sexy. O.o

I snark. It’s simply what I do. I do it when I write, when I speak… hell, I am pretty sure that I do it in my dreams. Furthermore, it really is not anyone else’s place to tell me that my tone, speaking as a victim and survivor and advocate for other victims and survivors, is inappropriate. If you don’t like it, you absolutely do not have to read it. You can go away, and I promise the internet won’t die, nor the rotation of the globe come screeching to a halt. Cross my heart. You aren’t the arbiter of appropriate tones. Nobody died and/or appointed you the polite police. You simply don’t get to tell me which tone is most appropriate for conveying what I want to convey, nor that what I was trying to convey is something other than specifically what I say it is. You don’t get to outlaw or define either my intent or my tone.

Was my content harsh? You betcha. I’m not talking about puppies and rainbows. I’m talking about harsh, gritty reality. Not just reality, but the nasty, slimy underbelly that so many don’t want to see. We don’t often want to know that the monster under the bed is our own complacence or complicity or entitlement. You don’t bring those things to the light of day with auto-generated Chopra platitudes. These things aren’t meant to be a soft, gentle caress. They’re a slap in the face. A wake-up call. The acrid odor of smelling salts. Nobody is under any obligation to make that pretty or comfortable for you, nor to care if you take offense. It isn’t pretty, and it’s too damned comfortable for too many people, already. Making enough people uncomfortable enough to create a cultural shift is kind of the point.

Did I make some very polarizing statements, lay out some black-and-white choices, and give ultimatums? Yep. There aren’t very many things in life that are absolutes, black and white, right and wrong. Rape, abuse, assault, and other consent violations are wrong, mmmkay? Doesn’t matter what you meant to do. If you unintentionally violated someone’s consent, then you fucked up. Either you own it, and do your best to alleviate whatever harm was done, or you’re an egotistical ass, and I give precisely zero fucks for your reputation, in light of your total lack of empathy or accountability. You run a venue without a clear-cut and accessible consent policy? Ass. No fucks given. You tell victims and survivors that it’s no big deal if they got violated, as long as they don’t kick up a fuss, because, after all, we’re all adults, here? Ass. No fucks. You value the hypothetical reputations of a very, very few, over the safety and personal agency and physical autonomy of the many? You preach “personal responsibility” to real and suffering victims of other people’s predatory or otherwise shitty behavior, but blame all the cray-cray bitches for the supposed plague of hypothetical “false accusations?” Asshole. The only fuck you get is off.

I will not apologize for that. Not one damned bit of it. I’m NOT sorry.

See, in going back through all of what I had to say, I saw this evolution. The first time out, the one that pissed off so many people because ultimatums? I was making a very real effort to be nice. I read through the comments thread twice. Unless someone was an absolute asshat, I was even placatory. Trying to keep the peace, even with people whose views and ‘contributions’ made me feel dirty and like I might throw up a little in my mouth. Bending over backwards to assure everyone that even if they disagreed with something that is, to me, a very clear-cut instance of right/wrong, I’d still pet their precious egos, and allow them in my life.

Going back much, much further? I found a pretty long string of that, much of it with some of the very people participating in that thread. Two of them made up what I once, as a relative newbie, considered one of the local ‘power-couples,’ who were role models, leaders, or what-have-you. They were the first ones to whom I ever voiced a concern about the way we brushed things under the rug, something like seven or eight years ago. I swallowed the don’t-stir-the-pot thing like a bitter pill, even then, but I kept my mouth shut. They weren’t just enablers. They were actively silencing anyone who would even attempt to speak up about something that was obviously and heinously broken.

And there I was, trying to reassure them that I would maintain friendships, even though they were, from positions of influence, preaching a code of silence that I found ethically abhorrent. Sure. We were friends. I helped them out, sometimes. They helped me out, sometimes. I was grateful when they helped, and vice versa. I mourned the loss of the friendships pretty hard. But I got rid of that nasty taste that my association with their pandering, condescending, silencing bullshit left in my mouth. I could live with myself. I may have all the love in the world for someone, but I’ve reached a point where no association is worth feeling like a hypocrite. Feeling like I am being untrue to myself.

There was another, one who took umbrage to my tone, to my ultimatums, and how the butthurt burned! Funny thing. On a thread discussing a different, but also completely horrid type of oppression, this very same person was asked who they were, to say that people were either “with them or against them.” And they replied with something along the lines of, It’s either yes or no. There is no third option. Hmmm. Sounds suspiciously familiar, but I guess that only applies whenyou are the one who is being harmed by the status quo. Fuck everybody else, AMIRITE?

I guess I missed the day when the arbiters of all things right and wrong waved their sparkly magic wands and deemed some people more worthy of being free of oppression than others. Oops. I’ll dock my assistant’s pay for that scheduling snafu.

Anyway, I was trying to get my point across in as palatable a fashion as possible, without sacrificing either my friendships or my conscience.

I was lambasted. Called a bully, of all things. Because we all know that the people with less power are always the bullies. I lost several friends. The smarmers came oozing out of the fake stone walls of their dungeons to talk about “polite discourse,” and how many sides there are to every story, like it’s a math word problem in some old textbook.

If rapist A leaves the party at 1:45 a.m., travelling East, and rapist B leaves the party at 3:10 a.m., travelling Northwest, how many people can screech about personal responsibility to the victim, before both rapists are safely tucked into their beds?

The Mutt and Jeff of straw men, LYNCH MOBS! and WITCH HUNTS! were trotted out. Little life-tip? If you use those comparisons to represent anything less than actual, heinous tortures and murders and societal approbation of horrific injustices? You’re a twunt, with no concept of nuance or discernment, and should probably step away from the internet, posthaste and permanently. Your point of view is morally indefensible, and your comparisons are absurd.

On we go, and my Owner and Lover, -Bishop-, posted his position. He didn’t fuck around with the niceties. He was pretty clearly stating that he chose not to be friends with anyone who would choose to be friends with a known abuser – in this case, the man who abused me. I was pretty astonished at some of the sources of the pushback. It wasn’t because they disagreed with his ethical stance, so much as it was them being personally affronted by being asked to take a public stand. There was a fuckton of “You can’t make me and I’m taking my toys and going home!” Loads more accusations of bullying, witch hunts, and lynch mobs.

Here’s the explanation I promised, earlier. No. My former friend choosing to turn her back on me, because of other friendships I had ended, is not the same as what Bishop and I did. Why? Because I didn’t abuse anyone. I didn’t rape anyone. I didn’t violate anyone’s hard limits. I didn’t assault anyone. Everyone has the right to choose with whom they wish to associate. You don’t want to be my friend, that’s fine. But don’t try to act like you’re on some moral high ground. If our friendship ended over my stance on consent, that’s not a place you occupy.

I get it. In many of our communities, popularity is the only currency you have. It’s much more dependent on being agreeable, kissing the right asses, knowing how to schmooze, and skill with a flogger or rope or needles than it is on having principles or ethics. And the price for popularity is not ever letting pesky little things like integrity or empathy get in the way of everyone else’s good time. It is a really clear message, and there are few of us who don’t hear it.

Be “nice.” Be “respectful.” Be “polite.” Go along to get along. Don’t stir the pot. No “drama!” Work together!

Popularity isn’t worth it, if the price is pandering to those who silence and shame victims. I spent almost nine years capitulating to that bullshit. I was a coward, then. So are all of the people still currently sacrificing their integrity on the altar of popularity. And those who are spreading the pressure to “be nice,” to “work together,” even with people whose ideas are directly contributing to the problem,are far worse than cowards. They’re bullies.

This thing to which I’ve devoted so much of my time and energy wasn’t about me. Not even in the beginning. It has always been about addressing a problem that is rampant in many, if not most, of our communities. It began as me trying to address the issues in the community I used to call my home. The person who abused me, as well as several other known predators, were still operating there with impunity. My own personal sociopath has flown south. On that level, it worked. But there are still far too many predators making that community their hunting ground. There are still far too many people to whom others look as leaders, who are perpetuating the busted silencing and shaming culture that allows them to get away with it.

By and large, it has been made pretty clear that I’m not a part of that community, anymore. That was a very hard thing, for me. I had invested an awful lot in it, over the last decade, and really loved a lot of the people with whom I no longer associate. But that wasn’t my fault, and I’m done trying to find a way to make it be my fault, so that I can fix it. Yes, I did what I did with intent. I chose to fight this battle. I didn’t have any clue that the other side would be so viciously defensive of something so obviously fucked up. I don’t regret anything I’ve done, and would do it again, in a heartbeat. It was, and remains, the right thing.

As much as I’d like to say I don’t give a damn about them, I still do. I still care about that community, and I still want to see them fix the missing stairs. Whether or not they ever decide to do so, though, I intend to keep doing what I’m doing.

BECAUSE I still care, and they’re still getting it WRONG. The way they’ve ostracized me is simply one example of how. Because what I’ve been doing ishaving an impact, and not just locally. Because this is a change that needs to happen, in ALL the kinky communities where it hasn’t, already.

And no. I won’t be “polite” about it. I won’t try to “get along” with the folks who are, even in the discussions that start as a way to encourage the changes, perpetuating the status quo. It isn’t my job to “convince” the stalwartly wrong and the terminally obtuse of a damned thing. But all of that is material for the next post, and this one’s long enough.

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.