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.

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The word is the problem? (tw: rape)

audio


Let me tell you about
the power
in a word
because the word
IS
a problem
just not the way
you mean it

The word
is a problem
because it does not travel
alone
or arrive
with courtesy
because it doesn’t always
give forewarning
before
it brings in all its baggage
before
it rips you back through
memory’s door
puts you in that flesh again
in that fear again
in that shame again
in that moment
when you
became a vessel
and nothing more

Back
to that moment
when some small
desperate piece
of your mind,
insistent,
whispered
But I
I am more
I am more than this
to the next moment
when you shushed it
gagged it
strangled it
killed it off
in order to fucking survive
when they made you
a sin eater
to carry all the fucking guilt
and the shame
and the pain
of the wrong
for the rest of your days
because you know
he never will
and no matter
what pretty lies
you tell others
or tell yourself
that small dead part of you
which insisted
it was more
will haunt you with guilt
and shame
in the quiet of those infinite
sleepless nights
for always

Because once you know
that word
once you really
get acquainted with it
once it’s pushing
into your mind
every time
he
looks at you
across the baked chicken
and mashed potatoes
in the way he ought only
to look at your mother
as he sits
right beside her
and she pretends
not to see
and you know
that it could be coming
you know
that there is
not enough vigilance
in a whole fucking army
to keep him from being
the first
if he wants to
because he is patient
and will wait
for his optimal moment
like a hyena waiting
hunched over and drooling
in tall grass

So you make the decision
at fourteen
years
old
to keep that one small bit
to lay claim to
that one experience
to have that one piece
be yours
your choice
to steal away his chance
by giving what’s left
of your innocence
to the boy who looked
like Kurt Cobain
but cleaner
to the boy
you didn’t love
but who had a dimple
in his chin
and the name of a
famous funk singer
and the boy
treated you
with kindness
with gentleness
and awkward
fumbling sweetness
but all you could think
the whole time
was
HA!
He doesn’t get to take
this part from me
too…

Not realizing that
is exactly what happened

Once that word is pushing
into you
on heavy
humid
waves
of burrito-scented breath
and the smell of Cool Water
against a cheap bed
with a broken spring
while you lie
still as you can
still as you can
addled by booze
and maybe a little
something extra in the solo cup
lie as still as you can
and wait
for it all to just
be over for them all
to have their turn
because when
you tried to run
naked
out the door
three of them
pulled you back in
and the sound
of the door closing
was the sound of
you
fifteen
giving up
pretending to like it
so they wouldn’t hurt
anymore

and later
your best friend
and her friend
beat you
in a convenience store
parking lot
for not protecting her
from the same fate
while it was happening
to you…

Once that fucking word is pushing
into you
on a dark gravel road
while your nose
bleeds into the dirty
bed of the pickup truck
tailgate biting into your hips
and you’re saying no
no
no
no
no
no
no
with every thrust
until the word no
loses all meaning
and becomes just a
strange heavy shape
on your tongue
rolling out
like a boulder
but landing like
air against stone
and the one
who was your friend
acts all magnanimous
when he finally
hears the litany
of negation
and pulls out
of your ass
and
without pausing
pushes into
your other hole
with a, There.
Is that better?
and keeps on
plowing away as if
the continuing no
was just an
expected noise
that comes with each thrust
and you’re thinking
you’re thinking
the strangest things
like how
will you ever
get the blood
out of that skirt
before your grandmother
sees you
how will you ever
sneak your swollen face
and your shame
past her wakefulness
and why
is it so dark out here
and suddenly
there’s nothing
blissful oblivion
until you’re walking
dazed
bloody and alone
down a street
in the three a.m. dead
of a small southern town
and you stumble
the miles
to your car
in the dark
hoping against hope
that no one sees you
that no one knows…

Once that word is pushing
into you
in your home
in your bed
because he finally
got fed up
with all the no
no
no
and threatened
not to pay the power bill
while your baby girl slept
just down the hall
so you rolled over
and you stared at the
incidental faces
made by the
cheap
fake grain
of the cheap
fake paneling
you surrendered
with an insult
because it was all
the dignity
you could manage to preserve
to say
Fine
Fine
Whatever.
but do it from behind
because I’m watching TV

and you never
call it what it was
because you can’t
you never
call it what it was
because there’s too much
hanging on it
because the escape
and the education
the scholarship
the full ride
that disappeared
five weeks later
in a stream of piss
and two pink lines
became a child
a child
whom you love more than life
and you know
deep in your dark places
you know without a moment’s doubt
you have to hide that word
hide that truth
until you love that small
helpless thing
with the fierceness of a bear
protecting its cub
so you bury that word
you bury it deep
under years of denial
and decades of less than
and you love that boy
you love him
you love that boy
who looks
so very much
like his father…

Because once you know
that word
once you really
get acquainted with it
then you know
that the word
is legion
like that demon
containing multitudes
containing memories
memories you would rather
not possess
containing you
containing others like you
behind walls of
should have could have
why-didn’t-you
changing everything
irrevocable
making of you
nothing more than a vessel
no matter how much
that small voice
insists it isn’t so

Once you know
that word
you know the just world
is a shit-stained fantasy
and that the people who deserve
good things
sometimes get bad
while those who deserve
badness
take whatever the fuck they want
by whatever means they must
but as long as we
call it by
some other name
they don’t have to feel bad
they don’t have to carry
that shame
that guilt
that knowing

So

Yes

That word is a problem
but not in the way you think
and I will be damned
if I will sugar-coat it
with some euphemism
to make it easier
on the ones who want to say
that it wasn’t what it was
– if I was drinking
if I gave in
to keep the heat on
for my kid
if I went to that party
or wore that dress
or let him kiss me
or stayed with him after
or had his child –
I won’t call it something
other than what it was
to make it
more palatable
to those who want to claim
they did not know better
because they once believed
they were entitled
to my body
my agency
and my silence

Because why
should the power of the word
only ever be
felt
by those who-
like me-
really got
acquainted with it?

Why
is the word
only a problem
when it makes those who
don’t know that shame
who may not
back then
have known
but left us with the after
anyway
who don’t want to see
that the things they may have done
back before they knew
fit the definition
why is it only a problem
when they
feel uncomfortable
in their complacence
or complicity?

I will call it
by its goddamn NAME
until it’s a problem
that everyone
understands
that no one
denies

Until the ones who do it
are the ones who
carry the shame
instead of those of us
who carry it now.

Until no one
can say
they don’t know better

Until the power
of the definition
becomes a deterrent

Until nobody else
has to be
like I was

Alone
in my acquaintance
with the power
of the fucking word.

The Direction of Shame

Shame is an emotion with which we become familiar at a very young age. It’s used as a tool, in everything from parenting to education to employment to business to healthcare to social media.

A small child learns about a parent’s displeasure, and begins to associate the language, tone, and nonverbal language of disappointment or condemnation with (hopefully) maladaptive or dangerous or unhealthy behaviors.

School-age children are shamed for their antisocial or dangerous or disruptive behavior every day. Names are written on the board, or behavior cards are “turned” from green to yellow to red, as publicly visible indicators of whether or not the children have been well behaved.

Employers will often post notices, or send out memos, naming the people who, for instance, haven’t completed their work by a specified deadline.

Businesses post signs that draw attention to impolite customers who talk on their cell-phones while conducting transactions, and employees are told to ask offenders, in front of other customers, to step out of line until they’ve finished their conversations.

In each of these cases, shame serves a purpose, both to the individuals, and to the social groups in which the shaming takes place. Individuals learn about unacceptable behaviors, and that engaging in those behaviors can lead to scrutiny and discomfort. The social groups benefit when the individuals behave in the ways that are most beneficial to the group, as a whole.

Of course, that isn’t the only way shame is utilized. It is all too often treated as a weapon. Slut shaming implies that women who enjoy their own sexuality, on their own terms, are somehow dirty, immoral, and lewd. Body shaming plays on the insecurities of other people, with digs at their worth as humans, based on some physical characteristics.

And, of course, there’s victim shaming. This is a form of weaponized shame that targets people who have already been harmed by the behaviors of others, based on a nebulous and unconquerable list of dos and dont’s, shoulds and shouldn’ts, and personal strategies generalized to entire populations. It comes in so many different flavors, it puts Baskin-Robbins to… well… shame.

At its base, victim-shaming is placing the onus for feeling bad about what was done on the person who was acted on, rather than the person acting.


As they are the most common target (or, at least, the most commonly targeted victims I’ve seen), all of my examples will be focused on abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or rape victims. Also, I will be using gender-specific pronouns. This does not mean that I believe that onlywomen are victims of rape, abuse, or victim shaming, or that only men are rapists or abusers, or that people who identify with something other than binary gender roles cannot be either, and is only used for the sake of (relative) brevity (HA!) and simplicity.

  • She wore something that exposed too much skin.
  • She was walking alone at night.
  • She was walking alone during the day.
  • She was in a bad neighborhood.
  • She was in a frat house.
  • She was in a dance club.
  • She was at a bar.
  • She didn’t practice the buddy system.
  • She had too much to drink.
  • She was in a relationship with an obviously bad person (because “good” people don’t do these things, and it’s really easy to tell the difference without long-term acquaintance).
  • She was too dependent on him.
  • She was too independent, which threatened his masculinity.
  • She was too meek, and let him walk all over her.
  • She was too outspoken, which was antagonizing to him.
  • She presented a front of a happy partner/spouse to everyone else.
  • She complained too much to everyone else about the relationship.
  • She smiled at him, which means she was giving off the wrong signals.
  • She didn’t smile at him, which means she was being rude.
  • She was too friendly with him.
  • She wasn’t friendly enough.
  • She rejected him.
  • She didn’t overtly, or explicitly, reject him.
  • She didn’t leave after the abuse started.
  • She tried to leave, and it made him angry.
  • She allowed herself to be alone with him.
  • She didn’t explicitly say “no.”
  • She didn’t say “no” loud enough.
  • She didn’t physically fight him off.
  • She didn’t physically fight hard enough.
  • She didn’t learn self defense, beforehand.
  • She antagonized him into escalating the violence, by fighting back.
  • She didn’t have pepper spray, a taser, or a gun in her handbag.
  • She shouldn’t have been carrying a weapon he could take away and use against her.
  • She didn’t report the abuse/rape to law enforcement.
  • She didn’t report the abuse/rape soon enough.
  • She didn’t get the precise timeline and/or every detail letter perfect, in the midst of processing the trauma, so…
  • She was exaggerating/lying when she reported to law enforcement.
  • She didn’t cry or seem visibly distressed when discussing the abuse/rape.
  • She was overly dramatic/overly emotional when she discussed the abuse/rape.
  • She got over it too fast.
  • She didn’t get over it fast enough.
  • She didn’t process it the way x person thought she should.
  • She refused to share details with uninvolved people.
  • She aired too much dirty laundry.
  • She won’t shut up about what happened.
  • She won’t talk about what happened.
  • She won’t shut up about the other people who are suffering the way she did.
  • She doesn’t do enough to protect other possible victims.
  • She’s focusing too much on the people who do bad things to others.
  • She won’t move on with her life.
  • She’s a “perpetual victim.”

Whew. That was depressing to type. And exhausting, both mentally and emotionally. What’s worse, that is by no means a comprehensive list of all the shaming tactics that victims of abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or rape routinely face. Personally, I don’t know a single survivor who hasn’t faced at least a half dozen of them.

As a reminder, all of those are tactics used to shame the person who was ACTED ON, rather than the person who acted.

As a culture, we expend an awful lot of effort and energy on these types of things. Why? How do we, individually or as a culture/subculture, benefit from them?

We don’t. Go back through that list. As you read each of the things listed, as yourself three questions:

1) How does this other person doing this thing, in response to being victimized, impact the quality of my life?

2) How does this other person doing this thing, in response to being victimized, impact the safety of the social group/subculture I share with them?
3) Am I, or is that social group, harmed or made less safe in any way that is actually the fault of either the person who was victimized, their behavior before/during the assault/rape/abuse, or their response to it?

If we’re being honest with ourselves, the answer, across the board, is a resounding NO.

Yet we continue to shame them.

Now, ask yourself if your social group or subculture is harmed, or made less safe, by the rapist, the abuser, the harasser, or the perpetrator of sexual assault. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Oh. You’re done, already? Well, of course you are. Because the answer is pretty obvious, isn’t it?

So, instead of shaming the victims, why are we not shaming the people who acted on them? Why are we not shaming the behaviors that actually cause harm? Why are we so very hesitant to call out the harmful behaviors, and the bits and pieces of our culture which contribute to them? Why is there so very much pushback against that kind of shaming, and so very little against the rampant victim-shaming?

Of course, some of us are. Some of us are trying very hard to tilt the balance in that direction. And we face an awful lot of criticism and anger and shouting and pontificating and name-calling, and, yes, even shaming, for doing so.

Again… why?

I think it has to do, mostly, with fear.

Fear is not a rational emotion. It is instinctive, and often illogical, especially when we’re not discussing immediate physical threats to our own individual well-being.

I think, perhaps, that there are two types of fear that contribute to this shame-the-victim-but-never-the-perpetrator ethos.

One is the quite understandable fear of becoming victims, ourselves. It’s understandable, because it’s a very real threat. The problem isn’t that we’re afraid of being victimized, it’s the way we are responding to that fear. We’re responding by telling ourselves that there are things we can do, or avoid doing, that will render us invincible to becoming victims, or becoming victims again, in some cases. We want to believe that we have the ultimate power to keep other people from doing bad things to us, so we convince ourselves that this is true.

We convince ourselves that if we follow a list of dos and don’ts, if we are “resilient” enough, if we simply choose not to be victims, then we won’t be. We convince ourselves that we are, therefore, enlightened, and more protected, than those “perpetual victims” who don’t think like we do. We convince ourselves that some combination of behaviors and attitudes can work as an incantation to ward off the evils of the world.

Unfortunately, that isn’t true. Unfortunately, there is NOTHING we can do, individually, that will make us invincible to others who want, or do not know better than to cause us harm. No amount of resilience or confidence or preparation or prevention can change that.

The flip-side of that fear is the fear that we might, ourselves, whether intentionally or through ignorance, cause or have caused that kind of harm in others. That our behavior, somewhere along the line, may have crossed the line. That other people may see us as rapists, abusers, violators. That we might have to see ourselves that way. And this is terrifying, to most of us. The idea that we might “be that guy,” even though, perhaps, we never intended to be.

This fear leads to a knee-jerk defensiveness and denial which, while understandable, is entirely counterproductive, and even childish. It’s the train of thought that says, I once had sex with a woman who was incapacitated. Only bad people rape. I’m not a bad person, therefore having sex with incapacitated people isn’t rape.

Because it’s easier to deny that a thing is wrong, emotionally, than it is to admit we may have done a wrong thing.

Because there’s a false association going on, that only “bad people” can do “bad things,” and that line of thought just doesn’t line up with reality. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. We all learn some busted things, at some point. We all keep learning, I hope, throughout our lives. Sometimes, we learn that the things we once learned were wrong, or flawed in some way. The appropriate response to that is not to deny the wrongness of what we once understood, in order to alleviate ourselves from guilt or shame. It is to learn from it, and grow, and become better human beings. People who don’t do the things we now understand to not be okay, even if we didn’t understand it, before.

And a part of that shift is shifting the shame. Instead of shaming victims, or their behaviors, or even shaming people, we need to be shaming the behaviors that are causing harm. The dehumanization of women and transpeople and people of non-binary gender. The marginalization of those who are “different,” whether that difference is race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, economic status, or some other thing altogether. The levels of culturally accepted aggression towards those people. The idea that the onus for halting any interpersonal contact is on the person being acted on, instead of the personacting. Victim blaming, silencing, and shaming. Brushing abusive behavior under the rug. Excusing or enabling abuses to continue. All of those behaviors are shame-worthy.

Being victimized is not.

It is far past time for us – ALL of us – to shift the shame to where it belongs.

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.

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.

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.