The when I’m in

(For Bill, among others)

 

One day, perhaps

I will lay down my arms and my words

One day, perhaps

I will not need them anymore

Perhaps there’s a time coming

when the words are common

and the arms have rusted from disuse

in some old cellar I don’t yet own

… but that day is not

the when I’m in.

 

One day, perhaps

girls won’t still be taught

that if they don’t

dress how they ought

then they’re asking for something

they only barely understand

waving the red flag of their flesh

in front of the animals who can’t help it

and the boys and men

who aren’t animals at all

won’t be taught

that they’re too weak to resist

the temptation to take

to coerce

to chase

to push

won’t be taught that

it’s only in their nature

to pursue the things they want

even when those things are not things

but people who

do not wish to be

pursued

 

One day, perhaps

those boys won’t know

what it is to taunt each other

to destroy one another’s humanity

for show

no one will say

“Man up”

because no one will have taught them

that feelings are unmanly

or that all things feminine

are worth about as much

as tits on a rooster

…but that day is not

the when I’m in

 

Perhaps

One day

the norm will be

to teach little children

boundaries and agency

to tell them

that their tiny

growing bodies

belong to them and them alone

and that nobody gets to tell them

when they should be touched

that nobody gets to make them

give hugs to be polite

suffer slimy

wet

uncomfortable kisses

from aunts who wear

too much lipstick

or grasping

groping

squirm-making hugs

from the uncle nobody likes

just to spare their

oversensitive entitlement

Perhaps one day

no woman will reach adulthood

without being shown

that it is okay to say no

and mean it

and not back down

no matter how they are pushed

no matter how they are cajoled

no matter how very rude

they might seem

to the person hearing.

One day, perhaps

boys will be taught

to hear a no

as something more

than a challenge

…but that is not

the when I’m in

 

Perhaps one day

we won’t ask

how much she had to drink

or why she wore

whatever she had on

because we will be too busy

demanding of him

the origin of his conviction

that she ever said yes

that she wanted to be there

with him

doing that

to her

for even the thought

of her attire

to come to mind.

And perhaps one day

sexual will not

equal shameful

when we talk to our children

our partners

our peers

so that we can be honest

instead of posturing

be safe

instead of threatened

be fulfilled

instead of obligated

without shame in our pleasure

without justification for our need

without fear of speaking up

when somebody turns our pleasure

into their weapon against us

…but that just isn’t

the when I’m in

 

Until it is

I’ll keep on standing

right on this spot

where everybody can see

I’ll keep right on shouting

about the things

they don’t want to hear

because they are

too uncomfortable in the silence

to care about anyone’s pain

 

Until the when I’m in

looks more like the way it should be

than the way it once was

(back before we understood

that woman doesn’t equal weak)

 

Then I will stand

here

loud and proud

in this when we’re all in

until I can help to drag us

forward into the now

that we should always have known.

 

One day, perhaps

I will give up the ghost

for good

and stop making waves

making people uncomfortable

with words that expose

the danger and wrongness

Because I can’t change the world

but maybe only one part

here

and another

there

and perhaps one day

that will not be enough

 

…but that is not

the when I’m in.

That day is not today.

 

 

An apology, and an (optional) explanation

I don’t generally go in for long explanations, when harm has been done. I did harm, this morning, with some heartfelt but thoughtlessly expressed sentiments and poorly chosen words, which conveyed nearly the opposite of what I intended. I screwed up in about a dozen separate ways, and people were offended and possibly hurt by that. For that, I am truly sorry. Period. Insofar as the apology goes, that’s all that really matters, and no one owes my explanation any attention, if they prefer not to hear it. I fucked up, I’m sorry, and I intend to do all that I can not to fuck up in that way, in the future.

Someone in my Twitter timeline retweeted the following tweets from Yves, regarding the revelation that Sandra Bland was homophobic:

yves

There was a tweet before these two, which apparently had a link to an article that I somehow missed. I replied with the following:

sandra bland mistake tweet

…and was soundly and deservedly reprimanded by three separate people.

Not having read, or even been aware of the article, my response was dismissive, and likely painful for some who read it. I wish I could rewind, and repair that. Stop and read the original tweets more carefully, from a more mindful, less emotional place, and either not respond at all, or respond with a better understanding and more thoughtfulness. Since I can’t, I’ll offer what explanation I can, here. Not as an excuse – I was wrong, and nobody is obligated to excuse that – but merely as insight for anyone who cares to have it. And this will be long. There’s a whole lot that went into the feelings that inspired those badly worded tweets, and I don’t know how to condense this, without losing the essence.

I’ve been really disturbed by this never-ending pattern of media and public response to state sanctioned murder of black men and women, and other people of color, in which the “they were no saint” rhetoric gets trotted out and paraded around every article, every television news feed, every sound bite, every comments section and social media discussion. It makes me physically ill to read, over and over again, the picking apart of every single personal choice, belief, and behavior of the victims of these crimes, as if smoking weed, or refusing to put out a cigarette, or speaking rightful challenge to over-reaching authority, or shoplifting, or being fucking rude, somehow justifies their murders. It’s the same damned thing that I, and other victims of sexual crimes, have to face when we come forward to either report those crimes or seek social support. It’s victim blaming, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter whether or not Sandra Bland put out her cigarette, when the cop told her to do so, any more than in matters what a rape victim was wearing, when some rapist made them his prey. It doesn’t matter whether or not Michael Brown had ever smoked weed, any more than it matters whether a woman had one too many drinks in a bar, if somebody assaults her. It doesn’t matter what the fucking VICTIMS did, before they were made victims, whether the person who victimized them was a rapist or a trigger-happy racist cop. The victims deserve our support. So, the whole not-a-saint thing hits me pretty hard.

Homophobia does, too. It has been a fact of life for me, since I realized I was something other than “normal,” something other than straight, when I was in my early teens. I’ve written, here, about what it was like for me, growing up bisexual in a bigoted, shitpot, southern town, and here, about how some of that bigotry was shoved down my throat, growing up. And here, about sexual abuse, rape, and victim silencing. About hate, racism, homophobia, erasure, shaming, indoctrination, and how all of those things have been a part of my history, a part of how I became who I am, now. If you don’t want to read them, I understand. None of them is an easy read. All of them come with possible triggers, especially for anyone who is marginalized, harmed, and/or oppressed by racism, homophobia, or rape culture. In a nutshell, I’ve faced homophobia for most of my life. I still face it, now. The memories of the ways it has been weaponized against me are still nearly as painful as its current presence. The fears of what that same homophobia, and the usually accompanying transphobia, may do to my teenage, transgender son, are ever-present and often overwhelming, even in the obvious context of my own undeniable white privilege.

Since my unavoidable return to that shitpot town, all of those things, and a sweeping culture of racism that pervades nearly every single facet of life, here, have made me all but a shut-in. I can’t go to the grocery store, without running into someone who bullied me in high school for being bisexual. I can’t stop to put gas in the car, without seeing a handful of bigoted, hateful stickers on cars, or an overblown pickup truck with a full sized confederate flag hanging from a jury-rigged flagpole in the back. Christmas dinner with my family ended with me, my partner, and my child walking out fifteen minutes into the meal, because of the blatant, unapologetic racism in my family’s conversation. My facebook, on June 27th, was FULL of right wing rhetoric about how conservatives and Christians were being oppressed by “that Muslim traitor in the White House.”

Living here, it is utterly inescapable, and for at least a few more years, I can’t leave.

So, I turned my facebook, where my friends are family and what few locals I didn’t have horrid associations with, from before, into a platform. Nearly every day, I comment on other posts, trying to simultaneously maintain composure, and fight against the all encompassing culture of hate-infested, cis-hetero, christian, white supremacy that permeates everything. I post educational things about the history nobody taught us in school, the one in which slavery was literally the ONLY real reason for the Civil War (and that, alone, is usually a brick wall), about how community policing, as we know it, has always been inherently anti-black, about how Jesus never condemned homosexuality, about how love between consenting adults is never either a sin or a crime, about how transpeople deserve the right to not be murdered by bigots, about how people of color deserve to live in a place where the police aren’t the enemy.

I have NO community, in real life. Aside from the two other people who live in my house, I have a sister and a former stepmother I barely see, and one old high school friend, with whom I find I have less and less in common. My father and extended family refuse to see their unconscious racism, transphobia, and homophobia, so I don’t feel safe in their presence. There is literally nothing to do, here, no place to go, that isn’t at least a 45 minute drive, which doesn’t involve associating with dangerously hateful bigots. I’m disabled, so travel isn’t something I get to indulge in, much, even just to the nearest city.

In the last two years, over and over and over again, I have either lost friendships, or chosen to dissociate myself from people who refused to see their victim blaming, predator enabling behaviors were a problem. So the vast majority of people I knew, people from my former home whom I considered friends, are no longer a part of my life. And that one former high school friend I mentioned? He’s a white, cis-, gay man. Recently, he was here, visiting, and dropped the phrase, “playing the race card,” into a conversation about politics. It was kind of the last straw, for me. I’m basically a hermit, now.

See, bigotry has been a fact of life, for me, ALL of my life. I am always the most upset and offended by that bigotry when it comes from someone who is also marginalized and/or oppressed by the current status quo. Hearing my gay friend express something so blatantly racist was enraging and devastating. The one person I believed I had, here, the one person I thought was more evolved, and beyond all that bigotry, had just revealed that he wasn’t. It felt, as it always does, when that happens, like a betrayal.

Oppressed people actively participating in or perpetuating the oppression of other people is the one thing I simply can’t ever wrap my brain around, can’t ever stop feeling astonished and hurt by, when I hear or read it. It rips into me like a dull knife, every single time.

What happened to Sandra Bland, even though we don’t know all of the truth, yet, was horrific and inexcusable. I’ve argued with idiots about this until I could barely speak. Idiots who trot out that ridiculous line about how, if she’d just obeyed the nice white policeman, she would have been fine. Idiots who spout the suspicious evidence of marijuana in her system as proof that she was to blame, somehow. Idiots who are just exhausting, and pretty much everywhere I go. I’ve argued until I wept, in frustration with them, and in utter despair of our culture as a whole. I haven’t been able to march. I can’t go to where the protests are, but I’ve been working towards educating other white people about the white supremacist reality of present day America, nearly every single day since last August.

So, when I saw that Sandra Bland was homophobic, it felt like a kick in the gut, on a day when (for a host of unrelated reasons I won’t even get into, here) my guts had already been pummeled. My initial emotion was that same sense of betrayal I felt when my friend revealed his racism. Then, a little bit of anger, and the return of that overwhelming sadness and despair for what our culture is, despite the fact that it’s the 21st century.

If the people I know, here, discovered this, they would undoubtedly use it as a sort of gotcha. They would use it as yet another reason why they think I’m wrong to believe that her death was not fucking okay, or in any way justifiable. They would do this, even while believing that I, and my son, are fundamentally less worthy, as human beings, because of our sexual orientation and gender identity.

And all those things were swirling in my head, as I realized that it didn’t matter whether or not she would have fought for me, or for my son. She did not deserve to die, alone and unjustly imprisoned. When I said that “homophobia isn’t a lethal offense,” I did not mean that directed homophobia doesn’t kill, because it absolutely does. I know why that seemed dismissive, and it is entirely the fault of my own hastily worded reaction. I only meant that her being homophobic was not reason enough to justify locking her up and taking her life. When I said what I did about her not having the opportunity to learn and grow, I said it from a place of someone who was raised to hate, raised to be racist and bigoted, and learned better. Someone who, through life experience and age and seeking knowledge and understanding, overcame some busted beliefs that were carefully cultivated in my young, formative mind. Someone who believes that we all have the capacity to overcome our broken and damaging conditioning, to become more empathetic and humane and caring towards one another, no matter our lot in life.

If someone had killed me, when I was a few years younger than Sandra Bland, I would never have been shown my internalized racism, either. I think that unjustly depriving someone of that chance is every bit as tragic as killing someone more socially enlightened, more empathetic to the ways in which people unlike themselves are oppressed.

So, yes. I will continue to demand answers and accountability from the people responsible for Sandra Bland’s death. Her homophobia didn’t make what they did to her less unjust, and my support for that doesn’t hinge on what her attitudes towards me may have been. I don’t say that for anyone other than myself, though. It is completely understandable and justifiable for other LGBTQ people to wish to withdraw their vocal support for that particular cause, in light of this information, and I don’t judge them in any way. For me, her death didn’t remove homophobia from the world, or even my little sphere of it. It just denied her the chance to gain experience that may have shown her a better way to be.

So, I will still  say her name. Sandra Bland may never have been my friend, if we’d met, but what was done to her demands justice, and she should not be forgotten.

Again, if you’ve made it this far, I am so very sorry that my language was dismissive, offensive, and/or harmful. I can’t promise never to screw up again, but I promise to try harder to be more conscious of my words, rather than spewing complex emotions into thoughtless 140-character blurbs. And now I’m off to find the article that inspired all of this, and learn how to do better.

Why I Need Feminism

I have recently started spending an inordinate amount of time on Twitter. A year ago, I would have believed that to be a waste of time. A year ago, I was uninformed.

Twitter, largely thanks to the efforts of Black Lives Matter activists like  Johnetta Elzie, DeRay Mckesson and Zellie Imani, has become the active, vibrant, effective hub of social change. It’s strange to say, but I sometimes feel like I didn’t really grow up, didn’t really mature in my own feminism, until I found Twitter. Sure, I sort of understood my own white privilege, but I didn’t really know even a third of the racial history of this country. I believed in intersectionality, but I had not quite internalized it.

Twitter changed that, 140 characters at a time. Not to mention all the links to mind-blowing, mind-expanding studies and articles, op-ed pieces and blog entries. It also introduced me to a host of amazing people who are doing some very difficult, often thankless, sometimes risky even to the point of possible death, activism work.

Aside from the cat pics and joke memes (which, let’s be clear, I enjoy more than I should), Twitter has mostly been a feeling of community I’ve missed for a long time. It has given me something I thought I’d lost, before: a place to talk about my personal feminism, without feeling like I was constantly under attack. A place to learn from other people, without feeling completely disconnected from the teachers. A place to debate, where the trolls can fairly easily be dismissed (at least, they can for me; I know others’ experiences haven’t been that at all) by the simple click of a mouse.

And there are the question tweets. Mostly, the questions aren’t original. Often, they’re things I’ve seen a million times, and just haven’t bothered to address or answer, for myself. Simple questions, with maybe not-so-simple answers.

Tonight’s simple question, from Feminist Gals an account created mostly (from what I can tell) to educate teens and college-aged adults about feminism, was this:

Why do you need feminism?

I responded twice, and I’ll include those answers, here. But there is so much more than I could put into tweets, even if I filled that text field over and over again, all night long. I decided to start a living, updated-as-necessary list of all the reasons why I need feminism.

I need feminism…

  • …because before I was old enough to legally buy a drink in a bar, I’d been molested for five years, gang raped while on a vacation, abused by two different partners, and roofied and raped at a party where I had one drink.
  • …because my family didn’t believe I’d been molested.
  • …because I chose a boy I didn’t really care about, to lose my virginity, so that the grown man who was molesting me wouldn’t take it from me, without my consent.
  • …because virginity has become so commodified in our culture, I actually believed I would lose value as a human being, as soon as I was no longer a virgin.
  • …because from the moment I had sex with that sweet boy, I was labelled a slut.
  • …because my best friend at the time was also gang raped, that night, and blamed me for it. Because she and her friend beat me in a parking lot for not saving her.
  • …because I was taught to question and doubt the validity of my own lived experiences, by people not believing my accounts of them.
  • …because of gaslighting.
  • …because, when I told my boyfriend (at the time) about being raped, he blamed me for it, and immediately explained how he would leave me, if I pulled away from him the next time he tried to kiss me or initiate sex.
  • …because I was still so unsure of my own value as a human being that I stayed with him, anyway.
  • …because my sexual orientation has been dissected, ridiculed, picked apart, and even been deemed imaginary or non-existent, since I was outed in high school.
  • …because not all of that came from straight people.
  • …because a high school guidance counselor told me that I shouldn’t be “shoving it (my sexual orientation) in everybody’s faces, when I spoke to her about the bullying.
  • …because I was quietly steered away from the hobbies and careers I wanted, when I was young, because of my gender.
  • …because my childhood religion taught me both that I was the source of all evil, and that my only legitimate purposes on this planet were to make babies and take care of them. And men. To take care of men.
  • …because my emotions, even when their expression is both logical and appropriate to the situation, are often used to discredit my words. I am neither hysterical nor oversensitive.
  • …because I had an easier time getting booze at the liquor store, when I was a teenager, than I did getting birth control.
  • …because I grew up believing that women weren’t supposed to enjoy sex.
  • …because all the heroes in my books, movies, and TV shows were men and boys, beyond Nancy Drew.
  • …because I was taught all about all the things I was supposed to do to keep myself from being raped, without ever hearing a thing about consent.
  • …because my male friends and cousins were never taught not to touch me, if I said no.
  • …because I was never taught how to set boundaries, or even that I was allowed to do so. In fact, I was made to accept kisses, hugs, cheek-pinches, and to sit in someone’s lap, even when I’d said I didn’t want to do so.
  • …because parents are still forcing their kids to accept touches and physical affection from people who make them uncomfortable.
  • …because, until I was in my late twenties, I believed that if I “led a man on” to a certain point, I owed him sex.
  • …because girls – and more importantly, boys – are still being taught that lie.
  • …because too many people believe they are entitled to my attention, time, respect, affection, body, and intimacy.
  • …because girls are still made to choose their clothes for school based upon whether or not the boys might find them “distracting.”
  • …because the vast majority of legislators making policy and funding decisions about women’s health in the US are male.
  • …because I’m afraid to post face or full-body pictures of myself online, due to the possible commentary.
  • …because my clothing does not indicate consent
  • …because my alcohol consumption doesn’t, either.
  • …because one in five women will be raped in her lifetime.
  • …because 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are molested as children
  • …because our country provides those child victims with neither justice nor adequate treatment for their trauma.
  • …because a child victim of sexual abuse is almost twice as likely to be sexually assaulted or raped, later in life, as someone who was not molested as a child, yet there is no ongoing support system.
  • …because children almost never lie about sexual abuse, yet are rarely believed.
  • …because women almost never lie about rape, yet are rarely believed.
  • …because police officers often interrogate reporting rape victims as if they were the criminals…
  • …and only about 3% of rapists ever see the inside of a prison cell…
  • …and victims are revictimized by the court system, during trials…
  • …and by their communities…
  • …and by the media…
  • …yet too many people, when told by a woman that she was raped, refuse to believe her unless she goes to the police.
  • …because people like RooshV and Donald Trump exist.

And that’s all I’ve got the spoons to type, right now. I’ve barely scratched the surface, and I will be back.

The problem with “drama”

Drama. It’s a term we hear quite often, in recent years. As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, in this context:

An exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events or set of circumstances

As defined by Merriam Webster, in this context:

a :  a state, situation, or series of events involving interesting or intense conflict of forces

b:  dramatic state, effect, or quality <the drama of the courtroom proceedings>

If we’re speaking literally, then, drama is really just a part of life, for everyone. Giving birth is drama. Dealing with a crying baby is drama. Getting married, beginning or ending a relationship or job, getting a promotion or a raise, being stuck in traffic when you’re on your way to something important, the loss of a loved one or pet, the first day of school, work, or marriage, a wedding, a funeral, a cat chasing a robot dog across your living room floor. All of those things qualify as drama, and all of them are perfectly normal, mostly necessary or unavoidable, parts of life. Without drama, there would be no life.

Recently, though, the word “drama” has taken on much more negative connotations. In order to explore those, we need to step into a slightly seedier (if occasionally more amusing) corner of the internet.

From urbandictionary:

The…

Wait… Jesus Christ. That’s a rather… dramatic… discovery. I had to go down thirteen definitions, just to find one that wasn’t completely loaded with misogyny, either in the definition, or in the examples. And number thirteen is so poorly written, I refuse to include it, here.

So, I guess we’ll just start with the number one definition:

Something women and especialy [sic] teenage girls thrive on. consisting of any number of situations that have an easy solution, wich [sic] would bring a fairly good outcome, but these girls choose another, shitty, bad way to deal with it, again consisting of backstabbing, blackmailing/gossiping/betraying their friends, or the all-too-common “I want to break up with him but i still love him!”
it drives men and what i like to call “normal” girls nuts.

Unfortunately, when people talk about drama, these days, the above definition is usually what they’re intending to convey. Unfortunately, it is very much a gendered issue. In fact, looking through the top 35 definitions, there are over 50 blatant misogynist, ableist, or homophobic slurs, or characterizations of women and girls as the main sources of all the “drama,” always.

Which is telling, really, and speaks directly to the point I wanted to make, when I opened up this post. I’d like to include the first definition listed, at number twenty-three, which I feel adequately describes what is actually going on, when someone tosses out the word “drama,” in conversation, especially around sensitive or controversial topics:

A way of referring to problems and other normal complications in life, typically of others; painting them in a negative light so that the person speaking doesn’t come off as being a self-interested jerk even though doing this inherently determines them to be so.

This definition is actually much closer to the truth, I think.

When victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual harassment, or blatant misogyny speak out, or when someone speaks out on their behalf, there’s almost a guarantee that someone, somewhere, will accuse them of being drama queens or drama llamas, or of stirring up drama, or having too much drama, or of causing drama. Often, the people using the term will claim that the person’s tone is the problem, or their personality, or their past.

What this indicates is that the issues to which you are trying to draw necessary attention – issues like domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment – are uncomfortable for them to hear. It indicates that the person hearing about these important issues doesn’t want to face up to the reality of the problems, doesn’t want to admit that, perhaps, there’s something they may need to do, or change, or put some effort and empathy into, in order to fix the problem.

What it amounts to is fear. They’re afraid of things changing. More often than not, they are comfortable with the way things are. Either the situation isn’t harming them, personally, or they have internalized the harm to a point where they are unable to see how damaging it is, to them, to others, and to their culture as a whole. Or, perhaps for some, they are well aware of the truth of the matter, and don’t want anyone to take what you’re saying seriously, because it might reveal them to be the abusers, rapists, harassers, or violators that they are.

It’s fear, manifesting as intimidation, and it is one of the favorite weapons in the arsenal of the victim blamers, abusers, misogynists, and cowards of the world. It is almost exclusively used against marginalized or victimized people, to discredit them, to silence them, to shame them into not saying things that might make somebody look bad. To make them shut up. To make them question themselves. It’s their way of saying,

STAHP!! Stop saying these things that I don’t want to hear about! Stop trying to take away my illusions or my nice-person mask! Stop telling me things that make me ashamed of things I might have done, or might do in the future! Stop making me have to actually think about what my actions, my choices, my words, or the actions, words, or choices of the people I support and defend, might be doing to other people! Stop pointing out my utter lack of empathy for my fellow human beings!

The worst of it is, in many situations, it works. Often, a victim will speak up to a community, to tell them that their policies aren’t good enough to keep the members safe, or they will give an account of something that another community member did to them, which caused harm, or they will notice a Missing Stair, and ask that someone make the needed repairs. They will be met by an onslaught of criticism, insults, attacks, and threats. They will be accused of being drama queens. They might face entire groups of people, loudly demanding that they stop lying, stop stirring things up, stop causing trouble, stop making noise. They will be met with such ferocious resistance, at a time when they are already vulnerable and raw and afraid… and they will back down. They’ll shut up. They’ll stop trying to draw attention to the problems that need to be recognized and addressed. Sometimes, they’ll simply pull away from the community in which the problems exist, often losing important social support networks in the process. Sometimes, they will internalize what is being thrown their way, and begin to doubt themselves, blame themselves, and by extension, begin to blame other victims, in later problematic situations.

That’s just not okay. Silencing and shaming people who are speaking to legitimate issues, by using the word “drama” as a weapon, is not okay.

So, do me a favor. Stop that. Have a little more empathy.Understand that anyone reporting someone or something which is causing harm isn’t a “drama queen.” They’re a brave, hopeful, empathetic person, trying to keep other people from being harmed, often in ways in which they already have been. They deserve your attention. They deserve to not be invalidated with words like “drama.” They deserve your gratitude, instead of your ridicule.

When you say, I don’t do drama, what I hear is, I am more invested in being comfortably ignorant, and utterly selfish, than I am in showing empathy to my fellow human beings, or taking some responsibility for shaping the culture in which I live. 

And I think that most of us want to be better than that. Don’t you?

A response to “We don’t teach men to rape.”

Originally posted elsewhere, August 5, 2014


I posted most of this as a comment on a post, elsewhere, in response to another comment. (What follows has been slightly edited, and expanded from the original.)

The comment basically said that men who rape are abnormal, and that what they do isn’t a learned behavior.

I beg to differ.

I would agree that no man who molests children is ‘normal.’ As to the men who rape women, well, I see that a bit differently. Some of the men who do these things aren’t normal. But not all, by far. Many of them are as normal, as statistically average in every way, as they can possibly be, and are simply the end products of societal conditioning that shows them, over and over and over, that they don’t have to be held accountable for their aggressive behaviors when it comes to relating to women, or transpeople, or anyone who isn’t a man.

See, we (society) have this picture of “RAPIST” that is the stranger lurking in the bushes, or behind a parked car, waiting to jump out and attack us, and drag us off into some dark, dank space to have their way with us. We (society) have this picture of “REAL RAPE” as something that is always a violent attack, with brutal, aggressive force, weapons, masked men, which takes place between strangers in dark alleys.

The statistics do not support that picture. The vast majority of rape is perpetuated by people known to the victims, trusted by the victims. It is more likely to be coercive, or the result of more subtle intimidation and power-play, than brute physical attack.

People say that the behavior hasn’t been taught to them. Actually, it has, in many, many cases. Sure. Someone, somewhere, told them “don’t rape.” Maybe. But the real messages coming from society aren’t so black and white. They are taught, over and over and over and over again that their aggressive sexual behavior is either perfectly okay, or not their fault or responsibility. That they can’t be expected to control their sexual impulses or desires, because … cavemen, or something?

  • If she was wearing a short skirt, or tight jeans, or a revealing top, or makeup, she obviously wanted to draw attention from men. So, if they catcall or approach her, if they get all up in her personal space, she must have wanted that, right? Because she wore those clothes that drew their attention, so that’s her responsibility.
  • If she went to a bar and sat down to have a drink alone, she obviously wanted their ham-handed come-ons and PUA bullshit. She obviously wants someone to pursue her, even if she says no. She couldn’t just be there to enjoy a drink, either alone or with her friends.
  • If she’s rejecting their advances, she doesn’t really mean it. She’s only saying no to be a tease, to make them pursue her, to play hard to get, to tantalize and inflame men’s desire for the chase. Because her behavior is all about them, doncha know.
  • If she’s passed out drunk, or so intoxicated that she slurs her words and stumbles when she walks, then it’s all on her if he has sex with her. She shouldn’t have had so much to drink.

See, ^these are the things we have really been teaching men. That “boys will be boys,” and aren’t responsible for their behavior. Look back, really LOOK, at all of those scenarios. In each case, someone is acting, and someone is being acted upon. Yet, in each case, society tells the person who is acting that it is the “personal responsibility” of the person being acted upon to play gatekeeper. To not wear the clothes or the makeup that ‘entice men.’ To not have a damned drink in a bar. To be blunt to the point of cruelty if they want their rejection taken seriously (which can then bring on even more aggressive, violent, threatening behavior).

But we absolve the person who is acting, in each scenario, of any accountability whatsoever.

So, yeah, in many cases, they ARE being taught that it’s okay to ignore boundaries. That it’s okay to push past them. That it’s okay to get in someone else’s personal space, even when the person is expressing distaste or unease or discomfort or outright rejection. They are being taught that it is not their responsibility to not rape. They are not being held accountable for acting, and they are being shown, repeatedly, that when they do act, the responsibility for their behavior is on the person at whom the behavior is directed.

Under the he-had-a-weapon-and-was-a-stranger-and-she-was-beaten-into-submission model, sure. Very few men do that.

But LOADS of men who don’t fit that “REAL RAPIST” false archetype are raping women. They rape their wives and girlfriends. They rape passed out girls and too-drunk-to-consent women at parties. They refuse to take no for an answer, and coerce and intimidate and bully and push and push and push until she gives in, not actually consenting, but unable to withstand the onslaught.

And we (society) overwhelmingly blame her. Even though he was the one pursuing, he was the one acting, we blame his victim. And he knows it. He may not think that he’s raping someone. He may think this is just how sex works. HE. IS. WRONG. And so is the society that teaches him that he isn’t.

No. We may not explicitly teach men to rape. We just teach them that, if they do, it’s perfectly understandable, and not their fault. Which amounts to the same damned thing.

How not to be a friend to an escaped abuse victim

When I left my abusive ex, I also decided to make it very clear to the community in which he was participating that he was a danger. See, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one he’d abused. In fact, I’d say anyone would be hard-pressed to find anyone with whom he’d ever been in a relationship, whom he had not abused. And the people to whom I was giving warnings were people I cared about a great deal. People I knew, people I’d loved as chosen family, friends, and part of a community I once cherished and called home.

This all set me on a path to consent activism. I’ve been doing that ever since.

One of the most hurtful things to ever come out of that was a message I received from a friend. At the time, I considered her my best friend. It was a message in which she explicitly withdrew her support for me, and what I was doing. It led to a conversation in which she very clearly stated that she didn’t believe I was ‘actually’ abused. In which she described what was the result of a typical behavior, by abuse victims – namely, covering up for their abuser, until the abuse is over and they are safe – as the reason she didn’t believe that I had been in an abusive relationship.

What seems to be happening is all these little changes and edits are merging together to create an inhuman monster out of a guy who is merely a selfish loser douchebag.

And there were no changes. No edits. No creation of anything. Only revelation of the way things actually went down, when I was in a place too frightening to be able to speak out.

I wrote the following, then, as a response to every single piece of it that she brought up, claiming I was lying. Just recounting it, now, leaves me trembling and aching, not only because of what he did, but because of how the loss of my friend hurt me.

What follows was originally posted elsewhere, January 9, 2014. I almost chose to simply delete it, but it is very illustrative of the things you shouldn’t do, as a friend to an abuse victim seeking support. 

I was warned about the ex. His ex warned me. Her friends warned me. I didn’t listen. That is on me.

Of course, he made it a very convincing case that she was psycho, and all her friends were just jumping on a bandwagon, but I did make the decision.

I agreed to move him into my home. By the time I did so, I had determined to put as happy a face as possible on it, because I knew some of my friends would be trying to poke holes, and I didn’t want holes poked. I was in dire straits, and needed this to work. Which, of course, he well knew.

Of course, by then, I’d been through a long campaign to convince me it would be okay, and every concern I brought up was either pooh-poohed or brushed aside or handled with explanations that rang true at the time. He decided that was what he wanted long before I got on board. There’s a witness to that, in case my credibility is that far gone in your eyes.

But I did make the decisions, both to agree to it, and to keep perceptive friends from poking holes. I needed this to be good, and he was saying all the right things. I didn’t want holes. I didn’t want to see holes.

He and I, together, figured out a way to trigger my seizures for a purpose. I knew one was coming, sometime around the court date I had for my stepfather’s bond reduction hearing, and I couldn’t afford to have a seizure in court, or to be in a brain-fog, the day of. This kind of triggering worked by me lying down on the bed, and him flickering lights in my face. We used it a handful of times for important occasions, for times when I had to be okay, but my seizures would probably get in the way of that. Triggering a seizure in time for me to recover kept me  from worrying about the seizure happening in the midst of those important things.

I never believed he would take that to a different place. I never even imagined he would figure out that stress triggers could be manufactured, if he just didn’t give me an avenue to walk away, and yelled and cursed and called names and got all up in my face with a barrage that wouldn’t stop until I spazzed out, seized, and later forgot the fight. I never imagined anyone would do something like that. I mean, who would?

But, because I cooperated with it the first way, I must have been on board with the second, right? …even though I wasn’t sure it was happening until it had been going on for months? No. But hey, I was on board with one, so why not the other, right? This seems to support the whole idea of Well, she let me kiss her, so why did I need to worry about getting consent to do more?

Yes. I actively encouraged him to find other partners. At first, I did this without knowing how bad things really were. How awful he really was. I was simply happy to be experiencing compersion for the first time, and I liked the women he was meeting.

Then I started having a much harder time not seeing what he was. Much harder. I was still entirely on board with him being with other people, but for much more selfish reasons. I needed a break, now and then. I needed rest that wasn’t me sleeping with one eye open, and time in my house that wasn’t eggshells and hot coals all the time. Maybe that was “stupid or cruel,” as you called it. Perhaps I should have just fought tooth and nail against him getting what he wanted, to protect all those women from the things I was already suffering. I was too weak. I was too worn down. I was too afraid. Maybe I even hoped that some of the bad would stop, if he got his girl, and got back to the NRE that allowed our first two or three months to be okay.

I didn’t just let it happen, though. I warned them. ALL of them, personally, if I had any contact information at all. I warned them of badness in general, and gave specific details, when appropriate. I’ve maintained friendships with the two most notable ones, to this day. I call them friends. I’m pretty sure they call me the same. Both have mentioned red flags that came up, that they didn’t ignore because of things I said. Both have thanked me for making them aware enough to do so. But hey. I let him date them, right? That must prove he wasn’t abusing me. Uh-huh. Sure.

I was stupid and vulnerable and I loved the man he showed me, far past the point when his actions, and the abuse, had made it clear that man was never coming back, at least not for me, no matter how ‘good’ I was, how compliant.

I covered up the abuse because I was scared. He’d charmed the pants off a very close friend. Hell, he is a great friend, as long as you don’t get any closer than that. I was assured that no one would believe me, and he proved it with her. The more time they spent together, the less she seemed to care about me. I became paranoid. I stopped telling any of the bad stuff to anyone that he might talk to, though I had to sneak to talk to people he didn’t like. But hey, I chose to be there, right? That must mean there wasn’t any abuse, right? I mean, victims of domestic violence and emotional abuse don’t ever choose to stay with their abusers, right?

I smiled and acted like everything was hunky-dory, made excuses for his behavior, explained things in the best possible light…

I kept doing this, even when he was throwing hands full of pennies at the person who cut him off on the highway, after chasing them down and passing them at 90 mph. I kept doing this even when he broke my daughter’s cello in a fit of rage. I kept doing this even when he took the dinner I’d cooked him and threw it across the room, breaking the plate, scaring the kids, and leaving food on the floor that wasn’t safe for the dog to eat, then raking the carpet like a madman, when I insisted that he clean it up. I kept doing this when he was telling me what a bitch my daughter was, and what a cunt I was and how lazy and useless and worthless and crazy I was.

I kept doing this right up until that became impossible, which happened pretty much all at once.

I went to a con with him. Where he violated my consent, then spent three days laying on the thickest coats of victim-blaming bullshit you could possibly imagine, before posting a bogus apology online, trying to save face with the community, that he hadn’t even given to me, in the next room, in person. But hey. I chose to play with him, right? That must mean that he wasn’t abusive, right?

So. There you go. All the things that make me either a liar, or a willing participant in my own abuse. Since they’ve been thrown in my face, I thought I may as well own it all.

Do me a favor, okay? If any of ^that^ makes you think of me as a liar, or a manipulator, or whatever other hurtful words you wanna toss my way, just keep it to yourself. Un-friend me. I don’t even want to know why, anymore.

You wanna kick somebody? Well, it’s the kink community, after all. I wish you luck finding someone who’s into that sort of thing. Me? I’m not.

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.