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.

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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.

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.

Consent and Conditioning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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