Monday, March 11, 2013

Rape is a choice made by rapists, not victims

Trigger Warning for details of rape.

When I was 19 my then-boyfriend raped me. It took over 5 years before I was able to call it rape to myself and another year or so after that when I could call it rape to other people. Even now it is sometimes hard for me to refer to it as rape. Why? Because it was "gray."

He was my boyfriend. I went with him back to his room. I drank with him. I made out with him before. I kept on dating him afterwards. I kept on telling myself this and never told anyone else the details because it was just so... gray. Except, it wasn't. What I didn't constantly remind myself, although I never forgot, was how many times I told him no. And how many times I pushed, or tried to push, him off my body. Or how he took off the condom instead of stopping when I told him it hurt.

That five years of not being able to call a rape a rape fucked me up more than the original encounter. People I slept with after him suffered for it. People who actually did care about my consent and couldn't understand why I was suddenly crying uncontrollably when just moments before I was seemingly enjoying sex with them. I couldn't understand it either. I had done this before, after all, so why now was every part of my being screaming no?

Why did it take me more than 5 years to call what happened to me rape? Because I followed the fucking rules. Yes I went with him back to his place and drank with him, but this wasn't a stranger, this was my boyfriend. We had been dating for awhile before this and had been friends for even longer previously. He was one of a group of friends who would walk me back to my dorm at night so I wouldn't have to go alone. No where in those rape prevention rules did it tell me some guys would game those very same rules.

Last week on Fox News, Zerlina Maxwell basically told people to stop telling women what to do to prevent rape and to tell men not to rape instead. For this she was inundated with rape and death threats. How fucked is that? She's right though, the current rules don't work. People can follow the rules and some asshole can still rape them anyway. And what if you don't follow the rules? It's drilled into us throughout life that if you don't follow the rules you need to be prepared to suffer the consequences. But rape is the action of the rapist. Why are we giving (potential) victims rules to not have someone else rape them? The only thing that rules to prevent being a rape victim accomplish is to let society wash its hands of people who didn't follow those rules and had someone else do something horrible to them. It's just an added bonus that it also shuts up some people who did follow those rules and were still raped by someone else because well, I followed the rules so that couldn't have really been rape, right?

We don't lay the blame on sober people who are hit by a drunk driver even if it's on New Years Eve or St. Patrick's Day. Instead there are national campaigns to tell people that buzzed driving is drunk driving, programs are implemented in high schools to warn the dangers of drunk driving, programs like Tipsy Tow exist, cab numbers are plastered in every bar, and even public transport sometimes runs later than usual on holidays associated with drinking. Everyone realizes that the decision to drink and drive lays solely with the drunk driver, but when someone tries to apply the same reasoning to rapists.... butbutbut not all men are rapists and that won't work and you deserved to be raped anyway.

"If you see something, say something."
I've heard this saying in various incantations throughout my life. It's been used by companies I've worked for in regards to safety issues. It's part of the reasoning behind whistle blower laws. It's said specifically by police in my neighborhood in order to reduce the number of car break-ins they've seen recently. The reasoning is that as a society we can help reduce (if not eliminate) some of the shitty things that happen to us just by paying attention and speaking up when other people are doing something that can cause harm. I bring this up because that's what I've always seen the "teach people not to rape" message as. Accountability.

"Teach people not to rape" doesn't assume all men are rapists anymore than MADD assumes everyone is a drunk driver or "No Smoking" signs assume everyone smokes.
Not everyone needs to be told, but you tell everyone because there's no way of knowing before hand who does need to be told.
 Instead, it clearly lets people know (at least some of) the boundaries and gives other people a voice to call out others they see breaking the social contract. Moving from "here's how not to get raped" to "here's how not to rape" not only shifts the blame rightly from the victim to the perpetrator but also encourages other people to step up and say to a (potential) rapist, "hey what you are doing isn't cool and you need to stop." Yet somehow suggesting this shift warrants rape and death threats.

I don't know if that shift in rules and blame would have stopped my college boyfriend from raping me. Like I said, he knew the rules and gamed them to his advantage. But it would have saved me more than five years of hell. And a shift will save future rape victims from the same torment because the blame will be squarely where it belongs, on the shoulders of the person who chose to rape.

Related watching: Patrick Stewart on how violence against women is learned.  I know Jezebel is a problematic site for a variety of reasons but this is where I first saw it posted and highlights one of the more pertinent quotes. The way rape prevention rules are now sets up a culture of silence that protects rapists, not rape victims/survivors.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I Have Male Friends, & This Isn't an Anomaly

Seriously. Evidently people are still confused by this whole concept of grown ass people being friends with each other, most recently in this ridiculous article on Role/Reboot ("Make sense of men & women" is their subtitle. I can't even). Let's break down the stupid, shall we?

1) Her opening paragraph describes her amazing friendship with a man. SHE DISPROVES HER OWN FUCKING HYPOTHESIS BEFORE SHE EVEN STATES HER HYPOTHESIS. She answers her own question in the fucking lede but then tries to prove the opposite is true. I just... why did she write this again?

2) Queer people, I'm sure you'll be absolutely shocked to learn that you once again don't exist. Following Leslie Rasmussen's train of thought though, you'd have to believe that coupled gay men and lesbians are only friends with people of the opposite gender and bi people have only their partner to rely on because they just can't be trusted around anyone.

"maybe there's a lack of interest because our partner meets that need we have for getting attention from the opposite sex."
I am not friends with anyone just for any (presumed sexual) attention they may give me. And if anyone is friends with me for that reason? Well they're not really my friend because, dude, that's hella insulting. I am friends with the (female AND male!) people in my life because they are awesome people. Awesomness, like shit lordness, knows no gender.

"Or it could be that the wives of our old male friends were less than thrilled that we were in their husbands' lives. I know I wouldn't have liked my husband having a close friendship with another woman, unless she looked like a Furby if the Furby was having a bad hair day."
 Jealous bitches be jealous.

5) There's also this assumption that being "just" friends means there's absolutely no sexual attraction, ever, the entire time you know the person. I am "just" friends with a few of my exes. And with people I used to sleep with, either on the regular or just once and then we realized that wouldn't work for us. And with people I crushed hard on for a bit but decided the friendship was worth more to me than acting on a fleeting crush. And people I did act on the crush on, and we went back to just friends (after some brief awkwardness) when it wasn't reciprocated.

This is probably the place to point out that non monogamous people also don't exist. Or maybe in point 4 where it's assumed everyone (haha ok, just women) gets jealous when their partner is with someone not them.

There's probably plenty more stupid to go around but really I just feel sad that the author holds this rather depressing worldview. To throw away the friendship and love of people based solely on their gender seems like a lonely way to go through life.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Houston's New Sin Tax

Houston politicians seem intent recently on running anyone they find undesirable out of town. First it was the noise ordinance and bans on feeding the homeless, and now it is making stripe clubs solely responsible for ending the city's rape kit backlog. Maybe the city council thinks it is "cleaning up" our city, but somewhere along the line they forgot that homeless people are still human beings deserving of respect, that arbitrary and subjective noise bans are likely unconstitutional, and that the Catholic Church, the military, schools, prisons, athletic organizations, and the police are all directly responsible for more rapes than a strip club.

The flaws in the noise ordinance and food sharing ban have already been covered in detail, but the rape kit backlog hits a lot closer to home for me. I've been raped. I have friends who have been raped. If we go through the grueling process of coming forward and subjecting ourselves to a rape kit, then we deserve to have the evidence help speak for us. The rape kit backlog across the country is absolutely horrifying, and it helps to keep more victims from coming forward. If the powers that be don't test the kits anyway, and therefore the case goes nowhere, then what's even the point?

I completely agree with Ellen Cohen that the city's rape kit back log is something that desperately needs to be addressed, but a sin tax is not the way to solve the problem. For one thing, it's likely that some of the $5 per customer charge will trickle down into the fees dancers have to pay to be on stage. The Houston city council members voted for this tax because they find this particular line of work, and it's customers, distasteful. What they (maybe) don't realize is that they are also effectively saying that women who work in this industry and are also rape victims deserve to have to pay for their own justice. This is also the second "pole" tax that Cohen has put forward. The money from that, earmarked for programs to help sexual assault victims, has been tied up in litigation since the first measure passed. This new tax will likely go down a similar route. Cohen knows that not a dime of this legislation will go towards alleviating the backlog for years, if ever. Yet she still claims that this tax is for victims. Her reasoning behind passing the tax (that there is a direct link between strip clubs and sexual assault) has never been proven, even in the study commonly cited. The thinking behind this measure is the same that went behind our (thankfully now overturned) bans on sodomy and sex toys, that since "good" people don't do these things, we don't have to worry when we punish the "bad" even if they're not actually doing anything wrong.

I am not naive. I know that the adult entertainment industry is not all sunshine and roses and all about empowering women. Sexual trafficking and assault do exist, and they exist in the industry. Those aspects need to be dealt with and shut down, but strip clubs are not responsible for the rape kit backlog, here or anywhere else in the country. They should not then shoulder the responsibility for the city's fuck up. And it is the city's fuck up. If the city council actually cares about this backlog and the people who are now being victimized a second time because of it they would make room in the city budget for it. They don't, so they won't.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Awesome Diversity of Human Bodies

I found these links in my morning webcomic round-up that were based on these photographs of Olympic athletes.

Like many others I tend to fall into the trap of drawing the same body type over and over for athletic characters. This photoshoot serves as awesome reference reminding us artists that strong bodies come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and muscles show up in different ways. It also helps us keep in mind that not everyone who is fit is also lean.
-Nina Matsumoto

These sorts of things are important. Artists: this is a good exercise! It’s good for you.
-Yuko (emphasis mine)

And my favorite headline about this: Do You Want a Body Like an Olympic Athlete’s?


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ethical Sluts

My friend Kit is hosting a read along of The Ethical Slut right now at his blog. The Introduction, some personal background, and Chapter 1 are already posted, and Kit's thoughts on Chapter 2 will go up sometime tomorrow. Here are my thoughts on what has been discussed so far.

The first time I referred to myself as a slut, I was around 16 years old. You see, that was the first time a boy had gone down on me, and I liked it. In my Catholicism addled brain that obviously meant I was a horrible person and all but irredeemable. Then I went off to college, and while I still wasn't having PIV sex, I was making out with guys and giving and receiving oral sex and going back to the guys' places and all round being a "dirty little slut". And hating myself for it.

It took several years (and breaking with the Catholic Church) before I realized that enjoying sex isn't a bad thing. And neither is being a slut.

My experience with polyamory luckily wasn't as fraught. When I went off to college I broke up with my high school boyfriend because I wanted to experience everything college had to offer (read: make out with lots of dudes) without feeling guilty or hurting someone else. I latched onto the concept of "friends with benefits," even before engaging in PIV sex, and (mostly, see earlier) enjoyed the hell out of it. I certainly didn't have the ethical part down yet though. I got back together briefly with that high school boyfriend and wound up cheating on him, while still caring deeply about him. It was about that time that I realized monogamous relationships weren't for me, but I didn't know yet that there was an alternative. What can I say? I'm not the brightest bulb.

After I graduated, I started casually dating a guy I went to college with. He kept on trying to push for a romantic* relationship with me and I kept on telling him, honestly, that I had no desire to see only one person at a time (in fact, he knew I was also casually dating someone else at that time). Finally one night he said he was OK with that and suggested an open relationship. It took me about 2 seconds to realize that this was the counter option to monogamy that I'd been searching for, and I've been happily polyamorous since.**

Enter The Ethical Slut. I don't remember if someone recommended this to me or if I just stumbled upon it at a book store, but this book was a godsend for me. It may not be the best book on polyamory on the market, but it was the first (or at least the first main stream book) and the books that came afterward, like Opening Up, owe a huge debt of gratitude toward The Ethical Slut. Like the book says,
Ethical slutdom is a challenging path: we don't have a polyamorous Miss Manners telling us how to do our thing courteously and respectfully, so we have to make it up as we go along.

The Ethical Slut is a book about the multiple variations of polyamorous relationships (oh yes, there are several), but really it can be applied to any relationship style (possible exception, asexual relationships) that you want to be based on mutual trust and honesty.

I have lost friendships due to being open about my polyamory. Told that I use people and am, yes, unethical, strictly because of this. But I feel that any relationship based on open communication and meeting (or at least trying to meet) the needs of all participants can't help but be an ethical one, and I have no regrets about no longer counting those people among my friends. Not understanding my lifestyle is one thing; actively judging me because of it is a whole other level.
We see ourselves as people who are committed to finding a place of sanity with sex, and to freeing ourselves to enjoy our sexuality and to share it in as many ways as may fit for each of us.

Sounds totally debased, nefarious, and unethical, right? Sluts are just people. We have the same faults and make the same mistakes as anyone else. Polyamorous people are no better or worse that monogamous people.

I can't wait to see what Kit has in store for us with this read along.

* For the sake of ease, when I refer to "romantic" relationships I mean the typical boyfriend-girlfriend (or boyfriends or girlfriends) / spouses / partners dynamic, and if I refer to "sexual" relationship I mean something more along the lines of friends-with-benefits or play partners.
** Leave it to me to find one of the guys who's all about polyamory but still finds a way to cheat. Word to the wise: Telling one partner (no matter how many times she says it's OK and even encourages you to do so) that you aren't seeing anyone else, while telling your other partner that your first partner is monogamously*** minded and can't deal with polyamory is NOT FUCKING ETHICAL!
*** I can't say how much it amuses me that the blogger spell checker recognizes monogamous, monogamy, and even fucking monogamously, but not polyamory or polyamorous.

Further Proof That Women (Specifically Black Women) Don't Matter

Overheard at the bar tonight:
Everyone's saying how we don't talk about Haiti anymore... Fuck them. They're over there raping and pillaging. Raping all the girls... Let them do their thing. I have no sympathy for them.

Excuse me while I go vomit.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bus v. Bike: The Full Story

Friday, December 3: I’m riding one of my bikes down to see some friends of mine play at Rudyards. A little before 10PM when I’m on Lawndale by the cemetery, I hear a bus coming up behind me. The bus passes within a foot of me, almost causing a serious accident. And just for full disclosure’s sake, there wasn’t another car on that 4 lane road at the time and I was to the right side of the right lane. The driver intentionally rode as close to me as they could even though they had another whole lane to move into that wouldn’t have slowed them down in the least (not that they’d have an excuse for treating my life as callously as they did even if there was other traffic).

Saturday, December 4: I call into Houston Metro to file a complaint about the driver from the previous night. From the very beginning, Christian seems completely unconcerned that a Metro driver almost intentionally killed someone. He tells me there is nothing Metro can do because I wasn’t able to get the bus number, even though I told him the time and location. I told him I wanted a phone call back from a supervisor and left my contact information. Christian gives me no clue on when I can expect a call back and repeats again that Metro can’t do anything about it.

Sunday, December 5: I call back into Metro and again speak with Christian. I ask why I haven’t received a call back yet and then am told that the supervisors don’t work on the weekends and I’ll get a call within 3 days starting on Monday. I immediately ask him, “You are saying that I’ll get a call back no later than Wednesday?” and he agrees, I’ll get a call within 3 days. Then I say I have the bus number now (I looked up bus routes as soon as I hung up from the 1st call and found out that there is only one bus that goes down Lawndale), before I can say what it was Christian interrupts me and says that he knows, it’s the 36 and that’s the only bus that goes that way…. OK, that’s not at all what he told me the day before. I again tell him where the near-accident happened (this time I told him the closest bus stop) and what direction the driver and I were heading (he didn’t bother to ask that the first time) and now Christian tells me they can find the driver who I said did this and investigate the situation.

Thursday, December 9: After receiving no phone call from Metro the previous 3 days I call in and again speak to Christian. Now he tells me that I’m supposed to receive a phone call within 3 to 5 business days of the original complaint.

Friday, December 10: Call back into Metro again in the afternoon since this is day 5 and I don’t want to wait until Monday to find out what’s going on. I finally speak to someone besides Christian, who now tells me I’m supposed to have a complaint number. What? I was never given one in my previous 3 phone calls. She’s able to look up my complaint anyway using my name and tells me that no supervisor has even looked at it yet. She offers to put me through to someone’s voice mail and I lose my cool. I yell at her that it’s absolute bullshit that Metro doesn’t seem to care that one of their drivers almost killed someone, and why is it taking a week for someone to even look into this? She says that I must have misunderstood her and I let her patch me through, but I understood perfectly. She wasn’t putting me through to someone who could finally get to work on my complaint, she was putting me through to someone’s voicemail, when who knows when that person would check their messages. As it turned out, I couldn’t leave a message anyway. A menu would cut in after a second into my attempt to leave a message asking me to send the message as is or rerecord. It was impossible for me to leave a message past, “hi, my name is –“.

I hang up and call back into Metro again, this time getting Erica. This is the first person I talk to at Metro who actually sounds concerned about what happened to me and my lack of getting answers. She tells me that Christian should have never given me the (multiple) time frame(s) he did, that it’s actual Metro policy to return a phone call within 3-7 days (sigh). She then offers to transfer me to her supervisor but when I tell her about what just happened with the previous person I talked to and the nonexistent voice mail she actually stayed on the line with me until her supervisor was actually able to take my call without sending me to voicemail.

Now I’m talking to Antoinette and repeating my original complaint and all the new complaints I have about the misinformation and runaround I’ve been getting from Metro for the past week. Like Erica, she seems legitimately sympathetic to me and apologizes to me profusely. Antoinette also tells me that there was a note in my complaint file that someone tried to call me for additional information but that person was unable to get a hold of me or leave a message (remember I was told not half an hour before, that no one had even looked at my complaint yet). Now, I did receive a missed call earlier in the day, but there was no message left and the number wouldn’t accept incoming calls and I told Antoinette this. Whoever called me before was perfectly able to leave a message for me, they just chose not to. She then offers to transfer me to Carla R., who is allegedly the person who is actually handling my complaint. I stop her and tell her about the voice mail debacle earlier and she assures me that Carla’s voicemail works and that she is in charge of my complaint and will get back to me as soon as possible. I let her transfer me and I leave a message, explaining the clif note’s of what’s happened and asking her to call me back ASAP.

Monday, December 13: I finally receive a call back from Metro, but it’s not from Carla R. (unfortunately I missed this guy’s name at the beginning and didn’t think to ask him to repeat it), it was from possibly the smuggest asshole Houston Metro employs. He apologizes for how long this has taken, but he was out of town and then he had jury duty and call backs usually take 8 days (lolwut?) anyway. He says that they talked to the driver and the situation has been handled. I ask him how it’s been handled and he tells me he can’t tell me that. He then sighs and says, “Well would it make you feel better if I told you the guy was fired?” Thanks asshole, this has nothing to do with my feelings, and has everything to do with how I was almost killed the weekend before and Metro seems utterly unconcerned about it. I then ask him what kind of training their drivers have to share the road properly with cyclists and it’s clear from this guy’s answer that he has absolutely no clue about the legal rights of cyclists on Texas roads. Great.

So a Metro driver intentionally tries to run a cyclist off the road. It takes over a week and 6 phone calls for anyone to take it seriously and then… they still don’t take it seriously. I was just expected to take this guy at his word that the driver involved was disciplined after being repeatedly lied to by Metro employees. And the worst part is, I will see that driver again, unless he or she was actually fired. If I want to ride into downtown or Montrose (where I spend most of my time when not at work or home), I have to take Lawndale or else go several miles out of my way. I’m going to fear for my life every time a bus passes me in that area when I’m doing something I love to do and doesn’t hurt anyone. Thanks Houston Metro!

If anyone sees a Houston Metro bus driver take the lives of cyclists or pedestrians into their hands, or you just want to know why they didn’t take seriously what happened to me, please contact them at 713-658-0180 or