Category Archives: masculinity

I Don’t Care About the Superbowl

I don’t care about the Super Bowl.

look-at-all-the-fucks-i-give

In general I wish we valued artists and writers and creators more than athletes and athletics, but it’s more than that. Football, the NFL, and in fact most pro sports in general are problematic to me. But the Super Bowl, the event itself, really irks me.

Quinn_angry

I wish, instead of knowing the name of the coach and the quarterback of the winning team, that I knew the name of each and every victim of sexual assault and domestic abuse that is too afraid to come forward because their abuser is a beloved athlete or someone rich/powerful/entitled. I wish I knew the names of the women that are trafficked, sold, provided for the high rollers connected to the league, the players and the owners and the sponsors. I wish their names, not Brady’s and Belichick’s, were splashed across the news. I wish we cared as much about their fate as we do about who wins the trophy.

brady

I wish, instead of caring about the ridiculously expensive commercials, we all collectively gave a shit about the negative effects of advertising and our consumer culture. I wish we cared about how our self esteem, especially the self worth of women, is affected and undermined by commercials showcasing youth and a specific kind of beauty as the ultimate goal. I wish we cared about how advertisements uphold our sexism and misogyny, how they reinforce stereotypes to turn a profit.  I wish we thought about success in ways other than ‘how much stuff can I acquire’.  I wish we used our money to help one another instead of to purchase the things we think we need to be better, prettier, happier.

happywithyourself

I wish, instead of hearing for weeks about ‘deflate-gate’, that the news cared about the scandals that affect people in the real world. I wish people wanted to hold the NFL accountable for the violence it afflicts on it’s own players, for the concussion rate and the fact that players exit the league with head trauma, depression, and other lasting effects. I wish we cared that these players are left out in the cold, and told to keep silent. I wish we cared about the men and boys that are affected by the image of masculinity as aggression and power and dominance.  

mask-you-live-in-quote

I wish, instead of the country tuning into a football game, that we tuned into elections and social justice movements. I wish we could take all the money that pours into the super bowl and use it for education. I wish we paid teachers as much as quarterbacks, and I wish we taught our kids that heroes are the folks that show up everyday to build the future and change the world. I wish kids were as amped about reading as they are about sports. I wish we made them believe that they can change the world, and not just make it to the big leagues. I wish we taught kids that success is about more than winning, about how using their minds is the real way they can ‘make it.’

winning

Here is this dude speaking my mind about this, for the assist.

Maybe this is hyperbolic. But you know what, things are dire for women and girls not just across this country but around the world. So, consider me Obama as the SOTU cause I have no fucks left to give. I will give up exactly none of my energy to pay attention to the game or the result or the player worship. None of it. Nope.

alicenofucks

I know we all need entertainment, and fun distractions. Just think about what you choose as your vices, think about how you spend your money, think about the thoughts that fill your head space. Think about what kind of energy you put out there. Our collective support and energy will determine the future. I wish we remembered that. I wish the voices of women, and others that are systematically oppressed and silenced, were heard as loudly as Katy Perry’s halftime show. What if our voices, our collective empathy and will to change the status quo, were the story instead of the left shark?

leftshark

I wish…

iwish

 

Advertisements

On Ferguson

I’ve hesitated to write about the events in Ferguson, MO for a few reasons. The first is that I have a lot of emotions, and that can be hard to sort through to write something clear and concise. But the feels are real, and I keep starting to compose this in my head, so obviously it needs to come out. The second reason is that this is not my story to tell, and I hesitate to make my voice heard over the folks that are truly affected, both in Ferguson and all over the country every day. So let me start by saying that I am writing about this topic as a white feminist ally. My experiences with gender discrimination make me empathetic, but they do not afford me authority to speak about racial discrimination. I cannot know the true depths of pain and anger that communities of color live with. Their words are paramount, and you should 100% go read this, this, this, and especially this, this and this.

The day after they announced there would be no trial I sat in my office, reading. I have read quite a bit about the shooting, the aftermath, and the effect it all has had. From my office in the Financial District, I read about the emotional and psychic pain felt in the community and I read about the callousness that some folks feel towards those people. From my office, overlooking the new World Trade Center, I thought bitterly about how lucky I am and about how uncaring and cruel the world can be. And even as I continued to read, becoming evermore angry and sad, I knew that my pain was nothing compared to the folks on the ground in that community, grieving their slain child and fighting against a system that was never meant for them, that was built on the very idea of their inhumanity.

ferguson-protest-handupdontshoot

Black Lives Matter. You shouldn’t say ‘All Lives Matter’ because some lives, particularly white lives (and more specifically hetero-white-male lives) already matter and everyone knows they matter. It’s important to specifically say Black Lives Matter because black bodies are seen, by the state, as more expendable and dangerous than other bodies. Replacing Black with All is like saying that you think all lives are devalued in the same way, and this is not the case.

Privilege is a hard thing for a lot of people to comfortably grasp. It is hard for me to talk about my white privilege because I hate that it’s real, and because (obviously) I love a number of incredible black and brown people and it makes me ill to think about the personal and institutional ways they’ve been hurt because of racism. But acknowledging my privilege is essential. It allows me to better empathize, and without acknowledgment and empathy the conversation is not honest. Here is a classic and wonderful essay on privilege that we all should read and reflect upon.

fergusonwomen_zpsf3750568

Racism is a feminist issue not only because it affects women of color. It is a feminist issue because structural violence and oppression must be dismantled in all forms. Racism, patriarchy and misogyny, classism and corporate greed, they are all interwoven. We must fight them all if we indeed believe in social justice. Black women are leading the protests in Ferguson, on the front lines and keeping this movement alive. Black women have always been an integral part of the civil rights movement, despite being overwritten by their male counterparts. Another example of how racism and patriarchy overlap and entwine.

Civil_Rightswomen

And we must believe that these issues are both structural and personal. If you do not believe that racism exists in the very foundation and fibers of our country, then you need to wake up and read more. This country was founded on stolen land and the death of an indigenous culture, and then built on the backs of black bodies that were enslaved, degraded, and hated. This hatred did not end with emancipation, and our educational system, housing laws, pop culture and police tactics are still laden with racist policies and attitudes. Not to mention the mass incarceration of black bodies. The deck is stacked. To say otherwise is to uphold the idea that if black folks just worked hard enough they could have the American dream, and that their communities are violent and impoverished because they as a people are inherently violent and impoverished. Those lies are gross, and perpetuated by white culture to relieve our own guilt and justify our discrimination.

Ferguson-protest-11-w724

I do not believe that a kid deserves to be shot down in the streets for petty theft, for being tall and ‘threatening’, or for being black. Michael Brown was 18, still full of youth and potential. The loss of that potential is tragic, especially when taken in alongside the lost potential of other black folks who were murdered as part of our racist American history. I believe that any police officer who uses lethal force should always be subject to a trial. Fuck a grand jury. Police should be held to a higher standard, as they are acting as attendants of their communities, sworn to protect and serve. And if you yourself, as a white person, have never had a negative experience with cops or the justice system, I urge you to consider that as evidence that the system is not only racist, but working as designed.

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man

Furthermore I believe that the militarization of the police is an act of war against the American people. I believe that our state perpetrates violence on its own people each and every day under the guise of ‘protect and serve’ and also under the guise of state sanctioned war. I believe that guns have no place in homes or on our streets, and the police shouldn’t have them. Other countries manage just fine without them. The continued killing of children, of people of color, and yes even of criminals (who deserve a trial at the very least) disgusts and disturbs me. Even when a whole group of white children, and they were rich white children, were gunned down in their elementary school, we did nothing. That level of apathy, the fact that we’ve allowed our elected representatives to be bought so fully, leaves me speechless.

Gun control activists march on the NRA offices on Capitol Hill on Tuesday

I think about how women’s bodies are written as a site of out-of-control sexuality, and how we locate the shame and guilt of sex in all female-bodied persons. And then I think about how we criminalize the black body, and locate the fear of violence and chaos there. And I want to stop labeling bodies, and stop criminalizing and dehumanizing bodies. I condemn violence in all forms but do not and cannot condemn this community’s actions. I will never know how it feels to live my entire life with the burden of state mandated racism. I will never hear the daily comments, never live with a police force that targets my body and my family. I will never live with the fear of an authority that claims to protect you, and I have never watched my son/friend/brother/neighbor lie in the street for 4 hours in the late afternoon, shot dead for no good reason, knowing that justice was an unlikely ending to the story. If you are more outraged by the ‘riots’ and property damage than by the violence enacted each and every day by the state, and by the history of pillaging and plundering and slavery and lynching and rape that is our nation’s story, then I think you need a priority check.

I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non­-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.- Martin Luther King Jr

I suppose this is getting rambling, and I hope I’ve remember all the things I want to say. I want to say that my thoughts and feelings as an ally to oppressed people’s everywhere are tangential to the real story, which should be told by folks who live this everyday. My place is to march silently in the streets when I can, and to use my voice in harmony with theirs but never to speak over them. The story of racism should be told by black, brown and non-white folks, and their stories deserve to be heard and believed. And then we must all use our collective voices and our collective power to undo the structures that support our racist history and limit the potential and humanity of black bodies. I vow my solidarity and my support, as a feminist and social justice warrior. I wish I could do more.

S-E-X (Americans are stunted adolescents)

This country has a sex problem. Our culture doesn’t have a healthy relationship with sex. We are obsessed with it, but ashamed of it, and only certain people (white men) are allowed to express their sexuality without an array of consequences. In the name of ‘decency’ we censor, and for the children we slut shame (meanwhile we leave our kids in the dark with abstinence only education that leaves them completely unprepared to deal with sex or intimacy.) We are not honest  about the realities of human sexuality in the 21st century.

liar-harrypotter-gif

Unfortuately while we are all yelling about how shocked and offended we are, we are also watching an unbelievable amount of porn and demanding that celebrities give us salacious details about their sex lives. The latest example of this is a story that just broke: Nick Jonas ‘I’m no Virgin’.

 OMGjanice

Stop the presses! This 22 year old dude with a rocking body and lots of money is sexually active?! How can this be?! Why do we cccccaaaarrrrreeee?

OMGproducers

We care because we forced him and his bandmate brothers to say they had purity rings when they were The Jonas Brothers because of the widespread assumption that Christian morality is the best/only morality. We really do love to sexualize teenagers as much as we love to make them tell us they aren’t having sex (Brit Brit, Timberlake, Miley, etc.) So now that (obviously) that purity ring nonsense is over, we feel entitled to an update. But we aren’t entitled to an update. The sex life of Nick Jonas does not belong to us, it is not ours to know or comment on. I know that sex is exciting and fun, and I don’t think we should never discuss it. But we discuss it in such adolescent, immature ways. The very idea that this is news reveals how very middle school our cultural conversations about sex truly are.

Now, lest we think this issue is too straightforward, it is also worth pointing out that we don’t talk about sex in the same ways when we talk about male and female celebrities. Nick Jonas is having a sex symbol moment right now (remember these), and this news will not result in any back lash (maybe some religious nuts, but his career won’t be damaged in any lasting way.) Let’s contrast that with another star who is having a pretty successful moment: Tay Tay. Ms Swift has the only platinum album of 2014, and just became the first women ever to replace herself at #1 on the Billboard charts.

taytaywerk

But Taylor’s career has consistently been undermined by a media who is obsessed with her love life. She draws from her life to write songs, as most folks do, but in Tay Tay’s case this results in constant speculation about who she wrote about and who’s she is with. She has even been ridiculed, called a man-eater. And most disturbingly, some religious conservative a-holes have denounced her as a slut and a harlot, saying she is a bad example for young girls.

tayew

First of all, Taylor is an adult that can do whatever the fuck she wants with her body. So keep your slut shaming judgements to yourself. But what is even worse is that these out spoken fanatics are assuming that they know intimate details of her sex life. Being linked to someone in the tabloids doesn’t mean you are sleeping with them. Dating someone doesn’t mean you’re sleeping with them. Kissing someone doesn’t mean you are sleeping with them. Hell, even sleeping with someone doesn’t mean you are sleeping with them. So I wish these folks would actually get their minds outta the gutter (isn’t it ironic that those who rail against something the loudest are usually also doing that thing behind closed doors?) and stop assuming that they know Tay Tay’s life.

tayabsurd

I’m just over the media prying into the sex lives of stars and reporting all the salacious details. It’s like trying to peep through a locker room window. It’s not shocking or surprising that grown ass really beautiful people have sex. It’s not a surprise that underneath their clothes, celebrities are naked. They have bodies. Whoa! There is no way that we are going to be able to teach ourselves and the next generation how to have a healthy and positive relationship with our bodies and sexuality if we don’t cool it with this kind of journalism. It may be fun to watch Nick go from curly-headed boy band teen to uber-hottie, but we don’t need to pry into his love life to enjoy his music (or his abs.) Taylor’s romantic life may inform her music, but the real story is her catchy songs and her record breaking new album, not her past paramours. Luckily, she knows how to one up that haters and make an amazing video for her record breaking single that shows you exactly what you want. Enjoy, and stop being such a perv.

 

You Should Never Meet Your Heros (esp. if they’re famous men)

You know what’s exhausting? When you think you know someone, and then it turns out that they were kind of terrible. This is particularly exhausting if they were famous, and talented, and everyone considers them beloved and wonderful and then BOOM, something changes and you have to rethink your whole portrait of them.

whoa

Recently it’s occurred to me that since patriarchy has been happening for centuries, I have been recalibrating my images of ‘great men’ a lot more often than great women. Because the rules for men, especially the most talented and famous, have always been ‘do whatever the fuck you want.’ As a matter of fact, we shower them with ego-inflating praise and also with things. And some of the things we shower them with are access to women, who are part of the whole package of things you get for being brilliant/pretty/famous whatever. Here now are some examples of men who, it turns out, are huge disappointments.

breezy

Exhibit A: Breezy. He was so cute when he was young, he has the great dance moves. I used to groove rul hard to Run It. And now it’s ruined. And we didn’t even have to wait until he was old and almost forgotten for his bad behavior to come to light. It turns out he is an extremely violent young man, and a batterer to boot. And this guy has the nerve to release a song with the lyrics ‘these hoes ain’t loyal’ after publicly kicking the shit out of his also-famous girlfriend. He’s despicable.

JFK

A more historical example: God Jack Kennedy was beautiful. I mean seriously. And I know we have a soft spot for icons that are taken too soon. And I do have a soft spot. But then I remember the extent to which this man was a womanizer, and the extent to which the people around him went to enable his behavior and keep it a secret and I think: how was it possible that he was the most powerful man in the world in a country that was still so vanilla and prudish and yet he managed to have almost continuous extramarital affairs? He managed to carry on with Marilyn for fuck’s sake! And now it’s a considered just an anecdote, a small part of who he was. It’s even considered charming, part of why he is so roguish and handsome and desirable. Sigh.

cosby

A disruptive piece of breaking (sort of) news: It turns out silly old comedy icon Billy Cosby has been a sexual predator for decades. And this isn’t new news. Lawsuits have been filed, he’s settled out of court, and his victims are speaking out. And his MO, for the record, includes drugging his victims. Which just, I don’t know, is extra infuriating. Think about Dr Huxtable slipping a roofie is some young girls drink. I don’t want to have to feel this way about a man who elevated the image of black America with laughter, who was TV married to the indomitable Phylicia Rashād, who wore those great sweaters. God dammit God dammit!

fitz

And, finally, my most personal of these struggles: F Scott Fitzgerald. I just finished a wonderful and searing book by Kate Zambreno, Heroines. It’s a retelling of the great men of literature in the early 20th century, and of the women who surrounded them. These women were merely plus ones to their men. They lived in service of their partner’s genius, never being allowed to flourish or explore their own talent. And the most interesting among them was Zelda. Zelda, who wanted to be a real writer. Zelda who wrote in diaries and letters, and whose words her husband generously borrowed. Zelda who also painted, and later threw herself into ballet. And her spunk, her desire to be creative, was remade as mental illness. And she has been posthumously diagnosed and written over as the crazy wife of the genius. And he helped in this. He discouraged her, he actively worked to stunt her writing career, he forbid her from using their own lives as subject matter because that was his material. And he drank and drank and shut her away, and she died in a fire in a mental hospital. She deserved more, at the very least the same encouragement and opportunity given to him. And I love Gatsby, I still love it and those words still inspire me. And I completely resent having to rethink the man who wrote some of my favorite sentences to ever have existed. I hate it.

fuckthisshit

Why? Why do we make the world a playground for these talented men? We tell them to take whatever they want, especially if it will help their art or whatever. Like fucking Picasso who emotionally abused all the women in his life and then painted them as monsters, and we told him he was great and hung those pictures in museums. We enable these guys, all of us with our accolades and praise. And we provide countless pretty young things for them to play with. But women aren’t things. They aren’t prizes in the world wide talent competition that is pop/celebrity/literary/art culture. This won’t stop until we deal seriously with rape culture, and until we hold men accountable for their actions. All those guys up there that I mentioned, their stories are not defined by the women they hurt. Their careers aren’t suffering. C Brown fans are insane on Twitter and will defend him unendingly. A convicted violent criminal, and his fans will say they’d let him abuse them and insult anyone who dares speak against him. JKF’s habits are just a footnote, Cosby is getting a new show and Fitzgerald remains a Great American Writer while Zelda’s novel is no where to be found (actually I found it, so you can find it in my apartment, but I had to special order it cause it’s out of print.) These guys continue to demand respect and inspire awe. It’s only women who are defined by their sexuality or sexual partners (Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Monica Lewinsky.)

marilyn

 

I’m fucking over it. I’m sick of having to compartmentalize with these guys. I know that people are complicated and no one is perfect and I know that not all great talents are predators. But we should be demanding a world where talent is appreciated without being overly idolized, where women aren’t prizes to be won, where sex isn’t a weapon used against the female body. I have no more patience for this shit. We need to stop excusing this behavior, we need to stop devaluing the female body and dismissing this as adolescent/harmless shenanigans. Sexual violence is not shenanigans. We all need to grow up and get serious and make culture a place of accountability and inclusion. We need to have icons that don’t require excuses.

Sex Spreadsheets are Bullshit. Grow Up.

So recently this spreadsheet went viral. A spreadsheet.

chelseaeyeroll

I’m already annoyed.

spreadsheet

First of all, what kind of passive aggressive bull shit is this? Are we 12?

shamecornerGIF

Here’s a newsflash: if there is something going on in your relationship, the quickest way to make it worse is to place the blame entirely on your partner and then EMAIL them a document you made specifically to shame them. How about being an adult and having an actual conversation with your partner about why you’ve been going through a dry spell? Because here’s another newsflash: your partner doesn’t owe you regular sex. Sex is a collaborative, cooperative experience. Your sex life is not static and it is not guaranteed. Just like other aspects of your relationship, it changes and evolves  and will require effort to be maintained. It’s an important aspect of any relationship, sure, but it’s not the only one. And given that the sex is dwindling and their communication obviously stinks, I’d venture to say that this couple has lots of other issues. I’m just so freakin’ annoyed by this guy I can hardly stand it! Have a conversation! Think seriously about why this may be occurring, including how you yourself may be contributing. Grow the fuck up. (Note: this goes for all people creating sex spreadsheets, cause apparently it’s a trend happening now ew gross come on guys, seriously.)

one more eye roll. cause ugh.
one more eye roll. cause ugh.

Speaking of how you may be contributing: some responses to this story have tried to maintain the pernicious myth that women are less interested in sex than men. I’m here to tell you that this is nonsense. Many have pointed to the orgasm gap to help explain women’s perceived disinterest. The orgasm gap, according to a recent study, is the fact that women are having 1 orgasm for every 3 that men have. Which just makes me so sad. And before you start with me, let’s clear some things up. Women are not ‘more complicated’ than men, anatomically speaking. Women are able to achieve orgasm at the same rate as men when they masturbate, and indeed women in same sex relationships have orgasms at the same rate as heterosexual men. It’s also not true that it takes women longer to achieve orgasm, because when masturbating it takes women and men the same time on average: 4 minutes. All it takes to make a woman cum is willingness, and basic understanding of female anatomy (because the clit isn’t hard to find, but it is absolutely necessary.)

francais
translation

Alright so we’ve cleared up the myth that women are harder to please sexually. So the orgasm gap isn’t natural and it’s not acceptable (or is shouldn’t be!)  As it stands, this gap can explain part of why women may seem less interested in sex than men. But another important factor is how we raise men and women differently when it comes to sexual self expression. Boys are allowed to be outward in their expressions of sexuality, and in fact expressing sexual desire is seen as a sign of a healthy young man. Men can brag about their sexual encounters, and their orgasms are an assumed part of ‘sex’ in the accepted cultural narrative. Girls, on the other hand, are raised knowing that for them, sexuality is shameful. Not only is too much desire or too many partners evidence that they are slutty, it can also be used to justify sexual violence. For women, one of the first ways they learn about sex is to fear rape. And it is crystal clear that they are partly responsible for preventing rape, by controlling their own behavior; not dressing too provocatively or getting drunk or “leading men on”.  All of this adds up to confusion, because we also teach girls that their worth can be measured by their perceived ‘fuck-ability.’ They must be available to give pleasure, but they must not want or seek pleasure too obviously. And there is not a single piece of sex education that teaches about women’s pleasure, so we don’t learn to make our pleasure a real priority. Add that to the lack of value we place on women’s bodies overall, and the picture is bleak.

howitturnsoutrulpaul

Listen guys. Sex doesn’t happen like in the movies. Two people, even if the chemistry is great, don’t always hit a home run the first time. Or the second, third, etc. And sometimes, if you’ve had the same partner for awhile, your sex life can hit a slump or a drought or whatever. Because sex is about more than just orgasms, it’s also about intimacy and communication and closeness. And your sex life doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and real life can get crazy. Awhile back I was working 2 retail jobs and my schedule was insane. I was working 6 or 7 days a week, often 10 or 12 hour days. And indeed, my sex life with my partner took a hit. I was exhausted, and I also didn’t feel good about myself (no yoga, crappy eating, no sleep, you get it.)

sotired

How did my partner respond? (HINT: it wasn’t by blaming me passive aggressively with a spread sheet of entitled anger.) He asked a simple question, over drinks: What’s up with our sex life? And I’m not saying that was an easy conversation, but we kept drinking and throwing out ideas, we laughed a lot, and we were willing and honest. We didn’t yell, or blame each other, we didn’t take ourselves to seriously and we never for one moment assumed that it should be easier. It meant a great deal to me that he was able to be vulnerable about how he was feeling, and that he wanted to work together to keep this part of our relationship vital. That conversation was the first big one we had about sex, but it wasn’t the last, and we will need to keep talking and laughing over drinks from time to time so we can keep the spark alive. And hopefully we won’t only check in when things get rough, because even when things are good there is room for improvement (*wink*), and when times are good the pressure is off. It shouldn’t feel like torture. Communication can even be sexy! Take a deep breath, retain your sense of humor, and remember that you’re on the same team.

highfive

It’s true there should be magic, but the magic can’t be taken for granted. You need to work to maintain it. And nothing kills the magic like taking your partners body for granted, or feeling like they ‘owe’ you more than they’re giving. Sexual pleasure isn’t a right you automatically have in a relationship. It’s a gift that partners give to one another, through practice and empathy and consideration and enthusiasm and vulnerability and creativity and collaboration. If you aren’t getting it, you might wanna reflect on whether or not you are giving it.

beyass

peaches
it takes effort. nick names. lingerie. whatever works for you, plus enthusiasm. get ’em Bey.

Street Harassment: Biking Edition

I’m pretty rattled about this incident, so bear with me.

I was coming north on Ave B, just passing the Williamsburg bridge. A fellow cyclist went ahead of me in the bike lane. For about a block we did this awkward thing where we were sort of going the same speed, but then he’d slow down and I’d go outside to pass him, but then he’d speed up again so I’d back off. This happened 3 or 4 times. At the intersection I made a move to pass him and he yelled at me ‘Watch it, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?!’ I hadn’t passed him closely at all, everyone had plenty of safe space. Now we were sort of next to one another so I said ‘I’m just trying to maintain my speed.’ He replied ‘Why the fuck are you trying to pass me?’ This sounded arrogant and completely illogical and I was starting to feel angry so I said ‘Just mind your own fucking business and keep your eyes on the road.’ I tried to speed up. He sped up next to me and unleashed a torrent of hateful language. I remember fucking bitch and who the fuck do you think you are and something about what a slut I was for biking around in a skirt and how I should cover up my filthy cunt. I tried to slow down to let him go ahead, but he slowed down and wouldn’t proceed without me. He even insulted my bike, and her fucking sparkles.

sparkle
this is my sparkly bike, sparkle pony.

I was starting to feel threatened, and unsafe. His tone was not joking, he was purposely staying with me, and he’d noticed my totally noticeable and not at all commonplace bike, which he could certainly see again in the future and remember. I wondered if I should try and get my phone to take a picture, but my phone wasn’t accessible and I’m always at yelling people holding their phones while riding. I wished I could magically manifest some of the cards this dope chick has been making, so I could throw up a whole handful and make it rain on him and hopefully distract him long enough to pedal to safety.  As we were approaching Houston Street I sped up like I was going to fly through the intersection, and so did he. Just before getting 1/2 way across I abruptly stopped, which PS was probably super dangerous, and I turned my bike to head east towards Ave C. He was ahead of me and didn’t see me right away so he was through the intersection and he didn’t turn around. His rants faded as I pedaled east, looking behind me every few minutes and hoping he didn’t turn east ahead of me to meet back up. He didn’t.

this is my awesome dad, ken dill, instilling a love of bikes in me at a tender young age
this is my awesome dad, ken dill, instilling a love of bikes in me at a tender young age

So, what is it, I wondered, that set him off? I pedaled all the way home, unsteady, turning over in my head what had occurred. Was it that I deigned to pass him? Because dudes are always stronger and faster than girls? Does he have something against lady riders in general? Too much freedom and autonomy? Too much joy? Too much leg? I couldn’t figure it out.

house-of-cards-but-why

But it doesn’t matter. Not one bit. Because I’m allowed to ride a bike. It’s fun, it’s economical, and it’s good for the environment. And I’m allowed to bike in dresses. If my thighs offend you, look at something else. And I’m allowed to pass you. I’m allowed to ride at whatever speed I judge to be appropriate, so long as I am not putting other riders/cars/pedestrians in danger. But isn’t it fascinating how quickly this conversation went from urban cycling to what a bitch/slut/cunt I am? I mean, he could have insulted my riding skills, or continued to claim I wasn’t practicing good bike safety etiquette. He could have just called me a jerk or a butt head. Alas, it was straight to bitch. That ubiquitous insult with no male equivalent (except for bitch, which is insulting because it implies you are acting like a woman.) How quickly he leapt to assume that I was a wanton harlot due to the fact that I had a bike seat between my legs and there was skin visible above my knees.

sparkle with one of her friends, my besties claire bear's bike from back in the day
sparkle with one of her friends, my besties claire bear’s bike from back in the day

Also: if you are reading this and thinking in horror ‘god that dude is an asshole and terrible and I wish things like that never happened’, but you don’t get why women complain about cat calling, please take my hand and allow me to show you the connection. In this case, the original exchange between us was unpleasant, however the scariest moment was when he escalated. It took a turn from a cycling disagreement to what a bitch/slut I was, and then he physically wouldn’t leave. This pattern also happens when the conversation starts with a ‘hey baby’ or ‘damn girl you look good’ etc. You can never tell when an innocuous compliment is going to to turn lewd, vulgar, or aggressive depending on how you do or do not react. This is why ‘compliments’ are not fun to receive, because they feel like ticking time bombs. So spread the word about how it really feels to be cat called or harassed on the street, and don’t do it yourself (unless there is an obvious vibe and eye contact and you’re a grown up I know you can figure it out on your own) and also check out these great folks and their work: SSH & Hollaback!

hollaback

I was coming home with a small token of celebration for my partner last night. Nothing extravagant, just wanted to take a moment to point out an accomplishment I think is pretty cool. And instead I came home upset, shaken, and thoroughly un-joyful. I showered and shook off the encounter. But I will never forget his face, or the feeling in the pit of my stomach, or the fact that our interaction is part of a web of similar interactions between men and the women they harass (#YesAllWomen). These interactions create a ubiquitous feeling of danger in public places. And instead of jumping to protect the right of women to do whatever the fuck they want to the same degree as men, as a culture we say things like ‘well maybe you shouldn’t bike in that skirt‘ and ‘what do you expect when you dress that way‘ and ‘you shouldn’t be going out alone at night‘ and ‘are you sure you didn’t do anything to lead him on‘ and ‘gosh, can’t you just take a compliment.’

no gif

And I said the same thing to myself. You shouldn’t have engaged with him, you shouldn’t have cursed at him. But fuck that. I did what any reasonable person would have done when they were shouted at. I’m not going to stay quiet because you have some ego-maniacle malfunction. Fuck you bro. I am still gonna bike and sing up and down the east side of this island. I’m gonna go to yoga, run errands, meet up with friends and commute to my fucking big girl job. And I’m going to always wear a helmet because fucking safety. More and more women are biking, so you’ll have to get used to us, or relinquish the road. Sparkle and I aren’t going anywhere. And neither are my thighs. Grow up. Shut up. Get a helmet, and while you’re at it try seeing women as actual human beings. Maybe then we can all get where we are going a little more safely.

#YesAllWomen

I wasn’t sure I wanted to share a story to add to the conversation started by yet another terrible act of gun violence. I don’t really want to talk about the tragedy, except to send out my deepest condolences and love to those who lost someone last week. You can read about what happened here, here, here, and my personal favorite, here.

But I do want to talk about the hash tag, and why I think this is one of the most important conversations needed between feminism and the culture at large. I think this issue, the issue of violence against women in our culture, is an issue that every single person should care about. It’s something each of us should try to understand, and fix. Because the fear that women walk around with everyday (and yes, it is indeed all women) is a burden that our culture creates. Out of thin air. And not only do we expect women to carry around this fear, we also expect them to mitigate the violence by dressing appropriately, and watching their drinks, and traveling in groups. We put the onus on them to protect themselves, instead of teaching our boys and men to lead compassionate and non violent lives.

Jennifer-Lawrence-Wait-a-Minute-GIF

Before you start in with the ‘but wait! not all men are like that’, read that paragraph again. I did not claim that all men were violent, or that all men are rapists. I said that women are afraid, and I said that we don’t teach men and boys to have enough compassion. We stunt their emotional growth. This affects everyone differently, the same way that women deal with their internalized fear and shame differently. Not all men are violent, and not all women are victims. But each and everyone one of us is affected by the saturation of gendered violence that the culture perpetuates. (Here are some enlightening stats, facts, and numbers.)

please-listen-to-me

My #YesAllWomen story is not unique. It’s not, in fact, the only personal story I could tell about experiencing gendered aggression or violence. I’m not going to tell it to you because I think it’s particularly special. The reason to tell it is because it is all too typical, because we need to add as many drops as possible to the bucket of our voices, so that people start to understand. I was out one night with friends, mostly guys, at a crappy bar on Bleeker street to which I will never go back. We were all playing beer pong, and when my game was over I went to the bar to get myself a drink. On the way through the crowd and back I was groped a couple of times, but since this is something that happens frequently I pushed my way through the crowd only mildly irritated. Back at the beer pong tables I was approached by a man who began chatting me up. No big deal. The conversation escalated quickly, and he started saying really nasty things to me. Things like ‘Have you ever been with a black guy before?’ (none of your business) and ‘I bet I know just how you’d like it.’ (nope, not true, also not relevant) and ‘I’d like to…’ (not worth repeating.) Not polite conversation for a complete stranger. He asked to dance with me and I tried to demurely deny but he pulled me towards him and began to grind against me. He put his hands all over me, even on my thighs under my dress. I tried to make eye contact with my friends, but I wasn’t able to non-verbally convey that I was completely uncomfortable and intimidated. Finally I stepped back and excused myself to the bathroom. He’d been asking for my number, saying he wanted to take me and my friends out to clubs he promoted, bottle service, blah blah ew. He asked for my number again, and when I said ‘I don’t think so, not tonight.’ he spit one final word at me as I turned away. ‘Bitch.’

shockedgif

So then I went to the bathroom and cried. I was angry, and ashamed. I knew that he was a jerk, but I also felt that I should have stopped him. I should have been more aggressive, and talked back. I should have known better. I mean, I’ve done the reading! I’ve done the writing! I’m a bona-fide self proclaimed feminist! How could I let him treat me this way? Why did I get this drunk? Why did I wear this dress? Why did I let him say those things, and touch me like that? Why was I letting him make me feel so worthless?

whygif

I tried in vain to get my friends to leave with me. They were also pretty drunk, and still playing beer pong and having fun, and again they couldn’t understand what had happened. I left the bar and walked home alone (dangerous) and crying (pathetic.) To their credit, the next morning my friends asked what had happened. In the light of day we had a conversation about men and masculinity, about hitting on girls in bars, about crossing the line, about why I’d needed them to come with me. I’ll always be grateful that they cared enough to ask, even if they hadn’t been able to understand in the moment.

THANKYOU

So that’s it. My story happens hundreds of times a night. That guy, whoever he was, he is a scum bag, but he’s not importantly or uncommonly scummy. Every woman I know has a story about being cat called, hit on, or groped, only to be insulted once they rebuffed the man’s advances. It’s a particularly hateful and breath-taking bait and switch, and it reveals the person for what they truly were all along: a person who doesn’t respect you or deserve your body or your attention for a single second longer. Wanting control over your own body, or simply not being attracted to someone, does not make any of us worthless. It doesn’t make us bitches or sluts. You don’t owe anyone gratitude or sex. But sometimes, the voice inside me that knows that this is true is drowned out by the overwhelming messages of misogyny and violence that I absorb on the streets everyday.

shessomeone

The thing about this conversation is that it isn’t about this kid who had guns. His viewpoints really aren’t that extreme, and you can see that if you care to explore the heinous online communities he was apart of. The important thing to remember is that every woman you know walks around wondering if the next guy they don’t smile at when prompted, the next guy at a bar they ask not to touch them, the next stranger on the street or the next date they decide they don’t want to sleep with, will hurt them. Will take what they feel entitled to. And so we don’t always speak up, we don’t fight back. We try to protect ourselves and avoid the violence all around us, and no one suggests that maybe we should try to heal some wounds and take steps to teach empathy and respect so that violence isn’t an option.

NoMorePSACampaign-FrontPageBanner

And one last thing. If you’re first reaction to these stories and tweets is to go on the defensive, to quickly mention that some guys are great and innocent and respectful, then I’d ask you to stop for one moment, take a breath, and listen. It’s not about the fact that not all men rape or hit. It’s about allowing women the space to express themselves regarding a phenomenon that affects us, it’s about remembering that even if you are not violent or if you’ve never had this type of experience, it doesn’t negate the overwhelmingly universal experiences of others. Sadly, I think that the issue of violence against women is a thread that connects womankind, across race and class and sexuality and nations, in a way that other feminist issues do not. If you already know how to treat the people around you with respect and consideration, then this conversation isn’t about you. And the best way you can help is to listen, and to speak up when you see or hear people expressing misogyny in any way. Use your knowledge, use your voice, to enlighten others. The more voices, the more drops in that bucket, then the more folks will be able to see that the bucket is really an ocean, and that ocean is an ocean of tears, and that we are all affected by and responsible for it’s depth and breadth.

Female Privilege: It’s actually Patriarchy, You’re confused, Go Home.

Here is an article making its way through my newsfeed called 18 Things Females Seem Not to Understand (Because, Female Priviledge.)

Confused_Mr._shue

Really_seriously_WHAT

bunch of malarky

In fact, that’s such a huge bunch of malarky I brought ole’ Joe back to point it out. Here is the really really misinformed and stupid list, with my rebuttals in italics. Please note, this is not rocket science, its patriarchy.

1. Female privilege is being able to walk down the street at night without people crossing the street because they’re automatically afraid of you. Male privilege is being able to go wherever you want whenever you want without the fear of sexual assault. It’s being able to walk up to your door late at night casually, without turning down your music and having your keys ready and looking over your shoulder to be sure you aren’t being followed. (1/6 of women nationwide will experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. An assault will occur every 2 minutes.)

2. Female privilege is being able to approach someone and ask them out without being labeled “creepy.” Male privilege is being able to walk down the street without being bombarded with comments on your appearance as a reminder that your body is not your own. It’s being able to enjoy an adult beverage without worrying about being groped or hit on constantly. 

3. Female privilege is being able to get drunk and have sex without being considered a rapist. Female privilege is being able to engage in the same action as another person but be considered the innocent party by default. Male privilege is being able express yourself sexually without fear of being called a slut. It’s being able to let your guard down with friends/strangers without fearing assault or date rape. And that article you link doesn’t mean what you think it means…

4. Female privilege is being able to turn on the TV and see yourself represented in a positive way. Female privilege is shows like King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond where women are portrayed as attractive, competent people while men are shown as ugly, lazy slobs. Male privilege is living in a world where men are heroes, actors, adventurers and villains. It’s a world where you aren’t constantly represented as the sidekick or in need of rescuing, or hyper sexualized.  PS The examples listed are definitely harmful, because patriarchal ideas/images are also harmful to men.

5. Female privilege is the idea that women and children should be the first rescued from any sort of emergency situation. Female privilege is saving yourself before you save others and not being viewed as a monster. Um, children should be rescued first. But without valid stats I refuse to believe that this is a valid concern in this century unless you’re watching Titanic.

6. Female privilege is being able to decide not to have a child. Male privilege is never having to worry about unwanted pregnancy. It’s never having to bear and give birth to a baby, wanted or unwanted. It’s being able to walk away. 

7. Female privilege is not having to support a child financially for 18 years when you didn’t want to have it in the first place. If a man is paying child support, a woman is actually caring for the child. Being a single parent is not a privilege. Also see #6.

8. Female privilege is never being told to “take it like a man” or “man up.” This is patriarchy working against men, but while we are on the subject of name calling: male privilege is never being called a bitch, slut, cunt or whore for any number of actions including but not limited too looking sexy, not looking sexy enough, wanting sex, not wanting sex, walking down the street, existing in public spaces, not speaking, speaking, riding a bike, having a drink, accepting a drink, not accepting a drink, breathing. 

9. Female privilege is knowing that people would take it as a gravely serious issue if someone raped you. Female privilege is being able to laugh at a “prison rape” joke. No one should laugh at prison rape jokes and if they do they’re not nice. Also, every compassionate person I know takes rape seriously regardless of who the victim is. Also plenty of people don’t take rape seriously for men or women, because those people are ignorant and heartless.

10. Female privilege is being able to divorce your spouse when your marriage is no longer working because you know you will most likely be granted custody of your children. The burden of childcare should be given to whomever is most capable. Any imbalance is evidence of a faulty justice system. 

11. Female privilege is being able to call the police in a domestic dispute knowing they will take your side. Female privilege is not having your gender work against where police are involved. Male privilege is being 60% less likely to be the victim of domestic violence. Oh, and the police have been known to ask questions such as ‘Why’d you lead him on?’ and ‘What’d you do to provoke him.’

12. Female privilege is being able to be caring or empathetic without people being surprised. Please be more caring and empathetic. Not having to be caring or empathetic is actually a male privilege, and it sucks for EVERYONE.

13. Female privilege is not having to take your career seriously because you can depend on marrying someone who makes more money than you do. Female privilege is being able to be a “stay at home mom” and not seem like a loser. Um, seriously? Male privilege is not having to worry, ever, about balancing the needs of your career with the needs of your home. It’s not feeling pressure to be awesome at your job and a super mom. It’s not having to deal with the ‘to Lean In or Not Lean In’ debate. Dependence is not a privilege. PS Stay at home dads are awesome. 

14. Female privilege is being able to cry your way out of a speeding ticket. You got me. Crying my way out of a ticket totally makes up for centuries of second class citizen-ship, sexual slavery and forced marriage, an ongoing sexual violence epidemic, and the fact that women on this very day in 2014 still make 77c on the dollar of men

15. Female privilege is being favored by teachers in elementary, middle and high school. Female privilege is graduating high school more often, being accepted to more colleges, and generally being encouraged and supported along the way. Since you have no stats to back this up, I’m assuming this is based on personal experience. I’m sorry if you felt this way, but I can assure you there is not a conspiracy among educators to favor girls (although there is a very real achievement gap, it’s not along gender lines.) 

16. Female privilege being able to have an opinion without someone tell you you’re just “a butthurt fedora-wearing neckbeard who can’t get any.” Yea that does seem hurtful. So do words like bitch, slut, cunt and whore, which are plastered all over the comments on any female opinion disseminated on the web. 

17. Female privilege is being able to talk about sexism without appearing self-serving. Actually, when women talk about sexism it’s a matter of survival. 

18. Female privilege is arrogantly believing that sexism only applies to women. Sexism obviously doesn’t only apply to women and no educated person I know would claim that. However, it is not applied equally. The patriarchy is hurtful to people of all genders and all sexualities, and the work of feminism is to defeat the patriarchy and thus free us all from it’s dangerous confines. This article is proof of rampant misunderstanding and a heartbreaking lack of empathy. 

togetherGIF

Patriarchy is damaging to us all, and this article is a weird and twisted expression of that. However, when men are adversely affected by patriarchal rules and standards, that does not equate to women having ‘privileges.’ This dude is in serious need of some Miss Representation education, in the form of this upcoming documentary ‘The Mask You Live In.‘ The more that articles like this circulate, the more the pernicious and disgusting rumor that men and women are enemies will flourish. We are not from separate planets, we are not opposites, we are not natural adversaries. We are all caught in a system with inequality at it’s core, and we should all fight to unravel the rules and regulations that limit our growth and potential.

DonCries

PS It’s important to remember and acknowledge that while we are all constrained by patriarchy, historically speaking, the rules for men have been more fun and placed them in positions of power. Same goes for white and heterosexual privilege. Acknowledging our own privilege, and being aware of how different privileges mutate and overlap is wildly important, and soul searching is required. It requires a lot more nuance that our Thought Catalog author showed himself capable of, but fear not! Mad Men is actually a really excellent place to watch nuanced characters deal with the privileges and constraints of patriarchy, and it’s available now on Netflix. Watch, enjoy, discuss gender issues, and look out for my forth coming blog-recap of Season 7, which premieres this Sunday.

 

Cat Called On My Way Home From H&R Block: why this didn’t cheer me up

Friends, it’s been a rough couple days.

cryGIF

Sometimes, you know, life (especially in this city) is a contact sport, complete with tears and bruises and existential crises that cause you to questions your life path and purpose.

ouch.
ouch.

For me, the final blow came last night in the form of some minor tax drama. It’s all going to be ok, the IRS isn’t upset with me and life will go on. But walking home, I was very frustrated and upset. In fact, if we’re being honest (and I’d like to think that we are) I was holding back tears.

areyoucryingGIF

As I turned onto my quiet street, I was fuming and just counting the seconds until I could get into my building and cry it out in private. And I was walking in the street because sometimes that feels better than the sidewalk (anyone?) and a guy on a bike rode past. And he said ‘Hey girl, what’s good? I can turn that frown upside down.’

clooneyeyeroll

I mumbled ‘fuck off’ under my breath and kept walking. But now I wasn’t exactly able to keep from crying because on top of my own grown up issues, I had just been objectified and harassed on my own fucking street.

Let me be clear about something: I like compliments. It isn’t always easy to accept them gracefully, but sincere compliments (especially from people whose opinion I value) are totally lovely. And you know what, when I put in the extra effort to get my lip stick just right and brush my hair and put together a super cute outfit, I appreciate a little reinforcement. But when a stranger on the street makes a comment like this, it is not a compliment.

streetharrassmentstats
from stopstreetharassment.org

Men make these kinds of remarks to women on the street because our culture teaches us that women’s bodies are not their own. It  teaches us that we have the authority to make judgments about their appearance, that we have the right to vocalize those judgments, and that we can use their appearance to make reasonable deductions about their personalities (note*: this is connected to rape culture and the idea that rape victims who dress sexy were asking for it.) All people have thoughts  in their heads about other people, but it is women who have thoughts vocalized at them the most. Because the culture allows for that. And from there, it’s a hop skip and a jump to folks thinking that, since our bodies aren’t our own, they have a right to touch us and/or react aggressively when we don’t respond with gratitude. Because in a culture that teaches women that their intrinsic value is directly and inextricably linked to their appearance, we all must just be salivating for proof that we are beautiful, and grateful when we receive that validation.

bunch of malarky

But feeling like my body is not my own is not a compliment. Especially when I know how often ‘Girl you’re fine’ quickly takes a turn towards ‘You’re a bitch/slut/whore!’ when I do not react or do not react positively (or when your body isn’t what your harassers assumed.) People who think you are an object they can comment on freely can’t possibly treat your with the full amount of respect that a human deserves. And in my case, last night, that guy was not interested in any of the possible reasons why I was upset. He saw me as a thing. Because without some extended experience with tax laws and financial experience, it is not at all true that he’d be able to ‘turn my frown upside down.’ But no matter, a sexual object doesn’t have a real life or other needs, so in his mind all I needed was some dick.

Ew

Sorry to take it there. But if that offended you, then you should ask some ladies in your life the kind of filth that’s gotten hurled at them in public. My incident last night was relatively tame, and since I kept quiet and kept walking it did not escalate. And it can escalate, drastically. We live in a world where women walk fast with their eyes down and sometimes cross the street to avoid large groups of men-folk because public space isn’t as safe for us. And this is not the same situation as a legit flirtation, with eye contact and a sly smile and reciprocated interest, so please don’t complain about never being able to express your attraction in public. Be a grown up, it’s not that hard to figure out when someone is also into you and open to a conversation.

Grow_up

If you want to read more about how this makes women feel, Google it. There are lots of brilliantly written pieces and organizations like Hollaback! attempting to tackle this very real safety concern. If you are a male-bodied person and still confused, ask a sister or a mom or a girl friend how she feels walking home alone at night. I’ll bet she thinks about turning her music down and glancing behind her and making sure her keys are ready. If that sounds weird, it’s because it is. Women walk around with a heightened sense of caution, a knowledge that some people see us without respecting or empathizing with our humanity. It sucks to think that a whole portion of the population sees me, and women in general, as nothing more than a vessel for their fantasies and an object to satisfy their desires. Last night was already going to be a drag, but that small reminder that I must always remain vigilant was the last straw. I was tired, I was frustrated, and I was unable to keep it together.* I cried, I poured myself a strong drink, and for the rest of the night I distracted myself with my contempt for the show Glee (this whole Funny Girl storyline is the WORST!) If you are a male bodied person and you’ve never felt this kind of tiredness, if you’ve never felt this kind of vigilance necessary, ponder on your privilege. And if you’ve ever been street harassed and would like to share your experience, please comment. Sharing is caring. Let’s take care of each other.

bekindGIF

*Shout out to Pepper, who let me cry about my taxes etc and then watched me yell at the TV without complaint. ❤

SVU: getting wise in it’s old age

Lesson #1: Mariska Hargitay is a goddess.

mariska

In addition to being effervescent and flawless, she is also an outspoken activist against sexual violence in real life, creating The Joyful Heart foundation and appearing in ads for the No More organization:

mariskanomore

SVU has been raising awareness about sexual violence and rape for 15 freakin’ seasons. And while I may never get over the abrupt exit of Detective Stabler (SERIOUSLY CHRIS MAOLNI WTF?! WE NEED SOME CLOSURE!) the show has continued to grow and evolve. We said goodbye to a some of the shows most beloved characters this season (I will always love you Dan Floreck), and Olivia got the bump up to Sargent. And episode #14, Comis Perversion, employees one of Law & Order’s favorite tactics: a story ripped from the real world headlines.

toshGIF

This is Daniel Tosh, he has a show on E!, and he’s a comic. He got in hot water awhile ago for making a rape joke. It was a bad rape joke. To be clear, I don’t think that rape is always off the table for a comedy show. Here is a rape joke I find quite hilarious, smart, and on point, from Louis CK:

Ok so let’s put aside the issues of comedy and free speech. Feminists aren’t humorless bitches who want to take away an artists right to explore whatever topics he wants. But I kinda think comedy should be funny and healing, and making the victims of a violent crime the butt of your jokes isn’t funny. At least not to anyone with a single empathetic bone in their body. But you can say whatever the hell you want. That issue isn’t what got to me about this episode.

These are the main players in the scenario, the comic (who does in fact turn out to be a rapist) and his college student victim:

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

The show does a great job of showing how our culture functions to discredit rape victims. In this case, the girl had been drinking heavily. She flirted with her assailant and even went back to his hotel room and drank champagne. At that point she blacked out and when she regained consciousness he was raping her. She never denied being intoxicated or interacting with him previous to the attack. Despite the fact that she was honest about these details, the defense uses them against her to paint her and her allegations a bright shade of red with a very important underlying philosophy: sluts deserve to get raped.

timgunnGIF

Let me put this in some really simple language: Flirting is not consent. Accepting drinks is not consent. Going with someone to where the live/sleep is not consent. So basically, she can in fact get drunk and flirt and go home with you and then say no. In this case, it’s likely she passed out, in which case it was absolutely un-consensual because an unconscious person cannot give consent. And any person at any time can say ‘No.’ It doesn’t matter if its a male or female bodied person, it doesn’t matter if it’s a first time sexual encounter or if partners are in a relationship. It doesn’t matter if that’s frustrating or hard to understand.

deal with it.
deal with it.

Now look. I don’t think it’s a good idea to get super wasted and go to new places with strangers. It’s playing with fire and it’s immature. I wish we lived in a world where people were more open about their sexual desires and more forth right when discussing sex and consent. I wish college kids in particular would be more careful, and indeed feel more free to experiment and play without needing to get wasted. Also, shit happens, and I do not think that all drunk sex = rape. But. The statistics that link binge drinking to rape should not lead you to think ‘Oh, girls who drink should know better.’ The appropriate reaction is ‘Oh, predators are using alcohol to pick on already impaired victims and create a built in defense for their crime. What assholes!’

And with all this talk about consent, how to we define it? When I Googled ‘sexual consent definition’ I got a lot of articles seeking to define sexual assault as an act without consent, but consent itself was not immediately defined on clear terms. I did find a great article from Safer Campus.org that attempts to define consent using examples from various university policy statements, but that same article makes the excellent point that lots of universities use the term consent in their policies without attempting to define it at all. There’s also the ubiquitous portrayal of women who at first say no, but are then coaxed into a sexual encounter. This is often a scenario in romantic comedies. But coercion is not romantic, and women are not all playing hard to get because it’s just so much more fun to ‘get convinced.’ (Although that isn’t entirely uncommon because in our culture women are supposed to be sexually available but also not want sex too much or we risk the slut label so all of this can be linked back to that over arching villain: patriarchy.)

chelseaeyeroll

I personally love the idea of enthusiastic consent. This article from Persephone magazine says “The idea of enthusiastic consent is quite simple. In a nutshell, it advocates for enthusiastic agreement to sexual activity, rather than passive agreement.” Word on the street is that some people think communication is ‘too much work’, or ‘breaks the mood.’ Sex shouldn’t be easy (not if you’re doing it right) and if talking breaks the mood you should get some tips on dirty talk and how to make consent/communication sexy.

consentishot enthusiasticyesenthusiasticconsent

This episode did a fantastic job of forcing us all to put ourselves in the seats of the jurors. When the opposing counsel was describing how the victim was drunk, how she’d flirted, I was shaking my head and thinking ‘Come on guys, don’t do that.’ And part of me stands by the advice that people, especially college aged people and especially college aged women should be way more careful about how much they drink. But that advice comes up short as a solution to the sexual assault epidemic, because we should all be equally worried about personal safety and women shouldn’t be burdened with the added worry of sexual assault when it comes to how much they drink or where they go. The threat of sexual assault does indeed police the lives of women, 24/7 and from a disturbingly young age. It’s unfair. And transgressing those rules of where to be and who to be with and how to act do NOT mean that a victim deserves or was asking for a violent act to be committed against them. As I’ve said before, the only people responsible rape are rapists, and the only advice we can offer to prevent more rapes is ‘Don’t rape anybody.’