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Ugh

thinky tim
Here's what I read today at work before going to do a C.O.R.E. presentation.

According to a court in Maryland, a woman cannot withdraw consent to sex once it has begun.

Because, apparently, once a man sticks his penis in you, you lose all say over what happens to your own body. I guess this isn't terribly surprising, though, since that's the common conservative position on abortion - if you consented to have sex, then you lose the ability to decide what happens to your body if you get pregnant. It doesn't matter if the pregnancy is inconvenient, painful, damaging to your body, or even life-threatening. And now, apparently, it doesn't matter if sex does the same thing. You said 'yes' at one point, after all.

Does anyone else have an image of a three year-old whining, "No take-backs!"?

But wait, there's more! The court graciously explained the basis for this ruling, which was a law that states that raping a woman "de-flowers" her and is thus a loss for the man who owns her.

Maryland court in less than 50 words: You're not allowed to control your body once a man penetrates you. But that's okay, because your only worth is being a pristine virgin for the man who actually controls you anyway.

More here, here, and here.

You know, contrary to popular belief, I don't hate men because I'm a feminist. But I do hold a scathing contempt for a large number of them, namely the ones who are too selfish, lazy, stupid, or cruel to own up to their privilege. Particularly the ones who purport to be intelligent or even enlightened, and have the tools for education staring them in the face. I include judges in this category.


And, like I said, I went to do a C.O.R.E. presentation almost right after reading about this. This made me feel both good (because I'm doing something, however small, to fight rape culture) and bad (because it makes me confront on a regular basis how much the general public buys into rape myths).

Luckily, tonight's presentation was at a sorority. Now, sororities and fraternities both engage in a lot of the same victim-blaming and gender stereotyping, just as men and women in general do. However, there is a different quality to the groups - in sororities, victim-blaming is generally motivated by fear, the fear that nearly every woman feels about her potential to be a victim of sexual assault, a fear that is schooled into us all throughout our lives. So when audience members in sororities spout the usual, "women who dress like that know what they're asking for," or "women put themselves in situations that can lead to rape," what they're really saying is: "Women who get raped are bad/stupid/slutty women who do this. I'm not a bad/stupid/slutty woman, so I don't have to be (as) scared of being raped." It's still shitty, but at least it makes me irritated instead of angry and outright frightened.

In fraternities, the same statements are said with a different tone, one of disapproval, dismissal, even contempt. The motivation here isn't fear for themselves - just like in sororities, they think of rape as something that happens to women, by men. They view themselves as part of a group that escapes this fear. What they don't like to admit is that the reason they get to escape the fear is that members of their group (men) rape women. Often, and largely without punishment. This avoidance leads them to push the responsibility onto women - for how they dress, for getting drunk, for being attractive - all the while ignoring the simple fact that the decision to rape is made by the rapist, and the rapist alone.

Now, men don't want to be viewed as rapists. Good, anti-sexist men don't want to be viewed as rapists. Also, men who do rape, or at least engage in coercive sexual behavior, don't want to be viewed as rapists. But it's like the guys who will get indignant when you display distrust of them (not being alone with them, not getting into their car) because, 'I'm not a rapist!' But then they'll go and say that it's a woman's responsibility to protect herself from rape by being suspicious of all men. So even though the men I present to don't want to be labelled as rapists, most of them don't do a damned thing to fight the rape culture that stereotypes (fraternity) men as rapists, to repudiate the fear-driven advantage unfairly given to them - not even during my presentations, when they have the context and the information and the encouragement to do so. They either continue to espouse rape myths, or they sit back silently and let others do the speaking for them.

Many of the men I've presented to don't have the courage or decency to speak up for women. There are many reasons for this. First, this would involve speaking against the members of their gender who cause women's fear of rape. Everyone will be quick to condemn the random stranger who jumps out and grabs an innocent woman - but few will speak against the guy who shares their age and social status who commits date rape, instead falling back on the myth of false rape accusations to show their solidarity. Also, speaking against rape culture would mean opposing the idea that sex is something for men - men get to have sex without fear of the slut stigma (and being a slut means that no one cares if you get raped), men get to think of sex as something that is for their pleasure/ends with their pleasure instead of worrying about pain, men get to have sex that results in pregnancy without being forced to deal with it. Also, men have a right to sex - whether it's from their wives and partners, or from the girl they're on a date with who acts flirty or gets them so turned on they 'can't help themselves.' Even without being rapists, men benefit from this state of affairs, because it deflects the accountability, guilt, shame, and fear from them and onto women. Even men who do not want these privileges can't fully escape from them - though they can at least vocally repudiate them.

What's worst of all is when you can tell that a man actively relies on these privileges - like the guy last week who dismissed the idea that violent, conquering language for sex ('scored,' 'nailed,' 'banged') didn't matter because "sex is violent, so what?" (Said with a mixture of casual contempt and nervousness, because, after all, he didn't give a shit what we were trying to tell him - but it was still hard for him to tell us two women, to our faces, that he essentially didn't care about our sexual autonomy.) I've presented to men of whom I could not say with any confidence, "He has not raped, or will not rape, a woman." Not because I think they want to rape, or be a rapist, or that they would even realize if they committed rape; but because they willfully hold on to their ignorance about sex, about consent, about men's and women's responsibility. As a result, even if they engage in coercive sexual behaviors, they will get to look at the way the world works - what it says about what sex is, what is acceptable sex, and who gets the responsibility for coerced sex - and they won't have to consider their actions 'rape' and therefore stop themselves.

Obviously, I am feeling cynical tonight. But the thing is, this wasn't any grand epiphany. This isn't any different from the things I know to be true on a 'good' day. It's just that, usually, I can focus on the men I know personally, who more or less avoid this behavior, and ignore the teeming masses of men who just don't care. It's harder when I'm down in the trenches and facing the ignorance head-on.

I feel an obligation here to do the standard, 'of course there are good men who are so wonderful and would never rape' disclaimer. But you know what? I'm tired of it. Not being a rapist shouldn't win you any prizes. It means that you're a decent man - not some specially generous or courageous or noble hero. It means you don't treat your sex drive as more important than a woman's control over her own body. This should be the default minimum ethical standard. Men shouldn't have praises heaped upon them for this - men should feel shame if they don't live up to this. Why is that so hard for us to remember?

Oh, and did I mention that I have a presentation tomorrow at a fraternity?

Comments

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
jennifergearing
Nov. 2nd, 2006 01:21 pm (UTC)
I feel an obligation here to do the standard, 'of course there are good men who are so wonderful and would never rape' disclaimer. But you know what? I'm tired of it. Not being a rapist shouldn't win you any prizes. It means that you're a decent man - not some specially generous or courageous or noble hero.

Just ... that whole paragraph? YES. Thankyou.

*vibes for tomorrow*
sigelphoenix
Nov. 2nd, 2006 05:11 pm (UTC)
Heh, yeah, it was kind of ... relieving to just say that.

Thanks for the vibes. :D
jennifergearing
Nov. 2nd, 2006 05:44 pm (UTC)
Welcome. D'you mind if I link this in next week's round-up?
sigelphoenix
Nov. 3rd, 2006 01:18 am (UTC)
Certainly not! I first heard about this through your previous link post, actually. (Though I avoided reading the posts for a few days because I knew they would set me off.)
jennifergearing
Nov. 3rd, 2006 01:30 am (UTC)
Heh, I understand that, certainly. There are some days I just avoid the blogosphere because it will just make me angry and/or despairing.
donnaidh_sidhe
May. 30th, 2007 06:51 am (UTC)
Yeah, agreed. What's worse is that everyone would think it's absurd to go about telling people. "Thank you for not being a murderer/thief/arsonist. That's awesome. You rock."
sigelphoenix
May. 31st, 2007 12:55 am (UTC)
No kidding. I always stop myself when I feel the need to thank the men around me for not being sexist, and try to say something more like, "Hey, you're a decent human being, and that's so rare it surprises me. More people should be like you because it's not that hard."
maymargaret
Nov. 2nd, 2006 04:40 pm (UTC)
Thankyou for posting this. As much as it makes me want to hide under the bed and never come out I'm glad I saw it. Now I have to think about it.
sigelphoenix
Nov. 2nd, 2006 05:13 pm (UTC)
As much as it makes me want to hide under the bed and never come out

I'm with you there. :P

And you're welcome. That court ruling is definitely one that people need to be aware of.
rivendellrose
Nov. 2nd, 2006 05:21 pm (UTC)
....It's still early, so I'm forgiving myself for my main reaction being "The who with the what, now?"

I'm sorry, I must've missed something - when did we slip back into the 19th century? Oh, and also, I know this whole thing has to be traced back to the self-defeating attitude that once things start, men can't control themselves, and it's exactly that kind of attitude that encourages situations of date- and acquaintance rape. Way to go, court system, for not giving men the credit to control their own damned behavior.

Note to self: Never go to Maryland. On second thought, seriously consider never leaving house again. The world is rapidly becoming too stupid on too many levels for me to deal with it.
jennifergearing
Nov. 2nd, 2006 05:42 pm (UTC)
Personally, I love the bit where it's based on the notion that the penetration is important, because that's what devalues the woman-property, because rape is about the de-flowering. Anything after penetration is just regular assault.

*twitch*
rivendellrose
Nov. 2nd, 2006 06:01 pm (UTC)
Yeah. That just... I can't even comment on that bit, aside from to say that I'd really like to see these judges wasted over such an asinine and insulting remark. I cannot begin to imagine what the hell possessed them to think a statement like that was okay.

...Okay, thinking of the current political climate in right-wing spheres, I guess I can imagine. But it makes me sick to think that it's really gotten this bad.
sigelphoenix
Nov. 3rd, 2006 01:20 am (UTC)
A commenter (I think on Happy's post) suggested that the court was doing the decision this way to raise awareness about this antiquated law and get it changed (and, hopefully, the ruling overturned). Not being versed in legalese myself, I don't know how likely this is, or if this was the best route for the court to take.
jennifergearing
Nov. 3rd, 2006 01:27 am (UTC)
Yeah, I saw that. And I do kinda get it, but it's just, I can't help responding with "well that's lovely for the real girl who was raped, isn't it?" This using fucked up decisions to push legislature is a nice idea when you forget that case decisions are actually about real people. *sigh*
sigelphoenix
Nov. 3rd, 2006 07:16 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah. This is definitely a thought that occurs to me when, say, I'm sitting in my philosophy class and we're all civilly debating international justice. It's like, yes, of course I understand the need to look at this academically ... but we end up calmly discussing policies that determine whether people live or die. :/

I wish I knew more about the court system, and whether it was possible for them to just say, "Look, here's what the law says, but it sucks so we're not going to base our ruling on it." That way I'd know whether they did the best they could or not.
sigelphoenix
Nov. 3rd, 2006 01:17 am (UTC)
Way to go, court system, for not giving men the credit to control their own damned behavior.

Precisely. I've heard it said a lot that feminists actually like men more than anti-feminists, because we don't think of them as too hormonally-driven to control their penis, or too stupid to understand sexism, etc. Anti-feminists would have us believe that men are irredeemable ravening sex-beasts who revert to animalistic violence at the drop of a hat, and can never be changed.
rivendellrose
Nov. 3rd, 2006 02:27 am (UTC)
I've heard it said a lot that feminists actually like men more than anti-feminists, because we don't think of them as too hormonally-driven to control their penis, or too stupid to understand sexism, etc.

The number of things non-feminist women accuse men of makes me wonder how the hell men could possibly side with them. They can't control their hormones, they're only capable of thinking with their penises, they can't possibly be good parents, they can't have emotions, they can't do this, that, or the other thing. Bullshit. That's our culture not letting men realize that they can be good parents, control their sex drives just like women are expected to, etc. The only reason it doesn't piss all men off is that it gives the bad ones free license to do whatever they damned well please because "boys will be boys."
jpegasus
Nov. 2nd, 2006 09:27 pm (UTC)
It's so very, very hard not to just hate everyone ><

I think it's the stubbornly clinging to ignorance that makes me the most angry and sad. I mean, it's an understandable impulse -- I'm sure for a lot of these boys who have bought into the whole american sex culture myth, it's a scary thought -- being responsible. Because, you don't know, what if one time you honestly couldn't stop? I'm sure that sounds plausible to them. They've been told that sort of thing happens to boys, is EXPECTED of boys -- the sex starts happening and they just couldn't stop.

And it's scary to think that you could be labeled a rapist, in an instance like that. Rapist is a big scary, bad thing, see. And it wouldn't be their fault! They didn't know! They COULDN'T STOP.

With that sort of mindset, I can see how they would hold onto that "I didn't know that made it rape" idea as long as possible -- it's their parachute. Covering the ass and their bases. It hasn't yet occurred to them that, no, actually, you COULD stop. You'd just have to actually do it. But you could. If you really wanted to.

Perhaps that's the problem

I don't hate boys either. But man, the world sure is trying lately.
sigelphoenix
Nov. 3rd, 2006 01:23 am (UTC)
I know. >_<

Yeah, exactly. I can't really blame people for being raised and socialized into ignorance about privilege - I can get annoyed, maybe, but I won't condemn anyone for that basic fact. It's only when education is staring you in the face and guys try to brush it off or deny it - or, worse, say that they don't care. Then I want to kill things.

I think you paint a frighteningly accurate picture of the common understanding men have of their self-control. :/ One of my favorite rejoinders is the whole, "What would you do if your grandma walked in on you having sex? Would you be able to stop then? Or would you just keep going because you have 'no control' over yourself?"

The world has succeeded in making me lower my expectations for the general male population. I won't say "sexist until proven innocent," but I certainly won't count on random men to be non-sexist.
karenhealey
Nov. 3rd, 2006 12:03 pm (UTC)
This was a fantastic post. Thank you.
sigelphoenix
Nov. 3rd, 2006 07:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :)
amazon_syren
Feb. 19th, 2007 09:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Maryland: <*shudders*> Guh... I live in Canada, and I am *really* happy that I do. Period.

Re: The rest of your post: Madame, you put that more eloquently than I could have (definitely more eloquently than I did at 1am a few months ago while trying to explain the same thing to my husband).

I am linking and hoping that others will follow the link and go "Hey... yeah..." and smarten up. :-)
sigelphoenix
Feb. 19th, 2007 10:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the kind words! I hope this is useful to you and whomever else you share this with.
amazon_syren
Feb. 21st, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC)
I have a question for you: What is C.O.R.E.? I tried to google it, and came up empty. Help? :-)
sigelphoenix
Feb. 21st, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC)
C.O.R.E. is the Committee Organizing Rape Education, a student group at my university (University of Washington). I don't believe any other schools have this exact same group.

The basic premise is that we conduct peer education about sexual assault, mainly through giving informational presentations to student groups.
tchang
Feb. 21st, 2007 11:25 pm (UTC)
Well, this is quite a thought-provoker...

I admit, this is a depth of thought I haven't put into the subject. (Friends would be quick to point out I don't put depth of thought into any subject, except perhaps games)

We are a world fundamentally lacking in heroes. Not that there are none at all; but that people do not put in that extra effort for others, be it friends, or even strangers. We are by and large a civilization populated by villains, the petty and accomplices (the petty and accomplices mostly; through failure to act or speak up if nothing else) and it is one of the great things that makes me yearn for the escape of role-playing.

My leisure time is spent on martial arts and games, to forge my body into a tool worthy of the personas I play, and to run my fictional avatar through the challenges of facing the petty, selfish, and outright evil without having to deal with the mess that the law is. The real world does not approve of mavericks, and under the current legal system and government, that's probably the approach I'd take.

I could certainly do more. Or better. I'm not sure which properly applies. My greatest failing is my belief that groups past a certain size lose effectiveness. Everything I've done or do that directly contributes to other's safety or peace of mind has been on an individual scale, except for being part of the neighbourhood watch. People are a collection of drives and rationality. Ethics and morality is instilled, not inherent, as they are a product of sentience -- an invention of intelligent life. As a very young child I was involved in an 'incident' that opened my eyes to the way others felt. (I was struck by a kid on a toboggan, after striking others while on a toboggan -- it was very formative, I think)

Am I wrong to think that it is within everyone's capability (barring the biologically malformed of brain) to gauge when rationality is not going to be able to rein in their drives, and simply STOP before they reach that point? I am fairly certain it SHOULD be possible. I am at a loss as to how to forcibly inject that lesson into others en-mass though.

I am tempted much of the time to find out if speaking politely and vigourously applying a 2*4 works better than speaking politely alone. At my work, judicious use of force has worked for dealing with law-breakers, afterall. Well, shoplifters. Okay: violent, perjurous and/or unrepentant shoplifters.

Sometimes I wish that the world would steer the petty and ignorant towards me, so I could do something. Then I remember that it already does, and it's not helping.
sigelphoenix
Feb. 22nd, 2007 05:37 am (UTC)
Hm, you've given me a lot of thoughts. Let's see if I can respond to all of them. :)

Am I wrong to think that it is within everyone's capability (barring the biologically malformed of brain) to gauge when rationality is not going to be able to rein in their drives, and simply STOP before they reach that point?

No, it's perfectly right. In this case, we (men and women both) have been trained to believe that men "just can't stop themselves" after a certain point in sex. The obvious falseness of this idea is highlighted by the common response: "If your parents walked in on you having sex, would you stop, or would you 'just not be able to help yourself'?" It's a damaging lie that makes women unnecessarily fearful, and men look like irrational piles of hormonal impulses.

I often find myself sharing your feelings on "judicious use of force." :P However, one thing to keep in mind with this particular situation (sexual violence, especially by men against women) is that "force" is the language already in play. Whether it's through violent beating or threatening someone by words, sexual assault is about the perpetrator's desires being forced upon the victim's body. Responding to aggression with aggression might reinforce the need to compete and be "powerful," and sexual predators do that by using sex to put someone under their power. I find being aggressive and/or confrontational is useful on occasion, but I try to keep this risk in mind.

I also think you might be setting up a false division between yourself and the "heroes" who will fix things. So you're a gamer - there is the space (and the need!) for good work to be done in that area. Consider how Dungeons & Dragons has a fairly even split between male and female characters, and refrains from relegating women to the non-physical, magical classes. That's a conscious decision, and one that many other RPGs don't make. Gender issues don't get left behind when you play a game. There's always a way you can speak up and make a little change. Small improvements still mean that things are different than they were before.

You also prefer to work individually? There's definitely a need for that as well. Not everyone can organize groups, and lone voices can be used for guerrilla tactics that harry people out of their complacency. Feminist and other anti-oppression blogs are a perfect example of that.
tchang
Feb. 24th, 2007 04:04 am (UTC)
First, George Takei rocks my socks, as RintheAmazing said.

Secondly, two of my favourite games actually make a point of examining the gender/family issues atleast somewhat.

Exalted, a epic prehistory game features an imperial power that rules from the centre of Creation. The Scarlet Empress ruled it for over 700 years and due to her personal taste for strong women there is a bit of a glass ceiling for male military and/or political ambitions though dynastic family is measured from the progeny of the Empress, regardless of said progeny's gender, as compared to the South, which is very patriarchal, or to the East, a land of unending trees, where several of the larger powers have a tendency to valueing Matrilineal descent. It is diverse and there is a richness in the cultural diversity they've created.

Then there is Heavy Gear. Set on a distant world, roughly 4000 years in the future, one of the most powerful persons on the planet is a happily-married lesbian (with children -- science at that point allows for biological offspring from same-sex couples, though women are stuck with female offspring -- strong stigma is attached to actual manipulation of genes due to historical use of genetic manipulation to attempt to create a genetically superior 'ruling society'; rather than mere gene-splicing)

Role-playing games are becoming more mature and thoughtful. The hobby has grown out of it's "adolescent" need to populate monster compendiums with bare-breasted pseudo-monsters.

As to the divide, I actually strive to 'forge' myself into that which is fodder for my 'idealized' characters. I want to actually embody the philosophy that while "Being a live Hyena is better than being a Dead Lion, being a Live Lion is better still". The self-examination is painful sometimes, but I think it is important. Afterall, I teach a children's introductory Kung-fu class Saturdays, and it'd be a disservice to the knowledge to curtail it's teaching because I have a faulty view of who should be taught.

I understand why violence wouldn't work, it doesn't deal with the root of the problem, and given that sexual violence/coercion is not about actual attraction, but rather a power issue, causing men to fell disempowered without changing the basic outlook about sex/behaviour would probably be worse than doing nothing at all.

Hm. So much for my much-vaunted belief in my own simple-mindedness. Ah well, it's mostly a self-deprecatory humour stance anyway.

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss something weighty and real without being too similar or dissimilar in perspective. Most of the time I end up in a discussion like this, I'm either too similar or else diametrically opposed to the other person :P
sigelphoenix
Feb. 28th, 2007 03:32 am (UTC)
The hobby has grown out of it's "adolescent" need to populate monster compendiums with bare-breasted pseudo-monsters.

Have you seen the RPG motivational posters? They're all great, but I'm specifically reminded of this one. XD

Anyway, thanks for the conversation as well. I enjoy it when people come in with their own thoughts, as well as respect for mine.

Also, I have seen George Takei's response to Hardaway. Everything I hear about that man (Takei) tells me he's kickass. XD
tchang
Feb. 24th, 2007 04:10 am (UTC)
I assume you heard of the Tim Hardaway/George Takei thing?

If not, here is the super short summary:

Tim Hardaway denounced a fellow former NBA player who came out of the closet, and claimed that he hated gays, and that he's homophobic.

George Takei's response (Or atleast the punchline part of his response) is summarized in the above icon. It'll be vanishing from my portfolio of images in two days so that it can be the exclusive property of a friend. Though George has such a wonderful maniacal laugh... I'll probably replace it with an animation of just his laughter.

Ugh. Double-post. Ah well, it's not a forum, so it's not like ther's a post score I'm inflating here.
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