Why we need a ministry of gender by @EstellaMz

Cross-posted from: Uncultured Sisterhood
Originally published: 11.02.15

When men are denied sex by women, to the point that the poor fellas have to rape and/or kill their wives, it is time for the Minister of Gender to step forward and remind women to refrain from such dangerous behaviour and return to the true path. To warn them that denying their husbands sex breeds domestic violence. And that they risk meeting the same fate as the woman who was recently hacked to death by her husband of 20-something years for committing the crime of refusing access to her body.

This is the advice that was generously given to female constituents by the Minister of Gender, who also happens to be a women’s representative in the parliament of Uganda. Only a fool could fail to understand where she was coming from with that dose of wisdom. It is one thing to live in the city, somewhat self-reliant, and scoff at such advice. Screaming about the need for women to assert their rights without taking stock of their material realities is unhelpful, even endangering, especially to those with minimal to no way out – be they constrained by the shackles of bride practice, lack of formal education and skills, and outright poverty going back generations.
Read more Why we need a ministry of gender by @EstellaMz

Locking up drunk young men by @Herbeatittude

cross-posted from Herbs & Hags

orig. pub. 1.15

I want to address one of the common arguments used to cast doubt on Ched Evans’ conviction for rape.  It was made by Julia Hartley-Brewer on Question Time on Thursday, the link is here: Julia HB helping make the world safer for rapists about 30 minutes in. The gist of it is that lots of people get drunk every weekend, hook up and have drunk sex and if we defined all of those incidents as rape and prosecuted them as such, then we’d have to lock up an awful lot of young men.

Well yes, we would.

Except that people who think Ched Evans is guilty, don’t want to define all those incidents as rape, just the ones which actually are rape. And there are an awful lot of them.

We all know drunken hook up culture exists, many people go out regularly and end up in bed with people they wouldn’t have if they’d been sober. Yes alcohol affected their decisions, but contrary to subliminal public opinion, women aren’t stupid and malicious and they know the difference between drunk sex that they’re embarrassed about the next day and non-consensual sex. If they do have confusion, they are socialised to doubt the validity of their own responses and to give men the benefit of the doubt, so they keep their feelings to themselves.

A small number of drunken hook-ups events will not be consensual drunken sex, they will be rape and/ or sexual assault. A small number of determined predators use alcohol and hook up culture as the cover they need to commit rape and get away with it and not even have it called rape. They know that if they can hook up with a woman who has been drinking heavily, there is absolutely no chance of them being even accused of rape, let alone prosecuted and then convicted. There are men who go out regularly “looking for a bird” with the express intention of having sex with her (as they would describe it) whether or not she would choose that.  These men are very careful to ensure that they choose the right sort of victim: either drunk and incapable when they first meet her so that they can quickly lead her away to where they’ve decided they’re going to rape her, or they spend a bit more time setting their victims up: chatting them up in clubs, dancing, flirting and then leaving the club with them so that if by some mischance their victim does go to the police, they can point to the evidence that she was drunk and happy in their company before the rape and the police won’t investigate further. These men tell themselves that it was a shag with a drunk slag because rape is done by monsters in dark alleys, not men like them.

We know this happens regularly.  When it happens, most women don’t go to the police because like the rapists themselves and like their apologists, they don’t define what happened to them as rape.  Rape is something that happens to other women, “real victims”. What happened to them was a drunken shag. OK, they didn’t want it to happen to them, OK they didn’t realise what was happening at the time, OK they vaguely remember passing out, or asking for a drink or asking what’s happening or where am I or where are my knickers or even saying no (that talisman of rape apologists everywhere, if there’s no NO there’s no rape in their minds), but it can’t be rape because they were drunk and they can’t quite remember if they gave the wrong signals.

So they don’t report, they just live with the consequences of the rape for years.

And this is apparently OK because he said, she said, presumption of innocence.

When feminists argue that we should not allow these predators to get away with this, we’re accused of wanting to lock up innocent young men who were merely doing what is normal in hook-up culture and even that we want to stop empowered young women going out and getting their jollies on a Saturday night with fun no-strings sex with randoms.

We don’t want to do either of those things. We want to ensure that if women do go out looking for sex with randoms, they get sex. Not rape.

So what do we do about it?

Well firstly, we change our attitudes to men’s entitlement to sex  I feel so depressed having to say this, because it should be self evident but here goes: nobody is ever entitled to sex. Ever. Even if they are drunk and horny and even if they have a penis instead of a vagina. Even if they have invested their whole Saturday evening chatting someone up, even if earlier on in the evening it looked like he or she might be up for it.

Secondly we change our attitudes to the ownership and purpose of women’s bodies. Our bodies belong to ourselves and if men want sexual access to them, then they should make damned sure that the woman concerned consents to that and actively wants it. Nobody has the right to put any part of their body in any part of any other person’s body without that person actively consenting to that. Even if that body is a woman’s one. Because women’s bodies were not put on earth for men’s use. If what happened to Ched Evans’ victim had happened to a (heterosexual) man, nobody would be in any doubt that it was rape, because we don’t have the unconscious assumption that men’s bodies are there to be used by other men, while women’s bodies are.

Thirdly we change the way we think about sex. It is not something someone does to someone else, it is something people do with each other.  If you are going to have sex with someone, the assumption has to be that they will be actively, consciously be participating in that unless you have a prior agreement re role play etc. And if one person is not participating in it or showing enjoyment of it, then it should stop.

This is an outrageous concept to many people. The prioritisation of women’s bodily integrity over men’s boners, is political correctness gorn mad. The idea that every shag should be a wanted shag, is considered idealistic, unrealistic and positively man-hating, because society has a deeply misogynistic view of sex.. Apparently there’s nothing wrong with a man having sex with a woman who isn’t actively participating and not wanting it and if you think there is, you hate men. I still struggle to get my head around the mental contortions required to hold this point of view.

Anyway all this is long term, we can’t do it overnight, but in the meantime we can refrain from promoting rape myths and if we’re going to opine publically on rape, we should at least do the reading. Feminists have been working on it for decades and it has been ignored, so we keep having to point out to people in the public eye why their assumptions about men, women and sex and therefore about rape, are wrong,.Wider society simply doesn’t want to address the question of male entitlement to women. It is more horrified by the idea of locking up men for using hook-up culture to get away with rape, than it is about them raping women. That’s what’s wrong with the kneejerk view that we can’t lock up thousands of young men. We’d rather they carried on raping.

 

HerbsandHags: Meanderings of a Hag: I have no fixed subject matter for my blog, it tends to be whatever grabs me, but for some reason lots that has grabbed me has been about rape or other male violence. It’s all with a feminist slant though. [@Herbeatittude]

Replicating patterns of disbelief at Feminists Unknown

cross-posted from Feminists Unknown

orig, pub. 22.215

When I think of being young I think of being scared. I was scared all the time. I remember lying in bed, listening out for sounds, or watching for faces to change and if one face in particular changed, it wouldn’t change back, not soon enough.

I used to blame my brother. I thought that if he didn’t get hit, I wouldn’t get hit. I thought he caused it all. Then I blamed my mother. I thought that if only she’d let my brother get hit enough for all the hitting to be “done,” it would end and none of it would spill over onto me.

I never blamed the person who did the hitting, obviously. You just don’t. When it comes to blame it has to be women and children first.

When I had a breakdown in my teens I tried to speak about what was wrong. Unfortunately, people who have breakdowns are a bit like rape victims who drank too much, or women who’ve been called TERFs. They are not credible, not to friends, not to doctors, not even police (god knows why I tried the latter, but at least it was only the once – when I think back, my overwhelming feeling is not one of anger but embarrassment, for being so bloody naive). People did want to know “the key” to what was making me distressed but not that key; the answer I gave was incorrect. It felt like being in a dream in which you’re trying to shout and no sound comes out.

Why are there bruises down her back? 

She doesn’t eat enough and she drinks too much. They just appear. 

 “You need to cover up,” my mother said, “it makes us look bad.”

So I stopped talking and carried on drinking. You can’t fight for validation forever, even if that feels like the thing that would make you safest. You swallow it all down and a bit of you won’t be the same but perhaps the rest of you can be preserved.

Ten years later I was sexually assaulted by a stranger when I happened to be extremely drunk (as I often was back then). When I went to the police (I know, stupid) it was the same feeling of opening my mouth and no sound coming out, even though there were words, real words. Not being believed is an empty feeling. You might as well not exist. Another bit of you goes.

These things – physical violence, sexual assault – are more than mere words but it’s the words that hurt too. I don’t believe you can be the worst phrase of all. And sometimes it doesn’t matter whether what they don’t believe you about is an online rumour or a fist in the face.

Over the weekend The Washington Post featured a piece by Michelle Goldberg arguing that feminist writers are “so besieged by online abuse that some have begun to retire.” It offers a great deal of insight into just how hard it is to be a feminist voice in a misogynist world. However, it makes the mistake of treating online abuse and real-life misogyny as either/or, as though female commentators are, as if by magic, in a position to choose:

.. stories today about Internet abuse inevitably elicit cliches about heat and kitchens — demands that women toughen up and grow thicker skin. Punditry and activism, after all, are relatively cushy gigs. […] … the creator of Feministe, Lauren Bruce, no longer has an online presence at all. “I had to completely cut that part off in order to live the rest of my life,” she says. “In order to work, have a nice family and feel like I was emotionally whole, I could not have one foot planted in a toxic stew.”

Many of us have sought refuge from and understanding of real-life abuse within feminism itself. There is no real distinction between those who write about misogyny and those who experience it because most of those writing about it are women. Many of us are still in the “toxic stew” or still recovering from the trauma of having been there. This is why the current backlash against feminists who complain of online abuse is nothing more than misogynist bullshit. It’s the replication of patriarchal patterns of disbelief. Contrary to what some would like to suggest, there are no women to whom you’ve earned the right to say “we don’t believe you, your experience of misogyny is imaginary and you’re not really oppressed.” If a woman says a word is a slur and a threat is a threat, it’s for you to deal with your knee-jerk disbelief, not her “phobia.”

Online rape threats don’t cancel out real-life experience of rape.

Tweets threatening violence don’t cancel out real-life beatings.

The “privilege” of writing about male violence against women doesn’t bring with it the real-life privilege of never having experienced it.

Online misrepresentations and lies don’t cancel out all those times you complained about real-life abuse and no one believed you or, at worse, dismissed your voice as sick, hateful or vindictive.

No-platforming doesn’t replace all those other experiences of being literally left outside.

Using words that misogynists describe as “violence” does not grant you superpowers to fend off actual violence. It doesn’t stop you feeling afraid, not just about what you might read but of what might break your bones.

It’s not just that all this is triggering (although quite obviously it is), it’s that it is the very same dynamic, the same entitlement, the same dehumanisation, the same disbelief when you try to make your case. It’s the same dreamlike speaking without being heard.

When women are disbelieved online or are told that their complaints are motivated by sickness (***phobia) or spite (bigotry), it’s a replication of the way in which people in the “real world” might accuse them of lying about rape or emotional abuse. You’re vindictive, you’re unreliable, you’re not well. And the chances are women have faced not one or the other of these, but both. It’s how male violence sustains itself and online discourse surrounding “mistrustful” or “unaccountable” feminists is seeping back into the real world, endorsing the age-old view that women are pampered princesses who lie about their fears and make up stories just to spite men. It’s a view that hurts all women.

I think it is fairly safe to assume almost every woman who has faced online dismissals of her ideas, false accusations of bigotry and crude acronyms has also been a victim of some form of male violence and/or assault and/or sustained emotional abuse. If speaking out against male violence made us magically immune to male violence then there’d be no need for refuges at all. Just say the sort of things misogynists dismiss as “violence,” become magically privileged and that’s it sorted. Alas, it doesn’t actually happen like that because guess what? Women have been trying that for years.

When you decide that a woman is “too privileged” to talk about feminist approaches to sex, gender and violence, what are your criteria? Were her bruises not dark enough for your liking? Do you need more evidence that she has experienced sexual assault (perhaps a male witness who is a pillar of the community)? Is she just not credible, what with other people telling you she’s a slag/slut /TERF/SWERF/[pick your own one-syllable female credibility eraser]? Would you believe her if you hadn’t seen her hanging out with “the wrong people” and hence asking for it? Is an opinion the short skirt of the internet unless it’s the wrong opinion, in which case it’s all a grey area and she might have provoked it, you never can tell…? What would make her lived experience of misogyny credible: more rapes? more beatings? death? Would you need to be on hand to watch, just to make sure? (Or would you merely interpret the very act of dying as passive-aggression on her part?)

Because if these are your criteria – if you replicate the aftermath of real-life violence in your attitude towards online abuse and public misrepresentation – then you are re-traumatising women due to your own misogynist assumptions regarding female authority and credibility. You have decided that female experience is either/or, helpless victim or privileged bitch who deserves taking down. You can’t imagine that a victim might not base her whole identity around victimhood and could instead have the strength and perspective to discuss the structures that perpetuate it (you might use the word “survivor” yet when women show signs of actual survival, empathy evaporates). Online abuse is not the great equalizer, doling out shit to women who you’ve decided aren’t getting enough misogynist abuse in real life (and the same goes for the harassment and misrepresentation of female academics and feminists speakers. If that’s your idea of activism – spreading shit around and adding to it, rather than trying to clear the whole think up – then you don’t like women. And you’re certainly not speaking truth to power in any way whatsoever).

Despite what men do to women again and again, women are not either utterly crushed or in need of a good crushing. We stand up again. That is, I think, what offends misogynists the most and forces them to create the myth of the real-life-abuse-immune feminist with no right to speak. How can we have done that to you and still you’re able to talk back? You must have been missed off our list. 

No, we weren’t. We were always on your list. You never miss anyone out.

And if you’re the kind of feminist who doesn’t like women who don’t appear sufficiently crushed, you’re no feminist at all. Stop making us swallow your shit.

 

Feminists Unknown: This is a collaborative blog incorporating posts from a number of anonymous posters. It will be focusing primarily on feminism. There is no wrong view on this blog-only individual perspectives. It must remain a safe space for those who post and share. So leave your judgement at the door. Our criticism will be constructive or it will be bullshit.

I bet you think you’re not a rapist… by @feministborgia

cross-posted from Feminist Borgia

orig, posted 28.8.13

I bet you think you’re not a rapist. No hiding in a dark alley for you..but remember that girl who was so drunk she could barely stand. You know she wouldn’t have said yes sober.

I bet you think you’re not a rapist. You know that ‘no means no’…or at least, it means ‘persuade me’. She’ll give in eventually.

I bet you think you’re not a rapist. But you remember that time your girlfriend didn’t want to do something you *know* she did for other people. Well, that’s not fair. So you badgered her and shouted at her till she gave in.

I bet you think you’re not a rapist. But there’s that thing you do. You know, the one you like but your girlfriend used to slap your hand away, or tell you no, I don’t like it. Your persistence paid off. She doesn’t bother now.

I bet you think you’re not a rapist. But remember when she was going down on you and tried to move her head away, and you used both hands to hold her still, because you weren’t done yet.

I bet you think you’re not a rapist. You only had to badger her a little bit. And she said you could in the end, and that’s what counts.

I bet you think you’re not a rapist.

 

Feminist Borgia : I blog occasionally about feminism, rape culture and games [@feministborgia]

How great is the stigma attached to rape? by @glosswitch

Cross-posted from: Glosswitch
Originally published: 02.02.15

The Home Affairs Select Committee have announced that unlike people accused of any other crime, those accused of sex crimes (including rape) deserve anonymity until charged. It’s a decision that has been made without consulting rape victims or rape support charities, instead appearing to be motivated by sympathy for the DJ Paul Gambacinni, kept on bail for 12 months over an allegation that was eventually dropped. According to Committee chairman Keith Vaz “we have seen how destructive [releasing names] can be to a person’s livelihood, causing irreparable reputational damage and enormous financial burden.” We have also, one would think, seen how damaging rape – which happens to an estimated one in five women – can be, but apparently that’s less measurable (or less important?). In any case, the belief that a “special stigma” attaches to rape, making those accused more in need of protection from publicity, persists.

Personally I find it strange to think that we live in a world so appalled and outraged by rape that those accused of it are social pariahs. If that were the case, surely we wouldn’t be surrounded by men telling women that forced penetration and sexual coercion are perfectly fine. A world in which great stigma is attached to rape itself is not a world in which …

This is not a world in which rape is seen as a truly abhorrent act of violence. It is joked about. It is excused. It is filmed and shared between friends. It is committed time and again, by men who believe it is normal (just don’t say the “r” word, at least not outside your own circle of friends).

The stigma, if there is one, has nothing to do with rape itself. It’s to do with naming it. It’s to do with being accused. An accusation breaks all the rules. You haven’t properly overpowered a victim if she then complains. Her complaint makes you a Rapist with a capital “R,” as opposed to someone who merely “coerces” (every man coerces, doesn’t he? Coercion’s when you get away with it and that’s just fine).

I don’t believe for a minute that the tiny number of men falsely accused of rape suffer more than the tens of thousands of women raped every year who see no justice at all. Only someone who believes men are more human than women – or that forced penetration is no big deal since that’s what women are there for – could dare to think otherwise. If a false accusation of rape is more traumatic than one of, say, burglary or murder, this isn’t because we think rape is more abhorrent. We don’t.  Perhaps men feel pressured put on a show of distancing their behaviour and beliefs from those of someone who’s been “officially” labelled a rapist. Or maybe there’s a particular shame – a form of emasculation – associated in having your socially approved right to take penetrate more vulnerable bodies legally questioned. Whatever it is, it’s not that we think rape is worse than other crimes. We just don’t like having to think of it as a crime at all.

The current call for those accused of sex crimes to remain anonymous until charged harms victims several times over. It suggests rape is less acceptable than other forms of criminal behaviour (the opposite is true). It suggests accusers are more likely to lie (false accusation rates are no different than for other crimes). It suggests the chance that publicity could help other victims to come forward isn’t important (it is). It blurs the lines between “not charged” and “falsely accused” (not charging men accused of rape is common; charges and convictions for making false accusations are rare). Above all, it suggests being raped isn’t as bad as being accused of rape, making the convictions of serial rapists such as John Worboys much less likely in order to spare a handful of men the pain of being accused of a crime they didn’t commit (meanwhile any one of us could get accused of a crime we didn’t commit, but clearly only some of us matter).

Rape accusations are socially disruptive, but only because we live in a world that is perfectly fine with rape itself. That is the problem. Anyone who cared about victims and about the handful of men falsely accused would work on changing this.

(For help emailing your MP on this issue, click here.)

 

Victoria Smith  Humourless Mummy, Cuddly Feminist [@glosswitch]

 

Her name was Rehtaeh Parsons. by Mary-Anne Franks

One night in November 2011, a 17-year-old boy threw a party. At this party, he watched a friend rape a 15 year-old-girl while she vomited out of a window. Instead of intervening, he took a photograph of the rape and distributed it to friends. After months of tormenting by her peers over the photo, the girl hanged herself.

The friend who assaulted the girl was charged with distributing child pornography, but not rape. His trial is set to begin soon.The boy who took the photo was charged with creating child pornography and entered a guilty plea.

Today, a judge ruled that the boy, now 20, must apologize to the girl’s parents and take a “sexual harassment” course. No jail, not even probation.

The girl’s name was Rehtaeh Parsons. In 2013, her father wrote this letter. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking letter, and this passage in particular stands out given the sentence today:

“Rehtaeh Parsons thought the worst outcome for her case would be no charges against the men who raped her but we all know better. The worst thing that could happen would be charges. That they would be found guilty, and that Rehtaeh would sit on a court bench and listen in utter disbelief as they were given parole, or a suspended sentence, or community service. All for completely destroying her life while they laughed. Why is it they didn’t just think they would get away with it; they knew they would get away with it. They took photos of it. They posted it on their Facebook walls. They emailed it to God knows who. They shared it with the world as if it was a funny animation.”

Her father is right. Those boys knew they would get away with it, and they did.

 

Mary-Anne Franks: I write about gender bias generally and often write specifically about non-consensual pornography. I am the Vice-President of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (cybercivilrights.org), a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about online abuse and advocating for social and legal reform. CCRI is the parent organization of the End Revenge Porn Campaign (endrevengeporn.org) founded by Holly Jacobs. In my work with CCRI, I have helped more than a dozen states and the federal government draft legislation on so-called “revenge porn.”

The Great Big Patriarchal Shaped Elephant In The Room #RotherhamAbuse by Outspoken Redhead

(Cross-posted from Outspoken Redhead)

As if to delight news channels across the country, August vomits up the moral panic of the inquiry into child exploitation and sexual abuse in Rotherham. 1400 children abused or exploited over 17 years by abusers, some of whom were Asian males. This is a news story with perfect components:

POLITICAL DRAMA!!!! Should Labour be blamed? After all it’s a Labour Council isn’t it, and its Social Services Department is probably staffed by bearded do gooders more likely to remove a child because their parents want to take her to Sunday School than challenge Asian people.  Labour grab this chance to score endless home goals by demanding the resignation of the Police Commissioner or else they will suspend him from the party! Oh yes, that’ll show everyone.  And anyway, isn’t this the Tories fault for introducing these Commissioners roles in the first place with their £120k salaries and then finding out no one can remove them.  All of these points may or may not be true, none of them have any relevance or any prospect of making things right for the victims.

RACE AND MULTICULTURAL DRAMA!! Up pop UKIP, making sly digs about different cultural values and even sensible people mutter that this is what Islam is like, painting non Muslim White women as whores and this is where it all ends.  People who have never read the Qu’uran feel qualified to pronounce on religion, at least other people’s religion, foreign religion that doesn’t belong here. Nigel Farage must have wept with joy that a UKIP MEP in Yorkshire is Pakistani and could be wheeled out to condemn his own community.  Look, a Pakistani person thinks this is a race issue, so it must be right, just as it is when a woman condemns feminism. This makes it TRUE!

USELESS PUBLIC SERVICES DRAMA!!  Police, Councils, they’re all the same. Sitting on their gold plated pensioned arses, doing sod all except soaking up taxpayers money. Sack ’em all!  Ok, sack quite a lot of them.  Well, please for the love of God can we sack some of them so that we can all convince ourselves that this is sorted and has gone away and will never happen again?  Can’t we?  Isn’t this how it works?

Well, sadly no.  Sexual abuse of women and children isn’t like a flu pandemic.  It happens every day in every city, town and village in every so-called civilised and not so civilised country.  It’s perpetrated by black men, white men, religious men, atheist men, rich men and poor men.  Handsome men and ugly men, successful men and men who have failed in every other part of their lives. But you will see there is a common thread. It’s men, abusing women and children over whom they have some power.  Or power imbalance.  Because while it can often be the power of the priest, the politician, the famous radio star or the children’s entertainer which prevents their victims from speaking out or being believed if they do; sometimes it’s the powerlessness of the victim, a Looked After* Child (*yes, I do use the term wryly) or so often simply the powerlessness of the child that depends on its father for a home and security.

Sexual abuse exerts power and control, most of all by shrouding the victim in shame. It’s easy to spot a bruise or a burn on a child – but how does any teacher spot the signs of sexual abuse.  The psychological impact is often profound or over sexualised behaviour can make the child stand out but to make the link to abuse is close to impossible unless the child speaks out.  And then, as we have seen all too well, so many men are capable of swaggering while protesting their innocence and damning their accusers and achieving a successful prosecution is beset with difficulties. And is that even what victims want?  Most of all they want it to stop, for it never to have happened in the first place and for the shame and guilt to be removed, feelings that overwhelm, like Lady Macbeth dabbing futilely at blood and only being amplified by having to recount every detail in court to a man in a wig determined to show you and your 12 year old self as a slut and a liar.

The incidence of sexual abuse, shown by surveys of adults shows it is shockingly high and massively undiscovered.  1400 children in seventeen years in a town the size of Rotherham is the screaming headline figure. Why don’t we poll towns of the same size over the same period and ask the questions we never ask and see how high those figures are?  Perhaps we might find out what we don’t want to know – that sexual abuse is rife in every community, that it is entirely equality proofed in every way, except gender.  While we’re asking awkward questions, could we also consider whether we want families to be less ‘private’, more subject to scrutiny without screaming Nanny State! While we’re at it, do we want children to be able to talk freely about sexuality without shame from a very young age without having paroxysms of outrage?

Wow, if we were to have really difficult discussions, could we talk about patriarchy? Could we talk about how our male dominated society tells us sex is something men want and women give, that girls are sluts while boys are ‘lads’ and every day a national newspaper publishes pictures of women’s breasts for a bit of fun and how all of that might, just might, determine how many men view all women?

Could it be that if video games allow young men to rape prostitutes or kill them, it might be evidence of something really, really wrong?  We are told equality is a battle long won, look, we had a female Prime Minister.  Let’s just forget that for every year she was in power it was lawful for Denis Thatcher to rape her, a law repealed in my adult lifetime.

Actually, that’s all a bit difficult isn’t it.  Tell you what, let’s get back to political mudslinging, baying for sackings and making dark assertions about race.  Sexual abuse happens to the others, not us and is perpetrated by evil monsters, not that nice chap next door.  Let’s continue with our time-honoured hand wringing and say over and over “This must not happen again”.  Except, it already is.  Right her, right now and will continue until we start to name the real problem. Patriarchy. Or just Power, if that’s not as scary.  Either will do, but once again those in power choose Pretence.

 

 

 

If you think feminism is winning, read this. (content note) by @LucyAllenFWR

(Cross-posted from Reading Medieval Books)

I’ve just been absolutely blown away by the question one of my brilliant students asked. So much so, in fact, that it’s only just sunk in.

Now, I’m enjoying lecturing and it’s the beginning of term, so it’s maybe not surprising that the five minutes of questions at the end of the lecture has been my favourite bit. Yesterday, I was lecturing on one of the theories about how to define Middle English romance as a genre. There’s an idea that it grew out of national epic, as a way to offer the class of men who needed to marry and to fight (that is, knights) a paradigm of virtuous life that wasn’t the peaceable, celibate life of the medieval saint. So far, you may think, so dry. But this lecture meant I talked a lot about racism and a fair bit about sexual violence, because both of those things are used by medieval authors to imply that men – and English men at that – are not thugs but heroes, while painting women and non-whites as inferior.

One popular episode in the Arthurian tradition is a really glaring example. Arthur – our wonderful English hero – travels to France, where he is told that a murderous giant has abducted an aristocratic woman, Arthur’s own subject. Arthur goes charging to the rescue, but he is too late. An old woman tells him she has just buried the mutilated body of the woman he seeks to protect: she was raped so violently she died.

This horrific episode is, in narrative terms, designed to serve an important and specific purpose. Arthur, the hero, is no saintly warrior. In his youth, he committed incest with his sister and produced a son, Mordred, whom he then tried to kill by sentencing all the babies born within that time to death by drowning. Arthur’s sin of sexual deviance followed by murder of an innocent can only be blotted out by the dramatic description of a worse sin of the same kind, which throws our sympathy behind the ‘least worst’ option.

In my lecture, I discussed this example, the rhetorically sophisticated language of the author, the parallels to post-medieval tropes of English masculinity, and a host of other things. In my mind, this episode was typical of Middle English romance, because of the way it uses the graphic violence of rape to further the reputation of a defender of women, rather than to change or explore the situation of the raped woman.

My student asked whether we ever read romances in which men rape their wives.

I began to explain that, in medieval England, the law did not recognise marital rape as a crime, and as I explained that, it dawned on me that the majority of my students – people who are young adults in 2014 – have never lived in a time in which, in England, marital rape was not a crime. They saw it as a medieval barbarity.

My title responds to Laura Bates’ article in the Guardian, which claims that the backlash against feminism proves that we are winning. I like her argument. I think she’s right. The sea change that means that my students can image marital rape might have been a medieval crime shows she is right. When I was born, marital rape was legal in England. It should be shameful that this brings me closer to a medieval legal system than to modern one. But, at the same time, I’m shocked by the slowness of real change – it took six hundred years to move on with the definition of rape! And that makes me second-guess the ‘progress’ we’re trying to celebrate.

 

Reading Medieval Books! I rant about women in literature and history, occasionally pausing for breath to be snarky about right-wing misogynists. I promise pretty pictures of manuscripts and a cavalier attitude to sentence structure. [@LucyAllenFWR]

Believing Men is not a feminist imperative by @Umlolidunno

(Cross-posted from Root Veg)

Recently, actor Shia LaBeouf claimed that he was “raped” while performing in an art installation. The performance was that he sat in a room in silence for 5 days, dressed in a tuxedo with a paper bag on his head, in a room supplied with “implements”. Members of the public were invited to enter the room to enjoy his inert presence. Bizarrely, it sounds like people actually went instead of just leaving Shia LaBeouf in a room on his own with a bag on his head like they should have. In an interview with Dazed Digital about his experience, Shia shared this:

One woman who came with her boyfriend, who was outside the door when this happened, whipped my legs for ten minutes and then stripped my clothing and proceeded to rape me… There were hundreds of people in line when she walked out with dishevelled hair and smudged lipstick. It was no good, not just for me but her man as well. On top of that my girl was in line to see me, because it was Valentine’s Day and I was living in the gallery for the duration of the event – we were separated for five days, no communication. So it really hurt her as well, as I guess the news of it travelled through the line. When she came in she asked for an explanation, and I couldn’t speak, so we both sat with this unexplained trauma silently. It was painful.

The picture we get here is that he remained inert to maintain the integrity of his art, while a woman proceeded to “rape” him. Given that women cannot actually rape men, the collective interpretation of this event is that the woman somehow made him penetrate her. He then continued his art performance in silence when his girlfriend wanted to know why a dishevelled woman with smeared lipstick ran from from the room. Later, Shia’s collaborators confirmedthat As soon as we were aware of the incident starting to occur, we put a stop to it and ensured that the woman left”. When asked by professional arsehole Piers Morgan why they had ensured the ‘perpetrator’ left, they responded: It wasn’t clear at the time precisely what had happened, & the 1st priority was to ensure everybody’s safety in the gallery… She ran out, rather than simply walking away. Beyond that, it’s not my place to comment”. That they simulatenously “ensured” the woman’s departure but were also unable to apprehend her because “she ran out”, and that they simultaneously were “aware of the incident starting to occur” but unsure about what happened is somewhat perplexing, and pretty much concludes the sum total of available information. Some people believe it, and some don’t. I don’t particularly care. What I do care about, however, is the spate of feminist think-pieces pretty much all saying it’s our duty to believe this guy.

One such article declares that this circus is “a test for feminism”. The logic appears to go something like this: if our first reaction was to question and disbelieve a female victim of rape, it would be heinous and anti-feminist. If we do this to a man claiming ‘rape’ by a woman, it is therefore just as bad, and lends credence to people who do it to women. The premise of this position is that a man penetrating a woman is a two-way street; the balance of power, on both an individual and societal level, is not such that women are disadvantaged, and so we can make the same assumptions of males and females in the case of rape. The implication is that men and women have equal access to the rules of the ‘consent game‘, and so we can make identical assumptions in both cases. The recent trend in treating men and women as equivalent sexual actors, and women as sexual aggressors, dovetails with liberal ‘equality’ politics and the erasure of sex differences between men and women. The fact is, however, that penetration is very much a one-way street, and the roles of penetrator and penetratee are profoundly different in terms of material power and impact. This difference underpins a feminist analysis of rape. It is how rape – aka penile penetration – is used by men to control the free movement and behaviour of women in every single society on earth. The converse scenario where women oppress men as a group with the act of “forced envelopment” has literally never happened, and it never could. Can we envisage a world where men are hasty to get home before dark, lest a woman force him to fuck her? Do we think a society has ever existed where men’s typical concern when left alone with a woman has ever been that he is vulnerable to being “enveloped” by her? If not, why not? Do we think a woman who has been raped while drunk by a drunk man technically “raped him too”? If not, why not? We lack explanatory answers to any of these questions if we genuinely entertain the position that ‘penetrator’ and ‘penetratee’ are equivalent. This sex-based power differential bleeds into all relations between the sexes, and it is the very foundation of women’s oppression. This is why, when the article asks “would we ask the same questions of a woman?” the answer is a very obvious “no”. Because women are not, in fact, the same as men. To pretend otherwise elides reality and functions to the detriment of women.

Another recent opinion piece claims that believing Shia LaBoeuf – and men who claim victimisation in general – is “a feminist imperative”. The logic goes that rape victims (usually women) are typically disbelieved, and men are told by patriarchal society that they can’t be weak. Therefore, as feminists who are opposed to both rape and gender roles, it’s our duty to believe Shia. It has surface appeal, but a little unpacking of this position exposes something of a non-sequitur. Gender roles are a mechanism by which patriarchy is upheld; victimhood is incompatible with masculinity, because masculinity is the dominant role in the oppression of women (which, as we’ve established, includes the role of rapist). It is for this reason that feminism is opposed to masculinity (and, for that matter, femininity). This is also the reason feminism opposes society’s indifference toward the widespread rape of women, and supports them. Nowhere in this analysis does it follow that a man claiming sexual victimisation by a woman should be believed by default, or that doing so is an act that challenges patriarchy. The fact that applying the “I Believe Her” rubric to men goes against a lot of obvious facts isn’t lost on proponents of this view. In each instance, believers are required to handwave away the fact that Shia LaBeouf was incredibly unlikely to be at a physical or power-related disadvantage; that the point of most of his ‘art’ is constructed vulnerability; that attention has been motivation enough for a litany of lies and plagiarism; that by all accounts his claim is “unusual to the point of anomaly”; and so on. The fact that male sexual victimisation at the hands of a woman (in this case and in general) is so unlikely is acknowledged by the astounding addendum that even if he’s probably lying, it is right and feminist to believe him anyway:

believeshiaThis small print attached to I Believe Him betrays that they probably don’t actually believe him, but for whatever reason think they should show him public support despite all their misgivings. This is in stark contrast to the principle of “I Believe Her”, which flows from an analysis of women’s oppression by men, the widespread prevalence of men raping women, and society’s treatment of women’s rape (as either false or inconsequential) in service of male power. We Believe Her because – get this! – we do actually believe her. We believe her because of the evidence, not in spite of it. ‘I Believe Him Even Though It’s Pretty Damn Unlikely’ is not a logical or feminist application of this concept.

Note here that I haven’t advocated treating men who claim victimisation by women in any particular way – believe him or don’t, I don’t care. I am contesting the idea that we’re under some obligation as feminists to believe such men. “Rape” is the name given to a specific tool of oppression men use against women, and using it to imply a female perpetrator elides this feminist analysis entirely. Perhaps our duty as feminists is to point out that, if Shia LaBeouf was assaulted by a woman, it wasn’t rape. Perhaps our duty as feminists is to raise concern about the dishevelled woman who fled the room. But I’ll be damned if my duty as a feminist is to believe a man.

 

Root Veg: A blog aimed at women, exploring radical feminism and some more general political theory. [@Umlolidunno]

Let’s talk about rape pt 2 by @helen_a15

content note

(cross-posted from Helen Blogs)

Both this blog, and the ‘lets talk about rape … Part 1′ were written some time ago, but were both popular blogs at the time. However when ‘Fragmentz’ ceased to exist, so did the blogs. I had been asked a few times recently to repost them and declined, however having read tonight about Judy Finnegans comments today on a chat show regarding the rape footballer Ched Evans is convicted of, and serving time in prison for it felt relevant to put them online again. 

RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE. 

I’d like to challenge her, and anyone else who thinks its OK to categorise rape to come and live the life of a survivor, even for just a day or two. 

Also to the people who tell me rape culture does not exist -YES IT DOES. 

 

‘i woke up this morning … and little did i know, that by the end of the day i would be blogging about a topic i have already written about once. I always intended on writing a Part 2, and in fact had a draft already typed, but thats deleted now. I’m starting over, because this week, the word ‘rape’ has been front page of most media types due to some french bloke i’d never heard of until his arrest for allegedly raping a hotel maid, and now comments made today by the justice minister.

two things i’d like to start off by saying :

first one is: this blog is about RAPE. As i start writing, I have dont have any idea of where my writing will go, but i feel it fair to warn you of the topic nature, if you hadnt picked it up by the title, so if your sensitive to it, or it potentially could trigger you, consider yourself warned.

second thing is: i am not a profressional. I dont write for a living, i dont have any academic qualifications that give me a right to have an opinion, i’m not a ‘well known’ person who’s opinion matters to people. i’m just me. a little dot in this huge world who takes some space, and attempts to write about issues that mean the most to me. i write about my life, and the life that goes on around me. I am perhaps not going to be writing anything any different to the many blogs always written, lots today by people. i definitely not able to express words and thoughts as eloquently as the things I have read today.

if you want some background and an idea as to why i am writing about this topic, now, then please feel free to check out ‘lets talk about … rape’ – link is below.

lets talk about rape

in my previous blog i gave some definitions of the word rape. essentially it is imposing sexual intercourse on someone who does not consent. that could be a man against a man, a woman against a man, woman against a woman, and the most widely talked about variation of a man against a woman. it is really really important to acknowledge that all variations exist, and do happen, and that rape as a whole is so very under reported anyway, and so by default some of the variations, for example males being raped are even less reported, but still happen.

Last week I got embroiled into an argument on facebook. as some of you will know, getting into debates/disagreements with people on social networking sites such as FB or twitter is not a rare occurance for Fragz, although lately the occasions have become much less. Anyhow, last week, someone who is on my facebook, and an odd exception to the ‘i only have people i’ve met on my FB account’ rule, posted the most offensive thing i have ever read my friends post. I am used to people updating status’s with stuff i dont agree with, lame jokes, filthy stories about whatever, however i have never been so offended by anything as the status that said ‘i’m sorry, but woman should take responsibility for being raped, after all men are men arent they’. WHAT? When I dared to totally disagree with this line of thought, i was told i was mis hearing what was being said. I disputed that too. I was not mishearing what was being said, i was simply disagreeing. I heard what was being said. I just didnt like. I still dont. This person’s argument was that if a skantily dressed woman is raped then they should accept some esponsibility, especially if they walk around looking like prostitutes (their response, not mine!!). Their trying to condone their thoughts just seemed to make it worse, because in my view, it is not acceptable for a non sex worker to be raped, and it isnt acceptable for a sex worker to be either. end of.

I was blown away and stunned by the response this status got, and the fact i was the only person arguing a womans right to say NO, and that ‘men being men’ is NOT an acceptable reason for raping someone.

Rape is rape. Whether you are out having a drink, whether you have gone to a dance, whether your walking home at night, or in the day. Whether you spend your time on the streets, or whether you meet someone for the first time while out and get chatting. Whatever the situation, whatever happens, if you DO NOT WANT SEX and someone forces you too, in my mind that is rape.

There is no ‘serious’, ‘more serious’ or ‘less serious’ rape, as has been suggested by Ken Clarke, the justice minister no less today.

I am aware some people will be saying that his comments were taken out of context, some will be saying, including himself that this current media storm is ‘spin’, however, my own view is, that if he didnt feel/think what he said, then why say it? he knows the position he holds, he knows he is talking to the media, he knows what he says is going to be reported. he says he knows that rape is rape, but to be honest, does he really? someone who says rape is rape, AFTER suggesting there are more serious ‘rapes’ than others, and who is also suggesting sentences for convicted rapists are cut, doesnt seem to have a clue, does he?

I am not sure that he really understands the effects on a person, a woman, a man, a child, who is raped. the life changing, heart breaking, never going to be the same effect is has.

I’d like to invite Ken Clarke to live the life of a survivor of rape. Maybe to live the first 5 years of their life or longer after the event. To live through the pain, hurt, anger, desprair, self loathing, blame, nothingness, dirtiness, the depression, the flashbacks, the nightmares, the tears, the sleepless nights, the fear of going outside, reliving time and time again what happened. Maybe he would like to live a life with feelings, that for some never go away. For some, maybe the moving on can happen, but where the memories never leave. memories that are always there, even if not in forefront of a mind, memories that are never far away, ready to come flooding back at the click of a finger. maybe a smell, a sense, something that triggers the mind to flood back the memories.

Maybe he would then understand that rape is rape, whether it was violent or not.

I am unable to do this topic justice, really. I just get sidetracked. So I’d like to recommend, if your interested, two beautifully written articles, one by Johann Hari, and one by Laurie Pennie.

johann hari – the prejudices that allow rapists to go free

laurie penny – ken clarke comments rape

both blogs express eloquently what i wish and want to, but am unable to’

 

Helen Blogs: christian, feminist, rape survivor & survivors advocate, Jaffa cake lover. writer about #faith, #mentalhealth, #chroniclife & #violenceagainstwomen.  @helen_a15

Let’s Talk about Rape (Pt 1) by @helen_a15

(Content Note)

(cross-posted from Helen Blogs)

Both this blog, and the ‘lets talk about rape … Part 2′ were written some time ago, but were both popular blogs at the time. However when ‘Fragmentz’ ceased to exist, so did the blogs. I had been asked a few times recently to repost them and declined, however having read tonight about Judy Finnegans comments today on a chat show regarding the rape footballer Ched Evans is convicted of, and serving time in prison for it felt relevant to put them online again.

RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE.

I’d like to challenge her, and anyone else who thinks its OK to categorise rape to come and live the life of a survivor, even for just a day or two.

Also to the people who tell me rape culture does not exist -YES IT DOES.

 

‘yep, you read the title right. rape. thats what this blog is about. if it is something that just reading the word or thinking about it makes you flinch, for whatever reason, i understand if your unable to read the following post.

I just felt it fair to warn you right at the very beginning so you can make the informed decision as to whether to read on or not. I really do not wish to upset anyone, and whilst writing this blog, and rereading it for the umpteenth time I have considered and re considered whether to actually publish/post this, however I came to the conclusion that I would not be being true to myself and this blog if I didn’t.

so, on we go …

.
.
.

when I logged into my computer this morning, like every morning, the first thing I do is to check out the BBC News website, just to glance over, to check out whats going on in and around the world. One of the headlines I saw was
‘ Rapist attacked woman twice in 12 weeks in south London’. I then clicked to read the story which you can find here …

i dont know about any one else, but as I read this, and the story, all i could do was think of the woman. the victim. the person who was raped. the survivor. and even as i am writing this, right now, i am thinking of her, and sending her my silent thoughts and prayers, that she may somehow learn to live through her ordeal and somehow come to a place of peace.

throughout today, my mind kept returning to this story, and to the woman involved. thinking about what a horrific and life changing moment it is for it to happen once, but to happen twice?

then, this evening, i was watching tv, and law and order UK came on. never seen it before, but nothing else was on that i liked the look of. the story line was complex, i don’t deny that, and please dont think i am trying to make light of any of the other issues the episode this evening used, however, towards the end, rape was one that was bought in. the woman, already in prison for other offences (all fictitious) was then in court accused of murder, of someone who was raping her. there was a scene, which was almost tearjerking where the barrister trying to help her sat with her in her cell and talked to her about what some would see as the human aspect of being raped.

the aspect of not having a choice. of not being in the wrong. of not asking for it to happen. for losing a part of something that is yours. something that you hold dear, that is yours, that gets taken away. it nearly made me cry.

i thought and thought about blogging on this topic, decided not to, then decided to, and went round in circles.
as i was deciding i looked up the definition of rape online. and found a dictionary which says this :

noun, verb, raped, rap·ing.
–noun
1.the unlawful compelling of a woman through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
2.any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
3.statutory rape.
4.an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: the rape of the countryside.
5.Archaic . the act of seizing and carrying off by force.

point 3. is Statutory rape. this would appear mostly in US law and is the act of sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent. I would like to point out, that that is something i am not writing about at present.

In fact, what i am really focussing on, as i write this blog, is the act of rape against a woman, which essentially is having sexual intercourse without her consent.
there are lots of ways this occurs, such as stranger rape, so a random attack, maybe in the street?
it could be marital rape, so within a marriage this act occurs.
it could be date rape, where drugs are used, so persons are not aware.
it could be something that happens within many boundaries.

I’d also like to highlight that rape among men happens too, there are men who are raped. its not as highlighted as woman, and maybe not so common, however that does not mean it is not a real thing happening out there.

if you want to find out more about the definitions, or what constitutes rape, or within what circumstances it can happen, do google. You can find a whole world of information out there, that might educate you, that might shock you, that might make you want to pray for people involved in this.

months ago, i wrote a blog about depression, and it was after i watched a programme about the illness in the sporting profession, and how rife it is. I wrote something on the lines of how indiscriminate depression is, as an illness, how it can find and attack all kinds and every kinds of people.

this afternoon, that was my exact thought about rape.

rape can affect anyone, and everyone, god forbid, but if could even be you, your wife, your husband, your daughter, your son, your best friend, your neighbour, your mum, your dad. who knows? it could be anyone.

as mentioned above it could be, and often is within the constraints of a marriage, but when it comes to random attacks by strangers, as well as the victim being anyone, it could also occur anywhere.

on the bus you travel home on, on the street you walk down to get to the shop, the shopping mall you buy your clothes in. it could be the train station you wait at everyday. maybe it could be at the festival you go to every year, and camp out with friends at while listening to great music ? (i was shocked to read several reports over the summer of rape occurring at a UK based music festival)

it could be outside or inside a place you feel the most safe. a hospital maybe, a church, who knows …. it could be anywhere.

i dont say the above as scare tactics. thats the last thing i would want to do to. i don’t know the statistics, but one thing that is clear is although it can happen to anyone, and anywhere, it doesn’t. the amount of people who are attacked and raped are in minority to those who are not. so pleased do not walk away from this blog being afraid of all the above places. thats not the intention (but obviously good personal awareness and safety is always wise) .

what i have been thinking about all evening, tonight, is about the victims of such attacks. the victim of a rape. how they are left feeling, how their lives are so changed by something that maybe only took a few minutes to happen. how one minute, life was ok, and you were walking to the bus to go and see someone, and the next your in a heap on a floor in the middle of an empty street, sobbing as they run away from you. one minute you had your phone in your hand, texting a friend to say how long you would be and the next minute someone is running towards you to help you up off the ground, and to call an ambulance, or the police.
how one minute life was pretty clear and defined, and the next in all the haze and commotion, you realise that your life has changed forever. because nothing will ever be the same again. ever.

the thing about rape, is that physically one may be able to recover quite quickly. depending on the nature of the attack. for others it may take longer. maybe physical bruising and pain takes longer to disappear and fade. but eventually they do fade, as do all physcial signs of what happens. and what your are left with is what is in your head. what is left are the memories, the thoughts, the flashbacks, the nightmares, the scin crawling moments where all you want to do is scrub your skin over and over until it bleeds or you feel clean again.

thing is, for many victims, and i dont speak for them all, in fact, maybe i dont speak for any other than one, but i guess for many, and i know for one, that actually, for them, to ever feel clean again, is the biggest of tasks.

its hard to explain that kind of thinking to someone who may not have the empathy or understanding. and thats ok, because not everyone will or does. its a big complex area. however, something kicks into your head. all you want is cleanliness, but whether you actually every achieve that again, who knows.

because the way you see it, the only way you can see it, is that something you had absolutely no choice over happens, took over, and that some of you was taken away.

you spend weeks and months trying to wipe it away, erase it but you cant. you spend days sitting in silence, with tears rolling down wishing you had done something different. wishing perhaps you hadnt walked down that same road you walked down every day. or thinking perhaps it was your fault because you dared to leave the house and walk the street you live on. you analyse what you could have done differently. what you did that made it your fault. you come up with one hundred reasons why it was your fault, even though every single one of those is wrong, and not true.

and then, because a few years before, the only way you knew how to deal with life was to cut your body, you decide that right now, its the only way again. so you find the knifes, and razors and start to carve your body up.
you also decide that maybe alcohol will change whats happen. so you drink. and drink.

and pretty damn soon, the physical scars are gone, and your left with an emotional mental heap with thoughts going round you can deal with , and cant process, and figure out.

perhaps it is the most life changing thing you will experience? maybe it is one of the most life changing experiences, because maybe, you were abused as a child anyway, and bullied as a teenager, and beaten by your siblings, and so, as an adult when this happens, maybe you shrug it off and think, well, i deserve it anyway.

maybe.

maybe not. maybe you would deal with it different. maybe you have?

somehow though, you have to keep going, keep breathing, taking each day as they come, day by day, and week by week and very quickly those days and weeks turn into months and years.

and although the pains and non visible scars dont go away, are not forgotten about, maybe you discover a way of living, that means you can move on. maybe you can learn to be at peace with yourself? and dare i say it, the person who committed this crime against you?

i dont know. maybe.

being raped tears a soul apart. being raped can break a person. being raped
rises up such a huge amount of emotions. rage. anger. pain. humiliation. embarrassment. silence.

often there is silence. a huge silence because you dont know what to say or how to say it. a huge silence because people around you dont know what to say. or how to say it.

and i guess, the reason i personally am writing this blog, is to be part of a process that is breaking the ‘silence’.

i mentioned i was writing this blog to a few a people today, i got a couple of positive reactions, and a couple of ‘oooh do you think thats a good idea’ responses.

i am aware, that some of this blog has gone into ramble mode, and i have to confess i am not too sure what my main objective of it was, as i started to write, other than to raise the topic, type it, write about it, and bring it into the blogosphere (i am sure others have done this too, so it isnt just me). i wanted to be part of the group of people breaking silence on the topic. i want people to talk about it. so it is not something others feel they have to be silent about. i want it talked about in our churches too. because right now, how churches meet the needs of survivors of abuse, and rape has alot to be desired for, if you ask me, though i acknowledge there are some good places.

i think i wanted to say out loud to whoever is reading this, that if you are a victim of rape it is not your fault. you didn’t ask for it. you didn’t want that happen. sex was not designed to be something that was taken away from you. it wasnt back then in jesus day, and it isnt now.

i have run out of writing steam, although i have more to say on this topic.
but please, if you feel you have something to say on this, please feel free to respond.

i shall be back to write about this again.

also, if this has stirred anything and you want to talk to someone, in the UK the Samaritans run a 24 hour service where you can call and find someone on the other end of the line : UK 08457 90 90 90′

 

Helen Blogs: christian, feminist, rape survivor & survivors advocate, Jaffa cake lover. writer about #faith, #mentalhealth, #chroniclife & #violenceagainstwomen.  @helen_a15

I believe you by @FeministBorgia

(Cross-posted from Feminist Borgia)

Edit: I see I have acquired some visitors from the Mens Rights subreddit. Hi there! Just so you know, this is my space. You can comment if you like (I see some of you have) be aware that I will authorise your coments or not, on my whim. No free speech here.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

So, here we are again. Another ‘high profile’ rape case-and by ‘high profile’, I mean involving someone the media can get plenty of column inches out of. Another acquittal. Another round of calls for anonymity for men (and let’s be clear, the vast majority of cases involving sexual violence have men as the perpetrator) accused of rape. Another round of misogyny. More screams of ‘liar’ against the victims (although to be entirely fair to those who hate women so very much, they scream liar whether the defendant is found guilty, or is acquitted. You have to give it to them, they are consistent).

There has been a lot written about this case (and there will be a lot more), by more eloquent women than I. I am just adding my voice to the choir, or at least adding my howl of sorrow and rage at yet more women failed by the justice system.

What can I even say? I can point out that a not guilty verdict does not mean that he was found innocent. It means that the jury were unable to convict beyond a reasonable doubt. And a not guilty verdict does not mean that the victim lied.

I can offer my unconditional support and belief to all women who come forward to say they have been raped or abused. And I can offer the same to women who can’t come forward (and give the appalling conviction rates, who could blame them).

I can hope that one more voice of support and belief can act as a counterbalance to the appalling media coverage. One more voice of opposition to the sympathetic cries of ‘why was this poor pensioner dragged through the courts’ and discussion of ‘false claims like these’. If these are phrases that make my skin crawl and my throat hurt, then I can only imagine how the women in this case feel.

And I can ask, why is it that famous men are so rarely convicted of the rapes and abuses with which they are charged?
I suspect that the answer lies within their fame, and the crimes with which they are charged. Evidence for rape or sexual abuse (especially hisotrical offences) so often comes down to the testimony of the victims vs the testimony of the abuser. And the jury is to decide who they believe, who they trust.
Trust comes with familiarity. With a face you know. Who is the jury going to believe? Women they don’t know (against a background of a deeply misogynistic media which constantly spins them the story that women lie about sex, and they lie about rape), or a face that everyone knows?
Which story will they accept as true-the well written, well rehearsed, consistent script, or the painful, confused recollections of abuse, memories that shift like smoke.
It’s no wonder so many women have feared coming forward. It’s no wonder so many famous men can rape and abuse with apparent impunity.

So what’s the answer? I wish I had one to give. I’m starting to suspect that the jury system may not be the best one when it comes to judging the crimes of famous men. And the alternatives would only work if judges were given mandatory training in how to deal properly with cases of rape and abuse, to stop them spouting the same victim blaming garbage they are prone to.

In the mean time, all I can do is say the same thing: I believe her. I believe them. I believe you.

 

Feminist Borgia : I blog occasionally about feminism, rape culture and games [@feministborgia]

 

This is what male violence does by @God_loves_women

(Cross-posted from God Loves Women)

Today is my son’s 9th birthday.  He is an amazing child; intelligent, articulate, funny and extremely cute!  I am married to the most extraordinary man, who has selflessly given so much of himself, his gifts, his time and his energy to enable me to fulfil that which I have been called to.  I have an 11 year old daughter who is wonderful; clever, sensitive, funny, kind, beautiful inside and out.  Today should be a day of celebration and for my son and daughter that is what today is.

I have wept most of the morning and the pain inside weighs me down. Most of the time I feel blessed to have such a beautiful life, most of those who know me, know me as I am now; confident, strong, articulate, filled with the spirit of the living God.  Yet, today I weep and am filled with great pain.

Nine years ago today my beautiful son was born 3 months premature weighing only 2lbs 6 oz. He was born premature because a week before his birth my ex-husband raped me.  Nine years ago today at 5.30am in the morning I gave birth to a tiny precious life and immediately he was whisked away to be ventilated, I didn’t get to see or hold him.  In fact the first time I held him was about 3 weeks later.  I was then put on drugs to keep my contractions going for another 4 hours in case anything from the birth was still left inside me.

I saw him briefly before he was transferred to a hospital an hour away. He was in a large plastic box, naked, hooked up to machines, his chest moving mechanically as the ventilator kept him alive.  There was blood on the towelling mattress where they had pierced his skin with intravenous drips.

Later that day I went home to collect my clothes in order to be driven by my dad to stay in the hospital with my precious son. My ex-husband was in the house and took forever to let me in.  2 years previously he had been placed on the sex offenders register after being found guilty of sexually abusing teenage girls.  As I collected my things, I realised there was a teenage girl hiding in the house; her jewellery on the fire place.  Hours after watching me give birth 3 month early, he had invited a fourteen year old girl to the house and abused her.  I couldn’t face calling the Police.  The last time I called them to report my ex-husband’s abuse of teenage girls, the officer who interviewed me said to me, “Don’t you think you should stop allowing him to see teenage girls?”

I can’t remember much of those hospital days. I remember it took a lot to convince my ex-husband to bring my two year old daughter to the hospital.  That in the end, it was less than two weeks after the terrible event of my son’s birth which convinced me to separate from my ex-husband, for the last time.  That I would express milk using an electric pump in a little room, day and night.  That my daughter and I lived in hospital for five months in total.  That I would take her swimming, to the park and to toddler groups, because she would remember being neglected in favour of sitting in a hospital room with a tiny baby on the edge of life, but that my son wouldn’t remember that I could only sit with him for a little while at a time because my daughter needed the stability.

I only cried a few times in that whole five months; once was when a nurse told me not to touch my son so much as it could cause him distress. People naturally want to stroke tiny babies in their plastic incubator boxes.  But you can’t stroke them because their skin is too fragile.  All you can do is gently hold their head and their bottom and even then, not for too long.

My daughter would do her dolls’ observations, checking their temperature and using the little pink sponges we used to wet my son’s tiny mouth to pretend to wet her dolls’ mouths. We shared a room in most of the hospitals we stayed in and it was only because we lived so far from the hospital that we were allowed to stay, most parents travelled in each day.

After a month of being in hospital with my son, I reported my ex-husband to the Police. Friends took my daughter out while I made a statement at the police station.  It took hours.

One of the hospital cleaners asked me where my ex-husband was. I said we had separated, she asked me why I’d let such a good one get away.

During the time I was in hospital I would pray, a lot. At first I prayed for my son to live.  Hoping that he would make it through.  And then God clearly said to me that I needed to stop praying that my son would be okay.  He said, “Stop praying for him to live and start praying for my will to be done.  Can you praise me the same this week, with your son alive, as you will praise me next week if your son dies?”  In that place of utter desolation, God wanted to take away even my hope of a better future.  And I thought for a long time about whether I could and from that moment on I stopped praying for my son to live and began praying for God’s will to be done.

I don’t explain this lightly or without knowledge of how this sounds to those who do not have a relationship with God. But I can tell you with all surety, that I would not be who I am today without having surrendered everything to God.  Because when everything is stripped away and there is nothing left, it is then that true freedom and life can be found.

The only weekend I had away from the hospital was when I went back to my house to move all my possessions out. My ex-husband left the electricity key so low in credit that it went off during me organising the house, which meant I had to collect the key from him.  I removed everything of mine from the house.  Cleaned it from top to bottom, so that I could collect my half of the deposit back from the landlord.  This was the same house my daughter had spent most of her life in.  The same house I had tried to commit suicide in.  The same house at which a neighbour punched me in the face for being married to a sex offender.  The same house I had been sexually abuse in day in day out, called names, constantly devalued, intentionally been made exhausted.  I stored my possessions in my parent’s garage and travelled back to the hospital.

Three months after he’d been born my son was moved to a less specialist hospital. I knew that if I moved back to my home town, I’d re-enter the relationship with my ex-husband.  I now know that is because of something called Trauma Bonding, at the time I thought it was because I was too weak and pathetic to even keep myself safe.  We moved to Gateshead.  And my son’s care continued.  Twice after being released from hospital he stopped breathing and went blue/grey.  I resuscitated him, once in a car, once at home.  When we arrived by ambulance at the hospital, I would play colouring in with my daughter on the floor, watching as my son was surrounding by medical professionalstrying to save his life, smiling at my daughter saying, “Isn’t that wonderful colouring in? You’re doing a brilliant job!”

My ex-husband was charged with rape. The Police contacted me and asked if I thought he should have bail.  “Of course!”  I said, “He wouldn’t hurt me!”

He would call me and threaten to tell people about the bad stuff he’d made me do. He would call me and say he couldn’t remember what he’d done.  And I would call him.  When I needed support, when there was news about my son’s health, when I couldn’t cope with not having spoken to him.  I genuinely believed the only person who really deserved to hear me moan about how hard life was, was him.  One time he spent twenty minutes telling me on the phone how terrible a person I was.  I cried and pleaded with him to stop, but I couldn’t put the phone down.  No matter how much I wanted to.  He controlled me absolutely.  On two occasions while on bail, he manipulated me into sleeping with him.  The Police thought he may threaten me to keep himself out of prison, but he used something much more effective than fear, he didn’t have to threaten me to keep himself out of prison, all he had to do was pretend to love me.

When asked by consultants, “Are you on your own?” I would respond with, “Yes!  I’ve separated from my husband.  He is a registered sex offender.”  I couldn’t just say yes.  I needed to explain.  To prove I’d really tried at being married, that I wasn’t a failure, or worse, one of “those” single mothers the media goes on about (turns out there’s no such thing!).  This meant that my ex-husband wasn’t allowed on the children’s ward where my son was being cared for.  I received a phone call via a hospital payphone from the police officer who was responsible for my ex-husband’s rehabilitation process.  He proceeded to shout at me over the phone, berating me for “stopping a father from seeing his child.”  Apparently I shouldn’t have told the hospital about the conviction.  I think it convinced him of my vindictiveness towards my ex-husband.

At one point my son contacted bronchiolitis. I came into the intensive care ward to find him paralysed by a drug that stopped him pulling the ventilator out of his throat.  All his veins had been used and the only one left was on the top of his head, so they had shaved the area and put a drip in there.  He was ventilated and still needing to be resuscitated every two minutes.  They said they were sending him for a lung bypass which they explained had a 70% chance of physical or mental disability.  On his way to the specialist hospital he miraculously began improving.  They didn’t need to do the bypass in the end.

Eventually my son was released from hospital on low flow oxygen, not long before my daughter’s 3rd birthday.  After turning a year he rarely needed any medical treatment.

This is what male violence does. Men take the lives of women and children and destroy them, rape them, kill them.  And no matter how wonderfully we rebuild our lives, no matter how beautiful the restoration is, every birthday is never just a celebration of life, it is also a reminder of death.  I was 21 years old when my son was born, I am now 30.  And each year seems to get harder, as the years travelled show me more clearly what I have lost.  My wonderful husband and I have chosen not to have any children that are biologically ours together.  The two I brought into the marriage need to know they are enough, and God made it clear to us that we shouldn’t have more children.  And though that decision was right and obedience to God is always worth it, the pain of knowing that my pregnancies and the early years of both my children were filled with such pain is something I mourn deeply.  This is what male violence does.

I don’t have any life giving words or clichés about how it all gets better. Even though it does.  Because for now, in this moment, the cost feels greater than the cause.

Yet, by the time I collect my wonderful son from school, no matter how much it hurts, I will greet him with the biggest smile, because it’s his birthday, and for him that means it’s a really happy day.

 

God loves women: A blog sharing my love of God, the love He has for women and my frustration that the Church often doesn’t realise this (@God_loves_women)

Reclaim the Night by @Sianushka

(cross-posted from sian and crooked rib)

 

Violence against women is not inevitable

Here’s the speech I gave at Bristol Reclaim the Night on Friday.
Thank you so much for all being here tonight. Standing here, together in solidarity, you are showing your commitment to ending the international crisis of violence against women and girls.
Today is a day of celebration. For it is the 4th birthday of the Bristol Feminist Network. I know that I am so proud to stand here with you all today, part of a network that is buzzing and vibrant and making such a difference to gender inequality in the city and beyond. I have been with the network since it began in November 2007, in fact I was one of the organisers of Ladyfest Bristol 2007, from which BFN was born. I am so proud of the achievements of our network, and so happy to stand with you all tonight, as we say no more to violence against women and girls.
So, why are we here? What are we fighting against? The recent Bristol Fawcett report, Cutting Women Out, estimated that 130 women will be raped in Bristol each month. That means that since we began planning this year’s Reclaim the Night in August, there will have been approximately 500 rapes in our city. This week in the UK, two women will have been murdered by her partner or ex partner and many, many more will have been abused. In fact, across the world, 1 in 3 women will experience sexual violence in her lifetimes. In the UK, 1 in 4 adult women will experience intimate partner violence in her lifetime, a figure that goes up to 1 in 3 teen girls.
Surely then, these figures should be on the front page of the newspapers every day. Surely this should be a national scandal. Surely, with these numbers, our government should be investing serious money in funding support services, tackling rape myths and improving a justice system that so often lets rapists go free. And yet, instead of action to end violence against women and girls, we see cuts. Cuts to legal aid, preventing victims and survivors of domestic abuse from accessing affordable legal representation. Cuts to vital local support services for victims and survivors. Cuts to social housing, making it hard for victims and survivors to escape violent homes. When I wrote to Theresa May in April, she assured me that ending violence against women and girls was a priority for this government. But, as she said to the Women’s Aid conference in 2010, it’s actions that count, not words. And I’ve counted this government’s actions. It isn’t looking good.
It is very rare that cases of violence against women and girls get reported in our media. However, there have been three cases this year that have stood out in my mind and that have revealed so much about how rape and sexual violence is discussed in the mainstream. They were the accusations against Julian Assange and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and the gang rape of 12 and 13 year old girls in Reading, where a group of men were found guilty and sentenced.
Whatever people here tonight think about the accusations against Assange and DSK, because of course we do not know what happened, one thing has been clear. The reaction to the cases was a checklist of how pervasive rape myths and victim blaming is in our society. All three alleged victims have been portrayed as liars, and have had their sex lives, politics, poverty, nationality and friendships used to discredit them. They have found themselves at the centre of conspiracy theories, and in some cases we have seen the legal definition of rape mocked and disregarded by lawyers, and by left and right wing commentators. We do not know what happened in either of those cases. But we do know that the immediate and continued reaction was to discredit and disbelieve the women. Because, in a rape culture that is almost always our reaction.
In the third case a 12 year old girl was gang raped, and her 13 year old friend was raped by one man. The men were convicted in March, but by July they were free after winning their appeal. One of the reasons given by the judge for their release was that the 12 year old girl was more sexually experienced than the men, and the convicted rapists had shown remorse. Yes, you heard that right. Our judicial system basically said that if someone rapes a child, but can then find a way that makes it look like the child was to blame, then they have nothing to worry about. Just admit it frankly, show a bit of remorse and easy. You’ll be out of jail in less than a year.
In a rape culture, victim blaming, lack of justice and silence around the levels of violence against women and girls is the norm.
But what I want to say to you all here tonight is that rape culture does not have to be the norm. Violence against women and girls is not a fact of life. It is not inevitable. It is something that can change, something that can and will end. By standing here tonight, by marching through our city streets, you have shown your commitment to ending it. The aims of Reclaim the Night, education on consent and respect, support for victim and survivor services and improving the justice system – these are all steps on the road to end violence against women and girls. Things are better than they were when the first Reclaim the Night was held in the 70s, and together, standing in solidarity together, we can make a difference and we will make a difference. I believe that. That belief gets me out of bed every day. A world without violence is possible, and by being here tonight, you are part of the movement to make that world a daily reality for everyone.

Thank you.

“We Must Not Always Talk in the Market-Place of What Happens to Us in the Forest”: Victim Blaming is Our Scarlet Letter at Americas Studies

(Cross-posted from Americas Studies)

Source: Wikimedia Commons. “”Hester Prynne & Pearl before the stocks”, an illustration by Mary Hallock Foote from an 1878 edition of The Scarlet Letter”

“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850

Are we all born with scarlet letters, unseen until someone or something makes them visible? Like unlucky lottery scratch cards, a letter rubbed raw, eczematous, infectious: one for every woman who dares to speak out against rape and sexual assault. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fictional character, Hester Prynne donned a red letter “A” for adultery, a signal of her deviant sexuality, a public warning, a badge of shame. Today, society has become that puritanical scarlet letterfor every woman, every victim, everyone who tries to take back the power and make a try for justice.

Victim Blaming

Victim blaming is the scarlet letter used by rape culture to marginalise women. It is as much an elaborate cross-stitch of (un)reasoned words as a flaming mark left by a phallocentric branding iron. In an article examining the problematic attitudes toward rape in Ireland, Amnesty International state that, in relation to low conviction rates for sex crimes, “It is clear. . . .that public attitudes to victims of rape are a significant part of the problem, and something the UN too said needed to be addressed. Rape, as with other forms of ‘gender-based violence’ against women, is directed at a woman because she is a woman. The underlying cause, according to the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, is the historical and ongoing discrimination against women by men. Also, these attitudes necessarily dictate how victims are treated subsequently.” As Hawthorne says of Hester’s scarlet letter, “It [the scarlet letter] had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.” Isolation, social exile, mockery, threats, even violence are some of what can face rape and sexual assault survivors who speak out against their attackers.

An accusation is worth a thousand brandings

Hester says to her daughter, “Hold thy peace, dear little Pearl! We must not always talk in the market-place of what happens to us in the forest.” What Hester was talking about is sexuality. Not much has changed for women since Hawthorne’s 19th century exploration of 17th century womanhood in Puritan America. We are not supposed to talk about rape, sexual assault, sexuality, or gender-based violence. An accusation is worth a thousand brandings leaving the victim mottled and worn by the collective prejudice of a society that is stunted by patriarchy, shackled to a medieval chauvinism, and hog-tied to ignorance.

Education, Justice, Support

There has been a surge of posts, articles and commentary about rape culture and victim blaming since the Steubenville rape case became global news. Many bloggers have compiled lists of why victim blaming happens, how it happens, and how to put a stop to it. Quite simply, we need to educate, improve our justice systems, and provide more support for victims of rape and sexual assault. As long as statistics like the ones below exist, we have an impossible task ahead of us. These figures are also the glaring reasons why education, justice and support are essential, yet lacking.

 

BGDBuztCEAAnbtY.jpg-large

“Violence against women is not a private matter – it is everyone’s business. We too must challenge negative attitudes to women, and resist images and information channels that reinforce discriminatory attitudes and perpetuate violence against women” – Amnesty International.

 

Americas Studies: This blog, Américas Studies is the product of an Irish feminist researcher in transatlantic dialogue with the Américas. It is grounded in my current experience as a doctoral candidate with posts about literature, film, feminism, and issues related to academia.

Richard Dawkins: Belittling Rape by The Feminist Writer

(Cross-posted from The Feminist Writer)

originally published July 29. 2014

These are just a few of the horrendous Tweets posted by Dawkins today:

This morning Richard Dawkins took to Twitter to announce the idea that there are varying levels of sexual assault (a view that he has never kept quiet) and one which unsurprisingly caused a ruckus on the social media site. To put briefly, in a discussion about syllogism, Dawkins suggested the enduring rape myth that there are varying degrees of rape, and he was wrong to do so. Based on the misconception that ‘date rape’, or rape by a partner, is less violent and therefore less important than rape by a stranger, Richard Dawkins excellently showcases misogyny in all its glory. Not only is this completely untrue, (let’s look at the facts) anybody who choses to utilise sexual violence as an acceptable example of syllogism clearly undermines those who have gone through the pain of being assaulted, showing complete disregard for survivors.

Dawkins ‘logic’ does not need to be based on such an unnecessarily horrific (and inappropriate) analogy. Rape is rape and all rape is violent. If we look at the lowest statistics recorded by the MOJ and ONS (and reported by Sian Norris in today’s Independent Online), every single one of the 1,100 rapes that occur weekly in the UK is a violent crime. And regardless of whether or not you know the perpetrator (even though evidence by Kelly suggests that 89 percent of rape victims know their attacker), the violence still stands. So rape is rape, but Dawkins choses to ‘rank’ sexual violence in terms of severity, and brushes off doing so by suggesting that regardless he is not “endorsing” the lesser of two evils. In fact, I have no issue with catagorising things in terms of severity, but like most women, I have a huge issue with claiming that rape can be categorised dependent on the situation. Richard Dawkins may not be “endorsing” date rape but by suggesting that date rape should be taken less seriously, he is most certainly adding to the difficultly that survivors face when reporting or speaking out about their experiences.

As ‘stranger rape’ is more likely to be reported by the media, it creates the false impression that these assaults are ‘more serious’, and therefore ‘more newsworthy’. The rapes that fit the narrative of what society is told constitutes rape. The rapes where the perpetrator hides in a dark alley way, knife in tow. And the rapes that all too familiarly distance society from the fact that most rapists are actually “husbands, boyfriends, fathers, brothers, colleagues and friends”(as Norris puts it). The very fact that Dawkins alludes to varying levels of sexual assault only heightens the culture of victim shaming, and encourages the questioning of the victims behaviour (what was she wearing? Did she go home with him? Didn’t she like him?) We shift the focus away from the perpetrator and examine the behaviour of the victim instead. This is never ok. The fault of the rape lies with the rapist and never with the victim regardless. This negative portrayal of the victim not only heavily supports the enduring rape myth, but also has a huge impact on women’s access to justice, which is heartbreaking. Considering the ideology that partner rape is ‘less serious’, in a society where only 15 percent of rapes are reported, 89 percent of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance, and men like Dawkins encourage such harmful misconceptions, is it any wonder that so many rapes go unreported?

The Feminist Writer: Soprano. Music Student and feminist. University of Bristol. Identify yourself as a feminist today and you’re automatically assumed to be a man-hating, whinny liberal; we need to challenge this perception. Feminism is misunderstood and it seems important to fight against these misconceptions. @amymarieaustin

“THE FAPPENING” – A BLAME GAME at Three Letter Blog

(Cross-posted from Three Letter Blog)

So this is a quick blast-post about the horrible event that has taken place in the past 24 hours. Anyone with their finger on the pulse of social media will know that a major photo-hack has taken place. Originating in what my BF has affectionately referred to as ‘the Dickhead Hive Mind’ aka 4Chan, intimate and nude photos of numerous celebrities (Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton to name but two) were posted earlier today and the internet has exploded. (Oh and FYI the super classy hacker/poster/collector isapparently disappointed they haven’t made that much cash of these ladies bodies)

Now, this is going to be a short(ish) post to address a couple of the more disturbing reactions I’ve come across today. Namely Victim Blaming, and Slut-Shaming.

The reaction of the world wide web has been abundantly disheartening today with most comments ranging from ‘YES, INTO THE WANK BANK #TheFappening’ to ‘What idiots, who would be so careless, they should know better’ and my personally most hated ‘Who even takes these photos, sluts deserved it’ (these are all abridged versions of tweets/comment/fb statuses I’ve seen today, feel free to find your own).

What is obvious is that there’s a real culture of victim blaming surrounding these photos. People seem to feel they have an outright valid claim to these intimate images, these celebrities are already out in the public sphere in sex scenes and raunchy photo shoots, so what’s the addition of a personal photograph in that mix? Well the issue here is one of consent. There’s a big difference between consenting to a Playboy photo shoot and knowing about the incoming sensation in the aftermath of one of their centerfold pieces (Madonna, Kate Moss, Sharon Stone, Drew Barrymore, and Lindsay Lohan to name a few) versus the violation of people’s private accounts and disseminating them amongst the masses. These raunchy  photo shoots and steamy sex scenes are carefully crafted and are done with the full consent of the actress/model in the comfort of a controlled environment, along with full monetary recompense for their work. They enter a CONSENSUAL CONTRACT about these images and understand how they will filter into the public. Contrast that with a VERYprivate naked-selfie you’ve taken explicitly for your own, or your partner’s own pleasure, and I think the differences are obvious.

marc-jacobs-kate-moss-playboy

Apparently however, the difference is lost on some.

Most comments I read which aren’t merely of the tasteful ‘oh my right hand is gonna be sore this week!’ variety, specifically blame the girls for the violation of their privacy. More often than not I’ve encountered that age old House-Analogy regarding the self-prevention measures people could have put in place regarding their own personal safety: ‘Excuse me while I leave all my doors and windows unlocked because no one should break in’ – Imgur User. Which basically means, if you don’t police yourself and use security measures to the extent of a metaphorical bunker then you deserve EVERYTHING and ANYTHING that happens to your body/house. If we continue with the ridiculous House-Analogy then logically this argument is just a few steps shy of saying ‘I mean, I could leave my house, but if I did that I’d totally be bringing it on myself when I get stabbed to death.’

It’s increasingly shocking how often these analogies are used in response to Rape. Apparently if we don’t walk around with chastity belts and razor-blade lined underwear we are at fault in any and all violation of our bodies/houses. The same goes for our nude pics. If we don’t want to have our privacy abused, we shouldn’t take photos. Which is basically the same as saying, ‘If you don’t want your privacy violated, don’t have a private life’. It’s inhibiting, it’s victim blaming, and it’s verging on the Big-Brother style self-policing. Why do I have to live a life of fear and imposed nunnery simply because others have no decency? I have every single right to photograph my own body in an intimate manner and share this with my partner. You have absolutely no right to look at them. (FYI the Guardian has written a great post discussing the abuse of this current scandal, I encourage you all to read it). Granted, uploading photos onto the cloud is a bit silly, I personally delete any/all backed up photos for fear of accidentally sharing them on my Google Plus page and my father accidentally coming across them. That is a logical fear. But equally, the cloud is accessed via means of password-protected accounts. PASSWORD. PROTECTED. Simply because these were on the cloud doesn’t mean the public has right of access. These are private accounts. Full stop. You have no ownership or right to these images. Do kindly piss off.

The most upsetting element I have found around this whole scandal is the Slut-shame aspect. People seem to feel that these ladies, taking photos for their personal use, deserve what has happened, because who else other than great big skank-whore-slut-bags takes nude photos!??

I do.

MJ does.

I’m pretty sure my mum has. Your mum probably has too.

Are you calling my mum a Slut?

Fuck you.

And do you know why we take these photos? Because bodies are beautiful. The ability to share your body with your partner is one of the most sensual and brilliant things you can do. MJ has written beautifully about the self confidence she found in being photographed by her lover. To deny others that form of self expression and self confidence is ludicrous. If I take a naked photo of myself it’s because I feel fucking great. It’s because I’m happy with my body and because I want to share that with my partner, so he can reinforce my confidence by waxing lyrical about my bodacious boobs and awesome ass. We have every right to do whatever we want with our bodies, and share them (consensually) with others. You have no right to shame me for doing so. Thus, posts such as this one:

SnF525E

Which suggest that those who don’t take nude photos are cleverer/classier than those who do, need to be burned (or whatever the internet equivalent is). It sets up and perpetuates that age old Madonna/Whore complex, in which there is a publicly accepted level of sexuality which women are allowed to posses; and there is a level which only men are allowed to exploit. Stop it.

And to end on just a quick afterword: It’s honestly eye-opening to me to see the public’s reaction to this hacking scandal. The public outrage felt by News International over the phone-hacking of private conversations (THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN TALKING ON BURNER PHONES IN SECRET GOVERNMENT BUNKERS IF THEY DIDN’T WANT TO BE LISTENED TO – House Analogy) was palpable. Sadly, because these are photos of ATTRACTIVE, NAKED, WOMEN there doesn’t seem to be the same levels of anger and outrage. It just goes to show how a mobile phone is considered more sacred than a woman’s body in our culture.

So, I urge you all not to look at/disseminate these photos, and please rebuff anyone who says it’s the fault of these ladies AKA Victims. It’s abuse, it’s violation. It’s that simple.

 

The Three Letter Blog: Our writers (VJ and MJ) are two twenty-something ladies living in big cities across the UK, one is currently drowning in the midst of a Literature PhD and the other is a kick-ass young professional in the Marketing world. After becoming increasingly irritated with the idealistic, mostly sexist and romanticised sex lives promoted in glossy monthly magazines, we decided to create this blog as a means of discussing the actual reality of sex for the modern day woman (and man). We hope to present to you a mix of anecdotes and articles, a discussion of all things, from sexual health to role play, foreplay to foreskin, and everything else in between. We feel strongly that sex and being sexual is a part of being human, and that being in charge of your own sexual discourse is empowering and liberating. TLB is an open conversation seeking to break the taboos surrounding one of our most intelligent and indulgent past times.

Not all men by Kiss Me and Be Quiet

(Cross-posted from Kiss Me and Be Quiet)

Well it’s been quite the week for victim-blaming hasn’t it? Another week of people loudly proclaiming that sex offenders and abusers are not actually at fault for what they do, oh no. It’s the person who’s been attacked, abused or violated of course.

Victim-blaming is a big thing when women are attacked. It always has been. Court cases (if it even gets that far) filled with questions about whether the victim was drinking, wearing make-up, wearing a short skirt, is a virgin etc. This isn’t news. The fact that women who are completely covered up, or that men get attacked too doesn’t seem to change this narrative. Logic doesn’t apply here, it’s all about ensuring women understand the do’s and don’t’s of “acceptable” behaviour.

This week, the victim-blaming got louder for a moment, when half of twitter couldn’t stop screaming about Jennifer Lawrence. That she shouldn’t take photographs of herself that she isn’t prepared for the whole world to see. That it was a publicity stunt. That it would help her on the casting couch. That she is sexy, so she should ‘own it’. That it was worth it. Because apparently when you are famous, you are no longer allowed to have boundaries, be private or give consent. Because apparently when you are ‘hot’ then your distress is secondary to other people’s voyeurism.

And then there were the responses to the people who wrote about this. When people pointed out this was abuse, or that you wouldn’t blame someone for online banking and yet we do for storing photos online, when people said ‘stop’, or painted the picture in the wider context of misogyny or the patriarchy and of men trying to silence women.

‘Not. All. Men’ came the immediate reply.

‘Not. All. Men’ yelped the men who considered themselves to be decent citizens.

‘Fuck you. Not all men’ shouted some adding extra abuse in a heartbeat.

 

Not all men, we are repeatedly told, while being sold nail varnish that can stop us being raped.

Not all men, we are told, while being sold hairy leggings to stop us being raped.

Not all men, we are told while being given rape alarms for when we need to walk somewhere alone in the dark.

Not all men, we are told, while being advised not to wear short skirts. Or get drunk. Or kiss anyone without wanting to sleep with them.

Not all men, we are told, while being told that our mere presence in a bar, on the street, on a train, in a car park, could trigger any one of the bad men to lose control. And it will be our fault.

Not all men, we are told, while being told that the mere vision of us on our own private cameras could cause one of the bad men to go to extreme lengths to get those photos and can’t help but share them. And it will be our fault.

And it may be a surprise to realise that in spite of this, we actually know that it’s not all men. We are aware that we can walk down the street without every male we walk past abusing us. That we can take a chance and try and meet a man on a date and see if we like each other. That we can go to work and have male colleagues with whom we might have a good conversation. but I don’t know a woman who hasn’t at some point been verbally or physically abused by a man. I don’t go out with my friends without us texting each other at the end of the night to let each other know we’re home safe. The majority of my friends will wince if told to ‘cheer up love’ by a random man in case he turns nasty. And here’s the thing – we don’t know if you are the nice guy, or the man who can’t control himself. We don’t know if you’re the guy to stay near in case something happens, or you’re the guy who will make something happen.

So if your first reaction to learning how widespread verbal and physical abuse of women is, is ‘not all men!’, instead of ‘holy crap I had no idea!’ then you either need to challenge your response, or rethink your status as a nice guy, because screaming, or even calmly stating ‘not all men’ isn’t helping to change the reality that women get attacked, and then get blamed for it.

 

Kiss Me and Be Quiet: “Be plain in dress, and sober in your diet; In short my deary, kiss me and be quiet.” A satirical summary of Lord Lyttelton’s Advice to women, written by Lady May Wortley Montagu in the 1700s. Not enough has changed since then. I am a feminist, parent to two small children, and I have lived with chronic back pain for nearly two years, and counting. These are 3 topics that occupy a lot of my thinking. I’ll share some of those thoughts with you here.

I want 140 characters which will end rape by Sam Berg

(cross-posted from John Stompers) 

 

So men, what do you want to hear?

Not all men are like that? You’re not like those other men?

Let’s say I tell you men that you are wonderful, kind, heroic and humble. Will these words of praise stop the girl enslavement called “child marriages”?

If women change tactics from demanding the return of girl children stolen in Africa, if instead we engulf men in a cascade of compliments assuring men that we know they are decent and devoted, will men return our generosity by raising the average age a girl enters prostitution out of the early teen years?

So men, if it is not flattery you want from women, what are the words you want to hear? What can women say that will cause you to finally stop what you have always had in your manly hands the power to end?

Women have been forgiving of what men have done to us. We have to if we want to leave our homes. We have to forget what pornography shows us men like to masturbate to if we want to go to work or buy food while looking into the porn-soaked eyes of the men around us. We have to forget what happened the last time we went out, and the time before that, and we need to remember the times nothing happened.

I’ll remember that you are the good ones and that most violence is really the fault of madness or money. I will forgive and forget whatever it is you want of me if you tell me what you want to hear women say. Then good men like you will stop telling us how we’re doing feminism wrong, because we’ll be doing it exactly as you command.

Then men will stop the violence your mentally ill brothers and financially destitute brothers commit against girls and women.

Men will stop the violence.

Not because women have always begged men to stop. Not because women have always acquiesced to silent invisibility in the hope that men would respond with civility. Not because men haven’t kept masculinity’s vaunted promise to protect women and children.

Men will stop the violence because women will finally have spoken the word sequence whose non-utterance has kept the dignity of full personhood out of women’s grasp.

So men, enough with telling women when we speak the wrong words. What would you have women say to get men to end the violence sinking humanity’s ship, the result when something naturally balanced is forcibly tipped for too long?

You can go over Twitter’s 140 characters if you need to, or whatever Facebook’s limit is, but do try to keep it from becoming a 141-page manifesto if you can.

Just say the words and I will work tirelessly getting women to repeat them, then men will stop the violence.

Men will stop the violence.

Women will say what men want to hear and men will stop the violence.

And that will work this time.

 

JohnStompers: My blog neatly collects my published articles about prostitution, porn, and other human trafficking issues into one easily found blog. I don’t twitter much, but I’m fairly active on Facebook as “Samantha Berg” from Portland, Oregon, USA.

On Exercising Empathy by @CatEleven

(Cross-posted from One Woman’s Thoughts)

I would like to try a little exercise with you. I would like you to try on some shoes. Most of them won’t fit, they’ll be too small but putting aside practicalities for a moment we can metaphorically slip them on for our purposes today.

Ok, so they’re on? Done up? Good. Now I want you to close your eyes and picture a young girl, 14, maybe 15, it’s not all that important-she’s below the age of legal consent, that’s all you need to know. She’s wearing a pair of shorts, a vest, flip flops, she’s a little bit mouthy, did you just hear what she said to her mum? Typical teenager right? Now, see that man over there? To her right? That’s her dad’s mate from work. That’s the man that in about 20 minutes is going to rape her. It’s up to you whether you watch, I’d prefer it if you did, to see the act, put into context, not some words on a page.

Because the act of rape is what she’s about to experience, not a nebulous “assault” or “a situation that got out of hand” or a “sex game gone wrong”. Rape, forced entry, deadly and life changing. I’d like you to watch, but I’m not convinced you’d have the stomach.

Right, moving on, the purpose of this exercise is not to make you feel ill but if it rattles, if you’re feeling uncomfortable maybe it’s starting to get through. Maybe it will open your eyes, to get you to see that these attacks and assaults, these rapes and murders that happen to women every single day are not happening in a bubble. They are not happening to cardboard cut-outs, these are real human, flesh and blood women and girls. And EVERY SINGLE TIME that you hold those women and girls responsible for their attacks you’re saying the following;

• They deserved to be harmed
• The men who attacked were justified
• That men will be believed
• That women will not be believed
• That the traumatised victims are not worth our empathy
• That the traumatised victims do not deserve justice

Every time you caveat a tilted head at a headline with “yes but” you join the scores and scores of onlookers who help create an environment and culture that treats women as second class citizens whose voices are not considered and whose experiences of trauma do not generate empathy but derision and blame.

You cannot ever know what the words “I believe you” mean to a victim of abuse, rape, assault. If you’ve always had your word taken, if you’ve always been listened to no matter what the circumstance then I can understand entirely why that would be the case.

So look, let’s take those shoes off and you’re free to walk on by. But next time, before nodding at the headlines, before agreeing with the reports, before questioning the tragically rare guilty verdicts I want you to think what you might say if you were sat right in front of those women and girls. Could you look them in the eyes and tell them they deserved it? If you were in the room with the attacks happening would you egg on the abuser, would you look away? If you were in the shoes of those women and girls can you think for one second what those headlines would do?

If you contain one ounce of empathy, I urge you to start exercising it.