sexual assault

It Was Assault and It Wasn’t the First Time

CN/TW: Descriptions of Assault and Rape

I was at a party the other weekend, when the subject of my book came up.

I decided to tell the anecdote of the faith healer, the punch line of which was the description of his hand on my crotch and ass stroking back and forth, while I tried not to laugh in his face or look at my mother who was also struggling. I played it like I always do; for laughs at the absolute ridiculousness of the situation. But this time something was different. Maybe it was the look on the face of the person I was speaking to. Maybe it was the fact that I was already thinking about something related to assault. Whatever it was, even as I was laughing, I was suddenly face with the fact that what I was describing was sexual assault.

A man was touching my body in intimate places, in a way that made me feel uncomfortable. He was stroking my crotch because he knew he could get away with it. Despite the fact that my mother was sitting right there. I was in a position where I couldn’t object, and I couldn’t really refuse. Not without possible consequences.

It’s not as if the realization changed much. I was already an assault victim, having come to terms with what had happened to me at 18 years old with a doctor.

But the realization that I had been telling the story of my assault as a humorous story made me stop and think.

(more…)

Advertisements

The Most I’ve Ever Been Hurt

I learned something this week.

I learned that I can beg and plead, at the brink of tears, more emotional than you have heard or seen me in more than ten years, for over an hour, and you’ll be unmoved.

I learned that I can pour my soul out for you on the page, in the form of communication in which I’m most comfortable, and you won’t bother reading it for comprehension.

I learned that you’ll always default to trying to be my emotional inverse, calm and collected when I am urgently emotional, shrieking and yelling when I’m quiet, because you never had any higher end than trying to make me doubt my own feelings and replace them with yours.

I learned that I can make a tiny request, that means more to me than anything, and the measure of your response will be how inconvenient it is for you.

(more…)

If You Don’t, It’s On You

I’ve been pondering these two images for the better part of a year.

A woman stands with arms akimbo wearing shiny AR-brand underwear.  Someone is demonstrating the underwear's imperviousness to scissors.

And they are both incredibly disappointing.

I want to be happy about them both.  I want to hold up Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s conspicuously clothing-free sign and AR Wear’s focus on making women feel safe as massive improvements on bog-standard rape “prevention” “advice.”  Compared to the last set of military instructions I read (TL;DR: lie back and take it to avoid injury) and the miscellany of useless clothing-related tips, these are frankly magnificent.

They should both see that as damning with very, very faint praise.

(more…)

A Sex Ed Manifesto

We are here to inform you that consent is an ongoing negotiation that can be withdrawn at ANY time and that if you EVER ignore that withdrawal, you are a rapist. We are here to inform you that a rapist is not something you want to be. We are here to inform you that you are never, ever, EVER “entitled” to any kind of sex with ANYONE, no matter what they say or don’t say, do or don’t do, drink or don’t drink, if they do not enthusiastically consent to it. We are here to inform you that, no matter what gender you are or what gender your partner is, YOU have the option to say no, and they have the OBLIGATION to acquiesce to your refusal, and they are bad people if they do not.


We are here to inform you that how often you have whatever kinds of sex you like having is between you, your partner(s), and whoever controls the spaces where you’d like to engage in this amazing and wondrous facet of the human experience. We are here to impress upon you NO ONE–not your church, not your parents, not even the rest of this entire society–gets to decide that for you. We are here to inform you that other people will have opinions about the hows and whys and whos of your sex, and it is up to YOU to decide which ones you take seriously and which ones you discard. Nothing about your preferences, interests, and tastes indicates that something is wrong with YOU. Not one thing. Your value is not dictated by what kinds of sex you have, how many partners you have, the genders of those partners, or anything else related.

We are here to inform you that some partners actually are bad news, and will do things that make you feel uncomfortable and unsafe. Some partners will try to isolate you from your friends and family or control your life in other, stranger ways. Some partners will try to use their positions of power over you–teachers, police officers, bosses–to get you to do things with them that you don’t want to do. Some partners will try to use violence against you to make you do what they want you to do. Sometimes, your friends or family will notice these patterns before you do. We are here to inform you that you do NOT have to tolerate that, that being in that situation does NOT reflect badly on you, and that there are places for you to go in order to escape that horror.

We are here to provide information about every intervention you might take to avoid becoming pregnant, avoid acquiring STIs, avoid getting your partner pregnant, avoid giving your partner STIs, stop being pregnant if you desire to not be pregnant anymore, and get rid of STIs. We are here to enthusiastically recommend any and all of those options that work for you. We are here to remind you that NOT ONE SINGLE THING IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE can make a claim on your body that supersedes YOURS, regardless of what properties that thing has or doesn’t have. We are here to remind you that the most effective way you will ever have to make sure you mire your family in poverty for a generation is to have a baby before you finish high school, and the second-most-effective is to have a baby before you finish your first post-high-school degree. We are here to remind you that you have the option to seek child support from your partner if you have a baby and they refuse to be part if its life. We are here to remind you that there are other resources available for people with children in difficult situations, some of which are provided by organizations like Planned Parenthood that are most famous for other services.

We are here to provide information on how to engage in sex acts safely and pleasurably that has nothing to do with STIs. We are here to give you the tools you need to understand your body and to know whether a partner has your safety appropriately in mind. We are here to encourage you to explore that body on your own and understand how it works and what YOU like, ESPECIALLY if you are a young woman and virtually everyone else in your life has been telling you the opposite. We are here to make sure that you do not think you are defective or weird or at all unusual if you need to add clitoral stimulation to your PiV sex to reach orgasm, if you need extended foreplay to reach the point where PiV is not painful for you, or if you find that you enjoy stimulation of your prostate. We are here to make sure you understand that paraphilias exist and are not shameful or signs of mental dysfunction or indicative of abusive tendencies or whatever other nonsense people have fed you. We are here to make sure you understand that sexual pleasure, whatever form it takes for you, is something wonderful, and not something about which you need to EVER feel shame.

We are here to provide information on the ways that the sex depicted in pornographic materials can differ from the sex you’ll be having. We are here to provide information on the ways that porn actors and sex acts in porn are optimized for viewing, not for the pleasure or enjoyment of any of the participants, and that porn actors (and regular actors, for that matter) are held to standards of attractiveness that are impossible, unhealthy, or both for the vast majority of the human race, including most of you. YOU will have to navigate that space and assert your place in it in order to have one that isn’t dictated by the wishes of those around you.

Your and your parents’ patriarchal, probably-religiously-motivated attitudes about sex, sexuality, and any ‘morality’ associated therewith that has nothing to do with consent have no place here, and if you retain them by the time we have finished providing this information, we will regard ourselves as having failed you.

What Guppies Can Teach Us about Sexual Ethics

It’s a tricky thing to use animals as examples of behavior for humans.  The psychology of an earthworm or dragonfly has virtually no resemblance to that of a vertebrate, let alone a vertebrate with an unusually large cerebral cortex.  Arthropods in particular labor under a “sensor-heavy paradigm” that doesn’t rely on a single massive body of nerves for integrating information and determining behavior.

But here and there, we find animals whose mores and activities prove illustrative.  In light of the latest explosion of rape allegations that has rocked the atheist/skeptic community over the past several weeks, today’s example is the humble guppy.

(more…)

And now for just $24.99 you too can have your own pet uterus!

If one watches the forced birth / “pro-life” talking heads long enough, one starts to notice something a little strange.

Get them on the subject of women seeking out and receiving medical procedures, and they bray and stamp about “unborn children” and the horror that such sacrosanct beings are being killed for something so prosaic as parasitizing a woman’s body against her will.

Get them on the subject of people of any sex using contraceptives…and they bray and stamp about sluts and their slutty ways, demeaning themselves with sex for pleasure.

Which is kind of odd, since contraceptive availability is the most effective prophylactic against abortions at the societal level.  One would think that the “pro-life” crowd would be the most obsessively enthusiastic promoters of birth control by far, dumping truckloads of condoms and pamphlets about pills and IUDs everywhere they imagine semen might encounter a cervix to make absolutely sure that every zygote that comes to be does so intentionally.

But that’s not what we get.

One would imagine that people who define themselves by wanting to reduce the number of embryos that aren’t brought to term would be passionate opponents of rape, harping on consent and demanding that rapists be prosecuted aggressively in the name of making every fetus wanted.

But that’s not what we get.

One would imagine that people who want to restrict women’s bodily autonomy in the name of protecting children would want to make the world a more welcoming place for children, by advocating for healthcare availability, child-care services, maternity and paternity leave, assistance for low-income households with children, and funding for education at all levels.

We get the exact opposite of that.  We get “pro-life” speakers and politicians who demonize contraception with the same energy that they point at something they wrongly assert is the same as murder.  We get politicians who rail against comprehensive sexual education that would help people avoid making unwanted fetuses.   We get religious leaders who encourage women to marry as young as possible so that their sex can have their god’s imprimatur.  We get people who think that sexually transmitted infections are God’s wrath and vaccines against them are sacrilege.

We get clergy who promote the idea that women who assent to unmarried sex are shameful sluts and harlots who have “defiled” and “disrespected” themselves.  We get loud, politically powerful cults that encourage their daughters to get married as young as possible and sometimes even pick their husbands for them, and tell them that objecting to any of this is a condemnation to eternal torment.  We get schools of law that hold that a marriage contract is a writ of consent to any and every sexual urge a woman’s husband might ever have and that it’s not possible for him to rape her no matter what he does or what she wants or doesn’t want. For she is an unclean, sinful monster if she assents to sex before she’s married or if she is raped (for bringing it on herself, clearly) and no longer has the option to not assent after she is married.

We get a media establishment and legal system that spend exorbitant amounts of time telling men that they can rape whoever they want if they say that the victim inflamed their lust by dressing “provocatively” or wearing makeup or being out at night or drinking or not being a virgin at the time.  We get public figures and online “rights” movements that maintain that most women who report rapes are lying about consensual encounters.  We get military procedures that tell women who are under sexual attack to lie back and take itto avoid injury.  We get cases where a rapist can sue to try to stop his victim from getting an abortion and, failing that, can sue for joint custody of the resulting child.

All by itself, one could almost find something laudable in the “pro-life” stance, framed as trying to protect “children” from harm.

But that’s not what we get.  Instead, a very different picture emerges.  They are not pro-life.  They are pro-forced birth.

The anti-abortion position is part of a spectrum of stances that, all together, point at a movement that could not possibly care less about children.  They don’t care about preventing unwanted pregnancy, or making sure that every fetus is a wanted fetus.  No, they have a different agenda.

The anti-abortion position seeks a world where a uterus-bearer has no say in whether xe gives birth after xe gets pregnant, no say in whether xe gets pregnant after xe has sex, and no say in when xe has sex.

The anti-abortion fantasy is a world where women have no sexual agency whatsoever, and every part of a woman’s biology is given over to the task of carrying and bearing children.  But not her children—his.  Nothing is hers—not her body, not her mind, not her life.  Nothing but the burden of carrying out the sexual and reproductive will of those who would look upon her with desire.

The anti-abortion vision is a world of men and ambulatory uteruses to be acquired and put to use.

It is in this context, and this context only, that the pro-forced-birth position makes sense.  These are their objectives.  Only when the whole package is viewed at once does the true picture emerge.

It’s not about fetuses, not about babies, not about death or murder or morality.

It’s about destroying the very idea that women have a place in this world that isn’t on the shelf next to the other appliances.

It’s about destroying the idea that women are people.

Never forget that.