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Rich Lafferty's Journal

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Best of the web: Metafilter discusses sexual assault.
thinking, perplexed
Men: Read this. The entire Metafilter thread. (The article, too, if you want context, but the thread is why I'm telling you to read it.) In multiple sittings if necessary.

But read it.

ETA: rahaeli linked to this and this, some excellent additional reads. Thanks Rah!

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And then there are people who don't "get" those signals. (Autism-spectrum types, apparently including me; worse, I also send the wrong signals, with the result that I disturb pretty much everyone. So I've pretty much given up.)

No, no, the thread. Read the thread.

(I've updated my post to make that clear, too, thanks.)

That was my response to the top few comments. I'm still reading, and I'm strongly tempted to hunt down some of the male commenters and introduce them to the Cluestick-o'-Doom.

I am pretty sure women have it worse after a recent thread on ML, but I came out of high school suspicious of just about everyone. I wouldn't be surprised if that's part of what throws people about me; I note commonalities between various women's reported safety checks and mine.

("No, you have not. You have not seen someone walking down a street with your hypothetical gang rape joke. You just have not. You cannot say it, either, because you haven't seen it." Die in a fire, "xmutex".)

And I'm stopping about a third of the way through because (a) I'm tired and (b) my hackles make a grab for the ceiling every time some (invariably male) idiot pipes up about how "some" women are overreacting. I've only had the one DIAF reaction, but that's one target-rich thread there.

This is going to be one of those things where, at some point, there will be a woman who will tell me I'm a rapist because I have a penis and I'm not a virgin and then I'm going to have to get angry, isn't it?

Not going there.

No. This is one of those things where a whole lot of women tell you that they live their entire lives being commoditized, harassed, denigrated, assaulted, abused, and threatened every single day of their lives until the point where it literally becomes nothing more than background noise, on a continuum that exists everywhere from the asshat on the bus insisting that they owe him an hour's worth of polite conversation when all they want to do is sit with their iPod and their algebra textbook, to the groups of men who insist that they have the right to follow her down the street starting off with "baby, you got such a pretty face, why don't you just smile" to "nice legs, come and wrap 'em around me" to "c'mere and blow me", to the quintessential stranger rapist who leaps out of the bushes and drags them off to rape and kill them, and every time they speak up to mention that hey, you know, gendered violence? still not dead yet! they get told that they're overreacting, hysterical (which is such a lovely, lovely word; check the etymology, really) humorless bitches who are oppressing and alienating men.

Being asked to bear witness to the suffering of half the planet -- being asked to open your fucking eyes and notice that what you dismiss while waving your privilege around like it's a magical +2 Cock of Shielding and whining that the patriarchy hurts men too is the real, lived, authentic experience of half the planet -- is so far from being the reductio ad absurdum you (and many other knee-jerk reactionaries to feminist thought) paint it as that I can only tell you to go RTFL. Because if you can read through that entire thread and not begin to understand why what you have just said is monstrous in this or any other discussion of gendered violence, when at the very least one in four of the women reading your words has been sexually assaulted in her lifetime, you are not human.

Wow, that's a mighty broad brush you're painting me with there. I'm impressed.

Did you know I've never once said anything like "C'mere and blow me" to a woman? That I find that just as offensive as you do and would deal harshly with any man who pulled anything like that in my presence?

I bet you don't believe me though. You've convinced yourself that I'm an offensive ass merely because I'm a man and other men are offensive asses. So put away your Hammer Of Victimhood and open your eyes.

Let me try this again in smaller words this time.

I never said you've ever uttered those words in your life. I said that nearly every woman you know -- I'd even go so far as to say every woman you know, if you live in an urban area -- has had those words, or similar, shouted at her on the street. Sometimes on a daily basis. Or had something else happen to her that tells her in a thousand subtle ways that our culture considers her body, her autonomy, and her personhood to be second to the desires and whims of the men around her.

I also said that every woman you know who has had that experience has also had the experience of relaying that story to a man of her acquaintance and being told that she was:

* imagining it;
* overreacting to it;
* misinterpreting it;
* taking it too seriously;
* making men into the victims because oh my god you're judging all men by this!!!1111oneoneone

You are being That Guy. Don't be That Guy. Seriously. Read the thread. The discussion mendel linked is not even about rape. This discussion is about the fact that every time women attempt to describe their lived experience, some jackass comes along and deflects, derails, or dismisses them. Your comment, attached to a post pointing people to that discussion, is a textbook example of the very phenomenon described in the thread. You are contributing to the exact problem being discussed here. I am painting you with nothing more than your own words and your own actions.

Edited at 2009-11-12 08:09 am (UTC)

I like how you started with an implied ad-hominem (ha ha you're too stupid to understand big words!). Classy.

No point in trying to say any more to you though. You already know that I'm a horrible sexist and there's nothing I could possibly do or say that would convince you otherwise. Good luck in setting up your world of female privilege though!

You know, I'm not entirely sure what argument you're having, but it's certainly not the one I'm having with you. It takes a special sort of chutzpah to be that oblivious. (Or a special sort of privilege.) The disconnect is so dramatic it's as though I'm trying to have a conversation about gendered violence and you're trying to have a conversation about pineapple. And, you know, I'm really not interested in having a conversation about pineapple. Or hearing you telling me what you think I'm saying and ignoring what I'm actually saying.

I hope you heal from whatever, and whomever, hurt you so badly that your only possible response was to close yourself off to compassion so drastically.

Well, me, I believe in equality. Right down to the core. Anything which smacks of a lack of equality just grinds my gears. The idea of interactions between humans where one human is an evil-doer by default and the other one is not an evil doer makes me go "No, that's not right."

I won't apologize for that minority of guys who are complete assholes, because that's not my responsibility. I, personally, won't be an asshole. If you see me as an asshole just because I'm, well, a guy--that's your own poisoned perception. Any guy being an asshole in my presence will have to answer to me (and, I hope, others). My optimistic nature posits that that's a default reaction, though.

Posting great big manuals about how to not seem to be a rapist? That's just as patronizing as a manual about How To Not Be A Feminazi Harpy. I have this crazy "equality" idea in my head, that says that a woman is just as good as a man; a black man is just as good as a white man; a Christian is just as good as an atheist (or Buddhist; hi, mendel! Since I'm polluting your LiveJournal with a stupid flame war); as any person is as good as any other.

I really don't care what arbitrary characteristics you have if they're not relevant to the issue at hand. If we're talking computery technical stuff? I can tell you about one of my former co-workers who I admire greatly because of her thoroughness in writing test specifications, which led my place of work at the time to release a product that worked so well that it was being used heavily at a customer's site for nearly a year before it had a problem big enough that the customer called us for help. Before that, the metric for how much a product was being used was how many calls the customer made to us asking us to fix problems with it happened. I don't attribute that to the fact that she was female, because that would be silly. I attribute it to what a good engineer she is.

Here's the thing. I believe in equality. Sex, just like race, is an arbitrary and irrelevant thing. All people are equal in my eyes. The awesome Unix engineer at my place of work and the awesome Windows engineer at my place of work are both equally skilled, even though one is a man and one is a woman. I won't tell you who is which though. Guess away.

I have plenty of compassion to spare. I've been hurt, and I've also been treated well. It's all part of the human experience. In general, I prefer being treated well, but hey, there are assholes out there. And they're not all male. Or white. Or black. Or gay. Or whatever arbitrary criterion you want to apply.

tl;dr version: Arbitrary irrelevant criteria are stupid. Throw them aside and think about people instead.

Okay, look. I sympathize with you. I really do. It's hard as hell to hear that up to half the world's population lives in daily fear because of the actions of a bunch of people with whom you share an essential characteristic, and it's hard as hell to hear that yeah, there are people out there who judge you by the example those others have set. I know that it's hard to hear, because I've been in your shoes with other essential characteristics, and I have gone just as bugfuck insane in the past.

I'm asking you to set aside your knee-jerk reaction here and accept that no matter how lofty the goal of complete equality is, no matter how much everyone wishes it were the case, it patently isn't. It does not matter what you believe. It does not matter what your ideals are. It does not matter what your experiences are. In this case, it is not about you. Equality is a wonderful ideal. The world doesn't work like that. No matter how enlightened and equal you make personal your reactions and responses, we are living in a sick culture that is built on institutionalized sexism (and racism, and homophobia, and classism, and ableism, and and and), and you, personally, are swimming at or near the top of the privilege heap.

You literally cannot experience life, cannot experience the byproducts of that sick culture, the way a woman does. No one is saying that you are a horrible person because of this. What people are saying is that because you cannot experience the byproducts of our sick culture the way a woman does, you do not get to ignore and dismiss a woman's experience as trivial because you don't share it. Which is what you are doing.

Nobody is saying that you are evil because you are male. That straw man doesn't have legs. Read the thread Mendel linked to. Not the article. The comments. Read the experiences of women. Read what women are saying. Read a sampling of the comments to this entry.

If you read nothing else, read this comment. Take your hands off your keyboard. Read each and every word of it -- don't skim, even when it gets brutally hard to continue -- and try to imagine a world in which that is your life every day. Imagine a world in which every person like you that you know knows that if they haven't had that experience, you could have, at any moment, when someone around you decides that they want something from you that you don't want to give.

Imagine a world in which this is your truth. Or this.

Gendered violence affects at least one in four American women. (The actual numbers are probably much higher; that's just the number of reported sexual assaults.) You will likely never have this experience, because many women have learned not to mention it around men -- because they have learned that mentioning it will most likely result in hours upon hours of 'flame war' (nice dismissive tactic there) in which the man they've confided in tells them that they're overreacting, or hysterical, or paranoid, or in which the man does precisely what you started out this thread with and dismisses the whole topic as nonsense not worth spending time on -- but if you are ever in women's space, and you have kept your mouth shut long enough for the women around you to believe that you won't be one of them, you will hear story after story about how gendered violence manifests in our society. Every woman has one.

I was ten years old the first time a man thought it was okay to try to touch my breasts without asking me for permission first. (Setting aside the fact that a ten-year-old can give no meaningful consent to that question.) The most recent time it happened was last week. Gendered violence does not only mean "assault in which a man sticks his penis in a woman's vagina without her wanting it there". Nobody is saying that you, personally, are doing these things. What I am saying, what the woman who wrote that article is saying, what the women who are commenting to that thread are saying, is that when they see a man that they don't know, they have to allow for the possibility that man is someone who would do those things.

Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, "They are afraid women will laugh at them." When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, "We're afraid of being killed."

Think about that. Really, honestly, truly think about that. Please.

I'm done here.

"Gendered violence does not only mean "assault in which a man sticks his penis in a woman's vagina without her wanting it there"."

Uh, if you're equating "unwanted touching" with "forcibly having a man's penis inserted into your vagina without consent" then you are, as I keep trying to point out, trivializing the brutality that women who are actually assaulted (or battered) have had to endure.

Stop doing it. It makes you look like a nut.

Edited at 2009-11-12 11:47 pm (UTC)

Remember back when you started throwing around opinions without reading the article and I said you were done here and froze that discussion? That wasn't a rhetorical device. Cut it out.

Sexual assault necessarily involves sex.

Verbal assault of a sexual nature is still just that, verbal assault.

Trying to call it anything else is just hype and sensationalism. Sorry.

Edited to clarify: You can't essentially say "oh no, he raped my mind!" and be taken seriously.

Edited at 2009-11-12 01:18 pm (UTC)

What the fuck is your point?

Ok, so let me get this straight. You read that whole thread -- in which dozens of women are telling stories about how they were attacked, molested, harassed, about how systemic and pervasive it is and how this feeling that some women have that it's "just them" turns out to be a feeling shared by a whole lot of women, people sharing stories that they've never been able to express before.

And after reading all that, you come back here and write those three lines and think you're actually making some, any kind of contribution? That you can stand there and say that what they're calling their experiences is not, in your opinion, valid?

What the fuck?

(Also, go look up the difference between "assault" and "battery", please, because even on a technical level you are wrong.)

Edited at 2009-11-12 03:01 pm (UTC)

I read through the original entry, and skimmed the 1,000 or so comments. I then skimmed the MeFi comments.

"Systemic and pervasive" is an interesting perceptual fallacy. Do you think any woman in her right mind is ever going to speak up and say "wow, sucks for you but that shit never happened to me, ever" -- if they did, how do you suppose their lived experiences would be received?

I don't try to invalidate the experiences of those who really HAVE been sexually assaulted. But, being harrassed or simply being interacted with in a way that doesn't suit you and trying to compare it to actual sexual assault trivializes the experiences of people who actually HAVE been assaulted and that is shameful. That's the majority of feminist asshattery that goes on, and it disgusts me.

"Assault is a crime of violence against another person."

"Battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault in that the contact is not necessarily violent."

Here's Wikipedia's explanation on the distinction between battery and assault.

If we're going to use legal terms appropriately in common everyday language (hint: we normally don't) then I've been sexually assaulted by magazine ads, by television shows, by the news ... see how that cheapens the lived experiences of people who have actually suffered sexual battery?

Lets put it this way: almost all of us have been sexually assulted (in the legal sense) in some form or fashion throughout our lives. Claiming such is mere hyperbole.

There are those who have actually been the victim of sexual battery, and for those people we should be compassionate and try to learn how to prevent it from continuing or happening to others.

But, the whole "Schroedinger's Rape" blog entry was just trolling for reactions playing up the whole "we're constantly being sexually assaulted by others, our environment, even ourselves with our dirty minds, at times."

(The article, too, if you want context, but the thread is why I'm telling you to read it.)

Right, I guess we're done here.

If you are incapable of perceiving the ways in which treating the systematic and pervasive sexual harassment of women as a trivial matter and calling the women who point it out reactionary trolls leads to and produces a culture where gendered violence is treated as commonplace and acceptable, you are a fucking idiot.

Protip: "try to learn how to prevent it from continuing or happening to others": that is what these women are doing. You do not get to tell them that they are wrong.

(mendel: Sorry, I lied.)

They might not be wrong in their intent, but ... "YR DOIN IT RONG" is an appropriate thing to tell them.

if they did, how do you suppose their lived experiences would be received?

Probably much the same way as the lived experiences of women who do voice such complaints, but not by the same people. Many women still voice those experiences in spite of these reactions, so I don't think the relative scarcity of the opposite viewpoint can be attributed to potential negative reactions.

(Deleted comment)
Thank you for sharing this.

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