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09 September, 2012

Fighting for Women

A few years ago in an English class, after being broken into groups to discuss an essay, the conversation wound its way from feminism to rape. It was a small junior college in a small, conservative town full of bible-thumpers and rednecks who rarely ventured eight miles outside of the town they were born in. I wasn't actually surprised to hear the derogatory remarks that I heard, but it was still appalling.

"Why don't women just stop talking about rape, already? We know about it, we've fixed it. Feminists need to move on." Those weren't the exact words, but you get the gist. I lost it. I hadn't even admitted to myself at that time that the two incidents in my life of forced or coerced penetration had actually been rape, but their words still hit me.

I had invited the director of the Women's Center to speak at my Human Services class the previous semester. I had learned about an awesome awareness program called My Strength, which worked to clarify the definition of consent and give men a place to ask questions without judgement. Even with this knowledge, I didn't know that what had happened to me was a violation.

My attitude toward those girls was hostile, to say the least. It struck a chord and my voice raised and I was angry. I regret that today because all they really needed was an example -- an example I couldn't give them because I didn't know.

I bring this up because I'm constantly being equated with MRA's who don't want women talking about rape, trolls who make accounts on twitter just to get a rise out of feminist activists, and have been told I'm a traitor to my sex for speaking out against the hostility I see coming from some feminist activists. It's been implied that the group of people I connect with online are rape apologists because we think humor can bring sensitive subjects out into the light of day and get people thinking.

I'll be damned if I'm going to just shut up about this behavior and these unwarranted attacks. I know the discomfort of a random person touching my body without consent. I know the sting of a partner I trusted crossing "that" line and then laughing in my face, telling me to stop being a baby. I know the fucking difference between a stranger asking me for coffee and a friend giving me alcohol (and who knows what else) and suddenly finding myself far from where we started, not knowing how I got there.

I know the difference between a city street in broad daylight and the terror that was my own apartment. I know the difference between the warm welcomes of like-minded people at different conventions and the dark walk to my car after the festivities.

Yes, sometimes people are dicks at these things. Yes, there are disgusting trolls on the internet. Yes, there are people, even women, who don't want to talk about rape. But fuck you for lumping me in with those people for doing things like defending DJ Grothe or laughing at a Louie CK routine. Fuck you for trying to silence me when I don't find the low-brow humor on reddit to be the same as being threatened. Fuck you for the awesome women you've silenced while insisting you fight for women's voices. Fuck you for the people who are actually doing something about atheism in this country that you've tried to tear down to further your own internet fame.

And finally, fuck you for all the women who can't talk about rape and sexism because you've clouded the issue so much with your sheltered, privileged bullshit that no one can see the forest through the trees. Seriously. Fuck you.


  1. Yeah, what you said. If they want to be professional victims then go right ahead, but don't condemn other women for taking responsibility for themselves and being fucking adults. I just read one of those top 10 list things, actually it was 20, anyway, the most powerful women in the world. They were CEOs and leaders of countries for the most part -- Pepsico, IBM, HP, India, Brazil, Germany, USA, etc. This notion that women are powerless victims of "the patriarchy" is just bullshit. Women can be who and what they want, just quit making excuses and do it.

    Rape, assault and sexism are obviously still a problem but it sure as hell isn't going to be fixed by insisting women must be sheltered from even the slightest hint of sexual interest from a man.

  2. Those who take the time to get to know you - who actually read what you write - aren't going to confuse you for a rape apologist. I hope you don't shut up and that you continue to speak your mind and associate with whoever you want to associate with. Those seeking to shut out anyone who disagrees with them are falling victim to groupthink, and may already be beyond reaching.

  3. This is an excellent post. In my case, they hate me so much that they either the fact that I've been raped or describe me as a "pathetic attention whore" or "bitch" if I mention it. Some feminists, right? We have to remember, this isn't about women's rights at all, but about power within the so-called movement.

    1. Exactly, Maria.
      Petty schoolyard bickering by the geeks who were rejected by jocks and prom-queens.
      (You have also perspicaciously noted before that this infantile A+theism personality cult is entirely populated by USAian privileged whites.)
      It has zero to do with real feminism of any stripe.
      Distil it down, and it is merely an infantile competition for attention; good or bad.

  4. How in the world can you not know you were raped? Assuming you remember the incident, that is. It seems like it'd be a pretty clear cut thing. I've never heard anyone say "I didn't realize I'd been beat up", "I had no idea I had been robbed", or "It's only now that I realize I had been subjected to waterboarding". So why is it that every second woman I see commenting on these issues seems to indicate that she had a sexual experience which it took her years to realize was actually rape?

    Are you using one of those loose definitions of rape? Like "I got drunk and did something I regret, ergo rape"? Because, if so, I'd say 99% of men have been raped at some point ... I've been a victim at least a half dozen times!

    1. How could I not know? Well, for this very attitude. To this day, I still question because I could have had some responsibility in the matter. At seventeen, I was given alcohol by a 21 year old man. I very quickly blacked out. Whether it was drugged or whether my 100 lb frame just couldn't handle it, I'll never know. The only thing I remember is my friends telling me I was too drunk and to go to bed. I briefly remember the man who gave me the alcohol helping me up the stairs. Another flash, and I remember looking up, realizing what was happening, and asking if he had a condom on. I don't even remember what his answer was. I don't remember anything else until about six hours later. In any case, I was in no position to give consent and I don't remember giving consent. I've had my "got drunk and did something I regret" moments and none of them were like that.

      The second time I was in a relationship. The idea of prior consent, a good deal of denial and the fact that he didn't "finish" all lent to me being able to go quite some time without believing it was a "real" rape. I also didn't take his control of my money, insulting me when I wore make-up, calling me a bitch, telling me I needed to jog, playful "charlie horses," hitting me with rubber bands and shooting me with BB guns and air soft guns as "abuse" because he wasn't angrily throwing punches at me. We've all been told what abuse looks like and often, it's not a complete picture.

    2. Interesting. Thanks for the explanation.

      Honestly, the first one I'd disagree with your classification, unless given further evidence. I've woken up in bed with someone without remembering how the hell I got there. I didn't consider it rape then, nor do I consider it rape now; I merely blame myself for getting that intoxicated.

      The second one seems more likely to fit the definition, however, again, while I fully understand your reluctance to go into detail, there isn't enough there. And again I find myself relating it to experiences I've had. I once had a partner come to me six months after the fact and tell me that she "really didn't want to do it that night". Said she felt scared and worried but let me do it anyway because I was her boyfriend. However, I had no clue about any of that at the time. If she had yelled "NO!" and pushed me away, I would have backed off immediately - instead, she just seemed a bit distant. Does that make me a rapist?

      None of that really answers my initial question though, since we're now quibbling over circumstances and what constitutes rape. There's no question you were in some bad situations - I'm just curious about the psychology behind the whole thing. With any other crime, we almost never see this pattern of denial followed by acceptance years later. So even if we agree that both of the circumstances you describe qualify as rape, I still don't get how or why such a disconnect would occur. Unless it's simply because you yourself aren't convinced that the definition fits.

      I'm also more than a little concerned that this (not necessarily you, but these kinds of experiences in general) might just be another example of social panics, like the "Satanic Cults" and the apparent epidemic of organized child molestations in the past. Those were taken very seriously for years, until it became clear that most of them were entirely fictional. They turned out to be illusions subconsciously created by the supposed victims, or ideas developed at the suggestion of psychiatrist or authority figures, or simple me-too fantasies concocted in an atmosphere where such stories were receiving a great deal of attention. Most of them weren't intended to be malicious - in fact, many "victims" continued to believe they were victimized long after the evidence proved they couldn't have been. In a way they really were victims - damaged by their own memories rather than by any assailant. That's certainly a concern we have to address any time we see a large number of victims who only "remember" their victimization years after the fact, or after being cued by other factors, which is why I'm trying to see what other ways there are to explain the peculiar way in which these crimes are reported.

      And with all that said, the rest of the actions you describe from that guy certainly were extremely abusive. Given his personality overall, I certainly wouldn't be surprised if he forced himself on someone who made her displeasure EXTREMELY clear. I'm glad you were able to end that relationship; many women never find that kind of strength. And I truly appreciate you taking the time to try and answer my question.

    3. I'm at work right now and can't address all of your questions, but I will try to get to them tonight. You have some excellent questions and there are some things I want to address that aren't always clear in our culture. I promise I'll get to them tonight or tomorrow. In the mean time, I appreciate you feeling safe enough to come here and ask the questions that usually get the "you're just a privileged rape apologist! Ban hammer!" reaction on other blogs.

    4. Okay. I'm back.

      So, the first thing that I want to point out is the imbalance of power in my situation. I was unable to walk without help, and I was being helped by this man. I was a minor, I'm female (alcohol is often stronger on women than men), and alcohol often impairs judgement. We often use the euphemism, "taken advantage of" to describe situations like this, but if you really think about that, a person's body isn't something someone else should be able to manipulate under most circumstances. There are certain mental states that people cannot be in to do things like write a will or even decide what treatment they get for a chronic illness. Depression, brain damage, etc. Many apply to sex, too.

      There are men who give women drugs in alcohol to make them black out so they can "take advantage of" them. If there was no such drug involved, but someone started giving a person a substance that was likely to produce the same effect based on their body weight, sex, and age, then how is that different?

      I quit drinking at nineteen. I did suffer from black outs when drinking. This was the only time this happened as rapidly compared to other black outs, which is why I think there might have been more involved, but at the same time, considering my age, weight and sex, the likelihood of me drinking beyond the ability to make decisions was probably high. That being said, underage drinking is not okay and yes, I was a stupid kid. I take responsibility for that.

      This leads us to the problem of when two people are both too inebriated to remember what happened during the night and neither of them would have been capable of consenting to sex, right? Well, you don't have an imbalance of power in that situation, so you don't have one person taking advantage of another. It's when one person has the mental capacity to make decisions and uses the incapacity of another person to their own advantage that we start seeing a problem.

      As for the second situation, it definitely wasn't a "that one time, I didn't really want to do it," moment. I've tried typing here a few times what really happened and I can't really get it out, I'm sorry. Some day, maybe, for the sake of others, I'll write it all down, but right now only three people in the world know what happened.

      What I'll mention again is that there was definitely denial involved on my part. It wasn't "repressed," I promise; I've never believed in that stuff. I didn't have a therapist. I just remembered one day after I had been out of the relationship for some time and was like, "Holy fuck. Was that?" and so I asked a counselor at the women's center (one of the three people who know).

      I hope that's answered some of your questions so you can see where I'm coming from. These are the reasons I said, "forced or coerced" in my original blog post. I really didn't have a real choice in either situation, but they are different in some ways.

    5. I understand, I don't expect you to go into detail about something so personal on here. I appreciate you sharing as much as you have. I'm not sure it gets me any closer to understanding how or why someone could be "in denial" about such an experience, but you've given me something to think about.

      Thanks for being rational and open about such a sensitive subject; it's refreshing to be able to speak with someone about it without having to throw out all kinds of disclaimers, and tippy-toe around anything that someone might react negatively to. It would be nice if all atheists were as reasonable.