Tag Archives: rape

A lesson in biology for Todd Akin

20 Aug

Todd Akin (R-Missouri) has come under fire for some strange comments on how he thinks biology works for rape victims. Apparently, if it was a “legitimate rape,” you’d have no possibility of becoming pregnant because your body wouldn’t let it happen.

Now, ducks’ bodies do work like that. If a lady duck gets raped, she has trick cervices and things to prevent contraception. Maybe Akin saw too many duck face photos on Facebook and got confused.

In reality, over 30,000 pregnancies per year are the result of rape. (And who knows how many more would be, if not for Plan B and other emergency solutions.)

He has sort of retracted the statement, saying he misspoke – but he hasn’t corrected what he said.

Evidently, there is a long history of Republican candidates who have made up similar things – everything from sperm-fighting secretions to arousal being a prerequisite to fertility to traumatized women can’t have babies. (All of these ideas have been debunked many times by medical societies, such as the American Fertility Society and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists… and many, many more.) Or maybe there’s no medical reason, but a statistical improbability. (It’s actually about a 5 percent chance — the same as your chance of getting a cold or flu after exposure.)

People are making this into an abortion argument. But before we can discuss any of that (no matter which side of the fence you sit on), it’s important to know the biological facts of rape and pregnancy. Maybe it’s been too long since politicians have taken a personal health course — we should get them all in a room together and teach a seminar on reproductive health, middle school style.

Until that can happen, it’s extremely important to rock the vote this November. Get yourself registered.

Horrifying Reddit thread important for discussing rape

9 Aug

Trigger warning.

Photo credit Andrea Rose

I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk about this Reddit thread for a while now. In the thread, rapists talk about why they raped. (Some survivors talk about their experiences too, and it’s also terrifying, but hearing from rapists isn’t as common.)

The explanations are simple. Scary simple. Like:

  • Mixed messages (she wasn’t into it… but didn’t say no)
  • Peer pressure (drunk friends pressured drunk guy into raping drunk girl)
  • Because he could (she was unconscious or too scared to say no)
  • Biology/”I can’t help it” (she’s there for the taking, consent doesn’t matter when you have an urge)
  • Bad influences (it’s society’s fault, the rapist is the real victim here)

But one post really stands out. In a throwaway account (since deleted, but the post remains), a man talks about his days as a serial rapist in college. (For other “highlights,” see Jezebel’s post)

He describes himself as a student leader, community volunteer, and popular guy. He says he is tall and muscular – over 200 pounds. He says girls liked him.  He goes on to describe a systematic targeting of women. He says he would purposefully go for “damaged” girls who were average looking, self  conscious, and about half his weight. He would go on a date in public first, then persuade her to come over for the second date. During that date in his dorm room, he would start escalating physical contact over a period of a couple hours, despite any signals from her. He would premeditate what he was going to do when she got there.

 “The girls usually didn’t know how to respond. Some of them were into it, and those nights were usually consensual and boring sex, sometimes followed up by a few more nightly visits before getting the boot. However, the great nights were the ones who squirmed, ones who didn’t want to give in.”

Yikes.

This guy says he’s married now, to a woman who knew him in college but wasn’t raped by him. He says in a later post that he’s almost raped again, but has been stopped by friends. He says he feels remorse sometimes, but he takes solace in the fact that he was never told “no” by his dates.

A comment from Jezebel:

I’ve had several heated conversations with men who take women’s fear of sexual assault so personally, but I think this Reddit thread really validates that fear. Of course, not all men are rapists, but sussing out who is (or who could be) and who isn’t is hardly a simple task.

This really gets to the heart of the topic: what in the heck should we be learning from this? Don’t be a woman? Don’t go on dates? Don’t watch movies with guys who are popular and smart?

One 2009 study reported serial attackers can target someone just based on how they move. It came down to confidence: does the person move like she is aware of her surroundings and calm? Or does she look passive and docile – even frightened? Just like the guy on Reddit, serial attackers have an eerie ability to read for vulnerability.

And this is where the conversation usually devolves into blaming women for getting into situations where they are raped.

“This is what I was wearing. Tell me I asked for it – I dare you.”

Every woman knows how to “reduce her risk,” as if her body is an object that must be protected from thieves. She knows how to hold her keys to make a weapon, not to get drunk, not to wear short skirts or show her cleavage, to always meet in a public place the first time, etc etc.

But those things are just victim blaming.

The one thing consistent in all of the rapist’s stories is: they never heard “no”.

So simple. They never heard “NO”! In a weird double-negative way, not hearing “no” meant consent to them.

I think it’s time to re-educate our population on what consent is – what it looks like to give/receive consent, what counts as consent, and how to ask for it.

 

I really like this image. Basically, anything besides YES means no. I think that’s beautiful.

So it’s time to reprogram our peers, partners, kids, siblings, parents — that only YES means yes. Any response other than YES means you need to stop. If everyone asked for consent, and waited for a YES, we’d have a lot less rapes from misunderstandings or people taking advantage of not hearing “no”.

THIS needs to be the new standard. Say it with me: “Only YES! means yes.”

77 reasons we still need feminism

11 Jul

This is what a feminist looks like!

Lately, I’ve been asked more and more why I’m a feminist. “Do we even need feminism anymore?” they ask.

They think feminism is about becoming better than men. They think feminists are angry at men for their privilege (and sometimes that’s true). They allege it’s time for a men’s rights movement to counteract feminism, since some feminist measures have appeared to succeed in leveling the playing field. In some cases, women are appearing to fare better than men – for example, 25 percent more women graduate from college than men. Some people think this means feminism has worked, and is now just hurting America.

However:

And although women as a group have made substantial gains in wages, educational attainment, and prestige over the past three decades, the economists Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson have shown that women are less happy today than their predecessors were in 1972, both in absolute terms and relative to men.

– Ann Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning for the U.S. State Dept., Why Women Still Can’t Have It All (The Atlantic)

As if that isn’t enough, here are 77 reasons to be a feminist (one for each cent a woman makes for doing the amount of work that a man gets a dollar for):

  1. Lists like these are still necessary.
  2. Men make almost half a million more in 40 years of working than a woman – if they saved it up, it’s enough to feed their family for 37 additional years.
  3. Some workplaces – including in Kansas City – require women to wear heels, which cause long term health problems. There is not an equivalent for men. (It’s easy to say “So then don’t work there,” but not everyone has the luxury to choose.)
  4. Mothers are less likely to be hired than fathers. Mothers are seen as a risk – she might take days off for the kids – while fathers are seen to be hard-working family men.
  5. Women who report sexual harassment in the workplace are seen as “prudes”. Career experts advise women not to report it.
  6. We’re still held to “lady like” standards at home and work – no such standard is a barrier for men. It’s funny when men fart, but disgusting when women do it. It’s ok when men swear, but on women it’s uncouth.
  7. I don’t want my little sister to be treated like I’ve been treated in the workplace.
  8. “You’re emotional” is a way to undermine women’s passionate opinions, even when passion is seen as a benefit in men.
  9. We are not an interest group.
  10. Girls are still told “It means he likes you” when boys hit them. Violence is touted as flattery.
  11. Men get courtesies like “sir,” women are called “sweetie” in the same situations. (I’ve been called “doll”, “sweetheart,” “hun,” and “babe” in job interviews with men – I doubt they would use the same names for male interviewees.)
  12. Women who keep their maiden name after the wedding have to justify it for the rest of their life. Men aren’t asked to change their identity just because they get married.
  13. “Miss,” “Ms.,” and “Mrs.” define women by their marriage status. Men just use “Mr.” their whole life.
  14. Thinspiration.
  15. Coming out as LGBT or allied can still be scary, even if it gets better.
  16. No one should have to wait to start their career until their kids are grown.
  17. Women still aren’t allowed to serve on the front lines in the military, even if they are capable and want to.
  18. Preventative reproductive health care for women is constantly under siege in politics, but men have autonomy over their bodies and medical decisions.
  19. A woman should be able to make choices (or mistakes) without fearing it’ll look bad on all women. Men don’t worry about making all of mankind look bad.
  20. Men openly comment on a woman’s sexual appetite or ability based on her appearance. For example, my teenage sister’s friend has a tongue piercing, and constantly fields questions from men about her oral sex ability.
  21. Strangers tell women to smile.
  22. “Slut” and “whore” are still insults, because it’s shameful to be a sexual woman.
  23. As the only woman in a meeting, you’re expected to be the secretary.
  24. People think a woman dating a successful man must be a gold digger looking for someone to take care of her.
  25. I’m tired of being afraid to walk alone at night. I don’t want my sister to be afraid, either.
  26. People still think joking about rape is funny.
  27. It’s impossible to find a dance club that doesn’t play woman-hating music.
  28. People think it’s ok to deface feminist messages with anti-woman jokes.
  29. Women are expected to give up everything for her husband’s careers or be deemed selfish. However, a woman who accepts her husband’s help in her career are seen as weak and incapable.
  30. Talk shows and magazines instruct women on how to turn keys into a weapon while in parking lots. My status as a female should not mean I need to arm myself.
  31. Laws dictate when women can opt for sterilization, because an adult woman is not seen as a capable to make her own decision. (In Missouri, women must be 26. Other states go as old as 35.) Men can be sterilized at age 18. Some states require a married woman to get her husband’s permission first, too, but married men are not required to get his wife’s permission.
  32. Saying “I don’t want kids” is met with “You’ll change your mind, when you meet the right man.” Men who don’t want kids are accepted.
  33. Women are expected to tidy communal spaces at work and school after men leave the room.
  34. Online, men will attempt to silence an opinionated woman by describing graphic rape they wish they could do to her.
  35. I’m tired of people telling me I should be flattered by cat calling. It’s not flattering, it’s annoying at best and sometimes downright frightening.
  36. What you drink at the bar is seen as a message to men. 
  37. Women who are unsure about marriage are seen as mentally ill and strange. Men who feel the same way are normal.
  38. I want to see more women who look like me in the media – and not have them regulated to just being the funny fat friend.
  39. Victim blaming is still seen as acceptable.
  40. Some men talk trash on women who have given birth, because it “ruins” their body.
  41. In order to not intimidate men, women are advised to hide their professional achievements from dates.
  42. I’m told I can’t do things because I’m a girl.
  43. Overweight women are compensated less than slim women, even though overweight men are compensated more than slim men.
  44. People still think it’s acceptable to tell “make me a sandwich” jokes. Even to presidential candidates.
  45. After spending a lot in a boutique, the cashier offers to throw away the receipts so “your boyfriend/husband won’t know how much you spent.”
  46. People demand to know what last name you’ll give your nonexistent future child if you possibly decide not to change your name after your hypothetical future wedding.
  47. No one should be stereotyped because of their body. Including men.
  48. Being assertive doesn’t make me “ballsy,” since assertiveness doesn’t come from testicles.
  49. Men (yes, even young men) still complain that women in the workplace “make the office no fun” because they can’t make sexist, racist or explicit jokes anymore because women complain. Damn right I will, because it’s more fun for me to work someplace where I feel safe.
  50. “Feminism” is apparently a dirty word.
  51. Even women can be chauvinists, and don’t realize how they hurting themselves and everyone in their lives.
  52. The term “career woman” is still in usage, even though no one says “career man”.
  53. Sports shouldn’t be a “man’s world”: on the field, in the stands, or as a journalist.
  54. Despite being against the law, women are still asked in job interviews if they plan on having children, and then negatively judged for their answer either way.
  55. Wearing a skirt at the grocery store (on my way home from work), men comment, “Thank God you’re dressed like a real woman, not like all these career women around.” Sorry, bud, I am a career woman. I’m dressed this way for work.
  56. Courses and seminars on dressing appropriately for work are aimed towards women, as if men never dress inappropriately for the office.
  57. We try to “fix” ourselves instead of rebelling against impossible standards.
  58. Media for women makes them feel angry, ashamed and depressed after just three minutes of viewing.
  59. Jokes are made when female babies are born – “oops, better luck next time.” – while boys are a celebration.
  60. Referred to as a “little lady”, even when making large purchases such as a car. It’s not cute.
  61. It’s not a walk of shame, it’s a stride of pride.
  62. Told by career advisers certain aspirations aren’t for women – “They only send men overseas in the business world.”
  63. People would always ask my mom how her husband was before asking how she was. It made me angry every time.
  64. No one should be surprised that a woman who wears lipstick is a scientist.
  65. “Feminine washes” shouldn’t exist. They’re harmful and prey on insecurity.
  66. Women are told they have too many opinions to get a man.
  67. In my industry (public relations), spokeswomen are always called “PR girls”. I haven’t been a “girl” in about a decade, I’m a woman.
  68. Women (and girls) won’t go in public without cosmetics because they’re so afraid of being judged for their natural face.
  69. “Playing like a girl” is considered an insult to boys and men.
  70. “Pretty good, for a girl” is supposed to be a compliment.
  71. I still apologize for taking up space sometimes.
  72. Women are told to “man up” but men aren’t told to “woman up”.
  73. Girls are encouraged to start dieting at age 6.
  74. Birth control is seen as optional, but Viagra isn’t.
  75. Most movies fail the Bechdel Test, where the only requirement is for at least two named female characters talk to each other once about anything other than sex and relationships.
  76. Since I wear bows and high heels, people are surprised I’m a feminist.
  77. Voicing these complaints is met with accusations of whining, defensiveness, or indifference.

What did I miss?

Daniel Tosh.0? Time to uninstall.

10 Jul

Check out one woman’s experience in the audience of a Daniel Tosh stand up show:

Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc. I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. So I didnt appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”

After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…”

Rape jokes are a way to silence people with fear. It’s a way to put people “in their place”.

I, for one, experience a very real fear when someone jokes about raping me. (And it’s happened, of course, many times.) The men who joke about it are using it as a tool to let you know your opinions, body, and dignity aren’t valued. It’s viewed as a punishment for not being the sort of woman the “joker” expects you to be – quiet, agreeable, dressed “appropriately” (whatever that might mean), sexually willing, sexually modest, or any number of other attributes.

It’s time for comedians to know it’s not ok to joke about this stuff. It’s serious and it’s real. Half of all women have experienced sexual violence, so a comedian will be bringing up an extremely traumatic past experience to about a quarter of his audience. I don’t know about you, but I go to the comedy club to forget the really awful things in life, not be reminded by some jerk comedian.

If Tosh is coming to a comedy club near you, I encourage you to let them know you won’t be in attendance because you don’t support threats of sexual violence.

Update: Tosh says his words were “taken out of context,” and sort of apologized on Twitter. If those really are his words though – and he seems to be admitting they are – I don’t think it matters what context they came out of. Rape jokes just aren’t funny, and I’m glad he’s noticed the outlash. Maybe he’ll think twice before “joking” about gang rape again.

Manning Up About Man Down

6 Jun

Rihanna’s new music video, “Man Down”, chronicles a girl’s struggle to make her world right again after being sexually assaulted. Her way to make it right (in her mind, at least) is to shoot her rapist – something I think every rape survivor has thought (fantasized?) about doing.

The video is being criticized for promoting violence, not encouraging girls to go for legal help, and for being sexist (because a man would never be able to make a video about shooting a woman – except that’s not actually true; read on).

Attacking the video for being violent misses the point. The world is violent, and asking a pop star to refrain from talking about uncomfortable topics doesn’t make them go away.

Rihanna’s character was struggling with anger, shame, depression, and all the other confusing feelings that follow being assaulted. Instead of accusing Rihanna of being needlessly violent, why don’t we examine the world that would allow this to happen to someone?

There’s a phrase in a lot of feminist literature, “rape culture”. This basically means a society where glamorizing assault is ok and even encouraged. A culture where girls are raised to appreciate men who “need” them so badly than they’ll rip the very buttons off her shirt, where he’ll sneak into her room to watch her sleep because he misses her, where he’ll fight (with fists) other men for her affections. This isn’t healthy.

Instead of criticizing a society that romanticizes acting like that, some parental groups say Rihanna shouldn’t have talked about it. And rumor has it that Rihanna is considering re-shooting the video to cut out the violence (both the shooting and the rape).

Some are going on to say that her behavior is sexist, because a man never gets away with violence towards women in their music. I would like to take a moment to reflect on: Love The Way You Lie by Eminem and Rihanna (where Eminem’s character kills Rihanna’s character when she tries to leave him), and about a zillion other songs.

There seems to be a trend with parental watchdog groups to try and suppress books, music, and movies that bring up topics they don’t want to talk to their kids about. (For example, And Tango Makes Three, a children’s book about gay penguins who adopt a chick, topping the banned books list every year – because, as one critic said, how are they supposed to explain homosexuality to their kids?)

As NPR pointed out this morning, banning teens from reading about or listening to dark topics – like violence, rape, drug use, self-loathing, or any of the other popular themes in teen media – doesn’t keep them from knowing about them or even experiencing them. One in three women is raped in her lifetime – and a third of those are raped more than once before they graduate high school – and 90% of them never report it. If we say this is a topic we can’t talk about, then what are we saying to the survivors? That they need to be quiet too?

Surrounding teens with happy images all the time doesn’t change the reality of what they see on the news and at school – a reality of No Means Maybe, of being scared to say no, of being ignored or bullied when she has the courage to report what happened.

I hope that more musicians will take it upon themselves to talk about these issues – they’re on a unique platform to talk to young people, and often they’re not much older than the teens who admire them. Instead of changing the video, let’s change reality. Rihanna’s character can re-shoot to a happy ending, but 33% of girls don’t have that option.