Tag Archives: rape culture

Observe the Bumbler’s One Weakness

“Harassment? That was just flirting! Indecent exposure? My dick just happened to fall out of my pants while she was walking by. I had no idea anyone was upset!” Lest anyone continue to think that predatory men really don’t know that what they’re doing is wrong, Lili Loofbourow’s essay in The Week puts a nail in the coffin of the myth of the male bumbler.

As the accusations of sexual misconduct roiling politics, publishing, and Hollywood continue to stack up, a few things are going to happen. The first stage of a phenomenon like this will always be to characterize the accused men as exceptions, as bad apples. #NotAllMen, the saying goes. But the second is that everyone is going to try to naturalize sexual harassment. If there are this many men doing these things, then surely this is just how men are! that argument will go. There’s a corollary lurking underneath there: They can’t help themselves. They’re bumblers.

That won’t wash. But the only way to guard against it is to shed our weird cultural blindness to manipulative male behavior. We must be smarter than our cultural defaults. We need to shed the exculpatory scripts that have mysteriously enabled all these incompetent bumblers to become rich, successful, and admired even as they maintain that they’re moral infants.

Read the essay

The Unforgiving Minute

Getty, CSA Images/Mod Art Collection

Laurie Penny | Longreads | November 2017 | 12 minutes (3,175 words)

“I’m sick of being asked to suffer so a man can grow.”

– Alexandra Petri

“Everyone. Fucking. Knew.”

– Scott Rosenberg

This is actually happening.

The so-called “revelations” about endemic male sexual aggression in Hollywood, in the media, in politics, in the tech world, and in communities large and small have not stopped, despite every conceivable effort to dismiss, discredit, shame, and belittle the survivors coming forward to demand a different world. The most uncomfortable revelation is the fact that none of this, really, was that revelatory.

A great many people knew. Maybe they didn’t know all of it, but they knew enough to feel tainted by a complicity that hobbled their compassion.

It turns out that this isn’t about individual monsters. It never was. This is about structural violence, about a culture that decided long ago that women’s agency and dignity were worth sacrificing to protect the reputation of powerful men and the institutions that enabled their entitlement. Everyone, including the “good guys,” knew it was happening. We just didn’t think it was all that wrong. At least, not wrong enough to make a fuss about, because the people groping their callous, violent way through life knew they’d get away with it, and most of the men around them were permitted the luxury of ignorance.

Except that now that seems to be changing. Now, Old Dinosaurs are wondering how to negotiate with an oncoming asteroid. Current or former Stupid Young Men are in a state of panic about their imminent introduction to the concept of “consequences,” leading to the question: what, precisely, is the age when men are expected to take responsibility for their behavior?

The answer, with any luck, is “The Digital One.”

Very few men seem sure what to do in this situation. I have been asked, repeatedly, what men and boys ought to be doing now. How should we behave differently? How guilty should we be feeling? What do women actually want?

Good. You’re finally asking. I suspect that if more of you had asked that question earlier, if you’d asked it often, and if you’d paid attention to the answers, we wouldn’t have to have this conversation — which nobody wants to be having — right now. It’s a shame, honestly, that it had to come to this. But here we are, and here we’re going to stay while powerful scumbags all over the world take a break from public life to spend more time with the police, and while people who’ve nursed private hurts for years start putting the puzzle pieces together until they recognize the shape of injustice.

I’m sorry; you’re new here. The notion that women’s agency and dignity might be more important than men’s right to act like grabby children whenever they want may feel like uncharted territory, but some of us have lived here all along. You don’t know your way around, and the whole place seems full of hidden terrors, and you’re tired and scared and being here makes you feel ignorant and powerless. You haven’t learned the language — they didn’t offer it at your school — and you wish you knew how to ask basic questions, like where is the nearest station, and how much is that sandwich, and do you know the name of a good defense lawyer? You wish you knew how to translate simple ideas, like: I’m hungry, and I’m lonely, and my entire life I’ve let my fear of women’s rejection control my behavior and that fear seemed so overwhelming that it didn’t matter who got hurt as long as I didn’t have to feel it and everyone else seemed to agree and now I don’t know who to be or how to act, or I think there’s a train leaving soon and I might need to be on it. Read more…

We’re All Mad Here: Weinstein, Women, and the Language of Lunacy

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad

Laurie Penny | Longreads | October 2017 | 13 minutes (3,709 words)

We’re through the looking glass now. As women all over the world come forward to talk about their experiences of sexual violence, all our old certainties about what was and was not normal are peeling away like dead skin.

It’s not just Hollywood and it’s not just Silicon Valley. It’s not just the White House or Fox News.

It’s everywhere.

It’s happening in the art world and in mainstream political parties. It’s happening in the London radical left and in the Bay Area burner community. It’s happening in academia and in the media and in the legal profession. I recently heard that it was happening in the goddamn Lindy Hop dance scene, which I didn’t even know was a thing. Men with influence and status who have spent years or decades treating their community like an all-you-can-grope sexual-harassment buffet are suddenly being presented with the bill. Names are being named. A lot of women have realized that they were never crazy, that even if they were crazy they were also right all along, and — how shall I put this? — they (we) are pissed.

“It’s like finding out aliens exist,” said a friend of mine last night. He was two gins in and trying to process why he never spoke up, over a twenty-year period, about a mutual friend who is facing public allegations of sexual violence. “Back in the day we’d all heard stories about it, but… well, the people telling them were all a bit crazy. You know, messed up. So nobody believed them.”

I took a sip of tea to calm down, and suggested that perhaps the reason these people were messed up — if they were messed up — was because they had been, you know, sexually assaulted. I reminded him that some of us had always known. I knew. But then, what did I know? I’m just some crazy girl.

Read more…

The Horizon of Desire

(CSA Images/Mod Art Collection/Getty)

Laurie Penny | Longreads | September 2017 | 15 minutes (4,185 words)

“Man fucks woman. Man: subject. Woman: object.”

 —The Fall, Episode 3, “Insolence and Wine”

The first thing you need to understand about consent is that consent is not, strictly speaking, a thing. Not in the same way that teleportation isn’t a thing. Consent is not a thing because it is not an item, nor a possession. Consent is not an object you can hold in your hand. It is not a gift that can be given and then rudely requisitioned. Consent is a state of being. Giving someone your consent — sexually, politically, socially — is a little like giving them your attention. It’s a continuous process. It’s an interaction between two human creatures. I believe that a great many men and boys don’t understand this. I believe that lack of understanding is causing unspeakable trauma for women, men, and everyone else who is sick of how much human sexuality still hurts.

We need to talk about what consent really means, and why it matters more, not less, at a time when women’s fundamental rights to bodily autonomy are under attack across the planet, and the Hog-Emperor of Rape Culture is squatting in the White House making your neighborhood pervert look placid. We still get consent all wrong, and we have to try to get it a bit less wrong, for all our sakes.

To explain all this, I’m going to have to tell you some stories. They’re true stories, and some of them are rude stories, and I’m telling you now because the rest of this ride might get uncomfortable and I want you to have something to look forward to.

Read more…

This Is Rape

Do you remember me? you type. I have some questions. I would be grateful if you might be willing to answer them.

Why did you hurt me? is your question, the only one, but you do not write this.

Of course I remember you! he replies, almost immediately. I will give it my best to answer any questions you have. I hope you are doing good.

You ask if he might be willing to share his memory of that day at the mall. Your point of view would be helpful for my own closure, you say, no matter what that may be. You ask if he has ever thought of it again, if the experience ever held any weight for him. You tell him there are no right answers, because you believe this is true.

Gil responds from a different email address. His personal one.

Let me really think about it, he says, so I can give you my best recollection.

I want to help you, he says, in any way that I can.

You never hear from Gil again.

In Guernica, T Kira Madden tells the story of her rape, confusion, and redemption to show us what rape culture really looks like in this country. To help foster the transparency and responsibility necessary to combat it, Madden holds her own sexual assault and her assailants up her for all of us to see.

Read the story

 

 

The ‘Shaman’: A Committed Solo Traveler Struggles to Reconcile Being Raped While Abroad

Illustration by Katie Kosma

Laura Yan | Longreads | July 2016 | 13 minutes (3035 words)

 

Three years ago, I quit my job in New York to go backpacking in South America. It was a blessed time, full of postcard travel highs: swimming in mirror-glazed lakes dipped in sunset, burning coca leaves for mystic rituals, falling in love with a hippie as we hitchhiked beneath the stars. I was 23, and learning to be wild and light and free. I spoke about my travels with an editor at The Hairpin, and wrote about it elsewhere. Sometimes readers emailed me asking for travel advice. They asked mostly innocuous questions: What should I pack? How do I save up to travel? Where should I visit? I tried to answer when I could. One girl asked if I’d ever been in serious danger.

I didn’t know how to reply. Read more…

Being a Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence

When I am fourteen my classmate’s mother is killed by her boyfriend. He stabs her to death. In the newspaper they call it a crime of passion. When she comes back to school, she doesn’t talk about it. When she does mention her mother it’s always in the present tense – “my mom says” or “my mom thinks” – as if she is still alive. She transfers to another school the next year because her father lives in a different school district.

Passion. As if murder is the same thing as spreading rose petals on your bed or eating dinner by candlelight or kissing through the credits of a movie.

Anne Thériault, on The Belle Jar, traces a lifetime of gendered violence, assault, harassment, and threats starting at age six in this brutal but important read.

Read the full post

Reading List: The Reality of Rape Culture

Emily Perper is a word-writing human working at a small publishing company. She blogs about her favorite longreads at Diet Coker.

As long as society in general and the American legal system in particular continue to perpetuate rape culture, cases like the horrific events in Maryville will keep happening. Educate yourselves.

1. “Nightmare in Maryville: Teens’ Sexual Encounter Ignites a Firestorm Against Family.” (Dugan Arnett, Kansas City Star, October 2013)

A well-written, well-researched primer on the events surrounding Daisy Coleman’s rape, how the charges against her attacker were dropped, and the environment in which the Coleman family found themselves after the attack. Their house was burned down, for one thing. Mrs. Coleman lost her job. Daisy tried to commit suicide twice. Her brothers were subjected to abuse from other students. The horrific usual.

2. “I’m Daisy Coleman, The Teenager at the Center of the Maryville Rape Media Storm, and This is What Really Happened.” (Daisy Coleman, xoJane, October 2013)

Daisy Coleman is a hero. She’s only 14 years old. She allows her name to be used in media accounts of her rape, even though she is a minor. She came forward with her story in xoJane. The comments have been shut down.

3. “Rape Myths.” (Beverly Donofrio, Slate, July 2013)

Another evil facet of rape culture is that is encourages us to make assumptions about rape culture and its victims. Here, Donofrio opens up; she was raped at 55 years old. She exposes the double standard inherent in the way we blame victims, rather than perpetrators.

4. “He Would Say ‘I Cried Rape’: False Allegations and Rape Culture.” (Defeating the Dragons, July 2013)

“… we live in a world where false allegations are the dominant narrative. Because false allegations are a nearly-universal part of any conversation about rape, when a woman says that she is a rape survivor, one of the first things that becomes a part of that conversation is suspicion, cynicism, and dismissal.”

•••

Get the Top 5 Longreads free every week

Photo: David Eulitt/Kansas City Star