Dear B and J, the Girls I Slut-Shamed

Dear B,

I don’t remember the first time I heard your name.  I think I was thirteen, maybe fourteen, and I remember hearing that you had given blow jobs.  Everyone was scandalized, calling you “Easy.”  I don’t remember the names of any of the boys.

I remember the first time that I saw you. You looked so normal, sitting in class, dressed like a normal person.  I don’t know what I expected, but you looked normal.  Okay, maybe you wore heavy eyeliner, but this was the early 2000’s, and we all did.  But you looked normal, juggling a bookbag and a sports bag.  You smiled, sat down, and started a conversation with the girl next to you.

You were legendary at our school.  I remember a story in which my friend sat in front of you for a standardized test.  She said that you kept talking about blowing a guy in the wrestling room.  She was so shocked at your lewdness, and then went to talk about how hot make-up sex with her boyfriend was.  You were a slut, she was normal.

I’m sorry, B.  I wonder now, if you figured that you might as well be notorious than unknown.  I’m not sure if you just loved sex, if you actually did anything that people said you did, or if you used crudeness as a defesne mechanism.

I don’t know anything about you except that you allegedly are a slut.  And I shamed you for it.  I’m sorry; I wish I’d known you better.  But I judged you for violating a rule I didn’t even understand.  I understand now.  And I’m sorry because I didn’t know you, so I had no right to judge you.

Sorry,

Cafeaulait

Dear J,

I remember when I met you.  I thought that I knew everything, that sex was amaaazing, religion was repressive, and you were a brainwashed idiot.

In hindsight, your religion made you happy and a more forgiving person than I’ll ever be, so I shouldn’t judge you for being more devout than me.

I was a mean person.  I talked about you behind your back, shaming you for being a prude about sex.  I insinuated that you should just get laid already, that it was the right thing for you to do.  I shamed you for asking questions that you were genuinely curious about.  My reactions probably deterred you from learning and asking questions.  And it’s not like I knew anything about sex, either.  I was a virgin, too.  So who was I to judge what was right for your body?

J, you were a sweet person.  I shouldn’t have pressured you into going out to a party with me, or insinuated that you were wrong for your more conservative beliefs.  I was young, naiive, and a true sophomore.  I was truly a wise fool.

I’m sorry, J.  I hope that you marry someone who deserves you, and who rocks your world.  Because I want you to have that happiness.  Because your sex life is not and never was any of my business.

I’m sorry,

Cafeaulait

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Motivational Monday-Use Your Right Words

Toddy Dog

Toddy Dog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I had asked my friend to stop using the word “rape” to describe exams, classes and schedules.  I was so happy to hear that him say that he had no idea that it mattered.  I was pleased, but secretly, I was afraid that he was only humoring me.  What if I was deluding myself that I had made a difference?  Would what I said stick?  I didn’t know, but I chose to hope.

Today, I overheard him say, “This class is a (bleep).”

I looked at him and asked, eyes wide and feigning confusion, “This class is a dog?”

He looked back at me, paused for a minute, and then I saw it sink in.  “Hard.” He looked at me apologetically.  “This class is hard.”

Mission accomplished.

Sexual Assault Should be Absolute. Right?

My Caffeine Free Diet Assault:

Edit: I am in no way implying that all unwanted sex is sexual assault or rape.

(inspired by Elissa Bassist’s My Caffeine Free, Diet Rape.)

I was sexually assaulted by a boyfriend my freshman year of college.  I’ve never confronted him about it, never filed charges, never even made a formal report.  So as far as everyone knows, it didn’t happen.  But I know it did.  I said don’t do x, and he went ahead and did x anyway, even as I tried to negotiate out of it.  I don’t think that it has ever crossed his mind that what he did was sexual assault.

After we broke up, he bought me dinner to apologize for the other things he had done wrong during our brief relationship.  And then wondered if we were getting back together.  I told him no, that we are “never, ever getting back together.”  I never explained why, but I hadn’t labeled it as such at the time.

I’ve heard so many stories of sex in relationships that wasn’t wholesome and wanted.  I’ve heard of duty sex, painful sex, replacement sex, etc.

But the common denominator is that the women don’t say anything, that we sit there silently, taking unwelcome sex, like inflated dolls.  We don’t say anything, or just say yes to appease those that we thought we loved.  We keep going, despite our initial statements of displeasure and cries of pain.  And then, after the boys have rolled off and gone away, we shower, brush our hair and try to hide the shame from our eyes.  We swallow our disgust with ourselves and keep on moving.  Until one day it hits us that, hey, this was assault.  This was coercive.  This was rape.  But by then, we’re too late to report, the evidence has long since washed down the drain.  We have no recourse left, and all we can do is report our experiences to anonymous survey takers.  We are left with anger at ourselves, at those who injured us, and we struggle to make our sexuality healthy again.

Like Elissa Bassist said, sexual assault should be a yes or no box to check, a simple binary.  But the truth is that sexual assault, the experience, isn’t black and white, but comes in infinite shades of gross, icky, self-loathing gray.

So for my United States readers, today is election day.  On one hand, we have a party of rape-deniers with a social agenda taken from the 1950’s.  On the other hand, we have a candidate who believes that people’s fates are intertwined with each other, and that we ought to move forward as a nation.  He passed legislation saying that being a woman should not be a pre-existindition increasing the cost of our health insurance.  So if you value your right to choose, to truly choose, not to choose from the limited palate of options that appease conservatives, head to the polls!  This is one box that you can check, that there is nothing grey or in-between about.  Vote!

Landlord and Tenant: Explaining Bodily Autonomy to Conservatives

I am the landlord and tenant of my own body.

Respect that I both own and inhabit my own body.  I am the landlord.  I can grant access to the building.  I can change the wallpaper, drill holes in the wall.  I maintain the well-being of the building.

Simultaneously, I am the tenant of my own body.  I inhabit the physical space, but I am not always mentally present.  Sometimes, landlord and tenant disagree.  The landlord occasionally wants to let guests in, but the apartment is my own space.  As the tenant, I control access to my own space.  Somedays, I want guests, and I open up my home to friends.  Other times, I wish to be left alone, or do not wish certain people to enter.  That is my prerogative.  As landlord, I can physically grant them access, but as tenant, I have the final say in who gets to enter.
I am the landlord and tenant of my own body.  Respect that.

An Unfortunate Experience

Trigger Warning: Discussion of Rape Culture

      I recently made the mistake of venturing out of the safe haven of the feminist blog-o-sphere, with its trigger warnings, politically correct terminology and made a foray for the mainstream media.  Recently, I read an article on the Amherst rape case at Time Magazine, and was disappointed in the equivocal nature of the article.  Now, I used to like Time.  It suited my liberal sensitivities and I thought that way I could avoid the MRA’s, racists, classists, and ignorantly privileged that tend to cluster around more conservative news sources.  I expected genuine, smart, nuanced discourse that respected the victims, and would examine rape culture and the systemic response.

Was I ever wrong.

The comments were mainly, college students are children, college is too expensive so students should only be studying, sex is a bad thing, and what did you expects?  Posters smugly toted how they had watched their drinks and nothing bad had happened to them.  How rape was a miscommunication, that guys couldn’t help themselves if they misread the situation.  How this fuzzy sexual consent was an unfortunate experience for the girl involved, but given the rate of false accusations, this culture was terrible.

An unfortunate experience.

It’s an unfortunate experience that you can do everything right.  You can go in groups, you can watch your drinks, you can be sober, and accept an escort to walk you home, to keep you safe.  And you still can get raped.  All these steps do is give an illusion of protection, an illusion of control.  It is a distancing mechanism from this unfortunate experience and the one in four women who deal with this unfortunate experience in their lifetime.

Seventy-five percent of the comments were negative, victim blaming, and assuming that rape was a miscommunication, and that the victims should have known better.  I expected more from the people I assumed were my liberal allies.  I expected that these informed liberals who pride themselves on nuance, sensitivity, and inclusiveness to treat rape and rape culture with all the seriousness it deserves. Not as an unfortunate experience that only happens to sluts who can’t communicate.

I know that I can change minds, one rant at a time, but it is so difficult sometimes.  The lack of compassion shown by the people I trusted as allies makes me want to cry.

On Anger

I’m angry.

And I’m angry that I’m angry. And I’m angry that I’m angry that I’m angry. Why such convoluted phrasing?  Because I’m a woman and I therefore cannot be angry.

If I am, there are articles for the man in my life to “handle it.”  Apparently, according to the editors at Menshealth, I’m supposed to be placated by a massage, him doing housework, or some other inane thing.  And for some anger, that helps.  Elizabeth Stewart writes about this in the Daily Mail, how angry she is that she has to take a disproportionate share of the household chores.

No disrespect to Elizabeth Stewart, but not all anger stems from inequitable distribution of chores. My anger is supposed to be placated by small, trivial things, as if my anger is small and trivial.  It never occurs that I may be legitimately angry, angry at things larger than my nonexistent man for checking out the waitress.  And because society cannot fathom me being legitimately angry, we have no way of dealing with it.

I having internalized these expectations do not know how to be angry.  I don’t think I can even scream.  I’ve tried.  I’ve opened my mouth and no sound comes out.  If someone holds me up at gunpoint or tries to rape me, I don’t think I could even scream for help, for fear of being a disturbance or unladylike.  And that is the most terrifying aspect of all.

Like a good lady, I’ve tried to handle my anger in silent ways.  I’ve written angry letters.  I’ve thrown a tshirt across the room when no-one could see.   As it crumples when it hits the floor, I am ashamed.  I am horrified that I am capable of such nonexistent destruction.  And that sheer anger terrifies me-what’s wrong with me that I throw things?  Good God, I am such a barbarian!

But anger, expressed in private, is a legitimate emotion.  Why is it that as I a woman I can skip in giddiness, jump for joy, cry during that really annoying Sarah McLaughlin commercial with the sad animals, eat chocolate on a broken heart, snap because I am irritated and label it PMS, but I cannot be angry?  I can be irritated, sad, happy, annoyed.  However, I cannot be angry.

Possibly because these words, these emotions are light, insubstantial and temporary.  Anger on the other hand, is a strong word for a strong emotion.  Anger implies permanence.  Anger implies change.  Anger is legitimate. Perhaps that is why the Myth of the Angry Feminist is such a deterrent.

Anger from a non-dominant social group is a threat to the status quo.  Angry women are shamed into keeping sweet, often holding back resentment until it boils over, leaving the ones around them clueless, asking, where did that come from?    Angry black men are the threats to the dominant racial hierarchy.  Angry black women are doubly shamed.

Men get angry too.  Cis-bodied, straight white men can be angry.  But very few articles deal with angry men.  It is seen as an emotion, something they go through when something goes wrong, not a derogatory character trait.

Men are angry when a woman insults them, when their significant other cheats, when they get fired.  If they are angry because of traumatic experiences in their past, we, as a society understand this.   We understand and sympathize with Vietnam Veterans or veterans of old wars when they break out offensive stereotypes and colorful profanity.  “It’s just how he grew up,” we say.  “He doesn’t mean it, but the war changed him,” we say, ignoring the racist comments.

Angry men are angry because something happened to them, and we treat their anger as an emotion, not a defining character trait.  In contrast, angry women are angry because something is wrong with them.  Even if they have been abused, being angry at their abuser is labeled as allowing the abuser to retain too much power over them.  It is not considered healthy.  Angry victims are supposed to forgive and forget, and stop being so loud and so there.  We, as a society, want to go living our lives without the unpleasantness of rape and sexual assault, of child abuse, of discrimination, domestic violence and prejudice.  Anger forces us to acknowledge that these problems occur and that we can’t ignore them away.  No wonder it scares us so much.

But anger is real, and anger is a healthy response to injustice.  If women are people, then we as a society should allow women the same freedom to be angry that we allow men.  Anna Holmes at the Washington Post wrote, [anger] “is regularly used to discredit and dismiss serious and real frustrations by women.”  It is time that we allow women to start screaming out loud, and to acknowledge their anger as a valid emotion, not an undesirable character trait.

Dear Men, 12 Pieces of Advice for the Men in Our Lives

Film still from the famous restaurant scene

Film still from the famous restaurant scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Update: I thoughtlessly posted this, not realizing how heteronormative it is.  My apologies.  The piece was intended for the clueless daters of any gender who prefer to date those that identify as women.

  1.  Aretha said it best; RESPECT.  Respect us, our bodies, and our opinions.  Also, remember that we are more than the sum of our reproductive organs.
  2. Women do not communicate directly.  We communicate in a more round-about way, designed to allow for disagreement without conflict.  So when we say, “Gosh, it’s late and I’m exhausted,” we mean that it’s time to call it a night.  Take the hint.
  3.  Learn to read body language; if you try the sneaky overarm movement (and believe us, we know you’re faking that yawn,) and we slide away, take the hint.
  4. Don’t call us crazy.  Unless we’ve torched your car, shaved our hair into designs of goldfish, or attempted to eat the cat.  Those are crazy actions.  Yelling at you because you’ve been dodging our calls and we just found out that we’re pregnant does not give you the excuse to say “B****** be crazy.”
  5. The exam did not rape you.  You are not going to have forced sexual intercourse with the other players in xbox live.  All you are doing is enabling rapists to get away with rape.  So stop.
  6. Our periods do not invalidate our emotions.  They just diminish our ability to tolerate things.  Besides it’s not like men don’t have hormonal cycles, either.  Ironically enough, PMS is an influx of testosterone.
  7. Women are not monolithic entities.  What makes one woman happy may not work for another woman.
  8. Women do not owe you their attention, time or affection.  Even if you have been her friend forever, you are NOT entitled to her love.  So stop whining about the Friend Zone.
  9. Women generally like sensitive men.  That does not mean, whiny spineless symphocant.  It means a man who stands up for himself, is respectful, and understands how to communicate.  The whole whiny spineless slob versus the puppy kicking, womanizing jerk is an arbitrary binary.
  10. Some women don’t want to have sex with men.  That does not mean that they just need the Right experience (aka with you.)  That does not mean that they will fulfill your fantasies.  So stop asking them that.
  11. The same goes for women who do want to have sex with men.  If they have not expressed any interest in sex with you, don’t ask them.
  12. Saying something offensive is like stepping on people’s toes.  Sometimes you did it intentionally.  But most of the time, when you step on someone’s toes, you didn’t mean to.  But you apologize anyway because regardless of your intent, you hurt them.

What do you think?  Is there anything else I missed?  Leave advice in the comments!

Whore-O-Ween

SDSU Sorority Girls in slutty Halloween costumes

SDSU Sorority Girls in slutty Halloween costumes (Photo credit: San Diego Shooter)

Whore-O-Ween

     I loved the comments under differentiateddoormat’s piece on Halloween costumes.  The readers offered suggestions for individuals to try to change the partriarchical culture that promotes and “suggests” sexy costumes.

Motivational Mondays- Success, One Man at a Time

Talking To A Brick Wall

Talking To A Brick Wall (Photo credit: Joriel “Joz” Jimenez)

I have a classmate who has a tendency to say stuff that is really offensive.  Once he told the story of when he came to the United States, he expected brilliant professors, gold roads, and beautiful women.  According to him, these things only exist in movies about the USA.  (He then ended up sandwiched between the author and her roommate, for the rest of the car ride.  My roommate asked slyly, “Shame about that lack of beautiful women, eh?”  His face got ashen and we just laughed to ourselves, as he quickly backpedaled.  Needless to say, he isn’t known for his deft cultural sensitivity.  I had long since figured that he would never understand feminism.

Fast forward to a year later, and I have been telling him off every time that he used the word “rape” to describe exams, schedules, video-games and non-legitimate rape.  After the third time I called on him, he asked why it mattered to me.  And as I talked about rape culture, one in four, the twelve percent of men who inadvertently rape, he just sat and listened.

He said, “I had no idea that it was like that.  I never thought about it that way before.”  And he stopped using the word.  Sometimes, those that we believed to be opposed to us are merely ignorant.  They can be taught.  Keep going, because you may not have made an impact the first, second, or even third time.  The good ones can eventually be taught.