pollychromatic

the world through rainbow eyes


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One Size Fits Some

Kelly Rose Pflug-Back wrote this piece that appeared on The Feminist Wire. Then it appeared on Huffpo. Then it appeared within my social media.

Then I went crazy.

So here’s where I present my creds, right? Here’s where I state that I’m part of the estimated one out of every four women who have been sexually assaulted. And yes, it’s true.  Multiple times, in multiple ways, and with multiple accompanying levels of other trauma that were inflicted at the same time.

It’s also true that that does not define me. Nor does it define my sexuality. Nor does it define my ability to have a healthy sexuality. And frankly, I’m kind of getting sick of this presumption that it does, or that it should. Or that there’s something wrong about me if it doesn’t.

The assumption that all women should be treated as victims of sexual assault, or even that all women who have been victimized by sexual assault want to be labeled as victims of sexual assault forever and ever is a pretty big assumption.

It’s not all of me, and it seems part and parcel of the kyriarchal worldview that the actions of those in oppressive power positions leave no option for those who aren’t in those power positions to be nothing else but receiving vessels of the oppression. As I said angrily after reading this article, I am more than the sculpture that was left behind after the wax and mold of  the assaults have been removed. I resent the implication that it was a molding act at all for me. I don’t resent it if it was such to someone else, but for me, I resent it.

Culturally we do not expect a man who has been held up at gunpoint and robbed to feel defined by that forever. Nor do we expect them to always live in fear. Or to always need to be approached with caution. Or expect them to want to be called victims of gun violence forever. Yet we do so with women who have lived through sexual assault. We expect them to feel broken. To feel as though all sex is suspect. To have flashbacks if touched wrong, perhaps, and then we give them the title sexual assault survivor forever.

That doesn’t really work for everyone. It certainly doesn’t work for me. I don’t want to be treated with kid gloves like I am a wounded creature ready to bolt at the first sign of a trigger warning. There’s a level of condescension in the assumption that you know how I feel that is pretty intolerable for me.

I caution that I do not feel it is wrong to feel any of these large spectrum of things, from the man who was held up at gunpoint having flashbacks to the woman (or man, because hey, it happens to men too) who was sexually assaulted to feel however they feel about it.

Maybe instead of assuming that there is one right way to behave, we treat people as the individuals we all are. There definitely is a universality in the spectrum that is the human existence, and common experiences often tie us together, but our actions and reactions are so much larger than a simple narrative gives room for. Let’s start actually asking people how they feel and how they want to be treated, and give room for any answer to be acceptable, even if it doesn’t fall within what we can personally do. There’s a few billion people on this planet. We don’t need everybody to treat everybody like lovers, best friends, family, co-workers, or even acquaintances. There’s this concept of boundaries within psychology wherein we expect different levels of deference and awareness from different people. Boundaries are often some of the first things to blur when we start having any sort of trauma or tough time, mentally. This is sort of my plea to get back to some level of them.

If we are coming to a place of acceptance that beauty is a spectrum, can we also come to a place of acceptance that sexuality is a spectrum, and that also the sexuality and psyche of those who have lived through sexual assault is also a spectrum?

If the point of feminism is to open the door of possible expressions of human existence, rather than closing them, should we not also leave this door open?


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I Just Can’t

I have one more thing to say. After that, I think I’m done on this subject for a while. Frankly, there are an awful lot of people saying it better than I am, and staying on it. I’ve got fatigue from it. I need to think about different things to face my day and put the best me forward for myself, or else face hopelessness. That doesn’t really do anything for anybody.

So.

In the wake of Steubenville. In the wake of the knowledge that there were purportedly further pictures on the boys’ phones of at least two other girls face down and inanimate-looking on that same carpet. In the wake of the fact that those pictures seem to no longer exist. In the wake of the rumors that there have been other girls that this Rape Crew treated sadistically as sub-human toys. In the wake of the knowledge that there are 232.2 rapes per day in the US, on average. In the wake of the knowledge that 54% of rapes go unreported in the US. In the wake of so much that I can’t even really find a stopping point, or hell a middle point in showing you what you need to see if you haven’t worked out that feminism is needed right now.

In the wake of all of that, I’ve heard a question or questions from many men, and even some women who have been fortunate to somehow not receive as much of the culture that the rest of us are permeated in.

The questioning thought’s path is, or can be paraphrased to “why don’t women stop this violence? Why don’t they report it when it happens? If rape and sexual assault are so horrific, why do they seem so unsure that it even happened and it wasn’t just a mundane sexual activity that they participated in and then felt retroactively unsure about?”

There’s a lot of reasons, really. This is about that “rape culture” term that you’ve heard thrown around so much lately. The term means that our culture is one that is supportive of sexual assault happening, denying that it happens when it does, blaming the victim themselves if they come forward to report, then finally protecting those who perpetrate, want to perpetrate, or will perpetrate as people who should celebrated and protected.

How are we supportive of sexual assault happening? The better question is how are we not, but fine. Let’s approach this one. We are supportive of sexual assault happening because we use terms that objectify women. We say they are a “sure thing,” or a “dog.”  We use terms like “friendzone” to refer to a condition where a man was nice to a woman, and the woman did not respond by responding sexually.

friendzone

We quite literally use images of women being victimized sexually to sell men products. I don’t mean pictures that depict fetish subculture consensual sexuality, either, but actual women-as-sexual-victim ads (a lot of the ads in question are low on this post, but be sure to read the whole thing, it’s really well written).

Shit. You know. I fleshed this out. I’ve been sitting on it for a couple days. That’s how I do things. I have a draft or three saved of ideas, and I come back to the one I’m working on regularly. Adding to it here and there in between my real, and very important job of being a mother. Every hour that it sits here, though, I come across another news story. I come across another article, or three, or seven. I come across another fresh pain that I need to add to the pile.

I just can’t anymore. If you don’t see rape culture? If you can’t figure it out for what it is? That’s willful ignorance at this point.

Google it. I don’t know what to say. Figure it out. Just for fuck’s sake, stop doing it, stop saying that the victim was the one responsible for it happening, and stop perpetuating the space that makes it possible for it to happen. I know that it’s this hard horror to wrap your brains around and you want to make sense of it and keep yourself safe. I know that trying to figure out reasons why it happened to some other her makes you feel like you can keep it from happening to you. That’s just not how it works, though.

I can’t keep writing about it.

And my original point? The reason I started to write this whole thing in the first place? I wanted to say that if someone comes to you and says “hey, this thing happened…” give them the space to talk about it. Don’t push them. Let them tell you at their speed. Help them get help if they ask for it (and if they don’t and it really seems like they need it? gently push for it). Don’t push them for the conclusion that satisfies you, either. If they don’t want to report, understand that this is a culture that does not support people who report, and that they are doing the best they can, and support them. If they do want to report, stand by them, they’re going to need you. Don’t offer to saddle up with your friends and create some street justice, either. If they do want that (and some do) then gently push them toward the legal options instead.

Here’s some good stuff to read about recovering from rape and sexual assault trauma.

Here’s some direct support online.

Or you can call 1.800.656.HOPE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I love you. You can do this. I believe in you.

ETA: For solidarity’s sake, and perhaps as explanation as to why I’m done with this, I’d also like to offer the not that surprising fact that I am also a survivor of rape. I was raped once as a child by a stranger, and I was raped once as an adult by an acquaintance. This isn’t me flashing my creds. It’s more… hey. I’ve been there. There is life beyond it.


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Essentially Horrified


I am really fucking tired of people saying “Imagine if the Steubenville rape survivor was your sister, or your daughter.” There’s this idea that men shouldn’t rape women because we’re all someone’s sister, daughter, wife, etc. This is fucking wrong. Men shouldn’t rape women because a) we’re people and b) NO ONE SHOULD RAPE ANYONE.

I’m tired of being humanized because I’m, like, RELATED TO MEN.

AnneThériault   

Several months ago I clicked on a link that was shared on my Facebook. It took me to something called “The Steubenville Files” on the now blocked Local leaks site.
Trying to figure out if I should boost the signal, I read, and watched with growing horror.

I was pretty horrified by the content. I boosted the signal, but instead of linking directly to Local Leaks, I linked to a smaller media story about it. The Local Leaks content was a bit too much for me to link directly to it. It had the picture of the girl that is now famous, of her being carried by her hands and feet. It had video of a dead-eyed young man, surrounded by his friends, and boasting and laughing  about how he was enjoying raping this dead girl they had in the other room. About how he urinated on her. About how funny the entire situation was, and how inanimate and meaningless the girl was. He called her the dead body, if I recall correctly.

Him and a group of 5 others were known around town as The Rape Crew, and they seemed proud of the moniker.

It was raw, and horrible, and I just couldn’t advise my friends to watch what was, if not snuff porn (because, as we know, the girl lived), definitely torture porn.

That was the last I knew about the case until recently. I didn’t follow the trial. I didn’t read stories. It was pretty much too horrifying.

I know I keep using that word. Horror, horrible, horrified, horrifying. I don’t have an adequate word. Or maybe it’s that that word has been softened up by application to too many mundane things. The meatloaf I made where I absentmindedly added more than 2 tablespoons of salt over the course of mixing it was not horrible. It just tasted bad. This video, it was horrible.

If all you ever saw was the court case, or talking heads discussing it on TV, maybe you just have to take my word for it. Maybe you can’t quite get why I wasn’t fascinated along with the rest of the country with what happened. With how the prosecution and defense each presented the girl and boys. With how her friends turned on her. With how the sports obsessed town stood divided over this case of football stars with a promising college football and possible NFL careers had casually dehumanized this girl, assaulted her, raped her, passed her around for others to do the same, took pictures and shared it, boasted about it on video.

I’d seen enough. Thanks.

I told my husband about it, though, and when the news came out yesterday that two of the boys (I don’t even know if it was one of the boys in the video, to be honest) had been found guilty he said “good.”

And that was that.

Until last night.

See, since I wasn’t following the case, I hadn’t seen the coverage. So I had totally missed how completely failtastic the media response to the verdict was.

It blew up my feeds. So, I followed the links, and watched Candy Crowley (among many others) virtually weeping over how sad it is that this “happened” to these boys. Which is weird as hell. They did not fall into a hole. They didn’t have a horrible accident. They brutally raped a girl. Then she topped off this bizarro universe reaction with the phrase, “…of rape, essentially.”

Excuse me? How is this “essentially” rape? Isn’t this specifically rape?

Am I lost?

How are we still neck deep in rape being excused, dismissed, covered up, denied, and even approved of? Why do we, to paraphrase the incredibly clarifying words of Anne Thériault up there, still have work at simply creating a sympathetic and human connection to women? Why are we humanizing half of the entire human race so that they can stop being abused and assaulted?

Are women only essentially human? Or are we specifically human, much as men?

I know my answer, but I’m a bit worried about what Candy Crowley’s answer would be.