Asking For “Something”

imagesizerCN: Discussion of rape and victim blaming.

[Image: An image of a woman standing with her back to the camera with her skirt pulled up. On her leg reads, from bottom to top, “matronly”, “prudish”, “old fashioned”, “proper”, “flirty”, “cheeky”, “provocative”, “asking for it”, “slut”, “whore”, with marks indicating each level of how high the skirt is and where the judgement will be made.]

I recently came across a thread on Facebook about school dress codes that resulted in pulling girls out of class and forcing them to change into something more “modest” because their shoulders or legs, or midriffs were too “distracting” to male students. I knew I shouldn’t have read the comments, but I did. A male commenter enlightened the original poster that when you dress you are indeed “asking” for something.

Just like someone who dresses professionally for a business meeting is asking to be taken seriously or a bride wears a wedding dress in order to be the center of attention on her big day, a woman who goes out to bars and clubs on ladies’ nights dress a certain way to be noticed and gain male attention. So the girls in school must have been dressing in order to devious distract the male students and therefore, the school was well within their rights to send these wicked temptresses home, right? RIGHT?

Here’s a radical thought for you; not all women dress for men. Imagine that. Imagine a woman going through her wardrobe, thinking about what she want to wear, how she want to look, how she want to present myself. Imagine her not even considering the opinions of men, other women, all people in general, because she’s happy with her outfit and that’s all that matters. Imagine a world where that could be possible.

And really, let’s not mince words. When you start talking about women “asking” for things with their clothing, it’s inevitable the conversation turns to rape and sexual assault. Which then turns to a discussion on the myriad thing a woman not only could have done but should have done in order to avoid her own rape.

It’s not logical or even vaguely acceptable to equate someone wanting to be taken seriously as a professional to someone who wears a revealing outfit to deserve sexual assault or rape. Because… get this… when someone dresses professionally they want to be taken seriously. When a woman dresses in any way, shape or form, she does not want to be raped. No one wants to be raped.

As I asked Verily Magazine in their weedy-worded article about Amber Rose’s SlutWalk, what is acceptable clothing and who gets to decide what that is? Women have been raped and sexually assaulted while wearing all kinds of clothes and guess what, none of the deserved it. Women are not sexual objects to be used whenever a man decides that something arouses him.

It’s time that everyone dresses for themselves and stops assuming that someone else is dressed for them. No one is entitled to a woman’s body just because they can see a part of  it. No one deserves to be raped for any reason. Those who are sexually assaulted deserve to be treated with respect and not asked questions which imply they somehow deserved it.

A Different World: Women as Sex and Love Objects

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[Image: Character Dwayne Wayne in his trademark flip-up glasses and a colorful sweater, smiling against a blue background.]

I used to watch A Different World when it came on TV. As a child, I never got too engrossed in the show, but when it came up on Netflix, I thought I would watch it from the beginning and see what I thought of it as an adult. Also, 80s-90s nostalgia. The show started in 87 and ran through the early 90s. I wanted to go back to a simpler time and explore the complex world that these characters inhabited that I never got a chance to appreciate as a child.

The show itself is very interesting and complex. It follows the adventures of an eclectic group of students at the historically black college, Hillman. Among the cast is spoiled princess Whitley Gilbert, math genius Dwayne Wayne, comic relief Ron Johnson, and take no prisoners Jeleasa Vinson, among others. But it’s rather disturbing to watch the way that women are treated throughout this show and how dehumanizing behavior is played as something completely normal, with a laugh track in the background.

In the first season, Dwayne’s character is a would-be lothario who treats every woman on campus like a potential girlfriend. They are not people to him, they are not equals, they are love objects that he relentlessly pursues, no matter how disinterested. His pursuit of Denise Huxtable (the show was originally a spin-off from The Cosby Show, but Denise didn’t return for the rest of the show after the first season as actress Lisa Bonet was pregnant) was played off as him just being a lovable goof. But honestly, this behavior is limiting and problematic.

Dwayne eventually becomes friends with the three girls that live in Gilbert Hall’s 20Y, but he still makes comments and attempts to date them and makes it clear that he does not view them as real friends like his buddy Ron Johnson, but instead as potential dates. Other characters on the show, including a high school student that came to Hillman as part of a college visitation weekend, continually make sexualizing comments about the women’s bodies, appearance, and clothes.

Even if the character is not supposed to have romantic interest in the character that they’re commenting on, the women are regularly reminded that the male gaze is watching them and appreciates their efforts. At one point in the show, someone calls out Dwayne for treating all women like potential dates and not as people, but that is turned into a joke and never explored. There are a lot of things on the show that probably would not be acceptable to put on TV today, but sometimes I wonder if people realize just how degrading and frustrating this behavior is.

Being endlessly treated like a sex object was something I encountered enough when trying to internet date. I have substance, I am a person. But for all the progress I make, there is always someone there to remind me that I am just a body used for others’ consumption and nothing I do is of any value because all of my value is in my physical form.

Women deserve to be thought of as people first. Always. No matter how amorous someone is. Their desire to date should never negate someone else’s personhood. And honestly, if you treat women like people, they’re probably going to be more interested in dating you. Strange fact. Science hasn’t figured out why.

Intelligence is not an ending point, it’s a starting point

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[Image: A vintage 1950s photo of a man wearing a suit, sitting in an armchair, reading a newspaper.]

I hate when intelligent people sit back in their arm chairs, stroke their beards (whether real or imaginary) and declare that they know everything in the world. I hate this because it leads to people acting like assholes and know-it-alls, all with no reason to ever examine their behavior or think about their actions, because they know everything and if someone has a problem with it, it’s that person’s issue and not theirs. I hate to say it, but I’ve seen far more intelligent people fall victim to this than I would have ever hoped.

Intelligence is a great thing. Being smarter than the average person is a gift that has little to do with how dedicated you are to self-improvement or your own intellectual capacity. Intelligence is generally set and affected by things that are out of the average person’s controls. Being intelligent and educated is a privilege in this world, not a right, or the chance at good luck. And when you use this to declare your ideas superior to all other ideas, then it’s a fucking problem.

In order to maintain intelligence, you need to keep learning, keep reading, keep listening, and keep your eyes and ears open to new thoughts and ideas. Just because you knew the best way to fight infection was with leeches, doesn’t mean that you know what the best way is now. Stop assuming that everything in this world is fixed and your ability to understand it is unquestionable. Because it’s not and it’s not.

I hate when new information, points of view, and other sources of information and experience are passed over because they challenge or disrupt previous thinking about the topic. I’ve seen people that are very bright reject information and even personal experiences from others because it doesn’t fit in with their line of thinking and what they understand about a topic. Particularly when personal experiences being rejected are from people who are at the center of an issue, and the person doing the rejecting is a privileged outsider.

Also, when there are political motivations behind rejecting information, it just serves to annoy me. It’s easy for men to reject a woman speaking out about wage inequality because the men have no experience of it themselves (and in a lot of cases, can’t imagine what the experience would be like), it makes it sound much better to them if they declare that it’s not a real issue and that both genders are equal in this case, and it helps to alleviate their guilt over having privilege. It’s easy to look at an issue like rape protection products and declare that these should make women feel safer and better prepared to face the world, when women are openly staying that it does neither.

When it comes to women’s issues, the last thing anyone needs is for more men to inject themselves into the conversation and dictate how women should think and feel about what happens in their lives and to their bodies. The entire problem with inequality is because men have been doing this for centuries and women want to be able to use their own voices and speak for themselves. Women’s experiences have already been trampled by the patriarchy declaring them overly emotional children that wail at the slightest thing and can’t be taken seriously. Don’t continue the damage that has already been done to many women in the past.

In the end, intelligence is something that needs to be cultivated. To do that, you have to remain open to new ideas, possibilities, and experiences. An intelligent person also needs to recognize when it’s appropriate to voice their opinion and when the conversation isn’t about them and they need to back the fuck off. No one can be expected to know everything, and no one should feel that they do. Never assume that you know what someone’s research, life, or thoughts are because you think your brain can handle more information than other peoples’. Because it doesn’t matter how smart you are, no one likes an asshole.

Surprise Sex

surprisesex

[Image: A black background with white text. The text reads: “Surprise sex is the best thing to wake up to. Unless you’re in prison.”]

“Surprise Sex” as defined by the Urban Dictionary:

Politically correct term for conducting sexual intercourse without consent. Rape is such a harsh word… everyone loves a surprise!

“I’d been following her for weeks, I knew it was her birthday soon and planned to surprise her”

Do I even need to fucking say anything at this point? I mean, really? Shouldn’t it just be a given what this blog is going to be about and how horrible I find this meme and how terrible it actually is? Because it’s seemingly not apparent to all people what it’s like to be a decent human being, allow me to break this down for you. In the smallest words possible.

First of all, the term “surprise sex” is not a surprise or even sex. It’s rape. But it’s funny rape. It’s permissible rape because it’s framed in comedy. It’s so harmless that for someone to get upset about it, it just makes them a bad person with no sense of humor. Because it’s a joke! It’s a joke about having sex with someone against their will and that is just hilarious. Right?

I’ve written about rape jokes before and this joke is punching down, not up. This term is a small part of a larger rape culture that finds rape funny, chuckle-worthy, and not really that big of a deal. But this is only half of the problem in this meme. The other half is the prison rape joke.

Male sexual assault and rape is one of the least reported crimes ever. And why? Lots of reasons! One of them being that this is what we think of when we think of male rape. Men in prison get raped and the only reason that those rapes are thought to occur is because there are no women present and men have to make do with what is available and that is other men.

Side note, when talking about male rape victims, I have to specifically use the term “male rape victims”. If I just wrote “rape victims” the assumption would be that the victim is female. This in and of itself is a problem. Men are not immune to rape or rape culture and the fact that they are not even thought to be included in discussion of victims, that they are presumed to be only the perpetrators of this act, is highly indicative of the fact that shit needs to change.

Anyway, another reason why men don’t speak out or come forward to report sexual assault is that male rape being a joke is so deeply ingrained in society that males are terrified to even talk about their experiences for fear that this very traumatic and invasive act will be seen as a punchline. After going through something as terrible as this, the last thing you want someone to do is invalidate it and society is in love with invalidating the experience of male sexual assault victims.

Not feeling safe is a big motivator for everyone and we create an environment where all rape victims feel unsafe coming forward and seeking assistance or justice, what we are doing is encouraging the rapists and providing a safe space for them to let their behavior continue completely unchecked. We need to stop this. Stop making rape a joke, stop pretending that it’s something harmless when it’s not, stop excusing these kinds of thoughts all due to the guise of humor.

This is not funny, this is part of a larger problem. This is pushing victims into silence and excusing illegal and harmful behavior. The only way to make changes is to work with culture to keep rape the terrible, dehumanizing crime that it is, no matter who is the victim, until the act of forcing someone into sex is as inconceivable as cannibalism.

Men of Facebook: Fap

So this is new. I  have a story about a man misbehaving and he’s not from OKC. I met this individual, Zar, at a skeptic meetup about two years ago (back when I was engaged) and added him to my Facebook friends. He didn’t post a lot, but what he did post made little sense. Partly from the fact that English didn’t seem to be his first language and because writing was not his strong suit. He private messaged me a few times over the two years that I knew him and I have to say that I was never terribly impressed with anything that he had to say.

Zar messaged me a few weeks back and I just didn’t respond because I didn’t even want to deal with him in my current mental state. But he messaged me again a few days ago and it seemed harmless enough, so I responded. He told me that he had a crush on me and would like to go out with me sometime when he was in town. I agreed, mainly because I thought that this wasn’t going to happen. Also, I am entirely too indiscriminate with the men I date.

Later in the day, I posted this status:

screenshot-www.facebook.com 2015-01-29 22-54-19

 

Zar had this to say in response:

screenshot-www.facebook.com 2015-01-29 22-54-34

I didn’t see this post when it originally went up. I’m not sure how I missed it, but a friend had to point out to me what he said the next day and I had to go back and look at it. But this wasn’t all he had to say. He also posted this gem:

screenshot-www.facebook.com 2015-01-29 22-54-43

So it’s not even noon yet and he’s told me that he has a hard on and is fantasizing about having sex with me. And what part of this is supposed to be flattering, exactly? I’m very open about sex, but I met this person once. I’ve made it highly clear in my posts, particularly the ones from OkCupid, that I don’t find this kind of sexualization a turn on. I regularly mock men that ask for sex after a few messages exchanged.

But Zar wasn’t done yet. Later that night, I posted this photo from a shopping trip:

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Did Zar have more “compliments” to share? Oh  yes, he did. By the time I got home from shopping I found that a fight had broken out on my photo’s comment thread. This is what set it off:

screenshot-www.facebook.com 2015-01-29 22-52-51

A few of my friends made note that this comment was uncalled for and rude, but Dan called him out on saying something so completely inappropriate for Facebook. But Zar didn’t quite understand what was wrong with what he was saying. He tried to defend himself with this:

screenshot-www.facebook.com 2015-01-29 22-53-07

Zar then posted a video of a man with a mechanical arm that masturbated. As if this somehow proved his point. Which wasn’t a point that anyone cared if he was making.

Dan tried to explain that there’s no problem with him enjoying sex, the problem is him objectifying me with no idea if that’s how I want to be viewed or spoken about. Also, this is fucking Facebook and even though I overshare like a lunatic, I have yet to post on other people’s photos about my masturbation habits. Bottom line is that it wasn’t a compliment. It was rude and dehumanizing.

But Zar didn’t seem to grasp this idea. He responded to Dan with this:

screenshot-www.facebook.com 2015-01-29 22-53-27

I arrived home in time just after this was posted and immediately unfriended Zar. I hope that’s enough communication that I don’t want these types of comments made about me on my Facebook page. It baffles me that he thought this was at all okay or even a good idea. He had never made such forward comments before and I wonder if he thought that my agreement to go out on a date with him was some kind of invitation to start thinking of me as a sex object. I have no idea.

But I don’t really care to know, either. It’s sad, but during my time on OKC, I’ve become pretty accustomed to men that treat me like a fucktoy. I’ve become so desensitized to it that his comments didn’t even bother me. They were unwanted, but they didn’t really affect me. It just seemed like one more dude thinking that I was there for his sexual enjoyment with no thought to what I actually wanted.

I find that once some men get it in their heads that I am sex, because I’m a woman or I have a vagina or they found me physically attractive or the day ends in Y, they completely stop acknowledging my humanity and feel no qualms about it. When I become an object, there is nothing wrong with using said object for its intended purpose. It would be ludicrous not to, in fact! Like owning a car and not driving it. When I am sex, I should be treated like sex. And so they do. With no thought to the fact that I am more than sex and always was.

When it all comes down, there are things we human being call compliments and they don’t include dehumanizing people with sexual comments. It would be one thing if this was within the context of our relationship and I had agreed to or made it known that I enjoyed being talked about this way. But he had none of these. He was little more than a stranger to me and I have enough strange men telling me about their penises already.

So Zar, looks like we won’t be going out on a date, should you ever come back into town. I hope you’re out there exercising your first amendment rights until you figure out what constitutes polite conversation and what doesn’t. I’ll start you off; the posts above are not it.