Thursday, April 20, 2006


The latest Carnival of Feminists is up, and it's amazing. I'm going to try and quickly write about a couple of things tonight (and I've only read about half a dozen articles).

The most challenging (that's a very loaded word, isn't it), of the ones I've read is from Feminist Reprise. She makes the links between rape and lesbian seperatism in a really straight up way.

So you already know I’m sick of sexual assault. I created those antirape designs and it was good, satisfying work, but even as I was doing it I was aware that underneath all the messages I could think of, there’s still the assumption that men care. That they care that they’re hurting us, or would if they only knew. That they care if we consent. And then I read Pinko Feminist Hellcat’s posts on the OC rape case, or I read some of the graphic stories of sexual abuse on Femivist’s Survivors’ Voices, and I realize, there’s a whole segment of the male population out there that doesn’t give a shit. When a 30-year-old man forces his penis into the mouth of a child, it’s not date rape, it’s not some necking that got out of hand. He’s not thinking she’s consenting; he doesn’t care. When three college students viciously beat and rape a woman in a houseful of people, it wasn’t because she didn’t say “no” loudly enough. When three 18-year-olds purposely drug the drink of a 16-year-old woman and violate her in every way possible with penises and objects while she’s passed out, and make a video of it, it’s not a misunderstanding. She’s an object to them, a thing to be used, and the damage to her doesn’t even matter because there will be more where she came from.

And I get to thinking how feminists have been telling these stories for more than 30 years now.* For more than 30 years we’ve been detailing the abuse that men have heaped upon us, in every fashion they’ve been able to imagine. We’ve been analyzing power structures and locating oppressions and decontextualizing sexualities, and you know what? The stories aren’t changing. For the most part, these bloggers are women of my generation, women in our 30s or younger, and we’re still being dumped on and sat on and shat on by men. None of this is women’s fault, but it seems to me we’ve managed to identify damn few alternatives. Men ought to change, clearly. Their behavior is inhumane and inhuman and unjust and unacceptable. Rape, battering, war, capitalist exploitation—they should stop doing all of this immediately.

But it doesn’t seem to me that we’re getting very far by saying, “Stop raping us! Stop it! I mean it! Stop raping us!” We know that most rapists target women they know, but we still befriend them, we still drink with them, we still let our teenagers date them, we still leave our little girls alone with them. The last time I publically suggested letting young women know the real odds**, giving them a chance to learn from our experiences and make better decisions about their own safety, I got jumped all the heck over by another feminist, accusing me of blaming women for being raped. Of course men’s violence isn’t our fault, of course they should change, of course we deserve to be safe—but has the sex class men shown any indication that they’re going to change anytime soon?
Although I could nitpick in all sorts of places in many ways that's hard to argue with. I don't agree with her solution, she argues for the creation of communities without men. I really do think that is a personal solution, and there's nothing wrong with it, as a personal solution, but it won't stop rape. But I kind of feel like I do about the Temperance movement last century - I don't think that response to violence against women would work, but I certainly haven't got any better ideas.

What Amy wrote made me think about my list of CDs for jail. In NZ prisons you're allowed 12 CDs and 12 tapes (my making this list has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact there's no maximum penalty for contempt of court - really), and I was trying to figure out what I would take. I'm quite into 40s and 50s folk music, but I decided I wouldn't take Woody Guthrie. There's this passage in Joe Klein's book, the point of the story is that Woody Guthrie was hassling a woman who had terminated a pregnancy, but in his biography of Woody Guthrie Joe Klein introduces this story by describing her as a woman who had been unsuccessful in trying to fend off Woody at a party and had an abortion. He's a folk hero, and he rapes a woman, and the point of the story wasn't even the rape, it was the fact that he was hassling her for not bringing the resulting pregnancy to term.

How come I decide I wouldn't take stuff like that with me to jail, but I listen to it now? How come just a few hours ago I was singing along to Union Maid?

But those are just my first thoughts, I'll try to post more. Go, read the whole thing. I'd also recommend Biting Bever's continuum of rape and sex, which Amy links to. I'm not sure if I agree with her use of the word 'benefit', but I think what she's saying is extremely important.


  1. If it helps at all Woody Guthrie was mentally ill.

    You might not agree with me but I'm going to say it anyway. Of course rape is terrible and inexcusable and should be dealt with. However, I truly believe it is a minority of men who perpetuate it or think it is anyway acceptable. It is the exception not the norm and it needs to be seen in that perspective.

    In terms of how to deal with it I am becoming increasingly troubled by the messages about their sexuality that young males receive. A 13 year old boy is innocent and probably confused. He has to learn to deal with his own hormones and emotions and at the same time start to learn how to become sexually active in socially appropriate ways. What message does this young man get? Constant battering with the message NO means No and the implicit assumption that he is probably a rapist in waiting. At the same time he gets exposed to the current freak show norms of modern day pornography. It has to be confusing and very possibly conducive to self loathing. It's not any kind of preparation for healthy participation in mutually affirming and enjoyable relations with the opposite sex.

  2. I knew about Woody Guthrie's illness but it doesn't help.

    I'm going to write a follow-up post tonight exploring what I mean, and where I agree and disagree with Amy and biting beever. I'll address the issue about

    I agree that no means no should not be the only message, but that's because Idon't think nearly enough energy is put into what 'yes' looks like.

  3. >"How come it's so common then to hear about sexual abuse in this country amongst personal acquaintances?"

    I am sorry if this sounds flippant and dismissive because I don't mean it that way- but maybe thats a function of your social circles rather than indicative of the general state of NZ society.

    >"I must admit I don't know that many teenagers at the moment, but it would seem though looking at popular culture ie video games, movies, tv and music that the message is that women are pieces of meat to be brutalised for your viewing pleasure. Whether it's CSI Whatever, Grand Theft Auto, Eminem, or the latest atrocity fake or real on the Internet - it all amounts to the same message over and over again - everyday."

    Thats some of what I mean about the freak show pornographic aspects of our modern day culture & conflicting messages.

    Incidentally please don't think I'm dismissive of the issues. I'm a card carrying feminist. I've voluntarily in the past in the course of my studies researched battered woman syndrome and on ACC and tort compensation for sexual abuse. I know its out there and its horrible. But that 1 in four women are abused statistic has been comprehensively discredited and when I look around me at the men I know and have known and reflect on my own experience I still think its only a minority of men that do it.

  4. I certainly think that the objectification of women in the media is disgusting. Things like "Striperella" make my stomach turn. But if you complain about stuff like that you're a "fundamentalist nut" (I'm Catholic), but I just really don't like the whole recreational sex movement because it takes all the emotional connection out of sexuality.

    I've often wondered why people use prostitutes, why would you want to have sex with someone who only consented to have sex with you because you paid them? Other than the money they don't want you at all, it's a total turn off in my mind, but obviously not for other people.