rust and stardust

I was re-reading my five billion goddamn posts about rape and force, and I realized (surprise!) there is a more succinct way for me to express what I was thinking. I tend to go on and on, circling a subject, trying to get out everything in my head that possibly relates to it, and then sometimes find I didn’t really address the subject at all. So, here is what I wanted to say in those five billion posts about rape:

If women are raised being told by parents, teachers, media, peers, and all surrounding social strata that:

If we teach women that there are only certain ways they may acceptably behave, we should not be surprised when they behave in those ways.

And we should not be surprised when they behave these ways during attempted or completed rapes.

Women who are taught not to speak up too loudly or too forcefully or too adamantly or too demandingly are not going to shout “NO” at the top of their goddamn lungs just because some guy is getting uncomfortably close.

Women who are taught not to keep arguing are not going to keep saying “NO.”

Women who are taught that their needs and desires are not to be trusted, are fickle and wrong and are not to be interpreted by the woman herself, are not going to know how to argue with “but you liked kissing, I just thought…”

Women who are taught that physical confrontations make them look crazy will not start hitting, kicking, and screaming until it’s too late, if they do at all.

Women who are taught that a display of their emotional state will have them labeled hysterical and crazy (which is how their perception of events will be discounted) will not be willing to run from a room disheveled and screaming and crying.

Women who are taught that certain established boundaries are frowned upon as too rigid and unnecessary are going to find themselves in situations that move further faster before they realize that their first impression was right, and they are in a dangerous room with a dangerous person.

Women who are taught that refusing to flirt back results in an immediately hostile environment will continue to unwillingly and unhappily flirt with somebody who is invading their space and giving them creep alerts.

People wonder why women don’t “fight back,” but they don’t wonder about it when women back down in arguments, are interrupted, purposefully lower and modulate their voices to express less emotion, make obvious signals that they are uninterested in conversation or being in closer physical proximity and are ignored. They don’t wonder about all those daily social interactions in which women are quieter, ignored, or invisible, because those social interactions seem normal. They seem normal to women, and they seem normal to men, because we were all raised in the same cultural pond, drinking the same Kool-Aid.

And then, all of a sudden, when women are raped, all these natural and invisible social interactions become evidence that the woman wasn’t truly raped. Because she didn’t fight back, or yell loudly, or run, or kick, or punch. She let him into her room when it was obvious what he wanted. She flirted with him, she kissed him. She stopped saying no, after a while.

These rules for social interactions that women are taught to obey are more than grease for the patriarchy wheel. Women are taught both that these rules will protect them, and that disobeying these rules results in punishment.

Here’s a situation every woman is familiar with: some guy she knows, perhaps a casual acquaintance, perhaps just some dude at the bus stop, is obviously infatuated with her. He’s making conversation, he’s giving her the eye. She doesn’t like him. She doesn’t want to talk to him. She doesn’t want him near her. He is freaking her out. She could disobey the rules, and tell him to GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM HER, and continue screaming GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME every time he tries to step closer, or speak to her again. And then he will be all, “I was just talking to you! WTF!” and everybody else will be all, “Yeah, seriously, why’d you freak out at a guy just talking to you?” and refuse to offer the support she needs to be safe from dude. Or, the guy might become hostile, violent even. Ladies, you’ve seen that look, the “bitch can’t ignore me” look. It’s a source of constant confusion, as soon as you start budding breasts, that the man who just a moment ago told you how pretty you are is now calling you a stupid ugly whore, all because you didn’t get in his car.

OR

You could follow the rules. You could flirt back a little, look meek, not talk, not move away. You might have to put up with a lot more talking, you might have to put up with him trying to ask you out to lunch every day, you might even have to go out to lunch with him. You might have to deal with him copping a feel. But he won’t turn violent on you, and neither will the spectators who have watched him browbeat you into a frightened and flirtatious corner.

So we learn the rules will protect us. We learn that, when we step out of line, somebody around us might very well turn crazy. Might hurt us. And we won’t be defended by onlookers, who think we’ve provoked the crazy somehow. So, having your ass grabbed at the bus stop, having to go out to dinner with a guy you fucking can’t stand, maybe even having to fuck him once or twice, it’s a small sacrifice to avoid being ostracized, insulted, verbally abused, and possibly physically assaulted.

It’s a rude fucking awakening when a woman gets raped, and follows the rules she has been taught her whole life — doesn’t refuse to talk, doesn’t refuse to flirt, doesn’t walk away ignoring him, doesn’t hit, doesn’t scream, doesn’t fight, doesn’t raise her voice, doesn’t deny she liked kissing — and finds out after that she is now to blame for the rape. She followed the rules. The rules that were supposed to keep the rape from happening. The rules that would keep her from being fair game for verbal and physical abuse. Breaking the rules is supposed to result in punishment, not following them. For every time she lowered her voice, let go of a boundary, didn’t move away, let her needs be conveniently misinterpreted, and was given positive reinforcement and a place in society, she is now being told that all that was wrong, this one time, and she should have known that, duh.

For anybody who has ever watched the gendered social interactions of women — watched a woman get browbeaten into accepting attention she doesn’t want, watched a woman get interrupted while speaking, watched a woman deny she is upset at being insulted in public, watched a woman get grabbed because of what she was wearing, watched a woman stop arguing — and said and done nothing, you never have the right to ever ask, “Why didn’t she fight back?”

She didn’t fight back because you told her not to. Ever. Ever. You told her that was okay, and necessary, and right.

You didn’t give her a caveat. You didn’t say, “Unless…” You said, “Good for you, shutting up and backing down 99% of the time. Too bad that 1% of the time makes you a fucking whore who deserved it.”

Nobody obtains the superpower to behave dramatically differently during a frightening confrontation. Women will behave the same way they have been taught to behave in all social, professional, and sexual interactions. And they will be pretty goddamned surprised to come out the other end and find out that means they can legally be raped at any time, by just about anybody.

I am focusing on women here. I tend to do that, being one and all, but let’s mention something about men. If men have been raised to behave aggressively, to discount what women and weaker men want and feel and say, to obtain power and social standing through force, to deny emotions exist, to feel that women are fundamentally a different species, to set a boundary and keep it NO MATTER WHAT, to make a decision and stick to it NO MATTER WHAT, to feel entitled to sex, to feel they will be ostracized and possibly physically attacked if they don’t acquire sex with women, to feel under threat of harassment and attack if they don’t constantly maintain a hyper-masculine exterior, to prove their manhood through dangerous and degrading physical activities…

if you have seen men behave in this way, and encouraged it, and thought it was normal, so normal you didn’t even see it…

then you never have the right to say “He couldn’t possibly have done that” when you hear that your brother raped somebody.

That wasn’t concise at all. What I mean to say is:

The way men and women interact on a daily basis is the way they interact when rape occurs. The social dynamics we see at play between men and women are the same social dynamics that cause men to feel rape is okay, and women to feel they have no right to object. And if you accept those social interactions as normal and appropriate in your day to day life, there is absolutely no reason you should be shocked that rape occurs without screaming, without fighting, without bruising, without provocation, and without prosecution. Behavior exists on a continuum. Rape doesn’t inhabit its own little corner of the world, where everything is suddenly all different now. The behavior you accept today is the behavior that becomes rape tomorrow. And you very well might accept it then, too.

Dec 9
Amazing, amazing blog post by the lovely Harriet J

What is it about December that inspires mass breakouts of victim-blaming? Is it the darkness encroaching on our days? Is it the way the holidays make us all want to drink? Whatever it is, it’s happening again. And just like last year’s Never-Ending Naomi Wolf Incident, this one involves women hating on women in ways that shouldn’t shock me but still really, really do.

To review: The PA Liquor Control Board released an ad helpfully informing us that if we drink, not only are we at fault if someone commits a felony violent crime against us, but also if our friends are criminally assaulted. While many people went to great pains to point out that this is a fucking disgusting and dangerous message, Jessica Wakeman at The Frisky“bravely” ventured that maybe us laydeez really do need lecturing about “how taking more drugs or drinking more booze than you can handle is stupid.” (With a bonus hierarchy set up between rapists who prey on drunk women, and rapists who use date rape drugs. Because there’s rape, and there’s rape-rape, amirite?) Then, Wednesday, Keli Goff doubled down on that oh-so-helpful approach, under the guise of starting a conversation “that keeps getting suppressed because activists start throwing around words like ‘victim shaming’ and then others with dissenting voices immediately retreat.” (I’d like to read the internet she’s reading, please!) Meanwhile, this weekend, an article surfaced on Mizzou’s Campus Basement page which was just one long “joke” about how hilarious it is to get sorority girls drunk and then rape them. When pressed in the (now removed, along with the original article) comments section, the female author of the piece claimed she wrote it in order to teach other girls not to “act stupid” or “put a target on their back.”

There’s just one teeny tiny problem: couch it the trappings of edgy rebellion against the PC police all you want; telling the world that “drinking to the point of blacking out” makes women more vulnerable to rapists is still exactly as brave as Rick Perry coming out as a Christian homophobe. And comparing a woman who’s been sexually violated while smashed to your drunk uncle who drives the car into the pool misses a crucial point: while each of us is absolutely responsible for the harm we do to ourselves and others while drunk, we’re never responsible for the harm others do to us.

I can already hear the howls of “practical” protests: it may be unfair, but don’t women still deserve to know what can keep them safe? I assure you: we already know. Even your 12-year-old niece knows that “bad girls” should expect bad things to happen to them, and drinking, especially to excess, is one of the hallmarks of a bad girl. This isn’t exactly an innovative approach to rape prevention. If “just say no” messaging could keep women safe, we’d all be a lot safer already.

In fact, what’s most troubling about this everything-old-is-eww-again trend is its underlying lack of concern for women. The message isn’t preventing even one rape. It just (thinks it’s) encouraging the individual female reader to not be the girl who gets picked. Because, in the vast majority of cases, rape isn’t an accident, or even a crime of opportunity.Researchers have estimated that over 90% of campus rapes are committed by a tiny minority of guys who know what they’re doing and attack over and over again, specifically because we’re too busy warning women about their drinking habits to figure out how (or even try) to stop them. That means if they’re looking for a drunk target, and you’re not it, these guys will just find someone who is. And then all that focus on who’s “smart” enough not to over-imbibe will translate into a collective finger-wag at anyone “stupid” enough to do otherwise, and instead of working together for our collective safety, we’ll again be too busy blaming each other to deal with the actual rapists in our midst.

And that brings us right around to where we started: this is why women are so often the ones perpetrating this shit on other women and on the culture at large. Not just because being a woman who’s willing to shame other women in the media is the laziest possibly way to appear “rebellious” and “free-thinking” while saying the most mainstream, status-quo bullshit imaginable, therefore making yourself more employable by those charming 1%ers who own most of the media and like the status quo just fine. (Though all that is most certainly true.) But also because we want it not to be us. Of course we don’t. None of us want to be raped, ever. It’s just some of us let that perfectly human impulse take over our brains and our hearts. When that happens, we start to believe the pro-rape propaganda that there’s a List of things we can do to keep ourselves from being raped, and that those who do get targeted are the ones who failed to follow The List. Which is too bad, really. We feel bad for them, we do. But we sure as fuck are glad we’re not “stupid” enough to “let” it be us.

What’s worse, all this finger-wagging about booze doesn’t make even the waggers of said digits any safer. It makes them feel safer, sure, but there’s miles of difference between feeling safer and being safer. Believing that being more virtuous than the next girl will keep you safe from rape actually puts you in greater danger, because you’re less likely to spot warning signs that you’re being targeted if you think you’re at less risk. So congrats, pearl-clutchers: you just made life worse for the people who do get raped while drunk (and if you’re clutching those pearls in a public forum, you’ve literally increased the amount of rape in the world), and that smug feeling you derived from it doesn’t even reduce your own risk. Well-played.

But wait, there’s more! Specifically: so the fuck what if someone is taking different risks than you? We need to get over the idea that there’s some risk-free way to be sexual, or to more generally pursue pleasure, or to do anything else in life. Nobody gets shitfaced because they think it’s a responsible or safe thing to do. We do it because we’re feeling rebellious, or it feels cathartic to let loose, or because all our friends are doing it and we want to be with our friends, or because we want to convince someone we’re hot for that we’re “fun,” or any number of other “good” or “bad” reasons that boil down to: we know we’re taking a risk. And because we all value different kinds of rewards differently, we’re all going to decide different risks are worth it. You think staying sober and only having sex with your monogamous partner will keep you safe? Well, it won’t, but you don’t see me wagging my finger about sober monogamy, and if you get hurt in that situation, I won’t assume it’s because you didn’t know the risks or were too dumb to care. Because I believe that we all get to decide which risks are right for us, and that if someone commits a felony violent crime against you while you were taking what someone else considers to be a “risk,” it’s still not your fault. If a bungee jumper’s bungee snaps[EDIT: Aimee, in the comments below, points out that a more accurate metaphor would be “If someone cuts a bungee jumper’s cord and the jumper gets hurt”], do we cluck our tongues about how people should stop being so stupid as to bungee jump? No: we blame the person who sabotaged the cord (and make sure the jumper gets medical care!). So maybe we should spend more time equipping ourselves to decide which risks are right for us personally, and no time at all judging other people’s choices.

Besides, if one gender has to stop drinking “to excess” because there’s a link between alcohol and rape (and let’s be clear: rapists are just as likely to be drinking as their victims), why isn’t it the gender that does the overwhelming majority of the raping? Oh right, because we’d never ask men to give up their ability to decide which risks are right for them. We only do that to women and gender non-conforming folks, so that when they make decisions we wouldn’t make we can have the pleasure of calling them “stupid.”

Dec 17
Girl on Girl Victim Blaming by Jaclyn Friedman
May 4

(via grrrlgangs)

DON’T WRITE A POEM ABOUT RAPE
by Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

For the editor who told me
rape is not a fresh subject
(he knows who he is).

Rape is a cliché.
Unless it happens to you.
But don’t write a poem about it
or the editor might say
it’s just not fresh.
Rape is not fresh.
It’s been done too much.
It’s too emotional, confessional.
There are too many words.
People are not shocked anymore.
Don’t write a poem about it
especially if you were in the dark
university parking lot, a little more than tipsy,
and he forced you into his car with a gun.
Dark parking lots and guns are so overdone!
Don’t write a poem about it
especially if the digital time on his dash
was 12:00. It’s too much like the Twilight Zone
especially if those stiff red numbers
still ring in your brain sometimes
when you’re in the grocery line
and you drop everything you got, and the tomatoes
and the peaches, and the can of cream corn
go rolling down the aisle.
Don’t say he drove you down a dead end road.
Don’t tell how he bent your fingers back,
slammed them with the door over and over.
How heavy-handed can you get?
Don’t tell how he took the right to bare your arms,
your legs, your goose-bumpy little nipples,
and when he ripped your shirt in loud red shreds
you were trite enough to worry
what people would think about you.
For God’s sake, don’t say you were a virgin.
Honey, save it for the Movie of the Week.
Don’t tell about the fistfuls
of sand and gravel in your open mouth,
your open face, up your open legs.
It’s just not fresh.
Maybe try a different point of view.
Don’t tell how he held the gun so tenderly
in your ear, under your tongue,
deep inside the stretched-out skin
of your nostril, and you could smell the click
as he cocked it, and you could taste the click
in your throat as he made you call him Lord.
With the right music, it might work for a porno flick
but not for a literary journal.
Don’t tell how you looked up at the full moon
with its mouth torn into a little o
as you waited for it to be over.
Don’t you know the moon is overused?
And there are inconsistencies if you say
you almost laughed out loud
cause you were a stupid little twit who thought
who actually believed the first time would be romantic.
Don’t write a poem about it. Just don’t.
Especially if you went crazy when it didn’t end
and the only defense you had was to black out
and dream the damnedest dreams about a book
you used to have when you were a girl
and you dreamed a little song about the silvery moon,
the moon on the breast of the new fallen road
the Carolina moon that kept shining, shining,
shining on the one who’s raping you.
And when you woke up, it wasn’t over
but the Goodnight Moon was gone,
and you saw an old woman in the distance
come out on her porch to hear
what all the Hell raising was about,
turn out the light and go back inside
and you might’ve thought Good Night
to the Old Lady Whispering Hush,
but that’s too obvious, and anyway
we’ve heard that story before.
Don’t say he dragged you down the road by your hair,
the gravel chewing your back to bits.
Good Night Bowl of Mush, it’s just
the caveman syndrome. Get over it.
We’re sick of wenchy women poets
who are always bashing men.
And the part where he was gentleman enough
to drive you back to your dorm
just doesn’t fit the character.
Don’t say he told you he’d kill you if you breathed
a word, then asked your forgiveness, told you
not to worry and go get some sleep.
Would he really say that?
Don’t say he drove off in a limp line of smoke
as the sun came blinking over the horizon
and you staggered and puked your way back to your room,
knowing you wouldn’t make it to Psychology class that day.
Don’t talk about the guilt for not turning him in.
Take your ass to a talk show or a support group or a priest,
stop throwing the reader around.
Don’t tell the never ending end
of your whiny little poem. Get a grip.
Especially if your roommate laughed and said
Why would anybody want to rape you?
And the counselor said you’ve got to take control
of your life, and your boyfriend tried to understand
why even his understanding would never be enough,
why even his softest fingertips would always be too much.
So you drank yourself into a quiet rage
and now six years later it’s backed up in a corner
of your throat, bristling, sideways, ready to lunge
at the thickest, closest, slickest, hardest vein.
Nobody wants to hear about it anymore.
And the editor doesn’t care that
you’ve already cut half the words
and many of the details.
It’s still too sprawling, too baggy,
too talky, not fresh.
Go tell it to Ginsberg, we’ve
got a comma to perfect.
But if you’re that damned stubborn, go ahead.
You’ll write the poem alone
and it’ll live in a junk drawer
swelling up like a belly
under a pink pile of rejection.
Serves you right.
So stop acting like a bitchy female poet.
It just won’t work. It’s just not fresh.
May 17

DON’T WRITE A POEM ABOUT RAPE


by Julie Buffaloe-Yoder


For the editor who told me

rape is not a fresh subject

(he knows who he is).


Rape is a cliché.

Unless it happens to you.

But don’t write a poem about it

or the editor might say

it’s just not fresh.

Rape is not fresh.

It’s been done too much.

It’s too emotional, confessional.

There are too many words.

People are not shocked anymore.

Don’t write a poem about it

especially if you were in the dark

university parking lot, a little more than tipsy,

and he forced you into his car with a gun.

Dark parking lots and guns are so overdone!

Don’t write a poem about it

especially if the digital time on his dash

was 12:00. It’s too much like the Twilight Zone

especially if those stiff red numbers

still ring in your brain sometimes

when you’re in the grocery line

and you drop everything you got, and the tomatoes

and the peaches, and the can of cream corn

go rolling down the aisle.

Don’t say he drove you down a dead end road.

Don’t tell how he bent your fingers back,

slammed them with the door over and over.

How heavy-handed can you get?

Don’t tell how he took the right to bare your arms,

your legs, your goose-bumpy little nipples,

and when he ripped your shirt in loud red shreds

you were trite enough to worry

what people would think about you.

For God’s sake, don’t say you were a virgin.

Honey, save it for the Movie of the Week.

Don’t tell about the fistfuls

of sand and gravel in your open mouth,

your open face, up your open legs.

It’s just not fresh.

Maybe try a different point of view.

Don’t tell how he held the gun so tenderly

in your ear, under your tongue,

deep inside the stretched-out skin

of your nostril, and you could smell the click

as he cocked it, and you could taste the click

in your throat as he made you call him Lord.

With the right music, it might work for a porno flick

but not for a literary journal.

Don’t tell how you looked up at the full moon

with its mouth torn into a little o

as you waited for it to be over.

Don’t you know the moon is overused?

And there are inconsistencies if you say

you almost laughed out loud

cause you were a stupid little twit who thought

who actually believed the first time would be romantic.

Don’t write a poem about it. Just don’t.

Especially if you went crazy when it didn’t end

and the only defense you had was to black out

and dream the damnedest dreams about a book

you used to have when you were a girl

and you dreamed a little song about the silvery moon,

the moon on the breast of the new fallen road

the Carolina moon that kept shining, shining,

shining on the one who’s raping you.

And when you woke up, it wasn’t over

but the Goodnight Moon was gone,

and you saw an old woman in the distance

come out on her porch to hear

what all the Hell raising was about,

turn out the light and go back inside

and you might’ve thought Good Night

to the Old Lady Whispering Hush,

but that’s too obvious, and anyway

we’ve heard that story before.

Don’t say he dragged you down the road by your hair,

the gravel chewing your back to bits.

Good Night Bowl of Mush, it’s just

the caveman syndrome. Get over it.

We’re sick of wenchy women poets

who are always bashing men.

And the part where he was gentleman enough

to drive you back to your dorm

just doesn’t fit the character.

Don’t say he told you he’d kill you if you breathed

a word, then asked your forgiveness, told you

not to worry and go get some sleep.

Would he really say that?

Don’t say he drove off in a limp line of smoke

as the sun came blinking over the horizon

and you staggered and puked your way back to your room,

knowing you wouldn’t make it to Psychology class that day.

Don’t talk about the guilt for not turning him in.

Take your ass to a talk show or a support group or a priest,

stop throwing the reader around.

Don’t tell the never ending end

of your whiny little poem. Get a grip.

Especially if your roommate laughed and said

Why would anybody want to rape you?

And the counselor said you’ve got to take control

of your life, and your boyfriend tried to understand

why even his understanding would never be enough,

why even his softest fingertips would always be too much.

So you drank yourself into a quiet rage

and now six years later it’s backed up in a corner

of your throat, bristling, sideways, ready to lunge

at the thickest, closest, slickest, hardest vein.

Nobody wants to hear about it anymore.

And the editor doesn’t care that

you’ve already cut half the words

and many of the details.

It’s still too sprawling, too baggy,

too talky, not fresh.

Go tell it to Ginsberg, we’ve

got a comma to perfect.

But if you’re that damned stubborn, go ahead.

You’ll write the poem alone

and it’ll live in a junk drawer

swelling up like a belly

under a pink pile of rejection.

Serves you right.

So stop acting like a bitchy female poet.

It just won’t work. It’s just not fresh.

   I’m so sorry about that, I said.
   She looked startled. She backed away from me. She fumbled with something in her purse.
   Sorry about what? she said. Her voice was soft, breathless.
   The garden hose thing.
   She kept looking in the mirror. She covered her freckles with foundation.
   It was just sex, she said. They wanted to do it so I let them.
   She shrugged her shoulders.
   I didn’t smile, thought she smiled at me. She shrugged her shoulders again. Erase this, she seemed to be saying, erase, erase, erase. I thought, Fine, disappear before my eyes.

-Rebecca Godfrey, The Torn Skirt
May 30

   I’m so sorry about that, I said.

   She looked startled. She backed away from me. She fumbled with something in her purse.

   Sorry about what? she said. Her voice was soft, breathless.

   The garden hose thing.

   She kept looking in the mirror. She covered her freckles with foundation.

   It was just sex, she said. They wanted to do it so I let them.

   She shrugged her shoulders.

   I didn’t smile, thought she smiled at me. She shrugged her shoulders again. Erase this, she seemed to be saying, erase, erase, erase. I thought, Fine, disappear before my eyes.


-Rebecca Godfrey, The Torn Skirt

Jun 12

(Source: agentbloodrayne, via anotherfeminist)