The Curvature

2009 BLOGATHON

The Night Before

Posted on | July 26, 2009 | 223 Comments

So I didn’t disappear after 5am EST without notice because I’m an irresponsible person, or because I’m a person who who fell asleep at her desk.  Rather, I disappeared after 5am last night because I’m a person who uses Time Warner’s Road Runner internet service, which in the world’s cruelest irony went out in my area at 5:20.  I was in the middle of writing a post about “Oh Yoko!”

My husband tells me that it came back at about 10am EST.

I don’t know what to say about that except that I really, really wish that Road Runner had an actual competitor in the area.  It was extremely important to me to make it all the way through the Blogathon this year.  I was going to make it all the way through the Blogathon this year.  But.  Well . . .

In any case, the total pledges for SAFER have come to a whopping $601.59, which is $100 over goal, and almost $150 more than what I raised last year.  Of course, some of those pledges were hourly, so it’s up to those sponsors whether they end up donating the amount they would have if I’d been able to make it the full 24 hours, though obviously that would be very nice.  (For the record, I was able to complete 20 hours.)

No matter what, I’m awed, thrilled, and humbled by the generosity.  So thank you so much to the 26 of you who acted as sponsors.  And thank you to all of those who kept me company in the comments and on Twitter while I was still here.  That certainly helped a lot.

41: What You’re Doing

Posted on | July 26, 2009 | 227 Comments

Until just a month or two ago, I thought that What You’re Doing was a piece of crap on par with I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party and Little Child.

I have no idea what the fuck I was thinking.

Probably, I was thinking that it was on Beatles For Sale, which is largely crap as an entity, and that I’d only listened to it in passing. In any case, while not exactly a pop music masterpiece, this song isn’t just catchy, it’s also quite good. I mean, you can only get so catchy before it just has to be good and there’s no possible other explanation. Paul pulls out some excellent vocals, that guitar lick is as infectious as hell, there’s two or three hooks here, and those opening drums? Damn. Filler it may have been, but it’s some fucking good filler.

40: Taxman

Posted on | July 26, 2009 | 94 Comments

So the eyelids are feeling heavy, the vision is getting blurry, and I really suck at making coffee and am going to have to brave doing so on my own. I need a song with some groove to keep me going.

Also, George is not getting nearly enough love. And George totally deserves the love. I mean, listen to this shit. He is fucking awesome.

p.s. When you remember that the Beatles were actually being charged over 90% of their income, George sounds a lot less like a Republican. That helps.

39: Paul Is Dead — OR IS HE????

Posted on | July 26, 2009 | 96 Comments

You have likely heard of the conspiracy theory known as Paul Is Dead.  It goes like this: in 1966, Paul McCartney died in a car crash.  Worried about the Beatles’ careers, manager Brian Epstein paid off reporters to not cover the story.  Knowing that their fans would never accept a replacement band member, they decided to fool them by replacing Paul with a look-a-like!  However, feeling extremely guilty about their deception and distraught over the loss of their friend, the Beatles then proceeded to hide clues about his death in their songs and album artwork.

So you know the theory.  But now you ask yourself: IS IT TRUE?

Let us examine the facts.

Supporting Paul being dead:

  • Throughout his life, Paul McCartney did not always look exactly the same.  COINCIDENCE???
  • Paul McCartney still, to this very day, does not look exactly as he did in 1965.
  • On the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, if you place a mirror on the bass drum in the middle of LONELY HEARTS, it says, “1 ONE 1 X HE () DIE.”  I think we all know what that means.
  • This one time, he totally wore a black carnation
  • And then, this other time, he was barefoot.
  • Oh, and also, John Lennon sang, “the walrus was Paul.”  As we all know, all walruses are dead.  (We’ll therefore discuss how John Lennon was really dead at the time of recording next!)
  • In A Day In The Life, John sings about a man who blew his mind out in a car.  Could it really just be happenstance that Lennon wrote those lyrics years before the details of Paul’s death came to light??? How would he have known how Paul died unless it actually happened?
  • At the end of Strawberry Fields Forever, John says “cranberry sauce,” widely known to be the dish that Paul McCartney always wanted to have served at his wake.
  • If you play Revolution 9 backwards, it sounds really fucked up, man.
  • “Paul” was once quoted as saying “so, right after I replaced the real Paul, you know, when he died, I mean, uh . . . hey, what’s that over there?  Wanna hear me sing Yesterday?”

Opposing Paul being dead:

  • Paul McCartney is still the same person he was 45 years ago, and is alive.*

IS PAUL REALLY DEAD?  YOU DECIDE.

*And in the enormously tiny chance that he wasn’t, dude. They found a guy who looks like Paul, walks like Paul, talks like Paul, sounds like Paul, sings like Paul, plays bass like Paul, has all of the same mannerisms as Paul, is a total dork like Paul, and writes brilliant fucking songs like Paul, and then convinced people that he really was Paul for 40 years. Shut the fuck up. They earned that shit.

38: Your Mother Should Know

Posted on | July 26, 2009 | 3 Comments

Your Mother Should Know is a song that is only interesting for its Magical Mystery Tour sequence. Which is hilarious.

It’s incredibly entertaining to watch the individual Beatles. Unfortunately the video here isn’t clear enough to make out facial expressions very well, but that just frees you up to watch their dance moves. Paul is obviously giving this his 100% best effort and taking it really seriously while trying to look like he’s having a great time. George is totally cruising, and still probably dancing the best out of all of them. John is simply fucking around (you particularly tell when you can see the enormous, cheesy grin on his face). And Ringo . . . well, poor Ringo is just failing all over the place.

Funnily enough, when you can see facial expressions, George looks fairly miserable and pissed off at Paul for making him do it — and yet, in the Anthology, he remarks on this scene and said that he particularly enjoyed doing it. That George, you could never quite pin him down. Though, of course, saying he enjoyed the scene could’ve also just been another instance of his dry humor. Who knows.

Also? Paul is dead. You can tell by the fact that he’s wearing a black carnation. As you undoubtedly know, you can only wear a black carnation if you are a dude who has taken over the life of another very famous dude who is actually dead, all in an incredibly elaborate ruse to fool the fans of the world’s most famous band. FACT.

37: Let It Be

Posted on | July 26, 2009 | 2 Comments

One of the topics that I was asked to write on via Tumblr was which Beatles song I believe is the most inspirational and speaks to the most generations.

Well, I think the song that most people probably believe to be the most inspirational and which probably speaks to the most generations is Hey Jude.  But for me, personally, Let It Be wins by a landslide.

I’m not even going to get into my reasons at the moment. It’s much too late in the night to open that can of worms. I will just say that there are exceedingly few songs that have ever made me cry just by hearing them. This is one of them. I will also say that a lot of people think that Hey Jude is Paul’s masterpiece. Others will argue Yesterday. This is generally seen as conventional wisdom, I find.

But no, Let It Be. Let It Be is Paul’s most shining moment. It’s beautiful. It is a masterpiece. It is absolute fucking perfection.

36: Beatle to Beatle Tributes

Posted on | July 26, 2009 | 75 Comments

Writing about Ringo’s version of I Call Your Name inspired me, so I thought I’d do a post of Beatle to Beatle tribute songs — songs that one Beatle wrote for another after their death.

First up, the first Beatle to Beatle tribute ever written, George Harrison’s song for John Lennon, All Those Years Ago. It’s a great song, includes lots of Beatles references, is unbelievably sweet, and perhaps best of all, features musical contributions from Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney.

Next up, the most recent Beatle to Beatle tribute, Ringo Starr’s song for George Harrison, Never Without You. Admittedly, it’s not a musical masterpiece, but it’s a lovely and heartfelt tribute. Especially so knowing how close George and Ringo were throughout their lives.

And lastly, Paul McCartney’s song for John Lennon. My husband thinks that it’s sappy. While I’m rarely one to defend Paul against charges of sappiness (I’m usually the one laying them), I think it’s beautiful. You can listen to the album version here. But I’m posting this live version below, because it is one of the most touching things I’ve ever seen. Twenty-five years after John’s death, Paul Fucking McCartney is so overcome with emotion that he’s almost rendered unable to sing. Really, it’s incredibly moving.

35: I Call Your Name

Posted on | July 26, 2009 | 3 Comments

I Call Your Name is a fairly obscure Beatles track, as it was only ever released on the Long Tall Sally EP with, well, Long Tall Sally and two really bad cover songs (Matchbox and Slow Down). It’s the only original song on the EP. Now, of course, it’s available on Past Masters.

It’s not going to win any awards for best Beatles song, but it’s catchy, John puts in a good effort on the vocal, George pulls off a nice little guitar solo, and how many Beatles songs have cowbell? (No, really, how many? I think it’s just this one, but I’ve never, you know, actually thought about it before.)

Really, though, it has a special little place in my heart for a different reason. The first time I heard this song — because again, it’s a fairly obscure track — it wasn’t the Beatles version. Cover, you ask? Yeah, kind of.

I first heard the song by watching this video, of Ringo Starr performing this song to John Lennon, at a show marking the 10th anniversary of his death.

Spot Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty performing with him?

In any case, it’s of course not nearly as good as the Beatles version. But it is one of the sweetest damn things I’ve ever seen and made me tear up the first time I saw it. Ringo may pull the grouchy thing every now and then, but he’s a total sweetheart.

(Thanks to Hubbit, who has been entertaining me on Twitter, for the post inspiration!)

34: We Can Work It Out

Posted on | July 26, 2009 | 89 Comments

Lots of people who follow me various places will know that I love this song, and that I love this video, because, well . . . I talk about it all the time! Ha.

In any case, I call it one of the best Beatles songs, the best Lennon/McCartney collaboration, and just all around awesome. The video is just pure joy, with John and Paul having a grand old time together. Every time John makes Paul laugh (or John makes himself laugh), I can’t help but crack a grin, too. Also, Paul totally earns his “cute Beatle” status here.

You know who else I’m sure is a pretty big fan of this song/video? My good friend Frau Sally Benz! (She also loves the Hello Goodbye video, in case you were wondering.) Sally is busy participating in the Blogathon, too, over at her place Jump Off The Bridge. So while I’m probably getting this up too late for anyone other than her to read it, if you are reading it, go pay her a visit, hmm? Also, while I’ve met my pledge goal (yay!), she’s still looking for sponsors for her organization READ. Check them out, and if you’ve got a few bucks, I hope you’ll drop them her way.

33: I’ll Be Back

Posted on | July 26, 2009 | 1 Comment

The final track on A Hard Day’s Night, I’ll Be Back is a lovely little song, and a neglected one. (Actually, I think there are several neglected songs on that album. Several craps ones, too, but you know how it is.)

This song originally started out slower, at a waltz tempo. It was changed for the sole reason that John thought — and I quote from where he messed up and ended the take — “it’s too hard to sing!” And I guess that at that pace, the “I thought that you would realize . . .” part would indeed be rather difficult. In any case, rather than work at the vocal to get it right, the Beatles being Beatles just decided to make the song easier to sing by speeding it up, and had it sounding great the next take (though I think it took them a couple more to perfect it. Sorry folks, I’m not pulling out the Mark Lewisohn book to check.)

Having heard both the original attempt (it’s on the Anthology) and the final version, I enjoy both but like the official release better. It’s more Beatle-y.

32: Hello Goodbye

Posted on | July 26, 2009 | 2 Comments

I need cheering up, so I’m officially sharing with you one of my favorite things in the universe. The Hello Goodbye video:

Things I love about this video include, but are not limited to: the Sgt. Peppers outfits, Ringo’s tiny drum set, Paul’s awful dancing and silly expressions, and the way that John imitates/mocks him with the foot stamping. All of the dancing at the end, of course, especially at like 3:22 when George starts getting all sexy with us and shaking his shirt off.

But the best part of the video? THE VERY BEST PART? The very best part is at :37. Watch George. Because while George gives Paul looks all throughout this video which indicate that he is displeased with this whole arrangement — my husband and I have a joke where, based on this video, we call George’s Sgt. Pepper’s hat the Hat of Hate — it is right then, at :37 that he gives him the look that says “ONE DAY, PAUL MCCARTNEY, ONE DAY, I WILL KILL YOU.” That always makes my day. Probably because I’m a bad person.

In any case, I love me some George.

31: Tomorrow Never Knows

Posted on | July 26, 2009 | 5 Comments

The final track of Revolver — my second favorite Beatles album — Tomorrow Never Knows signals, for those who somehow didn’t get it throughout the rest of the album, that the Beatles were going in new directions. Not content with the rock and roll formula, anymore, they wanted to go off into new genres, and talk about big ideas.

There’s a section in the Beatles Anthology where Paul talks about Tomorrow Never Knows, and recalls the first time John played it for producer George Martin (closely paraphrased): “up until that point, we’d always had, you know, at least three chords. But this was very different, with [miming it out] John just sitting there strumming very earnestly on C.” I don’t know, it always amuses me. In any case, George Martin took it well. And if he hadn’t, I’m sure that John would’ve done it anyway.

Ringo kicks major ass on drums.  The song itself is strictly John.  Paul came up with the idea of the tape loops — he made them at home, and brought them in in a little plastic bag.  The Beatles recruited virtually everyone working in Abbey Road, who were all apparently very unimpressed, to hold the little tape loops in different machines using pencils, while George Martin and the Beatles mixed them into the song live.  George and Paul play backwards guitar.  Oh, and Geoff Emerick puts John’s voice through a Leslie speaker during the first verse, and Ken Townsend fucking invented automatic double-tracking (ADT) for the other two verses.  You know, no biggie.

Interesting factoid: John, never being good with expressing what he wanted out of his songs in musical terms, originally told George Martin that he wanted to sound like 100 Tibetan monks chanting on a hilltop.  No one, of course, really knew what that meant, though Emerick eventually came up with the Leslie speaker idea.

Before that, though, John had the brilliant thought that he wanted to be hung upside from the studio ceiling by a rope tied at his feet, and spun in circles around the microphone while he sang.  He was convinced that this would give him a different sound.  Reportedly, he kept asking the studio techs about when exactly they were going to rig this up for him, to which they kept giving him the answer “we’re looking into it, John.”  Apparently he even sent roadie and personal assistant Mal Evans out to buy a rope at one point, but Mal went to the pub instead, knowing it was an awful idea and that John would have forgotten all about it in a few hours.  He was right.

30: Abbey Road

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 3 Comments

abbey road

When fishing for Beatles-related Blogathon topics, someone on Tumblr asked me to write about my favorite Beatles album and why it’s my favorite.

My favorite Beatles album is, hands down, Abbey Road.  It’s a little difficult for me to explain why, though, without just screaming “medley!” over and over again.

But let’s get to basics, first.  The album opens with pure Lennon.  It houses two of George Harrison’s three best Beatles compositions.  Oh Darling! is a great track, and I am a humongous fan of I Want You (She’s So Heavy).  The stuff is so good that even Maxwell’s Silver Hammer doesn’t ruin it!

Then comes Because.  Some people claim it’s a part of the medley, some say it’s wholly separate.  I call it a prelude.  You Never Give Me Your Money is where it really starts for me.

Every time I hear the Abbey Road medley, I’m transported back to the first time I ever heard it.  Sitting there in my little tiny dorm room at 17, the album already had me hooked.  You Never Give Me Your Money is just an awesome song, period.  Then there’s the calm of Sun King, followed up by the raucousnes of Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam.  But wait, what’s happening here?  It’s like all of these songs are connected!  They all have their own tracks on the CD, but some bleed into each other.  What’s going on?  Are they doing this on purpose?  I think they are, but I’m not really sure what’s happening . . .

And then, after the general excellence that is both She Came in Through the Bathroom Window and Golden Slumbers, it happens.  Carry That Weight, and the horns reprising You Never Give Me Your Money start up.  And I realized that it was on purpose, and this is all one giant piece, and got the general feeling that I was listening to the most awesome piece of music ever created.  Every time I listen to the medley, and those horns come in, I still get a little chill that goes up my spine.

And then there’s The End.  That’s it right there, isn’t it?  The perfect end to the Beatles’ miraculous career.  Abbey Road is the final Beatles album.  It was the last recorded, it was intended to be their swan song.  It pissses me off like nobody’s business that Let It Be is always treated as the last Beatles album, that Abbey Road gets squished out of its rightful place, and that, barring the pointlessness of Her Majesty, they aren’t usually seen as signing off as it was intended, with their final words of wisdom:

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

29: Twist and Shout (Or: CELEBRATE! The Sponsorship Goal Has Been Met!)

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 3 Comments

Here it is, folks — within the past half hour, the sponsorship goal was met. My original goal was $500. A few days ago, I thought I’d never make it. This morning, I thought I had an outside chance. But now, here we are: $533.42!

THANK YOU SO MUCH, EVERYONE!

It’s time for a little celebratory dance and singalong!

I love Twist and Shout.  A total Beatles classic.  One of the best rock vocals ever, performed by John while he had a cold, and after he’d been recording for 13 hours.  In one take.  As I’m now officially 14 hours into this thing, I think I might even have a little bit of an idea of how he felt!  (Of course, John Lennon got to do his badass one take and go home.  I’ve still got 10 more hours of blogging about him left.)

And have I mentioned how extremely excited I am that this song made it into the Beatles Rock Band game?  After I kept saying I wanted it, and people kept telling me, “no, Cara, they’ll never put a cover in”?  Oh yes, I am excited.  Yes, indeed I am.  (I might have started excitedly and uncontrollably screaming “YES!!  I KNEW IT!!” at  my husband when the trailer started playing.  There is, however, no evidence of this.)

28: The Beatles Cartoons

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 2 Comments

The Beatles Cartoons were a series of Saturday morning cartoons made in the mid-sixties, featuring of course The Beatles’ songs and John, Paul, George and Ringo as characters.  The Beatles were always getting into trouble in these episodes, and hilarity ensued!  If, of course, by hilarity, you mean eye-rolling, *facepalming* and racism.  Yes, a good chunk of  the Beatles cartoons were racist.  People of East Asian descent were caricatured and stereotyped particularly horrifically, as were Arab people, Latino people, any type of unspecified Indigenous person . . . basically, I’ve always said that it was a blessing that the writers of the cartoon acted as though black people didn’t exist in America.

The Beatles, however, had nothing to do with the cartoons at all — it was something signed off on by Brian.  They reportedly hated them, though some claim that George got a kick out of them.  It’s easy to see why they were less than pleased.  The voice acting is utterly atrocious, especially with regards to John and George, the writing is usually awful, and the songs regularly butchered, with sections cut out regardless of how bad it sounded.

And yet, setting aside and trying to forget the really racist ones, the cartoons can indeed be a guilty pleasure.  (I have a whole bootleg set on DVD.) Because when the episodes wildly and jaw-droppingly racist, the eye-rolling and *facepalming* can actually be rather fun — in short doses.  It’s always amusing — and often exasperating — to see how they decided to write a song around the episode.  Or do a poor job at pretending that was what they were doing. And if you’ve got a drink in your hand, the sing-a-longs in each episode can be fun.

Below is one of the best Beatles cartoons — right after I’m Looking Through You, and Honey, Don’t, which aren’t properly available on YouTube. Of course, in order to fully appreciate the Beatles Cartoons, you have to understand that under the standards we’re working with, an excellent Beatles cartoon is one that is so bad it’s good again. In any case, it is fairly representative of their writing method. Here it is, the German version of I Want to Hold Your Hand: “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand.”

And just because I want to, a bonus video of “I’m Down.” The plot is averagely bad, but the performance sequence. Oh, the performance sequence. Just trust me, if you’re a big Beatles fan, you’ll love it.

27: The Fool On The Hill

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 1 Comment

Interestingly enough, John Lennon rather liked Fool On The Hill. This is particularly curious to me, as I’ve always seen it as a massive Nowhere Man ripoff. Though, of course, this could very easily be the reason why he liked it.

In any case, lots of other people seem to like it, too. I think it’s rather mediocre, not only for the Beatles, but just for Paul. The thing is, though, that it’s also quite easily the second best song on Magical Mystery Tour (A-side/soundtrack side, of course). Sorry George, I really want to give you some points there, but Blue Jay Way is hardly your finest effort.

My main interest here is actually the video! This is, of course, the sequence from Magical Mystery Tour. Sadly, probably the third best sequence in the film. It was filmed in France, where Paul just decided to go to film it one Saturday morning with some friends — because, as my husband just put it, he’s Paul McCartney and he can do that.

First of all, I crack up every time I see this video at the point where there’s a zoom in on Paul making a really dopey face, at the same time as he’s crooning “and nobody seems to like him, they can tell what he wants to do.” This being the time right after Brian died when Paul was taking it upon himself to be the leader of the group and not exactly winning any friends . . . Self-Aware Paul is Self-Aware.

Secondly, and more interestingly, is that I’ve recently learned that during the scene when Paul is bounding down the hill, many people believe that he is exposing his penis as a joke. Seriously, check out the evidence and judge for yourself. Going Mythbusters style, I call it plausible — also, likely. Though, I hope it’s not. Because if that is Paul McCartney’s penis, in trying to figure this out, I spent all together too much time staring at it.

26: Another Girl

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | No Comments

Shot in the Bahamas for the film Help!, as the Beatles admitted, solely because . . . the Beatles wanted to go to the Bahamas! No, really. It’s the same reason they’re skiing in the movie — because they’d never been skiing before and could use the movie as an excuse!  There’s a reason why the film is a bit disjointed; John, Paul, George and Ringo were literally demanding that the writers write in scenes according to their vacationing desires.

Unfortunately, when they went to film, it was also winter. Notice how all of them but Paul are in long-sleeved shirts? That’s because they were freezing. Apparently Paul had his bass-girl to keep him warm!

I particularly enjoy the part where George starts throwing rocks. George is hilarious. And when John is playing drums. (Ringo always said that he was in a band with three frustrated drummers.)

As for the song, there’s not a whole lot to say. It’s catchy, but probably the worst song on Help!’s A-side. It’s also pretty mean, and I do believe that Paul was flirting with breaking up with Jane Asher at this point (though, of course, he didn’t). He also sings it in a deeper voice that he doesn’t use on many other songs — which is probably for the best, though it does make the song a bit unique. Oh, and George’s guitar is great.

25: Here Comes The Sun (Or: The Great Beatles Switchover)

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 4 Comments

Well, here we are — the halfway point! And that means I am officially done blogging about sexual violence and embarking on much more leisurely blogging about the greatest band ever known to humankind: The Beatles!

Here Comes The Sun is appropriate for this post obvious reasons.

First of all, I’m just going to go ahead and say that I’m really proud of myself for sticking with my original plan. I totally thought at several points that I was going to give up, and stick a random bullshit post (kind of like this one!) in there. But I didn’t! I get a big cookie for that one. (Actually, a cookie sounds good right about now.)

Also, a very important update on the sponsorship status. The current amount pledged is $493.42 First of all, I’m thrilled, because that’s $110 above where we were 12 hours ago — when I started out this morning believing that it was very likely I wouldn’t meet goal! Secondly, that’s not goal, but it is less than $7 away from goal. Now I know we can do that shit. Who wants to be the awesome person who puts us over the top? If it’s you, click here to pledge now. Remember it’s all going to a totally kick ass organization.

24: What Is Justice?

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 13 Comments

When I was seeking topics for the first half of this very blogathon, Sarah — who blogs over at the SAFER blog, the blog of the organization that I’m sponsoring! — posed an interesting question in the comments:

something i personally have been thinking a lot about—that i would love to read some of your comments on—is dealing with assault incidents outside of the justice system. the struggle between holding perpetrators accountable, getting justice for survivors, and also resisting the racist, misogynist justice system/prison industrial complex is a big struggle for me. what are the alternatives? are there any at this point?

This is, personally, something that I certainly struggle with.  As you may have noticed from a few of my posts today, I have big issues with our current “justice system.”  I think that as set up, it’s racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, classist . . . the list goes on . . . and largely promotes violence against certain communities, and indeed promotes rape itself within prisons.

And still, I have huge difficulty coming up with alternatives.  When I read the alternatives for those organizations out there that look to do justice outside the governmental justice system, I greatly respect and value the work they’re doing.  But as a survivor, I always feel like something is missing.  And I can’t quite put my finger on what.

The question that I think it boils down to is a rather big one, thus likely the reason for the difficulty.  What is justice? We talk about justice a lot, but seem to lack a standard definition for it.  (Brownfemipower wrote a post about this recently with regards to the similar and related, but different concept of accountability.)  I talk about it a lot, but I don’t have a standard definition for it.

Personally, I’m not sure if there is such a thing as justice with regards to sexual violence.  I cannot think of a single thing that my rapist can do for me that would make me feel better about it (except fuck off an die — which I think is a valid emotional response, but not even remotely a practical one), or to have him appropriately “pay” for what he did.  But I do know that looking at many of the alternative solutions, I sure as fucking hell do not want my rapist’s money, I do not want his apologies, I’d have to think about it but doubt I would actually want his public proclamation of what he did, don’t feel that people checking in on him is enough, and feel that kicking him out of the community is just shifting the problem.

Me, I’m still angry, I still want revenge.  And while actual revenge is wrong, I don’t think the desire is.  When we’re seeking justice — whatever that means, and assuming it’s possible — is it right to base it on the survivor’s needs?  And if the answer is no, which it very well may be, can we entirely disregard them?  I think the answer to that would very definitely be no.

To answer the original question, I don’t know if we do have other options at this point.  Organizations, organization like INCITE! are working to develop them, and I commend them for that.  But I don’t know what real options would look like, because when it comes to sexual violence, I don’t know what justice looks like.  When it comes to sexual violence, I don’t even know what accountability looks like.

So, readers, I toss this jumbled mess of thoughts out to you.  When it comes to sexual violence, what does justice look like?  What does accountability look like?

23: Same-Sex Partner Violence

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 1 Comment

One of the most under-discussed areas of sexual violence is sexual violence in the LGBTQ community.  I’ve already written a couple of posts about sexual violence against transgender people, and a bit about sexual violence targeted at gay and bisexual men.*  Lesbian and bisexual women can also be targeted for sexual violence as a form of hate crime, by men who believe that rape will “turn them straight.”

Violence can also take place within LGBTQ communities, though.  As gay men are particularly and wrongly stereotyped as deviant sexual predators, it’s something that many would prefer not to discuss.  But the fact is that members of no group are entirely immune to acting as perpetrators of sexual violence, and many others believe that not discussing it is a lot more harmful.

Women can in fact rape women.  And while relatively uncommon compared to most other types of rape, they do.  Again, not all rape involves a penis (and in the case of trans women, not all rape requires a vagina to be penetrated).  Rape can be committed with objects, and with fingers.  Rape can be committed by one forcing another person to perform sexual acts on them.

I was unable to find many statistics on inter-community abuse, though I did learn that 15% of men who lived with a man as a couple reported being raped, assaulted, or stalked by a male cohabitant.  I also found some other general statistics on intimate partner violence within the LGBTQ community — and while by no means does all domestic violence involve sexual violence, a great deal in fact does.  A 1998 book shows that 25-33% of gay and lesbians had experienced domestic abuse — roughly the same as for straight couples.  And as could likely be expected, resources for survivors are often scarce.

For more information on same-sex partner violence, check out this article from Aardvarc (and/or pass along your own resources in the comments).

*EDIT: Just spontaneously realized that this could be read to mean that transgender people are wholly separate from LGB people, which is of course not true.  Transgender people can be and are lesbian, gay and bisexual and so the rest of the post of course applies as much to trans people as it does cis people.  My apologies.

22: Rape and Immigrant Women

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | No Comments

Another population that is particularly vulnerable to sexual violence is immigrant women, particularly (but not exclusively) undocumented immigrant women.

It’s a topic much too big for me to cover in one little post that I have 20 minutes to write.  But the fact is that when we treat a certain group of people as though they themselves are “illegal,” we’re setting up a system whereby people are allowed to do violence to them with impunity.

You may have already heard of the phenomenon of “rape trees.” It is not unusual for the men who help undocumented immigrants cross the border (coyotes) to rape the women they are taking, and the rates of such rape are believed to have reached rather epidemic proportions.  When the coyotes or drug cartel members rape the women they are taking across the border, they take a bra or a pair of underwear from her and hang it on a tree, as some sort of mark of conquest.

These women still face great risk of violence once they get into America as well.  If they are raped, or experience any other crime, they are unable in all but a few cities (and even there, they may not know their rights) to go to police, for reasonable fear that their immigration status will be found and they will be deported.  One of the most common groups to sexually abuse these women are their own employers — employers who know their immigration status, and threaten to turn them in if they refuse or tell anyone.

And if their immigration status is learned by authorities, they face more sexual violence still — in America’s notorious ICE Detention facilities (pdf) where many wrongful deaths have been reported alongside the sexual violence.  Those in the facilities who are LGBTQ, young or have a disability are particularly at risk.

Even those immigrant women who are in the country legally are at risk, as they can be unaware of their rights, especially if they are non-English speakers, or speak English as a second language.  A husband who is sponsoring his wife’s immigration to the country can hold her immigration status over her head, threatening her with divorce (and thus deportation) if she tells anyone of the violence.  Even where there may be exceptions for precisely this kind of situation, immigration paperwork is incredibly complex, and victims are regularly unaware of them.

Yet again, a system in which we treat certain people as lesser beings creates extreme vulnerabilities.  And perpetrators are generally more than willing to take advantage of them.

21: The Intersection of Rape and Race

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | No Comments

In America, most recent statistics show that women of most races are raped at roughly the same rates (pdf).  There is one exception, and it’s a major one — Native American women are raped at more than twice the rate of other women.  The shocking figure is believed to be, in large part, due to the fact that tribal governments have no jurisdiction over non-Native people.  As a result of the confusion with jurisdictions, non-Native men are more or less allowed to rape with impunity, with an estimated 86% of perpetrators being non-Native, and most of them being white.

The fact that rape occurs in relatively equal amounts in the U.S. across most racial lines, however, doesn’t mean that race has no impact on rape culture.  To the contrary, it has a huge effect.

One example (pdf): while only about 1 in 5 white women report their rapes to the police, only 1 in 15 of African American women report their rapes.  Latina women, particularly those who are immigrants or who have immigrant family members, may also face many obstacles to reporting (more on that soon).

The reasons are many and complex, but one is the fear and distrust that many people of color people rightfully have of police due to prior instances of police brutality, or even a lack of desire to see another person they know go to jail.  And another is a fear that they won’t be believed, extending even beyond the huge fear that most white women feel.  The reason is that these women sit at the intersection of racism and misogyny.  So they get not only “you deserved it” and “you wanted it,” but “you deserved it” and “you wanted it” magnified.  We live in a culture where black and Latina women are constantly portrayed as hypersexual.  We also live in a culture where women who are perceived as hypersexual are also perceived as “asking” for rape.  It’s a sad but logical result for misogyny and racism to join forces, and for women of color to therefore absorb the most vitriolic rape apologism.

And what this means — as it does when we’re talking about gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or anything else — is that if we’re serious about ending rape culture, one approach won’t do it.  Ending rape culture isn’t just about changing views about sexuality and bodily autonomy.  It’s also about changing the numerous pervasive views that add up to the idea that certain people’s bodily autonomy matters less than others.

20: Adolescent Sexual Abuse

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 1 Comment

As someone who was an adolescent when she was raped, the subject of adolescent sexual abuse is close to my heart.  But sadly, I’m far from alone in my experiences — studies have shown over and over again that adolescence is the time when women are at their highest risk of sexual assault.  Most of the assaults are, unsurprisingly, committed by acquaintances.  Often, as why my experience, a romantic partner, commonly an adolescent themselves. And these women are also the least likely to report the crime.

Men are not all a bunch of rapists at heart.  They’re just not.  The young age of certain perpetrators doesn’t tell us that the problem of rape is uncontrollable and that men are hopeless creatures — often a position, interestingly enough, held by those who would call feminists man-haters — it just plain doesn’t.

What it tells us is that they’re learning these attitudes somewhere.  It’s telling us that they’re learning them young.  It’s telling us that we as a society are just outright failing to properly educate children about boundaries, and consent, and sexuality.  We’re teaching them to be ashamed of sexuality — a reason why many teenage victims don’t report, a reason why I told no one — and that boundaries are flexible and can and should be pushed.  And we’re teaching them virtually nothing about consent at all.

Kids aren’t just rapists, what we’re teaching them and not teaching them is helping them to become rapists.  And that.  That we can stop.  That we can prevent.

19: “Giving Real Victims a Bad Name”

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 2 Comments

Yesterday, Amandaw asked me on Twitter what I think of the notion that “women should really be mad at those false accusers out there, because they’re the ones giving real rape victims a bad name.”  I decided that I’d answer that here.

First of all, I’ll come clean.  I once used to think something like this.  And once I even said it out loud.  In a gender studies 101 class.  No, I’m not joking, though I am much too embarrassed and ashamed to quote what I really said directly.  No one actually called me out on it, not even the professor, though I got a few looks that probably helped me to rethink the notion.  I do wish I could go back in time to give 18-year-old me an education, and also a smack upside the head.

The idea that rape victims should really be angry with the false accusers rather than those who openly claim that most rape victims are a bunch of liars is absolutely ludicrous.  It doesn’t exactly help that when so many people have the mistaken notion that women lie about rape in meaningful quantities, there is the occasional woman who does just that.  But in the end, it’s not exactly hurting either.  Why?  Because go to any MRA site, and you’ll find out soon enough that when they don’t have actual false accusers, they’ll just make up ways to claim that genuine accusers are liars anyway.  They don’t even need the actual occasional women who lies about a stranger rape while giving a vague enough description that no one will actually be arrested, because they can already drag innocent women’s names through the mud.

No, the people we need to be mad at are those who are running around with false statistics about how many women lie about rape, the people who perpetuate rape myths and find every reason under the sun why any given rape isn’t a “real” rape, those who tear us apart on television, and who laugh in our faces.  They’re the ones giving us a bad name, and what’s more, they’re doing it on purpose.  And this idea that we should really be mad at other women is just an effort to turn us against each other, and to get us to start policing what is and isn’t “really” rape in the same way that they do.

People lie about crimes.  It’s a sad fact, but it’s a fact of life, and it sure as hell isn’t exclusive to rape.  People lie about car theft, about burglary, about muggings, about whether or not the guy down the road is selling drugs, about kidnappings, about assaults, etc.  They lie about them all.  But I don’t see anyone saying that actual victims of any of those crimes ought to be angry at those few people who lie.  Hell, I don’t see anyone arguing that the actually innocent men should really be mad at all of the real rapists for falsely claiming they’re innocent, either.

The reason is because they don’t have to.  They don’t have to be mad at the few liars, because people already believe them.  They don’t have to be mad at some asshole who got pissed at his neighbor last year and told a lie to the cops.  Because no one ever thinks it reflects on them.

People don’t not believe rape accusers because a few are liars.  They don’t believe them because they don’t want to.

18: Rape and Disability

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 226 Comments

One of the populations most vulnerable to sexual assault is women with disabilities.  Some statistics show that up to 83% of women with disabilities will be assaulted in their lifetimes.  Others say that women with disabilities are twice as likely to be raped and sexually assaulted as the general population.  Whatever the numbers are, they’re very high, and very disturbing.

There are many myths with regards to sexual abuse of people with disabilities.  Often, people with disabilities are falsely portrayed both as completely asexual, and unattractive and undesirable sexual partners.  As many people still ignorantly believe that rape is some sort of compliment on one’s appearance, and as temporarily able-bodied people often bigotedly believe that no one could be attracted to a person with a disability, they thus frequently think that PWD cannot be raped.  In the cases of some women with disabilities, they may also be portrayed as hypersexual, therefore making people who buy into rape myths perceive any sexual contact as consensual.

Another factor causing the rates of abuse against women with disabilities to be so high is the fact that they often rely on paid caregivers, or on family members to do care-taking.  Indeed, a vast majority of the perpetrators of sexual violence against women with disabilities are paid male caretakers.  The next highest group of perpetrators is male family members.  When these men are acting as abusers, women can face particularly large barriers to justice, or simply getting the abuse to stop.  Lauredhel wrote a post on this matter, which I encourage you to read in full, but which I am also quoting below:

Barriers to disclosure are a major problem. They include:

1. Ideas about WWD being particularly asexual, undesirable, dishonest, or promiscuous.

2. Inability of victims to identify their experience as grooming and sexual assault, due to lack of protective-behaviour and sexual education. (Issues of sexual agency are also touched on in the report.)

3. Punitive institutional responses to reports, including moving the victim rather than the assaulter, or locking victims in their rooms.

4. Dependence on perpetrators can leave victims unable to disclose because their care needs will no longer be met.

5. Communication difficulty, both practical and situational, related to disability or to physical and social isolation. Family carers or residential management act as gate-keepers and decision-makers, taking the power to report out of victims’ hands. Carers and workers lack training in appropriate responses to reporting.

If you take a look at that list, you’ll notice that a good number directly deal with the way that society treats people with disabilities.  In other words, our able-bodied-focused society’s prejudice and mistreatment of PWD is what causes predators to choose them as targets.  Not because people with disabilities are always “naturally vulnerable,” but because we are setting up a system that causes them to be vulnerable.

17: Victim-Blaming Knows No Borders

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 5 Comments

You’ve quite likely heard of this horrific story, of an 8-year-old girl in Phoenix, Arizona who was raped by 4 boys — aged 9, 10, 13 and 14.

The reason it seems to be getting a large amount of media attention, however, is the news that her family has apparently rejected her and blamed her for the assault.  Also horrific in itself.  But.  It seems the very fact that this is getting attention is the fact that the girl and her family are Liberian refugees.

CNN affiliate KTVK said it interviewed the girl’s 23-year-old sister, who said she was baby-sitting the girl at the time of the alleged attack.

The sister, who was not identified by name by the station, expressed mixed feelings about her sister’s attack. “I came to her and said it’s not good for you to be following guys because you are still little,” the sister told KTVK. She also said that she wanted the suspects to be released from jail because “we are the same people.”

“When she comes back I’m going to tell her don’t ever do that again because all of us, we are the same family, we are from the same place. Now she is just bringing confusion among us. Now the other people, they don’t want to see her,” the sister told KTVK.

Tony Weedor, a Liberian who fled civil war with his family and now lives in the Denver, Colorado, area, told CNN that cultural aspects are deep in the case. In Liberia rape was not against the law until 2006, he said.

“The family [believes they] have been shamed by her, not a crime, but the name of the family has been degraded and news will get back to Liberia. And they’re more concerned about that than the crime,” said Weedor, who is co-founder of the CenterPoint International Foundation, which aids Liberian refugees in the United States and provides aid for those still in Liberia.

Now, I’m not claiming that the family has not rejected their daughter — though Renee does point out that the girl’s father has said that they love her and want her back, that they deny the allegations, and that English is not their first language, and I think that’s worth taking into consideration.

What I’m disputing is the narrative that seems to be forming that the girl’s family has blamed her and rejected her because they are Liberian.  First of all, deputy ambassador of Liberia to the United States denies as much:

Edwin Sele, the deputy ambassador of Liberia to the United States, also responded to the incident.

“Having heard the story myself, I’m outraged,” he said. “In Liberia, the family and law enforcement officers would be embracing the victim. To hear that the family is not doing that, that should be an isolated case.”

But even if you think that’s political posturing — which yes, it easily could be — the fact doesn’t change that we’re not exactly super victim-embracing in this country, either.  I’ve already written 16 posts today that almost universally reject that assessment.  And that doesn’t necessarily change when it comes to child rape.  First of all, the United States is a country where 22% of female rape victims are raped when they are under the age of 12 (EDIT: other stats show that 34% of all victims were under the age of 12), and a further 32% are raped between the ages of 12 and 17.  We’re no stranger to child rape.

We’ve also seen countless experiences here where a community that should be supporting a victim is instead support perpetrators because they all share an identity.  We see communities rejecting a rape survivor because she’s making allegations against that nice young man who lives down the street, or the nice young man at school.  We see communities reject survivors because their rapist was a football star, or a frat boy, and you can’t speak out against the football star or the frat boy, because people identify with him.  And we’ve seen countless, countless experiences where a family will ignore and deny sexual abuse, often allowing it to continue, choosing to believe the perpetrator instead of the child.  It happens Every. Single. Day.

This rape is horrific, especially when the perpetrators are so young themselves.  If the family’s reaction is as it has been reported, that is utterly horrific as well.  There is no question, no dispute, and absolutely no wiggle room there.

But that doesn’t make it about Liberia, or Liberians.  And it sure as fucking hell shouldn’t be giving Americans a chance to feel superior.

16: Re-Victimization at Its Extreme

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 1 Comment

So.  Here’s one of the most appalling things I’ve seen in a long time.

On the regular blog, I spend a lot of time writing about how people will find any excuse, any excuse at all, even if there isn’t one, to dismiss rape, to pretend as though it wasn’t really rape, and most especially to avoid prosecuting rape, and definitely to avoid convicting for a rape.

Case and point, here we have a case where a young woman was at a party, when four men forced her to take her clothes off.  One of them raped her as she begged him to stop, while the other three took photographs.  County Attorney Frank Campbell decided not to prosecute.  Despite, you know, the photographic fucking evidence.  Which he had indeed acquired.

Way beyond bad enough, right?  A 17-year-old is raped while others watch and take photographs, and then the county attorney decides that, eh, that doesn’t really count.  But it gets even worse.  Much, much worse:

The girl says that she reported the assault to police, who referred it to County Attorney Frank Campbell.

She says Campbell “decided he would not pursue prosecution of the male” involved in the sexual assault, but told a local newspaper that he would share the pictures with parents of the minors at the party.

The girl’s family protested, but says Campbell insisted he did not need permission to show around the photos, and photos of the girl allegedly drinking alcohol at the party.

Yup.  So, he decided that even with photographic evidence, there was no reason to treat her rape like a rape.  And then he went and showed the photographs of her being raped all around town.  I guess as some sort of “dangers of drinking” lesson or something.

And what does Campbell get for it?  A six month suspension.

I am absolutely, 100% with Renegade Evolution when she says that he should be put on trial for distribution of child pornography.  Lately, underage girls have been charged for taking nude photographs of themselves and sending them out on their cell phones.  This guy took photographs of a non-consenting girl, who was non-consenting at the time the photographs were taken, and showed them to  other people — to adults, no less!  Double-standard much?

The man who actually committed the rape should have been charged with rape.  The other men should have been charged with accessory to rape and child pornography.  And this jackass?  Anderson County Attorney Frank Campbell?  He deserves to be disbarred and charged with child porn.  Instead, they’re getting slaps on the wrist, if anything at all.

The victim, meanwhile, has reportedly been diagnosed with depression and is experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

15: 59% of Transgender Inmates Report Sexual Assault While In Prison

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 4 Comments

One place where transgender individuals are particularly vulnerable to rape and sexual assault is prison.  In fact, a 2006 study (note: reading the comments is highly unrecommended) showed that an utterly staggering 59% of incarcerated transgender respondents reported being sexually assaulted in prison.

There are a couple major reasons for the astounding and devastating figures.  The first is simple transphobia, and thus the already greater likelihood of rape against transgender people.  The second is a really big, and vitally important one — the fact that transgender inmates are routinely misgendered and put in the incorrect prisons.  This means that trans women are placed in men’s prisons, and vice versa.  For women especially, this means rape at the hands of her male fellow inmates:

Transgender people become targets in part because, in California, as in most other states, the prohibitive cost of surgeries, therapy and hormones prevents many transgender people from acquiring legal sex changes, which can land people who live as men into women’s facilities, and people who live as women into men’s facilities. While incarcerated, many transgender prisoners have difficulty acquiring hormones, and none have access to surgery while serving time.

In March, Giraldo filed suit in order to bring abuses of transgender prisoners to light, she says. She sued seven employees of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for negligence, infliction of emotional distress, and violations of the state constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

But well into the trial, Judge Ellen Chaitin of San Francisco Superior Court dismissed allegations of negligence and cruel and unusual punishment on the grounds that prison guards do not have the duty to protect inmates, but allowed the claim of intentional inflection of emotional distress to stand.

The idea that prison guards have no duty to protect inmates is incredibly disturbing enough.  The idea that this was determined specifically with regards to perhaps the most vulnerable prison population is even more so.

These figures also particularly matter due to the very high rates of incarceration among transgender populations, due to unemployment and poverty:

According to the Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project, 75 percent of transgender people in San Francisco are without full-time employment. Sixty-five percent of male-to-female (MtF) transgender people have spent time in prison or jail, as well as 29 percent of people who identify as female-to-male (FtM)—rates far above that of the general population.

In other words, discrimination prevents many, many trans people from finding steady work.  As a result, they may turn to criminal activity such as theft or sex work in order to survive.  And then, the society that put them in a desperate situation sends them to prison — usually the wrong prison — where they will more likely than not be raped, again as a result of discrimination.

There are no easy answers, especially since trans men would almost certainly be targetted for sexual violence by cis men in male prisons.  But something absolutely has to be done.  As I said earlier, think whatever you want of inmates.  No one deserves to be raped.

14: Transgender Victims of Rape

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 215 Comments

There are very few statistics available for the rate of rape among transgender individuals.  One small study showed that 13.7% of transgender respondents had experienced rape or attempted rape.  Another study shows that 50% of transgender respondents had been raped or assaulted by a romantic partner — and among all groups of people sexual violence is a common form of intimate partner violence.

Neither of these studies give large-scale data.  Both also fail to separate out rates of rape for trans men, trans women, and genderqueer individuals.  Anecdotal evidence in the trans community, however, suggests that rates of sexual violence are much higher than among cisgender (non-transgender) people.  The rates of rape for trans women are believed to be much higher than the rates of rape for cis women, and the rates of rape for trans men higher than the rates of rape for cis men.  Many of the assaults are hate crimes.  And due to the high rates of police abuse or dismissal against trans individuals, the crimes are also extremely unlikely to go unreported.

Making matters worse yet again is the impact that prejudice has on access to victims services.  For example, it’s not at all uncommon for trans people to lack access to health care — either because of a lack of insurance, or poor prior treatment at the hands of health care providers, and subsequent unwillingness to “out” themselves to receive care.  As a result, victims can often miss out on vital services like STD testing and emergency contraception.

And even those who are supposed to help rape victims can discriminate on the basis of gender identity.  While trans women are almost certainly raped at higher rates than cis women, they are often denied access to women’s shelters by so-called feminists.  These women claim that it’s about ensuring that cis women feel safe receiving services, but that’s really just a way of positioning trans women as “fake” women, as well as positioning them as potential perpetrators rather than actual victims.  (In truth, transgender people are no more likely to commit sexual violence than cisgender people.)  This kind of denial of services can cost lives in the case of ongoing abusive relationships, and needs to cease immediately.

13: Rape and Sex Work

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 234 Comments

It’s pretty much impossible to find accurate statistics on the rate of rape among sex workers. That’s both because sex workers are a hugely diverse group and not particularly easy to survey, but also because many people doing the surveys have an anti-sex work ideology that cause many sex workers to question the methodology and results.

But while the idea that all sex workers are rape victims is false, it is pretty safe to say that sex workers are victimized at a highly disproportionate rate to other women.  This is especially true for women who work in prostitution (as opposed to stripping, phone sex work, porn, etc.), and even more so for those who work on the streets.  And of course, a woman who is a trafficking victim cannot consent to sex and is being raped every time she “works.”  (It’s worth noting here that while the vast majority of sex workers are women, some men are sex workers, too, and also victimized.)

And what places these women at extra risk is the way that they are pushed to the margins.

We all know that rape victims are rather unlikely to report their assaults to the police, for a variety of reasons, including the fear that they won’t be believed.  Sex workers face that fear compounded many times over.  And even worse, if they were raped while working, they face the fear of being arrested if the work they do is illegal.

Sex workers are also blamed for their own rapes at an incredible frequency, and in uniquely appalling ways.  There’s this idea that a woman who engages in prostitution cannot be harmed by non-consensual sex — which is really just an extension of the “well she wasn’t a virgin” excuse.  Sex workers are also blamed for “placing themselves in a position” where they were more likely to be raped — an extension of “why was she wearing that skirt?”  In a recent study done in England and Wales, only 52% of respondents said that a woman who is raped while engaging in prostitution should never be blamed for the rape.  Victim-blaming, of course, is even more likely when the woman faces multiple oppressions, such as if she is a woman of color, and/or transgender.

A particularly famous and appalling example of the ways in which sex workers are routinely construed as unable to be raped is the case of Philadelphia’s Judge Deni, who ruled that a woman who was gang-raped at gun point after agreeing to have sex with a single man for money was not actually raped.  Instead, Judge Deni called this a theft of services.  She decided that the only crime was that the victim was not paid, rather than that her bodily autonomy had been grossly and violently violated.  She decided that because the victim was a sex worker, her body and rights had no value.

For more on sex workers and sexual violence, and talking about the issue without treating sex workers and their experiences as a monolith, I recommend checking out this post by Jill over at the Sex Workers Outreach Project East.

12: 40 Days and 40 Nights

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 11 Comments

Speaking of apologism for women who rape men, I remember the first time I saw this scene from the film 40 Days and 40 Nights. I was just completely and utterly appalled that they would put this scene in here as not only a plot point, but as something other than rape. I still am, though I’m no longer surprised.

For those not familiar with the film, the (rather juvenile) plot goes something like this: dude gets out of a bad relationship with a shitty girlfriend, can’t get over her, and decides that sex is the problem. So he decides to give up sex for Lent. Then, as luck would have it, he meets the perfect woman. Only, now he can’t have sex with her! He eventually gets her to understand, and things will be happily ever after, until he’s asleep right before the end of the 40 days — handcuffed to the bed by a friend so that he won’t masturbate — and his ex-girlfriend rapes him.

Video is NSFW and could be triggering.

Not only does she rape him, but his current girlfriend quite clearly blames him for it. His friend tries to come up with ways to make it look like it wasn’t his fault, as though it actually was. And the guy who was actually raped only cares because of how it screws things up with his current girlfriend. Eventually, he gets back together with her with a speech about how much he screwed up.  And then they have endless hours of hot sex together, completely unaffected by the fact that one of them was just raped less than two weeks ago.

Before the video was removed over here, 28 users rated it sexy, and 9 users rated it funny. The video is rated five stars on YouTube. That’s some rape culture for you.

11: Yes, Women Can Rape Men

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 1 Comment

It’s sadly still not uncommon to hear the assertion that “it’s not possible for a woman to rape a man.”

Yes, it is.  And it happens.

How is quite simple.  Just like with any form of rape, it need not involve a penis, and it also need not a vagina being penetrated.

A woman who non-consensually penetrates a man anally (or in the case of trans men, anally or vaginally) with her fingers or an object is committing rape.  Women can also rape men through vaginal intercourse.  Quite simply, an erection does not equal consent.  Erections are physiological responses that may or may not correspond with mental arousal — and even if they did, arousal isn’t consent, either.  A woman can rape this way through threats, power imbalance, manipulation of the penis, or by beginning penetration when the victim has an erection in his sleep, to name a few examples.

The idea that men can’t be raped by women rests on several rape myths — only a few of which I’ll list here.  The first is that rape can only be committed by physical force, and the assumption that all men are stronger than all women.  A second related to ideas of strength is that a victim who does not fight back was not really raped.  Another is the idea that physical arousal equals consent.  And particularly prominently featured is the idea that all men constantly want to have sex with all women, and therefore ought to be considered “lucky” to be raped.

This last rape myth — perhaps the most appalling of all — is seen particularly prominently when the male victim is a minor, and the female perpetrator an adult, which is believed to be the most common type of rape committed by women.  Male victims of statutory rape are often dismissed with claims that he “wanted it” and is “lucky” to have been raped by an older woman.  Men will also frequently police such male expressions of victimization with statements like “I wish that was me.”

But male victims of statutory rape, and all rape, are just as harmed as female victims.  And men do not “want” or “deserve” their rapes any more than women.  Which is to say, not at all.

10: FML Fail

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 4 Comments

By now, most people around the interwebs have likely heard of the website FML.  FML stands for Fuck My Life, and is filled with short, humorous anecdotes that make the writer say . . . fuck my life.

But sometimes, the FML submissions (and comments) aren’t so funny.  Sometimes they’re instead sad, or upsetting — or outright scary.  Mzbitca has been chronicling many of these such instances under FML Fail.  Yesterday, she put up these two:

Today, my boyfriend decided to come clean. Apparently last week when I was drunk and asleep, he decide to wank all over me. Then laughed when I said I felt ’sticky’ in the morning. FML

and

Today, I woke up with my boyfriend next to me, with his knob in my face. Apparently I’m a heavy sleeper, and he’d been shoving it in my mouth for months. FML

I don’t recommend that you read the comments.  At all.  But in the instance of the first FML — which talks about her boyfriend sexually assaulting her in her sleep — a vast majority of the commenters seem to think it’s hilarious.  Some are arguing that she should “get even” with him by sexually assaulting him back.  I didn’t notice anyone calling it what it was.

For the second, some do indeed call it rape.  Which is what it is.  But there are even more coming back with allegations that to call a penis being shoved in your mouth in your sleep without your consent is not only not rape, but — my favorite line — “minimizing the experiences of real rape victims.”  I stopped going through the comments when I realized how many people were arguing that it wasn’t rape because she didn’t say no.  In her sleep.

What these people have essentially decided is that women are in a permanent state of consent.  A woman who doesn’t say no must be saying “yes,” and that apparently even goes for women who are physically incapable of saying no.

Mzbitca writes:

Sleeping next to someone is, in so many ways, an ultimate sign of trust.  You are letting yourself be unconscious around another person.  When people ask what is rape culture this is another perfect example.  Rape culture is when someone who claims to be there for you and respect you views your unconscious body as free game for fulfilling his sexual pleasure.  What is the worst part is this is something that arose because he was intimate with her.  While she falls asleep next to him every night he looks at her body as something that he has access to while awake so why not while she’s unconscious.

Indeed.  Everything about this is disgusting.  Both the acts themselves, and what they reveal about many who hear about and comment them.

9: Canadian Anti-Sexual Violence Program Focuses on Girls’ Clothing

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 148 Comments

I’ve recently learned about a new program in Canada that’s allotting over $350,000 to adolescent rape prevention in Quebec.  Sounds awesome, right?

Er, maybe.

The latest grant announced by Helena Guergis, minister of state for the status of women, is for a $144,361, three-year project in the Matane region “targeting the hypersexualization of girls as a root cause of dating violence.”

Spokespeople for the minister and her department said yesterday it is wrong to put a “blame-the-victim” interpretation on the projects. Boys are intended to learn a few things too.

Um.  Really?  Boys are meant to learn a few things?  Well that’s nice.  But since the girls are apparently learning the majority of things, what exactly are they learning?

In an email, Mansour defined hypersexualization as a social phenomenon in which adolescents adopt attitudes and bearing that are too sexual for their years. Examples are young girls who wear clothes emphasizing the shape of their bodies or very young, immature adolescent couples who become sexually active in response to the influence of peer pressure, the Internet and mass media.

“Through support for this project, we are addressing a priority issue for this government – to end all forms of violence against women and girls across the country,” Guergis said. “By learning self-esteem and self-respect, the girls involved in this project will adopt solid values that will guide them in all aspects of their lives.”

Oh dear lord.  So, we’re not supposed to be interpreting this program as using a blame-the-victim approach, but the approach is built around supposing that rape culture is built around the hypersexualization of girls.  Not the type of hypersexualization that gives boys the impression that girls are always sexually available, or that it’s okay to coerce sexual activity, or gives girls the impression that they should be always sexually available and that coerced sexual activity is normal.  Not that kind of hypersexualization.  No, the kind of hypersexualization where the girls have no respect for themselves and dress like little Slutty McSluttertons, and so of course they get raped.

Head, meet desk.

See, teaching girls high self-esteem is always a worthy endeavor.  And as you may know, I’m a huge fan of people of all genders getting anti-sexual violence education, and especially of girls being given the tools to identify abuse.  And self-esteem plays a huge role in that!  So, yay for that part.  Yay, too, for the part where they mention that no girl should ever be subjected to sexual pressure.

Not so yay for the idea that self-esteem and self-respect mean not wearing revealing clothes, and if you do, well, that’s the root of dating violence.  Indeed, we can officially file that under “Doing More Harm Than Good,” and “Things No Government Should Be Funding.”

8: California Officer Rapes Woman While on Duty

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 1 Comment

Recently, a (now former) California police officer named Feliciano Sanchez admitted to forcing a woman who he pulled over during a traffic stop to perform oral sex on him at gunpoint.

Feliciano Sanchez, 34, admitted in court Thursday that while on duty on May 16, 2007, he pulled over a female driver in a traffic stop and forced her to perform oral sex on him, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien, who heads the office for the Central District.

Sanchez, then of Los Angeles County’s Bell Police Department, stopped the woman for speeding or weaving down the road, said central California U.S. attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek, citing court documents.

After learning the woman, identified as R.H. in court documents, did not have a driver’s license with her, Sanchez told her he suspected her of drinking and her car would be towed, Mrozek said.

Sanchez offered to drive R.H. to her job, but instead drove her to the parking lot of an auto repair outlet in Bell, Mrozek said.

Sanchez placed his hand on his gun and forced her to perform sex on him in his patrol car, Mrozek said. Afterward, Sanchez drove R.H. to her work place, Mrozek said.

Though we don’t really know the number of similar instances of sexual abuse that take place, it is safe to say that a vast majority go unreported.  After all, most rapes go unreported period, and reporting a rape to police has to be particularly daunting when it’s a police officer — an on-duty police officer, no less — who raped you.  The victim in this case clearly did a very brave thing  And the police department did the right thing in believing her allegation when it would be easier to cover it up.

One thing that does conern me, though, are the charges laid against Sanchez.  The only charge listed in the news release is that of a “civil rights violation.”  While what he did was indeed a civil rights violation — so good call! — why no sexual assault charges?  If California statutes don’t cover oral rape under their rape laws (I honestly don’t know, but many states don’t), it’s certainly covered under other sexual assault statutes.  And it’s not uncommon for multiple charges to be filed.  Anyone have an idea?

7: Male Rape in Prisons

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 1 Comment

While there’s evidence suggesting that the assumption that most rape of men occurs in prison is false, there’s absolutely no denying that there is an epidemic of rape taking place in America’s prisons.  Research shows that around 22% of men are raped while in prison. It’s an utterly whopping figure.

The rape can come in many forms.  Much of the rape is forcible and committed with weapons, or alongside beatings, and is often committed by more than one perpetrator.  But rape in prison can also be committed through coercion, threats of violence, or threats to withdraw “protection” from other inmates.  Rape can also be committed against inmates by prison guards, who threaten to use power, access to food, etc., against them.  Men who are young, gay, and/or physically weak are most likely to be targeted, but of course all inmates are at risk.  Most rapists are older, and view themselves as straight.

The issue is compounded by the frequent treatment of prison rape as a joke.  I long ago lost count of the number of times I’ve heard the “don’t drop the soap” line.  In large part, prison rape is seen as a joke, and as acceptable, because we perceive incarcerated people to be less than human.  Another factor is the view of rape as an acceptable form of punishment for a committed crime.  I’ve been shocked, saddened, and appalled to see even feminist commenters say that they hope a male rapist is sent to prison and raped himself while there.  I understand as well as any survivor the desire for revenge, but as long as we view rape as an acceptable method of revenge, we’re just perpetuating the attitudes and cycle that caused the man to rape in the first place.

We can think whatever we like of prisons, and of prisoners, whether as a group or individually.  And I imagine that those views are all across the board.  But one thing we should be able to agree on is that no one ever deserves to be raped, and no one deserves to have their rape ignored by those that have the power to help them and prevent future attacks.

6: Male Rape Victims

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 4 Comments

We talk about it less often due to its less common occurrence (and also because many of us who talk about sexual violence are feminists, and therefore focus on specifically women’s issues), but men can be and are raped, too.  RAINN estimates that 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and also that 1 in 10 sexual assaults is committed against men.  As I generally perceive RAINN’s estimates to be on the conservative side, I also wouldn’t doubt the real figures being higher.  And like with women, an appalling number of those assaults take place before the age of 18.

Though the estimates vary, there is no debate that a very significant majority of male rape victims are raped by other men.  While gay and bisexual men are more likely to be chosen as victims than straight men — and are often sexually assaulted as a part of a hate crime — straight men also make up a majority of victims.  And because of numerous pervasive rape myths — that men can’t be raped, that men always want sex and therefore must have enjoyed the assault, that men should have been able to fight off an attacker, or that being raped by a man makes you gay (tied into society’s general homophobia) — they are also even less likely than female victims to report the attack to police.

Men, of course, experience trauma from rape just as women do.  Expecting that they wouldn’t is just buying into the gender stereotypes/myths of women as emotional and men as emotionless.  Men, too, experience self-blame, guilt, post-traumatic stress disorder, trust and sexual issues, and rape apologism and dismissal from those who they do tell about the assault.  They are, however, even less likely than women to tell anyone at all.

5: New Orleans Police Department Downgrading Rape Reports

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | No Comments

News has emerged that the New Orleans police department has been classifying reports of rape as noncriminal:

More than half the time New Orleans police receive reports of rape or other sexual assaults against women, officers classify the matter as a noncriminal “complaint.”

Police, who have been touting a decline in rapes, say the share of noncriminal complaints reflects the difficulty officers face in coaxing rape victims to push forward with their complaints.

But former Orleans Parish sex crime prosecutor Cate Bartholomew says the frequent use of the alternative category — referred to as a “Signal 21″ in NOPD parlance — is a problem, arguing that some of the cases she saw should have been categorized as sex crimes.

Bartholomew and some other experts say the alternative labeling of alleged sexual assault raises questions about the accuracy of the department’s recent rape statistics, showing a sharp decrease from 2007 to 2008 in the number of rapes and attempted rapes reported to the FBI: 114 rapes in 2007, down to 72 rapes last year.

Uh yeah, I’d call that a problem.

Unsurprisingly, the NOPD is claiming that the classifications were all legitimate.  But I’m inclined to agree with this:

“Any way you look at it, it is just too high,” said Joanne Archambault, a consultant who previously lead the San Diego sex crimes unit.

Archambault said departments need a noncriminal category for some situations, such as a call about a suspicious activity that turns out not to be a crime. But too often detectives will put cases into these alternative categories — or declare a rape case to be “unfounded,” meaning that it didn’t occur — when they can’t substantiate a claim of a sexual assault.

That may happen, she said, if they can’t track down a victim who reported the crime or the victim doesn’t continue cooperating after making an initial report. While those circumstances frustrate detectives, they don’t justify declaring cases invalid, she said.

It’s also worth noting, as the article does, that the numbers just don’t add up.  Rape rates — even only reported rape rates — are unsurprisingly almost always higher than murder rates.  That’s pretty much a given.  New Orleans, on the other hand, while indeed having a high murder rate, is currently reporting a rape rate of less than half of the murder rate.  They’re also reporting half the number of rapes as Jacksonville, Mississippi, the city the article uses for comparison, despite the fact that Jacksonville has half the population of New Orleans.

No, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I do know that something isn’t right.  The fact that the NOPD doesn’t want to make the records available for review indicates as much, as does history:

In other cities, the police practice of putting rape complaints into a category other than a crime has been controversial. Investigations have found that the practice sometimes resulted in a large number of cases that should have been counted as rapes not making it into official crime statistics. In several cities where this practice has come under scrutiny, police departments changed policies, allowing few exceptions to criminal listings.

This is what happened in Philadelphia a decade ago after a series of newspaper reports that questioned a policy of the Police Department’s rape squad to classify about a third of the reported sex crimes under a noncriminal code that meant “investigation of person.” A police internal review of 2,000 such cases determined that 700 were actually rapes, while 500 were other sex crimes, according to news reports.

Then-Police Commissioner John Timoney all but eliminated the alternative coding of sex crimes, said Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia.

Time consuming and costly though an investigation may be, rape needs to be taken seriously.  Whatever is going out here needs to be determined and figured out.  Because even if police are telling the truth, and they’re not classifying rapes that survivors actually wanted to report as noncriminal complaints, they’ve still got themselves a survivor relationship issue.  If this many survivors are going into the police station to tell them what happened — an uncommon occurance in itself — and walk out not wanting to make a report, there’s a damn reason.

4: Rape Jokes

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 1 Comment

A month ago, Harriet over at Fugitivus wrote an excellent post that just came to my attention.  It’s about rape “jokes,” and it’s while it’s a long post, it’s also one of the best explanations I’ve ever seen for why you just shouldn’t make them, because they’re just not funny.

I suggest going over to read the whole thing, but this is the part that hit the closest to home with me, to the point that it was almost distressing and triggering for me to read the first time.  Here they are, the very limited options available to a woman in responding to a rape joke (Wordpress won’t let me turn it into a blockquote for some reason — everything numbered below is a quote):

  1. Say Nothing. Hope the conversation does not continue extolling the virtues of rape, making saying nothing harder. Hate yourself for saying nothing. Notice girl sitting on the porch of the house next to you who has heard what was said. Notice her similar reactions. Hate yourself more for saying nothing, because she has probably been raped, too, because you don’t know any woman who hasn’t. Hate your friend, because he doesn’t know that every woman he knows has been raped. Have minor flashbacks of what was done to you. No feeling the sun, the breeze now, just his hand on your shoulder to get leverage. Simmer with stopped-up rage that this thing he did, his hand on your shoulder, has just been joked about as fun and exciting. Simmer with stopped-up rage that you said nothing then, too, even though that’s not really true. You just said nothing that was listened to, deemed important. Like your silence and obvious rage is being ignored now. Stop enjoying the day. Stop enjoying the company of your friend. Make a mental note to withdraw from others before they can casually, “jokingly” remind you of your rape. Feel bad. It’s not like they know you were raped. Feel angry. It’s not like you’re ever going to tell them, now. Feel alone and angry. Assume bitterly that you will feel this way forever.
  2. Be Edgy! Jump in with some even MORE offensive humor! Run with the rape joke! Make it even more rape-y! Now your friend will never guess you have been raped. Bonus prize: if he ever finds out, he will respect you for not making a “big deal” out of your rape, for not making it the centerpiece of your life and his on a hot and lazy summer day. Settle in with the smug knowledge that you are not like those other broken, damaged, traumatized victims. Withdraw from “those” kinds of victims, who might try and drag you down into their hysteria with them. Throw them to the goddamn wolves. Throw your flashbacks to the goddamn wolves. Toast to rape!
  3. Initiate a Very Serious Conversation, out of nowhere, like. Tell your friend that joke was not funny. Tell him rape is never funny. Keep talking after his face has pinched up in resentment and disgust, because you are RUINING his day and his BEER and his FUNNY. You know you are actually ruining his sense of himself as a good and decent person, but you cannot communicate that to him, because he is smug and disengaged, and you are shaking and stuttering and trying to explain the experience of women to a man who has grown up among women, known women, loved women, and somehow doesn’t know this already, which means he doesn’t want to know, doesn’t care. Feel vulnerable. Feel angry that you feel vulnerable. Consider stopping mid-sentence, getting up, and walking away. Promise yourself that after this you will never speak to this friend again. Immediately break the promise, because you know if you don’t, he will tell everybody that you stopped being friends because you are Andrea Dworkin all of a sudden.
  4. Initiate A Very Serious Conversation Version II: Follow version one, except also disclose to your friend (who thinks rape is funny and exciting) that you have been raped. Be surprised, all over again, that this does not immediately change his perspective, the way it changed yours. Realize that to him, rape is conceptual, even when it has really happened, even when it is real. Wonder if he has raped, without knowing it, because it was just a concept. Realize you now wonder this about every man. Are you Andrea Dworkin? Do you have any right to ruin this lovely summer day by dumping your rape on everybody? Did he? After this, will he now tell everybody that you FREAKED OUT just because you were apparently “RAPED” and you can’t GET OVER IT when it was just a JOKE, SERiously? Will everybody know you have been raped? Will everybody think you are a humorless rape-bot from now on? Feel like shit afterwards. Be reminded that you cannot trust anybody, now. Because you were raped. Because you are Andrea Dworkin. Because you didn’t prosecute. The reasons don’t matter anymore; the result is the same. You are Angry About Being Raped, which just compounds the stain of Being Raped. Add in Unable To Take a Joke, and you are officially Female.
  5. Find Some Other Way. Can’t count on this one; sometimes an alternative pops into your head, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you manage to say “Rape is funny!” and laugh away in such a sarcastic, biting voice that it communicates everything you wanted to say, and you all move on. Or you do what I did, which was threaten to break my beer bottle on the railing and stab my friend in the fucking neck with it if he didn’t shut his fucking maw. Ha ha! I said. A joke! Not really, man. Ha! Am I kidding? Am I? Fun-nay. The simmering rage remains, the distrust, the wondering if you should speak to this person ever again, the flashbacks. But the day moves forward rather than grinding to a screeching halt.

I’ve yet to ever try out option two, and doubt I will be anytime soon. But I have tried out all the rest. And you know what? If Harriet somehow didn’t make it incredibly clear up above: they all suck.

Every time I’ve ever used one of these tactics, whichever one it is, I’ve ended up hating myself and wishing I’d done something different.  Hating myself for saying nothing.  Hating myself for saying something instead of keeping the peace by keeping my mouth shut.  Hating myself for not saying it different, falsely feeling like there had to some kind of secret formula to make that jackass get it, when there wasn’t one.

No matter which you choose, it extremely rarely turns out well.  You still walk away with someone thinking that you’re an overly sensitive nut, or with someone thinking their little rape “joke” was okay, and personally reminded that some people think that rape is funny, or that even the abstract idea of rape is funny, with no consideration for its common occurrence.  That still sticks with you, no matter how much you want it not to.

Rape “jokes” aren’t jokes.  And even if somehow they were, they’re not worth it.

3: 10% of Young Women’s First Intercourse Was Involuntary

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 183 Comments

A brand new study on sex education (or a current lack of it) out of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals an incredibly disturbing but not particularly surprising new number.  Almost 10% of young women aged 18 to 24 reported that their first intercourse was involuntary.

This number matters a great deal, for a whole host of reasons.  The first, of course, is that the rape of any woman matters, and 10% of any group of women being raped period is much, much too high.  But it’s no secret that a rape can have a huge impact on a person’s future view of sexuality, and that view can be particularly affected if the abuse occurs early on.  Not to mention that women who have been raped once are significantly more likely to be raped again.

Its also definitely worth talking about those who this study leaves out.  It leaves out those childhood victims of sexual abuse who were not subjected to forcible intercourse, but exclusively other types of abuse.  It leaves out those whose introduction to “sex” was oral rape, anal rape, or vaginal rape that was committed with fingers or an object, rather than a penis.  And it leaves out the smaller but still very significant number of male survivors, as well.  All of the above survivors exist, too.  (*raises hand*)  It’s important to start including and acknowledging them.  To start acknowledging us.

But I do have to give the CDC credit for including questions about experiences with sexual violence in their study about experiences with sex education.  I’ve long believed that there is some sort of  connection between the two.  I believe that sex education that includes a strong, clear, and positive emphasis on consent, as well as an emphasis of gender and sexual equality, can increase knowledge and reduce the rates of rape.  I also believe that when survivors are able to identify their experiences — and as I know from experience, those who haven’t been taught to often can’t — they’re more likely to get help.  Whether that means reporting the assault, getting out of an abusive relationship, or simply talking to someone, that matters.

I’m glad that the CDC included statistics about sexual assault in their study about sex education, because sexual assault is one of the many reasons why sex education absolutely needs to be better.

2: Rape on College Campuses

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | No Comments

The work that SAFER does is particularly important because, while rape can be committed against anyone, anywhere, at anytime, college women are particularly likely to be assaulted (pdf).  Estimates say that 1 in 4 women have been raped since the age of 14, and rapists assault women aged 16 to 24, years which encompass those most commonly spent in college, at four times the rate of all women.  And women in college are more likely to be assaulted than women of the same age not in college.

During the time actually spent in college, 3% of women report surviving rape or attempted rape during each academic year (not including summer — it also seems that number might not include rape committed through coercion).  Other statistics say that one out of eight women will be raped while in college.  And particularly chilling research shows that one out of twelve college men admitted committing actions which meet the legal definition of rape — at the same time as 84% of them claimed that what they did was “definitely not rape.”

Admittedly, some of the statistics are a bit old.  Getting accurate and timely statistics is always difficult, especially on a topic that many people are secretive and ashamed about, or don’t fully understand.  (For example, much research has shown that number turn out lower if you ask women “have you ever been raped?” versus “have you ever been forced to have sex?”)  But even if the numbers have dropped since they were first determined — and I hope more than anyone that they have — the fact is that the numbers are much, much too high.  And a lot of us know them all too well, not because we’re particularly acquainted with the research, but because we’re acquainted with our own lives.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  A lot of these rapes can be prevented with a change in culture and education.  But acknowledging the problem — and getting schools to acknowledge the problem on their own campuses — is always the first step.

1: Why SAFER?

Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 2 Comments

It seems most appropriate to begin this long journey by asking the question of why I’m doing it.  Why spend my usually lazy Saturday blogging in enormous quantities and denying myself sleep instead of going through my blog reader and posting Beatles pictures on Tumblr?  I’m doing it for SAFER.

As you likely know by now, SAFER is the organization that I’m sponsoring in this endeavor, and trying to entice you into sponsoring as well.  SAFER, which stands for Students Active For Ending Rape, is an organization that works with college students to change their schools’ sexual assault policies.

Right now, most college sexual assault policies are horrifically outdated.  Remember, institutions of higher learning don’t exactly exist outside of rape culture.  They, too, are prone to also thinking that “prevention” means women watching their drinks and not wearing short skirts.  They, too, are prone to thinking that a lack of physical evidence means a rape didn’t occur, or that rape is something “not worth ruining a nice young man’s life for,” or that women lie about rape, or even that date rape isn’t rape.  And due to the manufactured “controversy” surrounding many rape allegations, most schools would prefer to not get involved at all.

SAFER is all about changing all of that, and in changing smaller environments — and by training others to actually do the work in their own communities, based on that community’s own needs — they’re also about challenging and dismantling rape culture form the ground up.

SAFER supports proven prevention strategies that focus on (potential) perpetrator behavior and bystander behavior, rather than (potential) victim behavior.  They understand that rape can be prevented if we only stop turning away and start confronting the problem.  They understand that it’s not going to happen by telling women they just need to live with it and adapt.

SAFER also supports real accountability proceedings for perpetrators when an assault does occur, and letting a victim make her or his choice regarding whether or not to report.  They understand that communities have a right to set their own ethical standards of behavior, and to deal with or remove those that don’t abide by them.  And they understand that survivors need comprehensive support systems and services.

SAFER does all of this while further acknowledging that race, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, and more, have an effect on rape culture and impact the response to certain types of survivors (and certain types of perpetrators).  They do it with a general commitment to social justice in mind.  And they do it on a shoestring budget, just because they know it needs to be done.

Have I gotten my point across yet?  SAFER kicks ass.

That’s why I’m blogging today.  And it’s why you, if you’re able and haven’t already, ought to pledge to support them. Every little bit helps — and if everyone tosses in the $5 or $10 they have, we might just be able to bring the current $383 pledge amount to my original $500 goal.  Let’s try and find out!

2009 Blogathon

Posted on | July 22, 2009 | No Comments

The 2009 Blogathon will begin at 9am EST on Saturday, July 25, and this is the sub-blog of The Curvature where I’ll be hosting it.

I will be continuously blogging about sexual violence for 12 hours, and then the Beatles for another 12 hours, to raise money for Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER).  You can help me reach my $500 goal by pledging now.

For more, see this post at The Curvature.  See you at 9!

  • About

    This is a sub-blog of The Curvature, set up for the 2009 Blogathon. I am blogging for 24 hours to raise money for Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER). Please make a pledge now!
  • Please Note

    Much of the material on this blog will discuss sexual violence and may be triggering to some readers.
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