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Telling rapists to stop rape

I have mixed feelings about this ad.

On the one hand, I like the larger message it’s trying to get across (potential rape victims don’t need to stop rape—rapists need to stop raping), since there is altogether too much victim-blaming that happens (in the media, in the courts, etc.), especially around rape.

On the other hand, as cheeky and witty as this list sounds on the surface, these tips are either useless (if only a joke) or sociologically troubling in a different way (if taken seriously) because they make it sound as if rapists don’t know they’re raping (it’s just a miscommunication or a misunderstanding).

The goal of rapists isn’t to stop rape, so telling them how to do it makes no sense, just as the goal of a bank robber isn’t to stop robberies, so giving the robbers tips on how to stop robberies makes no sense.

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Misogyny hits the cinema

After not seeing a movie in the theater in what felt like forever (my wife and I are movie buffs), we finally saw two in one weekend—The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Hot Tub Time Machine. Both movies surprised me. The former surprised me with how serious, disturbing, and graphic it was. I knew it was a murder mystery, but I was thinking more Jane Marple. I guess in this age of Saw and Hostel, that was a bad assumption on my part. The latter surprised me for just being a terrible movie. It had gotten a lot of good reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

I also had no idea how much misogyny was in both films. Later, I learned the original Swedish title for the book Dragon Tattoo was based on literally translates to men who hate women. And, after watching the movie (which I hear is pretty accurate to the book, except for leaving out whole plotlines that wouldn’t fit in a 2 1/2–hour time frame), I think that’s a far more fitting title. I guess the big difference between Tattoo and Hot Tub (apart from one being good, the other bad; and one being serious and the other intended to be funny) is that Tattoo makes it clear that misogyny is a bad thing. Hot Tub, on the other hand, celebrates it. Even though Tattoo is a bit too graphic in its depiction of rape and violence, it sends a clear message of “Men who hate women are bad people and should be punished.”

Hot Tub also sends a clear message—women are there to satisfy men sexually and… pretty much nothing else. In one scene, two men make bets with each other involving both money and sexual flavors. If one man wins, he says the other man’s wife needs to give him a blowjob. If the other man wins, he says the other man needs to give the other man’s male friend a blowjob. The wife says nothing. All she does is lick her lollipop suggestively. The male friend, however, protests furiously that he doesn’t like having his dick gambled with. So her mouth is okay to gamble with without consulting her… his dick, not so much? And, worse yet, the Black friend (whom we initially think is one of three best buddies, but it later turns out only the two White friends are best friends with each other…?) gets constantly ridiculed for hyphenating his name, as if that emasculates him. The only way to set it “right” is for him to keep his name. I’d love to see one of these raunch comedies make fun of woman for taking her husband’s name and then having everything be “right” when she goes back to her maiden name or, better yet, he takes her surname.

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Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape

I’m a big fan of Jessica Valenti. Unfortunately, there is a limitation any one writer inherently faces being only one writer—the lack of multiple perspectives. So I was very pleased to finally read Yes Means Yes!, which is an anthology she co-edited (and contributed one essay to).

The essays vary widely in terms of nuance, tone of voice, degree of feminist radicalism, and gender/sexuality (male, female, trans-gender).

I was a little disappointed that the essay entitled “Real Sex Education” (by someone who works for Planned Parenthood, at least part-time) contained this factual misinformation:

[I]n discussing intercourse and pregnancy, you can’t escape the male orgasm. It has to exist for pregnancy to happen.

Um, what?

The “withdrawal method” has long been known to be ineffective as birth control. From Planned Parenthood’s own website:

Even if a man pulls out in time, pregnancy can still happen. Some experts believe that pre-ejaculate, or pre-cum, can pick up enough sperm left in the urethra from a previous ejaculation to cause pregnancy. If a man urinates between ejaculations before having sex again, it will help clear the urethra of sperm and may increase the effectiveness of withdrawal.

Male orgasm does not have to exist for pregnancy to happen.

Other than that—lovely book. I particularly enjoyed Margaret Cho’s introduction, Millar’s “Toward a Performance Model of Sex,” Harris’ “A Woman’s Worth,” Harding’s “How Do You Fuck a Fat Woman?” Corrina’s “An Immodest Proposal,” Serano’s “Why Nice Guys Finish Last,” Higginbotham’s “Sex Worth Fighting For,” Valenti’s “Purely Rape: The Myth of Sexual Purity and How It Reinforces Rape Culture,” and the multi-authored “Who’re You Calling a Whore?: A Conversation with Three Sex Workers on Sexuality, Empowerment, and the Industry.”

Lots of perspectives, lots of agendas. Many of the essays will make you think. It’s almost impossible to agree with all of them—I think that’s what makes this book great. There are some essays I can see even the most avidly self-professed anti-feminists agreeing with, and there are a few that even I, as a self-professed radical feminist, found on the fringes of radicalism. That’s good. I like that kind of diversity.

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Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality

It’s not always blaming the victim

I don’t watch Tough Love, and I don’t even know who this Steve Ward guy is. I also think there is altogether too much victim-blaming when it comes to women and rape. It doesn’t matter what a woman is wearing. She does not deserve to be raped. It doesn’t matter if she’s a tease or a flirt. She does not deserve to be raped. It doesn’t matter if she’s a prostitute. It doesn’t matter if she’d previously had consensual encounters with that man. It doesn’t matter if he bought her an expensive dinner. No one deserves to be raped, and women should not be blamed for being raped.

From what I’ve read in another blog about what Steve Ward said in a recent episode of Tough Love his phrasing was terrible and invoked victim-blaming for sure:

Steve Ward tells Arian, who is on the hot seat for doing poorly on her date that night, that her sexually aggressive flirting will, and I quote, “get [her] raped.” She, unsurprisingly, leaves the room bawling and telling Steve that “you just don’t tell a girl that.”

But his follow-up email clarifying his position did make more sense to me:

I have been told many stories by victims of sexual abuse and listened to them describe in their own words how they put themselves in a position to be taken advantage of. These stories typically involved fraternity parties, binge drinking, promiscuous behavior, “roofies” and mostly that sort of thing. In Arian’s case she will sexually provoke anyone, anytime, anywhere for her own amusement and my only intention was to caution her that one of those people could end up being the wrong person to provoke.

The truth of the matter is that even if you are never at fault for being raped and you never deserve to be raped, you can put yourself in a position in which you are more likely to be raped. And you can choose the wrong person to tease.

I liken this to the whole road rage phenomenon. Does anyone deserve to get shot by a stranger in another car? Do you deserve to get beat up because you yelled at someone who cut you off? No. No one deserves to get shot because of their driving behavior.

But even if you’re in the right, and that asshole who cut you off or didn’t signal or ran a red light and almost hit a small child crossing the street is wrong, if you make a habit of yelling at other drivers in your righteous anger, you are more likely to get shot, because it’s more likely you will provoke the wrong person. That person will still be a psycho murderer. But you will also still be shot. And your actions made your likelihood of being shot by a psycho murderer go up.

I’m a little rusty on my rape statistics, but I believe 80% of date or acquaintance rapes involve alcohol. So, yes, you can put yourself in dangerous situations, and there are ways to lower your chances of being raped. That doesn’t mean if you drink alcohol you deserve to be raped or that your rapist has a right to have sex with you if you don’t want it. Nor does someone walking around in a dangerous neighborhood at night deserve to be mugged. But she is more likely to be mugged.

Every day we go through life making choices, and some of those choices lower our likelihood of being assaulted, robbed, raped, or harassed. We never deserve these things, and certainly the perpetrators of these terrible acts are in the wrong. And, more importantly, rape victims are overly scrutinized for their behavior in ways that victims of other violent crimes are not. So I understand why Arian was upset, and I understand why people attacked Steve Ward.

Eventually, though, we need to come back from our kneejerk reactions against what we know are constant injustices and take some of these case by case. Yes, in an ideal world, a woman can act however she wants sexually and that will have absolutely no bearing on whether the men she encounters will be rapists or not. In an ideal world, I can also carry around loads of cash in my front pockets and that will have absolutely no bearing on whether I get robbed by a pickpocket or not. In this same ideal world, I can leave my front door unlocked, and no robber is going to steal my stuff either. We should strive for that ideal world, but we’d be idiots if we ignore the fact we aren’t quite there yet.

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Life Movies Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality

Raping 13-year-olds is now okay. Thanks, Roman!

The New York Daily News recently published this article: ‘Wanted’ man Roman Polanski dodges legal bullet. Let me translate some chunks for you.

Polanski was, and remains, a brilliant film director. But to many people, particularly in America, he is most famously remembered for fleeing the country after pleading guilty to “unlawful sexual intercourse” with a 13-year-old girl who was modeling for him.

In case you’re wondering, the pedophilic rapist in question only pled guilty to this “crime,” and it doesn’t matter anyway, since he’s good at his normal job.

The original judge, Laurence Rittenband, was a publicity hound and celebrity sniffer who cared more about how he looked in the press than what happened to either Polanski or the 13-year-old girl.

Both the lead prosecutor and the defense attorney explain in great detail how the case was about to be resolved, with a guilty plea and no hard jail time. But Rittenband thought that might make him look bad, so he ignored judicial protocol and went back on his own promises, declaring instead he wanted Polanski in prison.

Ordinarily society will let someone who’s good at his normal job off the hook for raping a 13-year-old, but one judge decided a rapist of young girls should get some kind of actual punishment. He must have ulterior motives for doing so.

The fact that this film focuses more on the court than the crime will understandably bother some viewers, since offering drugs to naked 13-year-olds and having sex with them is conduct the average American finds repugnant.

Perhaps to balance this, the film talks extensively with the victim.

Her biggest frustration, she says, is that no one believed her, or that people felt she or her mother, who set up the photo session, must have done something wrong.

Yet the case clearly didn’t break her. She’s frustrated with the system, but she settled a civil suit against Polanski and publicly forgave him. She’s a mother of three who’s been married for 18 years. She seems OK.

In case you’re tempted to have a normal reaction to this horrendous crime and don’t really care for Roman Polanski’s films, let me try to justify the crime. It’s not really a crime. After all, the supposed victim seems okay. Life went on. It’s not like she committed suicide or anything. Geez.

It does note, however, that many of his greatest films, like “Chinatown” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” suggest there sometimes is no justice. Which would be a curiously dispassionate coda to a case and a life marked by so much fire.

C’est la vie.

Poor, poor brilliant pedophile rapist filmmaker. No justice for him. People should just leave the poor guy alone.

If you’re a rapist, you’re a rapist. If you’re a pedophile rapist, you’re a pedophile rapist. Or that’s the way it should be. Perhaps we should go find all the sex offenders in prison and see which ones of them might be brilliant performing musicians or innovative entrepeneurs if we just let them out of prison. After all, their victims might seem okay. Their victims, after thirty years, might be married and have kids. Right? And the judges in their cases might have had ulterior motives for sending them to prison. After all, raping 13-year-olds isn’t an offense that warrants a prison term… at least not for people who are good at their jobs.

Let’s take a look at the girl Polanski raped thirty years ago. From a 2003 article:

“Everything was going fine; then he asked me to change, well, in front of him,” she says. “It didn’t feel right, and I didn’t want to go back to the second shoot. But I didn’t at that time have the self-confidence to tell my mother and everyone, ‘No, I’m not going to go.'”

During that second shoot, Polanski’s motives became apparent.

“We did photos with me drinking champagne,” Geimer says. “Toward the end it got a little scary, and I realized he had other intentions and I knew I was not where I should be. I just didn’t quite know how to get myself out of there.”

Polanski sexually assaulted her after giving her a combination of champagne and Quaaludes.

Let’s see. It didn’t feel right, but she lacked the self-confidence to refuse (maybe this is why statutory rape laws exist?), and then he gave her alcohol and drugs and sexually assaulted her. What’s not wrong about this? Seriously.

I’m a male who is more than a decade younger than Polanski was at the time of the rape. I’m not a brilliant film director, but I’m pretty good at my job. I work in an admission office at a high school. Can you imagine if I told a 13-year-old applicant to take off her clothes, gave her drugs and alcohol, and then raped her? That would be awful. Since I’m not an Academy Award-Winning director, I’ll tell you what would happen. I’d be fired immediately, or at least temporarily suspended pending further investigation; ostracized from my church, family, and friends; given divorce papers immediately by my wife; and probably sent to prison for over a decade if not several decades, during which time I’d be tormented and raped by other prisoners. Yes, that’s what happens to pedophile rapists. And I doubt anyone would believe my defense if I said, “Uh, she seems okay now.”

Much as I loved Death and the Maiden, I can’t believe that not only is Roman Polanski walking free, but the the media is defending him. Yes, of course, the woman he raped when she was only 13 has been unbelievably strong and managed after thirty years to move on with her life, but that doesn’t make what he did any less wrong.