Monthly Archives: July 2012

The “Reddit rape thread”: insights into the minds of perpetrators

Trigger warning: this post discusses rape and quotes rapists talking in detail about what they did and why they did it.

Reddit has set up a thread asking people who have committed rape what their motivations were and whether they felt regret. What followed were thousands of comments. Many of them met the brief. It’s a long thread, and triggering, but worth a look as the stories provide a lot of insight into the other side of rape. I have collated some of the most notable stories in this post.

It’s rare to see a first-hand accounts of rape from the perpetrator’s perspective. One of the interesting things about the thread is how many of the posters say they don’t think what they did was rape. This account from “threwawayshame” extends this idea:

I can’t make love to my wife if she’s not 100% into it. If she’s just going through the motions…which in a marriage happens somtimes…I have to stop. I feel guilty. My wife will tell me it;s no big thing. She’s probably making the shopping list in her head and has no problem whatsoever with the sex…but it makes me feel creepy.

But what am I gonna tell her? I feel that way cause I almost raped a teenage girl a few years before we met.

It’s weird reading some of these comments though. The prevailing message seems to be “she put out signals, you made a play, you realized your mistake, bravo”

I dunno. I don’t know if a moral superiority within made me stop..I’m pretty sure it did. I mean, I can’t see myself doing that. But thats a sober me thinking those thoughts. Thats a collected me thinking that.

I’m sure there’s a part of me that gutlessly thought…she WILL tell, and there’s no way a 22 yr old drunk guy’s going to be able to explain that it wasn’t rape.

I dunno. I just know that am I truely sorry to the girl. Looking back she was just a teenage girl that thought I was a nice guy. Harmless even. And I forced myself on her in her own bed. That’s skeezy.

It is interesting how from his description, he stopped because he wasn’t sure how to explain what he was doing wasn’t rape. This came after the point of using force. The boundary between not-rape and rape in this person’s mind was one he was not willing to cross: it was the label rather than sexual aggression which made him stop. However, it is the behaviour, not the label that is wrong. This is an area where consciousness needs to be raised.

Some of the posters blame urges, hormones, or just being horny. “thisisthrowaway2010″ explains how he felt like the woman he coerced into sexual contact was not even human when he was in this state:

We went into her room and began to undress with what started as consensual, as we did she seemed preoccupied. We jumped into bed. Little of this, little of that. Slowly as things progressed I can’t recall what happened. I honestly can’t, it’s not that i’m scared or afraid, I really don’t remember. All I do remember is she was crying. She was having a flash back from her father raping her. I remember pulling off her and she kept crying. I then do remember doing something i’m probably most ashamed of is asking her to finish me off, more begging for it. My hormones were going insane, I didn’t have any empathy in my heart at that moment just my own concerns. She wasn’t a person anymore just a path, a tool, a means to an end. Then once again, I can’t remember. I don’t remember what happened, I never asked her. I almost don’t want to know. But I know I got off.

This “urge-based” justification is sometimes based on a “boys-will-be-boys” rationalisation, as with “throwingthisaway4″:

I was a freshman and hooking up with this girl who got naked in bed with me, then said no. I think she just wanted to do oral. I was extremely horny and already close to doing it, so I ignored her and did it. She realized what was happening and tried to clamp her legs shut, but it was too late and I was much stronger than her.

She kept whispering no, but I ignored it. lasted maybe a minute, two tops. no condom, that was stupid. When I finished, I fingered her until she came or faked it.

Hooked up with her a few more times. I rationalize the first time through the other times, but I know that’s a pretty shitty thing to do. The other times, I used a condom, and she didn’t say no, but she seemed uncomfortable, except with the fingering.

Now I feel terrible about it and wish I hadn’t done it. A while ago I saw a thread where someone said “An erect dick has no conscience.” Very true. When my daughter is old enough, I’m going to have a very frank conversation on male-female relations of the sort that I don’t think most girls get.

Most girls don’t really understand how horny guys are, how much stronger guys are, how guys will rationalize what they do. I see feminists and women on the Internet saying that no means no and women should be able to get as drunk as they want and not be sexually assaulted, and I couldn’t agree me. But the reality of the situation is that women have to be careful because guys are one way when they’re hanging out and another way when they’re horny or worse drunk and horny. That doesn’t make what happened okay, but it is what it is.

edit to add: the girl and I never really talked about what happened. It’s also sad that in our society a lot of women spend a lot of time when they’re adolescents or in theirs 20s sneaking around, because I think that’s when they’re most at risk and when they worry that they hvae soemthing to hide.

Rather gratifyingly, that poster was corrected on this feeble justification by other Redditors.

A clear recurring theme is a lack of appreciation for enthusiastic consent: some express surprise that the women felt like they had been raped because they had never said no, like “eatliftreddit”, who was receptive to an explanation from other Redditors about enthusiastic consent:

I got peer pressured in to hooking up with this girl. I kept saying I didn’t want to and my friends kept saying I had to lose my virginity. They say this for about a week and finally new years come so I figured might as well. We are both completely wasted and go to a room. I was to drunk to get it up so I fingered her and ate her out but she wasn’t really into it. So I stopped and then threw up all over her and I passed out. I guess she ran out and told them I raped her. She never said stop or anything but I could see how she could have froze up in fear. I don’t doubt she feels molested and I feel like an awful person but it wasn’t rape as SnugglesWithRuggles pointed out it was rape. Also my friends stopped talking to me and abandoned me after that

Many of the posters say they stopped upon seeing the expression of the woman, that it was this that made them realise that there wasn’t a state of consent that they had assumed, like this extract from “valenn10′s” story.

So I got up and asked if she wanted to have sex, she says “i don’t know”. I say “come on, you’re really hot blah blah blah” just spitting anything that might get me some pussy. Eventually I was on top of her with my tip rubbing against her pussy. She had never said no I don’t want to have sex just maybes and I don’t knows. So I’m in this position on top of her and she says “okay I guess”.

So I put it in slow and start doing my thing, we’re kissing and stuff but then I look at her face and it doesn’t look right. She looks scared and confused so I ask “Are you okay?” She says “yeah are you almost done?” I said “No we just started.” At this point I’m like wtf? What the hell did I do, why is she so uncomfortable? So even my drunk ass knows somethings off, so I pull out and try to find out whats wrong.

She keeps saying shes fine its nothing but I just feel weird about the whole situation so I leave and say I’ll see you tomorrow. I went back to my room and partied with the other 2 girls for the rest of the night.

It’s worth noting that in many stories both the perpetrator and survivor are drunk, and, a lot of the time, the perpetrators use alcohol as an excuse for not noticing a distinct lack of consent. It is precisely for this reason that we need to make the shift towards constructing consent as an active process of communication involving an enthusiastic “yes”, not something which is merely taken as a given until a “no”.

Unsurprisingly, alcohol also seems to be involved in stories where perpetrators had raped an unconscious woman. Sometimes the perpetrators are also drunk and therefore say they did not notice. Other times, like in “screwed-over’s” story, the perpetrator is completely sober:

I had just broken up with my girlfriend. She came to visit me at work right before we closed because she sad and missed me. She proceded to chug on the bottle of bourbon we were all passing around. Gets shit faced FAST. Passes out on the floor. I drag her to my car, load her into the backseat and drive her home. She then just magically woke up and bolted from the car and ran inside her apartment. I followed her to make sure she was ok. She was laying on her bed passed out. I knelt beside her and kissed her goodbye. That’s when she squirmed and rubbed her ass on me. Turned me on, a lot. I proceded to take her pants off and have sex with her right there; keep in mind she’s completely unconscience. That’s when her roomate walks in, sees her passed out and my pants around my ankles going to town. She screamed for me to get the fuck out.

Afterwards, I explained all of this to her and she barely remembers any of it. I apologized profusely. I still feel like a piece of shit for it.

A similar theme arises in a post from “DoNotReply2″:

This girl and her mom were visiting when I was about 14-15. She was about 16 with huge tits. I kept fantasizing about sneaking into the room next door and playing with her tits.

Then about 16-17 this girl falls asleep on the couch next to me. I felt I just had to touch her. I gently brushed my hand across her shirt. I immediately had to go to the bathroom and masterbate. I came back out to her with my dick out. Almost ejaculated on her. I have no idea what was going through my head. Just images and urges. I pulled it together though.

19-20 at a party, these two girls pass out and are dumped into an empty room. I’m already half asleep, I lay down next to them. I wake up with my hand down one of their pants.

At 24-25, I was really drunk and horny. She was asleep on the couch. I just needed to touch her and see her tits out of that tanktop. A friend of a friend saw me, told my friend. They never said anything. Wish they had.

Ended up happening again after a party. She was a good friend. I was drunk and super horny. I looked at her and knew I could never be with her. She had already hooked up with my friend. It was that feeling of never being able to do something, or have something. I looked at her and just saw something I would regret not trying for. So I thought if I could feel her I would know what it was to be with her. I grabbed her boob, over the shirt. I touched her lip and she moved her head. I stop dead thinking I woke her up, but she relaxed again. I started going upstairs but felt a sudden urge to lift her skirt. I ran my hand across her ass and between her legs. I was so drunk I turned on the light to get a better look, then quickly realized that it would wake her up and turned the light off.

But it did wake her and she got up and ran out. I woke up feeling the worst feelings about myself and my actions. I couldn’t believe I could let myself go as far as to molest a good friend. I have never had many friends. She told at least some of my friends and my roommate. He kicked me out, and I lost all my friends.

In both of these stories the “urges” defence is used, and the men claim they simply couldn’t help themselves from molesting unconscious women. What is interesting here is that while we feminists say that rape isn’t about sexual attraction, in the minds of these men who have raped, it is. This similarly appears at the beginning of “BestUseAThrowaway’s” story, and many others:

It was toward the end of my Sophomore year of high school, and this girl and I (we shall call her Sue) had been quite good friends for roughly four years or so. Anyways, Sue had always been quite flirty, she was a cop’s daughter and I feel that lead to her being a bit rebellious. I remember instances from years ago (possibly 8th grade or freshman year) where she would make jokes about different bras or thongs she was wearing, and was always freely talking about sexual desires and experiences. She just had this unusually sexual way of carrying herself, I don’t know if anyone knows what I’m talking about, but she’d kind of leave her mouth hanging open/bend over quite a bit/almost unreal-porn star like. The thing was she was quite attractive as well; short, blonde, well endowed, pretty eyes. Not necessarily a perfect 10, but very good looking.

I don’t believe for a minute that they can be so overwhelmed by attraction that they just can’t help themselves. It’s a way they justify crossing a line to themselves. Throughout the thread, many of the stories are incredibly long, obsessively laying out in minute detail factors which the perpetrators believe to be salient. What is curious is that these details map on to rape culture beliefs: the way the woman dressed, the fact she consented to something, the fact she had had sex with others and so on.

It is impossible to determine whether these perpetrators are using an already-present set of beliefs as a shorthand way of justifying their behaviour, or whether they have internalised these beliefs to the point where they truly believe they are just dicks on legs with no self-control. Either way, it’s another reason to kill rape culture.

Not all of the perpetrators in the thread feel remorse or regret. Some say they feel anger at being treated like they had done something wrong when they believed they did not. Some believe their lives were unjustly ruined by the rapes they had committed. On the whole, though, I left the thread feeling surprisingly positive. Many had accepted what they had done was wrong and had changed their behaviour towards respect and consent. Many of the other commenters were ready to explain to perpetrators why what they had done was not right, and many perpetrators were willing to listen.

It suggested to me that possibly, one day in the far-off future, we can build that world without rape and overturn rape culture. It will be a huge task, but it’s possible.


In which I write the obligatory review for The Dark Knight Rises

Spoiler warning: There are going to be a lot of spoilers in this review. If you haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises yet, you might not want to read this.

The eagerly anticipated final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is finally here. I will admit I went to see it with some trepidation: the trailers looked like shit, it couldn’t possibly be a patch on The Dark Knight, and what the hell was up with casting Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. It looked set to be the too-many-characters clusterfuck of Spiderman 3, and I went in thoroughly prepared for disappointment.

Perhaps my low expectations paid off, because I really rather enjoyed it. As a film, it worked. As a final installment in a trilogy, it worked really well, tying together the themes from the first two installments. It was well acted, and well-directed, though some of the dialogue was a little clunky. It wasn’t a patch on The Dark Knight, but Christopher Nolan retains his record of never having made a bad film. Of course it was problematic as hell, but it’s perfectly possible to be a fan of problematic things and overall, I’m going to say I liked it.

Of course, most of you read this blog for two reasons: to nod along with my anger at social problems, or to tell me to shut up because I’m wrong about social problems. So I feel it’s only right to go through the problems with the messages The Dark Knight Rises is trying to convey.

Quite a few people have pointed out that the film–and Nolan’s Batman trilogy as a whole, and arguably the entirety of the Bat-canon–is right-wing as hell. This is certainly true. It repeats, uncritically, plenty of right-wing myths of both the authoritarian and socially conservative flavours.

Order

The central theme of The Dark Knight Rises is order. The film opens with a big celebration of how Harvey Dent’s legacy has led to a thousand baddies being in prison. Everyone is very happy about that, and nobody mentions the possibility of community rehabilitation for people who are probably small-time crooks (the possibility of better treatment of the people with mental health problems who are sent off to Arkham Asylum is also never addressed, but that is less relevant as for once, the Big Bads of the film are unrelated in any way to the asylum).

As part of the shit-hitting-the-fan moment, Bane (who you can tell is a bad guy by the fact he is bald, wears a mask and keeps murdering the shit out of people) manages to successfully bury almost the entire Gotham Police Department in the sewers. He explains rather dramatically that he has done this to liberate people. Do the people of Gotham at this point embrace their freedom from a rather corrupt police force that seems utterly inept as it is more obsessed with throwing every police car in the city into chasing a grown man dressed up as a rodent? Does FULL COMMUNISM spontaneously break out due to the sudden lack of coercive state forces? Of course it doesn’t. This is partly because Bane is actually kind of a dick and hasn’t bothered reading up on his anarchist theory and has decided to be in charge himself, partly because of the imminent threat of a nuclear bomb, and partly because the film just can’t imagine any possible upside to doing away with all the coppers.

Needless to say, eventually the police manage to get out of the tunnels, and there’s some interesting imagery as they do battle with Bane’s militia: demoralised and disarmed from spending months living down the drain, the cops are a rag-tag bunch in black. Haphazardly, they charge the more regimented and better-armed oppressors. It looks a little bit like riot footage, and we’re supposed to root for the police, who, just for a moment, stripped of their power, are playing the role of the rabble. Unfortunately, at this point, Nolan sees fit to explain to us who we’re meant to be supporting in this battle by showing the cop-bloc tearing past a fluttering, tattered Stars and Stripes, which rather spoils what could have otherwise been quite a cool scene.

Ultimately, the film teaches us, order comes from giving the right people power: the “good” cops like Commissioner Gordon should get to police the city; the “good” rich men like Bruce Wayne should look after all the dangerous weapons and wield them well; only good eggs should be in charge of a big fuckoff nuclear reactor. Anything else, we are shown, leads to loads of people dying. In the Nolanverse, this happens so much that one would think Gotham’s authorities would have a “city held hostage in a metaphor for urban life” plan in place by now.

Individualism  and the greater good

A second, minor theme in the film is social mobility. Characters discuss opportunities for orphans in getting out of the ghetto (unfortunately, it seems a lot of the poor kids have taken to working for Bane). Catwoman explains that she is an improbably-skilled jewel thief because she wants to make a better life for herself, something Bruce Wayne was born with. Bruce Wayne himself loses his entire fortune in a slightly baffling attack on the stock market from the baddies. Later, he is cast into a prison which is a huge hole that anyone is free to leave if they climb out of it, which is definitely not a metaphor for lacking privilege.

After moping for a bit about how much it sucks being stuck in a hole, and failing to climb out of poverty the big hole, Bruce finally has a bit of a pep talk from a nice old man who tells him not to use welfare a rope. Bruce Wayne manages to climb into the light, surprisingly not by pulling himself up by the bootstraps. He returns to Gotham and is reunited with his Bat-copter. We never hear from the other people in the hole again. Presumably they just didn’t try hard enough to get out.

Thrown in with all this is the concept of doing something “for the greater good”: Catwoman’s rejection of self-preservation to help save Gotham is a major turning point for the character, Batman dresses up as a giant rodent and beats up people for the greater good, and then there’s all the nonsense about how only some people are fit for power. It’s not exactly a collectivist message, though: ultimately, it shows us that one has to look after oneself in order to be able to get rid of the guy in charge if he happens to be the wrong guy.

Gender

There are two major female characters in The Dark Knight Rises, both of whom are quite essential to the plot. First we have Selina Kyle/Catwoman, an antagonist and later ally of Bruce Wayne/Batman. She dresses in the impractical leather-and-heels costume beloved of femmes fatales, but is shown to be a clever and resourceful woman in her own right. Even her cat ears have functionality: they double up as little goggles that do… something (no doubt if Bruce Wayne owned those goggles, we would have been treated to a lengthy exposition of their operational parameters from Morgan Freeman). She weaponises her femininity, getting out of sticky situations by performing tearful or sexy, which is not unproblematic, but better than most straight-up uses of tears and flirting. Selina is fiercely independent and individualistic, but eventually Does The Right Thing and helps save Gotham.

Our other major female character is Miranda Tate, who is slightly foreign and quite hot and rich. She’s, um, not as well-developed a character as Catwoman. She agrees with all of Bruce Wayne’s ideas then has sex with him. Then it turns out she’s been a baddie all along and is absolutely crazy and wants to blow up Gotham with a nuclear bomb because she has daddy issues.

The film even passes the Bechdel Test: there’s a scene where Selina explains to her friend Jen why she isn’t that happy with the chaos Bane has wrought in Gotham. I think there’s also a bit where she teaches Jen how to be a better pickpocket, but they’re talking about thieving off a dude there, so it’s a borderline case.

Unfortunately, if we look at where our main female characters end up, it’s another story entirely with each ending up with one of the two Hollywood Approved Character Arc Termini For Female Characters. Miranda ends up dead. A minute before the nuclear bomb goes off, she gloats about how her unstoppable plan has been realised then just sort of dies, despite nothing appearing to be wrong with her. At least she died happy, not knowing that mere seconds later Batman totally foils the shit out of her unstoppable plan. Meanwhile, Selina ends up in the arms of a man, enjoying a Florentine pavement coffee with a not-dead-after-all Bruce Wayne.

Overall, not brilliant representation of women, but better than average for Hollywood.

Go and see it anyway

As I said, the film is problematic, but it is nonetheless enjoyable. Yes, it’s conservative and yes, it’s sexist, but so is pretty much every film ever made, and most of them don’t have well-directed scenes of people in fetish wear beating the living fuck out of each other.


How the police enforce rape culture

Trigger warning: This post discusses rape, rape culture and abuse of power

The police, as we know, have a horrible track record regarding rape. Allegations are often not taken seriously and, in some situations, the police actively fabricate paperwork to make cases go away. It is hardly a surprise that the vast majority of rapes go unreported.

The women who have been let down by the police after finding the courage to report their rapes know this best, and three of them are suing the Met for the terrible treatment they received. Two claimants were attacked by serial rapist John Worboys, who might have been caught earlier had the police listened to the women.

The police didn’t listen. In fact, the opposite was true:

“It rings in my ears, the officer saying ‘a black cab driver just wouldn’t do it’,” she [a survivor] said.

“It felt like they didn’t want to know. In my dreams I’m screaming ‘why won’t you believe me?’.”

My heart goes out to this woman. The crushing dismissal of her report, after such a horrifying violation has happened.

The behaviour of the police here is one of the more overt manifestations of rape culture: not believing the survivor. Maybe the officer acted in good faith, not meaning to maliciously throw out a rape case (as some have). Maybe the officer had just absorbed a few stock phrases and attitude from rape culture.

It doesn’t make a difference. The police have a unique position of power: ultimately, they get to decide if they can be bothered to help a rape survivor. Every moment of following rape culture logic is failing the survivor who asked for their aid. Every piss-poor half-arsed investigation is failing the survivor who has asked for their aid. Every fraudulent document throwing out the case is failing the survivor who asked for their aid. These survivors have chosen to pursue a certain course of action, actively engaging with the state to ask for its aid.

And they are being failed.

Who benefits from this arrangement? Rapists. Each time this happens, things get a little easier for rapists. They know they can get away with it. They know that the odds are in their favour because the state will help them out.

Rape culture only ever benefits rapists, and the police are using their power to reinforce it.

Between 2008 and 2012, there have been 56 documented cases of rape, sexual assault and harassment. In many of these cases, the complaints have been covered up and the survivor disbelieved. In a frighteningly large number of the cases, no criminal charges were ever brought. It is hardly surprising, then, that the police have a vested interest in keeping rape culture in roaringly good health: they are benefiting from it.

I am wholly critical of the notion that the power the police have could ever be used for good, to help overturn rape culture from the top down. At best, police can only be as progressive as the society that spawned them, so they will still be steeped in rape culture. This is without factoring in the psychological effects that turn all coppers into bastards.

There is vast room for improvement before the revolution, though. They can, quite easily, stop so actively reinforcing rape culture by starting from a position of always believing the survivor, even when it’s their mate who stands accused. They can, quite easily, actually bother investigating rape cases properly, respecting the courage of the survivor to come forward. Improvements are possible. I wish I could be less pessimistic about the police force’s will to try.


The police are just ordinary workers, we shouldn’t be too harsh on them

“We are still investigating your complaint, madam, rest assured.” I try not to crack up laughing as Derek makes eye contact. “No, we’re not considering a product recall at present. Have a good day.”

“It’s totally unsafe, it just exploded for no reason whatsoever,” Derek says in a singsong voice. “What was it this time? Left it-”

We are interrupted by a low growl from Simon’s desk, a guttural cry of soul-wrenching frustration. “FUCKING PAPERCLIP!” he ejaculates.

I turn back to Derek. We’re all pissed off at Excel, nothing new. Simon has more of a temper than most of us, and is more easily irritated by that shit, but we’ve all smashed up a few computers when our formulae wouldn’t calculate before. Once, the patronising little fuck from IT ended up with a mouse lodged up his rectum for sneering that sometimes the chart function needed manual axis labelling in that awful supercilious manner of his.

“She left it plugged in,” I tell Derek. He rolls his eyes.

“When are they going to learn? We give them all this advice on how to prevent things from blowing up and it’s still ooh excuse me, I expect you to do something about this, I used my modem for an hour and it exploded.

“It’s women,” I say. “Always expect us to do something for us…”

“Oi,” pipes up Laura, the token woman on the team.

“Present company excluded.” I give Laura a wink. We’re mates, it’s just banter. She’s the best at handling the hysterical women and we all know it.

The cleaner creaks in; it’s getting late and we’re all tired. It’s still not the end of the shift, though. We work in silence, filling in endless reports of things whiny customers expect us to do something about. Keys tap, and Simon makes noises like a couple of dogs fucking. Before the end of the shift, we’ll see the innards of his PC, I suspect.

Laura answers the phone, politely making soothing noises at someone bitching about how she urgently needs our help because her modem has exploded and it’s killed her cat. I look up to Derek to wink, but something behind him catches my eye.

Simon has leapt out of his seat. He snatches the handle of the hoover off the cleaner, and, with almost superhuman speed, beats her head in with the stand-up Dyson. Blood splatters. It’s all over Simon, it’s flicked on to Derek, it’s all over the fucking walls, and who’s going to clean it when the cleaner is now a messy stain on the carpet?

“What the fuck, Si?” I ask.

He points at his monitor. His shoulders are heaving from the exertion, his face puce in anger. At first, all I see is a pink smear of brain material sliding down it, but then I understand fully. Simon’s conditional formatting has gone to fuck.

The supervisor walks in. “What the fuck, Si?”

“Conditional formatting,” Derek, Laura and I say in unison.

The boss takes off his glasses and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Simon,” he says. “I know just how much of a complete cunt Excel is. I get it. I really do. But the customers keep getting arsey about our conduct, and this is going to be a complete cunt to sort out.”

“Can’t we make it look like an accident?” I suggest. I am reminded of the time Derek got pushed to his limits in the post room. The dickhead clerk just wouldn’t give him his fucking parcel, which Derek needed to continue with his work. In the end, we managed to convince the higher-ups that that dickhead had been so tired of his miserable life he’d ended it all with a letter opener and a franking machine. “She tripped over the wire.”

In our line of work, we’re fairly familiar with the horrible catastrophes that can befall people who don’t adequately follow advice about safety with electronics.

“Could work,” the boss says. “But listen, boys. We’ve got to try and control our tempers. We’re not going to be able use that excuse forever. It’s already a bit hot after Tony blinded that bitch in the canteen who tried to serve him fish fingers.”

A moment of quiet contemplation. We all completely understand what happened to Tony. He was hungry, and missed all the good food because he was stuck on the phone to a customer. He fucking hates fish fingers. What else was he meant to do?

“Whatever. We’ll give it a go,” says our supervisor. “Si, I hope I can cover your arse. Don’t fucking do this again, OK?”

After this harsh dressing down, Simon looks like a deflated balloon with tragic little sad-dog eyes. It’s kind of pathetic, but I sympathise. We’ve all done shit like this before and usually we don’t get chewed out like this. The supervisor leaves, looking pleased with himself. Again, I get where he’s coming from. He’s the one who has to field all the shit.

Derek steps over the bloodied corpse on the floor and pats Simon on the arm.

“It’s OK, mate. You’re tired. Tell you what, you go home and we’ll finish up for you.”

Life comes back into Simon’s eyes. “Thanks.”

“We’re all behind you, mate,” I add.

It’s a tough job, ours, and we get far too much shit when we fuck up. Could you do it?


The rejection of the notion of enthusiastic consent: a facet of rape culture

Enthusiastic consent is a simple notion: a move beyond “no means no” into “yes means yes”. It means communicating about what you want in bed. It means checking if your partner(s) is into whatever you’re doing. It’s easy and it’s hot.

Most people tend to Get It. Some know the terminology, the principles, the politics behind it. Others just possess an essential skill for being a good fuck. These are the sorts of people I tend to surround myself with.

I forget, then, that some people don’t get it. It is most obvious when engaging as a feminist with rape apologists: when pointing out a sleeping woman can’t possibly give enthusiastic consent, the very notion of being able to say yes (rather than the absence of a no) is rejected. They might lash out by saying that that would somehow “ruin sex” (spoiler alert: it doesn’t) or that that would render a lot of sex non-consensual (spoiler alert: it does).

The rejection hums in the background like white noise. It crops up in jokes (“it’s not rape if you shout surprise!”) and advertising. I realised just how widespread it was when I read this piece of sex advice from Tracey Cox (self-identified “sexpert” with a good publicist) on Lovehoney (who sell mid-range sex toys generally aimed at the male gaze). A man wrote in complaining his wife wouldn’t give him oral sex after a bad experience. Cox replied:

Wow! This happened TEN YEARS AGO and she’s still using that as the reason why she doesn’t want to give you oral sex?

It’s one thing being a little miffed at your husband coming in your mouth when you aren’t expecting it. Quite another, refusing to give you oral sex for a decade afterward. I mean, really? It sounds like you have good sex but I think you’re within your rights to suggest, nicely, that perhaps it’s time she, well, got over it.

She then goes on to give some tips to help this man coax a woman into participating in a sexual encounter with which she was not comfortable including this:

At that point, she removes her mouth and continues using her hand to finish you off. If – shock horror – it happens again and you ejaculate into her mouth, have a box of tissues next to her. She then just spits it out. Easy. Course, she could try swallowing it and stop behaving like semen is sulphuric acid, but perhaps you could work on that later!

The trivialisation of the woman’s issues with oral sex and complete lack of any consideration that she’s not into that and that’s OK is a more subtle indicator of this wider societal rejection of enthusiastic consent.

In trying to elucidate why this belief is so prevalent, the misogynists are a good place to start: at least they’re honest about their disdain for sexual autonomy. They think it’s too hard, and that a shift in thinking would stop them being able to rape whoever they feel like. And that’s a gear the perpetual motion machine of rape culture.

It pervades thought, and leads to exactly the sort of ghastly advice given by Tracey Cox, who has internalised some deeply problematic beliefs (I am going to kindly assume she isn’t writing sensationalist crap knowingly repeating societal beliefs to make a few quid). The truth is, nobody has “get over it”, nobody has to do anything with which they are uncomfortable, and a “yes” is just as important to respect as a “no”.

It may feel difficult to fight something so thoroughly ingrained. But it’s a battle that can be won and must be fought.


Why rape jokes aren’t funny: the science

There’s been an awful lot of discussion surrounding rape jokes this week. It all seemed to start with a “comedian” named Daniel Tosh deciding to announce that he thought it would be funny if an audience member got gang-raped. Numerous comedians waded in to defend this piece of alleged humour. Tosh’s fans cheerily threatened to rape anyone who thought that maybe the joke wasn’t on. Accusations of humourlessness flew around.

But here’s the thing. It wasn’t humour. It flies in the face of funny.

There’s been rather a lot of research into humour and how it works. One of the major veins in this research is Incongruity Theory, which I touched on in explaining why Jeremy Clarkson isn’t funny. Essentially, Incongruity Theory posits that humour is the state of realising  incongruity between a concept in a certain situation and the real objects which are thought to be related to the concept. This is what is almost always missing from rape jokes: there’s no incongruity. Rape is a horribly commonplace occurrence. There’s no incongruity. It’s just something that’s there, humming in the background. It’s like the antiquated comedians asking “what’s the deal with buses?”.

Another theory in play is Benign Violation Theory. Under this theory, humour happens when the recipient receives a threat to how things “should be”, the threatening situation seems benign, and they can see both of these interpretations at once. One of the conditions to be satisfied for benign violations to occur is psychological distance: the ability of a person to feel far away from the threatening situation. When it comes to rape, once again, this is a tricky condition to be met. Women are brought up to fear rape in the hope that it will somehow make us be more careful and therefore magically stop us getting raped. And let us not forget the sheer numbers of survivors.

The theories offer an explanation of some people who might find rape jokes funny: people who have not been paying attention to the world around them. The privileged, the wilfully ignorant. They might find rape jokes funny. It says a lot more about them.

Imagine that you are a comedian. You tell a rape joke, and 20 men in the audience laugh. Of these guffawing pricks, 19 of them are, at best, tedious little solipsists, who probably watch Top Gear and would be just as amused if you asked about the deal with buses. The other one is a rapist, who will go home thinking his behaviour is perfectly normal and everyone’s in on the joke.  If you find being this comedian a remotely desirable situation, please report to your nearest neighbourhood SCUM chapter for an induction that definitely doesn’t involve razorblades and meathooks.

The problem with rape jokes extends beyond only being funny to narrow-minded wankers and rapists: there are real-world effects. Some studies suggest that after exposure to sexist comedy, men are more likely to discriminate against women and less likely to donate money to women’s organisations.

Ultimately, the humour fall flat at every level. Unlike a hackneyed Knock Knock joke, though, rape jokes can have dangerous consequences.

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Further reading:

The anatomy of a joke

Dear comedians and people like me who think they’re comedians: please stop

Feminists don’t think all men are rapists. Rapists do.


Emmeline Pankhurst and FSU

I wrote a little piece for Unlock Democracy about Emmeline Pankhurst and how she was a bit of a terrorist. The debate has so far been quite good; lots of people bemoaning the fact she joined the Tories and supported wars rather than the things she smashed.


“Colour journalism”: coded apologism for violence against women

A few weeks ago, a young woman journalist in Egypt was severely sexually assaulted and was brave enough to share her story. She was rewarded with a comment thread full of people telling her she must have been making it up. Many were the standard shit, but others took a different tack: because she was a journalist, she must have been lying.

This is exemplified in some rather ghastly tweets from @leninology, who said:

Natasha Smith’s account of being raped in Egypt is dripping with racist poison, and related very much in the style of ‘colour’ journalism.

When asked to clarify what he meant by colour journalism, he did:

basically, it’s there every time there’s a case of fraudulent journalism and it should always raise alarm bells.

Thanks to the clarification, there is no way this can be construed but as “this woman was making it up”.

It is hardly the only instance of woman journalists speaking out about experiences of gendered abuse being disbelieved in this fashion. If you’re feeling particularly strong (and I wouldn’t recommend it) check out any unmoderated comment thread on any article in this vein.

They argue that journalists exaggerate and therefore this woman must be exaggerating her experience all for the point of a good story, and, often implicitly we therefore shouldn’t believe this woman speaking out in the public sphere about an experience of violence or abuse.

It’s a coded method of articulating an age-old rape culture trope, often among those who pretend to be progressive. These people know they look like raging shits if they outright say they do not believe a first-hand account, so they dress it up in a faux-concern for press standards. They pretend that they don’t think all women are liars, just those who speak out via the mainstream media, because they’re journalists and for some reason that makes them different from all other women.

It kills two birds with one stone, when people throw around accusations of colour journalism. It allows faux-progressives to attempt to put space between themselves and their misogynistic views, and it contributes to silencing women. The phrase “I don’t believe you” keeps us quiet; it is used as a weapon. Cloaking it makes no difference and achieves the same ends.

The truth is that statistically speaking, these women are unlikely to be making it up. False allegations are staggeringly rare, and their incidence is inflated by proponents of a culture of violence to allow it to thrive. Yes, the mainstream media is thoroughly fucked, and riddled with lies, but it is worth remembering that these lies tend to be about others rather than an unbroken stream of a woman talking about an experience she is astronomically unlikely to be lying about. A woman talking about abuse, violence or even rape is never an appropriate forum for a debate about press standards, and to say otherwise is no more than veiled apologism.

When I last wrote about rape culture’s use of “I don’t believe you” as a weapon, I concluded that we need to meet this weapon with a loud chorus of belief, in every comment thread, in every tweet. This still stands, and must stand every single day.

Update: I have since spoken to leninology and he accepts the implications of embellishment he made were out of order


Pride: a staggering lack of imagination.

This year’s Pride celebrations have been drastically cut back, hacking some of the best bits such as outdoor drinking, big glittery floats and anything happening in Soho (unfortunately, Boy George will still be performing)

The reason? Not enough money. Boris Johnson cut thousands from the Pride budget, and the corporate sponsors haven’t dug deep enough in their pockets to provide the money required to pay for policing and relevant permissions for floats, according to a statement from Pride London.

The writers of the statement are, correctly, furious about the corporate mess that Pride has become, in particular the fact that vast amounts of money are needed for Pride to go ahead and they are dependent on allowing businesses to whack their name all over the event to procure this. The statement writers suggest a need for discussion about how things could work in the future, although the only thing proposed here is more “openness and accountability” as if this is the magic bullet to fix everything.

The statement, while making some good points, ultimately attempts to offend no-one. This is a pervasive problem with queer rights campaigning on the whole: in the determination not to rock the boat, we are hopelessly cast adrift. The mainstream control the discourse and we are obliged to answer them on their own terms. This has lead to a distinct lack of imagination from the queer community in our demands: we ask for “equality” in a way which translates to merely “blending in with the heteros”.

Pride was once all about defiance, angry queers being unabashedly visible, a movement growing out of the Stonewall riots. These days, everything seems to be precisely targeted at avoiding offending the straights.

For Pride to work in the future we need to return to these radical roots. The original marches did not need money or corporate sponsorship. There was no need to set up a big stage to showcase pop stars: that wasn’t what it was about. It was about freedom and liberation.

We also shouldn’t be paying for our own policing. The police will show up whether we want them there or not; their presence makes nothing safer with them shepherding us from A to B. The same goes for floats. If we want to build a big fuckoff float and shut down a road, we absolutely don’t need to bother with paying for this.

We have pandered for long enough, hampered by our lack of imagination. In the years since Stonewall, we have moved to a larger cell, and that’s it. It’s time for a real change.


Things I learned today: Moff’s Law

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about how totally fucking sexist the portrayal of Irene Adler was in the Stephen Moffatt adaptation of Sherlock. Judging by the comments I received, it was by far the most controversial thing I have ever written, prompting an epic comment thread which I wouldn’t recommend reading, and instead would suggest spending your evening edging bamboo shoots under your toenails.

Much of this thread was people explaining to me–in tones ranging from “furious” to “incandescent”–that I should stop analysing because it was just a show and I should really just relax.

It gives me an ironic sense of glee, then, to have discovered the existence of Moff’s Law, which draws attention to precisely this sort of nonsense:

As comments continue in a feminist [social justice] discussion of pop culture, the probability of someone saying “why do you have to analyze it? it’s just a movie/cartoon/book!” approaches 1.

Well, quite. Rapidly approaching 1. Like, approaching so quickly it looks a bit blue.

When I first saw the name, I assumed it was named after discussions surrounding Stephen Moffatt’s sexist oeuvre: not only have I got shit, but so have others drawing attention to bullshit in most of his other works.

Any similarities are, alas, purely coincidental. But what a beautiful coincidence it is.

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Thanks to @stfumisogynists who alerted me to the existence of the law.


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