Category Archives: acab

A guide for men who want to avoid getting their lives ruined

Content note: This post discusses rape

At the time of writing, we see another MP add his voice to Nigel “drunken overfamiliarity” Evans (whose own defence argued he was “just” a creep who preyed on much younger men) in making life easier for rapists. Mark Pritchard, who was accused of rape and predictably cleared by policemen, suggests a “review” of anonymity, not making it clear whether he wants anonymity for defendants (stops victims coming forward in cases of repeat offenders) or to end anonymity for victims (I don’t think I need to explain to you how awful an idea this is). The rationale for this defence of rapists? Poor little diddums feels like his life has been ruined. Meanwhile, a chorus of men are continuing to bleat that unless Ched Evans gets to continue an illustrious football career his poor darling life has been ruined forever.

Apparently, being accused of rape ruins men’s lives. So, I present to men a two-word guide in how not to rape.

Don’t rape.

It’s really, really simple. If you don’t want to be accused of rape, don’t rape people.

Unfortunately, even this advice seems too complex for men, whose precious little manbrains cannot seem to comprehend this very basic advice, so allow me to break it down for you.

1. If she’s drunk, don’t have sex with her. Alcohol affects consent. If she’s been drinking a lot, she won’t be able to consent, so having sex with her is rape. Even if she seems like she wants to, hold off. If she’s really into you, she’ll still want to have sex with you when she’s sober. If you don’t think you can get laid unless she’s drunk, the problem lies squarely with you. Yes, you. Sort out your fucking self-esteem and only have sex with sober women.

2. Accept she can change her mind. Sometimes you might have got down to it and you’re really horny and then she changes her mind. Stop. She doesn’t consent to anything else happening. If you continue, that’s rape. And if you can’t control yourself once you’ve got a boner, at best you’re a pretty terrible shag. At worst, you’re a rapist.

3. Consent to one thing isn’t consent to others. So, you’re doing some fun sex things and you’re both enjoying yourselves. That’s great. But wait! You want to do something else, but she isn’t all that keen. Don’t do it, then. If you do, that could be rape. She’s consented to something, but not this other thing. Respect that. Go back to doing the mutually fun sex things.

4. Talking makes you a better lover. “What would you like to do?” is a hot question. It’s also a fucking mandatory question. Ask and listen, lots. This will make you a better lay, and also stop you from raping someone.

5. If in doubt, don’t. If you have the slightest doubt in your mind that she is consenting willingly and completely, don’t have sex. Sex is not a basic human right, not an entitlement. You can do without it. Fucking do without it. The consequences of not doing are far smaller than the consequences of going ahead. I hear it could ruin a man’s life…


2014 in review

Content note: this post discusses sexual violence and police violence

And so we reach the end of the year, and despite promising myself I wouldn’t do this, I am doing one of those icky “look back over the past year” kind of things, I’m doing it anyway (I was also meant to stop smoking this year, and I didn’t).

In truth, it’s been a little difficult to write this because there’s been a huge split between the personal and the political for me in 2014. In my personal life, 2014 has been brilliant. I love, and am loved. I have some financial security for the first time in my life. I managed to get quite a lot of my novel written. Everything’s coming up stavvers. It wasn’t all brilliant, of course. I wounded my fanny and got stalked by trolls.

However, 2014 has been pretty uniformly dire outside of my own personal little bubble, and I’ve had a lot to be pissed off about. Each week since the killing of Michael Brown, US cops have taken another Black life. The situation is also bad in the UK: the same pattern of killing and then lying keeps on and our pigs find ways of murdering without even having to carry guns. I haven’t commented on this much, because it’s not my place as a white woman, but I’ve almost weekly shared some content in my post round-ups which I thoroughly recommend you read. All of it. Take an afternoon.

In the UK, our political situation is looking pretty terrible, and it’s unlikely to change in the near future. With a general election looming in 2015, things are going to become completely insufferable. It’s the media’s fault, of course. The media has a fascination with leaders and white men, so we’ve been presented with two ghastly choices: do want Nigel Farage and fascism, or Russell Brand and the curse of left misogyny, God and some really badly-developed thought? One cannot move without tripping over either of these clowns. Of course, this is a false dichotomy: there’s heaps of possibilities, but a media owned by white men cannot conceptualise something which doesn’t involve dreadful white men flapping their awful mouths off.

The awful people who are already in government are making a right fucking hash of things too. We have Theresa May, determined to murder every single migrant, starting with the most vulnerable, like LGBT women. We have Iain Duncan Smith, who is trying to murder the poor through violently stopping their means of subsistence. They’ve been as nasty as ever this year, but come 2015 we’re unlikely to see any improvement even if the red party get elected.

Meanwhile, men who have been in government are emerging as paedophiles and rapists. A constantly-stalling investigation is ongoing into the child abuse rings at Westminster. Unfortunately, because cops and politicians are in each other’s pockets, corruption keeps cropping up and things grind to a halt again as yet more coverups come to light. I’m also a little concerned about the men who are still in Westminster. Nigel Evans, although cleared, was ruled even by the judge to be a complete fucking creep and were it not for his status, I suspect they may have thrown the book at him.

This has been, overall, a pretty good year for violent misogynists. Rapist Ched Evans waltzed out of prison, and, while Sheffield United chose to do the right thing (eventually) and drop him like the turd he is, it’s still entirely possible he may get to continue his illustrious career at another club, all the while continually proving he has learned nothing about consent. Shia LaBeouf spoke out about his experience of rape… to a near-universal chorus of disbelief from men. These were the sort of men who love to bring up “but men get raped too” when women talk about rape, but nonetheless failed to show any support to a male survivor. We also saw misogynist Elliot Rodger go on a killing spree while men tried to downplay the fact this was directly motivated by misogyny. Meanwhile popular left rag The Morning Star spike an article about violent misogynist Steve Hedley, because the left still hasn’t got its affairs in order there.

2014 has been very bad indeed for those of us with uteruses. In Ireland, many of us heard with horror the story of a dead woman whose body was kept on life support while her family were forced to watch her decompose because she had had the misfortune of dying while pregnant. This ghoulish act of violence was a direct result of Ireland’s absurdly restrictive abortion rights, and the judge only ruled that life support could be turned off because the foetus had no chance of surviving. Meanwhile in the UK, the situation is better, but last month our abortion rights were restricted further as sex-selective abortions were banned.

It was also a pretty bad year for sex workers, with momentum growing for the “Swedish model” which does not do anything to make the lives of sex workers safer, and many sex workers say will make things worse. Transmisogyny, too, continues to run rife, with transmisogynists turning up to picket lesbian pride parades and disrupt feminist conferences.

Alas, feminist movement and resistance is spotty at best. I am hoping, perhaps, that we can get our affairs in order in 2015, because we’re going to need to fight all the harder. For this to happen, we need to drop a lot of the crap we’ve been pulling. We need to inventory ourselves, honestly assessing what we may be doing wrong and where we are complicit in kyriarchical violence. We need to challenge violent thought where we see it, so that we may stand shoulder to shoulder with sisters of all colours, all genders, with our disabled sisters and our queer sisters and our trans sisters. Together, we are many, and we must overcome these divisions in 2015 if we are to stand a chance of winning.


Why I’m not brimming with confidence over Theresa May’s plans to criminalise emotional abuse

Content note: This post discusses emotional abuse

In the latest in a string of policies which sound good and are incredibly cheap to implement, Theresa May will announce plans to put emotional abuse on a par with physical domestic violence. This sounds like nothing to object to, a long-awaited recognition of the seriousness of the coercive dynamics which so often sustain abusive relationships and hit survivors hard.

There is a catch, though, and it’s a catch which means I severely doubt that any perpetrators will find themselves prosecuted for something they have blatantly done: the whole thing hinges on telling the police.

The way the police tend to work is through talking about what happened. You list specific incidents. This happened, and then this happened, and then that happened. Imagine having to do this as a survivor of emotional abuse!

The very clever thing about emotional abuse, the thing that really helps abusers keep things going is how petty it sounds if you recount a blow-by-blow history of what happened to you. I’ve never gone into detail about what I experienced in an emotionally abusive relationship, because under the flicker of gaslight, it all sounds rather ridiculous. I could tell you all about some drama involving a duvet or how I needed to watch what my face was doing during sex, but to be quite honest, I’m embarrassed to speak about these things, because everything would require so much detailed explanation of the entire context, and when boiled down to a story it still all sounds quite trivial.

Emotional abuse is a pattern which is hard to explain, and reinforced by abusers making you feel like everything is silly and you’re overreacting.

I wouldn’t explain what happened to me in an incident-specific format to a friend. Hell, it took a lot of time for me to open up about these things to a therapist because they sounded so probably-nothing to me. So why the fuck would I want to speak to a hostile police officer about all of this? The police are known to suck at talking to vulnerable women at the best of times, and this is a situation which is so intrinsically delicate that I cannot imagine any survivors wanting to take the leap and report to the cops. The effects and mechanisms of emotional abuse just present too much of a barrier to this happening.

What would actually help survivors of emotional abuse a lot more is one of the strongest weapons against abusers: knowledge for everyone. Emotional abuse is so little-understood, and that needs to change. An informed populace, with the level of knowledge about what emotional abuse is and the understanding that sometimes what sounds trivial and petty is anything but, could join forces with survivors against abusers. It would be so much easier to fight emotional abuse if we started from a position of supporting and believing survivors, knowing that what might sound like nothing is probably something, especially if she’s taken the step of speaking out.

It would all be so much easier if we could see the difference between little squabbles and emotional abuse, but the problem is that our culture normalises coercive control in relationships to the point that these things are indistinguishable to us. Survivors know the difference, and we should listen to them.

I don’t expect the government to get working on tackling emotional abuse in a way that would actually work, any more than they tackle other forms of violence against women. I have no faith in them; they’re not the route. So we must hack around them, supporting survivors in the way that they want us to.


Raping women is legal if it’s a policeman doing it

Content warning: this post discusses rape and police violence

The CPS today explained that they’ve decided it’s not illegal for policemen to pretend to be real people, insinuate themselves into the lives of women it’s literally their job to try and incarcerate, and trick them into sex and childbearing. Their full justification for this is pretty grim reading, riddled with rape apologism and a soupçon of cissexism, and you can read it here.

I cannot even begin to imagine the slap in the face this is for the survivors, who have worked hard to drag the violations they experienced into the light. It is revolting that what happened to them is not considered an act of violence, when it so patently is. The law, as always, is all backwards, set up to protect the powerful and allow them to perpetrate acts of violence against women with impunity.

The fact is, these men lied. They lied about who they were, about what they did, about what they believed. They built a castle of lies, and tricked women into building intimate relationships with them, for the purposes of information gathering. The endgame of this deception was to lock up these women, and everyone these women knew, to silence them and to stop them. There is probably not a woman alive who would actively consent to what these policemen had in mind. This is why we discuss what happened in terms of rape: because of the lack of consent. The legal system, for the most part, defines what is and isn’t rape around what they want their chums to get away with, so by their standards, of course it isn’t rape.

It’s not that the legal system isn’t fit for purpose, because it is. It’s just that the purpose it serves is not in our interests.

There’s a knock-on effect of all this, trickling down to women like me. Under rape culture, we’re paranoid about getting raped–and it’s a just paranoia, because it’s phenomenally likely to happen to a lot of us at some point. Under this state-sanctioned rape culture, there’s this additional retroactive paranoia for those of us who aren’t good girls, who make likely targets for a predatory cop. I find myself flicking through the comrades I have slept with, wondering desperately to myself if any of them were cops. There were those I let myself get close to, and then they disappeared. Were they undercover policemen, who got what they wanted and fucked off back to base?

To my knowledge, they were all just arseholes, and while all cops are bastards, all bastards aren’t cops. However, the niggling, wearing anxiety is still there, and I suspect this is precisely what the pigs want. Ultimately, they want us frightened and ground-down, as it positions us as unable to resist.

I’ve said before that being deeply critical of the police is a very important feminist position to hold, and I’ll say it again until I’m blue in the face. These men are a gang of perpetrators, who will gladly inflict sexual violence upon us to suit their needs. Never forget that.


ACAB is a feminist issue

Content note: this post discusses violence against women and police violence

There is a gang of mostly men who have a monopoly on perpetrating and enabling violence against women. They recruit just enough women to do their dirty work for them, to hide the fact that they are the biggest perpetrators of male violence. We can see them for what they are.

Just today, we have two stories of gross abuse of women coming from the police. It has taken almost thirty years for the police to finally be blamed for shooting Cherry Groce, causing her to live out the rest of her life paralysed from the waist down and eventually die from the injury. Almost thirty years, a woman’s life destroyed, from a senseless act of violence for which she didn’t get to see justice in her lifetime. Meanwhile, in the realm of inciting violence and abuse of women, we see a story where the Met encouraged their Twitter followers to pile on a woman for complaining about the noise their helicopters make.

I suppose for me, this is somewhat personal. Once again, I’ll give a tiny sample of stories, limited to within the last month, of the police acting as perpetrators and enablers of violence against women as there’s just too fucking many, even limited to people I know personally. There’s my friend Ellen, who was assaulted, wrongly arrested, held without her medication and then put through a malicious court case and left with PTSD from the experience. There’s my friend Sam, who believed the white liberal lies, called the police and was blamed for the abuse she was receiving, perhaps because she isn’t the nice white girl the police like.

It’s a fact that the police have the power to hit women. It’s a fact they have the power to lock women up. And it’s a fact that they and their apologists will blame their victims for what happened to them.

It’s a fact that police are positioned as the gatekeepers for getting justice for violence against women. It’s a fact that they fail survivors over and over again. And it’s a fact that due to the choices they make, they enable abuse of countless women.

If you’re a nice white middle class girl, it can be hard to see the police for what they are. To you, they’ll be that nice jolly bobby who helped you get the people who tweeted rude things to you sent to prison. It’ll be the organisation who you can work with because they’ll definitely improve at helping out all the abstract women who had trouble.

They are not. Ask sex workers. Ask Black women. Ask women of colour. Ask trans women. Ask any woman who is not a good girl. They are the aggressors, the perpetrators, the ones who attack already-marginalised women while the privileged cheer from the sidelines.

A coherent, inclusive and effective feminism can and must be deeply critical of the police, and begin from a position of utter abolition of this structural perpetrator of male violence. I don’t doubt such a proposal will be met with harrumphing, cries of NOT ALL PIGGIES and eventually tending towards the hope I get raped and then let’s see how anti-police I am (pre-empting that by saying already happened, didn’t report).

If you think the police are on your side, that is the utmost manifestation of privilege. For most women, they’re just abusers in a silly hat.


In which I review a book that I read: Playing The Whore

Since I heard that Melissa Gira Grant wrote a book about sex work, I’ve been desperate to get my grubby mitts on it. Having now read Playing The Whore: The Work Of Sex Work, I want to recommend that every single one of you reads this fucking book.

Weighing in at just 132 pages, I’m astounded Gira Grant managed to pack in so much vital–and radical–analysis in such an accessible format. Central to her thesis is the concept of a “prostitute imaginary”, a cobbled-together bundle of myths which occupies our minds. These myths are systematically examined and dismantled through a feminist lens. Everything you thought you knew about sex work is a lie, it seems. Did you know, for example, that among a sample of over 21, 000 women who do sex work in West Bengal, there were 48, 000 reports of violence perpetrated by police, but only 4000 perpetrated by customers?

Gira Grant has a theory as to why this may be the case. The forces of public imagination surrounding sex work run strong. Misogynists, law enforcement and feminists alike view a sex worker as always working, as nothing but a sex worker. She (as Gira Grant points out, this stereotype is always of a cis woman) is somehow deviant and subjected to stigma for her deviance. Simultaneously, focus is on representations of sex, rather than the concrete. We only see sex workers being arrested, or peek through a peephole to see what we want to see. With all of this going on, the voices of sex workers can easily be ignored, creating this situation:

These demands on their speech [in testimony in court and the media], to both convey their guilt and prove their innocence, are why, at the same time that sex work has made strides toward recognition and popular representations that defy stereotypes, prostitutes, both real and imaginary, still remain the object of social control. This is how sex workers are still understood: as curiosities, maybe, but as the legitimate target of law enforcement crackdowns and charitable concerns–at times simultaneously. And so this is where the prostitute is still most likely to be found today, where those who seek to “rescue” her locate her: at the moment of her arrest.

The book travels in a spiral, revisiting the same points over and over again to the joint problems of violence and coercion from law enforcement, and how other women, especially feminists, aren’t helping–and in fact, attempts to rescue can often make things worse, such as demonstrated in a case study in Cambodia, where attempts to “rescue” sex workers have led to many women being dragged away to “rehabilitation camps”, repurposed prisons where women have died or set to work long shifts behind a sewing machine.

A lot of what we as feminists have been doing wrong is related to “whore stigma”, which Gira Grant explains goes beyond simple misogyny:

The fear of the whore, or of being the whore, is the engine that drives the whole thing [a culture which is dangerous for sex workers]. That engine could be called “misogyny”, but even that word misses something: the cheapness of the whore, how easily she might be discarded not only due to her gender, but to her race, her class. Whore is maybe the original intersectional insult.

It is a desire to reverse away from “whore stigma”, which predominantly affects sex workers, but can also hit women who are not sex workers, which links with a lot of problems within mainstream feminism: Gira Grant theorises that it is no coincidence that feminists who are anti-sex work are also often transphobic. And, likewise, anti-sex work laws are often used against trans women and women of colour, from unfair targeting for stop and search, to disproportionate incarceration.

It makes for uncomfortable reading at times, this litany of our own mistakes as feminists, and perhaps nowhere is it clearer than in an analysis of objectification, and the feminist line that sex workers increase objectification of women. The evidence upon which these assumptions rest is dealt with in short order, and Gira Grant highlights the dehumanisation and objectification of sex workers at the hands of women, as silent props, and, often depicted in a frighteningly demeaning fashion.

In dismantling the myths, Playing The Whore offers glimpses of the reality of sex work, the diversity of all that this umbrella covers. The book explains neatly how sex work fits in among other forms of work, of how once upon a time, sex workers and housewives were sisters in arms. At times, I wish the book were far longer, as I feel as though there are tantalising hints of analysis to come which never quite develops but is merely teased. Although this book is neither explicitly anti-capitalist nor explicitly ACAB, conclusions of this nature bubble under the surface, never spelled out, for this is not quite within its scope in its current form.

This book is a must-read feminist book. I would go so far as to place it as a crucial Feminism 101 text. The first feminist book I ever read way Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs, whose ideas I am still struggling to unlearn, as it gave me a shameful attitude towards sex workers and femmes for years I will never get back. Playing The Whore casts a critical eye on patriarchy while actively dismantling the stigma many women face, and teaches the central feminist values of listening, and solidarity. For readers more versed in feminist theory and praxis, it allows us to evaluate our past mistakes and encourages us to rebuild on more solid ground. By rights, this book could and should shake up feminism for the better.

But sadly, I fear it will not, for I fear the forces Gira Grant outlines are too powerful to be brought down by this smart little book. We have had centuries of clinging to a prostitute imaginary while coming up with numerous excuses to silence the voices of sex workers. I believe that this book will largely be ignored by the mainstream with their stake in speaking for and over sex workers. A recent review of Playing The Whore by a liberal cis white feminist took umbrage to Gira Grant’s centring of sex workers in a book about sex work, and decided that she would rather read about “demand”. Mainstream feminism wants sex workers decentred from discussions directly pertinent to their livelihood, it wants to keep sex workers on the margins. It will not listen.

Gira Grant knows this, which is why she concludes with a rousing cry for decriminalisation, in the hope that the rest will follow. This conclusion, and the solidarity Gira Grant asks for are concrete things which we as feminists who do not do sex work can support.


Of course the police are more interested in rude tweets than violence against women

Content note: this post discusses violence against women 

In news that is pissing me off today, the Twitter is inherently abusive line is out in the media again. This time the victim is Stan Collymore, who was sent racist and threatening tweets. The police are, of course, interested and investigating.

Now, of course, it is unacceptable to send racist and threatening tweets to anyone, but I’m getting a little concerned about how much of an interest they are showing in rude tweets. This isn’t the first time they’ve swooped in to help out Stan Collymore: late in 2012, a man was arrested for sending a racist tweet to Stan Collymore. Indeed, arresting people for tweets seems to be a new top policing priority, in sharp contrast with how they deal with violence against women.

Let’s look at Stan Collymore’s record. He violently attacked one woman, including kicking her in the head three times. As far as I can discern, the police didn’t get involved at all. He then went on to threaten to kill his wife and burn down her parents’ home. This time the police took the matter slightly more seriously, and charged him for a threat to destroy property, because apparently the structural integrity of a building is the most important thing here.

So why are the police far more gung-ho in going after internet trolls than perpetrators of domestic violence? Ultimately, it boils down to two things.

Firstly, they don’t really give a flying fuck about violence against women. This is why so few of us report our rapes. This is why we don’t trust the police to keep our violent partners away from us. We’ve seen their record, and we know that they’ll violate any trust we put in them. And many women, particularly marginalised women, have themselves been victims of violence perpetrated by police, because that’s their job: to beat us into submission. The role of the police is to keep everything as it is–and this includes protecting a structure which enables violence against women.

Put more charitably, the police are a product of a broken society, born and raised in it, and then paid to enforce this broken society. Is it any surprise that they reflect and enforce patriarchal control of women?

And secondly, democratised communication scares the shit out of the establishment. It is a way people can get messages out, outside of the controlled circumstances in which we may usually have a platform. Things get out that threaten the system, and that frightens them. Of course they will instrumentalise the very real experiences of misogyny and racism in order to try to clamp down on their own real enemy: their critics. It is important to remember, when thinking of police interventions into online abuse, to remember this. Twitter was blamed for the riots, while simultaneously lauded for causing the spread of democracy in the Middle East. These are the same mechanisms at work in both cases, and basically the state would rather keep such uprisings further away from home.

It is hardly a surprise that tweets will be policed more heavily than kicking a woman in the head. It is an inevitable reflection of how things are.


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