The tag lines from these poster series all turn the "obvious" interpretation inside out. For instance
Big text: "It was 2:00 A.M. I offered her a ride thinking you never know..." In tiny letters: "...if the guy who'd been after my friend all night might try something. No way I was taking off without her."
And I think that's pretty great! I appreciate that they're all like that -- that all have a "I'm watching out for her" theme where the standard social scripts would expect sexual violence.
And reallly, I don't want to see less of that. I'm not complaining, at all, about the good intentions. And it really, really is a good idea to keep an eye on each other.
But! I'd like to see some corresponding posters about intervening with the guys (and it's mostly guys) who are the implied threats the friends are being proactive about in the posters.
Because, seriously, each poster treats "those guys" as if they were unchangeable, unmovable Chthonic Gods of hearth and date rape. Instead of, you know, social beings who are subject to peer pressure, care about reputation, fear of seeming ignorant or stupid, threats to self-preservation, appeal to reason, etc., just like all other social beings are.
I particularly appreciated the "Don't Be That Guy" campaigns coming out of Canada. They're directed... well... directly at potential predators.
And yes, I completely understand that a disproportionate amount of sexual violence and coercion is perpetrated by a remarkably small percentage of predators. And I get that, by and large, those predators aren't going to be directly affected by any kind of appeals to their better nature or to guilt trips or peer pressure.
But! By tackling both sides of the perpetrator/victim problem, and not just the victim side, by setting those kinds clear social expectations in media we can still reduce the still very-large volume of assaults by the merely oblivious, ignorant, or intoxicated.
Which, in turn, will tend to make it much, much harder for the serial predators to "pass" as just one of the gang.
Final point, the other reason I'd like to see both sides addressed is that the tone of the ads is still a little patronizing: the whole "she can't help herself so I'll help her." It's really important to communicate that just because someone needs help they're not helpless. Because that kind of "good man gallantry" also perpetuates the attitude that without intervention women are fair game. Let's not be those guys either!
For Aikin, Goldberg, and evidently too many others, anything less than the most brutal forms of assault by stranger doesn't count as sexual violence at all.
There are many, many ramafications of this. The big one being that virtually all victims to the left of Goldberg in the graph, above, are women and girls. And while there are certainly exceptions, virtually none are men or boys. Furthermore, perpetrators of sexual violence to the left of Goldberg on the spectrum are almost exclusively men and boys. And because most people seem to believe the entire range extends only from Aikin to Goldberg it really seems as if all the stereotypes about gender, from the bitterest anti-feminist to the bitterest feminist, must be true.
And if all that was to it then the stereotypes would be true.
However it's not true. Aikin and Goldberg's standards are squeezed waaaaay over to the left of the spectrum. There's substantially more. In fact I'm pretty sure even Goldberg (though probably not Aikin) understands this. But as I suggest in the chart, that public understanding still fades pretty quickly to a point that there can be bafflement or confusion (or calculated sexual-violence denial) about the so-called "gray area."
Somewhat further to the right mainstream sexual-violence advocates understand that there's no "gray area," and understands as well that workplace and street or social sexual harassment is sexual violence and. There's general (though not yet complete) agreement that young men and boys can be victims and even that for the most part, that "stolen kisses" and unwanted hugs count. Although somewhere around that point understanding fades out and sexual-violence denial begins to creep back in.
I'd like to suggest, however, that the spectrum extends quite a bit further into terrain where almost everybody will deny there's sexual violence. Although, I'd like to argue, that like the microwave background it's still there. And that perhaps, like the microwave background, the extreme right end represents the faintest traces of original sexual violence. But I digress.
I'd further like to suggest that as one begins to recognize the scope of the Goldberg spectrum the less easy it is to make tidy assertions about what is or isn't sexual violence or who the victims and perpetrators really are.
This is a long post, for which I apologize. But it's... bad. --tfl
Barge around one of those "men's rights" websites long enough and you're bound to find some asswipe so incensed by the very idea that he might have been "cuckolded" that he'll assert with callous passion that he'd abandon a dependent child if he felt he wasn't the "real" father. Because the most mature, "manly" thing you can possibly do when your fee-fees are hurt by an adult partner is to crush the emotional life out of little children who, like all children, make the only father they know the center of their universe.
I previously believed these men to be the biggest monsters in civilization and that anyone who even advocated doing such a thing, let alone committed something such a heinous crime against humanity should have DNR tattooed on his face so that paramedics and emergency room staff wouldn't bother resuscitating him should he ever come under their care.
Now I've heard of something even worse.
For nearly 30 years the London police routinely "deployed" undercover cops to infiltrate non-violent protest groups like Greenpeace and routinely supervised sexual relationships with female activists as part of their "infiltration."
These "infiltrations" lasted sometimes for years. One married officer, involved with a targeted non-violent activist for six years, attended couples therapy with his own real-life wife while simultaneously going to another couples therapist with his victim. Another, over the course of a decade, had serial multi-year romantic and/or sexual relationships with three members of a non-violent animal-rights or environmental group.
Another officer is alleged to have not only formed a relationship with a member of a (non-violent, remember) anti-war group but fathered a child with her!
That doesn't necessarily make him the worst kind of monster.
What does make it very bad is that when the police chose to terminate their investigations the undercover cops were obliged to abandon the intimate, often sexual, sometimes parental relationships they'd formed with their victims, again, over many years.
But you know what? That they did abandon their victims and the children they fathered and presumably helped raise, also possibly for years, was plenty bad enough, and certainly qualified them as... well... unqualified monsters. But even that didn't make them the worst kind of monsters.
Because rather than admit "oh, by the way, I don't love you. I've never loved you. I don't care about our friends -- in fact I only took up with you to betray them. I don't care about your parents, whom I've met and spent holidays together with you with. And I don't even care about the son or daughter I've fathered with you" the fucking miserable cowards were coached to, get this, being pretending to have deep depression and then to disappear with stories about needing to "find themselves." Perhaps by taking jobs overseas." And then erasing all traces of their non-existent former lives. Leaving their erestwhile partners humanly worried about them, concerned for them, sometimes spending years searching for them. And, of course, no doubt trying to explain to their children what's happened to Daddy.
It's that part. Nominally responsible police supervisors coaching agents to behave like the worst stereotypes of Peter-fucking-Pan "can't find yourself" male irresponsibility as the way to "extract" themselves from these undercover long-term relationships. That's what takes them across the threshold from everyday callous asshole monsters and into over the top unbeatable monsters.
SWEET mother of pearl!
Check out this YouTube transcript of the officers and members of Parliament left trying to sort it all out. The conversation between the blithe cops and incredulous MPs is just surreal!
Here's a quick and dirty transcript.
Q: What happens if a child is born as... has been alleged? What happens? Where's the responsibility for that?
A: Well, those individual cases are clearly going to be explored by the court.
Q: No... [back talk] What obligations are there for the men if a child were [pause] from a preapproved liason?
A: You're taking my words in a slightly different way. I did say, absolutely, that preauthorization, we don't do that today about relationships. Not ordinarily.
Q: What do you mean by "not ordinarily?"
A: If people become involved in a relationship it has to come back to the supervisor.
Q: The thing is, if a supervising officer knows about a sexual relationship, and a child is born from that relationship, then the Met has some... responsibility [garbled] that child, because that police officer will be using a false name that child has some sort of right to know the correct legal name of their father.
A: Our expectation is people will not engage in long-term relationships. [back chatter] They will not get involved in long term relationships and get involved in the sort of things you're describing... and are well documented in terms of those sorts of things.
Elsewhere another legislator asks "What advice does the supervisor give in those circumstances, to the officer, one to protect the employee as well as the other party involved, who very well may be a suspect but more likely might not be a suspect, because the relationship is there.
Mark Jenner lived with a woman under a fake name. Now she has testified to MPs about the ‘betrayal and humiliation’ she felt
He was a burly, funny scouser called Mark Cassidy. His girlfriend – a secondary school teacher he shared a flat with for four years – believed they were almost “man and wife”. Then, in 2000, as the couple were discussing plans for the future, Cassidy suddenly vanished, never to be seen again.
An investigation by the Guardian has established that his real name is Mark Jenner. He was an undercover police officer in the Metropolitan police’s special demonstration squad (SDS), one of two units that specialised in infiltrating protest groups.
His girlfriend, whose story can be told for the first time as her evidence to a parliamentary inquiry is made public, said living with a police spy has had an “enormous impact” on her life.
“It has impacted seriously on my ability to trust, and that has impacted on my current relationship and other subsequent relationships,” she said, adopting the pseudonym Alison. “It has also distorted my perceptions of love and my perceptions of sex.”
Alison is one of four women to testify to the House of Commons home affairs select committee last month.
According to another article an alleged police officer named Mark Kennedy...
... was at her grandmother's 90th birthday where he seemed very "comfortable".
Lily's mother said: "He seemed absolutely devoted to my daughter. He used to stay here, slob around, watching TV with us, all that stuff that you do in a relaxed way with people in the family".
"These shadowy figures were presumably making decisions about my dinner dates and whether or not I was going to spend the night with my boyfriend, reading emails, listening to phone calls - deeply personal stuff."
It's not clear whether all agents involved in these sexual relationships with members of target groups were men, but at best they were the clear majority. As yet another Guardian article says "Ten women and one man have launched a legal action claiming they were tricked into forming deeply personal relationships with the police spies. The women say they were duped into forming long-term, sexual relationships lasting years with undercover officers."
There's just... everything wrong with this story!
For those of us into consent, the false pretenses, reports of sex back to supervisors, coaching and training by supervisors, and on and on amount to absolutely clear cut violations of consent. In the U.S. anyway, they'd be actionable crimes of assault and/or criminal seduction.
For those of us opposed to that pesky social construction of gender, it's appalling that police would have calculatedly manufactured -- literally constructed! -- egregiously gendered male lassitude, depression, flight, and abandonment as their routine means of removing agents from their surveillance roles.
And if, as has been alleged publicly and seems to be documented in closed hearings, some agents actually fathered and then abandoned children in the course of their "duties" then virtually no social, legal, economic, or even corporal punishment would be adequate to the monstrosity of such behavior either by the "agents" themselves or, perhaps worse, by their knowing supervisors. Such behavior is beyond intolerable.
One last point, and it's an important one in terms of the history of feminism and men in feminism: These alleged events took place in England in the early 1980s, by men (policing back then was still mostly men) who came of age in or before modern laws about sexual assault, seduction, or male responsibility were much more than the theories of "cranky women's libbers." That today even the police themselves are uncomfortable with the allegations (See "More squirming from police chiefs today when the question of the long-term or sexual relationships between undercover officers and activists arose in public.") and are equally quick to point out that such egregious, criminal-in-any-other-circumstances behavior would no longer be condoned. That at one point it was condoned -- not just the romantic and sexual relations, and not only actual fathering of children, but coordinated abandonment of those relationships and those children -- shows how genuinely awful pre-feminist men could be. And helps explain why, in turn, those nominally infamous "angry feminists" of the era in turn might have had actual reason to be.
But more to the point, in terms of gender equality and men, can you imagine the kind of twisted horror men were raised in back then that they could blithly abandon not only social, romantic, sexual, or even familial relationships but actual parental ones? When you hear anti-feminists talking about "the good old days when men could be men," that's the kind of men they were talking about: men so amputated of humanity that they amounted to sociopaths! Thanks but no thanks!
As you've probably heard, long-time anti-abortion, anti-choice activist Cathrynn Brown, a conservative New Mexico state legislator, has discovered a new-found interest in preserving evidence of sexual violence: making it a crime of "destruction of evidence" if a victim of sexual violence seeks an abortion or if anyone pressures her or assists her in obtaining one.
Well, as you might also have heard that original language was... a little broad. Why it might somehow have been interpreted to mean she just wanted to force victims to extend the violence perpetrated on them, their partners, their children, and their extended families* for another 9 months, or, heck, another 18 years and beyond!
So she's amended her bill. Here's the text: let me know if you see any problems with it. Note: I've got some problems with it. (The quote is in its original all caps but with my emphasis added.)
“AN ACT RELATING TO CRIMINAL LAW; SPECIFYING THAT A PERSON WHO COMMITS CRIMINAL SEXUAL PENETRATION OR INCEST AND WHO PROCURES AN ABORTION OF A FETUS RESULTING FROM THE CRIME WITH THE INTENT TO DESTROY EVIDENCE OF THE CRIME IS GUILTY OF TAMPERING WITH EVIDENCE; PROHIBITING PROSECUTION OF THE MOTHER OF THE FETUS.”
Somewhere out there a slightly less baby crazy but no less predatory successor to Mary Kay Laterneau* just got her wings.
Problem #1: As a non-stereotypical victim of sexual violence I’m particularly annoyed by the way Brown’s bill further hard-wires male-on-female, penis-in-vagina violence as the only kind that matters. Especially her revised version.
Problem #2: I mean, does she seriously mean she now claims in her tweet that meant all along: that no mother will ever be prosecuted for destroying evidence of assault or incest by procuring an abortion for herself? Because that's saying once again that male-on-female violence being the only kind that counts: no woman ever could initiate sexual assault or incest, discover herself pregnant, and destroy evidence of her own guilt therefore she strictly and explicitly excludes that possibility in her text.
Problem #3 is more generic and more-commonly raised: particularly given the waiting time nine months seems like an extraordinarily long time to wait to gather evidence. Nor is even hard DNA evidence on the (male) attacker be particularly determinative given the near-universal practice of defense attorneys arguing "she asked for it," "she's 'crying rape,'" "it was actually consensual." Or the near-universal acceptance of such tactics by juries.
Problem #4, also generic and more commonly raised: very, very often sexual violence, even when committed by men against women, doesn't involve vaginal penetration, let alone male ejaculation, let alone pregnancy. So while an embryo, fetus, or born person might have some value in some circumstances, it's by and large the least relevant kind of evidence police, medical personnel, counselors, or prosecutors should concern themselves with.
Problem #5 is just more about the typical anti-abortion/forced-pregnancy bullcrap that inspires these kinds of cruel stunts: Cathrynn Brown claims that by prohibiting "tampering with evidence" her anti-abortion bill "protects women and girls from incest and other sex crimes." And yet... and yet... given a) her prior complete disinterest in issues relating to evidence gathering or victim assistance combined with b) her long-time involvement in "pro-life" organizations in her community I think it's... um... really, really unlikely that she'd stand aside if a victim sought an abortion in order to obtain evidence. In other words she not only doesn't really care about male, child, or other non-impregnable victims she almost certainly doesn't care for impregnated victims either.
Problem #6: The whole thing just displays a complete incomprehension and/or dismissal of real-life sexual violence, its impact, its victims**, its assailants, its prosecution, and so on. You're free to argue that protecting "the unborn" is more important than the health or safety of victims of sexual violence (never mind justice for or even acknowledgement.) And it's possible and maybe even likely that Rep. Brown feels that way. But if so it would be mighty nice if the were able to be honest about their priorities. Instead of smarming it up with smug lies about "protection" for victims of sexual violence.
** Something I've never heard the forced-pregnancy crowd explain is how to get around the awkwardness around the Thanksgiving table every year not just for a victim the anti-Choicers wants to force to give birth but for her husband and father of her (possibly older) children, her parents, and so on.
Head's Up: This post discusses specific forms of sexual violence in order to indicate how narrowly such violence is typically defined. I use the word "rape" as a specific legal and social term.
So in comments Jacob Taylor took issue with my fairly routine assertion that if men want male victims of sexual violence to be taken seriously we to take women victims seriously.
You demand a quid pro quo condition that male survivors and their advocates must meet before anyone should support them.
You're really not going to find anything in this blog that says men have to make sacrifices to "earn" anything from women. And if I ever, ever say men need to make sacrifices or otherwise pay women before "anyone should support them" it'll either be a serious typo or I'll need medical attention. And so it's unlikely that I'm ever going to say that if men earn enough cookies we'll get taken seriously.
Instead I'm saying that as long as there are jerks out there like Todd Aikin saying it's only rape if an assault is so brutal the female victims organs of reproduction go into failure then society isn't going to take seriously what happens to men. And I'm saying as long as there jerks like Whoopi Goldberg saying it's not "rape rape" if all the attacker does is drug a minor girl, chase her screaming through the house when the drugs weren't strong enough, subdue her and anally penetrate her" then society isn't going to take seriously what happens to men. And I'm saying that as long as all the other smug dirtbags who say violence less than Aikin's or Goldberg's definitions -- stuff like threats, intoxication, "date rape," etc., is all a just a big misunderstanding or malicious "crying rape" go unchallenged then society isn't going to take seriously what happens to male victims.
So when I say men should take female victims seriously I mean we need to be landing like a ton of bricks on the likes of Aikin and Goldberg when claim that for all intents and purposes not even women can be raped. Because as you've probably noticed, the people who define the universe of sexual violence that narrowly aren't even going to register what happens to men until it's so bad that authorities (again,overwhelmingly male) simply have no way left to deny it. Sure, that (finally) happens in cases like Mary Letourno, and Penn State (and all state pens!), and pedophile priests where it's so overwhelmingly obvious even the newspapers start to pay attention. But for the most part? They've never heard of it and aren't interested finding out.
Helping them get their heads out of their butts about <em>all</em> victims of non-Aikin/Goldberg violence -- the kind society doesn't even take seriously when it happens to women! -- therefore helps everybody. Which is why I say it's important to for advocates for ,a;e victims of violence to take seriously female victims of violence.
If you look at it that way, the way I look at it, then it probably won't look so much like "quid pro quo." And if you see it that way then if someone claimed I'm just saying men have to somehow "pay" women to take our problem seriously then you'd probably be as annoyed and frustrated as I get.
Instead what I'm saying is that society is completely bound up with the deep, historical, and completely gender-defined idea that "rape" is something that can only happen to women -- "good" women at that! It can happen at the hands of strangers. Under the most horrifically violent circumstances. And it says that anything and maybe everything else is lies, avoidance, or even consensual "cuckoldry."
For this reason I don't think taking assault against women seriously is some kind of "quid pro quo" to getting men taken seriously. Nor do I endorse doing it to "earn" respect or cookies or any of the rest of that patriarchy-inspired crap the way "Good Men" Galahads do it.
Instead I'm saying men who care about male victims should take female victims seriously because until society starts taking them seriously it's not going to take male victims seriously either.
This would be so whether or not the Feminist Illuminati Conspiracy ever gets on board. Because for all the squalling feminism is obviously not the problem. Not unless you think the abuse-condoning Joe Paterno was a radical feminist. Not unless you think the entire abuse-condoning Catholic hierarchy is radically feminist. Not unless you think Scott (Dilbert) Adams is a raging feminist. And so on. Those guys are a much bigger obstacle, and their kind has been around thousands of years longer than feminism. So blaming feminism for anything is, as I've said repeatedly, like the bull charging the cape instead of the matador.