Archive for the ‘rape/sexual abuse’ Category

I don’t agree with much of this by Laura Kipnis – for instance, I have trouble being that casual about university teacher-student sexual relationships – but I think her article, “Sexual paranoia strikes academe” in The Chronicle of Higher Education is raising some worthwhile questions about vulnerability and power.

Reading this article it strikes me that the over-simplification of sexual abuse/assault/harassment means that victims are only victims if they are ‘good people’ and conversely, abusers can only be that if they’re ‘bad people’. Realistically, both are ordinary people and there’s vulnerability all over the place. And ok, the woman in this situation might have forgotten that the man is also vulnerable. But he has forgotten that the woman he desires in a fairly objectifying way is actually a human, like him.

What struck me most, hearing the story, was how incapacitated this woman had felt, despite her advanced degree and accomplishments. The reason, I think, was that she imagined she was the only vulnerable one in the situation. But look at the editor: He was married, with a midlevel job in the scandal-averse world of corporate publishing. It simply wasn’t the case that he had all the power in the situation or nothing to lose. He may have been an occluded jerk, but he was also a fairly human-sized one.

So that’s an example of a real-world situation, postgraduation. Somehow I don’t see the publishing industry instituting codes banning unhappily married editors from going goopy over authors, though even with such a ban, will any set of regulations ever prevent affective misunderstandings and erotic crossed signals, compounded by power differentials, compounded further by subjective levels of vulnerability?

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From Damon Young’s “Men just don’t trust women. And this is a problem” in Very Smart Brothas:

But you know what I don’t really trust? What I’ve never actually trusted with any women I’ve been with? Her feelings.

If she approaches me pissed about something, my first reaction is “What’s wrong?

My typical second reaction? Before she even gets the opportunity to tell me what’s wrong? “She’s probably overreacting.” 

My typical third reaction? After she expresses what’s wrong? “Ok. I hear what you’re saying, and I’ll help. But whatever you’re upset about probably really isn’t that serious.”

I’m both smart and sane, so I don’t actually say any of this aloud. But I am often thinking it. Until she convinces me otherwise, I assume that her emotional reaction to a situation is disproportionate to my opinion of what level of emotional reaction the situation calls for. Basically, if she’s on eight, I assume the situation is really a six.

I’m speaking of my own relationship, but I know I’m not alone. The theme that women’s feelings aren’t really to be trusted by men drives (an estimated) 72.81% of the sitcoms we watch, 31.2% of the books we read, and 98.9% of the conversations men have with other men about the women in their lives. Basically, women are crazy, and we are not. Although many women seem to be very annoyed by it, it’s generally depicted as one of those cute and innocuous differences between the sexes.

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This culture of ours saved my life. This isn’t an exaggeration. If not for Ursula K. Le Guin, Madeline L’Engle, Star Trek, The Wild Wild West, comic books, Isaac Asimov, and Dr. Who, I would probably be dead. I grew up in a neighborhood where the idea of dreaming outside of the concrete, glass, and busted elevators that encroached on my every day was damn near forbidden — it could also get you killed. Dreaming above your station was discouraged as you didn’t want others to think you were better than them. If they were in the shit, so were you. So in secret, I visited fantastic worlds — these worlds kickstarted my dream machinery, inviting me to see beyond what I thought were my limits…

.. This culture of ours should be aspirational. Despite our too-human contemporary failings, SF primes us to think and dream ourselves out of our current circumstances…

.. If we can rally together to save our favorite show, we damn well better use our collective energies and influence to ensure that all women and girls feel safe in our presence and in our shared cultural spaces.

From Shawn Taylor with “Yes, All Geek Men” in The Nerds of Colour.

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.. and that is that some people will suspect you are going to grow up to be a paedophile because you’re a guy. It’s a horrible and unjust stigma and I have known several male friends who were victims of abuse and who struggled with this additional shame in identifying themselves as victims.

This is superb writing from Martin McKenzie-Murray in The Saturday Paper with “Inside the mind of a paedophile”.

I lied about not being angry. There was something that stung me. In the messy and confusing aftermath, some blamed me for what happened – specifically, I was asked if I had encouraged it. That hurt and, after a stunned pause, I bitterly expressed my incredulity.

This wasn’t the most disturbing consequence. Not long afterwards, a family member mused thoughtlessly in my company that abuse engenders abuse. I instantly felt sick. The comment shredded me, and I carried it for some time. I thought, naively, that I was doomed to be an abuser myself – conscripted by fate to play out what happened to me. I was cursed.

As a young man I moved to South Korea to teach English to young children. One day, while supervising the kids in the playground, I began brutally thinking about my curse. I broke out in a sweat. Was the curse real? Should I be here? Was I doomed to offend, to play out some cyclical indecency? I wasn’t and I’m not, but that loose comment years earlier took a while to leave my system.

I admit when I started reading his article I thought nice work here but if this is another one of those pieces asking me to empathise with paedophiles (and I try my very hardest to empathise with anyone relating their perspective to me), without ever reconciling with the terrible damage these people can do then I will be infuriated. Because, I understand that everyone has a story and in everyone’s life there is some pain and tragedy, including in the lives of abusers, and sometimes people do awful things without necessarily being awful people.. but there is a bit of a thing going on lately with edgy journalism examining the stigma around paedophilia and crossing right on over to victim blaming.

So, I very much like this piece by McKenzie-Murray because it is written in such a way that yes, you may see a paedophile’s point of view and that’s important, but you will not be leaving the show without damn well seeing the point of view of a victim, too.

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My latest article for Daily Life.. it was also lead story on The Age today:

How to stop child abuse and sexual abuse is not as simple. But as an observer you have this frustration, this helplessness and this stomach-churning revulsion and so, I understand the temptation Joe Hildebrand feels in making the solution simple, though he is mistaken. Only those with incredible strength and patience work in the field of family violence and child abuse because the problem is just that nightmarish and crafting the solution is that protracted as a process. If you can’t handle the complexity, if you’re feeling yourself beginning to break, beginning to reach for big dumb hammers to crack this nut then you have to step away, you’ve become part of the problem.


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After all of this, there is also this..

There is a better way to talk and teach about sexual negotiation and consent, a more realistic and ethical approach that would, I believe, also be more successful in reducing sexual assault. It begins with thinking of sex as the outcome of a collaboration rather than a battle, as dancing rather than fighting.

It’s a wondrful piece in the Sydney Morning Herald from Emily Maguire, who is just as wonderful in person, I must say.

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The whole debate about victim-blaming, drinking and rape blew up in Australia again this week after Mia Freedman wrote a piece along the lines of the controversial article by Emily Yoffe in Slate.

One of my posts, originally part of a series (here, here, here, here and here), was republished at Women’s Agenda in response.

Was I more or less stupid than the girl who passes out drunk? More or less cavalier than her? More or less naive? More or less self-harming? More or less slutty?

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