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I’m Not Okay with Chris Brown

In Uncategorized on February 14, 2012 at 4:44 pm

I do not listen to Chris Brown’s music – in fact, when his music comes on the radio, I immediately change stations.  It has nothing to do with the fact that I dislike his genre or his songs; he’s proven himself to be a talented artist.  He’s not unattractive or unintelligent or an unpleasant person.  He seems to be grateful to his fans and acknowledges that they are the reason for his fame.  None of these things have anything to do with why I refuse to appreciate or even listen to his music for more than 10 seconds.

It has everything to do with the fact that he is an ABUSER.  And, I think, the further we get away from the incident in 2009 between him and Rihanna, the more we seem to “forgive and forget.”

On Sunday night, after a two year hiatus, Chris Brown was invited to perform at the Grammy’s once again, apparently forgiven for the abuse he inflicted upon Rihanna the night of the same award show in 2009.

Now, I can’t speak for anyone else, but to me, this sends a clear message: Abuse your girlfriend and, after a couple of years’ probation (to satisfy the angry feminists and victim’s advocates), you will be heralded as a “comeback kid” and embraced with open arms.  All is forgotten.  All is forgiven.  Welcome home, son.

But, I want to make it very clear, that I stand among the ranks that say that this is NOT okay.

First off, the odds of this being an isolated incident are very slim.  Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior, continual physical or emotional abuse.  The attack in 2009 is only the time Chris Brown was caught — but it is surely not the only time that he abused Rihanna. Further, I can only imagine her pain in watching this man perform and be celebrate, cheered on by adoring fans and fawned over my adolescent girls.  Many survivors of violence can hardly be in the same room as their attacker, can’t speak to or look at their attacker without severe anxiety, panic, and fear, let alone celebrate with him.  While Rihanna has publicly “forgiven” Chris his attack, no one can truly say what she is really feeling and what her PR reps are pushing her into.

So why should we, after only two years, grant him the second chance to be the “Golden Boy”?

I acknowledge that everyone deserves a second chance, yes.  But has Chris Brown earned it?  Sure, he’s issued public apology statements (no doubt drafted by some crafty and highly paid attorney and/or PR rep), is on probation (until 2014), completed hours of community service (court mandated), and done all the things that he “should” do in order to regain public opinion and love.

Is he truly repentant?  Has he really changed?  What evidence have we seen that would indicate that he is worthy of forgiveness?

The message that this sends to the American society is that we don’t care for the victims and we are going to celebrate our “rehabilitated” men.  The incident becomes completed minimized, forgotten, and, sadly, joked about.  Check out what Buzzfeed found in response to Chris Brown’s performance.  If this doesn’t send a clearer message about the affect this has had on the American population, I don’t know what does.

Writer, Sasha Pasulka, wrote an article that has since gone viral about her disapproval of Chris Brown’s inclusion in the Grammy performances.  I could not have put it more succinctly, so I have included her entire article as closing:

I’m Not Okay with Chris Brown Performing at the Grammy’s and I’m Not Sure Why You Are
by: Sasha Pasulka

I’m sick and tired of people acting like it’s no big deal that Chris Brown will be performing at the Grammys.

I’m frustrated that the mainstream media is covering this story like it’s any comeback story, like an exiled prince’s return to a former glory, like this is another political timeline — as though some rich and powerful old white men in the music business have not just issued an enormous ‘f**k you’ to every woman who has been, is or will be on the receiving end of domestic violence.

We should be furious.

Why aren’t we?

A Long, Long Time Ago, or Three Years Ago, But Who’s Counting?

For those of you who are currently listening to ‘Look at Me Now’ and wondering what the big deal is, a quick recap: The night before the Grammys in 2009, Chris Brown got angry at his girlfriend, Rihanna, and he took it out on her face. She went to the hospital and then to the LAPD, where this photo was taken and promptly leaked to TMZ. (The LAPD issued a stern statement on the leak, threatening penalties “up to and including termination”. TMZ reportedly paid $62,500 for the photo.)

Both Rihanna and Brown had been scheduled to perform at the Grammys the following evening. Neither did.

Instead, Chris Brown turned himself into the LAPD at 7 pm, was booked on suspicion of criminal threats and was released on $50,000 bail.

Then the Internet exploded.

I was a full-time entertainment writer at the time, so I had a front-row seat to the action. This is what I expected: I expected a string of celebrities to comment on how horrific this situation was, how sad and angry they were for Rihanna, how domestic violence is unacceptable in any context, how as a nation we need to condemn this and condemn it loudly.

Instead, Hollywood went silent and, when they did speak, they teetered on the brink of defending Chris Brown.

Carrie Underwood: “I don’t think anybody actually knows what happened. I have no advice.”

Lindsay Lohan: “I have no comment on that. That’s not my relationship. I think they’re both great people.”

Nia Long: “I know both of them well. They’re young, and all we can do is pray for them at this point.”

Mary J. Blige: “They’re both young and beautiful people, and that’s it.”

Jay-Z, one of Rihanna’s mentors, spoke up: “You have to have compassion for others. Just imagine it being your sister or mom and then think about how we should talk about that. I just think we should all support her.”

In a sane world, Jay-Z’s statement would sound insane. Why would he have to remind his fans to support Rihanna after what happened is that she got hit in the face?

Jay-Z issued that statement because the Internet was, in early February 2009, engaged in a very serious conversation about whether or not all of this was Rihanna’s fault. In fact, large segments of the Internet had devoted themselves to making Rihanna the scapegoat for any woman who ever had the gall to do something worth getting hit, and then the cloying self-esteem to go to the cops about it. Bloggers and their commentators flocked to Chris Brown’s defense in droves. It was a full-blown tearing-down of female self-worth, an assault on any progress women have made in this country in the past 200 years, and the mainstream media ignored it.

It horrified me. It still does.

Later in February, a photo of Brown riding a jet ski in Miami hit the Internet, and singer Usher was caught on video commenting on it: “I’m a little disappointed in this photo,” Usher says in the video. “After the other photo [of Rihanna’s bruised face]? C’mon, Chris. Have a little bit of remorse, man. The man’s on jet skis? Like, just relaxing in Miami?”

The backlash was so severe that Usher was later forced to publicly apologize.

“I apologize on behalf of myself and my friends if anyone was offended,” he said. “The intentions were not to pass judgment and we meant no harm. I respect and wish the best for all parties involved.”

The message we sent to young women was unmistakable: You are powerless. You are worthless. You will be a victim, and that will be okay with us.

The Fall-out, and the Lack Thereof

In August 2009, Brown was sentenced to five years probation and 180 hours of community service after pleading guilty to felony assault.

In December 2009, he released his third studio album. It sold over 100,000 copies in its first week and debuted at #7 on the Billboard charts.

On June 8, 2010, Brown was forced to cancel his tour dates in the UK when the British Home Office refused to grant him a work visa on the grounds of “being guilty of a serious criminal offence”. Less than three weeks later, he performed ‘Man in the Mirror’ at the BET Awards’ tribute to Michael Jackson.

His fourth studio album, released in March of last year, debuted at #1.

In December 2011, Billboard crowned him their artist of the year.

And, this week, Grammy producers confirmed that Chris Brown will be performing on Sunday’s show.

“We’re glad to have him back,” said executive producer Ken Ehrlich. “I think people deserve a second chance, you know. If you’ll note, he has not been on the Grammys for the past few years and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened.”

Read that quote again. Think hard about what is being said. Here is what this quote says to any woman who’s ever been abused:

  • By blacklisting Chris Brown from the Grammys for a “few” years (actually, a grand total of TWO Grammy Awards), the Grammys have gone above and beyond expectations for the social exile of an adult man who hit his girlfriend so hard she went to the hospital, and honestly it was really, really hard for them to show even that much support for victims of domestic violence worldwide.
  • It was rather thoughtless of Rihanna to go and get herself hit in the face by her boyfriend, because it’s put such a burden on the Grammys. Maybe if she hadn’t made such a big fuss out of it, things could have been easier for everyone.
  • The Grammys think that they were the victim of Chris Brown hitting Rihanna in the face.
  • The Grammys. Think. That they. Were the victim. Of Chris Brown. Hitting. Rihanna. In the face.

Hitting People Is Wrong, Y’All

I agree that people deserve a second chance. It’s great that we live in a country with a justice system that allows offenders to reclaim themselves and their lives after their sentence. I’m happy about that, and I hope Brown is a changed man at the end of his sentence. (The US justice system has Chris Brown on probation through 2014. It was nice of the Grammys to let him off a couple years early for high record sales good behavior.)

And my suspicion is that Rihanna has no interest in being a poster child for victims of domestic violence. She probably wishes this would all disappear, and I don’t blame her for a minute. She didn’t ask for this – for any of it – and she’s under no obligation to speak out about it.

But someone has to. Because what is happening here is unmistakable. It is, in my eyes, so unmistakable that I wonder if I’m wrong, if I’m missing something huge, because I cannot believe more voices aren’t railing against this.

We – the grown-up influencers in this country, the people with platforms and with educations and with power — are allowing a clear message to be sent to women: We will easily forgive a person who victimizes you. We are able to look beyond the fact that you were treated as less than human, that a bigger, stronger person decided to resolve a conflict with you through violence. We know it happened, but it’s just not that big of a deal to us.

We were so mad when the Komen Foundation pulled its funding for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood. “This is not fair,” we shouted. “This is not fair to women, and this is not fair to the women who don’t have a voice, and we will not allow it.” We shouted it so loudly that Komen reversed its decision in three days. We forced the resignation of one of their top executives.

Planned Parenthood, no doubt, has a well-funded and fine-tuned PR machine, adept at galvanizing a population against a perceived injustice. They outmaneuvered Komen easily.

Does domestic violence have a less sophisticated PR machine than Chris Brown does?

Because to me, this situation isn’t all that different. Accepting that Chris Brown gets to perform at the Grammys because some people bought his album is no different from accepting that women without health insurance don’t get to be screened for breast cancer because some VP at Komen is anti-abortion. It may happen, but that doesn’t mean we should tacitly accept it. What if Chris Brown had hit your sister that night? Or your daughter? (What if Chris Brown had hit Taylor Swift that night?)

We’re accepting the message that women just aren’t that important, that their health and their safety and their self-respect is only important until it stops being convenient for everyone. We should be angry about this, and we should be angry publicly about this.

So I want to say this to anyone who is listening: This is not okay with me. A man hitting a woman in anger is unacceptable and is not easily forgotten or forgiven. A man who hits a woman in anger deserves to be reported to the authorities and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, regardless of who might be inconvenienced in the process. A man who hits a woman in anger may eventually be permitted to go on with his own life, but he is not permitted back in my life, even if it’s been three whole years.

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How Soon Is Too Soon?

In Uncategorized on February 7, 2012 at 6:42 pm

A colleague sent me an article today that literally made my jaw drop.  Fifth graders at a Minnesota elementary school have been playing a new playground game called “Rape Tag.”  Apparently, it is similar to Freeze Tag, where the person who is “it” is called the “rapist” and in order to be unfrozen, you have to be humped.

After the game was reported to the principal, the game was swiftly shut down by administrators, teachers, and recess noon aids.  The fifth graders had a discussion with their teachers and it was discovered that primarily two classes were playing the game.  Afterwards, a letter was sent home from the principal to parents describing the situation and the actions taken by the school.  Since then, the game has not resurfaced at the school.

Blogger for SF Gate, Amy Graff, wrote, “Likely the children at this school didn’t understand what rape means.  Some kid picked up the word from television or the Internet and knew that it was related to sex. Kids think humping and sex is weird and silly and enjoy joking about it. It’s just upsetting that kids are familiar with the word rape at such an early age, whether they understand the meaning or not.”

I couldn’t agree more.  The children certainly did not mean to hurt anyone by playing this game – they’re innocent and naïve and don’t understand the heavy and devastating meaning behind rape.  But what are we doing as a society and parents to ensure that our children know what is good and what is bad?  What sort of education is out there to inform our children about the rights and wrongs?

In fact, many parents have since phoned into the principal concerned that they now have to have sexually-explicit conversations with their 10-11-12 year olds because of this incident.

Now, I know that we’re bordering on a debate of when to start sex education.  And that’s not something I want to get into.  There are many arguments that can be made for both sides and, while I have an opinion, I’m not sure this is the venue in which to host that particular discussion.

What I do want to say is that we need to educate our children about the images they see and the things that they hear so that they don’t misinterpret.  Without a doubt, they are enmeshed in a highly sexualized culture that oftentimes presents sex as no big deal and sexual violence as a joke.  If these are the only messages that our children are receiving, not only will the culture persist in ignoring violence and blaming victims, but children will take these lessons as golden and ignorantly use them as fodder for playground learning and games.

Children need to know that touching someone without their consent is not okay.  Children need to know that making fun of rape is not okay and that rape is a bad thing and to be taken seriously.

In this case, we cannot blame the kids for playing an offensive game.  Generally speaking, they don’t know any better.  But we do need to extend our education efforts (in an age-appropriate manner) to avoid perpetuating a culture that allows this to happen.

Worth One Thousand Words

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Today is the last Tuesday before the university shuts down for Winter Break!  Enjoy the holiday season, spend it with loved ones, and have some fun!  See you all in January for another semester!

For this week’s blog, I’m going to let the images collected from various websites  do the talking.  A picture is worth one thousand words, right?

 

 

Have You Heard About Feminism?

In Uncategorized on December 13, 2011 at 6:04 pm

There is a lot of confusion and misconception when one starts talking about feminism and identifying as a feminist.  And, before I start with this blog, I should warn you that, yes, I identify as a feminist.  But I am not an expert on feminist theory or history, and my word is not the end-all-be-all – just simply my humble opinion.

A Brief (and VERY basic) History

Feminism has changed throughout history in order to adapt to the important causes and goals of the time.  Generally, feminism can be identified in three “waves,” periods of time when activism was particularly active towards achieving a particular goal.

The first wave comprised of women’s suffrage movements in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries promoting women’s right to vote, as well as property rights, equal contract rights, marriage rights, and parenting rights.  It was an effort to gain political power and ensure that women were being recognized as citizens and subject to the same inalienable rights that had been denied them.

The second wave began in the 1960s and focused on ending discrimination against women.  It sought for legal and social equality for women.  Unlike the first-wave of feminism, there is no distinct “win” and its goals have been continued through into third-wave feminism.

After the perceived “failure” of the second wave, the third wave of feminism began in the 1990s and continues today.  It seeks for the legal and social equality of women.  The movement focuses on many aspects of equal rights for women, including (but not limited to): abortion, birth control, violence against women, women’s health, and international women’s rights.  Primarily, though, the goal of third-wave feminism is to ensure equality among people, regardless of sex/gender.

Feminism Today

So, basically, feminism today in 2011 (nearly 2012) focuses on the equality of all people, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, religion, ethnicity…

It is not about putting one particular group of people above another group.  It is about leveling the playing field so that no one group is “better” or has more power than another.  Much like the Occupy movement aims to protest economic and social inequality, feminism seeks to change a society that views women and other minorities as “second class” citizens or as people who lack the education, knowledge, and personal drive to be privy to the same rights freely and unquestionably granted to the majority (usually, and I don’t mean to point fingers here, white males).

I would stipulate that there is no “enemy,” no one person or group of people that is completely and utterly oppressive and in the wrong.  Instead, I believe that we live in a society that for so long has valued ideals that devalue minorities and grant power to those who have always had it, because that is the way it has always been done and what’s wrong with that.  In my opinion, the feminist movement is working to change the views and values of that kind of society, and create a cultural shift from one of exclusive power and prestige to one of cultural equality, mutual respect and recognition, and equal rights for all citizens, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, religion, ethnicity…

Now, some may argue that as United States citizens, we already live in such a culture.  However, if you truly examine the ways in which people are treated and look at those who are in power, you can see that the inequality is blatant.  We talk a big game in the US about equality for all – but our actions speak much louder than our idealism. I mean, just look at all the Occupy movements occurring across the country, fights for birth control/reproductive health rights for women, protests for gay marriage, and on and on…

Feminism and Men

About a month ago at the UW Women’s Leadership Conference, UW student, Elizabeth Masters-Hiatt, gave a presentation entitled “Understanding the Word Feminist.”  During her presentation, Elizabeth outlined the aims and goals of the feminist movement, and what it means (to her) to identify as a feminist.

A male student in the audience felt frustrated by the word “feminist,” and began a debate with Elizabeth about how titling the movement for equality, such as we have, as “feminism” is exclusionary to men.

However, being a feminist and identifying with the feminist movement has nothing to do with gender – and, perhaps, had the movement not been kindled from the flames of women’s suffrage and gender equality rights, it would be called something else, something perhaps more inclusionary.

But there are MANY men who identify as feminists and support the feminist movement.  There are MANY transgender individuals who identify as feminists and support the feminist movement.  And there are MANY women who identify as feminists and support the feminist movement.

Supporting the aims and goals of feminism has nothing to do with what your sex is, or anything else for that matter.  It only has to do with whether you personally support the beliefs and causes of the movement.  Hell, you don’t even have to support every aspect of the cause; there are many debates within the feminist community about various aspects of the movement.  This does not make any one of them more or less of a feminist.  Or any more or less of a man, woman, … etc.

I actually found a group in my research to kind of equalize the feminine nomenclature that ruffles some feathers.  A group called “Meninist” is a global organization of men that believe in and support the feminist principles of women’s political, social and economic equality.  The following is their platform:

1) We are opposed to all forms of misogynist behavior and sexist attitudes; we respect all women.

2) We believe in a woman’s reproductive freedom and right to control her own body.

3) We oppose all forms of violence against women, including rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence, as well as all negative stereotypes and violence against women in film, television and advertising.

4) We understand the need for men to participate in the women’s movement and help end 2000 years of men’s patriarchy. We pledge to support women in every possible way we can, including sharing responsibilities around the house and in parenting.

5) We believe that women should be paid in parity to men for the same work done and women should be given the same opportunities in the work environment. We oppose the so-called “glass ceiling” (the oppression of women’s ability to advance at the workplace).  We oppose the “Old Boy’s Netork.”

Feminism to Me

While I appreciate the support and the idea of this group, they seem to be simply re-iterating those causes that feminist movement is pursuing:

1) We are opposed to all forms of gender inequality; we respect all people.

2) We believe in a person’s reproductive freedom and right to control his/her own body.

3) We oppose all forms of violence against persons, including: rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence, as well as all negative stereotypes and violence against women in film, television and advertising.

4) We understand the need for all people to participate in the movement for equality and help change the current culture that values one group of people above others.  We pledge to support each other and the cause in every possible way we can.

5) We believe that people should be paid equally for the same work done and everyone should be given the same opportunities in the work environment.  We oppose the so-called “glass ceiling” (the oppression of the ability for minorities to advance in the workplace).

This is what I believe.  And what is my perception of the aims, goals, and beliefs of the feminist movement.  And perhaps “feminism” is a misnomer as it denotes a gender-based movement when, to me, feminism is about so much more than just gender inequality, but about all forms of inequality and seeking to create a new culture in which we are truly all created equal.

Snowflakes

In Uncategorized on December 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”  — Voltaire

I read a blog earlier this week that really left an impression on me.  This week, I’m going to simply re-post her message because I don’t think that I can say it any better.

And, while this message is directed towards men, it is easily a message that applies to everyone: man, woman, transgender…

We all need to take a stand against microaggressions that contribute to a culture of sexual violence.  For the original post, click here.

 

“To all those men who don’t think the rape jokes are a problem:

I get it—you’re a decent guy. I can even believe it. You’ve never raped anybody. You would NEVER rape anybody. You’re upset that all these feminists are trying to accuse you of doing something, or connect you to doing something, that, as far as you’re concerned, you’ve never done and would never condone.

And they’ve told you about triggers, and PTSD, and how one in six women is a survivor, and you get it. You do. But you can’t let every time someone gets all upset get in the way of you having a good time, right? Especially when it doesn’t mean anything. Rape jokes have never made YOU go out and rape someone. They never would; they never could. You just don’t see how it matters.

I’m going to tell you how it does matter. And I tell you this because I genuinely believe you mean it when you say you don’t want to hurt anybody, and that it’s important to you to do your best to be a decent and good person, and that you don’t see the harm. And I genuinely believe you when you say you would never associate with a rapist and you think rape really is a very bad thing.

Here is why I refuse to take rape jokes sitting down…

Because 6% of college-aged men, slightly over 1 in 20, will admit to raping someone in anonymous surveys, as long as the word “rape” isn’t used in the description of the act—and that’s the conservative estimate. Other sources double that number.

A lot of people accuse feminists of thinking that all men are rapists. That’s not true. But do you know who think all men are rapists?

Rapists do.

They really do. In psychological study, the profiling, the studies, it comes out again and again.

Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. And more, these people who really are rapists are constantly reaffirmed in their belief about the rest of mankind being rapists like them by things like rape jokes, that dismiss and normalize the idea of rape.

If one in twenty guys (or more) is a real and true rapist, and you have any amount of social activity with other guys like yourself, then it is almost a statistical certainty that one time hanging out with friends and their friends, playing Halo with a bunch of guys online, in a WoW guild, in a pick-up game of basketball, at a bar, or elsewhere, you were talking to a rapist. Not your fault. You can’t tell a rapist apart any better than anyone else can. It’s not like they announce themselves.

But, here’s the thing. It’s very likely that in some of these interactions with these guys, at some point or another, someone told a rape joke. You, decent guy that you are, understood that they didn’t mean it, and it was just a joke. And so you laughed.

Or maybe you didn’t laugh. Maybe it just wasn’t a very funny joke. So maybe you just didn’t say anything at all.

And, decent guy who would never condone rape, who would step in and stop rape if he saw it, who understands that rape is awful and wrong and bad, when you laughed? When you were silent?

That rapist who was in the group with you, that rapist thought that you were on his side. That rapist knew that you were a rapist like him. And he felt validated, and he felt he was among his comrades.

You. The rapist’s comrade.

And if that doesn’t make you feel sick to your stomach, if that doesn’t make you want to throw up, if that doesn’t disturb you or bother you or make you feel like maybe you should at least consider not participating in that kind of humor anymore, not abiding it in your presence, not greeting it with silence…

Well, maybe you aren’t as opposed to rapists as you claim.”

 

A great male activist and co-founder of the organization “A Call to Men” (http://www.acalltomen.com/index.php) reminds us that the culture of violence “can’t exist unless we allow them to…our silence is our permission.

End the silence.  Don’t be another snowflake in the avalanche.  Step up and Speak out!

Good luck with finals this week,  UW Students, and have a great winter break!  See you in January!

Sober and Enthusiastic

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm

For a lot of people, sexual consent can be a confusing thing.  Here’s the simple definition – sexual consent must be sober and enthusiastic.

Sober: I’m talking, if you can’t drive a car, you cannot consent to having sex.  Alcohol clouds a person’s judgment and impairs your ability to make good decisions.  Having sex with someone while you are drunk puts you in a serious position of becoming a perpetrator.  Having sex while under the influence of alcohol greatly increases the likelihood that you will be assaulted (it is important to note that even if you are drunk, you are NOT to blame for the sexual assault).

Enthusiastic: You or your partner should not  have to be “talked into” doing anything sexual.  The only reason that anything sexual should occur is because both people are wanting to do it, not because one has been guilted into saying “yes” or is just tired of their partner begging for it.  I mean, seriously think about it – wouldn’t you rather have sex with someone who is all gung-ho about getting it on with you instead of someone who’s just going along with it to make you shut up?

That’s all it takes for consent – Sobriety and Enthusiasm.  Pretty simple, right?

Well, apparently, it’s not quite as simple as that.  So many people have no idea how to go about asking for consent without “killing the mood” or don’t even realize that they need to ask for it.  And then when you throw alcohol into the mix (which happens a lot on a college campus), then it seems that any sort of rules go out the window and everything gets blamed on the alcohol – no one is responsible for anything that happens because “I was drunk, I didn’t mean to.”

There’s one thing I want to make blatantly clear – A DRUNK “YES” IS NOT A “YES.” 

There seems to be a lot of confusion out there about this.  For example, I went on a blind date a couple of weeks ago with this guy named Jeff.  After dinner, we went to the bar to get a drink and continue getting to know one another.  Somehow, the topic shifted to sexual assault and what consent means.

He argued that because a person (in the case of our conversation, a female) is drunk, she is responsible for whatever happens to her.  Because she made the choice to drink, it is her fault if she says “yes” and is then sexually assaulted.  He vehement about this, saying that he had been in that situation many times and that it simply wouldn’t be “fair” to the guy if she decides the next morning to “call rape” when it wasn’t his fault that she was drunk.

Let me break this argument apart a little bit:

  •  She chose to drink, so she is responsible for what happens to her.If she is 21, drinking alcohol is not illegal.  Even if she is not 21, she has a right, as does everyone, to drink and not be afraid that she is going to be sexually assaulted.  Drinking does come along with a certain amount of responsibility.  For example, if she got behind the wheel of a car and chose to drive drunk, then she is going to be held responsible.  However, sexual assault is a case of someone else making a decision for the other person.  So, even if she says “yes” and her partner should reasonably know that she is too drunk to consent, it is HIS choice to continue with the sexual behavior.  “But what if he’s drunk?” – it is STILL his decision and he needs to be held accountable for that decision.
  • It’s not fair to the guy if she decides to “call rape.”No one “calls rape” – people are raped; they are assaulted and they are victims.  They have every right to identify the event as such.  By saying that someone is “calling rape” not only minimizes the traumatic event that occurred by making it seem insignificant, it also implies that she is lying about the rape and that she’s just trying to “get back at him” or she just “regrets it” and wants someone to blame.  This is a complete at utter myth!  Sexual assaults are no more falsely reported than any other crime.  And, in fact, are vastly underreported (only about 40% of assaults are actually reported to police).  It needs to be known that just because I’m drinking and saying “yes,” I may not actually mean the “yes.”  I may, in fact, be blacked out and have no idea that I’m saying it.  And if anyone takes advantage of that fact, it is sexual assault.  Period.
  • I’ve been in this position many times.Well, that’s just a little bit terrifying – how many people have you sexually assaulted and blamed your behavior on the alcohol?  I’m not naïve – I know that people have sex while under the influence.  And many times, I’m sure that everyone is okay with it.  But for those cases where someone wakes up and feels violated and victimized, is it really worth the risk?  I mean, seriously.  If you make a habit of having sex with drunk individuals, whether or not you yourself are drunk, the odds are GREAT that you have assaulted your partner.  When people engage in sex, they do it to feel good and to make their partner feel good.  But when you have sex with someone too drunk to consent, you’re taking away the feel good feeling (along with SO much more) and potentially forcing them into a state of victimization.

And by arguing this, I am not saying that alcohol is a bad thing – it can be a lot of fun to drink.  But it is necessary to know that when alcohol is involved, it’s best to wait until everyone is sober before beginning any sort of sexual activity.  Jeff told me I was just playing “victim’s advocate” – and while I feel that I am a victim’s advocate, I’d rather like to think about this argument and this point of view as being anti-sexual assault and pro-healthy sex more than anything else.

Needless to say, there will not be a second date with Jeff.

Jeff’s argument is not unique.  It’s a discussion I have quite frequently with people.  And I want to note that it’s not just men that take advantage of women; women also take advantage of drunk men, and this flip in gender does not make it any more or less of an assault.

One blogger wrote: the one should not “jump into the sexual arena if you can’t handle the volatility of its practice!”

The sexual arena should not be a volatile environment or practice.  Sex is an intimate time between people meant to give and receive pleasure and share a physical, emotional, and even spiritual connection with another person in a rare and beautiful way.  It should not be an arena of competition, violence, or aggression.

That same blogger also said: “‘Date rape’ is an incoherent concept. There’s rape and there’s not-rape, and we need a line of demarcation. It’s not clear enough to merely speak of consent, because the lines of consent in sex — especially anonymous sex — can become very blurry.”

No.  Date rape is not “incoherent” – it is a more specific description of the same act: RAPE.  Consent should always be clear.  There should never be a “gray” line when it comes to consent.  Either your partner is sober and is super excited to say “yes” to you, or you back the fuck off and leave them alone because they are saying “no.”  Hesitancy is a “no.”  Saying “I’m not sure” is a “no.”  Anything other than “Yes, Yes, Oh God, Yes!” doesn’t count.

Wait for the YES, not the “no.”

So, to sum up:

Consent MUST be Sober and Enthusiastic, and A DRUNK “YES” IS NOT A “YES.” 

Simply rules to live by.  So, go forth and drink (responsibly) and have fun sex – just not at the same time.  🙂

I Heart Awkward

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Every day we are bombarded with sexy images in movies and advertisements of a couple getting it on.  They never talk about it, no one ever has an unflattering angle, and each partner inexplicably knows exactly what the other wants.  And, best of all, everyone always…er…“finishes.”

*dreamy, romantic sigh*

If only this were the way that life really was.  But, in truth, sex (and getting to that point) is hella awkward!

But, you know what, the older I get, the more I find that I really root for “Team Awkward.”  Let me tell you why…

1.   Getting to know someone is always a little bit awkward, let’s be honest. 

No matter what, whenever we meet someone new or try something new, there is a period of awkwardness.  That’s just normal.  So, why wouldn’t we expect that awkwardness to translate to the bedroom?

I mean, just because the sex we see in the media is “perfect” doesn’t mean that that is how real life is played out.  We need to have that awkward time in order to figure out how to really do “it” right.

Talk to your partner.  Chances are if you’ve made it to the bedroom, you at least know their name.  So, figure out exactly what it is he/she is expecting from the encounter and move on that.  Now, the conversation doesn’t have to be super awkward, like:

You: Can I touch you here?
Them: Damn skippy, you can.
You: Can I kiss you here?
Them: Yes, please.  Thank you.

Although, if that’s how you want to roll with it, please do.  The point is to know what your partner wants.  But, a better way to talk about boundaries and get consent while avoiding most of the awkward is to use my favorite tool: Dirty Talk.

Now, you can’t whip out all sorts of dirty talk on the first encounter – that could cross some boundaries too.  But, basic “asking” kind of dirty talk is generally going to be okay.  For example:

You: Tell me what you want me to do to you.
Them: I want you to like my {insert erogenous zone here}.
You: Oh yeah?  You like that?
Them: Oh God, yes.
You: Does that feel good, baby? My {body part} on your {body part}?
Them: I love that!

2.  Awkwardness and communication build the intimacy…and avoid sexual assault.

When you share an awkward moment with one of your friends, how often does it turn into some sort of “inside joke” later?  I can’t speak for everyone, but this happens ALL the time with me and my friends.  And, after living through those awkward moments, we now have even greater common ground and greater intimacy in the friendships.  This same concept can be applied to sexual situations.

To a certain extent, the awkwardness only adds to the intimacy of the moment.  What could be more intimate than talking about what you want from your sexual partner?   Or, finding yourselves in an awkward moment, and then joking about it later?

At the same time, if you’re having that “awkward” conversation about what your partner wants, then you are also making sure that you are getting consent and that you are giving them (and receiving) what they want.  If everyone’s cards are on the table and boundaries aren’t crossed, then the risk of sexual assault is significantly lowered.

It is SO crucial to know what your partner wants and what they don’t.  Not just to build the intimacy between you, but also to make sure that you aren’t hurting your partner.

3.  Awkward is half the fun!

I’ve been seeing this guy and we were talking about my job at the university and how important it is to promote healthy sexual behaviors as a preventative measure against sexual violence.  He said that the “awkward” part about getting intimate with someone is oftentimes the best part.  “Sex should be fun,” he said.   “If you’re not having fun, if you’re not laughing, then why are you doing it?”  And I couldn’t agree more!

Think about it – when was the last time you had a ton of fun without laughing?  Probably never.  Fun and laughter have a tendency to go hand in hand.  So, why should it be any different with sex?

Now, I’m not saying that you should laugh at your partner.  That’s not cool.

But I AM saying that you need to laugh WITH your partner – you need to have fun with your partner.  That’s what sex is about – mutual pleasure and fun.

So, if you’re trying to switch positions and someone’s leg gets in the way, don’t get embarrassed.  Give a little giggle, make a little joke (if you’re comfortable), and keep going.  If you allow the situation to embarrass you, you’re going to be uncomfortable and anxious and – BOOM – big mood killer, right there.  Have fun with it, and you’ll be more relaxed and, not only will you be judging yourself, but you’ll know that your giggling counterpart isn’t judging you either; everyone is just enjoying the experience.

I read an article on Scarleteen which, in part, inspired this post.  They said: “Some conversations are uncomfortable but also necessary. They are so uncomfortable because they are so necessary.”  Truer words were never spoken.  I mean, just from a sexual assault prevention standpoint you have to have that awkward conversation.  But it can also be used as a tool to better the sexual experience and your relationship with your partner.

Push through the awkward, embrace the awkward, and then embrace your partner – trust me, it’ll be so much better.

Go Team Awkward!

Our Time Now

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2011 at 4:16 pm

“Takin’ a chance for one another/Finally it’s our time now” – “Our Time Now,” Plain White T’s

There is a great deal of political and social unrest in the United States as of late.  Between the Occupy movement, the Penn State child rape scandal, and so many other social and political issues, we are in turmoil.  And the only thing that we can all really agree on, regardless of your political bend, is that we cannot continue on in this manner.

I read an interesting article today written by a member of the Millennial generation (of which I am a part) that questioned the leadership of our parents’ generation and, to a certain extent, whether our generation has the chops to pick up the slack.

The author, Thomas Day (31), wrote of our confusion:

“We looked to Washington to lead us after September 11th. I remember telling my college roommates, in a spate of emotion, that I was thinking of enlisting in the military in the days after the attacks. I expected legions of us — at the orders of our leader — to do the same. But nobody asked us. Instead we were told to go shopping.

We looked for leadership from our churches, and were told to fight not poverty or injustice, but gay marriage. In the Catholic Church, we were told to blame the media, not the abusive priests, not the bishops, not the Vatican, for making us feel that our church has failed us in its sex abuse scandal and cover-up.

Our parents’ generation has balked at the tough decisions required to preserve our country’s sacred entitlements, leaving us to clean up the mess. They let the infrastructure built with their fathers’ hands crumble like a stale cookie. They downgraded our nation’s credit rating. They seem content to hand us a debt exceeding the size of our entire economy, rather than brave a fight against the fortunate and entrenched interests on K Street and Wall Street.

Now we are asking for jobs and are being told we aren’t good enough, to the tune of 3.3 million unemployed workers between the ages of 25 and 34.

They have had their time to lead. Time’s up. I’m tired of waiting for them to live up to obligations.”

Now, I don’t think there’s any point in pointing fingers at such-and-such-a-generation.  Placing blame is just going to add to the pot of turmoil we’ve already got boiling in this country.  Lord knows we don’t need anyone else pointing fingers – there’s too much of that as is.

However, I absolutely agree that we need to see leadership emerge from the younger generation.  We’ve grown up watching the struggle of our predecessors and have a slightly different and more optimistic view, according to research, than the Baby Boomers.  Perhaps it is this change of perspective that can help to turn things around in this country.  Perhaps a little legitimate HOPE wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Day did mention one thing that’s concerning:

“I am beginning to see my generation reach that age when we are beginning to realize that our parents don’t have all the answers and that, as the up and coming leaders in this country, we aren’t necessarily prepared to handle the passing of the torch.”

As an example, the riots at Penn State following Coach Paterno’s dismissal showed a furious group of young people; “without revered figures from the older generation to lead them, thousands of students at one of the country’s best state universities acted like children home alone” a la “Lord of the Flies.”

I see, and understand, his concern.  And to a certain extent, I agree.  The student riots at Penn State seem to choose to be deliberately ignorant of the fact that Paterno turned his back on child rape and molestation in favor of a football program.  That’s right – all those administrative “leaders” put a GAME before a CHILD.

But, at the same time, we really shouldn’t judge a whole generation on singular events such as this, especially with the knowledge that college and coming of age is a time meant to encourage learning and personal growth.  I don’t think the riots over the failure of a beloved leadership figure will persist once the knowledge that he is not infallible, and is in fact a conspirator to assist in child molestation, the tide will turn and growth will occur.

There is leadership in the Millennial Generation.  We just need to seize it – and I think we’re beginning to see that that time has come.  Anais Nin, a French author, once said:

The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

Fellow Millennials – the time has come for us to blossom. 

What Can YOU Do to Make a Difference?
Find an issue that you are passionate about and do something about it!

— Talk to your friends/family/strangers about the issue, sign/start a petition about your issue, explain in a public forum why this issue is so critical, rally with other people who have similar views…

— Stay up to date on current affairs and what’s going on in the world, or at least in your area of interest.  Know what’s going on, see if there are any protests or petitions that you can be a part of.

— Get involved with any local organizations whose work you appreciate

— Talk to people of other generations, get their input/feedback, learn from their experience and then apply yours to figure out what your way of approaching the issue is

Facebook Friend or Foe?

In Uncategorized on November 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm

*WARNING: Some of the content in this post could be triggering.  Please read with caution.*

I think it’s safe to assume that a strong majority of students have a personal Facebook page and use it quite frequently as a social networking tool to stay in touch with friends and family, keep up to date on different events/offices on campus, and following different fan pages with like-minded individuals all over the world.

I’m a huge Facebook fan.  I’m on it at least once a day and update pretty frequently.  There are pages and such on there that I’m not a big fan of, but generally speaking, I just ignore them and move on – they’re just not my thing and that’s fine.  But I was shocked and disgusted to learn about rape-supportive pages and jokes forming all over the website.

Some of these pages include, but are not limited to:
Kicking Sluts in the Vagina
— I know a silly little bitch that needs a good slap (removed)
— Riding your Girlfriend softly, Cause you don’t want to wake her up (removed)
Abducting, raping and violently murdering your friend, as a joke
— What’s 10 inches and gets girls to have sex with me?  My knife. (removed)

I mean, even if you just type in the word “rape” into the search bar and check out the pages, amongst the resources for survivors of sexual violence and anti-rape advocacy pages, you’ll find things like:
Rape Dungeon
Mind Rape
I love the smell of RAPE!
its not rape if you yell “SURPRISE!”
Facebook R A P E Dungeon

In an effort to rid Facebook of this inherently violent pages. Change.org set to work gathering over 187,000 signatures for the removal of these pages – not only because they promote sexual violence, but because they blatantly violate the Terms and Conditions set forth by Facebook in the first place.  By signing the petition, you are signing your name to the below letter sent to Mark Zuckerberg (founder and CEO of Facebook), Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO), and Andrew Noyes (Facebook PPCM):

Greetings,

As shocking as it may seem, the following are actual pages on Facebook: “Kicking Sluts in the Vagina,” “I know a silly little bitch that needs a good slap,” and “Riding your Girlfriend softly, Cause you dont want to wake her up.” These are but a few of the anti-woman hate groups on Facebook that need to be taken down immediately.

Facebook’s own Terms of Service prohibit content that is “hateful, threatening,” or contains “graphic or gratuitous violence” (Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, Section 3, item 7). Moreover, users are specifically barred from posting content that aims to “bully, intimidate, or harass” any user. Any reasonable person can see that groups that promote rape and violence against women clearly violate those terms.

While these groups already cross into prohibited territory, Facebook could and should do more to stop them from popping up in the first place and to swiftly remove those that do exist. First, Facebook needs to clarify that pages that encourage or condone rape –like the ones mentioned above– are in violation of their existing standards. Secondly, they need to make a statement that all pages that describe sexual violence in a threatening way will be immediately taken down upon being reported. Finally, Facebook must include specific language in their Terms of Service that make it clear that pages promoting any form of sexual violence will be banned.

It is time that Facebook took a stronger stand in enforcing its own policies. Please take action on the above items so that Facebook does not become a gathering place for sexual sadists and predators.

[Your name]

After the first round of signatures was submitted, Facebook responded in a BBC interview:  “It is very important to point out that what one person finds offensive another can find entertaining – just as telling a rude joke won’t get you thrown out of your local pub, it won’t get you thrown off Facebook.” (August, 17, 2011)

Now, there are lots of offensive jokes out there – racial, religious, ethnic, and gender slurs – that are vastly inappropriate and offensive.  And while I personally feel that this “microaggressions” contribute to a culture of intolerance, hate, and violence, I suppose I can bend so far as to simply not support their existence (although it makes me sick at heart).

But when it comes to directly promoting violence and making a joke of a serious act and belittling the experiences, feelings, and hardship experienced by survivors for the sake of a joke or fulfilling some sick need to hurt other people, there can be no tolerance.  They need to be eliminated immediately if not sooner.  Period.   We don’t need to subject our survivors to any further violence and aggression than they’ve already experienced.  And if I heard someone make a “rape joke” in a pub, you can bet your ass that I would say something.

As of yesterday, Monday, Nov. 7, Facebook began removing some of the offensive sites without a word after a very successful Twitter campaign (#notfunnyfacebook) brought the issue to the forefront where it could no longer be ignored.

While there is cause to celebrate this small victory, there are still MANY sites active on Facebook and the company has apparently refused to take a take a hard stance on what they intend to do with any current and future sites.  Therefore, advocates are trying to encourage Facebook to take a stronger stance on the issue.

The partners behind the petition are now demanding the Facebook:

  1. Make a public statement that rape is never acceptable; that promoting sexual violence and violence against women is repugnant; that Facebook will remove content that advocates rape, sexual violence, and violence against women.
  2. Address in a public statement that the previous “pub joke” defense was poorly stated, explaining that alleging humor does not give a free pass to promote any hate content; that Facebook does not consider promoting violence against women or sexual assault to be funny; and that such content will be held to the same standard as any violence against any other group or individual.
  3. Ask for Facebook to be transparent about the content monitoring process; to state publicly if and how many pages they currently remove that promote sexual violence or violence against women; and to work with groups that fight violence against women and sexual violence to improve the safety of their community.
  4. Update the Terms of Service/Community Standards to specify that: “Content earnestly promoting violence against women or sexual violence violates Facebook’s terms of use and will be removed whenever reported.”

To further support this cause, we need to continue adding signatures to the petition and strive to make the Facebook conglomerate realize that there is NOTHING funny about rape and that such “jokes” need to be recognized for what they are – aggression and violence that promotes sexual assault and rape, not just against women but against everyone.

A writer once said: “Our culture isn’t something we merely consume.  We also participate in creating it.”

I, for one, refuse to be a part of a consumer culture that promotes rape and laughs sexual violence off as a joke.  I have signed the Facebook petition as a small, personal step to create a new culture that says, “This is not acceptable.”

Join me in the fight towards ending a culture that promotes sexual violence.  Tell Facebook that there is no such thing as a rape joke and that such comments/pages/groups need to be removed immediately!

To sign the petition, visit: http://www.change.org/petitions/demand-facebook-remove-pages-that-promote-sexual-violence

To report a page to Facebook, go to the offending page and click on “Report Page.”  You will then need to cite the reasons why you feel the page should be blocked.  Please take action and report any and all pages you find that promotes rape culture.  Thank you for your activism!

For more information about the recent changes made on Facebook, visit: http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2011/11/07/without-comment-or-apology-facebook-quietly-removes-rape-joke-pages/ or http://m.zdnet.com/blog/violetblue/facebook-finally-removes-its-pro-rape-pages/788.

Walk the Walk

In Uncategorized on November 1, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Today, men from all over campus will be squeezing their tootsies into fabulous high-heeled shoes in an annual awareness walk for sexual violence prevention.  By “walking a mile in her shoes,” each step represents a little of what a woman experiences.

The Walk a Mile in Her Shoes was started to be a “playful opportunity for men to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes, effects, and remediations to sexualized violence.”

Basically, with each step made at this event, we will be doing something to raise awareness of sexual violence, knowledge of prevention methods, and funds for the local rape response center, the Albany County SAFE Project.  Participating in events like this is something that everyone can do to help raise awareness about sexual violence on campus.

Outside of events like this, here are 10 things that everyone can do to prevent gender violence (adapted from Jackson Katz’s “Ten Things Men Can Do to Prevent Gender Violence”):

  1. Gender violence is a PEOPLE’s issues, involving both men and women of all ages and socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds.  We need to view both men and women as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers.  And we need to remember that both men and women can be perpetrators of violence.
  2. If a friend, family member, classmate, or teammate is abusing his/her partner – or is disrespectful to women in general – don’t look the other way.  If you feel comfortable doing so, try to talk to this person about it.  Urge him/her to seek help.  Or if you don’t know what to do, consult a friend, parent, professor, or counselor.  Do Not Remain Silent.
  3. Have the courage to look inward and question your own attitudes.  Don’t be defensive when something you do or say ends up hurting someone else.  Try to understand how your own attitudes and actions might inadvertently perpetuate sexism and violence, and work toward changing them.
  4. If you suspect that someone close to you is being abused or has been sexually assaulted, gently ask if you can help.
  5. If you are emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abusive to others, or have been in the past, seek professional help NOW.
  6. Be an ally to others who are working to end all forms of gender violence.  Support the work of campus-based women’s centers and violence prevention offices.  Attend prevention/awareness events and rallies.  Raise money for community based rape crisis centers and battered women’s shelters.
  7. Recognize and speak out against homophobia and gay-bashing.  Discrimination and violence against lesbians and gays are wrong in and of themselves.  This abuse also has direct link to sexism (ie. The sexual orientation of men who speak out against sexism if often questions, a conscious or unconscious strategy intended to silence them.  This is a key reason few men do so).
  8. Attend programs, take courses, watch films , and read articles and books about multicultural masculinities, gender inequality, and the root causes of gender violence.  Educate yourself and others about how larger social forces affect the conflicts between individual men and women.
  9. Don’t fund sexism.  Refuse to purchase any magazine, rent any video, subscribe to any website, or buy any music that portrays girls or women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner.  Protest sexism in the media.
  10. Mentor and teach others how to be a caring individual that doesn’t degrade or abuse other people.  Volunteer to work with gender violence prevention programs, including anti-sexist programs.  Lead by Example!

See you today in the Union Ballroom at 4pm for the kick off of the 2011 Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Event!