July, 2010

Informed consent – and its discontents.

An Arab guy in Israel is being sent to prison for *consensual* sex, yet that consent was later declared by the woman who consented to have been based upon fraudulent information. The woman claimed she *would not have consented* had she known ex-ante what she does ex-post.

“Handing down the verdict, Tzvi Segal, one of three judges on the case, acknowledged that sex had been consensual but said that although not “a classical rape by force,” the woman would not have consented if she had not believed Kashur was Jewish.”

It’s a pretty clear cut racist thing here, so even most radical feminists will disagree with this verdict, but that doesn’t answer the more profound problems posed by the notion of “consent” by such a verdict.

Could a man claim “rape by deception” if a woman later reveals she is in a relationship even though he was *at the point* happy to have sex with her? Should a woman be allowed to claim rape by deception because a man she wanted to have sex with lied about his financial status? Is there specific information that potential sexual partners should be legally obliged to declare correctly prior to enganging in sexual activity?

There is no doubt that “lying about oneself to get him/her into bed” is not exactly good behaviour, but consent to personal interactions cannot be dealt with with standards developed for commercial interactions, because personal interactions cannot be undone once they happened. And ex-post declarations about what one would have or would not have done knowing what has been revealed thereafter are nothing but hypothetical.

She may claim that she would not have consented to sex given the information that he is not Jewish, but who knows whether she may still have consented in the moment because she was sufficiently aroused to not care about the guy’s ethnicity… maybe her later retraction of “consent” has nothing to do with consent to sex and a lot to do with the state of her community.

It’s a crime to punish people based on hypotheticals, and it’s a ridiculous assumption that people are always aware of the criteria they use for making decisions in the moment.

Giving them the opportunity to later withdraw their decisions based on criteria formulated ex-post is absurd – in other words – it’s crossing the line.

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Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted to us by Sam.

Talking About Consent Isn’t Awkward: It’s Sexy!

A common question I hear when I talk about consent is “how does one have completely consensual sex?” What the person asking is usually trying to say is that asking for a “yes” during sex kills the mood or makes it awkward; from my personal sex experience, this is not so.

Before I even start to do anything of a physical nature, my boyfriend and I ALWAYS ask each other if the other wants to have sex. Because sometimes you are simply not in the mood- and no matter what the reason, that’s okay. It does NOT mean that you do not love your partner, or that your relationship is bad, or that you do not enjoy sex. A number of factors contribute to sex, and you could be tired, not feeling well, stressed, pre-occupied, etc. Too many people think that once you are in a relationship it is acceptable to expect sex whenever: sorry, sex is not a perk of dating, and consent is still important no matter how involved with your partner you are.

That being said, the definition of consent is going to change from person to person. I do not need my boyfriend to seek consent from me before or during foreplay, but some people might be more comfortable if their sexual partners seek verbal consent for and during foreplay. The thruline isn’t about when consent is obtained or for what activity: the point is that consent is important, no matter what your comfort level. Before we have sex my boyfriend always checks to make sure I still want to, and I feel comfortable telling him when “no.” That is something that every single person who has sex should feel comfortable doing.

In my opinion, consent is sexy. There is no bigger turn on to me than knowing my boyfriend cares about me and respects me enough to make sure that I am 100% into whatever we are doing. So I have consensual sex, and I have it all the time. Asking someone, “hey, are you okay with this?” isn’t awkward: it’s sexy.

No Thanks- I’m a Lesbian!

Photo via Álvaro Canivell on flickr.

Today I was browsing facebook at work (don’t tell my boss!) and I saw a status from a girl I went to high school with.  Admittedly, I don’t know her all that well, but as one of the few other out-and-proud people I know to come out of that school, I feel some solidarity with her. Her status was:

niggas get salty as shit when they find out a female is GAY.get over it.if i was straight i wouldnt want your ass anyways. =) have a good day!

I nodded in agreement.  Sure, I’m not entirely sure what it means to get salty, but if has anything to do with men getting hostile when you spurn their advances, I totally get it.  I read through the comments, most of which were other women, both straight and gay, agreeing that men really need to take a hint when they are barking up the wrong tree, whether or not the ‘tree’ in question is queer.  Of course, one guy told her “U bad n niggaz is gon holla get ova it gurl…lol.”  Of course, an attractive woman of ANY sexual orientation really should just “get over it. “  Sexual harassment is just part of a woman’s life, like death and taxes.

Of course, I’m never content to leave well enough alone.  I commented,

In reference to this comment: “U bad n niggaz is gon holla get ova it gurl…lol”
Geez, D—- [name redacted], don’t you know that as a women, especially a woman of color, your body is communal property for men to ogle at and, if they so desire, possess? Regardless of whether or not you ascribe to their misogynistic, heterosexist worldview. Duh.
Fuck that.  T elling a woman to “get over” sexual harassment, especially harassment rooted so deeply in homophobia, is disgusting. Reacting poorly to the news that a woman is gay is essentially admitting that you view all heterosexual women as potential sexual conquests. Is that REALLY how you feel about 50% of the population?
Good on you, D—-, for calling that bullshit out

And I firmly stand behind what I said.  Is it playing into the kyriarchy to interject my privileged white view of the situation into a conversation among people of color?  Probably.  But the beautiful thing about the kyriarchy is that it doesn’t oppress in a straight line.  It’s impossible to say who comes from a place of more privilege when a white, queer woman challenges a statement made by a black, straight man.  That doesn’t mean this statement didn’t get me into trouble:

@ M  Wow. Not necessarily agreeing with the referenced comment but it would seem like most of the hollering happens before the guy finds out Danielle is gay. You might have picked the wrong example to use for your argument. Thats what her status is implying. If anything dudes trying to get at a girl is a testament to her attractiveness.
What does her being a “woman of color” have to do with anything? Is that your selling point so you can spew your empty rhetoric? People in general ogle and desire and eventually attempt to possess what they find appealing. I dont see that in anyway misogynistic.
With that being said I dont think men should get upset when a female tells you she is gay. Just respect it, brush it off and move on to one of the straight fish in the sea…”

Oh, you’re right.  I’m sorry, it has nothing to do with homophobia.  I forgot, women of all sexual orientations  are property. And so, I replied:

T—, do a little research. Try googling “hottentot venus,” for example. There is centuries of precedent for women of color being eroticized as being “exotic” or exceptionally sexual. Literature of the early 20th century, especially, ingrained in American culture that black women were particularly dangerous in their excessive sexuality.
As for their “hollering” occurring before they know she’s gay — I acknowledge that. I don’t, however, rescind my judgment of that being misogynistic. When a man makes an unwanted sexual remark (and, in this case, won’t apologize, and is instead angry, when he discovers exactly how unwanted it is), he is exerting his social power over the woman. Studies show that EIGHTY PERCENT of women worldwide report feeling afraid or threatened on a regular basis by sexual comments from men.
Harassment isn’t a compliment.
And if it the phrase “women of color” that offends you, I apologize. I meant it only as a less specific term to encompass all non-white women. Think about the hypersexualized stereotypes of Latina women or the excessive use of Asian women in fetish pornography. The bodies of non-white women suffer exceptionally under the male gaze.

But I think T— and I got sidetracked.  I don’t think men like T– will ever come around to the idea that repeated, unwanted advances are sexual harassment and that this behavior is based on the idea that women can be possessed and lack the power to say no.  Or maybe I’m wrong and he CAN be enlightened, but ultimately, that isn’t what we started off arguing.  The issue at hand here was that when a lesbian tells a man she isn’t interested BECAUSE SHE IS GAY, he gets angry.  And that anger is on the same continuum with rage.  The kind of rage that kills women like Sakia Gunn, a fifteen year old queer woman of color who was stabbed to death for rebuffing the advances of a stranger.  The kind of rage that gives me flashbacks to waking up in the hospital when the last thing I remember is being outed to a group of men I didn’t know.

When a woman tells a man, “no thanks, I’m a lesbian,” he has no right to be angry.  He does not own this woman or any other.

‘Hey Baby’ Could Be A Strong Starting Point

Catcalling and street harassment is a popular topic on WIYL, and with good reason; a 2008 study by Holly Kearl revealed that 99% of women have faced unwanted verbal come-ons, some more lewd and violating than others.

I live in a more industrial part of Brooklyn, across from a junkyard (complete with “Beware of Dog” sign) and a block down from a recycling collection center, where workers, mostly 25-50 year old men, sort bottles and cans from surise to sunset. Every day I walk by this operation on the way to the subway, and every day, without fail, I encounter some form of advancements or catcalling. There is something so frustrating and violating about being hit on during your unavoidable walk to work at 9 AM, harassed only because you are a young female walking by yourself. I never leave my apartment anymore without sunglasses and headphones, as to avoid eye contact and be able politely eschew all advances by feigning ignorance of them even happening, coping mechanisms that I am ashamed of having to take as a feminist and strong, empowered woman. “Powerless” is the only word to describe the options presented when harassed on the street; you can either walk by silently, or confront the perpertrator, risking physical escalation and conflict.

As Kearl said in a Huffington Post article about street harassment:

Street harassment is not a joke about construction workers; it is a problem that touches every woman’s life at some level and prevents women on a whole from achieving equality. More research needs to be conducted to better track its prevalence and to uncover the root causes, and in the meantime, let’s make it illegal. While laws do not solve problems, they can help change social attitudes, deter the undesired behavior, and provide affected persons with options for recourse.

This no-win scenario is the main idea behind the video game Hey Baby, a first-person shooter in which you get to gun down street harassers, and the sleazeballs are replaced with headstones engraved with their catcalls. The game may seem a bit extreme, murdering those who just want to tell you you’re “gorgeous” (my favorite response to which is, “I know I am, thanks for the reminder, ASSHOLE”); the come-ons, however, are sometimes just as extreme, with men approaching you to to inform you that you’re asking to be raped. The game is an intriguing concept in and of itself, but the commentary from male gamers has also proved englightening. Says Kieron Gillen of Rock, Paper, Shotgun:

The game’s rubbish, of course. But the one thing it does well is show how what you may think is an innocuous compliment feels in the context of a woman’s life. You approaching a woman in the street and being what you think is politely flirty is a different thing when, down the street, someone’s suggested that maybe you’d like to suck my dick and you’re a fucking bitch if you don’t.

From her perspective, it’s a culture of harassment she has to either politely deal with or ignore.

From your perspective, you’re just showing how you feel.

That your passing desire means you get to derail a woman’s life whenever you feel like it is the absolute definition of male privilege.

If you’re a man, and you’ve acted like this, the woman you do it to, beneath the polite smile she has to offer, has probably fantasised about you dying.

Seth Sciesel of New York Times pointed out that in the game, the attackers are relentless, and there is no end in sight to the harassment. Our point exactly, Schiesel. Hey Baby has no score, no levelling up, and no end goal. The game is painfully realistic in that way; you are trapped in a situation in which you question wearing your tank top or shorts before leaving the house, where you take an alternate route to avoid facing certain areas you know are rife with street harassers. I’ve found that it is difficult to get men to join in on conversations about consent and sexual harassment, and sexual assault, but perhaps Hey Baby is a good place to start.

Opined Schiesel:

Just as I have never been sexually harassed, I have never accosted a strange woman on the street. After playing Hey Baby, I’m certainly not about to start.

It’s Her Fault: Educating Young People About Sensitive Topics

I am currently volunteering at my old high school. I want to work with teenagers when I finish college somehow, whether I work in social work, law, or education. It has been a great experience so far, especially because of the crazy personalities that are present within the classroom. It is also a plus to be working for my favorite teacher- he is the reason why I am majoring in U.S. History now at Barnard.

So this week, the students were assigned to form groups and create their own political parties. They had to come up with five main issues they wanted to focus on like tax reforms, etc. The most popular issues were abortion and the legalization of marijuana. The teacher left me in charge to help the students with their presentations: the groups had to come up to front of the class and present their political platforms to me while I critiqued and questioned their stance of certain issues. As each group went up, I realized how many of the students were unaware of today’s political climate.

One girl stood out when it was her turn to speak about abortion. Her group felt abortion should be illegal because “it is the woman’s fault if she becomes pregnant.” The majority of the class agreed with her- especially the girls. (The boys of the class didn’t have much to say, and believed that it was the woman’s choice.)  Being the person that I am, I interrupted and asked, “What if it was in the case of rape or incest, or the mother’s life is endangered?” The girl answered that it did not matter because the woman should not get herself into that situation.

I was shocked to hear this because many of these girls believe that a man does not have anything to do with a pregnancy nor a woman’s rape. Do they not realize that its takes two to make a baby, and a criminal to create sexual violence? The girls believe that it is a woman’s fault if she becomes pregnant and that she should live with the responsibility regardless if she was raped or not. The experience made it easy to see that talking about sexual assault is still stigmatized, especially in high school, and that that silence perpetuates a cycle of violence and violence-enabling. That is a cycle that needs to be broken.

When I first approached the teacher about volunteering over the summer, I asked him if I could do a presentation about intimate partner violence (IPV) and ways to seek help in case of sexual assault. He said that he is very conservative in the classroom, and that those topics weren’t appropriate for the students I’m teaching now. But if we do not bring awareness to them now, in the classroom, where else can we do it and be able to reach out to a majority of the youth? It’s like talking about the birds and the bees with your children: the conversation may be awkward, but this will only benefit them in the long run.

I remember being at this high school and never really learning anything about outside resources dealing with abuse and suicide. Health classes barely touched the topic of IPV and only mentioned that it could happen, but the class did not offer any safety planning tips or preventative education. Children are growing up fast: Disney and Nickelodeon do not advertise cartoons to children anymore, but shows like Hannah Montana and iCarly that broadcast the growing rate of young children in intimate relationships. Our cultural, social, and educational standards should be updated to keep up with the increasingly early exposure to sex that young people are now experiencing. By addressing controversial topics, we are not aimlessly making these students uncomfortable: we would be changing their lives. By educating young people in classrooms and safe spaces about violence, sexual health, and their empowerment, we could ensure that they were never shamed or silenced out of their own safety and well-being.

DC Premiere Screening of THE LINE!

Join director Nancy Schwartzman and Men Can Stop Rape on Thursday, July 22nd for the Washington, DC premiere of the documentary film THE LINE!

THE LINE is a 24 minute documentary that explores the intersection of sexual identity, power and violence. How do we negotiate our boundaries as sexually liberated women? How much are we desensitized to sexual violence? Through conversations with football players, educators, survivors of violence, sex workers at the Bunny Ranch, and attorneys, this personal film explores the “grey area” and the elusive line of consent.

Following the screening, THE LINE director Nancy Schwartzman, AEquitas and Men Can Stop Rape will facilitate discussion on how to use the film as a teaching tool among advocates, prosecutors, and college men.

THE LINE is the first film to join the Men Creating Change (MCC) Film & Speaker Series. Men Creating Change is the nation’s most comprehensive strategy to engage college men in creating sustainable programming on campuses to create cultures free from violence against women.

THE LINE Washington, DC Premiere & Discussion

  • Thursday, July 22, 2010  |  6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
  • Center for Education on Violence Against Women
  • 801 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 375 | Washington, DC 20004

RSVP is required! Space is limited: RSVP ASAP!

Send full name and organization affiliation by 7/21 to nbates@ncjfcj.org.

Light refreshments will be provided.

Find us on Facebook Follow the event on Facebook |  Learn more about THE LINE and Men Creating Change.

Follow us on TwitterTweet This: Join @mencanstoprape & @thelinecampaign on 7/22 for DC premiere of THE LINE http://tinyurl.com/linedc #THELINEdc

Sponsored by:

The Center  for Education on Violence Against Women is a partnership between National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, made possible by TA Cooperative Agreement Award Number 2007-TA-AX-K016.

Parties, Social Control, and Greek Life


Image via Dawniaa on flickr.

I am not an outsider who laughs at Greek life. I’m actually part of the system- and I love being in my sorority. There are, however, some issues I have with the Greek life system overall.

I joined my sorority my second year at school, and through it I met so many new amazing women. I was even elected Philanthropy Chair, and that has given me the opportunity to lead my sisters in service endeavors; with 140 women working together this past spring we raised money for girls to go to summer camp in upstate New York, ran a book drive to raise money for Prevent Child Abuse NY, and more. I’m proud to be a part of my sorority, but at the same time there are aspects of Greek life that bother me.

The social structure that we lock into as a sorority is, for lack of a better word, stupid. Here’s how it works: sororities are dry and fraternities are not. This means there is absolutely NO alcohol allowed in the sorority houses. If the fraternities host all the parties, decide who gets to come, and provide all the alcohol, who holds all the power? Frat parties are fun –my friends and I are even known to take our costumes to the next level. But there is a problem with the structure because it promotes an unbalanced social scene.

I asked my sorority sister what she thought:

“it’s a problem, but you wouldn’t immediately say that because it seemingly benefits everyone. Boys throw parties, supply the alcohol and girls don’t have to clean up the mess or live there.”

So if we don’t have to pay for the party or clean up, what are we complaining about? The fraternity brothers have complete control. You are in his house and have to listen to what he says. This gives them a sense of entitlement, which can be dangerous. I’m not trying to say that at every frat party every guy takes advantage of his power, but it does happen: a Jezebel article once said:

In the 1920s, frat guys started worrying that living together and being all friendly with each other would make them seem gay. Solution: public demonstrations of dominance over women, including rape …

men who are in fraternities are more likely to rape than men who aren’t, and [...] frat boys may perpetrate 70 to 90% of college gang rapes.”

My friend thinks sororities shouldn’t take action on this because they “already have a bad rep.” It is not about alcohol though; it is about the unnerving power structure that continues to go unchecked at universities throughout the country. Parties are not places where power should come into play; the idea that sorority sisters cannot host parties in their own houses isn’t preventative action against drinking: instead, it enforces dangerous behavior that encourages male dominance.

Drug Raped by a Stranger, Humiliated by the Islington Police

RapeCrisis

My name is Danielle and I moved to London in 2000 from Boston. In December 2006 I was out for holiday drinks in the West End with co-workers and after being turned away from the Cro-Bar for being too drunk I found myself alone at 1 am and drunkenly tried to find my way home. I was spotted by an opportunist who took me for a few drinks, spiked it and then raped me. When I got home just before dawn I was confused and uncertain and told my husband as soon as I got in that I may have had sex with someone though not sure with whom or why I would have had sex (we had just celebrated our 7 year wedding anniversary and were happily married). I had him examine me for bruises or signs of a struggle before getting into the shower.

The next morning I went to the GP to get examined and see if sexual intercourse had actually taken place and if so would they be able to determine if any protection had been used. If some stranger had unprotected sex with me I wanted to be able take any precautions against possible exposure to HIV/AIDS or hepatitis. After explaining what little I could recall my GP looked alarmed and said that it sounded like I had been drugged and raped. He urged me to go to the police at once. I told him that I couldn’t possibly be a rape victim since I was notorious for countering advances at bars by punching men in the face (knocking one to the floor on one occasion). I also recall seeing so many stories of false accusation in the paper and would not want to put someone through that. I assured my doctor that if more of the details came to me and I had been raped I would call the police. I returned home and lay in bed shaking uncontrollably and feeling freezing cold. I put 3 layers of clothes and blankets on and called the GUM clinics with no answer. I found out later that this was a classic symptom of coming down from GHB or liquid ecstasy which was the only drug the forensic team hadn’t tested me for. Around 3 in the afternoon a detail came to me confirming my worst fears- that I had been raped. I wept uncontrollably and began what has been the hardest, most traumatic journey of my life.

Having known friends, family, colleagues who have been raped or fallen prey to some form of sex assault I had always vowed that if it ever happened to me I would come forward and pursue the matter. After all, I didn’t rape anyone so what did I have to be ashamed of? I should point out that I am not a big drinker, and probably on average get drunk about 3 or 4 times a year. I dress conservatively and try hard not to draw attention to myself. I am married, have a teen aged daughter a professional job and am a home owner. I am also now further proof that anyone is vulnerable to rape or sexual assault.

I was examined by the forensic doctor after 11 that evening. I was not thrilled about being examined by a man considering the circumstances but was already aware at how much time had passed and how important this exam was to find my attacker. He took my blood and while doing so informed me that drug rape was an urban myth and that no case had ever been linked with rohypnol when I asked about the possibility of it still showing up in my system. I have since learned that it is very hard for rohypnol to be found since it leaves the system very quickly which is why it is commonly used for rape. GHB, or liquid ecstasy is similar. Later in the exam he told me to stop crying and tried to joke with me that it was like having a manicure while he swabbed under my fingernails for traces of my attacker. I cried even harder. He was also growing increasingly frustrated that I was unable to relax while I was being swabbed and that by that point I was sobbing uncontrollably.

If being raped in itself was a dreadful experience, my dealings with the Islington Police Sapphire Unit were in some ways more harrowing and traumatic. The Sapphire Unit was a special unt specifically trained to handle rape cases. If this unit was trained to deal with rape, I hated to think what the other departments were like. I had a detective constable (or DC as they are called in the UK) who treated me with doubt and suspicion from the outset and who almost seemed to find sadistic pleasure in ringing me up at work and leaving me in a tearful state. Afraid they wouldn’t do their jobs properly I was afraid to make trouble so had my husband contact the police liaison to see if she could deal with me exclusively since the DC had a tendency to upset me. The police liaison agreed with my husband that some people found the DC’s manner a bit brusque and intimidating and assured him that she would look into.

We never heard a word from the police liaison again and from then on dealt exclusively with the DC. Against all odds they actually managed to find a DNA match in the criminal database using the semen sample they were able to swab from my cervix. They couldn’t give me his name or details of his previous conviction although I was just relieved they found him and could prevent him from putting any other woman through what I had gone through.

The DC interviewed him and had apparently informed her that I wasn’t very drunk at all (despite the CCTV footage of me reeling uncontrollably and stumbling about in front of the Cro-bar) and that it was my idea to go out. I also allegedly told this man that my husband wouldn’t mind my sleeping with him and that I did that sort of thing all the time. This struck me as unusual since I have never in my life done anything of the sort and this incident had a profoundly traumatising effect on my husband, daughter and family. The DC then began to cross examine me over the phone as I sobbed about details that had at that point taken place 6 months ago. I had a hard time piecing details together for that night since I had blacked out for most of it.

That night I was inconsolable. After about 4 hours of sobbing tears anger, frustration and defeat I resolved to call the DC and get another officer on the case. The next day I stayed home from work and I rang the DC to confront her about her about her interview/questioning manner and explain that I find her manner towards me hostile. She responded that this exactly the sort of questioning I would get in court and is unapologetic about her manner. I ask if there is anyone else I can liaise with and she says no, that I have no choice but to deal with her. She then said that personally she doesn’t think that I was raped but that I just got drunk and had sex with this stranger and then hangs up. Horrified, I immediately ring back and request to speak to the DC’s boss, the police Sergeant. After several attempts the Police Sgt rings me back and I explain what his DC said and how she hung up and that I do not want her on my case since she clearly does not believe I was raped and that her presenting to Crown Prosecution Service on my behalf would prejudice the case being brought to court. The sergeant assures me that I can liaise directly through him but that the DC has to present to CPS and that her opinion will have no bearing on my case. He also tells me that she is a very senior officer who has worked very hard on my case. I don’t doubt this and tell him so but it still doesn’t change what she said to me, how she treated me or that she hung up on me. I tell him I want to file a complaint against his detective constable.

The following week the Islington Police Sergeant comes to my office to tell me that the CPS have decided not to pursue my case as it was unlikely to result in a successful prosecution. They cited my testimony as unreliable with the blackouts and suggested I had gone along with the attack rather than fought him off. The sergeant then went on to refer to the attacker as “this gentleman”. I was horrified at his choice of words considering this man had raped me. This man had a pre-existing criminal record and was now being called a gentleman. This gentleman was at best an opportunist, at worst a rapist but never a gentleman. I told the sergeant I would also like to file an official complaint against the DC. He asked if I was sure I wanted to do that as she was a very senior officer and had worked very hard on my case. I said that I wanted to ensure she never treated another victim in the manner I had been treated again. I wanted it on her record should anyone else make a complaint.

I felt utterly hopeless and depressed at the loss but took consolation knowing that I did what I had to do. A friend of mine in the US sent me the details of Women Against Rape in London and suggested I get in touch. I rang them and told them my story and about the police treatment and was both comforted and horrified to learn that the treatment I had received was not uncommon. They ensured my attacker’s details were circulated to the various Police stations throughout London in the (likely) event he should strike again and his next victim decides to come forward. They also petitioned the CPS to review my case a second time which though unsuccessful still made me heard. They gave me the details of a wonderful solicitor who specialised in cases such as mine and helped me file a complaint against the Islington police for both the treatment I had received for the DC and the sergeant’s referral to my attacker as a gentleman. I paid £500 to file this to ensure it was done properly since I could have done it myself for free but had no faith in the police or the justice system whatsoever. A year later I was told that after an internal investigation they found no wrongdoing on behalf of the DC though ironically the Police Sergeant would be officially warned in his treatment of me. The solicitor also told me that I could make an application with the CICA (Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority). It usually took over year to process but would probably result in a small settlement that I could use towards therapy or a much needed break.

Since my attack I have been candid and open with colleagues, friends, family and even the media (appearing on BBC as well as in the Washington Post) about my experiences. The reaction I seem to receive most often from people is that they or someone they know (friend, family member, partner, etc) has had a similar experience. I found that nearly every time I shared my experience with someone I realised with increasing horror that sex attacks on both women and men alike occur a lot more frequently than anyone would think. One evening a dear friend of mine suggested we compile stories of people all over the world to illustrate just how widespread and far-reaching sexual abuse/ assault really is. It can happen to anyone anywhere. I think that by speaking out candidly about my experience I have grown stronger and stronger and have hopefully shown others that there is no shame whatsoever in being the victim of a sexual assault or abuse. If anything I have felt empowered by coming forward and standing up to my attacker who will hopefully now think twice before accosting another drunken woman in London as well as the detective constable who will hopefully treat her cases with more humanity.

Hollywood Goes Silent on Rape and Sodomy: A Polanski Victory

Yesterday, 76-year-old child rapist Roman Polanski was released from the house arrest he was under with the Swiss government’s decision to not extradite him to the United States, based on a technicality of California law. They blamed a fault in the US extradition request and the failure to provide confidential testimony about his original hearing; the judge in the case is long-dead. Polanski’s exile is a story of more than a single rape, but of a rape culture, the incident emblematic of a poisonous mindset where a rich, troubled artist can drug and rape a nonconsenting 13-year-old girl with utter impunity, and serve no sentence for it.

In the Spring of 1977, Polanski invited 13-year-old model Samantha Geimer to a house for a photo shoot, giving her alcohol and Quaaludes, a potent mixture. He invited the intoxicated girl into a bedroom; she recalls saying “No, no. I don’t want to go in there. No, I don’t want to do this. No!” Despite her protests, he raped and sodomized her, and the next day he was arrested and charged with rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under fourteen, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor. In a plea deal designed to protect Geimer’s identity, five of the charges were dropped, and Polanski was only facing time for unlawful sexual intercourse – or statutory rape. On eve of his sentencing, Polanski fled the country, leaving behind responsibility for his crimes.

With his thirty years spent in France making award winning films and his vindication now in Switzerland, Polanski has won. He has the high opinion of his friends in Hollywood who defended him – Woody Allen, Martin Scorcese, Jeremy irons, John Landis, and many others – as well as a media who almost monolithically refers to his crime as “having sex with” a 13-year-old girl, ignoring the drugs and the victim’s verbal protests, as if age just were a number. He has defenders among the people of France, Poland, and America, some of whom have compared the hatred of sex offenders to the hatred of Jews in Nazi Germany. His star still lies on the Lodz Walk of Fame in Poland. He even has the forgiveness of his victim, who he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to in the 1990s. His release was met with joy from the embarrassingly vast amount of supporters Polanski has in Hollywood, and especially abroad. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner stated that “The great Franco-Polish director can now freely rediscover his loved ones and devote himself fully to the pursuit of his artistic activities.” His Polish counterpart echoed his vile sentiments, warmly embracing Polanski as a cultural icon of Poland.

The outpour of support Polanski has received from many in the film community is another example of how “Hollywood liberals” are anything but. There has been sparse condemnation of those who deserve to be condemned, such as Roman Polanski. (A good example: Mel Gibson, who was recorded telling his girlfriend that it would be her fault if she were “raped by a pack of niggers.” His repulsive racism has been met with deafening silence, and while he has been dropped from his agency, there is little outcry against this man who has been known for his racism, sexism, and anti-semitism in the past.) Polanski can count many in Hollywood as his friends, and despite the controversy, remains free and wealthy.

Apologists can accuse the US authorities of going on a witch hunt, or call the 13-year-old a slut, or her mother a gold digger, or Polanski a great artist who should be excused from punishment due to his own personal tragedies, but it’s impossible to avoid the core of this case – Polanski raped a young girl and has effectively gotten away with it. Everything else is irrelevant: there is an unrepentant child predator who will never face justice being supported by a mob of elite and wealthy people willing to make apologies for him and reasons for his behavior.

When I’m Not Having Fun Anymore

As far as I’m concerned, great sex is a function of trust, affection, candid communication, and, above all, fun. It’s a delicate balance. A fragile ecosystem. If I were any good at math, I’d draw a diagram or something, but alas, I majored in writing. So I draw the line when I’m not having fun anymore. Simple and easy to communicate. I expect my partner to understand and respect that. Because if you’re not concerned with whether I’m enjoying sex or willing to ask me if I’m having fun while you’re fucking me then, um, you shouldn’t be fucking me. There’s the door, dude, happy trails to ya.

All Posts from July, 2010