‘men’

Todd Akin Non-Apologizes for “Legitimate Rape” Remarks

Perhaps just to remind us that he’s there, or that he plans on seeking political office again, or just to show us his comb-over remains, former Missouri Representative Todd Akin has issued an “apology” regarding his infamous “legitimate rape” remarks. In case you are blocking the memory of those remarks through willful amnesia, then-Representative Akin was asked if abortion is justified in cases of rape last summer and answered,

“Its seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut the whole thing down.”

From The New Yorker

Of course, these purported magical powers of the female body are non-existent, and to promote such an idea is not only wrong, but dangerous. Akin’s words were not simply said in a vacuum: he really believes what he said.

Take a look back to 2011. Wisconsin Representative (and later Vice Presidential Candidate) Paul Ryan and Akin were co-sponsors of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Most problematic was the limiting definition of who was eligible for an exception to a Medicaid-funded abortion: only victims of “forcible rape.” Like Michelle Goldberg notes, there isn’t even a definition of this phrase in the criminal code. Quoted in the Think Progress coverage of the Akin’s remarks and the correlation with this Act, Goldberg further notes,

“Under H.R. 3, only victims of “forcible rape” would qualify for federally-funded abortions. Victims of statuary rape–say, a 13-year-old girl impregnated by a 30-year-old man–would be on their own. So would victims of incest if they’re over 18. And while “forcible rape” isn’t defined in the criminal code, the addition of the adjective seems certain to exclude acts of rape that don’t involve overt violence–say, cases where a woman is drugged or has a limited mental capacity. ‘It’s basically putting more restrictions on what was defined historically as rape,’ says Keenan.” (emphasis in original)

I would speculate even further: is it forcible rape in the context of a relationship? a marriage? Or is it only forcible rape if the woman’s body bears bruises and marks? Or only if she rushes to the hospital the same day to have a rape kit completed? What if she waits to report? What if her body is relatively free of bruises? It goes on and on. Forcible rape is bullshit. Rape is rape.

While Ryan may have tried to distance himself from Akin, as it was election season, the fact nevertheless remains they both actively support an act to redefine rape, which also received passed the House of Representatives  251 to 175. Akin is just the face of the GOP’s attempts to not only redefine rape, but often belittle the experiences of survivors.

Now fast-forward back to last week. At this point, you’re probably wondering how Akin actually “apologized.” How can you undo all of that damage? 

When asked if he regretted his comments, Akin answered, “Of course I would,” only to add, “But that’s not reality. All of us are fallible. We make mistakes, say things the wrong way. I’ve relived that moment many, many times.”

Akin wants to make it very clear that he does believe a woman’s body holds some sort of magical power, and that he merely said it the wrong way. He’s learned nothing from what he said, what he heard said back to him, and what happened in the wake of his hot mess.

But we’ve all learned one thing – that Todd Akin does, indisputably, suck.

From Talking to Doctors Tumblr Page

 

Watch This PSA, It’s Good For You

These men at the University of Arizona don’t support rape culture. And they don’t get why any other dude would.

Their message is clear: that all men need to come together to stop rape. And that it’s the only way it’s gonna happen at all.

I’m Pro-Choice, Not Bro-Chice

NOTE: As amazing as it would be if Bro-Choice were an organization fighting for the reproductive rights of men assigned female at birth, it is a movement geared toward cis men. There are men for whom reproductive rights are a serious and personal issue, and I do not mean to contribute to their erasure in this article.

The internet has been abuzz recently with talk about Bro-Choice, a new project from Choice USA that seeks to educate and work with college men on reproductive rights, and to disrupt “the dominant narrative that reproductive justice is a ‘women’s issue.’” I confess the first thing that came to mind when I heard about this project was “Bronies” – a.k.a. the men who built a passionate fan base over a show intended for young girls. The similar feeling of discomfort over masculinizing a woman-oriented thing also came to mind.

I read Choice USA’s article on Bro-Choice by Andrew Jenkins and I found that a lot of my skepticism was allayed – the word “Bro” conjures images of stereotypical masculinity and misogyny, but I found a thoughtful call for young men to take an interest in securing what should be basic human rights. However, I also saw the by-line at the top stating Bro-Choice wants to “[move] men from passive allies to vocal stakeholders,” and I take some issue with this rhetoric, and with the idea of building an identity around being an “ally” or “male feminist.”

There is a lot to like about Bro-Choice. Educating young people about reproductive rights and sexuality is a wholly positive thing, especially with their explicit wish to “combat complacency and paternalism” both, and to be aware of male privilege while doing so. But the Bro-Choice pledge – to speak out against injustice at the risk of alienation, advocate for reproductive justice, and challenge rape culture and misogyny – is inherently righteous, not just because the man taking it knows and is related to women. Bro-Choice does a lot right, which is why critiquing their rhetoric (and silly name) feels like nit-picking, but there are problems with making allies as visible as the people they are supposed to be supporting.

I don’t identify as a feminist. I don’t mean to say that I disavow feminism or its principles, either – but I have become very skeptical of “male feminists” and their organizations over the last few years. I’ve heard self-identified “male feminists” argue that rape is an evolutionary tool designed for men to spread their seed. I’ve known “male feminists” who have raped women and suffered no consequences. (I have known men with no knowledge whatsoever of feminist theories treat women with respect and to powerfully oppose what in feminism is called “rape culture,” though they did not know the term.) I’ve seen “allies” behave cruelly in their words and actions while paying lip service to the idea of social justice, to the point where I felt it counterproductive and appropriative for me identify as a feminist. Feminism is a movement for the liberation of women, and should remain under the control of women, solely. I found myself nodding when Jenkins said “we don’t need young men to participate in this work because they’ve been motivated by a sexist narrative about ‘saving our mothers, sisters and daughters’ – a narrative often perpetuated by our own movement. We don’t need a knight in shining armor.”

With some allies, you don't even need enemies!

Bro-Choice stresses the awareness of male privilege and the fact that this is a woman’s issue first and foremost, but in the same breath urges men move from being “passive allies to vocal stakeholders” regardless of whether they are needed or wanted. The term “ally” conjures images of war – the ally is metaphorically going into battle with the marginalized group against the foe, because they share a common material interest or cultural values (like NATO, the EU, the Warsaw Pact). But because of the nature of gender relations in our society, men benefit from the fact that women are paid less for the same labor, that they tend to be depicted as emotional and untrustworthy, and that their bodies are often viewed as not theirs to control, particularly in the context of reproductive rights and sexual harassment and assault. It seems wrong to take the focus off of the disadvantaged party in order to put the focus and control onto the party that implicitly condescends to “alliance.”

When a man identifies as feminist, he might be thought of as mildly deluded at worst, rather than as a harpy or feminazi. Male feminists will not be accused of wanting to “leave their husbands, kill their children, and practice witchcraft.”

When you self-identify as an “ally,” it might blind you to the ways in which you are upholding injustice, purposefully or unknowingly; it might make you view yourself as incapable of being oppressive or offensive, as your intentions come from a good place. An ally opposing sexism (and the same goes for racism, classism, homophobia, et al) without understanding how sexism (or racism, classism, homophobia) benefits them makes a poor “stakeholder” in the movement; empowering marginalized communities does more to combat structural oppression and disadvantage than the passion of any number of well-meaning liberal-minded people. Part of the Bro-Choice pledge may be to “challenge myself and interrogate my own personal privileges” but it is harder to do so when you are in a cordoned-off part of the women’s movement under the interest of men, and harder to be called out on internalized misogyny in an echo chamber of men.

Bro-Choice is co-opting a women’s movement for men.

Men’s role in feminism should be to challenge other men, and to be points of resistance against a culture that devalues women and femininity – not to be the leaders or stakeholders. Men can’t be stakeholders or take the spotlight in the pro-choice movement because it is not their bodies who are besieged by moralizing politicians, or who suffer lack of access to birth control or who are often judged harshly for doing so (though this only applies to cisgender men) – and it seems strange to build a personal brand around a kind of grief that you can never know. I support feminism, I strive to be in solidarity with feminism and to oppose misogyny in others and in myself, but I feel I cannot identify as a feminist as it is simply not my place. I can’t speak for a struggle whose hardships I have never known and over whom I have privilege, and even my writing here on a feminist website is often limited seeing as there are elements of feminism that I literally cannot know or relate to. The best thing for men interested in women’s equality to do is to listen with kindness, compassion, and understanding to those who do know the reality of gender injustice, and to support them without trying to lead them.

I don’t need a label like Bro-Choice to describe my feelings, because I don’t need to be honored simply due to my interest in being an ally. I’m not Bro-Choice, I’m Pro-Choice, and I support the feminist movement without expecting a reward.

Why We Need to Call Out the Bullshit and End Street Harassment

The other night, this man I passed on the street made kissing noises at me as I walked by him.

This was disconcerting for several reasons: 1) I was alone, 2) it was late and dark outside, 3) he was a complete stranger, and 4) is it ever not disconcerting when you realize that lewd lip-smacking noises are being directed at you? I don’t think I’m really going out on a limb here when I say that’s kind of weird and creepy. And that’s exactly how that encounter made me feel – weird and creeped out. Which is exactly how I feel every time I get harassed on the street, which, in a big city like New York, is fairly frequently.

This charming anecdote is particularly relevant now, as we are currently in the midst of International Anti-Street Harassment Week (apparently my friend with the lips didn’t get the memo). All around the world, people are coming together to take a stand against the catcalling, leering, whistling, groping, and yes, kissing noises, that women and many LGBT individuals endure on a frighteningly regular basis. Street harassment is a very real problem, even moreso because so many people are quick to discount it or write it off as harmless. It’s not harmless – nothing that routinely makes people feel uncomfortable or unsafe is harmless. The activists behind Anti-Street Harassment Week recognize and respect that, and we would all do well to follow their lead.

For those who are still not convinced that street harassment is actually a big deal, let’s start with the basics. To begin, harassing someone on the street is flat-out rude. Yelling things, especially sexually suggestive things, at random strangers that you pass on the sidewalk is just not a polite thing to do. And for the record, disguising this kind of behavior as “flattery” does not make it any more acceptable. More often than not, that attention is unwanted and makes the subject of those comments feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. That has certainly been the case in my own personal experience – when I get harassed, I blush, I feel like I’m on display, and I never know how to respond. I want to stand up for myself, come back with a snarky comment or a quick and dirty “fuck you!”, but option A is nearly impossible to do on the spot, and option B risks inciting a violent reaction. It also kind of feels like playing into the harasser’s game. So most of the time, I just end up ignoring these men and their comments, which feels pretty shitty as well.

Really, though, what kind of response are street harassers hoping to get? Surely they don’t think the sound of their lips smacking together is going to entice me to sleep with them? That I will be so wildly aroused as to throw myself at this person’s feet and beg him to take my body right here, right now, on this New York City street? Not quite. And you know what? That’s not the reaction these men are looking for, either. They’re not expecting their victims to respond positively to their behavior (or even to respond at all), and they’re not trying to make the people they harass feel good about themselves. There’s something much darker and more complicated going on here, and it’s all to do with power and asserting control over public spaces.

Basically, with every rude comment or leering stare, the harasser is saying this: “I have the right to say what I want and do what I please here, and you just have to deal with it.” He is saying, “your body is mine to look at and to comment on without your consent.” And he is saying, “you’re going to like this attention I’m giving you, you should like this attention I’m giving you, and if you don’t, there’s something wrong with you, not me. You’re too uptight, too frigid, too whatever. Your reaction is the problem, not my behavior.”

Victims of street harassment are often made to feel like they have no right to be upset, like they should just shut up and take it when people speak to them like that. But we need to fight back against that notion and call it out for what it is – a large, steaming pile of bullshit. I’m asking you (all of you – men, women, gay people, straight people, ALL people) to do this: take street harassment seriously. Don’t harass people, don’t let other people be harassed, and don’t let yourself be harassed. Stand up, fight back, and make a difference.

Our streets and our world will be much better for it.

My Rage Is Legitimate: On Navigating Street Harassment And My Socialization

This post is certainly well-timed! It’s the International Anti-Street Harassment Week. Check out Hollaback! for resources.

Growing up relatively sheltered on suburban Long Island, I didn’t really know what to make of street harassment the first few times it happened to me.

vintage sexism

It started when I went on to seventh grade; along with migrating to the other side of the school building, I graduated from wearing an awkward, cumbersome plaid Catholic school jumper to a skirt. The only thing I liked about the skirt was how straightforward it was to put on, and as much as I hated finagling the logistics of putting on the jumper, the skirt seemed to come with its own troubled politics as a young girl trying to run away from being identified as a woman. I thought of the skirt as a chore, but, like so many things I dealt with in early adolescence, I had to reluctantly put up with it anyway. I kept my skirt unrolled as a protest against turning it into a fashion statement and as a deterrent against the boys in my grade commenting on how I didn’t measure up. I was already unpopular, and there was no need to fan the flames of my social suicide.

Of course, it happened anyway, on my way walking home from the bus stop. But this time I was singled out by men I didn’t know as they drove by. I remember feeling shame flush my cheeks as I would try to burrow my face in my jacket. As I navigated catcalling in my teens by creepy men who felt entitled enough to inquire into the marital status of someone they didn’t know, I remained profoundly confused as to how I should react globally to harassment. Should I be flattered? Upset? Laugh it off as an idiotic anecdote to tell my friends? Being fiercely independent, I innately felt it shouldn’t be up to me to amend my own habits (perhaps, trying to enlist one of my few male friends to hang out with me to dissuade catcalling) out of fear. That seemed backward, antediluvian.

After I became politicized in college and started commuting to the city for work this past summer, the onslaught began anew the second I got off the Long Island Bus and my rage consumed me like a flame, building in my throat. I didn’t know what to do. Remaining silent seemed to reify my feelings of helplessness, even as I knew silence could function as a form of resistance. I didn’t deserve to be subject to lewd gestures my entire commute home just because I accidentally made eye contact with a total jerk. Sometimes my fear that the harassment would escalate to groping or another type of attack would lead me to run out of sight the moment the subway doors chimed open. I didn’t want to be around to find out what might happen next. Often, my responses to street harassment left me feeling angry and powerless – powerless because I didn’t feel I could vocalize my anger in the moment. Even though I’m working on unlearning self-hating socialization, as a black woman, I still feel uncomfortable taking up a lot of space in public, particularly when that emotion is (righteous) anger.

The trivialization of street harassment and dismissing a larger, more sustained political response to it because it “isn’t a big deal” or it “happens to every woman” makes invisible the systemic sexualized violence women encounter daily. The ability to name oppressions and claim your rage at its unwanted permeation into your daily life is important and crucial. Spaces that not only legitimize but also create communities around sharing rage, including Hollaback!NYC and the Everyday Sexism Project’s Twitter account, do the work of making these experiences visible and validating rage, bewilderment, and anger as legitimate responses to harassment. In my own micro way, posting about my experiences to my feminist friends on Facebook helped me to find a community that would find this behavior ridiculous, no questions asked, and help me work through my frustration.

In a quote from an April 10 article by Zerlina Maxwell, Holly Kearl, the creator of the End Street Harassment Week awareness campaign, observes, “The acceptance of street harassment, the portrayal of it as a compliment or a joke, creates a culture where it is normal to disrespect someone or to comment on them or to touch them without their consent. That culture helps make rape okay and lets rapists get away with their crime.”

Brushing aside women’s concerns and anger about street harassment they shouldn’t even be subject to in the first place mirrors a larger cultural acceptance of violence towards women in the U.S., and it’s one that should no longer be tolerated.

Cheerleading Coach Violates Another Cheerleader – Guess Who Gets Blamed?

David A. Chatman, 38, a former cheerleading coach and registered sex offender from the state of Oregon, has been arrested – again.

David Chatman

Having already been convicted of molesting a 16-year-old cheerleader in 2008, he has now been arrested on suspicion of the first-degree rape and second-degree sex abuse of a 17-year-old former cheerleader. He pleads not guilty to the charges, and claims that the sex that they had was consensual and that he believed she was 19. (This is obviously a fool-proof lie, seeing as Chatman reportedly coached the girl when she was “11 or 12.”)

Obviously, the survivor tells a different story. In an interview with investigators, the girl stated that she had gone to see Chatman at his home and had, due to medication that made her groggy, fallen asleep. She then awoke to find him raping her. According to court documents, her mother notified the sheriff’s deputies in March that her daughter had been raped in September, and the girl had kept her underwear in a plastic bag as evidence.

This girl was raped by a man who was fully aware of what he was doing. There is no reason to doubt the survivor, seeing as her fears of coming forward were legitimate (seeing as the accused was her coach) and the rapist has previously been found guilty of similar charges. In fact, whether she agreed to sex with Chatman or not is irrelevant, seeing as in the eyes of an Oregon state courthouse, a 17-year-old can’t consent to sexual activity with a legal adult.

And yet, people are already clamouring to accuse this 17-year-old of lying, setting Chatman up, and being responsible for what happened to her. Apparently, “if there’s grass on the field, then play ball.” (I wish I made that up.) According to Chatman’s community, if a girl has hit puberty she is an acceptable conquest, and therefore, Chatman cannot be blamed. In fact, because the girl had gone to Chatman’s house by choice, and had apparently known that he was a registered sex offender, she had it coming. Never mind that Chatman was the adult in this situation. Never mind that whether or not the girl wanted sex, it was up to Chatman to abstain.

Seriously, with people so quick and willing to excuse the rapist at all costs, is it any wonder that women and girls are so reluctant to come forward?

We Need Your Words: A Call for Writers

Movements are about voices. THE LINE wants yours!

i took this photo at my day job, so copyright carmen rios

We’re seeking new writers for the campaign blog; members of the blogging team will be expected to contribute regularly (on a self-declared and -designed schedule, but ideally once a month to once a week), and can publish on a series of topics including feminism, media, sex, sexuality, and rape culture. Anything ranging from personal essays about sex and consent to write-ups on ongoing rape hearings or ripping apart terrible media coverage of the same will be accepted with open arms. Writers can pitch their own stories or wait to see what I dig up and pass around. Candidates will hopefully be totally badass, come bearing valuable activist or writing experience, and know how to work within WordPress to write and edit their own posts before submitting them to me.

Although writers aren’t compensated, I can promise you the following as blog editor: an opportunity to grow as a writer and little working bee, a chance to immerse yourself in a cause you care about, and the ability to speak your mind to an audience of millions around the world growing every day. And did I mention the outpourings of love? Because I am really great at emailing people outpourings of love.

If you’re interested, email me – rios.cmarie+writers [at] gmail [dot] com – and attach a resume and writing sample. (I know the email looks crazy but just do it: “rios.cmarie+writers @ gmail.com.”)If you don’t have a writing sample from print media or another blog, please write one! Seriously. Just go ahead, pick a news story from another outlet, and write about something as if you were writing it for us. Length of your samples doesn’t matter. Don’t write a cover letter because they make me sad, and I think it’s unfair how much time it takes to write one. Just send me a paragraph about who you are and your favorite flavor of ice cream instead.

If you’d just like to contribute casually or submit a single post, we have a way for you to do that right here! The Internet is amazing.

Applications accepted through April 1.

Why We Need to #EducateCoaches to Create Change in the Wake of Steubenville

Recently, I worked closely with athlete Connor Clancy from Colby College on a Change.Org petitionthe brainchild of my near and dear SPARK movement – asking the National Federation of High School Associations to develop and offer an annual educational program on sexual assault prevention to coaches as part of a required yearly training. In the wake of Steubenville, it’s clear that it’s time for us to take action collectively to make athletes part of a more proactive, humane culture. That process can begin if we take the right steps to #EducateCoaches.

The Steubenville rape case, in which two high school football players are accused of repeatedly assaulting, raping, and otherwise humiliating a debatably unconscious teenage girl after carrying her limp body from party to party last August, goes to trial today.

The case involves Ma’Lik Richmond and Trent Mays, two high school football players being charged with the sexual assault of an unnamed 16-year-old girl. Both a part of Steubenville’s Big Red football team – which is the steel town’s last shot to be “on the map.” The team’s acclaim has saved their town from desolation, keeping television crews within the confines of the once-packed, now sparsely populated town.

What went down exactly is unknown, mostly because the tale comes of hearsay and the victim herself remembers next to nothing. But the rumors aren’t pretty: various Instagram posts and tweets discussed and showed an unconcious Jane Doe being carried by her wrists and ankles out of a party, flashing everyone while presumably blackout drunk in their car, and lying topless on a sidewalk. A video shows Michael Nodianos, an Ohio State student from Steubenville, giggling about the “rape,” which he describes as such in the YouTube post he created that night,while comparing his buddies to famous rapists. Tweets from his account describe “a wang in the butt” and “a dead person.” Facebook posts express not having “sympathy for whores.”

The assistant coach had been the father of one of the party hosts from that August night, when the boys carried a drunk girl from house to house. He “didn’t like what he saw,” and asked them to leave.

But when the situation was exposed, head coach Reno Saccaccio was unphased. A local hero and successful coach, he regards his athletes as “his sons” and is one of the underlying reasons for the Big Red phenomena. He claimed when he asked the team about rumors of the incident and the details that were coming out, they told him they’d done nothing wrong. He “doesn’t do the Internet,” so he chose to simply ignore that photographs and messages that had been publicly posted by his team members. His demeanor when interacting with press was angry and defensive. He didn’t bench the accused boys and spoke out to invalidate the victim’s experience.

Now, as the trial is set to finally begin, a community remains divided and tensions remain high. By now, Steubenville is at best a hot mess and at worst, an absolute crash-and-burn of a community tragedy. The case has been mishandled in all directions; various members of the community at various levels and moments failed to accept accountability, students rallied against alleged rapists and disavowed a victim, parents turned down opportunities to learn and grow as a community in the spirit of further denial, and law enforcement, for the most part, stood by scratching their heads. And when given a chance to strike down the culture which often glorifies violence and accepts bad behavior while forsaking the humanity of women, the Steubenville coaches, and especially coach Saccoccia failed.

We can’t expect more from our sons if we can’t expect a peep from their fathers. And in a culture where athletes are too often treated preferentially and excused from typical social, legal, and academic standards, it’s become increasingly clear that we can’t expect more from sports culture until we fix our rape culture.

Coaches guide generations of boys through a gritty learning process. They’re legends and heros, and often rightly so. As leaders in their communities and mentors to their athletes, coaches hold unique places in the lives of their teammates. And if we give them the keys to having productive, empowering conversations about violence and respect with the boys they work with every day, that may be the key to ending the culture that created Steubenville.

Sports culture doesn’t have to be a rape culture. Sign the #EducateCoaches petition today at Change.Org/EducateCoaches. Use the tag #EducateCoaches to spread the word.

Badass Activist Friday Presents: Samhita Mukhopadhyay

It’s Friday, and we all know what that means! Interviews with your favorite badass feminists and activists. Whether social media queens and kings, creative artists, sex educators, or just kick-ass personalities, these people harness righteous anger, instigate movements and inspire cultural change. We’re here to honor them and their work, but more importantly, to highlight how we can all get up, plug in, and Just Start Doing.

This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing the awesome Samhita Mukhopadhyay, who you all probably know as the executive editor of Feministing. Aside from her writing for Feministing, she has also been published in news outlets such as The Nation, AlterNet and The Guardian UK, among others. Just a couple of months ago, Samhita’s first book, Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life was published, and two days ago Samhita, along with Amanda Marcotte, aired the first episode of their new podcast on CitizenRadio.

So, let’s see what she had to say!

Most of our readers will know you as the current Executive Editor of Feminsiting.com. How did you wind up on Feministing? What has that journey been like for you?

I originally started blogging at Feministing because I had bumped into Jessica Valenti who was an old college friend of mine and she essentially harassed me to join the collective. At the time the only blogging I had done was on Livejournal, so having such a public forum was new to me. I started it as something fun, but I don’t think I ever realized it would take off and land me here!

You’ve just released your first book, Outdated: How Dating is Ruining Your Love Life. Where did the idea for writing a book come from, and for writing this one specifically? How did you get started in the process?

Seal Press had actually contacted me directly because they liked my writing on Feministing and were interested in me writing a book on international feminism. At the time I was getting a MA at San Francisco State in transnational feminist theory, however, I didn’t feel like I was the appropriate person to write a book about international feminism. Instead, I pitched them the idea of writing an intervention to mainstream dating books as my best friend had recently given me a copy of Why Men Love Bitches, and said it was the holy grail of dating. I thought, there has to be something better out there for young women–so I set about to write it. Seal loved the idea and wanted to move forward with the project.

Did you have any surprises while writing the book? Any interesting encounters, or anything that you learned about yourself? How did you balance writing the book with your other work, and also with having a life outside of work?

Well, my good friend Courtney Martin said to me once, “we write the books we need to read,” and I think that was really true for me in writing this book. I realized all the ways dating was ruining MY love life and it was this weird moment of having to put my money where my mouth was and truly assess my intimate relationships–which was not an easy process, but I think is fairly apparent in the book. In terms of managing time, I had a really really hard time with it–half way through the process I realized that I probably have ADD–something I had never been diagnosed with before and that forced me to rearrange my life so I could have the space and time to write the book. It was not easy and I was on speaking tour at the same time. If I were to do it again, I would want to find some way to have writing the book be one of the only things on my plate.

In the book, you talk about the ways in which dating is presented in popular media and in self-help books, specifically those aimed at women, and the ways in which those myths are anything from ridiculous to damaging. Which of those myths do you find most pervasive? And how can we combat them?

One of the most pervasive myths in dating books is that female independence ruins romance and that women should act less threatening and downplay their successes because if they don’t they are going to die alone or with their cat. This has instilled a certain amount of fear amongst women when it comes to dating, that if they get more successful they will never find love. Demographic shifts have changed the way that relationships play out–that is a fact–but we can either lament the loss of traditional relationship structures or we can embrace a new world where women have a plethora of options. As far as I’m concerned there is no “going back,” so I would rather embrace life as an independent and satisfied woman than waiting around or pining for some guy that won’t accept me for who I am anyway. How do we combat these myths? By not feeding into the hype.

If you could give our readers one piece of useful dating advice, what would it be?

Spend some time getting centered and figuring out what you want in a relationship. We get so caught up in what other people want for us or what we should want that we often forget that we have needs and desires. And the best way to take time to figure out what you want is to spend some time single, something many people are afraid to do.

 

Thanks for your time and your great answers!

 

Two on Consent

Taken from www.thecampussocialite.com

Since it seems to never rain but pour, the past week has landed us with not one but two instances of mansplaining on the topic of sexual assault with a particular emphasis on giving consent while drunk.

First up is an opinion piece by Peter Berkowitz published in the Wall Street Journal on the 20th. In it, he discusses a letter issued by the Obama administration and addressed to colleges and universities that details guidelines for dealing with sexual assault accusations. The letter, among other things, encourages schools to take allegations more seriously, discourages direct cross-examination of the victim by the accuser, and requires that the allegations be reviewed by a disciplinary board consisting of faculty and administration.

To any rational thinking human being, this sounds like a major step forward. Sexual assault and rape are ridiculously underreported, and campus police forces in particular have a sketchy track record when it comes to appropriately responding to reports of rape and assault. This directive would foster an environment in which victims would feel more inclined to come forward, and would have a higher chance of being heard.

But that’s not the conclusion that Berkowitz draws. For him, this directive is not a means to make the college experience safer for everyone, but an evil plot schemed by radical feminists to ruin the lives of unsuspecting men. To do this, he makes quite a few astounding leaps (not the least of which is the idea that the Obama administration likes to cater to radical feminists).

Berkowitz writes,

“The consequences for a wrongly convicted student are devastating: Not only is he likely to be expelled, but he may well be barred from graduate or professional school and certain government agencies, suffer irreparable damage to his reputation, and still be exposed to criminal prosecution”.

Truly, it would be horrific for anyone to have to deal with any sort of a false criminal accusation. However, Berkowitz addresses this point without ever considering the thousands of rape survivors who have never received any justice (and consequently the thousands of rapists who got off scott free). For someone who claims to be so concerned about justice, that seems like an odd point to neglect. He reveals the basic flaw of his argument when he writes this:

“Where are the professors of history, political science and law who will insist clearly and in public that due process is a fundamental component of American political institutions and culture, a cornerstone of our legal system, and indispensable in a free society to the fair administration of justice?”

To Berkowitz, clearly, this directive presents a slanting of the judiciary process towards the victim and their allegations. However, the point he seems to miss is that this directive is meant to correct a currently existing bias towards the accused. This directive is not meant to ensure that countless innocent college students will be punished for crimes they did not commit. It is meant to ensure that countless violated college students will have a better chance of receiving the justice they deserve.

What increases Berkowitz’s concern is what he sees as an ambiguity in the matters of consent when it is combined with alcohol consumption. He writes,

“On campus, where casual sex is celebrated and is frequently fueled by alcohol, the ambiguity that often attends sexual encounters is heightened and the risk of error in rape cases is increased”.

In this misunderstanding of what consent means, he is not alone, but is joined by, amongst others, one Roland Hulme who wrote an article entitled Alcohol & Consent: Why the Double Standard.

In his opinion piece, Hulme muses on recent tabloid stories involving celebrities having drunken sex. One example was the discussion over Bristol Palin’s description of her first sex in her autobiography, which was (quite aptly) interpreted as rape by some. Hulme however makes the argument that, as long as you are still conscious, you are still responsible for your own actions and thus can be taken at your word when you say “yes” to sex (or, don’t say “no”, or don’t kick and scream … whatever).

“In fact, in almost every aspect of life, being blacked-out, stumbling drunk does not relieve you of responsibility for the actions you take or the decisions you make; except in this ridiculous double standard of sexual consent.”

The problem with this argument is that Humle is talking consistently and exclusively of the personal responsibility of the person getting ridiculously wasted, and NOT of the person choosing to take advantage of them. While, yes, it would have been a smarter idea to not get drunk, or to at least not get drunk around people you cannot trust, that does not give anyone else the permission to abandon their own personal responsibility to not take advantage of others. If you are choosing to sleep with the person who’s slurring their words and can’t walk in a straight line, you are choosing to engage with someone who is clearly in an altered state of consciousness and who may not be able to make decisions anymore.

All philosophical waxing aside, many States in the US have actual laws in place that state that someone who is intoxicated cannot give consent. So even if you are sure that the drunken person in front of you really, really means it when they say “yes”, you may still want to hold off on sleeping with them.

What Hulme is doing, underneath all of the appeals to rational thinking and personal responsibility, is buying into the same old thinking of victim-blaming that we are surrounded with daily: if you don’t want to run the risk of getting raped, don’t get drunk. I wish we could finally turn this around, so it says that if you don’t want to be accused of rape, you shouldn’t rape. If the person in front if you cannot remember their own name, leave it be – they probably cannot give meaningful consent. And this is not about party-pooping, ruining the lives of male college students or about declaring women unfit for drinking. It’s about understanding what consent is and what it is not, and about always making sure to get and give enthusiastic consent.

 

 

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