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Republicans are the new feminists. Either that or they’re pro-rape and anti-family.

5 Sep

I’m bringing the banner back because the Anti-Woman Threat Level has been elevated to fuchsia.

I watched part of the RNC last night. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be doing that lest I risk putting myself into a coma, but I can’t help it. (Have you ever seen anything more boring than this convention? I’ve seen people party harder on the Lawrence Welk Show.) I couldn’t help it. I turned it on and was just caught in the headlights by seeing my city’s old mayor pretend to be a dumb hick in order to pander to the willfully ignorant provincialism of a room full of Tim McGraw fans who believe poor people are poor because they’re evil, dinosaur bones were planted by the devil to test their faith, and liberals’ real goals consist of sacrificing late-term fetuses to the Indigo Girls and turning all of our little boys into Eddie Izzard. He did so by jocularly implying that Obama’s an urban chauvinist/elitist for mentioning the fact that Sara Palin hasn’t run a city big enough to have bus service nor a state with more people in it than any city with more than one Hooters. (Rudy’s just so small town, so main street.) He then tisk-tisked Democrats for asking whether Palin can handle being a mom to so many kids while holding high office, acting fucking outraged that they would ask such a question of a woman when they wouldn’t ask it of a man. You know, because they’re such feminists over in the GOP.

I know the Democrats have been blowing it lately when it comes to women’s issues (hey, Obama, thanks for selling out half the population in a stupid attempt to court the seven or so religious zealots that were already going to vote for you out of spite because McCain refuses to acknowledge that the apocalypse is scheduled for next month), but watching Republicans talk about women’s rights nearly had me in convulsions. The dissimulations and misrepresentations I saw in fifteen minutes of watching the RNC were so obscene, so obvious, and so stupid that I squirted ginger ale out of my nose like five times. Hearing these ass clowns pretend to give a shit about women’s issues, pretend they’re the party of resisting the status quo, pretend they care about anything but giving rich people more money, starting some more wars with brown people with oil, taking rights away from women and people with the temerity to not be rich, and forcing people to adhere to their backward bullshit religious ideology is offensive to the max.

Or perhaps it’s illuminating. 

It’s illuminating because I’ve seen the essence of Republican strategy in action: smart, sophisticated rich guys pretending to be dumb philistines in order to trick people who really are dumb philistines into thinking their best interests lie in voting in support of smart rich guys’ financial interests. It’s really kind of amazing if you think about it. I mean, these guys have to say insane shit in public that they absolutely know is stupid and wrong, and they have to act like they mean it. But they have to make sure not to go too far with their ridiculous rhetoric lest they tip the public off to the fact that they think their entire base has the IQ of Fred Durst. It’s a fine line, and I’m kind of impressed with how they’ve managed to stand astride it for so long. 

So they get to come out and pretend, because they’ve nominated an anti-woman psycho who happens to have a vagina (maybe — I’m still not convinced she isn’t a cyborg created by Sean Hannity and Phyllis Schlafly or a transvestite MRA), that they’re the party of women’s rights and gender progress. They can claim that they’re the feminists and the Democrats are the misogynists (not that a lot of them aren’t), and do so with straight faces. McCain and whatever doctor of tomfoolery runs his campaign also think that they’re going to nab the mythological bloc of disaffected Clinton supporters who are disgruntled at Obama’s nomination, simply because they’ve nominated a woman (a woman who thinks being called a pit bull with lipstick is a compliment and that women ought to be forced to rent their uteri out as life support equipment free of charge). I don’t believe that a huge group of people that love Clinton more than their own human rights exists, but I do, unfortunately, think there are plenty of (Republican) women that are stupid enough to pick up what the GOP is laying down and decide Sara Palin is a step forward for womankind.

What can I say? The GOP might just have the public pegged. In any case, the Republicans have devised some pretty impressive framing if you ask me. 

Maybe the leadership of the party of homophobes with wide stances and women who wish women weren’t allowed to vote gets something I don’t. Maybe I’m presenting arguments that are just too honest, complex, and thoughtful. Maybe what I need to do in order to hasten the gender revolution is repackage it as something other than what it really is in blisteringly stupid terms. I’ll give it a shot, I guess, and try it out on the voting public who are considering whether they ought to vote for John “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran… did I mention that I was a POW?” McCain and his kapo out of their “love” for womankind. The following will be my attempt at “framing,” GOP style, the debate over whether Palin’s election would be a step forward for women: 

Here’s why I’m opposed to Sara Palin: she may be a woman, but she ain’t no feminist, and I doubt whether she’s even got America’s interests at heart. In fact, I doubt whether she’s even an American. Look where she’s from. I know Alaska’s a state, but it’s basically in Canada, and there’s nothing in Canada but socialists, hockey players, and people who don’t know how to pronounce the word “about.” That ain’t American no how. But it may be even worse than that. Alaska is just a hop, skip, and a few little islands away from Russia. I’m not sure this woman isn’t a foreign agent, and if she happens to turn out to be one, let’s hope she’s “just” a Canadian and not a Russki. 

You may be wondering why I suspect Palin of working for a foreign government. I’ll tell you why: she’s already publicly admitted to being anti-American. I hate to quote myself (I, like Bill O’Reilly, am a paragon of modesty), but let us remember: 

As of now, our Supreme Court (however tenuous the status of this decision may be) holds that a woman has the right to decide how she wants to utilize her uterus… The Supreme Court is an American institution and has been one for much longer than apple pie, NASCAR, or fake German beers, ergo, anyone who disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision is anti-American.

Palin has brazenly proclaimed that she’s anti-American, and has even admitted to sympathizing with terrorists who would attack us and take away our freedoms. She is vehemently opposed to American women’s freedom and right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and would, if elected, force us to use our organs to provide life support against our will.

And she’s radical about it (what’s scarier than a radical, folks?). She has stated publicly that she opposes our right to determine our own destiny even in the case of rape. You know what that means? That’s right. Sara Palin is pro-rape. She’d rather force you to give birth to the spawn of a rapist than allow you, after you’ve already had your human rights and personal sovereignty violated, to decide not to suffer further physical and emotional torment as a result of the crime. Palin claims she’s pro-family, but how can we trust someone’s claims to being pro-family when she has also publicly proclaimed that she’d even force her own daughter to carry a fetus that resulted from a rape? Palin is in favor of taking rights away from rape victims and giving more power to rapists to hurt us, and she’s ready to put the might of the state behind the rapists rather than innocent women, including her own daughters. That is downright treasonous — not to mention anti-family — if you ask me. 

I think it’s clear what the right choice is here. Sara Palin is a pro-rape, anti-family, anti-American radical, and she might very well be a foreign agent. She’s clearly not qualified to lead on behalf of the majority of freedom-loving, anti-rape, patriotic Americans, and neither is the man who is so incompetent as to be fooled into choosing an anti-American foreigner as his running mate for our nation’s highest office.

Hey, they started it.

(I guess watching this bullshit wasn’t a total loss. I found out about Cowboy Troy, who the GOP hired to participate in the most embarrassing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner I’ve ever seen, but who nonetheless might be the most awesome person alive. Plus, I learned some things about how to package the iss-yous for the troglodytes we call “average Americans.” George Lakoff would be proud.)

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A few responses to common objections to my position on porn

18 Jul
  • But I don’t really see how porn is a feminist issue!

Porn is a pressing feminist issue because it is anti-woman propaganda, pure and simple. It reduces women to a set of holes and completely erases their humanity and their sexuality (porn is about men’s sexuality, not women’s). Mainstream porn has always degraded and objectified women and taught men that women are to be used as objects, but now it carries the added message that women are vile trash. (See the name-calling, ejaculating onto faces, and choking that are ever more common in mainstream porn.) I fail to see how that is not a feminist issue, how it is not a feminist issue that a huge proportion of men are tying orgasm to seeing women humiliated and dehumanized.

  • Porn is pro-sex! What, are you anti-sex?

The argument that porn is pro-sex is faulty. The equation of women with temptation and sex and thus evil has led to a lot of the misogyny in our culture, but porn is an expression of that, not a rebuttal to it. In porn, women lose the power they supposedly have over men, the power to decide whether they will allow sex to occur. The women in porn are punished for the “prudishness” of other women. They are used, abused, and denigrated. There is no affection, no care, no respect. There’s not even any sense that the performers are attracted to each other.

Sex in porn is a commodity, something that the ones with means buy from the people who have to sell it to survive (whether survival consists of having enough money to live — almost all porn actresses are relatively poor, so don’t bring up the three that have made some money — or making an ill-advised attempt to get desperately needed attention and ephemeral power by allowing oneself to be objectified and exploited).

Porn, instead of being pro-sex, is pro-sex-as-a-tool-of-power. If you can find me a single example of mainstream porn in which an obvious power differential is absent, I’ll give you $1000. It doesn’t exist. Mainstream porn has NOTHING to do with women’s sexuality. Women in mainstream porn are fuck objects, and their sexuality is presented as consisting solely of serving male sexuality (and a fairly cheap and shallow representation of male sexuality, at that).

Sex in porn is honestly pretty lame. No matter what the people are wearing, no matter what they are saying, no matter what they are doing, they are acting out the same scenario over and over: female humanity being subordinated to male desire. That may very well be one way to conceive of and “do” sex, but it’s certainly not the only, and definitely not the most desirable or interesting, way. But that’s all we see. So I would not say that porn is “pro-sex.” I’d say it’s anti-sex. It’s anti-sex in that it severely constricts the ways in which sexuality can be expressed.

Unless you define sex as a commodified exchange of power, sex doesn’t exist in porn.

  • You’re demonizing sex workers! Most women in porn choose to participate in it. By saying they’re all being coerced, you’re diminishing the importance of real rapes!

The greatest obstacles to limiting coercion in the porn industry are the lack of regulation in the industry (I know that regulations exist, but are they enforced? When was the last time “the feds” showed up on a porn set to enforce regulations?) and the lack of ethics on the part of the consumer.  If men cared about women’s human rights, they would not use porn. The fact is, no one can be sure that the porn they are watching is not footage of a rape, and it is therefore unethical to consume pornography.

As to the issue of choice, I’m not all that concerned with blurring the distinction between voluntary and involuntary participation in sex work, because there really isn’t such a thing as voluntary participation. If women’s choices weren’t so limited by how far we have left to go in the struggle for equality, they wouldn’t need to turn to allowing their bodies to be exploited for money. I know that there are plenty of women who have bought into the idea that objectifying themselves is a source of pride and power, but the fact that they fail to see just how limited women’s sources of power and prestige are in our society doesn’t mean that the reality isn’t there. I do not wish to stigmatize sex workers, but nor do I believe that we ought to be looking up to them as seems to be the trend these days. I’ve never once exaggerated how sex workers are different from other people, nor have I claimed that they can’t be raped. They are raped, constantly, and if we actually cared about that fact, we wouldn’t support the industry that does it to them. The fact is, it is impossible for a woman who has been abused on a porn set to prove that she did not consent to what was done, and that means that women in porn have no recourse in the event that they are forced to perform acts they are not comfortable with.

  • Using porn is like eating meat or wearing clothes made in a sweatshop. I know I shouldn’t, but my decision to use porn or not to use it doesn’t really have much of an impact, and it’s easy to justify, just like it’s easy to justify eating meat or wearing clothes made in a sweatshop.

While I understand the arguments porn users make analogizing porn use to eating meat or buying products made in sweatshops, they’re not really good ones. When you buy clothes from a sweatshop, you are not looking at a picture of the person who made your jeans suffering. When you eat a cheeseburger, you are not looking at a photo of a cow being slaughtered. When you look at porn, however, you are looking directly at a human being who is being exploited. If you have the capacity to turn off your sense of empathy long enough to have a wank, congratulations. I don’t, and I wish men weren’t so selfish, didn’t feel so entitled to the use of women’s bodies, that they could do so. Our culture is absolutely saturated with images of women’s bodies being used for various purposes, so I understand where a lot of that entitlement comes from, but I still argue that men, if they really want to be able to claim to be thoughtful human beings, ought to feel pity, not titillation, when they see a woman being degraded.

  • I read a study once that said porn does not increase the incidence of rape.

The fact that one study (and is it even reliable one, or was it put out by MRAs?) says that porn use doesn’t increase sexual violence among “most men” doesn’t mean that it doesn’t do so among the most dangerous of men, and it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t lessen the sense of empathy in most men. It doesn’t address the fact that porn changes men’s attitudes toward women, whether they realize it or not, as many other studies tell us. Even if the fact that porn causes sexual aggression may still be up for debate in the minds of a few holdouts (just as Rush Limbaugh and 3 other assholes don’t believe in climate change), the fact that it changes men’s attitudes toward women and their status as human beings is not. When porn causes men to disbelieve women’s claims of sexual harassment and sexual assault, how can anyone argue that it has no net effect on women’s right to not be sexually assaulted?

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India, land of bride burnings, has more progressive rape laws than we do. Surprise!

16 Jul

Apparently, the Indian Supreme Court has decided that a victim’s testimony is sufficient to convict a rapist and that no further corroboration should be required. From now on Indian women who have been raped will (supposedly) not have to prove that they broke a constant legal state of consent when they go to court. The Indian Supreme Court, you see, has decided that the trauma involved in going through the investigation and trial will most likely weed out any false accusations. There must not be any MRAs in India. From the article:

“She would be conscious of the danger of being ostracised by society and when in the face of these factors the crime is brought to light, there is an inbuilt assurance that the charge is genuine rather than fabricated,” the bench said.

It also said that the deposition of a rape victim must enjoy the same level of court’s confidence that the testimony of an injured person enjoys about the physical assault.

The bench held that even if a court is not able to believe the deposition of a rape victim, it should at best seek some evidence to assure itself of the deposition, instead of seeking independent corroboration.

You hear that? In India they afford rape victims’ testimony the same weight they give to that of assault victims. What a revolutionary idea.

I know India is a vastly different country than the US, and I know that there are serious social and financial consequences attached to admitting (Hear that? ADMITTING!) to having been raped, since doing so means admitting one is not a virgin (that such a thing is a concern is a problem in and of itself), but I find the legal reasoning behind this decision to be of interest considering the fact that in our own legal system 6% or less of rapes end with the rapist receiving any punishment.

I suppose I’ll start calling India a feminist utopia when we no longer hear of bride burnings, sati, dowries, and the fact that women are ostracized for having “lost their virginity” by being raped, but, on a few fronts, they’re still making us look bad.

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Calculating risk: Should we avoid men?

5 Jul

Allecto has a post up that has gotten me to thinking. I used to watch To Catch A Predator with a friend, and we often speculated about the general male population and what percentage of them might be the kinds of guys we saw on the show. We came up with a 25-10-5 percent scheme, in which we surmised that 25% of men, if they were presented with the opportunity and were reasonably sure they wouldn’t get caught, would have sex with an adolescent girl, that 10% of men were one life crisis away from getting on the internet to seek out an adolescent girl to have sex with, and that 5% of men are currently on the internet seeking such. Real scientists, I know. We then went to Central Park and watched men walk by, trying to decide if they were 25, 10, or 5 percenters (not capital F, capital P Five Percenters). I admit that the whole thing was more about our own warped idea of humor than anything else, but I’ve started giving it more serious thought recently.

I’m generally not afraid of dudes, but I’m a 30-year-old woman at this point and I have yet to be mugged (I’m sure I’m up soon). That might be because I try to avoid getting into situations in which men can harm me, meaning I don’t hang out alone with dudes I don’t know very well. But I can think of about a zillion examples of times when dudes’ behavior has frightened me, whether harm came of it or not, and I’m generally more likely to feel threatened by men’s weird behavior than women’s.

I can already predict that there will be men who take offense to my bringing this subject up, but I’m going to have to ask them to calm down and think about what I’m saying, which is not that all men are dangerous, just that men are statistically more likely to be than women, especially toward women. I’m not arguing for any specific course of action, or for anything really, but rather exploring the idea of how we can know just how many men are dangerous, how we can figure out how to avoid the danger that some men pose, and what kinds of precautions are necessary and/or reasonable to take.

I know I often say that women shouldn’t have to alter our behavior to avoid being hurt by men, but I’m aware enough of how things work to know that, for now at least, that’s wishful thinking. Until the whole world listens to me and we raise an entire generation of people who treat each other like human beings, thus creating ourselves a little Nine Deuce-topia, I’d like to come up with a risk assessment and minimization plan.

What percentage of men are dangerous? Could it really be as high as 25%? More? How do we formulate such a statistic? We’d first have to figure out what “dangerous” means. I’d say it ought to include sexual predators of all stripes (and that includes men who coerce sex), domestic abusers, and men who are generally violent and abusive. How do we figure out, then, how many men have one or more of these tendencies? The only way I can think of to even attempt to get at such a figure would be through crime statistics, which would give us a very low figure that wouldn’t take into account all of the unpunished abuses that occur. We could use whatever logarithm government agencies use to figure out how many more crimes take place than are reported, but I still think that’d leave us with a lowball because a lot of abusive behavior exists in the “gray area” that the law can’t (or — more accurately — won’t) deal with (verbal abuse, sexual assaults that don’t leave evidence, etc.). Of course, not all men who pose a risk will abuse in all circumstances, so I guess we’d also have to figure out what kinds of men are dangerous in what kinds of situations.

I’ve gotten a lot of grief lately from people who think my rape law suggestions make the assumption that all men are rapists, but I’ve never made such a claim. I know not all men are rapists because I happen to know at least 5 that I hang out with regularly that have never raped anyone. I DON’T HATE MEN. I think most men are assholes (fuck, I think most women are assholes), but I don’t hate all of them. I honestly don’t really hate anybody (except maybe Diablo Cody and Chris Martin). This isn’t a discussion of whether men are evil, it’s a discussion of mathematical probabilities.  Just based on my own life experiences, I’d say that at least 1/4 of dudes (out of the probably thousands I’ve met) have had the potential to be threatening and/or aggressive enough to be considered abusive. Not good odds.

Could a quarter or more of men pose a potential risk to vulnerable women and children? If so, is it really all that unreasonable to avoid strange men or to avoid leaving children alone with men? Everyone has probably heard about airlines instituting policies in which single men will not be seated next to unaccompanied minors on planes. Is that unfair? I suppose if I were a dude who wasn’t dangerous it might bother me, might make me feel like I was being looked askance at. It might make me feel like I was being accused of something I didn’t do. It might feel like I was… a black guy or something. But is that really more important than women and childrens’ safety?

Like I said, I’m just sort of wondering aloud how we’d ever be able to calculate what kind of risk exists and figure out how to protect ourselves. Does someone with a more scientific education than I’ve got have any ideas?

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What about the poor rapists?

3 Jul

From the Cry Me A River Department, I’ve just heard that a Georgia Tech football player, Jerrard Tarrant (could we get a few more r’s in there, buddy?), has been accused of rape and that people who give a shit about college football think it isn’t fair. Somebody call the wahmbulance.

You might ask how I, a sports-hating media-avoider, heard about a case such as this.  I mean, among what I assume are the thousands of cases of athletes who have been accused of rape, how did I hear about this one? I was driving down Ponce de Leon here in Atlanta, minding my own business, when I ran headfirst into the most egregious example of misogyny I’ve seen since, like, at least two days ago. I turned on some FM radio station in an attempt to avoid listening to Sean Hannity or whatever super-obscure band’s CD that Davetavius had left in the CD player, and I came across a talk radio show in which two people, a man and a woman, were discussing the case.

They weren’t discussing the details of what had happened, the problem of college and professional athletes’ extreme egotism and disregard for the law, or the difficulty a rape victim faces when her attacker happens to be (somewhat/a little/locally) famous. They were talking about how shitty the whole thing must be for poor Mr. Tarrant. That’s right.

They spent probably a half an hour discussing the different aspects of how unfair the whole thing was to Tarrant and not one second discussing the fate of the accuser. First they talked about how unfortunate it was that Tarrant, some kind of big deal or other as far as football goes, would be suspended for an entire season. It would suck for him because it’s coming right in the middle of his rise to college football stardom, and it would suck for Georgia Tech because it’d put their team at a disadvantage this season. They also pointed out that it would make Georgia Tech look bad in comparison to Georgia, because I guess Georgia’s had their fair share of scandals involving Natural Ice-saturated ‘roid monkey players tearing up bars, kicking people’s asses, raping people, and stealing shit, and there’s some sort of rivalry going on between the two schools over that and whatever other bullshit makes people who didn’t go to college give a fuck about one school or another. I know people in the South are a little fruity about their college football, but is the most important thing here really whether or not a team has to make do without one of its players for a season? Guess so.

These two radio dildoes then began to wonder aloud what it must feel like to be Mr. Tarrant. The poor guy has to go to class with a bunch of people who know he’s been accused of rape. Aw, that really sucks, man. (Wait, why the fuck hasn’t he been suspended from classes at the school?) The radio hosts didn’t wonder what it might be like for the victim, who has, you know, been raped and all, and who has to go to school on a campus where people are more concerned with football stats than women’s human rights. If these two local radio “personalities” are any indication, I’d be a little more likely to worry about the victim suffering harassment and dirty looks than Tarrant. They were also worried about his future, because once these charges are dismissed (and they will be dismissed, you know), people will always remember him as the guy who got falsely accused of rape. John Bender was right, the world is an imperfect place.

They stopped just short of suggesting that men accused of rape deserve the same anonymity the courts pretend to guarantee for victims, although it was implied in a fairly heavy-handed fashion. I’m serious.

I personally don’t give a fuck, flying or not, about whether this woman’s story is true. What I do care about is the fact that these assholes on this radio program, one of whom was female (I just learned what “kapo” means – think I can call her one?), are operating under the assumption that the accusation is false. As in, a conviction would surprise these two like Milli Vanilli putting out another album or Eric Nies making a comeback would surprise me (I really want all three to happen).

As much as I try to avoid hearing or talking about anything having to do with the sensational crime case du jour, I have had to suffer through ignorant discussions of the Duke rape case. I’ve also been forced to hear a bunch of MRA bullshit about the Kobe Bryant case. Two cases in which rape charges failed to stick, one a bit of an embarrassment, the other a fucking travesty (I bet you have to think for a second about which of them I’m referring to with which noun). TWO. And sports talk radio knobs everywhere go on to assume that any woman accusing any athlete of rape is full of shit.

Well, guess what, assholes? Kobe Bryant did it. He’s gotten away with rape on several occasions in other countries by paying off or intimidating victims and their families, and he managed to do so here as well by hiring legal assassins to make the victim out to be a slut.

That’s how it works. People who have money and status get away with rape, and our culture’s tendency toward idolatry makes certain that athletes have plenty of both. The coaches, fans, and sporting media, all of whom are personally and/or financially invested in the success of “their” teams, all do their part to make sure that the general population (and the jury pool) know where their sympathies ought to lie, and the net result is that athletes get away with rape even more often than rapists who don’t wear protective undergarments do. Don’t believe me? Read this.

There’s no other way to say it: we as a culture care more about sports than a woman’s right to not be raped. Remember that shit. Write it down. Whether Georgia Tech wins a game or two this year matters more than whether or not you get raped.

I don’t want to get down on the South. I mean, I just saw a guy ride by on a motorcycle with a lot of chrome flames on it and its own sound system blaring a song I’d only expect to hear at around 3 AM at a gay dance club. It’s funny here. I kinda like it. But I don’t know whether the reaction to this case would be quite as counter-intuitive, counter-ethical, counter-logical, or counter-sane in another part of the country.  I know that sports obsession has allowed rapists to go unpunished nationwide, but I think the emphasis on college sports in this region might just work in Tarrant’s favor with the judges, prosecutors, and juries he may face to an even greater extent than it might elsewhere.

And people wonder why I don’t have a lot of good things to say about sports (that’s sports with a lower-case “s,” because I have plenty of good things to say about “Sports” by Huey Lewis and the News). Not only are team sports a training tool for creating jingoistic assholes who are incapable of independent thought, not only are they a huge waste of time, money, energy, skill, talent, and nachos, but they’re also yet another cultural institution that protects men who abuse women and who abuse the (totally flawed) legal system.

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Let’s talk some more about rape.

2 Jul

Every time I write about rape people freak out. I can honestly say that, as much time as I’ve spent thinking about rape and how to stop it, I never realized that rape was such a controversial subject (at least in the way I’ve come to discover). I never knew there were so many rape apologists (MRAs, regular dudes, even women) that would come over here and give me a bunch of shit for making the outrageous suggestion that we ought not to keep allowing rapes to go unpunished. I intended to show that our legal system doesn’t protect women from rape, but plenty of people missed that point, detoured by talk of castration and jettisoning the presumption of innocence. I see now that I should’ve written something much simpler and more obvious if I expected these 4Chan types to understand me.

Fine, then. Some people need a Fox News-style Outrage!(TM) in order to get a point, and I’ll deliver. In the lovely state of Kansas, where they still have analog gas pump readouts that only go up to $25, a 14-year-old girl has been raped. She was hanging out with three of her friends when two of them left the room and the third, a 13-year-old boy, raped her. She tried to deal with the situation on her own, but decided after about a month to tell a school counselor about it. The counselor told the cops, and guess what happened? The GIRL has been charged with “rape” and “criminal sodomy.” The age of consent in Kansas is 16 (yikes), but the state also has a law similar to that in California under which sex with someone under 14 is taken to be a more serious crime.

I don’t think I’d argue with the idea that someone who has sex with a child under 14 ought to face a stiffer penalty than an 18-year-old having consensual sex with a 16-year-old, but what the fuck? That isn’t what’s going on here. A 14-year-old girl goes to see her school counselor for help after having been raped, and SHE gets in trouble? There’s been no mention made of the boy having been charged with anything. I am assuming that the boy was charged and then denied that he raped the girl, claiming that the sex was consensual, which is to be expected, but is this prosecutor out of his fucking mind? The kid can mount a defense and can claim whatever he wants, but the idea that the prosecutor would charge a rape victim with a crime as a response to that defense is pretty fucking weird.

I know some of the Tom Leykis types will argue that maybe she did consent and only decided to call it rape once she felt some regret over the whole thing, but whatever. We have no way of ever knowing that, which I suppose means that the prosecutor can do little toward convicting the boy (remember that thing about the presumption of innocence working in favor of rapists and against victims?). But what is the value in charging the girl? The boy, according to all I’ve read about the story, has made no claim to having been forced or coerced into anything. While it may be true that the idea of consent by either of these two at such a young age is a bit of a joke, that doesn’t seem to have dampened the prosecutor’s enthusiasm for charging this girl with a crime that implies she took advantage of someone too young to consent, even though she’s only a few months older than he is. He has effectively chosen to ignore a forcible rape and to prosecute the victim for taking advantage of her rapist. Oh, the beauty of the American legal system.

What does this story say to the people who’ve heard about it (which includes every girl in the area it took place in, I’m sure)? First, it says that we have no idea how to deal with the issue of consent. When someone is under 16 in Kansas, they are unable to consent to sex, and so exist in a perpetual state of non-consent. All it takes for a rape to have been assumed to have occurred is the admission that intercourse took place. But that only applies if one of the participants was over 16. If they were both under 16, it’s all good. Unless, of course, one of them was under 14, in which case it’s not cool. Unless they’re both under 14. But if you step over the state line into Missouri, the age of consent goes up to 17. Apparently the kids in Kansas mature faster than those in Missouri. Good to know. The kids in California are immature as fuck, though, because they can’t consent until they’re 18. Schizophrenic, I know. But that’s not all. Once a person has reached whatever age of consent their state representatives have laid down, they go from a perpetual state of non-consent to a perpetual state of consent, meaning that once they pass 16, 17, or 18, they have to prove that they did not consent to a sex act in order for the person who forced them to submit to the act to be punished for doing so. Makes almost as much sense as Bush lyrics.

The second thing this case tells the girls of Kansas is that, if they ever get raped, they’d better think twice about reporting it to anyone, even if they need help dealing with the emotional effects of the attack. Rape victims everywhere already know that, if they report having been attacked, they’ll be called whores, be exposed to ridicule and slander, and be treated mercilessly in court, just in the hopes that their case will be one of the few cases that will be prosecuted or end in conviction. But now they’ve got the added fear of being charged with a crime if the prosecutor doesn’t like that they’ve reported having been assaulted. What the fuck is this, Afghanistan?

No wonder 60% of rapes go unreported. Even among those that are reported, only half of reported rapes lead to arrests, and of those, only 80% will be prosecuted. Of those that are prosecuted, only about half will result in conviction, with only 69% of those convicts getting any jail time. That means 16% of reported rapes end in jail time (and most sentences are pretty paltry), and that only 6% of rapists will ever see any jail time at all if we include unreported rapes. 15 in 16 rapists go free. What was the highest estimate for false rape claims? Like 7%? Suck on that, MRAs.

The third thing this law tells us is that our legal system is fucked. Not only do we have no way to determine consent and no method for convicting rapists, but we have no way to control prosecutorial bias. Here we have Ted Nugent prosecuting a case in which he’s decided, on his own, that the girl is lying and that she has victimized the boy. He’s clearly using his prosecutorial discretion and technicalities in the law to pursue some kind of agenda. (I wonder what kind of record he has when it comes to prosecuting rapes.) Rape victims are forced to reply on police, prosecutors, judges, and juries to take their claims seriously, to pursue their attackers, to prosecute them when they catch them, and to remove them from society in order to mitigate further damage. It’s too bad the people victims have to rely on aren’t very reliable when it comes to treating rape victims with dignity and respect, or even believing their stories.

The proverbial deck is proverbially stacked against rape victims. Victims are met with potential disbelief and disrespect at every stage of the process. The foundational concept of the presumption of innocence, coupled with prosecutorial, judicial, and juridical indifference to rape victims’ claims, has dumped us in a legal shitheap from which there doesn’t seem to be an escape. You may not agree that we should assume that defendants are guilty until they can prove otherwise, but you can’t claim that our current system protects women (or anyone, really) from rape. Deuce’s Law might be the only alternative. I’m just saying.

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How to End Rape: Deuce’s Law

11 Jun

Boy, was I conciliatory when I was younger. Either that or I was a realist. Or maybe I just wrote what I had to write to get an A. Whatever. I’m not conciliatory, realistic, or seeking a grade anymore, so I can now feel free to lay out a theoretical and hypothetical solution to the rape epidemic. If I had my choice, we’d do away with rape by changing our cultural attitudes toward gender, toward sex, toward power, toward everything, thereby creating a world in which rape could not possibly occur. That would most certainly be ideal, and I believe it’s possible, but I think it might take an awfully long time, and I’m ready for rape to stop right now. Rape and other forms of sexual violence are hate crimes and are among the most heinous manifestations of the misogyny that characterizes our culture. As such, eradicating rape, in my opinion, is one of the most pressing feminist issues. Our current laws are woefully ill-equipped to deal with rape, and I’ve devised a little thought experiment to illustrate that point and get people to thinking about possible solutions:

Deuce’s Law of 2008

  • Section 1: The presumption of innocence, as it is not specifically iterated anywhere in the Constitution, will not attach to sex crimes. Instead, all individuals will be presumed to exist in a state of non-consent, as per Twisty Faster v. Patriarchy, which will replace Coffin v. United States as precedent in determining burden of proof for sex crime cases. As such, defendants accused of sex crimes will bear the burden of proof, and will have to prove their innocence. There is a danger inherent in such a system that a few innocent men will be punished, and this is quite unfortunate. It is not, however, more unfortunate than men raping with impunity in epidemic proportions simply because their victims are unable to prove to a room full of misogynists that, despite the ridiculous presumption of a default state of consent, they did not consent to a sex act. Victims will decide whether a crime has occurred, and defendants will not. This might frighten men, some of whom will claim that women will use the law to punish men out of vengeance. That might happen once in awhile, but our job is to protect the largest number of people possible, and false rape accusations are about a hundredth as common as rapes that go unpunished.
  • Section 2: Rape will be broadly defined as intentionally taking advantage of a person’s physical or emotional vulnerabilities for sexual purposes, including creating fear in order to coerce a victim into performing or submitting to a sex act against her/his will. That includes fear of any kind, not just of violence. That’s right. Men will have to learn to have sex only with women who want to have sex with them, and will have to eschew high-pressure tactics, emotional and financial manipulation, as well as physical force if they want to avoid rape charges.
  • Section 3: Any defendant convicted of rape will be assumed to have proven he is incapable of responsibly exercising his sexuality in society. As such, the penalty for rape will be immediate and irreversible castration. If a weapon is used in the commission of the crime, or if the victim at any time during the crime feels that her/his life was in danger, the added penalty of life in prison without parole will attach. Prison sentences are to be served at specially-constructed facilities at which offenders will perform uncompensated labor in service of women and children. What such labor will consist of will be decided by the administrators of individual facilities, but the result of the offenders’ labor must meet two criteria: 1) it must provide tangible benefits for women and/or children, but 2) offenders shall not come into direct contact with any women or children at any time.
  • Section 4: Offenders may appeal their sentences one time only. Appeals must be made on grounds other than “women are emotional and unreasonable and so we shouldn’t let them define rape and decide who’s guilty.” Women, who have much less incentive to use sex as a weapon than men do, are much less likely to violate men’s rights through rape accusations than men are to violate women’s and children’s rights through rape. This is not up for debate, and is thus not sufficient grounds for appeal.

I’m pretty sure Deuce’s Law would bring us a dramatic reduction in rape, and most likely destroy the pornography industry and drastically curb sexual harassment (more on this later). Too bad men, even those with women and children under their care, will never submit to any sort of limits being placed on their sexuality (or, rather, their prerogative to use their sexuality as a weapon for controlling women), because this law would really work. It’s a shame they’re allowed to vote. They’re so hysterical and irrational about this sort of thing. Snarf snarf.

* Note: False rape charges are MUCH less common than rapes that go unpunished. Let’s say 1 in 100 rape charges is false (which is a VERY high estimate). Well, as it stands now, only 6% of rape cases ends in conviction. That means that of 100 rapes, 1 is false, 6 of the rapists are (often lightly) punished, and 93 go free. On balance, it seems that 1 innocent dude suffering is less of a problem than 93 rapists getting away with sexually abusing innocent women and children. Remember, I’m not talking about the death penalty here. Also, don’t you think, in the case of a false accusation, that almost anyone would recant before allowing an innocent person to be castrated? As it stands now, the legal system is asking us to trust men not to rape us, and they’re doing it anyway. If the legal system asked men to trust women not to have them castrated, I think it’d be more reasonable. Women are simply not as violent as men are. I know there are exceptions, but it’s a fact.

** Another note: credit is due to Davetavius for being one of the few dudes reasonable enough to think section 3 is a good idea, and for the conversations from which this post derived (though he would strenuously disagree with Section 1).

*** A final note: I’m not surprised or anything, but I’m getting some seriously gnarly comments about this. I suppose men don’t like to hear someone discuss treating them the way they’ve treated women throughout history. I wonder why? Anyway, if you’re thinking about commenting on this, have something to say or fuck off. I’m not posting bullshit insults, so if that’s what you’re planning to write, do one. Also, please read this before commenting as I’d rather not have to explain it.

**** And an even finaler note: Go look up the definition of satire. This post is meant to serve as a foil to our current legal system. I admit that it doesn’t provide men with safeguards against castration, but nor does our current system provide women with any against rape. Neither one is a satisfactory system. Stop bitching about this hypothetical and start coming up with a solution or go ahead and admit to being a rape apologist.

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The Background to Deuce’s Law

11 Jun

I was meandering through some old folders on my computer today when I stumbled upon a paper I wrote for my undergrad freshman composition class way back in 2002 on Megan’s Law. It’s funny that I found it today since I’ve been plotting out my next post, in which I plan to lay out my prescription for ending rape. I think I’ll post the whole thing here, and then write up a post explaining my proposal, which I’ve called Deuce’s Law. I warn you, this essay is a little silly and pretentious (I was a college freshman and thought I was smarter than everyone else), and I would argue and write it much differently today, but I still think it makes some sense (plus, it’s got lots of citations, which I know MRAs love, so I hope my small coterie of MRA readers will take note). Rest assured, though, that Deuce’s Law will be much more radical (though a lot less realistic). Here it is:

Megan Kanka’s parents, Maureen and Richard, had no way of knowing that their neighbor, Jesse Timmendequas, had been convicted of sexually abusing children twice before, nor that his two roommates were convicted sex offenders whom he had met while incarcerated, and therefore had not warned their daughter to steer clear of him or his home. Being that Megan was a friendly, trusting seven-year-old, it was easy for Timmendequas to ensnare her by telling her that he had a puppy for her to play with inside the house. That night, as police investigated Megan’s disappearance, the records of the three men across the street came to their attention, and they soon picked Timmendequas up for questioning. Less than 24 hours after her disappearance, Megan’s body was found in a box where Timmendequas had dumped it after raping her and strangling her with a belt. He confessed and was sentenced to death, but that has done little to bring relief to the Kanka family. It is hard to ignore the fact that, had there been a law requiring community notification of the presence of convicted sex offenders, Megan would still be alive as her parents would have been able to warn her of the danger posed by Timmendequas and his housemates. The nation was understandably outraged, and the event quickly led to the creation of New Jersey’s Megan’s Law, a law requiring authorities to notify the public of the presence of a convicted sex offender, a federal version of which quickly followed.Controversy has erupted over whether the privacy rights of convicted sex offenders can be balanced with the rights of parents to protect their children from sexual predators, leading offenders and their lobbyists to challenge the validity and fairness of the law. Megan’s Law can and should be perfected so that it can protect the most defenseless members of society while causing the least possible discomfort for released offenders; still, the fact that it is not yet perfect does not negate its future potential to save children from the worst varieties of sex offenders, nor does the fact that an offender cannot be guaranteed absolute privacy supercede the right of a child to live in safety.

The current version of the law has not been applied uniformly yet, but it has the potential to become an invaluable asset to parents hoping to protect their children from sexual abuse. Registration has been required of sex offenders since 1994, when the Jacob Wetterling Act, which also stated that authorities were permitted to release information to the public about the whereabouts of sex offenders, was passed. The only difference in Megan’s Law is that it requires, instead of simply permits, authorities to release the information or run the risk of losing federal financial support for law enforcement programs. Unfortunately, the act was misunderstood by almost everyone, mainly because police were unsure of how to disseminate the information and because the public was not informed about how the law worked and how to obtain information. In fact, “Most people have been under the false impression that the law requires nationwide law enforcement agencies to actively notify the community if a high-risk sexual predator moves in,” which was not a part of the law (Parents 2003). There are no specifics in the federal version of the law that explain how and to whom the information is to be distributed, which is where the controversy’s roots lie.

Each state has chosen to implement Megan’s Law in its own way and there is a wide variety of ways in which they do so. However, most states fall into one of two categories and practice either active or passive notification. The first category, active notification, includes mailings, community meetings led by police, and door-to-door notification by authorities. The other, passive notification, requires action on the part of the person seeking information, such as visiting a police station to view a list of registered offenders. Both of these categories are still open to wide interpretation by law enforcement and judges and manifest in myriad ways. In an extreme example, one Texas judge has ordered signs placed on the lawns of local registered sex offenders that read: “Danger! Registered sex offender lives here” and has ordered the offenders to display bumper stickers on their cars that include the same message (Axtman 3).At the other end of the spectrum, some states require that those seeking information about sex offenders call a 900 number with a specific name and reason for needing the information.

There are problems with both of these approaches. The goal of notification is to warn those who may come in contact with the offender about the level of risk he poses, not to publicly embarrass him. Posting signs on his lawn does not give neighbors sufficient information about the risk posed by the offender and fosters panic that may be baseless. But guarding the information too closely is also a mistake. Many parents have been unable to access registries because they are unclear on how and where to do so. The restrictions a state places on the release of information should not be such a deterrent that parents are unable to benefit from the existence of the registries. A program of prudent active notification combined with community and police education has the potential to provide an appropriate balance.Fortunately, this balance has been found and is being practiced in several states.

A fundamental problem when deciding who to notify and whether notification is fair to the offender is that of surmising the dangerousness of the offender and how likely it is that he will commit another sex crime. In Washington state, lawmakers have come up with a system of classification that serves as a model for other states. Before an offender is released, a panel examines his history and propensity for violence, how receptive he has been to treatment, whether he will have support from family and friends after release, and whether he will be able to find employment. He is then placed into one of three categories with corresponding notification procedures. With such a classification scheme, the level of risk posed is known and authorities will be clear on who to warn and what information to give them, minimizing the impact on the offender while providing parents with the resources they need to safeguard their children.

Members of the first category, made up of the lowest risk offenders, including those arrested for incest and indecent exposure, are required to register but are not subject to notification (California 2001). Opposition groups claim that adults arrested for consensual sodomy will be subject to notification and that the law violates the civil rights of homosexuals. However, very few states currently impose laws against consensual sodomy, and, in states where consensual sodomy is still illegal, laws do not require notification but only registration, with some states setting even this aside. Exposing adults convicted of consensual sodomy to their communities is unacceptable, to be sure, and an ideal state would not even have laws against consensual sodomy. However, the fact that not all states have perfected their laws as of yet to avoid such does not negate the positive aspects of Megan’s Law. (Note: this was written before the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws, a decision which has only strengthened my argument, natch.)

Moving on to the second category of offenders, these positive aspects become obvious. Those offenders classified as serious have been convicted of crimes such as “rape, sodomy with a minor by force, … oral copulation with a minor or by force, continuous sexual abuse of a child, foreign object penetration, … kidnapping with intent to commit [a sexual assault], … [or] felony sexual battery,” just to name a few (California 2001). As recidivism rates in this group are high enough to cause alarm, law enforcement would be remiss if they did not warn those who might be in danger once the individual is released. Therefore, model states that practice active notification distribute information about offenders who pose a serious risk only to those likely to be in danger. Candidates for this type of targeted notification might include childcare centers, schools, and shelters for women and children. The argument that targeted notification violates the privacy rights of the offender is heavily outweighed, for example, by the right of a childcare center to know whether a job applicant is a convicted child molester.

High-risk offenders make up a small percentage of the total and, in model states, are subject to wider notification. The characteristics that could cause an offender to be classified as high-risk include compulsive violent sexual behavior, a sexual preference for minors, refusal of treatment, lack of remorse for committing sex crimes, or recent threats related to committing new sex crimes. “An alarming number of these offenders say, ‘Yeah, if you let me go, I may do it again…’” (Allen 1319). Considering the fact that, once he has served his sentence, the prisoner who warns that he will commit a new crime will be released anyway, leaving the members of his community in the dark about his propensity for sex crimes is unconscionable. As many of these individuals, when interviewed, have “… claim[ed] the ability to identify and use vulnerabilities in a potential victim to gain access to and maintain control over the child,” they are considered a real threat (“Sexual Offenders,” 2003). It is terrifying to imagine an offender who looks for children with single parents or children who display shyness, neediness, or unhappiness because he knows they will be easy to victimize. According to Ernie Allen, CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, “… the worst thing we can do is provide [these individuals] with anonymity” (1369). In high-risk cases, model states expand notification to those who would be likely to come into contact with the offender, including and limited to neighbors and, in some cases, employers. As “… a significant subset of the sex offender population represents the highest risk of reoffense [and is] coming back into our communities,” parents need to be armed with the information they need to protect their children from these predators (Allen 1369).

The likelihood of recidivism among sex offenders is a contentious issue. The problem is that any statistics regarding recidivism are limited by the fact that the majority of victims do not report being assaulted. With child sexual abusers having an average of 72 victims (“Sexual Offenders,” 2003), it is no surprise that 13% are convicted of another sex crime within five years (“Myths and Facts…” 2003). Some sex offenders are not arrested for another offense within five years. When the time limit is removed, 43% of untreated child sexual abusers will commit another sex crime against a minor (“Sexual Offenders,” 2003). As far as treatment is concerned, it cannot be very effective if “less than 25% of probation officers…” think it works (“Sexual Offenders,” 2003). That point is driven home by the fact that, because almost all states exempt juvenile sex offenders from notification, “The average adolescent sex offender will, without treatment, go on to commit 380 [future] sex crimes…” (“Sexual Offenders,” 2003). Add to these numbers the fact that for every sex crime reported, several go unreported and it becomes difficult to argue that recidivism rate are not high enough to warrant notification.

Opponents have also attacked the effectiveness of notification. A commonly cited ten-year study claimed, “public notification… made almost no difference in the rate at which sex offenders re-offend” (Axtman 4). There are several reasons this could be the case. With parents and police keeping an eye on the offender, he may be more likely to be caught. Also, when parents are aware of an offender’s identity and warn their children, victims are more likely to report the assault because fear of disbelief is cut down. Aside from these problems, the study is irrelevant as an argument against the law because an offender’s choice to commit a new sex crime does not invalidate the right of a parent to be aware of a dangerous individual with access to his or her child.

Regardless of whether they cut down on rearrest, police generally believe that notification and registration do cut down on sex crimes because parents are given more power and responsibility in protecting their children. Nadine Strossen, President of the ACLU, claims that notification laws “only violate the civil rights of adults [and are] …merely symbolic…” (Allen 1369). A mother who has information about the sex offenders in her neighborhood would probably disagree. Strossen also stresses that narrow notification would leave those outside the scope unprotected, which counters her own argument that notification is not necessary.Strossen repeatedly argues that parents need to take more responsibility for the safety of their children and not rely on authorities to notify them of the presence of offenders (Allen 1369), butMegan’s Law allows them to do so by equipping them with information about where the danger lies and how to avoid it.

Two other issues have been frequently broached as minor arguments against Megan’s Law. Both are valid concerns, but, with time, they will be worked out as states perfect their laws. One is that compliance with registration and notification laws is a concern among law enforcement officials. With the disparity between states on the implementation of Megan’s Law, it is argued that offenders are likely to migrate to areas with less vigorous notification programs. However, as the bugs are worked out of the law and it becomes uniform, these offenders will no longer be able to find places to live in obscurity. Additionally, arresting offenders who do not register will further cut down on noncompliance. The second problem is that police agencies are unsure of how the law works and are afraid of making mistakes that might cause community unrest. This is a real problem, but, as the law is refined, officers will be equipped with the education they need to apply the laws in their jurisdictions and inform their communities. As Ernie Allen has pointed out, this problem has been eliminated in Washington state with educational programs for police and with police-led community “…discussions before the offender is ever released” (Allen 1369). This cuts down on harassment of the offender and gives parents an idea of what they can do to protect their children. Again, it will take time to iron out both of these problems, but they do not render Megan’s Law useless, only in need of improvement.

Opposition groups often claim that Megan’s Law focuses its attention away from the real danger to children: their own families. They argue that our fears of local registered offenders are blown out of proportion because approximately 80% of sexual assault victims are acquainted with the perpetrator. There are several holes in this argument. First, Megan Kanka knew Jesse Timmendequas, as most children know their neighbors. Children are also acquainted with teachers, childcare workers, Boy and Girl Scout leaders, sports team coaches, employees of stores in the neighborhood, and many others. In fact, Ernie Allen countered this argument with the fact that only about “one-third to one-fifth of sexual abuse cases against girls are perpetrated by family members,” with even lower numbers for males (1369). A second problem with this argument is related to recidivism. The recidivism rate for incest is 9% within five years, while the rate for non-family sexual abuse of female children is 18% and an alarming 35% for males (“Myths and Facts…” 2000). Yet a third problem with the argument is that, in a model state, incest is not even subject to notification unless a child has been continuously sexually abused, in which case notification would be justified. Finally, Megan’s Law does not pretend that it can remove all danger to children, so the fact that it does not protect children from family members is irrelevant because no one has claimed that it can.

Offenders and their supporters complain that notification is a form of ex post facto punishment and that they have already paid their debt to society by serving their prison sentences.Unfortunately for them, the United States Supreme Court does not agree. As recently as March of 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that Megan’s Law was regulatory and did not constitute further punishment and that states could even make sex offender registry information available on the Internet (Willing 2003). Justice Anthony Kennedy stated that “The act’s stigma results not from public display for ridicule and shaming but from dissemination of accurate information about a criminal record, most of which is already public” (Richey 2003).Offenders also claim that they are unfairly shamed by notification, but “any stigma that flows from this information is a product not of registration and notification but of the criminal offenses for which theses offenders have been convicted” (Allen 1369). Just as a murderer knows that he may face the death penalty when he commits his crime, a sex offender is aware that, if caught and convicted, he will be subject to community notification. That a sexual predator does not take the consequences into account before destroying the life of a child does not make those consequences unfair.

An issue repeatedly raised in arguments against community notification is vigilantism.Offenders claim that they are exposed to harassment and, in some cases, violence once the community is made aware of their presence. Harassment does occur, but it is quite rare. In Washington State, almost 10,000 sex offenders were registered between 1990 and 1996.Of this group, 940 were subject to notification. Out of these 940, only 33 reported incidents of harassment, just over 3% (Allen 1369). This number is tiny when compared with recidivism rates. As a preventative measure, when citizens are notified of an offender’s presence they are usually warned at the same time, as in Washington, that vigilantism and harassment carry stiff penalties. This is usually enough to deter a potential harasser, but it has been demonstrated that penalties do not deter sex offenders. On top of that, while harassment is unfair and arguably should never occur, it is much less damaging than a sexual assault. Both sides are attempting to prevent new crimes from being committed, but sex offenders are simply more likely to commit new crimes than regular citizens.

A perfect balance between the rights of children and their parents and the rights of convicted sex offenders may not be possible. When considering these rights, most would tend to favor innocent children over sex offenders. The unfortunate reality is that, in several areas of our society, “… laws reduce the rights of some… in the name of protecting others,” and we have to choose whether we want to infringe upon the rights of “…offenders who represent the highest risk… to the most vulnerable sections of the community” in order to protect those sections (Allen 1369). It is a fact that society has deemed certain crimes worse than others, which is why sexual assault is a felony and verbal harassment is not. The suffering experienced by Maureen and Richard Kanka, and by their daughter, is exponentially worse than that suffered by a convicted sex offender whose house has been picketed. Because it is not possible to protect the public from sexual predators at the same time we protect the absolute privacy of offenders, we have to accept the less potentially damaging of the two options.

The fact that Megan’s Law is not perfect does not render it useless. Applied uniformly and perfected, it has the potential to drastically cut down on some of the worst crimes our society faces. Stiffer prison sentences for sex offenders would be ideal, but until legislatures across the nation make major changes in the way they hand out penalties, something has to be done to protect the public from the most dangerous criminals. A combination of stiffer sentences, treatment during incarceration, and risk assessment for parolees, if implemented nationwide, would remove a large part of the risk alone. Then, after release, cautious active notification coupled with police and community education would offer the maximum protection for both the sex offender who wishes to live free of harassment, and, more importantly, the family who deserves to be able to protect their children. Stiff penalties for noncompliance on the offender’s part and for vigilantism on the community member’s part would eliminate peripheral concerns. Each of these ideas has been successfully implemented by at least one state as of yet. If they were all applied consistently, sexual predators would have no place to hide without community awareness and we could reap the maximum benefit of Megan’s Law while still minimizing the impact on offenders who are trying to rehabilitate themselves.

Works Cited

Allen, Ernie, Walter Pincus, and Nadine Strossen. Transcript of a panel discussion. “Megan’s Law and the protection of the child in the on-line age.”American  Criminal Law Review 35.4 (1998): 1319.

Axtman, Kris. “A Tussle over Right to Know Where Ex-Sex Offenders Live.” Chrisitan Science Monitor 30 May 2001: 3-4.

California. Dept. of Justice. Office of the Attorney General. Registered Sex Offenders (Megan’s Law). 2001. 14 Oct. 2003 <;.

“Myths and Facts About Sex Offenders.” Center for Sex Offender Management. Aug. 2000. 5 Nov. 2003 <http//>.

Parents for Megan’s Law. 2003. Megan’s Law and Childhood Sexual Abuse Prevention  Clearinghouse. 14 Oct. 2003 <;.

Richey, Warren. “Megan’s Law Upheld: High Court Allows Internet Lists That Track Sex Offenders.” Christian Science Monitor. 6 Mar. 2003: n.p.

“Sexual Offenders.” Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. 2003. 15 Nov. 2003 <;.

Willing, Richard. “Albuquerque’s targeting of sex offenders challenged.” USA Today. 11 May 2003: n.p.

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The War on Terr’r Part 6: The Wiener as a Weapon (On Rape, Sexual Assault, and Patriarchy)

30 May

And by rape you know what I mean. A judge does not have to walk into this room and say that according to statute such and such these are the elements of proof. We’re talking about any kind of coerced sex, including sex coerced by poverty. You can’t have equality or tenderness or intimacy as long as there is rape, because rape means terror. It means that part of the population lives in a state of terror and pretends… that it doesn’t.

I am guessing that my astute readers will recognize that quote, but in case you didn’t, it was a portion of Andrea Dworkin’s speech, “I Want a Twenty-Four Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape.” I am also guessing that a lot of you have been wondering why, in my War on Terr’r, I have yet to discuss the most significant form of terrorism that women face: sexual assault. I was saving the shock and awe for the endgame; the War on Terr’r is about to become an occupation, meaning I’ll still be fighting it but won’t necessarily want to say so all the time, and so this topic seems like a fitting one to address before I declare major combat operations over.

Let me start off by saying that I’m going to talk about patriarchy in this post, which I rarely do. I often find myself, when I think about things like rape being a tool of the patriarchy, feeling as if I have lost my mind because I can’t figure out how these things perpetuate themselves, can’t separate the chicken from the egg. I generally avoid referring to the patriarchy because I consider doing so taking a shortcut, but I have to here, despite my discomfort. The reason I avoid referring to the patriarchy is that it’s often an incomplete explanation. Yes, we live in one, but why does it continue to exist? Why does a ship with no one at its helm continue on the same course? Are rapists consciously trying to uphold a vast and oppressive social system when they act, or (more likely) are they taking out inchoate aggression on an individual victim? Are men who use pornography making a conscious choice to promote women’s subjugation in our society, or (more likely) are they allowing their selfishness to override their humanity for a few minutes at a time? All of the senses in which women are degraded and devalued in our society are related to each other, but why do they seem to dovetail so perfectly? How can something that seems pre-planned operate with no organizing force? Is the organizing force simply the hatred of women? If it is, then whence does that hatred come? This train of thought is circular, it goes nowhere, and it drives me up the fucking wall because I believe the only way to extirpate something is to find its root.

But let’s get to the point. Sexual assault is terrorism. Rape is terrorism. But who decides what sexual assault is? Who decides what rape is?

People seem to think Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s “I know it when I see it” guideline for identifying obscenity works with rape and sexual assault. We’ve all seen movies, or heard stories, from which we find out what a rape is “supposed” to look, sound, and feel like. Strange men in alleys with weapons rape, gangs of frat boys rape. Women walking alone after dark get raped, women who get too drunk in bars and at parties get raped, women who don’t learn to fear and avoid men they don’t know get raped. Rape is violent, loud, and unexpected, and it could be lurking around every corner.

What does that image of rape do in service of the patriarchy? It allows all but that very small proportion of rapists whose actions have threatened the patriarchy itself off the hook, and it does a fairly sound job of controlling women by making them afraid to venture out alone or overstep the bounds of acceptable female behavior (i.e., it’s an effective terrorist tactic).

It’s estimated that only 21% of women who report having been raped report that a stranger attacked them. Does that simply mean that for every 21 stranger rapes, there are 79 acquaintance rapes? I wish the numbers were that “low.” First, let’s remember that that’s 21% of reported rapes. Women are highly unlikely to report a rape in the first place, but they are even more unlikely to do so when their experience doesn’t match our cultural conception of what a rape is, especially once they see how acquaintance rape victims are treated by our justice system, media, and society in general. Spousal rape? Druggings? Forget it. Those have hardly even been deemed crimes yet. Rape, being the most serious form of sexual assault, is the most likely form of sexual assault to be taken seriously and to be prosecuted. It’s a fairly sad commentary on the progress women have made toward a safe, equitable relationship with men when even the most serious form of terrorism they face is often ignored.

Stranger rape threatens the patriarchy’s ownership of women’s and children’s bodies, and so women generally have men’s support when they find themselves victims of rape at the hands of a stranger, if you don’t take into account the fact that the rapist’s attorney will most likely be allowed to call the victim a lying whore in court (gee, thanks, guys). Acquaintance rape, including spousal rape, is a whole ‘nother story. Because of the way our legal system works, women are assumed to have consented to sex unless they can prove otherwise, which is a fucking travesty if there ever was one. Lack of consent in a stranger rape is easier to prove than in an acquaintance rape, but the onus is still on the woman to prove she did not give her consent. In the case of acquaintance rape, the victim usually has virtually no way of proving that she did not provide consent. Know what that amounts to? I don’t believe that most men think about this consciously and plan to take advantage of it, but it basically means that our culture and our legal system are telling men that women are available for raping, especially if you know them.

So, we have none but the most cursory of protections from our legal system. We’re the weak, men are the powerful, and the institution that promises the weak protection from the powerful is run by and for the powerful, which means it operates at the expense of the weak. Men decide what rape is, and men have decided that the only kinds of rape they will make any kind of serious effort to help us avoid are those that threaten their ownership over our sexuality. There it is, and my head feels like it’s going to explode; I doubt that any individual man would say, “Fuckin’ A right. The whole plan is to set up a system where I can rape anybody I want, but I can also put motherfuckers in jail who rape the women and children I’ve set aside for myself to rape,” but that’s nonetheless the way shit works.

Does rape, then, really amount to terrorism on the part of men aimed at using fear to manipulate women’s behavior? This is where things get very complicated and very contentious. It’s also where most anti-feminists get their straw men from. Andrea Dworkin has been accused of saying that all heterosexual sex is rape, and feminists are often accused of saying that all men are rapists. That ain’t the fucking deal. The deal is this: men know that women live in a precarious situation in this society, know that women are vulnerable and lack the protections and power they have, and some of them use that knowledge to their own advantage. That means, in concrete terms, that some men sexually abuse some women knowing that they can get away with it because women don’t have the power to fight back, don’t have the might or even the support of the justice system behind them, don’t have any other option but to acquiesce. That means that some men coerce women into having sex with them, some men take advantage of women’s fears to manipulate them into performing sex acts they do not want to perform, some men purposely create fear in the minds of women in order to get them to comply. Fear isn’t limited to the fear of violence: it includes the fear of being abandoned, the fear of financial destitution, the fear of being left to raise children alone, the fear of being mistreated in one’s own home, and so on.

Are we to differentiate coercion from actual physical force or the threat of violence? I don’t think so. I think that when a man uses fear to coerce a woman into having sex against her will, a rape has occurred. I’m not as radical in my view of heterosexual sex as some people are; I believe that consent is possible and that there is such a thing as un-coerced heterosexual sex. Maybe I have to believe that because I’m not a lesbian, but I still do believe it. Patriarchy places women in a position in which all of our choices are limited, but I think the intent of the people involved in a sex act is the crux of the question of whether a rape has occurred. Now, that doesn’t mean that I excuse the behavior of men who are so ignorant of their own privilege that they don’t understand that coercion is tantamount to rape. Rather, it means that I’m charitable, that, despite vast amounts of evidence to the contrary, I believe most men are human beings and that most of them don’t want to hurt us and don’t want us to do things we don’t want to do. It’s the men that, knowing we do not want to do something, use force, fear, or dishonesty to make us do it anyway that are the terrorists.

To recap, not all heterosexual sex is rape, but sex that has been coerced through the use of actual force or through fear (of violence, poverty, abandonment, etc.) is rape, and is thus a form of terrorism. Individual men are instruments of patriarchy, not its architects, but that does not remove their responsibility to acknowledge and address their own privilege, nor does it excuse their patriarchy-enforcing behavior.

Rape is meant to force women into boxes, to limit their actions, to remind them who’s the fucking boss, but it doesn’t always go as far as rape. Sexual assaults of any kind have the same effect. Let me tell you two stories.

When I was 11, I was walking home from school down Fulton Road, alone, when a white truck drove up on my left. The shitbag driving it slowed down, honked, and then raised his pelvis up so I could see through the window that he was having a wank, and then drove off. I was fucking TERRIFIED. I only knew one person who lived on that street, and she lived 1/2 mile away, and the entire street was fucking deserted. I was positive this motherfucker was going to come back and kidnap me and do who knows what to me in his fucking chicken shack or whatever. I went home and was too afraid to even tell my mom because I didn’t know how to explain what the guy had done. For months I refused to walk home on Fulton Road, opting instead for a potentially more dangerous route that was also much longer, and I never again walked down that road alone, even though I lived in that town for 10 more years.

When I was 16, I was at a party with some people I knew, and one of them had brought his friend, Eric. I sort of tertiarilly (I love coining words) knew Eric through the dude I was dating at the time. He was basically kind of an alpha-male asshole and was constantly doing shitty things to people that he got away with because people thought he was cooler than they were, and because that was how people who did shit on boards acted back then (and still do – I’ll be writing about the misogyny inherent in the skateboarding world shortly). Anyway, someone wanted to take some photos, and this motherfucker decided that he would get his dick out whenever he was in a photo with a girl, myself included. I don’t pretend to know what he thought the effect of doing that would be, but it scared every girl he did it to and made all of us quiet all night. It put us in a sort of tailspin because we didn’t know what was going on or what we had done, just that we had been disrespected and insulted and that his intent was to show us that he had the power turn us into victims, and so he was in charge.

These two incidents can be called sexual assaults. “Sexual assault” is a nebulous term because the patriarchy (in the guise of the justice system) gets to define it, but any act that is sexually aggressive in nature and is intended to create fear in the victim can be called a sexual assault in my book. (I don’t know that the law is even the appropriate way to deal with these sorts of incidents, anyway. I think these call for vigilantism. See my suggestions on dealing with sexual harassment.)

That’s what the wiener does for men who misuse it. I know I’ve got some readers who are into wieners (I’m still on the fence), but they can be and are used as weapons by terrorists. The wiener may be cute to some (I really don’t get you two, seriously), but it can also be used as a tool (!) of oppression against women who are seen as having transgressed whatever arbitrary role the penis owner has decided he would like to impose. Men can flash us, masturbate in front of us, or play stupid jokes on us and other men with their wieners, and the net effect is always the same: they’ve asserted power over us by creating fear in order to manipulate our behavior.

That means that all sexual assaults, up to and including rape, are acts of terrorism aimed at taking away our freedom as women and as human beings. That also means that the War on Terr’r won’t be over until Ms. Dworkin gets her wish, and not just for twenty-four hours.

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The War on Terr’r Part 4: Fetal Privilege

26 May

After my recent post explicating my stance on abortion, my resultant written scuffle with an anti-American (my term for pro-forced-birth types), and L’s post on why anti-abortion measures amount to terrorism aimed at limiting women’s freedom, I got to thinking about the various kinds of terrorism women face every day, and the result was this blog series. As such, it’s only proper that I dedicate a post to the people who inspired the whole War on Terr’r (and the most unapologetic and unrepentant terrorists women may ever face) in the first place, those anti-American types that would use terroristic tactics to subvert the law of the land and restrict women’s freedom in the most fundamental of ways.

L sums the essence of anti-American activity up as:

… violence against women to prevent them from caring for themselves, to restrict their identities to baby-makers, to limit the choices and amount of agency they have, to ignore the contexts of their lives for the potential life of the cell-clusters inside them…

Which means that anti-choicers are terrorists, does it not? Their activities aim to make use of fear to manipulate women’s behavior, whether that fear be of harassment, humiliation, or state intervention in the form of laws restricting women’s reproductive rights. If that isn’t terrorism, then Lou Dobbs loves Mexicans.

I think I ought to start by analyzing the motives of anti-Americans (although, being a freedom-loving patriot myself, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to make complete sense of such a freedom-hating ideology as theirs). The fundamental difference between anti-Americans and patriots such as myself is our conception (ha!) of when life begins. They claim it begins at the moment when sperm and egg form a zygote, and I say it’s at birth. They may argue that a zygote is a life because god says so, or because “science” defines life as:

… the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally.

In either case, they’re wrong.

First of all, it’s 2008. That we’re making ANY decision based on the fabricated anecdotes of dudes who lived in huts in the desert 2000+ years ago is pretty embarrassing. I’ve gotten in trouble with one anti-American for referring to religious beliefs as inherently anti-logical, but I stand by that statement and here’s why: if a belief is logical, we needn’t worry about having faith in it. Believing that the Bible is a book, for example, is something we can all logically infer from empirical evidence. Believing that it is the divine Word of some deific Dude in Sandals, on the other hand, requires us to believe, sans evidence, something that goes far beyond what we can directly observe. I’d like to think that these JC-loving types are just an advanced species of humans that have transcended positivist thinking (Comte is so outdated, man) and moved on to some more interesting and flexible thought system, but I suspect that the opposite is true and that they’ve yet to make it into the Enlightenment mentally (serious theologians, meaning those who have the capacity to debate these things intelligently and openly, notwithstanding).

The argument that “science” says that a zygote is a life and that science is thus on the side of anti-Americans is also utter horseshit. By using that definition I quoted above as proof that a fetus is a “life,” anti-Americans are opening themselves up to some serious counterarguments. First, if we are supposed to respect the integrity of every “life” under that definition, we’re all going to starve to death. Unless they can live on rocks and dirt, anti-Americans are going to need to come up with a better endorsement from “science.” Second, despite the fact that scientists may say that life can be defined as the opposite of death, the scientific community is hardly backing the anti-American position on abortion en masse. Honestly, aside from the few token “scientific” yes-men that these people seem to be able to produce, very few scientists are anti-abortion, and those who are usually base their position on their religious views rather than their scientific knowledge. The reason they do so is that, as any scientist must admit, they cannot refer to a fetus as a viable individual animal until such a time as that fetus can live on its own outside of its mother’s body. A zygote, while it is a living organism, is not yet a human being. As such, it technically fits the definition of “life,” but such a definition would also include any living thing, be it an amoeba, a donkey, a capybara, or a rutabaga. Either these anti-Americans start making dirt burgers, or they’re going to have to find a new way to mischaracterize the conclusions of secular authorities to promote their own illogical stance.

Luckily most anti-Americans have god to fall back on, because the science argument is obviously pretty lame. If you bring god into the picture, you can say that a human zygote is more important than the other kinds of “life,” because a human zygote has a soul as soon as god stretches his sparkly finger down from the heavens and touches a woman on the belly. It may be irrational, but it seems to work for them.

You hear a lot of arguments from these people about the potential of the fetus. What if that baby was going to grow up to save the world? What if that baby was going to become a firefighter or a doctor or a DJ and save your life in the future? What if Jesus was aborted!?!? Ahem. I’m pretty sure that people elect to have abortions in cases where they aren’t emotionally or financially prepared to become parents. Know what kind of parents those people usually make? Shitty ones. That means it isn’t likely their kids are going to grow up to be superheroes (DJs, maybe), but rather regular people with regular people’s problems and limitations. So, really, the “potential” argument ought to be reworded: “You may be aborting a future Sandwich Artist!”. As for what would have been the case had Jesus been aborted, I’m going to have to call the bluff of the anti-Americans: I say we’d be better off because we wouldn’t have to deal with the legacy of 2000+ years of people believing in shit that doesn’t exist, which tends to lay down some serious obstacles on the path to human progress, especially for women.

Sometimes these anti-American types let the mask slip and make a comment that clues us in to their real, albeit possibly unexamined, reason for wanting to restrict women’s access to safe health care. They just can’t stand the idea that a woman would be out behaving irresponsibly and using abortions as birth control. That’s a serious red herring, no?

I often wonder if the arguments these people provide in defense of their policy proposals aren’t a cover for their belief, conscious or unconscious, that women who have sex ought to suffer some kind of consequence. Actually, I don’t wonder. I’m fairly positive that the entirety of the anti-American movement operates from a subconscious belief in exactly that, which is evident in the logical weakness of their arguments and in the desperate appeal to “morality” they turn to when their logic is shown to be faulty (“But why should we let loose and irresponsible women use abortion as birth control?”). Mind you, I’m not saying that these guys* are consciously deciding that women who have sex are whores deserving of punishment, but that the idea has been implanted into their psyches by religion and by a society with a schizophrenic conception of sexuality and morality, and that this idea has been reinforced by their own shadowy understanding of their own societal and sexual privilege. You see, men have a vested interest, whether they are conscious of it or not, in maintaining control over women’s sexuality. When female sexuality is subordinated to and defined by male sexuality, men get to decide what sex is and how it should be done. Women hosing around wantonly is a pretty serious threat to that privilege, as well as several others that have been well documented by more impressive thinkers than me (I suppose those exist), and is therefore something to be feared and suppressed.

You know what’s not a threat to the privileges men reap from controlling women’s sexuality? Fetuses. I don’t know whether any of these anti-Americans are self-aware enough to have said this out loud or thought it in explicit terms, but the underlying sentiment in the pro-forced-birth movement is, “If we privilege fetuses, we can control women!”

Fear breeds fanaticism and hatred. White guys who were afraid of losing their privileged position after the Reconstruction stepped up their violence against blacks, men afraid of losing their privileged position in the workplace and the family are fueling the growth in the violent porn industry, you get the idea. Nothing motivates repression like the threat of equality, and nothing would contribute more to women’s equality than actual sexual freedom (and by that I do NOT mean the internalization and regurgitation of misogynistic male fantasy that is the sex industry). Therefore, the most obvious forms of terrorism women face tend to revolve around women’s sexual freedom and autonomy, as women’s sexual freedom is seen as a direct threat to the patriarchal order.

Terrorism is often the tactic of a minority when faced with a majority juggernaut. It’s the weapon of the desperate, calculated to create maximum results through the use of fear. If anti-Americans can do something shocking enough, they reckon, they can keep women from exercising their freedom to decide what to do with their own bodies, no matter what the majority of the people want, and no matter what the law says. If they bomb a clinic, they not only kill a doctor who is willing to support women’s freedom, but they also use fear to manipulate other doctors who are willing to support women’s freedom and to manipulate women who are considering going to a women’s health care provider, whether for an abortion or not. When they picket a clinic, they plan to create fear in the minds of women considering abortion as well as those who arrive at the clinic to have one; they hope that the specter of the emotional trauma and humiliation they intend to inflict will be enough to dissuade a woman from exercising her right to decide her own destiny.

But those are just the most visible of their tactics. Many anti-Americans quietly and insidiously focus their efforts on the legal system. For now, women have the right to decide what to do with their own bodies, and that right is guaranteed by the Supreme Court’s decision, which is still (despite what the president thinks) the last word on the law in this country. But that doesn’t mean these motherfuckers can’t and don’t weasel around the court’s decision and terrorize women in small and not-so-small ways. They’ve managed to restrict women’s access to procedures they are guaranteed the right to seek out by pushing state laws that restrict those rights in various ways. They force minors to notify their parents or the father, they force women to sit through anti-American propaganda lectures before they are allowed to receive medical treatment, they attempt to unseal the private medical records of women who have had abortions, and so on ad nauseum and infinitum. All of these are terrorist tactics meant to create fear and to thereby manipulate women into giving up their freedom of self-determination.

Well, fuck that. They’re terrorists and they deserve to be treated like terrorists, whatever that means to you. If that means throwing ground beef at them, do it. If that means getting out your Super Soaker full of piss and doing a Boyz in the Hood on them, sweet. If it means breaking their signs and screaming at them, spitting on them, throwing eggs at them, calling them anti-American traitors, or anything else, right on. When some asshole puts a sticker on his car admonishing you to think of it as a “child, not a choice,” feel free to vandalize his car, or to cover that sticker up with a sticker of your own choosing with some sort of feminist (ideally pro-abortion) message. When someone approaches you in front of the grocery store with a petition that would limit women’s reproductive rights, take their petitions and tear them up. Tell them that these colors don’t run, and make it known to your elected officials that you consider these people to be anti-freedom, anti-American terrorists, and that you won’t be voting for any appeasers.

The key is to make it not worth the hassle for them, because that’s exactly what they hope to do. They think if they’re obnoxious enough, we’ll give up and acquiesce to their terroristic demands. We just have to be more determined to protect our freedoms than the terrorists are to take them away.

* Another note: We all know it’s easier to become an appeaser than it is to resist patriarchy and run the risk of calling an act of terrorism down on oneself, and that it’s almost impossible to resist internalizing patriarchal values, so it’s no surprise that anti-Americans have been able to recruit women into their anti-woman movement.

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