A Processing of What “Due Process” Means Is Due

It’s a bit difficult to discern what kind of argument Emily Yoffe is trying to make in her recent article in The Atlantic entitled “Does Anyone Still Take Both Sexual Assault and Due Process Seriously?” what with the haze of redundant and disingenuous proclamations of sympathy for sexual assault survivors and all. Her argument, which is further obfuscated by ill-considered appeals to the holy juridical tenet of “due process,” appears to be that sexual assault is now purely a partisan issue, which threatens to undermine justice itself. (Yoffe has been harping on this issue for years, straddling the thick line between “I empathize with survivors, I really do” and “this is a zero-sum game in which believing women makes men victims.”)

In reference to the Kavanaugh hearings, Yoffe argues, “Republicans — adopting the rhetorical style of the president — dismiss accusers. Democrats mock the idea that fairness and due process are necessary for the accused.” The tragic result: “Democrats’ disregard for unbiased and impartial fact-finding in their rush to embrace the slogan #BelieveSurvivors may actually have helped confirm Kavanaugh.”

Let’s start with the obvious.

I’m not sure which Ivy’s law school Yoffe attended, but she must have skipped the lecture on the difference between a criminal trial and a job interview. I know I’m not making a novel point here, but when was the last time you filed a Fifth or Fourteenth Amendment due process case against a potential employer who opted not to hire you? Let us review the concept of “due process” as enshrined in the Fifth Amendment:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Unless one considers a Supreme Court seat “private property” that had been bestowed upon Kavanaugh extralegally prior to his confirmation hearings, I fail to see a violation here, even had he not been confirmed. (I’d put the odds of a case arguing that a sense of entitlement equates to “private property” coming before the current SCOTUS at 12%, but it has yet to occur and is hence not settled precedent.)

On to the Fourteenth Amendment, which I would like to remind everyone was adopted during Reconstruction in a (failed) attempt to prevent Southern states from de jure re-enslaving African Americans after the Civil War, and was not, indeed, intended to guarantee Yale Law grads their dream jobs:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Kavanaugh, even had his confirmation not been “plowed right through” (oh, the semiotics), would have escaped with his life, continued to rove about the land as his whims dictated, and retained his nearly $1 million in net worth.

Still, according to Yoffe, Democrats’ (admittedly politically-motivated) decision to take Dr. Blasey at her word somehow showed an utter disregard for “due process” rather than a simple (if in some cases feigned) recognition of her humanity while she relived a sexual assault in front of a panel of hysterically hostile men and their female ‘Zonie sicario. And that total contempt for justice on the part of Democratic senators — rather than the GOP smear campaign aimed at Blasey, the White House’s obstruction of the FBI investigation of her allegations, and Mitch McConnell’s sociopathic machinations — explains Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Lady, whose side are you on again?

Oh, right. Men’s. If we take a look back at Yoffe’s ouevre, she seems inordinately concerned with what she terms the “excesses” of the Obama administration’s 2011 expansion of Title IX protections for women on college campuses, enshrined in the famed “Dear Colleague” letter that instructed colleges and universities to use the “preponderance of evidence” standard (meaning, basically, that they were directed to side with the party who seemed more credible) to determine what course of action to take in the event of a sexual misconduct allegation.

Universities do not administer lethal injections, seize students’ assets (of their own accord), or deprive students of their freedom when adjudicating campus sexual assaults, they simply decide how to ensure that they don’t allow their campuses to turn into hostile environments for women. Universities are not “states,” nor do they wield the same forms of power over their students that governmental institutions do over citizens.

Yoffe seems to have failed to make that distinction throughout her tenure as a constitutional law expert for The Atlantic. She went out of her way to track down and interview young men whose lives had been “ruined” by Title IX cases, decrying the lack of “due process” in campus sexual assault proceedings and thus tacitly declaring her fandom of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases which actually do present the possibility of depriving someone of “life, liberty, or property.”

Here’s the thing: campus disciplinary proceedings in sexual misconduct cases are administrative procedures carried out by private or semi-private institutions (state- and federally-funded colleges and universities do not, by dint of that funding, morph into governmental agencies — this fact is settled law). Due process does not attach to administrative procedures, it applies to civil and criminal cases as outlined in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments that dictate the parameters of governmental action against citizens.

Obviously, Yoffe has no idea what she’s talking about (hey, Atlantic, I’ll take her job if you ever figure that out), so that’ll be enough about her.

(The argument I’m about to make isn’t a completely new one for me, so I apologize for the redundancy if you happen to be one of the zero people who has read everything I’ve ever written.)

What happens when we apply the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal sexual assault cases (never mind in college administrative hearings)? It results roughly in a net of 6% of rapists ever seeing a consequence, that’s what. The presumption of innocence is generally a laudable bit of legal philosophy, as is the guarantee of due process, but something funny happens in rape cases: because the burden of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” falls onto the prosecution (i.e. the victim), a rape victim is required to prove a negative, that she did not consent to sex. The presupposition, then, is that women wander the Earth in a constant state of consent and that they must prove that they temporarily revoked it for the period of time during which an assault occurred.

Sans a firsthand witness other than the defendant, this absurd requirement applies even when there is DNA evidence and verified injury. Seriously. “She likes it rough” has come to be one of the more common — and successful — defenses against rape charges in which the perpetrator’s DNA has been collected from the victim and she has documented injuries derived from the encounter (thank you, porn industry).

Does anyone believe men don’t know this and act with it in mind? The de facto result of this particular arrangement of legal reasoning and procedure is that rape is legal 94% of the time. Why would Yoffe (or anyone else other than a rapist) be alarmed at the prospect of a disruption of this situation? That was a rhetorical question.

The law works exactly as intended because the law was encoded and elaborated by men, for men. That women are demanding via #MeToo and #BelieveSurvivors that women’s humanity be taken into account in sexual assault proceedings — whether they occur in college administrative hearings, job interviews, civil cases, or even/especially criminal trials — does threaten to upend some of the foundational concepts of our legal system.

And? What’s the problem, again?

Let’s say we were to make one simple move and replace “beyond a reasonable doubt” with “clear and convincing evidence” as the evidentiary standard in criminal sexual assault trials:

According to the Supreme Court in Colorado v. New Mexico, 467 U.S. 310 (1984), “clear and convincing” means that the evidence is highly and substantially more likely to be true than untrue; the fact finder must be convinced that the contention is highly probable.

You know, allow judges and juries to apply common sense when deciding whether an assault has taken place, rather than allowing defense attorneys to undermine victim testimony with irrelevant personal slander about the victim’s fashion sensibility, alcohol consumption, or sexual history, and then giving jurors to believe that that “evidence” holds as much weight as all of the other evidence presented at trial if it creates a “reasonable” doubt. Juries are not, as a rule, “reasonable” when it comes to sexual assault trials because we live — as even ol’ Yoffe will admit — in a misogynistic society in which women are assumed to be manipulative liars and men are assumed to be tellers-of-truth even when they’re obviously lying their fucking faces off (see the Kavanaugh hearing).

That sexual assault trial juries (and judges) cannot be relied on to apply reason can be easily illustrated by comparing rape trials to theft trials. Rarely does a defense attorney convince a judge or jury that the owner of a stolen car loaned it to the thief, because that’s fucking ridiculous. It’s also ridiculous to believe that a woman who has reported a rape to the police, endured a gynecological exam and evidence collection that includes having her genitalia photographed, and withstood recounting the experience in a room full of hostile strangers is probably just a lying whore. But alas.

Perhaps instructing juries as to what “clear and convincing evidence” means might make them behave a little more reasonably (probably not, but it’s worth a shot). Who loses in this arrangement other than premeditated rapists? This is not exactly a radical proposition, nor would applying the “preponderance of evidence” standard be, and neither would necessarily violate the due process clauses of either the Fifth or the Fourteenth Amendments (these standards are already used in some criminal cases).

“Beyond a reasonable doubt” does not derive from the Constitution but from precedent, which renders it open to modification via much simpler means (kinda like Roe is about to be). I am, however, aware that modifying standard of proof precedent to make rape cases easier to prosecute would be well-nigh impossible with the radicalized MRA Supreme Court we’re now saddled with despite the “lack of due process” poor Brett endured.

The Object and the Missing Subject, the Effect and the Missing Cause (Part 3)

I must be stupid. I keep thinking that, any day now, the reasons women don’t report sexual assault will cease to be the hot topic du jour and I’ll be freed of the sense of responsibility to provide yet another gruesome illustrative personal example.

Remember that whole “most fucked up things that happened between the time I grew boobs and turned 22” scale? As ghastly as the events in the prior two posts were, part one clocked in at a mere four (I might put it at a six now that I’ve thought more about it) and part two clocked in at an eight. I must have been subconsciously saving the incident that topped the chart for the occasion of Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the post of Most Eminent Rapist in the Judicial Branch. It’s kind of a fitting analogy, given that it happened a long time ago, everyone was drunk, and no one anyone would listen to remembers any of it.

Tijuana — that wonderland of donkey shows and all-you-can-drink nights packed with underage revelers, that bastion of free-market capitalism (at least when it comes to sexual exploitation and OTC opiates) — was a mere thirty miles from my parents’ house. Like all teenagers who grew up anywhere near an arbitrary dividing line between draconian drinking-age laws and total freedom, I crossed that border semi-regularly to patronize various party palaces and drink the night away to the tune of “Boom Boom Boom” by the Outthere Brothers with thousands of other teenagers and the Marines who made the trip down from Camp Pendleton to prey upon the female ones.

For my readers who may not have experienced TJ in the 90s (or been to Thailand or whatever), I ought to set the scene. On the average night, the clubs on Avenida Revolución and the avenue itself were slathered in piss, puke, and stumbling, blacked-out children who — if they weren’t already oblivious to the very real dangers that surrounded them due to sheltered upbringings in the upper-middle-class suburbs of San Diego — had been rendered so by a deluge of Dos Equis and off-brand tequila, the latter often having been delivered in the form of a “popper.”

(Poppers aren’t available just anywhere; they’d be classified as assault in places where people don’t know how to party. A popper can take many forms, but it usually begins with someone surreptitiously handing $5 to a man with a tequila bottle and a whistle and pointing out a friend/victim, then standing back to watch as the poppero puts the victim in a chokehold, pulls their head back, pours tequila down their throat while tooting his whistle, then does one of two things: if the victim is male, the poppero will shake his head around, then spin him in a circle and let him loose; if the victim is female, he will often pick her up, put her over his shoulder, twirl around a few times, then unceremoniously dump her on the ground. In either case, the victim will usually be dizzy enough to fall ass-first into a puddle of beer and vomit before rejoining their friends. I told you, it’s a real party.)

As fun as this all sounds, it isn’t that much wilder than, say, a Georgetown Prep house party or a frat party at — I don’t know — maybe Yale? However, there was a special service available to the young male patrons of TJ night clubs: almost any bartender in town, for a small and negotiable fee, would “roof” the drink of his customer’s choice and turn a blind eye to whose hand that drink ended up in. An attendee at a Georgetown Prep house party or a Yale frat soiree who wanted to roof someone usually had to do it himself. Ah, the benefits of overseas travel.

By the time I was nineteen, blasting down the I-805, parking in San Ysidro, walking across the border, taking a taxi to Club A, irritating Border Patrol officers on my way back into the US, and then somehow getting back home was old hat. So, when two acquaintances, Jenn and Shauna, suggested one Wednesday night that we hit up Club A and I couldn’t think of a better idea, I got in the car. We found ourselves sitting in a half-empty club by about 10 PM, besieged almost immediately by a couple of unremarkable bros who insisted on buying us drinks. (Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at the time, but it’s noteworthy that this was the first time I had ever gone to TJ without a boyfriend or male friend.)

I wasn’t Hank Williams, Jr., but I wasn’t exactly a lightweight at nineteen. On countless prior occasions, I had graciously endured multiple poppers on top of several beers and made it home safely with most of the night intact in my memory the next day. Not so this time. I remember drinking exactly two beers, and then — bang — I woke up in a strange room in my underwear to find two nameless dudes looking at me with trepidation.

I had nary a clue where I was, what had happened, or who these motherfuckers were. I couldn’t think straight or talk properly, but I was petrified. My most immediate concern was getting clothed and getting away from these two strangers. I mumbled an inquiry as to where my clothes were and they claimed they didn’t know. I asked them where we were. They told me the name of the town, an exurb of San Diego with a reputation for redneckery, and I realized that I was an hour east of Tijuana and an hour southeast of my house. I asked them how I got there, and they hemmed, hawed, and then told me they had found me drunk somewhere in Tijuana and decided to take care of me. Riiight.

Realizing that I was alone in the company of two dudes who had probably drugged and violated me, I asked meekly for some clothing and access to a bathroom (so that I could check myself for signs of, uh, forced entry) and a phone (so that I could call the people I was with the night before to come and pick me up). What I should have done, according to characters as varied as Lindsey Graham and my own dear aunt, was run outside naked, scream for the police, and submit to an immediate gynecological exam.

I can’t explain why, but that thought just didn’t occur to me. I also didn’t think of grabbing the cordless phone one of them was holding and dialing 911. Another big fuck-up on my part. Instead, when he insisted on dialing the number himself, I gave him Jenn’s phone number. He handed me the phone once she answered, I told her she needed to come and get me, and when I asked him for the address, he demanded I hand the phone back to him so that he could give her directions to a Circle-K rather than the house at which these two knights in shining armor had selflessly stood vigil over me the night prior.

I got into the shower, relieved to be (sort of) alone, and inventoried my injuries before scrubbing myself raw from head to toe. I know, I know, I was destroying evidence. The rohypnol (or whatever it was) hangover must have diminished my detective’s instinct.

When I emerged from the bathroom wearing one of these dudes’ clothing, they drove me to the Circle-K. Jenn showed up a few minutes later, and when I got into her car, the owner of the clothing I had borrowed requested that I return the pants I had on. So I did. And I rode an hour home — and entered my parents’ home (they were, thank god, out at the time) — in nothing but underwear and a plain white t-shirt that homeboy figured he could afford to let go. Cheap date, I was.

On the ride home, Jenn told me she recognized both of the dudes as the bros from the night before who had bought us drinks. I blankly asked why she let them take me with them, and she said I was too fucked up for her and Shauna to carry me. I had apparently tried and failed to crawl through the cigarette butts and bodily fluids in the street to get away from the club. When Jenn and Shauna tried to pick me up and couldn’t, the two dudes appeared, assured them they would take care of me, hoisted me up, and carried me away. Jenn and Shauna went on to have a night of adventure and hilarity, unencumbered by the responsibility of caring for me, the details of which Jenn recounted to me for the rest of the trip home, pausing only to laugh at me for not having any pants on and for being a “lightweight.” I just sat there.

I don’t know, given that this occurred in 1996, if anyone involved recognized what had occurred as something called rape, myself included. I don’t know if these two dudes were experts in pharmacology and knew I would be too out of it for most of the day to even think about trying to remember the route from the house to the Circle-K. I don’t know why they hid my clothes from me and/or disposed of them (and I really don’t want to) but either left my underwear on me or put them back on me. I don’t know if the owner of the pants was concerned that they might contain traces of his DNA or if he just didn’t want to donate his Dickies to some slut he had picked up in TJ (I’m assuming it was the latter since I still had my underwear in my possession).

They were clearly aware that they had done something wrong, though I’m not sure whether that sense derived from the situation as a whole or something in particular that they had done that I didn’t and will mercifully never know about. They must not have been that concerned, or they would have killed me and/or dumped me somewhere. Maybe they were new to the game.

After I got home, I took the shower of the century, deposited the white t-shirt and my underwear in the trash outside, and retreated to my bedroom. Then the narcotic fog began to lift and was replaced by an erratic, broad-spectrum terror.

What had these dudes done to me? Did I have HIV now? Herpes? Syphilis? Why had Jenn and Shauna let them take me? Why had Jenn laughed at me? Would everyone find out? Would people call me a whore? Was I pregnant? Who the fuck were these guys? (All I could say for sure was that one had a shaved head and the other one had shoulder-length hair and that one of them lived in the city of Alpine, CA.) But, the most devastating question that looped through my mind endlessly was, why didn’t anyone care enough to do anything to protect me? (This was the incident that finally convinced me I was on my own on that one. Slow learner.)

Neither parents nor police nor friends nor medical professionals nor my motherfucking diary entered my mind. The shame and fear didn’t leave any room for any of that. My chief concern was finding out as quickly as possible whether my health was in danger and then devising a means to forget that anything had happened at all.

I could walk past either of these assholes on the street today and not know it, but they were strangers and I was drugged the last time I saw them. Had they been high school or college acquaintances, I probably — a supposition based on my prior reaction to similar situations — would never have done anything but warn other girls away from them. I definitely wouldn’t have bothered enduring a fruitless entanglement with obtuse cops before the statute of limitations ran out. Were I to magically remember their names and faces and find out one or both of them were being groomed for positions of weighty authority, I’d like to think I would come forward, despite knowing it would result in fuck-all but misery for me and a hiccup for them.

Just for laughs, I’ll speculate on how an investigation of this event at this late date would play out (for starters, it wouldn’t, because the statute of limitations passed twelve years ago). I could provide investigators with the year and season it occurred in, the details above that I remember, the name of the town in which it occurred, the layout of the room I woke up in, and the names of people I had told about it prior to coming forward (I started telling people about it about six years after it happened, when the memory of it would erupt out of nowhere and shake my sense of self and self-worth to the ground). I could pass a polygraph administered by the king of the CIA. This sounds kind of familiar.

Jenn and Shauna, on being interviewed, might remember what had happened, but maybe not. It was 22 years ago and it didn’t happen to them. If Jenn remembered it at all, it would probably be due to her having driven me home with no pants on. Though sexual abuse — especially of intoxicated and/or incapacitated women — was as normalized as listening to Sublime at that time, she would surely recognize when thinking about it now that something untoward had occurred. But she wasn’t in the room. This also sounds familiar.

It would just be another case that highlights the unique failure of the juridical philosophy of the presumption of innocence when it comes to rape. Just another instance of a misogynistic society — when presented with the choice between recognizing a woman’s humanity rather than giving a man the wealth of benefits that comes with the slightest of doubts — shrugging its collective shoulders.

Fuck it, right?

(Nah. I’ve gotta write a post in the immediate future that includes a detailed analysis of the US legal/political system and offers some kind of inchoate roadmap to remedying this situation — at least in part — and then convince everyone to get on board and effectuate it. I also have to see someone about these delusions of omnipotence.)

That’ll be the end of this series.

The Object and the Missing Subject, the Effect and the Missing Cause (Part 1)

Roy Moore just lost by a mere four votes or so despite the fact that he’s a serial child molester who lives in his own private version of Gunsmoke. The president is a rapist. Every famous dude in America — of every political stripe — has been fired or has stepped down from his job for sexually assaulting someone. Still, while the #metoo movement is laying bare the ubiquity of the abuse that all women face, there is no real concomitant movement to recognize the ubiquity of abusive behavior among men and boys or to determine the source of that behavior.

I’ll tell you a little about the source of that behavior.

Southern California is an exceedingly harsh environment to grow up in. The emotional depravity that seems to emanate from the starkly bright, spiritually empty, inescapably dull, brown landscape isn’t unique in the world, but it stopped seeming natural or unavoidable once I finally left and life, thankfully, ceased to resemble a Bret Easton Ellis novel. After recently reading about the suicide of 13-year-old Rosalie Avila after she had endured years of torment from her peers in Yucaipa — a smallish town just outside of San Bernardino — memories of growing up female in suburban San Diego began to reemerge from whatever part of my mind they have been sequestered in.

Thankfully, for Rosalie’s sake, the content of the social media bullying she endured hasn’t been made public (though I’m sure I could find it were I to make the slightest prurient effort). Still, it wouldn’t be an outrageous stretch to guess that she was terrorized for being brown and female. Everyone knows what form bullying takes when directed at an adolescent girl. Double that for girls of color.

I often wonder how one could quantify the potential, kindness, and brilliance the world loses when it is routinely beaten out of children by their families and by popular culture, and when those children turn around and unleash their anguish on other young victims (and go on to do so as adults). What would Rosalie have become if she had survived the abuse heaped upon her? How many other girls are enduring the same abuse now, and how will it alter their futures? How many imaginations have been snuffed out by the hatred this culture has for young women and people of color? How many little boys who were on track to become decent men have succumbed to the pressure to suppress their decency in favor of the capricious cruelty that adolescent society, the cult of masculinity, and popular media culture promote and reward?

How can these young people be convinced that anything outside of the nightmare they live in exists? What is the mechanism by which some victims of childhood and adolescent abuse survive and come to use their experiences to better the world, and how can it be provided to those who need it the most?

That list of questions makes it sound as though I have no hope for addressing the behavior of the culprits. That’s because I don’t. It’s a rare childhood bully who will even recognize their youthful behavior as a problem when confronted with it in adulthood, probably because emotionally terrorizing others isn’t a behavior that people easily grow out of. That would require a level of self-awareness and empathy that is hard to amass out of thin air. Besides, where would the motivation even come from when the public is too recalcitrant to shift its focus away from victim-blaming and toward the behavior of perpetrators?

Adolescents are routinely exposed to and forced to reckon with behaviors and ideas that are far too harrowing and complex for their young minds to cope with. They all commit and endure cruelties and subjugations that they are completely incapable of comprehending. Some people have argued that this is a result of the lack of purpose and meaning assigned to the life stage of adolescence in Western society. Adolescents are no longer children and aren’t yet adults, existing in a liminal zone of frustration and confusion about why they even exist. There’s nothing to do but emulate and wait, enduring a keen feeling of powerlessness and depersonalization wrought by a materialistic and power-obsessed culture. Cruelty, then, becomes a form of power for people who feel like they’ve been excluded from control over their lives.

Nothing novel there. But there was something peculiar about the social and cultural tenor of Southern California in particular that exacerbated this already noxious reality, and it seems to have metastasized to the entirety of the culture in recent years. When I grew up in Southern California, it was palpably uncool to have feelings of any kind. You didn’t respond to cruelty with tears. You didn’t respond to a reciprocated crush with honest excitement. You maintained the empty, dead demeanor of a sociopath lest you be vulnerable to the terrifying emotional possibilities around every corner. It was also extremely uncool to be intelligent, emotionally or otherwise. You forgot highfalutin words on purpose to prevent the idiot arbiters of coolness from descending upon you with their brutishly stupid rebukes. Everyone was smoothly empty and dull on the surface, their interiority completely invisible if not totally excised.

I think it took me an entire decade to recover. It’s been long enough now that I can afford to reflect on some of it in public, if only for the sake of other women and girls who might need to relate. What I’m about to recount didn’t occur in a trailer park. It wasn’t aberrant. We weren’t “the bad kids.” (Harmony Korine — retch — and Larry Clark were onto something bigger than they realized). This is not an extreme example, but rather the everyday reality that adolescent girls endure in this society until they either die emotionally, actually kill themselves, or rediscover the last glimmer of humanity inside themselves in time to escape and resist.

Sometime near the middle of my sophomore year in high school, I lost the only form of protection teenage girls have from the predations of teenage boys: my boyfriend. Well, I didn’t “lose” him; he decided to sleep with one of my friends while he was watching my parents’ house while we were on vacation. Being only fifteen, I handled it poorly, which means I partied a lot and was susceptible to predatory male attention because having been cheated on had made me doubt my self-worth. Some guy I had had a mild crush on in junior high started paying attention to me. Let’s call him Jack Phillips. At one of many Mickey’s-soaked house parties I attended that winter, I had three too many Hornets and blacked out, only to learn later that Phillips had intercourse with me.

I only discovered this had occurred because it immediately became the talk of the town. Another piece of evidence that something untoward had happened: while hanging out at my best friend’s house playing Toejam and Earl, I discovered a photo of myself and that best friend in which I had been rendered invisible under the etched letters “fuken hor.” I asked him who had done it, and he told me Phillips had, then asked me why I hung out with him. I didn’t know. I was too young to understand the mechanisms at work in my poor decision-making, and I was certainly not emotionally sophisticated enough to shrug it off and recognize Phillips as a psychopath (and an idiot). I mean, I did shrug it off — because that was a social requirement — but I internalized the message in the etching and the idea that Phillips’s stupidity and warped psyche and sexuality were somehow something for me to be ashamed of.

Shortly thereafter, I found myself at yet another party with Phillips. He suggested we drive up to some remote area where teenagers went to party unmolested by parents or cops. I was drunk, I desperately needed to misunderstand the obvious meaning of his treatment of me, and my naivete/denial told me the invitation meant he actually did like me but didn’t know how to express it (dear god, everyone, STOP telling young girls that boys’ abuse is a sign of a crush). We went. He demanded I have sex with him, threatening to leave me at the top of the mountain we had driven up if I didn’t. It was 1993. There were no cell phones. I certainly wasn’t going to knock at the gate of one of the “estates” up there and ask to call my parents to come pick me up, so I started walking downhill. He pulled alongside me and apologized, and I got in the car and let him drunk-drive me home.

That would have been the end of our interactions were it not for the fact that he continued to call me constantly. One night, a friend I’ll call Sarah was spending the night at my house. She had just moved to the area from Utah, which rendered her woefully ill-prepared for the viciousness of a social environment informed more by Sublime lyrics than human decency. She was impressionable and eager to fit in, and for some reason found my interactions with Phillips fascinating. He called while we were sitting in my bedroom drinking yet more Mickey’s (I still can’t explain what I was doing drinking the official fine malt liquor of House of Pain so often; maybe we were white trash) and she told me to invite him over. I did so reluctantly, knowing no good would come of it, and none did.

They ended up having sex in front of me, these two inebriated children with no inkling of the social or emotional consequences of their actions beyond the immediate moment. I didn’t consider it socially acceptable to have obvious feelings about it, so I got up and wandered out into the house so as not to be forced to watch and listen, wandering back in to find Sarah crying after Phillips had climbed back out the window he had climbed in to drive drunk to his next destination. We went to sleep hugging each other, both engulfed in a confused fog of shame and fear.

The next day, she was an absolute mess. Shortly after she went home, she attempted to kill herself by taking upwards of 100 ibuprofen. Her mother called my parents to ask what had happened and they were astounded, having slept through the pointless drunken destruction that had occurred a mere 75 feet from their bedroom door. They naturally demanded that I tell them what went on, but I refused out of shame and some sense of obligation to protect Sarah from the intervention of adults I was sure could not possibly understand what she (or I) was going through. It netted me a month without a phone or a social life outside of school, which was probably for the best.

You know who wasn’t engulfed in shame, fear, parental punishment, and social opprobrium? Phillips. He was at a party the following weekend bragging that Sarah had tried to kill herself because she had had sex with him. In other words, this teenage kid was celebrating the fact that he had enough power to ruin someone’s life by having sex with them.

Men — adolescent ones especially — are so incapable of self-reflection that they can consider a woman defiled, ruined, permanently tainted by having come into contact with their dicks without thinking about what that says about them. He wasn’t ashamed of anything from what anyone could tell. He wasn’t shunned from any social circle, no one bothered to interrupt him to tell him there might be something wrong with what he was saying and doing, and he presumably continued to do it for all I know. He suffered zero social consequences for multiple instances of what today is considered sexual assault and for taking advantage of someone’s natural human need to be liked to the extent that she wanted to die.

Oddly enough (wink wink), people had plenty to say about me and about Sarah and our decisions. It disrupted our lives to the extent that we were prevented from thinking about literally anything else for months. I’m frankly shocked, given how poorly-developed our coping skills and emotional intelligence were at that age, and given the systemic psychological sickness of our social environment, that we didn’t both end up actually killing ourselves.

This incident was maybe a four on the “most fucked up things that happened between the time I grew boobs and turned 22” scale. It was part of what made me a mistrustful, angry jerk by the time I was 16, which didn’t help protect me as much as it led me further away from my true nature. And it was just one small speck of dust in a vast and dark universe of adolescent depravity.

Things are not better for young women today than they were in the 90s, they are exponentially worse. Internet porn, the vicious recent backlash against feminism, the death of the counterculture messages that used to compete with the materialistic and emotionally violent messages of popular media, and the rise of intrusive and inescapable social media have left young women in a much more emotionally precarious position than I ever found myself in, which beleaguers the imagination.

Which brings me back to my main point: I’m not surprised that suicide is on the rise among an ever-younger demographic. Just days before Rosalie Avila did so, a ten-year-old girl hanged herself after being bullied. Months before, an eight-year-old boy did the exact same thing for the exact same reason.

A week doesn’t go by that I don’t hear about an adolescent girl committing suicide after being coerced into sending revealing photographs to some porn-conditioned teenage boy (or some adult predator) who immediately turns around and shares them with all his friends at a minimum, and often with the whole world via social media and revenge porn sites. It’s downright pedestrian these days to read about a teenage girl being gang raped at some party, only to find out later that her assailants have recorded and shared images of her humiliation with everyone they know. The social consequences then fall squarely on her while the rapists get high-fived by their boys.

Teenage society, the law, and even the media have a never-ending supply of opprobrium for these girls, but there is somehow never enough left over for the boys and men who take advantage of them.

Anti-bullying campaigns are not an indication that things are getting better; they’re a begrudging recognition of the enormity of the problem of psychological and physical abuse against and among children and adolescents. The search for the root cause of this epidemic bears no fruit because those doing the searching don’t want to find the answer. Each “investigation” of adolescent suicide comes to the same conclusion: social media is beyond adult control and makes it easier for bullies to target victims.

It’s a facile explanation that allows everyone to shrug and move on without asking why the culture is becoming crueler, meaner, more atomized (and what role social media is playing in that process). It allows the parents of shitty little people to evade the examination of their own behavior and parenting practices. It offers nothing in the way of a solution for the millions of girls (and boys) in America who suffer from depression, anxiety, and PTSD as a result of the way they’re treated by a growing number of underage sociopaths. And it completely elides the role of the perpetrators and a culture that foments and rewards cruelty, and then conveniently overlooks or excuses the behavioral excesses it inculcates.

It isn’t like we don’t know how these kids will turn out. It isn’t like we don’t know how the cycle of abuse works. I wonder how much more filthy laundry will have to be aired before the focus ends up where it belongs: on the perpetrators and the sociopolitical/economic systems that create them.

Me too, son.

The mainstream media has collectively lost its mind in the past week over the “shocking” revelation that a movie producer would abuse his power over the careers of aspiring actors in order to sexually harass and assault them, then scare them into silence with the exact same set of implied threats that allowed him to commit the crimes in the first place. Since the vast majority of my readership is female, I’m sure none of you were floored by the revelation, given that this kind of shit goes on literally everywhere all the time and has since the dawn of the age of homo sapiens (and, of course, earlier). While it’s heartening to see the dark and dirty truth blip into the public consciousness, it’s likely that the furor will die down in short order and that everyone will resume the charade. Everything is cool, ladies. We caught the bad guy.

I moved to Hollywood in 1999, just after I turned 21. I had zero interest in being an actor (or having anything to do with the film and television industry); I just moved there because it was an affordable neighborhood (this was 1999) in the closest big city to San Diego, where the people I was hanging out with were such degenerates that I decided I had to jet in order to avoid jail or an overdose. I’d like to say that situation improved after the move, but I just traded in a crew of reprobate upper-middle-class bros for a city full of predatory gutterballs with more money.

One needn’t seek employment in the entertainment industry to attract the attention of unctuous perverts in LA. One of my first jobs on arrival was as a waitress at the semi-infamous Mel’s Drive-In, where James Woods propositioned Amber Tamblyn, 16 at the time, with an impromptu jaunt to Vegas with him and some other senior citizen. He must have made a serious habit of propositioning women a third of his age at Mel’s, because he did the same thing to me (though I had at least reached the age of majority; he was 52 at the time). The remainder of the transaction was as awkward as you would imagine. James Woods was — in my mind — only marginally famous, yet he felt like he was a big enough deal that teenagers ought to jump at the chance to be molested by him. Andrew Dice Clay, the epitome of a has-been at the time, had been 86ed from the establishment for groping waitresses just months earlier.

But it wasn’t just the town’s well-known actors, producers, and talent agents who considered the city of Los Angeles a smorgasbord of potential victims. At that same restaurant, I had two male coworkers who had moved to the city to become famous and were just waiting tables until the entertainment elite recognized their mediocre looks and revolting personalities as star material (the cliché is real, y’all). One was a dude from somewhere in the Northeast named Anthony who insisted on being called “London.” Most interactions I had with him consisted of him pointing at bananas and then at his own dick. (You can find this specimen in the archives of the dating show Fifth Wheel if you’re interested.) The other one, Reagan, managed to behave like a reasonable (though dorky) person at work most of the time, but once put on a Frank Sinatra song and tried to make out with me, despite my obvious lack of interest (that quickly morphed into mortified laughter once he tried to Swingers me).

Then there were the mystery men who sat in my section and, shortly before paying their bill (and just before they decided what kind of tip to leave), would ask me if I was an actress. When I replied that, no, unlike every other young woman in town waiting tables, I had no interest in acting, they would say something like, “Well, you’re gorgeous and you should be. Why don’t you give me your number and I can introduce you to some people.” The conditions attached were unspoken, but were louder than a Miami bass war.

I had to “grow up” sometime, so I left Mel’s and got a job at the corporate office of a national chain of lingerie stores headquartered in Hollywood. The office was mercifully free of men, despite the fact that the company produced clownish lingerie ostensibly designed for men’s entertainment and titillation.  (I mean, I couldn’t see the draw of a red bra with underwires but no cups, so men must have been the target market.) Still, I spent at least 2% of my time at work fielding obscene phone calls.

It got so old that, while perusing online job ads at work one day, I decided to apply for a job as a receptionist at Creative Artists Agency, a fairly influential organization in the entertainment world. The interviewer was about 60 and I was still 21. He spent the entirety of the thirty years or so that I was in his office alternating between licking his lips and telling me I would look good up front and lowballing me on the job’s pay. He kept dangling the promise of becoming an assistant to one of their agents, assuring me that one day I would be a big deal Hollywood agent provided that I was up to the task of working there (and would accept poverty wages). The task was in his shorts. I still don’t know what this asshole’s job title was, or why he was selected to interview me, but I have to assume the intent was to weed out the kind of spoilsports who couldn’t handle a little sexual harassment.

All work and no play makes for a boring account of the wide world of Hollywood sexual misconduct. Through some very odd circumstances, I ended up spending a lot of time with a couple of *dudes who had been famous as teen heartthrobs in the early 90s. They were decent people (they had probably endured some sexual abuse themselves, having been child actors) despite the fact that one was a Scientologist (wasn’t everyone in LA in 1999). But their friends were unbelievable. A crew of trust-fund twentysomethings whose only connection to the entertainment industry was their parents, they were brazen and merciless in their tactics of manipulating hopeful young women into having sex with them by pretending to have connections they didn’t have and promising opportunities they had no access to (and no intention of following through on if they did).

They once took me to a club that was nigh impossible to get into at the time, Barfly, where I stood around picking at my clothing while Corey Feldman (he wasn’t there with us) made an ass of himself on the dance floor and an old fat man chased attractive young women around the room with handfuls of hundred dollar bills. Though it was an odd sight, the only reason anyone made sport of his behavior was that he made plain the (usually) unspoken but pervasive assumption that all young women in Los Angeles are for sale. (Hey, loser, get some game and quit being so extra.)

Then there’s the kid we all used to refer to affectionately as “little Will.” We found it amusing to see a 13-year-old trying to breakdance while in a K-hole. You might know him as The Gaslamp Killer, who has raped who knows how many women now that he’s all grown up and famous and has access to roofies and female fans.

Then there was ol’ “shocked and apalled” Ben Affleck, who regularly staggered his way around my neighborhood breakfast cafe, drunkenly sexually harassing the female staff at 7 AM because he could.

Then there was the *globular millionaire son of a director who had no friends whatsoever and would invite young people (male and female) to his house when the bars closed, shove piles of “free” cocaine at them, and then demand that they perform sexual entertainment as payment at the end of the night, later sending them big-screen televisions in the hopes of a repeat engagement. And the *”photographer” who actually made his living selling ecstasy at Garden of Eden and used the proceeds to lure women half his age to his apartment down the street, where he fed them drugs and bullshit until they acquiesced to his sexual demands (free headshots, anyone?).

These vignettes all derive from the outskirts — if not from outside of — the entertainment industry. You can imagine — and have learned in the past few weeks the specifics of — the heights of sexual menace inside the offices of people with actual power in Hollywood. A city brimming with young women (and men) intent on becoming famous makes a great hunting ground for manipulative sexual predators up and down the payscale.

And let me tell you, I’ve got a lot more where this comes from involving men who are about as closely connected to the entertainment industry as I am to Richard Spencer.

Harvey Weinstein isn’t an outlier. He’s an example of the entitlement of nearly all men in positions of power over women’s careers, and all men who know the threat of violence, rape, and public humiliation keep women polite in the face of harassment and quiet about what happens to us after the fact. Men like Weinstein are a dime a dozen. Every woman I know has a list as long as The Brothers Karamazov of stories of sexual harassment and assault at work, on the street, at school, at parties, at the liquor store, on the subway, at Jimmy John’s, at Home Depot, in court, at a funeral, at a wedding, in line for tickets to see Cats, while shopping for diarrhea medication, and so on ad infinitum.

I’ll dip out with a plea to everyone who can safely do so to come out with their lists in every public forum available to them. I may even recount my workplace sexual harassment stories from my teenage years in a sequel-as-prequel to this post.

*I’d include these people’s names, but I’m sure they Google themselves constantly and would instantly guess who wrote this.

Elliot Rodger and the Pandemic of Masculinity

I read Elliot Rodger’s manifesto yesterday. It was, without a doubt, the least surprising document I’ve ever read. It wasn’t hard to follow; it wasn’t bizarre; it wasn’t a collection of the meanderings of a mind that had lost touch with reality. Instead, it was boring, trite, obvious, and exactly what I expected it to be: a rant by a spoiled brat with an overweening sense of entitlement. To women, to sex, to wealth, to attention and adoration. Frankly, I suspected at times that it was written by a Marxist feminist satirizing privileged male entitlement in general and MRAs in particular.

Elliot Rodger wasn’t Holden Caulfield, he was a bratty little asshole who assumed he was somehow superior to everyone else and thus deserved rewards simply for existing. The rage that he felt wasn’t caused by the cruelty of others, but by his own unreasonable expectations, expectations shared by the majority of men. He may have been less equipped to deal with frustration than the average person, but his reaction to that frustration shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been paying attention to the directions the culture has been taking over the course of the last decade or so.

About that manifesto. I’d call it a memoir of a cult member rather than a manifesto, since it doesn’t contain an idea of any kind. Rodger spends 141 pages narcissistically recounting every detail of his privileged childhood, describing in excruciatingly boring detail each family trip to some “exotic” locale or other, each luxurious Japanese dinner, each wasteful birthday celebration, each time he and his family attended a media industry event as someone else’s plus-one. Save a few bits of ham-fisted foreshadowing, the story up until Rodger hits puberty reads like the autobiography of every kid I went to elementary school with in Southern California: upper middle class parents who have no interest in raising a child but plenty of money and help doing so raise a kid with a profound sense of both entitlement and abandonment. His family clearly had just enough money and social status to gain entry to the outer circles of extreme privilege, and to afford Rodger a glimpse of what could be his if only he were fabulously, disgustingly wealthy instead of just comfortable in the extreme.

In fact, the story Rodger tells of his life after puberty reads like a tale of the rude awakening to the fact that his parents were not that rich after all. He makes repeated reference to puberty as the mainspring of his disillusionment with life and humanity, as the catalyst to his confrontation with the cruel realities of the world, but he is clearly projecting a concept he has adopted from the Men’s Rights Movement and from the Pick-Up Artist (PUA) scene onto his own adolescent understanding of the world, while his recounting of his own memories illustrates a gradual realization that he was not, after all, a member of the Hollywood gentry.

Is it just me, or are there more cult-ish movements around these days than there were a few years ago? Rodger makes mention of his attempt to follow the advice contained in Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, a book that encourages readers to think they are multi-millionaires to whom life’s rewards flow unremittingly and without effort, which will result in them actually becoming one-per-centers. Though Rodger ultimately dismisses The Secret when putting its methods into practice doesn’t result in his winning the lottery and thus becoming a pussy magnet, the fact that he tried it in the first place, coupled with his wholesale adoption of MRA and PUA theories of how the world works, indicates that he shared something in common with tens of millions of people: the willingness to believe that disappointments and frustrations can be explained by nebulous, ill-fitting, simplistic principles propounded by self-help mountebanks in the pursuit of book and seminar ticket sales.

The culture told Rodger that sex, money, and attention were his birthright. When the system failed to deliver, Rodger flailed around, seeking an explanation. At first, it seemed that he turned his frustration inward and assumed that he was lonely because he was somehow defective. At that point in the narrative, I almost felt sorry for him. We’ve all been bullied, we’ve all questioned our worth as human beings based on the way that others treat us, and we’ve all wondered if life would be better for us if we were somehow constitutionally different than we are. It’s gross. Some of us respond to that kind of fundamental uncertainty about our value by entering into a pattern of self-abuse, some of us begin to question the system of social values that leads to such misery, and some of us fall prey to explanations that place the blame for our unhappiness on the people who reject us. Some of us do all three. But disorder arises when someone like Rodger fails to differentiate between fantasy and reality and never grows out of the expectation that life will turn out like a Bud Light commercial. Or a porn video.

So, what did the culture tell Rodger he could expect from the world? As a privileged child, he was given everything he expressed a desire for, it would appear. Rodger, cared for by a series of nannies, also grew accustomed to being doted on by young women in his childhood years. He grew up on the edges of Hollywood’s elite, a world in which power and wealth command attention and favors from what must look to a child to be an unending parade of young, beautiful women. Once Rodger learned about sex (from porn, naturally), he reached the seemingly obvious conclusion that he was owed sex due to his superior social position.

The culture tells all men that they are owed access to women’s bodies and energy. Sitcoms feature attractive women married to and putting up with mountains of bullshit from blundering schlubs. Movies hammer the idea into boys’ minds that young, hot women, though they may resist at first, will eventually fall into the laps of lazy, misogynistic, overgrown infants like those played by Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill. Porn tells young boys with no other knowledge of sex that women are filthy pigs who just love being gangbanged and ejaculated on by abusive, sneering monsters.

I don’t know why girls rejected Elliot Rodger when he entered adolescence, or whether they even did. There seemed to have been a window in junior high — before he started consuming porn — when that was not the case. He might have been a little awkward, he may have lacked social skills, but it appears that his obsessive sense of entitlement to what he believed other boys enjoyed (whether that was the case or not) took over, coloring all of his interactions and probably preempting any chance he had at relating to girls. He was consumed by the foolish belief that porn and bullshit adolescent male bragging were reality for everyone but him. Once that set in, his anger and desperation probably became palpable in social situations to the point that women — who learn from a young age how to spot signs of danger in male behavior — steered clear.

Without any real contact with women, for Rodger, they became cartoon characters, aliens, beasts, non-human. They were an enemy to be vanquished, a prize to be collected for the achievement of having been born male, the source of all of his frustrated expectations. He absorbed those messages wholesale from mass media culture. Rodger’s memoir reads like a catalog of his consumption of popular media, from Pokemon through World of Warcraft through Halo 2, from Star Wars to the Lord of the Rings trilogy to Game of Thrones, to internet pornography, to MRA discussion forums populated by legions of men railing against women for not fulfilling the fantasies instilled in them by that same media culture.

Several feminist bloggers have made the argument that writing Rodger off as mentally ill takes the focus off of systemic misogyny and allows a worldwide epidemic of woman-hating and gynophobic violence to go unexamined. They aren’t wrong. But Rodger was mentally ill. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning.

By that definition, Rodger was certainly mentally ill, and so are most men. What set Rodger apart was his willingness to participate directly in violence against women as women in order to punish them for refusing to provide him with the sex he felt entitled to, rather than simply doing so by proxy via the consumption of violent and degrading porn and other products of a capitalo-misogynistic society. The existence of masculinity requires that men be unable to relate to women, as masculinity and femininity are the institutions upon which male supremacy rests. A man who is capable of relating to women — who does not suffer from the mental illness known as masculinity — is incapable of abusing them, either in person or by proxy.

Why I Hate Men Part 3: There Seems to Be A Pattern Here

I’ve been away for awhile, and I’m a little surprised at what has been going on in my absence. People are still using porn? Seriously? Get with the program, dorks. And what’s up with all this pro-rape nonsense? Men are reacting to the proliferation of feminist discourse in popular culture by proving feminists right? Good job, idiots. Am I to understand that men’s failure to come to grips with reality and their verbally and physically violent reactions to women’s assertions of their own humanity mean that men are unfit for membership in civilized society? Surely we don’t want to go there.

As valuable as I find the recent spate of female-supremacist tracts making their way around my circle of political acquaintances (an example can be found here) in shifting the discursive framework away from the baseline assumption of male superiority, I’m not ready to release my grip on the hope that my dearly-held theory is correct: gender isn’t real, there’s no such thing as “female” or “male” behavior, social conditioning rather than biology dictates the structure of social hierarchies and ensures the perpetuation of male supremacy. But lately it’s REAL hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that there is just something wrong  with men.

You see, though I’ve been absent from the ol’ blogosphere, I haven’t managed to avoid learning of the more egregious instances of recent local and international male behavior.

In the space of the past week or so, a 40-year-old man in Yemen married an eight-year-old child against her will and then raped her to death on their “wedding night;” a man in India raped a four-year-old on a bus; as many as FIFTY men in Lahore, Pakistan raped a five-year-old girl and left her in the hospital for going on six days now; and a UN study emerged that claims that one in four men in the Asia-Pacific region admits to having raped a woman or child (and lord knows how many of them have done so but would not admit to it). Forty percent of those who admit having raped claim to have done so because they “wanted to punish the victim.” Half expressed no remorse. I could go on.

But lest we fall into the trap of exoticizing sexual abuse — i.e. allowing the men in our midst to deflect attention from their own behavior by invoking the caricatured image of the depraved “Oriental” savage who sexually enslaves his women as a foil to the purported relatively gentlemanly deportment of the Western male* — let us have a look at what men have been up to closer to home. A man in Raleigh, North Carolina raped a twelve-year-old girl the other day. A New Jersey man raped a ten-year-old girl several times over the course of the last few months, threatening to murder her family if she told anyone what he had done to her. A new report indicates that the number of women in the US Navy who have been raped by men in the US Navy has increased by 50 percent in the past year. At least ten boys cheered as one of their friends recently raped a woman in Wilmington, Delaware and injured another woman with a knife. I could go on.

In recent weeks, a teacher in Laredo was busted for spreading child pornography, an Air Force master sergeant in Maryland was arrested for sexually assaulting a seven-year-old girl and a six-month-old BABY in the making of child porn, a school photographer in Florida (Florida — of course) was charged with raping a fifteen-year-old “escort” and distributing child pornography, a Virginia elementary school art teacher was arrested for possessing and distributing child pornography. I could go on.

George Zimmerman, high on impunity (which he apparently still enjoys), recently threatened his wife and her father, claiming to have a weapon. Shellie Zimmerman, after the incident, stated through her lawyer that she would like to “end her marriage with a whimper and not a bang,” likely a reference to the fact that domestic homicide (read: the murder of women by men in their own homes) can be predicted based on the kinds of behavior Zimmerman has habitually exhibited. In Connecticut alone, at least six men have killed their wives or girlfriends since the beginning of this year, the most recent being Gregory Pawloski, a man who had spent ten years terrorizing his wife before he eventually shot her. A man in San Jose, California stabbed his female partner to death last weekend. A man in Granite Hills, Minnesota shot his girlfriend to death a few days before that. I could go on.

Speaking of guns, has anyone other than me nearly lost count of the mass murders that men have committed in recent memory? In case you were wondering, the average in the US has been one mass murder for every two weeks since 2006, and men have committed mass murders claiming the lives of four or more victims TWENTY TIMES since the beginning of this year. A man shot and killed at least thirteen people just yesterday morning, for fuck’s sake. I could go on.

I’m not digging very deep here. These are cases that made the news within the last few weeks. A few other things made the news recently. “Bestiality brothels” are all the rage these days in Germany (Germany — of course), where raping animals is now being described as a “lifestyle choice” by the men who frequent them. There is — I swear to god — an organization in Germany called ZETA that plans to protect men’s “right” to rape animals should the Bundesrepublik choose to outlaw doing so.  In related news, a man in Shropshire, Great Britain made a video of himself having sex with a horse and two dogs. The night before his court hearing on bestiality charges, he was looking for work online as a stablehand. An elderly man in Australia recently shoved a fork handle four inches into his urethra for “autoerotic” purposes. I could go on.

What in the hell is the matter with these people? I mean, really.

Clearly, we have a problem. MRAs and male supremacy apologists seem fond of the pseudo-sciences of evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology as explanations for sociopathic male behavior. I’ll admit that it’s tempting to simply acquiesce and grant that they’re correct: men are simply constitutionally unsuited to civilized society.  Few men are prepared to eschew aggression in the face of challenges to their sense of entitlement. Few are capable of allowing anything to stand in the way of their sexual urges, no matter what the consequences (usually to others, naturally). Few seem willing to take anyone’s humanity other than their own into account. The number who are capable of recognizing — let alone remedying — the existence of male privilege and its daily social manifestations is downright infinitesimal. Could it be possible that men are just fucked?

Maybe I’m less of a misandrist than the average MRA, because I’m still not ready to give up on the possibility that men can behave like decent human beings. Men aren’t biologically destined to become rapists, they’re not hardwired to be destructive perverts, they don’t have to derive their lifeforce from the suffering of women, children, and other men. Men aren’t all ineluctably doomed to witlessly wander the Earth, oblivious to the effects of their behavior on others’ lives and on the planet. When they do so, it’s a choice. It’s a choice that appears predetermined, but it’s a choice.

The choice men face in their everyday lives is whether to participate in the cult of masculinity in the face of evidence that to do so is destructive. Each of the examples above of sociopathic male behavior began in a moment in which a man had to choose between sating his own (however warped) desires and behaving like a civilized member of society. In all but one case (ol’ fork-dick), the key personality trait these men seem to be missing is empathy. It’s quite likely that empathy inheres in all human beings and is beaten out of little boys (while society encourages women to exercise empathy to the ouster of consideration of their own needs). These men were probably all aware that to fulfill their own desires would cause negative consequences for the people they used, damaged, or killed in the process, but that awareness was not enough to limit their behavior because it was purely abstract, unattached to a feeling that could approach the intensity of the emotions or desires that catalyzed their actions. In other words, they lack a well-developed sense of empathy.

Abandoning ingrained behaviors and the social benefits that derive from them makes life difficult for men in the current milieu, but it’s probably a lot easier than confronting the fallout of the continued effects of masculinity on the world will be. The question remains, however, whether it will be possible — before it’s simply too late — to force men to not only realize that aggressive masculinity is the root of war, environmental degradation, and the destruction of women’s and children’s lives and bodies the world over, but to also take on the task of reclaiming a sense of empathy and exercising it.

(I should really change the name of the series to “Why I Hate Masculinity,” but MRAs really seem to like the current title.)

* See Philippa Levine, Gender and Empire.

An Open Letter to Bang-on Custom T-Shirts

Dear Head Canadian T-shirt Bro (or, President and/or CEO of Bang-on Custom T-Shirts Ltd.) Craig Doyle,

I’m not sure that I expect much from people who are making novelty/faux-vintage t-shirts in 2012, but I felt compelled to write after a recent visit to your Atlanta, Georgia outlet in the carnival of ill-conceived attempts at rebellion known as the Little Five Points neighborhood. While perusing the otherwise banal and innocuous bits of disjointed pop culture detritus that make up the bulk of your t-shirt designs, I found myself facing the back wall of the store, where my eyes came to rest upon a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “I choked Linda Lovelace” in a VH-1-attempts-a-70s-look font.

While I can probably follow the train of thought that deposited your designers into the trough of depraved stupidity from which they dispatched this particular design, I wonder if you or your management team have done likewise. If not, you’re too stupid to run a company. If so, you’re too big of an asshole.

Let me elaborate. It’s likely (nay, it’s nearly impossible that it’s otherwise) that the dude who brought this sartorial satori to the world was just some thoughtless dick who doesn’t think much one way or the other about the porn industry and its effects on women. He’s probably heard of (or seen — retro porn to match one’s retro camera) Deep Throat, is familiar with the subject matter, and figured he’d stumbled upon a way to make an “I have a big dick” t-shirt clever and/or funny. While that’s a worthy pursuit, he’d have been far better off going with one that said “I have a big dick.” Instead, he submitted — and your company produced — a t-shirt that says, “To me, women’s bodies are just dick-measuring instruments in a never-ending contest between supposedly heterosexual men.”

Your design dude (one would hope) was probably not aware that Linda Lovelace was coerced into participating in the production of Deep Throat and several other works of pornography — including a bestiality film — and that Chuck Traynor, her “manager” and husband, beat her, raped her, allowed other men to gang rape her, kept her prisoner, and threatened her life with deadly weapons on several occasions. Whoops! Making a dick joke at the expense of a brutalized woman is a faux-pas all the way, dude.

As embarrassed as you ought to be by this bit of egregiously obtuse insensitivity, it’s only half of the problem. Let’s say — as might most dudes who are invested in believing that women enjoy being sexually abused so half-wit men like those who design your t-shirts can jack off more efficiently — that Lovelace lied about having been raped and actually participated in the making of Deep Throat willingly (despite never having received any compensation for her participation). Deep Throat is a movie about a woman whose clitoris is located in her esophagus, and who therefore seeks out opportunities to fellate men, inserting their penises down her throat to a point that would make anyone on Earth choke and likely puke. Quick, find me a real, live woman with a clitoris in her throat, or even one who reaches orgasm via deep-throating penises. Not one who is paid to pretend so, but an actual woman who has a clitoris in her throat or enjoys the sensation of impending organ damage. If you find the former, I’ll give you a million dollars. If you find the latter, I’ll be shocked, and I’ll show you a woman who has been so psychologically traumatized by men and the porn industry that her body no longer heeds its own instincts. No man believes that such a woman exists. Ergo, men who are excited by the concept or actualization of deep-throating find it arousing despite (or because of) the fact that they know it causes pain and instinctive fear.

Linda Lovelace — even though you’ve probably seen her blow someone on film — was a human being. I know that this is a difficult concept for porn users to grasp, but she had emotions, she had nerve endings that detected pain and bodily damage, she had an esophagus that existed to protect her digestive system from intrusion. Women’s bodies do not exist to be used and abused by men, even if men are willing to pay a lot of money for the privilege. No one wants to be choked, injured, or gagged for the sake of assuaging some narcissistic dunce’s penis anxiety, nor does the absence of a gag reflex indicate that a particular woman was created by the cosmos as a dick receptacle.

The lack of consideration for women’s humanity evinced in a t-shirt that reads “I choked Linda Lovelace” would be shocking if it weren’t so ubiquitous. That we have been so desensitized to the sexual abuse of women by the porn industry and by societal misogyny that people continue to shop at a store that sells a shirt that basically says my human dignity and bodily integrity are less important than the size of your dick ought to worry you enough to make you question your participation in the perpetuation of that idea. If that’s too much to ask, then at least stick to designs with less room for interpretation. Say, “Fuck Art Let’s Dance!” for example. It’s safer that way.

Until then, I’ll encourage as many people as I can to boycott your stores.

Sincerely,

ND

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