I’ve been staring at this trying to figure out what to say but I don’t think there is anything. Patriarchy hurts men too.
My honest to god biggest fear of 50 Shades of Grey is not that people will watch it, because people will, but that abusers will use it to brainwash their victims more than they already do. That more women will be left wondering why this isn’t making them happy when it’s supposed to. And more women will be hurt in worse ways because “this is what everyone else wants.” [x]
When you live in a rape culture when does the rapist make the culture and when does the rape culture make the rapist?
*[TW: Rape]* Society has allowed rapists to define what resistance is: screaming, crying, scratching, pushing, kicking, biting, punching. I didn’t resist like that. My resistance was to wriggle a bit, turn my head away when he tried to kiss me, try to stop his hand going into my bra and knickers, push him ineffectually, talk about wanting to get my cab; all things which normal men recognise as not being enthusiastic participation when they are engaging with women but pretend it’s a grey area when they talk about rape. Rapists have managed to get society to believe, that what I did, was consent.
Because I didn’t resist in the way rapists – and society – say that women should resist, they define our non-participation as consent.
My friend told me a story today of her girlfriend’s co-worker who takes home girls and then coerces them into sex. He tries to take off her pants, she says no, he tries to take off her pants, she says no, he tries to take off her pants, she says no, he tries to take off her pants, and tired, she says yes.
Her girlfriend asked him ‘Wouldn’t you just rather sleep with someone who really wants to have sex with you?’ and he said that was ‘unrealistic,’ naturally, she doesn’t really talk to him anymore.
I live a charmed life in many ways and one of them, I know, is that there’s no one I know of who I’m forced to be nice to in spite of knowing they’re a rapist s**tbag. I know that really sucks and that a lot of great people have to put up with that from bosses/co-workers/classmates/teachers/siblings.
Hearing about this guy I realized that he seriously thinks that what he’s doing is normal, that it’s the only way to interact sexually with women. (It also made me really understand how only 5% of the population are rapists, but that most of them rape again and again)
In the same way that children of abusive parents often think abuse is the only way to communicate with their kids, or youth who grow up in ghettos are likely to participate in gang activity because it’s what their role models do.
How do you re-brainwash someone when everything they’ve experienced has led them to a single conclusion? That the best forms of punishment are physical? That the best way to make friendships is by evading the law together? That the only way to have sex is to take it from the gatekeeper?
How do you teach someone who has never seen honey that if only they invest in it, flies will prefer it to vinegar any day of the week?
So while every rape that Coercive Ass commits is entirely his fault, I’ve got enough blame left in my heart for all the equally coercive assholes who came before him and told him “Yeah man, ‘No’ is just the beginning of the negotiation. ‘No’ is just part of the process.”
Just like I’ve got enough blame left in my heart for the cops who offer to escort my white friends through their ‘rough’ neighborhoods without ever helping the kids who grow up there. And all the dads who have ever come home drunk and angry for generations and generations.
There isn’t an answer here. But how do you separate the gunman, the rapist, the abuser, the pusher from every friend/parent/brother/role model who made him think that not only was this the best way, but the only way, the right way? How do you decide who can be helped?
Dear Carolyn: I don’t know how to deal with my mom and her recent irresponsible decisions. She is in love again with her on-again-off-again boyfriend. To mark this new development, he recently gave her a very expensive “commitment ring,” or, as I like to call it, an “I cheated on you, so here’s a blinding diamond to forget about that” ring. She says in another life it would be an engagement ring (not sure what that means) and she is “sooo happy.”
I’ve witnessed two-plus years of the emotional roller coaster this man has put her on, but apparently my mom has forgotten all about that. I am 27, she is 57. I would define our relationship as more of a best-friend relationship rather than a traditional mother-daughter relationship.
This has proven to be difficult at times, in that she tells me everything, the good, the bad and the ugly. Yet, knowing all this guy has put her through, she walks back into his arms and expects me to be their No. 1 cheerleader.
I have explained to her that I want her to be happy but that she is setting a bad example for me and my siblings, as well as making a decision that will likely lead to heartache for her (again) and she needs to wake up! I’ve been supportive, diplomatic, and tried tough love. Mom seems unwilling to hear or accept the truth. What do I do?
— Mother Is a Teenager
My first question is: is this relationship (and before I even ask I’m going to say that in my humble opinion most on-again off-again relationships are) abusive? I don’t mean physically (although if it is then all the more reason to get your mom out), I mean emotionally.
There are a lot of kinds of abuse but the kind that the on/off-ers are familiar with is the kind where the abuser makes things just good enough, just loved enough, to make the abused want more. Then the abuser can start messing around with their partners head, treating them less well than they deserve. The kicker and the reason this is so common in on/off relationships is that the abuser makes it clear that while their partner is ‘oh so very important’ to them, this relationship is not their highest priority, they have the power to leave, the power of disinterest. By maintaining the power to leave they remind their victim that their weakness lies in their loving and perceived inability to leave.
If you can convince your mother to leave her emotionally manipulative boyfriend then kudos to you, please write a movie, essay, short story, whatever, just teach the same lesson to the rest of us. It’s really hard to convince victims of emotional abuse to see their relationships the way we see them. What I’ve found is more common is that the people in these relationships wake up one day and aren’t willing to take it anymore.
“I remember I was in New York at the Trump Hotel and I woke up and I just knew I was over it. It was a different day. I felt different. I didn’t feel lonely,” [Rihanna] recalls. “I felt like I wanted to get up and be in the world. That was a great, great feeling.”
Try to be the wake up call in your mothers life. Ask her how she would feel if your boyfriend treated you the way her boyfriend treats her, but remember that bullying someone into leaving their abusive lover doesn’t empower them, it just continues the cycle of bullying. She needs to see it for herself and take action, you need to be around for her if/when she decides to leave but make it clear that you aren’t going to get involved in his muck anymore. You’re still family and when she calls you can talk about the weather and your brothers and sisters and the big sports news of the week but you aren’t going to talk about that mess of a boyfriend. End of story.
Today Perez Hilton released the court documents describing Chris Brown’s violent attack against Rihanna. I am lost for words and will now attempt to cobble together a post it. First the transcript. Huge trigger warning.
“Brown was driving a vehicle with Robyn F. as the front passenger on an unknown street in Los Angeles. Robyn F. picked up Brown’s cellular phone and observed a three-page text message from a woman who Brown had a previous sexual relationship with.
A verbal argument ensued and Brown pulled the vehicle over on an unknown street, reached over Robyn F. with his right hand, opened the car door and attempted to force her out. Brown was unable to force Robyn F. out of the vehicle because she was wearing a seat belt. When he could not force her to exit, he took his right hand and shoved her head against he passenger window of the vehicle, causing an approximate one-inch raised circular contusion.
Robyn F. turned to face Brown and he punched her in the left eye with his right hand. He then drove away in the vehicle and continued to punch her in the face with his right hand while steering the vehicle with his left hand. The assault caused Robyn F.’s mouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her clothing and the interior of the vehicle.
Brown looked at Robyn F. and stated, ‘I’m going to beat the sh– out of you when we get home! You wait and see!’
The detective said “Robyn F.” then used her cell phone to call her personal assistant Jennifer Rosales, who did not answer.
Robyn F. pretended to talk to her and stated, ‘I’m on my way home. Make sure the police are there when I get there.’ After Robyn F. faked the call, Brown looked at her and stated, ‘You just did the stupidest thing ever! Now I’m really going to kill you!’
Brown resumed punching Robyn F. and she interlocked her fingers behind her head and brought her elbows forward to protect her face. She then bent over at the waist, placing her elbows and face near her lap in [an] attempt to protect her face and head from the barrage of punches being levied upon her by Brown.
Brown continued to punch Robyn F. on her left arm and hand, causing her to suffer a contusion on her left triceps (sic) that was approximately two inches in diameter and numerous contusions on her left hand.
Robyn F. then attempted to send a text message to her other personal assistant, Melissa Ford. Brown snatched the cellular telephone out of her hand and threw it out of the window onto an unknown street.
Brown continued driving and Robyn F. observed his cellular telephone sitting in his lap. She picked up the cellular telephone with her left hand and before she could make a call he placed her in a head lock with his right hand and continued to drive the vehicle with his left hand.
Brown pulled Robyn F. close to him and bit her on her left ear. She was able to feel the vehicle swerving from right to left as Brown sped away. He stopped the vehicle in front of 333 North June Street and Robyn F. turned off the car, removed the key from the ignition and sat on it.
Brown did not know what she did with the key and began punching her in the face and arms. He then placed her in a head lock positioning the front of her throat between his bicep and forearm. Brown began applying pressure to Robyn F.’s left and right carotid arteries, causing her to be unable to breathe and she began to lose consciousness.
She reached up with her left hand and began attempting to gouge his eyes in an attempt to free herself. Brown bit her left ring and middle fingers and then released her. While Brown continued to punch her, she turned around and placed her back against the passenger door. She brought her knees to her chest, placed her feet against Brown’s body and began pushing him away. Brown continued to punch her on the legs and feet, causing several contusions.
Robyn F. began screaming for help and Brown exited the vehicle and walked away. A resident in the neighborhood heard Robyn F.’s plea for help and called 911, causing a police response. An investigation was conducted and Robyn F. was issued a Domestic Violence Emergency Protective Order. [x]
This week the music industry welcomed Chris Brown back with open arms like the prodigal son himself and when the media dared to mention that which should not be forgotten he fired off at them:
DEAR MEDIA.. Ur plan is not working. I’m not going anywhere so get used to me [x]
Thank you Perez Hilton for once again keeping it classy:
Fine … but he has to get used to the fact that there is no media conspiracy to keep him down. In fact, if you took a poll, we’re sure EVERYONE would agree that they would love to stop talking about it all together.
But as soon as it stops, as soon as one person just lets what he did slide, then it’s like telling the world what he did was alright. And it wasn’t. It isn’t. It NEVER WILL BE. [x]
This is the problem with people who say ‘Yes, but I really like his music.’
When the topic of misogyny comes up, and men change the subject, it trivializes misogyny.
When the topic of misogyny comes up, and men change the subject, it conveys the message that whatever men want to talk about is more important than misogyny.
When the topic of misogyny comes up, and men change the subject to something that’s about them, it conveys the message that men are the ones who really matter, and that any harm done to men is always more important than misogyny.
And when the topic of misogyny comes up, and men change the subject, it comes across as excusing misogyny. It doesn’t matter how many times you say, “Yes, of course, misogyny is terrible.” When you follow that with a “Yes, but…”, it comes across as an excuse. In many cases, it is an excuse. And it contributes to a culture that makes excuses for misogyny.
Then the report came out of Brown’s ‘pick-up line’
‘Can I get your number? I promise I won’t beat you!’
He and his friends laughed, then one yelled, ‘That’s his new line!’ [x]
Chris Brown, it is a big deal that you are coming back into my world because I don’t want you here. You do not deserve it.
And of course we all know that Rihanna and Brown are talking/seeing each other/recording together again .
It wouldn’t be surprising if Rihanna got back together with Chris Brown. Most women return to their abusers, repeatedly. What’s wrong with this scenario is that it is so public and has so many young impressionable eyes watching and unfortunately taking note. Furthermore, the conversation around domestic violence in the wake of the 2009 beating will surely be shut down for the most part because many will say, “well Rihanna got over it, why can’t you?” [x]
All of this is happening during a week where my brain is also processing XXL’s decision to run a video starring Too $hort teaching middle school boys how to commit sexual assault, Chris Brown being welcomed back to the Grammys as if Rihanna did this [to] her face all by herself, Virginia literally trying to pass a bill that rapes women with a foreign object, the assertion that women in the military should “expect” to be raped, and the Republican party voting against the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
It has been a triggering week to say the least. TGIF. [x]
Why I stand with Dr. Richard Dawkins:
The skeptic community is embroiled in an acrimonious debate concerning whether “Elevator Guy” was obtuse and harmless or sexist and harassing in his overture to Ms. Watson in an elevator in Dublin. When I arrived to this debate, quite late, “Elevator Guy” had been repeatedly insulted and his motives thoroughly debated (in commentary long on assumptions and emotional intensity and short on facts). Some “feminists” derided his actions as sexist and emphasized the potential for sexual assault, citing statistics and research on rape. Others, siding with Dr. Dawkins, argued that this perspective constitutes “hysteria” (admittedly a sexist term) and serves not to elevate women, but to demean men by presupposing that they are all potential rapists. Some “feminists” shot back by accusing their opponents of ignorance on issues of sexism and male privilege.
While I certainly do not doubt or have any desire to minimize the experiences of Ms. Watson and other women who repeatedly receive unwanted sexual advances (and threats), I believe that the entire issue is overblown.
First, I disagree with the notion that this event was unquestionably an act of sexism:
Sexism is the belief (and more importantly, the differential treatment that results from such belief) that one sex is superior to the other. In the American historical context, men have long been (incorrectly, obviously) regarded as superior to women. (Undoubtedly, Christian doctrine played a large part in promoting this view.) It is clearly apparent that “Elevator Guy” dismissed Ms. Watson’s statements concerning her discomfort with unwanted male pursuit and her intent to retire for the evening. He is thus rightly chided for being obtuse, selfish, and disrespectful. Concluding that his actions were sexist, however, requires demonstrating that he disregarded Ms. Watson’s stated intentions because of her sex. While there is certainly a long history of men ignoring women’s preferences concerning sexual advances, I am not convinced that the fact of this history alone is sufficient grounds to state with certainty that “Elevator Guy” is sexist or misogynist.
I also resent the assertion that my position is patently callous or sexist. I recognize that I not only enjoy male privilege, but that I also experience what could be termed “double male privilege” due to my sexual orientation. As a gay man, I do not relate intimately with women and thus am unaware of the personal concerns that they may express only in the privacy of their romantic relationships. Nor must I heed such concerns when pursuing romance, since I pursue men. Nevertheless, I remain unconvinced that merely believing that this issue is overblown makes me (or Dr. Dawkins) ignorant or insensitive concerning issues of sex inequality.
Certainly men must recognize the legitimacy of female discomfort in enclosed spaces. But when some “feminists” suggest that “polite” and “considerate” men decline opportunities to enter an elevator in which a woman stands alone, I do not see an argument promoting respect and equality for women. Instead, I see a rather insulting assertion that women are frightened, helpless, victims-in-waiting unable to defend themselves. This perspective also limits men – presumably even gay ones like me – by implying that a woman’s right to not feel any level of discomfort, whether justified or not, transcends a man’s right to ride in the elevator. This is not equality; this is a reversal of who has privilege.
Second, and much more importantly, I believe that Dr. Dawkins has been unfairly pilloried:
Dr. Dawkins entered the debate shortly after it began, sarcastically comparing the incident to the appalling oppression of women in fundamentalist Islamic societies. I believe he intended to express that the incident hardly merits the attention it has received. After his comment was widely panned, Dr. Dawkins clarified his position, requested additional information, and acknowledged that he could be mistaken. Whatever your opinion of his tone, a close reading of his three comments does not reveal him to be the domineering misogynist he has been made out to be.
But I am no longer chiefly concerned with my ability to convince others of my perspective on whether or not the elevator proposition was sexist. A much more pressing matter is the extreme, divisive reactions that Ms. Watson and some of her supporters have recently posted on Skepchick. In “The Privilege Delusion,” Ms. Watson refers derisively to Dr. Dawkins as a “stinking rich” “wealthy old heterosexual white man,” states that she will boycott his work, and thanks her supporters for “bravely battling [Dawkins] and the hoards of clueless privileged people who didn’t get it.” The open letters to Dr. Dawkins are more severe: “I look forward to watching your legacy crash and burn,” wrote Mindy, who concluded with “you don’t get a second chance.” Another letter opened with “Dear Dick” and accused Dr. Dawkins of making the skeptic community “blatantly unsafe” for women.
Language such as this, dripping with negative emotional reactivity, eclipses the legitimate perspective the writers wish to express, reveals as hypocrites those who have targeted Dr. Dawkins for his tone, and threatens to split apart a movement that already has more than enough challenges. (Dr. Dawkins now faces retribution in the actual press.) Further, the ferociousness of the accusations of sexism and misogyny directed at Dr. Dawkins and others only serves, rightly or wrongly, to provide ammunition to the real “men’s rights activists” out there who believe that feminism is about revenge rather than equality.
We can do better than this. The first responsibility of any skeptic is to be skeptical of his own perspective. That ability, along with a healthy dose of modesty and humility, has been abandoned in recent days. It is long past time to either debate this issue reasonably or simply let it go.
First of all I’d like to point out that in my previous post I never so much as suggested I knew anything about the intentions behind ‘Elevator guy.’ Was he harmless? Was he harassing? Who knows? Who cares?
I don’t care what his intentions were; I have no desire to insult elevator guy. I just want him to understand how he comes off so that next time he finds a girl ‘interesting’ he’ll remember to take a moment in her shoes and introduce himself in a different setting. I don’t want to shame him, I just want men to view the world they live in through a womans eyes before approaching one. I think that would actually fix a lot of things.
In fact we could even say that in this instance Elevator Guy is getting screwed over not by feminism but by patriarchy. Patriarchy leads to jokes and media which encourages the demeaning of women and the acceptability of rape, which leads to rape and a culture in which all men UNFORTUNATELY must be treated at least a little bit like Schrodinger’s rapist. Every time I think about this concept I die a little inside, but really it’s because I know that it’s true.
Elevator guy didn’t attack or even touch Watson. He sounds like he was doing what he thought was right, keeping his hands to himself and speaking politely. The thing that screams sexism to me is that he wasn’t aware of how the exchange would feel to Rebecca; he had no idea he was Schrodinger’s rapist. He didn’t know that patriarchy was about to slap him on the behind and then repeatedly in the face all over the internet.
Not all men are rapists. I know that. In fact the only women I know who doubt that are the ones who’ve been raped.
A lot of people accuse feminists of thinking that all men are rapists. That’s not true. But do you know who think all men are rapists?
They really do. In psychological study, the profiling, the studies, it comes out again and again.
Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. And more, these people who really are rapists are constantly reaffirmed in their belief about the rest of mankind being rapists like them by things like rape jokes, that dismiss and normalize the idea of rape.
If one in twenty guys is a real and true rapist, and you have any amount of social activity with other guys like yourself, really cool guy, then it is almost a statistical certainty that one time hanging out with friends and their friends, playing Halo with a bunch of guys online, in a WoW guild, or elsewhere, you were talking to a rapist. Not your fault. You can’t tell a rapist apart any better than anyone else can. It’s not like they announce themselves.
But, here’s the thing. It’s very likely that in some of these interactions with these guys, at some point or another someone told a rape joke. You, decent guy that you are, understood that they didn’t mean it, and it was just a joke. And so you laughed.
And, decent guy who would never condone rape, who would step in and stop rape if he saw it, who understands that rape is awful and wrong and bad, when you laughed?
That rapist who was in the group with you, that rapist thought that you were on his side. That rapist knew that you were a rapist like him. And he felt validated, and he felt he was among his comrades.
You. The rapist’s comrade.
And if that doesn’t make you feel sick to your stomach, if that doesn’t make you want to throw up, if that doesn’t disturb you or bother you or make you feel like maybe you should at least consider not participating in that kind of humor anymore…
Well, maybe you aren’t as opposed to rapists as you claim.
(Chris, that also goes for racist and homophobic bigotry too)
My argument isn’t that men should stop getting on elevators with women; that isn’t fair at all and would probably be very counterproductive. My argument is that we should stop teaching girls to live in fear and stop teaching boys that being feared makes them men. It’s that cycle that’s the problem.
I wish I lived in a world where men could invite me back to their hotel rooms on elevators and I could consider going or not going with no fear. Imagine it, that would be a fantastic world, but that’s not the world we live in.
So let’s change it.
Instead of saying let’s put up curtains and disallow men from being alone with women so women can feel safe, let’s just stop saying that Chris Brown is an acceptable example of a man. Let’s change the messages we send our sons so that in the next generation there are only men who you would want your daughter to be on an elevator with. Then women won’t be afraid and won’t treat future Elevator Guys like Schrodinger’s rapist. And then maybe they can be invited to hotel rooms and have coffee. Or other stuff (but I won’t make you think about your future daughter doing that…except I just did, HA!)
I don’t think your position is “patently callous or sexist,” Chris. I just think you’re not being part of the solution. And as they say, “if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem.” I don’t want to punish you, I want to recruit you. I want you to help me create this world where my daughter can have sex with a stranger in a hotel room. I want future Elevator Guy to get some because my daughter is going to be awesome!
Lastly why, Chris, do you call feminists ‘feminists’? Do you think they’re fake?
Oh, and also, I do not associate with the skeptic movement.
Possible trigger warning – rape, assault.
Alright dudes, go with me on this.
Close your eyes (but not really) and imagine that you are living in the world I’m about to describe. In this world there are people who have a third arm in their chests (think Zaphod Beeblebrox from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).
We’ll call those people Zaphods for short. So there are two types of humans, Zaphods and Homo sapiens, which we’ll call Homos for short. You’re a Homo.
Zaphods are potentially dangerous of course, sure. They’re about 50% (more limb…) more dangerous than you, Homo. They’re bigger and stronger (think Beeblebrox pictured above but 6’7″ and bursting with muscles). They can be scary, but also nice, attractive, smart, fun; remember they’re human too.
But, from infancy both you and Zaphods have been told, “Zaphods will be Zaphods. They/you have more testosterone; they/you just need to get that aggression out somewhere. It’s just nature.”
And little Zaphods are told “Don’t be a sissy. Don’t cry! Who cries? Homo’s cry! You’re not one of them are you? Dirty creatures, you know the only thing they’re good for!”
So when you get a little older they start punching your friends at lunch; you’re told to look the other way or you’ll be next, so you do. And then you get a little older and your friends start telling you stories of being followed out of bars and having their ribs broken in alleys. So when you’re walking alone at night and there’s a pair of Zaphods walking behind you, you calmly cross to the other side of the street and try not to draw any attention to yourself.
And you know that 1 in 6 Homos have been assaulted by Zaphods. Your dad told you the story of when he was burglarized and beaten by one back when he lived in New Jersey. Your college roommate got her arm broken by one at a party. Last week you read a story about a 13-year-old girl in Texas who was ripped literally limb from limb by 18 Zaphods in a trailer park. Your neighbor across the way is a Zaphod who goes to your church, then goes home, drinks a martini and beats the kids senseless.
You’ve heard countless stories of innocent situations turning ugly in the seconds. A nice Zaphod asking to buy a Homo a beer at the pub, then when the Homo says ‘no thanks’ and excuses himself to the bathroom the Zaphod follows him back there and leaves him bloody and bruised on the floor next to the urinals.
You keep getting chain e-mails from your aunts and uncles about how to drink at a party without making yourself a target. There are pamphlets on campus telling you to never get too drunk, to be careful and carry pepper spray.
But then when you confide in a Zaphod friend that you’re sometimes nervous around other Zaphods he goes off saying, “Don’t judge me based on what happened to a Homo on the other side of the country! I didn’t do that; besides I bet that Homo was just making the whole thing up. What self-respecting Zaphod would touch that ugly Homo? And also, they should stop complaining; there are people starving in Africa, you know!”
And in the small town where that 13-year-old was brutally murdered all her neighbors, Homo and Zaphod alike, are saying “Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking? She dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s.” Blaming the young victim for not being able to prevent 18 grown Zaphods from deciding to kill her.
So now that you’ve lived 21 years hearing the horror stories from family and friends you start to change your habits. Now that everyone on the news has told you that you’re a victim waiting to happen you don’t go for a run after dark like you want to. Everyone tells you that you should take a cab to Sam’s party but you can’t afford it so you just stay home instead of seeing your friends. You stay late at work and have to cross the parking lot alone and you peer around every car; when you pass a van you go out of your way to walk on the side without the big sliding door. And all the while you can feel your heart in your throat and you’re clutching the pepper spray your mother bought you last year.
Your family and friends and the media tell you over and over again that by being alive you are a potential assault victim and your adrenal glands remember that sick feeling you had when you imagined the pain that little girl in Texas felt.
It gets to the point where just standing on the subway platform with a few Zaphods puts you into fight or flight mode, your stomach churning busily until you’re safely seated, until you realize he’s on the same car as you, and then he’s getting off at the same stop as you, and then he’s exiting through the same door as you; with each passed chance to part ways you sweat a little harder, clutch your jacket a little tighter, pray to god a little truer.
When cops tell you that you’re dressed like you were asking for his attention you wonder,”Who would ask for attention like that? Who would ask to feel this way?”
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
Richard, please don’t try to pretend that there is only one form of misogyny. It comes in all shapes and sizes. In fact a very common one is rich old white men.
I’ve been told not to straight up copy a post from another website onto this blog but I think this is a special case. This is the suicide note left by Bill Zeller a computer programmer.
Zeller wanted his words to be repeated so here they are, prefaced by some words from Gizmodo.
The moral here is that anything, no matter how horrible can be made a little more bearable by talking about it.
Trigger warning by the way.
Zeller was a victim of sexual and psychological abuse. It’s clear from his writing that the abuse left him unable to interface with the world in any way that didn’t leave him feeling he was too sullied to have the same experiences that he thought others had. He had a self-described “darkness”, which despite his prostration it’s clear he handled more ably than perhaps he ever realized.
Programming was a solace, but only temporarily. Zeller never felt he could escape the things that had happened to him because he carried his torment with him everywhere.
I think a person has the right to live or end their life as they choose. If Zeller really felt that suicide was his only option, so be it. But as someone who has had similar experiences in my own life, I want to say to anyone else who feels the way Zeller felt: You can’t escape your past. Not completely. But you can deal with it. You can contextualize it. You can learn how to prepare for the times when you feel like it’s not even on your radar and then it totally broadsides you.
And you can talk to people. You really can.
I have the urge to declare my sanity and justify my actions, but I assume I’ll never be able to convince anyone that this was the right decision. Maybe it’s true that anyone who does this is insane by definition, but I can at least explain my reasoning. I considered not writing any of this because of how personal it is, but I like tying up loose ends and don’t want people to wonder why I did this. Since I’ve never spoken to anyone about what happened to me, people would likely draw the wrong conclusions.
My first memories as a child are of being raped, repeatedly. This has affected every aspect of my life. This darkness, which is the only way I can describe it, has followed me like a fog, but at times intensified and overwhelmed me, usually triggered by a distinct situation. In kindergarten I couldn’t use the bathroom and would stand petrified whenever I needed to, which started a trend of awkward and unexplained social behavior. The damage that was done to my body still prevents me from using the bathroom normally, but now it’s less of a physical impediment than a daily reminder of what was done to me.
This darkness followed me as I grew up. I remember spending hours playing with legos, having my world consist of me and a box of cold, plastic blocks. Just waiting for everything to end. It’s the same thing I do now, but instead of legos it’s surfing the web or reading or listening to a baseball game. Most of my life has been spent feeling dead inside, waiting for my body to catch up.
At times growing up I would feel inconsolable rage, but I never connected this to what happened until puberty. I was able to keep the darkness at bay for a few hours at a time by doing things that required intense concentration, but it would always come back. Programming appealed to me for this reason. I was never particularly fond of computers or mathematically inclined, but the temporary peace it would provide was like a drug. But the darkness always returned and built up something like a tolerance, because programming has become less and less of a refuge.
The darkness is with me nearly every time I wake up. I feel like a grime is covering me. I feel like I’m trapped in a contimated body that no amount of washing will clean. Whenever I think about what happened I feel manic and itchy and can’t concentrate on anything else. It manifests itself in hours of eating or staying up for days at a time or sleeping for sixteen hours straight or week long programming binges or constantly going to the gym. I’m exhausted from feeling like this every hour of every day.
Three to four nights a week I have nightmares about what happened. It makes me avoid sleep and constantly tired, because sleeping with what feels like hours of nightmares is not restful. I wake up sweaty and furious. I’m reminded every morning of what was done to me and the control it has over my life.
I’ve never been able to stop thinking about what happened to me and this hampered my social interactions. I would be angry and lost in thought and then be interrupted by someone saying “Hi” or making small talk, unable to understand why I seemed cold and distant. I walked around, viewing the outside world from a distant portal behind my eyes, unable to perform normal human niceties. I wondered what it would be like to take to other people without what happened constantly on my mind, and I wondered if other people had similar experiences that they were better able to mask.
Alcohol was also something that let me escape the darkness. It would always find me later, though, and it was always angry that I managed to escape and it made me pay. Many of the irresponsible things I did were the result of the darkness. Obviously I’m responsible for every decision and action, including this one, but there are reasons why things happen the way they do.
Alcohol and other drugs provided a way to ignore the realities of my situation. It was easy to spend the night drinking and forget that I had no future to look forward to. I never liked what alcohol did to me, but it was better than facing my existence honestly. I haven’t touched alcohol or any other drug in over seven months (and no drugs or alcohol will be involved when I do this) and this has forced me to evaluate my life in an honest and clear way. There’s no future here. The darkness will always be with me.
I used to think if I solved some problem or achieved some goal, maybe he would leave. It was comforting to identify tangible issues as the source of my problems instead of something that I’ll never be able to change. I thought that if I got into to a good college, or a good grad school, or lost weight, or went to the gym nearly every day for a year, or created programs that millions of people used, or spent a summer or California or New York or published papers that I was proud of, then maybe I would feel some peace and not be constantly haunted and unhappy. But nothing I did made a dent in how depressed I was on a daily basis and nothing was in any way fulfilling. I’m not sure why I ever thought that would change anything.
I didn’t realize how deep a hold he had on me and my life until my first relationship. I stupidly assumed that no matter how the darkness affected me personally, my romantic relationships would somehow be separated and protected. Growing up I viewed my future relationships as a possible escape from this thing that haunts me every day, but I began to realize how entangled it was with every aspect of my life and how it is never going to release me. Instead of being an escape, relationships and romantic contact with other people only intensified everything about him that I couldn’t stand. I will never be able to have a relationship in which he is not the focus, affecting every aspect of my romantic interactions.
Relationships always started out fine and I’d be able to ignore him for a few weeks. But as we got closer emotionally the darkness would return and every night it’d be me, her and the darkness in a black and gruesome threesome. He would surround me and penetrate me and the more we did the more intense it became. It made me hate being touched, because as long as we were separated I could view her like an outsider viewing something good and kind and untainted. Once we touched, the darkness would envelope her too and take her over and the evil inside me would surround her. I always felt like I was infecting anyone I was with.
Relationships didn’t work. No one I dated was the right match, and I thought that maybe if I found the right person it would overwhelm him. Part of me knew that finding the right person wouldn’t help, so I became interested in girls who obviously had no interest in me. For a while I thought I was gay. I convinced myself that it wasn’t the darkness at all, but rather my orientation, because this would give me control over why things didn’t feel “right”. The fact that the darkness affected sexual matters most intensely made this idea make some sense and I convinced myself of this for a number of years, starting in college after my first relationship ended. I told people I was gay (at Trinity, not at Princeton), even though I wasn’t attracted to men and kept finding myself interested in girls. Because if being gay wasn’t the answer, then what was? People thought I was avoiding my orientation, but I was actually avoiding the truth, which is that while I’m straight, I will never be content with anyone. I know now that the darkness will never leave.
Last spring I met someone who was unlike anyone else I’d ever met. Someone who showed me just how well two people could get along and how much I could care about another human being. Someone I know I could be with and love for the rest of my life, if I weren’t so fucked up. Amazingly, she liked me. She liked the shell of the man the darkness had left behind. But it didn’t matter because I couldn’t be alone with her. It was never just the two of us, it was always the three of us: her, me and the darkness. The closer we got, the more intensely I’d feel the darkness, like some evil mirror of my emotions. All the closeness we had and I loved was complemented by agony that I couldn’t stand, from him. I realized that I would never be able to give her, or anyone, all of me or only me. She could never have me without the darkness and evil inside me. I could never have just her, without the darkness being a part of all of our interactions. I will never be able to be at peace or content or in a healthy relationship. I realized the futility of the romantic part of my life. If I had never met her, I would have realized this as soon as I met someone else who I meshed similarly well with. It’s likely that things wouldn’t have worked out with her and we would have broken up (with our relationship ending, like the majority of relationships do) even if I didn’t have this problem, since we only dated for a short time. But I will face exactly the same problems with the darkness with anyone else. Despite my hopes, love and compatability is not enough. Nothing is enough. There’s no way I can fix this or even push the darkness down far enough to make a relationship or any type of intimacy feasible.
So I watched as things fell apart between us. I had put an explicit time limit on our relationship, since I knew it couldn’t last because of the darkness and didn’t want to hold her back, and this caused a variety of problems. She was put in an unnatural situation that she never should have been a part of. It must have been very hard for her, not knowing what was actually going on with me, but this is not something I’ve ever been able to talk about with anyone. Losing her was very hard for me as well. Not because of her (I got over our relationship relatively quickly), but because of the realization that I would never have another relationship and because it signified the last true, exclusive personal connection I could ever have. This wasn’t apparent to other people, because I could never talk about the real reasons for my sadness. I was very sad in the summer and fall, but it was not because of her, it was because I will never escape the darkness with anyone. She was so loving and kind to me and gave me everything I could have asked for under the circumstances. I’ll never forget how much happiness she brought me in those briefs moments when I could ignore the darkness. I had originally planned to kill myself last winter but never got around to it. (Parts of this letter were written over a year ago, other parts days before doing this.) It was wrong of me to involve myself in her life if this were a possibility and I should have just left her alone, even though we only dated for a few months and things ended a long time ago. She’s just one more person in a long list of people I’ve hurt.
I could spend pages talking about the other relationships I’ve had that were ruined because of my problems and my confusion related to the darkness. I’ve hurt so many great people because of who I am and my inability to experience what needs to be experienced. All I can say is that I tried to be honest with people about what I thought was true.
I’ve spent my life hurting people. Today will be the last time.
I’ve told different people a lot of things, but I’ve never told anyone about what happened to me, ever, for obvious reasons. It took me a while to realize that no matter how close you are to someone or how much they claim to love you, people simply cannot keep secrets. I learned this a few years ago when I thought I was gay and told people. The more harmful the secret, the juicier the gossip and the more likely you are to be betrayed. People don’t care about their word or what they’ve promised, they just do whatever the fuck they want and justify it later. It feels incredibly lonely to realize you can never share something with someone and have it be between just the two of you. I don’t blame anyone in particular, I guess it’s just how people are. Even if I felt like this is something I could have shared, I have no interest in being part of a friendship or relationship where the other person views me as the damaged and contaminated person that I am. So even if I were able to trust someone, I probably would not have told them about what happened to me. At this point I simply don’t care who knows.
I feel an evil inside me. An evil that makes me want to end life. I need to stop this. I need to make sure I don’t kill someone, which is not something that can be easily undone. I don’t know if this is related to what happened to me or something different. I recognize the irony of killing myself to prevent myself from killing someone else, but this decision should indicate what I’m capable of.
So I’ve realized I will never escape the darkness or misery associated with it and I have a responsibility to stop myself from physically harming others.
I’m just a broken, miserable shell of a human being. Being molested has defined me as a person and shaped me as a human being and it has made me the monster I am and there’s nothing I can do to escape it. I don’t know any other existence. I don’t know what life feels like where I’m apart from any of this. I actively despise the person I am. I just feel fundamentally broken, almost non-human. I feel like an animal that woke up one day in a human body, trying to make sense of a foreign world, living among creatures it doesn’t understand and can’t connect with.
I have accepted that the darkness will never allow me to be in a relationship. I will never go to sleep with someone in my arms, feeling the comfort of their hands around me. I will never know what uncontimated intimacy is like. I will never have an exclusive bond with someone, someone who can be the recipient of all the love I have to give. I will never have children, and I wanted to be a father so badly. I think I would have made a good dad. And even if I had fought through the darkness and married and had children all while being unable to feel intimacy, I could have never done that if suicide were a possibility. I did try to minimize pain, although I know that this decision will hurt many of you. If this hurts you, I hope that you can at least forget about me quickly.
There’s no point in identifying who molested me, so I’m just going to leave it at that. I doubt the word of a dead guy with no evidence about something that happened over twenty years ago would have much sway.
You may wonder why I didn’t just talk to a professional about this. I’ve seen a number of doctors since I was a teenager to talk about other issues and I’m positive that another doctor would not have helped. I was never given one piece of actionable advice, ever. More than a few spent a large part of the session reading their notes to remember who I was. And I have no interest in talking about being raped as a child, both because I know it wouldn’t help and because I have no confidence it would remain secret. I know the legal and practical limits of doctor/patient confidentiality, growing up in a house where we’d hear stories about the various mental illnesses of famous people, stories that were passed down through generations. All it takes is one doctor who thinks my story is interesting enough to share or a doctor who thinks it’s her right or responsibility to contact the authorities and have me identify the molestor (justifying her decision by telling herself that someone else might be in danger). All it takes is a single doctor who violates my trust, just like the “friends” who I told I was gay did, and everything would be made public and I’d be forced to live in a world where people would know how fucked up I am. And yes, I realize this indicates that I have severe trust issues, but they’re based on a large number of experiences with people who have shown a profound disrepect for their word and the privacy of others.
People say suicide is selfish. I think it’s selfish to ask people to continue living painful and miserable lives, just so you possibly won’t feel sad for a week or two. Suicide may be a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but it’s also a permanent solution to a ~23 year-old problem that grows more intense and overwhelming every day.
Some people are just dealt bad hands in this life. I know many people have it worse than I do, and maybe I’m just not a strong person, but I really did try to deal with this. I’ve tried to deal with this every day for the last 23 years and I just can’t fucking take it anymore.
I often wonder what life must be like for other people. People who can feel the love from others and give it back unadulterated, people who can experience sex as an intimate and joyous experience, people who can experience the colors and happenings of this world without constant misery. I wonder who I’d be if things had been different or if I were a stronger person. It sounds pretty great.
I’m prepared for death. I’m prepared for the pain and I am ready to no longer exist. Thanks to the strictness of New Jersey gun laws this will probably be much more painful than it needs to be, but what can you do. My only fear at this point is messing something up and surviving.
I’d also like to address my family, if you can call them that. I despise everything they stand for and I truly hate them, in a non-emotional, dispassionate and what I believe is a healthy way. The world will be a better place when they’re dead—one with less hatred and intolerance.
If you’re unfamiliar with the situation, my parents are fundamentalist Christians who kicked me out of their house and cut me off financially when I was 19 because I refused to attend seven hours of church a week.
They live in a black and white reality they’ve constructed for themselves. They partition the world into good and evil and survive by hating everything they fear or misunderstand and calling it love. They don’t understand that good and decent people exist all around us, “saved” or not, and that evil and cruel people occupy a large percentage of their church. They take advantage of people looking for hope by teaching them to practice the same hatred they practice.
A random example:
“I am personally convinced that if a Muslim truly believes and obeys the Koran, he will be a terrorist.” – George Zeller, August 24, 2010.
If you choose to follow a religion where, for example, devout Catholics who are trying to be good people are all going to Hell but child molestors go to Heaven (as long as they were “saved” at some point), that’s your choice, but it’s fucked up. Maybe a God who operates by those rules does exist. If so, fuck Him.
Their church was always more important than the members of their family and they happily sacrificed whatever necessary in order to satisfy their contrived beliefs about who they should be.
I grew up in a house where love was proxied through a God I could never believe in. A house where the love of music with any sort of a beat was literally beaten out of me. A house full of hatred and intolerance, run by two people who were experts at appearing kind and warm when others were around. Parents who tell an eight year old that his grandmother is going to Hell because she’s Catholic. Parents who claim not to be racist but then talk about the horrors of miscegenation. I could list hundreds of other examples, but it’s tiring.
Since being kicked out, I’ve interacted with them in relatively normal ways. I talk to them on the phone like nothing happened. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I like pretending I have a family. Maybe I like having people I can talk to about what’s been going on in my life. Whatever the reason, it’s not real and it feels like a sham. I should have never allowed this reconnection to happen.
I wrote the above a while ago, and I do feel like that much of the time. At other times, though, I feel less hateful. I know my parents honestly believe the crap they believe in. I know that my mom, at least, loved me very much and tried her best. One reason I put this off for so long is because I know how much pain it will cause her. She has been sad since she found out I wasn’t “saved”, since she believes I’m going to Hell, which is not a sadness for which I am responsible. That was never going to change, and presumably she believes the state of my physical body is much less important than the state of my soul. Still, I cannot intellectually justify this decision, knowing how much it will hurt her. Maybe my ability to take my own life, knowing how much pain it will cause, shows that I am a monster who doesn’t deserve to live. All I know is that I can’t deal with this pain any longer and I’m am truly sorry I couldn’t wait until my family and everyone I knew died so this could be done without hurting anyone. For years I’ve wished that I’d be hit by a bus or die while saving a baby from drowning so my death might be more acceptable, but I was never so lucky.
To those of you who have shown me love, thank you for putting up with all my shittiness and moodiness and arbitrariness. I was never the person I wanted to be. Maybe without the darkness I would have been a better person, maybe not. I did try to be a good person, but I realize I never got very far.
I’m sorry for the pain this causes. I really do wish I had another option. I hope this letter explains why I needed to do this. If you can’t understand this decision, I hope you can at least forgive me.
Please save this letter and repost it if gets deleted. I don’t want people to wonder why I did this. I disseminated it more widely than I might have otherwise because I’m worried that my family might try to restrict access to it. I don’t mind if this letter is made public. In fact, I’d prefer it be made public to people being unable to read it and drawing their own conclusions.
Feel free to republish this letter, but only if it is reproduced in its entirety.
Thanks to my best friend Izzy for bringing Zeller’s letter to my attention.
“Female fat [as] a moral issue is articulated with words like good and bad. If our culture’s fixation on female fatness or thinness was about sex, it would be private issue between a woman and her lover; if it were about health, between a woman and herself… A cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty but one about obedience.”
– Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth
“I am six feet tall and proud of it. I carry myself proudly with my head held high. I have a ‘robust’ or ‘forceful’ personality, as many have said. I’ve had a few guys flat out tell me I’m intimidating. How can I be less intimidating, without being untrue to myself?”
Let me put it to you this way. Rape culture is a culture in which people who have survived a violent crime are asked to laugh about it because other people think it’s funny.
Who wants to be obedient? I’d rather start a revolution and be a bad-ass.
When I see these sorts of things. See them every day. All I can think about is how the world, the patriarchy, the rape culture, every man around me wants me to be smaller. Be less. Be something he can manage. I’m greater than that. And too great for him.
Alright so I didn’t write this. It was one of those chain mail things that my Aunt sent me. But it’s interesting and I’m exhausted. I only wish I read it before I voted last week (and I have the sticker to prove it!). Thanks Aunt Ardelle for reminding me of all the women who have come before me and all those who my friends and I pave the way for.
This is the story of our Mothers and Grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago.
Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.
The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.
And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of ‘obstructing sidewalk traffic.’
They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.
They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.
Thus unfolded the ‘Night of Terror’ on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their food–all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms.
When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.
So, refresh my memory. Some women won’t vote this year because – why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn’t matter? It’s raining?
(Mrs. Pauline Adams in the prison garb she wore while serving a sixty-day sentence.)
Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s new movie ‘Iron Jawed Angels.’ It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.
(Miss Edith Ainge, of Jamestown , New York )
All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.
(Berthe Arnold, CSU graduate)
My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women’s history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk
about it, she looked angry. She was–with herself. ‘One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,’ she said. ‘What would those women think of the way I use, or don’t use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.’ The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her ‘all over again.’
HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn’t our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.
(Conferring over ratification [of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution] at [National Woman’s Party] headquarters, Jackson Pl [ace] [ Washington , D.C. ]. L-R Mrs. Lawrence Lewis, Mrs. Abby Scott Baker, Anita Pollitzer, Alice Paul, Florence Boeckel, Mabel Vernon (standing, right))
It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy.
The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’
Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party – remember to vote.
(Helena Hill Weed, Norwalk , Conn. Serving 3 day sentence in D.C. prison for carrying banner, ‘Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.’)
History is STILL being made