A little more than a year ago, I was sitting in a beer garden with some friends, a couple of people I was dating at the time, and maybe even some new kids I didn’t know well, and we were talking about, academically, marginalized youth. Actually we were talking about traveler kids, punks, and different ways of being poor or in poverty. And what it meant to be “in” with an out group.
Someone mentioned facial tattoos. In the early days of punk rock, when things were more radical, and probably still today for people who are much more radical than I will ever hope to be, a facial tattoo was a way of affirming one’s commitment to the edge. You have not only opted out of the status quo, but you have effectively shut the door on ever being able to access it again. This made sense. In fact, I had always wanted a facial piercing, but hadn’t gotten one because I had also wanted a job.
The day after that though, I was in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, and I realized I had reached a point in my career where no one will ever question my competence or right to be there based on a facial piercing. So I got my eyebrow pierced. I joked that it was my job security piercing and I adored the cross-signals it was sending.
Unfortunately, today I had it checked out, and sure enough it is growing out. Eyebrows are surface piercings so this is not entirely unexpected. I can re-pierce it after a few months if I’d like, but before I leave the west coast – and my piercer – I have to get it removed. I’ll miss my little symbol of not-belonging. For both reasons actually: as a celebration of my career and as visible deviance. For now I’m thinking about what role this little bit of surgical steel plays in my identity.
I’m also thinking about what it might feel like to be so sure of a thing, so passionate and committed to it, so as to close the door on all the comforts and privileges of a past life.
This morning I came across yet another article about how only 3 in 100 accused rapists see any jail time. This is riding on the coat tails of yesterday’s annoyance about creepy reddit so I am, not unexpectedly, annoyed. Or disgusted. One of those for sure :)
And I’m also annoyed because I really freaking love the Predator Alert Tools that maymay and Co. created. Specifically, I love the Facebook add-on which scales the protective behavior I already do, and the OkCupid app because it’s an easy at-a-glance alert. What I’m pissed off about, is that like many a technical solution to a human problem, adoption was spotty. Actually, from speaking with the creator, it wasn’t spotty so much as not attempted – the tools were a proof of concept.
Proofs of concept, however, don’t reach the regular Jane, and social tools need high conversion rates early on to be seen as worth while, and in this case, to generate the content needed to protect users from sexual assault. It’s ok, I’m not saying the people working on this suck or anything, these tools were made in a metaphorical garage with minimal resources (you can help). If Google+ can’t cope with the roll out/adoption challenge and it has the backing of an Internet mongrel, I’m surprised small social enterprises happen at all.
What I am saying, however, is that this absolutely hands down matters. For OkCupid less so, because you can piggyback off of OkCupid’s existing community since all the questions are crowd sourced but from the general question pool, not from specific PAT-OkCupid questions. Here you have a direct link between people who install and run the plug-in and people who are helped by it. The challenge you have is easier, really you just need to get the influencers in college dorms (and with age of first marriage going up, urban book clubs and wherever mid-20s women gather) to try it out. If they tell their friends, or better yet, use it while a friend is shoulder browsing, you’re 75% of the way there. PAT-OkCupid is a technical challenge, make it fast enough and non-obtrusive enough and it’s worth a try. Roll out a feature that lets users add specific filter questions on their version only (he wants kids, he loves dogs, whatever) and you can alert users to potential sexual predators while they’re using a better filtering convenience tools.
The Facebook app is harder. It requires users to give a little in order to function. User generated content is hard to bootstrap already, I can only imagine how hard it is to bootstrap such private and sensitive content. I have to say, I was royally miffed when this was marketed as “by survivors for survivors,” but people who identify publicly and conscientiously as survivors are most likely to create this kind of content. Unfortunately, that framing is extremely off-putting to most outside the social justice clique. I hate to say it, but this is a fantastic engineering solution that was incubated in too niche a bubble and missed it’s mark. Well, actually, that may not be true – if it’s target has always been social justice die hards who want to share their story and help each other heal it’s probably spot on, it just doesn’t address my problem: how to we proactively flag inappropriate sexual behavior and put preventative information in all women’s hands?
Again, I have to applaud the creators for doing so much with bare bones resources. The tools themselves are a solid foundation, they achieve their goal of being proofs of concept, and they certainly spark conversation. Where they miss the mark, in my mind, is on adoption and market growth – areas the creators weren’t interested in to begin with.
Anyway, back to the if I ruled the world scenario (I just love that scenario!) You have these tools that from a technical perspective are really cool, and they use technology to scale an existing human behavior, and they help women avoid sexual predators: that’s awesome! But they seem pretty niche, which is less awesome because it means fewer women will use them to avoid sexual predators. So, what would I do if I had a dev team and all the money in the world (or the mythical million dollars which runs a small team for one year…)
- Focus development on making the tools faster and more reliable. I hate to say this, but faster browsing today beats avoiding coffee with a douchbag tomorrow :-(
- Position the tools as convenience or information sharing, not as a crusade against sexual assault or a survivor support group. Most rapes are not reported, there are a lot of reasons for this not least of which is a desire to move on with one’s life. We also have some pretty negative perceptions of what walking through the world as a survivor means even when we are trying really really hard to not blame the victim and to give them space to heal. Finally, and I know this sounds weird, but sometimes doing the things you’re supposed to do to not get raped feels dis-empowering. Just think about all the times women are told not to wear that, or not to walk there, you get the idea.
- The people who are most invested are most invested for a reason – they’re also the most likely to be butt hurt when it doesn’t match their vision. That’s why I’m up to 930 words on the topic, but it’s also why there is soooo much chatter about every little detail of these tools from the choking question (come on dude, haven’t you used Yelp before!) to moderation (because you clearly don’t realize that these conversations happen already). Which gets me to the point: cultivate the passive users too. This is harder for the Facebook app, again cause content, but rather than going after every evangelist in the social justice scene, grow a large user-base of folks who just want a better flagging mechanism. 1) They’ll be helped from day one, and 2) you can rally them later around a big issue, or slowly over time.
- Build relationships with the sites themselves, with college rape crisis centers, and with consumer brands. This is a serious blue sky if I ruled the world thing. It’s not what the creators of these tools are about, and I know and respect that. I also know they’ve reached out to the sites themselves and didn’t get a response (shame on you OkCupid). However, this is my blue sky solution and in that solution I want Jezebel to promote it. I want mid-range women focused brands (brands like Healthworks, which recently partnered with rape prevention programs to offer self defense classes) to sponsor the damn thing, and then I want OkCupid to be pressured or shamed into integrating this and other rape prevention methods (perhaps post-date reporting) into their services. By the way, some of this is way far out, but other things, such as promoting PAT-OKC on college campuses, is the easiest place for you to get involved (there’s a list of groups to reach out to here, but PiratePad is down as of this writing).
It’s easy to theorize about how a thing should be different when someone has already done the hard work of making it to begin with, so what concrete, non-theoretical, things can we do today to make sure that rapists have nowhere left to hide?
TL:DR – You fucking douchbags how are you not outraged?! Here, this person did a thing, go do things like that.
I think I’ve said this before, but there has been a lot of chatter coming through my world recently about creepy reddit – a subreddit devoted to creeping on random snapshots of women, either taken without their knowledge in public, or used out of context (since shut down). And I’ve been meaning to pull together a couple of links about how we don’t trust women for C. The bottom line is this: I get that the idea that you might be accused of rape is scary. It is also statistically small, much smaller than you imagine.
Meanwhile forums devoted to being creepy about women exist. Revenge porn exists. Oh, yeah, rape exists. So, first off, how about you lower the chance that you’ll be accused of rape by working to make rape itself less ubiquitous and therefore a less common threat in popular culture both as an action and as an accusation. Secondly, if you are deeply and vocally concerned by the reputation impacting power of the Predator Alert Tools, and yet have remained unconcerned about the things mentioned above, just so we’re clear: you’re part of the problem and I look forward to that rug being pulled out from under you.
I love this article on XOJane about cheating in a poly relationship. I love it because there I was, vaguely following the threads of a blog post about how I’m too tired to be radical about my sex, and this weird, new-found comfort of, well, just having the sex I want. Behind closed doors. Far away from “am I queer enough?” And I’m scrolling through the internet between making dinner and figuring out the password for the renter’s insurance website when I stumble upon this. And suddenly all that stuff at the edges of my mind about how I’ve had a million conversations in the poly scene about how it’s all about communication, and yet there seems to be never-ending complications and miscommunications, comes into focus. It’s nice, like, “nope, I wasn’t nuts, the situation was just nuts and that’s good to know,” nice.
And this relationship, as it’s described, was basically a steady diet of lies, verbal abuse, and gaslighting. Most of my poly experiences were far more honest and respectful. But even with a relatively high hit rate on honesty and respect, I was always impacted by my partner’s other partners. That was ok for a while. It was ok while I wanted to be a secondary for example. And it was pretty great when the other women and I were compatible in our own right – the woman who’s picking me up from airport when I move myself and all my bits of precious cross country for example, we used to date the same guy. He’s great too. But you see, that’s called friendship and that’s built in its own right, not because we’re pining after the same dude. I get to pick my friends. That’s important, I’ll say it again: I get to pick my friends.
I could, in theory, pick my metamours too. People have suggested it, and I’ve thought about it, and you know what, it doesn’t feel ethical. There’s a person on the other end of my partner’s cock. Not a metamour or a member of the poly scene. A person. That person has feelings, needs, wants, birthdays, and Christmas traditions. Precious few people just want to have casual sex with you on the 3rd Tuesday of every month, but don’t care you if you remember their birthdays. Some do, sure, if that’s you, congrats. But most humans bond, it’s what we do, we’re social animals. And when humans bond they get emotional and when multiple humans bond in complex patterns, well, it gets messy. And when all was said and done, it’s the messy that got me, not the sex or the jealousy people talk about.
If the messy is worth it for you, that’s cool – more for you. But the idea of caring about only one person’s emotional state and sexual quirks feels blissful. I want my relationship to be my home base, not my hobby. For my hobbies I have a sex blog, a pile up of random quantified self data, some raspberry shrubs, and I’m learning about meat chickens (apparently different then egg chickens!). For my relationship, I want a stable, interconnected sort of autonomy where I do get to pick who impacts my relationship.
Oh, but I can’t close this post without saying that I still think women having the sex they want, with the people they like, without apology is exactly the kind of radical I’m willing to work for in the world.
P.S. The real question is how am I going to make this possible for other women without being the voice of “you should have your Empowered Radical Sex(tm) like this”?
Be kind. Be kind to yourselves and to each other because there are plenty of people who will be unkind. Spend that extra afternoon with a friend who has had a hard year. Listen. Listen past people’s anger and find the root of their pain and then find compassion for that. Or if their anger upsets you, walk away. Know that their anger isn’t about you, it lives entirely within them as your anger lives within you.
Most of all, have compassion for yourself and know that there will be better days.
And if this hippie massive contributed to your feelings of depression, email me, I will make you cookies :-p
My stated goals and my behavior doesn’t align. Over the weekend, I spent far too much energy engaging in a conversation about consent and submission than I wanted to, all the while spending a lot of my offline time thinking about privacy and boundaries, specifically around about who has input on my personal life.
And it occurs to me that the things that are important to me are in conflict with each other.
I want privacy. I want a personal life that is personal, and a relationship that is autonomous. I also recognize that sometimes the very thing I want contributes to abusive structure. Take domestic violence for example. Domestic violence is so persistent because we have this initial aversion to judging other people’s relationships. It happens in the private sphere, it’s personal; we’d be embarrassed to ask about other people’s private lives, so abuse gets a pass. That’s bad, I think we can all agree there.
I still want to be more private and reclusive in my relationships. I know that my sex would be better, and my relationships more healthy, at this moment in time if people I’m not dating didn’t get a say in them. In order for me to adopt as 2nd nature this boundary – this way of “oh hon, you sound worried, you don’t need to worry about me, I’m all set,” instead of “here is why the sex I’m having is good/safe/ethical/etc.” – I need to care a lot less about the sex lives of people I’m not sleeping with.
Both of these things are valid. Both of these things are expressed differently at different scales too. I as an individual I want more privacy. We as a social species will always be influenced in one way or another by our social context. And these things change over time. I started this blog because sharing and learning from others was what I needed in 2007. But I really, really want to take some space for myself. And I want my relationships to be less influenced by sources that are confusing, varied, and in contradiction with my values and with each other.
My yoga teachers always said that they call it a yoga practice because you have to practice coming back to the mat and to your breath. I think privacy and autonomy are also a practice in that way. I’m going to try to spend less time with other people’s lives and opinions and more time with my own. And I will fall off the wagon like I did this weekend, and it will be ok. I’ll try again.
And the priorities might change. I might find myself in a place where influencing the larger conversation once again becomes more important than personal growth, or contributes to personal growth. That’s allowed. It’s really just about deciding what I need most right now and then doing that. So, um, I’m gonna go do that now…
I’ll probably still post. I’m just gonna focus on simple, clear, how-to type stuff rather and theoretical underpinnings of life, the universe, and kink.
How can you possibly care more about some abstract threat of false rape accusations than you do that your best friend, a woman you love, might be raped.
And why, if you really were concerned by the impact on the accused did you switch your tone suddenly when you realized that argument won’t work. That I will never prioritize the falsely accused (statistically small a number as they are) over my own safety and that of other women (approximately 20% of whom are raped in America). Why did you get all smug and tell me if there was the chance of false accusations, real survivors won’t be trusted so the tool hurts survivors. By that logic, police reports also hurt survivors. As do hotlines and church pastors taking confessions. Moreover, shouldn’t you be outraged that anyone would disbelieve a rape victim? If increasing trust in survivor accounts is your goal, shouldn’t you be elbow deep in the fight against people who hide behind slut shaming or “he said/she said”?
Or maybe you should be crying out against false accusations of vandalism, drug dealing, even murder. In any event, your tone made it clear your believed you were winning the argument and more than your own words.
I’ll be honest, I started loving you a little less after that conversation. I still love, of course I do, but if I had to give you a reason why we aren’t meant for each other, it’s not that we like different sex – we can get through that – its that you tried to tell me my being raped was worse than someone being accused of rape falsely. It’s not, and it’s complicated.
Wait, don’t tell me about how false accusations ruin lives. I know that. First, imagine me being raped. Really pause and imagine. Imagine where it might happen, am I wearing my standard jeans and black shirt uniform? Am I dressed up? Imagine me fighting, or because we’ve talked about this, imagine me not fighting when all I can think is “so this is what rape feels like.” Imagine holding my hand while I file a police report. Would you get to hold my hand or do police reports have to happen in private, I wonder. (Last time, #IDidNotReport)
But you’re scared too. That’s what I learned from that conversation. What I didn’t know, didn’t have empathy for when we started. You are scared that some woman will get angry at you and say you raped her. You imagine this would ruin your life, this angry woman and the power of accusation she holds. Do you think it’s strange at all that a woman who is angry at you has only this in the way of power?
Remember that other thing you told me? That thing I told you was unethical? That thing was like a false rape accusation – why did that cross your mind? How did you feel when playing that card felt ok? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you felt powerless and you were grabbing at straws. When you think about false rape accusation, load that conversation with everything you felt in that desperate last resort moment. Because they do happen, and they are the last resort of some caged animal.
You aren’t scared of being falsely accused of burglary or murder, are you? You are personally scared of being falsely accused of rape. That fear is not unreasonable, you are allowed to be scared, you are especially allowed to be scared of desperate upset people playing their last card.
However, the chance of my being raped is an order of magnitude higher than that of you being falsely accused. And even if it wasn’t, I would expect more of you. I would, and do, expect you to build a safer world for me when you tell me you love me.
So we can talk about your fear, we can honor that and we can work through it, but your fear does not trump mine. It certainly doesn’t trump my safety.
*No, I’m not just having a super important conversation with the person who is listed on every legal piece of paper I have as my emergency contact, beneficiary, or both. We talked about this. A lot. It just didn’t feel right to post until we’d put the issue to bed, or not to post at all when I hear less personal arguments about this all the time.