#metoo and me

So a friend of mine, a friend who will likely see this, so it’s not as if it’s behind her back, posted this on Facebook the other day.  Forgive all the blurriness:

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And here’s the thing: yeah.  It does.  It makes me uncomfortable.  The notion– a notion I believe without the remotest qualification, by the way– that literally every woman I know has experienced sexual harassment makes me profoundly uncomfortable.  Hell, uncomfortable’s not even the word, although it’s part of it.  There’s a fair degree of fucking rage in there too, for example.

And no, I didn’t “like” the post.  In fact if I have hit Like (I don’t use any of the other options, ever; don’t ask me why) on any posts associated with the #metoo hashtag, I don’t remember doing it– and I’m pretty certain there aren’t any.

I hit Like on her post and then deleted it.  Wrote a comment, and then deleted that too, and then spent the next couple of days fighting off this post.  The reason I haven’t interacted with any of these posts online isn’t because of some feeling of discomfort or shame, is the thing.  I haven’t because none of this is about me, and I feel like it’s pointless at best and empty virtue-signaling at worst for me to interact with a thing that isn’t supposed to be about me in specific or men in general.

So, yeah.  All of them.  #allofthem, if you prefer.


I’ve spent the last few days– longer than that, really, but it’s come to a head in the last few days– thinking a lot about my own actions as a cishet guy throughout my life.  And in a lot of ways I’ve been resisting the temptation to paint myself as one of the good guys.  I’ve never raped anyone, obviously.  (Is it obvious?  Probably flattering myself.)

But there was that one time, with that one woman, where she indicated her lack of consent to a certain action at the literal last possible moment, and it’s haunted me ever since.  When I say last possible moment, I’m not exaggerating, not by a millisecond or a fraction of an inch.  I didn’t go any further– of course I didn’t– but my first immediate visceral reaction was wait what the fuck are you kidding and I don’t know how much of that reaction got through to her.

I’ve never catcalled anyone, not once.  Never hassled a woman in a bar, never got angry with anyone because they wouldn’t give me a phone number or something like that.

(I have what I’m pretty sure is a funny story about accidentally approaching the wrong woman in a bar who I thought was one of my friends; maybe I’ll tell it sometime.  It’s not for this post.)

But I had years– years— where I bought into the idea of the friendzone, and where the idea of just telling a woman that I was interested in her and thought we should go out/make out/fuck each other senseless was pure anathema.  No, she (whichever she was at the time) was gonna figure it out sooner or later and fall into my arms.  I was a Nice Guy.  Sooner or later she’ll figure out that all the guys she dates are assholes and I’m right here, all not being an asshole and shit.

I can think of some moments, some interactions that make me cringe right now, honestly.  I’m pretty sure there were times when I was being creepy as fuck and didn’t even realize it.  There are others where I know I was being creepy as fuck and I regret the hell out of them.  Some of them probably involved the woman who originally triggered this post, honestly; we have a bit of history together, not all of which I’m proud of.

(True fact: the first time I kissed the woman who eventually married me, we were sitting at a table in a diner and I literally said “Let’s go make out in the parking lot,” and it worked.  Sooner or later I broke past the idea that doing nothing would get me somewhere.  That said, if that line doesn’t work?  Possible eew.)

I remember one time in high school when a bunch of us– too many to fit in the car– were all going somewhere, and one of the girls decided she was going to sit in my lap.  I put both my hands in my lap, palms-up.  She shrugged and did it anyway, probably knowing that having both hands on her ass would make me twice as uncomfortable as it was making her and that it wouldn’t last more than a moment, which it didn’t.

I still remember that.  I wonder if she does.

(I was gonna say “I’ve never groped anyone who didn’t want me to,” which is what reminded me of that story.)

I remember a week– one very, very weird week in middle school– where for some reason everyone, boys and girls, were all going around trying to yank each others’ shorts off.  By the end of the week everyone had their belts on so tight or their pants laced so tight that I suspect some of us were cutting off our circulation.  I was on both sides of that little game.  But I can’t say I’ve never tried to take anyone’s clothes off who didn’t want me to, either.  I still remember the two girls I targeted; I know one of them took a swipe at me at one point too, although I don’t know who was first.  I don’t remember what the other one thought about it.

(God, I’m glad my middle schoolers never had that bug hit.  I can’t imagine what the teachers were thinking.)


I don’t know that I have a single, overarching point to all this.  Okay, yeah, there’s obviously an element of the confessional here but that’s not the entire point.  I have contributed to this culture of rape and harassment, or at least participated in it, and the fact that I’ve learned (tried to learn) to be better in recent years doesn’t affect the facts of who I was and what I did, even if I can point to any number of men who were maybe worse.

You don’t stop rape, or sexual harassment, by controlling women.  You stop rape and sexual harassment by insisting that men learn to be better.  One of my most important jobs right now is to raise my son to be better than me.

Maybe men need a #metoo hashtag.  Or an #allofus hashtag, because right now, it is all of us.  We’ve all contributed to this.

Or maybe we could just stop, and fucking listen, which was what the point of the hashtag was in the first place, and try to learn to get better.

Maybe.

It Starts at Four: On Consent and Rape Culture

My son was the ringbearer in my brother’s wedding this weekend.  The flower girl was, I think, the daughter of one of the bride’s cousins.  To say they hit it off was probably a bit of an understatement; they were pretty close to inseparable at the bridal shower a few weeks ago and not much changed at the rehearsal or the wedding.  I’d post a picture of the two of them, but I’m not about to post a picture of somebody else’s kid without her permission and plus I plan on using the word rape a lot in this piece and I don’t really feel like having my son’s photo associated with that in Google.

Here’s the thing.  Everybody at the wedding was doing that heteronormative thing that people do when two little kids click and oohing and aahing about oh look at his girlfriend and all that nonsense all weekend.  And that’s not at all what was going on.  They were the only two kids there of roughly the same age, so they played together.  Like kids do.  That was it.  But there were a couple of moments over the weekend and at the shower where I kind of had to pull the boy away and remind him that no, Kayla doesn’t have to play with you right now if she doesn’t want to, or don’t hold her hand if she doesn’t want to hold hands, or Kayla’s doing something else right now, I think you should leave her alone for a while, or even no, Kayla doesn’t have to sit with us at lunch, she can sit with her mommy.

Sometimes these things rolled off of him.  Other times he got upset about them.  And I can already see some of you getting het up about talking about a four-year-old in terms of teaching consent.  No, my son doesn’t know what sex is yet.  My son doesn’t have a concept of girlfriend.  He knows that girls have a vagina; that’s just a word to him.  It doesn’t mean anything yet.  He’s four.  And yet we still ended up in a situation– perfectly innocently, mind you– where at one point I told him to cut it out because he was being creepy and at another point my wife and I jointly explained to him what mansplaining was. Because he was doing it.

He’s four.  And he still needs to be taught how consent works.  Because when kids aren’t taught that other kids are people, that they are unique beings with agency and their own wants and desires and needs and rights, and specifically when young boys are not taught that young girls are unique beings with agency and their own wants and desires and needs and rights… well, you get this piece of shit:

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And when you’ve raised your kid to be a dumpster rapist, and you’ve named him Brock Turner, for fuck’s sake, a name that if I were to work it into a script as the name of a rapist I would expect someone to tell me to make it a little less obvious, a name that is only slightly less rapey than naming your kid Ray Pist… well, when you’re that guy, you write dumb shit like this:

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I’ve got a lot of responsibilities as a dad, right?  One of the most important ones is to make absolutely certain that my son does not turn out to be a dumpster rapist.  Because I hate to break it to you, son, but if the day comes where two other dudes find you raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and then tackle you and hold you down until the cops arrive?  Your daddy is not writing this letter.  Am I wholly unsympathetic toward the elder Turner?  No, not entirely.  He’s going through some shit right now.  I’m sure he’s in pain.

I just don’t care.

If you don’t want to be known as the dumpster rapist for your entire life, one way to avoid that is to not rape people behind dumpsters.  And if you don’t want to have to write letters where you explain tearfully that your son doesn’t like ribeyes anymore and there are too many potato chips in the house, you should probably raise your son to understand that women are human beings.  Because here’s the thing: I don’t believe for a second that this is the dumpster rapist’s first assault.  Not for a second.  It’s just the one where he got caught.  And based on that letter, I am casting some side eye at Dad as well.

We spend far too much time teaching our daughters how not to get raped.  It doesn’t actually work; women don’t get raped because of how they dress or walk or what they drink or where they go or who they trust.  Women get raped because men rape.  If we want to stop rape, we stop rape by teaching young men that women are people, by not raising them in such a cocoon of privilege and internalized misogyny that they can even look at a passed-out woman and think to drag her behind a dumpster and force parts of our bodies into theirs.  This young man did this because he was raised to believe that the world was his and anything he wanted but did not have, he could simply take.  He knew what he was doing was “wrong” at least on an intellectual level because otherwise he wouldn’t have tried to hide while he was doing it.  He just didn’t give a fuck.

Teach your sons about consent, goddammit.  Start at four.  Start at birth.  Because rape culture is everywhere in this country, and it’s going to seep in no matter how hard you try to keep it out.  It’s in the fucking air and in the water.  And the only way to stop it is to teach your sons about consent and to teach them about consent early.  It’s the only way this ever gets better.

And for fuck’s sake, don’t ever name anyone “Brock Turner” ever again.

GUEST BLOG: I Watched JESSICA JONES, and My Hands Froze, by James Wylder

Day Three of guest blogs; there will be one more tomorrow morning, although it won’t be strictly necessary since I’ll be home.  I’m incredibly proud that James trusts me enough to let me run this; it’s an amazing piece and it deserves more attention than I’m probably able to produce for it.  That said, for the second time in two days, I’m gonna let y’all have a trigger warning, as this one also could be hard to read.  

I do not have the sort of readership who I need to warn to behave in comments, so I won’t.

Man, I hope this con is going well.


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We were sitting in the room together, me and my friends. I’d been warned, and so I warned them.

“I might need to leave the room while we’re watching, just so you know.”

“So… Pause it?”

“No, uh, I was told there was some content I might not be able to handle. So if I can’t handle it…”

“Got it, so you want us to give a holler when it would be over?”

“Yes, that would be wonderful.” I love my friends, it was good they got it, without me having to explain further. I tucked the blanket under my feet. Good, we can finally watch Jessica Jones.

I’d been waiting for this show for a while now, but I’d been scared. I thought about watching it alone, but I decided it was a bad idea. I’ve mostly dealt with my issues, mostly, but some things don’t ever really go away, you just hope you dealt with them enough to that you can stop dealing with them on a day to day basis. Eventually you stop crying yourself to sleep, eventually you stop having to leave parties because you feel so worthless you can’t stand being around people. Eventually you stop yelling at people for what seems like no reason when they say something innocuous about a TV show. Eventually.

But it still comes up. A few months ago I drove down to visit a friend, and he decided to show me one of his favorite story arcs of a show I’d only seen the first season of: the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. We were watching it, eating sloppy Taco Bell food and discussing things when there wasn’t much dialogue. Usual, normal.

Then the scene happened.

When I next was in control of myself, I was in a Wal-Mart. I’d driven there, I guess, I mean, I had to have. The tiles in front of me were strangely white against the florescent light. I had put my shoes on, but I hadn’t grabbed my coat. I recalled that it had been dark outside, that was something. I had texts on my phone, and I reassured my friend I was okay. I’d lost maybe twenty minutes. This hadn’t happened in years. It was terrifying. I paced the aisles, and decided I’d try to fix one of the license plate lights on my car. I went out to it. I found what kind of light I needed. I bought it, and realized I didn’t have a screwdriver. I bought a screwdriver. I went back in because it was the wrong kind of screwdriver. I bought another screwdriver. My hands shook. I fixed the damn light, and went back into the Wal-Mart, shielded by its 24-hour capitalism. Eventually, I cooled down enough to drive back to my friend’s. The roads were empty. I put on “Keep the Streets Empty for Me” by Fever Ray, because a lack of subtlety is my specialty.

When I got back, I tried to play it cool. I got hugs. I hated that this still affected me.

What exactly happened to me doesn’t matter. Don’t ask. Its not even one thing. That’s not the point here. I’m not telling. I don’t want to tell you.

What does matter, is that I watched Jessica Jones, and my hands froze. This might sound strange, but it was a reassuring reaction. Usually, when sexual assault is portrayed in media, its for shock value. It happens so people can react to it. Its a motivator, and then the heroes can sweep in and save the day, or whatever. Sometimes what happens isn’t even treated as a serious issue, its laughed off, its forgotten about the next episode, or the perpetrator is brought into the main cast. Sometimes, I just can’t take seeing it. Sometimes, the only thing my body can do is run. And then I end up in a Wall-Mart in the middle of the night.

But when I watched Jessica Jones, I didn’t run. It was hard to watch. My hands froze: I couldn’t make my fingers move, and I was sure the guy next to me could hear me whispering to my fists “come on, you can do it, you can do it…” as I slowly got my arms to work, then each of my fingers (my legs followed after), but I didn’t run. Sure, I cried myself to sleep later, but whatever. There was something different about this show, and while it was difficult, it felt safe in a way it didn’t usually feel, because the show understood that Jessica Jones wasn’t a victim to be saved, but a person who had to keep living her damn life.

So often when rape or sexual assault is portrayed, the narrative treats the survivors of the assault as needing to be redeemed. They need to be saved. They need to be purified. But we were never dirty, we were never in need of redemption. We were just us, and people did horrible things to us, but fuck them not us. Jessica Jones isn’t broken, she has PTSD. She uses techniques to get herself steadied and stop dissociation I’ve used and seen others use. She goes to work, she does her job, she has friends, she lives her life, she has flashbacks, she struggles, but she lives. She pushes other people away, she lashes out at people she shouldn’t, she has problems, she won’t ask for help and hates it when people do things for her, and I know exactly how she feels.

David Tennant plays Killgrave, aka the Purple Man, aka the scariest character ever, who manages to pick up on so many traits of rapists and abusers that you could probably make some sort of checklist out of them. He controls your mind, and honestly I can’t think of a better analog for the feeling of powerlessness that those things do to you. There is damage done by it. His careless hedonistic evil is so casual, so compassionless, and so shockingly real. At one point in the show, spoilers, he makes Jessica send him a picture of her every day at a set time. He doesn’t need to do this, he can mind control people to take her picture if he wanted to. No, he wants the power over her. He wants to know she is under his thumb. To me, Killgrave is the scariest villain, because he is the villain I know. He is the villain who is given fist bumps over beers afterwards, and the one who is defended later. He’s the one people don’t unfriend on Facebook, because sure what he did was wrong, but everyone makes mistakes. I’m sure you both did something wrong, they will continue. Smile, they’ll say, he’ll say. The look in their eyes will tell you they think it shouldn’t bother you anymore. They’ll call you broken behind your back.

I got my fingers unclenched, and I could move. I’d conquered by body, and I could enjoy the rest of the episode. It was still hard to watch, but it understood. It understood like so few people really did, that you can heal the damage, wipe away the bruises, but the damage lingers inside you. And I’m damaged, but I’m not broken. I’m a superhero. And even if you ran away, you are too.