This is rape culture –

 

I’ve sat with this for the last day. I wanted to write an emotive, reactive piece, full of as may expletives I could fit into one blog post. But I decided to sit with this and come at it from another position. Angry, yes, frustrated and pissed that I even should write this, you bet! So exceptionally frustrated that I made the decision last night to not write anything at all.

But after giving myself some time to sit with, and really think about what I wanted to say, what I really needed to put to paper I realised that this deserved more from me than silence. Silence caused by a fear of being labelled nothing more than “hysterical feminist nagging”.

I have never hidden the place of feminism in my writing. I am a feminist who writes about female sexuality and submission. I try to use this platform to bring an alternative position to some of the more dominant framing of both female sexuality and submission; because I think it’s needed and important to those of us who live this. If we only get to see or participate in one version of all of this; then how can we evolve our sense of self to a place it’s most safe within? If the only way that I am allowed to write about any of this is from a place which positions privilege of and obedience to those with power than doesn’t that rule most of us out of both conversation and change?

If I can’t write in a way that makes people uncomfortable and, yes, challenges those who have done wrong to see their choices as illegitimate within BDSM, then I have no reason to keep on writing! For me, as an ardent and unapologetic feminist, I am all about challenging the status quo. About recognising that the way things are, and have been, are so deeply saturated in patriarchy that women have little safety and legitimacy; especially when it comes to our sexual autonomy, choices and voices.

I write because I believe my voice is important and legitimate. I believe my words are needed. And if my words can empower one woman to feel safe enough to explore her sexuality and surrender, or let one victim of sexual violence feel like they are heard and believed then I’m going to keep going.

Even if some would characterise what I write as interfering!

This has all been prompted by the appearance before the courts of “the wolf” (from here on in only referred to as this man) and the allegations of bullying made. Allegations may not be the right words here. I’m not sure if they are exactly that; but they were repeated in the media overnight, and so I am going to go with allegations made. Yesterday it was implied there is an organised attempt to make a mountain out of a mole hill when it comes to the acquisitions of sexual assault being investigated and before the courts. This man, genuinely believes that he is the victim of an orchestrated campaign against him. One that is being undertaken by any of us that comment about him in any way; and I can only assume is a continuance of the one that was happening before he was arrested.

If I believed for a moment that this man felt bullied I would completely disengage with what I’m doing. I’m not calling him a liar, or saying that his lawyer stood before the Bench yesterday and made a false claim. I just don’t believe that what he’s experiencing is bullying; so much as it is the seismic shift of power being taken away from him!

And power is the key theme here. Power over others to extract what you believe that you are entitled to; be in submission, sex, social platform or silence. Silence begotten through the accusations of bullying, and positioning him as the victim. You see, the second men like this lose power, they become the victim. Because they no longer wield the authority to control that becomes the oppressed! Pretty pathetic huh?

The connections between this bullying claim and his manifesto are so obvious to me. See, he was saw himself as an almost puppet master; not just of women – his victims and otherwise, but of the outsiders too. Those of us questioning is writing. Laughing at his predictable prose and poses and supporting those who were posting pieces against him.

One of the most telling pieces he published was a piece called “The exquisite blondes”. The title itself tells you a lot about his need to objectify in order to find connection. For me it was a particular paragraph that really cemented who this man believes, and even now still believes, about himself. He writes …

“I’d been thinking about almost nothing else for a week. I’d been with multiple girls before and yes, the thought of that alone is enough to (literally) keep me up at night but there was far more two this, another level of adventure that had me completely enthralled. I played the scenarios over and over in my head. I could expect complete compliance from both of them, I held the paintbrush and they were my canvas. How corny is that? But how hot is it too?

He held the paintbrush. He, and he alone was the one on active control over everything. His image, the caricature of “the wolf”, his audience and the stories permitted about him. And, like he wrote, he expected complete compliance (how many times can we say this COMPLIANCE IS NOT CONSENT) and, unfortunately, he got it.

Until one woman stood up and said no more! Until she went to the police and made the initial complaint, that lead to the initial investigation, his arrest and multiple charges being laid. An ongoing investigation with the potential of more changes being laid.

The moment Miss X went to the police was the moment that the paintbrush fell out of his hands and his imagined, compelled blind and complete compliance of those around him began to fracture.

Bullying or a smear campaign by the media and those, like me, who write about this, have nothing to do with him being where he is today. The relationship of victim 2 (full disclosure here, if this is who I think it is I have no respect nor time for this man. I think he’s sexual ethics are just as atrocious as this man’s) has now if of no concern to the facts of the (alleged) act of sexual violence perpetrated against her. It is his choices, his absolute lack of regard for the law and for the autonomy and wellbeing of those that, genuinely, loved him, trusted him and wanted to be with him, that see him and his smug face plastered across the Sydney media, and his ass hauled before the courts.

Likewise, and more importantly, it is neither those of us who are discussing this nor the bullying that he is claiming, that is empowering women to step forward and talk about him; to the police or others.

How one can even begin to rationalise that it is through bullying that women venture into the vacuum that is the legal justice system is beyond me! This idea that it is only because of bullying towards him that another woman has stepped forward is, quite simply and nothing more than rape culture!

For those unaware of the concept of rape culture let me explain what I mean by it.

Rape culture are all the dysfunctional, erroneous and compounding ideas, the social norms and sanctions, the language of the media, legal arguments, attitudes and statements of politicians and the public that combine to not only frame the way that sexual violence is perpetrated upon the female body but to constrain the way women are allowed to speak about, and demand redress for their own experiences of sexual violence.

Let me put what was said in context. This case in no longer about two women who were victimised by the sexual choices of this man. This is no longer about victims seeking out the courts to get justice for the crime/s perpetrated upon their bodies. For victims to access legally entitled redress from a man who chose to ignore their agency and violate their right to make informed, reactive decision about their bodies and sexual labour.

No.

This is about a conspiracy.

This is about a man. And another man.

This is about one man orchestrating a vendetta against another and using an allegation of sexual violence to bully the other.

This is about a perpetrator of sexual violence using the courts and the media to discredit and silence the victim. She cannot possibly be believed because she is lying; and she is lying because her boyfriend is bullying the accussed!

Look up the statistics! Listen to the reasons why women are reluctant to come forward with accounts of sexual violence.

Now take every vile word, attitude and deed that creates rape culture and add to it, that women are now the pawns in an orchestrated bullying campaign for male supremacy in BDSM.

He “claims he has been the victim of an “online bullying campaign”, leading to an extra charge of sexual assault being laid against him”. Yep this man believes, once again, that he is the victim here!

Sound familiar to anyone else?

You see, the second his lawyer stood up yesterday and said the “B” word he not only began his campaign against the second victim, but he began his platform to curate and control the parameters of discussion allowed about this.

This is about, one last desperate attempt, to take back some control over the story that he is the lead villain in. One last pathetic attempt at rebranding himself as a victim as opposed to the perpetrator of sexual violence against women.

This is nothing more than rape culture!

 

 

 

 

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Like Anastasia.

When I first stepped into the world of feminism; from what was a very antifeminist stance, I was stunned by the sense of community that I had entered. Women who were not only encouraged to find their own tribe and their own voice, but who had a responsibility to listen to those who, for so many reason, experienced the world in a way they never would. To form; from near or far, a deep sense of solidarity with each other no matter how different our, inequitable, oppressive experience of the world were. We had each other’s back and made decisions, especially in regards to the words we chose to speak about each other, that would let others know we’ve got this.

Of course this utopian nirvana I thought I had found has lost its shine over the last decade. Feminism is imperfect, complicated, diverse and sometimes down and out infuriating. But it is, and will always be, the one choice I will always make. To not only be a feminist but to deliberately use my space in this world to smash the status quo. 

But, to me, the almost universal premise that brings feminism from the world of theory and academia and into the ways that women, right here right now, make and experience their bodies in this patriarchal world is the curiosity and respect for each other’s voice. And right at the heart of this idea (or is that ideal) is that no other person, feminist or not, is not in any position to tell women what they should or shouldn’t do. While this new vouge feminism centred in choice is deeply problematic; choice, not just the ability but the permission to, engage or disengage with the world in informed ways, has to mean something.

One of the things I’m learning about being a submissive woman, is that I now exist in this cultural paradox. Within BDSM, when a woman tells her story and she says that her experiences of submission are negative, that she has been harmed. That she is living with trauma. She is called a liar. She is shamed. She is blamed. Outside of BDSM, when a woman tells her story and she says that her experiences of submission are positive, that she feels safe, that she is experiencing pleasure. She is called a liar. She is shamed. She is blamed.

It doesn’t matter what we are saying; our voice is ignored, ridiculed and rejected.

I’m not arrogant enough to tell women what they should be doing. So it was no surprise that Caitlin Roper’s latest account of her angst surrounding the newest Fifty Shades release was something that I was going to find hard to read. To me it is deeply paternalistic, her words and those like her are founded in the genuine belief that they know what is best. Rejecting the experiences of women who genuinely enjoy the franchise and intentionally subjugating the dozens if not hundreds of reasons why they are going to see the movie.

So when I see women like Caitlin Roper jumping from the clichéd volley of platitudes usually directed at the franchise (I’m surprised that the condescending mummy porn portrayal wasn’t front and centre in her piece) into the position that tells the readers of the Sydney Morning Herald that “these are the services where women like Anastasia end up” I have to stop and really think hard about what the overall intention of this piece was.

Did Caitlin want to add something to the numerous conversations about the structural and cultural barriers to women freely engaging with frontline services? Was she writing this because she has a genuine concern for women “like Anastasia” and a desire to make sure that we too have access to relevant interventions and services?

Call me sceptical, but I’m going to say it’s a sure bet that neither of these were part of the reason why she wrote this piece. Nor why the Sydney Morning Herald chose to take it to publication.

Because the reality is that women like Caitlin Roper have little to no concern about women like me. The women that they choose to cast as presumptive victims while choosing to ignore our voices and our stories. Women like me, who are safe in our intimate spaces even though the behaviours, language, attitudes and community commonly associated with BDSM and dominance and submission are at the core of our relationships. While people will jump to read the narratives of our sexploits when it is all about the whips and chains and orgasms; it’s getting harder and harder to get others to actually take the time to sit down, shut up and listen to us. Well they have no reason to right?

For all of the pieces about “women like Anastasia” I have not yet encountered one which actively seeks out what we need in frontline services; especially with regard to mental health care. And from the hour or so of searching on the website of those organisations behind this campaign, I can safely assume that not one of them has any dedicated service or counsellor informed about or directed to meeting the needs of submissive women.

But beyond “these services” that she has so carefully promoted in her piece not actually being services that would be responsive to who I am and what I would need if in fact I did ever need to access their services; I want to question the dominant narrative of her piece.

There are lots of things wrong with the character of Christian Grey. He is materialistic and status driven. He believes that his philanthropic endeavours account for the business choices he makes. He has acquired so many unhealthy and dysfunctional approaches to and behaviours within both his relationships with women and in his sex life (it’s interesting that, of all the pieces written about his behaviours not one piece has tried to explore the correlation between child abuse and the attachment disorder that Christian so clearly has). He has unresolved trauma. And most importantly connected to BDSM his sexual identity has stalled in its infancy stage, the only way he can feel safe engaging with sex in a mutually satisfying way is my having a signed piece of paper kept in the bedside table; or wherever a billionaire would keep his important documents. Christian Grey also embodies a lot of the fragile yet toxic masculinity that has created the realm of the pickup artist; and, unfortunately, has begun to infect BDSM. It’s egocentric, entitled and dangerous for women, because, amongst other problems it schedules women as passive in their own bodies and as characters that men create through their own sexual prowess. So I am not defending the character that is Christian Grey. And let’s be honest he and the world that he commands is one walking, talking product placement.

Christian is not the absolute everything of FSOG. And while he clearly exhibits problematic behaviours he is a fictional character that is a cluster of everything unlikable and unacceptable. And women are allowed to like him.

And this, as far as I’m concerned, brings to a head the idea that the franchise is glamourising intimate partner violence.

Finding something alluring about a fictional character; even one as dysfunctional as Christian Grey. Finding points of reference in fiction that you connect to, that resemble the story of your own sexual realities. Does not, in anyway, negate the way you perceive intimate partner violence! And to consider the audience of Fifty Shades Darker as ignorant about the realities of intimate partner violence., is quite arrogant!

And that is just not how I choose to approach the millions of women, throughout the world who have gone and will go and see Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. I see them, as I see myself as women entitled to make their own decisions regarding how they spend their disposable incomes. But more than that, I am not so isolated from the community of women who either enjoy the Fifty Shades franchise or who choose to bring behaviours commonly associated with dominance and submission into their erotic space, to see these women as ignorant about the realities of intimate partner violence. We see the same news headlines as you. We read the same reports that tell us the attitudes regarding women, violence and sexual behaviours is repulsive. We know that intimate partner violence kills at least 1 woman a week in Australia and costs our economy billions of dollars in lost wages, first responders, health care and our legal system We see the same shallow and pathetic attempts at awareness, band aid solutions, funding cuts and inadequate structural and institutional action as every other woman. We see the casual and often inadequate ways that the media engage with the complexity of gendered violence. We understand that domestic and family violence has, over generations, has been relegated to behind closed doors, assigned to the too hard or not our problem basket. We may enjoy a movie that some see as problematic, be we, as individuals and a collective group of women are neither the cause of intimate partner violence not blatantly ignorant of it.

I think that there is a lot wrong with infantilising women’s consumer choices. The women who are seeing this movie found something interesting to see; and dare I say it something that turned them on. I know I did! And I will unapologetically, defend the right for a woman to watch a movie and, when well informed by complete understanding, motivated by mutual satisfaction and framed by affirmative consent, defend the choice to be “like Anastasia” in her boudoir. 

So while I have to agree with her proposition that we (although I have no doubt that her “we” does not include women like myself) need to begin to really interrogate the way that intimate partner violence is discussed and represented I will not be actively supporting anything that intentionally creates and us and them divide. As a woman “like Anastasia” I will let other women just like her make their own choices about what they watch at the cinema and how they come to understand what intimate partner violence is.

And if that contribution to creating a better understanding of women’s experiences of intimate partner violence involves actively boycotting one book/movie franchise than, by all means, actively boycott Fifty Shades Darker; and in a years’ time when Fifty Shades Freed is released, make the same choice. But the choice to watch the movie is no more or less a choice.

But please, understand the services and the political/social ideology that you are really supporting. Spend 5 minutes Googling the individuals and organisations behind it and where exactly your money will go. Because, as a feminist, I unequivocally stand behind the idea that it is only through education; both as a social institution and self-driven, that women will be able to make the best choices for themselves.

I’m not asking you to change your opinions about the FSOG franchise; love it, hate it, it’s your decision. But what I am asking of you is that, before advocating for a particular campaign or position, you choose to understand the realities of those women “like Anastasia”. The women like me, like dozens of friends of mine – women and men alike. To stop and listen to our voices and our stories.

Being able to write and to write well is a privilege. Being given a public platform is an entitlement. Those who are gifted this public space are entitled to their own words and their own agendas. But doesn’t someone with this privilege have a responsibility to, at least consider, their potential audience? The Sydney Morning Herald is not some niche blog or sub forum. It is a mainstream media platform, and one that has a diverse audience; an audience that includes women “like Anastasia”.

The Wolf has been arrested. So where to from here?

Dear Sydney,
We’ve woken up to the news this morning that the fellow amongst us formally known as “The Wolf” has, finally been put into his cage. Beyond his most ardent followers, most of us have taken a moment to stop and breath. Could this be the tipping point for us? Could this be the one arrest that breaks open the fragile façade of consent that has enveloped the community. The cover that hides the true darkness that we know exists but need to deny because it will force some serious introspection about what it is we do?
It’s safe to say that I am not the biggest fan of the way consent is conceptualised within kink. I find the cheap words vile and the calmness that surrounds the absolute cognitive dissidence nauseating. Victim blaming quickly followed by the paternalistic defence that proudly proclaims the need to do, while systematically refusing to acknowledge that those that do are responsible for their choices that fulfils their needs. Intentional blindness and blind obedience.  A cultural refusal to acknowledge the difference between the fantasy in our minds and the experiences we choose.
I’ll admit I gave the air one serious high five when I read my news alert this morning. I’m not at all upset that this man, who one report stated is “understood to have legendary status amongst Sydney’s online BDSM community according to a police source” is now on strict bail until his court appearance in December.
But I am preparing for that overwhelming devastation that will come once his fan gaggle collects themselves and begins their militant campaign of support. Anyone else convinced that will be using a few of the suppositions and tactics of camp Trump 2016, but instead of “locker room banter” it will be “BDSM”? I know it will come. You know it will. Because that is how kink works! I’ve seen it before. I saw it with his (alleged) child victim. I’ve seen it with other victims regardless of whether or not kink is apart of their assault.
But there is something else that I do know.
This is front page media news! Print, digital, radio, morning TV, women’s media. It is going to go “viral” so to speak. And thank-freaking- god!
This perpetrator saturated Fetlife with his recounts of his actions. He wrote books about them. His cheer squad wrote passionate defences of him and outlined his behaviour towards them. All of which now creates the peripheral framework for this case. He put it out there, the police will now use it.
Our community chose to enable this by becoming passive enablers. And yes, I consider myself as being a part of this! How many times have I encountered something which I knew needed addressing but was so fatigued from trying so many times before and just closed the tab on my computer? I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only feminist who feels this fatigue. Who feels so overwhelmed that they check out and go binge watch Outlander and pretend, for a few hours that this shit doesn’t happen!
I live in Sydney! This fucking animal preyed (okay I’ll add another allegedly here) on a child the same age as my daughter and has been accused of another rape, with police urging other victims to come forward! So yeah, this one is a bit closer to home for me. I took what I knew to the police in January and have sat here ever since waiting for this. Waiting for the police to knock on his door. Hoping with crossed fingers that, one day soon, he will be forced to account for his choices.

I just didn’t know there are more victims! I should have known, his patterns of behaviour, his addiction to the feedback loop he’s created through social media, the sloppy yet aggressive way he has created this animalistic caricature of himself and his, dare I say it, pathological posse of female devotees. They all come together to create an individual who sees himself in the third person. As someone not like you and I. Someone who has given himself permission and who acts within the validation of outsiders. Who can disconnect from the humanness of himself and others. I’m not going to label this, but anyone with the slightest understanding of the psychosocial components that created this will know what he is!
I read one commenter, in a vain hope I’m assuming, invalidating his arrest by claiming that this is nothing more than the police showing their bias towards kink. Let’s get this one out of the way. This was KINGS CROSS, the alternative mecca of the Southern Hemisphere. The most popular Kink club Hellfire is located within the Kings Cross police area. They are not some country cop shop, but inner city, community engaged and diversity – including sexuality aware officers.
It’s not about the aesthetics. it’s not about what this looks like, how “violent” ones actions may seem to an outsider. Although objective perceptions of BDSM will form a part of any jury’s considerations if the case proceeds to trial. What matters, right now, is that his victims subjective experience of her interaction with him meet her and now the law’s, measure of sexual assault. What matters right now are HIS choices. HIS actions. What HE understood (Mens Rea). What HE did (Actus reus).
Because let’s remember his whole MO is to render his victims passive in order to conquer them by his “alpha” superiority. We’ve all read his writings. We know how he chooses to present himself. He’s the absolute alpha who can drag women into his assumed nirvana bliss whenever, however he decides. And this. This attitude. These choices. THIS is what has landed the puppy in the dog house! It is what he did to her, as opposed to what they did together. The moment he chose to step outside the mutuality of the interaction and into his idealisation of himself; that, is when he crossed the line from kink to sexual assault causing actual bodily harm.
And here’s what I know:
The police have created a “Fact Sheet” within which they have created a narrative of events based on the known circumstances of the offence (sexual assault) and the aggravating factors (actual bodily harm). That is that on the 21st of August at (an undisclosed) Kings Cross hotel Liam Murphy, 41 raped X, aged 21, twice and attempted to rape her once.
These are the known facts as they are right now. Due process, right up until a verdict is handed down (as far as I understand it) allows for these charges to be negotiated between the DPP and the defence. These charges can be changed.
I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve spent years researching and writing about consent and the law in NSW. I’m not an “expert”, the law is complicated and there is a reason that lawyers get paid the amount they do! Interpreting and creating argument is something that I wouldn’t know how to competently do. But I am confident enough in my understanding about these few points to put it here.
Sexual assault comes from the nonexistence of consent. It is deliberately removing personal agency. Consent in my State, so the State within which this case exists, is present within a sexual interaction when a person “freely and voluntarily agrees to the sexual intercourse” {NSW Crimes Act 1900 – SECT 61HA].
Actual (as in actual bodily harm) – doesn’t actually have a definition within the Statute. But there are “typical” examples of injury caused (through unlawful actions of another). These range from scratches and bruises through to psychological harm.
Common law however has found McIntyre v R (2009) that injury… “[N]eed not be permanent, but must be more than merely transient or trifling — it is something less than “grievous bodily harm”, which requires really serious physical injury, and “wounding”, which requires breaking of the skin”
Actual bodily harm uses ordinary meaning, that is an injury is assumed to interfere with the health and comfort of the victim. He may have done the exact same thing to a dozen other women, who found her overall experiences of his actions pleasurable. But this woman found them to have a negative effect, she has deemed them something that has caused her to have interfered with her overall health, wellbeing and comfort.
The other thing I want to mention is “recklessness”. R v Bloomfield (1998), Blackwell v R (2011) the prosecution has to prove that the accused intentionally and recklessly assaulted the victim AND as a CONSEQUENCE of that actual bodily harm was a result.
I’m not going any further into the legal aspects of this case. Luckily for me the Downing Centre Court is about 500 meters from where I am so I can attend the hearing on the 6th of December. But I will state this –
It is all too common (and I would be pretty certain that this will apply here as well) within both answers to accusation put to an accused and as a formulated defence within trials for the accused to admit sexual activity but assert that there was consent. So the question is can or should the existence of BDSM (as a prescribed social acronym depicting particular non-heteronormative sexual behaviours) be enough to definitively argue that consent exists and that the accessed actions were in fact lawful and not the intentional infliction of harm?
As the statutory and common law interpretation of what consent varies considerably across jurisdictions, there is insignificant consistency to create a common language to define precisely what is and isn’t within the boundaries of proscribed and approved behaviours. There is way too much geographical and so jurisdictional variation to lay any claim to BDSM being an absolute defence to the harm created through ones actions.

 
There is no doubt that BDSM adds additional complexity to what is already a multidimensional and difficult experience of victims. When you consider that BDSM has, until recently remained on the peripheral of mainstream sexual understanding, can we really assume that those invested in what they do will supplant what has been accepted as consent for what is consent in the rest of the world?
There is, outside of BDSM, plenty of criticism “grey area” if you like, surrounding the line between consent/agreement and mere compliance. Sex and rape. Interpretation of behaviours and understanding the wants of others.  If this line is blurred within case of sexual assault that seem straight forward, then the complexity must be exacerbated by adding elements of BDSM to the context of the crime. So, no the existence of BDSM cannot, as far as I’m concerned, defend ones understanding of harm and the occurrence of harm caused by our choices/actions!
No matter how kinky you might think you are, no matter how much you’re showcased on K&P and if you’ve reached the peak of Fetlebrity status you live in the real world! The real world that, the last time I checked, does not have an asterisk in the Statue enabling those of us who fuck a tad differently to our neighbours to act outside the law!
Because I am SICK & TIRED of men like this using BDSM as a justification for their criminal choices! BDSM, for me and for a lot of us, is a healthy and safe sexual manifestation. Something that allows us to explore our bodies and our relationships in ways that work the best for us. BDSM is not a get out of gaol free card. BDSM does not excuse you from your choices any more than religion excuses a man who chooses to shoot an abortion clinic.
So where to from here –
We need to reframe BDSM and fast! We need to exclude men like Murphy from our communities and distance ourselves from their choices! We need to make consent central to everything and focus on the actions and the intentions of those that do before we start interrogating those who are having it don’t to.
BDSM is not violence and it is not assault! It is a means of playing with sensation, language and behaviours in order to gain sexual and relationship satisfaction. THAT IS IT! You can kinkwash it all you like but the bottom line is that BDSM is not a means of causing harm to another. BDSM is not “illegal”. Causing harm to another person is illegal. Using behaviours and props, language and imagery commonly assumed to be BDSM within our intimate relationships is NOT illegal. Choosing to sexually assault someone where there is harm experienced by your victim is illegal.
Look, I get the need to be transgressive and to be seen as extraordinary! Brene Brown explains our culturally ingrained fear of being considered ordinary really well. She explains in Daring Greatly that it is our fear of ordinary that creates this new surge in narcissism (– it’s a must read!) I get that, for some, sex and relationships are the only stage within which they can become more than just another shmuck. BDSM allows us a platform in which “othering” ourselves and creating something more is hero worshiped.
Being motivated by your shame-induced fear of ordinary (seriously you HAVE to read Brene) might make you a Fetlebrity. But it won’t make you immune from the consequences of your choices.
And it’s these choices that need to be the catalyst for the next step.
We need to start asking questions like
“What made you think your choices were okay?”
“How did you know that what you did was exactly what they were asking for?”
“When you chose to do X how certain were you that you were doing what was asked of you?”
We need to start focusing our attention onto the actions and choices of those who are choosing to use BDSM as a mirror from which they deflect their responsibilities. Those who think that they can do as they please, those who are validated by others and those who are enabled by websites and businesses to continue unchecked.

Men like Murphy do not “do” kink, they use kink as a defence. And that, no matter how much you word game it cannot be okay!

Yours sincerely
Someone who is pissed!
 

My consent is not what makes his choices okay!

I’m not here to write passionate arguments defending BDSM. The socially constructed acronym used to umbrella an innumerable number of experiences doesn’t need my few words to argue on its behalf. I don’t feel the need to defend anything that I do nor do I feel the need to explain away the absolute bullshit that others claim as kink that I encounter almost daily. Those who demonise or glamourise BDSM typically lump all and everything into their explorations and conclusions and will never be persuaded by anything that I could say.

But I did try once or twice.

I’ve written a few times here that I started this as a means of adding to the conversations that we have about sex. Something that I’m passionate about. But there’s something that came before this decision. An ‘incident’ so to speak, that made me understand that there is often something missing from the way that we perceive and talk about sex.

And I guess as many other “ah ha” moments, this one began on Facebook. I’d just started connecting with the community of sex writers on social media, I was confident enough to add my 2 cents but not yet sure of my place. I’d managed to toe the party line for a few months, although I had already seen a number of things that confronted and confused me and some that really did offend me. But I’d let them go, choosing to maintain a polite silence rather than question or ask others to question their position.

This one post was on a woman’s page who is a feminist, has been writing for a number of years and has a few hundred followers. She contributes regularly to ‘sex positive’ online publications. She is articulate in her words, she not only writes about sex objectively but she candidly brings her sex life into her space with descriptions, antidotes and pictures. Nothing about her is, really noteworthy, and I’m not going to name her here. We have very different ways of using our own spaces but this is neither here nor there. It just is.

One morning she posted a meme, it was one of those artistically styled black and white ‘tumblr’ posts, with words over the top of the picture. From what I remember it was a typical male dominant, female submissive caricature. The words were simple ‘the difference between kink and abuse is consent’. There were a hundred or so comments all in gushing agreement with the statement and rephrasing it in various ways. Almost all of them were contextualising the statement in a male dominant female submissive relationship and were all assigning consent to her not him. She is the one who gives consent, this was a matter of fact statement. There was this constant theme (and it was/is not only on this one Facebook meme where this occurs, it seems to be quite typical way that consent is positioned in kink) that what she did justifies what he does.

I didn’t get it, I still don’t. How is it that what I do absolves the person I’m having sex with from their choices?

I asked just this. I asked about how intention fits into this, his intentions not mine. I asked what would happen if we began positioning intention rather than consent as the thing, well one of them because there are numerous factors that come together to distinguish my relationship from those where one half of the couple is the victim of domestic violence? I wondered what would happen if, when something goes wrong, we examine the intentions of those who do (allegedly do) harm to others. 

It’s something that I’d been thinking about for a while. And genuinely believed that this was the appropriate time and place to have asked what, for me was a pretty straight forward question.

Boy! Was I wrong!

I was shamed and ridiculed. Not one comment offered me a reason for why my question was wrong. In fact, no one actually directly answered my question or challenged my position that his intention should be more of a concern that my agreement or actions. What did happen were individuals dismissing someone who chose to cross a defined line. Consent is the all and everything. And while I am the first to position the importance of consent I am not prepared to use something that is of such legal and cultural significant to continually justify and defend the actions of those who intend to do harm.

That’s not to say that accidents don’t happen. They’ve happened here and will probably happen again. Nor am I talking about things that are directly asked for, negotiated and that are for the mutual benefit of both partners. But what does not happen here is him intending to hurt, coerce or manipulate me. His intention, going into everything that we do, is to create and facilitate mutually beneficial physical interactions.

 

His intentions matters. And while my consent matters, they are two very different elements of our relationship. His intention most certainly influences what I consent to and my consent frames what he intends to do. But what he ultimately does comes from his intentions not from my consent.

Positioning his actions as a direct consequence of my consent renders his decision making process and his accountability almost invisible. As if what comes after my agreement (consent) is void, inconsequential. When in fact he and he alone creates the decisions that manifest in his actions.

We can also bring this into efforts to dismantle rape culture. If, instead of centring the consent of the victim as the core element of distinguishing rape from sex, we then are able to actively interrogate the actions of the accused based solely on what they chose to do. What did they intend? What we the mental process that he went through in his mind to assess the entirety of the situation and judge his next action as being right? When he did whatever it is that he is accused of what was his aim? Did he intend to contribute to a mutually agreed upon sexual interaction, something that would create mutual satisfaction – however that plays out. Or did he intend to take what he thought was his, intestinally rejecting part or the entirely of what was agreed?

Does this give us an exceptionally objective measure enabling us to clearly differentiate between sex and rape or BDSM and abuse? No. the complexity of the crime is such that one element is not (or should not) be the crux of a prosecution. However, focusing on intention and examining the decision making process used by an accused to lead him to believe what he was doing was the right thing would dramatically shit the currency that victim blaming has in rape. If it is more about him than her blaming her can’t be so central to a defence can it?

Reflecting back on the way the idea was responded to in my social media interaction mentioned previously still doesn’t make any sense. Here I was being ‘blacklisted’ and blocked, prohibited from commenting all because I wanted to take the responsibility for someone else’s choices away from me and put it squarely on them. Because I want consent to reflect the ability for me to be able to form a sex life that works for me not as something that defends the actions of him.

So let me ask, why is it that my voluntary agreement is the only this that distinguished BDSM from intimate partner violence?

Do not validate my feminism.

By now we’ve all had the pleasure of reading David Hon’s piece explaining (or is that mansplaining) why he won’t date a feminist.

At first I was like most of the commenters, I read his words, laughed and thought ‘thank god men like him will never want to date me’ and reminded myself to remember that I’m supposed to hate men. But then I looked beyond his simplistic rewording, straw-man positions and an intentional rejection of women’s subjective realities and tried to (I really did) understand what his objecting to dating women who are feminists really is all about.

But I couldn’t!

He states that he couldn’t date someone who saw his genitals as giving him advantage that he doesn’t actually have, because believing in privilege takes romance from a partnership to a power struggle. Which I’m assuming creates one of the complex advantages for women that don’t exist for men – because rape culture doesn’t exist. These advantages are “deeply personal” as opposed to political issues. I think he’s trying to play the “personal is political” mantra of feminism but using in it create the illusion that, what he calls “anti-male or anti-female”, are not as we claim the complex result of social inequity and oppression, but rhetoric rooted in a previous bad experience that are also cultural opinions that reflect our own world views.

He concludes by stating that “Maybe one day, men and women will stop trying to eliminate the lines between us and realize it’s the differences between the sexes that make romance, family and love an enjoyable experience”.

And I have no idea what on earth his actual complaint against dating a feminist actually is. If we take his premise that feminism (anti-male rhetoric) is just a consequence of bad experiences, then don’t we have to apply the same to his anti-feminism (anti-female rhetoric) is just a consequence of his own bad experiences?

But the more I sat with this and stopped laughing at what I see as a pathetic argument from a man who can’t date women who are feminists because they create bad experiences for him, I realised what was a much larger issue for me.

I’m not concerned by his choice not to date feminists (although I do have an issue with him being given such a public platform to share this), there wouldn’t be many women who are feminists who would want to date men with his world view.

My problem with the way that this piece comes across is that his rejection of feminism is important.

The assumption that feminists need their feminism validated by outsiders; especially men. I can’t quite put my finger on why this one piece made me connect to this, but something in the way he positions feminism as an obstacle to authentic and functioning romantic relationships between men and women. An obstacle to be overcome or used as a means to reject women. If we are wanting to be seen as desirable/datable/fuckable then we have to accept that our feminism – however that may manifest itself must be put up to interrogation.

Here’s the thing. I don’t need my feminism and the perspectives of the world it gives me validated by any man. Be that my husband. My father. My brother. My boss. A total stranger writing a poorly thought out, click bait opinion piece.

I know that there is a wage gap. Not just because statistics tell me. But because women tell me they experience a wage gap. And I believe them. I know there is a culture in which the complexity and criminality of sexual assault is routinely minimised – on campus and elsewhere. Not just because research and anecdotal evidence tells me. But because women tell me of their own experiences of rape culture. And I believe them. I know that the systematic and structural expectations, assumptions and rules that come together; created by and for a very particular demographic – men, is real. Not because I’ve read generations of sociological theory and quantitative data that demonstrates a difference between the ways in which males and females experience and/or are punished by the world. Not because I’ve listen and responded to the experiences of other women in this system. But because I’ve experienced it myself!

My personal and my political are one in the same. My political position influences almost all of my everyday decisions. And yes, my feminism has and does influence the decisions I make in my intimate and domestic spaces which will disqualify me from a male gaze centred ideal of desirability. I understand that.

But what I do not understand is this need for men to be seen as some kind of  gatekeepers of our feminism. That if they accept and respect what it is that creates our feminist worldview then we are more valid and valued than others – especially when it comes to sex.

Humanising the rapist: Destroying the myths of rape culture one at a time.

I really don’t like reactive pieces and I certainly didn’t ever think I’d go down the path of writing from a point of physical/emotional reaction rather than considered position. It took me weeks to sit down with the aftermath of the Ghomeshi trial. I needed to sit with what had happened, clarify my thoughts and write what I thought needed to be said rather than what I wanted to say. But I’ve bitten the bullet tonight. I’ve spent the last few days, like so many, in tears and utter disbelief at the reality that has been the rape and subsequent trial of Ms Doe. I’ve read (and cried over) her victim impact statement and I’ve read all about the sentencing, his fathers’ and friends defence and of course his statement. I’m choosing not to name him here; we all know who I’m talking about. His name and his all American yearbook photo is everywhere. He doesn’t need me to name him, he doesn’t care what women like me think. To him women like me are part of the problem that got him thrown in prison. Women like me are the ones who need his mansplaining – sorry education, that he begged the sentencing judge let him go forward with, as punishment for his crime.

What I felt the need to sit down and write has confused me. It’s not anger it’s not surprise its resignation; not something I desire but something that I feel is genuinely inevitable. Inevitable because it needs to be done and done now.

Rape is something that not only can happen to anyone but is something that can be done by anyone. But more often than not this message is not being heard. We see rapists as something of an other, a monster lurking in the darkness. A myth that has stood the test of time. It’s something that we use to place rape and rapists as something away from me. It makes us feel safer. I get that. No one wants to believe that the man I know can do something as abhorrent as rape.  The man who raped Jane Doe is not a monster. While he was a stranger to his victim he was not a stranger to his family, his friends and his community. He is just like men I know – except for the fact that he chose to and was convicted of rape.

A lot has been written over the last few days, nothing I could put here can come close to the eloquent well constructive pieces that have been published so far. But I feel the need to contribute, after all I made this space to add myself into the conversations I feel relevant to how we think about and have sex. And, for me, rape culture is a part of this. One of the ways that rape culture and its assumptions, minimising and victim blaming, is central to this particular rape is through the character references offer up to the court as a means of supporting the rapist.

The character references offered by his father, grandparents, coaches, classmates and friend are not something out of the ordinary, as far as I’m aware (keeping in mind that I am not a lawyer) statements such as these and the content of them are normal. Just as victims of crime are entitled to place before the court accounts of the crime perpetrated upon them and the impact that the crime has had on themselves and their lives, so too can the convicted. The rights and wrongs of this are many and complex. Should we really be seeing those who have committed crimes away from what they have been convicted of? Should judges be able to consider them as influential in their sentencing decision? I just don’t know, and I don’t think it would do anything is I pretended that I did. There are others who are much more educated about the legitimacy and need of such character references, and I will leave it up to those to find these answers.

Let me be very clear here – the rape apologies, the minimisation, the excuses and the victim blaming are not, JUST NOT what I am talking about here. I can’t begin to get my head around this part of their statements. It’s frustrating and nauseating. The best I can come up with is “it’s just plan fucked up” which would neither do justice to the reality of these words nor offer anything new to the conversation.

This is not what I want to take away from these character references. It’s not actually the first thing that I noticed about them. Nor do I want to make a post about his lack of recognition or remorse in his own statement. I want to take the character references and remove the rape culture that has saturated them and reframe them in a way that I think (and I could be totally wrong here) could bring about some kind of change.

Character references are given to humanise those awaiting sentencing, to present a picture of the defendant not as the prosecution portrayed him as during trial, but that of a young man who, because of “20 minutes of action” has been irreversibly changed. These references are a collection of facts and opinions, they revolve around all of the everyday things; what we eat, how we walk, we live and work, our accomplishments and our dreams who come together to make us who we are as individual humans. He is a son, a swimmer, a classmate and a friend. We need to start recognise these facts in rapists, not to glorify them but to acknowledge that these parts of us, are part of what makes up a rapist too. Rapists are humans who make the choice to commit crimes.

The person who ate the steak – is a rapist.

The son who ate his dad’s snacks – is a rapist.

The budding swim star – is a rapist.

The man who had dreams and accomplishments – is a rapist.

The people who fall into this drinking culture – are rapists.

Men who have never been in trouble before – can rape.

Awkward teenagers trying to fit in – can rape.

People who are mild mannered – have raped women.

People who are happy drunks around friends, who keep control and act rationally – do rape.

Great kids – rape.

Teenagers, intelligent enough to be admitted to Stanford – can be rapists.

I absolutely understand the reaction to the release of these references. They, in context, are horrifying to read. I sat here on Monday reading the statement given by his father and it floored me. I asked my husband ‘what type of person thinks about steak when he’s writing what is a plea to the judge sentencing their son’? But neither of us could come up with an answer, is there one? I’ve read the words written by those that know this man and can only wonder what they think rape is.

But they gave me insight into who this man is. The man behind the rape. The man who chose to get drunk at a collage party and make the deliberate decision to take an unconscious woman away and out of sight and rape her. He is the person that is outlined in those character references AND he is a rapist.

We need to humanise these men. We need to see them as part of the swim team and kids who sit at the dinner table eating steak with their fathers. Because that is who they are. These men, these people who choose to commit sexual assaults are men who dream of being doctors, who look like the men we love and socialise with, the ones sitting next to us in class and who we see on the station platform on the way home from work. These are the men who rape and we need to start seeing them as such.

Dismantling rape culture can only be done by removing, one by one, the myths and erroneous assumptions about rape. Not just the myths and assumptions about rape victims but the ones that surround and create our myths and assumptions of rapists.

The confusion I am feeling having written this is uncomfortable. I feel as if every word I’ve just written is wrong and that the best thing I could do is hit delete and forget everything that I’ve thought over the last few days which has cumulated in this post. I feel like I’m ignoring one of the core elements of my feminism and my reasoning for this space. The centring of the needs and experiences of females. To take away from her and make it all about him feels counter to what I see is crucial to the advancement of a feminist rebellion. But there is this part of me that feels this is important and needs to be said. Humanising the rapist, taking him from the shadows, the dark alleyways, removing the stranger and putting him in our swim teams and classrooms putting a face in the picture can and will challenge some of the most prevailing and frustrating myths and assumptions about rape.

But I’m going to give the last word to Jane Doe. I want these words to, once these overwhelming emotions settle a bit, be the thing that I take away from her.

And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you.

To girls everywhere, I am with you.

What the Ghomeshi trial has taught me: Or how rape culture really looks.

I’m not a lawyer. I am not Canadian. I am coming at this from a limited understanding of law. None of this is “expert” advice. While watching the trial and acquitting of Ghomeshi as well as participating in some of the social media associated with it. I noticed that there are a number of elements that constitute the case that have been playing around in my mind a bit.

It’s not that they are specifically relevant to this one particular trial, it’s just that they seem to be ideas and arguments that I found myself being confronted with more and more during this one case. So I thought I’d write them down and add my, not asked for 2 cents worth of opinion and characterisation on this trial.

Opinion 1

When it comes to the crime of sexual assault it is the peripheral issues rather than the central story that matters.

A sexual assault trial should revolve around a central statement of fact. That is what the prosecution claim that on this day this happened, presented as a sequence of events. Events that are explained further through evidence and witness testimony. What seems to be happening though is that the central statement become irrelevant and the peripheral issues like what came before and after becomes the focal point. Reasonable doubt – the keystone of modern day criminal defence, comes from discrediting the witness testimony & character than from disproving the events of the sexual assault.

Opinion 2

In his defences closing Ghomeshi’s lawyer made a very particular and telling statement.

“The truth is between the lines”.

I take this to mean that there is something of truth in what is not being said; I could have totally misread this of course but I am pretty sure that this statement has been offered up as some kind of direction to read between the line.

If you consider that (as far as I can tell) the defence never offered up an alternative statement of facts/events and never claimed anything beyond ‘what she said didn’t happen’ then you can only assume that not only is there is no defensive claim that ‘it didn’t happen’ but there is no evidence to prove that it didn’t happen. I understand that the burden of proof is placed solely in the hands of the prosecution. But if you are going to make a definitive claim then shouldn’t you do so with some kind of evidence to back this up? That “reasonable” doubt must be in fact reasonable: something that comes from a sound judgment.

What we seem to have is a reasonable doubt caused by the victims themselves. It’s not his actions on those nights in 2002, 2003 and 2008 that shows the prosecutions statement of facts is wrong but the actions of his victims after those nights up to and including their individual performances on the witness stand.

 

Opinion 3

He said/she said is a lie

Discussions of sexual assault allegations are often framed as case of he said/she said until the point a jury (or judge) casts their vote and decides who was right. What happens is more along the lines of she (the victim) says he (accused) gets his lawyer to present a section of questions and statements that will bring about reasonable doubt. While victims do not lay charges or prosecute and become a witness offering up testimony in the same way that a police officer or forensic scientist does. It is her and her alone that more often than not win or lose a case. She recounts her version of events as she understands them, and then answers to questions put forward to her by a defence team paid to ensure that their client gets what he wants. He actually says nothing – his defence team does all the talking.

Opinion 4

We are a generation of know it all women – how can a man take advantage of that?

This doesn’t necessarily pertain to the trial itself but the narrative that surrounds it. We, as in modern Gen X Y & Millennial women are cast as being the most knowledgeable, independent, confident, educated women who are given this “gift” of walking through life in ever encounter we happen to come across in absolute perfection. That somehow those of us who happened to have been assigned a certain chromosomal structure at the moment of our conception have this innate, maybe even evolutionary, attribute or instinct that makes us aware of harm and directs us in another direction. We are so controlled by this innate perfection that if we do (choose to) walk into a “grey area” situation then it is of our own free will and we alone should be held accountable for any adverse or illegal consequences. In other words we really should just know beter!

Opinion 5

We also have this other subset of women who are “fuckable”. She is the imagined ideal of sexual perfection (although being one who is not this I cannot tell you what it is, maybe it’s a secret passed down to you once you are deemed worthy). She is all of those things we modern woman are but she has this additional innate attribute that dissolves her sexual prey, I mean predators, man I don’t know what they are! From any and all responsibility. Something like the mythological succubus; but this modern version doesn’t kill her conquests she frees them back into the wild. But the point is these women cannot be raped! If you are a woman who is fuckable and who chooses to flirt, kiss, have sex or enjoy the company of men then you are the problem here – not the criminal actions of another.

Opinion 6

It’s not Ghomeshi or men like him that are the problem. It’s that *we* women just aren’t using our innate ability to effectively predict or react to others behaviour. It doesn’t really matter that I really can’t tell if the man I am finding attractive and kissing in this moment is going to wrap his hands around my throat and choke me in a few minutes’ time. It’s unimportant that I have no idea of predicting if in half an hour the man I’m having sex with & wanting to have sex with is going to change his game plan and do something else. It’s irrelevant that I’m not this physical being that is able to drop a portcullis across my vulva when I sense an imminent invasion. And just not good enough that I don’t become coated in some toxic goo to fend off any further touch or attempts to touch when uninvited.

That fact that I have no way of reacting to fear and confusion in a way that does not take me into the flight, fight or freeze automatic responses. Case and Statute law across the Western world recognise the variations in trauma reactions. Medical, psychological, social and legal discourse constantly recognises the inconsistency and factual errors in the assumption that women will without hesitation adequately react in these situations.

But none of this matters! These facts are irrelevant. Men are men and as such need are to void of the realities and the consequences of their choices because we cannot or just do not effectively predict and react in the way that we are supposed to.

Opinion 7

Consent is still the word no!

Opinion 8

This is just so fucked up!