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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Social media, power, influence and consequence.

I’m not at all sadden by the arrest of a 41-year-old Sydney man on multiple aggravated sexual assault charges. This man and those like him, embody everything that I despise and everything that frightens me about kink. His attitudes to consent and mutuality make me nauseous and his recounts and fantasies makes my clitoris want to flee my body. (His constant and maybe even deliberate misrepresentation of a “rape fantasy” to sell what it is that gets his dick hard infuriates me. Fortunately, there is some fantastic research out about what exactly a rape fantasy is and how women use the imagery and language associated with the fantasy to create deeply satisfying sexual encounters.) I’m not afraid of men like this but I am afraid of the culture that men like this create for women like me. Women for whom submission lies at the heart of our sexuality. Women who need intense physical stimuli to become aroused. Women who use emotionally and socially laden language to communicate with our intimate partners. Women like me who are forced to create a choreographed dance around illusion and innuendo created by men like this. Women who are the ones who are hurt.

But the thing that frightens me the most about this culture, from which these social media platform “Fetlebrity” are created and are catapulted into extraordinary reputation and influence within the kink community, isn’t that it exists. But that they exist within absolute assent of us all. Yes, this includes myself. Blind obedience. It’s something I lived with in my decades of existing within the Catholic Church. It is something that is instilled into us through fear of being ostracised from community and identity that has meaning for us. It is something that exists because we are conditioned to accept the way that is because it always has been. Blind obedience exists because we are so desperate for connection and belonging that we feel entitled to gloss over that which is uncomfortable.

It is this obedience to what is, this fear of being ostracised and this desperate need for connection and belonging that is destroying what is for so many of us genuine and safe experiences within our intimate relationships.

If blind obedience didn’t exist in kink men like Mr M wouldn’t be able to attain so much power and influence.

The unchecked power of toxic social media fame is becoming more and more of a problem. Most Aussies would remember the infamous Belle Gibson, the so called wellness blogger who was able to spin such elaborate stories around herself that she was afforded immense power over some of the most vulnerable people and to create business relationships with some of the biggest names. Belle built up her reputation over years, as it seems Mr M did. Belle created her online self in a way that provided references and reputation, as it seems Mr M did. Social media fame seems to cause this impenetrable bubble that protects celebrities from question and accountability; until there is considerable harm. Considerable enough to be believed that is. Those who do question and offer up the other side of the story are routinely shamed and shunned. Sidelined for the hype, glamour and inclusiveness. See, these social media stars are fantastic marketers! They understand their target audiences better than most of us understand ourselves. They create self brands and platforms from their authentic voice, but they grow it through their audiences. Ohhh they know how to use disclaimers and “I’m not an expert” tags like the best of us. They sell themselves the way that the latest, must have, beauty products are sold. Always with the fine print written in a way that is intentionally obscured by the glitz and promises of what is being sold.

Social media personalities; of which this man certainly falls, are influential. They use the intimacy that their social media voice enables them to create, what is, for their unsuspecting audience, real relationships. And maybe they are. Maybe I just too cynical to believe that one man can form and maintain genuinely authentic and consensual sexual relationships with women based on his social media fame. Or that one woman can create genuine connections with those suffering deliberating illnesses like Belle Gibson did. These relationships seem to be based on the conventional formats of communication. I speak you listen, and maybe they are just as real as the conversations I have with those off the computer screen.

Maybe the stories and antidotes that Mr M posted on Fetlife were enough for some women to engage in genuinely healthy intimate relationships. Hey, for all I know his writings were all the information necessary for some to have made an informed choice? Who am I to declare their relationships invalid?

I want to dismiss him and the one like him that will come next, and then the one after that, then the next and the next one, as simply narcissistic, power hungry psychopaths who manipulated the power of the social media celebrity to his advantage. It would make things so simple to cast him off as “evil” and “bad”. And in a way he is. He and he alone is responsible for the choices he made on the night of the 21st of August 2015 because he chose to do something that is deemed “bad”.

But can we just, simplistically, assign him a label; say that of narcissist and move on? Is it really that simple to label his behaviour as clinically pathological?

I don’t think so. Have I seen evidence of narcissistic tendencies within his writings and interactions? Yes. But I am not, nor are most of us, in possession of the skill necessary to clinically analyse and diagnose his behaviour, using the DSM. It would be easy, and in all honesty it would be so much more comforting to be able to sit here with confidence and dismiss him as just another sick, pathological perpetrator of male violence against women! Rendering his choices as the consequence of a pathological personality disorder would enable me to “tut-tut” and “see I told you so” while sitting on my feminist high-horse. Without ever having to spend a second in reflective thought about what this means for me. Label him, crediting his choices to narcissism really would let me and you off the hook.

Narcissism is a word that I’ve found creeping more and more into kink online spaces, it seems to be the go to defence of behaviour – ‘ohhh he’s a narcissist what do you expect”? Except to categorise and minimise his behaviour as mere narcissism removes a whole other variable in, not so much this one case specifically (keeping in mind that the full extent of his actions that are being interrogate by the law are still not known) but the overall culture within which this occurred

But that wouldn’t bring us anywhere near identifying let alone understanding the root cause. Let me make this clear, understanding this in the context of the environment it occurred in does not, in any way, diminish the severity of his choices. Nor does it try to create any distance between him and the consequences of his choices. This man chose to act in the way that he did on the 21st of August 2015. No one but he holds any responsibility for what he did. But understanding the social and cultural context within which he was allowed to become to guy now outed in the media as an accused rapist can, potentially, enlighten us to what comes next. Not for him, fuck him, he can do the maximum sentence and then some for all I care. But for the rest of us. He has been, forever, connected to our community, to this website and the Sydney scene. We are, thanks to his choices, connected to him, to this, as long as we associate ourselves with the site and the scene.

Brene Brown wrote that:

“Labelling the problem in a way that makes it all about who people are rather than the choices they’re making let’s all of us off the hook. Too bad. That’s who I am.  I’m a huge believer in the holding of people accountable for their behaviours, so I’m not talking about ‘blaming the system’ here. I’m talking about understanding the root cause so we can address the problems”. (p.22)

                   Brene Brown. Daring greatly: how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead.

Brene is known for her Ted talk on the Power of vulnerability, and it is amazing! But in her book Daring greatly she takes the idea of vulnerability and moves it into the realm of our behaviours within our environments. Like she says in the above quote it’s not about blaming the system (although as a feminist I cannot extract our subjective lived experiences from the totality of patriarchal power) but it’s about exploring our environments in a way that allows us to go beyond simplistic diagnoses. Like narcissism.

Brene goes on to talk about our fear of ordinary. That we always need to be looking for the next best thing. She writes about how we are all so vulnerable to the messages that sell us the drive to be extraordinary. And what could be more extraordinary that not having consensual sex? What could distance us from those mere muggles of the world than playing hard and to the edge? We don’t want to feel small, ordinary, inadequate right? Especially in our sex lives! We don’t want to be seen as kink light! That would be embarrassing wouldn’t it? I know I feel the need to justify myself and my unwavering commitment to just doing what I need as opposed to flying on the edge of kink. I can’t be the only one?  We need to feel like we are more than just keeping up with the Jones’s, we need to feel like we are surpassing them and living the most extraordinary that we can.

He sold us the lie that he is extraordinary and will bring those worthy into that realm.  That he didn’t need to meet the same relationship standards as the rest of us because he is something unlike the rest of us because he is not like us. He can take one look at you and know exactly what it is that you want. He could make you beg to be a part of his pack and belong to him so that alone becomes the only focus of your choices and reactions. Simply because he is something that you cannot get anywhere else. It, the stepping outside of your own moral compass and disregarding that “gut feeling” becomes your new normal. Simply because you belong to something the rest of us never could. You, out of the hundreds of women who like, love, gush and fawn all over his words, fantasies and his exposes of his sexual adventures, you are the one he is paying attention to right now. You are worth it so what you ignore, put up with and condone is worth it.

I understand how.

His idealised narratives spun around the position and importance of consent aren’t that new. They aren’t actually that different from most of the commentary and advice I’ve seen across most of the PUA crowd.

The idea that “the alpha” embodies the full spectrum of sexual prowess and is able to, with little effort seduce his prey into debaucherously James Bond style, glorious masculine fucking. He recreated it, we brought it.

I understand how.

What girl hasn’t dreamed of the prince upon the white horse, galloping in and just knowing that his true loves kiss will eradicate the spell and lead us to living happily ever after? We are spoon fed this fantasy, this dream of the perfect prince coming into our lives and just knowing everything about us and knowing what to do with us.

Again he recreated it, we brought it.

I understand how.

So where to now?

How can we reposition the social media celebrity, their influence and power in our space?

How can we use what has happened to this victim and to any other to try and minimise it from occurring again? Because to disconnect the power of the social media celebrity from this would be disingenuous. He sold us his snake oil and we offered him up the platform to do so! Ohhh we mocked him and his pathetic prose and grandiose sense of self. But most of us, including myself, didn’t have the balls to stand up and do any more. Ohhh I went to the police with what I knew, but I chose to come back into his space, knowing how he used it. Watching the next part unfold, concluding in this last instalment of “the wolf files”.

We are a product of our culture. We’ve all liked and commented on, watched, read and written ourselves products like his. I have. I’m guilty of participating in this culture that enabled him to believe that his choices were right.

So don’t we all now have a responsibility to challenge our own conceptualisations of kink? To question the messages that K&P, porn, erotica and our own social media usage, are selling us. New and old alike.

I don’t know the answer. I don’t know what to do next. I don’t know how to reconcile the need for social media with the overwhelming influence and personality it creates. Maybe there isn’t an answer. Maybe the way that social media catapults ordinary into these positions of power and influence is just something that we are going to have to learn to live with. That people are going to get hurt, women are going to get raped.

But I have to believe that there is something to do next.

 

 

 

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!
 

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!