Girls Gone Wild Teaches Us That Legally, “No” Doesn’t Mean Lack of Consent

Sexual assault: Any unwanted act of a sexual nature that is imposed on another person.Found a wonderful note in Facebook from 2010. To my knowledge, the legal decision referenced in this note is still in force today. It is a horrifying precedent. Used by permission of the writer.

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NO! A Rape Documentary

This documentary is worth watching, particularly the trailer and several brief video testimonials by rape survivors available there on the home page. It is about rape, violence, and other types of oppression against women.

The film has French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles.

Most Read Post, Most Commented Post and Worst Response Post

Stylized red drawing of a person with upraised armsBy far the most read post is Profile of a Child Molester. No other post has even come close to it in terms of unique viewers. It’s no surprise that that post is also the most commented on the blog. For any period, by any measure, this is the most popular post.

Surprise? The second most commented post on this blog is Marital Rape. This, too, has held consistent over time.

The worst response was to an early post, Street Harassment on Public Transport. As an inexperienced blogger, I got into a fruitless discussion with a reader who was irate that some countries were considering and implementing separate transportation for women since women, of course, are the source of all evil in the universe. I didn’t know then that whether male or female, such readers only feel encouraged by any response you make, and they don’t read anything you write. After learning valuable lessons from the exchange, I ended up deleting the whole conversation from the comments section. Let’s just say it started negatively and went downhill from there. Whee, that was entertaining.

I’ll post occasionally about the most popular topics. Use this as a springboard to suggest ideas or send in questions.

 

Online Safety for Women Bloggers

New category on this blog: Internet safety. We’ll be exploring many facets of this category on the blog in the future. Today, we’ll talk about women bloggers, safety, hate speech, and freedom of speech.

The Experience of Women Bloggers

What happens

Women who blog have been routinely subjected to the kind of sexually based slurs and threats that it’s hard to imagine. If you read the comments section in women’s blogs, you will almost invariably see some sort of slur based purely on the blogger’s sex. This is after she has filtered the comments and not let the worst ones through. When a woman who blogs gets threats through the blog that someone should/wants to/is planning to rape her, mutilate her, or kill her, we have a safety issue.

A typical reaction

It’s very easy for those who don’t face this type of reaction to say, “Well, men get slammed and criticized in their blogs, too. If women can’t take it, they should just get off the Internet.” These aren’t bad people; they’re simply unaware of how different, and how awful, the comments really are on women’s blogs. Whether they’re interested in finding this out is an individual decision.

To equate the garden-variety insults and trolling that everyone gets with the gender-based, women-hating comments that show up on women’s blogs is to be entirely out of touch with what’s really happening. In women’s blogs, these comments are not merely mean naughty insults that hurt people’s fee-fees. They are vile, threatening, and chilling.

Examples

Some articles and real-life examples here and here and here and here. There are many more available with a quick Internet search. See whether these comments toward women look really similar to what you see in the comments section of the typical male blogger. He may get called out on wrong info, heavily engaged on his opinion of the issues, or even called names. But he will probably not have his home address posted in the comments alongside a threat to come and rape him, described graphically and in detail.

Free speech vs. hate speech

Efforts are being made to address this problem, but nothing that would abridge free speech — women bloggers don’t want free speech abridged. They just want to be safe and not have to deal with out-of-control, filthy verbal hatred. The challenge women face on the Internet is that they believe in free speech — even if it means a certain group consistently comes on their blogs and attacks them for being women. The problem is what to do when free speech on a woman’s blog so often devolves into vituperation, filth, and hatred from a small but vocal minority, for no other reason than that the blogger is female. The targeting is very specific — women.

Women bloggers will tell you from wisdom and experience that there’s no point in engaging these haters; they won’t change and it will only intensify their threats and the sick cruelty of their comments on the blog.

The only real solution is to block their comments or IP, and many women bloggers find that a number of haters simply sign up for another email account or uses another computer and come right back. In the meantime, more haters have found the blog by then. So she’s dealing with a constant stream of the worst ideas that can come into the heads of woman-haters. And the worst ideas are as bad as you can imagine.

But when do threats cross over into real danger? At what point does vituperative gender-based venting become hate speech? Many women bloggers can answer that question specifically, using comments on their own blogs as examples. But because we all –women included — want the Internet to continue to be a free and open exchange, we all — men included — face this problem.

Until men as a gender realize and accept the level of hate and danger that women bloggers as a gender face, we won’t all be united in combating people whose hate seems to utterly control them. I think many people don’t realize just how much those few bad eggs really, really, really hate women.

But it’s just talk

It may only be a matter of time before we start seeing news stories of these threats being actually carried out. It is my own hope that the haters are cowards who spew bile and muck online but won’t take action. Even so, no one should have to tolerate that kind of unbridled hate speech. And it is hate speech, even if in the interest of free speech we never decide to classify it that way. We, all of us, don’t want to find out whether a threat is credible only by reading about it afterward in the next morning’s paper.

Ideally, people would want to mature, would get psychological help, would do whatever it took to work past their hatred of women so that we didn’t have this terrible choice between free speech and just spewing uncontrolled hatred on women bloggers. I believe, and other women have said, that free speech is more important.

It’s shameful that a small group has to pay such a high price on behalf of everyone online in order to help preserve free speech. And women bloggers are paying that price to support free speech, in which they firmly believe. It would be great for them to hear and know that others are cognizant of the price they’re paying and the hatred and danger they’re coping with in order to make sure we all have a free place to speak and be heard — even those who post hate speech and least deserve that freedom.

Take a first step

What can we do? This is not a rhetorical question, but a real one. I’d like to hear your ideas, suggestions, and comments. (Be forewarned that comments that dismiss, derail, blame, or are hostile will not be posted.) We’re looking for comments here that are productive, generate more thinking and ideas, and/or support bloggers who have experienced this level of hatred and hostility. So really, what can we do to combat this?

Thanks, bloggers! You rock.

New Stuff in the Media

Today I have time to post some articles and things that are relevant to the topics we discuss here. I collect links to data, articles, and resources that would be good to use on this blog, so you may see some of these materials explored more in 2012 posts. Survivors, please note that there may possibly be triggers in these pieces, especially in the comments sections.

Thanks for checking in today. The next installment of the series on what to do if you suspect your SO of sexually assaulting a child is in progress and should be up by the end of the evening today. (I go late into the evening.)

Street Harassment on Public Transport: India, Brazil, Japan, and even Mexico Top the U.S.

Man accosting woman who is trying to ignore himRead “Mexico City Introduces Women-Only Buses to Deter Groping.” I don’t know what it’s like in your country, but here in the U.S. it seems that taking real steps against street harassment is faintly gauche. There’s a subtle attitude that “hey, the occasional jerk is unfortunate, but nice women toughen up and put up with it.” There’s a subtle implication that a woman who speaks up is oversensitive or immature, and that classy, strong women just stride through the barrage of harassment and ignore it. There’s so much wrong with that line of thinking that it’s hard to know where to start.

I’d love to see optional separate public transportation here in the U.S. A comment I hear from women who commute on public transportation is that “the best you can hope for is to be ignored because the men won’t call each other on that kind of stuff.” In this reality, separate transportation is a superior alternative.

Someone on another blog referenced a street harassment movie about 90 minutes long called “War Zone,” by Maggie Hadleigh West. Here’s the intro on YouTube. (The article that originally referenced this movie is here and also in the blogroll.) Here’s the intro on MySpaceTV Videos.

I found it extremely uncomfortable to watch this movie even though it’s mostly just people talking to each other, and even though I’m a woman myself. We have such an enculturated resistance to the idea of women verbally confronting men over street harassment that even I as a woman have a hard time watching it being done (although it’s empowering–I can’t remember ever seeing it done in real life). So I can imagine how uncomfortable a man might feel while viewing this film. Male or female, I admire you if you watch it. It just is not easy to watch.

According to articles, the film has generated heat, debate, and attention wherever it is shown. This is the type of movie in which it doesn’t matter how exactly the footage captures reality–some people are going to dismiss it out of hand. That, too, is reality.

Given that reality, what can both sexes do to combat street harassment? It includes staring, leering, the elevator stare (a leisurely stare up and down a woman’s body), groping, deliberately brushing or bumping a woman, cursing, whistling, propositioning, rating a woman’s body (“Hey baby, you’re gorgeous”) as if she’s public property to judge, etc.

What can we do about this? What ideas do you have as readers? What experiences have you had with street harassment–whether you’ve done it yourself or had it done to you? Share the wealth of your experience here. Keep in mind the commenting guidelines.

[2012 update: I saw one of our commenters had started a street harassment website back in 2008, Stop Street Harassment. It seems good to post the link here. It is still up and active.]

For the Record: A Letter to My Male Friends

Dear Men, our friends,

You are the good guys. We women know you’re out there. Having written all these posts about attacks and violence between the sexes, I’m feeling dragged down and depressed about the relationships between men and women. As male readers, you’re probably not feeling the love either.

So here’s the deal. Good guys, we love you and respect you more than you know. You really make our day and make our lives better in so many ways.

We can’t tell who the good guys are are by looking at you. The stranger who comes up to me wanting to kidnap, rape, and murder me looks the same as the stranger who’s offering to load my groceries into my car out of genuine helpfulness. The guy who has just decided to beat me, rape me, or kill me looks exactly like the boyfriend I’ve been dating for three months–oh wait, it is my boyfriend.

The guy who throws me down in the bedroom intending to rape me looks just like my husband (because he is my husband). The person who only wants to chat with me about the book I’m reading while I’m riding public transportation looks just like the guy who intends to rape me when I get off.

I can’t tell whether he’s going to rape me until/unless he rapes me.

So, good guys, I’m telling you about the love so you can feel the love in spite of the fact that many women you see and meet every day are going to be wary of you. They don’t have any reason to be wary of you, but they don’t have any way to know that. Don’t take it personally.

Put yourself in their situation: Women are responsible for their own safety and –if they’re attacked — will be blamed and shamed for not doing everything right. But they’re also expected to be open and friendly to any man they meet — that’s the social expectation. Of course they’re wary. If you’re a good guy, that wariness isn’t about you.

It’s about my safety, maybe even my life. Those are high stakes. Don’t get upset with me for acting in accordance with how high the stakes really are. Bad guys are just as likely to be bigger and stronger than I am as good guys are, and I’d rather not be attacked, raped, or murdered.

It’s probably easy to think that the women in your life overreact. You may not have realized that in order to protect themselves, women have to react to the maximum threat that an unknown man might pose, not to his actual intentions, because a woman has no way of knowing what his true intentions are. Even if a woman knows a man, he could still attack her. (Most male-female rapes are committed by a man the woman knows.)

There needs to be a developed history of consistent good and non-sexist, non-creepy behavior between the two of them, so that the woman can know she’s safe. Keep in mind that if the man rapes a woman, she gets blamed for not being careful enough. This happens even if the rapist ends up in court, which is rare. So encourage her to be careful; don’t ridicule her for being careful.

If you’re trustworthy, if you’re a good guy, you’ll already understand why I’m nervous and wary, and it won’t bother you because you know it isn’t directed at you. It’s directed at Jack the Ripper down the street–who looks like you. Just a guy. No way around that, but I’m open to ideas.

And know how high you, as a good guy, stand in women’s regard. Being a good guy in a sexist society isn’t easy. Your manhood is the real thing. So you get the real respect. I guarantee you that the women around you who have known you longer — they know you’re a good guy.

In return, know that we as women–women as a group–love you and regard you as men. We love your voice, your shoulders, your guy-ness. It’s different. It’s cool. Nothing in our lives as men and women could ever replace the presence of each other (and that still stands no matter what your sexual orientation is; variety is the spice of life).

So don’t read this blog thinking it’s for man-haters or people who sit around looking for more reasons to blame men. Men are awesome, amazing and irreplaceable. There are plenty of haters on both sides of the gender war. My goal with this blog is to help people who are in trouble by providing information.

Sometimes men are stalked or raped or harassed; that’s why many of the resources on this blog are for both sexes. I’m also trying to help the largest possible number of people, and it is true that women are victimized by men in these ways in much greater numbers than the reverse.

Yet I constantly work to maximize the blogroll and other resources that are available for both sexes. If you know of resources I’ve missed that I should post to support men, let me know.

So please continue to stand with us, and we stand with you too. We’re a team, men and women. I’m not made smaller by your strength and dignity, and you’re not made smaller by mine.

OK, that’s my starry-eyed idealist speech for today. If we don’t dream it today, it certainly won’t happen tomorrow. So today, I dream of eradicating sexual assault — for everyone.