Archive for the ‘Gender Violence’ Category

I first wrote critiquing the concept of ‘rape culture’ back in 2010 when I still identified as a feminist, of sorts. Below is a version of one of my posts on the topic, published by  Arts and Opinion and  A Voice For Men in 2012. My thoughts on ‘rape culture’ have evolved since, but I stand by my main arguments. I will revisit the subject in the coming weeks, in the light of recent coverage of rape and ‘rape culture’ in the more mainstream media.

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I didn’t enjoy being stalked by my ex-boyfriend, and then having him break into my house, threaten to kill me and then assault me. I didn’t enjoy it at all. Sometimes I call that night, over ten years ago now, as ‘the day I became a feminist.’

I was already a feminist. My Mum and her Mum were feminists. I was born into it. So I never really had to think too much until he stood over me, his hands round my neck, squeezing, telling me what a bitch I was. I never had to think what ‘being a woman’ or ‘being a feminist’ means. I will give him that. He and his violence really got me thinking.

After my assault, and my lonely journey through the legal procedure that followed, I naively thought I might be able to share some sisterhood and solidarity with other women who’d suffered violent attacks, including domestic violence and rape. But when I have tried to connect with women who campaign on violence against women, I repeatedly get told that because I have not been raped, I have no right to talk on this issue or to try and empathize with women who have. Rape seems to hold a special symbolic position in the minds of these feminists and is treated as worse — but also somehow better — than all other violent crimes.

The term used to demonstrate the privileged position rape holds in feminist discourse is ‘rape culture.’ According to Melissa McEwan:

‘Rape culture is the myriad ways in which rape is tacitly and overtly abetted and encouraged having saturated every corner of our culture so thoroughly that people can’t easily wrap their heads around what the rape culture actually is.’

Far more important than my own feeling of exclusion from feminist campaigns and groupings around gender violence is the countless number of other people who get attacked and killed in our society, who are not acknowledged by the concept of rape culture. Have you ever heard a feminist say that we live in transphobic assault culture? Or murder of young black men culture? Or homophobia culture? Or even domestic violence culture? I haven’t. Incidentally domestic violence is far more common than rape, and can also include rape. But it just doesn’t seem to impress the feminists who believe in rape culture. They are welcome to their victim top trumps, but I am not playing anymore.

When I say rape is privileged in feminist discourse, I don’t mean that it benefits anybody. I believe that by focusing on the centrality of rape in our culture, feminists are actually making it more difficult for all of us to campaign against all forms of gendered violence in society.

Trying to work out why these feminists do this is difficult. My instinct is that holding onto special victim status has some pay offs for feminists. They can continue to present gender politics as a binary opposition between men (potential rapists) and women (perpetual potential victims of rape). Basically, the concept of rape culture is misandrist, and it does not allow for the fact that women are sometimes perpetrators of sexual assault, and men are sometimes on the receiving end.

I’d like to quote somebody who left a comment on a previous essay of mine about this topic. This woman is a survivor of rape, so the rad-fems won’t be able to dismiss her critique of rape culture the way they do mine:

‘This mythologizing of rape is still rooted in the whole “pedestal” complex, IMHO, and thus rapists are EVIL and women who get raped are spiritually/psychologically disfigured for LIFE and blah blah blah. The “rape culture” paradigm, while clearly meant as helpful critique and containing valuable cultural insight, seems to carry on that tradition.’

The term rapist is one I am not comfortable with using at all, if I can help it. I know I am in a tiny minority, as I see the word splashed across the newspapers on a regular basis, and I hear it being used widely in conversations about rape. The reason I don’t like the word rapist is that I think it serves to undermine our attempts to tackle rape and sexual violence. This is because it pathologizes people who commit rape, portraying them in our culture as monsters and hate figures’ This leads to a situation where we place rapists pretty near the top of a hierarchy of evil characters (maybe just behind pedophiles), so that in fact, it is actually very difficult to prosecute for rape. If rapists are these inhuman monstrous characters, it is not surprising that courts up and down the country are reluctant to convict the thousands of people who commit rape each year.

I have received criticism for my view, particularly from feminists who argue that survivors of sexual violence need the term rapist to enable them to name their attacker, proceed with seeking justice and ultimately to get over their ordeal. But I believe that just as we have changed our terminology from talking about victims to survivors of rape, we also need to change how we label perpetrators. When I hear the word rapist I think of a man, and not a man who is capable of change, of reflection. We have to speak about and talk to men who commit sexual assault as if they are able to change, and we also must acknowledge men are not the only perpetrators, if we want to reduce sexual and intimate partner violence in society.

‘Rape Culture’ is a myth. I reject it outright.

Full disclosure: I am a full-blown, perverse, emotional and sometimes physical masochist.

To be honest, I – and  Freud – think masochism is actually an aspect of all of our psyches and sexualities. Maybe to a greater or lesser degree depending on the person, but on some level or another we can all relate to the lyric ‘it hurts so good’.

Despite (or because of?) its ubiquity,  ‘masochism’ is often presented in our culture in the negative; it is pathologised. The recent reactions to some tweets from young women Chris Brown fans that had been collected together and circulated round the net are a good example of this pathologisation of masochism.

Responses ranged from the succinct:

to the ideological:

But the one I found the most insulting was from a journalist writing in Slate Magazine . He wrote:

“Dude, Chris Brown can punch me in the face as much as he wants to, just as long as he kisses it. (:”

‘The line above is just one of many similarly disturbing tweets that female fans of Chris Brown posted in response to his controversial inclusion in Sunday night’s Grammy Awards performance lineup. Apparently, the fact that Brown violently attacked his then-girlfriend Rihanna on the eve of the Grammy’s just three years ago does not give these women pause—the singer’s attractiveness overrides all that.

‘… others have alreadyastutely pointed out how it exposes our society’s willingness to downplay domestic violence in favor of our fetish for a good redemption narrative…as we puzzle over the psychological misfiring necessary to produce these statements…consider…this kind of dangerous masochism….’

‘Dangerous masochism’ is a telling phrase. It suggests that masochistic urges and fantasies, as expressed by those young women, is a Bad Thing. The article, along with countless other commentators, not only condemn Chris Brown, but also people who show a desire to be dominated and hurt – masochists.

I do not defend the actions of Mr Brown. I do not think he should be committed to a life of isolation as a result of his crime though. And I have no interest in his ‘redemption’ or otherwise. But I do defend the right of people to express their sexual desires without judgement. And, I thought gay men (the journalist is I think gay and he likens women’s masochism to that of gay men) of all people would too.

A gay man who I have a lot of respect for, who runs a cracking tumblr blog, How Upsetting, had this to say about Chris Brown back in Spring 2011:

‘The willingness of people to ignore Chris Brown’s violence is a sad indictment of our society’s attitude towards domestic violence. I wrote on Twitter previously – society will have reached a good place when domestic violence is viewed in the same light as paedophilia. Completely beyond the pale.’

Whilst I agree that domestic violence should not be hidden and treated as a trivial issue, I do not think it should be viewed in the same light as paedophilia. In fact, I do not even think paedophilia should even be seen in quite such a dim light as it is.

This demonising of people’s sexual urges as well as their acts, and making monsters out of men, is precisely the process whereby homosexuality has been presented as a disease and a ‘sin’. Of course, I differentiate between consensual sexual activity and non-consent, but I do not think turning people who are involved in sexual and domestic ‘abuse’ should be turned into a ‘type’. A type that is worthy of judgement and damnation.

And, again, Freud (and Foucault) agrees with me. His work on infantile sexuality has shown that whilst the power dynamics between adults and children are obvious, children do have their own autonomous sexual urges and desires. And, the fact the age of consent is different in different countries and different time periods shows that the very concept of ‘childhood’ is not fixed but changeable.

http://howupsetting.tumblr.com/post/3781644541/the-redemption-of-chris-brown-that-wasnt

But I am not here to defend paedophiles or people who beat up their partners non-consensually. I am here to defend masochism.

Somebody else who defended masochism was Anita Phillips. In a review of her book, In Defence Of Masochism, Mark Simpson wrote that masochism has been elevated

‘to a kind of super-heroism; how long before we hear lit­tle boys whin­ing: ‘Mum, can I have a leather har­ness and cling-film cape for Xmas, please?’.

Which almost begs the point of a book with the name In Defence of Masochism. How­ever, a recent Euro­pean Court rul­ing asserted that assault can­not be con­sented to (which means, of course, an end to box­ing, surgery and sup­port­ing Arse­nal) sug­gests that there is still an argu­ment to be made. And, even if most peo­ple who don’t wear wigs and sus­penders for a liv­ing are more laid back about the issue, there are still a num­ber of com­mon mis­con­cep­tions and prej­u­dices about masochism — most of which Anita Phillips dis­patches here with aplomb. Most notably, the idea that masochism is always some­one else’s per­ver­sion. Phillips inves­ti­gates, via Freud and Amer­i­can aca­d­e­mic Leo Bersani the uni­ver­sal­ity of masochis­tic impulses, the thin line between plea­sure and pain, and shows how the cur­dling of these impulses into a con­di­tion and a type changed what it means to be human.’

I think those young women saying they wanted to be beaten by Chris Brown were simply being ‘human’ and the reactions to their comments were presenting them as ‘inhuman’. I have had a similar experience of being ‘dehumanised’ as a result of being the ‘victim’ of domestic violence. Once I was stood in the magistrates court, trying to secure an injunction against my ex who had previously stalked me and broken into my house to beat me up, I could not explain that actually, at one point in our relationship, it ‘hurt so good’. That would have lost me my case. So I had to deny an aspect of myself in order to ensure my own safety.

Now I am no longer in the courtroom I still feel judged about my sexuality. When I tried to explain this to people on twitter who were condemning Chris Brown, and the women who tweeted in support of him, I was told my personal experience is ‘irrelevant’. Well, it is relevant to me. And it is relevant in forming my views on those young women, on Rihanna’s relationship with Chris Brown, and on feminism in general.

As Simpson wrote in response to Philips’ book:

‘Masochism’ is one of the inven­tions of late nine­teenth cen­tury sex­ol­ogy in the Gothic shape of Baron Dr Richard Von Kraft-Ebing. It was only ever intended to apply to men; women were ‘nat­u­rally’ masochis­tic, so plea­sure in pain on their part was not ‘per­verse’ and there­fore not a prob­lem to be explained or pathol­o­gised. This was part of a shift in gen­der roles in the West in the Nine­teenth Cen­tury which was con­cerned with, we are told, insti­tu­tion­al­is­ing women’s sub­ju­ga­tion. As Phillips points out, ‘Dante’s ordeal in the Inferno to be reunited with Beat­rice, to John Donne’s love poetry, sac­ri­fi­cial mas­cu­line love has been a cru­cial theme, only in this [20th] cen­tury has what for many cen­turies seemed the nat­ural, desir­able form of male love been rede­fined as effem­i­nate per­ver­sity, masochism.’

Phillips believes that this refor­mu­la­tion of male iden­tity that excluded masochism made mas­culin­ity ‘bla­tantly misog­y­nisitc, emo­tion­ally inept and homo­pho­bic’. She also believes that it was this new mas­culin­ity which led in part to the ‘cor­rec­tive’ of fem­i­nism. Iron­i­cally, the exclu­sion of masochism from the male psy­che has pro­duced a pub­lic sce­nario of their pun­ish­ment and chas­tise­ment by women which con­tin­ues today. The fem­i­nist is Ms Whiplash.’

So I think presenting ‘dangerous masochism’ as a problem confined to ‘oppressed’ women reinforces the gender binary, and the culture in which men are presented as sadists to victimised women.

Whilst I am sure people reading this might say, ‘yes, but this was a crime, not the consensual actions of a couple engaging in S and M’ I don’t remember seeing those people celebrating consensual S and M relationships. The only time this topic gets raised in most circles seems to be when someone gets badly hurt against their will (usually a woman), or when it results in a court case.

The people who have rushed to pass judgement on those young women, I do not think are helping those or other young people be open about their sexual feelings, which, if Freud, Simpson and I are to be believed, inevitably will include masochism.

And in their crusade against Brown, which, incidentally does not seem to take into account the feelings or voice of Rihanna, they are, in my view, on a hiding to nothing.

https://quietgirlriot.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/rude-boyrude-girl-2/

http://www.queerty.com/in-your-face-ad-addresses-issue-of-male-rape-and-sexual-abuse-20120208/

On seeing this promo poster for a rape survivors campaign, my initial reaction was: [redacted].

But that seems to be my reaction to everything to do with masculinity these days. So I thought I’d put this one to you, dear QRG readers, and ask you what you think of the ‘real men get raped’ campaign?

I had the beginnings of a twitter argument last night, on a subject that is dear to my heart: Objectification.

@BigdaddyKeltik who is a trans man and a feminist said:

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‘Objectifying women = rape culture’.

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I find this view offensive, as a WOMAN! And Keltik is big on ‘calling out’ when someone says something offensive. Here I am. Calling him out.

First – if objectifying women is equal to and part of ‘rape culture’ how does objectifying men fit in?

Keltik has a lot of objectified images on his blogs. So his opposition to ‘objectification’ seems weak. Here are two, one of a woman one of a man:

http://keltik.tumblr.com/post/16808326143/billycastro-boxing-series-by-courtney-trouble

http://keltik.tumblr.com/post/16083412189/themadnessislaughing-brandiesontherocks

Mark Simpson has written recently in The Guardian, in defence of men’s objectification, and throughout his metrosexual theorist career.

So men’s objectification is as important as women’s but feminists never mention it!

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Second: Imposing the concept of ‘rape culture’ on me and all other people serves to ‘objectify’ us in a very bad way. Women are reduced to poor, helpless victims and men become nasty predators. I have written against the idea of rape culture at the good men project and other places.

Third: How does objectification prove ‘rape culture’ exists? As another person from twitter commented by email:

‘He [Keltik] is confusing causal links. In so-called rape culture, women would be objects, but if women are objects it doesn’t mean that we have/it leads to so-called rape culture. If it has been raining, the floor will be wet but if the floor is wet it doesn’t mean it has been raining – someone could’ve thrown a bucket of water out’.

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Maybe as a trans man Keltik feels able to disassociate himself from those nasty predatory ‘men’. And also from those poor helpless victims ‘women’. But I can’t. And I feel upset and judged by his words.

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If Keltik respects Mark Simpson then I hope he at least reads Simpson’s Guardian article before he rushes to accuse men of ‘objectifying’ women alone. Some men are homos for a start! And, as Simpson writes, metrosexuality is all about men objectifying themselves and each other

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I sent the above comments in an email to Simpson, Keltik and others. Following my email Mark responded to a comment on his blog, from regular QRG reader, Tim, about David Beckham’s now infamous superbowl ad. Mark said:

‘Amer­i­can fem­i­nists have sci­en­tif­i­cally proven that male objec­ti­fi­ca­tion doesn’t exist. Or if it does it is in no way com­pa­ra­ble to female objec­ti­fi­ca­tion because, er, it’s not about women. Even if it’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine how a human being could be more (will­ingly) objec­ti­fied and com­mod­i­fied than David Beckham.’

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Here are some posts by  me on men, women and objectification:

https://quietgirlriot.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/5099/

https://quietgirlriot.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/girls-girls-girls/

https://quietgirlriot.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/miss-representation-how-feminism-misrepresents-objectification/

 

SCUM

Posted: February 4, 2012 in Feminism, Gender Violence
Tags: , ,

From previous conversations with Suzanne Moore, I know she is a fan of Valerie Solanas, author of the SCUM Manifesto, and attempted assassin of Andy Warhol. However, Ms Moore is less generous in her analysis of Roman Polanski, because the violence he has admitted to was ‘rape’.

Last night Suzanne Moore was watching the Late Review show on TV and this conversation ensued:

Speaks for itself really doesn’t it? But I think she is just employing the acceptable prejudice that is misandry. Feminism is full of double standards!

 

This week so far has been all about the men. For once. So I thought I’d share some links to recent articles that examine men and masculinity, not only through the judgemental lens of feminism.

I was delighted to see my favourite writer on men had an article in this week’s Guardian (UK newspaper). He put forward an admirable defence of metrosexual men . The comments below the line, though often quite critical of his ideas, are a good read. And they show to me how a discussion about masculinity is much better quality when it is inspired by a piece of writing by someone who knows what he is talking about (and doesn’t hate men)!

I was also pleased to see the great blog The Spanish Intermission feature a critique of Mark Simpson’s Graun article. Note how he describes me as a ‘pedantic anti-feminist battleship’! I am glad somebody has acknowledged my role in spreading the word about metrosexuality in general, and Simpson’s theories in particular.

Another story that caught my eye this week related to a TV documentary about homosexual men in football. There are still no ‘out’ gay players in British professional football and the reasons for this are complex. Again this is an example of how a sensitive and knowledgeable piece of writing about men and masculinity leads to some intelligent comments BTL.

Then there was the Uni Lads fiasco. A British ‘student’ website sent ripples through the feminist blogosphere when it published some very horrible articles making jokes about rape, disability and men’s sex lives. Of course, the feminasties only focused on the rape jokes. The site took down all its recent content, including some adverts for t-shirts with ‘pro-rape’ slogans on.

But in amongst all the howling and wailing, I noticed a very well argued piece (not about the Uni Lads thing just coincidentally) that criticised the concept of rape culture. It referenced my piece from the Good Men Project on the subject.

All in all, a pretty good week for teh menz!

http://www.salon.com/writer/tracy_clark_flory/

This article in Salon, focusing on rape in the ‘BDSM community’ really got on my nerves. I am going to write a proper post on it but first I thought I’d put it here. If any of you have any observations or thoughts then leave a comment and I can incorporate your ideas into the piece.

On first glance my main issues with the article are:

a) It assumes ‘rape’ is by men of women which demonises men as potential rapists

b) it is heteronormative

c) There are no men’s voices, no quotes from men

d) It is white and middle class – the ‘BDSM community’ does not include everyone who does S and M sex

e) It is all about articulate women lecturing people (men) not having a dialogue.

I return as usual to Mark Simpson and his concept of the feminist as ‘Ms Whiplash':

‘Masochism’ is one of the inventions of late nineteenth century sexology in the Gothic shape of Baron Dr Richard Von Kraft-Ebing. It was only ever intended to apply to men; women were ‘naturally’ masochistic, so pleasure in pain on their part was not ‘perverse’ and therefore not a problem to be explained or pathologised. This was part of a shift in gender roles in the West in the Nineteenth Century which was concerned with, we are told, institutionalising women’s subjugation. As Phillips points out, ‘Dante’s ordeal in the Inferno to be reunited with Beatrice, to John Donne’s love poetry, sacrificial masculine love has been a crucial theme, only in this century has what for many centuries seemed the natural, desirable form of male love been redefined as effeminate perversity, masochism.’

Phillips believes that this reformulation of male identity that excluded masochism made masculinity ‘blatantly misogynisitc, emotionally inept and homophobic’. She also believes that it was this new masculinity which led in part to the ‘corrective’ of feminism. Ironically, the exclusion of masochism from the male psyche has produced a public scenario of their punishment and chastisement by women which continues today. The feminist is Ms Whiplash.’

For a slightly critical but fascinating take on the feminist as ‘ms whiplash’ check out Jay Generally’s series (6 posts) on The Dominatrix:

http://stummyrumblings.blogspot.com/2011/11/essay-on-societal-dominatrix-part-1.html