Let’s Talk About Rape

Women don’t need climbing ropes, what their their power to SHUT THAT WHOLE THING DOWN

Rape?  On the HomoClimbtastic blog?  Well, there’s enough dispute at the conventions over rape jokes (as there is everywhere else, I’m sure) to make it relevant, but even if it weren’t, I wouldn’t give a shit.  It certainly won’t stop me from writing open letters to Rick Santorum; I don’t care if he releases a 20 page memo with a ten page disclaimer explaining how his views have absolutely nothing to do with fags on rocks.

But if you still feel raw about it, you can just not read the blog, or write your own content for it, either one is ok.  Our standards are low.

On with the column.

* * *

The first boy I ever kissed was a prostitute.

We’ll get back to that.

My last post about feminism had, in a way, remarkable timing—after condemning (albeit sarcastically) women for not throwing down the feminist gauntlet, the recent Facebook-plosion about Representative Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape” not leading to pregnancy caused exactly the Facebook backlash from women that I was eulogizing.  Women, it turns out, will put up with a lot, but you damn well better not fuck with them when it concerns legitimizing rape.

I am excited about this revolt.  Several writers commented that finally we might have something that would be a catalyst for getting women to rally around that whole feminist thing that got set over in the corner somewhere a hundred years ago.  But if that something is going to be rape, (which is fine, because a catalyst can be anything,) we should probably talk about that whole rape thing.

So, with that in mind, I wanted to continue my thoughts from my last blog—the response to Akin hasn’t fully materialized yet.  It’s still shaping up.  I’m hoping I can steer it in a particular direction, which is that rape isn’t about women.

I’ll get back to that.

First, a sidenote/parallel about racism:

Racism has been and continues to be a vehicle of convenience for The Oppressors.   The Civil War offers a great example of this.  The major beneficiaries, the slave owners, didn’t even fight in the damn war.  They sent all the less well-to-do white people off to do it, and the male southern population was decimated (as was much of the north) to protect the financial interests of people they didn’t much care for (typical for a war, I’m aware, but that’s not what I’m getting at).  Poor white people continued to vote for and oppress black people for… well… indefinitely, but that was just the collateral damage to the original goal—economic dominance for a small number of people.  Our slave state, in its beginnings, actually had plenty of enslaved white people, but they kept escaping, what with their tendency to blend in to their surroundings, and thus the slave owners were forced to import more people who looked different and couldn’t as easily duck into a European-colonized settlement.  And thus the holocaust of African-American slavery was born, and racism against darker skinned people in the centuries since: collateral damage.  I bet when I say to picture in your mind, SLAVES!, you don’t imagine white people, do ya?

So now, we have poor white people, who will literally vote against their own welfare benefits.  They’re convinced that they’re getting taxed and undeserving black people are getting the money.  I’ve met these people.  They own a lot of cats.

But that’s kind of the point of racism, and all power brokering, whether on a nationwide scale, in office politics, or in a jail—give some poor bastards slightly more power (or the illusion of) and prestige than the other poor bastards, and nobody will go after the warden.

We all know this, right?

When I hear people talk about rape, it’s very frequently discussed as though it’s some kind of man vs. woman problem, as though rape were the ultimate reification of men’s subjugation of women.  But to put it in those terms is to ignore two pretty obvious points—first, it would run counter to how all of the other major oppression systems work (in which a false power dichotomy is created between two groups, both ultimately victimized by a third), and second, because men are very frequent victims of rape.  At the HC convention, Susan pondered out loud why men “still haven’t figured out yet why rape jokes aren’t funny,” and Connor responded that they just don’t understand the fear of rape because it’s not something they’re exposed to.

I thought of saying, “well, I suppose if you’re lucky,” but that would have been an epic downer and I had a projector to carry or something.  But it did remind me of the many people I know who have been raped.  I contemplate the Hobb’s choice of “do I not fight back and just try to imagine it’s not happening and hope that nothing else happens” vs. “fight like hell, maybe lose half my teeth or potentially get murdered, but make sure I leave enough evidence under my fingernails to send this shitbag to prison.”   I think of the people who were raped by their parents, or other family members.  Or bought from a foreign country as teenagers.  Friends forced to choose between situations, each with a high possibility of rape, weighing the odds.  People who had sex as children to pay for food.  And half of them weren’t women.

But we still fall victim to that same trick, that same mass deception, when the subject of rape comes up.  I bet if I said “IMAGINE A RAPE VICTIM!” you probably first imagined an adult woman.  It’s not about women, at least, no more than racism was about black people.  It’s about power, and people with power are greedy, and they don’t make a habit of letting a big swath of the population go about having it, intentional or no.  This is the great con of oppression, and since people don’t always follow me because I’m so funny-funny-ha-ha about everything, I’m just going to state it bluntly, that when I said straight people were harmed by heterosexism, and men harmed by anti-feminism, I meant it.  It’s hard to grasp because there is no straight white protestant non-disabled male happily wielding his privilege and laughing his way to the bank—these are just the dynamics of power, with indifferentiable masses of people exploiting them for their own gain whenever possible.  Sometimes they’re us.  The athletic directors at Penn State who covered up multiple shower rapes, and the priests who did the same at the Catholic church, could just as easily have been the victims had they been born fifty years later, and fifty years earlier, some of them were.

I said I would return to the first guy I kissed.

That was back when I was 17.  I had just come out of the closet.  I fled to Atlanta, and found people my own age.  Many of them worked as prostitutes, and started having sex for money around age 14 or 15—I knew them when they were a couple years older, and had found more long-term clients.  They still made quite a bit of money, but not as much as before, when being underage justified a higher hourly rate ($10,000 for a weekend).  One of my friends kissed me out of the blue one day, and I suddenly realized that nobody had ever kissed me before.  And at first I thought it was kind of funny that my first kiss was from a prostitute, and then sad that this was the noun he was reduced to after being disowned by his family and being a teenager needing a way to eat, and then, honored that the first person I kissed was someone who had survived so much.  Although he didn’t describe that trial as though he had been traumatized.  He described it in the same brushed metal tone as the guy I dated who had been violently held down, and forced to sleep on the floor afterward (he had to wait to be driven home, because he had no car and no money).  It was just something that happened, a fact of life, something to get over.  Be a man.  Get over it.  There was no shade of grey delineating which rape was worse than the other, just the flat tone, as though the pitch of rape brought every other emotion into a harmony of nothing.

So when I read these editorials, asking Representative Akin, or worse, men in general, to imagine the trauma of getting raped, my stomach twists up, in the same way that I think a lot of women’s do when they hear men making rape jokes—because a lot of men don’t need to imagine it, and I wonder why some writers still buy into that false dichotomy in these discussions.  Eve Ensler wrote to Representative Akin:

You used the expression “legitimate” rape as if to imply there were such a thing as “illegitimate” rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.

I would bet ten million dollars that Eve Ensler did not intend her statement to read out male rape victims, and elsewhere she uses the phrase “person” so I am taking her out of context and strawmanning her statement, but it parallels how we all (including me!) take shortcuts when we talk and think about this.  But we should stop.  To discuss men as bystanders in the rape discussion retreads male victims’ feelings that as men, they simply can’t be raped, and if they were, they were weak for having failed to avoid it.

That’s not to say that the biggest losers in this particular dynamic aren’t women.  There are places where you can’t get an abortion without parental consent, even if a paternity test would show the person you’d need consent from was the father, as I learned from a friend who had a daughter at 15. Her story seemed the most depressing, perhaps because of the politicians who had so brazenly enabled her parents to force her to have the baby as punishment for getting pregnant.

But it’s hard to say.  One day I asked my first kiss about his roommate, the one I actually had the crush on and wished had been my first kiss.  (Damn you, love triangles!)  I thought maybe now the first kiss had moved on, and I could move in on the roommate.  The roommate had a face better than James Franco and a black belt and was able to ditch the sex for money thing at the (relatively early) age of 17 when he started building and selling computers on eBay.  “He shot himself in the head. In the bathroom.”  I almost dropped the phone.  I still remember standing on the dam, looking over the lake.  I wondered if his parents knew he was dead, but I didn’t ask.  I only wanted to know because I had fantasies of telling them myself, and that it was all their fault, and that they were horrible people, and then I could throw sand in their eyes and run off.  I would say that you don’t think rationally when you first hear about something like that, but 11 years later, it’s still what I want to do.  I should probably be more productive and blame society and act on that or something.

In any event, in regard to rape, as with all forms of oppression, to paraphrase Pam Spaulding, we’re all in this same fucking lobster pot, friends, and whether we’re near the top of the water or the bottom, we should be attacking the chef.

This is not to suggest that I’m posing this blog post in opposition to the previous one, which argued that women are best served if they brazenly, audaciously, vociferously, explicitly fight on behalf of feminism.  Rather, the point of this sequel is to say that when they do, they’re fighting for everyone.  Not just because we are all potential victims, but also because we already are victims, for the consortium we’ve lost with the people we loved, and for the void below the foundations of our emotional connections with others.

On the subject of rape jokes, the funniest ones I’ve ever heard have been this week.  Highlight: Onion Headline “Pregnant Woman Relieve to Learn Her Rape Was Illegitimate” and the (non satirical article but satirically headlined) “Todd Akin has secured the rapist’s vote, but who else’s?”.  So thank you, Representative Akin, for proving that rape jokes can be funny.  Fuck you for everything else.

Feminism, battered and fried

If your chicken is marinated in pickle juice, what’s the pickle marinated in? Don’t answer that.

Face it ladies: Feminism is dead.

Just the other day, my Facebook dashboard was lit up with protests over Chick-fil-A’s assholery regarding gay people.  Gay people were irate about this excerpt from an interview with the CFA head honcho:

Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position.  “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.

The statement is actually more offensive to women than to gay people.  At least with the gays, Cathy doesn’t take it for granted that gay people are subservient. That’s why he has to throw money at keeping us down!

Let’s go through that second line, slow like…

We are a family-owned business, a family-led business…

Sounds ok so far!  The whole family helps run the family business!  How wholesome!

…and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. [Emphasis mine.]

…and then everything goes to shit.  “We” wasn’t referring to the family–it was referring to the men who run Chick-fil-A!  Where have you been?  And none of them has moved on to their second-or-more wife yet!  Someone bring this man a cookie.  In this sanctimonious parable of biblical business success, it’s just understood that A) women don’t run shit and B) as first wife, your status is “first wife.”  Congratulations, you stove-tending baby-monitor–your husband is giving God thanks that you haven’t turned into an alimony vacuum!  (Find a pool boy.  Immediately.)

Don’t get mad.  Get everything.

No one else seemed troubled by this amid the storm of gay protest.  I’m the guy who, just the other day, told Jonathan, “I’m really driving terrible today.  Still better than any woman.”  And even by my standards, this statement from Cathy was low!

I am above nothing.

I asked Susan, while we were eating at O’Charley’s on the way back from climbing at Fosters, why women had so disastrously failed us all.

“It’s because if you complain about it, you’ll be written off as some screeching, whiny harpy, and nobody will want to hang out with you.  If you try to stake a feminist claim, people will just say you hate men, end of story.  And if you try to do anything serious about it, like sue, you won’t win, so the most you can do is just ignore it, otherwise you’ll go crazy, because you would constantly be angry.”

Was it possible maybe women just didn’t notice the anti-feminist statement from Cathy?

“No, we see that stuff everywhere, all the time.”

And on other climbing trips I’ve taken with women during which I asked about this whole war on women thing, the general feeling seems to be, “I am angry but I’m just not talking about it unless someone specifically asks.”  So, you’re not actually ignoring it, you’re noticing it, you’re just not responding to it, on the basis that if a response isn’t likely to generate change on the part of the attacker, it’s pointless.

Pants with…. no suspenders. Fuck!

It’s not that you, as women, are afraid to stand up and fight for your rights or someone else’s–the Facebook commenters proved that straight women are plenty willing to boycott (and publicly lambast) Chick-fil-A on behalf of gay people, and gay women are plenty willing to boycott Chick-fil-A on behalf of themselves as gay people, but both groups, bizarrely, see doing it on behalf of women as fruitless.

If there’s one thing the gay rights movement proved over the last thirty years, it’s that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and that unending pressure despite overwhelming individual losses (eg. the vast majority of marriage ballot initiatives that failed, the losing BSA lawsuit, the first sodomy SCOTUS case) still generated huge success over the long run. The dark empire might win at court, and at the ballot box, and those Boy Scouts with their faggy uniforms are still banning us, but in the meantime, all your kids are gay, and so is your boyfriend, and your news anchor.  Surprise! The victory for the patriarchy for the last 99 years has been to convince women that they can fight valiantly for any cause, except their own. There are campaigns for things like breast cancer and domestic violence, which almost serve as surrogates to the cause, but nobody seems to spend their time fighting for feminism the way people fight for everything else.  Women will walk 800 5ks for breast cancer before leaning over to protect their vagina.  And rights related to possessing one.

You’re probably wondering by this point, why do YOU (as in me, as in Alex) care? Man? Do you just want to be that guy who’s cool because he’s a guy but he’s still about feminism and therefore deserves a cookie?

No. For one, I don’t even like cookies. Two, the reason I don’t like the whole patriarchy thing is just because it is seriously not working out for me at all.  No one has yet brought me a cute young secretary with cleavage who brings me coffee. When I was educated in school about women’s suffrage in the 1910’s, and how that was basically the conclusion of American feminism, I was like, clearly, I’m supposed to make $100,000 a year upon turning 22 and from then on I’m supposed to never make my own coffee again. Instead, half of my bosses and professors were women, who could be mean to me. And because they made significantly less money than their male counterparts, my bosses and professors were unresponsive to my demands that they bring me coffee. Or at least, I imagine that’s the reason, or they just didn’t know how to get to Starbucks, or maybe they stopped teaching that in woman school.

Perhaps we can reinvent feminism to be about selfishness for everyone, men included. If I’m not getting anything out of this system, other than making 30% more in the event I become a tenured history professor, I would rather just be able to wear eyeliner, because I have no intention of becoming a tenured history professor, and I make a really good Dracula at Halloween. It’s just like heterosexism and straight men. Are you aware of how many straight men feign an interest in televised sports because that’s what they’re supposed to do as straight men? Most of them do not care. When I am with straight men, they breathe a sigh of relief. “You know what I don’t care about?” they tell me. “Sports. I don’t know how many conversations I get into where this string of gibberish I don’t understand is coming out of everyone’s mouth about teams I’ve never heard of and I have to nod my head the whole time.” Bob Costas? He would rather be making biscuits. Straight men are abandoning the heterosexist normative paradigm not because of a sense of social justice, but because finally, finally we’ve presented them an alternative to memorizing batting averages, and it includes the ability to not feel guilty about jerking off their friend while they were drunk in college.

Now, I can’t expect to have any effect on the feminist movement whatsoever, because if lesson #1 in woman school is to not fight in the battle for feminism, lesson #2 is to not let a man tell you to do anything. Y’all will just have to figure that out on your own.

I was convinced there would be a poster warning that woman suffrage would lead to lesbianism, but apparently the terror was that they would be at non-air-conditioned city council meetings.

But I can exert some influence over the queer rights movement, being eleven years into it. Thus, I can make sure we recognize and use again the strategies that have worked, and in particular, kibosh this ridiculous notion that we in any way mishandled the Chick-Fil-A brouhaha. Chick-Fil-A probably won’t go out of business, isn’t likely to reverse course, and the haters had some success in reframing the debate as one about freedom of speech. But we proved that within hours of demonstrated asshattery we can provide a punishing economic disincentive to any major company, and not only flame the hell out of people who are Chick-Fil-A appreciators, even more importantly, we’ll shun the Chick-Fil-A apologists. Even the homos who got all whiney-faced about gay people not acting like genteel southern ladies, and who argued that we should accept the views of The Oppressors, were ripped a new a-hole and, at least on my Facebook, defriended. Some asked, “aren’t there companies and organizations worse than Chick-Fil-A? Like the organizations they were donating to?” And I say, exactly. We didn’t find the most morally reprehensible target–we found the weakest. We didn’t go after the company that was smart about hiding their anti-gay prejudices–we chose the one with the hapless spokesman. And in the food industry, where a minor shift in customer base can wreak havoc. The Boy Scouts came out with their bullshit proclamation within hours of Chick-Fil-A’s hapless interview, but the Boy Scouts own property in perpetuity and are funded by organizations with stronger barriers to economic harm from boycotts or cancelled contracts. We chose our target accordingly. That we have enough people with enough training to steer the movement in such a masterful way during their coffee break, such that our biggest mistake after engineering a massive, well publicized, still ongoing boycott is that the kiss-in didn’t go well enough (for shame!), is pretty good evidence that we have our collective shit together. We even let them believe that they had “reframed” the debate to be one about free speech. The assumption of a free speech argument is that you should be free to say things that are utterly reprehensible, and thus, the talking heads representing both sides were forced to begin with the supposition that Chick-Fil-A’s position was reprehensible. How is THAT for framing, motherfuckers? You just got so reframed you don’t even know how fuckin reframed you got. I would almost go so far as to say that Michelangelo Signorile’s “port mortem on the Chick-Fil-A battle” was a feigned, european soccer player case of crocodile tears just to keep the wool pulled over the eyes of the oppressors so they wouldn’t know how hard we just finished fucking them, but if so, Signorile has been the most dedicated con artist ever.  It would explain why he’s been pretending to be a horrible writer for so many years. (Editor: He’ll be crying real tears if he reads this. Me: He’ll never read this. Editor: I’m guessing he Googles himself frequently. Me: So do I! Editor: Yes, I can see the search reports. Me: You can see those?)

So, ladies–break out the lawsuits and the meme generators. Sure, your lawsuit will probably lose, and the company probably won’t change policy. Your advantage, should you choose to seize it, is that you can count on the oppressors being too clueless to realize that while you were losing the battle, they were losing the war.

Susan B. Anthony ultimately lost at trial and was convicted.

Climbing with existentialists

This post is written by Nathan Tableman–he has a blog at www.tableman.com.  Like many Homo Climbtastic attendees, he got a prestigious degree that he does not use, and works in software infrastructure offshoring or god knows what, and now primarily uses his marine zoology training to maintain his home aquarium.

The sun was setting off in the distance, the sky was orange, the air was humid, we were dripping with sweat and I was worried a 3″ inch spider and his 8 buddies would stay over there. I started to laugh a little and rightfully, Chavez, who I was belaying up a 10 something thin crack with a vicious start asked me, “What’s up? Things ok?”

Chavez

We had both made it up the 9 in the corner about an hour before after I failed to replicate his start and came up with another way to get to the shelf about 8 feet up in the air on the first move.

I replied, “yeah, this is just an amazing moment. I am incredibly happy I came, the sunset if beautiful, and the rock is amazing. I am having the time of my life, I am so glad I came to Homo Climbtastic.”

Nathan

I got a grunt in reply and the rope had a little slack. He had just pulled another move.

It was getting dark. When Chavez arrived at the anchor, we slowly setup everything needed to rap down, double checking work, moving slowly. It was the end of a long day and we both wanted to go back to camp safely. We had decided to do the climb a little alpine style in case Chavez couldn’t do the 10, plus the full exit was this crazy roof corner at 11b.

Climbing is the most physical embodiment of existential philosophy I can think of; to paraphrase Sartre, man makes his own meaning and my absolute favorite, Kierkegaard: “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”

Here is your protagonist in the midst of each passing moment; with the input of the rope, the climb, the spiders, his hands, the conversation, the smell of climbing all day, the heat, the sunset…it was all far too much to take in and make comprehensive meaning. Instead he focuses on the moment, the feeling of the moment, the happiness, the excitement, the being in the life he is leading. Here on the rock. Focused. The rest, the enormous details, to be recorded using the sensitive emulsion of the mind, archived for tales to be told later and deeper meaning to be extracted, created, and refined over a lifetime.

The conversation continued as I said, “What is funny, is that I was thinking of not coming because I am that classic tech-geek-nerd-introvert who can easily spend 5 days reading and not notice anyone else.” I think Chavez replied, “Well I am glad you decided to come and not be anti-social.”

Out of mind

In retrospect, I didn’t really mean what came out of my mouth, but we were both getting hungry and it didn’t really matter at this point.

Earlier that day, before the rain, I was with Joe, Jeremy, Henry, and others at Beauty Mountain working on a 10 start when Jamie chimed in with some beta on how to handle the move and setup the rest of the climb. The conversation started, if I recall correctly, because I liked the pink toe nail polish Jamie had on. The beta was spot on and I nailed the start first try the next time I did it. Later in the trip I would find myself having a conversation out front of the bar where I asked her a million questions about crack climbing, because I had done a couple crack climbs and found myself becoming very into it. The holds and style were completely new to me and it lit up my brain.

Joe, Jeremy

I am a newish climber, my first trad lead was in March of 2012. I had top roped before outside a couple times, and about 9 months of gym climbing. Nearly all of my experience is at The Gunks, not vertical crack land. I have some alpine routes under my belt as well, up in Maine at Katahdin and Whitney-Gilman (um, I lead the Pipe Pitch!) and other routes at Cannon Mtn in NH, but again not like these successive one pitch fun cracks starting at 8 and heading upwards.

Henry

Jamie said to me, “I noticed that your crew was a set of incredibly analytical climbers. Analytical climbers love cracks and cracks love them.” She then went on to teach me some good hold techniques to try amongst other great tips and tricks. On the side I mentioned I had googled her earlier, knowing she was formerly known as Jim Logan, she is incredibly famous climber and an accomplished architect, but was more than modest when I said, “it isn’t every day a guy like me gets beta and lessons from like likes of Jim Logan!”

Nathan belaying

Earlier in the year when I thought about coming on this trip, I was nervous about the idea of not climbing at an ability level that would make it fun and throwing myself into a mass of strangers. However, as I climbed each weekend somewhere outside, anywhere outside, I found myself able to lead and follow routes that would make this possible. Moreover, I soon realized that climbers are weird people. It was like that children’s book where the bird tries to find what kind he is. I am weird. I accepted this at 6 when walking on a family friend’s farm and said friend warned me, “Do not bother desiring normal, you will never be normal. The sooner you accept this, the happier you will be.”

Hell, being gay, lesbian, trans, whatever you are, makes us all acutely aware we are different. Sometimes too often. But in the end, I thought; I like to climb. Maybe these people will be weird and like to climb like me. Worth a shot. I am going.

Jeremy, Nathan

I hope this is not shocking to anyone: Every single person I met was weird and thank goodness for that!!! The denouement; the conversation where some of us were talking about how the world is not designed for oddballs. We are all supposed to play by the rules and being gay means you opt out in some ways and that is liberating.

Walking with Joe over to Happy Hands (another crack!) and without thinking too hard, I went on up. Sun dappling the crag, and thinking to myself that trad lead 9’s are work for me when they are not cracks, let’s see about this one. I was pretty certain the crux was about 75% up where the wall got smooth and the crack opened up wider. My hands were wet and I chalked up often to keep them as sticky as I could and because I was nervous. I notice I chalk a lot when thinking about a hard move. The heat was stiffing, but I was feeling good.

I did it. Yeah, done.

Joe had to clean some of my gear that I got stuck, for which I still owe him a beer or two. Thanks Joe! Other than that it was awesome. One more crack, done…

In our own little trad world, we recognized the time and packed up to get back to camp, clean up and attend the presentations and festivities for the evening. I, along with many others, would be heading out in the morning. It was like summer camp was over and real life was waiting for us at home. I hadn’t put on real clothing, nor real shoes, all week. I had little desire to change that.

Jeremy at Cantrell’s campground