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.
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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.