We already know. We already don’t want to know.

[CN: rape, rape culture, police violence]


venice2

In Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities, Marco Polo describes 55 cities he has seen on his journeys to an aging Kublai Khan. His descriptions are lyrical imaginings of cities that are fantastical and impossible.

Late in the book, the Khan points out that the explorer has yet to mention Venice:

 Marco smiled. ‘What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?’

The emperor did not turn a hair. ‘And yet I have never heard you mention that name.’

And Polo said: ‘Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice. Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased. Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it. Or, perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.’

Like Marco Polo, I never mention Venice.

And Venice runs beneath everything that I say.

venicegondola

Three days ago, the Associated Press released the results of a year-long investigation of sexual misconduct by US law enforcement. Counting only those who lost their badges (how many did not?), counting only those in states that track it (how many missed from New York and California?), not counting those the states themselves did not count (how many headlines missing from the statistics?), not counting those whose misdeeds were never reported (how many fear reporting police to police?) — in six years, one thousand officers lost their badges.

1,000 officers. Not 1,000 violations.

How many victims does that math work out to?

Do you really want to know?

Two days ago, the trial of former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw began. Holtzclaw is charged with rape, sexual battery, and stalking, among other crimes. He faces 36 charges, related to 13 victims. (care to revisit the math above?) When he was initially charged, there were seven identified victims; others came forward after seeing reports on the news. (how many do not watch the news?) The six-month investigation began with only one woman, reporting only one crime. The rest of the case built as police looked for other victims…and found them. (who already knew that ‘one’ always means ‘more’?)

The woman who reported Holtzclaw, a 57yo grandmother identified only as J.L., did not already have a record, as his other victims did. (rape or imprisonment, which do you choose) J.L. did not live in the poor neighborhood he targeted; she was only driving through. (blow job or death, which frightens you more) Holtzclaw is on trial today not because he assaulted women, but because the last woman he assaulted was less vulnerable than the first twelve.

When charges were filed last year, The Guardian reported: “All 13 of the victims are black; Holtzclaw is listed as Asian or Pacific Islander in court records. It’s not clear whether race played a role in the alleged crimes.”

How “clear” does something need to be, before we know what we know?

You knew before you read this far in my story, didn’t you, how likely that Holtzclaw’s perfectly-precarious, vulnerable victims would turn out to be black?  Continue reading “We already know. We already don’t want to know.”

Advice for the Unraped, Before Your Next Press Appearance

[CN: rape culture, sexual assault]


I’ll get to Damon Wayans — and his recent, egregious comments on Bill Cosby — in a moment. I’d like to start with a dim memory of a personal essay I read almost two decades ago.

The essay’s author was a man whose girlfriend had been raped by a stranger in a violent assault and who decides to return with her to the scene of the attack so she can show him, step-by-step, blow-by-blow,  what she endured. He agrees to this, hoping a controlled reenactment will help in her recovery…and fearing what he will discover about himself in the process. In going to this dark place, he worries, will he feel what her rapist felt? Will he be confronted by his own capacity to be a rapist?

Yet during the reenactment, the author comes to understand not “I too could be a rapist” — but “I too could be a victim.”

I still remember this insight as a stunning moment of empathy and vulnerability, all these years later. I’m going to ask you to remember too, because I’ll be coming back to this in a moment.

But first I’m gonna talk about Mr. Wayans.

Sigh.

* * *

(youtube screen capture via)
Damon Wayans being interviewed on Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club (youtube screen capture via)

In the last five minutes or so of a half-hour interview Wayans did on Friday on Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, he was asked to weigh in on Bill Cosby and the nearly 50 women alleging they were sexually assaulted by the comic. If you have seen any reporting on this interview — even if you didn’t read beyond the headline — chances are you have already seen the worst of Wayans’ rape denialism: how the victims are too ugly to be believed. They all look “unrapeable” to him.

Sigh.

Look, if you are filled with umbrage at this comment — if the very idea of using one’s mouth to form the syllables of “unrapeable” raises bile in your throat — I get it. Oh how I get it. If that’s where you’re at today, I’m fully sympathetic.

I’m also tired.

As Kirsten West Savali points out, this is Rape Culture 101-level bullshit, spewed by a “self-proclaimed funny-man in the last gasp of relevancy.” In fact, the whole five minutes could run as a Thought Catalog listicle: 12 Quick and Terrible Ways to Support the Rapists in Your Life — While Undermining Their Victims!  Continue reading “Advice for the Unraped, Before Your Next Press Appearance”

In which I decide I need to SAY IT AGAIN.

I woke up thinking about rape again (the way one does) and pondering my favorite insomnia-producing question: “What does it take to get people to believe rape survivors?”

Which is a variation on another question I think about, any time my blood pressure threatens to drop below aneurysm-inducing levels: “Why don’t men believe women?” The issues are related, not because men are never victims or women are never assailants, but because — okay, that’s for another post on another day. (And if you’re truly confused about the connection between rape culture and misogyny/sexism, well…you may wanna pause here to take a few deep, grounding breaths before reading on.)

#YesAllWomen, according to #NotAllMen
#YesAllWomen, according to #NotAllMen

I mean, How Very Nice that Heisman Trophy winner, top NFL pick, and accused rapist Jameis Winston is now giving inspiring speeches to middle schoolers, but wouldn’t it have been even nicer if the Tallahassee Police Department had believed the young woman who came to them 2½ years ago — and told them she had been raped only an hour earlier?

A full and timely investigation might have, at the very least, spared young Jameis the embarrassment of publicly claiming that being falsely accused of rape is a violent act of victimization equivalent to being raped oneself. (Yeah — but no, Jameis. Just no.)

[“YEAH-BUT-NO TO YOU, ALICE!” yells the strawman rape denier/enabler in my head. “IT’S ALL ‘HE SAID-SHE SAID’! WHY SHOULDN’T I BE SKEPTICAL! IT’S NOT LIKE THERE’S SOME LIST OF CASES DOCUMENTING A SIGNIFICANT AND LONG-STANDING PATTERN OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYERS HAVING A DICEY GRASP ON WHAT ‘CONSENTING ADULTS ONLY’ MEANS!”

Um. Here ya go, Strawman Rape Denier. (And thank you, Jessica Luther, for making my job so much easier!)]

Just keeping you informed about my upcoming intentions.
Just keeping you informed about my intentions.

What does it take for people to believe survivors? I ask again. While Bill Cosby may present an extreme case, the violent aggression and entitlement that supported his predatory behavior occurred not in the unknowable cesspool of a single diseased mind (well — not only) but within a set of cultural norms that encourage and protect such acts, especially for celebrities. [And before you even open your mouth, Strawman Rape Denier, two words: DARREN. SHARPER.]

Continue reading “In which I decide I need to SAY IT AGAIN.”

ffs, Bill Cosby fans — are you really gonna make me write about rape culture? AGAIN??

All evidence to the contrary, I don’t enjoy writing about sexual violence and the cultural systems that nurture and defend it.

I really, really don’t.

I keep a file of topics I might wanna blog about sometime — and it’s FULL of ideas that have nil, zip, zilch, nada to do with rape. Honest. In fact, here’s a sampling of items on that list right now, none of which have the slightest rape-y thing going on:

  • A Dyke By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet
  • I Was a Martian Princess with Big Tits (memoir) [I am definitely writing this story at some point. The final title definitely will — or will not — be this.]
  • Squigged Out by an Old Woman Who Held My Hands in the Cold Meats Aisle
  • Let’s Talk About Nathan. Who Lives in My Bathroom.
  • Something about “Claiming a Dragon.” Because dragon. [I’ll be honest: I have no idea what I was thinking when I added this to the list. But I’m keeping it on there. BECAUSE DRAGON.]

So when I tell you I’d rather be writing today about anything other than how, at a performance Thursday night, Bill Cosby made a rape joke when a woman in the audience stood up to get a drink and the crowd gave him a standing ovation — how I’d rather be writing about dragons or deli meat or dyke solidarity or ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING AT ALL THAT IS NOT RAPE — I want to be sure you understand.

I know Nathan does.

ffs_nathan in the sink

And he’s rooting for dragons. Continue reading “ffs, Bill Cosby fans — are you really gonna make me write about rape culture? AGAIN??”

I’m only gonna say this once, so LISTEN CLOSELY.

[TW for discussion of sexual assault. Most of these links, too, I’m betting. Also: adult language.]


Didja hear about the rape/sexual assault/incest allegations that have been raised about your beloved actor-slash-TV dad/singer/writer/other writer’s husband/other actor-slash-TV dad/director/other director/radio personality? And when you did, whom did you believe?

If you gave credence to the survivors, then we’re good. You can sit this one out. You’re not who I’m talking to.

If, on the other hand, you found yourself thinking, “Wow, I sure hope that’s not true. Of course, there’s no real way to know, so best to remain skeptical. Maybe there was just some miscommunicationI have a lot of questions for those people claiming to have been attacked. I mean, they hardly behaved like Real Victims™. And how terrible for him, if he’s being falsely accused. I’m stumped…but there does seem to be some ‘palpable bitchery’ going onI mean, why didn’t they just speak up at the time? They shoulda reported that to the police, if it really happened. ‘Innocent before proven guilty’ and all…” –I have one message for you:

STFU.

Continue reading “I’m only gonna say this once, so LISTEN CLOSELY.”