The Houses with the Signs


#rape #abuse #Trump

It’s a weird time to be living through, this election.

In a month we could have a president who has gleefully admitted to sexual assault, whose ex-wife accused him under oath of brutally raping her. The boring cliche that politicians lie obscures the fact that this particular one utilizes almost every conceivable tactic of psychological abuse, from threats to victim-blaming to gaslighting. Like most rapists and batterers, this one doesn’t limit himself to the kinds of abuse that leave physical scars.

I was driving through a wealthy part of town on my way to see a friend today. I saw Trump sign after Trump sign. A completely ridiculous thought kept popping into my head as I observed the identical blue signs in the fading light: “They think rape is okay.”

House after house of smiling, friendly white people with kids and golden retrievers who think rape is okay.

My high school friends all came from families like these. One of my oldest childhood friends, with whom I’m no longer in touch–his mom has his page liked on Facebook. She is the only person on my friends list who I can safely assume didn’t like the page just to keep tabs on it. She used to take us out for pizza and root beer after ballet class. She thinks rape is okay.

My teenage brother likes Trump. He thinks rape is okay.

He is too young to know what his older sister has gone through. He is old enough to think rape is okay.

Obviously it’s ridiculous. Obviously they don’t literally think rape is okay. Maybe they don’t think he really did it. Maybe they think Crooked Hillary created the tape. (How do you Photoshop a fucking tape?) Maybe they think he did it and it’s awful but what else can ya do when he’s the only one who can make America great again.

But all of that charitable rationalization obscures the fact that there are people who are horrified by the man on that tape and people who are not.

In some of my darkest and craziest intrusive thoughts, I imagine being raped by a stranger on the street, after dark, near one of those houses with the signs. I am convinced that even in that state I would choose a house without a sign to knock on the door and ask for help.

I’m not convinced that the people with the signs understand that rape is real.

I hated him before. I hated him for the racism and the Islamophobia and the fatphobia and the garden-variety sexism and for the homophobic running mate and really for all of it, whether or not it would ever affect me personally. But this is what brings on the ridiculous thoughts about all the houses full of people who think rape is okay, all the people who wouldn’t help me, all the people who, in fact, didn’t.

I think about looking up an old high school friend today on Facebook and finding out that she is dating an old high school boyfriend of mine, who assaulted me over and over during the few months we dated. Nobody knew nearly enough about the dynamics of abuse to even suspect it, and if they had, I’m sure they would’ve blamed me anyway. I didn’t even realize I had been assaulted until years and years later, until quite recently. At some point after the relationship ended, he made fun of me, saying that I’d always “trembled like a scared bunny” whenever we did anything.

I can imagine both of their parents in a neighborhood just like that one, with the signs.

I think about the fact that I can’t vote because the naturalization fees are almost $700.

I think about “sure, Trump’s bad, but I just can’t bring myself to vote for Hillary.”

I think about what it would mean to the women and queers and trans people and survivors in this country for it to be led by someone who cheerfully, repeatedly assaults women.

I think about how I can barely look at people I know or suspect are conservative anymore, because they may think rape is okay.

I think about all the people I grew up with that, after this election, I can no longer trust.

Trump himself may lose and slither back into whatever disgusting sewer he came from, but the people who love him won’t, and I don’t know how I can ever comfortably share a planet with them again.




Escape Routes

#sexualassault #suicide

Sitting in a cab, I wonder how hard it would be to jump out if I needed to, if I noticed that the cab isn’t going the right way. (And do I know the city well enough to tell?) Traffic rarely moves fast here and there are a lot of stoplights, but I’d have to get out of the street fast so he wouldn’t run me over.

I like parties, but even then, I always think about leaving them. I think about when I will leave, who I will say goodbye to, how I will manage their reaction if they feel I am leaving too soon, and what I’ll do when finally, finally I’m alone again.

Whenever I’m in a relationship serious enough that ending it would necessitate a “breakup” rather than a fade-out, I imagine how and why I would initiate a breakup. What would they have to do for me to fall out of love with them, or to leave them despite still being in love? How would I say it? Who, or what, would fill the gaps they would leave in the landscape of my day-to-day life?

I plan my escape from cities, just like my parents did before me. I planned my escape from my American “hometown,” and then from the city in which I went to college, and now from the city I love most. Not because I want to leave, not this time, but because I’m afraid I’ll be forced to.

There was a period of time when I was constantly trying to figure out how to escape from life itself. Things I considered, if not seriously: tall buildings trains pills car crashes illnesses. Although I thought about it a lot, I didn’t actually intend or plan to do it. What I needed was the comfort of knowing that I had a way out.

It is ironic that despite finding change so difficult to cope with, I can sometimes only comfort myself by thinking about leaving or escaping or disappearing. Otherwise it feels like people and places are growing on me like vines, crawling on me like insects, and I need to keep shaking them off.

But in another way, escape is often a matter of survival. In that cab, in that relationship.

Being read female means always having to plan for escape.

But besides, no matter how much I enjoy something, I’m always devoting some little space in the back of my head to plotting escape routes out of it. Whether it’s a car or a room or an event or a relationship, I need to know I am free to leave.

How It Feels To Be A Target

#sexualassault #rape #violence #victimblaming

There’s been a lot of talk of “risk factors” and “safety measures” and “being smart” lately, what with the celebrity nude photo leaks and the “anti-rape” nail polish and the prominent sexual assault and domestic violence cases.

Enough has already been written elsewhere about how much bullshit this all is, but here’s another thing you might not have considered if this doesn’t impact you personally.

The biggest risk factor for sexual assault or any other sexual crime is being perceived as female or feminine. Another big risk factor is lacking relative power in any other way, such as being a child or having a disability.

Do you know how it feels to be a target?

It doesn’t matter what I do. I could try to pass as a man, but even then, I would be a very small man with a body shaped in a “feminine” way. I would be exactly the sort of man that other men target for sexual violence.

I think of Wanda Sykes’ “Detachable Pussy” bit, and even though it’s just a joke, I know that in reality, women without vaginas are probably at even greater risk of violence than those who have them (if they can be read as trans). I imagine what would happen if someone tried to rape me only to find that I had no vagina. He would probably rape me some other way, or just beat me to death.

I already take a lot of those fucked-up “safety measures” they tell me to take, although I know I don’t do nearly “enough” because there’s no way to do “enough” and they’d still find a way to blame me if I got raped. Every time I go outside or attend a social event (especially one that involves alcohol) or socialize with a man, I think about the fact that I am a target. I am a target because I’m perceived as female. I am a target because I’m perceived weak, fuckable, a sexual object. I am not a target because I drink or wear dresses. I am a target because I’m perceived as female.

Do you know how it feels to be a target?

Rape isn’t like robbery or burglary. It isn’t like provoking a hungry wild animal. It isn’t like a car crash. It isn’t like driving drunk (hi Richard Dawkins). It isn’t like getting struck by lighting because you went out in the storm. It isn’t like basically anything else except perhaps a hate crime, because that is essentially what rape is.

I am targeted for rape and other types of sexual violence because I’m perceived as female. The only effective way to protect myself from rape is to not exist in the world while being perceived as female. (And even then, you know, men get raped too.)

Do you have any ideas about how I could do that?

I am patronizingly told that yes, rape culture is a thing, yes, men should be taught not to rape, yes, yes, rape is very very bad and it’s always the rapist’s fault, but




shouldn’t we really be giving ladies the tools they need to stay safe in the meantime after all change doesn’t happen immediately and we can’t just tell all men to stop raping and they’ll stop and yes this is unfair but maybe for now you can just keep yourself from getting raped so that we don’t have to feel bad about this?

Okay, I’ll indulge you. What’s your plan? How long am I supposed to appear outside only with an escort, carry pepper spray and keys between my fingers and a gun that I’ve paid money for and been taught how to use and self-defense training in case I can’t access the gun, wear only baggy clothes, refrain from drinking or dancing or consensual sex or anything else untoward? What’s the timeframe here? How long do I have to do this while you do the work of teaching men that I don’t belong to them? How are you going to teach them that? Where are you getting the funding for these programs? Who will teach law enforcement to take rape accusations seriously? Who will teach coaches, religious leaders, politicians, and other powerful men to stop covering this shit up? How are you going to implement mandatory consent-based sex education at all grade levels?

What’s your plan?

How long do I have to live like a prisoner in this world?

Do you know how it feels to be a target?

Why do straight people think we want to turn them gay?

#homophobia #violence #rape

In general, I think that Freudian defense mechanisms (you know, projection, repression, reaction formation, all those) are the last resort of the entirely unimaginative and unempathic who would nevertheless like to take a shot at explaining human behavior. It’s like the psychology version of the Internet Skeptic shouting out the names of logical fallacies, hoping that something sticks, as his opponent argues him up against the wall.

But if I were to venture and call something a case of projection, it would be the persistence of straight people in claiming that gay people want to turn them gay.

That belief, which can only gain any sort of urgency when one also believes that being gay is awful and no decent person would want to do that to someone else, has been used to justify all sorts of discrimination and prejudice. It was used to justify firing gay teachers, who would presumably use their positions to turn schoolchildren gay. It was used to justify banning same-sex couples from adopting children, because they would obviously raise their children gay. It fuels fears of allowing gay men into traditionally masculine spaces, such as professional sports and the military.

The persistent fear of rape by gay men fuels that too, even though men who rape other men are not necessarily gay and are usually doing it as “punishment” or as part of a display of social power. The implication there is also that being raped by a man automatically makes the victim gay, which is a gruesome misunderstanding of sexual orientation and of rape. The only way to be a gay man is to consider yourself one, and to want sex/romance primarily with other men. Whereas if you are raped, that is not something you wanted or asked for in any way.

If it weren’t so hateful and horrible, I would laugh. Because let me put it to you straight (no pun intended):

Who used medical and psychological “expertise” to define heterosexuality as normal and healthy, and queerness as a mental disorder to be cured?

Who demands that bisexual people just calmly settle down with someone of the “opposite” gender since they have that “option”?

Who uses religious scripture to claim that queer people should pray to be “saved” from their sin, and that they should do their duty by marrying someone of the “opposite” gender and producing children?

Who believes that “corrective rape” can turn a queer person straight–and does it?

Who practices scientifically invalidated, psychologically dangerous “therapy” intended to “convert” queer people into heterosexuality?

Who forces their children to attend such “therapy,” often on the threat of disownment?

Who consistently erases the existence of other sexual orientations through language and media, refusing to display same-sex couples on television, preventing gamers from romancing a same-sex character in a video game, asking women if they have a boyfriend and men if they have a girlfriend?

Who enacts policies banning queer people from telling others of their sexual orientation or displaying it in any way, while straight people get to discuss who they fuck and who they love as much as they want?

Who reacts hatefully, even violently, when a same-sex couple so much as holds hands or shares a quick kiss in public, while straight couples get to publicly make out  and grope each other without so much as a disgusted comment?

Who openly claims that the world would be better without us? Who, in the most extreme cases, commits murder to try and make it so?

We’re not trying to make you gay.

You’re trying to make us straight.

That’s projection. That’s assuming that because you’re so obsessed with changing our sexuality, we must be equally obsessed with changing yours.

To be fair, I (and probably many other people) think the world would be a slightly nicer place if there were more queer people in it. That would probably mean more people I can be comfortably myself with, more spaces free of homophobia, more writers and musicians and artists and directors and game developers to make art and media that includes us, more friends who share some of my experiences, more people to go out with, more people to vote against your bullshit laws.

But I don’t want to turn people queer.

I don’t care what the fuck your sexual orientation is. I care how you treat us.