Fear.

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I do not hate men.

Let me say it again, loudly and clearly, in case you missed it the first fifteen times. I DO NOT HATE MEN.

In fact, I love men! The ones I’m dating, the ones I’m related to, the ones I’m friends with. There are lots of men I love in lots of different ways. I identify as a feminist because I believe in equal rights and equal treatment for all genders. Let me reiterate this a third time. I. Do. Not. Hate. Men!

What I will readily admit is that I am afraid of all men, until I know them well enough to be reasonably sure there’s nothing to be afraid of. And, contrary to much popular belief, fear and hatred are not even remotely close to being the same thing.

I do not hate men. I am frightened of men. And I know I am not even close to being alone in this.

“But you don’t have to be afraid of me! I’m a Nice Guy!”

Yes, you very well might be. You’ve probably never deliberately harmed a woman in your life. You believe in consent and equality and all that stuff. You might very well be a perfectly wonderful human being. So why, you ask (and it’s a reasonable question) am I afraid of you simply because you have a penis?

In short, it’s because I don’t know you’re safe until you prove it. Contrary to what you might think, rapists and predators don’t come with a glaring neon sign above their heads. What makes them so dangerous is the fact that they look and act just like you. They’re not slathering beasts[1] stalking around dark alleyways. They have friends and jobs. Some of them have wives, girlfriends, children.

This is what makes them so dangerous.

To our eyes, when we first meet you, Potential Rapist and Perfectly Nice Guy look exactly the same. We don’t know which one you are, and it’s often much safer to assume the former until we have reasonable evidence to suggest the latter.

The thing is, if you are indeed a perfectly nice person, YOU know with absolute certainty that you have no intention of hurting me. What you have to understand is that I have no way of knowing that.

A close male friend said to me recently something like “the look in your eyes when you think I’m going to hurt you breaks my heart.”[2]

Is it unfair that you, as a man, have to prove yourself Not A Rapist before lots of women will trust you?  Yes, it probably is. But it’s not because we’re horrible misandrists or actually think all men are evil. It’s not because there’s some Grand Feminist Conspiracy to keep you from getting laid. It’s because bitter experience has taught us not to trust too soon, too easily.

The fact that you – most likely – do not have that bitter experience is a manifestation of the male privilege society awards you. Please check it. Please don’t tell women they’re oppressing you by being initially wary of you. Please understand we do not hate you.

I wouldn’t be wary of letting a male friend anywhere (emotionally or physically) close to me, if someone hadn’t once pretended to be my friend, just to later decide I owed him sex and abandon me when it wasn’t forthcoming. I wouldn’t be quite so terrified of relationships with men if someone hadn’t raped me repeatedly as a symbol of ownership, and then told me that having had consensual sex with another man made me worthless to him. I wouldn’t assume you don’t give a damn about me as a person and are only after a piece of Hot Blonde 22 Year Old if so many people hadn’t proven exactly that to be true.

I guess what I’m saying is please don’t blame the women who are wary of you. Blame the men who made us that way.

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[1] Term borrowed from Cliff Pervocracy. Read the full article here.

[2[ Quoted with permission.

FREE e-book

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The more observent among my readers will notice that I haven’t been blogging as much recently. The reason is super exciting: I’ve been busy releasing and promoting my very first novel!

I’m having a very short promo at the moment, and the book is absolutely FREE until midnight TONIGHT! After that, it’s just £2 ($3.) If you enjoy my writing, I’d love to have your support in downloading a copy of the book.

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UK users, go here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B00B5HVP92/ref=mp_s_a_1?qid=1362925125&sr=8-1&pi=SL75

US/everywhere else users, go here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00B5HVP92/ref=mp_s_a_1?qid=1362925125&sr=8-1&pi=SL75

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A real post will be forthcoming soon, I promise.

To Marry, Or Not To Marry?

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So this morning, on my way to work, I listened to a really interesting Poly Weekly episode on marriage. This episode was inspired by Mistress Matisse’s recent article in The Stranger, which I also urge everyone to go and read.
I was going to message Minx with my thoughts following the PW episode, but I had so many thoughts on all of this that I decided I’d just make it into a blog entry instead. Plus I don’t blog enough anymore. So here goes.
Matisse does a good job of deconstructing the difficulty of defining what poly marriage even is, so I’m not going to rehash that here. Just go read it. She also points out the sheer practical and logistical impossibilities of getting something like this into law. She points out the absolutely mammoth task the queer movement had to go through – and is still going through in many places – to get same-sex marriage legalised, and points out that “fundraising infrastructure is key – and queers have it, poly people don’t.”

But the thing that interested me the most in all of this, and the point I most wanted to respond to, was that Matisse and Minx both point out the simple fact that no-one seems to be lobbying particularly hard for poly marriage. In fact, within the poly communities they each mention – and in the ones I frequent, from what I can see – there appears to be a large amount of simple apathy towards the subject.

Sure, someone might occasionally “dream out loud,” as Matisse says, but let’s be honest here – how many of us are fully paid up members of the Poly Marriage Now club? I know I’m certainly not. There’s a lot of issues that are important to me, but to be absolutely honest, this just isn’t one of them.

Marriage in general is an interesting topic to me. I have personal reasons to be somewhat uneasy with the idea, given that I was engaged to an Abusive Asshole from the ages of 18 to 20[2] which was, I now know, much too huge a commitment to be undertaking at such a young age and with such a relative lack of experience. There was, of course, a time it was normal to be married off by 18. We do not live in that world any more. People these days typically have more relationships, and get married later – with many opting not to marry at all, including those in long term, stable relationships.

I haven’t entirely ruled out getting married someday – in some ways, it’s something I feel that I’d quite like. But the things I want are the opportunity to have a big, special celebration of my commitment to my partner(s) with our friends and family around us. Unless it came down to a “we need to do this so one of us can stay in the country” (or similar) type situation, the legal aspects of traditional marriage are of very little significance to me.

And in this way, there’s an interesting dissonance in my head. One of the aspects I find difficult about the idea of traditional marriage for myself is the idea of ONE of my relationships being legally (and to an extent, socially) recognised in a way which explicitly closes any and all of my other relationships from being recognised in the same way. In this sense, the idealist dreamer in me thinks that being able to legally marry more than one person would be wonderful.

However. I also accept that allowing polygamy[3] is at best an absolute legal and ethical minefield, and at worst pretty much impossible.

Why, you ask? To begin with, where does one draw the line of what is legal and what isn’t? Can you marry a second person without your first spouse’s consent, or do they need to give it? How would anyone differentiate between consent which was freely given and consent which was coerced? Does everyone involved in the group or family have to marry each other for this to be allowed (ie a triad or quad,) or only the people who are actually sleeping with each other?

When I was 18 and naive, I’d have been all for crusading for legally recognised polyamorous marriage. I liked the idea of being married to my boyfriend and my girlfriend and my husband and my wife and my sweetie and all of us living together in one big happy poly family, with our commitment recognised under the law. I’ve changed a lot since then. I’ve no idea what my future holds, of course, but my best guess right now involves one of three things happening;

1) I choose to remain unmarried.

2) I someday marry a partner, but enlist legal help to draw up contracts/agreements with anyone I’m in a long-term/very committed/life-partner style relationship with to ensure that as many of the relevant rights as possible are afforded to those people as well as my legal spouse.

3) I opt for a type of “marriage” or commitment ceremony or similar recognised by my religion, but not recognised by law, which can therefore potentially be entered into with more than one person concurrently.

So yeah. I’m not going to be campaigning for the legalisation of polygamy anytime soon. I’d rather take what we have and work with it. I’d rather create and invent new ways of doing things, ways which fit within the dynamics and the relationships that we’re actually having, rather than try to mould a centuries-old institution to fit us.

Though most of the advice is fairly US-centric and as such largely useless to me on a practical level, I’m fascinated with the Alternatives to Marriage Project and wish there was something similar in the UK[4.]

We’re in pretty unchartered territory here, people. We’re reinventing what is commonly understood by love, fidelity and faithfulness. Why can we not also look at reinventing and re-imagining commitment?

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[1] I want a “Poly Bar.” Is that just me??
[2] Thankfully, I came to my senses before I married him.
[3] Used here in the literal meaning of the word, “marriage to more than one person,” NOT as a synonym for polyamory.
[4] I’ve even toyed with the idea of creating it myself, but I have neither the time, energy, nor legal know-how at the moment.

A “Radical” Fallacy

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You don’t get a post for a month, and then when you do it’s a rant. Aren’t you guys lucky?? I will at least try to make it an eloquent rant.

Over the last few years, I’ve spent quite a lot of time hanging out in communities which are, to varying degrees, on the fringe of mainstream society. It started off with me hanging out defiantly in the Goth Corner as a teenager (yes, we had an actual corner,) hating and hating everyone who laughed at us and thinking we were so much cooler. Over the years, that teenage rebellion has grown into me spending the vast majority of my time in LGBT, feminist, BDSM and polyamorous spaces, amongst others. It’s come to a point where I actually find “totally normal” (by 21st Century Western society ideals) people somewhat exhausting to deal with in large doses. I like the understanding and acceptance that comes in my little socially radical corner of the world.

As a teenager, I found home among the other weirdoes, the other social outcasts, the others who banded together and said “fuck the world that doesn’t like us.” I’ve always found comfort among groups where everyone shares in at least one of my brands of weirdness.

But there’s a thing that I have been noticing more and more. In many fringe communities, another kind of exclusion has crept in. Namely, I’m talking about the fallacy of “you’re not a real ABC unless you do XYZ!”

This policing has the effect of attempting to keep undesirable behaviour out of our spaces, yes – I for one will always fight the corner that if you’re cheating, you’re not poly and you should keep your hands off our label. I know this opinion will be unpopular with some, and I’m fine with that.

However. I think it also has another, much more insidious and much more damaging effect. And that effect is that spaces which claim to be radically inclusive become instead just like the cliques of high school. Similarly, people end up trying so hard to fit in that they end up turning away from what will make them really happy, because their supposedly safe space is telling them that they are doing it all wrong.

It’s commonly seen in kinky community. You’re not a Real Sub if you have limits and safewords. You’re not a Twue Dom unless you want to be Master 24/7 all the time. These kinds of notions mean that people, especially newbies, end up getting involved in all kinds of stuff which falls anywhere from “not their thing” to “frankly dangerous” in a desperate attempt to be seen as legitimate and real within their community.

Take, if you will, the ongoing debate about the place of rules in polyamorous relationships. If you want to run your relationship with no rules at all, that’s absolutely fine. However, I find having some concrete agreements (which, as my beloved Nomad points out, is really all rules actually are) helps me to feel safe and secure and helps to bind my relationship together. Yet the look of horror on people’s faces sometimes when I inform them that something is against the agreements of my relationship is actually quite astounding! “What? You’re not allowed to do absolutely anything you want all the time? NOT POLY!” I could try to force my relationship into the newly-popular “relationship anarchy”[1] model, but I’d be miserable and so, I expect, would my partners(s) and metamour(s.) It simply isn’t how we work.

The brilliant Meg Barker calls this phenomenon “crab bucket.” Call it whatever you like, it’s destructive and it’s dangerous.

It’s this which means that when a girl speaks out about being raped, assaulted and abused, she’s silenced and disbelieved and eventually vilified by people she thought were her friends, because breaking the illusion that everything is super safe and awesome all the time is just the worst thing ever.

It’s this which means that when people try to express their very real, very pressing emotions to their partners, they are told that real poly people don’t feel such things, or if they do they certainly don’t admit it, or if they admit it they know it’s all their responsibility to sort out without anyone else taking any responsibility ever.

It’s this which means people who don’t enjoy casual sex are accused of being repressed and unenlightened or just plain old fashioned prudish, and end up shagging a bunch of people they later regret in an effort to be seen as sex-positive enough.

I say that we say NO. Whatever you are, whatever you identify as, whatever you feel – that is real. However you want to conduct your romantic and sexual life with other consenting adults, that is valid and it is real.

The rest of the world shoves us out and tells us we don’t fit in because we’re not normal enough. Let’s not let the safer spaces of our own creation turn into the same thing.

We’re supposed to be radical and accepting. Let us start acting like it.

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[1] Don’t even get me started on all the issues I have with this particular term.  

Loving A Person With Mental Health Issues

I have a mental illness. This will, I suspect, come as a surprise to exactly none of you. I’m pretty open about it in general. I’ve been thinking about doing a post or series of posts on this topic for quite a while, but been at a loss for how to approach it. So I thought I’d go with one of my favourite formats and write a handy checklist.

The way it actually feels to live with a mental illness is something that cannot easily be described to people who have not experienced it, and that’s not what I want to try to do here in any great lengths. There are already many brilliant writings on the subject. However, the thing I’ve stumbled across time and time again, in both my own experiences and those of fellow sufferers, is that often friends, family and romantic partners sincerely want to help but just don’t know where to begin. Since this is (mostly) a blog about relationships, I’m focussing primarily on intimate partners in this piece, but most of the advice can be extrapolated to also include other people close to the sufferer.

A word of caution, first. I feel I can write about this topic with reasonable authority, but my experience is my own, and I can only speak from my own perspective, informed by things I’ve witnessed and people I’ve spoken to. When in doubt for how someone would prefer to be treated, the best advice is always, always to just ASK.

So without further ado, the care and feeding of your partner with mental health issues.

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Know That They Can’t Help It

This one’s tricky, because as a sufferer I do still firmly believe that mental health, in itself, is not an excuse for bad behaviour in most cases. However, sufferers of mental illnesses will sometimes behave in ways which their more mentally typical partners may find difficult to understand. Please know, first of all, that they are not acting out or doing it for attention or trying to make you feel bad.

When I have one of my emotional “episodes,” as I’m going to call them, it’s like I step out of my body and I’m watching myself, yet I cannot control it. My demon takes over, and while most of the time I can quiet it with medication, sometimes (like, for example, when the doctors fuck up my prescription and I am forced to go cold-turkey for five days!) it is stronger than I am.

Understand that your partner cannot just “snap out of it.” They wish they could even more than you do, believe me. To quote one of my favourite bloggers, Cliff Pervocravy, “feelings are real. That’s not a warmfuzzy affirmation, that’s neurophysiology.”

Know That You Can’t Fix It

Because you can’t, and this is absolutely no reflection on you, as a person or as a partner. Mental illness is a tangled web of experiences and brain chemistry which even highly trained professionals sometimes struggle to understand or make better.

I had a friend once who, when I was put onto antidepressants, said “you need to dump your boyfriend. People in happy relationships don’t take psych medication.” I also once had a friend who said “what have you got to be depressed about? You’re in a relationship.” No. No no no! A good relationship can be a wonderful thing and help no end in healing processes or just with day to day coping, but it is not a cure-all. To suggest that it is, A) is demeaning to the sufferer and their experience, and B) places utterly unreasonable expectations on the partner.

Don’t beat yourself up when you can’t make it better, but…

Support Them in Getting Help

This might mean attending doctor’s visits with them, if it’s something they’d like. It might include gently reminding them to take their prescribed medication regularly. It might involve cheering them on when they do take steps towards getting treatment, because seeking help for a mental health problem is a huge and difficult thing. It might mean just stepping back and letting them know you’re there for them if they need any additional support alongside their work with professionals. Ask your partner how to best support them in their journey through treatment.

Look After Them…

…to the best of your ability. Nobody is expecting you to fix it (see point #2, above.) But there are things you can do to help. Things that work for me are lots of cuddles, hugs and a listening ear when I’m feeling low, as well as making me laugh or taking me out to do something fun to take my mind off it. Sometimes, a cup of tea and a chat will do wonders to lift my mood. Gently reminding me to get enough food, fluids, sleep and exercise, and generally take good care of myself is good if it’s not done patronisingly. Ask me what I need, and accept that I sometimes might not know. Allow me to have times where I am simply not okay.

Look After Yourself

This is generally good advice for life, but I think it’s worth mentioning again in this context. Remember you’re important, too – please do take care of your partner, but please try not to become completely burnt out, because this will just do harm in the long run to both of you.

Be aware of your own needs and limitations, express them in a kind and loving way, and make sure that you give yourself time and energy to take care of these needs.

Don’t Hold It Against Them In Fights

One of the things my ex used to do was pull out the “you’re just crazy” card in arguments. I’ll be blunt here, Nomad and I have fought in the times we’ve been together. Sometimes mildly, sometimes viciously. But he has NEVER used my illness against me or called me crazy. When I get down and call myself crazy, he challenges me on it – which is exactly what I need.

Please do not ever, ever call your partner offensive names or use their illness as a way to put them down or dismiss their feelings.

See The Person, Not The Diagnosis

I understand that the diagnosis of a mental illness in your partner can be frightening. The prescription of psychiatric medication can be frightening. But remember, if and when they are diagnosed, that they are still exactly the same person you knew and loved before. The label put on them by a health professional doesn’t change who they are.

In fact, a diagnosis can be a tremendously positive step – after all, how can one hope to get the help one needs without knowing what’s wrong in the first place?

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I hope this is helpful in some way. Thanks go to all the other sufferers I’ve spoken to whose wisdom and experience helped inform this piece, and to my beloved Nomad for being a wonderful role-model in how to be a good partner to someone who’s mental health might be more challenging to deal with. Part two in this little series on mental health in relationships will be forthcoming in the not-too-distant future.

Enough Is Enough

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So. It’s December 30th, and the end of the year and beginning of the new one is always a time for taking stock, taking a step back and having a look at how things stand and where you want to go next.
Since this is ostensibly a blog about polyamory, it seems as good a place as any to get this down. Basically, I’ve decided to be “monogamish” for a while. I can’t claim total monogamy, as alongside my relationship with Nomad I plan to keep my casual/friendly connection with S&A, but quite frankly, I have had enough of dating and trying to find relationships.
T and I broke up. I won’t go into details here, but suffice to say it was pretty sudden and a pretty devastating blow to me. It was a pretty short-term relationship, yes, but I genuinely loved her. And that’s my problem. I fall in love too quickly, and it results in me getting horribly hurt. I should be absolutely explicitly clear that my decision here is my own, following a long line of negative experiences, and in no way am I putting the blame on her. I still treasure what we shared and genuinely wish her well.
As time goes on, I am realising more and more that I don’t feel 0I have my trust issues sufficiently dealt with to be dating at the moment. Given that every single person I’ve ever loved, except for my beloved Nomad, has left me (at best) or been horribly abusive (at worst,) I’m really not seeing any reason to be trusting.

Similarly, when I date people, they expect sex. Of course they do. The last person I didn’t fuck on the first date followed it up by not speaking to me for eight months. I cannot and will not have sex with people I’m not in love with. It leaves me feeling cheap, dirty and used. At best, they’ll be briefly patient and then start expecting that I’ll put out – who hasn’t heard of the “third date rule?” Well fuck you, society, and your rules, I won’t be following them any more. If you want to get into my pants, you better damn well prove you’re worth it. And that means falling, and staying, in love with me. Sorry.

The community I loved and trusted has turned out to be full of fence-sitters and rape apologists when I speak out about my experiences. Given that it’s basically the only place I can reliably meet poly people (except for the internet, and let’s face it, online dating takes a different kind of time and energy,) I’m at a bit of a loss for where else to look anyway.

Please don’t try to change my mind. Please don’t tell me that there’s nothing wrong with casual sex. I know there isn’t, if it’s something that works for you. But for me, it’s a disaster. Don’t try to convince me that there are hundreds of people out there who will love me. I’m sure there are, but I haven’t met any of them yet. Please, please do not offer to be the person to change my mind. If I fancy you, you’ll know it. If I can see myself falling for you, you’ll definitely know it. Otherwise, just be a friend, without any ulterior motives or expectations.

I still identify as polyamorous at heart. Of course I’d love another relationship. I’m pretty lonely a lot of the time. In particular, I feel a void in my life when I do not have a close, intimate relationship with a woman. But dating over the last 18 months since EAB[1] and I broke up has done me sufficiently more harm than good. The pattern is the same. I meet them, I grow to trust them, I get super excited and think it’s love, then they fuck me over in some way.

So I’m stopping for a bit. I’m focussing my energy on my beloved, who I have come to realise is and always will be the love of my life, and on other things like publishing my novel and getting into grad. school. I don’t want to do this any more.[2]

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[1] That’s “Evil Abusive Bastard”

[2] For anyone who’s wondering – yes, I will be keeping up with this blog.

Towards a Social Definition of Rape

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MASSIVE MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR RAPE, ASSAULT, SEXUAL VIOLENCE, VICTIM BLAMING AND LEGAL SYSTEM FAILURE.

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Part One: The Shortcomings of Law
I apologise that this post is going to be rather UK centric, given that my knowledge of the law in this area doesn’t extend much outside of my own country, but I think many of the points will be universal. The law, in many ways, is a good and useful thing. However, it is also important to acknowledge its significant limitations.
If you know me in real life or you’ve been reading my blog for more than, say, three seconds, you’ll know that I class myself as a rape survivor. Whether I would be in the eyes of the legal system, though, is…. questionable.

Under Section 1(1) of Sexual Offences Act (SOA) 2003 a defendent, A, is guilty of rape if:
A intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of B (the complainant) with his penis;
B does not consent to the penetration; and,
A does not reasonably believe that B consents.[1]

Okay. Fair enough, in so far as it goes. I’m sure that none of us would dispute that the situation outlined in the above section of legislation is definitely rape. However, it’s really only the beginning, and limiting and problematic in multiple ways.

To begin with, it specifically states that it is only rape if a penis is involved. While it is true that the majority of rapes are carried out by men (primarily on women, but also on other men,) this legislation effectively states that ONLY men can be rapists. Sexual violence perpetrated by women is often seen by society as lesser, not important, and not a real issue (because men would never say no, and the idea of a woman raping another woman is just ludicrous, right?) But how is it okay to state in law that only one gender can be rapists? What about sexual violence perpetrated by any gender that includes penetration with an object or body part other than a penis? Technically, according to UK law, that’s assault but not actually rape. This outdated law presents a heterosexist and phallocentric model of sex, in which essentially nobody except a cisgendered[2] man can be a perpetrator, and erases the experience of all the people who are survivors of sexual violence where a penis, or possibly even penetration, was not involved.

The ‘does not reasonably believe that B consents’ is clever legal wording, but massively damaging to survivors when it comes to getting justice, because it can be manipulated and misused on so many levels. My rapist has come out and said, quite publicly, that he never raped me. I am quite certain that this is what he actually believes. I struggle to believe that he forgets that all the fucked up sexual interactions we had in our six years together ever happened, but somehow he has justified it – because he seems to think I was consenting, because we were partners and I owed him, because I mostly kept quiet during to avoid getting thrown out of the house or worse, because we had had consensual sex in the past? I don’t know the reasons. But what this effectively means is that, if I were ever to take my story to a court of law, I doubt it’d meet the legal definition of rape significantly to secure a conviction, because he’d just say “I though she consented!” And how can anyone prove beyond reasonable doubt that he didn’t?
This phrasing also means that bullshit defences like “she didn’t fight back strongly enough” actually sometimes (read: frequently) get rapists acquitted in the face of significant evidence.

People say to me, and to survivors everywhere, “why didn’t you just go to the police?” To illustrate just why, I’m going to come out with a story that I haven’t told publicly before. I have another ex who tried to rape me. When he was arrested on charges of physical and sexual assault, I went to the police, effectively to back up and support the story of a woman I hardly knew. Why? Because it was right, and because I knew what he was capable of from bitter experience. It took me getting passed through several different officers and indeed three entirely separate departments (one in Hampshire and one in Oxfordshire, before finally getting passed on to one in London) before anyone would even sit down with me and take me seriously, and EVEN THEN I believe they mostly did so because an older, assertive male (Nomad) was with me at the time. What happened? They told me it was useless. That he was going to be out within days and all charges would be dropped. That I could pursue my own case if I really wanted, but it was a waste of time because my name would be dragged through the mud and he’d only get away with it anyway because I didn’t have the all important physical evidence. This is why I did not go to the police. The fact that my community have largely turned their backs on me when I even speak out unofficially is why I don’t go to the police. The societal implications that nice girls keep quiet, smile sweetly when their ex-abuser is around and happy move on is why I don’t go to the police.

We survivors don’t go to the police because the law is fucked up. It isn’t on our side. The very wording of the very brief bit of legislation defining rape in this country effectively gives perpetrators a ‘get out of jail free’ card.

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Part Two: Towards a Social Definition

We like to think, within the little bubbles of our supposedly radical communities, that we can police ourselves – we don’t need the legal system, which is mostly against us from the off, to do it for us. Right?

Well, this is where things get really interesting. We’ve established that the law isn’t on the side of survivors, but very bitter experience has taught me that I can’t, as a survivor, necessarily rely on these communities to be on my side, either. How many of us don’t know a woman who’s been pushed out of one social group or another (more often than not, a supposedly progressive space like polyamorous or BDSM community) because she spoke up about rape or assault?

Why is this? Sometimes, it’s because these groups make exactly the same mistakes as the legal system makes, dissecting every detail of a case in a desperate attempt to decide that it wasn’t really rape – or that the victim (usually a woman, though let’s not generalise) was to blame in some way. This isn’t because these people are evil, or actually believe in sexual violence. It is because they are afraid beyond measure of admitting that rapists exist in society and in their community, and that they are not creepy, leering predators lurking in dark alleyways waiting to pounce, but ostensibly “nice guys” with jobs and partners and families. It’s very simple psychology to understand that people want to blame the victim because, if they can convince themselves that victims are responsible in some way for theur own assaults, they feel safer in the assurance that they can prevent it from happening to them.

In BDSM community, it’s often ‘well, she shouldn’t have played with him, she knew he played hard and didn’t do safewords,’ or even more sickeningly, ‘if she was a real sub, she’d have shut up and taken it.’ In polyamorous and other GSM[3] circles, at least the ones I’m directly or indirectly familiar with, it’s more often simply ‘well, no-one can really know what happened, perhaps she provoked him, things were said on both sides…’ at best, or ‘did she expect to get away with not having sex when they were in a relationship?’ at worst. Either way, it’s messed up. But I’ve ranted about that before.

What I’m interested in here is looking at ways in which we in minority communities which purport to have the best interests of survivors at heart can actually do better – and the first thing I propose is that we stop, stop, STOP dissecting whether a situation can fit the legal definition of rape, and instead look at a more realistic, fluid, social definition.

Surely we cannot accept a definition in which only one gender can be rapists? Surely we must see that it is Messed Up that it doesn’t count as rape if a woman forces a man (or another woman) to have sex against their will, or that it’s not Real Rape Rape if they’re in a relationship, or if the victim agreed to let themselves be tied up, or if one or both of them was drunk?

We need to agree that sex, of any form and between people of any genders, that is forced, coerced or otherwise not performed with freely given and enthusiastic consent on all sides is Rape. Not grey rape, not date rape, not maybe/maybe not, but Actual, Real Rape. And rape is a crime, always, even if there exists some legal technicality via which the perpetrator can get away scott-free.

Then, once we have this social definition in place and stop playing these was it, wasn’t it? games, THEN we can begin to be truly radical in the support of our survivors and, if we choose, the effective rehabilitation of our perpetrators, meaning that there will in the long run be fewer rapes overall, full accountability for the rapist as well as support for the survivor, and none of the bullshit victim blaming that is so prevalent as things stand at the moment.

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[1] Source: http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk
[2] Is it “cisgender” or “cisgendered?” I’m never sure, and I’d like to get it right.
[3] Gender and Sexual Minorities.