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Watcha reading? Well, this thread for one thing
November 7, 2009 5:46 PM   Subscribe

This recent thread, from October 8, is just about to close. It's been an extraordinary one, and is still active as of this afternoon.

If you haven't read it, or if you stopped reading after the first few posts, you might want to visit or revisit the thread; you will find one of the finest and most thoughtful Metafilter discussions touching on sexism, sexual assault, and gender relations to have taken place here. Threads like this make Metafilter itself the best of the web. A special thank you to all who posted, especially to the women who told their personal stories.
posted by jokeefe to MetaFilter-Related at 5:46 PM (707 comments total) 111 users marked this as a favorite

Agreed.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:52 PM on November 7, 2009


I just found that thread today and have been reading it all night. It's best of the web.
posted by dabitch at 5:52 PM on November 7, 2009


Word.
posted by dubitable at 6:09 PM on November 7, 2009


Thank you, thank you all.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:12 PM on November 7, 2009


All I can say to the benefit of that thread is this-- it made me seriously examine myself and how I treat the women in my life.

Good job, Metafilter.
posted by Askiba at 6:14 PM on November 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


That thread has some of the best writing I've ever seen on this site. Heavy stuff, some of it, but absolutely worth reading.
posted by Forktine at 6:17 PM on November 7, 2009


Sometimes, I will read a thread and learn something that I didn't already know. In this case, I read the thread and learned things that I didn't know that I didn't know.
posted by Saydur at 6:19 PM on November 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for highlighting this remarkable thread, jokeefe. And what rtha said.
posted by lalex at 6:21 PM on November 7, 2009


This is odd timing. Someone who came from that thread left a bunch of "you're an asshole" comments on my personal blog today. No one from MeFi, or at least the IP addresses didn't match anyone, but that thread pissed them off and they came over to my site to yell at me about it. So weird.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:36 PM on November 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Really weird.
posted by rtha at 6:44 PM on November 7, 2009


I'm so sorry I didn't keep up with that thread. I agonized over whether to tell a story that might add something, but I decided against it and left it at that. And what rtha said.
posted by Sova at 6:48 PM on November 7, 2009


I go back and forth about posting on that thread since it's so visible because some of it I've never talked about out loud to anyone. Like the cousin that rubbed off on me, my sister, and his own sister in the same night story - we three women have NEVER talked about it, not even to each other, even though we were all awake and shared that horrible experience.

But when I think about asking to have the comment removed, I get an email from some woman that's tracked me down who then thanks me for being brave enough to share a story that could have come from their own life. And how can I turn coward after that?

There are so many women out there that will forever be a mystery to you who have stories just like mine or worse in their background, women from your own families.

It's great that some of you will 'seriously examine' yourselves and how you treat the women in your lives. But that should only be a starting point to changing things. It should not be the burden of the victims to change society. We should not have to metaphorically strip naked for an audience for others to wake up.
posted by FunkyHelix at 7:14 PM on November 7, 2009 [29 favorites]


That thread made me all righteous and pissed off for a week. I bike and take public transportation in a big city, so I get yelled and poked at by strangers every day, and it took reading that thread to realize I would have to deal with much less harassment if I was a man.

Somehow I didn't know I had the right to just get to the videotheque or the grocery store without men stopping in traffic to open their car doors and shout at me, or slow down beside me to compliment me. I've gotten a lot more vocal in the LEAVE ME ALONE sentiment lately rather than the awkward nodding and smiling, and I don't know if it's a good thing.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:04 PM on November 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's great that some of you will 'seriously examine' yourselves and how you treat the women in your lives. But that should only be a starting point to changing things. It should not be the burden of the victims to change society. We should not have to metaphorically strip naked for an audience for others to wake up.

I don't know, FunkyHelix. How can you expect people to wake up if they don't truly understand the problem in the first place? Like so many women, I have a long history of assaults -- which I didn't share in that thread because I came to it late and it seemed the momentum had already died down -- but it's not visible for the world to see. There's nothing about me to show that I've been harassed, threatened, groped, followed, stalked, raped, and routinely terrified, and it never comes up in casual conversation. I can perfectly understand that the endemic sexual violence against women may be nearly invisible to men of good will. In fact, particularly so to men of good will, who would never themselves think of perpetrating horrible acts upon women simply because they had the power to do so.

Many, many thanks to you and all the other women who freely chose to share your experiences with us.
posted by timeo danaos at 8:10 PM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, thanks for pointing me to that. That thread should be the model we use anytime we have boyzone issues here -- it highlights why the nonchalant brush-off attitude can be frustrating.
posted by spiderskull at 8:17 PM on November 7, 2009


Somehow I didn't know I had the right to just get to the videotheque or the grocery store without men stopping in traffic to open their car doors and shout at me, or slow down beside me to compliment me.

You left out the quotation marks around "compliment."

And I say this not to be a jerk to you, but to point out that guys who harass you while you're trying to ride your bike to a destination are being jerks to you, not complimenting you.

In general, gentlemen: "Oh, hi, {person I know}! Don't you look well-put-together" is a compliment. "Hey, sexy, nice tits" is harassment. In general, people you don't know by name don't really care what you think of how they look, whether it's positive or negative.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:25 PM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


thanks for redirecting my attention to a very interesting thread.
posted by effluvia at 8:26 PM on November 7, 2009


Of course, "Hey, sexy, nice tits" is a compliment from someone you know in the Biblical sense, as the Largely Mythological Husband reminds me from over my shoulder.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:26 PM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


huh, another one of those threads that insists I am oppressed, harassed, etc and so on, no matter if I realise it or not. I don't know how all you other women put up with these guys you meet everywhere, but I'm glad I've never had to deal with them.

Because there isn't a single girl or woman in this world who hasn't been intruded upon
Well, I guess that could be true. Just a couple weeks ago this woman stopped me in the street to say that her son had gone to the same college I had (I was wearing a shirt) and then wanted to have some kind of conversation about the city I'm from. WTF?
posted by jacalata at 8:28 PM on November 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thanks for this - I missed this thread the first time around, and I've put it on my list to read.
posted by odinsdream at 8:32 PM on November 7, 2009


Sova: I agonized over whether to tell a story that might add something, but I decided against it and left it at that. And what rtha said.

So did I. I decided I could do without the inevitable pile on.

FunkyHelix: If you are a man who was offended by the linked essay, by being assumed a rapist until a woman changes her mind? I'm not sorry. Get over yourself and your privilege. It's about time men woke up to the reality women are living in.

There you have it, a priori proof that my participation would not have been welcomed. Statements which tell people to shut up, or intimidate them into staying quiet from the start, are bad for the discussion.
posted by Chuckles at 8:57 PM on November 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can we also use that thread when we have grrlzone issues?
posted by gjc at 8:58 PM on November 7, 2009


Not all the women in that thread were telling you to shut up. Don't choose to read only those comments.
posted by heyho at 9:18 PM on November 7, 2009 [8 favorites]


Great use of MeTa, thanks.
posted by mediareport at 9:19 PM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree that as someone who 100% believes himself to be part of the good guys, I was a little uncomfortable reading some of the mudslinging at parts, but I think it was not difficult to look past. The stories and support were wonderful, the level of support unprecedented. I haven't (but plan on doing so!) read the whole thread, but I think it is definitely worthy of at least a MeTa bidding it farewell as it enters closed-hood, at most some other type of recognition. Preserved in the Library of congress? Smithsonian? Rented New Mexico bunker space from Scientologists?
posted by battlebison at 9:24 PM on November 7, 2009


There you have it, a priori proof that my participation would not have been welcomed. Statements which tell people to shut up, or intimidate them into staying quiet from the start, are bad for the discussion.

The point that many men missed (bizarrely to me), who expressed similar things to you, was that the thread was not about men bitching about being hurt/offended/pissed by how women recording how they have been raped/harassed/otherwise violated.

Go read the damn thread (or just check out what languagehat said for a nice, concise counterpoint to your little hurt boy comment) and check that little pissed off adolescent voice you are speaking with right now. I'm really so sick of hearing this sort of sentiment expressed by guys in regards to that thread.
posted by dubitable at 9:27 PM on November 7, 2009 [13 favorites]


Edit: by how women recording how should be by women recording how

Doh. Can't type right when I'm irritated.
posted by dubitable at 9:31 PM on November 7, 2009


I agonized over whether to tell a story that might add something, but I decided against it and left it at that.

I did too, esp. 'cause I don't think my story's by any means among the more interesting ones. But then I saw this thread and thought, eh, I'll throw it in there for posterity. So what if the momentum of the thread has already died down—people are still going back and reading it, and it's another data point.

That thread made me all righteous and pissed off for a week.

Me too. And apprehensive.

huh, another one of those threads that insists I am oppressed, harassed, etc and so on, no matter if I realise it or not. I don't know how all you other women put up with these guys you meet everywhere, but I'm glad I've never had to deal with them.

Lucky. You're lucky you've never had to deal with them. And I hope you continue to be so lucky.
posted by limeonaire at 9:37 PM on November 7, 2009 [11 favorites]


I get an email from some woman that's tracked me down who then thanks me for being brave enough to share a story that could have come from their own life.

I got email like that as well. I also got a couple of supportive notes from men who said the thread had really opened their eyes in a way nothing else had, along with a few encouraging comments about how the tone of MetaFilter has changed for the better in recent years.

Thanks, jokeefe, for calling attention to that phenomenal thread once again, and thanks to everyone who supported those who bravely shared their heartbreaking stories with such candor.
posted by velvet winter at 9:51 PM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


100% agreed. Many of the posts in that thread (and in the links posted in the thread) helped drive home the uncomfortable truth about misogyny and rape culture. It's one thing to read about these things in the abstract, and quite another to actually hear how they affect the lives of women in specific ways.

Thank-yous to all those who contributed.
posted by Maximian at 10:15 PM on November 7, 2009


What I am about to say was already been said above and was probably said in the thread, but I'm going to spell it out again.

FunkyHelix: If you are a man who was offended by the linked essay, by being assumed a rapist until a woman changes her mind? I'm not sorry. Get over yourself and your privilege. It's about time men woke up to the reality women are living in.

ChucklesThere you have it, a priori proof that my participation would not have been welcomed. Statements which tell people to shut up, or intimidate them into staying quiet from the start, are bad for the discussion.

I didn't see anything that would offend men in general, unless I missed some particularly grievous comment in that thread. Pissed off, not offended, would be the reaction I would expect from someone who read the blog and the entire discussion carefully. Not pissed off at women for evaluating your rapist potential, but pissed off at jerks who happen to be men who create the need for that kind of evaluation.

Sova: I agonized over whether to tell a story that might add something, but I decided against it and left it at that. And what rtha said.

ChucklesSo did I. I decided I could do without the inevitable pile on.

Unfortunately, if your contribution to the thread was going to be a detailed description of how your feelings were hurt by the article, it wouldn't have added anything to the discussion. That's because the topic of discussion was not "I'm a guy and this is why my feelings were hurt by the article" the discussion was "I'm a women please let me explain why I have to deal with this on a daily basis, if you have any questions please ask". If a bunch of guys piled on with the "my feelings are hurt" comments, it would have lead to massive derail of guys patting them selves on the back about how their feelings were hurt. The "please just listen" comments were a preemptive action against such comments as well as an action against any reactionary comments coming from people who didn't carefully read the article and comments. These derail comments indirectly intimidate them (women mostly) into staying quiet from the start, are bad for the discussion. That is why they are so "aggressive" about preventing such comments.

There is a reason why the first comment, posted by muddgirl, said "Also, it saddens me that this conversation will probably not go very well.". Unfortunately, sexism threads have a reputation for devolving into subtle back-patting/amrite derails that don't address the original topic of discussion and aren't immediately obvious to the people participating in the derail. Those derails drive many members CRAZY. I think it may drive them crazy because the derail pattern is like a little version of how the issue is overlooked in everyday life. It's just another little reminder on how the problem is not being addressed. People have quit Metafilter over this crap.

Shockingly this thread went quite well. Everyone should read that thread several times. Treat it like its a book. Take notes. Whatever you do block all "I'm offended" thoughts out of your head and reflect on them after you are done, if you have to.
posted by Procloeon at 11:32 PM on November 7, 2009 [18 favorites]



huh, another one of those threads that insists I am oppressed, harassed, etc and so on, no matter if I realise it or not. I don't know how all you other women put up with these guys you meet everywhere, but I'm glad I've never had to deal with them.


Huh, why does your tone imply that you find these stories difficult to believe? I guess you're a sheer statistical outlier, and your friends must be too. Great! I'm happy for you.

Because even I--very tall, pretty queer looking, and pretty tough--was followed on my bike down a major street in San Francisco for ten blocks by a bunch of hipster dudes who kept surrounding me and yelling at me. ON A BIKE. And very late at night while waiting for public transit a cab driver gave me a free $20 ride home to get me away from a very drunk dude in a car who was honking at me and attempting to follow me.

Ask around. Ask your friends. Or at the very least tell me where to find this world you live in.
posted by liketitanic at 11:34 PM on November 7, 2009


That was (is) a pretty incredible thread. Thank-you times a million to everyone who shared their stories and to everyone who participated respectfully.

I can barely talk to my partner about what happened to me when I was in an abusive relationship because I'm so worried about hurting him with implicit associations. Like, sometimes I'll jump a foot when he comes up behind me unexpectedly, or we'll be having a regular old argument and suddenly I will be terrified even though nothing terrifying happened just then, or whatever, and I don't want him to have to think about what I was reminded of. So reading comments in that thread from men who were setting aside that offendedness and just listening meant a lot to me. I didn't know that this was a conversation people could have without getting hurt. Thanks, internet, for showing me otherwise.
posted by bewilderbeast at 12:27 AM on November 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


Huh, why does your tone imply that you find these stories difficult to believe?

I don't find it in any sense difficult to believe that this has happened to everybody telling their stories. I find it goddammed infuriating to have people insist that because it happens to them, and to everyone else they know, then by extension it must be true for every female ever. Your link to Herland implies that you find my perspective difficult to believe in. Why is that?
posted by jacalata at 1:19 AM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Metafilter is the best of the web and that thread is the best of Metafilter.
posted by caddis at 1:45 AM on November 8, 2009


I come from the same position and country (possibly why?) as jacalata but I do not feel glad. I feel fucking terrified. I'm going to be honest, that thread has made me feel more terrified to be a woman than I ever have in my life. Which isn't to say there weren't amazing, insightful comments and conversation in there, nor would I ever want people to stop sharing their experiences. But. I sit here in my own house, afraid for my safety. I've (luckily) never felt that way before. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that I'm now more paranoid and fearful? Will being so make any difference as to whether I'm assaulted or not?
posted by liquorice at 1:46 AM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've (luckily) never felt that way before.

And by that, I mean, in my own home.
posted by liquorice at 1:49 AM on November 8, 2009


I hope my comment didn't offend or insult anyone, if so, I'm really sorry. I know enough women in my life that have gone through such experiences to say that this isn't somehow related to geography or anything like that. I'll be quiet now.
posted by liquorice at 2:19 AM on November 8, 2009


That's a really unfortunate outcome from that thread, liquorice. (I can imagine possible others that I don't even want to think about.)

But to me, I guess it seems a little odd, because I can't stop seeing it everywhere, most notably (because so revolting) as entertainment. Seriously, try turning off, putting down, or walking out on every TV show, novel, or film that has a raped woman in it. You will be amazed at how many sources of entertainment you will lose, I think.

I actually tried this with Dead Mother, as well (not for any specific feminist reason) - I had to put down four books in a row... and then I ended up reading the fifth, which, of course, also turned out to have a dead mother - because it was a book I really, really wanted to read. And I promise you I am not exaggerating. Yep. Dead mothers are a sort of default state. I just picked up a book last night because it was an Edgar winning novel, and I've been looking for decent mystery/suspense. you guessed it - Dead Mother... but she isn't even the real point in terms of being a victim; the important corpse is someone else.

Dead Mothers. Keep your eyes open, they're everywhere.

So, for a lot of entertainment purposes women are usually raped (along with being murdered in some fancy-dancey way)... but if they're mothers who are not young and hot, they're just plain old dead.
posted by taz at 2:33 AM on November 8, 2009 [13 favorites]


I was reading that thread as it developed, and have returned to it several times. I didn't want to (and still don't want to) post in it, because I'm not sure how much I could add to it.

I've lived in a big city, and I was like zarq, though unfortunately I never had his revelation. Ordinary big guy in a suit, going about my life. I knew that some women were assaulted, raped, or just plain sexualized trying to go about their daily lives, but I'm not someone who would do that so why should anyone be afraid of me?

That thread has made me realise how much of a different world women have to live in compared to me, and there a lot more men who make it that way than I ever could have imagined - and I could just as easily be one of them until proven otherwise. So it's incumbant upon me to be aware of the effect a 6'1" stranger can have. Hopefully my default politeness means I'm mostly like the guy katherineg classed as a good guy... but still there's so much in that thread that I didn't know I didn't know.

So thank you to everyone who shared painful and deeply personal stories in that thread, with a special thankyou to heyho who consistently made some of the most insightful and 'makes you think' comments in a brilliant thread full of such comments.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:10 AM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


That's because the topic of discussion was not "I'm a guy and this is why my feelings were hurt by the article" the discussion was "I'm a women please let me explain why I have to deal with this on a daily basis, if you have any questions please ask".

I didn't see a banner at the top of the thread saying 'this and only this is the appropriate subject for discussion in this thread'. I'm pretty sure that if anyone tried to circumscribe the subject for conversation in a thread that was about anything but women's victimhood status, someone would be telling you to go fuck yourself pretty sharpish.

The dominant focus of the thread was women as victims, but 19% of victims of domestic violence are men, and among students of college age, men are just as likely to be victims of violence as women are.

If this study is any indication (and many of the posts in that thread seemed to me to be reinforcing the same point), it's actually men who have the most to fear from the lurking stranger in the dark alley:

"The kinds of perpetrators also differed by gender, according to the study. Men tended to experience violence at the hands of friends, roommates, acquaintances, strangers and supervisors. In contrast, women reported experiencing physical abuse by a family member about three times more than did men."


And from the British Crime Survey:

"Generally, young men run a higher risk of being victims of violent crime than any other group. According to the British Crime Survey, one in five males aged 16 to 24 in England and Wales were the victims of violence in 1999, more than twice the rate for females of the same age, who were the next highest 'at risk' group."

Much of the violence referred to above might not take the sexualized form that people were complaining about specifically in that thread, but the facts would seem to suggest that this is something rather more than just a function of 'male privilege'.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:58 AM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


-The dominant focus of the thread was women as victims, but 19% of victims of domestic violence are men, and among students of college age, men are just as likely to be victims of violence as women are.-

But PeterMcDermott, the thread derived from an article explaining what a woman put up with out in public. Did you miss that?*

For a discussion about violence occasioned to males I suggest you do some research and post an fpp.

*nah, you didn't miss it, you just belong to that band of self-centred jerks who think their right to talk about any shit they want overrides the very rare occasions in the history of Metafilter where sensitive issues affecting women have had the floor. Mate, it's not about guys, it's not about you. Either ask questions to try to learn or piss off to another thread. It's pretty simple really. I'm reminded of that f-wit that monitors Mefi for a mention of "female circumcision" so that he can come here to talk about how bad male circumcision is.
posted by peacay at 5:50 AM on November 8, 2009 [30 favorites]


PeterMcDermott please read the article again. The article is specifically taking about sexual violence against women. That is what the thread is about. The article specifically addresses why male/female interaction can be difficult and why female and male perspectives are so different. It then goes on to describe different solutions to that specific problem. It is not an article about women victimhood, it is not about general violence in the population. It is about as specific set of male/female interactions and the cause and solutions to the cognitive disconnect that impacts that interaction. Changing the type of violence is changing the subject. The "what about me" bullshit really pisses people off because it is a derail and avoids the subject of the post. Every single time women try to talk about sexual assault someone posts stuff like you just posted. You are intentionally avoiding the topic that is being discussed. Your comment is the best example of the type of derail I described in my last comment, it's so textbook that it is mind-boggling. Thank you for proving my point.
posted by Procloeon at 6:12 AM on November 8, 2009 [20 favorites]


The original post was about women who look at men askance - for what may seem like no good reason, particularly to your average guy. The ensuing discussion wasn't even about victimhood so much as it was about survival - why women react the way they do in some situations, how both their past experiences and those of their friends affect they way they interact with men. It is a part of our lives that women typically don't discuss a lot, particularly not with our male friends and relative, much less our coworkers, pals, and acquaintances.

It's an area poorly covered by statistics - many of the so-called major incidents (rape, sexual assault, attempted abductions, which OMG, I had no idea so many other women had experienced this, too) in our lives are never reported to law enforcement or statistics-gathering groups, and no one is collecting the information on the other types of incidents, so the depth and commonality of these episodes sometimes isn't well understood. When people initially took issue with the tone and presentation of the original article, other people jumped in to say that this was a reality they felt, and asked some of the questioners to look it at from the perspective of the women.

No where in that discussion did anyone say "Suck it, Men! We win the Victim Olympics, you can all go home and enjoy Loser Sundaes!" or even "Women are the only people who experience violence." What we did say was that women as a group feel and are subject to a distinctly different set of violent interactions, a set in which sexual violence and sexual harassment are part and parcel to a degree far higher than many men may realize.

No one is arguing that men don't experience violence in large numbers or that men don't experience assault or mugging or violence from people they know; we were pointing out that women's experience of those things wasn't the same as men's in ways that were not obvious or at the forefront of the mind to your average dude.
posted by julen at 6:21 AM on November 8, 2009 [28 favorites]



I contributed a few times in that thread, but I left out some things; it all seriousness it would take a book to detail all the sexual harassment I've experienced. However, and forgive the caps because this is very, very important to me: I DO NOT SEE MYSELF AS A VICTIM. I had a few troubled years as a teenager withdrawing from the world, even attempting suicide, wondering why all these bad things had happened to me and in the end I decided not to allow these few men to ruin my life. I took back my life and my sexuality and I refuse to see myself as a victim: I'm not bitter, I'm not angry, I'm not frigid, I'm not prejudiced against men.

What I think most men (perhaps even most women) fail to understand is that my story is not unusual, and that is what thread 85667 is essentially about. How everyday, how mundane, how pervasive sexual harassment is even in our enlightened society. I once met my aunt after not having seen her for 20 years. We had a reunion in her cousin's home where we both stood staring at a wall of framed family pictures that went back over 100 years. She asked me why I no longer spoke to my father. I told her that among other things he had tried to force me to have sex with him when I was 12. She sighed and said, "It runs in the family." And we both continued to stare at that wall of family pictures without saying any more.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:52 AM on November 8, 2009 [20 favorites]


> So thank you to everyone who shared painful and deeply personal stories in that thread, with a special thankyou to heyho who consistently made some of the most insightful and 'makes you think' comments in a brilliant thread full of such comments.

ArkhanJG said it well. I'm proud to be part of a community that could produce a thread like that. It's too bad there are asshats who feel obliged to trot out their "males are oppressed too! even worse!!" bullshit, but that's life in this imperfect world. Thanks to the women for all they've contributed to the thread and to this site in general. Keep on speaking out. We'll get this mess fixed someday, somehow.
posted by languagehat at 7:22 AM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


To an extent, I'm actually sympathetic to the point of view that the "anti-derail" argument is a bit artificial: if the topic of the FPP is women's mistrust of men, and how men can avoid turning that mistrust to fear (by respecting boundaries, by interpreting body language, by accepting women at their first word), it's not precisely a "derail" to talk about how good men are offended by being presumed rapists. It's as directly connected to the subject matter as lots of other discussions we have here that aren't considered derails.

But. It's also putting the cart before the horse. Isn't it important to first understand the basis for that mistrust, before deciding whether it's something to be offended by?

What was so great about that thread was not the "shut up, you don't get to talk, you just get to listen" comments, which annoyed me, too, but the finely drawn descriptions of a woman's narrowing world -- the interactions that, over time, caused her to change her behaviors and her outlook until she felt safe enough. Reading the thread as a woman was enlightening to me, too, as I frequently had the experience of thinking, "Ugh, what an awful thing to happen to you," followed immediately by the recollection that something very similar had happened to me, too, at a similar age, and how it had changed me. I had just taken it for granted.

So anyway, this is just to say that the thread, to me, is not universally wonderful -- I think several commenters went too far in their contempt for men's participation -- but if you just skip those and go ahead to the ones that "show, don't tell," I think you'll be well-rewarded for your time.
posted by palliser at 7:42 AM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's not even always about safe enough, but "have I done enough, that if it happens anyhow, people will not question who is at fault here". I think that is part of what gets missed.
posted by Iteki at 7:55 AM on November 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


I can't bring myself to read more than a bit of the thread at a time and have resigned myself to putting it aside at least for now. It dredges up memories and there is so much in my own life that I could write about and frankly it is just too much.

There is something about being perceived as a hippie chick or a punky chick that makes some clueless men see you as a sexual outlier, one that would jump at the chance of hot sex with a stranger. One story from my past I've always thought of as funny: Late 70's, me hippie-ish chick walking to get lunch with a black male co-worker. As we wait to cross the street a car pulls up in front of us and the door swings open as if the driver was sent to pick us up. The driver, a middle aged white man, looks at my co-worker and says "How much?". I have no part of this negotiation, and really by the time my clueless self has figured this all out, my co-worker has sent the driver on his way. From then on, this co-worker made a point of not being seen with me. It's a weird poison, this whole sexual confrontation.

Anyway, yes Peter McDermott, it happens and it colors how we see things. An important difference between the crime against young men you speak of and what the thread was about is sex is a good thing, a positive force, not a crime in and of itself. But that aspect is subverted.
posted by readery at 8:01 AM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Holy smokes readery, that was so many wrongs at once the co-worker & you story. I wish I could slap that driver across the head.
posted by dabitch at 8:27 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yet another extraordinary discussion. I have my own stories, and I am grateful for men compassionate enough to understand the perspective.

I remember being stunned by Gil Garcetti, the District Attorney for Los Angeles, who took the opportunity, at the death of one Nicole Brown Simpson, to say that - I am paraphrasing here-

If men were the victims of violence by women at the rate women are the victims of violence by men, it would be declared a national emergency.

A pivotal moment for this reader.
posted by effluvia at 8:27 AM on November 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


I came late to that thread—it went up while I was making my way home from my big long trip—and I've been keeping up with it in bits and pieces and been really impressed by the discussion and glad to read the stories. (It's been odd watching it pop up in various places—discussions on people blogs and lj accounts, at least a couple journeys over to we can't stop talking about them lately Reddit, where the resulting discussion was predictably fraught, some folks praising the mefi handling of it and others making really dismissive remarks, a lot of heat and bits of light in the cracks.)

There was never a point where I crossed over the threshold to commenting, because I wasn't sure exactly what I had to add. The story about the skeezoid at the NYC karaoke shindig, even—I was there, and thought the guy was skeezy too, but had a lot of the same general impressions that various folks who spoke up in the thread had (chief among them that he was someone who other people at the place knew—"oh, I thought he was with you!" and all that) and was tired and distracted by a half dozen different things and feeling a bit like a fish out of water in any case.

And adding all that to the thread felt like it'd be more the framing for an apologia than anything: "as one of the guys in that group of mostly women where that other guy was being a skeeze, the reason I didn't do something about it was x, y, z", either me giving myself and excuse for not having been more canny about the whole thing or making a public display of excoriating myself for same or whatever. I think that what did get discussed was more meaningful and less distracted than it would have been if I'd tried to jump in and personalize that bit of the discussion toward how I was feeling as someone less directly affected by it than the women already recalling the whole thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:32 AM on November 8, 2009


As the original poster of the thread, I am more than pleased with the dialogue that resulted. When I first read that essay, I found myself not just nodding my head, but also realizing that this was what I had tried to convey to many of my male friends, but in a much more succinct way. In choosing to post it, I was a little nervous that the thread might go horribly wrong, but felt that the content superseded those concerns. Metafilter managed to move beyond the article, and turn the discussion into a living, breathing exercise in consciousness raising. It's why I love being part of this community.
posted by kimdog at 8:41 AM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


I come from the same position and country (possibly why?) as jacalata but I do not feel glad. I feel fucking terrified. I'm going to be honest, that thread has made me feel more terrified to be a woman than I ever have in my life. Which isn't to say there weren't amazing, insightful comments and conversation in there, nor would I ever want people to stop sharing their experiences. But. I sit here in my own house, afraid for my safety. I've (luckily) never felt that way before. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that I'm now more paranoid and fearful? Will being so make any difference as to whether I'm assaulted or not?

I'm sorry that happened. But I think, subconsciously, that was the point of many of the comments. To remind people to fear men.

If that were about black people instead of men, it would have been rightly shut down immediately. Rape culture indeed.
posted by gjc at 8:48 AM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


So anyway, this is just to say that the thread, to me, is not universally wonderful -- I think several commenters went too far in their contempt for men's participation -- but if you just skip those and go ahead to the ones that "show, don't tell," I think you'll be well-rewarded for your time.

Men participation is necessary and valuable, however it has a tendency to get out of control and dominate threads. The idea of being offended by the topic should be mentioned, but if the concept of being offended is repeated too many times it becomes intimidating and discourages participation. The comment from bewilderbeast in this thread is an excellent example of why preventing "I'm offendedd" derails is important.

The threshold for derails varies by topic. The threshold for this topic should be very low due to the male/female interaction issue that is at the heart of the topic. Part of the very heart of this issue is the fact that men need to listen more before commenting on this topic. If they don't get that people are going to get really mad at them and the thread will suffer. However, stating it that way may turn off some men. I like the way you say it.

But. It's also putting the cart before the horse. Isn't it important to first understand the basis for that mistrust, before deciding whether it's something to be offended by? Definitely less confrontational.

It's difficult to determine the threshold for "too far" at the beginning of the discussion because you don't know what it is going to take to prevent the thread from getting overrun by "I'm offended". In this case it does look like some people took it too far, however I think that's better than the thread derailing into a thread focused on men and how they are offended. Maybe the next thread can find a better middle ground between the two.
posted by Procloeon at 8:49 AM on November 8, 2009


If that were about black people instead of men, it would have been rightly shut down immediately. Rape culture indeed.

Not really a great comparison
posted by kathrineg at 8:58 AM on November 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


That thread is a wonderful, though-provoking thread. It's primary purpose, in my understanding, was to answer the question:

"Why is it that a woman would appear to act like a 'bitch' to strange men?"

The question as initially posited, however, was "Why is it that some women think that all strange men are rapists?" - a question that was intended to be eye-catching and thought-provoking. And it surely hurt some poor men's sensitive egos.

Because their first thought is: "It's fucked up if some strange woman I've never met before and likely will never meet thinks I'm a rapist, and I am hurt and offended because women I will never talk to, never interact with, and will never play any role in my waking life, have a such a low opinion of me. Because I have a right, because I'm Self-Important Me, to be given the benefit of the doubt, every single time, that I am a wonderful, righteous human being, and not an asshole."

My point is, if you believe that every strange woman owes you the benefit of the doubt, and should think that you are a great guy just because, then it's time for you to self-check yourself. Because that sense of self-entitlement is pathetic.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:02 AM on November 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


I'm sorry that happened. But I think, subconsciously, that was the point of many of the comments. To remind people to fear men.

And I'm sorry to see that people still don't get it, and are so protective of their hurt feelings that they'd rather deny the whole thing with a sneering "rape culture indeed" than actually listen to what women are actually saying about the reality they're living in.

Thank you, thank you, thank you a million times to the other women who posted in that thread to share their stories, and to the men who participated in good faith. The fact that I don't have something similar to share makes me a very fortunate outlier - and it does nothing to remove me from a culture that is still very sexualized about (and hostile to) women. That thread is one of the things that finally drove me out of a year-long lurkerdom and got me to sign up for an account. I remember reading all of the heavy lifting done in the Epic Sexism Threads and getting depressed that this kind of thing was still necessary. But without those threads, I don't think this post would have gone nearly as well.
posted by Salieri at 9:05 AM on November 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


If that were about black people instead of men, it would have been rightly shut down immediately.

Very good point! And if it had been about space aliens instead of men, it would have been shut down as bizarre and incoherent! Whee, what a fun game: arbitrarily take some nouns in a valid argument ("Men perpetrate a lot of violence towards women"), swap them out with other nouns ("Cats perpetrate a lot of violence towards Canada"), and then denounce the resulting silly statement ("What? Cats don't really threaten Canada! Your argument is stupid!").
posted by Frobenius Twist at 9:08 AM on November 8, 2009 [20 favorites]


The first time I was catcalled I was twelve. It was by the brother of someone a barely knew, and his friends. I was just biking past.

The experience was so humiliating it physically hurt. I've never told anyone about it until just now, when, reminded of that particular incident by this thread, I called home and told my mom what a jerk that guy was. I was twelve.

I was surprised to read that some men in that thread think that catcalling is some form of consensual mating ritual and cannot be construed as threatening. I guess humiliation is par for the course in their relationships?
posted by Hildegarde at 9:09 AM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry that happened. But I think, subconsciously, that was the point of many of the comments. To remind people to fear men.

Really? I didn't feel like anyone needed to be reminded to fear men. I feel more like men need to be reminded not to be (and how not to be) scary to women, and that's what the article was about, and many of the posts reinforced the reasons of WHY THAT IS.

Maybe it's facile of me to say so, especially being a guy, but I think it is possible to come away from that thread being hopeful. I think education can make a difference in how men treat women, and I think the thread's existence itself is a great thing that shows how an internet community can come together and provide something greater than the sum of its parts. Er, or something like that...
posted by dubitable at 9:09 AM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


If that were about black people instead of men, it would have been rightly shut down immediately.

The reason people think that comparison is absurd is because black people and women were/are both dominated and subjugated by others (white people / men.) You're right if it were about how black people totally oppress white people, it probably wouldn't have went well, but I don't see what that has to do with the topic at hand.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:29 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


If that were about black people instead of men, it would have been rightly shut down immediately.

At risk of being pedantic, I would just like to point out that "black people" and "men" are groups that often experience some overlap. I'm sure that an extensive internet search will provide some illustration, perhaps a Venn diagram, that depicts this phenomenon visually for the sake of those who have never experienced it in their daily lives.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:34 AM on November 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


I'm really so sick of hearing this sort of sentiment expressed by guys in regards to that thread.
posted by davejay at 9:38 AM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


But to me, I guess it seems a little odd, because I can't stop seeing it everywhere, most notably (because so revolting) as entertainment. Seriously, try turning off, putting down, or walking out on every TV show, novel, or film that has a raped woman in it. You will be amazed at how many sources of entertainment you will lose, I think.

Someone recently recommended the series Lie to Me to me and my husband. So far, we've watched the first three episodes and every one was about a woman who'd been either murdered or raped. This is supposed to be entertainment?!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:40 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The first time I was catcalled I was twelve. It was by the brother of someone a barely knew, and his friends. I was just biking past.

The experience was so humiliating it physically hurt. I've never told anyone about it until just now, when, reminded of that particular incident by this thread, I called home and told my mom what a jerk that guy was. I was twelve.

I was surprised to read that some men in that thread think that catcalling is some form of consensual mating ritual and cannot be construed as threatening. I guess humiliation is par for the course in their relationships?


Me, too, Hildegarde. Walking home every day from sixth grade, lugging my too-heavy trumpet case, the high school guys I passed would tell me that they wanted to "fuck" and "rape" me. Then they laughed together about it. And I've never talked about it either. I am really thankful for the women brave enough to speak up in that thread, because now I feel like I can talk about it. Maybe part of me was still that ashamed eleven-year-old. But no more.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:43 AM on November 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


I haven't commented in that thread although I thought about it, because while yes, of course, I too have been catcalled and whooped at (and once, even, in a strange and terrible confluence of race and sexism, had a guy outside Lexington Market in Baltimore yell "Whassa matter with you bitch? You too white to smile at me?") I long ago perfected the look down, look oblivious, never make eye contact, be aware of your surroundings art of walking and I have internalized it to such a degree I never even think about it. It's second nature, even now I'm older and these things don't come my way so much. And sometimes, now, when it does, it doesn't seem so threatening. I think fondly of the guy outside the post office a couple years ago who told me I had a beautiful smile. Therefore, a lot of the worry has faded completely from my mind so when I read that thread early on I caught myself thinking, wow, a lot of people are just paranoid, it's easy to ignore this shit, it doesn't happen that often.

Then the other day I went to the park with my dogs early in the morning as is my habit and an older man engaged me in conversation. Fine, he was a little pushy but I thought well, probably he is lonely and anyway I was at that point getting back into my car after walking and I didn't think much of it. When I went back to the park the next day and he was waiting for me, I thought about it. When I was unfriendly and borderline rude to him, I thought about it, because I don't like to be unfriendly and borderline rude, but I didn't like the way he was clearly waiting for me. And when I got three quarters of the way down the path and into the very deserted park hinterlands and looked back and realized he was following me, I thought about it a lot. I thought about it while I ran to the other end of the park and tried to think of who I could call at 7:30 in the morning to pick me and my dogs up so I wouldn't have to walk back past him, just in case, although he had to be twenty years my senior and I had three large dogs with me. It's been a long time since I felt actual fear like that, fear because he was male.

I ended up walking back anyway, which may or may not have been stupid, and he was gone and with a little luck I will never see him again. I am pretty sure that my dogs, utterly friendly slobbering idiots though they are, would not just stand by and see me assaulted. Quite possibly, maybe even probably, he just wanted someone to talk to. But anyway, during this small morning ordeal, that thread came to my mind and I'm sorry that I thought about paranoia and was dismissive in my head when I read it before. Because this shit is real and it never stops. I am 46 years old and almost six feet tall and 25 pounds overweight - a big healthy woman who doesn't look like an easy target and obviously is not what the magazines are selling as sex on a stick. I don't frighten easily. But even in my head and in my life, this kind of thing still happens.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:52 AM on November 8, 2009 [13 favorites]


But I think, subconsciously, that was the point of many of the comments. To remind people to fear men.

I suppose there may have been comments in there with that intent. I sure can't prove that there weren't.

But for me, as a man, the comments that stood out were the ones in which women said "Here's a simple and painless thing you can do to be less frightening to me and other women like me." What I heard in each of those comments was a sincere desire for a world in which people don't fear men — and a small piece of the blueprint for making that world real.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:08 AM on November 8, 2009 [17 favorites]


If that were about black people instead of men, it would have been rightly shut down immediately.

Stop feeding the troll.
posted by afu at 10:10 AM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


gjc may be trolling. I don't know the guy.

But it is a point that's worth discussing. A lot of smart guys who aren't trolls, who are acting in good faith, — and FWIW a non-trivial number of women — do look at this shit and say "How dare you tell men how to act! That's sexist!"

I firmly believe that it's the wrong response for a wide variety of reasons, and that the analogy between feminism and racism is deeply flawed. But it's a response that I've heard from so many of my friends — people I love and respect and trust — that I think we've just gotta be willing to talk about it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:17 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know how all you other women put up with these guys you meet everywhere, but I'm glad I've never had to deal with them.

I'm glad you haven't, too, and I absolutely believe you when you say the kinds of things that have been recounted in the blue and here have never happened to you.

They don't happen to me, either, anymore. I'm fortyish, and since I cut my hair short about 14 years ago, I apparently began to pass as male (although I got called "sir" even when my hair was halfway down my back), and I haven't been catcalled or had my ass pinched on the bus since then. And I don't miss it.
posted by rtha at 10:31 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Having just started reading the thread, it appears to be a pretty good discussion started by a rather abysmal post.
posted by oaf at 10:37 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's been odd watching it pop up in various places—discussions on people blogs and lj accounts, at least a couple journeys over to we can't stop talking about them lately Reddit, where the resulting discussion was predictably fraught, some folks praising the mefi handling of it and others making really dismissive remarks, a lot of heat and bits of light in the cracks.

I'd be interested in following these discussions, and/or any similar threads elsewhere that were spawned by that thread. Links would be appreciated, if appropriate.
posted by velvet winter at 10:48 AM on November 8, 2009


Yeah, public thank you to those who took the trouble to give their own personal experiences and also engage with the sceptics and sundry others. It was a difficult subject, a difficult thread, but it was worthwhile. I lost my Internet connectivity in the late stages, so I will catch up now.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 10:48 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I want to say a couple things. One of them may be unpopular.

Firstly, that thread was great. I am so glad to be a member of a site that does rape discussions well. This is not the first thread that has been about rape, nor even the first thread that has gone really well that was also about rape. There are certainly other threads that have not gone as well also.

Having said that, and maybe it's just me, but rape seems to be a topic that occurs with a level of frequency that is outside my comfort range. That's not to say it is by definition frequent, but more frequent than my comfort level. I've shared my personal rape story in previous threads, and alluded to personal experience in other appropriate places.

But it feels like the topic of rape has been on the frontpage with a seeming regularity, which is bothersome to me. For me, and possibly for other rape victims, even reading the word rape (even in a positive thoughtful context like this thread, and obviously in jokey-rape comments that often get deleted, fucking glenn beck) is a trigger. There's no way one can be a rape survivor and not be triggered by the word to some degree. For me, that degree is tough.

The tough thing about it is that there's no real way to scan past the word alone on the front page. I don't click the links anymore, and didn't participate in this discussion, because I'm all tapped out.

I'm not saying this to be all NO MOAR RAPE DISCUSSIONS or anything, just putting out there. Its tough to avoid the word in almost every forum on the net in the jokey sense, and even though here its usually a positive discussion, its getting a little old. I'm tired of seeing rape on the front page, no matter how thoughtful.

Anyways. That's just me. Carry on!
posted by lazaruslong at 10:56 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


"and obviously in jokey-rape comments" reads a little like "in-joke rapey comments". Just to be clear, that's not what I mean, I know we don't have any rape in-jokes, and I'm grateful for that. Ok. Coffee now.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:01 AM on November 8, 2009


> I think several commenters went too far in their contempt for men's participation

I may have missed something (and I'm not about to reread the entire thread right now to make sure), but I don't recall anyone expressing contempt for men's participation. I do recall, because I felt it myself, contempt for men who tried to derail the thread into an analysis of what men have to put up with.
posted by languagehat at 11:07 AM on November 8, 2009 [23 favorites]


To the women on the thread who have never experienced harassment by men: You are very lucky.

I know a couple of people who have never gotten a cold in their lives. They are very lucky.

I would suggest that you and they are statistical outliers in roughly the same degree. It doesn't mean that you don't exist, or that they don't exist: it's just that most people have gotten colds, and most women have gotten sexually harassed by men, and when people talk about their experiences with colds, or with harassment, they're not trying to exclude you personally.

it's not precisely a "derail" to talk about how good men are offended by being presumed rapists.

Actually, it is, because that's the starting point of the linked article. The article linked says, "Guys? Here's why many, many women's default setting is to treat every encounter with a strange man in light of the real potential for harassment or even assault."

Saying "I'd never harass or assault anyone" is derailing, because the starting point of the article is not saying "YOU'RE GONNA HARASS OR ASSAULT ME" but rather "This is why many, many women construct their social interactions with men unknown to them in particular ways."

I lock my front door every night, not because I think anyone from MetaFilter is going to come steal my shit, but because people have stolen my shit in the past. If I posted about Why I Lock My Front Door, it would be seen very clearly as "derailing" if anyone posted "I'M NOT GONNA STEAL YOUR SHIT AND I'M OFFENDED YOU THINK I WOULD."
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:14 AM on November 8, 2009 [28 favorites]


nebulawindphone: Now that you've mentioned it, something I wrote about that, then didn't post as it wasn't relevant to that thread.

"What offended me... Well, you know how you feel a little discombobulated when someone gives you advice you don't need? "Yes, I will remember to wear a hat since it's minus 30 outside". But you don't say anything but "thanks", because their heart's in the right place.

Take it a step further, someone telling you not to do something wrong that you had no intention of doing. "Don't steal from the petty cash". A little more grating.

Now, take it that someone is telling you not to do something wrong, that you had no intention of doing, as a result of your [gender/religion/race/nationality/sexuality]. Even if they follow it up by saying of course you're one of the good ones, and they're sure it goes without saying. That was how the article ended- "Don't rape". So yeah, genuine, non-point-scoring, offense taken - even though I'm sure it wasn't intended."


It wasn't a discussion of advocacy, which is why that point wasn't relevant. If it's about consciousness raising, then it's perfectly legit to say "shut up and listen!". There will be other discussions for the other stuff, and I'm glad there will be informed and intelligent people participating in them.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:17 AM on November 8, 2009


I was just trying to read that thread and one thing jumped out at me more then any other...

What the fuck is xmutex's problem?
posted by cyphill at 11:23 AM on November 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


nebulawindphone, I'm not trolling. I am absolutely sincere. I'm not denying that awful things happen every day, and that many women have chronic fear because of that. And it makes me sick when anyone is an asshole to anyone else.

What I have a problem with is the continual nonchalance at ascribing the violence, arrogance and butt-in-ski-ism as some innate quality of maleness. And so when I said the thing about black people, what I meant was that if there was a "Schrodinger's Criminal" paper where it noted that black people have the burden of proving they aren't criminals in many interactions with white people, and then people started telling stories about how they had been wronged by black people and how "it just goes to show you..." and that black people would be well served to stop being so darned scary, it would have (rightly) been shut down. My choice of using black people as a comparison was purposeful; it was my point to show in a graphic and provocative manner that the culture here makes it acceptable to prejudge and marginalize men.

So if the goal is to encourage equality, then it is an epic fail. All it does is reinforce through example that because some men are capable of evil, all men should be feared. And that since some men have made women fearful, all men should change their behavior. And worst of all, it feeds the misogynists' belief that women are "too sensitive" and that being crude and making cat calls does in fact keep them down. Because, after all, here is an article and hundreds of comments that pretty much say exactly that.

I wasn't comparing feminism (as I understand it) to racism, only the perversion of feminism that doesn't seek equality, but that seeks a turning of the tables. The kind of feminism that needs to reinforce any inequalities that exist in order to prove that they have the right answer. Or that seeks to modify society into a sort of separate but equal society. Sort of like the difference between the message of Dr. King versus the message of Farrakhan.

(A tortured analogy is how the neocons have to whip up anti-muslim sentiment in order to justify anti-muslim actions.)

Where feminism strives for equality, I'm all in. As long as it really means equality- where everyone has the same freedoms and opportunities and restrictions. Where women can freely fear and marginalize men, as long as they accept an equal right of men to fear and marginalize women.

afu- I think I see what you did there...
posted by gjc at 11:25 AM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


If it's about consciousness raising, then it's perfectly legit to say "shut up and listen!". There will be other discussions for the other stuff, and I'm glad there will be informed and intelligent people participating in them.

I agree with your point. When someone is sharing a story or giving a talk or simply taking their turn in a conversation, the others should indeed shut up and listen. But that goes both ways- what makes one person's "consciousness raising" more valid than another person's?
posted by gjc at 11:32 AM on November 8, 2009


gjc: "Or that seeks to modify society into a sort of separate but equal society. "

What?
posted by kathrineg at 11:39 AM on November 8, 2009


Hi all. I've been lurking on this site for a number of years now, and that thread was the final tipping point that got me to finally cough up a little cash and come to join the party. I don't think I've ever seen a discussion on a topic like this work as well as it has here.

The main thing that this thread has done - aside from making me intensely depressed about the state of the world right now - is to get me incredibly angry. Not being a tall or particularly well-muscled guy, I don't go in for physical violence, and in fact I'm very much against its use in most cases. But reading through that thread, and the descriptions of what has happened to some of the women posting here - not to mention the repeated evidence that many of my fellow men are consistently horrific jerks who have no place in any civilised society - leaves me wanting very much to go out on a methodical face-punching campaign against the kind of guys who do this, and I'm kind of sad that this would result in my being left as a stringy mess on the floor.

Perhaps not a constructive response, and I'm sure there are better ways of using my energy. But it's rare that I see something on the Internet that provokes such a response, I appreciate that it did, and I'd like to take a second to applaud all the people who contributed to making the thread so awesome.
posted by ZsigE at 11:40 AM on November 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


gjc: Direct experience, of a sort that men can't have, and that is generally hidden from men.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:41 AM on November 8, 2009


And worst of all, it feeds the misogynists' belief that women are "too sensitive" and that being crude and making cat calls does in fact keep them down.

what
posted by jabberjaw at 11:41 AM on November 8, 2009


Won't somebody think of the misogynists? Oh wait, we did. For a whole thread.
posted by kathrineg at 11:42 AM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Okay, gjc. We'll all quit assuring men not to take it personally if we're not friendly when they approach us, and the guys can go back to thinking it must be something they specifically did and feel bad about themselves in particular. We'll quit saying that things like catcalls are upsetting because it's somehow better for everyone else to think we feel something other than we actually do. And we'll shut up about how careful we have to be because it's all too normal for some men to harass us and follow us or sexually assault us. Reality is just too impolite to discuss.

Your whole comment is ridiculous. If misogynists think women are "too sensitive" because they don't like it when men treat them crudely or make catcalls, do you SERIOUSLY think the correct response to that is for women to lie about their feelings, or for misogynists to quit being so fucking boneheaded? If women are wary around men they don't know because of all the bad men they've had to put up with, do you honestly think the solution is that they shut up and pretend it never happened? Christ. Telling us to quit talking about it is FAR more misogynist than anything you pretend to be avoiding. What you're trying to do -- wave a magic wand and make women feel like you wish they did, instead of cautious and wary -- is absurd.

The obvious solution -- and one that the majority of MeFi users, men AND women, have found helpful in that thread -- is to talk openly about why we're wary. And more than that, it's a workable solution, instead of wishful thinking. And hey, here's the odd thing: don't you think it would be better for you to get on board and listen instead of this vague hand-waving about how it "subconsciously" is "turning the tables" to reinforce fear of men? I mean, after all, you wouldn't want to feed the male-hating feminist argument that men are too self-centered to respect women's stories, right? Because there's this thread here, and they might read it and think badly of all men because of you, and it would totally be YOUR FAULT instead of a fault in their perception.
posted by Nattie at 11:49 AM on November 8, 2009 [36 favorites]


Worldwide, women don't own property, don't make laws, are not in the military in large numbers. Laws are made to control women's bodies, in fact, worldwide. So, no, equality, no, not even approaching equality, gjc.
posted by effluvia at 12:07 PM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Just wanted to say that thread was basically life-changing in subtle and profound ways. The women in my life don't talk about this stuff (at least when I'm around), and I very rarely witness it first-hand, so reading all the contributions was an eye-opener. I'm also looking back not-so-fondly on many situations where I should have called someone out on their bullshit, but instead just kept quiet. I'm really going to take a proactive stance from now on. Thanks for the lesson folks.
posted by naju at 12:24 PM on November 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


My choice of using black people as a comparison was purposeful; it was my point to show in a graphic and provocative manner that the culture here makes it acceptable to prejudge and marginalize men. [...] I wasn't comparing feminism (as I understand it) to racism, only the perversion of feminism that doesn't seek equality, but that seeks a turning of the tables. The kind of feminism that needs to reinforce any inequalities that exist in order to prove that they have the right answer. Or that seeks to modify society into a sort of separate but equal society. Sort of like the difference between the message of Dr. King versus the message of Farrakhan.

Oh god. Just stop. Stop right there. I'm banging my head against my keyboard as it is. I know this is not a helpful response, but this sort of "analysis" doesn't do anyone any good. Seriously. Comparing feminism to other social/political movements as if they are all cut from one anti-establishment cloth is juvenile and doesn't help in the least.
posted by jokeefe at 12:32 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


In other words, please read Nattie's comment, who demonstrates greater patience and respect than I am capable of right now, carefully.
posted by jokeefe at 12:34 PM on November 8, 2009


Where women can freely fear and marginalize men, as long as they accept an equal right of men to fear and marginalize women.


What.

No, really, what? You seem to be saying that women are, for sexist reasons, deliberately fearing men. That there isn't any real-world basis for why women should fear or be wary of men. That, aside from sexism, there is no possible reason why a woman would or should be wary of a strange man. That, in fact, because women fear and marginalize men, they deserve to have men marginalize them right back.

Is that what you're saying?
posted by rtha at 12:38 PM on November 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


What I have a problem with is the continual nonchalance at ascribing the violence, arrogance and butt-in-ski-ism as some innate quality of maleness.

All it does is reinforce through example that because some men are capable of evil, all men should be feared.


May I strongly suggest that you are reading into it something that is not there? That you are at best misunderstanding what you are reading? I'm speaking as a fellow man here.

Sidhedevil's analogy about locking our doors is a good one. And if you have read that entire thread, you understand that this is the experience of most women. So when you are aware that a person or group of people is going through that kind of shit in their lives, do you not want to lighten the load for them if you can, even if you have to change your behaviour a little?

I mean, say you live in a flat/apartment, and you just heard that a female neighbour of yours had been raped or assaulted by someone in your building. Would that not make you want to be particularly careful and gentle in your interactions with this neighbour, say if you need to knock on her door for something? Would you not totally understand if she seems suspicious and wary of you, at least initially? Would you start complaining to your other neighbours about how this woman is acting like everyone in the building is a rapist?

My girlfriend tells me that almost every woman she knows on any kind of intimate enough level to talk about these things have been raped or assaulted, often by their family, often as a child. I was once in a clinic for two years, where just a heartbreaking number of young teenage girls pass through every day to try to heal from rape and abuse from strangers and from their own family, their uncle, their father, their brother. I had to see what it did to them. I promise you, that thread is just the tip of the iceberg.

I wasn't comparing feminism (as I understand it) to racism, only the perversion of feminism that doesn't seek equality, but that seeks a turning of the tables.

As you decided to compare it to black people: this reminds me of the view of Glenn Beck and many others like him, that Obama is racist and black people are seeking a turning of the tables, as you put it. Sincerely: you are seeing something that is not there.
posted by catchingsignals at 12:39 PM on November 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


This is probably the best MeTa thread I've ever been bored enough to click on. I skipped over that thread when I first saw it because I've heard the feminist debates a hundred times before at my college. Then I saw this post and decided to give that thread a real real through, and now I realize what I've been missing out on my entire life. Thank you.
posted by shii at 12:41 PM on November 8, 2009


"Real read through", even. dammit
posted by shii at 12:42 PM on November 8, 2009


So if the goal is to encourage equality, then it is an epic fail. All it does is reinforce through example that because some men are capable of evil, all men should be feared.

Oooof. I spent a lot time and energy on that thread because I think that it was an excellent opportunity for some men to come around to the idea that women aren't always trying to be bitches when they reject your kind offer of [whatever] in favor of just going about our own business. If you couldn't be arsed to read the parts of that thread that were telling you that women don't hate men, we love them, and we want them to look out for us and help us, stay aware of what we go through, and love us even though we get messed up about stuff from time to time... I don't know what to tell you. You chose to come to this thread and declare the other thread a fail and assure us that you're sincere and not trollish.

I tried to reinforce the feeling that men weren't being alienated at large from the discussion, but rather invited to engage in conversation that could engender some understanding -- private email engagement with me, one-on-one if that's what it took to get some tough questions answered (because I give a shit about this topic). I supposed you glossed over that bit. But you know what? The thread is closed, and this is all you have to say about it? That we're all failures because we didn't protect you from getting hurt by our discussion? Fuck you and your unwillingness to see around your own giant, wounded ego and read what is actually being written by so many people in that thread. Really. Fuck right off, you "sincere" trollish, argumentative twat. That thread didn't fail. You failed.

You failed to understand something. You're a failure. Not a nice thing to hear, is it? Are your own assholish words making you sick? Deny what I'm saying all you like; you failed to read the part where women and other men were trying to get you to see that it wasn't about YOU. It's about women and their daily struggle to keep loving and trusting a segment of the population that looks exactly like a larger subset of the population who hunts them down and makes their lives miserable for sport. It was never specifically about you. Your ego is largish and could use a little tweaking.

Oh, and you also fail at Analogy 101. Jesus, now that's a good example of failure.
posted by heyho at 12:50 PM on November 8, 2009 [24 favorites]


But I think, subconsciously, that was the point of many of the comments. To remind people to fear men.

Considering that men are the in the majority when it comes to attacks against women, that's probably a good idea. It sucks, I wish it weren't so, but it's not crazy, weird or odd for women to be cautious in their dealings with men, particularly non-strangers.

If that were about black people instead of men, it would have been rightly shut down immediately. Rape culture indeed.

There isn't a centuries long history of blacks attacking and subjugating white people or anyone else, so your comparison doesn't work.

But that goes both ways- what makes one person's "consciousness raising" more valid than another person's?

Timing.

Example: if someone had started talking about racism in that thread, it would have been out of place. There's a time and place for everything and for whatever reason that thread was about some of the crap women have to do deal with and the lack of male understanding about that. Bringing up other issues shows a huge lack of insensitivity and respect.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:58 PM on November 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Correction to my own statement above.

I said: It's about women and their daily struggle to keep loving and trusting a segment of the population that looks exactly like a larger subset of the population who hunts them down and makes their lives miserable for sport.

I meant: It's about women and their daily struggle to keep loving a huge subset of the population which also includes a smaller subset of people who hunt them down and make their lives miserable for sport.

posted by heyho at 1:01 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The main thing that this thread has done - aside from making me intensely depressed about the state of the world right now - is to get me incredibly angry.

I hear you, ZsigE. Oh, do I ever hear you. When I first began reading feminist writings - when it really started to hit me how widespread misogyny is, how profoundly it had shaped my life and circumscribed my choices before I had any idea what was happening, and how much other women I knew and loved had suffered from this - I became enraged. I was also saddened, frustrated, indignant...I felt a mix of strong emotions, many of which I couldn't even name. But the anger was the most salient. It was so pervasive, so visceral, so inescapable.

Worse still, I knew I was angry at something systemic, something I couldn't really deal with directly: the culture. Patriarchy. Sexism. Racism. LGBTQ-bashing. All of it. It made me feel like anything I'd ever do to counter it would be a mere drop in the bucket compared to what is needed. When I tried to point out and address individual manifestations of these social systems - things that happened among my friends or in my daily life that triggered my frustration on a smaller scale - people could sense that I was angry at something much bigger, and accused me of overreacting. Which, unfortunately, only made me angrier. I just didn't know what to do with all that anger.

I have a much different relationship to my anger these days. It's not so debilitating, for one thing, and I am doing a better job of using the energy it provides to serve the goal of positive change. I have limited energy, and I choose my battles carefully. I don't waste that energy on engaging with trolls or trying to reach people who have shown they aren't interested in being reached.

I'm glad to hear the thread got you to join MetaFilter, ZsigE. And I think your anger is entirely appropriate in this context. Respect it, for it can be really useful. You can use it as motivation to do things to improve the climate for women, and to help raise men's consciousness. Call out other men for dickish behavior when appropriate. Look for opportunities to talk about this with your male friends. Read feminist blogs, and think deeply about what you're reading. There are a million things you can do. We need you, guys!

Welcome to MetaFilter.
posted by velvet winter at 1:01 PM on November 8, 2009 [15 favorites]


You know, something else that occurs to me now is that maybe these two threads are helping me understand how women think and feel, at least a little bit, by the fact that it seems completely obvious to me why the confused defensive nonsense that gjc and PeterMcDermott are dumping out there is so wrong. I've thought up a half dozen responses in the last few hours but I'm so...BORED with spelling it out. There have been so many reasonable, patient (and impatient, from the likes of me) responses from women and men to this particular perspective--the, "men aren't that bad, please cut us some slack, my feelings are hurt/I feel shut down/WAAAH" perspective--that I think I may be starting to see, a tiny bit just maybe, what it is like to try to share this stuff with men in general, and I also appreciate even more the fact of these threads' existence and how they've progressed--I know I have learned a lot from them both, and I think a lot of guys did, even if some men are still confused about what's going on.

So yeah, I'm now really tired of making the same point over and over so I'll just say: thanks to everyone who keeps helping me think about this in a new way, and thank you to those patient people (especially women) who keep sharing. It's pretty awesome.
posted by dubitable at 1:43 PM on November 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


If that were about black people instead of men, it would have been rightly shut down immediately.

This is not the case

Rape culture indeed.

I know right? Every time I think that the experiences of me and my close female friends are in some sort of bubble where maybe we live someplace especially unsafe or dangerous or were maybe behaving badly... I learn, more and more, that no, our experiences were actually pretty typical for females of our age and that this sort of systemic (and I use that word quite deliberately) belittlement, harassment and outright abuse are damned near typical experiences for women growing up in the US (and also the UK and elsewhere, certainly). It's baffling when you try to get your head around it. It's almost as if the universality of those experiences had to have some sort of common thread running through them that would make them all somehow related. I wonder.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:44 PM on November 8, 2009 [53 favorites]


Try to justify it all you want, but when you take the actions of individuals and consciously use them to color your future interactions with other people who happen to have been born similar-looking to them, you are wrong.

Nowhere did I diminish anyone's feelings, nor their right to feel whatever they want to. What I have an issue with is the idea that having those feelings seems to be acceptable justification for denying the equality of men's feelings and for treating them differently.

heyho- That was simply uncalled for. My ego isn't bruised, except that I am saddened that I was unable to express myself better.

wrinkled stumpskin- What makes that more important than the experiences of men that women can't have and are hidden from them?

brandon blatcher- That wasn't my comparison. The comparison was that it was made very clear by many of the participants that it's OK to generalize about men here, but that it very much wouldn't be OK to do the same about some other group of people. Different rules apply depending on which group of people we are marginalizing, and that is wrong.

rtha- What.

No, really, what? You seem to be saying that women are, for sexist reasons, deliberately fearing men. That there isn't any real-world basis for why women should fear or be wary of men. That, aside from sexism, there is no possible reason why a woman would or should be wary of a strange man. That, in fact, because women fear and marginalize men, they deserve to have men marginalize them right back.

Is that what you're saying?


No. Nobody should be marginalizing anyone, for any reason. And as is so often pointed out, one can do sexist things without meaning to be sexist. Deliberately fearing men? Probably not. But saying that it's OK to fear strange men more than they fear strange women, for no other reason than what organs they were born with, is sexist. A reason is not an excuse.
posted by gjc at 2:16 PM on November 8, 2009


I was reminded of the thread just last week, when approached by a guy while I was walking home from work. Actually, approached isn't the word - I heard him running to catch up to me. He asked for a light for his cigarette, which was polite enough, but then continued to talk about himself, and asked me to slow down my pace to walk with him. Remembering the article and discussion, and thinking that maybe he just didn't know why I didn't want to talk, I tried to explain - it's late, I don't know you, I'm walking by myself, surely you can understand why this makes me uncomfortable. Didn't work at all, he just kept going, insisting that *he* was a nice guy. So in the end I had to be bitchy to get him to leave me alone. I place a lot of stock in common courtesy, so normally I would have felt kinda shitty about having to do that, but, you know, I didn't - that thread was such an eye-opener, I felt a lot better about standing up for myself. Thanks to everyone who made it so amazing.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:18 PM on November 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


I don't recall anyone expressing contempt for men's participation. I do recall, because I felt it myself, contempt for men who tried to derail the thread into an analysis of what men have to put up with.

Can't speak for other women, but I'm actually eager for men's participation in these types of threads.

I hasten to add, though, that "participation" does not mean spouting off whatever you happen to think in the heat of the moment, without regard to context or the potential effects of your words on women's willingness to participate.

Context. That's the key here. I'd love to see volumes of thoughtful discussion on men's experiences and how misogyny has affected them - in other threads. (Jackson Katz is one of several men whose work deals with this, and I find his work really inspiring, though also heartbreaking at times).

To me, men's "participation" in a thread where women are speaking frankly about their experiences with rape, sexual harassment, catcalling, etc., means listening carefully and thoughtfully, and walking away from the keyboard when you are feeling too fighty or snarky to do that. It means taking pains to remind yourself that women might be angry at a social system and its manifestations, not at "men." (If you don't know the difference, you can start learning about it by reading feminist writings). It means taking what women are saying to heart. It means recognizing, owning and communicating what you are feeling in a way that doesn't lay the blame on women for "making" you think about these things. It means, at the very least, acknowledging that you might - just might - have a few blind spots when it comes to women's experience. It means displaying a willingness to confront yourself and grapple with these things for the sake of justice and social change. It means respectfully and sincerely engaging with difficult subject matter in a way that is open to learning and growth, even if it's painful.

Whenever I see evidence that men are doing any of these things in earnest (as opposed to just paying lip service to feminism as a concept without really understanding it), I feel a surge of hope, because I think that sort of engagement is indicative of a space where there's possibility for real and lasting change. I try to encourage men who are doing this, because they are setting an example for other men.

To all the men who are already doing this (and there are a lot of them on MeFi, which is one of the reasons I love it here): thank you. You are our allies, and we love you. Never doubt that you are doing important work.
posted by velvet winter at 2:22 PM on November 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


No. Nobody should be marginalizing anyone, for any reason. And as is so often pointed out, one can do sexist things without meaning to be sexist. Deliberately fearing men? Probably not. But saying that it's OK to fear strange men more than they fear strange women, for no other reason than what organs they were born with, is sexist. A reason is not an excuse.

No one is saying it's OK. They are saying it fucking sucks, but that's how it is, because MEN keep raping and harassing and de-humanizing women. What are you doing about it?

And no one is saying you can't have a voice or express your opinion. But if you think that the point of the thread is to express how your feelings are hurt, as a man, and show that you are disregarding the seriously imbalanced towards men context of the situations that the women in the thread are talking about, you will be called out as an insensitive asshole. That's life. Grow up.
posted by dubitable at 2:36 PM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Nobody should be marginalizing anyone, for any reason. And as is so often pointed out, one can do sexist things without meaning to be sexist. Deliberately fearing men? Probably not. But saying that it's OK to fear strange men more than they fear strange women, for no other reason than what organs they were born with, is sexist. A reason is not an excuse.

But see, here's where the analogy falls down:

In the case of a person who is marginalizing someone of another race, they usually have NOT had negative experiences -- or any experiences -- and are relying on information given to them by other parties (their parents, their grandparents, their peers, etc.).

The women who shy away from men on the subway, however, HAVE had negative experiences -- a LOT of them. They started out NOT marginalizing men, but a number of men took advantage of that good faith that they USED to have in men and ruined it. It's human nature to want to avoid a situation that has in the past been a negative one, and that's what that hesitancy is, is a double-check that "is this gonna be trouble again?"

So - as I said in that thread -- if you're angry about the fact that some women "marginalize" men, then the person you need to be angry at is the other men who made her feel that way. They're the ones who ruined it for you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:37 PM on November 8, 2009 [13 favorites]


If that were about black people instead of men, it would have been rightly shut down immediately.

The reason people think that comparison is absurd is because black people and women were/are both dominated and subjugated by others (white people / men.) You're right if it were about how black people totally oppress white people, it probably wouldn't have went well, but I don't see what that has to do with the topic at hand.


You're saying "you're right..." but then making up something that the commenter pretty clearly wasn't saying.

I'm pretty sure gjc's point was: When there's a thread about the fact that proportionately more men than women commit certain crimes (which is sadly true), it's lauded. If there were a thread about the fact that more blacks than whites -- or, more black men than other people -- commit certain crimes in America (which is also sadly true), it would likely be deleted.

Several comments have responded to this by proclaiming it to be a ridiculous point, but I don't see anyone actually explaining why it's a ridiculous point.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:43 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


gjc, your racism analogy is entirely backwards. Black people do not have the burden of proving that they are not criminals. However, white cops do, to a large degree, have the burden of proving to black people that they won't kick the shit out of them for no reason. This is because that is a problem that black people face on a day to day basis. You're completely missing the power dynamic at play in these interactions. Basically, you're talking about "reverse sexism" which is as comical phrase as "reverse racism."
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 2:45 PM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


But saying that it's OK to fear strange men more than they fear strange women, for no other reason than what organs they were born with, is sexist. A reason is not an excuse.

Generally, a reason is better than an excuse.

Here's a question for you: do YOU fear strange women as much as strange men? You're on a street, late at night, and you hear someone walking behind you, making the same turns as you, and you cast a glance behind you -- you really don't have any different feelings about it depending on whether it's a man or a woman?

If not, you have succeeded in completely and utterly denying reality, congratulations.
posted by palliser at 2:47 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was angry, now I'm not. gjc, if you want to keep the topic friendly, please refrain from dropping bombs like "race blah blah blah" and "epic fail blah blah blah" and "anti-muslim blah blah blah" in a thread about the appreciation for another thread that seems to have been cathartic and necessary for so many people. I mean really, fiamo if it's a big eyeroll to you, but why chime in just to be insulting?

I apologize to you for calling you trollish and exaggerating the size of your ego. It was a bad reaction to your insults, and I wish I hadn't lost my temper so quickly.
posted by heyho at 2:47 PM on November 8, 2009


But saying that it's OK to fear strange men more than they fear strange women, for no other reason than what organs they were born with, is sexist.

I would like to visit your pretty planet. Where is it located?
posted by jokeefe at 2:49 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


When there's a thread about the fact that proportionately more men than women commit certain crimes (which is sadly true), it's lauded.

You have entirely missed the point. That's not what that thread was about at all.

And now I'm going to go outside and walk the dog and step away from the thread for a bit.
posted by jokeefe at 2:52 PM on November 8, 2009


But saying that it's OK to fear strange men more than they fear strange women, for no other reason than what organs they were born with, is sexist.

Please point out where women habitually sexually harass and assault other women.

You know who taught me to be wary of men? Men. I didn't learn to take extra caution walking home at night alone from my mom; I learned it from men. I didn't learn to not too drink to excess at a frat party from my female friends; I learned it from men. And they didn't teach me by telling me to be careful. They taught me by following me, catcalling me, calling me a bitch when I wouldn't kiss them or smile at them or respond to them. They taught me by assaulting friends of mine. They taught me by raping people I love.

You know what, gjc, you privilege is showing, and it's not very attractive. You want to have women break down their experiences being harassed and assaulted by men as something where each incident was discrete and somehow out of the ordinary. What you're missing is that it's not out of the ordinary, and it's not "oh, it was just that one guy." The vast majority of us have been taught again and again and again by men - strangers, fathers, friends, ex-boyfriends, cousins, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, boyfriends of friends, you name it - that men take it as their right to comment on our bodies, to use our bodies for their gratification, and that if we object to it then we are bitches, or....sexist.
posted by rtha at 2:53 PM on November 8, 2009 [38 favorites]


But saying that it's OK to fear strange men more than they fear strange women, for no other reason than what organs they were born with, is sexist.

I'm scared of strange men who approach me on the street because of the number of times I have been called names, groped, or had to run away as fast as I could. It has nothing to do with their organs. It has to do with living in a society that has taught them that this behavior is okay.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:53 PM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure gjc's point was: When there's a thread about the fact that proportionately more men than women commit certain crimes (which is sadly true), it's lauded. If there were a thread about the fact that more blacks than whites -- or, more black men than other people -- commit certain crimes in America (which is also sadly true), it would likely be deleted.

1) You don't know if this is true. A sensitively presented post could easily succeed here without being deleted...depending then on how the posters dealt with the subject.

The thread being discussed here had just as much likelihood to fall apart. The happy thing was that it didn't, in large part exactly because the kind of bitching you and gjc are doing didn't happen in the thread in any great degree, and therefore it didn't get derailed.

2) Comparing the cultural and social experience of black men to men as a whole is a disingenuous, specious trick. I will explain that to you if you need me to hit you over the head with the obvious, but, really, I'd rather not.
posted by dubitable at 2:55 PM on November 8, 2009


One of the major problems with that article is right there in the title: "without being maced."

The general undertone in that article is that exhibiting the creepy behaviors she warns about puts one at legitimate risk of being maced. The reality, though, is that basically nothing short of physical contact (or attempted physical contact) is going to justify that sort of response. Macing someone who is merely being overly friendly, or even slightly creepy, will mean that your bankruptcy lawyer will be telling you that you can't afford your New York apartment anymore.

You don't get to "set [your] own risk tolerance" if it's not reasonable.
posted by oaf at 3:01 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The general undertone in that article is that exhibiting the creepy behaviors she warns about puts one at legitimate risk of being maced.

You can't see me right now, but I am rolling my eyes SO HARD. After this many comments and all those stories that's what you have to say? Allow me to present you with your Ph.D in Missing the Point.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 3:05 PM on November 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


You can't see me right now, but I am rolling my eyes SO HARD.

That gave me the first chuckle I've had reading this in a while...thanks Doublewhiskeycokenoice...
posted by dubitable at 3:07 PM on November 8, 2009


Allow me to present you with your Ph.D in Missing the Point.

Since you haven't bothered to read this whole thread, here's my first comment in it. I didn't start reading the other, original thread until after it closed. I figured I'd actually elaborate on why the article was abysmal. But if you prefer just taking potshots at people in place of anything substantive, go ahead.
posted by oaf at 3:10 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


But saying that it's OK to fear strange men more than they fear strange women, for no other reason than what organs they were born with, is sexist. A reason is not an excuse.

gjc, excuse my assumption here if it's wrong ... but I get the feeling you're still what I would call a "young" man. As such, I feel for your point, and no doubt, have tried to make it myself (a version of it anyway) at some point in the past. It's logical, rational, presented reasonably ...

And utterly doomed to fail.

Because this discussion (both here in this meta and in the original thread) concerns wounds and transgressions that go far deeper than logic, reason and rationality. Indeed, they go so deep that they threaten our very notion of what might constitute the kind of stable ground that's required for any kind of successful rational, reasonable, logical discourse. This, I believe, is why so many people have been profoundly affected by that thread. Because it goes that deep. It doesn't bow to denial, it's not overtly concerned with being polite; it speaks to truth, "ruthless as nature" (to borrow a line for Karl Jung).

So maybe stop thinking for a while, re-read the original thread and just feel. Deeply.
posted by philip-random at 3:12 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I will explain that to you if you need me to hit you over the head with the obvious

If you want these discussions to improve, I'd suggest two things. First, stop doing that. And second, the aforementioned pile-on effect is bad enough with the sheer numbers of people participating in some of these discussions; one small way to avoid exacerbating it is to limit yourself to replying once to a particular person or sentiment. Exercise restraint and let somebody else make the follow-up, if you think one's necessary; and if nobody does, then (1) it might be worth reconsidering your assessment, if nobody else found it necessary, and (2) even if your follow-up 'restatement' could have added to the discussion, maybe having the thread be slightly less thick and less pile-on-ish adds more, on balance.
posted by cribcage at 3:12 PM on November 8, 2009


Since you haven't bothered to read this whole thread, here's my first comment in it.

Fair enough, you got me there. I will cop to missing your first comment in this thread. Having said that, you still completely missed the point of the article if you think it's about when it's OK to mace a dude. Like, astoundingly so.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 3:15 PM on November 8, 2009


effluvia: Laws are made to control women's bodies, in fact, worldwide and in the US.

(enhanced that for you)
posted by tractorfeed at 3:21 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Having said that, you still completely missed the point of the article if you think it's about when it's OK to mace a dude. Like, astoundingly so.

Where did I say that?

The thing I take issue with is that the author of the article believes that she has some sort of right to unilaterally rewrite the rules of human social interaction, or—if you want the weak version—that it's a threat (and therefore wrong) if it's interpreted as a threat, regardless of intent.

Believe me, if I'm walking home and there's a woman by herself in front of me, I'll jingle my keys or make some sort of noise, but there's no legitimate reason to demand that I stop walking home just because she lives on my block.
posted by oaf at 3:26 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you want these discussions to improve, I'd suggest two things. First, stop doing that. And second, the aforementioned pile-on effect is bad enough with the sheer numbers of people participating in some of these discussions

No. Just . . . no. These discussions will improve when men realize that violence against women is real, and not some sort of bizarre mass hysteria made up because women just want to hate men. These discussions will improve when shit like this:

But saying that it's OK to fear strange men more than they fear strange women, for no other reason than what organs they were born with, is sexist

no longer gets posted. Asking the people in this thread -- most of whom are women that initially tried to be accomidating to men's ignorance and arrogance but then became irritated when men refused to listen -- to stop the "pile-on" is arrogant and frustrating, when it's actually the people who are being piled on who keep on asserting their male privilege in an increasingly tone-deaf manner.

These discussions will improve when we stop accusing women of "piling on" and overreacting when they correctly call men on their fucking bullshit. That is when these discussions will improve. When someone reads that entire thread, which is amazing and heartbreaking and eyeopening and full of brave people telling their stories, and the only thing they got out of it was "ZOMG YOU HATE MY ORGANS," then fuck them. They deserve a pile-on.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 3:27 PM on November 8, 2009 [16 favorites]


The thread being discussed here had just as much likelihood to fall apart. The happy thing was that it didn't, in large part exactly because the kind of bitching you and gjc are doing didn't happen in the thread in any great degree, and therefore it didn't get derailed.

That is what made it such a great thread in that probably a lot of people who would have made jokes, vented some frustrations or just talked because they like to talk did not and because they did not something beautiful happened. I think most people recognized that early on and just held their tongues. Here they are showing why threads like that are so valuable. For the guys this was a thread about listening. Some guys didn't get it, or didn't want to get it. For the ones who didn't get it, go read Cortex's comment upthread. He didn't comment because it was difficult to add something meaningful to such an important thread from someone on the outs from these experiences. A little support is about the best most of us guys can do. We could relate the third party stories we have heard from the women in our lives, but that pales by comparison to the first person stories. If you haven't heard these stories from the women in your life then you really probably haven't been listening for a very long time.

The thing that was so powerful for me was the near universality of the women's experiences. There were degrees but this was an emotion and experience known to all. I sort of knew that but this is a powerful reminder. You will notice that there were very few men and I don't think any women who denied this reality. Even the women who lacked powerful examples knew that they were the lucky ones. This isn't about whether men as a group are good or bad, but rather about what women experience in society and the effect that it has upon how they live their lives. It's not about the guys, even if the actions of very many of them have created this situation, it's about what it is like to be female.
posted by caddis at 3:27 PM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


. . . dammit. "Accommodating."
posted by Frobenius Twist at 3:28 PM on November 8, 2009


Believe me, if I'm walking home and there's a woman by herself in front of me, I'll jingle my keys or make some sort of noise, but there's no legitimate reason to demand that I stop walking home just because she lives on my block.

And I don't think that a single person in that entire massive thread (or over here) has suggested that you should.

What I'm finding interesting is your phrase about "some sort of right to unilaterally rewrite the rules of human social interaction". Because the truth of that matter is that, for untold numbers of years, the "rules" of human interaction have put women in the roles of the gatekeepers. It's our job to watch out for dangers toward ourselves and others. We need to not only take care of our own safety, but make certain that we're not a source of temptation for others. And if something bad happens...well, it was probably our fault, somehow.

Right now, the "rules" - as in, the way things are - mean that many, many women are subjected to harassment for daring to appear in public. It means they can have their appearance/dress/sexual availability open for public consumption - in the form of leering and unwanted comments, and in the form of physical assault. It means that they have to hear people telling them that they're taking things too seriously when they complain, or that it's just a compliment, geez, why do you have to be such a feminazi bitch? You hate men, don't you? You want us to suffer as much as you suffer, is that it?

Those are the rules of human social interaction for many women. And damn straight I'm trying to change them, and so should all men and women of good conscience.

I have so much respect for those who have been fighting the good fight, and I'm just ashamed that I've spent too long sitting back and letting them do my fighting for me.
posted by Salieri at 3:38 PM on November 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


Man, oaf, you're still not getting it. The rules of social interaction are the problem. It is by exploiting those rules that men get away with egregious behavior. You'll jingle your keys or whatever, but the point is we're actually in the same boat when we encounter strange women on a dark street. A woman could reasonably be afraid that either one of us might try to rape her. Our intents don't really matter here 'cause women have a wealth of experience to evaluate their interactions with men that we were not party to. Go finish the main thread and you'll see what I'm talking about.

And that sucks. No one's denying that it sucks. If I encounter a woman on the street and she feels frightened of me, that's a terrible state of affairs. But you know whose fault that isn't? It's not the fault of the woman. And so, because of the society we find ourselves in, we would do well to try and act a little more politely when it comes to our interactions with women we don't know. The fucked up thing is that this sentiment doesn't have to be expressed on the threat of mace. It does, for comic effect, but it should just be expressed on the pain of violating basic human decency. Basic human decency does not appear to extend that far.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 3:38 PM on November 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


that men take it as their right to comment on our bodies, to use our bodies for their gratification, and that if we object to it then we are bitches, or....sexist.

Part of me wants to change that 'some men' in there - and that's part of the problem, and I think where gjc is coming from.

But saying that it's OK to fear strange men more than they fear strange women, for no other reason than what organs they were born with, is sexist.

That's not what they're saying. As tzikeh quoted in the original thread;

"Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, "They are afraid women will laugh at them." When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, "We're afraid of being killed."

You have to understand the difference in the power dynamic. Men scare women. We're bigger stronger, and way, way WAY too many of my fellow men have scared the women around them ranging from actions that are merely crass and ignorant (creepy guy leering at the party), to outright assholishness (catcalling or bugging when you don't want to be bugged) to downright aggressive and scary behaviour such as following home, yelling on the street or groping, and of course yet more serious assaults.

This is what I didn't know before - these incidents are not rare, or isolated to a few unlucky women. They are damn near universal. Damn near every woman you ever meet has been leered at, called a bitch for not wanting to talk sexually to a man she doesn't know, followed home or made to feel scared by a man doing something that would scare *anyone* in the same dynamic - and not just once, but repeatedly. Many many women have been raped or otherwise seriously sexually assaulted. Not all, but a much, much bigger percentage than many men think or realise. And it's often the men that women thought they could trust; friends, family, that previously nice and decent guy who decides that surprise butt sex is on the menu today.

This is the thing. It might only be some men that do it, and many men are decent, honest nice guys - and I'm thankful that many of the women who've gone through horrible experiences are still prepared to give us a chance at all. But the nice guys aren't who they encounter so very often.

The assholes who think it's perfectly ok to tell women precisely what they want to do to their bodies in the street (not them; it's always about the body parts), the ones that leer at them on the subway, the ones that follow them home and bang upon the door, or trap them in a store and try to get their phone number, the ones that pull up beside them in a car and try to get a teenage girl on her own to get in with them, the ones that ask for a cigarette and then thow them to the ground and rape them.

*These* are the men that women encounter every damn day because they're the ones that constantly harrass women because they don't see anything wrong with it. And it makes me so very sad, and so very angry. And then we have men that come in and say 'but men get raped too. And men are more likely to be assaulted or mugged. And I'm not like that, so you're being sexist assuming I'm one of them.' and YOU'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Women put up with something so horribly, so terribly wrong that many men, myself included, just don't get it, don't understand it. That it becomes internalised, and after a lifetime of it you're become subconciously wary. It's not an ongoing thing where you think about it every moment, but it's there and colours your actions in so many different ways that you can't even count them because you're not even aware of them most of the time; my wife tells me that it's just something you do without thinking, it's just the way things are. She walks with her keys in her hand at night, just in case she needs a knuckleduster. She checks behind her when she opens the front door, she checks who's around when she gets in the car. Not because she's conciously afraid, but because that's just how she lives. Cautiously, by instinct. I had no idea. I still don't, not really. But I'm trying to.

Men might feel wary walking down a dark street in the wrong part of town. Now imagine feeling that way subconsiously all the time, because time after time after time some guy didn't just want a light, he wanted to talk to you you about sucking his cock and his friends just stand around laughing while he tries to feel you up. Or your brother, or your father abused you. Or you know several of your friends who were made to have sex when they didn't want to, because they were afraid what would happen if they said 'no'. Or that creepy guy in the building comes banging on your doorway at 2am in the morning and keeps coming back.

Not all men are the enemy, and even the women who've been seriously assaulted are telling you that. But way too many of them treat women like shit, way too many men don't call other men on it, and it happens all the time. So even nice, decent guys like me are going to be treated with wariness, with caution, even if all I'm doing is standing at a bus stop at night or telling them they dropped their phone. Because they don't know me, they don't know if I'm a good guy or an asshole - and even if they did, they don't know that I'm going to keep being a good guy. And that's ok. If I'd been through what they go through, I'd feel that way too. Frankly I'm amazed they still talk to any of us at all.

So cut them some slack. Don't be an asshole. WE don't have to put up with a fraction of the crap they live with, including other men telling them that it's not so bad really and they're just overeacting and being sexist. Go read through that thread again, and listen, really listen to what the women are telling you even if you don't want to accept it or believe it. Then do what you can to treat women with respect and decency and understanding, and callout other men who don't.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:02 PM on November 8, 2009 [74 favorites]


But saying that it's OK to fear strange men more than they fear strange women, for no other reason than what organs they were born with, is sexist.

It's not for no other reason than what organs they were born with; it's because men perpetrate sexual violence at an appalling rate. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime. Would you like to guess the percentage of assailants who are male?

We fear strange men more than we fear strange women because the strange women? Don't catcall, grope, harass, sexually demean or assault us. How hard is that to understand?
posted by DarlingBri at 4:06 PM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


jessamyn- I know right? Every time I think that the experiences of me and my close female friends are in some sort of bubble where maybe we live someplace especially unsafe or dangerous or were maybe behaving badly... I learn, more and more, that no, our experiences were actually pretty typical for females of our age and that this sort of systemic (and I use that word quite deliberately) belittlement, harassment and outright abuse are damned near typical experiences for women growing up in the US (and also the UK and elsewhere, certainly). It's baffling when you try to get your head around it. It's almost as if the universality of those experiences had to have some sort of common thread running through them that would make them all somehow related. I wonder.


Correlation does not equal causation.

heyho- I mean really, fiamo if it's a big eyeroll to you, but why chime in just to be insulting?

You really ought to take the same advice. Your comments toward me have been nothing but dismissive and insulting.

philip-random- I get your point. But I'm not sure we should mind our place and not fight battles because we don't want to upset the applecart. Seems to me like that just perpetuates the status quo.

Doublewiskey-gjc, your racism analogy is entirely backwards. Black people do not have the burden of proving that they are not criminals. However, white cops do, to a large degree, have the burden of proving to black people that they won't kick the shit out of them for no reason. This is because that is a problem that black people face on a day to day basis. You're completely missing the power dynamic at play in these interactions. Basically, you're talking about "reverse sexism" which is as comical phrase as "reverse racism."

Comical as it is, you just did it. The probability of something happening doesn't excuse racism or sexism.

We must not talk to the same people. Because when I listen to people talk about racism, almost universally they speak of being diminished, ignored and suspected, and yes, sometimes beaten, simply because of their race. I'm not sure why that's OK to do when it's a black person doing it to a white police officer.

rtha-Please point out where women habitually sexually harass and assault other women.

High school?

You know who taught me to be wary of men? Men. I didn't learn to take extra caution walking home at night alone from my mom; I learned it from men. I didn't learn to not too drink to excess at a frat party from my female friends; I learned it from men. And they didn't teach me by telling me to be careful. They taught me by following me, catcalling me, calling me a bitch when I wouldn't kiss them or smile at them or respond to them. They taught me by assaulting friends of mine. They taught me by raping people I love.

You know what, gjc, you privilege is showing, and it's not very attractive. You want to have women break down their experiences being harassed and assaulted by men as something where each incident was discrete and somehow out of the ordinary. What you're missing is that it's not out of the ordinary, and it's not "oh, it was just that one guy." The vast majority of us have been taught again and again and again by men - strangers, fathers, friends, ex-boyfriends, cousins, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, boyfriends of friends, you name it - that men take it as their right to comment on our bodies, to use our bodies for their gratification, and that if we object to it then we are bitches, or....sexist.


I apologize for not being attractive. I'll try harder to enhance my plumage.

I don't want women to do anything, except not lump me* in with all the assholes and rapists they have encountered in their entire life.

*and the vast majority of men...
posted by gjc at 4:25 PM on November 8, 2009


It's not for no other reason than what organs they were born with; it's because men perpetrate sexual violence at an appalling rate. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime. Would you like to guess the percentage of assailants who are male?

I would imagine it is pretty high. What's the percentage of males versus the population who are committing these acts? I can't be sure, but I would imagine it is pretty low.

We fear strange men more than we fear strange women because the strange women? Don't catcall, grope, harass, sexually demean or assault us. How hard is that to understand?

I don't do those things nor condone them when I witness them. Yet some people here continue to maintain that it is acceptable to treat the majority of men who also don't do those things with suspicion. How hard is *that* to understand?
posted by gjc at 4:34 PM on November 8, 2009


High school?

Are you disengenuous, actually ignorant, or trolling with this comment?

Because I took some shit at the hands of other girls in middle school, but it was a drop in the ocean compared to the stuff that random guys have don to me and women I love. Also? It fucking stopped once middle school was over. Harassment from men? Not so much.
posted by rtha at 4:34 PM on November 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


I don't want women to do anything, except not lump me* in with all the assholes and rapists they have encountered in their entire life.

*and the vast majority of men...


Unfortunately, when it's a very real matter of getting beaten, raped or killed, I'll take hurting your feelings instead thanks.
posted by gaspode at 4:36 PM on November 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


gjc, It'd be easier to understand if people were doing it. Why you fail to see that it's not our view is lost on me. I don't think this is an "us" problem so much as it is a "you" problem.
posted by heyho at 4:36 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thing I take issue with is that the author of the article believes that she has some sort of right to unilaterally rewrite the rules of human social interaction, or—if you want the weak version—that it's a threat (and therefore wrong) if it's interpreted as a threat, regardless of intent.

Even weaker: interpreted as a possible threat. Not a deliberate provocation, not justification for retaliation, not a crime, not even necessarily an unethical act. Just cause for anxiety and reason to keep a safe distance.

The point of the article is not that any woman can justifiably call any man a rapist any time for any reason whatsoever. That would be ludicrous and irrational. The point is that most women often worry that there might be some men around who are potential rapists.

And look, that's a totally reasonable worry, because some men are potential rapists. Saying I KNOW FOR A FACT THAT YOU ARE A RAPIST would be unreasonable and wrong, but nobody's saying that. Saying "for all I know there's a slim chance you might turn out to be a rapist"? That's simply true. For all she knows there is. And under the circumstances, it would be unreasonable to add "....so I'm going to treat you as a known rapist," but nobody's saying that either. The real conclusion, "...so I'm going to be a little careful until I get to know you," is simply prudent.

gjc, I started writing this before you left your comment, but I think it works equally well as a reply to your last few lines. Nobody is calling you an asshole or a rapist. They are simply refusing to bet their life on the blind faith that you aren't one. I wouldn't ask you to bet your life on that sort of blind faith either.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:36 PM on November 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


I don't want women to do anything, except not lump me* in with all the assholes and rapists they have encountered in their entire life.


gjc, man, you have so completely missed the point I have to hand it to you - this is beyond willfull obtuseness to narcissistic delusion. Let me spell it out for you: you can't have what you want. The other thread, and increasingly this one, is telling you why that is, in painful detail. I advise you to dwell on their voices. Because, at the end, nice guy though undoubtedly are, if you are not part of the solution then you will become part of the problem.
posted by Rumple at 4:37 PM on November 8, 2009 [13 favorites]


I don't want women to do anything, except not lump me* in with all the assholes and rapists they have encountered in their entire life.

*and the vast majority of men


Do you mean to say that those who have suffered repeated instances of verbal humiliation, rude sexual gestures, inappropriate gropes and assaults have no rational reason to be guarded in their interaction with people who have one very specific thing in common? I have a background that includes all of the above and I'm sorry if it seems unfair that I may be wary of you in a situation that falls outside of my comfort zone, but please understand that I'm not doing it specifically to repress you. I'm sure you're a perfect gentleman, but being on guard is something that I've learned to do in order to feel some semblance of control over my surroundings.

There are some women in this thread and in the original one who have not had similar experiences and don't seem to have the same level of sensitivity. That's fine. And I don't think I've seen anyone saying to them, "Well, you've been lucky so far, but if you don't keep an eye on them, they'll get you, too!"

Unfortunately, abusive people look just like everyone else. Based on past experience, I cannot convince myself that it makes sense to trust everyone universally. That approach has failed me and there's really no looking back. But you should understand that this isn't something that I'm doing to you, although it may feel that way. It's something that I'm doing for me.
posted by contrariwise at 4:40 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't want women to do anything, except not lump me* in with all the assholes and rapists they have encountered in their entire life.

Actually, there's this article you can read that's all about how to accomplish that...
posted by neroli at 4:42 PM on November 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


I don't want women to do anything, except not lump me* in with all the assholes and rapists they have encountered in their entire life.

No, no, no everyone -- hold on. I think I see his point. Did anyone actually look closely at the wording of the fpp? I didn't, but I just took another look, and oh shit:

Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced. Especially gjc.

OH MY GOD THAT THREAD REALLY WAS ABOUT HIM. I'm sorry, I take it all back.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 4:51 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


well, man, I have a solution for you if you don't want to be lumped in with rapists and murderers and creeps and assholes:

don't be any of those things, is, of course, the first step

take a hint if a woman seems to not be into you or into talking to you, and be chill about it and not angry or aggressive

be aware of your physical presence and do not use it to intimidate a woman or block her movement

get to know women and, over the course of time, respect their boundaries and be kind to them

voila, you're not lumped in anymore, you're a man that someone knows and trusts and maybe even loves.
posted by kathrineg at 4:55 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


but you'll notice that all of that is your behavior--focusing on what people are saying seems beside the point when your own behavior plays a huge role in determining whether or not you will be seen as a threat.
posted by kathrineg at 4:56 PM on November 8, 2009


gjc, I'm sorry, but you don't get to decide how women react to you. You don't get to pick the way anyone on this planet reacts to you. I don't get to choose the way anyone on this planet reacts to me, either. If I did, I would not choose to have men comment on the size of my breasts and how they'd like to do things to them. I would not choose to have men follow me on the street asking to come home with me and fuck me. But I don't get to choose how all my interactions go with other people, I only get to choose how I treat people.

If you still don't understand that after reading that entire thread and this one, then... I just don't know what to say. I feel sorry for any women in your life, I can tell you that much. They've got their work cut out for them, trying to educate you on how to be a decent human being.
posted by palomar at 5:04 PM on November 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


Yet some people here continue to maintain that it is acceptable to treat the majority of men who also don't do those things with suspicion.

No, they don't. This is probably the main thing you're misreading here. And you really are misreading. It looks like this is an "issue" for you, and because of that, you not looking at what people are actually saying.

No one is saying this is acceptable, as in they're perfectly fine with the status quo. They're saying it is fucked-up, tragic, but unavoidable, and sadly not likely to change any time soon. That's the world all of us, men and women, are living in. And the whole point of feminism is saying that this is a world that wounds us all.

I'm a man, and I understand, on a visceral level, why the term "male privilege" can get one's hackles up. Because most of us, in day to day life, don't feel particularly privileged. To have that term thrown at you can feel like a completely unreasonable accusation.

But if "male privilege" means anything, it means precisely the freedom to say: "Fuck that...I'm not the problem...so I don't have to worry about it."

And yes, you do have that freedom. Which is precisely what's so sad.
posted by neroli at 5:05 PM on November 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


I don't want women to do anything, except not lump me* in with all the assholes and rapists they have encountered in their entire life.

Then respect their caution and quit demanding they drop their guard on your terms instead of their own.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:14 PM on November 8, 2009 [22 favorites]


gjc, let's make this actually all about you.

There's a 1 in 60 chance you actually are a rapist. OK, so you're probably not, but on what basis would you like me to exclude you? I mean, playing thestatistical odds, there have to be at least 800 rapists who are members of this very community. What would you like me to do with that knowledge? I know nothing about you, I have no history of interaction with you, and the one thing I know about rapists is that they're perfectly regular, nice guys.

Nobody goes out with the man who date rapes her because he was a creepy asshole. So really, tell me why I shouldn't lump you into a group of people who I would treat with particular care in the real world. And while you're at it, please educate me on the behaviours and attitudes I should adopt to best insure my personal safety in a world where all the people who want to hurt me in one particular way look pretty much just like you do.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:15 PM on November 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


where all the people who want to hurt me in one particular way look pretty much just like you do.

But handsome.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:22 PM on November 8, 2009


Early on in the other thread, a "nice guy" told us about a time in a grocery store where he felt bad because he got caught ogling a woman's ass.

Even "nice guys" seems to think it's perfectly okay to openly sexually objectify women in public, and it's only a problem if you get caught. Of course, they pretty much always get caught. They just don't seem to notice us always noticing.

Women notice people they think are attractive too. They've just learned not to stare and make people uncomfortable. Because it's rude. It's generally not okay for women to do that. Women's sexuality is supposed to be more hidden and harder to get to.

It puts women on edge to be sexually evaluated in a public place. Openly and obviously. It'd demeaning, dismissive, and reductive. Sometimes it extends into harassment. Some men seem to struggle with boundaries.

We are in a culture where men's sexuality is so celebrated and lauded that as a culture we let them sexualize us no matter who we are, where we are, or what else we're trying to get done. I don't know, does that lead to things like catcalling and harassment? Because out of one side of our cultural mouth we tell them that it's always appropriate and natural, and out of the other we tell them to piss off. Are they confused?

I know there are nice guys out there. I married one. But before you think there's a clear and obvious monster in the room we can blame for all these societal ills (the rapist), consider to what degree you use our cultural approval of male lust in your daily life. It's both extreme and more subtle.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:23 PM on November 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


> Where women can freely fear and marginalize men, as long as they accept an equal right of men to fear and marginalize women.

I know rtha already said it, but it needs to be repeated:

what

> I don't want women to do anything, except not lump me* in with all the assholes and rapists they have encountered in their entire life.

*and the vast majority of men...


I know others have already said it, but it needs to be repeated: You have missed the entire point of both threads. I suggest you cut your losses, stop knee-jerking, and try actually thinking about what virtually everyone is telling you. We're not all crazy.
posted by languagehat at 5:27 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


if you are not part of the solution then you will become part of the problem.

Or ... until you recognize and admit that you're part of the problem, you have no serious hope of contributing to the solution.

This goes for pretty much everyone I've ever met.
posted by philip-random at 5:36 PM on November 8, 2009


Here's the take of this rather oblivious guy after reading the personal stories and gaining quite a bit of insight: if you once get bitten by a dog, you're probably wary the next time you're around a dog. Get bitten another few times, and you won't trust strange dogs. You know not all dogs will bite you, but why take your chances?

In other words: why put yourself in potential harms way when you can stand your distance, come off as a bit cold, and keep from getting hurt?

Also, my thanks to all who were strong enough to share their personal stories.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:47 PM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


gjc, you just don't seem to belong to consensus reality. Have you even been somewhere isolated and dark and scary, maybe 3 AM? And you're equally happy to see a dude walk around the corner as a woman?

I'm a dude and of course I'd be happier to see the woman. I guess I've got the bad self-hate.
posted by Wood at 5:56 PM on November 8, 2009


gjc: “Yet some people here continue to maintain that it is acceptable to treat the majority of men who also don't do those things with suspicion.”

The thing is, I know it sometimes seems harsh that that girl at the bus stop won't talk to us. I know sometimes it stings a little that, when I smiled at that woman on the train, she got up, called someone on her cell phone, and moved to another car. But I can handle it, because whenever that happens I remind myself that if that were my sister, if that were my close female friend, I'd want her to do exactly the same thing in that situation. I can handle it because I'm a grown-up, and being ignored by a stranger I meet on the street is a small and easy price to pay if it means that stranger has habits that keep them safe. Most of all, I can handle it because really my self-worth isn't tied to the way women who have never met me treat me, whereas, if I'm honest, I have some moral investment in making sure my female friends and family members stay safe. I don't even think it's sexist when I say that being able to handle whatever insignificant hurt feelings I might suffer at the hands of women who are just being really, really smart and strong and careful with themselves – well, being able to handle that and understand and not letting it hurt me but instead being glad that another woman's staying safe is "being a man about at," in the best sense.

I know it sometimes stings to be told that we don't understand; and I know that it can feel as though we're just being cut out of the conversation when people say that. But when I think about it, I realize that the only thing that's being cut out of the conversation is whatever license I thought I had to say that I understand what I actually don't. It might seem like a petty place to draw an example from, but one of my favorite moments in the TV show South Park was a recent episode in which Stan and Token (the black kid) have a massive argument about what it's like being black. Stan keeps saying: "oh, I get it, it's like..." and Token will respond: "no. No, Stan, you don't get it." So the next day Stan will realize something and say: "oh, so being black must be like this..." "no, you don't get it." The revelation comes when Stan has a light-bulb moment and finally sees it: he doesn't get it! And that's okay! It's just a stupid TV show, but I thought that was a very wise observation: it's okay that sometimes we don't get it. I'll never be able to say that I know what it's like to be a woman in public in a sexist society, just like I'll never be able to say that I know what it's like to be black, or to be born in another country. There's a whole world of experiences I'll never understand. That doesn't preclude me from conversation with the people with those experiences, and it certainly doesn't mean I shouldn't try to understand more completely what they've been through. It just means that I owe them some respect at the outset, and that I can't really act as though I'm the final authority on their experiences.
posted by koeselitz at 6:07 PM on November 8, 2009 [35 favorites]


palliser: What was so great about that thread was not the "shut up, you don't get to talk, you just get to listen" comments, which annoyed me, too, but the finely drawn descriptions of a woman's narrowing world -- the interactions that, over time, caused her to change her behaviors and her outlook until she felt safe enough. Reading the thread as a woman was enlightening to me, too, as I frequently had the experience of thinking, "Ugh, what an awful thing to happen to you," followed immediately by the recollection that something very similar had happened to me, too, at a similar age, and how it had changed me. I had just taken it for granted.

Indeed, the sharing of experiences was great, and it is a great thing that people are getting something out of that. However, the conversation was far too narrow. For example.. Plain old harassment sucks, but the part of sexual harassment that is so incredibly problematic is the sex, right? Yet there was way too little from a sex-positive perspective in that thread (and this one).
Yes, I get it must be very hard to be sex positive in the face of extremely humiliating experiences from your past..

Absurdly, society allows ill behaving men the power to mar women with a scarlet letter. Without addressing that issue, I don't think the conversation goes anywhere truly interesting. Further, you can't deconstruct that issue without understanding where everyone involved is coming from.

Maybe what I'm trying to say is, that thread was all second wave feminism. Haven't we gone past that yet?
posted by Chuckles at 6:08 PM on November 8, 2009



Here's the take of this rather oblivious guy after reading the personal stories and gaining quite a bit of insight: if you once get bitten by a dog, you're probably wary the next time you're around a dog. Get bitten another few times, and you won't trust strange dogs. You know not all dogs will bite you, but why take your chances?


But, but, but that would be UNFAIR to all those nice dogs! Waaah! No, you have to take every individual dog at face value until they bite you. Don't consciously act on your past experiences in a way that makes you feel safe! That would wrong!!!

Jesus, that's basically the argument being made here. I have trouble believing it's sincerely held by anyone.
posted by milarepa at 6:09 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't want women to do anything, except not lump me* in with all the assholes and rapists they have encountered in their entire life.

Well the first step is to stop being one.
posted by milarepa at 6:11 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yet there was way too little from a sex-positive perspective in that thread

See, it's kind of hard to approach sexual harassment from a sex-positive perspective. Because, you know, when you're afraid for your personal safety, that's kind of every kind of negative.

I assure you that most, if not all, of the women participating in that thread enjoy and celebrate sex when they have a say in it happening.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:13 PM on November 8, 2009 [15 favorites]


I can't have what I want, because it conflicts with someone else having what they want? Am I the only one who sees the irony here?

Or ... until you recognize and admit that you're part of the problem, you have no serious hope of contributing to the solution.

If you're not with us, you're against us?

How can I be a part of the problem when ... I'm not part of the problem? That's not privilege, that's just fact. I haven't done any of these horrible things, or anything near to it. I treat people with respect. What else can I do? I'm asking seriously- what can I go out and do tomorrow that will prevent rape and reduce violence and disrespect toward women?

and the one thing I know about rapists is that they're perfectly regular, nice guys.

I'm hoping you meant that they can seem that way. Because I really, really disagree with the assertion that rapists are regular guys.

And while you're at it, please educate me on the behaviours and attitudes I should adopt to best insure my personal safety in a world where all the people who want to hurt me in one particular way look pretty much just like you do.

Probably the same things you do to ensure your personal safety against all the other ways people can hurt you?

I suggest you cut your losses, stop knee-jerking, and try actually thinking about what virtually everyone is telling you. We're not all crazy.

In other words, shut up and mind my place? What's so knee-jerky about defending the idea that we shouldn't treat people differently because they look like some other people who do bad things?
posted by gjc at 6:14 PM on November 8, 2009


Well the first step is to stop being one.

Asshole, or rapist?

If standing up for my right to not be considered a rapist until I prove otherwise means I'm an asshole, sign me up.
posted by gjc at 6:16 PM on November 8, 2009


And that sucks. No one's denying that it sucks. If I encounter a woman on the street and she feels frightened of me, that's a terrible state of affairs. But you know whose fault that isn't? It's not the fault of the woman.

You know whose fault it also isn't? Yours. You're under as much obligation to change your behavior as she is to change hers. A lot of people seem not to understand that.
posted by oaf at 6:17 PM on November 8, 2009


gjc - I ran out of patience with this brand of obliviousness and privileged whinging in the original thread, so I'm going to direct your attention to the bingo card which you're rapidly filling out with your flailing in this thread, remind you that "what about teh mennz?" is seldom a useful contribution to a feminist discussion and proceed to ignore any further hurt-little-boy comments you might make here.

Because what I'd rather this MeTa were about how amazing and eye-opening the "Hi, whatcha readin'" thread was, instead another tedious round of hand-holding for a guy who refuses to see what's right in front of his face and resents any attempt to show it to him. I don't think it's overstating things to call that thread one of Metafilter's finest moments. I really, really appreciate all the stories that the women of MeFi shared with the community and am glad to have read them, difficult as they were to contemplate. This phenomena is something I was long overdue in coming to fully understand, so I'm grateful for the patience and the courage it took on everyone's part to make that thread what it was. I had a murky awareness of a lot of these issues before reading it, but the scales at last fell all the way off my eyes afterward.

Last week, I was chatting about the Perpetual Deluge of Sexual Advances situation with a couple women I'm friends with here in Oly. One mentioned the countermeasures she attempts to screen herself with out in public, and how frustrated she was with their ineffectiveness against the boundary-impaired. She said earbuds didn't do it, because guys would just talk at her until she pulled them out. She said reading was almost worse than appearing unoccupied because it just seemed to invite fellas to ask, you guessed it, "Hi, whatcha reading?"
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:18 PM on November 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


What's so knee-jerky about defending the idea that we shouldn't treat people differently because they look like some other people who do bad things?

You are deliberately being obtuse.

To take the dog analogy to another level: say you got shot, or almost got shot repeatedly, or have close friends and relatives who were shot, for no reason other than being born as a certain type of person. You know there are good people who have guns, but would you really want to engage in conversation with every stranger waving a gun around?
posted by oinopaponton at 6:19 PM on November 8, 2009


I just meant asshole. But seriously, none of these women are calling the guy in the street in the middle of the night a rapist. They are JUST saying they don't want to fucking find out for sure. And the way they go about not finding out is to minimize interaction. They do this because they don't feel safe. Why don't they feel safe? Oh, I don't know, maybe it's based on the DECADES of scary fucking encounters with psychos. In Willy Wonka Land everybody treats everybody as a blank slate, but in reality none of us do that. NONE OF US. The women here are just being honest about it and it pisses you off. For the life of me, I can't understand why that's so hard to grasp. Frankly, I think you do get it, and you're being purposely daft just to rile people up, which is the principle reason I told you that if you don't want to be lumped in with assholes you should stop acting like one.
posted by milarepa at 6:24 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ok, gjc:
How are we supposed to make exceptions for the "good guys?" We can't. It's not like you walk around with a little halos. First and foremost, you're a man. As a man, you are more likely to rape and kill me than a woman. This is a fact. Sexual Harassment of the worst kind. And to many women there is a detachment from this type of horror - it happens in their city, but not to them. But sexual harassment of a lesser degree is so much more pervasive. And guess what - it's also largely perpetrated by men! So, gjc, when women see you, they first and foremost see your gender. You are categorized as male: grows facial hair, smells good, has a penis, strong.. and somewhere buried in that list is the irrefutable fact: more likely to cause me physical harm.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:24 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


oaf: “You know whose fault it also isn't? Yours. You're under as much obligation to change your behavior as she is to change hers. A lot of people seem not to understand that.”

The question of fault is very easy to answer, so we shouldn't waste too much time on it. Who can we blame it on when a woman on the street is frightened of me even though she doesn't know me? Rapists.
posted by koeselitz at 6:33 PM on November 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


You don't get to pick the way anyone on this planet reacts to you.

Nor am I responsible for it. If they don't react in the way that a normal, reasonable person would, they are fully responsible for their reaction. That's what I think a lot of people aren't getting. Someone goes into full-on defensive mode because you sneeze loudly? That's entirely their doing.
posted by oaf at 6:35 PM on November 8, 2009


Who can we blame it on when a woman on the street is frightened of me even though she doesn't know me? Rapists.

Yes, but the article seems to be aimed at "correcting" the behavior of non-rapists, or probably-not-but-better-safe-than-sorry-so-we'll-treat-them-as-rapists.
posted by oaf at 6:39 PM on November 8, 2009


No one is saying you are, oaf. They're simply explaining, yet again, the reasoning behind their reaction. Is it really that hard to understand? I mean, honestly, what do you not get?
posted by palomar at 6:40 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, but the article seems to be aimed at "correcting" the behavior of non-rapists, or probably-not-but-better-safe-than-sorry-so-we'll-treat-them-as-rapists.

Dude, you wanna end rape? Go for it. Until then, you being pissed off is less horrible than a woman being raped because she was nice to the wrong guy.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:41 PM on November 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


What else can I do? I'm asking seriously- what can I go out and do tomorrow that will prevent rape and reduce violence and disrespect toward women?

I really wish I could could tell you how to prevent rape and reduce violence. And I do believe you're sincere in your wishes to do that. But I don't have any brilliant ideas. I think I can tell you how to prevent disrespect toward women, though.

When women are sharing stories about how they were raped at knifepoint, and they still think men are great, but tend to be more cautious then they'd like to be--don't give them a hard time. Don't argue that their reactions are flawed because they impede perfect equality. Don't give them shit for being unfair to you. Don't complain about being silenced.

Because what you're doing? That's disrespect. That's the fucking definition of disrespect. And maybe you think that even though some people have had tough things happen to them, they're still being unfair to you, and other blameless men like you. OK, that's your right. But by continuing to make the arguments you're making, you're disrespecting women. Not in the abstract. Particular women. Right here, right now.

I don't think anyone on here is going to change your mind, but if you really wanted to be a "good guy," you'd keep that shit to yourself. It's ugly.
posted by neroli at 6:45 PM on November 8, 2009 [39 favorites]


Self-righteous non-reading seems to be a fact of life in this type of thread.

Other people's despicable behavior does not mean I need to change mine.
posted by oaf at 6:46 PM on November 8, 2009


Maybe what I'm trying to say is, that thread was all second wave feminism. Haven't we gone past that yet?

First, I think the thread is way, way more nuanced than you are giving it credit for. There's a variety of feminist perspectives in it, and many are hard to pigeon-hole into a particular wave. That's the nice thing about descriptions and discussions of real life -- it's a lot more messy than theory is, and harder to nail down into narrow categories.

But second, I think that just because we are in the year 2009 and we have kick-ass fourth wave feminist writers to enjoy reading, doesn't mean that therefore second wave feminism is a worthless and old fashioned relic. Second wave feminism was a pretty broad phenomenon, and was based in a lot of observations (such as about structures of power and violence) that have quite a bit of relevance today.

So color me confused about how discussing getting your ass grabbed is going to be hugely different, in terms of second vs fourth wave. "Sex positive" covers a lot of ground, but in all its flavors it's about people taking control of and enjoying their own sexuality. It's not about having sexual violence and harassment imposed on you, unwanted and nonconsensual.
posted by Forktine at 6:49 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


The first time I was catcalled I was twelve. It was by the brother of someone a barely knew, and his friends. I was just biking past.

Me, too, Hildegarde. Walking home every day from sixth grade, lugging my too-heavy trumpet case, the high school guys I passed would tell me that they wanted to "fuck" and "rape" me. Then they laughed together about it.


Me, too, PhoBWanKenobi. Why 12? Because that is when my breasts became noticeable. I was standing in the cafeteria line in 7th grade when a couple of older boys standing off to one side yelled, "Nice tits!" What did the fledgling Secret Life of Gravy do? Did I own my breasts by patting them and declaring, "Yeah, they're a couple of keepers"? Did I fire off a witty comeback such as, "Too bad you'll never get to see them"? Nope. I turned flaming red and slunk off because I was no longer hungry. Then when I got home I threw my favorite yellow sweater in the trash because I blamed a) the sweater and b) myself for wearing the sweater.

Rape culture indeed.

I was one of those women who brought up the fact that I had been raped, so I have to ask, am I supposed to keep that to myself? Am I supposed to pretend it never happened or should I be ashamed it happened, because I did both of those things for many, many years. It took me half a lifetime to figure out I have nothing to be ashamed about.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:49 PM on November 8, 2009 [21 favorites]


Other people's despicable behavior does not mean I need to change mine.

No, you are under no legal obligation and no one here is trying to force you to do anything you don't want to do. But if you know other people have been really mean to somebody repeatedly for years, a lot of people's first instinct would be nice to that person.

Or at the very least, not yell at them "what happened to you is not my fault and doesn't affect me."
posted by hydropsyche at 6:51 PM on November 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


If they don't react in the way that a normal, reasonable person would, they are fully responsible for their reaction.

That's it right there. You assert that these women are not acting in a reasonable way, but based on their experiences to act otherwise would be irrational.

Just go ahead and say these women are being "too emotional."
posted by milarepa at 6:53 PM on November 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


But if you know other people have been really mean to somebody repeatedly for years, a lot of people's first instinct would be nice to that person.

How would I know that if I'm just passing the person randomly in a public space?
posted by oaf at 6:57 PM on November 8, 2009


Other people's despicable behavior does not mean I need to change mine.

Oh, you're so right. I mean, that's why I call all black people niggers. So what if it makes them uncomfortable?

(Sorry, everyone. Just trying out what it feels like to be an entitled asshole. Feels kinda gross.)
posted by palomar at 6:58 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I’d like to share a story in honor of my mother who died three years ago this week. My mother was married to a man who beat and raped her for twenty-six years; she bore him five children. She finally got away from him, but not before many many episodes of him doing things like abducting her in her underwear and taking her to the dump and holding a gun to her head to convince her to reconsider her decision to leave him. She went on to a better life, married a man who was very kind to her. My father died about twenty years after they divoriced. A few years after he was buried, she surprised me by asking me to take her to his grave (about four miles away from where she lived) during one of my visits from Los Angeles.

I found the tiny churchyard where he was buried, and pulled in to the graveyard. I was stunned when my mother began shaking violently. I thought, my god, he’s in the ground and she’s still terrified. I couldn’t believe it. The graveyard was out in the middle of nowhere; there were rundown houses with tattered clothes on the line, I was surprised to see some very old Native American shell mound graves with the Christian graves. Another world so far removed from LAX.

I helped Mom walk, holding her until we found his stone, a World War II Veteran stone. She stared at the name on the stone, and said in a whisper, “I finally know where you are.”

I can’t explain the electricity running through my body just recounting the moment.

Rest in Peace, Mom, I love you.
posted by effluvia at 6:59 PM on November 8, 2009 [43 favorites]


Just go ahead and say these women are being "too emotional."

More self-righteous non-reading going on here…still no explanation for why being friendly/trying not to be antisocial should get anyone maced.
posted by oaf at 6:59 PM on November 8, 2009


Oh, you're so right. I mean, that's why I call all black people niggers. So what if it makes them uncomfortable?

Yes, because that's exactly equivalent to making eye contact or saying hello to a stranger.
posted by oaf at 7:00 PM on November 8, 2009


If they don't react in the way that a normal, reasonable person would

I don't understand why women don't get to set the terms of what normal and reasonable behavior for themselves is. I really don't understand why men who aren't willing to even listen to what women have to say about their own experiences think they get to set the terms of what's reasonable and what isn't. Nobody's saying "mace friendly guys" but strange guys aren't entitled to have women be deferential to their demands for ego strokes either. Even Miss Manners says I don't have to be nice to presumptuous people that I don't know who try to talk to me on the street.

While I had nothing of substance to contribute to the thread, I appreciate all the women who came forward with their experiences and the men who got it and spoke up in support.
posted by immlass at 7:02 PM on November 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


oaf: “Nor am I responsible for it. If they don't react in the way that a normal, reasonable person would, they are fully responsible for their reaction. That's what I think a lot of people aren't getting. Someone goes into full-on defensive mode because you sneeze loudly? That's entirely their doing.”

I might not have said this very clearly:

I'm not a woman, so these conversations don't exactly take place for my personal benefit, but if there's one thing they do for me as a man it's to make me keenly aware of the very human consequences of realities in society which I usually don't even notice. That's a good thing, because when some woman reacts 'oddly' at the bus stop to a loud sneeze I naturally am likely to be confused and say to myself "what a weird lady;" but when a bunch of women explain what it's like to be in just that situation, making that situation personal and drawing me into their lives just a bit, it becomes a lot more obvious that this isn't a political or a social problem, it's a human problem which is faced by every woman I know. And, as such, I don't really give a rat's ass who's responsible for it – beyond, of course, the obvious fact that without rapists, without sexual predators, the world wouldn't be like this. My concern is not with whether she is blaming me when she jumps ten feet just because I sneezed at a bus stop at 3 am. Between her and me, it's not about fault at all. I'm more concerned with (a) making sure there are some places in a free society that are safe places, places where she has every right to tell her story and share of herself without fear (and Metafilter is at its best when it functions as one of those places) – and (b) keeping the whole issue of "fault" out of it, since I want her and all women to know that it's certainly not their fault that they have to face that fear so often.

One thing I've noticed that a lot us men aren't likely to pick up is that victims of sexual harassment and assault very often blame themselves for "getting themselves into this situation" or "not being smart." Of course all of us men, the decent ones among us anyhow, would never imply anything like that to someone we knew who was a victim; and we'd probably be the first to tell her not to blame herself. But this is more of a factor than I think we realize, and considering the historically appalling treatment of sexually-assaulted women (for example, the common tendency people have sometimes had to callously say a woman by wearing this or that) I think it's a good idea to keep in mind that any sane woman probably has to spend more time telling herself "no, this is not my fault, I'm just doing the right thing, and it's not my fault" than we'll ever want to imagine. That's a very real burden, and if we can ease it by graciously understanding that nobody's accusing us of being rapists or blaming us for anything, well then, why not?

And not only is this a matter of trying to be understanding in conversation. I would never, never, never want any woman to be sexually assaulted during the time it takes her to convince herself that she's not being sexist or prejudiced against men because she thinks that guy over there is creepy and wants to run away.

posted by koeselitz at 7:02 PM on November 8, 2009 [13 favorites]


oaf, read the original article. It doesn't seem like you have.

If you're getting maced, you're doing way more than being friendly. What the article is saying-- and what most of us are saying now-- is that women are under no obligation to be friendly back. It is our right to be rude. What we have been trying to explain is that we are not being rude because we are emotional, paranoid bitches, but because we have all come to the conclusion that being curt is safer than being friendly.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:03 PM on November 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


oaf, please point out in either this thread or the original thread exactly where someone said it's okay to mace people for being friendly or making eye contact.
posted by palomar at 7:03 PM on November 8, 2009


More self-righteous non-reading going on here…still no explanation for why being friendly/trying not to be antisocial should get anyone maced.

If you're positing this as a serious request, then you're the one endulging in self-righteous non-reading: the entire original thread is about how there's nothing wrong with being friendly, but how you ought to respect women's space if they seem disinclined to socialize with you once you've tried to initiate a friendly interaction. If you can't bring yourself to read the very posts that have already answered your question, then kindly quit projecting your faults onto everyone who's wasted their time trying to help you.
posted by Nattie at 7:05 PM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


I don't understand why women don't get to set the terms of what normal and reasonable behavior for themselves is.

But they do! Normal and reasonable behavior is what the population of women at large would do.

If you're saying that each woman should be able to select her own individual definition of "reasonable," then of course not. That defeats the purpose of a reasonable-person test.
posted by oaf at 7:07 PM on November 8, 2009


In other words, shut up and mind my place?

Would it kill you to bake a pie?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:09 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Uh... that just doesn't make sense. Wow. You're really not okay, are you.
posted by palomar at 7:10 PM on November 8, 2009


But if you know other people have been really mean to somebody repeatedly for years, a lot of people's first instinct would be nice to that person.

How would I know that if I'm just passing the person randomly in a public space?


But that was the entire point of the original FPP. She wrote the piece to explain to confused men that the reason many women on the street might not be as friendly as you would hope is because they have put up with harassment from strangers on the street for years. And then your peers here on Metafilter have spent hundreds of comments telling you their stories as well.

So, if you didn't know before, now you do know that any given woman you pass randomly in a public space has very likely experienced harassment for the bulk of her life, and thus it would be a kindness to her if you didn't try to pick her up and didn't get offended if she wasn't interested in chatting about the weather.

And now it is up to you to decide how you want to respond to that.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:10 PM on November 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


To be fair, I can kind of see why gjc doesn't feel that his point has been adequately addressed. So I'll attempt to do that here.

Let me paraphrase your critique, gjc, to make sure that I've got it right. Your argument is this: To assume, based on the actions of individual men, that what characterizes a certain behavior is that it is "done by men," is no better than assuming that a certain behavior is "done by black people" just because some specific black people do it. That is, to go from "these rapes were committed by men" to "rape is a male action" is akin to going from "these muggings were committed by black people" to "mugging is a black action." Many of the things that are associated with black people are better explained by other factors (e.g. class), and, you argue, so can rape and sexual harassment be. And if there were a thread where (white) people shared their experiences of being mugged by black people, and talked about what black people could do to make white people more comfortable when walking home late at night, then there would be public outcry and the thread would be deleted.

But here's the thing: that thread would not exist. Because when people got down to posting, their comments would look like this:

"I got mugged by a black guy. I was walking through a poor neighborhood at night and he threatened me with a knife."
"Hey, I was mugged by a black guy too! And a week later I was mugged by a white guy. It was a bad month."
"You know, I always feel scared when I see a black person dressed in baggy clothes on the street at night, but nothing ever happens and I feel ridiculous."
"Well I was mugged by a Latina woman!"

And the comments would not look like this:

"My boss is black, and he scares me so much! The other day he said he'd stab me if I didn't give him my wallet."
"I was at the library and this black woman started following me around and wouldn't leave me alone until I gave her all my money."

My point is that because mugging is not best described as a "black" behavior, a thread ostensibly about experiences of being mugged by black people would soon disintegrate in the face of evidence that:

-People who aren't black mug
-There are many situations in which, when you encounter a black person, you know that there is a vanishingly small chance that they will mug you (either because of the situation or because a black person in that situation is not the kind of person who mugs)
-Mugging is correlated more closely with factors other than race (e.g. class [NOT CLASSIST], geographic location, drug use)

But if you read the thread on the blue and this here thread, and you listen to the stories women have been telling, you will notice something: there is no common factor among people who sexually harass and rape women, except that they are, by and large, male. Women are harassed on the street, at work, in semi-public and public areas, in the privacy of their own homes. They are harassed by people in do-rags, people in business suits, people in cowboy hats, people in steel-toed boots, people with pocket protectors. They are harassed by strangers, bosses, acquaintances, lovers, family members. What do the people doing the harassing all have in common? They are male.

True, not all men commit these acts. Probably most men don't commit these acts. But there is no unifying characteristic of the ones who do — no confounding variable — except that they are the kind of men who commit these acts. The same cannot be said of mugging; the category of "people who mug" is demographically vastly different from the general population of black people.

There are dozens of other ways in which the two situations are different (for example, wariness of men as potential rapists does not negatively affect men except inasmuch as it makes it more difficult for them to pick up random women on the street; men do not face employment discrimination due to "rapist profiling") but I don't have the time or energy to get into them all. Perhaps someone else can start to detail them.

My overarching point for the tl;dr crowd:

Why is profiling men as rapists different from profiling black people as criminals? Because:
-Although all men are not rapists, (nearly) all rapists are men, and there is no discernable way to further narrow down the category with more specific demographic descriptors.
And perhaps more importantly:
-The actual impact of this profiling on men who aren't rapists/harassers is slim to none.
posted by pluckemin at 7:11 PM on November 8, 2009 [26 favorites]


It is our right to be rude.

I'm not sure that encouraging everyone to be antisocial is anything other than a temporary solution.
posted by oaf at 7:11 PM on November 8, 2009


oaf, please point out in either this thread or the original thread exactly where someone said it's okay to mace people for being friendly or making eye contact.

Let me direct your attention to the title of the article linked in the original thread on the blue.

Uh... that just doesn't make sense. Wow. You're really not okay, are you.

I see you're lost—you might want to take a look at this Wikipedia article.
posted by oaf at 7:15 PM on November 8, 2009


I'm not sure that encouraging everyone to be antisocial is anything other than a temporary solution.

Right, because none of us have friends or significant others.

I'm not really sure what you think women should be doing. What's your solution?
posted by oinopaponton at 7:16 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


And this is exactly the kind of hijacking that gets so frustrating and tiresome for feminists. There's always one or two guys who insist on turning the conversation toward them and their issues and can't hear what anyone else is saying, no matter how politely (and repeatedly) it's expressed.
posted by Salieri at 7:18 PM on November 8, 2009 [15 favorites]


More self-righteous non-reading going on here…still no explanation for why being friendly/trying not to be antisocial should get anyone maced.

Is everything you post eponysterical or just today?
posted by milarepa at 7:19 PM on November 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Also, oaf, I think you're making a mistake in your reading of that article that gjc and a few others have also made. It might seem reasonable to read it as an article telling women how to act – telling them not to trust men, telling them to worry about unknown guys they meet in public, et cetera. That wasn't the point, though, because women already think and act that way, and whether we think they should or not that's their common experience. The point of the article was to explain to us guys what that feels like. See? It wasn't intended as a prescription for women, telling them to act thisway and assume that about every guy they meet. I think the thread that followed served as enough evidence that this is already a reality for every woman. The rather awesome purpose of the article was to open up that reality and share it with us men in the hopes of helping us understand more clearly the female experience.
posted by koeselitz at 7:19 PM on November 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure that encouraging everyone to be antisocial is anything other than a temporary solution.

It is not antisocial or frigid or bitchy or uptight or paranoid to decline to engage with strangers in settings where one might feel vulnerable at risk.
posted by lalex at 7:20 PM on November 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


Self-righteous non-reading seems to be a fact of life in this type of thread.

Other people's despicable behavior does not mean I need to change mine.

...

If you're saying that each woman should be able to select her own individual definition of "reasonable," then of course not. That defeats the purpose of a reasonable-person test.


I'm sorry that you don't get it. I think you've made some seemingly-impervious logical argument that you want addressing, but it's not going to happen on the terms you want. Nobody's really that interested in whether you win or lose this discussion. I applaud the tireless work of some people in both threads in countering every point like yours, but you know, more than anything else, I wanted to hear people's experiences and their histories - not the unending arguments. My own history is quite different to most women who spoke, but I feel it's valuable to take what they said and use it to understand where I am and where I'm coming from. I know a lot more after having read that thread, and I feel that if you're honestly none the wiser, then either reread the original thread, or this one, or don't. Otherwise, this is just a heads-up that your argument really isn't as interesting as you might think.
posted by Sova at 7:21 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


oaf, you've done a frightfully good job of living up to your name. I feel sorry for you -- it's becoming rapidly clear that you're exactly the kind of man that the source article was written for. It's really, desperately sad that you read both of these threads and still can't wrap your mind around why your behavior is driving women away from you. Someday, maybe, you'll open your mind. Obviously, today is not that day.

I wish you luck in someday becoming a standup guy, and not what you are now.
posted by palomar at 7:22 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure that encouraging everyone to be antisocial is anything other than a temporary solution.

You're beating the stuffing out of this strawman. It is tiresome. No one is encouraging antisocial behavior. No one is saying don't be friendly.

You know what is antisocial behavior? Throwing a fit when someone tries to explain that when they don't return your friendly overtures, the reason isn't that they're a bitch.
posted by Nattie at 7:22 PM on November 8, 2009


any given woman you pass randomly in a public space has very likely experienced harassment for the bulk of her life, and thus it would be a kindness to her if you didn't try to pick her up and didn't get offended if she wasn't interested in chatting about the weather

I never have really gone around trying to pick up women. Partly because it's always seemed crass to me, and partly because it seems like it would be really awkward (me attempting to catcall à la stereotypical construction workers would probably be so laughable you could sell tickets).

It just seems to me that the advice in that article will produce one of three main results: the antisocial guys who will be even more afraid to interact with women, the normal guys who will make a conscious effort to broadcast "NOT HITTING ON YOU" with their body language, and the actual rapist types, who will do absolutely fucking nothing.
posted by oaf at 7:27 PM on November 8, 2009


why your behavior is driving women away from you

You've lost touch with reality.
posted by oaf at 7:29 PM on November 8, 2009


Let me direct your attention to the title of the article linked in the original thread on the blue.

Thank you. I directed my attention thither, and was offered a guide to not getting maced, which seemed interesting, as I enjoy not being maced. And when I read it, it turns out that all I have to do not to get maced is not to persist in engaging someone who does not want to be engaged. Some handy advice was provided for detecting when a person does not want to be engaged. Nowhere was it advocated to mace anyone for "being friendly or making eye contact." (Also, and this is a just a possibility mind, it's possible that there was a little hyperbole in the threat of mace, but that is a side-issue).

How many people must show you where you misread before you will give up on this non-point? It's time to let go of that bone.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:32 PM on November 8, 2009 [19 favorites]


I'm not sure how this adds, but here it is. I see how people sometimes view my brother as he walks down the street.

A large African American male, I sometimes see non-blacks view him warily as he walks down the street (in the US), and I think - aargh, you don't even know him! How can you judge him negatively based on your previous experience/your friend's experience/popular media/rap music/your fears? He's not going to rob you, so get over yourself. He's an individual, dammit! You should be so lucky as to have a friend like my brother! Keep your prejudice to yourself.

And then I see how some women view him, of all races....warily as well. And I think, yep, well, you're a strange guy twice their size. And it's not safe out there. So, you need to understand that they are pre-judging you until they have proof that you aren't a danger to them, because the previous data isn't always favorable, and the stakes are high if women mistake a dangerous man. Be respectful, don't make sudden moves, and try to be considerate of what their concern is, whether you agree with it or not. Some other men made it harder to trust. It sucks, but there it is.

When you consider both scenarios, my brother is on one side, and then the other, of the 'privilege' line. Both scenarios make me quite sad. I've decided I hate both sides of the privilege line.

I mention this because in reading this thread I appreciate the frustration on both sides, from gjc and oaf to DarlingBri and palomar.

I also realize it's hard to convey the appropriate amount of nuance online at times, particularly around 'shut up and listen'. There are times when it sounds like an imperious command, and others when it's a ragged plea. It's always sad when a ragged plea gets misheard as an imperious command.
posted by anitanita at 7:33 PM on November 8, 2009 [63 favorites]


Classic sexist move #3, if she gets uppity just tell her she's crazy.

Yeah, today's definitely not your day for learning anything. I still feel sorry for you. Someday, man. Just keep striving.
posted by palomar at 7:34 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's always sad when a ragged plea gets misheard as an imperious command.

That's the truest and most beautiful sentence I've read in a long time. Thank you.
posted by neroli at 7:37 PM on November 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


What neroli said...anitanita, thanks for that interesting and thoughtful comment.
posted by lalex at 7:38 PM on November 8, 2009


It just seems to me that the advice in that article will produce one of three main results: the antisocial guys who will be even more afraid to interact with women, the normal guys who will make a conscious effort to broadcast "NOT HITTING ON YOU" with their body language, and the actual rapist types, who will do absolutely fucking nothing.

Well, I may be dense or confused, but I think there are other options. I myself had some recognition, after reading the article, that there may have been behaviors I myself had engaged in in the past that made women uncomfortable, which I will try to be more aware of now and no longer do. I also had the realization after reading the thread that there were things I could do in terms of my relationships with other men that could also help mitigate the current horrible situation of the world in regards to women's safety and general wellbeing. It also strengthened my belief that feminism is an important perspective to adopt not just for women but for men, like myself, who believe the world would be a better place if we were all fundamentally respectful of women's basic human rights, and did everything we could to promote that understanding.

But hey, that's just me, maybe I don't get it like you do oaf
posted by dubitable at 7:39 PM on November 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


If you're saying that each woman should be able to select her own individual definition of "reasonable," then of course not. That defeats the purpose of a reasonable-person test.

You realize, don't you, that there's not a crisp line of demarcation between "reasonable" and "unreasonable"? Individual circumstance and personal history can play a huge role in what's a reasonable response to any given situation.

Within reason, of course.
posted by Red Loop at 7:40 PM on November 8, 2009


oaf - take a walk. You've gone from being obtuse to just being petulant.

everyone else - let's facilitate oaf's upcoming head-clearing stroll by ceasing to pick the low-hanging fruit his arguments keep growing.

So, again, back to the pre-hijack discussion: the article was on-point and the thread that unspooled from it was astonishing. I think it's such a good thread that it might be a good idea to not keep it to just we MeFites. I wonder, has anyone shared this with other people in their lives? What do you think would be a good way to get more eyeballs pointed at it?
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:44 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


dubitable, the three-options thing was about changes in behavior, not beliefs or knowledge. It's possible to see that you should change your behavior without having a single conscious thought about feminism.
posted by oaf at 7:45 PM on November 8, 2009


oaf - take a walk. You've gone from being obtuse to just being petulant.

I'm not the one making up lies about other MeFites.

everyone else - let's facilitate oaf's upcoming head-clearing stroll by ceasing to pick the low-hanging fruit his arguments keep growing.

That's not where the low-hanging fruit is coming from, but…
posted by oaf at 7:46 PM on November 8, 2009


I'm not the one making up lies about other MeFites.

And I'm not saying you are, EatTheWeak.

posted by oaf at 7:47 PM on November 8, 2009


oaf: You're officially boring.

EatTheWeak: word. I'm not sure, but I will be sharing it with friends of mine, definitely. For the mods: any chance it could get an extra special highlight somehow? Is there a longer-term MetaFilter "greatest hits" that I'm not aware of?
posted by dubitable at 7:47 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


the part of sexual harassment that is so incredibly problematic is the sex, right?

No. The part of sexual harassment that's so problematic is...the way our entire goddamned culture permits this unrelenting abuse of power to go on. It's the fact that people we are supposed to trust are sometimes the same people who look the other way and pretend it's not happening. It's the fact that when we speak up about it and try to get men to realize how prevalent it really is, we are not believed. It's the fact that people don't see or understand how the social power dynamics operate, and thereby fail to recognize the difference between disempowering sexualization (which sucks) and mutual, respectful sexual desire (which is awesome). And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

it must be very hard to be sex positive in the face of extremely humiliating experiences from your past.

Nope, not hard at all. In fact, among other reasons, it's because I value sex and desire so much - and am painfully conscious of how sexual harassment interferes with the fulfillment of it - that I am so passionate about doing my part to create a world where women don't have to fear rape and harassment and all the rest. I want to live in a world where I, as a woman, don't have to fear that I'll be disdained and branded a "slut" because I'm lusty and I love sex. I want to live in a world where I am not presumed to be inviting male sexual aggression when I take sexual initiative or otherwise depart from male expectations of my sexuality. A world where my sexual agency is respected - where no means no, and yes means yes. A world where women aren't pigeonholed as "good girls" or "whores," and men aren't pigeonholed as brainless oafs who only care about "scoring." A world where I can be sexually desirous, even shockingly lascivious - and sexually desired as well - without having to be non-consensually sexualized. A world where respectful, non-predatory men are irresistibly sexually attractive and get laid as often as they can handle because, well, frankly, they're incredibly hot.

That's the world I want to live in. Now then...how do we get there?
posted by velvet winter at 7:50 PM on November 8, 2009 [26 favorites]


It just seems to me that the advice in that article will produce one of three main results: the antisocial guys who will be even more afraid to interact with women, the normal guys who will make a conscious effort to broadcast "NOT HITTING ON YOU" with their body language, and the actual rapist types, who will do absolutely fucking nothing.

Therefore... what? The article shouldn't have been written because...? Women shouldn't attempt to explain where they're coming from? Women shouldn't try to reassure individual men it's not about them in particular? Women have no right to say, "hey, by the way, when I'm reading or otherwise sending signals that I don't wish to talk to anyone, it would be nice if you don't talk to me just like you wouldn't talk to a guy sending those same signals?" Women should just shut up and take it because, even if they try to talk about it, nothing is going to change?

Geez, thankfully your type have been in the minority in these threads, or I would feel pretty hopeless right now.

Anyway, since you seem to have abandoned your "encourages antisocial behavior" argument in favor of this one -- and good call, by the way, given that there'd be no way to explain how any of us have friends and significant others, or the fact that plenty of us manage to have friendly interactions with male strangers on a daily basis -- I think we'd all appreciate if you could just make a list of the arguments you intend to make and when you will abandon them; I'd rather just start on the next one.

But really, at this point I suspect you're just trolling.
posted by Nattie at 7:54 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


oaf, based on the memail you sent me I really do think you need to seek help.

You're blocked now, by the way.
posted by palomar at 7:55 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I feel sort of compelled to say this, with the knowledge that it's probably just shouting into the Grand Canyon.

I'm not suspicious of men in general. I'm not suspicious of men who approach me at the reference desk at the library, I'm not suspicious of men who interact with me in some professional capacity... I'm suspicious of men who approach me in the street, and suspicious of men who approach me in the subway. Because I can think of exactly one time in my twenty-seven years of life when that did not end badly, and that was this weekend when a German tourist asked me how to get to SoHo. Okay, twice, if I count that time a paramedic happened to be sitting opposite me when I was commuting home with a broken finger. I don't prejudge men. I prejudge that set of men that approaches a complete stranger knowing nothing about that person but their appearance. When you approach a complete stranger, you have already signaled that you might not be especially alert to social cues, that I might not be able to shake you if I don't want to talk to you, that it is within the realm of possibility that you might decide to spontaneously hug me.

That doesn't mean I'm going to mace you. It means I'm going to be on my guard and ready to become curt. ("Okay, I'm going to read my book now.") And, honestly, that's only slightly more on guard than I would be if a female stranger approached me, because seriously, New York has some crazy people, and No One Talks To Strangers On The Subway is kind of the rule.
posted by Jeanne at 8:02 PM on November 8, 2009 [15 favorites]


Actually, could we not feed him at all, please? This is why we can't have nice things, by the way.
posted by heyho at 8:11 PM on November 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


I've had this thread open in my browser since it started. (Yes I'm a crazy tab person. And this is probably a record. ) I just want to thank everyone that contributed their stories - at first when I was reading along, I was so glad nothing like that had happened to me, but then I started to remember the exact same things happening, but I had just mentally filed them away. I still remember the exact point when I realized that if someone is treating me in a way that makes me uncomfortable, I no longer owe them the social courtesies they may try to extract from me. Honestly, trying to be "nice" to guys that fail to follow social cues seems to be where all these incidents start for me at least.
posted by fermezporte at 8:15 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


palomar, are you going to apologize for the personal attacks you've made in this thread, and the unfounded statements you've made?
posted by oaf at 8:20 PM on November 8, 2009


Actually, could we not feed him at all, please?

Could you please quit pretending that I'm trolling, unlike palomar and jabberjaw there?
posted by oaf at 8:22 PM on November 8, 2009


velvet winter - my reflexive suggestion whenever there's talk of creating a finer world in terms of culture is better education, sooner. I tend to believe that some of most difficult attitudes and beliefs people hold are those they learn young, those that we learn as a fact of life and never question, especially when it comes to relations with those different from ourselves. Children grow up and pass toxic attitudes down to their own children, providing a social inertia to behaviors and beliefs that bare reason should have discredited long ago. The story men and women grow up believing about one another leads both to intergender misery and behavior that strengthens this story.

How do you think we can change this story? Boys and girls grow up right next to each other, and yet men and women don't understand one another. Do you think there's any adjustments to intergender socialization and education that might make the rise of such a world more likely?
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:23 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


(seriously, please, let him be)
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:26 PM on November 8, 2009


EatTheWeak, that's a really interesting question. It seems to me like any socialization adjustments would have to come very, very early -- by the time kids reach preschool they already have firm ideas of what "girl" behaviors and "boy" behaviors are, and there's not a lot of overlap.
posted by palomar at 8:29 PM on November 8, 2009


I just deleted a long comment because I agree with what EatTheWeak is trying to do.

I just wanted to add my thanks, though reading through the blue thread made me tremendously sad. I'm a man, and in genuinely scared to contemplate what the women I love have faced in their lives and have never told me.

This thread has also made me sad, but for completely different reasons.
posted by dnesan at 8:43 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


That really is a fantastic thread, although it effectively ended one of my friendships. He turned out to be one of those that made himself out to be a victim and then turned to personal attacks... and since I'd been keeping up with that thread for a while by then, his reaction was familiar and quite like some of the more offended/defensive comments.

I was afraid to share any details of my personal experiences with rape and sexual assault in that thread as some others did for a number of reasons, the main reason being that I never saw the linked thread as being about rape. My friend saw it as many others did, as an attack on men and bloody-minded labeling of men as rapists.

I didn't entirely agree with the linked article and I still don't, because it does not apply to all women and does not apply to all men... nothing does, beyond things like "all humans need oxygen." Yet I've had a difficult time because of that thread, because some people simply don't listen to other people without thinking about things for a good long time first.

That's the primary problem with that thread, as I see it. We're all entitled to our opinions obviously, but is it really that difficult to at least understand a viewpoint without needing to agree with it? Then again, there were far fewer trolls than I expected and, damn it, I love you MeFi.

For what it's worth now, I mentioned in that thread that I had been raped by a man that wasn't "creepy-looking," a man that I knew and thought I could trust. What I didn't say is that an ex boyfriend raped me regularly, an ex colleague raped me, and one stranger raped me while his friend held me down. None of those men fit a profile, the colleague and boyfriend did not instill fear in me before they raped me.
Now, with that said, note that my experiences have not and will never prevent me from making friends or having healthy relationships in the future. I will never say to a man, "you are a man, therefore you have the potential to rape or otherwise harm me."
I do not feel that men qua men are the threats. Instead, other people are threats, and I treat many strangers with the same reluctance.

What I liked about that thread was that, ultimately, it opened up a very interesting and deep discussion that probably changed someone's life. I know it changed my outlook.
posted by neewom at 8:49 PM on November 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm not answering because I agree with EatTheWeak too.

At least the derail didn't happen in the original thread.
posted by immlass at 9:02 PM on November 8, 2009


Just want to chime in and say thanks for everything that all of you have contributed in these threads. Sometimes there aren't ways to really convey how much it means to hear people say things that are so relate-able and need to be said publicly. For as much as I usually chime in on threads, there are some things that I still struggle with every day, and it helps to hear so many strong women tell their stories and be so forthcoming and brave. And to the men, who I've already noticed stepping up and saying things and just...I'm just so fucking happy and relieved that I'm actually crying over this thread (and when I thought I had done it all in that other thread). It's good stuff, thanks.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:08 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


". . . not keep it to just we MeFites. I wonder, has anyone shared this with other people in their lives? . . . a good way to get more eyeballs pointed at it?

EatTheWeak. I've shared this with a number of people. IRC was a good venue for this, actually, and I've pointed family members to it ... I would be surprised if that thread isn't spreading out among the web without our continued help/linking; after a while, it has a certain momentum. Frankly, that thread changed my outlook in a profoundly good (albeit subtle) way, and if something like that happens to me I'm going to pass it on.

"Do you think there's any adjustments to intergender socialization and education that might make the rise of such a world more likely?

I'm not sure many adjustments are needed, in all honesty. Comparing my world to the world of my grandmother, things have changed in many ways and I, for one, am glad for them ... and things are still changing, although the changes are subtle when looked at from a present-day eye. The changes that I can see being beneficial are things that many of us are already doing; being accepting of others even if we find them "different" or disagree with them, raise our children to ask questions rather than accuse, things of that nature. We can't force others into our world view, after all.

Still, I was extremely lucky with my father's parenting style. He raised me without stereotypical gender-specific ideals or behaviors and with a healthy dose of "live and let live." The more of us that can be like him, I'd say the better we'll be.
posted by neewom at 9:22 PM on November 8, 2009


palomar - based on my very limited experience with little kids, it seems like they're starting to comprehend stories pretty well and absorbing social tropes and whatnot pretty quick at two years old. And preschool starts at ~3-4 years old? So, that leaves a two-year window to play with.

So what kind of stories are we telling kids at that age? What activities are we suggesting to them? How are we dressing them and putting them together? What do they see and absorb from observing the adults around them interacting?

And which bits would be best to change up?
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:22 PM on November 8, 2009


I'm asking seriously- what can I go out and do tomorrow that will prevent rape and reduce violence and disrespect toward women?

I said this in the other thread: I'll say it here too.

So -- what can you go out and do tomorrow that will prevent rape and reduce violence and disrespect towards women?

Call other men out on their bullshit.

If you see a guy catcalling a woman and she looks clearly uncomfortable, tell the guy to stop because he's being a dick. If you're out with your friends -- both men and women in the group -- and one of the guys starts cracking sexist jokes and you see that your female friends are getting annoyed, tell him he's being a dick. If you're at a bar and there's a guy next to you trying aggressively to pick up a woman and she tells him to buzz off and he turns to you all butthurt and says, "boy, she was a bitch, huh?" tell him that no, she wasn't a bitch, he was being a dick.

It's these other guys who are ruining it for you, by being dicks. Tell them to stop being dicks.

That's what you can go out and do tomorrow.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 PM on November 8, 2009 [26 favorites]


How do you think we can change this story? Boys and girls grow up right next to each other, and yet men and women don't understand one another. Do you think there's any adjustments to intergender socialization and education that might make the rise of such a world more likely?

Good question, and I appreciate your thoughtful approach to the topic. I'm interested in hearing all kinds of ideas from all corners about how to accomplish this. I think there are a huge number of ways to work toward a world free of rape and sexual violence - so many that we can just pick one (or, preferably, several) and start digging in. Education is certainly one of them. Obviously, given how entrenched these toxic patterns we've learned are, we'd do well to acknowledge that real change can be a long and drawn-out process. But we can take heart in the fact that every little bit of effort counts. We need it all.

One of the things that's occupying my mind the most these days as a potential contribution toward a new kind of culture is men and women learning how to value, respect, and nurture true female sexual agency. (And for what it's worth, I freely admit that the keenness of my interest in this particular angle of it is driven as much by my own dating disappointments and other personal concerns as it is by my desire for social and cultural change).

I recently read a great book (and blog) that I can recommend on this topic - Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power & a World Without Rape.

I'll quote from the foreword, which was written by Margaret Cho:

"So often it seems as if the discourse is focused solely on the "no means no" model - which, while of course useful, stops short of truly envisioning how suppressing female sexual agency is a key element of rape culture, and therefore how fostering genuine female sexual autonomy is necessary in fighting back against it...The goal of Yes Means Yes is to explore how creating a culture that values genuine female sexual pleasure can help stop rape, and how the cultures and systems that support rape in the United States rob us of our right to sexual power. Clearly, this is just one part of a much larger struggle - we don't believe that empowering female sexuality is the answer to dismantling rape culture, or that it will stop all rape, nor is sexual freedom the only cost of rape. But until we start shining a light on all the dark corners of sexual shame and blame projected onto us by American culture, we're going to keep spinning our wheels."
posted by velvet winter at 9:50 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


oh for god's sake, oaf. My computer fried itself last week so I can't IM you directly to say: please stop, it's terribly embarrassing to see a friend dig himself into a flamehole like this.
Certainly it is not incumbent upon you to change your behavior around women you don't know. It is also not incumbent upon women to be consistently friendly-like toward men they don't know, especially when far too high a proportion of men use that friendly behavior as an opening to harass, assault, or rape women.
You're a perfectly fine human being, but the majority of women here don't know you in person, and they have the right to view you as a potential threat until they are assured otherwise. Kinda like when you receive emails from people claiming to be Nigerian ministers...
posted by casarkos at 10:30 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


it effectively ended one of my friendships.

That happened to me, too, neewom. In fact, my feminism ultimately cost me two marriages, along with fully half of my former circle of friends. As my feminist awareness and commitment grew stronger and stronger, the distance grew wider and wider between me and some of the people who were once close to me. That process - observing the growing alienation in some of my relationships, and being utterly unable to heal it or fix things no matter what I tried - was extremely painful.

These days I feel immensely grateful for the fact that these people are finally out of my life and no longer draining my energy, but damn, it took a hell of a long time to get here, and I paid a much higher price for it than I should have had to. And I hate it that other women have to endure the same kind of alienation I did (and worse). Still, I admire your willingness to speak out and stand up for what you believe, even at great cost. And I certainly agree that negative experiences don't have to hinder one's capacity to make friends and have healthy relationships.
posted by velvet winter at 10:32 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


That is, I hope you stopped by the time I finished picking out every letter of the previous comment on this damn Wii interface.
posted by casarkos at 10:37 PM on November 8, 2009


While the last thread reminded me of my first experience being aggressively cat-called by an adult man when I was all of 13, it wasn't until this thread that I remembered a conversation I had with my first boyfriend at around the same age. I don't remember how the topic came up, but we were walking somewhere, and I said something about how I would probably be afraid to walk where we were without him because there were so many stories about girls being raped. His response was something along the lines of "But, at some point, you'll let me do that to you, right?"

The abysmal depth of the cluelessness in that statement actually took years to sink in. In the moment, I simply tried to explain that no, I wouldn't, because there was a huge difference between sex and rape. And he wasn't a hackles-raising kind of guy - he wasn't coercive, let alone violent. Even after that I wasn't afraid of him (though I sure as hell wasn't about to have sex with him for a lot of reasons).

Now that I look back on that conversation, I consider it disturbing that apparently both of us were getting most of our information about sex and sexual violence from popular culture. I had absorbed all the "stranger danger" stories, with no awareness that most violence against women is perpetuated by someone known to them. I had no idea at the time just how fortunate I was, in light of that statement, that I was walking down that quiet road with a clueless boy, not an abusive one. And I'm not sure what was missing from his education, but something clearly was.

Even if I had a solution to propose, it's too late for me to be trying to articulate anything that complex, so I'd like to close by saying thanks to the many people here and in the Blue who shared their stories and stood up for each other. You rock, and I applaud you.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:41 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I read the entire "Watcha reading?" thread twice over this past month. I haven't slept well these past few weeks while reliving my experiences that were so similar to those who bared their their souls I'm still not through with this Meta thread, but I will read it all, maybe twice. It's not all about rape, it's about respect for your fellow humans. Why is that so hard to understand??
posted by wv kay in ga at 10:45 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know whose fault it also isn't? Yours. You're under as much obligation to change your behavior as she is to change hers. A lot of people seem not to understand that.

Screw that. Others have said it far more eloquently than me, but I am damn happy to change my behavior in ways that might help women feel less threatened around me. What I lose is that I don't get to do whatever the hell I feel like whenever I want (as a straight white male this is the default situation) and I have to consider someone else's feelings for five seconds.

That article and that thread were eye-opening, and I'm not gonna sit here and pretend like any of those stories I read were anything less than completely fucking spot-on. It's a window into a world I will never live in and I will take those concerns seriously. And if it means I have to change some of the things I do on a day-to-day basis? So be it. I would rather help make a world that women feel safe to live in.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:04 PM on November 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


I've been trying to follow the advice to shut up and listen, and I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who's shared their stories. And that though there might be a few loud voices that refuse to listen to everything that's been said, I'm quite sure they're outnumbered ten to one by the quiet ones reading and taking it all in and changing their lives, to some degree, based upon what has been said.
posted by twirlypen at 11:12 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Because when I listen to people talk about racism, almost universally they speak of being diminished, ignored and suspected, and yes, sometimes beaten, simply because of their race. I'm not sure why that's OK to do when it's a black person doing it to a white police officer.

Are you high? Do you seriously not get the power dynamic between black and white/male and female? Because if you don't I'm gonna start feeling bad here.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:17 PM on November 8, 2009


Random thought I just had: now would be a great time for me to see "The Vagina Monologues" again. I think having read both the other thread and now this one will add a new layer of meaning to it for me.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:25 PM on November 8, 2009


It's these other guys who are ruining it for you, by being dicks. Tell them to stop being dicks.

Respectfully, I would literally get sent to the hospital if I went up to a stranger who was harassing women and told him to stop that. He would punch me in the face several times. And yes, everyone I encounter who acted like that would be a stranger because most of my friends are ladies, and the few guys I do hang out with are not in the small fraction of dudes who are committing rape/assault/harassment.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:41 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I went through university being hairy and brown in a rather white country, and it used to annoy me when women would cross the street if we happened to be walking along the same side of the sidewalk at night. I had to stop reading that thread because it so strongly challenged my own sense of "screw you for pre-judging me!" victimhood that it became almost physically uncomfortable.
posted by vanar sena at 3:15 AM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Is this the pagination experiment?
posted by hawthorne at 3:48 AM on November 9, 2009


I don't want women to do anything, except not lump me* in with all the assholes and rapists they have encountered in their entire life.


Through your cluelessness you are one of them.
posted by caddis at 3:48 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Late late late to this. Thought a lot about contributing before, but as said before, better than I have, I didn't see where adding my experiences to the pile would aid the discussion.

I would just like to say a deep felt thanks to the women who shared and engaged, and also to the *majority* of men who rationally engaged in this discussion. Restored some faith.
posted by arha at 3:52 AM on November 9, 2009


Mods, there are still several comments that need to be deleted, and a couple of mine that no longer will make sense once those comments are gone.
posted by oaf at 4:05 AM on November 9, 2009


Respectfully, I would literally get sent to the hospital if I went up to a stranger who was harassing women and told him to stop that. He would punch me in the face several times.

I wouldn't be so sure about that.

* Clearly, if you get a bad vibe from some guy, then some other interruption is in order. But for a lot of guys, it's kind of like the old canard about wild animals -- "they're more afraid of you than you are of them." Some of the guys who've catcalled me shied away when I turned and called them on their bullshit. It's all about reading the situation and acting accordingly (hey, just like the original article is ACTUALLY about).

* Another thing people discussed in the thread that people could do if they saw a scenario like this playing out is to walk up and simply say, "is everything okay here?" It's non-threatening enough, but it also gives the woman the agency define yes, she needs some help, or no, everything's okay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:06 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


To those of you who think I'm criticizing anyone relating their experiences in the original thread: I'm not. In fact, I did the opposite. The thing I was critical of was the "hey, look at this single link to someone's blog" nature of the original post (I've seen threads deleted with more content in the original post, and the thread didn't have that many comments when I saw it in my RSS reader). I also take issue with the tone of the article.

To those of you who see no connection between sex-based prejudice and other types of prejudice: I'm sorry.

To those of you who see no problem with making up outright lies about someone because they disagree with you: stop it. That sort of behavior has no place on MetaFilter.

Between this thread and the latest health-care thread, the original "whatcha reading?" thread has been sitting in its own tab, about five hours in, for half a day now.
posted by oaf at 4:20 AM on November 9, 2009


oaf: To those of you who see no connection between sex-based prejudice and other types of prejudice: I'm sorry.

Prejudice: an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge b : an instance of such judgment or opinion c : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics.

The grounds are justified, and it is not irrational.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:31 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Regarding the "reasonable person" article oaf linked to above, I would like to point out this section contained therein:
A variant of the reasonable person can be found in sexual harassment law as the reasonable woman standard. The variation recognizes a difference between men and women regarding the effect of unwanted interaction with a sexual tone. As women have historically been more vulnerable to rape and sex-related violence than have men, courts believe that the proper perspective for evaluating a claim of sexual harassment is that of the reasonable woman.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:58 AM on November 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


I'm sure I'll regret this, but:

"they're more afraid of you than you are of them."

Um. They may be more afraid of you. They wouldn't be afraid of me at all. An open challenge - or indeed anything at all, from mere eye contact upwards - can be interpreted as a validation for acts of violence against other men by the kind of men you're talking about here. There are people for whom getting into a fight is a form of entertainment, something they specifically go out to do on a Saturday night. And they would conclusively win. Certainly against someone for whom violence is something to be avoided.

Outside of domestic violence (not trying to diminish the importance of that, but the situation is different from relations between strangers), I don't know how often they would get involved with a fight against a woman because it would incur a greater loss of face than graceless retreat. I literally don't know - as with what you say, every time I've seen one of these men challenged by a woman, they've backed down.
posted by Grangousier at 5:09 AM on November 9, 2009


If anyone else is getting a little tired of the back-and-forth in this thread (which was mercifully largely absent from the original one) and would like to do something a little more concrete and useful, may I suggest sending some cash towards a charity like Rape Crisis? There's sure to be an equivalent for US Mefites - have a quick Google around to see what you can find locally.

(Incidentally, the fact that the Rape Crisis site feels the need to link to a page like this from their front page is a clue to the seriousness of this problem in our society. Seriously, it's giving me chills just thinking about why they deemed it necessary to include that link.)
posted by ZsigE at 5:10 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been AFK for a while and missed both that wonderful thread and am coming late to this discussion.

My experiences are similar to many of the women who have spoken up.

What Empress Calypygos said:

* Another thing people discussed in the thread that people could do if they saw a scenario like this playing out is to walk up and simply say, "is everything okay here?" It's non-threatening enough, but it also gives the woman the agency define yes, she needs some help, or no, everything's okay.

That is one of the most effective thing anyone can do whenever there's a scene that involves harassment, bullying, or merely a sense that there's something not right.
posted by reflecked at 5:16 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The "Is everything okay here?" advice is golden. Use it.
posted by dabitch at 5:27 AM on November 9, 2009


An open challenge - or indeed anything at all, from mere eye contact upwards - can be interpreted as a validation for acts of violence against other men by the kind of men you're talking about here. ... I literally don't know - as with what you say, every time I've seen one of these men challenged by a woman, they've backed down.

I think that this is a really important point. I'd very respectfully suggest that just as many of the men reading the other thread found that they didn't in fact know that much about the realities of violence faced by women, telling men to simply confront harassers suggests that many women know equally little about the violence faced by men.

On the one hand, I don't have to deal with getting my ass grabbed, which is great. The other side of that, however, is that -- unlike a woman -- it's considered pretty ok in a lot of settings for another guy (or worse, group of guys) to beat my ass up. I've been jumped in bars and on the street, and trust me, it's no fun at all. Real life fights have just as little relation to movie violence as do romance novel descriptions of rapey sex with actual rape.

The point being that the answer to "what should men do to stop this" has to be as aware of and realistic about the violence that men live with as it is of the violence women are living with. It's not as simple as saying "speak up" -- that has to happen, but it can't happen in many cases unless there are conscious attempts to shift the patterns of violence in our society from their current paths.

I'm saying this as a guy who does speak up, and often. But I do it with open eyes, and aware of the potential costs. And I do it aware of the complex gender dynamics that can be at play -- the guy catcalling might have his girlfriend next to him, for example, which changes totally what you say and how you can say it.
posted by Forktine at 5:34 AM on November 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I've always just called the police, myself, rather than directly intervening.

Also, if anyone does directly intervene, and scares the harasser/abuser off, leave the scene and encourage the woman to do the same.
posted by palliser at 5:36 AM on November 9, 2009


Does anyone have recommendations of how to start a discussion about this with a partner? I don't want to tell him "go read this super long thread and this supplement and come back to me in two weeks" but I'd still like to talk to him about it because I think it will help us get to know each other better.

He's the sweetest, most considerate, loveliest guy ever and I don't even think he needs "enlightening" but I'd still like to talk to him. But how do I make it not out of the blue and not too serious (if that makes any sense)?
posted by like_neon at 5:38 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Um. They may be more afraid of you. They wouldn't be afraid of me at all. An open challenge - or indeed anything at all, from mere eye contact upwards - can be interpreted as a validation for acts of violence against other men by the kind of men you're talking about here. There are people for whom getting into a fight is a form of entertainment, something they specifically go out to do on a Saturday night. And they would conclusively win. Certainly against someone for whom violence is something to be avoided.

A fair point.

I think I was referring more to a situation where you knew that you could indeed get away with calling someone out on their bullshit -- and, indeed, such a situation is up to you to determine what is safe. There very well may be situations where you overhear some guy and your instinct tells you you COULD get away with just leaning in and saying a simple "just leave her alone, dude" or what have you. But itis up to you to assess what your comfort level is, and I apologize for not making that more clear.

By the same token, coincidentally, the right to ascertain what level one wants to engage with a stranger is THE VERY EXACT SAME RIGHT that the women in the original thread, THIS thread, and the article are claiming. However, for some reason this is making people in this claim this is a "prejudicial" request, which I'll admit has me baffled.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:41 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Does anyone have recommendations of how to start a discussion about this with a partner? I don't want to tell him "go read this super long thread and this supplement and come back to me in two weeks" but I'd still like to talk to him about it because I think it will help us get to know each other better.

Maybe just telling him about this super thought-provoking thread you read online and how it blew you away, and here's what it was about, and wow, it made you think...and huh, have YOU ever thought about that kind of thing? Maybe just start the conversation with your own reaction to it, and then take it from there, and then at an opportune moment ask if he wants the link.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:43 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


being the father of a young girl, i found that thread to be really depressing.

i don't have a problem approaching women in public and talking to them, but i generally don't because i thought it would be impolite to do so. to make suggestive comments (nice tits, etc) is something i would never do, and i get kinda pissed off when i see other men do it.
posted by lester at 6:35 AM on November 9, 2009


This link submitted without comment.

Because I have NO. WORDS.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:39 AM on November 9, 2009


Because I have NO. WORDS.

That's the first time in a long time that I've mentally gone "WHAT THE FUCK" just from hovering over a link.
posted by oaf at 6:41 AM on November 9, 2009


Um. They may be more afraid of you. They wouldn't be afraid of me at all. An open challenge - or indeed anything at all, from mere eye contact upwards - can be interpreted as a validation for acts of violence against other men by the kind of men you're talking about here.

A couple months ago I was coming home late from work and there was a kid parked on the corner of my block beating on his girlfriend. Like, he was straddling her in the passenger seat and hitting her in the face with closed fists. How to intervene was a tough call; I live in a healthily integrated part of Philly (Germantown) but directly to the east is an extremely rough part of North Philly and I didn't like the look of this dude. He was maybe 19, driving a hooped up Crown Vic with giant wagon wheel rims, heavily tattooed, basically your standard issue corner hustler. Now, I'm 5'8" and weigh about 225 pounds. I am pretty much build like a tank. But I've worked with violent people and in my experience physically confronting violent people is basically extending an invitation to them to direct their violence at you. If you proceed from that assumption and are comfortable with the possibility of somebody swinging at your head with a tire iron, for example, then by all means, physically intervene. In this particular case I felt like the chance that there was a gun under dude's driver seat was pretty high. Also, it was basically going down in front of my house and I didn't want this guy seeing my face and knowing where I live. So I stood maybe fifty feet back from the scene and called 911. They had spilled out of the car by this point and were sort of rolling around on the hood, so I could see clearly what was going on. I decided that if he started hitting her with some type of weapon that could kill her before police arrived, then I would jump in. I gave the 911 operator a very vivid depiction of what was going on and as a result the response time was super quick, like under three minutes before the corner was packed with cops. Dude was cuffed and stuffed and that was that.

I would not recommend physically confronting aggressive men. I think that is more often than not a fantastic way to get yourself hurt, even (especially?) as a woman. Don't invite this bullshit into your space, opening a door for some asshole to decide that you're an uppity bitch that needs to get taught a lesson. It's not worth it.
posted by The Straightener at 6:45 AM on November 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


Men who have the visceral, "Wha? I'm not a rapist! Why am I getting judged by people just because I'm a man?", does it help if I put it this way:

I'm not standing around here thinking, "Oh, look at all the potential racists! There's Billy and Bobby and Harry and Tommy..." Instead, I'm constantly adjudging potential dangers. It's not personal or a commentary on your character. I don't know you. If we met at a party or were introduced by friends or saw each other in the coffeeshop a lot, we'd talk and maybe I'd let down some of my guards and maybe you'd let down some of yours and we might become friends. Out at the bus stop or on an empty street or in the back corner of a dusty 7-11, I have no context for you. I have no way of knowing if you are a good guy, a bad guy, or a guy who wants to tell me in detail about the topic of you dissertation.

Now, I'm not clutching my purse upon first sight and shouting (or thinking), "A man! A MAAAAAAAN! AIGH! Help! There's a man loose on the streets! Stop him before he rapes me!" I'm going to assume that you, or the man walking behind me on the street, or the man who taps me on the shoulder is a decent human being. However, experience has taught me to be ready in case I'm wrong and the guy don't deserve that assumption. It has taught me to be aware of any warning signs (loud noises, sudden movements, staring and leering, anger, drunkenness, attitude, language). It has taught me to periodically re-evaluate situations and recalculate potential danger. It has taught me to always give myself a security buffer to the best of my abilities and options at that time.

Experience has taught me to always be aware of what my options are - escape routes, where to aim if I'm going to have to elbow or punch or kick someone, where I can stand to avoid being groped, and how to nip conversations in the bud before they go from "I tried to read Jane Eyre once." to "I want to fuck you right now." in under a minute. Experience has taught me that most guys are going to perfectly decent, but a non-trivial number are not.

With very few exceptions, women don't walk down the street playing duck duck goose (rapist rapist pervert) with every man they see. I don't look at a man and assume he's a rapist, but I can't afford to let myself not be hyperaware of everything around me and what the potential dangers are. I know there's an good chance that nothing is going to happen, but I need to minimize the chances that something bad happens for my own peace of mind.
posted by julen at 6:57 AM on November 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


Does anyone have recommendations of how to start a discussion about this with a partner? I don't want to tell him "go read this super long thread and this supplement and come back to me in two weeks" but I'd still like to talk to him about it because I think it will help us get to know each other better.

He's the sweetest, most considerate, loveliest guy ever and I don't even think he needs "enlightening" but I'd still like to talk to him. But how do I make it not out of the blue and not too serious (if that makes any sense)?


After posting on this thread the other day, I went up to Mr. WanKenobi and thanked him for not being a creep and being a very respectful, thoughtful person. It lead to a discussion about how he knows that he'll never know what it's like to, say, be a woman walking alone at night. The conversation went very well and made me feel loved and supported--open with love and acceptance, if your partner is one of the good ones, and it should foster more love and acceptance.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:02 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey great another thread where a half-dozen unbalanced losers do a disservice to all men.

I'd like to say this to you, if you can understand it, which you won't, or can't: you are the problem. You know how you are whining about how "oh boo hoo not all men are bad and it's wrong for women to assume I am dangerous it is so hard to be a dude because women are just so mean"?

You are the support system for violent rapists. You are the support system for catcallers, sexual harassers, child molesters. You are the support system for everything that is flawed in masculinity.

You are. You. Every time you decide that the conversation should be about your hurt feelings instead of the very real dangers that women face, you are on the bad guys' side. You help them get away with it. You help foster a society where it is possible. Because you are ignoring and marginalizing women's experiences. You are ignoring and undermining real things that happened to real people: our sisters and mothers, wives and girlfriends, daughters and nieces.

Why are your hurt feelings - about something so trivial as being perceived as potentinally dangerous by some people - more important than a woman's story about how she was raped, or followed home, or forced to quit a job because she rejected someone's advances? Can you understand for one fucking second that not everything is about you? Can you try?

You encourage violent men because you refuse to see them as a problem except as it affects you personally. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Real men would be.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:03 AM on November 9, 2009 [93 favorites]


Everytime I try to have these conversations with friends and they tell me that feminism isn't a useful construction from which to understand the world, I come back to Metafilter and remember that here, at least, these conversations are working. You guys help me keep believing that this stuff is solvable. Thanks.
posted by lunit at 7:13 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm constantly adjudging potential dangers. It's not personal or a commentary on your character. I don't know you…
Experience has taught me to always be aware of what my options are - escape routes, where to aim if I'm going to have to elbow or punch or kick someone…
I can't afford to let myself not be hyperaware of everything around me and what the potential dangers are. I know there's an good chance that nothing is going to happen, but I need to minimize the chances that something bad happens for my own peace of mind.


And men don't have these problems?
posted by oaf at 7:22 AM on November 9, 2009


And men don't have these problems?

No one said you didn't.

However, the subject of this thread is about the experiences of WOMEN in assessing potential dangers, not "the experiences of women and oh sometimes some men too".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:23 AM on November 9, 2009


And men don't have these problems?
posted by oaf at 7:22 AM on November 9


Not when they're on a date. Or at a party. Or taking to a "friendly" stranger on the bus or train. Do you understand? Can you think about this, please? Can you stop mashing POST COMMENT for a moment and just really genuinely think about it?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:29 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


the subject of this thread is about the experiences of WOMEN in assessing potential dangers

And so you're ignoring the fact that the article basically says that men don't have to worry about not getting killed, except in rare circumstances? Or are articles in FPPs off-limits for discussion now?
posted by oaf at 7:29 AM on November 9, 2009


Not when they're on a date.

Probably.

Or at a party.

Likely.

Or taking to a "friendly" stranger on the bus or train.

False.

Do you understand?

Yes. That makes one of us.
posted by oaf at 7:30 AM on November 9, 2009


I can't believe the "men have problems too" meme is still repeating itself in this discussion.

Check out what the Feminism 101 blog has to say about this:
Arguing that Special Interest X should make way for Important Issue™ Y because “it’s so much more important”, especially when this is done in another person’s space, is disruptive. It is a very common trolling tactic, as well as a long acknowledged as a cheap rhetorical trick: just another red herring.

Not all people who use it are doing so in bad faith, but even when one is genuinely and adamantly of the opinion that discussing X is a waste of time in light of the importance of Y, it is still inappropriate to disrupt other people’s discussion, not to mention that it is unlikely to make them sympathetic to your arguments.
posted by shii at 7:30 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


DNFTT.
posted by languagehat at 7:34 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


And so you're ignoring the fact that the article basically says that men don't have to worry about not getting killed, except in rare circumstances?

No. But you seem to be.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:35 AM on November 9, 2009


But you seem to be.

Care to explain how, given that it's my major beef with the article?
posted by oaf at 7:36 AM on November 9, 2009


The fact that it's your major beef WITH the article proves that you're ignoring it.

The article didn't state "men don't ever have to worry about getting killed ever ever ever ever". The article stated "men may worry about getting hurt, but women have to worry WAY MORE than men do, because a) we get hassled a lot more and b) we are in general weaker, so we can't fight back as effectively, and the dangerous people know this."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:39 AM on November 9, 2009


This is sort of becoming oaf against everyone. I'd like to suggest that people who have ongoing issues with his read of the article, the thread, or other stuff may want to take that conversation elsewhere. Your choice, obviously, but I think we're really reaching the diminishing/diminished returns point here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:41 AM on November 9, 2009


The fact that it's your major beef WITH the article proves that you're ignoring it.

In what variant of English is paying attention to something the same as ignoring it?

The article asks whether "preventing violent assault or murder [is] part of [men's] daily routine, rather than merely something [they] do when [they] venture into war zones."
posted by oaf at 7:43 AM on November 9, 2009


I'd be sorry to see this thread end with such a whimper-- that oaf has closed down the discussion by persistently intervening in it.
posted by jokeefe at 7:44 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Probably. Likely. False.

Really? You go on first dates with women and in the back of your mind worry that she might turn out to not take no for an answer? You have a special phrase worked out ahead of time with your male friends in case shit goes bad and you need them to come get you? You make sure that you get your own drinks so no one puts anything in it?

You meet a group of women at a party and notice that they are asking you to take shot after shot, and that they're all getting very aggressive? Has a woman you don't know ever pushed you up against a wall and demanded you kiss her? When you said no, did she force herself on you anyway and squeeze your arm so hard it left a bruise for weeks afterward? This is honestly something you think about about, worry about, fear?

How many times have you been groped on the train? How many women have flashed their genitals at you? How often have you been followed off your stop? How many times have you had to duck into a store to get away from someone? How many times did you honestly think there was the possiblity someone following you was going to grab you, put a knife to your neck or a gun to your head and sodomize you?

You are a liar.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:44 AM on November 9, 2009 [49 favorites]


*reads last comment* And for being, you know, an asshat.
posted by jokeefe at 7:44 AM on November 9, 2009


oaf: come on. I count 29 comments of yours in this thread, each of which is combative. You've created enough static to, at this point, dominate the thread. Step back and re-evaluate your behaviour here, please.
posted by jokeefe at 7:47 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Argh. "you've created enough")
posted by jokeefe at 7:49 AM on November 9, 2009


I keep forgetting how stupid it is to question the dogma here. Almost as stupid as the mouth-breathers who respond when you do.
posted by oaf at 7:55 AM on November 9, 2009


I'd be sorry to see this thread end with such a whimper-- that oaf has closed down the discussion by persistently intervening in it.

Actually, the original thread had some similar flak in it towards the beginning as well (the exchange between xmutex and me arguing about whether or not I saw a particular T-SHIRT, of all things, springs to mind), but it did abate in time.

People have made 'don't feed the troll" comments, but I don't think oaf is a troll. The technically definition of "troll" is someone who posts inflammatory content SOLELY to cause a ruckus; the troll isn't necessarily sincere. Oaf is sincere in what he posts.

However, I do think engaging with oaf isn't going to get us anywhere -- no offense, oaf, but it simply looks like you have chosen what to believe, and nothing anyone can say here is going to convince you otherwise. However, nothing you say is going to convince many of US otherwise, so us continuing to engage each other isn't really going to get either of us anywhere, so...I'm personally going to just say "nice talking to you" and follow the rest of the commenters in this thread instead.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:02 AM on November 9, 2009


oaf, you are astonishingly perceptive. I am, at this very minute, mouth-breathing, but mostly because I'm having some sinus issues. However, I do think there's a difference between "questioning" what you call the dogma of Metafilter -- really? dogma?-- and consistently dropping fighty and provocative comments in a thread which cause it, eventually, to shut down, like sand in a set of gears.
posted by jokeefe at 8:02 AM on November 9, 2009


And now I'm going to take Empress' comment to heart and not give you the attention you are demanding.
posted by jokeefe at 8:04 AM on November 9, 2009


How about we move on and ignore oafish behaviour from particular quarters? Nobody is going to change the mind of a small but vocal minority, no matter how infuriating that is.

I'd be really interested to know if reading that thread was an eye-opener for any other women. I'm sort of wondering of there's a childhood nirvana where the premature, put-upon third party sexualisation doesn't start as soon as breasts do.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:08 AM on November 9, 2009


I'd like to say this to you, if you can understand it, which you won't, or can't: you are the problem. You know how you are whining about how "oh boo hoo not all men are bad and it's wrong for women to assume I am dangerous it is so hard to be a dude because women are just so mean"?

You are the support system for violent rapists. You are the support system for catcallers, sexual harassers, child molesters. You are the support system for everything that is flawed in masculinity.


I never got a chance to add to the original thread, but I might as well chime in on this one. Hi, my name is Erik, and I am the support system for violent rapists. I am the support system for catcallers, sexual harassers, and child molesters. I am the support system for everything that is flawed in masculinity.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I don't bother women who are reading books, or have headphones on, or otherwise trying to send signals that they want to be left alone. If I wind up talking to someone, and they give me the impression I am bothersome, I jet. I understand and support any woman's decision to have any sort of proactive strategy for dealing with strange men that works for her. I think rape/assault/harassment are bullshit and should not be tolerated.

But I do think that it sucks that some women think I might be a rapist. And most of the time, even saying that in the context of a conversation about how women interact with men is enough to get people to tell me "IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU", even though I understand and acknowledge that my feelings pale in comparison to potentially or actually getting raped, and I don't think it's wrong to assume that I might be dangerous, and I don't think it's hard to be a dude, and I don't think women are so so so mean.

Granted, it's a very important topic that people feel very passionately about, but I think that people who want to draw lines in the sand and suggest that any guy should stand on the PROBLEM side if he thinks that the way that women are interacting with men is less that ideal, I think those line-drawing people are part of the problem, too. Pushing away people by telling them they are awful is going to do precious little to get them to change their minds, and I'd hope that "Men and women being able to understand each other's experiences, even if they started out from a viewpoint that was imperfect" would be a worthwhile goal which would actually help women have to deal with less rape/assault/harassment/unwanted behavior.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:14 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sigh....I read the entire quoted thread as it appeared, and I've read most of this, and I still feel alienated and depressed beyond words. I vowed I wouldn't get involved, but here goes.

I am a mid-thrties female. I grew up with three brothers (two older and one younger) in an incredibly loving and balanced household. My mom is hopelessly stereotyped in a very 1950's way, and has always believed that it is a woman's ultimate job to stay home and have babies, yet she is also the strongest female role model I have ever known. She does not accept defeat, and if she wants something to happen, by god it is going to happen (for example, she decided we should have French Immersion at our local school so she personally called 500 parents and badgered the trustees until they implemented the program). I was a tomboy growing up, but I spent a good deal of time playing with Barbies too.

I took engineering at university, and while we had a higher than average proportion of females in the program, it was still only about 30%. The university was making an effort to get some female profs on staff, but things were still pretty male dominated. While at university, I volunteered with the John Howard Society and visited inmates of the many local prisons (which will tell you Canadians which school I went to).

After I graduated, I traveled solo around the world (a family tradition) for about 8 months, spending most of my time in Asia. I then came home and tended bar full time for a year while a figured out what to do (I'd been serving and bartending since the start of university), and ended up as a headhunter in the plastics industry. I was the only female in the group. That didn't pan out for me (I discovered I didn't care enough about money to be hungry), and I settled on teacher's college (qualifying in math and chemistry). On my first day of student teaching I had a revelation and realized I'd made the right choice. I've been teaching ever since.

Here's my point: I disagree completely with many of the sentiments expressed in this thread and the original one. Men and women do not need to live in a state of wariness and battle. I know many people will argue that I've just been lucky, but I've never been assaulted and only rarely put into an uncomfortable situation. I have no problem with strange men talking to me and am able to extricate myself from the situation with ease should I feel uncomfortable. I've been groped just once, walking down the street in New York City (my instinctive response was to yell loudly after the guy "Hey jackass, keep your fucking hands the fuck to yourself you sick freak!!!!"). I live in a large city and take transit all the time, so I'm sure gropers have had ample opportunity otherwise. I never felt any prejudice during my engineering degree. One old prof gave me 25% on a lab and told me I didn't belong in the program, and I'm pretty sure he was a misogynistic relic, but all I could think was "Who are you, you strange, strange person?". I got 80% on the next lab (all labs marked by different profs in this course) and never looked back. I never once felt imposed upon as a hapless female my whole solo travel experience (though there was this one time a guy in a remote Himalayan village tried to buy me from our trekking guide, but that was more hysterically funny then anything else).

So why has my experience been so different? Why do I delight in chatting with strangers, and feel at ease with men in any situation? Why am I so upset by this prevailing "us vs. them" attitude when it comes to the relationship between men and women? I've been thinking about this a lot lately because I have a daughter to raise now, and I don't want her to live in perpetual fear and mistrust.

I can think of a few reasons for my very different experience, most of which probably come down to the attitude I have. From day one, my mom set a strong example and she brought us all (myself and my three brothers) up the same way. We all learned to sew. We all played with cars and trucks. We all did crafty little projects. I was on my own with Barbie, but that was OK. Barbie climbed trees with me and got many a fashion makeover as well. My elder brothers made sure I would always stand up for myself by encouraging my independence and challenging my self-imposed limitations ("You can't climb that tree? What are you, a girl?"). My closest female friends also had brothers and were much like me in overall tomboyishness and willingness to try anything (I still can't believe we didn't kill ourselves on our kamikaze bike adventures through the woods).

My service industry experience has probably also helped me feel comfortable with men. When you turn down unwanted suitors every shift you get pretty good at it, and you realize these guys aren't evil. I think the trick with this is developing "presence": an aura of self-assured authority and good-natured humour that simultaneously says "I'm a nice person and I like people" and "don't even think of trying to fuck with me". It's actually exactly the same presence you need to succeed as a teacher. When done correctly, this aura invites lost tourists to ask you for directions at the same time as it repels sleazy guys.

How did I get this presence? Well, I think it started with my mother, who taught me by example to believe that I can do whatever I want. I then proved to myself that this was true by being an engineer, being a headhunter, and traveling alone. I learned compassion by bartending and serving in a huge variety of places and by talking to inmates as human beings. I try to always see the humour in life, because being able to laugh at a situation gives you power. And when it comes to human interaction, I expect the best but I am prepared for the worst. Everyone else who commented in these threads seems to expect the worst, and this saddens me immeasurably.

Why can't we all be humans first, and men and women second? Why should I assume that if some strange guy is talking to me, he is an sick evil freak and I must react in fear? Sure, he might be a freak but I can get rid of him just as effectively using confidence and humour. I don't have to change how I dress, or revert to a siege mentality. If he really doesn't get the point, I can be confidently rude. I would hate to give up all the wonderful interactions I have had with strangers just because people aren't always as nice as they should be.

I think my experiences have been too varied to say that I've just been lucky that I've never been assaulted. My attitude and the way I carry myself surely must also have something to do with it (many studies agree). I guess all I want to do here is express a minority opinion, and say it doesn't have to be the way everyone seems to think. Go ahead and talk to me, gentlemen. If your intentions are not honourable, I'll know what to do.
posted by Go Banana at 8:20 AM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


"Men and women being able to understand each other's experiences, even if they started out from a viewpoint that was imperfect" would be a worthwhile goal which would actually help women have to deal with less rape/assault/harassment/unwanted behavior. (23skidoo)

I think that many of us in this thread would agree that that's the goal, and what we're trying to move toward here. The specific strong language you reference (from Optimus Chyme) was directed not at those who start at an imperfect position but are actively trying to do something about it, but rather at those who start at an imperfect position but refuse to acknowledge that there's anything imperfect about it.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:20 AM on November 9, 2009


I never got a chance to add to the original thread

Read it. There are a number of male commenters (languagehat and koeselitz come to mind) who actually manage to deal with their feelings about this in an adult, graceful, compassionate way.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:22 AM on November 9, 2009


Ugh, sorry, 23skidoo, you didn't actually say you didn't read it. Reading comprehension fail. But, whatever, read it again, can't hurt
posted by oinopaponton at 8:25 AM on November 9, 2009


Granted, it's a very important topic that people feel very passionately about, but I think that people who want to draw lines in the sand and suggest that any guy should stand on the PROBLEM side if he thinks that the way that women are interacting with men is less that ideal, I think those line-drawing people are part of the problem, too.

23skiddoo: I'm a woman. I also think that the way women are interacting with men is less than ideal.

However: I am not blaming women for that problem, I'm blaming other men for that problem. As should you.

Pushing away people by telling them they are awful is going to do precious little to get them to change their minds, and I'd hope that "Men and women being able to understand each other's experiences, even if they started out from a viewpoint that was imperfect" would be a worthwhile goal which would actually help women have to deal with less rape/assault/harassment/unwanted behavior.

Believe it or not, that's what the article and the resultant thread was trying to do: help men understand women's experiences. The article was not saying: "all women are going to automatically assume you're a rapist unless you prove otherwise." The article was saying: "when we are deciding exactly how we want to engage with you, we have a couple extra steps we need to go through. So it will take a little longer, so just understand that."

Think of it like this. When you go to the airport, you have to get your ticket at the ticket counter, and then you have to check in your baggage. Then you have to go through the security checkpoint: the first thing you do is take off your shoes. The second thing you do is dump all your carry-on luggage onto the conveyor, and the third thing you do is walk through the metal detector. In some instances, you may have pre-arranged something with the airline where you can just check your luggage and be walked past the security check without going through it -- but you will have had to have someone vouch for you in advance. The reason there are such security checks is because airlines have had problems in the past with hijackers, et. al.

It's annoying to go through all that just to get on a plane, but it is necessary. And you trying to say "screw this" and just barrelling past security is a sure sign that your'e going to get stopped and cuffed because it looks awfully suspicious.

What the article is saying, in essence, is that a lot of women have an internal security check they need to mentally put you through if you're a stranger striking up a conversation with them. It just takes a few minutes. If you try to blow past it, it'll make her supcious, just like if you refused to take off your shoes at the security counter in the airport.

And therefore, the bulk of the MeFi thread linked above is like the litany of hijacking incidents that have happened to cause us to set up that internal security counter. So just like at the airport, if you just let the team do their check, not rush them, and don't push your way through, you'll do fine.

THAT'S all it's saying. It's not saying "every woman sees every man as a potential rapist," no more than every airline sees every passenger as a potential terrorist. But it still makes us all go through that security check, nevertheless, and that just takes a minute.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:26 AM on November 9, 2009 [12 favorites]


Men Can Stop Rape
posted by Stewriffic at 8:28 AM on November 9, 2009


Why can't we all be humans first, and men and women second? Why should I assume that if some strange guy is talking to me, he is an sick evil freak and I must react in fear? Sure, he might be a freak but I can get rid of him just as effectively using confidence and humour. I don't have to change how I dress, or revert to a siege mentality. If he really doesn't get the point, I can be confidently rude. I would hate to give up all the wonderful interactions I have had with strangers just because people aren't always as nice as they should be.

I think my experiences have been too varied to say that I've just been lucky that I've never been assaulted. My attitude and the way I carry myself surely must also have something to do with it (many studies agree). I guess all I want to do here is express a minority opinion, and say it doesn't have to be the way everyone seems to think. Go ahead and talk to me, gentlemen. If your intentions are not honourable, I'll know what to do.
(Go Banana)

One of the things that was so important about the earlier thread was that it was about individual experiences of individual women, rather than a blanket statement saying "Women experience the world THIS way; men experience the world THIS way." You're adding to that by sharing your individual experience. Thanks for that.

My own personal approach to the world is close to yours; I, too, "expect the best and prepare for the worst." My point in sharing my bad experiences in the other thread, though, is that, partially because of that way that I approach the world, I think there are many people I know who would have no idea that things approaching "the worst" have ever happened to me. What I hope these two threads teach people is not to cower in fear (a culture of fear helps no one), but rather these things: I hope it teaches women that they are not alone and they can speak up if they have been in similar situations (and, indeed, that it is empowering to do so), and I hope it teaches men the pervasiveness of such behavior toward women. I hope that by raising awareness on both sides, we will together, as people, not just women, and not just men, be better able to create a world where more people can approach the world with the open and pragmatic attitude that you and I seem to share.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:32 AM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I have a question for everyone who thinks their interactions with women are less than ideal because women have their guard up around you, a stranger. What's your solution? I've seen a whole lot of blame flying around, aimed mostly at women who are just trying to get through their everyday lives without being leered at or groped or assaulted. "Oh, it's just so unfair! I'm not a rapist! No one should think I'm a rapist because I'm clearly not! Sure, I'm taller than them and stronger than them and they don't actually know me so I'm just this unknown quantity, standing here. Why are they scared?"

Seriously. What's your solution? Because all I see you guys doing is griping about the unfairness. News flash, gents, life is unfair. If some woman doesn't respond to your chat-up attempt at the bus stop because she's uncomfortable with your advances, it's not the end of the world. Acting like it is tends to make you look more like the bad guy than you realize.
posted by palomar at 8:34 AM on November 9, 2009


I don't assume that the maybe-weird guy standing too close to me on the bus/following me in the store/walking next to me on the sidewalk giving me the eye is a rapist. I do assume that his boundary-breaking behavior is something I should keep an extra eye on.

I don't assume that the dude who just road past me on his skateboard is a rapist. I don't assume that the guy in front of me at the grocery store is a rapist. I don't assume that the homeless guy who bummed a smoke off me is a rapist.

I don't tremble in fear whenever a man walks by me on the sidewalk. I don't spend much time thinking about him at all.

But if I'm wearing earbuds and reading a book and a guy starts to talk to me and won't stop, I'm going to assume he's either not very good at reading social cues, or he doesn't give a shit. It's the doesn't give a shit part that is going to worry me the most.

So, all you guys who are so concerned about being perceived as rapists: really, most of us don't see you that way if you're just being Ordinary Unremarkable Dude. Most of us aren't afraid of you, or even particularly aware of you. But, as has been repeatedly pointed out in this thread and the fpp, if you put your desire to talk to a strange woman over her desire to be left the hell alone, that gets you a point (at least) on the Creep Scale.

The vast majority of guys manage to fall into the Not a Creep category. I'd bet that even those of you in this thread who are all waaah-waah-you-think-I'm-a-rapist-just-because-I-have-a-penis-you-hurt-my-feelings! are aware of social cues and don't do things that put you on the Creep Scale.

I guess my question is, then, what is so fucking difficult about not being a jerk? Most of you are probably already doing it. It's common courtesy and common sense to not be a creep. I really fail to understand the whining about how not being a creep is somehow an imposition on your freedom.
posted by rtha at 8:36 AM on November 9, 2009 [18 favorites]


Thanks for that link, Stewriffic! I had no idea that group existed. Now when someone asks, "Yeah, but what can I do about it?" I'll have something specific to point to.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:36 AM on November 9, 2009


Okay, one last note for Oaf, who seems generally concerned with danger impacting men: you may want to have a look at this thread. I'm starting to follow it now myself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:39 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think my experiences have been too varied to say that I've just been lucky that I've never been assaulted. My attitude and the way I carry myself surely must also have something to do with it (many studies agree).

I know you have only good intentions, but that, right there, seems to say that when I was eight and got my ass grabbed in a gift shop it was because I was carrying myself wrong. Or that now, when I walk down the street, guys are yelling at me because I'm doing something wrong, and not because they have a problem. And that's not cool.

I had an idyllic childhood of tree climbing, too. I'm a scientist who can do math and doesn't take shit from people, too. I'm glad bad things haven't happened to you. I hope that continues. But the things that have happened to me are not my fault.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:39 AM on November 9, 2009 [43 favorites]


Whoops: sorry, oaf, that thread is not exclusively about violence towards men. But it does still have some interesting points about the pressures men face and how that affects the way they react in the rest of the world. So you may rather enjoy it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:42 AM on November 9, 2009


no prob, ocherdraco.

Let me elaborate. From the Men Can Stop Rape website:

Men Can Stop Rape, Inc. (MCSR) is an international organization that mobilizes men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women.

In contrast to traditional efforts that address men as “the problem,” MCSR’s pioneering Strength Campaign embraces men as vital allies with the will and character to make healthy choices and foster safe, equitable relationships.

Handouts that outline, among other things, why rape IS a men's issue and what men can do about it.

Do something about it. The conversations here help. But there are things you can do every day.
posted by Stewriffic at 8:47 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why can't we all be humans first, and men and women second? Why should I assume that if some strange guy is talking to me, he is an sick evil freak and I must react in fear? Sure, he might be a freak but I can get rid of him just as effectively using confidence and humour. I don't have to change how I dress, or revert to a siege mentality. If he really doesn't get the point, I can be confidently rude. I would hate to give up all the wonderful interactions I have had with strangers just because people aren't always as nice as they should be.

As someone who reacted not unlike I'd imagine you would the last time something really egregious happened to me (I was walking down my street on a rainy day in broad daylight when a car pulled up to the curb--I thought the man inside was going to ask for directions, but he started jacking off! I yelled "Fuck you, freak!" and walked in the opposite direction), I think that the most important thing to teach girls is to trust their instincts. To me, this includes knowing when you can't handle a situation through confidence and humor and when to keep your guard up and remove yourself from a situation, like, say, on a subway car alone at 2 a.m. with one other male passenger who just sends your weirdo-dar into overdrive. I think that entirely too often, women are socialized to laugh off behavior that men would simply get angry about (your example of a professor who probably marked you down due to your gender is a great example of this). I don't want scared daughters, either, but I'd be overjoyed to have daughters who are wary, who aren't nice simply out of feelings of obligation, and who get angry when the situation calls for it. To me, it's not that far from the difference between driving timidly and driving defensively.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:49 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


> I think my experiences have been too varied to say that I've just been lucky that I've never been assaulted.

I'm sorry, but that's a ridiculous and illogical statement, and I'm surprised someone with an engineering degree could make it. Of course you've been lucky. Read the statistics, listen to all the stories that have been told. It's like someone who's walked through a "bad part of town" a few times unscathed and confidently says it's not a bad part of town, everyone else is just a scaredycat. I'm very glad you've been lucky and I hope you continue that way, but please, do realize your luck. By not admitting it, you are, as hydropsyche said, putting the onus on all the women who have had bad experiences.
posted by languagehat at 8:57 AM on November 9, 2009 [16 favorites]



I think my experiences have been too varied to say that I've just been lucky that I've never been assaulted. My attitude and the way I carry myself surely must also have something to do with it (many studies agree).


I'm a pretty assertive person. I'm confident and friendly and extroverted. And I'm pretty sure that my bearing had nothing to do with things when a guy ejaculated onto my leg on the G train. Or when I fell asleep on the couch in my own apartment and woke up to find my roommate's hand down my pajama bottoms. Or when I was sitting in a cafe reading and a guy sat down at my table, started to talk to me, and I said look I'm sorry, I've had a really bad day and I don't feel much like talking, and he said "then why the fuck are you here, cunt?"

I am sincerely glad nothing like this has ever happened to you. But to suggest that the millions of women who have had this happen to them on a regular basis, many of whom have spent weeks on this site describing their experiences in detail, are somehow bringing it upon themselves because of something in their bearing or manner, is the kind of victim blaming that makes me incredibly angry. There are a variety of ways that anyone can choose to respond to any situation. There are also, unfortunately, a great many situations in which your reaction, your personality, who you ARE, has absolutely nothing to do with how the other person acts towards you, because the sort of men we've been discussing don't care who you are anyway. When I was standing at the bus stop listening to my ipod, and a guy, who up to this point I hadn't even SEEN, came up from behind me, pulled the earbuds out of my ears, and said "hey baby why you playing hard to get, I want to talk to you, why aren't you listening to me", do you think it was something I somehow invited? Do you think anything would dissuade the sort of person who thinks this is an acceptable way to intrude upon someone?

I certainly agree that there are situations where, if you give off an aura of vulnerability, someone will take advantage of you. But to suggest that all you need to do is to be a confident, friendly person, and nothing bad will ever happen to you, is both incredibly naive and insulting to everyone who has been assaulted, intruded upon, or objectified through absolutely no fault of their own when there was nothing they possibly could have done to stop it. I hope that you continue to be one of the statistically small minority who doesn't learn this for herself: I really do. But in the meantime, please don't assume that all the women in these threads are just shrinking violets who weren't raised right, the way you were. I know my mother, who is basically a beam of solid steel in human form, would have serious objections to that.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 8:59 AM on November 9, 2009 [45 favorites]


Pushing away people by telling them they are awful is going to do precious little to get them to change their minds, and I'd hope that "Men and women being able to understand each other's experiences, even if they started out from a viewpoint that was imperfect" would be a worthwhile goal which would actually help women have to deal with less rape/assault/harassment/unwanted behavior.

Believe it or not, that's what the article and the resultant thread was trying to do: help men understand women's experiences. The article was not saying: "all women are going to automatically assume you're a rapist unless you prove otherwise." The article was saying: "when we are deciding exactly how we want to engage with you, we have a couple extra steps we need to go through. So it will take a little longer, so just understand that."


Oh, I get that. I have no real problem with the linked article at all, and I think that the original thread is an awesome resource of women's experiences in the matter that might be eye-opening to lots of people, men and women alike. My problem is with people who have a problem with people who don't get the original post at all.

To extend your airline metaphor a little bit, most people tolerate airport security. Every once in a while, you get someone who doesn't. Sometimes, it's because they think they're entitled to not have to deal with airport security for some reason. But sometimes, you just get some clueless doof who hasn't been on a plane in ten years and doesn't get why we have to take off our shoes and let people wand our junk and stuff.

And sometimes you get a security guard who is adept at dealing with stuff and says "Sir, these are the security measures that we take, and it's not a reflection of blahblahblahblah, and it won't take very much time to blabhalbhlabhlahblahblah" and the guy goes "Okay, I don't understand really, but okay." And then sometimes you get a security guard who's all "SIR I HAVE TOLD YOU ONCE ALREADY AND IF I TELL YOU AGAIN I AM GOING TO HAVE TO YOU DETAINED". And when I'm at the back of the line waiting to put my shoes in a tray, I kind of hate that second kind of security guard, because he's not doing anything to help the doof, AND because it's making it harder for me to get through this line. And I probably start to side with the doof a little bit, even though I really have no real problem with airline security.

Alls I'm saying is that there is more than one way to deal with people who just don't get something, and it may involve telling them over and over and over and over, but when one starts saying that anyone who even THINKS about something differently is part of the problem, it's not going to make that person change their mind, and it may make people who are in agreement think that one is being unnecessarily fighty.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:00 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I know you have only good intentions, but that, right there, seems to say that when I was eight and got my ass grabbed in a gift shop it was because I was carrying myself wrong. Or that now, when I walk down the street, guys are yelling at me because I'm doing something wrong, and not because they have a problem. And that's not cool.

I agree with this. I think it's fantastic that women are commenting who haven't had the same experiences as me w/r/t being harassed. I really do. Go Banana, it sounds like you've had a really interesting life full of varying experiences, all of which have gone your way. That's awesome. But it also sounds like a lot of your luck comes from your upbringing -- right out of the box, your parents raised you and your siblings quite differently from the way many of us were raised, seeing as how you and your three elder brothers were all brought up with no gender-role stereotyping like "boys climb trees, girls play with dolls".

It's great that you were brought up this way and have been able to live the life you have. But millions of women have had a very different experience. Many of us have been in the line of fire, so to speak, since we developed breasts at a young age. (Mine came in when I was 8, and I was sporting a 34D cup by 5th grade. A thing like that tends to make you very visible to creeps, so I've been fighting them off most of my life.) I don't know that it has a whole lot to do with "attitude", and saying that one's attitude is probably what has kept one "safe" has a distinct ring of victim-blaming to it, as it implies that if you've been harassed or assaulted or raped, you probably brought it on yourself with your attitude.
posted by palomar at 9:07 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]



I know you have only good intentions, but that, right there, seems to say that when I was eight and got my ass grabbed in a gift shop it was because I was carrying myself wrong. Or that now, when I walk down the street, guys are yelling at me because I'm doing something wrong, and not because they have a problem. And that's not cool.


That's a good point. If you take precautions and nothing bad happens to you, there's no way to determine whether luck or your precautions saved you. However, there _are_ things women can do to lower their risk of being assaulted. What's the best way to state this fact without implicitly blaming victims?
posted by paanta at 9:10 AM on November 9, 2009


However, there _are_ things women can do to lower their risk of being assaulted. What's the best way to state this fact without implicitly blaming victims?

I think that was sort of the point of the original FPP. And then all of a sudden it became about how it hurts men's feelings or is bad manners.
posted by like_neon at 9:13 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Several of these comments illustrate that this is a tricky thing:

How do we prepare young women to deal with the world in the plucky and pragmatic way that women like Go Banana have enjoyed, while at the same time making sure that they are girded with the tools that PhoBWanKenobi proposes, and do both in such a way that they understand that should their good attitude and preparedness not be enough to prevent such things, that it is not their fault?
posted by ocherdraco at 9:17 AM on November 9, 2009


And, on non-preview, paanta is asking much the same thing.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:17 AM on November 9, 2009


And sometimes you get a security guard who is adept at dealing with stuff and says "Sir, these are the security measures that we take, and it's not a reflection of blahblahblahblah, and it won't take very much time to blabhalbhlabhlahblahblah" and the guy goes "Okay, I don't understand really, but okay." And then sometimes you get a security guard who's all "SIR I HAVE TOLD YOU ONCE ALREADY AND IF I TELL YOU AGAIN I AM GOING TO HAVE TO YOU DETAINED". And when I'm at the back of the line waiting to put my shoes in a tray, I kind of hate that second kind of security guard, because he's not doing anything to help the doof, AND because it's making it harder for me to get through this line. And I probably start to side with the doof a little bit, even though I really have no real problem with airline security.

ahhhhh, I see what you're saying now.

I think, if you look back at that original thread, there were a few security guards who came along and took that guard aside and said "dude, go take your break now, that ain't the way to deal with this" and then said "sorry, Sid's having a bad day" and then took over and DID explain the security measures a bit more rationally, and then things calmed down.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on November 9, 2009


Kids- any kids, boy or girl, need to be prepared for the reality of the world, and they need to know that sometimes bad things happen to people who don't deserve it. The problem is that there is something that society does to girls to make them think that when it happens to them, they deserve it somehow. They brought it on themselves somehow. What we need to do is remove this sense of shame, this sense that just by walking around being female they, on some level, deserve what people do to them. I don't feel this way and I'm incredibly lucky, and it's because I had insanely great parents who taught me not to feel this way.

Teach your girls to be smart. To use their wits and assess things and be confident people- confident enough to know they should, whenever possible, bail on a situation when they sense a threat. To understand that they can be happy and brave and outgoing but that they don't owe anyone anything- attention, kindness, regard, anything- that they don't actually want to give them. To internalize the fact that there are tons of good people who they will benefit from being friendly to, but that nobody is entitled to take anything from them. They need to be brave enough not to live their lives assuming everything is a threat and to understand that if something awful happens it wasn't their fault. And yeah, that's not a tall order at all.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 9:29 AM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think my experiences have been too varied to say that I've just been lucky that I've never been assaulted. My attitude and the way I carry myself surely must also have something to do with it (many studies agree).

This has already been addressed by a number of commenters, but seriously, I am so enraged by this statement. On Friday night, walking down my street, when a man called after me, "I'm gonna slip it in your asshole," that was my fault. Because I should've been walking more aggressively.

Plus, the idea is so flawed. None of us should have to change our attitudes, the way we carry ourselves - male or female. I will not change the way I carry myself because it shouldn't be my job to prevent someone from assaulting me.
posted by harperpitt at 9:31 AM on November 9, 2009 [12 favorites]


Both the original thread and this one have brought up a lot of memories and shared experiences for me. I can identify with much of what many women have to say about their experiences from childhood upwards. But, as a regular public and private transit user who is occasionally open to non-pickup chatting from both women and men, I felt like the article stopped a little short of being a real guide on how to interact with women on the bus. Of course, if she expresses that she doesn't want to talk to you, through either direct language or body language, you should not pursue the matter. That is standard transit etiquette for everybody. If I ask someone what time it is and they tell me and respond with a comment about the weather, I might continue talking to them. If they tell me and then start making a call on their phone, I leave them alone even after they hang up.

So anyway, being an occasional (okay. Probably frequent) bus-talker, the other story that these threads reminded me of was the story of the most awesome guy I ever talked to on the bus. I wanted to share it, not in anyway to diminish what other women have written about their experiences and their caution, but as a positive example of what can happen when a man does respect cues and the special position that women are in in having to judge their own safety.

I was young at the time, early 20s. I was coming home from work, not late, but after dark in the Canadian winter (where dark often starts at 4pm, making the whole "buddy system" thing simply impossible to maintain with any regularity). It was cold. I was waiting on a large street, but a fairly empty corner, and there was little traffic. I knew the bus schedule but not the time, so I asked the man waiting at the bus stop if he had the time. He did, and we moved on to weather. At the back of my mind was the thought that I wasn't supposed to be doing this, a woman alone, but the fact of the matter was that I had to take this bus and it was cold and dark and boring, and we had a 20 minute wait, at least. So I suppressed the thought, aided by the fact that he wasn't in anyway being creepy.

We talked about a bunch of stuff, I don't remember everything, but definitely about his wife and kids, and the fact that he'd started having kids at my age, and we ended up discussing the pros and cons of timing children late or early in life. The bus came and we kept chatting, sitting across from each other.

At some point we'd both been riding the bus for quite a ways, and neither had rung the bell. He looked a little concerned and interrupted me. "I just want to tell you I'm getting off at Victoria Street. I want to tell you that before you get off so if that's your stop too you don't think I'm following you or something."

It was a great thing to say, because I was also getting off at Victoria Street. I thanked him and told him so, and he immediately told me which direction he was headed, which was the same direction as me. He asked if I would like him to walk on ahead of me. At this point, I had no worries about this guy. He had consistently respected my personal space and my conversational cues. Then he had gone out of his way to consider that I might legitimately be concerned about a coincidence of our shared route and had taken steps to make sure that I had the information I needed to judge his behaviour correctly. He further did not assume that I would want to continue talking with him off the relative safety of the bus.

I told him that I would be happy to have the company on the way home, we walked and chatted, and parted amiably. I didn't see him again, but I have always remembered and appreciated his consideration. His respect was deeply appreciated, and in terms of my experiences, has provided a small counterbalance to those more negative experiences that I have shared with women posting in the original thread and this one.

So, I guess I wanted to post this in part to the men who've been feeling upset in this thread to give a positive reason for respecting and acknowledging a woman's particular safety concerns. Because of that man's consideration, we both enjoyed a friendly conversation, company on a boring ride, and I got a "buddy" to walk me (partway) home from the bus stop on a dark night, free of any worries that this guy had been acting nice only to get me alone away from the bus.
posted by carmen at 9:31 AM on November 9, 2009 [50 favorites]


Also, never ride the G train. But that's true for pretty much everyone, ever, under any circumstances.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 9:31 AM on November 9, 2009


So, again, back to the pre-hijack discussion: the article was on-point and the thread that unspooled from it was astonishing. I think it's such a good thread that it might be a good idea to not keep it to just we MeFites. I wonder, has anyone shared this with other people in their lives? -EatTheWeak

That thread lead to an awesome and affirming and thoughtful discussion one evening after supper with my (normally non-Mefi-readin') husband that was picked back up here and there for days afterward. It's also the only thread that has ever lead to multiple MeMail conversations between me and various other Mefites (seriously, no one knows me here, so I was shocked, pleasantly so). It's worth a lot.
posted by ifjuly at 9:33 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I felt like the article stopped a little short of being a real guide on how to interact with women on the bus. Of course, if she expresses that she doesn't want to talk to you, through either direct language or body language, you should not pursue the matter. That is standard transit etiquette for everybody.

I think the reason that you may have felt that the article "stopped a little short" is that you already understand that this is "standard transit etiquette for everybody."

Many people, many many many MANY people, however, do not. And that, therefore, is one of the reasons why this article exists -- in a sense, the reason why this article felt like it stopped a little short for you is that you were expecting it to teach algebra when the people who need to hear it are still back on long division.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:34 AM on November 9, 2009


paanta, the problem is that the things we tell women to do to keep themselves safe are usually to not dress provocatively and not go anywhere alone ever, especially at night. But what about all the rapes and assaults committed against women who were wearing sweatpants or jeans? That kind of rules out the "don't dress provocatively" issue, because the fact that women are assaulted whether or not they're dressed up all pretty indicates that dressing down isn't going to help.

As for never being alone anywhere, especially at night... that's not always preventable, either. I'd love to not have to stand at a bus stop alone at night but I don't have that option. I have to get home somehow and I can't afford anything but the bus. If I'm assaulted at that bus stop, it's my fault -- I was out there alone, I should have known what happens to women who stand outside alone.

That's pretty much the jist of what women are told to do to protect themselves. Don't dress like a slut, don't go outside like a slut. Stay in your homes. When we arm ourselves with mace or pepper spray or keys held in our fists like weapons, we're told that we're overreacting and being silly. When we try to help men understand what our lives are like and why we protect ourselves against strangers, we're told that we're being mean and unfair and judgemental and how dare we think that you might hurt us.

What I don't understand is why it falls to me to prevent my own rape.
posted by palomar at 9:35 AM on November 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


Palomar- you're exactly right, and that is never going to be solved by thinking it's something that women need to change about their behavior. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't, and until everyone figures out the blatantly obvious fact that we're actually human beings and entitled to basic human respect, it's not going to change. The majority of guys in these threads, who have been so awesome, give me hope that this is really changing. In the meantime I am friendly and outgoing and I live my life and I carry mace.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 9:41 AM on November 9, 2009


Kids- any kids, boy or girl, need to be prepared for the reality of the world, and they need to know that sometimes bad things happen to people who don't deserve it. The problem is that there is something that society does to girls to make them think that when it happens to them, they deserve it somehow. They brought it on themselves somehow.

In fairness, I suspect that the "when it happens to them, they deserve it somehow" tendency is as true for boys who are molested (etc) as girls. The issue, of course, is that far, far more girls are molested as is borne out not just by the statistics, but by these two threads.
posted by philip-random at 9:41 AM on November 9, 2009


Go Banana, I also had an idyllic childhood climbing trees, playing sports. I was never very into Barbies. I spent my time in the woods, in the trees and the creeks, with my brothers and other girls and boys from the neighborhood. I could hold my own and often physically stood up for my younger brothers. Then, when I was ten, one of those neighborhood boys (a year older and bigger than me) grabbed my arm, used his body weight to hold me down, and kept me pinned in the woods and told me he was going to rape me. At first I tried to treat it like a joke, though I was scared out of my mind. It wasn't until I was bawling, until he had threatened to kill me, too (when I said if he did anything I would tell) that he let me go. He held me there for a half an hour, and I thought that I might die there. Some joke.

This was after my first few experiences with sexual abuse, as a child, things I mostly just don't think about. The first time I was touched inappropriately by a man, I was four. No amount of friendliness or confidence could have kept that from happening. I was FOUR. And this wasn't the end of my experiences of harassment, and yes, eventually, rape.

I am cheerful, confident, and friendly. I smile at people on the train; I talk to strangers. In my current neighborhood in Philadelphia, I can walk home from the train station without having to worry about the people walking next to me doing anything to me.

But I am LUCKY that this is currently the case, that I am currently in a safe enough area where I can be friendly without being attacked. Being confident and friendly hasn't stopped at least one person at every single job I've held from ogling me, "accidentally" brushing against me and telling me or my other coworkers what they'd like to "do" to me. You may think "these guys aren't evil," but I have been harassed and demeaned and yes, frightened into quitting more than one job.

It is not my fault that I have been treated this way. It is not for any lack of confidence or sense of humor.

I absolutely do not see things as "us vs. them," between men and women, and I don't think anyone was suggesting that we should. "Us" should be everyone who cares and "them" should be the rapists and the people who harass and abuse others. The vast majority of the men I have interacted with have been lovely people, and I am quite happy to have men as my allies against the culture in which the abuse and harassment of women is so prevalent.
posted by audacity at 9:43 AM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


And, on preview, I think my "don't blame the victim" point has already been well covered.
posted by audacity at 9:44 AM on November 9, 2009


EmpressCallipygos, actually I thought it stopped a little short because it didn't talk about cases where the woman is open to conversation in any detail. So it didn't really give any advice beyond the "respect her boundaries, let her ignore you".

I realized that my point was a little unclear there. I mentioned that it is basic transit etiquette to say that no one, male or otherwise, should be offended by someone saying "respect a person's right to not talk to strangers, including you," because despite the article's framing, that is basic human decency.

I recognize that the article is framed the way it is because of a particular problem with some men vis-a-vis their belief in their entitlement to women's attention, and the point there was a good one. But I just wanted to draw out the fact that the fundamental advice given "don't push yourself on women who don't want to talk to you" is actually one that makes sense in *any* context of social interaction, with *any* combination of actors, and thus the people conflating the point with the advice and getting offended are off the mark. But I probably should have just skipped it, because the main point I wanted to make was that there are things that guys can do that make positive differences in women's lives as well as negative ones, and being aware of what women are concerned with is a great way to make sure that you are a guy who can make positive differences.
posted by carmen at 9:47 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Carmen, thanks for sharing that story! It's a perfect example of how to approach a stranger while not being a jerk (not that I think most MeFi guys really need help with that).
posted by audacity at 9:49 AM on November 9, 2009


Not that I ever watch CSI, but the latest episode of CSI features a male rape victim, and it was really interesting to see the show handle that, because 99% of what CSI-like shows contain is sexualized violence against women (which this episode also had, don't worry). The episode's message was that the fact that a man was raped was particularly bad, particularly disturbing. The investigating officer expressed the opinion that the male rape victim would be justified in killing his rapist in retaliation. Rape of a male victim: An Event. Rape of a female victim: every other episode of this show. The male victim's clothing was never a topic of discussion. Nor was his behavior. One assumption that no one ever questioned was that the rape was Not His Fault. That probably would have played out differently if either the male victim or his rapist had been gay.

Not sure what point I'm making... that even ridiculous and sexist TV shows like CSI intuitively recognize that female victims of rape outnumber male victims? That even on CSI, which thrives on sexualizing violence against women, straight men are protected from sexualized violence?

Hope this isn't a total non sequitur.
posted by prefpara at 9:53 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


actually I thought it stopped a little short because it didn't talk about cases where the woman is open to conversation in any detail. So it didn't really give any advice beyond the "respect her boundaries, let her ignore you".

I realized that my point was a little unclear there. I mentioned that it is basic transit etiquette to say that no one, male or otherwise, should be offended by someone saying "respect a person's right to not talk to strangers, including you," because despite the article's framing, that is basic human decency.


Okay, gotcha. I think, though, that the reason that it didn't address "what do do if a woman DOES want to have a conversation with you" is that, usually, people kind of have this under control. Whereas, the fact that being reminded that "the rules about not forcing yourself onto someone who doesn't want to talk don't change just because you think she's hot" is one of the big points the article is trying to make. What to do if she DOES want to talk is kind of outside the scope of the article, I think.

You're right, it's basic etiquette for both genders, and most guys get that. But there are a lot of guys who don't get that, and "so therefore this is why we seem guarded at first, beacuse other guys have been shits, so now you know."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:54 AM on November 9, 2009


The majority of guys in these threads, who have been so awesome, give me hope that this is really changing.

Me too, Dormant Gorilla. I'm really glad to see so many men who get it. Thanks, you guys. Keep being awesome.
posted by palomar at 9:57 AM on November 9, 2009


My God. I just read that thread and this one for the first time. I had no idea women thought like this. I feel horrible. I'm a big mean looking guy. I'm around 6'-4" 250lbs and I can't fathom what it would be like to have to think like this all the time. I can barely string words together right now to make this comment, that's how much it's resonating with me right now. It's like a lense has been ripped off and I can see things clearer now. I have friends that make rape jokes. I have friends that catcall and hit on women in public and at bars. Christ, I probably have done the same. I know I've done it. I just feel so fucking bad right now. I wont stand for it anymore. I'm going to make a concious effort to tell my guy friends that it's not okay. I'm sorry.
posted by chugg at 9:59 AM on November 9, 2009 [74 favorites]


I suspect that the "when it happens to them, they deserve it somehow" tendency is as true for boys who are molested (etc) as girls.

No, absolutely, and that's just as reprehensible. Audacity just nailed it- this is not a "women" vs "men" issue- it's an issue of respecting other people, whoever they are and whoever you are. The sad fact is this particular form of, let's say, extreme disrespect does tend to happen to women, perpetrated by men, more often than any other combination- nobody is marginalizing the fact that it's awful when it happens to men by just pointing out that it happens to women more often. I know that's not what you're saying, I just wanted to make sure I got that across. I do think there is a definite stigma of "you deserved this somehow" on anyone, male or female, who is sexually assaulted, but the kind of day to day dehumanization that a lot of women are describing here is something slightly different, and girls do get taught that they've brought it on themselves.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 9:59 AM on November 9, 2009


I, too, was lucky to have awesome parents who raised me to be a confident woman who succeeded in male-dominated spheres and who has lots of great relationships with men. They also gave me some really valuable techniques for when I felt myself in danger, tools that I used successfully the first time when I was 8 (but looked 12). I didn't survive unscathed, but if I had not fought that man who who tried to drag me away from the seal pen at the zoo, I'm not sure I'd be posting today.

This is what they told me:

Trust your instincts. Move away from danger. If you are scared or someone tries to hurt you or make you go someplace with them, find a safe adult - us, a teacher, a policeman, a fireman, another mother or father, someone working in a store. It's OK to break the rules if you think you are in danger: yell, scream, hit back, fight. Being polite doesn't mean doing everything everyone else wants. If being polite doesn't work, a good sharp No is a good thing. Remove yourself from the situation. Most of all: make yourself feel and be safe.

They layered on the complexity as I got older and more able to handle that complexity, but feeling like I had permission to scream and hit and then run right past a No Running sign because I was so scared was a lifesaver. I would have added two rules that may have seemed obvious to them but was not to an 8 year old: It is not your fault. Tell me about it.
posted by julen at 10:04 AM on November 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


Actually, no, not just my guy friends but anywhere I see it happening.
posted by chugg at 10:06 AM on November 9, 2009


I suspect that the "when it happens to them, they deserve it somehow" tendency is as true for boys who are molested (etc) as girls.

I personally take the time to yell at anyone I come across when they say, of the few female teachers who molest their pre-adolescent/under-the-age-of-consent students, "Hurf Durf, good for him!" Are you serious?! These boys are CHILDREN.

The idea that even male CHILDREN should be excited about (predatory and unequal!) sexual encounters is just another side of the coin of this problem.
posted by audacity at 10:07 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh and what the fuck, oaf?
posted by chugg at 10:08 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Chugg, thank you.
posted by audacity at 10:09 AM on November 9, 2009


Chugg just gave me a warm squishy feeling. And that..was a really weird sentence to type.

Seriously, since these threads happened I've talked to a few guy friends about this, and the thing that keeps coming up is that they're awesome, sincere, fantastic people who just didn't know that this was happening because they genuinely haven't been exposed to it. Through no fault of their own, maybe just through honest ignorance, maybe because girls don't talk about it around them. And their pretty much unanimous reactions of "...holy shit, I had no goddamn idea" have been such a relief, I can't even explain. Not that they really have anything to apologize for- just the fact that they're listening and understanding is just such a relief, like something that's constantly, quietly kicking in the back of your brain gets silenced for a minute, just from the sheer human kindness of these great guys. And oaf- kiss my ass.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 10:15 AM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


Thank you, chugg.

Let me also add, though -- I get the sense that you're kicking yourself a little hard about this right now -- so I wanted to reassure you that, as far as I'm concerned, I don't think you did what you did because you're evil or anything. You just were given some really fucked-up information about men and women. No matter what your good intentions, if you're working with fucked-up information, it's gonna go pear-shaped.

So you just got some fucked-up information, you're not inherantly evil or anything. I hope you aren't thinking that about yourself right now.

Heh. When feminists say "patriarchy hurts men too", this is the kind of thing they're talking about -- it's a whole social system that gave you that fucked-up information in the first place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:21 AM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


If your intentions are not honourable, I'll know what to do.

There's a chance this attitude is going to get you hurt one day. Confidence without caution is reckless, especially if you are in a situation where you know your risk of assault is elevated. The fact is that adding the cautious perspective many women here are describing to your confidence may avert a situation where your confidence is worth exactly nothing. How much is your confidence worth when a man punches you in the face after you've asked him to leave you alone? How do you respond when a man much larger than you puts his hand around your throat and drags you towards an alleyway? You probably don't know how you would respond in that situation because you've never been in that situation. And the fact is that once the punch has landed it's too late. Now you've been assaulted. It could take years to psychologically recover from that kind of trauma. How much worse is it going to feel if a little caution could have prevented it?

When I was working in homeless services there was all kinds of training directed at preventing assaults and people still got assaulted all the time. I've worked with a lot of women social workers were well trained and took all the necessary precautions when working with potentially assaultive clients except for that one time they turned their backs on the wrong guy and they got hurt. The worst part is that they knew it was going to happen right before it did, like they realized the error they made right at the last second. And I've seen women be really hard on themselves over that, like they can't get over this sense that they did something incredibly stupid in letting themselves be assaulted when the fact is they just caught a bad break.

No shit, one of my former coworkers is a pro-MMA fighter. She trains every day on how to fuck people up. She probably weighs 100lbs less than me and could totally fuck me up real bad, real easily. But one day we were out in the field and a dude came at her out of nowhere, charged at her when we totally weren't expecting anything like that. She totally froze up, she did nothing. We were able to diffuse the situation without anyone getting hurt but she couldn't stop beating herself up after the fact because she has all this fight training but totally blanked when this guy came at her out of nowhere on the street. She didn't get assaulted, but it was real REAL close and honestly there was nothing either of us could have done to prevent it.

All this stuff about getting assaulted is theoretical until it's real, and you can make all kinds of prognostications about what you would do in that situation, what you've been doing that has prevented it from happening to you, you can even train extensively for it to actually happen, and when it actually happens you really have no idea what will happen until after it's over.

So while I totally respect a strong woman and admire your confidence, I think it is just common sense if you are out alone in the city after dark, if you are around a lot drunk dudes, etc., to also be a little cautious just in case your luck runs out.
posted by The Straightener at 11:04 AM on November 9, 2009 [13 favorites]


chugg: It's like a lense has been ripped off and I can see things clearer now. I have friends that make rape jokes. I have friends that catcall and hit on women in public and at bars. Christ, I probably have done the same. I know I've done it. I just feel so fucking bad right now. I wont stand for it anymore. I'm going to make a concious effort to tell my guy friends that it's not okay. I'm sorry.

This speaks well for how I felt better part of thirty years ago after a girlfriend demanded I read Marilyn French's The Women's Room. I have no idea how it would stand up today, but at the time it hit me like a split atom.

EVERYTHING I KNEW WAS WRONG.
posted by philip-random at 11:07 AM on November 9, 2009


So while I totally respect a strong woman and admire your confidence, I think it is just common sense if you are out alone in the city after dark, if you are around a lot drunk dudes, etc., to also be a little cautious just in case your luck runs out.

So, The Straightener, you're actually recommending that women do...precisely what the original article already said a lot of women already do?

I'm curious how you'd respond to other arguments in this thread that state that doing so is "prejudicial against men."

(Seriously: not calling you out, it just was a delicious irony there.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:09 AM on November 9, 2009


I'm curious how you'd respond to other arguments in this thread that state that doing so is "prejudicial against men."

Who gives a fuck what men think about it? Seriously.
posted by The Straightener at 11:14 AM on November 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


Who gives a fuck what men think about it? Seriously.

Then we are in agreement. :-)

(Okay, that wasn't quite accurate -- sometimes I find that hearing WHY someone thinks what they do can help break through an impasse.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:20 AM on November 9, 2009


I felt like I really had nothing to contribute to that thread, since my life has been relatively unmarred by sexual violence, bar a little ass-grabbing. And I know that's just my luck, not virtue or caution or swagger. But then I remembered that, ironically, once I was friendly to a harmless-looking guy who struck up a conversation on a bus.

Dude stalked me for six weeks. Not even joking.
posted by molybdenumblue at 11:26 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I felt like I really had nothing to contribute to that thread, since my life has been relatively unmarred by sexual violence, bar a little ass-grabbing.

See, I'd call 'a little ass-grabbing" more than enough of a data point to have contributed.

Actually, though, the fact that you thought a complete stranger grabbing at your body wasn't noteworthy enough to mention is ITSELF a data point, if you think about it (in the "if we are THAT accustomed to this kind of treatment, what does that say about the situation" sense).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:30 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thank you, chugg.

You've helped remind me of a time when I had my bacon saved (or at least my day) by a guy saying, "Is everything okay here?" No asses were kicked, I might add. But then, this guy sure knew how to do it.

This was back when I was working a customer service job at a YMCA gym about twelve years ago. Customer service can be tricky. There are a certain number of people who are either so mentally cracked that they cannot understand that the professionally friendly counter girl is not their one real-life friend, or who flat-out take advantage of her physically and socially restricted situation. Mostly I was able to move these people along pretty effectively, but this one guy whom I saw only once -- just thinking of him still raises my hackles. I was the only person working that day, and the man would.not.go.away. He plastered himself against the counter and hung over it, pushing me verbally and apparently trying to intimidate me with his bulk (while still maintaining plausible deniability, of course). You could just about smell the dangerous entitlement wafting off of him -- he had that special, creepy blend of whining and hostility that sends up a whole barrage of red flags.

I honestly did not know what to do. I'd thrown every non-inflammatory creep-be-gone move I had at him, and they hadn't worked. He had me pretty much physically trapped at the desk. I started to feel desperate; he was steadily ramping up the hostility component, my attempts at defusing the situation didn't seem to be affecting his behavior in the slightest, and it all looked like it was veering toward something pretty bad. But here came a customer, a six-foot-something sandy-haired guy whom I didn't even know as one of the regulars. He read the situation immediately. "Is everything okay here?" he asked calmly, carefully staying about eight or ten feet away so as not to get in CreepyGuy's space. I just widened my eyes at him, signalling halp halp, while CreepyGuy immediately backed way off and blustered that everything was just fine. "Okay," said AwesomeGuy, unruffled, and leaned against a wall. "I'm just gonna wait here." And at that, CreepyGuy left. AwesomeGuy hung out for a little while to be sure that CreepyGuy wasn't coming right back, then went about his business.

It was beautifully done. I thanked him, of course, but I don't know that I quite conveyed how blown away I was. AwesomeGuy didn't seem to think his actions were anything out of the ordinary; it's just one of those things you do when you can. Well, only if you're awesome. (Thank you again, AwesomeGuy, wherever you are.)
posted by sculpin at 11:32 AM on November 9, 2009 [28 favorites]


Dude stalked me for six weeks. Not even joking.

Stalking is a really interesting phenomena. I found this paper to be really interesting; here's the abstract:
Legal definitions of stalking require victims to experience a high level of fear. This paper examines the effect of gender on fear from stalking encompassing a range of fear levels beyond the legal definition. I will demonstrate that fear is a gendered concept, therefore legal definitions of stalking based on fear are gender biased. Using regression analysis, it was determined that females experience fear at a higher rate than males, and the same stalking behaviors lead to a more intense fear for females than males.
I think it's interesting in a lot of ways, including gender bias against men in legal definitions, but I think it's particularly illuminating in terms of this conversation that faced with identical circumstances, women self-report a much, much higher fear rating than men do. I wonder if this is why so much of what many women said in that thread has come as such a revelation to some readers.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:37 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry that this is long and out-of-context but I’ve written about 6 different versions of this comment and didn’t know if I was really going to publish it or not because it I’m about to type something that I’ve never said aloud and have hardly ever even thought. I was sexually assaulted. The one in six.

I’m publishing this comment because I want to thank Metafilter for having this thoughtful discussion and specifically thank the Mefites who have been brave enough to share their stories. It turned me around on the subject and made me a better person. Here’s why.

When I was in school, I was sexually assaulted by the Nice Guy. Everybody’s best friend. A real sweetheart. While trying to wrestle him off me he grabbed my arms so tight there were bruises in the shape of his hands for a week. My best girlfriend and I agreed that we couldn’t tell anyone because I wasn’t a nice enough girl—our whole clique knew I had slept with Nice Guy’s friend. It never occurred to either of us that he might do this again to someone else because it seemed so obvious that it was my fault. Afterward, I avoided him for a few days and then resumed a friendly if chilly relationship. I would have told you what a nice guy he was last week if you would've asked.

I started looking at that event as the price I paid. I flew too close to the flame by staying out late, wearing sexy clothes and hooking up—so I got burned. And when I was threatened on the bus, that was the price I paid for going out alone. And when the guys got ultra aggressive at the club, that was the price I paid for drinking. And when my boss behaved inappropriately towards me, that was the price I paid for having a career.

I hated the women I saw with their rape whistles and mace. They were paranoid or flattering themselves. I wondered if women who had been raped after they had been drinking had learned their lesson and accepted the cost of their actions. I told myself that rape was what happened during wars in Africa or when dads molested their daughters as toddlers and anything else was just confusion or lies.

I harboured all of those dark, hateful, misogynistic thoughts for more than 10 years— until this thread. I always told myself that these statistics were high, that if you discounted the “dumb women who should have been more careful” the statistics would be closer to the truth. But I read the stories that were shared here over a period of days and I saw how wrong I was. So many women had been raped and sexually assaulted and it wasn’t their fault. Including me. I am ashamed that I covered up my own assault and then took the perpetrator’s part. Jessamyn summed it up so well:

Every time I think that the experiences of me and my close female friends are in some sort of bubble where maybe we live someplace especially unsafe or dangerous or were maybe behaving badly... I learn, more and more, that no, our experiences were actually pretty typical for females of our age and that this sort of systemic (and I use that word quite deliberately) belittlement, harassment and outright abuse are damned near typical experiences for women growing up in the US (and also the UK and elsewhere, certainly). It's baffling when you try to get your head around it. It's almost as if the universality of those experiences had to have some sort of common thread running through them that would make them all somehow related.

Thank you, Metafilter for helping me become a more compassionate human being. You have gently forced me to confront something that I buried a long time ago. I am better for it and am now working towards becoming more supportive of other women.
posted by xjk at 11:50 AM on November 9, 2009 [48 favorites]


I didn't participate in the original thread, nor in this one, because I don't have an argument with the original post, and I didn't really feel there was much I needed to say. Certainly the discussion was going well enough on its own, and certainly the women in that thread, and in this one, were able to articulate what they wanted to say without help from me, and didn't really seem to need my support, and sometimes, as a man, when a subject that predominently affects women comes up, the best thing you can do is just shut the fuck up. It's usually not about you, and making it about you is exactly what privilege is.

It just doesn't seem that complicated to me. I'm super flirty, but only with people I know, who know I am safe, and I know sometimes that trust takes a while. It's not terribly difficult to get to know somebody, but, you know, there are some people who aren't going to want to get to know you back, and that's their perogative. A women always has a right to keep her own counsel and her own company, and she doesn't void that right by going out in public. And yet some men seem to think then do, and get aggressive about it, and get pissed off when women try to reasser that right. And it's not all men, but it's enough.

And it's enough so that if you just go up to a strangre woman in public, there is a good change that she's going to assume you're one of them. Especially if she's working, or listening to music, or sending off other social clues that she doesn't want to be approached. And if you ignore those cues, you are one of those guys. You really really are. We're not missing the cues, we're ignoring them. People let you know when they're okay with being approached. They make eye contact and smile, or make other universally recognized gestures. I mean, sure, there are some wallflowers who are so nervous in public they accidentally send off the wrong message, that they don't want to be approached, when they desperately want the opposite. There's no reason to assume that, though, and it's not your job as a guy to bust some wallflower out of her shell.

So what are we left with? We can be social, say hi, smile, wave, ask directions, give directions. You know, pretty much anything that people do. And we might get a cheery hello back, or a cold shoulder, and, if so, that's that, because nobody owes you, as a guy, a goddamn thing. They don't even owe you a resonse. They always have the right to choose how to respond to you. So you think they're being cold and aloof and paranoid and that's a bad thing? Who cares what you think. Not your business, and not your job to fix.

Ultimately, I really think this boils down to privilege trying to assert itself against caution, when caution is reasonable and privilege is, well, privilege. So you're a nice guy. How do they know? What does it even matter? You're not special enough to deserve special rights, you're not special enough to be owed any special behavior. Some nice guys act nice, help a woman inside with the groceries, and then rape her. So nice means nothing. Maybe you are a nice guy, but you prove it by NOT asserting privilege. NOT assuming a woman owes you a conversation, or a smile, or even a response. She doesn't know you, she owes you nothing. And you prove yourself to be a nice guy by assuming she has good reasons for that, and that those reasons probably have absolutely nothing to do with you, and letting it go, instead of getting into a huff.

But I'm not a rapist, you say. How dare she treat me that way?

She's not treating you any way. You're the one making the moves. She's just trying to get you to move on. You're not a rapist? Excellent! Go not be a rapist with somebody who wants your company. Because you might not be a rapist, but if you don't respect when somebody doesn't care to talk to you, for whatever reason, your a god damn pest, and that's not terrifically complicated. And if you think you deserve more, that women somehow owe you more, you're a problem, because all you're doing is desperrately asserting privilege, in that you're trying to make your invented rights -- your right not to be dismissed because you're not like bad men, which is a right that doesn't exist -- over somebody else's real right to be left alone when they want to be.

Plenty of women will let you know when they want to be friends with you, and a lot of them will let you flirt outrageously. Just have some goddamn patience already. It doesn't have to be with a stranegr in a street.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:54 AM on November 9, 2009 [47 favorites]


Gawd, that was a scroll.

Just one thing, to Chugg, and I know it will be contentious, but: "I have friends that make rape jokes. I have friends that catcall and hit on women in public and at bars. Christ, I probably have done the same. I know I've done it."

The thing is, I don't think these are necessarily absolutes. Obviously, if this freaked you out, you're a better judge of your peer group and behavior than I am, but it can be OK to hit on women in public and at bars. It can even be OK to make rape jokes—provided the context is right. The community of Metafilter has made a decision that the context isn't ever really right here.

I'm just saying that giving your pals a lecture with the zeal of the converted might not end up being productive.
posted by klangklangston at 11:55 AM on November 9, 2009


Count me among the women who had their eyes opened. I haven't experienced anything like the level of daily harassment other women describe. I have been catcalled on the street (maybe a dozen times in my life), but it's more often been for being fat and/or looking like a dyke. And while I have had a couple of close calls with molestation/rape, in both cases the potential perp stopped when I told him to.

As a consequence, I generally live my life and walk the streets without fear. And while I do believe that my behavior and demeanor contributes to my safety, I appreciate the words of those who point out that this kind of freedom is not something I have particularly earned and deserve (and therefore that others have not and do not).

Before this, when I ran into women who wouldn't go anywhere by themselves or after dark, I honestly thought they were kind of neurotic. Now I get that maybe they have had really different life experiences, to which their behavior is their best available response.

I see now that this is another way that I am fortunate and blessed -- may all be so. And another drop in the overflowing thank-you cup to those who have relived painful experiences so that I and others can learn from them.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:58 AM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


it can be OK to hit on women in public and at bars. It can even be OK to make rape jokes—provided the context is right. (klangklangston)

Part A, I agree with. Part B, though—could you give me an example of a context in which joking about rape is okay? (Not snarking; I just can't think of any, and want to know what context you're thinking about here.)
posted by ocherdraco at 12:04 PM on November 9, 2009


Something tangential that I'd mention—I don't think I've ever seen such rancor directed at a guy who doesn't want to interact. AZ's point above to just move on is apt, in that if you say "Nice weather," to some dude at the bus stop and he just grunts, you don't think, "Christ, what an asshole." You just ignore him. Interaction over. Done. You don't worry he thinks you're a potential rapist or harbors any ill will, he simply has the privilege to not talk if he doesn't want to.
posted by klangklangston at 12:05 PM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


"Part A, I agree with. Part B, though—could you give me an example of a context in which joking about rape is okay? (Not snarking; I just can't think of any, and want to know what context you're thinking about here.)"

I'll send it to you in MeMail; I'm not going to get into it here.
posted by klangklangston at 12:07 PM on November 9, 2009


"Rape jokes" might be the wrong pairing of words, but I agree with klang. As long as the humor isn't vicious, and doesn't come from the viewpoint that rape is itself something funny, but instead deals with a terrible thing with a sense of humor, so-called rape jokes can be like jokes that Jews sometimes tell about the Holocaust. Sometimes its valuable to find humor inside pain. On the other hand, it's a hell of a risky thing for a man to attempt, as the terget of a joke can oftentimes be unclea, and too many men make rape jokes that demonstrate to them that rape is so abstract as to be a subject that can be treated as ridiculous. Terrible things, and things that hurt people, should not be treated as a subject of sport or fun, but I can certainly imagine somebody honestly discussing sexual violence and managing to locate some difficult humor in it. I do it all the time with bad things that happen to me. It's sometimes all I got against it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:09 PM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'd actually like to know also, Klang,, so could you also meMail me?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:09 PM on November 9, 2009


When I'm talking to one of my classmates as we wait for our trains at the train station, and she tells me that if she takes one of the two trains she has the option of taking, she'll have to call her husband to come walk with her, I just think "Man, I'm lucky that I take my train to the station I do."

That wasn't always the case. Once upon a time, I would have thought that my friend needing to call her husband was a little paranoid. But I listened and learned (and, sadly, learned from experience as well). I really want to thank xjx and ottereroticist for listening and for posting your comments. I know I don't speak for everybody, but for me the best outcome of sharing these types of experiences is receiving evidence that someone is listening.

And xjx, I'm so, so sorry you ever felt that what happened to you was your fault. I hope that you never feel that way again, and that nothing like that ever happens to you again.
posted by audacity at 12:09 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was thinking about this thread as I walked around the garment district in NYC today during my lunch break. I paid special attention to how men treated me.

In the space of one hour, I was cat-called thirteen times. Three of those times made me distinctly uncomfortable and the men were definitely leering, making obscene gestures or saying obscene things. Ten times I got a "Hey baby you lookin' good" or an equivalent which was neither threatening nor flattering, in my book. In addition, twice I got a simple hello and a smile, both of which I returned in kind. So, out of fifteen uninvited interactions, three were threatening and/or disturbing, ten were simply uncalled for, and two were friendly and unalarming. That's a pretty awful ratio.

By the end of the hour, I was exhausted and frankly, wanted a burka.

I guess this is sort of par for the course for my experience here. I've been threatened and assaulted by someone who was pissed that I wouldn't respond to his "advances"--aside from the name-calling, he threw a glass bottle at my head and sped away. I've been followed by strangers twice--once I ducked into a store and another time I called my boss at the restaurant where I worked, who waited outside for me with a large knife. I've been grabbed by a drunk guy who let me go when I screamed, and I've had a woman alert me that a man was taking pictures of me on the subway. I've had someone follow me to the back of the bus and talk about how beautiful my feet were for half an hour, and I had someone refuse to leave me alone in a Barnes & Noble (in both of those cases, I was new to the city and didn't know how to make it Perfectly Clear to Everyone Around Us that they were bothering me). I've had nice and not-so-nice comments walking down the street, and only once did I have such a witty comeback that they were stunned into silence. I've had guys press up against me in the train in a way that's hard to absolutely define as inappropriate, but I trust my gut feeling.

Is it any wonder, then, that I don't trust strange guys who start talking to me in public? Given the way these interactions typically go, I'd just prefer not to engage. I manage to meet plenty of nice people to date or be friends with or whatever without having to put up with some stranger's interfering with my reading on my commute. Thanks, but I don't need any more friends.

I've had this conversation with my guy friends and they don't understand it either. But one day my boyfriend and I were wrestling, and he had me completely under his control in less than a second. He's just about 30 pounds heavier, just six inches taller, and with hardly any effort at all, he can immobilize me. I pointed to that instance and told him, See why I'm afraid? With no effort, while being gentle and not hurting me, with no ill intent or ulterior motive, you had me completely powerless in a second. Given the guys out there who DO have bad intentions, don't you think it makes sense for me to be suspicious rather than open-minded?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 12:11 PM on November 9, 2009 [21 favorites]


Astro Zombie, I agree that if you're a survivor of something terrible like rape, you have every right to deal with it however you can, including through humor. And I've seen some comedy routines (this one comes to mind) that deal with the subject of rape in funny and though-provoking ways.

But when someone is talking about "rape jokes" that is hardly EVER what they are talking about. I've heard a lot of "jokes" that made my skin crawl and gave me the clear goal never to be in the same room as the joker again. I've also heard "jokes" about rape that were so nonchalant, where the joker was so oblivious ("What? What was wrong with what I said?") that it really brought home how disgustingly inescapable all of this can be sometimes.
posted by audacity at 12:15 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


klangklangston, could you memail me one of those jokes as well? I'm genuinely curious, in the same way as ocherdraco.
posted by palomar at 12:17 PM on November 9, 2009


I meant "thought-provoking," obviously (although obviously not so obviously I feel comfortable with letting it slide)
posted by audacity at 12:19 PM on November 9, 2009


But when someone is talking about "rape jokes" that is hardly EVER what they are talking about.

I agree. I think there are people who take a weird pleasuring in being outrageous, and that's where rape as an abstraction comes in; you tell a joke without it ever occurring to you that somebody you're speaking to might have experienced what you're joking about. I did it myself when I was younger, and regret doing so. I don't think the pleasurable charge of being a little naughty is worth the risk of tearing somebody's scab off, or expressing that you think the subject is valuable primarily as a bleak punchline.

And that's extended further. You know, there are jokes you make around friends, because they know you, and know you're not serious, and know you're just being darkly comical and presenting it in ironic quotation marks. I don't even really care to do that anymore, because irony is a powerful, worthwhile tool, and I feel its sort of wasted on cheap devilishness.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:20 PM on November 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Jeez, yeah, what AstroZombie said regarding rape jokes..
posted by klangklangston at 12:28 PM on November 9, 2009


I think there are people who take a weird pleasuring in being outrageous, and that's where rape as an abstraction comes in; you tell a joke without it ever occurring to you that somebody you're speaking to might have experienced what you're joking about.

I just had a "lightbulb" moment like this earlier today! It went like this:

1. A lot of people I know are in graduate school or considering graduate schools, and one of my facebook friends updated saying that she was considering going to the same school for her graduate degree as she did for her undergrad.

2. A lot of faculty joke that this is considered "academic incest." I was going to mention this in a comment on her update

3. When I remembered the heartbreaking, brutally honest and moving story that this girl told at a victims services demonstration about being touched inappropriately and propositioned by her father and

4. I resolved never, ever to use this "jokey" phrase again.

Is this off-topic? Is this what MeMail is for? Seriously, I'm new.
posted by audacity at 12:29 PM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Certainly the discussion was going well enough on its own, and certainly the women in that thread, and in this one, were able to articulate what they wanted to say without help from me, and didn't really seem to need my support, and sometimes, as a man, when a subject that predominently affects women comes up, the best thing you can do is just shut the fuck up. It's usually not about you, and making it about you is exactly what privilege is.

Loved your comment overall, but I'm highlighting this part because I feel differently about it than you seem to.

I speak only for myself of course, but I want (and need) you to be part of this discussion, not just a fly on the wall. If you don't talk to us about this, we don't know where you stand at all. And if none of you spoke up in agreement that this is a great big problem that needs to be dealt with, we wouldn't know that you're behind the effort to ensure that this becomes less of a problem for us.

This was never a women v. men issue. And it never will be. This is a predator v. prey issue.

If women hole up in a room by themselves and swap stories, really... what good does it do anyone? I mean sure, it makes us feel united and supported and whatnot, which is essential I suppose, but it doesn't show us that we have men backing us up and hearing what we say, taking it to heart, and talking to other men about it. It's like half the crowd is just missing.

Honestly, men listen to other men. We need you to be aware of it and to help us talk about this subject. Sometimes a guy will hear you say something and actually get the point because... I dunno... maybe you phrase it better. Maybe his mom was a total bitch and he tends to disregard what women say. Maybe I am, in a way, too scary because I've been brutally sexually assaulted and sliced up a bit, and I lived through it (that really freaks some guys out, I won't lie to you). I don't know the reasons. Maybe he's listened to a society that tells him that women overreact and are not good with details. Who knows. The reasons are irrelevant.

We want you to listen, and we thrive on your feedback. You're not "just another MAN" when you get behind a good cause and try to effect change. You're yet another guy who speaks up, and the subtext is, "If I get the opportunity to have your back, you can count on it." It goes a long way. Trust me on this. We need to hear it. I may never be within 20 feet of you, but just knowing you're out there, thinking, helps me feel a bit safer. You're a part of our world; we need you to be fully engaged.
posted by heyho at 12:30 PM on November 9, 2009 [24 favorites]


All right. I promise to speak up sooner in the future. But I also suffer from male answer syndrome, so getting me to shut up gets to be a problem.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:33 PM on November 9, 2009


It sounds like the "context" for "rape jokes" is more of a whistling-past-the-graveyard schtick -- in which case, actually, i'm not sure I'd call such jokes "rape jokes" in the first place. ...Is there a "coping joke" category?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:37 PM on November 9, 2009


As a 6'6'', 250 lb man, I'd just like to thank you all for this thread and the previous one.
posted by flatluigi at 12:37 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think my experiences have been too varied to say that I've just been lucky that I've never been assaulted. My attitude and the way I carry myself surely must also have something to do with it

And luck.

I'm 5'9". I can bench-press more than 200 pounds with ease. If you have any memory of any posts I've ever made on MeFi, you probably have the impression that I'm (at best) a strongly assertive person, perhaps (at worst) an overbearing bully.

I can confidently say, even without knowing you, that I am as physically commanding and intimidating as you are (because I've met maybe ten women in my life who were more physically intimidating than I was, and all of them were professional athletes). I was a complete tomboy and played basketball with the boys well into high school.

And you know what? I've been harassed by men as recently as last week. I'm 45. I'm married and wear a gigantic wedding ring. I am charming-looking, but hardly a bombshell. I generally wear yoga pants and a t-shirt or sweatshirt, and hiking boots.

Nothing. You. Are. Doing. Is. Making. You. Immune. From. Harassment. You're just lucky.

Because if a giant angry middle-aged Amazon like me is getting harassed, every woman is vulnerable to it.

Or maybe you're not lucky at all. Maybe you don't understand what harassment is and you're in denial. Why do I suggest this?

Because you wrote this:

My service industry experience has probably also helped me feel comfortable with men. When you turn down unwanted suitors every shift you get pretty good at it, and you realize these guys aren't evil.

Those guys weren't all "suitors" unless you were in some kind of bizarre improbability space. At least some of them were just harassing you. And you're right: they probably weren't evil. But what they were doing was a shitty display of male dominance, just because they can.

You're rewriting that as some kind of charming "suitor" scenario. Unless you were working in the Statistical Unlikelihood Bar and Grille, it's almost certain that lots of those guys were married or partnered or terrified of you, and they would have run a mile if you'd said yes. They were just swinging their dick around rhetorically, and you are choosing to live in denial about that.

Which kind of sucks for your daughter. Please don't tell her that the men who catcall her, etc., are "complimenting" her, because that's the kind of toxic bullshit that affects lots of women's judgment and causes them to override their good self-protective instincts.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:37 PM on November 9, 2009 [34 favorites]


you tell a joke without it ever occurring to you that somebody you're speaking to might have experienced what you're joking about. I did it myself when I was younger, and regret doing so.

God, yes. This is so true about so many subjects.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:40 PM on November 9, 2009


OH. MY. Goodness.
Metafilter, please hope us over here in the UK.
posted by like_neon at 12:41 PM on November 9, 2009


Also, guys?

If you want to not be considered a crazy asshole rapist, here's how:

a) don't rape people
b) treat all strange women with the same respect you'd like your mother to be treated with--would you want someone coming up to your mom and saying "Nice tits, baby?" No? So don't do it yourself
c) if a strange woman chooses not to interact with you, understand that it may not be because of you
d) if a strange woman chooses not to interact with you, just move on. Don't throw shit at her head or swear at her or chase her down the street or follow her to her gym or find out where she lives and leave strange shit on her mailbox or any of a bunch of other shit men have done to me when I have had the "temerity" not to interact with them the way they'd like me to.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:42 PM on November 9, 2009


Also, guys?

If you want to not be considered a crazy asshole rapist, here's how:


I honestly don't think MeFi guys need these kind of instructions.
so can we just skip the part where someone gets offended by them?
posted by audacity at 12:51 PM on November 9, 2009


"Teach your girls to be smart. To use their wits and assess things and be confident people . . . They need to be brave enough not to live their lives assuming everything is a threat and to understand that if something awful happens it wasn't their fault. And yeah, that's not a tall order at all." - Dormant Gorilla

Although I have said and will continue to say that I am not treating all men as threats based on my personal experiences, I also feel that it is unreasonable to assume that threat assessment is unnecessary in any given situation. I am a strong, forthright woman that can generally hold her own in most situations, but I have still been the witness and victim of a number of threatening situations and, to be honest, I'm lucky to be alive and well. We have our fear response as the result of instinct and learned behaviors, and our reactions are there (usually) as the result of something concrete.
It's a good point, teaching our children - not just girls - to be smart and use their not-insubstantial powers of assessment. Men and women alike are the victims of different circumstances, such as men beating up other men in an alley because of a confrontation in a bar while women are far more likely to be victims of sexual assault, rape and sexual harrassment. For now, that is a reality, and as such we are all potential threats to others. We need to use our threat assessment instincts wisely and we should never discount the reasons we have our instincts, but we should also not assume. We should respond to every situation differently and know when we should react with fear and when we shouldn't. I feel that that was the basic point of the article - why some women react the way we do, and explain to some men using some extremely controversial speech what is good advice to follow in some situations.

"That happened to me, too, neewom. In fact, my feminism ultimately cost me two marriages, along with fully half of my former circle of friends. As my feminist awareness and commitment grew stronger and stronger, the distance grew wider and wider between me and some of the people who were once close to me." - velvet winter

The funny thing is that I have never considered myself a feminist ... and I'm glad that I've been able to make that choice for myself. It's slightly ironic, I know, believing what I do about human rights when it comes to gender and still failing to call myself an *ist. It's sad that this and the previous "Watcha reading" threads have resulted in broken friendships, but a reality that I've since come to grips with. It is a polarizing issue, after all, but we have handled it exceptionally well.
All of my friends now are male, and I have a problem when an issue that I find important has the ability to push them away. None of my friends had a positive initial response to that article, but after re-reading most were able and eager to discuss the basic ideas and facts. That is what I look for in friends and what I hope to find in strangers. They were offended and, for the most part, decided to take a second look and think about what was trying to be put forth rather than the harsh, arguably-offensive ideals used to illustrate the point.

Being myself with all of my experiences and ideals, I have a hard time not understanding a differing point of view. With that said, that article's fallout challenged my beliefs and I think I'm better for it.
Again, I'm not going to say to every man that I meet that he's a threat. I'm still thinking it, but I'm thinking that about women, too... it's just that I have a better chance of defending myself against another woman. I feel that I should clarify at this point. "Now, with that said, note that my experiences have not and will never prevent me from making friends or having healthy relationships in the future. I will never say to a man, 'you are a man, therefore you have the potential to rape or otherwise harm me.'" I still stand by this, but I should also say that I will still have apprehension in the back of my mind when any threatening stranger approaches me.
I'm glad I have the ability to make this decision for myself.

I love you, MeFites. To all of you that have taken part in this discussion, thank you. You've changed a lot of lives by opening up and being honest.
posted by neewom at 12:51 PM on November 9, 2009


Also, guys? If you want to not be considered a crazy asshole rapist, here's how:

a) don't rape people


Seriously, to call that unhelpful is an understatement.
posted by electroboy at 12:51 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I honestly don't think MeFi guys need these kind of instructions.

I dunno; some of us seem to have a real problem understanding c) if a strange woman chooses not to interact with you, understand that it may not be because of you.
posted by hades at 12:56 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


So this comment regarding 'rape culture' in the previous thread got me thinking about a lot of different empathy and theory of mind things. The assumption that what you've got or what you want is so great that everybody needs some of you and those who can't see it are losers seems to be a common thread among individuals. Those individuals who view literally everything in terms of their own personal desires with little care for the needs or desires of others. To put it succinctly, those of the mentality, "What's good for me is good for everybody." Now in equitable interactions, this sort of behavior is forgivable in that it is easy to ignore the egoist. They have no power - social, professional, or cultural - to keep you anywhere or force you to do anything. Given enough of these equitable encounters and over many generations this sort of behavior might even get stamped out (gross overreach - but not entirely unjustified). The problem arises when you are in a situation where one person has some sort of power over the other. This is where rape occurs.

The most obvious example of this is physical strength and brings to mind various types of sexual abuse forced onto one physically weaker individual by another physically stronger individual. The unfortunate truth is that there are many other forms of power that are far more insidious than this - many of which have been discussed in this thread - and I believe that it's those forms of power that are the real issue.

So what are the solutions? You could fix this in one of two ways. You could either keep the egoists, but remove these intangible sources of power, or you could somehow eliminate the egoist behavior. (To clarify, I don't mean egoist like Ayn Rand here. I'm simply talking about those people who have no real concept of what other people want or need - total selfishness). While I like the idea of the latter option, it seems impractical and brings to mind a classic evolutionary dichotomy - whenever everyone is helping everyone else, surely someone will arise who expends no effort by helping others, yet reaps the rewards. So, what about the first option? How do you go about taking power away from those who have it? How do you even start when it's so entrenched culturally and socially? How do you dismantle it without being labeled as some raging demagogue, some fringe society reject? I feel like these are the questions that should be addressed.
posted by scrutiny at 12:58 PM on November 9, 2009


In a weird way, the "Hi, whatcha reading" thread and this discussion have reconnected me with my younger self.

My current self is 46 years old, rarely experiences harassment and rarely feels unsafe.

My younger self, from 10 years old and onwards, experienced harassment on a daily basis. One sensation that these threads have brought back in vivid detail is my anger at being unable to go out on a nice, warm, summer's day, go to a park, sit down on a bench, and read a book or otherwise mind my own business without being harassed. One thought that - literally - went through my head at the time is that public parks might as well have Apartheid-style "Not for women" signs at the entrances, because that was the reality. As a twenty-something woman, I simply could not sit on my own on a bench in a park without being harassed.

Things are better now. Maybe age has rendered me invisible as a sexual object, maybe our society has changed for the better, or maybe it's a bit of both. Whatever it is, it's easy to take the sense of security for granted.
posted by rjs at 1:03 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Seriously, to call that unhelpful is an understatement.

My point was lost in the brevity of my post.

Here it is: Most people know whether or not they've raped someone else (not everyone, because of all the bullshit about "X really wanted it" and "your lips say no, no, but your eyes say yes, yes" and all that).

So if you are not yourself a rapist, you know that. And if someone else mistakes you for a possible rapist, that's their error in the context we're talking about (now, if someone falsely accuses you of rape, that's another matter entirely).

So why is it so personally offensive to anyone that they might be included in a set of potential rapists by a complete stranger, inside her head, with no other ramifications or fallout for them?

Again, to return to my locked-door analogy: My neighbors lock their door. I would never, ever steal my neighbors' shit. That does not mean that I get all in their face about "WELL YOU SHOULDN'T LOCK YOUR DOOR AGAINST MEEEEEEEE! I'M NO THIEF!"

I just, you know, let them lock their door and don't take it personally.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:09 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those guys weren't all "suitors" unless you were in some kind of bizarre improbability space. At least some of them were just harassing you. And you're right: they probably weren't evil. But what they were doing was a shitty display of male dominance, just because they can.

You're rewriting that as some kind of charming "suitor" scenario. Unless you were working in the Statistical Unlikelihood Bar and Grille, it's almost certain that lots of those guys were married or partnered or terrified of you, and they would have run a mile if you'd said yes. They were just swinging their dick around rhetorically, and you are choosing to live in denial about that.

Which kind of sucks for your daughter. Please don't tell her that the men who catcall her, etc., are "complimenting" her, because that's the kind of toxic bullshit that affects lots of women's judgment and causes them to override their good self-protective instincts.


Wow, you really misunderstood me. What did I say to make you think I saw these dudes as suitors? On how on earth did we jump from that to assuming I'd tell my daughter that cat calls are compliments? What the fuck!!! This is why I didn't want to get involved in the first place. Holy crap I'm mad right now. I'm too mad to even engage in this conversation. Must. Calm. Down.

Ok, breathing. Listen--just because I choose not to deal with unwanted male attention in the same way you do does not make me a naive enabler. I assure you that I am not living in denial. I know perfectly well that these guys are trying to harass me (trying, not succeeding) and are not really interested in courtship. I choose to deal with them with humour, and a general do-not-fuck-with-me demeanour. It is remarkably effective and lets men know that there is a line of behaviour they must not cross. I demand respect, and I generally get it. I refuse to live in fear, however, and I refuse to subscribe to your line of toxic bullshit, which is that we must always treat cheap come-ons as "shitty displays of male dominance". It's only dominance if you let it play out that way, and I never do.

Honestly, I've got to walk away and stop reading. I'm so very sad, depressed and angry. Why can't we just treat each other as human beings?
posted by Go Banana at 1:09 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


...maybe you phrase it better...

Or maybe because he's a guy and "you're" a guy, he's just not predisposed to anything critical you say as also hostile and combative. Or militant. Or hysterical.

In feminism, this not hearing people because of who they are is something I learned to call "silencing", but it happens all the time no matter what you call it, when you're in these subject spaces.
posted by kalessin at 1:09 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Re the Statistical Unlikelihood Bar and Grille:
There's something about the inclusion of the "e" in Grille that I can't get beyond. It has me laughing my ass off.

posted by heyho at 1:11 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter, please hope us over here in the UK.

What am I missing? I thought the letter writers were making a very valid point (although weakly.) By removing the entitlement to a second home and private cars, women MPs within commuting distance of the city will face the exact same conditions and risks millions of women face every night. The solution is not to protect women MPs from the reality their constituants face, but to improve the conditions and reduce the risks for everyone.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:14 PM on November 9, 2009


I'm so very sad, depressed and angry. Why can't we just treat each other as human beings?

Honestly, that's what the original article was trying to say. The sad fact is, though, that there are guys out there who DON'T treat women as human beings, but rather as "potential dates" first. Treating them as "human beings" is secondary for them.

I wish we could treat each other as human beings first. That's what all of this has all been about -- "for the record, guys, a lot of us have had to put up with guys who HAVEN'T treated us like human beings, so just be aware that that's the background we're coming from. Okay? cool."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:14 PM on November 9, 2009


My neighbors lock their door. I would never, ever steal my neighbors' shit.

Do your neighbors tell you not to steal their shit when they see you?
posted by electroboy at 1:20 PM on November 9, 2009


What did I say to make you think I saw these dudes as suitors?

It might have been the bit where you called them "unwanted suitors". Just a guess.
posted by hades at 1:21 PM on November 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


these guys are trying to harass me (trying, not succeeding)

I would argue that they are harassing you, whether or not they succeed in gettin g you upset.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:27 PM on November 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Do your neighbors tell you not to steal their shit when they see you?

Does every woman you see on the street tell you "don't rape me, bro!" the instant they see you?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:29 PM on November 9, 2009


it's really hard for me to try to respond to what you just said, Go Banana, because for a really long time, that was me. I always had a sarcastic response or a witty comeback and I was incredibly proud that I could play the game and not let the guys get me down, and to be honest I looked down on girls who couldn't. I'd hear about girls who went running off to complain when they were being harrassed and I'd think my god, stand up for yourself, it's not that big a deal. It took a combination of talking to people and reading things and really thinking long and hard about this till I realized what was wrong with this. Two things: first off, if you play the game you give it your tacit approval. Yes, I am the equal to the bullshit comments and the terrible come-ons and attempts to demoralize me. I can play with the big boys, right? But by playing along, and even by winning, I'm approving of the game. And it's not a damn game, which leads me to the second point: I can take it, but I shouldn't. fucking. have to. I should not HAVE to constantly prove myself as a human worthy of respect just because I have breasts. I shouldn't have to start six rungs down that ladder and constantly pull myself up it. I am quite capable of defending myself but I have realized that I resent the HELL out of the fact that I am forced to. Daily. In a million tiny ways and many large ones. And every time I just grin and give them shit back, these guys do not think to themselves wow, what I'm doing is wrong. They think hey, here's a girl who can play the game- a cool girl, not like those other girls who can't take it. I don't want to be one of the cool girls anymore.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 1:33 PM on November 9, 2009 [47 favorites]


In Go Banana's defense, though -- everyone deals with their own issues in their own way and at their own pace and according to their own experience.

The fact that Go Banana deals with something differently from the way Dormant Gorilla does which is different from the way I do doesn't make any of us wrong - it only means that I'm me, Dormant Gorilla is Dormant Gorilla, and Go Banana is Go Banana.

I got a little uneasy when I saw that "I used to be just like you, Go Banana," because all too often that carries the subtext "therefore, you'll come around." I do think we can share experiences and give personal stories without it turning into "therefore this is clearly what you must do," but I can understand why Go Banana was sounding uneasy there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:44 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


No, I didn't mean that at all and I'm sorry if it came out that way. It's just that I'm so familiar with her point of view, because it was mine for so long, that it's hard for me to put into words what mine is like now- I'm too close to both sides of it.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 1:46 PM on November 9, 2009


I just want to say that I was involved in the early, fighty part of that thread, when there were a couple of guys who just didn't get it, and then lost track of it afterward. I want to thank jokeefe for redrawing my attention to it, along with (almost) everyone in this and that thread who have made so many cogent arguments and shared so many deeply personal stories. I've learned so much, and I feel like I'm a little better equipped to make the world a better place as I go about my day-to-day business. Seriously, Metafilter rocks.
posted by Caduceus at 1:49 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know perfectly well that these guys are trying to harass me (trying, not succeeding) and are not really interested in courtship.

Then WHY THE FUCK DID YOU REFER TO THEM AS 'UNWANTED SUITORS'?

That's the toxic bullshit here. If you don't do that in real life, then I am absolutely wrong in worrying for your daughter. All I can go on is what you post here. You referred to guys who were harassing you as "unwanted suitors" and that led me to some conclusions that are perhaps incorrect.

And excuse me if you think that I'm "overreacting" to years of harassment and actual assault. Lucky you, not to have been raped. It's no fun.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:53 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Go Banana, I'm sorry you're angry... but can you really not see how you came off in your first comment? You were basically like, I haven't been assaulted or raped because I'm so awesome, much more awesome than you pathetic losers who get yourselves into this kind of nonsense.

You had a strong mother? Isn't that wonderful? I know it is because so do I.

You were a tomboy, an explorer, a tree-climber? Me too!

You were a bartender, and personable and compassionate? Me too!

You have a great sense of humour, you're optimistic and friendly? Confident? Strong? Me too!

I think you would be very surprised at the personalities, intelligence, skills, and strength of the women who have commented in that thread and this one. Yet they have had some awful experiences... and going by your logic, it would be because... what? Their mothers weren't quite strong enough, they're not quite smart or personable or funny enough? Can't you see how that's silly? It isn't as though only saggy, droopy, humourless, terrified little mousy things get assaulted.

I really don't think you wanted to be insulting, but if you think about it a bit, I imagine you can see how it might read that way.
posted by taz at 1:53 PM on November 9, 2009 [28 favorites]


Again, to return to my locked-door analogy: My neighbors lock their door. I would never, ever steal my neighbors' shit. That does not mean that I get all in their face about "WELL YOU SHOULDN'T LOCK YOUR DOOR AGAINST MEEEEEEEE! I'M NO THIEF!"

I just, you know, let them lock their door and don't take it personally.


Good analogy. I find myself nodding along ... until I think of a certain island community where I spend a fair amount of time, and the only people who lock their doors are so-called "city-idiots" on holiday who can't shake their urban angst. They also alarm their cars when parked so every big truck that rumbles pats sets things screaming, thus disturbing the peace.

My point being (and staying within the analogy): how do we collectively get to this kind of safe community and once there, how do we sensitively communicate to the "city-idiots" that their fears are not just unfounded here but they're actually undermining the peace?

Because this is where we want to get to, isn't it?
posted by philip-random at 1:55 PM on November 9, 2009


It's only dominance if you let it play out that way, and I never do.

This makes me incredibly sad, Go Banana. I understand that you're talking about a specific context - a jokey-harassy-workplace context - but this thread and the fpp are full of stories from women who did nothing to bring on the display of dominance, who didn't see it coming, or who saw it and tried to not "let it play out" but got assaulted anyway.

Lots of smart, witty, take-no-shit women handle things the way you do and get raped or stalked or fired anyway. It's not that it's a terrible way to handle a potentially bad situation - it really, really depends on the situation - it's that it's not The Way to handle it. There is no magic thing that a woman can do, no attitude or way of dressing or talking or playing along or refusing to play along, that will keep her from being sexually harassed or assaulted if the guy or guys in question decide to do whatever they want to do. A woman can do all the "right" things and still be raped.
posted by rtha at 1:55 PM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


Okay, more calmly:

The cultural predisposition to refer to harassers as "suitors" is part of the problem. The cultural predisposition to describe catcalls as compliments is part of the problem.

I am not part of the problem. The problem is rapists and harassers, not women who have experienced rape and harassment.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:56 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did anyone else think that this question was particularly illuminating as a contrast to this discussion?

I have been living alternately in rural and urban spaces, and have developed a pretty consistent "city face" that flatly rejects any sort of advance made on the street. I assume most people who've lived in San Francisco, New York, etc. etc. have developed the same defenses. Whether a curt "No!" or a cheery "No thanks!", we all learn to develop some sort of defense against unwanted requests for help. No one has accused me of assuming that every person on the street is a potential robber. They understand the necessity of picking and choosing my conversations carefully, of owning my own space.

And yet, when it is suggested that some people develop similar defenses against all unwanted advances, somehow this becomes very controversial.
posted by muddgirl at 2:00 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry...I used "suitors" entirely sarcastically and forgot the hamburger tag. It honestly didn't occur to me that people would think I seriously saw drunken bar denizens as suitors in the real sense of the word. What I meant was "idiots". If we leave that one poorly chosen word out, I stand by my sentiments. I certainly don't mean to say that only droopy mouses get assaulted (and I definitely apologize if that's how I came off, because I didn't mean to), I guess I'm just trying to point out that being stronger, and more to the point refusing to see a difference in the way men and women ought to be treated, is a good thing and may well improve your chances of being lucky. I'm just trying to point out that it doesn't have to be the way so many of you say it is. If doesn't have to be all fear. You can deflect drunken idiots and catcalling roofers without working yourself into a rage about male dominance. I hate that I can't express an opinion like that here without being patronized and willfully misunderstood. I am very deeply sorry I got involved, and very deeply sorry for contributing to anyone's angst around this issue.
posted by Go Banana at 2:06 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm so sorry, Go Banana, that you are so frustrated and feel so attacked. But please don't mistake the fact that I'm always on alert for the idea that I'm living in fear. I'm not. I decided a long time ago that would just be handing the assholes another victory. I'm cautious, and I'm occasionally worried, concerned, or afraid, but I don't live in fear, and I don't let it get in the way of actually living.

As a woman, I don't like being told I am living the wrong way, so I can sympathise with your response, especially since your mothering abilities were called into question (weirdly, since you has stated what your response to catcalling was; why would you teach your children to act differently?). I think perhaps we are talking at a certain cross-purposes and reading each of our perspectives at a greater extreme than they actually are intended. For instance, it seems we don't all have the same definition of harassment - in fact your definition is tied to its success, where as mine is tied to the act, regardless of success. This cross-talking may be through the differing opinion, excesses of our rhetoric, the passion of the moment, and the frustration everyone is feeling.

The last thing I want to do is to discount your perspective because it doesn't match up to mine. It's happened to me and it sucks.
posted by julen at 2:07 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


The cultural predisposition to describe catcalls as compliments is part of the problem.

you did it

you found the worst person in the world
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:11 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hate that I can't express an opinion like that here without being patronized and willfully misunderstood.

Actually, I think a lot of that flared up because of the whole "sarcasm/not sarcasm" hoo-ha with the word "suitors". Sorry that happened.

While you have good points about strength and confidence, I would offer the caveat that it's not quite a magic bullet panacea that prevents this from happening. And as Julen said, please don't think the women who are reporting their incidents are cowering in fear -- most of the time we're not. But we're not going to forget the shit that happened to us either. That's all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:12 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


No, you know what, I totally get what you're saying, Go Banana. In that there are certain circumstances where it's totally within your power to choose how you react and how things affect you, and that you don't have to let it get you down. And if what you're saying is that we don't have to think of ourselves as victims, I agree. But standing up for yourself is one thing- playing along is another. Beyond that, what you said earlier about how nothing really bad had ever happened to you and you thought it was just because you were confident and demanded respect- and sorry, but that's exactly what you said- please understand that this is kind of a nasty thing to say to a roomful of people who have just described all the awful things that happened to them because it implies, strongly, that none of it ever would have happened had they just been a bit more positive or assertive.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 2:13 PM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


My neighbors lock their door. I would never, ever steal my neighbors' shit.

Does every woman you see on the street tell you "don't rape me, bro!" the instant they see you?

It's just a bad analogy. Locking your doors to keep people from robbing you is a reasonable precaution. Avoiding strange dudes who are overeager for your attention is a reasonable precaution. Telling your neighbor not to rob you seems ineffective at best.
posted by electroboy at 2:13 PM on November 9, 2009


> My point being (and staying within the analogy): how do we collectively get to this kind of safe community and once there, how do we sensitively communicate to the "city-idiots" that their fears are not just unfounded here but they're actually undermining the peace?

Who is the "idiot" in your analogy? Me, because I am cautious about strange men approaching me in the dark?

Am I undermining the peace?
posted by heyho at 2:13 PM on November 9, 2009


you found the worst person in the world

have you checked out the comments on that post? because there are some serious contenders to the throne there.
posted by dnesan at 2:15 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry, p-r, but I just don't get your analogy. I'm not bagging on you; I simply don't understand your point.
posted by heyho at 2:15 PM on November 9, 2009


You can deflect drunken idiots and catcalling roofers without working yourself into a rage about male dominance.

Go Banana, I appreciate what you're trying to communicate here but I think that characterizing women who get mad about these acts as "working [themselves] into a rage about male dominance" feels, to me, very much like some of the traditional arguments against feminism: that a woman's anger is ugly or unladylike and that women must find a way to work within the rules of etiquette and "polite" society in order to be safe. And I can't speak for any of the other women or men here, but I can say that I, personally, feel like my anger, both about the systemic problems of harassment in our society and about individual incidents of harassment and rape and assault, is both a great weapon and a great tool to overcome some of these problems. And I think they're problems totally deserving of anger, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:22 PM on November 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


It's just a bad analogy. Locking your doors to keep people from robbing you is a reasonable precaution. Avoiding strange dudes who are overeager for your attention is a reasonable precaution. Telling your neighbor not to rob you seems ineffective at best.

I'm not sure I follow you -- who are you saying is telling you "don't rob/rape me"?

I have a feeling that you may be reacting to a garbled version of some "what men can do to prevent rape" email forward that sometimes gets passed around -- I think the idea is that you open that email thinking it's going to be a number of things like "support women's groups in your university" or "encourage women to be aware of their surroundings," where the onus is on the women to do their own "protecting" and men are just reminding us to do that, but it's a surprise little list of "how can men stop rape? by not raping!" list of things.

The idea of that email, I think, was to sort of underscore how a lot of "rape prevention" emails in the past addressed WOMEN'S behavior -- but very few addressed MEN'S behavior. Which many saw as an imbalance, because -- well hell, men were almost nearly always the ones actually COMMITTING the act. So someone drafted that email and it got forwarded around to death.

So maybe you're responding to someone quoting a garbled version of that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:24 PM on November 9, 2009


I hate that I can't express an opinion like that here without being patronized and willfully misunderstood.

As one of the men to address you directly I hope you don't take my comments as patronizing, if you look back through my posting history you'll see I'm very consistent with respect to this issue regardless of gender. As someone else pointed out your comment echoed comments we've seen here from men in threads about sketchy neighborhoods, like, "I never have problems in bad neighborhoods because I know how to handle myself." Those comments always struck me as either stupid, or bullshit, or both because I am habitually in bad neighborhoods for my work and am also a large man who can look totally frightening if necessary and despite that I am always aware, everytime I'm in the field that the only thing separating me from a trip to the hospital is my ability to avoid and/or diffuse interactions with the people I encounter who would send me there. I can walk all hard down Lehigh Avenue thinking that my hard walk is protecting me until I randomly happen to walk past a 13 year old who feels like sticking a gun in my face. Then what, hard guy? Shit out of luck, I guess, just like the women here who have had unforeseen encounters with violent men.

I think your flip response to and presumed mastery of the real danger of sexual violence was basically the same thing the guys do in the bad neighborhood threads. So please don't take my response as paternalistic, as I both have made this same argument to men here regarding a similar issue and also have continually stressed that my own confidence level, experience and expertise in dealing with these situations can and may be rendered totally nil at any given point by unforeseen circumstances that could have disasterous consequences and my only real hope of remaining unharmed on the job lies in excercising the same caution I advised you to take.
posted by The Straightener at 2:39 PM on November 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


I am not part of the problem. The problem is rapists and harassers, not women who have experienced rape and harassment.

No, you are not part of the problem. But I hardly think berating Go Banana is part of the solution. She misspoke, and we took her to task for implicitly blaming the victims far upthread. However, a positive question came out of that misunderstanding in this comment where paanta asked how we protect against rape without implictly blaming the victims. Coming out guns blazing like you didn't seem to add anything positive and certainly upset Go Banana for no good reason. Don't get me wrong - I like to see them guns aimed at people who deserve it (*ahem* *oaf*) - but I don't think it was really warranted here.

Also I'm actually quite afraid of you and it's really hard for me to criticize you, but there it is. If you wouldn't mind being gentle in your response...
posted by scrutiny at 2:41 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry, p-r, but I just don't get your analogy. I'm not bagging on you; I simply don't understand your point.
It started with EmpressCallipygos's analogy about when our neighbours lock their doors, we tend not to take it personally (ie: as a male, don't take it personally when a woman is, by default, skeptical of your intentions; it's actually wise behaviour on her part based on a lifetime of experience). Fair enough, I thought, but what about a community where people don't lock their doors, because there is no lifetime of experience to support such behaviour? (ie: it's safe). And what happens when people from the former community (locked doors) visit and/or move there? Do we want it to become a locked door community in order to allay their fears?

And so on. I understand that given the context here it's touchy ground and, the more I think of it, the more loaded this analogy becomes. And the last thing I'm interested in doing is arguing analogies.

Maybe I'll just bring it up again some other time.
posted by philip-random at 2:46 PM on November 9, 2009


So maybe you're responding to someone quoting a garbled version of that.

Possibly, you'd have to ask the poster.
posted by electroboy at 2:50 PM on November 9, 2009


You can deflect drunken idiots and catcalling roofers without working yourself into a rage about male dominance.

I'd be interested to know what you did to deflect catcallers (I'm not being sarcastic, I'm genuinely interested, because it might prove useful to friends who are dealing with them, as I am no longer, really). Because in the past when I've tried the only two strategies I could come up with, which was ignoring them and walking on (which felt like submitting to it, and make me feel sick with repressed rage, and humiliated, and so on) or standing and screaming at them to fuck off (which led to a torrent of far worse and more threatening verbal abuse).
posted by jokeefe at 2:54 PM on November 9, 2009


I'd be interested to know what you did to deflect catcallers

Me too. The only thing that worked for me was to walk with scary looking guy friends.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:56 PM on November 9, 2009


"I never have problems in bad neighborhoods because I know how to handle myself." Those comments always struck me as either stupid, or bullshit, or both

I got mugged once a long time ago. I knew I was in a potentially dangerous situation. I felt prepared and, all things being equal, I actually did a damned good job of getting out of the situation with a minimum amount of harm ... but ever since, I've been very conscious of what the consequences of danger are, and how fast they can spring on you, whether you're driving fast, climbing a cliff, or just telling the truth to some musclebound moron who doesn't want to hear it.

And Lesson One is, don't take a chance you don't need to. By all means, live your life as free and easy as you can, but don't kid yourself that ninety-nine safe trips through Sleepy Hollow guarantee that the hundredth won't cost you your head.
posted by philip-random at 3:00 PM on November 9, 2009


what you said earlier about how nothing really bad had ever happened to you and you thought it was just because you were confident and demanded respect- and sorry, but that's exactly what you said- please understand that this is kind of a nasty thing to say to a roomful of people who have just described all the awful things that happened to them because it implies, strongly, that none of it ever would have happened had they just been a bit more positive or assertive.

Quoted for truth. Go Banana, I really do appreciate you sharing your experiences here. I know it's not easy and you probably feel ganged-up on right now. But the things you've been saying in this thread are exactly the things men have said to me before, when I've tried to tell them about being assaulted. Just be more assertive, they told me. Develop a cop walk. Don't take anyone's bullshit. Demand respect.

The problem is that I already do all those things. I already behave like you do, and it doesn't change the behavior of anyone around me. Because I am angry at the way some men behave, because I take precautions to not be assaulted again, that does not mean that I am "living in fear". Living in fear, for me, would be never leaving my apartment. Living in fear would be never, ever speaking up when a man is perpetrating some kind of grossness against me, like the time a guy jerked off at me at the public library. If I were living in fear I'd have just sat there and been scared and let him fap some more instead of standing up and shouting at him and reporting him to security.

I am very positive and assertive in my dealings with people I encounter in the real world, and unfortunately I still get sexually harassed by strangers on a weekly basis. No one's tried to touch me in a long time, but I'm sure that'll probably happen again soon, too. What do you suggest I do about it, Go Banana? Because I'm already behaving just exactly like you and I'm not getting the same results you are.
posted by palomar at 3:08 PM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


In rereading this thread and thinking about it, I realized the this comment that I made waaaaay up there could be interpreted as "See, I look like a dude now and I never get harassed, so you should dress and act like a dude too!", and that isn't what I meant at all. It was purely a personal observation, and I'm under no illusion that it's The Thing that's keeping me safe(ish).

The flip side of being perceived as male is that some guys really, really hate this. It's like it's a challenge to their territory. A friend and I - a friend who's way butcher than I am - were walking to the Metro one day when guy took exception to the way we looked. He chased us all the way down the escalator (at Dupont Circle, which, if you're familiar with it, you know is a very long way), screaming the whole time: "You think you a man, you dyke bitch? I'll show you what a man is!" Like that. It was rush hour and the escalator was crowded, but people moved out of our way.

We got to the bottom and went to the station booth. We told the guy staffing it what was going on - the guy who'd chased us was hanging around the bottom of the escalators, pacing back and forth, glaring at us, muttering - and neither of us wanted to get trapped on a platform or train with him. The Metro employee offered to call the cops, and he came out of the booth to get a better look at the guy who'd chased us. The Metro guy was huge. Gigantic. He looked at the guy very carefully. The guy saw him looking, and left. Metro dude said he'd still call the cops if we wanted, but my friend say no, I gotta get home to the kids, and I didn't want to hang out either, so we left.

Maybe it was that same summer...I was walking into a store near my office and stepped aside to let someone who was leaving out. My hair was still long. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and sneakers. The guy I'd stepped aside for said "Why you gotta dress like a man? You think you're a man?"

I was so astonished that I couldn't think of anything to say. After what seemed like a really long time, I said something like no, what are you talking about? He just kind of sneered at me. I think he called me a name, but I can't remember. He said I just needed a man to show me how to be a woman.

So I told him to fuck off, and he told me to fuck off, and we did that for a few seconds. He took step toward me and whether it was the look on my face or the fact that we were still practically standing in the doorway of this shop, and there were people inside, I'll never know, but he backed off and walked away, calling me a fucking bitch as he went.
posted by rtha at 3:09 PM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


> I always had a sarcastic response or a witty comeback and I was incredibly proud that I could play the game and not let the guys get me down, and to be honest I looked down on girls who couldn't. I'd hear about girls who went running off to complain when they were being harrassed and I'd think my god, stand up for yourself, it's not that big a deal.

I just wanted to highlight this part of a terrific comment because it so perfectly summarizes an attitude that was virtually universal among "strong" women of the pre-feminist generations (or, I guess, inter-feminist, growing up between first-wave and second-wave feminism)—women like Martha Gellhorn and others whom I deeply admire (she was the only one of Hemingway's wives who walked away intact, and she was a great war correspondent), but who piss me off when I read their remarks around those lines: "I know how to handle men, I don't need that feminism crap..." The rest of your comment was a perfect rebuttal, and I'll quote it when I run into that attitude.

And once again, as a man I am deeply grateful that feminism came roaring back when I was still young enough to be molded by it (in my college years), giving us all the hope that we can eventually get past these stupid dominance games.
posted by languagehat at 3:10 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


p-r, I wasn't trying to shut you down. I'm sorry that was the effect of asking who's who in your analogy. I wasn't picking it apart for sport; honest. I was just trying to piece it together because it didn't make sense to me. But you're right to be tight-lipped in this particular thread if the analogy wasn't working, for sure. I totally get that.

I am also not offended by it, regardless. Just so's you know.
posted by heyho at 3:11 PM on November 9, 2009


But you're right to be tight-lipped in this particular thread if the analogy wasn't working, for sure. I totally get that.

It's the difference between being 25 and being 50.
posted by philip-random at 3:22 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Go Banana, I'm really sorry that you feel so alienated and attacked right now. You say we "willfully misunderstood" you, and I do want to believe that we did misunderstood you—but believe me when I assure you there was nothing willful about it. In our defense, your comment absolutely came off pretty harshly, like "I am confident and have not been harassed, therefore you who have been harassed are not confident enough" (even if you didn't mean it that way).

When you say something that can be construed that way in a post full of people recounting their stories of sometimes violent harassment, abuse, and attack, tensions will of course run high. I really do hope you don't give up and we all have another chance to talk to each other in a more understanding tone.

On a lighter note, did anyone else see EmpressCallipygos's post and just think seeing the words "Dominant Gorilla" and "Go Banana" over and over again was REALLY REALLY funny? Or was that just me?
posted by audacity at 3:28 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hate that I can't express an opinion like that here without being patronized and willfully misunderstood.

Go Banana, I don't see that anyone is WILLFULLY misunderstanding you. You simply used a poor choice of words with the whole "suitors" thing. And I see that now you do accept that, at some level, you have been lucky in addition to your confident, self-assertive behavior. Which is all anyone wants you to realize.

It's easy for someone to rationalize, "I didn't have this happen to me because I am confident and self-assertive." Which naturally translates to, "And anyone who did is neither of those things."

We do that, rationalize to assure ourselves that we could never be the victim in a given situation.

But it would be naive and also hurtful, to suggest that women who have been harassed, abused or raped were somehow at fault.

And that's why you have so many taking umbrage at your post about how you were raised this way and you deal with things that way and so on...you seem to be pointing your fingers at the victims and, by association, blaming their upbringing or their manner for what happened to them, rather than the perpetrators themselves.
posted by misha at 3:31 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


So after spending all day stuck to this thread I left the cafe to head over to the bar where I'm meeting my friend, and mind you I'm on 7th avenue in park slope Brooklyn, a place so progressive that it rains Kashi and babies can vote, and I'm standing waiting for the traffic to stop and some guy strolls up and goes 'hey baby where you going? Take me with you baby, I'm going where you're going' and I just let out this long, drawly fuuuuuuuuck yoooooooou, and everyone around starts sniggering. So there's that.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 3:37 PM on November 9, 2009 [27 favorites]


audacity: Yeah, it's like really-badly-placed subliminal advertising, but it's too late to buy bananas and I can't wake my gorilla. How frustrating.

Go Banana: People were attacking some things you said. Not your experience and certainly not you. So try not to feel too put upon.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 3:53 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I get where you're coming from too, Go Banana. I don't think I spend much time either living in fear or frothing in rage about male dominance - I have brothers and a son and a lot of male friends I completely adore. I go where I want to and nowadays I rarely get bothered by anyone (bless the invisibility of the middleaged woman.) I too joke and laugh and do not worry about being harassed and think that things can often be keyed down with humor and understanding and even, in my giddy teens, drove around with my girlfriends hooting and catcalling at male construction workers. However. This story keeps coming up in my head as I'm reading the end of this thread and I think I will share it.

When my daughter was 12 or 13, she and her friend were sitting on our rowhouse stoop on a sunny afternoon in Baltimore. I think they might even have been playing jacks. I was right inside, cleaning the livingroom; the windows were open. A couple of boys came down the street; they were a little older, maybe 14, 15. And one of them looked at my daughter and said, "You gonna give me a blowjob, bitch?" I stood there frozen in shock and outrage and my daughter said right back, "I wouldn't touch that nasty thing of yours; it's as dirty as your mouth." And the other boy laughed and said, "She got you good." and they went on down the street and my daughter and her friend continued with their jacks game and I continued to stand there, still frozen.

Did she deal with that situation well? Yes, quite well, all things considered, all by herself, and - what really got me - in a way that showed that it was far from the first time that she'd dealt with similar situations. Because, as we all know, they are so very very fucking commonplace and I, once the gates of memory are opened, probably have literally hundreds of them and I bet you do too, once you step a little outside and stop looking at them as normal occurrences or normal social interactions that really don't mean much.

Because here's the thing: my daughter should not ever have had to deal with that situation. That comment should never have been made. That comment should not considered as anywhere within the bounds of normal. And, all things which were passed off as normal, I shouldn't have been chased off a beach by a guy trying to grab me or groped at the Met at the age of 12 or groped at a swimming pool or, oh lord, the list goes on and on and on, from the guy on 14th Street who decided that I didn't smile enough and followed me for four blocks trying to get me to smile or laugh with his Krazy Kutup Antiks to the guy who followed me at the park just a week ago. When you start adding all that shit up, all the stories, all the women's stories (and my tough and funny 80 year old aunt has some that will curl your hair, she being the one who told 15 year old me that every woman gets raped eventually and the best you can do is try to enjoy it) you realize that yes, this really is a social problem, it really does exist and no, it's not okay, and no, not all the toughness and good old one of the boys cheerful good humor in the world makes it go away or be okay on any level.
posted by mygothlaundry at 3:54 PM on November 9, 2009 [34 favorites]


Every once in a while I catch of glimpse of what our era will look like to the future. Like looking back on other eras when it was okay to say and do things that would be considered unspeakably rude now.

I keep catching that glimpse while reading these threads.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:09 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Some of the wise and experienced people in this thread might have something to offer over here.
posted by Rumple at 4:44 PM on November 9, 2009


Every once in a while I catch of glimpse of what our era will look like to the future. Like looking back on other eras when it was okay to say and do things that would be considered unspeakably rude now.

I keep catching that glimpse while reading these threads.


I keep doing the same thing. Things change and adapt and I'm not sure how it's going to end up, but the place we're at right now is going to look pretty fucking backwards.
posted by scrutiny at 4:44 PM on November 9, 2009


Vonnegut was right. The Dark Ages never ended.
posted by tkchrist at 5:51 PM on November 9, 2009


It's interesting this discussion has turned to how women hold themselves in these kinds of situations. I've told a few people about my worst encounter with a man, and I always made it out to be something I was really proud of. I wrote the story that put me in the place of the hero, saving myself from this brute who was seconds away from raping me. I painted a picture of me fending him off with my sheer strength of will, telling him I wasn't going to be raped, and that I was going to hold my ground and fight. I thought that's what this kind of story demanded, you know? Some kind of edifying tale of how women can stand up for themselves.

Complete. Fucking. Lie.

The truth is that as he approached me and assured me that he wasn't going to rape me, all I could manage was to stand still, put my arms across my body, and stare at my shoes. I had noticed him shadowing me for a while as I walked home, slowing down as I slowed down and waiting til nobody else was on the road, but I didn't know what to do, and by the time he was standing right next to me it was too late to run. He demanded for several minutes that I walk with him, tell him my name, all the while still assuring me, "Why are you scared? I'm not going to harm you, I'm a nice guy." I just shook my head and refused to speak, it was so pathetic. I finally gave in and walked with him, and he kept on bullying me for information, "What's your name? Where do you live? Do you have a boyfriend?" I just kept shaking my head to tell him I didn't want to talk with him, but his response was, "Why are you so scared? I'm not going to rape you, I'm a nice guy." I answered his questions with single words, and he replied with his own name, where he was from, and so on, like we were having a normal conversation. He wanted to know if he could go for a drink with me, have my phone number, or "walk me home", and any attempt by me not to engage with him got the same response, "I'm a nice guy, I'm not going to rape you. I just want to talk."

When I stopped still again and refused to walk, he offered to go home and leave me alone, and I nodded my head to say I would like that. But he was just teasing me, as he immediately responded with his usual reassuring words, "But I'm a nice guy, I'm not going to hurt you. There's no need for you to be scared." He clearly knew I was terrified of him, and took some delight in that. The "conversation" that he attempted to carry on - like he was chatting me up and getting to know me - was just so bizarre and out of place. As was his insistence that he take me for a drink at 1.30am when everywhere was shut, as though in his mind I was going to be his date for the night. It only took place over a kilometer or so, but because I was reluctant to walk and kept stopping it dragged out for ages. When we finally got to a junction, I said I had go this way and he had to go that way (he had told me where he lived). He went on pestering me for a few minutes, but he eventually said goodbye and that I shouldn't have been scared of him, as he wasn't going to harm me.

As I turned down my road and saw how dark and quiet it was, I realized that the road we had been walking down was busy enough with cars and houses to be safe for me, and my road wasn't. I started walking down the road anyway, as he had said goodbye and I should just try to get home as quickly as possible. I got maybe 15-20 meters down the road before looking back over my shoulder. You don't win a prize for guessing who was coming up behind me, and all I could think was, "Well, fuck, I guess he wasn't telling the truth about being a nice guy." I was almost ready to let it happen though. I had been physically assaulted a few weeks earlier by a group of men, felt completely drained by a year that had seen me at the sharp end of gender/sexuality-linked abuse and a very real threat of violence by a gang who didn't like me on their "territory". This was going to be the icing on the cake for me, a shitty end to a shitty year, and I was in no mood to do anything about it - I had given up, and seriously agonized in those few short moments whether to bother doing anything at all.

Of course, I did something: I turned round, ran past him and back to the junction and the safety of the other road. I stood there, arms across my body, staring at my shoes, refusing to move until he walked away. I felt totally outside myself, so scared because I didn't know how he was going to react. He continued to pester me for a few minutes, with his usual reassurances, until he realized that I was willing to stand there staring at my shoes forever. I was lucky that he must have considered it too risky to do anything in plain sight, and not worth waiting me out. When he walked away, I watched him til he was out of sight, then ran home and cried.

I feel embarrassed to admit how incapable I was at dealing with this situation, how I just clammed up like a scared child instead of fighting back. Yet I was also too embarrassed at the time to cause a scene by screaming or flagging down a car. But it's even worse that one of the main reasons I decided to run back to the safe road was that I knew I would be embarrassed to admit to my sister and mother that I had been raped. I used to change the story because I too thought the message "strong women save themselves" was what people needed to hear. The truth is I wasn't able to deal with the situation, despite it being very obvious at the time that I was deep in the shit, and I had to do something about the threat walking beside me. And you know, I'm still too embarrassed to admit how old I was when this took place. I almost want it to happen again just so I can get it "right" this time, and be the bold and courageous woman I am in my story - but really, I just wish it had never happened.
posted by Sova at 6:50 PM on November 9, 2009 [57 favorites]


Maybe this just needs to go in that AskMe thread, but I'm chilled to hear the "I'm a nice guy I'm not going to rape you" line, especially since I've heard it before [from an okay guy, who didn't rape me but acted completely sexually inappropriately and was a world class creep and I got out of it in a very similarly mumbling way to Sova].

I sort of wonder if it's some sort of self-reassurance the guy tells himself, that he won't be raping you when you actually give in to him because you gave in, y'know? And he's a nice guy because he pestered you until you gave in, not actually raped anyone....
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:19 PM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Christ almighty, Sova.
posted by rtha at 7:21 PM on November 9, 2009


I'd think they have to say something like that in order to go through with what they have planned. My attacker kept repeating, "What's wrong? What's wrong?" Psychotic motherfuckers, yo.

Sova, you did a good thing in telling that story the way you did, truthfully, honestly.
posted by heyho at 7:26 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


While I've never been confronted with sexual violence, I have been confronted with violence, and when I have gotten out of it the experience has been humiliating and felt cowardly and awkward and idiotic. But, you know, that's all right. I'm not good at being cool in crazy, fucked up situations because I don't experience them enough to know how to be cool, and that's just my luck. So sometimes it was an awkward response that I'm a bit ashamed of. It worked, and, in the end, that's all that mattered. I don't know if that means anything to you, Sova, but it helped me to think of it that way.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:37 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is chilling to me, because I heard exactly the same line while walking. A man that was walking about 15 feet behind me jogged up to me saying "I'm not going to rape you - - You must have been nervous with me behind you, but see, I'm not scary". And although he didn't appear to be "scary "(about 10 years older than my teenage self, average middle class white guy) I have never gotten such a strong vibe from someone before or since. I was right and it was pretty bad. And definitely premeditated.

And so I wonder, too. Is this a typical M.O.? The chatty, disarming stuff, while sizing you up and waiting for the perfect moment?
posted by readery at 7:38 PM on November 9, 2009


be the bold and courageous woman I am in my story

Telling your story here took courage. Thank you for that, Sova.
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:49 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sova, whatever gets you out of a situation like that is fine, just fine. Not cowardly or wrong somehow. Thank you for sharing your story.
posted by palomar at 7:54 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sova, thanks, and Palomar has it- be proud of doing whatever you had to do to get yourself out and don't think that you failed because you didn't pull some crazy She-Ra move and roundhouse kick the guy. You did everything you could do.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 8:02 PM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


And so I wonder, too. Is this a typical M.O.? The chatty, disarming stuff, while sizing you up and waiting for the perfect moment?

I don't know, I honestly don't. There are a few details I remember about this guy which make me suspect he was doing this whole chatty routine for other reasons. But it really pissed me off. I must have been "talking" to him for nearly half an hour, with him knowing just how frightened I was, but he could conceivably blow it off as a nice conversation he had with a young woman while out walking one night - and so could everybody else. If I wasn't too embarrassed to call him on it and scream or flag down a car, what could I have possibly said? "He was talking to me, and I didn't like it." It's hard to explain how a person has broken boundaries in such a way that makes you justifiably terrified of what's going to happen next, especially when they present those actions as normal. Which, I think, was the original point of this whole discussion.

Oh, and thanks everybody else. But seriously, I read stories about how women stand up to men like that, and I kick myself for being such a "wimp" and letting it get to a potentially terrible point. I honestly look back with disdain for what I failed to do, and what I almost allowed to happen. And that's a terrible feeling
posted by Sova at 8:23 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I really had to smile at Go Banana's comments because they reminded me so much of someone striding into the room and saying "I've never been sick a day in my life, and you know why? Because I take my vitamins and I drink 12 glasses of water every day." Meanwhile the rest of us are coughing and sniffling and thinking, "Geez, maybe I should change brands because my vitamins don't seem to be working."

I note that there have been several women who have said more or less, "I read the thread but I didn't want to contribute because..." I think being frank like this, bringing the whole sordid mess out into the open and shining a big spotlight on it is the only way we will change things.

How many times have we heard, "Wow, I had no idea this happened/happens"? That's because too many of us are still ashamed and embarrassed and we hold it all inside. Some of us feel guilty, that our lifestyles and choices brought on this punishment. Some of us feel as though if we admit to being sexually harassed or even raped, people will view us as victims and we don't want to be victims, we want to be strong, we want to be grown-ups in charge of our own lives. Some of us don't want to talk about it because it makes us feel bad. Some of us don't want to talk about it because it involves sex and sex is private. But I urge you to talk. If not here in this thread, then with your loved ones and friends. We need to let everyone know how big the problem truly is, and then perhaps there will be enough momentum to improve the world we live in.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:41 PM on November 9, 2009 [11 favorites]


Chugg's comment made something hit home for me. This thread is only the third time in my life I've been in a conversation where this kind of stuff was openly discussed, and the other two were fairly short.

I know it's true for me, and I think it would be true for many others- this is something we (men) often aren't aware of, and certainly can't be aware of to the same degree that women are. Given that our experience of women being sexually harassed is always a situation where others are present, it's usually a bit tamer than if they were on their own. I've seen people flirting obnoxiously, and talk derisively about women, and persist in talking to a woman who's making it clear that she wants to be on her own. I've never seen a woman get yelled at from a car, or groped, or followed home from a bus, or assaulted in her own home. Since I never experience this, my only knowledge of it is some abstract notion that it happens, in the same way that I'm aware people in Zimbabwe are malnourished.

So things like this thread are crucial for me in understanding what actually goes on, and understanding that my shrugging off the 'small' things that I do observe makes me part of the problem that permits the 'bigger' things that I don't observe.

So please share this with the men in your life. Not necessarily your personal stories, if you don't feel comfortable, but the fact that it happens to almost everybody. Even just observing that most of the women in a man's life have been victims of this - even now I'm thinking about it, and I'm stunned at the thought that these kind of things could have happened (and almost certainly have) to the women in my life - can help a guy to understand. Not because it's about us, not at all, but because we can't help stop something we don't understand. So tell us. Make us realise that this isn't an odd cat-call once a year, but a persistent, ever-present problem that affects almost every woman, almost all the time.
posted by twirlypen at 9:59 PM on November 9, 2009 [13 favorites]


Christ almighty, Sova.

Yes.

Sova: your story was heartbreaking. I mean, it made me want to cry. That doesn't really...happen that often. And I’m still kind of teared up, as I write this. I don’t know what it is. And, I mean, my goodness, your story didn’t even end the way you and the rest of us feared it would. I don’t know…there’s just something about the hopelessness you felt that night, silently looking down at your shoes, waiting for it to end, but all the while ready to accept the worst. And then – this floored me – the embarrassment you felt at the thought of flagging down a car but only being able to tell them that “he was talking to me and I didn’t like it.”

It's hard to explain how a person has broken boundaries in such a way that makes you justifiably terrified of what's going to happen next, especially when they present those actions as normal.

I mean, that’s it – the paradoxical guilt that you women suffer from wanting desperately to pronounce your profound discomfort with what a man is doing to you, but worrying that maybe he’s not really doing anything deserving of such castigation – that’s what comes up in so many of the stories that women have shared in these threads. It’s something that I for one and evidently scores of other guys didn’t even begin to grasp before reading these threads. And it’s a really tragic part of it all.

I know you hashed it out a little bit in your next post, but if you wouldn’t mind, I’d be really grateful if you would explain more deeply this heartbreaking reluctance to get help from someone nearby. It’s just that to us reading your story, and I’m sure to you – to the nth degree – your experience was absolutely terrifying. I know you doubted, and continue to doubt, that the guy really meant harm. But you ABSOLUTELY should have been terrified. I’m so sorry you felt that you didn’t deserve to be helped, that you might not really be in any real danger, that someone passing by in a car wouldn’t understand. I’m so sorry that everything is so terrifying and fucked up and confusing for you and for all the other women who go and have gone through this type of thing. But, Sova, I’m so glad you ran. I’m so glad you stood there on the other side of the road and didn’t budge. It was not what a “wimp” would do. It was what a rightly terrified woman on a dark street in the middle of the night MUST do.

Thank you so much, everyone – for talking.
posted by frankly mister at 10:34 PM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


My experience with those who proclaim what nice people they are turn out to be the worst assholes.

Please point out where women habitually sexually harass and assault other women.

Rtha, , I have been harassed by women everywhere I've lived since my junior year in college : Massachusetts, Los Angeles, Iowa City, Denver, NYC....which has included staring, crowding, following (or asking if I could be followed home), making a huge production of holding a door open for me when I was nowhere near it, demanding that I smile, blocking my way on the sidewalk and trying to grab me and touching me without my consent.

I think that gay people should have the right to live where they please, work where they please, get married and raise kids if they please. NO ONE has the right to deny others their right to be left alone.
posted by brujita at 10:37 PM on November 9, 2009


I've been glued to this thread and the original one for the past couple of days (I didn't do much else today except read the threads and links, and think about it all). I'm glad this one got back on track. I'm just a reader who hasn't been part of the emailing or outside conversations, but I still feel much more part of something than I ever have in the past four years I've been reading and occasionally posting on MF.

I didn't post though, and now I'm thinking about why. I don't have anything substantial to contribute to the discussion, lots of people have said what I'd want to say much better, but I also didn't post anything personal. I think that I felt like it would somehow smear who I am now, or hurt my credibility, that it would make me look like someone who could never be objective, I guess that's the classic "damaged goods" thing. It's also such a sorry string of things that it's hard even now to shake off the feeling that it shows a pattern that must say something about me. Even though I'm not embarrassed now about any of those situations and feel ok with how I handled them, it's still hard for me to say "and then this happened, and then this..." and not feel like it somehow makes me look bad. I sure don't think this about anyone else's personal story, but I can't shake the feeling about mine. This is gross, but maybe I feel a little bit like it sounds like I'm bragging or flattering myself too.

The interesting thing though is that (aside from public transit) there's not a whole lot of pattern to the various fucked up things that have happened to me because men just weren't interested in what I wanted. It's not that it would matter if there was, but it makes me feel a little less like it's just me making the same mistake over and over, and I think it speaks to the range of guys who pull this shit, and the range of ways they do it.

When I was 11 or 12 I'd just started high school, and was right in the middle of puberty. It was a really awkward and confusing time for me - the time when I was beginning to really break away from my parents and do things I wasn't really supposed to do, or go places without them. I used to go to a library near our house to read and "study" and hang out and think. I met a boy there who was probably 16, I'd seen him the year before in a play, and I thought he was cute. He would say sexual stuff to me in a way that caught me really off balance, it was exciting that he was interested, but I had no idea how to respond, and my instincts told me to get away. It made me feel sick and paralyzed, but I could have avoided seeing him and I didn't, I kept going back to the library. I got into a pattern of following him round to the back of the building, where he would pressure me more, cajoling me and putting me down (he mocked my child-style panties and told me he wouldn't actually date me because I was too fat). He started with feeling me up, moved to putting my hand in his sweatpants pocket to feel his hard-on (I still have a visceral reaction to men in sweatpants), and in the end I briefly put his penis in my mouth. Once he took me to his parents house and locked the door to his bedroom, I was terrified and totally shut down - but then we heard a maid downstairs. I never knew how to respond or how I actually felt - I always felt disgusted, but I thought it was excitement and I was just being a prude - he was cute, and I was lucky... It's interesting that he was so "skilled" verbally, my mom told me when she found out what happened (in my early 20's) that she knew there had been sexual abuse in his family, it certainly makes sense that he learned it from somewhere. It ended because I got in trouble for something unrelated and wasn't allowed so much freedom for a while, I was relieved and never went back to the library.

A year or so later I was supposed to go to some event on a Friday night with a friend, and I had to take the bus to her house. My parents were out at something a mile or so from our home. The evening was a total mess, I got lost and was so late my friend's family left without me. I went home, but I didn't have a key, so I headed to where my parents were. A man followed me for several blocks, smoking and clearly stalking me. I just knew something was wrong so I went into a garden and pretended to go into a house (as if I was mine). As I peaked out I could see the guy blocking my route and waiting for me around the next corner and looking back, he yelled something about catching me. The house I was right by was empty so I scrambled over a high wall I never could have climbed normally and knocked on a door. An older man and his wife were amazing to me, gave me a hot drink and walked me round to where my parents were. My dad took me to the police station to report it, and I was really glad I could describe the guy well. The police were polite, but they clearly didn't give a crap.

And then twice when I was in college a man grabbed a breast in passing in an empty train station. The first time I didn't say or do anything and felt like an idiot. It made me feel incredibly vulnerable and gross, I can still feel the exact way he cupped my breast. The second time there were more people around and a transit cop station right there, and I was like "oh hell no!" I went straight over and told a cop what happened, and they grabbed the guy. He kept trying to apologize to me, and tell me that I was crazy, and that he didn't do anything, I kept telling the cops to keep him away from me. I felt good about myself, partly because I did something, but also (twistedly) because I was wearing a thick knit polo neck, and felt confident that no one could blame me. The cop who interviewed me was nice, he said it happened all the time and he was glad he got a chance to do something about it. He also told me that if I'd ever been assaulted before never to admit it in court, or they'd try to make me look like a "manhater". Because there was CCTV it actually did go to court, but the footage was bad, and the defense tried to pull what I said apart because apparently I understood how the cameras worked too well! The guy's defense was the he never did it or maybe it was an accident, and that he had a painkiller addiction, and that he was an art dealer, and rich and happily married. It was a very surreal and uncomfortable day! They adjourned the case, and then I never heard back about another court date.

And then I got a boyfriend who was super invested in being a "poet" and an "intellectual" and a "nice guy", and who was physically not much bigger than me (it doesn't necessarily matter, guys!) and who hit and pushed me, and smothered me with a pillow, and wouldn't let me leave his house, and begged and wore me down, and would text me all day and all night to check on me. He'd say "I could just kiiill you!" and smile lovingly. He'd complain that I never wore heels on dates with him, when he just KNEW I did with my last boyfriend. When we were in the middle of breaking up, he sat on my chest and tried to make me give him oral sex. My family thought he was sweet and adored me, and I felt wanted but sick and stressed all the time. I knew he'd acted in almost exactly the same way with a friend of his before he met me, but somehow I didn't see it as a pattern in his behavior.

And finally, there was the time I found myself stuck in an empty train carriage with a crazy wild eyed guy, who came and sat opposite me and calmly said "I'm going to kill you". Luckily for me that was right as we pulled into a station and I darted out.

All that is ignoring the many, many times when a man flashed me and my friends, or wouldn't accept that I didn't want his number, or wouldn't accept clear signals that I wanted to be left alone. It happens much less now. I'm older and fatter, but much more importantly I'm married, live in Los Angeles and drive a car, so I spend almost no time on the street or public transit on my own, I'm certain that's the key factor. Funny though, I think of myself as a woman who's been pretty lucky with men and with my safety, but now I write it out, it's this saga of assholes. I'd guess that's a lot of women's experience too.

I wish I had something smarter to contribute. A million thanks to everyone who shared thoughts and stories on the main thread and this one. Really.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:15 PM on November 9, 2009 [15 favorites]


Sova I still, many years later, beat myself up for everything that's happened to me. I worry that I'll get blamed all over again for not being strong, confident, intelligent enough to do it the Right Way. I'm still not sure what the right way could have been, but that doesn't stop the self recrimination at times. Try not to beat yourself up, its not worth it, you did the best you could.

It's also such a sorry string of things that it's hard even now to shake off the feeling that it shows a pattern that must say something about me.

That's why I can't post what I feel like posting and, its not about MeFi per se. There was a trial over my rape, don't get me started on what the defence attorney asked me when I was on the stand. Victim blaming to the extreme and, I still haven't really been able to shake it. It took a lot out of me just be able to admit what I did in the original thread. More information than that and, I'd be emailing jessamyn to remove my comment due to anxiety - heh.
posted by squeak at 11:42 PM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


What is so striking about so many stories here is the strong thread of shame and embarrassment among victims; it's the warped part of the woof and warp of almost all our stories, and by far the most potent weapon in the rapist's arsenal, from engineering situations in which the victim is embarrassed to scream out or seek help from strangers (please help, he was talking to me!!!), being ashamed because they "put themselves in that situation," embarrassment that "well, of course, this is what was going to happen - were you too stupid to know that?" to being ashamed because it's a relative or someone close, and revealing the perpetrator would rain down chaos - or just disbelief and anger - in their own family, to silencing victims because they cannot bring themselves to admit what happened to their own friends and family, much less publicly re-live the event and endure the slurs and judgments that would come from pursuing the attack through the justice system.

What needs to happen to turn the dynamic around, is to turn the dynamic around. It should be the would-be-perpetrators who feel the threat of such crushing social approbation and shame. To some degree, this is the case where I live now... but, unfortunately, I don't see it as portable. Greece is ranked among the lowest western(ized) countries in recorded rapes per capita (source, though all these statistics are extremely unreliable for various reasons. Here, this figure is misleading because of the relatively new phenomenon of human trafficking/sex slavery, for which our geographic situation makes us especially vulnerable, and in terms of reported rape is probably hardly represented at all.)

But, in terms of the situation of a typical Greek woman it's much better here than many places, and my personal analysis is that it has to do with three main factors:

Size - Greece is a very small country, so sort of, "nowhere to run, nowhere to hide." If you do something that smears your reputation and makes you an outcast, you can't very well move somewhere and disappear... you are going to run into people who know you, eventually, pretty much anywhere you go. For many careers, there are only two main cities where you can support yourself. University? Same thing.

Social Network - everything social in Greece revolves around your pareia, your close-knit group of friends, many of whom you've known from childhood. People don't often go out alone or as couples only - you meet up with your pals, and this network is very, very strong; if you do something so monstrous that your group turns their back on you, you lose a lot. You haven't just made yourself a social pariah, but you've also fucked up career and other important opportunities/avenues, because for better or worse, friend-of-a-friend is the way things get done here. If you are nobody's friend, you're in a cold place indeed.

Strong family bonds - the sort of isolation that happens in so many other countries seems almost unthinkable to people here. Your family is always in your business, but they are also always there to give you total support. And mothers are usually extremely strong presences here; it's still a patriarchal society, but mothers have a huge amount of force and power, and well... you just don't want to tangle with one, trust me. So girls really are surrounded with a lot of affirmation of female potency, even though it may not represent feminist-utopia-style bullet items.

There are other elements... a lot of other considerations to take into account; abuse of alcohol is much lower here, for example, and (until recently, at least) less dramatic imbalance in economic/class structure, generally. And understand that I'm being extremely general, and that this is just my personal off-the-cuff analysis as an ex-pat American, from living in the two major urban centers here. But the difference in safety I've felt here has been like night and day. Much of this is skewed by my age now, but I also rely on what I witness, and I've never personally seen the sort of street harassment that is so common in big cities in the U.S. or the sort of sexualized hostility/aggression against women generally that I've seen or experienced in the US. I think that at the very least I can draw the conclusion that a casual encounter with somebody within or loosely related to your social group is far less likely to turn into an attack because the social consequences for the attacker are much more dire, so "nice-guy" attacks are likely to be significantly fewer, and that the dynamics of social and family life here make it much harder for an opportunist to "cut someone from the herd" for victimization . It certainly isn't because the legal system is in any way sophisticated or sensitive.

Anyway, as I said, not necessarily portable, but I am firmly convinced that the effective solutions are going to be primarily social, and it won't be until would-be rapists risk meaningful shame and embarrassment and the consequences of significant community stigma instead of the victims that things will begin to improve. These discussions begin to shine a light in that direction.
posted by taz at 2:52 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've mentioned on MetaFilter before that I was assaulted by a camp counselor when I was 9. I am firmly convinced that if it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone. I was raised in NYC with all the street smarts and knowledge of bad things that could happen that kids there need to have from an early age. I knew what to do if I was mugged, followed, touched or anything else: yell FIRE, find a doorman, run into a business, tell a teacher or parent, all of that. I had all the tools you can give someone who is four feet tall.

I also come from a family of hard-hitting women, and I was absolutely brought up to be aware, assertive and articulate. My feelings and boundaries were respected by both my family and my school and I had a very steady sense of being in control of myself and what happened to me. If you had created a poster child for "least likely to fall victim to a child predator" I would have been an excellent candidate.

The only thing all that awareness and knowledge gave me was the strength to know, immediately, that is wasn't my fault and I needed to tell someone I trusted. It's not nothing, but it's not a lot in the grand scheme of things. I'd certainly trade all of that knowledge to make that never have happened to me in the first place.

And while that event was certainly a watershed of horror, it wasn't an isolated incident. As a young teenager I was catcalled, groped, followed and rubbed up against. And every time, I was able to assert my right to not have that happen and cause an almighty stink because more than frightened, I was pissed off, but also in public - where it's safe(er) to fight back.

When I was 19 and at university, though, a girl on my hall was gang raped at a fraternity on campus and dumped literally in my doorway. I walked into her unconscious body on the ground when I opened my door because I'd heard something in the hall. I know so many more women this has happened to, in all kinds of circumstances, in all kinds of places, in all kinds of ways.

And really, all these years later, the only thing I know is that the women this hasn't happened to? Are just lucky. That's really all it is. They don't know more, they don't have better training, they were not raised better, they don't dress more conservatively, they don't have better taste in dates, they don't take more care, they don't live in golden societies. They just have been fortunate enough to not have this happen to them. It really is just luck.

And whenever I stand in a room of women, I always, always know that I am not the only one, and that everyone else is very lucky indeed.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:24 AM on November 10, 2009 [13 favorites]


Sova, so glad you got away. Your point - that violence and the threat of violence is actually a grubby, uncivilised thing which is often whitewashed and glorified - rings very true. I've given people (men) talks about staying safe here (as a foreigner in Russia), with that implicit "if you're smart, you'll be just fine". I AM smart, and I've been assaulted twice, and put it down to "I should have been smarter", and when I've escaped the dodgy situations, I've put it down to "I can handle myself". It's Just World thinking, and it's bullshit.

You did what you did, it seems like pretty smart thinking to me, but that is not the point: the only person who did anything wrong was Mr. Arsehole. On preview, I forgot to say thank you for writing.

I have a sister who, judging by the stories here, is in her prime for any of these things. I've told her "If someone is within hitting distance and you don't like it, hit them somewhere painful", and "Hairspray or BO-buster is good enough to spray in someone's eyes" (since mace is considered a firearm in the UK, according to a friend in the police). I've sat with her on the post-club "psycho bus", including once a good 30m of intimidating some guy who was trying to start something (almost fun, but ultimately sucky). I know the guys she hangs out with, and I'm happy she hangs out with them - they're way better adjusted than I was at that age. She's the only girl on her course at uni, she has older brothers, she's smart and can stick up for herself. Every story I read here contributes to a sense of depressing inevitability and deepening horror that none of that matters. One of those nice kids may go off the deep end, she may get taken by surprise, she may be forced by circumstances into a dangerous situation, she may be in a safe place with a dangerous person. And there's nothing I can do about it.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 4:34 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I read stories about how women stand up to men like that, and I kick myself for being such a "wimp" and letting it get to a potentially terrible point. I honestly look back with disdain for what I failed to do, and what I almost allowed to happen. And that's a terrible feeling.

All any of us can do, in a given moment, is the most we can do with the tools available to us at that moment. We are all strong and we are all capable -- if we have that strength available to us. If we don't have that strength available to us for some reason -- it's like Batman being caught without his utility belt, or Iron Man without the suit.

And anything can block that strength in us -- we're sick, we're distracted, we're just way too scared and panicked and just not thinking clearly. It can happen to anyone. For every time I've stood up to someone, there's about ten more times that I shied away because that strength was just not available to me. I was Batman without my utility belt in those moments.

You weren't a wimp. You were just Batman caught without his utility belt. You did the most you could with what you had, and that is all any of us can do, and it is absolutely right.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:26 AM on November 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


But, in terms of the situation of a typical Greek woman it's much better here than many places

My partner traveled there a few years back, and for her it was absolute hell, with men constantly grabbing and commenting. The reasons you lay out for why things are easier for Greek women are probably all true -- but what happens to the women who are on the outside of the family and social group protection? Unless that protection extends to women outside of those groups, you've simply created a binary situation, where some women are to be left alone and others are to be harassed to your heart's content.
posted by Forktine at 5:53 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


What can I do to cope with rape?

A heartbreaking AskMe that maybe some here can help with.

And my heart goes out to all of you who keep telling your stories. Hang in there.
posted by languagehat at 5:55 AM on November 10, 2009


Someone tipped us off to that already, languagehat, but thanks for the reminder.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:04 AM on November 10, 2009


Forktine, I'm sort of surprised to hear that, but of course the whole time I was writing I was thinking, well, this is only what I've had experience with, and for one thing, as I mentioned, my experience is urban. I know a lot of foreign women (not Greek, in other words, and I'm also speaking of people who aren't economic refugees) living here and they aren't targeted, but they are also integrated into the social fabric - which is one of the three major aspects I mentioned that seem to make a difference here, that social approbation that carries a heavy penalty.

Was this on a highly touristed island? There are definitely some places that we would never visit and Greeks generally avoid, because they have been sold as party destinations, and they have a reputation of hellishness. Or a small village? Or was it one of the larger cities? I'm curious for my own edification.

But at any rate, the point of my musing was not to laud Greece (I love it here for my own reasons, but I'm not the least bit starry-eyed, and there are many problems here) but to try to figure out what the mechanisms are for what does work, and how/if any of that might be extrapolated to other places or communities. Greece by no means has any superior moral ground at all, and certainly hasn't spared particular effort on the rights of women - but there happen to be some elements of the how society interacts here that do seem to work to make things better for Greek women in comparison to very many other places, not by plan or greater enlightenment, but just because that's how it has developed.
posted by taz at 6:50 AM on November 10, 2009


It really is pervasive. I had no idea. There are so many layers to it:

While I’ve been catcalled, it made me angry but not afraid. What had I done to deserve this? I knew I wasn’t attractive.

In the first semester of the master’s program a fellow student confided in me that her committee chair was always making off-color remarks to her in private conferences. He kept his office ice cold and would point out how “stimulated” she must be since her nipples tits were erect. She was extremely pretty, so no surprise to us. NO SURPRISE! How wrong was our thinking in retrospect.

I was pretty naive since I was not pursued by any guys, so when a fellow student asked me to help him study for an upcoming exam I agreed without thinking. You can guess where this is going. At least I escaped without full-blown rape.

This is something I’ve shared with only one other living person. I couldn’t handle it. I never returned to school. Never turned in my keys, never retrieved my books, didn’t show up for finals and was given a failing grade. I put it out of my mind and never looked back because I didn’t know how to process it. Nobody from school ever contacted me to ask.

I figured it was best forgotten. Wrong. It did come back to haunt me later when I reapplied for a different master’s program at the same university. The two failing grades brought down my first semester gpa. I would be kicked out with that grade. This time at least there was some sensitivity by the department chair who didn’t ask what had happened and assured me that I was seen as a great student, but I would need to go to the counseling service and see if they could find a way to change the fails into withdraws.

So, guess what? I had to tell the story to a counselor. At least he could see how disturbed it made me and offered the free services of student counseling to help process it. They would fix the grade. I once again took off as quickly as possible after that discussion and never have shared the event with anyone but my husband.

It takes reading everyone else’s stories to find that I’m not alone. And, it feels so good to know. BUT it SHOULDN'T. Nobody should feel better about having sisters in assault, harassment or such. So, while we share a common bond, it's not one I'd like to have....
posted by mightshould at 7:26 AM on November 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


She was mostly in Athens. Her direct quote is actually, "It was worse than Italy," if that gives any sense of perspective. She actually liked Greece, a lot, and wants to go back -- but doesn't want to do so as a woman traveling alone.

Anyway, my point wasn't to beat up on Greece, at all, but to suggest that mechanisms for protecting women that only protect a subset of women are in themselves problematic.
posted by Forktine at 7:28 AM on November 10, 2009


I wore these boots to work the other day, with a knee-length skirt, forgetting I had a hearing in the circuit court. I changed into the suit I leave in my office, which also has a knee-length skirt, but I was too lazy and too late to bother changing my shoes. I go to court and the hearing happens. I spent an hour explaining something not terribly earth-shattering, but a little complicated, to a judge who was engaged, informed and asking tough questions. But I knew what I was talking about; I was pretty sure I had a good point; and it's my goddamned job. And I was doing that job well.

The hearing ended (I won, by the way) and as I was leaving the courtroom, the other attorney follows me out. He said "You look real hot in those boots." And I said "Excuse me, I am leaving." I was livid, but when I tried to explain to a (male) friend why I was so angry, why I felt so diminished, and insulted all he could say was "why is it an insult to be complimented?" I tried to explain, but just ended up furious with him, too, ended up feeling more devalued by a person who has been one of my primary support structures my whole life. He is a nice guy and a good person generally. He is also a person with such tight personal boundaries that he would never intrude on someone, man or woman, who even subtly gave off a don't-talk-to-me vibe. Still, my friend--like the other attorney--could not see the wrong in reducing a human being to her sexual value because, hey, they are nice boots.

Even telling the story, under all these layers of psuedonymity, I feel bad that someone might think my friend is a bad guy for not getting it. He's not the bad guy in the story, but the thought which clings to me that I can't tell the story without staining the wrong guy is another layer of mess to this.

Metafilter does not do this topic well, generally, but wow, have these two threads been invaluable.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:56 AM on November 10, 2009 [9 favorites]


I kind of feel like someone should bind these threads up and publish them. I need them to refer back to when I am too angry or upset to be able to articulate why some interaction or other is just so wrong.
posted by gaspode at 8:26 AM on November 10, 2009


The criminal courthouse I work in is basically a gigantic sexual harrassment factory, between the jarhead cops, the sleazoid criminal defense attorneys, the jock-o ADAs and defendants it's a pretty constant stream of degrading commentary towards the women in the building, I overhear it all day long. It's a really ugly place all around, luckily I'm usually only there once a week, twice on mental health court weeks. I admire the women who are capable of navigating that kind of environment.

And the young ADA girls wear knee length skirts with tall leather boots all the time in Philly, but then again, I am always overhearing the repulsive old pock faced, pot bellied alcoholic Sheriffs talking about how they'd like to bang the young ADA girls in the hot boots.
posted by The Straightener at 8:38 AM on November 10, 2009


know you hashed it out a little bit in your next post, but if you wouldn’t mind, I’d be really grateful if you would explain more deeply this heartbreaking reluctance to get help from someone nearby

We don't want to be the girl that cried "wolf" too often
We don't want to be seen as "hysterical" over "nothing"
Sometimes it is more a vibe or sensation that is hard to articulate
We are afraid of being seen as frigid
We don't like to hurt people's feelings
We don't want to falsely accuse anyone
We don't know if we can trust strangers to help us
We want to be tough and handle it ourselves
Sometimes the tipping point comes too fast and catches us off-guard
We are afraid of escalating the problem
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:41 AM on November 10, 2009 [16 favorites]


Hm. sorry forktine, I had no intention of suggesting mechanisms for protecting women that only protect a subset of women. I'm not actually suggesting mechanisms at all.

I tried to imagine why Greece would have reported rapes of 0.01 per 1,000 people while the U.S. has 0.3 and Canada has 0.7, for example, and guessed that it had to do with some specific aspects, which I said right from the beginning were "in terms of the situation of a typical Greek woman."

I don't think it's fair to accuse me creat[ing] a binary situation, where some women are to be left alone and others are to be harassed to your heart's content, when I qualified what exactly I was talking about. In terms of suggestions, the closest thing I made to a suggestion was that I believe that "effective solutions are going to be primarily social, and it won't be until would-be rapists risk meaningful shame and embarrassment and the consequences of significant community stigma instead of the victims that things will begin to improve."

I'm sorry your partner had a bad experience here. I haven't seen that, or had that experience, but then I'm also seeing things in a different way, and something just like raising my eyebrows/head tilt when someone approaches begging for money indicates that I'm not a tourist, for example so it's easier for me to navigate those things, and of course it's so much easier for me to tell when something is standard, or when it's unusual and potentially dangerous, so I can't equate my situation.
posted by taz at 8:48 AM on November 10, 2009


We don't like to hurt people's feelings
We don't want to falsely accuse anyone


And there are so many men who take women refusing to respond socially to strangers as a vicious personal insult or even an accusation of being a rapist, as demonstrated in this very thread.
posted by immlass at 9:01 AM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


> Someone tipped us off to that already, languagehat

Oops, sorry! Long thread is long.

And yeah, Greeks are as notorious as Italians (and in fact most Mediterraneans) for harassment of women. Here:
The extent to which Greek legislation ignores the issue of sexual harassment is particularly problematic considering the pervasiveness of the problem. Few studies have been conducted in Greece regarding sexual harassment, and those that have been conducted are based on very small population samples. Nonetheless, what is apparent from these studies is that sexual harassment affects over 70 percent of women in Greece, is typically perpetrated by superiors, and is not perceived by the harassers as constituting harassment. In the absence of a national survey on the issue, two non-governmental organizations, the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), published a report entitled, “Violence against Women in Greece” in July 2001. GHM and OMCT prepared the report for the Exceptional Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, held from August 5-23, 2002. The report was based on information collected from ten discussion groups with Greek women.

While the majority of the women in the studies had experienced sexual harassment, few had reliable information about how to handle it. None of the women participating in the study had received any information about sexual harassment at work, and most learned what little they knew from the media. All of the women participating in the study understood the concept of harassment, but some considered harassment as being limited to the actions of superiors, not those of co-workers.

The women reported sexual harassment by superiors, customers, and other co-workers, taking the form of direct and indirect advances, humiliating compliments, and offers of money to spend the night. One group of sexually harassed women said that when they challenged their harassers, they were told that the actions of the harassers were paternal. The youngest women in the group explained that often their acceptance of sexual advances determined whether or not they were hired.
posted by languagehat at 9:08 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


A personal account: "Being a Greek-American, I have come to know Greece both as a tourist and as a resident citizen. To the tourist Greece can seem like Paradise, but when you live here, it often seems more like Purgatory. As a woman, I have come to the sad conclusion that there is little respect for women as people in Greece. There is passion for the feminine, but no real love for the female, admiration for the lady, but contempt for the woman."

For more, I suggest googling "kamaki" (literally 'harpoon,' it's the term for how Greek men approach/harass women they don't know).
posted by languagehat at 9:16 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I guess there's two possibilities:

(1) Women in a culture with more closely-knit families or social groups report lower incidents of rape because their families protect them from rapists.

(2) Women in a culture with more closely-knit families or social groups are raped just as often, but experience increased pressure against reporting for "the good of the family" or to prevent disharmony in their social group.

I am not very familiar with Greece or Italy, but my experiences in the US lead me to believe that (2) is rather likely.
posted by muddgirl at 9:16 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Don't want to pile on Greece (or anywhere, for that matter), but I'd take those reporting statistics with a salt pond's worth of salt, since we know that rape is vastly under-reported pretty much everywhere. If a woman walks into a police station in Athens to report a rape, how will she be treated (assuming she's Greek, and not a tourist, at least)? If the rape was committed by someone she knows, how will that information be treated? If she can't shows signs of a violent attack or struggle, will her report be taken seriously? Will her sexual history be called into question by the police and/or prosecutors? Will she be asked what she was wearing etc.? All of these are barriers to reporting a sexual assault, even in the U.S., where some progress has been made in the legal system.
posted by rtha at 9:27 AM on November 10, 2009


I've been watching these threads since they first went up, and have been debating whether to add to them or not. Multiple times I've started typing things that have happened to me. Every time I've deleted them without posting. Maybe I'll actually hit the button this time.

I live in Japan. It's a fairly safe country, for the most part, and I rarely feel threatened when I'm out by myself. But I am still cautious when I'm walking around and aware of who and what is around me.

Even so.


I was walking home from the train station. It was just starting to get dark, but there were plenty of people around for their evening commute so I took the shortcut between the pachinko parlor and the izakaya. And a guy, about my age, starts following me.

"Hey! Hey, blondie!"

I ignore him, hoping he'll get the idea that I don't want to talk. He keeps coming.

"Where are you going?"

No way I'm telling him I'm headed home, so I lie and tell him I'm going shopping.

"You're too pretty to go shopping alone. I'll come with you."

By now we're out of the shortcut, and I realize that the train crossing signals are flashing and the barriers are coming down. I figure I'll make a dash for it and try and leave him on other side of the tracks because he's starting to creep me out.

He catches onto my arm. "Am I scaring you?"

He's got me cornered now. He's not letting go of me. And I'm in the process of shutting down and staring at the ground. "Yes," I tell him. "You're scary. Let me go."

"I'm not scary. I'm not dangerous. Let me stay with you. You're so pretty, blondie. I'm not scary."

He still has hold of me. I'm crying. I see people walking by, glancing at us but not seeing what's going on. I've lost my voice to ask anyone for help. The train crossing is open again, but he won't let go of my arm.

"I'm not scary."

He reaches out to touch my face, and I finally freak out enough to twist away and run before he can catch me again. I know the owners of the cd store down the street, so I ran inside and stayed there for an hour, talking to the workers about anything except what had just happened. I was just too scared, and a bit ashamed of freezing up like I had.



Another time I was walking with some Japanese friends on our way to another friend's apartment. We were coming back from a concert, so it was rather late, but there were three of us. As we're going along, talking about the show, I notice there's a guy on a bicycle coming up behind us so I wave my friends to move over, assuming we're blocking him.

He pulls up right beside my two friends, who are luckily looking towards me still, and I see that he's got his pants down and is jerking off while leering at us.

I am flaming pissed. There are only two thoughts in my head:

1. My friends have to get out of here without seeing what's going on.
2. I can't have this guy follow us back to our destination.

So I tell my friends to run, and they pick up on my tone and get out of there without any questions. And somehow I have my voice in this encounter, and I'm yelling and swearing in Japanese and English at this guy who would dare do something like that to my friends.

In my anger I kick out with enough force to knock his bike over, and then my brain thinks about that running thing and get the hell out of there.

A little while later my brain realized that staying behind by myself was, all told, pretty fucking stupid, and I was lucky that my anger surprised the guy and it all came out alright.
posted by emmling at 9:32 AM on November 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


taz, your perspective is interesting. Greece is largely ruled as requiring caution for English-speaking women traveling alone, along with most of Latin America, Italy and Spain. (via)
posted by Hildegarde at 9:33 AM on November 10, 2009


I wish that women could collectively get together and bring terrifying and disproportional levels of violence to men who cross these kind of boundaries. Things would change for the better if a hundred or a thousand men were shot and killed in a week for harassing women on the street. There is no doubt in my mind that this is true. The war should be brought to men; they should live in fear for once in their lives. I'm sad it will never happen.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:02 AM on November 10, 2009


Ugh yes, that is exactly what is needed here. More violence perpetrated with a penis-substitute.
posted by muddgirl at 10:16 AM on November 10, 2009


what could I have possibly said? "He was talking to me, and I didn't like it." It's hard to explain how a person has broken boundaries in such a way that makes you justifiably terrified of what's going to happen next, especially when they present those actions as normal. Which, I think, was the original point of this whole discussion.
-- Sova

I think this nails it. There are two things going on that men may be less aware of:
1, women are really subject surprisingly often to violence/threats, even in everyday situations, more so than many men realize, and
2, because of this women get very finely attuned to apparently-innocent social boundary crossing (eg, continuing to talk to me even when I'm obviously uncomfortable.) -- if a guy is crossing one social boundary he's more likely to cross another.

Because of 1, many of us have a background threat-management process running all the time. But this process is very sensitive, so it picks up on things that seem innocent (and often are). So when one goes to explain what was creeping you out, it may sound like over-reacting given that one circumstance. It's easier to understand in the context of all these stories that establish 1.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:16 AM on November 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


OC, I'm one of the women that has been thus harrassed and that is the LAST thing I want. Why the hell would I want that? It wouldn't solve anything, it would affect non-jerks as well as the jerks, it would escalate things.

I mean, I appreciate your frustration, but there are much more productive solutions that wouldn't run the risk of accidentally blowing back and hitting you too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:16 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wish that women could collectively get together and bring terrifying and disproportional levels of violence to men who cross these kind of boundaries.

As much as I try to remind myself that violence is not the answer, I really feel you here. Bigoted straight men make comments to gays, for example, that they would never make to another straight man for fear of being punched right in the face. It's so much a question of status that they often do this even if the gay man in question is larger than them, or in a group. I can't tell you how many times I have shaken off the temptation to walk straight up to one of these dudes and put his lights right out. And make it hurt more than absolutely necessary, breaking his arm if possible, so that he will have many weeks to consider what happens when you fuck with the wrong person. If anything, I haven't fought back like this because I am scared of myself and how angry I get.

Violence may not be good for anyone's peace of mind, but it can be a fast-acting cure for afflictions such as an unshakable faith in male superiority.
posted by hermitosis at 10:17 AM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


We don't want to be seen as "hysterical" over "nothing"

Normally I'm something of a fighter, or so it seems. I've done my share of kicking and yelling. But I have sat stock-still and chalk-white among a group of friends and colleagues while a strange man came up to me, put his hand on my bare back with his fingers curling toward my neck, and hissed into my ear about my sexiness, about how he'd been watching me all night, and about what he'd like to do with me if only. That time, I froze.

I wish I hadn't. I wish I had said something. If I had been alone in public I might well have. But I didn't want to make a scene in front of my friends, and I didn't want to owe the slightly scary guy who would have most likely gone after this jerk, and I didn't want to look like a sissy. (Hah.) Most of all, I didn't want to deal with the social fallout of finding out who there was among the many men who would scoff, minimize, and even side with that guy. (Not to mention the occasional woman who would sneer, fluff her hair, and declare to the guys that she's not a fragile feminist.) I didn't want to find out which of my supposed friends was going to shame me right then and there.

Hell, I almost didn't want to admit right here, years later, that I was wearing a shirt with a scooped back that exposed enough skin for a strange man to flatten his palm against. I wasn't asking for it. But do I want to deal with hearing that I was? Do I want to find out who's in the support system for this kind of behavior? I perform the social risk calculation automatically.

Although I felt that I faced a social risk when talking about this kind of thing, I'd guessed that it was mostly in my own head. So it was a shock when I was stalked and needed some practical help from my community. I found out right away who my friends aren't. I got to see just how reluctant many men, in particular, are to really hear the story. I got to hear from them all about how I am probably wrong because it's all in my head, all he's doing is talking, and everybody makes a fool of themselves over love anyway, etc. I learned that by asking for community assistance after months of trying to handle this guy on my own, I was -- shame! -- making life hard for the stalker. The stalker's behavior had to escalate a fair bit before those guys were forced, grudgingly, to clue in.

Even from this very thread, women have lost friends over stories of women's common experiences. It's a double whammy: first the kick in the teeth, and then the broken heart. Sometimes -- often -- it seems easier to just silently absorb the first blow instead of inviting the second.

I'd rather not find out that someone I'd considered a friend is the sort of man who'd say, "If she thinks you're cute, it's flirting. If she doesn't, it's stalking." Because that means that (a) what I thought was friendship is over, and (b) I was a fool to think that we could be friends at all. If I'm feeling vulnerable, shamed, and attacked to begin with, it's overwhelmingly tempting to persist in my folly.
posted by sculpin at 10:36 AM on November 10, 2009 [23 favorites]


> Secret Life of Gravy, you got it in one, well ten, but all of them pretty much valid for me.
posted by Sova at 10:37 AM on November 10, 2009


Turns out I do have a story that's useful to this discussion after all.

The first time I remember being touched sexually in public by a strange man, I was with my parents in a London Tube station. I was 12 and a man smacked me in the rear as he was walking by. My parents were using the pay phone to call a friend and didn't see him. I thought my mother had swatted me to stop me from pulling my hands into my sleeves because I was cold, and when I told her someone had spanked me, she told me I was imagining things.

Let me repeat that: my parents didn't believe me when I said I'd been spanked by a stranger.

Fortunately for me, two bobbies had seen the man strike me and they arrested him and filed charges, and were particularly pleased when it turned out I was 12 because it meant they could get the guy off the street longer. My parents believed the bobbies and they were sorry, but still, they didn't believe me when I told them a stranger had spanked me. And my parents were the sort who read books on raising feminist daughters!

If your own parents won't believe you when you tell them you've been spanked in public until a police officer supports your story, why would you assume anyone would? Women learn early that if they tell, they won't be believed. They'll be shamed for lying and told their actions and responses are inappropriate and unreasonable. And this is why women don't talk about harassment and worse in public.
posted by immlass at 10:49 AM on November 10, 2009 [18 favorites]


The first time I remember being touched sexually in public by a strange man, I was with my parents in a London Tube station. I was 12 and a man smacked me in the rear as he was walking by.

This exact same thing happened to me when I was maybe 10. I was walking on a sidewalk outside of a McDonald's and a strange man smacked me on the ass as I went by and made a weird grunting sound. I told my mom (I didn't even know enough to find it scary) and she made me tell her to the story again and then put me in the car and ran after the guy and yelled at him.

Of course, she sort of dropped the ball later in my life when I told her there were guys who were staring at me and "pretend" asking me out at lunchtime and her solution was "well stop looking at them and they won't look at you" and ignored the larger issue of me getting harassed at school.

And yeah, agreeing with sculpin, sometimes I don't talk to people about this sort of thing [and the time the babysitter tried to molest me, and the time I saw the guy jacking off while I was waiting at the bus stop, and the time the guy at the bus stop touched my hair and wouldn't stop and insisted he wasn't creepy and followed me until the bus came] because I don't want to hear them being dismissive of something that was life-changing and terribly terribly scary to me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:59 AM on November 10, 2009 [15 favorites]


Crush-onastick, this is a question purely out of my own (male) curiousity, and if it upsets you or you don't want to answer it, I surely won't be offended, but was it the use of the term "hot" that made that unacceptable? Or would any form of "compliment" (as I presume the other attorney saw it) be unwelcome while in a professional setting? Had he said something like "those are great boots!" or "that is a really nice outfit!", as opposed to sexualizing the comment, would that have been ok?

I'm asking because I think your male friend might have been seeing the comment as more innocuous than you did, he probably didn't parse the comment the way you did. Now, if you explained it all and he still didn't understand, then maybe send him the link to the blue thread...
posted by dnesan at 11:24 AM on November 10, 2009


I know you hashed it out a little bit in your next post, but if you wouldn’t mind, I’d be really grateful if you would explain more deeply this heartbreaking reluctance to get help from someone nearby.

Imagine approaching someone and they turn out to be one of the "wahh you're hurting my feelings" guys from this thread and the other one. How do you explain to those guys that you feel threatened by someone who is "just talking?" Or maybe you approach a woman who thinks you just need to "demand respect" or believes that you're choosing to live in fear. It's just impossible to know if the person you're approaching is going to judge him or you.

I went through this very thing with a guy in my neighborhood who was kind of stalking me. He would follow me around and tell me he just wanted to get to know me. He scared me, but I had no idea how to deal with it. All he was doing was talking to me, right?

Both these threads have been fantastic. Thanks to everyone who shared their stories and thanks to everyone who tried so very hard to get the point across to the few guys who think their hurt feelings are more important than women's safety.
posted by Mavri at 11:32 AM on November 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


Whoops, pressed post too fast. To end my last post, I guess I just felt a little sad that you felt devalued by your friend. My closest friend is a woman, and my girlfriend is a lawyer, and in all honesty I'm not sure if, until it was explained to me, I would really understand how awful that comment would make them feel if either of them came to me and told me the story. I wouldn't want them to think that I ever meant to devalue them as a person, although ignorance isn't really an excuse.

Another example of the different way that men get to look at the world, of which this thread has made me painfully aware.
posted by dnesan at 11:35 AM on November 10, 2009


Ask yourself, "Would it be considered appropriate to make this comment about a male colleague I don't want to fuck and/or bring down to size?"

Because, in my experience, men don't say, "You're look hot" to a stranger or acquaintance unless they are sexually attracted to a woman or feel threatened by her. Sexual attraction is inappropriate to express in a professional setting. The other is just passive-aggressive. Both are harrassment.

I honestly don't understand how some people think "you look hot", when said to a stranger or acquaintance, isn't sexualized. Is it because some women say it to their friends? I call my friends "bitch" but it doesn't mean I'd refer to a colleague that way.
posted by muddgirl at 11:43 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


dnesan, speaking for myself:

1) Strange men complimenting me on anything personal feels a little invasive and presumptious unless I'm at a club, no matter how innocent. There is always the suspicion that acknowledging a compliment will be seen as a big welcome mat for futher observastions about my person.

2) If you MUST compliment a woman on her boots in a professional setting (but please don't), the descriptor "hot" equals sexually attractive, which equals not appropriate for the setting. Less creepy would be: "Nice boots!" or, pushing the boundary, "those boots suit you." Note the emphasis on the boots, and not on my hotness.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:47 AM on November 10, 2009


One thing that floors me, that fills me with despair and anger, is that while everyone who has been assaulted or raped or harassed or otherwise invaded has her own story, common taproots among stories still emerge. We don't want to make a fuss about it, or to look hysterical. We find ourselves misunderstood by people to whom we turn for understanding. We do everything we can to remain powerful, only to find ourselves frozen or lost at the moment we need that power most. We lose something integral to ourselves -- our bodily integrity and our peace of mind -- and when we start the long process of trying to reclaim both, we hear very, very familiar refrains. What were you doing, why were you there, are you sure you're not just being paranoid, are you sure you didn't just misunderstand him/them, are you sure you made yourself understood, did you say no loudly or forcefully enough, did you fight back, why didn't you fight back harder, he's an idiot but he's basically harmless, why are you afraid of me?, I'm not scary, I'm a nice guy, maybe you shouldn't have been wearing clothes/shoes in which you couldn't run away, maybe you need to get in shape so you can run away, but what about women who say yes and change their minds, what about men who are falsely accused, what about battered men...

I can think of a few things I never want to be told again, not to me, not to any other person. I never want to be told that my near-rape in college wasn't a "real" sexual assault because I was lucky enough to get away before vaginal penetration had taken place, or because the man in question was still a boy, just barely into puberty by the sound of his voice. (When I tried to fight him off as he put his hands up my shirt, he whined "c'mon, man," in an irritated voice, as if I were a bottle of aspirin he couldn't open. And he insisted he was a "nice guy", and proved it by shoving me into moving traffic, then pulling me back before I would have been hit by a truck, then saying, "see, if I weren't nice, I would have let go of you." Sorry, that counts as real sexual assault to me.) I never want to be told that I was overreacting the day I took my beautiful 15-year-old cousin, visiting from Seattle, shopping in New York City, and I wanted to break the noses of the guys who made disgusting comments about her breasts, followed by sucking sounds. A friend who should have known better asked me what she was wearing. (She was wearing a sundress, because she grew up on the West Coast and New York City August humidity was a whole new thing for her, so she wore what she thought would keep her comfortable.) And I really don't want to be told that I should just ignore the guy following and dirty-talking at me for ten blocks, or how I should be nicer to the guys who demand that I consider them romantically or sexually when all I'm trying to do is live my life. (I told a friend -- a female friend! -- about the guy I wrote about on the original thread, the one in the deli who asked me for a date, and then harangued me loudly in front of a crowd when I said no, without qualifying that I was married, and her response was that he must have been so lonely, and it's hard to be alone in the city, and she felt kind of sorry for him.) Fortunately, I've never, ever heard this from the people who matter most in my life: my husband, my parents, my brother, my closest friends. They all get it. They, or the women they love, have been through it, too.

Based on this, I know I sound angry beyond belief and beyond repair. But I'm not. I'm hopeful. I come here, and here are not only other women who know exactly what I'm talking about -- oh, mightshould, I know exactly what you mean about how you wish there were a better avenue of solidarity than this, but I'm still so glad you're here, along with Sova and crabintheocean and emming and everyone who has shared their stories, both here and on the original blue thread -- but there are also men who will listen, who will not run roughshod over our narrative, who will stand with us and get angry with us and talk to us about what we can all do to make a difference. And this gladdens my heart beyond words. My husband sometimes says that people talk about "being human" as if it's an unqualified good thing, but the act of brutalizing people and throwing them into pits is also being human. And he's right -- but when the people who cast their lots with hope and justiceand kindness make a louder noise than the people who throw other people into pits, it makes me feel better about being human.
posted by bakerina at 11:47 AM on November 10, 2009 [16 favorites]


Strange men complimenting me on anything personal feels a little invasive and presumptious unless I'm at a club

I don't think it is ever appropriate to come up to me and comment on my appearance. I am no one's piece of meat.
posted by runningwithscissors at 11:50 AM on November 10, 2009


dnesan: you know, no. I had just beaten this man at the game we are both licensed to play, one I have spent ten years learning how to play and one I'm good at, not because of how I look, but because of the effort I put into it. I have only ever spoken to this guy in court, in the context of this case. We've never even exchanged pleasantries about the weather or talked shop in the hallway. For him to walk away from a purely professional exchange--particularly in a still heavily-sexist profession (I am lead attorney for a defendant in a case which has over a dozen defendants and I am 7 times out of 10, the only woman in the courtroom when that case is being heard)--and have the first personal thing he has ever said to me be a judgment on my desirability is all kinds of wrong.

If that attorney wanted to compliment me (and why? why would he want to. It wasn't a social interaction; it was work), the first words out of his mouth after court should have been "nice argument." not something with a heavily-loaded subtext about my worth as measured by whether or not he thought I was attractive or accessible. Then, if it had been natural to the conversation, a neutral comment like "Those are nice boots" or "You have great style" or "That color suits you" would have been okay, I suppose. actually, I would still have been angry with anything that amounted to telling me he thought I was attractive, but that would have my problem. For one thing, I come from a background that sharply divides professional from personal self. Also, I come from a subculture where "nice boots; wanna fuck?" is a standing joke that's only sometimes funny. BUT he would not have been behaving like a creep; I would have been getting misinterpreting. Yes, it does go both ways.

as for my friend, I just let it drop because I was too angry, and, like a lot of people, I get tired of trying to explain why it's rational to be that angry. My friend was, very much, trying to understand why it had made me angry, not trying to minimize my anger or convince me I was wrong. I just didn't want to have to explain, again. I did eventually send him to Schroendinger's Rapist and then the thread.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:53 AM on November 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


runningwithscissors: we might go to different clubs.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:55 AM on November 10, 2009


dnesan, I'm not who you asked, but I think I can shed some light on one possible answer:

Assume that you are giving a business presentation at your office which you have worked for WEEKS on. You stayed up late ironing out all the details, you missed three of your kid's soccer games, you sacrificed weeks of brainpower and time and sleep to making this PROJECT the best it could be. You rehearsed your presentation, you examined your arguments over and over until you were sure that there were absolutely no flaws in them, you spent an entire day writing the introduction because your colleague suddenly had a change of heart about whether they'd like the joke you tell in the beginning -- and you go to work and you make that presentation before the whole team. Your colleagues are there, your superiours are there, some of the clients are there. And you're working the Powerpoint like a pro, and you're seeing a couple people nod thoughtfully and make notes now and then, and you are starting to think that "great, okay, this hard work is a paying off, good!"

....But then after the presentation, the one and only thing one of your colleagues says to you is, "that shirt shows your pecs off really well."

Would you accept that as a compliment? Or might there be at least one small part of you wondering, "Wait, were you just staring at my pecs the whole time? What about all the things I was SAYING?? Did you even pay attention to THAT?"

THAT may be the problem there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:58 AM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


Or, uh, what muddgirl said.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:59 AM on November 10, 2009


small_ruminant: I presume that's so, and that's obviously fine, but I also think it's important to point out that one shouldn't just presume that a woman is open to you coming up to her, even if she's in a club or similar context.
posted by runningwithscissors at 12:00 PM on November 10, 2009


OC: I wish that women could collectively get together and bring terrifying and disproportional levels of violence to men who cross these kind of boundaries. Things would change for the better if a hundred or a thousand men were shot and killed in a week for harassing women on the street... I'm sad it will never happen.

EC: OC, I'm one of the women that has been thus harrassed and that is the LAST thing I want... I mean, I appreciate your frustration, but there are much more productive solutions that wouldn't run the risk of accidentally blowing back and hitting you too.

mg: Ugh yes, that is exactly what is needed here. More violence perpetrated with a penis-substitute.

I'm going to hazard a guess and say that OC isn't truly claiming that he's sad it will never happen, and that he doesn't truly wish men were subjected to the same violence/harassment women are. It's fantasy, a carefully crafted fiction wherein the perpetrators and those who conspire in invalidating or dismissing women's fear and frustration experience what we experience and consequently learn their lesson. (And then the violence stops, and we all live in a happier, healthier society.)

When deep in the anger stage of dealing with a trauma related to the topic at hand (unfortunately I'm just not ready to publicly share my story), I have to say, I thought about this. What if the tables were suddenly turned and men were targeted just for being men, and they began to feel the same fear and frustration and powerlessness, and the same kinds of “nice guys” in this thread (and the other) who've been saying “But I didn't do anything to deserve this treatment! It's not fair!” would be saying that still, but in a whole different context where they finally. got. it. And then we could say "See? Now you know what it feels like!" And then we'd all move on and treat each other with respect and kindness.

No, of course it wouldn't go that way, and it's not the answer, and violence never solves anything. But for me, playing out that piece of fiction in my head was a healthy way to channel the anger and blame that for too long had been directed inward. In fact, it was a necessary prelude to more productive thinking on the issue; I needed to process that anger somehow.

I guess I just wanted to point out that I don't think revenge fantasies are a surprising response to injustice (whether you're the victim of it or not), and that sometimes, it's okay to go there. (As long as you don't act on them, of course.) Once you have a safe place to put the anger, it's easier to fully engage in finding practical, real-life solutions.
posted by lovermont at 12:17 PM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


I don't know- I go to clubs to meet people, so it's fine with me if guys come up to me. Not okay on public transit unless I initiate it and not okay in a professional setting such as Crush-on-a-stick describes.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:18 PM on November 10, 2009


I wish I were more able to articulate my thoughts on this topic, and I'm grateful to now have comments I can point to and show others, rather than just letting out a wounded howl. I, too, have been harassed since puberty, and know several girls who were molested and women and men who were raped. I've answered a hotline and gotten the heavy breather who was obviously jerking off. I've dealt with the unwanted touching, the unwanted comments, the unwanted shouting, all of that. And somehow, I'm not alone: practically all women are going through it. And I still feel like my experiences haven't been "bad enough" to justify sharing a few of my experiences in this thread.

Y'know, I was just beginning to be able to wear shirts that show a tiny bit of cleavage again. I'd stopped because I was tired of the ceaseless commentary on my chest. And I was tired of the remarks from friends who told me I should be proud that my body garnered attention. So one day, after wearing t-shirts for ages (and consequently being called "dumpy" for it) I wore a tank top -- not a tight one, not one with small straps, but basically a sleeveless t-shirt. I was walking home in the middle of the day, enjoying the sunshine and the fact that I was leaving work early. I had a beautiful song playing on my iPod, and all was good, until some jerk drove past, turned around, and then turned a corner in front of me so that he could call out, "Nice tits!" while making a squeezing motion. I went home and cried and put on a big shirt.

Months later, I'm wearing fitted shirts again (not tank tops, mind you), and was buying groceries this Saturday. Some guy wanted to look macho in front of his friends and looked me up and down, licked his lips, and called me a puta. For buying groceries, I guess. I told him to fuck off and hurried away, shaking. I waited, cringing, elsewhere in the store, until he and his friends left and had likely exited the parking lot as well. At that point I realized that I really don't know how to handle this sort of thing; all I could do was throw foul language his way and then hide. If I'd needed to, I could have screamed and hopefully someone in the store could come to my aid, but what else should I do? Even if I knew self-defense (and I really, really should), I probably wouldn't react to a comment with physical violence. And what then? He could probably call the cops and I'd be the one with assault charges.

This behavior cuts across socioeconomic strata, too, and that's part of what confounds me. What happened that the 30-something dress-shirt-wearing guy driving a BMW, obviously on his lunch break, would hoot at me, and so would a teenager wearing a ratty hoodie and so would a black guy and so would an Italian guy and so would...

Even writing about these things literally make me feel ill, and I wasn't even touched in those cases. Good Lord.
posted by runningwithscissors at 12:21 PM on November 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


Okay. I hope someone's still reading this long-ass thread, because I've been thinking a lot, ever since the original thread. I've been thinking and I want to get these thoughts out of this echo chamber and I need someone to hear them, I think.

My ex-boyfriend was one of these guys, one of these guys that just.doesn't.get.it. He was so nice, so sweet, so charming, most of the time. But there were times when he did things that weren't okay, and I tried *so hard* to justify them for so long. I tried to ignore the red flags...

I had written them all out here, but I'm not brave enough to put them all out there, at least not attached to this username. Ah, how I wish for anonymous comments at times.

On the surface, he was kind and sweet and considerate and caring, but when he got angry...whoo boy.
All I can say is that he had a deep disrespect for women. He threw the word 'bitch' around too flippantly. Any woman who didn't meet his standards of behavior was a bitch. Strict professor? Bitch. Woman driving too slowly? Bitch. Woman who rejected his 'nice guy' advances at a bar? Fucking bitch. His "crazy" ex-wife? The bitchiest bitch of the bitches

He would grab me, wrap his arms around my shoulders (preventing me from moving), sometimes in public and sometimes when I was at home cooking or doing whatever it was I had been doing, as if his right to touch me was more important than my right to walk or move as I pleased. I tried to express this to him, but he got angry with me.

I stopped hanging out with some of my guy friends, because it made him irritated and uncomfortable. We got into a fight, but I never made a peep when he called his ex-girlfriend or went to lunch with her.

I lost my virginity to him to appease his anger, too. I can't get into that here, it's too much and I've never told anyone about that. As much as I love and respect MeFi, perhaps this is not the proper forum to reveal such things, at least not for me. Not yet.

Sometimes when we had sex, it was painful, but I learned to stop saying anything about it and dealt with the lacerations and scars on my own later, so that I wouldn't upset him and he wouldn't say things like, "What the fuck is wrong with you?", mid-coitus.

I ignored the Maxim magazines strewn across his apartment. I ignored the sexist music he listened to. I ignored the porn. I ignored the comments....

I'm a woman of color, and he was white. Sometimes he'd say things to his friends like, "Oh you have to get yourself a black girl!", like I was some commodity, some prize to be won. He could not *COULD NOT* understand the racist and sexist implications of such comments and why I would be so outraged by them.

I tried to stick up for you amazing women, you who have shared your stories in these threads, when he tried to defend his friend who'd been accused of rape by spouting off bull-shit nonsense about women who "cry rape" and the poor innocent men whose lives are ruined because of them. I tried, I fought. I pulled out statistics I'd learned from my 4 years of work with my college's Women's Center and Rape Education Center.

I shut up, eventually, to appease him. To save the relationship. Because, after all, relationships are about compromise, right?

Looking back over the last year and half of our relationship, I wonder how in the world I let this all happen. I was raised to be strong and independent, to never let a man define my worth. I had strong role models in my life. I worked at the women's center, I gave presentations to classrooms and fraternities about rape myths and rape culture. I carried the banner in the 'Take Back the Night' marches.

Why in God's sweet name would I subjugate myself to this?

For what it's worth, it was my first relationship. I didn't date in high school and only a little in college. I didn't have a precedent for how things were supposed to be. I didn't have any good role models in that area. My parent's relationship was problematic. I didn't know what romantic love was supposed to be like. I was convinced that I was just ignorant of how things work. Maybe I just needed to compromise and accept him for who he was.

All I knew is that I was unhappy, for a very long time. It was just a whisper of unhappiness, but it was nagging.

The relationship ended a few months ago. Sometimes, I miss him. Sometimes I still want to go back and try to make things work. But then I have to remind myself of the things he's done. I have to keep reminding myself that it's unacceptable and it's not okay and that it's better to be single than in that mess, no matter how lonely I feel sometimes.

He is not an actively bad person, he's a product of the system. He is, unfortunately, the default. Because of privilege, men don't have to know anything about the things that women go through. Women don't have a choice. We learn, whether we want to or not. In order for men to positively make a difference, they have to consciously decide to jump into our world for a bit, and that's not a priority for a lot of men. Kudos to you who've taken the dive, and kudos to the women who've lit the path to show them.

I've learned something by reading these comments: It's okay to be called a bitch. Yeah! It's okay! If refusing to be demeaned and degraded makes me a bitch, then OKAY! Slap a big ol' BITCH sticker on my forehead! I'll wear it proudly. If having the right to control access to my body makes me a bitch, I.don't.give.a.damn. If bitches are women who choose not to sit by idly, playing nice, buying into whatever bullshit roles society has trapped me into.

I have the right to speak up about my feelings and not feel like I'm a bad person! I have the right to be selfish sometimes and not always try to make everyone happy, at the expense of my own happiness.

Novel ideas, I know.

That's all I wanted to say. I had to get it out, because I've been enraged for the past few months following our breakup. It feels good to let it all out.

One day, I want to give him a list of grievances. I know he'll call me a crazy bitch, but I don't care.

Bring it.
posted by chara at 12:28 PM on November 10, 2009 [49 favorites]


My god, chara.

I'm *so* glad you let it all out. Thank you.
posted by bakerina at 12:35 PM on November 10, 2009


That was awesome, chara.
posted by jokeefe at 12:36 PM on November 10, 2009


lovermont - I saw that movie, too. I'm curious why you assume OC is male? I don't know either way. Is it because fantasies of violence are seen as a man's domain?

I'm sad it will never happen.

I'm not. I don't want men to die. I want them to grow up in a society where no one has to live in fear because of their race, gender, sexual orientation or identity. I want men to grow up in a world where it's OK to express their individuality. Like MLKJ, I don't think violence is the only way to achieve this goal. We don't need to take these fucking perverts and make them afraid, because they're already afraid. They're afraid of being outed as human beings, rather than as the macho supermen they pretend to be. They are afraid that every smart, attractive, accomplished woman they meet is going to destroy them. They are afraid of vagina dentata or something like it. Either that, or they are sociopaths in which case they wouldn't give a shit either way.
posted by muddgirl at 12:37 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have the right to speak up about my feelings and not feel like I'm a bad person! I have the right to be selfish sometimes and not always try to make everyone happy, at the expense of my own happiness.

This this this this this.
posted by rtha at 12:43 PM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Also, if OC is a man it smacks of paternalism to fantasize about all us victims rising up to violently overthrow the "bad seeds" amongst men.

I don't have a problem with violent fantasies as a result of rape or other trauma, as long as we recognize that, in the context of this specific thread, calls for violence from men against other men are extremely problematic.
posted by muddgirl at 12:45 PM on November 10, 2009


I'm curious why you assume OC is male?

Just for the record, and his profile pic of the moment nonwithstanding, OC is a dude and I don't think that's revealing any confidences.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:46 PM on November 10, 2009


I don't think it's fair to accuse me creat[ing] a binary situation, where some women are to be left alone and others are to be harassed to your heart's content, when I qualified what exactly I was talking about.

taz, for what it's worth, I didn't read it as an accusation against you at all but as an attempt to comment on the social dynamics you were generally talking about—that the social-circle aspects you were describing might themselves, as systemic things, create the problematic binary, not that you were in any way responsible for that, etc.

Small thing, but I think I see what you were reacting to there and I think it may have just been miscommunication.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:49 PM on November 10, 2009


Thanks jessamyn, I don't like to make assumptions.
posted by muddgirl at 12:52 PM on November 10, 2009


And I don't mean to tear OC apart because I know he tries to be an ally and fights "the good fight" here on metafilter. I'm trying to do this in the spirit of constructive criticism.
posted by muddgirl at 12:53 PM on November 10, 2009


I think sometimes men (a group of whom I am a member, albeit an edge case) feel like taking criticism for something they thought was OK and making a personal pledge to change their ways due to external feedback feels like an admission of failure.

I know sometimes certain kinds of men feel like an admission of failure is as bad as dying.

I don't agree, and I think that feeling that way and much more, acting like you feel that way is childish. I don't always know what to do with men friends (rarely) and colleagues (not so rarely, but still sometimes) who feel that way.

I still think they should change, both for my comfort and for the comfort of women they and I know. But I don't know how to proceed. I don't know how to be effective and creating that change.
posted by kalessin at 1:00 PM on November 10, 2009


Oh my god, chara.

Sometimes when we had sex, it was painful, but I learned to stop saying anything about it and dealt with the lacerations and scars on my own later, so that I wouldn't upset him and he wouldn't say things like, "What the fuck is wrong with you?", mid-coitus.

I did that too, with my ex, and people think I am crazy when I try to explain it, because who wouldn't say something? You have to think you're worthless to not say something, right? But it was safer to just wait until he was asleep and then slink off to the bathroom to clean up (or be sick sometimes), because I was just so wrapped up in trying to compromise and make things ideal for him and not get in the way of his satisfaction, and everyone compromises sometimes, right?

Your story really resonated with me; I had strong female role models and a good upbringing and was taught to think highly of myself, too, and got stuck in a relationship where I was nothing. How the fuck does that happen.

I have the right to speak up about my feelings and not feel like I'm a bad person! I have the right to be selfish sometimes and not always try to make everyone happy, at the expense of my own happiness.

Yes! You're absolutely right. I'm so sorry you had to live through all of that poisonous crap. But this is a good conclusion.
posted by bewilderbeast at 1:00 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, if OC is a man it smacks of paternalism to fantasize about all us victims rising up to violently overthrow the "bad seeds" amongst men.

I am indeed male. And my fantasy of women scaring the shit out of assholes and creeps everywhere by putting a bullet in their heads every time one of them decides it's okay to threaten or harass a woman for simply being a woman is unrealistic but geninuely and deeply heartfelt.

I don't know why to you it smacks of paternalism - perhaps because it uses a typically "male" method, specifically violence, to acheive a goal? I do know that it's unfair to ask the victims of systemic mistreatment to correct it, regardless of the means used to correct: bearing the burden of explaining to men for the millionth time why this behavior is not okay is probably more appealing than having to pack heat. But true: you shouldn't have to do either.

We don't need to take these fucking perverts and make them afraid, because they're already afraid. They're afraid of being outed as human beings, rather than as the macho supermen they pretend to be. They are afraid that every smart, attractive, accomplished woman they meet is going to destroy them. They are afraid of vagina dentata or something like it. Either that, or they are sociopaths in which case they wouldn't give a shit either way.

See, I disagree with the premise that they are afraid. They're not. They simply don't see women as human beings and we should react appropriately. Grabbing strangers on the train, catcalling, harassing, stalking, to say nothing of actual assault and rape: these are hate crimes. The men who do this are worthless animals and should be put down appropriately.

I apologize for the derail - there are some amazing, wonderful comments in this and the other thread and I know that my viewpoint is only shared by a small minority of both women and men.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:16 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


lovermont, I'd almost forgotten about this, but when I was in college, there was a time when I fantasized about how great it'd be if the streets were infested with man-attacking leopards at night. This was, I think, right after the time a dozen men in Halloween masks surrounded and threatened me on campus as I was walking home at night from the library. It wasn't Halloween. I picked out the weakest-looking one and prepared to attack him in order to break out and run away if anyone moved. My obvious willingness to do violence may have scared them, or perhaps -- more likely -- they weren't actually planning to gang-rape me at all, only to let me know that they could.

I imagined how freeing it would be for women if men and only men were scared off the streets. Furthermore, if a man braved the risk and got caught in a leopard attack, well, it was his own fault, wasn't it? I mean, he knew about the leopards, so that makes it fair. Men would probably develop all kinds of folk wisdom about how not to be attacked by leopards after dark -- always wear a skirt, always walk with your hips swaying, never go out without a woman accompanying you -- and it might sort of work, to an extent, but not really, because in a world full of leopards, the deck would be stacked against them. And certainly none of this would be my problem, because I'm neither a man nor a leopard. Free as a bird, I'd be.

I do not actually want men to be attacked on the street by leopards. But the revenge fantasy had its place.

On preview: holy crap, chara. Good on you for getting to the point you're at. You're swifter than I was. I once dated a guy half that disrespectful, very briefly, with plenty of relationship experience to draw on, and it still screwed with my head for a good while. And I rationalized just as you did: "Relationships are about compromise." "I just need to accept his differences." Oh fuck that noise. When a guy's got you in a headlock, that's no time for relativism.
posted by sculpin at 1:17 PM on November 10, 2009 [35 favorites]


They're not. They simply don't see women as human beings and we should react appropriately.

If they don't see any women as human beings, then they are sociopaths and should be dealt with as such. We don't give the death penalty for most sociopathic behavior. Perhaps I am naive in my belief that we can deal with all people humanely and with an understanding that they are as affected by the society they were raised in as I am.

I do think it's a hate crime, and maybe some day the courts will agree.
posted by muddgirl at 1:22 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh my god, I love the leopard idea so much.
posted by rtha at 1:26 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sova - I think you did the exactly right thing, and you should be proud of yourself. You didn't fall for his stupid "I'm a nice guy" sctihck, you kept to yourself, and stayed on the road where you could be seen, you didn't give him an opening - and that was strong and brave. Bravery isn't not feeling fear - it's acting right even though you are afraid. You stood up to him by not engaging, and it worked! Time to stop feeling guilty for not lashing out with stupid bravado, and realize that you were smart, and you thwarted him.

Frankly mister - you asked to know more about her reluctance to flag down a car - but really, how would she know that the person in the car isn't just a big of a creep as the guy trying to assault her?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:27 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I hate the assumption that there are two kinds of men in the world - those that harass women and therefore are "animals who deserve to be put down" and those that don't, and are allowed to live. Harassers are our fathers, brothers, and uncles. Our coworkers. Our friends. It's a terrible bargain - they are allowed to think that their behavior is part of a one-time thing, that they are unique snowflakes who surely have good intentions (even when the results turn out so so wrong), and in exchange I most always view them as suspect.

When a rapist is caught by the police, his friends and family never say "he was such a good boy, I don't know what happened" (as they do for murderers). They always say, "That's not the man I know!" And in on sense this is horribly insensitive to the victims, but in another it may be so so true.

So I guess I'm trying to say that I can't be asked to act with violence towards the men in my life that I have been taught to love, even after they betray me.
posted by muddgirl at 1:58 PM on November 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


I don't know that it's about not seeing women as humans. I think it might be more about seeing women as lesser than, which is probably tied to historical roots of women as property. Men are the dominant culture in the west, and we live in a culture that very frankly and unapologetically objectifies women, which I think does nothing so much as make women "other."

I don't know; I could go on about this at length but I'm not really sure it would go anywhere since I honestly don't know what the fundamental shift that clearly needs to take place is.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:03 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've read the original thread for a few days and refrained from commenting; it seemed clear that I didn't have anything to contribute that would be seen as helpful.

I did have an experience about a week after that thread was posted that related directly to the question of the handling of men's communication in feminist dialogue, though, which I would like to relate now.

I live in a cooperative community of about 30 people - we're very open to visitors, regularly hosting bike tourists, couch surfers, what-have-you. A few weeks ago we had a visitor come through who seemed like a nice enough guy, and said he had lived on-and-off at a number of the Berkeley coops. Over the course of a few days, he proceeded to make a number of people uncomfortable with unwanted advances, and eventually got himself kicked out of the community. Shortly afterward, we learned that we were the ninth consecutive coop that he had been kicked out of.

All good and cruddy.

Our community has a women's circle, which is a bit contentious, since the community is 2/3rds women and it's the only exclusive sub-group of the community. Following the ejection of this character from the community, a women's circle was called to discuss people's experiences. Since men were not invited, this guy's unwanted groping of male members of the community went unknown to the circle. Afterwards, when I asked why men couldn't participate in this event, I was told that a) certain people would be unwilling to share their experiences in front of men, and b) since it was an experience-sharing session, and men had no such experiences, then there would be nothing for men to contribute. I also learned that the participation in the women's circle is rather less than the full 2/3rds of the community, and was more like a support group of ten or so people, which was helpful for allaying fears that community-level decisions were being made without the input of a significant minority of the members.

It felt like the perspectives of men were belittled and ignored in this circumstance, in a discussion on sexual harassment and violence that could have benefited from having both genders present. As it was, I came away feeling like a jerk for critiquing the way the women of the community handled the situation, and a broader community dialogue never occurred.

And yeah, I know it's not about me in the slightest. I just think that it is actually important to hear and understand men's perspectives, too. In this particular case, the breakdown of inter-gender communication kept experiences from being shared and hindered the ability of the community to respond to what had happened.

In this discussion I haven't commented up-to-now because it feels precariously simple to mis-step with words of anything other than unconditional support and end up in a position of endless clarification going eventually down in flames. I certainly don't support the things he ended up saying in here, but I suspect that this is what happened to oaf and to a lesser extent Go Banana. Opening the rhetorical whoopass (rolling one's eyes SO HARD, for example) on the supposed anti-feminist just makes them feel more alienated, and puts them in the position of defending what is likely an indefensible position, and seeming more and more obviously anti-feminist as a result, when in fact they might be entirely sympathetic individuals.

Coming away from all of this (the thread and the real-world situation), I wonder why our inter-gender communication continues to be so flawed, even amongst people who do 'get it.'
posted by kaibutsu at 2:12 PM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Angry "grar" zeal has its place, as do the leopards or the Lorena Bobbit fantasies or what have you.

But only as a means to preserve our passion for not wanting to just pack it in and give up. Because: well, hell, any one of those jackasses out there could turn into another chugg.

MIND YOU: this does NOT mean that I'm saying you should let guys get away with things because "oh tralala, maybe they'll eventually have a come-to-Jesus someday and that'll make it all better". Of course not -- if some guy in the here and now starts hassling you, of course you should assert your boundaries, and if he tries to assault you you have every right to assert your boundaries WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE.

I'm referring strictly to why I personally don't believe in writing off all guys outright, pre-emptively, why I don't believe in pre-emptive castration/random assault/leopard attacks/etc. Because a lot of them just don't get it -- but that doesn't mean that none of them will EVER get it. In fact, some will. It may take time, and you have every right to tell them to fuck off until they do, but some will.

And in my experience, the zeal of someone who's been in the choir all their life is NOTHING compared to the zeal of a convert.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:19 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I came away feeling like a jerk for critiquing the way the women of the community handled the situation, and a broader community dialogue never occurred.

I hope I'm not being obtuse, because I've never lived in a co-op like that, but if you wanted a broader discussion, open to all, did you try to organize one?
posted by hades at 2:42 PM on November 10, 2009


kaibutsu, we've certainly heard from lots of men on this subject, both in this thread and the original fpp. And frankly, I don't feel in the least bit bad shutting down someone who demonstrates over dozens of comments that they don't get it and they don't care to. This does not apply to Go Banana - I think there was a little miscommunication happening, but nothing more than that - but for some of the other folks who kept making the "Yeah but if women think I'm a rapist that's just as bad as men catcalling women!" argument, well, don't let the door hit you on the ass is my view.

The risk of telling a story like the ones here in a face-to-face mixed-gender group can be huge for the storyteller. How many women in the co-ops where this guy stayed had some variation on the (see above) "he was talking to me and I was scared" stories? They were perhaps afraid to tell stories like that because they were afraid of looking wimpy or stupid in front of their peers. They were afraid of hearing "But he was just talking to you! What's the big deal?" when, as you can see from the stories above, it can be a really big deal.
posted by rtha at 2:49 PM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


> I just think that it is actually important to hear and understand men's perspectives, too.

Yes, it is. But it's much less important, in the present state of the world, than to hear and understand women's perspectives. When the leopards get unleashed, this may change.
posted by languagehat at 3:03 PM on November 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


Since men were not invited, this guy's unwanted groping of male members of the community went unknown to the circle. Afterwards, when I asked why men couldn't participate in this event, I was told that a) certain people would be unwilling to share their experiences in front of men, and b) since it was an experience-sharing session, and men had no such experiences, then there would be nothing for men to contribute.

Were the women in the circle aware (or did you tell them) that men had been similarly mistreated by the malefactor? Since that's a relatively much less common experience, it may just be a matter of ignorance, but I would hope that group and certainly this group are completely supportive of men who have been on the receiving end of sexualized, menacing speech/behavior or sexual violence.

What some of us have been more impatient about is people who want to shift the focus of the discussion away from the dynamics between the targets and perpetrators of unwanted sexualized behavior and onto the "plight" of men who don't receive the kind of pleasant attention from women strangers that they feel entitled to because of women's "sexist" guardedness.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:24 PM on November 10, 2009


These two threads got me thinking about how often terms like "irrational" and "unreasonable" are deployed to counter women's opinions and women's stories. It's happened in both threads repeatedly, and I'm starting to see just how frustrating that must be. That's not theoretical for me; I'm absolutely guilty of doing so on innumerable occasions. Never in response to the kinds of stories on display here, I don't think (certainly, I hope not), but that doesn't make it better, because if the women in my life will be called "unreasonable" by me over a bad day or a moment of stress, how could they possibly feel comfortable sharing their inner lives and their difficult experiences? So I'm sorry about that, and I'm trying hard to do better and be safer.

As always, your stories are powerful and I deeply appreciate you sharing them when you could. Where you couldn't, I hope you feel safe enough somewhere to share them with someone, because you deserve to speak and be heard. I often hesitate to speak in these discussions because I don't want to be another male voice shouting for attention, but I think it's important to speak alongside many, many others, just to say: I'm here, I'm trying not to be silent in the face of this mess, I'm trying to hear you.
posted by Errant at 3:31 PM on November 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


"When the leopards get unleashed, this may change."

This is my new favorite insider phrase.

And kaibutsu, I hear you. I feel that sometimes especially progressive organizations can have a hard time trying at once to be inclusive and at the same time to offer safe spaces for people who feel that they need them. One of the things that made it really hard for me to work within more structured anarchist [I know...] community circles when I lived in Seattle was the general idea (that I felt was promotedat the time) that every single person's experience and perspective was valid and worthy of respect, even though some of those perspectives directly contradicted each other.

This sounds horrible to say out loud, but I felt that sometimes in more radical communities that had tossed ideas of normalcy out the window [for all sorts of good reasons] they then couldn't rely on any sort of standards other than the ones that the group itself set up. This was, for most things, an absolutely great way to move forward. In other ways it did lead to the sort of fracturing that you're referring to (which may be okay) but more importantly the sort of head-scratching "well if I, as a man, do feel excluded and yet want to help, when is the appropriate way and method to help out?" And in the circles I ran in, it meant a bunch of women being pressured into the sort of weird non-monogamous "everyone sleeps with the charismatic group leader" situation that didn't seem healthy for most of the people engaged in it. Or people letting dangerous creepy people couch surf because they didn't want ot be exclusionary.

People are better and worse at answering this sort of question, about how to help and be helpful. It's odd how being in more of a safe space can sometimes make people start carving out territory (the beautiful leopards!) for themselves in spaces where they always felt obligated, through politeness or whatever, to share. Seems like it would be a good topic to bring up with the larger group because of course, obviously, this whole episode affected you and everyone in your house. The frustration that people feel at the epidemic-seeming nature of what happens, really does hurt everyone.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:38 PM on November 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


I hate the assumption that there are two kinds of men in the world - those that harass women and therefore are "animals who deserve to be put down" and those that don't, and are allowed to live. Harassers are our fathers, brothers, and uncles. Our coworkers. Our friends.

Even sometimes ourselves. There have been more than a couple of people posting in these threads who have said "woah, now I'm going to reexamine my own actions and assumptions, and make some serious changes." I mean, shit, I'm starting this discussion already pretty aware and familiar with the issues, and I've ended up doing some reassessing, too.

Sexual harassment comes directly out of the structures and practices of our whole society, not out of its fringes. It pervades all the environment we live in, rather than being something foreign and easily extirpated.

So outside of fun fantasies about leopards in the streets, I don't think that the oh-so-successful "mano duro" strategies of the war on drugs and similar social cleansing attempts are going to provide much traction in making life safer for women.
posted by Forktine at 3:56 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


"I'm starting this discussion already pretty aware and familiar with the issues, and I've ended up doing some reassessing, too."

Me too.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:05 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


The leapards on the streets idea has some worth besides an idle fantasy. It's not a half bad analogy for what women experience. The uncertainty, the blame the victim, the precautions that people should take (instead of taking care of the problem). It doesn't quite cover the fact that in the real world, women often feel ashamed of their 'leapard attacks' and are discouraged from reporting them.

Still, I think if someone were having trouble understanding what so many women have spoken about here, that analogy could be helpful.
posted by twirlypen at 4:23 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


So I got to practice my new vocabulary today. It went like this.

I was walking up to the bus stop and there was a woman sitting in the shelter with a bright pink coat on. There was a car idling in the bus stop which I thought was unusual. As I walked up a man got out of the car and walked over to the woman and they started to talk/argue in a quite pointed way in a language I don't speak (maybe Tagalog). The man started to grab her by the shoulder and was physically trying to get her to do something (get in the car I later deduced) so I made eye contact with her and asked fairly loudly "is everything ok here?". She nodded yes and said, fine fine, she was looking at me and looked more embarrassed and angry than afraid. I then looked at the man and made eye contact and in a kind of stern voice (heh, so to speak, an assertive voice), said OK? Everything is ok, right? And he said yes.

But then, and this is where it got awkward for me, she got up to leave and was walking down the street and he took a few steps to her and grabbed her shoulder and steered her to the car - breaking contact at the trunk and they walked up each side alone. She then got in the car of her own volition and didn't look to me again and started to speak loudly to the man but then they left. And I felt a bit uneasy about how that transpired but that second act, so to speak, happened so quickly.

I think it was a domestic dispute and was clearly not an encounter between strangers but still in my perfect world I would now know what had happened. I do feel better about implementing the advice from these threads and having a phrase "pre-adapted" was very helpful and probably without that I wouldn't have said anything since the whole scene unfolded quickly. So in a tiny way, this thread is making a small difference, but in a bigger way, I'd say to the guys, just rehearse a line or have one ready and be firm but neutral and then act - be prepared. It would have been harder with a much bigger guy, but on the other hand it will be easier next time.
posted by Rumple at 4:45 PM on November 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


Details: There was a bit of an unwritten policy of silence being enforced in the community before the initial decompression session, which kept the full range of what happened from being available to anyone. Hell, I still don't know the full range of what happened. In any case, the women's circle didn't know about the male groping until after their meeting.

For a variety of reasons I didn't feel comfortable organising a larger community discussion, and no one else ever stepped up to do it. Maybe I'll get it put together now, though, since there's been a bit of time.

Yes, it is. But it's much less important, in the present state of the world, than to hear and understand women's perspectives. When the leopards get unleashed, this may change.

Absolutely hear ya, cap'n, which is why I didn't post anything up to now. Being MetaTalk, it seemed like a good place to have a discussion about the discussion, as it were. My question is how can we create inter-gender discussions on sexual violence that are less dangerous for all involved? There are absolutely cases where actual discussion is necessary; shut up and listen until the leopards come is not a workable process.

(Thanks for the perspective jessamyn; as something of a structured anarchist myself, it's a good story to hear.)
posted by kaibutsu at 5:27 PM on November 10, 2009


Well done, rumple.
posted by jokeefe at 5:46 PM on November 10, 2009


There is another facet to this larger issue we're discussing -- the suggestion (see also: accusation) that if a woman doesn't report, she's directly harming other women.

I think this issue could use a voice and a bit of a spotlight in our discussions here. (This was touched on in the blue, but only very briefly, and it still resonates with me.*) Women who refrain from bringing charges against a perpetrator of violence carry an immense burden, a great deal of shame for that. Or, in my own case, are made to feel shamed and abandoned by their very support system.

Not everyone will agree, which is fine, but I feel that there are good, healthy reasons for not reporting incidents. I consider fear to be one of them. Fear of going on trial yourself for having been raped, fear of losing your support system because you knew (and shared friends with) the attacker, fear of not being believed... that list is probably endless. Fear of losing your sanity after a violent assault is a very, very real thing.

I didn't report my own attack because I was convinced that it would have been even more dangerous for me to report it than to just deal with it and take my chances. (That was my 20-year-old self; I think my 40-year-old self would have outright killed the fucker and kept his testicles as trophy, but that's a story for another thread I'm sure.) I came to this conclusion after sitting down and hashing this out ad nauseum with the friend who'd driven me to the hospital when I showed up at her door at 3 am, covered in blood, crying, shaking, hyperventilating, grabbing at her, telling her that I thought I was going to die... Then she sat up with me, awake the entire time, for about 48 hours after we got back to my place in case I needed a hug or a girl-to-hold-my-hair-back, or more coffee so that I wouldn't accidentally fall asleep. I was terrified of falling asleep. She was such a rock-solid, hardcore, bulletproof chick, I can't even tell you. (hey, sculpin, if you ever turn your leopard fantasy into a film, Lourie could play Head-Bitch-Leopard #1.)

We discussed the pros and cons. Pro reporting: it might put the fuckwad in jail. Con: the fact that at that time, in our state, the average amount of time served of a convicted rapist's already-piss-poor sentence was something abysmal like 4 months or so. Her dad was a judge, and she also had other more tangible evidence to back that up. It made my blood run icy to think about that scary, crazy asshole sitting in a cell, thinking about one thing only: the fucking bitch that put him there. That was my nightmare. I mean, think about it... by then he'd know my name, he'd remember what I looked like for sure, he'd know a lot. This was a smallish college town, and I had two more years to spend there. I would never again in my life, even years down the line, feel safe or free. I knew in my soul that I'd never recover from the whole ordeal if I took that path.

In a nutshell, I didn't report it.

The fallout was similar to other women's stories: some of my female friends abandoned me altogether (the guys in my life all supported this decision, unsurprisingly). The girls called me a traitor for putting them at risk. They called me cunt, bitch, whore, they said I asked for it and they were glad that it happened to me since that's my method of dealing with it. One said she would pray that it happens again for me to teach me a lesson, traitorbitch, blah blah blah. They said that I may as well have given him their addresses and a key to their dorms/apartments. They said all of this out loud, angrily, to my face, in a group setting and privately. They told me that if they were attacked next, even if it were three years down the road, it would be my fault and I would just have to live with that. In the end, I lost six of my girl friends because I told them about my decision not to go to the police. (No, the hospital doesn't make you report -- they're there to heal you and make sure you live, and they give you the option to talking to a cop, but they don't force your hand in any way.)

I still have mixed feelings about not reporting it, though I usually settle on "I did the right thing for me at the time." It's easier to think about that than the possibility that those girls were right. I knew myself well, and I knew I'd live in fear forever if he ever had more information on me. I pushed the rest from my mind as best I could. There really is no such thing as walking away unscathed, but I feel, in the long run, that I made the right decision for myself at the time. Because I have to.

*I've also seen this on the green, and I find that somewhat distressing.
posted by heyho at 6:15 PM on November 10, 2009 [23 favorites]


Thanks to everyone who put themselves out there in this and the previous thread. Thanks also to everyone who had a hand in making people feel safe enough to tell us their stories, thoughts and opinions. You've all done a great service for a very many people.
posted by Fat Charlie the Archangel at 6:18 PM on November 10, 2009


Musical interlude/(sort of) comic relief: The Raveonettes' Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed). A catchy little number that also, imo, demonstrates that there are many, many ways to respond to sexual violence. And that one of them can be writing la la la dance tunes.
posted by jokeefe at 7:08 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


heyho, it's hard to understand just how much you must have been through, yet you're brilliant and level-headed when dealing with this. The same goes for a number of women. Thanks.
posted by Sova at 7:17 PM on November 10, 2009


Jesus, heyho.

I think you did the right thing for you at the time, too. I spent a week or so of my senior year in college sitting in a courtroom as part of a support system for a friend who had brought charges of rape against a guy we all kind of knew (he wasn't a friend, exactly, but we all moved in the same political circles). She didn't want her family to hear her testimony, but she wanted someone there, a friend, and that was me. It was an awful, difficult, confusing, brutal trial. I've kind of blocked a lot about it out. Except that he was found not guilty.

I'm glad you survived. I'm glad you're here, on this planet, on this site. If we're ever at a meetup together, I'm buying you the beverage of your choice.
posted by rtha at 7:30 PM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I know all of this has been said - way better than I'm liable to - but I wanted to thank the women who've shared their feelings or experiences about this.

See...I try not to be a jerk. My mother was brave enough to leave my father over domestic violence, and so mistreatment of women is an issue that I care about very much.

Even so, it's easy to forget just how prevalent it is. It doesn't happen to me, and so it's easy to kind of imagine it just happening Someplace Else, or only sometimes, or...I don't know.

Reading about all of this is very painful, but it's also very important. Thanks.
posted by mordax at 7:46 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Of course, she sort of dropped the ball later in my life when I told her there were guys who were staring at me and "pretend" asking me out at lunchtime and her solution was "well stop looking at them and they won't look at you" and ignored the larger issue of me getting harassed at school.

If you don't mind me asking, what do you wish she'd done?
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:32 PM on November 10, 2009


what do you wish she'd done?

Good question. I guess I felt like she was telling me that since I was staring at the guys they were perceiving that as interest and so it was my fault they were giving me weird looks or fake asking me out (to be clear I wasn't getting asked out on dates by guys who liked me, I was getting asked out as a joke by guys who were basically making fun of me in front of their friends). I wish she'd sat me down and talked about her own experiences and how it was okay for me, a junior high girl, to not take shit from people and tell those guys [who were themselves just dorky junior high boys] to leave me alone and quit hassling me and that if it got worse, I should talk to an adult at school who I trusted. Having a "well boys will just be boys, don't tease them" attitude just made me feel like I could just stop looking and they'd stop being there, being creeps. It wasn't true, and I just wound up not talking to her about it because she wasn't helpful and made me feel that it was my fault.

I got a lot of weird negative attention because I was small and shy and developed early and came from the smaller town that shared a high school with the bigger town. My Mom had what always seemed to me a fairly outdated set of ideas about gender roles (and basically went from having an emotionally abusive dad to an emotionally abusive husband) so on the one hand she believed in chivalry and manners and yet she also treated most of my male friends as potential rapists [but not in so many words, she just had convoluted sets of rules for who could be in the house when she was or was not home split by gender because "you never know what might happen...." and then didn't specify] which I thought was creepy and unwarranted.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:45 PM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh, HeyHo. My heart broke there for you. You see, I have made the same decision to not report it - or the many smaller incidents I experienced subsequently for a good long time. In fact, I didn't tell anyone for over a decade. It is a decision I have always struggled with, because I imagine dozens of other girls suffering at his hands, and it makes me mad and sad and angry at myself. In my situation, laced with fear (he told me he was going to follow me home, that he knew where I lived, and promised retribution if I tried to get away; I tried and I got away.), the knowledge that no one would take a girl's word over an adult, and the need to protect the people I was with, I decided to simply survive the incident and not tell anyone; by the time I ran to safety, he had disappeared. I can still hear my younger self rationalizing the decision. I was strong. I could deal with it. I just needed to get us all out of there, and then I went about changing myself so it would never happen again. (hah, she said sardonically) So I glued my world back together into a crazy pattern, and soldiered on.

I didn't tell anyone for 10 years, and I was lucky that the first people I finally told were full of love and compassion and respect for my choices to survive. Even after I was away from the people I was protecting, I internalized it. I was afraid I wouldn't be believed, and I was afraid I would be believed and blamed for not finding a cop and telling him what some short dark-haired man (which was the extent of the description I could give) thought he had the right to do to me. I honestly didn't know what was worse. I didn't understand, even having gone through it, that the act of survival - from the moment he lays a hand on you to the moment you finally feel safe - doesn't follow a single well-worn path. There is no one right way to survive it - the attack, the aftereffect, the reality of it all, the lingering effects. Circumstances vary from woman to woman, and it is up to her to find her path. True friends can shine a light, and they can hold her hand, and they can tell her about their paths, but she has to walk it.
posted by julen at 9:04 PM on November 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


I just wound up not talking to her about it because she wasn't helpful and made me feel that it was my fault.

Something similar happened with me and my mother after the first time I was harassed on the street. It was "just" catcalling, but then, I was just 13, and it made me feel horrible. I don't remember the full conversation - how soon after the incident it happened, how I attempted to explain what happened or how I felt, but I remember as clear as a bell what my mother said: "Well, at least he didn't moo."

The look on her face as she said it was one of deep discomfort, and knowing my mother better now, I think there were a lot of things going on internally - not knowing how to deal with the situation, not feeling comfortable with her children's sexuality, not knowing what do with my anger. But at the time, the message I got was that my reaction was weird and wrong, and for many years I didn't talk to her about harassment I faced in public. Among other things, this led to her being horrified that I never told her about the incredibly creepy chemistry teacher at my high school whose class I was in - I only said something about him when it looked like my sister might end up in his class, which happened years after I graduated.

And, you know, looking back, I don't know if my mother could possibly have said anything that would've made me feel better about the catcalling incident. But if she had acknowledged my feelings, and affirmed that it was unfair and messed up and that I wasn't wrong to feel angry and upset, maybe I would've trusted her more when the creepy chem teacher was ogling the girls in my class, and I wouldn't have felt like I had to tough that out because I couldn't trust an adult to understand what was going on. It might not have changed anything, objectively, but at least I would've felt less isolated.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:29 PM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


My question is how can we create inter-gender discussions on sexual violence that are less dangerous for all involved?

I think we can start with intra-gender discussions.

Let me be clear, first, on one point, men's experience of sexual assault absolutely needs to be taken seriously. However it is not women's job to do this. The best work we can do is to take (collective) responsibility for ourselves (and much of what rtha said about women talking about their experience in mixed groups can also apply to men).

While I agree on the need for inter-gender dialogue, it's closer to something like an end rather than a beginning, and there is a lot we can do to get to that point. Simply listening to survivors is important, regardless of gender, and until we do that we can't make a start.

You might want to get hold of a copy of the Phily Dudes Collective zine (you can get a copy here or via microcosm). It deals with a lot of this territory form the viewpoint of a bunh of guys in the Philly punk scene who decided something needed to be done.
posted by tallus at 10:09 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


My god, heyho. I'm glad you came through it and became who you are today, and you have absolutely no reason to feel bad about your choices then. I feel a particular connection with this because when I was in grad school a female friend of mine withdrew a sexual harassment charge for similar reasons and took similar shit from other women, including "friends" (obviously anyone who would call you "cunt, bitch, whore" or pray that it happens again is not a decent human being, let alone a friend); I was and am appalled. Anyone who finds themselves on the powerless end of the stick in situations like that has to make the best choices they can to ensure their own survival and safety. I realize the other women were acting badly because of their own fears and suppressed anger at the whole setup, but that doesn't excuse them. Anyway, good for you, and (again) good for all the women sharing their stories here.
posted by languagehat at 6:59 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


While I agree on the need for inter-gender dialogue, it's closer to something like an end rather than a beginning, and there is a lot we can do to get to that point.

From the other side of the gender spectrum/gap, I have to agree, though I'm not sure how much of that is me just feeling like the whole subject's a minefield for men -- as well it probably should be, not because we of the penis are all evil or whatever, but because so much of what you guys (meaning, like, women) have talked about here that isn't straight-up, unambiguous assault that anyone can agree is wrong is, in fact, about assumption and generally (implicitly) culturally-accepted attitudes; that is to say, the sense I've had from these threads is that there are things wrong that men don't realize are wrong, and maybe don't realize because we don't listen to women and, that being the case, it's kind of counter-productive for us to do much more here than listen. As I read this thread, it becomes plain that almost all of the posters are women, and I think that means that male MeFi as a whole is in the same place I am w/r/t it all -- I don't think it means that men aren't here. I mean, I hope not, because I think we should be. But, to be really honest, I think the more productive role for us in these conversations is, uh, not being participants in them. I've wanted to say this a few times since the initial thread, but I've been unsure of how to approach it. Basically, though, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm aware the more important conversation is women telling these stories to each other, and aware that the tone changes if we (men) are too much a part of that. So, um, you can see how figuring out how to present that sentiment would be difficult for me, in this context. I hope I've done an okay job; I will shut up now.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:06 AM on November 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


I wish I could say I'm astounded at the tales of mothers who are unable to deal with the harrassment their daughters are facing, but I'm not. Just last month, when I finally got a restraining order against the ex-boyfriend who'd been harrassing and stalking me for nearly two years, my mother told me I'd gone over board. "Can't you just be friends with him?" she asked. "That's all he wants."

She told my sister and I "don't look at them and they won't bother you," even though we described a gauntlet of boys who stood outside the cafeteria and "rated" junior high girls as we came out of lunch, clutching our notebooks over our chests. She ignored our complaints about a man in our church who made all the girls uncomfortable, who stood too close and talked too quietly and whose gaze lingered too long in the wrong places. She didn't report a girl in my camping group who wet her bed every night and gave off other pitch-perfect signals that she was being sexually abused. She says now that she knew what was going on but felt she'd be better able to help if the girl stayed in our club, rather than being placed in foster care.

I don't think my mother is a bad person. So why did she ignore these things? Was she afraid of her own daughters' burgeoning sexuality, unwilling to admit that adult men could see what she didn't want to see? Did she think that we were making things up for attention? Does she think now that I really want to wind up in court, dealing with the police, risking a confrontation, over someone who "just wants to be friends"?

I think it's very hard for adult women to be their own champions when the person we trust most in the world fails to champion for us, tells us we're overreacting, and ignores our complaints at a time when we're unable to determine whether or not what we're experiencing is okay.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:24 AM on November 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


Oh heyho. I'm so sorry for what you went through after with some of your peers.

It's unfortunate that when someone else experiences something so traumatic that I wonder if others cannot comprehend it - it's so scary - and they can only consider how it may impact them. It's so confusing in so many ways.

[I see a similar response at work - I work at a cancer hospital - and often with patients that have some horrid cancer that is killing them fast and there's no treatment, the family and friends just cannot deal. They argue in front of or with the patient. They complain to staff about other little things. Or they simply leave. It's tragic to watch this failure to cope. This failure to be what you need to be for the person that is dying. This is of course another topic - but the failure to respond in the way that's best for the one that is suffering, because of personal fear, because you've never had to really think about this before, I think is very similar].

For me, that is one reason why these threads have been important. It's some light onto all the tangents that veer off this uncomfortable subject. We are having this conversation.

Another reason this is valuable is I think it provides hope for change. When I wrote my story I felt very fatalistic for change. I felt embarrassed that I posted it. I thought - this is just how it is. And I think I learned that at a young age. Similar to Jessamyn's comments about her Mom's response (and peanut_mcgillicuty's on preview), the adults in my life when this started to happen when I was a child indirectly said there was nothing to do about it - and to stop what I was doing to invite any of it.

But reading others and then hearing other people thank those that told their stories - I don't know - It was really touching. I felt touched by it. I felt a collective hug from this community. It was really nice! It made me feel like what happened to me and others was NOT ACCEPTABLE. Finally.

And I feel hope from that imaginary embrace! So thank you to all that have thanked others. Thank you for helping me feel hope for change. Now maybe I can be a better friend or adult for the women and girls in my life that experience this stupid shit. Thank you for that.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:12 AM on November 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


I don't know if we're still really in the 'share personal stories' part of the thread, but there's one thing that keeps popping up in my mind that i'm so ashamed of, and i've never felt safe enough to talk about it. I think I mostly just want to confess it. Maybe it'll help someone else. Maybe just me?

(For the 'we're not alone' record - I've had the usual suspects. The groping, intrusive and dominating physical displays, aggressive sexual comments, being followed home, etc. I've had some of the lesser-encountered ones too - molested by Father and by my brother's friend by the time i was..4? Around 4. Assaulted by various guys in my teens, to varying degrees, a few quite invasive and painful. One i'd forgotten, and just now remembered..an old man on my street. He'd ask the neighbourhood girls, all of us only about 9, in to have sodas and he'd make us sit next to him and put his hand on our upper thighs and caress them. He always, always had a fridge full to the brim of Cokes. I haven't remembered that in years.)

Now. The story of one particular thing, and then the reason I feel so ashamed of my reaction to it.

I met and befriended a trio of guys when I was around 18. We four became good friends, bonded over music and video games, had frequent sleepover gaming nights. After one of these gaming/pizza nights, I felt woozy and ill and was driven home. Two of the guys needed to work the next day and so went home, and the third offered to stay and look after me until my boyfriend arrived home from a trip the next day.

I was very dizzy and sick at this point, so put on my flannel PJ's and crawled straight into bed. When I woke up it was pitch black and his hand was in my pants, between my legs. The rest isn't really necessary, but in the end I rolled over away from him pretending to still be asleep/passed out. I faked unconscious until dawn, when he got up and quietly left.

The reason I feel dirty is what I did next. Despite having a pretty decent grasp of basic feminism by that point, despite basing a lot of my then-self-esteem on consciously trying not to fall into Helpless Female Running To A Man And Expecting Him To Fix Things behaviors...I did just that.

I told my boyfriend what had happened, and fully expected him (one of those hugely tall/beefy guys who is very calm and non-violent) to go beat up the guy. And when he didn't, when he just tried to care for me and ask me what I needed, I felt bitterly angry. And again when my guy friends found out...for all the 18-year-old posturing they'd all done - 'If anyone ever hurts you, we'll destroy them!', that silly sort of thing, no-one did anything and I was so furious. My feminism went out the door, along with my fledgling views on gender expectations and the problems inherent in them, and I just expected them all to risk criminal charges, their jobs, a new army career in my boyfriend's case...to go violently beat up this guy. Because they were guys, and that's what guys who loved you were Supposed To Do, right? Movies told me so!

Isn't that awful. I bitterly held that grudge a long time, too, and used it as a weapon to hurt my boyfriend sometimes. Thank god he is a saint, and endured until I realised what a horrible, unfair thing I was doing and being.

This is an aspect of 'how this atmosphere harms us all, men and women alike' that I hadn't really seen here. I was wary of being alone with men for a while after that, but I was also so damn bitter at my boyfriend, at all my male friends, for not making good on what society had seemed to tell me was the appropriate 'If you care about me, this is how you'll react' response.

And as a side note - someone mentioned upthread that you would have a tiny list of shows to watch if you cut out all of the ones that use rape as a plot device. It's true, and I know it is, because for the last few years i've had to do it to be able to function. It's hard to stop destructive, obsessive mental tics like 'You'll be raped again, it's just a matter of time!' when you're being constantly reminded of them. Keep a little tab of how often things you watch feature women being raped, it'll get quickly demoralising.

You know what, I'm only 25, I shouldn't feel this tired.
posted by pseudonymph at 8:43 AM on November 11, 2009 [12 favorites]


I'm only 22. As much as I appreciate these threads, a lot of it has been so depressing, because for me it's like, "Oh, joy. Look how much of this crap I still have to look forward to!"
posted by audacity at 9:09 AM on November 11, 2009


pseudonymph, if it's any consolation, I don't get any kind of a read that you "abandoned feminism" from your wish that your boyfriend would have beat the guy up. I think it's very, very human to want an ally of some sort in that situation -- you know, "what the hell, doesn't someone have my back? Am I the only one that's this pissed off about what happened? Am I all alone in this?" And combine that with your probably still trying to wrap your head around what had even happened -- of course, you want to reach out to someone you trust and someone who supports you.

So I really hope you can find a way to move away from feeling like "Bad Feminist" because you reached out to your boyfriend, and you hoped he'd lash out at the guy. You may be feminist -- but Jesus, you're also human. You were hurt, you were violated, you reached out to someone you trusted, you were angry, you hoped he was angry too -- that all went into that stew of your reaction. Hell, my formative years were spent during the ERA/"Free To Be You And Me" years, but when I was in a scary pinch I still texted my then-boyfriend a "come rescue me!" message. It's not about "lapsing in feminism", it's about being a human being asking for help. You are allowed to do that -- no, you are ENTITLED to do that.

You understand now that they may have had fears about jail time, etc. -- but please forgive yourself for thinking the way you did then. Because you'd just been through something very traumatic, and you had a very, very human reaction to it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:20 AM on November 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


I didn't comment in the original thread because I came to it late, was dealing with a friend who lost her brother, was stressed with work, etc etc. But I've read every word, some of them many times.

I am so grateful to the women who shared their painful personal stories. I have been hearing women share these stories all my life. I've lived some of those stories. Thank you all because I think these threads will offer help and hope to many other women who thought their experiences were unique. Especially those who have been isolated in fear of being perceived as crazy, bitchy, slutty, or weak if they spoke up. What has been particularly painful to hear is the burden of guilt and self-blame that so many women carried for the way they did or didn't respond to assaults and affronts. My God. But what has been particularly inspiring is to hear all the women who have moved on to happy, positive lives and loving relationships with men despite having suffered horrific assaults.

In addition to the brave personal stories by women, all you wonderful guys who've participated and said such awesome things have moved me profoundly. Even tho I haven't been the one speaking, I have nevertheless felt so intensely listened to, respected and understood by such a broad group of men. From my perspective, mefi had come a long, long way in being a more women-friendly place in the last 2 years. Not that long ago, expressing concern about imagery of violence to women was not particularly well received.

I must say these threads have been deeply healing to me. As others have noted: best of the web. Indeed.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:43 AM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I want to address something that I keep seeing in the personal accounts here that has really been bothering me.

A lot (I think the majority) of the stories in the personal accounts of harassment, abuse and rape begin with "I was just going through puberty," "I developed early," or something like "I was wearing a shirt that didn't completely hide the fact that I was female."

While I understand that maybe these things really are much more prevalent when you wear a shirt that isn't really baggy, and that all the harassment and shit really didn't start until you began developing breasts, this really, really sounds like "self-blame" to me, like part of you thinks that these events could have been avoided if you hadn't committed the crime of going out in public while being even slightly attractive.

I developed very late. I hit puberty at a non-outlier age (12), but I didn't develop breasts or really feminine characteristics at all until I was 15 or 16. By this time, all of the major terrible sexual things that have happened to me* had already happened. I was kissed and touched inappropriately by a school teacher old enough to be my grandfather (if not great-grandfather) when I was four. I was grabbed and touched inappropriately by boys throughout my childhood. I was held down in the woods and hurt and threatened with rape when I was 10 or 11. When I was 14 (and flat as a pancake), I lost my virginity through coerced sex with a boy who routinely belittled me, verbally abused me, would not use a condom, and made me have sex when I did not want to, despite me telling him how much I did not want to (sometimes in front of or in a room with other people, even if I started crying because I hated it so much).

None of these things had anything to do with what I looked like, or with me dressing attractively. These events had to do with the fact that I was female and therefore, in the eyes of these boys and men, I could be controlled. I was vulnerable because I was female and thus smaller physically—and in t least one case, being female seemed to make me an object of hatred for one boy who must have had an incredibly awful home life.

The fact that you have been harassed, abused, and raped has very little to do with your physical appearance, beyond that fact that you appear to be female. It is not your fault for having breasts, it is not your fault for wearing a tight shirt, it is not your fault for having cleavage occasionally. It is not your fault. I know all or most of you already KNOW this, but I just wanted to tell you again. It can't be repeated enough.

*the things that fall on the side of physical sexual abuse and rape, rather than general and frightening harassment which continued and which I still experience. When I think of it, this probably did actually increase after I developed breasts. But I still think that having breasts has very little to do with it.
posted by audacity at 9:56 AM on November 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


I've been trying to figure out how to phrase my personal story with respect to this discussion without naming names, potentially outing prior partners who could come and participate in this thread if they wanted to, but who haven't so far. Trying to figure out how to say something meaningful and relevant and personal without being disrespectful.

I wanted to say that I am, as my friends and relatives call me, "well-trained" with respect to respecting and supporting the women I know. What I think this means is that they recognize that I try to be and often am conscientious, proactive, observant, supportive, and a lot of positive things with regard to egalitarianism and activism in my household, with my family, with friends, with my community, etc. This holds for not only these violent issues but also simple housework and pet care and being attentive to other things I am or should be responsible for.

Additionally, I am a man, but am also intersex. I pass and present as a normal man because that's what I was raised as, because it's most fitting, easiest for me to get by in business where I must keep a job to remain the primary contributor to household income.
I was also trained feminist by a feminist mother in the 60's, 70's and 80's and I have formal training in Women's Studies (a minor, earned alongside my B.S. in Chemistry, in 1995). In school when I was of a more activist bent I did a lot of activism in feminism, in queer spaces (gender-queerness especially), in anti-racism. I'm a good activist because I'm opinionated and can be loud when need be.

For a long time, in a lot of relationships with strong women (no surprise that I tend to adore strong women, I think), I had relationships with women who had never been sexually assaulted. Yes, they had been harassed - I don't think I know of more than one or two women I've met in my life (with whom I've become close enough to talk about this subject) who hasn't felt that she had never been harassed - but they hadn't experienced sexual assault. I didn't realize until that streak of luck broke just how weird that was.

Let me also say that when I was young, I was jealous AND possessive (because of old family patterns, likely). As I got older, I was still jealous (I know, because this is partly why open relationships just don't work for me) but not nearly so possessive.

Until I got in relationships with women who had already been sexually assaulted before I was in the picture, I used to worry that sexual assault would happen during my relationship with my partner(s). I used to worry what would happen - how I would react - what level of violence I'd feel like I had to perpetrate should it happen. I used to worry that my response wouldn't be enough or that it would be too much. I used to think that I'd be honor-bound to do it.

Nothing like sexual assault ever happened those partners during that time that I know of. It was all just dark, obsessive, unproductive, hurtful fantasy driven by worry and fear.

Especially so because I've never struck any human in my life. I did get in one fight in High School, but it was one I started with a gesture and I immediately lost due to a choke-hold. Then I talked my and his way out of 5 days of suspension with the Vice Principal, but that's another story. Any other almost-violent confrontations in my life have unfolded the same way. This is not to say I haven't been violent around other people (my violence, if it broils over, usually goes into inanimate things). And it's also not to say that I have fooled myself into thinking that can't be equally as scary for folks sensitive or sensitized to such things. That problem is one that I keep working on even today.

But it also bears mentioning that because of my feminist and pro-communication upbringing, when I fight with words, I fight fair. That's important to me and has been important to my partners. And beyond that when I am in a relationship, it's equally important to me that my partner feels empowered to have opinions and desires that do not agree with my own, that she feels empowered to talk with me or have it out with me if we have a disagreement that is interfering with her ongoing happiness or comfort. If that's not happening, I realize that it's my responsibility to make sure that I put enough effort into what I can contribute to to make it happen.

When I started getting in relationships with women who had already experienced sexual assault, the question of appropriate response to past sexual assaults of those partners became not moot, but I guess not as violently immediate or necessary. The harm to her (emotionally, physically) had already been done, we hoped it wouldn't happen again. She knew how bad it could be. I knew that while I didn't feel the need to go violently beat someone over this old crime, I also knew that I wouldn't piss on these guys to put them out if they were on fire. But that callous lack of regard in return for the old crimes and abuse are/were different from what I worried about in my prior relationships.

I so very much wish that there were a right answer that pleased everyone. Even internally (within myself, my conscience, my consciousness), because of the way I'm wired, I tend to have my first reaction to these kinds of threats, these kinds of acts be violent. And the way I've got my morals and ethics worked out, it's equally definite that I'll clamp down on that immediate response and not carry out whatever dark fantasy occurs. But I'm here and ready and willing to talk, and also to do my part policing my fellow men where I can, to do my part putting my own ass on the line if necessary to call attention to the bad behavior I see them do.
posted by kalessin at 10:02 AM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Look how much of this crap I still have to look forward to!

Yeah. I had my first serious conversations like this one late in high school, and particularly in college, and my reaction was inevitably a combination of "thank god, I'm not alone and I'm not crazy," and "dear god, I've been fortunate, when does my luck run out?" and "women are unbelievably amazing and strong" and "now we have to leave this room and face all of this all over again." It was depressing, and motivating, and the sheer range of emotions in the room was exhausting, but at least we were talking to each other. At least the problems were shared, and recognized as problems, even if we knew we were looking at a lifetime of dealing with them. That was something. It didn't feel like enough, but it was something.

I've found this and the original thread encouraging, because when I was having all those conversations 10ish years ago I could not conceive of a large, public, mixed-sex forum where stories like heyho's and chara's and pseudonymph's and all the others that have been told here would be taken seriously, especially on the internet. These were stories told behind closed doors, in small groups, usually (but not always) exclusively women. The fact that that's changing, here and elsewhere, gives me hope. It's so good to see women standing up to tell their stories to a wider audience, and to see men standing with women in saying that these are stories that matter, that need to be told, and heard, and learned from. There's still a long way to go, but conversations like this make me feel like we're at least taking steps in the right direction.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:43 AM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I wholeheartedly agree, EvaDestruction.

Note: Above, when I was talking about how few women I've known who seemed to feel they'd never been harassed, I think I totally confused myself with nested multiple negatives. So sorry about that.
posted by kalessin at 10:49 AM on November 11, 2009


I don't know if we're still really in the 'share personal stories' part of the thread

I can only speak for myself, but as far as I'm concerned, we're always in the "share personal stories" part of the thread, and it's not a "phase" we're going to move beyond. So I want to listen, if you want to speak.

I remember being out with my sister walking around during the day. She had just flown in from some camping expedition and it was summer, so she was wearing shorts, sandals, a tank-top, and not much else. As we were walking around, the stares she was getting from men on the street were intense, almost physically palpable, and it was incredibly uncomfortable. Certainly, it was uncomfortable for me, and I was just standing next to her; I can only imagine how she must have felt, or maybe I can't. I took her arm, and she was hugging into my side really close, as if she wanted to disappear. My sister is a vibrant, gregarious person, and in the space of a few minutes she'd been pressed into this strange, awkward silence. You guys don't know my sister, of course, but if you know someone who has one of those happy, bubbling laughs, imagine that person walking hunched over, staring at the ground, mouth clamped shut, and that's a pretty good impression of how totally unnatural the whole thing was. Finally she asked me in a whisper if we could go home so she could change clothes, which of course we did. Perhaps needless to say, we didn't leave the house again that day.

I remembered that story while I was reading through the other thread. She and I have never really talked about it, but here's the fucked up thing I keep thinking about: for me, that was an event worth remembering, because it was so unusual and so charged with this crazy, unwanted sexualization. For her, it was probably a Tuesday.
posted by Errant at 11:25 AM on November 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


So I want to listen, if you want to speak.

I second this.
posted by chara at 11:27 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can only speak for myself, but as far as I'm concerned, we're always in the "share personal stories" part of the thread, and it's not a "phase" we're going to move beyond. So I want to listen, if you want to speak.

Yes, this. If you have a story and you want to share it, please do.
posted by palomar at 12:08 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


she was wearing shorts, sandals, a tank-top, and not much else

Okay, admittedly I lived in Florida for the past 12 years, but that definitely seems like it covers all the required clothing areas. How "much else" can a person wear? I feel so bad for your sister!

I am so pissed off about this, what? A fucked-up form of clothing-policing? Ugh.
posted by audacity at 12:37 PM on November 11, 2009


*to clarify, I am calling the creepy staring some "fucked up form of clothing-policing" (although I don't know if that's actually the goal).
posted by audacity at 12:38 PM on November 11, 2009


Just remembered a story, and this one has a good ending - I used to work for a friend of my parent's as a receptionist at a radio station. I wasn't very happy with it; I'm not a good receptionist, and a few of the men working there were real jerks. One in particular was a sort-of partner in the business, who tried his best daily to leer, yell, be rude, and gross me out with dirty pictures, all while I'm stuck at my desk, and can't do squat about it - a really nasty piece of work. So, eventually I got a better job, and the evening after my last day, I go for dinner with my parents and their friend, who had been my boss. The restaurant is close by the office, and who staggers in drunk, but the sort-of partner. He walks up to our table, and says loudly - "hey, it's you're last day - we're going to do it tonight!". This is pretty mortifying, until I notice my dad - carefully putting down his cutlery, glaring at the guy, and slowly moving his chair back. If that jerk had said one more word, he would have been toast. It was so amazing to for once know I had someone on my side. Since then I've always tried to stick up for anyone that's getting picked on, as best as I can. I guess that's my point here - for the guys here asking "what can I do?" It can be as simple as letting the victim know that there's someone on their side, and the aggressor know that the victim is not alone.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:41 PM on November 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


How "much else" can a person wear?

Yeah, I may have phrased that badly, but to clarify, neither she nor I thought she was even close to risque or out of the ordinary. No one said anything to her, which is a small mercy I suppose, but it also makes it hard to explain just how it felt. It was just people looking or staring, what's harmful about that?

Well, I've never really experienced "objectification" that palpably before. It really felt like a physical presence weighing her down.

I also don't mean to reinforce any sort of notion of "well, if she were dressed differently..." or other garbage. At the time, it seemed like the only thing she could think to do or say, and I just wanted to ger her home so she could try to feel safe again. It was just really a strange experience, but I guess that's my point: it was strange for me. I wonder how strange it really was for her.
posted by Errant at 1:21 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I alluded to my experience, but I guess I could share it, too.

When I was a kid I was a naïve wallflower, and nobody really paid attention to me. I was an "early bloomer", but mostly wore baggy clothes that were hand-me-downs from my brother. I didn't have a boyfriend and had never kissed anyone. When I was barely 15, I went to a friend's birthday party, which was at her house with no parents around. It was an Evening Out, so I dressed up a little: I was wearing a skirt that went down to my knees, and a short-sleeved blouse. There was alcohol there and I had never been drunk before, but people kept pouring me drinks and I didn't want to turn them down, because it felt interesting to be drunk and I didn't want to be rude or ungrateful.

Most of the party was outside because it was a nice night, but there were a few people inside in the family room, and I was with them. Eventually everyone had drifted outside except me and two older boys, one of whom I knew and the other of whom I didn't. The boy I didn't know came over and sat beside me and put his hand on my thigh, and then kissed me and slid his hand up my skirt. The next thing I knew he was on top of me, and I was facedown on the couch with someone's hand in my hair pinning me there. Someone pulled my underwear off and they took turns raping me. I was too frightened to move or yell. Afterward one of them said, "You liked it, right?" and the other told me not to tell anyone, and then they unlocked the door and went out into the backyard where everyone else was. I washed my face in the bathroom and then walked home, took a very long shower, and threw away the skirt.

I didn't tell anyone for a long time because I thought I had done something wrong. In health class at my (Catholic, if that matters) school, they skimmed over sexual assault and gave us a list of things to do to stay safe, which I guess I had taken to heart? I violated some items on the list (I was wearing a skirt that was maybe not long enough, I didn't use the "buddy system", I was drunk), so it must have been my fault.

Some years later I was dating a guy who was mean and would start cruel arguments when he was drunk. We had a lot of rough sex that was fun for me (although it was never really playful, which should have clued me in that something was wrong). We also never really went out with my friends (because he didn't like them), only his (it didn't matter that I didn't like them). One night out we were sitting in a bar together, and under the table he grabbed my hand and put it on his crotch. I tried to pull away but he just tightened his hand around my wrist, and I don't think his friends noticed. I managed to shake it off and got up to go to the bathroom, because I was completely unnerved and wanted to regroup for a minute, and he followed me there (the bathrooms were the unisex kind that are individual rooms with a lock on the door, for privacy). He told me to suck his cock and I demurred, and he slapped me across the mouth, so I did it. When he finished we went back to our table, and his friends were laughing; one of them gave him a high five.

That was the first time he hit me, but things kind of escalated from there, and we were only together for another month or so. I was terrified the entire time, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong that would elicit these reactions. At night he would fuck me and then fall asleep, and I would lie in bed awake crying but trying not to move for fear of waking him up. The last straw was one day when I told him I didn't want to fuck, and he pushed me down the stairs and stormed out and slammed the door behind him. (What convinced me was that nobody deserves to be pushed down the stairs.) I called a friend and asked for help getting out, and we did it.

I feel pretty sick typing all of this out, but maybe it will help someone the way that reading all of your stories helped me. None of us is alone.

p.s. thanks metafilter for drawing me out of my shell! mostly before I lurked but now I want to contribute, I want to know you.
posted by bewilderbeast at 1:28 PM on November 11, 2009 [22 favorites]


Errant, I know you didn't mean that; the impression that I thought you meant that was what I was trying to avoid with my clarification comment. I was annoyed by your description of your sister's clothing, but not at you. It's just evidence of how reinforced this stuff is throughout society, that even when we know better these phrases still come out of our mouths.
posted by audacity at 1:30 PM on November 11, 2009


I missed the original thread, so I am grateful to jokeefe for this MeTa thread. The most poignant part of my experience reading these threads was ingesting heyho's story, shaking and with tears flowing freely and thinking how very LUCKY I am that I was only raped by my ex-husband. Even though those episodes forceful and humiliating, they weren't ...vicious. Even though he busted down my door and stalked me for weeks after I kicked him out, at least he didn't send me to the hospital. The more I thought about it, the more I considered what a fucked-up rubric I've constructed to think I'm lucky because my assailant was "just my husband." So I started noting the instances in the thread that reminded me of similar situations in my experience and I have been shocked to realized just how many of those instances touched a nerve. I'm going to list some of them here, just to stand with the others who have shared similar experiences.

I am often mistaken for being much taller than I am because of the way I carry myself and as a kid, I was a tomboy. I was also, unfortunately for pubescent me, exceptionally curvy. From about fifth grade through the end of middle school, one breast or the other had (or both, sometimes) had bruises where they'd been pinched or squeezed at recess, in the lunch line, at my locker. In seventh grade, I was wearing a pair of those big, brown suede hiking boots with the red laces when I kicked a particularly nasty guy in the crotch after he pinched and twisted so hard I saw stars. The principal knew the situation from teachers, as it had been going on for a year (in hindsight, thanks for stepping in sooner, buddy) and when I sat down in his office he closed the door and said, "I pretty much have to do this for show. How's your brother doing these days?" And that was that. I don't even think they called my mother. If they didn't, she never said anything to me about it. But there was always groping, grabbing, pressing up in close spaces. In elementary school, the perps were older boys, but from middle school on, guys with whom I'd grown up and considered friends joined in. Then there was the random way older guy who would drive up beside me and my grade school BFF with his window down-"Hey girl! Look! Look!" gesturing to his penis on his lap or in his hand.

When I was eighteen, I was on my way to my boyfriend's house at about 4 in the afternoon. We were going to go for a motorcycle ride and then out to dinner. It was a warm summer afternoon and I was walking through a nice neighborhood on the edge of campus made up mostly of faculty and older residents. I was wearing a denim skirt that hit just above my knees, a new summer sweater, some nice heels I'd borrowed from my roommate and I felt so pretty in this nice outfit and the sun was shining on me and I didn't have a care in the world. A perfect day. Out of nowhere, I hear footsteps POUNDING behind me on the sidewalk and before I could even turn around, this wiry guy had his hand up my skirt, finger inside me and pretty much lifted me off the ground before he ran away. I was so furious, I lost all sense and chased him at least half a block before he realized I was behind him. When he thought I was still back on the sidewalk where he left me, he slowed down a little. And he chuckled. At that point I started screaming at the top of my lungs for someone to call the police and all sorts of people popped outside to see what was going on. I chased him through people's backyards and over one fence, but my body reminded me that I was wearing those damned shoes and I had to stop and weep with rage in some kind old woman's back yard while I waited for the police.

Not a month later, there was a serial rapist in our neighborhood. The women in the neighborhood were mostly college-aged and got to be safety savvy pretty fast. We were mostly horrified by the fact that this man was raping roommates-- not just one, but both-- restraining one while raping the other and then switching. My roommate and I lived in a little stone carriage house that a large living room on the ground level and everything else upstairs. In addition to the front door on the ground level, there was also a sturdy door at the top of the stairs. We kept both of those locked religiously. At the end of the month, my roommate went off to college out of state. I had a week to myself before my new roommate moved in. That first night alone, I felt nervous, so I locked up the doors and all the windows, except for the bathroom window, as it was nearly impossible to reach without a ladder. I had just drifted off to sleep when I heard all my shampoo /conditioner/shower gel bottles clattering out of the windowsill and into the tub. Fueled by pure adrenaline, I ran into the bathroom, grabbing the first thing I could lay my hands on-- the hairdryer. There was a large man climbing in the window and I was alone and locked upstairs with him. For whatever idiotic reason, my brain chose this manner of defense: I brandished the hairdryer and screamed, "Who the hell are you?" and he miraculously slipped right back out the window (he had gotten up there by climbing the stone wall of the house). I watched him run to a parked car and I got a clear view of his car and enough of his license plate number that the police came up with a name. When I described him, the cop took a deep breath and said, "I think you probably realize he didn't come here to rob you." This was, I was told, the rapist who had been violating my neighbors that summer. I have no idea if they ever caught him.

When I was in my 20s and my son was an infant, guys in cars would catcall and make slurpy noises or ask me for milk or scream out of cars windows how much they liked my big fat titties. In front of my infant son and everyone else on the street. Once, I had an afternoon to myself and decided to have a pint at the local and I was deeply engrossed in a book when some guy presses right up next to me, even though I was the only other customer in the place. Sure enough, "Hi. Whatcha reading?" I looked the guy in the eye, flipped the book around so he could see the cover and said with as little emotion as possible, "Eighteenth century novel" and went back to reading. Thus earning me the title, "Fucking snotty bitch. Fuck you. I was just trying to be nice."

I'm in my mid-forties now. I still deal with this shit. A couple years ago when I was traveling alone abroad, I was sitting in a little park watching the beautiful sunset over a little French river opposite my hotel, writing in my journal. Three guys came into view from one side and circled me like hyaenas. They started chatting me up and I loudly said, in English, "Leave me alone!" Then came the chuckling and the comments about English girls and I thought for a minute that when I opened my mouth I was going to correct them about my nationality, but instead I just screamed and screamed and screamed. And they went away, hurling angry insults at me that I couldn't understand.

I still have to worry about doing long bike rides by myself, because in addition to the worries every cyclist has about cycling-hating or careless drivers and loose dogs, I also have to worry about the occasional creep who shows up on my wheel when I'm miles out of town where there are no houses. And he won't pass me, he just hangs back there watching me. And I don't dare stop, I just keep pedaling and wonder if I should turn off or change my route or curse myself for riding sixty miles when I had only planned on fifty. If I say "Pass me, please!" he lingers for a minute before blowing past me without a word. Just to let me know that I'm not really in control of the situation.

I still worry about the creep who, for weeks this summer, shadowed me in the evening as I walked my dog in the cemetery in my neighborhood. Whatever direction I went or pace I kept, he would match from about fifty yards away. One day, he backed me into a corner area of the cemetery and fortunately, my sweet little hound went berserk. "Can I pet your dog?" I told the guy that my dog didn't like men and that he needed to step away. The guy loped off, but he was back again and again and again, no matter what time I went. He never approached me again, but he would shadow me. I would think he wasn't there and halfway through our walk, I'd see him watching me from some distance away. A few weeks ago, I pointed my finger at him and yelled, "I know what you're doing, and I don't like it!" He walked away and I haven't seen him since. But I wonder constantly if he just watches more discretely now and I don't see him. Did he ever watch me walk home and he knows where I live?

Don't get me wrong. I have always had wonderful relationships with my male friends. I cheered aloud for AwesomeGuy upthread, because I KNOW THAT GUY AND HIS FRIENDS AND I LOVE THEM! But the guys who have assaulted me, molested me, raped me, and prompted me to scream at the top of my lungs to leave me alone are twenty and they're fifty. They're roughshod and they're well-to-do. They're Caucasian, African-American, Middle Eastern, Latino. They're thin and wiry, they're thick and muscular. Frat boys and transients. Loud and quiet. Short and tall. On foot and using a vehicle. With glasses and without. Close-cropped and hirsute. I remember them all, thirty-some years' worth. There is no one thing about these guys that clues me in to the fact that they mean to give me a hard time or worse until they start in. They just look like ordinary guys, by all appearances. I just want to walk my dog or go for a bicycle ride and think about the things I need to get done or work through hypotheses in my head or simply just BE in my own space and look at the goddamn sunset without having to feel like I might have to scream or otherwise defend myself because some guy wants my attention (and whatever else he feels entitled to) and that I owe it to him.

And even looking over my recollections here, I still feel so fortunate that I have not encountered the horribly violent episodes that so many brave women have shared here (and that I know have happened to women in my circle of friend ORL). Reading the original thread was so eye-opening for me because I had no idea that there are so many who have shared the same indignity, violence, shame, and anger. It sounds odd, but it feels like a door has somehow been opened for me, that I really am not some sort of freak magnet, and that I am in very good company. Thank you to everyone for such a productive discussion. This has been a monumental bit of reading for me.
posted by Heretic at 1:31 PM on November 11, 2009 [23 favorites]


Regarding objectification: when I was fourteen, I accompanied my father to his workplace, which at that time was a kind of hostel/social club for sailors (this being a port city). He was busy in the office for a minute, and I was standing by the stairs. In the next room I realized, there was a man standing-- thin, middle aged-- who was staring at me. I've never been looked at like that before or since. If his gaze could have burned the clothes off my body it would have. He looked me up and down as if he was not just starved but ready to do murder. I cringed away from him and found my father. I didn't tell him because I really had no idea how to describe what I had just experienced. In fact, this is the first time I've ever told this story to anyone, because how to explain how somebody standing thirty feet away and just looking at me could cause me to feel a cascade of shame, fear, terror, and a desperate desire to no longer possess my body, which made me such a target?
posted by jokeefe at 1:33 PM on November 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


When I was in college, I was hanging out on a bar patio with my friends. I saw my older brother walk by and I ran to the wall of the patio to say hi to him. As I stepped up onto the tiny ledge at the bottom of the wall, a really big football player grabbed my ass. As I think has been made clear here, being groped is unnerving and embarrassing, and in this case it felt particularly so because he had done it to show his large group of friends and he made me look and feel like a joke. When somebody grabs my ass or my tits and I don't know them, it's all I can feel. My blood runs cold and my face turns bright red and it is humiliating like that dream where you are naked in public. Everyone is looking at me, and the sum total of my parts is his hand on my ass.

My brother nearly launched himself over the wall at the guy's throat and they started a weird awkward pushing/tugging match with the brick wall between them. I was stuck in between football guy and the wall, trying to hold him back, getting scraped and smothered. Other people finally stepped in to separate them and I ran out of the bar into my brother's arms.

I was angry at the football guy, of course, and I was scared to see my brother get into a fight, and I was pretty drunk, but a lot of my tears were from my anger at my brother for stepping in and not letting me make this guy look like an idiot in public. For a split second, I had felt like this was finally my chance to fight back and shame someone who had taken what was mine. It felt like the chance I had been waiting for all my life, and I think I felt cloistered that my brother managed it for me. Add to that being humiliated in the first place and I was beside myself.

I understood where my brother was coming from, and I didn't stay mad at him. I cherish his over-protectiveness of me, and honestly don't think he was really making any kind of conscious decision when he stepped in, but I felt like I lost an opportunity that night.

I don't think my perspective sunk in for him until years later. Football guy came up to him at some point and said, "Hey man, I don't know if you remember, but we got in a fight when I touched your sister's ass at the Deli one night and I'm sorry." My brother shared the exchange with me, pleased that the dude had apologized, and I started to cry again when I asked my brother where my apology was.

--

There are other stories I wanted to add to this thread, if only because I am proud of the voices who have spoken up and I'd like to be a part of it. I appreciate that so many of you are still reading and listening and talking. This conversation has been amazing to witness. Even the people who don't understand are contributing something: they are showing you how difficult this topic is, and why people have a hard time bringing these things up, and how no matter how many times women say, "Please see what's happening here" there are still many people who can't or won't.

This story sucks as an example because it wasn't a triumph of anything and it's barely even an egregious example. But I've always felt twisted up about it and confused and these threads helped me see why: this is hard for all of us and it is incredibly difficult to know the right answer and response. So I wanted to put it here so that I don't have to keep it inside anymore. Football guy recognized eventually that it was a dick move and I hope he's stopped drunkenly grabbing asses. My brother protected a woman he loved, and then he also understood that she needs to be empowered, too. And I finally realize that it isn't that I lost a precious chance to fight back, or that I deserved an apology I never got. Those are fucking consolation prizes that I can't believe I wanted so bad. What I deserved was not to have my ass grabbed in the first place.
posted by juliplease at 1:34 PM on November 11, 2009 [14 favorites]


Oh my god, bewilderbeast. I agree with everyone else that it's good not to be alone, but oh my god. I sometimes really, really do wish I was the only one, that mine were isolated incidents. I hate it that these things happened to you.

nobody deserves to be pushed down the stairs

Jesus.
posted by audacity at 1:35 PM on November 11, 2009


I taught a class today for high school staff and teachers. The topic was Google docs. I was showing people how you could create a form and have it populate a spreadsheet. Pretty tame stuff right? There were 19 people in the class including my boss, the principal. The form's two fields were "name" and "favorite color" No big deal, right?

The creepy guy, the one who always says "hi" to you right when you're coming out of the bathroom and still tucking your shirt in, the one who stands too close to you, the one who makes inappropriate jokes, THAT guy? He wrote that his favorite color was "flesh." I don't think he was expecting me to show the spreadsheet in front of the class. Nice Pat, very nice. I made a face and moved on.

Now, I don't feel personally threatened by this guy and honestly I could probably take him in a fight. But when I complained to the principal that I thought he was being inappropriate and creepy [after class -- I still got to teach for another 45 minutes after this, what was I going to do, kick the guy out?] the principal -- who is a nice guy and really a right-on dude in most ways -- just laughed and told me it was "just a joke" I said I thought it was creepy.

And you know, from some random guy this might be just a joke. From the creepy guy, the one who stands too close to people and makes rude comments about what girls in school are wearing, it seems more like a threat. But, unless you can explain why one person writing the word "flesh" on your spreadsheet in front of an entire class of people you're trying to teach is in and of itself as an isolated incident, something worthy of reproach, well then it's on you to get over it. GRAR.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:39 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


[I wanted to respond to this comment a loooong time ago, but it took me a while to be able to articulate my thoughts. (Plus, I couldn't stop reading new posts.) Sorry if it seems like a non sequitur.]

EC: I'm referring strictly to why I personally don't believe in writing off all guys outright, pre-emptively, why I don't believe in pre-emptive castration/random assault/leopard attacks/etc. Because a lot of them just don't get it -- but that doesn't mean that none of them will EVER get it. In fact, some will. It may take time, and you have every right to tell them to fuck off until they do, but some will.

I don't think all revenge fantasies necessarily boil down to writing off all guys outright, pre-emptively. In fact, I think they can sometimes help us explore new ways of conveying what we go through, thus allowing some guys to better understand.

None of my revenge fantasies were really about punishment for the sake of punishment, or wiping the "assholes" off the face of the earth. They were more about me wanting these guys to connect with the true impact of their behavior. They were borne out of the anger and frustration of feeling victimized and invalidated. So in my head, I put them in horrible circumstances/situations that would make them experience firsthand the kinds of emotions/sensations I felt, so they would finally get it. I don't deny that I took more than a little satisfaction out of that moment of truth.

However, and here's the key, after I allowed my thoughts to go to those nasty, violent places, they were followed by, "Okay, so if I explained it like that, then would they get it? Are there other, more 'diplomatic,' scenarios I can come up with to put them in my shoes?" I think it was a way for me to not only process anger, but also safely tap into those feelings of fear and humiliation, so I could figure out a more effective way to communicate them to guys who exhibited some of these behaviors/attitudes.

I suppose a lot of people stop at the violent part, and that's the point of the fantasy. Upon reflection I see that I went beyond the imagined violence to try and access new insights. I agree that if your revenge fantasies are the product of simply wanting to see clueless/oblivious/mean men hurt/maimed/killed (especially if you're not a victim of one of them), or of only seeing men in two varieties—good and bad—then yeah, that's not going to add much to the conversation. But if they help you to look at things from a new perspective, then I think in those instances they can actually be productive. (And who knows, maybe talking to guys about the leopards would help some of them understand.)

sculpin: That's funny about the leopards, btw. I had a scenario at one point involving dogs—psychic, teleporting rottweilers who allowed women to walk alone at night without fear by magically appearing at their side the minute they stepped outside. I think that one was actually a twist on the story line of some episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits I saw.

Lastly: Across the whole of MeFi, I typically don't post much because I feel a lot of you express what it is I would like say myself, only better (which is so so true in this thread). So in case this is my last post here in this thread, I'd just like to say: Thank you to everyone who so bravely shared your stories. Your contributions have made a huge difference, not only in helping some people to understand (which has given me newfound hope), but also in letting those of us with similar stories know we're not alone. (I'd also like to quietly empathize with those who have their own stories, but for their own reasons, choose not to share at this time.) And to the guys who are listening, participating and interested in making this world a better/safer place for women (thereby making it a better place for all), thank you, too.
posted by lovermont at 1:47 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


On the off chance that there are any guys lurking who feel self-conscious now about "so, is it ever appropriate to pay a compliment to a woman you see on the street?...." Let me relate an incident from last night.

I had been at the meetup in Brooklyn; I was waiting outside on the sidewalk for a bus, and idly studying a shop window while I did. Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone coming in my direction down the street; I glanced up and noticed it was a man, about mid-40's, who was clearly about to be heading past me, about five feet behind me. As I turned back to the window, I noticed him glancing at me. I glanced back again, saw him glance at me again, with a reasonably friendly smile. I gave him a reasonbly "howdy, neighbor" smile back and turned back to the window.

By this time, he was just passing me. He stopped and turned around -- making sure he was far enough away that I knew he was harmless -- and he said "sorry, I hope I didn't startle you looking at you like that -- you just look a lot like a friend of mine, and I thought you were her."

"Oh, no worries," I said.

He broke into a smile. "Yeah. wow, you really look like her."

"I'll take that as a good thing," I said, amused.

He grinned back and said, "well, yes, she is a lovely woman, at that." I laughed and thanked him, and we both said our good nights and he continued on his way. And that was that.

The thing was: he let me define the terms. In all the times we glanced at each other, I had more of a curious, interested look on my face -- "huh, who's this fine fellow?" -- than a cautious look. He still saw that I saw him looking and wanted to reassure me, too. His compliment was more of a lighthearted joke than a straight-up come-on, and I'm pretty sure that if I'd seemed afraid or unwelcoming he wouldn't have even bothered. In short -- he respected the position I was in, he paid attention to whether it looked like I wanted to engage, and we ended up with a lighthearted little neighborly moment.

THAT'S the way it should go. And I thought that in the midst of all of the heartbreaking stories we've been hearing, we may also want to have at least one moment of someone Getting It Right as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:06 PM on November 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Errant, I know you didn't mean that; the impression that I thought you meant that was what I was trying to avoid with my clarification comment.

We're on the same page, audacity, no defensiveness here. It was an unconscious turn of phrase that you are absolutely right to call me on, because it is ingrained and deserves to be out in the open and examined. If I wasn't clear before, I'm glad you pointed it out, and thank you.
posted by Errant at 2:10 PM on November 11, 2009


And these stories are why even those of us who adore men still enjoy Hothead Paisan.

Is this your leg? Because I found it wayyy over here in my space...
posted by small_ruminant at 2:33 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


On the off chance that there are any guys lurking who feel self-conscious now about "so, is it ever appropriate to pay a compliment to a woman you see on the street?...." Let me relate an incident from last night.


Nicely said, thank you.

I've been lurking throughout the original thread, and this one, and probably read nearly every post in both. I just want to express my thanks and admiration for all the women who have spoken up, and shared their stories. You have my deepest respect. Keep sharing, I will keep reading. And for those who've tried to provide a wider context, to educate the rest of us, thank you. By naming names I'll forget some who I should mention, but jokeefe, Muddgirl, EmpressCallpygos, jessamyn, rtha, SidheDevil: thank you. To the men whose example the rest of us could follow: languagehat, Optimus Chyme, koeselitz: thank you.

I'm certainly more appreciative of how my actions might appear, and trying to keep a closer eye on how I come across to women, as per the original post, and maybe seeing an appropriate way to approach any situations that I observe, based on what some of you have posted.

One question: do you see it appropriate for a man to try to raise the consciousness of women? Examples might help: I'm at a family dinner where discussion turns to allegations of rape against sportsmen. My aunt argues at some length that the women involved shouldn't have gone to the hotel room with the sportsmen, and it's basically their fault. The group is wholly male apart from my aunt and my younger sister. Should I shut up, or call her on what is basically bullshit? How to engage, if so? Or should I just worry about arguing with my guy friends?
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:04 PM on November 11, 2009


Infinite Jest: I do think it is appropriate, when the topic comes up. I wouldn't make a big production of it, but saying something will also signal/reinforce to your sister that you are someone who could be a resource for her if she ever experiences (or has experienced) an attack or a rape. A calm, soft-spoken statement, definitively stated is a good thing, particularly if comes from a man at the table. Some people who are immersed in what seems like the comforting belief that there's a reason why these things happen (which makes them immune from the same thing) will discount anything a woman says in reaction, but will have to think about it when a man demurs.

Sometimes I will also try to end the conversation early by getting in a zinger like "Well, I can see we are going to disagree on this. I don't believe there's any situation or rationale that makes rape OK. We'll just have to disagree on that." Sometimes that makes people even more fighty, but sometimes it makes them think. Be prepared for "Well, it's not really rape if ..." These arguments are usually pretty easy to pierce.
posted by julen at 3:46 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's really situation-dependent, Infite Jest, but jalen makes a good point: speaking up is good not necessarily because you have a hope at changing the mind of the person saying dumb/wrong/offensive thing, but to let the other people who hear it know that you don't agree with or condone that kind of statement. Even if you never find it out, someone who hears you may feel relief to know that they are not alone or crazy, even if they can't speak up for themselves.
posted by rtha at 3:56 PM on November 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


EvaDestruction: But if she had acknowledged my feelings, and affirmed that it was unfair and messed up and that I wasn't wrong to feel angry and upset, maybe I would've trusted her more when the creepy chem teacher was ogling the girls in my class, and I wouldn't have felt like I had to tough that out because I couldn't trust an adult to understand what was going on.

My mother never acknowledged what I'd been through either, and that's just one more layer of pain on top of the whole mess.

I grew up in a smallish neighborhood where most of the adults were friends, the young kids played together, and the older kids did the babysitting. There was a family on the street with three boys, one who was my age (8 at the time), and two others who were about 18 and 20. My brothers sometimes hung around with the 18 year old, often with me tagging along behind.

It started after a big snow when I followed my brothers and their friend up to the school behind our house for sledding and snowball fights and general horsing around. I got separated from my brothers and wound up on a bench on the opposite side of the school with the neighbor. My mittens were wet and my hands were cold and he told me he had a place where my hand would be warm. I was a pretty sensitive child and had a father whose temper was legendary, so I was mostly cowed by any sort of authority. Gory details skipped, before he brought me back to find my brothers, I got the whole "this is our secret" talk where he assured me that if I told my parents anything he'd lie and they'd believe him over me since he was the adult.

He started offering to babysit for me whenever our parents would go out, and since his brother was my classmate, my folks thought it was a great idea. He'd wind up making his younger brother go to bed early so he could use the time to molest me while my parents paid him to take care of me. This went on for months.

I don't know what finally made me tell my mother. We never spoke about sex in our house, and the neighbor had pretty much convinced me that I'd be drummed out of my own family. My mother was certainly horrified, and the first words out of her mouth were, "Why did you let him do that to you?!" I was almost physically ill telling her only one fraction of what he'd done to me, and in that instant she validated what he'd told me. She was angry with me.

She told me that I could never repeat any of it to anyone. She was afraid that my father, of the legendary temper, would quite literally kill their friends' son and wind up in jail. The only support I got from her was her making sure that I was never alone with him again. But she never wanted to hear the extent of what he'd done to me, and I definitely came away with the sense that she was disappointed in me.

Years later, we were discussing some of my issues with the Catholic church and the topic of molestation came up. I guess my opinions landed a little sharply on her ear and she said to me with some irritation, "What are you so angry about? It's not like it happened to you." I was stunned. I asked her if she was serious. I asked her if she did not remember me telling her as a child that I had been molested by someone in the neighborhood. She denied that I'd ever told her any such thing and was clearly angry to be having the conversation at all. I didn't press because there was no point. She was admitting to nothing.

My mother loves me, but I don't think she was in any way equipped to deal with any of this herself, let alone help me through it. I think she did the best she could at the time, and that she probably felt guilty for sending me to their house so many times, although she'd had no way of knowing. I'm sure she was hoping that I'd forgotten because if I had, then she could forget about it too. Unfortunately, I ruined everything by remembering.

These threads have been immensely helpful to me. Because the neighbor and my mother both led me to believe that by speaking up I might actually destroy my family, just carrying the knowledge around with me was such an isolating thing. I really appreciate the opportunity to share my story alongside yours. It's nice, for once, not to feel like the odd man out.
posted by contrariwise at 5:00 PM on November 11, 2009 [16 favorites]


Thank you, contrariwise.

Somewhat unexpectedly, I'm finding that this thread and the other are not making me hate people. They're making me really love everyone who's survived and fought and loved and come out of shame and everyone who hasn't told their stories yet, too. Amazing feeling.
posted by rtha at 6:28 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Same here, rtha.

Sova--I know I'm the tenth or twentieth person to say so by now, but out of all the stories here, yours resonates with me. I understand that sense that your escape should have been badass and heroic.

A few years ago, I was doing relief work far from home. The relationship with local folks was sort of delicate and at the beginning I was often unsure in dealings with them. My first night there, I was exhausted physically and emotionally and was hanging around outside, a little apart from other volunteers, sort of in a daze. This guy--little guy, old guy--approached me. I didn't want to talk to anyone, but I didn't want to be rude to him--this was his home, not mine. But the "conversation" turned almost immediately into "Hey, where's your man? You got a man?" And I still didn't leave. I didn't say anything. He started admiring my hair, which is very long and which I had down. He told me to lean back against the wall...and I did it. He ran his hand down between my hair and my back, keeping up the lines about whether I had a man. He was creeping me the fuck out, but I was cooperating with him anyway because I didn't want to be rude, and because I was scared.

I don't remember what I did to get away from him. Maybe just walked away wordlessly, I have no idea. What I do remember is how helpless I felt, and at the same time how ashamed I was of allowing him to make me so uncomfortable. I never really got it til that moment--I always figured I'd have no problem yelling and fighting. But I didn't. I knew what was happening wasn't my fault, and I felt guilty and ashamed anyway. The way he was acting was scary; what was scarier was my own reaction.

I mean, I wasn't alone on a dark street with no help nearby. My best friend was maybe thirty feet away, playing guitar with some acquaintances. The person I absolutely trust most in the world, right there, and I could neither tear myself away from this guy nor call out to my friend that I needed his help. I still haven't told him about it; he'd be shattered. I told another friend who was there about it a year later, because he'd been groped and humped by a guy on the subway as a teenager and I hoped he'd understand--bless his sweet heart, he listened and then offered to role-play with me so I could work on assertive responses. I was so shaky just telling him the story that I couldn't face that prospect even with someone I felt safe with, but it meant the world to me. (...and I just took a break from writing this comment to send him an email thanking him again. Thank you, supportive men.)


A couple months later I got assigned to do volunteer security patrol there with a guy named, I swear to you, Romeo. People told me he was a good guy, knew his way around, but I got a weird vibe from him. He tried to get me to follow him into a dark, empty classroom. I kind of made a jokey refusal as I backed away. Later that night I was standing right there when he punched out an old, drunk man so hard the guy got a concussion. And then it came out, after he was kicked out for that violence, that he'd already been caught multiple times groping women while they were asleep...and had only gotten a warning. So I figure that dark classroom is the closest I've ever come to being raped. If there have been closer calls I don't want to know about them.


And then...there's another kind of story that I still don't know how to deal with. I went to Take Back the Night my first semester at college. Halfway through, a dorky, awkward guy from my dorm, who I was friendly with, stood up and walked to the center of the circle, sobbing before he even got there. He said, "I feel like I'm at a tribunal," and then confessed--he'd coerced a high school friend into having sex with him. Just kept pressuring her until she gave up. And then did it again a week later. It was clear he knew it was wrong; he was, in fact, utterly broken by the knowledge that he had done this. He said he'd apologized to the young woman and she said she forgave him. When he left the circle I found him and had so little idea how to react I just put my arms around him. I have never seen anyone shaking so hard--I could barely hold onto him. He stayed through to the end of TBTN, saying "I think I owe it to her." After that the RA and I sort of kept tabs on him, made sure he was talking to someone in Behavioral Health, paid attention to his interactions with a girl on the hall he had a crush on. He was horribly depressed, had anxiety attacks, sleep problems, all kinds of stuff. The next year he transferred; I don't know what became of him.

I think people can change. I think he was very, very young. But how I should have handled that...I still don't know. Just another data point for The Patriarchy Is Bad For Men, Too.
posted by hippugeek at 6:51 PM on November 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


Reading all these stories make my heart break. I have stories, and I'm sure everyone in this thread has many more. I want to thank everyone who shared, several times during reading I've simultaneously gotten so angry that I've been shaking and so sad that I've been crying. The thread has opened my eyes as well, I knew that this was happening but I don't have that many girlfriends, so I finally see to what extent. It's entirely too much.

It makes me remember how angry I would get about the catcalls and the sharks out there when I was younger. How when I was 15 I wrote a piece for school that all convicted rapists should have their ears clipped so the was a visual marker us other girls could see and then steer away from him. Not the best idea, clearly, but I was angry,very young and scared as hell as there was a serial rapist around our school and convictions resulted in prison time on average between 6 weeks to 3 months.

In college my male roommates would brush off my aggrevation at being catcalled on my way to and from class with "it's the way you dress". I spent ages without makeup, with short hair, hiding in oversized wollen mens coats but it did not stop the catcalling. I guess they must have spotted that part of leg between below my knees and the opening of my enormous mens boots, huh?

As I got older I calmed down, but in a city where catcalls became a daily chore, where men would stop me as I dragged twenty pounds of kittylitter home just to wave money in my face and ask how much, where I told catcallers off and was retorted with "damn lesbian bitch", where every shop on my street had gotten so used to me running in there to hide from someone following me that they no longer greeted me, I thought of another crazy scheme. What if we advertised on posters that X week is take-back-the-street-week and warn all Bad Guys™ that catcalling will get them marked with paint. Then send out armies of well coiffed women of all ages, armed with non-toxic spray-paint, and for every catcall *pssssshhhht* the man now wears a red brand for a few days, having to look himself in the mirror wearing it. I only entertained the idea with my best friend who got catcalled just as much, and we wondered how many men would be wearing red paint at the end of that week, how people would react to being able to see the amount of men who do this like that. Would there be changes in law, making street harrassment illegal? Would Good Guys™ finally understand? Would wives dump their husbands when they came home with thick layers of red paint? We abandoned the idea by the time our coffee-cups were emptied, because harassing back isn't the answer but we're still wondering: what is?
posted by dabitch at 2:49 AM on November 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


Thank you so much for these threads. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has given me so much to think about.

This was my answer to a question which really made me think about so many, many things that had happened to me that I'd never really considered before to be even worthy of comment to anyone. I could give you a list of things that have happened in my life but I won't because.. well, I guess because I don't really want to. They happened, I know they happened. So many of them had been sublimated until these last few days. I mean, I have friends who've been violently raped and left with physical scars from it. What I considered to be just my pathetic capitulations never seemed particularly worthy of comment.

Whilst it's not particularly nice to be remembering these things, it does make me glad that those of you who've shared what's happened to you might somehow play a part in getting other people who've just accepted what's happened in their past as being nothing or an exaggeration or just plain bullshit to really consider what it means. This applies to both those who've had unwanted attention and those who've given it and are only just now getting an idea of the consequences of it.

These threads are very important. It would be good if they were widely disseminated. People need to think about these things.
posted by h00py at 3:06 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a man, and I very much appreciate both this thread and the original one. They're already changing the way I behave on the street.

I would also like to share my own experience, even though I've obviously never experienced anything remotely like heyho or Sova. I've been approached in a sexually threatening way three times, always by men. (I'm straight, but I can sometimes look like a "twink," which I guess makes me a target.) The first time, I was, I think, in middle school. A middle-aged guy parked in a pickup truck by the side of the road leered at me and said, "I've been watching you for a while. Come to my house and we can watch movies." I said something polite and hurried on--and he didn't pursue me, although he easily could have, if the street were a little smaller. Another time, last year, I was sitting in a park in Paris in broad daylight, reading a book. A well-dressed man sat down on a bench next to me and attempted to make conversation, moving steadily closer to me, casually putting his arm around me. I actually let this go on for several minutes until I finally decided I couldn't take it anymore, said something polite, and hurried away. The time I remember most vividly, a couple of years ago, was in the New York subway. It was very late, I was a little drunk, and waiting for the train in Union Square. An older man, also well dressed, started talking to me--and, not suspecting anything, I started to answer. When we got on the train, he sat next to me and put his hand on my thigh. When I moved, he moved with me. At some point, he fell asleep and I moved again--but when I left the train to transfer at Atlantic Avenue, I noticed that he was following me through the station, to the same train I was going. I ran down to the platform, and saw him again, looking side to side to see if he could find me. I noticed a group of Russians at the end of the platform and told them about him, and I think he noticed the presence of other people and left.

What strikes me about all of these situations--which would, for women, be minor and unremarkable incidents--is how paralyzed I was, how reluctant I was to yell or fight or make a scene or even say "no fucking way" in any kind of assertive fashion. Any fantasies I might have had about being manly or macho just evaporated when it was actually happening. So, although I have very little idea of how much vigilance it actually takes for women to keep situations from getting to that point, I appreciate the article for giving me a glimpse. And thank you for sharing your stories.
posted by nasreddin at 7:25 AM on November 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


> One question: do you see it appropriate for a man to try to raise the consciousness of women? Examples might help: I'm at a family dinner where discussion turns to allegations of rape against sportsmen. My aunt argues at some length that the women involved shouldn't have gone to the hotel room with the sportsmen, and it's basically their fault. The group is wholly male apart from my aunt and my younger sister. Should I shut up, or call her on what is basically bullshit? How to engage, if so?

julen and rtha made good points; I'd just add that you should probably try not to think of it as "calling her on her bullshit" but (to use a probably antiquated phrase) raising her consciousness. It's hard enough arguing with family members (especially older ones) anyway, and this is a topic where your goal is not to win but to get her to think, so instead of saying "You're wrong!" (or words to that effect), try coming at it sideways, mentioning that you've known a lot of women who have been through things like that in all sorts of circumstances and you're pretty sure it wasn't about their having done anything wrong. (Afterward, you can take your younger sister aside and tell her in more straightforward terms that your aunt, like many people, is full of crap on this subject and she should never blame herself for any of the things men pull.)

Like nasreddin, I've been approached by gay guys a couple of times in ways that made me uncomfortable; I would never dream of comparing it to what women go through, but it gives me some sort of baseline awareness of such situations. Let's face it, a lot of guys, whatever their sexual orientation, look at everybody else in the world as bit players in their quest to get their rocks off, and the rest of us have to figure out ways to deal with it. This isn't about Men Are Bad, it's about men often thinking with their dicks and not paying enough attention to the feelings and needs of others.
posted by languagehat at 9:51 AM on November 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


I have one final comment.

More recently than I have the guts to admit, I was at a party where a friend was getting a little grabby with both the men and the women there. It was one of those things that was supposedly in good fun, and I personally didn't really care that he was "overfriendly" with me, but a woman at the party, irritated, mentioned it to me and I, pretty drunk, said something along the lines of "oh, he's harmless." I think about my reaction to this with shame all the time, probably twice a week. Even typing this is making me fucking bummed out as shit. Someone I care for deeply was being harassed, and I could have put a stop to it, but for whatever reason - and I don't think I'll ever figure it out - I didn't. I ignored it; I was part of the support system I railed against in my comment upthread.

I failed them both, and I failed myself. And the only reason I am telling this story, which is still raw and humbling and shameful, is to remind all the "allies" out there that we can fuck up just as bad as anyone else, and we shouldn't let our supposedly enlightened views take the place of mindful thought and action. And to my friend to whom I should have listened: I'm sorry. I won't let it happen again.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:20 AM on November 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


Optimus Chyme, if you haven't already, it really might be helpful to your friend if you told her what you just told us here.
posted by runningwithscissors at 10:25 AM on November 12, 2009


I have.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:30 AM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


We don't always act according to our principles. Sometimes we only recognize that in hindsight. The important thing is that we learn from it, which you have, we resolve to act differently in the future, which you have, and we make amends with whomever we may have hurt in the process, which you have. You have also shared your experience, in hopes others will learn from it. Thank you so much for doing that. Now all you've left to do is forgive yourself.
posted by lovermont at 10:46 AM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


My mother never acknowledged what I'd been through either, and that's just one more layer of pain on top of the whole mess.

That this seems so common makes me so sad.

I have a close friend who, at age six, had a man--her best friend's father--expose himself to her. She told her mother, who refused to do anything about it--even talk to the man's wife--because she didn't want to break up their marriage. My friend was told that she wasn't allowed to be alone with the man any more, though she still went over her friend's house on a regular basis. What a way to shift the responsibility to a six year old. Years later (still in elementary school), she had a teacher touch her inappropriately. She didn't even bother telling her parents, and I can't blame her.

I can't help but wonder about how this sort of denial starts. Years later, as an adult, my friend's mother told her that sex is never supposed to be fun for a woman. How do people come to believe such things, thinking that the needs of women--and of little girls--come last? I can't help but wonder if there's a cycle of abuse there, but that doesn't stop me from feeling angry, nevertheless.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:47 AM on November 12, 2009


OC, if it helps you find some consolation, women can be guilty of that too. I was at a gathering when an older man (60s-70s) kept trying to hold my waist and touch my arse. Even when I moved away from him he plainly followed and kept up the same act. Most of the other people in the room were (sober) women, and despite looking to them for help, they did nothing and insisted that he was "harmless". I eventually sat down for most the night just so he couldn't touch me and and one point read a newspaper (at a party!) so he wouldn't talk to me.

What lovermont said about learning, it's probably the best kind of forgiveness.
posted by Sova at 11:16 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't help but wonder about how this sort of denial starts. Years later, as an adult, my friend's mother told her that sex is never supposed to be fun for a woman. How do people come to believe such things, thinking that the needs of women--and of little girls--come last? I can't help but wonder if there's a cycle of abuse there, but that doesn't stop me from feeling angry, nevertheless.

I can only suggest that many are struggling with their own past and present. I remember having a conversation with my mother when I was 14, asking her to end an abusive relationship that was spilling over onto me. She insisted that relationships were about "compromise", and that people had to give and take. To my knowledge her relationships with her father and brother were likewise a "compromise", and I can only guess it's a big part of who she is. Needless to say, neither me nor my sister can really speak to our mother in a proper way, and we try our best to separate her from her partner when we can. It's really poisonous stuff though, and she pushes all kinds of body/gender/sexuality issues onto us in subtle ways. But we're happily immune to it and don't let it interfere with how we think male-female relationships should work.
posted by Sova at 11:40 AM on November 12, 2009


I've spent the better part of three days neglecting the rest of my life (sorry, kids - we'll play tomorrow, for reals) transfixed to these two threads. I spent an hour lying awake in bed last night mentally composing my detailed post about my experiences. Finally, after reaching the end of this thread, I've decided not to bother because I don't think it would really add anything. Just to sum up, I've been through the same kinds of things the other women have described - strangers exposing themselves to me, catcalls, groping, very very narrowly escaped date rape, and so on. It doesn't happen much now that I'm well past my prime and usually have a kid or three in tow, but every once in a while I still see it.

But here's something that bothers me in reading through all this. In all the discussion of ways to help, I've seen several men advised to speak up to other men, and I've seen several people comment on how to prepare their daughters to deal with this stuff, but I have not seen (in 1400 comments!) a single person suggest the most obvious thing in the world to me . . .

Parents - talk to your sons! Rapists, gropers, stalkers, and the like are not mass produced in some Pervert Factory in China and imported by the Wal-Mart corporation. These men are somebody's sons every bit as much as rape victims are somebody's daughters/sisters/mothers/wives. And one of the biggest points made in these threads is that these guys can very often come from nice homes and nice families. I have two boys and two girls, and while I'm sad to know my daughters at some point will have to deal with some jerk trying to do something he shouldn't, the thought of one my sweet little boys one day being the jerk who does that to someone else hits me extra-super-special hard in the pit of my stomach.

I'm not especially talking about the ultra-skeezy sickos who ejaculate on strangers or violent rapists, because I suspect the bulk of those guys come from some pretty twisted backgrounds that you won't find in the home of anyone participating in this discussion, but I'm talking about the allegedly nice guys who don't respect boundaries, who give their frat brothers high fives for their conquests, who don't see why some hottie would be bothered by a car full of guys honking and shouting, who might in their heart of hearts believe that if their girlfriends really loved them they'd ( . . . ). It isn't enough to tell our sons "Respect Women!" and "No Means No!", which I think most if not all of us here would think pretty obvious to do. Boys get pretty overpowered by hormones when adolescence kicks in and are surrounded by messages that a Real Man has to be aggressive to get what he wants and that Hawt Girls are there for the taking by Real Men.

Just like many of us teach (or plan to teach) our girls specific lessons about what guys will some day try to do to them and what they can and should do about it, we need to teach our boys specific lessons what they might some day want to do to girls and what they can and should do instead. Not demanding a blow job from the drunk girl may seem like common sense when we're typing in this mature and reasonable conversation, but it's clearly not common sense to a lot of eighteen year old drunk, horny college guys. They need to know that before they get into that situation. If so many of the guys participating in this thread didn't understand until now how this crap affects women, it's clearly not something boys learn on their own.

My kids are still too young to understand any of this, and I don't pretend to be an expert on HOW to talk to them about this, but here are some of the lessons I hope for them to learn:
1. Girls: Guys sometimes get insanely horny, but that's their problem to deal with. Don't let them convince you it's yours. Boys: You're going to get insanely horny, but that is just your problem to deal with. Don't EVER make it someone else's problem.
2. Don't be ashamed or scared to say how you feel or to ask for help. Even if you think you did something wrong. Even if you aren't sure if the situation is as creepy as you think it might be. Even if you don't want to get someone in trouble. Even if it's already over and it wasn't as bad as it could have been. You are not alone. Other people have been through this. Other people want to help. If they don't, there's something wrong with them, not you.
3. Do whatever it takes to get out of a bad situation alive. Everything but death is survivable.
4. You can't force other people to do the right thing, but don't encourage your friends to be jerks. It's hard to be the one who says "That's not right." but it's also hard to know that you should have said it when you had the chance.
5. "Is everything okay here?" could save someone's life.
posted by Dojie at 12:43 PM on November 12, 2009 [12 favorites]


1. Girls: Guys sometimes get insanely horny, but that's their problem to deal with. Don't let them convince you it's yours. Boys: You're going to get insanely horny, but that is just your problem to deal with. Don't EVER make it someone else's problem.

I hear what you're saying, Dojie, and in general I agree, but I find this to be a little problematic. It implies that sexuality is something that men pursue and women surrender; it implies that sexual desire is a "male problem" and not something that everyone has to learn to manage and express in a healthy and fulfilling way, men/women/intersex/etc. alike; it's basically saying "guys, you're going to get uncontrollably horny, control it", which is a difficult message to reconcile. I think there is probably a way to talk to kids about sex which doesn't reinforce unbalanced power dynamics, the notion that only men get horny and women just have to work around that, or indeed that sexual desire is "a problem".
posted by Errant at 1:14 PM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Errant - In the context of fulfilling sexuality and healthy relationships, I agree with you completely and hope to convey that to my kids too.
But in the context of sexual harassment and assault, "unbalanced power dynamics" are the whole point. In this context, uncontrolled male sexual desire is absolutely a problem, and female sexual desire is not really a factor. Women certainly do get horny, but if they acted on that as inappropriately as so many men do, this would have been an entirely different discussion.
posted by Dojie at 1:48 PM on November 12, 2009


I hear what you're saying, Dojie, and in general I agree, but I find this to be a little problematic. It implies that sexuality is something that men pursue and women surrender

I think Dojie was talking mainly there about adolescence (when parents still have some influence over their kids). And in that context, "sexuality is something that [boys] pursue and [girls] surrender" is a very fair generalization.
posted by torticat at 1:51 PM on November 12, 2009


Apropos educating boys: I think so. Eg, my mother was a 1970s radical feminist. However, she never brought up these kinds of issues with me, and my father, a model of solid decency, was not equipped to discuss things other than practical matters. So I absorbed the mores of my peers and the local pop culture, and learned some shameful habits and attitudes which would have horrified my mother, had she known. Unlearning them has been a slow process -- I think I just did some more over the last two days being glued to this thread. I don't have any sons to influence though.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:00 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


On education: I'm wishing that my school had done more. I went to a Catholic school and, while it wasn't terrible, it wasn't very useful either. I remember one very good female teacher who explained to us that our parents knew we masturbated, and that was OK but they didn't want us to be having sex (this is aged about 13, so probably good at counteracting the Catholic guilt). But apart from that I remember one of the priests advocating that we save ourselves for marriage. And that's it.

Would have been so much better to have some sort of guide to respecting women (or men for that matter). To emphasising that no means no. And that silence doesn't mean yes. Or basically just reading situations and respecting people's boundaries better. I think I would have learned those things better from some of my teachers than from my mother (and certainly from my father).

One thing I wanted to add to my previous post is how this thread drilled home to me how pervasive sexual harassment/assault is. I mean, I knew about friends who'd experienced it, whether relatively minor, or more serious, including rape. But I guess in my head I'd figured that the more minor instances of harassment were once-off, or occasional incidents. Whereas now I figure that those incidents were the only ones that I happened to hear about, because they'd happened on a day when I happened to be around.

[Oh, and languagehat, thanks for your comments. My sister's pretty switched on (I mean, she's an adult, my post might have implied she was a teen or something) and probably the smartest person in that room. But I take on board the idea that, by standing up, I'd at least show her that she had an ally if she needed one]
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:40 PM on November 12, 2009


It's hard enough arguing with family members (especially older ones) anyway, and this is a topic where your goal is not to win but to get her to think, so instead of saying "You're wrong!" (or words to that effect), try coming at it sideways, mentioning that you've known a lot of women who have been through things like that in all sorts of circumstances and you're pretty sure it wasn't about their having done anything wrong.

QFT. languagehat is exactly right here -- this has definitely been my experience. I've been in a situation like the one Infinite Jest brought up and coming at it sideways was the only way I could make that particular person see things a little differently. And I hate having to do the "what if it was your daughter or your sister" thing, because damn it a thing like whether or not you know somebody shouldn't limit your compassion for them, but a lot of the time it really does help to personalize your argument.
posted by palomar at 3:22 PM on November 12, 2009


I think Dojie was talking mainly there about adolescence (when parents still have some influence over their kids). And in that context, "sexuality is something that [boys] pursue and [girls] surrender" is a very fair generalization.

I agree that it's fair, but I don't think that's a reason to perpetuate it. The idea that sex is something boys have to pursue and girls have to surrender is, perhaps, why so many guys feel the right to act like they do.

Of course, the point of the discussion with your son is to ensure he doesn't act like that, so whatever achieves that end is worthwhile. Ideally though, it would be possible to teach him never to threaten, harass, or assault women by instilling in him a respect for women that includes a respect for their sexuality, rather than reinforcing the idea that it's something they have to surrender.
posted by twirlypen at 3:38 PM on November 12, 2009


Dojie has a very good point - a lot of this is about what boys learn, and what they do when they become men. Part of this is men are often expected to be problem-solvers; we're rarely encouraged to listen and think and reflect, it's all about going out, doing things, coming up with solutions. We've seen some of that in both this thread and the blue; men blurting out their opinion, and not listening to criticism or even really taking on board that someone else thinks differently - and even if they get that far, they've already made up their mind so why listen to opposing viewpoints or stop to challenge long-held assumptions? This is often successful behaviour in the adult world (see banking and senior management) so it's a hard habit to break. That these two threads haven't been about that, by and large, is part of what has made them such excellent discussions where many people have learnt a lot about other people; many women realising they're not alone, and many men realising the world is very different viewed through other eyes.

That the tales are often so horrible, and that it takes such blunt descriptions of them to make that happen is also what makes these threads so heart-breaking. It's also been deeply enlightening as to why some women stay with guys who are frankly dicks; that compromising their own desires and feelings just to be in a relationship at all is just how it's 'supposed' to work, and that there's a whole bunch of men who think that's how women should act too, if they even think about it at all.
Yet more stuff I didn't know I didn't know. I have to say, the conversations I've been having with my wife this last week have been interesting to say the least. She just assumed I knew all this stuff, and I assumed it didn't happen that much in the first place, as nobody ever talked about around me, and I didn't see it happen much either, and since I don't do it either, or at least I hope I haven't much. It's hard not to re-examine everything you've ever done or said in a new light once you see the problem, and look for flaws, especially when were young and clueless.


So anyway. Here's my thoughts from a male perspective; take of them what you will.

Boys get screwed up in their upbringing too. Girls (and women) are seen as the gatekeepers of sex, and it's our job to wheedle it out of them.

Just look at the standard romantic trope in films. Guy likes girl. Girl likes guy. Guy says or does something stupid and thoughtless. Girl dumps him (often, it's after a one-night stand, and boy now gets 'shutout' from more sex with her). Now we spend half the film with guy trying to romance girl back. Wheedling, standing outside her window singing songs, buying flowers, big grand romantic gestures, stalking her by camping out her friends. Tracking her down and work and trying to wheedle his way back into her good graces. And at the end? He just grabs her, and after her resisting for a moment they fold into a wonderful kiss, all is forgiven, and she lives happily ever after with her stalker ex.

Or TV. Girls are so often either pristine stuck-up shy good girls who get 'romanced' by the same sort of nice guy stalker behaviour, or they're slutty bad girls who go out with the bad boys, and have bad things happen to them because they were foolish enough to hang out with the exciting bad boys and pretty much asked for it.

We all knew 'that guy' growing up. The guy that goes to a club or a bar and hits on a hundred girls with the same tired old chatup lines, leans right next to them, maybe strokes their hair or face or butt while he tells them what an angel they are. Most girls push him off, but he always seems to go home with someone who seems to like the attention. And we see that, and we think 'perhaps we should be like that. Perhaps if I wasn't such a loser nerd I'd stop hanging around at the bar looking longingly at the people having fun. Can't they see what a nice guy I am? Perhaps I should go and be a jerk, and then I'd get more sex too'. Of course, it's not until later that we realise that self-confidence is something girls like, and that being a whiny self-obsessed guy who doesn't chatup women on the street doesn't actually make us a nice guy that you’d like to get to know better.

That women are equal partners, that being in control of their own sexuality is something that matters, that men shouldn't be pressuring women to give it up, or indeed not telling them their boots make them look hot is not something that you see a lot of on TV.


So let’s break down guys in 5 categories. Most guys have at least a bit of each of these, but hey, we can be complicated too.

1) The nice but clueless guy. They've been raised to be polite, respectful and decent to people in general. They hold open doors, they smile politely, they walk female friends home. Not because they really think that it's dangerous out there, but because that's what they've been trained to do. They don't see and don't hear about all the things that happen to women growing up, and think that rape is sad, but not very very common. They're the friend whose shoulder you go cry on. He's safe and keeps his hands to himself, mostly. And when you come and tell him about that guy that said something stupid at work, he doesn't quite understand why you're upset - isn't it nice to get a compliment about how sexy you look once in a while?

These guys can also end up quite misogynist too; since rape 'doesn't happen very often', it probably happened to women that 'asked for it' because of what they wear, or who they date, or where they went alone. They can put women on a pedestal, and the slutty girls that fall of that pedestal aren't deserving of much respect though they'll still probably hang around to hamfistedly pick up the pieces because they're 'nice'.


2) The clueless and creepy guy. These guys are the ones that hang around bars ogling from a distance. The one that stands too close, or walks alongside you wanting to talk to you, constantly insisting he's a nice guy, he'd never hurt you, honest! Once you get to know him, so please talk to me some more, I'm not done talking with you yet. He may have self-esteem issues; he may well share a lot in common with the nice-but-clueless guy and he doesn't understand women, or how to talk to women. He simply doesn't get that he's creepy guy and he's making you uncomfortable. In his head, he'd not hurt you physically, so why should you be afraid of him? And ignoring your social cues that you're uncomfortable is the only way he gets to talk to women at all, but somehow he never seems to get a date... If you do end up seeing this guy more than once, maybe in college, then he's probably going to end up groping you at some point, and then doesn't understand why you might be upset at it. After all, it works in the movies.

Or maybe he is just harmless, but he's bought into the idea that men pursue women even when they're giving off negative signals as that's how men pursue women. I mean, women say no to guys they don't like, but say yes to the self-same thing from guys they do. If I keep trying, someone's bound to say yes.

A lot of nice guys go through this phase when they're teenagers. It's all they know. If they're lucky, they get a bit of a clue of how to stop being quite so creepy, and end up settling down and being a nice-but-clueless guy. If he doesn't, then he may end up being creepy guy for the rest of his life, or he may turn into...


3) Alpha guy. These guys have lots of self-confidence. They're jocks, they're alpha males. They know what they want, and it's to get lots of tail. Power and success are what these guys expect to get from life, and they're going to push and shove and fight for what's theirs. Women are there to be conquered. Chatup as many in the bar as it takes. Hell, you see some nice bit of skirt on the street, you're going to tell her precisely what you'd like to do to her. She secretly enjoys being told she has nice tits, as it's a compliment, innit. And if she gets upset? She's obviously a frigid feminazi bitch that hates men. And when you have some girlfriend? Well, she gets flowers and compliments on her arse and we get to go out places and do stuff together. Who wouldn't want that? And if she doesn't want sex tonight, is it too much to ask for her to look after her man and give him a blowjob? And he's still a nice guy, who looks after his woman. Any woman should be happy to get to know him, I don't care if she's reading a book, I want to talk to her and tell her what a nice guy I am, so then I'll get her phonenumber and we can maybe hookup for something later. Hey, my last girlfriend got drunk and we had sex and then she started crying. I mean, what’s up with that? Hey look, that girl over there has a nice arse, I'm going to go squeeze it and tell her how much I like pretty women like her. Should be fun and I know she'll like it really even if she pretends to be a bitch about it.


4) Damaged and dangerous guy. Maybe he's mentally ill, or he just gets his kicks out of hurting women. Maybe he really thinks that all women enjoy sex deep down, so even when they're curled up and sobbing, they're fair game. Or he just thinks about himself to the exclusion of what anyone else wants. I'm sorry, I just can't get into the head of someone who'd grab a woman off the street and assault her, or abuse a child, or beat his wife. It just doesn't make sense to me. And I'm saddened to say that the things they do so often get filed under 'women's issues' and they rarely seem to be properly punished, treated or kept away from society.


5) Clued up guy. Maybe he's read these threads. Maybe he's had a long chat with a woman in his life, and seen things through a woman's eyes. Maybe he's gay and is pretty familiar with abuse. He probably doesn't understand fully (how could he, having lived such a different life?), he may deeply regret some of the stuff he's done in the past. But he's going to do more, do better. I think and hope most of the men reading these two threads were, or are now this guy.

So yes, we need to teach our sons better. If I ever have one, I'll try. But I'm not just going to tell him to keep it in his pants. I'm going to tell him that women are people too, and they deserve and have the right to express their own sexuality, and not have a man's forced upon them when they're just going about their lives. And I'll tell him the story about the big dogs that ruled the world*, and I'll tell him about the times that I asked if everything was alright**. And I'll tell him he has self-worth, and he's a good guy, and he shouldn't be afraid of women, but nor should he force himself upon them but treat them with respect. And that sometimes, it's really important to listen to the women in your life, and make them feel safe and loved and protected. That it's not her fault if someone says or does something to hurt her - and that he shouldn't just follow the crowd, sometimes you have to tell your friends they're being jerks. And hopefully I'll tell him that sex is great, but much more so when it's with a woman you love and respect, and who loves and trusts you back.


* Story about the big dogs that rule the world still a work in progress. Been thinking about the leopard idea and I think I can riff on it.
** And those tales are long. Maybe another comment later.

posted by ArkhanJG at 7:14 PM on November 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Just wanted to jump back in for a quick minute. First, I am not oaf, even though it might seem that way.

Second, all of these stories break my heart. Not for a minute was I trying to diminish the pain or the courage to share.

Here's my point, hopefully made more clearly. I didn't like that article. It was simultaneously taking a serious topic and trying to be cute about it, while also making the issue sort of one sided. It edged uncomfortably close to "women should be able to control all interactions because they are scared." Which actually is a step backwards- the end result of a more that gets anywhere near that is pretty much Victorian.

And while I understand the feeling, no progress will be made toward a fair and just society if we play the "your hurt feelings don't compare to the horrible things that happened to me" game. It is not a war and it is not a game. Nobody wins when it's ok to dismiss someone's viewpoint because they have more emotional evidence on their side.

Finally, this form of feminism that follows from the assumption that men have privilege and that society is "set up" negatively toward women is just plain wrong. Lots of people believe it and teach it, and it probably feels good in a perverse way to have something to pin life's tragedies on. But it is wrong. It is like the joke about different scientists where the one scientist says, "first, assume a spherical cow." Life, on average, sucks. Building barriers and perpetuating strawmen makes it suck even worse. Our similarities of experience are so much greater than the differences as to make the differences relatively meaningless. And society is just a construct created to "contain" the sum of all the actions of all the individuals in it. If we want to change society, we have to change ourselves. Males and females alike need to be stronger- maybe in different ways- but in equal proportions. And that's my point: there is no imbalance of joy or suffering in this life. More or less.

Thank you, and good night.
posted by gjc at 7:29 PM on November 12, 2009


Nobody wins when it's ok to dismiss someone's viewpoint because they have more emotional evidence on their side.

While I think a lot of people in this thread both male and female have explained how they think that the gender imbalances and inequalities in the world hurt everyone, I think you do women a disservice by saying that you think that all women have is "emotional evidence" compared to, say, statistical evidence which is something women also have on their side. I don't feel like spending any more time debating this point, but your viewpoint and mine are still fundamentally different and seem to not even agree on first principles. There is an imbalance of suffering. I'm not sure why you don't see it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:49 PM on November 12, 2009 [16 favorites]


Life, on average, sucks. .... Our similarities of experience are so much greater than the differences as to make the differences relatively meaningless.

Do you think there is a average difference in the life experiences of people who live in different neighborhoods (say, the statistically most crime-ridden neighborhood in a big city vs. the statistically safest neighborhood)? If someone chose to move from a dangerous neighborhood to a safer neighborhood, would they be irrational on your view, since life sucks everywhere and really all neighborhoods are similar?
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:59 PM on November 12, 2009


Finally, this form of feminism that follows from the assumption that men have privilege and that society is "set up" negatively toward women is just plain wrong.

Jesus. All of the heartbreaking stories told here, and this is the lesson learned. Just when I was starting to feel hopeful.

I abandoned this thread a couple of days ago because I thought it was dying down, and I just read through all of the fantastic comments, from Sova's story onward. It's been said before, but I want to again thank all of you for having this conversation. I love the idea of these threads being preserved in amber, that people are going to go back to them months or years later and read the stories and realize that there's a whole world that women live in that they know almost nothing about.

So, I'm kind of a massive nerd for knowing this, but there's this one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (one of my favorites) where Beverly Crusher is trapped in a warp bubble, and all this weird stuff starts happening, people she loves disappearing as if they never existed, etc. At first she thinks she's going crazy, but then has a moment of clarity and realizes that, "If there's nothing wrong with me, maybe there's something wrong with the universe!" As cheesy as it sounds, I have an unholy love for that quote, no lie, because it parallels my own feminist (re-?) awakening over the past few years - that Jesus, this shit is fucked up, and it's not the way things have to be. That it's not me being crazy - that there is something wrong with the universe we live in.

Even though I'm lucky enough that I don't have a story to share, I have such regard for the women who told their stories here, and I hope you don't get offended if it's made me think of you as my sisters. I want other women to read this thread in the future - and the MeFi post that inspired it - and realize all over again that it's not just them either.
posted by Salieri at 8:01 PM on November 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


Our similarities of experience are so much greater than the differences as to make the differences relatively meaningless.

Maybe in general, but not in this. Women experience a far greater share of sexual harassment, abuse, molestation and violence. I think I understand where you're coming from (or I'm at least trying to) but this is what we're talking about right now. Sexual terrorism. Not the full spectrum of life experience that everyone has in common. Please wrap your head around this.
posted by audacity at 8:05 PM on November 12, 2009


I hope you don't get offended if it's made me think of you as my sisters

That's pretty much the sweetest thing I've ever seen someone say on the internet.
posted by audacity at 8:07 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


gjc, I refer you to my previous comment.

I have to admit, I'm at somewhat at a loss. After reading all this thread, and the previous one, I'm struggling to see how you could say: "the assumption that men have privilege and that society is "set up" negatively toward women is just plain wrong." and "Our similarities of experience are so much greater than the differences as to make the differences relatively meaningless."

You're being nice-but-clueless guy. In aggregate, men's and women's experiences are vastly and radically different. Sure, there are some men that suffer abuse, and there are some women that don't, but the vast, vast majority of women are sexualised constantly from a young age. Far more so than almost all men. Women are made to feel uncomfortable, threatened, pressured to do things they don't want to do on a regular basis, no matter what they wear, do or say, and are often made to feel that these things happening to them are their fault.

Yes, life does suck in many ways for men and women. But to say it doesn't suck especially hard for women because they're repeatedly and unwantedly sexualised and/or abused, that the men that do these things are so rarely punished adequately that women fear for their very lives if they report it; I'm sorry, but you are simply wrong.

Please, talk to the women that trust you. Point them to these threads, ask if they want to talk about it. Gently ask them about the times they were first stalked, called a bitch, had comments about their breasts. I virtually *guarantee* you will find the answers just as shocking and uncomfortable as the other stories in these threads.

Men and women are not treated equal in our society. Not even close. Is it really fair that nice guys will sometimes be treated coldly or viewed with suspicion when they've done nothing wrong personally? No. But it's far more unfair that women have had to go through such horrible experiences that they do things to try and protect themselves. We need to change that, and the first step is accepting there is a problem in the first place.
posted by ArkhanJG at 8:09 PM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


My point in saying that is NOT to say that being a woman is "the most dangerous" and being a man is "the safest" -- instead, I mean that it's implausible to say that "life sucks everywhere so the differences are relatively meaningless". The differences are meaningful.

The differences between men's and women's experiences of street harassment and unsolicited attention are very meaningful, if you want to understand why women will react to certain kinds of attention with what might seem like coldness.

The reason for that reaction is that there's a whole background of experiences of harassment (that many many women experience and not as many men experience), sometimes leading to violence, that comes from men who may at first only be very gently testing a social boundary. That background makes it a rational default to have a seemingly-too-cold reaction to unsolicited attention or boundary-testing.

Many men are unaware of the pervasiveness of harassing experiences in women's lives. So they don't know the background that underlies the apparently-too-cold reaction. Talking about the background is not "emotional evidence" designed to stifle men -- even though talking/hearing about it evoke strong emotions, and even though those stories involve men acting badly. Telling those stories doesn't mean women think all men will act badly. The stories are there to explain -- to perfectly nice innocent men who do not act badly, and who feel hurt at the reaction they may get to innocent friendly conversation -- why the too-cold reaction is not about them personally.

no progress will be made toward a fair and just society if we play the "your hurt feelings don't compare to the horrible things that happened to me" game

This isn't about swaying an audience (as you suggest by saying that all these stories are supposed to be emotional appeals), it's about explaining a rational strategy. The apparently-too-cold reaction is a rational strategy, that is learned by hard experience. These threads explain it. You're free to get your feelings hurt by it, even though it's not about you (since you're nice) but instead it's about other men (who are not nice) -- you can also get your feelings hurt by the fact that a store has a "shoplifters will be prosecuted" sign, since you would never steal anything. But women don't need to see your hurt feelings as a reason to override their own experience.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:19 PM on November 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Just how in the hell is it possible that we are going in circles over this again, at this stage in the conversation?
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:42 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


--I am not oaf--

That's a matter of opinion.

I can only suggest gjc that you to talk to your mother/wife/girlfriend/sister/auntie and ask about their experiences with guys in public spaces in their lives. But don't just sit there waiting to tell them what your opinion is. Just listen. Or maybe show them this thread and ask them what they think about what you've expressed here.
posted by peacay at 8:49 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Finally, this form of feminism that follows from the assumption that men have privilege and that society is "set up" negatively toward women is just plain wrong.

....So, wait, you've read the dozens of women who have come forward in this thread and in the previous thread, who have shared personal stories about the many times their dignity, integrity, and very BODIES were intruded upon because men felt they had the privilege to do so -- and, what, you're saying that all of those people who came forward in that thread were all lying about it?

....I said in the last thread that I only categorized people into two groups: Jerks and non-jerks. Male jerks, female jerks, doesn't matter -- there are jerks in all categories. I didn't explain, though, that typically, it takes a lot for me to decide that someone is a full-on jerk as opposed to a non-jerk who's just temporarily developed some jerk tendencies. The first time someone acts like a jerk, I give them a couple chances to make sure that they're not just a non-jerk who's acting like a jerk.

In this case, however, my mind has been immediately made up. You, definitively, are a jerk.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 PM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have nothing to really add to this discussion, other than I think that there really should be more safe places like this on the internet for men and women to continue this kind of dialogue. This thread will fizzle and the subject will slip back into the areas just behind the flavor of the day. But, inevitably another thread or incident within a thread will rekindle this frame of discussion. I hope that between now and then there won't be any steps backwards, at least here.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:15 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Or maybe show them this thread and ask them what they think about what you've expressed here.

This is excellent advice for anyone involved in threads like this.
posted by hippugeek at 9:39 PM on November 12, 2009


Dammit, gjc, couldn't you just stay away? Or at least shut the hell up and listen?

This thread is an amazing place where women are sharing their stories with a courage I can't even imagine, and you've got the gall to come in here and try to make the thread about you again?

Perhaps you really don't intend to be a jerk. Maybe in real life you're an awesome guy who has helped move equality forward. But here? You're being That Guy and acting like a total jerk.

Please, please just shut up. I'm trying to listen.
posted by jacobian at 9:43 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Finally, this form of feminism that follows from the assumption that men have privilege and that society is "set up" negatively toward women is just plain wrong.

God, so full of shit. Willful ignorance, and arrogance.
posted by rtha at 9:48 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Dabitch, does Sweden have its own version of Hollaback?
posted by brujita at 10:30 PM on November 12, 2009


Well, I was trying not to pile on, but fuck, dude, this:

Our similarities of experience are so much greater than the differences as to make the differences relatively meaningless.


No. No, the differences are not meaningless. No, our similarities of experience are not so much greater. It takes the voice of unexamined privilege to come up with this bullshit. It's clear that you don't "believe" in privilege, or if you do, that you believe it is a convenient scapegoat for weak people who just "need to be stronger". Stronger, how? Stronger, like you?

When you say "our similarities", you really mean "my similarity to you". You don't mean "your similarity to me", and you certainly don't mean "your similarity to the women telling these stories", because at every turn you've gone out of your way to negate and marginalize what they're saying, so it's clear that you would view any similarity of yours to theirs as a weakness. That, by itself, ought to tell you something, although I feel sadly confident in assuming you wouldn't hear what you should.

We're not the same, you and I, we're not even close. To me, that's worth celebrating. To you, that's a flaw to be corrected, and we both know in which direction that correction goes. So, thanks anyway, but I'll take my chances.
posted by Errant at 10:38 PM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


I didn't like that article. It was simultaneously taking a serious topic and trying to be cute about it, while also making the issue sort of one sided.

Steranko's Straightedge, gjc - you think everyone was just waiting around waiting for you to come back and drop another steaming pile of insight? Sometimes an issue is goddamn one-sided, okay? Sometimes we don't need to weigh every single point of view in equal measure every single time. Earlier in this thread, I was determined to ignore you, as the points you seemed determined to attempt making were A) not relevant to the discussion at hand and B) nonsensical in and of themselves.

Imagine a discussion of the benefits and inherent risks of nuclear power in which some dude keeps insisting that huckleberries make you Jewish. And you keep telling him that's not really the issue in the first place, but he keeps insisting, god damn it, that eating huckleberries makes one extra super Jewish, and he won't let the conversation move on until he's made sure everyone hears him. And you tell him that even if you agreed with him, that's not really what we're talking about, and he says no listen you assholes, he says that his uncle left on his berry-picking hike a Presbyterian and came back wearing a yarmulke. How dare you suppress his point of view!

That's how irrelevant and obnoxious it is to keep hearing your mess in conversations like this. It's like a fucking zombie out there for women, with hordes of creepy critters trying to clutch at their flesh, sometimes alone, sometimes in packs. No one goddamn cares about the zombie's viewpoint. Consider that viewpoint dismissed.

And if you're dead-set on talking and thinking about how most guys are swell and feel the original article was weaker for not having this thought footnoted out someplace just so every thing was fair and balanced, if you're going to insist on turning away from this opportunity to learn something important so you can deny the reality of privilege then call it's inclusion in the discussion a straw man which you then fucking blame, in part, for difficulty going forward into a truly sex-positive and safe culture, then I'm not sure what else is to be said to you. With both of these threads and the original article available to you, I don't see how you can still try and equate male and female experiences of the world as "more or less equal."

If all you really have to add to this is that "women everywhere are imagining things and more guys are swell guys like the swell guy that is me, and hey we're already kinda-sorta equal according to this algebra I invented" then I'm positive there's a better use for your time out there somewhere.
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:03 PM on November 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


Just to clarify in case anyone is truly confused: rape culture is not something you would have to have a tv to understand.
posted by heyho at 1:23 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm belaboring the point here, but I think it's illustrative.

I was talking to a woman I'd met on the online dating that these kids are doing. We were on the phone. She asked what I was doing. I told her I was walking home from school, which was around a 20-block walk. She regarded me suspiciously and told me that she would never deign to walk home after dark if the walk was that far. In fact, the walk could have been considerably shorter and she still wouldn't have done it.

I experience the world differently from women. I have choices about how to get home that they don't have. One of your friends, hell one of my friends has made this problem worse. Let's try and change our behavior. There is nothing anyone stands to lose that outweighs what might be gained.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 2:06 AM on November 13, 2009


It edged uncomfortably close to "women should be able to control all interactions because they are scared." Which actually is a step backwards

This thread and the one before are an illustration of what you get when men are allowed to control all the interactions.

You say men and women need to be stronger. I agree. I'm being stronger by reserving the right to end any conversation or walk away from a situation that makes me uncomfortable. Now you need to be stronger by absorbing what you've read and not taking it so damned personally if a woman does not want to talk to you or crosses the street to give herself some space.

What are you arguing for here? I'm not going around randomly knee-capping men in my neighborhood because they might be rapists. I'm not preemptively assaulting anyone. Are you arguing for the right to chase someone down saying "I'm a nice guy, I'm not going to rape you. I just want to talk"? After reading Sova's story, forgive me if I don't let it get to that point.

I've shared just one of my stories above. I've also been catcalled, groped and placed in uncomfortable positions by men who took advantage of their privilege perpetuated by rape culture. I am adapting my behaviors based on my experiences, which is what smart human beings do (survival of the fittest, and all). Your argument seems to be for keeping things the way they were while women wait for the bad seeds to stop doing that thing they do. It's hard to believe you've actually read the two threads and have still arrived at that conclusion.
posted by contrariwise at 3:14 AM on November 13, 2009 [10 favorites]


> Dammit, gjc, couldn't you just stay away? Or at least shut the hell up and listen?

Seconded. Jesus, you've managed to derail this fantastic thread yet again. Go nurse your imaginary wounds elsewhere.
posted by languagehat at 6:53 AM on November 13, 2009


Second, all of these stories break my heart. Not for a minute was I trying to diminish the pain or the courage to share. - gjc

....So, wait, you've read the dozens of women who have come forward in this thread and in the previous thread, who have shared personal stories about the many times their dignity, integrity, and very BODIES were intruded upon because men felt they had the privilege to do so -- and, what, you're saying that all of those people who came forward in that thread were all lying about it? -EmpressCallipygos

*pssst* he is lying about having read them (or incredibly, incredibly obstinate in his views)
posted by audacity at 6:56 AM on November 13, 2009


Seconded. Jesus, you've managed to derail this fantastic thread yet again. Go nurse your imaginary wounds elsewhere.

Agreed! Can't we go back to a productive discussion? Like the one about teaching children?

I for one don't think that boys and girls need different educations from one another—in fact I think it improves your chances of them thinking of each other as human beings if they see you teaching them the same. Most importantly, boys should be taught to think of girls as human, and vice versa. I think all boys and girls should be taught about personal space, consent and not doing anything without consent (although perhaps not in those terms).

I think it's important to emphasize to both boys and girls that in any interaction, "you stop if they say 'No' or "Stop,' and they have to stop if you say 'No' or 'Stop.' If you say 'No,' and someone doesn't stop what they are doing with you, go and tell someone right away." As they get older, you can have more detailed conversations about consent (I'm talking about very young children and how to start the process, here).

Then again, I don't have kids. I've just been one and had younger siblings and worked in a preschool for 5 years or so. What does everyone else think?
posted by audacity at 7:04 AM on November 13, 2009


So, I really am interested in knowing what the people with kids are doing/plan on doing to teach their children about this...
posted by audacity at 7:18 AM on November 13, 2009


It's like arguing with a flat-Earther. We just shouldn't bother, because how do you argue with someone who doesn't live in the real world?

That said....Unleash the leopards!
posted by rtha at 7:18 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


[few comments removed - don't do that thing, that thing you do, here, now, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:20 AM on November 13, 2009


the assumption that men have privilege and that society is "set up" negatively toward women is just plain wrong.

Anytime I've ever heard this sentiment, it's been from a man. I'm sure that coincidence is relatively meaningless.
posted by hermitosis at 7:23 AM on November 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


the assumption that men have privilege and that society is "set up" negatively toward women is just plain wrong.

Anytime I've ever heard this sentiment, it's been from a man. I'm sure that coincidence is relatively meaningless.


Agreed. I'm going to steal a friend's reply to gjc's type of oblivious remark: It must be nice to be so privileged that you can say that.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:30 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anytime I've ever heard this sentiment, it's been from a man. I'm sure that coincidence is relatively meaningless.

It's exactly the same thing that someone who doesn't understand the purpose of Affirmative Action would say. By which I mean, it's ignorant and, yes, a symptom of privilege.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:32 AM on November 13, 2009


So, I really am interested in knowing what the people with kids are doing/plan on doing to teach their children about this...

Don't have kids, and I'm approaching an age when I'm starting to think I won't.

But I have a niece, and I hope she trusts me enough to confide in me for some murky things; at which point, I don't know what I'll do, it depends what she tells me. I can definitely be an advisor.

But in terms of setting up a sense of gender-neutral self-worth, I am resolved to get that child a copy of the FREE TO BE YOU AND ME album. I got that from my aunt when I was just six, and I can see now that it did a LOT in terms of how I came to think about stereotypes and gender roles. I tend to be less shrinking-violet when it comes to aggression from men (women are a different story, because of some truly fucked-up encounters with girl gangs in my tweens), and I get good and PISSED when I am harrassed or intruded upon. A lot of this, I think, has to do with FTBYAM instilling in me a sense of "women have worth". In my own identity, my emphasis has been on my brain first and foremost -- and I think FTBYAM had a lot to do with that. If you value your own opinons and brain, it helps you expect others will too -- and you are more likely to assert yourself when they don't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:39 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I for one don't think that boys and girls need different educations from one another—in fact I think it improves your chances of them thinking of each other as human beings if they see you teaching them the same. Most importantly, boys should be taught to think of girls as human, and vice versa. I think all boys and girls should be taught about personal space, consent and not doing anything without consent (although perhaps not in those terms).

Something I remember reading a long time ago (probably in Psychiatry Today) was that however different men and women may be (men are from Mars, women are from Venus etc), they tend to get emotionally/mentally unwell in very similar ways (ie: depression, ADD, schizophrenia etc). So yes, teaching boys empathy for girls (and visa versa) at an early age only makes sense.
posted by philip-random at 8:00 AM on November 13, 2009


Gjc's repeated, hurtful, deeply misogynist derailing of this conversation is really frustrating, but I think on one level we can treat this as a learning experience, and an object lesson. Why? Because he is a classic example of the most insidious kind of misogynist out there: the guy that claims to be nice, the guy that claims to be an ally, and then turns out to not just be an ally, but the enemy. He is the Nice Guy and it is all about him. Witness the jarring shift from

Second, all of these stories break my heart. Not for a minute was I trying to diminish the pain or the courage to share.

to

Our similarities of experience are so much greater than the differences as to make the differences relatively meaningless.

-- which is, in a way, even worse than outright rejecting the experiences women have shared in this thread: He acknowledges them, claims that they broke his heart, and then dismisses them all with a wave of the male-privileged hand. There is a deep, toxic hatred of women seething within his comments (just witness how easily he dismisses the experiences of so many women), but he attempts to couch it in concern trolling and faux-friendliness.

This is the sort of day-to-day shit that I have seen grind women down: the daily, casual misogyny of friends and coworkers. If we can get anything positive out of gjc's nonstop torrent of shit in this thread, let's take it as another object lesson of what women must deal with, day in and day out.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 8:27 AM on November 13, 2009 [10 favorites]


however different men and women may be (men are from Mars, women are from Venus etc)

I really think that the non-physical differences between men and women are socially constructed. Children of both sexes react pretty similarly to everything until the age when you start hearing them say to each other "well boys don't do that or wear that or like that" and "girls don't like that or wear that or grow up to be that." You can tell that they're learning these things. It doesn't come from inside thm.
posted by audacity at 8:51 AM on November 13, 2009


This post on Jezebel this morning may be interesting to some of you. The short version of the article: A study was run on 1,882 college students of varying ethnicities and ages, asking them 4 questions to determine if they've ever forced anyone to have sexual contact with them. (FYI, that's called rape.) 6% of students polled confirmed that not only had they forced someone to engage in sexual activity with them, they'd done it repeatedly. They just don't think of it as rape.

The Jezebel article links to this blog post by Thomas Macauley Miller of Yes Means Yes!, in which the data is crunched, and this blog post at Washington City Paper which goes over the study info again.
posted by palomar at 9:00 AM on November 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


So, I really am interested in knowing what the people with kids are doing/plan on doing to teach their children about this...

--for my son, i taught him to open doors for women. seems like a small thing, but it teaches a certain amount of respect. i also showed him by behaving properly myself. he won't see me treat women that way.

--for my daughter, i'm going to teach her that her body is hers, and it's just fine for her to be happy with it. i'm going to teach her how to control these situations, and how to escape or adapt as the situation arises. she wall also see me treating women properly.

wish i could do more.
posted by lester at 9:19 AM on November 13, 2009


I was skimming the blog Female Science Professor after reading an article written by her (on academic etiquette), and just came across a post called "Feeling Harrassed" about being the parent of a middle school kid facing harrassment.
posted by limeswirltart at 9:32 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


From the end of the post Limeswirltart links to above:

"One of the great things that the teachers did, once apprised of the problem, is to make [my daughter] feel that SHE [the daughter] solved the problem by speaking out. I think that was very important and gave my daughter a good perspective on how a supportive community can try to solve problems like this. "

Yes. yes yes yes yes yes yes. THAT is an excellent way to handle this -- a girl who speaks up about people harrassing her is not "tattling" and she is not a weak creature who couldn't handle something on her own.

Calling in backup IS action. A girl who learns that things happen when she takes action will be able to take action in the future.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:54 AM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Now that I've read the whole thing, I really think Thomas Macauley Miller's blog post about the study on rapists should be required reading for everyone. After he breaks down the study results (there are actually two studies, both kind of horrifying), he goes into detail about why these rapists get away with it (PROTIP: IT'S BECAUSE OF WHO THEY TARGET), and how we can stop them from getting away with it or, better yet, even raping in the first place. If you're wondering how we educate men and boys on this stuff, I think this blog post is a good jumping-off place.

One other thing that comes up in this blog post is that not only are the majority of rapes committed by the same rapists over and over and over (because they don't get caught, because we're conditioned to not think of what they do as "real" rape), but the majority of child abuse and domestic violence is committed by those same rapists. That's something I hadn't thought of.
posted by palomar at 9:54 AM on November 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


lester, there's so much more. So much.

Opening doors for women is hardly the be-all and end-all of instilling respect. Teach him to express himself with words; teach him to ask for what he wants - but if he doesn't get it, it's not the end of the world, and it doesn't make the person who said "No" a bad person. It doesn't make him a bad person either, for asking. Teach him to behave gracefully in the face of disappointment, which he'll get from women and men both, in his personal and professional lives.

i'm going to teach her how to control these situations, and how to escape or adapt as the situation arises.

This worries me a little. As you can see from many, many of the stories here, an awful lot of us blame ourselves for what's happened to us. There are going to be times in your daughter's life when she'll have zero control over "what happens" - how do you control a bunch of construction workers, for example? There are a lot of techniques to defuse potentially uncomfortable or dangerous situations, but please, please make it clear to both your kids that the person who does the bad thing to them is the one at fault.

Also, I hope you will teach your son that it's not up to the women in his future life to "control" the situation. It is also incumbent upon him to take responsibility for his actions.
posted by rtha at 9:59 AM on November 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


From palomar's links;

1) Have you ever attempted unsuccessfully to have intercourse with an adult by force or threat of force?
2) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone who did not want you to because they were too intoxicated to resist?
3) Have you ever had intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?
4) Have you ever had oral intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?


1 in 15 college men (average age, 26.5) said yes, 70% of them to number 2. 1 in 25 admitted to multiple times, with an average of 5.8 each. They were all unconvicted of anything.

The whole sample of almost 1900 men reported just under 4000 violent acts, but this 4% of recidivist rapists results in over 1000 of those violent acts.

Jesus. I have no words adequate. 1 in 15.
posted by ArkhanJG at 10:31 AM on November 13, 2009


I just want to pop in and say thanks to all the feminist men who have stood up for women and generally not been That Guy in these discussions (both this one and the original post). I posted links to these discussions and they're circulating in my social circle, on Facebook and so on, and it's so tiring to have the same discussion about how women don't understand how to manage their own risks, they're paranoid and unreasonable, it's offensive for men to be profiled as rapists, etc. over and over and over again.

One man I know compared the risk of rape to the risk of heart attacks from eating unhealthy food, and how women who worry about the former don't treat the latter the same way. I just don't have the strength to say to him how wrong, offensive, and just plain hurtful that comparison is. I'll never talk about rape culture or related issues in his presence again if I can help it. The sad part is, I'm sure he considers himself a feminist and would be horrified to hear me say what I think and feel about his comment.

Those of you who don't say that shit, and help shut it down: you make it easier for some of us and possible for others to discuss feminist issues in public. Thank you. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I notice and appreciate, and I'm sure I'm not alone.
posted by immlass at 10:42 AM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Now that I've read the whole thing, I really think Thomas Macauley Miller's blog post about the study on rapists should be required reading for everyone.

Wow. What an article.
posted by audacity at 11:00 AM on November 13, 2009


The sad part is, I'm sure he considers himself a feminist and would be horrified to hear me say what I think and feel about his comment.

Hopefully, he is now horrified and it's no longer theoretical, either because you did tell him, or because someone else told him, that he's being an idiot.

Here, I'll tell him: dude I don't know, what are these womanly behaviors you would like to identify as increasing the risk of rape, as eating unhealthy food increases the risk of heart attack? Are you perhaps suggesting that if the woman in question behaved differently, they would have avoided being assaulted? Are you implying that rape is an environmental hazard that women simply have to navigate, instead of being a preventable crime perpetrated upon them by criminals? Are you, in effect, saying that women who were raped didn't do enough to prevent being assaulted, and therefore some of the fault must rest with them?

Yes, you are saying all of those things, and that means you're being an idiot, dude I don't know. Try not being an idiot, you might like it. Assuredly, the women around you will greatly enjoy it.
posted by Errant at 11:21 AM on November 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


> i taught him to open doors for women. seems like a small thing, but it teaches a certain amount of respect.

I know your intentions are of the best, and opening doors can indicate a respectful attitude, but it can also indicate a condescending "Let me take care of that for you, little lady" attitude that is part and parcel of an antiquated social contract ("good" women stay home and mind the kids, while "good" men treat "good" women like china dolls and "bad" women like sluts) that feminism has been doggedly trying to rid the world of for a long time now. I was in college when second-wave feminism hit back around 1970, and having been brought up to show respect in all the traditional ways, I was quite offended when women of my generation started responding with "I can do it myself" and treating me as a sexist pig. But, but, but (I wanted to say) I'm a feminist! I believe in equality! I'm just... being nice!

But you know what? Women actually don't need to have the door opened for them except in circumstances in which everyone could use a helping hand (carrying packages, etc.). Older women who grew up with the kindly sexist traditions of yesteryear will appreciate such attentions, but younger ones may well not, and you should alert your son to be aware of this. Show people respect in the ways they themselves find respectful. (Yes, this isn't easy, since you don't know in advance how any given woman will feel, but that's just one example of what a big, confusing, unpredictable world it is.)
posted by languagehat at 11:48 AM on November 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yes, I'm willing to bake a pie.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:55 AM on November 13, 2009


My personal take on door-opening: Whoever gets to the door first opens it. It's common courtesy.
posted by heyho at 11:56 AM on November 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


When I was a little girl my mom, who I've mentioned a few times before in this thread, told me how "feminists" were basically changing how men and women interacted. She told me a story of how, a man holding a door open for a woman got told "fuck you" by her as she walked through it. I thought this was an interesting choice of apocryphal story to tell over and over; it was pretty clear that my Mom thought that feminists were screwing up the order of things. I used to think my Mom was a feminist because she didn't shave her legs or wear a bra. Now I know better. It's not that she's not feminist per se, but she's not feminist like I am, she falls more into the "eh why make a big deal out of it, he was only joking" keep the peace sort of person. Don't rock the boat.

I hold the door for anyone who is standing there or who has packages. I let people hold the door open for me if that's what they're into doing. Occasionally someone will hold the door open for me well in advance of my getting to it and I'll feel sort of annoyed at having to hustle and/or make them wait. And sometimes people (men, in my experience but maybe my experience is narrow) hold the door and then you have to sort of sidle past them because they're also standing in the doorway and sometimes I'll just stand there and say "thanks but you go ahead" because I don't feel like rubbing up against anyone at that particular time. There are a lot of older men in my town who really are just trying to be polite by holding the door and I try not to make every door-holding episode into a consciousness raising event. That said, it's not 100% guaranteed that every woman wants or appreciates a door held for her, I guess is what I'm saying.

And this is contextual too. My boyfriend doesn't hold the door for me because he knows that I'm actually happier if he's the first person who walks into a strange room/restaurant/bar, so I'll usually hold the door for him. People can think whatever they want.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:48 PM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I can possibly shed a little light on the education angle. My son, now almost 18, went to an extremely awesome tiny hippie Quaker boarding school in 7th and 8th grade. Some of the issues we've been discussing in these two threads apparently came up at some point in his second year there. Instead of dismissing it or just getting angry, they were addressed by the entire school. They talked about the objectification of women in our society for several weeks, mostly in the kind of thing that I think in the sixties would have been called encounter groups: students and staff of both genders sitting down and talking, talking, talking. They talked about porn, they talked about domestic violence, they talked about depictions of women in advertising and the media, they talked about misogynist lyrics and pretty much every permutation of sexism in our culture. They watched movies and dissected them, etc. At the time I thought they went a little overboard with it - my son got a bit distressed about it, worrying about being male - but in retrospect I think that perhaps, with that age group, it takes too much to be enough. I know that it left a lasting impression on him.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:56 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, I'm quite able to open a door for myself, but if I get there just before someone else, I always hold it for her/him. And I always thank a stranger (typically male) who opens a door for me, not only out of politeness but to indicate that I consider it a nice favor rather than something I'm owed on account of the uterus thing.

About teaching children, first of all, we're fighting all the insidious, pervasive forces of the broader culture that the little ones suck up like sponges. And I think it's less about the overt efforts we make to Teach Them Certain Things but about being at least somewhat alert to all the little ways we reinforce the status quo (not that we can control or notice all of it).

For instance, this is a tiny, probably stupid thing that most people consider totally innocuous, but it discomfits me vaguely when I hear adults doing that cutesy "do you have a boyfriend?!" "how many girlfriends do you have?" thing with, like, 5 and 6 year olds. And you notice that people never ask little girls the "how many" version. I mean, I know it's not sexual exactly, but the way we inject, I dunno, a kind of hetero-courtship vibe into kidhood is weird sometimes.

A year or two ago, the 2 or 3 year old son of a colleague was visiting our office suite area. Another coworker (female) had a couple of women student advisees in her office. And the little boy goes in and is being really cutely friendly to them and getting on their laps and hugging them etc., and they're making a big fuss over him. Which is great, but they're saying things like, "Oh, you big flirt," and "He's just a ladies' man" yata yata, and fawning over him in this bizarre Tiger Beat dream date tone.

This is nothing new. I have letters my dad wrote from the Pacific to his cousin during World War II in which there was this whole ongoing "courtship" riff about her little daughter ("Remind her that I'm her best beau" etc.) whom he doted on -- in a purely non-creepy way, I might add. Anyhow, it's just weird how much every element of life and interaction seems to be subtly and not-so-subtly sexualized all around us -- and I don't just mean that TNT is showing K-Y Intense commercials at 3 in the afternoon. Yes, sex is an important, natural, healthy blah blah blah and sex positivity rah! and all that, but really, try keeping track sometime of how many references to sex come up in totally irrelevant situations on any given day. It's no wonder that some people buy into that "men think about sex every twelve minutes" horseshit since it's in our faces constantly.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:32 PM on November 13, 2009


FelliniBlank, I could not agree with you more. It would be really helpful for kids if we stopped the whole "oh you're such a little ladies' man/such an attractive little lady" stuff. Especially speaking as someone who as a child ended up being around some hella creepy adults, it would have been really helpful if I could have told the difference between this cutesy-jokey stuff and actual pedophiles. The ones who are hiding in plain sight pretty much do these same things.

And my younger brother was encouraged to have tons of little "girlfriends" at the age of, I kid you not, 6. Adults (not our parents that I can remember, but lots of other adults) thought it was hilarious and encouraged him to chase these little girls around and catch them and kiss them (did anyone think to ask if the girls wanted that? No). In fact, there was one girl who was two grades above him who would chase him around and try to catch and kiss HIM, and no one cared that he didn't want her to and would hide from her instead of playing at recess. No one stopped it or did anything about it. They thought, I guess, that he should like it. It's amazing how early the conditioning starts.
posted by audacity at 1:56 PM on November 13, 2009


> And my younger brother was encouraged to have tons of little "girlfriends" at the age of, I kid you not, 6. Adults (not our parents that I can remember, but lots of other adults) thought it was hilarious and encouraged him to chase these little girls around and catch them and kiss them (did anyone think to ask if the girls wanted that? No).

Jesus Christ. How are we going to get this shit stopped?

> It's amazing how early the conditioning starts.

Amazing and depressing.
posted by languagehat at 2:37 PM on November 13, 2009


FelliniBlank - For instance, this is a tiny, probably stupid thing that most people consider totally innocuous, but it discomfits me vaguely when I hear adults doing that cutesy "do you have a boyfriend?!" "how many girlfriends do you have?" thing with, like, 5 and 6 year olds.

It happens earlier as well. My daughter is five months old and at the new mother's group I attended women were saying similar things about their babies. From annoying but mostly innocuous "oh he's such a flirt" to the more horrifying "if you don't shut your legs missy, all the boys are going to swarm all over you". It was obnoxious and totally terrifying. Babies aren't sexual, yet we 'joke' about the flirting and the sexualised nature of normal behaviour? How is that appropriate? Why is it okay to do shit like that? When you add in the rest of the gendered bullshit (like the day my daughter and I wore identical clothes but EVERYONE called her a boy because little baby girls only ever wear explicitly gendered clothing) it becomes a nightmare to try and manoeuvre as a parent. Because no-one wants to think that their 'jokes' are inappropriate about children. And telling children 'it's just a joke, ignore it' plays right into the confusion so many of us feel when the joke turns out to be a warning sign.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:48 PM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I remember feeling uncontrollable jealousy that my male cousins got to wear pants to our extended family's Christmas parties every damn year, whereas the other girls and I had to wear dresses that made us so freakin cold we couldn't linger outside to play. All so that creepy Uncle Duke could ogle us and come too close with his beer-breath to tell us how prettyprettypretty we were. Blechk.

Used to put me in a foul mood, that did. But gosh, was I pretty! Grrrrrrr.
posted by heyho at 2:54 PM on November 13, 2009


Ugh. It is pervasive - I have a facebook friend who repeatedly calls her baby girl "sexy" (and she's not the only one). It's a really creepy replacement or "cute" or "adorable", and its something she started doing in utero. Yuck.
posted by fermezporte at 3:01 PM on November 13, 2009


Ugh. It is pervasive - I have a facebook friend who repeatedly calls her baby girl "sexy" (and she's not the only one). It's a really creepy replacement or "cute" or "adorable", and its something she started doing in utero. Yuck.

And I thought it was bad that my Facebook friend refers to her baby boy as "a little man." That's what the "ignore" option is for, though.
posted by runningwithscissors at 3:38 PM on November 13, 2009


Wait, I say "little man"! It's folksy!!

But yeah, this "sexy" baby "shut your legs" stuff makes me glad I'm always 5 years behind the times.
posted by palliser at 3:46 PM on November 13, 2009


Also, I just realized that I say "little man" occasionally, and as a direct address to the baby, not on Facebook.
posted by palliser at 3:50 PM on November 13, 2009


I'll admit to giving a strong "fuck off and die" look to a guy holding a door for me. I believe I even said something dry and unpleasant, but I can't remember what now. I do remember that he was shocked, shocked that I'd answer back. What a bitch I am. Yes indeed.

I was about nineteen; he was perhaps forty-five; neither one of us was carrying any packages or anything. The guy rushes ahead of me to pull open the door, which is your first tip-off that things aren't right. Then, hah hah, instead of continuing to pull the door open as people usually do, which would put him beside or behind the door relative to me, he swiftly moves to place himself with his back against the door. (Seriously, he must have practiced it, because that has got to be awkward.) This accomplishes all sorts of things:
  1. It draws attention to what a gallant Nice Guy he is - opening a door! Good heavens! Everyone should be overwhelmed by his generosity! I should fall all over myself!
  2. It makes him feel as smoove as a guy in a fedora, judging by the self-satisfied look.
  3. Most pertinent to me, it means that I can't get through the door unless I allow this smirking jerk well into my personal space. There is enough space between him and the doorway that I don't quite have to actually sidle, but he's forcing a physical closeness that is way, way closer than local norms. What am I going to do, pretend that I didn't really want to go to the store after all?
So of course I grit my teeth and go through the damn door, and of course he has something to say about HURF DURF BOOTIFUL LAYYDEEEES hurr hurr.

I can feel my lip curling into a snarl even now. All I wanted to do was buy some socks or something, and this random guy just has to inflict his midlife crisis on me. In his mind, apparently, I was supposed to humor this because I was a purty young layyyy-deee. Just as I'm supposed (in the minds of some) to humor every single request for attention from every single male chucklehead who cares to demand it. All I can say is, opening doors for women taught that guy no kind of respect.
posted by sculpin at 3:53 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now that I've read the whole thing, I really think Thomas Macauley Miller's blog post about the study on rapists should be required reading for everyone.

Amen. Two things from the article seemed especially telling:

If we could eliminate the men who rape again and again and again, a quarter of the violence against women and children would disappear.

This implies that there is a window when rapists start raping, in their late teens.

The statistics are depressing, but also seem to offer some kind of solution- if we could stop the sexualisation of children detailed above, if we could teach our sons about healthy attitudes towards sex and women, and if we could encourage them not to support a rape culture through 'harmless' jokes and comments, then perhaps we could stop of few of those recidivist rapists before they started, and by doing so drastically reduce the number of assaults. We'll rarely be in a situation where we can actively stop a rape from happening, but we can certainly change the 'social license to operate' that permits the 4% of repeat offenders from pretending that what they're doing is fine.
posted by twirlypen at 4:16 PM on November 13, 2009


Sorry, sculpin, but in a thread where men and women intelligently and articulately discuss sexual harassment and rape with poignant detail--serious issues that require serious discussion--your coming out with a story like that (dear god, an older man dared to hold the door open for me!) really rankles me.

Respect is a two-way street. We want to teach our boys to respect women as they grow older. So then, doesn't it follow that we should also teach our girls to appreciate well-intentioned gestures, even when they may be, from a practical standpoint, unnecessary, to reward and encourage that respectful behavior?

Just because someone's well-intentioned gesture (and I do believe that's what it was) comes across as some mid-life crisis to you (really? project much?) because you are able to open your own door, there's no need to "curl your lip" with scorn at a strange man who has done nothing worse than stand with his back against a door (a method many doormen use every day, btw, and it is THEIR JOB to open doors).

You just set this whole thread backwards with that anecdote, IMO. You might want to aim for a little less judgment next time when dealing with an older generation. It's a shame that you have not come to expect the men of your own age to open doors for you, so that you could learn how to accept graciously. It's a courtesy, not an insult to your own capabilities.
posted by misha at 4:31 PM on November 13, 2009


I don't know that the guy who runs ahead to open a door for you (to make it easier) and then stands in such a way as to make you brush past (not easier) AND make comments about your looks/your body really should be encouraged to continue that method of interaction.

And it is not anywhere near a 'shame' that I don't expect men my age to open a door for me. And accepting shit graciously isn't going to help women reinforce their boundaries nor will it help men realise that they are impinging on those boundaries. Opening a door for someone does no guarantee that they will find it helpful, or be grateful. I don't like it because I've learnt the hard way that letting strange men into my personal space is a bad fucking idea. I've also learnt that since those initial lessons, it doesn't take them doing anything to me to make me feel like shit for the rest of the day. So whose 'hurt feelings' and 'graciousness' matter here? Grace would be me being able to go through my day untriggered by people invading my personal space out of some outdated and unnecessary notion of courtesy.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:52 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Just because someone's well-intentioned gesture (and I do believe that's what it was)

Even after the "HURF DURF BOOTIFUL LAYYDEEEES", that's what you believe?

Huh.
posted by hades at 5:05 PM on November 13, 2009


Sure, misha. And he was just talking, right?

I have had doors held open for me thousands of times, and have held doors open myself in turn. We all do that here. Holding a door open is not, in itself, objectionable. But I am perfectly capable of telling the difference between a man who is simply holding a door open and a man who is using "gallantry" as an excuse to get uncomfortably physically close to a woman and start a conversation about her physical attractiveness.

There's a spectrum. One of the reasons I told this story, among the other little stories I've told, besides wanting to make the point that opening doors is not sufficient for teaching respect, is that I've been in story-telling sessions like this before, and from what I've seen, there can sometimes be a natural tendency to tell more and more horrible stories. And while those stories are important, and I value them deeply, I think we should be careful to remember that they also occur in our lives with a million other littler stories that we never tell because they never quite rise to the level of being something you'd tell a story about. (Especially since you never know who's going to come along and try to shame you if you tell a story that they can read as less than entirely virtuous or generous on your part.)

The near date rape I had when I was 16 was scary, but it's nothing to me compared to the long grind of casual intrusion and harassment of which this ugly little door-holding incident was a part. The not-quite-rape, that's a story. Being surrounded by a dozen guys in masks, that's a story. But what I'm seeing is that, in many ways, the stories we need most to tell are the stories that we don't even think are stories. The ones that are the background noise -- all those Schroedinger's Rapists, the kissy noises, the ordinary stuff that's over in a moment.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I happened to be taking the same bus on our way to different locations. He was a little astonished when I got off a stop early; I was a little astonished to have to explain that I didn't want to have to walk the catcall gauntlet that sometimes hangs around the next stop up. What was utterly mundane to me was a surprise to him. It made me realize that, while he knows all my deep and profound and scary stories, I'd never really talked to him about the weight of all those littler stories. I just assumed, somehow, that he had the picture. But why would he, if I never think to mention it?
posted by sculpin at 5:12 PM on November 13, 2009 [15 favorites]


I want to add that, in saying that about the little stories, I'm not trying to shut down anyone from telling a story that's very meaningful to them. I just want to cheer on the other stories as well. As I want to cheer on all the ways we tell them -- whether we're somber, shocked, scared, indignant, analytical, sarcastic, confused, enlightened, shamed, guilty, hopeful, or anything else.
posted by sculpin at 5:41 PM on November 13, 2009


misha, there's a whole lot of difference between holding a door open for someone because you happen to be at the door first, and sprinting ahead of someone to hold the door for them while also partially blocking the door so that the person has to shimmy past them. Method #1 is courteous and blah blah blah, but method #2 is a straight-up attempt to cop a cheap feel.
posted by palomar at 5:55 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


You just set this whole thread backwards with that anecdote, IMO.

I couldn't disagree more.

And like sculpin, I think I can tell the difference between creepy door-holding guy and noncreepy door-holding guy. I've had a lot of experience with people holding doors (and holding doors myself, for that matter - and you know what? I've never, ever had to, or voluntarily, held a door in such a way that the person was forced to pass by very close to me).
posted by rtha at 6:01 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of the 'nice' guys at school, the ones who would save you a seat. That seat would inevitably mean either trying to squeeze between them and the seat in front, or climbing over them. Rarely it meant them actually moving so you didn't have to brush against them. Intention doesn't always match the implementation.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:03 PM on November 13, 2009


You might want to aim for a little less judgment next time when dealing with an older generation.

You might want to aim for a little less judgment when attacking someone for telling a story about something they experienced when you were not there. How can you "believe" anything contrary to what sculpin expresses when you weren't there to experience or witness it? The story told by sculpin was about a guy who got up in her personal space and made comments about her body, all in the name of being "gallant" (I would think it was more gallant to be respectful to another human being's personal space and autonomy. There's nothing wrong with holding doors to be polite, but that is not what the story was about). Why do you think you have the right to redefine sculpin's experience? Does it make you feel more comfortable?
posted by audacity at 6:36 PM on November 13, 2009


I don't like what misha had to say, for sure, and I very much appreciate the support, but I'd really rather not move this thread into any kind of a misha-vs-sculpin smackdown thing. I want to say this in misha's defense: I was wrong to wait so long to tell my dopey, snarky little door-opening story -- and it was dopey and snarky. I let it percolate for a good while, while the conversation moved on to the important topic of how to raise boys and young men. And perhaps I should have kept my peace, rather than risk derailing that.

It's an interesting thing, deciding which stories to tell, isn't it? And when? I knew this one was a risk. I double-, triple-, quadruple-guessed myself, which is why it took so long to actually put down. I probably could have written that story differently, in a way that would make me less open to attack. I might have cut the sarcasm, ignored the complex and ridiculous power differential of age, and focused on my fear and uncertainty instead of my anger and contempt and black humor. I still would have been telling a true story, just a very different one.

It would have been safer for me to write a story about fear. But that would have been me giving in to the fear of being interpretable as bitchy and shamed accordingly. I know that fear well. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. It's what can keep me silent when I'm harassed. I'm tired of that fear. I'm sick of giving in to it so often.

So, yes, I thought about writing that story in a less vulnerable way. But it felt like I'd be letting down that nineteen-year-old me who put aside her fear and confusion and sailed past, head high and unsmiling, with perhaps some dry remark. She nailed it that time. I wish I could say that of every time. I wish there were fewer times to report -- for me, for all of us.

Poignancy and seriousness are necessary and can be beautiful. I very much hope I didn't offend anyone whose story has sombered me here. But I also say that if we limit ourselves only to poignancy, we're not expressing ourselves as fully human, and we're not telling all of our emotional truths. Things can be both hurtful and hilarious, and a lot of them are.
posted by sculpin at 7:46 PM on November 13, 2009


It's just my personal bugbear but I hate the way that every time feminism is mentioned someone brings up the whole 'holding doors open' thing.

I just really hate it. It seems like such a damned cliche to me.

Also, I'm kicking myself because in my previous post I had a whole thing mentioned about having two young boys who I'm trying to guide in age appropriate ways into not believing that 'girls do this' and 'boys do that' and dealing with the fact that these roles are already in their minds from all of their influences away from home, but I deleted it because I thought it would sound all ooh preachy mum this is the way my boys are being indoctrinated and you should too, which is kind of annoying now because I guess it's good to let people know that there are mothers out there who are fully engaged in making sure their boys grow up to be good men.

That was a very long sentence.
posted by h00py at 8:19 PM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]



Most pertinent to me, it means that I can't get through the door unless I allow this smirking jerk well into my personal space. There is enough space between him and the doorway that I don't quite have to actually sidle, but he's forcing a physical closeness that is way, way closer than local norms. What am I going to do, pretend that I didn't really want to go to the store after all?


This is pretty much what happened to me here. I looked at the woman and told her "Thank you" in a tone of voice that made it clear I wanted nothing to do with her ( what I really wanted to do was shriek: " I really wish the butches in this shithole town {Iowa City} would FUCKING LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!)

Holding the door for someone right behind you is common courtesy. Making a huge production of holding it open for someone 30 feet away from it or rushing and jumping in front of someone (which has also happened to me---in a therapy group; I told the guy this scared me....but it probably didn't get through. He left the program shortly afterward )to open it is harassment .
posted by brujita at 10:38 PM on November 13, 2009


I think that I just fundamentally disagree with both lester and misha about the use of the word "respect" if they think that men holding doors open for women shows respect. I can accept that it's generally well-intentioned, that it's viewed as being courteous and kind and friendly. But not only do I think that singling women out for special treatment isn't a sign of respect, I think it actually shows a lack of respect to some degree. (Especially the guys who, after they've opened the first of a set of double-doors for me, refuse to walk through the second door I'm holding for them, and stand there staring until I walk through first. If you don't associate some level of patronizing/disrespect with holding a door for someone, why won't you let me do it for you?)

What's this "extra courtesy" for? What's the thought process behind it? What exactly is the difference about women that makes it appropriate to hold doors for us and not for men? I find it hard to believe that thinking men ought to hold doors open for women isn't balanced out somewhere else, whether in a belief/entitlement about how women are supposed to act in return, a belief in women's lesser capabilities in some way, some other fundamental perception of difference, etc.

And misha, I think this actually ties in quite well to the rest of the discussion we were having. It's a spectrum, and obviously this is way, way down at the mild end, but I personally believe it's one part of the larger culture that feeds into the bigger problems-- and as we listen to each others' stories, I don't think we need some cutoff of which stories and experiences are "bad enough" that they deserve to be shared and heard and recognized. I want to hear them all.

And honestly, misha's reaction (which is not at all unique) is itself interesting to consider in the context of the other issues we're talking about: "But he was just trying to be nice! It was a compliment so why would you have a problem with it? You're too sensitive. You shouldn't be upset. It doesn't matter how it made you feel, it only matters what he meant by it. Unless it's a Really Big Deal, you should just be quiet about the things that bother you, because you don't have the right to make a fuss or upset other people by expressing your feelings." (I don't at all mean to suggest that you'd say that about harassment or assault, misha-- but that's how your response to sculpin came off to me, and it's a little troubling to me even in this much milder context.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 12:54 AM on November 14, 2009 [7 favorites]


Oh, and sorry, h00py.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 12:58 AM on November 14, 2009


> I'd really rather not move this thread into any kind of a misha-vs-sculpin smackdown thing.

It's not about misha-vs-sculpin, but it's important to emphasize that your comment was perfectly appropriate and a genuine contribution to the thread—it made the point about the door-holding thing far more eloquently and effectively than I was able to do when I was responding to lester. It's very, very important that men realize that "holding the door for a woman" is far more complicated than they might think, and to understand why a woman might react the way you did (and the way some women did back when I was still trying to show respect that way). And your point about the need for the "littler stories" is an excellent one.

And really, misha, you might think twice about dumping on a woman who's trying to share her experiences in this of all threads.
posted by languagehat at 6:37 AM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's an interesting thing, deciding which stories to tell, isn't it?

I think that would be a very good subject for later study. This entire thread is a sociological goldmine and that is just one aspect. Off the top of my head:

Reasons for telling
:
Solidarity
Resonance
Memory retrieved by previous story
Illustration of another angle on harassment
Anger about the situation
Clarification of attitude or opinion
Relief in finding an audience and purging of ghosts/painful feelings

Reasons for not telling
:
Embarrassment of how the situation was handled
Feeling that it is too common
Memory vague
Details still too painful
Details too unique which might lead to identification
Fear of being misunderstood
Fear of labeling

I have an example of being embarrassed of how I handled the situation. I don't mind relating how I was raped as a child, I don't mind telling about being molested by family members or sexually harassed by my boss, but I do draw the line at giving details about being pressured into giving my college professor a blow job. After all these years, I've never forgiven myself for how I handled the situation.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:12 AM on November 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


I was just discussing this in MeMail, but I think it deserves a wider airing. I think the people who are getting upset that we're even mentioning door-holding aren't really thinking about how it fits into the picture, here. We're not talking about everyday, polite, "hold the door open for the person behind/next to you so it doesn't smack them in the face" or "hold the door open for the person holding the packages or drinks or umbrella" or "hold the door open because this person is close enough and it's common courtesy." We're talking about stories where the person holding the door obviously had different intentions than just being polite.

Just like in any other stranger-to-stranger interaction, if a person does or says something for or to a stranger with the intention of being polite, that comes across. If they do something with the intention of possibly copping a feel, that comes across, too. This is just what the original article was about. It is perfectly possible to interact with strangers in polite and friendly ways, but that requires actually caring about whether the other person wants to interact with you.
posted by audacity at 7:52 AM on November 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Even those of us who are old/old-fashioned enough to enjoy the courtesy of gentlemen opening doors for ladies can recognize when a man is using that courtesy to get inside our personal space.

Are women sometimes wrong? Sure. My husband, who is 6'4" and built like a Viking, was once accused of staring at a woman at a health club. He's nearsighted and was sitting in a hot tub without his glasses on, so he couldn't have been ogling her (effectively anyhow). He reports that the accusation stung, but he got over it and got on with his life. It really doesn't kill you.
posted by immlass at 8:26 AM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've had a lot of experience with people holding doors (and holding doors myself, for that matter - and you know what? I've never, ever had to, or voluntarily, held a door in such a way that the person was forced to pass by very close to me).

See, that's strange to me, because I open doors for other women and other men all the time, and many's the time I've been very close to a mother with a stroller or double stroller. Then there's also the folks in wheelchairs or with walkers that you have to maneuver around. Maybe it's because we have so many retirees here in Florida that it becomes an issue. That's also probably why I see lots of older men opening doors for women. In a world of glass ceilings and institutionalized sexism, the door-opening thing is completely a non-issue for me.

Of course if you don't want a man opening the door or don't like the way he's doing it, you should stand up to him. "No, you first. I insist." If he stands in the way, "Hey, can you move? You're blocking the door."

But I'm still surprised that, if you're sculpin, and you give that guy a Fuck off and Die look and make a sarcastic remark, you still bristle years later at just the thought of that guy, and *that's* the memory that makes it into this thread.

For those of you dismissing what I am saying about the whole door-opening thing by chalking me up as someone who just thinks harassment is okay or that we shouldn't complain, that's not at all where I am coming from. Some of you have said that you like all the stories, even the littlest examples, and I do understand the need for validation and acceptance.

But I also feel that, when the slights are real, there's no need for hyperbole or LOLMENAMIRITE attitudes like, "I can feel my lip curling into a snarl even now. All I wanted to do was buy some socks or something, and this random guy just has to inflict his midlife crisis on me. In his mind, apparently, I was supposed to humor this because I was a purty young layyyy-deee. Just as I'm supposed (in the minds of some) to humor every single request for attention from every single male chucklehead who cares to demand it."

Really? You could really tell all that--he was having a mid-life crisis? And people like him think you should give men whatever they want?--by the way he opened the frickin' door?

And like sculpin, I think I can tell the difference between creepy door-holding guy and noncreepy door-holding guy.

I wish I knew how to tell by sight the men I should look out for. The man who raped me was only a few years older than I was then, so I don't think a mid-life crisis was to blame. I thought he was a nice guy. He was my boss, and he asked me out on a date, and then he raped me. I lost my job and my faith in my judgment all on the same night. I second-guessed every decision I made for years after agreeing to go out with him. I should have *known* he was a rapist. Why couldn't I tell?

The near date rape I had when I was 16 was scary, but it's nothing to me compared to the long grind of casual intrusion and harassment of which this ugly little door-holding incident was a part.

I'm not sure what a near date rape is, but what I went through emotionally after I was raped, what I still deal with so many years after the fact? I can't even imagine ever thinking of it as nothing.

Even now, you know what bugs me? It's this one stupid thing. I was raped over twenty yers ago. And still, there's a movie I can't watch to this day--when we first went to see it, I had to run to the bathroom and throw up because something about the guy starring in it reminded me of my rapist. And now, I tell myself I am completely over what happened to me, but I still don't know how that damned film ends.
posted by misha at 9:48 PM on November 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


No doubt my perceptions were colored by the fact that, at age 19 and 20, I drew a lot of random middle-aged male hasslers. At not much over a hundred pounds, with large breasts and long hair, I reckon I fit some kind of trophy-girl profile. (If only I'd known how much trouble cutting my hair off would save me, I would have taken clippers to it years before I did.) It embittered me and educated me in a certain kind of gender-relations realpolitik. That particular guy's aggressive, patronizing come-on was the last straw; yes, my amiability snapped.

I was there, and I trust the kid that I was to have known the score. I'm not going to engage with you further on this, misha.

I'm not sure what a near date rape is

Do you really insist on details?

This is your trigger warning. Here's what I'm willing to share: I said "No," and then I said, "No!" and then I yelled "No!!!", and then I yelled, "NO NO GODDAMN IT get OFF me RIGHT NOW!!!" and tried to struggle up but couldn't. And then, with all those Nos ignored, while he was fumbling his penis into position with one hand, I was able to knee him in the groin fast. I took advantage of his flinching and lack of balance to get out from under him and several feet away, and I remained ready to fight while verbally detailing how wrong that just was until he had his pants on. And then, God help me, I allowed him to apologize. This was when I was sixteen; he was, I think, seventeen. And enormous. He had a good 10+ inches of height and a lot of weight on me (literally and figuratively), but honestly, at that point, I wouldn't have messed with me either if I'd been him. I was stunningly enraged, yet somehow controlled; it was as if I had a combat computer in my brain advising me on where to hit his vulnerable spots. Understand: I was an extremely meek, shy little shoegazer of a teenager. But it turned out that when I was directly and unmistakeably physically threatened, I was ferocious. Nobody could have predicted that, least of all me.

This isn't one of the stories I'd told in this thread in part because I didn't want to be read as implying that nobody would be raped if we'd just decide that we weren't having any of it. We don't get to choose like that. I just happened to be in a situation in which my particular temperament worked for me that time. I'm glad I didn't freeze, for instance, but I firmly believe that there's nothing wrong with freezing. There's definitely nothing odd about it.

Of course I second-guessed my responses and all that -- I shouldn't have been there, I should have seen the signs before (and in retrospect there were some), I was just lucky that he wasn't more determined, etc. Who wouldn't second-guess? I didn't tell my friends or family. I certainly didn't go to any authorities of any kind. ("Nothing happened," right?) I couldn't help but feel a sick sense of something not unlike gratitude that he hadn't been willing to be entirely brutal; that confused and disturbed me. But on the other hand, this was also a very private story about how, when the chips were down, I fought. I hadn't known I had that much fight in me; that was how I wound up framing it. I came out with a new faith in my sense of self-preservation and a new self-understanding. Once I stopped shaking, of course.

Looking back, a lot of that faith was not so well-advised; clearly, I was ready to defend myself physically in the moment, but I wasn't ready to take on a social system that I did not trust not to shame or dismiss me. Also, I didn't completely disable him and I could have been in real trouble if he'd thought that my kicking him was the green light for his punching me. There were good reasons why I didn't leave immediately, but I should have anyway. But, all told, he was surprised and not wholly committed, and my anger was much bigger than his. I think he was one of those guys who was willing to commit rape as long as he could pretend it was something else; I went off his script. I was lucky. But then, so was he. He got a chance to grow into a different kind of man. I hope he took it.

For me, it's actually been psychologically easier to deal with moments of clear threat than with the long grind. The lines are clearer: rape is wrong. Attempted rape is wrong. I am entitled to do whatever I need to do in those situations. It's all the rest of it, all the situations that are just barely plausibly ambiguous, all the times that my usual values of compromise and politeness can be and are used against me, all the times I feel that my very personhood has been called into question -- those, taken in total, are the ones that wear me down. For instance, when the guy who stalked me was staying just barely on the right side of defensible behavior -- that was nervewracking for me. As bad as it was when he started to escalate into really odd behavior, it was also something of a relief, because finally I felt entitled to get help. I got a lawyer, I left town for a while, and I started eating again because at last I was making plans and doing things.

For me, over the very long run, as self-conscious as I feel just saying the word, what has gotten to me is the patriarchy. Which is pretty much all of us, as I see it, whether we like it or not. It's in our heads, a system of power that we all, but especially women, tend to have a complicated relationship with. We fight it; we accommodate it; we even find ways to use parts of it for our own petty advantage, which just binds us to it more closely. It's a toxic, pervasive smog.

I've known a lot of people who've been sexually assaulted -- haven't we all? whether we know it or not? -- and if there's one thing that stands out for me it's how totally unpredictable the survivors' responses have been. Some were crushed. Some weren't. About ten years ago, someone I knew was raped by two strangers. She handled the psychological aftermath with a toughness that floored me. But as I recall, she seemed at times almost bashful about her own toughness, as if she weren't sure it was allowed. That floored me too. She was emotionally heroic, for sure, but the thing about heroism is that it's not a duty. There's no right level of distress.

Clearly, we're not all the same. So I'm not about to police anyone's emotional response to rape, assault, abuse, or harassment.
posted by sculpin at 5:01 AM on November 16, 2009 [14 favorites]


I'm not sure what a near date rape is, but what I went through emotionally after I was raped, what I still deal with so many years after the fact? I can't even imagine ever thinking of it as nothing.

mischa, stop.

I'm embarrassed for you right now being a rape survivor who is dismissing the experiences of another survivor in a game of more raped than thou. It's a shameful and disgusting display of behavior.

People respond to trauma in all different ways. Their instinctive response in no way diminishes their experience.

Go take a walk and think about that.
posted by FunkyHelix at 6:03 AM on November 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


What FunkyHelix said. And sculpin, thanks for your terrific comments, combining heartfelt openness with a thoughtfulness that makes me think harder myself. I'm glad you're here.
posted by languagehat at 6:11 AM on November 16, 2009


I wish I knew how to tell by sight the men I should look out for.

Isn't that what these threads and stories have been about? You can't always tell by looking. Am I certain that door-holding guy A is a creep and door-holding guy B isn't? Not always. Am I always right? No. But if I guess wrong and noncreepy guy gets the fisheye from me or I throw some curtness or sarcasm at him, well, them's the breaks.

The point of creepy door-holding guy stories is that often, yes, some/many/all/most of us can tell the difference some/all/most of the time - by their body language, by their facial expressions, by the way they use the action to step into our personal space. And I don't understand why you want to pick apart the experience of someone who was there and snark at her about mind-reading his midlife crisis. I mean, what the hell?
posted by rtha at 6:43 AM on November 16, 2009


Datapoint: if holding the door open for a stranger (woman or man) I almost never make eye contact and face towards the building. That doesn't mean I couldn't turn and pounce or something at the right moment, but it projects a far less interactive or expectative gesture than looking at and facing the person I'm holding the door for.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:58 AM on November 16, 2009


I read misha's posts here differently. I think -- though they could have been worded more carefully and kindly -- that she was speaking for the point of view that we're not mind-readers, and to imply that we can see so far into an interaction as brief as passing someone in a doorway also could imply that women who don't see a bad thing coming weren't paying close enough attention. I mean, there always is some inherent tension between "you should trust and act on your intuitive sense of a situation" and "you should never feel that anything you did or didn't do caused this bad thing to happen to you." I mean, I believe them both! just like all of us here, I think, but I can also see that if something bad happened to me, it could hurt me to see someone appearing to endorse the notion that you can "know the score" so completely, just by paying attention.
posted by palliser at 7:27 AM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


We have to have faith in our fellow people about using their best judgment. This is true in both this instance (door-holding) and in the larger interacting-with-the-world sense. In telling our stories, we can't detail every nuance of the situation, especially if we feel like we have to detail the proof that it's not our fault or that we're not over-reacting or that posting more than a screenfull is too much. We all tell our stories in different ways, in different depths of details, and in different styles. What they share is the representation of the speaker's experience, of the result of their best judgment.

On preview, folks have said what I wanted to say about using situational cues to analyze a situation. I do want to say this: The impact our experiences have had on us vary wildly, and it's dangerous to assume that we all react in the same way, use the same language, or that similar incidents have the same impact on us. One of the things about this thread I've really loved is that we have (largely) been treating with respect the stories and experiences women have shared even when they feel they're too "small" or "minor", understanding how corrosive those things can be, how they can shift a world view, how they change their perspectives.

Also, I don't think I need to say this, but I really want to, so: Failure of a perpetrator to complete a rape or assault or abduction doesn't wipe the slate clean; getting away doesn't mean getting away unscathed.
posted by julen at 7:42 AM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


someone appearing to endorse the notion that you can "know the score" so completely, just by paying attention

While I can certainly sympathize with that point of view, I didn't read sculpin's story of one specific threat analysis as an endorsement of assault prevention via ESP. Like rtha said: sometimes you can tell, sometimes you can't, and sometimes you think you can but guess wrong. If you guess wrong and get hurt, it's not your fault for guessing wrong. And if you guess wrong and don't get hurt, well, sucks to be the nice guy holding the door wrong, but that's who the original post was written for.

As for the mid-life crisis thing, I can testify that out here in Microsoft-land, there is definitely a certain type of man who has a certain type of mid-life crisis and acts on it in a pretty predictable way. It's a type. I've seen it a bunch, and I'm not particularly clueful about that kind of thing. So it's not exactly mind reading, when you see one of those guys, to have a pretty good idea what's going on with him. (And if you don't, I'm not saying that it's your fault for not knowing the type. If you haven't seen twenty of him before, it's not your fault for not recognizing the signs.) He's a subset of the guys-having-a-mid-life-crisis set, so the ability to identify him doesn't mean that you can identify any random guy having a mid-life crisis, any more than the ability to identify someone waving his dick at you on the bus as a creepy flasher means that you can identify any random guy as a particular threat.

What I'm trying to say is this: if you can't relate an anecdote about how you recognized one specific threat without implying that all threats are recognizable, that cuts off a lot of possible discussion. So maybe we could take it for granted that when someone shares a story like that here, they're talking about that one event, not making a claim about its universal applicability.
posted by hades at 9:02 AM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I got the sense that the complaint wasn't so much "how the hell could you possibly have 'told from looking at this guy' what was on his mind", so much as it was "why did the way this guy looked at you still piss you off so many years later".

To which I will say -- hey, sometimes there's stuff that just really chaps our ass. In a related vein -- I have a pet peeve about the guys who step aside to let a pretty girl into an elevator first -- without noticing that they have just stepped directly into MY way, and are BLOCKING my way onto the elevator.

Elevator doors are wide. You don't have to hold the door for anyone, and you and the pretty girl can both walk in at the same time, and if you had just kept walking I could have gotten on quicker and wouldn't have had to race to make it on before the door shut on my damn fingers and...

....Um. Uh, what I meant is, it sounds like this was a situation a little different from "politely holding the door", but even if it was just politely holding the door, sometimes stuff just chaps our ass and that can't be helped...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:09 AM on November 16, 2009


You can't always tell by looking.

Short, tall, slender, muscular, facial hair or none at all, younger or older, a certain forehead slant, how far apart their eyes are set; you can never tell by appearance. Some days I really wish physiognomy were a valid science so I could study some charts, read a few books and, confidently walk down the street saying in my head, "creep, not a creep" as a went about my life.
posted by squeak at 10:15 AM on November 16, 2009


Women thinking it's okay to snipe at each other is what sets this discussion (and our struggle to change the status quo) backward. Kindly knock it the fuck off, eh? It's maddening to come back to this thread and see this kind of insulting behavior from women who otherwise seem dedicated to feminism.

When someone offers up a personal narrative about how she feels set-upon by factors of a society that frustrates her by not taking her seriously based on her sex, the last thing she's looking for is another woman to tell her to shut up and just put up with it. Jesus. Is this what we've achieved by discussing it? Really? Way to advance the cause.
posted by heyho at 1:11 PM on November 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


When someone offers up a personal narrative about how she feels set-upon by factors of a society that frustrates her by not taking her seriously based on her sex, the last thing she's looking for is another woman to tell her to shut up and just put up with it.

Because OF COURSE that's exactly what I was saying. Jeez.

Try actually reading the thread next time.

This thread, and the thread that preceded it, have both been all about empowering women. Several hundred comments in, I take issue with ONE anecdote which seemed to me to be more about attacking/projecting stereotypes on/making fun of a certain type of man than offering any helpful advice or insight.

An anecdote, btw, which was NOT about rape, languagehat, so don't accuse me of comparing survivor stories--I found sculpin's followup about her attack honest and forthright and I respect her all the more for sharing it, because I honestly didn't know what she meant by near date rape (though thanks for doubting me on that too).

So then I get attacked for saying, "Hey, not all men are jerks, and I think you are bringing the thread down with that kind of tone," and even after I explain where I'm coming from, which is NOT AT ALL about women keeping quiet or any of the rest of that nonsense, even after all that now I'm getting attacked for not "advancing the cause"?

Part of being a feminist means I support the right for each woman to decide how she defines herself, which is a very personal thing. I don't need to be your kind of feminist to join the club. I also don't have to agree with what every woman says, everywhere, and get mefimail telling me off when I don't.
posted by misha at 4:59 PM on November 16, 2009


> An anecdote, btw, which was NOT about rape, languagehat, so don't accuse me of comparing survivor stories

Huh? I didn't say it was, and I didn't accuse you of comparing survivor stories. I have no idea who you're thinking of, but try actually reading the thread next time. And you sure do have trouble getting down off your high horse.
posted by languagehat at 5:45 PM on November 16, 2009


I'm sorry, languagehat, I really owe you an apology. I had your comment and the one above it confused. I'm sorry; my comment was directed to him.
posted by misha at 7:37 PM on November 16, 2009


Ooof. Alrightythen, I'm out of this fresh mess, but I'm still reachable via MeFiMail for anyone who wants to continue to talk about this stuff privately or ask questions -- anytime. (The fighty-email comment was not directed at me, so please don't let that stop you; you won't be judged.)
posted by heyho at 12:03 AM on November 17, 2009


While this thread has been active, I had reason to go to my apartment's office to meet with the new assistant manager. He'd rearranged the office to where the customer has a desk and a person between them and the door. During our conversation, which was mostly him obviously lying about his past (I was once married to a narcissist sociopath, and this guy was just like him but also taller, broader, and more prone to bragging about how often he works out), he nonchalantly gets up and closes and locks the door to the office, "so we won't be disturbed," he says. He also neglected a couple of phone calls. It all happened during business hours. When the phone rang, I indicated he should take it. He blew it off.

I'm no fragile thing. I'm an older married lady with a couple of kids, and I have a history that I've tried to get beyond.

I was SO creeped out. I watched him and remembered what to do if push came to shove. I chose to stay, just so I could let him hang himself with more lies and watched him with the fascination you'd give a creepy insect, because I live in a community with a lot of younger single moms. So, the first place I went after was not my home, where I knew my kids were fine, but to my downstairs neighbor. Told her all about it. Then I called my friend across the street. The word is out. Not, "dude is a rapist!!@!1", but just to watch out for yourself. The lies I caught him in were so very obvious. I have access to google and I know some military history. (Why is it all the wannabe military heroes can't get their timelines right for battles, wars, etc? Oh yeah, because they were probably not honorably discharged.)

I don't want to get this man fired unnecessarily. But I do believe people should be aware and safe. I'm not easily shaken by men I don't know. I have more friends who are men than who are women. This guy is not ok.

Then, my husband got home, and after the kids were in bed, I told him all about it. He gave me that look. The "are you being a little paranoid?" look I forgive, because he tries, but doesn't quite get it sometimes.

He went to the office the next day after work to address the same issue that I'd been trying to resolve. Saw the new office layout for himself, got a different but still self-serving set of lies. Understood what I meant about the door being locked and came home apologizing to me.

Here's the biggest punchline. I'm in a position to actually say some things to his employers, BUT he has a key to my house. He knows where my spouse and I work and when.

What to do...
posted by lilywing13 at 2:50 AM on November 18, 2009


Here's the biggest punchline. I'm in a position to actually say some things to his employers, BUT he has a key to my house. He knows where my spouse and I work and when.

What to do...


The epic FPP that became an epic Meta now seems destined to resolve as an AskMe.
posted by philip-random at 9:36 AM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Seriously.
posted by philip-random at 9:45 AM on November 18, 2009


Many apologies, that wasn't my intention. We're looking into options for moving.
posted by lilywing13 at 3:31 PM on November 18, 2009


If this thread is still being checked out by anyone, here's another interesting take on the use of the term rape: Why Do Right Wing Pundits Accuse Democrats of 'Raping' Americans?. I don't want to say it's being legitimized or cheapened, that doesn't quite sound right. But those using rape to refer to taxation and health-care options should be pointed to these threads and made to understand what that term really means to those who are affected by it.

I know the link specifically references right-wing pundits, but I'm not saying they're the only ones. I think they're a conveniently visible target, but are really a symptom of the greater problem. I don't want to derail into a left vs. right type thing, because I'm sure that someone inclined could find plenty of examples of people from across the political spectrum doing similar things.

I guess what I'm saying is that it really is awful that the gravity of these atrocities and the way it affects us seems lost on these very vocal members of society who have a platform and millions of viewers/listeners. It's more of what prefpara and taz were talking about regarding tv show plots and the like.
posted by dnesan at 1:46 PM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you want to see how far MetaFilter has come, go back and read this thread from 2002-- more or less the same topic but what a different tone:
dagny: If this is the worst problem these women are having, then good on them. Too bad they can't focus on the luxury of being able to feel annoyed at such minor insecurities, as opposed to suffering from real oppression

falameufilho: But anyway, *YAWN*. This feminazi talk reminds me of college, and I didn't really like colleg.

stbalbach:
Look, there was a time when women wanted equality. Great. Now some women want revenge. They want more than equality they want superiority, pay back. If she really liked you she wouldnt try to change you. How about an organization that protests %80 of all rapes in prison are commited on males
Read more if you dare.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:21 PM on November 20, 2009 [9 favorites]


dnesan I was thinking about that after taz and prefpara brought it up .. And when this youtube link of Glenn Beck latest dumb statement appeared in the blue my jaw was already too tired to drop. Rachel Maddow's reaction is perfect. (juicy parts at 1 minute in)
posted by dabitch at 9:41 AM on November 22, 2009


The juxtaposition of this thread (and the Blue thread) with that old one from 2002 is really startling. I am more and more grateful for the giant sexism/boyzone threads and for all of the people who have worked really hard to make this community so much more inclusive. What's happened at Metafilter over the past few years is really groundbreaking, imo. It is possible.
posted by Danila at 7:54 AM on November 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


lol

I'm female, and I think this campaign is laughable. "Harassment"? Give me a break. How about "other people, mostly men, speaking their mind about my physical appearance without being asked by me to do so". Oh no, the horror! The outrage! Help, help, I'm being oppressed!

If this is the worst problem these women are having, then good on them. Too bad they can't focus on the luxury of being able to feel annoyed at such minor insecurities, as opposed to suffering from real oppression.
posted by dagny at 3:29 PM on October 3, 2002


What I really can't believe is that, after all those years, feminists still use the same old hateful, us vs. them, Malcolm-X-with-tits speech, designed to scare men away, with very questionable results.

The problem with that? It also scares the nice guys away.

The claims are valid. The fact that women are unable to roam the streets freely without worrying what some asshole might try is a bad, bad thing in our society.

What puzzles me, though, is not function, but form. There is more than one way to present a problem and seek a solution, and their way really sucks. It looks a lot like hate speech to me, thus making the label "feminazi" valid.
posted by falameufilho at 3:30 PM on October 3, 2002


that is the worst thread what a bunch of assholes
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:26 AM on November 23, 2009


What I learned from that thread: why so many people end up changing their usernames and "starting over."
posted by heyho at 8:42 AM on November 23, 2009


It wasn't all bad news. Go back to that thread and do a ctrl-f for "languagehat".
posted by prefpara at 10:23 AM on November 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


I was backtagging some old MeTas a couple weeks ago and ran across a "can we stop with the boyzone" type MeTa from...2003 or thereabouts and my, how the times (and people) do change, thank dog. Although that old meTa, as contentious and hateful and flamey as it was, barely broke 150 comments, so there's that!
posted by rtha at 11:54 AM on November 23, 2009


A rather apropos piece from New Yorker cartoonist Carolita Johnson here: http://newyorkette.com/2009/09/01/carolitas-huffington-posts-a-woman-walks-down-the-street/
posted by jokeefe at 12:16 PM on November 23, 2009


Crap, sorry, let me link that properly: here.
posted by jokeefe at 12:18 PM on November 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Something I thought I'd never see- an almost tasteful rape joke by John Mulaney. It's certainly sensitive to the schrodinger's rapist issue and manages to tell it from the male point of view without getting huffy about being mistaken for dangerous.
posted by morganw at 6:24 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


hrm! That rotten old thread spawned a MeTa which saw the exit of SapphireBlue. Who came back just recently to wish Matt well! How pleasing!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:17 AM on November 30, 2009


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