Bunkering Down in Fear of the *Other* is NOT the Answer
*Warning: This blog post contains details which some people may find triggering. (I say this to suggest taking a moment to check in, breath and carefully consider reading on, though I know the title was a big clue.)
This blog post is a big ask. I am asking for a favour. I am asking everyone to deeply self-reflect and then to act decisively to minimize the sexual violence in our communities. I believe global society faces collapse and that our species is facing extinction. HOW we face it remains something in our own control, even as events sweep us along in the great tide of change.
My Personal History
I am going to disclose some personal history, in some detail. I am not doing this to illicit sympathy. I am doing this so that my readers understand I am speaking from personal experience, rather than naivete. Please know that these events are in my past, that they have shaped who I am now and that I have undertaken many years of healing with extraordinary support from close friends and professionals. I can write about this calmly now because I have done the work of processing these memories and their associated feelings.
When I was 18, a male friend, let`s call him Pete, drove me to the home of a mutual friend of ours whose parents were away. Jake (a pseudonym) raided the bar and offered me a screwdriver. I had little experience with alcohol. The drink he gave me, unbeknownst to anyone else, was many ounces of vodka mixed with orange juice concentrate. This disguises the strength of the alcohol and is a common rape drug.
When I very quickly became extremely nauseated, dizzy and ill, I asked Pete to drive me home. Jake intervened and said, `Just go lie down in my room, you will feel better soon.` Pete concurred with this idea, and so, in my muddled and trusting state, that was what I did. Pete then left. Years later he told me he had decided I was faking being drunk (how could I have been drunk on so little alcohol – little did we know) because I wanted to be alone with Jake.
Then my so-called friend (whom I had known since grade one, BTW) came into his bedroom. Jake climbed on top of me, dismissing my protests, forcing my legs open, cursing at me and threatening to pound me with his fist if I did not stop resisting. He raped me. That is how I lost my virginity.
Then he drove me home. I crawled into bed, still sick and now in shock and traumatised and completely confused. Like most victims of sexual assault, I chose to believe that this was my own doing rather than face the truly ugly and emotionally over-whelming consequences of having been attacked by someone I thought cared for me. Rather than facing up to what this meant about the world: NOT SAFE, I made up alternative stories that seemed less difficult to handle. i suppressed the feelings I did not want to have.
A few years later, I thought my dreams had come true. The older brother of one of my childhood friends (He was so handsome! He had a band!) whom I had been crushing on since I was 8 years old asked me on a date. After a lovely dinner on Queen St. (very trendy area of Toronto) he agreed to drive me home. We still lived a short walk from one another, in our parents` homes.
Instead he drove me to an industrial area and gave me a *choice* (of sorts). Either I gave him a blow job or he would rape me. He told me this in the most curiously matter-of-fact manner. I preferred the former.
Afterwards he drove me home, physically held me in the car and threatened to drive me back to the industrial park for round two unless I agreed to go out with him again. I agreed. Then, when he called the next day, told him there was no fucking way I was going anywhere with him ever again. Once again, though, I blamed myself. I did not report him to the police.
There were other incidents. It should really surprise no one that in a patriarchal society, most women are sexually assaulted. Of all the women I have been emotionally close to in my half century of life, only one has escaped unscathed. The rest have been variously forced against their will. at least once, by at least one assailant – male relatives, boyfriends, buddies, husbands – into sexual activities. Sexual assaults are almost never reported to police. They are almost always conducted by people we know. Often very well. That is life in a civilized patriarchy.
What is Coming?
That may somewhat change, in the wealthier parts of the world, as social upheaval brought on by energy descent and abrupt climate change spiral out of control. We may face more stranger rapes, as is perfectly common, throughout the world, in all conflict zones. Soldiers rape.
I have no idea why sexual assaults of women (especially) and male prisoners or opponents and children (of course) are so commonly linked in men’s minds with the exercise of killing…and I do not particularly care. They are linked activities. Rape and pillage and killing go together like salt and pepper and eggs.
No sense pretending otherwise.
It is just plain sensible to prepare for this and I would like to make some requests. The following are based on my experiences of sexual assault, my healing with other women in circles of care, and my training as a feminist and political theorist. To introduce an element of formal credibility (for those who care about such things), I was an A-plus student, the top of my undergrad departments in both fields. I was the only student who had ever received a perfect mark on a Women`s Studies exam or on a paper. So, I am not ignorant of the sociological and social science research on sexual violence.
Again, I know these are big asks. Please consider carefully what YOU want to do. Please do your best, according to your own conscience and keeping your own self-care closely in your hearts.
First, for everyone:
While it is almost always men committing sexual assaults, women can and have done it, too. I believe everyone needs to educate themselves NOW, while it is still possible, on what the word CONSENT means. Only feminist literature covers this topic in depth. Even if you hate that word, please open your heart-mind and give this perspective a fair hearing.
If you would like to avoid being a rapist, you likely need to do some research because ALL of us were raised in a culture that completely normalizes sexual violence. This is not your fault. It is not my fault. This rape culture predates all of us. It is thousands of years old in some regions of the world. It is often referred to as patriarchy. It has been a tool for securing paternity when DNA testing was undreamt of. It was functional, in that sense. Although it has caused much trouble among us, as well.
Let me be extra clear: I am not blaming individual *men* for *rape culture* or *patriarchy*… It is the water in which we all swim like wee guppies. We have never had a choice but to breath it in and it is extremely difficult to see because it is ubiquitous.
I highly recommend forcing yourself to read Andrea Dworkin’s book *Intercourse* … In all likelihood this book will offend you. It will probably disgust you. I would not be surprised if you got very angry at me for suggesting this and angry at her for writing it. Her analysis is far from perfect. Most feminists hate this book as heartily as everyone else.
It is a tough pill to swallow, but allowing her perspective into your consciousness will sensitize you. As it did me. That is why I am asking you to read it.
Also, please read novels or non-fiction accounts by rape victims and those who have experienced childhood sexual violence.
Sit with their pain.
This will be difficult.
*Bastard Out of Carolina* is a good start. It was made into a movie. The book is much harder than the movie. Choose your poison.
This is my belief: To stop violence, or to slow it down, we all must, first and foremost, stop ourselves from committing it. In my experience, tolerating pain and learning to sit with it is the easiest way to get some control over my own violent impulses. We all have them. If you take the time to familiarize yourself with the particular pains associated with experiencing sexual violence, you will be far more hesitant to commit it. Let your natural empathy muscles do the work for you. (Only 1-2% of us lack empathy.)
Second, for men
Women cannot stop sexual violence against women. We have been trying very hard for a very long time. Needless to say, children are helpless to stop this, too.
Cis men: straight, heterosexual men who have never questioned whether they might, indeed be women, especially those who have experienced sexual assault, have a unique kind of gendered cultural power to DEFINE MASCULINITY.
Please advertise your disgust with sexual violence, please speak out about your own experiences, and please express your belief that
*Real men do not force sex on others.*
Please talk to one another about how wonderful sex is when our partners are willing, and even more so, enthusiastic. Try not to brag. You do not need to impress other men. Try to share from your hearts, your guts.
And also, if a male friend discloses he was assaulted…Love him and support him. Have compassion, rather than pity, remember all of the times YOU were physically defeated, hurt, in fear or overwhelmed. That happens to everyone. Use those memories to help him heal. Heal yourself also, along the way.
Some gender theorists posit masculinity as a violent hierarchy…think chickens and pecking orders. Resist the urge to peck to heal your own wounds. It does not work. It creates more wounds. Feel the pain instead. Deal with it.
Everyone can actually do this in their own communities, whatever their sexual or gender identity. We can all make it a thing. Open up conversation. Turn rape into an act that is completely unacceptable. This is social power we ALL have to some extent within our own sexual-gender identity groups. We can talk to our kids about consent. In fact, we should do so. This is part of protecting them, as well as encouraging them to become kinder and more aware humans.
That said, straight-identified men do most of the sexual violence. Every stat from every place ever confirms this.
We have no time to change the world, but we can always influence those close to us…and even more so as collapse unrolls and people come to deeply understand that banishment from a social group equals death alone in the wilds.
Finally, for Women (by which I mean ALL woman-identified women)
WENDO – Look it up. Take a class. Teach it to every other woman-identified woman post-collapse. Create a Red Tent Society in your community and help one another to practice WENDO. Heal your own pain and trauma and help other women heal.
And understand that rape is not the end of life. It feels fucking awful. The people who assault us stomp all over our personhood. They do not give a fuck that we are separate, living, feeling & caring fully REAL people.
Say: Fuck them for being so ignorant.
Do whatever seems needful to survive. And forgive yourself unreservedly for whatever that was. Know that you did whatever you did to survive this far. Know that that is perfectly okay.
Say *It is not my fault* to yourself.
Say *It is not YOUR fault* to every other victim.
Hold and cherish and nurture and respect one another …Build together strong and soft and loving and compassionate and powerful kick-ass, self-and-other protective female identities.
Withdraw your support from patriarchy and it`s endless wars.
It is not, in my opinion, okay to just be aware that the shit is about to hit the fan and that violence between humans will inevitably escalate. I am asking everyone who has managed to read to the end here to please consider what YOU can do to minimize the violence and maximize the compassion. I see no reason we could not continue to struggle to be kinder and gentler individuals, to make our families and our communities havens for one another. We cannot prevent all human violence. Please though, do not pretend you cannot prevent at least SOME of your own.