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Sexual Assault: A Primer for Collapse

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.

Story One

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.

Story Two

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.

Context

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.

Please note

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.

Survive.

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.

To Wrap-Up

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.

 

 

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Blocked on FB: An Issue

Recently I had a rather confusing private conversation with a person I have “known” on Facebook (FB) for less than a year. She distrusts me; I distrust her. She has now blocked me. Which is fine. She can do that. I assume she finds our interactions stressful. I often feel the same way. Unfortunately, as I will detail below, we may not be able to just leave it at that.

A few technical details for the uninitiated: The FB software is very much organized to promote atomistic individualism. It enables every member to choose with whom we interact and “where” we interact. This can be a problem in FB groups. In FB groups conversations take place between many individuals at once. If one of the participants has another person blocked, neither can see the other’s comments or their posts. This means, if I post on a FB group that this woman and I are both in,  she cannot see that post, nor any comments on the subsequent thread. Even if the people commenting on my post are her FB friends (which would normally mean she was notified) she won’t see them, because the original post was mine.

By blocking me, she has informed FB she wants to see nothing in her feed that I post or say. FB complies. The software also makes sure I see nothing she posts and none of her comments, even *if* we are both in the same group.

A different issue arises when a mutual friend of ours posts or when *anyone* posts in a group we both belong to. If a third party posts, we can both see it, and we can see any comments that other people make. We cannot, however, see one another comments. Sometimes this makes for trouble.

An illustrative example: Person A has person B blocked. Person A then comments on a post in a group that both are in, “The cost of candy is rising exponentially.” A third party, “C” replies to the comment, saying “I disagree because you did not account for the price of bubble gum which is falling rapidly.” Now person B (who has A blocked and cannot, therefore, see her comment) reads the comment by C and cannot make sense of C’s statement. To her, it looks completely out of context. She cannot see A’s comment to which it refers. Because of this issue, and experiences with such awkward conversations in which *everyone* involved can become confused, some groups put a rule in place that members cannot block other members.

I hope that makes sense. Blocking creates problems in FB groups.

Now, some people on FB enthusiastically support the idea of blocking. They see it as a self-protective action and an appropriate response to cyber-bullying. I do not think this is an unreasonable position. Blocking, rather than continually reengaging, can prevent (often useless & unproductive) conflicts. This is especially valid, IMO, when two people clash repeatedly with one another, and are unable to come to terms, to agree to disagree.

(This is the case, BTW with the woman who has now blocked me. We have had disagreements before that were not resolved. The first time, I voluntarily left a group because she was very upset about my disagreeing with her. She didn’t tell me that. She told a third party and asked them to intervene and “straighten me out.” At the time, I felt she was such a pivotal member, it would be better if I left for the good of the group. The second time we disagreed with one another, *she* left the group we were in. This third time, there was no actual, written disagreement. It was a private conversation. She was complaining about the behaviour of a mutual FB acquaintance, and I was not replying directly to those comments. Instead, I ignored them, replied more generally, and addressed specifics on which we mutually agreed. It is all quite pathetic, actually! Two grown women! Completely ridiculous that we cannot come to some simple agreement about how to deal with one another when we disagree.)

For the record, I have blocked two people on FB. The first person had engaged me twice in a manner I found frustrating and totally unproductive. After public differences of opinion, she engaged me in private conversations (which FB also enables). In each one she started out by trying to reason with me, to restate and elaborate her earlier position, and then, accused me of character defects when I continued to disagree. This i find tedious and offensive. I prefer not to engage with her anymore; there seems no point.

In the second case, a person who seemed unfamiliar with FB software engaged with me on my personal wall, thinking that our conversation was taking place on the wall of a mutual FB friend. What apparently happened is that my status update showed up when I tagged this mutual FB friend in the post. (Tagging happens when we write the name of another FB member. FB highlights the person and allows us to “call out” to them. This way, people know when others mention them in posts or comments.) On the occasion in question, my status update showed up on the tagged friend’s wall, as well as my own. This third party, whom I had never interacted with before, commented on my status. Her comments showed up on *my* wall. I attempted to explain what was happening. S/he got quite angry and told me to stop “talking” to him/her. The only way to do that, given that s/he seemed not to understand that s/he was actually “talking to me” on my own private FB wall, was to block him/her. So I did.

So, back to the main story. I have been blocked by someone. We share a lot of mutual FB friends. We are in many of the same groups. One of the groups we are in has a rule about members blocking other members. If I report her, she will have to unblock me, or one of us will have to leave the group. I would rather not report this. I do not want another conflict with her. I do not want to involve other people in this. What an annoying problem it would pose for our mutual friend who runs that FB group. And really, if this woman wants a break from me, temporary or permanent, I would really like to respect her wishes.

So, what other options do I have?

I could simply continue along, not tell anyone and hope that no problems ever arise in conversations that make it evident to everyone in the group that someone has someone blocked. That’s a good one. i like it! Avoid conflict by acting as if nothing is happening. *grin* The drawback is that I am, in a way, by “hiding” the fact that she has me blocked, undermining the administration of the group. I am not precisely breaking the rules myself, but I am allowing them to be broken and keeping quiet. I would not blame my friends, who run the group, if they felt a tad pissed at me about that.

I could voluntarily leave that group, and any others we are both in, that have a no-blocking rule. If asked I could explain that someone had me blocked and I wanted to exit the group rather than compromise conversations or make a fuss. The drawback is that I would be restricting my interactions in groups I enjoy and with people I enjoy.

What I cannot do is contact her directly. “Blocked” contacts cannot communicate on FB.  I *might* be able to contact her through a third party and ask her to remove the block. Or I could ask a third party to intervene and see if we could try to iron this all out on Skype or email. Perhaps we could come to a mutual agreement for how we could avoid annoying and tormenting one another in the future, without causing “blocking” troubles in groups, or difficulties for our mutual friends. ATM this option seems best. It will require *both* of us being able to agree to disagree without feeling the need to flee.

If anyone has related experience to share, or can think of any other options, I would be pleased to hear it!


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Generational Perspective

 I was born in 1965 & have often compared my generation’s prospects to my depression-born parents’. One factor very salient in Canada is housing prices. It’s easy to see how my parents’ generation (married in the sixties) could both buy a house and save money. Their house cost an equivalent of their combined annual incomes, was mortgaged at a fixed rate of about 2-3% over the entire 25 year amortization. In the 80’s, when I came of age, a house cost more like 4-5 times a 2 worker household income, the mortgage rates were double digits, and could not be fixed for more than 5 years at most. My parents rented an apt. for 6 months after they married and could easily save their down payment because rents were likewise cheap. Granted, my parents were better off than many: mom was a registered nurse and dad was a unionized printer. This said, in the 70’s, most of the folk in my lower middle class/working class neighbourhoods lived in single income families.

In my grandparents’ generation, one income could easily buy a comfortable life. All of my grandparents, my great-aunts and veteran uncles owned bought homes in the post-WW2 building boom. Only two members of my family were in a union – one grandpa was a postal worker, one great uncle was a printer. My other grandpa started as a gold miner and became  a salesman; 2 uncles were gas station attendants, one drove a delivery truck. One aunt was a secretary, one a waitress, my grandmothers & the rest of my aunts were homemakers. They all lived comfortably and retired reasonably well-off.

Then I think of my kids! Yeesh! What hopes do they have?!

In 3 generations my family has gone from high school graduates who led comfortable lives, to university educated folks who can’t get a decent full-time, secure job, and might be lucky to get a shoebox condo, shabbily built, if “choosing” to be mortgaged to their chins.

That’s *if* the economy doesn’t completely collapse, or climate change doesn’t wipe us all out: this is what energy depletion looks like in North America.

Unless you give up on that old way of life and embrace a more self-reliant existence on the fringes of the global economy, things look pretty depressing.

The reality is we’ve gone from a frightened elite, desperately avoiding communist revolution by sharing out an ever-expanding GDP pie, to an emboldened elite extorting every last crumb they can out of an ever-shrinking pound cake and whipping up fairy-dug frosting in the global casino. Real productivity has been steadily declining in North America since U$ oil peaked in the 70’s. As you would expect. That is when the so-called “middle classes” stalled out – not a coincidence.

In the 80’s the neo-conservative stealth revolution began consolidating more and more in the hands of the wealthy. The “more” since than has been a bubble economy, fuelled by super-exploiting poorer nations and by gambling in financial markets. Most of the world’s GDP is now cotton candy fluff — digital blips flittering about on screens, pretending to be economic “growth.”

It’s enough to make even a socialist long for “the good old days” of actual capitalism – when, as exploitative and unfair as things were, at least economic growth was real; real machines were built, real infrastructure was laid down, and real people could shut down production and demand a share in the perks. of course, what we didn’t know then was that all that real growth was killing the planet. We are only now beginning to see the real cost of real industrial growth. And it ain’t pretty.

Most of my grandparents’ generation are dead now. may they rest in peace. They had no idea what they were building and i am very certain would be absolutely appalled to see what price we are now paying for the prosperity they enjoyed. They were also of a generation that knew real poverty. They used manure pucks and newspapers wrapped round their legs to play hockey as boys. They all worked as teens to support their families during the last Great Depression. As adults, they knew how to fix things, they built bookcases, fireplaces, & sheds, they pickled and preserved, they knitted and mended. They would easily have adapted to a permaculture homesteading life on the fringes of a collapsing economy. These people had the skills, my friends. They were competent. These three genertions have seen a skills-collapse of epic proportions. Now I am learning many skills from the internet that they easily could have taught me.  Thanks largely to the DIY-attitude that they passed down to me. I am grateful for their stories, because I know that simple living is both possible and pleasant. I am sad today, writing this. I am missing them, my elders and wishing they could be here to guide and advise my children.

We are part of “natural biodiversity”

At this link (click on title above) is a Q&A session with Guy mcPherson. It followed a screening of Mike Sosebee’s new film. One man asks Guy if he supports the idea that it is “ecological” to live in cities as a vegetarian, rather than move into a “pastoral” setting. This is a very popular idea these days. We should (it goes) “leave natural biodiversity” alone and congregate in dense clusters with other humans to minimize our impact on the “natural” world. 

This idea could only exist among people who have been ensorcelled by the ideology of so-called “civilization.” As we look about us and watch the utter destruction we are wreaking on the planet, it seems obvious that we are some kind of destructive organism. Of course, one must first believe that we could actually separate ourselves from Gaia, to so be opposed to her needs.

I submit to you that this is ridiculous. Even an astronaut floating on a space station is intimately connected to the web of life on Earth. All of her air, water and food, the materials to build her spacesuit and vehicle, it’s fuel, all of that has come from Gaia.

So, how about this. Permaculture. Starting from the rational premise that we are embedded in nature, dependent on Her for everything, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren developed a system for thinking about how we can fit in sustainably. They came up with 3 ethics to guide us and a number of principals. Basically, they designed a way, based both on modern science and on ancient practices, that we can live as a beneficial part of an increasingly abundant whole. That is our only way forward. Whether it is permaculture, regenerative agriculture, whole systems management…whatever…there are options available for sensibly integrating into any biome on earth (other than deep ocean or the Antarctic). Even the inherently problematic urban wastelands could conceivably be “permacultured.”

We are not, have never been and could never be separate from Gaia. We belong. We are wanted. We simply need to be self-loving, intelligent and ethical enough to seek our proper place in the glorious whole.