The Unwanted Strength of Women

I did it once. I fought my way out of one of those “bad dates”. I physically pushed myself away from the guy trying to hold me down when I was done kissing him. It wasn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

I pushed. He held tight. I pushed harder. He held on with the strength of someone in military condition. I felt something slip inside my head and begged him not to make me hurt him. He let go.

No one lauded me for being strong. No one has ever held me up as an example of a woman who did it right. No one has said, “Yes! Like that! That’s what we told you to do!”

No, that still wasn’t “real strength”, no matter what they say all those women who’ve dared to complain should have done. That wasn’t rescuing myself from a bad situation. That wasn’t what they wanted.

I was overreacting. You see, he let me go, so I was never in danger. I was threatening a nice guy. He let me go, so he couldn’t have meant anything bad by it. I was crazy. He let me go, so I was just some crazy chick seeing rape everywhere.

No matter how much direct, unambiguous physical strength I applied in that situation, that wasn’t what they meant when they say women need to be stronger. No matter how much direct, unambiguous language I used to tell him to let me go, that wasn’t what they meant. No matter how much restraint and tact I used to “fix” a situation of his making, that wasn’t what they meant.

The only strength these people want from me is my silence. They don’t want me to fight my way out and talk about it later. They don’t want me to talk my way out and talk about it later. As long as I talk about it, whatever strength I displayed is recast as weakness.

They only want the strength of saints. They want us to keep our eyes turned upward and silently, sweetly accept whatever fates are rained down on us. They want the strength of martyrs.

But suffering isn’t my kink. Men aren’t my religion. So I’ll complain when there’s something to complain about. I’ll push and I’ll threaten as long as someone tries to hold me down, though you know that if you know me. Silence isn’t my strength.

The Unwanted Strength of Women

TBT: “Consent Is Hard”

A repost, because people never do stop bringing this up.

There’s some interesting conversation going on in the comments on my post, “An MRA Speaks on Rape.” It’s interesting not for how it starts–which is the typical fretting about potential edge cases in consent–but because of where it goes from there.

It started with the standard misdirection:

Wel I have some reservations against calling “having sex with an intoxicated person” rape. Does that mean that if both persons were intoxicated they raped each other?

Photo of a red cocktail in a rocks glass on a white bar napkin. A lime wedge and cranberry seeds float at the top.
“The Normandy at The Normandy” by Ben Zvan, used with permission

I pointed out that that wasn’t what was being discussed. It is, after all, a very different thing to say that one may be too intoxicated to effectively give or withhold consent (as federal definitions of rape do) and that no one who is intoxicated can consent to sex. Someone else wasn’t keen on me keeping the thread on topic, however:

Given the numbers of people who go home together after meeting at bars or clubs or parties or other places serving alcohol–given the number of people who go out to such places in order to meet someone–and the countless stages of intoxication, and of comparative intoxication, of visible intoxication, questions of who’s buying the drinks, what each person’s goals are–of all the conversations to cut short with simplistic and sometimes unkind responses, this is not one.

I think that there are questions in there to be fleshed out. Because that’s the kind of statement that sounds good and solid, and can block a further conversation if it’s not deconstructed. I’d have looked into it.

Declaring an area crystal clear does not in fact, get rid of that obnoxious blurriness.

A number of commenters made excellent points, and they’re all well worth reading, but I just want to say this up front: If you find the topic of consent to be difficult to sort out, you’re going at sex wrong. Continue reading “TBT: “Consent Is Hard””

TBT: “Consent Is Hard”

Doubting the Messenger

Let’s start with disclosures, since at least Sarah Morehead, the person at the heart of this story, is trying to make this a personal dispute rather than whistleblowing on financial and organizational impropriety.

I’ve never met Sarah Morehead that I can recall. I might have, since I attended the conference that was a precursor to Apostacon in Omaha in 2012 and we’ve been at other conferences at the same time, but it would have been in passing only. I interviewed her by phone for Atheists Talk radio regarding her work with Recovering from Religion. I was ambivalent about her work, supporting Recovering from Religion while not being very impressed with the celebrity-driven direction Apostacon took. Nonetheless, last fall, I reached out to her about the possibility of her doing a workshop at Skepticon with Secular Women Work.

I’ve worked with Steph, putting her in front of audiences for both the Secular Women Work conference and the workshops at Skepticon. We’ve socialized at CONvergence, and I expect we will again.

Of the Omaha/Apostacon crew, Josiah Mannion is on my very short list of favorite people. We’ve geeked out about organizational effectiveness together for a couple of years. I’ve made sure he and his camera could get to several conferences and conventions, including raising money for us to travel together to the Secular Social Justice conference in January and report out. We’ve traded critique and advice and personal confidences. I just conspired with a bunch of other local atheists to get him up to Minneapolis for a week, where he stayed in our guest room. If I’m going to be biased anywhere in this, here’s where.

I’m Facebook friends with many of the rest of the interested parties without having met them more than briefly at best. The main exception is JT Eberhard, with whom I had a fairly public falling out a few years ago.

All that said, my introduction to allegations of financial mismanagement against Sarah Morehead didn’t come out of Omaha. Continue reading “Doubting the Messenger”

Doubting the Messenger

The Ogvorbis Boondoggle

A couple of days ago, I posted a piece thinking through what it means to provide a haven for rapists. Someone left this comment on the post. Pitters have poured massive amounts of time and energy into spreading this idea that it’s worth looking at in detail.

Of course, the burning issue is whether the support and protection of Ogvorbis, a confessed child rapist, here at FreeThoughtBlogs, makes some bloggers such as PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson, and you, “a haven for rapists”. This depends on what the likes of PZ means by “a haven for rapists”.

We know for sure that FTB most certainly is a “haven” for at least ONE rapist, and a couple of others who have been accused of rape. Continue reading “The Ogvorbis Boondoggle”

The Ogvorbis Boondoggle

A Haven for Rapists

There’s been some chatter about “a haven for rapists” lately. Even a demand that I say something about the topic. So here goes.

Picture of two rowboats in a small natural harbor.
Safe Haven” by Liam Moloney (CC BY-SA 2.0)

My first thoughts on “haven for rapists” is that, in order to know whether something is a haven or not, I would first have to know what such a haven looked like. So what is a haven? According to the several dictionaries I consulted on the matter, a haven is a place of safety.

In the current context, that’s probably worth emphasizing. A haven isn’t a gathering place or a hangout. It’s a place of refuge, originally a port, but now any shelter. It remains a haven whether it’s used or not.

This raises the question of what endangers rapists.* What would they, in particular, need to be safe from? Continue reading “A Haven for Rapists”

A Haven for Rapists

Dawkins Tries Again

First we had Dawkins trying to suppress the allegations against Michael Shermer by exerting his influence behind the scenes. Then we had him try to suggest that date rape isn’t so bad. Then we had him try to suggest that people who have been plied with alcohol by others remain responsible for…something (terrible analogy) and that feminists don’t respect women if they believe it’s possible to victimize them. Today, we have these:

As I pointed out to Dawkins on Twitter this morning, we have significantly more evidence against Shermer than that.* As I promised him, here is an enumerated list. Continue reading “Dawkins Tries Again”

Dawkins Tries Again

Dawkins Throws Himself on a Grenade

Last night, we saw the Shermer allegations hit the broader media. Knowing that the women whom Shermer had targeted were using their names in the article and having a pretty good idea what it said, I’d already written a post telling people who had previously dismissed these claims to think hard about their reactions to the article before going public with them. I read the Oppenheimer article to be certain it said what I thought it must, but my post went up within half an hour of the article.

I’m more than aware that Richard Dawkins has no obligation to read the free advice I give, much less take it, but I have to believe it would have been better if he had in this case. He and Twitter are not on good terms most of the time. This morning was particularly egregious. Continue reading “Dawkins Throws Himself on a Grenade”

Dawkins Throws Himself on a Grenade

After the Shermer Article: What Do You Decide?

An article has just been published on Buzzfeed about sexism in atheism and skepticism, the allegations against Michael Shermer, and the protection he’s received from some portions of the movement.

It isn’t as though this information is particularly new. Some of us have been talking about this problem for years. We’ve had details on Shermer’s behavior for more than a year at this point, and we’ve seen the responses to that as he has continued to make appearances at conferences and been added to secular think tanks.

This situation is new in some respects, however. These allegations have not just appeared in a blog. They’ve been public for more than a year in some cases, and with a New York Times columnist prepared to listen and take their claims seriously, these women have used their names. The journalist in question, Mark Oppenheimer, has a history of uncovering abuse in other communities, prompting reform.

That makes this yet one more important decision point for people in these movements. Continue reading “After the Shermer Article: What Do You Decide?”

After the Shermer Article: What Do You Decide?

I Believe You–It's Not Your Fault

Lindy West was at Women in Secularism this year. I already knew she was funny, but meeting her confirmed it. Hearing her talk confirmed that she’s perceptive and thoughtful. Her new project, a blog called “I Believe You–It’s Not Your Fault” confirms that she is awesome.

The blog is already booked with stories for the next six months, but submit your story if you have one. She is particularly looking for stories that “nontraditional” abuse victims can recognize themselves in.

I Believe You–It's Not Your Fault

Sexual Assault Plus

I don’t usually do reposts so soon after the original publication. This was originally posted last fall, when Dawkins was talking about “mild pedophilia. He’s ranking rape again. It’s worth pointing out that Dawkins isn’t doing this because no one provided him with any better information. He’s been told this is inappropriate and why, in great detail.

Yesterday, Richard Dawkins issued an apology. In talking about his own sexual assault at a young age, he had generalized their experience from his. He was relatively unaffected by the experience and expressed his opinion that the same was true of “all of us”. He apologized for doing so.

Dawkins’ apology was very welcome, if incomplete, as was his admission that he should not speak to the experience of other victims of sexual assault. Alex has a pretty good take on what it missed. I don’t agree 100%, but I’m close enough not to quibble. Instead, I’d like to dig into this idea of degrees of assault. What Dawkins has had to say on the topic isn’t entirely wrong, but his naive take on the topic obscures as much as it reveals.
Continue reading “Sexual Assault Plus”

Sexual Assault Plus