10 Pop Culture Characters Who Stayed Friends or Lovers With Their Rapists

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O Hara in Gone with the Wind

“Well, sure, he raped her. But it’s not a big deal. Rape, shmape. All friendships and relationships have their ups and downs. They can still be friends, or get married. Heck, maybe the rape could be the start of a beautiful love story.”

Does this sound like an absurdist attempt at ghoulish humor? It’s not. This trope is all over pop culture, and has been for decades. In some stories, rapes happen while characters are friends, lovers, or married, and the relationship goes on as if little or nothing happened. In others, rapes are the beginning of a happy relationship.

Here are 10 characters in pop culture who voluntarily stayed friends, lovers, colleagues, or spouses with the people who raped or tried to rape them.

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, 10 Pop Culture Characters Who Stayed Friends or Lovers With Their Rapists. To read more, read the rest of the piece.

10 Pop Culture Characters Who Stayed Friends or Lovers With Their Rapists

“The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life,” Available Today!

Way of the Heathen cover

My new book, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life, is available today! You can buy it, plug it on social media, and tell your friends about it! It’s available in ebook, print, and audiobook. The ebook is on Amazon/Kindle and on Smashwords, for $7.99. The print edition is at Amazon and Powell’s Books, and can be ordered or carried by pretty much any bookstore. The audiobook is at Audible. It’s being wholesaled by Ingram, Baker & Taylor, IPG, and bookstores can buy it directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing.

Here’s the description, and some wonderfully flattering blurbs.

*****

So you’re an atheist. Now what?

The way we deal with life — with love and sex, pleasure and death, reality and making stuff up — can change dramatically when we stop believing in gods, souls, and afterlives. When we leave religion — or if we never had it in the first place — where do we go?

With her unique blend of compassion and humor, thoughtfulness and snark, Greta Christina most emphatically does not propose a single path to a good atheist life. She offers questions to think about, ideas that may be useful, and encouragement to choose your own way. She addresses complex issues in an accessible, down-to-earth style, including:

Why we’re here
Sexual transcendence
The meaning of life
The meaning of death
Frivolity
Sensuality
How humanism helps with depression — except when it doesn’t
Stealing stuff from religion
Why atheism demands social justice
Different ways to be a good person
Joy

and much more.

Aimed at new and not-so-new atheists, questioning and curious believers, Christina shines a warm, fresh light on the only life we have.

REVIEWS
“A glorious celebration.”
-Dan Barker, author of Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning

“Over the years, and through a variety of publications, Greta Christina has helped us better understand atheism and atheists. With The Way of the Heathen Greta has done it again. Greta’s hallmark insights, biting humor, and straight-talk will lead you through some of the most important issues and practices shaping what it means to be an atheist in the 21st century. But, whether you are an atheist, a theist, or something in between, this book provides ‘aha moments’ that will challenge and inspire. You really should read it. I recommend it highly.”
-Anthony B. Pinn, author of Writing God’s Obituary: How a Good Methodist Became a Better Atheist Continue reading ““The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life,” Available Today!”

“The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life,” Available Today!

Frivolous Friday: Peter Pan, and Killing Fairies

Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care about that may not have serious implications for atheism or social justice. Any day is a good day to write about whatever the heck we’re interested in (hey, we put “culture” in our tagline for a reason), but we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun. Enjoy!

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Okay, maybe this is a little macabre for Frivolous Friday, but it was on my mind and was making me chuckle, so I thought I’d share.

You know the bit in Peter Pan, where Peter explains that every time a child says, “I don’t believe in fairies,” somewhere a fairy falls down dead? I read this when I was a kid. And afterwards, I started to go around saying under my breath, “I don’t believe in fairies, I don’t believe in fairies, I don’t believe in fairies,” and imagining fairies dropping like flies, one by one, all over the world.

I’m not sure why I did this. I didn’t actually believe in fairies, and I certainly didn’t think I could murder them from a distance by saying words out loud. In retrospect, I think I was annoyed by how saccharine and manipulative it was. It was like, “You’re going to guilt-trip me into believing something I have no reason to believe, by telling me my non-belief will destroy it? Yeah, screw you.” But maybe I’m reading too much into this, and putting too much of my adult interpretation on it. Maybe I was just a contrarian little fuck with a thirst for power. Strike that. I know I was.

I was thinking about this because of Tony Thompson’s HI-FREAKING-LARIOUS piece about the Catholic cardinal, who apparently thinks that the acceptance of TBLG people is killing God. No, really. Tony is very excite about his newly-discovered superpower, as well he should be. And it occurred to me: This is totally like the Peter Pan thing. Every time a queer person is happy and accepted, a little bit of God dies.

Let’s all say it together: “TBLG people are awesome. TBLG people are awesome. TBLG people are awesome.” And we can imagine a little bit more of God dying, every time.

If you read Peter Pan, did you have any reaction to the “I don’t believe in fairies” bit? Or was that just me, being contrarian and power-hungry and weirdly macabre?

Frivolous Friday: Peter Pan, and Killing Fairies

Hillary Clinton and First Names

Hillary Clinton logo
Comment policy: In addition to my usual comment policy, I’m going to add this one for this post: DO NOT comment here on the election itself, or the merits and terriblenessess of the candidates. Please keep comments narrowly focused on the topic at hand. Thanks.

Tl;dr: If you’re saying “Hillary,” please also say “Bernie,” “Donald,” and “Barack.” If you’re saying “Sanders,” “Trump,” and “Obama,” say “Clinton.” Don’t call Hillary Clinton by her first name and other candidates or political figures by their last.

It’s fairly common — in many arenas, not just the political one — to call women by their first names and men by their last. And yes, this is a problem. First names imply casualness, friendliness, some degree of intimacy. Last names imply professionalism, respect, some degree of distance. Traditionally (in much U.S. culture, anyway), adults call children by their first names, while children call adults by their last.

So when people use first names for women and last names for men, it positions women as less professional. It reinforces the stereotype of women as the friendliness-makers, the doers of emotional labor, whose job it is to be nice to everyone. It treats women as less deserving of respect. To the extent that it treats women as children or childish, it’s patronizing. All of this sucks in any situation — but it especially sucks in the political world. In the political world, all of this sends the message: Women are less capable, and less fit for office. Continue reading “Hillary Clinton and First Names”

Hillary Clinton and First Names

Godless Perverts Social Club Tuesday April 5: What Do We Mean By Sex? Sex, Language, and Inclusivity

Godless Perverts Social Club Banner What is Sex

Godless Perverts are having a Social Club in San Francisco on Tuesday, April 5, 7-9 pm! We have a specific discussion topic this time: “What Do We Mean By Sex? Sex, Language, and Inclusivity.” Overly narrow definitions of sex can leave queers and kinky people out in the cold. Overly broad ones can do the same for asexual people. Religion and science have both tried to define and control sexual language, to the detriment of pretty much everyone. How can we support people’s right to self-definition, and still communicate coherently? How do we accept the ways that language evolves naturally, without letting it be controlled by the majority? Is there a difference between language and labels? Come to the Godless Perverts Social Club for a friendly and vigorous discussion of how we talk about sex.

Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers. So please join us! Hang out with other nonbelievers and chat about sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, science, social justice, pop culture, and more. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome.

We meet on the first Tuesday of every month at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). (We also meet on the third Thursday of every month at Rudy’s Can’t Fail in downtown Oakland.) 7-9 pm. Admission is free, although we do ask that you buy food and/or drink at the venue if you can: Wicked Grounds has beverages, light snacks, full meals, and milkshakes made of literal awesome sauce.

Godless Perverts presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion, by and for sex-positive atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers, through performance events, panel discussions, social gatherings, media productions, and other appropriate outlets. Our events and media productions present depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities — including positive, traumatic, and complex experiences — focusing on the intersections of sexuality with atheism, materialism, skepticism, and science, as well as critical, questioning, mocking, or blasphemous views of sex and religion.

Godless Perverts is committed to feminism, diversity, inclusivity, and social justice. We seek to create safe and welcoming environments for all non-believers and believing allies who are respectful of the mission, and are committed to taking positive action to achieve this. Please let the moderators or other people in charge of any event know if you encounter harassment, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or other problems at our events.

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts, or follow us on Facebook. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including many Godless Perverts events. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, godlessperverts.com. Hope to see you soon!

Godless Perverts Social Club Tuesday April 5: What Do We Mean By Sex? Sex, Language, and Inclusivity

Memo to Rhymer Rigby From 1992: Yes, Comics Are Literature

Are we still, in 2016, seriously considering the question of whether comics and graphics novels are a serious form of literary art?

You may have read the piece of clickbaity trolling by Rhymer Rigby, titled No Self Respecting Adult Should Buy Comic Books or Watch Superhero Movies. Niki did an exquisite rant about it in her Seriously?!? blog, in her piece titled Today in “Old Man Yells At Cloud.”  And John Scalzi took the whole thing down in one masterful tweet: “In fact, no self-respecting adult should give a shit what anyone else thinks about the entertainment they like.”

But there was one particular piece of this willfully ignorant, laughably hateful dreck that jumped out at me:

And yes, I know Persepolis started as a graphic novel – and very good it is too. But it’s an exception to the general rule that if you need to shave, you should be reading books where you have to make the pictures in your own head.

Really? Are we still, in 2016, seriously considering the question of whether comics and graphics novels are a serious form of literary art?

No. We’re not.

Maus cover
Mr. Rigby, I have a memo for you from 1992. That’s the year Maus won the Pulitzer Prize. It was the first graphic novel to do so. Maus is widely considered a watershed — not so much within the comics world itself, artists and fans had known this was an important art form long before that, but in the mainstream recognition of comics.

And Maus is very, very far from the only example of the comics form to earn and deserve respect. I have a memo for you, not just from 1992 and Maus, but from Fun Home. American Splendor. Love & Rockets. Blankets. Ghost World. Sandman. Watchmen. Why I Hate Saturn. Saga. Black Hole. Safe Area Gorazde. Barefoot Gen. Diary of a Teenage Girl. A Contract with God. American Born Chinese. Jimmy Corrigan. One Hundred Demons. Stuck Rubber Baby. My New York Diary. Akira. And yes, Persepolis, which you so casually dismissed as a fluke, an exception to the rule that you made up. Hell, I have a memo for you from Winsor McCay, from Little Nemo, from the year 1905.

There was a time when comics were considered silly and childish, and artists and fans had to fight for critical recognition. But that time is long past. That time is so far in the past, it’s old enough to drink. The list of counter-examples is so long, you could spend a lifetime reading nothing else and still not make a dent. Comics and graphic novels have had widespread critical recognition for decades. Maus won the Pulitzer Prize in 19-freaking-92.

So when you start rambling about how childish comics are, you’re not making comics look foolish. You’re making yourself look foolish. You aren’t just undercutting your opinions about comics or pop culture — you’re undercutting your opinions about culture, period. You’re making yourself look willfully ignorant, willfully out-of-date, unwilling to consider the possibility that your personal aesthetic tastes do not constitute a substantive social critique. And you’re not going to be taken seriously by anyone other than the rest of the Old Men Cloud-Yelling Society.

 

Memo to Rhymer Rigby From 1992: Yes, Comics Are Literature

An Apology About Ableist Language

The word sorry written on a piece of paper
(Content note: ableist slurs)

So in 2010, I wrote a piece for AlterNet (two pieces, actually) about unfair gender role expectations for men. I interviewed my male friends, colleagues, and blog readers, asking them about their experiences of rigid, narrow, contradictory gender expectations, and I wrote my essays piece based on what they said. I also reposted the pieces on my own blog.

No, I’m not apologizing for that. I’m apologizing for the titles, and for some of the language I used in the content. Continue reading “An Apology About Ableist Language”

An Apology About Ableist Language

Secular Meditation: A Review

secular meditation rick heller book
The very short review of Rick Heller’s Secular Meditation: If you’re curious about secular meditation and mindfulness, there’s finally a book for you. And it’s a good one.

The somewhat longer review: the book is exactly what it sounds like—a guide to meditation practices, written from an entirely secular viewpoint. And it’s hugely welcome. The vast majority of writing, teaching, and other guidance about meditation come from a religious or supernatural perspective. So when humanists want to pursue these practices, we’re given teachings and techniques we mistrust because they’re founded on supernatural assumptions. We understand that the mind is a product of the brain and the rest of the body, and that the mental or physical practices of meditation might affect how we think and feel—but we have to figure out which of these practices have good research supporting them, and which are nonsense or even dogma. We might even be subjected to teachings that denigrate us, telling us that our supernatural soul is the most important part of our being and our lives are hollow if we don’t believe in it. Even supposedly secular teachings about meditation are often rooted in supernatural ideas about “energy” and whatnot.

*****

Thus begins my review of Secular Meditation: 32 Practices for Cultivating Inner Peace, Compassion, and Joy, for The Humanist. To read more, read the rest of the review. Enjoy!

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Coming Out Atheist
Bending
why are you atheists so angry
Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

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Secular Meditation: A Review

Thinking About Punctuation: Semi-colons, Colons, and Dashes

Way of the Heathen
I’m working on my new book, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life. I’ve been having thoughts and conversations about punctuation. And I want to share them and get feedback.

Specifically: I’ve been thinking about when to use semi-colons, colons, and dashes. I’ve been thinking about this ever since I started writing professionally in 1989. More recently, Alex Gabriel and I were talking about our tendency (and many writers’ tendency) to overuse these punctuation marks. They are lovely and fun to use, and sometimes they’re exactly what you need: but they can make for precious, complicated, hard-to-read sentences with too many clauses and sub-clauses. I’ve been thinking more carefully about how I want to use them, and working on making my use of them more consistent instead of just using whatever looks right. So I wanted to share the guidelines I’ve been using, my own personal style manual. And I wanted to get opinions and feedback.

Period and commas. The main guideline comes straight from Alex: Whenever it’s reasonable, replace semi-colons, colons, and dashes with periods or commas. Shorter sentences are generally better.

But shorter sentences aren’t always better. Sometimes, replacing semi-colons, colons, and dashes with periods or commas would make the writing clumsy or unclear. When that’s the case, here are my guidelines.

Colons: I use a colon when the clause following it is a complete sentence. (Example: “You didn’t decide to be an atheist: you decided to ask questions, look at evidence, prioritize reality over wishful thinking, and quit pushing your doubts to the back burner.”

Note to self: These colons can often be replaced with periods, splitting the sentence into two.

Semi-colons: I use a semi-colon when the clause following it is not a complete sentence. (Example: “After all, what could make you feel more important than believing that the creator of the entire universe cares passionately about you; that he wants more than almost anything for you to do right and be with him after you die, and is even waging a war for your soul?”)

Note to self: These semi-colons can also sometimes be replaced with periods, splitting the sentence into two with just a little recasting. They can also sometimes be replaced with commas.

I also use semi-colons in the place of commas, when I have a sentence with a list of things, and the things being listed are longer phrases or clauses instead of single words or very short phrases. This is especially the case when one or more of the things being listed is a phrase that has a comma in it. (Example: “I love that we’ve dressed it up in studs and feathers, boots and stockings; that we’ve added personal theater and public theater; that we’ve spent millennia exploring it in painting and writing and film and pixels.”)

Note to self: Consider whether commas would be better. This is, however, a generally legitimate use of semi-colons.

Dashes: I use a dash when the clause following it is not a complete sentence, but when a semi-colon seems wrong — mostly because the second phrase needs more separation from the main sentence. (Example, other than that self-referential one: “And when you conclude that there are no gods, one of the implications is a demand that we work for social justice — an end to extreme poverty, political disempowerment, government corruption, gross inequality in economic opportunity, misogyny, racism, homophobia, and more.”

Note to self: These dashes can often be replaced with periods or commas. If not, they can often be replaces with semi-colons or colons.

I also use dashes to insert a short phrase that needs to be separate from the rest of the sentence, but that’s too important to put into parentheses. (Example: “According to the genetic counselor, it’s entirely possible — likely, even — that there are other genetic markers associated with Lynch Syndrome, ones that researchers don’t know about yet.”)

Note to self: Consider whether commas would be better. Consider whether parentheses would be better. Consider whether the phrase is even necessary, or could just be cut.

Other note to self: Try to limit dashes to no more than one use per paragraph.

Thoughts?

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Coming Out Atheist
Bending
why are you atheists so angry
Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Thinking About Punctuation: Semi-colons, Colons, and Dashes

Meta-Stories

I’m thinking about meta-stories. Stories about stories. This starts off being about Christmas stories — but that’s only where it starts. It goes somewhere else. I’m not sure where it ends.

Stephanie Zvan has an interesting piece about Christmas stories, and how many there are other than the obvious one. She wrote this paragraph, which struck a nerve and got my brain wheels spinning:

Christmas accretes stories the way Thanksgiving accretes recipes for disguising vegetables. Charlie Brown and his lonely tree. Scrooge and his ghosts. The little girl with the matchsticks. Jo’s Christmas “without presents”. Reindeer on the house-top. A Grinch with an undersized heart. A snowman willing to sacrifice himself for a little girl. A desperate man on a bridge. A ski resort in need of saving for the old man. A couple with nothing but the ability to sacrifice for each other. A consuming desire for an unsafe “toy”. A hostage situation, of all things.

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I read that paragraph — and had an immediate, vivid flash of memory. Stephanie wrote “The little girl with the matchsticks,” and what jumped into my head wasn’t so much that story itself, or even the memory of the picture book with the heavy, glossy cardboard pages. It was the meta-story. What I remembered was the time I was talking with my mother about “The Little Match Girl,” a story I loved and was somewhat obsessed with — and she said she hated the story, because it was a justification for why it was okay for children to freeze to death in the streets. I realized that Mom was right, and suddenly saw through the gloppy sentiment, and had a small moment of growing up. I had a small moment of realizing that the world wasn’t always okay — and I had a small flash of understanding about critiquing art.

Christmas doesn’t just accrete stories. It accretes meta-stories. I’m sure everyone who celebrates Christmas has these: the first time they watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas” after their parent’s divorce; the time when they’d just moved into their new home and watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” sitting on lawn chairs in a house full of boxes; the time they put on the Christmas play and accidentally set fire to the manger. The stories aren’t just stories: they become part of our own.

But of course, that’s true of all stories. The story of The Phantom Tollbooth is also the story of listening to my father read it aloud to me and my brother, and reveling in his pleasure in the story as much as my own. The story of The Godfather is also the story of my seventh-grade class passing it around to each other, whispering the page numbers of the dirty parts. The story of Star Wars is also the story of my younger cousins haunting the suburban mall where they watched the movie over thirty times. The story of Alice in Wonderland is also the story of the first year Ingrid and I were involved, when she was in New York and I was in San Francisco so we talked on the phone constantly, and she had a sore throat one time and couldn’t talk, so I read Alice in Wonderland to her over the phone.

So now I want to know: What are your meta-stories?

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPG
Coming Out Atheist
Bending
why are you atheists so angry
Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Meta-Stories