Recommends: Captain Awkward on Creepy Dudes

Content Note: Rape, Street Harassment, Gender Policing

Everyone on earth has already read this, but go read it again.

This is how far Rape Culture skews our vision. Being sexually harassed and assaulted is seen as something that you should be cool (i.e. quiet) about. But GOD FORBID you break up the weekly games night with the temerity to be a victim of such a crime! Don’t you know that your harasser has the best table for playing Settlers of Cataan?

And then tattoo it on your forehead.

Funny enough, link-walking through the above landed me here, which is a conversation about street harassment and how common it is. And I always feel a little funny in street harassment conversations because I think I must be the one woman on earth who hasn't suffered street harassment.

Until I think just. a. little. harder.

Because the ONE TIME I was on public transit -- when I was a very young teenager coming back at night from Disneyland to our hotel -- a much older teenager cornered me on the bus. And there in front of the whole bus, including my parents, he proceeded to "flirt" with me by asking me a lot of really probing and uncomfortable questions about my age, where I'd been that day, and if I wanted to come down for a midnight swim when we got back to the hotel.

I couldn't have been older than 14. I definitely didn't look older than 14.

After giving off every possible I Am So Freaking Uncomfortable I Want To Teleport To Mars signal that there is, I hit on the bright idea of standing up when the bus pulled into a hotel stop. The guy leaped to his feet yelling, "This is my stop, too", and then stared daggers at me when I sat back down. He asked me if I was going to get off. I said it wasn't my hotel and that I had been stretching my legs. The driver waited patiently. Finally, after a very very long moment of staring at me, the guy slowly got off the bus.

About five other passengers burst into spontaneous applause and one older man congratulated me for getting rid of the "annoying guy".

Nice, right? Yeah. I guess.

But, you know, I didn't feel backed up. I felt sad and ashamed and angry that everyone on the bus -- including my parents -- watched a 14 year old girl being asked profoundly uncomfortable and probing and sexually predatory questions and didn't do or say anything to stop it because it was just "normal" teenage flirty interaction. Because you know what? I am a fucking adult now and I can tell the goddamn difference between a girl who is really into that hot guy over there and a girl who is terrified out of her wits. I may not be able to tell the difference 100% of the time, granted, but 14 Year Old Me was giving off all the right OMG WTF CREEPY signals.

And this incident -- about which I am obviously still sad and ashamed and angry about -- is the incident I always forget about when I think, gosh, I've never been harassed in public, knock-on-wood. The one time I used public transportation. The. One. Time. 

Rape Culture. It's so freaking endemic that it's easy to forget our own experiences.


What have you been reading/writing lately? All things apply, not just serious ones.


GeniusLemur said...

I'm wrapping up editing on my current project. I had to do some restructuring to keep the heroine and viewpoint character isolated for longer. It makes the whole "stuck in a throwback to the late Triassic" situation worse.

Antigone10 said...

I once had a friend who I talked about how much I was being harassed walking down the street, and it lead me to not want to walk or walk a lot less. He thought I was making it up- he's walked down the same street all the time and never had any experience.

I eventually got quite good at tuning out what people were saying and doing (it really wasn't that much of a skill- I didn't by accident most of the time) and went walking with him. It was kind of funny- he noticed it and I didn't.

We swim in this culture. It's there every day. It's like living in the cold up in Minnesota- yeah, we might complain about it, but we just bundle ourselves up and try to live with it. And that's just sad.

CleverNamePending said...

I have mostly dude friends. I was in a car with a bunch of them and they cat-called some girl as we drove by. When I told them how jerkish that was and how uncomfortable being cat-called from cars makes a girl- and makes you look like a total ass to any woman in ear shot- they brushed me off. I was over reacting. Women are used to it. Other girls don't care, it's just something people DO. Besides, when some girl cat-called THEM they LIKED it! It was flattery!

When any woman is walking home alone after dark (not even late) and has some guy scream "Hey blue shirt! How about a blow job?"* as they slowly drive by, that's going to scare the crap out of her. Because she's alone, and you're in a car, usually not alone, and if she tries to run she's not sure how well that is going to work. I tried to explain this to them, and the closest I got to progress was that they haven't done it in front of me since.

*Actually happened to me, though he was in a parked car, and I was... 16?

Ana Mardoll said...

Yeah, if there's a best way to get across "*I* find it frightening and damaging. Are you okay with the idea that YOU are frightening and damaging SOME women by doing that, as long as you can tell yourself that it's not ALL women?", I don't know what it is.

Brin Bellway said...

And I always feel a little funny in street harassment conversations because I think I must be the one woman on earth who hasn't suffered street harassment.

Until I think just. a. little. harder.

*thinks just a little harder*

All that's coming to mind is the time I was a mall in Toronto last November. The phone salesman saw me and the girl I was with (a year or two younger) looking at him and said "What can I do for you cute girls?". (I got the feeling he didn't mean "cute" in the sense you might say to a child.) The other girl didn't act like she thought anything of it, but I stared at him like he was a waiter that had bitten my nose rather than taking my order.

Androgyn said...

I remember being harassed in high school, particularly by the popular kids, and instead of "being cool", I intentionally developed a reputation as being prudish. And reporting everything. The reporting everything frustrated the school administrators, who saw harassment as "boys just being boys", but came in handy when they did something Really Not Cool in public (actually, local TV) and my teacher decided I was the instigator. My classmates complained to the teachers and administrators, the most friendly of the administrators hauled out the pile of previous complaints I had against them, and my obvious prudishness and frigidity worked in my favor. Before the unignorable incident, I'd had to always hang around a bunch of geeky guys, because the harassers weren't stupid enough to take on a bunch of other Caucasian, white males from similar backgrounds. Not that said geeky males weren't fun to hang around with in their own right, but...

But it should never have been that way! The administrators should have said "Look, what you're doing isn't cool, isn't acceptable, should be punished. You've had a warning about what's not acceptable, if you do it again you're going to face X, Y, and Z punishments." And gone through with it! I should not have needed my (well-connected friend's parents) to tell them "Look, if you don't do something about this thing that we Saw on our Television about this Girl that we Know, we're going to make a Public Stink" before some action got taken.

depizan said...

I've never been harassed for being a woman (that I can think of). But when I lived in Iowa, I was regularly street harassed for being a freak. (People shouting "Hey, are you a girl or a boy?" is really fucking creepy, especially since there's always the implied threat that they may "investigate" if you don't answer. It may sound like a harmless question, but the tone of voice made it very much not. And what the fuck business is it of total strangers, anyway?)

tanookie766 said...

Content Note: Homophobia.

The cat-call discussion reminded me of something that happened to me some time ago. It's only tangentially related but I think it's worth sharing.

Me and my brothers were driving back home from college and on the way we see two guys walking down the street while holding hands. Upon seeing this my younger brother has the "hilarious" idea of shouting a homophobic slur at them. Apparently I, his openly gay brother, was supposed to find this super amusing and stuff, because when I call him out on it, he tells me that I'm humorless and over sensitive. The worst part is that he claims to be pro gay rights and considers himself to be a totally liberal and enlightened person.

graylor said...

I think my formative harrassment incident happened when I was in second grade. Standard stuff, little boy pulls little girl's pigtail, little girl slaps him, *her* mother gets called because omg he was just showing her he liked her and didn't know how, tee-hee. My mother? Eyebrowed the principal and told me to never hesitate to slap if it happened again.

Which leads me to the scariest incident that I'm sure the guy thought was perfectly harmless. Twenty some years later, after a fall festival, when the whole town had emptied and I was coming back to my car which was now parked in a very deserted area, this middle-aged guy came up to me out of nowhere. The lot is both behind a bunch of buildings, most more or less deserted, and above the road so that, well, you'd wind up in traffic if you tried to go down the hill at speed.

Dude wants to know if I'm Amy who works at XX Bank. My complete lack of proper socialization (see Mom, above) kicked in and I turned into a monosyllabic Vulcan. I calmly said, "No." "Are you married?" "No." "Do you have a boyfriend?" "No." "So, will you go out with me sometime?" "No." At this point dude catches a clue and ambles off after saying, "Oh, well, thanks."

At the time I wasn't frightened: in my life, violence is usually verbal and interfamilial. This is a small town, in the middle of town, during daylight: I have never felt physically unsafe here, which is dumb, because there is violence here, but, eh. Nevertheless, I was still in Vulcan mode and so drove to the grocery store rather than directly home, in case dude was following me.

When I told my father about it, he totally didn't get why this was strange or alarming, which is also rather alarming in itself. Anyway, things dude and guys like him should know: 1. Amy at the bank is nice to dude because it's her job: guys, don't take that for more than it is. 2. If all you know about a person is her looks and you want to date her solely on that basis, a certain percentage of women will think you are just interested in arm candy (at *best*) and not her as a person at all: for a non-zero percentage of women, this is insulting, not flattering. 3 a. Even if she doesn't have a significant other, she still doesn't have an obligation to date you: b. your regard does not mean you are owed reciprocal attention. 4. Don't approach a woman where she will feel vulnerable: you fear she might laugh at you and humiliate you in a crowd? Is being laughed at worse than being shot? This is a concealed carry state: things can go very bad very fast.

Dude probably hasn't learned any of these relevant facts. I think about Amy at the bank sometimes and I hope she's in management, or, at least, off the floor now. Oh, and I don't park in that lot any more.

Ana Mardoll said...

@tanookie766 and depizan,

Those are absolutely related to cat-calling and are perfect examples that the phenomena is frequently about humiliating and threatening people rather than 'complimenting' them.

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Spousal Abuse


That is deeply creepy. And I hear you on the strange "dad didn't get it" deal. When I moved into a college apartment, a neighbor -- a deeply creepy older man who always smelled strongly of alcohol and I privately suspected of abusing his wife based on sounds we heard from time to time -- ambled over and struck up a conversation with my dad. I came up just in time to hear Dad pleasantly inform the guy (in response to an obvious question) that I was going to college and lived alone.

I yanked Dad into the apartment and verbally ripped into him that the ONLY thing he was allowed to tell my neighbors was that I was dating a 6 foot tall football linebacker with a hair-trigger temper. I'll always remember -- and not in a good way -- the stunned/confused look that he gave me, like it just hadn't *occurred* to him that it MIGHT possibly be dangerous to be a single woman in our world. Scary-ick feeling.

Anthony Rosa said...

(trigger warnings, mostly suicidal ideation and victim blaming)

To be fair, from my experience, teachers and administrators don't care about anyone that people pick on, bully, or harass, not just girls being sexually harassed. I've had teachers tell me to my face that it's my fault for getting upset that kids were stealing my school books, throwing spit wads at me, mocking me and destroying my things. This was the response when I went to that teacher, in tears, when I couldn't bear it anymore.

It's amazing I didn't commit suicide.

But no, I think it IS just kids being kids. In the sense of the Scorpion and the Frog, where the scorpion was just being the scorpion!

JenL said...

When I was a kid, I tended to look older than I was. That still didn't really make it okay that I'd get catcalls from construction workers as I rode my bicycle to and from school - grades 3 through 5! I may have looked older, but I didn't look like a high school girl (much less older) when I was still in elementary school.

And it definitely doesn't make it okay that a guy followed me part-way home from school, got ahead of me, parked by the side of the road and waited for me. When I got up beside him, he called out his car window and got my attention. He told me he was looking for my school - a tiny, 3-classroom, private religious elementary school off the main drag. In retrospect, in order to name that school, he either lived or visited someone on the side street the school was on, he was a former student, or he was the older brother of another student. Any way around it, he knew it was an elementary school, so he knew I was in grade 8 at most. I thought something was weird, but told him where it was, and told him that school had been over for a while and I doubted anyone was still there. At which point, he asked "what do you think of this?" and pulled ... you can guess what ... out of his pants. Stay classy, dude!

By the time I was in high school, guys would routinely stop their cars as I was walking along the sidewalk and asked if I wanted to go to a party. Fortunately for me, I never had a guy react badly to a simple "no".

storiteller said...

Ugh, just ugh. Thankfully, I've never been street harassed in a creepy or sexual way. I've had a couple of older gentleman tell me "You have a nice smile," but it never comes off as sexual. What makes it particularly odd is the fact that I walk all over the place and take public transportation (train and bus) constantly. Even though I'm not androgynous at all, most creepy guys don't seem to register me as female. I've used that to my advantage though, as there's been a couple times I've helped another woman out at the bus stop who has been being hit on in an extremely uncomfortable way by pulling the attention away from her.

But one thing that deeply, deeply creeps me out lately is that my husband's coworker was recently arrested for groping women in the street. It turns out that on his long breaks when he claimed to be "going out to lunch," he was biking around and sticking his hand up women's skirts. Even though I never met the guy, just the fact that he worked with my husband (even for a few weeks) gives me chills.

Aidan Bird said...

This. This happened to me in northern Iowa. I didn't get it as bad in Des Moines, but up north and especially western Iowa it was pretty bad. So I can completely relate to this.

There was two times, when I was presenting more feminine, where I was sitting on a bench in a park, reading, and lo and behold a guy would walk over and just start talking to me. And then sidle closer and closer, until I got up and walked away, usually when he was in mid sentence. The dude would then swear at me, but he wouldn't pursue, for I always made sure that I sat on well used paths when I read in parks. One of these incidents happened when I was a teenager, and the other just a year or so ago.

Pqw said...

I had not seen the original post by Captain Awkward, which hit way too close to home. It was ...pleasant... or something ... to hear that other people have had people they love take the side of the creepy rapist. Not because I want other people to suffer the way I have, but just to know that it's not because I'm inherently worthless or unlovable. Instead, it's Rape Culture.

Isator Levi said...

It's certainly been a long time since I looked at this blog. I've got about three months of catching up to do.

As to this...

A few months ago, while I was heading home on the bus in the late evening (on the top deck of a double decker, so out of the possible sight of a driver), a... young man approached a lone young woman and made crude advances towards her. When she responded negatively, and very directly told him to leave her alone, he shouted some slurs at her and walked away.

I don't think that there was anybody on that deck besides myself, the two individuals in question, and another young man who was accompanying the person and standing just slightly away from it.

I've never been certain about what I should have done in that situation, even though I feel that sitting at the front with my eyes forward and just listening for anything turning explicitly violent wasn't enough.

EdinburghEye said...

I just finished reading Constructing the Little House: Gender, Culture, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Ann Romines.

Great read (at least, I thought so) but also illuminated for me an incident with Charley (the one who got stung by the yellowjackets) in Silver Lake. I barely remembered Charley showing up again much later in the books, but an incident which Laura wanted in and Rose wanted out (Rose won) was something that happened then, when Laura was 12: Charley tried to "manhandle" (Laura's word) and kiss Laura: Laura threatened him with a kitchen knife to make him stop. Rose said it wasn't realistic/appropriate to have a scene like that in a book for children (she wanted the narrator to become Carrie as Laura became an adolescent). Laura said that it had actually happened. Rose said it was "unrealistic" in the fictional depiction of family life, it would be suitable for a story about a "street child".

When Laura goes out driving with Almanzo, the first time Almanzo tries to put his arm round her, Laura makes the horses run so that Almanzo will have to keep both hands on the reins to control them. Three or four years on from Laura's fight with Charley, she's still having none of a man who tries to handle her against her will.

Asha said...

I had the ill luck to be working with a massive jerk for a Koucho-sensei (principal) at the Junior High I was teaching at in Japan. The guy was a well known jerk, and particularly enjoyed making me uncomfortable. My first party, we were both drunk and taking the train home, and he was... uncomfortably close. Rubbing against me as the train moved. I tried to move away, but I didn't have much space to move. Given our relative positions, I was very uncomfortable with speaking up, and I was basically told just to stay away from him as much as possible. Later on, he make the comment, in English, that "Insert was his favorite word."

He wasn't saying this innocently.

If we had been equals, I would have spoken or reacted much more... actively. In high school, when someone tried to grope me I jabbed his hand with a pencil. It kept the worst of the creeps off me, at any rate. I have not had a job where I was harassed sexually before or since.

As for what I'm up to... Well, I've been working on a very indulgent and goofy but somewhat serious Mass Effect kink meme fill (Yeah. Should I have admitted that?) I've also tried to explain why the ending of Mass Effect 3 has pissed me off so much, and why I feel the Synthesis ending was disturbing no matter what the writer's have tried to say. And why I am stuck on it and CANNOT LET IT GO.

As for what I've been reading, I found The Last Unicorn for my Kindle Fire and it looks magnificent with the comic reader. IDW does lovely art, even if they occasionally break a woman's spine.

chris the cynic said...

Oh, hey, Sunday recommends exists. I had a headache*, and computer problems.

Anyway, in the past week I have written:

A post about the reasons I haven't been posting much and what I hoped to post in the future.

A post explaining to spammers the difference between the last letter of the Greek alphabet and the 23rd letter of the Latin alphabet in use by writers of English (lowercase both.)

A post on Deus Ex, in which I talk about how the answer to the question, "When was X founded," is, in Deus Ex as in the real world, often, "It's more complicated than that," and how I think that might have affected the late development of the story surrounding the protagonist's adoptive parents.

A post on .hack//Sign, Rumors, Truth, and Digital Ducks, in which I begin episode 4. Mimiru encounters the growing rumor mill surrounding Tsukasa, I quote a couple of movies, Bear and Subaru meet to discuss the results of Subaru's looking at the first documentary evidence of what's going on with Tsukasa, I talk about how Subaru reacts to learning this portion of the truth, and Bear's continued belief that to find answers the investigation needs to leave the net-only approach taken so far and start working in the real world.

Making a bigger difference to my blog traffic than all of those things combined ever will is the fact that, apparently, this week Fred Clark read me, and found it worthy of recommending.


More on topic, setting aside rape culture, setting aside misogyny and power dynamics, setting aside all that stuff and just taking excuse that "it's complementary" at face value, is there anyone who particularly likes getting compliments shouted at them from random strangers they have never seen before and will likely never see again?

Because I have absolutely no reason to feel threatened or humiliated when it happens to me ("Nice beard" doesn't really trigger any fear buttons) and yet the result still tends to be more on the side of being weirded out than anything else. Ok random stranger, you like one part of my anatomy, um... I'm not sure what to do with that.

Complements from people I have some form of relationship with seem a completely different thing than complements from random strangers I meet for seconds at a time, and even when I have every reason to believe that the latter is completely sincere, it seems more weird than anything else to me.

So even if I were to accept the excuse that it's meant to be complementary, it still seems like the answer would be to not do it.

Rikalous said...

I have discovered China Mieville's work, and I am the better for it. More specifically, I just finished reading UnLunDun, the story of what happens when the Chosen One gets cold-cocked ten minutes in and her sidekick decides to take over the villain-stopping duties. There are also garbage can ninjas and carnivorous giraffes.

Aidan Bird said...

I adored UnLunDun. Definitely a great book, and have been considering reading more by that author.

I just discovered Nancy Kress's Probability Series, where humanity discovers an alien race who immediately goes to war with them. It explores a lot of alien themes and turns them nicely on their head, as well as exploring how quantum mechanics may influence technology in the future. I'd definitely put it up there as one of my top favorite science fiction series.

ZMiles said...

I submitted a couple of short stories to fantasy magazines.

As for what I'm reading, I got about halfway through "Goblin Hero" by Jim C. Hines. It's pretty good so far, although I think I like the first book in the series, "Goblin Quest," a little more.

Androgyn said...

My mother does, and only because she values herself based primarily on her physical appearance and how others evaluate it. So... I guess there are some people? But certainly it's outnumbered by people who are weirded out by it. I'm really not sure how to convey to her that no, it freaks me out when people catcall me.

Nathaniel said...

Oh man, reading all this stuff has reminded me of an incident I haven't thought much about in years.

I was in a restaurant in Georgetown with my family at around age 15. Close the end of the meal I decided to walk outside for a minute as I was feeling antsy. While I was hanging around the entrance a huge tall guy, about 6 1/2 feet from what I remember, approached me. He was wearing a gray hoodie with the hood up and jeans. He got close to me, and told me not to be scared when I instinctively made sure to not be in grabbing distance. After talking at with a bit with me giving short as possible replies, he then asked if I wanted to come hang out with him at his place.

The oh shit klaxon started to go off in my head, and I immediately started talking about how I was waiting for my family, who were waiting inside, right there in that building, and would miss me if I was gone. Because I was waiting for them, you see.

With that he said Good Night, and Take Care of Yourself, and shuffled off, leaving a very disturbed 15 year old boy.

Ymfon said...

chris: I've been meaning to tell you, because for some reason Stealing Commas won't let me leave a comment: I started looking through your writings a few weeks ago and relly love them. (Apocalypse Averted, especially. The Guild of Keyboard Makers would like me to pass along their thanks for the sudden increase in business...)

Charles Matthew Smit said...

I once played Lucius Malfoy in a LARP in Minneapolis. I walked to the site of the game in costume, and had a group of less-than-gentlemen trail me for blocks, yelling about my perceived homosexuality.

If I was ever the kind of idiot who would have questioned someone's right to feel threatened while walking down a busy public street in broad daylight, let alone any more isolating circumstances, that few blocks cured me forever.

Smilodon said...

Content Note: Mental Illness, Violence

I just had a weird incident that sort of relates. A bunch of people were waiting in line for an intercity bus - one that oly runs three times a day. And the front of the line was all females. A guy walked up to the front of the line, yelling violent profanities because of his anger over the bus being late. I called security, and eventually got him denied permission to go on the bus - with the support of all of the other women at the front of the line. But I had two things that left me feeling really uncomfortable (beyond the obvious).
1. Why me? I wasn't the oldest or the strongest of the women there, or even the most invested in getting on that bus rather than waiting for the next one. There were a lot of men in earshot, and it was pretty obvious that all of the women in the line were going into "avoid violence" mode. Most people were really supportive of me - I couldn't have gotten him kicked off the bus if several women hadn't told the driver they would not board the bus if he did - but no one else said anything until after I did.
2. While I was getting security, an older gentleman had gone to chat with the man. Once we were all on the bus, he told me that I was wrong to get the man kicked off. The guy had a mental illness, and I could never appriciate how hard life was for him. And besides, he wasn't actually violent - I needed to learn how to tell the difference between threats and real violence.
The two of those upset me a lot more than the feeling of danger did. I don't want to be cruel to people with mental illness. And the fact that I was the one who instigated getting him kicked off the bus - while everyone else seemed to be uncomfortable-but-ok with it - made me feel like I'd done something very wrong. But I think the story comes from the same sort of place as the men who catcall and are never called out on it, and calling out the douchey guy makes you the troublemaker.

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Mental Illness, Disability

So. Here is a Thing. Ranting ahead.

As a person with a physical disability, who has recently undergone serious Depression (with some crash-course insight into the fun that entails), and who is married-to and has-a-step-son-who-is an Aspie, I am REALLY TIRED of People With Disabilities (PWD) being used to justify every bad behavior under the goddamn sun.

Every Single Time someone brings up Schrodinger's Rapist or Elevator Guy or Creepy Dudes or any number of other thing, the rallying cry is immediately BUT THINK OF THE ASPIES! Every Single Time someone brings up violent, shouty, dangerous strangers -- in a country where public gun violence is such an epidemic that Shakesville is practically keeping a weekly death toll at this point in their news roundups -- the call goes up that we must THINK OF THE PEOPLE WITH MENTAL DISABILITIES!

Oh noes! How will the Aspies get dates if every person on earth isn't obligated to put up with creepy, violent, terrifying sexual propositions from complete strangers?? How will the mentally ill be allowed to travel in this country if we aren't silent and accommodating of creepy, violent, terrifying strangers who seem, to all intents and purposes, to be five minutes away from acting out violent impulses on strangers?

Clearly the answer is that everyone -- including and especially women -- just need to put up with all this creepy, violent, terrifying behavior for the greater good, and hey, if a shitload of women get raped and murdered in the process, well that's just the status quo.

No. Bullshit. Fuck no. No no no.

If someone is being creepy or violent or terrifying, women do not have a moral obligation to silently stand by and do nothing because otherwise they're bigots who hate people with disabilities. I'm a woman with a serious physical disability who struggles with depression. I'm married to a man with Aspergers, who wrestles with social cues and empathic responses. I *deeply* care about physical and mental illnesses and how they are under-diagnosed and untreated in our country. I am strongly in favor of comprehensive health care overhaul in order to get anyone and everyone all the treatment they need.

But that does NOT mean that I have to be a silent witness to violent, creepy, terrifying behavior. Being mentally ill does not give you a free pass to terrorize strangers -- it may mean you're not morally culpable for your actions or legally responsible, yes, but it does NOT mean that the strangers are no longer allowed to object because, hey, mental illness means a License to Terrorize.

The next time ANYONE tells you that you aren't allowed to assert safe boundaries because the person trespassing those boundaries has a disability, you have my permission to tell that person to fuck the fuck off.

Also -- and I want to make this very perfectly clear to the entire internet -- people REALLY need to stop diagnosing mental illness based on a five minute conversation. I'm not saying it's impossible to tell if some people are mentally ill, but I *am* saying that this is way too much conflation in our society that Bad Behavior *must* equal mentally ill. That framing does NOT help mentally ill people and it perpetuates a lot of really harmful stereotypes about mental illness. If I see ONE MORE INTERNET PERSON decide that all rapists are psychopathic or that all creepy dudes have Aspergers, I will pull out my hair.

So there is my rant. I've been saving that one up.

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, an older "gentleman" who decides to scold a younger woman for taking peaceable, assertive steps to enforce her physical safety in a dangerous situation is *not* a gentleman. He's a fucking asshole, regardless of how charmingly he may present himself. Seriously, that just pisses me off so much.

You were not in the wrong. That guy was perpetuating rape culture from a position of entrenched privilege.

JarredH said...

I needed to learn how to tell the difference between threats and real violence.

So basically you're supposed to wait until you or someone else actually gets hurt? I'd say that's messed up, but I think it'd be a major understatement.

It reminds me of a comment made by someone (I forget who or where) about the unwinnable situation where women are told they need to prevent their own rapes, but then are criticized for doing anything to establish safe boundaries.

Dav said...

TW: rape culture, violence, mass murder

So basically you're supposed to wait until you or someone else actually gets hurt?

Even then, even once you've been hurt, you're still responsible for judging if your hurt is really legitimate, and isn't mostly your own fault, and if you weren't leading on the violent scary dude by being afraid of him, and making sure that you really want to ruin his life because he could lose his job and his kids and go to jail and he's really sorry, and then you're all making people uncomfortable with talking about the assault, and your acquaintance knows a child with autism who was violent and it wasn't his fault but he hurt someone and was almost institutionalized, and you wouldn't want that to happen to violent scary almost-certainly-not-autistic dude, would you, just because you got a little hurt? It's not like you were *really* hurt, not like those people in far-away country who were really badly hurt but still forgave their violent scary dudes.

Seriously, this shit never stops. There is no one place where everyone agrees that whoa, yes, that is way the fuck too far and women shouldn't have to tolerate that shit. Seriously, good luck finding a case that everyone will go "yep, dude stepped over the line" and no one will follow that with "but victim-blaming". Dude rapes someone? Dude beats someone up? Dude kills someone? Dude goes into gym and opens fire with the specific intent to kill a bunch of people? Yeah, there's always a bunch of bystanders to redirect blame to the oddest places (dead victims, feminism, foreigners).

Isator Levi said...

I've often worried that my own Asperger's Syndrome may cause me to act in ways that are inappropriately creepy.

which is to say, there are times I have recognised my behavior as extending into inappropriately creepy, and have had to put the brakes on myself and immediately apologise for that and anything recently I've been doing like that, and tried to explain the conditions that would cause me to forget myself while still being while still being clear on the understanding that it was me -forgetting myself-, and not behavior that should have been put up with.

That and occasions where people have touched me from behind, and I've lashed out and/or inappropriately grappled them (which has been thankfully rare, and always something I'm immediately ashamed and apologetic for).

I suppose I'm rambling. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I know what's appropriate and what isn't, and even if I slip up, if I realise that or have it pointed out to me, I have the temerity to recognise that I'm in the wrong.

It does make it a bit problematic when considering matters I view as needing to make a good first impression, such as romantic overtures. I'm hoping to get around to that some day; I think my prospects can get a bit better if my friends can help me get a better handle for how to present myself and trust other people to take me well (they've already helped me make progress on that front, I feel).

Anonymus said...

tw: non graphic mentions of near misses, discussion of minimisation of trauma.

I have a lot of "that one time"s that often slip my mind, and then when I'm trying to count them I think a little bit harder and then "oh, there was that time when I was a teenager that my uncle ..." and "oh and that one time when I was six and the older boys wanted to check if i was really a girl" and "oh yeah the guy on the bus. can you believe i ran into him on two separate occasions?" what is it with guys on busses, Ana? and "oh yeah that guy who must've been 70 that wanted me to go back to his apartment with him when i was 17" all of them little things in the grand scheme of it, but not. i don't think of them normally, all those "near misses" when it could have been a lot worse but I got away. it's like, if the incident didn't end in the r word then we should just brush it off because it's a part of being a woman. and we're so steeped in it that we do learn to brush it off and to forget and to minimise it, and to say it wasn't that big of a deal, just a bit of a bother. hardly worth mentioning.

any one of those incidents could break a person, or set them back a long ways in their healing from prior traumas, or trigger them. i knew a teenage girl back in residential once who was absolutely shattered by her first of these recurring annoyances of life under the patriarchy, more than an annoyance because, i guess she wasn't used it yet, and good for her for not having had to be used to it, and i hope that all these years later she's doing okay now, and that nothing similar has happened since. she was the one who taught me that even these "little" horrors are wrong and terrible, not just a part of womanhood to be endured.

Anonymus said...

ana, can you add "gender policing" to the trigger warning?

Anonymus said...

(on my comment that is, not on this entry itself. ffs when will i learn to finish a thought before hitting the post button)

Ana Mardoll said...

I think it's been referenced more than once now, so I just added it to the whole thread. Thank you.

MaryKaye said...

Content warning: sexual harassment

I remember the moment at which I first grasped the whole pattern, what people are calling kiriarchy.

We had had to throw someone out of our public Pagan group because he groped women. The leadership, including me, were deeply distressed that we hadn't reacted sooner and more sharply. We then held a healing circle to let people deal with their distress.

And we hit a distress we couldn't process, a male member of the group who found the groper's exclusion so threatening that he couldn't deal with it. After a long, increasingly emotional discussion that led to neither healing nor resolution, he said to me, I think in private, "I'm in the military. If I were accused of sexual harrassment I could lose my right to carry a weapon, and that would be disastrous."

I stared at him in shock. He'd just listened to woman after woman explain that this guy had grabbed them and french-kissed them by force. Including me. He was either telling me to my face that I and all those other women were making false accusations--in which case, dude, why would I do that? And why are you complaining to *me* about it? Or, more plausibly, he was telling me to my face that real accusations of real sexual harassment were less important than the hypothetical possibility of an accusation against him.

A false accusation against him?

I thought about his behavior, which was never outright actionable but was kind of skeevy. I decided that it made little sense for him to be worrying, on no evidence, about false accusations, and that it was more likely he was worrying about *true* accusations. He was afraid because he might be truthfully accused of sexual harassment and lose his gun.

And his response to this wasn't to behave well, nor to leave for his own safety (if he thought he couldn't behave well--say, our standards were too difficult for him to understand)--but to demand that we pardon a clear case of sexual abuse in order to make him feel safer.

I don't remember anymore if we asked him to leave or if he just left, but he did leave, and I for one was not sorry. That one comment was so far over my personal lines I don't think I would ever have been comfortable in his presence again. Having a gun in it...ugh. Just ugh.

Ana Mardoll said...

That... is really upsetting to me. Hello, rape culture. That is seriously a messed up attitude for him to take. O.o

Lonespark said...

"oh yeah that guy who must've been 70 that wanted me to go back to his apartment with him when i was 17"

I have like 5 of those stories. AFAIK, nothing truly untoward was said or done... Maybe I was just that oblivious...

Lonespark said...

Oh, but I was like, 11 to 13.

Silver Adept said...

When the stories come out here, I have to shake my head at my own gender and say several unprintable things, because I know all those things are true, and I know that we can actually do better, and should be doing better. And then several more unprintable things come out when I remember that the very culture itself thinks these things are fine and desirable for men as a proof of their manhood.

And then I go thinking, and I hope that if I ever am the person in someone else's story, they use me as a lesson to everyone around them about how not to do things. I try to remember whether I asked permission to take photos of all the cosplayers (or that they were at places designated to take pictures), and if, when I weeny out looking for the bored to play Morton's List, that I kept a respectable distance while I made my pitch, that I approached groups rather than single people, and that I never pushed anyone if they said no. (which them had me thinking about cosplay, convention culture, and how the rules about no still apply, even of the costume is one that's designed to leave little to the imagination...and all the Sailor Bubs and crossplay joking...the rabbit hole is deep, dark, and very unforgiving.)

And then I say "Belgium" when I realize that a lot of men don't think about these things at all.

Pqw said...

Silver Adept, just reading your words and realizing - there is a guy out there somewhere who understands that Rape Culture is a thing, and not only is not threatened by the concept, but is actively trying to change his behavior to not contribute to it - makes me want to weep for joy.

I dearly love my spouse, but it's taken the entire 20 years I've known him to get him to the point where he concedes that feminism makes sense. (He'd still prefer it to be called 'egalitarianism'. Ugh.) He does not get patriarchy/kyriarchy/privilege, or Rape Culture. He does not want to hear about them, or frustrations with them.

Yeah, we could all do more than we're doing. But just doing SOMETHING is encouraging, and gives me hope.

Isabel C. said...

Ah, the "oh, yeah, that one time" bit. There are a lot of things that I just sort of laugh off, or roll my eyes at, or at worst go "...Jesus, that's *classy*," in a heavy-sarcasm way, because they're just kinda there. Annoying, but there. Like slush in March.

And then a couple of friends were around when one of them happened--a guy jokingly putting his arm around me at a game, as I recall, and jokingly putting it back when I pushed him away, and I think he *did* mean it in a just-kidding-around way, but ugh--and got really concerned about me and mad at the guy. Not in a way that suggested I'd been traumatized or anything, but "Oh my God, does that happen a lot?" and "Creepy-ass motherfucker".

At which point I started realizing the extent to which that shit was not okay.

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Violence In Group

When I was a freshman in college -- read: trying to learn the New Group Dynamics and be Chill Girl about stuff -- a junior/senior in our friend group brought downstairs an honest-to-god noose that he'd fashioned out of rope, slipped it over my head, and choked me until I lost consciousness without anyone interfering or objecting in even the slightest way. I woke up a full minute later as one of the friends in the group awkwardly fanned air at me; someone -- I don't know who -- had removed the noose from my neck.

I was *spitting* angry, but the general blase reaction to the group -- probably stunned into silence rather than consciously approving -- meant that my good girl conditioning kicked in, and I forced myself to calm down. I hung out with that group for several more months before leaving, but no one ever mentioned the noose thing again.

We need to train people to recognize this stuff and SPEAK UP AS IT HAPPENS instead of awkwardly letting it pass because we're all super uncomfortable. And lately I feel like I'm poised and waiting for something awful to happen, just so I can use all my totes feminist training in real life, the way I wish I could have back then. It's a strange, horrible feeling.

Ana Mardoll said...

Seconding Pqw: Just the knowledge that some people are reading these things and working up ways to make women feel more safe is a tremendous relief. I know a lot of "good guys" who still don't take this seriously (because THEY know they are good!) so this means a lot.

Isator Levi said...

There are people, people whom I consider friends, who I sometimes feel could do with seeing some of the things said on this blog, if only because it's being articulated better than I think I have managed to do when discussing pertinant subjects with them (where I feel they have displayed problematic attitudes or acceptances).

On the other hand, I am afraid that they might, inadvertantly or not, join the commenting pools and make this feel like a much less pleasant environment (and, selfishly, I fear that I may have some suppositions about uglier sides to them revealed, which might make me unable to converse with them the same way ever again).

I would not be quite so worried were it not for the fact that, when a really major thread came up about certain gender issues, one person felt so marginalized that she basically left the community forever (although I still dearly hope that she may return someday). I'll admit, the most objectionable people in that exchange do not post so often, and are not ones I would have considered friends (although I thought a bit better of one before he made some very revealing statements), but...

I'm conflicted. It's my major online community, and I couldn't look at it for a fortnight after the consequences of that thread became apparent.

Smilodon said...

Late response, but thanks for your guys support.

For what it's worth, this guy is definitely mentally ill - I'd been on a bus with him before (I realized later) and he'd had a loud yelling match with two people who did not exist. But you're right - the fact that he's mentally ill and scary doesn't make him not scary, or me wrong for protecting myself. And it does help to hear from people who are marginalized, and deal with discrimination, that was I was doing wasn't that.

Niala Wesley said...

I once lived in an apartment complex and whenever I walked past this one apartment the men there would approach me. They were incredibly intense. It was the way they would look at me. One of them even proposed marriage and started talking about how he would be a good husband. He didn't know anything about me other than my name. He was coming off way too strong.

At first I thought I was overreacting but then I realized that if I felt so uncomfortable by them that I was finding alternate routes to walk my dog just so I wouldn't have to run into them, it was a big deal. Early into meeting these guys I told one of them that I worked at the library (big mistake). He then asked what days I worked there but I was vague since he was starting to creep me out. The next time I ran into him he said that he went to the library but didn't see me!

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