Sunday, January 24, 2010

THE OTHER FACTS OF LIFE, by Radical Feminist Pearl Cleage: the violence and sex talk your parents never had with you



[image is from here]

I have hoped for years that what follows would one day be online, available for all to read, inspiring all who do to read much more of Pearl's wisdom. Finally, I have found it @ *feminist-reprise.org*. And it is copied below, so one version of it will live here as well. It's taken me too long to bring in Pearl Cleage's words of wisdom to this blog. I've referenced her a few times, noting especially that she has provided me with the best definition of sexism I've ever read. And one day I'll type and put it up! For now, listen up, please. Sister Pearl is about to address you. She tells it as it is, and she tells us what we need to know in a society in which men can and do commit violent acts against women and girls, including rape.

For me, her guidance is in the category of "watch your drink closely when at a bar" or "don't walk outside alone at night if you can help it". This doesn't blame women for what happens to an unguarded drink or a late night stroll. What men do is men's responsibility, 100%, no excuses. And no woman is ever responsible for a man's actions. And, given that we live in a world in which men behave in predatory ways, in disrespectful and harmful ways to girls and women, it is sometimes necessary to offer counsel on how best to steer clear of situations men often take advantage of to employ coercion and force to obtain physical access. Such a list of situations can never be complete. Men find too many routes of violating access to girls' and women's bodies, in ways known and unknown to those violated. But this is one talk I wish my parents had had with me when I was eleven. It would likely have saved me from being sexually assaulted, had I really taken it to heart as something very serious I need to know.

This is Sister Pearl's Wisdom. This is 'the talk'. It's not the only one needed, but it's a damn good one, imo. It is a portion of Pearl Cleage's book Deals With the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot Ballantine (1987), Reprint edition (July 1994)

THE OTHER FACTS OF LIFE 

by Pearl Cleage

These are the other facts of life. The ones your mother probably didn't tell you because she didn't want to scare you. What she didn't realize was that being scared isn't the most terrible thing that can happen. Being unprepared is much worse.

VIOLENCE:

In America, they admit that five women a day are killed by their husbands, boyfriends, ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends or lovers. That doesn't count the women killed during random rapes, murders, robberies and kidnappings.

In America, the main reason women are ever hospitalized is because they've been beaten and tortured by men. More than for childbirth. More than for cancer care. More than from heart attacks.

In America, thousands of women a day are raped and/or tortured and abused by men in as many ways as you can think of, and probably a whole lot more you haven't thought of, and don't want to, including beating, shooting, scalding, stabbing, slapping, shaking and starving.

The facts indicate that we are under siege, incredibly vulnerable, totally unprepared and too busy denying the truth to collectively figure out what to do about it. Men beat and torment and rape women because they can. They're usually bigger and physically stronger and they've structured a culture that condones absolutely the possession and control of women by any means necessary.

All this puts us at a tremendous disadvantage, especially since our group is usually fragmented and disorganized. We can't depend on each other for protection yet, and won't be able to until we admit to the problem and then learn something about self-defense. Until that happens, individual knowledge of how to recognize and get out of dangerous situations is crucial to our survival.

All men are capable of abusing women, no matter what they tell you or what they call it, so don't kid yourself about this one or that one being different. It takes years of love, work, and trust to eliminate the probability of violence in relationships between men and women. Don't think you can rush the process because you wish you could.

Don't trust any male strangers. They are guilty until proven innocent. Don't accept rides, favors, gifts, free advice, or compliments from men you don't know. Strangers are always dangerous and friends can be, too, when they are angry, frustrated, confused or crazed by a sexist desire for possession and control of you. (The section on Basic Training has a working definition of the word "sexist" if you don't already have one.)

Learn to recognize these ten early warning signals as a way of anticipating violence in order to avoid it if at all possible:

1. shouting, hollering, excessive cursing, name calling, sarcasm;
2. finger pointing or fist waving, especially in and around your face;
3. arm or wrist grabbing or twisting;
4. throwing or breaking things;
5. hitting his head or his fist against walls, tables, steering wheel, etc., or reckless fast driving;
6. threatening to do violent things to himself, you, your family, your friends, your children;
7. indicating that he has a gun or other weapon;
8. bringing up past arguments or wrongdoing for which he holds you responsible;
9. following you, spying on you, questioning you, your whereabouts or your friends, male or female;
10. locking doors so you are trapped in a car or house and can't leave whenever you want to leave.

If any of these signals occur, stay focused and alert. Do whatever you can to defuse the situation (short of having a sexual exchange, which is rape) and leave by yourself as soon as possible. Always have cab fare/bus fare/train fare and change for the telephone in your purse. Your life may depend on it.

If this happens in your own house, you should still leave until you can be safe there. Take your children if you can. Go to a friend or a relative. Go to the police station. Go to a fire station (there will always be someone there awake and on duty). Go to a hotel and call for help from the lobby. Tell somebody you need help until you get it.

Violence is never justified. It should never be forgiven. Apologies and pleas for forgiveness should fall on deaf ears. If a man beats you/hits you/shoves you/slaps you/torments you once, he will do it again. Cut him loose.

RAPE:

Review the facts at the start of the last section on violence. Let yourself think about them and feel what they really mean to each of us. Keep them in mind while you think about rape.

Rape is a crime of womanhating and violence. It is not a crime of passion or a sex crime.

The victim of rape is never, never, never responsible, no matter what she was wearing, where she was walking, what she was doing or who she went out with, had a drink with, married, kissed, flirted with or lied to. Bad judgment and carelessness are not punishable by rape.

No rape is ever justified and no rapist has an acceptable reason or excuse. Ever.

To protect yourself against being raped by strangers:
1. Secure the place you live with your choice of burglar bars, alarms, dogs, alert neighbors, good lighting and/or a gun you are licensed and trained to use.
2. Always lock your car doors and be alert to men on the street when you stop at intersections.
3. Learn to change a tire quickly. Practice doing it in the dark. Don't run out of gas.
4. Try to wait for the bus with a friend or neighbor or coworker especially at night. Avoid waiting or getting off at places where groups of men gather. (Bars, labor pools, shelters, liquor stores, basketball courts, pool halls, etc.)
5. Try not to walk alone at night, but if you have to, walk in the middle of the street so you are in the light and away from the buses and alleys. Keep your hands free and carry Mace.
6. Check for men lurking in underground parking lots, empty buildings and vacant lots.
7. Don't ever accept rides with strangers or men you don't know well enough to trust absolutely.
8. Be conscious of the kinds of clothes that men say make them think we want to be raped by them. These include tight pants and sweaters, very high heeled shoes, short skirts, halter tops, see-through clothes, etc.
9. Stay in shape so you can run if you need to run.
10. Practice hollering as loud as you can so you can make a big noise if you are attacked.

To protect yourself from being raped by men you know:
1. Never be alone with a man you don't know well and trust absolutely. This takes time. Trust your instincts. Take responsibility for setting the pace and structure of the relationship. Remember the violence warning signals.
2. Don't park or drive in isolated places with men you don't know well and trust absolutely. Whenever possible, take your own car on first dates and drive it yourself.
3. Don't flirt or accept flirting behavior if you're not interested in having sex within the next few hours.
4. Don't go to apartments, houses or hotels with men you don't know well and trust absolutely.
5. Scream and fight back when the first unwelcome sexual approach is made and you realize what is happening. Trust your instincts. If you think it's happening, it is happening. Don't wait to protest. Holler. Loud. A "friend" or "date" is less likely to want your noise to draw neighbors, family, friends, police, etc.
6. Don't go out alone with groups of men that you don't know well and trust absolutely. Evaluate each member of the group individually. The men you know well should always outnumber the men you don't know well. Ask yourself why there are no other women there. Ask them the same question.
7. Don't watch highly sexual movies, read sexually exciting books or magazines, or talk and tease about sexual things with a man you don't intend to have sex with in the next few hours.
8. Don't kiss and hug and fondle a man you don't intend to have sex with in the next few hours.
9. Don't drink, get high or fall asleep around men you don't know well and trust absolutely.
10. Don't allow any physical contact that you do not initiate, appreciate and fully endorse.

If you are as careful as you can be and you are still attacked and/or raped, don't panic. Stay alert. Focus on staying alive and unhurt. Try to remember everything you can about the rapist, the location, the circumstances. As soon as you can, get to safety. Call the police. Call a woman friend to come and be with you. Call your doctor. Call the rape crisis center.

Remember that you are the victim and don't take any shit from anybody.

SEX:

Sex is a powerful and basic drive meant to insure the survival of the species. In order to help insure that we Do It, sex can also be pleasurable when it is a voluntary exchange between equals. But sex is not exempt from the madness that is everywhere between men and women. In fact, sex is usually the most volatile and misunderstood battleground of all.

Remember when you think about sex that men often use it to express power, control, womanhating and violence. Phrases like I knocked the bottom out of it, and I fucked her brains out are the norm, not the exception. Even worse, sex and female sexuality have been tainted, consciously or unconsciously, by male misinterpretation.

Don't be fooled into imitating what you see in the movies, on TV or read in the books that crowd the bestseller lists. Trust yourself. Learn your body. Listen to it. Touch it. Figure out what feels good and what doesn't. Don't confuse pain and pleasure. If it's hurting you, it shouldn't be pleasing him.

Take complete responsibility for birth control. Of course, in the best of all possible worlds, men would share equal responsibility for birth control, but, realistically speaking, they won't take it as seriously as we do. They can't get pregnant.

Take complete responsibility for safe sex. Protect yourself against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases by always carrying and using your own condoms.

Don't fake pleasure, excitement or orgasms. There is no excuse for it, no end to it, and no way to justify it. Whenever you find yourself considering "faking it," ask yourself why and who benefits from such bullshit?

Most of the ways people get together sexually fall into three categories: mating, making love and having sex.

Mating
is the conscious coupling of two people with the agreed upon intention of having a child. It is the only kind of sexual exchange that can only occur between heterosexuals. "Agreed upon" is the key phrase here. If both people don't agree, the energy won't be in sync and the kid will suffer for it. Also, tricking somebody into bearing or fathering a child when they haven't agreed to it is low down and unfair.

Making Love is communicating sexually on a high physical, mental, emotional and spiritual plane with someone you know, respect, love, trust and desire passionately. Hold out for this kind of sex if you can. Although it is almost impossible to achieve in the midst of the current crisis, it is worth the wait.

Having sex is the catchall description of all the other sexual exchanges that occur and it has several subcategories:
1. Lustful sex--this is a purely physical response to another person. Nothing wrong with it. Be careful about safe sex and birth control. Lust cares nothing for public health questions so plan ahead and come prepared. Lust also gets careless about safety, so review the sections on Rape and Violence.
2. Sympathy sex--nothing wrong with this either, except it is often misinterpreted. If the person is so depressed or distraught or disillusioned that sex is the only way you can think of to cheer him/her up (this is your idea, right?) then this person is probably in serious need of an anchor, an angel, a savior. What was meant to be simple sympathy sex often ends up with messy misunderstandings on both sides. Avoid it if possible and take your friend out for a cup of cappuccino instead.
3. Angry sex--a commonly made mistake, especially in long-term relationships where there isn't enough breathing and pacing room. Don't do it. This kind of sex encourages you to use your sexuality in a way that ultimately denies you pleasure and twists your spirit. This kind of sex may also trigger male violence and female depression. Don't do it.
4. Friendship sex--this can be all right, but it must be controlled by you absolutely. There is a tendency for men who like you to become possessive and controlling once you begin to have friendship sex. Don't act like it's cute when it happens and don't indulge or reward it with more sex. If you value the friendship and you see this happening, stop all sexual activity immediately. Explain why and be unshakable in your decision not to resume sexual relations. Good friends are hard to find.

12 comments:

JENNIFER DREW said...

'Don't kiss and hug and fondle a man if you don't intend to have sex with in the next few hours.'

Unfortunately Pearl Cleage's advice to women/girls concerning their refraining from kissing/hugging or even touching a man is enforcement of patriarchal views. Apparently if a woman/girl so much as kisses a man this in itself absolves the male from any responsibility/accountability if he later decides to rape the woman/girl.

Ms. Cleage's advice to women/girls also enforces heterosexist and patriarchal myths that women's/girls' sexuality is not theirs but solely for the use/abuse of men/boys. So, if a woman/girl so much as expresses a desire to kiss a male, she is supposedly giving up her sexual autonomy and must be held accountable for the sexual behaviour of the man/boy.

Men/boys will read this as justification for committing rape/sexual violence against a woman/girl because it is always women's/girls' responsibility to 'gatekeep male sexuality.'

Pearl Cleage should have said 'If a woman/girl engages in kissing/hugging/touching a man/boy this does not excuse/justify the man/boy coercing/forcing/pressurising her into unwanted sexual activity.

Scarleteen's website has more information about women's/girls' sexual rights and autonomy. Yes, I know women/girls do not have sexual autonomy but unfortunately Ms. Cleage's message promotes the widespread belief that women/girls not men/boys are responsible for gatekeeping and controlling males' supposedly uncontrollable sexual feelings.

Scarleteen succinctly promotes the message that men/boys do not have innate right of sexual access to women/girls, rather both females and males own their sexuality and bodies. No one and particularly males has the 'right' of unlimited sexual access to another human being's body primarily female.

Teaching mutual respect and ownership of one's body and sexuality challenges patriarchal beliefs that women/girls must never express their sexual desires or initiate any mutually welcome sexual contact. Instead, women/girls can only be passive and if they so much as kiss a male this supposedly means they have given present and future consent to any sexual act the male demands/expects.

No wonder so many women/girls believe they are always responsible and to blame when a man/boy coerces/forces/manipulates them into unwanted sexual contact.

Scarleteen consistently enforces the message that men/boys are always responsible for their sexual behaviour/actions and it is never women's/girls' sole responsibility. are always to blame.

Such a view is still seen as 'crazy' because males must never be held accountable for responsible for their sexual behaviour. That is always women's/girls' responsibility. This is why so much male sexual violence against women and girls is justified and excused - because rather than demanding how male sexuality is constructed must be changed, instead we expect women/girls to take responsibility for male sexual behaviour. We also expect/demand women/girls must never initiate or seek sexual contact because if they do, this in itself means they have given up their human right of ownership of their bodies and sexualities.

Imagine telling a man/boy not to engage in kissing/hugging/touching a woman/girl because this will inevitably lead to the woman/girl doing 'sex' on the man's/boy's body.

JENNIFER DREW said...

I disagree with Ms. Cleage because rape is commonly male violence and violent sexual expression. Many men rape women because they believe their actions are not rape but rightful male sexual expression. Many rapists find the act of forcing/coercing women into unwanted sex as 'sexually exciting' and so sexual violence against women/girls is eroticised.

This is why rape cannot be classified as either 'sexual' or 'violence' - rather it is both, wherein the male rapist not only seeks his own sexual pleasure but also seeks to sexually humilate the woman/girl by forcing her to submit to whatever sexual act(s) he.

Julian Real said...

I don't agree Pearl Cleage's advice is enforcement of patriarchal views, given the context, given her discussion of violence, which she places before any discussion about what is safe for girls to do or not do.

And I see how it could easily be taken out of context to be presented as advice that appears to let sexist and misogynist boys and men off the hook. In context--of what she would say to girls and young women (not what she'd say to males), I think her advice is soundly anti-rape, and anti-patriarchy, as well as anti-white supremacy.

I hear Pearl's advice a bit differently than you do, I guess, and I own my ears are that of a male-man who grew up as a white class-privileged boy. A never-heterosexual one who endured many forms of sexual violation and abuse: verbal, psychological, emotional, physical, sexual--political--from males when I was a child, and who was taught many gross entitlements and was given many privileges and rights to commit violations of others without being accountable.

I hope it goes without say--but this can never be said enough, unfortunately--boys and men are 100% responsible for any action they/I do, or, commit. Pearl Cleage is emphatic on that point:

"Violence is never justified. It should never be forgiven. Apologies and pleas for forgiveness should fall on deaf ears. If a man beats you/hits you/shoves you/slaps you/torments you once, he will do it again. Cut him loose."

and,

"Review the facts at the start of the last section on violence. Let yourself think about them and feel what they really mean to each of us. Keep them in mind while you think about rape.

Rape is a crime of womanhating and violence. It is not a crime of passion or a sex crime.

The victim of rape is never, never, never responsible, no matter what she was wearing, where she was walking, what she was doing or who she went out with, had a drink with, married, kissed, flirted with or lied to. Bad judgment and carelessness are not punishable by rape.

No rape is ever justified and no rapist has an acceptable reason or excuse. Ever."

I hear Pearl speaking to young women and girls about "reality" in a war zone, in a social time and place where respect for girls and women doesn't exist meaningfully or normally. I hear her giving people the talk that WILL keep them much safer, not the talk on what they are entitled to do or what they have a right to do.

Women have the right to walk alone on streets where men gather in groups and call women misogynist names and assume any woman who is alone on the street after 1am must be available to them sexually because they choose to identify her as a prostitute, and they define prostitute as a woman who don't have the right to determine what happens to her when she goes for a walk at night.

Women certainly have a right to initiate physical and sexual contact with men, to drink with me, to do drugs with men, to look at pornography with men.

And I counsel girls and women not to walk at night alone, not to get drunk near men, not to initiate contact with men who have demonstrated misogyny in any form. Not because I think women draw rapists to them, but because I think rapists are there, and it is dangerous in this world of men because of what men do, not because of what women do.

Cleage is unequivocal, actually, on the fact that a girl or women is NEVER responsible for a rape, EVER.

So it is unambiguously in that context that she offers guidance.

Julian Real said...

Given the virulence of rapist society, the pornographisation of men's and boys' sexuality, the infusion, confusion, and co-construction of misogyny with male sexual desire, I find her guidance sound, but I hear you on the dangers of how it could be read and interpreted, and internalised.

And, I absolutely would tell girls, "I don't recommend that go to that party--the dudes there don't respect women at all and one of them has been charged with rape", or "I don't recommend going near that guy you met online, physically, if you don't know him to be someone who deeply respects your humanity, and respects you as someone who can and will set the boundaries you need to set". I would tell girls or women, or boys or men, "If you don't know how to set and hold sexual and emotional boundaries, I recommend that you not begin physical contact with [whomever].

I have given this counsel to gay boys as well as to heterosexual girls and young women. And I also counsel males to not approach females. And to not call females sexist names and to stop even thinking about females in those terms. And, I know this doesn't mean those males will stop their sexist thinking and misogynist, pornographic, predatory behavior.

Even to boys and men who I know to be more shy, not aggressive, and not misogynistic, I'll counsel to not approach a girl or woman because they can't know, without knowing her well--over time--what her ability is to say no and hold to that no, or to say yes because she feels obligated to when approached by a male who shows interest in her.

If I know a young person is a survivor of child sexual abuse (and also if they are not), I often caution them about knowing as much as they can about how that abuse (or any dysfunctional part of their past, or present) has impacted them and continues to impact them, their political agency, their choice-making, their desire, their needs, before being sexually active or social with males. I don't tell them "You shouldn't be sexually active", although if a young person told me "I am not able to say no when I need to", I would strongly recommend s/he not be in sexual situations at all unless or until that changes.

All of this counsel is seen as bizarre by most people I know. It is seen as extremist, alarmist, and denying women agency. I don't agree. I see rapist culture as extremist, alarmist, and denying women agency through the use of force against women as a class, and also as individuals. Through terrorising women and girls with violence. Through subordinating women and girls with institutional force.

Julian Real said...

And, I don't think my counsel is right or best. I think it is steeped in my own experiences, lack of ability to historically set necessary boundaries, and a fair amount of race, class, and regional privilege also. I think I am a classic hyper-vigilant, over-protective parent, in this sense. And that can be experienced, rightly, as oppressive or obnoxiously restrictive to young women. I guess I'd rather err on the side of being overly cautious than overly encouraging of women to not regard the world as dangerous for women.

And--I may write about this in a separate post--I just heard two men in a grocery store, one an employee and one a shopper, speaking to one another about raising girls vs. boys, and how they give great caution to their girls because--they said this to each other and laughed--"I know how I was when I was her age!" And the other guy said "I hear ya!" or something to that effect. Ha....ha. Fuck them. And they are not wrong about their views of males, are they? And how odd that antifeminists never critique THOSE men publicly, eh? They criticise feminists who say "men are predatory" but let two fathers joke, in all seriousness, about the fact that they know THEY were sexually predatory, and that males haven't changed since they were young. Men welcome or don't interrupt each other reinforcing ideas that men are, naturally or inevitably, rapists, but when feminists claim men are not naturally or inevitably rapists, those women are called man-haters. Huh?

The world, as Pearl Cleage notes, is one in which men and boys are waging war against women and girls, physically and sexually. (Men also wage war on other men and on boys, of course, but not in ways they tend to call "sex" as a justification for waging that war.)

Jennifer, could you send me a link to that woman's site who gives counsel on men and rape that you refer to a few times in your comment above? I've never heard of her before and would like to link to what she has to say.

Julian Real said...

And I welcome you to discuss, debate, disagree with me further on this portion, if you'd like to (or any other portion):

"To protect yourself from being raped by men you know:
1. Never be alone with a man you don't know well and trust absolutely. This takes time. Trust your instincts. Take responsibility for setting the pace and structure of the relationship. Remember the violence warning signals.
2. Don't park or drive in isolated places with men you don't know well and trust absolutely. Whenever possible, take your own car on first dates and drive it yourself.
3. Don't flirt or accept flirting behavior if you're not interested in having sex within the next few hours.
4. Don't go to apartments, houses or hotels with men you don't know well and trust absolutely.
5. Scream and fight back when the first unwelcome sexual approach is made and you realize what is happening. Trust your instincts. If you think it's happening, it is happening. Don't wait to protest. Holler. Loud. A "friend" or "date" is less likely to want your noise to draw neighbors, family, friends, police, etc.
6. Don't go out alone with groups of men that you don't know well and trust absolutely. Evaluate each member of the group individually. The men you know well should always outnumber the men you don't know well. Ask yourself why there are no other women there. Ask them the same question.
7. Don't watch highly sexual movies, read sexually exciting books or magazines, or talk and tease about sexual things with a man you don't intend to have sex with in the next few hours.
8. Don't kiss and hug and fondle a man you don't intend to have sex with in the next few hours.
9. Don't drink, get high or fall asleep around men you don't know well and trust absolutely.
10. Don't allow any physical contact that you do not initiate, appreciate and fully endorse."


I put a few of the cautions in bold, as I think they stand out as potentially "victim-blaming". And, how are they different than any of the others? Do you feel that being around men in non-sexual situations means women are generally and sufficiently safe? Do you feel women being around men in sexual situations means women are generally and sufficiently safe?

Her advice, imo, exists in a political, lived reality in which men are dangerous because men are do not hold each other accountable, and, instead, support each other's sexism amd misogyny, in action and in later story-telling.

I see this list as emergency measures, without apology, from one woman who has lived for decades in a world of male supremacy and male domination, to younger women and girls. In what sense do you believe women and girls, inside patriarchal rapist societies, not living in a state of emergency?

How do women tell girls what the world holds for them--how to negotiate social and relational space, when anyone from their uncle, boyfriend, husband, neighbor, and man in a car nearby could be a rapist targeting her for his next assault?

Julian Real said...

Hey Jennifer, I fould Scarleteen and have linked to her in the important webpages section on the right side of this blog. Thanks so much for bringing my attention and awareness to her, her work, and her website!

AST said...

Lustful sex--this is a purely physical response to another person.

I have a knee-jerk reaction to hearing sex described as "purely physical." We may lust for what we find attractive, but what we find attractive is based on our experience, our culture and our values. Certainly one needn't have any particular regard for one's partner (witness prostitution), but that doesn't erase the emotional and social dimensions from the experience.

Julian Real said...

AST, I totally agree with you there on that. I think "lust" is often a cover for other feelings and contains many feelings that may just get overwhelmed or pushed aside due to strong physical attraction.

As you say what we find attractive is SO INFLUENCED by era, culture, region, personal history, social values, etc.

JENNIFER DREW said...

I'm not sure if the issue as to whether rape is violence or 'sex' has been covered. Either way, my view is that rape is commonly both 'sex' and violence,' because the male rapist views it as 'eroticised violence' and all too commonly he feels very powerful whilst engaged in such violent acts.

The construction and enforcement of what supposedly passes for heterosexual male sexuality cannot be separated out from claims that male sexuality is all about dominance and control. The heterosexual male script is one wherein it is supposedly acceptable for men to use coercion, manipulation, aggression and even force - because heterosexual men supposedly know precisely what women (of any sexuality) want and it is always identical to men's needs and expectations.

I believe Catherine McKinnon has written at length about how male sexuality must be critiqued and changed, because much of what heterosexual men commit against women is rape. However, since it is seen as 'normal male sexual expression' the violence, coercion, threats etc are invisibilised. It also explains why so many women and girls find it so difficult to understand what the man/boy did to them was rape and not normal male sexual expression. Women and girls are commonly told it is natural for men and boys to be 'aggressive' as and when they are sexually aroused but when women and girls experience such as 'sexual aggression' as sexualised violence which ignores their rightful bodily autonomy, they find it very hard to understand precisely what has occurred. Rape becomes non-rape in other words, since it is normal heterosexual male expression.

White male supremacy needs 'rape to be defined as 'violence' and not 'sexualised violence' because maintaining a pseudo separation maintains white male heterosexual supremacy over all women.


This is why rape has to be defined as violence and not sexual violence because if we define rape as 'sexualised violence' then we have to examine how male sexuality continues to be constructed.

Julian Real said...

RESPONSE FROM JENNIFER DREW:

I do find Ms. Cleage's views concerning women refraining from any contact with men unless the said woman does so, knowing her actions will inevitably lead to the man demanding/expecting sexual contact - as women-blaming. I know this is not Ms. Cleage's intention but women and girls are bombarded with messages telling them they are to blame for men's sexual violence committed against them.

My concerns are that if a woman/girl reads Ms. Cleage's advice this will enforce what mainstream male-dominant culture tells women and girls. I know first-hand how difficult it is to rid oneself of the internal voice telling women and girls they are responsible for men's and boys' violence committed against them.

But I also do not agree with neo-libertarian claims that women have supposedly achieved sexual autonomy. That is one of the last bastions of white male supremacy and the most difficult to eradicate. White men's right of sexual autonomy feeds into other issues including racism, hatred of women of colour, homophobia etc. What I do see is now women and girls are mens' private and public property.

If we tell women and girls not to engage in contact whatsoever with males this effectively denies women their autonomy. Male supremacy has and is very successful at maintaining oppression over women as a group. I believe we need to continue to put men under the 'spotlight' because challenging men and especially white men on their misogyny and women-hating is tantamount to holding men accountable and that is not allowed under white male supremacy.

Men, especially white men do not like women criticising or holding them accountable because it upsets the power structure. This is why MRAS attempt to twist sexism around and claim it is men who are the real victims not women.

Posted by JENNIFER DREW to A Radical Profeminist at Tuesday, January 26, 2010 2:32:00 PM EST

Julian Real said...

Hi Jennifer,

I know where I "go wrong" in my thinking/feeling about this.

I get triggered about this whole matter. And when triggered I get thrown back into a place of "I am responsible for what happened to me; if only I had been more careful; if only I'd..."

And I bring that hypervigilance and victim-blaming mentality and inner voice with me whenever I hear of someone being assaulted.

Yes, I want the perp dead. But I also always want there to be some way that latest rape I hear about could have not happened.

I want to tell women "don't engage with men at all!"

I want women to be separatists. I want women to not be vulnerable to men physically, emotionally, sexually, which is also what I want for myself.

I have, over twenty years or more, achieved a level of autonomy from men: from men's needs of me, from men's desires for something from me, from wishing to be sexual with men. I stubbornly want this for women, because I want women to know some level of freedom.

And as you state, there is no freedom for women unless men are held fully accountable, and are socialised to not equate "violation of girls and women" with "sex", and to not find domination and coercion "natural and sexy", and to not allow corporate pimps to shape "what sex is" in any society.

I wonder if Pearl wants this too, this "You can be safe if..." belief. This belief that women and girls CAN be safe, can be outside a zone where rape happens. In a society with men, this cannot be.

I have to accept that. I have made drastic choices for myself to be free from men's sexual abuses and coercions. And, being male, I am not at risk in many of the ways women are. I don't have to worry about street and stranger rape, for example.

I want what we do not have: a world in which rapists don't rule society and in which pimps don't define and control sexuality.

It is overwhelmingly distressing for me to realise how little control women have over their own bodies and sexualities.

And as you note, this libertarian notion that women are free to do... is another form of denial. And I realise how easy and convenient it is to be in denial, against great evidence to the contrary.

I am also realising that to the extent that girls and women "enjoy" pornography, there is a pseudo-freedom that comes with that.

If I do what men want me to do, and like it, then I can think "I freely choose this". If I want to dress and behave the way my oppressors want me to, then I get to think this is all my own doing.

It's all quite scary to me.

Thank you for really pushing me to see through the dangerous mindset.

I still have the vestiges of that child who could do nothing else to feel powerful-not-terrorised than to blame myself. Self-blame is a way of having a sense of control in a situation in which one had no control.

Ugh.