Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Enemies or Allies, part 2 of a conversation between profeminist Julian Real and men's rights activist James Huff: Het Men's Threats and Fathers' Wrongs

image is from here
Coming up in part 3, I hope, will be James' direct responses to the questions I posed in part 1 that he, as yet,  hasn't answered.

For now, this:

On Wednesday, 1 June 2011, a man named Noah Benzing emailed me. The subject heading said, "AIDS". The body of the email is as follows:

Just wanted to let you know that AIDS kills fags dead and I hope you die soon. 


Pithy, isn't it? I've gotten a number of emails like this--dozens at least. From many men. So many men: so little originality.

I decided to send it on over to James, so he could see how his allies typically "respond" to me. He very kindly sent me this response:

James to Julian:
Wed., June 1, 2011
Ridiculous assholes.  It's no different than the calls of "baby-killer" for me.   Ever think they are scared of you? or jealous  ;)

Ignore the troll.   They have no place decent to hide when universal truth comes knocking at their door. Remember your mind is your most powerful weapon.

I responded as follows and await his thoughtful reply.

Wed., 1 June 2011
Hi James,

I'm going to respond a bit to that, because it points out something that is significantly different about us. And that, again, has to do with our political location socially and structurally.

First, though, on one level it is no different: on the level of its absurdity and stupidity, perhaps it is no different (I'll ask you about this later in this email). But on many other levels it is quite different and is designed to do something very different.

People who hurl misogynist and anti-gay or racist or anti-Semitic epithets at those who speak out (allegedly freely) against bigotry, hate crimes, and institutionalised social and economic discrimination, social oppression, and political (domestic and international) terrorism by one group against another, are doing something else other than being jealous, fearful, silly, and ignorant. But I agree they may well be all of those things.

The whites who do this to people of color; the men who do this to women; the hets who do this to lesbians and gay men are doing something else too. They are participating in the culture of terrorism against those oppressed people. And that culture of terrorism is not abstract: the terrorism is real, even while Noah's email to me is pathetic.

As I wished to make clear earlier on in our correspondence, "reality" is a collection of experiences, an agreed-upon episteme, an accepted while rigorously socially enforced ethical and ideological framework built with systematic or compulsory actions that sometimes bolster identities.

It is only the powers-that-be in charge that are thuggish terrorists which get to act without accountability, however. If someone is a Muslim-identified extremist-terrorist and threatens the US or does something aggressive that makes US citizens feel afraid--or die--the US military will take a decade to track them down and murder them. But if our white male-led country bombs the shit out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and Pakistan, making Afghani, Iraqi, and Pakistani citizens feel afraid or die? What means do those countries have to get the US and NATO invaders out? The US's power to invade is far greater than the powers of the relatively powerless (and relatively few) active Muslim terrorists. And the kinds of corrupt power exercised by the US government and its corporations is often enough cowardly and ignorance-based. But that's not all it is. It is also largely effective, which is why power is exercised in those ways at all, some of the time but not necessarily all of it.

Consider this: without acts of terrorism, what is al Qaeda? A group of people who are jealous, perhaps? A group of people who feel humiliated by not being in power the way the US currently is? Some of those members may organise to do something aggressive and hostile, but it can only ever be "extremists" who do it. This is not the case with US aggression and hostility. Normal, red- and blue-blooded Americans can and do want us to bomb the shit out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've heard white Americans say that "we ought to make a parking lot out of [fill in the name of the country we are warring against]. Even if al Qaeda is not acting against the US there. Even with no weapons of mass destruction. Even with no Osama bin Laden.

There is no accountability in the US for what its military does. The people do not control the military. The military leaders control it. So our speech is not effective and therefore it doesn't really matter how "free" it is. If it is perpetually ineffective, or regarded as noise, what does the freedom of it actually mean? Isn't the point of speaking out to be able to have an effect--beyond speaking into air, I mean?

Often enough the cloaked-while-terroristic institutionalised means, methods, and mechanisms is sufficient for keeping groups of people down on the social hierarchies. But occasionally a few of the oppressed--or larger numbers of us--get what people atop social hierarchies term "uppity". We can note here that to be uppity means you're not at the top of the social hierarchy, practically by definition. And when that happens you will see violence used to shut them the fuck up. Verbal and physical violence. If the verbal doesn't work, the physical will be unleashed.

We might not that only Black people in the US were called uppity by whites. Not the reverse. And whites don't generally call one another "uppity". Why? Because on the racial hierarchy, whites are already on top, are already up, and have stayed there for as long as this country was a country. So there's nowhere else to go but down, in the minds of many whites. Equality feels like a demotion in status and acquisition of resources and power.

Similarly, het men are atop the sexual hierarchy in the US and elsewhere, over and above het and bi women, lesbian women, and gay and bi men. Their heterosexist ideology rules, and any threat to its sovereignty and to het male domination is seen as an attack, not just a critique. Women's critiques of male supremacy are supremely misunderstood and mis-experienced by men as an attack. It is a critique. There is no attack. The attacks are the rapes, the domestic and international terrorism, in the form of sexual assault, trafficking, and slavery. There is a trade in women and girls--and some boys--by white men internationally. There is no sexual slave trade of men and boys by women. No rackets of women trading pics of their latest assaults against boy-children are busted up by the FBI. That's not because the FBI aren't finding them.

So such actions as Noah Benzing's would be entirely ridiculous except for one thing: he and his colleagues and allies knows that most times, the tactic works to silence the allegedly "equally free" people who are speaking out too much. Only some people in any society founded on and intentionally maintaining oppressive social hierarchies need to resort to such tactics, but some must. Some men must rape, to keep alive the fear of rape. Some men must assault and terrorise women domestically to keep alive women's fear it could happen to them too.

For example, if you called on your MRA colleagues and allies to stop doing these silly while terroristic tactics, they wouldn't and they won't. Why? Because they are convinced this level of aggression is necessary to maintain their unjust privileges, their corrupt power over others, and unearned entitlements they wish to maintain. It is the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed, to borrow from divorce court lingo. Except they are the ones with the money, the social capital, to begin with--the status, the lack of stigma, the cultural clout, the political position. They have gotten accustomed to being on top and so efforts by the oppressed to achieve equality feel like and is experienced as a demotion, a lessening of value, a lowering of status, and a very serious threat because they can't really imagine the value of a truly equal society with no one on top.

Because they can't imagine this, they project onto women a desire to rule 'the other gender'; they project onto feminists a belief they want to create a matriarchy. It'd be only absurd if it weren't so prevalent a belief, seriously and terroristically acted out against feminists.

So many forms of violence are employed to keep the people at the top in charge. All forms of it. Every form necessary. By any means necessary men will rule women; whites will rule people of color; the rich will rule the poor; and heterosexuals will rule lesbians and gay men.

With that, all we have to do is notice the violence and name it as such. So when women name "rape" men must chime in and say, no, you're lying. And when gay men and lesbians deem something a hate crime, some heterosexuals must come back with, "No, they were just kidding. It wasn't serious." To whom, James, is it not serious?

Which brings me back to the beginning. What Noah did, in the context of living in an anti-gay society where truckloads of young and perhaps not-so-young het men do wish for me to be dead, do welcome me being beaten and raped, is a threat. Not such an idle one, even if Noah is, among other things, a buffoon and a coward.

And while my mind is stronger than his, his fists are stronger than mine--or the fists of his thug-buddies. I've received their death threats, with quite detailed information about how they wish to accomplish the deeds. Your counsel pretends this is only ever an exchange of words, of ideas, of thought. But for me being chased down the street was not an idea only. And for almost all the women I know, rape and sexual harassment from men are not words, even while words are used during the acts. And oppression--discrimination, subjugation, violation--isn't a thought primarily.

On these grounds, I respond with this: me being called a "f*g" who should die of AIDS is not the same thing, socially and structurally, as you being called a baby-killer. Because there is no plague that took out a generation of your people while the president who ruled the country refused to speak about how to prevent it being spread. And bullying in schools doesn't propel het boys--socially perceived and regarded as such--to commit suicide disproportionately. Boys aren't called "het" as a way to humiliate and terrorise them. This demonstrates the lack of equality present. But I'm wanting to know is anyone calling you a baby-killer? On what "logical" or "moral" grounds?

And, do you see any of their tactics as honorable?



And here is James' latest reply to me:

Wed. 1 June 2011

I understand where you are coming from, in that a threat is a be taken soberly..with all the ramifications it implies.

My own uncle called me a "baby-killer", and wouldn't let me attend a family reunion after getting back from Iraq...on the grounds he thought I was a danger and a bad influence to his family.  I do not believe such a position was logical or moral.  I thought that blood would be thicker than water in this case, but I was wrong.

As far as terms of humiliation....hmmm.
I have been called any number of things, and I must say that "baby-killer" was perhaps the worst, regardless of its source.
I think my peculiar way of looking at things, keeps me from being able to really see much beyond logical speculation...even when  faced with such persecution.
I knew he was wrong in his base assumptions...and I took his threats of violence against me seriously if I showed up..but I also knew that he cast himself in a light that paint him forever in a negative fashion.  So for some reason, I remained rather immune to the effect I think he intended to have on me.

These self-identified MRAs who do these things are nothing of the sort.  The REAL MRAs are already speaking to legislators and lobbyists.  They are already scouring court documents, civil and criminal cases alike.  The movement has become a multi-headed hydra...each moving on a different front, a loose coalition that is already gaining the attention of lawmakers and the media in ever increasing numbers.  Look up the National Coalition for Men, and S.A.V.E.  These are just a few of the organizations who are moving in a big way in the last year......and they plan on hitting hard right before the election season next year.

There are independent research and lobby groups located in Australia and the U.K. as well....U.K. has a group called Fathers for Justice which has already been active for a couple of years, and they are bringing to the public consciousness the skewed DV and rape statistics used in that country. They have also been successful in bringing up how false rape allegations are hurting men and women.  Women because of the "cry wolf" idea.  This is why there have been a couple prominent cases already over there where women have gone to court and been found guilty of perjury and sentenced to one to three years off a false allegation.

So you see that I am learning more about WHO is out there, actually doing work...and these are the real MRAs.  My task is to educate new people. Those who seek to become active like these groups must not give sway to hateful or angry rhetoric.  No one would see us as anything other than evil trolls if that is the case.  As it is, there are already a number of fine groups out there who keep it exactly where it needs to the courts, in lawmakers offices, and in awareness projects that are starting to spread across Western culture.

It's much bigger than I thought.....So much bigger.  It just has sooooo many groups on local, state, and national levels that no one has even kept track of them all.  And most of them have sprung up within the last 5 years.

Have you looked up Erin Pizzy or Eva yet.  I think you will see what I mean. The threats of violence go both ways.


Hi James,

I have not, as yet, looked them up. 

It appears you're stating that the "MRAs" online are not real MRAs, and are, instead, unconscionable and unethical bullies and imposters. Do I have that right?

I'll add that it'll take other than anecdotal cases, or a few cases, to prove that your perspective on things approaches the greater truths of what's going on and going down. I'm counting the experiences in the millions, not one or two or three. In the millions women are beaten savagely by men, sometimes to death. Often enough men do these beatings, and other humiliations of women, in front of children and then want custody of them after the woman leaves him. On what grounds ought any battering terrorist man get custody of children who he abuses? Do you believe that men who terrorise and beat up the mothers of their children should get custody of those children?

I have known battered women very well. And the stories MRAs and FR guys like to promote leave out so much reality that it's a wonder they have the standing they do in places like Australia, except for one thing: the courts have never been anything other that viciously patriarchal, anti-woman, and pro-white het male supremacist. This is to say, the courts are for the maintenance of the status quo: a culture, a government, a legal system, and a value system which enforces and protects class-privileged white men's right (read: wrong) to discriminate egregiously against women of all colors. It is comparable in the UK and in the US. Men rule in all three countries, and FR activists and MRAs help make sure the power stays in men's hands, to control, terrorise, and assault women, in so many ways.

I grew up seeing the effects of battery on women. As soon as women got the courage to speak out, through the shame, along came men saying silly things like "women hit us too!" As if being systematically terrorised is comparable to being hit occasionally. As if men go to the hospital emergency rooms with broken bones and bloody flesh from being savagely attacked by "the men who love them". What do you think the penalty should be for a man who rapes or batters his wife, James?

Here's a piece I wrote on the subject, in case you haven't seen it. I have lots of contact who know, in grim detail, what FR activists are doing in Australia, and I'll detail their atrocities if you'd like. For now, this, which may also be found *here*. I do personally know a woman in Australia who is an immigrant and her white Aussie ex-hubby battered her and abused their child, and the courts awarded him full custody. It's horrible. The girl-child wants to be with the mother.

The Heart of Justice, for a wonderful woman, also a loving mother, fighting for justice for herself, her daughter, and women and children throughout Australia

 [image is from here]

This was written for a newsletter put forth by an organisation
working to make custody decisions in Australia 
centered on what is in the best interests for children, 
based on principles of justice and compassion, 
not in service to abusive husbands and fathers. 

Here is the link to that organisation:

The Heart of Justice
by Julian Real, copyrighted 2010. All rights reserved.

Men have asked over the centuries a question that, in their hands, ironically becomes abstract: "What is reality?" They have written complicated volumes on this question. The woman who was a battered wife and has escaped knows the answer: reality is when something is happening to you and you know it and can say it and when you say it other people understand what you mean and believe you. That is reality, and the battered wife, imprisoned alone in a nightmare that is happening to her, has lost it and cannot find it anywhere.
The issue concerning men's unearned rights and unjust male ownership of women and children is one which continues to exist not only in Australia, the US, and the UK but also the Scandinavian countries. Increasingly, there is a pernicious patriarchal myth that children must have regular contact with their violent fathers/stepfathers. Family court systems refuse to accept that the male partner who commits violence against the female partner cannot be viewed as an appropriate 'parent' when it concerns the welfare of the children. Male supremacist thinking is that issue of violent male partners is separate to the issue of 'the same violent men being granted contact/guardianship of the child/children.'
The dangerous and sometimes deadly belief is that in a household wherein the man commits violence against his female partner, this domination supposedly does not impact on the child's/children's welfare. This is partly due to the unquestioned presumption of public and private male dominance. Even worse, despite efforts to make international legislation concerning the rights of children more just and humane, this harmful impact is commonly ignored; the 'rights of the violent male partner' supersede the rights of the child/children not to be subjected to male violence. Contact with violent fathers is seen as vital because of this misogynist myth that children need the abusive 'male role model in their lives'. We must not question 'violent man's suitability' since mere fact he is male is prioritised over everything other factor. The effects of violence and the rights of children, hand in hand, go ignored. The mother--’the female role model in their lives’--is constantly subjected to the most minute, discriminating sexist male-centered scrutiny concerning their suitability to parent their child/children. Male sex right over children always trumps women's and children's right not to be forced to live or have contact with violent, manipulative, self-obsessed men.
-- Jennifer Drew, UK Feminist Activist and Researcher Challenging Male Violence Against Women

In countries which have national laws that impact people globally, across class, race, ethnicity, and gender what is the moral and political obligation of such a country’s legislative bodies and criminal justice systems to understand, empathically, the experiences of those most marginalised, most disempowered, and most harmed? If laws center the experiences of the most privileged and powerful, the people with the most financial access to those legal systems, and the people with the least likelihood of being arrested due to social position and political clout, what is the impact on those with the lowest social position and the least political clout?

Cases flash before my eyes. A mother appeals to the court to prevent the man who regularly raped her from having custody of the children he also sexually abuses. The court doesn’t believe her that he repeatedly raped her because she’s his wife and finds inconclusive evidence of him having abused his children. Because the court determines her to be a liar they award sole custody to the man who then goes on to sexually assault his children until they leave home. A woman fights for her children’s rights to be free of the man who has terrorised all of them, sometimes with fists, sometimes throwing objects, sometimes with verbal assaults that cut as swiftly as a sharp knife. Or, on the gentler side of things, a man seeks psychological control and power over his family and his spouse decides she wants more out of life for herself and her children than to be dominated in this way. She leaves, with her children. He sues her for custody because he wants her back. The children are less important to him. I knew this father who pretended to want custody to care for his children when all he really sought was to have more abusive access and control over the children’s mother. The mother told me that was his sole motivation. I wanted to believe he was more complex than that, more humane. He wasn’t. He lost his custody case and has done very little to keep in contact with his children, now grown, although he was not legally or otherwise restricted in his ability to contact or visit with them. He lost control of his first wife so he married another woman and had two more children. So much for his court-pleaded desire to raise the first two.

There are so many cases of men using the unjust while socially real power they have to oppressively regulate the lives of women they love, hate, or regard merely as a pawn in their sadistic mental chess game called life. (He may tout that she is The Queen who holds all the power. Sometimes he actually believes his own grand delusions of political impotence.) When seen collectively and compassionately the cases, sorted and stacked, cease being anecdotal and instead reveal patriarchal patterns of men terrorising women and children, using any and all means available to them to attempt to regain the forms of control and dominance that usually escalates with little to no intervention. Misogynist violence is minimised by society generally--or normalised, or naturalised. It is blamed on women; it is seen as a weakness in men, a cause for concern and pity. Perhaps therapy will help (him).

In most cases men’s sexual violence against women can and will be ignored altogether. Most battered women remain silent. Most raped women never speak about it. Most girls violated by their fathers are too afraid to say anything for years, if at all. In my own family of origin, virtually all the female members are survivors of abuse from men in the family. None of them prosecuted. None of them ever accused the perpetrator of assault. The lie is that women make false allegations against men about battery, rape, and incest. The truth is that most women are silent, sometimes due to being killed, sometimes due to taking their own lives to escape the present or past horror and pain. Those that survive and build up the courage to speak out, to confront, to challenge the wrongs of his rights and the legitimacy of his entitlements are seen as scornful and uppity. A woman who publicly challenges a man’s ability to do what he wants and not be accountable to anyone--which is usually how it goes--is presented socially as someone who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Confused. Irrational. She may speak; but being believed is another matter altogether. Remember: he defines and authors reality; she cannot. That’s how he wants it and that is, too often, how the courtroom sees it.

The reality presented before a judge or a jury is tightly bound to male supremacist beliefs and attitudes, values and practices that do to women what men do to women: make them seem incapable of telling the truth about their own experiences. He’ll do just fine with a misogynist attorney appealing to the court’s patriarchal sympathies. She will need extensive outside verification: corroboration, reports, findings. Compounding the problem is the reality that child welfare and social service agencies are often so underfunded and understaffed that they must pick and choose which cases they can investigate.

My hearts breaks when I learn of yet another case where men are allowed to abuse their children and torture their ex-wives. What I feel vacillates between despair and outrage. Girls and boys are being ordered by court into the homes of their abusive fathers rather than their caring mothers because the fathers have social status and political power, not because they are the best parents. Custody may be determined based on the father having economic stability when a mother is poor for having spent years raising children and finally leaving him without his blessing or access to the financial portfolio he filled because she took care of the family from home, out of love, not for money.

What is horrifying is learning what happens when a woman leaves an abusive man. A woman who worked in the medical field as a technician, assisting a male doctor I’d seen for years, suddenly wasn’t around. I inquired about her absence. Co-workers looked down. I felt dread. They quietly told me she’d been killed by her ex-boyfriend. I felt sick. Only a month or two ago she was with him and alive. Now she was away from him and dead. That’s quite a high price to pay for deciding to be single. The newspapers reported him saying “I realised she wouldn’t come back and I couldn’t bear the thought of her being with another man.” His lethally jealous, irrational rage betrays his truth claim; it’s not like she had the chance. Let’s be thankful they didn’t have children because they likely would have been raised by the man who murdered their mother.

This is more than wrong. It is immoral and unacceptable because it is preventable destruction of human life presented as acceptable and fair by men’s lawyers and patriarchal judiciaries allegedly empowered to protect the vulnerable and the harmed from such abuses. Instead laws and courtrooms conspire to do just the opposite--adding promise to a husband’s threats and force to his fist.

The fact that men dominate, control, and regulate every institution in society is somehow missed when the legal lens focuses in on particular cases argued with spurious logic by attorneys well-paid by selfish and sadistic men. With increasing vigor and determination, Father’s Rights groups are attempting to misuse questionable facts to make it appear that women have all the control and only want more and with that presumed power they only want one thing: to punish the men who hurt them. If that’s how the world really worked the medical technician would be alive today and her ex-boyfriend would be dead. Men’s capacity to project onto women what they themselves feel and do is astoundingly, acidly hallucinogenic and horrifyingly effective in accomplishing their goals of continued dominance.

Centuries of documented despicable patriarchal violence by men against women and children is conveniently kept out of view when the hostile fathers’ attorneys build bogus cases against the women who loved them and were compelled to leave them when unable to endure their hatred and hostility. Wicked is a word applied to step-mothers and women generally. Not to men who have demonstrated a willingness to be wicked in ways women have never been, not necessarily because they lacked the cause. But women’s rage is institutionally impotent while simultaneously demonised. Men’s rage, however, is systemically existent and institutionally enforced. His rage cannot be demonic because he’s always entitled to it as a human quality. Law tries to curb its uglier expressions, but for him to be enraged, in and of itself, is no crime at all. When women rage, they are portrayed as many things--none of them especially human.

Misogynistic Men's Rights Groups are organising to do what they do best: spread woman- and child-hating, utterly self-serving and self-centered portraits of themselves as the Fathers Who Always Know Best. Online and off, they distribute distortions about their own children's testimony against them and about the caricatured characters of their ex-wives, who are, after all, the mothers of their children. The pain she allegedly caused him, actually generated by his own commitment to control and conquest, is played up to epic proportions. He suffers; therefore he is victimised by her, not by inflicting his own inhumanity against her. Meanwhile, her pain, from his outbursts and his beatings, is downplayed, denied completely, or blamed on her decision to stay with him. When are men not socially responsible for their own violent behavior? When the recipient of them is a woman.

His abuses may be emotional, psychological, physical, or sexual. Some may be public but most are expressed privately against the wife and kids, intentionally hidden from public scrutiny so as to maintain his social standing as “a good man”. Because of a socially ingrained sexist assumption that men speak both with greater authority and more accuracy in society-at-large, fictional tales can be promulgated by these male supremacist men and their adoring attorneys who are never paid to be truthful, only convincing.

Consider the following assessments made by a loving father and husband I know who has been studying the contours and conceits of sexist men’s stories. What follows are excerpts on myths about domestic violence, researched and compiled by the sociological specialising on gender violence, Dr. Michael Flood, from Fact Sheet #2: The Myth of Women’s False Accusations of Domestic Violence and Rape and Misuse of Protection Orders.

Women routinely make up allegations of domestic violence and rape, including to gain advantage in family law cases. And women use protection orders to remove men from their homes or deny contact with children.

     The risk of domestic violence increases at the time of separation.
     Most allegations of domestic violence in the context of family law proceedings are made in good faith and with support and evidence for their claims.
     Rates of false accusations of rape are very low.
     Women living with domestic violence often do not take out protection orders and do so only as a last resort.
     Protection orders provide an effective means of reducing women’s vulnerability to violence.

Separated women are at elevated risk of violence by men, whether physical, sexual, or lethal,  relative to women in intact unions (Brownridge, 2006), and women are at risk of increasingly severe violence when separating from violent partners (Riggs et al., 2000). The risk of post-separation violence decreases with the passage of time since separation, and is greatest in the first two or three months after the commencement of the separation, at least from homicide data. [...]

Further situational variables influence post-separation violence. Leaving a marital or cohabiting relationship or trying to leave it increases women’s changes of being physically or sexually assaulted especially if they are connected to men with patriarchal and/or sexually proprietary attitudes (DeKeseredy et al., 2004). Women are at greater risk of post-separation violence if they are more ‘available’ for victimisation: if they live in the same city as their former partner, and at riskier times such as court appearances and exchanges of or visits to children (Brownridge, 2006). The presence of a new partner can be either a risk or a protective factor, as can children. For example, joint custody may become an opportunity for conflict and violence, may increase opportunities for violence at visitation and the exchange of children, and children may be used as tools for violence by abusive men (Brownridge, 2006). [...]

The Australian evidence is that protection orders provide an effective means of reducing women’s vulnerability to violence. An early study in New South Wales found that the vast majority of complainants experienced a reduction in violence and abuse from the defendant in the six months after the order was served on the defendant, and over 90 per cent reported that the order had produced benefits such as reduced contact with the defendant and increased personal safety and comfort (Trimboli & Bonney, 1997). Finally, research among young women aged 18 to 23 and subjected to violence by intimate partners found that “preventive strategies for young women at the early stage of a relationship can eliminate, or at least reduce, physical violence by a partner” (Young et al., 2000, p. 5). The severity of violence was reduced after legal protection, but the benefit was not as marked unless women sought help from the courts as well as the police.

Mothers are desperately awaiting the feel of their sons and daughters arms around them, finally out of the psychological and physical grip of their patriarchal parent. So let’s get to the heart of the matter. Women are socially and legally disadvantaged in life and in law due to men's jurisdiction over each. The sexist beliefs and attitudes that are foundational to men's violence against women and children are supported, not exposed, not challenged, not remedied, when judges and juries carry those same beliefs and attitudes into the courtroom. This effectively ensures that at the end of the day, male supremacists win, patriarchal power is bolstered, and abusive fathers and husband regain control and custody. Women lose credibility, if not courage. They lose faith that justice is fair and unbiased. Mothers and children lose trust and hope in systems that are supposed to protect and defend their human rights to not be dominated and violated. More heart-breaking still is the loss of mothers and children’s irreplaceable relationships to each other. They are legally and forcibly separated for months, years, and sometimes forever. This is not justice. This is the tyranny of unearned patriarchal privilege ruling justice systems.

Some of these fathers have controlled, dominated, manipulated, violated, subordinated, raped, and battered the children’s mothers secretly, others have done so in front of the children, also to them, but none of this is appreciably and appropriately factored into who gets custody when parents separate and divorce due to domestic violence. Why are men being given visitation rights to children they abuse? Why is a man who batters his children’s mother being given full custody when the children need to be safely with her, and they all need reliable protection from him? With official rulings such as these, one wonders: where is the heart in justice?

If our choices rest between a woman who has been harmed significantly by a husband’s abuse but who is still standing and speaking out, naming him as the perpetrator of that harm, the best parent available to the children ought never be the abuser. Even if he is rich and she is poor.

The fact of him being male ought not be reason to grant him access to family members he has terrified. Being male doesn’t preclude being a good parent but being an abusive husband and father always does--definitionally--if reality is allowed to be defined by the harmed, that is. Being an abusive husband in a home where there are children means you are unequivocally an abusive father also. To believe otherwise is to deny children have human feelings. To believe otherwise is to deny that everyone in a home with domestic violence is impacted negatively by that violence. We know this is the case with alcoholic homes. We know this about families where there is rampant drug abuse. The same is true in any home with children where misogyny is expressed by domineering men who psychologically control and terrorise women. Whether he appears kind or callous to his children, the fact of him systematically subordinating their mother to his will, regardless of how he directly treats the children, ought to be sufficiently substantiating evidence he ought not parent them.

Overwhelmingly, by all accounts, it is males, not females, who use brutal force, bone-breaking force causing bodies to bleed and faces to bruise beyond recognition. These male supremacist traumas are not only physical. Men humiliate and degrade women with sarcastic ridicule and caustic contempt. Men’s attitudes and entitlements, both interpersonal and institutional, reveal their behavior, their actions, are aimed at women because they are female.

No child is safe when home is a war zone. Ought the safety and care of children and the humanitarian well-being of women be more centrally valued in society and in law than preserving a detrimental father-child relationship when determining where and with whom children will best be raised? If a husband and father has demonstrated his ability to terrorise and dominate other human beings “in his care”, why doesn’t the courtroom see this as just cause to award sole custody of children to the mother, without visitation by the predator?

This would be an absurdly unnecessary thing to say except that it is not routinely believed: criminal terrorists ought not be made legal guardians of those they terrify. Findings of post-traumatic stress due to threats and violence, and symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome due to degradation and domination exacted against the wills and beings of mothers and children ought not be ignored, understated, or deemed irrelevant when custody rulings are rendered in any court of law that calls itself just and humane.

Sources for some of the content above:

Hearsay and Heresy: Katie Roiphe's Patriarchal Logic is Riddled with Distortions in Katha Pollitt's Classic Feminist Essay, Not Just Bad Sex

photograph of Katie Roiphe is from here
Sometimes [Katie Roiphe] argues the women's movement has been so successful in moving women into the professions that today's feminists are whining about nothing. And sometimes she argues that men, if seriously challenged to change their ways and habits, will respond with a backlash, keeping women students at arm's length out of a fear of lawsuits, retreating into anxious nerdhood, like her male-feminist classmates, or even, like the male protagonist of David Mamet's Oleanna, becoming violent: "Feminists, Mamet warns, will conjure up the sexist beast if they push far enough."

Coming from a self-proclaimed bad girl and sexual rebel, this last bit of counsel is particularly fainthearted: now who's warning women about the dangers of provoking the savage male?
-- Katha Pollitt, excerpted from Not Just Bad Sex (1993)
Above, Mamet reveals a belief that, when spoken by women, brings scorn and terrorism to those women for allegedly being "virulent man-haters". Yet, overwhelmingly, it is politically active anti-feminists, not politically active feminists, who argue that men's rape of women is inevitable, uncontrollable, and something we ought to roll over and just accept as a part of life. Far too many men also argue that women ought to enjoy it. And their phallocratic logic is stunning: women ought to like it because it brings men to orgasm. Sometimes women argue this nonsense as well, but when they do so they maintain that there is no significant rape problem--unless the victims are all male, such as in the male-only wards of prisons. I was a bit shocked at how much Oprah Winfrey was moved to tears when she had an audience filled with male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It's not that it wasn't touching. It's not that it wasn't heartening to see men open up about this part of the larger anti-woman atrocity. It's that I've never seen her be that profoundly moved about girls and women who have been raped.

The message to men is that when you suffer, it ought to matter. We--all of society--should weep for your pain. And perhaps we should. Human suffering is human suffering, after all. But when women suffer, well, chances are the women will be told they're exaggerating or making it all up in order to claim this as yet unstatused condition of being "just a victim". No one dared to accuse the men in Oprah's audience of having false memories, or of exaggerating something that deep down they probably really enjoyed. Or that they were just lying in order to get sympathy as "just a victim". Or that they were distorting the truth because they really hate men, or women, or just their own parents. The men were believed in ways I've rarely seen women be so thoroughly believed.

One of many messages in all of this is that shaming, dominating, terrorising, and humiliating boys or men is always wrong and must be opposed. Shaming, dominating, terrorising, and humiliating girls and women, however, is not only socially encouraged; it's practically a prerequisite for heteropatriarchal sexuality to exist at all. What would het sex be without male supremacist "conquest" and men using force to gain uninvited access to women's bodies?

If you're doubting regular het men enjoy gaining unwelcomed access to women's and girls' bodies, just note how many men think that viewing raped women's and girls' bodies online--without the expressed permission of the female humans depicted--is accepted as a normal and harmless form of sex. The harmless sex that is noticed is men masturbating. What is also self-servingly determined to be harmless by the male consumers--using no thoughtful logic at all--is what is happening between (or among) the performers in the pornography. The rape of the women who are drugged, dissociated, and displayed is allegedly unseen in that same pornography. Rape is an atrocity men pretend not to notice. I say 'pretend' because it is the force against the women (and girls) committed by men, and the incested and raped people displayed (as sexxx-things existing only for men's pleasure), and also offline, that is so incredibly and addictively arousing to the het male consumers and procurers. And if most het men who consume internet pornography want to make a case that the pornography they look at isn't of raped women and girls, I welcome them to find out if that's the case. And I'd ask them, "If it is the case, will you stop looking at them and call for an end to the pro-rape pornography industry?" Funny how men don't wish to answer that question at all directly. But not ha-ha funny.

Whenever I mention that the women in these images have been raped, the only answer is "How do you know?" It is not ever, "I ought to reconsider my actions, then." Because the former response puts the issue of truth perpetually in question--which is just how the men like it so they don't have to contend with being male supremacist schmucks for wanting to get off to images of raped women; the latter response would mean men's unjust entitlements to abuse and exploit women is no longer unquestioned and unchallenged.

The level of unqualified callousness men and some women, such as Roiphe, show women survivors of rape would be astounding if it weren't so normal, encouraged, and enforced. That men rape each other in social places where no women exist, ought to clue us into why women are so ubiquitously targeted in men's corporate media as waiting to be raped by men. As Andrea Dworkin so brilliantly determined: it is very important in a society that fuses sex with violence that homophobia be well-established. Otherwise, the men will turn on each other. The implication isn't that men can't help but rape. The message is that manly men like their sex to be forced on women, and whoever they seek it from must submit. Men, collectively, can stop rape. Men, collectively, don't want to. And one of the ways men evade admitting this is by incessantly--and quite adamantly--denying there's a rape problem at all.

Mamet and Roiphe both occupy and fuel this fantasy world where patriarchy is just a word and the rape atrocity is just a misunderstanding or a bad attitude on the part of women who don't much like violation or degradation.

As fiction-laden facts are tossed about illogically and uncompassionately by Roiphe, please keep in mind this statistic, which is only a statistic for those privileged few who don't experience rape at all: one in three Indigenous women (not one in four, five, or ten) in the US is raped, and over 80% of the rapists are white men. Colonisation, rape, and white Western cultural imperialism go together like misogyny, rape, and marriage. Is that heresy or is that truth? And what do we do when a fact is both?

There are people who mentally and sexually adhere to their ideologies in ways that make them inhumane and callous to suffering. And there are people who act out their ideologies without knowing they even have one; they cling to it, however, as a hungry infant clings to a nursing parent's bosom. The problem, in either case, is the damage done to people, animals, and the Earth. We start there--with suffering, and when looking at and responding to the social world, we notice systematically inflicted suffering in particular. But isn't "systematically inflicted suffering" already terribly mired in ideology. Yes and no, depending on what you believe reality is.

Let me demonstrate. If I promote a US axiom, one that this country holds dear as a Sacred Truth, we ought not question its veracity or wisdom, for to do so is to be caught, seemingly psychotically, in some sort of anti-US ideological extremism. There are belief systems that need protecting, and perhaps none is greater than those that comprise the philosophical underpinnings of patriarchal atrocities--rape being one of them.

So if I state that the US's Founding Fathers were not all that great and were, in some ways at least, evil, we are left to question what's wrong with me, because "Founding Fathers" are supposed to only-revered. So for some Patriarchy-worshipers, I speak heresy. And when I say "evil" what I mean is that they conducted themselves in ways that made atrocity more possible, not less.

I won't go into the evil-doings of the Founding Fathers; they are, after all, long dead. And they probably did some cool stuff along with being (which is to say: doing) evil in some regards. They hashed out a document that made some legal room for ideas of social equality, undermining that as a social reality by focusing on things like "pursuit of happiness" rather than "the realisation of a single standard of human dignity for all people". The first is something we can easily pretend exists; the latter--not so much. Unless. Unless we make comprehending atrocity--both cognitively and viscerally--impossible. This is what Roiphe attempts to do, in collusion with many misogynist men who want to rape but don't wish for it to be called that. When women call some of the sex men enjoy "rape" the women are inappropriately and disdainfully called man-haters. When men call some of the rape they want to have "sex" they are called various things, such as libertarians and fighters for freedom. These anglo-patriarchal logic-worshipers only like things to be logical when it suits their political needs, bolstering their privileges and entitlements. Their warped ideologies wrap around truth like an invasive vine, strangling the life out of it. We are left with something deadened--devoid of spirit, wisdom, or even the mere appearance of  knowledgeable intelligence.

What follows is relatively old. I mean pre-home computer old. Yes, THAT old. In my experience, and that of most other humans I know, I have come to witness how male humans are well-supported in taking out every frustration and personal grievance on women-as-a-class and on individual women too. So as a male blogger in such a world, I want to state that I don't think people like Roiphe and Hoff Sommers are worse people than any or all of the men who support rape and defend men's right to commit it as long as we don't call it "rape" (when it is, in life's experience, not in theory, "rape": traumatic, violating, and humiliating).

I don't hold either woman (Roiphe or Hoff Sommers) in high regard. I think they are pro-patriarchal sell-outs, both of 'em. I also think they are intellectually dishonest and count on men's dishonesty to prove them allegedly right. Evidence of some of that follows, regarding Roiphe. Katha Pollitt is not intellectually dishonest. She thinks with an earnest and compassionately alive mind that welcomes truth rather than seeking to evade it at all costs. She holds humanity with regard, not contempt; she's not at all like Roiphe who seems to hold as much contempt for women as she does for men, while pretending to respect both.

Pretending is a big part of living in denial. And I dare anyone to read both Roiphe's arguments and Pollitt's and come to the conclusion that Pollitt is not more humane and also much smarter. Clearly, she is both. How do I come to this conclusion? Because Pollitt can identify what's fucked up about Roiphe's arguments or "logic", while Roiphe cannot do the same with Pollitt's work.

To her credit in an era of cynicism and callousness, Katha Pollitt sees both women and men as at least potentially humane, all deserving to be treated, interpersonally and institutionally, with dignity not disdain.

Thank you, Katha.

photograph of Katha Pollitt is from here
What follows is from *here*. I don't know who Aaron is, but I'm glad he put this online, in the era of blogging. Thanks, Aaron! I did find some mistakes in the text, which I've noted by putting corrections in brackets. You may find the essay that follows, titled "Not Just Bad Sex" (1993), in her collection of essays, Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism*here*. I have checked the version typed up for the website just linked to, which is littered with typos, with the versions I could find on Google Books and, and made changes so the text is correct. This, below,  is currently the most accurate online version of this very important and astute essay.
Kathy [sic] Pollitt wrote this review for the 10/4/93 New Yorker about Katie Roiphe's "The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism on Campus".
This is a book anyone involved in rape education should read. Roiphe runs the gamut on some of the most common arguments for victim-blaming. And because the media so embraced her book, and gave Roiphe so much publicity, some of her new arguments have been embraced by those determined to keep gender inequities at the status quo. --Aaron

Not Just Bad Sex, by Katha Pollitt

"Stick to straight liquor," my father advised me when I left for college, in the fall of 1967. "That way, you'll always know how drunk you are." I thought he was telling me that real grownups don't drink brandy Alexanders, but, of course, what he was talking about was sex. College boys could get totally plastered, and the worse that would happen to them would be hangovers and missed morning classes. But if I didn't carefully monitor my alcohol intake one of those boys might, as they used to say, take advantage of me. Or, as they say now, date-rape me.

Veiled parental warning like the one my father gave me--don't go alone to a boy's room, always carry "mad money" on a date, just in case--have gone the way of single-sex dorms, parietal hours, female-only curfews, and the three-feet-on-the-floor rule, swept away like so much Victorian bric-a-brac by the sexual revolution, the student movement, and the women's movement. The kids won; the duennas and fussbudgets lost. Or did they? In The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism on Campus (Little, Brown; $19.95) Katie Roiphe, a twenty-five-year-old Harvard alumna and graduate student of English at Princeton, argues that women's sexual freedom is being curtailed by a new set of hand-wringing fuddy-duddies: feminists. Anti-rape activists, she contends, have manipulated statistics to frighten college women with a nonexistent "epidemic" of rape, date rape, and sexual harassment, and have encouraged them to view "everyday experience"- sexist jokes, professional leers, men's straying hands and other body parts- as intolerable insults and assaults. "Stranger rape" (the intruder with a knife) is rare; true date rape (the frat boy with a fist) is even rarer.

As Roiphe sees it, most students who say they have been date raped are reinterpreting in the cold grey light of dawn the "bad sex" they were too passive to refuse and too enamored of victimhood to acknowledge as their own responsibility. Camille Paglia, move over.

These explosive charges have already made Roiphe a celebrity. The Time Magazine ran an except form her book as a cover story: "Rape Hype Betrays Feminism." Four women's glossies ran respectful prepublication interviews; in Mirabella she was giddily questioned by her own mother, the writer Anne Roiphe. Clearly, Katie Roiphe's message is one that many people want to hear: sexual violence is anomalous, not endemic to American society, and appearances to the contrary can be explained away as a kind of mass hysteria, fomented by man-hating fanatics.

How well does Roiphe support her case? "The Morning After" offers itself as a personal testimony, with Roiphe- to use her own analogy--as a spunky, commonsensical Alice at the mad women's studies-and-deconstructionism tea party familiar from the pages of Paglia and Dinesh D'Souza. As such it's hard to challenge. Maybe Roiphe's classmates really are as she portrays them--waiflike anorexics, male-feminist wimps, the kind of leftist groupthinkers who ostracize anyone who says Alice Walker is a bad writer. Maybe Roiphe was, as the claims, "date-raped" many times and none the worse for it. The general tone of her observations is unpleasantly smug, but in her depiction of a tiny subculture on a few Ivy League campuses, she may well be onto something. The troupe is that "The Morning After," although Roiphe denies this, goes beyond her own privileged experience to make general claims about rape and feminism on American campuses, and it is also, although she denies this, too, a "political polemic." In both respects, it is a careless and irresponsible performance, poorly argues and full of misrepresentations, slapdash research, and gossip. She may be, as she implies, the rare grad student who has actually read "Clarissa," but when it comes to rape and harassment she has not done her homework.

Have radical feminists inundated the nation's campuses with absurd and unfounded charges against men? Roiphe cites a few well publicized incidents: at Princeton, for example, a student told a Take Back the Night rally that she had been date-raped by a young man she eventually admitted she had never met. But Roiphe's claim that such dubious charges represent a new norm rests on hearsay and a few quotations from the wilder shores of feminist theory. "Recently," she writes, "at the University of Michigan, a female teaching assistant almost brought a male student up on charges of sexual harassment," because of some mildly sexist humor in a paper. When is "recently"? In what department of the vast University of Michigan did this incident occur? How does Roiphe know about it--after all, it only "almost" happened--and know that she got it right? Roiphe ridicules classmates for crediting and magnifying every rumor of petty sexism, but she does the same; hysterical accusations are always being made at "a prominent university." Don't they teach the students at Harvard and Princeton anyone about research anymore?

Where I was able to follow up on Roiphe's sources, I found some fairly misleading use of data. Roiphe accuses the legal scholar Susan Estrich of slipping "her ideas about the nature of sexual encounters into her legal analysis" in Real Rape, her study of acquaintance rape and the law--one such idea supposedly being that women are so powerless that even "yes" does not necessarily constitute consent to sex. In fact, in the cited passage Estrich explicitly lays that view aside to pursue her own subject, which is the legal system's victimization of women who say no. Nowhere does Roiphe acknowledge that--whatever may happen in the uncritical, emotional atmosphere of a Take Back the Night rally or a support-group meeting for rape survivors (a term she mocks)--in the real world women who have been raped face enormous obstacles in obtaining justice in the courts or sympathy from their friends and families. Nor does she seem to realize that it is the humiliation and stigmatization and disbelief reported by many rape victims, and documented in many studies, that have helped to produce the campus climate of fear and credulity she deplores. Indeed, the only time Roiphe discusses and actual court case is the argue that the law veers too far to the victim's side:
In 1992 New Jersey's Supreme Court upheld its far-reaching rape laws. Ruling against a teenager charged with raping his date, the court concluded that signs of force or the threat of force is [sic] not necessary to prove the crime of rape--no force, that is, beyond that required for the physical act of penetration. Both the plaintiff and the defendant admitted that they were sexually involved, but the two sides differed on whether what happened that night was rape. It's hard to define anything that happens in that strange, libidinous province of adolescence, but this court upheld the judgment that the girl was raped. If the defendant had been an adult he could have gone to jail for up to ten years. Susan Herman, deputy public defender in the case, remarked, "You not only have to bring a condom on a date, you have to bring a consent form as well."
Roiphe should know better than to rely on a short item in The Trenton Times for an accurate account of a complicated court case, and she misrepresents even the sketchy information the article contains: The girl was not the boy's "date," and they did not both "admit" they were "sexually involved." The two, indeed, disagreed about the central facts of the case. The article does mention something Roiphe chose to omit: the girl was fifteen years old. The Supreme Court opinion further distinguishes this case from Roiphe's general portrait of date-rape cases: the hypersensitive female charging an innocently blundering male with a terrible crime for doing what came naturally and doing it without a peep from her. The offender, it turns out, was dating another girl living in the house where the rape took place, and not the victim, who, far from passively enduring his assault, did what Roiphe implies she did not: She slapped him, demanded that he withdraw, and, in the morning, told her mother, whereupon they went immediately to the police. It is absurd to use this fifteen-year-old victim--who had surely never heard of Catharine MacKinnon or Take Back the Night--as an example of campus feminism gone mad. And it is equally absurd to suggest that the highly regarded New Jersey Supreme Court, which consists of one woman and six middle-aged men, issued a unanimous decision in the victim's favor because it had been corrupted by radical feminism.

The court did affirm that "signs of force or the threat of force"--wounds, torn clothes, the presence of a weapon--were not necessary to prove rape. This affirmation accords with the real life fact that the amount of force necessary to achieve penetration is not much. But it is not true that the court opened the door to rape convictions in the kinds of cases Roiphe takes for the date-rape norm: sex in which the woman says yes but means no, or says yes, means yes, but regrets it later. The court said that consent, which need not be verbal, must be obtained for intercourse. It's easy to parody this view, as the defense counsel did with her joke about a "consent form"--but all that it really means is that a man cannot penetrate a woman without some kind of go-ahead. Roiphe ridicules this notion as "politically correct" and objects to educational materials that remind men that "hearing a clear sober 'yes' to the question 'Do you want to make love?' is very different from thinking, 'Well, she didn't say no.'" But is that such terrible advice? Roiphe herself says she wants women to be more vocal about sex, yet here she is dismissive of the suggestion that men ought to listen to them.

Roiphe's attempt to debunk statistics on the frequency of rape is similarly illinformed. A substantial body of research, but no means all of it conducted by feminists, or even by women, supports the contention that there is a staggering amount of rape and attempted rape in the United States, and that most incidents are not reported to the police- especially when, as it usually the case, victim and offender know each other. For example, the National Women's Study, conducted by the Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina, working under a grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, which released its results last year, found that 13 percent of adult American women--one in eight--have been raped at least once, seventy-five percent by someone they knew. (The study used the conservative legal definition of rape which Roiphe favors: "an event that occurred without the woman's consent, involved the use of force or threat of force, and involved sexual penetration of the victim's vagina, mouth or rectum.") Other researchers come up with similar numbers or even higher ones, and are supported by studies querying men about their own behavior: In one such study, 15 percent of the college men sampled said they had used force at least once to obtain intercourse.

Roiphe does not even acknowledge the existence of this sizable body of work--and it seems she hasn't spent much time studying the scholarly journals in which it appears. Instead, she concentrates on a single 1985 article in Ms. magazine, which presented a preliminary journalistic account of an acquaintance-rape study conducted by Dr. Mary Koss, a clinical psychologist now at the University of Arizona. Relying on opinion pieces by Neil Gilbert, a professor of social welfare at Berkeley, Roiphe accuses Koss of inflating her findings--one in eight students raped, one in four the victims of rape or attempted rape--by including as victims women who did not describe their experience as rape--by including as victims women who did not describe their experience as rape, although it met a widely accepted legal definition. It is unclear what Roiphe's point is--that women don't mind being physically forced to have sex as long as no one tells them it's rape? Surely she would not argue that victims of other injustices--fraud, malpractice, job discrimination--have suffered no wrong as long as they are unaware of the law. Roiphe also accuses Koss of upping her numbers by asking respondents if they had ever had sex when they didn't want to because a man give them alcohol or drugs. "Why aren't college women responsible for their own intake of alcohol or drugs?" Roiphe asks, and it may be fair to say that the alcohol question in the study is ambiguously worded. But it's worth noting that the question doesn't come out of feminist fantasyland. It's keyed to a legal definition of rape which in many states includes sex obtained by intentional incapacitation of the victim with intoxicants--the scenario envisioned by my father. Be that as it may, what happens to Koss's figures if the alcohol question is dropped? The number of college women who have been victims of rape or attempted rape drops from one in four to one in five.

One in five, one in eight--what if it's "only" one in ten or twelve? Social science isn't physics. Exact numbers are important, and elusive, but surely what is significant here is that lots of different studies, with different agendas, sample populations, and methods, tend in the same direction. Rather than grapple with these inconvenient data, Roiphe retreats to her own impressions: "If I was really standing in the middle of an epidemic, a crisis, if 25 percent of my female friends were really being raped, wouldn't I know about it?" (Roiphe forgets that the one-in-four figure includes attempts, but let that pass.) As an experiment, I applied Roiphe's anecdotal method myself, and wrote down that I know about my own circle of acquaintance: eight rapes by strangers (including one on a college campus), two sexual assaults (one Central Park, one Prospect Park), one abduction (woman walking down street forced into car full of men), one date rape involving a Mickey Finn, which resulted n pregnancy and abortion, and two stalking (one ex-lover, one deranged fan); plus one brutal beating by a boyfriend, three incidents of childhood incest (none involving therapist-aided "recovered memories"), and one bizarre incident in which a friend went to a man's apartment after meeting him at a party and was forced by him to spend the night under the shower, naked, which he debated whether to kill her, rape her or let her go. The most interesting thing about this tally, however, is that when I mentioned it to a friend he was astonished--he himself knew of only one rape victim in his circle, he said--but he knows several of the women on my list.

It may be that Roiphe's friends have nothing to tell her. Or it may be that they have nothing to tell her. With her adolescent certainty that bad things don't happen, or that they happen only to weaklings, she is not likely to be on the receiving end of many painful, intimate confessions. The one time a fellow-student tells her about being raped (at knifepoint, so it counts), Roiphe cringes like a high-school vegetarian dissecting her first frog: "I was startled... I felt terrible for her, I felt like there was nothing I could say." Confronted with someone whose testimony she can't dismiss or satirize, Roiphe goes blank.

Roiphe is right to point out that cultural attitudes toward rape, harassment, coercion and consent are slowly shifting. It is certainly true that many women today, most of whom would not describe themselves as feminists, feel outraged by male behavior that previous generations--or even those women themselves not so long ago--quietly accepted as "everyday experience." Roiphe may even be right to argue that it muddies the waters when women colloquially speak of "rape" in referring to sex that is caddish or is obtained through verbal or emotional pressure or manipulation, or when they label as "harassment" the occasional leer or off-color comment. But if we lay these terms aside we still have to account for the phenomenon they point to: that women in great numbers--by no means all on elite campuses, by no means all young--feel angry at and exploited by behavior that many men assume is within bounds and no bid deal. Like many of those men, Roiphe would like to short-circuit this larger discussion, as if everything that doesn't meet the legal definition of crime were trivial, and any objection to it mere paranoia. For her, sex is basically a boys' game, with boys' rules, like football, and if a girl wants to make the team--whether by "embracing experience" in bed or by attending a formerly all-male college--she has to play along and risk taking some knocks. But why can't women change the game, and add a few rules of their own? What's so "utopian" about expecting men to act as though there are two people in bed and two sexes in the classroom and the workplace?

Roiphe gives no consistent answer to this question. Sometimes she dismisses the problems as inconsequential: coerced intercourse is bad sex, widespread sexual violence a myth. Sometimes she suggests that the problem is real, but is women's fault: They should be more feisty and vociferous, be more like her and her friends, one of whom she praises for dumping a glass of milk on a boy who grabbed her breast. (Here, in a typical muddle, Roiphe's endorsement of assertive behavior echoes the advice of the antirape education materials she excoriates.) Sometimes she argues the women's movement has been so successful in moving women into the professions that today's feminists are whining about nothing. And sometimes she argues that men, if seriously challenged to change their ways and habits, will respond with a backlash, keeping women students at arm's length out of a fear of lawsuits, retreating into anxious nerdhood, like her male-feminist classmates, or even, like the male protagonist of David Mamet's Oleanna, becoming violent: "Feminists, Mamet warns, will conjure up the sexist beast if they push far enough."

Coming from a self-proclaimed bad girl and sexual rebel, this last bit of counsel is particularly fainthearted: Now who's warning women about the dangers of provoking the savage male? When Roiphe posits a split between her mother's generation of feminists--women eager to enter the world and seize sexual freedom--and those of today, who emphasize the difficulties of doing either, she has it wrong, and not just historically. (Sexual violence was a major theme of seventies feminism, in whose consciousness-raising sessions women first realized that rape was something many of them had in common.) The point she misses is that it was not the theories of academics or of would-be Victorian maidens masquerading as Madonna fans that made sexual violence and harassment an issue. It was the movement of women into male dominated venues--universities, professions, blue-collar trades--in sufficiently great numbers to demand real accommodation from men both at work and in private life. If Roiphe's contention that focussing on "victimhood" reduces women to passivity were right, the experience of Anita Hill would have sent feminists off weeping, en masse, to a separatist commune. Instead, it sparked a wave of activism that revitalized street-level feminism and swept unprecedented numbers of women into Congress.

Roiphe is so intent on demonizing the antirape movement that she misses an an opportunity to address a real deficiency of much contemporary feminism. The problem isn't that acknowledging women's frequent victimization saps their get-up-and-go and allows them to be frail flowers; it's that the discourse about sexuality says so little about female pleasure. Unfortunately, Roiphe, too, is silent on this subject. We hear a lot about heavy drinking, late nights, parties, waking up in strange beds, but we don't hear what made those experiences worth having, except as acts of rebellion. In a revealing anecdote, she cites with approval a friend who tells off obscene phone callers by informing them that she was her high school's "blow job queen." Not to detract from that achievement, but one wonders at the unexamined equation of sexual service and sexual selfhood. Do campus bad girls still define their prowess by male orgasms rather than their own?

It's sad for Roiphe and her classmates that they are coming of age sexually at a time when sex seems more fraught with danger and anxiety than ever. Indeed, AIDS is the uneasily acknowledged spectre hovering over The Morning After: The condom, not the imaginary consent form, is what really put a damper on the campus sex scene. Certainly AIDS gives new urgency to the feminist campaign for female sexual self-determination, and has probably done a lot, at both conscious and unconscious levels, to frame that quest in negative rather than positive terms. But that's just the way we live now--and not only on campus. Rape, coercion, harassment, the man who edits his sexual history and thinks safe sex kills passion, the obscene pone call that is no longer amusing because you're not in the dorm anymore but living by yourself in a not so safe neighborhood and it's three in the morning: it's not very hard to understand why women sometimes sound rather grim about relations between the sexes.

It would be wonderful to hear more from women who are nonetheless "embracing experience," retaining the vital spark of sexual adventure. Roiphe prefers to stick to the oldest put-down of all: Problems? What problems? It's all in your head.