Tuesday, April 22, 2008

She's not heavy, she's my knitter

At first I wasn't angry when I read this post. I thought, "dude, bad idea. Way to go with the stupid." The more I think about it the more it really bothers me. I dislike it when the space around me gets sexualized without my consent - ie, someone leading someone else around on a leash, in collar and cuffs, at Faire. Am I sex negative? No. I just don't want your peanut butter in my chocolate in a venue that peanut butter is not what I consented to. If I want peanut butter, I'll go to the peanut butter club and consent by walking in the door, mmkay? It wouldn't bug me at, say, Pride or the Folsom Faire while we're talking "public" either, because I am giving consent just by showing up and participating.

It bothers me that the writer seems to think that people "putting their assets on display" or "wearing skimpy costumes" are somehow implying consent to be approached or touched. And I'm sorry but that's just craaaaap.

If I wear a short skirt? It's not an invitation.

If I wear a low cut shirt? It's not an invitation.

If I wear anime cat ears and duct tape, it's NOT AN INVITATION.

I hate it when perfectly well meaning men say to me that they don't understand why women get all het up when they're cat called for wearing a short skirt. Here's why.

Because.

Because women are not objects put here for the delectation of others. Wearing a short skirt does not make them culpable for someone else's lack of respect for boundaries.

A friend of mine asked this question in response to the brouhaha about whether or not this Open Source Boobs Project was okay. "When was the last time you were afraid you were going to be raped?"

I don't sit around, obsessing about "Omg, I might be raped!" and it is not something I spend a lot of time thinking about, but the plain truth is, I have been sexually assaulted in my life. The sense of unsafety, of potential danger and of the possibility of it happening again is never NOT in my lizard brain.

This fear is why I walk with a fistful of keys clenched between my fingers when I walk through the dark parking lot after work. Why I will wait and get onto another elevator if there is a man who feels threatening getting onto the first elevator, as that would put me into a small space alone with him and I am afraid.

This is why I don't walk my dog after dark.

This is why I am afraid that my daughters might one day drink too much at a party and maybe go to lie down in a back room to sleep it off - because they might wake up to someone who thinks that "unconscious female" implies "consent to have sex."

It could happen. It has happened to other women.

It has happened to me.

I *hate* the idea of privilege. I hate that it exists. I hate it. I resist the idea and I don't know what to do with it or about it and it makes me feel powerless and frustrated that it is even there. So I don't throw it around in arguments or debates as a rule. Kind of like bringing the Nazis into an argument. Argument is automatically over when privilege comes into the discussion because you can't really argue with it. For all that, I gotta say that it's some kind of fucked up straight male privilege that makes an otherwise seemingly intelligent person think that a woman in a skimpy Princess outfit is somehow inviting him to walk up and ask if he can fondle her tits. That people "putting their assets on display" are somehow safe to assault.

"They can say no." he says. But the damage is already done when he asks the question. I do give him kudos, also, for actually editing his post and saying some of the things he's said in retrospect. I don't think that he meant any harm with the OSBP, but good intentions make great cobblestones. Damage done.

How many of the women at this con really weren't okay with it but felt pressured into participating or simply felt pressured to be silent about it while it was happening around them? How many of them really felt empowered by the experience? I wonder.

I like the idea of the Open Source Swift Kick In The Balls Project. Except not really, but, the way she writes is brilliant.

11 comments:

Mouse said...

Wow. I read the first bit and just sat here while my mind boggled.. I'm honestly curious at how this sounded like a good idea to ANYONE. I'd have definitely been on the "no" side with the option of using the 'kick in the balls' project as retaliation.
The whole thing disturbs me for basically the same reasons as you stated. Hell, I don't even wear SHORTS or short (knee length or above) in public because of the unwanted 'attention' that it sometimes causes. All falling under the "she *was asking for it* b/c she wore a skirt, wore a halter top, showed skin besides wrists & ankles". I live in the South and its hotter than Hades down here starting at the end of April and here I am practically having to resort to wearing a snowmobile suit because some men think that by showing some leg I'm ASKING to be assaulted with comments.. or worse.

KnitNana said...

Excellent post, my friend.
((hugs))

Phoe said...

I completely respect what you are saying. And I have the same sort of background as you and have that always in my mind, no matter what. The whole idea has a spectacular chance of going very, very wrong. But in principle, I like the idea. I like the idea of a world where you could ask and where there is no backlash for it. And I will say that while I agree forcing your kink on someone else is of the bad, there really is such a thing as no meaning no. If I say yes, you can touch my boobs, that is NOT tacit permission to anything else. But I do agree that it's just too dangerous for most people to do something like that at a con. Among friends, I don't see the problem. It's a fine line between expecting men (and women) to be more than their sexual urges and finding that it is sadly not always so.

Jessi M said...

Wow. That's not right at all, no matter how much feminist verbiage he throws in there about empowerment, etc. Here's my theory: Cons can be really scary places where that feeling of belonging, or at least not being persecuted for being a geek, can morph into some fairly disturbing public groping. I've seen it, and I never really knew how to verbalize why it bothered me so much, but your peanut butter analogy makes SO much sense. I go to Dragon*Con to attend the panels, learn stuff, and admire the costumes. Not to watch people I thought I knew pretty well exercise the bounds of their unbeknownst-to-me "open" relationships. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Batman? Maybe this year I'll go to bed early...

Will Pillage For Yarn said...

Mouse - see, I get enraged when people whistle. They do it to me, they do it to my daughters and it makes me feel reduced down to this object. I don't feel empowered or appreciated. It makes me want to put on a burplap sack and also eat a lot of brownies.

Phoe - I think one thing that worries me about this idea is - how many women really felt uncomfortable, but were sort of forced into it by wanting to belong to the "Cool Kids" OR because they were feeling that they'd be ridiculed or subjected to public pressure for saying no? I had a commenter in another blog tell me my anger and disgust at the idea was me acting "victimish" and suppressing something "beautiful and pure."

Jessi - open relationships don't bug me - I'm poly. But I don't rub that in people's faces, I just am it. Lots of folks never figure that part out about me. And I'd never walk around asking random strange people (who might be 'asking for it' by their attire) politely if I could smooch on or fondle their spouses - poly or not - in the name of sexual liberation and freedom and other lofty ideals, because it simply is bad manners and would make people feel uncomfortable, threatened and violated.

I kind of try to draw the line there. At what makes people feel uncomfortable. And that includes the random strangers around me at a Con or a faire or the mall. I try to be a safety minded person in that regard.

Jessi M said...

On the open subject - I have a lot of respect for you, because you are poly, and you make it work for you. The people around me, who I am gently disentangling myself from, are very reckless and sometimes downright rude. I don't mind if people have understandings between themselves and their partners, but sometimes I don't understand, and sometimes I can see a partner hurting. I don't think I'm supposed to see that.

This is such a tough subject to discuss, since some people's kinks do tend toward pain, but if I'm at a superbowl party and one partner looks terrible and the other is off in another room with someone else, it sets off big red flags for me.

Thank you so much for being so considerate of other people. I really try to live and let live, but it's hard when other people forget that. I may make a shirt that says "Thank You for Not Fondling Me."

K8 said...

Wow. That's really all I can say. I too wonder how many women said ok because they felt they had to/should. There's a difference between the woman who offered and the women who were asked.

Joanne said...

Yours is the second response to that column I have read. I was horrified by the whole idea, and when you add in the idea that some young girls look much older than they are (and these same girls DO like to go to cons!), it is just a situation which could become very very bad (and possibly break laws) very quickly.

Joanne said...

And quickly rethinking what I just said - it's not just young girls... EVERYONE deserves respect and should never feel pressured about any aspect of their sexuality.

Phoe said...

I admit I underestimated the problem with "no". And I completely forgot (thanks to therapy) that I used to be one of those people. Lots of Bad Stuff happened because I couldn't say no but now I can and I didn't even think that there would be that issue. So from that point of view, you are completely right. If someone doesn't feel they can say no it is a dangerous, dangerous thing.

Have you seen this?

wondermachine said...

How f'd up is that post?!? I'd completely missed this. I've been abit out of it the last few weeks. But seriously?!?!

I guess I'm trying to figure out how much we've lost to be back three decades when this sort of shit was acceptable. It's almost as if straight men (and as a Gay man I have to make the distinction) think this kind of behavior or posing is acceptable. It's almost as if most things have not changed.

And no, it's not about sex negativity. Because it's this kind of behavior that negativizes sex, that cheapens it, that makes it a activity of violation.

I'm sorry to be stammering, but the whole thing is boggling.