Defending the Frat Boys of Old Dominion: Boys Will Be Boys, Silencing, and Donald Trump

Okay. I admit it. I have rape culture fatigue. I saw this story this week and I thought, “Ugh. Disgusting piggery.” But that was about it. I thought about reposting the story, but then I was just so tired of having to talk about it. So I didn’t. After all, I just posted this story last week…”Florida frat suspended after member caught on video saying ‘let’s rape some b*tches’“. I mean, surely people agree that these types of things are wrong, misogynistic and definitively stupid. Right? Right?!? [Please tell me I’m right.]

But then, this morning happened. I had just dropped my kids off at school and I flipped the radio over to hear the morning news as is my custom. Just as they were going to the news they teased that they would be taking calls about the Old Dominion story after the news break. I decided to stay tuned in and hear what people thought. Part of me is very, very sorry I did. By the time I got home (a 15 min drive) I had heard such analysis as:

  • Boys will be boys.
  • Clearly this was just meant to be funny. People need to lighten up.
  • If this was the 50s or 60s no one would have batted an eye.
  • Political correctness is ruining America
  • If we have to be subjected to Pride parades, I don’t see why this is a big deal.
  • I would give the kids a pass, this was just a joke. Who among us didn’t do something stupid in college?
  • If we have raised our girls well, we won’t need to worry. They will steer clear of frat houses like these.

These sentiments were expressed by both men and women. There were 2 callers I heard who disagreed and thought that this was unacceptable, caused a hostile environment and was cause for disciplinary action. One was a man and one was a woman. Additionally, although the host said in the days of Animal House this would have been seen as just kids having fun, he also noted that is not the current climate and kids should know by now that this kind of behavior will be punished.

There are many points I could make about the above statements, but I will limit myself to just a couple. The first point I would like to make has to do with political correctness and calls for the people who are calling this what it is to “lighten up”. In my experience being told to “lighten up” is a form of silencing. Silencing refers to techniques used to stop discourse when people complain about sexism or other issues. Silencing techniques include harassment, intimidation, shaming and humiliation intended to discourage people from speaking out or punishing them for having spoken out.

Secondly, “If we have raised our girls well, we won’t need to worry. They will steer clear of frat houses like these.” Really? So, if we raise our girls properly they don’t need to worry about rape? Or boys who try to take advantage of them? You mean like the girl’s at St. Paul’s Prep? Here’s a better question, why is it the girls who need to be raised properly to avoid predatory boys? Why are we not more concerned about properly raising boys who are not predators? Oh, I forgot, “boys will be boys”. SIGH.

I’m sorry. Boys will be boys is a lie from the pit of hell. The men I know are so much more than that sad, narrow definition of what it means to be male. If I was a man, I would be offended that people think I am no more than the sum total of my hormones and sexual urges. Men and boys can and should be able to control themselves and we do them a grave disservice when we disrespect them by excusing this type of behavior and chalking it up to the fact that they are incapable of anything else.

The type of behavior the callers want us to chalk up to a foolish youthful prank is the very type of thing that left unchecked leads to the story I linked to out of Florida, behaviors like those at St. Paul’s Prep and to the unfortunate statistics found in The Department of Justice report from December of 2014 titled Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995–2013.

You know what else this type of thinking leads to? A man like Donald Trump being the GOP frontrunner.

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#YesAllWomen – Sharing Our Stories

sheissomeoneFirst off let me say to all the amazing men out there I know you exist. I know how great you are. I am more thankful for you than I am able to express. Thank you for standing up and speaking out when you see women being mistreated. Thank you for being one of the good guys. I love you for it. I want to reassure you, #YesAllWomen is not about you guys. What it is about is telling our stories. About knowing we are not alone. It is about not being ashamed because these stories are not our fault by bringing them out of the dark and saying yes these things happen. All the time. Sad to say, we have gotten used to it. We expect it. That makes me sad and angry.

Flashback…a few days ago I wrote a post called Sexual Assault and Me. At the time I asked for other women to come forward and tell their stories. I wanted people to know that this goes on way more than most people realize. I wanted women to know they were not alone and I wanted the men who aren’t at all like that to know what the vast majority if not ALL women go through.  Little did I know what was about to go down in Isla Vista, CA or on Twitter in the form of #YesAllWomen. Following you will find the stories some of my readers sent in to me after my initial post. I have listed them as they requested. If they wanted to be anonymous I changed their names. All stories are used with their express permission.

NOTE: Usually I allow all comments to remain on my posts. On this post however I will not tolerate or publish anything that attempts to harass these women in any way shape or fashion.

 

Sara from Florida – age 25, single, college student, 4.0 GPA, health unit coordinator

I’m going to write my story. I’m unsure at this moment how vague or detailed this may get, I’m just going to spill on this keyboard.

I was 8. My grandpa left his computer room to take a shower. I asked grandma if I could go play games. I type http://www.msn… And before I could even get to “s” I see, “www.momsthatfuck.com” and, “www.milfshardcore.com.”

I was 9. My parents were divorced. My mom was dating a man. He called me butch and laughed because I liked to play sports and play outside with my friends, who were mostly boys.

I was 17. A kid in my section of band “pantsed” me and called me hot, and said, “We should do it.”

I was 17. My mom’s ex drank too much like he did every night. He made fun of the adolescent zit on my face and called me a lesbian. My mom stepped in to try to make him stop and he hit her. I hit him right back and he knocked me onto the ground and kept hitting me. Then he went back to my mom as she was crawling out and kicked and hit her. We finally got out into the garage.

I was 18. I just started college. I started wearing my hair down all the time and wearing mascara – I think that’s when boys started noticing me – because before I didn’t, and I only had one real boyfriend before that. He got me alone in my dorm one night and forcefully fingered me for a brief couple seconds as I cried and pushed him off. He stopped and said, “Gosh, don’t be a prude. This isn’t going to work,” and stopped talking to me.

I was 19 and attending Bible college. I was walking into a convenience store, and I heard, “Damn! Look at that ass. Lemme go yo number, girl, hook a brotha up!” My reply, “Sir. I’m about to pay for gas in my own car – where is yours, and no, I will never give my number to someone who won’t respect me. Mind your own business or find it elsewhere.”

I was 20. I went to a place called Cowboys to two-step with my best friend. A guy grabbed my chest while we were dancing. Same night, a guy pushed me into a corner and attempted to kiss me. I slapped him.

I was 20. A youth pastor of mine who was now a pastor of a church and married with a kid became really close to me and my best friend. Long story short, he got weird, lied to me that him and his wife were divorcing, and came onto me; twice. He was my best guy friend, spiritual leader, and father figure. All that was shattered. We no longer speak.

I was 21. I took a trip with my best friend to Tennessee. We went out on the town and drank a bit, as most girls our age do at 21. We met cute, nice guys we spent the evening with. Long story short – we were given the date rape drug, Rohypnol. My best friend ended up passed out in her own vomit, and I was raped by two guys. One outside a car on concrete of a construction site they were working at, and the other in the same bed as my best friend.

I am 25. I’m now dating a girl, that I’m 1,000,000% sure I’ll be with the rest of my life. A creepy man that sees me every Friday and sweet talks me comes up and asks finally, “So, you have a boyfriend?” I told him I’m dating a girl and his reply was, “WHY?! A damn, fine girl like you? For what?” “Let me be your man. Let me be your man for a dinner, and you be my girl for a dinner, I’m different than those other guys.” ….Clearly you’re not if you’re asking me to cheat on my girlfriend.

There ya go. That’s not even the full of it. Just the “big stuff.” This doesn’t include all the times I’ve been shouted at, stared at, honked at, or treated like I was some piece of meat that once you eat you’re done with. I’m not saying I’ve been perfect, but you can maybe see how this skews with the way a girl thinks.

 

Anna from Texas – Married mother of two, Compliance Assistant, age 26

I keep struggling with hitting send. With being open. I’ve only told three people I actually know. My husband and two of my closest friends. And now you will make four. But I keep being drawn back to your post, and I know that I have to contribute because what you have to say will be important. Maybe it will give someone hope or a voice…So if you were looking for more depth than this, I can certainly try. But please keep me anonymous. I know I’m not supposed to be ashamed, but…I am.

When I was sixteen (nearing my 17th birthday), my boyfriend raped me. Nobody ever told me your boyfriend could do that. I was so confused (and I think also in shock) that I stayed with him, thinking I could hold onto my ‘purity’. I don’t exactly know what you’d call what he did to me for the rest of that relationship – there were other times that he assaulted me, but there were also times where I just did whatever he wanted because then he wasn’t hurting me, I could at least pretend I actually wanted it. During that relationship, I started drinking, and spent a lot of time with him and his (‘our’) friends. I was drugged at a party and made to do sexual things with the friend of one of ‘our’ friends. I also woke up once to find my ex’s best friend kissing me with his hand in my pants. I wasn’t safe anywhere in those days. Then, and in the years that have followed, I have also been on the receiving end of many comments, proposals, and unwanted touching/groping. Waiting on dirty old men and them commenting on how they hope I give better head than the beer they got. The guy in the chuck-e-cheese costume grabbing my ass at my ex’s niece’s birthday party. A man walking up to me at a club and just grabbing my breasts saying “better protect your assets, baby.” A bouncer at a club putting his arm around my waist and “wishing I wasn’t happily married so I’d let him F— me.” So many more… Why? I’m told I did nothing wrong, but now I question everything. My instincts, my judgment, where I go because who might be there,,,especially having multiple experiences. It makes me feel responsible to some extent, I guess.

 

Priscilla from Hyderabad, India  – age 32, married to an equally amazing man

Hey, just wanted to share mine & my family experiences of sexual abuse to help your post. My mom was a single parent so we all were obviously more prone to abuse without a man in the house, including herself. The only proper man in house when my dad left was my wee brother . We are 4 sisters and we faced almost everything you had mentioned in your question, started as young as 8 yrs. My mom faced sexual advances from our rented flat owner to men in our colony. Random men used to flash their private parts at us and also men we knew at shops to which we would go regularly. While taking walks young boys would just whack us on our private parts and ran away, celebrated as it was some achievement. Men we knew from church used to come home in the name of God and touch us inappropriately. I hope this was of help, sorry if it was too much but it is the truth. Thanks for asking I feel lighter.

 

Amber – I am 28 years old. I work part time as a payroll administrator.  Most of the time, I am home with my 3 year old daughter Sadie. I have been married for 4 years. I graduated from Ferris State University, where I met my husband, David. I live in Holland, Michigan.

Hi, I read your post about sexual abuse. Thanks for sharing and I hope you are doing well today. It’s such a tough subject. I would like to share some of my unwanted advances. Most came from family. Some worst then others, like incest at a young age. I hope you don’t mind me sharing. It helps me when I write about it.

First memory was being about 8 and having my uncle rub the front of my pants (crotch area) while we watched a movie. He had a blanket over us. I just thought, whatever.

Same uncle, smacked me on the butt for several years. At least till age 13. He did it whenever I walked by him.

My older brother who was in college at the time touched me inside my pants a few times. He told me once that he was checking for hair. What difference did that make I don’t want to know.  I was about 11 years old. He also asked if I would have sex with him when I was a teenager.

My 14 year old cousin showed me his penis when I was 9.

My best friend’s dad called me “beautiful” instead of Amber throughout my teen years. I didn’t feel comfortable about it at all.

Throughout high school, students grabbed me.

As a waitress, many times I had customers write things about my looks on receipts. I hated it too.

I was basically hired out of college because my new boss said I would “turn heads.” He offered me a raise a few weeks in if I slept with him. The man had a wife and 3 kids. I quit that same day.

I walked past a car a few weeks ago that had a man masturbating in it. It was an obvious set up for me to see him.

Now the real bad stuff.

I was chased by an older man once while I rode my bike. I was 12 years old I think. He screamed at me to stop. At one point, I was only about 5 feet ahead of him. Nobody else was around. It terrified me so much. I thought I was going to die if he caught me.

My father, who was a Reformed minister, use to pull me into his bed sometimes when I was young (about 7 or 8) and spoon with me. He was naked, I was happy to get attention from him at that age.

When I was 11, my family took a vacation to a lake that was only about 2 hours from our house. One Friday night my father asked if any one of us kids would go home with him that night so he could study Saturday morning. I volunteered because everyone was coming home anyways Saturday and heading back out Monday. On the way home we stopped for ice cream. He pulled into an empty parking lot so we could eat the ice cream. I was wearing shorts and dad was stroking my leg. Once we got home, I headed off to bed but my father stopped me and offered to rub my back in his bed. So I jumped in his bed and was given a back rub as promised. But it was a trap. I remember being 8 years old and not being able to get out of my father’s bed. Now I was 11, nobody else home. His hands began to wonder and my clothes were “getting in the way.” I was fondled and given oral sex, at just 11 years old by the man I should be able to trust more than any.

Thanks for listening.

 

Mandy – book nerd, lover of music, age 36 from Texas

Wow, you got me to thinking. I myself was molested at the age of 5 or 6 by a cousin, and nothing was done. Because “we” didn’t want to upset the family. I still struggle with this. I have forgiven my cousin, but struggle forgiving my mother for not wanting to do anything.

When I was in 7th grade my teacher (a man) loved to go around touching the girls. Anytime I would tell him to stop, he would laugh it off or threaten me with going to the principal. I went to a Christian school, during this time, and even the principal (a preacher) thought it was ok to touch us and make comments about us. He would line the girls up both in junior high and high school against a wall, and encourage the boys to “rate” us. He encouraged them to make comments about our butts and breasts. He constantly told us our parents were wasting money on our education, because we were girls. He even would comment on the bodies and berate the female teachers. These women were members of his church. He taught the boys it was ok to do as they pleased to girls, and he would tell us girls we were less than the boys. I endured 2 years of boys touching my breasts and butt, and also thinking it was ok to stick their hands up my skirt. I got in the habit of wearing shorts under my skirt. (we had to wear uniforms) I went to this school for my 7th and 8th grade years, after that I begged my parents to home school me. I never thought of telling my parents everything that went on, because I knew they wouldn’t believe me. After all he was a preacher. Several years later this man was arrested for having sex with some of the high school girls. When it made the news I decided to tell my parents everything that happened. They were shocked and also admitted they would have had a hard time believing me before he made the news.

When I was in my mid 20s the church I attended had a youth director that would constantly come up and touch me. In church. He would come up and grab my hair and start smelling it. Or he would grab my hair and rub his face in it. This would happen in church but he was a man of God, so it was ok. When I would say something to him, he would laugh it off and say I was overreacting. If I was sitting down, he would come over and sit in my lap. I wasn’t the only woman he was doing this to, but he was a man of God, so we (the other young woman and me) were being told that we were being a hindrance to him. He comes on to us and touches us, and WE were the one being accused of the wrong doing. This is also another case of years later he being caught sleeping with the high school girls.

I had a male friend that thought it was ok to touch himself in front of me. And make comments about my body. When I would say something he would get mad and threaten me. He was also a preacher. I’m also no longer friends with him.

This list could go on and on. Even now I get comments about my body. I’m tall and overweight, and I get mainly men wanting to say stuff about my body. Total strangers. Thinking it is ok to make a comment about me. I have had total strangers tell me to send a nude pic of myself. When I use to write letters and send care packages to the troops, I would have them write back wanting nude pictures or even wanting me to “talk dirty” to them. I wasn’t the only one that happened to. The organization I was part of had that happen to many of the women sending care packages, but it was ok because they were soldiers. I feel that is crap. Thanks for serving our country, but that doesn’t give you the right to be a perv.

For so long, I blamed myself. Or I thought I was being silly being upset. I was overreacting. Even with being threatened with violence I thought I was making him do that to me. It was my fault. I kept trying to make myself act right, so my friend wouldn’t be mad and hit me, or to have a thicker skin, and not be so sensitive. Or that this is the way it is, and I have to deal with it.

I’m now in my 30s and have decided, it wasn’t my fault, I’m not overreacting, and I don’t have to learn to deal with it. This crap has to stop, and from my experience, we as women need to support each other not tear each other down.

I don’t know if this was exactly what you were asking for. I probably sound more like I’m rambling, but when I start talking about this, it brings back a lot of anger. I can’t quite always get my thoughts together.

 

Shawna from Texas – age 38, single mother of three, accounts payable lead

I’m just going to give a bullet style run down of unwanted advances that I have received over the years:

* Without going into details, I was sexually abused between the ages of 11 and 15.
* My sister’s ex husband (who I thought of as an older brother because he was about 18 or 19 and I was 15) tried kissing me a couple of times and I had to literally push him away from me.
* When I was about 31 my sister’s ex boyfriend drunkenly told me that if he could pick between my sister and I, he would choose me because he was physically attracted to me.
* When I was about 30, I was in a club with my (then) boyfriend, sister and several friends.  My ex boyfriend and I used to work with local rappers and they had a gig at a club in Fort Worth.  I used to do the photos and graphic art work for the company and artists, so I was walking around taking pictures.  A guy and his friend started following me everywhere I went and I just said “no” hoping they would go away.  They didn’t and I then held up my finger to show them my engagement ring and again said “no”.  One of them cussed at me and started walking toward me in an aggressive manner.  They ended up walking off.
* When I was about 20 and at a club with my ex husband, my sister and her ex husband, my sister and I were walking out of the restroom when a guy asked me to dance.  I told him no and started to walk off.  He grabbed me by my arm and said for me to go with him.  I told him I was married and he got in my face and called me a bitch.

There have been many more instances over the years, but these are the ones that stand out the most.  If you have questions or want additional information just ask.

These are but a few stories from women I know. I am proud of them for finally giving voice to their stories so that they can leave them behind. May your bravery allow others to do the same. And may their telling help them to stop happening to future generations.

 

Other related articles:

#YesAllWomen By Phil Plait

An open letter to all my male friends by Estelle Tang

The #YesAllWomen Tweets You Need to Read by Margaret Eby

#YesAllWomen, a Response to California Rampage, Reaches 1 Million Tweets By Sheila Cosgrove Baylis and Kelli Bender

#yesalpeople by Nanette Irvin

#allmencan on twitter

 

Sexual Assault and Me.

TRIGGER WARNING

Today I saw this awesome PSA that Joe Biden put together for the 1 is 2 Many campaign which was designed to bring awareness to the disturbing problem of sexual assault and violence against women, particularly women on college campuses.

Interestingly enough a few days ago I asked for your input on Facebook:

If you are a woman who doesn’t mind sharing her story, I would love it if you would answer the following question, either as a comment, a message or an email addressed to mkrabill@gmail.com. I promise to keep your identity secret if that is what you want. How and when in your life were you subject to unwanted sexual advances including but not limited to: comments, gestures, groping, forced contact, abuse, rape, etc? It is my guess that it is way more often than most people realize. I want to write a post about this topic in which I will include my own experiences.

Sadly, I did not receive very many responses. [Thank you to those who have responded. I will be sharing your stories in a future post and rest assured I will treat them with the utmost respect, care and confidentiality.] So today I would like to share my own experiences in hopes that more of you will be willing to share yours either in the comments section or anonymously via email. By sharing our stories I hope to bring awareness to the issue and to encourage other women by showing them that they are not alone and that they are not to blame.

To start out I will say that I believe I have lead a fairly normal and safe life as far as these things go. I never witnessed violence, disrespect or inequality in my home. I was never a victim of rape or incest and I have never been beaten by anyone or even been in a fight of any kind. However…

When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I had a man expose himself to me at the Ann Arbor public library. I was not alone. I was sitting in a common area with lots of other kids and he was sitting nearby in a chair reading a magazine with his legs apart in his very short late 70’s style running shorts sans underwear.

When I was about 9, I had an adult man I had just met that day try to kiss me in the woods at a family camp I was at with my parents. He wanted me to meet him for another walk the next day but I never went back.

The summer I turned 14, I had a 20 something guy who was working at a teen Christian camp I was at ask me for a birthday kiss and when I gave him a peck said, “No, I want a REAL kiss.” It was VERY awkward, but then he laughed it off since there were people standing nearby.

When we were moving to California we stayed at a couple of Air Force Bases. To pass the time, I would go to this activities center where people could do crafts, frame pictures, do ceramics etc. I liked to hang out in the print shop and the dude who worked there was really cool. And he was flattering; he offered to take my picture. He said I was photogenic. He even told me stories about how other kids had gone to his house and let him take pictures of them there. At the time I thought he was a nice guy. Now? I’m not so sure.

When I was 15 or 16, I was grabbed in the breast while walking alone down the sidewalk in Riverside, California. No comment. No warning. Just grabbed.

A co-worker referred me to by making the gesture of holding his hands in front of his chest to reference my breasts as if that is how I was known to the rest of the all male bartenders.

I have been paid less than a guy who was hired after me who had less experience. My manager said it was because he was a man and needed to provide for his family.

I was fired for “over pouring” shots at a bar where I worked. Fun fact: I didn’t over pour. I did however rebuff the advances of the management and their friends.

I have been grabbed and danced with against my will while cocktail waitressing.

I have been propositioned at my job at JC Penney.

I have had customers say things like, “You sure have a shirt full of those things, don’t you?”

I had a customer who continually asked me out on dates. No matter how many times I said no.

I had a customer who would ask me “hypothetical questions” every time he came into the club which usually involved my husband coming home and catching me and this dude in a compromising position. Disgusting.

Honestly, on most of these occasions I never even considered saying anything because it seemed to me that either nothing could be done or would be done, I was embarrassed and/or I wanted to pretend it hadn’t happened. Worse than that, I knew that often a woman is blamed when she is the victim of these types of behaviors and is thought to have “asked for it” in some way. Want to know what is weird? I learned to try to think of the verbal assaults as compliments. (How sick is that? I mean seriously, how sick is that?) And as for the ones that happened to me when I was a child, I think I mostly just thought I misunderstood what was happening.

This is not an exhaustive list of everything that has been said and/or done, however it does cover all the major events and give you a good idea of what kinds of things are said and done to women daily. I didn’t even mention the times I have been dismissed as “missy” or  “honey” in an effort to shut me down in a conversation or debate. I also didn’t include the times people have thought I was pushy or bossy or bitchy for wanting to be treated with respect. I have been told I have no sense of humor when challenging a sexist joke. I have been told that what I need is to get laid. I have been told to “calm down” or “not get so excited” when I speak about equality. I have even been told I’m cute when I’m angry or I’m sexy when I’m worked up.  Thank God that as of yet I have never received the comments that many female bloggers, gamers and politicians get threatening rape. If you are not aware of how prevalent this problem is for women online you can check out these articles (WARNING: These articles contain quotes of actual graphic threats made to real women)
http://jezebel.com/man-poses-as-woman-on-online-dating-site-barely-lasts-1500707724

http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/janelle-asselin-comic-book-rape-threats

http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/women-arent-welcome-internet-72170/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/21/female-journalist-gets-rape-threats-over-comic-book-criticism.html

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/helen-lewis-hasteley/2011/11/rape-threats-abuse-sex-female

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/let-s-be-real-online-harassment-isn-t-virtual-for-women

http://groupthink.jezebel.com/ceo-to-gamer-complaining-about-rape-threats-hes-tire-996706957

As I said before, I consider myself very fortunate to have lived a pretty amazing and safe life. I still have experienced way too much in this regard. It may surprise you to know that I am not even close to alone. Start asking your friends, your sister, your mom or your wife or girlfriend. You might be surprised what you hear. Give them time to really think about it though. I have found that many women automatically respond that they haven’t had it that bad. But if they are anything like me, when I began to write this stuff down, I just kept remembering and remembering.

If you have been the victim of rape or sexual assault of any kind, please talk to someone you trust and report it to the authorities. Men and boys can also be rape and sexual assault victims. Rape and sexual assault are never the fault of the victim, male or female. Rape and sexual assault are always wrong.

For victims assistance:
RAINN: Rape Abuse & Incest National Network
1.800.656.HOPE

http://www.rainn.org/

 

Statistics on Rape and Sexual Assault:
http://www.oneinfourusa.org/statistics.php

http://www.sarcbv.org/get-info/stat

http://www.cwfefc.org/svfacts.html

 

The Hall Boys, Miley and the Moral Compass.

madonnaSo this week I watched as my feed filled up yet again with talk of modesty. The cascade of digital atta girls, also known as reposts by people I know and love were of an article by Kimberly Hall called, “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)” (If you haven’t read it yet, go check it out. I will wait right here).

These reposts were prefaced by statements like,

“parenting win”
“it’s about time”
and
“as a mother of sons, thank you”

I was also encouraged by a number of response articles. Some grace filled, some snarky; some from other christians and some from non or former christians. Posts such as Seeing a Woman by Nate Pyle, which said in part:

Unfortunately, much of how the sexes interact with each is rooted in fear.  Fear of rejection, fear of abuse, fear of being out of control.  In some ways, the church has added to this.  We fear each other because we have been taught the other is dangerous.  We’ve been taught a woman’s body will cause men to sin.  We’re told that if a woman shows too much of her body men will do stupid things.  Let’s be clear: a woman’s body is not dangerous to you.  Her body will not cause you harm.  It will not make you do stupid things.  If you do stupid things it is because you chose to do stupid things.  So don’t contribute to the fear that exists between men and women.

A woman’s body is beautiful and wonderful and mysterious.  Respect it by respecting her as an individual with hopes and dreams and experiences and emotions and longings.  Let her be confident.  Encourage her confidence.  But don’t do all this because she is weaker.  That’s the biggest bunch of crap out there.  Women are not weaker than men.  They are not the weaker sex.  They are the other sex.

I’m not telling you to not look at women.  Just the opposite.  I’m telling you to see women.  Really see them.  Not just with your eyes, but with your heart.  Don’t look to see something that tickles your senses, but see a human being.  

My hope is that changing how you see women will change how you are around them.  Don’t just be around women.  Be with women.

Or this gem from Renegade Mothering (Language warning): FYI (If you’re a Hall boy)

In other words, it places the responsibility of YOUR morality on the shoulders of others, and that is wholeheartedly idiotic. I mean, how could anybody ever be a decent person if circumstances beyond our control determined what we think and how we behave? It also, incidentally, fuels what we like to call “rape culture,” wherein the girl is raped by the boy because she was a “slut” and therefore “asking for it.” The boy was the real victim because he was rendered powerless by her unprotected vagina and lack of bra. Your mother’s idea that GIRLS need to cover themselves so YOU can behave like a gentleman is the exact same mentality that fuels rape culture, and results in things like Steubenville or 30-day sentences for pedophile rapists.

And this one. THIS ONE. I want to post it in its entirety because it is just that good. But I trust you, go read this one yourself. It is called An “FYI” to My Daughters by The Lippy Lactator. Here is a small taste of the greatness:

Don’t get caught up in it all, my darlings.  Don’t wear that mini skirt because you want the attention of that guy.  If that guy is worth your time, he will like you regardless of what you wear.  Sex obviously sells, which is a sad thing.  You see it everywhere, I know you do.  Remember that you are MORE than just sex to the world.  You deserve to be treated that way, and the way you dress doesn’t make you any less deserving of that.  However, if you love how confident you feel in that mini skirt, or that bathing suit is *just* your style…by all means…rock it, sister.  Wear the clothes you love for you.  But be sure to take the time to get to know you.  Take the time to learn to love you.

Parents need stop with the gender stereotyping.  They are doing much, much more harm than good.  They teach their boys that girls who dress a way they don’t find appropriate aren’t worth the time and acceptance of their son.  They teach them that girls are just temptresses out to muddy the thoughts of their precious little boy.  They teach their children that it is OK to sit down as a family and scroll through their social media and shame anyone who doesn’t fit in the tiny little box they keep them in.  They teach them that girls who act or dress or believe differently than them have no character.  No self respect.  No right to be respected by others.  They are doing nothing but perpetuating this horrible cycle.  And trust me, no matter how much you try to be *perfect* for their son, this type of person will always find something “wrong” with you.  No girl will ever be deserving of their perfect little son.  Ever.

Now, let’s flashback to the VMA’s of a couple weeks ago when my feed was full of Miley & Robin. Well, actually if we are being honest, it was full of Miley, because frankly we all know Robin Thicke had nothing to do with what happened to him on that stage. He was the helpless male totally at the whim of Miss Cyrus and his own libido. I mean if presented with the opportunity no man alive would have the power to make another choice. Nevermind that Ms. Cyrus was nowhere to be found when he made his Blurred Lines video. But I digress.

I have been thinking about writing about “The Performance” on and off since it happened. Part of me was exhausted by just the thought of trying to organize my thoughts on the topic and part of me was just bored of it all. I mean, a shock value performance on the VMA’s? Ho Hum. Hasn’t that been happening like, forever? First there was that grandmother of all shockers, Madonna, then came her offspring… Brittney, Christina, Gaga and Miley. [Special mention to Prince and his assless pants: what you don’t remember that?] I guess the girls are the ones we remember most] Its like 4 generations of powerful women shocking people all the way to the bank.

Admit it. America kind of gets off on feigning shock and outrage over these performances. And yes, I agree they don’t do much to elevate the conversation on gender equality. Except, I suppose, when they shine a bright light on our tendency (as made blatantly obvious by the general pass given to the married, 36 year old father, Robin Thicke) to throw out the boys will be boys cliché and make sure we tell the women involved to cover up and be a lady.  I mean, Mrs. Hall, back me up on this one…have the women of our generation who ran around dressed like Madonna in bustiers, crinoline and rubber bracelets forgotten that a little rebellion and a little sexuality didn’t kill us like so many thought it would? Or that most of the women who were doing that are now grown up productive members of society, some even of churches?

This morning I read a piece by Christian Piatt over at Patheos in which he discusses the Miley post fest and I couldn’t help but think of it in light of Mrs. Hall’s letter to teenage girls. He writes:

Although in some respects, women and girls have made strides toward gender parity in our culture, there is still a persistent, if sometimes subtle, subtext narrated to our girls, which is that sex is the most efficient and potent mean of access to power they have. Yes, my daughter is told now at such a young age that she can be anything she wants when she grows up. And I hope that is true, but I already hear the comments from friends, family members and teachers about her appearance and anticipated future success with boys, and how it affects her behavior. and honestly, it only gets more pronounced as girls reach puberty and beyond.

So perhaps, rather than men in power resisting the progress of women being the greatest current barrier to parity, it now is the unpleasant reality that sexualizing young women works for innumerable purposes in our world. None more so, perhaps, than the popular music industry. So it’s really a bit disingenuous of us to express shock or disgust when Miley Cyrus fondles herself or engages in orgiastic dance numbers in front of an audience of millions. After all, the culture set up the rules of the game long ago and, in spite of our assertions to the contrary, the economies of power, money and fame depend heavily on appealing to our baser instincts.

So judge Miley if you must, but in doing so, realize that she is only a speck that is part of a much larger log in our collective cultural eye.

Do you see lovelies? When Miley states that she told people her performance was going to make history and then it becomes one of the most tweeted events ever we expose our morbid fascination with the perceived sins of others. We are all stuck with Miley on a merry-go-round that is very hard to get off. The cycle goes something like this:

  1. Women/Girls are slut-shamed and told they are responsible for the sins of men and protecting their morality –>
  2. Women/Girls act out in an attempt to grasp power not afforded to them in equal measure by other means –>
  3. People say “see, Women/Girls really are sluts at heart and must be told to cover up before they corrupt men who are just being who God/nature made them (visual creatures who are compelled to spread their seed and are slaves to their anatomy)” –>
  4. Society believes and perpetuates through feigned shock and shame that women/girls are responsible for the sins of men and protecting their morality.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4.

And around and around we go.

side note: I actually read one article today posted by a friend that made many good points. But then he lost me. He kept saying that the reason the church is obsessed with modesty is because of get this, “the church has become feminized”! Once again, it is made the fault of women. The reason women are told to be more modest is because we have believed the lie that we have power over men. He says,  

“I believe the Church has become feminized in this: we talk about the Woman as being in control over the Man.  She can dress one way to seduce him, or dress another way to leave him free to choose.  This is not so.  The Man chooses to be seduced or not seduced.”  

While I agree that the man is free to choose, I emphatically disagree that this is the result of the feminization (the shift in gender roles and sex roles in a society, group, or organization towards a focus upon the feminine) of the church. This idea that women are responsible for all sexual sin including having the power over a man’s impure thoughts comes not from women or feminism but from the church fathers. Look it up. John Wesley, Tertullian, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Saint Augustine and many more including scads of popular pastors even today espouse this very doctrine.

Honestly it is hard for me to blame Miley (as uncomfortable as her performance made me). She has followed the script and played a role played by many before her. She has taken the reins of power away from the people who have held them in her life and is attempting to chart her own course. Yes, IMHO she is making the mistake of confusing notoriety for respect and fame for admiration. But it is a mistake I have seen over and over. People who were given little or no freedom or autonomy to make decisions, and yes even mistakes (PKs, Quiverfulls, Ultra Conservatives, Child Stars and kids with over protective helicopter parents and yes, perhaps even the Hall boys) sometimes, when they finally get an opportunity to taste freedom, make some pretty destructive choices before they figure out how to lead a balanced life and what course they want to follow. For child stars, children of politicians or mega church pastors they have the unenviable lot of having to do it in the public eye. Their mistakes and missteps while trying to figure out how to live a life of freedom that doesn’t lead to destruction can be very difficult and some sadly won’t live through it. [Here is a question, how could we actually increase the odds that they do live through it? Perhaps a little grace or maybe even just a little less judgement?]

For me lovelies, it comes down to this: Growing up is hard. Raising kids is hard. Stopping the cycle mentioned above is hard. I certainly don’t have all the answers. I empathize with Mrs. Hall in that she really thinks she is helping by joining in the chorus of voices telling girls to cover up and blocking people we deem unworthy by virtue of their perceived shortcomings. But here is the thing: We do not learn to make good choices by turning over our moral compass to someone else to police and we cannot teach our kids to find their moral true north on their own by never letting them hold their own compass. We do not do them any favors when we tell them that an entire gender, a preacher or even we can read the compass for them and that if they follow the bearing of our denomination, gender philosophy or political party they will be safe. Sooner or later they grow up, and they must navigate the often choppy waters of this life for themselves. Hopefully by then the compass we give them has a needle that points them straight to the true north of love, grace and mercy for others and for themselves. And hopefully they know how to read it for themselves.

In the end, it is for me like this song…and I pray that what we have taught both our daughter and our son is enough. That they use the love of Christ as their compass. Love that covers a multitude of mistakes. Love that forgives and keeps no record of wrongs. Love that sees past twerking and selfies and awkward teenage hormones. Love that speaks truth and healing. Love that gives second, third and ninety-fifth chances. Love that says we are all valuable and equal and bear the image of the living God.

The Boat
Billy Falcon

I built this boat
The best I could
With hands of love
From the finest wood
I braced the bow
I stitched the sail
I blessed every brass screw and nail

Lord, go with her when the sea is angry
Lord, go with her in the raging storm
Lord, go with her when the days are cruel
Lord, go with her when the night’s too long

Studied the stars, searchin’ to find
The safest course, and the kindest tide
Lifted her down the stony trail
I set her in the water, and raised her sail

Lord, go with her when the sea is angry
Lord, go with her in the raging storm
Lord, go with her when the days are cruel
Lord, go with her when the night’s too long

Worrying from the watchtower
As the red sky fades
My heart drops to my stomach
As she tumbles through the waves
She slips past the horizon
That’s when I realize
She was always yours
Never really mine

Lord go with her when the sun is golden
Lord go with her when way is clear
Lord go with her when the whole world loves her
Lord go with her When I’m. no longer..

Lord go with her when the sea is angry
Lord go with her in the raging storm
Lord go with her when the days are cruel
Lord go with her when the night’s too long

P.P.P.P.S. This is a thought provoking article called The Moving Target of Morality. I couldn’t figure out how to fit it in so I am just tagging it on as a value added bonus.

Her mouth said no, but she got pregnant anyway.

So as you may have heard this week Rep. Todd Akin had some truly mortifying things to say about rape.

” First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Mr. Akin speaks of punishing the rapist and not attacking the child, but what sir of the WOMAN? Shall we punish her as well? I find it telling that Mr.Akin chooses to focus on both the rapist and the baby but completely ignores the woman stuck in the middle. In fact, Mr. Akin’s entire statement here reduces the very real victims of rape to “the female body”. Perhaps he needs to read the article I read today by  on the Huffington Post about how an actual rape victims felt upon reading his statement.

“Rape is so isolating — it ruined my world for a long time,” Law, now 43, said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “If I had had to carry that rapist’s baby to term, quite honestly, I might have taken my life.”

Law said she couldn’t believe her eyes on Sunday when she read that Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri declare in an interview that pregnancy from “legitimate rape” is “really rare” because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

“First of all, what is legitimate rape?” she asked. “Whether it’s date rape, whether the woman was beaten to a pulp, whether it’s a 14 or 15-year old kid carrying her father’s child, it doesn’t matter. Having to deliver the baby of a rapist — that’s torture.”

Another rape survivor in Missouri was so incensed by Akin’s comment that she called into St. Louis television station KTVI to share her feelings. “It was like I had been slapped,” she told the anchor. “I heard that comment and I just began to shake. I was fit to be tied.”

The second question that comes to mind is, how exactly does Mr. Akin think that the woman’s body differentiates between rapist sperm and consensual sperm?  Seriously?!?  I certainly hope he wouldn’t suggest that most of the 35k+ women who are impregnated every year as a result of rape must have actually wanted it or they wouldn’t be pregnant. My guess is he would say that is preposterous; however, it is the logical conclusion of his statement.

I find it fascinating that a man who will never have to worry about carrying a child who is the product of rape is presuming to tell women who have been how they should feel and what they should do. Don’t get me wrong, men can be and are raped. “About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime,” according to the National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, 1998.  The number for women increases to about 1 in 6. The crime is just as violent and shame inducing for a man as it is for a woman however; the man will never be faced with having to carry to term and deliver the child of their attacker. There are 435 voting members of the House of Representatives and 100 members of the Senate. If the statistics were the same for them as it were for the female population 79 of them would be victims of completed rape, 15 of them would be the victims of attempted rape and 4 of them would be pregnant by their attackers. If this were the case I seriously doubt we would be having the same discussion.

This whole thing brings to mind another post I wrote a few months ago called “Raped Too Much”. In which I discussed Liz Trotta’s comments about how women in the military should stop complaining about being “raped too much”.  Statements such as the ones made by Ms. Trotta and Mr. Akin continue to add to what is referred to as “rape culture”. In her book Shakesville, Melissa McEwan defined rape culture this way:

Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.

Apparently now we must also worry about whether our body will betray us by not discerning the rape sperm from the consensual ones and allowing us to become pregnant. Or God forbid proving that a woman actually wanted to have sex with her attacker. The whole thing kind of gives new meaning to “her mouth said no but her [fill in the body part] said yes.”

Just for the record. I do believe in the sanctity of life. I am against late term and partial birth abortion except to save the life of the mother. I believe abortion should happen as rarely as possible. I do not believe people like Mr. Akin have any business criminalizing a woman who chooses not to carry and deliver the child of her rapist. How can that be justice?

Dear Victims of Rape and Sexual Abuse

This letter was written by my friend Alex Trim. It made me cry. I think this is a message everyone needs to hear so I asked Alex if I could share it with you.

Dear Victims of Rape and Sexual Abuse,

It was not your fault. You did not ask for it in any way, shape, or form. Your skirt or shorts were not too short, your jeans were not too tight. You were not showing too much cleavage. You were not flirting, and you did not consent. If you were drugged, or beaten, that was not a mistake you made. God Loves you. I Love you. Prayers are made often and with Sincerity.

You are Beautiful. You are not Ugly. You are Loved. You are not a Whore. You mean Something. Your are not Damaged Goods. You have a Purpose. You are not a Waste. You are held with a view of Pride and Joy by Many. You are not an Object of Lust for Few. You are not a Trophy, nor a Prize. You are a Specially made, Wondrous Creature of God.

No Shame. No Guilt. No Excuses. No Blame. No Heartache.

You are Strong. You are Woman. Live like you own the Power you already Wield.

Raped Too Much?

This weekend on Fox News Liz Trotta, no stranger to controversy, showed herself to be totally insensitive and strangely misogynistic. In her discussion with host Eric Shawn she made several inflammatory statements.

 “Women once more, the feminists, going, wanting to be warriors and victims at the same time.”

Let me get this straight: she is saying if women sign up to fight for freedom and their country then they should expect to be raped and not complain about it. In other words, they should not expect to be able to serve alongside men without being sexually assaulted by her fellow soldiers.

“The sexual abuse report says there has been, since 2006, a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults. Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact.”

What about every law abiding honorable male who has ever served in the military? They should receive medals for restraint! After all,no man can keep himself from raping a woman when they are “in close contact.” So, Ms. Trotta, should every woman who is in “close contact with a man” expect to be raped?

“So, you have this whole bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being RAPED TOO MUCH.”

Now honestly, is this woman trying to assert that there is an amount of rape which is not “too much”?  Exactly how much rape is too much, Ms. Trotta?

Ms. Trotta lays the responsibilities for these rapes squarely at the feet of “the feminist.” Dictionary.com defines feminist as one who is, “advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.”  I fail to see how advocating for such rights causes fellow soldiersto rape one another. After all, I am assuming Ms. Trotta is not herself a feminist and yet she seems to think that the raping of female soldiers is to be expected. Perhaps people with her way of thinking are actually the problem and not “the feminist”.

Sadly, this just seems like the same worn out reasoning that doing the wrong thing, acting the wrong way, wearing the wrong clothes, or frankly just having a vagina means women are asking for it. Please. Really? Are we STILL blaming the women for all sexual sin?

Melissa McEwan in her book Shakesville puts it this way:

Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.

Apparently now we can add if you join the military and if you are in close contact with men to this list. The EVER. GROWING. LIST.  Maybe, just maybe, Ms. Trotta would be happier if we all wore burqas and never left the house unless we were with a male relative. After all, that would surely fix the problem.