The Bad Men Project

If you’ve managed to avoid the Good Men Project thus far, lucky you. I only learned about them recently due to the shitstorm they’ve managed to stir up by being bleeding idiots.  It started with an essay called, “Nice Guys Commit Rape Too.”  I wish the writer was being sarcastic, but alas no, under the guise of discussing why rapists rape the article goes on to claim exactly what the title says.  Rather than retracting and apologizing and doing the soul-searching that ought to follow such a ridiculousness, they then followed it up with a second piece by an admitted (but non-convicted) rapist about how consent is just so confusing and labeling people who rape as bad people and, well, rapists is just not fair.  For a good description and rebuke of the piece, complete with the article itself in quotes, check out the following, but be wary of triggers as it’s full of rape-apologism and awfulness:

And just when you thought the Good Men Project couldn’t get any worse….

I wrote this in the comments section, but in case you don’t want to wade through the many, many outraged responses, here are some of my own thoughts on it, and on the issue in question:

Once upon a time, alcohol and other substances enabled me to do dangerous, irresponsible, and stupid things that I was able to rationalize or convince myself weren’t that bad, but it didn’t put any ideas in my head. Nothing came out that wasn’t already there, which is why I never raped anyone. As for the things I did do, part of my recovery is taking responsibility for them and recognizing that there is a difference between an explanation and an excuse. The explanation is that I am an addict, but there are no excuses.

This guy claims to be only offering an explanation, but the fact that he mentions his victim’s behavior (“actually flirting”) and that she later entered recovery screams victim-blaming and undermines any possible claim he could have on rationality. As if either of those facts have anything to do with what he did to her. Moreover, the fact that he still questions whether he’s a rapist despite the fact that she straight-up told him speaks to a complete disregard for his victim’s experience and humanity. The comparison to his friend’s experience? BS. Yeah, he made a different call: the wrong one.

I know plenty of women who got sober after being assaulted or raped, sometimes as a result of the experience. They realized they were putting themselves in danger by being vulnerable around guys like this one, but they are also clear on the fact that just because you’re vulnerable doesn’t mean anyone has to take advantage of you. Forgetting to lock your door doesn’t make anyone rob you, and the fact that you learn a lesson from it and never forget again doesn’t retroactively excuse the burglary.

Though inadvertently, the essay in question does bring up one point that I do find interesting and worth discussing, and that’s the vulnerability and perceived un-rape-ability of addicts.  Between the common dehumanization of alcoholics and drug users as a whole and the (reasonable) perception of them as liars, addicts make the ideal rape victims (this is particularly true when they also belong to other “un-rape-able” groups such as sex workers or women of color, who are in turn perceived as likely addicts).  Sexual assault is all too often seen as the “natural” consequence of intoxication for women, and for people who struggle with addiction this is even more potent; rape is understood as the punishment for their lack of self-control and discipline.  What’s ironic is that so frequently it is the other way around: many people of both genders develop addictions in response to experiences sexual assault and/or childhood sexual abuse.  Based on my own anecdotal understanding, I would venture that most women and a substantial proportion of men who suffer from addiction have experienced some form of sexual trauma.

If you’re interested in learning more about what’s going on with the GMP and the responses to their rape-apologism, here are a few pertinent links. I particularly recommend the first one, and the Yes Means Yes blog and book in general. I kept the later in my bathroom for months and it’s awesome.

Good Men Project’s Rape Faceplant

What In Holy Hell is This

Nonsense at the Good Men Project

The Good Men Who Only Occasionally Rape Project

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Ladies to Love

Thanks to this essay (read it, it’s hilarious), I found myself watching Teen Wolf  in the wee hours of this morning.  I’m only sort of embarrassed to admit that because even though it was pretty much what you’d expect from MTV (melodramatic music, twinks with disturbingly few facial expressions, lots of bare skin), there was one serious bright spot: her name is Holland Roden, she’s a 25-year-old TV actress, and I’m nursing a serious crush.  I mean, just look at her:


Not only is she an (okay, allegedly) natural redhead, but the girl is rocking some seriously sexy curves.  She’s smart too: she first came to L.A. to study molecular biology at UCLA but, be still my heart, graduated with a major in women’s studies.  I’ve checked out some of her interviews and she seems like an intelligent, thoughtful, and genuinely grounded individual.  As with any Hollywood/celebrity culture output, I try to take them with a grain of salt, but regardless, I love that someone is putting out messages like these (I was going to post some quotes from that one, but realized I would end up quoting the entire thing, so I’ll leave it for people to read on their own and just say I strongly encourage you to do so).

I like her character too.  She may be “the popular girl” dating the lacrosse captain, but she’s great at science and math, and my introduction to her was a conversation in which she reminded a friend to have safe sex.  In and out of character, she seems like my kind of woman.

Ratings in David Tennant “oh yes”s: show 2/5, lady 5/5

My Hero

“I heard police or ambulancemen, standing in our house, say, “She must have provoked him,” or, “Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make a fight.” They had no idea. The truth is my mother did nothing to deserve the violence she endured. She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it.”

-Patrick Stewart (via Shevilfempire)

No, this isn’t a post-feminist world, why do you ask?

Just looking at this makes me feel sick and kind of violated: the barely-implicit misogynist anger, the complete absence of any awareness of female humanity.  This banner ad showed up alongside a page I was reading.  So much for Google invading my privacy to determine which specific ads will appeal to me the most, get under my skin.  This one’s under my skin alright…Is this really what men want?  A living sex-doll at their mercy? I know most don’t, but frankly this seems like a case where one is one too many.

She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful

Lately when I’ve turned on the radio I keep hearing a song about a woman who doesn’t know she’s beautiful.  It’s hardly the first time, and it’s hardly just pop songs that worship the oblivious beauty.  It’s easy to see the appeal, to both men and women.  Few women, afterall, see themselves as beautiful; the idea that maybe they could be without realizing it is incredibly enticing and basically harmless.

Looking a little deeper however, and the appeal becomes more complex.  Maybe this is just me being cynical, but it seems to me that the appeal of such a woman to a man comes down to power.  In our world, physical attractiveness opens doors and counts for a lot.  People seen as attractive make more money and are more likely to get what they want, be it a job, a spouse, or a restaurant reservation.  Certain physical traits that contribute to a conventionally attractive appearance are seen as indicative of positively valued personality characteristics; for example, slenderness is seen as indicative of self-discipline, generosity, and maturity, and blondness of playfulness, good humor, and spontenaity.  Again and again, research has shown that people who are seen as beautiful are assumed to be smarter, more capable, and just better than those who are not.

This power that comes from being physically attractive is known as erotic capital (physical beauty isn’t the only characteristic that confers erotic capital: everything that contributes to a person’s sex appeal and that allows them to leverage it for gains and advantages in other areas is part of it, but physical appearance is obviously a major factor).  In many ways, erotic capital functions the same way as any other form, but it is unique in one crucial aspect: it’s highly contagious.  When a beautiful woman stands next to a less-than-beautiful man, his metaphoric stock rises.  She is assumed to be in high demand, therefore he is assumed to be rich or famous or perhaps exceptionally talented in some socially-valued arena; in other words, to possess a lot of some other form of capitol with which he has bought access to her erotic capital.  He can take advantage of that assumption, leveraging his supposed-capital toward a purpose of his choosing.  This is the meaning of the phrase “arm candy.”

Whether or not a woman is aware of her beauty has no affect on her value as a status symbol.  Her value in this regard rests on the assumptions of people who know little or nothing about her or her companion.  Where it does make a difference is in a woman’s wielding of her own erotic capital.  A woman who doesn’t know she’s beautiful doesn’t know her own power.  She is likely to undervalue herself, and thus her male companion can have the best of both worlds: he doesn’t have to worry about his “arm candy” demanding equality within the relationship, but he can still enjoy her looks and the benefits of her erotic capital.

In other words, I don’t like that song.

Shameless in a Bad Way

I like the US adaptation of Shameless.  I really do.  I dare say I like it even more than the original, UK version (except for Steve: Justin Chambers is fine, but James McAvoy was perfect).  I’m happy it’s recently returned for a 2nd season and I have high hopes for its future.  I like capable, long-suffering Fiona with her barely-hidden vulnerability.  I like ‘Lip with his perfect SAT scores, dry sense of humor, and creativity criminality.  I like Ian with his adulterous Muslim boyfriend, sweet face, military aspirations, and hard-on for the neighborhood delinquent.  I love Debbie, who is somehow both depressingly old for her age and achingly young.  I like Kevin and Veronica, especially Kevin, and want them to be my next-door neighbors.  I don’t really like Frank, that’s pretty much impossible to do, but I find him extremely accurate and enjoyable in a laugh-so-you-don’t-cry, did-he-really-just-do-that kind of way.  The plot-lines are generally fun and sometimes clever and almost always heartfelt.

There’s just one thing that bothers me, and unfortunately, it bothers me a lot.  I’d like to know who decided that Sheila, an otherwise sweet lady dressed like a 50’s housewife who’s good with kids and imprisoned by anxiety, should also be a rapist? And that her cynical, sarcastic, over-sexualized adolescent daughter should be one too? I know it was supposed to be funny when the former handcuffed Frank to her bed  and did kinky things to him despite his loud and unmistakable protests. When the later videotaped herself having sex with him while he was drugged nearly to the point of unconsciousness, but not so out of it that he didn’t object repeatedly.  To state the obvious, it wasn’t.  What it was was the epitome of a trend I just don’t understand, in which men being raped is a punchline.

It’s not just that these jokes are in extremely poor taste and irredeemably offensive; I also honestly don’t get where the humor is supposed to come from.  Is it the role reversal?  The perceived-humiliation of a man being sexually overpowered by a woman?  The supposed impossibility of the scenario? The mere concept of a sexually aggressive woman?  The unexpectedness, that shock of the unanticipated, two things that don’t belong together (women as sexual predators? Men as victims? Men who don’t want sex? Women who do?).  In a world where the rape of men and boys is hardly confined to the realms of fiction, this kind of humor is a mystery to me, and not one I can easily set aside while I enjoy the rest of the show.  So Shameless writers, take note:  Frank screaming “stop” and being ignored isn’t just unfunny, though it certainly is that;  it’s also downright nauseating.  Lose it or lose me.

Mirrors by Eduardo Galeano

A history of the world according to the lost, the silenced, the forgotten, the oppressed: women, Muslims, Jews, people of color, LGBT folks, the colonized and the impoverished.  Stories that may or may not be factually correct but are nonetheless true.  History told as it was lived: fluid, messy, complicated, and often cruel.