Monthly Archives: March 2012

Street Harassment and Catcalling

I’ve had multiple people lead me to this video in the past couple days, which I think is kind of amazing:

It’s worth saying that I don’t think I have ever had a guy step in while I was being catcalled to say “dude, just…. no.” I wish that happened, not because of a male-rescuer thing, but because I think that since catcalling is seen as a way for men to affirm their machismo/power and as an intimidation tactic, when other men respond with “Wow, are you embarrassed by your behaviour? Cause you should be,” there would be a greater impact. As a woman who says “WTF, dude?” I get told I’m a bitch and it was just a joke and why do I hate men so much.

ARGH.

I did really like the guy who said sarcastically “Misogyny. Super sexy.” I would buy that man a drink.

I’ve written about catcalling on my personal blog, and felt that maybe it’d be good to post that here as well. I think people within the altsex communities forget sometimes that we still live in a patriarchy and that patriarchy does impact altsex and how people interact in those spaces. Especially as catcalling is often defended with “well, if they didn’t want the attention, they wouldn’t dress that way”, I can see a parallel to “well, they were wearing a collar, so I didn’t ask them before I spanked them cause they were a submissive, right, and that’s what you do”.

I flinch being cruised in altsex spaces, not because I hate being seen as hot, but because I’m used to dealing with nonsexy objectification on a daily basis- I can appreciate how sexy it can be, in the right context and consensual, but it’s important I think to remember that these things happen nonconsensually all the time, and that can impact how people react and how safe they feel.

So, without further ado, via my personal blog:

Walking down the street, I am always alert.

I’m listening to the footsteps around me, very aware of group dynamics, how much space I have to move, what the street lighting is like, what my escape routes are. I cannot afford to be completely relaxed because judging wrong can be dangerous.
Street harassment is incredibly common. Stupidly so. I was in downtown Berkeley with Penny earlier, killing twenty minutes while we waited to go into a movie. We were in dresses and heels, nothing particularly notable or shocking, sitting and chatting with each other, obviously in the middle of conversation.

I counted 6 different men who approached one or both of us, interrupting our conversation (often really rudely) to “compliment” us, one even going so far as to get in her face to say “hey, nice tits”. She had previously asked if I objected to her getting back in the face of someone who did that, and I said no, and was delighted to see her tell him to piss off and that she wasn’t asking him. He gave a half-hearted apology- I heard him later whining to some girls that he was “just complimenting her” and “why did she flip out?” As we walked to the theatre, another guy wolf whistled and another followed us to the theatre, asking where we were going and could be be invited.

Seriously? Does that EVER work? You wonder why she flipped out? Honestly?
I can give you two reasons. One, I was assaulted in the UK by someone who catcalled me and then proceeded to grab and kiss me, full on the mouth, while I tried to get to my bus stop in Stratford. It’s not some vague “oh maybe it’s violent” thing- it is a form of objectification, intimidation, and harassment. It is not a fucking compliment, and it’s not meant to be- I have never seen a woman go up to a catcaller and ask him out, but I have seen many women try to make themselves look smaller, vacate an area, move more quickly and shield their body.
Secondly, when I complained about this, a friend of mine, someone close to me, first asked what I was wearing, then told me that “we all have our crosses to bear” and that mine is that I’m “young, gorgeous and desirable”. Funny, that. I didn’t feel desired or gorgeous. I felt like prey. And there is nothing as invalidating as hearing from a friend, particularly a male friend, victim blaming bullshit. I get it- it’s my fault for being Female In Public- shame on me.
The fact is, I’ve been harassed in jeans and a sweatshirt more often than when I’m in a skimpy costume. Maybe I look more like I’m going to shank a dude when I dress up, because I feel the need to protect myself more viciously. Maybe I look more vulnerable when I’m not dressed in high femme. But I get this kind of attention all the time and it doesn’t matter how I’m dressed, it’s simply because I am Female In Public. I have friends who have been sexually harassed when they’re with their children. Seriously?
If your iPhone gets yanked from you on the street, I rarely if ever hear someone say “well, you shouldn’t use your smartphone in public”.

I understand that it can be difficult to understand how threatening a seemingly harmless “Smile, beautiful!” can feel—but let’s get one thing straight. Go ask any woman in your life whom you respect—mother, sister, cousin, lover, or friend—how it makes her feel when she’s loudly and publicly objectified, the recipient of obscene comments like “suck my cock,” or followed down the street. I promise you that it doesn’t make her feel good or beautiful or respected.

Street harassment has a negative effect on us all. No single man wants the actions of a few to be attributed to his entire gender, but studies show that male harassers impact victims’ perception and reaction to men in general. Still, most street harassers aren’t “bad men”—they don’t fully realize why their actions are hurtful or disrespectful to the female population. Sometimes they don’t even realize they are harassing women at all….

…Men: would you find it complimentary if it were commonplace for other men to yell out “I’d like to take that home with me” or “Why the sad face? I’ll give you something to smile about” while following you down the street? Men who could, hypothetically, force you to go home with them if they wanted? Think about it. I suspect most of you would feel uncomfortable, threatened, even scared.

-A Good Man’s Guide to Catcalling, Katie J.M. Baker

It infuriates me to hear men defend this behaviour. Men I thought respected me, respected women generally. Men who know about sexual trauma.  Men who have some social consciousness, I thought. It’s a misogynistic thing to defend, dude. It’s not ok behaviour, and if you aren’t going to combat it, I have to seriously wonder if you support it.

“It’s not a compliment if the recipient’s response is anger or hurt” says a blog post on iHollaback. Please, guys, if you actually want to make the world a safer place for the women in your life, to support them and fight sexism (which I hope you do) please think before you open your mouth. Otherwise, expect hostility. If you want a positive response, treat women as human rather than shout at and intimidate them. I can’t believe I have to say that but I obviously do. And we need to speak up about this a lot more- no more sitting quietly not wanting to cause a fuss.

It’s fuss-causing time, and you’d best watch out.

Fetlife: Not Consent Counts, but Convictions Count, eh?

Not that this quote isn't a blog entry in itself, but....

The Fetlife Carebears have at last spoken on the thread naming abusers (by their fetlife handles, mind) by emailing yandy, who started it off:

“We really love that you are presenting an opportunity to FetLife members to anonymously tell their stories in “Confessions: TRIGGER WARNING”. We’ve thought from the beginning that allowing people to present their stories of experiencing non-consensual activities was an important thing to allow on FetLife, and even wrote a clause into the Terms of Use to specifically state that real rape (emphasis added) could be discussed from a therapeutic perspective. Registered sex offenders convicted of sexual violence and/or non-consensual sexual offenses are not permitted to have accounts on FetLife. We’re also trying to work with the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom on their “Consent Counts” project, which is helping to tackle the problem of sexual abuse & intimate partner violence in the kinky community. In short, if someone is convicted of non-consensual activities in the scene, we’ll kick them off and we should be warning people about them!

However, we also do not allow accusations of criminal conduct when a conviction has not happened. Unfortunately, many of the posts in this thread are doing just that. We’d like to give you the opportunity to continue this great service to the community in this way. We’ll delete all the comments that name names. If you can anonymize any accusations that come in from now on, we’ll allow the thread to stay open. If not, we’ll have to delete the thread completely. We hope it doesn’t come to that – we’d really hate to do that – and we hope that we can come up with a way to keep this going in a way that helps everyone.”

Coming on the tail of having just signed on with NCSF’s “Consent Counts” program, this makes several statements that I find hugely problematic-

-abuse only counts if the abuser is convicted
-abuse only counts if you went to the police (not always safe for people)
-even if your abuser is a serial offender, you are not allowed to name them on Fetlife
-we want to ‘help everyone” and in the interest of that we’re going to ignore the way the confessions thread has led to conversations, accountability, and an amazing lack of interpersonal drama because we’re afraid of… something

I am really disappointed. That thread proved that people could anonymously call people out even if there was a social power disparity, and the person called out could respond respectfully and express their desire to do better… without silencing anyone. I think rumors and whispers in person that you may or may not hear DOESN’T WORK. It didn’t work for me, it hasn’t worked for multiple other people. I’m furious to know that Fetlife feels that unless you go to the cops AND GET A CONVICTION your experience should be kept vague and therefore useless to future potential victims.

Keep in mind that this TOS policy means that people who engage in consensual BDSM in states where that is still illegal (like MA) or has photos of acts that are illegal (like labia piercing photos are illegal in the UK) should be banned, because to admit to engaging in these activities is to accuse someone of a criminal act. If this pisses you off too, please vote in the “Let Us Name Our Abusers” thread on Fetlife so we can underline why this is important.

I mean, c’mon, Fetlife. Really?

yandy’s response:

You say there’s a clause in the terms of use permitting the discussion of “real rape” from a “therapeutic perspective.” Could you point me to where that clause can be found, and also explain to me your definition of “real rape”?

I’m also curious to know the nature of the work you are doing with the NCSF’s Consent Counts project and how you are incorporating it into your business practices.

Finally, the accusations in many of the posts you deleted, due to a criminal justice system that doesn’t work in favor of people like us, are not actually against the law, and most of the ones that are actually against the letter of the law could never reach a prosecution, since juries are statistically biased against cases of sexual assault that do not fit the culturally embedded narrative of “stranger rape,” and so the likelihood of any of the cases that even legally constitute sexual assault ending in a conviction is about one in sixteen. (see http://www.rainn.org/statistics) This means that the rule against discussing accusations of nonconsensual conduct absent criminal conviction is inherently biased and silencing to a vast majority of people who have experienced trauma.

yandy

In response to having their heartfelt stories, stories it took guts and challenging fear to write, particularly when not anonymous, deleted by Fetlife who is trying to “take care of everyone”:

“It’s like a physical punch to the gut that my post got deleted.”

“I’m glad I saved my OP, because I will be posting it elsewhere, and the carebears can just fuck right off.”

“I am more than a little pissed at their stance on this, and even their wording is obnoxiously fake with understanding. I am asking anyone who supports the website to not renew their support until the caretakes start actually taking care of the users and not just the website.”

“I’m just going to point out, for the record, that many consensual things that we do are illegal, and talking about them are “accusations of criminal conduct.” So if I say that @dude once hit me with a stick at @otherdude’s house at a party, which was perfectly consensual, and the type of information that’s all over FetLife, that isn’t deleted. But if I said that someone did it non consensually (which is not true, it’s just for the sake of the example) that’s deleteable? The difference doesn’t seem to be in the criminal conduct on the players’ parts, but the likelihood of FL getting sued.”

“I had people thank me for talking about my experiences – some of them had experienced the same (directly or not) but didn’t feel open to talking about it. And not all my names were “this person raped me”; my posts, and many others I saw, detailed what actually happened and why we felt it was terrible and boundary-breaking.

Wow. Thanks Fetlife. That whole thing about NCSF et al, just words huh?”

“Also, I’d just like to point out that while I can’t say “@so-and-so raped me”, @so-and-so is very much allowed to brag about raping me and discuss in detail how hot it was. And before you brush that off with, “But no one would want to admit to a crime!” let me ask you if you’ve been in any of the more marginal and disturbing rape and incest ‘fantasy’ groups on FL recently. Plenty of freaks out there will risk talking about the shit they’ve done just because it gets them off (and possibly also because they’re beyond the statute of limitations.)

So, hey carebears, if you’re going to ban talking about actual sexual abuse on here, how about you ban the abusers from talking about it too?”

Again, please consider voting on the  “Let Us Name Our Abusers” thread so we can tell Fetlife that this is a shitty way for them to show they’re committed to consent. Also, feel free to email Fetlife’s caretakers via caretakers at fetlife.com, tweet @Fetlife, email the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom’s Consent Culture director Judy Guerin by emailing judy at ncsfreedom.org , tweet your concerns to @NCSF or via their Fetlife group. Let Fetlife know their TOS actively promotes a less safe community, and tell NCSF that having such an ally on Consent Counts doesn’t look so hot.