Me too

In this time of #MeToo being very much in the public awareness, what follows below are the shared experiences of one of BGIM Media’s contributors that illustrate how, unfortunately, the idea that sexual assault, rape and sexual oppression are just the doings of a tiny number of “bad apples” in a huge bunch of “good men” is not accurate. That isn’t to say there aren’t many good men who do right, but there still remain a huge number who do not, and think it their right to do as they will sexually without proper consent. – Shay, aka BGIM

Before I could speak, before I understood my body is mine alone, before I had the words to say stop, before my family caught him, I was molested by an uncle, in my bed, for years, less than two feet away from my twin.

First grade. A male teacher is inappropriately touching himself at his desk, fully aware that I see him. There is no one else there; my female teacher is outside for recess with the rest of the class. I never tell anyone. After that I never allow myself to be anywhere in the school with him alone. Over a decade later he is caught, in that school, with a child in the bathroom.

Sixth grade. The nicknames given to me by my peers—the “the coolest of the kids”—are prude and ice queen. I won’t drink alcohol, and I won’t have sex with boys. I wear those names as a badge of honor, externally. I never talk about how much shame I feel because of them, internally.

Seventh grade. A male classmate I like asks me to be his girlfriend. I’m elated; I say yes. We “date” for several months, attend a school dance as a couple, hold hands when all our friends are together, and giggle when we talk about kissing each other. Then the day comes, he asks “can I kiss you?” “Ok!” I say with a big smile, and close my eyes, happily waiting for what will obviously be the best thing ever!

As his lips press against mine, his right hand cups my undeveloped left breast. Before I can think I separate from him and punch him in his face as hard as I can. The blood pouring from his nose freaks him the fuck out and, he starts screaming, crying, calling me names, and runs off.

Freshman and sophomore year of high school. I find out, in my 20s from a male “friend” that there was a pact among several boys to “break René’s virginity.” One of the boys found the money and contacted everyone else to ask what they should do with it since “No one won.”

Freshman in college. My friends and I walking into the Shugga Shack in Boston. Small town kids in the big city, ready to be grown. Over the next two hours we are keeping men and women out from under our skirts, literally. Several men actually begin sexual play with their finger between my legs without my consent in the midst of dancing. Like it was normal for them to just pussy pop someone in the club. I was mortified.

Then seemingly out of nowhere, there is this flawless contempt and disgust with me the minute I push them off, the minute I advocate for myself and say no. By the end of the night, for safety we friends decide we are all coupled up lovers, just to get some dancing in.

Early 20s. First violent rape. I tell no one.

Mid 20s. Second violent rape. I tell no one, develop agoraphobia and a serious drinking habit. I attempt suicide for the second time in my life. I discover therapy.

Late 20s. I am seeing a guy. No titles, but we are spending a lot of time together. I’ve spent the night without sex for weeks; no issues. Nudging a little, joking about it a bit, but not pushing. Then one night, I’m ready for bed and climbing in to his and he is bottomless. No warning. We talk about my surprise, but I’m game. I appreciate the bold move in the language of building trust and healthy sexual report. In the dark we make out, I allow myself to explore his body with my hands and my body as he willingly explores mine. For sweet delicious moments we are excited and curious. I feel safe.

I perform oral sex, and enjoy watching my partner feel pleasure. I am excited to guide him through pleasing me, I think to myself. We take a quick water break, and I lay down on the bed. He wraps his body around mine and proceeds to penily penetrate me. I stop him and inform him kindly, gently, how painful this experience will be for me without proper internal lubrication.

He ignores me and continues to try to penetrate me. I no longer feel safe.

I squeeze my thighs together as hard as I can, keeping him out of me, while reminding him this is about both of us, not just him. He tries to whisper sweet bullshit in my ear like I haven’t told him I’m not into this. I tell him to stop and get off of me. He tries one more time to “calm me down.” I get louder, so he lets go of me.

I get dressed, and start packing my things to go home. He begs me not to leave. He apologizes profusely as I tell him how fucked this whole thing is. He apologizes some more. I decide not to leave; I sleep on the couch that night. I don’t immediately leave him alone.

Thirty-three years old. I find out a male friend whom I trusted has been telling people in my city for years that I offered my naked body to him as payment for rent when I, for whatever reasons, couldn’t afford it. I was shocked—visibly shook—as my female friend informed me of her interaction with this man, just a few weeks back. It was her first time ever meeting him.

I called him and asked for a meeting immediately. When he said yes and he asked why, I told him, “I don’t trust you or feel safe around you any longer. I need you to know why so you will leave me the hell alone.” He denied everything until the very end, eventually apologizing for breaking my trust. I remember laughing at his pathetic apology text message the next morning as I happily deleted all digital traces of him from my universe.

He is a scumbag, a low-life, a criminal, a meticulous wolf in sheep’s clothing pretending to be a gentleman. Like every man who violated me before him, a coward who should fear the harm they have caused because it will come back to them. Know our names and our faces, the days of us keeping your secrets are over.

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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How about we examine what’s really likely with Kavanaugh?

“The facts presented do not mean that Professor Ford was not sexually assaulted that night or at some other time, but they do lead more to conclude that the allegations fail to meet the more-likely-than-not standard.”

That’s what Maine Sen. Susan Collins said on Friday in a speech from the Senate floor supporting Brett Kavanaugh.

“The more-likely-than-not standard.”

That’s that bullshit. I mean, I get it.

Men commit 88% of homicides, and the homicides of most women involve domestic violence. So, if you’re a cop investigating the murder of a straight cis woman, it’s a good idea to start with the husband or boyfriend.

Some things are more likely than not. I get it, but with Collins that’s that bullshit.

You can only tell if something is more likely than not if you take in as much information as possible. You can be reasonably sure of your safety if you look left every time you cross the street. Until you get to England.

Now, obviously, Collins wasn’t interested in gaining as much information as possible. She knows Kavanaugh deals in conspiracy theories and she absolutely saw him publicly threaten people. But let’s do what she didn’t. Let’s take in all that information. Let’s widen our context like a cop might in a murder investigation.

First, let’s talk about how we talk about rape. We say “a woman was raped,” not, “a man raped a woman.”

We talk about “violence against women” like it’s a fucking act of God because that’s how we view it: Natural, unquestionable and we’re all helpless to even make sense of it, never mind do anything about it.

And by “we” I mean men. And by “men” I mean rich, white, cisgender, straight males because they have the media companies, they’re the politicians, they worship themselves enough to put their faces on the money, all of which you can bet that they control the language.

Unfortunately, even right now in 2018 this kind of vague phrasing also serves as a type of protection as women would undoubtedly face violence for even using the language necessary to precisely name the crime.

Kavanaugh is a rich, white, cisgender, straight male. Each one of those descriptors is a type of permission. Any permission removes you from the standards held to those without that permission. For example, the government obstructs Black people from voting because of our race, but that also means it grants permission for white people to vote free of any racial obstruction.

These types of permissions also mean that you have no responsibility to anyone without those permissions. In other words, if you are not rich you are held to account for things that the rich are often not. The same if you are not white or not cisgender or not straight or not male.

There are no social standards designed to hold someone like Kavanaugh to account.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence network, one out of every six women in America will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Add on that the majority of sexual assault victims are under 30.

Let’s also add that, according to Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine (SARSSM) Approximately 66% of rape victims know their assailant and approximately 48% of victims are raped by a friend or acquaintance.

Let’s consider the witnesses who have seen him be overly aggressive and abusive toward girls in his youth. Let us also include women who have experienced abuse say that he obviously behaves like an abuser. Let’s include the fact that he tells the same lies one might tell to seem innocent of attempted rape. Let’s include how we’ve all seen him get suddenly and needlessly aggressive with at least one woman full well knowing the entire world was watching.

So, we have a crime so shameful and brutal and common that we don’t even actually describe it. A male is accused of this crime multiple times on multiple occasions by multiple accusers. This male fits the description of the statistics. This male has also been given every kind of permission imaginable by society. And when defending himself of these accusations, he speaks in a way common to those who have been proven guilty.

“The more-likely-than-not standard.”

Maybe you’re one of those types who thinks there needs to be an eyewitness, video evidence and signed confession to be certain of an individual’s guilt.

If that’s your view, all I can say is you’ve probably never been a Black man standing in front of a judge.

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

The performance of change and why it fails: A note to my white sisters

The odds are high that if you are a reader of this space, the events of the past two years have had you in a perpetual state of rage. Last week’s hearing with Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey Ford probably felt like a surreal kick in the teeth. After all, if you are of a certain age, you almost certainly remember Anita Hill and it almost seems impossible to think that we are here again. Another woman and another Supreme Court nominee being accused of sexual wrongdoing.

Despite the surface changes we have made as a society, we are indeed here again because very little has changed in terms of the structures that keep privileged white men in charge.  For the most part, a group that is primarily made up of white men decides our shared fates, much like the group of white men who founded this country and exported colonialism across the world.

In fact, this past week’s hearing was an extraordinary display of white, male privilege, the likes of which we rarely are allowed to witness. Brett Kavanaugh most certainly came across as an entitled asshole with a possible drinking problem. Brett is the guy who was born on third base with every conceivable privilege starting with a mother who was a judge, a father who was a lobbyist and a grandfather who was a Yale alumnus.

No doubt he worked hard (or at least that is what he believes to be true) but the shenanigans of his youth alone would have derailed a person of lesser means.

However the idea that one is entitled to a Supreme Court seat in a country where we aren’t even entitled to basic shelter and healthcare is laughable at best. Many people work hard and still can’t make their ends meet.  Though when you have always lived in a bubble of privilege, it doesn’t quite dawn on you that extreme privilege is not the norm.

That said, I am not interested in dissecting Brett and his bullshit, there are far craftier writers than I who have already wrote fantastic pieces on this man-child.

What I do want to talk about is the knee-jerk responses that far too many of my white sisters are having to the current times that we find ourselves in and how unchecked privilege keeps us from a unified course of action.

Over the weekend, my Facebook box was overflowing with multiple calls to participate in the female blackout on Sunday morning.

Some version of this request has made the rounds in the past and assuming it’s not a Russian bot yanking our chains, no doubt it some “well-meaning” person who thought this would be a great show of solidarity. The only problem is that for women of color and trans women, we are already erased in the hierarchy of women. Furthermore, well-meaning symbolism is not what we need at this moment.

From pink pussy hats to showing racial solidarity with safety pins and now blackout photos, these actions are meaningless and frankly insulting and divisive.

Too often, calls to action for women exclude the work of marginalized women who have often been in the trenches. Long before Alyssa Milano got on Twitter and said  #metoo, my pal Tarana Burke had been saying “me too” since the early 2000s while working tirelessly for years on the front lines to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of sexual assault in our culture.  

Hell, I have been doing anti-racism work long before it became an actual thing we discussed in the mainstream.

The problem with being reactionary rather than proactive is that we miss out on what work is already being done and who is already in the trenches. It also means coming across as tone deaf and alienating the very people you want and need supporting your work.

In the latest moment of performative change, women of color and others have explicitly stated why the idea of blocking out our profiles on social media is not acceptable. As my sista in the work, Leslie Mac said: “I’d like to invite you to think about the optics & impact of you asking a Black Woman to join a “female blackout” on social media. First of all, for the most part we are already invisible & ignored so the idea that we would take collective action that further diminishes our voices, even for a day… nope.”

She’s absolutely right and yet for many white women, they have clung to the idea that people can protest in any way that they see fit without thinker about wide implications. Be that as that as it may, understand that choosing that path is but one of the many ways in which white women cling to their whiteness rather to come to the space of working together with a spirit of humility and sisterhood.  To work together for change requires knowing what you don’t know and bringing a spirit of humility. It also requires goals and strategy and this is where newcomers who are driven by feelings fall short.

To often these performative moments  of “change” fizzle out (remember the safety pins and pink pussy hats?) leaving nothing substantive but hard feelings.  To be a white woman is to exist in a state of duality as both the oppressed and the oppressor and for our white sisters understanding the historical weight that has been placed on them would go a long way in bridging the differences with marginalized women since the tendency to ignore what whiteness means even in a white female-identified body, and that the privileged behaviors that can come from that can be a huge barrier to our shared humanity. After all, not all women have pink pussies (or even a pussy to be frank) or any level of visibility.  So when you issue the call to action, make sure you aren’t furthering the erasure of others.

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

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