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My turn in the can 'o worms...

Okay, are we all tired of hearing about the Open Source Boob Project yet? Yes? Thought so.

For those who have blissfully avoided this discussion lately, the OSBP was a thingy that somebody dreamed up, presumably in a post-Heinleinian daze, about how it would be lovely if women at conventions would let you touch their breasts. And they were discussing this and some chick in the group said "Okay, feel free," and it was lovely and there were boobs and boobs are good things, as everybody knows, and somebody dreamed up an opt-in option whereby women who were cool with you asking if you could touch their boobs would wear little buttons at conventions, and there would be free range boobage for all (or at least those who had bathed recently) and life would be glorious. (There are links to this all over LJ--somebody might be so kind as to post a link to the original in the comments, I'm not gonna go digging.)

This idea got shot down about as quickly as you'd expect it would, for all the reasons of sanity, i.e. "Do you know how friggin' creepy that would be in practice?!" and "We have minors at conventions and do you REALLY want to spend the rest of your life on a sex offender's list when the captain of the local vice squad strolls in and sees you groping his fifteen-year-old daughter?" but it also opened the large and ugly can of worms that can only be handled with words like "privilege" and "consent" and "harassment", as if the words are very long tongs that we are handling some very toxic stuff with.

Now, I am not skilled with this kind of language. I can make words into a story or a joke or an aesthetically pleasing phrase--I am very poor at making words into a biohazard suit. You have to build that sort of thing very cautiously. You have to lay down each word to carefully exclude what you DON'T mean instead of singing paeans to what you DO mean, so that nobody gets offended, or more importantly, so that when they DO get offended, they're actually getting offended at what you meant, instead of at the thing that they instinctively get offended about, which wasn't what you meant at all, but you didn't build the biohazard suit carefully enough to exclude it.

I'm bad at that shit. I got through my feminist post-modernist perspectives in anthropology class by the skin of my teeth and the grace of a prof who gave me a C because I kinda needed the class and I can't imagine she wanted to see my frustrated bafflement at 8 in the morning for two semesters running. I like words too much. I can't DO that sort of thing to them. It's cruel. (It's the opposite trouble with clay. Clay, to my mind and my fingers, wants to be utilitarian. I cannot make abstract sculptures out of it, no matter how much the prof wants them. Clay  is alive, and it wishes to be useful.)

Maybe it's the difference between being an artist and an architect--artists just sling the stuff around and then hang it on the wall when it looks about right. Architectural words have to be meticulous and load-bearing and convey the meaning with precision and clarity and not fall down when you poke the clauses with a stick. Artist words just have to ding something in the subbasement of the soul, and the reader will generally cut you some slack while they fill in the rest of the space.

...man, I totally got off on a tangent there, didn't I? Never mind. Ignore the last few paragraphs. (See, I told you I was bad at that shit.) Back to boobs. Just keep in mind what I said about me and words. I cannot build a biohazard suit, and I am not good at joining these kinds of intense conversations. I'm glad somebody's having them--christ, am I glad!--but I just gotta muddle through by the skin of my teeth. My apologies in advance if I say something stupid and put my foot in it (or in arrears, if I've done it already, for that matter.)

I think the project was a laughably bad idea. Probably well-intentioned, in a doofy "I just read Stranger in a Strange Land, and boy, it would be cool if we didn't have all these hang-ups," kinda way (and hey, we were ALL that age once) but obviously you just can't do that kinda crap because when it goes wrong, it will go Very Very VERY Wrong, with the explosions and the screaming and the PTSD. Our social conventions may be weird, complicated, ridiculous things, and god knows, I dispense with a lot of them, but plenty of them are in place for a reason, and the simple fact is that if you come up to a majority of women and ask if you can touch their boobs, they will get A) pissed, B) terrified, or C) all of the above, and the number who will instead opt for D) flattered and amused will be a definite minority.

But I'll say that the intentions were probably pure, in the sense that I've known a fair number of men in my time, and "I like boobs!" really is a pure emotion in many straight members of the species, entirely devoid of extraneous thought or emotional baggage, in much the same was that some women like chocolate or shoes, and I personally like socks and Balinese demon masks. Love of boobs may be hardwired. (Okay, I'm SURE it's probably hardwired.) In most cases, I don't think it's got a damn thing to do with the objectification of women or anything else--I think they just plain like boobs. Sometimes the human psyche is just that straightforward.

Me, I like men. But I can't see an Open Source Cock Project getting off the ground worth a damn. And before guys leap to the "Hey, that'd be AWESOME!" conclusion, I want you to think about how you'd feel if the average chick at a con--not the supermodel, honey, but the one with acne and a few extra pounds and the great personality--came up and started pawing your junk. In public. Maybe this is a straight male fantasy, but even with a woman that might be considered attractive, in actual REALITY, as opposed to the porno flick playing 24-7 behind the eyes,* a lot of the guys I know would be backing away going "WHOA! Ah--uh--heh--really not interested--thanks--" and making a dash for the men's restroom and the whole situation would be awkward beyond measure.

Now think about the LEAST attractive women at a con.

Now compare the low end of female attractiveness at a con with the low end of male attractiveness at a con, 'cos trust me, you've generally got us beat hands down on that one. If you can honestly say that you would take part in a project that might involve one of the unwashed guys in a stinking undersized Sailor Moon costume asking to feel your naughty bits, then you, sir, are a better man than I and I will make no bones about the fact. You get a free pass on the rest of the conversation, go get a cookie and feel free to sit the rest out. (This all assumes you're a straight male--think how it would be for gay men. If empathy fails, please picture unwashed Sailor Moon guy again. There we go.)

And if all that hasn't dissuaded you, please ALSO consider the fact that we're going to talk to each other about the size of the junk thus pawed, and compare notes, and the phrase "Damn, he was hot, pity he's hung like a church mouse," will likely come up. (Yes. If you didn't realize that women do discuss these things amongst themselves, I'm sorry to have to be the one to enlighten you. There, there. Size really doesn't matter after a certain point, honest, but if all we're doing is the grope test, you don't exactly have the chance to prove what a tender/sensitive/manually dexterous/no, really, dude can fuck like a rutting wildebeest lover you are, now do you?)

...and once again I got off topic. Well, I warned you.

Okay, back to boobs, and the open source boob thing. I can't say how anybody should feel about this. I can't say how the execution should or could be handled well, or if it's inherently flawed down to the bone, or if there is a subrace of enlightened souls--possibly the same folks who can handle polyamory gracefully without it turning into a raging monkey clusterfuck--who could pull it off so that everybody was happy and there were boobs for all.

I can tell you that I have a really nice rack, and there are exactly two men who get to touch it, and one of them is my gynecologist, and that there is no future, however enlightened, where that is likely to change.**

And I can also tell you that if I were at a con, and some guy came up to me, and said "Can I please touch your boobs?" I would stare at him for a second and then I would break into hysterical soul-crushing laughter and say "What? Can you what? NO! Of course not!" and depending on how well-lubricated I was at that point, might or might not follow it up with further braying laughter and "What the hell are you thinking?" and furthermore, I'd spend the rest of that con telling everybody and their brother about this nasty little troglydyte with no grasp of the social graces. Shit, I'd be trotting THAT story out for years, along with the one about the guy with the alien implant in his head, whenever the booze started flowing.

This would definitely not be very nice of me, but...well...I know myself, and that's what I'd do. I'd be so completely dumbfounded that anybody would have the complete social gracelessness to say such a thing that hysterical amusement would be my only refuge.

I'd have to admit that I was creeped out and freaked out and maybe even felt rather degraded by the notion, (Do I? I don't know. It's squishy and scary and maybe the assumption that I SHOULD feel flattered is part of what's degrading. Shit, I don't know, and I don't want to play anymore.) and nobody likes admitting they're scared, and we're somewhat past the era when I could say "What!? What kind of trollop do you think I am!? My seconds shall call upon you at dawn, sir!"*** and smooth the whole thing over with bullets.

Hence the laughing. Because--well--I HAVE to turn something like that, at least in my head, into "harmless little worm with no social intelligence" because otherwise it turns into "fuck, I'm in a situation where strange men think they can touch me," and that sets off all the alarm bells. There's a particular set of hairs on the back of my neck, and when they stand up, I  know to bloody well listen, and I can guarantee that the minute that actually happened to me in real life (or whatever value of real life a convention is) those hairs would start doing a samba.

As a commenter on this whole fiasco said, very succinctly and with rather cruel accuracy, "Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them."

And the only thing I see coming of something like the open source boob project is that men WILL get laughed at, and women WILL get scared, and at the end of the day, the situation's just much more unpleasant for everybody.

(See, this is why I like furry cons. Never. Comes. Up.)

ETA: I should just mention, for the irony of it all, that I made this post topless, not because of any erotic reason but because my bloody sunburn hurts. *snort*

*I will not say all men have this, but I am told a great many of them do. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We are as we are made, and you're talking to a woman who once had an orgasm at a stop-light while thinking about...well, we won't get into what I was thinking about, but anyway, I will not be casting stones from THIS side, trust me.

**We'll make exception for the fitters of various bodice-like clothing, who get the same professional free pass as the OB/GYN.

***Okay, definitely gotta stop with those Regency romances...

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Just... wow.

The thing is... I *do* wish that we could talk about abuse *prevention* without it getting conflated with blaming the victim. When I went off to college, my mother's advice was to never drink anything I hadn't opened myself. I don't know that I was ever in a situation where it would have made a difference, but, it was a good idea.

That said... a moment of inattention to a drink or if I'd been at a party with people I *thought* I could trust... etc. And that doesn't even get into all of the other things that can go wrong.

The problem with many *bad* situations (as well as this "sage" advice) is that it's *not* that simple. Maybe the guy is a friend who's feelings you're trying very hard not to hurt. Maybe you were attracted to him at one point, but, then changed your mind. Or maybe they just had a way of wearing you down. Abuse isn't ALL physical, and, it pisses me off when people act as though willpower is all you need.

I'd once told a male friend that I could see myself dating him if I were single. Then... by the time we were both single at the same time, I'd profoundly changed my mind. He had the audacity to accuse me of *lying* to him. And this was after he'd decided it was just fine to stick his hands up my shirt & under my bra one day while we were alone.)

This same (former) friend had a way of pushing the line, and pushing the line, and pushing the line. Always in different ways, at different times. He was gifted at debate.

There is a point at which you can't fight anymore. Fotunately, I hit a point of realizing just how much danger I was in... and withdrew completely.

well said.

when it's a stranger, it's one thing. if it's a friend - it's completely different. even worse when it's from a husband or male relative...

This whole thing just creeps me out. And reminds me too much of younger days when I didn't have the wisdom to see what was coming.

I *do* wish that we could talk about abuse *prevention* without it getting conflated with blaming the victim.

I wrote a post recently discussing this very issue. Here's an excerpt:
Girls are taught that they must modify their behavior and appearance; that boys will be boys, so if a girl fails to maintain an active defense at all times, she can expect to be raped. Let's set aside for the moment the disturbing power dynamic that this entrenches. Instead, let's look at what's missing here.


No one is taught that they are at risk for COMMITTING rape.

No one, male or female, seems to believe that they would ever rape anyone. When we talk about rape, it is in terms of "rapists" and people who "were raped". We are all familiar with innumerable accounts of sexual assault (stories usually told by those who "were raped"). Yet how many of the perpetrators of these assaults think of themselves as "rapists"?

-from Reframing Rape

Edited at 2008-04-27 09:46 pm (UTC)

"No one is taught that they are at risk for COMMITTING rape.

No one, male or female, seems to believe that they would ever rape anyone. When we talk about rape, it is in terms of "rapists" and people who "were raped". We are all familiar with innumerable accounts of sexual assault (stories usually told by those who "were raped"). Yet how many of the perpetrators of these assaults think of themselves as "rapists"?"

That's a pretty damn offensive concept IMO, and it needs to be squashed. The idea of this kind of messed-up thinking gaining momentum is honestly scary to me, because I fear the person who can believe in it.

Rape is not something a normal, decent person accidently stumbles into. There's no "oops, I raped someone." Either you're a sick fuck, or you're not. There's no mistaking rape. Rape is not pressuring someone to have sex, it's not making someone feel uncomfortable, it's not being creepy. Rape is an attack. It's an act of aggression and humiliation so vile that it has no equal. There's no gray area there. It's not a difference of perspective. It's rape or it's not rape. A person is capable of rape or they're not.

I'm really disgusted by this whole "everyone is a potential rapist" crap. I'll buy the "everyone could potentially kill someone" theory, I can even imagine scenarios. I don't think there are a lot of people who wouldn't have the survival instinct to kill in self defense, for instance. But you can't rape someone in self defense. You can't get backed into a corner where you might have to rape someone. Raping someone is a choice, not something that's forced on someone by circumstance, and it takes a sick person to make that choice.

So if you tell me I'm a potential rapist, with no knowledge whatsoever of me or what I am or am not capable of, just because there are some sick people out there who are capable of it, then.... shit, I don't have words to describe how loathsome I think that is. It simply beggars the definition of "insult" as far as I'm concerned.

My apologies for going off on you, I know you don't really deserve it and you're probably a wonderful person. Reading the larger post you linked to, I can even understand the context where you got to that comment. But I still think you're 100% dead wrong. You are taking examples of sick people making excuses to justify their actions, and believing them when they say that they're not sick. I think it's important (overwhelmingly, mindbogglingly, VITALLY important) to remember that just because an evil person LIES about being an evil person, doesn't make them a good person. Just because that sick SOB can sit there with a straight face and justify (maybe even believe) that the rape they committed is somehow "normal", does NOT make it normal. And it doesn't mean that a normal person is "at risk" of doing the same thing.

Rape is not something a normal, decent person accidentally stumbles into. There's no "oops, I raped someone." Either you're a sick fuck, or you're not. There's no mistaking rape. Rape is not pressuring someone to have sex, it's not making someone feel uncomfortable, it's not being creepy. Rape is an attack. It's an act of aggression and humiliation so vile that it has no equal. There's no gray area there. It's not a difference of perspective. It's rape or it's not rape. A person is capable of rape or they're not.

I will grant you that rape is something that no decent, normal person should ever do. However, I would argue that there are times when a rapist stumbles into rape.

If you're drunk and at a party, and she's drunk and at a party, and both of you wind up alone together, and everything seems like it's going okay, but maybe she gets quiet all of a sudden or says something mumbled into your shoulder that might be 'no' or could be just 'oh', but you know that you're a decent, normal person who would never rape anyone, so surely this is all okay, so you go ahead and have sex...

I don't think that it takes a sick person to rape someone. If you're talking about the stalker who lunges out from the bushes, then yes. But most rapes don't fit that pattern; they're the boyfriend who thinks you're just being coy tonight, or the date who thinks that because let him pay for dinner while you were wearing the tight red dress, and then invited him into the house for a nightcap that you must want sex. In their heads, they've done nothing wrong. When you ask them out on a date, or they ask you out on a date, they look perfectly normal.

No one really thinks of themselves as evil. No one wants to see themselves as a rapist. The argument is not "oh, you're evil; you're a raping bastard." The argument is "Stop. Look at what you're doing. Realize that you, yes you could be having sex with someone who doesn't want to be having sex." That way, when you're at that party, and you're drunk and you hear "mumble," into your shoulder, you stop. You make sure that what you're doing is okay.

You may be a great guy. I don't know you from Adam's housecat, so I don't know how well you make sure of affirmation before sex. Most guys that I know do stop to make sure of things before going on. But the crowd that I generally hang with are exceptional in many ways, and I know too many women who hung out with normal guys who didn't get the lesson to say that it's one that shouldn't be taught.

No one has ever "stumbled into rape" IMO.

If you're with someone who is drunk at a party, and they're so drunk you can't tell if they're willing or not, then you don't have sex with them. If you do, you're an asshole, a sick SOB, and any number of other rotten names. You're all of those things even if what they're mumbling is "Yes". If you're a decent person, you don't go there, and there's no risk of being a rapist. (There's also a counterpoint to this one... if someone gets drunk and consents to sex, then decides afterwards that it was a bad idea... that's not rape. It's just stupid)

If your girlfriend says she doesn't want to have sex tonight, and you force her to have it, then you're not normal. You're a rapist. (begging or cajoling her into having sex may be pathetic but it's not rape)

If a woman let's you buy dinner, wears a tight red dress, and invites you in for a night cap, it might be possible to get the wrong impression and make an ass of yourself. If you force her to have sex with you when she doesn't want to, you're not normal. You're a rapist. A normal guy would leave (if quite possibly seething with disappointment and embarrassment when he does).

I don't care what is going on in those people's heads. It certainly doesn't mean anything that they LOOK normal. They are NOT normal. They HAVE done something wrong. Normal people do NOT do those things. It's true that no one thinks of themselves as evil, but that doesn't mean that everyone is wrong. Most of the guys you know, the crowd you hang out with, is not exceptional because they don't rape people. They don't rape people because they're not sick. Because they're NORMAL. (though they may well be exceptional in many other ways)

As for for how well I make sure of affirmation... back when my wife and I were just dating, we'd been out drinking and she started getting a little fresh. After several blocked advances she asked me why I was stopping her, and I told she was drunk and I wasn't going to take advantage of that. She looked me square in the eye, told me "I'm not THAT drunk" and made another grab. I still stalled her a bit till I was sure.

Now I'll grant you that I might be more cautious than the average, but I still think having sex with someone when they're so drunk they can't speak is definitely not normal at all, and well over the line into sick. And that's the closest you've got to a remotely plausible example of an "accidental rape", even by the wildest generosity. A decent guy doesn't do even that, and the other examples you gave can't even remotely be portrayed as misunderstandings (a twisted sense of entitlement maybe, but not a misunderstanding).

Good men should not have to live with the stigma that all men are potential rapists. They simply aren't. Normal guys simply would not force someone to have sex, not even using the twisted logic you suggest. It's just not possible for a good and decent person to do that.

I'll grant you there are too many sick people in the world, and you absolutely need to be aware that any given person you meet may be one of them. But don't, please don't, assume that those sick people are "normal guys". Those of us who actually ARE normal guys deserve better.

Re: Prevention (Anonymous) Expand
Re: Prevention (Anonymous) Expand
"Rape is not pressuring someone to have sex,"
Actually yes it is. For example, coerced sex, which is a form of pressuring someone into sex, is rape. My rape was coerced sex, and yes, it absolutely was rape. My rapist even told me immediately afterwards that it was as if I had raped myself. To further illustrate my point, my father would hound and nag my mother into sex nearly every night, when she was initially saying no and trying to refuse. She would get sick of his nagging and finally give in. That too was rape.

Rapists can look and act just like everyone else. There is no set standard for what a rapist does or thinks, other than the fact they do not respect the boundaries and autonomous rights of others.

Unfortunately, rape is indeed very normal in our culture and society. It's not right, but it is normal in that it happens on an extremely frequent basis. I wish it were otherwise.

This is, unfortunately, very true. And because we are taught that rape is only a violent, forced act, too many women are dealing with the realities of being raped without any support.

I know. I was one of them. It took me nearly ten years to come out and say "Hey, that was not wanted sex. I tried to say no, but he obviously heard something else and I was too scared to make more of a fuss.</>" I was scared shitless because i knew he was capable of violence and thus I let it happen so that at least I wasn't brutalized.

It is far too easy to dismiss these women as "making it up" or "secretly wanting it." Rape = unwanted sex. Period. Violent or no, it is still rape.

I think "unwanted sex = rape" is a bit broad. (Which is not to say that it's not bad unless it's rape. "No" does mean no)

But nagging someone into having sex is rape? Really? Sexual harrassment sure, I'd go along with calling it that in a hot second. And it's sick, without a doubt. But rape? Unless there's something more to the story than just "getting tired of the nagging" I'd have to think about that one.

Threatening someone (whether with the threat of violance or non-physical consequences) is still an act of force (even if not a physical act), and while I don't believe it requires physical violance to qualify, it seems like force of some sort should be necessary before we start calling things rape, shouldn't it?

Otherwise it sounds like we could lump in "Well I don't really feel like it, but he wants some. I guess I'll put up with it," as rape. And at the point where the person doesn't even have to say "No"... that's a little scary.

Re: Prevention (Anonymous) Expand
Re: Prevention (Anonymous) Expand
Re: Prevention (Anonymous) Expand
Rape is not something a normal, decent person accidently stumbles into

I'd say it is. Rape is unwanted, nonconsensual sex. The ability to determine what constitutes consent and to stop when you know you should doesn't always hang about when you're drunk or high, and that's especially dreadful because under circumstances like that, two people's lives end up being ruined.

A statement I learned to make early on to boyfriends when I was in my teens/early 20s (and even later) "Just because I am dating you does not give you the right to grope me or have sex with me. 'You would if you loved me' won't work on me." and then the addition of... "Just because I have slept with you once does not guarantee that I will sleep with you again. If I say 'no', I mean 'no' - push it and I walk out." I hope I am bringing my daughter up to be as up front with her potential partners.

It's better advice than you might think, by the way. I was drugged at a club once, one in a series of girls who was drugged there over a period of two months. Luckily, I had a group of friends there who immediately started looking after me when I started getting woozy. Unluckily, I was the designated driver.

Oh I didn't think it was bad advice. Just saying that following it wasn't a guarentee.... and that not following it didn't make me "at fault."

YES. Teaching and expecting people to help themselves as best they can, does not automatically mean that, if something bad happens, we're going to blame them for not doing enough. It is possible to teach prevention and act to protect oneself or one's loved ones, without blaming the victim.

Ooh *shudder* I know that guy. Well, not that specific one, of course, but y'know. A month after I moved out and started divorce proceedings he asked me out and had all sorts of similar reasons as to why I should be saying yes. That's a wonderful reason to start a relationship, of course. *gags*

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