Log in

No account? Create an account
Previous Entry Share Next Entry

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...

  • 1
"Actually yes it is. For example, coerced sex, which is a form of pressuring someone into sex, is rape"

I wasn't talking about coercion. Coercion is a use of force, even if it isn't physical.

When I wrote that, I was thinking of pressuring in the sense of the infamous, "Aw c'mon, Babe. You'd do it if you loved me." Not coercing, just pressuring. That sort of thing, while pathetic and juvenile, is a far cry from rape IMO.

We'll have to agree to disagree because I consider the "Aw c'mon Babe. You'd do it if you loved me" to be emotional coercion/pressure, which in my opinion is rape. I feel that any time there is pressure involved in getting someone to have sex, it is rape.

We definitely disagree.

As long as the person chooses to go along without force or fear of the consequences for not doing so, then it's not rape. Wheedling someone to sleep with you is obnoxious, it's quite likely harrassment, and (at the extreme end) could even be a form of emotional abuse. But unless the option of free will is removed, or at least is perceived to be removed, then it can't be rape.

If we can't agree that rape requires the suspension of free will, then we have nothing further to discuss.

It is definitely abuse. I am careful when discussing my previously mentioned rape. The rape itself was DEFINITELY under threat of violence. I was scared shitless. But there was much in the way of wheedling and pressuring into sex too, with the same man. Those I do not classify as "rape", but more as sexual abuse. I think our problem is that the line between the two is hard to define.

"I think our problem is that the line between the two is hard to define."

And figuring out which side of that line a person is talking about seems even a little tougher still.

I think one of the things being glossed over here is that pressure, without outright threat, can still imply a threat. "Aw, c'mon, babe," might sound pleading and pathetic on paper (or on a screen) but in real life, in a room alone with some guy you've known a week in a house inhabited only by his big male housemates, and he's starting to look irritated because you were okay with him pawing your chest before but you don't want him to now that he's pushing your boundaries... You might start to feel a little fear in the background, a little itch of "this is not how this is supposed to go." Maybe this guy keeps a knife on the table, or a baseball bat by the closet, or maybe his stack of GTA games is something you could find indicative of violent tastes. But you're more than ready to leave and now he's pushing you down into the sofa and that's really hurting your arm, and it could just be the lighting but he suddenly looks angry, and you've said no six times but it's really hitting home all of a sudden that you're in over your head, that he could really hurt you if he wanted to, that the nice arms you thought looked appealing before are more than enough to hold you down if you tried to struggle.

For a woman of 5'2", this is a perceived threat. He may be thinking "She'll come around, she just doesn't know how lonely I've been," and he may just be pleading, he may bear her no ill will whatsoever. What she hears, and sees, and experiences, is a threat, and it may seem like the best option at the time, under the circumstances, to just let him have you than to refuse and risk him reacting badly out of anger.

Because men do react to a sexual refusal with anger. Not all men, but some of them, certainly, and a far larger number than you probably guess. You don't respond to a catcall in a bad part of town? You hear back a snarl, "Bitch." And sometimes, that anger, fueled by embarrassment in front of friends or by alcohol or by some unresolved issues over the ex you apparently resemble, boils over, and he wants to retaliate in some more tangible way. And even though the guy from the date scenario is not one of those guys, he's really very sweet and well-meaning, and he knows he's being something of an ass by pushing but he's so lonely, and she's really beautiful, and she's been driving him nuts all week... even though he'd be horrified if he knew his actions were being perceived as threatening, they are. She's scared, for her life, and rightfully, and she may engage in certain behaviours she might not under other circumstances if it means he won't hurt her.

Is that rape? For him? Of course not. But for her?

"some guy you've known a week...starting to look irritated...he's pushing you down into the sofa and that's really hurting your arm...you've said no six times.."

It saddens me that I have to say this. The scenario you describe is not a "perceived" threat. It's not "pressure" (of the type I was talking about). It's a threat. It's definitely a threat, even if there's no intention of actually carrying out that threat.

"the guy from the date scenario is not one of those guys, he's really very sweet and well-meaning"

Oh yes he IS "one of those guys" and probably worse. At best, he's a creepy SOB with some serious issues. No one is so oblivious that they can't tell the difference between fear and enthusiasm. A fear response to their advances would hit any sane guy like a bucket of ice water. Fear is not a turn-on. Any guy who would go ahead and have sex with the terrified girl in that scenario is a sick bastard, and yes, a rapist. And it's a rape for him too, whether he's willing to admit it or not.

I'm not "glossing over" anything. I never said the threat couldn't be implied, I just believe that a threat needs to actually exist before calling it rape.

The scenario you described... escalating when she said "no", holding down, etc... is rape. The guy sitting beside his girlfriend on the couch, giving her puppy-dog eyes and begging her to stop being mean to him, may be pressure... but it isn't rape.

Hrm, I think that what the other person meant when they were describing that scenario was that the woman might be thinking that could happen. Especially now, when most women have been abused, even if the boyfriend is just being a little whiny and not threatening at all, women who have been abused or around others who have been abused tend to think about being hurt, or hurt again, a lot of the time. So perhaps the boyfriend is just playing around, and would never /ever/ hurt the woman, but the fact that she thinks he might makes it a threat. Even if she doesn't act scared, or if this thinking is on a subconscious level, sometimes in some situations she consents because she feels something bad would happen if she were to say no.

I've had sex with someone because I felt like he would become upset if I didn't, but let me explain something - he wasn't pressuring me, he didn't threaten me, in fact, he seemed like a nice guy. I just felt that if I said no, he would become annoyed and either leave me in disgust or physically assault me. This isn't rape because I had no reason to believe that he would do this, it's my own preconceived notion of fear because I have been raped before. Therefor, I understand how someone can consent after being begged, even if there's no threat, out of an undeserved fear. I don't know if it's rape or not, because every woman and situation is different. But I do know that men should understand that if a woman isn't feeling up for sex, don't pressure it, no matter how innocent it may seem. You could be scaring her, without even knowing it. That's not your fault, but still, be weary of it. Just don't do it.

I think that you're both right, I'm not disagreeing with either of you, but I think you misunderstood the other person's post.

And another thing is because women are (generally! stupid generalizations, so necessary, so troublesome) indoctrinated to be so !@#$%^&* polite, at the expense of comfort, expense of dignity, at the expense of PERSONAL SAFETY, that she may pretend - very successfully, after a lifetime of these exact same white lies - that, no, of course she's not scared. Looking scared could further offend him; by pretending to feel safe, comfortable and interested she maintains the upper hand in a small way. And in fact, I've since my last post seen another person say that this is exactly what they did when they were raped.

And your example is particularly keen on this because you'd even gone through it before. The question is whether that fear can really be undeserved - the man (or more broadly, pursuing individual) in question here may not be a true agent of fear, but all the necessary stimuli for fear are present for sure.

I'm fully willing to grant that nagging someone into having sex is a skeevy thing to do. That it's almost certainly a form of harrassment. That, at an extreme, it might even be emotional abuse. And it's absolutely something a person shouldn't do.

I just have some trouble with calling it the Same. Exact. Act. as holding them down and forcing them, or threatening them, to have sex. And, while that may not even be what people are arguing, I also have a problem with introducing a concept like degrees of rape. That's why I'm arguing that only rape is rape (with the added consideration that rape is not the only form of wrongful sex act, or even sex crime).

I think it's fine to say that you should never pressure someone into having sex. But I think saying that a woman who simply gives into begging without the presence of an actual threat (explicitly stated or implied) was raped, cheapens the concept of "rape". Was she taken advantage of sexually? Possibly (though if the woman doesn't even express a lack of desire, then I don't think that claim would be valid). But raped? I don't think so.

Hopefully that clears up what I've been getting at.

(Yeah, me again.) Hm. I both agree and don't; the violence is certainly a contributor to the trauma, but any penetrative act, for example, in absence of arousal is going to be very very uncomfortable at best, so there's still an element of physical pain to consider as well as that of possible bodily harm in the form of tissue damage. And again it touches on the subjectivity of the experience - for her, it was being raped; his experience even if he does learn he engaged in essentially nonconsensual sex is probably of a somewhat different nature.

So maybe there's a difference along the aggressive nature, and an "aggravated sexual assault" need be separate from nonconsensual/ coerced sexual interaction? The harm done, though, is in many cases comparable - psychologically it is the deprivation of bodily sovereignty.

Re: that last bit, I'd agree that a woman who gives into simple begging (i.e. who does not feel threatened) is not raped, though in the presence of an "innocently implied" threat following six refusals, as I tried flounderingly to describe in the above scenario, does experience a rape.

In any case, my thanks to everyone for a fine debate, it's always interesting in how much one can learn of one's own opinions and those of others.

I don't think we need to seperate "aggravated sexual assualt" from "nonconsensual/coerced sex" at all.

I just think we need to acknowledge that if someone agrees to have sex, and their partner didn't actively do something to *cause* a threat to exist... then it's not rape. If the person consents without actually being threatened/coerced, then it's consensual. If they consented when they didn't want to because of issues completely unrelated to anything their partner actually *did* then it is completely over-the-top to call their partner a rapist. In sex, like in every other aspect of life, people need to take *some* responsibility for their own choices IMO.

And, sure, there are nuances to take into account. If a guy knows the woman he's with has been raped (or assaulted, or whatever) in the past, and has issues, he needs to step really damn lightly to make sure he's *not* doing something to make her feel threatened. But if, for some reason outside his control, she pretends to be willing, then we're apparently expecting the guy to be psychic to avoid the rapist label - and that's just not right.

I started writing this on the reply to Pure_entropy's reply, so they're sort of related, and some of my argument's there, too, for the sake of organization.

And Calcamp, you're right, I phrased my scenario just a touch strongly - I really should have framed it more as him "leaning her back into the sofa," or something, it sounds more ambiguous. And I should have differentiated better between the reality of him laying her back and the extrapolation in her mind that there's no way she could move if he didn't want her to. I promise, if my narrative skills were better, I'd have crafted it with a better sense of ambiguity.

The trouble is, I think there really CAN be ambiguous scenarios, and this is where the whole "You TOO could be a [buzzword removed for sake of rationality]" argument finds any foothold. If sexual assault, for lack of a better, kneejerkless, term, is even possibly a subjective experience, then things are necessarily uglier to extricate a comprehensive picture from. But I don't really, for the record, think that it's the best way to go about things teaching young men that they could potentially commit this horrible unthinkable crime. The problem is we go from framing the whole issue as a women's problem to framing the whole issue as the problem of the evil men, and if we don't find a rational middle road nothing's going anywhere.

But you can raise a(n otherwise) sane man to think that to go as far as forcing a woman into sex doesn't hurt her, or even go against the natural way of things or her own wishes and needs, just the way you can raise a sane man into any other social structures that we today recognize as abhorrent (watch out, this gets really touchy here, but the heightened terms are necessary, I think) - you can raise a nice boy to be a Nazi or a slaveowner, and if he never realizes any sort of conflict between his behaviour and being a good person, he won't believe there's anything wrong with what he's doing. If you're not familiar with them, check out the research of Philip Zimbardo or Stanley Milgram, and then try and compare that to any other systemized oppression, which is really what rape is. And with U.S. institutionalized slavery, the parallels get even more disturbing: metaphors of fatherly affection all through the rosy picture painted of the period by wealthy white slaveholders; images of how they "loved" their "children." It's not so hard to compare the privileged patriarchal sense that they were doing "what was right" for their slaves even if the slaves didn't know it or couldn't understand it to the notion that a man who presses a reluctant woman into sex is simply doing "what she wants him to do anyway" but won't or can't admit to. Oppression pretty much has the same hallmarks anywhere, and a whole lot of people have it in them to do the absolute worst to other beings because of some closed-system, self-perpetuating rationalizing ideology or other. And some of the rationalizations that permitted forms of rape to look okay fifty years ago or five centuries back - "she's just trying to fit the image of a Good (virginal) Woman, and since you're in on the game it's okay" is a big one where I come from - are, genuinely, still being taught to boys today. That's where I see the ability for us to stop the cycle.

I don't think I have a problem with anything you've stated here.

And I have no problem with teaching folks that they shouldn't take advantage of people or pressure people into doing things they don't want to, sexually or otherwise.

Honestly... if the original post that set me off had said something to the effect that, "People aren't taught that they too are at risk of taking advantage of someone, or accidently triggering a fear response, because the signals aren't always clear," instead of "People aren't taught that they too are at risk of being a rapist" then I never would have even commented.

I certainly follow. To such a degree it's bound up in the buzzword effect - "rape" gets used in a lot of places it ought not, e.g. even regarding some acts of BDSM-/ roleplay-/ otherwise nontraditional sex between consenting adults. How's that for confusing!?

Re: Prevention (Anonymous) Expand
  • 1