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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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I don't believe that there is *any other* acceptable definition at all, because the term "rape" is far too serious to play games with the definition. It can't be *allowed* to have any other definition. "It's not *legally* rape, but it's still rape," is a viewpoint I find fundamentally dangerous. If people want to talk about things that might be "sort of like" rape, but aren't rape... then they need to use a different term. Rape is already taken.

Yet, to the best of my knowledge, "nonconsensual or forced consent sexual intercourse" pretty much IS the legal definition of rape (or as close as we'll get in broad terms, since minor details apparently vary by jurisdiction). If consent is forced (physically or otherwise), it's rape. If consent can't be given (due to incapacity of some sort), it's rape.

The problem I have with your argument is that... if consent was given without force, or threat (or various other things, like drugs, etc, that can prevent consent), then it isn't just "not rape" it's also not "nonconsensual or forced consent sexual intercourse". If a person agrees to have sex, and the other person didn't actively DO SOMETHING to MAKE them agree, then it's not non-consensual either. Before it can be non-consensual, there has to actually BE non-consent.

This scenario that some people have tried to feed me, where...
"Hey, let's get it on!"
"No, I don't feel like it."
"Aw, c'mon. It'll be fun." -gropes playfully-
"...mmmm" -slaps hand away-
"Please?" -gives puppy dog eyes-
"Oh, okay."
...equals a rape (or even non-consensual sex) is simply ludicrous, no matter what REASONABLE definition you want to use for rape (or for non-consensual sex).

Well, I think it's obvious we're not going to get any farther on this topic. I don't think I'm articulating my meaning very well but I've tried enough times that by now, I don't think I -can- articulate it, at least not without going to the corner and thinking for a good long time. If I figure out how to word my meaning so that it is more easily understandable and a better... er.. biohazard suit, then I'll let you know, but in the meantime I think we've hit a brick wall of understanding. One of us is missing the other's point and I'm not sure who it is or why.

Fair enough.

I am curious though (since we seem to have at least been trying to find common ground, despite our failure to do so, and that's actually fairly refreshing as internet discussions go)... Is there a particular part of my argument that isn't making sense to you? Is it the "rape can't be accidental" part that you're having trouble with? Or are you seeing a difference in the way we're looking at what constitutes consent, or non-consent? Something else? Everything?

If I knew what specifics are confusing you, I might be able to wrack my brain for a way to explain myself better. (I can even try to dial down the bluntness and hyberbole if it'll help - it's just the way I talk, not intended for offense, but I've been called on it before so...)

My #1 question for you would be, *do* you consider the example at the end of my last post (exactly as it's written mind you - no reading between the lines or expanding the scenario, just keep to the scope that's actually there) as rape? As emotional abuse? As sexual harrassment? Because the answer to that could probaly tell me quite a bit.

Or we can drop it here if you prefer. There is, of course, nothing wrong with two people simply disagreeing with each other

The problem for me is not that your argument doesn't make sense, but that we seem to be arguing about two different (but closely related) things and I'm not sure how to bridge the gap :/

I think our major disagreement comes down to the use of the word 'rape'; you think that there is only one definition, the criminal one, and that it shouldn't be used to mean anything else. I feel that there is both a criminal and a psychosocial definition of it, and that even though some situations are too muddy to be brought before a court, that to call it anything less than rape is insulting to the 'victim'. I think someone can be the cause of rape without being at fault, because even if the threat/force is only in the victim's head, they are still acting on what they perceive and they would not consent otherwise. In that case I think that the victim was the cause - but not at fault. Their issues were the cause. It was an accident. But, psychologically at least, they were still raped, and they carry away the same feelings and new issues that someone who was 'actually' raped would.

The answer to your question is that no, I don't think that it's rape. If it happens repeatedly (and the nonconsenting person took longer to give nominal consent) it would constitute emotional abuse. As it is, it is sexual harassment.

We can let it drop if you like, or keep going. I do enjoy debate, and having one with someone that doesn't default to ad hominems when they're frustrated is, as you say, quite refreshing, especially on the internet. I'm just sort of tired-in-the-brain due to other irl-type things going on so I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to keep up, but I'll do my best if you want to keep talking about this :)

Ah... it's good to know that you don't feel my specific example qualified as rape. That means that we can probably set aside the issue of relevant "pressure" as just working from opposite ends of a spectrum.

Hopefully my other novel-length post clears up some other view-point issues.

You do clarify a point in this post that also may help with agreement... the "psychosocial definition". Reconsidering it, I'm not opposed to that definition existing - so long as it's understood to be a seperate thing and it's not the basis for an accusation. I think it could probably be used as a means of addressing the issue for the victim (assisting with therapy, understanding, & such, perhaps), and in that way it may be valid. It might even be valid as part of a "couples' counseling" type discussion between the two parties, if that is appropriate in the particular situation. And, bottom line... nobody can mandate how another person *feels*. If they feel like they were raped, then they feel like they were raped, and semantics is irrelevant to those feelings, IF those feelings remain relatively private.

Where I have a problem is when this entirely subjective interpretation becomes public. I don't believe that the "psychosocial definition" is adequate for an *accusation* of rape, even if the difference in definition is specified. In other words, if Suzi *feels* that Bob raped her but didn't really mean to - that's not really harmful in itself (at least not to anyone but Suzi), and maybe it could help her deal with it and figure out how to avoid that in the future. But if Suzi starts telling people, "Bob raped me," solely on the basis of her own internalized feelings, when Bob didn't *do anything* to cause those feelings, then that's the point where I start having a real problem with it.

Does that make any sense?

Yep, that makes perfect sense! I think we're on the same wavelength now n.n

I definitely agree that there has to be a clear line for what you can use to accuse someone of rape and what you can't. I think our confusion stems from the fact that I was sort of talking about things from the point of view of the victim, as you say, subjectively, not from a point of view of an accuser - and I assumed you were as well. So I was a little bit upset thinking that you were saying you felt that there was NO WAY anyone could be justified in even THINKING they were raped unless it fell under the legal definition. Of course now I see that's not what you were saying at all, heh.

(Also, you should know that some absurd corner of my brain is giggling at the fact that I used 'Suzie and Bill' and you're using 'Suzi and Bob', haha.)

Whew... :)
I *knew* the subjective/objective disconnect had to be the source of the confusion. Well, that and my (apparently wrong) assumption that we were talking about accusations.

And hey... I remembered it was Suzi/Suzie... something. And "somebody whose name started with B". I was pretty close.

You were pretty close x)

Do you mind if I add you to my flist? Your writing is nifty and I'm always happy to have another non-irrational internet buddy 8)

Sure, it's fine with me. And I'm glad you like my writing. Though I don't know if I can really guarantee my continual rationality.

And I sure didn't expect, this time yesterday, that you'd ever want to associate with me in the future. :)

Being able to stay rational in a controversial thread is a pretty good indicator of overal rationality, in my experience, but nobody's perfect :P

Nor did I x) Here...


Better? 8D

Me again. Sorry.

I'm not looking to drag this out needlessly, so please feel free to respond or not, as you see fit. But I was doing some thinking on this last night (had one of my bouts of insomnia, and nothing better to do, so I pondered), and I think I've figured out where the cognitive disconnect is coming from.

It's not that I'm using the "legal definition" and you're using a different definition. I don't feel that a rape must necessarily be provable in court to exist (because when it comes down to one person's word against another's, real proof can be very hard to come by), so our *definitions*, in and of themselves, are not contradictory. I think the problem we're having is that I'm using an objective *determination*, and you are (I believe) using a subjective determination. (and I suspect that's the case with the other folks I've been butting heads with as well)

At that point it all clicks (at least for me). If I were to accept the premis that rape can be determined *completely* subjectively, then it would logically follow (since no two people can have the exact same subjective viewpoint) that one person could, theoretically at least, honestly believe that a rape occurred while the other person could honestly believe that it did not. So, based on that premis, an "accidental rape" could probably be *perceived* to exist. I still would suspect that its a fairly unlikely occurance (with, admittedly, not a whole lot to support that suspicion), but I could at least acknowledge the possibility. So I can wrap my head around the reasoning that could lead to the conclusions you've stated - and that seems like progress.

(livejournal is limiting my word count, so I have to continue below)

(continued from above)
Unfortunately for the hope of finding common ground, I cannot accept that premis. In fact, I find it fundamentally necessary to reject that premis. I don't believe that an accusation of rape should ever be made based *entirely* on subjective reasoning (please note that I do not reject the subjective viewpoint wholesale - rape is, I'm sure, a *very* subjective experience, and one that it *has* to be extremely hard to be objective about, by it's very nature. I just don't think the subjective side can be allowed sole standing in the determination). I believe that if the person being accused did not *actively do something* that could reasonably be interpreted as a means of force or threat (or other prevention of consent)... then a rape (as objectively determined) simply did not occur. There may have been a traumatic experience, a breach of trust, a horrible misunderstanding... but there was *no rape*. Not even if one of the parties involved *feels like* they were raped.

Now this stance may offend some people, and I'm sorry if that's the case. But this is not a kneejerk reaction on my part. This is a reasoned conclusion. I'm utterly convinced that the accusation of rape is far too serious to be made based on "misunderstandings" or "accidents" or unreasoned feelings. I've seen (more than once) what an accusation of rape can do. Even when the rape didn't really happen, even when the accusation is completely false, even when the accuser admits to having outright *lied* about it... the accusation *alone* has the power to *destroy someone's life*. The accusation alone, without criminal charges, without conviction, without even a connection to reality, is still *that* powerful.

Therefore I believe that before someone makes an accusation of rape, they need to be completely certain (at least in their own mind) that there was an *actual* threat, or at least something that could reasonably, objectively, be *interpreted* as a threat. Even in the absense of proof or compelling evidence, where the rape cannot be proven in court, there still at least needs to be enough substance to the claim to form a clear and reasonable "case" for rape. There needs to be *some* sort of solid basis for the claim before that claim is made. The accuser needs to be *sure*. If the person making the claim believes, themselves, that a rape was not *intended*... even if they have adequate reason to *suspect* that a rape was not intended... then making the accusation of rape is *WRONG*.

This is a hardline stance, and I'm aware of that. But it's a stance that I feel it is vitally important to maintain. I believe tha we (as a society) *have* to take that stance, because any other stance is far too dangerous. The stakes are just too high to allow subjective feelings, without some sort of objective reality to back them up, to determine rape. We *can't* accept the concept of "accidental" or "unintentional" rape, because maintaining the objective clarity required to determine *actual* rape is too important.

So that's what I believe. That's why I keep insisting that there is no such thing as "accidental rape", that rape cannot be "unintentional". That's why I keep insisting that it is simply impossible for a "good, decent person" to rape someone - because it *has* to be an active thing, not a passive thing. And that's also why I think even spreading the idea, spreading the belief in the concept, of "accidental rape" is both hurtful and dangerous to society as a whole. And hopefully this latest clarification helps folks to understand *why* I believe that.
(continued below again)

Don't get me wrong, though... Just because I think that some of the things we're talking about might not (under the objective criteria I'm using) quilify as rape, doesn't mean that I think they're "all good" either. There are lots of bad, horrible, tragic, and even evil things taking place in the world and many of them could be the result of accidents or misunderstandings. But rape is one, very specific, thing that should never, ever, be confused with something else - and it should never be viewed as an accident.

Now I'm pretty sure that lots of folks, even if they now understand where I'm coming from (which probably isn't a given, even yet), will still disagree with me. And I don't have a problem with that. I don't mind disagreement, *especially* if the person understands what they're disagreeing with.

Thoughts are still cascading, so I'll keep going. For my own benefit if no-one else's...

Let's make a comparison. Since rape is an incredibly serious crime, I'll use the only crime I can think of that I believe could reasonably be construed as "at least as serious if not moreso" (because I'm opposed to the idea of cheapening something like rape, even by comparison). The crime I'm going to use for my comparison is murder.

It is *impossible* to accidently murder someone. That's because murder has a very specific definition, a definintion which requires intent. If there is no intent to murder, there is *no murder*. It is, of course, possible to accidently *kill* someone, but that accidental killing is *not* murder. They have a different name for that, they call it "involuntary manslaughter". And there's an important reason for that difference in terminology, the same basic reason that I'm using in my argument about rape. The accusation of murder is too powerful to make, unless there's compelling reason to believe there *was* a murder. Same thing with rape IMO. So I feel we can't go around talking about "accidental rape" any more than we can go around talking about "accidental murder".

Now if there was a term to cover this concept of "accidental rape" that didn't have the same connotations as actual, intentional rape (though I can't fathom what that term might be)... then I probably wouldn't be so terribly opposed to teaching people that "everyone is at risk of being an involuntary ___(fill in the blank with our hypothetical term)___ist". I just think that, like the word "murder", the word "rape" is far too loaded to attach to the idea of being involuntary.

Hopefully that's it. And I apologize for writing a short novel about all this.

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