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Posts tagged ‘police’

Privilege 101: The Slant

Continuing on the topic of elaborating upon and understanding how privilege functions—as opposed to simply its effects—I wanted to talk a little about what I’ve termed “the Slant.” Part of how privilege behaves—the processes it uses to perpetuate itself as a vicious cycle—is a particular mental distortion inculcated within everyone growing up inside a power dynamic.

What makes it so insidious is that the Slant is entirely perception-based. The Slant describes two specific “cognitive biases” that are entirely based around the status quo: the reasonableness and trustworthiness of both the “empowered” and the powerless.

To clarify:

1. The “empowered” are:
a. Reasonable.
b. Objectively motivated.

2. The powerless are:
a. Unreasonable, irrational.
b. Personally or deceptively motivated.

Part A of the Slant is particularly important because the falsehood that humans are uniquely rational, reasonable beings, set apart from all other animals by a capacity for logical processes, is actually the freaking basis of human civilization.

It’s fairly obvious, given enough time and energy seriously dealing with other animals, that this is not the case: all animals have logical processes—they just aren’t necessarily based on sight-stimulus and technology the way humans’ information-gathering is. Animals come to logical decisions, like humans, but using different sets of information. Furthermore, animals only seem “irrational” if one is thinking of them specifically as not-person—as someone malformed because they were not born with a human interface.

And not to put too fine a point on it, tell me I’m the only bee in your bonnet the human concept of “logical” has always had quite a bit to do with whether or not you supported the status quo. Here’s where we get into the mind-boggling reinforcement of one oppression to another, which yes, means you support all of them if you are not vegan.

Women’s insistence that women were not inferior—not irrational, not child-obsessed dunderheads, not incapable of brilliance, not frail, needy histrionic cases—has always been used as an example of how women were inferior and irrational, and it still is. Evolutionary psychologists, MRAs, and trans misogynists use women’s belief that they are, well, people in order to argue that women are irrational. They’re delusional; they don’t get that we’re just the way we are because nature made us that way, which is not an argument for our extermination, somehow, but an argument against it and an argument that women should just, like, let us be evil. Women are just too stupid, self-absorbed, naive and idealistic to understand that the Kyriarchy exists because it is inevitable.

The fact that Black people did not want to be enslaved was used as evidence for how little they understood, and how much they needed to be “guided,” however brutally, by white people (men, generally). The fact that they didn’t agree that they were inferior was proof that they were inferior.

That fat people refuse to starve and emotionally torment themselves over the size of their body is evidence to the fatphobic, body-obsessive, carnist medical establishment that fat people just don’t understand how inferior they are. When fat people point out that any self-destructive endeavor would be fruitless—starvation, even with exercise, doesn’t work for somewhere around 98% of the population—they are assumed to be too stupid to understand “the facts.” Literally, fat people are expected to ignore the actual facts and embark on a terribly scarring journey of self-loathing—the more you agree that fat is evil and wrong, that fat is an indicator of a personal flaw, the more “rational” and “reasonable” you are. Surely we can all agree that you are weak-willed and immoral.

And today, too, if you are “mentaly ill” and object to the idea that you need to be institutionalized and “treated” into docility with psychotropic medicines—or if you and your others refuse to believe that integration is necessary in order to live a healthy and happy life—then it’s further evidence that you are just too mentally ill to understand you need to be controlled helped.

In our society, reasonable is a loaded word. It doesn’t take brilliance to see that.

Part B is simple but slippery, because it’s so easy for the “empowered” to wordle their way out of the claim. I can’t be responsible for what other people think of my motivations; are you implying my motivations aren’t pure? Yadda yadda, whine whine whine, what about teh menz/whitez/humanz.

But really, the best way to describe “assumption of motivation” is in terms of a good-faith/bad-faith argument. An assumption of good faith is the default: it’s reasonable to assume that a given human doesn’t mean you any harm unless you are given actual evidence to suspect otherwise—for example, the epidemic of rape perpetrated by men; the disenfranchisement of nonwhite people by white people; the abuse of animals by humans. It’s not unreasonable to assume that someone who was born and raised as an “empowered” person will be able or willing to see you as a person if you’re on the “powerless” side.

Bad faith is what is automatically attributed to those who are powerless, or who are fighting for the powerless. Their words are interpreted within the most unflattering meaning; on the other hand, when the “empowered” say bigoted things, they are defended and excused. Very often someone challenging the status quo is simply not listened to at all—my experience with trans commenters made me wonder, briefly but seriously, whether or not being transsexual actually impaired your reading comprehension. Simply by not agreeing, you can be accused of derailing or having impure, personally-motivated, bigoted motives:

1a. Animal experimentation has not brought about any serious medical advance; in fact, most medical advances have happened IN SPITE of animal experimentation and were slowed down by it instead of being helped. And in fact many diseases have afflicted humans specifically from their use of animals; it’s not good for humans, either.
1b. You care more about animals than humans!

2a. The gender dichotomy is fucked up. We should destroy it so that no one is gendered; then we can all be free to be people, instead.
2b. You’re transphobic! I worked HARD to be seen as a woman!

3a. Dude, what you just said is really racist; affirmative action doesn’t give non-white people an advantage.
3b. You’re just a reverse racist who doesn’t want to work for what you have!

And on a deeper level, the experiences and feelings of the powerless are unconsciously demeaned. Women are hysterical and overreacting about rape; women of color—people of color in general, but especially women of color—are “angry and militant” when they object to being alienated from a group (yes, as if it were undesirable); children and animals aren’t as complex or as rational and logical as adults, humans; and women who were forced to be “women” from the day they were born are just expressing “insecurity” about their “femininity” when they object to male-socialized people in their spaces.

Unreasonable. Hysterical. Irrational. Doesn’t know anything. Ignorant. Naive. Idealistic. Delusional. Doesn’t understand how the world works. Illogical. Emotional. Silly. Empty-headed. Airhead. Man-hater.

The Slant makes it impossible for you to know whether you agree with, or find persuasive or intelligent or competent, any “empowered” person because of the behavior/reaction sets they and you were indoctrinated into; similarly impossible to know whether your opinion of anyone on the “powerless” end—on the basis of age, race, sex, species, body shape, etc.—is based on your cultured filters of power or on who they really are.

No, scrap that: the Slant virtually guarantees that your opinion of anyone will be, in part, based on the place of power they are given in the Kyriarchy, regardless of how reasonable and logical you think you are.

And there are no easy answers. You can’t watch porn and pass out condoms to encourage sexual liberation; you can’t buy cage-free eggs and grass-fed cow products to encourage animal rights; you can’t put a Black or Asian person smack-dab in the middle of the photo amidst a group of white people and expect to be hailed as anti-racist or inclusive. You can’t decide that it’s okay for people to switch sexes in the gender binary, but not for anyone to object to the existence of a gender binary at all, and ever help anyone except the most privileged male-socialized people.

It is a long, hard, fucking cold road, and it’s one you have to take alone; there are no quick fixes. You can decide that every animal can feel and deserves not to be used as property, to be farmed; or you can give the fuck up and resign yourself to the fact that your unwillingness to dispense with the idea of property—with gender, with capitalism, with a “right” body to have, with the idea that sex can be power—has doomed everyone you claim to be fighting for. Because you are too fucking obsessed with getting yours to ever do anyone any fucking good.

Take people seriously. Listen to them; genuinely consider their experiences and feelings as valid; and don’t ever justify anything that is done to them in the name of oppression and power as “not as bad” as something happening to another person elsewhere.

Hard Work and Capitalism

I find it immensely amusing and tiring to talk with capitalists because they never actually hear what I say; it’s more like they’re continuing an imaginary debate with me than responding to my points. I have a pretty good idea that this is just a symptom of being too ignorant of capitalism to know anything about any other social system, but it’s still funny/irritating when they come out with one of my “favorite” points: you just don’t want to work hard.

I’ll save the capitalist vs. anarchist (and civilized vs. primitive) analysis for later. Capitalists claim that “hard work” is a virtue within capitalism; so success within capitalism means an abundance of “hard work” and failure within capitalism means a sorry lack of it. (You can smell the victim-blaming already, I know.)

Bullshit. Capitalists do not believe hard work is a virtue, because the reward system for “hard work” inside capitalism is the absolute opposite of what a capitalist ideal of “hard work” would look like.

Before I go on, think about what “work” means. It includes: producing a physical object, producing a physical state (cleanliness), and organizing people or things so that these two “production” states can be carried out most efficiently (therapy, management, etc.). What work does not include is socializing, because socializing is enjoyable.

The lower down on the pay scale you are—the less successful you are at capitalism—the less you are allowed to socialize, regardless of how it affects your ability to work. I’ve seen cases where managers have actually separated crews because they thought “socializing” was a uniquely anti-hard work evil, making it harder for them to get done in a certain amount of time, and still they refused to allow the crew to work as they did best.

But the higher up on the pay scale you are, more and more of your “job” is actually just socializing. You don’t “work” under the same definition; you eat lunch with someone.

Capitalism cannot value “hard work”—that is, a dedication to productivity that eschews social and personal needs in favor of more work—when the most highly-valued positions are the absolute antithesis of that same “hard work.”

It’s even more ridiculous to believe that capitalism values “hard work” when socioeconomic inheritance happens. Very, very few CEOs got to be where they are by “working hard.” Most got their job by being born to rich, famous, or powerful parents. They did not have to work hard—ever. Hell, there are very few lawyers who weren’t born into a place of privilege.

I’m actually gonna assert that within capitalism, “hard work” disqualifies you for a more highly valued position; it’s a disadvantage to be hard-working. The biggest reason is that, because hard work is so closely associated with poverty and capitalist failure, hard work is coded inferior by capitalism. It’s devalued because the people who are the poorest are expected to work the hardest, and because very often they do.

But another thing is that power within capitalism is also based on socialization—you get power by getting people to give theirs to you. And one of the simplest and most ridiculous part of any status quo institution is the circle-the-wagons reflex: protect yourself against any untoward implications by refusing to break ranks.

That’s more than capitalist, by the way—carnists do it (well sure that animal abuse is wrong, but I eat tasty animals and I can’t care if they’re abused because I want some cheese har har har!), pro-porners (well I can’t say anything about their clearly-unhealthy “kink” because I know mine is unhealthy too and I don’t want to draw attention to it), anti-feminists (first it was our right to rape, next time it’ll be our balls!). It’s pretty par-the-course for injustice.

I don’t think capitalists do it intentionally, but people who work hard and the people who take the most shit are shut out of higher-paying positions; once I had a friend working at a U.S. pharmacy/corner store who was fucking amazing at it and impressed the hell out of the district manager. This wasn’t weird; it was just how zie did zeir job. After three months of doing everything literally perfectly, though—and if you’re familiar with those shitty pharmacy/corner stores and their turnover rate, you’ll understand how hard it is—the assistant managers started whispering about how zie was trying to suck up into the position of manager. They found excuses to write zem up when nothing had been a problem before and, within another month and a half, they’d made the job so fucking unbearable zie left.

And this is pretty common; if you work hard, you’re seen as a threat and cut down to size.

So in reality, hard work isn’t a virtue of capitalism; it’s a mark of failure. The best thing you can do to succeed within it is cultivate charm and appearance and schmooze the hell out of powerful people in hopes that they’ll give you some of theirs. This has been how it’s been working for quite a long time—and they’ll have the gall to say women didn’t earn their way to the top.

Of course, the whole socializing thing is boring, because trying to pander to others’ prejudices is really annoying; and a low-paying job sucks because you have to take a lot of shit. I prefer actual work, upcoming.


This is not an issue that directly relates to any form of rights I’ve spoken about. It’s about boundaries, finding an ethical code that won’t tear you up inside with hypocrisy, and protecting yourself.

I was, like a lot of people, brought up to believe that honesty was one of the biggest virtues someone could ever have; at least where I grew up, kids were inundated with feel-good stories about “doing the right thing,” and not getting punished because they had the goodness of soul to stand up and proclaim The Truth. No, the world doesn’t work like that, which makes it an even shittier propaganda tactic to use on children, but the idea of honesty as paramount still looks awful good until you take a look at it in the context of reality—power, prejudice, inequality and defense.

Much like pacifism, the people most likely to benefit from widespread “honesty” are also the people least likely to have to practice it, because the power imbalance is heavily tilted to their side. The rich, the powerful, the white and the dickled have much less to lose from practicing (or not practicing) pacifism and honesty; there’s less of a line between a choice to do so or not to do so for them.

What’s the worth of a white person’s choice to be a pacifist in a society that does not target them with violence, inequality and disenfranchisement? It’s not like that white pacifist won’t be hurting the people of color who do suffer those things; they’re institutionalized. One white dude’s symbolic gesture of non-participation—especially while zie is still participating in other oppressions that highlight and entrench racism like capitalism, carnism, technocentrism, for a start—doesn’t do a whole lot to reduce the impact of racism on actual people. Not even talking about it will stop that shit; it’s not in your hands.

And what does pacifism symbolize to the power structure when taken up by a person of color, except a willing acceptance of victimization?

I’m not asking about the personal value of these beliefs, whatever they may be. I’m asking about what they do. I’m asking where these supposed “subversions” of the power structure become actual subversion, actual sabotage. Especially since I do want to enact violence against the power structure—I want to destroy it utterly. Again: I’m trying to chop down the tree of oppression. You don’t have to join me, but you had better stay the hell outta my way while I’m swinging the axe.

What effect does honesty have on the power structure? How does it help, or harm?

The first time dishonesty as a political act, instead of as simple self-protection, was driven home to me was when Aslan and I were homeless together, living out of a tent bought with the money I’d saved up as our last vestige of hope. We had an average income of $0/mo. I’m the black sheep of the family and have never had any kind of financial support from them; Aslan grew up on the streets under a welfare mother and zeir working-class stepfather was seven hundred miles away, assuming he’d be willing to help the kid he abandoned at four. No trustifarians we. So you can imagine how we got food. Not through a dumpster; they’re mechanizing them all nowadays. Anyway.

We ate better than we had in months, even walking a minimum of 30,000 steps every day. Not particularly because we got “a lot,” but because we managed to get enough. It helped that we’re vegan—carnist foods are much riskier to shoplift than anything else. Some karma thing, I dunno. But it struck me, the first time I went in with Aslan with a goal in mind, just how much capitalism has invested in imbuing this strange, distorted “honesty” into you: the entire structure of a corporate grocery store is designed to hide the underhanded shenanigans occurring on every level of the capitalist establishment while at the same time trying to make it so that you do not have the ability to hide anything from them.

And most of that attempt consists of psychological tactics. Most people don’t know not to twitch, to act as if you have a right to be there, and to do your best to remain as invisible, unforgettable, and impersonal as possible.

There is a direct line from one to the other here. You have to ask: who is profiting from these beliefs? In other words, who is profiting off of making you too nervous and guilt-ridden to ensure that you can eat, regardless of whether or not one of the upper caste will accept your petition to work? Because the answer is fairly clear. Instilling the belief that honesty is a necessity, even and especially when it harms yourself, in order for those who hold power over you to cement that dynamic straight into the ground.

Put another way: if you are honest, who is going to hurt you?

As a matter of policy, I don’t particularly believe that anyone is obligated to tell the truth when they are long the power imbalance. There are a few caveats to that—the consideration, for example, of whether or not you’re going to be directly hurting someone else by lying—but the rest stands. In many cases, I see lying as an obligation, such as with the quintessential “he went thataway!” misdirection of oppressors in search of a revolutionary. The only person you should ever make a policy of total honesty with is yourself. And maybe your best friend/long-term lover, but I’m pretty sure that requires negotiation. A lot of people start “opening up” and then take it way too far because they have no experience with what is an acceptable and desirable limit to that.

Question these social norms you are given at their premise. Why is honesty desirable? Why is pacifism? Why is femininity? Why is carnism? Why is nationalism? Why is the human race? Ask not just why but how—how are these things desirable, and whose interests do they serve?

Your ethical code needs to be informed of this, to be malleable, so that you needn’t sacrifice yourself to the power structure in order to live by your ethics, and so that you needn’t betray your ethics in order to protect yourself. Revolution is not an easy path to walk: you need to set aside a lot of your honesty for yourself, so that you will be neither willing nor able to tolerate or make excuses for yourself when you veer too close to being the kind of person you do not want to be.

Car Culture as an Additional Oppressive Strategy

I’m reading about and watching videos of the protests women are doing in Italy against Berlusconi’s ideology that women are there to be used as toys and entertainment. And while I’m doing this, I’m struck by two separate sensations: first, pride and excitement for the women who are taking to the streets to do this, and the community they share; then despair, because I know how unlikely this is in the U.S., how impossible it is even though it shouldn’t be.

How many protests would I go to if only I had the community for it? How many conferences would I attend if I had the money? How different would my life look if I had this many people who cared about their lives and the lives of others, enough to take to the streets as comrades?

And then a smaller, simpler problem: how would I even get there?

I realized this just now. My life is ruled by transportation: the presence of it, the lack of it, the accessibility of it and the extent of it. I’ve been discontent for a while now with being relegated to a second-class citizen because I don’t have a car (up here, “walking while Black” is just “walking, anywhere, at any time”), but I’ve never really grasped just how much of everything in my life that determines for me.

As a small child, my parents moved us to the suburbs because my mother didn’t want to live in the “bad” neighborhoods, the ones that happened to be walkable. The first neighborhood was fine, because it had sidewalks; but then my mother decided that she deserved a bigger house and we moved several blocks away, where there were no sidewalks and you needed to climb up and down several steep hills to get where you needed to go. I developed agoraphobia in that house—a painful anxiety that came up whenever I thought about going outside, because I couldn’t just roam: I had to go somewhere. Being outside needed a justification, a goal, because the neighborhood was constructed in a way that it became deeply uncomfortable to go anywhere without a car. This sounds like hyperbole—the few friends I had, all of whom were used to walking, came to agree with me: it was just too fucking much, especially coming from an abusive environment.

It’s even more of a disadvantage now that I live off minimum wage in an apartment complex meant for the poor and nonwhite who serve the rich. They are in every rich community—or just outside, anyway. It’s so fucking invisible that most people don’t even believe you can be poor and live in the suburbs. My $900/mo total living expenses say otherwise. (To repeat: I do not live with my parents. I have as little contact with them as I possibly can.)

I’ve already recognized that choosing a neighborhood where I would need to be completely dependent on her for transportation was part of my mother’s abuse, because it was deliberate and it kept me from getting away from her. But I’ve only just now realized that a lack of public transportation—they don’t even shovel the fucking sidewalks, for pumice’s sake—is in itself a form of abusive control, especially when combined with construction sprawl that places shelter, rest stops, food/water supplies and everything else very, very far away from each other.

The fundamental problem in having a community that shares my values is that, because of distance and transportation, I can’t. Because my mother decided that the suburbs were the only place safe and white* enough for her, I have even less ability to participate in the world around me than someone who lives in the city. I mean.

Holy fucking eruptions.

That’s all true as can be, but hold on a second. Let’s deconstruct this, U.S.-politics style.

The suburbs were rolled out as a way to make entirely white congressional districts, in addition to segregating money, whiteness and power away from the poor, nonwhite (and occasionally re-gentrified) city. By moving that power out into the suburbs, white parents were better able to terrorize their own children privately and maintain strict ideological control over their family and their surroundings—neighborhood covenants in the middle-class are swiped directly from the US/UK aristocracy. At the same time, the lack of transportation wasn’t an issue—1) because they were already privileged as hell and had little to lose from making it more difficult to participate in society-changing endeavors (which is to say, protests, or community); 2) because they had the power and privilege to buy cars, they weren’t as disadvantaged by such a move as anyone else would be; and 3) because proper adherence to family ideology would ensure access to wealth and cars.

Having power and privilege makes it possible to live a lifestyle that is otherwise completely unsustainable. Carnism is more expensive, resource-intensive and difficult to obtain without these things—unless, of course, you’re only eating imaginary animal products. Capitalism, because suburbanites practice it as oppressors instead of the oppressed, doesn’t really need anything more said about it. What the hell would I call this—suburbanism, carism?

Not that I believe that it’s an enormous, global oppression, because I don’t: it’s car culture. A facet of oppression, and oppressive in itself, but it is not a Big Ism. Nevertheless, isolation of underprivileged people and communities is one of the more covert and insidious forms of silencing in the world, and it’s more effective because they’re less likely to be able to overcome it. Even in Denver, this is at work too—the board of directors for the Regional Transportation District (RTD) is largely white, rich and male, and they have been systematically crushing public transportation services for the poor and underprivileged while simultaneously trying to extend more to the rich. They raise prices. They cut out stops so that it’s no longer feasible to walk. They make ridiculous route omissions (seriously, RTD? You can’t make a bus go by the fucking library?). They cut route hours and frequency. They cut routes—primarily the ones that serve the poor and the brown—under the guise of “low ridership.”

They’re trying to build a lightrail line going up to the fucking ski resorts.

This is silencing—by limiting the opportunities for underprivileged people to interact with the world around them without having to endure unnecessary discomfort and strain. By making it so that it is harder to live, on a day-to-day basis, and by sucking up what little money and time they do have to spare into a black hole. In the fifties, public transportation was systematically bought out and summarily dismantled by the automobile companies to make people dependent upon them. This isn’t to make the underprivileged dependent upon any company, though: it’s solely to maintain the status quo.

The only way someone can think of living without a car as privileged is if they themselves are privileged, because their own reliance upon cars is so normalized and invisible. Someone who cannot afford private transportation, like me, or who deliberately opts out of car culture, like me, has no privilege here. I can’t not walk. Walking is basic, and free—it’s not a luxury chosen only by those with the privilege to do so.

Even if I did have the ability to obtain and maintain an automobile, it wouldn’t be a privilege for me to choose not to. Deliberately choosing to live as minimally as possible is not a privilege—it’s a renunciation of it. And there’s a lot here to renunciate, clearly. I’m still only starting to grasp that.

*Which is even more appalling when you consider that my father was definitely not white in any way, shape or form. But of course, he was “civilized” and “educated” so he passed well enough, I guess.

News: U.S. Military Part of Rape Culture, Too

Rape culture is perpetuated by a vicious cycle. Institutional power (the police, the courts, the prisons, the politicians, etc.) does not take rape seriously and actively discourages any attempt to change that fact; everyday people, taking their cue from these institutions (and assuming, as they have been taught via compulsory “education”, that the institutions would care if it were such a big deal), enforce the same dynamics on the ground level; those everyday people then enter those institutions and proceed to do exactly the same thing. This is one reason, among many, that I am an abolitionist, not a reformist—because those institutions of power pose too great of a threat to freedom of thought and life.

But I’m going off topic. This post isn’t about that. It’s about the fact that the U.S. military also follows rape culture: they would rather sweep rape under the rug than actually punish rapists. As the articles say, more than a dozen female and at least one male current or ex-military are suing prominent Pentagon officials to try to force the hand of the military into actually doing something. Which, in case you haven’t caught on to that by now, they haven’t been: survivors have mostly been told to shut up and serve regardless—even then their attacker is in the same unit. Systematic oppression is the only kind of oppression.

Part of it is just that it is even more bizarrely taboo to socially reject or shun someone for being a rapist than it is for any other reason. Another part is that rape culture as a whole continuously trivializes the experiences of rape victims—they’re whiners, drama queens, etc. because rape is not supposed to be that bad. Rape culture does its damnedest to persuade everyone to look at rape from the POV of the rapist—the rapist is sympathetic, the rapist is calm, the rapist is objective. The victim is irrational, overemotional, out-of-control, attention-seeking, manipulative (count which other oppressed peoples those apply to as well—I can name a few). That’s the cultural narrative.

It happens everywhere, whether you’re male or female, young or old, on the brown side or on the white side, rich or poor. Rape victims are overwhelmingly more likely to be female—the notoriously conservative RAINN estimates that 1 in 6 women will be raped in their lifetimes, whereas the corresponding statistic for men is 1 in 33. This doesn’t make rape and sexual assault less important when it happens to men—it is unacceptable, anywhere, at any time—but it does provide perspective on why rape and sexual victimization are coded as feminine.

Here are some other articles: Scott Howard, an openly gay man, went to prison for moneymaking schemes and was repeatedly raped and extorted by 211 Crew—a well-known white supremecist group, then punished by prison officials when he reported it.

In 2010, a report was issued that stated about 12% of youth in juvenile detention in the U.S. reported having been sexually abused in the last year. Unlike in adult prisons, however, the ratio of abuse by inmate:staff was reversed—the majority of sexual abuse was perpetrated by staff. Indiana got called out by Federal authorities soon after because the conditions shocked even the investigators—and do you know how hard it is to get people who think prison is a good idea to admit something’s crossed the line?

At the G20 summit in Toronto last year, police repeatedly threatened to rape protesters in their custody, and they actually did sexually assault several.

Rape isn’t invisible: it’s just bled out and pale, less threatening. One of the reasons that transparency is fought so vehemently by these institutions of power—corporations, government and even colleges and universities—is that transparency shows that these problems are big, that they are endemic and of mind-boggling proportions. The idea that real rape rarely happens is part of rape culture’s trivialization of rape—because, abstracted into isolated instances, the implicit suggestion becomes unavoidable: go work on real issues.

Breaking News: Cop Sexually Assaults Woman, Media Calls it “Sex”

A British cop has been jailed for sexually assaulting a woman while on duty. Then he did it again once he was off-duty, just for good measure.

Which is more than U.S. cops get—I imagine that when some guy in the DPD does this, they throw him a congratulations party—but nevertheless, the case is still being referred to as “sex on duty.”

As far as I’ve been able to parse out, he went to this woman’s address on behalf of a “concern for welfare” call. The articles basically say jack shit about her at all. Fortunately, via Copwatch, I found that the “concern for welfare” call involved the woman being at risk of suicide. He went to “make sure she was safe” and ended up sexually assaulting her. I specifically say “sexually assault” because, repeatedly, the articles say he abused his position. That seems pretty clear-cut to me.

As you may have surmised, I have a serious problem with the way this is being reported, or I’d just have left it at “rar cops rar.”

1. Even though the freaking other cops said it was an “abuse of his position” and that he “took advantage of the situation,” it’s still being reported as sex, because the media has an anaphylactic allergy to rape, apparently.


If he took advantage and abused his power, then there was someone on the receiving end of it. But we never hear about her, ever—they throw around words like it was never done to anyone. Did he sexually assault someone, or did he masturbate? The utter lack of any mention of the victim strongly suggests that people basically think it’s more of the latter than it is the former.

Basically, the only way you could ever possibly see this as “sex” is if she “seduced” him. But dude, this is like, rule number one—unless you’re already in a relationship, boinking after someone tells you they want to kill themselves is a horrible fucking idea, right up there with “fucking the bereaved,” and consent is definitely up in the air. But more than the tastelessness of screwing around on the job, even if she did “seduce” him, is…

2. Why would having sex with her be this enormously horrible thing if it wasn’t sexual assault?

You get fired for having sex on the job. You get jailed for sexually assaulting someone on the job, especially when it has been made abundantly clear that the person you’re “having sex with” is not within four miles of their right mind, let alone capable of consent. Suicide distress calls—even “cries for help”—are made by people who are having serious emotional problems and do not feel that they are capable of making the right decision.

Also, I’m considering whether she started to go through with it and I’m getting seriously squicked out by the idea.

3. How unstable does a woman have to be before she’s considered to be nonconsenting?

Do you have to be drooling and catatonic or something? Because in the line of “gestures I am going to take as meaningful consent,” having someone threatening to slit their wrists and then wanting me to, uh, have sex with them is not exactly a top priority. Hell, it’s barely coherent.

4. Throughout all of this, the woman—hello, victim here, people—is rendered completely invisible. She was “had sex with,” although it’s abundantly clear that she was sexually assaulted. No mention of whether she’s okay. I’m assuming she was still alive when he came back off-duty. I don’t expect her name for obvious reasons, but I do expect a little goddamn concern for someone who is, for all intents and purposes, the victim.

Because when Michael Fletcher “abused his position and took advantage of the situation,” he wasn’t just doing it to the air.

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