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What Men Aren’t Taught About Rape

If you are triggered by graphic descriptions of rape, self-injury and body horror, you may want to skip this post.

To put it bluntly, men are raised to be incredibly ignorant of rape. Male socialization systematically devalues the trauma and pain of rape and leaves those raised to be men painfully and insultingly misinformed on the subject. That’s not to say that men can’t learn—just that an understanding of rape, with all its irrational anti-patriarchy implications like empathy for the survivors, is not included in the syllabus.

What’s interesting, and infuriating—and will doubtless get me called a transphobe, again, because I’m not self-interested enough to selectively ignore the realities of a gendered society—is that male-socialized blindness to rape is only limited by firsthand experience. Which is to say, the ignorance and misunderstanding of rape is universal among people who have been socialized as male, unless they have directly experienced rape or empathy for a rape survivor, as a person—not as property or them-by-proxy. An adequate understanding of rape is not created by considering the theory of rape or by rejecting either stereotypical manliness or by identifying as a different gender; you can only grow one by either being a survivor yourself or by deeply caring for a survivor.

It’s been bothering me lately how flippantly men speak about rape, and how lightly they use it to refer to something without the concrete characteristics of rape; that’s why I’m writing this post. Rape 101, right here, folks.

I. Concreteness of Rape

The concrete reality of rape is this: first, that rape is committed by a specific person; second, that rape is committed against a specific person.

Any other definition of rape deliberately obscures what actually happens in rape. It does not “simply happen,” you aren’t walking down the street and trip over a rock and get raped. Someone does the raping. A rapist isn’t epheremal; there aren’t rapist particles floating around in the air, lurking around particularly sharp dips in the sidewalk.

When rape happens, it happens because a specific person is a rapist, or because several specific persons are rapists. This is part of assigning accountability—when several boys get together and gang-rape an eleven-year-old, they are rapists. They weren’t “drawn into” anything—they are rapists; without an actual, real, concrete rapist, rape does not exist.

The second part of that definition is the counterpart to assigning accountability: it’s assigning harm. Rape is experienced by a person; it doesn’t happen to no one for no reason. A person—someone who can feel and think and experience what is or was done to them—suffers rape, because that’s the meaning of the fucking word, and because the widespread misunderstanding of the experience of rape is what makes men so comfortable with using rape outside of an injustice, against a person, perpetrated by another person.

This is part of what I’d like to submit as a basic guideline for radical feminist questioning of atrocities:

1. Who is targeted? Who is suffering from it?
2. Who is committing the atrocity?
3. Who benefits from the atrocity—i.e., why is the atrocity happening? What use does it have to the Kyriarchy?

Too often, rape is spoken about—by men, but also by people being excessively gentle with men’s feelings—as if it’s this mystical woo-woo magical thingy that just kind of like, happens. “Rape is an epidemic in the Congo…” By who? Against who?

Because the concrete reality of rape, right now, in this universe—not the universe of The Spearhead or Larry Flynt or whatever—is that men rape, and it’s largely women, children, animals, transfolk, and disenfranchised men who are raped on the basis of not being male enough—which also means not being human enough, which also means not being worthy enough. It is an ongoing tactic of rape culture and rape apologists to obscure these realities of rape: who suffers from it, who is perpetrating it.

II. Men Speak Casually About Rape

K’naan, in the song My Old Home: Justice has been raped in my old home…

Emmanual Jal, on his album Warchild, has a song entitled Vagina. It speaks of how Africa is exploited and sabotaged by the Western, white world, but it appropriates sexual violence against women to fight racism… on the same album, Jal talks in Skirt Too Short about how the way women are or are not dressed magically makes him incapable of respecting them.

And have you heard Date Rape by Sublime? It’s a disgustingly upbeat song that describes a near-stranger rape, a rapist who admits he’s a rapist—”If it weren’t for rape I’d never get laid,” sez he (since, obviously, it’s so horrible and life-destroying to accuse a man of rape without his permission)—but never fear! The members of Sublime have no allegiance to such a silly thing as reality; his victim takes him to court and wins and gets him put in prison! And, as a final fuck-you to feminism, the end of the song has the (male, need I point out) singer gloating about how her rapist gets raped in prison, lolololol! Rape is so funny when it happens to people who deserve it! HOORAY EQUALITY.

Nine Inch Nails, too, joins into the fray when Trent Reznor sings in Animal, “you let me violate you/you let me desecrate you.” Of course, it’s really about pain and agony and obsessively needing someone—so sexual violence is really your only answer when you are trying to expressed your tortured manly maliness!

There are more, of course, from AC/DC to Led Zepplin, not to mention the entire genre of gore metal and the “romantic misogyny” of emo, but I’ll leave off the musical references with a shout-out to a classic: Rape Me by Nirvana. Sure, Kurt Cobain was never actually raped, but that doesn’t mean he can’t co-opt the soul-destroying violation for his self-important angst!

Literature is a goldmine of men speaking casually about rape, too.

In this one book I got a few years ago—I am honestly sorry I don’t have the name, but it was so forgettable that the few details I can recall aren’t nearly enough to find the title with—by some Eric Whatshisface manages to write a rape into the first few chapters of one of the few female characters he introduces, and the first native woman on a planet invaded by a species whose language is completely nonsensical when Eric translates it into English (for some reason he thinks having three letters in a row—like “tiiirn”—can work, ever). She gets pregnant from it, and is chastised for even considering abortion by one of the Great White Masters ultra-superior demigods of the invading race—I’m not even exaggerating—because he knows her better than she does.

This Ubermensch, who is masculine, tells her, “but bleeding was never enough, was it?” Implying that she should be thankful for being raped and impregnated, or that being raped and impregnated occured because of her mystical woo-woo womanliness. Because it made her “whole.” This is near the end of the book; strewn throughout are patronising lectures about why animals are not people—Eric has apparently never noticed that animals do change in personality over their lifetimes, which neatly ties off his justification of women not being people either. After that, he has another female character gang-raped and stabbed to death, by the man who raped the native woman earlier (main character’s love interest, naturally). Which is like, fine, because you never develop any emotion for her; she’s evil but she’s in love with one of her rapists, so it’s just another random act of violence against women. Just more to develop male characters as evil (rapist) or as good (rapist-by-proxy by forcing you to carry a fetus to term).

And who could forget good ol’ Chuck? Bukowski, the sainted fucking classic-writer, thinks of women literally as props: they reflect on men, are there for men, to tell the reader things about men, to be used to move men’s stories along. Sexual violence and sexual exploitation is merely a way to progress the story—barely even a fucking plot point.

And Julia Serano, whose Whipping Girl definitely qualifies as fiction, albeit of the likes of Ayn Rand, and who was raised and socialized to be a man, writes this:

When I was a child, I was sexually assaulted, but not by any particular person. It was my culture that had his way with me.

And one of my best friends, who survived several rapes throughout zeir life, shivered and snorted when zie read that. “That’s not how rape happens. That’s not what rape is,” zie said, pissed off that someone who’d never been raped could ever fucking be allowed to say that kind of shit.

Then there’s this: “Trans women are raped by our own bodies.”

You can only say things like this when you don’t understand what rape is… or when you want to trivialize the suffering of those most likely to be rape victims: women who were forced to be women. Which also includes FTMs. Because by the same standard—that no FAAB person “chose” to be a woman, they had that gender role forced on them—women are raped by their bodies, too. Or, if you’re going by the standard of severe body dysmorphia (which not all transfolk have!), fat people who don’t accept themselves are raped by their bodies; people with eating disorders are raped by their bodies.

No. Rape does not occur without a perpetrator. It does not merely happen.

And how many of you have not heard this from men (or have thought this about rape)? Shere Hite, The Hite Report on Male Sexuality, published accounts of men who said they wanted to be raped on pages 794-5. Here is one example:

I have not been raped by a woman yet, unfortunately. But I am patiently waiting for such a moment because it would make me feel sexual if I caused a woman to attack me out of lustful desire. Female motorcycle gangs seem to fascinate me. If I were in a large city where female gangs existed I would like to flaunt myself in hope of being raped. I have not sexually attacked a woman and never plan to.

I chose to display that one specifically because it’s so difficult to justify it as “just a fantasy.” He clearly believes that rape would be a sexual action, and far beyond the idea that men can’t be raped because they “want it” all the time, it’s actually very telling in terms of what men believe about rape victims. That rape is sexually pleasurable; that you are “begging” for rape if you “flaunt” yourself (as defined by what could possibly turn men on—which, as far as I can tell, is basically anything); and that rape is caused by sexual desire for someone, instead of an inability or unwillingness to understand that no one owes anyone the use of their body, whether for gestation or experimentation or orgasm.

George Carlin, whose death I am not particularly saddened by, thought that anything was funny—even rape. Rape just needed the right target to be funny, like an old man. Of course, George Carlin wasn’t raped; it could be funny to him because he never had any reason to know what rape actually was.

Then, of course, there’s the fucked-up shit that went on with PennyArcade. Recap: two white men made a rape joke. Rape survivors thought this was inappropriate and callous and said so. The two white men complained about censorship—which is quite an interesting claim when you are actively behaving in a way that will silence already oppressed people—and along with more white boys, but not only white boys, commenced the twisting of the knife to show how badass they were. Also cue one hundred bazillion dudebros and dudebro-identified women mansplaining why the joke wasn’t about rape, it just used rape as a way to make the joke funny. Yadda yadda, the survivors got death threats and rape threats—but threats and silencing only started mattering once the two white men got ’em. Then it was all like “hey yo, truce man, back off” and everyone forgot about it except for the survivors who now irrevocably knew they were not safe or supported within their community.

And Palaverer believes that rape does not matter when it happens to women when zie says:

[T]he abuse transgender individuals suffer…is, statistically, far, far higher than what women collectively suffer.

Because those who identify themselves as transgender make up, at best, 10% of the population; those raised to be women make up 51%, of which every one out of three will be raped, sometimes more than once. Not even if every single transgender individual was raped would that statistic hold any kind of water. The only way you can claim that is if you do not believe rape—a violation overwhelmingly directed at female-bodied people, and even more overwhelmingly young female-bodied people, and even more overwhelmingly young lesbians—is as bad when it happens to women.

When Julian Assange was arrested for rape—several months after the reports were filed, just in case Swedish women didn’t understand that their country hates them—Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann deliberately and intentionally lied to discredit the women accusing him and the validity of their charges. Assange’s own lawyer lied and said that he was being charged with having sex without a condom, which is a crime in Sweden (except, not); that he was charged with “sex by surprise”—which is, you know, rape, because if someone doesn’t consent then you’re raping them.

Assange’s lawyer made fucking rape jokes on TV; Assange claimed that he was being personally persecuted and oppressed by “the Saudi Arabia of feminism.” And yet I am still expected to be “reasonable,” to not necessarily believe that he is a rapist, when he has shown every indicator—masculine outrage, a fondness for rape culture, a putrid contempt for women’s concerns and wishes, and hatred of feminism—of being a rapist.

Men fictionalize rape in ways that do not even begin to grasp at women’s experience, or in ways that specifically reject women’s experience as ridiculous in favor of what a man thinks rape should be. Men speak casually about rape because they don’t understand it: they may use it to refer to something horrible, but the vast majority of the time they trivialize the experience of rape by stereotyping why it is horrible for women. And honestly, it’s almost worse.

Oh yeah, rape is horrible ’cause, like, you can get pregnant. ‘Cause you’re not a virgin anymore—you’re dirty and used up and since women are objects, not people, nobody will want to buy you from the store and you’ll end up getting put on the discount rack to be bought by some cheapass uncle for his nephew that he doesn’t really care about. ‘Cause you feel like you cheated on your owner husband/boyfriend/predestined Mormon Vampire Soulmate. ‘Cause you can get a VD. ‘Cause you can have, like, physical discomfort (getting torn up).

Look at those reasons. Look for the pattern within those reasons. They’re shallow, sure; they’re fucking awful. But there are two common threads within male socialization of rape culture on Why Rape Is Kinda Sucky For Girls. Do you see ’em yet? Secret fucking eye, c’mon now.

All those reasons revolve around one of two things:

1. Men.
2. Physical pain or inconvenience.

And that doesn’t even begin to cover it.

III. Rape as an Experience

I speak as a survivor of rape.

When I was raped at the age of eighteen, by a man in his thirties who had informally expressed interest in hiring me, I barely registered what was happening. Sometimes I think that the realization of what was going on would have been so intensely painful that my mind refused to acknowledge it; I dissociated automatically, instinctively. I can still barely remember it, the same way I can barely remember my worst panic attacks—I get the gist of what happened, I remember a few details in an indistinct way, but I can’t dredge up anything more. I don’t want to dredge up anything more.

I remember that he had a green wall hanging and that he offered me one of those disgusting Sunkist sodas before he took my pants off. Why do I remember that? I can’t fucking remember how my body felt when he raped me, for Pele’s sake; I just went completely numb, like I wasn’t really there.

I got dressed and went home and he contacted me again for a second interview, which I went to, of course. He told me he didn’t think I’d be a good fit and gave me his private cell number and told me to call him if I “ever wanted to meet up again.” I don’t even know what I thought about it at the time or what I did with it, but two years later I found it in my closet and gave myself a thick scar on my right wrist; I lit it on fire with a lighter and set it on the back of my wrist and kept relighting it, letting it smolder out against my skin.

I thought I was fine. When I figured out that I’d been raped, I felt almost relieved—like, I was one of the strong ones; I didn’t want to curl up bawling in the shower, the way men write rape victims on Law & Order SVU. But at the same time that fucked me up—the idea of rape victims, I mean—’cause I never really recognized on any kind of deeper level that it was rape, and that it fucked me up really bad. I just thought that because I wasn’t one of those victims, that it didn’t really mean anything for me—sure, it was technically rape, but it clearly wasn’t real rape because I didn’t completely fall apart, you know?

It took me four years to figure out that the little terrors—my inability to cope with being watched while eating or drinking, my incessant urge to start stripping off layers of my skin, my need to purify something from my body (hair, lip skin, fingernails, toenails, dandruff, hangnails, skin tabs, pimples)—were actually symptoms of PTSD. The ways my mother had abused me had been so thorough and desensitizing that I had trouble noticing that I was upset, panicky, anxious, triggered, that a lump was forming in my throat, that the urges I felt weren’t just urges. I’d long before dissociated emotionally; by that point I was almost completely incapable of recognizing that I felt anything except “fine” and “bouncy” and “angry,” let alone being able to name or explain the sensations. I thought I was strong; I was just fucked up.

Even now I can’t even go around one of those stores without getting the nerves; I all of a sudden just get antsy. I bite my nails until they bleed; I pull out hair by the roots and pick out dandruff until my scalp bleeds; I run my hands over my upper arms and neck, looking for something to grab at, scrape out or off. If you saw me doing it you’d think I was just jumpy; I act the same way abused dogs do when they get anxious or triggered. A lot of erratic movements and watchfulness, a lot of wary edginess.

But even that doesn’t provide any kind of glimpse into what my life became. I became a raw nerve: seemingly random shit triggered me and after I got triggered once, it would last for days or more and then everything would trigger me.

And now I need to stop and explain something.

When rape survivors speak of being “triggered,” we aren’t talking about being upset or angry or depressed or anxious or offended. To even begin to grasp what being triggered means, you need to understand what rape does to you: it destroys your protection, the line between “you” and other people, the silhouette that distinguishes within from without.

You can picture it more vividly by using one of Aslan’s metaphors: take a human being and peel it like a banana.

Skin is symbolic to a human, in a lot the same way that claws are to a cat: protection, security, safety, identity. It holds you together—makes you distinct from the rest of the world. Andrea Dworkin wrote specifically of the preoccupation of male writers with skinning as a part of sex in Intercourse. They thought it made you more intimate, unable to hide, completely open to your lover; they’d also never been raped.

Being triggered is the sudden overwhelming recognition that you have no skin. It’s not that you’re naked. You have no skin. You have no protection from anything; you are not you; you are not anything except horrible fucking roiling pain and terror and horror. Cut yourself with a knife and pour lemon juice and pat garlic on the wound and that sensation is your entire body and soul.

You become suddenly and unavoidably aware of how shamefully vulnerable—at risk, in danger, threatened—your body is, and you could almost feel pity for the pathetic, defenseless thing except that it’s the thing allowing the rest of you to be threatened, too. You want to scratch your skin off, you want to destroy your body—you want to get the fuck away from this trap that’s so transparent and weak. Your body is a trap that forces your mind into a constant, stinging contact with the world, and there are times when you feel like you’re literally going out of your mind; you’re breaking out of your skin and you contemplate suicide just to free yourself from your body, because through the interface of your raped body the entire world is just one overwhelming violation.

It’s not romantic. Men have a tendency to believe that vulnerability is romantic, sexy, intimate. People who’ve been trained to get off with BDSM tend to do the same thing—to glorify danger, being at risk, being helpless. But this is something entirely different from the vulnerability they adore: in sex, there’s no risk involved because you are sharing, not having something taken from you. Feeling as though everyone can see inside you—that you’re transparent—and knowing that they see something ugly and painful and horrific because that’s what it feels like inside you—is not sexy, not romantic, not hot, not intimate.

And at first I was oblivious—barely, in the way that you kind-of sort-of know but not really—that I felt this way. I’d go through entire weeks feeling vaguely on-edge in a way I couldn’t place, uneasy—not wanting to be bothered but not wanting to be left alone—and I’d stay inside all the time because it felt like everyone was watching me. Not that they were; I just had the unshakable conviction that there was something horribly fucking wrong about me and that everyone else in the world could see it. And I wanted to deal with my pain on my own—I was never comfortable with sharing my feelings with my parents; my father traveled and my mother always managed to make me end up feeling humiliated and inferior for ever feeling anything except “fine.” I’d learned by the time I was six or seven never to confide in her. So feeling skinless—see-through, unprotected, unsafe, insecure—reinforced the idea that sharing any negative feelings with other people would inevitably end up making me feel worse than I’d started out.

I never admitted it to anyone, except my best friend and roommate, Aslan, and then it took so long because zie’d been so horrifically fucking abused that I thought claiming rape would be pretentious—I clearly didn’t suffer like zie did. This is the first time I’ve written about it in detail, ever. It hasn’t gotten better with time; I’ve just learned better tricks, ones where I can ignore a minor trigger in a way that makes it not bother me.

The physical sensations are often the most minor part of rape, especially in the face of emotional turmoil so intense that it actually manifests as physical agony; more than once I’ve woken up in the middle of the night because my entire body was cramping from the tension. It is a peculiar sensation, feeling like it hurts just to be inside your head. It is even more peculiar to be waiting for the crosswalk to turn and suddenly you find yourself seriously considering stepping out in front of a passing car, automatically making calculations on which car will be able to best kill you based on its speed and size. Looking around to make sure no one’s watching you, because you feel like everyone is constantly looking at you, consuming you because you haven’t got any kind of distinguishing line between you and the rest of the world. Punching the wall to make yourself feel the pain because it gives you something to center on and ignore the way your nerves jangle in warning and alarm.

But that’s not what men are taught about rape.

It’s a lot harder to say the things that men are allowed to if you know what rape is: after all, you’re a target.

Trans Misogyny

Only one kind of “trans misogyny” exists: misogyny encouraged and perpetrated by trans individuals and the trans community, of which many infuriating examples may be seen here.

Those who bother to understand gender theory, and who are not misogynistic gender essentialists who believe that a gender role is something inborn but something socialized, understand this. When an MTF is attacked for daring to break the rules of the gendered world, it is not an act of terrorism just against trans individuals; it’s an act of terrorism against all women, everywhere.

Trans individuals do not suffer some super-special form of trans oppression: they suffer from gendered oppression.

You know, as in being forced into a gender role from birth; as in being forced and expected to take on a fucking mass-produced personality that never allows you to express who you are, ever, because if you fail, if you trip and fall and show that you’re actually a real fucking person instead of a jendah—if women do not live up to those expectations, they face a very real threat of violence.

Physical violence. Emotional violence. Sexual violence. Economic violence.

Radical feminist women are not cis-anything, and if anyone trans actually bothered to read their real fucking words, they’d know why: radical feminists do not “feel” like women. They were forced to be women. They were forced to be a non-person, because of how their genitals looked when they were born. And radical feminists recognize this and explicitly reject the idea that a feminine mask—or a masculine one, for that matter—is natural and can, or should, be assigned based on your biological sex, no matter how long its hair or how pretty the dress.

There is nothing happy or privileged about being forced into a fake persona, a stereotype that confines you and prevents you from being who you really are: a person.

I would have liked to think that trans individuals and the trans community—given that the basis of trans rights is, after all, the idea that you shouldn’t be forced into a gender role you don’t fucking identify with!—but sadly, I’d be wrong to do so. The trans community seems hellbent on the idea that women somehow benefit by being forced into a gender role from birth, let alone the gender role that is on the oppressed side of the dichotomy.

Somehow, what’s oppressive to trans individuals actually ends up being a privilege when it comes to women who were forced to be women, who didn’t choose it, and who are fucking fighting the idea that any person should be gendered instead of merely being allowed to be a person.

Somehow, when trans women are attacked for not being gendered well enough, it’s a trans-specific crime. Because clearly, women are never attacked for being “too masculine;” they’re never raped or assaulted for being lesbians, or just for not slavishly devoting themselves to “empowering” themselves with the dick of every man who even thinks about fucking them. Because, clearly, when a trans woman is attacked, it’s not a gendered crime anymore, even though it’s all about gender—transition, passing, gender coaching, and internal identity—because it happens to a trans individual. Like women don’t know that would happen to them, too. Like women don’t fucking know that the wages of disobedience to the gender dichotomy and the sexual hierarchy are violence, rape, servitude and death.

Somehow—to use a veganized turn of phrase—what’s sauce for the parsnip isn’t sauce for the potato.

And somehow, when trans individuals claim that their oppression is a special kind of oppression that isn’t oppression if it’s forced on people born into a female body, I’m not supposed to make the connection between this argument and the ages-old misogynistic argument. I’m not supposed to be irresistably reminded of men arguing that rape isn’t as bad for women as men because the rapes women will endure are too much like everyday sex to really be rape-rape; arguing that it’s fine for women to be emasculated—to be disempowered and disenfranchised—because they’re, like, not men; arguing that it’s fine for women to be treated in ways that are atrocious for men to be treated—because men and women are different. I’m not supposed to think of Ili, one of my friends who’s an FTM, who was told that he was a feminist because he hadn’t started taking T yet and still had a “woman brain.”

I’m not supposed to see the connection from that to humans and animals, the way that an atrocity against humans is somehow no longer horrifying or atrocious when perpetrated against animals… or remember the words of white supremecists claiming that slavery was fine for Black people in a way it wasn’t for white people… or hear sizeists speak of how emotionally torturing and brutalizing people who happen to be fat is justified because there is something fundamentally inferior to having a body that is a different size…

Men, after all, are real people; women are not. And humans are real people; animals are not; whites are real people; nonwhites are not. I am not supposed to connect this; I’m not supposed to translate the vitriol directed at radical feminists and forced-to-be-and-raised-as-women as, “Trans individuals are real people; women are not.” Recognizing the patterns of oppression makes me transphobic; refusing to agree that transfolk suffer some special kind of oppression that doesn’t touch or frighten or reinforce the bonds’ of forced women and refusing to excuse transfolk when they employ victim blaming—women are just natural rape victims, didn’t you know?—I’m fucking transphobic.

Right.

This is the line. If you don’t believe that gendered oppression is worth fighting, not on the basis that there are some “real people” who want to be gendered at the opposite side, but understanding that the very assumption of gender at all in our society is the basis of your oppression, then I don’t want to be your ally. Because if you aren’t willing to fight gender—as something that boxes people regardless of how they feel and who they are—then you don’t have any interest in actually ending oppression; you just want to get yours.

So get out.

White Privilege is a Thing

As much as I enjoyed this post by FAB Libber—an excellent takedown of how transphobic hate crimes actually have to be motivated by transphobia—I read through the comments and I cringed, again, at something I’ve seen repeatedly from white feminists of radical and non-radical stripes.

Any privilege that a woman has is bestowed on her by the individual or group of males she ‘belongs’ to, and can be taken away in a heartbeat.

… Specifically referring to white privilege.

Now, I want to make two things clear:

1. I am not “calling out” FAB Libber; she just sparked the thought process leading to this post, and not in a bad way. I mean this absolutely respectfully; I liked most of what she had to say, this subject just itches.

2. I agree that misogyny is the commonality between all women worldwide, even the very privileged who don’t think they experience any oppression or bias, and that women of color have their race used misogynistically against them and their sex used racially against them.

Privilege can best be conceptualized not as an object or substance, but as a set of behavior and reactions. There are two sets: “empowered” and “powerless,” that is oppressor and oppressed, because it takes some blinders to miss the fact that the “empowerment” of fun-fems is about making the oppressed into oppressors and pretending it’s all “individual choice” so that the systematic nature of oppression is obscured, not about actually eradicating oppression.

It is not inborn, regardless of what many misogynistic transsexuals would have you believe; if you swap and raise a child at the other end, they develop the “powerless” set of behaviors and reaction. The sets are learned, and very deeply; you also do not suddenly lose your set if your appearance changes. Many MTFs are, to put it politely, confused about privilege, mostly because they (like 99.9999% of men) don’t want to face the reality of their privilege—that it is not dismissable by being hurt or exploited at any point in your life; that is not canceled out by some other oppression; and that any recognition of it and attempt to counteract its effect is not somehow “oppressing” you.

That’s because privilege is not some kind of substance floating aimlessly in the air, just kinda hangin’ out bein’ malicious and crap; the behavior/reaction sets you learn from being socialized as empowered/powerless is the enforcement arm of the Kyriarchy. Behavior will out. The powerless are socialized to be deferent, meek, excessively respectful and polite, to keep their head down; the empowered are socialized to be aggressive, arrogant, sure of the objectivity and rightness of their own worldview, the superior quality of their suffering.

The behaviors of the “empowered” are calibrated to induce passivity and fear (specifically, fear-based passivity) in the powerless; their reactions are designed—perhaps not consciously, but viciously nonetheless—to reinforce the fact that the “empowered” poses a threat to the powerless, and to rub their face in it.

The behaviors of the powerless are mainly reactionary; they’re harm-reduction. “Powerless” behaviors are damage-control responses to a threat; a system that institutionalizes and legitimizes very real, very dangerous choices given to the powerless. Speak nicely to the man/white person/police officer; they have the ability to seriously fuck up your life if you aren’t polite enough.

And, of course, a large part of the set socialized into the “empowered” is simply to take this deference, this excessive politeness, this fear based on a real threat, and see it as default—as baseline. So that when they are not being deferent, excessively polite, agreeing with your superior knowledge, letting you into their spaces regardless of how uncomfortable you make them, you—the “empowered”—will see them as rude, bigoted, castrating, unfair, shrill… misandrist, “reverse racist” and transphobic.

I find it incredible that someone could possibly conceptualize privilege as some abstract thing that is based solely on appearance or some wishy-washy, internal “identity,” but somehow I’m not surprised.

The first MTF who ever commented on my blog invaded my space(poorly, since it is the internet); zie posted one over-the-top comment insulting me, and when I hadn’t posted it in the next few hours (since, you know, I have a life), proceeded to completely flip zeir shit and post eight successive comments, some of which were just copy-pastes of the original comment and two of which were just “GET UP STAND UP” one-liners about how zie wouldn’t let me quash zeir right to… post a comment on my blog!

The same person also asked me whether I understood what male privilege was.

Lest I fail to mention the similarities between the two, I have also experienced similar incidents from MRAs. Those people also completely lose their shit when someone in the world shows signs of disagreeing with them, and attempt to do the internet equivalent of shouting you down, because they can’t just loom over you and threaten you into silence that way.

The person who insisted that, because of zeir transsexuality, zie did not have male privilege acted with male privilege. Because that is what privilege, fundamentally, is: it means you get the right to bully others into acquiescence.

Because they fear you. Because you are a threat, and your behavior—not your appearance—is the primary indicator and proof of your ability to hurt them.

That’s how privilege functions and continues; that is the process. Privilege is not some mysterious woo-woo magical stuff that, like, sometimes you have but sometimes not; it’s a conglomeration of behaviors.

They are designed to produce the appropriate effect: submission.

And it’s universal to all power dynamic schemes. Adults intimidate and pressure children into obedience with the threat of hurting them unless they acquiesce; men do the same to women, and this doesn’t necessarily change when the former takes hormones or looks like the latter, since privilege does not have a biological fucking basis; thin people do the same to fat people; and white people do the same to non-white people. Humans do the same to animals, but animals aren’t necessarily expected to participate in their own oppression (they’re too stupid to see how superior humans are, after all), and anti-human supremecist humans will do just as well as a target.

So it seems unnecessarily obtuse to declare that privilege is something you just magically lose when you decide you don’t want to be part of a privileged group anymore, or because you “never really agreed with privilege,” when you still act like an oppressor. You still act arrogantly; you still act like you have the right to define the lives of a group of people whose oppression you weren’t socialized into; you still act like you have the right to be listened to above and over them, because you decided you are one of them and you think you have more right to decide who belongs in their group than they do; you still mistake the emotional upheaval you experience from being rejected from that group as de facto evidence of oppression.

And even more, proclamations that you don’t “really” have privilege, that you never really, like, had power because these other oppressors have more and they don’t like you—things like that seem to me to be very little more than a clear indicator that you do have privilege, but that you’re refusing to consider your own behavior. Because you enjoy, far more, being automatically listened to, and privilege warps your worldview enough that you can’t see clearly within it.

Privilege is not something we need to fight each other about; I think that “calling out” and aggressively confronting people on their privilege is counterproductive. And there are easier ways to address privilege internally—though not so much on the internet. Fucking listen to people; treat them with basic fucking respect; genuinely consider their experiences and feelings valid and important; and actively reject the urge to turn and listen more closely to someone with power—an adult, a pornographer or pimp, a vivisectionist or farmer, a thin person, a rich person, a white person, a man or someone who was raised to be a man.

In other words: if someone experiences their own life, they get to be treated like a person.

That is the only way you can fight privilege on a massive scale; humans are, after all, social little buggers, and they’ll imitate each other without really knowing what the hell they’re doing. Behavior, in that way, is contagious; if you treat people with gratitude and respect, and not like property, those around you will follow suit.

Guest: Transactivism Shames Me

This is a post by a friend of mine who wrote this and asked me to post it, as he has no blog of his own.

I’m a half-Mexican, gay, F2M living not to far from a major city in the southwest right now (it’s NOT in California though, so don’t think I’m from San Fran or some gods forsaken place like that), and I’ve been able to spend most of my life passing as male until recently when I became waaaaaay to poor to afford the rather expensive habit of passing. I’ve got more curves than a mountain road, and there’s not a binder on this green earth that can work for me, so unless I’m willing to spend the big bucks that I don’t have there’s no hope for me really. And than of course my boss is Mormon and Chinese so if I wanted to pass as male I’d have to find me a new job ASAP, and at 22 with only a GED in the middle of a recession the odds aren’t looking that great.

But of course you never hear these things from the Trans-Community, because right now it’s all about the cock; who has one, who wants one, and who wants to get rid of theirs. It’s all about passing, and how horrible is it to have/not to have a cock. Every time I go on to a message board or got to a trans-community type deal all I hear is cockcockcockcockcock. And Okay I would like one, and I won’t lie and say I’ve never pulled down my pants to pee expecting my little buddy to be there, and phntom penis issues are a huge thing for me, but if this is a community where’s the support and discussion that’s supposed to happen?

Instead what the Trans-Communtiy really means is Macho F2M’s blaming everything on T and “just being a guy LOL” to M2F’s playing the opression olympics with the same feminists who used to back their causes when they weren’t trying to force the non-issues. Yes I just blamed the M2F’s for their own stupidity, sue me you’ll get a dog brush, maybe the Husky mix it’s used on and that’s about my collective worth right there, since at $10 for the brush, and $70 for the dog those are the most expensive items I own.

I’m neither of those so the few times I’ve been to trans-only spaces in real life I’ve either felt uncomfortable due to everyone holding classist and mysoginistic ideologies, and insulting me for not (too young, well I’m not on T yet so I’m still thinking with my WOMAN Brain, etc…), or they’ve been all M2F and I was the one always getting questioned about EVERYTHING I did, basically it was like being a woman in a room of men.

And really that’s the problem with the trans-community, it’s been taken over by a bunch of bigots claiming opression, and how they’re opressed more than everyone, and how no one understands so anyone claimning to be opressed is a bigot. You’re a racist if you claim that Native American are more likely to be raped and/or beaten than an M2F, you’re a misandrist if you say that those raised as boys and men feel and act like they are allowed certain privileges because that’s what culture does to you, and you’re a ugly man hating lesbian feminist, who’s also a gender essentialist if you think that the gender dichotomy is socialized and not natural. EVERYONE IS A BIGOT BUT ME!!!!!

Now let’s not mention that it’s really rather gender essentialist to say things like “The women who took on men’s jobs during WWII were trans men.” or saying that you were born a specific gender and that you can never be anything but that gender and it must be either man or woman, exclude all the many other forms of gender and is thus gender essentialist. And then of course there’s the whole homophobia thing even though us transpeople love to invoke the LGBT community whenever we want to say how bad our oppression REALLY is. Oh and than there’s the fun fact that most M2F’s will call themselves feminists while saying all of this.

And a big gripe of mine as a transman is that everything boils down to the M2F’s and those who support them. the F2M’s that get a voice in the community agree with the M2F’s who we are supposed to believe form the bulk of the community. And really how can you doubt that M2F’s don’t form the entire Trans-Community when every message board and trans-group you go to is dominated by them and only a small minority are F2M’s, and they’re the only ones that go onto T.V. and talk about how scary it is to be a transwoman (because women never feel the same fear, the fear of a man raping and beating you is only for transwomen), and they’re the ones gay men and straight men gawk at and talk to? M2F’s are the ones that get the acceptance of the popular vote and they are the ones you have to brown nose to if you want to be accepted as liberal and progressive, and open minded.

But of course they are the oppressed ones. They are the ones who go to feminist blogs and tell these women they are wrong on the female experience and that they are the right ones, and that they are the ones who make the issues for the Trans-community. The Trans-Community is fighting for the right of M2F’s to go into women’s bathrooms so they can avoid being hurt by men, but the only advice they have to F2M’s is that they should pass better or use the women’s bathrooms. It’s the transwomen who are going around and telling me and other transmen that they couldn’t understand why we’d want to be men, and calling us misogynist if we say that “well duh that’s why you’re going through all this to be a girl”. It’s the M2F’s that the fun-fems use as a way to say women are women, and men are men, and this is empowering, and it’s the M2F’s who are soaking it up and strutting around like no raised woman female would for fear of someone harming them, or because women are meant to feel ashamed of feeling powerful, and because strutting and saying you’re righter than people who were FORCED to be women is privileged.

But of course all this makes me a transphobe, because saying woman hating things while being a transwoman isn’t transphobic, and talking down about trans people who don’t fit in isn’t transphobic, and fetishizing transexuality isn’t transphobic, but saying “you have some major issues and your shit is wack yo” is transphobic. It’s oppressive to tell people that they must change so as to not hurt others, and that being a raging asshole doesn’t make you right it just means you’re a acting like a dick. Sorry was it too soon?

All of the above and more is why I’m transsexual and refuse to be in the Trans-Community, because the Trans-Community makes me feel bad about being trans and I’m not enough of a culty to stick with a group that wants to destroy me and everyone in its path.

The Erasure of Dicks

In about forty different ways.

Now for your daily dose of transactivist transphobia!

This time it’s “the majority of transphobic violence is committed against MTFs.”

It’s a general sentiment, but Julia Serano has actually written this in her book Whipping Girl (very closely paraphrased). And it is an unexplodey piece of shit.

This claim is bullshit because of two things: first, it’s unsubstantiated; and second, if you actually consider the actual way the world works, it’s very likely false. For simplicity’s sake (and honesty’s), I’m going to consider “violence” to be specifically physical violence, because even I know that having something shouted at you from a passing car is not nearly as traumatizing and intimidating as being physically attacked.

The first problem is self-explanatory; let’s focus on the second. Without any actual evidence, for example a survey that takes into account the relative time spent outside versus online, we don’t have any idea how often MTFs:FTMs are attacked—we don’t actually know how often either of them are attacked. Surveys are not very enlightening when it comes to the most vulnerable and abused, because they are the least likely to have the leisure and safety to fill one out.

And that’s part of the problem. From my observation, corroborated by the FTMs I’ve had the pleasure to meet, MTFs are by far the most prominent voices in the trans community. Put simply, FAAB men are not heard or counted as much or as loudly as their male-born counterparts.

This is not a trend isolated to the trans community. Reporting of eating disorders are similarly confused on a class and race basis: because of the way eating disorders are reported, they are incorrectly assumed to be largely specific to upper-middle class young white women. Here are the problems with assuming eating disorder reporting is correct:

1. Reports are gathered from medical and psychiatric authorities. Consider monetary and time expenditure, as well as cultural values and expectations (stigmatization, bootstraps fuckery, et cetera).

2. Eating disorders are often well-hidden until an extreme point; for example, Lierre Keith has gone more than twenty-nine years with an eating disorder without anyone recognizing what it was.

3. Those who are typically victimized by “authorities” are more likely to be suspicious of medical and psychiatric authorities, for good reason, and thus more likely to hide their eating disorders, if they go to aforementioned establishments at all.

4. The majority of eating disorders are not recognized and acknowledged; severe emaciation and/or constant self-induced vomiting is required for it to be seen as a “real” eating disorder.

5. Whether or not someone’s eating disorder qualifies as a “real” eating disorder is also highly dependent on sex, size, age, race/ethnicity and class.

That’s a lot of societal crap standing in the way of that nice, neat conclusion. Fact is, street kids—generally the poorest of the poor and marginalized so much that the word doesn’t even work to describe it—have eating disorders. All the time. All of the street kids I’ve met have eating disorders; the vast majority of the street kids Aslan has met (dude, Denver Five Points Area) also have eating disorders; almost none of them were white. I’ve got way more than enough evidence that the “profile” of people with eating disorders is worth less than the bananas I ate yesterday.

And even then, street kids have one more thing working against them—something that FAAB men do, too: they’re usually starving anyway, so any intentional starvation on their part is obscured and rendered as invisible as the lives of street kids generally are.

Same with FTMs, which the people crowing about how MTFs are the primary target of trans-related violence always miss: when violence is perpetrated against FTMs, how much of it is just violence against women? How much violence against FAAB men is identified as “merely” another woman killed, raped, beaten?

Certainly, that’s what their attackers mean it to be; it’s virtually certain that an FTM’s attacker is going to be MAAB, and even more certain that he is going to be viewing the violence as not against someone who is trans as it is a woman. Generally, MTFs get beaten, raped and killed for being “freaks” and “fags”; FTMs get beaten, raped and killed because they’re girls. The reality of violence is different for MTFs and FTMs, and it is exceedingly male-centric to deny these two things: first, that MTFs are more visible because of their at-birth assignment (that is to say, as male); second, that MTFs are not the standard by which transphobic violence can be measured.

We can see that to deny these things is patriarchal, also, because of the history of homophobic violence and the focus of the recent gay rights movements. When gay men are beaten or killed, it is horrific, although not so much for rape (since sexual violence is still a big no-no in the hot-to-trot social justice scene); when lesbians are beaten, killed and raped, it’s more of the same. The rape of lesbian women is so institutionalized, in fact, that we have a fucking name for it: “corrective rape.” And you can bet how widely-used that is—I found it via surfing a bunch of feminist blogs.

What about the New Jersey Four? What about the lesbians who have been subjected to male violence because they were lesbians? What about the lesbians who have been subjected to male violence because they were women? What’s the fucking difference between those two things? The life of women—people who are put into boxes labeled “women,” a fucking social reality—that landscape is covered with so much blood and violence that it becomes virtually meaningless. Violence against women is normal; as it is said, “the water we swim in and the air we breathe.” When an MTF actually goes beyond a refusal to see and avoid dealing with the privilege and behaviors she was socialized into from birth, when she reaches the point of being just a woman, when that woman experiences rape, battery, abuse, murder at the hands of men, she isn’t experiencing it because she’s trans. She’s experiencing it because she’s a woman. That’s what life means; that’s what the social reality of “woman” is.

And it is important too to ask the questions: Who is doing the beating? Who is doing the raping? Who is doing the abusing? Who is doing the murdering?

If transactivists are genuinely interested in stopping trans-related violence, then the answer to that question cannot be fudged. You can’t argue these words are beating, raping and murdering you. I am doing no such thing and, furthermore, no person who ever reads these words and agrees will be doing any of those things to you, either. Get over yourself. You either care about trans-related violence or you don’t. And if you want to stick the responsibility of violence to people who are not perpetrating actual violence against transfolk, then you don’t care about ending that violence at all.

FTMs are not given this extra-special kind of respect by the holders of power (that is to say, MAAB men as a social reality) because they want to be one of the guys or whatever. They’re still seen as women. When they get attacked, they get attacked because they’re seen as women. And their safety is exponentially more at risk, because they are traveling into the domain of those who are most likely to beat, rape and kill them. Invisibility is paramount. Invisibility is passing, and passing is safety.

But when you’re an MTF, and you’re exploiting that invisibility to argue that you’re the most specialest and oppressed, you’re just acting like everyone born with a dick is trained to act. Which is, well… a dick.

Gadfly Opinion of the Week

Just so I can make everyone hate me, I’m going to grab a quote from Debunking Serano, over here. The quote I am going to respond to, which will put me firmly on the third side of everything again, is this:

[…] the assumption that the trans person’s gender is not authentic because it does not correlate with the sex they were assigned at birth. In making this assumption, cissexists attempt to create an artificial hierarchy. By insisteing that the trans person’s gender is “fake,” they attempt to validate their own gender as “real” or “natural.”

I work off the idea that yes, gender is an essential part of the self, something as invisible and as flavorful as personality. It changes your experience of your own life, but does not significantly change others’ experience of you; gender, like personality, is 99% inside your own head.

So, rejecting the premise that either gender or behavior can be feasibly conflated with genitalia at all, if there is a person out there who experiences their gender as correlating to any form of genitalia, that person’s gender is fake—entirely socially constructed.

Gender—as “gendered sex” or “sexed gender”—is entirely a social reality, which is not to suggest it’s not potent; just that, like “whiteness” and “blackness,” it actually has nothing to do with any kind of innate self. If you feel like you’re a “man” or a “woman,” that would be gender socialization, not just “gender.” There is an enormous difference between feeling that your body should be different and feeling that your gender matches a different sex. That’s utterly nonsensical; sex and gender have nothing to do with each other. The two are only conflated in the context of a sexed hierarchy, where gender is how you are socialized to act out your inferiority/superiority within that hierarchy.

Let me break this down into an innate situation: sex is not gender, and vice versa. Sex has nothing to do with behavior, same with gender. Society says that sex is gender, and vice versa, and that sex has everything to do with behavior, and so does gender. I do not say that, nor does any gender abolitionist I know.

There’s such a thing as a “sex identity.” It has to do with genitalia, and what you feel yours should be. It’s not the same as a gender identity. Internal gender has nothing to do with your behavior or genitalia; socialized gender does.

To suggest otherwise is to be “cissexist,” in the only coherent definition of the word I’ve found so far.

Being Trans Still Means You Got Gender Socialization

When I speak of MTFs with suspicion and wariness, it comes from the experiences I’ve had in real life with these same people. Apparently it’s rare for someone to have bad experiences with MTFs in real life—I should mention that every single MTF I’ve had bad experiences with spent an inordinate amount of time online. A lot of gamer guys get Inappropriate Asshole Syndrome—they rarely get that what they’re saying might be so inappropriate that it’s not funny or humorous anymore, even for shock humor.

Almost all the MTFs I’ve met suffer from these problems:

– They don’t identify as women; they identify as MTFs, and their transsexual identity is the most important part for them.

– They act like men, including:
a) throwing a tantrum when you disagree with them,
b) monopolizing the conversation,
c) ignoring discomfort signals and a noted lack of participation in a particularly male-privileged fashion,
d) acting entitled to your time, space, and praise. Tolerance? Yeah. Praise?… I only praise my cats, my friends, my garden and Pele.

– They become aggressive and threatening if you point out some way they aren’t acting like women—because they were acting hyperfeminine.

That last one—acting hyperfeminine, the way very few assigned at birth women act because they have to juggle their own personhood and identity and selfhood with that portrayal—is one that pisses me off the most. To my eyes, having grown up around women and loved them and as a practicing gynosexual, many MTFs act out the caricature of women that’s fed to men—because, having grown up as men, they have no ability to tell just how much horse dooky it’s made from. Correcting them isn’t policing: if you want to live and be recognized as a woman, the least you can do is challenge the patriarchally-filtered ideas of them you’ve been brought up in. The least you can do is not blatantly insult, objectify, and dehumanize them by acting out those outrageous fucking caricatures.

I’ve met women who happened to be born into a male body—but they were women: they grew up as girls, passing full-time from very early ages, often with help from their parents. One went to Thailand at 15 for SRS and had been passing from the age of nine—her parents helped her legally change her name to Christina. (She was thirty at the time.) They were women not because of their identified genitalia, but because of their socialization. They also didn’t just tell everyone in sight that they were an MTF—you had to get to know them, first.

Most MTFs, however, have male privilege embedded in their behaviors—you’re not allowed to criticize them unless they think they’re doing something wrong; you’re not allowed to feel unsafe because of their behavior, because you’re being “transphobic.”

Transphobic. Such a fucking joke. Apparently you’re transphobic if you ever do or think anything that one individual transindividual doesn’t like.

… A few years ago, in the Pacific Northwest U.S., I was almost raped by an MTF. Zie came up to me outside of the library and we started talking; zie seemed a little off—anxious, though I was sympathetic to that—but I ignored the misgivings and discomfort I was having (zie had basically trapped me into fifteen minutes of talking about zeir writing) because, honestly, I didn’t want to come off as a douche. I tried being tolerant and anyway, I like making new friends.

Zie invited me over to zeir place and I accepted—though, thankfully, I brought along Aslan. On the walk there, zie was incredibly inappropriate in a way that I have only known online-gamer boys to be. Several intensely lesbophobic jokes were made, including a reference to sex being penetration, with fingers if not necessarily dildos and lesbian porn. We got to zeir house and went in through the back; they had a dog, whose name I remember but won’t reveal, who was badly neglected and neurotic. The inside was—it’s not directly relevant, but the filth of the place creeped me out; I’ve only ever seen as mess that bad once, when I and some schoolmates volunteered to clean out an item-hoarder’s house so she could live in it again—and zie went upstairs.

It’s still unclear. I felt like I was in a haze: zie wasn’t being aggressive enough to trigger any of my defenses or fighting instinct. I do remember, very clearly, zie trying to get my friend out of the room—I tried to go with, but zie pulled me back and just kept… fucking touching me.

I remember there was a crucifix on the wall, and that zie kept talking about zeir computer and pulling me onto the bed. And wanting out.

How did I get out? Aslan pulled me out. I only know because xie told me. Once we left, the MTF started stalking us and Aslan had to actually physically stand between us and threaten zem; I was on the verge of a panic attack, and once we left, I ended up having it. Zie called me transphobic.

I laughed it off, and I only realized recently how fucking angry I am about that entire… farce. Transphobic? I was transphobic for not just sitting down and letting zem sexually assault me, just like I’m misandrist for not letting men fuck me.

This might be fucked up, but outside of everything else, I can’t stop thinking about that dog, and if they’re okay.

Just because you believe you’re a woman doesn’t mean you act like it. Just because you’re on estrogen doesn’t mean you’re not a fucking rapist. The behavior and socialization—the lack of privilege—does not go along with the genitals: transsexuality is not something that determines what kind of person you are… it only focuses on your body and the way you are perceived.

The fundamental experience of women is global, in every civilization: as property. That is the fucking universal experience of women. I don’t understand much of this “cis privilege” idea because it seems to be the case that women are constantly suffering the same physical, sexual and emotional violence that MTFs are, all while being “cissexual.” I can allow that it might exist in some way that hasn’t been properly fleshed out yet, but as someone who’s genderqueer and always has been, I can tell you this: transfolk are not necessarily more right about oppression, transsexuality and transgenderism than anyone else is. Just because we know what we feel doesn’t mean we know, without a doubt, the truth of the naturalness and the nature of being trans.

I feel fucking alienated as hell when people openly mock transfolk, talking about how FTMs just want to fuck gay men with their vaginas (??? I have never known an FTM, other than that porn actor, to do that) and how those born male can never be women, no matter how early in life they pass and transition… and to a point I understand the impulse.

But I feel more alienated by a trans narrative that tells me that to be valid, for my identity to be genuine, it has to be natural—something inborn and inherent within me, a neo-essentialism. I feel safer in a room full of radical feminists, knowing that I have a better chance of having my concerns and arguments taken seriously, sharing an understanding that gender-as-sex and sex-as-gender is socially constructed, knowing that all of us are working towards gender abolition because that is the only way all of us will be seen as people… and that they won’t try to rape me.

The problem I have with MTFs is the problem I have with all men: they act like men. They are not safe. Reacting with hostility and calling me transphobic only compounds the problem by attempting to silence me.

Just because I disagree doesn’t mean I’m transphobic. I know next to nothing about the inherency and reality of trans within the world and the human population as a whole: only the experience. And if anyone tries to tell you they do know—they’re lying through their teeth.

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