I think his problem is principle »« They’re relying on faith to build their ark? Hah.

The assault always happens twice

Another day, another woman reports abuse from a skeptic leader. Pamela Gay describes the aftermath of being groped in a bar.

And I hate myself for wishing this would all just go away, instead of wishing that there could be justice. But I guess I fear that justice has a price I don’t have the life blood to pay for.

Over and over, I have made the choice, “what happened isn’t worth raising a stink about. Don’t ruin everyone’s [fun/con/career]“. Over and over, I’ve made the choice, “Yeah, that guy (but he was drunk!) slapped my butt in passing, but he is a leader at what he does, so I need to just get over myself and work with him.”

I hate myself for this.

I hate myself because I made the choice that not raising a fuss was more important than my self worth.

Read that again. It’s fucked up. But it’s who I am, … and when I read the hashtag #RipplesOfDoubt a few weeks ago, I realized how often we women make that decision. I’m fucked up, but I’m not alone. Too many of us fill our heads with euphemisms and excuses. It’s so much easier to think, “It’s a drunk guy being a drunk ass.” It hurts so much more to say, “I had someone try and sexually assault me.”

It’s a double strike. First there’s the assault proper, and then there’s the unwarranted guilt and self-recrimination afterwards.

It’s awkward for a man on the outside, too: I want to say, “Fight back.” I want to say, “You don’t have to suffer; you aren’t required to speak out.” But I don’t have the right to tell the victim how to process her situation, so I just have to stand back and support whatever decision she makes.

Comments

  1. Ruth Rivera says

    Thank you, PZ. You get it. You really get it.

    Thank you for not mansplaining. Thank you for not telling me to shut up because it hurts your feelings that there are so many men who abuse women, men whom you love/d, who love/d you.

    I think I’m going to cry.

  2. silke says

    In my opinion, a part of the problem is not being able to tell someone that what they did was uncalled for, because they’re your superior. This is a very big wrong – being on a lower rung on the work ladder doesn’t make you less human, less respect-deserving. Yet all the time women and men alike put up with all kinds of shit they experience because it’s their “superior”‘s shit. In an ideal world, she would have told him to keep his hands to himself and that would have been it.

    There’s another angle though: the moment sex comes into the equation, people tend to be paralyzed with shame, because sex is still viewed as inherently dirty, as a taboo, and, sadly (especially for me as sex-positive woman), as very masculine. Especially this part of what keeps women, and as a matter of fact, men as well, from standing up for themselves, would be so unnecessary. I guess in our culture we have to thank christianity for that.

  3. says

    One point which I feel the need to emphatically add to this post:

    Alcohol does not, in any way shape or form, absolve you from responsibility for your own actions.

    If drinking turns you into that “drunk ass” at the bar. You should probably indulge a little less.

  4. oynaz says

    Can someone explain this to me?

    I am all for women’s rights, and rape and sexual harassment are horrible, but as someone from a different culture (Denmark), this post is making a mountain of a molehill.

    “It hurts so much more to say, “I had someone try and sexually assault me.”

    You are really stretching the definition of sexual assault here. Some slapped your butt at a bar. That is, IMO not sexual assault by stretch of the imegination. At worst, it is a mild form of bullying.

    And I do not understand what keeps Pamela Gay from telling the guy to cut it out if she does not like it?

    That came out as a bit of a mess, I know, but I am really scratching my head oved this.

  5. rq says

    oynaz
    Read her entire post. Just getting a ‘simple’ slap on the butt (which is sexual assault, for your information) is not the entirety of the harassment and abuse she has had to put up with.
    Yes, yes, telling some guy to just ‘cut it out’ in a crowded bar, where he is a Significant Figure, is definitely exactly as easy as you telling her to just do it.
    Think for a while and read her entire post, very slowly, very carefully.
    And then consider that maybe, if you were a woman/[other minority] facing such ‘little’ things every single day of your working life, it is worth making a mountain out of a ‘molehill’, as you so charmingly put it. Because she explains quite clearly exactly why it has been so traumatic.

    In other words, stop scratching your head and educate yourself.

  6. Rumtopf says

    Touching someone in a sexual manner(such as ass grabbing) without their consent is textbook sexual assault. It’s that simple, not a stretch at all in this case. She explains very clearly why she felt she couldn’t speak up at the time, too. I think you should ask yourself why you so easily dismissed a woman’s experience like that.

  7. noxiousnan says

    Oynaz, I hope you didn’t actually read the linked article. That’s really the best possible explanation for your comment.

  8. oynaz says

    “Read her entire post.”
    I didn’t spot that link, for some reason. Reading now.

    “(which is sexual assault, for your information)”
    No it isn’t. At least, it isn’t from my cultural standpoint, which leads me to conclude that you moght have missed the point of my post, despite my very first sentence being “Can someone explain this to me?” A simple statement that I am wrong is not an explanation, even if you use a cursive.

    “I think you should ask yourself why you so easily dismissed a woman’s experience like that.”
    What a strange remark. If I dismissed her experience, I would not have made my post, now would I? In fact, I explicitely ask for an explanation, because I genuinely do not understand.

    In general, people seems to be so hostile that it clouds their judgement. But I will read her post now.

  9. playonwords says

    The excuse used by the abusers is “I was too drunk to remember what happened so I could not have done it” is no damn excuse. Try going before a judge and saying “I do not remember what happened until I woke up in the holding cell. I am certain that I could not have been the driver because I don’t remember,”

  10. rq says

    oynaz
    Then look at it from a cultural standpoint: in your mysterious Danish culture, apparently slapping someone’s ass – that is, touching someone without their consent – does not count as sexual assault ([note] I’m wondering about the truth of this statement, though, unless it’s just your uneducated opinion. [/note]). Wonderful (not).
    In her (Pamela Gay’s) culture, slapping someone’s ass – that is, touching someone without their consent – does count as sexual assault. Hence the post and everything that follows.

    If you’re so confused from your cultural standpoint, then realize that she’s looking at it from a different cultural standpoint, where different definitions apply. So no need for confusion at all – if you can recognise you’re from a different place, should be easy enough to realise that she’s not from the same place.

  11. sawells says

    Also, if Oynaz thinks touching someone else’s butt without their consent is not sexual assault, Oynaz should stay the hell away from other people.

  12. oynaz says

    “([note] I’m wondering about the truth of this statement, though, unless it’s just your uneducated opinion. [/note]). Wonderful (not).”
    Fuck you. That was both condescending and entirely uncalled for.
    Also, you twisted my words. I said that slapping someone’s butt at a bar does not constitute sexual assault in Denmark. You write that I claim that touched someone without consent is not sexual assault in Denmark, while I did no such thing. That is either stupid or dishonest. Stop doing that!

    “In her (Pamela Gay’s) culture, slapping someone’s ass – that is, touching someone without their consent – does count as sexual assault.”
    Thank you. Can you elaborate on the term Pamela Gay’s culture? Is it representative of the US as a whole, or just acedemia?

    “if you can recognise you’re from a different place, should be easy enough to realise that she’s not from the same place.”
    That was the point of my first post. Why did you think I wrote it in the first place? At least you did not use cursives this time, but you are still confusing stating that I am wrong with giving me an explanation.

    Luckily, Pamela Gay’s post does a lot better job of explaining (or describing, really) how she feels. And well, you guys have a serious problem over there, if her experiences is in any way representative. But that does actually reinforce my point. Speak up! Yes, that is much easier written by me than actually done, but I cannot see any other way to change how things are.

    Oh, and FWIW, I think PZ screwed up a bit this time. The quote is poorly chosen, IMO. At has made at least one person(me) misunderstand Pamela Gay’s issues, though missing the link was my own fault. On the other hand, nobody has the time to read all the stuff PZ links to, have they?
    If you read this PZ, you might want to consider picking another quote.

  13. echidna says

    I think some of the puzzlement that Oynaz expresses might be explained if the US is a far more unequal society than he is used to (that would be my guess). Even in Australia, which is a bit behind the times in terms of gender equality, the fact that the guy was my own boss would not have stopped me (has not stopped me) from protesting.

    A “shove off” or similar would be more likely to invite retribution in the US.

  14. Thumper; Immorally Inferior Sergeant Major in the Grand Gynarchy Mangina Corps (GGMC) says

    Re. Oynaz

    I remember a similar problem with another poster who claimed to be from Denmark, so I think this problem really is due to cultural differences. If I remember rightly, “Sexual Assault” means something more serious over there, they have another term for “mild sexual touching”, for want of a better term. That said, I could be getting confused.

    @Oynaz

    In the US and UK, Sexual Assault is any unwanted contact of a sexual nature; touching someone on the arse without their permission most definitely qualifies.

    I’m not going to defend the commenters who straight away assumed you were asking in bad faith, but I will say that you can’t transfer the blame onto PZ for “picking a bad quote”. You missed the link, that is your fault. And you certainly do not get to tell the victims of sexual assault how to deal with it. Yes it’s preferable that they speak up, but if they decide not to then that is their decision. I’ve had women grab my arse in a bar (full disclosure: I’m a man) and done nothing about it, despite the fact that in some cases it made me very uncomfortable; is your opinion that I should have done something about it as well? Or would you leave that decision up to me?

  15. says

    oynaz

    On the other hand, nobody has the time to read all the stuff PZ links to, have they?

    If you don’t have time to inform yourself, don’t comment.

    And yes, uninvited touching in a sexual manner is sexual assault by definition.

    If you read this PZ, you might want to consider picking another quote.

    Please feel free to show us how you can do better.

    Also, when quoting: <blockquote>Quoted text here</blockquote>

    Produces

    Quoted text here

  16. rq says

    Slapping someone’s butt without their approval is touching without consent. That’s the whole point.
    It may not count as sexual assault in Denmark, but it sure does in the US. And Canada. And many other places.

  17. carlie says

    And I do not understand what keeps Pamela Gay from telling the guy to cut it out if she does not like it?

    Can I come poke you in the eye, really hard? That should be totally ok, because after I do it you can tell me to cut it out if you don’t like it.

  18. carlie says

    Also, Oynaz, what do you think the odds are that she would like being groped unasked, v. not liking it? Are there guys who actually think that women in general like being groped by random men? Here’s a hint: the default setting is NO. Anyone with even the slightest bit of social intelligence has learned “don’t touch people” as one of the first basic rules. Even people who like to have random hookups want to choose the people it’s going to happen with. Even people who have fantasies of that kind of behavior happening to them only enjoy it when they’re in control of the situation. The chance that a guy could walk up to a woman and have her be a person who a) gets off on nonconsensual scenarios and b) feels like having one right now and c) feels like having one with him in particular is pretty vanishingly small. At least, so small that behaving as if it’s probably the case is a really terrible decision.

    I’m so sick of the argument that it’s ok to do awful things to people because hey, they might like it, and if they don’t they can tell you to stop after you’ve started. That’s too late. The standard should be to not do things to people until they’ve said it’s ok, not to start harassing them and then act all surprised when they tell you to stop it.

  19. robinjohnson says

    oynaz:

    Also, you twisted my words. I said that slapping someone’s butt at a bar does not constitute sexual assault in Denmark. You write that I claim that touched someone without consent is not sexual assault in Denmark, while I did no such thing. That is either stupid or dishonest. Stop doing that!

    I’ve read this and read this and read this, and I cannot for the life of me see how you think that what you said, and what rq said you said, are different.

  20. says

    I have had men grab my ass in bars a lot. Gay bars can get very grabby. Here’s what you do when a guy slaps your ass against your desires. You turn to him and say, with utter conviction, “do that again, and I’ll break every finger on that hand of yours.” If they get cocky and pull you close to them, I’ve found a headbut to the bridge of the nose works wonders. Their eyes will water and you can leave them in their pathetic misery.

  21. kellym says

    I had wondered if the content of Dr. Gay’s TAM 2012 talk was the reason she wasn’t asked to speak at TAM 2013. The evidence is pretty strong now. Apparently, the JREF *does* blacklist. I am heartbroken that I expected James Randi and the JREF to act ethically. I misjudged them so completely.

  22. opposablethumbs says

    I must admit I can’t understand what oynaz means by that either – how is “slapping someone’s butt at a bar” not “touching someone without consent”????

    I can see how there could be language confusion here – say, if (as suggested) the term “sexual assault” means something specifically different in Denmark – and I can certainly acknowledge that there are cultural differences across the world in terms of what constitutes acceptable length of eye-contact, or distance from another person while talking … but are you really suggesting that a slap on the arse is absolutely identical in every way to, say, a touch on the arm or shoulder to get someone’s attention if they can’t hear you? Are slaps on the arse identically acceptable regardless of the sex and age of the person slapping and the person they slap? Would you do it to an old man, an old woman, a child, your boss, a stranger two to three times bigger and stronger than you, your father, your mother …. ?????

    If it’s not culturally identical to a tap on the shoulder, which I very much doubt, then it sure as hell is “touching someone without consent”

  23. says

    @Oynaz

    Also, you twisted my words. I said that slapping someone’s butt at a bar does not constitute sexual assault in Denmark. You write that I claim that touched someone without consent is not sexual assault in Denmark, while I did no such thing.

    I get that you’re having trouble with English, but slapping someone’s butt is touching without consent. If slapping someone’s butt is not considered sexual assault in Denmark, then that means that touching without consent is not considered sexual assault. Your words were not being twisted in any way.

    Is it representative of the US as a whole, or just acedemia?

    WTF?
    anyway, in Canada, sexual assault is defined as sexual contact without consent; in South Africa it’s contact with a body part which could cause sexual stimulation; in the USA it’s “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” In the UK it’s intentional sexual touching without consent. IOW, the English-speaking world seems to more or less define it the same: as sexual touching without consent. Which includes the touching of butts.

    @echidna

    I think some of the puzzlement that Oynaz expresses might be explained if the US is a far more unequal society than he is used to (that would be my guess).

    true, but also Denmark has (or at least had until recently, don’t know about now) laws about sexual offenses that are well over 30 years old and haven’t been changed since. For all I know, sexual assault may well not be sensibly defined there.

  24. Nick Gotts says

    Why did you think I wrote it in the first place? – oynaz@14

    Stupidity perhaps? That’s the most charitable explanation I can come up with.

  25. says

    You turn to him and say, with utter conviction, “do that again, and I’ll break every finger on that hand of yours.” If they get cocky and pull you close to them, I’ve found a headbut to the bridge of the nose works wonders.

    yes. go headbutt your boss; or the person organizing conferences at which you speak. see how well that will work for your career, after you’re done dealing with the battery charges

    Dipshit.

  26. says

    anyway, in relation to the actual essay Pamela Gay wrote, I think this part gets to me most:

    because I admitted that gender related comments hurt my self esteem, there were authority figures who demanded I be punished. [...] For one nearly fatal moment, I believed that if the people in authority knew the truth, perhaps people in power would undertake meaningful actions to make my profession better for women. And I did name names and I did use specifics … and my words were distributed widely enough that word of what was happening got back to me nearly a dozen timezones away. When I learned what was happening, I spontaneously (and thankfully silently) burst into tears. I hid behind long hair as I exited the audience of the conference session I was attending, and I hid in a foreign bathroom thinking my career was over. Three people wrote documents against me, and they named a forth complainant. No one else came forward to back me up in writing, even though for years there were those who felt fine telling me it was my gender that held me back and that when they had power they’d help me. I felt I had to get a lawyer in order to make sure my career wouldn’t be ruined – someone to find ways to use the existing guidelines to protect me. I exhausted my (admittedly small) savings. I started working more and more in isolation. I was diagnosed with PTSD. I tried to hide in my work, and that alone may have kept me going.

    This, and still we get Besserwisser like oynaz and Bryan Leger telling her she should tell guys off, or better yet physically attack them. And people are surprised we have no patience for their BS?

  27. says

    To oynaz’s credit, he didn’t see that paragraph because he hadn’t bothered to read the post he was dismissing first.

    To oynaz’s shame, he hadn’t bothered to read the post he was dismissing first.

  28. Anri says

    Bryan Leger @ 23:

    I have had men grab my ass in bars a lot. Gay bars can get very grabby. Here’s what you do when a guy slaps your ass against your desires. You turn to him and say, with utter conviction, “do that again, and I’ll break every finger on that hand of yours.” If they get cocky and pull you close to them, I’ve found a headbut to the bridge of the nose works wonders. Their eyes will water and you can leave them in their pathetic misery.

    …and if you don’t physically fight back, you secretly like it, right? And therefore can’t complain?

    That might not be the point you are trying to make, but it sure as hell is the point you are actually making.

  29. klatu says

    I said that slapping someone’s butt at a bar does not constitute sexual assault in Denmark. You write that I claim that touched someone without consent is not sexual assault in Denmark, while I did no such thing.

    I’m not sure what the distinction is supposed to be, in your mind?
    All I can gauge from that statement is that “slapping someone’s butt at a bar ” != “touched someone without consent “. More concisely, “at a bar” != “without consent”, which is equivalent to “at a bar” == “with consent”… huh.
    Either try harder to make yourself understood or fuck off.

  30. says

    I have had men grab my ass in bars a lot. Gay bars can get very grabby. Here’s what you do when a guy slaps your ass against your desires. You turn to him and say, with utter conviction, “do that again, and I’ll break every finger on that hand of yours.” If they get cocky and pull you close to them, I’ve found a headbut to the bridge of the nose works wonders. Their eyes will water and you can leave them in their pathetic misery.

    Sure. You assault me, and I’ll assault you in return. We’ll both end up bruised and arrested. Sounds like a fantastic way to spend a conference.

    Is this really the best idea you’ve got? Trying to get people to understand that they should refrain from committing assault in the first place is out of the question?

  31. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I was already thinking about this before I went to bed last night – having read Pamela Gay’s OP – but now, especially after Bryan Leger’s classic #23, I absolutely must say this:

    If a man, a professional man working in the same field, had attracted Gay’s attention and been chosen by Gay for marriage, and then punched this boob-grabber once in the face in the immediate aftermath of his grabbing, drunken assault, most of the blame would have been placed on ProminentPersonofPower, not Gay and not her husband. PPP would have been told by friends that he needs to be more careful with his behavior. A very few would have criticized Husband for overreacting when applying physical violence to a respected member of the community and a slightly larger number would have still faulted Gay for creating the conflict by being all womanly and stuff. Nonetheless, PPP would have borne the brunt of responsibility for his actions, and if he got punched by another guy in another bar after a similar sexual assault a year later, **his** career would start to suffer.

    But Gay was told to fear for her career merely because she had been sexually assaulted in front of a witness to whom she **wasn’t** married. She suffered serious consequences for not speaking out, and then suffered serious consequences **for** speaking out.

    So let’s make this perfectly fucking clear:
    1. Taking it up to violence in Gay’s bar situation would not have helped if merely being assaulted without responding in any way was a threat to Gay’s career and merely admitting assault made that threat worse.

    2. Vast numbers of women know – we know, certain as F – that the career repercussions on a punch-happy Gay husband would have been less than those on a restrained Gay herself. We see what it means to be a woman, what it means to be a wife, what it means to be a man, what it means to be a husband. We can tell you: in this story, Gay’s crime is being insufficiently owned.

    If you don’t want to rip up all the things knowing – or hearing – that this is the common experience of women, I don’t want you anywhere near me just now.

  32. says

    You know, as a non-native English speaker I understand the confusion over the term ‘Sexual Assault’. I get the impression that english-speakers treat it as a compound word with its own meaning, while I (and perhaps others) look at the two seperate parts, translate their meaning, and then put it together.

    Assault, to me, means violence. Not necessarily hitting, but also threats (like pulling a gun) or controlling someone’s movement via tight grips/pushing/shoving. However, just touching someone lightly would not, in my head, be assault. So when you put it together with the word ‘sexual’, and then say that any unwanted contact is assault, it… yeah. I wish the term for it were different, because unwanted touching *is* wrong, but at the same time I have a hard time seeing it as assault.

    The point is: I recognize these language hang-ups as *my* language hang-ups. So I would tell Oynaz to do the same – “Sexual Assault” sounds worse than it is, and includes a far wider range of behaviour than you might assume.

    I feel for Pamela, I really do. It’s so, so hard to speak up, especially when the consequences can be so dire and everyone will look to *you*, as if you’re the one who ruined the evening, when it was the ass who decided it would be okay to sexually harrass you, and you are merely reacting to him.

  33. says

    @johannaschmitt

    It’s not just you. Many English speakers have no clue that the technical legal definition of assault is ANY unwanted touching.

    I think that the importance of people’s ability to go about their day without being touched without their permission is greatly underestimated in our culture. In general.

  34. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @johannaschmitt

    As has been said upthread by Thumper of the Marvelous Memory (#16), we’ve seen this before with people from Denmark, specifically (yes, I remember that thread too). There is different language, and translation makes it even harder to communicate if you primarily think in one language (translating into your primary language as you read, and translating out of it as you write), as most multi-lingual speakers do.

    And so I endorse your statement in nearly its entirety. Thank you for writing it. But for clarity, this is not a compound term.

    It really isn’t.

    Assault is a term of legal meaning in common law jurisdictions (places that get their basic legal structure from English legal systems). Assault in law means an immediate apprehension of harmful or offensive contact. You are concerned that right now or in the immediate future, you will be touched by someone or something under control of that someone when you would prefer not to be touched [in that way/by that person]. It also means the resulting contact, if it so occurs [though this is often separated into battery].

    Even for battery, contact is all that is required, not blood, not bruises, not histopathy. For the tort of assault, whether sexual or not, contact itself is not even required [though contact is generally required for the criminal violation of sexual assault].

    Sexual is a modifier word, requiring that the assault is sexual in intent or effect.

    It’s not a compound phrase with its own meaning, it’s a simple legal term that has come to have a non-legal meaning that encompasses only part of the legal meaning.

    I hope that helps.

  35. opposablethumbs says

    “Sexual Assault” sounds worse than it is, and includes a far wider range of behaviour than you might assume.

    johannaschmitt I think your point about language confusion is useful, but I wouldn’t say that it “sounds worse than it is” precisely because it does include extreme violence as well as instances that may not be violent but which are dehumanising. I think it’s more a case of people recognising that all the “little things” women are just expected to put up with without complaint no matter how much they might dislike them, are not as trivial and harmless to the person on the receiving end as the perpetrators would like to pretend; they are all predicated on denying a person’s agency.

  36. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    But remember, those guys are the REAL skeptics. They’re even skeptical of women’s ability to exist while not being physically manhandled at every opportunity.

  37. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @UnknownEric:

    They’re even skeptical of women’s ability to exist while not being physically manhandled at every opportunity.

    No, that’s not it.

    Women are like trademarks: they don’t exist unless they are owned.

  38. doubtthat says

    Not to be overly legally technically trivially and such…

    But battery is unwanted touching, assault is placing another in apprehension of immediate, unwanted contact.

    So, technically, the incident was sexual battery. It’s just a loose, colloquial application of “assault” that includes the battery.

    There are obviously ranging degrees of offense, from misdemeanor to felony to the most violent crimes possible, but I think it is actually productive to use the same word for that type of bar harassment that we use for rape. It places all unwanted contact or the threat of such in a unified category making it difficult to argue that it was “just” a slap on the bum.

  39. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @doubtthat:

    What you say is still largely true in tort. In criminal law, not so much. Within common law jurisdictins’ criminal codes, battery has been subsumed within assault quite frequently for quite some time now. 50 years at least in many places.

    As for your “same terminology” argument, I largely agree.

    There are times when talking about the harm is important. In those times, we need to be able to tease out those behaviors more likely to create more severe harm. But I think most of the time we need to talk about what the ethical wrong is…and the ethical wrong is overriding someone’s denial of permission or lack of consent. Regardless of the harm actually done, this is an ethically defensible position only in situations like protecting a child from a hot stove where a harm will be suffered and the person to be harmed cannot understand the nature of the threat and/or potential harm. Then, to the extent of preventing harm, one can intervene and override will/consent. Otherwise, fucking indefensible. Rape, butt grabbing, whatever unwanted sexual touch you want to name: just indefensible. Having a single ethical category for these aids tremendously in making that point.

  40. Desert Son, OM says

    Trigger Warning for: abuse, addiction, assault, rape

    Bryan Leger at #23:

    Here’s what you do when a guy slaps your ass against your desires.

    I’d like to suggest that lack of toughness and ass-kickin’ aren’t the problem.

    Not one woman I have ever met or known was not tough.

    Not my grandmother, born in New Mexico seven years before it was made a state, who buried one of her children that had died aged 6 months, who watched humanity develop powered flight in the atmosphere and then watched us leave the atmosphere and visit other planets, who survived the Great Depression, cholera outbreaks, lost friends and family in two world wars, who spent years as a kindergarden teacher, and who died aged 95, long after degeneration had destroyed her knees and rendered her almost immobile.

    Not my mother, who was markswoman champion of her high school, who raised two children as a single-parent while working as a public school teacher, then who remarried and worked as a homemaker and raised a third child, then went back to get her master’s degree at age 66.

    Not my sister, who has weathered drug and gambling addiction, several abusive boyfriends and one abusive ex-husband, and thousands of airplane trips with men passengers in various stages of sobriety intent on grabbing her or commenting on her “merits and flaws” relative to her other flight attendant colleagues.

    Not my friends, including five that I know of (just the ones that I know of!) who have been sexually assaulted, including two raped.

    Not all the women I have worked with, who held challenging jobs in difficult work environments and did so with skill, intelligence, perspicacity, ambition, leadership, creativity, adaptability, and enthusiasm.

    Not the martial arts sensei I studied under who stood 155 cm and displaced maybe 40 kg, and who I sometimes wondered may have actually fled Krypton before that planet was destroyed.*

    Not one woman I have ever met or known has not been tough. Not. One.

    The evidence available to me suggests that Dr. Pamela Gay is tough, too.

    Do you suspect that the encouragement, the instruction, sometimes even the frustrated command to fight back physically is somehow new information to women, something women haven’t thought of before, haven’t tried? A lack of toughness and ass-kickin’ isn’t the problem, because despite all the toughness and ass-kickin’, rape and abuse and neglect and shaming and condescension and dismissal and sabotage and predation and murder still goes on.

    It’s not the toughness. It’s not the ass-kickin’. It’s the culture.

    Following up on Jadehawk’s post at #28, SallyStrange’s post at #35, and Crip Dyke’s post at #36, the whole “break fingers” method is not just legally problematic, but it also reinforces the false notion that the culture we live in (not the universe, but the culture) is “If you’re not fighting, you’re being fucked.” Just because the universe doesn’t care about us (or even have any kind of holistic-level agency to care), doesn’t mean we as aspects of that universe have to follow suit. It also does not absolve us of responsibility to actually work for a better culture.

    You and I have a lot of work to do, and its a concerted effort, and generations after us will, too. And the work we have to do is far harder than munetsuki and headbutting can address. The work we have to do is cultural change.

    Bryan Leger, I cordially invite you to join in working to change the culture that gleefully endorses protracted, intentional, injurious oppression. Toughness will definitely be required. The journey starts by being tough enough to ask, “What are things I can do to stop reinforcing these kinds of appalling conditions?” Other elements of the journey include resisting the temptation to tell women, “Yer’ doin’ it wrong!” and variations thereof. The onus is on me to continue to do that, as well.

    Still learning,

    Robert
    _______________

    * This is tendered in admiring jest. Among the art forms I like are comic books (though I am actually less interested in super hero comics), but I enjoy them as art and fiction. I do not actually believe sensei came from Krypton, nor even that a planet Krypton exists. Sensei is not superhuman, but in my estimation she is a super human.

  41. Onamission5 says

    If someone walked up to me and slapped me in the face, that would be assault, I am sure everyone can agree. But for some reason, if a guy comes over and slaps my ass, that leaves room for equivocation about not really assault, and if I say something I am making a mountain out of a mole hill, but if I don’t say something then that’s on me, and this is because…?

    Oh yeah. Because I am a sexual object and not really a person who ought to be able to go about my business of working, having fun, of living my life in any capacity without getting pawed at. Thus, it’s bad, but not a big deal. But it’s bad. Just not that big of a deal. But bad, so I should say something. But not that big of a deal, so I should either threaten them with violence or shaddup, but regardless, I should definitely not talk about it in public or I could risk my job for making such a big deal out of nothing/a bad thing.

    *headdesk headdesk headdesk*

  42. says

    Onamission5 #48- So glad you brought up the slapping comparison. I have a hard time seeing anyone defending inviting a speaker back who has a reputation for slapping others in the face. What if Shermer had suddenly and unprovoked slapped Joe Nickel or Neil deGrasse Tyson in the face in front of other people? There would be a sudden silence and everyone would turn around and gasp. Would he be invited back? (I hope not, but if it were Shermer, his draw as a popular speaker combined with Grothe’s history of not giving a shit, I can’t be too sure.) Wouldn’t other speakers at least voice their concern that they don’t want to be slapped in the face? People would likely have security haul the slapper out of the casino.

  43. Pteryxx says

    A commenter on Dr. Gay’s post linked to another piece she wrote back in 2009.

    http://www.starstryder.com/2009/09/20/you-must-have-power-to-stop-discrimination/

    In the case of gender discrimination by men on women, I as a woman can do all I want to try and avoid harassment, but at the end of the day, I can be as cautious and uncontroversial as I want (or don’t want), but the choice to be discriminated against based on my gender isn´t a choice I get to make – it is a decision made by others. The only thing that can stop men from harassing women is for men to step forward and say enough is enough. (The same is true if you reverse the genders, or change this to a case of religious, race, or other discrimination.) Always, it must be other members of the group in power who step forward and stand up for the people being victimized. This was true during the civil rights movement, for instance.

    And here is the challenge I want to put out there: If you are a man and ever feel the need to pull a woman aside and say “It´s not you, it´s because you´re a woman,” I want you to act on that need, and then I want you to report to the proper authorities what is going on. Be an advocate. Stand up for someone who may not be able to stand up for themselves. You have the power to change things.

    And if anyone ever tells you, “It’s not you, they are like that to all [women / minorities / Christians / Jews / gays / etc],” look at that person and tell them, “If I fight this, I could lose my job and be labeled a trouble maker. If you report this, they’ll listen. Will you help? Will you report what you’ve witnessed to the appropriate authorities and prevent this from happening again? Will you help me?”

  44. doubtthat says

    @46 Crip Dyke

    I failed to control for jurisdictional difference. The state I practice in uses the “apprehension” definition of assault in a criminal context as well as the assault/battery distinction, but you’re right that many places with differing statutes, the distinction is no longer relevant.

  45. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @doubtthat:

    yep, the definition is a clusterfuck when speaking on the internet, that’s for sure. I want to say, “the definition is…” but, wow, inevitably you’re going to be wrong for so many readers. Still in law school, but have ever more appreciation for why licensure exists.

  46. Sili says

    “(which is sexual assault, for your information)”
    No it isn’t. At least, it isn’t from my cultural standpoint

    Please don’t make this about ‘those silly Americans’.

    Some of us Danes do fucking understand the meaning of consent. Don’t comment, if you can’t read English.

  47. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    johannaschmitt:

    You know, as a non-native English speaker I understand the confusion over the term ‘Sexual Assault’.

    Seconded

    The point is: I recognize these language hang-ups as *my* language hang-ups.

    Doubly seconded

    ——-
    Also, thanks for the explanation of the term, Crip Dyke. I mostly took it that way, based on what I’ve seen of its usage, but you put it all together in an easily understandable way.

  48. doubtthat says

    I was thinking about the language confusion, and an analogy that might help would be to consider theft. Both the act of stealing a candy bar from a quick-shop and hauling gold out of Ft. Knox count as “theft,” but obviously a distinction is made in terms of punishment.

    “Touching without consent” is like “theft,” in this context: the severity of the violation does not appear in the broad category, but in the application of the sentence or the degree of the crime described in statutes.

  49. doubtthat says

    As for “toughness” and “standing up for yourself,” it’s an interesting that this story is exploding in the NFL right now:

    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9939308/richie-incognito-jonathan-martin-miami-dolphins-bullying-scandal

    Any human being that is capable of standing on a football field in the NFL and playing on the offensive line will be pretty damn tough. It’s interesting that the harassed and bullied player is receiving advice similar suggested by some commenters here: toughen up, fight back…

    Demanding that people physically fight for the right to be employed comfortably or make it through the day without being sexually assaulted seems to contradict the very idea of having “civilization” in the first place.

  50. Anders Kehlet says

    Another Dane here. Oynaz absolutely does not represent all of us.
    Incidentally, I just found this: New Rape Law – Amnesty (Chrome translation is decent).
    It’s rather… horrifying that raping an unconscious person was considered a lesser crime just earlier this year, but progress!
    Also, marital rape is now taken seriously. Yay!
    I think I’ll throw some money at Amnesty for their involvement in this. :)

  51. carlie says

    Desert Son, it’s so good to see you. Your comments are always insightful and a pleasure to read.

  52. says

    Thank you, Crip Dyke, for that thorough explanation. I had a vague idea of what assault meant to english speakers, but the way you explained it really clarified it.

    I’ve thought on it some more, and I think it really comes down to a language issue. German simply does not have a word for unwanted touching. “Belästigung” comes the closest, I think, but it carries with it connotations of just being pestered. You know, something annoying, but not to be taken awfully seriously. Assault, on the other hand, translates in the dictionary I hold in my hands to “Angriff” (“attack”), “Körperverletzung” (bodily harm), “tätlich werden” (to attack somebody physically) and many other words along those lines. Violence. So when you’re dealing with words that have no equivalent in your native language, you get taught approximiation, and the nuance is lost.

    “(which is sexual assault, for your information)”
    No it isn’t. At least, it isn’t from my cultural standpoint

    The proper response is, of course, to educate yourself on what words really mean and not to be dismissive when you literally do not understand what you’re talking about. You don’t have a cultural standpoint when it comes to the english language – you either understand what is being discussed or you need to hone your english skills.

    johannaschmitt I think your point about language confusion is useful, but I wouldn’t say that it “sounds worse than it is” precisely because it does include extreme violence as well as instances that may not be violent but which are dehumanising. I think it’s more a case of people recognising that all the “little things” women are just expected to put up with without complaint no matter how much they might dislike them, are not as trivial and harmless to the person on the receiving end as the perpetrators would like to pretend; they are all predicated on denying a person’s agency.

    Yes, I cringed at my own phrasing there. I meant that it can sound worse to our ears – as in, connoting violence – when it actually doesn’t and includes a wider range of less harmful (but still bad!) behaviour. It can, of course, still be exactly as bad as it sounds.

  53. Maureen Brian says

    Thanks, johannaschmitt. That explanation helps a lot and thank you for it.

    We have come to realise better than we once did, though, that there is no correlation between the violence done, deliberately or otherwise, and the harm experienced by the person on the receiving end. We know this of bullying and we are beginning to realise that it is especially true of that area where bullying and sexual assault work together for maximum negative effect.

    Those of us who are a bit long in the tooth also have to contain our responses to the “that’s not assault” meme because we have learned to see it as an alert in itself. Why? Because we have seen it followed by the amazing statement – I paraphrase but the it really happens – “she didn’t need stitches so it can’t have been rape.”

    Yes, it happens. Even here.

  54. Thumper; Immorally Inferior Sergeant Major in the Grand Gynarchy Mangina Corps (GGMC) says

    @Crip Dyke

    Thanks for the mention :) and I have a tangentially related legal question. I was under the impression that the UK was the only place that still made a distinction between battery and assault. Is that not the case? Also, as I understand it assault is being made to fear the possibility of violence, but can also include an actual act of violence (battery); and that battery was the actual infliction of violence upon a person. That being the case, it would seem that when johannaschmidt and oynaz etc. think “assault”, what they are really talking about is battery.

  55. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    Assault includes threats in person; going further and hitting someone is battery. Touching someone in areas of the body that they are expected to keep covered in public is usually called sexual assault. Canada & some other jurisdictions did away with the crime of “rape” and replaced it with “sexual assault,” which can have various degrees of seriousness. Aggravated sexual assault is physical injury plus sexual assault, not, as some young men seem to think, sexual assault when someone provoked it by being flirtatious! Note, assault and even battery do not require touching but threat or attempts to touch.

    At common law, an assault is an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.

    In other jurisdictions, rape includes penetration and sexual assault does not.

  56. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    Assault includes threats in person; going further and hitting someone is battery. Touching someone in areas of the body that they are expected to keep covered in public is usually called sexual assault. Canada & some other jurisdictions did away with the crime of “rape” and replaced it with “sexual assault,” which can have various degrees of seriousness. Aggravated sexual assault is physical injury plus sexual assault, not, as some young men seem to think, sexual assault when someone provoked it by being flirtatious! Note, assault and even battery do not require touching but threat or attempts to touch.

    At common law, an assault is an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.

    In other jurisdictions, rape includes penetration and sexual assault does not. In Denmark, rape includes violence or threats and having sex with a helpless person is the lesser crime of sexual abuse; there is also a marital exemption for this kind of sexual abuse and lesser penalties for rape within marriage. So, yes, Denmark is behind the times there.

    Amnesty International considers that inadequate laws and failure to effectively investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of rape and other forms of sexual abuse of women indicate that Denmark is failing to fully comply with its responsibility to protect women from gender-based violence.

    International human rights law requires that criminal law recognise the absence of genuine consent, rather than the use of physical force, as the essential element of rape; however, the Danish Penal Code does not comply with these standards. Danish legislation penalises non-consensual sex with a victim in a “helpless state” as sexual abuse rather than rape an sets a much lighter penalty for such acts. Furthermore, the Penal Code reduces the level of penalty or excludes punishment for rape and sexual violence within marriage (Article 218, 220, 221, 227). For example, non-consensual sex with a “helpless” victim is not considered a crime if the victim and the perpetrator are married (Article 218), and if a perpetrator enters into or continues a marriage with his victim the punishment for rape can be reduced or remitted (Article 227). Such provisions are inconsistent with international human rights standards that require that all victims are equally protected and do not recognise an exception for marital rape.

  57. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    Arrgh! Somehow I jumped to a previous comment! My second comment was supposed to say that Sexual assault is defined as unwanted sexual touching (“groping” or “goosing”), drooling, pissing, or ejaculating ‘sexually’ on someone and includes unwanted sexual contact through clothing. Some codes, such as Scotlands, explicitly include both intentional and reckless contact, i.e. not taking care not to touch.