Signal boosting: Everybody’s against rape as long as we’re not proposing to do anything about it

Content Notice: Abuse and sexual assault.

Yes Means Yes is a delightful blog, in part because it discusses the sort of 300-level feminist analyses that I don’t often get outside of school. As a whole, it covers a wide range of topics. Unsurprisingly, I found their BDSM posts and immediately exploded with glee–feminist kinksters write amazing stuff. I certainly wasn’t disappointed in Thomas’ series on the intersection of kink and rape culture.

It is a long read, but my gosh it is detailed and sharp and to the point. Check out some of these select quotes:

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In which Miri accidentally writes my life story

Miri (Brute Reason formerly of FTB) over on The Orbit wrote a piece that has nothing to do with me directly, except that she described my abuse situation in basically 100% detail (pronoun of the abuser notwithstanding, emphasis mine):

The idea that a “real” sexual predator will inevitably prey on every single person they are involved with comes from the idea that people who harass, assault, and abuse are unable to control themselves, that they are rapid beasts who lunge at every available target. As knowledgeable folks have already pointed out many, many, many times, that’s not how the overwhelming majority of sexual violence works. At all.

I’m not inside any sexual predator’s mind, so I can’t tell you how any particular individual decides who to try to harass, assault, or abuse and who to pretend to be a good person to. But I’ve watched quite a few of these situations unfold and what they all had in common was that the accuser was young, relatively unknown in the community, queer, non-white, and/or marginalized in other ways, whereas the current and former partners stepping up to defend the accused were well-known, well-respected, often older members of the community it happened in.

What’s going on with that?

What’s going on is that people who want to hurt people pick people that they doubt will feel empowered to speak up, and who will be much less likely to be believed if they do.

Just like abusers aren’t uniformly awful to the people they’re abusing–if they were, it’d be much easier to leave–they aren’t uniformly awful to everyone else. They’re often charming, beloved by their friends, and professionally successful. And yes, in a polyamorous context, that can even include other partners.

Geez, Miri. I don’t know if you read my column or not, but you are rapidly becoming a very enlightening resource when it comes to understanding my own abuse–how difficult it was to speak from the back foot as a queer trans woman in the BDSM community, and how my abuser was a charismatic and charming volunteer who had a habit of making herself useful everywhere she went.

It went about as well as you’d expect. #NeedNewFriends


Transition Reactions p7: Feeling unsafe vs. Being unsafe

Content Notice: Abuse and violence of all stripes.


I haven’t had a great year, so far. I left an abusive relationship in which I was sexually assaulted, and my vindication (snark) was to lose my chosen family because I spoke out about it. I had all the sting of family rejection–plus a generous helping of self blame. After all, I chose them. I don’t even have the excuse that they were thrust upon me by circumstance. I trusted them, and was rewarded with cold shoulders, victim-blaming, “taking no side”ism, etc. I had trusted friends tell me they believed my story and then… nothing. My abuser was still welcome at every venue we shared. “No drama” became the watchword. Shouting me down was the response any time murmurs of coming forward surfaced. That’s what my reputation became: dramatic, a ticking time bomb. Unreliable. Untrustworthy. Don’t play with her, she’ll malign you over a silly mistake (a “silly mistake” that has landed me in trauma counselling). Soon the rumours make a round trip through all the lovely cogs of rape culture and I get the freeze for “spreading rumours.”

Trying to grapple with that and the fallout of leaving an abusive relationship, including the PTSD?

Yeah. 2016–worst year of my life. And it’s not even over.

During all that I lost gainful employment, just as the economy started to really tank. What was painful about that was that it was a work place where I could be openly trans. I swore off the private sector after routinely being told to endure abuses from my coworkers. My boss basically said it was on me to go back in the closet if I wanted the workplace harassment to stop. Government employers actually did something about it, when it happened. And non-profit? I’ve never had a problem with a bigoted coworker. After all you don’t get far working for crisis resources by being an insensitive asshole. Emotional intelligence is a prerequisite.

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Confronted by the word

At pretty much the exact same time I accepted a probationary offer from FtB to write on New Frontier, my relationship at the time took a drastic nosedive. What had previously been a subtle form of chipping away at my self esteem (which I would later learn is known as “grooming”) abruptly exploded. Shouting matches, belittling, cornering, threats, gaslighting, compulsive lying–daily. Near fucking daily. It all culminated in a scene at one of the local BDSM clubs where she… well.

I suppose I always knew what happened. I’ve used the words before. “She hurt me,” “she violated me,” etc. It’s one thing for you to recognise what it is from the other side of the fog installed by gaslighting. It’s one thing to try and recognise the fog for what it was–a survival tactic used by a serial abuser to keep her victims dizzy and unwilling to fight back.

It’s another can of worms to have someone else look you in the eye and say, “girl, she raped you.”

My counselor doesn’t quite understand BDSM. There was no sexual contact that occurred that night, so arguably the legal applications of sexual assault are ambiguous at best (regular assault might be more plausible?). But that’s not the point. My abuser will never be charged. At least not for what she did to me. The legalities aren’t important. What is important is fully capturing the following:

  1. She removed my ability to consent;
  2. She proceeded not knowing or caring whether I consented;
  3. She blamed me for being upset

I didn’t–couldn’t–consent, and she proceeded anyway. I knew this. So why is it so different to have someone else say it? Have I been so inundated by skepticism from the community that having someone believe me feels so alien?


What do you do when your abuser is part of the whisper network?

Women in any special interest community have a network to vet potential sexual & romantic partners. This network is entirely informal. It has no administrators or moderators, no leaders to hold accountable, no hierarchy to organize behind or against. It seems to just happen inevitably, a product of the deadly clusterfuck that constitutes patriarchy–its implicit belief that women are unreliable combined with the rationalizations for victim blaming. Since the police and most organizations are completely inept at actually doing anything about allegations of sexualized violence, women often depend on this whisper network to help keep them away from serial harassers and rapists who’ve never been held accountable. Even if an organization takes an allegation seriously and finds it to be meritorious, the public almost always engages in a metaphorical witch-hunt to brand the victim a liar, still resulting in further loss for the victim. And then, if all this does not deter a victim from reporting, there is always libel bullying, where the entire ordeal of reporting objectionable behaviour has to be repeated, in a court room, in front of amoral attack dogs masquerading as humans who wear suits.

Given what the “proper official” channels put you through, it’s no surprise whisper networks pop up everywhere you go. It’s a shitty system borne out of necessity to avoid an even shittier system that punishes you for being a victim.

One other characteristic you’ll notice is that it is primarily, sometimes exclusively, populated by women. This makes sense in the broader context of gendered patterns in relationship & dating violence–women are more vulnerable as a demographic and so we work together to address that disproportionate risk.

There are many problems with the whisper network regardless. Perhaps the problem most salient to my experience is my relationships with other women.

In other words, if I have a violent encounter with a woman, the whisper network is at best no longer accessible–because my abuser is privy to it. At worst, my abuser persuades the network I am at fault, and then I am effectively ostracized from a community as keeping myself safe becomes increasingly difficult without access to the whisper network.

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Trans guys share stories of mistreatment from medical professionals

Over on the You’re So Brave podcast, two trans men share stories of how nearly every time they try to access medical treatment for something unrelated to transitioning, the topic is inevitably changed to transitioning. This can be a particularly harmful practice since it often involves leaving the problem as originally described untreated. In some cases, it can even exacerbate the problem by throwing in invasive trauma on top of whatever the trans person was trying to get help for:

You can also find them on SoundCloud at @youre-so-brave-podcast


Signal boosting: Consider the Tea Cosy nails relationship abuse


Aoife covers relationship abuse over on her blag at The Orbit and abso-fucking-lutley nails it:

You don’t want to. You don’t want this to be happening. You don’t want to believe that Bob- who you respect and like- could have done the things they’ve been accused of. Similarly, Alex has never shown signs of being manipulative or a liar before. You feel like you’ve been dragged into this circus against your will. So you decide to withhold judgement.

What effect does this have?

It strengthens Bob’s standing, and weakens Alex’s.

How does it do this?

Before Alex accused Bob, things were pretty great for everyone but them. Even if Bob was doing something abusive, it didn’t affect anyone but Alex. Everyone (except Alex), without knowing it, believed that Bob wasn’t abusing anyone. That’s the status quo.

When you claim the middle ground, what you’re really claiming is the status quo. You want things to be like they were before. Like it or not, the person who changed everything was Alex. Alex is the one who asked everyone to look at things differently. Alex demanded that we acknowledge that there’s an abuser in our midst.

And your middle ground? It’s not backed up by evidence. If Alex was as likely to be lying as telling the truth, it would make sense to withhold judgement. However, when it comes to rape or abuse accusations? While we don’t have exact numbers, it’s very likely that rates of false accusation lie somewhere somewhere between2% and 8%– although there’s a good argument to be madethateven those numbers are high. Even assuming them to be true, however, this leaves a 92-98% chance that Alex is telling the truth. Only somewhere between one Alex in twelve, or one Alex in fifty is making it up- at most.

Please go read. Her analysis is astute. I’m not happy to say I’ve lived her hypothetical example, but it feels good to know that some people get it, y’know?