Fascist Policing: Can People Under Arrest Consent to Sex Up The Cop Arresting Them?

So, there’s been another horrific case of police abuse that made it to my eyeballs. It actually made it there a couple weeks ago, but I haven’t had a chance to write about it. Content note for cops abusing power, rape, sexual assault, and all the rape apologies, okay?

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Ta-Nehisi Coates Knows More Than Me, John Kelly, So Watch Out

When things fall into my particular area of expertise, being a non-entity as far as the national (or even local) media is concerned can be crushingly disheartening. Watching people with next-to-no knowledge on a topic have their opinions broadcast to millions while your demonstrated mastery and expertise in a field make it plain to you that everyone involved in an important national conversation is missing out on some very, very important basics is horribly frustrating, as anyone who has ever studied any of the fields on which an Important Political Consultant pontificates can attest. Imagine if you will, that in the aftermath of some horrible tragedy involving vaccines produced by in vivo exposure of embryonic zebra fish to a virus Our Hero PZ Myers is forced to listen to David Brooks pontificate

Well, of course if you give this vaccine to farmed salmon you’re going to see a higher incidence of anadromous autism, the evolution of the zebra fish practically guarantees it. Then that autism is inevitably going to cause a collapse in fish stocks because if you’re autistic you won’t breed, and these sick farmed salmon are eventually going to pass that trait on to the wild salmon through genetic mixing of farmed and wild fish, which ends up hurting the livelihoods of fishermen in the Pacific NorthWest and leading directly to the tragedy we saw this week.

Well, I’ve felt something like that a time or two, as have many actual experts in their fields, I’m sure. What doesn’t typically happen, however, is having your idiocy immediately challenged by someone who is both an actual expert in the field and a writer of special magnificence. So even though John Kelly was clearly spouting idiocy (and evil) in the interview I’ve already critiqued, I did not realize what was coming: a thorough and complete trashing by someone with very practiced communication skills, strong connections throughout the national media, and legitimate expertise in the US Civil War. Oh, John Kelly, what have you done? You’re a general, you’re not supposed to be ignorant enough to walk blithely into a big gun’s field of fire. Pissing me off is one thing, but pissing off someone who actually knows the history of slavery? I hesitate to continue. It’s over, Kelly. Ta-Nehisi Coates has the high ground:

Yes. A few things. Go read Coates’ tweets, and prepare for what I expect will be a devastating long-form piece in the near future. In the meantime, it is, of course, worse for Kelly than just that. He’s actually walked into overlapping fields of fire, and I don’t think it’s going to help him much that his allies are going to say some of these blazing guns sound a bit shrill:

 

Yeah, I think racist is the least of the criticism Kelly has (deservedly) coming his way.

Not in the Form of a Grenade

Some of you may know that I spent many years actively pushing forward conversations within anti-rape and anti-domestic violence organizations and activist circles in ways that would make us better able to respond to the needs of victims/survivors and the challenge of stopping rapists/abusers in a world that of much more complex sexuality and gender than those movements had previously considered.

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Returning the Money: My Ethics Say No

For the most part, I prefer to ignore Kelleyanne Conway. She’s a liar of the same magnitude as Baghdad Bob, so even if I wanted to use her words to understand the right wing, I couldn’t. There’s just no way to reliably understand what Trump or (more broadly) his administration or Republicans in general think about an issue based on anything she has to say. She might occasionally tell the truth (I imagine when she’s expressing her personal opinion she’s more likely to be truthful, but her personal opinion of Trump did a 180 once he got the nomination and her income depending on getting work from him), but that only makes it worse.

There’s an old riddle about meeting one trans* person who always tells the truth and another trans* person who always lies. They stand at the fork in the road, and, not wanting to waste time and effort going to the wrong place, you decide to ask these trans* folk how to get where you’re going. However, since these two trans persons are two of three genetically identical triplets, you can’t know which one tells the truth and which one lies. How, then, do you find your way? There is a method for getting the truth no matter which triplet you ask. But here’s the tribadism: getting that truth requires that the liar lie 100% of the time. If you encounter a pair of triplets where one tells the truth 90% of the time and one lies 90% of the time, there is no way to ensure that you get good information out of them.

So Conway tells outrageous lies. She tells them with verve, sincerity, and even enthusiasm. But she’s not some character in a philosophical thought experiment. And so even though you always know that she’s likely to be lying, and in some cases you have prior information that allows you to know she’s definitely lying, just listening to her gives you no reliable information about anything.*1

But others like RawStory and Ed Brayton do pay some attention to her, and I pay some attention to RawStory and Ed Brayton, who runs a good blog over on Patheos. So I ended up reading a RawStory piece on Conway’s latest rant against Hillary Clinton. The substance of her critique is that

  1. Clinton is a woman
  2. Clinton ran for President
  3. Clinton has previously made statements supportive of victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault, and
  4. Clinton has received money from Weinstein, now publicly reported to be someone who has engaged in sexual harassment and assault.

Now, Conway hasn’t run for POTUS, but it’s unclear what role that plays in the analysis. If this is only used to mean that she has voluntarily taken a role in the public eye, well then

  1. Conway is a woman
  2. Conway has voluntarily taken a role in the public eye
  3. Conway has previously made statements supportive of victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault, and
  4. Conway has received money from Trump, widely reported to have engaged in sexual harassment and assault even before she took her job at the White House.

So when Conway insists that Clinton has insufficiently responded to the reports of Weinstein’s behavior, any reasonable person might tune out at the obvious hypocrisy of this person accusing Clinton of hypocrisy. But what I found interesting was Conway’s idea of what constituted an inappropriate and insufficient response:

“I felt like a woman who ran to be commander-in-chief, president of the United States, the first one ever, who talks about women’s empowerment, took an awfully long time to give support to those women who were coming forward,” Conway said. “And has still — as far as we know — kept the money, kept the dirty money that dirty Harvey has given her in her campaign.”

Based on the above, any reasonable reporter should be asking Conway if she has kept the money paid to her for working for Trump, though we know that’s not going to happen. So let’s move on.

We can be confident that lots of the money received from Weinstein by the Clintons, and by Hillary Clinton in particular, has been spent, I’m sure. But imagine if you knew exactly how much Weinstein gave and that Hillary had that much cash on hand. You’ve decided that the appropriate response is not to keep the money, but too few people think about what comes next.

It is, in fact, not uncommon for political campaigns to return checks uncashed if the checks somehow indicate that the donor is beyond the political pale. But is this the best policy? Several years ago John Scalzi was having a problem with Vox Day being an asshat, and solved it via donating money to groups opposed to Vox Day’s apparent positions and causes. How much better would the donation be if the money came out of Vox Day’s own pocket, limiting his ability to donate to groups that supported his racist, sexist, homophobic dipshittery?

This is why I sincerely hope that Clinton does not return any of Weinstein’s money to Weinstein. At this point, Weinstein got most of what he wanted – Bill Clinton in the Arkansas governor’s mansion and the White House and Hillary Clinton in the Senate. Imagine if he was able to successfully support all his favorite political causes and candidates AND THEN get a 100% rebate. That seems like a very, very bad plan. The money Clinton might use to pay back Weinstein would have to come from somewhere, after all. To paraphrase John Kerry, how to you ask someone to be the last donor to repay a sexual predator? It would be like the Catholic Church getting to shuffle predatory priests around, pay out a bunch of millions in settlements, and then have all that money returned to them by donors concerned about the money they “lost” to survivors. As if anyone would ever want to contribute money to the Catholic Church to refill the coffers drained by their sexual predation!*3

If Clinton and Conway did want to rid themselves of any possible taint associated with taking money from sexual predators, the reasoning above gives us some clear guidelines:

  1. Don’t give the money back to the unethical jerkwad.
  2. When picking a place for that money to go, you have to be deliberate, otherwise buying a yacht for yourself would be getting rid of the money – you gave it to the yacht company, right?
  3. The primary criterion in picking places to receive your money should be that they have a publicly announced mission that is at very least inclusive of opposing the behavior that made the source of your money an unethical slimeball in the first place.
  4. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a well-funded, useful advocacy group that’s as specific as “Survivors of sexual harassment in the film and television industries opposing Weinstein’s ability to harm people with impunity”. So don’t set up false expectations of perfect tailoring. For both Conway and Clinton a group that makes it their mission to oppose rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment ought to be specific enough.
  5. When you make the donation, make sure that any attention is on the group doing the good work, not on you for giving the donation: after all, you’re doing this because you don’t want to be tainted, not because you’re super-generous.

It’s not generous in the way that Scalzi was generous with his own money, but if you’re ever running a group of campaign that has been given a donation that generates more negatives than the cash can generate positives, I think this is a good basic guideline for where to entrust your tainted money.

Of course, none of this is likely to help Conway, as the list of organizations she would need to support is so long that she’d still have some hard decisions to make. But Conway if you happen to be reading this, I’d be happy to help you prioritize your donations to the different possible organizations deserving of the tainted money you’ve accepted for serving Donald Trump. Though it has only expanded since the recent hurricanes and Mexican earthquakes, I’m sure that I could help you rid yourself of even millions of dollars.

 

 


*1: Did I really just write all that to say I usually don’t bother to pay attention to Conway and I feel I have good reason? Apparently I did. Oy.

*2: yes, tepidly and inadequately and incompetently and while engaging in victim blaming and … well, a whole lot more ands that ensure her “advocacy” is anything but helpful and effective, but in her defenses of Trump she has gone out of her way on TV to say that she supports “real” survivors. Since she didn’t single out Clinton for the effectiveness of her advocacy, merely for the fact that she spoke up about survivors needing and deserving things, the effectiveness and even the offensive malicious falseness of her statements “advocating” for survivors are not the point. If she made statements that she feels

*3: That might just be the most depressing attempt at humorous litotes I’ve ever made.

Rapists’ Lives Matter. Oh, and Fuck the Poor.

As has happened many times and in many places, a Michigan rapist has been given parental rights and joint custody over a child born from one of those rapes. Though this particular case happened in Michigan this bullshit has received media coverage before. And before that. And before that.

Should I go on? Probably not. Samantha Bee did, and that still hasn’t helped.

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Spam: Game of Thrones Edition

Every so often it amuses and/or shocks me to see the spam left on a particular post. Usually this is because of the horrible incongruity between the content of the post and the content of the spam. About two weeks ago, I wrote a piece about rape on college campuses, including a bit about how rape at religious colleges is often covered in the media as a separate issue from rape at secular private colleges and rape at public universities. Of note, I concluded that studying the cultures of particular educational environments is fine if you want to understand those culture (especially if you want to use that understanding to tailor a message to be more effective at creating positive change around issues including but not limited to institutional responses to rape and sexual assault), but that the biggest institutional barriers to creating safe campuses appear to be shared across the religious/ secular/ state divides. In particular, schools seem to use criminal court systems as a model for determining whether one student is a danger to others, and the criminal court treats each charge as entirely separate, thus schools tend not to allow a history of credible and/or fully established charges against a student to affect how likely it is that a student’s latest denial is credible.

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Gordon College and the Institution of Rape

A day or two ago PZ Myers put up a post about sexual harassment of graduate students, and I followed on with some speculations about how numbers might be relatively low in some programs, yet still dauntingly high in others. These writings were sparked by a forthcoming journal article in the Utah Law Review that reports, among other findings, a 10% rate of women graduate students self-reporting as victims of sexual harassment. The cases they were able to study weren’t mild, either, and did not support the fears and hyperbole of those screaming about squashed academic freedom and an environment in which one careless, ambiguous, but innocent statement can result in serious consequences for the careers of even tenured faculty. On the contrary, they found:

First, contrary to popular assumptions, faculty sexual harassers are not engaged primarily in verbal behavior. Rather, most of the cases reviewed for this study involved faculty alleged to have engaged in unwelcome physical contact ranging from groping to sexual assault to domestic abuse-like behaviors. Second, more than half (53%) of cases involved professors allegedly engaged in serial sexual harassment.

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Safety vs Comfort: A conflation that furthers oppression

Shiv has a new post up that should be read by anyone unfamiliar with the dynamics of nominally-feminist trans dismissal. I’m happy to let the points that Shiv makes stand on their own: they are well made and well supported.

However, there are a couple of points not made that I think are timely, and though they further support Shiv’s thesis they do not suffer from being made separately.

In this post, I’ll take on a tendency on the part of all of us to confuse safety and comfort, and to confuse feelings of safety with actual safety. Although this comes up repeatedly in trans inclusion “debates” the error is not limited to anti-trans theocrats or trans-exclusive feminists or even the combination of the two.*1 In Shiv’s post “Who needs enemies…” we encounter the writing of a feminist who seems on the edge of making this error overtly more than once.

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Some Rapes Are Tuesday

I hope you read the recent post on Republican efforts to preserve the ability to commit rape after someone who previously consented to sexual activity revokes that consent, even when the activity includes things not covered by the original consent, such as violent force.

Some people will wonder how and why someone like Amy Guy, who by all accounts I’ve read sounds a very strong and capable person, could possibly offer any form of sexual consent to someone like Jonathan Wayne Guy, who had a history of acting abusively towards Amy Guy. For many, that history will understandably justify the fear of something horrific that might lead Amy Guy to minimize her risk by consenting, and, hopefully, by consenting help shape exactly what happens next. The hope is that, despite having sex only out of fear, exercising some agency can help make what happens next less traumatic than it might otherwise be.

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No means “don’t stop” … if you’re a Republican Senator in NC

This story, of course, deals with highly upsetting content, continue as you will.

In 1979 the NC state supreme court handed down a ruling that made it non-criminal to continue to act as if one had someone else’s sexual consent after that consent had been withdrawn. Worse? It did not matter if the rapist acted violently: if an encounter began with sexual consent, criminal law in NC would treat rape as consensual sex until whenever a rapist decided to stop raping. Prosecution would have to wait for the rapist to begin a separate, uniquely distinguishable act of sexual contact against a person without consent.

It was, in short, the Blue Balls theory of automatism. She was asking for it, writ in legalese alongside the ever popular, He’s a good guy, he just couldn’t help it.

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