Tag Archives: power

Sex and Power

My first real kiss happened when I was sixteen years old, in a dark basement coffee house by the flickering light of an ancient Coke machine. He was tall, blonde, a bit sleazy so far as high schoolers go, and he had a bit of a reputation for “getting around,” as people call it.

I did not kiss him because I liked him; no, I kissed him because I wanted to know I was capable of feeling something when I kissed a boy. But I wasn’t. I felt nothing. It wasn’t anything he did, wasn’t the atmosphere of red and white blinking lights; it was me. There was something wrong with me because I did not like that boy.

High school told me lots of conflicting things about sex:

  1. Don’t have sex. You’re too young. You need to wait until you’re married.
  2. Have sex with everyone. You only live once.
  3. Have sex when you’re ready, when YOU want to.

I opted for a cross between one and three. I did not have sex, but it wasn’t because I was too young, or not married. It was because I wasn’t ready, because I just didn’t want to. Sex was never about love for me, you see. It was a power thing, a thing that other people took from me. And once it was mine to give away, I found I wanted to keep it, just for a little while. Just to hold onto some of that power when I still felt so small.

Even once I was married, I had zero interest in giving it up. For our honeymoon, B and I made plans to go to Niagara Falls. We made a pitstop on the drive there at the Knight’s Inn in the next town over—it would take too long to drive to Canada and he wanted the sex asap after “I do.” We took their biggest, fanciest room with a giant jacuzzi tub. We absolutely could not wait to get our clothes off—him for the whole “finally gonna consummate our relationship!” Me, for the fancy tub. Sex won; I said yes because I was supposed to—not out of desire, out of obligation.

I guess that was the start of it, then, my compulsive need to keep B happy. For a beginning, it’s super cloudy when I try to remember it. My first actual, consensual sex, and I remember so little. Nothing of the actual act, not really, but many of the surrounding details:

I remember my dress was white; his mother bought it the week before when we were together at the mall. It had a zipper that ran from my neck past my butt, and she joked it would be easy for him to get me out of; I cringed.

I remember his shirt was blue and his jeans were the fancy not-denim kind. He made me unbutton them and slide them down his legs. He made me take everything off. I did what he said because I thought I was supposed to.

I remember the sheets were scratchy, cheap hotel sheets, no pattern, but my underwear had brightly colored flowers. I hadn’t cared enough about my wedding day, about this moment, to wear “sexy” underwear.

I remember I moved wrong, so he told me to just lay there. I found out two years later that he’d learned via porn. I’d learned via childhood. So in retrospect, our arrangement made sense.

I remember that the jacuzzi was amazing. It was shiny white and big enough for two people. There were two faucets and eight jets, four on each person’s side. An army of different soaps and bath salts and bubbles lined the wall in a coordinating rainbow of pastel colors. I chose the bubble one that smelled like strawberries without asking his permission, and I tipped the bottle over under the running tap. The tub filled quickly; the bubbles covered my naked body. I had to encourage him to get in; he seemed afraid of the water. When I teased him, his cheeks turned rose pink and he slipped into the tub all in a huff. I bent down to the bubbles to discovered they smelled like the hard strawberry candies I used to steal off the counter when I was a kid. I slipped down within their grasp until I was buried up to my mouth. I knew the instant we came out, he would want more sex, and I did not want to come out. He told me that I smelled like a fruity pebble and tried to nuzzle me up and out of the tub. The faucets made me picture Niagara Falls.

It didn’t even occur to me that the things I was feeling weren’t normal. I thought that if I kept doing the things I was supposed to I would eventually feel the things I was supposed to, and I didn’t realize that I didn’t have to love the man if I didn’t want to. I thought he was my only shot, and I wanted to make him happy, so I let him take my power–and I let him keep it. I didn’t understand then where it came from. I didn’t understand then that it was my choice to make.

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Let’s Talk About Matt Lauer

My roommate walks a dog in a building in Chelsea. Monday night, a woman was trying to come in the service entrance and she got attacked when the doorman didn’t open the door fast enough. The response of one of the other doormen was something along the lines of “well, women should take self defense classes and carry pepper spray,” a go-to that seems much too common. In my head, I’m thinking “well, okay. So a woman gets attacked because she didn’t take self defense classes or carry pepper spray?” I took self defense classes. I carried pepper spray (and still do). I got attacked.

It seems so simple to me. Why, instead of telling woman to find means to protect themselves that don’t necessarily work, don’t we just tell men to stop attacking women? I’ve been going round and round in my head on this all week. It’s not rocket science to me. It’s not hard. DO. NOT. ATTACK. WOMEN.

And then I woke up this morning to a flurry of news notifications on my phone: Matt Lauer got fired from The Today Show after sexual harassment allegations. According to Buzzfeed, Lauer had a button wired in his office that would lock the door without him having to get up. (Whatcha doing that for, Matt?) The New York Post and CNN both report that Lauer “behaved inappropriately” while covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. The New York Times discusses Lauer summoning a colleague to his office and having sex with her, which she didn’t decline out of fear for her job. And Variety lists a slew of Lauer’s offenses, including a sex toy he gave a coworker as a gift along with a note that told her how much he wanted to use it.

I tried to think about what I would say about this whole thing; I’ve been considering the issue since the Weinstein story broke. Because sexual harassment/assault is not a new issue, nor is it a secret that I feel passionately about the issue. I’ve said a lot about it, and I will continue to say a lot about it. But it’s on a new level now; not because these people, from Weinstein to Lauer, are “celebrities,” but because of the spotlight their status puts on the issue. Society should not care more just because these men are celebrities. Yet, it does. So much more notice has been taken.

In the midst of my pondering, I stumbled on a friend’s Facebook post; she seemed sad, so I clicked through the screenshots she had posted, which made me sad. And then mad. Here are some of the highlights from the comments section, used with her permission:

“What happened to calling 911 when you are violated??? Not waiting years??!!!”

“It’s an incident hat allegedly happened 20 years ago. Women can explain they fear for their jobs and … that’s why they never come forward but … if you are going to sell your dignity for a job, if you aren’t going to stand up for yourself or someone else out of fear then you are part responsible for the conduct continuing … Matt Lauer should have the benefit of the doubt here, and I feel as though it’s the trendy thing and he’s now being made an example of.”

“Women are human beings, so it would follow that they are more than capable of committing terribly unethical acts for the sake of self interest. There’s no statistic to cite here about a ratio of honest vs. dishonest accusations.”

Allow me to soap box for a moment? (Who am I kidding? It’s my blog. I’ll do what I want.)

If someone is holding a knife to my throat, nope, I’m not going to call 911. I’d like to live, thanks. Will I call after? Maybe? I might be too afraid, for myself, for what might happen. For what people will think of me when they know. Hell, I don’t discuss what happened to me outside my working manuscript in anything but vague tones because I am afraid of what will happen when he finds it. Cause let’s be real, he will find it. And since when is rape trendy? Rape isn’t trendy, thank you very much. Please name me one victim who stands up and says “YES PLEASE RAPE ME.” You can’t? Didn’t think so. The recent roster of accusations is not a trend at all, but rather an outpouring of hope–the more women who realize it is okay to stand up and say “this is not okay,” the more women will be paying attention, and the less these sorts of things will happen. THIS is a trend that we want to have; a trend where the responsibility is on the attacker to not attack! And really…why would someone lie about being raped? I understand that it happens (anywhere from two to ten percent); however, cases based on a lie rarely make it to any substantial stage of prosecution. It takes a “special” person to spin that kind of lie, and I do not mean that in a good way. Why draw that kind of negative attention on yourself? What would even be the point? And why, when the percentage of false accusers is so small, does society just default to “the woman is lying” before considering that statistically, she’s probably not?

Cry me a river that Lauer lost his job today. It sounds like he deserved it, like the allegations had enough proof behind them to warrant immediate action. I’m sure lots of people loved him, but that doesn’t change the things he did. People are so angry about it, so filled with hate towards these women, and I don’t understand them–nor do I desire to do so.

Lauer getting fired seems to be the tipping point for a lot of people in both directions–men stop attacking women versus women stop getting attacked–but the fact of the matter is, the overarching issue isn’t about Lauer at all. It’s about the fact that scared woman suffered something 20 years ago and finally had the courage to come forward because of ALL THE OTHER WOMEN who also came forward. Yup, it’s a lot of women, and, to quote the social media multitude, “it’s too many.” Women everywhere are standing up, together, and they’re telling everyone who’ll listen that this is not okay. And it’s NOT. It’s not okay for men to use a position of authority to coerce women into sex. It’s not okay for men to slip drugs into a woman’s drink at a bar or a party, to grab a woman in an alley, to throw a woman in the back seat of a car, or in anyway put a woman in a position where she is expected to have sex without consent.

Imma gonna say it again: This. Is. Not. Okay.

So let’s talk about Lauer. But let’s talk about Lauer for the right reasons. Before you take the time to cry outrage over the fire of a beloved tv news icon, take the time to consider what it really means. A vote for undoing this termination is a vote for redoing silence. And NO ONE should have to be silent. Everyone deserves their chance to be heard.

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There is No Normal

I’m not a huge believer in attending social functions. People frequently get annoyed with me because I don’t go out when there are large groups; often I SAY I will go and then find a reason to back out at the last minute. Large groups make me focus on all of the ways that I’m different rather than the ways I fit in or the things I have in common with the people around me. I don’t know how to be a person when I don’t have a predesignated topic of conversation. As a shining example, any time I do anything that has to do with dogs, I am confident. I know dogs. I know their behaviors and their motivations. I’m learning their fears. I know how to discuss them in a way that people can understand, though, quite frankly, I would rather spend time just me and the dog. I can also play well as a teacher, a manager, a friend. But groups are hard. I don’t know how to be a person sometimes; it’s a skill that was taken from me that I’ve never quite gotten back, the ability to not be judged. There’s this wall between me and the world that I’m not sure how to negotiate in a crowd; I don’t think I can be more than one thing at once. I don’t think I can let go. Not completely.


Pedro is such a handsome boy. He’s gorgeous—tall and black with little specks of white—but spends most of his time with his tail tucked, his majestic head stiff and his eyes alert. Watching. Pedro is one of the few dogs I’m not completely comfortable walking. Not because I can’t control him; I can. More because I understand too well what other people refer to as his unpredictable nature. I don’t find him to be unpredictable at all. Pedro just doesn’t know he’s a dog. To Pedro, dogs on the street are all big and scary, while, to most other dogs, dogs on the street are all potential friends. Each week, Pedro finds a new things to be scared of. Man in a white van? RUN!!! Woman with a rolling grocery cart? BARK!!! A LOT!!! Tiny chihuahua off leash? BE FEROCIOUS WITH ALL SIXTY POUNDS OF MIGHT!!! Pedro’s mission is to scare the world away before it can scare him.


The first time I went out, after, and I went to a bar with some friends. Two friends? Manageable. All of the other people in the bar who wanted to touch and talk to me? Less so. I wanted to be the little woman hiding in a box as we came in. She had a reason to be there, a cash box in her lap, a special hand stamp in one hand and a light in the other. I identified more with her than the friends I was with in that moment. I wanted nothing more than to hide in that little black room. Give me the cash box, give me a job, give me anything but having to be the person that I was. Anything to keep from thinking those words. Instead I kept quiet, observed the room around me. The people dancing in gray metal cages, the multicolored lights that crisscrossed the stage and bled up the curtains. If it hadn’t happened, I thought, that could be me out there. Taking shots. Dancing. I leaned against the counter. But it happened. He raped me. He took everything. I spent the night holding up the counter.


I’m a fan of redirection commands for dogs over negative reinforcement. Pedro is not the type of dog who will ever find the world to be not scary. However, he can learn to associate the scary with food. “Pedro, look!” TREAT! “Pedro, let’s walk!” MORE TREATS!!! Dog walks down the sidewalk? ALL THE TREATS EVER!!! The scary things are still scary, but there are good things that come with them that make the scary easier to deal with.


I let my friends get my drinks for me so I wouldn’t have to converse with the bartender. I didn’t want to answer any questions about myself. I wanted to be anonymous. People were dancing, flamboyantly waving their arms in the air as they shoved themselves against each other, an act which had never been my thing. I was never free enough to dance before. I was certainly not free enough after. Two men circled the edges of the crowd, and I named them Green Shirt and Gray Shirt. Green Shirt was a grinder; he kept coming up behind women and rubbing himself against them, but none of them seemed to mind. Gray Shirt was different. He hopped over the counter and wandered behind me, towards the DJ booth. My friends were off, dancing, as his hand found my back and slid down, down, down…I elbowed him and fled to the bathroom, far away. My friends didn’t notice I had left. I sat in the stall and I wondered if I had imagined him, if he had touched me at all, or if I was remembering the hands of someone else. Of Him.


If I could be inside Pedro’s head, I imagine it would be something like this: “Another day. More time spent in the shelter. At least I have my bed. Oh, wait. I hear something. Keys?!? It’s my friend! My friend is here! She’ll play with me. Oh, wait…I have to go outside. I don’t want to go outside. Don’t make me go outside. But, wait…I have to go to the bathroom. I have to go outside. I can do it! Here we go! IS THAT A DOG?!? Wait, she said look! I should look at her! I’m looking at her! I’m doing it, I’m doing it, I’m doing it! Dog? What dog? My friend is smiling. I’m doing this right! I’m gonna do it again!” And he does. His new training program is working amazingly well. Two minute walks became ten minute walks became thirty minute walks. Storming the shelter window barking when a dog walks by is now grabbing a squeaky toy and running to get in bed. Baby steps for Pedro. Small doses. Being in the world to learn how to be in the world.


I don’t often admit the real reason why more than one on one or two on one is hard for me. It’s that I don’t know who I am yet, that I might never know, that I don’t always know how not to be afraid. How many people are there? Can I see the exit? Can I get to it? Do I need to? Who is that person behind me? Has he had too much to drink? Have I?

Does it matter?

Sometimes, I’m lost. More often than not lately, though, I’m not lost at all. I’ve been going out more, in small doses. One on ones. Two on ones. Building relationships for group situations. Giving myself “rewards” for milestones. Working up to staying 45 minutes. An hour. Two. Being in the world to learn about being in the world. I may never be “normal,” but there is no normal, really. And if I don’t work with what I have, I will never have anything more. It’s not enough to simply survive, to say “I survived,” if I’m not any better for it. 

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On Agency

I was asked today about what my writing says about where women obtain their agency. I struggled with how to answer the question, because I know what I would like my writing to say, and it’s always my deepest fear that I don’t say it appropriately. Simply put, I believe that rape (and rape culture) destroy the survivor’s agency. But it’s really a lot more complicated than that, because it’s not just the act of rape itself. It’s a litany of factors.

Perhaps to answer the question, I should first define agency. I don’t mean agency as in a physical place or organization. I’m referring to agency in a sociological sense, as the capacity a person has to act of their own accord and make their own choices, freely. A person’s agency is limited by the influences, or structures, in their lives, like gender, race, religion, culture, class, etc. I firmly believe that agency is learned, that these structures and our experiences alter our ability to make choices. I believe that people alter these choices. I also believe that we, personally, alter these choices.

Which brings us to my writing.

My writing has evolved this year, yet again. My first voyage into trauma literature was a collection of rather abstract essays. Then I started graduate school, and decided I wanted to learn to be specific about my experiences, and tell a very specific story—and only that story. I wore that story as a patch to hold myself together, and crafting it was the thing that was going to make me whole. But then I started to write and got several chapters into the work—and attended several frustrating revision meetings—before I realized that I was going about the project the wrong way. My story is not one story. My story is a construction of many different stories, of many different pieces and times and structures. I was ready to give up my book and find a new project to work on, as I became more and more convinced that I couldn’t get my message right. That I had no business communicating with other survivors. I asked for a sign to tell me what to do, or, at the very least, to show me I was doing the right thing.

I found my sign in a book. Lacy M. Johnson wrote an incredibly powerful memoir entitled The Other Side. It opens as she flees the basement of The Man She Used to Live With, breaking out of a soundproof room where he had intended to kill her, and then follows a winding and not always chronological road to tell all of the pieces of Lacy’s story. The choices that she made, and the ones that were made for her. I devoured her book, and a handful of interviews she did afterwards as she was nominated for awards. I came across this:

“I discovered that I really, strongly objected to all of the rhetoric about how writing about trauma could, in effect, make a person “whole” again. It took years to articulate why this sentiment bothered me, but eventually I realized that it reinforces what I consider to be a flawed notion that after some kind of trauma … a person is somehow ‘broken.’”

I realized that I was, in fact, writing to make myself whole, when in truth, I was never broken. I let my trauma define who I was, when I needed to be the one to carve out my place in the world in the after. I looked to others to tell me what to do, to give me agency, when I needed to be the one to make that agency for myself. I let people take my choices away, because I didn’t feel like I deserved to make them on my own. I didn’t want to take my own agency, but claiming it was the solution to everything.

How the heck do we do that? Take our own agency? Whaaaaaaaaaaat?

We so often look to others to tell us how to exist. We listen to the world when it tells us we are weak. Lost. Ugly. Not good enough. We listen to the world when it tells us we are wrong, broken. But the truth is that we heal at our own pace. We are okay when we are okay. We are never broken. We are simply changed.

The original question was what my writing says about the way that women obtain agency. The answer is that the narrator of my book, the me of the past, has no agency. And she should. What took her agency? Religion. Sex. Rape. Years of never being good enough. A broken tape of thoughts on a repeat cycle that never ends. It absolutely absurd the way people tried to make my choices for me—the person (people) who hurt me, the justice system, the people who knew and assumed that I was less than because of my experience. I was desperate for someone, anyone, to tell me what to do. I stopped trusting myself to make my own decisions; I’m not sure I ever trusted myself. In my writing, in the telling of my lack of agency, I want to show how absurd it was. I think a lot of women let their agency be directed externally, or entirely taken away, when they should be telling themselves how awesome they are while doing their own thing. The social structures we have created are horribly unfair. So many times, we are chasing a mold that we can never fit into. We are all different; we should all make the choices that are right for us. And if I can show that to one reader, if I can wake just one person up, then my writing is successful. I had no power, both because it was taken and because of my own choice, and if my story helps one reader to see in themselves that all that have to do is claim their agency as their own, then that’s my writing for the win.

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Last night I was asked to consider why I present my story the way I do. Why I don’t reflect. Or rather, why me now does not reflect on me then. I suppose that’s because me now has no idea what she thinks of me then. And not just that, but I’m not sure the passage of time allows for me to get the distance I need to fully reflect. I’m still inside.

I sat in T’s office last night, and we had The Talk. She told me that in ten years, I will find a different meaning in my material. Even in one year, writing the story, I will find a different meaning than the one I find now. She asked what meaning I was trying to draw from my book as a whole.

“I…I’m not sure,” I stammered.

She sank back in her chair. “I have to ask you some difficult questions.”

“Hit me.” My arms were folded in front of me protectively, and I shifted, suddenly aware of the unconscious words my body language might be speaking.

“How did you view the relationships with the women you wrote about? I mean, back then.” That was not the question I had expected. She must have realized this, because she continued, “Let’s try again. Were you friends?”

I thought about this for a second. “Well, no. Friendly? Yeah.”

“It took me well into the first chapter to realize they were professors, not fellow students. I kept asking myself, why would a student care about this paper? Homework? A student wouldn’t, but a professor would.”

“Okay?” I had absolutely no idea what she was trying to say.

“You didn’t think it was weird that you went to professors, not peers?”

“I didn’t have peer friends.”


“I’m not sure? It’s just really hard to connect to people, I guess. I know, I know. It’s weird. Sad.”

“You make so many mentions in the chapter about being alone. About not having anyone to go to. So what does it say about you that the people you do go to are these women? These professors?”


T waved a hand in the air and laughed. “You don’t have to answer now. Just think about it. I told you, difficult questions.”

I nodded, saying nothing.

“It seems to me that the meaning, at least from the chapters you gave me, is about relationships, and what they mean.”

That wasn’t what I was trying for in the writing. But as I rode the subway home that night, as I lay in bed and pondered the question, I could only think about power relationships. I picked them because I wanted someone to tell me what to do. What is it about me? It’s that I have always had relationships that told me what to do next. Where to go, what to wear, who to be. And it was a default; I went to the power relationship because I was lost without it. I didn’t know how to have peer friends, and I still don’t. I feel separate from everyone, and that’s a separation I have created myself. I feel like I felt that I had a right to professor/student relationships because I was certain of my role as a student. But I didn’t have a right to peer/peer relationships because I was uncertain of my role as a person. I still am.

The MFA–a therapy program in academic clothing.

T also mentioned last night that I should find a therapist here. Not because I’m crazy, or because I’m losing it, but because therapy would help me to learn how to reflect. And when I can do that, I can make my writing better. Stronger. If that means therapy again, I guess that’s cool?

So what IS the meaning? My book isn’t just about rape. It’s about how abuse completely fucks with the course of all the things. How it screws you up irrevocably; how it’s incredibly difficult to change the tape that abuse records into your brain. It’s about power, and who does and doesn’t have it. Who we give it to, and who we take it from. And why.

In other news, I think I’ve found the thesis adviser I want. Anyone that can make me really think in this way is okay in my book.

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Being Human

Human.  Belonging to man or mankind; having the qualities or attributes of man; of or pertaining to man or to the race of man.  A human being.  Not a thing.  A person.  Nowhere in the definition of being human does it reference gender or race or experience.  Nowhere in the definition of being human does it say one person is less than another.  It’s very black and white on paper; if you look like a human, you are one.  But the world, unfortunately, does not work that way.  There are many people who turn their backs, who won’t stand up for what’s right.

Not me though.  I’m a soap-box girl.  I feel deeply and passionately about a few topics, and while I may be afraid to talk about my own, personal experiences, I am not afraid to talk about the topics themselves.  I’m not afraid to talk about discrimination.  Because it’s horrible, and it’s wrong.

Today I heard three statements that were greatly offensive.  That cut me, deeply.  Society should know better.  But instead, ignorance is rewarded.  Topics that have no business being jokes are pushed into every day conversation; people give no consideration to those they may hurt.  They say the first thing that comes to mind with no consideration for their audience.  There are people who use positions of power to force their opinion onto others.

They forget that we are all human.


“Abuse is less likely to occur when partners can make each other happy.”

Interpretation: abuse within relationships is the fault of the victim because that victim did not do enough to keep their partner happy.  Had the victim been good enough for their partner, their partner would have been happy and they would not have gotten hurt.  This is a common misconception that many victims of relationship violence have, and statements like this only help to drive that home.

In the first days of February, 2012, Josh Powell of Washington opened the door to his home, informed his children that he had a “really fun surprise” waiting just inside for them, and swept them from the arms of the social worker who was delivering them for visitation.  With a shrug of his shoulders, he proceeded to slam and lock the door in the social worker’s face.  While the social worker stood outside, helpless to stop him, he attacked his two songs in a blatant act of aggression with a hatchet and lit his gasoline doused house on fire.  All three of the Powells died of carbon monoxide poisoning, adding further to the tragedy that had befallen the family when Susan Powell, wife to Josh and mother of the boys, disappeared in 2009.  It is believed by many that Josh murdered Susan, but her body has never been found.

Even though he was the only real suspect in the disappearance of his wife, Powell was allowed to maintain custody of his two boys for nearly two years after her disappearance.  Losing that custody was perhaps akin to losing the last marble Powell had left in his head.  Not seeing any other way to handle things, Powell lashed out and took the lives of both his children and himself.  Powell didn’t hurt his wife or children because they made him unhappy.  Powell hurt his wife and children because he was unhappy.

The important thing to note here is that the boys did nothing wrong.  They were innocent bystanders, literally pulled into the lion’s den.  Susan Powell did nothing wrong.  She was more than good enough.  She was beautiful.

Josh Powell is the only one in this situation who did anything wrong.  He was anything but good enough.


“Date rape is frequently caused by alcohol.”

Interpretation: alcohol causes date rape.  By extension then, if a person drinks alcohol and is then raped, it is their fault because they drank.  This statement plays right into the idea that it is the fault of the victim.  They led the rapist on.  They should have protected themselves.  This doesn’t acknowledge the offender at all.

In Steubenville, Ohio, 2012, a teenage girl went out to a party.  But instead of partying by the definition of the word, she was sexually assaulted, dehumanized, and then blamed by her community because she dared to go after the football players who attacked her.  Her town supported the football players because of their ability to play the game and bring notoriety to the town’s team.  This support even stretched to school officials; William Rhinaman, the director of technology at the local high school, covered up for the football players by tampering with evidence and helping them hide the truth.  Sadly, these things are more common place than many people realize.  On CNN, another case from Maryville, Missouri, was featured where in a teenage girl was raped but her county attorney refused to prosecute, saying “there was not a criminal offense.”  The statement that date rape is caused by alcohol does nothing but perpetuate this cycle where innocent women (and men) are put into this situation.

Date rape isn’t caused by alcohol.  Date rape is caused by some asshat not being able to keep it in their pants.  Whether the victim has been drinking or not, they don’t deserved to be raped.  Nobody deserves to be raped.  It’s a violation of everything that it means to a human being; it’s a taking away of something that the victim can never get back.  It’s a domination of one person over another that should never be allowed to happen.

It’s not okay.


“Gays wouldn’t need to marry if they could just cohabitate.”

Interpretation: gays just need to live together; they don’t have any reason to get married.

Imagine, if you will, your partner or child has been in a horrible accident.  You rush to the hospital and do everything that you can to make sure that they are okay, up to and including making medical decisions that are in their best interests.  You are involved; you are included.  You have power in what happens next for your loved one.

Many LGBT couples in committed relationships don’t have that right.  In many states, they can live together to their heart’s content, but they can’t make medical decisions on behalf of their partner.  This differs from a husband/wife relationship in that a partner could be forced to watch their partner on life support with no legal grounds in which to make medical decisions.  Where a husband/wife relationship gives both people the option to make decisions, many relationships on the LGBT side of the spectrum lack this right.  And that’s not all.  In Florida, a lesbian woman lost her partner in a car accident and was then forced to give up the children they had raised together because she was not allowed to legally adopt them.  A gay man lost his partner of several years in the 9/11 attacks, but was not allowed to collect any federal aid because he was not allowed to obtain a legal marriage.  Cohabitation, while effective in some ways, does not give people the same rights as a marriage.  To reserve marriage as something special, something that only “a certain group of people” can obtain, simply isn’t fair.

LGBT people aren’t asking for special rights, or rights that put them above others.  They just want to have the same rights as everybody else.  They want to make decisions for their loved ones; they want comfort and ability.  They want to be with the person that they love.  To say that they have no need to marry is simply offensive.  If you love someone, you love someone.  That’s just that.


Human.  Having or showing the positive aspect of nature and character regarded as distinguishing human from animals.  Subject to or indicative of the weaknesses, imperfections, and fragility associated with humans: a mistake that shows he’s only human; human frailty.  The definition of human in no way references gender, race, or experience.  When society blames the victim or denies people the rights that they are meant to have, the person in question loses their sense of being human.  And that isn’t fair.  No one should have to feel that way.  No one should be made to feel like they are less than anyone else.

I read an interesting concept on this phenomena:  If someone is stupid and leaves their car unlocked, resulting in things getting stolen from within it, does anyone say “Let’s not punish the thief?”  No.  Because it’s cut and dry.  Theft is wrong.

So why isn’t rape wrong?  One person forcing another to commit sex acts against their will?  That’s less than car theft?  Why isn’t abuse wrong?  Why isn’t discrimination based on race and gender wrong?  We’re all human; we’re all people despite the way that we look, act talk.  Despite who we love.  Nobody should be treated any differently than everybody else.  Everybody should have the same rights.  But the world doesn’t work this way.  People are ignorant.

I just don’t get it.  When speaking, we can never know who our audience is.  People don’t understand that.  It’s impossible to know the background of the people you’re talking to, the things they have been through.  And there are so, so many things.  Everybody has a story.  Everybody has a thing that hurts.  Like the news story I read yesterday, overweight people, old people, drug users, lonely people, eating disorders, rape victims, abuse survivor, LGBT…et cetera, et cetera.  Everyone has a thing.  And making fun of or alienating a person in ANY form based on these things is just simply NOT okay.

Abuse, of any kind, is wrong.

Rape is wrong.

Discrimination is wrong.

It is wrong to make fun of the overweight, to make fun of the underweight, to make fun of the lonely girl who sits in the corner.  It is wrong to make judging comments about something or someone just because they are different than us.

To joke about people, to casually pass over them in conversation like they don’t exist, like their experiences are trivial, as if it’s the fault of the victim or the person simply because of who they are, says that these things are okay.

Let’s make these things not okay.

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And Then I Learned to Talk

When the man first grabbed my hand and shook it, I was mildly intimidated.  He introduced himself, and mentioned he had his doctorate in comp and comparative lit.  I wasn’t entirely sure what comparative lit was, but I knew that somehow, in a room of one hundred people, I had found the person that I could converse intelligently with.  And converse we did.

“Your major is English?” he asked.  “Do you have a focus?  Like, British, American, you know?”

“Writing,” I responded without hesitation.  

“What kind?”


He raised his eyebrows.  “Oh really?  No fiction?”

I wasn’t sure why he was surprised.  “Well, some.  Sci-fi.  But mostly nonfiction.  Creative nonfiction.”

“What’s the difference between creative and noncreative nonfiction?  Isn’t it all just…nonfiction?”

I had to think about that one for a moment.  “Well…Okay.  So.  Take the piece that I got published.  Nonfiction would be interviewing an animal shelter worker and writing a biography on the information that you get.  Creative nonfiction would be taking that information and turning it into a piece that profiles her dog.”

“That makes total sense.”  He took a sip of his wine.  “What lit classes have you taken?  Any Hemingway?”

We chatted Hemingway for a while, and the ways in which he related to my personal writing style.  Hemingway had never been a favorite of mine, but I was able to hold up my end of the conversation.  We strayed from that to graduate school, and the places that I was intending to apply.  And then:

“I went to graduate school in Montreal.  I took a class once with Michael Foucault.”  

I became quite excited at that news.  “He’s my favorite theorist!”

“I hated his class.”  

Introvert me wanted to smack myself in the face at my error in judgement.  “Oh, well,” I stumbled.

“What do you like about him?”

I took a breath.  “Well, I like how he attempts to change society’s ideas regarding power and power systems.”  I was hoping he would let it go at that.

“How so?”

Crap.  I had to keep talking.  “Well, take for instance, “The Subject and the Power.””

“You had to read that for a class?”

“I read it on my own.”

He smiled warmly, encouraging me to continue.

“I find the whole idea of women and power and power relations and how Foucault’s theory challenges gender roles to be incredibly interesting.  Especially the ways in which women obtain power and how power can be used against them.  I wrote a paper about how discourse brings power and knowledge together.  I think that when someone is allowed to have their own ideas, they gain knowledge.”

“But what does that knowledge have to do with power?”

That was an easy one.  “Well, knowledge is power,” I replied.  

“What if I told you that power is what gains people all of their knowledge?”

“I disagree,” I said without missing a beat.  “I think that even if power can gain knowledge, the majority of knowledge comes from power.  You can’t give people power and you can’t take power away.”  I remembered an example that had come up in class.  “Say I have an awesome professor.  When I’m in her class, she has power because she can give me grades.  I know that because she in charge of my grade, she has power over me.  However, it’s up to me what I do with that power.  I choose whether or not to give it to her.  I choose whether or not to go to class.  I choose whether or not to earn that grade.  So in reality, she doesn’t have power at all once I know that it is in my power to earn the grade.  You know what I mean?”

He set his wine glass down on the table and rested his hand across his beard, peering at me.  “That’s an interesting theory.  What would you say about how Foucault views the exercise of power?  I disagree with his idea that signs and signals have power effects.  They have nothing to do with how we communicate.”

“I respectfully disagree.”  I took a sip of my own wine.  “To me, it’s all about communication and follow the signs.  Power and communication are inter-related.  Maybe that varies from society to society, but they’re definitely related.  And I’m not sure Foucault really focused on that at all.  I took more away from the ideas regarding power relations, that power is specifically the action taken on a field of possible action of others.  That it can only be exercised over free subjects, that it can’t be forced.  I feel like he was trying to say that we governmentalize power relations.  If I can use that word.  Which I just now made up.”

He laughed.  “I don’t know.  It seems that you got more out of it than me then.  I would go so far as to say that Foucault focused too much on the different areas in society where these relationships exist.  Status and wealth and social differences and the like.  And how those gain power and form relationships.  I believe that power can be quite negative.”

“I think you’re totally right that those things can form relationships.  But I’d say that power is assigned from where we choose.  We can’t hold power over somebody unless they let us.  I can’t have a lot of money and then hold that over you and claim to be more powerful unless you let me.  Sure, money makes me powerful.  That’s true.  I can buy things and the like.  But if you were poor, you could still be powerful.  It’s all in how we act.  You wouldn’t be not powerful or not able to make decisions just because I had money and I said so.  It isn’t necessarily all the same.”  I worried as the words tumbled from my mouth that they were completely jumbled.

“Power is everywhere,” he quoted, “and it comes from everywhere.  You would support the idea then that it’s not an agency or a structure?  That it just invades society and that it always changes?”

“If power can’t be given or taken,” I responded carefully, “isn’t it always in flux?  And it’s not necessarily negative.  I don’t think Foucault believed that power necessarily had to be negative or repressive.  It can be negative, but I think he was trying to say that it could be positive and productive as well.”

“I do believe,” he said, taking a sip of his wine, “that you would have quite enjoyed his class.”

“I think so too.”

Setting his glass down again, he fished around in his pocket and came up with a business card.  “Say,” he said, passing me the card.  “Since we’ll never talk again, probably.  I think that you have a solid head on your shoulders.  And I’d be pleased to offer you a reference, should you ever need one.”

I smiled and said thank you, staring at the card in awe of my own ability as he disappeared into the crowd.  The words of his name and title blurred together as I thought the urge to cry.  I wasn’t tearing up because I was sad.

Maybe I hadn’t been completely correct in the things I had said.  But I had been solid in my speech.  I hadn’t backed down.  I had made an effort to support my ideas.  I had earned a stranger’s respect. 

I was tearing up because I knew that I really could talk.  I really could share my thoughts.

And I had.

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The Blank (On Power)

We all have our blanks in life.  If I had done ________, ________ wouldn’t have happened.  ________ is the reason for everything.  Today I had a very interesting discussion regarding this phenomena.  My example:  If my son wouldn’t have died, my marriage wouldn’t have either; I don’t know why he died and therefore all of these events must be my fault.

I was told that this statement is, in a way, dishonoring his memory.  Rather than remembering him for the baby he was, I am choosing to place blame on him for something that was in no way his fault.  It is easier to do this than to place the blame where it really lies.   I can logicize (yes, I created that word) the dissolution of my marriage in its entirety:  I carried Carter; Carter died; there were no more children; the essence of our marriage became filled with anger and bitterness; the marriage dissolved.  It started with my son; it ended with me leaving.  Regardless of the events in between, I can trace a clear path of fault back to myself.  I’m not saying that this is rational or correct.  I’m simply saying that I can see how others, my ex specifically, could have arrived at this conclusion and used it to justify their actions.  I don’t know that I truly believe this statement.  I do believe that I just plain don’t have any other rational off which to form a basis for opinion.  If I stray away from this idea, I begin to see things for what they really were.  Would my marriage have been any better had Carter lived?  Probably not.  Was it good before his death?  Not particularly.

Where does the fault lie?  Is it with anyone in particular?  Or was this dissolution a community effort?  Power in a relationship is supposed to go both ways, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.

This comes back to Michel Foucault’s four main tenets regarding power:  it is exercised from many different points, it’s repressive but also productive, it can come from the top down as well as the bottom up, and where power is found there is always resistance.  In class, the example that we used was that the professor has power because it is given to them; as students we know that the professor is responsible for our grades, and therefore we put power on them.  However, we can choose what we do with that knowledge and how much power we give by choosing whether or not to show up to class and working hard to earn said grades.  While the professor has the power to give grades, as students we have the power to earn them.  In the essay “The Subject and Power,” Foucault states that “Power is exercised only over free subjects, and only insofar as they are free.  By this we mean individual or collective subjects who are faced with a field of possibilities in which several ways of behaving, several reactions and diverse comportments, may be realized.  Where the determining factors saturate the whole, there is no relationship of power; slavery is not a power relationship when man is in chains.”  When you tie a person down, or tie them into a relationship, it is a display of power.  It is not, however, true power.  Holding one down in an effort to force your will upon them is not power at all; it is trying to make up for a lack.  When person completely takes over another, it only illustrates that they have no real power themselves.  Once the chains are gone, the slave is free to leave; it is their choice then as to whether or not they choose to go.

I don’t believe my former relationship could have been considered a “free” relationship.  I allowed him to make a lot of the decisions.  I followed, I was obedient, and I served.  I allowed his factors, his needs, to overshadow mine a large portion of the time.  This was a decision I made because I knew no better.  At the time, I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do.  I didn’t see another way.  I gave him power, and while I had the power to leave I chose not to take it.  Until one day, I did.  It had nothing to do with Carter at all, but rather it was a decision that I made because I had to for my own sanity.  Where he had tried to force power upon me and failed, I displayed legitimate power in leaving.  A marriage is supposed to be a relationship of equality, of both give and take; it shouldn’t be about one partner forcing the others’ hand.

All this to say, the human mind does not like to deal with blanks.  We do the best we can to fill them in, regardless of the consequences mentally.  The unknown is scary; we find ourselves in need of answers.  But maybe those answers don’t always exist.   I can’t place the blame for the destruction of that which was already sour on the shoulders of a child who did nothing to deserve it.  The blame rests in the fact that I had power I chose not to exercise, in the fact that I allowed the illusion of power to fool me.

The blame rests in the fact that that illusion even existed in the first place.

Perhaps a blank just means that some things are meant to end.

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