Vanity Fair has an interview out wherein Jennifer Lawrence addresses the stolen nude photos. She says that it was a sex crime, and she addressed the complicity of everyone who looks:
“Anybody who looked at those pictures, you’re perpetuating a sexual offense. You should cower with shame. Even people who I know and love say, ‘Oh, yeah, I looked at the pictures.’ I don’t want to get mad, but at the same time I’m thinking, I didn’t tell you that you could look at my naked body.”
Here’s how I look at it. I imagine she was my neighbor, my friend, and she came and knocked on my door and told me that her account was hacked and someone might send me nude photos, and would I please delete them and not look at them. Would I really look at them anyway? No, I wouldn’t, and so I didn’t. Some folks may be saying to themselves, “well, I looked. Are you saying you’re a better person than me?” I am saying that. I’m saying that because the victim is saying that. And I’ll tell you what I tell my kids: you can’t change the past, but you can change the future. Unfortunately there will be a next time, and next time you can make the right choice.
I suspect, if this experience hasn’t completely soured her on it, Jennifer Lawrence will eventually do a nude scene in a major movie, in a way she has some say in. Hopefully it will be work she’s proud of, and she will want us to show up to see it on the big screen, and if and when that film comes out, I’ll be happy to pay up and stand on line. That’s what I’d do if she was my friend, and that’s what I’ll do as a fan.
I already wrote about Emma Sulkowicz. She reported a man to Columbia University for raping her, but the panel cleared him. She went to the police, but they treated her poorly and did nothing. Then she formulated a performance art piece, Carry That Weight, which has been widely covered and has received a great deal of support both within and without the university.
Her parents wrote a letter identifying the man she reported, and shedding significant additional light: the same man, Jean-Paul Nungesser, was previously adjudicated responsible in an incident of violence sexual assault against a different female student, following her to her room and shoving her inside. And Emma Sulkowics made her decision to report him after learning from other women about incidents indicating that his behavior was part of a pattern. Here’s one thing they say:
3) The fact that Nungesser had previously been found “responsible” by a Columbia panel for following another Columbia student to her room, shoving his way in, forcefully pinning, and groping her was not allowed as evidence in Emma’s hearing. Just days before her hearing, Dean Valentini granted an appeal of this verdict, which re-opened the case and consequently disallowed it as evidence. This effectively hamstrung Emma’s case. (An aside: The final hearing for this other case was scheduled and held at a time the complainant had specified that she was not available to testify. Without her presence, the original panel’s “responsible” verdict was easily overturned.)
Much of what they say is about Rosalie Siler, the Columbia minion who acted as Sulkowics’ sole advisor and who, her parents say, essentially hindered rather than helped the presentation of the evidence of Nungesser’s misconduct. One might suspect, given both that the grant of appeal managed to fortuitously keep the prior conduct out as evidence in Sulkowics’ hearing, and that the University scheduled the new hearing for a time when the complaining witness was unavailable, and that the Sulkowicss allege that Emma was advised not to get her own lawyer (though Nungesser had one) and that her advisor did more to interfere with her case than to present it, that this was an effort to protect Nungesser.
The social dimension of the current political moment is this: universities are not willing to do much of anything to stop rape, but are willing to put quite a lot of effort into hushing it up, including putting a thumb on the rapist’s side of the scale in their adjudication processes. That’s what Columbia here stands accused of.
A federal judge once said to me, when I was just a young’un, that this is how you read a statute: “from left to right; stop at punctuation.” You don’t know what this thing says unless you read the text. TL;DR from the headlines does not an analysis make. So here is the pertinent text, the text of section (a), which is the part people are talking about:
(a) In order to receive state funds for student financial assistance, the governing board of each community college district, the Trustees of the California State University, the Regents of the University of California, and the governing boards of independent postsecondary institutions shall adopt a policy concerning sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, as defined in the federal Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. Sec. 1092(f)) involving a student, both on and off campus. The policy shall include all of the following:(1) An affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by both parties to sexual activity. “Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.(2) A policy that, in the evaluation of complaints in any disciplinary process, it shall not be a valid excuse to alleged lack of affirmative consent that the accused believed that the complainant consented to the sexual activity under either of the following circumstances:(A) The accused’s belief in affirmative consent arose from the intoxication or recklessness of the accused.(B) The accused did not take reasonable steps, in the circumstances known to the accused at the time, to ascertain whether the complainant affirmatively consented.(3) A policy that the standard used in determining whether the elements of the complaint against the accused have been demonstrated is the preponderance of the evidence.(4) A policy that, in the evaluation of complaints in the disciplinary process, it shall not be a valid excuse that the accused believed that the complainant affirmatively consented to the sexual activity if the accused knew or reasonably should have known that the complainant was unable to consent to the sexual activity under any of the following circumstances:(A) The complainant was asleep or unconscious.(B) The complainant was incapacitated due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication, so that the complainant could not understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity.(C) The complainant was unable to communicate due to a mental or physical condition.
In some corners of the rape denial universe it is popular to say that this doesn’t happen, that all reports of drugged drinks are merely voluntary overconsumption. There are two kinds of people who say that: (1) those who have chosen to believe it, because they don’t believe anything women say anyway and because it’s convenient for them to believe it; and (2) those who know first-hand that it isn’t true, but want to protect those who deliberately and involuntarily intoxicate others.
When people say, “rape culture,” some people say that there isn’t one. Even some people who should know better say that. Everyone agrees that rape is bad, right? But they don’t. In the comments and threats that assail women who speak out about rape on the internet, when the trolls know people are unlikely to uncover their identities, they say what they really think. They approve of rape.
These allegations admit of no possibility of accident or miscommunication. Instead, this required a conspiracy of the bartender and the doorman, at a minimum, and probably at least the silent complicity of several members. Someone said, “let’s roofie a bunch of girls …” and someone else thought it was a great idea. As it became clear that someone wasn’t joking, but was actually planning and preparing, nobody, nobody, said, “no, actually that would be a felony and we cannot do that.” If you want to know what “rape culture” is, it’s a culture where someone could raise this idea and instead of a chill falling over the whole room, the other people either strain to pretend it’s a joke or gleefully join in. If you want to know what “social license to operate” is it’s that the idea that women at fraternity parties are targets to be intoxicated and sexually molested is so powerful that the guy that thought this up not only had friends willing to defend his idea, they agreed to help, and they believed that they would get away with it.
As a general moral proposition, to hell with loyalty. If you are ever so loyal to any person that, when that person says, “let’s rape someone,” it even occurs to you that going along with it is a viable option, your moral compass is shot and you need to cut all ties with every single person you know, pack up and walk as far as you can get into the most desolate wilderness until the ruinous effects of your social environment wear off and you once again develop the ability to hear your conscience. You. If you’re reading this now, and you’re thinking, “well, I don’t know, I might …” Stop. Stop, turn off the computer, and pick a spot on the map where nobody is, and go there. Until you do, you’re a danger to us all.
Another criminal prosecution arising from abuse in a kinky relationship. There are so few facts thus far that I won’t write much, but this is on my radar.
I don’t know why the report even notes that she’s trans. In fact, after the first paragraph, they follow the sensible rule for avoiding shitty trans coverage tropes: if it’s irrelevant to the story, don’t bring it up. But that fact, her trans status without more, appears in the headline and first paragraph, perhaps for no reason other than clickbait, or because while the style guidelines say that trans women are women, some reporter or editor couldn’t bring themselves to apply that without an implied asterisk. At least after mentioning it they left it alone, so that’s progress because the bar of better-than-usual is pretty low.
I’ve said before that the only way kink-abuse cases get prosecuted is if there is hospitalization or video; reading between the lines, I think we’ll find out that video evidence was seized.
There are screeds coming. In the course of this, as more facts develop, I expect I’ll write about the slave register site and the positioning of 24/7 and TPE within BDSM communities and spaces, like I do. I expect I’ll write about the application of trafficking laws to situations where people are literally not free to leave. I expect I’ll write about press coverage of her trans status, though I hope I don’t; maybe if it’s not relevant as the story develops, they could just leave it alone? Perhaps, but I doubt it. All these conversations will wait until the factual record is more developed.
I’d rather not write about this. It’s not exactly fun. I’d rather not, but the things I expect I’ll say, I’m not counting on anyone else to say. So I will.
I blew my stack on Facebook this morning, after reading one of the many threads where women are trying to have a conversation around the Isla Vista shooting and the #YesAllWomen hashtag campaign. I blew my stack because there are two things derailing these conversations. One is misogynist men trying deliberately to derail, deny and distract. The other is men who want to do the right thing, who mean well, but who feel the need to insert their insecurities, their disclaimers and clarifications and make the conversation about their feelings.
Here’s what I said:
JESUS CHRIST SHUT UP AND LISTEN. IF YOU ARE A MAN RIGHT NOW DO NOT TALK OVER WOMEN. AT ALL. SPEAK ONLY AMONG MEN about whatever you think your valid point is that you so desperately need to hear yourself say and just SHUT THE FUCK UP. Why have I not written about Rodgers? BECAUSE MEN NEED TO SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LISTEN. Two weeks. Just shut your fucking facehole for two weeks. NO! Zip! It! If it’s that fucking brilliant, it will be brilliant in two weeks.
But I know, because women who want the same kind of change that I want are telling me, that if you and me and the guys who care duck out of the conversation for two weeks, we’re only leaving the field in possession of the enemy and abandoning the people we want to support. If you care enough about what I think to follow my example if I decided to stay silent, you’re actually the guy who should stay in the conversation.
But just because we’re talking doesn’t mean we’re helping, and right now I think to help, I have to be willing to do some really specific stuff. Here’s what I think I have to do:
(1) Not talk about my insecurities when women are trying to talk about their struggle.
(2) Signal-boost the women who are saying important stuff.
(3) Shut down, shout down, and push back at misogynists who are trying to make the conversation not happen.
So if you care what I think, I’m asking you to do this with me. Women need to let the anger and fear and frustration speak now, to know that we’re listening; and we need to hear it. Lots of us are going to have that queasy, “she thinks that might be me, and that’s totally not me” feeling. Here’s what I want to do: just lock that down and keep in on ice until June 13. Don’t do the “not all men” thing, not even a little; don’t say it. Live the example, stand by the women you support and don’t let your insecurities get in the way. Let them know you by your works. If I need to vent about my feelings, I’ll do that in private with friends, not where the public conversations are happening.
Everything I write in public about Isla Vista or Rodger or masculinity, misogyny or entitlement for the next two weeks, I’m going to ask myself, “is this helping my women friends have their conversation?” If not, I can change it, or I can hold it.
We need men to talk about how we feel about manhood and violence and the reality of rapists and abusers among us and in our social circles and families, out own sexuality and consent and all the nuanced and complex stuff. We need that, but not today, not right now, not in the immediate aftermath of a guy planning to slaughter a sorority and trying to do it. The nuances that men’s experiences add will still be valuable in two weeks; women need two more weeks to talk about the things that scare them out of their minds and the shit they have to live with, and they need us to clear the way for them; not engage to qualify, explain and redirect.
I have a small but influential social circle and readership, and I see a lot of really good stuff that’s being said and written right now, especially stuff by women talking about their own experiences, and I’m going to popularize the good stuff and let it speak for itself.
What I’m not going to do is leave the assholes in charge of the conversation. I’m going to point out their agendas, their distortions and lies. I know my skillset, and smacking people around on social media, litigating issues, and showing the bystanders that these people are wrong factually and morally; that I can do. That’s not about me. That’s about pushing back on their bullshit so the women who are trying to have the conversation in public spaces right now feel our support.
If I have something to say about my feelings and my masculinity and how this affects me, if that’s so damned brilliant that I should share it with the world, it will still be worth sharing later. I can keep that on ice until June 13. Two weeks. It’s not about me for two weeks. That’s not much to ask.
So I’m asking. Not about me, not about us, just support and defend the conversation that is happening, for two weeks.