Throwback Thursday: Politics in 1982

I haven’t been posting a lot on this year’s election, mostly because I’m willfully ignoring it, mostly because the whole spectacle makes me queasy. I feel like ever since 2000, I’ve plunged myself in these roller-coaster elections and tried to influence the course of events with my willpower alone. Now the whole thing seems kind of a waste of time. I know who I’m voting for. No one and nothing will change my mind. And so, watching people I detest say detestable things in debate after debate seems masochistic in the extreme. I know a lot of people like the reality-show absurdity of the whole process, but I for one don’t enjoy watching horribly unqualified people bloviate and then having nightmarish imaginings of said people in the Oval Office. I don’t need the extra stress.

And yet sometimes, even when trying to avoid politics, I find a lovely moment in my fickle reading that manages to put everything in perspective. This passage comes from May Sarton’s journal At Seventy, written in 1982, and therefore does indeed bring with it that security that comes from knowing that everything that’s happening and is going to happen will do so from the safety of the past. You can be the judge as to how much things have changed since then:

There is never any depth in Reagan’s perceptions of the world. He behaves like an animated cartoon, wound up to perform futile gestures and careless witticisms. It made me feel sick when his reaction to the despair of blacks about this administration was to engineer the other day a visit to a middle-class black family who had been threatened five years ago by a burning cross. So the TV cameras were marshaled, and Reagan and Nancy were shown kissing the family one by one. He made a few remarks about “this sort of thing” not tolerable in a democracy. But what is not tolerable is such a cheap ploy. Meanwhile, forty-eight percent of young blacks are jobless, and the administration offers no help. The black family behaved with perfect dignity, but the whole false “scene” was shown up clearly for what it was, a public-relations media event, an insult to the black community, neglected and shoved under the rug.

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Dear God: Forgive Me for Wishing Inhuman Violence on the Planned Parenthood Shooter

 

[WARNING: The following includes scenes of gruesome bodily harm against rapists, murderers, and mundane terrorists. If you’d rather not look in the face of my blood-drenched, over-the-top anger, read no further.]

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[You have been warned.]

O Father God, please have mercy on me for being a merciless tyrant in my own heart. Forgive me for wanting to find the dullest, rustiest axe still impaled in the rotting corpse of a mother grizzly in the Rockies and with infinite slowness flay the fugly white beard off the face of the Planned Parenthood shooter. Forgive me for imagining myself removing his spleen with my teeth and a toothbrush. For picturing a horde of women trampling him wearing six-inch stiletto heels (the women, not the shooter, although he can wear whatever he likes in the face of the stampede). For slicing him head to toe into microscopic bits, then inventing a machine that will stick him painfully back together so I can start the process all over again.

O Mother God, please look with pity on my fiery mind that has no outlet to rage against the mass shooters of our country. I want no weaponry. I am a pacifist. Instead, I want your wrath and the most profound and hidden powers of the universe to transform myself into a flaming beast the likes of which Planned Parenthood “protesters” have never seen. Those men and women who ignite gasoline on the doorsteps of clinics and shriek in the faces of women trying to get health care? I want to gather them all in the most barren stretch of the desert and belch brimstone down upon them until they fall to their knees and doubt their own existence, let alone their perception of You.

And for the politicians who try to deny this despicable man, the shooter–a man who was not a “gentle loner,” as a New York Times reporter claimed, who beat his wives and was charged with raping a woman at knifepoint: I want those politicians to experience simultaneous shin pains and catastrophic attacks of diarrhea at their next debate to pay them back for ratcheting up the far right’s hatred of women, all to gain support for the primary election. How I wish I could pray to you, O Many-Personed God, to infest all of their clothing with fleas and all their mattresses with bedbugs. But I don’t believe in praying to You to damage Your creation, so I guess I’m stuck wishing for these things to happen.

And to the community of men and women, mothers and fathers, who lived with this latest Christian terrorist: I want them to be haunted by the eyes of the dead. I want them to realize that men (particularly white men in this country) become monsters because smaller acts of violence–stalking, adultery, a cuff to the wife’s chin every now and again–are left to slide. I want these people to take real accountability for their actions and stop forgiving hatred toward women because somehow women “deserve it.” I want mothers especially to figure out what sort of sons they want to raise and teach their sons to understand that they have no right to dominate anyone else’s body.

Forgive me for wishing pain and horror on all these people, O Unknowable God. Forgive me for getting sucked into their awful game.

A Little More Jan Hooks

Every time Jan Hooks re-enters the pop culture blood stream, I get a tremendous spike in my readership. Last Saturday, it happened again. SNL reran an episode that included a tribute to Hooks, the “Love Is a Dream” sketch, now a bona fide tear-jerker since both Hooks and Phil Hartman are gone. Apparently, people are still searching for information on what happened to her last October. (There’s still no new information, by the way. Only Wikipedia citing a single Daily Mail article, which cited the head of her building’s co-op as their big source on Hooks’s cause of death.) I, too, wish we knew more, but I also wish we had more of her and her work. She was so very, very funny. And she disappeared from the public eye far too soon.

But we’ve been all been saying the same thing for several months now, so here’s something I never saw until Salon mentioned it in a recent interview with Nora Dunn:  a clip of Dunn and Hooks as the Sweeney Sisters, opening the Emmys in 1988. The video quality is pretty bad, but the show Dunn and Hooks put on is a little snippet of lunatic brilliance. Possibly the best part happens when the Sweeneys leave the stage and start accosting all the celebrities in the audience. (Think famous actors like being messed with when they’re the ones watching something onstage? Think again.)

Enjoy the clip, everyone! And be sure to check out this exhaustive essay on Hooks’s career from blogger Little Kicks Dance, who pulls together an amazing amount of material on Hooks’s life and personality as well. My hat’s off to you, Little Kicks Dance. A big, giant virtual bottle of tequila for you in honor of collecting, like, ten times the amount of quality material than the Daily Mail’s “let’s interview the head of her co-op” reporting staff did!

Consider the Rapist: Everyone Gets Raped

It’s time to interrupt our regularly scheduled lineup of illness rants, writing news, and wacky Shakespeare happenings to bring you yet another infuriating installment of how rape culture is still alive and well in our supposedly civilized world. Three days ago, Rolling Stone published the findings of an investigation conducted by the Columbia School of Journalism on what went wrong in the exposé “A Rape on Campus,” in which a UVA student describes being gang-raped in a fraternity house. Once the account was discovered to have major inconsistencies (although it’s important to remember that the article’s subject, Jackie, gave an initial description of her assault–that she was forced to perform oral sex on several men in a frat house–that is still, by any legal definition, rape), the collective media response was to get swept up in whether or not Jackie’s experience as reported in Rolling Stone was true. What’s been lost as a result of this free-for-all of faultfinding and finger-pointing (and Rolling Stone’s decision to scrub the original article from its web site) is the fact that many, many rapes and attempted rapes have happened at UVA.

In fact, as anyone with an internet connection and the ability to type “rape” into a search engine could tell you, rape and sexual assault happen everywhere, all over the world.

You know what else you can find out if you look hard enough? Everyone gets raped.

And at the moment, by “everyone,” I mean men.

One thing that struck me after reading the Jezebel article ” ‘Law and Justice Aren’t the Same’: Interview with a UVA Rape Survivor” (see the first “many” in the above sentence for the link) is the fact that the reporter and the rape survivor, both young women, seem to have an incredibly low threshold for what counts as rape. Here’s one exchange between the two that raised my middle-aged, somewhat prudish eyebrows:

Let me ask you another question, which I want to preface by saying I understand, personally and well, that there’s a massive difference between drunk or even blackout sex and rape. But, some people really fear the potential gray area—they fear that some girls will think “regrettable” and cry assault.

I find that idea very out of step with reality, but it’s worth asking: how did you know the difference? How did you know when you woke up that you hadn’t consented? That it wasn’t just, you got drunk and had sex?

Because I couldn’t take a breath without hearing those guys joke about fucking my dead body. I knew very deep down that something horrific had happened. I knew I had not had the chance to make the choice. I did not want to fuck that guy. I did not in any way want to give him access to my body.

I know, when I’ve had drunk sex—vague memories, unclear situations—that I was an active participant. People would tell me the morning after, “You said this, you did this,” and I’d be like, “Sure, that sounds like me.”

There is a difference between having drunk sex and having someone penetrate you when you are lying there, basically unconscious.

Now, I could go into some extended analysis about the sexual mores of these two women and self-protection and all that. But I’m not going to–one, because it’s not my place to judge their mores, and two, because we’re Considering the Rapist here, and their comments give me a wee bit of insight into what college campus rapists might particularly be getting off on: bodies that are warm and limp and completely defenseless. In the Jezebel article, the interviewee said when she woke up and discovered where she was the morning after the rape, a man outside the room marveled that the man who’d raped her “is a necrophiliac, he likes to fuck dead girls.”

Hopefully, I don’t have to explain to any readers of this blog how vaginas and other female body cavities are always in use and not open to the sexual pleasure of others whether the body’s owner is awake, asleep, or incapacitated. I also don’t think I need to explain how the fantasy of a woman drunk or passed out in the vicinity of a male virgin/nerd/guy who’s hit a dry spell in his sex life is considered funny or even a dream come true in popular culture. (Just think back to the movie “Sixteen Candles” if you want a taste of how the fantasy works.) What I would suggest, however, is that men who like to fuck “dead” bodies may not stop with female ones.

So many men who patrol the comment boards of various media outlets are quick to pounce on articles that don’t consider how men who are falsely accused of rape have their lives turned upside down for no reason. I’m certainly not saying this doesn’t happen, but what I am saying is that this rhetorical stance (while being patently offensive to rape victims) seems to buy into the idea that a man can have sex with a semi- or fully unconscious woman “accidentally” or because he’s fulfilling his dream of getting laid for the first time, or getting laid with a beautiful body, or getting laid with a particular beautiful body he’s been worshiping from afar. The commenter implicitly sympathizes with the man accused: this is the dream, the commenter says, and I could just as easily be caught up in it as the next man.

What the commenter doesn’t tend to see is that people who are into raping others will rape anyone if the opportunity arises. In 2009, male prisoners-of-war in Uganda were gang-raped repeatedly by their captors over the course of days or weeks. In 2012, the National Crime Victimization Survey studied 40,000 households in the U.S. and revealed that 38% of the rapes reported had male victims. Further, over 46 percent of those rapes with male victims involved female attackers. Yes, that’s right: men can get raped by women. And according to a recent article on Cracked, the experience isn’t funny or a dream come true.

So if people who rape will rape anyone, and rapes are happening on college campuses–particularly in frat houses–what makes the men who are so skeptical of female survivors and so eager to exonerate potential rapists think that they’d be safe in a frat house after a stint of binge drinking? What makes them think that some passing fraternity brother (or group of brothers) wouldn’t find a vulnerable first-year or nerd an easy target for a reaming with an empty bottle? Or worse? Sure, guys in frats don’t want to be seen as gay, but rape isn’t about sexual orientation. It’s about power. And if a guy or an assortment of guys thinks it would be fun to fuck up your genitalia while you’re sleeping, they’re going to. Count on it.

How much money do you want to bet that there are men out there who have been sexually assaulted on college campuses, men keeping their trauma a secret because they don’t want to face the backlash if they speak up? Or because they know they’ll have to explain why they were underage and lied their way into a boozefest and got so drunk they couldn’t defend themselves? Or because they’ve rationalized the whole thing as just a harmless prank, and they were probably asking for it anyway?

We do everyone a disservice when we ignore the fact that everyone gets raped by rapists. We should find the men who get raped on college campuses and encourage them to tell their stories, just as we encourage women to do so. It shouldn’t be the case that we have to include men in an issue to get society to listen to women. But as a civilized society, we also have to face the fact that everyone gets raped and stop laughing (or, even worse, cheering) at the idea that men get raped and make a greater effort to include everyone in the healing process.