i blame the impulse to blame

i’ve been reading more i blame the patriarchy lately, largely because of erik, whose own blog is becoming one of the most heartfelt explorations of the responsible pursuit of gender equity that i know.
just in case he wasn’t already securely within the ranks of the coolest people in the world.

and yes, i recognize that i just introduced a post with a feminist theme by not only praising a man, but also by engaging in a cutesy display of girlish affection therein.

get over it.

i do not believe that the way to empower women is to exclude men from the conversation, nor to refrain from praising them when they step up, nor to shun all girlish impulses, and if convincing me otherwise is your goal, best stop now, for i am a lost cause to you.
please don’t shed too many tears for my soul.

whoa, this topic makes me snippy before i even start talking about it!

anyways, the last couple of days at ibtp have been intense.

stop reading now if you don’t want to be exposed to some rather radical feminism.

seriously. i won’t be offended, and i’ll be sure to send out a memo later if i change my mind.

ok, so some dude wrote in to ask whether he was raping his girlfriend because she didn’t ever initiate sex, and the ripping of the proverbial new one ensued in the comments.
summary of consensus: yes. and the fact that you wrote in to ask about it gives us the womanly willies.

which is an interestingly gendered term…
should i say the wilhelminas?

anyway, i haven’t decided yet what my short response to that discussion is, and i haven’t felt inclined to ramble through a long one publicly.

yesterday, though, there was a post that i took as a progression of the discussion, and it put forth the thesis that all heterosexual sex should be considered a criminal act by default, and therefore any time any woman felt inclined to bring charges against any man for sexual misconduct, the default conviction would be guilty.

if you are not glazing over and switching to lolcats already, you should read the post.

now, it should definitely be understood that the suggestion is not intended to be a stab at judicial fairness; it is more like an experiment in redistributive injustice, with the idea being that right now the cards are stacked so heavily against women because of the ease with which “she consented!” can be used to dismiss sexual assault charges, that it would do the patriarchy some good to have the tables turned for a while, with full vials of their own bitter, bitter medicine beside plates of their own scraps.

as you might expect, once again the comment floodgates were opened, and while i was thinking about what i might say this time, erik beat me to the punch.

this post started out as a comment on his post, actually, but then i decided to claim it as my own.

you know, given that it IS my own.

and i have been at a loss for substantive matter lately.

and it seems a bit funny to use my digital space as a platform for chip commentary while voicing my thoughts on feminism within the reactionary regions of a male slice of the blogosphere, albeit a male slice i deeply respect…

but i begin to digress too verily.

if you’re interested, read the original post, AND erik’s reaction, AND my reaction (it’s coming, i promise!), and contribute to the multitudinous pathways of discussion as ye will.

then we can be as an octopus that just keeps sprouting legs until it can’t move anymore and starves to death while tripping over itself and looking silly.
yay blogging.

ok, so here’s what trips me up about twisty’s suggestion:

heterosexual intercourse?
not a crime.

if you’re going to disagree with me, i realize that it’s going to be there, right from square one.
i realize that the whole point is to consider the implications of the idea that this assumption is fundamentally flawed, and you don’t have to believe me when i say that i gave it some thought, but i did, and i will likely continue to do so, but right now i am documenting my intuitive reaction.
and i’m not buying it.
i’m not buying it enough that i think it’s worth sticking a stake in the ground and saying “nuh-uh. don’t Even go there. not even for fun.”

you see, i wholeheartedly believe that it is possible for an intelligent, aware woman to view the act of heterosexual intercourse as something other than the violation of the female body by the male body, and given that this is the case, criminalizing the act would not only perpetuate injustice against men, but against many, many women who choose to view sex as a joyous expression of intimate union.

and it is from that perspective that i am motivated to enter the conversation.
to figure out what respecting the feminist argument means to me.
so here we go.

but for right now, even if we can’t agree on the basic premise of criminality, let’s just take the fact that we all seem to agree that some level of injustice would remain a consequence of the new law.

countering injustice with more injustice?
bad form.

coopting the criminal justice system in order to make bold political statements intended to prompt reflection on the patriarchy?
there be dragons.

yes, the patriarchy results in many, many situations in which justice is doled out unequally based on what’s between our legs, and yes, it does us good to admit that, and i embrace creative means of jolting us out of our bubbles of privilege, be they gendered or otherwise.

and yes, it could be said that i am resorting to a cloud in the sky from where real action is impossible, and i should be challenged to provide alternative ways of bettering the situation.

but that’s a challenge i want to embrace.

i say we hold our standards higher.

i say we don’t fight back by oneupping the current rules of the game with smirks on our faces, but by figuring out new games entirely.

at the end of the day i want to put my energy towards the proliferation of happy, healthy human beings who are committed to a society of mutual love and respect, and i just don’t think the desire to feed people their own poison is a part of that picture.

the journey is the destination.
the means is the end.
the way is the way is the…


ok, lest i ascend too far into my pretensions, here’s a kickback to the old skool craig kilborn era moment of zen, because man, i would give jon stewart three camels a week and a giraffe on sunday, but sometimes i still misses me some o’ that slap me in the face zaniness, and that there be one of the best slaps i know.

that’s enough for today.

8 Responses to “i blame the impulse to blame”

  1. Virago Says:

    I’m disappointed that those who dismiss TF’s idea seem to do so because ultimately they have so little trust in women. No, wait a minute. Just listen. One of the main objections is that women would use the law punitively, right? That shows little faith, little trust, in women. I say, have a little faith in women. Trust women. In the midst of patriarchal craziness, that alone is a radical act.

    Or maybe you don’t like this idea because some women have never experienced rape and are free and independent and can make uncoerced decisions about sex and they *do* enjoy sex and don’t want to see it criminalized. And that’s fine. Fine. That’s a fine and privileged point of view. It’s certainly a patriarchally-endorsed point of view. The truth is that there are millions and millions of women without this privilege, who have been raped or coerced into agreeing to sex acts, and I, for one, would much rather stand in *their* defense.

  2. Kevin Makice Says:

    I’ll refrain from jumping in on this Planet Info post discussion until I finish reading “This Changes Everything,” a great history of relational-cultural theory published by Christina Robb last year. The first few chapters are essentially biographies of three main contributors to relational psychology: Carol Gilligan, Jean Baker Miller and Judith Lewis Herman. It has been very helpful to read about their experiences, rather than just their conclusions, because it highlights the process of discovery and how they have had to adapt their framework over time.

    Gender issues are not about gender; they are about power. This conflict between power-over and power-under repeats in many ways, always with the same basic disconnection between the roles the subordinate plays and the awareness that it is due to the power differential.

  3. kynthia Says:


    My objection has nothing to do with the fact that women would use the law punitively. My opinion wouldn’t change even if it could be proven that No woman would Ever use the law vindictively or pettily in the course of the natural fallout of relationships, and I am more than willing to grant that the majority of women would go on living and loving and engaging with men in trusting, mutually enjoyable sexual intercourse.

    The fact that a law might result in desirable outcomes is simply not, in my opinion, equivalent to justice.

    I enjoy sex today but I spent several years in what I have since acknowledged was a sexually coercive relationship, and I respect the desire to stand in the defense of those who are currently deprived of justice. I am not saying that we should accept the way things are now, and I am not saying that the law should not advocate for the disempowered.

    I’m saying that revenge is not justice, even when it wears a nice coat and knocks at the right doors. It’s our job to listen with an ear to both privilege and disempowerment, because growth lies in understanding what fuses the coin together, not in pretending that either face tells the full story.

  4. kynthia Says:


    Thanks for the book nod. It sounds interesting. And reminds me that we should have talked more about our work at CHI. :)

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts, as always. I think a good bit about how to balance the awareness that power dynamics go beyond gender with the simultaneous awareness that gender discrimination is worth acknowledging on it’s own, um… (de)merits?

    So yeah. With bated keyboard… ;)

  5. Virago Says:

    Twisty was not advocating revenge but balance. Though given the current imbalance of power that favors men, balance may seem like revenge. When giving women the benefit of the doubt seems to advocate revenge, things are way, way off kilter.

    Currently, there is no justice for the millions of women worldwide who are raped every year. Current justice favors the rapists. Merely stepping back and examining the phenomenon, the interface between “privilege and disempowerment,” means nothing ultimately. Even if you gain understanding, the rapist and his views and his actions are still labeled just. Women are still being raped, women still don’t have a voice, women still don’t experience justice even if you’ve found your own safe haven, your cove of understanding, your perfect sex partner.

  6. kynthia Says:

    i am compelled to quibble with this trump card you pull about giving women the benefit of the doubt. the proposal is not “let’s give women the benefit of the doubt in court.” the proposal is “let’s criminalize heterosexual intercourse and see what happens.”

    one thing that might happen is that more women would be able to successfully convict their rapists, but given that the patriarchy does not limit its playing field to the space within courtroom walls, this strikes me as far from a foregone conclusion.

    but setting that aside for a second, i am willing to grant, for the sake of argument, that such a law would lead to an increase in sexual assault convictions. but that still does not make criminalizing heterosexual sex and giving women the benefit of the doubt interchangeable. “benefit of the doubt” is a commentary on the way the law views consent, not the way the law views sex. twisty’s point, i believe, is that bickering over what constitutes consent is the bulk of the problem, so why not try a different angle? why not take consent out of the picture entirely? why not say “you know what? you have been acting as if sex is a right for centuries, so now we’re just gonna turn that idea upside down and say sex is a crime instead. see how you like them apples.”

    this is a bold idea. it is interesting to consider. it clearly gets people fired up.
    but it is not the same as giving women the benefit of the doubt, and to assert that, having considered it and rejected it, i am now arguing against the right of women to be taken seriously in court because i question the justice of the criminalization of half of the population is staggeringly unfair. the fact that i object despite the fact that most men wouldn’t be convicted is not a referendum on the degree to which i trust women, it is an indication that i think there is something more than a call for justice and balance at work here, and that is what i am trying to point out.

    let me try it this way:

    a proposal that sounds a lot like twisty’s is: “we can’t all agree on how to define rape, so let’s just trust that anything that any woman calls rape is rape. we might get some false convictions sometimes, but given the imbalance of power in our culture there might not be another way to raise the standard of scrutiny when it comes to sexual assault, so it could be a risk worth taking.”

    that is thought provoking, and if that were my interpretation, we would be having a different conversation.

    maybe i should take that as a prompt for a follow up post.
    that sounds like a good idea.

    that is not, however, what i think the proposal actually says.

    i think the proposal says “we can’t all agree on how to define rape, so let’s just say that all heterosexual intercourse is inherently rape, and therefore any sex that a woman chooses to bring to trial is automatically rape by definition. we might get some troubling convictions sometimes but that’s ok because the deck has been stacked the other way for too damn long and all men are half-guilty by association anyway.”

    in one case the target is rape.
    in the other the target is sex.
    in one case we are asked to weight our standards to reflect historical inequity.
    in the other we are asked to let the existence of historical inequity abolish the pursuit of standards altogether.

    in the space between these cases, all of my potential support leaves the building.
    attacking sex in order to get to rape is too much like firebombing an entire city in order to kill the terrorists: you can argue that it works, but you can’t call it justice.

    the bullet points from my original post:

    • bad form
    • there be dragons
    • i say hold our standards higher

    i have not once argued against trust or balance or justice.
    i am only saying that it is my reasoned, female, single, cove-less, and perfection-free opinion that decriminalizing heterosexual intercourse is a path to none of the above.

    so let’s keep trying.

  7. Virago Says:

    I don’t see how this idea criminalizes all heterosexual “behavior.” Of course, I think this because currently, under patriarchy, the vast majority of heterosexual sex is largely criminal precisely because it is rape. The behaviors that men engage in during quote-unquote normal, heterosexual sex are the same behaviors that they engage in during rape.

    You say then that “we can’t all agree on what defines rape”? Twisty and other advanced, radical feminists make the point that women get to define rape. If a particular act is acceptable to you, and your partner knows enough about you to know that it is acceptable, then no rape has occurred.

    Again, under TF’s idea, you decide what rape is. If you think its okay to be coerced into or forced to have sex? Fine. That’s your choice and no one will call it rape. If you don’t like to be forced or coerced into having sex? Then it’s rape. I, and the rest of the justice system, will trust you to be in a place where you can make that call because you are making the choice, not the man who is coercing or forcing you into sex.

    What TF is trying to point out is that under the current form of justice, it’s the rapist (or the class that gives rise to rapists and that benefits from rape) that defines what rape is. That has led…well, of course you know where that has led. It’s led to a rape culture in which the victims of rape are so voiceless that they have no say in what defines the crime against them.

    I mean, seriously, if it were burglers deciding whether or not your house had been robbed, there would be a lot less crime in the world, right? Riiight. Currently, the rapists have all the power to “decide what rape is.” You have none. TF–and I too–would love to shift that balance so that women have a say.

    Have you come across the Den of the Biting Beaver? She sets forth good, thought-provoking criteria for what rape is.

  8. belledame222 Says:

    per “trusting women”–you know, I’ve several (mostly female, a couple male) acquaintances who’ve been abused by women, including sexually. and plenty of male friends and acquaintances who’ve been raped by men. This…just doesn’t even make any damn sense, to me; it’s like a non sequiter. what does “trusting women” (all 3.5 billion of us, especially the one with the goiter) have to do with this? are we now saying that women are -inherently- more trustworthy? at least “no, but fuck the mens anyway, -I’m- hurting, shake it all up and let Deity sort ’em out” is more straightforward.

    yeah, i get the general sentiment, but…eh, too much baggage there to really comment fairly on the OP I suppose.

    just: of course it’s freaking revenge. I’m not even gonna comment on whether I think it’s a -good idea- or how it might or might not be implemented in the real world, because it’s all just another damn mental exercise anyway. hell, in that realm I’d cheerfully hire Hothead Paisan to mete out some vigilante justice.

    but, break it down:

    1) men have all the power, we have none
    2) the Patriarchy is everywhere, there is no escape
    3) that includes the State
    4) let’s appeal to the State to save us!

    oh, no, there’s no potential problem there.

    not that I’m saying I believe all the premises, just: that’s what that boils down to.

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