Category: Sexism

Misogyny and the Brooklyn Book World

I don’t want to post links because real people are involved (this is so much more than a “literary” uproar; actual lives are, if not being ruined, then permanently changed) but the Twitterverse’s focus on the undeniable misogyny exhibited by the Brooklyn-based book blogger who melted down on Twitter, Facebook, and from what I hear, one of the East River spans a few days ago, reminds me in some ways of the dynamics of the gender wars as they are fought in too many chat rooms and blogs.

The big headline issues that define the conflicts are sexism (whether of the misandric or misogynist variety) and victimization, but the energies that keep them at such a white-hot heat are highly particularized–which is to say, fueled not so much by big ideas as by very specific experiences of pain and suffering.

The man who holds forth about women and hypergamy (marrying up) is often writing about (or projecting his fears onto) his ex-partner; the man who is obsessed with misandric persecution may be generalizing his own sad story into a grand unified political theory. Yes, I will acknowledge that some of their stories are true and that there are feminists who don’t like men; I don’t want to re-litigate all that business here. I’ll even stipulate that you could say the exact same things as I do about men’s rightists about some feminists. Sexism is real, of course, and it is a force in politics and culture.

What I’m trying to say is that, while the political and the personal do go together, their relationship is complicated and multivalent at the individual level–and that personality disorders, mental illness, and substance abuse do complicate things, even if they don’t ultimately excuse anything, never mind everything. I suspect that what’s most salient about the Brooklyn Book Blogger isn’t his gender politics (which probably change with his moods) but a sickness.

Since I started writing about Hate with a capital “h,” I’ve come to believe that, while all prejudice and biases are odious, and that while discrimination under the law is beyond the pale, some capital “h” hates (especially those that sit at the centers of grand totalizing theories) have very different etiologies than others. Some theoretical haters hate coldly; some are unhinged by their own experiences. Some don’t even hate–they adopt the language and the attitudes of haters to further their own agendas. Some hate with a righteous passion, but suffer terrible cognitive dissonance and make use of bogus intellectual frameworks to alleviate it.

And then there are those who are genuinely diseased; they write and say things that might horrify them when they are in periods of remission or under the influence of therapeutic medication. It’s not unusual for bi-polar people to speak and act “out of character” in their manic phases; nor is it unusual when people with degenerative conditions like Alzheimers express prejudiced and paranoid ideas.

Not that delusional people can’t be dangerous (give a paranoid schizophrenic a weapon and absolutely terrible things can happen), but it’s kind of a waste of time to argue with them, or to parse their ravings if that’s what they are. To do so is to pretend that they’re lucid, which has the effect of normalizing both their twisted ideas and their bad behavior.

Consider Elliot Rodger, the Isla Vista killer, whose manifesto and pseudonymous chatroom comments revealed him to be a thorough-going misogynist. Would writing long, reasoned rejoinders to his posts have saved any lives? Of course his parents did send him for treatment and at the end even go to the police, so my analogy only goes so far. Did Rodgers bring discredit on all the non-homicidal people who share his misogyny? Absolutely; I’m not saying his ideas were irrelevant. But what’s most terrible about his writings in retrospect isn’t their theoretical content–it’s that they announced his intention to kill people.

Of course I’m not talking about someone with real influence–a politician or a demagogue, someone in law enforcement who has the power of life and death over people, a foaming-at-the-mouth revolutionary, a distinguished professor who forms minds and advises important people, a writer with a big audience. You have to engage with them. But while the book blogger might have seemed like a powerful figure to the book people he mixed with, his influence in the wider world is pretty minimal (or I should say “was,” because his career, such as it is, is almost certainly over). If you think misogyny is a big problem in book publishing, then you should choose a more out-sized figure to be its avatar.

Like I said, I’m not going to inject myself into his story (who, full-disclosure, conducted as thoughtful, sensitive, and interesting an interview as I ever sat for the one time I met him). But I will say this: that while the people he victimized don’t owe him their compassion or forgiveness for the awful things he said and did to them, they can rest assured that he hasn’t “gotten away with” anything either.

Some Thoughts About Ray Rice and the MRM

I don’t spend a lot of time at A Voice for Men these days (I really meant what I said about not wanting to write about the so-called Mens Rights movement any more), but my curiosity got the better of me and I checked in to see what the party line on Ray Rice is. As I suspected, it’s that he is a battered husband, who, to add insult to his already substantial injuries, is being institutionally victimized as well.

As Paul Elam puts it, in colorful language that he wouldn’t have tolerated for a moment at his International Conference on Mens Issues at the Claire Shores VFW earlier this summer:

In response to Ray Rice tagging his then fiancé as a matter of self-defense, major sports media like ESPN and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have gone to  MuffCon1, opening the door for feminist ideologues and handing them a jar of Vaseline on the way in to ideological control of the National Football League.

Effective pretty much right fucking now, Lisa Friel, Jane Randel and Rita Smith will “help lead and shape the NFL’s policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault.”

Take that back about the Vaseline. They won’t be using it.

I don’t know the Rices personally; it’s likely that their relationship is more complex than what meets the eye (marriages, like icebergs, hide more than they reveal). I think it’s quite probable that Rice’s then-fiance had aggravated him on more than one prior occasion; from the elevator video, anyway, it’s pretty clear that she lunged at him and possibly threw a punch. If it connected, it might have even hurt him a little.

So here’s the question: Should any man, including a professional athlete, have the right to defend himself when he’s being physically threatened–even when his attacker is his intimate partner?

You don’t have to be a misogynist or a “Stand Your Ground” extremist to answer in the affirmative, though you don’t have to be a bleeding heart pacifist either or, God help us, a feminist to suggest that proportionality is also a real consideration. Otherwise you’d have to defend him if he’d killed her.

It’s a slippery slope. If you don’t think that Rice did anything wrong, then maybe you think it’s reasonable to shoot a woman dead who rings your doorbell seeking help after she’s been in a car accident. Maybe you’d give Israel a green light to kill 2000-plus Gazans after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by criminals with ties to Hamas. There’s self-defense and there’s “shock and awe.” One is instinctive; the other is either strategic or psychotic, take your pick.

Elam famously posted a piece on his site whose title posed the provocative question: “When is it OK to Punch Your Wife?” Of course he wasn’t justifying any and all cases of wife battering. He was reacting, he wrote, to the “pussy pass” that allowed sadistic, domineering women to abuse their partners with impunity.

Does the concept of self defense even apply to men who are the victims of violent females? Technically, the law says yes. But the people around you, especially the ones with guns, regard the pussy pass as a higher authority.

You hit a woman, even in self defense; indeed if you even call the cops on one that is beating the crap out you, the beta thugs we have come to call police will come round to your house and deliver some fucking law and order–on you.

The anecdote Elam used to clinch his argument, about a man who was handcuffed for giving his wife a fat lip after she tried to stab him with a kitchen knife (their dispute began after he’d argued with her about nearly freezing their two daughters to death), isn’t quite as open and shut as he might have liked it to be (neither party was ultimately arrested), but he does make an undeniable point: men can be victims too.

But was Ray Rice a victim? Of the NFL maybe, which first protected him and then threw him under a bus. But does what his fiance did to him rise to the level of assault? Was she “beating the crap out of him” or was she just pissing him off?

Nobody can be more provoking than a small child in mid-tantrum; if they’re sufficiently hysterical, they might even hit you. Is a parent justified in hitting back with all they’ve got? No one, not even a spare-the-rod fundamentalist, would say yes. No matter how pissed off someone makes you, civilization expects you to show some restraint. A line from a Richard Thompson song pops into my head: “But I killed a man in a Brazzaville street fight/I tried to hold back, but he taunted me so.”

In the wider world, the first thing most people see in the elevator video is the asymmetry: Ray Rice is big and strong, Janay Rice is petite. He stayed on his feet; she went down like the proverbial sack of potatoes. But MRAs see what they see, and from their perspective, Ray Rice was a helpless victim, first of a violent woman, and then of a feminist juggernaut and the cowardly White Knight* institutions that it has co-opted. Janay Rice didn’t just attack her husband–she assaulted all men, especially themselves. They outrage they feel on his behalf is deeply personal.

Many of the comments under the Elam post that I opened with underline this feeling of identification:

I’m personally pushing back against the ray rice lynching, by a women that was clearly lunging after him in an elevator. Im pushing back, and am not afraid of being lynched by main stream media!!

We aren’t far from the day we’ll see female coaches, referees, and a job for Condi Rice…..I won’t be watching. I have no interest in seeing receivers wearing pink gloves as the League bows to the breast cancer awareness goddess, nor can I stand the inclusive (i.e. dumbed-down, audience-broadening) chatter that now passes for game coverage. I don’t want to tune in on Sunday and have my social consciousness raised by progressivist indoctrination blended into the discussion.

Pack of manginas. Biiggg tough muscly men, macho man’s men, scared shitless of losing the approval of women by standing up to feminists.

Guys, give up following football. Why worship a pack of grown men who play with a ball for a living and partake in the destruction of men’s rights and kiss up to our enemies for a pay check. Fuck em. Don’t put one cent in their pockets…..They are propping up man hating ideologues with NFL money. Your financial support of football, is funding radical feminist propaganda that is taking away your rights.

People in the Mens Rights community have accused me of denying that men can ever be victims; the blogger Toy Soldier commented that my writings about MRAs and male victimhood reminded him of what he has “witnessed when people who support abusive priests are confronted with the reality of the abuse and the cover up that follows. Rather than support the victim, they blame the victim for having the temerity to feel victimized and double down on their support of the priest and the institution.”

In this one case it’s true: I don’t believe that Ray Rice was a victim of a vicious assault in that elevator, but frankly that’s all that I can say about him with any certainty. He might have had a terrible childhood; he and Janay might torture each other no less than Martha and George did in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. For their kids’ and for their own sakes, I hope they get some help and either separate peacefully or learn to live together more amicably.

But I have no doubt that the corporate conviction of victimhood that animates the MRA community is real–and that their view of the world is distorted by the intimate hurts they have suffered. Like all extremists, they are hammers who see the nails of misandry everywhere they look; like all conspiracists who have a monological explanation for the world’s and especially their own woes, they see things through a distorting lens of confirmation bias. Give a man a strong enough personal agenda and sufficient cognitive dissonance and he will see what he sees. He might even mistake a wife beater for a victim.

*The MRA John Hembling defines a White Knight as a man “who defend[s] women, but not because women are people – which might be noble. Rather, they defend women only because they are women. This almost always encompasses a willful blindness to the behavior and utterance of the women so defended.”

Last thoughts about Mens Rights

I am going to be on HuffPost Live this afternoon to talk about the “Men’s Issues” convention; after that, I would love to retire from commenting on or even thinking about that world.

Not that men don’t have issues to deal with–any group that comprises half of humanity is going to have a host of them. When I hear the horror stories about divorce courts, I’m as appalled as anyone (though I also understand that the vast majority of divorces aren’t like the most contentious ones; that millions of estranged couples do manage to rear their children together). As a father and husband, I get a little tired of seeing clueless husbands and bumbling dads on TV commercials too, though I don’t think it rises to the level of a blood libel.

Beyond that, I will even concede that you can find actual examples of misandry, if you look for them in the writings and chatrooms of the most extreme man-haters. Seek and ye shall find.

But defining feminism by the writings of Valerie Solanas or Andrea Dworkin is exactly like what a white supremacist does when he takes a white-hating passage from the manifestos of a group like the Nation of Islam or the New Black Panthers and presents it as the normative attitude of blacks; or what an anti-Semite does when he culls one of those Jewish supremacist passages from the Talmud and presents them as the normative view of everyone whose mother or father was Jewish. Identifying your adversary as your polar opposite virtually guarantees that you will never be able to make an accommodation with them–which of course is exactly the point. Zionists who believe that not only the Palestinians themselves but anyone who expresses sympathy towards them are Amalek aren’t going to be particularly effective peace makers. Extremism perpetuates and exacerbates extremism.

I keep talking about cognitive dissonance these days, but I think it provides a pretty useful frame for this particular theater of the gender wars. A lot of the debate is as heated as it is because the people who are engaging in it know how un-factual most of their premises are. Men aren’t a persecuted minority; neither is “violation…a synonym for intercourse” (Andrea Dworkin).

When it comes to the fringes, neither side is really fighting about what they say they are–they’re projecting and acting out much deeper hurts: sexual and familial disappointments and dysfunction; the sense of inadequacy and emasculation that accompany economic and status struggles; and so on. The 150 or so attendees of the convention I went to weren’t all monsters by any stretch of the imagination. I didn’t fear for my personal safety. But I daresay most of them weren’t very happy people either.

So I come home from Detroit with two broad theorems and a corollary conclusion:

1) That when the personal is the political, the politics are going to be pretty distorted and the ideology somewhat incoherent;

2) That extremism breeds extremism. If you’re a hammer, all you’re ever going to see are nails.

If you really care about gender equity and empowerment, then the Andrea Dworkins and Paul Elams of the world are mostly a distraction. It’s easy to demonize MRAs, but they don’t do anywhere near the damage to women that, say, the Hobby Lobby has done, or the GOP. They’re easy to hate, but engaging with them is about as useful as it is for LGBT activists to fight with the Westboro Baptist Church.

PS A slightly different version of this piece is now up at the Huffington Post.

Male Victimization

As I am getting ready to attend the first A Voice For Men International Conference on Mens Issues here in Detroit, I thought I’d post this article I wrote about Elliot Rodger, the mens rights movement, and a statistical study of male victimization. The people who commissioned it thought that it tried to do too many things at once and declined to publish it; nobody else that I’ve shown it to has had any interest in it either.

I hate that so much of the discourse around sexual violence is as politicized as it is. A lot of the theorizing that goes on, especially but not exclusively on the male side of the equation, is something of a red herring. An awful lot of it is displaced, or not so displaced, rage and resentment. Not that anger isn’t appropriate sometimes, but it is rarely conducive of clear thinking.

Although mens rights people like to portray me as their “ideological enemy,” I’ve yet to publish anything that engages with their movement’s “principles” (whatever those may be–perhaps I’ll find out more today). I’ve attacked their misogyny where I’ve seen it, and I’ve seen a lot of it.

Elliot Rodger, Rape Culture, and A Different Perspective On Male Victimhood

Thanks to Elliot Rodger, misogyny, rape culture, and male entitlement have been getting broad play in the news. The Manosphere – the blogs, message boards, and websites where male combatants in the so-called war between men and women post their thoughts about gender, sex, and Feminism and sell their assorted wares—has come in for some unwelcome attention as well.

The media consensus is that Rodger’s violence and his misogyny were two sides of the same coin.

“Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality,” Rebecca Solnit once wrote, “but it does have a gender.”

But is it always male? “The Sexual Victimization of Men in America: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions” is an important new study, co-written by Lara Stemple, a professor at UCLA Law School and Ilan Meyer, a senior scholar at UCLA Law’s Williams Institute, that offers a different perspective on the gender of rape, sexual abuse, and violence.

But first, Elliot Rodger. That Rodger was a misogynist, there can be no doubt. Like the cliché, Rodger turned to guns to compensate for his sense of impotence. After he bought his first pistol, he recalled in his memoir, he “felt a new sense of power.”

Who’s the alpha male now, bitches? I thought to myself, regarding all of the girls who’ve looked down on me in the past.

Rodger appears to have been a textbook example of a new category of male spree killer that the sociologists Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmel identified in a 2010 study as those who commit “suicide by mass murder.” Their hallmark, Kalish and Kimmel wrote, is their aggrieved sense of entitlement.

Aggrieved entitlement inspires revenge against those who have wronged you; it is the compensation for humiliation. Humiliation is emasculation: humiliate someone and you take away his manhood. For many men, humiliation must be avenged, or you cease to be a man. Aggrieved entitlement is a gendered emotion, a fusion of that humiliating loss of manhood and the moral obligation and entitlement to get it back. And its gender is masculine.

But if Rodger was aggrieved, entitled, sexist, virulently racist, explosively violent, and male, he wasn’t a rapist. Some Mens Rights Activists, adherents of a masculinist ideology that purports to expose and fight society’s inbuilt “misandry” (the term they use to signify the obverse of misogyny) see him and his victims (most of them male), as “a sacrifice at the altar of gynocentrism.”

Which isn’t to say that they’ve exactly embraced him. “Elliot Rodger was not a product of the PUA [Pick Up Artist] community and he was not influenced by the MHRM [Men’s Human Rights Movement],” one wrote.

But if only women had only been more sensitive to Rodger’s feelings, he continued, in an unselfconsciously misogynist vein that is disturbingly reminiscent of Rodger’s own writings, if only he had been taught “about the possible dangers of getting involved with women” (divorce, false paternity, depression), he wouldn’t have idealized them as he did. Instead, he would have known that “sex isn’t that much better than masturbation, but just different.”

Naturally, MRAs have taken umbrage at the #YesAllWomen Twitter meme that Rodger’s acts inspired. Far from living in a rape culture, they retort, we are living in a false rape culture, in which men are haunted by the fear that their consensual sexual partners (or even total strangers) will arbitrarily accuse them of a crime that they are powerless to defend themselves against.

In the words of one MRA, “men are just as likely to be falsely accused of rape as women are to be actually raped.” They believe this despite statistics that show that fewer than 10 percent of rapes are reported, that only 37 percent of reported rapes are prosecuted, and that just 18 percent of those prosecutions result in convictions.

Of course MRAs acknowledge that some women do get raped, but an awful lot of them, they say, were asking for it. As Paul Elam, the founder of A Voice for Men, the Manosphere’s most trafficked website, put it, “women who act provocatively; who taunt men sexually, toying with their libidos for personal power and gain, etc., have the same type of responsibility for what happens to them as, say, someone who parks their car in a bad neighborhood with the keys in the ignition.”

“A lot of women,” Elam continued, his signature gallantry on full display, “get pummeled and pumped because they are stupid (and often arrogant) enough to walk through life with the equivalent of a I’M A STUPID, CONNIVING BITCH – PLEASE RAPE ME neon sign glowing above their empty little narcissistic heads.”

Like many other MRAs, Elam misleadingly cites Eugene J. Kanin’s 1994 article “False Rape Allegations” as a “longitudinal study” that proves that between 40 and 50 percent of rape allegations are fraudulent, even though Kanin himself cautioned that the “generalizability” of his findings was limited and should not be extrapolated or applied to other populations (he had looked at 45 allegations that had been determined to be false by the police department of a single Midwestern city over a nine year period).

Most studies estimate that between two and eight percent of rape allegations are false. That’s not a trivial number—especially if you are one of the 4,000 to 10,000 men who are falsely accused in the US each year (267 to 666 of whom may be wrongly convicted)—but it is nowhere near as overwhelming as the anecdotal reports that MRAs endlessly recycle imply.

Still, as aggrieved and menacing as so many MRAs may be, as prone to hyperbole and spittle-spewing fustian when they get up on their soapboxes, it’s important to remember that some of their causes—the treatment of some fathers in some family courts; the abuses, sexual and otherwise, of boys and men in penal and military institutions; the declining levels of academic participation and performance of American males—are deserving of serious attention.

The peer-reviewed report I wrote about at the beginning of this article, for example, appears at first blush to confirm some of the MRA’s claims.

Male victims of sexual assault and rape have historically been under-counted and under-served. As recently as 2012, the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, through which the FBI gathered its statistics, defined a rapist as a person of the opposite sex, disappearing at a stroke the countless perpetrators and victims of same sex rape, many of them male. Rapes that occurred in prisons were swept under the rug. Male and female inmates both experience sexual abuse behind bars, but because men are vastly disproportionately incarcerated, the incidents of male victimization reach into the hundreds of thousands each year.

And female on male violence is no figment of the MRA imagination. Reputable studies show that women are as likely to perpetrate intimate violence as be its victims (though vastly more women are seriously injured by their male partners than vice versa). Still other studies suggest that as many or more mothers abuse their children as fathers do.

But to argue that feminism alone should bear the onus for these and other crimes, and not racism, classism, and homophobia (not to mention such non-gendered sins as wrath, envy, lust, and ignorance, and of course mental illness), is as risible as the notion that testosterone is the root of all evil.

Philosophically speaking, the problem with the MRA analysis isn’t its broad understanding of “male human rights”—it’s the totalizing anti-feminist frame that it imposes on the world. It’s the raw woman-hatred that undergirds so much of its rhetoric.

David Benatar, the head of the philosophy department at the University of Capetown in South Africa, is a much more temperate (and consequently much-less read) writer than Elam and his ilk. In his book The Second Sexism: Discrimination Against Men and Boys, he distinguishes between “egalitarian feminism,” which is “fundamentally concerned with the equality of the sexes” and “partisan feminism,” which is “basically concerned only with the promotion of women’s and girls’ interests….the feminist equivalent of those men’s rights advocates who are interested only in advancing the interests and protecting the rights of males.”

Very much the philosopher, he cautions against ad hominem arguments. “Accusing males of being angry men and antifeminists is both regrettable and unfair for the very same reasons that leveling accusations of ‘man-hater’ at all (female) feminists is regrettable and unfair,” he writes.

This is true. But to call an angry male an angry male or a misogynist a misogynist is also to speak the truth. It’s hard to read one of Paul Elam’s broadsides (“I find you, as a feminist, to be a loathsome, vile piece of human garbage.  I find you so pernicious and repugnant that the idea of fucking your shit up gives me an erection”) without wondering if his hatred for feminist ideas doesn’t extend to the whole female gender.

All men aren’t violent; nor are all men—or even all men involved with “mens rights”—misogynists. Eliott Rodger wasn’t created by the Manosphere. But for as unstable and potentially dangerous a character as he was, finding a community that shared his “twisted” (his own word) views of the world can’t but have helped to exacerbate his worst instincts.

MRAs and other denizens of the Manosphere have not, to put it mildly, been their own best advocates.

Which brings me, at long last, to “The Sexual Victimization of Men in America.” Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the report re-examines five national surveys that the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted between 2010 and 2012, and concludes that men and boys have been on the receiving end of much more sexual violence than has previously been acknowledged.

When the definition of rape is expanded to include acts of unwanted sex such as being “made to penetrate,” the numbers of male and female victims reported in one major survey turn out to be nearly equivalent.

“The traditional sexual victimization paradigm,” the report observes, “can obscure sexual abuse perpetrated by women as well as same-sex victimization….one multi-year analysis….found that 46% of male victims reported a female perpetrator. Of [incarcerated] juveniles reporting staff sexual misconduct, 89% were boys reporting abuse by female staff.“ Female inmates, on the other hand, were more likely to be abused by other (presumably female) inmates—another surprising and counterintuitive finding.

When Hanna Rosin covered the study at Slate, many commenters in the Manosphere were startled that the author of The End of Men would have written as sympathetically as she did about a study that appeared to negate the feminist paradigm of malignant patriarchy. Some speculated that she was trying to co-opt the subject of male victimhood so that feminists could take control of the discourse.

But for the most part it’s the MRA analysis and not the feminist one that’s adversarial and zero-sum, that sees every gain for women as a loss for men and vice versa. Malignant patriarchy doesn’t preclude male victimhood—it can even contribute to it, as the report explicitly states.

Treating male sexual victimization as a rare occurrence can impose regressive expectations about masculinity on men and boys…the belief that men are unlikely victims promotes a counterproductive construct of what it means to ‘be a man’…..Expectations about male invincibility are constraining for men and boys; they may also harm women and girls by perpetuating regressive gender norms.

An exclusive focus on female victims similarly reinforces “regressive notions of women’s vulnerability….perpetuat[ing] norms that see women as disempowered.”

Far from anti-feminist, the re-definition of sexual victimization that the report turns on is informed by “feminist principles that emphasize equity, inclusion, and intersectional approaches; the importance of understanding power relations; and the imperative to question gender assumptions.”

I asked the report’s co-author Lara Stemple whether rape and sexual violence can be decoupled from gender. When it comes to counting and reporting its occurrences, she answered, heterosexist and gendered biases can and should be eliminated. If a person experiences violence, law enforcement agencies should take appropriate actions and services should be provided. Rape crisis centers should be well-funded and open to anyone; their staffs should be trained and equipped to offer services to all who need them.

“But you can’t pretend gender doesn’t exist by any stretch,” she emphasized. “Understanding what happens to abused men requires an understanding of gender hierarchies. Male survivors of prison rape are reduced to ‘bitches’—they are forced to assume stereotypically submissive female roles, to do their abusers’ laundry, and so on. Feminist analysis is germane to their condition.” In the words of the report, “masculinized dominance and feminized subordination can take place regardless of the biological sex or sexual orientation of the actors.”

“This is also the case when men are victimized by women,” she continued. “Many men are invested in an ideal of stereotypical masculinity; being hurt by a woman feels emasculating. Feminist analysis and the women’s movement have helped us understand that rape isn’t just about physical power, it’s psychological too.”

Taking a page from the MRAs, I asked her whether it was possible that large numbers of male victims fantasized or were outright lying about their experiences.

“People in general have little incentive to lie in anonymous surveys,” she answered, “but if there is a risk along those lines for men, my guess is they would under-disclose rather than over-disclose. Male survivors are often ashamed, embarrassed, and confused about the abuse, particularly if they experienced a physiological sexual response during the incident, which is not uncommon. Many men take decades to disclose abuse.”

If physical force isn’t a criteria for sexual violence, I asked her, then how does one distinguish between bad behavior and a crime? She admitted that is an ongoing challenge. But she emphasized that just as the feminist movement successfully argued that physical force must not be a requirement for a successful rape charge involving a female victim, the same understanding should be extended to male victims.

For the most part, she added, the at-risk populations for sexual victimization among men tend to be members of marginalized groups. “Prison and jail inmates are disproportionately young, black, Hispanic, low-income, and mentally ill. Self-identified non-heterosexual inmates are 11 times more likely to be victimized than heterosexual prisoners.” The homeless and long-term residents of nursing homes are vulnerable as well.

“Our study should in no way lend support to those who wish to deny the widespread sexual victimization of women,” she emphasized. “The surveys we reviewed consistently find that women still experience sexual victimization far too frequently. The fact that men and boys also experience more widespread sexual victimization than was previously recognized does not and must not negate women’s suffering. After all, compassion is not a finite resource.”

“Sexual violence isn’t exclusively a woman’s issue or a men’s issue,” she concluded. “It’s a human rights issue, with enormous gender implications. We need to have a much better discourse about it.”



Thanks, Mr. Bundy

You might have noticed that I got a nice e mail message from someone after I posted about Cliven Bundy yesterday (I shared it after the post). The follow-up message I received pretty much made my day–and reminded me of the wonderful serendipity of the Internet, which can still, I think, be as much a force for bringing people together as it is for spreading hatred and nastiness. I owe Cliven Bundy a debt of thanks for the introduction.

“I am an 80 year old African American United Methodist Church retired clergyman,” Reverend Gil Caldwell told me, “who was active in the Civil Rights Movement. I was intrigued when I saw on your website, KABBALAH, Beliefnet Guide to Kabbalah. You are the author? Wow!…I don’t have the book near me, but I beieve it was Rabbi Kushner’s definition of Mysticism that I resonated to, and have shared with others.”

His “wow” is very much reciprocated. My little Kabbalah book came and went without making too many waves, but it’s so nice to find out that it made an impression on someone.

And not just anyone.

Reverend Caldwell is a partner at the Truth in Progress website and is the co-author of a book it published, Truth in Progress: Letters in Mixed Company.  He was featured a few days ago on the Erasing 76 Crimes blog, where he endorsed and amplified South African Justice Edwin Cameron’s plea for an end to LGBT discrimination in Africa. I quote his words below:

I respond with appreciation for Justice Cameron’s words for the following reasons:

1. I am a veteran “foot soldier” in the American Civil Rights Movement that Martin Luther King led. He and I are graduates of Boston University School of Theology where I met him in 1958.

2. I attended the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, participated in “Mississippi Freedom Summer” when three young civil rights volunteers were killed, and I marched in the Selma to Montgomery March after the infamous “Bloody Sunday.”

3. I am an African-American who made my first trip to Africa in 1971 believing that Africa was the “Motherland” of those of us who represented the African Diaspora in America.

4. East Africa is viewed as the “Motherland” of all human beings and because of that I have said over and over again, all human beings are “An African People.”

It is with a sense of deep agony that I read of the mistreatment of LGBT persons in some of the nations of Africa. And, my prayer is that what Justice Cameron describes as a “groundswell of hate” will soon be ended. My reasons:

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress)

1. Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” How strange, peculiar and tragic it is that African nations that have known the injustices of colonialism that prompted successful independence struggles are now engaging in acts of injustice directed at persons because of their homosexual orientation and practice. This contradicts the words that were spoken to justify the struggles for African Independence.

2. We who are Christians have just completed our observances and celebrations of Easter. We celebrated the life, mission and ministry of Jesus Christ who lived and died on behalf of ALL of God’s children. The Scriptures tell us of how Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Today, Jesus must be weeping over those nations in Africa where God-created and loved people are being persecuted because of their sexual orientation. Christians who engage in this persecution, or who are silent as it takes place, diminish the power of the Resurrection that we celebrated on Easter!

3. My wife and I are the grandparents of one grandchild, who is 9 years old. We do not know what her sexual orientation will be, but regardless of what it might be, how can we explain to her the wave of hatred that Justice Cameron describes?

4. When I first traveled to Africa in 1971 (Tanzania), I rejoiced in the sense of respect, community, togetherness and family that I experienced there. I realized that the poverty that exists in the USA represented plenty when compared to the poverty that exists in Africa. I came back to the USA and shared with my Black congregation that I saw hope and love and commitment in Africa, despite the poverty, that should inspire us amidst the poverty of our inner cities. But, what can I say to African-American Churches about the legally sanctioned hatred against gays in some African nations that is taking place today?

5. We in the African-American community in the USA sing a song that is titled; “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Some describe it as our National Anthem because it describes the journey of African-Americans in the USA with these words: “We have come over a way that with tears has been watered; we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.”

The journey of Africans in Africa or Africans in America has not been an easy journey. Why then would Africans in Africa, or African-Americans, mistreat persons because of their sexual orientation in some of the ways we were once treated because of our race?

– The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell
Retired United Methodist Minister
Co-Partner in Truth in Progress and
A Board Member of PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
One of the African-American clergymen in the film “Love Heals Homophobia”
Asbury Park, New Jersey, U.S.A.

Update from Hate Central

Those of you who live in the real world might not have realized that the events in Aurora, Colorado have spurred a number of lively discussions that haven’t been given their due in the MSM.

Five days after the horror, when news venues, desperate to report something inspiring and uplifting, were focusing on the stories about the brave theater-goers who shielded their girlfriends with their own bodies, The Wall Street Journals’ James Taranto let loose with this astonishingly sour and unchivalrous tweet: “I hope the girls whose boyfriends died to save them were worthy of the sacrifice.” He was pretty-much universally reviled for it and had to issue an apology the next day, in which he contortedly explained that he was merely expressing his wish that the women would redeem their boyfriends’ sacrifices by using “the gift of their survival well–to live good, full, happy lives.”

In the world of misogynistic Mens Rights advocacy (and no, not all MRAs are misogynists), Taranto’s faux pas wouldn’t have even borne notice. At A Voice for Men, my old friend John the Other didn’t mince words. Under the headline “Three Cheers for Three Male Corpses. Heroes.” , he explained that the so-called heroes were merely victims of their biology (men are hard-wired to protect women) and social conditioning (which tells men that “in order to be worthwhile, a real man, you’d better be prepared to die without complaint for the child, or the little old lady, or the drug addled slut in the next seat. They matter more than you. Your best and most honorable path ends in you on a slab in the basement of your city’s morgue”). Had they not died, he added, “the preening, strutting, amoral whores of the mainstream media” would have described “them as cowards and shirkers; failed men for not doing their manly duty by dying for the convenience of others.” Their sacrifice was merely a victory for misandry, the principled hatred of males.

Over at the Spearhead, W.F. Price is enraged that Bill Bennett not only deigned to attribute the men’s actions to a code of honor, but cited an essay by Hanna Rosin. “Bennett gets it totally wrong on a number of points, which is about what you’d expect from a guy who relies on feminists to divine the motivations of young men.”

They were solid men; the kind that families and communities have always relied on when the going gets tough. It wasn’t because they held some belief or political position, it was because they were men that they acted as they did. It is simply what men do, and that’s why they deserve honor, which Bennett is incapable of bestowing on anyone.

No, instead of honoring these men, Bennett continues to measure them according to their utility to women.

Meanwhile, the conspiratorial world was quick to style Aurora–as it does virtually every other catastrophe that has ever dominated a news cycle–as neither a human tragedy, nor a wake-up call about guns, but as a dark international conspiracy that has the fingerprints of Barack Obama all over it.

As early as July 23, Gawker had collected the most egregiously insane theories. Basically, what it comes down to is that the government programmed an innocent neuroscience student with drugs and other behavior modification techniques to create a gun-related outrage on the eve of the negotiations over the UN Small Arms Treaty. As Mother Jones reports, at least one fairly high profile (albeit pretty marginal) group has signed on:

Larry Pratt—the president of Gun Owners of America, a far-right Second Amendment group that’s backed by prominent people like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—has a different theory. Pratt believes the timing of Holmes’ rampage, which left 12 people dead and 58 wounded, seemed designed to coincide with the upcoming negotiation of the United Nations Small Arms Treaty. A press release sent out to radio bookers on Tuesday advertising Pratt’s availability noted that, “In an article posted at The New American…one expert even outlined a theory that Holmes didn’t act alone, but was possibly ‘enlisted’ to carry out his violent act.” Pratt, the publicist stated, was free for interviews on Holmes’ “impeccable” timing.

Pratt was forced to leave Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign in 1996 because of his purported ties to white supremacists (ironically Buchanan’s own connections to some of the same groups were overlooked for another decade and more).

Just today, a story has surfaced that says that Holmes is the wrong man. Over at Above Top Secret, a poster sees a link with a Lil Wayne video, which includes an image of skeletons sitting in a movie theater. “Since James Holmes father (Robert Holmes) was a banking elite, I do not find it ambiguous to have connection with this industry,” he opines. One constant in Conspiracy Theory is that the perpetrators compulsively advertise their plans. So if the bankers needed to kill a bunch of people in a movie theater, they’d probably broadcast their intentions in a rap video.

PS Goldwag completists might want to look at this post at the SPLC’s Hatewatch, which takes off on some of this material.

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