Mixed Messages

I find myself having to tell people that deciding someone deserves prison rape isn’t acceptable. Either rape is an acceptable punishment for people, or it’s not. You can’t say SOME rape is okay, and even just, while saying that some rape is not. When you make a joke about “Bubba” in prison, you’re saying that you’re okay with rape.

Damn near all the police shows make this joke at some point or another. And we wonder why we have a problem getting people to understand rape is wrong. Because we still act as though it’s something you can DESERVE.


Guest Blogger Starling: Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

Shapely Prose

Phaedra Starling is the pen name of a romance novelist and licensed private investigator living in small New York City apartment with two large dogs.  She practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu and makes world-class apricot muffins.

Gentlemen. Thank you for reading.

Let me start out by assuring you that I understand you are a good sort of person. You are kind to children and animals. You respect the elderly. You donate to charity. You tell jokes without laughing at your own punchlines. You respect women. You like women. In fact, you would really like to have a mutually respectful and loving sexual relationship with a woman. Unfortunately, you don’t yet know that woman—she isn’t working with you, nor have you been introduced through mutual friends or drawn to the same activities. So you must look further afield to encounter her.

So far, so good. Miss LonelyHearts, your humble instructor, approves. Human connection…

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Guns? Again?

Before turning 18 I wasn’t much of a fan of firearms. I didn’t like the notion that an idiot could pick up a weapon and casually kill me. Especially considering that I’d spent years learning to fight with my hands and feet. And, well, pretty much anything that came to hand–more weapons surrounding us than most people realize. A gun, far from being an “equalizer” seemed like a coward’s weapon.

When I was 18 I ran into this tiny woman at a mall. She was doing a survey thing where she was asking customers questions. When she took a break my friend and I struck up a conversation. We were job hunting and we wanted to know what her job was like.

The conversation went all different directions, as it happened. We just started chatting about life in general. And this tiny woman, who barely looked larger than a child (though clearly not a child… she was 30, though most people would have imagined her as ten years younger just because of her diminutive form).

She explained how she’d have no means to defend herself against someone like me without a firearm, and described how she’d used them to defend herself and family members.

I couldn’t argue with that. The one thing I believe is that no one should be forced to be a victim. If they can fight back, they have a right to do so. As a former victim, I knew that as well as anyone.

So, while I never truly became comfortable with guns myself, I granted other people the right to use them to defend themselves. In the spirit of a very attractive, very articulate woman I attained a great deal of respect for in the course of a few conversations on that particular day.

I’ve still been under the impression for a long time that certain people shouldn’t have weapons. Maybe having a bunch of friends go to prison for murder has something to do with that. Yeah. That happened. The actual gunman was a great guy. Fun to hang around, fun to party with, and a heck of an artist. He could sketch out a character idea in a matter of a few minutes. (Then again, he could have been more open to suggestions as he did so…) He was also a martial artist of some skill.

And an adrenaline junky who never went anywhere without a firearm. When he fell in with a bunch of petty thieves, things were bound to go south. And, yeah, my friends were petty thieves. Allegedly reformed at the time. (How many times do people have to get arrested before they realize it’s not worth a few free dollars?)

<sigh> The one thing I knew is that Steve wasn’t likely to have gone out and robbed someone at fist-point. Oh, he could’ve mugged someone, but that wasn’t really his gig. A gun was just so much easier. Until it goes off and kills someone.

I wanted to wring all their necks.

Here’s the deal. Guns are not toys. They don’t exist to make you feel more powerful. Oh, they serve that purpose, all right, but their purpose is to allegedly defend you, not to act as a crutch for your social and political impotence.

If you like guns because they make you feel like you can handle whatever comes your way, you shouldn’t have guns. Because that’s a lie. A gun might give you a chance to survive a specific kind of emergency, one you’re actually not likely to face–as it happens. If you’re any good, it might provide a means of acquiring food if you’re desperate. It’s a useful tool in specific circumstances. But it’s not a goddamn swiss army knife. It’s not that versatile. It causes death. It doesn’t shield YOU from bullets, nor anyone else. It’s primarily useful if you are aware of the approach of danger before it arrives, less useful afterward.

As a thing to hang one’s life upon, and the lives of those around, it’s a slender thread indeed.

You’re not an action hero waiting for a chance to happen

The problem isn’t gun owners. The problem is people who can’t separate their fantasy of being an action hero from the reality of the responsibility for the care and ownership of a deadly weapon.

The guy who shot his little brother while watching The Walking Dead (he liked to watch the show with his gun close at hand) shows how intensely this might be tied to a fantasy life. He knew he was in no danger from zombies while watching the show, but the gun made him feel powerful and helped him experience the fantasy of the show.

That’s not good. If you want to feel powerful, watch the Avengers dressed as Thor. But if you cross your fantasy life with your real life deadly weapon, you’re an accident waiting for a place to happen. I don’t want adults out on the street playing James Bond, or James Gordon. I don’t want any wannabe GI Joes or would-be cowboys playing out their fantasies with live weapons and live ammo.

On gamergate.

A thought about “gamergate” and its proceeds. One of the things about video games that makes them so addictive is that they provide a sense of accomplishment for people who might not be allowed many accomplishments in their life. It’s a false sense of accomplishment, but it’s no less real to our brains for all of that. I know exactly what it feels like because beating something like Demon Souls or Dark Souls is pretty damned heady. You are a badass gamer if you can pull that off. (In the interest of full disclosure, I still haven’t beaten Dark Souls, though I have beaten Dark Souls II, it being an easier game overall).

I hate to say it, but the world of video games ISN’T ALL THAT FUCKING IMPORTANT. The fact that reviews might be hedged one way or another by personal involvements is not a life-ending tragedy. Reviews are subjective anyway. And, seriously, if you’re expecting trustworthy reviews from the same mags that are paid to advertise the games, you’re a fucking idiot.

That’s what they say gamergate is about at its core. The legitimacy of gaming magazine’s reviews. Here’s something I learned in the years of video games I have under my belt. Reviews don’t tell me SHIT about whether I’ll like a game. I have to try the game to know. I like a specific feel and visual experience. No other person can tell me if I’ll get that.

This all arose, of course, out of some asshole ex-boyfriend’s charge that his former girlfriend slept around for better reviews. Of a non-commercial game.

Fuck, people are stupid. They turned a blatantly transparent, utterly malicious attack into a cause?

Dumbfucks. No, seriously. Dumbfucks.

I’m an old school gamer. I was a gamer before it involved video or computers. I used to sit around a table with five or six of my favorite people and kill monsters together. We have shared experiences that are unlike anyone else’s in the WORLD. And that’s worth something.

Don’t try to tell ME who is and who isn’t a gamer. I played pong, motherfucker. I dropped quarters into a machine to play donkey kong. As did millions of people, male and female.

You want to be outraged, punks? I can think of things in the real world worth being outraged about. People being threatened with rape and death is pretty real world. Try that on for size.

Cultural Destruction is a crime.

The cost of Imperial Cultural Arrogance has cost the human race untold informational wealth. When the Europeans first entered Africa, and then the Americas, they had before them a thousand cultural petri dishes, societies with all manner of political and social philosophies that we could have learned from.

I read once that the hopi didn’t understand our concept of democracy, as they didn’t believing in leaving a disaffected minority. When something was voted on, it was wrangled until everyone agreed.

Some cultures allowed women leaders. Some cultures simple HAD women leaders. Many weren’t particularly hierarchal, but maintained what we’d call socialist or communist tendencies. Some tribes practiced something called “counting coup,” where they didn’t set out to kill their enemies, but trick them. Knock them unconscious and steal their horses, or simply steal by stealth. This was the mark of a true and noble warrior. Any fool could kill.

So many potential sources of data about different cultural norms. Yet when the Christian Europeans encountered them, all they could think was “naked savages.”

It’s a fucking crime against knowledge and human understanding. And, yes, it still pisses me off today.