Sex and Entitlement

April 4, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Let's Get Personal, Sexual Assault | 5 Comments
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Oh man. I’ve been such a delinquent about updating. And there’s so much I want to write on. But with this new job… (apparently, on Capitol Hill, “40 hours a week” really means “well, 40, plus coming in early to prep for meetings, and staying late to wait for the UPS delivery guy who’s stuck in traffic, plus a weekend here and there, and waiting around for Congress to vote so you can update the Twitter feed in real-time, so uh, maybe 55? 60? Yeah, that’s more like it.” Don’t get me wrong; I love my job, and it’s giving me fantastic experience in what I want to go into (outreach & nonprofit management), but man. Free time is hard to come by.)

There is so much going on and I have so much to say about it. It’s ridonculous.

But let’s get to one thing that’s got me riled up at this very moment. Perhaps this is getting too much attention as it is. And perhaps I’ll have trouble relating it directly to the supposed topic of this blog. But it’s a bit personal for me.

The Alex Knepper Debacle.

(Don’t know what I’m talking about? Look at the original article in AU’s newspaper, the Eagle; the first article I happened to come across about it; and the Letters to the Editor written to the Eagle that have been posted online. If you want more, The Huffington Post has posted a bit more on it as well, including video.)

I’m not going to resort to calling Knepper names and bitching about as him as a person, but only because that has been done so much and so well already, so I’m going to move on to the more elemental problem at hand.

I’ll give you a hint: It’s not Knepper. He’s just one product of a trend on college campuses in particular, but also everywhere else across the country. This trend has many names and has been discussed at much length, but even those often don’t seem to get to the deeper problem at hand.

It’s been called Rape Culture, Predator Theory, the Commodity Model, among dozens of others. But at the root of all of these, there’s a little nugget of a belief that the rest grows out of.

A false sense of entitlement.

It all stems from an aggressor’s belief that that person “deserves” sex. I say aggressor, and not a gender-specific term, because men, women, and all those in between can, and have, both perpetrated and been victims of rape, sexual assault, molestation, and abuse of all kinds. If I believe that I deserve sex, then I will have few, if any, qualms about trying my darnedest to get it by any means necessary. If I see a girl drunk at a party, and lure her into my room, and start groping her even though she’s slurring her words… it’s not because I think she wants it. It’s because I think I want it and I think that I should have it, if for no other reason than the fact that I was slick enough to get her alone in a room where no one else could hear her if she protested.

Let’s get a few points out there.

  • It doesn’t matter what a person wears. If a girl is wearing a micro-mini and a halter top, that doesn’t mean she wants sex. It just means she’s comfortable showing off some skin. I’ve been to certain parties where more skin was showing than I would even dare show on a public beach, and yet no one there would have been brazen enough to assume that I wanted sex for it. I simply was comfortable being mostly nude in a group situation where such is acceptable. I could be wearing jeans, a loose sweater, and a scarf, and yet want sex more than I did during that clothing-optional party.
  • It doesn’t matter where you are. Showing up to a certain bar or party doesn’t mean a person signed a contract saying they agree to have sex with whomever approaches them. Or even with whomever they decide to make out with. It might mean they’re looking around to see who’s available. But it doesn’t mean they’re inherently going to decide to have sex with someone.
  • If a person is too drunk to say no, that doesn’t mean that person says yes.
  • Consent can be revoked at any time, and once it is, proceeding any further is assault. Period.
  • If someone asks for their partner to use protection, and that partner “pretends” to agree and removes protection partway through, that is also a form of assault.
  • Men, who are the perpetrators in the vast majority of sexual assault, do, in fact, have brains and are, in fact, capable of making moral decisions. In fact, they are even capable of doing so while drunk. Therefore, we can’t belittle men by saying they “can’t help it,” when that is such a gross underestimation of the capabilities of half of our species.
  • The relationship between two people makes no difference regarding the need for consent. A husband can rape a wife, a girlfriend can assault her boyfriend, and a person can molest their best friend… just as much as strangers are capable of such.
  • One night stands are not inherently bad, and drunken hookups aren’t necessarily going to lead to assault. I’ve had men I brought home for a drunken one-night stand ask me if I liked something, or if it was okay to proceed to something else. And no, it wasn’t awkward. Just whisper it riiiight next to my ear… and it could be sexy no matter what you’re saying. Even if it’s something like, “You want me inside you?” “Do you have protection?” “Do you like [insert sexual act you want to do next here]?” All of these are very simple ways of obtaining verbal consent from someone whose body language you don’t necessarily know well enough to read straight-out. Or of making someone even more hot and bothered. I know I get more worked up when someone teases me with a suggestion before proceeding. It’s hot.
  • Sex which respects women, often called “feminist sex,” is not boring. In fact, it’s often quite the opposite. I’ve had very liberating sexual experiences which involved ropes, leather, more than two people, voyeurism, exhibitionism, power play, feathers, whips, toys, and non-bedroom locations which allowed for respect of both myself and my partner(s). And I don’t even consider myself into kink. I just like sex… a lot. And I enjoy exploring new things with someone who I find myself being comfortable with. Not all of the aforementioned situations are ones which I have much interest in repeating (some I very much would–I’ll keep you guessing as to which are which), but I was free to explore such possibilities with a partner or two (or more) while being respected for what I did and didn’t like/want. And that, my friends, is “feminist sex.” Or, as I prefer to call it, “real sex.” Any sex that doesn’t respect all partners involved stops being sex and starts being assault.
  • Most importantly: sex is a joint venture and should be approached as such. And this is where we get to the entitlement bit.

Right vs. Privilege

Now, sex is both a right and a privilege. But the differentiation between the two is very important. I’m creating a theorem which goes as follows:

Part I:
You have the right to have sex without the interference from others outside of the participants in the sex.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have sex in X, Y, or Z ways and feel the need to listen to them unless you want to. Nobody can tell you that sleeping with someone of a certain gender is wrong, or that sex using toys is disgusting, or that consensual power play doesn’t belong in sex. Well, okay, they can tell you… but they don’t have the right to enforce that unless you’re breaking laws (i.e. someone underage) or conflicting with Part II, which is…

Part II:
However, having sex with your partner(s) is a privilege, not a right.

You don’t have a right to anyone else’s body. You have the right to your own. But access to another’s body is a privilege that only that person can grant you.

The problem of which Knepper is only one point of evidence is a faulty misconception of Part II; mainly, that it doesn’t exist. He, along with many others in our culture, have the misconception that if they “get” a partner to Point A, then they “deserve” to get to Point B with them.

This leads to various displays in faulty logic:

  • If I make out with you, I deserve to go farther with you.
  • If I get you alone in a room, I deserve to grope you.
  • If I get you naked in bed, I deserve to have sex with you.
  • If I buy you dinner, I deserve to have sex with you.
  • If I start having sex with you, I deserve to finish having sex with you.

All of the above are blatantly untrue. Better statements follow:

  • If I make out with you, I would like to go farther with you.
  • If I get you alone in a room, I would like to grope you.
  • If I get you naked in bed, I would like to have sex with you.
  • If I buy you dinner, I would like to have sex with you.
  • If I start having sex with you, I would like to finish having sex with you.

Why are these so, so much better? Because they place the responsibility for giving permission to proceed the next step not on some amorphous concept of what a person “deserves,” but rather they place that responsibility on the partner(s) to grant or withhold. (I emphasize again: or withhold.)

I believe I am entitled to enjoy sex. Just not necessarily with a specific person at a specific time. I am entitled to not being treated as an object or with disrespect by anyone whom I choose to hook up with, and I am entitled to say no to anyone whom I choose not to hook up with. However, any potential partners? They all have the exact same entitlement. And no more.

That ends my argument for now. I’d love your feedback, positive or negative, agreeable or not. I only ask a few things: respect, no name-calling, and no victim-blaming, please.

Want more on the topic? Head to one of my favorite blogs, “Yes Means Yes!” kept by the authors of a book by the same name:

(PS: I said this was personal. I have just recently begun the process of “coming out” as a survival of sexual assault. I would like to share my story, but feel it’s not the best forum to do so in this context. Why? Since I’m just beginning to find myself and come into my own and rebuild my personal strength after my ordeal, I would prefer not to experience attacks on my personal experience quite yet. I was diagnosed with PTSD a few months after the attack, and while I can handle attacks on my arguments above, I’m not quite ready to handle criticism of my personal experience. I’m still a bit emotionally fragile. I have dealt with intellectual debate for long enough to be able to discuss the topics I’ve posted thus far, even with intense opposition… but I’m not quite prepared to stave off the hurt that would come from degradations on my personal experience, which was relatively recent. Therefore, I will share my story in a different post.)

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Ambiqueerious, The Blog.

October 23, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Posted in American Politics, Legislation, Let's Get Personal | Leave a comment
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Bisexuality: the third letter in the oft-cited acronym “LGBT” intended to be inclusive of all people with non-mainstream sexual orientations or gender identities.

Two problems:

  1. “LGBT” doesn’t even come close to describing every single sexual or gender identity out there which doesn’t fit into the heteronormative mainstream view of how people should look/act/be with/sleep with/fuck/love/whatever with other people.
  2. “Bisexual” is 95% of the time merely a perfunctory inclusion. No one actually intends to discuss or consider bisexual identities, politics, relationships, or existences.

What are the solutions?

I don’t know. That’s why I’m writing. Maybe you can help me out.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is RaeAn. (All right, it’s a pen name, but it’s one I use for everything — I’m not hiding anything.) I’m in my early twenties. I went to the University of Maryland, where I got a degree in Jewish Studies, a certificate in LGBT Studies, and a notation in Creative Writing. I figured out I was bisexual when I was 15 or 16; I was very lucky to figure this out in an extremely open and welcoming environment, a summer camp in NY, where people supported me and helped me grow into my newfound identity throughout the summer, as opposed to back home in Georgia where I encountered quite a bit of animosity and needed to be confident in my identity before I could defend it as much as I had to. I alternate between describing myself as bisexual, queer, and “I-don’t-care-what-you-are-as-long-as-you’re-pretty”-sexual. I identify as polyamorous, but have no issue with monogamy and have had monogamous relationships in the past which have been equally as fulfilling as my poly relationships in the past. I’m currently in no relationships. I’m content with that for the moment.

I find queer theory and discourse to be fascinating, and I wanted to maintain my participation in such discussions past graduation from my LGBT Studies program. I started a Twitter account, @ambiqueerious, since I already maintained a personal Twitter and a Twitter for my internship in DC. I figured I may as well tack another one onto my TweetDeck app that might be relevant to people I don’t necessarily know personally, but to whom I may be connected via my frustrations with the “LGBT” community and the way the world treats and views queer people of all stripes and colors.

Then I came across an article in the Washington Post that had me ranting to a friend on Google Chat for quite some time. I posted it to the Twitter, but I so did not want to be limited to 140 characters for this one.

And thus it was born: Ambiqueerious, The Blog.

I don’t know how often I’ll post. To be honest, I’m working full-time in a very frustrating and dead-end restaurant job to pay the bills, interning with a Jewish LGBT organization in DC for free to get work experience in my desired field, and on a dance team, so free time is limited. But I’ll devote some of it to this blog whenever I can. I get frustrated often enough to need to vent. But I also see some awesome, great stuff going on that I need to point out. There are some people doing great work out there for bi visibility. I’ll shout out to those people as I go along.

Also, happy LGBT History Month!

Speaking of history: let’s get into the issue that started this need for a blog.

Matthew Shepard. We all know his story. (If you don’t: go here to catch up.) His mother, Judy Shepard, has done wonders for the community in promoting and defending hate crimes legislation. We sort of had it, then we didn’t, then it only included some people and not others, and… etc.

Hate crimes legislation has finally made it to Congress! And it’s all-inclusive of both “sexual orientation” AND “gender identity!” Yay! Big high-five for all of us who want people to pay for bias-related crimes more than random-victim crimes! (Maybe I’ll get into why I support this later — it’s complicated, but I have a different issue at the moment.)

It passes the Senate! And it even makes it into the Washington Post! Hey, look, Mr. Reporter Sir, tell us the good news! We have a bill that’s going to protect all of us, right?

The Senate cleared a historic hate crimes bill Thursday for President Obama’s signature, approving new federal penalties for attacks on gay men and lesbians.

Oh. Right. Gay men and lesbians. I love me some of them, but uh, you do realize what the wording of the bill is, right?

Allow me a quote from the text of the legislation. This is the part where the punishments are delineated for perpetrators of hate crimes who are defined as *Ahem*:

    Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B) or paragraph (3), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person
    (Source: Library of Congress, emphasis added)

Let’s pick this apart as it relates to queer people. (Not knocking the impact this has on people with disabilities or of minority national origins or religions, but those parts have been on the books for quite some time, and this is a queer blog, after all.)

  • “Actual or perceived.” This is the BEST part of this legislation! It made me so giddy when I read this. That means that if you get beaten up because someone thinks you’re in a protected class, such as those listed after these three words, even if you’re not, hate crimes legislation can still apply. Remember Jaheem Hererra? He committed suicide in my home town in Georgia after being bullied at school because other students perceived him to be gay and labeled him as such. He was never out and nobody knows if he was gay or not. It doesn’t matter. He was bullied because of his perceived sexuality–and that would fall under this hate crimes legislation if these bullies caused, or attempted to cause, bodily harm to Jaheem.
  • “Gender” and “gender identity.” These two work best in combination with each other. Transpeople are finally going to be protected in hate crimes. Now, if someone is attacked for their “actual or perceived” gender or gender identity, it carried the same penalty as a crime perpetrated based on race. This means biological females who identify as women, male-to-female transgender people, female-to-male transgender people, drag queens, cross-dressers, pre- and post-op transpeople, transpeople with no intention of having surgery, gender-queer people, intersex people, agendered people, whatever you want to be and whoever you are: hate crimes legislation can apply to a crime based on these, and many more, identities, people, and situations.
  • “Sexual orientation.” Here’s my biggie. Listen up, Mr. Reporter Sir (whose name is actually Ben Pershing–I hope he Googles his name and gets this at some point), and read those two words again: “sexual orientation.” It does not say “gay and lesbian orientation.” It’s more general and all-encompassing than that. It includes bisexuals. Pansexuals. Asexuals. People who don’t fit into any category and yet don’t fit into your heteronormative category either. Or people perceived to be in any of these categories or non-categories. Which means, Mr. Reporter Sir, you, too, are included in this. I don’t know what your sexual identity is. But it doesn’t matter. This covers straight people and queer people alike. Because if you walked into the wrong neighborhood wearing something that someone thought made you look queer and you got attacked for it–this legislation covers you.

This is my beef with common perceptions of gender and sexuality. It’s such a dichotomy: you’re either black or white, male or female, gay or straight. Well, some of us are in between.

This legislation could be a life-saver. Or perhaps just make victims feel safer in their conviction that their attacker(s) get what they deserve. Let’s take a situation: A man goes out among gay men. He identifies as bisexual. One of the gay men starts making cracks about fence-sitters, about how he’ll come all the way out of the closet eventually, he’s just too scared to make the leap to being gay. Another guy chimes in with more vicious comments about bisexual men spreading diseases more quickly than gay men, and another says he finds bisexuals to be disgusting. It escalates. The bisexual man doesn’t know how to respond; he starts walking away, but one of the other guys grabs him, another grabs him but harder, and the bisexual man panics. He struggles trying to get away, but this only eggs on the other men. One of the guys throws the first punch, and soon enough, our bisexual man is lying next to a building with a cracked rib, swollen black eyes, and no way to call for help.

It could happen.

God forbid it ever does. But it could.

And the legislation which just passed the Senate protects against that, too, Mr. Pershing.

I thank whatever deity there is that someone more aware of the world than you wrote this legislation.


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