Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Difference Between My Experience and Yours

[trigger warning: rape. please enjoy an otter if this will disturb you.]

This, the column and the comments, are an excellent study in the difference between being a woman in the patriarchy/rape culture and a man in the patriarchy/rape culture.

I'll start this by saying that I don't like Cary Tennis. He's pretentious. He ignores the possibilities of medical/mental illnesses in favor of existential rambling, which, as far as I can tell, means nothing. Honestly, the man doesn't give advice, he rambles for a few paragraphs and then calls it a day. His qualifications for advice giving seem to be that he can use big words, quote dead white guys and he is an alcoholic in recovery. Yeah, okay, I actively dislike Cary Tennis.

Anyway, this woman, LW, writes in and says that she is an alcoholic. (Actually, she's not sure if she's an alcoholic, but a 6 pack a day every day drunk by oneself does put one squarely in the alcoholic category.) She's also lonely and clearly quite depressed. Her problem is that she attends AA* and the men in the group make her uncomfortable. As in sitting too close and touching her uncomfortable.

Are you a woman? Then that last sentence made you uncomfortable, and it had nothing to do with alcoholism.

It didn't bother Cary Tennis, who seems to think that a woman being touched by strange men is just part of recovery and nothing to be concerned about. It concerned every woman who commented, and there were pages of comments. Mostly from women, saying things like, "Um, no, being touched by strange men is not part of recovery, it's a sign of danger, get out."

And that's the difference between being a man and being a woman in our patriarchy/rape culture. When a man experiences another man sitting too close to him and getting touchy, he's probably freaked out, but he's not thinking, "So, exactly how alone would we have to get before he rapes me?" When a strange man offers another man a ride, he may turn it down because he doesn't want to make small talk with a stranger, but he's not thinking, "Oh, fuck no, you creepy rapist! I'm not that stupid."

Chances are, Cary Tennis has never paused in the middle of a conversation with an appliance repairman and thought, "Oh, shit. I'm alone in my house with a strange man. I wonder when the raping starts?" Cary Tennis has likely never looked at a random man walking down the street and thought, "I wonder if that's the man who rapes me." So Cary Tennis can totally ignore this woman's reasonable fears and bullshit some answer about working the program and existential whatever while every woman witnessing this shrieks, "NO! GET OUT! NOW!"

Must be nice, Cary. Must be nice.

*AA is total bullshit, though Cary thinks it's awesome. Despite the PR, AA is as or less effective than going it alone.


  1. Just for you, little traitors…


    we're this far from nuking all of you....

    the X-MAS vacuum cleaner for the atheists....

    shermer, randi, myers, pz, dawkins, harris

    why does everyone always want to PUNCH you, shermer?

  2. I just read the article. Yep, Tennis gave some poor advice. I'd advise LW to find a new meeting at the very least.

    I'm not an overly touchy person and go with the "Good fences make good neighbors" policy.

  3. I've never in my life been in a setting where guys regularly touched other guys beyond handshakes and the occaisonal context-appropriate hug - and trust me, I've been in some very vulnerable situations with other guys.*

    With that in mind, no, it's not part of the recovery process for random guys to touch you if you're male. If you're female and you're being touched by other men like that it's because the men around you are trying to force intimacy out of your vulnerability. It's not really that they want to/intend to rape you, but they do want you to want them. Unfortunately, such business is massively disrespectful on several levels including but not limited to the fact that theoretically you came to get sober, not get laid.

    It bears mentioning that experienced alcoholics tend to lead fairly narrow lives and when they do get in programs they tend to unhealthily attempt to get all their social needs met within the program, including their sexual ones. This is a key reason why drug rehab is conducted in extremely controlled circumstances and for only short lengths of time.

    Even so, it's still ultimately each member's responsibility to respect the basic rights of other members, and a "support group" that fails on this front is absolutely doing more harm than good.

    *Things may be different in a setting for openly gay men. I wouldn't know.


    At least we're on the same page...

    Serves Em Right, eh, Randi....

    Just for you, little traitors…


    we're this far from nuking all of you....

    the X-MAS vacuum cleaner for the atheists....

    shermer, randi, myers, pz, dawkins, harris

    why does everyone always want to PUNCH you, shermer?

  5. "This is a key reason why drug rehab is conducted in extremely controlled circumstances and for only short lengths of time."

    And frankly, I was amazed by some of the stuff that goes on there despite the efforts to prevent it.

  6. "It's not really that they want to/intend to rape you, but they do want you to want them." - How do you know?

  7. "How do you know?"

    1. Contrary to an apparently growing popular belief, most Men aren't inclined to rape, but pretty much all of them are horny, which is an important distinction because...

    2. Rape ain't sex. Rape is about violence and exerting power over another person. Most actual rapists have no trouble getting sex (if nothing else through prostitutes) but commit rape because simple sex isn't satisfying to them.

  8. Thanks for mansplaining that to me. As a woman I just had no idea at all what rape was all about. Maybe you could make name-tags that state which men are 'horny' and which men are 'actual rapists'.

    You've completely missed the point about what this post is about. But in doing so you've proven the point PF was making. So that's handy.

  9. "You've completely missed the point about what this post is about."

    How's that? The point was inappropriate handsiness, which I was one of the first to declare as such. I merely attribute it to the infinitely higher likelihood that guys just want to connect with girls, rather than immediately jump to accusing them all of being closet-rapists.

    There's a difference between rapists and assholes, and while a great many men are assholes, very few are rapists.

    But in either case, they shouldn't be suffered.

  10. I don't know where my reply went - so I'll just say it again:

    This post is actually about rape culture. And how men view the world differently to women based on rape culture.

    Your comments prove this.

    Instead of taking offence to women being wary or afraid of sexually aggressive men (and why we wonder if they will rape us) why don't you educate yourself about rape culture:

    It will help you understand why women feel the way they do. And you might be able to join us in trying to change that - instead of mansplaining incessantly you might actually be able to discuss the issue after reading that link.

  11. Also - if you're still not sure, the headline of the post: "The difference between my experience and yours" might give you another clue about what this post was actually about.

  12. I second what Boganette said and would also like to address the idea that men touch women because they "want [the women] to want them". Which I think is a pretty charitable view of things.

    If men wanted to incite romantic/lustful feelings in women, they get plenty of pointers from society as to how that "should" be done, largely involving gifts of shiny rocks or plant matter. But generally this is unnecessary as a boatload of other messages from society and media are about the notion that men are entitled to the attention of women, the attraction of women, the "use" of women's bodies.

    In that context, men touch women because they feel they have a right to, and because they expect that those women must "want" them (there's a whole other issue there however with societal/media messages about women's ability to actually "want" or "choose" things in the first place).

  13. Ideoligy [can i give you that shortened name, please?] just STOLE what i was going to say.

    i'm USED to gay men walking up to me and doing weird things to my boobs. it's A) men i know B) that i've given permission to because C) it's damned harmless but really funny to me.

    so OF COURSE random straight dudes that i don't KNOW come up and do the same.
    and are confused and angered when they get punched and/or ejected from the premises. and it's NEVER MADE BETTER by someone saying "THAT guy had permission to do that, YOU *DON'T* have permission"

    because if i let ONE human-with-a-penis do something, somehow ALL humans-with-a-penis are allowed?

    [i STILL find myself punching idiots for this, and i'm now in a WHEELCHAIR and have been told by a guy who spent over a DECADE trying to get into my pants that i was now "hopeless, helpless, sex-less and un-fuckable". and he wonders why i wouldn't sleep with him? ]

  14. also - appologies. should have been "IdeolOgy" i mis-spelled the nickname i was giving.

    sigh. the internet makes me stupid, i guess?

  15. Not a problem. :) I usually go by QoT but there's something about the way blogspot renders my wordpress ID.


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