Friday, December 26, 2014

Sexual Assault, Memory, and Trauma

This article for Think Progress, by Sacha Feinman, describes how he was sexually assaulted at the age of twelve, but didn't remember a thing about it until he was fifteen. He uses it as a window onto the chaos emanating from the Rolling Stone story about rape at the University of Virginia. Whatever the facts of that case, however—and I, anyway, think it very unlikely that "Jackie" completely invented her story—it would definitely be worth people's understanding how such traumatic events are processed and why interrogating the "accuracy" of people's memories of them is not just cruel and re-traumatizing but counter-productive, if your interest is really in the truth.
When we call Jackie or any other potential survivor a "liar", we accuse them of intentional obfuscation. And yet, the reality of our biological and neurological makeup is such that, in spite of our best efforts, victims of sexual abuse may sometimes be incapable of telling their stories accurately, if at all. In fact, contradictory details or head-scratching gaps in the narrative might be demonstrative that the violation was all too real.
Even under the best of circumstances, memory simply isn't the sort of photographic storehouse people seem to think it is. We know this not just from all the scientific research that has been done on memory but also from studies that have been done on eyewitness testimony. And when you add trauma into the mix, memories get repressed and reshaped in all kinds of ways. The question isn't then whether the memory is "accurate". Of course it's not "accurate". The question is what traumatic event actually caused it: what event it is we are seeing through a glass darkly. Dismissing the memory because it isn't "accurate" is simply refusing even to try to hear the message it is sending us.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

White Colleague's Recent Confrontation With Police Is Stark Reminder of White Privilege

A guy starts yelling at a cop who is harassing him, and he walks away completely unharmed, not to mention not arrested. Guess what race he was?

From AlterNet.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Open Letters to Camille and Evin Cosby

Wherein the authors let Bill Cosby's wife and daughter know (i) that they believe then when they say that Bill Cosby has been a wonderful husband and father but also (ii) that they believe the women who have accused him of raping them.

Lynn Beismer's letter, on Role Reboot, is a wonderful, sensitive statement, full of sadness for these two women. Rebecca Vipond Brink's, on XO Jane, is a bit more angry, but expresses similar ideas in the end.

Both attitudes are, of course, reasonable. Far be it from me to tell victims how they ought to feel or react when such things happen to others.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rape By Fraud?

There's a myth out there that no law, program, or action designed to counter rape can be too extreme for feminists. Well, here's proof to the contrary, an article by Amanda Marcotte decrying a bill introduced in New Jersey by Assemblyman Troy Singleton that would criminalize "sexual assault by fraud". Which means, as Marcotte puts it, "[lying] your way into someone's pants".

As Marcotte notes, this a terrible idea:
...[T]his law is so vague and wide-reaching that it's easy to see how pretty much everyone could be considered a rapist, because, as any quick perusing of OkCupid can tell you, representing yourself as someone you are not is a universal behavior. All of us are claiming we woke up like this, and we are all lying.
But at least the dude's heart is in the right place.


Good Reads: Bisexuality

There are many things that puzzle me. But in the realm of sexual politics, the discrimination suffered by bisexuals, even in the queer community, is near the top. Here are a handful of articles on the topic.
I meant to do this for bisexual awareness week, but got distracted.

If you've got anything similar, post it in the comments.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Jaclyn Friedman on How She Stopped Worrying and Learned To Love Pleasure

Jaclyn Friedman has posted her piece from Yes Means Yes, "In Defense of Going Wild", on her blog. It's a sort of "confession" about Friedman's love of sex. Of course, in describing it that way, I'm almost buying into the idea it is fighting: the loving sex is somehow shameful if you happen to be a woman. Which, obviously, is an idea to which I do not subscribe.

Read it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The PGR Numbers, from Mitchell Aboulafia

The results of the latest iteration of the peculiar exercise known as the PGR survey have been slow to appear, but, as the "area" rankings have trickled out, Mitchell Aboulafia has been tracking the participation rate over at Up@Night. And, so far, it does not look good. The most recent area he has mentioned is Philosophy of Language.