sometimes I just want to be around folk, but without having to talk with them, as that’s tiring. but especially with people I don’t know very well, or outgoing friends, I feel I need to “perform”. I feel like I’ll be considered unfriendly if I don’t converse. but I need time in my own thoughts and I’m mostly happy and content in my own head. I need to process what’s going on both to work it out, and because figuring stuff out and learning from experiences is so fulfilling for me. even just something you might consider mundane I can find interesting and something I want to think about and figure how it works with other bits of things I’ve thought about before. but talking takes me away from that. instead of figuring stuff out I have to set my energy and brain into trying to negotiate social interaction. this requires constant checking I’m using the right set of rules / filters that I’ve learned from observing previous encounters within relevant social circles. and monitoring the actual conversation and a huge set of other things that I’ve learned over the years as crucial to “passing” as a reasonable social being. and it’s exhausting! and can be so goddamned unenlightening – just another interaction where I’m dragged out of my own thoughts so we can say things to each other that just reinforce whatever social context I’m in. and afterwards I’m going to feel drained from having to spend so much energy talking. sometimes I just want to be around folk, sharing an experience or activity, but allowed to be in my own head and just each of us talking if/when we have something to say, rather than just to fill the silence with energy and time thieving conversation.
I assume nurses are included in those whose free speech is being argued to be under threat by same-sex marriage :
Carey argued that teachers, doctors and other professionals might be forced out of their jobs if they refused to embrace the proposed change to the law, an intolerant restriction on free speech
When working as a nurse, I don’t have the same right to free speech I have the rest of the time. Society has entrusted me with power and responsibility to care for people at their most vulnerable. Were Carey or Widdecombe to be my patients, I would not consider I have the “right” to tell them what I think of their oppressive ideas. When I have patients in who have jobs that I consider abhorrent, I do not let them know that. I’ve even given a bedbath to someone covered in nazi insignia – I made a believable excuse and left his room briefly when I saw it to cover my shock and horror. Then I regained my professional mask, put my personal values and Jewish identity away, and I think treated him as well as I treat every other patient requiring my care. That is what I require of myself as a nurse – that I do not abuse the power that I have been given. Patients rights to autonomy, dignity and respect outweigh my rights to free speech. I would not carry out a procedure that I consider unethical, but I would not insist on doing something that I consider in the “patient’s best interests” if they have refused consent. Their rights outweigh mine – they are vulnerable and under my power and I have agreed to be tasked with looking after them. I am not there to push my own agenda; my patients require me to help them with their agenda. It would be an abuse of what I have been tasked to do to claim my right to free speech meant I could refuse to recognise a patients same-sex spouse.
Getting married currently could be considered to be oppressive, because those getting wedded are taking advantage of heterosexism and monogamous privilege* but that would not give me the right to refuse to recognise that my patients are married.
The anti equality crowd have decided to adopt the same language of “protecting rights” in order to try and paint their increasingly retrogressive views as in keeping with the language and stated values of the political class and modern society. It reminds me of an abuser trying to claim that they have the right to safe space too and to not be challenged on their abuse as it is upsetting for them. It is an attempt to defend oppression with rhetorical devices and twisting logic around to try to turn themselves into the victims. But they are not victims defending rights to free speech, they are oppressors trying to shore up a system of privilege. That the only way they can defend this is with weak and false appeals to the “right to free speech of professionals” shows how empty their case really is.
* I do not consider those getting married oppressive, but I do consider the system oppressive.
[Trigger Warning for *mention* of rape, sexual assault and other forms of assault. I have attempted to not make this post inaccessible to those who can't read depictions of sexual assault without being triggered by putting depictions as a footnote at the end of the post.]
This post is in response to both a post arguing that penetration was a necessary component of the definition of rape and the ensuing Shitstorm across comment threads and social media both calling out and attacking Mhairi as a “rape apologist” and “homophobe”. I am working through ideas and have no clear position at time of writing. Aforementioned Shitstorm meant I did not participate in the discussion until now.
Figuring out what we want to do with a word helps in semantic debates. With this one, defining rape, these are a small number of possible reasons: (a) provide support for the survivor/victim; (b) label/convict and assign punishment / exclusion / rehabilitation routes to the perpetrator; (c) epidemiology / crime statistics / progress indicators. For (a) we might want a broad, loose definition to enable a survivor led process and give power back to them by respecting their definition of what happened to them, whereas (c) requires a clear, unambiguous definition. MRAs are focused on (b) wanting a definition that Mhairi fears they would use to try to claim that rape is not overwhelmingly committed by male perpetrators on female victims/survivors because males could claim that they were nonconsensually “enveloped” during PIV (penis in vagina). In the Shitstorm I think that there was no attempt to even figure out why the word as to be defined, and people were coming at it from very different perspectives.
Mhairi’s position seemed overly rooted in theory and reacting to MRAs (“men’s rights activists” – in reality predominant activity and focus of MRAs is being anti feminist rather than looking at the many ways men are genuinely oppressed). I also remain unclear whether damage to the survivor/victim is a key requirement.
If the exact same assault is carried out by two different perpetrators with the same motivation/means, but in one case a paramedic happens to be nearby and save the life, whereas in the other case the victim dies, is it right that the label/punishment/social exclusion/rehabilitation are different, as they are under current UK law? I’m undecided but wavering on the side of that it is what the perpetrator did that should be the measure, rather than the effect. The assault was the same and how the perpetrator is dealt with should not be differentiated according to whether the victim survives as this is not pertinent UNLESS we have decided that justice is about “an eye for an eye” vengence. Justice could also be attempting to a) make safer spaces by removing known dangers from society b) reduce crime by making potential perpetrators fear the punishment c) rehabilitate perpetrators so that they are less likely to commit crime in the future. This is predominantly a judgement based on values – I’m a liberal/lefty and prefer a society where (a) and (c) are important but this is based on my broader ethics, worldview, experiences and how I want society to be. I could bring in “objectivity” – for example by pointing out that (b) has obvious flaws such as high murder rates in USA where punishment is death penalty – and it is right that empiricism should guide our decisions, but we should not pretend that science can provide the values led decision on what we do with this information, or even on what information should be sought and how.
So, my perspective on whether rape requires penetration, being as everyone else has laid out their’s – I am undecided. And that is because I am neither sure why the definition is being sought, nor about the issues themselves. But here are some of my thoughts anyway.
Does calling an assault rape have a special connotation? I’m not one for words – they are merely pointers to concepts and to me (I am visual and think in processes, concepts, maps, diagrams and so learn how to translate between words and thoughts rather than words having any weight in themselves) and so to me “rape” has no intrinsic value. I’d probably prefer the term “sexual assault” as that is clearer and than talk, if necessary, about “levels” (eg was it brief or prolonged? was it repeated? how much violence was used?) *if* there was a need to grade sexual assaults eg to decide for vengence based justice. I’m aware other people think differently, and that for them the word rape might hold an intrinsic weight, I’m just stating that to me this is just a semantic discussion and I start with no particular attachment to that, or any other, 4 letter word.
My relevant personal experiences/perspective is that I have had multiple sexual assaults, some more frightening than others, and two involved PIV. I’m female bodied and queer and have had to deal with the heterosexism of some of the sex that I have being discounted as not “real” as it does not involve penetration.
An argument for why penetration is necessary is that penetration potentially causes more harm and therefore justifies and requires inclusion in rape definitions. As I said above I’m not convinced that the harm actually done is relevant EXCEPT for those supporting the survivor/victim. I think what was done and motivations for it are much more important. However if a perpetrator knows that what they are doing could cause harm – eg hitting someone who has brittle bones – then what was done was serious. Does penetration cause specific harm in sexual assault? Depending on what is penetrated/penetrating and condom use, the survivor might be harmed by pregnancy, STDs, physical injury at the penetration site such as tearing or prolapse or internal organ damage. Is there any other harm – having carefully reflected on my experience yes there was specific psychological harm done to me* but that might not be generalised. (I’ve put my thoughts on that harm as a footnote at the bottom to minimise triggering those who find it distressing to read about sexual assaults) Are we trying to define a specific assault that has both a gender dynamic and carries particular harm?
Is there a need for a word that means “non consensual penetration” because that is something in particular that we want to be able to talk about, work on, address? If we have decided that this is something we want, then I think rape being defined as Mhairi and others do is fair enough. Some reasons for we might want to do this are so that we can deal with particular fallout eg having pregnancy services ready for the rape victim. However in that case, as the fallout is so different depending on whether the anus or vagina or mouth were penetrated, it seems strange to lump these together rather than having a “physical assault” service who would specialise in all of what an assault survivor/victim might require, and is probably more generalised than just sexual assaults eg PTSD counselling. I think non consensual PIV sexual assault within a war zone is an exception and is common enough and has a narrative and outcome that possibly do justify needing a particular word. However I do not think that in this case its a non specific penetration that requires the word, so the definition would again be different, narrower, than Mhairi’s.
However I think rape is, in 21st Century Scotland, commonly understood and used to mean “non consensual sex”. And this is where the Shitstorm has a very fair point – to define something that means “non consensual sex” with the subtitle of “penetrative” does add to a general societal heterosexist narrative that non penetrative sex is not real. As most sexual assault happens between people who know each other and probably were at a level of trust and familiarity where they were alone together in a private space there is a particular violation.
Anyway, I need to finish this now. Just wanted to work through my own thoughts on the apparent issue before I write something about the Shitstorm.
* The twice that I was sexually assaulted and penetration (both times piv) was involved it did feel specifically bad that the inside of me violated by something I didn’t want. However both incidents also lasted longer than the non penetrative sexual assaults so a prolonged non penetrative may have grown to feel the same. The second penetrating sexual assault however was much more traumatising, despite being less brutal and shorter; once is an incident to get through, twice in less than a year (different perps) felt like a pattern and therefore something likely to happen again. This helps illustrate that harm done does not necessarily reflect the act, but that the context is key. However I want to restate – part of the trauma for me was that I had something forced inside of me that I did not want. There was other trauma caused by being physically overpowered, feeling scared and having people that I had trusted doing something to me that I clearly did not want. I imagine that the specifics of the trauma is very individual to each person and that a non penetrative sexual assault is definitely not intrinsically less harmful due to the many different ways an act might be.
Sorry for anyone that actually reads my blog. This is even more self-centered than normal!
Dear future self.
Yes, you enjoy studying. Yes it has been amazing to be learning. And yes research is incredible to be involved in.
But I’ve not slept properly for a fortnight! Night before last, despite being shattered and going to bed at 11, it was after 4 that I finally nodded off. And that was only for a few hours. Yesterday was spent in a sleep deprived haze, though was oddly productive despite that – 3 hours worth of interview coded! And yet last night over course of a couple hours in bed it took a double shot of vodka (and I’ve been off alcohol for about 6 months) and finally 5mg of zolpidem to eventually get to sleep, and a pretty disturbed one at that (awake 5-6am but then slept through til after 9)
YOU DO NOT COPE WELL WITH DEADLINES!
So do not think, oh this time will be different. Try and still participate in the learning and thinking and putting bits of puzzle together that you enjoy, but not in the context of an academic assessment with deadlines to stress you out.
Write more for easy things like the blog. Where the deadline is “when its done” and you can enjoy it again.
And yes. That means *no* PhD. Seriously. 3 years of this shit? I know that this dissertation would expand really interestingly, or that action research project would be really cool, but find another way of doing it.
The NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) is currently consulting on increasing the annual fee that we must pay to work as a nurse from £76 to £120! This is at a time when our pay packets are already suffering from a 2 year pay freeze, and April’s increase in pension contributions. We entered nursing to care for patients, but the enormous stress and financial pressure being put on us as individuals and at ward level is threatening our mental and emotional ability to do that.
Just 8 years ago NMC fees were £20, and then more than doubled to £48 in order to pay off debts accumulated in part because of … the stock market crash! Yes, history is repeating itself with nurses again being squeezed in exactly the same way because of our economic system!
Apparently there has been an increase in “fitness to practise” cases – that is nurses and midwifes being investigated and potentially removed from the NMC register due to poor care. The NMC states it exists “to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the public” and a key way it does that is by investigating whether we are “fit to practise“. Now all this sounds good and well. But our ability to care for patients does not exist in a vacuum.
There are some nurses who shouldn’t be nursing, but the majority of us entered a profession where we spend 12 hour shifts wiping bottoms, juggling technical care with paperwork and get paid less than those with less qualifications such as firemen because WE CHOOSE TO CARE! If I was an arsehole there are a million other jobs where I could indulge a cruel or uncaring side to my nature – hell, I could be in finance! – but instead I chose to nurse because though the financial rewards are puny, they are outweighed by feeling like I’ve had the privilege to take care of another human being at their most vulnerable, in a way that respects and nurtures their autonomy and individuality, and hopefully made a positive difference to their day, and even life.
But all this requires me to be fully … human. Fully there, at the bedside; physically, mentally and spiritually healthy. Taking care of someone who is dying, and their loved ones, is not a rare occurrence for us, and doing it well is both rewarding and demanding, in every respect. And then there’s the time when I successfully got your granny back on her feet, caring for her through a urinary tract infection that had temporarily given her psychosis and vicious strength! It was hard, frustrating, tiring, to keep getting those antibiotics into her as she clawed away at me but she is a human being, with decades of life behind her that I will never know 1% of and it was an honour to treat her the way I’d like my mother to be treated if she were in that bed. There are quicker, less demanding ways I could “do my job” and just get through my shift – but they’re not the right ways to look after someone else. I am not a nurse to just survive a shift, though there have been plenty when survival was all I was begging for! No, I’m a nurse, 99.9% of us are nurses, because we choose to play our role in wider society by healing and caring for you and your loved ones at their most needy.
I’m not arguing against having a registration, because there are a minority of nurses who should not be nurses. But the rest of us – well we just want to be given the opportunity to be the best nurses we can. Because we can be awesome. We know how to be awesome nurses. But not when we are tired because we’re not sleeping properly because of financial worries. Not when we are stressed because hospitals have been squeezed way past breaking point and the only way that more patients aren’t dying is because healthcare workers, including nurses, are unsustainably pushing themselves to try to keep it all together.
By increasing our registration fees the NMC is putting yet more pressure and worry onto us, and states that it needs to do this because there has been an increase in “fitness to practise” cases that its needed to investigate in the past few years. Now I strongly doubt that this is because nurses have spontaneously become cruel and uncaring. No, I think its the unsustainability of our workload, combined with the stress of increasing costs but a frozen pay packet. I think these have conspired to take their toll on our ability to nurse. And increasing the registration fees is going to increase our stress, which will increase the numbers of good nurses unable to cope anymore, increasing yet further the number of those fitness to practise cases that are being blamed for this current registration fee hike…
NMC – do your job. Safeguard the health and wellbeing of the public by facilitating nurses to be all that we can be. Join us in the fight for proper staffing levels – at the moment we’re struggling to maintain “safe” levels of nurses on the wards, but how much better to aspire to a level where I could spend half an hour talking with the wee old lady who isn’t getting any visitors in the last weeks of her life? If I could be with my patients at every snack and mealtime to help them eat if they need it? Thats really not much but would make an incredible difference. NMC, help me to be the best nurse I can be because I’m paid adequately, so my rent and bills have been paid and I can focus fully on my patients. NMC, don’t squeeze me yet further by increasing the amount I have to pay to work, because its shortsighted and will increase the numbers of fitness to practise cases and the numbers of nurses forbidden from doing their job because of a crisis caused by the economic system we live in.
A couple weeks ago I saw a flyer for a night club in Glasgow which made me really upset, because of the way it objectified women and referenced sex work as “sexy”. But I felt there was nothing I could do about it, and just felt sad and frustrated about it. Then, yesterday, I sent a message about it to the uni feminist society. Then they all got angry as well, but in a really empowered/powerful way, and collectively organised to challenge the night club, and the night club backed down, and removed the sex work imagery from its publicity!!
This year I’m hosting another love, justice and freedom seder* on Saturday, 7th April 2012 (2nd night). We’ll be roughly using http://saltyfemme.wordpress.com/haggadah-zine/ but with a more traditional “telling” of the Exodus story and various other bits will also be more orthodox. Read more…