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Does your partner sometimes scare you? (TRIGGER WARNING : domestic abuse)

March 2, 2015 Leave a comment

 

How to read webpages without it being very easy for someone else to see what you’ve been looking at. ]

 

Bride beaten by new husband on their wedding night because he couldn’t get her dress off

Divorce: Amy has now filed to separate from Gavin

Divorce: Amy has now filed to separate from Gavin

Back in August, Amy was brutally assaulted by her new husband after he refused to take her advice on how to take off her wedding dress. Subsequently he’s got a pathetic community order and she’s filed for divorce and has moved on.

I stumbled across this story but something really stuck out to me :

In talking about their wedding day she states “It was a huge celebration full of friends and family, and I thought it would have been the fresh start we needed.” Fresh start … that seems an odd way to describe a celebration of finding a life partner. So why did they need this fresh start? Turns out that initially “[h]e was caring and loving, and when we found we were having baby, we were delighted.” But then she got pregnant and “almost straight away, Gavin became controlling and manipulative. It was like walking on eggshells.”

A midwife friend told me that pregnancy is a very common time for a relationship to begin to get abusive. I don’t know why, though I guess maybe its the increased vulnerability of the pregnant person that gives the abusive partner a feeling of safety in letting loose with their arseholery, feeling that now their pregnant partner is less able to do anything about it.

How do you know if your relationship is on the abusive spectrum? Here’s a list of some of the signs of abuse. If folks reading this have any additional thoughts or resources, maybe you could add them as a comment to this post?

Partner abuse is prevalent in all types of relationships, gay or straight, polyamorous or monogamous, vanilla or kinky, and with partners who might profess leftwing or feminist views. I’ve seen so many friends and acquaintances survive abusive relationships, and often before I knew, the relationship seemed perfectly normal from the outside. So, if I know you, and you have any feelings that your relationship is in any way abusive, please know that if you feel able to confide in me, I will take your words at face value. Even if I am friends with your partner, and they have always been super nice to me, I know that people act differently in different contexts and with different people. Please feel free to tell me that you need to talk with me about something and we can arrange a safe time and place to do that.

I’m aware that its easy to sit on the sidelines and observe a relationship that is abusive, but that part of the trap is to belittle and undermine you until the abuse is normalised into behaviour that you might even feel is what you deserve. Like Amy, maybe you feel that your partner will change. And maybe they will. But in the meantime maybe you should try talking it over with a helpline?

Are you worried about someone you know? I like these resources: love is respect which even includes a section at the bottom for if your friend is the one that’s being abusive and a surprise entry from Glamour magazine “The Exact Words That Could Help a Friend in an Abusive Relationship

Big love to everyone out there. x

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My input on sex work and queer issues during last night’s #LSEanarchism panel

December 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Hey. This feels a bit weird/egotistical to write, as I don’t feel I’m the best at speaking and especially not writing (I’m not just being modest – there are things I kickass at! ;p ) and I’ve not come up with anything groundbreaking. I felt compelled to speak last night at LSE’s discussion on “Anarchism and Sexuality” because the panelists gave really interesting talks on historical Anarchists perspectives on sexuality, but a lot of views, particularly around sex work (looking at you Mujeres Libras!) are very dated and oppressive. Also questions came up around what contemporary Anarchists thought about campaigns for same sex marriage. Anyway, I gave a kind of nervous rant but folks seemed to like it and as the majority of those there last night (as least who spoke from the audience and who I spoke to afterwards) aren’t Anarchists and are interested in Anarchist ideas, I’m just writing roughly what I said.

On sex work, as was said during the talks, as Anarchists we believe struggles should be led by those affected, and so we have learned, especially from the sex workers within our own movements, that sex work is work, and not a unique case where “prostitutes” must be rescued from their degradation.

All work is degrading under capitalism. Why single out sex work, and ignore call centre workers, or those working in McDonalds or sweat shops? Under capitalism nobody really has freedom of choice, and our working conditions and the way we are treated is degrading. Those with truly socially important roles such as cleaning or care-work are looked down upon and undervalued.

Patriarchal views on sex are that, in hetero relations, the man (or top during same gender pairings) gains something, whilst the woman (or “bottom”) loses. This sexist garbage really colours social outlooks on sex work – whore shaming and rapes/other violent assaults on sex workers are the inevitable result. How much of our perception that sex work is inherently degrading comes from this? Do we view female sex workers, or rentboys in the same way as we think of gigolos? And there’s the ongoing double standard regarding males and females and the acceptability of casual sex.

To learn more I strongly recommend the Sex Workers Open University

The other thing I wanted to talk about was Anarchism and queer politics. We critique mainstream LGBTq obsessions with the pink pound and same-sex marriage as in large part being about sanitising queerness – “don’t be afraid, we’re not going to change social norms – we just want to be consumers and get married like the rest of you!” Apart from how this privileges certain LGTBTq folks over others – those who have money to spend and those who want monogamous relationships – its also irrelevant. Basic Anarchist principles are that you are free to do what you like, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. Why should we try to gain the acceptance of some mythical mainstream, when what we are doing doesn’t affect anyone else? Homophobia is not wrong because “look, we’re just like you”. We fight for freedom for all to live and love as they wish, straight or queer, monogamous or poly, kinky or vanilla, asexual, aromantic or celibate. As the panelists mentioned often same-sex marriage campaigns are driven even by those critical of bringing the state into the bedroom, because of how access to housing, pensions and insurance are dependent on marriage certificates – whereas actually housing etc should be available to all.

I think there’s another reason people, even Anarchists, choose to get married, and that’s as a marker of a life event. Celebrating stages in life, “hatches, matches and dispatches”, coming of age, and the changing seasons and years are meaningful to people. But the default ways of socially recognise such events, particularly important romantic/sexual relationships, is through a legal or religious marriage. Instead of criticising those who go down that route, we should find new ways of celebrating life events. We should evolve and create our own rituals and commemorations that recognise and honour relationships, rather than just the default of a state sanctioned wedding.

Anyway, that was pretty much what I said last night, I think. Afterwards folks wanted to know what groups I was involved with, where I’d learned so much and who was the “we” I referred to. The easy answer is that I’m in the Anarchist Federation, and in both the gender oppressed (women, trans*, nonbinary and anyone else who feels oppressed because of gender) and queer caucuses within that. But that’s just the formal answer. The real answer is that I have learned from living my life, and from doing so within communities that are also just getting on and doing it, trying things out, reflecting, chatting, listening and supporting. I guess I’m really lucky. We have formal meetings and discussions, but we also have long informal times, for example during the 7 month Free Hetherington occupation, or just whilst socialising with friends, and I feel that these are the most constructive. In a meeting, or worse at a “debate”, the goal is to win people over and sell a particular viewpoint. That doesn’t lead (imo) to learning or creating new ideas or philosophies together. For instance often we learn because of our fuckups – and its hard to share and collectively learn from those in a public meeting. Or getting pulled up on our shit, which we all have from our ongoing socialisation in a patriarchal, white supremacist culture. In informal settings we can play with ideas. The shy people find their voices. Those who feel they’re too new to contribute, ask questions and share their opinions, and blow the minds of the wise elders!

One reason I felt sheepish speaking last night and writing this today is because nothing I’ve said is cutting edge in the communities I inhabit. So I guess that’s the most important insight perhaps from Anarchism on sexuality; by prefiguring the society we want to live in, we learn and grow and develop as individuals and communities far more than any amount of theorising or formal lessons can do. Direct action means those who are oppressed taking initiatives that change the immediate conditions of their oppression. By creating queer spaces and communities we challenge heteronormativity by trying out queer ways of being in safe environments – these can include pride marches or more confrontational taking of spaces such as queer occupations of sites of homophobia. We don’t try to appeal to the Daily Mail with exhortations of how we were just born this way so please don’t blame us, but instead we boldly state that yes we reject patriarchal, heteronormative gender roles and relations. That our bodies, sexualities and gender presentations are ours to do with what we will. I think in doing this we also offer liberation to those who might still choose heterosexual, monogamous, vanilla life partnerships because at least know that that is your choice, that you are not compelled to do so, but followed rather what suited you and your partner best, and actually had those awesome conversations with them, and made it explicit. Just like vanilla people can learn from kinky people about consent, and monogamous people can learn from polyamory about talking through boundaries and working through jealousy. In the end, in an ideal Anarchist society, none of this would be remarkable. There will be no “queer Anarchism” just like we have no need for “blond haired Anarchism” – without oppression there is no need to develop specific organising around identity and we can all get on with our awesomely diverse and meaningful lives together.

Equal marriage poses no threat to professionals “freedom of speech”

October 9, 2012 1 comment

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

http://m.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/oct/08/archbishop-canterbury-gay-marriage-tory?cat=society&type=article

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.

Does rape require penetration?

October 4, 2012 1 comment

[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.

Pride is a Protest!

June 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Best wishes to everyone on a Pride march today.  Here’s the inevitable links though!

First off, the history of pride – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pride_parade#History – “Early on the morning of Saturday, 28 June 1969, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning persons rioted following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City.[1] The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar which catered to an assortment of patrons, but which was popular with the most marginalized people in the gay community: transvestites, transgender people, effeminate young men, hustlers, and homeless youth. The Stonewall riots are generally considered to be the beginning of the modern gay rights movement, as it was the first time in modern history that a significant body of LGBT people resisted arrest.”

Second, in many places around the world it is still dangerous for non heterosexual people to express themselves.  First off – the situation in Israel because its easy to forget how homophobic it can be outside of Tel Aviv.  Israeli police reject proposed gay pride parade route through Jerusalem Five countries have the death penalty for homosexual acts – Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. And the UK is still deporting LGBT asylum seekers back to these countries.

Be angry!  Be strong!  Remember you only have the freedom to march today because of the courage of generations of LGBT activists, and that same freedom can be taken away if we forget that!

x

Categories: israel, lgbt, politics Tags: ,