Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Good-Men-Who-Only-Occasionally-Rape-People Project

One of the endlessly fascinating things about the internet is that it forever seems to throw up new and eye-opening ways to really make you feel ashamed to be even broadly associated with other human beings. Football fan? Why not log onto the internet and see what other football fans think? (Note: don't ever do this). Maybe, like me, you're an atheist! Have fun logging onto the internet and getting embroiled in discussions about whatever stupid shit Richard Dawkins just said!

And so it is with men. Good old men. Perhaps the second most damning indictment of men as a group is the fact that 'The Good Men Project' is a thing. Men are genuinely so terrible that we have to have niche movements of dudes clubbing together to scratch their heads and try to figure out how not to openly be arseholes all of the time. I say that's the second most damning indictment of men, because the first is that said Project still manages to go ahead and publish an article by a rapist, about how he's not quite bothered enough about rape to stop drunkenly flailing his dick around. You can read it here, although obviously trigger warnings apply here in spades.

The article is genuinely called 'I'd Rather Risk Rape Than Quit Partying'. A reminder is due at this point that he's not talking about risking becoming a victim of a rape, although he goes on to make that argument too, but becoming a repeat sex offender. It begins with the line "When you party, when you move in party circles, you accept certain tradeoffs", the piece's anonymous author thus immediately setting himself up as the kind of Andrew WK of rape apology. It kicks off with three self-serving paragraphs explaining how super awesome it is to party, and how, hey, if you're going to be a wild party guy, some people might end up getting raped! Shit happens! Deal with it! Observe;
I swear to God, it is only after the fact that you start figuring out that one of the tradeoffs you’ve accepted is a certain amount of rape. The way crooked businesses accept paying fines for their infractions as the cost of doing business, you gradually, an inch at a time, realize that some of the stories you’ve heard, some of the stories you’ve lived, didn’t involve what they call good consent nowadays.
To this guy, rape is just one of the costs of doing business. PARTY BUSINESS! Whoop! Hey, you know what they say, you can't make a party omelette without seriously sexually assaulting a few eggs! So, this dude occasionally doesn't get "what they call good consent" when he has sex at a party.

Maybe he's not so bad though. I mean, he's probably not a real rapist, right? Maybe it was kind of a borderline thing that somehow a reasonable guy could accidentally do. What's his story?
I’d been in a drinking contest and she’d been drinking and flirting with me (yes, actually flirting) all evening. As blurry and fucked-up as I was, I read her kiss of congratulation to me as a stronger signal than it was, and with friends hooting and cheering us on, I pressed her up against a wall and… well. Call it rape or call it a particularly harsh third base, I walked away with the impression that it had been consensual, if not really sensible. (She had a boyfriend at the time, but their boundaries were fuzzy.)
Now we can see that he was merely forcing himself on a woman for his own pleasure and that of his no doubt equally cool-guy friends. "Call it rape or call it a particularly harsh third base". Yeah, I think I'm probably gonna just go ahead and call it rape there, because "particularly harsh third base" sounds uncomfortably like what a dickhead would call it.
Years later, she was in a recovery program—not for alcohol, ironically—and she got in touch with me during the part where she made peace with her past. She wanted to clarify that what had happened between us was without her consent, that it hurt her physically and emotionally, that it was, yes, rape.
Hint: this is the point where you're supposed to develop a sense of shame and a kind of humility about the thing you did. And yet, there's not even a hint of an apology or contrition about finding out that you've left someone emotionally scarred for years. Because, if he accepted that he'd committed a rape, then he would be, gasp, a rapist, and he really, really doesn't feel like one.
We talk about who is and is not a rapist, like it’s an inextricable part of their identity. “I’m a Libra, a diabetic, and a rapist.” That doesn’t work, though. Evidently I walked around for years as a rapist, totally unaware. Nobody stuck that label on me, I certainly never applied it to myself, even now it only feels like it fits when I’m severely depressed. The label, the crime, simply coalesced for me one day, dragging years of backstory behind it.
So, here's the thing, right? A rapist is just someone who has committed a rape. It's one of those things that you only really have to do once for it to be a name we can apply to you. It doesn't mean you wake up every day and plan your life around your next rape. It's not that kind of label, in the same way that just killing one measly dude is enough to land you with the uncomfortable term 'murderer'. If it sounds a bit harsh that people are calling you a rapist because of that one rape you did ages ago, it's because you're not supposed to rape anybody, ever. It's one of those awkward little rules we came up with after we figured out that rape is a bad thing. I'm sorry this causes you party problems. I'm doing a proper sadface.

Essentially, the piece is about how Rapists Are Bad, but this one guy doesn't feel like he's a bad rapist, so maybe we can invent another word for it? Tell him it's all okay? It's an awkward position to take; he's essentially arguing for a bit of maturity and nuance to the debate, but the reason he's asking for it is because he's set up 'rapists' in his mind as this massively evil group of people that a guy like him could obviously never be in. He's just a good guy trying to have loads of drink-fuelled orgies, and you can't expect him to be responsible for his actions because that would totally harsh his freakin' buzz, man.

The neatest illustration of how he simply Doesn't Get It comes toward the end. Told by society to stop drunkenly raping people, he somehow interprets this as a demand not to get drunk and have a good time. He asks, plaintively, "Do people who’ve been in car accidents give up driving?". Well, no, we don't tell people who've had accidents not to drive, but we absolutely do tell people who are drunk not to drive their cars around drunkenly running people over. When you hit someone with your car while drunk, you don't get to go "Hey, I was DRUNK! Can't a man fuckin' PARTY around here any more?" as a defence. You have to face responsibility for your actions. I'm happy to let people get as drunk as they want. We're asking you not to commit a rape. And if you can't judge whether you're committing a rape, it might be time to just fucking put it away.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Gun massacres, and the importance of sensible bedtimes

When we're confronted with a genuine human tragedy, it's often hard to know what to do. Senseless violence and barbarity can be confusing, so we're left grasping for meaning, trying to make sense of it all. When someone walks into a cinema screening and opens fire on moviegoers, it's left to the rest of us decent folk to pick up the pieces, learn lessons, and ask the big questions, like 'why did this happen?', 'could we as a society learn from this?', and 'hey, isn't it past your bedtime?'.

Admittedly, the last one wasn't my own natural reaction. But then that's why I'm a lowly blogger and not an esteemed national newspaper columnist like that Allison Pearson. In her Telegraph column, she asks the questions that those of us without such a keen journalistic mind might miss.

It's the little details that we miss. I would never have thought to start a column with a wistful, thoughtful analysis of the killer's name;
James Holmes. It’s a quiet sort of name for a mass murderer.
It is, isn't it? We didn't stand a chance really. If his parents had called him Deathbringer McMurderson, perhaps we'd have been on the front foot and this whole sorry tragedy might've been avoided. But 'James Holmes'? It's a bit-part Doctor Who actor's name. The name of someone who listens to Radio 4 and whose only real immorality is cheating on his wife with a string of younger veterinary clinic receptionists. None of this makes sense, dammit.
But then unreality – the failure to distinguish between what’s true and what’s make-believe – is the crux of this tragedy.
When Holmes first opened fire, using some of the 6,000 rounds of ammunition he had bought online, cinema patrons said they didn’t notice. They thought it was part of the film.
This is impressive work. Already, by the end of the first paragraph, we know what lies at the heart of this tragedy. It's probably because of films, right? There's violence in films, now there's violence in an actual cinema. That's where they show films! You don't have to be a rocket surgeon to figure out the link. I guess the police can discount the theory that he just went on a gun rampage because of the extortionate price of lobby-bought soft drinks and wine gums now.
And there was something else that was hard to grasp. Tragically, among the dead was a six-year-old, Veronica Moser-Sullivan.
What was a six-year-old doing at a midnight screening of such a violent film?
Yes, why WAS a child at a cinema at their parents' discretion to see a film about Batman? Watching a film they were legally allowed to see? What's up with THAT? Isn't that the real issue here? Frankly, if you're going to take your child to a PG13 certificate movie after, ooh, let's say, 9pm at night, then you can't very well complain when that child is shot to death by a masked gunman. Everyone knows the dangers of sitting quietly in a movie theatre. Would you push your child down a razorblade-filled rubbish chute into a shark tank? No. The same principle obviously applies to going to see a film about a funny-looking superhero who never kills anyone.
What kind of adult would subject a tired little girl, with a highly plastic imagination, to the deafening horrors of Christopher Nolan’s movie? 
Perhaps someone who believes that it's impossible to shield your child forever from on-screen violence, and instead allows them to see it under supervision and explain to them that it's just a film? I don't know, to be honest. But I sure as shit know that the decent thing to do in this situation is pour cauldrons of molten-hot judgement over her grieving parents. If Telegraph columnists aren't gonna step up and blame the parents of a six-year-old child who just wanted to see a film, then who will?

In many ways, the child's parents most fatal mistake was not knowing about Allison Pearson's own entirely made-up classification system beforehand. I reprint it here in full, so that tragedies of this nature can be avoided in future;
Well, I went to see The Dark Knight Rises last night and, I tell you, the innocent or angelic should be kept well away. In my house, we have our own film classification system. There’s SFG – Safe For Grandparents. And then there’s MA – Mummy Appropriate. The Dark Knight Rises would not get an MA rating
If we could adopt this rating system universally, then maybe the next time someone decides to murder innocent strangers at random at a film screening, they will at least only end up executing grown adults, ones who aren't 'mummies'. It'll be a better world.
...please don’t tell me that certain warped minds, minds like that of James Holmes, don’t sup full of the horrors they see on screen and develop a taste for it. Can it be coincidence that Holmes boobytrapped his apartment with explosives to kill police – the same wicked trick played in Speed by the maniacal Dennis Hopper?
Normally I'd argue the point here, but to be fair I've just watched four seasons of Breaking Bad and decided to embark on a career in the field of RV-based meth labs and disposing of the bodies of my enemies in acid-filled bathtubs. And it's fair to say that watching the 2001 movie 'The Hole' taught me the life lesson that a lot of problems could be avoided by having sex with Thora Birch, something I will keep at the back of my mind if I'm ever trapped in a disused underground bunker with her and her annoying underage friend. So, yes, we can learn things from movies. But does that mean the movies are to blame? I don't know, because I'm not the esteemed writer of 'Admit it, chaps – you just prefer other chaps' and 'Is Pippa Middleton all about bottom line?'.

Pearson moves on to briefly touch on triflin' shit like gun laws, but quickly returns to her theme;
We need to ask what kind of a system allows a six-year-old to watch such a frightening film. 
A terrifying system of informed consent, where allowing kids to watch certain films is left to the viewers' discretion? Pearson pauses thoughtfully to deliver her final verdict, and somehow just nails it;
Batman himself flew into Colorado yesterday to pay his condolences. “It’s amazing to see Christian Bale,” said one fan, “he was stepping into reality.” So the actor who plays a fictional hero visits the scene of a real crime committed by a real student who thought he was a fictional villain and enemy of Batman, but who murdered real people who had gone to see a movie about a fictional hero who has the powers to defeat evil. Confused? We all are. And that confusion is a breeding ground in which dangerous minds can bloom and grow.
Alternatively, 'a real person shot some other real people with a real gun in reality', which is less confusing. I read this paragraph a few times, trying to determine some kind of point. I'm now pretty sure that Pearson's argument is that unwieldy and convoluted sentence structures which add unwarranted complexity to descriptions of events may lead to confusion and, eventually, murder. Either that, or, that the six-year-old would probably grow up to be a killer anyway, having been inappropriately taken to a violent film. So we can take some small comfort in the fact that someone came along to snuff out her no doubt budding death lust.

The moral of the story is this; we can't stop this epidemic of movie premiere-related gun massacres, but we can protect our kids from it by sending them to bed early. Spread the word. For a brighter tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Nice Guys Finish First, But Feel Kinda Bad About It After

So, earlier I was reminded of The Good Men Project by the fact that their spamtacular Twitter account unfollowed me on Twitter so they could spam-follow someone else. So I went to check out their site. The rant which follows has almost nothing to do with the fact they unfollowed me on Twitter, although that does clearly mark them out to be wrong'uns right from the get-go.

The Good Men Project is a seemingly well-intentioned group of cuddly men's rights activists. They're ostensibly not the outwardly sexist 'Why isn't there an International Men's Day, bitches?' whiners invading feminist blog comment sections and dribbling their entitled slobber all over the place. These are the guys who just think that, hey, us totally non-creepy guys who've never even hit a woman - even when she really deserved it - need a voice too. And so I come to In Praise of Small-Breasted Women, by the "writer and singer/songwriter" Mark 'No, not THAT Mark Radcliffe' Radcliffe.

Radcliffe uses this article to position himself as a pretty sensitive, rounded kinda guy. The kind of guy who would really get you, and who you ladies need to get to know. Sexually, yes. But he'll probably talk to you afterwards. He's just that nice of a guy. He begins by singling out the small-titted among you for some of his...special attention.
Despite the typical male preoccupation with breast size, there are some of us who wouldn’t want you any other way, who see sublime perfection where others see absence.

Maybe we’re just not as vocal as some.

We’re not the guys working construction who whistle chauvinistically from across the street three stories above you as you walk to work.
I mean, come on, girls! Any sexism I may exhibit would be way more sophisticated than hollering at you in the street! When I perv on you, I'm perving on you on a whole other, much deeper level, baby.

So, you know how some people will try and make small-breasted women feel less marginalised by saying that women of all shapes and sizes are just fine? Well fuck that shit. Radcliffe is here to deliver the message that he actually gets off on your small boobs and thinks the way you look makes you super-fuckable.
Maybe we’re the ones quietly taking you in from five tables away. Listening to your voice. Your perspective. Your sense of humor. The witty way you referenced an F. Scott Fitzgerald line in the middle of ordering your drink.

And yes, don’t worry, we snuck a good, long look at your body.

But maybe it’s not a giant rack we’re looking for.
I mean, hey, you don't have a big rack, right, so you're probably intelligent. Not like those stupid big-boob women, and the gross dudes who like them. Do you see now how most men are terrible and you should totally suck off this one guy? Check it; he knows F. Scott Fitzgerald. He's maybe got Met-Art in his bookmarks and not regular porn. He probably even fancies Audrey Tautou more than he fancies Christina Hendricks. That's some deep shit. Observe;
Some of us grew up as athletes, amongst thin, athletic, small-breasted women and grew to like different physical traits than most guys. Like the tight calves of a runner. Or the strong thighs of a skier. Or the muscular stomach of a volleyball player. Maybe we know that having an athletic woman at your side means being more likely to live an adventurous and daring life. (Not just in the outdoors, but in the bedroom, too…)

So hey girl, don't worry about not packing some pendulous swingers under your top. As long as you've got a flat stomach, incredible legs and an ass that won't quit, Captain Sensitive here has got a sympathetic boner for you. I think my favourite part of this whole grubby  affair is this bit:
Guys like me, like the fact that you’re used to having to win people over with your mind and personality, not what was peeking through your blouse.

For me, an A-cup puts you on the A-list, every time.
See, Nice Guys are not just interested in your tits. They're not shallow. But FYI, your small tits are HOT, and actually totally work for some guys, guys who aren't solely interested in your tits but can still get off on them because they don't like big tits, even though tits don't matter like I just said. You're welcome. And so, when they make sweeping judgements about you because of your tits, it's okay, because they're being kind of benevolent and complimentary. You're probably smart or something! (Radcliffe goes on to say that "Some of us have learned from experience that small-breasted women often have larger minds", making full use of his Boob Science degree from Sensitive Dudes University).

There's something super-creepy about this whole thing. It's an open love letter to a certain section of women which aims to be enlightened but just ends up sounding like a weak attempt to rebalance the Earth's perv-scales somehow. I think it's good that some guys can recognise that body fascism is a problem and that bangers aren't everything, but I don't really think the way to address that is to fetishise the opposite kind of body. It reminds me of when people try and fight against the supposed 'size zero' orthodoxy by saying they prefer 'curves' and 'real women'. It doesn't really help to say "hey girl, you don't need to look like Kate Moss, try and look like Kim Kardashian instead because tits and ass rule"; it just replaces one improbable ideal with another. Likewise, acting like you're some kind of fucking hero because of your subjective preference for dicking Natalie Portman-alikes over women who look a bit like Kelly Brook, makes you look like kind of a dick. It doesn't help the cause of inclusivity to single types of women out for compliments.

As I say, it's good that men are trying to be nicer guys, and I'm sure The Good Men Project do a lot of worthy things, but...if you have to actually declare yourself to be a nice, sensitive guy, it's probably because you're not sufficiently coming across that way with your actions. That's really the kind of stuff other people are supposed to say about you, rather than something you announce yourself.