Showing posts with label Sexual Assault. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sexual Assault. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SaVE Act: A Step in the Right Direction

As we have said before, rape on college campuses is a huge issue that needs to be better addressed. It looks like the proposed SaVE Act may be a step in the right direction.

The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, or SaVE Act, would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 and expand the 1990 Jeanne Clery Act to "improve education and prevention related to campus sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking."

Co-sponsored by Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the SaVE Act (S. 835) would expand the framework of sexual assault education and victims' rights to include domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, and addresses the issue of how to define consent in sexual relationships. Schools would be required under the act to include sexual violence statistics in their annual crime reports. Colleges and universities would also be required to explain how to obtain protective orders and other victims' rights whenever a student reports being a victim of sexual violence.


Frankly, the fact that colleges are not already required to do such things as inform survivors of sexual violence about how to obtain a protective order should be disturbing and should move senators to vote for this act. However, the senate often does not do what they should. Here's hoping that the senate does the right thing this time.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Make Love Not Porn

My best friend just directed me to the site "Make Love, Not Porn" which is an initiative I am really excited about. The site primarily consists of information about porn norms and how they don't match up to real life. Here is what the author, Cindy Gallop, says her site is all about:

MakeLoveNotPorn is not about judgement, or what is good vs what is bad. Sex is the area of human experience that embraces the widest possible range of tastes. Everyone should be free to make up their own mind about what they do and don't like.
MakeLoveNotPorn is not anti-porn. I like porn and watch it regularly myself.
MakeLoveNotPorn is simply intended to help inspire and stimulate open, healthy conversations about sex and pornography, in order to help inspire and stimulate more open, healthy and thoroughly enjoyable sexual relationships.


Cindy does a good job of not demonizing what we see in pornography, but of emphasizing that it is not necessarily how sex is for everyone. Some of my favorite tidbits of information readers can find while scrolling through the homepage compares the norms regarding pubic hair and gagging while performing oral sex in pornography and real world.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dan Savage advice: "total shit"

**Trigger warning: sexual assault and victim-blaming **

Dan Savage, who writes a nationally syndicated advice column on sexuality and sex, makes me wonder, what the hell was he thinking?

A woman in an open marriage wrote in to Savage explaining that five months ago a former partner had sexually assaulted her and since then she has found herself unable to be intimate with her husband, saying that his attempts to initiate sex made her "skin crawl". At the same time, however, she has not been having any trouble being intimate with her boyfriend, and even said that sex with him "is amazing and leaves [her] feeling loved and whole and wonderful."

The woman said that this situation left her husband feeling "depressed" and "angry" and that he told her to stop sleeping with her boyfriend until their marriage was "back to normal." This woman expressed hesitation about leaving her boyfriend, saying it pained her "to think about cutting out the one positive relationship remaining."

Savage responded, among other things:

"You're being a total shit."

That is a direct quote.

via Deeky at Shakesville, whose post I suggest everyone read as well.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Awesome Women Testify to End Archaic Definition of Rape

Rape is a famously underreported crime. This is for many reasons, but one of them can be easily fixed: the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) definition of rape("the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will") only applies to very specific instances of rape. This means that even when someone reports their sexual assault it may not be counted in rape statistics because it does not fit into this particular category.

Luckily, some awesome people
have testafied before a Senate subcommittee in an effort to make the UCR definition all-encompassing.

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, testified today before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs at its hearing "Rape in the United States: The Chronic Failure to Report and Investigate Rape Cases" and called for national reform in the reporting and investigating of rape crimes. Moreover, Smeal advocated the adoption of new federal policies to encourage the recruitment of law enforcement personnel with specialized education and skills in dealing with sexual assault and the recruitment and retention of more women in law enforcement.

"Yesterday, the federal government once again released a report citing a decrease in the incidence of rape. But American women should not be fooled," explained Smeal. "The narrow and out-dated definition of rape ("the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will") in the Uniform Crime Report, first adopted in 1927, results in a significant undercounting of the actual number of rapes that are reported."

"The upshot of this narrow, archaic definition," continued Smeal, "is that many rapes are excluded from the Uniform Crime Report statistics - including forced anal sex and/or oral sex, vaginal or anal fisting, rape with an object (even if serious injuries result), and other injurious and degrading sexual assaults that would be considered rape by any rational adult." It also excludes statutory rape and omits rape by men against men and any rape by a woman. Moreover, this out-dated definition of rape excludes the use of drugs or alcohol to subdue a victim, a common tactic used today.

The National Crime Victimization Survey of the Bureau of Justice Statistics also significantly underreports rape. Although the NCVS definition is somewhat broader, it excludes rapes committed against victims under the age of 12, which some experts believe to be about 25% of all rapes.

Friday, July 30, 2010

IL doctor allegedly assaults several female patients, may not permanently lose license

**Trigger warning for sexual assault**

Terrible news from my home state:

A 17-year-old girl reported to Berwyn police in 2003 that her doctor, Ricardo Arze, had pulled off her clothes and sexually assaulted her in his exam room, state records show.

Two years later, another patient reported to Berwyn police that Arze had placed his hands on her breasts, breathed heavily on her neck and tried to touch her genitals, claiming it would help treat depression, according to a police report.

Not until 2007 -- after at least four women had filed complaints -- did police launch the investigation that led to Arze being charged with sexually assaulting patients and having his license suspended, records show.

By that time, the family physician had allegedly assaulted at least 21 women and girls at his Arze Doctors Center in Berwyn, according to criminal and civil complaints that outline attacks stretching at least to 2000.

...That police had received allegations against Arze as early as 2003 came as a shock to one of the women who reported being abused by him in 2007.

"I am disgusted," she said of law enforcement. "They should investigate why they didn't do anything. They were accomplices."

The women said they continue to suffer trauma from the incidents. They cannot see male doctors. One has recurring dreams about her alleged attack.

Arze, who is scheduled to be in court Aug. 16, won't lose his medical license for good even if convicted of all the sexual assault and battery of patient charges.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has interpreted the state Medical Practice Act to mean that it cannot permanently revoke a physician's license unless a doctor has been twice convicted of felonies involving controlled substances or public aid offenses.

A Tribune review uncovered 16 convicted sex offenders who have held Illinois medical licenses within the past 15 years. Not one had his license permanently revoked. One doctor convicted of sexually abusing a patient was never disciplined by the state in any way.

h/t

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rape on College Campuses

In March, Jaclyn Friedman wrote a great piece for the Washington Post about how rape is handled on college campuses. I love what she doing with this piece, and think it is awesome that she is bringing more attention to an incredibly important issue. However, there are a few things about the article (such as her use of gendered language) that I think missed the mark a little.

First off, the awesome stuff Jaclyn said.

I love that Jaclyn brought attention to the fact that Title IX can be utilized to ensure not only equal athletic opportunities for women in educational settings, but to prohibit sex discrimination in general. This prohibition against sex discrimination in Title IX “specifically obligates schools to prevent and remedy sexual harassment and assault.” Too many young women do not realize the broad protections of Title IX gives them the right to call bullshit (legally and otherwise) when their school does not handle their sexual assault or harassment case appropriately. I also appreciate that Jaclyn, while bringing attention to how awesome Title IX is, acknowledges how hard it can be, emotionally and otherwise, to press charges against your institution for not treating your sexual harassment or assault case appropriately.

Also, Jaclyn brought up a really interesting statistic that I never knew before: Of the more than 400,000 rapes that will likely be committed on a U.S. college campus this year, “more than 90 percent …will be committed by repeat offenders who will rape, on average, six times during their academic careers.” As horrible as these numbers are, they are, in a weird way, encouraging. In Jaclyn’s words:

That rate of recidivism is actually a golden opportunity, if only schools and courts would take it. It means that all we need to do is get serious about punishing the tiny percentage of men who are committing the vast majority of assaults, and many, many fewer women will have to live through the trauma of sexual violation.


The overall message of Jaclyn’s article: that colleges and universities need to stop trying to make themselves look better by underreporting sexual assault crimes on their campus, is also a much-needed message. Jaclyn couples this message with advice to colleges to “eliminate the ‘miscommunication’ excuse that many rapists use by creating an on-campus standard that requires any party to a sexual interaction to make sure their partner is actively enthusiastic about what's happening -not just not objecting.” This was an overarching theme in the book Yes Means Yes that she and Jessica Valenti edited, and it is a point I don’t hear made often enough.

Okay- on to me nitpicking.

Throughout her article, Jaclyn refers to rapists as “he” and rape victims as “she.” I understand that it is more likely for a woman to be raped than a man and that women are most often raped by men. However, the persistent use of gendered language is why men are
even less likely than their female counterparts to report that they have been raped. Also, gendered language further marginalizes those who have been assaulted by a member of the same gender.

Jaclyn says the fact that “Bucknell University is considering abandoning mediation as a way of adjudicating sexual assault cases” is a “small glimmer of hope that change is coming.” Obviously, mediation can be a horribly traumatic experience for a survivor to endure and the idea of an institution forcing a survivor to sit in a room with her or his rapist is disgusting. However, the term “‘abandoning’” seems to imply that it would not be an option for any survivor, even if she or he requested it. I do not know under what circumstances a survivor would want mediation, but I don’t think a school should bar a survivor from using any method she or he thinks she or he needs to help heal. I am doubtful many survivors would choose mediation, but in the event they do they should be able to control how their case is concluded in any way they see fit.

Anyway, all in all, Jaclyn wrote a fantastic article I suggest you all take a look at. If you get a chance to read it, let me know your thoughts in comments.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Woman doesn't consent, but jury finds consent anyway

**Trigger warning: Sexual assault**

A St. Louis Circuit Court jury decided against a woman who brought a lawsuit against the company responsible for a "Girls Gone Wild" video that she appeared in years ago without her knowledge. This woman claimed that she had not given consent to appear in the video.
A jury on Thursday rejected a young woman's claim that the producers of a "Girls Gone Wild" video damaged her reputation by showing her tank top being pulled down by another person in a Laclede's Landing bar.


A St. Louis Circuit Court jury deliberated 90 minutes before ruling against the woman, 26, on the third day of the trial. Lawyers on both sides argued the key issue was consent, with her side saying she absolutely refused to give it and the defense claiming she silently approved by taking part in the party.
The defense's argument about the woman's consent is absurd and makes the fact that this woman lost this lawsuit extremely troubling. It is classic victim-blaming to claim that because a woman made the decision to be in a certain situation that she also made the decision to be sexually assaulted by a franchise that clearly has some messed up ideas about consent (like it not being necessary at all, or is ok if it includes pressure). It's shocking to me that this held up in court.
But Patrick O'Brien, the jury foreman, told a reporter later that an 11-member majority decided that Doe had in effect consented by being in the bar and dancing for the photographer. In a trial such as this one, agreement by nine of 12 jurors is enough for a verdict.


"Through her actions, she gave implied consent," O'Brien said. "She was really playing to the camera. She knew what she was doing."
And she knew she had not given any kind of acceptable consent to have her top pulled down or to appear in a video.


h/t

Friday, April 23, 2010

NOT a win, FAIL Blog and Cheezburger.

(trigger warning on image at the link)

NOT a win. Jesus, how many times do we have to talk about this?

I'm utterly, utterly tired about women's bodies being used as fodder for jokes, much less sexual assault jokes. You spend so much time and energy trying to enact real difference in people's attitudes and interactions with others, and then one image can suck all the air out of any sense of progress. The fact that the core of the image is focused around one simple idea - that women aren't people. That it's funny to see women's bodies assaulted.

Sometimes it just feels suffocating.

Here's the contact page for the people at FAIL Blog and Cheezburger.

Have a nice weekend, I guess.

Quote of the Day

“I recognize that the allegations in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you. My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.”

-Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner, in a letter to Ben Roethlisberger suspending him for 6 games

via Speaking of Faith Observed

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Learn From This Fail

Last night I came across a new (to me) website, Learn From My Fail. It's similar to fmylife, in that people can submit less-than-perfect moments from their life to be read on the internet. Going through some of the posts on LFMF, I found this by a user by the name of "feeling violated":


This is upsetting because it tells of an experience of violation that no person should have to deal with, and illustrates the troubling fact that there are still many people in this world who do not view women as anything more than public property.

What's worse is the tone of victim blaming.

The website is called Learn From MY Fail, which indicates that because this woman posted her experience, she is blaming herself for the uninvited actions of the "frat boys" at the party she attended. This is classic victim blaming: If only she hadn't worn that shirt, those boys wouldn't have been provoked into touching her in a way that she clearly wasn't comfortable with. It just makes me sad that she has bought into the idea that their behavior was somehow a failure on her part.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sexual assault, triggers, and the problem of male privilege in activism

**Trigger warning: sexual assault**

Over the past month or so, a lot of talk about sexual assault has been happening on my college campus.

Here's the situation.

I am president of a feminist group at my school, Students Against Sexism in Society (SASS). Last term there were several reported incidents of sexual assault on campus. These (rightly) caused an uproar among students who wanted to see immediate and concrete action taken by the administration after several years of pressure to see certain changes by groups like SASS. The outrage felt by students was displayed in ways ranging from student organized open forums, zine creations, students attending faculty meetings and speaking out about their concerns, and even some anonymous actions.

It was one such anonymous action that provoked a large amount of controversy. One day, early in the morning, large banners were hung up in a high-traffic building on campus. The banners covered most of the windows leading up to the cafeteria in that building and were difficult to ignore. The banners made exclamations about the state of sexual assault on campus, saying things like “2 sexual assaults, one weekend: where is your outrage?” and "Knox is no exception to rape statistics." (For more information on these banners, click here*).

The reason for the controversy over these banners focused on two things: The way they presented the problem of sexual assault and their placement in a high traffic area of campus and the possibility that they may trigger survivors of sexual assault.

The latter was an issue we discussed at a SASS meeting the week the banners went up. The group knew the meeting was going to consist of a lot of discussion about sexual assault, but what no one was prepared for was the behavior of a male student who showed up to the meeting. He is not a regular member of SASS, and right away he attempted to dominate the discussion by talking at length about topics of his choosing without letting others give their input. This behavior forced me to cut him off at several points and he did not take kindly to that.

When a woman brought up the issue of the banners being triggering to survivors of sexual assault, the male student appeared ignorant of what the term meant and said that it shouldn't matter if the banners "made a few people uncomfortable" because it was more important that people be aware of the problem.

This attitude prompted many at the meeting to try to explain to this student that triggering a sexual assault survivor was more than just making them uncomfortable and how it is important to offer a trigger warning when a discussion may be difficult for survivors to hear. The male student listened to everyone, but did not seem to completely understand. He then went on to accuse students, by name, of rape. The group listened uneasily to his stories and a discussion took place about using names when accusing people of such crimes when they have not been found guilty of anything. However, the male student stood by his conviction that it was important to "warn the campus" about these people who he was personally convinced were rapists.

Then he went on to name another male student by name and told, in great detail, about the supposed rape he committed. All of this without a trigger warning. This act triggered a member of the group and I had to leave the meeting with them. The meeting was called to an end during our absence as most of the group was, as I found out later, very upset by the male student's behavior. The atmosphere was uneasy at best and felt downright unsafe at worst.

I spoke with this male student after the meeting. I told him that if he wanted to be a productive member of these sorts of discussions, he needed to educate himself on how to talk about them appropriately. He told me that he wanted to educate himself. He apologized to me and the other student that had to leave the meeting. He said he wanted to be part of the solution. Despite this student's good intentions, this meeting brought to light some important issues facing women activists working for solutions to problems regarding sexual assault.

First, the necessity for male activists to check their privilege at the door. During the SASS meeting, the student's male privilege showed in the way he handled himself. He disregarded other (female) members' attempts to add to the conversation, as if he had more right to speak than they did, and he ignored their explanations about triggers before he told unverified stories that hurt people who were listening. This was the most infuriating part of the whole ordeal to me. This student walked into a meeting that was meant to be a safe space, especially for the women there, and totally disregarded the feelings/advice of those he should have been working with, people he had a hard time even allowing to speak. Overall, his attitude and actions created an atmosphere in which producing meaingful activism seemed difficult.

Second, the importance of taking survivors into account when coming up with solutions. The male student was not a survivor of sexual assault, and was not well-educated when it came to understanding how survivors might feel about some tactics that he was ok with using. I understand that there is some contention over the idea of survivors being treated as fragile vs. trying not to revictimize survivors, but this experience made me believe that work on the issue of sexual assault that does not take survivors into careful account (providing trigger warnings, getting their input, etc.) is not work I want to pursue.

Has anyone else ever had a similar experience? I'm curious as to how this male student can be integrated into a working solution about the problem of sexual assault on this campus, or if he should even be allowed the chance after his behavior. Opinions?

*The article from The Knox Student quotes me as president of SASS. For more information on the situation at Knox last term, visit the school's student newspaper for coverage of the events.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Defending Conservative Women: Playboy, hate f*cking, and misogyny

This all happened last week, but I'm just catching up to it now:

Apparently Playboy put an article by Guy Cimbalo on its website titled "So Right It's Wrong: Ten Conservative Women I’d Like to Hate-F*ck," which was removed 24 hours later. I wasn't able to read it, but Jezebel caught the list and addressed the utter horrific nature of the piece. Feministe also responded based on the Jezebel piece. The list included Michelle Malkin, Megyn Kelly, Mary Katherine Ham, Amanda Carpenter, Elisabeth Hasselback, Dana Perino, Laura Ingraham, Pamela Geller, Michele Bachman, and Peggy Noonan.

While I've made it clear I'm no fan of Michele Bachman, it's always been that I've disagreed with her politics.

If we defend liberal women from sexist attacks, we sure as hell better defend conservative women from sexist attacks. Like Sarah Palin, like Ann Coulter, we can't let any woman be attacked.

Elizabeth Hassleback responded on The View:



In the clip, Hasselback details her actions and thoughts regarding the piece, and Sherri Shepard equates hate f*cking with rape - a point that some people have a problem with. Amelia McDonell-Parry argues that hate f*cking is consensual sex with someone you can't stand, maybe want to call names, but want to have sex with them regardless. I've enjoyed McDonell-Parry's articles and posts regularly, but I'm going to push back on this and suggest that none of the women on this list want to have sex - hate f*cking or not - with Cimbalo. And what do we call nonconsensual sex? RAPE. I think her suggestion that calling it rape is wrong contributes to our rape culture. She admits that the piece was offensive and misogynistic but that it's a different viewpoint for Cimbalo and the women on the list. In my opinion, it just perpetuates that if you don't call it rape, then it isn't rape. And that's just wrong.

So to Michelle Malkin, Megyn Kelly, Mary Katherine Ham, Amanda Carpenter, Elisabeth Hassleback, Dana Perino, Laura Ingraham, Pamela Geller, Peggy Noonan and yes, even Michele Bachman - we will not stand for this. You deserve better. As a liberal to a conservative, I'm sorry we let this happen.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Alix Olson is coming to Take Back The Night at Knox College tomorrow!

Tomorrow is Take Back The Night at Knox College, sponsored by Students Against Sexism in Society, of which Kate and I are both members. This event will be focused on ending the fear that is generally associated with being out at night if you are a female person, due to the possibility of sexual assault. This is an event that is put on every year at Knox and...

...this year Alix Olson will be coming to perform!

Alix Olson is an internationally touring folk poet and progressive queer artist-activist.

And she is awesome. I am so excited.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Objectifying women and promoting assault is never okay

I discovered Save the Ta-Tas when writing this post, and the campaign has been deeply troubling to me ever since. At first, when I discovered the website, I thought that Save the Ta-Tas was a sort of cultural event that I had been slow to catch onto. But many of my friends had never heard of it before, either, so I want to address the issues it presents in case some of our other readers are unaware.

Save the Ta-Tas sells t-shirts and other accessories to raise awareness of breast cancer and raise money for research. The problem, as is evidenced by the name of the campaign, is that in order to do the good work of raising money and awareness, Save the Ta-Tas relies on objectification of women and other more horrifying tactics.

Yes, refering to breasts as ta-tas is going to attract a lot of attention, and going the "funny" route might be likely to generate more quick revenue than other advertising ideas. But if you have to turn to sexism to generate money, can you really claim to be doing a service for the cause? I think not.

The entire campaign is based around objectifying women, turning them into nothing more than their breasts (ta-tas). Why do we need to raise money for breast cancer research? Because cancer is a long and difficult battle that no one should have to deal with? Well, no. From the looks of this website, we need to raise money for breast cancer research because breast cancer hurts ta-tas, and "Ta-tas Are Awesome." This objectification by focusing solely on breasts is also illustrated by the "Caught you lookin' at my ta-tas" t-shirt.

Then there's the disturbing trend in this campaign of promoting violence against women and their breasts. For example, there are several disturbing onesies for babies that have text reading, "Gimme your ta-tas and no one gets hurt," and "Be vewy vewy quiet I'm hunting ta-tas."

Both of these particular onesies are baffling and very troublesome. They promote the idea that women's bodies belong to others who can demand them for themselves and even "hunt" them. It's esepcially disturbing considering these are on garments meant for infants. Yeah, I know, there are other connotations, but these aren't even cute. They're frightening.

Then there's the idea of disembodied breasts fighting each other ("My ta-tas could beat up your ta-tas") which not only pointlessly brings up violence (this time woman v. woman or breast v. breast) but seems counterproductive to the idea of breast cancer research. We're supposed to be battling cancer with these shirts, I thought. Not other women's body parts.

Then there's the most disturbing example of promoting violence against women on the entire site. The "Save a life grope your wife" t-shirt leaves nothing to the imagination. It tells the reader that by groping (aka assaulting) their wife, they're actually doing her a favor. And that's a damn lie. An anonymous commenter on my Mad Housewife post said that she had survived breast cancer after her husband found her lump. In response to that comment I said that the t-shirt (image below) only had its wording to go on to spread its message, which leads me to believe that because the word "grope" was chosen (which means assault) that it is assault they are promoting, not consensual touching that happens to lead to the discovery of a lump.

And that's not okay. Ever.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Quick Read: President Obama officially recognizes April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month

To read President Obama's full remarks go here.

And to learn more about Sexual Assault Awareness Month, go here.

Thanks to Feministe for the links.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Website launch - anditwaswrong.com

I am extremely pleased to announce the launch of a new project, called And It Was Wrong, that seeks to give voice to women's experiences of sexual assault.
is a grassroots compilation of women's experiences of sexual assault. It is a project made up of women giving voice to a problem society silences: that of sexual assault as it occurs in our everyday lives.
The project is a collection of stories, in the words of the women who lived them, that deal with sexual assault. Stories can be submitted anonymously on the website and all must end with the line "...and it was wrong."

Rachael, the woman behind And It Was Wrong, is a dedicated feminist activist who attends Knox College with Kate and I. She has been a role model for me since I began to identify as a feminist, and I hope all of our readers can support her project.

Congratulations, Rachael, on this new development in this project that you have dedicated so many hours to.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Abortion debate continues in Brazil

Many readers have probably already heard about the 9-year-old Brazilian girl who was raped and eventually impregnated by her stepfather. The girl, who weighs only 80 pounds, was carrying twins, and it was deemed that the pregnancy posed a serious health risk. So she underwent an abortion in her 15th week of the pregnancy after being granted access for the procedure by a judge. This caused an uproar in Brazil, a predominantly Catholic country where abortion is illegal except for cases of rape or when the mother's life is in jeopardy.

Soon after this procedure took place, there was talk of everyone involved in the case, such as the girl's mother and the doctors who performed the abortion, were to be excommunicated. The stepfather, unbelievably, escaped such action. Luckily, there seems to be some disagreement among Catholics about the excommunication argument.

Then, today I came across this article that discusses the growing problem of sexual assault of young girls in Brazil. Apparently, the case mentioned above has shed light upon numerous other such cases of rape of young girls, often by family members, especially in poor regions of the country.
The number of legal abortions of girls ages 10 to 14 more than doubled last year to 49, up from 22 in 2007, the Ministry of Health reported. That was out of 3,050 legal abortions performed last year in a country of more than 190 million. But the vast majority of Brazil’s abortions are not legal. The Ministry of Health estimates about one million unsafe or clandestine abortions every year.
And:
...at PĂ©rola Byington Hospital [a women’s health clinic specializing in treating victims of sexual violence], doctors said abortions were often necessary to protect the lives of sexual-violence victims. Of the 47 abortions performed at the hospital last year, 13 were girls under 18, all victims of rape.
Although there are now 55 clinics that may perform abortion, opposed to only one twenty years ago, most of the clinics that are financed by the state are located in capitals far away from many of the people who need their services, and they are concentrated in the southeast of the country, a much wealthier region.

The politics of abortion are still being fought over in Brazil, where anti-abortion Congress members who want to push for more restrictive abortion laws are the majority.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sexual Assault in the Military Only Happens To White Women?

There's an article on CNN's front page today about sexual assault in the military - 41% of all women in the military report sexual assault. If you've been keeping up with some of the larger feminist/progressive blogs, you're probably familiar with the statistics and information already.

Sadly, it's not surprising the picture they have representing the victims is a white woman. I don't mean to trivialize or marginalize the brutality of her rape and subsequent murder, just that often times when something happens to women of color, it goes unnoticed. When the same thing happens to a white woman, law enforcement takes it seriously and kicks into high gear. See: Lacee Peterson, Natalee Hollaway, etc. What about Camille Johnson or Jasmine Kasner? Those are just the first two names I grabbed off of Black and Missing.

If you haven't heard about Pfc. LaVena Johnson, you should have. From their site:

An Army representative initially told LaVena's father, Dr. John Johnson, that his daughter died of "died of self-inflicted, noncombat injuries," but initially added that it was not a suicide. The subsequent Army investigation reversed this finding and declared LaVena's death a suicide, a finding refuted by the soldier's family. In an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dr. Johnson pointed to indications that his daughter had endured a physical struggle before she died - two loose front teeth, a "busted lip" that had to be reconstructed by the funeral home - suggesting that "someone might have punched her in the mouth."

Her family is trying to get some answers to her death, but they've been virtually ignored. Where's the CNN page for that? When the statistic says that 41% of women in the military report sexual assault (29% report rape), that means ALL women, not just white ones.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Argh.

I was watching the news before work this morning, and they were reporting on Andy Dick's arrest for sexual battery and marijuana possession. As they were wrapping up the story, one of the news anchors said,

"Oh, too bad, that sure dosen't sound like him."

Oh, really, random substitue news anchor. Do you know Andy Dick well? Because if not, maybe you should keep your personal comments to yourself. Save the pity for someone who wasn't just arrested for exposing a teenage girl.

Moron.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Feminists have Teeth - the movie

Now on DVD, Teeth is a movie about a high school girl who finds out she has vagina dentata - teeth in her vag. The synopsis on the website says:
High school student Dawn works hard at suppressing her budding sexuality by being the local chastity group's most active participant. Her task is made even more difficult by her bad boy stepbrother Brad's increasingly provocative behavior at home. A stranger to her own body, innocent Dawn discovers she has a toothed vagina when she becomes the object of violence. As she struggles to comprehend her anatomical uniqueness, Dawn experiences both the pitfalls and the power of being a living example of the vagina dentata myth.
This movie is so fascinating because it exposes a cultural, rarely spoken but widely known, fear of vaginas and subverts that to give power to vaginas and women, as possessors of vaginas. Toothed vaginas are sometimes "subtly" hidden in films (Pirates of the Caribbean 2, anybody? That Kraken is a huuuuge toothed vagina), but this might be the first time anyone's addressed vagina dentata directly in a film.

I'm going to talk about different aspects of the plot now, so if you plan on seeing it and don't want it to be ruined, stop reading.

The film makes it clear that Dawn has never explored her own sexuality, much less seen what her own vag looks like. As a vocal member of her local chastity group, she rails against sex before marriage and wears a promise ring for her future husband. When she fantasizes about the boy she likes, it's in wedding gear - don't worry, no masturbation for her, though.

The cultural fear of vaginas is so widespread and intrenched that none of the high school health textbooks show vaginas - they just have big stickers over those pages, while the male reproductive system is clearly displayed. Students question it and try tearing the stickers off (hoorah!), but this scene points to a larger issue of women not knowing fundamental facts about their bodies - a point Cara neatly touched on recently over at The Curvature.

When Dawn is sexually assaulted, it's by a fellow member of the chastity group who "fell" once before. His reasoning for raping her? "I haven't jerked off since Easter!" and "You're still pure!" However, his lame excuses for rape are no match for her vagina teeth, and we get a nice genital shot - post attack. Not for those who don't like gore, I must say.

The vagina dentata doesn't attack anything that enters her vagina, only non-consensual and harmful entry - it, at first, is a knee-jerk reflex, although she does seem to be able to attack at will later on in the movie. The mythology presented in the movie says that a hero must do battle with the woman to break her power. After the rape and gyno visit (both which end in bloodshed), Dawn goes to Ryan's house (a boy who likes her) because she has no idea where to go. She is obviously shaken and unnerved, and he takes her presences as an opportunity for sex. Dawn takes a bath and when she comes out, he has candles lit and music playing. At some point, he gives her some sort of pill and wine and she ends up passing out. When she comes to, Ryan's playing with her breast and they end up having sex. Here's a bit of their conversation:
Dawn: You can't.
Ryan: Do you want me to stop?
Dawn: No.
Ryan:
Good. (whatthefuck?)
Dawn:
But they'll get you.
Ryan:
Who?
Dawn:
The teeth.
Ryan:
Come on.
Dawn:
Seriously.
Ryan:
No, no, look. I'm conquering them. See? Yeah, I'm the hero. (bullshit, bullshit bullshit!)
Can we point out the issues here? First off, since he drugged her, it's sexual assault. Second, there was no positive affirmation of consent, however, she does say she doesn't want him to stop. However, since she's been drugged, she can't legally give her consent. Third, can we stroke his male ego just a little more? Conquering? Hero? I just threw up in my mouth a little.

The conquering hero does meet the teeth, however. The next morning, they're having sex again (completely consensual this time!) and Ryan answers his phone during sex. He brags about sleeping with Dawn while he's inside of her - bad move on his part. Ryan loses his "conquering hero" status and his junk when Dawn's teeth take offense to the mid-sex phone call and bragging.

Here, the film subverts the myth and the need for a hero to conquer the vagina, because even the hero falls victim to the teeth. It's not that the vagina needs a hero to conquer it, it's that all sex needs to be consensual. Get that? CONSENSUAL. It's the literal actualization of my dad's favorite phrase for high school boyfriends - abuse it and you lose it. I'm glad the film blows apart the concept of a vag-conquering hero, since frankly, I don't need one and I doubt anyone else does either.

I won't ruin the whole movie for everyone, but let's just say that Dawn is baaaaadass and by the end of the film, she comes to fully embrace her vagina dentata and its abilities.

By the way, does anyone else feel like this movie poster is too "teen-sex comedy" and less "get my consent or I'll chomp off whatever's inside me"?

Seriously, I wish I had teeth in my vagina. Soooo bad. Now I'm just waiting for a movie about menstruation saving the world.