Archive for May, 2014

Part 1 is here.




What you said.

I’m glad you’re getting what I’m saying. The thing that fucking bugs me is original “Schroedinger’s Rapist” isn’t really very “Schroedinger-y”, (see:Ironic,Alanis Morrisette) and then at the same time there’s this other interpretation that is both VERY Schroedingery and much more interesting and relevant.

I have more to say about this, but I’m concerned about crossing some line.

I am convinced that when SAFE GUY/NO POTENTIAL gets in over his depth, loses his head and ends up in court when some woman accuses him of rape, he will wave a printout of that article around and argue, “yer honor, I held her down and didn’t really listen when she told me to get off her, but it wasn’t rape because I’M NOT A RAPIST. Look at this thing I wrote! Would a rapist write that?” I’m also convinced that when that thing happens (all the fucking time) where some college dude drinks a bit too much and goes too far with some girl, in the moment he’s not even considering the fact that the thing he is doing is rape. Why? Because his whole life everyone around him has been telling him he’s a good, stand up guy, implicitly incapable of doing wrong. Sure, rapists are out there but there is NO WAY you could be one, my sweet innocent golden-child darling. Your role in the discussion around violence against women will be an ally, a protector. Because that’s who you are.

There’s a goofy comparison to be made here with writing in education: Kids take language arts and the curriculum is be creative! Write whatever you want! The sky is the limit! Then you start writing papers in middle school and they’re crap but don’t worry about it. We’re going to help you with the structure and the grammar and everything and we’re all such very good writers, and then composition comes along and all of a sudden IF YOU WRITE THE WRONG THING AND STEAL SOMEONE’S IDEA THAT IS PLAGIARISM AND WE WILL FAIL YOU AND RUIN YOUR LIFE. This was a very jarring moment for me, stepping from a space of nothing but positive, supportive messaging into a space of responsibility-or-die. I think this is the exact thing that happens to young men who go off to college, and it’s a huge part of why rape happens in that circumstance. I’m absolutely not trying to suggest that both rapists and plagiarists shouldn’t be held accountable. I’m saying they do those things because they aren’t induced into a culture of adult responsibility.

What does this have to do with Schroedinger? Realizing that I’m in that rapist/not rapist space is the ESSENTIAL first step to not actually raping anyone.

There is a way in which a lot of discourse actually contributes to this issue. That original Schroedinger’s Rapist article is a perfect example. In the first few paragraphs of that piece there is this embedded assumption that the men it is supposedly addressing are children: Uneducated juveniles who know not what they do but ALSO are implicitly incapable of committing actual violence. Don’t worry, we’re going to hold your hand through this whole “women-are-people” thing and spell everything out in 5th grade vocabulary so no one gets left behind.

It’s coddling, and It’s deadly.

I don’t think all sex is rape. But I do think all sexual activity is ethically bound to be aware of rape culture. Sort of like anyone takes friends to swim in the ocean has a responsibility to know what jellyfish and riptides are.

See you tomorrow?




I have slightly off-topic feelings about [this article] so you will have to bare with me.

This guy is saying that because some men are rapists, and because it’s difficult or impossible to discern which are and which aren’t, it behooves women to be cautious around men. That’s fine. But Schroedingers Rapist (as it was explained to me) means something else: It refers to the idea that (because of a complex and highly contentious swirl of capital R Reasons) all men are potential rapists. Sort of like, even if you spent your entire life walking on the sidewalk, you could get drunk at your 45th birthday party, go outside, see a particularly good-looking ice cream truck across the street, and in that moment there is nothing tangible stopping you from becoming an actual jaywalker. It’s an uncomfortable thought and all the backlash is understandable to a degree.

All the stuff about behavior modification to make women more comfortable both in this article and the original post is nice and all, but to me, it misses the point because the perspective is misplaced. Discussions about making women comfortable are meaningless if you aren’t explicitly accounting for your role in their safety. In other words, before I invert my rape-joke t-shirt and start minding my eye contact, I better make damn sure I’m not ACTUALLY going to go assault anyone today.

I am the first to admit I don’t read too good sometimes. Let me tell you how I read this guy’s blog post: “Sexism-racism-string quartet-PhD-I am a SAFE GUY with NO POTENTIAL for violence towards women! My UPPER-CRUST background precludes it!”

I think Schroedinger’s Rapist ought to be about understanding your own potential to do violence, not some facile discussion about oppressive/not oppressive elements of things that are self-evident.



I think most people totally fail to grok the thing you’ve articulated here, much less articulate it this clearly and succinctly. (I may steal this at some point, ’cause I’m not good at articulating it succinctly either. :P)

For what it’s worth, I think the original Schröedinger’s Rapist article by someone with the pen name “Phaedra Starling” actually is a bit closer to the “SAFE GUY with NO POTENTIAL” for violence’s interpretation i.e. that all men are “Schroedinger’s Rapist” not because it’s unknowable whether or not any given man is a rapist until he commits rape but, rather, because it’s unknowable to any given woman whether or not a particular man is a rapist. Starling still hews to the emotionally-easier-to-deal-with idea that there are “good men” who would never rape under and circumstances and “bad men” who would happily rape with impunity if they thought they could get away with it, you just can’t tell the difference by looking at them. (And that one way to prove you’re a “good man” is not to get all het up about people not realizing you’re a “good man”.)

Whereas, I think the argument you’re making is closer to a more traditionally radical feminist position. (If we update that position to jive with contemporary gender politics instead of being stuck in the 70s — which contemporary “radical feminists” seemingly fail to have done, hence rampant transphobia in the “RadFem” community.) That argument is that any men (and, arguably, ANYBODY of any gender) always and already has the potential commit rape, possibly without even realizing it, because we’ve all been socialized in a culture that normalizes coercion and sexual violence.

(Actually, taken to its logical conclusion, I think the radical feminist argument is not only that everybody always-and-already has the *potential* to commit rape but, rather, that everybody who participates in sex within rape culture is, in some ways, perpetuating rape culture. Sometimes this gets bumperstickerized as “All Sex is Rape” although Snopes points out that nobody ever actually said that.)

Ethically and intellectually speaking, I tend to lean more towards the latter interpretation, too. But I think there’s some value in the former interpration, too, in moderation. Like, practically speaking, believing that we live in a world in which it’s impossible to be intimate without violating someone’s consent/having our consent violated — and that there’s just nothing we can do about that short of, maybe, taking the whole culture apart and starting from scratch — seems likely to cause most people to just throw up their hands and say, “Fuck it. If doing the right thing is logically impossible, I guess I’ll just be unethical then. Whatever.” Whereas a world in which there’s some formula for “how to be a good person,” even if it’s kind of a…rough approximation only…seems more likely to generate ethical behavior in practice. Maybe that doesn’t actually make any sense? I dunno.

There’s this thing that Sartre says about how, essentially, there’s no such thing as “free will” metaphysically speaking, since we live in a mechanistic universe, but we have to live as if we have free will anyway because the act of making choices is the only way to be ethical. Trying to find a balance between being honest with ourselves about the fact that we live in a mechanistic universe and yet taking the act of choicemaking seriously enough to be meaningful anyway is, like, the crux of the problem of being human. That’s probably a massive oversimplification.  That’s how I understand it anyway, filtered through [my favorite college Philosophy professor], and Cliff’s Notes, and a lot of rambling pseudointellectual conversations, beer, and the Internet. 😛

Okay, I shouldn’t do this all day. Thanks for letting me braindump at you and for writing awesome stuff that makes me think. Love.

Part 2 is here.

Cleaning out my inbox, I came across some of my earliest notes to myself when I started having the thoughts that eventually lead to You Can Take It Back: Consent as a Felt Sense.

This is quick and dirty, not nearly as fleshed out as the final essay, but maybe its brevity will actually help make the ideas more accessible. This is from May 1st, 2013:

The idea that you could retroactively revoke consent terrifies ppl cuz the current debate hinges on legalistic arguments about permission, how it’s communicated and verified, and who gets to set the terms of the contract.

But consent isn’t something that can be given. It’s an experience. It’s a feeling. If you feel one thing in the moment and have a different feeling later, that’s legitimate. Don’t let anybody take your feelings away from you by claiming they weren’t documented w the proper forms.

For tops, what this means is that we don’t get to rely on bottoms giving us permission to harm them as a quick and dirty way to absolve ourselves of whatever complicated feelings we might have about doing that. Consent is not a get-out-jail-free card for interacting w humans in ways we never would w.o consent, cuz consent is legit fleeting. If what you really wanna say is ‘I’d never do this to another human w.o permission,’ that’s tantamount to taking some responsibility for that person, even if they were “consenting at the time.”

A friend of mine in highschool used to have a policy: never have sex w someone you don’t want to have a relationship w for the rest of your life. This sounds like excessive moralizing but his point was more subtle: kids. This feels apropos to me here. Don’t top someone if you don’t want to be at least partially responsible for their psychological well-being long-term.

This gets back to one of my major points which is that the BDSM scene, in order to be truly non-abusive, needs to be encouraging ppl not just to do consent stuff but also acknowledging the intensity and making mental health support available to practitioners who, perhaps, want not to come out in public and be supported in accusing a prominent community member of rape — but need a safe, supportive place to process the FEELING of having “consented” to rape w.o having to caveat, “It was rilly hot tho!” to protect egos.