What can we learn from what happened to Sansa?

Seriously, though, I still want to talk about that rape scene in Episode 6. I’ll get off my previous attitude of snarking at anyone who objects to the scene, and instead talk about what we can gather from the fact that it happened and the way it was portrayed. Amanda Marcotte says many of the things I’ve already said, and some more. I still think there’s space to criticize the way Game of Thrones handles sexual violence. If some people have just had it up to their eyebrows with seeing women get raped and beaten on TV and don’t want to see any more, then I understand their decision to quit watching Game of Thrones. If you’ve decided not to watch anymore because you’ve had more than enough of this shit, then you’re not the intended audience for this post.

I just want to take a close look at Sansa and ask: what kind of story does this encounter tell us?

(This post has ended up longer than I expected. That’s a thing that tends to happen in my writing. Sorry!)

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ASoIaF vs. GoT: It could’ve been so much worse.

I’m hearing people are pissed off about a thing that happened on last night’s Game of Thrones.

This is one of those times when, in fact, the show has taken something really horrible from the books and made it somewhat less horrible. It’s still bad, but the sadism is brought down to a dull roar.

You can tell I’m talking about Ramsay fucking Bolton, yes?


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ASOIAF vs. GoT, First: Lannister Twincest

EDITED TO ADD, 3/7/15: I have found another citation in the text. It has been added to the post below the cut.
I’m a fairly recent devotee to the Society of Ice and Fire, and I haven’t yet read all five of the presently available books from end to end. Maybe I’ll try and do that before too long. I won’t get much writing done in the meantime, but maybe I’ll reach the end of A Dance With Dragons just in time for The Winds of Winter to arrive, and I’ll celebrate along with everyone else. So far, my exposure to the book series and affiliated HBO series has been: 1. Binge-watch my dad’s copy of the Game of Thrones Season 1, 2. Order all three seasons on DVD from Amazon; pre-order Season 4; binge-watch Seasons 2 and 3 as soon as they arrive, 3. Scream, “OKAY, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!”, read A Feast for Crows, 4. Figure out that I missed some events between the third season of the show and the beginning of the fourth book; read episode summaries on Wikipedia, 5. Read A Dance With Dragons, 6. Read some parts of A Storm of Swords, 7. Read some parts of A Clash of Kings, 8. Binge-watch Season 4 as soon as it arrives.
You’ll notice that I haven’t read everything there is. I like a lot of the characters, but I seem to be more emotionally invested in the goings-on of the Lannisters and their associates, so they’re the ones whose narratives I seek out in the books. (I care about Brienne and Sansa unto themselves, but for the purposes of this accounting, we’ll list them as Lannister associates. Sansa is technically married to Tyrion and Brienne is emotionally tied up with Jaime.) I’m sure I like the Lannisters more than they deserve, but seriously? They’re not all Tywin and Cersei. In fact most of them seem like totally decent people. We all adore Tyrion, of course. Tywin’s brother Kevan seems like a good egg, and his sister Genna is hilarious and amazing. Well, okay, little cousin Lancel is a dumbass, but on reflection, Lancel’s main problem is that he’s young and impressionable and someone let Cersei get her claws in him. Jaime seemed like an asshole at the beginning, and he has certainly behaved like an asshole at times, but we’ve gotten to know him and he’s turning himself around. He seems to be a good guy after all.
Except for that part where he forces himself on Cersei in the Sept of Baelor. If you’ve watched the show through Season 4, you know the scene. That one.
For those who are new here: I seem to spend a lot of time on this blog talking about sexual violence and bodily autonomy. For those who aren’t new here: don’t be surprised that I’m focusing on this part first.
So, that’ll be the topic of my first examination of the differences between books and show: the Jaime/Cersei relationship, centering on that part where he violates her in front of their son’s corpse.
I will apply a heaping helping of TRIGGER WARNING to what lies below. If you’ve seen what happens, it won’t be a surprise, but nevertheless, I will repeat some details that may be upsetting, so take a moment to prepare yourself:

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Ugly is wherever you choose to see it.

Dave Futrelle has shown us some “interesting theories about why feminists are “obsessed” with rape and abortion” from an MRA, and I was expecting some fresh batch of fuckery that would get me all good and pissed off. Imagine my disappointment to find out it’s just a rehash of the old rubbish about how rapists only target pretty women, and we feminists are all ugly bitches with nothing to worry about.

(Go ahead and picture Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna reading that paragraph. “I was told you were drunk, impertinent, and thoroughly debauched.” Yes, that’s the voice that keeps going through my head.)

Seriously, though, that’s all they’re saying. We feminists are ugly bitches, and rapists only target women they find attractive, so we’ll never have to worry about getting raped and that’s why we’re all pissed off. That’s the content of the comments shown in the link. That’s the entire range of these fuzz-nuggets’ insight into the feminist psyche. It would get me plenty angry if it were anything new. By now I’ve seen so much of this attitude, my reaction is mostly boredom.

I’m jaded and cynical as fuck, but that doesn’t mean the attitude isn’t also incredibly violent.

Here’s what we need to understand:

No, wait, first off, THIS much is what you need to understand: if you ever, EVER, think it’s okay to suggest that anyone is “too ugly to be raped,” do not ever darken my virtual doorstep. We have nothing to discuss. We have nothing in common. Fuck off and never come back. I’ll ban your sorry little ass without a cursory exhalation.

That aside, it must be pointed out that if rape is a matter of who is “irresistible,” then basically everyone is irresistible to someone. Rapists target everyone from the most conventionally attractive to the least. Rapists target symmetrically flawless 20-ish blondes, they target children, they target elderly women, they target fat women, they target women who are about to faint due to starvation, they target people with serious mental illnesses and cognitive disabilities, they target pretty much everyone. Women are more frequently targeted than men, and women of color (particularly black, undocumented immigrant, and Native American) are more often victimized than white women, and generally those of lower privilege profiles have higher victimization rates than those of us who enjoy relatively high privilege, but ultimately, rapists decide what type of people they want to victimize, and they find a way. They don’t exclusively attack the ones who look like the fashion models who appear most often in the pages of Vogue and Cosmopolitan, they just…target whomever they think is least likely to be taken seriously if they have the courage to report to the police.

There is no woman in the known world who is too good-looking to be told she is too ugly to be raped.

This is what the narrative of “rapists target pretty women” does: it creates a division that has more to do with perception than risk. We are all at risk, to some extent. No matter how beautiful or how hideous, we all have to watch our backs. No matter how compliant with current beauty standards, or how divergent from what is considered desirable, we all have to worry that we either should have seen the rape coming, or that we should be grateful for the attention. We all have to worry about being victimized, and we all have to worry about being blamed.

I don’t like to use the passive voice, but it’s tricky to determine who is responsible for choosing victims and assigning blame.

No one will ever be able to convince me that I’m not a good-looking woman. I’ve received waaaay too many messages on OKCupid with little content other than to tell me I’m cute. (Speaking of which: up your game, guys. That shit gets old in a hurry.) It’s far too late for anyone to tell me otherwise.

And perhaps one might think I could sneer at these rape advocates (they’re not even apologists for rape anymore) with a sample of the shots that photographer Barbara Glaeser just posted on her blog from my session with her. Here’s one of those old, ugly, repulsive feminists who are so obsessed with rape and abortion!

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They still want us to cross the street.

PZ Myers picked up this…humorous…new meme, but I refuse to put another copy of the unaltered image into Google, so I’ve done my part with it:

Original meme shows compact car hitting female pedestrian on roadway. Text was: "FEMINIST LOGIC" "Don't tell me when to cross the street. Teach drivers not to hit people."  I have super-imposed new text: "ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME? DO YOU THINK RAPE IS JUST LIKE AN ACCIDENTAL COLLISION? WHO ACTUALLY THINKS THIS WAY? WHO?"

Original meme shows compact car hitting female pedestrian on roadway. Text was: “FEMINIST LOGIC”
“Don’t tell me when to cross the street. Teach drivers not to hit people.”

Short version: there is no universe in which this analogy is not completely fucking inappropriate in every possible way. This is another one of those analogies that say more about how anti-feminists think of men than about how feminists think of women.

As PZ points out right away, we actually DO have a system of education aimed at preventing motorists from running over pedestrians. Some countries might be more lax than others about enforcement, but here in the US, you need a license to drive. You can be criminally prosecuted for driving without a license. Part of the licensing process is demonstrating that you know how to watch out for pedestrians. Not everyone has the right to drive a car. Some people are not eligible for driver’s licensing because they do not meet the conditions for operating a motor vehicle without putting lives in danger.

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While we’re on the subject: they still want our nudie photos.

Like I said yesterday, all the “advice” aimed at women to keep ourselves “safe” isn’t really serious. Nobody genuinely, truly wants us to behave in such a way that we have no vulnerabilities for predatory people to exploit. Folks love to scold us not to drink so damn much, but they don’t actually want us to take it far enough that rapists and other abusers would be unable to attack us.

Right now the news of Women’s Personal Safety is about nude photos. Unless you live under a rock, in which case you probably aren’t reading my blog, you’ve heard about all the famous women whose intimate photos were stolen from their iCloud accounts and shared with the entire Internet. And I’m sure you’ve heard some of the commentary about what those women should have done so that they couldn’t be violated like this. “Don’t take nudie pictures with your phone!” “The Internet isn’t safe!” “Nothing you put online is ever really secure!” “Use stronger passwords!”

I’m somewhat more sympathetic to the people who now preach the gospel of Not Taking Pictures Of Yourself Naked, but that’s mostly because the Internet is a fairly recent invention, cellphones with cameras are even more recent, and yeah, okay, the advice is pretty straightforward. It’s a lot less socially revolutionary and personally restrictive to refrain from putting nekkid photos of yourself online than it is to avoid rape by eschewing alcohol.

Even so, it’s worth asking why these women took these photos and stored them in iCloud accounts. If we were to sit down with Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Ariana Grande, etc. and ask sincerely, what were their reasons for taking and uploading those photos, their answers would probably all be variations on a particular theme: there were men who wanted to see them naked. They took those photos, and uploaded them, because some guys asked them nicely to do so.

This is different from revenge porn, in that the guys who asked for the photos to be taken do not appear to have been involved in stealing those photos and sharing them without the women’s consent. Both violations are similar in that they, admittedly, would not have been possible if those women had declined to take photos of themselves unclothed.

So, this is a question that I want feminist-allied, women-loving men to ask themselves: Do you really want nubile women to stop sharing nudie pics with their men? Do you want your next girlfriend to be afraid to give you a picture of her naked self?

Do you want to live in a world in which nudie pics are never taken and shared between intimate friends and partners, because there are too many people who fail to respect boundaries and privacy?

What if we really DID stop getting so wasted?

Sometimes I like to think about what would happen if women (all people who are at risk of rape victimization, really, but the advice is primarily aimed at women) really followed all this “personal safety” advice ostensibly designed to prevent rape? Of course it’s really about making sure they rape someone else, but still: what would happen if we really did what the unending Greek chorus of comparing women’s bodies to unlocked cars were constantly shrieking at us to do?

“Don’t walk alone at night!” “Have a buddy with you at all times!” “Don’t stay out so late!” “Stop getting so wasted!”

“Guys like this don’t pick on the SOBER girls!”

I want to share another issue I have with all this finger-wagging at women to avoid rape by not getting drunk: this is not serious advice.

I’ve already said a lot about how inappropriate it is: rapists target their victims, and they make good and sure their targets drink too much. Drunk victims are seen as less sympathetic, while drunk rapists are seen as less culpable.

I’ve already gone on about how unproductive it is: if drunk girls aren’t available, rapists choose their victims based on other vulnerabilities.

But there’s something else that I don’t see in the discussion about the “personal safety” approach to rape prevention: all these people constantly scolding us not to drink so much, not to “let” rapists find us vulnerable, not to leave our proverbial cars unlocked in bad neighborhoods? They don’t mean it. Not really.

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#ElliotRodgerFunFact: Suffering no lack of privilege or connection

I’ve learned more about the Nice Guy Mass Murderer since my post on Saturday. For example, he actively advocated for women not to have power to decide whom they fuck. That goes beyond rape apologia into rape advocacy. He was especially angry about men of color socializing with pretty white women. He was biracial (white father/Asian mother) and identified overwhelmingly with whiteness. He characterized women as “evil, sadistic beasts” for sleeping with the wrong men—wait, not even sleeping with them, necessarily, just hanging out with them!, which sort of makes sense about as much as “the food is terrible and the portions are too small” until you see that he wasn’t thinking of women as companions, but as objects to possess and control. I started a hashtag on Twitter: #ElliotRodgerFunFact. Nowhere near the scale of #YesAllWomen, but I’m still pleased to see other people using it.

The mass murder didn’t start outside. Three people were found dead in Rodger’s apartment. At least two of them were his roommates.

This story here from the AP makes me feel a lot worse for Rodger’s parents. I’m sure we’ll wait a bit longer and find out more about how they brought him up, and they’ll be at least partly culpable for his developing such a heinous view of the world, but for now, it seems that his parents were trying to keep their son from joining the ranks of mass murderers. They were really trying, but how do you really handle it when you think your son is a danger to society? He was seeing two counselors, which is noteworthy, and his mother (her name is Chin Rodger, though she’s not named at the Yahoo link) saw his videos in April and got in touch with one of the counselors. The story sounds very much like the police department is trying to deflect blame for not recognizing the danger Elliot Rodger posed when they had the chance. The counselor called a mental health service, which called the police, and the police say they weren’t aware of any videos. Maybe the part about him making homicidally threatening videos got lost in the chain of communication, but that’s the sort of question the police might have tried to ask before they made their assessment.

I’m also hearing from various sources that Elliot Rodger was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is part of the autism spectrum, as a small child. ACCORDING TO FAMILY FRIEND MR. SIMON ASTAIRE, this is untrue. The family long SUSPECTED that Elliot was on the autism spectrum, but he was never diagnosed. It’s cringe-worthy to see speculation about Nice Guy Mass Murderer being an Aspie, as it’s inevitably followed by people equating Asperger’s to mental illness, and mental illness to his inclination to violence. Here’s the thing: researchers have tried to find a correlation between autism and violence. They’ve found no such correlation. EVEN IF our Nice Guy Mass Murderer was on the spectrum, it should not be used to portray autism as a cause of violence.

Whatever mental health problems our Nice Guy Mass Murderer had, he wasn’t left to struggle all alone. He was seeing therapists and his parents were involved in his life. Whatever mental health issues were troubling him, he was able to present to the police as a nice kid, so they let him go on his merry way. He was not isolated, or neglected, or in such dire mental health that he lacked control over his actions.

ETA the part about Rodger not actually being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

“Wasn’t the victim she claimed to be.”

There’s a young man in Dallas who’s been convicted of rape and sentenced to deferred probation. Notable in Judge Jeanine Howard’s choices of absurdly lenient sentencing are that he is not held to the usual conditions of sex offenders and that she has ordered him to do 250 hours of community service at a rape crisis center. (They don’t want him there. I think that should be a consideration.) I am less interested in whether Mr. Young belongs in prison for the next 20 years than in how Judge Howard bases her sentencing on her views of the victim.

The girl was 14 at the time of the rape, and knew Young at school. She was interested in spending time with him. She did not, however, want to have sex at school. He raped her in a music practice room. They both testified that she said “no” and “stop” repeatedly, before and during the attack. There doesn’t seem to be any dispute over whether the girl gave consent in that particular incident. Young apologized to his victim and her family at the trial.

The way Judge Howard describes the victim is, basically, that she wasn’t a good enough victim. Look at this here:

Howard said she made her decision for several reasons, including: The girl had texted Young asking him to spend time with her; the girl had agreed to have sex with him but just didn’t want to at school; medical records show the girl had three sexual partners and had given birth to a baby; and Young was barely 18 at the time.

“She wasn’t the victim she claimed to be,” Howard said. “He is not your typical sex offender.”

The girl’s mother said Friday morning that her daughter has never been pregnant and she was “livid” over the judge’s comments.

The girl’s description of her relationship with Young is thus:

The girl testified that the two had discussed sex but all she wanted to do was kiss. During the trial, where Young pleaded guilty and Howard decided his punishment, the judge asked several times about whether the girl cried. The girl testified that she did not cry during the attack but cried afterward.

Judge Howard seems to be unfamiliar with the idea of consent. She might characterize the girl’s actions in this case as a “gray area” of consent. Just to be clear, there is no need to observe any gray areas. Consent goes like this:

  • If the girl said she wanted to kiss the guy, that is not the same as consenting to sex, and his forcing intercourse on her was rape.
  • If the girl said she was interested in having sex with him, but not at school, then she did not consent to that act of intercourse in the music room. What he did to her was rape.
  • If the girl had already had 3 sexual partners before that incident, that has no bearing on whether she gave consent to that boy on that day. What he did to her was rape.
  • If the girl, who was then 14, had already given birth before that incident, that really has no bearing on whether she gave consent to that boy on that day. We don’t even know that the conception of her child was entirely consensual.
  • Anyway, her mother says the girl has never been pregnant, and I think the girl’s apparently supportive mother is a better witness to her daughter’s obstetrical history than the judge in a criminal trial where the girl is not the defendant.
  • And if the mother’s lying out her ass, and the girl actually did have a baby by age 14? SERIOUSLY? Is that supposed to be argument for treating her rapist as “not your typical sex offender”? Does she think it never occurs to a “typical sex offender” to target a very young mother?

The judge has done everything short of saying, in so many words, “She’s a slut and she asked for it.” She’s operating on the belief that the damage of rape hinges on the innocence of the victim, where “innocence” is measured in a lack of sexual history. She draws a straight line from “she wasn’t such a victim” to “he is not your typical sex offender.” She’s saying he shouldn’t really be treated like a criminal because the girl was already degraded by supposedly having had sex already.

The girl now wonders if it would’ve been a better idea not to report the rape.

“I did what I was supposed to do. I went to the law about this situation,” she said. The judge’s probation sentence and the removal of the restrictions — “that says everything I went through was for nothing.”

“It would have been better for me not to say anything,” said the girl, who is not being identified because The Dallas Morning News does not typically identify victims of sex crimes.

With people like Judge Howard in the “justice” system, it’s no surprise that so many rape victims don’t even go to the police.

Nope, nope, nope, Judge McFadden. Wrong answer!

Scott Kaufman at RawStory reports on this asshole:

According to his ruling, Judge Christopher McFadden claimed that a new trial was necessary because the unnamed victim waited a day before reporting the rape, and because she did not behave like a rape victim.

Nor, in his opinion, did William Jeffrey Dumas, who was convicted of repeatedly raping the victim in 2010, “behave like someone who had recently perpetrated a series of violent crimes.”

The evidence isn’t in dispute. Mr. Dumas’s semen was found in the victim’s bed, and the doctors who treated the victim found her injuries “consistent with multiple, forcible rapes.”

No, the judge’s issue with the conviction is that the victim and rapist, respectively, did not behave like a victim and rapist.

Plenty of rape victims wait a day, or longer, to report the crimes. Many don’t report at all! They often don’t report because they’re afraid (and not without reason) that some asshole, or several, in the justice system will scrutinize their behavior and decide they’re not acting victim-y enough.

People who commit rape aren’t oblivious to this theory of “acting like a rape victim.” Most rapists know their victims, and are well-acquainted enough with them to draw out the violation by coercing their victims to behave in certain ways, which most people tend to see as “not acting like a rape victim.”

When we expect victims to behave a certain way, we just give rapists instructions on how to get away with it.

The rape victim in this case has Down Syndrome. People with disabilities—most especially developmental and cognitive disabilities!—are particularly vulnerable to sexual predation, precisely because so many people don’t take their accounts seriously.

The message Judge McFadden is sending her is that it was a mistake to report her rapes. Her testimony doesn’t mean anything, so she should’ve just kept quiet.