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With all of the recent media reports about powerful dirtbag men assaulting and harassing women, and all of the outrage over it, a common criticism is that men only think of women as appendages to men, not as whole persons in their own right. So when a man says, “As a father of a daughter, I’m appalled [at dirtbag X’s behavior],” he is not being woke, as it were, to injustice toward women. He only cares about women if they remind him of his daughter, or his wife, or his sister, or his mother; he doesn’t view women as truly human as men.

I understand why this formulation–“If woman X were my daughter/sister/etc., I (as a man) wouldn’t want someone to treat her that way; therefore, treating women that way is wrong”–bothers some people. Men often use the women in their lives to prove a point about women in general, not acknowledging that their daughters/wives/whoever are individuals and don’t necessarily represent women in general. (I see this a lot in Mormonism. “My wife is a very strong woman, and she doesn’t want the priesthood.”) But the problem isn’t men thinking of the women in their lives who are personally important to them and concluding that women in general deserve respect, but men thinking of the women in their lives as the exception: “My women are important. Other women are not.”

I get why it troubles people, men thinking in terms of their women versus other men’s women, even if the conclusion is that all women should be treated with respect. Women are persons in their own right and should be treated with the respect due to any human, regardless of any men they might be related to. But I’m not convinced that all men who reference their daughters/wives/etc. really think in terms of “my women/their women”–not when their conclusion is that all women deserve respect. If all that mattered were the woman’s relationship with some man, the degree to which she deserved respect would depend a great deal on how much deference that man required. But I believe most men who think of their daughters when pondering the treatment of women in general actually are relating to their daughters as people, not some form of (their) property.

Imagine Donald Trump saying, “As the father of a daughter, I’m outraged.” He wouldn’t. His own daughter is the exception. He has said he’d date his daughter if she weren’t his daughter (and I think we can safely take “date” as a euphemism). She’s a person to him only because she’s his; she’s not a reminder to him that women are people.

Maybe it’s not as morally evolved to have to think of one’s daughters and wives before thinking of women in general as people. But it’s much better to have men who bother taking this extra step–“my daughter is a person and she’s a woman; therefore, women are people”–than men who never get to the place where they can empathize with women at all. And I’m not convinced that it is less evolved. Our relationships are a huge part of our humanity. It’s not just men who find their personal relationships helpful for increasing their empathy generally. As a woman, having sons has definitely helped me relate better to men and have more empathy for men in general. It’s not that women who don’t have sons can’t have empathy for men, but for me, this helped. I don’t think that makes me morally inferior. I think it means I’ve evolved as an individual.

As I said to a friend, when the subject is abuse or discrimination against the disabled, I sometimes reference my children with autism. I don’t do it because my autistic children aren’t persons in their own right; it’s only to express why this issue is personal for me. It’s not that I wouldn’t be outraged by such stories if I didn’t have a personal connection. (I mean, I know I was outraged by child abuse before I had children.) The point of mentioning my children is not to appeal to my own authority as a parent, just to express a personal stake in the story. We all have relationships of some kind, and unless we’re sociopaths, our relationships are important to us. So while referencing one’s father(of-daughter)hood can be problematic in some cases, it is not inherently problematic. What matters is the conclusions one draws from that experience.

Yesterday I shared this article by Emily Yoffe (the woman who writes the “Dear Prudence” column for Slate) on Facebook. It is about the role alcohol plays in sexual assaults on college campuses and it advocates putting a greater emphasis on warning young women about the risks inherent in drinking excessively, which unfortunately include rape. I shared it because this is a topic that I have very strong feelings about–strong enough that I am willing to risk being told that I don’t understand rape culture and am insensitive to the experiences of rape victims. I am perfectly aware that I never took a women’s studies class and am not super-clear on what constitutes “rape culture.” The term “rape culture” wasn’t really bandied about when I was studying feminism. I did manage to get a handle on the definition of rape. I’m a late-twentieth century kind of gal. I’m not interested in blaming anyone for getting raped. I really don’t see the point of that, even if it weren’t an extremely ignorant and cruel thing to do. I am interested in women not getting raped, and the fact is that excessive alcohol consumption plays a major role in many sexual assaults on college campuses.

I’m going to come right out and admit that I have never been raped. I don’t claim to know what it’s like to be raped. But as a woman, I do understand how unfair it is that women have to walk around ever-conscious of the dangers that they face just because they’re women. As the old survey said, women are afraid that men will hurt them, beat them, rape them; men are afraid that women will laugh at them. These are not comparable fears. I also like to think that I’m a reasonably empathetic person. While I have no first-hand knowledge of rape–for which I am grateful and take no personal credit because that’s just how my life has shaken out thusfar–when I hear the experiences of women who have been raped, I imagine that I would feel and react in similar ways if I were in their place. It breaks my heart when I hear or read stories about girls who got drunk, passed out, and were raped, sometimes by multiple assailants. In the internet age there is also the possibility that their assaults will be documented and publicized by those who find it amusing to humiliate people when they’re helpless. When I find out that a rape victim was drunk, I don’t think, “Well, what did she expect? She should have known better.” I think, “I want this to stop happening.”

This response to Yoffe’s article, by Amanda Hess (also on Slate), argues that the way to stop these sexual assaults is to focus on the rapists, not the victims. I think that when it comes to assigning blame, one can safely focus like a laser beam on the rapists, since they’re the reason rapes occur. However, I found the following quote from psychologist Antonia Abbey naive in the extreme: “If the costs of sexual assault are obvious, undesirable and immediate, then intoxication-driven sexual assaults are less likely to occur because the potential perpetrator cannot forget about the likely, undesirable consequences.” Certainly the costs of sexual assault should be obvious, undesirable and immediate. It does not follow, however, that a potential perpetrator will find it impossible to forget about the “likely, undesirable consequences,” even when they’re drunk. I mean, really? Have you ever seen a drunk person? And someone who is evil enough to prey on drunk women while sober is probably not terribly concerned with the costs of sexual assault; they are only concerned about what they can get away with, and the fact is that if your victim is drunk, you can get away with a lot. It’s hard enough to prove rape under any circumstances, which is one reason so many women don’t even bother to report their rapes. (Why put yourself through that when the chances of prosecution, let alone successful prosecution, are so slim?) When the victim doesn’t even remember what happened or who did it to her or where she was at the time and there are no witnesses (aside from the people who have a vested interest in not testifying against themselves), how are these immediate and undesirable consequences going to assert themselves?

I think we have all seen the Rape Prevention Tips meme that addresses the potential rapist rather than the potential victim. “If you’re about to rape someone, STOP. Don’t do it.” “Carry a whistle with you. If you think you’re about to rape somebody, blow it as loud as you can.” Who doesn’t love that meme? But the reason we love it is that it appeals to our sense of how the world ought to be. In a just world, people wouldn’t have to be afraid of rape because no one would rape anyone. And let’s face it, it’s also funny to think about rapists stopping to think, “Wait…I’m not supposed to rape people. BWEEEEEEEEET!!! Somebody stop me!”—because that is something that would never happen on planet Earth. Are there men who rape without realizing that they’re raping? Are there women who are raped and blame themselves for their attack? Yes, and that is why it’s important to educate men and women about what rape is.

There are two scenarios in which one can reasonably assume that a woman consents to sex: 1) Your wedding night. 2) When you say, “Hey, let’s have sex,” and she says, “Yes, let’s do that!” Aside from that, there is always ambiguity, and you would do best to clear that up before you put down the whistle, so to speak. …I’m not really sure what I just said. But back to my point. Even if it is your wedding night, it’s probably a good idea to nail down some specifics beforehand. For example, “Do you want to have sex at the wedding breakfast or wait until we get to the hotel?” Are there a lot of non-verbal cues people give each other to indicate that they would like to have sex? Yes. Can you be 100% positive that the message you’re receiving is the one she intended to give? Not unless it’s accompanied by an explicit “Yes, that is what I meant—definitely want to have sex with you!” I know that sounds unromantic, and most established couples certainly don’t follow that protocol with any consistency, but it is the best way to make sure you’re not raping anyone.

At minimum, you must understand that if someone is unconscious, they don’t want to have sex with you. They’re incapable of wanting it; they’re unconscious. If you have sex with them while they’re unconscious, you are raping them. Stop! Blow the whistle!

Also: If you need to use a weapon or threats or drugs to get a “yes,” you are raping someone. Stop! Blow the whistle! Call a friend and ask them to come immediately and remove you from the situation. If you don’t have any friends, call the police.

Now that we’re done with that, let’s talk about alcohol intoxication and sexual assault.

How many sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption on the part of one or both (or all) parties? The study that Yoffe cites says 80 percent of campus assaults involve alcohol. I’m not super-big on studies, but even if the number isn’t 80 percent (no one can know the real number), it seems intuitively obvious that alcohol consumption would be a major contributor to sexual assault on college campuses, given how alcohol impairs people’s judgment and given how much alcohol college students consume. How common is it that women (and girls) have too much to drink, lose their ability to consent or to make informed decisions, and are sexually assaulted by men who have intentionally taken advantage of their vulnerability and use their alcohol consumption as an excuse—or alternatively, were honestly drunk off their asses themselves and didn’t quite “get” that the girls didn’t (technically) consent, or just didn’t remember what exactly happened? I’m imagining it’s very common, and my imagination isn’t that remarkable. Women metabolize alcohol differently than men; they get drunker faster and are therefore more vulnerable to assault. Women are more vulnerable to assault in the first place because very few women are physically capable of overpowering a man who intends to rape them. There is a good reason to warn young women—even lecture them–about the dangers of drinking to excess. It is dangerous for a woman to get drunk. It is dangerous for anyone to get drunk, for obvious reasons, but women are the ones who are getting raped, not men. (Which is not to say that men are never raped while drunk; it is just much less statistically likely, for whatever sexist reason you want to assign.)

To say what is indisputably true—that getting drunk increases a woman’s risk of sexual assault—is not to blame the victim. Advising girls and young women about danger and risk is not teaching them to blame themselves if they are raped—not any more than advising people about safe sexual practices (condom use; committed, monogamous relationships) is teaching them to blame themselves if they get AIDS. It’s doing them a favor. You aren’t telling them that it’s their own fault if they get raped. As a woman, you can’t be confident that you will never be raped—unfortunately. If you have never been raped, it is not due to being smart; it is due to being lucky. That doesn’t mean you can’t also be smart. If you habitually avoid getting drunk and thereby losing your ability to give consent, you reduce your risk of sexual assault. That doesn’t mean you are immune from risk. That doesn’t mean that if you do get drunk, you are giving a man (or men) permission to rape you. Rapists don’t need permission. They only need opportunity. Fewer drunk women = decreased opportunity for rapists = good for women. Yes, it does.

If women never went out at night alone—if they never went out anywhere, except in groups and with chaperones—I reckon fewer women would get raped. But it’s not reasonable to expect a woman to restrict her movements and her personal liberty just to avoid getting raped. Not getting drunk decreases a woman’s risk of getting raped; it increases her safety; and it is something any woman can do without suffering an unreasonable restriction of her liberty. In fact, not getting drunk will increase her personal liberty because you are always freer when you have your wits about you than you are when you’ve lost control of all your faculties. As I said elsewhere (i.e. Facebook), I can hardly think of anything less empowering for women than the implication that they can’t do anything to decrease their risk of sexual assault, which is exactly what you are implying when you fail to give her adequate warning about the increased risk inherent in binge drinking because you don’t want to be seen as blaming the victim. That is a frightening world for a woman to live in. It infantilizes her and renders her helpless.

I’m 100 percent certain that no one in the “telling women not to get drunk is blaming them for their own rapes” camp wants to infantilize women or make them feel helpless. On the contrary, they want women to be empowered by the understanding that they have the right not to be raped, regardless of where they were, what they were wearing, or how much they’d been drinking. And it’s true—women have the right not to be raped, regardless of where they are, what they’re wearing, or how much they’ve been drinking. I buy the argument that women won’t really be safe from rape until men stop raping. It’s true—women will never be safe from rape until men stop raping. It would be wrong to tell women that they’re responsible for preventing themselves from getting raped—because that is not true; rape is not a thing you do to yourself. But there’s such a thing as throwing out the baby with the bath water. Teaching people what rape is and holding rapists accountable does not preclude a campaign advising women to take reasonable measures on behalf of their personal safety. It is 100 percent reasonable to tell women to avoid binge drinking. It is 100 percent reasonable to tell men to avoid binge drinking; binge drinking pretty much does no one any good. But as I said earlier, it’s the women who are getting raped; they have that much more incentive not to engage in that particular pastime.

If a woman tells you she was raped when she was passed out drunk, the correct response is, “That’s terrible! How can we catch the person responsible and bring them to justice?” If a woman tells you she’s planning to go out to a party and get wasted, the correct response is, “Are you insane? Don’t do that!” (Stop! Blow the whistle!)

In fairness, Yoffe also says something in her article that is pretty darn naïve—that if women stop imbibing excessively, perhaps their restraint will “trickle down” to the men. Yeah, I wouldn’t count on that. Which is why something else she says earlier is so important:

I don’t believe any of these statistics will move in the right direction until binge drinking joins smoking, drunk driving, and domestic abuse as behaviors that were once typical and are now unacceptable. … Puking in your hair, peeing in your pants, and engaging in dangerous behaviors have to stop being considered hilarious escapades or proud war stories and become a source of disgust and embarrassment.

Definitely teach your sons not to rape, but also teach them not to drink so much that they lose their good judgment and end up doing something they probably wouldn’t do sober—something like have sex with a woman without her consent. Stop thinking and talking about getting wasted as if it’s something funny and harmless, a rite of passage for young people sowing their wild oats. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt (or raped or killed).

And now is when I sound like a scold and a square—the middle-aged Mormon lady who’s never had a drink in her life is lecturing people on the evils of alcohol. Believe me, I’m well aware that I wouldn’t know anything about the pleasures of alcohol consumption. I have no experience in that area. I can certainly understand—or imagine, rather—why having a drink or two would be appealing to some people. It’s not appealing to me personally because I’m pretty attached to my inhibitions, and I can’t really afford to make my brain fuzzier than it is. I enjoy knowing what’s going on. Still, that’s just me. I know plenty of folks who drink responsibly, and if they say it improves their quality of life, I believe them. I can think of plenty of things that would improve my quality of life that other people probably don’t need to be happy. So the issue isn’t drinking alcohol. It’s getting drunk, which I don’t get the appeal of. I met a lot of drunk people when I was in college; none of them seemed happy to me. Frankly, they just seemed rude, inconsiderate, and ridiculous (in a pathetic, not funny, way), and they smelled bad. Occasionally they were lying in their own vomit and/or feces, which also seemed incompatible with a state of happiness. And that was before they were hung over. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is that no matter how much fun it is to get drunk—and I’ll just have to take your word for it—it can’t possibly be worth the damage it does. Why is the right to get drunk at parties a feminist hill to die on?

No, they are not related.  At least…not that we know of.

I just have a quick question for all you domestic goddesses out there–and just so you know, I’m using the word “goddess” lightly in order to flatter you.  You only have to be more domestically inclined than I am to qualify for goddess status, as far as I’m concerned.  That doesn’t render the title less meaningful to you, does it?  Should I have been less transparent?  I just wanted to make sure I was reaching my intended audience, which is Anyone Who Sews With A Sewing Machine At All.

You see, Princess Zurg is very interested in fashion and stuff, and she’d like to learn to do machine-sewing.  She already knows how to do basic hand-sewing.  I taught her how to do that much because I came of age during a time when Mormon girls were forced to learn a certain amount of needlework if they wanted to go to heaven.  I have very limited experience with sewing machines.  I used a sewing machine in home ec in the eighth grade, and in 1996 I attempted to sew my own temple dress under my mother’s supervision, and I got half the bodice done before I had to go to an appointment or something, and when I got back, my mother had mercifully finished the whole dress for me.  That was the last time I touched a sewing machine.  I don’t think I’ve ever had to thread a bobbin, or whatever that procedure is called.  I’ve heard horror stories about bobbins.  They make me a little nervous.

So I don’t own a sewing machine.  What sort of woman am I?  I’m not fit to wear the uniform.  But the point is moot because even if I were fit to wear the uniform, I don’t have a machine to sew one with.  Actually, that’s not a moot point.  It’s a very relevant point.  I’m right back where I started, in fact.  Let’s move on, shall we?

I’d like to get PZ a sewing machine for Christmas, but I have no idea where to start.  She’s twelve.  She’s easily frustrated.  I’m not very bright.  We need a machine that will be (relatively) easy to use and not cost too much money (and by “too much money” I mean “more money than you would spend on a twelve-year-old’s very first sewing machine that her 39-year-old mother will only use to the extent that she needs to help her twelve-year-old daughter learn to use it”).  It doesn’t need to do anything particularly fancy.  (I don’t even know what I mean by “fancy.”  I have no idea what kind of fancy things sewing machines can do.  But I’m pretty sure we won’t need to do any of them.)

Any suggestions?  Advice?  Commentary?  Criticism?  I eagerly await the receipt of your wisdom.

And now I will abruptly shift gears.  How about those terrorists, eh?  This is just what’s on my mind this morning–sewing machines and all these enhanced security measures at the airports.  I don’t fly very often.  I fly maybe once a year.  Maybe.  And generally I don’t get outraged.  I only get outraged maybe…three times a year.  Miffed and eye-rolly, sure–way more often.  But genuinely outraged, that is more rare.  But I find this business with the TSA and the pat-downs deeply disturbing.

So these super-fancy full-body scanners–I’m kind of “whatever” on that, personally, because I tend not to worry about things that maybe can give you cancer because the list of things that maybe can give you cancer is so long that worrying about all of them would just paralyze me.  As for the modesty issue, I don’t know–my sense of modesty took a serious beating with the birth of my first child, and it’s never fully recovered.  But I understand how it would seem invasive to some people–many people, in fact.  I can understand people being wary of anything involving radiation and crap.  And when the alternative is getting molested by a TSA agent, that just strikes me as basically creepy.  Not very American, if you don’t mind my saying so.

As freedom- and privacy-loving as I like to think I am, it’s possible that I could be persuaded to think these were necessary precautions to protect all of us from the terrorists–I don’t like planes blowing up any more than the next person–if it weren’t so blatantly obvious that this crap is just for show.  Yeah, a terrorist could be anyone, so I’m not going to argue for patting down a Middle Eastern dude and waving Grandma through.  Whoever a terrorist might be, it’s going to be pretty easy for him or her to evade these enhanced security measures.  Do we think terrorists are stupid or something?  How hard is it to figure out that if you don’t want your bomb detected by a full-body scanner, you either go to an airport that doesn’t have a full-body scanner, or you opt out of the full-body scanner and hide the bomb inside your body, where the TSA is not (yet) allowed to go?  Or is the TSA eventually going to start doing random cavity searches?  I mean, why not?  Better safe than sorry.

And if these enhanced measures are so necessary, why aren’t they being implemented everywhere?  You can’t put the new-fangled machines in every airport all at once, but absent the ability to see through people’s clothing, why shouldn’t the TSA conduct random pat-downs at airports that don’t have the scanners?  Unless the pat-down is more a punishment for not submitting to a full-body scan than it is an actually-necessary security measure.

Also, with the randomness–it seems to me that if I were a suicide bomber, I wouldn’t be too nervous about being subject to a random security check.  If I’m planning to blow myself up anyway, I might be inclined to just take my chances.  If they tap me on the shoulder for a full-body scan, so be it.  But there’s a pretty good chance they won’t.  So why not just go for it?  It’s not like I’m sane or anything.

Anyway, that’s what’s on my mind today.  Let me know about the sewing machine.  Christmas is coming, and so are the terrorists.  (I don’t know, I just felt like I needed to tie it all in.)

I’m super-tired again today.  It might be grogginess from my new Clonazepam prescription, which I started this week.  It’s supposed to be like this for the first few days.  It’s not nearly as bad as when I was on Geodon.  That was coma territory.  This is just regular sleepiness.  It could be the fact that I had all those late nights while Sugar Daddy was out of town, and I still haven’t caught up on all the lost sleep.  Also, I could be lazy.  Also, I could be bored.  So hard to tell.

So there’s been all this complaining about the new TSA searches and crap, which is understandable because–well, if I have to explain it, you probably wouldn’t understand.  So there isn’t much for me to say about it.  I’m just using this as an excuse to link to this video, with lyrics penned by Iowahawk and musical performance executed by Scott Hill of Temecula, CA (with sincere apologies to Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen & Frank Sinatra).  If you’re squeamish, you may want to skip the proctology segment, which starts circa 1:24 and ends circa 1:32.

So I heard there’s this National Opt-Out Day happening on November 24. I don’t know how effective that will be.  But I sort of opt-out of plane travel by default, since I never go anywhere.  Plus, I’m cynical.  Have the terrorists won yet?  Because I’m getting tired of this crap.  Or maybe it’s just the Clonazepam.

Against my better judgment, I followed a link to this story in the New York Times about a school strip-search case that has reached the Supreme Court.  (They will hear arguments on April 21.)

SAFFORD, Ariz. — Savana Redding still remembers the clothes she had on — black stretch pants with butterfly patches and a pink T-shirt — the day school officials here forced her to strip six years ago. She was 13 and in eighth grade.

An assistant principal, enforcing the school’s antidrug policies, suspected her of having brought prescription-strength ibuprofen pills to school. One of the pills is as strong as two Advils.

Two Advils–quelle horreur! A strip search.  On a thirteen-year-old.  For ibuprofen.



Profen.  (Pardon my French.)

Question:  What the hell is the matter with people?

About twelve years ago I read about a similar story in McMinnville, Oregon, where they forced an entire eighth grade girls’ gym class to strip because they were searching for stolen cosmetics.  I repeat:  What the hell?

The case will require the justices to consider the thorny question of just how much leeway school officials should have in policing zero-tolerance policies for drugs and violence, and the court is likely to provide important guidance to schools around the nation.

Well, I sure hope the hell so!  It must be so confusing to be a school official these days–such tough calls to make when there’s prescription ibuprofen at stake.  God knows how our children’s security could be threatened if that ibuprofen were to get out into the general school population or–God forbid–swallowed by some unsuspecting youngster.  This sort of thing can’t go on.  Long-term kidney damage could occur, not to mention the perpetual threat of anarchy.  It won’t do, I’m telling you.  It simply won’t do.

You know what’s a good reason to perform a strip-search on a child at school?


And now I can’t write anymore without using the F-word, which is my signal to stop.

Madhousewife is the new Common Sense Czar for the Obama administration.

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