TERF is a slur just as breeder is a slur

(TW for transphobia, references to violence)

It’s becoming painfully obvious that the introduction that most people will have to the acronym TERF is by white media feminists decrying it as a slur.

TERF – literally ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist’ – has been in use for some time now in social justice spaces, especially online, where acronyms come easy. It is used to acknowledge that there are many individuals who identify as radical feminists and may have been involved in the movement for a long time, but who are also fully inclusive of trans people (specifically trans women) in their feminism. It is important to make this distinction, because there are also radical feminists – with significant platforms and influence – who argue, or have argued, that (medical) transition is a form of self-harm and is akin to reparative therapy for homosexuality; that trans women should be denied access to women’s bathrooms and support services; that transition itself is buying into patriarchal notions of gender and therefore is inherently harmful.

So, the term TERF is now commonly used to identify these people, and others with sympathetic viewpoints, who have the potential to cause ACTUAL GENUINE HARM to trans people (both in attempting to remove much-needed healthcare and also in contributing to society’s already shitty attitudes to trans people that result in violence and discrimination).

It is probably not surprising then, that when the term is used, it is often in a distinctly negative context. To the extent that some people (remember – people who are actively harmed by TERFs) might even use it in anger. I went looking for examples here but honestly there aren’t any currently on twitter. This is the current search result: (I deleted IDs because some accounts are protected, but feel free to check the search now)

Search results for "TERF" on twitter on 07/07/14

Search results for “TERF” on twitter on 07/07/14

But of course, this is just twitter, and most of the people using the term in this image do not have mainstream media platforms. And I worry that unless you pay close attention to intersectional feminist discourse, the likelihood is that you may only come across the term when a prominent feminist, who has had the term used to describe her, claims that it is a slur. And I’ve been pondering what it would actually mean if it was.

In the interests of accuracy, I checked the dictionary definition and the most relevant would be “An insinuation or allegation about someone that is likely to insult them or damage their reputation”. So in this sense, TERF could be a slur if you were, say, in a position to give advice or draft policy relating to LGBT people (which, sadly, is the case for some TERFs, but certainly not all that consider the term a slur).

But really I think what people are getting at is the idea that it might be a slur in the way that n****r or t****y or r****d is a slur. That the word itself causes harm by being used as an insult. And I just don’t buy it. In the same way that reverse-racism and reverse-sexism do not exist, discrimination against cis people is not a thing, and therefore you cannot cause harm by insulting someone for being cis. Specifically, trans people can call cis people whatever they like and it will never be harmful in the way that t****y is harmful to trans people.

Extract from p.46 of Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education (Ozlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo) that reads: "STOP: There is no such thing as reverse racism or reverse sexism (or the reverse of any form of oppression). While women can be just as prejudiced as men, women cannot be "just as sexist as men" because they do not hold political, economic and institutional power. "

Extract from p.46 of Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education (Ozlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo) that reads: “STOP: There is no such thing as reverse racism or reverse sexism (or the reverse of any form of oppression). While women can be just as prejudiced as men, women cannot be “just as sexist as men” because they do not hold political, economic and institutional power. “

And I thought about similar terms that are used in vaguely insulting ways against people in positions of power, like cracker for white people, or any number of penis-based insults for men. I couldn’t actually think of one for cis people, I don’t think any exist, but I perhaps I only hang out with nice people. And then I landed on one that has been used in LGBT circles before, particularly when it wasn’t possible for homosexual people to access adoption or reproductive services; when heterosexual people were disparagingly referred to as “breeders”. I personally haven’t heard it used this millennium, but it’s probably floating around out there among some small groups. And I think it satisfies the criteria of being 1) literally true (in that straight people are the ones who breed the most); 2) often used in a generally negative light by people who are oppressed along a certain axis; and 3) completely fucking irrelevant when it comes to discussing harm.

So while I fundamentally disagree that TERF is a slur, since it is used to accurately describe people who hold negative and harmful views about trans people, I also would argue that even if it was, it simply doesn’t matter. Because the term TERF has never and will never be levelled at someone while they are having their head kicked in, or their housing revoked, or their healthcare denied.

ETA: it was pointed out to me that, of course, “breeder” has also been used against bisexuals, and the biphobia of the wider LGBT movement is very harmful indeed. I intentionally left us bi folk out of this one for brevity. Alas no analogy is perfect.

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Cis Privilege

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A link appeared in my twitter timeline earlier to a site that was called something like “cis privilege” (no I won’t give it extra traffic). The entries I saw were all examples of violence against women, none that I could see having anything to do with anyone being cis or trans. The point of the site appeared to be to deny the concept of cis privilege by emphasising the global status of women as inferior to men, and the violence that they suffer because of it. What it did not appear to do in any way, was actually address cis privilege.

As a cis person who lives with a trans person, I am regularly reminded of my privilege, so with thanks to Peggy McIntosh, who wrote this amazing essay back in 1988 that popularised the concept in relation to race, I have written a list of cis privileges. As you will see, many of these examples do affect women in relation to men, but not cis women in relation to trans women. I really wish the two issues would not be conflated.

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of cis people most of the time.
2. I have never had to sit politely during an amusing anecdote that mocked cis people (but I recently held my partners hand as we listened to one mocking a trans person).
3. I have never seen a popular TV programme mock cis people.
4. If I should need to move house, I can be pretty sure I won’t face discrimination on the basis of my gender.
5. I can be pretty sure that my neighbours in a new location will be fine with my gender, and will be neutral or pleasant to me.
6. I have never had someone yell “cis!” at me in the street.
7. I have never been sexually assaulted for being cis[1].
8. I have never been beaten up for being cis.
9. I am unlikely to be murdered for being cis.
10. I can turn on the television or open a newspaper and most of the content I see will be written by cis people, sympathetic to cis people.
11. When I learn about national or global history, I read about cis people.
12. I have never had to explain to a doctor what my gender is.
13. I have never been asked to show a doctor my genitals as part of a routine medical appointment.
14. I have never been asked “but what’s your REAL name?”
15. I am never asked my “preferred” pronouns.
16. I am never misgendered[2].
17. I can wear whatever I like and never have my gender challenged.
18. I will never need to seek my spouse’s permission to have my gender legally recognised[3].
19. If I seek medical support for mental health difficulties, I can be confident that my gender will not be considered a symptom or a cause.
20. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my gender.
21. I can choose to ignore the latest media storm, or legal difficulty, facing trans people.
22. If I am found guilty of a crime, I will be placed in prison with people of my gender.
23. I can worry about transphobia without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
24. I have never experienced dysphoria.
25. I do not have to repeatedly convince new doctors that I have a legitimate need for a hormone prescription.
26. At work, I can dress in a way that reflects my gender, without concern over how I will be treated.
27. I will never have to run the gauntlet that is medical gender reassignment.
28. When I travel to other countries I do not have to worry about whether my gender will be recognised.
29. I am never asked what genitals I have.
30. I have never been rejected for a job because of my gender.

I am a feminist. I am under no illusions about the atrocious treatment of women across much of the world. But I’m also aware of my privilege to be a cis woman, as I am aware of my privilege to be white, English, able-bodied and middle-class. My feminism loses nothing by acknowledging these things.

The discrimination facing trans people is horrendous, and it breaks my heart to see it denied, or belittled, especially by women who are the public face of feminism. We are stronger together.

 


 

[1] Yes, women are assaulted for being women. Cis does not mean the same as woman. Cisgender men are also cis. Violence against women is everything to do with misogyny and being perceived as female, and nothing to do with being cis. Trans women are at huge risk of violence, and trans women of colour even more so. This is intersectionality in action.
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[2] Actually once, when I was about 7. It pissed me off for days and it was one guy’s mistake. Cannot IMAGINE getting it daily from everyone.
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[3] Go England and Wales!
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Being bisexual and dating a trans person

A while ago, I was on a panel attempting to answer questions from cis people about trans issues. As the partner of a trans activist, and someone who runs a community group for allies, I was trying to be the voice of someone who will never know how it feels to be trans, but has spent a lot of time thinking about trans issues.

One of the questions was about whether it undermines a trans man’s identity for a woman to say “I am into butch women and trans men”. I didn’t comment on the panel as that is not the situation I am in, although I couldn’t resist popping into the comments as the discussion was varied and interesting. But what I’ve been thinking about since then is possibly more controversial:

I am bisexual[1], and I think that has made it easier for me to date a trans person.

I fully expect that there will be many trans people who find that statement offensive, and as undermining their gender, but I honestly don’t believe that it does. Allow me to explain.

As someone who identifies as bisexual, I have, when considering sexual and romantic relationships, actively thought about different genders. Before I was aware of the gender binary (and thus people who identify outside of it) I considered relationships with men and women. Through this, I avoided fixating on specific roles, or body parts, or sex acts, which I am certain that my monosexual friends have been attached to. Yes, I fantasised about strong arms wrapped around me, but I also fantasised about my strong arms wrapped around another person. I imagined different bodies and varied sex acts that those bodies would engage in (gawd, I hope my mother isn’t reading this).

Until recent years, when I became more informed about the variety of sex that is available to us, especially to people who are outside of the hetero-cis-sexual mainstream, I used to have a weird dissonance with how I defined sex. With the weight of our cultural fixation on the importance of virginity as the act of a penis penetrating a vagina, I took that – as most of society still does – to be THE sex act of any importance. But as I was also interested in women, without examining this assumption, I instead simply had a different definition of sex depending on whether I was talking about being with a woman or a man. What I considered to be sex with a woman was simply classified as foreplay with a man. This seems absurd to me now, but I had no framework or vocabulary to describe my experience as a bisexual person[2], and so I defaulted to what popular culture told me, which was that PIV[3] sex counts, and nothing else is really worth noting[4].

But despite my inability to describe my experiences and what I imagined, these issues highlight that I was at least thinking and trying to talk about different sex acts and different bodies. As it turned out, the major relationships in my life until my current one – and thus the vast majority of my sexual experience – have been with cis men. When I met my current partner I had never been intimate with a trans person, and I had never discussed sex with anyone who could speak to the experience.

I was nervous the first time I saw my partner naked (as was he!). Twenty seven years of being told there are only two basic ways for bodies to be weighed heavily and I was genuinely worried about what my internal response would be to seeing a body which I knew was going to be unlike any I’d ever seen before. A few years later, having immersed myself in trans and queer culture and writing, I am far less hung up on such trivial things as what configuration of genitals someone has. But at that time, it was a monumental moment for us both. And I genuinely think that it was easier for me (and thus, us as a couple), because I was already familiar with different bodies.

I think the very fact of being attracted to more than one gender makes it easier to be open to the possibility of being attracted to someone who has a differently configured body than the mainstream would tell us is available. That is not to say that monosexual (gay/straight) people don’t have relationships with trans people, who may have had varying amounts of medical intervention (or none). But I can’t help thinking that it must be more difficult to do that if you have spent your entire life being conditioned to wanting someone who is either big, strong, hairy, masculine, and has a penis, or small, dainty, gentle, feminine and has a vulva. However much we may personally reject gender stereotypes, they are everywhere we look, and virtually impossible to escape. The stereotypes of how our bodies should be are so fundamental and insidious as to be invisible unless you have reason to look.

But then, even the staunchest monosexual person (a Kinsey 1 or 7), must have some gender markers that they don’t care about in a partner? You might be attracted to men/masculine people but not care about hairiness, or tallness, or a deep voice. But there’s a line somewhere. At what point does someone’s gender stop falling within the boundaries of what you find attractive? I’d love to have some answers to this because as someone who isn’t monosexual, I can’t really imagine what it must be like to be utterly tied to my partner having a certain look, smell or arrangement of genitalia.

I’d like to end by adding that this is resolutely NOT the same as certain small, vocal groups of people who seek to create new categories for trans people in order to exclude them from their sexuality (e.g. ‘lesbian’ and ‘trans-lesbian’). While I recognise that my life history probably makes it easier for me to adapt to different body types than people who have never considered dating someone who isn’t cis, I do not believe that it is ever acceptable to police somebody’s genitalia and body on the basis of whether they fit into a certain, socially-acceptable mould (which applies to sex with everyone really, not just trans people!)

And finally, I found this poem when I first started dating my partner, and it articulated things which I couldn’t have: How to make love to a trans person


[1]Which I define as: I am attracted to people with the same gender as me, and different gender to me. No binary implied.
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[2] At the same time, I had so internalised the biphobia around me, that I absolutely refused to wear “bisexual” as a label. I would literally identify as straight one week, and gay the next. So thanks, culture, for that. (Hence being so bloody vocal about it now, too!)
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[3] Penis-in-vagina. Does what it says on the tin.
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[4] Indeed, there was no age of consent for same-sex sexual acts between women until 2001 in the UK, by which time I was 17.
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Blood vs semen

Following my post yesterday about sanitary products, I was thinking about whether they really would be freely available if men[1] had periods. Whilst racking my brains for a suitable comparison, I suddenly realised there is a gooey liquid that male-assigned people produce in abundance, that can cause great embarassment during those awkward teenage years, and that many of them probably wish they could stop producing altogether – semen.

If roles were reversed, would blood be the thing that it was ok to leave in your sheets and your underwear for your parents to wash? Sure, few people would want it on their trousers, but if it happened, it wouldn’t be that big a deal? And it might leave a bit of a stain, but everyone would know it only takes a bit of soaking in cold water, or a gentle scrub, to get it out. No big deal.

And if girls produced semen[2], would there be special disposable receptacles for them to squirt it into, to discreetly fold up and throw away, lest anyone know that they’ve allowed their body to do this thing that it naturally does?

Someone on twitter questioned the validity of this comparison, on the basis that girls don’t choose to bleed, but boys could stop producing semen if they wanted (whether teenage boys would agree with that is another matter!). But to me, that supports my case even further. If period blood were the result of girls having a wank, it would be even less acceptable for anyone know that you’ve produced any. Even though this is something our bodies just do, that many women (and especially female-assigned others) actively hate and want to stop; we are still expected to hide it away, as though we’ve done something wrong.

Whether the details of this comparison stand up to greater scrutiny, it certainly reflects the patriarchal standard that what boys’ bodies do is normal, and what girls’ bodies do is wrong and should be carefully controlled.


[1] All usual ciscentric disclaimers apply!
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[2] I feel the need to say something about female ejaculation here, but can we just agree that it’s a rare enough case to not warrant throwing out this whole argument?
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Sanitary products on the NHS

Inspired by a current twitter chat being held by The Women’s Room, and with huge credit to Jessica Burton who blew my mind at BiCon2013 and has turned me into a periods fanatic, here are some thoughts:

It’s often said that “if men had periods, all sanitary products would be free on the NHS and we’d get time off from work for PMT”. I do think this is a handy, populist (if rather ciscentric [1]) catchphrase to highlight the impact of patriarchy on society. But.

But is it actually true? Would tampons and towels be handed out freely on the NHS? Or would we have a different attitude towards periods entirely? Perhaps such that sanitary products weren’t even considered necessary?

One of the things I learnt about in Jessica’s session at BiCon was the history of the “feminine hygiene” industry. It seems that pre-WWI, workers in factories would bleed onto straw on the floor (and many other things too, presumably partly to deny them labour breaks), which would be swept away at the end of the day. Periods weren’t hidden, bleeding was just another thing that some people’s bodies did. After the Great War, some enterprising folks realised that they could market bandages as sanitary pads, and keep some bandage factories open. Part of that marketing was about making pads seem medically beneficial and essential for hygiene, and appealling to middle-class sensibilities by being all discreet. Even modern advertising for sanitary products has a weird prudishness and revolves around secrecy and hiding the fact that you’re bleeding.

So, when the question came up, as it inevitably would, about whether sanitary products should be available on the NHS, most people said yes. It’s true that this is an economic issue that disproportionately affects women – a perfect example of patriarchy in action – but what I’d never really considered before is whether sanitary products are actually necessary. It is perfectly sanitary to reuse cloth pads (whether bought or home-made), or simply bleed into clothing. Blood doesn’t always stain, and when it does, it is the simplest of stains to remove, by soaking in cold water, or giving a light scrub. I have recently found that, apart from sometimes on the first night of my period, I can easily go a whole night sans sanitary products without blood getting on clothes or sheets, and then ‘release’ it into the toilet the next morning. Yay for gravity!

In practice, I use a mooncup, for economic, comfort and environmental reasons. If sanitary products were to be provided on the NHS (or simply made VAT-free), then I would certainly prefer for re-useable products to be the default, with a special case made for needing disposable ones.

But what I would really like to see, is a society where we are encouraged to talk about bleeding (how many people cringed at the mention of releasing blood into the toilet?), where young people – not just girls – are able to discuss what periods actually mean, how they work and why anyone should be expected to hide their menstrual cycle. Perhaps then more people would question whether they, or the NHS[2], need to spend millions of pounds on these products.


[1] It’s ciscentric because it implies that only women, and all women (between adolescence and menopause) experience menstruation. Trans men and gender queer people may menstruate. If you look beyond simply the process of bleeding, and think about menstrual cycles and thus the underlying hormones involved, then it makes sense to consider menstruation of trans women too. There are fascinating things here around gender, sex, fertility etc., which I think are completely lost due to the way that we segregate female-assigned pre-adolesents to teach them the bare minimum about periods, and ignore everyone else along with wider issues.
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[2] NHS money doesn’t come from nowhere, it is still our money after all!
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Bank of England FOI reply

A few weeks ago I submitted an FOI request to the Bank of England, following a discussion on Twitter with The Women’s Room and Caroline Criado Perez about the lack on women on their board, and whether that helped contribute to the decision to remove the last woman from our banknotes[1]. We surmised that it would be unlikely that such a decision would be made in an organisation that had a large proportion of women working in senior positions.

These are the questions I asked:

1) Information held on the number of males and the number of females employed full time as staff by the BOE, their seniority of position and salary band.[2]

2) Information held on the representation of different age, gender, ethnicity, religion, and disability within staff and freelancers (if applicable) of the BOE.

3) Any details of Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) that were conducted under the three previous public sector equality duties (race equality duty, gender equality duty and disability equality duty), which were in force until April 2011 when the new single public sector equality duty (PSED) came into force and replaced them.

4) The BOE Human Resources Policy on Equal Opportunity of Employment and details of hiring procedures to ensure employment on basis of merit and equality of opportunity

Last night, 20 working days after I submitted my request, I got a response. 20 days is the legal deadline for responding to FOIs, note I received an email from What Do They Know, the website I used to facilitate my request, at 18:17.

The full response is available as a PDF, but is not presented in the easiest format, so here is a summary. I have had to manually copy tables, line by line, into Excel, as I cannot get any software to recognise the tables in the PDF. Arg.

1) Information held on the number of males and the number of females employed full time as staff by the BOE, their seniority of position and salary band.

Gender

Salary Band Groups Examples Female Male Totals
Band 1+ Head of Division,

20

78

98

Band 2/3 Senior Manager,
Senior Economist,
Technical Specialist.

171

446

617

Band 4/4T Analysts,
Section Managers.

366

682

1048

Band 5-7 Senior Clerical Staff,
Research Assistants,
Support Staff.

544

420

964

ITPS* Developers,
Programmers,
Consultants.

49

291

340

Temporary staff**

39

68

107

Totals

1189

1985

3174

* Information Technology staff, **includes vacation staff, sandwich students etc.

My immediate thought is that there’s probably a big difference in job spec and salary between “support staff” and “senior clerical staff”.

The information on salary bands is held in a separate document, which I’ve copied by hand into a new table (I think perhaps they underestimated how much I am willing to procrastinate from studying). I’ve taken out the details for temporary staff (no salary details) and IT staff (too many bands), and then pasted them into the table:

Salaries

Salary Band Groups Salary band Female Male Totals Female % Male %
Band 1+ 1: £87,556-
£159,690
20 78 98 20% 80%
Band 2/3 2: £68,189-
£120,924
171 446 617 28% 72%
3: £53,512-
£91,649
Band 4/4T 4: £37,344-
£70,015
366 682 1048 35% 65%
4T: £29,000-
£46,689
Band 5-7 5: £28,027-
£46,247
544 420 964 56% 44%
6: £20,256-
£37,640
7: £17,191-
£24,579

 

There is certainly an enormous difference between £17k and £46k, as anyone who’s survived on a salary below £20k will tell you (in London, as these appear to be due to later pages on ‘regional salaries’). Even the median salaries of £21k and £37k between bands 5 and 7 is huge. I will make a follow-up request about this, as I don’t think it satisfies my original query to lump these bands together.

You will also find information about the Bank’s Executive Team (above Band 1+) on our website at http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/about/Paqes/people/default.aspx. Details of their salaries are available on page 46 of the Bank’s Annual Report which is available to view at http://www.bankofenqland.co.uk/publications/Pages/annualreport/default.aspx

2) Information held on the representation of different age, gender, ethnicity, religion, and disability within staff and freelancers (if applicable) of the BOE.

Ages

Age band %
<20

1

20-24

9

25-29

15

30-34

18

35-39

14

40-44

14

45-49

12

50-54

8

55-59

5

60-64

3

65+

1

Total

100

Ethnicity

Ethnicity group %
Asian/Asian British

10

Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

2

Mixed/Multiple Ethnic Group

2

White

77

Other Ethnic Group

1

Not Declared/Unknown

5

Prefer not to say

3

Total

100

As expected, the Bank is overwhelmingly white, but it’s hard to say whether that’s an accurate reflection of local diversity in the offices.

Religion

Diversity detail disclosure is reliant on staff declaration and, as we have only recently started to collect data on religious belief, we are unable to supply any complete data at this stage. However, what we can tell you is that of our employees who have completed their details, 46% described themselves as Christian. We also have smaller groups of staff who declare their religious beliefs as Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh.

And largely Christian. The BBC FOI with faith details has 22% of staff declaring themselves as Christian.

Disability

This information is also reliant on staff disclosure. As at end June 2013, 47% of staff had declared their disability status; 2% of these classified themselves as disabled.

Again, this is lower than the 3.8% of BBC staff who define themselves as disabled. According to DWP, 16% of working age adults have a disability.

Equality Impact Assesments

In relation to Item 3, in view of the evolving nature of the earlier legislation to which you refer and its application to the Bank, and the absence of an express provision in that legislation entitled ‘public sector equality duty1, could you please clarify in accordance with section 1(3) of the Fol Act which precise duty(ies) under the earlier legislation you are referring to. This should help the Bank to ascertain whether it might hold any relevant information.

I’m not going to follow up this request, as I think the information I really want is held in the previous questions (albeit they have answered in a way that does not yet satisfy me).

I have had to copy each link, paste it in plain text, and edit individual characters, because the links in the document they sent are not only not live, but not clearly readable by copying them. They appear to have written up the document, printed it out on paper, and then scanned it, to get a PDF.

These are the people in charge of our money.


[1] Dear mansplainers: apart from the Queen. Seriously, don’t be that guy.

[2] I wouldn’t use “males” and “females” to respond to people usually, it’s kind of icky. But I was following language styles from successful FOI requests to the BBC.

Rape jokes and rapists

This has been all over tumblr and other places for years, but I had reason to read it again today, and I want my own copy to be able to refer back to. With thanks to the author, Jessica V and the blog it originated from, Shakesville:

To all those who don’t think rape jokes are a problem.

I get it, you’re a decent guy. I can even believe it. You’ve never raped anybody. You would never rape anybody. You’re upset that all these feminists are trying to accuse you of doing something or connect you to doing something that, as far as you’re concerned, you’ve never done and would never condone.

And they’ve told you about triggers, and PTSD, and how one in six women is a survivor, and you get it. You do. But you can’t let every time someone gets all upset get in the way of you having a good time, right?

So fine. If all those arguments aren’t doing anything for you, let me tell you this. And I tell you this because I genuinely believe you mean it when you say you don’t want to hurt anybody, and you don’t see the harm, and that it’s important to you to do your best to be a decent and good person. And I genuinely believe you when you say you would never associate with a rapist and you think rape really is a very bad thing.

Because this is why I refuse to take rape jokes sitting down-

6% of college age men, slightly over 1 in 20, will admit to raping someone in anonymous surveys, as long as the word “rape” isn’t used in the description of the act.

6% of college age men will admit to actually being rapists when asked.

A lot of people accuse feminists of thinking that all men are rapists. That’s not true. But do you know who think all men are rapists?

Rapists do.

They really do. In psychological study, the profiling, the studies, it comes out again and again.

Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. And more, these people who really are rapists are constantly reaffirmed in their belief about the rest of mankind being rapists like them by things like rape jokes, that dismiss and normalize the idea of rape.

If one in twenty guys is a real and true rapist, and you have any amount of social activity with other guys like yourself, really cool guy, then it is almost a statistical certainty that one time hanging out with friends and their friends, playing Halo with a bunch of guys online, in a WoW guild, or elsewhere, you were talking to a rapist. Not your fault. You can’t tell a rapist apart any better than anyone else can. It’s not like they announce themselves.

But, here’s the thing. It’s very likely that in some of these interactions with these guys, at some point or another someone told a rape joke. You, decent guy that you are, understood that they didn’t mean it, and it was just a joke. And so you laughed.

And, decent guy who would never condone rape, who would step in and stop rape if he saw it, who understands that rape is awful and wrong and bad, when you laughed?

That rapist who was in the group with you, that rapist thought that you were on his side. That rapist knew that you were a rapist like him. And he felt validated, and he felt he was among his comrades.

You. The rapist’s comrade.

And if that doesn’t make you feel sick to your stomach, if that doesn’t make you want to throw up, if that doesn’t disturb you or bother you or make you feel like maybe you should at least consider not participating in that kind of humor anymore…

Well, maybe you aren’t as opposed to rapists as you claim.

(I have removed references to Penny Arcade as I think it stands on its own as a message about rape culture)