Senate Subcommittee Hearing on Rape in the United States

14 09 2010

I’ve been watching the webcast of a Senate subcommittee hearing on rape in the United States, and though I’m not able to watch the last panel, I wanted to note a couple of things.  One is that I’m actually encouraged by what I’ve heard, especially about the need to have better definitions of sexual crimes and the need for better reporting and police support.  Then again, the Senators present were Specter, Cardin, and Franken, so maybe that’s to be expected.

One thing, though, that bothered me, was that Specter seemed surprised that a public education and awareness campaign would be needed–what is to me one of the most important elements of eradicating rape culture.  He stated that “people are aware of what rape means […] that it is violent and anti-social.”  Seems to be missing the point a bit.  There was some back-and-forth in this hearing between recognizing and seeming to gloss over acquaintance rape.  The problem isn’t that people don’t know what rape is, but that sexual crimes aren’t culturally stigmatized and survivors don’t get social support.  So yes, a public education campaign is vitally important, to change the way people think about sex and to prevent rape before it happens.

On the other hand, I was encouraged that particularly vulnerable populations were at least mentioned: indigenous people, immigrants, people with disabilities, people in institutions, LGBT people, the homeless, etc.  I don’t know how much hope I have for things improving, but this hearing has shown that journalism, and just talking about it, does mean something.

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Competency Kinks, Violence, and Imperialism

22 08 2010

A couple of months ago, I had a thought.  I was brainstorming an idea for an urban fantasy novel, one that would feature a strong androgynous superhero whose jurisdiction was over things like stopping rapists, confronting misogynists, and making vulnerable populations feel safe.  But as I was brainstorming this hero, who not only saves your life but has a penchant for cuddling and physical affection, I realized that one of the traits I was using was still “could kill you with hir little finger.”

That got me thinking about competency kinks and how they align with violence.

“Competency kink” basically just means that someone being really good at whatever zie does is a turn-on.  Movies certainly capitalize on this.  Sometimes it’s intellectual competence, or psychic ability, or something else unrelated to violence, but very often the protagonist is competent at killing, injuring, and/or self defense.  Whether it’s competence with weaponry, martial arts, magic, or some other violence-related skill, filmmakers are very good at combining destructive prowess with sexiness.  Think Christian Bale in Equilibrium.  Think Keanu Reeves in the Matrix.  Think of all the bad-ass chicks in films that are unexpectedly very skilled at physical combat.  Kill Bill, anyone?

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Prop 8 Overturned, Sort Of

5 08 2010

Your blogger’s inner cynicism rears its ugly head, I’m afraid.  I haven’t had time to read the decision or anything else, so I’m operating on what I know from the news, which is that a California District Court ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional on Due Process and Equal Protection grounds and that a stay has been issued, though it’s not a very long one and so it’ll expire before an appeal and another stay will have to be issued.

Assuming that’s correct, this is definitely something of a victory, but it doesn’t mean people can get married again, and it doesn’t mean that Prop 8 was really “overturned,” at least, in the sense I use the word.  I sort of feel like you can’t overturn something if the next guy can turn it right back.  But despite that, I’ll feel some cautious sense of victory, and eagerly anticipate the result of the appeals process.





No words.

19 02 2009




A Haiku

17 01 2009

Stars and Stripes

There’s red states and blue,

But what it all comes down to

Is the votes of whites.





The Significance of Rhetorical War

9 01 2009

John Dickerson has a short piece up on Slate about rhetorical wars, the next one of which appears to be war on the economy.  Oops, I’m sorry, that’s war on the economic crisis.  My mistake.  Anyway, in my National Security Law intersession course this week, one thing we talked about was whether the war on terror is any different from the other rhetorical wars on drugs, poverty, cancer, etc. or if it’s just another phrase in the presidential bag of tricks.  I’d say yes and no.

In some ways, it’s like all the other rhetorical wars, in that the word “war” announces a policy priority and commission of resources.  It’s intended to make those who are doing whatever we’re at war with a little more afraid of us in the case of something like the war on drugs, and to make victims believe that we’re serious in the case of the war on poverty or the war on cancer.  The war on terror does announce a policy priority and commission of resources, and it is supposed to make terrorists fear us and Americans feel like the government is doing something to protect us.  But that’s not all.

While other wars may have done this to some extent, I think the war on terror sets a new precedent in terms of using the “war” as a justification for actions that may or may not be legal or otherwise socially justifiable.  Increased surveillance?  We’re at war!  Questionable interrogation techniques?  We’re at war!  If Congress doesn’t give the President more and more authority, then it looks like it’s on the wrong side of a war, and that’s something you don’t want to be.  It’s also fuzzy because while Congress has not actually declared war on terrorists (something it doesn’t have the legal power to do as the enemy has to be at least somewhat identifiable), it has authorized the use of force against those responsible for 9/11 in the AUMF.  We’re actively fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the President is allowed to do whatever is appropriate and necessary to track down the Al Qaeda people responsible for the 9/11 terrorist plot.  This means that the rhetorical war gets the added brunt of being associated with a real war, and sometimes the two get disturbingly enmeshed.  For example, it was easy to call Iraq just another battle in the broader war.  But Congress authorized force against those who had attacked us first; it never declared a wider war or referred to the war in Afghanistan as an opening battle.

Things to think about.





Heads up on an interesting discussion on gay marriage

10 12 2008

If you haven’t yet seen it, Jon Stewart makes some really thoughtful arguments in a discussion with Mike Huckabee about gay marriage.  One of my favourite points: “Religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality.”  You can get it online at thedailyshow.com, just click full episodes and select Tuesday’s night’s show. The discussion is right after the last little black commercial break bar at the bottom of your screen.