Welcome To My Bed

3 Sorority Girls Walk Into My Cafe --or-- Rape Culture As Reported By Undeclared Feminists

I will start off by stating, unequivocally, that I am deeply prejudiced.  I immediately dislike people involved in Greek life on their campus of choice.  To me, frat-related social activities are about as appetizing (and as bland, and as devoid of value) as Kraft Mac&Cheez.  When someone within earshot mentions an affiliation with such activities, I shut off my ears so as to spare my gag reflex.  I'm not proud of this.  I'm sure plenty of nice people pledge.  It'd just not my cup of tea.

That being said, I was at work yesterday, and three preppy, willowy blondes wandered into the cafe for coffee.  They were perfectly harmless, discussing Jell-O shots and "the sloppy girls" and campus scandal. And then the campus scandal portion of the conversation took a turn from who's-hooking-up-with-whom towards the college's cover-up of a sports-team-related rape.

I didn't hear what school they went to.  Unfortunately, the details they discussed were generic enough to belong to any school that's had such a scandal.  And that's where my heart broke.  Right at the word 'generic'.  The fact that these types of situations are generic at a college level is disgusting and horrifying.  In this particular case, the rape allegations involve the basketball team.  The girls chatted about how predatory the players were when they saw them at bars near campus--how they'd sit back from everyone else and prey upon the freshman girls, specifically choosing those inexperienced and drunk enough to be manipulated.  Now, I obviously haven't seen this behavior firsthand (the closest thing my college had to sport or frat culture was an Ultimate Frisbee team called The Red Scare), but I felt like I knew what they were going to say before they even said it.  It's been in the news so much.  Promising college athlete accused of assault or rape, denies allegations or calls the girl a slut or blames her for being drunk or some combination of all of the above.  College stands by the player, not the victim.  The media twists everything.  Lives are ruined.  The end.

I expected their conversation to veer back towards the frivolous, but it remained in a place of outrage at their school.  According to one girl, their school went nine years without passing along charges of assault or rape handled by campus police to the proper officials in local law enforcement.  Even though it is their on-the-books policy to do so.  Even though it is their moral obligation to do so.  And after 9 years, somebody finally noticed this institutionalization of rape and reported it.  I wonder what kind of reprimand the school received for this transgression of human rights.  The girls spent a good deal of the following conversation making conjectures about how it might feel to be a young woman who reported her assault or rape and have the school officials take down her statement and promise to take action only to sweep the entire thing under the rug.

I had to do everything in my power not to jump into the conversation at several points.  But let me jump in now, after the fact, and say how all of this made me feel about the attitude that colleges routinely take when it comes to assault.  The horror of this, as I stated earlier, is how generic the girls' talk of a basketball team with a rape scandal is.  As woman move towards greater social equality (we've actually statistically surpassed men in terms of college enrollment), these all-too-routine exhibitions of rage, sexual aggression, and moral lapse followed by aggressive institutional cover-up appear in the discourse more and more.  And it isn't just assault of women.  Think about Joe Paterno's disgraceful actions.  Colleges are too afraid of PR nightmares to protect their communities properly.  I am sick over this.

Sexual violence is not about sex, but power.  This kind of behavior is not even invisible in this case, but rather seen, acknowledged, and actively made to disappear.  I wonder if those responsible for the nine years of non-report at this particular school have wives or daughters, or, even more chilling to think, are women themselves.  By doing nothing about assault and rape, the school is essentially condoning it.

Eavesdropping on the three girls was an essential slap in the face for me.  Women are women, regardless of who they associate with or how they choose to conduct themselves.  It is an ugly impulse to write off members of my gender for their social choices when we have the exact same concerns.  It an ugly standard that our chief concern must be rape.  Another of the girls told a story of walking across campus alone at night that contained all of the reasons why my mother hates that I walk home alone from work at night.  Who knows if these girls would call themselves feminists.  But clearly, you don't have to self-identify as a feminist the feel like a victim of rape culture.  And you certainly don't have to be a feminist to expect to feel like you are entitled to protection of your personal safety.

In defense of saying "no means no" to monogamy.

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And because I am sick and getting so much done, I feel I have license to sidetrack myself for just a moment to rant about something that's been grating on me quite a lot in the past month or so.

Let me start by saying that I have not read The Ethical Slut, do not abhor romantic comedies as a general rule, nor do I believe that the institution of marriage is a sham. That being said, I am happily single and casually dating various individuals who I will not incriminate in this essay rant out of respect for their (and our) privacy. I have absolutely no intention of getting any more deeply involved with any one of them. This is not because I am afraid; it is not because I am embittered by any past relationship; it is not "because" of anything. It is what it is. I am dating. Each relationship is good and right and functional and gives me joy in its own way. End of story.

It has come to my attention (mostly via "concerned friends" who claim they only have my "best interests" at heart) that the life I lead is viewed as dangerous, unsettling, and in several cases, downright abhorrent. This is shocking to me. If I am happy, as long as I'm not hurting myself or anyone else, I thought my friends would be happy for me. Not so, says the universe. Remember, you must derive your happiness from sources that the people around you find acceptable. "When in Rome" and all that jazz. You've transgressed the cardinal rule of sharing joy: do not present the masses with a form of happiness derived from a practice which they do not understand. It is like trying to make religious ecstasy tangible to an atheist, trying to translate the triumph of a flawless triple pirouette to someone who hates to dance. Do not tell those who do not live like you how happy you are, because the moment you try to explain, their lack of vocabulary on the subject will leave everyone involved in a very frustrated state.

Thanks for the heads up, universe. But I am going to say it anyway. I do not believe that monogamy is a healthy practice for me. I am of the mind that I have too much love in me to focus it all on one person at once. I believe that love is both a choice and a responsibility, not a mystical and uncontrollable state that one falls into and out of willy-nilly. Attraction is only the first step on a long road of decision-making that leads to and should strengthen the connection between partners. Love comes from these decisions to be responsible, caring, and present. Thusly, the validation that many of my friends derive from possessing their partners, I am able to derive from all of my less-than-tacked-down relationships, both those that involve sex and those that do not. Down to my most incidental friendships, I am a fiercely loyal person. There are plenty of people in this world I love so intensely that I would not only die, but kill for them. There is room in my heart for all of them. But this loyalty does not ultimately result in surrender. And to me, to have any one person call me "theirs", to possess me in a way that thereby means no one else has the opportunity to, would be an unnecessary surrender of myself. When it comes to love, I also have a responsibility to love myself. I am best able to do that alone, unattached, uncoupled, single, whatever you want to call it.

That being said, a troubling thing has been cropping up in conversation lately. I'll call it, for lack of a better way to characterize it, an unwillingness to believe my lifestyle is healthy, or, at worst, an unwillingness to believe that it exists at all. People assume that I have either numbed myself to what I am doing, or that I have buried my desire for commitment for fear of being hurt. Dear, dear friends belittle my decision to remain non-monogamous as a choice that will be my un-doing--as if I am King Lear teetering on the precipice of certain insanity.

And to those friends, I address myself now: I would like to tell you my love life is none of your business, but that would be a lie. It is your business, because you are a part of it. I love you. Even though you do not understand they way that I live, nor are you willing to believe that it could work for me without causing some damage, either on a daily basis, or at some point down the road. My love for you is just as important as the love I have for my blood family, my chosen families, my partners in business, pleasure, art, and intellect. And that is what I want you to see. I can love you and all of them, and where that gets me is only to a place of greater and more serious happiness.

There is no measure of love that is unimportant or repulsive. There is no specific place or space where love "belongs". There is no chant or name to invoke or ceremony to carry out that makes one kind of love more holy than any other. Love is only love, and can only be love. Romantic, platonic, what have you--these are just boxes we are given for sorting. I refuse to sort any of it. Let it be a mess. So what if you don't understand how I sleep at night without some specific face to greet me on my pillow. I get to sleep either way.

Forgive me nothing. Deny me everything. I will continue to love you anyway.