book reviews, domestic violence, modern problems, true crime

Reposted book review: Social Taboo: A Male Victim of Domestic Violence Speaks…

Here’s another reposted book review from the original Overeducated Housewife blog. This one was written in July 2017 and appears as/is. I had completely forgotten about this book, but it’s definitely one that belongs on my blog.

Sad story plus wretched writing equals missed opportunities…

Ever since I started reading it, I have been itching to write my review of Social Taboo: A Male Victim of Domestic Violence Speaks.  I finally finished reading Richard Cassalata’s 2016 book about twenty minutes ago after struggling with it and thinking it would never end.  I didn’t realize it when I started reading this book, but Social Taboo is 578 painful pages in length.  I would guess at least 150 of those pages could have been omitted.  Add in the fact that Mr. Cassalata apparently never had this book edited or even read by a literate friend before he published it, and you have a recipe for a former English major’s nightmare.   

As you might guess from this book’s title, Social Taboo is a non-fiction account of a man’s experience with an abusive woman. The author, who refers to himself as Rick, writes that in early January 2011, he had been looking online for a relationship with a woman. Rick is a divorced father of three boys, and as of 2016, he lives in Arizona. He has not had much luck with online personal ads. Evidently, many of the responses he gets are porn solicitations.

One night, Rick gets an email from an attractive woman named Amy.  Amy lives in Eloy, which is evidently a crime infested, yet very rural, area.  She’s a teacher in her mid to late 30s at the time, having earned teaching certifications in Ohio and Arizona.  She invites Rick over and asks him to bring with him a bottle of Grey Goose vodka.

Although Rick is not much of a drinker, he complies with Amy’s request and drives out to Eloy.  He and Amy hit it off immediately, although Rick is slightly alarmed when Amy pours herself a generous measure of vodka mixed with cranberry juice.  Although he says nothing to her at the time, it soon becomes apparent that Amy has a serious drinking problem.    

Rick, who is in the midst of earning his teaching credentials, finds that he and Amy are able to talk shop.  However, besides talking about their work, Amy also talks about her past relationships.  If you know anything about women with cluster B personality disorders, you know that there are already a couple of red flags popping up during this couple’s first meeting.  

Rick describes Amy as witty, charming, sweet, friendly, and very attractive.  He writes that they “clicked” from the get go.  And while it may not be the smartest thing for him to have done, during that first date, Rick and Amy are consummating their brand new relationship between the sheets on Amy’s bed.  Unfortunately, Amy neglects to tell Rick that she has contracted oral herpes, which Rick incorrectly identifies as a sexually transmitted disease.  Yes, it can be transmitted sexually, but what Rick is referring to is the same virus that causes cold sores.  In truth, most people have been exposed to the virus that causes oral herpes by the time they are adults.

Things move quickly, as they often do in relationships with women who have cluster B personality disorders.  Pretty soon, Rick and Amy are inseparable.  Rick gets approval to work with Amy– she actually becomes his supervisor as he’s picking up training hours at Amy’s school.  Yet another red flag is raised, but Rick is apparently oblivious to it.  Soon, they’re talking about marriage and it’s not long before Rick moves in to Amy’s home.  When he’s living with her, Rick discovers that Amy’s drinking problem is a lot more serious than he’d first realized.  Aside from that, she is extremely possessive and resents it when Rick plays racquetball with his buddies on Saturday mornings.  He comes back from the court to find Amy completely obliterated after she’s consumed way too much Grey Goose vodka.

Rick soon finds himself deeply entrenched in his relationship with Amy, who seems to be having a hard time letting go of her ex husband, Jim.  She claims that they need to see each other because they are filing their taxes.  Rick isn’t happy about Amy’s continued visits with her ex, but he tolerates it until it becomes clear that Amy is doing a lot more than discussing taxes with Jim.  But when Rick confronts Amy, she goes batshit crazy.  It’s not long before Amy enlists local law enforcement in her bid to control Rick.  She even talks him into handing over his paychecks to her.  Again… a classic red flag of an abuser.  

It turns out that Amy is also kinky.  She has a collection of sex toys and wants Rick to use them on her and be her “Dom”, that is, sexual dominant.  She uses sex to make up with Rick after their epic fights.  All I can say is that Amy must have been one hell of a lover.  Rick falls for her tricks over and over again, just like Charlie Brown does when Lucy Van Pelt offers to hold the football for him.  I don’t actually have anything against kink.  However, it’s pretty clear that Amy uses kink as a means to control her men.

Throughout the book, Rick refers to the interesting array of jobs he’s held in the helping profession.  He claims to have been a law enforcement officer, a social worker, and a teacher, both at the college and school levels.  However, Rick doesn’t really give readers a full accounting of his academic pedigree.  This was one of my many complaints about Social Taboo.  As I was reading Rick’s story, he would mention his academic background, but in vague terms.  I myself have master’s degrees in social work and public health, so he caught my attention when he wrote about his sociology degree, but then referred to himself as a “former social worker”.  

First off, social work and sociology are not the same thing.  Secondly, while Rick may have worked for child protective services at one point, that would not make him a social worker.  Social work is not synonymous with child welfare work.  Moreover, having earned my degree in social work, I know what goes into getting that education.  I was perplexed by Rick’s vast array of careers.  He’s supposedly only 35 years old at one point in this book.  It takes time and money to become a qualified social worker or teacher, particularly at the college level.  And yet, Rick has apparently been a social worker, a teacher, a professor, and a law enforcement officer.  I question how much experience he would have had in those fields and how he managed to earn the appropriate credentials.  I’m not saying he’s outright lying, but it would have been helpful if he had explained that a bit more.

My next complaint about this book is that it is way too long.  I see an earlier paperback version of this book comes in at over 700 pages.  This edition, which has a different title, is almost 600 pages.  A lot of those pages should have been edited out because much of it is repetitive minutiae.  At one point in the book, I was sure I had to be at least halfway through it.  I was dismayed to see I had only read about 25%.  I eventually found myself skimming because it was very repetitive and taking much too long to finish.

And finally, my biggest complaint about this book is the shitty writing.  Cassalata has a rather conversational style that could be engaging if not for all of the typographical errors, awkward sentence constructions, dangling participles, and wrong word choices.  Seriously, there were some errors that were almost laughable.  For the sake of this review, I’m going to find a few of the more memorable ones.

“After leaving my house, I purchased a big cup of coffee at a nearby convince store.”

“They’re just did not seem to be a happy medium in any decision concerning her in weeks.”

“Ferrous, I walked out of the classroom without acknowledging Amy’s existence.”

“I fucking hate you for that… you sun of a bitch!”

“Since you are freeloading off me and living in my house you will respect me you sorry sun of a bitch.”

“Arriving home, Amy was gone and it was a welcome relief.”

“Noticing the sun setting we walked out of the restaurant and Amy held my hand out the door.”

The book is absolutely saturated with mistakes like the ones I’ve posted.  When you have to get through 600 pages, it becomes very tiresome to run across so many errors.  More than once, I contemplated giving up on the book.  I also had to fight the urge to rant about it before I managed to finish.  Imagine… this man, like his psycho ex, Amy, are teachers.  No wonder so many people homeschool.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s good that Mr. Cassalata was willing to share his story.  I wish more male victims of relationship abuse would speak out; that way, people like Bill’s ex wife might brought to justice for the havoc they wreak.  I just think that if you’re going to go to the trouble of writing a book about your experiences, particularly the very personal experiences the author writes of, you should make sure the writing is of good quality.  It’s asking a lot to ask readers to wade through almost 600 pages of explicit writing about abuse.  The least that author could do is make the writing worth the effort and as easy as possible for the reader– particularly given that readers often have paid for the book.  I see Cassalata’s paperback version is selling for about $25.  I would be pissed if I’d spent $25 on this book as it’s written.

Anyway, make no mistake about it.  Rick Cassalata got himself entangled with a psycho.  I empathize with him.  A lot of what he wrote about Amy is eerily similar to stories I’ve heard about Bill’s ex wife, right down to the weird sex, financial abuse, and irrational rages.  Bill was fortunate in that his ex wife had a fear of government interference, so she never called the police on him.  However, she did do a lot of the other things Amy did… and, oddly enough, Bill’s ex used to live in Arizona.  I hope things are better for Rick now.  I see at the end of his book, he’s got links to men’s rights organizations.  I, personally, have no issue with that, but I would imagine that if a lot of women read this book, they might.

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condescending twatbags, divorce, domestic violence, Ex

Promoting the myth of “one big happy family”…

I’ve been a subscriber of The Atlantic since last year. I do read a lot of the articles. In fact, I read more of The Atlantic than I do a lot of the other periodicals to which I am subscribed. However, over the past year I’ve noticed a few things.

First off, a lot of the articles are recycled repeatedly on Facebook. Secondly, they keep nagging me to turn auto-renew on, even though I clearly made a conscious decision to disable it (big surprise– auto-renew is turned on by default). In their emails pleading with me “not to miss an issue”, they point out that they’ll tell me before they charge me, and I always have the choice to disable auto-renew. If that’s the case, why not just let me make that choice for myself and leave me the fuck alone about it? And thirdly, so many of The Atlantic’s articles are incredibly depressing, outright ridiculous, and/or overly and annoyingly “woke”. I’m not sure if I will resubscribe when my current subscription ends next month, but the emails pleading for me to let them automatically take my money are off putting.

Reading The Atlantic the other day kind of led to yesterday’s slow news day on my blog. I kind of had to take a mental health day and just write a book review. I went a little nuts on Tuesday. It started with the cannelloni I decided to make for lunch. I wanted some red wine to go with it, even though I usually try not to imbibe when Bill isn’t home. Well… I started enjoying the wine, then I got online and read an article in The Atlantic. It was another one of Lori Gottlieb’s Dear Therapist columns, dated from June 2019. The piece was entitled “Dear Therapist: I Can’t Stand My Fiancée’s Ex-Husband”. The sub title-explanation was, “He wants to take pictures with her and their daughter like they’re still one happy family—and I want him to stop.” Below is the letter in the article:

Dear Therapist,

I am engaged to be married to a wonderful woman who has a 6-year-old daughter with her ex-husband. They share joint custody. A major contributing factor in her decision to end their marriage was her ex’s controlling nature. Even now, after being divorced for more than two years, he tries to control her life.

One of the ways he tries to do this is by insisting on taking pictures of the three of them at every function where they are all present. First day of school, graduations, etc.—he has to have pictures taken of himself with my fiancée and their daughter as if they are still one big happy family.

Since the divorce, he has gotten engaged as well. I can only assume his fiancée must find these odd “not-a-family pictures” as strange as my fiancée and I do. The sole reason we haven’t shut him down when he insists on them is that we think maybe it is a nice thing for the little girl to have pictures of herself with her mom and dad. But we dread every event when we know he is going to expect this.

Will it do the daughter any harm to stop him the next time he starts insisting on this  awkward situation?

Lori Gottlieb’s advice to the letter writer who can’t stand his fiancee’s ex husband was to cooperate for the sake of the child. She explained that she has had many children of divorce in her office who have lamented about how their parents didn’t get along. She evidently sees nothing wrong with the letter writer’s ex husband insisting on family pictures, even though both his fiancee and the ex husband have found new partners and the fiancee, apparently, doesn’t like the forced picture taking either. I do think the letter writer is pretty classy for realizing that the photos with both parents might be nice for the daughter. Hopefully, it will mean that he doesn’t try to replace his soon to be stepdaughter’s father. Sounds to me like bio dad isn’t about to let that happen. I can’t blame bio dad for that, but I also don’t think bio dad should be pressuring his ex to do something she’s not comfortable with doing, for the sake of pushing a “one big happy family” myth.

Those of you who know me at all, might know that I automatically sympathize with the letter writer. I didn’t even have to read the guy’s letter to sympathize. Ex pulled that “one big happy family” bullshit on Bill, too… I would include myself in that comment, but she never asked or even considered how I would feel about pushing that narrative. And that was just one of MANY reasons why, over 18 years after my wedding day, I still can’t stand her and don’t want to be associated with her. I have very good reasons for not being able to stand her. At the very top of the list is the fact that my husband saw one of his daughters last year for the first time since 2004!

That’s right. She categorically denied Bill visitation for years while she happily took $2550 a month from him for three children– one of whom wasn’t even his kid (she denied eldest son access to his father, too). Early in our marriage, she tried to strong arm Bill into naming her the beneficiary of life insurance policies valuing $1,000,000, even though he was paying her about half his salary in child support and had already provided $500,000 in life insurance coverage to her. She told vicious lies about him (and me) to the children and even tried to turn his own parents against him. She also abused him in ALL ways– mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, sexually… you name it, she probably did it. He still bears the scars from the physical abuse. Through it all, my husband has been extraordinarily classy. To this day, he doesn’t trash talk his ex wife, although he does commiserate with his younger daughter about her. It turns out she treats her kids as badly as she does her husbands.

I, on the other hand, have absolutely no qualms about trash talking Ex. She totally deserves it, and I make no apologies for despising her. But it didn’t start out that way. Back in 2002, when I was blissfully ignorant about her, I imagined myself being kind and patient and understanding toward Ex and the children. I wanted to be a good stepmother, loving to Bill’s children and sharing access to him with his kids. I didn’t think I’d be friends with Ex, but I thought maybe we could be civil. I really try to be civil to most people unless they give me a good reason not to be. I encouraged Bill to stay involved with his daughters. I hoped and expected he’d visit them and be part of their lives. I hoped and expected I would be part of their lives, too, in whatever way. In those days, I probably would have been among the naive, glibly telling people in step situations that they must always do everything for the child’s sake, no matter what.

But, as some of my more regular readers know, I’ve only met Bill’s daughters once, back in 2003. I had no influence on their lives, because I wasn’t allowed to be part of their lives. I could have seen them at Christmas in 2004, which was when Bill last saw them together. That last meeting was, unfortunately, a trap, although Ex had tried to frame as a way to show the children that we’re “all one big happy family”. After that Christmas, Ex completely cut off access to the children and Bill lost contact with them for years. Yes, he could have tried going to court, and he did speak to a lawyer about doing that. But in those days, he simply didn’t have the money or the time to devote to child custody hearings. After his divorce, Bill was saddled with a bankruptcy and a foreclosure, and with the kids on the other side of the country, there was no way he could fight without courting financial and professional ruin– two conditions that would not have made him look good to a family court judge, anyway. It probably also would have ruined our marriage, because unlike Ex, Bill would have allowed his daughters total access to their mom. And we would have been fighting with her constantly.

As it stands now, only Bill’s younger daughter is speaking to him. We both feel fortunate that this happened– because for a long time, we never thought it would. And, personally, I had also gotten to the point at which I was trying not to care anymore and just wanted them to leave us alone. Of course, now I’m glad younger daughter is in contact with Bill. She’s turned out to be a good person. Older daughter remains estranged and, at this point, I’m beginning to think that’s the way it will always be. Maybe that’s the way it should be.

Bill had told me when we were dating that his ex wife could “rip me to shreds”. I kind of laughed at that… and it didn’t turn out to be true. I never let her get close enough to me to be able to “rip me to shreds.” I’m not afraid of her. I think she’s a pathetic loser, and I am pissed off that she was able to do the damage she’s done and continues to do. I’m truly sorry that she was abused as a child and is mentally ill, but that does NOT give her the right to harm other people And the fact that she has done SO MUCH HARM to SO MANY PEOPLE means that I can’t stand her, and will NOT cooperate with her, EVER. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my stance about Bill’s ex wife. She’s not a good person. Fortunately, the girls are now grown women, and I no longer have to worry about pushing the “one big happy family” myth for their sakes.

Anyway… on Tuesday, as I read that article, I visited the comment section and wrote, “Can’t blame him. There’s a reason they’re exes. I can’t stand my husband’s ex wife, either… actually, that is a massive understatement.”

I knew the reaction to my comment was probably going to be negative. I did immediately get one angry emoji. That person apparently blocked me, too. Oh fucking well.

But then I got this comment from some guy named Steve, who wrote… “but if your husband has kids with her, please encourage and support him in being civil for the sake of the children. Being a stepparent that appears against the children’s mother is going to make everything, including your relationship with the kids, much more difficult and stressful for everyone.”

Oh please. This tired screed again? So I responded to the guy, more aggressively than maybe I should have. I won’t lie. I found his comment pretty offensive and presumptuous. I mean, I guess one could assume that I’m the problem because I flat out stated that I can’t stand my husband’s ex. Not knowing anything about me, maybe I would make a similar assumption. It’s a human thing to do. Still, I just felt this overwhelming urge to speak up for people in my situation. It’s really tiresome when people glibly make suggestions like the one Steve made to me. Why would Steve or anyone else assume that someone who comes second or later is going to automatically be the problem when it comes to fostering relationships between divorced parents and their children? Why would he assume that I can’t stand the ex simply because she’s the ex?

There really is a reason why people become exes… and I don’t blame the letter writer for not liking the forced family photos. Those forced family photos are not a reflection of reality, and the ex husband’s insistence on taking them may, indeed, be due to his control issues. Not knowing the people involved, I can only assume they know each other and the situation better than any reader ever could. And while Lori Gottlieb does write that oftentimes, when she speaks to couples, she finds that both parties are equally to blame for problems in a relationship, there are also a lot of situations in which one partner really is a control freak or a narcissistic abuser. The ex insisting on something like taking family photos may seem very minor, in the grand scheme of things, but that might be part of a much larger issue that led to the couple’s split. In any case, I think the fiancee should have the right to veto the photos if she wants to, and no one should judge her for that. The letter writer should be supportive and understanding, no matter what his fiancee chooses to do.

I also agree that divorced couples with children should do their best to work together whenever possible. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging people to be civilized and occasionally “take one for the team”. But when people split up, they should not be expected to promote a false “happy family” image for the child’s sake. If they can do so realistically, that’s one thing. But it sounds like in the letter writer’s situation, at least two of the adults aren’t comfortable with promoting the charade. Their opinions should be respected, too.

Perhaps against my better judgement, I ended up explaining some of my situation to Steve. I’ll admit, my responses were pretty angry– remember, I’m currently lonely, stressed out, and at that point, had been drinking wine. Steve’s off the cuff “advice” had made me angry, because it’s the kind of useless shit I’ve been hearing for years. I’m tired of people assuming I’m the problem, simply because I’m not the mom and I happened to come second. I would have been delighted to have worked with my husband’s ex wife, if she had been similarly willing to cooperate. Unfortunately, that was not how the situation was when the girls were minors. She’s still spinning tales, and taking advantage of anyone who allows her to, and apparently, getting away with it… although younger daughter, at least, has figured her out and doesn’t want her near her children.

When I responded to Steve, I was thinking of the letter writer, as well as all of the other people I know who are in this very same boat. I know my personal story is probably kind of extraordinary. Most people’s exes aren’t as horrifying as Bill’s ex wife is. Most people are in a position to be able to enforce visitation rights, at the very least. Or their exes realize that by denying their children access to their natural parent (as long as there isn’t a damned good reason for them NOT to be), they are hurting the children. On the other hand, I do know some people who are dealing with truly awful, manipulative, controlling, abusive exes… and the people– especially the women– who subsequently get involved with them often end up being labeled as “wicked”, “homewrecker”, or “obstructive”, or they have to endure rude assumptions and questions like “Are you the reason they got divorced?”

Steve and I went back and forth a few times. He turned out to be a pretty okay guy, and I even ended up thanking him, because in the end, he was ultimately understanding and kind. And now that I’m reading my responses to him, sans wine, I realize that I was a bit triggered and, perhaps, more hostile than I should have been. The truth is, things are pretty stressful right now. Bill is on an extended TDY, so I don’t have anyone to talk to, other than online. This isn’t the first time I’ve spent weeks alone, but doing this routine during a pandemic, in a foreign country, and after having been “locked down” for months, is very trying.

I do know things could be worse. Bill is not in a war zone with a narcissist; he isn’t regularly fighting with his ex wife; we are both healthy; and we have plenty of money to pay our bills. I know there are many people out there who would laugh at me and tell me to get over myself. But even though I know things aren’t really that bad and have historically been worse, that doesn’t change the fact that the other day, it was like I’d run into a perfect storm of triggers that got me pretty wound up. The truth is, I kind of exploded… then imploded.

I ended up going to bed early on Tuesday, after a tense and very brief– and incoherent– chat with Bill. We had a much better chat last night and I apologized for the state I was in on Tuesday. He was understanding, as usual, reminding me that this is a “stressful time”. And it is… the boredom, loneliness, and hopelessness of the past fourteen months have taken their toll. It doesn’t help that my husband, who is half vaccinated, is on yet another business trip lasting weeks. I feel like we’re separated. There is a light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, though. In a few weeks, we’ll both be fully vaccinated, and it looks like the TDYs from hell may be over for awhile. And maybe we can do something enjoyable and spend some money on a trip somewhere. Hope springs eternal.

Anyway… I know I should avoid comment sections for the sake of my blood pressure and mental health. But, if I didn’t read comments, I probably wouldn’t have enough material to blog every day. Other people’s reactions and perceptions can make for fertile content mining. I also know that there are people out there who were glad I spoke up about that fake “one big happy family” falsehood. For a lot of us in these step relationships, that just isn’t reality… and I don’t think we do good when we try to present it that way.

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domestic violence, psychology, religion

“Grooming” your wife…

A few days ago, a friend of mine shared a blog post with me. He shared it because he knows I am fascinated by fundies– particularly of the Christian type. The post, which I have now seen passed around on Facebook on Duggar Family News and now on YouTube, has a lot of people in a tizzy. Here’s a video done by Jimmy Snow (aka Mr. Atheist) about this very blog post.

Jimmy Snow talks about a blog post entitled 7 Steps to Grooming Your Young Christian Wife.

Jimmy is clearly shocked by the contents of the blog post, which was written by a guy who thinks he ought to be treating his wife like a child. The article, as well as the comments, even includes references to spanking the wife for disciplinary transgressions. For example, the author of this piece includes an example of a man named “Robert” who is 24 years old. His wife is 18. He wants to be in charge of her, but she won’t get with the program. He’s asked the blogger for advice in getting his wife to accept her supposedly “Biblical” role as submissive to her husband’s leadership.

What follows is a list of seven steps to indoctrinate young women into being “godly”, submissive, disciplined wives. And he does specify that she must be young. Prerequisite #3 is exactly that. See below.

And why is this? I think I know…

As Jimmy points out in his video, people under age 25 tend to still be in “development”. It’s a fact that most human brains aren’t fully developed until people hit their early 20s. A person’s judgment is still forming when they are in their late teen years. They are physically mature, but mentally and emotionally, they’re still a work in progress. Which isn’t to say that a person can’t be “progressing” emotionally and mentally beyond their early years. It’s just that a lot more of it is going on during the time in which a person is maturing. The author of the “Biblical Gender Roles” blog correctly points out that a woman in her 30s or 40s is a lot less likely to accept that her husband must be in charge. I would add that even though young women might accept this condition of marriage, some of them will eventually reject it when they get older and are more mature.

So then, after listing three prerequisites, the blog author continues with his seven steps to “groom” a Christian wife. As he delves into this post, he even points out how creepy the word “grooming” is to many people, and he specifically calls out “secular humanists”.

Many of us cringe when we hear the word “groom”, when it’s not pertaining to personal hygiene or cleaning up an animal.

But then the blogger goes on to explain why “grooming” is okay when it’s your “Christian” wife. Then he goes on to write about why spanking wives is okay.

I probably have a controversial opinion about so-called “domestic discipline” in that I don’t always consider it abuse. If the people involved are consenting adults and they have truly consented to living that lifestyle, knowing the potential risks that could befall them in surrendering their personal power to, or accepting total responsibility for, another person, then I don’t figure that it’s any of my business what they do at home. If they don’t consider it abusive that their husband is head of the household, who am I to tell them they’re wrong, even if I disagree?

What I find especially interesting is that so many people are quick to call spanking one’s adult wife “domestic abuse”, but they have no problems with spanking children. Even if a wife is being abused by her husband’s spankings, she is always in a better position to seek help than a child is. And yet, many people don’t have an issue with spanking children, and a lot of folks even think that if we spanked children as often as we did back in the day, there would be fewer social problems.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I am not a proponent of spanking children in most situations. I see it as a last ditch thing that should only be used when every other measure fails, and even then, it probably shouldn’t be used. My father spanked me a lot when I was a child. It was pretty much the only method he used to discipline me, besides yelling at me (also not very effective, although often employed by frustrated parents). He’s been dead for six years, and I’m still angry with him about some of the things he did in the name of teaching me wrong from right. In my case, the spankings were usually abusive. They were always terrifying because he was almost always enraged when they happened.

Although I don’t remember being spanked once I got into true adolescence, I do remember that my dad was fine with hitting and slapping me until I was about 21 years old. The last time he did so, I told him that I would have him arrested if he ever laid a finger on me in anger again. It took considerable courage to tell him that, especially since I still relied on him at that point in my life. But it was a groundbreaking day for me. I decided on that day that anyone who hits me without my consent had better kill me. Children have no say over what an adult does to discipline them, and they are mostly unable to ask for help out of an abusive situation the way an adult can. Adults are usually bigger and stronger than children are. Women are also often smaller and weaker than men are, although there are certainly exceptions.

It always surprises me when I see people like Jimmy Snow flatly condemning domestic discipline as “abuse”, but so many other people are perfectly fine with physically punishing children. If you do a little sleuthing on the Internet, you’ll find that there’s a large population of people out there who are a little bit kinky and they enjoy exchanging power with others. As long as it’s safe, sane, and consensual, they don’t see it as abusive, even if other people think it’s “sick”. Some of those people also align these practices with Christianity. Again… not my cup of tea, but the brain is a fascinating and powerful thing. Some people, like it or not, get off on it.

A person who is legally able to get married can consent to “domestic discipline”. I may not agree with his or her decision to allow a spouse to discipline them with spankings or other punishments, but it’s not my place to tell them they can’t or shouldn’t. Ultimately, it is their decision. What’s sad about these fundie Christian marriages, though, is that a lot of the people who are in them don’t know another way. They have not been exposed to life beyond the religion they were born into, and a lot of them have not been taught critical thinking skills– hence the blogger’s comment that “grooming” a wife to be a disciplined Christian helpmeet is not going to work unless she’s young, and from a very sheltered upbringing. If she’s been exposed to another way, she probably won’t accept it.

In any case– I’m not sure that what the author of the Biblical Gender Roles blog is proposing is really the same thing as two consenting adults entering into a “domestic discipline” relationship. It sounds to me like his advice to “Robert” and his ilk is to “manipulate” their young wives. That practice, probably IS abusive, because it’s done in a deceptive, underhanded way. The very fact that the women have to be “young” and therefore naive and tractable, is kind of sick and creepy. These men simply want to marry children who have reached legal adulthood and will do what they say without question. That’s abusive.

In a weird way, because they have been on TV, I think the Duggar women might have escaped worse fates than they would have otherwise. If they kept being raised in an isolated community, with no exposure to “normal” people and worldly ideas, the daughters, especially, might have wound up being stuck in marriages in which they are treated like children and expected to obey their husbands without question. I think that being exposed to the world because they’ve been on TV has made them a little less subjugated than they could have been.

Look at some of the choices the Duggar daughters have made since they’ve been married. Jill Dillard wears pants and has a nose piercing, and she’s been photographed wearing what most women would consider modest swimwear but, for her, is probably scandalous. Jinger Vuolo moved to Los Angeles, where she wears pants and has had her hair cut. She’s only had one child so far, although she’s pregnant with her second. Her husband doesn’t take orders from JimBob Duggar, nor does Jill’s husband, Derick. Jessa Seewald is still close to home, but she obviously has a strong personality and is not being controlled by her husband, Ben, who has a milder personality than she does. I don’t know about Joy Anna Forsyth’s situation, but her husband makes his own money flipping houses, rather than working for Boob. Had they not been on TV, God knows who they would have married, and what they’d be expected to tolerate. And it would all be behind closed doors! Since they’re famous and a lot of “normal” people are watching, there’s somewhat less secrecy and weird shit that would go unnoticed or called out. On the other hand, Michelle Duggar had a somewhat normal upbringing and she willingly submitted herself and her children, especially her daughters, to what many might consider an oppressive lifestyle.

Anyway… like a lot of people, I was kind of grossed out by the Biblical Gender Roles blog and its tips on “grooming” a Christian wife. It’s definitely not something I would be interested in, and I’m grateful that I was raised by people who would not want that for me, either. But, I must admit that it makes for interesting speculation and a temporary diversion from all of the other doom and gloom headlines that are currently circulating. And now that I’ve written today’s tome, I think I’ll take Arran for a walk and get some fresh air… then practice my guitar.

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domestic violence, Ex

The lightbulb moment…

This morning, I woke up to shocking news. First of all, several friends tagged me in a news report about The Trellis restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia. That restaurant, where I spent among the toughest 17 months of my life, has permanently closed. It opened in 1980, when my eldest sister was attending the College of William & Mary. She worked at The Trellis when it first opened– at least until she graduated from college. Then, a few years later, she joined the Peace Corps and launched a successful career that pays benefits and includes a lot of exciting travel for work.

I, by contrast, joined the Peace Corps and went away for two years, only to land at The Trellis after my return home. It was a significant time in my life, for a lot of reasons. It was also a tough time in my life that was hell to get through, but ultimately propelled me to bigger and better things.

In 2009, the original owner, Marcel Desaulniers, and his partner, John Curtis, sold the restaurant to Chef David Everett. On Tuesday, Chef Everett decided to close The Trellis. I heard the restaurant had become a very different and reportedly inferior restaurant than it was when Marcel was running it, so it’s probably for the best that he finally closed it. Plans are to turn it into an Italian eatery, which will open next month. I read in an article that the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which owns the building the restaurant is in (before it was a restaurant, it was a drug store, for all you trivia buffs), had wanted an Italian restaurant for some time. The emphasis will be on less expensive, high quality food, and more of a family atmosphere. I also read that the restaurant will now have fewer seats and one side of it will be turned into retail space.

A lot of my friends knew I’d worked at The Trellis, so several of them tagged me in news articles they posted on Facebook, but I had already been discussing the restaurant with other former workers a couple of days before the news broke publicly. I’m actually surprised it took so long to close The Trellis and turn it into something else. Marcel had turned that place into an institution (some would say a “mental institution”). He’s a famous chef who’s written a lot of books and hosted cooking shows for years. Why Chef Everett thought he could fill Marcel’s shoes, I’ll never know. Not to say Chef Everett isn’t a good chef, but he’s not Marcel. The Trellis was Marcel’s baby. I think Chef Everett should have changed the restaurant from the beginning.

Then, I read about how the United States is going to shut down travel from Schengen Zone countries in Europe starting tomorrow. Trump, in all his dumbassery, is making his usual stupid decisions and comments, as usual. Coronavirus isn’t a joke, of course. I don’t necessarily believe that it’s wrong to shut down travel to prevent its spread, although I don’t understand why it’s okay for Brits to come to the USA (Coronavirus is in Britain), yet not other Europeans. I did read that it was because Britain is an island and supposedly stricter about its borders. But I still think Trump is a bumbling idiot, and I’m kind of hoping his fuckery regarding handling the virus will be his downfall… much like our investments have downfallen lately. I’d like to drop kick the orange turd out of my life, once and for all.

And finally, there was a revelation this morning. Bill got an email from his daughter, responding to a note that Bill had sent, thanking her for seeing him and letting her know he’d made it back to Germany (thank God his conference ended last week instead of this week). Younger daughter, once again proving that she’s Bill’s daughter, sent him a link to an article she thought would help him. It was an article on domestic violence, specifically about when an abuser leaves the victim, rather than the other way around. Sometimes, in domestic violence situations, the abuser chooses to split from the victim, and that’s ultimately what happened in Bill’s case, although I don’t think it was Ex’s intention. Younger daughter had somehow figured out on her own that Bill is a victim of domestic violence perpetrated by her mother.

Bill told his daughter about what happened when he and his ex wife had decided to divorce. They were visiting Bill’s dad’s house for Easter. They had the kids with them. Bill’s dad and stepmom took the kids out for ice cream, while Bill and Ex stayed behind to “talk”. Ex accused Bill of being a violent pervert who hates women. She demanded that he go into “counseling” with his LDS bishop in Kansas– that was where Bill was living at the time, since he’d rejoined the Army. Ex was living in Arkansas with the kids and her boyfriend, now husband, who was shacked up in Bill’s house. Ex said that if Bill refused to acquiesce to her demands, they would get divorced.

Bill asked, “Don’t you think I’m a good husband and father?”

And Ex said coldly, “Maybe you would be to another family.”

In a moment of clarity, Bill realized that Ex’s demands and accusations were preposterous. He isn’t an abusive person, nor is he a pervert. And he also knew that even if he complied with Ex’s demands, there would later be other demands that he may not be able to meet, nor should he have to. He’s a good person, and shouldn’t have been expected to change who he is and admit to things he didn’t do simply because his ex wife demanded it.

Bill hadn’t wanted to get a divorce, mainly because he worried about the children. His own parents had divorced, and he went through a lot of pain because of it. No, he didn’t love Ex, but he did love the children, and it devastated him to think that he’d have to be separated from them. But he also knew that for his own sanity, he needed to agree to the split. So he started crying, then said “Okay. What do we have to do?”

Ex was not prepared for that. She’d only meant to threaten Bill, not actually start divorce proceedings. This was intended to be an act of taking control and humiliating Bill. But, because she’s stubborn, shortsighted, and stupid, she simply went into the guest room and cried for hours. Then, on Easter morning, she came out of the room. Bill took her hand and held it as they drove to the notary that Ex had found. There they stood, on a major religious holiday, signing paperwork in front of an older couple who consoled them on the death of their marriage. They set the wheels in motion for the divorce on Easter. I’ve always thought of that action as a very powerful symbol… it was like Bill resurrected his life, even though in the short term, he went through a lot of agony.

The children were somehow oblivious to this drama that was going on at the time. Younger daughter was surprised when Bill told her the story last weekend. She said, “Wow, that must have been humiliating.” When Bill told me that, I realized that she really does get it.

A few years later after the divorce showdown at his father’s house, Bill and I were newlyweds. One day in 2003, we were driving back to Virginia from Tennessee, having visited Bill’s dad and stepmom. Bill was talking about other yucky stuff that had happened in his first marriage.

Suddenly, a lightbulb went on in my head as I listened to Bill’s words. I said, “Bill, I think you’re a victim of domestic violence.”

I remember the look of shock on Bill’s face when he said, “Was I abused?”

Relying on my recently acquired master’s degree in social work and a bit of common sense, I said, “Yes, you were. If you were a woman, there would be no question that you’re a victim of domestic violence.”

He started crying. But ultimately, he realized I was right. He hadn’t realized that he’d lived through domestic violence because, like a lot of people, he’d falsely believed that men can’t be victims of abuse perpetrated by women. But, in fact, he had all of the symptoms, and he went through the same type of stuff many abused women go through, including sexual abuse.

For years, I’ve encouraged Bill to see a third party– a qualified counselor– to discuss these issues. I am not a substitute for a therapist, and even if I were qualified, it wouldn’t be ethical for me to counsel him because I’m his wife, and not objective. When Bill was in the Army, it was dangerous to his career for him to seek counseling, mainly because the military is dangerously shortsighted about mental health issues among the troops. Although things are better than they once were– like, servicemembers are no longer assumed to be dangerous if they need psychological help– it’s still very risky to get counseling if one has a security clearance. It may be the case for civilians, too. But even younger daughter suggested therapy for Bill… and for herself, as well.

I am, yet again, dumbfounded by how insightful and kind younger daughter is. She’s as concerned about Bill’s healing as she is about her own. It’s too bad that they lost fifteen years to Ex’s poison, but I feel pretty confident that their relationship is going to heal. I never thought things would turn out this way, but it really is gratifying to see it. It’s like a miracle.

Here’s a link to an article about domestic violence against men, though it’s not the one younger daughter sent (I couldn’t find it). In the spirit of Bill’s daughter’s actions, I’m sharing it in case someone out there reads this and also needs a resource that will help them heal.

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domestic violence

Yes, your husband IS raping you…

Sometimes, my inspirations for blog posts come on very suddenly. I didn’t intend, for instance, to write yet another post about Christians and their sex “tips” today. I was actually thinking about writing about Cobra Kai, the awesome YouTube web series that was just added to iTunes. It’s based on The Karate Kid, which I saw in the movie theater when I was 12 years old. Most kids of the 1980s saw that film and I am LOVING the snarky reboot. It would have been more fun to write about Cobra Kai than marital rape. However, when my mind and fingers itch to write about something, I have to indulge. It gets me into trouble sometimes.

Anyway, this morning’s post is inspired by a four year old blog post that was shared in the Life is Not All Pickles and Hairspray Group. The blog post is entitled “Is my husband raping me?” It appears on a blog called Biblical Gender Roles, written by a man who graduated from a Protestant Christian high school, has “some college” and technical skills, and filled in for his pastor when he was in his first marriage. He claims that while he doesn’t have formal theological training, he has a “love for God’s word” and “a gift for teaching”. He writes that he and his first wife had five children together and divorced after “she committed adultery”. He has remarried and shares custody of his children with his ex wife. He and his second wife attend a Baptist church.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably already know I am not a very religious person, even though I was raised Christian. I don’t make it a habit to read the Bible, attend church services, or even read blogs about Christianity. I am more interested in reading about wacky beliefs than I am trying to be religious myself. However, I do consider myself spiritual and there are some aspects of religion that I enjoy. I mostly like the music… and sometimes, if I happen to hear a particularly talented pastor who is a gifted orator and doesn’t say stupid or blatantly offensive things, I might even enjoy a church service now and then.

I don’t pretend to know all there is to know about Christianity or the Bible, although I do know that people interpret scripture in various ways. The blog I referenced is obviously penned by someone who has very definite ideas about what Christianity is, and how the Bible is supposed to be interpreted. This person also seems to think that one must adhere to the Bible at all costs, even though the Bible is full of contradictions, and some of what is written within it doesn’t have relevance today.

A poster left an anonymous comment on an earlier post on Biblical Gender Roles entitled “Is a husband selfish for having sex with his wife when she is not in the mood?” She wrote that she’d been married for nine years. She’s a Christian, but he’s not. When she was pregnant with their first child, she told him that sometimes sex was uncomfortable for her, but she’d do her best to “do her wifely duty”. She stated that after they had that conversation it “all went downhill” and her husband showed a complete lack of concern for her feelings regarding sex.

She wrote that she felt like “his whore”, and that even if she was trying to read a book, her husband would have sex with her. It didn’t matter if she was in pain, feeling sick, tired, or simply uninterested. It did not concern him if she was crying. He’d tell her he’d “be quick”. She writes that she now feels disgust toward him. She hates it when he touches her; it makes her feel sick to her stomach. She doesn’t feel loved, especially when he asks, “What is your problem?” She also wrote that she’d try to deal with the constant requests for sex by drinking alcohol. Her husband would actually encourage her to drink so he could have sex with her without any complaints. When she wanted to see a counselor about their problems, her husband came up with reasons why they shouldn’t get counseling.

Her anonymous post, which was “cleaned up” of spelling and grammatical errors for the follow up post, was full of questions for the blogger. But the most important question was, “Is my husband raping me?” The short answer the blogger provided to this poor woman is that, no, she wasn’t being “raped” by her husband. The blogger explained that according to the Bible, marital rape is “impossible”. The blogger instead conceded that the woman might be “abused”, but as a wife, she can’t be raped. At least not according to the Bible. The blogger then went on to explain that the wife was partly at fault for having a bad attitude. And then, the blogger put it on the wife to try to “lead her husband to Christ” by being a better example of a “Godly” woman.

I was pretty flabbergasted and sickened by this post. I shared it with Bill, who was also horrified by it. Bill has studied the Bible a lot more than I have and I think he respects it more than I do. Both of us were revolted by and appalled at the so-called biblical answer to this poor woman’s question. I can’t imagine why any person would want to have sex with someone who’s in pain and crying. In fact, no decent person would want to do that.

What is rape? Simply put, rape is any act of non-consensual sexual penetration. The unwanted sexual contact does not have to be violent to be considered rape. All that needs to happen is that the victim said “no”. While the blogger on Biblical Gender Roles added a couple of Bible verses to support his idea that there is no such thing as “marital rape”, the laws of most civilized countries would beg to differ that marital rape doesn’t exist. Marital rape is sexual assault and domestic violence. It’s against the law in many countries, including the United States. However, marital rape has not been illegal for a very long time. It wasn’t until the 1970s and 80s that societies started to define rape within a marriage as “legitimate” and worthy of prosecution.

I’ve read enough about devout Christians to know that many of them don’t appreciate feminists or feminism. It was the feminists who pushed forth the idea that a married person could be raped by a spouse. Before the feminists emerged into modern culture, wives were considered not much better than their husband’s property. That attitude continues in some Christian circles today, hence comments by people like Michelle Duggar, who claim that wives should always be “joyfully available” to their husbands, regardless of how they’re feeling. When her daughter, Jill, was getting married, Mrs. Duggar famously said:

“And so be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you,’ no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels. ‘I’m still here for you and I’m going to meet that need because I know it’s a need for you.’ ”

According to Mrs. Duggar and her ilk, it should not matter if a woman is hugely pregnant, feeling really hot or sick, or simply too tired for sex. She’s expected to just get on her back and spread ’em. Sorry to put it that way, but that’s how it comes across to me. There’s nothing pleasant, loving, or genteel about it. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a particularly Christian attitude, either. Christ encouraged kindness, compassion, and empathy. Or, at least that was what I learned when I went to church regularly for so many years.

I’m sure Anna Duggar was “joyfully available” to Josh Duggar whenever he wanted to have sex. She’s currently pregnant with their sixth child and she’s only about 30 years old. And yet, despite obviously being willing and able to do her “wifely duty”, Josh still cheated on her and was caught red-handed with an Ashley Madison account. So even if the commenter feels that being a good Christian woman means being always available to her husband, it’s doubtful it would matter to him. Josh Duggar was held up as a model Christian for a few years– until the truth came out about what a scumbag he really is.

The anonymous poster is not even married to a Christian, so any rules coming from the Bible don’t really apply to him. He doesn’t even pretend to care about how she feels, and in fact, it sounds like he uses her Christianity as an excuse to force her to have sex with him. She makes it clear that he’s not interested in anything more than satisfying his own selfish desires. Even when he initiates sex by making overtures that she used to enjoy, she now feels disgusted and sickened by him. She doesn’t make it a secret to him that she finds him repugnant. He has sex with her anyway. That’s not Godly behavior, although in fairness, the commenter did write that her husband isn’t a Christian, so I wouldn’t expect him to try to be “Godly”.

It’s obvious to me that the commenter is/was in a terrible marriage and, first and foremost, should get a divorce– especially since her husband wasn’t interested in getting counseling. I understand that many Christians would not see it this way. However, since the commenter is a Christian and her husband isn’t, and apparently has no desire to be, I think she’d be within her rights to get out of the marriage. I also think she’d be within her rights to press charges against her husband the next time he touches her sexually without her consent. No one has the right to force another person into sexual intercourse, regardless of whether or not they’ve signed a marital agreement. When someone makes it clear that he or she doesn’t want to have sex, they have not given consent. Sexual intercourse without consent is rape. It doesn’t matter if they’re married.

I think it’s disgusting that so-called Bible experts are promoting the idea that married women are to be used as sex toys by their husbands, whenever their husbands feel the urge and regardless of how their wives feel about it. However, I was glad to read the blogger’s concession that the anonymous poster was being abused and that it wasn’t wrong to ask for a “delay” in sex. But then he followed up with blaming the poster for having a “bad attitude”, being selfish regarding her husband’s “needs”, and for “not leading her husband to Christ” by setting the right example. Someone in the Duggar group wrote that the Biblical Gender Roles site is a “trolling site”, but if it is, I’d be surprised. I see a lot of people have left positive comments for this male blogger who doesn’t believe in “marital rape”. Granted, he writes that he often doesn’t publish negative comments, so there’s no telling how many people have written to him telling him how full of shit he is.

Yes, married people, male or female, can be raped.

Anyway… he obviously never watched The Burning Bed, an excellent 1984 TV film that effectively illustrated why marital rape and domestic violence are real things. Shame on that blogger for not pulling his head out of his ass and writing something that is actually helpful. I truly hope the commenter was able to get out of that situation and is happier today.

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