first world problems, healthcare, sex, slut shamers, social media

Repost: I could jump on the FYI bandwagon tonight…

Here’s a repost of my reaction to Kim Hall’s viral blog post about braless teenaged girls in towels or pajamas. I’m sharing it to go with today’s partial repost. It was written for my original blog on September 5, 2013, when I was living in Texas. I’m mostly leaving it “as/is”. I think it’s a pretty good post.

Yesterday, my Facebook feed was positively littered with links to a certain blog post written by a Texas mother of four who wrote an open letter to all the slutty girls out there not wearing bras and taking selfies before they go to bed.  I could link to that post, but I don’t see the point of doing that.  It’s all over the Internet.

To be honest, I’m of a mixed mind about this woman’s post.  I am generally not a fan of people taking slutty looking selfies.  If they are teenaged girls, I figure it’s because they are caving to some kind of external message that they need to be “sexy” in order to be desirable.  I think that’s sad, but I sort of understand it.  Growing up is hard.  Still, if I were a mother, that would not be something I’d want to encourage.  On the other hand, I don’t think “slut shaming” is good, either.  I think it’s best to encourage common sense. 

Of course “Mrs. Hall” immediately made her post the subject of scorn when she included photos of her handsome sons in their bathing suits at the beach.  Her daughter was wearing a modest one piece tank suit and it looked like they were just having clean family fun.  But if you’re going to be complaining about “scantily clad teenaged girls” who might give your sons boners, you ought not post photos of your boys dressed in a similarly scantily clad fashion.  Yes, I know that on the beach, it’s perfectly acceptable to be wearing a bathing suit, while most people don’t think of pajamas or nighties as clothes you’d see in public.  But the fact is, we still see a lot of skin on those boys… and if your point is that girls need to cover up, you’d best take care with your own photos.

Apparently, Mrs. Hall then thought better of it and posted another version of her post with photos of the kids covered up.  But the damage had already been done and lots of folks began posting rebuttals.  These days, America is pretty polarized when it comes to morality.  We have a lot of really religious folks out there who are trying to take back the country, as it were, and at least by my observations, seem to be taking things to extremes.  We also have a lot of folks who are proudly atheist and are also taking things to extremes.  The people in these two groups may not be as many strong as those of us in between, but they are very loud, and some of them are very articulate.  Consequently, the Internet becomes inundated with viral posts that both speak to and repel people who identify with these two groups.

I have friends on both sides of the spectrum, so I’ve seen the FYI post for girls a number of times already.  I have also seen rebuttals and parodies.  I found the initial blog post hypocritical, smug, and ill-conceived… but I also understood where the mom was coming from, even if she came off as quite sanctimonious. 

You know, the one thing that I really came away with is that I’m sort of glad I didn’t have kids.  I wanted them, but raising kids is so complicated.  Even without the FYI blog post, there was an article about how overweight kids are having “fat letters” sent home.  Childhood obesity is no doubt a big problem, but shaming people is rarely the way to get them to reform.  And there are just so many reasons why people get fat.  Could be a simple issue of too many calories, not enough exercise.  Could be because the kid is lonely and eats to soothe emotional pain.  Could be because the kid is being bullied or abused by other kids, their parents, or someone else. 

I just don’t see how sending home a letter about the kid’s BMI is the school’s role.  Unless the school’s staff is going to help the parents do something about the problem, I don’t see why they are more qualified to “diagnose” obesity more than a medical professional is.  Medical professionals also have the added ability to determine how obesity is affecting the children in question.  Moreover, kids whose parents don’t care aren’t likely to care if they get a letter, though the kid probably will. 

Of course, if the school sent home a letter about my BMI, my parents would have been embarrassed and would have taken it out on me.  I remember being in 9th grade and weighing about 115 pounds.  I was weighed in front of everyone and the coach made some comment about how I must have had a big lunch.  I was humiliated, even though now I realize that I was nowhere near fat at that point of my life.  I would love to be that weight today.  Maybe after I’ve been dead a few months…

I got a lot of “fat shaming” from my parents even when I wasn’t overweight and struggled with fucked up eating habits for years.  I’ve reached a point at which I don’t care as much as I used to, but the memories still hurt… and probably had a lot to do with why I was so old when I finally had a real relationship with a man.  Fortunately for me, he turned out to be a great guy who treats me like gold.  It could have easily gone the other way, though.

Anyway, I guess the point of this post is that there are an awful lot of people self-righteously sticking their noses where they don’t belong.  Mrs. Hall’s open letter may have resonated with a lot of people, but she probably should have addressed boys and girls, not just girls.  And she should have practiced her own counsel.  And the fat shaming asshats are not doing anything but making childhood more miserable with their letters home.  Adolescents are vulnerable, especially when it comes to matters pertaining to their self image.  Eating disorders are serious problems that can wreak havoc on those who  have them and those who love them.  

Childhood obesity is a problem.  Teen sex, especially when it leads to consequences like pregnancy or diseases, is a problem.  Something does need to be done about these issues.  I just don’t think shaming is the way to go about it.  Growing up is tough enough. 

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condescending twatbags, language, modern problems

“Using that word to describe the woman in this article says a lot about you… and none of it is good.”

Last night, I read a post on God’s Facebook page that is very timely, as kids all across America head back to school. The article was derived from a lively Reddit thread, where poster BlueCarrot002 asked if she was the “asshole” for getting personalized stationery for her daughter.

I must admit, as a childless child of the 70s and 80s, this trend of parents being asked to buy extra supplies for classrooms is a strange idea to me. In my day, everybody brought their own supplies to school. And parents would put their child’s name on their stuff, so it wouldn’t get “borrowed” or redistributed. I’m sure it sucked back then for kids whose parents didn’t have a lot of money. But, if you think about it, we all knew whose parents had money, and whose didn’t. Hell, I used to be jealous of my classmates whose parents bought them Trapper Keepers for every subject, while I had cheap plastic binders with shitty plastic rings. Or they had those cool erasable pens, while I had some cheesy ballpoint pen my dad got from some business. My mom wasn’t one to pander to my desires for fancy school supplies, and we would usually shop for that stuff at AAFES. And AAFES, at least in the 80s, was not a high end store.

This was THE status symbol, when I was in the 4th grade.

Unfortunately, life isn’t fair. Some kids are more athletic than others are. Some are more attractive or musically talented or funny. Some kids are academic geniuses. And some have parents who have money, and can buy them pencils with dinosaurs on them, personalized stationery, or lefty scissors. Or they have parents who are willing to deal with the child’s sensory issues by getting them notebooks with plastic spirals instead of metal ones. Some people prefer to write with certain types of pens and pencils. If that helps them succeed in doing their work, what’s the big deal? Part of growing up is learning to accept that life isn’t fair, and doing the best you can with what you have.

I don’t remember this ad, but we liked our Paper Mates, too.

I can understand the reasons teachers might have for asking parents to contribute supplies. I also understand why they would want the parents to get things that are generic. However, based on God’s article, it doesn’t sound like the teacher specified that the supplies should be the cheapest available. She was likely fine with genuine Crayola crayons over the generic ones that are found at the Dollar Tree. It sounds like the mom in this instance simply wanted to provide the best available supplies for her child. I don’t blame her for that.

What really got my hackles up, though, was the fact that the teacher sent home what the Redditor describes as a “very passive aggressive note” inviting her to come in for a “talking to” with the teacher. Now, it could be that the teacher’s note wasn’t actually passive aggressive. Maybe it was a friendly note. But since the actual note isn’t provided to Redditors, I will just assume the mom’s assessment of the note’s tone is correct.

I don’t blame the mom for refusing the teacher’s request. I would do the same thing.

Generally speaking, I am very pro-teacher. I think they are underpaid and disrespected. I know they have a tough job, and they literally put their lives on the line working in education these days. I still think it would grind my gears to have a teacher dictate to me that I must buy extra supplies for the classroom, to cover the kids who don’t have what they need, and then tell me that I can’t provide the school supplies that work best for my own child. And I would not take kindly to a “request” to come in for a discussion about my kid’s perfectly good school supplies, especially after I contributed the “generic” extra supplies that were requested. In fact, I would probably end up complaining to a higher power. My response to the teacher’s “request” (which sounds more like a demand) would likely be a resounding “NO.” However… It does seem strange to me that the mom would buy “personalized stationery”. In my day, we all just used college ruled loose leaf paper.

No more chalkboards!

Most of the people on God’s page were all about the mom providing personalized supplies for her child. I see on Reddit, the commenters are offering good reasons why the policy of redistributing supplies is potentially traumatic, as well as unfair. One person wrote about how they were going through tough financial straits and sent their child with used supplies from their older siblings. The teacher sent the used supplies back, explaining that they weren’t appropriate. Why not? The used supplies work as well as brand new ones do. And then the poor kid was humiliated in front of their peers.

Others wrote about how they were asked to buy tons of supplies every year that never got used, or were items that should last for years, like scissors, protractors, rulers and compasses. Specifically, one poster wrote “those things will last for years, if you take care of them.” Exactly… and part of the experience of being in school should be teaching children to take care of their things, and maintain possession of their own stuff. So yeah, if I were the mom in this scenario, I would be raising some hell.

A pretty good representation of what it was like for us in the 80s.

I read some of the Facebook comments… and then I had to stop. I must be turning into an old lady now, because one comment literally made me cringe. A man from Minnesota (I checked to make sure he wasn’t a Brit or living in Britain), wrote something along the lines of, “That woman is just a cunt. She just wants to show off how much money she has. Fuck her!”

Wow. I’m not sure what prompted this guy– name of Ryan– to leave such a misogynistic and completely inappropriate response to that article. However, against my better judgment, I felt compelled to respond to him with what I think is a gentle rebuke.

I wrote, “Ryan, using that word to describe the woman in this article says a lot about you… and none of it is good.”

I fully expected Ryan to come back and call ME a cunt. Usually, that type of person has no qualms about spewing their nastiness on anyone in the strike zone. I did pause before I commented, because I don’t want to be called a cunt. Especially after I’ve had a beer or two, as was the case last night. But then I realized that I can always block Ryan if he lobs verbal abuse at me. Lately, I’ve been blocking people I haven’t even engaged with, simply because I can easily tell that they aren’t people with whom I wish to interact.

After I commented to Ryan, I had to sit and contemplate for a few minutes. I must be getting old. I have often stated, and I do actually believe, that all words are useful sometimes. I do think there are even some times when the word “cunt” is appropriate. However, in the United States, that’s generally a term that is saved for the end of an argument. Sure, if you’re a Brit, you might use it to describe a silly fool, or something. But that article was written for and mostly read by Americans, and to Americans, the word “cunt” is among the worst of the worst insults, especially to women. We would all be up in arms if someone casually dropped the n bomb on social media. So why is it okay for Ryan to call some mother he doesn’t know a “cunt”, simply because he has unresolved issues regarding women? I mean, I know I’m assuming, but why else would he go there so early?

Anyway… I was surprised at myself, because after I read Ryan’s comment, it turned me off of the comment page. I had to click off of it. I shared God’s post on my own page, and a few friends who are teachers chimed in. Most seemed to think the teacher’s policy of redistributing school supplies is ridiculous. I mean, I guess some teachers pass out and collect the supplies at the beginning and end of each session. I still think there’s value in teaching children that they have to keep up with their own stuff, and that labeling things, especially when you’re working in a group, is a smart policy.

Count me among those who also think that if a stranger’s behavior seems wrong or unfair, it’s better not to call them a name that connotes so much hatred for a group of people. The fact that Ryan felt perfectly fine in referring to a concerned mother as a “cunt” who is “showing off” her money, tells me that he has some serious issues with women, and probably people with money, too. It’s not a good look, as the orange turd would say.

Reading this story makes me glad I don’t have children.

Bonus video… this one is pretty funny!

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Duggars, narcissists, poor judgment, psychology, religion

Ben Seewald is currently in the dog house. History shows it’s a familiar place for him.

Well… I thought I might have a non Duggar topic for today, but all I can think about this morning is that clip I saw of Ben Seewald and Jim Bob Duggar interacting at Jill and Derick Dillard’s 2014 nuptials. And since I’ve recently been watching videos about body language, I think I’ll just go with what’s in my head this morning. In a manner of speaking, writing about Ben Seewald is kind of a change of pace. I don’t usually pick on him. I’ll try to be gentle.

A little mood music for this post. It’s inappropriate and rude, so be warned. This song is stuck in my head.

Here goes…

Yesterday, I wrote a post about how Jim Bob Duggar is facing a “difficult season”. His eldest son, Josh, is sitting in the county jail awaiting sentencing for his crimes against children. He lost his bid to run for an Arkansas Senate seat. And now, his son-in-law, Derick Dillard, who is married to his formerly beloved Jilly Muffin, is slamming him publicly on social media. Derick Dillard had some very “choice” words for his wife’s father. I shared them in yesterday’s post, but for the sake of simplicity, I will share them again in this post.

Dayum, Derick… tell us how you really feel!

The other day, I wrote another post in which I commented on The Transformed Wife’s assertions that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are “very good parents”. Now, I don’t agree with that at all, and you “regulars” probably already know why. I’ve explained many times why I think the Duggar parents are frauds and grifters. They have been using their children to bankroll their hypocritical “fundie Christian” platform for way too many years. I think a lot of their “Christian” ideals are put on for the cameras. Christianity serves as a facade for what I believe is really Jim Bob’s narcissistic mini cult. Today’s post about Ben Seewald highlights an example of what I mean.

In the post I wrote two days ago about Jim Bob’s and Michelle’s alleged “very good” parenting, I included a video of Jill’s and Derick’s wedding episode on 19 Kids and Counting. When that video originally aired, I remember being absolutely floored as I watched Jim Bob, Derick, and the rest of the male part of the wedding party getting dressed. There was a subtle incident in that episode that I think pretty much sums up Ben’s relationship with Jim Bob and, quite frankly, his wife, Jessa. The interaction I’m referring to happened very quickly. It was so fast that a lot of people probably missed it. I haven’t seen anyone else bring up this incident prior to today. But, to me, it speaks volumes…

Anyway, here’s what happened. Jim Bob and Michelle were watching everybody getting dressed for the wedding. They both spotted Ben Seewald, who was, at that point, just “courting” Jessa. Ben was wearing a black tie. Michelle Duggar was wearing an absolutely hideous silver dress that I think makes her look like a fish. Not surprisingly, Michelle bragged about getting that dress from the clearance rack. It’s obvious to me why that dress was on clearance. Michelle then commented that Ben needed to iron his necktie. The tie, which appeared to be cheap and made of polyester, was a bit rumpled. Jim Bob agreed with Michelle…

I remember trying to find video of the above incident some time ago. I knew it was in Jill’s and Derick’s wedding episode, but I kept missing it. It’s very easy to overlook this interaction, since it lasts just a few seconds. However, given what has happened to this family since 2014, I think this incident is quite profound. Below is a YouTube video of the wedding episode. You can see this ridiculous and cringeworthy interaction for yourself at around the 41-42 minute mark.

Fun times.

Now… the other day, I briefly mentioned this “necktie” incident, but that was before Derick wrote his Facebook post slamming Jim Bob for being a verbally abusive and manipulative liar, and a complete hypocrite. After Derick posted his strongly worded comments that directly called out Jim Bob, Ben came back with this rather “bitchy” and passive aggressive rebuke that sort of indirectly calls out Derick for being “rude”. He claims being “rude” is being “weak”. I don’t know how Ben finds the nerve to call Derick “weak”, when he can’t even address him by name and has to hide behind the Bible… and he literally lets their father-in-law lead him around like a dog while they’re on camera!

Um… don’t you think Derick has the right to be rude to Jim Bob, given what happened to his WIFE, Ben? Where are your balls? In Jim Bob’s dog house? Or in Jessa’s purse?

I don’t usually pick on Ben too much, although I remember thinking, when he and Jessa started “courting”, that Jessa could do better. He seemed so young, immature, and, frankly, kind of wimpy. I thought Jessa would go for someone a little more assertive. But hell, I don’t know Jessa or what turns her on. I have noticed that she tends to be snarkier than a lot of her sisters. It seems pretty clear to me that in spite of Ben’s alleged biblically “superior” gender and his supposed role as “protector” and headship, Jessa is the one who rules the roost. And you know, that’s fine, if that’s how it works best for them as a couple. But I do think that Ben made a fool of himself with the above post. He clearly lacks a spine and perspective.

Remember this, Ben? (and Jim Bob)

Instead of calling out Derick in a straightforward way, using his own words, Ben relies solely on scripture and a “bitchy”, peevish tone. He seems to have completely missed the point, hasn’t he? Jim Bob is partially responsible for the fact that Josh Duggar was allowed to abuse his sisters and a babysitter, along with God only knows how many other young females. Jim Bob, supposed headship, protector, provider, and megadick almighty, did not live up to the role that he claims is so important, according to Bill Gothard’s principles. Jim Bob failed to lead and protect his own family in his own household. Then Jim Bob had the nerve to try to inflict the rest of Arkansas with his spineless, self-serving, misogynistic and money grubbing agenda by running for public office, which thank God he did not succeed in winning.

And now, following his father-in-law’s toxic example, instead of standing up to Derick in an assertive way, Ben Seewald snivels, passive aggressively hiding behind Bible verses, and not directly addressing anyone in particular. But we all know he’s throwing shade at Derick for speaking out against Big Daddy Duggar. I can practically picture Ben’s pissed, humiliated facial expression captured in the screenshots above, as I see him posting the above rebuke to his brother-in-law.

What the hell, Ben? Where are your priorities?

Ben is supposedly studying to be a pastor. He works for Jim Bob. He lives in a house owned by Jim Bob. It’s too small for his growing family, but instead of going out and getting what he needs, he relies on Boob and sticks up for him when another son-in-law justifiably criticizes Jim Bob. Ben needs to grow up and reclaim his balls. He needs to get a life, “leave and cleave”, and stop being such a goddamned bitch, doing it “doggy style” for Jim Bob. Even if he doesn’t agree with Derick, Ben should own up to it and address Derick directly, like a man.

I’m not the only one who has noticed how wimpy Ben Seewald has a tendency to be. It’s being discussed in the Duggar Family News community. Katie Joy has also tackled it, although I started writing this post before I listened to her video. I pretty much agree with Katie on this. Ben has missed the point, and he’s totally calling out the wrong person. Ben doesn’t want to piss off Daddy Duggar, because Daddy Duggar is bankrolling his lifestyle. But what a yucky way to have to live! Who wants to kiss Jim Bob’s ass for the rest of their lives? Derick clearly is more mature and courageous than his brother-in-law, Ben, is. I think if Boob had tried to lead Derick by the tie, Derick would have knocked the hell out of him. Maybe he would have done it verbally instead of physically, but he would not have let Jim Bob treat him like that.

For more on this…

Again, I really don’t know what the dynamic is like between Ben and the rest of the Duggars. It almost seems like Ben should have taken Jessa’s last name, though. He’s definitely showing signs of submission, which is not necessarily a bad thing, even in a man. But I do think that if one is submissive, one should embrace that and OWN it. Ben’s attempt at being “manly” by calling Derick “rude” is PATHETIC. Either man up and be assertive, or keep being a submissive lap dog. If I could, I would say this to Ben…

Ben– for God’s sake, your WIFE was molested, as a young girl, by her brother in Jim Bob’s house. And Jim Bob did NOTHING to fix the problem! Look at where Josh is! Maybe if Jim Bob had gotten his son arrested as a teenager, he might still be in jail. Or, maybe if he’d hooked Josh up with a therapist, Josh might still have offended. But at least he would have TRIED!!!! Ben, why the hell are you defending Jim Bob? He didn’t defend your wife– his own daughter– when it was clearly his responsibility to do so, under your own religious beliefs! Derick may be “rude”, but at least he cares about his wife, and he clearly LOVES and protects her. That’s a real man who doesn’t do it “doggy style”.

I have repeatedly stated on this blog that abuse thrives in secrecy, especially child abuse. I know it goes against what a lot of people think of as “polite behavior” when other people air their “dirty laundry”, but abusers THRIVE on people who don’t want to make a scene, upset the apple cart, or rock the boat. Abusive people demand that their victims be silent and keep their secrets. They use shame and humiliation to keep their victims down so they can continue to manipulate, exploit, and abuse others. Jim Bob is clearly very narcissistic, and Ben has signed on as one of his “flying monkeys”… or, perhaps he’s more of a lap dog. Either way, it’s pathetic, and it will eventually lead Ben down the road to ruin. He’s following a loser, and the loser will not take him anywhere worth going.

People who speak out against bad behavior may seem “rude” and obnoxious. I have been called “bitter”, “petty”, and “snotty” myself, for calling out certain abusers in my life and writing about them in this blog. However, I’ve also noticed that fewer people try to abuse me because I simply don’t tolerate it anymore. I would rather suffer or cause someone else some embarrassment, than tolerate abuse, exploitation, and disrespect.

Being an abuse victim is unhealthy and unworkable. If not being silent means people like me less, so be it. I’d rather have genuine people in my life who have real regard for me, than someone who just hangs around because I keep their secrets and do their bidding.

It seems to me that Derick Dillard has similar opinions to mine, when it comes to showing and receiving basic respect. Good for him for being a real man, instead of acting like another one of Jim Bob’s lap dogs. And may Ben find and CLAIM his balls very soon, instead of just playing with them when Jim Bob and Jessa give him permission and hiding behind posting passive aggressive Bible verses on Facebook.

And here’s a link to Red Peters’ hilarious album that provided the “mood music” for today. As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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law, LDS, religion, true crime

Repost: Rape culture in churches

I am reposting this blog entry that originally appeared on October 16, 2016. I have no reason for reposting it, other than I think it’s an interesting piece. Bear in mind that it was written almost five years ago and I haven’t changed the content, so some comments may be outdated.

I just read a very disturbing article about a lawsuit that was just filed against a Jehovah’s Witnesses church in Weber County, Utah.  The lawsuit was filed by a woman who claims that she was repeatedly raped by a church instructor and JW officials later her made her listen to a recording of one of her assaults.  The woman seeks a jury trial and $300,000 to cover medical care, legal fees, and general damages. 

According to the article I read, the woman may or may not have gone to the police after she was allegedly raped by a church instructor.  The Salt Lake Tribune states that members of the JW faith are encouraged to bring problems to church elders rather than involving outsiders.  Having done my share of reading about Jehovah’s Witnesses and having had a relative who was once a member, I can affirm that this attitude is prevalent among people involved with the Witnesses.

In this case, the assaults against the woman allegedly took place after she went out with the instructor on a date.  He took her cell phone from her and said she had to kiss him on the cheek to get it back.  She refused, so he kicked her out of his car.  Later, he came back for her and the assaults apparently escalated from there.  When the assaults were brought to the attention of JW officials, they began an investigation…  but it was not an investigation against the perpetrator.  Instead, the young woman was investigated.  Below is a quote from the article linked above:

In April 2008, the Roy church formed a judicial committee to investigate whether the girl engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior — “a serious sin” in the religion. During the meeting that included her mother and stepfather, the lawsuit states, church leaders played a recording of one of the purported rapes, obtained from the instructor, for four to five hours “repeatedly stopping and starting the audio tape … suggesting that she consented to the sexual behavior.”

The woman alleges that she was raped several times.  Realizing the patriarchal culture within the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s possible that she felt like she had to do what this man said.  She was likely taught to do whatever the church officials told her to do.  As the attacker was apparently her church instructor, she probably felt that she had no choice.  It really is a shame that people continue to get and stay involved in religious organizations that promote this kind of thinking and do nothing to empower everyone, not just the men. 

This situation among the JWs in Utah sounds an awful lot like the recent hullabaloo about Brigham Young University’s policy of bringing rape victims up on Honor Code violations.  Women who dared to report rape to the police or University officials were getting in trouble for putting themselves in situations where they might be assaulted.  For the record, I think these kinds of policies are disgusting and they keep our society in the Dark Ages.  

Of course people– male or female– who choose to sexually assault others should be held responsible for their actions.  At the same time, I don’t think it’s wrong for people to look out for themselves.  I wish these churches and universities like BYU would do more to promote personal safety outside of the religious sense.  I wish they wouldn’t simply tell women to protect their virginity and purity because that’s supposedly what God wants.  They should be empowering them to protect themselves because they don’t want to be victims of crimes. 

It’s interesting that this subject came on my radar this morning.  I just saw a Facebook post by 11th Principle: Consent about how rape culture develops.  Although I would absolutely never say that it’s okay to rape someone, I do think it pays to be careful.  One young woman made a comment about how she’d gotten very drunk at a party and was raped while she was unconscious.  She wrote that it was wrong that she was raped, but she shared some responsibility in the situation by drinking so much that she passed out.  She got a lot of indignant comments from people who said that no part of the rape was her fault at all; she bore absolutely no responsibility toward the crime perpetrated against her.

At the risk of pissing off a lot of people, I will go on record as saying that I agree that rape is never a victim’s fault.  However, I do think that everyone– males and females– should take some responsibility for their personal safety.  One of the comments I read on the 11 Principle: Consent Facebook page was this:

– if you went for a walk, but someone chose to stab you, should you have stayed in?

-if you decided to go for a drive, but someone drove into your car, is it your fault?

-if you went for a swim, but someone drowned you, was it your fault because you put yourself in a position where you could be drowned?

My response is that in the above examples, precautions could have been taken to lessen the chance of harm or mitigate the harm that did occur.  For instance, when you take a walk, you choose areas where there are people around.  You carry a cell phone that is charged and ready in case of emergency.  You tell someone where you’re going.  You might learn self defense.  These are things you can do to lessen the chance that you’ll be a victim.  You might still end up being victimized, but you will have taken steps to lessen the chance of it.

If you go for a drive, you wear a seatbelt (even though I hate them).  You make sure your car is safe to drive.  You don’t drink alcohol or take drugs before getting behind the wheel.  You make sure you are well rested.  You might still have an accident, but you’ve done your part to lessen the probability.

If you go for a swim, you make sure you can actually swim.  If you can’t, you learn how and stay out of the deep end until you have the appropriate skills.  You take someone with you when you swim.  You use floatation devices if you need them.  You might still drown, but the chances are not as high as they could be.

When it comes to assaults, sexual or otherwise, I think the same responsibilities apply.  Don’t get so fucked up that you black out.  Don’t go to parties alone, especially if you don’t know the people hosting them.  If you do get assaulted, it’s certainly not your fault.  But my guess is that you will learn from the assault and take steps to be sure it doesn’t happen again.  It sounded to me like the young woman who said she shared in the responsibility of her attack had simply learned from it.  She’d made a mistake by getting so intoxicated.  I have made the same mistakes myself on a number of occasions.  There, but by the grace of God, go I.  

Is it ever your fault if you get assaulted?  No.  The person who chooses to perpetrate a crime is always the guilty party.  But the point is, there are things you can do to lessen the chance that you will be a victim.  I don’t think it’s wrong to acknowledge that.  I don’t think that line of thinking promotes “rape culture”.  I applaud the young woman who realizes that she was wrong to get so drunk that she passed out.  At the same time, I think it’s sad that there are shitty people out there who would take advantage of a woman so distressed.

I’m reading the article about the lawsuit against the JWs just as everyone’s talking about Donald Trump’s infamous “locker room” talk.  I have friends of every stripe opining on a potential U.S. president talking about grabbing women by their pussies.  I have a number of very religious relatives criticizing Hillary Clinton because– well, probably because she’s a female liberal.  These same supposedly God fearing people see no problem with voting for a man who brags about forcing himself on women and grabbing their crotches.  But if a woman gets assaulted, instead of being outraged, they look for ways to blame her.  I don’t think that’s right.  But I do think there are things people can and should do to protect themselves.

As for the woman suing the JWs, I don’t think it’s wrong that she’s filed a lawsuit.  This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a pervert ending up in power.  It’s not just the JWs, either.  Lots of churches empower creeps who then victimize their supposed underlings.  I’ve read about plenty of religious organizations who don’t do enough to keep bad people from powerful positions.  I think they should be held accountable when these things happen.  Again, from the article:

A leader from the congregation apparently warned the girl’s parents in November 2006 that the instructor — who previously attended church sessions in Ogden and Oregon — was a “bad kid” who had “engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with a female member of the Clearfield congregation.” The plaintiff says that warning wasn’t enough.

How did the guy end up a “church instructor” if church leaders knew he was a “bad kid”?  One has to wonder.  At the same time, isn’t it crazy that someone like Donald Trump, who openly admits to being a pervy creep– even if it was privately– might end up leading the country?  No wonder we have issues with so-called “rape culture”.

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book reviews

Repost: DJ Williams’ Playing Dangerous Games…

I originally wrote this book review for Epinions.com on May 11, 2011. I thought the book was pretty bad, but it was an amusing read. So I’m reposting the review as/is for your amusement.

A few months ago, I admitted to being a trifle bit kinky.  Around that time, I happened to add a few books to my Amazon.com wish list.  One of the books I added was DJ Williams’ 2010 book Playing Dangerous Games: The Personal Story of a Social Scientist Entering the Complex World of Sadomasochism.  To be honest, I’m not sure why I added this book.  It wasn’t reviewed on Amazon and it was priced at a relatively expensive $19.95.  But I recently decided to purchase some actual books as opposed to Kindle downloads and Williams’ book somehow made the cut.

Once I started reading Playing Dangerous Games, I found out why it was both rather expensive and unreviewed on Amazon.  It was published by Booklocker.com, which is an outfit that sells ebooks, print on demand titles, and self-published works.  Now… I have nothing against self-published books.  Prior to reading Williams’ book, I read a couple of other offerings by Booklocker.  One book was really awful.  The other was very good.  One thing that I notice about self-published books is that they aren’t necessarily brilliantly edited, and I did find that to be the case with this book.  On the other hand, I think maybe Williams self-published because his book might be hard to pitch to mainstream publishers.  While I think a lot of people would be very interested in reading about kink, it’s potentially embarrassing to buy a book about kink at the local Barnes & Noble.  Therefore, a mainstream publisher might not consider a book like this one a good financial risk.  Thank God for the Internet.  It spares consumers the need to approach a cashier with books about taboo topics.

Who is DJ Williams? 

At the beginning of this book, DJ Williams is a post doctoral graduate student doing research at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.  Williams had earned his doctorate from the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the same school.  Prior to becoming a professor, Williams had been a social worker, having earned a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Utah.  He also earned a second Master’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of Utah. 

Williams was in Edmonton, working on some research on gambling in prisons in Utah, when he innocently stumbled into the wonderful world of BDSM.  BDSM, for those who don’t know, stands for bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism.  Williams read a paper about sadomasochism which included some discussion on SM practices such as whippings, electroshocks, canings, bondage, and anal sex.  Williams had apparently never before been exposed to these more exotic flavors on the sexual menu.

A chapter or two later, I found out why Professor DJ Williams was so sexually innocent and naive.  He was raised by devout Mormons and had served a mission in the United Kingdom for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Prior to his mission, Williams took his first trip through the temple, where he took out his endowments and presumably donned temple garments for the first time.  After his mission, Williams came home, got married to a fellow Mormon, and had a daughter.  The marriage didn’t work out and Williams eventually left the church.  And now as a college professor, he had free rein to study the subjects that interested him.  So, although Williams was supposed to be studying gambling in Utah prisons, he soon found himself drawn to BDSM.  Before long, he had scheduled his first appointment with a professional Dominatrix named Mistress Kitten, who gently introduced him to the pleasures of “sexual deviance”. 

One thing led to another and pretty soon Dr. DJ Williams developed an alter-ego he called “Doctor Deviant”.  He began to experiment in earnest, attending his very first “munch” (a gathering of people who are interested in BDSM) and moving on to to his next mistress, Mistress Midnight.  Apparently, Mistress Midnight was well-known for being one of the most twisted of the BDSM bunch in the Edmonton area.  Mistress Midnight taught Doctor Deviant how to throw a bullwhip and exposed him to other BDSM couples who showed him just how deep the lifestyle can run. 

To the uninitiated, BDSM practices can be shocking and disturbing.  Indeed, Williams was shocked and disturbed by some of the things he saw during his earliest experiences at BDSM parties.  I got the sense that Williams was trying to overcome his sheltered upbringing as well as the conventional wisdom he’d picked up as a social worker working with sex offenders and domestic violence victims.  At the same time, he was trying to be a responsible father to his teenage daughter, Brittney, whose mother, stepfather, and half siblings were all still faithful members of the LDS church.

My thoughts

This book could have been a lot better than it is.  DJ Williams is technically a good writer.  By that, I mean there aren’t any egregious typos or grammatical errors and his prose is basically easy to read.  However, despite Williams’ obvious personal affinity for BDSM and his interest in educating himself and others about the subject, he comes off as a bit of a dork.

For one thing, he swears a lot.  It’s as if in order to shed his Mormon upbringing, he has to drop the f-bomb gratuitously as he describes the sensations he feels when Mistress Kitten ties him to a St. Andrew’s Cross and hangs five pound weights from his testicles.  Before anyone tells me they would drop the f-bomb too in that situation, I will share that Williams uses the f-word very liberally.  I’m not at all offended by cussing, but when a word is used so repetitively that it becomes annoying, I’d say it’s time to hire an editor.  And as Williams is a college professor, I would expect him to have a broader vocabulary anyway.

Williams frequently comes off as dorky and contrived in his dialogue… kind of like he’s trying too hard to be cool.  It’s as if he’s trying to make up for a lost adolescence through rebellion, and that entails taking on an alternative appearance, using the f-word, going to munches and drinking screwdrivers (groan), and submitting to a Domme.  I can tell that the BDSM turns him on and is a bit of a mindblower.  Knowing what I know about Mormonism and the stereotype about how church members tend to feel about sex that isn’t strictly vanilla, I can understand where the dorkiness and awkwardness come from.  I sense that despite his efforts to be open-minded, Williams still seems to think there’s something kind of “wrong” with BDSM. 

Williams’ dialogue reads like a cheap novel in that it’s very amateur.  He writes a lot of internal dialogue that comes off as especially disingenuous.  He seems uncomfortable with what he’s doing, even after he wades into the BDSM underground and apparently really enjoys the experience.  Even the title conveys what, to me, seems likes Williams’ conflicted feelings about BDSM.  Done correctly, BDSM doesn’t have to be dangerous at all, and yet Williams titles his book Playing Dangerous Games.

Williams also seems to have a problem with overweight women.  In one chapter, he describes attending a BDSM party where many people are participating in “scenes”.  He notes a “heavyset” woman being tied to a table by male Dominant.  Then he writes that he can’t believe she’s comfortable enough with her body to engage in a public scene.  It seems to me that Williams was trying to be “nice” in using the euphemism “heavyset”, when he evidently meant to say the woman was fat and unattractive and should be ashamed of herself.  Later, Williams describes a private party he had with several other people, one of whom was an overweight woman.  He writes outright that he doesn’t find her attractive.  But then, once the scene starts, he realizes that the “heavyset” woman is a natural actress who makes the scene more real for him.  She becomes more attractive to him for that reason.  But if he hadn’t been tied to a bed, would he have given her a chance to show her most attractive qualities? 

I guess I can give him credit for at least realizing his bias… eventually, anyway.  I do think that he pays lip service to looking beyond the surface, though.  I checked out his Web site and saw evidence that he’s still pretty hung up on the external.  It’s been my experience that people who spend a whole lot of time on their physical appearances often do so to cover up some less flattering internal qualities.

Anyway…

Despite my criticisms, I did find this book interesting on many levels.  For one thing, I myself hold Master’s degrees in social work and public health, so I could relate to some of Williams’ comments about the social work profession.  For another thing, my husband is an ex-Mormon.  He was not raised in the faith, so it’s not a pervasive part of him, but he did spend enough time as a Mormon convert that he knows the culture very well.  I, in turn, have done plenty of research on the subject of Mormonism, though I have never been and will never be a member of the church myself.  And then there’s the fact that I’m also a little kinky, though not nearly as kinky as Williams is. 

I also admire Williams for writing about this subject.  I think it takes a lot of guts to research BDSM, especially given the fact that he’s a college professor and an ex-Mormon.  I do think that Williams seems to have radically rejected his roots.  He’s dyed his hair different colors, gotten tattoos, and been branded… and he engages in some pretty exotic and erotic sexual practices.  However, it did occur to me that Williams has traded membership in a very strict, controlling church community for membership in another controlling group.  After all, Williams went from being a member of a church that told him what kind of underwear to wear to being a member of another group that tells him what kind of underwear to wear.  I’m sure Williams’ Mistress has a say in whether he wears boxer briefs or a cock ring. 

By Williams’ account, Mormonism is spiritually and behaviorally confining, while BDSM is literally confining.  It might be said that members of both groups could be led to a kind of liberation… In both situations, one gives up personal power to become part of something bigger than themselves.  A devout Mormon submits for the promise of a wonderful afterlife with loved ones.  Someone who submits to a Dominant submits for the promise of a wonderful physical and mental experience.  Being “forced” to submit allows the submissive to experience heightened sexual arousal without any guilt.

Overall

I can’t say that reading Playing Dangerous Games was a waste of time.  While I wish it had been better edited, I have to admit that Williams’ book did give me some food for thought.  I would recommend it to readers who want to learn more about BDSM, especially from an academic standpoint.  I also think this book would be interesting reading for ex-Mormons, particularly kinky ones.  Devout Mormons, on the other hand, might not like this book. 

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