Recently rapes on campuses have become a big deal. Not just fooling around in the showers, and not just a few obnoxious meatheads or criminal invaders, but sexual abuse rates of one-fifth, one-third, one-half, one in eight, one in six, both sexes, very often related to alcohol and/or drugs. The kids shrug. “What’s the big deal? These days, if you’re on the pill, what’s to worry about? Anyway, just use the back door.” (They evidently don’t know there are hazards besides pregnancy. Not even counting emotional chaos. Do I smell denial?)
A raped co-ed gathered up her courage and went before the board the university provided to deal with such matters. It took months and lining up a couple of other women attacked by the same guy. She had had consensual sex with the guy twice. This time they came home from a party, he was drunk, suddenly flipped her into position and entered her anally though she was fighting and objecting. The board did not believe the woman because one woman board member stubbornly insisted it was not possible to enter anally without lubrication. (I got this out of the ordinary newspaper, not some secret source.) No news about HIV status.
Normally, one accepts the authority of people because they know more, are ethically more grounded, protect everyone involved, and, of course, have power over one. How this stubborn female authority came to her convictions about anuses is a question less important than how she was thought to be capable of judging cases like this.
Our hero Jack snarled, “You can’t handle the truth!” In fact, a lot of people have so little experience with the truth that they can’t recognize it. Esp. if it has to do with stigma, censorship, prudery and so on. Even here in cow country where people put their arms up cow butts and see the whole process of creating a new calf, can tell a lot of sheep jokes, and feel like Saturday night and enough beer is a license to . . . well. Most people have a lot to learn. Much of it is about misery, but they have no incentive to go out there looking for it in order to alleviate it. Until it happens to them.
Much of the trouble begins and continues in the home, until the kid gets thrown out, the woman gets killed by violence, or both just leave, which can be a disaster for them. But the forces that push people towards abuse are in the larger society. Not just being poor or alcoholic, but the constant sneering, the lack of credibility, the scorn, the arrogance. Stigma.
Heads on pikes
I watch the dynamics portrayed in series on the cable channels and sometimes wonder whether we aren’t promoting the culture of maybe 1400 or 1700. There must be rooms of severed heads in the prop department. I don’t mind naked people but in the name of equity, I think that for every show with naked women being rolled around, a photo of the director’s genitals should be posted at the beginning. No need to show his head. ("His," right?)
The thing is, I’ve given up the idea of pornography. It’s just too hard to figure out what is and what isn’t and what gives entitlement to watch it outside of being on the censorship board. Age, money, success in marriage, a clinical test for maturity? A science degree? Ordained? Personally, I think the criterion should be whether the work is smart, well-done, tells us something we didn’t know before but ought to. Playboy-style pretty-girl bare-bottomed Barbies are not pornography -- they're candy.
When I was an animal control officer, I felt a certain entitlement and immunity, considering that I was entering whore houses and so on. (Where we go, our dogs go.) So I went to see “Deep Throat,” which was playing in my beat. (I didn’t go in uniform with my badge. As the only woman there besides the ticket taker, I was scary enough to all the guys with raincoats over their laps.) The movie had played for so many years that the court ruled it was the bright line between what was pornography and what was not, since it had not been closed by the law and therefore was not. But it WAS porn. A poorly made movie with only one joke, a dumb and childish one. What was worse was finding out over time that Linda Lovelace hated being in it, was oppressed and used, and took years to recover.
Stigmas are stupid. They also make money because not-knowing or believing that there’s some magical thing to find out what only certain privileged people can know will cause people to pay. Money is the ultimate porn.
Orphaned by AIDS
That doesn’t mean that what’s free is okay. Esp. with sex, the price may not be in money right there at the moment, but in terms of emotion, family, and medical bills for the rest of one’s life, the cost can be beyond measurement.
I ask myself why I’ve gotten so interested in HIV/AIDS without actually interacting in real life with people who are suffering from it, at least not knowingly and in person. Here are some reasons:
1. I get tired of everything being dominated by big cities on the coasts. Maybe out here on the prairie we have a few observations.
2. It’s entwined with the issue of “gay” which is embedded in the cultural binary that stuffs people into either male or female. Even GLBTQX is only six choices, each with salesmen standing by to give you marketing advice. Where’s eclectic? Where’s mix-and-match? Where’s a blend? Where is “I-stand-alone”? It’s about DESIRE, not fertility. (That’s why I like to add the X -- for the situational, the exceptional, the unexpected. Desire is like the Holy Ghost -- it goes where it wants to.)
3. I’m interested in freedom and the San Francisco sexual revolution accompanied a lot of other freedoms, released a lot of energy. If at the same time the jungle in Africa had not been pushed back enough to release HIV from the chimps (and who knows what the melting glaciers will release?) the story of Gay Liberation would have been quite different. As it is, we’ve been forced to rethink ALL physical and sexual practices. Not just gays -- straights, vanillas, babies, oldsters.
4. HIV is a way into our medicalized world in which we are learning an incredibly overwhelming amount of technical information about bodies. I’m fascinated but I need a focus that isn’t just about getting old.
Sometimes you need a guardian.
5. It’s a vulnerability disease and vulnerability interests me as much as freedom because they’re so related. HIV makes you a banquet for microbes, which may end up ruling the world if they don’t already. Know your adversary. And then the vulnerability of behavior -- how to be open to intimacy and disclosure without being destroyed by them.
6. The consequences of any plague-level disease are so devastating that whole generations, and therefore nations, and therefore civilization itself can be brought down crashing into war, famine, population displacement on a massive scale, and therefore the whole planet could be spun back into chaos. At least until the humans are gone.
7. The ongoing struggle to understand what it means to be human starts with a boy thrown out of his home because he is considered gay, therefore undeserving, and converted by need to make money into a vector for diseases carried back to families by ruthless men. I find these boys an opening through their misery to an understanding of ruthless and clueless men -- and women. I need to know where they come from. It’s a bioreligious question.