“Don’t be that guy!” ads target offenders not victims

September 30, 2011

Rebecca Watson’s “Elevator Guy” debacle over the summer highlighted a problem women and men need to deal with, not just in atheist circles but across our communities. I just learned this week that there’s an anti-rape ad campaign going on in Canada and posters hanging up in men’s rooms of bars and other places are inadvertently following in Watson’s footsteps here. I heard about it on CBC on the drive home from work one day and a quick poke of the interwebs finds me an article about the launch of these ads in Edmonton back in November. Chloe writes for Feminsting and her source is an article that no longer exists via her link, alas.

In a series of posters, it addresses the legal reality that a woman who is extremely drunk, or even passed out, cannot consent to sex. With messages like “just because she isn’t saying no… doesn’t mean she’s saying yes ”and“ Just because you’re helping her home… doesn’t mean you get to help yourself,” the campaign targets “opportunistic offenders,” as Edmonton Police Superintendent calls them. According to the Vancouver Sun:

The three advertisements were chosen after focus-group testing showed the messages were clearly understood by, and resonated with, young men.

Campbell said she hopes the “graphic” and “blunt” messages make a real difference in educating young men and reducing sexual assaults.

A friend of mine dropped a tweet on Facebook yesterday about Saskatoon’s Premier Fine Wines, Spirits & Specialty Foods Festival going on now. Cammi noted,

Just left the wine premiere festival. great time, not sure how I feel about a rape whistle as a keepsake though.

Too bad she didn’t mention which booth provided it, or if it was something being given to women on their way in. I wonder what guys would have been getting.

I’ve never been raped. I’m starting to feel incredibly lucky because I can say that. A random check of statistics on sexual assault led me to some grim numbers.

Of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only 6 are reported to the police
1 – 2% of “date rape” sexual assaults are reported to the police
1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime
11% of women have physical injury resulting for sexual assault
Only 2 – 4% of all sexual assaults reported are false reports
About 50% of sex assaults occur on dates
60% of sexual abuse/assault victims are under the age of 17

And it goes on.

I’ve certainly been in positions where, had the company been different and less respectful of my right to consent, I’d be counted in those numbers. I’ve been stupid in bars ever since I was old enough to legally be in one. That’s 19 in Saskatchewan. I’m 37 now. Maybe “lucky” doesn’t begin to cover…

Chloe thinks this campaign shows promise.

This kind of approach is the only kind that can truly end sexual assault. After all, in the words of Karen Smith of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, “as long as society directs prevention strategies at women, we all stop looking at what the real problem is – the perpetrators.”

I’m going to hold off on the applause for a bit yet. I don’t really know how ads like this will impact behaviour. Will they be taken to heart by the jerks truly in need of the lesson, or will they just freak out the inept, geeky flirters and result in a lot of lonely hearts going home defeated before they even get a chance to start a chance romance?

Over the summer, dozens of cities held SlutWalks. The events were prompted by shitty comments a police constable in Toronto made regarding victims of sexual assault. Saskatoon hosted one and some Freethinker friends and I were among the hundred or so hollering down the blocked off streets about respect and the like. One of these friends is one of those women born for cleavage, short skirts and hooker boots. She loves the style and how she looks, and her husband (and others) do as well. I almost wonder how we wound up friends, as I have my ample cleavage hidden usually and tend to keep my pants on. She’s sexually vocal, as well, not one who feels she should be ashamed of her carnal interests. I certainly admire her for that but have, on a few occasions, wondered how close she’s gotten to becoming a statistic, too. I’d hate to see her get hurt simply on account of how she’s dressed and false perceptions on the part of other people in terms of what kind of person they think she is. I think that’s badly worded, but hopefully understandable.

It is completely unfair to train girls and women into thinking that they have to hide themselves in public lest randy men lose all sense of themselves if they see a little skin or hair. Why should it be up to women alone to protect themselves from predators? Why shouldn’t guys carry more of the responsibility on their shoulders?

I don’t know. What do readers think? Can a campaign like this change much or is it more likely to be a fart in the wind?


Reminder: it’s Banned Book Week

September 29, 2011

Usually I’m more on the ball when it comes to book issues and support for abolishing censorship of the printed word.

The American Library Association has a list of the top 100 banned or challenged books for the past decade, but rather than copy the whole list, I’ll just list the ones I’ve read and some thoughts regarding.

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling

These books were runaway bestsellers not because millions of kids expected to get some magic lessons that actually work, but because they could identify with the issues characters faced. The importance of studying, how it feels to be unpopular, the desire to be special or impressively different, the power and risk of secret keeping, the need to stand up to the villains by uniting with friends and other allies. Useful things, all in all.

2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

I only read one of them and it seemed like silly teenage fluff, mostly. Naylor opts for realism when she writes her fiction so we wind up with real teenage issues facing Alice and her friends, issues that affect the readers to greater or lesser degrees. How about that cute boy? When is the right time to have sex? My parents are driving me crazy! I had another fight with my best friend and I don’t think she likes me anymore…

3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

This was picked for our book club a while back. Peer pressure and the stress of trying to fit in come to a head in this one. It’s especially problematic as the readers learn of the impact certain teachers are having when it comes to picking sides, too. While it’s been years since I was a teen in school, I certainly recall the sense that there were teachers playing favourites sometimes, and unnecessarily picky against other students. It must have had an effect on the dynamics of student relationships, igniting resentment and envy and the like.

4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell

This is a non-fiction book about a couple male penguins at a zoo who get the urge to co-parent a young one. Male penguins in the wild take an active interest in the raising of their young so why this had to become some oddity worth reporting on is somewhat beyond me. As is the freak-out of everyone the least bit homophobic. Ridiculous.

5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

Life is full of choices and sometimes they’re all bad. I wonder about those who lack empathy when it comes to understanding what it might be like to be faced with that.

8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman

The trouble isn’t the fact that religions exist. The trouble is caused by the people who follow them and their leaders without once questioning their ambitions to make sure they’re truly understood and sound. I think the majority of people wouldn’t even know how to begin to think like that, especially when it comes down to differences between their faiths and scientific progress that continues to whittle away at cherished beliefs.

19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

Rebellion is a part of growing up. There’s always going to be someone holding a measuring stick to gauge our successes and failures, but our harshest critics will generally be ourselves.

21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

I don’t think we’ll ever live in a world free of stereotypes and racism but the best defense against them has to be a weapon in the minds of parents, educators, and other adult role models who can show kids how to treat others with respect in spite of it.

36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

It’s tough to challenge the status quo, especially when the damage being done to people in that society goes largely unnoticed by everyone else in that society.

43. Blubber, by Judy Blume

Fat should be a word as innocuous to use as blond or tall when describing someone’s personal attributes. It shouldn’t have negative connotations but when it comes to words in the English language, I can’t think of many that are more brutal and damaging to kid’s sense of self worth. I might have to read this book again, actually.

67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham

The reasons why we do things matter. How many of our choices to act come from triggers leftover from conditioning in childhood, or propaganda we’ve taken to heart as older people? How much of our behaviour is a direct result of our evolution, and how much of it has to do with the societies we’ve built and what we decide to honour in them?

69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

Books might burn, but if you light an idea on fire, it can light up a world.

88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

History is written by the winners, so if you have any choice in the matter, try to be on that side. Then again, when it does come time to choose sides, the ultimate winner isn’t necessarily going to be right. Decisions are made every day that may have consequences so far reaching yet completely invisible the moment the decision is made. How many plans have governments offered their people where it can be wondered decades later why people let things happen in the first place?

90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle

While I’d never claim love conquers all, the love people have for their families and friends helps immensely when it comes to overcoming challenges. Faith in people.

99. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume

Everyone questions what they’re going through, especially when it’s puberty. Blume’s willingness to take a real issue like that and lay it out for her readers proves she’s one smart cookie. Kids might feel uncomfortable bringing up some concerns with a trusted adult so books like this are beneficial and worthwhile.

–edit 2:20 pm: added a few more lines to the stuff about Atwood’s book. Wasn’t keen on how I left it.

Is there any bible story porn or would that be too kinky even for them?

September 14, 2011

I’m thinking of Sodom and the angels right now and Lot’s suggestion that the men of town should sleep with his daughters instead of offending his guests. And then the other part of the story later where the daughters get Dad drunk and have their way with him. I’m getting turned on just thinking about it. Bow chicky wow-wow… Which reminds me, Cracked.com offers up a list that starts with that story, plus 5 more raunchy and depraved examples.

You’re probably checking to make sure you’re really reading One Minion’s Opinion right now. Yes, yes you are and the reason I started with that paragraph is because I found an article about a man who’s trying to curb his porn addiction by turning to God. And he’s not alone in this venture. It’s the next big thing, apparently, treating Christian sex addiction.

This is Michael’s second week at “Faithful and True – Atlanta” a 16-week counseling program that, like dozens of others like it around the country, combines traditional psychotherapy with the Bible in an attempt to treat addictive behavior.

[Therapist Richard] Blankenship, a devout Christian who once struggled with sexual abuse, says his own ordeal has helped him to treat and “graduate” nearly 500 Christian men and women with similar addictions in the last five years.

He says he has helped people achieve what he calls “sobriety,” which means resisting porn and lustful thoughts.

I’m truly the last person that should write about porn. I’ve never sat down and watched one. I was given one by a friend a while back and I’ve yet to drop it into my DVD player. I haven’t thought too much about why I’m reluctant to watch it. Is it fear of being grossed out like the first time I tried watching one, or more of a worry that I’ll like it now and crave more?

Evangelical pastors in the States, and probably Canada, are pointing at porn as yet another example of the depravity that is the secular world, capable of leading themselves and their flocks into a temptation that goes against everything proper married Christian couples ought to experience. I expect it’d be argued that they should only want the ecstasy of God’s love for them, and the promise these couples to devote every part of their lives, including their sex lives, to pleasing God and God alone. I don’t know if I could enjoy sex if I thought God was watching every move, myself. I don’t get turned on by the notion of voyeurism.

Though the words “porn” and “masturbation” don’t appear in the Bible, Gyorke believes the biblical verdict is clear. “Sexual immorality is mentioned a lot in the Bible, and that is what porn is,” he says.

He quotes the Gospel of Matthew: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

“Porn is lust, and lust is a sin,” the pastor said.

Here’s the thing: pornography isn’t the problem – it’s a reaction to the problem and the problem is this notion of treating natural emotions and behaviours as sinful and wrong. A problem caused by teaching human beings that it’s completely unacceptable to be that human.

It’s one thing to set goals for one’s self in terms of plans and ambitions. I’m going to train for a marathon. I’m going to lose 20 pounds. I’m going to save for a trip to France. Those might be difficult to achieve, but they are achievable in time if a person is motivated enough. Goals set by religions, though.. most of those require a sacrifice above and beyond anything the typical human being can ever hope to achieve. And the absolute failure, again and again and again, to live up to those goals sets people up for a cycle of self-abuse, self-hatred and shame. They’ll never measure up to what they’ve been told God wants (the bible even says so: Romans 3:23) so they will forever be sinners in some shape or form, no matter how many times they might be born again. There will always be another reason to beg for forgiveness on account of an unavoidable failure. Begging forgiveness every single bloody day, just for being human.

What a set-up.

“If he could kill the all first-born children in Egypt what could stop him from…

June 13, 2011

…abolishing small houses? ”

I’m quoting from an article I found about adulterers in Zimbabwe and a female pastor who’s taken it upon herself to rid the country of “small houses” — what these marriage wrecking women are called. Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) Church pastor, Lilian Bwanya, expects to have them all stopped by next year.

Good luck with that.

At least the woman I quoted, Mrs Ellis Sibanda of Lobengula, wasn’t suggesting God could solve this problem himself by killing all the girlfriends in one fell swoop and neither is Pastor Bwanya. She’s hoping her crusades and her spiritual powers will make men want only their wives again.

The Pastor told a Bulawayo-based tabloid B-Metro recently that she believes with her power of prayer the country can get rid itself of the menace of small houses which have destroyed many homes.

Bwanya is currently conducting a seminar at a Baptist Church in Bulawayo to denounce small houses and deliver many from this bondage.

This relationship arrangement is practically institutional there; almost everybody’s doing it. It must be said, though, whether people approve of her method or not, whether people think prayer can solve this or not, there is actually a health concern at the crux of all this, one another group is actively trying to fight: HIV transmission. Last year Action Institute for Environment, Health and Development Communication launched a campaign and film series called One Love. Quoting from All Africa:

Zimbabwe has managed to reduce the HIV infection rate over the last few years to 18 percent.

But small houses and more particularly the discarding of the condom as well as gender inequality threaten these gains, with married women particularly at risk.

Caroline Nyamayemombe of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said married women faced difficulties in marital affairs.

“Married women continue to face the high risk of HIV and Aids infection, because it is difficult for them to persuade their partners to use condoms when they suspect them of having extra-marital affairs or relationships,” she said.

Leading inevitably to suicides and murders, too.

Unfortunately, a lot of the men and women involved in these relationships like the arrangement and see nothing wrong with it, which has made it harder to combat. A more recent article highlights the issue in terms of advertising campaigns.

One advert shows a soccer player who says that he is a winner because he is circumcised. The advert would do well to be gender sensitive and have a woman by the side saying we are the winners. With circumcision said to cut the rate of infection by 60 percent, it means a partner who is less likely to infect the woman is a plus to all.

This could well cut the rate of new infections greatly. Adverts therefore ought to draw both the males and females as the virus affects both. Inclusive winning solutions beamed for all to see would be beneficial.

They’d also like to see more that target the not-yet-active youth and encourage them to make smart health choices when the time comes.

its possible to have an HIV free generation if the message gets to them from an early age. Sex education is taboo in most homes, school curricular is helping as they now teach HIV and Aids related issues.

Together we can overturn the pandemic tide and all be winners.

So there are good reasons to say be safe and don’t sleep around, but for Bwanya to claim her prophecy and prayers will be the means to the end of that.. well, it’s silly, frankly. Maybe a few households will benefit from her meddling but the whole country? No way in hell. More from EHDC, more education, more encouragement to be smart with body parts is the way to fix this. Religion doesn’t even have to enter into it.

Read a book about sex and the bible

May 18, 2011

It’s called Unprotected Texts: the Bible’s surprising contradictions about sex and desire by Jennifer Wright Knust. She covers a lot of ground in a relatively short book. I dog-earred many pages of it so I’d remember specific things that were interesting or downright hilarious. I had a lot to choose from, like:

– She notes the conflict in Genesis regarding two creation stories, “two seemingly immutable principles: in sexual intercourse, men and women seek to reunite the flesh they once shared, and, in marriage, women neccessarily accept subordination, which is rooted in their desire for husbands.” (p.49) Desire is a big, big problem all over the bible, apparently and should be avoided whenever possible.

– The adam, the creature made by God may have started life as androgynous as an angel, not male or female but both. God split the being, resulting in two incomplete forms that seek to reunite and even Paul thought we’d get those kinds of proper bodies back in heaven. “Among later Christians, the separation of the two genders was sometimes interpreted as the moment death and sorrow entered the world.”(p.52)

– Genesis is a creation myth that holds a lot in common with the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh (they both feature snakes and a trick with some fruit, for one thing) and Atrahasis (where humanity’s created specifically to till the created land, something Adam is told he’ll have to do “by the sweat of his brow”). The writers of Genesis also thought it was important to highlight agriculture and its connection to raising families. People and the land all have to be fertile to make it work, and work it is. (p54) She also notes that the Israelites back then were trying to live on land not ideally suited for agriculture. The mountainous steppes required terracing and and knowledge of water conservation techniques to make the most of it. Not an easy task at all.

– Jesus has conflicting lessons about love and relationships. He bought into the heaven/androgyny theory and appears to be against divorce (in Mark at least) because marriage “anticipates the ressurection to come” so “the additional mixing of one flesh with another could not be tolerated.” (p70-71) You can get a different answer in every gospel, judging by the table she provides a few pages later. (In Matthew, for example, divorce is cool so long as it’s the woman’s fault for why you want one. Remarriage is still a no-no for all parties.)

– Paul believed single people shouldn’t even bother getting married. He believed time was getting short anyway and they all should want relationships with God more and that the desiring of flesh was evidence of “the depravity of the world.” New bodies were soon to be available in heaven, bodies free of all desires of the flesh. (92)

– She notes the cultural similarities that existed between the Canaanites and Israelites. Always thought to be complete enemies of each other based on scripture (i.e. Joshua) and usually with the Canaanites being sexual deviants of some kind, it’s not a theory that bears fruit historically or archeologically. They were all neighbours who mingled lifestyles and belief sets for generations – including the times when it was okay to think Yhwh had a consort named Asherah. She was a goddess native to Israel at the time, and so was Baal. The writers of Judges remarked on the fact that not everyone thought Yhwh was the only one worth worshiping. Of course, they thought it was akin to prostitution, this throwing one’s self at other gods and all. Disgusting. (136-38)

– Chapter 5 is devoted to the sins of angel lust. I didn’t know that the idea of speaking in tongues was to talk like angels, hence the reason women had to cover their heads in church. If they didn’t, then angels might desire them and bring about another reason for God to flood the earth. The “sons of God” that got it on with the “daughters of men” created the Nephilim, the Watchers that supposedly taught evil and wickedness to humanity.

– Chapter 5 also touches on Sodom and the idea that desiring “strange flesh” is the big worry. It’s less about man on man sex and more about wanting to screw foreigners (angels included). It’s about keeping a race pure. If you intermarry, then you’re wasting seed and polluting the blood of your ancestors. You are honour-bound to put travelers up for the night (in the days when hotels were non-existent) but don’t you dare want carnal relationships with them.

– There used to be a Cult of the Holy Foreskin (a whole swath of the book is devoted to the history of circumcision also) where the relic in question came to be in the hands of Charlemagne, along with parts of Christ’s umbilical cord, supposedly delivered to him by the Saviour himself. “Now preserved in at the Abbey of Charroux, as well as in other locations, the foreskin became an object of veneration too precious to deny.” (215) and the reason why later Christians were encouraged to not bother with circumcision had to do with a belief that Christ let himself go through that agony so nobody else would have to anymore. He did you boys a favour, see… But the debates about the need to cut bits off are still there in the bible for anyone who wants to read them.

Last thing, a quote from the very end of the book (p.247):

Anyone who would use God and the Bible to deny touch, love, and affection to others has failed to present a valuable interpretation, not only of the Bible but also of what it means to be human, whether or not some biblical passage somewhere can be found to support their claims. Those who attempt to belittle or demean a class of people, denying them rights on the basis of an unexamined interpretation of a few biblical passages, are expressing not God’s will but their own limited human perspective, backed up by a shallow and self-serving reading of the biblical text.

The bible is a set of stories best enjoyed with an awareness of context. What laws and rules were in place for those people at that time? What was acceptable behaviour and what wasn’t? How did people treat women? How did women handle the punishments and low status they often held? What did people do to get around restrictions and have a bit of fun? It’s important to understand the cultural history that led to these ideas getting written in books in the first place.

Phallic art has Texas neighbourhood stiff with rage

May 13, 2011

Or at least, mildly embarrassed to get caught staring at their neighbour’s dong.

A family moved into an Abeline neighbourhood and placed their replica statue of David in the front yard. People uncomfortable with sexuality in art (and everywhere else probably) contacted the media.

No one has asked them to remove it — yet — though some families believe the statue is offensive and needs to go.

“It’s there. It’s right there,” neighbor Alina Hatcher said of the statue’s “assets.” “You don’t have to look for it. You don’t have to stare hard. It’s right there.”

And how many times has Ms Hatcher been out in her yard staring and comparing, hmm? Is David better equipped than the men in her life? Or has she just not seen one in a while?

The homeowners didn’t want to go on camera, but said they’re not trying to offend anyone and that the statue is just art.

Neighbors say they understand art, but ask does it have to be this anatomically correct?

For sculptures who care about realism, yes. Michelangelo cared. He wanted an accurate depiction of David, he who slayed Goliath. A check of Wikipedia provides some history:

Originally commissioned as one of a series of statues of prophets to be positioned along the roofline of the east end of Florence Cathedral, the statue was instead placed in a public square, outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of civic government in Florence, where it was unveiled on 8 September 1504. Because of the nature of the hero that it represented, it soon came to symbolise the defence of civil liberties embodied in the Florentine Republic, an independent city-state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici family. The eyes of David, with a warning glare, were turned towards Rome.

Perhaps this couple ought to line David up so he’s facing Washington, D.C.? Or maybe they’d rather he mooned the government instead. Who knows what their political leanings might be. Back to the article.

“Some art needs to be left in the doggone museum,” neighbor Jacqueline Hince said.

A place Ms. Hince will never set foot in, thus will never be at risk of seeing something that offends her? I expect the replica standing in Florence square is proudly naked and admired by all manner of tourist wanting a photo opportunity. So what’s up with these prudes?

Local police say it’s not illegal to display nude art. However, they’re encouraging the owners to cover the statue to “keep the peace” in the neighborhood.

Which reminds me (via same wiki):

The plaster cast of David at the Victoria and Albert Museum has a detachable plaster fig leaf which is displayed nearby. It was created in response to Queen Victoria’s shock upon first viewing the statue’s nudity, and was hung on the figure prior to royal visits, using two strategically placed hooks.

Anyone who wants to claim that morality comes from God is either forgetting or deliberately ignorant of the fact that that morality (and therefore attitudes toward sex and sexuality) is not a static, unchangeable thing. It varies from place to place, from culture to culture, from history to history. Hopefully the couple won’t feel forced give their neighbours the same royal treatment.

An uncensored version of Dorian Gray has been published

April 30, 2011

I don’t think I’ve ever read that book. I might have to now.

First published as a serial novel in 1890, parts of it were considered too risqué and vulgar for audiences at the time, so a heavy-handed editor took on the task of stripping (haha) the most offensive parts or rewriting them entirely. Plus, Wilde had to go back to his drafts to edit even further before he could get it published as a novel. From the Guardian:

critics and academics in the US have not been universal in their praise of the uncensored version. Reviewing the new edition, author and columnist Brooke Allen wrote on the Barnes and Noble website that “whether the original text is actually ‘better’ than the book version published in 1891 is a moot point”.

“Some of Wilde’s original material may have been lost in the latter … but much was gained, too,” she wrote. “This annotated version, though a treasure for scholars and for anyone with a serious interest in Wilde, the 1890s, and Aestheticism, should serve as a supplement to the standard text rather than a replacement.”

Which is how it should be, I think. It’s important to be careful when reading older books because we can’t help but try to apply current ethics and ideologies into them (the Huck Finn thing comes to mind). In this case, understanding the reasons for the alterations in the first place is also important. Issues that affect us today were issues back then, too. Gay rights have come a long way but there’s still work to be done. Sexuality is still a taboo topic for a lot of people. They’re comfortable remaining uncomfortable with it for some reason, but others feel more freedom to be and do as they like and that’s not a new concept either. I think it’s terrific that this version of that classic piece of fiction will be available.