#nakedisnormal, but for Playboy, #nakedisprofit

Today, Playboy announced that it was bringing nudity back to its magazines, a year after it had previously banned naked spreads. Following a series of tweets tagged #nakedisnormal, Chief Creative Officer, Cooper Hefner made the announcement this morning, stating that naked is normal and should not be treated as something to shy away from.

Naked is, indeed, normal. However, for a magazine that has been founded on the profits of pornographic material, naked is a profitable kind of normal, one that is used merely for exploitation. Playboy has founded itself on the oppression of women, and to claim that a return to featuring nudity is in our interests is nothing more than a lie. It’s a return to instant gratification, and the ownership of women’s bodies in an attempt to bolster sales.

In their return to featuring nudity amongst their pages, Playboy has co-opted the Free The Nipple campaign. But this is a campaign that is troubling in itself, given how it has been backed by Nice Guys TM, who want to assure women that if they want to sit topless beside them, that’s absolutely fine. It’s troubling, given that a quick search of the related tag on Tumblr shows that the tag has been co-opted by porn blogs, rendering the campaign something that can be – and has been – hijacked for the male gaze. The trouble with this lies in the fact that men have been raised in a society – that we’ve all been raised in a society – which treats women’s bodies as a reward. You can pay in and be rewarded, whether it’s with money, with kindness, or with your so-called support for their activism.

Given Hugh Hefner’s past – his involvement in the rape of Linda Lovelace and involvement in the rapes perpetrated by Bill Cosby– and the misogynistic undertones of Playboy that have run from conception to now, it’s easy to see the roots of this latest development. In a year where we have a President who has countless accusations of rape and assault to his name, in a culture where rapists are spared jail in exchange for being told they have to refrain from sex until marriage, this isn’t progressive. It is nothing more than rape culture, coming full circle.


Alan Carr; “Not My Nigel” – Justin Lee Collins edition.

Dear Alan Carr,
You can harp on about how the Justin Lee Collins who assaulted his partner wasn’t the Justin that you knew, but the truth of the matter is that he was.
See, this is the kind of talk that silences abuse victims. Talking about how it was a “toxic” relationship. Minimising the abuse. It’s telling victims that their experiences of an abuser aren’t accurate, because yours are different.
Abusive men are good at hiding who they are. And often, they put on a front of being a “Good Man TM” to the general public. They might volunteer for charity. They might be that bloke you have a laugh with, day in – day out. They might be the chap in the office who has a wife, kids, and hell – they might even say to your face that he’s a good guy. They’re trained to, because society tells us – on a daily basis – that if a man abuses a woman, she can be – in someway – blamed for it. Abusive men rarely show their abusive nature to people they consider their equals. Once they meet an inferior, however, it’s a different matter.
(With my ex, it was me. It was Muslim taxi drivers who didn’t pick up his fare. It was a homosexual man I considered a friend. A colleague who went out of his way to be a kind and considerate individual at every turn. And – it took me a long time to admit this – it was his Nan. To every person my ex abused, to every person for whom I wish I had stepped up and defended, I’m sorry.)
But these men survive on these fronts that they put up. On the exterior that their peers buy into. After all, abusers rely on confirmation that their actions are justified, that they must have been pushed into acts of violence. It means that they can refer their victim to all these people who can vouch for them. They can point you in the direction of a well-meaning police officer who will point out that your abuser was drunk, very remorseful, and who’ll call you the morning after your abuser was arrested, asking if he can come home.
But minimising the abuser, talking about their good sides, is a dangerous game. It leads to the victim accepting the abuser back into their lives, because the narrative that surrounds them is one of blame. It leads to the victim wondering if their abuse was “really that bad”, as other women have it so much worse. It leads to victims wondering if they are the reprehensible individual that their abuser leads them to believe they are, as they’re the only people who witness the abuse. It leads to families pushing victims back to abusers for the sake of the children, because “all children need a father in their lives”. Oh, what bull that is.
You may not have recognised the man that abused Anna Larke. But I do. The women who are experiencing abuse right now, or the women who have survived abuse – the women who have died as a result of abuse do. Because we see both sides of abusive men. We see the sides that you recognise, the sides that you applaud and that you’re comfortable with.
And we recognise the sides that are held up in court, the same way that many of us come to recognise the defences that come along with their actions.
It’s not a “toxic relationship.” It is, quite simply, male violence against women; it is systematic, it is universal, and it is deadly.

#WomanHating101: Dissecting the 1 in 7 Men Are Abused Statistic… The Myth Of Female Brutality In Violent Relationships

October 2007. Dom had just come in drunk, again, after a night at the pub. I’d had a quiet evening in, and was silently dreading his return. Drunk Dom was even more volatile than sober Dom. This evening, in particular, he’d started an argument with a friend, and as I found myself pinned up against the wall, I was feeling the brunt of his anger. I was never one for defending myself. But, at seven months pregnant, as his fist came heading towards my stomach, something snapped. I not only blocked his blow, but I also struck back, slapping him across the face. As he stepped back in shock, I ran to the bathroom, bolting the door, and called the police. The next day, I dropped the charges against Dom. Although the first officer I’d dealt with had been brilliant, flawless, the second officer had phoned in the morning to tell me of Dom’s remorse. “He was drunk, and he’s sobered up. He really regrets it…” he’d said. Ninety minutes later, Dom was back in the living room. “You hit me too… You’re just as bad as me,” he’d claimed. “You’re abusing me, too. You just got to the phone first.” It wasn’t until a few months later that someone else pointed out that it was self defence.

Sadly, I’ve heard a lot of people talking of women being just as bad as men, lately. Yet the people who claim this forget the simple fact that two women a week are killed by their partners. So far this year, it’s believed that one man in the UK has been killed by a former or current partner. This is compared to the 95 women killed by current or former partners, or male relatives this year. As I read a stat claiming that 1 in 7 men were victims of domestic abuse, I remembered a blog post by another rad fem, that used an 87% stat in relation to abuse. I’ve been unable to locate the blog post in question, and have forgotten the author. However, I stumbled across a report on Education.gov.uk, “Children’s Needs – Parenting Capacity” in which I found the citation:

A US study involving 1,517 incidents of  domestic violence where a child was present found 87% of victims were female and 86% of perpetrators were male (Fantuzzo and Fusco 2007).

It’s around here that my mind went into overdrive. I compared this to the “Equality and Diversity Impact Assessment On The CPS Violence Against Women Strategy And Action Plan“, which stated that “5.8.2 The gender breakdown of victims between April and September 2006 indicated that only 33% of cases had gender recorded; [Note 17] of those 86% of victims were women. The December snapshot indicated that 89% of victims were women.” It was time to turn to my trusted Maths student friend; By this point, my head was hurting, and things weren’t making sense. Now, if 1 in 7 men were the victims of domestic violence, compared to 1 in 4 women, then surely the number of male victims recorded would be higher? That would mean 1 male victim for every 2 – 3 female victims. Yes?

Funnily enough, the first thing my friend said upon viewing the stats was “Are you sure the stats aren’t 1 in 7 victims are male?”. I checked. Nope, 1 in 7 men are victims. That’s what I’d read over and over (Some sources state 1 in 6 males) The following is his message to me:

“Well, the way those ratios would go is, for every 25 women abused, about 14.3 men are
which would make a sample size of 39.3
The female percentage would be 25/39.2= about 64%
males would be 14.3/39.3, or about 36-37%”

Which, needless to say, didn’t tally with the research so far… He immediately suggested the statistics had been skewed somewhere down the line, as 86% worked out to be around 6/7. So, here we have 6/7 domestic violence victims are female, and the remaining 1/7 were male. So, to work out the number of males that are victims of domestic abuse, based on a 50/50 gender split, I’ll borrow this friend’s words again.

“6x as many abuse victims female
1/4 of the females abused
so divide 1/4 by 6, gives 1/24”

So, that statistic gives us 1 in 24 men are the victim of domestic violence at any point in their lifetime. Which gives us a very different statistic to the 1 in 7 suggested before. I do not currently have statistics into the gender breakdown of who is abusing men, but needless to say, as the CPS tells us 95% of Domestic Violence defendants are male, it stands to reason, a large number of abusers of men are men themselves.

I’d like to thank my friend, who shall not be named for confidentiality reasons, for his help.

16 Days Of Action On Violence Against Women: A Bloghop

#IBelieveHer: Reddit, The Guardian, And How Society Really Treats Rapists. *Trigger Warning*

A couple of days ago, Reddit ran a conversation, asking rapists about their perspective of assaults they’d carried out. Following Megan Carpentier’s article on The Guardian’s infamous Comment Is Free, detailing the conversation, I found myself heading over to Reddit to read the thread myself. Between Reddit and The Guardian, an interesting perspective emerged. On Reddit, rapists were forgiven, excused, and told they were now “great” guys. On The Guardian, the CiF saw an attack on feminism, the definition of rape and comments asserting that those rapes didn’t happen. Even when men admit to rape, there’s still people in the corner, claiming that it’s a false claim.

I felt nervous about the idea of a forum giving a voice to rapists. Seeing as so many rape survivors end up silenced, I personally think that the one narrative that doesn’t deserve a public airing is the unedited voice of the rapist. As a user of Reddit said: “Giving a voice to shitheads who don’t even feel any remorse about what they did isn’t a good thing.”  And he’s right. A lot of these rapists, telling their stories, didn’t show any remorse, tried to blame the survivor, and tried to claim that they were as much victims of their crimes as the women they’d raped had been.

But for the rapists who aired their stories, a more interesting narrative unfolded in the responses. We began to see how far some men would go to excuse rape. Memorably, AntiDamage tried to argue that pressuring a woman into sex wasn’t rape. It is.

Coercion is a concept I feel that many people overlook. Whereas the rape apologists claim that feminists try to widen the definition of rape, I’d argue that rape apologists try to narrow the definition. To me, rape is simply defined as a man penetrating another person who does not wish to be penetrated, with his penis. Simple, leaves no questions. If your partner doesn’t want sex, it’s not your place to try and change her mind. If you pressurise her into sex she doesn’t want, that is still rape.

One thing that struck me through the stories where men had claimed they’d stopped just short of raping a woman is how many  of them had claimed it was seeing something in her face, usually fear, that made them stop. But there lies the problem. Were these men so removed from the woman they wanted sex with – the woman they believed wanted sex with them- that at no point they chose to look at her face? It highlights our culture that objectifies women – the person you’re having sex with no longer matters enough for little gestures, such as looking at your partner. Women are becoming products from a standard factory line in too many men’s eyes, designed to be in a constant state of consent. It’s why the “she didn’t say no” line of defence is so dangerous. Women are not autonomous, and consent is not a guaranteed right. Assuming a woman wants sex with you is a dangerous viewpoint – If you don’t want to be a rapist, assume a woman doesn’t want sex with you, until she proves otherwise.

But the most important thing Reddit proved last week was simple, and a message feminists have been trying to get across for ages. The men, relaying their stories of how they’d raped women, were telling stories of how they’d raped acquaintances, whilst in a domestic setting. Reddit proved what we’ve been saying all along – Rapists aren’t lurking down every alleyway; they’re not deranged psychopaths. They’re the friends who we trust, the boyfriends, family acquaintances. For all the “Not My Nigel” arguments that women throw about in defence of their partners, the men of Reddit have proven that, yes… It really is our Nigels who pose the threat.

Disney’s Wicked Witch Complex

I’ve spent most of today working on an essay, which has meant Mini-Dragon has been self-entertaining today. By self-entertaining, I mean asking for recorder lessons, countless questions of “Mummy, what you doing? Why? Can I have…”… You get the point. By lunchtime, it became apparent that self-entertaining wasn’t happening. But at some point around that time, Mini-Dragon dug out the Tangled playset. At some point during this role-play, Flynn Ryder goes hurling off the chair, with a shocked gasp from Mini-Dragon. “Mummy, Mother Gothel just hurt Flynn!”

*Cough* Yeah, about that Disney… What’s the obsession with evil women?

Think I’m bluffing?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Disney films as much as the next… erm… OK, that’s beside the point. But, yes, I have an unhealthy love-hate obsession with Disney. I know Tangled word for word. Likewise with The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. But one thing has always niggled away at my mind. Where the Disney Princess films are concerned, we’re seeing an alarming rate of Wicked Witches being shown to our children, all of whom are somehow overpowering a young, beautiful, heterosexual princess, who needs to be saved by an equally young, beautiful, heterosexual prince. Giving us the Wicked Witch Complex.

Now, I’ll only be looking at the Disney Princess films for this blog post; again, I know the Princess franchise is not the be all and end-all of the Disney Corporation, but, Mickey Mouse aside, they’re arguably the most recognisable characters, and one of the most profitable sectors of the company; the release of the Disney Princess line  saw sales in the company’s consumer products raise from $300 million in 2001, to $3 billion in 2006. That’s a ten fold increase over five years. Not bad, eh?

There are ten official Disney Princesses, spanning an impressive 80 decades. And with that 80 years of Disney Princesses, we see 80 years of villains; some of which aren’t as obvious as one may think. However, up  until 1991, none of the Disney Princess films, as they’re now known, featured a male villain. We’ve also seen a development of the complexity of Disney Villains over the past 80 years; from a 2 dimensional Evil Queen in Snow White, someone that I grew up fearing, to the more complex Mother Gothel, a character who I believe was possibly the most complex of Disney Villains of all time.

But what’s most telling about this is the fact that, whilst the male villains of the nineties and noughties brought the number of male and female villains to a level playing field, we saw less of  a deviation in the diversity of  female villains. Whilst connections to the supernatural were not entirely absent in male villains, only one female villain was devoid of any connection to the supernatural; Lady Tremaine of Cinderella. The issue of the Wicked Witch Complex isn’t resolved by having male villains connected to the supernatural; it’s resolved by refusing to separate women from the supernatural. Whilst women are still being hounded for apparent connections to Witchcraft, is it really justified for Disney to routinely portray a large number of its women characters as such?

But there’s another problem in portraying women as being just as, if not more, dangerous than men. It’s the echoes of the misogynists who attempt to derail talks about men’s violence against women, with cries of “Women are just as dangerous”. Actually, that’s not entirely true… Women aren’t killing 2 men or 2 other women a week; men are. Continually painting women as dangerous killers detracts from the reality that the biggest threat to women lies with men; but the patriarchy would rather pit women against us. Solidarity is harder when we believe every woman is a threat, and men are our saviours. Funnily enough, hailing men as our knights in shining armour also makes it a lot harder for women to escape the patriarchy.

We need Disney, along with other creators of other children’s films, to stop portraying women as dangerous villains, and men as the heroes and protectors. All it is doing is harming our women, and as a result, our children.

I’ll be writing on The Problem With Prince Charming next week; It’s a long one…

I Believe Her, and it’s finally given me the strength to speak up. Trigger warning.

The past year has been a weird one; the past month, weirder still. But it’s the events of a combination of the two which have lead to this blog post.

Earlier this month, I posted the link to the Biting Beaver rapist checklist on the I Believe Her page. It was this checklist that, just under a year ago, made me come to the realisation that I was a rape survivor. September 11th’s 10th anniversary memorials made me realise I was a rape survivor twice over.

I was 16 the first time I was raped. September 12th, 2001. My parents were on holiday with their best friends, and as a result, I was staying with their friends older daughter. When the planes hit the twin towers on September 11th, I feared that my parents, due home on the 15th, may end up stranded. I also wondered if this meant that William, my mum’s friend’s eldest son, would end up stranded at work, as he worked offshore. For him, getting home meant a short flight. He was due home on the 12th. I was in my first week of college, and returned from college the next day to find him sat there. At 25, he was a long term crush of mine. We sat up and talked most of the evening. As I went to the room I was staying in, he followed me. I can’t remember how I felt about that. I really can’t. I’ve tried, over the past six months since I began remembering things, but it doesn’t happen. We sat up, watching some film, starring David Duchovny, and I vaguely remember him groping me. Everything from there remains blocked out, apart from two key moments. Laying beneath him, as he told me to stop shaking. And shortly after, as he told me to be quiet. I don’t know if I’d tried to protest, or what. I can’t remember what I’d said, how I’d sounded. But he didn’t stop. When he finally finished with me, he quite simply asked “Was that your first time?” It was.

Over the next three years, I slowly went off the rails. I dropped out of my first college course, but thanks to an extremely over-bearing mentor on the subsequent college course, pushed through til the end of the course with the grades required to get into university. I found myself smoking weed, something I’d previously been firmly against, stealing from family. I found myself spiralling deeper into depression, and unable to explain why.

I met my next rapist, Dom, in December after leaving home, and starting at uni. However, it wasn’t until February the following year we started dating. To start with, he seemed lovely. But somewhere within the early months of the relationship, he changed. The first glimsp came a few weeks into the relationship when I returned home to find him drunk, and quickly accusing me of cheating on him. This accusation had apparently transpired from his two year old son apparently finding my purse, and the condom I still had in there; one I’d had since before I met him. I struggled to connect the dots, failing to understand how he’d come to the conclusion I was cheating on him. He quickly became more and more possessive; I found myself confronted one afternoon for not knowing he was meeting me from my lecture – I’d arrived home to find an empty house, and twenty minutes later, he arrived, accusing me of lying to him. He started turning up at my workplace, and it was noted on more than one occasion, he was making customers extremely uncomfortable. By August that year, he’d threatened to kill me, holding a knife inches from my throat after I’d admitted I wasn’t sure what to make of one of his friends.

I don’t remember when Dom first physically assaulted me. Nor do I remember when he first raped me. Over the past seven years, the four years I was with him has rolled into one continuous nightmare. I remember things being thrown at walls a long time before the hits, the kicks and the throttles came. And I definitely don’t remember when the first rape came. But I remember incidents that first put the fear of saying “no” into me. The first came around October that first year, when he pinned me on the floor, despite the fact I started to panic, trying to wrestle him off me. To me, this wasn’t a game. The more fear I showed, it seemed the harder he pinned me, telling me to “lighten up”. I don’t remember how long it took, but I eventually lashed out. At some point over the next six months, he worked out he could use fear to coerce me into having sex with him. It took me a long time to realise that if I was having sex with him to save myself from being locked out of the flat naked, or to “prove I wasn’t having an affair”, or to ensure he wouldn’t assault me… I was still being raped. “It’s not consent if you make me afraid to say no.” I never remember who originally said that. 

Shortly before the end of the relationship, I gave birth to my only son. He’s truly the apple of my eye, as the old cliché goes. But I can’t remember the night he was conceived; was it one of the times I was too afraid to say no? Regardless, I can’t hold him accountable for his father’s actions; nor can I hold myself accountable. My son is as much a victim of his father’s actions as I am. But, like his mother, he’s strong. He may find all of this out one day. I’ll be honest, I hope to high heaven he doesn’t; but if that day ever comes, we’ll survive. It’s what this family is built on.