“Nice Guys” and a Dead Woman

I haven’t written in a while.  I’ve had a lot going on, financially and emotionally.  Something would come into my head, and I’d want to write, but I just couldn’t make myself do it.  However, I finally felt like I had to write today.  I’ve been giving a lot of thought to women I used to know.  Women who “worked” in the sex trade.  Women who died there.  There’s one particular woman who has been on my mind a lot lately, because the anniversary of her murder just passed.

My friend was a mom.  She had two sons.  She was also a hardcore coke freak.  I mean constant use of cocaine.  She felt like she had it “under control”, though, because she just snorted it.  She supported her use through sex, trading either for drugs or money to buy drugs.  I knew a couple of her johns.  One was a beautiful young African-American man who dealt a lot of drugs.  He seemed super nice.  He was polite and friendly.  He was physically extremely attractive.  She called him “Daddy”.  Another was a younger white man who often bragged about all the girls he “turned out”.  He loved to talk about being a pimp.  He wasn’t as charming as “Daddy”, but he wasn’t someone who would have been thought of as untrustworthy or dangerous in our world.  Both were considered nice guys.  Lots of the women trusted them.  She certainly did.

After I quit using, I stayed friends with her.  I would visit her on a fairly regular basis.  I visited her on the day she was murdered, in fact.  I had taken a phone cord to her house.  Her boyfriend had just left her, and she was terrified.  She needed a way to stay in touch with her mom that night.  These two “nice guys” she did business with had been saying some stuff that had started to scare her.  She meant to run the next morning.  It would be the last night for her and her sons in that apartment.  Yet, she was going to let one or both of them come over that night, and try to talk things out and maybe do some business.  I left that night, thinking that they were no real danger to her.  It would all get worked out.  After all, I had never felt threatened by either of them.

The next evening, I sat watching TV.  A news break came on.  A body bag coming out of her apartment.  Her brother screaming in the parking lot.  Talk of her sons being there when she was shot to death.  I don’t know which of her “nice guys” was there, or if both of them came over for business that night, so I’m not certain who pulled the trigger.  I know at least one of them was definitely supposed to be there, though.

So, was her killer(s) one of the “nice guys” we’re told sometimes buy sex?  Well, she would have thought they were.  She talked about how much she loved them.  She talked about how great they treated her.  As a woman and a “whore”, she didn’t mean much to them, though.  When they were done with her, and she held no more use for them, they got rid of her.  After all, she was just one of the faceless many, right?  I guess they were nice guys until they weren’t.

Of course, I’ve heard other stories about “nice guys” who buy sex.  There were the ones who would buy sex from a couple of friends who were later diagnosed with HIV.  They would often talk about their families, the wives and children.  I wonder how many of those nice guys might have taken that home to wives and girlfriends before my friends’ HIV statuses were known?  When you’re buying from someone on the street, someone who’s desperate and addicted, you have to know that’s a possibility, right?  Are you still a “nice guy”, since you didn’t commit legal rape or beat anyone, but just endangered others?

In the clubs, the “nice guys” are a bit different.  They are the ones who get a dancer fired because they become obsessive and weird.  They then track her down at the next club and do the same there.  People say they’re just lonely, and you shouldn’t hold it against them.  They’re actually really nice guys when you get to know them.

They are the ones who won’t take no for an answer when you say you won’t have sex with them, following you home in the dark and confronting you.  People ask you why you’re so upset.  After all, the fact that they know where you live and are willing to track you down shouldn’t be of any concern, right?  They just didn’t understand because of the language and cultural barriers.

They are the ones who demand you engage in illegal acts in order to get paid, even though it would mean you get fired.  They are the ones who spend time in the club, then talk shit about “strippers” and “whores”.  That’s just boys being boys, right?  What do you expect?

They are also the owners, who don’t pay you any salary, but require you to give part of your tips to the bartender and DJ, whom they do pay.  They are the bartenders who get pissed if you won’t drink with customers, even though it will get you fired if you do.  They are the bouncers who think it’s perfectly acceptable to perform strip searches on the dancers when some asshole loses his money.  They are the managers who are just fine with hiring women with track marks, as long as they cover them before work.

I have lived in a dangerous world.  I have seen dangerous men.  Most of them are considered “nice guys” by those they know.  Even by the women they exploit.  Even by the women they end up stalking.  Even by the women they end up killing.  I have worked in a lot of shitty industries in my life.  I have hated most of my jobs.  But there’s only one that would strike terror in my heart if my daughter followed me into it…and “nice guys” are the reason why.

A Gender Critical Response to: A Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism

Another important article by Elizabeth Hungerford addressing the circular logic of genderists.

Liberation Collective

This is my response to the reactionary and misguided “A Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism” (The Statement) posted at FeministsFightingTransphobia.wordpress.com.

We can all agree, I think, that people’s actual lives are more important than theoretical abstractions– including those related to “identity.” This is precisely why, as feminists, we demand acknowledgement for the lived realities and material conditions of women’s lives, including the social mechanics of sex-and-gender-assignment that ultimately give rise to women’s oppression. But beyond this, there are a truly alarming number of misrepresentations, inconsistencies, and logical errors in The Statement. I will address many of them below.

First things first, I want to point out that characterizing gender critical feminists as “transphobic feminists” remains unsupported where “transphobia” is not defined. Repeated use of this term to demonize a certain kind of political speech or political actor is clearly intended to be insulting rather than instructive; it serves as a…

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GUEST POST: I am a grown ass woman….not a male child: The Enigma of “Boi”

“The whole ‘bois’ movement is based on a fantasy that at some point one is really ‘male’ or even ‘male minded’….forget the fact that these women are grown with major tatas and vaginas, let’s live the fantasy of male privilege and patriarchy. Notorious bois are known for telling their hurt buddies to ‘man up’ and ‘think like a man.’ I have heard ‘bois’ say they have never really thought as girls. I have also heard ‘bois’ disrespect, to the utmost, the women that love them, making Ike Turner look like St. Francis.Who wants their woman to call them ‘b*tch’ to their face?”

Gender Fatigue

I am a grown ass woman….not a male child: The Enigma of “Boi”

by Carmen O’Day

I am a Black Lesbian. Born and bred in one of the largest cities in this nation, I have seen alot. I have seen my loved ones die due to violence and AIDS. I have seen the strength of young Black gays and lesbians coming out, and getting thrown out of their homes, only to emerge as hardy and determined adults. Witnessing the victories has given me hope despite rampant racism, sexism and homophobia. With all that,we have along road ahead of us and a lot of the demons we must struggle against lie within our own gay and lesbian communities.

So imagine my conundrum of a whole group of  lesbian women referring to themselves as “bois.” Boi this, boi that….I thought it was cute at first, and drank the Kool Aid. Then I woke…

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“Responsible Fatherhood” Initiatives, the Nuclear Family and Revolutionary Thought

The idea that the nuclear family is closely tied to the oppression and exploitation of women is common in much revolutionary thought.  Whether it’s radical feminism or Marxism, criticism for the nuclear family and its role in keeping women’s status low and lives difficult isn’t hard to find.  The reasons cited for this may vary across the various political theories, but the nature of the beast is well understood and recognized.  It is through this lens that we should view the recent lawsuit filed in Connecticut by women’s groups to stop the U.S. government’s  federal Responsible Fatherhood Programs offered under the Grants for Healthy Marriage Promotion and Responsible Fatherhood legislation passed in 2006.  The grounds for the lawsuit are that these programs violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

I have written about my support for Title IX in the past.  While many in the U.S. equate it with organized sports in educational institutions, the law’s impact and intent is much wider than that.  Yes, it is an act of reform rather than what is generally understood as a revolutionary act.  I would argue, however, that it’s time to recognize that much of the work done to reform the treatment and status of women within the law is actually far more radical and socialist than the endless theorizing or talk of some nebulous, as-yet-unseen revolution that is carried out by many within both the radical feminist and the socialist camps.  In her introduction to the 1972 edition of Frederick Engels’ The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, anthropologist Eleanor Burke Leacock wrote:

[W]orking-class women, not only in their obviously basic fight on the job but also in their seemingly more conservative battles for their families around schools, housing and welfare, are actually posing a more basic challenge than that of the radicals.  By demanding that society assume responsibility for their children, they are attacking the nature of the family as an economic unit , the basis of their own oppression and a central buttress of class exploitation. (Intro, pp. 44-45)

Now, I would deny Leacock’s assertion that the family is the basis of women’s oppression*–it is a patriarchal and capitalist tool in our oppression–but I otherwise agree with this take on the use of so-called “liberal reform” measures as a way to attack the structures of patriarchy and capitalism.  It is through that lens that we should view this lawsuit.

So, what is the basis of the lawsuit?  The complainants argue that the Responsible Fatherhood Programs offer education that is funded by the U.S. government.  This includes job skills, which should be a special point of contention.  Those educational programs either offer their services on reduced bases to women or exclude women altogether.  They also argue that denying women from federally-funded programs is a violation of equal protection under due process.**   Those are the legal grounds of the lawsuit, but they are not why I support this filing.  The most offensive part of the program is its championing of marriage as the ideal and in the best interests of government and society.

These programs have a major component aimed at encouraging “healthy” marriage.  What that means, we can only guess.  After all, some of the money for these “healthy marriage” programs in my state goes to religious organizations.  In fact, the state explicitly encourages such organizations to apply for grant money:

The American people have long shown their considerable compassion and generosity through a broad range of community-based entities, including a diverse group of faith-based organizations.  Faith-based groups provide critical human services, and, in emergencies, they consistently stand shoulder-to-shoulder with government in the first line of response.  Our nation is stronger for their work.

We already know the view of marriage that is touted by the majority of religious organizations.  We’ve read their texts and seen their behavior.  It doesn’t take a radical feminist to analyze the “skills” that are most likely to be touted by faith-based organizations when it comes to marriage–especially in a state like Arizona, which is dominated by Catholics and Mormons.  Are we to stand by while the government funds these organizations?

Of course, even if administered by secular organizations, the focus on marriage and the nuclear family as the desired environment for child rearing is essentially regressive and capitalist.  This is not to say that the role of men in child rearing is trivial or unimportant.  I will also not deny that within the society we now live, there are very real advantages to raising children within a marriage.  From social pressure to health care to tax breaks, the government and social institutions push marriage as the desired state of being in many ways, especially when children are involved.  In fact, this is the very reason my spouse and I chose to marry 21 years ago.  That doesn’t mean they are right, and it doesn’t mean this is what we should be fighting for.

NOTES:

*I do believe that women’s childbearing capacity is the basis of our oppression and exploitation, though.  I believe that control of women’s reproduction led to the creation of the family as the basic economic unit, and that is closely tied to the development of goods-as-commodities, surplus and an assumption of patrilineal inheritance as the “natural” order of things.  I also believe that patriarchy grew out of that, but has taken on a life of its own that can and does persist even outside capitalism.  I have outlined that, essentially adapting Engels’ paradigm, in other writings.  It is true that this particular pattern did not unfold exactly the same in every society.  However, it is primarily true–especially in Western cultures and those cultures subjugated by Western cultures–and, as such, is a useful paradigm.  To say that there is no real reason, that patriarchy arose simply because that’s just how men (and, by extension, women) are is an essentialist view, and I reject essentialism.

**It is important to head off any “what about the men” objections here by noting that there are federally-funded programs that help only women and children, such as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.  However, these programs help women to the exclusion of men only insofar as those women are pregnant or breastfeeding.  They also exclude women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding, even if they are mothers of young children.  This is a very real biological difference based upon sex, and one in which men cannot biologically participate.  It is in no way the same as excluding women from educational programs simply because they are women.

The Individual and Collective Action

The standard definition of the radical Leftist is a person who recognizes that oppression and exploitation are based upon class.  One is not exploited or oppressed by a capitalist, sexist or racist system because of any individual achievement or lack thereof.  It’s not something that happens because an individual chooses it, and it’s not something that ends because an individual desires it to end.  Instead, that exploitation and oppression are based upon the very fact that a group of individuals are separated into a class considered appropriate for exploitation or oppression.  Individuals within the given exploitable class are viewed as “naturally” deserving of their lot, while those in the exploiting class are likewise considered deserving of their position based upon nothing more than class membership.  One can not by sheer force of will decide not to be oppressed or exploited so long as one continues to be a member of the class assigned the lesser status. In order to end exploitation and oppression, it is necessary for collective action, action that fully dismantles the very system that allows this to exist and to continue.

Fine, so we have that out of the way.  Where does that leave the individual?  Simply believing in the necessity of collective action and the community does not mean we give up our status and responsibilities as individuals, does it?  I flat-out reject any suggestion that it does, although some seem to argue in that direction.  Collective action doesn’t spring up out of the ground like Athena from the head of Zeus.  It comes about because of individuals who collectivize.  Individuals who dissent through action, organization and speech (written or otherwise)–all of which are important in any movement building.  Within a collective movement, it is just as important to dissent through action, organization and speech when an individual member of or group within the movement sees things going off the rails.  We don’t march forward into the darkness as a group, simply because to do otherwise might take an individual act to stop it–especially when we know that the darkness leads off the edge of a cliff.  Sadly, I’ve found that many who call themselves radical are willing to go to any ends to be seen as one of the collective.  This is the appointed leader, you say?  Okay, then let’s follow him wherever he goes.  If his path leads to destruction, let’s continue to defend him as infallible.

The reason I became radicalized was that I saw a moral failing in the world of capitalism and patriarchy, where people are expected to do the bootstrap dance no matter how the deck is stacked against them.  I realized this selfishness and lack of concern for other human beings was in and of itself an atrocity.  That wasn’t a collective conclusion; it was one of an individual human being.  That moral stand led me to movements that believe in the common good, in the collective, in the community.  I refuse to engage in the cult of personality, where the Great Leader is honored over the common good and the end goal.  That’s not radical.  That’s not Leftist.  That’s not anything I would ever want to be a part of.  The responsibility to remain committed to that morality doesn’t end when one becomes radicalized.  In fact, I believe it becomes more important.

When we see a Leftist movement become supportive of rapists and rape culture, what do we do?  We speak out against it.  We organize with others within the group to stop it.  We dissent.  We try to expose this betrayal within our own movement so it can be rectified.  That is but one example of how we can never let our moral centers get lost, but it is hardly the only one.  We must never become so beholden to the specter of the dreaded Individualism that we forget that.  It takes strong individuals within any collective organization to keep that organization moving in the right direction.  Failing to step up and do that is cowardly.  It is also the ultimate betrayal of the exploited and oppressed classes.

Sexual Sadism: Face the Truth and Stop the Excuses

When you search for the term “sexual sadist”  on Google, the definition given comes from The Free Dictionary.  This links simply to the word “sadism”, which has the following definition:

sa·dism (sdzm, sdz-)
n.
1. The deriving of sexual gratification or the tendency to derive sexual gratification from inflicting pain or emotional abuse on others.
2. The deriving of pleasure, or the tendency to derive pleasure, from cruelty.
3. Extreme cruelty.

While the term appears to be sex-neutral, we know that this is not materially true.  While there are undoubtedly females who fall within the definition, both the practice and the social understanding generally applies to males.  If you have done any research on pornography–both graphic and “literary”–the sadist is presented as male almost universally.  The female sadist is a very, very rare exception to this rule.  Since the majority of porn is aimed at heterosexual males, it follows that the presentation of the masochist or the victim of the sadist is almost universally female.  This goes back to the patriarchal concept of masculine dominance and feminine submission.  The concept that the abuse of women is not only normal, it is what women desire.

In patriarchal society, sadists as a group are divided into two:  the sadist who engages in “consensual” sadomasochistic relations and the sadist whose sadism is “forced”.  There is a refusal–even among the choice proponents in liberal feminism–to acknowledge that the underlying psycho-sexual make-up of the sadist is the same whether the sadism is “consensual” or “forced”.  Indeed, some sadists have entered into “consensual” sadomasochistic relations with the intent of killing their “consenting” partner.  Others have entered these relations with indifference to whether the partner ends up dead or not.  All enter the relations with the idea that torture, humiliation, cruelty, and abuse are sexually satisfying.  Let’s repeat that, so we are all on the same page here:  TORTURE, HUMILIATION, CRUELTY and ABUSE are SEXUALLY SATISFYING.  Torture.  Humiliation.  Cruelty.  And abuse.  Are sexually satisfying.

Indeed, the word “sadism” itself is taken from the name of the Marquis de Sade, a member of the French nobility who was known to kidnap and torture women.  He was not the first to forcibly take women to torture and to humiliate them for his twisted sexual satisfaction, nor was he the last.  He was just the most famous.  Society as a whole recognizes that this type of sadism is wrong.  What society as a whole refuses to condemn is the sadist who engages is so-called consensual sadomasochism.  This, despite the fact that the underlying psycho-sexual make-up and motivations of the “forced” sadist and of the “consensual” sadist are the same.  This, despite the fact that we have plenty of evidence that the so-called “consensual” sadist has been known to kill his female partners in pursuit of sexual gratification.

The serial killer John Edward Robinson recruited his “consensual” sadomasochistic partners via online forums meant for sadomasochistic hook-ups.  The majority of the women he tortured and eventually murdered were not kidnapped.  They were not tricked.  They entered into these relationships “willingly” (assuming that you don’t consider patriarchal conditioning of women to accept submissiveness and abuse coercive).  In the language of liberal feminism, they chose to be there.  They exercised their “agency” by making that “choice”.  And they ended up murdered and stuffed in 55 gallon drums.  As I’ve mentioned before, a friend of mine ended up dead during a “consensual” sadomasochistic encounter.  Her sadistic “partner” suffocated her to death with a plastic dry-cleaning bag.  These are but two examples of men who murdered while engaged in “consensual” sadomasochistic sex.  They are not the only examples.

When more radically minded feminists bring these issues up, they are commonly met with a couple of excuses by males who lay claim political radicalism and by females who claim to be feminists.  One is the “choice” argument.  People who argue against capitalism, racism and other “isms” because they are injurious to groups of people seem to run into problems when it comes to sadism.  Here, they will hypocritically cling to the “individual choice” argument.  Guess what? Some people choose to work for employers who exploit them.  Some people of color choose to join racist organizations like the Republican Party.  A political radical should recognize that “an injury to one is an injury to all”.  They should instinctively know that the protection of the group is what political radicals are supposed to be about.  And they will recognize these things…until it comes to misogyny.  Then, they trot out the “individual” and “choice”.

As I have written previously, some women “choose” to stay with men who beat them–even when they are under no financial constraints that might force them to.  In fact, I have male friends who have seen women being beaten in public places.   When they intervened, the women have verbally or physically attacked them for stopping the beatings.  Does the fact that these women choose to stay with violent men and even physically resist when someone tries to end the violence mean that the violence is acceptable?  Does it mean we should advocate for the violence to continue?

The other argument that is brought up is that the sadist who kills or kidnaps is committing a crime, while the sadist involved in “consensual” sadomasochism isn’t.  Sure.  That’s true, but it’s a weak argument.  Legality doesn’t make something acceptable, and it sure as hell doesn’t make it something to advocate.  The racist who doesn’t actively commit violence against people of color isn’t committing a crime.  Would a so-called political radical or even a liberal then say that racism is just fine?  Would that person not only say that racism is acceptable, but that anyone who condemns racism is unreasonable?  Would that person advocate for the circulation of racist graphics and literature?  Would that person publicly criticize and deride those who fight to end racism?  Did I hear, “No”?  So, why does this suddenly become the directive as soon as women and the male right to violate women come into the picture?

The fundamental issue behind feminist critiques of sadism has nothing to do with legality.  It has nothing to do with the liberal/libertarian veneration of individualism.  It has to do with the radical notions of improving the lot of the oppressed and exploited group.  It has to do with the psycho-sexual foundation of sadism–that torture, humiliation, cruelty and abuse are sexually satisfying.  It has to do with the cultural constructs of “feminine” and of “masculine” that tie femininity to masochism and masculinity to sadism.  It has to do with the ways those ties restrict and influence women’s lives in other aspects of society.  It has to do with the ways that these constructs reinforce rape culture.  It has to do with the ways women are kept as the sex class–open and available to both the most extreme kinds of male abuse and the everyday sexual demands of men they may not even know.  It’s not about what two (or more) individuals do in the bedroom.  It’s about how the underlying ideas endanger and limit women outside the bedroom.