Thoughts I Had After Watching Star Trek Beyond with my Parents

There are two things every single member of my immediate family enjoys: science fiction, and Broadway musicals. Strange combination? Definitely. But Catholicism also used to be something we all had in common. While I’ve been dealing with family tension since I started to form my own opinions about religion and politics, I’ve still been able to enjoy science fiction and musicals with my parents, and I love that.

Sometimes though, a science fiction film or show does something progressive, and talking to my ultra-Catholic conservative parents about how awesome that is runs the risk of creating more conflict, so I’ll be reacting here instead.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see Star Trek Beyond with my parents. As is often the case in Star Trek, there’s a scene where the characters are coming back to Starfleet after a mission, and greeting people they know. In one such scene, we see Sulu coming home to a man and a little girl. There’s no major PDA or anything, but you can tell the girl is meant to be their daughter, and Sulu and the other man walk together with their arms at each other’s backs. It’s subtle; the characters never talk about it, but it’s there: Sulu has a spouse or romantic partner, and it’s not a woman. For the first time ever, Star Trek has included a gay character, and they chose to make that character be Sulu–an important character on the bridge of the Enterprise–in a nod to George Takei, the actor who played Sulu in the original series. Takei came out as gay in 2005.

If you’re not a big sci fi fan, you may know George Takei from his Facebook posts. He’s amassed a huge following by sharing interesting tidbits of internet hilariousness, and you know, the weird stuff that gets shared on the internet. He’s also been vocal since he came out about gay rights. What I find particularly interesting though about this story is that Takei wasn’t happy with this decision to make Sulu gay in the new films. Takei explains:

I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene [Rodberry]’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.

Takei says that Sulu was always a heterosexual character, so this is a pretty big change that he doesn’t think makes much sense. This whole thing is fascinating to me as a former English major and total sci fi nerd. Takei has a good point. Sulu, as a character, has existed for a long time as a straight man. While it’s wonderful to have gay people represented in one of the most popular science fiction franchises ever, does it really make sense to change one of the franchise’s beloved characters in such a substantial way? Why not just introduce some new characters to the franchise? Part of me is a bit bothered by this, but it’s a very small part of me.

Today, when it seems like every other move that comes out is a sequal or remake of something pretty old, we’re going to have to accept that one of the ways the new versions can really stand out from the old ones is diversity. There was a time when no one would bat an eye to see an all white, mostly male cast, but that’s just not the case anymore. As much as I appreciate fan loyalty to a franchise and to the original versions of these beloved characters, I can’t help but think that maybe the progress we’re seeing is also improving these franchises in this one sense: showing that even in fictional worlds, people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, sexualities, and so forth.

Star Wars Episode VII, which debuted many new characters, was the first Star Wars episode I found particularly relatable. For the first time in the live action films (yes, I know we had Ahsoka in Clone Wars), we finally had a female force-sensitive character (Rey) who is portrayed as a hero rather than a sex object. While I loved some things about Leia in the original films, her character was so tainted by the male gaze that it was sometimes difficult to relate to her as a woman. She was portrayed as a sex object half the time. But there’s none of that with Rey. And knowing how I felt watching Rey kick ass in episode VII, and get taken seriously by all parties, I can’t help but think how much MORE incredible it must have been for the young black women watching the original Star Trek series when it first came out in the 1960s to see Uhura working as an equal to the other main characters. Uhura was a crew member on the bridge of the enterprise at a time when black women on the screen (and often in real life) were servants and could be nothing more. The series first aired in the 1960s, right around the time that Jim Crow was coming to an end. Decades later, maybe this moment with Sulu is Star Trek carrying on its tradition of progressiveness. Somewhere in the audience of Star Trek Beyond, there may be a gay man thinking, wow. Finally. Someone I can relate to.

Perhaps the most important thing about the scene in Star Trek though, is the fact that the characters didn’t talk about it. No one makes a big deal out of it. No one makes a joke about Sulu being gay. There are no awkward moments, just acceptance that this is part of Sulu’s life. We need more entertainment media like this. Where something as natural as people’s sexuality isn’t a joke or something to obsess over. It’s just part of life.

Since seeing the film, I kept waiting for my parents to say something about this brief moment showing Sulu’s sexuality, which was very obvious to me. My whole life, my parents have been the sort of people to say “is that really necessary?” out loud in response to everything from sex scenes that are a big part of the plot to characters being open about their sexualities–basically anything remotely related to “icky” sex. They didn’t say anything this time though. Which means either they didn’t notice at all, OR they did notice but don’t want to talk about it with me. I’m trying hard not to bring it up, but I’m curious which one it is.

Do you have thoughts about diversity in film, or about Star Trek Beyond? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

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Dear Searcher part 3: “purity and secondary virginity”

person, couple, love

This is my third post responding to search terms that have led people to my blog. You can read the first post here, and you can read the second post here.

The premise of these Dear Searcher posts is that I write an open letter to a person who found my blog using search terms that I find thought provoking or unsettling.

On March 14th 2016, someone found my blog using the search term “purity and secondary virginity.”

Dear searcher,

Virginity is one of the most ill-defined concepts we have in this world. Ever notice that? There’s a myriad of sexual things we can do and still be technically “virgins.” Then again, it depends on who you ask. One of my earliest memories of learning this was at a pool party in high school. I was fourteen, maybe fifteen, and one of my friends said, “If I let a guy do it in my butt, am I still a virgin?”

One friend said “Heck no!”

Another one said, “Maybe. Did he go all the way in?”

Sure, there are clinical definitions of sex, and a doctor once told me the definition of “sexually active” was “physical contact with any body parts covered by a bikini.” By that definition, I was sexually active by the end of high school, even though I didn’t have sex until I was almost done with college. But “sexually active” is different from “virginity.” Virginity is much harder to define.

Some people define losing one’s virginity as a person’s first time having penis-in-vagina sex, but by that definition, gay and lesbian people who never experiment with straight people will remain virgins their entire lives. That doesn’t make any sense. I’m sorry to anyone who was using this as a sneaky way to cheat the “rules” and remain a virgin, but  oral and anal sex are included in the umbrella of acts that can remove one’s virginity, no matter what your friend Tara says. As clear as this is to me now, I considered myself a virgin for a while after I’d had oral sex. Our culture is very heteronormative, and still views sex largely from a straight male perspective. Even though penis-in-vagina sex doesn’t really do a whole lot for many women as far as pleasure is concerned, it’s still considered the gold standard.

With all that being said, at the end of the day you’re the one who needs to decide how you personally feel about sex. The question to ask yourself is, does any of this really matter? Does whether or not you are a virgin affect your value as an individual? Does it affect your identity positively or negatively? Does it affect your self esteem?.

Virginity is not always given up willingly, but it is still considered gone if it is lost in rape. If you do believe a person’s value is tarnished by sex, do you consider it just as bad for a victim as for a person who’s doing it of their own volition?

What about gender differences? If you find out that a female friend has had sex, how do you judge her? Now imagine that instead of a female friend, it is a male friend. How do you judge him? If there is a difference? Why is that?

You may have noticed that there is one, or any other number of unsettling things about the way you view virginity by asking yourself these questions, and there’s a reason why they’re unsettling: virginity is a concept that society made up: a social construct. It’s not actually important at all. I really mean that. Virginity is as much a social construct as the way we assume video games are for boys, the way someone invented dresses and said “these will be women’s clothing, not men’s.” It could have gone the other way. There’s no biological reason for women to wear dresses, or for video games to be marketed heavily to boys. It’s not the way things have to be, just the way our culture is. “Virgin” is a label applied to people who have not had sex, but sex is, at the end of the day, an experience, not necessarily a terrible or life-altering event.

Imagine if we had a label for people who had never eaten sushi, and although we judged people for never having eaten it, we also judged people who have. Imagine if people also claimed that there was a biological difference between people who ate it and those who didn’t–a sushi barrier that broke as soon as the delicious fish slid down your throat. Ridiculous right? That’s exactly what sex is though.

It’s an experience, just like eating sushi, or going sky diving, or going to work for the first time. It’s something many people do, and while the first time may be a milestone for you, it doesn’t make you a better or worse person than you were the day before. Yes, even in women, there is NO PHYSICAL DIFFERENCE between those who are virgins and those who are not. (FYI, hymens DO NOT POP, please click the link and educate yourself. And this one while you’re at it. Trust me on this, I’m a cisgender female with a hymen who’s having sex. And yes, those are both YouTube videos. Sadly, YouTube has frequently been a more reliable sex ed resource than traditional resources.)

But your search term included “secondary” virginity, which tells me that you’ve been sky diving. You’ve had figurative sushi before, and you’re interested in becoming a virgin again. I was raised Catholic, and taught that this could be done spiritually, through an appeal to God and a promise to follow Catholic teaching on sex (abstaining till marriage) in the future. I’m not going to lie to you. This is a complete waste of your time and energy. If you’ve eaten sushi, you’ve eaten sushi. If you’ve gone on an international vacation, you’ve gone on an international vacation. If you’ve been sky diving, you’ve been sky diving. Sex is part of your life experience now, just like every job you’ve had, every friendship, every lesson, every skill. Maybe you aren’t happy with how it happened. Maybe it was the wrong person. Maybe you were a victim. Whatever the circumstances, you can’t change the past. You can only move forward. Pretending the past didn’t happen is not a healthy way to do that.

You have to come to terms with the fact that you are no longer what society labels a “virgin,” just like I am no longer a college student. The transition from one label to another is difficult because it can become a huge part of your identity if it matters to you. I loved being a college student. But I was ready to move on to the next part of my life. Try to think of sex like that. You don’t have to do it again if you don’t want to. But you’ve done it now. You know what it’s like, at least in one circumstance, and now you can learn from it just like you can with any other experience. What you take away from it is up to you.
Has anyone else encountered this idea of secondary virginity? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Oklahoma Pro-Life Propaganda Legislation

Check out this video on YouTube in which TYT reports on legislation that just passed in Oklahoma. This legislation requires the state to spend money they don’t have to teach kids in public schools that life begins at conception. It would require public schools to have advertisements for pro-life so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” and also use taxpayer money for pro-life “celebrity” visits.

Great use of taxpayer money, guys.

This comes at a time when Oklahoma schools are among the lowest ranking schools in the nation. It’s little wonder when they’re wasting their time and funding on propaganda. This is why we need to get religion out of politics. People should not be allowed to legislate based on their religious beliefs. If you don’t have a good secular argument for a legislation, it shouldn’t even be considered.

Any thoughts about this? Have you seen similar frustrating legislation in your state when it comes to this issue? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

Dear Searcher part 2: “i didnt report a sexual assault, am i to blame?”

This is my second post responding to search terms that have led people to my blog. You can read the first post here.

The premise of these Dear Searcher posts is that I write an open letter to the person who found my blog using search terms that I find thought provoking or unsettling.

On March 12th, someone found my blog using the search term, “i didnt report a sexual assault, am i to blame?” This is an open letter to that person.

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Dear person who stumbled upon my blog using the search term, “i didnt report a sexual assault, am i to blame?,”

I recently made this post regarding sexual assault and my own experience, including my decision to not report it, which I hope can help you see that you’re not alone.

I know this can be difficult to accept when it’s about yourself, but the answer to your question is a resounding no. Victims are never to blame. It may still feel that way. It still feels that way for me sometimes. But you were violated against your will. That’s the definition of sexual assault. You cannot be blamed for something happening to you that you didn’t want. Is it your fault if someone you’ve never met is rude to you? If you get mugged, is it your fault?

No.

So why is it that people like us–myself included–often feel like it’s our fault when it comes to sexual assault? There are a myriad of reasons, but a lot of it comes from the way society talks about this particular crime. We’re told so many things over and over again about this: don’t go into dark places, don’t leave your drinks unattended, don’t walk alone at night, don’t wear short shorts, short skirts, low-cut tops, slinky dresses, dresses altogether, or maybe don’t wear pants. That’ll fix it. And sure, we can be cautious, but we can’t possibly account for every twisted fantasy of a potential stranger lurking in the dark. We can’t possibly know until it happens who among our friends and acquaintances is harboring the intention to take advantage of someone. Of us.

What helped me was finding someone I could talk to. I picked one friend and I told them everything. In the process of talking about it, I began to see what had happened with a new found clarity.

Then I wrote about it, nonstop, for no one to see, and gradually became comfortable enough to show people, to tell a few people, to share my writing with my creative writing class in college. Your healing process might be different, but it begins with the knowledge that this happened to you, that it was not your fault, and that the part of this that you control is what happens now.

You have to do what makes the most sense for your life, for your situation, and for your health. In a perfect world, I would urge you to report it, but I know it’s not that simple. I didn’t report mine for many reasons. Lack of evidence for my case, lack of trust in my nation’s police and its criminal justice system in general are all reasons I chose not to report mine. But if I lived somewhere else, maybe I would have. It’s difficult to say what you would do when you’ve never been in that exact situation. Telling your story is hard because it involves reliving it. You want to tell it in a situation of trust and safety, and a police station or a courtroom are simply not most people’s idea of a safe space.

With that being said, there are good things about reporting, and doing so may bring you some much-needed closure. I wish I could say with certainty that my abuser had faced some sort of punishment and hopefully some therapy to address a lot of the psychological issues I saw in him during our time together. I really don’t know what’s happened to him since I cut off communication with him. I also never even looked into the possibility of getting a restraining order, but that can really help some victims when it comes to the issue of safety. Maybe something like that would be helpful for you, depending on your circumstances. Whatever you decide, you should not be judged for it. You have to make the decision that you feel is best. No one can make that decision for you.

Now for some resources. I’m a big fan of Dr. Doe on the YouTube channel called Sexplanations. She did a very good video on sexual assault in which she shares her experience with reporting her sexual assault, and also some resources that might be helpful to you. I recommend checking it out if you’re looking to hear something from someone with more credentials but also the experience to understand what you’re going through. I wish you the best of luck as you move forward after this. I know it’s a major cliche, but things can and often do get a lot better with time.

As always, if you have any thoughts about this feel free to leave a comment. Especially if you have experience with this and know of any resources that you would recommend. Just be respectful of others and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Gender Roles and Chores: Reading Recommendation

A friend of mine shared this post on Facebook, and it really reflected my own experiences in my family, so I couldn’t wait to share it with you. The title is a bit weird, but don’t be put off by it. It’s actually a post expanding on a previous article by the same writer, which you can read here if you’re interested, but you can get the idea from the quotes in the first link. It’s about relationships, chores, and gender roles, and the author makes some points that I think help to explain at least some of the contributing factors to the fact that my mother runs my family’s house with little to no assistance unless she begs us to help her. And that’s not healthy for family life.

When people in a long term relationship–like a marriage–live together, they have to keep the magic alive. But they also have to go about their routines, and look after their home, and take care of the kids. This person argues that the way we unevenly split the duties of taking care of a household, leaving the woman (or to not be heteronormative, one partner) with most of the tasks, eventually drains the relationship. This is because essentially one person ends up managing all of the household chores and deciding when they will get done, leading to them having to nag the other person to help out, just like our moms did when we were kids.

As he explains,

…no matter how many times you sarcastically remind your wife that she’s not your mother and you wish she’d stop acting like it, she often feels like your mother.

This is bad for your sex life.

I think the reasoning behind this idea is pretty obvious, but his understanding of this issue goes much deeper than “making your wife feel like your parent is gross and stupid.” It is. But it’s also lazy, irresponsible, and not what you do in an equal relationship.

He goes on to write about how he would always tell his wife to ask him to help her when she needed it, never taking initiative himself to learn the regular activities that are necessary for the house to function and help do them as needed. If these were tasks he’d been assigned at work, he would figure out when to do them on his own, but at home? Never. He expected her to plan out when these things would need to get done, leaving her to manage everything from the chores to the schedules for everyone in the household, which is a lot for one person to manage. He writes:

I remember my wife often saying how exhausting it was for her to have to tell me what to do all the time. It’s why the sexiest thing a man can say to his partner is “I got this,” and then take care of whatever needs taken care of.

I always reasoned: “If you just tell me what you want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.”

But she didn’t want to be my mother.

She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household.

She wanted me to figure out all of the things that need done, and devise my own method of task management.

I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.

 

I’m not gonna lie guys. I’m very guilty of this at home myself. Most days I don’t want to do chores, and as much as I love my mom, I have to really push myself to do them.

But here’s the thing. If I see dishes that are dirty, or a dishwasher full of clean dishes, I don’t need to be told “wash the dishes” or “empty the dishwasher.” I just need to kick myself in the pants and go do it.

Most of my family members–and by that I mean the 3 males in my family–are not like that. My dad literally asks my mom (and me now, for some reason) for step by step instructions on how to do simple everyday tasks like cooking pasta or reheating chicken from two days ago. It actually drives me crazy, because I’m in my early twenties. If anything, he’s way better at all of this than I am. But I have a vagina, so I need to be prepared to run a household someday, right?

I need to be prepared to delegate chores, and manage everyone’s schedule by myself, like my mom does, right?

I seriously hope not.

I’ve never known anyone more overwhelmed than she often is. She technically works 4 jobs (part time), 3 of which involve significant preparation beforehand (teaching music and being a musician). She is no longer physically capable of keeping the house tidy AND working all her jobs. She’s just too busy all the fucking time. And nobody helps her. Because my family’s very old fashioned. And a bit patriarchal. So it’s my mother’s job to tell everyone else what their jobs are. We’re all adults here (all except my youngest brother, who’s a high school sophomore. Where did the time go?) We’re all capable of pitching in without being told. So why is it so hard?

Maybe we take my mom for granted. Maybe we don’t respect her enough. Maybe she’s stuck between the lives of different generations, having the career that women today can have, but also juggling the tasks of a full time homemaker. She’s also the one who makes sure the bills get paid each month. (Apparently when they were just married, my mom had my dad pay the bills one month, and NOTHING GOT PAID. So she took over.)

Just as she took over the dishes when they didn’t get washed. And cleaning the bathrooms and the floors and dusting and de-cluttering the house. Our house is a fucking mess, I’m not going to lie to you. My family’s relationship with chores is not a healthy one. I’m part of the problem. But I’m the second most productive chore-doer in the house. There’s a pretty clear correlation between gender and chore-doing in this family. I try not to let it bother me, but it really does. I don’t know how long it will take, but I’m looking forward to moving out, to getting married, and to having a place with my fiance, in whatever order that occurs. It’ll be nice for us to work out our own system of divying up the chores fairly. I hope we can avoid settling into the roles my parents have assumed. I want us to be co breadwinners and co homemakers. I don’t think that’s a ridiculous thing to want. But we both grew up in a very gendered world. We’ll see with time how successful we can be at defying those old expectations.

What do you think about these articles? Have any of you had experiences relating to gender and chore completion in your lives? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

Why I Didn’t Report My Sexual Assault

An old acquaintance of mine from my homeschooling days has been making some pretty infuriating comments on social media about Ke$ha’s recent court case. In case you don’t know, Ke$ha has stated that her producer and writer, Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald,  raped her for years. She has since attempted to end  her contract with Sony (which she signed at the young age of 18) to avoid having to work with her abuser. Many people have claimed to know for a fact that Ke$ha is lying, and simply trying to get out of a contract. Others, many of them part of the feminist movement, have assumed she is telling the truth and rushed to defend her. I find myself in neither camp, feminist though I may be. I firmly believe that regardless of the crime they are being accused of, people are innocent until proven guilty. However, all allegations of abuse should be taken seriously regardless of who is being accused. Think about all the high profile cases that have come to light recently. Bill Cosby comes to mind. It’s completely unjust to immediately assume that a victim is lying, but I’m not going to talk about Gottwald as if I’m positive he’s guilty. He hasn’t been tried.

My acquaintance is among those who assume that Ke$ha is lying, and the reason my acquaintance gave for that assumption isn’t even a good one. Rather than pointing out that Ke$ha stands to gain more control over her career by having her contract with Sony thrown out, my acquaintance instead complained that Ke$ha waited so many years to report this abuse. My acquaintance said (I’m paraphrasing) people don’t wait that long (I believe it was around 10 years) to report abuse, and if they do, then it’s their fault if the abuse continues because they should have reported it. She added, “So many women lie about rape I’m doubtful.”

The ignorance and victim blaming in that statement is mind boggling, and frankly it touched me in a personal way. This friend and I haven’t talked in years, so I didn’t bother to comment–luckily, another friend of hers argued with her about this and made some very good points. The reason this bothered me so much is that I was sexually assaulted myself, (Not raped. I was fortunate that it didn’t go that far.) and in an abusive relationship with the boy who did it for about a month during high school. I never reported it, and at the moment I have no intention of doing so.

That’s not because I want it to happen to other people, nor is it, as my acquaintance suggested with Ke$ha’s case, because it never happened. My main reason for not reporting it is that there simply isn’t any concrete evidence to make a case against him. All I have is my word against his, and while I don’t know what the statistics are in cases of sexual assault, it’s true that most accused rapists walk away without facing jail time. I hope he never harms anyone the way he harmed me or worse, but I know I don’t have enough evidence to do anything about it, especially because for some reason, people often don’t believe rape and sexual assault victims by default, and as the article in the above link explains, the police are often not properly trained to talk to victims.

This if course begs the question, why didn’t I report it sooner–like right away, when I might have been able to produce some evidence? There are two reasons for that, neither of which I had any control over:

  1.  He was actively manipulating me. He claimed to be suicidal, and I was terrified that if I said no to his advances or did anything that might make him unhappy, he would kill himself.
  2.  Once I figured out that he was manipulating me (with some help from a close friend), it would be months before I figured out for sure that he had also sexually assaulted me. I didn’t have a clear understanding of what sexual assault even was, and I felt guilty for allowing myself to be manipulated, as if it were my fault for participating in his lies. I felt dirty, and somewhat responsible. I didn’t know that agreeing to something when you’re being manipulated is not the same as freely giving consent. Besides, I had agreed to do some things with him, so wasn’t it just a miscommunication when he did things I didn’t want him to do?

Eventually, I figured it out. When I said “Please don’t touch me here. I don’t feel ready for that,” he would wait a few moments, then almost immediately try to do the thing I had specifically told him not to. This happened multiple times. With his claims of being suicidal, I felt obligated to allow him to touch me, so I didn’t protest while it was happening. For too long, I thought that meant it was consensual, that even though I hadn’t wanted to I had technically agreed. Having been raised in a conservative family and taught that premarital sex was very, very bad, with no proper sex education covering the concept of consent, I didn’t know how to handle these situations I was suddenly finding myself in, where he would corner me and do whatever he wanted. It had never happened to me before. And to make it all more confusing, I was genuinely attracted to him.

He did not match the image of a sexual abuser that we get from the media. I used to picture ruffians: fat middle aged men with crooked teeth, scraggly beards and balding heads who couldn’t get any action through acceptable means. And that’s the image we’re given through various rape narratives hidden in our culture. For instance, as an English major, I learned that Little Red Riding Hood is a cautionary tale portraying a little girl’s loss of innocence as she is accosted by a stranger on her way to grandma’s. I may be ruining your favorite fairy tale for you and I apologize, but earlier versions from oral tradition were very sexual and implied rape or at least sexual assault. We’re taught that there are wolves among us who can strike at any time. But statistics show that those wolves aren’t likely to be the strangers we pass in the alley. Instead, they’re the people we see every day. People we know.

My abuser was someone I knew, someone very attractive to me in multiple ways. He was a fellow Christian homeschooler who claimed to be saving his first kiss for marriage. He was athletic, ran frequently, and had a six pack. He played guitar, and we were in a music-related homeschooling organization together. Throughout the entire ordeal, he never kissed me. Not once. He could technically say he was still pure for marriage when he’d had his dirty hands all over me.

I was touched repeatedly without my consent, and choked on multiple occasions. I turned out OK after all that, after some serious struggles with anxiety over sexual contact. But I want people to understand that while I want very much for all victims of rape and sexual assault to be able to report what happened, that’s not always as simple as it sounds.  For starters, we have to come to terms with the fact that this actually happened to us. That alone can take a very long time, and that process is all the more difficult when the authorities don’t know how to talk to victims.

I’ve read too many personal accounts of women being asked what they were wearing when they were assaulted–and not as a means of collecting evidence, but as a way of implying that the victim was somehow to blame. I’ve seen that the percentage of rapists who face jail time is embarrassingly small in this country, while we put people away for possessing something as harmless as marijuana. I’ve read the news stories about multiple municipalities with thousands upon thousands of untested rape kits. Those are cases where they actually have DNA evidence, and they never did anything with it. Seeing these news stories, how am I supposed to feel confident that the authorities will take my case seriously? How am I supposed to trust them with my testimony? Especially when my testimony is all I have? My parents don’t even know that this happened to me.

There were no witnesses. As is the case with many sexual crimes, all of this happened behind closed doors. The people who know about it only know because I told them. Rape and sexual assault are very difficult crimes to prove, because sometimes there is no evidence. Sometimes, as in my case, the person isn’t forced into it through violence. I never had his skin under my fingernails. Sometimes it happens entirely out of sight. And sexual contact can be consensual. So how do you prove that in your case it wasn’t?

Those are the circumstances in which I chose not to report my sexual assault. I can’t speak for why other people don’t report, but I can empathize with them. Say what you will about this, but can I really expect the authorities to accept a case that is built entirely on my testimony?

I have so many difficult questions.

I don’t want innocent people put away for rape, so I do have to accept the need for evidence based convictions. I don’t expect people to just believe rape victims based on the fact that they’re accusing someone of a serious crime. But I do want those victims to be taken seriously. I want their claims to be investigated. I want their rape kits tested. Is that really too much to ask?

If you have any thoughts about the way rape and sexual assault victims are treated in this country, feel free to share them in the comments. Please be sensitive to victims and be respectful of others. This is a very painful issue for many people.

Happy thinking.

Nancy

Breaking Engagement Traditions

Image courtesy of Graeme Weatherston at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Graeme Weatherston at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When we got engaged, my fiance and I skipped some traditions. In this post, I’ll go over what we skipped and why.

First of all, my engagement ring is not a diamond. I believe the stone is aquamarine but I’m not positive. It’s light blue. (I’m the weirdest girl ever. I couldn’t be bothered to remember a thing about jewelry.)

I love it, and I’m actually relieved my fiance didn’t waste a fortune getting me a diamond, because not only do I know and understand that diamond engagement rings are way overpriced, I also think it’s ridiculous to spend a fortune on a one-time purchase that isn’t a necessary item. My mother refused to even be given an engagement ring at all, and I was really happy to learn that about her.

As requested, here’s a picture of my engagement ring:

engagement ring

For more on why diamond engagement rings are a scam (and really just the result of what was perhaps the most successful ad campaign ever) check out this video from CollegeHumor:

Engagement rings are a minor tradition as far as I’m concerned though, and we didn’t really skip it, just alter it. The big deal tradition that we skipped–the one my dad gave us some crap over–was asking the father’s permission.

My fiance and I had talked about getting married long before he asked me to marry him. It was something we both wanted to do, and we both felt this relationship would eventually be ready for that big step. We also feel that the decision to get married is completely up to the two of us–the members of the couple–and not our parents’ decision. So the question about whether or not my father’s permission needed to be obtained was not about whether nor not we could get married, but rather about whether or not skipping that tradition would offend my father. In the process of that discussion, I did something that offended my father even though it shouldn’t: I asked my fiance not to ask his permission. Because seriously, if what he says doesn’t really matter, why go through the motions of asking?

The way I see it, that tradition isn’t a matter of respect. It’s the remnant of a patriarchal culture in which women were the property of their fathers until they were married, when they became the property of their husbands. I’m not anyone’s property. I’m a person. So I said no; don’t ask him. We toyed with the idea of telling him ahead of time somehow, while simultaneously letting him know that we didn’t want permission. The idea reminded me a bit of this scene in Fiddler on the Roof, in which Perchik and Hodel (the couple) ask Tevye (the father) for his blessing on their engagement rather than his permission.

Spoiler: Tevye doesn’t take this well at first, but eventually agrees. In a half-baked attempt to take back his role as the patriarch, he says, “I’ve decided to give you my blessing AND my permission.”

But why go through that trouble at all for a silly tradition? Why partake in it? Why continue the patriarchal nonsense?

So we didn’t ask him. And when we went to my house to announce our engagement, my parents were shocked. My father, dumbfounded, started rattling off all the things he had done before proposing to my mother:  making sure he could provide for her financially, asking her father’s permission, etc. I had to remind him that my generation is coming of age in the worst economic times since the great depression, and that a lack of financial autonomy (and massive student loan debt) is the reality for the majority of us (average student loan debt is currently $30,000). If we waited until we were as financially stable as my parents were when they got engaged, we’d be well into our thirties. Then I explained my beef with the permission tradition. He never gave me any inkling that he understood, or that he respected our decision.

Which didn’t surprise me. My relationship with my father is rocky at best. He had an outburst today that nearly lead to a post, but I’m trying to give things time before posting about them–which is why I’m writing about this now, months after it happened. I don’t want to say mean spirited things because I’m angry.

What do you think about the engagement tradition of asking the father’s permission, or any other wedding or engagement tradition for that matter? Did any of you break traditions when you became engaged or got married? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful to other people and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy