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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Read the top post in today’s Dear Prudence chat. And then join me in a shiny hatefest.

I link to Dear Prudence in my sidebar because her constant slut-shaming (and every other kind of shaming) makes her one of the reasons I do what I do here. She literally never resists the chance to tell someone “Well, guess you should have thought of that before you wound up here, sucks to be you, ha ha!”

In today’s answer, she becomes several of these people at the same time.

We don’t have any details in the letter about what happened, and I’m not a detective or any of the principals involved in the story, which means that the truth is out there and I don’t know it.

What I do know is that if your friend says “I got really drunk to the point of incapacitation, and I had sex with this guy when I didn’t really want to and I really regret it” one day, and a few days later she says “I’ve been thinking about it more, and I think I may have been raped. Maybe he put something in my drink,” the correct response 100% of the time is:

1. Are you okay?

2. Do you want to talk about it?

3. What do you think you’ll do about that?

4. Can I help with anything?

And not “Well, I’ve seen you really drunk before, so you’re probably lying, and also, let’s think of the poor guy here. Do you really want to ruin his life with your trivial concerns that he put his penis in you when you couldn’t meaningfully consent to sex? I mean, where’s your evidence?

Let’s talk about the particular horror of this sentence:

Tell her that she needs to think very long and hard about filing a criminal complaint against this guy if there’s any way her behavior could be construed to be consensual.”

“Construed to be consensual?” What the everloving fuck? Is that the standard now, where if one partner “construes” things to be consensual it doesn’t matter whether it was actually consensual? How convenient.

The letter writer’s friend may in fact have a very weak criminal case.

The letter writer’s friend may well have holes in her memory and be confused about events.

The guy may have been just as drunk, making it a big gray area.

The letter writer’s friend may have gotten really drunk before….guess what? Putting your penis in really drunk people who can’t meaningfully consent is rape! It would have been rape all of those other times, too! Getting drunk doesn’t mean you automatically consent to whatever happens to you.

That’s theoretically why we have police detectives, prosecutors, and ultimately juries. If the lady makes a call to the cops, it doesn’t automatically mean that guy will be thrown in jail forever and ever, no matter what MRAs would have you believe. Maybe there will be some uncomfortable conversations and some fact-checking. If there is really and truly no evidence it will never even go to trial, much less “ruin” the guy’s life.

Whatever happened between the letter writer’s friend and that guy, the standard of what rape is does not depend on having a perfect victim who has never ever been drunk before and who also has never expressed doubt or second thoughts about anything, assaulted by a slavering beast stranger in a dark alley after saying “no” loudly and clearly and fighting back in the presence of several witnesses, calling the police immediately, and making sure there is a full array of damning forensic evidence conveniently on hand. So thanks, Prudence, for sending the message that being less than perfect means that you deserve whatever happens to you and that you better not speak up about it, and reminding us that if you say you are raped everyone will immediately scrutinize your behavior to figure out how you brought it on yourself.

Christ, what an asshole.

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Boromir meme, "one does not simply join the weekly d&d game."Dear Captain,

I’m writing because I’m scared to break up with my boyfriend. Not scared of him, he’s a lovely person and would never hurt me, scared of what would happen to the rest of my life if I did. You see, I’m at university, in my second year, and have been going out with him since a month or so after I got here in first year. He’s my first boyfriend – I had never even kissed anyone before him. I’m pretty nerdy and awkward, and he is too, so it was just great that I got to be with him and to meet a whole circle of mutual nerdy/awkward friends. The problem is this: if I ever decide to break up with him, what on earth happens to my friendships with them? They’ve basically never known me as a single person, always with him, and some of them are friends of his that I met through him – we have a D&D group that both he and I take part in, and I really like all of the people there, but they are more his friends than mine and he knew them first. If I broke up with him, would my social life implode too? I don’t want to make people have to choose between being friends with me or with him, and I don’t want to lose friends.

What could I possibly do? I know I’m infected with numerous geek social fallacies about this, but I think our friends are are too and would react accordingly (feel like they had to choose).

When we went through a troubled patch this thought first came to me, and it’s never really gone away even though the problem at the time got better. I don’t want to break up right now, I’m happy as I am, I think. But I’m worried what might happen in the future. It would be hard for him too, and I don’t want it to be. I’m the only person he feels like he can talk about sex with, for instance, and I’ve tried to encourage him to find someone else to confide in but he hasn’t. I’m freaked out that I’m getting more and more entangled in this relationship and it’ll just be worse further along the line if we break things off. I’m also worried that my worrying about this is going to sour what we have now, and I don’t know how to feel better about it. I don’t want to be that person, the no self esteem person who breaks off a good thing because she was sure that it wasn’t going to last. I do want this to last. But I want to have some kind of parachute for if it doesn’t, and to know that the rest of my life isn’t going to run away from me.

Help?

Social Circle is Too Small

Whoa, Social Circle, I feel you on your anxiety about what will happen in your friend group because breakups can in fact be awkward, but the way you keep using the phrase “the rest of my life” makes me want to hug you, feed you a little something, and give you a good talking to.

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Franz Kafka

Kafka had a day job. This explains a lot about his work.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m currently in a very cushy but very boring job with a strange workflow: I’m either completely slammed or have absolutely nothing to do. As much as I don’t enjoy the work, I’d rather be busy than bored, but I seem to have fallen into a complete malaise and can’t figure out what to do with all that spare time.  

I have made my supervisors aware of how lopsided my schedule is, but I don’t want to call too much attention to the lack of work or end up taking on responsibilities that are inappropriate for my position and then get overloaded and burnt out (something that happens a lot in this company). I have to at least appear to be busy, so it’s not like I can pull out a book and read. The thing is, I feel like I’ve reached the end of the internet and that I’m wasting all this time and energy that could used to cure cancer or whatever.

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Buffy and Angel

Why are the doomed relationships always so sexy?

Hi Captain Awkward! 

So I’ve been a reader since the blog started, and now it is my turn to seek your advice. 

Background: I have an awesome partner, and we have been together for seven months. We are both 20-year-old college students. He is kind to me, and we are best friends as well as partners. I am struggling with our relationship right now because my partner has some serious mental/emotional health issues. He is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and is still feeling the ripple effects of not ever fully dealing with that. He internalizes everything, by which I mean he takes everything personally and always feels like everyone in his life is pressuring him/watching him/waiting for him to fail (me, his family, his residents [we're both RAs], his bosses, everybody). 

When he goes into a ‘funk’ as I call it (about every two weeks), he gets very silent and very moody, and basically becomes emotionally unavailable. He occasionally smokes to calm his nerves (which he never used to do, and it both worries me and grosses me out). Then it becomes my job to comfort him. I get very frustrated during these periods, because my first instinct is to take him by the shoulders and shake him while yelling “THERAPY. THERAPY. GO TO THERAPY. THERAPY IS GREAT. GO THERE.” Somehow, this strikes me as unhelpful, so I don’t do it. Instead, I have tried a gentler approach. “Hey, have you thought about maybe dropping in at [our university's counseling service]?” He has gone before, and is receptive to the idea when I bring it up, but the consistency isn’t there. I strongly feel that ongoing counseling would help connect all his emotional issues together and get him on a path of healing. 

Young couple from Pixar Movie "Up" lying on a blanket looking at the sky, with a caption "Pixar created a better love story in 8 minutes than Twilight did in 4 books."Hello Stranger.

So, nearly three years ago, I got dumped. It’s not the first time I’ve been dumped, but it was the only time I’ve been in love. The problem is that I’m just not coping with it well. I still find myself missing my ex and the conversations we used to have. I still dream about her, and sometimes that ruins the rest of my day (or week).

I want to write her and ask her if there’s any chance she’d like to give it another try. If I thought she’d say yes, I would. However, I’m pretty sure the only thing that would result from such an attempt is that she would know I’m still hurting. She’s not responsible for the pain, but she is a good person, and she’d probably feel bad about it anyway.

So I have to move on. I’ve been on a couple of dates, but, while the women were perfectly nice people, I didn’t really feel the need to ever see them again. I’m guessing that I’m not quite ready to date again, but after three years, I don’t know what it’s going to take.

I want someone to cook for, to eat with. I want someone to watch movies and shows with, to trade books with. Someone to hold and be held by. Someone to kiss and be kissed by. I want to happy, and I want to share it.

But I have no idea how to get from here to there. I feel lost.

Thanks for your time,

M.

Dear M.,

This paragraph of yours is something else:

I want someone to cook for, to eat with. I want someone to watch movies and shows with, to trade books with. Someone to hold and be held by. Someone to kiss and be kissed by. I want to happy, and I want to share it.

Simple, beautiful, to the point, exactly right. You should have it! You will have it, I think.

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I recently broke up with my partner. It was actually the best breakup I’ve ever had, if such a thing can exist: mutual, honest, open, and with what we hope will be a genuine friendship remaining. I’m still sad and I miss him terribly, but I know that it will be okay. For now though, I am often sad and lonely, and so I’ve been leaning on my friends a lot. Which has become weird since a few of my friends have begun expressing interest in sleeping with me.

Many of them identify as polyamorous, and some seem to have no friend zone. I don’t have a problem with casual sex, but what I need from my friends is friendship and company and hugs, and what I’m getting is flirtation that makes me feel both guilty for saying no and angry that they can’t see that this is not the time. I’m scared to accept those hugs and company for fear of sending the wrong message, and I’m even more scared that I’ll relent in a moment of vulnerability and loneliness and do something I really can’t handle. I have blatantly told them that I only want friendship right now, but I still feel paranoid, like I am being set up for the polyamorous edition of this XKCD comic.

So I guess I have two questions: first, how do I keep boundaries so that I don’t seek validation from people I like, but don’t find supermegafoxyawesomehot? And second, how do I stop getting angry at friends who are attracted to me, or questioning their motivations for friendship?

Thank you,

Fresh Meat

Dear Fresh Meat,

Congratulations and condolences on your good breakup. I’m sorry that it has done strange things to your mojo and that your friends are choosing this way to “comfort” you.

There is one phrase that can throw cold water on the intentions of people from the planet of no friend zone.

Thanks, I don’t like you that way.”

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The Hulk

The Hulk is my patronus.

We’re going deep into the Jerkbrain today, so let’s start with nice things that I love.

First, a safe-for-work, short animated film, Address Is Approximate. It’s so simple and beautiful, and it punched me right in the heart (in a good way).

Next, Holly’s post about Consent Culture:

A consent culture is one in which the prevailing narrative of sex–in fact, of human interaction–is centered around mutual consent.  It is a culture with an abhorrence of forcing anyone into anything, a respect for the absolute necessity of bodily autonomy, a culture that believes that a person is always the best judge of their own wants and needs.

I don’t want to limit it to sex.  A consent culture is one in which mutual consent is part of social life as well.  Don’t want to talk to someone? You don’t have to.  Don’t want a hug? That’s okay, no hug then.  Don’t want to try the fish? That’s fine.  (As someone with weird food aversions, I have a special hatred for “just taste a little!”)  Don’t want to be tickled or noogied? Then it’s not funny to chase you down and do it anyway.

 I think part of the reason we have trouble drawing the line “it’s not okay to force someone into sexual activity” is that in many ways, forcing people to do things is part of our culture in general.  Cut that shit out of your life.  If someone doesn’t want to go to a party, try a new food, get up and dance, make small talk at the lunchtable–that’s their right.  Stop the “aww c’mon” and “just this once” and the games where you playfully force someone to play along.  Accept that no means no–all the time.

…It’s good to practice drawing your own boundaries outside of the bedroom, too.  It can be shockingly empowering to say something as small as “no, I don’t want to sit with you.”  “No, you can’t have my phone number.”  “I love hugs, but please ask me first.”  It’s good practice for the big stuff.  Simply learning to put your mind in the frame of “this person does not want me to say no to them, and they will resist me doing it, but I’m doing it anyway” is a big, important deal.

Go read the whole thing, obviously. She lays out a beautiful case that boundaries make life better and sex better, and that there are a lot of small things we can do to make the world better for each other. She also sets us up beautifully for today’s question.

El Capitan!

I hope perhaps you might have some advice — or the crowd might — on how to stop being obnoxious. See, I’m pretty laid-back up until someone does something crummy to me. For instance! Once a dude forgot about a date with me, and when he remembered, went snowboarding anyway. Objectively douchey, but that’s not the problem — the problem is that once someone does a thing like that I WILL NEVER FORGET. I will obsess over it, picking at what happened like it’s a scab. I will quite likely resent them and want them to suffer, up till I forget who they are. Which does happen — bad memory — but takes too long to achieve. Leaving scorched earth behind doesn’t work that well in a smaller community as I’m likely going to have to interact with these people in the future. Or at least I’d like to interact, in a nice blasé way, and with none of the perpetual RAWWWWWWWWWWWWR that goes on in my head (and sometimes escapes my lips). It’s embarrassing to feel so strongly about stupid things from the past. I don’t want to lose the Dignity Game. Also, it’s tiring to keep the perpetual motion hamster wheel of resentment going in my head. It takes up so much space in there, which could be better used by remembering fun sex or something.

So! The question is: How the hell do I stop my brain from going over this stuff? How do I turn it off, or retrain myself? I’d like to keep my feathers unruffled, and stop embarrassing myself.

Yours sincerely,
Shut Up, Brain

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