Ryan Gosling’s snickers are another victory for rape culture

Mashable thought this was pretty funny:

This seems like a pretty typical reading of an alien encounter and a live sketch where Ryan Gosling couldn’t keep it together. Hilarious, right?

Except there’s one thing that is particularly disturbing.

Hey Girl, I'll totally watch while some extra-terrestrials fondle your breasts

Why are we just okay with the narrative here? Taken at face value, we have three individuals who have been kidnapped, one of whom describes in fairly graphic detail waking up half-naked, being observed on by multiple onlookers who are — according to the narrative — taking pleasure in peeping and watching her urinate, and who, later, get in line to take turns fondling her breasts. And this is so hum-drum that the flat retelling of the story in a comedy sketch becomes chuckle-worthy of the actors on stage.

What the actual fuck?

The alien abduction and sex trope may have started with Whitley Streiber’s Communion — a supposedly true account of a man being taken in an alien space ship where they performed experiments on and explored his body — including sexually. When the book came out, it was pretty universally seen as a) a joke and b) a pretty entertaining piece of fiction. In the book, the sexual experiences are not told with any degree of regret or disapproval (in fact, the narrator becomes fairly attached to the aliens who are doing this to him), but never was there any degree of consent. The aliens never said to him (telepathically or otherwise), “hey, is it okay if I make you orgasm for science?” And among the backlash about the book, not once do I recall it ever opening a conversation about male rape or Stockholm syndrome (where the victim falls in love with or empathize with their captors).

And this trope about being abducted with aliens has been so widespread that now it’s just assumed that when anyone talks about being abducted by aliens, it’s obviously for sexual experimentation. So much so that we have the backstory for the SNL sketch above.

Consent is consent. Sexual activity without consent is rape. Whether you were sort of okay with it at the start or you didn’t actually hate it afterwards, if you did not expressly voice consent, it is rape. And this joke isn’t funny. The fact that we think it’s funny is just evidence of how ingrained rape culture is and how messed up our views on sexual consent and ownership of our own bodies are.

Mashable posting this as a ha-ha funny sketch is also troublesome. Not that Mashable is a beacon of light in the darkness of sexist media, particularly, but, in general, they try. Recently, they celebrated a feminist on Tinder who actively trolls the most sexist suitors. They don’t see why this scene is more evidence of rape culture, either.

Surely I’m not the only one, right?

In the SNL sketch, after the abductors were finished, they abandoned the victim on the roof of a Long John Silver’s, still without her pants (and presumably, based on the story, her underwear), which they dropped in a tree several feet away. Again, take this out of the context of the scene for a minute. A woman is abducted, undressed, forced to urinate while others watch, has multiple captors touching her body, and when they are done, they abandon her, half-naked, where she will need to expose herself to others in order to cover her body and go home. There’s no one she can talk to — obviously going to the police in this case would be ineffectual, they are aliens after all — and she can’t even really explain where she’s been or how she got there.

I’m just wondering where the joke is in all this.

On Trans, Gender, and Body

I tweeted out a post on Mashable this morning and then, after it went out, I wanted to elaborate on why it’s important. This is the tweet:

Gender is not a binary thing

It would be easy to look at that headline and switch off. I don’t care about trans-anything. Those people aren’t like me. There’s nothing for me here. That’s the nice version. The not-so-nice version might get into the mental states of transpeople or the “right-” or “wrongness” of a 14-year-old taking estrogen for hormone replacement treatment. Having met a trans kid who was living as one gender in kindergarten and first grade and then publicly coming out as the opposite gender the next year, I’ve had to take some time to evaluate my own feelings on whether it’s a nature or nurture thing, of whether we are pushing things, and our own agendas onto kids and that this is a decision rather than a part of who they are.

Despite what you may have been told, gender is not a toggle switch. It’s not Green for male and Red for female (see what I did there?). The reason why there has been a marked increase in articles about transgender individuals and issues and more transgender people in the media is because this is a human thing. This is a thing that exists in the grand scope of human existence and it is normal.

It’s a thing that we just accept as a given that people are different. No two people are alike. “Everyone is a unique snowflake” and all that. So why do we assume that the same does not apply to things like gender, like mental health, like sexuality, like autism? There’s more to it than just XX or XY chromosomes, but even within those, there are more variations than just those two. None of these things are on/off, you-have-it-or-you-don’t things. Like everything else that it means to be a living creature on this planet, it’s a spectrum. And it’s that spectrum, that variety, that makes things interesting.

Speaking from a place of extreme privilege

Look, I’m well aware of how easy things are for me just to exist in our society. I will never know how hard it is to be a woman walking down the street, let alone what it means to be a trans woman walking down the street. I’m white, male, cisgendered and (more or less) heterosexual. I have it easier than most, so it’s important to me to take advantage of that privilege and add my voice to these types of issues.

…and so…why that post is important

I have never experienced the feeling of not knowing/understanding/trusting/feeling comfortable in my own skin. I have maybe experienced mild gender dysphoria but it had nothing to do with my identity and everything to do with the expectations and cultural values assigned to men. Men are supposed to be muscular, drink beer, watch football and shoot guns. They harass women, rape, and are physically and emotionally aggressive. They are villains but they are also heroes. They are the center of the story. They are the ones who rescue the princess. They make the rules and run the show. They are presidents, CEOs, prime ministers. I am not, nor will I ever be, any of those things, or those things I might be because of my gender, I do not accept. Ergo, I must not be a “real man.” It was later, after doing an intense study on gender and transgender issues, that I realized that none of that mattered, really, because society’s expectations are stupid and don’t define any of us. But I digress.

The point is, I don’t know what it’s like to be a teenager who feels like she is trapped in the body of a boy and I never will because that’s not me. I only know what it feels like to be a teenager and young adult who has a lot of self-hate having to do with what it means to be the gender that I was born as. But I don’t have to have that common ground to watch that video and realize what just happened. And what’s happening every. single. day. that posts like this and others are published and more awareness is spread around the existence and acceptance of women and transpeople as human beings deserving of equal rights, respect and privilege.

I am well aware of the demographics of my followers on social media and the sorts of folks who will stumble across my blog. Very few of them are around because I talk about gender equality or gender issues. Mostly it’s nerds like me, or people who follow me because I write about soccer or WordPress. And that’s part of what makes it so important that I also talk about stuff like this. Because maybe someone who would never have looked at that video of a transgirl getting her first hormone treatment from her mom and breaking down in tears of gratitude will be able to see it for what it is — a real, human experience, real joy and acceptance. And the more stories like this there are, the more real, human experiences from transfolk and women and people of color we see, the closer we get to a world that I want to live in. One that accepts you for the person you are. Not for what you look like, not for what society expects you to be, not for the things you like or the way you style your hair or your tattoos or piercings or clothing or money or where you live or where you were born or what god you put your faith into or what the motherfucking scale says. Just you. That’s where I want to live.

Jenny and Jai

Last weekend, we found out that two friends of ours — mothers of our kids’ classmates — were involved in a domestic dispute that left the two of them in the hospital in critical condition from multiple gunshot wounds. Full news reports here and here.

What happened was horrid and devastating and both women not only had families but were teachers and educators; Jai was the librarian at the Open Classroom school and I worked closely with her to develop the Book Review Library plugin for the Open Classroom library. I can’t begin to imagine the repercussions of this experience, physical, emotional and financial. There are a pair of YouCaring pages up for both of them and it would be amazing if you were able to find it in your heart to help these fantastic women and their families out as they work on healing.