Friday, December 15, 2017

Whistling is always predatory...

So that happened.

I've continued wearing kilts daily 7-8 months of the year. About once a week when I'm out and about I'll hear a guy whistle. At first I had my usual reaction and looked around to see the woman they were whistling at. Then I started seeing that sometimes they were looking at me and whistling at me. At first, it made me curious. Like what were they trying to communicate? I've been in plenty of queer settings where guys objectified me, and frankly, I enjoyed it. But this wasn't that. The whistles were accompanied by sneers and snickers. And gradually I learned to fear the whistles. They would always come from behind me. Sometimes I couldn't even tell who whistled. Internal reactions started kicking up. Somewhere in my childhood, I was bullied to the point that I developed some PTSD reactions and the whistles started pinging to that. I started feeling adrenaline spike and my internal 90 pound weakling wanted to run and hide. Hulk, my inner bully, started straightening up and would turn around looking for a fight. And somewhere in there, the real me would frantically try to scramble back into the drivers seat and keep the car on the road. Sometimes his ass is locked in the trunk.

This happened one time on my way into the dollar store to meet my spouse. I mentioned to her the fear reactions I was having, saying something about it feeling predatory. Her reply stopped my world cold.

Whistling is always predatory

Cue deep focus movie thing where the whole context shifts in the background and I'm disoriented in the middle of it because the world will never be the same.

Whistling is always predatory

The rest of the conversation is lost in the fog of the clarity of the moment she said.

Whistling. Is. ALWAYS. Predatory

Holy fuck.

How many times have I whistled at my spouse and thought I was complimenting her, and she was triggered AF? How much trauma have I participated in causing for people I loved? WTF. How the hell did this happen? How come no one ever told me?

Growing up, I was often told whistling was disrespectful. I fucking hate these kinds of rules. They were often well intentioned, tied to deeper truths, but they were just one more bullshit rule in a system of bullshit rules intended to norm me to standards I could never live up to. The actual problems they were tied to went completely unnoticed.

In reality, whistling at women participates in the objectification of women, literally turning them into things of beauty, physical objects to be consumed by our eyes. Turning a person into an object is one of the well-established mechanisms that supports our greater sexist rape culture. I had never considered that even if there is generalized consent with my spouse to compliment her, whistling was so closely tied with the system of objectification that whatever compliment was intended was lost in the fog of our wolf pack whistles.

Looking around at behavior like this, I've started to think that even if my partner sometimes likes attention from me like this, when we're around other people it will often cause reactions in other folks.

Well shit.

No idea how to end this thing. Retraining my brain on some of this stuff is really frustrating.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


I wish I could say #IHaveAndNeverAgain

But I can't.

I take promises seriously, and this is one I cannot make. I cannot say that I will never again exercise the privilege I am granted simply because of my gender in a manner that hurts people. Because every time I act with that privilege, it hurts people. The problem here is that not acting is an act of privilege, too. Sounds like a catch 22, and it is.

This problem is too complex for hashtags, so I'm not trying to critique the men who are striving to be supportive. I've been sexually harassed, coerced into sexual activity, so I get, too, how important it is for men who have are survivors to say #metoo out of both solidarity and finding voice. But I am going to explore this because when I saw #IHaveAndNeverAgain, something in me said I couldn't say that. I'm glad there are men who can say it. I just can't. There have been too many times when I have done my damnedest to help, and I have hurt the very people I'm trying to help. There have been too many times when I've done things I thought were agreed to, only to learn that because of the privilege and power I have, there was no way for the person I thought of as a partner to consent. My understanding of what is helpful or appropriate has changed over time, and, I hope, will continue to change over time. As change moves forward, I see my past behavior in new light and know that I must do better. Even as I write this, I wonder if I am taking up space that isn't mine.

All of that adds up to a big pile of broken promises if I say #IHaveAndNeverAgain. While it is my intention to never use my privilege in a manner that hurts, I know that it is unrealistic to never hurt people with it as long as I have privilege.

Instead, I'm sticking with #IHave. I'm standing in the place of responsibility because it is the only thing I can do.

I have abused my power
I have assaulted
I have violated boundaries
I have sexually harrassed
I have coerced
I have pushed
I have ignored my conscience
I have objectified
I have made women small
I have taken up space that wasn't mine
I have occupied
I have colonized
I have forgotten

The last one hits me hard. When I have been victimized by power, I don't forget, but as someone who has abused power, I have forgotten. How many of my early sexual experiences or explorations as a child with boys and girls, were consensual? None of us could consent under the law. But more importantly, power imbalances were a part of so many of those early experiences. Some days I don't think any of my relationships before my current one were consensual.

Consent isn't just "no means no." Consent is "only yes means yes," and the person saying "yes" must be able to consent. That just wasn't a part of my thinking growing up. I'm horrified by my behavior in some of my past relationships. I met with a high school friend a few months ago and while we were talking I told her I felt lucky that anyone I was sexually involved with back then would talk to me.

All too often in my relationships I have assumed that the person I was with could say no. The reason I am a feminist, the reason I wrote this blog, the reason I am looking for an end to the system of Great White Male privilege is because I feel terribly alone. It is horribly difficult to have relationships with other men. Relationships with women cannot be equal simply because no matter how much our constitution guarantees equality under the law, our society refuses to change its rape culture.

So take my fucking man card already. Take my white bro card. Until the system of privilege ends, I will shovel this shit.

#IHave an extra shovel if you want to join me