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Thoughts on a Certain Movie…

NOTE: I posted this on my Tumblr last week, but I felt it bore repeating.

As an erotic romance author, I’ve tried to be quiet about my opinions of 50 Shades. Respect your fellow author, and all that. Plus when I have said anything about 50 Shades, I’ve been shouted down with “Don’t judge if you haven’t read the books.”

My TEENAGE DAUGHTERS are savvy enough to know that the relationship portrayed in 50 Shades is abuse veiled as “BDSM”. The sad thing is, a lot of teenage girls–and adult women, and probably men and boys–are not that savvy. I worry for the people who think that what Christian does to Anna is “love” and “romance.” Especially the teens and young women who haven’t yet experienced a positive, healthy relationship to which they can compare what they’re reading/seeing.

I’ve read more than one blog post in which the blogger described a strong, visceral reaction against the books/movie depicting seeming abuse as “romance.” Even ones in which the blogger was triggered into memories and flashbacks of their own abuse at the hands of a partner. And I will say right now that, as a survivor of extreme emotional abuse, I will not read these books or see these movies. I write romances about survivors. More than once, I’ve triggered myself while writing or editing one of my books. I won’t knowingly read something by another author that I know will trigger me.

Don’t get me wrong. 50 Shades is not *responsible* for domestic/relationship abuse. Abuse has existed for a long frigging time. But in a time when 12-year-olds are online posting things like “My boyfriend hit me because I was talking to another boy, so I know he loves me” (something my 19-year-old actually saw on social media), and when teenage girls are being murdered by boyfriends or exes (as happened just this week in Springfield, Massachusetts)… ANYTHING that glorifies abuse is part of the problem.

Proving the Point

NOTE: This post also appears today on the blog I keep under my other pen name, so if it seems like you’ve seen it before, you probably have. It seemed too important to limit to one blog.

Since the tragedy in Isla Vista, California in which six people were murdered and several others injured, the hashtag #YesAllWomen has been making the rounds. The murderer in California (I refuse to use his name) stated in more than one venue that he committed this crime because women didn’t give him sex and love.

Because somehow he was entitled to that, according to his own warped mind.

Unfortunately, his mind isn’t the only warped one. It’s become ingrained in our culture that men are somehow more and women are somehow lesser. That it’s a female’s responsibility to provide for the sexual needs of a male, whether the female wants to or not. If a female is attractive or dresses in an attractive way, the unwanted attention of any male is automatically her fault.

Sexual assault and harassment are the only crimes for which not only is the perpetrator innocent until proven guilty, but the VICTIM is GUILTY until proven otherwise. And it is nearly impossible to prove that a woman or girl didn’t somehow “ask for it”. Because she wore too short a skirt. Or was walking in the wrong place. Or danced. Or whatever.

Pretty Woman In Classic Dress

School dress codes, at least in the US in schools that don’t have uniforms, are skewed toward controlling what girls wear. Skirt length is often regulated. Certain types of footwear, usually worn only by girls, are prohibited. Shirts can’t have skinny straps and have to reach the waistband of the pants. Some types of pants, such as yoga pants, are prohibited. And so on.

Why? Some schools say because they want students to learn to dress appropriately or professionally–and yet those same schools do NOT prohibit boys from wearing T-shirts with pretty damn sketchy messages, or way-too-baggy jeans, or jeans with holes in them. Those things are not professional, are they?

This disparity in clothing rules showed up last week at a high school in Utah, which saw fit to digitally alter some yearbook pictures for “modesty.” All the pictures altered were of girls, of course. Girls who were wearing clothes which apparently fit the school *dress code* but weren’t permitted in the yearbook. Why? Because they weren’t “modest.” Meaning someone might get the wrong idea about those girls.

It is not up to girls to keep people from getting the “wrong idea,” because apparently the “wrong idea” is that all girls who dress or act a certain way must want and accept sex from any guy who tries for it. The “modesty” of school dress codes might have a little too do with professionalism, but it has a lot more to do with making sure boys keep their minds on their education and aren’t distracted by those horrible girls who have bodies.

Our culture needs to stop blaming the victims of sexual assaults. We need to stop telling girls and women that they shouldn’t dress a certain way, dance a certain way, or go to certain places because they might get raped. IT ISN’T UP TO GIRLS AND WOMEN TO NOT BE VICTIMS. IT IS UP TO MEN AND BOYS TO NOT BE CRIMINALS. And until everyone is taught to believe that way, assaults, rapes, and tragedies like the one in California will keep happening. Because to some people–females among them, sadly–that’s what girls and women are for. Satisfying men.

A Serious Topic

For those of you who also follow my Jo Ramsey (YA pen name) blog, you’ll note that this is the same post that appears on that blog today. I apologize for the repetition. This is a subject I take very seriously, and I felt it warranted appearing on both blogs.

And this is potentially triggering… Please be warned, and if you are triggered by mentions of certain types of abuse, please do not read this post.

This is your chance to bail out if you need to. The serious stuff begins below the cat.

calico-cat-1154309-m

If you’re still reading, I’m going to assume you won’t be triggered. Although since I’m also sometimes triggered by the topic of sexual abuse/assault, I can’t guarantee I won’t end up triggering myself.

I don’t know for sure what’s going on on YouTube, because other than posting on there and occasionally viewing videos that have been brought to my attention, I pretty much stay off that site. (It isn’t because I don’t like YouTube. It’s because I have a finite amount of time.)

But on Twitter yesterday, I found a link to an amazing post by Maureen Johnson. And that post included a link to an excellent Vlogbrothers video on the subject of consent and sexual abuse.

Statistics say that about 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be victims of some type of sexual abuse in their lifetime. I think the number is probably much higher, to be honest, because that doesn’t take into account things like being flashed by a random person when you’re walking down the street, or being groped on the subway, or having someone make sexually explicit, disturbing comments to you. And it doesn’t take into account the number of assaults and other incidents that are never reported because “No one will believe me” or “It wasn’t that serious” or “That made me uncomfortable, but I don’t think it was illegal.”

As Hank Green in the Vlogbrothers video states, and as I’ve stated in other posts, lack of “No” DOES NOT EQUAL YES. The only thing that means “yes” is “yes.” That addresses the issue of consent in a situation where one person is trying to persuade another person to have sex with them. If someone does not–or CANNOT– say “Yes,” the answer is always no. ALWAYS.

But it doesn’t address things like the random flasher. Or the subway groper. Or the child or young teen who doesn’t understand that they have options because the person who’s being sexual with them is an adult–maybe even someone they trust.

It doesn’t address the fact that in our society, there’s an expectation that girls in particular, though sometimes boys as well, will be treated in a sexual way, even if they’re too young to completely understand what sex is.

It doesn’t address the fact that it’s considered almost normal for a child or young teen to have someone making a sexual overture toward them, whether it’s asking them for sex or flashing them or making sexually suggestive comments.

All of those things suck. All human beings deserve to live in safety and dignity. No one deserves to be made to feel “dirty” or lesser because someone else can’t control their own impulses and desires.

NO ONE DESERVES IT. NOT ANYWHERE, NOT EVER.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of ANY type of sexual assault or abuse, please tell someone. Go to someone you trust. Go to the police. Call the RAINN hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to the RAINN website to access their online hotline.

You deserve help and hope, and you deserve to be heard.