Vampires & crosses

It's a well-established fact that vampires can't abide crosses. There seems to be some confusion, however, as to why this is so.

Vampire-cross I should note here, before we go on, that I believe in vampire stories. I don't mean that I believe these stories are "literally" true — they're not that kind of story. But I believe they are true stories — stories by which we tell ourselves true things so that we do not forget them.

Vampire stories tell us, for example, that any of us can have great power if only we are willing to prey on others. Feed off the blood of others and great power will be yours. This is demonstrably true. It's how the pyramids were built. And Standard Oil.

The stories also tell us that there's a downside to this predatory choice. You become a creature of the night, unable to stand in the light of day.

And crosses will confound you.

Some mistakenly think that this is because the cross is a holy symbol, imbued with religious power. But this is wrong. The symbol, like the thing itself, is powerless. And that's the point. That is why vampires can't tolerate it.

Most vampires don't believe in the cross, but that hardly matters. It's the idea of the thing that gives them fits. The cross confronts vampires with their opposite — with the rejection of power and its single-minded pursuit. It suggests that no one is to be treated as prey — not even an enemy. The idea of the cross, in other words, suggests that vampires have it wrong, that they have it backwards, in fact, and that those others they regard as prey are actually, somehow, winning.

This notion is incomprehensible for vampires. The one thing they're certain of, the thing that drives them and tells them who they are and how the world works and that they've got it all figured out is that the key to immortality is in choosing to be the predator rather than the prey. The idea that this might be wrong is so befuddling, so contradictory to everything they have chosen to be that it forces them to recoil. They can't get past it.

It has become fashionable in modern vampire stories to portray these monsters as unaffected or somehow immune to the cross. Don't you believe it. This confusion arose due to the ridiculous, contradictorily cruciform objects being bandied about these days as "crosses." A filigreed gold or bejeweled cross refutes itself, denying its own representation of powerlessness. Likewise the oxymoronic martial crosses — a problem since at least the time of Constantine — that attempt to present themselves as sanctified symbols of power. Crosses like that aren't the least bit disturbing to a vampire — they merely proclaim vampirism by other means. Vampires have been known, in fact, to have such crosses emblazoned on flags, or even to have tattoos of them etched into their undead flesh.

So the apparent immunity of modern vampires to such crosses isn't what it seems. Sacrificial powerlessness still confounds them, but that idea is no longer quite so effectively signified by this particular symbol. I've heard rumor of a vampire not so long ago being turned away by one of Margaret Bourke-White's photographs of Gandhi at his spinning wheel. Fortunately I have not had the occasion, personally, to attempt to repeat this experiment.

As for garlic, well, I'm not really sure what that is supposed to tell us, but I'm open to theories.

(What brings all this up, by the way, is that I've just finished reading Jeff Sharlet's excellent book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. The central figure in that book, Doug Coe, is absolutely a vampire.)

  • hf

    My major problem is that this triumphalism increases the staying power of the fundamentalist religion-or-science false dichotomy
    And I don’t think you have a shred of evidence for this claim. If you looked for a relationship between creationism and whatever you’re talking about here, it would likely run the other way assuming that a relationship existed at all.
    Furthermore, your comment seems almost like a parody of religious criticism. You say that Scientific American should not print certain opinions — even with contrary views — for fear of offending hypothetical Young-Earth Creationist readers. Won’t someone please think of the children, and shape all adult discourse around their perceived needs?
    The bit about scientists believing a dichotomy does seem like a tricky issue. I recently quoted Isaac Newton saying how the newborn field of modern science supported belief in Newton’s God. This deity does not seem “fundamentalist”, but it does affect our experience in a way that science can examine. In fact, we can look at the evidence and call the details of Newton’s theology disproven as a scientific theory. We know that people can keep believing in a form of deism after Darwin inadvertently destroyed the main reason for it. Or people can (say) invent a new ‘theology’ that describes its object as “not being even a possible object of cognition,” and insist on their greater sophistication (Terry Eagleton). But many atheists do not see the point of doing so. I assume you’ve mistaken this for a “fundamentalist religion-or-science false dichotomy”, because (unlike actual fundamentalists) atheists have never once come out and said to me that someone who rejects fundamentalism or biblical literalism must embrace atheism. Atheists frequently point out a discrepancy in method here; to me that seems quite different, assuming that some believer has a reason for this discrepancy.

  • Lori

    Undoubtedly, but I would have thought some rapes happen because the criminal is horny. I’m thinking of date rapes, for instance.
    This. While the starting point (It’s “not a normal social activity gone a bit off the rails”) is true, going all the way to the conclusion that rape “isn’t about sex” is going too far in the opposite direction. It’s a violent crime different in kind from any other sort of violent crime in a particular way that is linked with sex in a way that isn’t coincidental. It isn’t a violent crime that uses a sex organ as a weapon, because the crime is “about” the weapon in a way that normal violent crimes aren’t (I’ll caveat that with understanding that there *are* some criminals for whom other violent crimes are like this. I think it happens a lot with psychopaths.)

    As an undergrad psych major intending to go into social work practice I I was required to do internships. One of the ones I chose was at the local rape crisis center. Based on my experiences there, and the conversations that I had with both victims and long-time professional staff I stand by my statement that rape isn’t ultimately about sex and it’s certainly not caused by an excess of horniness. It’s true that rapists have issues tied to sex. However, the world is full of people who have issues with, and seriously dysfunctional attitudes about, sex. The vast majority of those people will never commit rape. What separates the rapists from the merely screwed up are issues around power and control.
    Part of my training at the center was speaking with cops about the legal process. As part of that training the officer I worked with allowed me to read quite a few transcripts of statements made by accused sex offenders (with identifying information removed). Another aspect of my training was to sit in on group therapy sessions for sex offenders. Once I finished my training I did a variety of tasks at the center depending on what was needed. One of the things I did was to go to court with victims in order to provide moral support. Another was to assist with anti-sexual assault education sessions run at the university.
    These things gave me the experience of hearing a lot about what rapists have to say for themselves. The young men in the education sessions weren’t sex offenders, so they provided a nice chance for compare and contrast. The thing about the rapists is that I never heard a single one of them say that his actions were the result of being desperate for sex, either generally or with that specific woman. The “regular guys” talked quite a bit about sexual desire and confusion about what women want. The rapists never did.
    When rapists justified their actions it was always in terms of how the woman was “asking for it” or that she was a tease and “lead him on”. It didn’t matter if the victim was 16, or 6 or 60—it was always some variant of the same song & dance. There was so much anger, and it wasn’t about being turned on without getting release. It was about the idea that women weren’t 100% compliant with the rapist’s wishes. It was all about “How dare that bitch disrespect or defy me.” It wasn’t about sex, it was about control. Again and again they said things that made it clear that they raped, as opposed to simply beating the woman up, because they knew that would hurt her more. The sexual satisfaction they got was the result of inflicting that “punishment”, not of the sexual act itself.

    I think it’s almost as much of a dismissal of rape to say that it’s “just” a violent crime as it is to say that it’s “just” ‘normal behavior gone off the rails’.

    I certainly didn’t mean it as a dismissal of rape. That said, my observation is that if we treated rape victims more like victims of other violent crimes, rather than focusing so much attention on the sexual aspect, the trauma would be significantly lessened for a lot of them.
    And as a sort of aside, I’ve come to sort of hate the term “date rape”. Distinguishing between a known and an unknown attacker has value in terms of counseling victims, but in terms of how we look at the rapist it’s has a lot less meaning than most people think.

  • Launcifer

    Jason: Also I’ve never worn a skirt or a kilt, so I don’t know for sure, but the idea of not having anything around your individual legs seems more comfortable on a hot day than wearing shorts.
    It is, though with kilts you need to bear in mind the fact that good ones are pretty much 100% wool. They can get quite heavy and, sometimes, a little itchy. Don’t even get me started on which sporran is most appropriate for which occasion :-P.

  • http://funwithrage.livejournal.com Izzy

    Coming back from a LARP to second/third/whatever the “it doesn’t matter how you dress, it’s not an invitation to be an asshat” sentiment. (Have missed a lot of previous posts, alas.)
    Also? If other women want to dress modestly, great and fine. I don’t, mostly, and I’d rather modest clothing not come back into vogue because of that: I have a hard enough time finding stuff I like. ;) I have a decent body, I like showing it off when possible, and I like getting reactions from guys. I figure they’ll value my brain enough if they actually talk to me–that’s pretty damn obvious as soon as I open my mouth–and meanwhile, I do like the attention *in certain forms*.
    That doesn’t mean that the guys who make obnoxious comments from cars, or refuse to stop talking to me when I’m clearly not interested, aren’t assclowns, or that anyone who actually tried to grope me or worse wouldn’t be total scum. There are no situations where that behavior is remotely appropriate.
    And yes, you’re taking a risk that people will be scum, but you know what? Everyone takes risks all the time. If I get into a car crash, nobody’s going to be talking about how so-and-so-many people die on that highway all the time and I should have known the risks, are they?

  • hapax

    Edward Cullen is suffering from a “mental illness” that was invented by Stephanie Meyer for the express purpose of infesting someone with her particular set of kinks and declaring him to be the ideal man.

    You say that like it’s a *bad* thing.
    I mean, I read a lot of crackfic, and write a bit myself, and that’s pretty much standard for the genre.

  • rob

    It is, though with kilts you need to bear in mind the fact that good ones are pretty much 100% wool.
    Except hiking kilts, which are made of high tech microfibers.
    Just remember that it is proper etiquette to go last up the mountain in a hiking kilt.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    ***Woman between local age of consent and ‘too old’. I know it’s offensive, but required by context. Sorry

    One of my favorite lines from the Cary Grant film “Operation Petticoat”:
    “Women under eighteen are protected by law. Women over sixty are protected by nature. The rest are fair game.”
    (The line is offered by the captain of a submarine explaining why it isn’t his place to stop the budding romance between one of his officers and a nurse.)

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com MikhailBorg

    Just remember that it is proper etiquette to go last up the mountain in a hiking kilt.
    Okay, I can totally see the airflow making kilted hiking an attractive option. But given the number of biting bugs at my nearby trails, I think I’d defy tradition and wear good underwear for that specific occasion.

  • hapax

    hf We know that people can keep believing in a form of deism after Darwin inadvertently destroyed the main reason for it.
    Wow. Darwin inadvertently destroyed my (and millions of other people’s) personal encounters with the Divine? Millennia before he was born and decades after rotting in his grave?
    That’s one impressive act of wanton carelessness!

  • http://funwithrage.livejournal.com Izzy

    Nice Job Breaking It, Darwin.

  • Launcifer

    I wonder how much of that sort of behaviour is to do with male egos, especially when there’s a group dynamic going on in the background. The person getting shipped into the role of object won’t necessarily notice or even care, but I do think there’s an element of how the group will perceive their actions, rather than the poor bugger being objectified.
    Oh – and they could just as well be total armpits, or drunken total armpits.

  • Ruby

    Izzy: Nice Job Breaking It, Darwin.
    Oh, sure, blame the messenger. :P

  • hapax

    In all fairness, I’ve been to known to spend time with friends in public establishments slagging off on the decor in most unkind terms.
    If one was accustomed to think of the entire female half of the species as decorative accessories, it perhaps would not even occur to one not to criticize the presentation and upkeep.

  • Spearmint

    Re: Islamic vampire repellents: a khamsa should work pretty well. I think crosses work not necessarily because they’re a symbol of Christianity but because they’re the talisman Christians traditionally use to ward off evil. A Magen David necklace probably wouldn’t work- it’s just a necklace- but a mezzuzah should ward your house (or at least that doorway- I suppose for full vampire security you have to go all frum and have one at every door). Whatever the local evil-repellent is, that’s what you use.
    Re: Scientific American- I think the problem was less that they were reporting the existence of theists, and more that they were reporting it as news. “God may or may not exist, but theists do!” Wow, really?
    This is why I have made a concerted effort to change my usage to “sodomized my childhood.”
    Aren’t you then lending an implicit negative connotation to “sodomize” by inserting into a well known phrase in place of an explicitly negative term like “rape”?
    I’m not sure that this is worse than trivializing rape, but making sodomy and rape sound interchangable is definitely not helpful.
    Could you just say “Your Mr. Rogers/Barney slashfic kicked my childhood in the crotch” or something?

  • Lori

    I’m not sure that this is worse than trivializing rape, but making sodomy and rape sound interchangable is definitely not helpful.

    Very true.

    Can’t we just say “violated my childhood memories” and leave it at that?

    I’m not exactly sure why we need to use any version of this construction. It seems to me to imply that the writer has done something wrong if their work makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s much more accurate to say something like “X was an important part of my childhood and I prefer it in it’s original state. This work based on it harshes my mellow something fierce and I want to pass on seeing it, or anything like it, in the future.”
    The issue is mine, not the author’s, and I think the critique should reflect that.
    If the issue is that the work is inconsistent with the original in some important way (like it totally breaks the characters) or is simply poorly written then it seems like it should be criticized the way any badly written work is criticized and that discussion of doing violence to someone’s childhood would be better left out of it.

  • hf

    @hapax: You’ve just stopped reading my comments, haven’t you? (Fair enough, but then why respond to them?)

  • hapax

    Mr. Rogers/Barney slashfic
    Mmm. Rule 34 aside, I don’t think it would work.
    Mr Rogers and Barney are from two different eras, and evoke totally different reactions. Besides, Barney has no discernible genitalia, and Mr. Rogers just wouldn’t be Mr. Rogers without his sweater on.
    Now, I can see possibilities for a Barney / Bananas-in-Pajamas slashfic (maybe Hurt / Comfort with a spicy twincest vibe)…
    [starts whistling "I'm a Rat, I'm a Rat, I'm a clever clever Rat"]

  • hapax

    hf: @hapax: You’ve just stopped reading my comments, haven’t you?
    Actually, no, since you almost always have interesting things to say. But it’s perfectly likely I misunderstood them. Since the classical definition of “Deism” (to which you linked) didn’t make much sense to me in the context of your comment, I assumed (always dangerous) that you meant a more generic “theism” instead.
    Perhaps you’d like to expand on how the theory of natural selection “destroys” Deism? (This would surprise a number of Deist biologists that I am personally acquainted with)

  • Froborr

    Yeah, uh, hf? The one and only actual Deist of my acquaintance is a biologist. He actually became a deist *because* of Darwin: he says that the existence of natural laws capable of producing such complexity and beauty out of simple, elegant processes is quite enough miracle for one universe. By comparison, the “miracles” described in the two holy books his upbringing presented as legitimate choices (he has a Christian father and a Muslim mother) are quite mundane and clearly the products of limited human imagination.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    I read a lot of crackfic, and write a bit myself, and that’s pretty much standard for the genre.
    What’s crackfic?
    I’m not exactly sure why we need to use any version of this construction. It seems to me to imply that the writer has done something wrong if their work makes me uncomfortable.
    Exactly. I’m going to say it again: a book you liked in your childhood is not your childhood. You are not your tastes.
    @Lori: interesting to hear your experiences. Have you seen the movie Raw Deal: a question of consent? It’s a very interesting documentary about an alleged rape that took place at a fraternity house. The woman had gone there with a colleague to do a strip dance, then went back later in the evening – she claimed because she needed to pick up her stuff, they claimed because she wanted sex. The next few hours of the night were filmed by frat members, and the curious thing is that about half the people who watch the footage (which doesn’t cover the alleged rape, but shows quite a lot of disagreeable interaction) conclude that she was obviously raped, and the other half conclude she was obviously consenting. The filmmakers say they had a sign taped up in their studio reading ‘Welcome to the argument.’ It’s a very interesting study of different attitudes as well as a striking attempt to be fair, a kind of Rashomon documentary. You can watch some of it here: http://www.rakontur.com/journal/2007/2/6/raw-deal-a-question-of-consent.html
    (I watched it and thought it looked like a rape; the woman did seem to be lying about some things but the frats were lying about some stuff too so that doesn’t prove anything one way or the other; she also was drunk and high and tired and not exercising very good judgement, but again that doesn’t make it okay to fuck someone who doesn’t want you to. It looked like nothing so much as a drunken argument in which neither party was prepared to let the issue drop, which ended up with him forcing sex on her as a way of winning. So yes, that did look like a control issue.)

  • Froborr

    By definition, if one party is drunk or high, it’s rape.

  • redcrow

    Crackfic… Buck/Phone, for example. Or “What if Dorian Gray was a giant robot?” Or “What if Garfield was an Animagus?” Stuff like that. Strange crossovers, brain-breaking pairings. Some are good, most are not.

  • Froborr

    On crackfic: Yesterday morning I was watching the Justice League cartoon from the 90s and saw “Legends”, an episode set in an alternate universe where Green Lantern’s childhood comic-book heroes lived, in a perpetual utopia that was like a cross between Pleasantville and the Adam West Batman. It turned out to be an illusion projected on a post-apocalyptic urban wasteland.
    I watched 9 yesterday evening.
    I am having great difficulty resisting the notion that the two post-apocalyptic urban wastelands are one and the same.

  • http://funwithrage.livejournal.com Izzy

    Froborr: In theory, yeah, and in situations like that, it makes sense (as it may from a legal perspective). But I’m uncomfortable using that as a general moral guideline. I’ve had some perfectly nice, perfectly consensual sex in a state that, while not completely on-the-floor blotto, most people would describe as fairly drunk or high. I certainly wouldn’t describe it as rape, and I would do it again given the opportunity.
    I think it’s a good idea to be aware that your partner’s judgment is impaired, certainly, and probably to avoid sex with strangers who are really wasted. But alcohol is a social lubricant–as is pot in some circles–and I don’t think it’s a good idea to stigmatize all sex that results from that as nonconsensual.

  • Launcifer

    Redcrow: “What if Dorian Gray was a giant robot?”
    Dunno about Ol’ Dorian but, judging by the stuff I’ve seen from the upcoming version, I’m fairly certain that Ben Barnes is one.
    Oh – and Garfield is quite obviously a re-incarnation of the Buddha, rather than an Animagus.

  • Froborr

    @Izzy: Yes, but (and I think we may be saying the same thing in different terms here) the rule really ought to be “Don’t have sex with people whose judgment is impaired.” Like almost any rule, there can be exceptions — but your typical frat boy is not competent to judge when those exceptions may be, and so should be encouraged not to look for exceptions.

  • http://funwithrage.livejournal.com Izzy

    Froborr: Yeah, good point. Especially when you allow for exceptions.

  • hf

    I mentioned Isaac Newton’s claim that science could address questions of God. (Of course his theology in other ways don’t quite fit the definition of Deism, so that may have thrown you off.) Deism as a scientific or near-scientific theory lost all credibility when Darwin kicked away the chief bit of evidence. That part seems pretty straightforward.

  • Launcifer

    Froborr: Like almost any rule, there can be exceptions — but your typical frat boy is not competent to judge when those exceptions may be, and so should be encouraged not to look for exceptions.
    I’m not certain that I’d be entirely comfortable with leaving this question to a jury of my alleged peers, either, for that matter.

  • hapax

    Oh, okay. It never occured to me that you were referring to Deism as scientific theory, because of course it isn’t, and never has been. Not by any understanding of “science” that I’m familiar with.
    I mean, as far as that goes, YEC is a much more “scientific” theory. It’s a really crappy one, and easily disproved, but it does make testible predictions, incorporate empirical data, and the like.
    Not so much Deism, which is somewhere (depending upon the variant) of the border between a religion and a philosophy.

  • Lori

    @Kit: I haven’t seen the film, but it sounds like it depicts a type of situation that happens a lot in college. It does tend to create an argument and end up in a heartbreaking mess. The film sounds like the perfect way to start a conversation about sexual communication.
    On this topic I should clarify something about my problem with the term “date rape”. We don’t have a very good way of talking about the messy, often horrible, crap that goes on in some social situations. Mix weird social pressures, confusion over sexual feelings & roles, alcohol & drugs and often limited sexual and dating experience and you can easily get a toxic stew that makes it difficult to tell when you cross the line between a bad evening and a crime. No means no, but what if that’s not quite what she said? Or not quite what he heard?
    I have two issues with talking about that toxic stew. First, it’s impossible to generalize so it’s difficult to discuss in the abstract. I came of age during the era of sex codes on college campuses that attempted to codify sexual interactions in order to eliminate miscommunication. It was partially well-intentioned and partially asshat-y and was pretty much a miserable failure.
    The second is that discussion about “date rape” always seem to end up focused on the he said/she said cases which creates the impression that that’s what date rape is. IME that’s just not true.
    I can’t even remember now the number of young women (both collegae age and older) who came into the crisis center and told some big long story of crossed communication and alcohol and whatever. You’d sit there listening, thinking that it was poor judgment on the part of both people creating a bad experience. Unfortunate, but not a crime. And then the young woman would get to the end and it would be, “And I said no and I was crying and trying to push him away but he held me down. I said I didn’t want to, but he did it any way. It’s my fault, right? Because of all the stuff that happened leading up to that.”
    To which the answer is a sensitive, supportive version of, “Not just no, but HELL NO.” When you’re saying no and crying and he keeps going he’s not confused or horny, he’s a rapist. And he’s not some special, less awful sort of rapist than the guy who grabs a woman off the street or breaks into her house to rape her. He’s exactly the same. Rape tends to be a crime of opportunity in one way or another and the guy who finds his chance at drunken frat parties isn’t one bit less of a predator than the buy who finds it in a deserted street or an unlocked window.
    A guy who isn’t a rapist stops when he hears any version of “no” and at least checks in with his partner to see exactly what’s going on. If things have gone pretty fair he may be pissed when she calls a halt. He may say unkind, and possibly unfair, things about her being a “tease”, but he stops. If he doesn’t he’s a rapist. I think we’re frequently too reluctant to look at a nice, clean cut guy from a “good” family and call him what he is. We bog down in making a false distinction between “rape rape” and “date rape” in order to avoid that uncomfortable labeling.
    We need to break up the term “date rape” and separate the issues of the date part from the issues of the rape part. WRT the dating, I think it’s imperative to talk openly with both men and women about good communication and clarifying what you do & do not want. The need for this is part of the reason that sex-negative culture makes me angry. It stands in the way of saying what needs to be said for the well-being of both men and women.
    There are still a frightening number of women who are raised to be seen and not heard and who are unable to state their boundaries clearly. There are also a horrifying number of young men raised with the idea that good girls don’t really like sex all that much and who therefore don’t automatically notice that it’s weird for one’s partner to totally freeze up during sex. We seriously need to do a lot more about that.

    By definition, if one party is drunk or high, it’s rape.

    This is one of the places where this whole topic gets really messy. It’s a true statement, but it leaves important questions unanswered. For example, how impaired is too impaired to give consent? One beer is almost certainly OK, passed out is definitely not, but there’s a lot of ground between those two poles. In the messy middle ground how much responsibility can you place on one person to judge the impairment of another? What if they’re both impaired?
    I think anti-sexual assault education for both men & women needs to include honest discussions about alcohol & drug use. Being drunk or high doesn’t mean a woman deserves to be raped, but it does tend to make it more difficult for her to exercise good judgment and to stand up for herself when necessary. It also makes it more difficult for a man to receive communication accurately. Because of that it’s important to make a realistic assessment of risk, the same why you do for other activities. Both men and women need to know that it’s a bad idea to mix sex with being too out of it to make good decisions.

  • hapax

    Amen to everything Lori said, but this:
    When you’re saying no and crying and he keeps going he’s not confused or horny, he’s a rapist. And he’s not some special, less awful sort of rapist than the guy who grabs a woman off the street or breaks into her house to rape her. He’s exactly the same.
    needs to be embroidered in needlepoint with little ribbons and doves in every Sex Ed class in the world.

  • lonespark

    The second is that discussion about “date rape” always seem to end up focused on the he said/she said cases which creates the impression that that’s what date rape is. IME that’s just not true.
    Wordy McWord.
    And talking about “no means no” seems like it’s still too focused on the gatekeeping aspect. Yes means yes. Sex without enthusiastic consent isn’t worth having. And yet what’s hard about that is our culture still penalizes women for liking it too much.
    Rape isn’t about sex, because it’s about consent.

  • Mark Z.

    Lori: The need for this is part of the reason that sex-negative culture makes me angry. It stands in the way of saying what needs to be said for the well-being of both men and women.
    There are still a frightening number of women who are raised to be seen and not heard and who are unable to state their boundaries clearly. There are also a horrifying number of young men raised with the idea that good girls don’t really like sex all that much and who therefore don’t automatically notice that it’s weird for one’s partner to totally freeze up during sex.

    Hella. (That’s Northern California for “This.”, which is getting worn out.)
    We have here two pernicious lies: “women have no good reason to have sex” and “men have no good reason not to have sex”. The intersection of these is: “A woman’s lack of interest in sex with any given man is completely natural, and is a practical obstacle to overcome, not a decision to be respected.” The short name for that is “rape culture”.
    Because of that it’s important to make a realistic assessment of risk, the same why you do for other activities. Both men and women need to know that it’s a bad idea to mix sex with being too out of it to make good decisions.
    I’m inclined to cite this as yet another reason to never have sex with anyone until you’ve had a long talk about what exactly you’re comfortable doing, what you’re using for birth control and STD prevention, what you intend to do if that fails, and what all of this means for your relationship–because if you’re sober enough to have that conversation, then your consent means something.
    (That, and to not get drunk. I don’t mean “ladies, don’t get drunk, you might get raped and it will be your fault“–I mean “guys, do you really want to wake up in the morning and discover you raped someone?” I admit I don’t understand the appeal, though. Alcohol in completely-smashed doses is not so much “social lubricant” as “mental solvent”.)

  • http://funwithrage.livejournal.com Izzy

    Mark Z.: I’m inclined to cite this as yet another reason to never have sex with anyone until you’ve had a long talk about what exactly you’re comfortable doing, what you’re using for birth control and STD prevention, what you intend to do if that fails, and what all of this means for your relationship–because if you’re sober enough to have that conversation, then your consent means something.
    Yeah, but my first reaction to that is “Ooof, that’s no way to live!”
    Which isn’t fair, since plenty of people do live that way and like it, I suppose, but man would it not ever work for me. I mean, I’ve never been drunk enough to do anything I wouldn’t do sober, given half an excuse, but…well, I do kind of like spontaneous casual sex. (With, of course, precautions. I’m impulsive, not suicidal.) The idea of having to stop beforehand and have The Talk (especially the “what this means for our relationship” bit–ye gods, what a mood-killer!) just…eugh, no.
    Mind you, I know everything but what the dude’s comfortable with (and if we’re already friends, I’ll do the “You’re not gonna get weird about this, right?” bit re: relationship) in advance already, have for the past ten years, and don’t really need his opinion on it. I guess if you don’t, the talk’s a good idea, but…brrr!

  • Launcifer

    There’s also the simple fact that, if it’s gotten the stage where sex may well be likely (I won’t say inevitable), answers pending, then I can see a significant chunk (I would say vast majority, but I’m just pulling ideas out of my arse here) of people attempting to divine whatever answers may well get them into bed more quickly, rather than actually telling the truth.
    Or am I being cynical with that one?

  • Leum

    Rape isn’t about sex, because it’s about consent.

    This is the one phrase of feminist discourse I don’t entirely agree with. Rape is about using patriarchal ideas about sex in order to oppress, subjugate, and terrify women. It’s entirely about sex, and using it as an offensive weapon. It’s wrapped up in slut-shaming, sexual guilt, and male privilege. Rape is not identical to similarly physically damaging assaults, and the reason (whether due to cultural forces or human nature or a mixture, I dunno) is because of sex.

  • Lori

    @Izzy: I see what you’re saying, but I think there are ways that you can have as much of the conversation as you need to have without totally killing the mood. I’ve had versions of it that were quite fun. (Of course I have an odd sense of humor, which may be a factor.)
    This is another thing that I hate about the sex-negative aspects of our culture. It leaves people ill-equipped to manage those kinds of interactions in a relaxed way. Sex is either totally spontaneous or planned in a way that sucks the life out of it, which is a false dichotomy.

    I mean “guys, do you really want to wake up in the morning and discover you raped someone?”

    IME the light doesn’t usually dawn the morning after, but I’ve known a couple of guys who admitted that they got worried months or years later. I have a fairly good friend who has talked to me about the fact that he looks back on a couple of his drunken outings in college with real worries that there’s some girl out there who thinks of him as “That guy who raped me in college”. He would give a great deal to be able to go back and make enough behavioral changes to eliminate that worry. He’s a good guy and I wish that I could reassure him that he’s worrying for nothing, but I have no way of knowing that. Yet another reason that sexist BS does no favors for any decent human being, male or female.

  • Lori

    I can see a significant chunk (I would say vast majority, but I’m just pulling ideas out of my arse here) of people attempting to divine whatever answers may well get them into bed more quickly, rather than actually telling the truth.
    Or am I being cynical with that one?

    It’s not cynical, it’s realistic. To the extent that something is easy to lie about and has the potential to be a serious issue, don’t base your actions on answers given in the heat of the moment. IOW, never believe that you don’t need to worry about condoms because the person is “clean” or birth control in general because it’s “not that time of the month”. There’s trusting and then there’s dumb.

  • hf

    More agreement with Lori at 5:14.
    @hapax: Actually, I was probably wrong when I said Newton’s bit about God in the General Scholium didn’t meet every requirement for deism. Speaking of which, can other people read it here by just closing the box that asks for authorization, or clicking Cancel?

  • http://funwithrage.livejournal.com Izzy

    Lori: Oh, very true. I think the key phrase is “as much as you need”–some of us need more of that conversation (and sometimes we need more of it with different people–I’m going to be much more careful about the “what does this do to our relationship” thing with my buddy than with some guy I met at a party, for instance) and some less. I was mostly reacting to the implication that it was a necessary conversation for everyone.
    And yeah, people lie, people are wrong, people change their minds. Unless you’ve been involved with someone for a fairly long time, barrier methods are the way to go.

  • Not Really Here, Defender of the Faith, Minister of Weird Science.

    Slightly OT, but still relevant- one of the big things that turned me off of Rush Limbaugh (I actually heard his very first national broadcast, thought he was funny for a while, then I realized the HE REALLY MEANS IT, became ill, and started listening Deep Purple on my jambox at work instead) was that he was constantly whining that “the time-honored act of seduction is now called ‘date rape”.
    Um, yeah, going ahead and fucking someone when they’re saying NO and trying to push you away, and maybe even crying is “seduction”.
    I just can’t help but wonder if there’s a woman, or women, in his past…

  • lonespark

    It’s entirely about sex, and using it as an offensive weapon.
    Well, I’m mostly with you there. But the fact that it’s being used as a weapon means it’s much more analagous to other types of violent crimes than to anything good or neutral dealing with sex.
    Rape is not identical to similarly physically damaging assaults, and the reason (whether due to cultural forces or human nature or a mixture, I dunno) is because of sex.
    I kinda think there are types of violation that can carry a similar level of complete disrespect of the victim’s humanity. There are plenty of kinds of non-sexual torture…I think a lot of what determines the nature thereof is culture-specific.
    But now we are trigger-central for no good reason, and I’m close to talking out my ass, so I’m backing off.

  • lonespark

    I had a friend early in college who said he got drunk at parties because he couldn’t relax otherwise. I told him that seemed unhealthy and I couldn’t imagine it. Fast-forward a few years and I needed half a bottle of whisky to get up the courage to talk to my thesis advisor. And it still took several friends telling me it wasn’t normal to burst into tears every time you talk about grad school to decide I wasn’t just lazy. What were we saying on the other thread about self-awareness?
    I do think liquor makes a good social lubricant, in that it may make you more likely to enjoy what can be enjoyed, but it isn’t necessary and YMMV.

  • Launcifer

    Lonespark: I do think liquor makes a good social lubricant, in that it may make you more likely to enjoy what can be enjoyed, but it isn’t necessary and YMMV.
    I also think it’s somewhat cultural. I got out with my friends and their about as talkative as Tommy Walker for the first hour and then, suddenly, they’re witty, symmpathetic or whatever. Fast forward a couple of hours – and three or four more drinks – and they’re not the sort of people you want crashing on your sofa. I think that, certainly among the English, there’s an element of alcohol smoothing over those sharp edges, at least in moderation, and lowering certain inhibitions until it lowers certain other inhibations and false confidence becomes completely cretinous.
    Hell, I can’t even get to sleep at night without a couple of beers, some nights. Getting me to come out of my shell can take an intravenous drip, loaded with phlebotinum.

  • http://jamoche.livejournal.com jamoche

    “an elementary school show of ‘Hair’”.
    When I was 6 or 7, I had a small collection of cassette tapes. “Hair” was one of them, “Tommy” was one of the others. I distinctly recall my dad commenting when I was picking them out to take on a trip to my grandparents that maybe I shouldn’t take that one because of some of the words; I said I’d already heard the songs so it was OK. No, I have *no idea* what he was thinking; he didn’t stop me, and I don’t recall my grandparents so much as listening to them. I vaguely recall wondering which words he meant, since all the questionable ones were polysyllabic and not in the set of words I would recognise at all, much less recognise as “bad”.
    However, I can *still* sing along perfectly if Hair or Tommy come on the radio. My memory for lyrics just works that way (alas, it’s not so good with anything else).

  • atrophia

    By definition, if one party is drunk or high, it’s rape.
    I’d like to second Izzy’s response here–I’ve had numerous consensual sexual encounters while under the influence that were perfectly awesome. On the other hand, I was also almost raped once when I had passed out. Thankfully I woke up before he had finished undressing me (I had the seemingly preternatural sense of Something Is Not Right Here, I think of it later like the robot screaming “Danger, Will Robinson!”), and he at least had the good sense to be embarrassed about it, though we of course kicked him out afterwards. There’s a big difference between delightfully inebriated, fubar, and unconscious.
    That being said, I’d also like to pose a question of my own: what if it’s the rapist who’s drunk, and physically overpowers the victim? We wouldn’t call the victim the rapist in such a scenario (or at least, I would like to think that we wouldn’t; I certainly wouldn’t) just because the actual aggressor was the one under the influence.

  • Lori

    That being said, I’d also like to pose a question of my own: what if it’s the rapist who’s drunk, and physically overpowers the victim? We wouldn’t call the victim the rapist in such a scenario (or at least, I would like to think that we wouldn’t; I certainly wouldn’t) just because the actual aggressor was the one under the influence.

    The issue with a drunken rapist isn’t that the blame is placed on the sober victim, it’s that being drunk is trotted out as an excuse. “I didn’t know what I was doing–I was too wasted.”
    Legally that cuts no ice and I’m not inclined to consider it much of a moral excuse either. YMMV.

  • Launcifer

    Lori: Legally that cuts no ice and I’m not inclined to consider it much of a moral excuse either. YMMV.
    Well, it’s a strange old thing, that. I can’t imagine why anyone would assume that the agressor would need to be objectively capable of giving consent in such a situation. It might well muddy the waters when both parties are inebriated – and, even then, I might shade it on the side of the female – but I don’t think drunkeness on the part of the rapist is going to make for anything but the most immediate defence.

  • atrophia

    The issue with a drunken rapist isn’t that the blame is placed on the sober victim, it’s that being drunk is trotted out as an excuse. “I didn’t know what I was doing–I was too wasted.”
    Legally that cuts no ice and I’m not inclined to consider it much of a moral excuse either. YMMV.

    That’s my point, really. Froborr had said if one party was drunk or high, it was always rape, but it occurred to me that somebody who’s drunk could in fact rape somebody who’s not.


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