From the lighter side – Apples

This is a bit lighter than most of what you usually find here, but still worth a read. It comes courtesy of Blair Robertson.

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I know this blog is meant for articles concerning rape, sexual violence, domestic abuse, even something merely feminist in nature, and believe me, I’m gonna stretch this as far in one of those directions as I can, but today I’m writing about apples. Yes, apples. Call me un-American, call me a Commie bastard if you need to, but I simply get no thrill out of apples. (I don’t like pizza either, to further your political assassination of me, but that’s a rant for another day). I want to love apples. I wait, like most of us, for autumn, for that first bite into the perfect, crisp, just-off-the-tree apple. I bite in, and just don’t get it. I continue to take bites, waiting for that really good one. It doesn’t come. I buy apples of all different varieties, thinking I’ll find a new hybrid that’ll do the trick for me. They don’t. Over the years, I’ve honed my tastes to wanting a certain crispness, a certain tartness, I even know how many spots I want on my Granny Smiths. But I’ve reached a point in my life where apples offer me dwindling gratification. I could climb to the top of the damn tree to pick the one farthest out on the teeniest branch (thereby risking life and limb–mine and the tree’s), and it wouldn’t be any better.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m as eager to keep the doctor away as the next person. I don’t find apples offensive. I can eat them all the way to the end. (Well, not really. I think the seeds and the core are yucky.) I know they are healthy and good for me. My daughter just told me that eating an apple in the morning gives you as much energy as drinking a cup of coffee does, although I don’t believe that for a hot second. I buy them, and I eat them.

But let’s look at some alternatives. When I can get black cherries or Ranier cherries in the summer, every one I eat is so freaking delicious that I often eat the whole bag before I notice I’m doing so. Even though each one tastes quite similar to the last, each becomes an epiphany unto itself, each delights me anew, each is an experience in gastronomic transformation. And plums. Starting in June, I buy a bag of plums each week, until I find the bag of perfect plums, which usually only happens once each summer. And when I taste that perfect plum, I actually shiver with bliss. I don’t think there is a food on this earth that can rival the taste of the perfect plum. Maybe only getting one or two every summer enriches the experience. I know it gives me something to live for.

Back to the apple. Here’s where I can go all feminist on your ass, if you need some substance in this blog. With all the trouble apples have caused humanity, especially women, they should be better. Eve was deceived by the serpent, and ate the apple. Adam was not deceived, but just went ahead and sinned, eating it too. It caused us all to die. Because he ate it, God “put enmity between Adam and women.” There you go. Because she ate it, God caused her “very severe” pains in childbirth, and said, “your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” This man ruling over women is the source of all of our problems with men. And it’s because HE sinned. That right there is reason enough to be feminist. And then they had to wear clothes on top of that.Thanks for the bras, God! Now, I don’t believe one jot or tittle of that story, but if there was any truth to it, that damn apple should have been downright orgasmic. And maybe God didn’t even tell them, but made apples not as good after that, either.

So, when you look at it that way, I’m not sure my disappointment in apples speaks to my crummy politics, like you’ve decided. I think it’s perhaps a far more cosmic disappointment. Somehow, in the fucked-up creation of the world, apples were made to lose their charm for me. I’m not sure I can use any of these arguments to explain my dislike for pizza, but again, that’s an argument for another day.

What Consent is (and isn’t)

This entry comes courtesy of Blair Robertson, and takes a look at an important subject: consent. She discusses what consent consists of, as well as what does not constitute consent. She also takes a brief look at how rape culture plays into this issue. This may be triggering, so please proceed with caution, and stop reading if you find yourself being triggered.
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“What is your definition of rape?” This question came at me, seemingly out of nowhere, one afternoon recently. Annie and I were sitting at a local brewery, having a beer with a couple of guys who work out with us at the gym. One was a man around my age; the other was a young guy, about 25, who is quite nice-looking, but shy and somewhat lacking in social skills. His looks, combined with his lack of self-confidence, leaves one often with a sense that he is arrogant and aware of being a “lady’s man.” I understand that this is not true, but I’m also sure that his physical expression is far more confident and practiced than is his verbal expression. The conversation had turned to a blind date the young guy (let’s call him Joe) had had the past Friday night, how much he had liked her, and how he had become too intoxicated due to his shyness around girls. She had ended up having to take him home and put him to bed. In the midst of this, he looked directly at me and asked, “What is your definition of rape?” Knowing nothing romantic had taken place on his date, I was taken aback by the question, and Annie immediately “received a phone call” and had to leave the table. I responded to him, “When both people don’t actually say YES. Not saying no is not enough, Joe.” He looked at me, confused, and said, “What do I say, then? How do I ask? ‘Wanna bang?’” He chuckled in embarrassment, then continued, “Won’t that ruin the mood?” I responded, “That probably would. Saying, all along the way, ‘Is this ok?’ or ‘Do you like this?’ will let you know that you’re not overstepping any lines, and will probably enhance the mood, because she will feel that she can trust you. The guys then, in their discomfort, began to joke amongst themselves about rape, and I had to excuse myself, because I don’t find anything about the subject funny.

That is a serious question, however, for men, old or young, who are uncomfortable with verbal expression, who are initiating sex with someone they don’t know well, who have been conditioned by our society to think that expressing themselves sexually is a natural thing, and that women couldn’t possibly have any objection if the mood has turned romantic. How does one ask? This is something parents should raise boys with more awareness of, something they actively discuss with their sons, something boys should be taught should NEVER be taken for granted, even if it is someone they have had sex with before, or are even married to. Actual rapists don’t care; the victim saying no has no effect on their intentions or actions. All men, however, become rapists when they continue just because the woman does NOT say no, with no clear idea of how she is feeling or what she is wanting. (Yes, I know the victim can be male as well as female. For the purposes of this article, however, I will have the victim be female.) And society still seems to think that is okay. It’s not. It is the part of rape culture that will make it almost impossible to overcome rape mentality, because these men don’t think they are raping. If she didn’t actually say no, she must actually want it, even if her body language is saying something different. She must be shy, or coy, or playing hard to get.

A woman close to my age was discussing this with me the other day, and said, “Oh, I don’t think men actually have to ask. They can tell what the mood is.” I couldn’t believe she said that. Hasn’t she seen the way men’s eyes glaze over when they are in the “sex zone”, doesn’t she know how difficult it is to break through that with so many men, to get them to listen at that point? I, myself, have been in the midst of sexual encounters that I thought I wanted to be in, when at some point things didn’t feel right. Sometimes it was someone new, sometimes it was with men I’d had sex with before, some many times before. I knew I immediately stiffened up, and said, “no, STOP.” I have been lucky enough, most times, to be with a man who respected that and stopped, however reluctantly. A few times, however, I have not. In my younger days, rape culture was not talked about, and if we got ourselves into the situation and they didn’t respect our request to stop, we were taught to chalk it up to a bad night.

Rape has been around as long as there have been people. Sex and power are often inextricable from one another, and rapists exist. But the sexual atmosphere leading to today’s rape culture is, I think, more specific. Through the 1950’s, girls and boys were both taught that “nice girls didn’t,” that girls should be virgins on their wedding night. The nuclear family was more intact, and I think boys were raised with a protective attitude toward their moms and sisters that translated to a similar attitude toward a girl they may like or love. The sixties came along with flower children, protests against war that acquired the slogan, “Make love, not war”, and the era of “free love” was born. This was a double/edged sword: it removed a lot of the stigma of women having sex outside the institution of marriage, and at the same time put more pressure on her not to say no. If love was “free’, why should anybody stop it? Because society was then and is now patriarchal, it actually just became an easier time for men to pass women around, and to pressure them into sex, because it no longer was a death sentence to their reputation. Or so they told us. Men could have all the “free love” they wanted, but women became sluts and were slut-shamed if they did the same. And there was no attention given to the rights of women. They were supposedly liberated, but liberated to do the bidding of men. Perhaps more women than ever began to suffer in silence. I remember seeing a short documentary in the early ’80’s called “The Silent Scream”, illuminating the horrors of abortion, but I always thought the title particularly appropriate for all women everywhere. We have had no sexual voice. Our “no” can’t really mean no, and our silence is tantamount to a resounding “YES.” My momma always said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”, and that’s kind of what the sexual revolution became for women. Free lunch was a man’s ticket to free sex, and the implications are myriad from there.

Verbal consent is a relatively new concept in today’s society, and a ludicrous one to a lot of men. A mood-breaker, an inconvenience, an unnecessary and uncomfortable bit of conversation to have. But it is the beginning of a voice for women–a voice long ignored, and a necessity a long time coming for women. Verbal consent is the first line of defense in the rape culture of today. Parents, teach your children well–teach your sons to wait to hear that word “yes”, and teach your daughters to make their voices HEARD.