I Might Have a Nice Ass, But You’re Still an Asshole.

This is an article I wrote for Hollaback Philly, a non-profit dedicated to ending street harassment. They’ve posted it on their blog, which I really hope you go and check out. Hollaback is in many other cities as well.

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I distinctly remember walking down the sidewalk with my friends at the age of thirteen, getting honks and lewd comments hurled at us. I repeat: WE WERE THIRTEEN. Imagining ourselves cool and grownup, we would give offending drivers the finger and gleefully yell “Perv!” as loud as we could. After the shock of the first time or two, I considered it old hat in the nonchalant way that kids who don’t know better have. Maybe it had happened to me earlier even than thirteen, because I developed very early — but if it did, it was too traumatizing for me to not block out of my memory.

I’m in my early thirties now, and not much in the way of street harassment has changed. I’ve heard everything from “Nice ass,” and “Show me your tits,” to the relatively milder “You’re looking good today,” and “Hey baby.” I’ve heard it all, and I don’t care what the words are, I hate them all. I no longer have the blase attitude of laughing and yelling back, because no matter what I do, I’ll be called a bitch, or maybe worse. I hate that I have to fear speaking up, fear threats of violent confrontation, fear for my safety for the grave crime of being a woman in public. “What, I give you a compliment and you don’t even look at me? Bitch.” “You act like I’m not here? Bitch.” “I was being nice. Bitch.” Bitch. Bitch. Bitch.

Street harassment is not about compliments. It’s certainly not about being nice. It’s about intimidation and dehumanization, about objectification and making the recipient feel powerless and scared while the perpetrator feels powerful and aggressive. It’s about keeping its targets firmly in a place of submission and fear, and perpetrators (in my personal experience, they have invariably been men, of all races) in a place of power.

I’m a survivor of abuse. It happened early and often up through my early to mid 20’s, and I’ve spent years coming to terms with it and learning that healing is a journey, not a destination. For me, part of being a survivor and not a victim, part of continually healing, is speaking up — of ensuring that through my words and actions that neither I nor others are silent victims ever again. But even this is a journey, not a destination. It’s exhausting at times, terrifying, daunting; but also exhilarating, empowering, and deeply fulfilling.

Street harassment almost always catches you unaware. I am usually biking, concentrating on navigating Philly traffic and deep in my own thoughts. “Nice ass,” along with a jeering face staring back at me from a car as they drive ahead of me, violently tears me out of the present and can take me all the way back to my abuse — despite the years of therapeutic work I’ve done for myself. It doesn’t matter whether a flashback lasts for seconds, minutes, hours — or even if I’d never been abused at all, and there was nothing to which to flash back. Street harassment makes my heart pound, makes my stomach churn, and it makes me absolutely seeing-red livid. It doesn’t matter whether I’m wearing a potato sack or a ball gown, or even, as in the case of Philly Naked Bike Ride, nothing at all. You have no right to talk to me like that. Harassment is illegal in the workplace, at school, at home — pretty much anywhere that’s indoors. So why is it that when we’re outside, it’s like the Wild West? It’s violent, it’s wrong, and it needs to stop.

I am deeply passionate about fighting injustice with my words, which, paired with my intelligence, are the mightiest weapons I possess. I use words to reclaim myself, to reclaim my body and my soul. I write romance, and I write erotica, and I love that I am able to make a living at it. I write other genres too, and plan to eventually publish those as well. I love my queer sexuality, and I love that I am free inside myself to be able to claim it without shame or self-reprisal. I love that I can use words and verbal images in any way I like to reclaim my soul from my broken past, and to create my own future.

Despite what the children’s chant says, words can hurt you — but it fails to mention that they can also heal you. That’s why the growing Hollaback movement is so damn brilliant. It fights words with words, voices with voices, and shows the silent ones that it’s okay to speak up, that they are not alone. It empowers the victimized and gives them a constructive outlet for their fear and rage. Hollaback is a brilliant concept, one that I hope will soon create positive change in policies, laws, and cultures.

Not all words are created equal, and we all know it. You have a voice. Use it for positive change.

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Going Viral…

I posted my article, “Why I Am a Feminist (or, Applied Examples of the Prevalence of Rape Culture)” on Facebook two days ago and it has BLOWN. UP. Over 9,000 views in less than 48 hours! Woot! Not to mention, the discourse it has caused in the comments has really made me happy. My deepest thanks to everyone’s interest, shares, and comments.

Philly Gay Calendar saw it and wanted me to publish it on their site, which is exciting and encouraging. Please go over there, and show it some love!

In other news, I’ve been working on outlining my novel which I started for NaNoWriMo in November. I think I was way too disorganized and didn’t really have a battle plan, and so I got discouraged and put it aside for a while. It was constantly in the back of my mind though, poking at me, wanting to be born, and I knew I had to figure out just how to go about this novel writing business!

I got a piece of software called Snowflake Pro and it is actually making a HUGE difference to my planning and workflow. In fact, what I originally thought was going to be a single novel is looking like an epic trilogy at this point, and I have the first well underway when it comes to outline and characters.

I’m tentatively looking at a length of 110,000-140,000 words. A good deal of what I wrote in November needs reworking, and I’m planning on writing 32,000 words next month for Camp NaNoWriMo. However, I am moving to a different part of Philly this week, so I hope I have time for everything. Anyway, it’s tentatively called Heart of Ice, first in the Aeternitas: Goddess of Time trilogy. Those titles may well change, but I’m happy with them for now.

Why I Am a Feminist (or, Applied Examples of the Prevalence of Rape Culture)

Here’s a true story. Last night, I was hanging out at a pretty chill bar, having some beers and just having a nice time. Three guys and a girl came in and sat near me. They seemed to be about college age, and I paid them little mind. One guy seemed to take notice of me, came over and started talking to me. I already had a good feeling where this was going, believe me.

“Who are you here with?”

“Myself.”

“Ohh!” he grinned smugly and reached a friendly arm around my shoulders. I stiffened, but attempting subtlety with this guy was like playing a Mozart concerto for a warthog. He continued to have a distinct lack of regard for personal space during this entire encounter. I pulled away, and kept having to, again and again, as he pressed his body “casually” against my side.

I had been talking to the bartender about how I’m moving to a different part of the city. The guy next to me started saying, don’t move, I’ll cry, we should hang out, we should get married, hahaha. You know, in that joking-but-not-really sort of way. I said no, I don’t think my girlfriend would like that.

He stared at me in disbelief.

“I’m gay.”

“Are you really?” he seemed dubious. You know, just because I don’t fit whatever the damn stereotype of a lesbian is, doesn’t mean this shit doesn’t piss me off after a while. But I was amiable enough still, even at that point.

“Yes, really.”

Then came the questions, the utterly unoriginal and predictable questions…

“Hypothetically, if you were straight, would you find me attractive?”

“Hypothetically, if you were gay, would you find your friend attractive?”

He guffawed and made a joke of it. I settled for telling him there is no hypothetical, because I’m not straight. He was good looking enough for sure, but he was also smugly self-assured to the point of intolerable cockiness, and that is SO unattractive in anyone, regardless of sex.

“How do you know you’re gay? Are you sure?”

“How do you know you’re straight?” I retorted. Another offhand joke.

“So you’ve never dated a guy?” I didn’t find this worthy of answering. And so on and so forth.

I shot him down, again and again. Apparently, though, “you’re so pretty” is a valid excuse to ignore increasingly not-so-subtle hints to go away. Because, apparently, pretty women NEED to be convinced, cajoled, and outfoxed despite what they may have to say in the matter. Too bad for him, it’s a rare person who can run any sort of intellectual circles around me.

“So can you give me tips on how to make girls like me?” I wasn’t sure whether this was some kind of facetious reverse psychology, though now, looking back, I really don’t think he was clever enough for that. I just sort of rolled my eyes in answer.

There were plenty more questions, liberally interspersed with complaints that I was mean, an asshole, and that I should be nicer to him. I pointed out dryly that no one forced him to come over to me, and that despite my “meanness” he was still glued to my side. Yet another hint for him to go away, and it was laughed off: “Yeah, well you’re pretty.”

I was there first, though, and other than him, had been enjoying my night, so I didn’t feel like I should be the one to have to move. Hey, I’m stubborn like that. He was annoying, but somewhat tolerable in a “look at this dumb asshat” kind of way. Until.

“Have you ever kissed a guy?”

I didn’t answer. It’s none of his business. (Yes, but I wasn’t about to encourage him. I know more than well enough from experience.)

“So,” he pushed, “would you like to try?” I’d had enough.

“You’re disgusting and rude. Get the fuck away from me.”

He tried to play it off as a joke; then, seeing that I was having none of it, turned to one of his friends and called me a “feminist” in a decidedly mocking tone. I tartly informed the lot of them that “feminist is not a pejorative, and neither is gay, for that matter.”

Blank stares. They didn’t know what “pejorative” means — big surprise — and I had to explain… yeah.

Then another guy in his group joined in on ganging up on me, saying condescending things, and I was really starting to get mad. Meanwhile, Douchebag #1 was making little comments about what an asshole I am, and that I didn’t need to be so “mean” to him and his friends.

Throughout this, their female friend meekly tried once or twice to tell them to leave me alone, with little to no effect. They ignored her, and the three guys kept up the hateful diatribe. The kicker was when Douchebag #1 called me “this feminist idiot.”

REALLY??

“Get the fuck away from me before I punch you.”

“I’ll call the cops on you if you touch me.”

“Oh, so a big man like you can’t handle a little ‘feminist idiot’ like me?”

He kept making little comments to his friends, just loud enough for me to hear. It was clearly a case of sour grapes, and I would have laughed if I hadn’t been so angry.

“No wonder straight girls don’t like you. It’s because you’re an insufferable douchebag.”

“Oh, I can get all the girls I want, it’s easy.” I raised an eyebrow, remembering the query for help with said girls not too much earlier.

“Ha, is that so? Why are you bothering me then? Go find one of them and leave me the fuck alone. You’re disgusting.”

He got pretty huffy at this. “Me, disgusting? You’re disgusting.” This from the charmer who was trying to make out with me ten minutes before. Sour grapes, indeed. I was fed up, and turned to the bartender.

“Get these fucking misogynist assholes away from me, please.” Thankfully, the bartender had my back at last and told them to get out. Douchebags numbers 1 and 2 went outside, along with their mouse of a female friend. Finding himself left alone, the third guy came up to me, vaingloriously trying to defend his comrades-in-misogyny.

“They’re not usually like that, they’re just drunk, you don’t have to be mean. Don’t take it out on me, I wasn’t saying anything. But I guess you’re in hostility mode now. But don’t be mad, they’re good guys.” I really had no patience for him and his lame apologies for his disgusting friends, and I told him as much.

“Maybe you should get better friends who aren’t assholes, drunk or sober. Ever heard of guilt by association?” He wouldn’t leave me alone, though, and bugged me for several minutes until I deigned to placate him with an offhand comment just to shut him up. Still, he kept at it until I flat out told him to go away and leave me alone. He didn’t like it, but at last he left.

There are more details I’ve left out, and choice epithets I was called, but I don’t really feel like typing out the whole play-by-play. Needless to say, this is probably the worst treatment I’ve had as a gay woman in Philadelphia in a long time.

After they left, I broke down crying. The bartender was very apologetic, saying nothing like that has happened there before, and that those particular people are regulars. Ironically, he told me, the owner is a gay man and he’s never had any trouble with them. Bitterly, I pointed out that the owner is not an attractive woman whom frat boys would just love to talk into bed in order to show her what a “real man” is. The bartender was nice enough, but I really think it was a case of too little, too late. I have to wonder if that is because they were, in fact, regulars. And I’m upset that this fact made a difference.

He walked me out, effusively apologizing, telling me that he hoped I wouldn’t pass judgment on the bar due to a few unruly patrons. He stayed with me as I unlocked my bike, looking worried. As I pedaled briskly home, I had to keep fighting back tears. Later, it was a long time before I could get to sleep, playing the whole scene back in my mind, seething with rage. It made my stomach turn. To be honest, it still does.

If there is any question in your mind that we are living in a rape culture, a culture in which young men think they can say and do anything to a woman in pursuit of sex, just because he finds her attractive, regardless of whether or not she is interested, and feels perfectly justified — nay, entitled — in hurling verbal (or physical, or sexual) abuse at her when rebuffed, simply because his pride and ego have been hurt, think again.

This is rape culture. This is why Steubenville and a million other similar and unreported cases happen. This is why the media has such crocodile-tear sympathy for the high school rapists for their lost scholarships and “ruined lives,” and not a word of concern for the victim, whose life is the one which is truly ruined.

This is what women and girls put up with, all the time, gay or straight; and by lieu of lifetime exposure, are led to believe that it is normal and right. This is what boys are taught is their due and their right. She was asking for it, she was drunk, she was pretty, she was dressed “like a slut,” she was alone, ad nauseam. Nor does it end at women — gay boys and men, as well as trans* people suffer parallel, if not completely similar, fates.

The worst part is that I feel guilty that I should be “thankful” that it didn’t end up far more tragic, far more dangerous, far more lethal. And that may be the most enraging piece of this whole scenario.

I am thoroughly disgusted. Rape culture must end, and it is everyone’s responsibility. Let’s start a revolution.

Ramblings and November Wrap-Up

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So November has been a busy month. I haven’t gotten much knitting in lately — yeah, bet you didn’t know that I’m a knitter, yes I like to get my grandma on whilst listening to either audiobooks or some really evil death metal (seriously). I love metal, and knitting to metal. I enjoy the juxtaposition. Anyway, this is the start of a hat pattern from Knitty. It’s a pretty self-striping 70% merino, 30% soysilk that I bought a few years back for some legwarmers and had a bit left over.

Anyway, regarding NaNoWriMo… welp, I’m not a winner (i.e. 50k words in a month), but I’m actually okay with that. By the end of today I’ll have 20k of quality work, with an estimated 70k or so to go. It’s been slow going with the simultaneous research, and life… well, by NaNo standards I suppose. I don’t consider 20k in a month all too shabby, since I’m pretty sure this is the most I’ve written in a month to date — and that’s not counting the other shorts I was working on as well.

I’ve made a personal resolution to write 1500 words every day. No less, but more if I feel like it. That’s 10,500 a week, 42k a month. If I can keep it up, that’s pretty good, and quite doable. That’s doable. I have two three more novel ideas gestating in my brain, so I think 2013 will be a busy year. I just have to come up with a suitable reward system for myself. Maybe more masturbation? Dinner? In that order? I don’t know.

So I’m going to NYC next weekend because I have a new ladyfriend-type-person, and I may or may not be getting laid, a lot. Hint: it’s the former. Sorry to rub it in. Actually, not really. Soooo, between bouts of marathon lesbian sex, I’ll be checking out a couple museums, one of which being the Museum of Sex. I’ve actually not been there before, and I’m quite looking forward to it. Rest assured I’ll be taking lots of pictures and posting them here, Dear Reader. Unfortunately (for you), there will be no (public) pictures of the marathon sex. I kid, I kid. There will be mental pictures, emerging in future writings, and you will be reaping the benefits in an indirect way. I can’t help you with your real life sex drought, though, I’m afraid.

In other news, my cat has been sick, and let me tell you, nothing quite puts you in the mood to write smut than wrapping up a cat who knows what’s coming in a blanket like a vengeful burrito and forcing antibiotics in pill form down his maw, then holding his mouth shut to make sure he swallows instead of spitting it out like a college freshman at her first frat party. Is that inappropriate? Oh well. He’s fixed, so it’s okay. I know what I’m doing, trust me.

The burrito is so he doesn't scratch the hell out of me while I give him a pill. I'm not hurting him, except for his pride, I promise.

The burrito is so he doesn’t scratch the hell out of me while I give him a pill. I’m not hurting him, except for his pride, I promise.

Edit: I couldn’t resist. May the gods forgive me.

vengefulburrito

Why Amazon Has Lost My Links

I’m sick of Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. There, I said it.

It’s not because I don’t make money there. I do. But they have this absolutely awful return policy which, in my mind, is so easily exploitable that I’ve changed all my website links to point to my titles at Kobo instead. The only exception to this is my title, Doubled, which is currently in the KDP Select program through September.

Now I get the whole “customer is always right” deal, I do. But people will buy titles and return them, and there is no feedback. Is there a problem with my formatting? Did they just not like it? Are they pirating my work, then returning to get their money back? I get zero feedback about returns, and so if there is a physical problem, I can’t know if I need to fix it! I want my customers to be happy (in fact, more than happy, if you catch my drift), but how am I supposed to fulfill that if I don’t know what the problem is? Or even if there’s a problem on my end at all?

Amazon obviously doesn’t give a crap about indie publishers, even though there are hundreds of us at the tops of the rating charts. We are making them no small amount of money, but the little guys apparently don’t matter. They seriously need to revise their return policy to something beneficial to both customers and content providers.

Until then, I’ll be happily selling way more at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, iTunes, Rainbow eBooks, and other distributors.