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The MPE Reader

Man to Man
by Paul Kivel
THE LETTER BELOW !S SONETH!NG ! wrote to address individual men in communities that !
live, work and play in because we still, all too often, assume that our" men have it together
and are safe and non-abusive in their personal interactions.
Dear friend,
Welcome to our community. Whether you are entering our neighborhood, our workplace, our
school community, our congregation, or other collective spaces, ! hope you will be welcomed,
safe, respected, and fully able to participate in our activities and life together.
There are many ways that people's safety and well-being is undermined in our society. One of
the primary interpersonal ways that people are attacked is rarely talked about directly therefore
! need to talk with you about safety and healing from male violence. No matter how special
or different or evolved, or progressive we think our community is, male violence is happening
among and around us.
Nany of my friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, joint travelers, and acquaintances have
experienced violence from men. Nale violence has had a devastating impact of their lives and
on the lives of all of us. The cumulative result is that we cannot come together to rebuild our
communities, establish a just society, or create intimate partner and family relationships without
dealing with the shadow cast by this violence.
! don't know you. ! don't know your past history of relationships, ! don't know your intentions,
and ! don't know, or know that you know, what you will do in various interpersonal situations
you may find yourself in. So we need to talk, man to man, as you enter our community.
You need to know that many of the women, men, people who are transsexual and
transgendered, and youth in your life have experienced, survived, and are still healing from
child sexual and physical abuse, teen dating violence, and many kinds of domestic violence and
sexual assault, as well as from various forms of racial and homophobic violence (you may be
one of them). The pain of this abuse was compounded by the fact that men like you and ! did
not respond, did not believe, did not support the survivors, and often even colluded with the
perpetrators. You need to know that people seldom lie about the abuse they have experienced
and that they seldom talk about it either, for fear of further pain, among other reasons.
Therefore you may not even know about the kinds of interpersonal violence that those around
you have experienced.
For me, there is only one healthy, safe, and healing way to be in relationship with the people
around me and that is to create relationships built on respect, consent, and mutuality, and
even that may not always be enough. !n this context ! am referring to every level of interaction
from casual encounters at the bus stop or in a store, to the most intimate moments of a sexual
For me, respect means coming from the place of deepest recognition of and valuing of the
body, spirit, culture and individuality of the person ! am relating to.
Consent means only engaging in conversation, interaction, acts of physical intimacy, or other
forms of contact with the expressed affirmation of the other person. No one can give consent
if they are underage, asleep, on drugs, don't speak the language, physically, emotionally, or
financially dependent, intimidated, threatened, harassed, cajoled, or manipulated into saying
yes" when they do not really want to. !f you have any indication that your behavior is causing
someone else pain or that they are engaging in behavior that they do not really want to, then
your responsibility is to stop and check it out with them.
Nutuality means to me that both people in the relationship get to establish the boundaries of
the relationship and those boundaries will be honored until mutually changed.
! invite you to consider what these three words mean to you.
Respect, consent, and mutuality are principles, not rules. !f you are looking for rules then this
is not, perhaps, the community for you. ! encourage you to operate from your deepest place
of caring about others, not from a fear of breaking the rules" or of being incorrect. We live in
interdependent communities, accountable to each other. Given the violence in our lives and
communities, building relationships is a never-ending process of trying to be loving to ourselves
and to act in loving ways towards others. With that in mind, if you have any doubt, at any time,
that what you are doing may not be completely respectful, consensual, and mutual-check it
out with the person you are with, or with others.
! also encourage you to find other male identified people to talk with about these issues and
other aspects of male socialization and male supremacy. Nost of us learned early on to hide
our feelings and cover our pain, to take abuse and pass it on, to expect male privilege and
entitlement, including emotional, physical, sexual, and other care-taking services from women.
You may be hardworking, well-intended, creative, committed, charismatic, well-read, andfor
working for justice. Yet, you may still act abusively towards those around you unless you are
doing the personal antisexist work necessary to unlearn abusive patterns.
! also think that each of us has a responsibility to support and lovingly but firmly challenge
the men around us when we see or hear that they are being abusive, acting in disrespectful
ways, taking advantage of male privilege, or acting out of male entitlement. There are many
institutional systems that perpetuate male violence. But sexism also continues because men
collude with other men in perpetuating it. We not only collude; we often actively bond with
other men around the objectification, sexualization, marginalization, and exclusion of others. !t
is certainly not always easy, but it is absolutely essential that we step up as men to challenge
other men. Our intervention can not only stop the abuse, it can also break the collusion that
allows male violence to continue.
Women, children, and men will only be safe, healthy, and collectively liberated when all systems
of oppression are eliminated. !n the meantime, we each have a role to play as allies in the
struggle to end male violence in all the many forms it takes. ! invite you to join, or redouble
your efforts in that struggle.
Again, welcome to our community!
!n love and solidarity,
paul kivel
Table of Contents


I. For Men Working to End Gender Violence
Men's Work - To Stop Male Violence by Paul Kivel
Against Patriarchy: Tools for Men to Further Feminist Revolution by Chris Crass
Driver's Ed for the Sexual Superhighway Navigating Consent by Heather Corinna
Expanding Consent (excerpt) by Colette Perold
Beyond Yes or No - Consent as Sexual Process by Rachel Kramer Bussel
Hello, Sailor! How to Build, Board and Navigate a Healthy Relationship by Heather
Honesty by bell hooks
The Seven P's of Men's Violence by Michael Kaufman
Survivors are So Sensitive by Melissa McEwan
White Knight Disconnect

II. Violence: Facts, Figures, and Overviews
Relationship Violence Definition & Cycle of Violence
Four Types of Abuse
Relationship Violence Statistics
RV Myths and Realities
Myths & Facts about Men as Survivors by Ken Singer
What is Child Sexual Abuse by generation FIVE
Common Reactions to SA
Effects of Domestic Violence
Behaviors of Batterers
Spectrum of Male Violence
Power & Control Wheel for College Students
It Might Be a Mickey by Luoluo Hong
Domestic Violence in GLB Relationships
Sexualized Violence and People with Disabilities by Seattle Rape Relief
Rape, Sexual Assault, & Sexual Harassment
Immigration Enforcement

III. Gender, Sexuality, and Violence
Queer Definitions
Trans Etiquette by Micah Bazant
Trans Liberation and Feminism by Michelle O'Brien
J. Crew Plants the Seeds for Gender Identity by Dr. Keith Ablow
Dismantling Hierarchy Queering Society by Andrea Smith
Gay Men's Sexism and Women's Bodies by Yolo Akili
Machismo and Homophobia by Rafael M. Diaz
Trans Law and Politics on a Neoliberal Landscape by Dean Spade
BDSM Defined by Deborah Teramis Christian
The Alt Sex Anti-Abuse Dream Team

IV. Race, Colonization, and Violence
Forms of Oppression
The Color of Violence: Introduction by Andrea Smith, Beth Richie, Julia Sudbury, Janelle
White, and the INCITEAnthology Co-editors
Prisons for Our Bodies, Closets for Our Minds by Patricia Hill Collins
Assume the Position: Changing Contours of Sexual Violence by Patricia Hill Collins
Race Class Gender and Prisons by Beth Richie
Misogyny, Gangsta Rap and The Piano by bell hooks
Sexual Violence as a Tool of Genocide by Andrea Smith
Young White Men by Paul Kivel
Slutwalk Toronto
An Open Letter from Black Women to the SlutWalk

V. First Person Experiences
Why I am A Male Feminist by Byron Hurt
My Body - My Rules by Liberte Locke
Without My Consent by Bran Fenner
White Men Rule the World by Joseph Osmundson
Seeking Asylum - On Intimate Partner Violence and Disability by Peggy Munson
Freedom & Strategy, Trauma, and Reisistance by Timothy Colm
Surviving vs. Thriving by SLY
Stone Butch Blues by Les Feinberg
Man Child by Audre Lorde
The F Word On Feminism, Being an Ally & Social Justice by Dr. LHeureux Dumi
Learning to Listen by Richard Orton
Going Places That Scare Me by Chris Crass
Here Be Dragons by James Baldwin
Three Words I Said to the Man I Defeated in Gears of War by Patricia Hernandez

VI. Community Accountability and Transformative Justice
Transformative Justice and Community Accountability Diagrams
Incite! Women of Color Against Violence & Critical Resistance: Statement on Gender
Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex
What Does It Feel Like When Change Finally Comes?: Male Supremacy, Accountability
and Transformative Justice by The Challenging Male Supremacy Project
Gender, Race & Class Justice
What is STOP?
STOP - Community Responds to Domestic Violence
Toward Transformative Justice (Summary) by GenerationFIVE

VII. Practical Matters
Becoming an Ally
Checking Your Privilege 101 by The Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois
Giving and Receiving Feedback
Centering Exercise
The Immediate Need for Emotional Justice by Yolo Akili
Strategies for Survivors by the Philly Survivor Support Collective by the Philly Survivor
How to Build Safety in a Group by the Change Agency
How To Design a Workshop by the Change Agency
ROPES Lesson Plan Format
Co-Facilitation by the Change Agency
Co-Facilitation Inventory
Personal Commitments
Collective Commitments

Welcome to the Nen's Peer Education (NPE) Reader. Whether you are a Columbia student
working formally with NPE, or someone interested in learning a bit about the framework
we use, we're glad you've found us. We believe that men have a key role to play in ending
sexual assault, relationship abuse, and all forms of gender violence. This means, of course,
encouraging men to act as alliesresponding to violence when it occurs by supporting and
caring for survivors, as well as working to hold aggressors accountable.
We also recognize that sexual violence is not only a personal issue. Epidemic levels of sexual
violence throughout the U.S. do not reveal some innate nature of men, but rather that we live
in a culture which normalizes domination and eroticizes violence.
One of the first steps in our work is often to explore how men of all identities and abilities come
to embody unhealthy conceptions of masculinity. These concepts shape not only our sexual
desires and experiences, but also our relationships with loved ones, our communities and even
our own bodies. NPE offers men a space to reexamine these relationships and to inhabit a
more caring, creative and intentional identity; we couple these internal processes with outreach
strategies and educational resources, so that men can be the kinds of friends, sons, partners,
survivors and activists that are working towards personal as well as social transformation.
NPE began in 2006, as an effort to create structured, ongoing opportunities for men at
Columbia University to learn about and work to end gender-based violence. Since then, the
program has grown to include biweekly discussions, film screenings, panels, a poster campaign,
bystander intervention workshops, and many other efforts. At the end of the 2012-2013 year,
we had 17 trained peer educators who participated in weekly meetings, and led workshops with
a variety of student groups; we continue to expand and refine our work each semester.
The NPE Reader you've just begun to peruse is the second attempt at this kind of project.
Asere Bello, the first person to serve as Program Coordinator, put together the first one. This
new incarnation was a labor of love, birthed in the summer of 2013. Thanks to Andrew, !saac,
Tyler, Narty and Niguel for all the hours, ideas and meetings you put into making this possible.
We wanted to create something new to reflect the directions the program has taken over
the three years !'ve been the Program Coordinator, as well as make it more accessible with a
digital format. We hope the texts contained here can help generate a more hopeful, reflective,
accountable, critical, patient and generous approach as we strive to make the world a place
where all of its inhabitants can live safe, dignified and interconnected lives.
The first section of the Reader, For Nen Working to End Gender violence," is an introduction to
what we do, focusing on men's roles in challenging gender violence, how that violence shapes
our lives and what healthy relationships and a practice of consent entail. From there, we move
to Facts, Figures and Overviews" of sexual and relationship violence, including the role that
institutions such as law enforcement agencies sometimes play in perpetrating such violence.
Next, we move more explicitly toward an intersectional understanding of violence, discussing
the relationships between Gender, Sexuality and violence" as well as Race, Colonization
8 violence" in the United States; these sections present a mixture of definitions, primers,
theory, history, cultural critique and activist exchangeprioritizing the connections between
race, gender, sexuality and violence in order to encourage a shift from single-issue activism to
organizing for collective liberation. This feels particularly important to us given the genesis of
this epidemic of sexual violence; we see it as difficultif not impossibleto challenge sexual
violence in the United States without also addressing the legacies of colonization and slavery in
this country, given the centrality of sexual violence to these processes.
Having discussed these issues of violence and power theoretically and at the macro level,
we shift gears to how these play out in specific lives, presenting a number of First Person
Experiences." These include stories of harming and experiencing harm, ignoring and
interrupting violence, challenging and colluding with cultures that facilitate violence. Getting
familiar with concrete experiences helps us to comprehend the complexities and particularities
of how violence actually plays out in and shapes the lives of individuals and communities; by
understanding this, we can be more effective in preventing and ultimately ending violence.
!t's for this reason that the next section explores Community Accountability 8 Transformative
Justice." Given that survivors most often confide in their friends and family membersand that
state systems and institutions often contribute to violence as much as they work against itwe
focus here on community-based responses to violence, in particular the work of several groups
that have documented their ground-breaking work. Together, they provide initial considerations
on how we might address instances of gender violence without leveraging violent institutions,
and explore some of the numerous challenges that spring up when attempting such a task.
Finally, the reader ends by focusing on some Practical Natters": how can we be allies, stay
grounded, or receive feedback gracefully and give it generously? How do you actually design a
workshop that can meet the needs of a group, and what do you need to discuss with someone
before you facilitate together? This section gathers tools to answer these and other questions,
providing some practical means of taking on this work together.
We hope that you will find this reader to be a useful resource as you move toward (or deeper
into) challenging gender violence in effective, accountable ways. We also hope that, as you
move through this reader, it conveys the emotional register that we have found so vital to our
work: we hope it communicates care, empathy, grief, love, disappointment, hope, support,
anger, healing and commitment, all of which have marked our collective path. This work isn't
easy, but it's a lot easier together.
With love and pride,
Gaurav Jashnani
NPE Program Coordinator, 2010-13

I. For Men Working
to End Gender

Men's Work: To Stop Male Violence

By Paul Kivel

"WHY DO MEN BATTER WOMEN?" "Why do men rape women?" "Why do men stalk, harass,
exploit and mistreat women?" To answer such questions we must first of all discard the easy

"They're monsters." In fact, research shows that most men who batter, rape, or harass
women are very ordinary and not much different from most other men. In all too many
"normal" households, workplaces, congregations, and schools, violence is a common family
secret. Nor are they crazy. Most of these men are sane, rational, and lead socially acceptable

Answers which portray men who are abusive as ogres put a wall around these men, separating
"them" from "us." If we're male, we want to believe they are different from us. If we're female,
we want to believe they're different from the men we know. But these walls won't protect us
from the reality that men who abuse women and men who don't are not all that different in
many ways.

Estimates are that men batter 2-3 million women in the U.S. every year.
Nearly one-third of
the women in this country will experience at least one incident of domestic violence by their
current or former male partner at some point in their lives.
Each year approximately 1,200
women are murdered by their spouses or boyfriends.
The unfortunate truth is that male
violence is normal in our society: vast numbers, i.e. millions, of men participate. Any
explanation which tries to explain why men abuse women through individual psychology or the
pathology of particular men won't help us understand the systematic, routine and widespread
persistence of male violence.

Boys are taught to accept violence as a manly response to real or imagined threats. At the
same time, men get little training in negotiating intimate relationships. Moreover, in our
patriarchal society, all too many men are raised to believe, or learn from their peers, that they
have the "right" to control "their" women and children. The result is a tendency for many men
to view difficulties in relationships as a threat to their manhood, and they respond with

Gender roles are not foreordained by our biology or our genetic composition. We learn gender
roles as part of our socialization into the culture. When a child is born the first question asked is
often, "Is it a boy or girl?" Our response to the child is then mediated by our knowledge of its
genitals. Children learn from our actions what behavior is appropriate for their gender identities.
Boys are taught to expect girls to be pretty, sexy, emotional, clean, thin, acquiescent, and
dependent, and to become caretakers and child bearers. To be sure, many young men today
tend to question these expectations, but the grip of traditional role expectations remains very

The definitions of masculinity provide a set of 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week rigid gender
role expectations that every boy is constantly reminded he must live up to so he can be a "real"

How do boys get these ideas about male identity and manhood? The training begins early.
Many parents stop holding, kissing, and hugging boys by the time their sons are 4 or 5 in order
to toughen them up. We tell them to act like a man, to be tough, aggressive, in control, not to
express their feelings, not to cry, and never to ask for help. Approximately one out of every six
boys is sexually assaulted,
and many, many more are hit, yelled at, teased, and goaded into
fighting to prove they're tough and can take it. Each part of the training teaches boys that they
will be violated until they toughen up and learn to protect themselves through the use of force.
It also teaches them to take their pain and anger out on others the way older men have done
to them.

Our society trains young boys so well that by the time they are in school they can police
themselves using names and fights to keep each other in line. "Wimp," "fag," "punk," "mama's
boy," "girl," "sissy,"each taunt acts as a reminder to hang tough. Behind each name is the
challenge, "What are you going to do about it?" Often, young boys have to fight to prove
they're tough and won't be pushed around.

Feeling powerless and constantly challenged, boys look for power and control, but over whom?
Not those who have greater power than them such as parents, teachers, or police. The best
targetsand usually the only ones availablefor aggression are girls and younger boys. When
a boy or man is challenged by another guy, he can prove he's a man either by fighting the
challenger or by finding a girl or younger, more vulnerable male to demonstrate how aggressive
he is. Although anyone will do, abusing girls establishes his heterosexual credentials while
relieving any anxiety that he may not be tough enough. Hurting girls becomes both a sign of his
(heterosexual) interest in them (he's paying attention to them) and a symbol of his difference
from them (he's in control).

This aggressive relationship to girls seems perfectly natural because boys are taught that
women are primarily sexual objects. A boy will see literally tens of thousands of visual images
during childhood of young, thin, sexy, beautiful women who are promised to him if he's rich
enough, if he's powerful enough, if he has the right material possessionsif he's "man"
enough. In fact, many men come to see a woman as just another material possession that
comes with the car, stereo, clothes, gun, education, or job.

But when it comes down to his expectation that a particular woman will provide sex for him, if
he doesn't buy her services either directly through prostitution or indirectly through
pornography, he has to strategize to get what he has been taught to feel is his due. He "knows"
he deserves sex because he's a man even at the same time he "knows" that she has been
trained to protest his sexual advances at first to show that she is a "good" girl, not a slut. He
has been taught that women really want sexafter all, that's primarily what he has learned
they are for (besides taking care of the kids, cooking, cleaning, etc.) He has also been taught
that when they say "no," they really mean, "yes, just try a little harder, show me how much I'm
worth to you." Because of their general expectations that women are available to men sexually,
many men give themselves license to use absolutely any tactics to get a particular woman to
give in to sex. They might negotiate, bargain, cajole or demand, manipulate, inebriate,
threaten, bribe, intimidate, or simply attack.

The toughening up process for boys includes the message that the worst thing in the world
they can be is feminine, i.e. a woman. They are getting a message not only about what men
should be like, but about the inferiority of women. The other strong message they receive is
that they should do anything they can to prove they are not gay. Being homosexual is seen as
nearly on a par with being a woman. Therefore homophobianot just a hatred of homosexuals,
but also the fear of gays or the threat of being perceived as gaycan be used to get
heterosexual men to commit acts of violence to establish their male credentials. (Think of what
some of our political leaders have done to prove they are not wimps.)

Men are trained to think that we need, and deserve, women to take care of us physically and
emotionally, and to service us sexually. I remember thinking as a teenager that as long as I did
my part, girls should do theirs. If I initiated dates, paid for our time together, arranged
transportation, and protected them on the streets, then girls should show their appreciation by
taking care of me emotionally, putting their own concerns and interests aside, and putting out
sexually. I think this unspoken contract is one that many heterosexual men operate by.

However, we are also taught that the more powerful we are as men, the less force we should
need to use to get what we want. The vast differences between men in the resources we have
to command women's sexual and caretaking services depend on our race, class, job, and

The more "male power" we accumulate or are given by class or racial birthright, the more we
can use money, status, power, and control instead of physical force to get sexual attention and
other services from women. The more force we have to use, the less entitlement we feel and
the more angry and impatient we become. So we always start out hoping and expecting it to be
easy, with lines like the following:

Have another drink.
You look tense. Let me give you a massage or rub your shoulders.
Relax, you'll enjoy it.
Don't you like me?
Show me you love me.
You know, there are lots of other women out there.
I spent a lot of money on you.
It's time.
You got me all excited.
You are special; you're different from other women.
I'm special; I'm different from other men.
You don't know how good it can be.
I can't live without you.
I'm not leaving.

Since by definition "real" men naturally end up having sex with women, the pressure we might
be willing to apply to get what we think we need and deserve is unlimited. If a woman is pretty
or smart or rich, we justify what we do as a challenge with phrases like "She thinks she's so ..."
"Who does she think she is?" "She probably thinks I'm too ..." "I'll cut her down to size." "I'll
show her."

If our manipulations fail, we end up hitting her or raping her. Then we have to blame her so
that we can deny our aggression and keep our self-esteem and self-image intact. We might rely
on rationalizations like the following: "she's fucked up", "she's frigid", "she's too emotional",
"she shouldn't have said that", "she knew that would make me angry", "she asked for it", "she
said 'no' but she meant 'yes'", "she pushed my buttons", "she's a tease", "look what she was
wearing", "she was really drunk", "she was all over me", "she wanted it".

If she is less educated, poorer, or not "good-looking", or if we're white and she is not, that
alone can be a justification for treating her abusively because we've been taught that she
doesn't deserve any better.

In the final analysis we never do see the woman as a real, independent human being with
feelings, concerns, and a perspective of her own. Because we have pre-explained women's
needs, thoughts, and actions according to our male projections, it invariably comes as a
surprise to us when women are hurt by and angry about our violence. We respond by
minimizing and justifying our actions with phrases like the following:

I didn't know.
I didn't mean ...
I didn't intend ...
You're too sensitive ...
It was just normal male and female stuff
That's the way guys are.
You shouldn't be so angry.
It wasn't such a big deal.
Women are just too ... anyway.
It was just the heat of the moment.
What can you expect?

Many men feel set up. We spend years learning a set of expectations about women's services
and think that we are just following the rules. In a sense we have been set up. We have been
set up by the gender roles we were trained in and the expectations about women that we were
led to believe were true. We end up living our lives feeling superior to women: we are
condescending in our words and actions, and we feel entitled to their services. In our everyday
interactions, we interrupt women by talking louder than they do; we don't value women's
opinions about something because they are women; we make comments in public about
women's bodies and discuss women's bodies with other men; we don't take it seriously when
we are told by women that we are sexist or abusive; we are told by women that they want
more affection and less sex from us and we don't know how to respond; we cheat on our lovers
and then we lie about it; we abuse women through our use of pornography and prostitution;
we use our voices or bodies to scare or intimidate women; we hit, slap, shove, or push women;
and we have sex with women when we know they don't want to. We've been set up by the
sense of superiority and entitlement, and the small benefits we gain to collude with and
perpetuate sexism and male supremacy.

We can't make better choices unless we understand the social framework of power and violence
that constantly pressures us to be in control and on top. We live in a society based on over 500
years of violence directed towards people with less power who were considered inferior, evil,
sinful, uncivilized, and less than human. An important part of our work is to look at how power
and inequality are structured into social relationships. The chart below captures some of the
ways that power, and therefore the ability to do violence to others, is structured in U.S. society.

These inequalities are maintained through discrimination, laws, stereotypes, rules, exploitation,
and ultimately through force and violence. The violence is interlinked: violence against one
targeted group encourages violence against other less powerful groups. All forms of violence
are used to cover up the fact that 1% of the people in the United States control 42% of the
financial wealth and the top 10% control 81% of that wealth.

Most boys are trained to act like a "real" man as preparation for fulfilling roles in our society
that will maintain political and economic structure and protect the wealth and power of the
ruling classthe wealthiest and most powerful 1%. Because people are always resisting,
rebelling, and organizing against inequalities of wealth and power, those in power need people
to supervise, discipline, and control those who challenge the status quo. As police officers,
security guards, prison wardens, immigration officials, deans and administrators, soldiers,
members of the National Guard, sheriffs, and as partners and fatherswhen they commit acts
of interpersonal violence, men are acting as the enforcers of hierarchy and domination. Male
violence is the enforcement mechanism for inequality, exploitation, and all other forms of social
injustice. Men are the enforcers. Men are not only the enforcers for sexism. White men are the
enforcers of racism, straight men are the enforcers of heterosexism, men who are citizens are
the enforcers of the exploitation of immigrants, and well-off men are the enforcers for economic
injustice. All for the benefit of the ruling class.

How can men of all races and classes be brought into the struggle against abuse and violence?
There are growing numbers of men who are critical of sexism and realize that they have
become enforcers of a system that is destroying all of our lives. All too often, however, these
men as individuals are isolated and fearful of raising their concerns with other men for fear of
themselves being targeted for violence. It is time for men who want to stop the violence to
break through the fear that has silenced us and reach out to other men.

Men must understand how we also are damaged by sexism and that male violence against
women keeps us from the collective action needed to confront racial, gender-based, and
economic injustice.

A system that requires that we always act as though we were in control while repressing our
emotions takes a heavy toll. It damages our sense of authenticity and prevents us from
challenging abuses of power and authority except in self-destructive ways. It results in a loss of
intimacy with women and childrenand other men. It produces stress that is a hazard to our
health and shortens our lives. It makes us sick in our souls and our bodies, and it turns us into
the enemies of those we love and supporters of those who exploit us.

Why do men batter, harass, and sexually assault women? The answer is complex. Because we
have been trained to. Because there are few social sanctions against it. Because men are
trained not to see women as people, nor the effects that our actions have on them. Because we
live in a society where it is acceptable to exploit people with less social and personal power.
Because we are offered meager rewards for toeing the line and fulfilling our (often dangerous)
jobs as enforcers.

Whatever the reasons for male violence, men are responsible for battery and sexual assault and
for stopping male violence. Our male training and expectations of women have been defined
and enforced by individual men and a male-dominated society. Therefore it is particularly
powerful when men challenge other men on issues of male violence, contradicting the myth
that it is natural, inevitable, or inconsequential for men to abuse women. Men must challenge
each other to stop the violence. We must challenge notions of manhood that lead us to injure
or kill those we love. We must confront male friends when we see them heading down the
destructive path of becoming enforcers for the ruling class. We must work with women and
other men to build safe, healthy and just communities.

This is truly men's workto reclaim our own humanity and stop all forms of male violence and

Men's Work Is

Personalto look in our own lives at any ways we are controlling, abusive or disrespectful
towards women. Do we objectify women, tease women, tell demeaning jokes, use pornography
or prostitutes, or sexually harass women? Do we expect our partners to put out for us, do what
we want, and put our needs first? Do we force or manipulate women into having sex with us?
Do we interrupt women, disparage or undervalue their contributions, disrespect their
intelligence, dominate our conversations with them?

Interpersonalto reach out to other men and challenge the culture of violence which allows
abuse and injustice to go unchallenged. Too many times we are silent when the comments are
made, the jokes told, the pornography pulled out, the conquests recounted, or the abuse
carried out. Too often we are silent in the face of sexual harassment, wage discrimination, and
male objectification and abuse of women. Part of men's work is to challenge other men.

Parentalto model for and teach our sons and the other young men in our community
different ways to relate to women, children, and other men which are based on respect,
mutuality, equality and caring. Many boys and young men in your community are watching you
as a model of how to be an ally to women. What are they learning from you?

Socio-politicalto challenge the systematic mistreatment of women which makes them
vulnerable to battery, sexual assault, incest, and date and marital rape. Job discrimination,
routine sexual harassment, lack of police protection, and cultural objectification all make women
less privileged than men, putting them at risk. We must understand that abuse and violence
arise from a system of sexual inequality. To stop them requires us to challenge the socialization
of young people into gender roles and to challenge the institutions and the unequal distribution
of power upon which sexism and racism and homophobia and economic exploitation are based.
Men's work is to become allies to women in the struggle to stop the violence, challenge the
mistreatment, and work for justice for all women, children and men in our society.

This is a big task, but it is one which each of us can start in small waysin our homes, in our
schools, in our communities. We can educate ourselves, and offer our children new models of
male behavior. We can support each other in finding a healing response to the pain and hurt
we have suffered. We can challenge the schools to educate young people about empowering
ways to counter sexism and racism. We can confront institutionalized oppression and violence in
our communities. We can support movements and organizations that work for social justice. In
sum, instead of colluding with injustice, by working together with others as allies we can build
community responses to the system of inequality and the cycle of violence that are so
damaging to our lives.

"Why are men violent?" is an interesting question. But the more important question is, "What
are we going to do about it?"

1San Francisco Chronicle, 6-24-94, p. A16

2The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman's Lifespan: The Commonwealth Fund 1998
Survey of Women's Health. May 1999.

3Bureau of Justice Statistics, Homicide Trends in the U.S.: Intimate Homicide, (accessed 2/10/2007)

4Russell, Diana E. H. "The Incidence and Prevalence of Intrafamilial and Extrafamilial Sexual Abuse of
Female Children," in Handbook on Sexual Abuse of Children, edited by Lenore E.A. Walker, Springer
Publishing Co 1988

5 Oakland Men's Project

6 Mishel, Lawrence, Jared Bernstein, and Sylvia Allegretto. The State of Working America 2006/2007.
Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, 2008, p. 249.

7 There are more specific suggestions for being a male ally on this website under "Gender Justice" in the
resources section.

Please send comments, feedback, resources, and suggestions for distribution to
Against Patriarchy: Tools for Men to Further Feminist
By Chris Crass
For all of us who are men who believe in social justice, who want healthy and beautiful lives for our
loved ones, and who are working for positive change in the world, let us commit or re-commit to
making feminism central in our lives, values, and actions. Black feminist scholar bell hooks writes,
When women and men understand that working to eradicate patriarchal domination is a struggle
rooted in the longing to make a world where everyone can live fully and freely, then we know our work
to be a gesture of love. She continues, Let us draw upon that love to heighten our awareness,
deepen our compassion, intensify our courage, and strengthen our commitment. It is time for men in
the millions to take courageous action in our society to further feminist revolution.
The everyday violence and oppression of sexism in our society is epidemic and not only must end, but
can end. Sexism devastates our relationships, communities, social justice efforts, and our lives. While
we did not choose to be men in a patriarchal society, we have the choice to be feminists and work
against sexism. Below is a list of tools and suggestions that have helped me over the years as I have
struggled to understand what it means to be a man working for feminism.[1] Let us look to the
leadership of women and gender oppressed people for guidance and work alongside them, let us bring
more and more men into feminist efforts, let us embrace feminism as a healing and transformative
force in our lives, and let us feel in our hearts that we can do this.[2]
1. Develop an intersectional feminist analysis of patriarchy, capitalism, white supremacy,
heterosexism, and the state. Study feminist analysis from writers such as Audre Lorde, Gloria
Anzaldua, Suzanne Pharr, Angela Davis, Barbara Smith, and Elizabeth Betita Martinez. Learn about the
historical development of patriarchy in books such as Maria Mies Patriarchy and Accumulation on a
World Scale, Silvia Federicis Caliban and the Witch, and Andrea Smiths Conquest. Explore the impact
of patriarchal violence on your life and what you can do to stop it in Paul Kivels Mens Work. Read bell
hooks essays about men and feminism in Feminism is for Everybody and The Will to Change: Men,
Masculinity and Love. Learn more about gender justice in Leslie Feinbergs Trans Liberation: Beyond
Pink or Blue. Reflect on your experience of gender using Kate Bornsteins My Gender Workbook as a
2. Study social movements and organizing experiences led by women and gender
oppressed people historically and todayfrom Ida B. Wells and Abby Kelley to Septima Clark and
Ai-Jen Poo. Also learn about men in the movement who supported womens leadership and feminist
politicsfrom William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois to Ricardo Flores Magon,
Carl Braden, and David Gilbert. Take stock of the resources around you that can support your learning.
Womens Studies, Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies, and Labor Studies programs were won through the
struggle of previous generations. Some of the most visionary and powerful feminists of our time teach;
seek out opportunities for study at colleges. Look into political education and training programs led by
social justice organizations with feminist politics. Look for events about womens history and feminism
at progressive bookstores, social justice conferences, and with community groups. Join or form a study
group to read books from some of the authors already mentioned, and to learn more about feminist
3. Think about women, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people in your life who
support your development as a feminist. These may be friends, people youve worked with, or
family members. Reflect on what you have learned from them. Far too often patriarchy teaches men to
ignore or devalue the wisdom of gender oppressed people and this both undermines their leadership in
society and robs us of their leadership in our lives. Take time to thank people for what youve learned
and look for opportunities to support them and strengthen your relationships.
4. Think about men in your life who can support your process of learning about sexism and
developing as a feminist activist. This could include talking through questions and struggles you
are having and/or reading one of the authors mentioned above together, as well as participating in
organizing efforts that have feminist goals. While support for your development as a feminist will often
come from women and genderqueer people, and it is important to show gratitude for that support, it is
critical to build bonds of mutual support with other men as we work to grow individually and also to
develop a culture of feminist activism amongst men.
5. Learn about current struggles in your community that further feminist goals and have a
gender analysis. Look for opportunities to get involved and support these efforts. Your support can
include donating money, volunteering to do office work, doing outreach for events, showing up with
others to demonstrations and rallies, and recruiting other people in your life, particularly men, to get
involved as well. It is important to support and respect the existing leadership of these struggles,
rather then come in thinking youre going to take over. Look for opportunities to build relationships
with the people involved in these efforts. The more you show up and make useful contributions, the
more you can also build trust and respect.
6. Develop a feminist analysis of all the social justice work you do, and work with others to
help make that analysis more central in your efforts. Reach out for help and ask questions.
Notice when you feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness and try to do so anyways.
7. Help create political education opportunities such as reading groups and workshops for other
people to come together and learn more about feminism. Help promote other groups events on similar
themes. Make a special effort to recruit men.
8. Go deep and go personal. Day-to-day patterns of domination, both institutional and interpersonal,
are the glue that maintains systems of domination. While most of this list is focused on activist efforts,
it is also important to bring our politics into our personal relationships. Far too often, activist men
support feminism in their public life and retreat into male privilege at home. Going with the flow in
personal relationships generally means going with the flow of domination; liberation requires consistent
and conscious decisions to choose and create something different. Just like any other effort to win and
create another world, set goals in your relationships to practice feminism. It will likely feel awkward,
contrived, and uncomfortable at times to bring this level of attention to your personal life. When almost
every aspect of society is based on and reinforces male supremacy, it should be expected that our
steps towards feminist liberation will at times feel uncomfortable and awkward, and sometimes
terrifying. Being clear on our goals, seeking help when we need it, and knowing that we can increase
our capacity to live our values through practice, can help us also make feminist action a powerful and
rewarding habit.
9. Become more aware of your own participation in social justice efforts. For example, count
how many times you speak and keep track of how long you speak at meetings and in discussions.
Count how many times other people speak and keep track of how long they speak. Be aware of how
this breaks down according to gender. Create a method to help you do this for a few months, or until
this awareness becomes routine.
10. Practice noticing whos in the room at meetings and events: How many cisgender men?[3]
How many cisgender women? How many transgender people? How many white people? How many
people of color? Is it majority heterosexual? Are there out queers? What are peoples class
backgrounds? Dont assume to know people, but also work at becoming more aware. Listen to people
and pick up on how they identify themselves. Talk with people one-on-one who you work with and get
to know them. Learn about the various ways that people identify and express their gender and explore
what it means to be transgender, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming.
11. Be conscious of how often you are actively listening to and supporting what other
people are saying. As a white guy who talks a lot, Ive found it helpful to write down my thoughts
and wait to hear what others have to say. Others will frequently be thinking something similar or have
better ideas. Practice listening. Support people to develop their ideas. Ask them to expand on what
they think about events, ideas, actions, strategy, and vision. Think about who you ask and who you
really listen to. Developing respect and solidarity across race, class, gender, sexuality and ability is
complex and difficult, but absolutely critical and liberating. Those most negatively impacted by systems
of oppression have played and will play leading roles in the struggle for collective liberation.
12. Think about whose work and what contributions to the group are recognized and
celebrated and whose are not. Practice recognizing more people for their work and try to do this
more often. This also includes men offering support to other men who arent recognized and actively
challenging competitive dynamics that men are socialized to act out with each other. Strive to become
fluent in appreciation and gratitude. Capitalist patriarchy thrives on the idea that there is a scarcity of
power and that there is only enough for some people at the top to have it. Creating a culture of
appreciation and gratitude can help us remember that there is an abundance of power that we can
share, and that each of us is capable of making important contributions.
13. Be aware of how often you ask people to do something as opposed to asking other
people, what needs to be done? Male socialized people often assume a higher level of
competency then they actually have. Additionally, it is a patriarchal norm to assume men are in charge.
There are likely others who are just as qualified, or even more so, who could be in positions of
coordination. There are also a lot of men who are skilled coordinators and this is an important set of
skills to pass on to others. Encourage and support others to take on this important leadership role.
14. Be aware of ways you might think you are always needed, in every discussion, in every
work group, to make sure things go right. Be aware of how this may impact other peoples
participation. Struggle with the saying, you will be needed in the movement when you realize that you
are not needed in the movement. Humility and encouragement of others, along with appreciation of
your own unique gifts and contributions, are key ingredients for successful leadership.
15. Work with and struggle with the model of group leadership that says that the
responsibility of leaders is to help develop more leaders, and think about what this means
to you: How do you support others and what support do you need from others? This includes men
providing emotional and political support to other men. Look for opportunities where people can grow
as leaders and help others take note of those opportunities. When possible, have group discussions
about how to best support various people to make the most of those opportunities. As Ani Difranco has
said Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right. Every organizing experience is a leadership
development opportunity if you look at it right.
16. Develop a keen awareness and appreciation for work that is traditionally defined as
womens work. Take on this work, and recruit other men to engage in it as well. Socially
defined womens work can include cooking, cleaning, providing transportation, replenishing food and
supplies, caring for children, tending to people who have special needs (because of illness, age, or
ability), taking care of logistics, providing emotional support, mediating conflicts, and other such
responsibilities that help build a healthy community. When you engage in this work, learn from the
people already doing it, so that you can do it well. Give people appreciation for doing this work and, in
the process, grow the understanding of how important this work is to accomplishing overall goals.
When this work is shared more equally, it frees up other peoples time whose leadership and
participation is needed. Thinking about the needs of others and helping meet those needs is also a
concrete way to move out of emotional isolation that many men experience. When recruiting others,
take a moment to explain to men why youre asking more men to do this work. See if they have
suggestions of men in their lives who would be good to recruit and encourage them to reach out.
17. Take time to emotionally support other people and deepen your understanding of the
political significance of emotional work to building liberatory culture, community, and
movement. People socialized as women often provide the bulk of emotional support in interpersonal
relationships, organizations, communities, and movements. While transferring skills and recruiting
people to take on responsibilities is important, supporting people to work through internalized
oppression, internalized superiority, self-limiting beliefs, and believe in themselves is key to helping
people grow as successful activists. Emotional support is also an important part of creating healing and
nurturing political culture that helps us sustain our efforts and live our values more fully. In larger
society, emotional vulnerability by men is often responded to with ridicule or violence. Providing
emotional support and opening yourself to emotional vulnerability are steps towards creating feminist
18. Learn about the impact of sexual violence on the lives of women and gender oppressed
people. Sexual assault and harassment are prevalent, not only in society, but also in the movement.
While we work to make larger scale changes in society, there are also important roles we can plan in
stopping sexual assault and harassment in activist efforts. Learn about ways you can actively challenge
rape culture and help build feminist culture. For example, in society at large and in activist settings,
women are routinely sexualized and turned into objects of male desire while their leadership, skills,
experience, and analysis are marginalized. Remember that women are flirted with, have their bodies
commented on, and are hit on over and over again. We need to help make movement spaces, and as
many other spaces as possible, safer for women to participate fully rather then spending their time
deflecting unwanted advances, comments, and actions. This isnt about creating an anti-sex culture,
but promoting a respectful and consensual one with womens self-determination and autonomy at the
center. Men talking openly and honestly with each other and, where appropriate, in group discussions
about how to help make this happen is an important step. Men supporting survivors of sexual assault
and harassment is an important part of this process. Additionally, it is key that men pro-actively speak
out against rape and rape culture in the company of other men and promote consent culture.
19. As you work to challenge male supremacy and struggle for feminist change in society,
explore your relationship to cisgender men. Often as men become more conscious of gender and
feminism, they work and build community with women and gender-oppressed people. This makes
sense, given who is primarily talking about gender and taking action for gender justice and feminism. It
also makes sense because many of us have experienced male violence, with our political commitments
and identities additionally making us targets. However, it is also important for feminist men to actively
build community with other men, both to heal ourselves and organize more men to challenge
patriarchy and work for feminist liberation. How can men support and encourage each other in the
struggle to develop radical models of anti-racist, class conscious, pro-queer, feminist manhood that
challenges strict binary gender roles and categories? This is not a suggestion to end or stop building
relationships with people who arent men. Rather, we should have a wide range of relationships with
people of different genders and maintain a commitment to bringing more men into movement for
collective liberation.
20. Remember that social change is a process, and that our individual transformation and
individual liberation are intimately interconnected with social transformation and social
liberation. Life is profoundly complex and there are many contradictions. Mistakes are part of the
process. Remember that the path we travel is guided by love, dignity and respect even when it brings
us to tears and is difficult to navigate. Often when men in the movement are asked if they are feminist,
their first response is to talk about how frequently they fail to live up to feminist principles. Far too
often, men committed to feminism become incapacitated with shame and act from a place of critique
of themselves and others, which prevents us from bringing leadership to help shape events. As we
struggle, let us also love ourselves and reach out for help. Believe in your ability to make important
positive impacts in the world. Make changes to this list and include additional tools that have been
helpful to you. Keep your list and share it with other men you are working with. Remember that we are
in this together and that every day is an opportunity to live our values and take action to further
feminist revolution.
* Against Patriarchy is an excerpt, revised specially for The Feminist Wire, from Chris Crasss new book
Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy published
by PM Press.
[1] These tools come out of conversations and reflections rooted in social justice organizing over the past 25
years. Thank you to Justin Stein, Lewis Wallace, Molly McClure, Marc Mascarenhas-Swan, Chanelle Gallant, Josh
Connor, Chris Dixon, and RJ Maccani for sharing initial ideas and feedback. Thank you to Amar Shah, Rachel
Luft, Dan Berger, Carla Wallace, Rahula Janowski, Charlie Frederick, Paul Kivel, and Lisa Albrecht for their
[2] Gender oppressed refers to people who dont fit into the gender binary of male and female. This includes
people who are genderqueer, gender variant, gender non-conforming, intersex and who either live outside of
being male or female or have both male and female genders.
[3] Queer and transgender activists developed the term cisgender as a label for individuals who have a match
between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity. Cisgender is a
companion term to transgender.
Driver's Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating

by Heather Corinna
Whether we walk, bike, skate, wheel or drive, when we're on the road there are traffic lights,
signs and signals we know we and everyone else needs to pay attention to. We also know we
need to clearly give our own signals: when we turn, we use a turn signal for good reason,
rather than muttering under our breath that we're going to be turning or just veering left in an
intersection without signaling. All of that helps keep us and others from crashing or getting run
over: we all agree to follow and give those signs as part of an ongoing, mutual agreement to
help keep each other safe. As well, if we want to get somewhere, we usually have to pay
attention to signs: if we keep ignoring the signs that say "Dead End," or don't read street signs
at all, we're not likely to be able to get to where we meant to go.
Most of us understand being in transit means there's a possibility of getting hurt, hurting
others, having a good time turn into a bad one or just not getting to where we intended, and to
try and prevent those outcomes, we need to follow basic rules of the road like being attentive
to and actively giving clear signs and signals. Just like it's important on the road, it's important
between the sheets.
What is sexual consent? An active process of willingly and freely choosing to participate in
sex of any kind with someone else, and a shared responsibility for everyone engaging in, or
who wants to engage in, any kind of sexual interaction with someone. When there is a question
or invitation about sex of any kind, when consent is mutually given or affirmed, the answer on
everyone's part is an enthusiastic yes.
Willingly and freely choosing means we and our partners feel able to make and voice any choice
without being forced, manipulated, intentionally misled or pressured. It means were in an
interpersonal environment where what we want is mutually meaningful, and where we aren't in
a situation where the other person is not in a position where they have or have had, in our
history with them, radically more power than we have and/or has not used that power to
influence or guide our sexual choices. It means we and our partners are and feel safe. It means
we feel able to say and accept yes, no, or maybe without fear, and that our limits and
boundaries are completely respected. Feeling free and able to say yes and to say no isn't only
important to keep from getting hurt or hurting others: it's important because a big part of a
satisfying, healthy sex life and sexuality, one people enjoy, is grounded in free choice.
Participating means everyone is an active, whole part of what is going on. It means we or a
partner are treated like a whole, separate person, not like a thing someone is doing things to. If
consensual sex was a sport, participating would mean that we're out on the field running
around with the team, not sitting on the bench while people throw balls at our heads.
What about enthusiasm? Sex that people really want and fully participate in does not tend to be
a whatever or something we need to be dragged into. When we have strong sexual feelings
and want and feel ready to put those feelings into action in some way, we experience that as a
strong desire, much like we can feel when we're hungry and smell our favorite meal cooking.
When someone shares our sexual feelings and also wants to put them into action at the same
time, it's mutually exciting. Sometimes younger people express they have a hard time figuring
out when they are and are not feeling sexual desire. While sexual desire doesn't always look the
same way, so that's not simple to explain, when any of us really, truly wants to engage in
something sexual, we'll feel enthusiastic, stoked and excited, not apathetic, bored, fearful or
If you want one word to define consent with it's yes. Consent is a yes a million times over, for
the love of all things sparkly, awesome and delicious, and not a minute longer if you want to do
it too, please, yes. Everyone's yes doesnt always look or sound the same, of course, but there
are often common threads. There also isnt always a question, exactly, to say yes to.
Sometimes yes is inviting someone else to do something with us. Sometimes it's saying what
we want, even if the other person says no or not now. Sometimes yes is using hands to pull
someone closer, or an excited squeal or moan. A yes with words is a lot easier to understand
and know as consent than some other kinds of yes.
Consent isn't something we just do or give once: it's something we're doing (or not) in every
moment of every sexual activity. If someone consents to one thing, that doesn't mean they're
consenting to anything, just to that one thing. Consent is also always something we or others
can revoke: in other words, everyone gets to change their mind, at any time, including after
they've already said yes.
Jaclyn Friedman, co-editor of Yes Means Yes, explains that well here: "Sexual consent isn't like
a lightswitch, which can be either "on," or "off." It's not like there's this one thing called "sex"
you can consent to anyhow. "Sex" is an evolving series of actions and interactions. You have to
have the enthusiastic consent of your partner for all of them. And even if you have your
partner's consent for a particular activity, you have to be prepared for it to change. Consent
isn't a question. It's a state. If, instead of lovers, the two of you were synchronized swimmers,
consent would be the water. It's not enough to jump in, get wet and climb out -- if you want to
swim, you have to be in the water continually. And if you want to have sex, you have to be
continually in a state of enthusiastic consent with your partner."
The Essential Rules of Consensual Road
Consent is about everyone involved in a sexual or possibly sexual interaction.
Not just women, not just young people, not just whoever didn't initiate sex to begin
with, not just the person whose body part someone else's body part may be going into.
Everyone. For sex to be fully consensual, everyone needs to seek consent, everyone
needs to be affirming it, and everyone needs to accept and respect each other's
answers, nixing sex or stepping back, pronto, if and when someone expresses a stop.
Consent can ALWAYS be withdrawn. Consent to any kind of sex is not a binding
contract nor does consent obligate anyone to follow through. It is also one-time-only:
because someone consented to sex Tuesday does not mean they were giving consent
for sex on Thursday.
Nothing makes consent automatic or unnecessary. Being someone's spouse,
boyfriend or girlfriend doesn't give anyone consent by default. Someone loving you or
saying they love you doesn't mean they have your sexual consent or you have theirs. No
one kind of sex means consent to another, or that anyone is "owed" any sex. For
instance, someone who engages in oral sex is not asking for or consenting to
intercourse; someone who says yes to kissing is not saying yes to any other kind of
touching. Because someone has had any kind of sex in the past does not mean they will
have sex or consent to sex again with that same person or anyone else nor that they are
obligated in any way to do so.
In some situations, full, informed and free consent cannot truly be given or
shared. Those include: being drunk or wasted, being asleep, being unable to really
understand what one is be saying yes to, including possible risks and outcomes; being
under severe duress, like when seriously upset, ill, grieving or scared or being unable to
understand another person's words or other means of communication. Consider things
like these to be a red light to even asking about sex: sex should usually be off the table
entirely in these situations. Legally, when someone is under the age of legal consent,
with someone of an age where sex is not lawful, and in most of the above situations,
sex is a crime.
Nonconsent means STOP: If someone is NOT consenting to something or says no
with their words and/or actions, the other person MUST stop trying to do that thing AND
must not try to convince that person to do that thing in any way. If they do not stop, or
exert emotional or other pressure and that person gives up and gives in, they are
sexually assaulting that person. Sex is not sex if everyone is not consenting. If anyone is
not consenting or not asking for consent, then what is happening is or may be rape,
sexual abuse or assault.
A lack of no does not mean yes.
Consent 101: Use Your Words
Consent works best centered in communication in words; words in whatever language everyone
involved can use and understand. There are other ways to express and affirm consent, but
they're way trickier, and when those ways work well, it's usually because the people involved
already use and have used words with consent and have established good, solid patterns of
communication with words.
This kind of consent is a must for:
First-time sexual partners
When a relationship is new or when you or a partner are new to sex in general
When you or a sexual partner want to take the LEAST amount of risk in crossing a line
or having your lines crossed
When you or a partner are just learning what you each like sexually
If you've had a sexual relationship with someone before, but it's been a while since you
were sexual together
When you know or suspect you have a hard time reading nonverbal cues or that your
own nonverbal cues may be tricky for someone else to interpret
People who have been sexually assaulted or abused, especially recently or before a lot
of healing (not only can a lack of clear consent-seeking be triggering, when nonconsent
has been refused in the past, we often need extra effort put into assuring consent)
Consent with words is about mutually voicing what we want and don't want, what our desires
are and are not, and what we do and don't feel ready for. Sometimes it's about one person
asking for something and the other replying, sometimes it's more organic. But when any of us
says or expresses an "I want," we're voicing desire. Desire can be a strong feeling, so we might
not always voice it delicately. The way we voice sexual desire matters when it comes to
consent, though: we need to be mindful of how our words express what we want while still
leaving room for others to express what they want, especially since we won't always want the
same things or want them at the same times. There are ways to voice desires and seek consent
that support consent and good sexual communication, and there are ways to voice desires or
seek consent that can stifle mutual consent and communication, and make it hard for someone
to make and voice their own choices freely in response.

What are some clues someone doesn't care about consent?
They act like they're in a big hurry. They act like you or others owe them sex or they owe you
sex. They're not asking how you're feeling or what you want: they seem only or mostly focused
on themselves or they are ONLY focused on you and seem to have none of their own desires or
limits. They don't really seem to be all there. They're ignoring or trying to change some of your
stop signs, like pushing them away, not wanting to get naked, saying you're not sure or saying
no. You feel unsafe or worried; unable to speak up or say no or are worried they're unsafe or
can't speak up. They react with anger, resentment or self-injury when you don't immediately
say yes to sex. They don't seem to have personal boundaries.
If any of those things are going on, do yourself a favor and just get away from that
person or situation pronto. If you were wrong, it's okay: no one is done big harm by not
getting laid.

Some good ways to ask for and assure consent are questions like:
May I [do whatever sexual thing]?
Id like to [do whatever sexual thing]: would you like to? If not, what would you like to
How do you feel about doing [whatever sexual thing]?
Are there things you know you dont want to do: what are they? Mine are [whatever
they are].
Is there anything you need to feel comfortable or safe when we do [whatever sexual
I'm really interested in doing [whatever sexual thing] with you, and it feels like the right
time for me: do you want to do that and does the timing feel right to you?
I'd like to have sex tonight, would you? What do you want to do or try?
See how all of those were questions, or statements that ended with questions? That opens the
door to communication and makes clear you understand that while you want something, that
doesn't mean someone else does, or wants them with you, right then or without certain things
they may need. Any time we ask a question like that where we haven't answered it first
ourselves, we can take our turn answering it after the other person answers.
Some not-so-hot ways to voice desires and invite others into sex when it comes to
consent are: Let's do [whatever sexual thing.] I want [whatever sexual thing]. Last week you
really liked it when I [whatever it was you did], so we'll do that again tonight. I heard guys/girls
really like it when someone [does whatever], so let's do that, you'll probably like it. Let's just do
it: I'll take care of you. You're okay, right? I know you trust me, right?
Most of those are statements, not questions: they're conversation stoppers, not starters. They
address one person's wants without acknowledging the other, or kind of make someone else
into a non-person. Even the ones that are questions aren't really questions. "I know you trust
me, right?" doesn't really leave room for the other person to answer: it basically answers the
question for them and tells them there's only one right answer. It also makes having the wrong
answer seriously loaded. Most of those statements are one person making decisions for
everyone: that's not consent. Consent is about everyone involved actively making choices
Who's the person who should voice their desires and asks for a partner's own input and wants?
Everyone. Not just one person, or one gender or one person with a given kind of body or of a
given age. Obviously, someone has to make the first move sometimes and put it out there. Who
does is usually who gets the gumption to first. In a healthy sexual relationship where both
people share mutual feelings of sexual desire, mutual desire to enact them (even if not always
at the same time or on the same days) and both feel ready to fully participate in a sex with a
partner, there tends to be a lot of back and forth, rather than sexual initiation, and initiation of
consent, being one person's doing.
What can consent-in-words and nonconsent tend to sound like, whether we're putting our
desires out there, saying we don't want or aren't sure about, or providing an answer to
someone else's voiced wants?
Verbal signals of consent and nonconsent

What can consent sound like? What can nonconsent sound like?
Yes No
I'm sure I'm not sure
I know I don't know
I'm excited I'm scared
What can consent sound like? What can nonconsent sound like?
Don't stop Stop
Whoohoo! Yippee! Hot damn! Zip-a-Dee-Doo-
More! No more
I want to... I want to, but...
I'm not worried I feel worried about...
I want you/it/that I don't want you/it/that
Can you please do [whatever] Can you please not do [whatever]
I still want to... I thought I wanted to, but...
That feels good That hurts
Mmmmmmm [silence]
Yes Maybe
I love you/this I love you/this, but...
I want to do this right now I want to do this, but not right now
I feel good about this I don't know how I feel about this
I'm ready I'm not ready or not sure if I'm ready
I want to keep doing this I don't want to do this anymore
[insert praise to your deity of choice here]
[insert plea for help to your deity of choice
This feels right This feels wrong
Yes [silence]

Really being able to give, withhold or share consent has a lot to do with feeling like an
interpersonal environment or relationship supports consent. So many people have been raised
with the idea that sex is a power struggle, a performance of gender or that they automatically
don't have equal voice, so they may need to have partners affirm very clearly that their wants
and not-wants are important. Some people may have been reared with ideas about sex that
have given them the impression they don't have to seek out or ask for consent, or may have
had partners in the past who did not assert themselves, so they got the impression they could
just assume consent.
There are things we can say to each other to help support consent and make everyone involved
feel more able to voice what they want, rather than just echo a partner or a cultural
expectation. To help create that kind of environment, when we and someone else are talking
about becoming sexual, we can make clear right from the start that we care about real consent,
shared desire and mutual pleasure. To express that, we might say something like: "If
something doesnt feel good or turns out to be something other than you want, please let me
know. I only want to do what feels good for both of us." Or, "I think its hot when someone tells
me what they want during sex, rather than just me saying what I want." Or, "Id rather put sex
off for another time when someone isnt really into it. I dont want to have sex when the other
person doesn't totally want it: each of us really wanting it is the best part!" Or, "This is about us
doing something together thats from and for both of us, not about someone tending to just my
needs or just my tending to theirs. It's really important to me that we're both always honest
about what we want and don't so that it's really about both of us, and about pleasure and
desire, not guilt or obligation."
Because consent is ongoing, it's also important to check-in with each other as we continue
sexual activities. Check-ins don't have to be formal, or even stop anything we're enjoying. Of
course, we can use moments to check-in that may already have presented a pause, like
someone having to pee, the phone ringing, falling off the bed, switching up a position or a big
laugh we're trying to catch our breath from.

What if talking ruins the moment? When people are worried about talking "ruining the
moment" they're usually either worried their partner will have an opportunity to say no, or that
they themselves will pay attention to their own feelings and not do something a partner wants
or they wanted, but didn't feel really right about. Either way, those two things are one of the
reasons talking is ESSENTIAL. If someone really doesn't want to do something, no one should
be doing that thing to or with them. If we really don't want to be doing something or have
doubts? We should nix it, press pause and take whatever time we need to figure out or get
what we need to make sex right for us.

Consent check-ins can sound like, How does this feel? Are you still liking this? Are you
comfortable? Is there anything you need or want right now? You seem quiet: are you okay?
Anything I should stop doing or do that Im not doing? I feel good: are you feeling good?
Before we move into a more complex kind of consent, let's review. Columbia University Health
Service's Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Program provides these consent traffic

Signs You Should Stop
You or a partner are too intoxicated to gauge or give consent.
Your partner is asleep or passed out.
You hope you partner will say nothing and go with the flow.
You intend to have sex by any means necessary.
Signs You Should Pause and Talk
You are not sure what the other person wants.
You feel like you are getting mixed signals.
You have not talked about what you want to do.
You assume that you will do the same thing as before.
Your partner stops or is not responsive.
Keep Communicating
Partners come to a mutual decision about how far they want to go.
Partners clearly express their comfort with the situation.
You feel comfortable and safe stopping at any time.
Partners are excited!
Consent 102: Others Kinds of Communication
Over time, people who have sex together will tend to get more comfortable with each other,
and will get to know each other better, and so they may use less consent-in-words and start
using more nonverbal cues. Thats generally okay so long as it feels okay to everyone involved,
but it's a lot trickier than words, because body language is often a lot less clear. Sometimes
people try to have sex right from the start using only body language as communication. While it
can work sometimes, more often it results in either someone getting hurt, having boundaries or
lines crossed, or in people just not connecting well.
This kind of consent, paired with consent-in-words, is best saved for:
Longtime sexual partners
When everyone involved has already had a good deal of sexual experience
When you and/or a partner understand that you are taking far greater risks of
overstepping boundaries and limits, are each okay with that, and when you're each
willing to take good care of each other if signals get crossed
When you and a partner already communicate nonverbally well in other situations
When you and/or a partner each feel VERY confident you can read each other's more
subtle cues
When you have used verbal consent to establish that you're going to start using more
nonverbal consent
A lot of folks ask how they can tell by looking when someone is aroused, in part to try and
establish nonverbal consent. The trouble is, physical signs of arousal are often lousy nonverbal
signals of consent. Why? Because we can be sexually excited but still not want to have any kind
of sex at a given time: just because we feel sexually excited around someone else, after all,
doesn't mean it's right for us to act on those feelings. To boot, some ways people can look or
feel when sexually excited are also ways they can look or feel because of other things. A wet
vulva can mean someone is simply at a fertile time in their cycle, hard nipples can be about
being cold, and an erection can be a physical response to friction. Some of the ways our bodies
react with sexual arousal are also the ways our bodies can react when were afraid, like
flushing, having an elevated pulse, or breathing faster. When it comes to nonverbal cues, it's
usually better to look to whole bodies or faces for those than to look to genitals.
A study recently done by The Havens Sexual Assault Referral Centres (Where is Your
Line? Survey Summary Report) of over 1,000 people ages 18-25 found that less than half of
young adults interpret someone pushing them away as a no, and over 60% would not assume
crying means nonconsent. That same study found that more than one in five people expect
intercourse after other kinds of touching, and that 25% of women have been silent when a
partner did something sexual to them that they did not want.
What does that mean? That we need to be VERY cautious about ditching consent in words and
make sure that before we do, we've established good communication and verbal consent first,
and have it as a pattern and precedent we know we can fall back on any time we or a partner
are not 100% sure we are interpreting or can interpret nonverbal consent correctly. We also
want to be sure to still do check-ins with partners during less-talky sex time. And before moving
on to this kind of consent, you should be very sure it's really the right situation and relationship
to ditch a lot of talking, for you and for a partner.
The following are some very general nonverbal cues that can often -- but don't always -- signal
consent or nonconsent.
nonverbal consent

Possible nonverbal signs of consent Possible nonverbal signs of NONconsent
Direct eye contact Avoiding eye contact
Initiating sexual activity Not initiating any sexual activity
Pulling someone closer Pushing someone away
Actively touching someone Avoiding touch
Nodding yes Shaking head no
Comfort with nudity Discomfort with nudity
Laughter and/or smiling (upturned mouth)
Crying and/or looking sad or fearful (clenched
or downturned mouth)
"Open" body language, like relaxed, loose
and open arms and legs, relaxed facial
expressions, turning towards someone
"Closed" body language, like tense, stiff or
closed arms and legs, tight or tense facial
expressions, turning away from someone
Sounds of enjoyment, like a satisfied hum or
enthusiastic moan
Silence or sounds of fear or sadness, like
whimpering or a trembling voice
An active body "Just lying there"

If you and a partner are moving more towards nonverbal sexual communication, talk about it.
Looking at a list like the one above, do you and/or your partner feel like these things are true
for each of you? Do either of you know nonverbal cues or responses you tend to have when
you want something sexual or don't that you can share with each other to make this kind of
communication easier? Maybe you even want to some up with a safeword, or stop-word, to use
when you want to be expressly nonverbal: one word or gesture you can use to say stop clearly
that both agree means stop.
Accepting & Respecting Nonconsent
Everyone knows it can suck when we want something with or from someone else that they
don't want to share or give, most certainly including with sex. Sometimes it's just a momentary
bummer, and other times it can feel like a real heartbreaker.
But when someone is not clearly giving, sharing or continuing consent or is nonconsenting,
there's only one sound way we should all respond: to absolutely accept and respect their
response or their lack of agreement and participation, and to immediately stop the action (if
something physical was going on) or not move forward. It's really important that while we are
allowed to have whatever feelings we have that we manage our own feelings well, avoiding
things like voicing anger, sulking or emotionally withdrawing, which puts sexual pressure on
someone else.
We may need or want to work through our feelings and theirs (they might be bummed out,
too!). That might be sensitively -- not manipulatively -- asking for some time to ourselves to
clear our heads and cool down our heart rate, then calling each other later to check in and
assure each other it's all okay. Maybe we'll need to have the other person affirm that they still
like us. You can ask if they want to do something to share some comfort, or to get close in
other ways, like having a cuddle, holding hands, or doing something else entirely, like taking a
walk together, catching a movie or hitting some Karaoke to have a laugh. If we want to extend
the on-the-road schtick, it's worth noting that sometimes running out of gas or getting a flat tire
can actually turn into a whole new adventure on its own right, one more fun and interesting
than our original plan (I know that's certainly true of a couple of my own thwarted road trips).
It's always possible that what starts out seeming like a bummer can turn into something really
great. Not having the sex we want blows, but if it means we wind up having an ad-hoc roof
party, a moonlight swim together or a really deep talk that brings us closer than having sex
would have, it can be a blessing in disguise.
If their no wasn't about sex full-stop, it is okay to ask if there's something else they'd like to do
sexually. Its also okay to ask why someone doesnt want to do something sexual at all or
anymore, but you want to make clear that question isnt about you trying to convince them to
change their mind, or suggesting they need to justify their no. You want to be sure you're
asking that at the right time, too: if they seem upset or stressed -- or you are -- it's probably
not a good time and is probably best to talk about it a few days down the road when everyone
is feeling less vulnerable. You can open a conversation like this with something like "I was
totally okay with you not wanting to do [whatever it was] anymore yesterday, but if youre up
for talking about it, I'd like to hear about why so I can better understand you and also do my
best to help us create a sex life together that's best for us both."
Some Bits of BS About Consent
Most people with sex lives they and their partners enjoy do NOT have sex in silence or
with only moans, groans and oh-baby's. While media doesn't often show a lot of sexual
communication (or a lot of good communication, period!), and plenty of people were
reared with sexual shame that may have made it, or may make it, challenging for them
to communicate or even understand that they can, people who have mutually satisfying
sex lives often talk during sex, and enjoy communication, even when it's challenging.
Women are not naturally submissive, silent or passive in sex. Women are also not less
feminine if they voice their own desires or set limits and boundaries and insist partners
respect them. Some people internalize social or interpersonal messages that that's true,
and may believe it to be true, but it is not true. Some people know that message isn't
true, but use it as an excuse, knowing enough other people think it's true, they can get
away with it. Usually being passive means that someone is not fully consenting or does
not feel able to give nonconsent.
Men are NOT supposed to be in charge of or dominate everything with sex: partnered
sex is supposed to be mutually active and engaged. Men also do not want to say yes to
sex any or every time it is made available to them nor should they be assumed to be
obligated to or less masculine if they decline. Some people internalize social or
interpersonal messages that those things are true, and may believe it to be true, but it is
not true. Some people know those messages aren't true, but use them as excuses,
knowing enough other people think they're true, they can get away with it.
Consent is NOT less important for people with same-sex partners just because
pregnancy is not a risk. Consent is no less important for people wanting or trying to
become pregnant, or who already share an STI or who have been monogamous and
tested to know they do not likely have any STIs. Consent is important for everyone, and
for everyone any kind of sex carries a multitude of possible outcomes, wanted and
unwanted, positive and negative, not just pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted
o Pain is NOT a given with any kind of sex (save kinds of sex where people are
purposefully trying to cause or experience pain) and often means someone is not
getting something they need or feel nervous or fearful. Pain is a signal to stop,
not something for anyone to ignore, stay silent about or suck up.
No does NOT means yes. Maybe does not mean yes. Yes means yes. And
saying yes should always feel just as awesome as hearing it.

Expanding Consent: An interview with Jaclyn Friedman
Colette Perold
Allow me to introduce you to Jaclyn Friedman. A performer, poet, writer, and activist, Jaclyn is
most recently co-editor of the groundbreaking anthology, Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female
Sexual Power & A World Without Rape. Program Director of the Center for New Words in
Central Square, Jaclyn organizes workshops, open-mics, speakers, political discussion, concerts,
book groups and a slew of other events and activities all related to creating spaces where
womens words matter. Jaclyn also worked as Program Director of the LiveSafe Foundation,
which organizes its advocacy around self-defense and reducing violence. I first saw Jaclyn
speak when I went to the book reading of her new anthology at the YMCA in Central Square. I
left there with tears in my eyes, breathing a little easier. I was overwhelmed by this books
impact on my own life and its un-apologeticness around positive female power. Yet I also knew
I was on the brink of understanding just how pervasively the reverberations of this anthology
that wholly re-theorizes our current rape culture would be felt. I quickly contacted Jaclyn for an
interview. We met in the yard one rainy Sunday morning, and proceeded on a tour of a variety
of freshmen common rooms to find a quiet place to record the interview. After running into
studious groups of freshmen sprinkled throughout, we finally found the only quiet, unlocked,
unoccupied room in the yard: the garbage room of Weld. Thats right. I interviewed Jaclyn
Friedman amongst bags of trash. Jaclyn was an amazing sport, and once I was over my
embarrassment, we began one of the most inspiring hours and a half of my thinking life. So sit
back, relax, and be prepared to have your mind blown
CP: Can you explain the history of your title, Yes Means Yes? Where does this framework
come from, and what are you trying to suggest with it?
JF: I think most people are familiar with the concept no means no, and thats not an accident.
A lot of activists worked a lot of decades to get the concept of no means no into the
mainstream consciousness. No means no is to say that when a person says no to a sexual
encounter or a sexual advance, you ought to stop. Its very basic at this point. And still needs
work today. I dont think its a fully universally accepted concept unfortunately. But the problem
with no means no, as important as it is, is that it doesnt go far enough. And most of the time
when were talking about no means no, were talking about men needing to listen to womens
nos. And when we leave it there, it underlines all of the sort of diseased ideas about sex and
sexuality that we have in our culture, which is that women are the keeper of the no, women
want to say no, women dont like sex, only bad women give it up, and men only want yes.
It leaves all of those messed up dynamics in place. So yes means yes is about suggesting that
none of us can have a complete independent sexuality a full healthy sexuality unless we
have access to yes and no equally.
CP: What is the feminist model of enthusiastic consent and how does it tie into yes means
JF: So no means no has brought forward this idea that if a woman says no and Im saying
woman here in particular because thats the construct that most of us imagine around no
means no you have to stop. And the corollary to that that you hear very often is, Well, she
didnt say no. That leaves what people consider a very blurry area where a lot of people do
things that they know their partner isnt into or doesnt want, but will do anyway because they
can get away with it. And what were saying is that those things are still sexual assault and
rape. Unless you have enthusiastic consent, which is more than just the absence of no,
consent is not complete. When all youre relying on is the absence of no to equal consent, you
leave out coercion, you leave out the possibility that someone is panicked or terrified, or even
that the person is confused in the moment about what they want and isnt given the space to
figure it out. A healthy sexual encounter one that is free of coercion or violence requires
enthusiastic consent, which means its your responsibility to make sure your partner is having a
great time. Not just that theyre willing or will let you, but that they really are excited about
doing whatever it is you want to do with them. And that also is where that yes meaning yes
comes in. And that requires a culture where women are allowed to want to have sex without
being ashamed or blamed for that.
CP: How might extreme gender roles lead to a culture of rape?
JF: I think that the commodity model is a good framework for this. The commodity model is
this: sex is a thing. Its something that women have. They have The Sex. And theyre supposed
to keep The Sex as long as they possibly can, because they can only give it away once for
something of worth. After they give it away once, it has much less value, so they have to make
the best trade they possibly can for their Sex, because its really valuable, and they only get to
give it away once. So they have to play keep-away with The Sex until they find the ultimate
trade, which is a good husband. That involves money and a ring [ed: thanks Beyonce] and
whole bunch of other social constructions. On the other hand, on the other side of the
commodity model are the men, and theyre tasked with getting The Sex for as little as they can,
because this is a capitalist model. Supply and demand. Its a very standard market, right? So
that is where you get coercion and pressure and all of those grey areas because men are
trying to trick women into it or sweet talk them into it or get them drunk to sort of convince
them to give The Sex away without the sort of husband part. Now few men stop to think in
this model, Do I want The Sex? Do I want sex from this particular woman? Do I want sex right
now? Men are told from very early on, You must get The Sex. Get it however you can. Get the
best kind you can. And thats about valuing peoples looks, peoples skin color, peoples youth,
a whole bunch of stuff. So how a woman looks, and how she presents herself, her race, her
body type those things all play into the value of her Sex as well as whether or not its ever
been given away.
But her ability to do the Sex never comes into play here. Its about an object. So men dont
have very much agency in this either theyre just playing out a script. And women on the
other hand, theyre not saying, Well maybe I want to give away The Sex! Maybe I feel like
having The Sex right now! One of the most insidious things that comes out of it is that once a
woman consents to give away The Sex, however tacitly, even if she just leaves it unguarded
and does not object if you try to take it, then its all fair game. Maybe he sweet talks you into it,
or gets you drunk until you say no fourteen times but on the fifteenth time you say, Okay,
fine, take it and stop bothering me. This is all fair game in the commodity model. And then
once youve said yes, its done, its a contract, youve signed it. You cant change your mind in
the middle, you cant say yes to part of The Sex.
CP: The essay in Yes Means Yes which deals with this is called Towards a Performance Model
of Sex, and its by Thomas Macaulay Millar. In it, he proposes, in contrast to the commodity
model of sex, the performance model of sex. What is he getting at?
JF: He says, and what I fully believe in, is that what we ought to have, and what really blows
the whole thing open, is a mutual improv performance a jazz performance, say, although it
doesnt have to be jazz where two or more people start jamming together, and theyre taking
cues from each other, and theyre having a good time, until they stop having a good time, and
then they stop jamming. Maybe theyll jam again, or maybe one person will go jam with
someone else now. If somebody kidnapped you and forced you to go play music with them, it
would be a musical act in some literal way, but mostly it would be a kidnapping. And thats
what rape is. And when you think of sex as a collaborative performance instead of this crass
commodity exchange, it just explodes all of our bad assumptions about sex and rape, and how
those interactions work, and shows a world of how they could work. If youre a huge fan of
somebodys music, you still dont want their very first performance unless youre an obsessive
completist, because it probably wasnt that good. They didnt know what they were doing yet.
And yet we have this obsession with virginity and saving it. Which I mean lets face it some of
us had a pretty good time our first time and some of us didnt have a great time, but weve all
had better sex than our first time after our first time, because there are things to learn! Both
about what we like, how to communicate, what other people might like, theres a lot of things.
This fetishization of newness and lack of knowledge and lack of experience is really sort of sick
and twisted if you think about it from a performance model. The whole slut-shaming thing
disappears, because you wouldnt tell a musician, Youre a slut because you play with too
many people! Youd think, Wow, theyre really into music because theyre getting a lot of
practice in. They clearly enjoy it. Youd think either, I like their music, or, I really dont like
their music. All the baggage that comes along with the commodity model just falls away when
you turn it on its head and think about sex for what it is what it really actually should be
which is a collaborative, enthusiastic performance, between two or more willing partners.
CP: What are the limitations of this model of enthusiastic consent?
JF: Well, there are plenty of contexts in which consent is a non-issue. I mean theres an essay
in the book about immigrant women and how this model does not help many of them because
no one cares about their consent. No one is pretending theyre consenting or asking them. That
many are getting raped systematically as they enter the border from Mexico is considered by
many people a price to pay. So much so that when many women cross the border illegally, they
take birth control just so they dont get pregnant at the very least. And then theres rape as a
weapon of war as well. Enthusiastic consent is not going to solve the question of rape. And I
think thats really important to say. This is mostly about rapes that happen in a purportedly
sexual context. What were trying to do here is not to educate rapists out of raping. And I think
thats really important to say because I think theres a sort of a myth that in a lot of rapes,
especially those drunken encounters between people who already know each other, the hook-
up kind of rapes, the grey rapes I hate that term theres this common belief that its hard
to know what happens. Women are confused and men are confused, and its totally possible
that he thought it was fine and she didnt think it was fine and there was some
miscommunication. But the research doesnt say that. The research shows that men who rape
almost always do it repeatedly. Even in these college, drinking-hook-up contexts. And what that
says is that men who do this know theyre doing it. They may not use the word deliberately in
their head. But they know that if they asked their partner, their partner would not be saying yes
to it. Lets be clear: you cannot rape someone by accident. These men are under no illusions
that the feeling is mutual. So theyre clearly not interested in enthusiastic consent. What we
want to do is educate the culture that allows for that to continue. So all the people who are on
the juries and making the media and listening to the media and in the public conversation about
rape who say, Well, it was probably a miscommunication, its really hard to know, because you
know, well, she didnt say no. If we as a culture had enthusiastic consent as a threshold, then
those jerks who are raping and saying, Well, she didnt say no, would stop getting away with
it. And thats what were trying to accomplish here. I dont think you can educate rapists out of
it that easily. I dont think theyre confused.

Beyond Yes or No: Consent as Sexual Process
By Rachel Kramer Bussel

What does it mean to say to someone, Fuck me? Or, to put it a little more delicately,
Touch me? To tell them exactly how you want to be kissed, licked, petted? Or to tell
them just what it is you want to do with them? For one thing, it means that you are
taking the bull, as it were, by the horns. Youre letting your lover and yourselfknow
what youre looking for, rather than leaving it up to the imagination. Youre giving them
explicit instructions and thereby saying yes so loudly, they have to hear you.

The issue of consent encompasses the ways we ask for sex, and the ways we dont.
Its about more than the letter of the law, and, like all sexual issues, at its heart is
communication. Without our speaking up and demanding that our lovers do, too, we
dont ever truly know what they are thinking, which impedes us from having the sex we
could be having. The infamous sexual consent rules at the now defunct Antioch College
reached such a zenith of ridicule that the schools very name came to be associated with
these policies.1 The basic idea behind the policy was to end sexual violence while
fostering a campus culture of positive, consensual sexuality.

The main objectors didnt argue that people should not be getting consent from their
sexual partners, but quarreled with the idea that each new level of sexual activity
requires consent. This policy was widely interpreted to mean that if you touched
someones left breast with permission, you then had to get permission to touch her right
breast. The broader implication that, say, you may be up for making out and heavy
petting, but not full-on intercourse (or might start out with the intention of having
intercourse and change your mind once it became imminent), got lost in the ridicule,
culminating in a Saturday Night Live sketch.

But we do everyone a service when we recognize that consent is not simply a legal
term, and should encompass more than simply yes or no. Say a woman agrees to have
sex with her boyfriend, fully giving legal consent, but really shed rather be off with her
friends or at home in front of the TV. She agrees because its whats expected, their
routine. Shes bored, and he might as well be having sex with himself. Or maybe she
doesnt like having the same kind of sex they always have, but doesnt know how to
bring up her own fantasies.

The kind of consent Im talking about isnt concerned just with whether your partner
wants to have sex, but what kind of sex, and why. Do you want to be on top, do it
against the wall, doggy-style, missionary? These are questions good lovers ask of one
another. When we passively respond or assume we know what the other persons
thinking, we could very well be wrong. By not speaking up or waiting until the other
person can share their desires, we are simply guessing. There are exceptions, of course.
Some people get off on having one person take charge and set the tone, pace, and
position for sex. Thats fine, as long as this is spelled out at some point in advance and
isnt simply assumed. I dont mean that you need to probe your lovers every thought; I
mean that getting some insight into what turns them on will fuel the sexual chemistry
for both of you.

Try this: the Yes, No, Maybe chart. (A sample one can be downloaded.2) The concept
comes from the BDSM (kinky) community but can be adapted to any sexual act. Heres
how it works: Write down every sexual act you can think of, and categorize them into
things you enjoy/would like to do, things you dont ever want to do, and things youre
not sure about or might try under certain circumstances. Your partner also fills out a list,
and together, you see what you have in common. Both interested in spanking? Great!
Curious about what its like to give (or receive) a lap dance? Go for it. Neither of you
into butt plugs? Cross that off your list. One of you wants to go to a sex party, the other
would never do it? Either cross that off your lists or negotiate how the person interested
can check it out on their own. Even downloading such a list online and reading it over
can spark ideas you may have never considered. This is especially useful for BDSM acts
that may be new and confusing to both parties; how do you know whether you like, say,
hot wax being poured on you if youve never done it before? What if you fantasize about
it while youre alone but dont know if the reality would be all its cracked up to be?
Thats why theres a maybe on the list.

It benefits both halves of a couple (or coupling) to know what the other is into. This
does not necessarily mean you have granted consent from here to forever for activities
on your yes list, but simply that they are ones youll consider or have been into before.
Further discussion can tease out the nuances of these desires, and if theres something
one of you is curious about but not sure how youd go about it, this list can open the
door to that crucial conversation. As you compare lists and talk, you will almost surely
learn something about your partner, even a long-term partner, that you didnt know
before. As dominatrix and sex columnist Mistress Matisse wrote in The Stranger, Some
of the pleasure I take in kink is the continual seduction of consent. I love the fact that I
can get my partners to let me do things to them that they never thought theyd let
anyone doand better yet, I can make them like it. Thats hot.3

Why is this concept such a sticking point? The Antioch code boldly stated that silence is
not consent. That means that unless you get an affirmative yes from a sexual partner,
you dont know what they really want. As women, its our duty to ourselves and our
partners to get more vocal about asking for what we want in bed, as well as sharing
what we dont. Neither partner can afford to be passive and just wait to see how far the
other person will go. That dynamic puts everyone in an awkward position; for traditional
heterosexuals, it means the man is always trying to see how far he can go, while the
woman is stuck in the uncomfortable position of trying to enjoy herself while not having
a voice in the proceedings (and, for many, still worrying about how far she can go
without being considered slutty).

And if you have been sharing, or trying to share, what you want and arent being
listened to? Thats a problem. Recognize that and make it a priority. Im aware thats
easier said than done, but its worth it, trust me. Feeling nervous around someone
youre getting naked with is never going to lead to truly good sex. Its a huge red flag if
you never wind up feeling comfortable enough to speak up about sex with the one
person you should be able to talk to about it. If the crucial words never come out, you
have to ask yourself why that is. Is your relationship truly one in which open talk about
sex is welcomed? Or is that talk only one-sided?

These are the issues that Antiochs policy was meant to address, and did, albeit in a
sometimes clunky way. While a cheeky Los Angeles Times column by Meghan Daum
entitled Who killed Antioch? Womyn suggested that the early 90s was a time when
many liberal arts campuses were so awash in the hysteria of political correctness that it
seemed entirely possible a lamppost could commit date rape, in fact the idea of getting
your partners consent is not just about the line between rape and not rape. There is a
lot more that goes on during sex than simply saying yes and no, and in the silences,
unspoken doubts, fears, mistrust, and confusion can arise.

When it comes to hookups, whether its a one-night stand or just a more casual sexual
relationship, its especially important to know where the other person is coming from. In
those cases, you dont have the luxury of being able to read someones body language
or just know what they might want. This is probably the time when its most important
to bring up what you want and ask the other person what they want.

Also, in many of these cases it seems to be assumed that, in male/female hookups, its
the man who must do all the asking. Women should get in the habit of asking, too, and
realizing that while our culture sends the message that men want sex 24/7, thats not
necessarily true. Or maybe he wants some part of it, but not all. Women, just as much
as men, need to engage their lovers on these questions in order to level the sexual
playing field and lay to rest that men = horny stereotype once and for all.

By making absolutely sure your partner wants to be involved in what youre doing
sexually, youre not only on the right side of the law but are going to have a hotter time
in bed. Youll know what they want, in their own words. You can gauge from the way
their eyelids flutter (or close), the way their breathing gets heavier, the way their body
squirms as they answer your questions. And being on the receiving end of those
questions (even if it makes you blush!) is pretty damn sexy. Im sure youve been in a
situation where youre making out with someone, then things move to the undressing
stage, and then theres that seemingly interminable time before anyone speaks up about
what they want. Or perhaps it devolves into a What do you want to do? No, what do
you want to do? scenario. And thats okay; not being sure is fine, too, as long as both
parties are clear. Getting more comfortable talking about sex in and out of the heat of
the moment means therell be fewer of those awkward silences and less chance of one
person thinking they had the best sex in the world while the other wishes it had never

One of my favorite questions to ask in bed is to have my partner tell me about one of
their fantasies. Asking about someones fantasies takes the pressure off them to tell you
exactly what they want at that moment. They can share freely about, say, their desire to
be tied up or to have a threesome without worrying that youre going to bust out some
rope or call your best friend into the room. The fantasy question is a precursor, perhaps,
to an open dialogue about sex, which is what this concept of consent, more broadly
defined, is all about.

All that said, Im not sure that the message that consent is sexy belongs on a button,
where students at the University of Washington have put it, to protest against sexual
assault and domestic violence. The fact is, were never going to see anyone sane
arguing outright that theyre against consent. Theyll say things like she was drunk, she
came to his room, she got naked, she did ____. There will always be an excuse to hide
behind. To truly reinforce the message that consent is sexy, we need to show our
partners why and how that is. Besides, consent should be a baseline, the rock-bottom
standard for sexual activity, and shouldnt necessarily have to be sold as sexy to count
as something vital and important. It can be sexy, sure. But tagging it as such almost
seems to be overhyping it. Do we really need to sell consent as a concept?

Consent is a basic part of the sexual equation. If theres any uncertainty, or if you find
that youre using some power to coax someone into sex when they clearly arent that
into it, you need to rethink what youre doing and why youre doing it. Is sex something
to be pursued at all costs, no matter what the other person thinksor what they will
think of you later? If youre worried about sounding like a robot with an endless stream
of Can I touch you there? types of questions, think about turning that whole line of
questioning around. Instead of Can I? try What do you want me to do? Or offer your
own body up to be stroked and fondled.

If youre usually the one to make the first move, take a step back and ask yourself, if
you didnt put a sexual vibe out there, would she or he do so in your place? Let the
other person pursue you; not only will you feel highly desirable if they do, but if they
dont, you may get a clue that they are only going along with your advances. (Please
note: Im not endorsing peoples engaging in sex to be nice or because the other
person started it. But it happens, and while legally that may be considered consent, Id
argue that thats not enough. Plus, if youre used to always having to put the moves on
someone, sitting back and basically saying, Im all yours can be extremely hot. The
pressures off, and if you create a safe, open space for your lover to explore your body
at their own pace, you just may learn a thing or two about what turns them on.)

What makes consent sexy isnt simply that the person wants to be doing it with you. Its
not enough to just assume that if she (or he) doesnt say no, they want it. This kind of
thinking, which some men use as a defense (she didnt say no), is problematic on
many levels. The burden is not on the woman to say no, but on the person pursuing the
sexual act to get an active yes. While more women need to speak up about their sexual
desires, men also need to proactively ask their female lovers what they want in bed, and
recognize that it may not be so easy for women to talk about. Many of us have been
told that were supposed to look and act sexy, but are never given a script, outside of
porn, regarding how to go about doing that. For some people, it comes naturally, but for
others, just asking to be touched in a certain spot or to engage in a new position is a

The bottom line is, you cant assume you know what your partner is thinking. You may
think you know what they have in mind, based on your reading of them, but thats still
only your reading until you probe further. Some men may assume that by taking
charge, they can prove how much they know about women. But all women (and men)
are different, and what your ex liked in bed might not be what the new person
occupying your bed likes. Taking the time to find out shows you care and will put your
partner at ease; they know youre there not just for your own selfish interest, but to
have an experience where you both get off.

And dont worry about sounding inexperienced. You may have had dozens of previous
lovers, but that doesnt mean a thing when it comes to the unique individual before you.
Especially if you havent hooked up before, even a simple What do you like? What can I
do for you? goes a long way. If she mumbles or is nonresponsive, rather than just
seeing how far you can get, take it slow. Offer a backrub and, while giving the
massage, ask what shes into, what she wants you to do for her. That puts the ball in
her court. If she really wants you, shell get the message and speak up.

Ultimately, that kind of sex is, if not coercive, a true partnership, one where theres give
and take and where you feed off each others desires. If youve ever tried to talk dirty
with someone who barely says a peep in bed, youll know what I mean. Its like
masturbating with another person in the room, and nobody wants to feel like theyre
just a prop in a lovers sexual game. When youre getting as close as possible to another
human being, isnt it worthwhile to make sure that you are actually bonding (even if
only for a few hours), rather than just doing something you could do by yourself?
Sexualizing consent may mean stepping out of your comfort zone. It may mean finding
a way to get her or him to talk about what gets them off, but the payoff is that youre
let into that private part of their mind where the key to their sexual fulfillment lies. You
may think you know what drew them to you, or whats going on in their head as they
ask you to have sex in public or take them over your knee for a spanking, but until you
hear it directly, you wont know for sure. And for me, not knowing, or at least not
asking, is a missed opportunity to find out something crucial about my lover.

(I once slept with a guy who didnt like any talking in bed. Not his name, not yes, not
even little moans of encouragement. This killed the mood for me, because I felt like I
couldnt even ask if we could move over, or whisper sweet nothings in his ear. The
silence was utterly uncomfortable. I definitely didnt return for more.)

Admitting and claiming what we want in bed is not necessarily an easy task. Neither is
asking your partners what they want. But its worth it. Why? Because you gain a fuller
understanding of what theyre thinking about you, themselves, and your sex life. Lets
say you want to try tying your partner up; you saw the movie Bound and were inspired.
You cant just plunge right in and whip out the ropes and expect him or her to agree
(while they might agree, clearly, discussion is needed beforehand). The reason is not
simply so they can say yes or no, but to find out why its a turn-on for each of you; you
may have very different reasons. Dont just say, I want to tie you up. Are you game?
Explain what it is about the act that seems so sexy; say, I want you all to myself. I
want to take control. I want to watch you squirm. Or, I want to watch you
masturbate. Or whatever your fantasy scenario is. This moves the earlier fantasy talk
into the here and now, but also leaves room for questions and back and forth, for going
beyond yes or get out of my bed.

By embracing a broader concept of consent, we acknowledge that just as sex means a
lot more than just penis-in-vagina intercourse, consent at its best can be about more
than just yes or no. It means not taking the yes for granted, as well as getting to
know the reasons behind the yes, and those, to me, are whats truly sexy.

Hello, Sailor! How to Build, Board and Navigate a Healthy
By Heather Corinna
You probably hear the term "healthy relationship" a lot. People can make it sound like it should be
easy-peasy to figure out what is and isn't healthy, but with people and relationships varying as
much as they do, and a world that often romanticizes things that aren't healthy at all, it can be
trickier than it looks. This is especially true when we're new to relationships and have little to no
basis of comparison, or if the relationships around us -- like our families or those we see friends in --
aren't healthy themselves.
Whether we're talking about romantic or sexual relationships, both serious and casual, friendships or
relationships with acquaintances, every part of a healthy relationship and this piece on them is a
we, not an I or a you. Relationships are made of and by more than one person, so everyone in a
relationship needs to be doing their part to make and keep it healthy. Mutuality in relationships and
shared participation and responsibility are one of the landmarks of healthy relationships.
It can help to think of any relationship as a see-saw. If one person is sitting still on one end texting
somebody instead of moving, the other person stays stuck at the top unable to move themselves; if
one person gets off and walks away, the other person stays stuck on the ground, unable to move.
In a healthy relationship that see-saw is in perpetual motion, with each person doing their own part.
One person might come to a relationship better at one aspect than another, and that's okay; so long
as everyone is gladly doing their own best and cooperating, our shared and different skills and
talents help each of us grow and get better at even the parts we might not start out so great at.
Relationships without those kinds of constantly moving see-saws are usually unhealthy, or often
aren't relationships at all, but one-sided feelings and efforts.
Like love, relationships aren't something that exist outside of us passively, or "are" a certain way:
they are how we and others make and enact them. They're something we and others actively do,
not something we "have," or have happen to us. So, what do we do in healthy relationships? How
do we make them what we want them to be?
We communicate.
In order to be in a relationship, we have to be interrelating. We can't do that without
communicating, especially without talking, be that with our spoken (or signed, if we or others speak
that way) or written words. To develop relationships that become deeper over time we have to get
deeper in our communication and refine how we communicate. If the way we communicate is either
short or largely silent, or pretty much stays on a "What's up?" "Not much, what's up with you?" "Not
much." level, it shouldn't be a shocker that surface-y communication typically results in a surface-y
relationship. And if we amp up the relationship in other ways -- like making it sexual or making long-
term commitments -- but don't also increase our communication, that's one way we can easily
create or enable unhealthy relationships. Our body language and any way we relate physically are
also kinds of communication, but they tend to be far less clear and a lot more open to interpretation
than our words are.
In new relationships, you may have experienced that for the first few dates, weeks or months, it
seems like you and yours can't stop talking; that you're on the phone constantly, or spending days
or nights together that are total babblefests. While that level of communication is so intense
because you're getting to know each other, it's also so intense because it's new, and you're
probably also not talking a whole lot about any troubles you're having with each other, which can be
a lot harder and more scary to talk about. That NRE (new relationship energy) may also be driving
you, and sustaining you so that you feel like you don't need much sleep or other self-care that
becomes so important as you incorporate your relationship into the rest of your life, and it can also
obscure the need to really start communicating.
When communicating with someone, it's important to be putting out what we want, need and feel
and to listen and respond to what the other person wants, needs and feels. Communication is about
being a band, not two solo artists. We want to try to be active listeners, to choose words to express
ourselves with care and thought that are both truthful and kind. We want to keep in touch with each
other about our feelings and our lives, especially the parts we're choosing to share. We also need to
be communicating because we want to connect, not because we feel forced to or because someone
else needs us to say things or keep in a certain level of touch in order to feel in control. Being in
communication is not the same thing as anyone or a partner insisting that partner must always
immediately respond when that person wants a response.
As our relationships develop we need to stay communicating throughout, about both the good or
easier stuff and the tougher stuff. We need to share our joys and our woes with a partner, and to
keep finding out more about each other. In a healthy relationship, we're openly communicating,
including mutually sharing things that may challenge us or our partners, or may make us both feel
more vulnerable or emotionally exposed. We also are making sure we are making enough time and
space to really communicate: if and when our time is limited with someone, it may seem like we
want to always put the fun stuff first, be that sex or going out and doing things, but ideally we want
to strike a balance and make sure we invest just as much time to getting and keeping in touch with
We respect each other's limits and boundaries.
Everyone has limits and boundaries: the invisible emotional, physical and/or practical lines we draw
between ourselves and other people simply because no matter how close we are to someone, we all
remain distinct, separate individuals. Those limits and boundaries can be about things like how
much time we have and want to spend with a partner, how much space we need for ourselves or
with friends and family, about sex or our own physical space. Our boundaries and limits are also
about the way we communicate (what words we use or what topics are just not up for discussion),
how we manage conflict, about emotional or personal places we invite partners into and those we
need to be off-limits, either at a given time or altogether or about objects or areas that we want to
be ours alone, like a journal, a box of photos in the closet or our email. Limits and boundaries are
also about how much of our identity is about us as a member of a relationship and about how much
is about us all by ourselves.
That also includes self-respect for limits and boundaries, and putting limits and boundaries out
there. If we pretend not to have any limits and boundaries, we don't do ourselves or anyone else
any favors. People or relationships without any limits and boundaries are usually profoundly
unhealthy and even dangerous to themselves or others. Limits and boundaries, and respecting each
other's limits and boundaries, are one of the biggest ways we help assure everyone in a relationship
is and feels emotionally safe, and one of the biggest ways we help assure a relationship is about the
needs of everyone in it, not just those of one person.

While writing this, I asked our followers to tweet what words describe healthy relationships to them.
Here's some of what they said: space, ethical, honest, loving, autonomy, friendly, understanding,
adjustable, careful, comfortable, strong-boundaried, communication, respectful, equal, celebratory,
safe, fun, low-drama, sweet, caring, conversation, funny, silly, happy, pleasure, communication,
shared, choices, thoughtful, uplifting, honorable, joyful, consensual, positive, endearing, proud,
mutual, progressive, reflective, generous, evolving, kind, forgiving, affable delicious, understanding,

At the start of a relationship we're generally going to have way more limits and boundaries than we
are if and as a relationship goes on over time and we've built trust and increased our level of
comfort with someone. (Alternately, we may be more inclined to start a new relationship as if we or
the other person has none, or be unassertive about having boundaries pushed.) But taking a
relationship into the long-term never means people just drop all their limits and boundaries: we may
relax them, but we're still always going to need some, and always going to need to respect those of
our partners. It's also typical for limits and boundaries to be things we adjust, adapt and add or
subtract over time. For instance, while at the start of the relationship we may have needed less time
to ourselves, later on we may need more; while when a sexual relationship was new, we had some
things we just weren't down with trying or doing, later on, we may be willing to and interested in
adjusting that list. Setting limits and boundaries can sometimes be tougher at first, especially if
we're worried about rejection or hurting someone's feelings, but as we get to know each other, it
should get easier.
That also includes limits and boundaries with communication. Like we said, at the start of a
relationship, you may stay in more constant communication than you do as a relationship goes on.
That's normal, and it's no indication of a person becoming disinterested in their partner: it's just how
things often develop as NRE becomes sustaining relationship energy. Just like we need ongoing
communication for a relationship to be healthy, we also need personal space and we need
communication to be about knowing and understanding each other and freely sharing our lives and
feelings, rather than being about validation or control.
We pace ourselves, our agreements and our actions.
Many of us who have been part of romantic or sexual relationships know all about new relationship
energy (NRE). That's that shiny, sparkly time full of rainbows and butterflies and i's dotted with
hearts when everything is new and everyone is magically connecting. All the synapses are firing,
and it can happen that a relationship barely in its infancy feels like it, or the feelings we have about
it or someone, might last forever and ever.
In healthy relationships, we can still enjoy and honor those loopy feelings, but we also balance them
with a reality check and perspective. Making big choices, or taking or pushing huge steps before it's
really a sound time for them isn't healthy. Sometimes people feel like rushing things will cement a
relationship they really want to continue, but in reality, things just don't work that way. A healthy
relationship becomes more solid or continues over time because the people in it want it to and
gradually build it together, not because anyone feels they should or feels obligated to because they
made big plans or promises. Rushing things can also feel scary or suffocating and snuff what could
have been a good relationship out before it barely gets started.
We should try to pace things in a way that allows for gradual development of a relationship, and for
time for everyone to assess and discuss their feelings; time to feel out a relationship as we're
building it before leaping to a level of the relationship we're just not at yet, even if we think we'd
like to be there or might eventually want to be there, is usually pretty necessary. We wouldn't jump
into or throw someone into the deep end of a pool before we knew we or they knew how to swim
first, because we'd know if we did, they might drown. Pacing relationships is an identical principle. A
relationship needs to learn how to swim first, only moving into deeper and deeper waters when we
feel confident it's emotionally safe and sound, and when moving deeper doesn't feel like being
thrown over a cliff when we'd prefer to be going down a small water slide.
For example, in the first week or two of being with someone we might think we can grow to love
them, but love takes both time and knowing a person to develop. While an "I love you" really soon
might still feel good (though it can also feel scary or strange), chances are that's happening too
soon and someone saying it either doesn't really mean it, isn't recognizing that being in love isn't
the same as love, or might be trying, intentionally or not, to emotionally manipulate the other
person. Moving things too fast can sometimes be about one or both people trying to artificially make
a relationship solid before it actually is, or about people having fears that without moving really fast,
someone will leave or reconsider. Discussions about or promises of live-in relationships or marriage
within a few weeks or months are another example of moving too fast: if we don't even have a
sound plan we've made and begun solidly on the path on for our own life, skipping ahead to how
we're going to share that life with someone else is missing a whole lot of steps. Saying someone is
our best friend when we've only been hanging out or talking for a week is pushing it. Sex before
we've developed some basic communication skills and boundaries or a sense of our own sexuality all
by ourselves, agreements of exclusivity before we even know if we want to be exclusive to
someone, or a heavy focus on talking about a shared future when we barely have had a present are
other examples of potentially moving too fast.
We make decisions that are about the relationship jointly and actively, and we honor
our agreements and take responsibility for them.
One of the biggest rookie mistakes with romantic relationships many of us make when we first start
getting involved with people is assuming we're all on the same page without checking in to see if we
truly are, or deciding something by ourselves that's about more than just us (or letting someone
else do that). For instance, the first time someone wants to be in a sexually or romantically
exclusive relationship, and the other person maybe calls them a boyfriend or girlfriend, or says they
love them, they often figure that's what the other person wants, too. But exclusivity is about making
agreements, agreements that need to be made jointly and clearly. If we want to be exclusive with
someone, we need to put that out there, ask what they want, and then talk together to either come
up with an agreement that works for both of us (including what we mean by exclusivity). If we want
two different things in this regard, we need to make decisions together about finding middle ground
that works for both people, or parting ways if we it turns out we just want and need very different
What keeps people from doing this most often tends to be the fear of putting something out there
we want and finding out the other person doesn't want it. It's tough not to get what we want, after
all, especially if and when our hearts are on the line. But it's ultimately tougher to find out
assumptions we made weren't accurate, or to push someone into something they didn't really want
or be pushed into something we didn't want. Just because we have feelings for someone or they
have them for us doesn't mean a given relationship or relationship model is going to be the right
one: just liking or loving someone alone doesn't mean we all want and need the same things. It
tends to take time and more than one try for people to find others to get involved with that really
suit both people.
On top of all that, part of what helps a relationship become solid and strong is the process -- not
just the product -- of making and negotiating agreements, and on top of that, if any person in a
relationship feels like they don't have just as much say, they can either wind up feeling like half a
person, or more like someone's child than someone's partner.
One reason to make decisions jointly and actively is to assure that any agreements we make are
agreements we and partners or friends want to make and agreements we all have thought about,
understand the terms of and are confident we can honor. Telling someone you'll love them forever
or marry them when you're 30 when you only know what 16 years of your life and six months of life
with them have been like is an example of making a promise or agreement you're going to have a
hard time knowing if you can honor. While we may really want a given agreement, rushing it or
jumping into it without talking about the details just makes it more likely we or others won't be able
to honor it.
If you want to offer up a promise of something you're not yet sure about, or a partner or friend
wants you to, you can always offer them up a promise to listen to them talk about it, think about it
yourself and to continue to talk with them about it: that's a promise you can certainly keep that also
speaks to a commitment from you and a response to their desires.
We're flexible, and have realistic expectations of each other and the relationship.
People don't stay the same as weeks, months or years go on. If we're living and experiencing life,
then we're likely also growing and changing all the time to some degree, even though the core of
who we are often stays the same. Because relationships are made of people, the same is true of
relationships. What your relationship looks and feels like at week one isn't the same as it will look or
feel at month one or year one; people and relationships are always evolving and we can't know right
from the start what will work or what they will look like along the way.
Being flexible involves things like understanding that the agreements we make sometimes need to
be renegotiated or refined. It involves supporting and accepting that any of us may want more or
less space or time apart from each other at a given time, may or may not want sex or a certain kind
of sex, and feeling safe enough with your partner that you can bring up concerns or hear their
concerns. Being flexible is understanding each of us processes information and emotions differently
and that your timeline of talking or understanding might not always be 100% in synch with your
partner's. Being flexible is about understanding that while we have control over ourselves,
sometimes life throws us all curve balls which can change how much time we have, what our
priorities are, what we're able to handle and what we need.
Having realistic expectations means understanding things like that one relationship can't and
shouldn't provide all the things a person needs in life, including interpersonally, no matter how much
people care about and like each other. Another part of being realistic about relationships is
understanding that, honestly, sometimes relationships can be difficult. There will be tough
moments, hard decisions to make, and probably some discomfort or misunderstanding along the
way anytime we get close to another person. Relationships take practice, and as with anything we
practice, we'll undoubtedly slip up along the way.
"But they said..." is a phrase we hear when talking with people about their relationships a lot. Like,
they said they'd love you forever, they said they wanted to get married, they said they didn't like
anyone else, they said they were going to have sex on your birthday or they said they could hang
out on Saturday. Like we already talked about, making sound agreements at a sane pace and
honoring them is a big part of healthy relationships, but so is accepting that sometimes situations,
people or feelings change, and if and when those changes happen, we'll need flexibility and should
expect the same flexibility of others.
We each get to be our own person.
Being in an intimate relationship isn't about giving up our own lives or enmeshing to the point that
we can't figure out what our own lives are without someone else; it's about sharing our lives. How
much or how little we share will tend to do with what each of us wants, what a given relationship is
like and how open we feel to sharing.
While we'll often tend to have things in common with the people we're in relationships with, we'll
also often have differences. Not only are differences okay, they tend to be one of the ways we grow
in relationships. If we wanted to date ourselves, we wouldn't need to bother with other people, after
all. Giving one another freedom to have our own interests, dreams and goals, do some activities
alone or with others and to have a past, present and future that is about more than any one person
is hugely important. Other interests can be especially important during times of conflict in any given
relationship, so that we or others can feel supported, get good breathers and have healthy ways to
process conflict or hard feelings. If we or others find that allowing that kind of freedom feels super-
scary or threatening, then chances are we may need to slow down the pace of the relationship,
work more on building trust, or do some self-work around insecurity.
Being our own person also means that even if we're so-and-so's boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend,
partner, fiancee or spouse (or child or parent), it's understood by us and that other person that that
is one part of who we are, not all of who we are. We're also still the person we came to the
relationship alone as and will leave it as -- however and whenever that may be -- even though the
relationship may in some ways change or grow some of who we are. This includes we and our
partners respecting who that individual person is and not expecting that we will change core
characteristics about ourselves or drop our interests just because they are not what the other
person likes or expects.
Allowing others to be their own person means embracing things about other people that are
different from us: like, how someone dresses, how they talk, what they like to do with their own
free time, what their personal beliefs are. In any relationship, chances are good that there are at
least a few things one person is interested in, likes or feels comfortable in, but the other is not.
When that happens, that doesn't mean anyone has to stop pursuing their own interests or do things
they don't like at all: rather, it just means time and space need to be allowed for folks do do their
own thing separately, to figure out ways to enjoy what the other person does in a way that works,
or that someone needs to work on accepting who it is they are in a relationship with, remembering
that the person they love includes parts of that person they may not connect with perfectly or
We know that people aren't fixer-uppers.
Understanding and accepting that we're each our own person is also about our own responsibility
and what we can control -- and should not be trying to control. While a relationship is a mutual
endeavor, any of us are ultimately only responsible for ourselves and can only control ourselves. We
need to understand that and also accept that about any other person we're in a relationship with.
Healthy relationships aren't about people trying to bend someone else to their will to get what they
want or be who they want them to be, or about trying to make someone be like us or be
inseparable from us: they're but about people coming together and staying together because each
wants to, creating something shared with the places we do intersect, understanding and accepting
there are some areas where we won't.
In healthy relationships, we accept one another as we are and we feel accepted for all of who we
are, past, present and also in terms of who we'd like to become. No one should ever have to feel
they need to pretend to be someone they're not, or like they need to change the core of who they
are in a relationship. If and when we find that we're in a relationship with someone who just really
isn't the person we need or want in that kind of relationship, it's not that person's job to change
who they are; it's ours to recognize either our own needs have changed, or that our ideas of who a
person was weren't accurate, and that we need to take our own action by moving on to seek out
people who can meet our needs better or who are better for us.
During all of our lives, we'll all have some growing to do and some ways we want to grow.
Relationships can also challenge us sometimes, and issues any of us may have with things like trust,
communication, self-esteem may pop up or become evident in the course of a relationship. It may
be that we need to work on things like that to improve our relationships, both the important
relationship we have with ourselves and the relationships we have with others. But if and when
anyone is going to try and do some changing, it really needs to be something that person wants to
do for themselves, too, not just for someone else. Any change any of us try to make solely for
others usually ends with failure and hurt feelings.
On the flip side, that also means that we should not expect partners to be able to "fix" us. Our
friends, family or romantic/sexual partners can and should certainly be a support to us, a helping
hand when we need an extra one. But what they aren't are our therapists or counselors, or our
corrective experiences. A partner or friend can't be expected to do the work on ourselves that we
really need to be doing: they can support us in our own growth and change, but they can't do that
for us, and we shouldn't be trying to do someone else's growth work for them, either. It's always
wise to be honest with yourself about what you want and need, and be willing to work on your own
stuff and not expect someone else to do that work for you.
We trust each other.
The word trust gets thrown around a lot with the assumption everyone understands what it means.
Like "love" it can actually be a murky concept. What trust is is a firm reliance on the integrity,
ability, or character of a person or thing; to have or place confidence in, to believe. Trust is also
something to be earned, extended and built, not something to be proved. We can't demand
someone else trusts us: we can only prove ourselves to be trustworthy, extend trust ourselves and
give that person the choice to place trust in us if they want to, understanding that for healthy
people, that often takes time.
When we trust each other, we believe what each of us says we feel and do. We feel our private and
personal information and lives are in safe keeping with another person, that that person won't
betray us or our confidences. We have faith in each of us doing our best to keep and honor our
agreements. We feel we can depend on one another, and feel confident that we and a partner are
people of integrity and good character. When we trust each other, we allow one another freedoms
and accept that not only can we not know what someone else is doing 24/7, but that we shouldn't
need to know that if we trust someone.

"You don't trust me." if and when you or someone else are saying that, check in. Has there been
enough time to establish trust yet? if not then "No, not yet, I need more time for that," is a sound
answer. Has someone given you sound reason NOT to trust them? If so, you may want to scale
back the relationship while you rebuild trust or figure out if you even want to. Sometimes people say
that to try and manipulate or control, or as a way to evade personal responsibility. If there has been
enough time to build trust, and a person has been trustworthy, might you need to do some work on
your own issues with trust before getting this close?

Some people will say they trust a given person or people completely right from the start. What they
usually mean when they say that is that they don't have limits or boundaries, that they're engaging
in some kind of denial or are just not taking care of themselves. Trust is built gradually, just like the
whole of a relationship. What's healthy with trust is to each be extending little bits of it at a time,
such as by sharing personal information, making smaller agreements, and then expanding that trust
more and more as we show each other that we are can both trust and be trusted. We wouldn't trust
someone who just walked up on the street we'd never seen before who asked if they could hold our
wallet for a minute just because we liked the looks of them or they seemed to like us, so it doesn't
make any sense to do that with our hearts and lives, either, far more valuable things than a few
bucks and a driver's license.
We value each other's outside relationships.
Most of us have more than one person in our life who's valuable to us; we have more than one
important relationship. The idea that one relationship is more important than all others, or should
be, is a barrier to healthy relationships and a life rich with a wide array of connections with other
people who care about us and who we care for. That idea is really pervasive with any kind of
romantic relationship: everywhere we look we can see the (dysfunctional, and kind of creepy)
suggestion that a marriage or romance is THE relationship, to be held above all others, but that not
only typically comes from a not-so-great agenda, it also doesn't speak to the reality of most people's
lives. For instance, a parent likely doesn't privilege their relationships with their children or their
relationships with a co-parent over each other, but instead sees them as equally important, albeit
different. Our closest friends are usually just as dear to us and integral to our lives and who we are
as our romantic and/or sexual relationships are.
One thing this goes back to is making sound agreements. If you or someone you are in a
relationship with is asking anyone to always put one relationship first, no matter what, or are trying
to limit who someone else is connected to, that's not healthy. It's one thing to ask for something
like an agreement about dating exclusivity, but it's something else entirely to ask someone to agree
not to talk to people because you worry that person does or might have or develop sexual feelings.
If you or someone you're in a relationship can't accept and handle each of you having other equally
important people in your lives, or are overcome with jealousy about other relationships, that's a
problem for that person to work on for themselves, and to work on by doing some kind of therapy
other growth work of their own. Working feelings like that out in a healthy way does not involve
trying to isolate a friend or partner from the other people in their lives to manage your own
insecurity for you.
When we sustain any relationship over time, one thing we tend to do is to bring someone we're
close to into the network of our other relationships, and have them be part of our self-made family
and community. Healthy relationships don't tend to be compartmentalized, intentionally separated
from that larger network, but instead, become a part of it, and that network is something any of us
should be viewing as a positive. After all, when we care for people in a real way, we don't want
them to be isolated, because isolation really sucks: instead we want them to be surrounded by as
many people who care for them the way we do as much as possible.
We're equals.
In healthy relationships, we think of each other as equals, and treat one another as equals, even if
there may be ways in which the world doesn't see us that way. Parents have more rights than their
children under 18 do. A friend who is of a higher economic class than another has more privilege, a
friend who is gay, lesbian or trans gender isn't treated as well in much of the world as the friend
who is straight or cis gender. An older romantic partner often has more power in the world-at-large
than a younger one; a male partner may have more freedoms than a female partner. While no
relationship can fix those inequities at-large, within a relationship itself, we can and should treat and
think of one another as equals, even when law, policy or culture does not. Even if, for example,
parts of the world think women are second-class citizens, someone a woman is in a healthy
relationship with doesn't think that.
Being equals also means we all have equal say in a relationship, that decisions in the relationship
are being made in a shared way, not by just one person.
Some relationships are mentorships, rather than other types of relationships: relationships in which
it's a given, or part of the design of a relationship that while, at the core, we feel equal, we know
one person has something big to teach the other. Parent-child relationships are, in part,
mentorships. Healthy mentorships involve a forthright understanding of this dynamic, and involve
limits and boundaries that respect that kind of difference and account for the power imbalance it
can involve: this is why schools and states have laws and policies around a high school student and
a teacher dating. If you or someone else find yourselves in a relationship that's not supposed to be
a mentorship, but that someone is presenting as one in some ways or which feels like one -- like an
older partner saying they have so much they know that you don't -- and also doesn't have the kinds
of boundaries to make a mentorship healthy, do a reality check to be sure everyone involved really
thinks of each other as equals.
We address and resolve conflict soundly.
Here at Scarleteen, we'll often hear users say things like, "We fight a lot, like most couples, it's
normal." The thing is, in healthy relationships, fighting is usually rare. It's common for people in
relationships to have disagreements or conflicts, for sure, especially in relationships where people
live together or share lots of responsibilities, but minor arguments or even big disagreements that
may take some time to work out aren't the same thing as fighting. And when you don't cohabitate
or share a lot of responsibilities, when you're just dating or friends, conflicts should be seriously
minor and infrequent.
In healthy relationships, people work through conflict in ways that are compassionate, caring and
respectful. Yelling or screaming only communicates someone is angry: it doesn't tend to
communicate why very well, help people to work that anger out together or nurture a space where
everyone feels safe. Instead of yelling or screaming, giving someone the silent treatment, talking
trash to friends or other cruddy ways of expressing conflict, we need to work together on expressing
conflict well and then work on resolving it. That usually means sitting down to talk through conflicts
as calmly as possible, without blaming, name-calling, expecting immediate results or just trying to
short-cut with apologies or excuses without actually resolving anything.
Sometimes it's hard to be calm if we're really upset or scared: but even when conversations are very
emotional or tense, we can still work things out. That might mean each taking some time to go be
by ourselves with an agreement to come back and talk together after we can process our own
feelings separately. When we're working out conflicts in discussions, we need to all do our best to
be active listeners, to use "I" statements -- such as "I feel upset because..." rather than "You make
me upset because..." -- and doing the best we can to comfort each other throughout, be that by
holding hands or sitting close, or by respecting someone's need to have some space in between.
With bigger conflicts, we often need to accept it may take a few discussions or some time to really
work things out and make time together for those discussions. Resolving conflicts or differences is a
process, so we may need to accept that someone is going to try to do something differently, rather
than expecting enormous changes all at once.
It's also important people close the door on conflict well, even if it's still being worked on. If and
when we argue or have a tough discussion, we and others should try and leave it, or leave where
we're at with it, in a way that leaves everyone feeling safe and cared for. That's doing things like
thanking each other for taking the time to talk, affirming that we care about and respect each other,
and/or spending time doing something together where we can easily chill and reconnect, despite the
conflict. Ending a disagreement or conflict with a silent treatment, emotional withdrawal or rough
words isn't healthy or caring.

You may have heard people on talk-shows and in self-help books say that a relationship takes work.
That's true, but it's not the same kind of work as, say, your temp job. It's more like the kind of work
you'd put into a poem you really want to write, a long hike on a nice day or an activist project your
heart is in. We have to keep putting energy and effort into relationships, but for the most part, a
healthy relationship between people who generally get along, have a good deal in common, and
want the same kinds of things really shouldn't feel like work-work; it should involve more play and
times of peace than work, and a generally easy effort most of the time. If keeping a relationship
going or being in it feels like a constant, grueling effort to anyone, it's probably time to either move
on, or change the model of the relationship to one that feels like a better fit.

We are safe.
In a healthy relationship, no one involved should be emotionally, physically or sexually unsafe from
the person they're with. None of us should be at risk of being called names or put down, harassed
or stalked, punched or kicked, forced or coerced (pressured) to do anything they don't want to do
sexually or affectionately. We should also feel safe, and secure in the idea that our partner would
never do us harm intentionally, and that we would never cause them harm on purpose, either. If we
are not safe in those basic ways or don't feel safe, our relationships are likely abusive or are
becoming so.
This also means it's up to everyone in a relationship to be sure they are safe to be with. The
responsibility for safety doesn't just lie with a person in harm or potential harm, but with everyone.
If you or a partner feel like you have real troubles with control, anger, jealousy, dependence or self-
esteem, then it's that person's (or yours) responsibility to know they aren't in the right space to be
in an intimate relationship and to do whatever work they need to for themselves, alone or with the
help of a counselor or other helper first, before getting close to someone else. Because sometimes
we or others don't know we have these issues until we have gotten close to someone, that can
mean either taking a break from a relationship or breaking up altogether, even if and when we
really care about someone.
None of us are always in the best headpsace, time or place in our lives, or situation for an intimate
or close relationship, or for a certain kind of relationship or relationship model. For example, even if
we may be earnestly safe in a relationship, we may not be able to feel safe yet because we grew up
with abuse or are still healing from previous abuse. We may still be getting over a past relationship
and need more time to process that and what we now want in relationships moving forward before
we jump into another. We may be dealing with a tough spot in another relationship in our life that
needs our time and attention, and that a new or different relationship would just be a distraction
from or a way to try and avoid what's going on in our lives. We may be dealing with an addiction,
illness, loss, a major change of life coming, or something else that really requires an in-depth
dedication to own self-care. The onus is on everyone either entering into a relationship or deepening
a relationship to do the best we can to check in with ourselves and be sure we're only getting as
involved as we're ready for, able to handle, and want to handle.
We care about each other.
Not everyone uses the L-word, especially early in relationships. That's okay, especially because
ideally, when and if someone does say those words, they're expressing something they have already
shown and do show in action, not just in words. If we're going to have any kind of intimate or close
relationship with someone, we should still care about them. We may not be at love yet, or have a
relationship that ever gets to love, but that doesn't mean we can't be caring and loving in how we
treat one another.
To make more sense of what can sound pretty vague, let's pull up a couple paragraphs from
another article here about love: bell hooks said, "Love is a combination of six ingredients: care,
commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust." That applies to both how we care for
yourselves and others. It may be obvious, but to her list I'd add connectivity: love is about
connecting and being connected to ourselves, to who we love, to everything. There's an energy to
being deeply connected that once you feel, you'll recognize ever after.
One thing we can all usually agree on about love is that the vast majority of the time, love makes
you and everyone in it seriously happy. When we love and are being loved, we don't usually feel
miserable, desperate, terrified, detached or lonely: love feels good. Love is active: it isn't this
disembodied thing that's out there floating around we either get or we don't. It's something we and
others feel because we actively and intentionally create and enact it. It's something we nurture,
grow, practice and refine. It's something we make and do, not something we are given or take. If
we lose it, it's not like losing our keys: rather, it's about one or more people no longer choosing to
love; no longer actively loving.
We're Not Missing Pieces
We aren't completed by other people, because we are all whole unto ourselves. When we meet and
get involved with someone we really cherish and connect with, that certainly can change us or our
lives, but it's not like before we met them some part of us were missing. We -- and they -- were still
all there, we just were without this relationship and without whatever parts of us the relationship
may have helped to grow, change or enhance. Even though great relationships can change us and
others for the better, help us grow, and add valuable things to our lives, no one is really someone's
"other half."
If you're a fan of children's books, Shel Silverstein's "The Missing Piece Meets the Big O,"
communicates this well. In that book, a "missing piece" goes looking for what it thinks is someone
else it needs to feel whole and inserts or interlocks itself into all kinds of other characters, finding
that never really works out out or creates a feeling of completion, connection or autonomy. Finally,
the missing piece meets The Big O, who makes clear it can't complete anyone, but it can roll along
with someone else, and also that the missing piece can roll just fine on its own if it learns. Lo and
behold, the missing piece learns just that, and winds up in relationship with and to someone else in
a way that's healthy and sound.
Final Thoughts
Most of how we learn to have healthy relationships is by having them. We hope this article helps
you out, and all the articles on the 'net, all the conversations with peers, all the things you see on
TV and witness in your families -- all of these can help you understand what you want, what you
don't want, and what some of the key ingredients are of healthy relationships. But in the end, we're
all going to mostly need good intentions and practice: a lot of practice. A willingness to take risks
without compromising basic safety, a willingness to listen to sensible advice, a willingness to grow
and a willingness to believe oneself desirable and worthy of being loved -- these are the
indispensables of pursuing healthy relationships.
We wish you joy, like and love on what we know will certainly be a challenging journey, but
hopefully a journey, or a series of journeys, that enrich your life and who you are and want to
Honesty: Be True to Love
By bell hooks

When we reveal ourselves to our partner and find that this brings healing
rather than harm, we make an important discovery-that intimate
relationship can provide a sanctuary from the world of facades, a sacred
space where we can be ourselves, as we are....This kind of unmasking-
speaking our truth, sharing our inner struggles, and revealing our raw
edges-is sacred activity, which allows two souls to meet and touch more

It is no accident that when we first learn about justice and fair playas children it
is usually in a context where the issue is one of telling the truth. The heart of
justice is truth telling, seeing ourselves and the world the way it is rather than
the way we want it to be. In recent years sociologists and psychologists have
documented the fact that we live in a nation where people are lying more
and more each day. Philosopher Sissela Bok's book Lying: Moral Choice in Public
and Private Life was among the first works to call attention to the grave extent
to which lying has become accepted and commonplace in our daily interactions.
M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled includes an entire section on lying. In
The Dance of Deception, Harriet Lerner, another widely read psychotherapist,
calls attention to the way in which women are encouraged by sexist socialization
to pretend and manipulate, to lie as a way to please. Lerner outlines the various
ways in which constant pretense and lying alienate women from their true
feelings, how it leads to depression and loss of self-awareness.

Lies are told about the most insignificant aspects of daily life. When many of us
are asked basic questions, like How are you today? a lie is substituted for the
truth. Much of the lying people do in everyday life is done either to avoid conflict
or to spare someone's feelings. Hence, if you are asked to come to dinner with
someone whom you do not particularly like, you do not tell the truth or simply
decline, you make up a story. You tell a lie. In such a situation it should be
appropriate to simply decline if stating one's reasons for declining might
unnecessarily hurt someone.

Lots of people learn how to lie in childhood. Usually they begin to lie to avoid
punishment or to avoid disappointing or hurting an adult. How many of us can
vividly recall childhood moments where we courageously practiced the honesty
we had been taught to value by our parents, only to find that they did not really
mean for us to tell the truth all the time. In far too many cases children are
punished in circumstances where they respond with honesty to a question posed
by an adult authority figure. It is impressed on their consciousness early on,
then, that telling the truth will cause pain. And so they learn that lying is a way
to avoid being hurt and hurting others.

Lots of children are confused by the insistence that they simultaneously be
honest and yet also learn how to practice convenient duplicity. As they mature
they begin to see how often grown-ups lie. They begin to see that few people
around them tell the truth. I was raised in a world where children were taught to
tell the truth, but it did not take long for us to figure out that adults did not
practice what they preached. Among my siblings, those who learned how to tell
polite lies or say what grown-ups wanted to hear were always more popular and
more rewarded than those of us who told the truth.

Among any group of kids it is never clear why some quickly learn the fine art of
dissimulation (that is, taking on whatever appearance is needed to manipulate a
situation) while others find it hard to mask true feeling. Since pretense is such an
expected aspect of childhood play, it is a perfect context for mastering the art of
dissimulation. Concealing the truth is often a fun part of childhood play, yet
when it becomes a common practice it is a dangerous prelude to lying all the

Sometimes children are fascinated by lying because they see the power it gives
them over adults. Imagine: A little girl goes to school and tells her teacher she is
adopted, knowing all the while that this is not true. She revels in the attention
received, both the sympathy and the understanding offered as well as the
frustration and anger of her parents when the teacher calls to talk about this
newly discovered information. A friend of mine who lies a lot tells me she loves
fooling people and making them act on knowledge that only she knows is
untrue; she is ten years old.

When I was her age I was frightened by lies. They confused me and they
created confusion. Other kids poked fun at me because I was not good at lying.
In the one truly violent episode between my mother and father, he accused her
of lying to him. Then there was the night an older sister lied and said she was
baby-sitting when she was actually out on a date. As he hit her, our father kept
yelling, "Don't you lie to me!" While the violence of his response created in us a
terror of the consequences of lying, it did not alter the reality that we knew he
did not always tell the truth. His favorite way of lying was withholding. His motto
was "just remain silent" when asked questions, then you will not get "caught in a

The men I have loved have always lied to avoid confrontation or take
responsibility for inappropriate behavior. In Dorothy Dinnerstein's
groundbreaking book The Mermaid and the Minotaur: Sexual Arrangements and
Human Malaise, she shares the insight that when a little boy learns that his
powerful mother, who controls his life, really has no power within a patriarchy, it
confuses him and causes rage. Lying becomes one of the strategic ways he can
"act out" and render his mother powerless. Lying enables him to manipulate the
mother even as he exposes her lack of power. This makes him feel more

Males learn to lie as a way of obtaining power, and females not only do the same
but they also lie to pretend powerlessness. In her work Harriet Lerner talks about
the way in which patriarchy upholds deception, encouraging women to present a
false self to men and vice versa. In Dory Hollander's 101 Lies Men Tell Women,
she confirms that while both women and men lie, her data and the findings of
other researchers indicate that "men tend to lie more and with more devastating
consequences." For many young males the earliest experience of power over
others comes from the thrill of lying to more powerful adults and getting away
with it. Lots of men shared with me that it was difficult for them to tell the truth
if they saw that it would hurt a loved one. Significantly, the lying many boys
learn to do to avoid hurting Mom or whomever becomes so habitual that it
becomes hard for them to distinguish a lie from the truth. This behavior carries
over into adulthood.

Often, men who would never think of lying in the workplace lie constantly in
intimate relationships. This seems to be especially the case for heterosexual men
who see women as gullible. Many men confess that they lie because they can get
away with it; their lies are forgiven. To understand why male lying is more
accepted in our lives we have to understand the way in which power and
privilege are accorded men simply because they are males within a patriarchal
culture. The very concept of "being a man and a "real man" has always implied
that when necessary men can take action that breaks the rules, that is above the
law. Patriarchy tells us daily through movies, television, and magazines that men
of power can do whatever they want, that it's this freedom that makes them
men. The message given males is that to be honest is to be "soft." The ability to
be dishonest and indifferent to the consequences makes a male hard, separates
the men from the boys.

John Stoltenberg's book The End of Manhood: A Book for Men of Conscience
analyzes the extent to which the masculine identity offered men as the ideal in
patriarchal culture is one that requires all males to invent and invest in a false
self. From the moment little boys are taught they should not cry or express hurt,
feelings of loneliness, or pain, that they must be tough, they are learning how to
mask true feelings. In worst-case scenarios they are learning how to not feel
anything ever. These lessons are usually taught to males by other males and
sexist mothers. Even boys raised in the most progressive, loving households,
where parents encourage them to express emotions, learn a different
understanding about masculinity and feelings on the playground, in the
classroom, playing sports, or watching television. They may end up choosing
patriarchal masculinity to be accepted by other boys and affirmed by male
authority figures.

In his important work Rediscovering Masculinity, Victor Seidler stresses: "When
we learn to use language as boys, we very quickly learn how to conceal
ourselves through language. We learn to 'master' language so that we can
control the world around us.... Even though we learn to blame others for our
unhappiness and misery in relationships we also know at some unspoken level
how our masculinity has been limited and injured as we touch the hurt and pain
of realizing how little we seem to feel about anything...." Estrangement from
feelings makes it easier for men to lie because they are often in a trance state,
utilizing survival strategies of asserting manhood that they learned as boys. This
inability to connect with others carries with it an inability to assume responsibility
for causing pain. This denial is most evident in cases where men seek to justify
extreme violence toward those less powerful, usually women, by suggesting they
are the ones who are really victimized by females.

Regardless of the intensity of the male masquerade, inwardly many men see
themselves as the victims of lovelessness. Like everyone, they learned as
children to believe that love would be present in their lives. Although so many
boys are taught to behave as though love does not matter, in their hearts they
yearn for it. That yearning does not go away simply because they become men.
Lying, as one form of acting out, is a way they articulate ongoing rage at the
failure of love's promise. To embrace patriarchy, they must actively surrender the
longing to love.

Patriarchal masculinity requires of boys and men not only that they see
themselves as more powerful and superior to women but that they do whatever
it takes to maintain their controlling position. This is one of the reasons men,
more so than women, use lying as a means of gaining power in relationships. A
commonly accepted assumption in a patriarchal culture is that love can be
present in a situation where one group or individual dominates another. Many
people believe men can dominate women and children yet still be loving.
Psychoanalyst Carl Jung insightfully emphasized the truism that "where the will
to power is paramount love will be lacking." Talk to any group of women about
their relationships with men, no matter their race or class, and you will hear
stories about the will to power, about the way men use lying, and that includes
withholding information, as a way to control and

It is no accident that greater cultural acceptance of lying in this society coincided
with women gaining greater social equality. Early on in the feminist movement
women insisted that men had the upper hand, because they usually controlled
the finances. Now that women's earning power has greatly increased (though it
is not on a par with men's), and women are more economically independent,
men who want to maintain dominance must deploy subtler strategies to colonize
and disempower them. Even the wealthiest professional woman can be "brought
down" by being in a relationship where she longs to be loved and is consistently
lied to. To the degree that she trusts her male companion, lying and other forms
of betrayal will most likely shatter her self-confidence and self-esteem.

Allegiance to male domination requires of men who embrace this thinking (and
many, if not most, do) that they maintain dominance over women "by any
means necessary." While much cultural attention is given to domestic violence
and practically everyone agrees it is wrong for men to hit women as a way of
subordinating us, most men use psychological terrorism as a way to subordinate
women. This is a socially acceptable form of coercion. And lying is one of the
most powerful weapons in this arsenal. When men lie to women, presenting a
false self, the terrible price they pay to maintain "power over" us is the loss of
their capacity to give and receive love. Trust is the foundation of intimacy. When
lies erode trust, genuine connection cannot take place. While men who dominate
others can and do experience ongoing care, they place a barrier between
themselves and the experience of love.

All visionary male thinkers challenging male domination insist that men can
return to love only by repudiating the will to dominate. In The End of Manhood,
Stoltenberg continually emphasizes that men can honor their own selfhood only
through loving justice. He asserts: "Justice between people is perhaps the most
important connection people can have." Loving justice for themselves and others
enables men to break the chokehold of patriarchal masculinity. In the chapter
titled "How We Can Have Better Relationships with the Women in Our Lives,"
Stoltenberg writes: "Loving justice between a man and a woman does not stand
a chance when other men's manhood matters more. When a man has decided to
love manhood more than justice, there are predictable consequences in all his
relationships with women...Learning to live as a man of conscience means
deciding that your loyalty to the people whom you love is always more important
than whatever lingering loyalty you may sometimes feel to other men's judgment
on your manhood." When men and women are loyal to ourselves and others,
when we love justice, we understand fully the myriad ways in which lying
diminishes and erodes the possibility of meaningful, caring connection, that it
stands in the way of love.

Since the values and behavior of men are usually the standards by which
everyone in our culture determines what is acceptable, it is important to
understand that condoning lying is an essential component of patriarchal thinking
for everyone. Men are by no means the only group who use lies as a way of
gaining power over others. Indeed, if patriarchal masculinity estranges men from
their selfhood, it is eq1:lally true that women who embrace patriarchal
femininity, the insistence that females should act as though they are weak,
incapable of rational thought, dumb, silly, are also socialized to wear a mask-to
lie. This is one of the primary themes in Lerner's The Dance of Deception. With
shrewd insight she calls women to account for our participation in structures of
pretense and lies-particularly within family life. Women are often comfortable
lying to men in order to manipulate them to give us things we feel we want or
deserve. We may lie to bolster a male's self-esteem. These lies may take the
form of pretending to feel emotions we do not feel to pretending levels of
emotional vulnerability and neediness that are false.

Heterosexual women are often schooled by other women in the art of lying to
men as a way to manipulate. Many examples of the support females receive for
lying concern the desire to mate and bear children. When I longed to have a
baby and my male partner at the time was not ready, I was stunned by the
number of women who encouraged me to disregard his feelings, to go ahead
without telling him. They felt it was fine to deny a child the right to be desired by
both female and male biological parents. (No deception is involved when a
woman has a child with a sperm donor, as in such a case there is no visible male
parent to reject or punish an unwanted child.) It disturbed me that women I
respected did not take the need for male parenting seriously or believe that it
was as important for a man to want to parent as a woman. Whether we like it or
not we still live in a world where children want to know who their fathers are
and, when they can, go in search of absent fathers. I could not imagine bringing
a child into this world whose father might reject him or her because he did not
desire a child in the first place.

Growing up in the fifties, in the days before adequate birth control, every female
was acutely conscious of the way unwanted pregnancies could alter the course
of a young woman's life. Still, it was dear then that there were girls who hoped
for pregnancy to emotionally bind individual males to them forever. I thought
those days were long gone. Yet even in this era of social equality between the
sexes I hear stories of females choosing to get pregnant when a relationship is
rocky as a way of forcing the male to remain in their life or in the hope of forcing
marriage. More than we might think, some men feel extremely bound to a
woman when she gives birth to a child they have fathered. The fact that men
succumb to being lied to and manipulated when the issue is biological parenting
does not make it right or just. Men who accept being lied to and manipulated are
not only abdicating their power, they are setting up a situation where they can
"blame" women or justify woman-hating.

This is another case where lying is used to gain power over someone, to hold
them against their will. Harriet Lerner reminds readers that honesty is only one
aspect of truth telling-that it is equated with "moral excellence: an absence of
deception or fraud." The mask of patriarchal "femininity" often renders women's
deceptions acceptable. However, when women lie we lend credence to age-old
sexist stereotypes that suggest women are inherently, by virtue of being female,
less capable of truth telling. The origins of this sexist stereotype extend back to
ancient stories of Adam and Eve, of Eve's willingness to lie even to God.

Often, when information is withheld by women and men, protection of privacy is
the justification. In our culture privacy is often confused with secrecy. Open,
honest, truth-telling individuals value privacy. We all need spaces where we can
be alone with thoughts and feelings-where we can experience healthy
psychological autonomy and can choose to share when we want to. Keeping
secrets is usually about power, about hiding and concealing information. Hence,
many recovery programs stress that "you are only as sick as your secrets." When
a former boyfriend's sister shared with me a carefully guarded family secret
regarding incest, which he did not know about, I responded by requesting that
she tell him. If she didn't, I would. I felt that keeping this information a secret
from him would violate the commitment we had made as a couple to be open
and honest with each other. By withholding this information from him, joining his
mother and sisters, I would have been participating in family dysfunction.
Sharing with him affirmed my loyalty and respect for his capacity to cope with

While privacy strengthens all our bonds, secrecy weakens and damages
connection. Lerner points out that we do not usually "know the emotional costs
of keeping a secret" until the truth is disclosed. Usually, secrecy involves lying.
And lying is always the setting for potential betrayal and violation of trust.

Widespread cultural acceptance of lying is a primary reason many of us will
never know love. It is impossible to nurture one's own or another's spiritual
growth when the core of one's being and identity is shrouded in secrecy and lies.
Trusting that another person always intends your good, having a core foundation
of loving practice, cannot exist within a context of deception. It is this truism that
makes all acts of judicious withholding major moral dilemmas. More than ever
before we, as a society, need to renew a commitment to truth telling. Such a
commitment is difficult when lying is deemed more acceptable than telling the
truth. Lying has become so much the accepted norm that people lie even when it
would be simpler to tell the truth.

Practically every mental health care practictioner, from the most erudite
psychoanalysts to untrained self-help gurus, tell us that it is infinitely more
fulfilling and we are all saner if we tell the truth, yet most of us are not rushing
to stand up and be counted among the truth tellers. Indeed, as someone
committed to being honest in daily life I experience the constant drag of being
seen as a "freak" for telling the truth, even when I speak truthfully about simple
matters. If a friend gives me a gift and asks me to tell him or her whether or not
I like it, I will respond honestly and judiciously; that is to say, I will speak the
truth in a positive, caring manner . Yet even in this situation' the person who
asks for honesty will often express annoyance when given a truthful response.

In today's world we are taught to fear the truth, to believe it always hurts. We
are encouraged to see honest people as naive, as potential losers. Bombarded
with cultural propaganda ready to instill in all of us the notion that lies are more
important, that truth does not matter , we are all potential victims. Consumer
culture in particular encourages lies. Advertising is one of the cultural mediums
that has most sanctioned lying. Keeping people in

a constant state of lack, in perpetual desire, strengthens the marketplace
economy. Lovelessness is a boon to consumerism. And lies strengthen the world
of predatory advertising. Our passive acceptance of lies in public life, particularly
via the mass media, upholds and perpetuates lying in our private lives. In our
public life there would be nothing for tabloid journalism to expose if we lived our
lives out in the open, committed to truth telling. Commitment to knowing love
can protect us by keeping us wedded to a life of truth, willing to share ourselves
openly and fully in both private and public life.

To know love we have to tell the truth to ourselves and to others. Creating a
false self to mask fears and insecurities has become so common that many of us
forget who we are and what we feel underneath the pretense. Breaking through
this denial is always the first step in uncovering our longing to be honest and
clear. Lies and secrets burden us and cause stress. When an individual has
always lied, he has no awareness that truth telling can take away this heavy
burden. To know this he must let the lies go.

When feminism first began, women talked openly about our desires to know men
better, to love them for who they really are. We talked about our desires to be
loved for who we really are (i.e., to be accepted in our physical and spiritual
beings rather than feeling we had to make ourselves into a fantasy self to
become the object of male desire). And we urged men to be true to themselves,
to express themselves. Then when men began to share their thoughts and
feelings, some women could not cope. They wanted the old lies and pretenses to
be back in place. In the seventies, a popular Sylvia greeting card showed a
woman seated in front of a fortune-teller gazing into a crystal ball. The caption
on the front of the card read: "He never talks about his feelings." On the inside
the response was: "Next year at 2:00 P.M. men will start talking about their
feelings. And at 2:05 women all over America will be sorry." When we hear
another person's thoughts, beliefs, and feelings, it is more difficult to project on
to them our perceptions of who they are. It is harder to be manipulative. At
times women find it difficult to hear what many men have to say when what they
tell us does not conform to our fantasies of who they are or who we want them
to be.

The wounded child inside many males is a boy who, when he first spoke his
truths, was silenced by paternal sadism, by a patriarchal world that did not want
him to claim his true feelings. The wounded child inside many females is a girl
who was taught from early childhood on that she must become something other
than herself, deny her true feelings, in order to attract and please others. When
men and women punish each other for truth telling we reinforce the notion that
lies are better. To be loving we willingly hear each other's truth and, most
important, we affirm the value of truth telling. Lies may make people feel better,
but they do not help them to know love.

The 7 Ps of Mens Violence
By Michael Kaufman
For a moment my eyes turned away from the workshop participants and out through the
windows of the small conference room and towards the Himalayas, north of Kathmandu. I was
there, leading a workshop, largely the outgrowth of remarkable work of UNICEF and UNIFEM
which, a year earlier, had brought together women and men from throughout South Asia to
discuss the problem of violence against women and girls and, most importantly, to work
together to find solutions.

As I turned back to the women and men in the group, it felt more familiar than different:
women taking enormous chances in some cases risking their lives to fight the tide of
violence against women and girls. Men who were just beginning to find their anti-patriarchal
voices and to discover ways to work alongside women. And what pleasantly surprised me was
the positive response to a series of ideas I presented about mens violence: until then, I wasnt
entirely sure if they were mainly about the realities in North and South America and Europe
that is largely-Europeanized cultures or whether they had a larger resonance.
Here, then, is the kernel of this analysis:
Patriarchal Power: The First P
Individual acts of violence by men occurs within what I have described as the triad of mens
violence. Mens violence against women does not occur in isolation but is linked to mens
violence against other men and to the internalization of violence, that is, a mans violence
against himself.
Indeed male-dominated societies are not only based on a hierarchy of men over women but
some men over other men. Violence or the threat of violence among men is a mechanism used
from childhood to establish that pecking order. One result of this is that men internalize
violence or perhaps, the demands of patriarchal society encourage biological instincts that
otherwise might be more relatively dormant or benign. The result is not only that boys and men
learn to selectively use violence, but also, as we shall later see, redirect a range of emotions
into rage, which sometimes takes the form of self-directed violence, as seen, for example in
substance abuse or self-destructive behaviour.
This triad of mens violence each form of violence helping create the others occurs within a
nurturing environment of violence: the organization and demands of patriarchal or male
dominant societies.
What gives violence its hold as a way of doing business, what has naturalized it as the de facto
standard of human relations, is the way it has been articulated into our ideologies and social
structures. Simply put, human groups create self-perpetuating forms of social organization and
ideologies that explain, give meaning to, justify, and replenish these created realities. Violence
is also built into these ideologies and structures for the simpler reason that it has brought
enormous benefits to particular groups: first and foremost, violence (or at least the threat of
violence), has helped confer on men (as a group) a rich set of privileges and forms of power. If
indeed the original forms of social hierarchy and power are those based on sex, then this long
ago formed a template for all the structured forms of power and privilege enjoyed by others as
a result of social class or skin color, age, religion, sexual orientation, or physical abilities. In
such a context, violence or its threat become a means to ensure the continued reaping of
privileges and exercise of power. It is both a result and a means to an end.
The Sense of Entitlement to Privilege: The Second P
The individual experience of a man who commits violence may not revolve around his desire to
maintain power. His conscious experience is not the key here. Rather, as feminist analysis has
repeatedly pointed out, such violence is often the logical outcome of his sense of entitlement to
certain privileges. If a man beats his wife for not having dinner on the table right on time, it is
not only to make sure that it doesnt happen again, but is an indication of his sense of
entitlement to be waited on. Or, say a man sexually assaults a woman on a date, it is about his
sense of entitlement to his physical pleasure even if that pleasure is entirely one sided. In other
words, as many women have pointed out, it is not only inequalities of power that lead to
violence, but a conscious or often unconscious sense of entitlement to privilege.
The Third P: Permission
Whatever the complex social and psychological causes of mens violence, it wouldnt continue if
there werent explicit or tacit permission in social customs, legal codes, law enforcement, and
certain religious teachings. In many countries, laws against wife assault or sexual assault are
lax or non-existent; in many others laws are barely enforced; in still others they are absurd,
such as those countries where a charge of rape can only be prosecuted if there are several
male witnesses and where the testimony of the woman isnt taken into account.
Meanwhile, acts of mens violence and violent aggression (in this case, usually against other
men) are celebrated in sport and cinema, in literature and warfare. Not only is violence
permitted, it is glamorized and rewarded. The very historic roots of patriarchal societies is the
use of violence as a key means of solving disputes and differences, whether among individuals,
groups of men, or, later, between nations.
I am often reminded of this permission when I hear of a man or woman who fails to call the
police when they hear a woman neighbor or child being beaten. It is deemed a private affair.
Can you imagine someone seeing a store being robbed and declining to call the police because
it is a private affair between the robber and the store owner?
The Fourth P: The Paradox of Mens Power
It is my contention, however, that such things do not in themselves explain the widespread
nature of mens violence, nor the connections between mens violence against women and the
many forms of violence among men. Here we need to draw on the paradoxes of mens power
or what I have called mens contradictory experiences of power.
The very ways that men have constructed our social and individual power is, paradoxically, the
source of enormous fear, isolation, and pain for men ourselves. If power is constructed as a
capacity to dominate and control, if the capacity to act in powerful ways requires the
construction of a personal suit of armor and a fearful distance from others, if the very world of
power and privilege removes us from the world of child-rearing and nurturance, then we are
creating men whose own experience of power is fraught with crippling problems.
This is particularly so because the internalized expectations of masculinity are themselves
impossible to satisfy or attain. This may well be a problem inherent in patriarchy, but it seems
particularly true in an era and in cultures where rigid gender boundaries have been overthrown.
Whether it is physical or financial accomplishment, or the suppression of a range of human
emotions and needs, the imperatives of manhood (as opposed to the simple certainties of
biological maleness), seem to require constant vigilance and work, especially for younger men.
The personal insecurities conferred by a failure to make the masculine grade, or simply, the
threat of failure, is enough to propel many men, particularly when they are young, into a vortex
of fear, isolation, anger, self-punishment, self-hatred, and aggression. Within such an emotional
state, violence becomes a compensatory mechanism. It is a way of re-establishing the
masculine equilibrium, of asserting to oneself and to others ones masculine credentials. This
expression of violence usually includes a choice of a target who is physically weaker or more
vulnerable. This may be a child, or a woman, or, as it may be social groups, such as gay men,
or a religious or social minority, or immigrants, who seem to pose an easy target for the
insecurity and rage of individual men, especially since such groups often havent received
adequate protection under the law. (This compensatory mechanism is clearly indicated, for
example, in that most gay-bashing is committed by groups of young men in a period of their
life when they experience the greatest insecurity about making the masculine grade.)
What allows violence as an individual compensatory mechanism has been the widespread
acceptance of violence as a means of solving differences and asserting power and control. What
makes it possible are the power and privileges men have enjoyed, things encoded in beliefs,
practices, social structures, and the law.
Mens violence, in its myriad of forms, is therefore the result both of mens power, the sense of
entitlement to the privilege, the permission for certain forms of violence, and the fear (or
reality) of not having power.
But there is even more.
The Fifth P: The Psychic Armour of Manhood
Mens violence is also the result of a character structure that is typically based on emotional
distance from others. As I and many others have suggested, the psychic structures of manhood
are created in early childrearing environments that are often typified by the absence of fathers
and adult men or, at least, by mens emotional distance. In this case, masculinity gets
codified by absence and constructed at the level of fantasy. But even in patriarchal cultures
where fathers are more present, masculinity is codified as a rejection of the mother and
femininity, that is, a rejection of the qualities associated with caregiving and nurturance. As
various feminist pyschoanalysts have noted, this creates rigid ego barriers, or, in metaphorical
terms, a strong suit of armor.
The result of this complex and particular process of psychological development is a dampened
ability for empathy (to experience what others are feeling) and an inability to experience other
peoples needs and feelings as necessarily relating to ones own. Acts of violence against
another person are, therefore, possible. How often do we hear a man say he didnt really hurt
the woman he hit? Yes, he is making excuses, but part of the problem is that he truly may not
experience the pain he is causing. How often do we hear a man say, she wanted to have sex?
Again, he may be making an excuse, but it may well be a reflection of his diminished ability to
read and understand the feelings of another.
Masculinity as a Psychic Pressure Cooker: The Sixth P
Many of our dominant forms of masculinity hinge on the internalization of a range of emotions
and their redirection into anger. It is not simply that mens language of emotions is often muted
or that our emotional antennae and capacity for empathy are somewhat stunted. It is also that
a range of natural emotions have been ruled off limits and invalid. While this has a cultural
specificity, it is rather typical for boys to learn from an early age to repress feelings of fear and
pain. On the sports field we teach boys to ignore pain. At home we tell boys not to cry and act
like men. Some cultures celebrate a stoic manhood. (And, I should stress, boys learn such
things for survival: hence it is important we dont blame the individual boy or man for the
origins of his current behaviors, even if, at the same time, we hold him responsible for his
Of course, as humans, we still experience events that cause an emotional response. But the
usual mechanisms of emotional response, from actually experiencing an emotion to letting go of
the feelings, are short-circuited to varying degrees among many men. But, again for many men,
the one emotion that has some validation is anger. The result is that a range of emotions get
channeled into anger. While such channeling is not unique to men (nor is it the case for all
men), for some men, violent responses to fear, hurt, insecurity, pain, rejection, or belittlement
are not uncommon.
This is particularly true where the feeling produced is one of not having power. Such a feeling
only heightens masculine insecurities: if manhood if about power and control, not being
powerful means you are not a man. Again, violence becomes a means to prove otherwise to
yourself and others.
The Seventh P: Past experiences
This all combines with more blatant experiences for some men. Far too many men around the
world grew up in households where their mother was beaten by their father. They grew up
seeing violent behavior towards women as the norm, as just the way life is lived. For some men
this results in a revulsion towards violence, while in others it produces a learned response. In
many cases it is both: men who use violence against women often feel deep self-loathing for
themselves and their behavior.
But the phrase learned response is almost too simplistic. Studies have shown that boys and
girls who grow up witnessing violence are far more likely to be violent themselves. Such
violence may be a way of getting attention; it may be a coping mechanism, a way of
externalizing impossible-to-cope-with feelings. Such patterns of behavior continue beyond
childhood: most men who end up in programs for men who use violence either witnessed abuse
against their mother or experienced abuse themselves.
The past experiences of many men also includes the violence they themselves have
experienced. In many cultures, while boys may be half as likely to experience sexual abuse than
girls, they are twice as likely to experience physical abuse. Again, this produces no one fixed
outcome, and, again, such outcomes are not unique to boys. But in some cases these personal
experiences instill deep patterns of confusion and frustration, where boys have learned that it is
possible to hurt someone you love, where only outbursts of rage can get rid of deeply-
imbedded feelings of pain.
And finally, there is the whole reign of petty violence among boys which, as a boy, doesnt
seem petty at all. Boys in many cultures grow up with experiences of fighting, bullying, and
brutalization. Sheer survival requires, for some, accepting and internalizing violence as a norm
of behavior.
Ending the Violence
This analysis, even presented in such a condensed form, suggests that challenging mens
violence requires an articulated response that includes:
Challenging and dismantling the structures of mens power and privilege, and ending the
cultural and social permission for acts of violence. If this is where the violence starts, we
cant end it without support by women and men for feminism and the social, political,
legal, and cultural reforms and transformations that it suggests.
The redefinition of masculinity or, really, the dismantling of the psychic and social
structures of gender that bring with them such peril. The paradox of patriarchy is the
pain, rage, frustration, isolation, and fear among that half of the species for whom
relative power and privilege is given. We ignore all this to our peril. In order to
successfully reach men, this work must be premised on compassion, love, and respect,
combined with a clear challenge to negative masculine norms and their destructive
outcomes. Pro-feminist men doing this work must speak to other men as our brothers,
not as aliens who are not as enlightened or worthy as we are.
Organizing and involving men to work in cooperation with women in reshaping the
gender organization of society, in particular, our institutions and relations through which
we raise children. This requires much more emphasis on the importance of men as
nurturers and caregivers, fully involved in the raising of children in positive ways free of
Working with men who commit violence in a way that simultaneously challenges their
patriarchal assumptions and privileges and reaches out to them with respect and
compassion. We neednt be sympathetic to what they have done to be empathetic with
them and feel horrified by the factors that have led a little boy to grow up to be a man
who sometimes does terrible things. Through such respect, these men can actually find
the space to challenge themselves and each other. Otherwise the attempt to reach them
will only feed into their own insecurities as men for whom violence has been their
traditional compensation.
Explicit educational activities, such as the White Ribbon Campaign, that involve men and
boys in challenging themselves and other men to end all forms of violence. This is a
positive challenge for men to speak out with our love and compassion for women, boys,
girls, and other men.

(1) This workshop was organized by Save the Children (UK). Travel funding was provided by
Development Services International of Canada. Discussion of the 1998 Kathmandu workshop is found in
Ruth Finney Haywards book Breaking the Earthenware Jar (forthcoming 2000). Ruth was the woman
who instigated the Kathmandu meetings.
My thanks to those with whom I discussed a number of the ideas in this text: Jean Bernard, Ruth Finney
Hayward, Dale Hurst, Michael Kimmel, my colleagues in the White Ribbon Campaign, and a woman at
Womans World 99 in Tromso, Norway who didnt give her name but who, during a discussion period of
an earlier version of this paper, suggested it was important to explicitly highlight permission as one of
the ps. An earlier version of this paper was published in a special issue of the magazine of the
International Association for Studies of Men, v.6, n.2 (June 1999)
Survivors Are So Sensitive
Posted by Melissa McEwan at Friday, August 13, 2010
[Edited for length]
Most critics of rape jokes object on one of two bases, neither of which are "your rape joke will
directly cause someone to go out and commit a rape." (That idea is absurdwhich is why it's
so appealing to defenders of rape jokes to deliberately misrepresent critics' arguments in such a
fashion.) One criticism is that rape jokes are triggers for survivors of sexual violence. The other
is that rape jokes contribute to a rape culture in which rape is normalized.

It's that second objection that tends to get repackaged as "your rape joke will directly cause
someone to go out and commit a rape," which is, of course, a willful and dishonest
simplification of a complex argument. Rape culture is a collection of narratives and beliefs that
service the existence of endemic sexual violence in myriad ways, from overt exhortations to
commit sexual violence to subtle discouragements against prosecution and conviction for crimes
of sexual violence. The rape joke, by virtue of its ubiquity, prominently serves as a tool of
normalization and diminishment.

No, one rape joke does not "cause" someone to go out and commit a rape. A single rape joke
does not exist in a void. It exists in a culture rife with jokes that treat as a punch line a heinous,
terrifying crime that leaves most of its survivors forever changed in some material way. It exists
in a culture in which millions and millions of women, men, and children will be victimized by
perpetrators of sexual violence, many of them multiple times. It exists in a culture in which
rape not being treated as seriously as it ought means that vanishingly few survivors of sexual
violence see real justice, leaving their assaulters free to create even more survivors. It exists in
a culture in which rape is not primarily committed by strangers lurking in dark alleyways and
jumping out of bushes, but primarily by people one knows, who nonetheless fail, as a result of
some combination of innate corruption and socialization in a culture that disdains consent and
autonomy, to view their victims as human beings deserving of basic dignity.

That is the environment into which a rape joke is unleashedand one cannot argue "it isn't my
rape joke that facilitates rape" any more than a single raindrop in an ocean could claim never to
have drowned anyone. But let us pretend for a moment that rape jokes do not convey and
sustain the rape culture. That still leaves us with the other criticism on which critics' objections
are based: That rape jokes trigger (some) survivors of sexual violence.

Being triggered does not mean "being upset" or "being offended" or "being angry," or any other
euphemism people who roll their eyes long-sufferingly in the direction of trigger warnings tend
to imagine it to mean. Being triggered has a very specific meaning that relates to evoking a
physical and/or emotional response to a survived trauma.
To say, "I was triggered" is not to say, "I got my delicate fee-fees hurt." It is to say, "I had a
significantly mood-altering experience of anxiety." Someone who is triggered may experience
anything from a brief moment of dizziness, to a shortness of breath and a racing pulse, to a
full-blown panic attack.

A survivor of sexual violence who experiences a trigger is experiencing the same thing as a
soldier who experiences a trigger, potentially even including flashbacks. Like many soldiers who
return from war, many survivors of sexual violence are left with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Unlike soldiers, however, they are not likely to receive much sympathy, or benefit from
attempts to understand, when they are triggered. Instead, triggered survivors of sexual
violence are dismissed as oversensitive, as hysterics, as humorless, as weak.

Trivializing the concerns of a person whose traumatic experience of sexual violence has been
triggered is a legitimate response. But it's not a very kind or decent one. I will never
understand why anyone wants to be the total jerk who evokes someone's memories of being
assaulted by blindsiding them with a rape joke (or image, or metaphor, or whatever), in the
guise of "humor." No "joke" is worth triggering someone. Not if you understand what triggering
someone really means.

Quite honestly, my objection to rape jokes is not even because I particularly find the jokes
personally triggering anymore. While I'm bothered by the fact that the jokes normalize and
effectively minimize the severity of rape and thus perpetuate the rape culture, I'm more
bothered by the thought of a woman who's recently been raped, who's just experienced what
may be the worst thing that will ever happen to her, and turns on the telly, or goes to the
cinema, or a comedy club, to have a much-needed laughonly to see that horrible, life-
changing thing used as the butt of a joke.

I don't understandand I don't believe I ever willwhy anyone wants to be the person who
sends that shiver down her spine, who makes her eyes burn hot with tears at an unwanted
memory while everyone else laughs and laughs.
And I won't understand as long as I live why people who are told by survivors the damage their
rape jokes doon an individual, intimate levelrespond by dismissing survivors as
oversensitive, instead of considering the possibility that maybe being desensitized to the abject
horror of rape isn't really rather worse. That maybe it is not survivors who are too sensitive,
but they who are simply not sensitive enough.

I'd like to see them at least be honest enough to admit that their critics are not accusing them
of "creating" rapists or "causing" rapeand have the courage not to hide behind mendacious
misrepresentations of why people object to their continued use of rape jokes, and the honesty
to admit they just don't give a fuck about survivors.

The White Knight Disconnect and the realities of rape
This is a guest post from Nina Funnell, an Australian sexual assault prevention advocate
and educator. You might remember Nina from her Feministing Five interview last year.
Trigger warning: This post may be triggering for survivors of sexual assault and
Recently the internet was outraged by a deeply disturbing clip featuring a young man at a
comedy performance who tries to regale his audience with an account of what can only be
described as a sexual assault. According to his version, he turns up to a drunk womans hotel
room as a supposed substitute for the male friend she was expecting, he invites himself in, and
after she repeatedly asks him to leave he has sex with her. This is all meant to be funny. You
can see the clip and read about the story here.
It took me a while to recover from watching this. As a sexual assault survivor and anti- violence
advocate, this triggered many emotions not the least of which was grave concern for the
current wellbeing of the woman. But when the emotions settled and I was able to take a step
back I realised that what this piece of footage does is document and provide us with a very
valuable, firsthand insight into how sexual predators justify their actions, and the cultural work
that goes on around them to normalise, reinforce and excuse that behaviour. When it comes to
understanding the mechanics of rape culture, this is one of the most illustrative texts Ive come
To begin with the young man, now identified as Eric D Angell, uses a number of excuses to
justify his behaviour; her age, her inebriation, the fact that his friends encouraged him to go
over, her sexual interest in a co-worker, the fact she left the door open, the fact that she was
supposedly stronger, the fact that she didnt resist.
Except that she did.
All up (according to his version) she asked him to leave no fewer than five times. A couple
things are clear from this:
1) Firstly, at no point has he listened to what she is saying or stopped to think about how
intimidating and scary it would be as a woman to have a strange man turn up to your hotel
room, let himself in uninvited, ignore your requests for him to leave, and pressure you for sex.
There is a complete lack of empathy in him.
2) Secondly, while Angell has used many strategies to justify his actions it is also clear that he
genuinely has no idea that what he has described would legally meet the definition of rape.
None. Zero. Zip. After all, there is no way he would talk about it publicly, let alone brag about it
while being recorded if he did.
So whats going on here?
In my work with elite male athletes and college students in Australia this is something I have
seen a lot of. Men who openly admit to having raped a woman who have absolutely no idea
that what they are confessing to is an assault. I have spoken to many men who will outwardly
profess to oppose rape, who then go on in the very next breath to admit to having committed
an act which would legally meet the definition of sexual violence. I call this the White Knight
Disconnect: men who claim they are appalled by rape (and even imagine themselves as a
white knight who would defend women against rape) who are in fact committing acts of
sexual violence in their private lives.
Like all of us, these men have been schooled in some pretty pervasive rape myths. They think
that rape is something that happens down a dark alley involving a knife wielding man and a
balaclava. They assume rape involves physical force and violence. They believe it must involve
direct death threats. They imagine screaming women. The result
of this highly violent, stranger danger stereotype is that as a community we often have difficulty
labelling and addressing acts of sexual violence which do not marry up with the clich. And
rapists themselves either fail to identify that their actions constitute rape or they do, but they
find ways to justify their behaviour as legitimate.
And its not that difficult for them to do that justification-work when their mates are there to
back them up. One aspect of this story which I think warrants particular attention is the role of
Angells friends before, during and after the assault:
Before it they encourage him to go over to her apartment, even giving him the cab-fare. No
one tried to dissuade him.
During the assault they are silent.
After the assault they seem to applaud him.
In his account Angell says when I tell this story to my friends It is clear he has practised this
material on friends. And been celebrated for it. So much so, that he has no problem now
sharing it with the world. In that sense, these friends have been complicit in this rape scenario
as they have helped facilitate it and have actively normalised and diminished the seriousness of
it afterwards. Through their actions his actions became socially condoned.
Sexual story telling that goes on in homosocial male spaces like pubs and locker rooms is one
means by which men go about establishing a group-agreed upon set of norms, values and rules
about sex. This is problematic for a number of reasons. Firstly these spaces are socially
designed in such a way to exclude female participation. These spaces are also often overlaid
with other tropes associated with heterosexual alpha-male culture including heavy drinking,
sports and sometimes female nudity (such as in strip clubs or posters of nude women in car-
shops etc). In these spaces stories about women (as sexual exploits) become the focal point
and means through which men achieve heightened homosocial bonding, but integral to this
process is the assumed absence of all female subjects and female viewpoints. This silencing of
the female perspective is one of the ways in which rape narratives become normalised.
If we are ever to address rape culture we need to not only look at the actions and tactics that
perpetrators use but we must also continue to address how cultural arrangements excuse and
normalise that behaviour.

II. Violence: Facts,
Figures, and

Four types of abuse
Abuse can take on many forms. Some types are more subtle than others and might never be
seen or felt by anyone other than the woman experiencing the abuse. The abuser uses a
combination of tactics that work to control the victim. The abuse also usually increases in
frequency and severity over time.
Physical abuse is easier to recognize and understand than other types of abuse. It can be
indicated when the batterer:
Scratches, bites, grabs or spits at a current or former intimate partner.
Shakes, shoves, pushes, restrains or throws her.
Twists, slaps, punches, strangles or burns the victim.
Throws objects at her.
Subjects her to reckless driving.
Locks her in or out of the house.
Refuses to help when shes sick, injured or pregnant, or withholds medication or
Withholds food as punishment.
Abuses her at mealtime, which disrupts eating patterns and can result in malnutrition.
Abuses her at night, which disrupts sleeping patterns and can result in sleep
Attacks her with weapons or kills her.
Sexual violence and abuse can be extraordinarily difficult for victims to talk about because of
the ways in which this type of violence often is perpetrated. Sexual violence or abuse can be
indicated when the batterer:
Is jealously angry and assumes she will have sex with anyone.
Withholds sex and affection as punishment.
Calls her sexual names.
Pressures her to have sex when she doesnt want to.
Insists that his partner dress in a more sexual way than she wants.
Coerces sex by manipulation or threats.
Physically forces sex or is sexually violent.
Coerces her into sexual acts that she is uncomfortable with, such as sex with a third
party, physically painful sex, sexual activity she finds offensive or verbal degradation
during sex.
Inflicts injuries that are sex-specific.
Denies the victim contraception or protection against
sexually transmitted diseases.
It is the abusers use of physical and sexual force or threats that gives power to his
psychologically abusive acts. Psychological abuse becomes an effective weapon in controlling a
victim, because she knows through experience that her abuser will at times back up the threats
or taunts with physical assaults. Psychological abuse can be indicated when the batterer:
Breaks promises, doesnt follow through on agreements
or doesnt take a fair share of responsibility.
Verbally attacks and humiliates his partner in private or public.
Attacks her vulnerabilities, such as her language abilities,
educational level, skills as a parent, religious and cultural beliefs or physical
Plays mind games, such as when he denies requests he has made previously or when
he undercuts her sense of reality.
Forces her to do degrading things.
Ignores her feelings.
Withholds approval or affection as punishment.
Regularly threatens to leave or tells his partner to leave.
Harasses her about affairs he imagines her to be having.
Stalks her.
Always claims to be right.
Is unfaithful after committing to monogamy.
Economic abuse can be indicated when the batterer:
Controls all the money.
Doesnt let her work outside the home, sabotages her attempts to work or go to school.
Refuses to work and makes her support the family.
Ruins her credit rating.
Domestic violence is not an isolated, individual event but rather a pattern of repeated
behaviors. Assaults are repeated against the same victim by the same perpetrator. These
assaults occur in different forms, including physical, sexual, psychological and economic. While
physical assaults might occur infrequently, other parts of the pattern can occur daily. The use of
these other tactics is effective because one battering episode builds on past episodes and sets
the stage for future episodes. All tactics of the pattern interact and have profound effects on
the victims. Examples of commonly used control tactics include:
Using the children
Damaging relationships
Attacking property and pets
Stalking partner or ex-partner
Relationship Violence Statistics
In the U.S. a woman is battered every nine seconds. (Violence Against Women:
A Comprehensive Background Paper, The Commonwealth Fund, 1996.)
On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or
boyfriends in the U.S. every day. (Intimate Partner Violence, U.S. Department of
Justice, May 2000.)
Studies show that relationship violence occurs in 20-33% of all same-sex
relationships, which is about the same percentage that it occurs in heterosexual
relationships, ("It's Just a Quarrel," American Bar Association Joumal, February
Studies show that a range of 50-99% of persons with disabilities who experience
abuse or violence are violated by someone they know (i.e., family member, bus
driver, personal care attendant). (Violence and People with Disabilities, The
Roeher Institute, 1994).
Nearly one in three women experience at least one physical assault by a partner
during adulthood. (American Psych. Ass'n, Violence and the Family; Report of the
American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the
Family, 1996.)
Women ages 19-29 reported more violence by intimates than any other age
group. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report: Violence Against Women:
Estimates from the Redesigned Survey (NCJ-154348), August 1995.)
An average of 28% of high school and college students experience dating
violence at some point. (Brustin, S., Legal Response to Teen Dating Violence,
Family Law Quarterly, vol. 29, no.2, 331, Summer 1995.)
Nearly 3% of college women experience a completed and/or attempted rape
during a typical college year. (Justice Department's National Instituteof Justice
andBureau of Justice Statistics 2001).
About 13% of college women were stalked inone semester. (Justice
Department's National Institute of Justice and Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001).
For completed rapes, nearly 60% that took place on campus occurred inthe
victim's residence, 31% occurred in other living quarters,. 10% occurred in a
fraternity. (Justice Department's National Institute of Justice and Bureau of
Justice Statistics, 2001).
For completed and attempted rapes, nearly 90% of the victims knew the
offender, who was usually a classmate, friend, ex-boyfriend, or acquaintance.
(Justice Department's National Institute of Justice and Bureau of Justice
Statistics, 2001).
For about half of the incidents categorized as completed rapes, the women did
not consider the incident to be a rape. (Justice Department's National Institute of
Justice and Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001).
Approximately one infive female high school students reports being physically or
sexually abused by a dating partner. (Journal of the American Medical
Association, August 2001.)

Relationship Violence: Myths and Realities

Myth: Relationship violence is rare.

Reality: Although statistics on relationship violence are not precise due to underreporting, it is
clear that hundreds of thousands of women, children, and men are abused by family members
or intimate partners each year in the United States alone. According to the most recent data
available, the United States Department of Justice reports that 700,000 incidents of relationship
violence occurred in 2001. Relationship violence is the leading major cause of injury to women
in the U.S., exceeding rapes, muggings, and auto accidents combined, according to the U.S.
Surgeon Generals Office.

Myth: Relationship violence only occurs in lower socioeconomic classes.

Reality: Reports from police records, victim services, and academic studies show that
relationship violence exists in every socioeconomic group, regardless of race, age, sexual
orientation, gender, religion, educational or income level, or culture. Violence can occur in
married, cohabitating and dating situations. Studies show equivalent rates of relationship
violence among all cultural groups. In other words, abusers and their victims reflect the whole
spectrum of socioeconomic and cultural groups in our society.

Myth: Victims of relationship violence are masochistic.

Reality: Persons experiencing relationship violence are not responsible for the brutal actions
of another person. However, relationship violence victims often blame themselves. Victims also
are frequently and unjustly blamed by society for their circumstances. The most common
response to batteringWhy doesnt the victim just leave? ignores the economic, social, and
psychological complexities and realities facing most victims, such as:
Often, safe shelters are full and those experiencing violence in their intimates are
financially dependent upon their abuser.
Family, friends, local law enforcement, and the workplace, at times, are less than fully
supportive. In many cases, relationship abuse survivors feel revictimized by the very
systems they are reaching out to for support.
Moreover, in many instances, the victim may be increasing the risk of physical harm or
even death if she attempts to leave an abusive partner.
Too many people believe that relationship violence is a private matter between partners, rather
than a criminal offense that impacts the workplace and community and merits a strong and
swift response. Silence is the abuser's best friend. Your efforts to break the silence can make a

Myth: People who abuse are violent because they cannot control their anger and frustration.

Reality: Relationship violence is intentional conduct, and abusers are not out of control. Their
violence is carefully targeted to certain people at certain times and places. They generally do
not attack their bosses or people on the streets, no matter how angry they may be. Abusers
also follow their own internal rules about abusive behaviors. They often choose to abuse their
partners only in private, or may take steps to ensure that they do not leave visible evidence of
the abuse. Abusers also choose their tactics carefullysome destroy property, some rely on
threats of abuse, and some threaten children. Studies also indicate that in fact, some abusers
become more controlled and calm as their aggressiveness increases.

Myth: Men are victims of relationship violence as often as women are.

Reality: Men do experience relationship violence, in both gay and straight relationships.
However, research shows that women are victims in 90-95% of relationship violence cases. To
the extent women do use violence, it is generally in self-defense. Reports of violence against
men are often exaggerated because abusers will accuse their partners of using violence as a
way to avoid or minimize their own responsibility. In addition, men who do experience
relationship violence often have more access to resources to leave violent situations than do

Myth: Relationship violence is due to poverty or lack of education.

Reality: Relationship violence is common throughout all levels of society, whether rich or
poor. It is often easier to keep the violence hidden when a person has money and connections,
but it happens nonetheless. There is no evidence to support the idea that uneducated or poor
people are more likely to abuse their wives or partners than are more educated and affluent

Myth: Alcohol and drug use is a major cause of relationship violence.

Reality: Although alcohol and other drugs are often associated with relationship violence, they
do not cause the violence. Many abusers do not drink or abuse drugs. People who drink and
abuse their partners usually do not beat random people on the street, their parents or their
bosses. Abusers often continue to be abusive even after they stop drinking. An abuser may
use alcohol as an excuse for the violence, or alcohol may prevent him from realizing the level of
force he is using, but alcohol is not the cause.

Myth: Abusers are never a loving partner.

Reality: When not in a violent episode, victims of relationship violence often describe their
partners as playful, sensitive and exciting. People do not seek out or intend to become involved
with an abusive person; most abuse begins, increases, and becomes more severe over a period
of time. Memories of happier times and the positive characteristics of abusive partners often
instill hope that the abuser will change, often reinforcing the abusers apologies and promises to
do so. However, abusive patterns are very difficult to change, particularly without the
willingness of the perpetrator to take accountability and seek help. The cycle between abusive
incidents, apologies and better times is often referred to as the cycle of violence and can
make it very difficult to emotionally extract oneself from an abusive situation. Severe swings in
mood and behavior is a warning sign of an abusive personality.

Myths & Facts about Men as Survivors
Here we address some myths that everyone absorbs to some extent, especially boys and men
whove had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences. These myths are big obstacles to
understanding and healing, so its really important to know just how wrong they are.
Before addressing the myths, lets review some key facts:
1. Boys and men can be sexually used or abused, and it has nothing to do with how
masculine they are.
2. If a boy liked the attention he was getting, or got sexually aroused during abuse, or
even sometimes wanted the attention or sexual contact, this does not mean he wanted
or liked being manipulated or abused, or that any part of what happened, in any way,
was his responsibility or fault.
3. Sexual abuse harms boys and girls in ways that are similar and different, but
equally harmful.
4. Boys can be sexually abused by both straight men and gay men. Sexual abuse is the
result of abusive behavior that takes advantage of a childs vulnerability and is in no way
related to the sexual orientation of the abusive person.
5. Whether he is gay, straight or bisexual, a boys sexual orientation is neither the cause
nor the result of sexual abuse. By focusing on the abusive nature of sexual abuse rather
than the sexual aspects of the interaction, it becomes easier to understand that sexual
abuse has nothing to do with a boys sexual orientation.
6. Girls and women can sexually abuse boys. The boys are not lucky, but exploited
and harmed.
7. Most boys who are sexually abused will not go on to sexually abuse others.
Myth 1 Boys cant be sexually used or abused, and if one is, he can never be a
real man.
Everyone absorbs the myth that males arent victims, to some extent. Its central to masculine
gender socialization, and boys pick up on it very early in life. This myth implies that a boy or
man who has been sexually used or abused will never be a real man. Our society expects
males to be able to protect themselves. Successful men are depicted as never being vulnerable,
either physically or emotionally. (See How It Can Be Different for Men and How Being Male Can
Make It Hard to Heal.)
Whether you agree with that definition of masculinity or not, boys are not men. They are
children. They are weaker and more vulnerable than those who sexually abuse or exploit them
who use their greater size, strength and knowledge to manipulate or coerce boys into
unwanted sexual experiences and staying silent. This is usually done from a position of
authority (e.g., coach, teacher, religious leader) or status (e.g. older cousin, admired athlete,
social leader), using whatever means are available to reduce resistance, such as attention,
special privileges, money or other gifts, promises or bribes, even outright threats.
What happens to any of us as children does not need to define us as adults or men. It is
important to remember that that 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before age 18 (see The 1 in
6 Statistic), and that those boys can grow up to be strong, powerful, courageous and healthy
men. Examples are found on our website (see Other Guys Like Me), and there are many others
out there.
Myth 2 If a boy experienced sexual arousal during abuse, he wanted and/or
enjoyed it, and if he ever did partly want the sexual experiences, then they were
his fault.
Many boys and men believe this myth and feel lots of guilt and shame because they got
physically aroused during the abuse. It is important to understand that males can respond to
sexual stimulation with an erection or even an orgasm even in sexual situations that are
traumatic or painful. Thats just how male bodies and brains work. Those who sexually use and
abuse boys know this. They often attempt to maintain secrecy, and to keep the abuse going, by
telling the child that his sexual response shows he was a willing participant and complicit in the
abuse. You wanted it. You liked it, they say.
But that doesnt make it true. Boys are not seeking to be sexually abused or exploited. They
can, however, be manipulated into experiences they do not like, or even understand, at the
time. (See Guilt and Shame.)
There are many situations where a boy, after being gradually manipulated with attention,
affection and gifts, feels like he wants such attention and sexual experiences. In an otherwise
lonely life (for example, one lacking in parental attention or affection even for a brief period),
the attention and pleasure of sexual contact from someone the boy admires can feel good.
But in reality, its still about a boy who was vulnerable to manipulation. Its still about a boy who
was betrayed by someone who selfishly exploited the boys needs for attention and affection to
use him sexually. (See Sorting It Out for Yourself, which discusses feeling like you (partly)
wanted it then but now seeing it as an unwanted experience, in terms of it being part of your
life and having continuing negative effects.)
Myth 3 Sexual abuse is less harmful to boys than girls.
Most studies show that the long term effects of sexual abuse can be quite damaging for both
males and females. One large study, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, found
that the sexual abuse of boys was more likely to involve penetration of some kind, which is
associated with greater psychological harm.
The harm caused by sexual abuse mostly depends on things not determined by gender,
including: the abusers identity, the duration of the abuse, whether the child told anyone at the
time, and if so, whether the child was believed and helped.
Many boys suffer harm because adults who could believe them and help are reluctant, or
refuse, to acknowledge what happened and the harm it caused. This increases the harm,
especially the shame felt by boys and men, and leads many to believe they have to tough it
out on their own. And that, of course, makes it harder to seek needed help in the midst of the
abuse, or even years later when help is still needed. (See How Unwanted or Abusive Sexual
Experiences Can Cause Problems and How Being Male Can Make It Hard to Heal.)
Myth 4 Most men who sexually abuse boys are gay.
Studies about this question suggest that men who have sexually abused a boy most often
identify as heterosexual and often are involved in adult heterosexual relationships at the time of
abusive interaction. There is no indication that a gay man is more likely to engage in sexually
abusive behavior than a straight man and some studies even suggest it is less likely. But sexual
abuse is not a sexual relationship, its an assault. The sexual orientation of the abusive
person is not really relevant to the abusive interaction. A man who sexually abuses or exploits
boys is not engaging in a homosexual interaction any more than men who sexually abuse or
exploit girls are engaging in heterosexual behavior. He is a deeply confused individual who, for
various reasons, desires to sexually use or abuse a child, and has acted on that desire. (See
Why Do People Sexually Use or Abuse Children?)
Myth 5 Boys abused by males must have attracted the abuse because they are
gay or they become gay as a result.
There are different theories about how sexual orientation develops, but experts in human
sexuality do not believe that sexual abuse or premature sexual experiences play a significant
role. There is no good evidence that someone can make another person be homosexual or
heterosexual. Sexual orientation is a complex issue and there is no single answer or theory that
explains why someone identifies himself as homosexual, heterosexual or bi-sexual.
It is common, however, for boys and men who have been abused to express confusion about
their sexual identity and orientation, whether they identify as straight, gay or bi-sexual. Some
guys who identify as heterosexual fear that, due to their experiences as boys, they must really
be homosexual. They may believe this would mean that they cant be a real man, as defined
by the larger society. Even men who clearly identify as heterosexual, and men who project very
traditional heterosexual traits, may fear that others will find them out as gay or not real men.
Men who identify as gay or bi-sexual may wonder if their sexual orientation was influenced in
any way by the abusive experience or if the experience is the cause of their orientation. (See
How It Can Be Different for Men.)
Also, many boys abused by males wonder if something about them sexually attracted the
person who abused them and will unknowingly attract other males who will misuse them. While
these are understandable fears, they are not true. One of the great tragedies of childhood
sexual abuse is how it robs a persons natural right to discover his own sexuality in his
own time.
It is very important to remember that abuse arises from the abusive persons failure to develop
and maintain healthy adult sexual relationships, and his or her willingness to sexually use and
abuse kids. It has nothing to do with the preferences or desires of the child who is abused, and
therefore cannot determine a persons natural sexual identity.
Myth 6 If a female used or abused a boy, he was lucky, and if he doesnt feel
that way theres something wrong with him.
This myth, like several of the others, comes from the image of masculinity that boys learn from
very early. It says not only that males cant be sexually abused, but that any sexual experience
with girls and women, especially older ones, is evidence that hes a real man. Again, the
confusion comes from focusing on the sexual aspect rather than the abusive one the
exploitation and betrayal by a more powerful, trusted or admired person (who can be a child
or adult).
In reality, premature, coerced or otherwise abusive or exploitive sexual experiences are never
positive whether they are imposed by an older sister, sister of a friend, baby sitter, neighbor,
aunt, mother, or any other female in a position of power over a boy. At a minimum, they cause
confusion and insecurity. They almost always harm boys and mens capacities for trust
and intimacy.
A gay man who experienced sexual arousal when abused by a female may wonder whether it
means that he is actually straight or wonder what it means that he was chosen by a woman or
older girl.
Being sexually used or abused, whether by males or females, can cause a variety of other
emotional and psychological problems. However, boys and men often dont recognize the
connections between what happened and their later problems. To be used as a sexual object by
a more powerful person, male or female, is never a good thing, and can cause lasting harm.
Myth 7 Boys who are sexually abused will go on to abuse others.
This myth is especially dangerous because it can create terrible fear in boys and men. They
may not only fear becoming abusers themselves, but that others will find out they were abused
and believe theyre a danger to children. Sadly, boys and men who tell of being sexually abused
often are viewed more as potential perpetrators than as guys who need support.
While it is true that many (though by no means all) who sexually abuse children have histories
of sexual abuse, it is NOT true that most boys who are sexually abused go on to sexually abuse
others. The majority of boys do not go on to become sexually abusive as adolescents or adults;
even those who do perpetrate as teenagers, if they get help when theyre young, usually dont
abuse children when they become adults. (See Am I Going to Become an Abuser? What if
I Already Have?)
Believing these myths is understandable, but dangerous and harmful, and needs to
be overcome.
These are myths that everyone absorbs growing up, and continue to hear as adults,
usually without even thinking about it. So of course some boys and men will, at least for
a while, believe them and suffer the consequences.
So long as societies believe these myths, and teach them to children from their earliest
years, many men harmed by unwanted or abusive sexual experiences wont get the
recognition and help they need.
So long as boys or men harmed by unwanted or abusive sexual experiences believe
these myths, they will feel ashamed and be less likely to seek whatever knowledge,
understanding and help they need to achieve the lives they want and deserve.
So long as boys, men and whole societies believe these myths, and males dont get the
help they need, they are more likely to join the minority who end up hurting others.
And so long as these myths are believed, it increases the power of another devastating
myth: that it was the childs fault. It is never the fault of the child in a sexual situation
although some people are skilled at getting those they use or abuse to take on
a responsibility that is always, and only, their own.
For any man harmed by unwanted or abusive sexual experiences and
anyone who wants to support him becoming free of these myths is
necessary to overcoming the effects of the abuse, and to achieving the life he
wants and deserves.
Adapted and expanded from an online piece by Ken Singer.
generation FIVEs About Child Sexual Abuse
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
Child sexual abuse (CSA) is the overarching term for a huge, complicated, personally and
socially damaging issue. At the base of child sexual abuse is the sexual use of a child by
someone with more power. It is the use of a child to satisfy the offenders own needs for power
or sex, disregarding the child's needs and sending a message that the child's wishes about his
or her own body are unimportant. 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the time
they are 18 years old.
The vast majority of child sexual abuse happens in situations where the child trusts and/or is
dependent upon the offender. Over 85% of children know their abusers. Most sexual offenders
cultivate some level of trust with the child to assure that they will comply and not tell. The
culture of silence and fear around child sexual abuse, combined with the typical responses to
trauma and the fact that a child would also have to talk about sex to talk about CSA, leaves the
issue rarely addressed within families, our communities and the broader culture.
The general Western definition of child sexual abuse is:
Non-consensual sexual activity that negatively impacts a person's psychological, physical,
emotional, social and spiritual self.
CSA is any sexual violation experienced by someone under the age of eighteen.
CSA is defined as an abuse of powersomeone with more power using it to sexually
abuse someone who is younger or under 18 & in a position of less power.
Developmentally disabled children & adults are particularly vulnerable to sexual
abuse, and are sexually abused at twice the rate of non-disable children and adults.
Child sexual abuse can include child pornography, sexual exposure/voyeurism, sexual
exploitation, genital contact, penetration, sexual jokes, invasive hygienic practices [link to def],
and more covert psychological and sexual preoccupations with a child. Importantly, it is not just
the sexual behavior, but the combination of the sexual activity with the power imbalance that
enables the abuse. Sexual abuse can be coerced or manipulated by many means: from building
trust and a loving relationship to providing access to materials a child or young person needs
or wants, to using force.
Child sexual abuse takes many different forms; incest (sexual abuse within familial
relationships), community (CSA within the broader community), stranger molestation,
institutional sexual abuse (sexual abuse within institutions- such as the Indian Schools set up
by the US government; CSA was known to be rampant and a part of debilitating the children
and community), commercial sexual abuse (child prostitution), ritual abuse, and systemic sexual
abuse (systemic degradation of person's sexuality, i.e. homophobia). The type of child sexual
abuse along with other personal and social factors cause increasing degrees of life long impact
and trauma.
Approximately one in three women (30-45 %) and one in six men (13-16 %) report
being sexually abused as children.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that over 300,000 children are
sexually abused each year in this country.
Nearly everyone knows someone who has been sexually abused, knows an offender,
or has been affected by child sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse can happen between youth, not just adults. Usually this is measured by
differences in age (2-5 years), developmental stages, weight and power. Any of these
differences can put another child at risk for manipulation and misuse sexually.
While youth can also sexually abuse other children, there is a difference between abuse and
age appropriate sexual play amongst child or youth peers. There is often a lot of confusion
about this out of a lack of understanding of youth's sexual development and the sex negativity
in our communities. People can get paranoid about child sexual abuse on one hand, thinking
any sign of sexuality in children or youth is abuse, and then do nothing to prevent CSA on the
other. We want to both support age appropriate sexual development in youth, and watch for a
potential misuse of power that can harm another child.
When addressing child sexual abuse we also need to address cultural difference, as well as the
systemic oppression such as racism, sexism, class access and sexual preference. Each of these
interfaces with child sexual abuse and our responses to it. Child sexual abuse is both an
individual and a collective crisis requiring social change.
Child Sexual Abuse is a Social Justice Issue
generationFIVE is unique amongst national anti-violence organizations in recognizing that our
goal of ending child sexual abuse cannot be realized while other systems of oppression are
allowed to continue. In fact, systems of oppression and child sexual abuse have an
interdependent relationship: a power-over system that benefits some at the expense of others
and uses violence, creates the conditions for child sexual abuse (i.e. gender inequality, class
exploitation, racism, violence and threat for difference), while in turn the prevalence of child
sexual abuse fosters behaviors (obedience to authority, silence, disempowerment, shame) that
prevent people from organizing effectively to work for liberation, healing and change systemic
forms of violence.
"Radical simply means grasping things at the root." ~Angela Davis.
Generation FIVE works at the roots of child sexual abuse and holds a vision of liberation, justice
and sustainability for all of our futures.
It is estimated that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 18. For
each of these children, there is an offender and an affected family and community surrounding
them. For each circumstance of abuse, there is also a circle of people who can play a part in
allowing or preventing abuse.
It is estimated that only 10-20% of CSA gets reported through our public systems. Still, in
Public Health terms these numbers are epidemic. This means they are impacting the general
population in such high numbers that it is a major public health issue. When we look at the
number of children and families affected and the number of offenders, we have to start asking
different questions. There are not just a few "bad" people sexually abusing children, the
behavior is wide-spread. This is not solely individual mental health issue. We need to ask
questions that go beyond the individual to our communities and broader society to find both the
causes and solutions to child sexual abuse.
"Imagine adisease that affects one in five girls and one in seven boys* before they reach 18;
a disease that can cause severe misconduct disorders among those exposedcan have
profound implications forfuture health by increasing the risk of problems such as substance
abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and suicidal behavior; a disease that replicates itself by
causing some of its victims to expose future generationsImagine what we would do We
would spare no expense. We would investin research. We would identify those affected
andtreat them. We wouldbroadly implement prevention campaigns to protect our children.
Wouldn't we? Such a disease does existit's called child sexual abuse."
James Mercy, M.D., Centers for Disease Control, 1999 *conservative stats based on reported
cases of child sexual abuse.
To address child sexual abuse, we need to look at the bigger picturethe social norms in which
it is happening. By social norms we mean the beliefs and practices regarding power, sexuality,
the ideas about children and ownership, etc. and then the institutions that perpetuate these
ideas and practices. We need both an individual and systemic understanding of CSA to be
effective in our response and prevention strategies.
Here are some new questions for us to consider:
What do the high numbers of victim/survivors and offenders of CSA tell us about our
family and community beliefs and practices? What do we pass on that lets child
sexual abuse continue generation to generation?
What is it in our social norms and institutions that creates this many offenders,
survivors and bystanders to child sexual abuse?
What are our public systems and institutions missing- so that child sexual abuse rates
are not decreasing? What mistakes are we repeating?
We are living in a broader social context that teaches power-over relations, private ownership
(parents/family) of children, a dismissal of children's accounts (legal), mixed messages and little
education about human sexuality (it is bad, shame based, and it is used to sell us everything
from cars to deodorant), and the ongoing mixing of sex and violence. We are not taught to
address pain and trauma deeply, but rather mask symptoms or blame the individual for their
distress. Child sexual abuse is about having power over another person and using that power
sexually. The norms that allow for this behavior are sadly, ever-present in our society.
Generation FIVE looks at these social causes of child sexual abuse and then at real dynamics of
the issuewho abuses, who says nothing, the community costs for speaking up, and the
criminal justice solutions offered that most people don't find relevant enough to use.
Generation FIVE had a very impactful training by a 26 year veteran of Child Protective Services
(CPS), sexual abuse unit. He walked us through the processes of reporting child sexual abuse,
the evidentiary laws regarding proof of abuse, the involvement of the criminal legal systems
and the sheer number of kids who recant once they think their families will be broken up. He
shared that by the end of the process who you have left are poor people and communities of
color who could not work their way out of the system.if families have resources, even if CPS
highly suspects they are sexually abusing their kids, they can get out of the public systems with
self-paid private therapy, and CPS doesn't have the resources to track them.
Generation FIVE is unique amongst national anti-violence organizations in recognizing that our
goal of ending child sexual abuse cannot be realized while other systems of oppression are
allowed to continue. In fact, systems of oppression and child sexual abuse have an
interdependent relationship: a power-over system that benefits some at the expense of others
and uses violence, creates the conditions for child sexual abuse (i.e. gender inequality, class
exploitation, racism, violence and threat for difference), while in turn the prevalence of child
sexual abuse fosters behaviors (obedience to authority, silence, disempowerment, shame) that
prevent people from organizing effectively to work for liberation, healing and change systemic
forms of violence.






















































































































































































































































Effects of Domestic Violence
Long-term effects of domestic violence on women who have been abused may include:
chronic depression
chronic pain
dissociative states
drug and alcohol dependence
eating disorders
emotional "over-reactions" to stimuli
general emotional numbing
health problems
panic attacks
poor adherence to medical recommendations
repeated self-injury
self neglect
sexual dysfunction
sleep disorders
somatization disorders
strained family relationships
suicide attempts
an inability to adequately respond to the needs of their children.
In a 1999 study from Johns Hopkins, it was reported that abused women are at higher risk of
miscarriages, stillbirths, and infant deaths, and are more likely to give birth to low birth weight
children, a risk factor for neonatal and infant deaths. In addition, children of abused women
were more likely to be malnourished and were more likely to have had a recent untreated case
of diarrhea and less likely to have been immunized against childhood diseases.

Domestic violence can severely impair a parent's ability to nurture the development of their
children. Mothers who are abused may be depressed or preoccupied with the violence. They
may be emotionally withdrawn or numb, irritable or have feelings of hopelessness. The result
can be a parent who is less emotionally available to their children or unable to care for their
children's basic needs. Battering fathers are less affectionate, less available, and less rational in
dealing with their children. Studies even suggest that "battered women may use more punitive
child-rearing strategies or exhibit aggression toward their children."

When children cannot depend on their parents or caregivers - for emotional support and for
practical support - their development can be seriously delayed or, in severe cases, permanently
distorted. Children without an emotionally available parent may withdraw from relationships
and social activities. Since childhood is the time when social skills and attitudes are learned,
domestic violence can affect their ability to form relationships for the rest of their lives.

Parents who have been traumatized by violence must cope with their own trauma before they
are able to help their children.
Men who batter, their selective behaviors and societal
Domestic violence is not impulsive but purposeful and instrumental. Batterers can be perfectly
agreeable with or conciliatory to police officers, employers, neighbors, co-workers and friends. But
batterers dont use those skills with their intimate partners because they choose not to. Individual
men beat individual women to make those women do what they want.
The violent man is not out of control. He is at work on his own agenda, which is to condition his
victim to be what he wants her to be all the time. This is impossible because he constantly changes
his demands. The batterer chooses tactics that work to achieve compliance or control. His behavior
is directed at controlling most aspects of his partners life.
Men batter because battering works. Domestic violence is a socially supported behavior, learned
through observation, experience and reinforcement. It is learned through our culture, families,
schools and peer groups. Domestic violence is not caused by illness, genetics, substance abuse,
stress, the behavior of the victim or problems in the relationship.
Domestic violence is a crime, and it should be accorded the same prosecution efforts as any other
violent offense. Communities and the justice system have an obligation to reduce the prevalence of
domestic violence and hold the perpetrators responsible. Prosecution of offenders can protect the
victim from additional acts of violence, reduce childrens exposure and possible injury, deter the
abuser from committing further acts of violence, and reinforce a communitys refusal to tolerate
domestic abuse. Unless men who batter are truly held accountable, they have little incentive to stop
their abusive behaviors.
There is no way to spot a batterer in a crowd. Domestic violence is not a matter of class, race or
socioeconomic status. It is a gender issue. Most batterers are male; however, most men are not
batterers. Batterers often share the following characteristics:
Intimidation and violence
Verbally abusive
Minimizes abuse
Substance abuse
Breaks or strikes things in anger
History of violence
Projects blame
Cruelty to animals or children
Extreme jealousy
Controlling behavior
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Rape or use of force in sex
Spiritual and religious abuse
Use of privilege
Asurvivor maydisclose tiiatthey havebeen abused orsexually assaulted immediatelyafter, shortlyafter, orsome time
aftertheassaulthasoccurred. Ifasurvivordoesrevealtoyouthathe/shehasbeensexuallyassaulted itisimportantto:
Offerinformationandoptionsin responsetotheneedsarticulatedbythesurvivor
Showher/himthatyoubelievewhats/heis saying
Howdidyouletthishappen?" Avoidmakingassumptions
Didyoureallysay'no'?" Avoid askingmultiplequestionsatonce
"Well,hedidn'trapeyousoit'snotsobad." Avoid"why"questions
Id liketoknowwhathappenedandhowyou'refeelingaboutit."
Peoplewhohavebeenthroughwhatyou havebeenthroughoftenfeelthatway."
Itwaswrong.Heorshewasresponsibleforhis/heractions. Youarenottoblame."
Youhavearighttosaynoandbeheardnomatterwhat youwerewearingordoingorthatyou weredrinking."
Itsverybrave/hard/scary/painfultotellsomeone. Iappreciateyoursharing/trust."
Iwanttohelpandhelpyoufind otherswhocanhelp."
bystander may
notice that the
abused person will
be concerned about how
much time or money they
can devote to anything other
than their partner and relationship.
Theyll have less time to spend with
friends, clubs and volunteer activities.
The bystander
may notice that the
abused person is concerned
about angering their partner. They
may have bruises or other physical injuries
without reasonable explanation of cause.
You may notice that their partner is easily
angered, both the partner and the abused
person may blame alcohol and/or
other drugs as the cause of the
stander may
notice that the
abused person may
exhibit noticeable changes
in their physical boundaries, what
they consider to be an acceptable and
comfortable touch. They may ask you not
to call or contact them or provide an alternate
means to do so.
The bystander may notice that the abused person
continually makes excuses about why they cant hang
out with you, or if they do go out without their partner,
the abuser may constantly text. The abused person may
or not express that their partner needs them. In a
long distance relationship, the abused person
may be doing all the visiting and traveling
and at their own expense.
bystander may
notice that the abused person
is engaging in risky behaviors
(e.g. sexual acts, alcohol or drug use)
that are uncharacteristic or that rumors are
being spread about the abused person. The
bystander may even be threatened by
the partner for causing problems
in the relationship. The abused
person may not show any
outward signs of being
scared or threatened by
their partner.
The bystander may notice that the
abused person exhibits a loss of self-esteem or
witness the abused person being made fun of or
humiliated in public. Bystanders may overhear ghts
on the phone. The bystander may witness acts of
jealousy or lying from the abusive partner.
may notice that
the abused person is
frequently being called,
texted or instant messaged; the
partner may show up at activities
uninvited. There may be frequent
postings on the abused persons Facebook
may notice that
the abused person
exhibits changes in their
self-expression such as their
physical appearance (clothing,
makeup, or hair); the giving up of
previously enjoyed activities, & other
likes such as music, food; or how they
spend their free time.




Patterns of Relationship Violence
for Bystanders









Message to those hoping to help a friend they believe may be in an unhealthy relationship: Its not uncommon to think why dont they just
leave? Unhealthy relationships experience what is termed the cycle of violence This cycle consists of a tension building phase, the abusers violent out-
burst and a nal period when the abuser seeks forgiveness and things will be good. However, the cycle inevitably continues and escalatates. Victims become
accustomed to the pattern and put up with the abusive behavior because they know that a good period will follow.
The best thing you can do is be there for your friend, let them know that you are always there to listen. Learn about the local resources available, talk with a
counselor at your school or call your local hotline for advice and support. There are no guarantees, but someday your friend may gather the courage to make
the break and youll be prepared. Note: if you are ever in fear for your or your friends physical safety contact your campus or local police immediately. The
most dangerous time for a victim is right after they leave the relationship.
This chart was developed
by Rebecca Harrington @
SUNY Oneonta. Please send
comments & suggestions to
abused person
experiences test-
ing of the commit-
ment to their partner in a
variety of ways (e.g. having
to buy things for the partner;
spending all of their time together;
or engaging in undesired sex acts
including make up sex.) Their partner
may use phrases like if you loved me you
would _____ or they may create alternate
online proles to check in, check on,
or attempt to lure the abused person
to test their faithfulness.
The abused
person experiences
intimidating behaviors like their
partner losing their temper; having
objects being thrown or broken; being
forced to ride in car thats driven dangerously.
Physical violence like hitting the abused
person or things near them, slapping,
punching, kicking, pulling hair, biting,
tripping, grabbing or pushing.
The partner will minimize the
severity or impact of violent
The abused
person experi-
ences violations of
physical personal space
through unwanted touching,
affection or sexual activity, and
experiencing defensive responses from
their partner or having them get in their
face. The abused person may also experience
violations of virtual personal space via the checking of
email, call logs, buddy lists, wall posts or other invasions
of technological privacy.
The abused person experiences seclusion or isolation
as not being allowed to hang out with specic friends;
friends of a particular gender; and/or have contact with
family members or other groups. Their partner may
respond to these acts with manipulating behaviors
like anger or the silent treatment. The partner
may say that jealousy is a sign of love. The
partner may also insist on controlling all
of the money.
abused person
experiences verbal or non-
verbal threats of physical harm to
themselves, others, pets, or personal
belongings; the partner may also use
threats of self injury. Threats may make use
of intimate knowledge like sexual history
or identity for the purpose of blackmail
or rumors such as the posting of
inappropriate information or
photos online. The partner
may tell the abused person
that no one can help
or believe them
because of their
The abused person experiences
emotional abuses including put downs like having
their clothes, weight, IQ, religion, friends, etc. made fun
of; guilt trips for being the cause of problems for the
abuser and the relationship; and being humiliated
in public. However messages like you are the
only person for me or I can never love
anyone the way I love you will be
used to keep the abused person
emotionally connected to
their partner.
person ex-
periences stalking
behaviors such as having
their partner constantly
calling, texting or IMing when they
are apart; insisting on tagging along;
showing up unexpectedly or following or
tailing them; installing GPS tracking or video
monitoring equipment. The partner may say they
are just looking out for you. These behaviors may
continue after the relationship ends, the partner may
insist on talking just one more time.
The abused
person experi-
ences an inability
to express their indi-
viduality and right to self-
expression & growth because
their partner limits their ability
to try new things like joining clubs;
being told how they can spend their
free time; how they can wear their hair,
makeup, clothes (may be told its too sexy);
what they can eat, choice of birth control, lim-
its on religious or spiritual expression. The
abused person may be asked to give
up their wishes or needs.




Patterns of Relationship Violence









Message to those who think they may be in an unhealthy relationship:
Do not look at this chart as though it is a magazine quiz. If you relate to even a small number of the pie slices, you may be in a relationship with someone
who is beginning to abuse you. Many of the behaviors in these lists are what experts consider to be red ags or warning signs. This means that while
you may have only experienced a few of these things, there is a high probability that the abuse will not only continue, but is likely to get worse. If you have
experienced a large number of the behaviors on this chart, it would be advisable to seek professional support. Your campus health and counseling centers
can provide you with support as can your local hotline number-issues of this nature are condential.
This chart was developed by
Rebecca Harrington @ SUNY
Oneonta. Please send comments
& suggestions to harrinrl@
It Might Be a Mickey But Lets Stop Goofing Around and
Get Down to the Real Problem
Luoluo Hong, Ph.D, MPH, Dean of Students University of Wisconsin-Madison May 26,
2003 From NASPAs Net Results

I have to confess that when I first sat down and began drafting this essay for NASPA
NetResults, I was unsure how to begin tackling the topic that I had been asked to write about:
alcohol and its relationship to sexual assault. My first instinct was to begin where any dutiful
and well-meaning scholar ought to begin: with a review of the literature, hopefully leading to
some meaningful conclusions. My resistance to doing so was informed by both a personal
intuition as a campus rape survivor and a professional instinct as a student affairs professional
of 11 years. The observation that alcohol consumption on the part of both perpetrators and
victims increases their likelihood of becoming involved in a sexual assault has led -
understandably so - to a renewed commitment by many higher education institutions to
reducing highrisk alcohol consumption as a strategy to prevent campus rape . This focus on
alcohol as a correlate let me emphasize correlate, not causal factor - in sexual assault has
obscured what I perceive to be the real problem in sexual assault: the agency of the
perpetrator, and concurrently the dominant US gender role expectations which normalize
violence against women in our country.

The correlation between alcohol and campus rape has long been intuitively understood by
student affairs professionals and recently more well-documented by scholars. The recent focus
on such 'date rape drugs' as GHB and rohypnol has captured public awareness, but obscured
the fact that alcohol is the oldest 'mickey' around ; alcohol has long been served to
unsuspecting women by their dates or fellowparty- goers in the hopes of rendering them more
vulnerable or amenable to sexual advances . According to a study conducted by Fisher, Cullen &
Turner (2000) for the US Department of Justice, colleges and universities can expect to have an
estimated 35 rapes occur on and around their campus each year for every 1,000 female
students enrolled at their institution . The authors of this study also found that frequently
drinking enough to get drunk on the part of the victim was one of the four main factors which
consistently increased the risk of sexual victimization (see Similarly,
the 2000 administration of the Core Survey to 55,026 students attending 132 two- and four-
year colleges found that 11 .7% of the sample reported having been 'taken advantage of
sexually' as a' consequence of their alcohol consumption during the prior year, while 4 .6%
reported having 'taken advantage of another sexually' as a behavioral result of drinking during
the same reporting period (see

However, by focusing on alcohol as the culprit in campus sexual assault, we fail to acknowledge
that (a) many college students consume alcohol yet never become involved as either
perpetrators or victims of sexual assault, and (b) not all victims and/or perpetrators of sexual
assault were consuming alcohol prior to the incident. There is no doubt: alcohol is a problem on
our campuses, and sexual assault occurs at epidemic levels at our colleges and universities, but
let me be clear: one does not cause the other. Rather, alcohol is simply one of the many
facilitating tools by which perpetrators achieve their aim. In the embodiment of the ultimate
'rape myth,' alcohol has historically been used to blame the victim and absolve the accused
perpetrator of responsibility. Do we truly believe that if alcohol were to disappear from college
campuses, rapes would cease to occur? The value system which is used to reinforce, justify and
sometimes excuse sexual assault on the part of perpetrators - much of it ensconced in our
limiting conceptions of masculinity and female sexuality - would still be unchanged.

In a truthful assessment of our efforts, higher education institutions have largely been
ineffectual in reducing the incidence of sexual assault among their student populations since the
release of the landmark National Institutes of Mental Health study authored by Mary Koss in
1986 which brought the issue of 'date rape' to the media forefront . As with alcohol abuse
prevention efforts, because we care so much, we hope fervently that our efforts will make a
difference. So, we oftentimes grasp desperately at any feasible answer which appears to be
neatly packaged and therefore easier to wrap our brains around. Yet simple answers can only
lead to simple solutions, and acquaintance rape is a multifaceted, complex cultural phenomenon
of US campuses. Addressing the alcohol problem is not the solution to the campus sexual
assault problem, and I would propose that both are symptoms of the same underlying dilemma.

I have never been ashamed to admit that I am a practicing feminist (in the pure tradition of bell
hooks), and feminist methodology demands a way of examining problems which makes explicit
that which we have always understood implicitly or made invisible. In a feminist analysis of
sexual assault, we would acknowledge that well over 95% of campus sexual assaults are
perpetrated by men; this does not suggest that all men are potential or actual rapists, but it
does emphasize that regardless of the gender of the victim an overwhelming disproportionate
number of sexual assault perpetrators are men. Some readers may quickly respond by pointing
out that college men, too, can and are the victims of sexual coercion, or that college women
can also be perpetrators of sexual abuse. I do not deny the truth of either and both are also
problematic and need to be of concern to student affairs professionals. Yet, why do so many of
us have a knee-jerk reaction when confronted with the fact that most rapists are men?

Feminist scholars such as Alan Berkowitz, Will Courtenay, Sut Jhally, Jackson Katz, and Bill
O'Connell remind us that traditional sex-role expectations for young adult males in the US
emphasize toughness, aggression, and risk-taking, as well as sexual prowess and sexual
conquest as the trademarks of masculinity. These pressures to be 'real men' - actual and
perceived - place men at higher risk of becoming perpetrators of sexual assault. And in that
'real man' fantasy world, women who drink are seen as more sexually available, and many men
who drink expect to be sexual. In essence, one could argue that sexual assault becomes a
behavioral affirmation of traditional masculinity, in much the same way that excessive or rapid
alcohol consumption is a boy's rite of passage into manhood - let's remember that college men
are far more likely to drink heavily and to experience severe negative consequences as a result
of their drinking than their female counterparts on campus.

It seems to me that the focus on alcohol as a correlate of sexual assault has diverted us from
having the truthful and honest conversations that need to take place about the root causes of
sexual violence; it has also kept us dancing on the rooftops of status quo rather than razing the
bedrock foundations on which our assumptions and beliefs about sexual violence are built. In
my mind, measurable success in reducing sexual assault on our college and university
campuses cannot begin to take place until we can stop hiding behind the curtain of high-risk
drinking. It is imperative that we instead take on the courageous and difficult work of
examining and reconceptualizing the culture we have created for boys and men. In that culture,
alcohol and sex are irrevocably linked. Rescripting codes of masculinity so that men can
embrace strength without aggression and temper their risk-taking with an ethic of care (for self
and other) will enhance our campus communities and create safer places for both men and
women to learn and develop to their full potential. In the words of Albert Einstein, 'The world
we have created is a product of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our
thinking.' This work is hard, this work is time-consuming, and this work can feel overwhelming
at times. But as a humanist and an educator, I believe this work can be done effectively and
that social justice will prevail.

Domestic Violence in Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual
Partner battering and abuse in Queer relationships:
Domestic violence in the GLBT community is a serious issue. The rates of domestic violence in
same-gender relationships are roughly the same as domestic violence against heterosexual
women (25%). As in straight (e.g., heterosexually-paired) couples, the problem is likely
underreported. Facing a system which is often oppressive and hostile towards queers, those
involved in same-gender battering frequently report being afraid of revealing their sexual
orientation or the nature of their relationship. Others who do not identify as GLBT may not feel
that their relationship fits the definition but may still be in an abusive and dangerous
In many ways, domestic violence in lesbian, bisexual and gay relationships is the same as in
straight relationships:
No one deserves to be abused.
Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and involve verbal behavior
used to coerce, threaten or humiliate.
Abuse often occurs in a cyclical fashion.
The purpose of the abuse is to maintain control and power over one's partner.
The abused partner feels alone, isolated and afraid, and is usually convinced that the
abuse is somehow her or his fault, or could have been avoided if she or he knew
what to do.
Several important aspects of lesbian, bisexual, and gay relationships mean domestic violence is
often experienced differently:
In same-sex abuse, a pattern of violence or behaviors exists where one seeks to control the
thoughts, beliefs, or conduct of their intimate partner, or to punish their partner for resisting
their control. This may been seen as physical or sexual violence, or emotional and verbal abuse.
An additional form of emotional abuse for someone who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual may be to
out them at work or to family or friends.
Local resources for domestic violence in the GLBT community are often scarce and many
traditional domestic violence services lack the training, sensitivity, and expertise to adequately
recognize and address abusive GLBT relationships. A Queer individual who is being battered
must overcome homophobia and denial of the issue of battering. Lesbians, bisexuals and gay
men who have been abused have much more difficulty in finding sources of support than
heterosexual women who are battered by their male partners.
Here are more ways same-gender domestic violence is unique:
It is frequently incorrectly assumed that lesbian, bi and gay abuse must be "mutual." It
is not often seen as being mutual in heterosexual battering.
Utilizing existing services (such as a shelter, attending support groups or calling a crisis
line) either means lying or hiding the gender of the batterer to be perceived (and
thus accepted) as a heterosexual. Or it can mean "coming out", which is a major life
decision. If lesbians, bi's and gays come out to service providers who are not
discreet with this information, it could lead to the victim losing their home, job,
custody of children, etc. This may also precipitate local and/or statewide laws to
affect some of these changes, depending on the area.
Telling heterosexuals about battering in a lesbian, bi or gay relationship can reinforce
the myth many believe that lesbian, bi and gay relationships are "abnormal." This
can further cause the victim to feel isolated and unsupported.
The lesbian, bi and gay community is often not supportive of victims of battering
because many want to maintain the myth that there are no problems (such as child
abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, etc.) in lesbian, bi and gay relationships.
Receiving support services to help one escape a battering relationship is more difficult
when there are also oppressions faced. Battered lesbians and female bisexuals
automatically encounter sexism and homophobia, and gay and bisexual men
encounter homophobia. Lesbian or gay people of color who are battered also face
racism. These forms of social oppressions make it more difficult for these groups to
get the support needed (legal, financial, social, housing, medical, etc.) to escape and
live freely from an abusive relationship.
Lesbian, bi and gay survivors of battering may not know others who are lesbian, bi or
gay, meaning that leaving the abuser could result in total isolation.
Lesbians, bisexuals and gays are usually not as tied financially to their partner, which
can be a benefit if they decide to end the relationship. However, if their lives are
financially intertwined, such as each paying a rent or mortgage and having "built a
home together", they have no legal process to assist in making sure assets are
evenly divided, a process which exists for their married, heterosexual counterparts.
The lesbian, bi and gay community within the area may be small, and in all likelihood
everyone the survivor knows will soon know of their abuse. Sides will be drawn and
support may be difficult to find. Anonymity is not an option, a characteristic many
heterosexual survivors can draw upon in "starting a new life" for themselves within
the same city.

Adapted from
Sexualized violence and people with disabilities
Adapted from: Seattle Rape Relief Project Action: Sexual Assault and People with
Sexual assault of physically or mentally disabled people is extremely widespread and very
under-reported. Some statistics suggest that mentally and physically disabled children are 3 to
10 times more likely to be physically or sexually abused than non-disabled children. One of the
primary reasons for under-reporting is the fact that 99% of the perpetrators are family, friends
and/or caretakers (such as residential staff, bus drivers, recreational workers, etc.)
Disabled women and men are taught from a very early age that they are dependent upon the
people around them, which makes them even more vulnerable to abusive situations.
Perpetrators often use threats, such as deprivation of food, social activity or personal care in
order to force the person with a disability to submit to the abuse. Even when a disabled person
would like to report abuse, s/he often lacks the resources or information to do so.
People in the disabled community might also suffer from a higher degree of faulty information
about sexuality and relationships. Parents of disabled children may view their children as
asexual and not approach the topic of healthy sexual behaviors with them. Many incidents have
been noted of physically disabled women arriving at the hospital with venereal diseases or
bruises all over her body, only to have the doctors completely overlook the possibility that she is
being abused.
All of these factors can lead to negative or confused feelings about sexuality, leading to low
self-esteem and feelings of unattractiveness. In addition, because of the importance our society
places on sex and dating, disabled people may be more vulnerable to situations where they are
pressured into sexual activities that they are not comfortable with.
Dynamics of sexual assault and people with disabilities
People with disabilities are not taught to assert themselves they are taught to depend
on and trust others.
People with disabilities are infantilized and patronized and therefore not taken seriously.
People with disabilities are not taught to own their bodies their personal space is
frequently accessed by many people.
People with disabilities often depend upon the offender for personal care services.
Due to a lack of education, people with disabilities may have a more difficult time
distinguishing between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
People with disabilities are usually taught and expected to comply with authority figures,
thus setting up interactions in which they are eager to please.
People with disabilities choices are often not respected thus no is not respected as
People with disabilities may fear punishment if they do not comply with the abuse.
People with disabilities fear that they may not been seen as credible thus reporting
abuse may not be believed.
People with disabilities often encounter offenders who think that it is easy to sexually
abuse someone with communication difficulties.
People with disabilities may be physically incapable of resisting or escaping from an
People with disabilities are often isolated, creating a heightened desire to meet people
and spend time with them. This isolation also often includes a lack of a support network
and friends.
People with disabilities face negative social values of being inferior or disposable which
can lead offenders to think that the abuse is permissible.
People with disabilities experience care-givers and offenders who believe that they will
not be able to understand or feel the impact of sexual abuse.
People with disabilities may have many care-givers, which increases the possibility of
one being an offender. This can happen in a living situation where there are multiple
staff and a high staff turnover rate.
From the Anti Violence Project at the University of Victoria

Rape, Sexual Assault, & Sexual Harassment

On November 24, 2002, Denise Almodovar, Sarah Adams, Candace Ramirez,
Becki Taylor, and Lindsey Valsamaki were picked up for alleged public
intoxication by officers of the Balcones Heights, Texas police department. They
were taken to the police station, booked, and placed in a holding cell. The
officers then removed the five women from the cell and brought them into the
patrol workroom -- a room where there is no video surveillance -- and ordered
them to dance to music from a radio. They then sexually assaulted the five
women, forcibly kissing them, forcing their hands down the women's pants and
touching their genitals, and exposing their penises and masturbating in front of
the women. One of the women later testified that she felt unable to resist or run
away because he had his gun and I was singled out. I was by myself. I didn't
know what door led out. I couldn't go anywhere. A month after this incident,
one of the officers involved raped a woman he believed to be a domestic
violence survivor in his patrol car.

Women and transgender people of colors experiences of rape, sexual assault and sexual
harassment by law enforcement agents are largely invisible in discussions of police
brutality, which focus primarily on experiences of racial profiling and physical abuse.
They also dont usually factor into our general understandings of sexual assault. As a
result, women of color and transgender people of color who experience sexual violence
at the hands of law enforcement officers are often particularly isolated and made

No official data is currently available regarding the number of rapes and sexual assaults
committed by law enforcement officers in the U.S. Statistics regarding racial profiling
and physical brutality by law enforcement officers do not include information on the
number of allegations, complaints, or incidents of rape, sexual assault, sexual
harassment or coerced sexual conduct by police officers. Similarly, information gathered
by the federal government on rape and sexual assault does not include information
about rapes committed by police officers and other law enforcement agents. In the
absence of such information, law enforcement authorities often claim that sexual
misconduct by their officers is rare the product of a few bad apples and is dealt
with swiftly and decisively. Yet reports from across the U.S. suggest that rape, sexual
assault, and sexual harassment of women and transgender people by law enforcement
officers is far more prevalent than we know, and often goes unreported and
unaddressed. What little research is available indicates that it is a silent yet systemic
problem. For instance:

Two studies of law enforcement license revocations in Missouri and Florida found
that sexual misconduct was the basis for revocations in almost 25% of cases.

A survey of law enforcement officials in the St. Louis, Missouri metropolitan area
concluded that officers report sexual misconduct to be common, yet criminal
justice officials have done little to control the problem.

It is not surprising that there is very little information regarding sexual assaults and
rapes by women and transgender people of color by law enforcement officers given that
it is estimated that overall, only 1/3 of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to law
enforcement authorities.
One can only imagine that this rate is far lower among women
who are raped or sexually assaulted by the very law enforcement agents who are
charged with protecting them from violence. As Penny Harrington, former Portland Chief
of Police and founder of the National Center for Women and Policing, has pointed out
The women are terrified. Who are they going to call? It's the police who are abusing

Many survivors of police rape and sexual assault say they never reported the incidents
to the authorities out of shame, fear that they would not be believed, would be subject
to exposure of their sexual orientation or gender identity, would suffer retaliation by
police officers, or that they would be deported because they were undocumented. Or
they feared because they were involved in sex work or use of controlled substances
that they would be charged with a crime if they lodged a complaint against the police.
Indeed, law enforcement officers tend to target women who are criminalized,
marginalized or otherwise vulnerable for sexual abuse, thereby further reducing the
likelihood that their conduct will be reported.

In some cases where women and trans people of color attempted to report sexual abuse
by law enforcement officers, they were literally laughed off the phone or out of the

In 2001, two young Latina transgender women reported that they were
approached and questioned by police officers in a patrol car, and then
threatened with arrest unless they had sex with the officers. The women
performed oral sex on the officers before being allowed to go free. They did not
report the incident to authorities because of their undocumented immigration
status and the officers threats of retaliation.

Roger Magaa, a Eugene, Oregon police officer who was convicted in 2004 of
sexually abusing more than a dozen women over a period of eight years, many
of whom were poor, used controlled substances, were involved in the sex trade,
or were domestic violence survivors, put his service weapon up against one of
his victims genitals and threatened to blow her insides out if she told anyone.

In the absence of systemic data collection, much of the publicly available information
about rape and sexual assault of women by law enforcement agents concerns cases in
which criminal charges were brought against the abusers creating the false
impression that what cases exist are effectively handled through the criminal justice
system. Yet these cases appear to represent merely the tip of the iceberg. Even in cases
where they are reported, officers are rarely prosecuted, and if they are, they are often
acquitted or plead to charges of official misconduct.

Ernest Marsalis had a record of abusing women while serving as a Chicago police
officer. Prior to kidnapping and raping a 19 year-old African American woman he
arrested, which led to his termination from the force, he had been accused of
violent or threatening behavior in more than 20 cases, with most of the charges
lodged by women. He was never prosecuted.

In 2006 Officer Jemini Jones was accused of raping a 23 year-old woman in a
Baltimore police station, demanding sex in exchange for leniency on a drug
charge. Although Jones was ultimately acquitted of the crime, the survivor
maintains that the rape took place, and Jones was subsequently accused of
raping another woman during execution of a search warrant at her home later
that year. Another Baltimore officer has also since been accused of having sex
with a 16 year-old he interviewed at a station house in July 2006.

Officers are often acquitted because of the private nature of sexual abuse unlike
incidents of excessive force, where there are more likely to be witnesses and, if the
survivor is lucky, a video camera, frequently in cases of sexual abuse its a womans or
trans persons word against an officers. Such cases turn on credibility determinations
pitting the victim, who may also be charged with a crime, against a police officer trained
in providing expert testimony.
It is also important to remember that, the criminal
justice system does not change its colors when it is turned against police officers who
rape and sexually abuse women and trans people many of those prosecuted are men
of color, and criminal charges do little to address systemic problems.
As hard as it may be to believe, many jurisdictions have no written policy explicitly
prohibiting sexual harassment or abuse of members of the public by law enforcement
officers --or even any training on the subject. For instance, NYPD officials confirm that
one of the largest police departments in the country does not provide any specific
training on sexual harassment or abuse of individuals in police custody, relying on its
generic courtesy, professionalism and respect training and officers common sense.

Women and trans people of color who are seen as defying racialized gender norms -
including lesbians, sex workers, and women who use controlled substances are highly
sexualized by police and therefore particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse by law
enforcement agents. Sex workers report being forced to strip or engage in other sexual
conduct while in police detention, and offers of leniency in exchange for sexual favors by
police officers are reportedly endemic. Lesbians have reported being forced to describe
or engage in sexual acts with other women while in police custody, and threatened with
rape by other detainees or law enforcement officers to cure or punish their sexual
orientation. As is the case in other contexts, access to the bodies of women of color is
presumed, based on historical and current stereotypes. Gender non-conformity is
particularly seen as evidence of sexual availability where transgender women are

Sexual Harassment & Assault During Traffic Stops
Women and trans people of colors experiences of racial profiling are often uniquely
gendered. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape of women and trans people
during traffic stops is reported with alarming regularity. For instance:

A 2002 report, Driving While Female, documented over 400 cases of sexual
harassment and abuse by law enforcment officers in the context of traffic stops
across the U.S. Only 100 of these cases resulted in any kind of sanction. The
authors of the report concluded there is good reason to believe that these cases
represent only the tip of the iceberg. Many victims do not come forward because
of humiliation and fear of reprisal. And...some police departments do not accept
and investigate complaints from many victims who do come forward.

In 2001, a rash of traffic stops of Latina women in a low-income community in
Suffolk County, Long Island, during which women were forced to perform sexual
acts and/or strip in public, came to light.
In one case, instead of being issued
a traffic citation, a woman was forced to walk home in her underwear.
In two
others, officers were alleged to have forced women to have sex with them after
pulling them over for traffic infractions.

In 2005, two New York City police officers followed a 35 year-old Latina woman
home after stopping her for a traffic offense, and subsequently forced her to
perform oral sex on them in her apartment while her three children slept

U.S. v. Guidry, 456 F.3d 493, 496-97 (5th Cir. 2006).
R. L. Goldman and S. Puro, Revocation of Police Officer Certification, 45 St. Louis L. J.
541, 563, n.142 (2001).
Timothy Maher, Police Sexual Misconduct: Officers Perceptions of its Extent and
Causality, Crim. Just. Rev. 28(2):355 (2003).

See Bureau of Justice Statistics, Criminal Victimization, 2004, US Department of
Justice, Office of Justice Programs, NCJ 210674, September 2005; Bureau of Justice
Statistics, Rape and Sexual Assault: Reporting to Police and Medical Attention, 1992-
2000, US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, NCJ 194530, August 2002
(74% of completed and attempted sexual assaults against women were not reported to
the police).

Craig R. McCoy and Nancy Phillips, Extorting Sex With a Badge, Philadelphia Inquirer,
August 13, 2006 A01.

Craig R. McCoy and Nancy Phillips, Extorting Sex With A Badge, Philadelphia Inquirer,
August 13, 2006 A01.

Amnesty International, Stonewalled: Police Abuse and Misconduct Against Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in the U.S. 40, AMR 51/122/2005 (2005).

Tori Marlan, Armed and Dangerous, Chicago Reader, 8/31/2001.

Julie Bykowicz, Officer Accused Again of Rape, Baltimore Sun, May 6, 2006; Julie
Bykowicz, Officer Takes Stand, Denies Rape Charge, Baltimore Sun, January 20, 2007.

See, e.g., U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Revisiting Who is Guarding the Guardians?:
A Report on Police Practices and Civil Rights in America, November 2000; Human Rights
Watch, Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States,
HRW Index No.: 1-56432183-5, July 1, 1998; United States of America: Rights for All
43, Amnesty International, AMR 51/035/1998, 1998.

See also Craig R. McCoy and Nancy Phillips, Extorting Sex With A Badge. Philadelphia
Inquirer, August 14, 2006 A01; T. Maher, Police Sexual Misconduct: Officers' Perceptions
of Extent and Causality (finding that none of 14 different police agencies in four counties
in the St. Louis, MO area had a formal policy specifically prohibiting sexual misconduct).

Samuel Walker and Dawn Irlbeck, Driving While Female: A National Problem in Police
Misconduct, Police Professionalism Initiative, Department of Criminal Justice, University
of Nebraska at Omaha, 2002, available at
female.htm; Press Release, Driving While Female Report Launches UNO Police
Professionalism Program, available at:

Shelly Feuer Domash A Few Bad Cops, or a Problem with the System? New York
Times, February 11, 2001, Section 14LI, Page 1.

Andy Newman, Suffolk County Officer Is Charged in Abuse of Female Drivers, New
York Times, March 29, 2002, B5.

Shelly Feuer Domash A Few Bad Cops, or a Problem with the System? New York
Times, February 11, 2001, Section 14LI, Page 1.

Al Baker, Two Officers Are Charged in Sex Attack, New York Times, November 22,
2005; Woman Says Officers Sexually Abused Her, New York Times, November 21, 2005.

Angela Davis, Violence Against Women and the Ongoing Challenge to Racism, in THE
ANGELA Y. DAVIS READER, Joy James, ed. 148 (1998).

Police Turned Predators, a series by the Philadelphia Inquirer, August 2006, available
at: Police_Turned_Predators.html

Ex-officer Accused Again of Telling a Woman to Disrobe, Chicago Sun Times, July 23,

Id. at 146.

Police Turned Predators, a series by the Philadelphia Inquirer, August 2006, available

Mary Beth G. v. City of Chicago, 723 F. 2d 1263, 1272 (7th Cir. 1983). The opinion
also cites language from dissenting opinions in the U.S. Supreme Courts decision in
Bell v. Wolfish, in which Justice Marshall described body cavity searches as one of the
most grievous offenses against personal dignity and common decency, and Justice
Stevens stated [t]he body cavity search clearly the greatest personal indignity may
be the least justifiable measure of all. Id.

Bonds v. Utreas 04 C 2617 (N.D. Ill. Judge Joan Lefkow).

Amnesty International, Stonewalled: Police Abuse and Misconduct Against Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in the U.S., AMR 51/122/2005 (2005).

Amnesty International, Stonewalled: Police Abuse and Misconduct Against Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in the U.S. 57, AMR 51/122/2005 (2005).

Amnesty International, Stonewalled: Police Abuse and Misconduct Against Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in the U.S. 57, AMR 51/122/2005 (2005).

Immigration Enforcement

Law Enforcement Violence Against Women & Transpeople
Law enforcement violence against migrant women and transpeopleincluding sexual
abuse is enabled by U.S. immigration policy. The U.S. governments strategy of
militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, and anti-immigrant interior enforcement
through the use of raids, expansion of immigration detention facilities, and collaboration
between federal immigration enforcement and local police agencies creates an
environment where immigrant women are vulnerable to violence and sexual assault.

Background Facts
Women and Migration
The International Organization for Migration estimates that there are over 192 million
migrants in the world today, over 3% of the worlds total population. Over 95 million of
these migrants are women.
In the U.S., over 55% of immigrants both documented
and undocumented are women.

Anti-Immigrant Law Enforcement
During the past fifteen years, the U.S. government has increased its spending on anti-
immigrant law enforcement almost tenfold since 1993 ($1.5 billion: INS). In 2008,
President Bushs budget called for a total of $13.6 billion for anti-immigrant law
enforcement. This total included $8.8 billion to hire 17,800 border patrol agents, and
provide for the construction of 370 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico Border.

Over-Raided, Under Siege: U.S. Immigration Laws and Enforcement Destroy the Rights
of Migrants, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, 2008; H. Nimr, Human Rights
& Human Security At Risk: The Consequences of Placing Immigration Enforcement and Services
in the Department of Homeland Security, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights,
2003; National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Preliminary Report and Findings of
the Emergency National Border Justice and Solidarity Community Tour: Militarization and
Impunity at the Border, October 2006; T. Dunn, The Militarization of the US-Mexico Border
1978-1992: Low-Intensity Conflict Doctrine Comes Home, Center for Mexican American Studies,
University of Texas at Austin, 1996

Andrew Morrison, et al., The International Migration of Women, World Bank: 2007.

Min Zhou, Contemporary Female Immigration to the United States: A Demographic
Profile, Women Immigrants in the United States (ed. Philippa Strum & Danielle Tarantano, 2002),

Julia Gelatt, President Calls for $13 Billion in Border and Enforcement Funding in 2008,
MIGRATION POLICY INSTITUTE (2008), available at:

Violence at the Border
Violence against migrant women at the border is not random or isolated: as
representatives of the UN Development Fund for Women report, at least 60 to 70% of
undocumented women migrants who cross the border alone experience sexual abuse.

The danger is even greater for migrants from Central American countries, who must
pass through two militarized bordersbetween Guatemala and the U.S. and between
Mexico and the U.S.

Border Patrol and other law enforcement agents prey on migrant womens vulnerability:
many women who cross the border report that rape was the price of not being
apprehended, deported, or of having their confiscated documents returned. For

Luz Lopez and Norma Contreras were repeatedly sexually assaulted by a
Border Patrol agent who captured them crossing the Rio Grande near El
Paso, TX. We are not the first, nor the last, Contreras said.

A California INS officer was convicted in 2004 of demanding sex and cash
from two Chinese women seeking asylum.

On September 3, 1993, Juanita Gomez and her female cousin crossed the
border between Nogales, Sonora, and Nogales, Arizona to meet two male
friends to go shopping. Larry Selders, a Border Patrol Agent, stopped all
four people, but only detained Gomez and her cousin. Selders then told
Gomez and her cousin that he would not take them to the Border Patrol
department for deportation if they would have sex with him; after both
women refused, he raped Gomez.
A detective investigating the womens
complaint told them he didnt believe them, asking Isnt it true that you
are a prostitute?

Haime Flores was stopped at a checkpoint and taken to a Border Patrol
Jennifer L. Pozner, Womens Debate Show Exposes Rape as Cost of Entry for Female
Immigrants, WIMNs Voices Blog, (available at: http://
Blog/?p=150.). Sylvanna Falcon, Rape as a Weapon of War: Advancing Human Rights or
Women at the US- Mexico Border, Social Justice, Summer 2001; 28-2, pp 31-50; Gabriela Diaz
and Gretchen Kuhner, Women Migrants in Transit and Detention in Mexico, Migration Policy
Institute, 2007 (available at:

J. Light, Rape on the Border Baiting Immigrants Border Patrol Abuses; anti-
immigrant politics, The Progressive, September 1996.

Former INS Officer Gets 4-year Prison Term, Los Angeles Times, November 23, 2004.

Crossing the Line: Human Rights Abuses Along the U.S. Border with Mexico Persist
Amid Climate of Impunity, Human Rights Watch, 1995; Border Patrol Agent Pleads No Contest In
Rape of Illegal Immigrant, ARIZONA REPUBLIC, July 28, 1994. See also Sylvanna Falcon, Rape as
a Weapon of War: Advancing Human Rights for Women at the U.S.-Mexico Border, 28 SOCIAL
JUSTICE 31 (2001).

Crossing the Line: Human Rights Abuses Along the U.S. Border with Mexico Persist
Amid Climate of Impunity, Human Rights Watch, 1995.
station. After it was determined that her documents were valid, the
agents went on to detain her for six hours and order a search, during
which a female agent inserted her finger into Flores vagina while three
male officers laughed and joked. No contraband was found.

While anti-immigrant forces have focused on alleged rapes by fellow migrants and
coyotes as justification for stirring up racist anti-immigrant sentiment and calling for
enhanced border enforcement and militarization, they have been notably silent on rapes
by Border Patrol and other law enforcement agents, as well as the increased
vulnerability to sexual abuse created by intensified anti-immigrant measures forcing
migrant women into more desperate and desolate border crossings.

Violence in the Interior
Since 1996, the U.S. government has engaged in what it views as a comprehensive
interior enforcement strategy. The objective: to protect communities by identifying
and deporting individuals in violation of immigration laws in non-border areas.
Immigration law enforcement officials have conducted raids at schools, shopping
centers, and workplaces, sweeping the area for undocumented immigrants.

In February 2007 ICE agents stormed into Nelly Amayas home. When
she asked to see a warrant -- which the agents did not have -- they
roughed her up, injuring her arm, as they frisked and arrested her, and
took her away in her pajamas. While in detention she suffered an asthma
attack, but was denied treatment. She was released ten hours later in her
pajamas with no money in the dead of winter.
INS officer James Riley was arrested in May 1990, after conducting an
unauthorized immigration one-man raid at gunpoint at a Van Nuys bar.
Riley abducted and raped a 24-year-old woman from the bar after telling
her that she was under arrest for lacking legal documents to be in the
United States. One month later, over seventeen women had filed charges
against him, recounting similar abuse.

Saida Uzmanzors nursing nine-month old daughter was removed from
her by ICE agents and placed in foster care after she was detained during
a raid.

Crossing the Line: Human Rights Abuses Along the U.S. Border with Mexico Persist
Amid Climate of Impunity, Human Rights Watch, 1995.

Over-Raided, Under Siege: U.S. Immigration Laws and Enforcement Destroy the Rights
of Migrants, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee
Rights, 2008.

Over-Raided, Under Siege: U.S. Immigration Laws and Enforcement Destroy the Rights
of Migrants, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee
Rights, 2008.

Michael Connelly and Patricia Lerner, INS Agent Faces More Sex Charges, Los Angeles
Times, June 15, 1990.
Over-Raided, Under Siege: U.S. Immigration Laws and Enforcement Destroy the Rights
of Migrants, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee

In addition, the federal government has begun to enter into memorandums of
understanding with local police offices, deputizing local law enforcement agencies to
act as immigration agents. In 2008, President Bushs immigration budget called for $4.8
billion for interior enforcement of immigration law, which included funds to train state
and local law enforcement officials in immigration enforcement.
The increasing
presence of immigration enforcement in the interior leads women of color to see law
enforcement agents and the criminal legal system as further threats to their safety.

In December 2007, Miriam Aviles was pulled over by Tucson police and asked for
identifica- tion. The officer called Border Patrol, and then induced labor in Ms.
Aviles by physically forcing her into the Border Patrol vehicle. Ms. Aviles spent
the night in immigration detention, and was not taken to a clinic until the
following day, where she was badgered by a Border Patrol agent to hurry up
and have her baby.

Aschool-based police officer arrested five months pregnant 18 year-old high
school student Karina Acosta in her classroom, and held her until ICE came to
take her away. She had been cited for a parking violation and not having a
drivers license three days before.

Terwinder, a Sikh mother of two U.S. born children, was arrested and subject to
deportation after police officers who were helping her with a flat tire found out
she had an outstanding deportation order. She had lived in the U.S. for 12 years
with her family, running a small business.

Fear of deportation was identified as the primary reason that 64% of
undocumented women in a San Francisco study did not seek social services.

Violence in Immigration Detention
In 1996, Congress passed immigration reform legislation that led to the explosion of the
immigration detention system. It is now the fastest-growing incarceration program in
Rights, 2008.

Julia Gelatt, President Calls for $13 Billion in Border and Enforcement Funding in 2008,
MIGRATION POLICY INSTITUTE (2008), available at: http://

Over-Raided, Under Siege: U.S. Immigration Laws and Enforcement Destroy the Rights
of Migrants, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee
Rights, 2008.

Over-Raided, Under Siege: U.S. Immigration Laws and Enforcement Destroy the Rights
of Migrants, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee
Rights, 2008.

Over-Raided, Under Siege: U.S. Immigration Laws and Enforcement Destroy the Rights
of Migrants, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee
Rights, 2008.

Leslye Orloff & Rachel Little, Overview of Domestic Violence and Battered Immigrant
Issues, available at
the country, leading the rapid expansion of the prison-industrial complex in the U.S. In
2005, the Department of Homeland Security detained 237,667 individuals: an
average of 19,619 per day.

Christina Madraso, a transsexual woman, sought asylum in the U.S. after
being badly beaten based on her gender identity in Mexico. However, her
night- mare continued when she was detained in the Krome Service
Processing Center, where she was placed in the mens ward, and faced
harassment by guards and other detainees. She was then transferred into
an isolation unit, where she was sexually assaulted twice by the same
guard. After the second rape, INS officials told her that she could either
transfer to a mental institution, county prison, or give up her asylum

A Chinese immigrant woman miscarried her twins after she appeared for
a routine interview with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
officials, and unexpectedly became subject to a violent deportation
attempt. Another pregnant immigrant woman from Cameroon miscarried
while she was under ICE custody after her requests for medical care went
ignored for two days.

Victoria Arellano, an undocumented transgender woman with HIV, died in
an ICE detention facility in California after being denied necessary
medication to prevent opportunistic infections, despite organizing efforts
by fellow detainees to obtain medical treatment for her.


Dawn Konet and Jeanne Batalova, Spotlight on Immigration Enforcement in the United
States, MIGRATION POLICY INSTITUTE (2007), available at:

Yves Colon, Life Became a Nightmare, MIAMI HERALD, September 7, 2000.

Nina Bernstein, Protests Brew Over Attempt to Deport a Woman, NEW YORK TIMES,
February 14, 2006; Ruben Rosario, Deportation Case Is No
Model of Justice Served, ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, November 7, 2005.

Over-Raided, Under Siege: U.S. Immigration Laws and Enforcement Destroy the Rights
of Migrants, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee
Rights, 2008.

III. Gender,
Sexuality, and

Gender Liberation Definitions

Abstinence often refers to the practice of choosing not to have intercourse; can also mean
choosing not to be at all sexual with others or oneself. Some choose to practice this while they
decide what they want or until they feel ready to be sexually active; others do so for spiritual,
religious or social reasons.

Asexual A person who has never experienced sexual attraction to others, does not at
present, or is not interested in sexual activity.

Bisexual A person who is attracted to or has relationships with both women and men.

Cisgender A person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth/the gender
they were raised with. Cisgender people are accorded certain privileges by society that others
do not receive.

Gay A man who is attracted to or has relationships with other men; also, a broad term for
anybody who is not straight.

Gender Socially and culturally constructed definitions of what it means to be a man, a
woman, masculine and feminine; in the mainstream, this is grounded in a system which
assumes that people identify in the same way they were raised, with how they are perceived by
others, the same all the time, etc. Examples of how this manifests include how people are
expected to dress, what activities they are expected to participate in, acceptable ways to
express emotion, etc.

Gender Identity A persons self-understanding or self-definition of their gender (e.g., trans
man, cisgender woman, genderqueer, or infinite others), which may or may not correlate to
what society or other people tell them their gender should be. In short, how you name your

Gender Non-Conforming- A term often used to refer to the myriad of individuals who may
not identify as transgender, but who still do not conform to traditional gender norms (may
include, but is not limited to, bigenders, gender benders, genderqueers, men, women, and
transgender individuals). May be used in tandem with other identities, such as queer or
lesbian. Considered by some to be preferable to gender variant as it does not establish
traditional gender roles as the normative standard from which individuals deviate.

Gender Presentation The external behaviors and characteristics (e.g., dress, mannerisms,
social interactions, speech patterns) that a person displays in order to indicate their gender
identity. It may change over time and from day-to-day, and may or may not conform to other
peoples expectations. In short, how you express your gender.

Lesbian A woman who is attracted to or has relationships with other women.

Queer This was seen as a derogatory term until several decades ago people who it was
used against began to reclaim it. Now used as an umbrella term to mean anyone who identifies
as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, etc.
Also, used specifically to identify as someone whose sexuality or gender identity does not
correspond to dominant identities, and who opposes a system that prioritizes straight
relationships and gender conformity.

Questioning A person who is in the process of better locating or understanding their
sexuality/sexual identity.

Sex This scientific term refers to an array of biological, anatomical and physiological
characteristics associated with maleness and femaleness in the body (such as external genitalia,
internal sex organs, hormones and chromosomes). It is often asserted that there are two
_____ among human beings, but in reality many people dont fit the standards and norms of
those two categories; at times, scientists have identified 5 or more _____ categories among
human beings, while some people assert the entire concept as socially constructed.

Sexuality The expression, contemplation or existence of attraction/sexual feelings toward
other beings and/or oneself.

Straight A person who is attracted to people of the opposite sex or gender (usually
conflates the two), e.g., men who are only attracted to women, or women who are only
attracted to men.

Transgender A person who does not identify with the gender they were assigned at
birth/the gender they were raised with. Said person does NOT necessarily identify as the
opposite gender (see other terms for more info).

Definitions based in part on Common Trans Definitions and Terms compiled by Raphael Carter, Evan
Hempel and Joelle Ruby Ryan, and edited by Jack Skelton in 2007.
Trans Respect/Etiquette/Support 101
By Micah Bazant (updated from from TimTum: A Trans Jew Zine)

I am using the word trans in the broadest sense, to include labels like genderqueer,
transgender and transsexual. This was originally written from my own experience as a
white transperson/ftm who is perceived as both female and male. Of course, every trans
person is different, and would write this list differently. Also, some things, which are
totally inappropriate with strangers or acquaintances, may be fine or welcomed in the
context of a trusting relationship. Im sad to say that Ive done most of the things on
this list at some point in my life, and had most of them done to me even by other trans
people. As with other forms of oppression, they are socialized into us from birth. We are
all taught to be transphobic, and unlearning it is a process and a responsibility.

Pronouns & Self-Identification
Respect everyones self-identification. Call everyone by their preferred name/s and
pronoun/s. Use language and behavior that is appropriate to their gender self-
identification. Do this for everyone, all the time, no matter how much you think they
deviate from what a real man or real woman should be.

What we truly know ourselves to be should be the only determinant of our gender in
society. Set aside your doubts, start educating yourself and respect that we are who we
say we are. By doing this you are saying: I see you, I support you, I respect you. By
not doing this, you let trans people know: I dont understand you and Im not trying to.
What you tell me about yourself is not important, all thats important is how I think of
you. I am not your ally. You are not safe with me. Being referred to or treated as the
wrong gender feels painful and disrespectful to us.

Its hard and dangerous to change your name and pronoun. Know that it has taken a
lot of courage for this person to let you know who they really are; they are sharing
something very precious. It may seem hard or silly to you at first, but it can be a matter
of life and death for us.

If you dont know what pronouns or gender-labels someone prefers (and
theres no mutual friend around to clue you in), just ask them. Politely. And respectfully.
For example: What pronoun do you prefer? or How do you like to be referred to, in
terms of gender?

Usually when people cant immediately determine someones gender, they become
afraid and hostile. If you misrecognize someones gender, its okay, dont freak out.
Apologize once and get it right the next time. Misidentifying or being unable to classify
someones gender does not have to be an awkward or shameful experience. By asking
someone in the right way, you can indirectly communicate: I want to be respectful of
you and I dont want to make any assumptions. I see your gender ambiguity and/or
fluid gender expression as a positive, fabulous, creative and honest (need I go on?)

Some transpeople are bravely making more space for gender diversity by using
language creatively. Respect these efforts and dont dismiss them as silly, funny, weird
or too difficult. (Remember Mahatma Ghandis words: "First they ignored us, then they
laughed at us, then they tried to fight us, then we won.")
For example, some people prefer to be referred to as they, or as both he and she
interchangeably. Some people prefer to be referred to only by their name. Some people
use non-binary pronouns like ze and hir.

Invasive Questions
Medical Information
You do NOT have the right to know any medical or anatomical information about anyone
elses body, unless they decide to share it with you. This means: dont ask about their
genitals, their surgeries, the effects of their hormones, etc. This is private! The first
question usually asked to transpeople is, Do you have a penis? or Do you have a
vagina?. Would you ask a non-trans person about their genitals? To do so is incredibly
invasive and disrespectful. It reduces us to one body part, as if all the rest of our minds,
hearts, bodies, contributions and personalities are not important. Our bodies are not a
community forum, or a tool to educate you!

Also, dont ask us about our surgeries, medications, etc. If we want you to know about
something, well bring it up. For example, just because your friend-of-a friend-of-a-
transperson told you that someone is having surgery, doesnt mean you have a right to
come up and ask them about it (especially in front of other people).

Dont ask us if weve had a sex change operation. Gender transition doesnt
happen through one magic operation. And the operation youre thinking of probably
involves transforming our genitals, which, again, is reductive and disrespectful. Some of
us never want to have any surgeries. Some of us desperately want surgery and cant
afford it or dont have access to it. For a lot of female-to-male transpeople the surgeries
they would want dont exist.

Even if youre curious, dont interrogate us. Its not our job to educate you and we may
not feel like answering your incredibly personal questions right now. Unless we bring it
up, dont ask us how our gender is affecting our personal relationships. For example, if
you just met me, dont ask me how my family is taking it.

If you want to find out more about trans bodies or our families, educate yourself
through books, websites, films, etc.

'Trans people have a huge range of ways that we navigate the world, based on
preference and necessity. Transphobia functions very differently than homophobia;
being out is not necessarily desirable or possible for us. Being a trans ally means
supporting people in being more safe and healthywhich may mean anything between
letting everyone they meet know they are trans, to keeping their gender history entirely
confidential. Its crucial to support people in being as out, or not, as they need to be.

There are many situations in which being out could have serious negative
repercussions; transpeople are killed every year just because other people find out they
are trans. Revealing someones trans status could cost them a job, a relationship, or
their physical safety.

Many transpeople are perceived 100% of the time as their preferred gender, and no one
would ever suspect they had been through a gender transition at some point. Some of
these folks prefer never to be out as trans and, in fact, may not even consider
themselves trans. This is a completely valid choice among the huge spectrum of gender
diversity. If you know someone whos trans experience is completely private, respect
them by honoring that privacy.

Some of us are most comfortable being out as trans all the time, some of us may never
reveal our trans status to anyone.

Do not assume that just because you know us in one way, that we are able to, or
choose to, live that way in every other part of our lives. Some of us express our gender
in different ways in different parts of our lives. For example, we may not be able to find
work as the gender we truly are. Or we may only find peace by living some of the time
in a more masculine gender and some of the time as more feminine.

For myself, even though I hate being called she, if someone refers to me that way, I
might or might not correct them depending on many variables: whether Im going to
have to see them again, how confident I feel, who Im with, how much backup I have,

Think about when and why you out someone as trans. Are you talking about your
trans friend just to prove how open and hip you are? Is it necessary to out this person,
or are you doing it for your own personal reasons?

Names are very powerful things. For a lot of trans people, the names given to us by our
parents represent a gender identity which was wrong, humiliating and forced. Changing
our names carries a lot more weight than it does for non-trans people. Dont ask
someone what their old name was. And dont ask if our current names are our given
names, or worse yet, real names. If someone wants you to know, they will tell you. If
you know someones old name, dont share it with other people.

Some transpeople go by multiple names, because they are in transition, or because they
prefer it that way. Again, dont trip about it. Just ask them what they prefer to be called
and then call them that, every time. It may seem strange to you, but its completely
normal for us.

Also, dont make comments about the gender associations of trans peoples names. This
is especially annoying in a cross-cultural context. A name that means (or sounds like)
Badass warrior king in one language, might mean (or sound like) Nellie flower picker
in another. Dont assume that you know what meanings or gender implications our
names have.

Dont assume that our gender transitions are linear, one-way, or start or end at a fixed
point. For example, some intersex people
(who arent born male or born female)
have trans experiences, and may also identify as trans. Some transpeople, for example,
may express themselves as masculine, feminine and then back to masculine. In an ideal
world this would be no different than having long hair, then short hair, then long again.

There are infinite ways to transition. Things like binding, packing, tucking, electrolysis,
hormones, surgery, or changing our name, legal sex and pronoun, are some of the
possible steps of a gender transition. Trans people have the right to make all,
some or none of these changes, and in any order.

Do not ask us if we are sure, or remind us that our transition is irreversible and
that we may regret our changes. Do not tell us we are coming out as trans just to be
trendy. We have usually been thinking about and dealing with our gender issues for a
long time, although we may not have shared our years of internal torment with you. We
are aware of, and probably very excited about, the consequences of our decisions.

Do not tell us how you liked us (or certain things about us) better
before we transitioned. There is a normal and healthy grieving process that people go
through around any major change, including gender changes by people in our lives. Its
important to acknowledge and deal with your feelings, but not with us. We are going
through enough stress, and we really just need your support.
Do not tell us how hard this is for you or how uncomfortable we make you. However
challenging it may feel to you, its much harder to live as a transperson. Many many
people become amazing trans allies and effortlessly call all their trans friends by the
right names and pronouns. You can too, its really not that hard - its just a different way
of thinking about gender. If you are uncomfortable with someones gender, find ways to
work on it yourself or with other, knowledgeable non-trans friends.

and being passed
Dont judge our ability to be seen as male or female. For example, dont say: Maybe if
you did______, or didnt do _______, youd pass better, and we would be able to accept
your gender better. Also, it is not always appropriate to compliment people on how well
they pass. Whether or not we are passed as the gender we prefer is often a matter of
money and genetics, not desire or determination. We are not all seeking to pass in the
same ways, for the same reasons, or at all! These comments are divisive to trans
For more information about intersex issues, visit, the website of The
Intersex Society of North America.

In this context, passing refers to trans people being perceived as non-trans members
of their correct gender category. While this is a goal for most trans people, I think its important
to stay aware of the systemic power imbalance that is implicit in this term. I prefer the term
being passed, because it emphasizes the fact that trans people do not have total control over
how we are perceived, and that the power in the equation of passing lies completely with the
non-trans person who passes us. It is something done to us, not something we are able to
communities. They reinforce straight, binary gender standards by labeling certain traits
(and people) as good and real.

Yes, its true, trans people are all incredibly sexy in our own unique individual ways, but
dont fetishize and tokenize us. Dont tell us how you love FtMs because we were
socialized female and therefore we arent like real men. While this may be true for
some individuals, FtMs are just as diverse as any other group. Many transmen identify
as real men who are just as (or more) masculine than people assigned male at birth.
Dont tell us how MtFs are the ideal sex partners because they are chicks with dicks.

Dont expect any one of us to speak for all trans people. Dont assume that you know
about trans issues because you once knew a trans person. If we are offended by
something you do, listen, apologize, and reflect; dont excuse your bad behavior by
saying that your other trans friend didnt mind. Dont showcase us as tokens of diversity
in your social circle or annual report, without being a real friend or truly integrating
transpeople into your organization.

Transphobia + sexism + racism + classism = a big slimy mess
It is a stereotype that all trans people are sexist: that all MtFs are still really men and
still have male privilege, and that all FtMs are becoming men because of their
internalized sexism. Trans people can be sexist towards ourselves and others, but we
are not any more or less sexist than non-trans people. It is not inherently sexist to be

Similarly and unfortunately, trans communities are just as racist, classist, etc. as the rest
of the world, but not more so. And these dynamics play out in particular ways among
transpeople. Just like some people will tell you all gay people are white, some people
believe that all trans people are white, and that being trans is just a privilege of white
people. Of course it is easier to be trans (or anything actually) if you are white and have
money, but most gender-variant and trans people are working-class and poor people of
color, because most people in the world are poor and working-class people of color.
Being trans is not inherently racist or classist.

Dont be surprised if you or others radically misread a trans persons age. It may be
amazing to you, but we are used to it, and probably over it.

A lot of trans people on the FtM spectrum look much younger than they are, especially if
they are not on hormones, are on a low dose of hormones, or are just starting
hormones. Because of this, we may experience some of the lovely effects of adultism,
such as not being taken seriously, getting carded all the time, and being condescended
to. A lot of people on the MtF spectrum look older than they are, and experience the
delightful effects of sexism, like being treated as less important because they arent seen
as young and pretty.

Fascinating trans films/ politics/TV shows/etc etc
It is really important for people to educate themselves about different experiences of
oppression, however, someone who has had to deal with that oppression all the time
may not want to hear about it, or process how hard it was for you, as someone not
directly affected by it. For example, when the movie Boys Dont Cry came out, many,
many people every day took it upon themselves to try and discuss it with me, ask me if
Ive seen it, explain how tragic it was and how hard it was for them to watch as a non-
trans person. We have to deal with transphobia all the time and so we dont always
want to talk about it. Check yourself before you bring up the ten latest, most horrifying
transphobic things you heard yesterday -your trans friend may actually not want to re-
experience them with you. If you want to discuss a movie, book, current event or
experience that relates to trans issues, bring it up with another non-trans person. If a
trans person wants to discuss it with you, theyll bring it up.

Extra letter Syndrome
Gay and lesbian organizations all over the country have added a token T to their
names, without doing anything to include trans people or issues in their organizations.
Although queer issues and trans struggles are interlinked (dont forget who rioted at
Stonewall), they are very different. For example, access to transition-related medical
care (such as hormones and surgery), and issues of legal identification (such as
changing our names and sex) are huge struggles faced by transpeople, but are non-
issues for gay and lesbian people. As mentioned above, being out. which is desirable in
many GLQ spaces (especially white, middle-class ones), is not a goal of many
transpeople. The world of issues around sexual orientation is fundamentally different
than the world of gender, so dont assume you are serving us at all by just adding a T
on the end of your acronym.

Recognize your own gender uniqueness and how transphobia affects you, but dont
speak for trans people. Also recognize that within trans communities, not only is each
individuals experience different, but each group of individuals experience is different
from other groups. Just as you probably wouldnt (or shouldnt) ask a gay man to
explain lesbian issues, you shouldnt lump all trans people together, because we all have
unique experiences and perspectives. For example, African-American transsexual issues
are different from disabled genderqueer issues, which are different from drag king
issues, and so on. Also, most indigenous cultures have non-binary gender systems, and
many of us identify with our ethnically-specific gender identities (such as two-spirit,
hijra, timtum, fa'afafine, etc.) that may overlap with, but are distinct from being trans.

There are so many positive things you can do to be ally to trans people, even if you do
not have that much experience with trans communities.

Start with being honest about how much you know, or dont know. It is refreshingly
wonderful to hear someone say: Actually, I dont know anything about trans people. I
want to support you and respect you, so please forgive my ignorance. Im going to start
educating myself. Almost all of us started out ignorant of trans issues even trans
people! The important thing is to pro-actively learn more once you become aware.

Educate yourself and take action!
Look at books, websites, films.

Talk to other non-trans people who know more than you do.

Start an unlearning transphobia group with other non-trans friends.

Help write a non-discrimination policy for your school or workplace that protects
gender identity and expression.

Pay some trans folks to do an educational presentation for your group or

Especially if you work in a school, faith-based organization, governmental
agency, or a social justice, social services or healthcare organization, try to
integrate trans-inclusive policies and services.

Work to create bathrooms that are accessible for all genders (for example,
single-stall gender-neutral bathrooms)

Think critically about your own gender and your participation in the binary
gender system.

Reflect on how you can be a better ally to trans people.

Once you have educated yourself, educate other non-trans people about
gender issues. This is so needed and appreciated!! There have been so many times
when people said offensive things to me when I wished I had a non-trans ally to refer
them to. Trans people shouldnt have to do all the work. Besides, even though there are
way more of us than you think, there arent enough of us to educate all the hordes and
hordes of non-trans people in the world. Also, its a lot harder for us to do this work,
because we are more vulnerable. Helping someone unlearn transphobia usually involves
hearing and sorting through a lot of hurtful crud while people sort out their feelings
about gender.

Interrupt transphobic behavior. This is also usually easier for a non-trans person to
do, because they are not making themselves as personally vulnerable or a target for

For example, correcting other people when they refer to someone by the wrong pronoun
is very important. When introducing people, it is good etiquette to clue them in
beforehand about the language preferred by any trans people who are present. By this I
dont mean outing any trans people who would prefer not to be out, but letting people
know how to refer to anyone who might not pass. Simply saying things like, Im a
lady, hes a guy, or thats none of your business, or actually, his voice/body/manner
is just great the way it is, and I dont want to hear another comment about it, can save
the day.
Above all, talk to your trans friends, listen and educate yourself. If you are not sure how
to best support someone, ask them. If you are not ready to support someone in the way
that they need, dont pretend that you are, just figure out what you need to do to get
there. Starting to be an ally doesnt require you to be an expert, just be honest with
yourself and take some risks.

gender is a universe and we are all stars.

Transphobia limits and oppresses all of us.
By becoming an ally, youll not only have the satisfaction of doing the right
thing, youll get to experience your true starry brilliance.

Trans Liberation and Feminism
Self-determination, healthcare and revolutionary struggle

Michelle OBrien, November 2003

I wrote the following as a lecture that I gave at Reed College in November 2003. I will probably
be giving it again, with slight modifications, at Eugene Laine during February 2004. A lot of it,
as might be obvious, is taken from my other essays.

Special thanks to Colette Gordon for bringing me, and to Jaci Adams, Dean Spade east coast
trans activists that have been a major inspiration to me throughout my work.

As Colette mentioned, Im visiting here from Philadelphia. I work as a social service worker
around HIV with transgender people. Over the last couple of years, trans communities in
Philadelphia have been coming together around a range of remarkable and exciting community
organizing projects. Were fighting for decent, respectful healthcare, challenging violence
against trans people, mourning our losses and supporting each other across our diverse

All of us come to this work from different backgrounds. We each bring our perspectives,
experiences and ways of working and thinking through building community and movements for
social change. To our meetings and discussions I bring my own strong histories in anti-
imperialist protest, anarchist community organizing and feminist consciousness. All have proved
contentious and complex in their relationship to trans liberation and community building.

For the last few weeks, Ive been traveling around discussing the relationship between trans
health organizing and global systems of capitalism and white supremacy. Today I want to shift
this focus a bit, and think about some of the interrelationships between trans politics and
feminism. Im certainly not the first to have done so. The last thirty years have been marked by
massive, sustained and vicious battles over the meaning of gender, feminist movement and
identity. Many before me have written and spoken articulately and brilliantly on these
relationships. Two in particular Emi Koyama and Patrick Califia are worth singling out for
their remarkable contributions and particular inspirations for my talk here.

Thinking through the interrelationships between movements for liberation is an urgent and
crucial task. We are facing a rapidly transforming political terrain, as transnational capitalists
have consolidated unprecedented levels of wealth and power, as state regimes have intensified
their racist, misogynistic and transphobic assaults on poor people around the world, as many
resistance movements are floundering in a state of crisis. Its increasingly clear that different
forms of oppression are interconnected across the fabric of our lives and bodies. Building
movements of popular liberation depends on transforming these interrelationships into strong,
cross-community and cross-issue coalitions for justice. These coalitions are strategically and
ethically necessary. But if these coalitions hope to actually begin to challenge the entrenched
regimes of violence and domination that criss-cross the world, they must be much deeper than
the opportunistic attempts at working together. We need to recognize, deeply, the complexity
and inseparability of liberation for all.

So Im talking a bit about trans politics and feminism. Not just the overlaps and arguments, not
just envisioning a simple union, but really trying to imagine means of understanding liberation
so that we are all, by necessity, active participants.

contentious histories

The histories of relationships between trans people and feminism is not a simple one. Much of
the feminist movement that came together in the 1970s in the US articulated a vision of
liberation and womens identity in active opposition to certain forms of gender variance, most
notably transsexual women and butch and femme lesbians. These movements, often called 2nd
Wave feminism, offer a tremendous amount that is invaluable for challenging patriarchal and
transphobic oppression. Tragically, some of this organizing and thought has been mired in a
vicious animosity towards gender variant people.

Gender variance was a central part of working class queer womens communities in the US
through the 50s and 60s. Recent texts on lesbian history and identity, such as Kennedys Boots
of Leather, Slippers of Gold, or Feinbergs Stone Butch Blues have described the rich world of
American lesbian bar culture. These scenes were often organized around butch and femme
gender identities, forms of gender identity and expression embedded in the desires and
relationships among queer female-assigned people.

These forms of queer masculinities and femininities came under sustained assault in significant
currents of 70s feminist politics. In the name of rejecting patriarchal constructions of gender,
some feminists argued for a wholesale rejection of masculine and feminine gender expressions,
instead advancing a certain form of female-centered androgyny as the way forward for lesbian
feminists. While butch and femme people were certainly involved actively in the remarkable
organizing towards womens liberation that took shape through the 70s, their presence was
increasingly dismissed, maligned and erased.

Les Feinberg provides an excellent summation of the political ethics of this overvaluation of
androgyny and dismissal of other gender expressions, in saying that androgyny is a powerful,
liberating expression if your true, deep personal gender expression and identity is
androgynous. The many feminists like Feinberg for whom androgyny was not such a personally
attractive option found themselves marginalized in some currents of these new feminist

These currents of feminism that dismissed butch and femme identities unleashed an even more
nasty and brutal assault against trans women. Transsexual women, drag queens and other
gender variant mtf people have been involved in gay liberation and feminist liberation politics
throughout the second wave. Trans women fought in the streets at Stonewall, were active in
consciousness raising circles, organized centers against sexual assault or in support of
reproductive freedom, started lesbian feminist arts groups and were active in all levels of
feminist movement.

The 1979 publication of Janice Raymonds The Transsexual Empire: The Making of The She-
Male marks the central event in intensifying hatred of trans women within feminist politics.
Raymond charges that transsexual women were invited by the patriarchal medical
establishment to infiltrate and destroy feminist movement and lesbian community. A stark
example of vicious hate literature, The Transsexual Empire crystallized and articulated so-called
feminist hatred of trans people. Her book was heralded and celebrated by many famous radical
feminists at the time, including Andrea Dworkin, Mary Daly and Robin Morgan. Much of my
analysis of this book is taken from Patrick Califias book Sex Changes.

The Transsexual Empire had a lasting and destructive impact. It sparked a massive flurry of
hate mail, threats and boycotts against Olivia Records, a lesbian feminist record production
collective. Olivia had one active transsexual woman, named Sandy Stone, who had been
involved with the collective since its formation. Raymonds book inspired a massive, systematic,
hate-filled assault on the collective, until they were coercively forced to ask Sandy Stone to
leave. The book continues to be reprinted by feminist and progressive presses, as it continues
to reflect widespread transphobic ideas within feminist politics.

These two forms of transphobic feminist politics against butch and femme people, and against
trans people share with other currents of feminism certain crude and unhelpful tenets. They
rest on essentialist and narrow ideas of proper womens identity and expression, a deeply
naturalized romanticization of specific forms of womens body and demonization of masculinity.
Womens unity would be built, some believed, on some essential sameness, some core
experience of ones body and oppression, that all women shared. This unity is counterpoised
against masculinity and men as fundamentally oppressive forces of domination and oppression.
They rested on the destructive idea that policing other peoples gender identity was the way
forward for challenging systemic patriarchy. As Patrick Califia explains, concrete goals of gender
equality have given way to these attacks on women within feminism. He writes, The personal
and public lives of women who claim to be feminists are instead examined and policed because
if these women fail to excise maleness, they are seen as obstructing the feminist struggle.

The challenge to such oppressive currents of such tenets of 2nd wave feminism was first really
rigorously developed and articulated among radical women of color. Through the 80s an
amazing collection of feminist and womanist activists and intellectuals of color began to
challenge the deep, long standing forms of racism within dominant forms of radical and liberal
feminist movement. The idea that all women shared some central experience, and this
experience is a basis of unity, erases and ignores the ways white supremacy drastically
separates women in racist structures of privilege, power and domination. Racism offers a clear
example of the ways women can actively oppress each other, and benefit from each others
oppression. White supremacy is a way that all women simply do not have identical experiences
of the patriarchy. Emi Koyama offers one of the clearest analyses that recognizes the value of
antiracist critiques of feminism to informing trans liberation thought.

Throughout the 1980s major upheavals shook feminist movement. Institutional, misogynistic
backlash reentrenched patriarchal domination into state policy and right-wing cultural values. At
the same time, many women began to organize around their historical exclusion,
marginalization and oppression within feminist politics. Women of color led the way in this
powerful work. Women involved in BDSM sexual practices, butch and femme women, trans
people of all genders, sex workers and others were also heavily involved, demanding a more
inclusive, more sophisticated feminist politics.

The exclusion and marginalization of trans people in feminism didnt end, however, with the
agitation of the 80s and 90s. Old-school forms of feminist transphobia are alive and well,
expressed in such policies as the active exclusion of trans women from the Michigan Womens
Music Festival. As well, many have questioned the extent of trans inclusion in new forms of
poststructuralist feminist thought and queer theory, which have often dismissed the deepest
intensity of gender identity for many transsexuals.

The essentialist, narrow basing of liberation politics on simplistic ideas of identity and
experience also continues in countless other forms of identity and liberation struggles, including
within trans communities.

gender skirmishes

Trans communities have shown many similarities to feminism in developing elaborate systems
to rank, compare and denounce some forms of identification and presentation. In particular, Im
talking here a bit about the animosity between genderqueers and transsexuals manifesting in
many trans spaces Ive encountered, such as, Philadelphia support groups or at
the True Spirit Conference. While the full history and complexity of these tensions are outside
the scope of this lecture, it might be worth a moment to describe these debates.

Both transsexual and genderqueer are identities that have taken shape within particular
historical moments to give voice to peoples experience of their own gender identities and
bodies. Amidst our society of deep, pervasive hatred of gender variant identities, and bodies,
both genderqueers and transsexuals have struggled to define ourselves as somehow legitimate.
As identities and ways of thinking about gender, genderqueer and transsexual identities have
too often come to be defined in opposition to each other.

Genderqueer as an identity has been linked with a particular political critique of binary gender
systems. Genderqueer people often understand ourselves as somehow not entirely fitting within
gender binaries. Perhaps neither male nor female, or both male and female, or flexibly playing
between them, genderqueer identification is often somehow in opposition to specific, concrete,
stable single-gender identities. This has become linked to a politicized critique of the system of
binary, dualistic gender identities. Many genderqueer activists and theorists, such as the
commentary of Rikki Anne Wilchins in the recent book entitled Genderqueer, or passages in the
writing of Kate Bornstein, have attacked other transsexuals as conforming and reproducing this
oppressive system of gender dualism. Genderqueers, some argue, are a radical vanguard
challenging the most basic oppressive systems of gender. Transsexuals, meanwhile, are
dismissed as politically reactionary among some genderqueers.

Some transsexuals have launched their own attacks of genderqueer identity. Dismissing
genderqueers as shallow opportunists, uncommitted, confused people appropriating transsexual
identity, genderqueers are charged as not being authentic. Genderqueers, some anti-
genderqueer transsexuals have argued, are a privileged collection of people superficially fooling
around with issues, words and identities with deep, life-threatening and liberating implications
for transsexuals.

These nasty bitter disputes resemble similar battles within feminist politics. Tensions between
some androgynous feminists and butch or femme people, or tensions between transphobic
feminists and trans women, share a similar dynamic of people ranking, comparing and
evaluating identities based on political models.

Its a frequent step of identity politics to see ones one identity or system of linking identities
as more radical, more liberating, more legitimate, more authentic or more substantive than
another. Both genderqueer activists, privileging gender transgression, and transsexuals,
privileging legitimate gender identities, have engaged in a destructive form of privileging certain
systems of gender identity about others. We have put our identities, our liberation, our
movements, in contradiction and competition with each other. This is a grave mistake.

Ultimately, the charges against both genderqueers of appropriation and transsexuals of
conformity, or similar debates within feminism, rely on a politics of scarcity that is profoundly
destructive to envisioning a viable movement. Liberation is not something we have to compete
or fight over. Its not something like privilege, that one person has access to because another is
denied it. Justice is not something that I ever, in the end, benefit from its denial to anyone. The
old slogan No one is free when others are oppressed couldnt be more true, especially when
we remember that real freedom and privilege are never the same. My access, as a transsexual
or genderqueer, to a particular way of thinking about and challenging some notions around
gender, is not something that I lose because someone else also finds it useful and empowering,
or because someone else has their own form of gender expression. Scarcity is a pervasive and
tempting politics, one that feeds the competition between oppressed communities.

We have to go deeper than just identifying the strategic suicide and ethical bankruptcy of such
tensions, and begin to sort out their underlying emotional reality. Attacking other marginalized
people as somehow destroying, stealing or hurting ones one liberation is a tempting one. I
know for myself how desperate and scared I am, how very deeply transphobia and misogyny
has scared me in my psyche and soul. From that fear and pain, its easy to be terrified that
someone is stealing or diluting the only thing left that clearly belongs to me my identity and
politics. It can feel easy and helpful to lash out from this space of pain on other marginalized
people whose oppression and suffering manifests differently than my own. We compete against
each other out of our desperate, terrified experiences of the traumas of oppression.

This competition between marginalized communities feeds our profound trauma of transphobia.
Facing rejection, violence and discrimination in a whole range of spaces, gender variant people
and women are often left deeply emotionally scared. We turn to each other for love and
support, to heal each other of the pain of oppression. Too often, though, those relationships
end up reproducing this very violence unleashing on each other the pain, anger and rage we
have accumulated in our daily lives. Even more insidious, that pain gets directed inward into
self-hatred and self-denial. The tensions between genderqueer and transsexual people, like
many tensions between marginalized communities, is one of many products of the traumatizing
and corrupting effects of that fear.

Too often, I have come to believe, we forge our politics from those spaces of fear and
desperation. When we are rooted in our fear, it is easy to find enemies, to find anger, to find
fights with those people close at our sides. Our fear fuels our desperate, defensive need to hold
onto particular ways of being that are legitimately ours. It is easy to believe that others are
inauthentic and should be denied access to what little we have, when we are scared we have
almost nothing at all. Evaluating who should have access and who shouldnt relies on
developing elaborate systems of ranking, judging and dismissing people based on degrees of
oppression, privilege and suffering. Our right to liberation is not based on our degrees of
suffering. Our fear fuels a politics of competition and scarcity, a dead end of judging and
attacking each other.

Something else is profoundly needed.

self-determination in trans and feminist healthcare

We need to shift out of a politics based on ranking, competition and scarcity. Revolutionaries of
all movements are involved in exactly this kind of work. Countless theorists, activists and others
have taken incredible steps towards advancing a different kind of politics, one based on
recognizing the profound inseparability of liberation, resistance and struggle. Again, feminists of
color have provided one of the most sustained and invaluable bodies of writing where the
intersections of oppression constitute the basis of struggle. In the case of linking trans politics
to feminism, Emi Koyamas The Transfeminist Manifesto remains a central and compelling text.

In thinking about ways of recognizing the potentially powerful interrelationships between trans
and womens liberation, here Id like to focus for a bit on the issue of healthcare. In my own
activist and social service work Ive been centrally involved around trans health organizing in
Philadelphia over the last couple of years. Demanding a restructuring of the healthcare system
to provide respectful, accessible and adequate care to low income trans people has become a
major priority of many trans community activists.

Last May we held the second annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference. It was a powerful
event, drawing a diverse crowd of trans people, social service and healthcare workers and
others from throughout the region. We talked about political organizing and activism, about the
health needs among poor trans people and people of color, about the resources and support
networks developed with trans communities. Consistently, people at the conference emphasized
the rights of all trans people to self-determination and dignity in healthcare.

We chose the theme for the year as Our Bodies, Ourselves, Too, with too spelled T-O.O.
The name is a reference to the well known and extraordinary book first published by the Boston
Womens Health Collective in 1976. The book represented a great achievement of feminist
healthcare activists. Feminists organized heavily to establish womens health centers, expanding
professional knowledge of the specific healthcare needs of women, demanding and defending
the rights to reproductive freedom and above all sharing the knowledge, expertise and political
awareness of healthcare issues among women ourselves. Our conferences theme
simultaneously honored and respected this legacy, and recognized the historical exclusion and
absence of transgender bodies from this work.

The legacy of 2nd wave feminism isnt just transphobia, hatred of butches or femmes and
arrogant racism. 1970s feminism also advanced incredibly powerful movements for radical
healthcare reform and self-determination over bodies with a massive and lasting impact on the
healthcare rights of all people. Drawing on the work in the 50s and 60s among black women
around establishing healthcare networks in poor urban American communities and propelled by
the incredible work of working class women and women of color, feminist healthcare activists
made amazing strides in expanding, dramatically improving and restructuring healthcare access
for many women. A womens right to choose takes many forms -- from abortion to an end to
state sterilization of women of color, from an affordable gynecologist to an antisexist counselor,
from economic independence to freedom from abusive relationships. The feminist commitment
to choice is precious and liberating.

This legacy of feminist healthcare politics and the incredible organizing around health among
working class women and women of color has made my work around transgender healthcare
possible. When trans activists are working to establish low-income trans healthcare centers or
do harm reduction education on silicone injection, we are working in the steps of feminism. We
are grounding our politics in the commitment to self-determination over own bodies.

Trans peoples bodies and access to healthcare is tightly and strictly regulated. Transphobic
medical institutions have systematically denied most trans people access to respectful care,
hormones and other forms of basic medical necessity. Instead, many doctors have constructed
an elaborate system to pathologize, judge, rank and control the lives of trans people
determining who gets hormones and who doesnt based on systems of transphobic,
homophobic, classist and racist evaluation. Trans healthcare is a clear site where the ranking
and evaluating of identities ends up being brutally oppressive. Instead, as trans activists we are
fighting for self-determination the right of all trans and gender variant people to make our
own choices over what we do with our own bodies, and to have access to the medical care to
do so.

Like feminists before us, trans people are fighting a struggle over the politics of own bodies.
There are many struggles in Philadelphia and around the world committed to a similar vision of
self-determination of ones own healthcare and bodies.

Feminist debates around sex work and porn, for example, have dramatically shifted from a
blanket condemnation of commercial sexual activity as inherently evil and oppressive. Instead,
many feminist sex workers and porn makers have been pushing for a feminist politics rooted in
honoring the self-determination of women making their own choices around sexuality, sexual
expression and employment. While still recognizing the potentially coercive dynamic in any
commercial relationship, these activists have shifted the attention of feminist politics towards
defending and standing aside sex workers in struggles over workplace conditions, healthcare
and safety. Again, Patrick Califia and Emi Koyama have both done significant work, among
many others, in articulating a pro-sex, pro-sex worker feminist politics.

Intersex organizing provides another clear example of gender-related struggles over self-
determination in healthcare. Many intersex people have begun organizing to put an end to
unnecessary and damaging surgeries altering the bodies of intersex infants. Such surgeries,
designed to normalize bodies into crudely male or female stereotypes, have had a deeply
destructive impact on the physical, psychic and sexual lives of many people.

AIDS and drugs

In Philadelphia, I and others have been working to develop the interrelationships between trans
healthcare and healthcare access for people with HIV and active drug users. All are struggles of
trans people and many others over survival in the midst of large changes in global capitalism
and US state violence.

Of the 43 million people living with HIV around the world, 95% lack access to basic
medications. Movements of people living with HIV have organized across the globe to demand
their governments manufacture and distribute affordable, generic HIV medications.
Multinational pharmaceutical corporations, in turn, have sued under international patent law.
The companies are profiting off of the denial of HIV meds to vast populations across Africa,
Asian and Latin America. ACT UP Philadelphia has been on the forefront of standing with these
global HIV meds to demand affordable HIV care, a restructuring of international trade
regulations and the rights and urgent need of governments to address their populations

Like trans people, active drug users face extreme marginalization in accessing healthcare.
Active illegal drug users are barred from housing, healthcare and most social services. Treated
as delusional, unthinking addicts, drug users are consistently robbed of their own self-
determination. This is part, of course, of what we call the war on drugs. In the last twenty five
years, the United States has adopted a policy of massive criminalization of drug use. Through
militarizing the police system to serve as occupying armies in working class urban
neighborhoods, dramatically expanding the profit prison industry and changing sentencing
guidelines, over 2 million people are currently incarcerated in the United States. This is the
highest rate in the industrial world, and acts as an implement of massive suffering in poor
communities of color. Prisons and police occupation destroy families, peoples lives and rob
communities of political and economic self-determination.

The focus of this racist and classist state violence has been directed against drug users
themselves. Legally denied access to basic social services, healthcare, housing or employment,
active drug users are among the most intensely marginalized segment of US society. US policies
toward drug users, like trans people, only make sense as strategies to kill us off, totally
devaluing our lives and bodies as less than worthless. Humane, effective and respectful services
to active drug users, such as a decent needle exchange, are criminalized or bared from access
to funding.

In the midst of this nightmarish political scape, some people have been organizing around the
rights of drug users and against the prison system. Active drug users, in coalition with the more
progressive currents of social services, have been organizing against incarceration,
criminalization and in favor of adequate healthcare, housing and other basic needs. Trans
people, both as active illegal drug users and in accessing trans-specific services have
participated in and benefited from this work. Further, much of the war on drugs has been
targeted against women, and is intimately bound up legally and strategically with assaults on
reproductive freedom.

All this work shares an extraordinary, revolutionary commitment to self-determination in
healthcare for marginalized people. Focusing on healthcare is helpful for the ways our bodies
link us to systems of transnational capital, white supremacy and violent transphobia and

The most vibrant expressions of feminist and trans politics have been committed to self-
determination. This self-determination is not only with respect to ones body, but also in the
absolute rights of people to self-express and self-define their own gender and identity in the
ways that most fully and deeply suit themselves. Honoring self-determination in identity helps
dispel the awful competition and nastiness between marginalized people. Androgynous or high
femme, transsexual or genderqueer people have the right to define and articulate their own
identities. This insight, present in much of feminist and trans politics, provides the basis of
rethinking identity politics.

revolutionary choice

Choices around ones own body and identity are deeply personal. For self-determination to
provide a basis for a liberatory politics, however, it cant just be about ones individual
decisions. Too much of the writing and thought on choice has been mired in crude ideas of
voluntarist, individualist autonomy, as if any person could be separated from their communities
and histories. Choice as an idea can bring with it baggage of white, yuppie assholes wanting
everything to be organized for their benefit, the capitalist over-proliferation of consumer choices
based on privilege, exploitation and environmental decimation.

All these examples around healthcare, however, argue for a far more powerful understanding of
choice than an individuals decisions. Most women, and most trans people, are neither
economically privileged nor white. Struggles over access to healthcare are not only personal,
they are deeply bound up over global battles over race and class power.

Self-determination must go far beyond simply acknowledging someones right to choose to have
an abortion or take hormones. For many, these choices are inseparable from economic
necessity, personal and cultural survival and oppression through white supremacy and poverty.
It will be some time before rich white women lose the right to an abortion or have any reason
to fear forced sterilization. Already, however, most poor women of color around the world are
denied access to substantive reproductive freedom. Similarly, struggles over the health needs of
trans people mean little without engaging the entrenched violence of racism and poverty that
structure and limit the lives of so many gender variant people in Philadelphia and around the

Ultimately, talking about self-determination is talking about revolution. Counter to the most
basic structures of capitalist domination, working class and poor people of all races have the
absolute right to self-determine our future, their communities and human society. In opposition
to colonial and neocolonial white supremacy, communities of color have an unquestionable right
to define cultural, social and economic systems free of racist tyranny. For gender variant people
in poor communities of color, self-determination is ultimately about the revolutionary
transformation of social power.

A revolutionary politics of self-determination must be about recognizing and challenging
systems of white supremacist capitalism and neocolonialism. Self-determination isnt just about
making individual decisions its about communities, classes and nations seizing control of their
own destiny from the grips of the domination of capital, state violence and colonization. A
substantive radical gender politics must challenge all structures of domination as they are
deeply interconnected across the surface of our lives and across this planet.

The self-determination of trans people must rest on recognizing the deep interconnections of
transphobia, patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism and all other systems of domination.
Global wars of power play out within our bodies and consciousness, and our liberation is
inseparable from all others. A transfeminist politics, like any substantive revolutionary politics,
must move beyond ranking identities and competing over scarce resources, and instead lie in a
vision of struggle and freedom that encompasses all people.

Two days ago I have myself another shot of Delestrogen, the hormone I take through an
intramuscular injection every two weeks. In that shot I find my hope. It is there I am closest to
my desire for finding a place of self-love, pride and healing in myself. In that hope is my deep
yearnings for a politics of liberation that refuses competition, fear and scarcity. A commitment
to liberation that sees how deeply interwoven our lives are. A yearning for a movement that will
touch us all, that will heal our wounds, that will open up ways for us to listen to, love and
support each other. In that shot, I am closest to that part of myself that is true to an
unconditional love for all beings. And in that love I locate myself in the revolutionary struggle
against patriarchy and transphobia, against state capitalism and white supremacist colonization,
against domination in all its forms.
J. Crew Plants the Seeds for Gender Identity
By Dr. Keith Ablow
Published April 11, 2011 |
A recent feature in J. Crew's online catalogue portrays designer Jenna Lyons painting her son
Becketts toe nails hot pink. The quote accompanying the image reads, Lucky for me, I ended
up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.
Yeah, well, it may be fun and games now, Jenna, but at least put some money aside for
psychotherapy for the kidand maybe a little for others wholl be affected by your innocent
This is a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all
trappings of gender identityhomogenizing males and females when the outcome of such
psychological sterilization [my word choice] is not known.
In our technology-driven worldfueled by Facebook, split-second Prozac prescriptions and lots
of other assaults on genuine emotion and genuine relationships and actual consequences for
behavioralmost nothing is now honored as real and true.
Increasingly, this includes the truth that it is unwise to dress little girls like miniature adults (in
halter tops and shorts emblazoned with PINK across the bottoms) and that it is unwise to
encourage little boys to playact like little girls.
If you have no problem with the J. Crew ad, how about one in which a little boy models a
sundress? What could possibly be the problem with that?
Well, how about the fact that encouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than
suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones that they got at birth, can throw our
species into real psychological turmoilnot to mention crowding operating rooms with
procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts? Why not make race the next frontier? What
would be so wrong with people deciding to tattoo themselves dark brown and claim African-
American heritage? Why not bleach the skin of others so they can playact as Caucasians?
Why should we hold dear anything with which we were born? Whats the benefit of non-fiction
over fiction?
Well, the benefit is that non-fiction always wins, in the end. And to the extent that you take
flights of fancy into masquerading through life, life will exact a psychological penalty.
The fallout is already being seen. Increasingly, girls show none of the reticence they once did to
engage in early sexual relationships with boys. That may be a good thing from the standpoint
of gender equality, but it could be a bad thing since there is no longer the same typically
feminine brake on such behavior. Girls beat up other girls on YouTube. Young men primp and
preen until their abdomens are washboards and their hair is perfect. And while that may seem
like no big deal, it will be a very big deal if it turns out that neither gender is very comfortable
anymore nurturing children above all else, and neither gender is motivated to rank creating a
family above having great sex forever and neither gender is motivated to protect the nation by
marching into combat against other men and risking their lives.
Maybe well all have shiny, colored lips, though, and pierced ears and perfect eyebrows and
mommies who get applause from their J. Crew friends at the park for parading their sons
through the streets in costume.
Jenna Lyons and J. Crew seem to know exactly what theyre up to. Thats why the photograph
of Jennas son so prominently displays his hot pink, neon toe nails. These folks are hostile to
the gender distinctions that actually are part of the magnificent synergy that creates and
sustains the human race. They respect their own creative notions a whole lot more than any
creative Force in the universe.
I wonder what Jenna would think if her son wanted to celebrate his masculinity with a little
playacting as a cowboy, with a gun? Would that bring the same smile of joy and pure love that
we see on her face in the J. Crew advertisement? Or would that be where she might draw the
What do you think? Leave your comment below.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, Fox News Contributor and New York Times best-selling author. Contact
him at

by Andrea Smith
Tikkun Magazine, July/August 2010
Queer politics calls us to go beyond a simple toleration for gay and lesbian communities to
address how heteropatriarchy structures white supremacy, capitalism, and settler colonialism.
By heteropatriarchy, I mean the way our society is fundamentally based on male dominancea
dominance inherently built on a gender binary system that presumes heterosexuality as a social
To examine how heteropatriarchy is the building block of U.S. empire, we can turn to the
writings of the Christian Right. For example, Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson makes a
connection between homosexuality and the nation-state in his analysis of the war on terror,
claiming that one of the causes of terrorism is same-sex marriage:
Marriage is the traditional building block of human society, intended both to unite couples and
bring children into the world ... There is a natural moral order for the family ... The family, led
by a married mother and father, is the best available structure for both child-rearing and
cultural health. Marriage is not a private institution designed solely for the individual
gratification of its participants. If we fail to enact a Federal Marriage Amendment, we can
expect not just more family breakdown, but also more criminals behind bars and more chaos in
our streets. It's like handing moral weapons of mass destruction to those who would use
America's depravity to recruit more snipers, more highjackers, and more suicide bombers.
When radical Islamists see American women abusing Muslim men, as they did in the Abu Ghraib
prison, and when they see news coverage of same-sex couples being "married" in U.S. towns,
we make our kind of freedom abhorrentthe kind they see as a blot on Allah's creation. [We
must preserve traditional marriage in order to] protect the United States from those who would
use our depravity to destroy us.
The implicit assumption in this analysis is that the traditional heterosexual family is the building
block of empire. Colson is linking the well-being of U.S. empire to the well-being of the
heteropatriarchal family.
Heteropatriarchy is the logic that makes social hierarchy seem natural. Just as the patriarchs
rule the family, the elites of the nation-state rule their citizens. For instance, prior to
colonization many Native communities were not only nonpatriarchal, they were not socially
hierarchical, generally speaking. Consequently, when colonists first came to this land they saw
the necessity of instilling patriarchy in Native communities because they realized that
indigenous peoples would not accept colonial domination if their own indigenous societies were
not structured on the basis of social hierarchy.
Patriarchy in turn rests on a gender-binary system; hence it is not a coincidence that colonizers
also targeted indigenous peoples who did not fit within this binary model. Many Native
communities had multiple genderssome Native scholars are now even arguing that their
communities may not have been gendered at all prior to colonizationalthough gender systems
among Native communities varied.
Gender violence is a primary tool of colonialism and white supremacy. Colonizers did not just kill
off indigenous peoples in this landNative massacres were also accompanied by sexual
mutilation and rape. The goal of colonialism is not just to kill colonized peoplesit's also to
destroy their sense of being people. It is through sexual violence that a colonizing group
attempts to render a colonized people as inherently rapable, their lands inherently invadable,
and their resources inherently extractable. A queer analytic highlights the fact that colonialism
operates through patriarchy.
Another reality that a queer activist approach reveals is that even social justice groups often
rely on a politics of normalization. Queer politics has expanded our understanding of identity
politics by not presuming fixed categories of people, but rather looking at how these identity
categories can normalize who is acceptable and who is unacceptable, even within social justice
movements. It has also demonstrated that many peoples can become "queered" in our
societythat is, regardless of sexual/gender identity, they can become marked as inherently
perverse and hence unworthy of social concern (such as sex workers, prisoners, "terrorists,"
etc.). We often organize around those peoples who seem most "normal" or acceptable to the
mainstream. Or we engage in an identity politics that is based on a vision of racial, cultural, or
political purity that sidelines all those who deviate from the revolutionary "norm."
Because we have not challenged our society's sexist hierarchy (which, as I have explained,
fundamentally privileges maleness and presumes heterosexuality), we have deeply internalized
the notion that social hierarchy is natural and inevitable, thus undermining our ability to create
movements for social change that do not replicate the structures of domination that we seek to
eradicate. Whether it is the neocolonial middle managers of the nonprofit industrial complex or
the revolutionary vanguard elite, the assumption is that patriarchs of any gender are required to
manage and police the revolutionary family. Any liberation struggle that does not challenge
heteronormativity cannot substantially challenge colonialism or white supremacy. Rather, as
political scientist Cathy Cohen contends, such struggles will maintain colonialism based on a
politics of secondary marginalization in which the most elite members of these groups will
further their aspirations on the backs of those most marginalized within the community.
Fortunately, many indigenous and racial justice movements are beginning to see that
addressing heteropatriarchy is essential to dismantling settler colonialism and white supremacy.
The Native Youth Sexual Health Network, led by Jessica Yee, integrates queer analysis,
indigenous feminism, and decolonization into its organizing praxis. Incite!, a national activist
group led by radical feminists of color, similarly addresses the linkages between gender
violence, heteropatriarchy, and state violence. And queer-of-color organizations such as the
Audre Lorde Project have rejected centrist political approaches that demand accommodation
from the state; rather, they seek to "queer" the state itself.
This queer interrogation of the "normal" is also present in more conservative communities. I see
one such thread in evangelical circlesthe emergent movement (or perhaps more broadly, the
new evangelical movement). By describing the emergent movement as a queering of
evangelicalism, I don't necessarily mean that it offers an open critique of homophobia (although
some emergent church leaders such as Brian McClaren have spoken out against homophobia).
Rather, I see this movement as challenging of normalizing logics within evangelicalism. This
movement has sought to challenge the meaning of evangelicalism as being based on doctrinal
correctness, and instead to imagine it a more open-ended ongoing theological conversation.
Certainly the Obama presidential campaign has inspired many evangelicalseven though they
may hold conservative positions on homosexuality or abortionto call for a politics that is more
open-ended and engaged with larger social justice struggles. Perhaps because of this trend,
evangelical leader John Stackhouse recently complained that the biggest change in
evangelicalism is "the collapse of the Christian consensus against homosexual marriage."
Unfortunately, many leftist organizers tend to dismiss or ignore these openings within
evangelicalism, but at their own peril. Social transformation happens only through sustained
dialogue with people across social, cultural, and political divides.
As I have shown here, I believe queer politics offers both a politics and a method for furthering
social transformation. It is a politics that addresses how heteropatriarchy serves to naturalize all
other social hierarchies, such as white supremacy and settler colonialism. It is also a method
that organizes around a critique of the "normal" (in society as a whole or in social movements)
and engages in open-ended, flexible, and ever-changing strategies for liberation.

Andrea Smith is the author of Native Americans and the Christian Right: The Gendered Politics of Unlikely
Alliances (Duke, 2008). She teaches at UC Riverside.
Smith, Andrea. 2010. Dismantling Hierarchy, Queering Society. Tikkun 25(4): 60

Gay Mens Sexism and Womens Bodies
November 4, 2012 By Yolo Akili
At a recent presentation, I asked all of the gay male students in the room to raise their hand if
in the past week they touched a womans body without her consent. After a moment of
hesitation, all of the hands of the gay men in the room went up. I then asked the same gay
men to raise their hand if in the past week they offered a woman unsolicited advice about how
to improve her body or her fashion. Once again, after a moment of hesitation, all of the hands
in the room went up.
These questions came after a brief exploration of gay mens relationship to American fashion
and womens bodies. That dialogue included recognizing that gay men in the United States are
often hailed as the experts of womens fashion and by proxy womens bodies. In addition to this
there is a dominant logic that suggests that because gay men have no conscious desire to be
sexually intimate with women, our uninvited touching and groping (physical assault) is benign.
These attitudes have led many gay men to feel curiously comfortable critiquing and touching
womens bodies at whim. Whats unique about this is not the male sense of ownership to
womens bodiesthat is somewhat common. Whats curious is the minimization of these acts
by gay men and many women because the male perpetuating the act is or is perceived to be
An example: I was at a gay club in Atlanta with a good friend of mine who is a heterosexual
black woman. While dancing in the club, a white gay male reached out and grabbed both her
breasts aggressively. Shocked, she pushed him away immediately. When we both confronted
him he told us: Its no big deal, Im gay, I dont want her I was just having fun. We
expressed our frustrations to him and demanded he apologize, but he simply refused. He clearly
felt entitled to touch her body and could not even acknowledge the fact that he had assaulted
I have experienced this attitude as being very common amongst gay men. It should also be
noted that in this case, she was a black woman and he a white gay male, which makes this an
eyebrow-raising dynamic as it invokes the psychological history of white mens entitlement to
black womens bodies. However it has been my experience that this dynamic of assault with gay
men and women also persists within racial groups.
At another presentation, I told this same story to the audience. Almost instantly, several young
women raised up their hands to be called upon. Each of them recounted a different story with a
similar theme. One young woman told a story that stuck with me:
I was feeling really cute in this outfit I put together. Then I see this gay guy I knew from class,
but not very well. I had barely said hi before he began telling me what was wrong with how I
looked, how I needed to lose weight, and how if I wanted to get a man I needed to do certain
things In the midst of this, he grabbed my breasts and pushed them together, to tell me how
my breasts should look as opposed to how they did. It really brought me down. I didnt know
how to respond I was so shocked.
Her story invoked rage amongst many other women in the audience, and an obvious silence
amongst the gay men present. Their silence spoke volumes. What also seemed to speak
volumes, though not ever articulated verbally, was the sense that many of the heterosexual
women had not responded (aggressively or otherwise) out of fear of being perceived as
homophobic. (Or that their own homophobia, in an aggressive response, would reveal itself.)
This, curiously to me, did not seem to be a concern for the lesbian and queer-identified women
in the room at all.
Acts like these are a part of the everyday psychological warfare against women and girls that
pits them against unrealistic beauty standards and ideals. It is also a part of the cultures
constant message to women that their bodies are not their own.
Its very disturbing, but in a culture that doesnt see gay men who are perceived as queer as
men or as having male privilege, our misogyny and sexist acts are instead read as diva
worship or celebrating women, even when in reality they are objectification, assault and
The unique way our entitlement to womens physical bodies plays itself out is only the tip of the
iceberg when it comes to gay cisgender mens sexism and privilege. This privilege does not
make one a bad person any more than straight privilege makes heterosexuals bad people. It
does mean that gay men can sometimes be just as unthinkingly hurtful, and unthinkingly a part
of a system that participates in the oppression of others, an experience most of us can relate
to. Exploration of these dynamics can lead us to query institutional systems and policies that
reflect this privilege, nuanced as it is by other identities and social locations.
At the end of my last workshop on gay mens sexism, I extended a number of questions to the
gay men in the audience. I think its relevant to extend these same questions now:
How is your sexism and misogyny showing up in your own life, and in your relationships with
your female friends, trans, lesbian, queer or heterosexual? How is it showing up in your
relationship to your mothers, aunts and sisters? Is it showing up in your expectations of how
they should treat you? How you talk to them? What steps can you take to address the
inequitable representation of gay cisgender men in your community as leaders? How do you see
that privilege showing up in your organizations and policy, and what can you do to circumvent
it? How will you talk to other gay men in your community about their choices and interactions
with women, and how will you work to hold them and yourself accountable?
These are just some of the questions we need to be asking ourselves so that we can help
create communities where sexual or physical assault, no matter who is doing it, is deemed
unacceptable. These are the kinds of questions we as gay men need to be asking ourselves so
that we can continue (or for some begin) the work of addressing gender/sex inequity in our
own communities, as well as in our own hearts and minds. This is a part of our healing work.
This is a part of our transformation. This is a part of our accountability.
Mach|smo and nomophob|a: 1he Wound|ng of Se|f-Lsteem
8y 8afael M. ulaz
1hey see me wlLh deslre
Lhlnklng l am "bugarron"
buL Lhey are LoLally wrong . . .
more "hembra" Lhan me
ln bed Lhey'll never flnd.
--"Me sleoto lloJo y betmoso." poem by 1aLlana letto lo
kevlsto, vol 1, no.2. !une-!uly 1993 (LranslaLlon by 8Mu)
8oqottoo. PeLerosexually ldenLlfled man who pen-eLraLes
oLher men. nembto. A real woman, female equlvalenL of
lL ls lmposslble Lo wrlLe abouL Lhe experlences of homophobla ln Lhe llves of LaLlno gay men wlLhouL
addresslng culLural ldeals abouL men and mascullnlLy. Pomosexual boys are soclallzed ln Lhe conLexL of
Lhree messages LhaL llnk machlsmo and homophobla ln an oppresslve parLnershlp. ln a slngle sLroke, Lhe
messages boLh lnflaLe our self-concepL and desLrucLlvely wound our dlgnlLy and self-esLeem.
A flrsL message deflnes mascullnlLy, Lhe essence of male ldenLlLy, ln Lerms of hlghly prlzed values such
as courage, fearlessness, proLecLlon, and sLrengLh. Men are glven prlvlleged sLaLus as carrlers and
defenders of culLural Lreasures--flnanclal, pollLlcal, soclal and psychologlcal. As femlnlsL wrlLers have
polnLed ouL, paLrlarchal socleLles are organlzed Lo malnLaln male domlnaLlon, glvlng males noL only
access Lo power buL also ample opporLunlLles for asserLlng and esLabllshlng Lhelr self worLh and self-
esLeem. lf Lhls were Lhe only message recelved abouL our manhood we would predlcL LhaL mosL males ln
LaLlno communlLles, heLerosexual and homosexual allke, would grow up wlLh a sLrong sense
of self-asserLlon and self-esLeem, Lhough perhaps pedanLlc, lnflaLed and unaccepLably oppresslve
Loward women.
A second and perhaps more powerful message ls LhaL noL all men are mascullne and LhaL, ln facL,
mascullnlLy musL be ptoveo by excepLlonal feaLs of courage, fearlessness and sLrengLh. 1hls second
message, Lhe need Lo prove mascullnlLy, breeds resLlessness, anxleLy, and self-doubL. MascullnlLy ls
presenLed noL as a pralseworLhy personal vlrLue buL as some klnd of norLhern sLar LhaL, whlle ever-
presenL ln our personal [ourney, can never be Lruly reached.
lL ls Lhls message LhaL promoLes machlsmo" or hypermascullnlLy," Lhe excesslve, abuslve, and
perverLed dlsplay of mascullne LralLs mosL ofLen ln response Lo personal doubLs abouL achlevlng Lhe
mascullne ldeal. ueeper doubLs and lnsecurlLy abouL one's mascullnlLy, and non-mascullne" feellngs
of helplessness and fear, predlcL sLronger dlsplays of mocblsto aLLlLudes and behavlor. lL ls my bellef
LhaL Lhe comblned mes-sage sLaLlng lL's greaL Lo be a man, buL you are noL one unLll you prove lL"
consLlLuLes a powerful predlcLor and explalns much of Lhe behavlor as well as many of Lhe psychologlcal
characLerlsLlcs and emoLlonal wounds aLLrlbuLed Lo LaLlno males--homosexuals noL excepLed.
1he Lhlrd message, mosL devasLaLlng for LaLlno gay men, sLaLes LhaL homosexuals are noL Lrue men"
or, even worse, "homosexuals are folleJ men." ln our culLure, as ln many oLhers, homosexuallLy has
been de-flned ln Lerms of gender ldenLlLy raLher Lhan sexual orlenLaLlon (Alma-guer, 1991), LhaL ls,
homosexuals are noL consldered Lrue or real meo--"oo bombtes bombtes"--os one research parLlclpanL
Lold me wlLh greaL emphasls and convlcLlon. PomosexuallLy ln men ls concelved as Lhe fallure Lo achleve
Lhe culLurally glven and hlghly prlzed mascullne ldeal and, Lherefore ls someLhlng Lo scorn and be
ashamed of. Whlle femlnlnlLy ls soclally regarded as deslred vlrLue ln women and deflned ln conLrasL
Lo" or ln complemenL Lo" mascullnlLy ln men, Lhose same femlnlne characLerlsLlcs ln males, lncludlng
same-sex aLLracLlon, are undersLood and regarded by Lhe culLure as shameful personal fallures. 1he
sLronger and deeper Lhe machlsmo ldeology ln a glven communlLy, Lhe more homophoblc aLLlLudes can
be expecLed.
1he deflnlLlon of homosexuallLy as a gender problem raLher Lhan as a dlfference ln sexual orlenLaLlon
fuels and exacerbaLes homophobla. Pomosexuals are porLrayed ln Lerms of Lhose characLerlsLlcs LhaL
musL be avolded preclsely by Lhose lnvolved ln provlng mascullnlLy. lL ls no surprlse LhaL Lhe mosL
common lnsulL among boys who are worklng ouL Lhelr sense of manhood among oLher boys ls motlco,
Lhe culLural equlvalenL of "faggoL." Pomosexuals carry Lhe burden of porLraylng and embodylng
Lhe "fallure scenarlo," a remlnder of mascullnlLy gone wrong. Pomosexuals Lhus serve as Lhe LargeL
of anger, vlolence, and dlsgusL, llke a perverLed supporL sysLem for boys' lnsecurlLles ln Lhelr Lask of
provlng manhood. lL ls no wonder LhaL many boys who experl-ence same-sex deslre end up ln sllence,
hlghly lnhlblLed, and feellng LhaL Lhey are wearlng a false mask of mascullnlLy.
8ecause of Lhe culLure's deflnlLlon of homosexuallLy ln Lerms of gen-der ldenLlflcaLlon raLher Lhan
sexual orlenLaLlon, boys who experlence same-sexdeslres Lend Lo be LorLured wlLh doubL abouL
Lhelr mascullnlLy. 1he machlsmo Lrlple message ls, Lherefore, percelved as parLlcularly rele-vanL
and accusaLory by homosexual boys, leadlng Lo-a more pronounced need Lo prove efforLfully Lhelr
mascullnlLy. Some boys, especlally Lhose wlLh more effemlnaLe characLerlsLlcs, may glve up early on ln
Lhelr aLLempLs Lo prove manhood and may consLrucL a femlnlne ldenLlflcaLlon. CLhers, less exLreme,
grow up bellevlng LhaL Lhey are noL Lruly bombtes bombtes" (men men) or "real men'' llke Lhelr
heLerosexual counLerparLs, consLrucLlng Lhe ldea LhaL Lhelr mascullnlLy ls ln reallLy a show or facade
LhaL hldes more or less successfully Lhe loco (crazy woman, culLural equlvalenL of "queen'') wlLhln.
LffemlnaLe homosexuals are referred Lo as "obvlous," meanlng LhaL all homosexuals are deep down
effemlnaLe and womanllke, and whaL varles among us ls Lhe degree of our concealmenL.
1hus, even Lhough lL may appear somewhaL counLerlnLulLlve, my worklng hypoLhesls ls LhaL gay-
ldenLlfled men who grow up ln LaLlno culLures are more vulnerable Lo Lhe machlsmo message and,
Lherefore, would be more concerned and compelled Lo prove Lhelr mascullnlLy Lhan Lhelr heLerosexual
peers. lor Lhose who undersLandably glve up provlng Lhelr own manhood, Lhe culLural message of
machlsmo ofLen Lurns lnLo an obsesslon Lo experlence Lhe manhood of Lhelr sexual parLners, Lo Lhe
polnL of feellng sexually aLLracLed only Lo sLralghL or sLralghL-looklng men.
A ersona| Story
lL Look me aL leasL slx monLhs Lo flnally produce some wrlLlng on Lhe Loplc of Lhls chapLer. 1lme and Llme
agaln, l approached Lhe keyboard only Lo become paralyzed wlLh a famlllar, empLy, palnful feellng ln Lhe
sLomach--LhaL very same feellng evoked by Lhe recess bell durlng my school years ln Cuba, CuaLemala,
and uerLo 8lco.
Whlle my classmaLes expressed [oy and rellef, Lhe bell slgnaled for me anoLher half-hour of name
calllng--loto, lojotlto, Motlpolto, Mot-lco--and, qulLe ofLen, physlcal abuse. As Lhe unwllllng sub[ecL
of an lll-faLed avlovlan experlmenL, Lhe recess bell produced ln me a cerLaln anLlclpaLory panlc for
Lhe forLhcomlng laughs, name calllng, LhreaLs, punches, and klcks, all of Lhese woven lnLo some klnd
of message abouL my falled mascullnlLy. AL recess Llme, belng lefL alone was a mosL wel-come Lhough
blLLersweeL rellef. l wanLed so much Lo be approached, lncluded, and respecLed by oLher boys! 8uL
sollLude was much beLLer Lhan never-endlng harassmenL.
very puzzllng aL Lhe Llme was Lhe facL LhaL when many oLher boys aL my school were called Lhe colorful
varleLy of "faggoL" names, Lhey elLher casually reLurned Lhe lnsulLs, [oklngly foughL back, or seemed Lo
have cared less. Much Lo my confuslon and surprlse, many classmaLes shrugged off Lhe name calllng
and acLed as lf Lhe Lerrlfylng lnsulLs bounced off Lhelr very Lough sklns. lL was clear Lo me LhaL Lhe wlde
varleLy of faggoL lnsulLs were noL only dlrecLed aL me, ln facL, wlLh few excepLlons, everyone goL Lhelr
8uL l reacLed dlfferenLly. unllke Lhe seemlngly casual, LranslLory, and only skln-deep effecLs on my
peers, Lhe lnsulLs LorLured me and lefL me paralyzed ln a comblnaLlon of panlc and despalr. l belleved
somehow Lhe lnsulLs conLalned a kernel of LruLh. 1he lnsulLs were valldaLed, ln my mlnd, by Lhe
emerglng awareness of my own homosexuallLy. ln facL, more Lhan belng lnsulLed, lL felL llke l was belng
publlcly and shame-fully exposeJ. ln Lhose days, l had recurrenL dreams of shame, such as flndlng myself
ln my underwear, rlghL ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe school play-ground full of klds. .
AL recess Llme, l was noL only a vlcLlm buL also my mosL severe and damaglng perpeLraLor. l LorLured
myself wlLh quesLlons of personal doubL: Was lL my volce? Was lL Lhe way l moved my hands? Was lL my
Lerror and deep averslon Lo vlolence? My dlsllke of rough sporLs? Cr was lL LhaL unexplalnable feellng of
weakness ln my arms LhaL made me physlcally unable Lo punch my lnsulLlng opponenL ln self-defense? l
grew up wlLh Lhe dlsLurblng concluslon LhaL Lhere was someLhlng pro-foundly wrong wlLh me. AfLer all, l
felL ln Lhe mosL profound physlcal guLLural ways, Lhose shameful feellngs Lhe faggoL names descrlbed.
My shame, Lhough obvlously connecLed Lo my sexual feellngs, was more clearly focused on falled
mascullnlLy. More deeply shameful Lhan sex was Lhe fear LhaL l was publlcly falllng aL Lhe mosL
lmporLanL Lask or sacred ldeal--manhood--glven Lo me by famlly, medla, and peers. l had learned very
well whaL a man should feel, say, and do, and l knew l couldn'L feel, say, and do lL LhaL way. l felL ln my
guL Lhe despalr of someone who could noL reach whaL seemed, aL flrsL vlew, a very slmple goal, a goal
apparenLly reached by everyone else around me wlLh rela-Llvely llLLle efforL. l felL, and knew, LhaL l
could noL be whaL l was supposed Lo be, "a real man," as dlcLaLed by my culLure. l remember dreamlng
exhausLlng dreams of consLanL walklng, runnlng, cllmblng, never able Lo reach Lhe place, Lhe flnlsh llne,
Lhe summlL. My moLher Lold me once, ln recenL years, LhaL as a chlld l complalned a loL of belng Llred.
My parenLs LhoughL lL was my flaL feeL, now, l know beLLer. AL Lhe Llme, however, my flaL feeL were yeL
anoLher conflrmaLlon, as concreLe as Lhey come, LhaL Lhere was someLhlng profoundly wrong wlLh me.
1houghLs of denlal and escape, aL dlfferenL levels of self-awareness, provlded some welcome rellef.
AfLer all, Lhe sex sLuff could be kepL ln secreL or maybe evenLually changed lf l had sex wlLh a female
prosLl-LuLe, or klssed a glrlfrlend, or marrled a woman some day. l was a sensual, sexual, passlonaLe
chlld and remember en[oylng Lhoroughly a woman's Louch and affecLlon. l remember geLLlng aroused
by anyLhlng sexual, even magazlnes of naked women or older boys' Lales of heLero-sexual prowess. Cf
course, so l LhoughL, l could become a cellbaLe prlesL and sLore my sexuallLy safely ln a locked drawer--
all of whlch l dld for a number of years--so l could llve happlly ever afLer wlLh prlde and respecL from my
famlly and frlends. 8uL Lhere was noL much rellef for LhaL feellng of deflclency, for LhaL sense of personal
weakness and fallure wlLh respecL Lo Lhe culLure's mascullne ldeal.
AL age 46, as an openly gay man, wlLh years of parLlclpaLlon ln Lhe gay llberaLlon movemenL, and a
10-year veLeran of psychoLherapy, l had no ldea lL would be so dlfflculL Lo wrlLe abouL Lhe lmpacL of
machlsmo and homophobla. 8uL now l reallze LhaL, ln so dolng, l am revlslLlng and explorlng Lhe orlglns
of Lhe mosL profound wounds l carry. ln facL, l could noL have wrlLLen Lhls chapLer excepL by Lelllng aL
one polnL my personal sLory and recognlzlng my personal wounds.
1hls chapLer ls abouL me and men llke me who grew up homosexual ln LaLlno communlLles, where
an lnLrlcaLe alllance beLween machlsmo and homophobla has devoured our sense of dlgnlLy and self-
esLeem, ln Lhe same way LhaL Plv ls now devourlng our lmmune sysLems. l belleve LhaL Lhe experlences
of machlsmo and homophobla, and Lhelr desLrucLlve llnkage ln our culLure, hold Lhe mosL lmporLanL
clues Lo undersLandlng whaL ls happenlng Lo us and our sexuallLy. 1hls chapLer ls Lhus an exploraLlon
of Lhose forces LhaL have Lold me and oLher LaLlno gay men llke me LhaL Lhere ls someLhlng wrong wlLh
us. lL ls a [ourney lnLo Lhe sources of profound resLlessness and shame, and Lhe underlylng reason why
many of us have always overachleved wlLh a sense LhaL lL ls never good enough.
ln reLrospecL, l am fully aware LhaL Lhe damaglng effecLs of machlsmo and homophobla were posslble
noL only because we have been Lhe ob[ecL of subsLanLlal verbal and physlcal abuse, buL malnly because
we bove seeo ootselves wltb tbe some eyes os oot opptessots. 1herefore, Lhls chapLer ls more abouL
lnLernallzed machlsmo and homophobla, abouL lnLernallzed oppresslon, raLher Lhan abouL machlsmo
and homophobla ln our culLure ob[ecLlvely deflned as exLernal Lo us. l embark on Lhls exploraLlon wlLh
a greaL deal of hope and convlcLlon LhaL heallng our self-esLeem--Lhrough proud self-afflrmaLlon--ls
lndeed posslble.
nomosexua||ty as a Gender Category
1he mosL desLrucLlve llnk beLween Lhe messages of machlsmo and homophobla ls achleved by a
culLural deflnlLlon of homosexuallLy as a gender problem, raLher Lhan a dlfference ln sexual orlenLaLlon.
Pomosexuals are deflned as noL real men, as less Lhan men or, more approprlaLely, as falled men.
Motlco Lhe culLural equlvalenL word for foqqot, denounces Lhose who are effemlnaLe, Lhose who fall
Lhe mascullnlLy LesL.
As soclallzed members of Lhe culLure, many LaLlno homosexuals, especlally Lhose who have noL been
Louched by gay llberaLlon ldeology, share Lhls oppresslve, homophoblc culLural deflnlLlon. An exLreme
preoccupaLlon wlLh mascullnlLy/femlnlnlLy of self and sexual parLners, a personal sense of shame for
belng or appearlng effemlnaLe, and Lhe frequenL adopLlon of an lnLernal and exLernal femlnlne ldenLlLy,
are [usL a few of Lhe many manlfesLaLlon of such self-oppresslve ldeology. Lven Lhough many LaLlno gay
men have creaLlvely and humorously dealL wlLh Lhe culLural deflnlLlon of falled manhood, My famlly
loved me, l was Lhe prlncess of Lhe house" or "We were flve, l mean, four-and-a--half, broLhers"--ln my
oplnlon, Lhls lnLernallzaLlon consLlLuLes and conLlnues Lo be one of Lhe mosL devasLaLlng wounds Lo
our self-esLeem. 1he end producL ls a pervaslve feellng, ofLen qulLe vague and dlffuse, LhaL someLhlng ls
deeply wrong wlLh us.
nowhere ls Lhe lnLerpreLaLlon of homosexuallLy as a gender caLegory so obvlous as ln a poem enLlLled
"Me sleoto lloJo y betmoso" (l feel preLLy and beauLlful), wrlLLen for a Spanlsh-speaklng gay audlence
ln Mlaml. 1he poem provldes us wlLh a clear example of a gay man who, whlle he doesn'L dress up
as a woman or asplre for a sex change, has lnLernallzed and adopLed socleLy's gender deflnlLlon of
homosexuallLy. lndeed, Lhe mosL lnLeresLlng and lnLrlgulng aspecL of Lhe poem ls LhaL lL was wrlL-Len
by a gay man uslng Lhe pseudonym 1otlooo, for letto! magazlne (noLe Lhe femlnlne names for boLh
auLhor and publlcaLlon) for an audl-ence of mosLly LaLlno gay men. lL ls far from belng consldered an
lnsulL. Accordlng Lo Lduardo Aparlco, edlLor of letto! magazlne, Lhe poem's auLhor lnLends Lo mock
and rldlcule Lhe machlsLa aLLlLude or "mascullne fasade" dlsplayed by many LaLlno homosexuals. 1he
poem wlLnesses Lhe depLh of accepLance and lnLernallzaLlon of a gender defl-nlLlon of homosexuallLy ln
our communlLy.1hls occurs apparenLly wlLh llLLle awareness LhaL Lhls perspecLlve effecLlvely llnks, ln an
manner, machlsmo and homophobla ln our culLure.
1he poem was orlglnally wrlLLen lnSpanlsh and, on Lhe rlghL slde, l offer my LranslaLlon.
Me sleoto lloJo y betmoso
potpoe estoy bleo moscoloso.
leto los locos oo sobeo
poe eotte los pletoos boy poco.
Me mltoo coo lloslo,
peosooJo poe soy boqottoo.
l feel preLLy and beauLlful
because l am so muscular
8uL Lhe queens don'L know
Lhere ls llLLle beLween my legs.
1hey see me wlLh deslre
Lhlnklng l am boqottoo
leto esto epolvocoJos
potpoe ms bembto poe yo
oo eocoottotoo eo lo como
sto es ooo ftosttoclo,
teoet este bello coetpo,
peto te Jlqo, ml betmooo,
poe me coesto mooteoetlo.
l ptoblemo Je este coetpo
es poe me slqoeo los vlejos
y los locos, toJos ellos,
y yo lo poe estoy boscooJo
es ooo ftooco bleo teqlo.
cosl JesooJo, eo lo ployo,
poto el ttflco y me Jlceo
"popl tlco" y "ml mocbo"
oo sobeo poe soy bembto
coo este petto coetpo.
leto oo be petJlJo lo lloslo
Je poe lleqoe 5opetmoo.
0 ltme o vlvlt o lo selvo
y set lo mojet Je 1otzoo!
buL Lhey are LoLally wrong
more bembto Lhan me
ln bed Lhey'll never flnd.
1hls ls such a frusLraLlon
Lo have Lhls beauLlful body,
buL l Lell you, my slsLer,
lL ls hard Lo keep up.
1he problem wlLh Lhls body
ls LhaL l'm followed by old ladles
and by queens, all of Lhem,
buL whaL l'm really looklng for
ls a royal (huge) dlck.
Palf naked aL Lhe beach
l sLop Lrafflc, and Lhey Lell me
"yummy daddy," "my blg macho"
1hey can'L Lell l'm Lruly bembto
wlLh Lhls amazlng body of mlne.
8uL l have noL losL my fanLasy
LhaL Superman wlll arrlve.
or go llve ln Lhe [ungle
and become 1arzan's wlfe!
1he poem speaks abouL Lhe dlsLress of a gay man whose mascullne muscular body makes people,
especlally oLher gay men, belleve LhaL he ls a real macho man (l.e., sLralghL) or boqotto, Lhe word for
heLerosexual-ldenLlfled men who sexually peneLraLe oLher men. ln Lhe poem Lhe gay man confesses LhaL
he really ls an bembto (a real woman, femlnlne verslon of macho).1he dlsLress ls caused by Lhe facL LhaL
he ls pursued by women and by locos (queens, homosexual) raLher Lhan by real men, whlch ls whaL he
so deeply longs for.
1he poem's loglc ls complex buL clear: When homosexuallLy ls deflned ln Lerms of gender, and
homosexuals are noL consldered real men, lL follows LhaL homosexuals should noL be sexually appeallng
Lo oLher homosexuals. 1he homosexual man, so Lhe culLure dlcLaLes would deslre anoLher man, a real
man, and Lherefore would noL be lnLeresLed ln havlng sex wlLh oLher homosexuals who are ulLlmaLely
consldered less Lhan men.
When l flrsL read Lhe poem l had Lwo dlfferenL reacLlons. Cn one hand, l found Lhe poem exLremely
humorous and provoklng.1he poem flaunLs and cracks open whaL ls supposedly Lhe "blg secreL" of
homosexuals: Lhey may look mascullne or even look llke deslrable real men--"ml popl tlco" (my sweeL
daddy), "ml mocbo" (my blg macho man)--buL Lhey are Lruly women ln men's bodles. 8reaklng Lhe
sllence, and proudly flaunLlng socleLy's rldlcullng deflnlLlon of homosexuallLy, Lhe auLhor expresses
shamelessly hls sexual deslre for oLher men, hls shameless longlng for a huge dlck. Somehow, Lhere ls
humorous rellef ln such deflance of socleLy's sllence abouL homosexual deslre.
Cn Lhe oLher hand, l felL somewhaL saddened by Lhe facL LhaL Lhe famlllar way Lo break Lhe sllence
abouL homosexual deslre, even ln a gay magazlne, ls by Laklng a femlnlne ldenLlLy. lL ls as lf we can
express our homosexual aLLracLlon openly only by Lalklng noL as men buL as some Lype of woman
or bembto, adopLlng Lhe LaLlno culLure's homophoblc deflnlLlon and polnL of vlew. l wonder lf a
slmllar lusLy poem, wrlLLen from one mascullne man Lo anoLher, would have appealed as much Lo Lhe
readershlp of letto! l wouldn'L be surprlsed lf such a poem made many readers uncomforLable, sLlrrlng
lnLernallzed homophobla. Cr slmply, from Lhls parLlcular perspecLlve, lL may noL have made much sense
Lo wrlLe such a poem for a gay audlence. noL bellevlng LhaL homosexuals can be mascullne, Lhe reacLlon
of many gay men could be: Why hlde Lhe loco lnslde, when you are among undersLandlng frlends? Cr
as one of my research parLlclpanLs once commenLed abouL a mascu-llne-looklng, mascullne-acLlng gay
man, "Who does she Lhlnk she ls, she's a woman!" .
Many Llmes ln Lhe focus groups l conducLed wlLh non-acculLuraLed, Spanlsh-speaklng men, who ln my
sample were Lhe ones less Louched by gay llberaLlon ldeology, publlcly comlng ouL was referred Lo as
"se solt lo tteozo" (he undld hls brald), meanlng Lhe achlevemenL of a sense of freedom Lo be more
effemlnaLe, more womanllke. CLhers, when confronLed wlLh homophoblc aLLlLudes, menLloned LhaL
Lhey would become more mascullne ln order Lo "pass" as sLralghL men: "ln my case l used a musLache Lo
cover a blL."
8lchard arker, Lhe noLed eLhnographer of 8razlllan sexuallLy, once Lold me LhaL ln 8razll people would
noL bllnk an eye lf Lhey saw very effemlnaLe men walklng provocaLlvely down Lhe sLreeL, a slghL noL
uncommon ln many urban cenLers ln 8razll. Cn Lhe oLher hand, Lrafflc would sLop and rloLllke condlLlons
would develop lf Lwo mascullne men wlLh musLaches would dare Lo walk hand-ln-hand down Lhe sLreeL.
1he rloLs mlghL be a comlcal exaggeraLlon, buL 8lchard's observaLlon makes a loL of culLural sense from
Lhe perspecLlve presenLed ln Lhls chapLer.
l had slmllar mlxed reacLlons when l saw Lhe popular Cuban movle lteso y cbocolote (SLrawberry and
ChocolaLe), whlch porLrays an lnLelllgenL, handsome, senslLlve, and slmply adorable homosexual man
befrlendlng a somewhaL nalve, and unusually senslLlve, sLralghL man wlLh whom he falls ln love. 1he
movle Lruly represenLs a greaL advance ln Cuban socleLy's Lolerance Lowards homosexuallLy by breaklng
Lhe sllence abouL Lhls oLherwlse Laboo Loplc ln such a poslLlve way. (8emember LhaL noL Loo long ago,
Cuban open homosexuals were puL ln [all, senL Lo work camps, or convenlenLly expaLrlaLed ln Lhe Marlel
boaL llfL.) 1he facL LhaL Lhe gay man ln Lhe movle ls porLrayed as a llk-able, lovable characLer--even more
deeply senslLlve, culLured, and humane Lhan hls sLralghL frlend--ls qulLe a feaL ln homesexual Lolerance
ln comparlson Lo oLher LaLln Amerlcan medla, where homosexu-als have been porLrayed as depraved,
lmmoral, low-world crlmlnals or chlld molesLers.
Powever, lteso y cbocolote, dlrecLed by a self-ldenLlfled heLerosexual man, does noL break free from
Lhe culLure's gender deflnlLlon of homo-sexuallLy. Whlle Lhe maln characLer ls sLlll ln man's cloLhes,
hls effeml-naLe demeanor and non-mascullne ldenLlflcaLlon (symbollzed by hls cholce of sLrawberry-
flavored lce cream, raLher Lhan Lhe more "mascu-llne" chocolaLe) ls made expllclL Llme and agaln
LhroughouL Lhe fllm. noL Lo menLlon Lhe facL LhaL Lhe sLory ls abouL a homosexual who sexu-ally and
romanLlcally pursues a sLralghL man. ln facL, dlverLlng from Lhe orlglnal scrlpL wrlLLen by a gay man, Lhe
heLerosexual dlrecLor added Lo Lhe sLory a glrlfrlend wlLh whom Lhe sLralghL man becomes sexually
lnvolved and falls ln love. 1he addlLlon of a glrlfrlend Lo Lhe movle scrlpL by Lhe heLerosexual dlrecLor
was done apparenLly Lo make Lhe sLralghL characLer undoubLedly sLralghL. As ln 8lchard arker's sLory
abouL 8razlllan men wlLh musLaches, Lhe posslblllLy LhaL a mascullne man (our chocolaLe-ldenLlfled
characLer) could have homosexual feel-lngs, especlally nurLurlng and romanLlc feellngs Loward anoLher
man, ls perhaps sLlll Loo LhreaLenlng for Cuban audlences Lo see. 1he glrlfrlend was a consLanL and
convenlenL remlnder LhaL Mr. ChocolaLe was, lndeed, no Motlco.
lor many men, Lhe paLh of llberaLlon from oppresslve gender lde-ologles lncludes belng ln Louch
wlLh more "femlnlne" aspecLs of Lhe self. no one can deny LhaL Lhe personal developmenL Loward
human wholeness musL lnclude Lhe lnLegraLlon of characLerlsLlcs LradlLlonally ascrlbed as mascullne
or femlnlne. Moreover, psychologlcal research ls very clear abouL Lhe poslLlve relaLlonshlp beLween
androgyny (deflned as recelvlng LesL scores ln Lhe mlddle range beLween femlnlne and mas-cullne
exLremes of gender ldenLlflcaLlon) and psychologlcal ad[usLmenL. Powever, l do noL belleve LhaL Lhe
femlnlne ldenLlflcaLlon seen ln many LaLlno gay men ls lndeed a paLh Loward wholeness or greaLer
psycho-loglcal ad[usLmenL. ln facL, l see many of us deeply Lrapped ln Lhe oppresslve gender ldeologles
LhaL fuel homophobla ln our communl-Lles. 8aLher Lhan helplng LaLlno homosexuals geL ln Louch wlLh
feml-nlne characLerlsLlcs, Lhe gender deflnlLlon of homosexuallLy relnforces Lhe macho ldeal and lLs
femlnlne counLerparL, Lhe bembto. lor homo-sexuals, Lhe ouLcome ls noL an lncreased soclal space for
becomlng whole, more lnLegraLed persons, buL raLher a carlcaLure of an bembto ln a macho body, as
1aLlana's poem so well conveys.
1he desperaLe aLLempLs Lo prove our wounded mascullnlLy or Lo experlence Lhe mascullnlLy of our
sexual parLners keep us ln Lhe same mocbo-bembto dlchoLomous world and away from wholeness.
noLe, for example, LhaL 1aLlana's poem ls fllled wlLh reslgned self-deprecaLlon, "eotte los pletoos boy
poco" (Lhere's llLLle beLween 'Lhe legs), whlle Lhe mosL preclous sexual ob[ecL ls "ooo ttooco bleo teqlo"
(a royal huge dlck). lor Lhe dlsLressed gay man ln Lhe poem, only Lhe realm of fanLasy, raLher Lhan whole
persons, can quench Lhe LhlrsL for Lhe deslred macho ob[ecL: Superman or 1arzan mlghL do.
Slmllarly, oLher homosexuals are puL down and laughed aL by homo-sexuals for noL belng men enough.
lL was noL unusual for men ln my research pro[ecL Lo Lalk abouL oLher gay men as "esos locos" (Lhose
queens) ln a Lrue deprecaLory way, or even worse "esas locos poslvos" (Lhose passlve queens), maklng
lL clear LhaL Lhe deprecaLlon was ln rela-Llon Lo Laklng "Lhe woman's role" ("el poe boce Je mojet') ln
sexual lnLer-course. And Lhese self-deprecaLory commenLs were made by men who openly admlLLed
Lhelr homosexual lnLeresL ln passlve anal lnLercourse, ln oLher words, Lhey were puLLlng down men
llke Lhemselves. 1he char-acLer ln 1aLlana's poem, an admlLLed "loco," mocks "los locos" LhaL pursue
hlm unsuspecLedly. Moreover, such deprecaLory mockery ls noL per-celved as lnsulLlng Lo Lhe gay men
(Lhe audlence of locos) for whom Lhe poem ls wrlLLen. 1hls ever-presenL self-deprecaLlon of oLher
homosexuals around Lhe mascullne ldeal--Lhough done mosLly ln Lhe conLexL of humor--ln my oplnlon ls
a reflecLlon of wounded self-esLeem raLher Lhan a movemenL Loward more lnLegraLlve wholeness.
lor many of us, lL ls Lrue LhaL lf we wanL Lo be ourselves we need Lo do so by becomlng sofLer and, from
Lhe polnL of vlew of Lhe culLure, more effemlnaLe." 1he paLh of llberaLlon and wholeness does requlre
glvlng up Lhe need Lo prove or conceal and repress Lhe femlnlne ln us. Powever, comlng ouL has been
deflned noL necessarlly as a welcomlng of Lhe femlnlne, buL raLher as becomlng. more llke Lhe culLurally
deflned bembto. lL has become more a way Lo llve Lhe deflnlLlon of homosexuallLy glven Lo us by Lhe
culLure, raLher Lhan a paLh of self-expresslon. 1he facL LhaL comlng ouL ls deflned as Lhe freedom Lo
be more bembto has bound us even furLher Lo a genderlzed, oppresslve culLure LhaL seems Lo gender-
Lype everyLhlng, even lce cream flavors. lL ls no surprlse LhaL homosexuallLy ls gender-Lyped and sexual
lnLercourse ls clearly deflned as acLlve (mascullne) or passlve (femlnlne). 1herefore, many men who
sexually peneLraLe oLher men can do so ln our culLure wlLhouL quesLlonlng Lhelr heLerosexual" (ln Lhelr
mlnds mascullne") ldenLlLy.
Sexua| enetrat|on: 1he koya| koad to Machohood
Cur culLure noL only poses Lhe challenge Lo prove mascullnlLy buL also provldes speclflc means and
avenues for dolng so. 1he culLure's deflnlLlon of whaL consLlLuLes manly or mascullne behavlor ls
acqulred wlLh parLlcular polgnancy by young LaLlno boys ln Lhe world of elemenLary
school. 1hus, a greaL deal of Llme and efforL ln Lhe llves of LaLlno boys and youLh ls devoLed Lo provlng
or showlng off Lhelr mascullnlLy Lhrough excellence ln sporLs, Lhrough flghLs LhaL esLabllsh hlerarchles of
power, Lhrough sLorles of deflanL rlsk-Laklng acLlvlLles, and above all, Lhrough boasLlng sexual prowess.
8oy's sLorles abouL Lhelr sexual acLlvlLy Lake on a parLlcularly lmporLanL role ln esLabllshlng LhaL Lhey are
lndeed mascullne macho men. lL ls noL unusual for LaLlno youLh Lo boasL Lhelr sexual prowess Lhrough
sLorles of sexual lnLercourse wlLh older women who seduced Lhem, sLorles of peneLraLlng homosexual,
effemlnaLe boys who leL Lhem do lL" or older men who may pay Lhem Lo do lL", and, ln rural areas,
even sLorles of peneLraLlng anlmals. SLorles abound abouL faLhers Laklng Lhelr sons early ln Lhelr Leenage
years Lo be wlLh prosLlLuLes so LhaL Lhey can flnally become men." needless Lo say, ln Lhls world of
LaLlno male culLure, sexual peneLraLlon becomes, Lo paraphrase lreud, Lhe royal road Lo machohood."
1he sLrong connecLlon beLween mascullnlLy and peneLraLlon leads Lo a consLrucLlon of sexuallLy as Lhe
favored locus Lo prove mascullnlLy, an opLlmal place Lo resLore Lhe ofLen wounded male ego. lL ls my
bellef LhaL Lhls consLrucLlon ls also presenL ln men who en[oy passlve lnLer- course. lor Lhem, Lhe macho
characLerlsLlcs of Lhe lnserLlve parLner and Lhe poLenLlal sLrong and rough quallLles of anal lnLercourse
beLween Lwo men play a ma[or role ln whaL ls deflned as pleasurable and eroLlc. 1he preoccupaLlon of
Lhe lnserLlve parLner Lo malnLaln a long and sLrong erecL penls for peneLraLlon, and Lhe preoccupaLlon
of Lhe recep-Llve parLner Lo be peneLraLed hard and heavy by a "real man," consLlLuLe Lwo sldes of Lhe
same coln: A sexuallLy deslgned Lo creaLe, mend, and resLore a sense of mascullnlLy and macho ldeal
LhaL are always under LhreaL by Lhe culLure's demand Lo prove mascullnlLy.
lL ls no surprlse Lhen LhaL for many men ln my quallLaLlve sLudy, especlally Lhe leasL acculLuraLed,
sex was deflned narrowly and exclu-slvely as peneLraLlon pracLlces. CLher sexual acLlvlLy, such as
deep klsslng, caresslng, and muLual masLurbaLlon were seen slmply as preludes Lo Lhe "real Lhlng,"
peneLraLlon. Some men spoke abouL Lhelr sexual encounLers as lf orgasm and e[aculaLlon were only
posslble ln Lhe conLexL of peneLraLlon. Many feared LhaL unless peneLraLlon occurred, Lhelr parLners
would be dlsappolnLed--LhaL ls, parLners would percelve Lhe encounLer as bad sex or as havlng no sex aL
all. ln facL, sexual acLlvlLy wlLhouL peneLraLlon was descrlbed ofLen as "noLhlng really happened."
Impact on nIV k|sk
1he cenLral Lhesls of Lhls book ls LhaL lmporLanL aspecLs of LaLlno cul-Lure--such as Lhe llnk beLween
machlsmo and homophobla ln a gender deflnlLlon of homosexuallLy--have been lnLernallzed by LaLlno
gay men Lhrough our soclallzaLlon and developmenL. Such lnLernallzaLlons, ln Lurn, have undermlned
our capaclLy for sexual self-regulaLlon and become barrlers Lo Lhe pracLlce of safer sex. ln Lhls secLlon,
Lherefore, l would llke Lo explore Lhe lmpacL of machlsmo and homophobla on our sexuallLy and sexual
behavlor, especlally Lhose effecLs LhaL are relevanL Lo Plv prevenLlon and Lhe pracLlce of safer sex.
1hls secLlon ls wrlLLen wlLh Lwo underlylng assumpLlons. 1he flrsL assumpLlon ls LhaL homophobla and
machlsmo have deeply shaped Lhe way we undersLand and percelve our own homosexuallLy, as well
as how we sexually behave wlLh oLher men. 1hus, Lhese barrlers Lo safer sex are loglcal and meanlngful
Lhrough Lhe culLural lens of how machlsmo and homophobla operaLe ln our llves, as descrlbed ln earller
secLlons of Lhls chapLer.
1he second assumpLlon ls LhaL barrlers Lo safer sex wlll be more prevalenL ln Lhose men who have
been mosL deeply affecLed by Lhe culLural llnk beLween machlsmo and homophobla. LaLlno gay men
do vary ln Lhelr lnLernallzaLlon of Lhe culLural facLors, and also ln Lhelr exposure and adherence Lo gay
llberaLlon ldeologles. lorLunaLely, gender deflnl-Llons of homosexuallLy are noL presenL Lo Lhe same
degree ln all of us, and Lhe effecLs of machlsmo and homophobla are Lempered by Lhe lncreaslng
llberaLlng awareness LhaL men can sexually love oLher men wlLhouL any deLrlmenL Lo Lhelr mascullnlLy or
mascullne ldenLlLy. 8arrl-ers Lo safer sex are sLaLed, Lherefore, as varlables LhaL dlffer across lndlvld-ual
members of Lhe culLure, raLher Lhan as flxed enLlLles shared by us all.
condoms ond rections
8ecause of Lhe culLure's connecLlon beLween mascullnlLy and peneLraLlve pracLlces, many men whom l
lnLervlewed expressed a greaL deal of concern abouL Lhe negaLlve effecLs of condoms on Lhe sexual acL.
1he maln concern ls LhaL condoms, and Lhelr lmpllclL connecLlon Lo lllness and deaLh, would make Lhem
lose Lhelr erecLlon
SomeLlme lf l Lhlnk Loo much abouL lL l mlghL lose my erecLlon. 8ecause sex lsn'L en[oyable anymore 'cuz
you are Lhlnklng abouL dlsease, dlsease, dlsease, you know.
Moreover, Lhe loss of erecLlon ls percelved as a source of greaL embarrassmenL by Lhe lnserLlve parLner,
yeL anoLher fallure aL mascullnlLy. 1he loss of an erecLlon ls apparenLly equaLed wlLh Lhe collapse of
Lhe macho faade LhaL reveals Lhe Lrue loco posslvo lnslde, glvlng preclsely Lhe wrong message Lo Lhe
demandlng, now dlsappolnLed, recepLlve parLner: And he kepL on saylng, why can'L you geL lL hard?
why can'L you geL lL hard?"
1he concern wlLh malnLalnlng erecLlons aL all cosL does noL allow Lhe Llme needed for Lhe gradual
famlllarlzaLlon wlLh and eroLlzaLlon of condoms.
lmpoct on Non-Penetrotive Proctices
MuLuallLy and nurLurance ln sexual behavlor ls ofLen lnLerpreLed as non-mascullne, Laklng away Lhe
eroLlc charge for Lhose men who have accepLed Lhe gender deflnlLlon of homosexuallLy. lor men who
en[oy Lhelr mascullnlLy and Lhus have Lrouble ldenLlfylng Lhemselves as homosexual, caresslng, klsslng,
and passlve oral sex Lo oLher men ls ouL of Lhe quesLlon. Many acculLuraLed men complalned a loL
abouL Lhose non-acculLuraLed LaLlno macho guys, who do noL conslder Lhemselves gay and who defend
Lhelr mascullnlLy by noL dolng "gay Lhlngs" ln homosexual acLs.1hese heLerosexual-ldenLlfled men who
have sex wlLh men, ln facL, deflne Lhelr manhood by whaL Lhey do and no do ln bed wlLh anoLher guy.
Moreover, denlal of gay ldenLlflcaLlon ln homosexual acLlvlLy goes hand-ln-hand wlLh a denlal of Plv rlsk:
l know Lhere's a loL of sLralghL "macho" LaLln guys LhaL Lhlnk, "Ch, you're [usL sucklng my dlck or l'm gonna
fuck you and l have a wlfe or l have a glrlfrlend so lL really doesn'L mean LhaL l'm gay and we can have
unsafe sex because] only have sex wlLh glrls" and you know. 1haL whole sorL of Lhlnklng LhaL goes along
wlLh oLher LaLln men.
lor Lhose men who share Lhe gender-deflnlLlon of homosexuallLy, anyLhlng oLher Lhan acLlvely fucklng
anoLher man ls consldered non--mascullne and a LhreaL Lo Lhe heLerosexual, macho ldenLlLy. ln Lurn,
self-ldenLlfled homosexuals who have adopLed Lhe femlnlne loco ldenLlLy may be sexually Lurned-off
by aLLempLs aL sexual muLuallLy. As one of Lhe men ln Lhe sLudy sald, lf he Louches my dlck, l am noL
lnLeresLed anymore." 1he commenL lmplled LhaL any aLLempL aL muLuallLy would mean LhaL Lhe sexual
parLner was also an effemlnaLe loca and Lherefore noL sexually appeallng Lo Lhe sLudy sub[ecL, who was
lnLer-esLed only ln mascullne "real" men.
lL ls clear LhaL Lhe consLrucLlon of sexuallLy as a place Lo creaLe and prove mascullnlLy poses some
ma[or challenges and obsLacles for Lhe enacLmenL of safer sex lnLenLlons. 1he excluslve focus on
peneLraLlon does noL allow LaLlno gay men Lo explore and develop a reperLolre of non-peneLraLlve safer
sex pracLlces LhaL can be en[oyed as Lrue expres-slons of sexual deslre. 1he machlsmo message glven
by Lhe culLure does noL allow much space for Lhe klnd of carlng and nurLurlng LhaL ls needed for Lhe
negoLlaLlon of safer sex beLween sexual parLners.
5ubstonce 4buse ond 4nonymous 5ex
Pomosexual acLlvlLy ln Lhe conLexL of machlsmo and homophobla messages ls loaded wlLh a deep
anxleLy LhaL whaL ls happenlng ls dls-gusLlng and forbldden. lL ls no surprlse LhaL sex beLween gay men
ofLen occurs anonymously, wlLh sLrangers ln sLrange places, wlLh no commu-nlcaLlon, and under Lhe
lnfluence of drugs and alcohol, or boLh.
A large number of men ln Lhe sLudy reporLed LhaL Lhey were lnLoxl-caLed whlle looklng for sexual
parLners as well as durlng homosexual encounLers. Some of Lhem Lalked abouL needlng alcohol and
drugs Lo glve Lhem Lhe "courage" Lo meeL and approach oLher men for sex. CLh- ers Lalked abouL
uslng subsLances Lo help Lhem engage ln pracLlces LhaL Lhey wanLed Lo do buL felL very uneasy abouL,
especlally anal lnLer-course. Men Lold sLorles abouL uslng alcohol and drugs, especlally before comlng
ouL Lo Lhemselves and oLhers, as a [usLlflcaLlon for "noL rememberlng" Lhlngs Lhey wanLed Lo do or had
done, buL were Loo embarrassed Lo admlL. lor example, belng under Lhe lnfluence of subsLances was
Lhe only posslble way Lo have sex beLween frlends who were sexually aLLracLed Lo one anoLher buL who
had never dlscussed or revealed Lhelr homosexuallLy Lo each oLher, belng under Lhe lnfluence allowed
Lhe frlends Lo make belleve LhaL Lhey dld noL remember so aL a laLer daLe Lhey could face one anoLher
wlLhouL shame.
lor men who wanL Lo be sexually peneLraLed, buL for whom playlng Lhe passlve role ln anal lnLercourse
creaLes mascullnlLy confllcLs, drugs and alcohol have become Lhe faclllLaLlng facLor. 8ecenL lncreases
ln Lhe use of meLhampheLamlnes ("crysLal" or "speed") among gay men have been also observed
among LaLlnos as a way Lo deal wlLh amblvalenL feellngs regardlng anal lnLercourse. lor some, Lhe
drug faclllLaLes Laklng Lhe passlve role: "lL [crysLal] makes me an eager boLLom." Many men welcomed
drug lnLoxlcaLlon as a Lrue oasls of rellef from Lhe masculln-lLy anxleLy broughL abouL by homosexual
sex. ln Lhe words of a 31- year-old LaLlno gay man, for whom Lhe crysLal meLhampheLamlne (speed)
lnLoxlcaLlon allowed hlm Lo en[oy Lhe sense of (gender-role- free) muLuallLy he craved wlLh hls lover:
l felL more llke Lhe Lop ln Lhe relaLlonshlp, ln LhaL l klnd of conLrolled Lhlngs more. Agaln, lL was llke my
space and l broughL hlm lnLo lL. ?ou know, l was more ln charge of llke paylng bllls and Lhlngs llke LhaL. So
l felL llke more of Lhe--l don'L wanL Lo say mascullne and femlnlne because, you know, l don'L flnd Lhese
roles llke, you know, okay, LhaL's whaL LhaL means. 8uL l was more llke Lhe husband ln Lhe slLuaLlon and
[usL sexually l was more aggresslve. And so, l mean, l Lhlnk LhaL Lhe
speed [usLLurned everyLhlng klnd of llke really Lopsy-Lurvy where we were [usL klnd of llke, you know, noL
been Lhlnklng abouL roles any more, [usL klnd of whaL felL good.
lor oLher men, for whom keeplng erecLlons ls a problem, sLlmulanL drugs was Lhe only way Lo malnLaln
Lhelr erecLlon ln Lhe mldsL of anxl-eLy-provoklng slLuaLlons.
ln one of Lhe ln-depLh lnLervlews conducLed by Lhe San lranclsco AluS loundaLlon, AnLonlo (flcLlLlous
name)--a 31-year-old, Plv--poslLlve, LaLlno gay man--Lold Lhe lnLervlewer abouL a rlsky sexual
encounLer where nelLher he nor hls parLner used a condom. 1he Lwo men meL Lhrough one of San
lranclsco's (900#) sex phone llnes, Lhe servlce connecLs vla phone llnes men who are lnLeresLed ln
meeLlng oLher men for sex and who call Lhe servlce for LhaL purpose. l would llke Lo clLe long excerpLs
from Lhls narraLlve because Lhe sexual eplsode descrlbed lnvolved many of Lhe culLural facLors and
barrlers Lo safer sex dlscussed ln Lhls secLlon. 8oLh parLners, one gay-ldenLlfled LaLlno (AnLonlo) and
a presumably sLralghL man of lLallan descenL, aLLempLed Lo consLrucL Lhe sexual slLuaLlon ln Lerms
of an exchange beLween Lwo "sLralghL" men, ensurlng LhaL Lhe sexual evenL ls Lruly an experlence of
mascullnlLy. lurLhermore, Lhe evenL occurred ln secrecy, as a hldden encounLer, behlnd closed doors,
so LhaL Lhe "sLralghL roommaLes" would noL flnd ouL whaL was golng on. 8oLh men were lnLoxlcaLed
wlLh drugs and alcohol, lncludlng crysLal. ln facL, AnLonlo makes Lhe aLLrlbuLlon LhaL lL ls crysLal LhaL has
allowed hlm Lo carry ouL all Lhls forbldden acLlvlLy. Larly on ln Lhe lnLervlew, he had Lalked abouL belng
a Lop ln Lhe ma[orlLy of sexual slLuaLlons. Powever, for Lhls eplsode, he had Laken crysLal and, because
lmpoLence can be one of Lhe paradoxlcal effecLs of meLhampheLamlne use, commonly known as crysLal
dlck," Lhe drug made hlm lose hls erecLlon and made hlm an eager boLLom."
Aotoolo: .l meL Lhls guy on Lhe phone llne, he was an lLallan guy. you know he's very macho" and
sLralghL and, you know, has a glrlfrlend, and no one would ever know LhaL he was dolng someLhlng llke
Lhls buL Lhe felL llke dolng lL LonlghL, because he had been parLylng Loo. Pe had been dolng coke" Lhe
nlghL before wlLh hls frlends. And--
lotetvlewet: And you were feellng?
A. Llke l wanLed Lo have sex.
l: Ck. Speclflcally, you wanLed Lo fuck?
A: ?eah. l Lhlnk LhaL's whaL Lhe drug does Lo, aL leasL lL does Lo me. lL [usL puLs you ln LhaL whole mlnd
seL of llke, l have Lo go ouL and flnd someLhlng.
l: SomeLhlng meanlng
A: Sex!
l: A sexual parLner.
A: 8lghL.
l: Ck. So you Lalked Lo hlm on Lhe phone?
A: ?eah.
l: Made Lhe arrangemenLs?
A: 8lghL. WenL over Lo hls place.
l: ln [name of a sLralghL" nelghborhood ln San lranclsco]?
A: ?es! um, he was preLLy parLled-ouL. So we smoked some poL" when we goL Lhere and had a couple
beers. Pad we [usL had Lhe poL and Lhe beers l could handle LhaL because l've done LhaL a loL.
l: ?ou mean handle ln Lerms of whaL's gonna happen nexL wlLh sex?
A: 8lghL. WhaL's gonna happen wlLh sex. l'm very ln conLrol buL l don'L Lhlnk l am when l've been dolng
crysLal. So, um, he was preLLy, he, l don'L know, he Lrled Lo be lnslsLenL aL one polnL of havlng safe sex
buL Lhen he changed hls mlnd llke really qulckly.
l: Were you sLlll dressed when he was belng lnslsLenL? uo you remember?
A: Ch. Well, leL me go back. So we goL Lhere, okay. We Lalked for a whlle and he had some porno on Lhe
1v and we had Lo be really quleL because he had sLralghL roommaLes comlng ln and ouL and Lhey had no
ldea LhaL hls was goln' on ln hls bedroom, so we never lefL Lhe bedroom.
: So you walked lnLo Lhe aparLmenL and wenL rlghL Lo hls room?
: 8lghL.
: And none of hls roommaLes knew LhaL he had sex wlLh men?
: Supposedly. l mean l heard Lhe fronL door slammlng and poLs ln Lhe klLchen. l Lrled Lo ask hlm so
quesLlons abouL hls roommaLes buL he wouldn'L answer me. uh, he was preLLy secreLlve.
: So LhaL was okay Lhough?
: ?eah, lor Lhe way l was feellng aL Lhe Llme, yeah. Pad l been a llLLle more clearer Lhlnklng, l Lhlnk l
probably wouldn'L have gone over Lhere. 8uL he sald, you know, do you wanna come over, we'll keep
parLylng and l was llke already ln a parLy mood so l sald, Ck." And l goL Lhere, he was very aLLracLlve,
very, l would never LhoughL lf l saw hlm on Lhe sLreeL, you know, LhaL he would do someLhlng llke Lhls.
: ?ou mean Lhe parLylng or Lhe.
: uh.
: . Lhe keeplng you ln hls bedroom whlle hls roommaLes are runnlng around, parL or . ?
: Pavlng sex wlLh a guy.
: l can'L Lell who has sex wlLh guys or wlLh gals on Lhe sLreeL.
: l know, you know, lL's llke supposedly gay men have Lhls gay-dar" and Lhey can Lell who's gay and
who's noL, and l'm preLLy much on Lhe doL all Lhe Llme as Lo who's gay and who's noL, and who would
maybe fool around lf you convlnced hlm and who wouldn'L. And l [usL woulda never LhoughL looklng
aL Lhls guy. Pe looked llke very, llke he coulda been a buLcher or a cook ln an lLallan resLauranL. SorL of
burly, halry, shorL, sLocky, muscular, l could see hlm wlLh llke a wlfe and klds. Who knows. So l Lhlnk
he called a frlend of hls when l goL Lhere, Lo brlng over some more coke. And ln Lhe meanLlme we
smoked some poL, had a beer, slowly dlsrobed 'Lll we were naked ln bed. Pls frlend goL Lhere and l Lhlnk
l dld...yeah, some coke. ?eah, afLer belng on crysLal, whlch was.
: uld hls frlend see you?
: no. Pe meL hlm aL Lhe door. And, um, so he wanLed Lo be fucked Loo, whlch l LhoughL was very
pecullar. l mean, l don'L know. l, and l Lrled for a whlle buL l couldn'L geL an erecLlon because of Lhe
uld he know you had Laken crysLal?
?eah, l Lold hlm.
uoes he know, slnce he's noL parL of Lhe communlLy, does he know Lhlngs llke whaL "crysLal dlck" ls?
Pe dldn'L. ?eah. l was klnd of amazed, l guess. 8ecause he kepL on saylng, "Why can'L you geL lL hard?
Why can'L you geL lL hard?" And l was llke, "l Lold you because Lhls drug affecLs me Lhls way LhaL l dld
lasL nlghL." So he goes well, "!usL relax, [usL relax and don'L Lhlnk
abouL lL and lL'll happen." So, whaLever, so, you know. So Lhen he sald, "Well, why don'L l fuck you?" So
um, so we sLarLed Lalkln' abouL uslng a condom and Lhen l don'L know exacLly how lL hap-pened buL we
So you're already ln bed, you already had your cloLhes off? uld you Lake each oLher's cloLhes off each
oLher or ...
no. 1here wasn'L any sorL of sensual, lnLlmaLe ...
no foreplay?
no. lL was klnd of sorL of almosL llke a raunchy aspecL of lL.
uld you Lhlnk he was aLLracLlve?
So you Lalked abouL uslng a condom buL Lhen lL dldn'L happen?
Well acLually whaL happened was l Lhlnk aL one polnL, he puL one on and he was havlng problems
keeplng an erecLlon hlmself, so Lhen he Look lL off and we conLlnued.
So he [usL slmply Look Lhe condom off? uld he masLurbaLe, anyLhlng llke LhaL?
uh, yeah, we masLurbaLed for qulLe a whlle by [usL waLchlng porno, and l was oral wlLh hlm, he wasn'L
oral wlLh me, he dldn'L wanL Lo do LhaL. Pe dldn'L wanL Lo klss, he dldn'L wanL Lo suck my dlck. So l was
dolng all Lhe work.
Why dldn'L he wanna do Lhose Lhlngs, do you Lhlnk?
8ecause maybe LhaL meanL Lo hlm LhaL he was gay. lf he dldn'L klss you and he dldn'L suck your dlck
lf you [usL sucked hls dlck and he fucked you, Lhen he's noL gay. 8uL Lhen he also wanLed Lo be fucked,
whlch l LhoughL was klnda welrd, buL he sald lL was because, and
Lhls was a cllnlcal problem for hlm, LhaL hls broLher had sex, wlLh hlm growlng up. So maybe he's golng
Lhrough Lhls whole lncesL Lhlng, l don'L know.
: So he volunLeered up LhaL lnformaLlon .
: ?eah.
: . abouL hlmself buL he dldn'L volunLeer .
: ?eah, and Lhe slck .
: . a loLLa oLher .
: Well, Lhe slck Lhlng abouL lL was LhaL he wanLed, he wanLed me Lo even make up sLorles LhaL we were
havlng sex, llke acLlng llke l was hls broLher havlng sex wlLh hlm. l mean lL was klnd of unseLLllng.
: lor you?
: ?eah. 8uL l dldn'L .
: WhaL dld lL feel llke?
uh, feellng llke Lhls was really welrd.. lL was [usL llke one a' Lhose welrd experlences.
uld lL feel dangerous?
?eah, lL dld.
Pow dangerous? 8ecause we've used Lhe word danger ln relaLlonshlp Lo oLher Lhlngs. Pow dld lL feel
urn, lL dldn'L feel dangerous ln Lhe aspecL LhaL l LhoughL LhaL he would geL vlolenL wlLh me. lL goL
dangerous ln Lhe facL LhaL l felL somehow l was gonna geL an erecLlon. Pe was gonna convlnce me Lo
have sex wlLh hlm wlLhouL a condom and l was gonna' come lnslde hlm whlch l dld noL wanna do.
uld you Lalk abouL Plv aL all when you were wlLh hlm?
Pe never menLloned lL? So dld you Lalk abouL condom usage as safe sex or [usL uslng one?
We dldn'L even Lalk abouL lL, he [usL goL up and wenL over and goL one.
Ah! Ck. 8ecause lL wasn'L ...
And sald someLhlng llke, "We should be uslng one of Lhese," or someLhlng llke LhaL.
So Lhe word Plv dldn'L come up?
uld he ask you abouL your serosLaLus?
uld he see you as gay?
um, you know, LhaL's Lhe funny Lhlng, noL really. l mean he asked me a coupla quesLlons. And l sald "l
malnly have sex wlLh men and lL's been ages slnce l had sex wlLh a woman." And uh, he sald, "Wow!
?ou don'L seem Lo be gay Lo me." Whlch l Lhlnk l can be preLLy gay, you know. So whaLever LhaL ls. l
don'L know lL lL was [usL because he was parLylng and he was flylng hlgh. 8uL he seemed Lo wanna make
me feel llke you're noL gay you're [usL a sLralghL buddy a' mlne and we're gonna play, sorLa Lhlng.
So lL sounds llke you undersLood. And dld you undersLand Lhls ln Lhe momenL or dld you undersLand lL
laLer, LhaL he had a blg fanLasy Lhlng golng on?
Whlle lL was happenlng l was llke, even Lhough l was hlgh, l was llke, l Lhlnk he's fulfllllng a fanLasy
rlghL now and l'm belng parL of lL.
urn hm. Ck. So dld he come lnslde of you?
urn hm. Pow'd you feel abouL lL?
8eally sLupld! l mean, lL felL good buL, you know, have you ever done someLhlng and know you're
dolng someLhlng wrong and you should noL be dolng lL, and you should sLop yourself buL you con-Llnue
Lo do lL?
ln Lhls amazlng narraLlve we see Lhe lnLerLwlnlng of a mascullnlLy fan-Lasy wlLh perhaps whaL could be
Lhe compulslve repeLlLlon of a sexual abuse experlence, all of lL embedded ln Lhe sLupor of heavy drug
use, allowlng men Lo do whaL Lhey would oLherwlse be Loo anxlous Lo do wlLhouL Lhe use of subsLances.
1he end resulL ls, of course, a hlghly rlsky eplsode from Lhe perspecLlve of Plv Lransmlsslon. Lven
Lhough our LaLlno respondenL blames crysLal, Lhe narraLlve does conclude wlLh a pervaslve feellng of
helplessness, conLrlbuLlng Lo a percepLlon of low sexual conLrol LhaL ls famlllar Lo many oLher LaLlnos for
reasons oLher Lhan drugs.
Perceptions of 5exuo/ contro/
A conslsLenL Lheme LhroughouL Lhe lnLervlews l conducLed was Lhe percepLlon LhaL LaLlno men have
llLLle conLrol of Lhelr sexuallLy. 1he bellef ls LhaL LaLlno men are supposed Lo experlence lnLense feellngs,
urges, and sensaLlons LhaL cannoL or should noL be conLrolled. lor example, Lhe men l lnLervlewed
ofLen used Lhe noLlon of belng "pas-slonaLe" as a [usLlflcaLlon for unproLecLed lnLercourse. asslonaLe,
how-ever, refers noL only Lo Lhe lnLenslLy of Lhe feellngs and sensaLlons experlenced, buL also Lo Lhe
surrender of lnhlblLlons, Lhe surrender of self-conLrol and regulaLlon ln Lhe presence of lnLense sexual
feellngs. ln oLher words, passlonaLe meanL LhaL lnLense "hoL" feellngs Look prece-dence over and were
noL medlaLed by "cold" declslon-maklng or Lhlnk-lng processes LhaL could Lemper Lhe lnLenslLy of Lhe
experlence. l should add LhaL Lhls self-percepLlon of lnLense, passlonaLe, and personal surrender Lo Lhe
dlcLaLes of sexual arousal ls ofLen relnforced when pro-[ecLed on LaLlno gay men by members of Lhe
malnsLream gay culLure ln a sLereoLyplcal fashlon.
1he percepLlon of low sexual conLrol ls, l belleve, also sLrongly con-necLed Lo Lhe machlsmo values
of Lhe LaLlno culLure. 1he ldea ls LhaL men's sexual urges are felL dellghLfully buL palnfully sLrong and
Lhus requlre lmmedlaLe release, men's sexual urges cannoL be lgnored, posL-poned, or ulLlmaLely
conLrolled. Accordlngly, males are expecLed Lo have mulLlple casual parLners and Lhelr sexual acLlvlLy
ls expecLed Lo occur more ofLen as a response Lo sLrong, blologlcally based lmpulses raLher Lhan as an
expresslon of love and affecLlon ln Lhe conLexL of lnLerpersonal relaLlonshlps. lemales, ln conLrasL, are
expecLed Lo con-Lrol and noL even feel Lhelr sexual deslres, lf Lhelr sexual deslres or behavlor do noL
occur ln Lhe conLexL of relaLlonshlps Lhen Lhey are con-sldered lmmoral, depraved, or prosLlLuLes. ln Lhe
words of a LaLlno gay man l lnLervlewed:
l was very close Lo my faLher's moLher. She would always Lell us abouL all Lhe women my faLher slepL
wlLh and lL was someLhlng everybody knew and we had Lo accepL lL. . . . l remember she would say "Lhls
ls your faLher's oLher woman, he ls [usL sleeplng wlLh her, buL LhaL's Ck." My grandmoLher would also
Lell me LhaL was Ck. My uncle would say Lhlngs llke l love your aunL buL you know lLs Ck Lo have anoLher
woman.... l have a very blg problem wlLh LhaL and lL really hurL me and lL always really hurL me LhaL my
faLher would do LhaL Lo my moLher buL no l guess lLs Ck and Lhen l sLarLed looklng aL Lhe women my
faLher was sleeplng wlLh llke sluLs, whores because Lhey're dolng LhaL knowlng LhaL he was marrled. My
grandmoLher was Lhe Lype of woman LhaL would degrade women LhaL cheaLed on Lhelr husbands buL on
Lhe oLher hand lL was Ck for my faLher Lo cheaL. Looklng back l Lhlnk LhaL was Lhe Lhlng abouL machlsmo
LhaL boLhered me Lhe mosL abouL lL.
ln supporL of a self-percepLlon of low sexual conLrol, Lhe men lnLer-vlewed shared Lhe bellef LhaL
regulaLory conLrol of sexual behavlor ls noL posslble aL Llmes of hlgh sexual arousal, Lhe hlgher Lhe
arousal, Lhe less conLrol posslble. 1hls percepLlon was eplLomlzed by Lhe well- known phrase, "coooJo
lo Je obojo se colleoto, lo Je ottlbo oo pleoso," llL-erally LranslaLed as, "When Lhe one below geLs
hoL, Lhe one on Lop can'L Lhlnk" Lhe "one" refers Lo "head," of whlch males have Lwo: Lhe head of Lhe
penls (below), and Lhe head LhaL conLalns Lhe Lhlnklng braln (on Lop). 1he bellef ls LhaL sexual arousal
lnLerferes wlLh or lnhlblLs Lhlnk-lng processes, as lf sexual arousal and raLlonal declslon-maklng
processes cannoL happen slmulLaneously wlLhln Lhe person. lL ls noL surprlslng LhaL many men used Lhls
percepLlon or colorful phrase as a way Lo [usLlfy lnsLances of unproLecLed sex ln whaL Lhey belleved was
a soclally accepLed paLLern of LaLlno male behavlor:
?ou know, when you're ln Lhe heaL of passlon, you're noL golng Lo be concerned wlLh wearlng a rubber,
you are [usL golng Lo go for lL aL LhaL polnL, buL l Lhlnk a loL of people aren'L golng Lo sLop and say, "now l
have Lo puL on a rubber."... arL of LhaL ls Lhe naLural passlon LhaL's golng on ...
Coda: 1he Nat|ona| Context
ln CcLober 1993, Lhe ubllc Medla CenLer ln San lranclsco produced an ln-depLh (and ln my oplnlon),
brllllanL analysls of Lhe lmpacL of homophobla on Lhe spread of Plv and AluS ln Lhe u.S. 1he reporL,
enLlLled "1he lmpacL of homophobla and oLher soclal blases on AluS," descrlbes how Lhe deflnlLlon of
AluS as a gay dlsease and Lhe llnkage beLween AluS and gay lssues ln Lhe mlnd of Lhe general publlc,
has produced whaL ls perhaps Lhe ma[or barrler--AluS-8elaLed SLlgma---agalnsL a focused, coherenL, and
effecLlve naLlonal efforL Lo flghL Lhls devasLaLlng dlsease. 1he reporL forcefully concludes LhaL
Lhe unaddressed lssue of homophobla remalns Lhe unseen cause of Lhe spread of AluS-8elaLed SLlgma
wlLhln u.S. socleLy. We belleve LhaL unLll Lhe lssue of homophobla ls properly and adequaLely addressed
ln Amerlca, our naLlon ls unllkely Lo generaLe an ob[ecLlve, focused response Lo Lhe epldemlc of Plv and
AluS. (MC, 1993, p.3)
ln seemlngly parallel unlverses, approxlmaLely one monLh before Lhe 1996 presldenLlal elecLlons,
our counLry was bombarded wlLh a dls-Lresslng homophoblc dlscourse. resldenL 8lll CllnLon slgned
Lhe ban on homosexual marrlages and Lhe Callfornla leglslaLure held hearlngs on Covernor Wllson's
proposal Lo resLrlcL adopLlons Lo heLerosexual parenLs.
1he news ls noL good. keeplng wlLh Lhe hlghly pollLlclzed homo-phoblc debaLes, Lhe 5oo ltooclsco
cbtoolcle recenLly publlshed Lhe resulLs of Lhe 1991 Ceneral Soclal Survey, perlodlcally conducLed by Lhe
naLlonal Cplnlon 8esearch CenLer aL Lhe unlverslLy of Chlcago. 1he LlLle of Lhe arLlcle "ubllc oplnlon of
homosexuals sLays negaLlve," ls somewhaL decelvlng, because Lhe arLlcle ln LruLh reporLs a sllghL wors-
enlng of publlc oplnlon regardlng homosexuallLy. 1he arLlcle sLaLes:
Accordlng Lo Lhe 1977 Ceneral Soclal Survey, Lhe counLry's mosL- waLched baromeLer of soclal Lrends and
aLLlLudes, 67 percenL of Lhose quesLloned sald LhaL sex beLween Lwo adulLs of Lhe same sex was "always
wrong." ln Lhe 1991 survey, 71 percenL sald gay sex was always wrong.
Slmllarly, perhaps ln more subLle ways, Lhe naLlon's machlsmo dls-course ls very much allve. 1he words
of pralse for ScoLL C'Crady, Lhe Alr lorce capLaln who survlved slx days behlnd enemy llnes afLer belng
shoL by Serblan rebel forces, were deflnlLely abouL hls mascullnlLy: "1hls ls a Lough bombte we are
Lalklng abouL--Adm. L. SmlLh" (5.l. cbtoolcle, !une 9, 1993). SeLLlng aslde Lhe provocaLlve facL LhaL
Admlral LelghLon SmlLh used Lhe Spanlsh word for man (bombte) when Lalklng abouL Lhe manhood of an
lrlsh Amerlcan, lL ls lmporLanL Lo noLe LhaL boLh Lhe mlllLary and Lhe press consLrucLed Lhe herolc evenLs
ln Lerms of Lhe culLure's mascullne ldeal.
AbouL Lhe same Llme, publlshed ln 1993, Mlchael klmmel's lnslghL-ful analysls of mascullnlLy llnks Lhe
resurgence of soclal pre[udlces ln our counLry Lo Lhe ofLen wounded male ego of Amerlcan men. ln Lhe
words of Lhe book's revlewer:
1he paLLern recurs LhroughouL Amerlcan hlsLory. Men feel Lhelr power wanlng on accounL of an economlc
downLurn or, so Lhey belleve, on accounL of Lhe galns of prevlously subordlnaLed groups. leellng LhreaL-
ened as men, Lhey reacL defenslvely. Some seek new avenues Lo prove Lhelr manhood: WesLward Po!,
maklng war, bulldlng sLronger bodles, escape lnLo lmaglnary worlds peopled by superheroes, eLc.... 1hen,
fall-lng Lhese pursulLs, Lhey pro[ecL Lhe menace onLo classes of people over whom Lhey sLlll wleld some
power, be Lhese people of color, lmmlgranLs, women or gays. (kupers, 1993, p. 19)
Conslderlng Lhe lssues ralsed ln Lhls chapLer, and reflecLlng on Lhe naLlon's soclopollLlcal dlscourse as we
approach Lhe second mlllennlum, l am LempLed Lo re-wrlLe Lhe concluslon of Lhe ubllc Medla CenLer
reporL as follows: "unLll Lhe lssue(s) of homophobla (and machlsmo) ls(are) properly and adequaLely
addressed ln Amerlca ..."
1rans Law and o||t|cs on a Neo||bera| Landscape
Dean Spade
ln order Lo effecLlvely concepLuallze pollLlcal and economlc marglnallzaLlon, shorLened llfe spans, and
an emergenL no-Llon of organlzed reslsLance among Lhe seL of gender rule-breakers currenLly belng
loosely gaLhered under a "Lrans" umbrella, and Lo ralse quesLlons abouL Lhe usefulness of law reform
sLraLegles ln Lhls reslsLance, lL ls lmporLanL Lo conslder Lhe conLexL ln whlch Lhese condlLlons are
embedded. 1he concepL of neollberallsm ls a useful Lool for descrlblng Lhe conLexL ln whlch emergenL
forms of Lrans reslsLance are appearlng. Scholars and acLlvlsLs have used Lhe Lerm "neollberallsm"
ln recenL years Lo descrlbe a range of lnLerlocklng Lrends ln domesLlc and lnLernaLlonal pollLlcs
LhaL consLlLuLe Lhe currenL pollLlcal landscape. 1he Lerm ls sllppery and lmperfecL. neollberallsm ls
used Lo mean loLs of dlfferenL Lhlngs by loLs of dlfferenL people, and lL ls someLlmes used Lo refer Lo
condlLlons LhaL we could undersLand as noL new aL all, llke sLaLe vlolence Loward people of color, uS
mlllLary lmperlal-lsm, and aLLacks on poor people. Powever, l flnd Lhe Lerm use-ful because lL allows
space for crlLlcal lnslghL lnLo Lhe range of pracLlces produclng effecLs aL Lhe reglsLer of law, pollcy,
economy, ldenLlLy, organlzaLlon, and affecL. lL helps us look aL a seL of Lhlngs LogeLher and undersLand
Lhelr lnLerlocklng relaLlonshlps raLher Lhan analyzlng Lhem ln ways LhaL make us mlss key connecLlons.
neollberallsm has noL only shaped Lhe larger soclal, economlc, and pollLlcal condlLlons LhaL Lrans people
flnd Lhemselves ln, buL has also produced a speclflc lesblan and gay rlghLs formaLlon LhaL Lrans pollLlcs
operaLes ln relaLlon Lo. 1he concepL of neollberallsm ls useful boLh for ralslng concerns abouL Lhe effecLs
of Lhe lesblan and gay rlghLs formaLlon on Lrans people, and for calllng lnLo quesLlon Lhe usefulness of
Lhe lesblan and gay rlghLs model for Lrans law reform efforLs.
neollberallsm has been used Lo concepLually draw LogeLher several key Lrends shaplng conLemporary
pollcles and pracLlces LhaL have redlsLrlbuLed llfe chances over Lhe lasL forLy years. 1hese Lrends
lnclude a slgnlflcanL shlfL ln Lhe relaLlonshlps of workers Lo owners, produclng a decrease ln real
an lncrease ln conLlngenL labor, and Lhe decllne of labor unlons, Lhe dlsman-Lllng of welfare
programs, Lrade llberallzaLlon (someLlmes called "globallzaLlon"), and lncreaslng crlmlnallzaLlon and
lmmlgraLlon enforcemenL. neollberallsm ls also assoclaLed wlLh Lhe rollback of Lhe galns of Lhe clvll
rlghLs movemenL and oLher soclal move-menLs of Lhe 1960s and 70s, comblned wlLh Lhe moblllzaLlon
of raclsL, sexlsL, and xenophoblc lmages and ldeas Lo bolsLer Lhese changes. lurLher, Lhe emoLlonal or
affecLlve reglsLers of neollberallsm are aLLuned Lo noLlons of "freedom", and "cholce" aL
obscure sysLemlc lnequallLles and Lurn soclal movemenLs Loward goals of lncluslon and lncorporaLlon
and away from demands for redlsLrlbuLlon and sLrucLural LransformaLlon.
AL a broad level, Lhe advenL of neollberal pollLlcs has resulLed ln an upward dlsLrlbuLlon of wealLh.

Slmply puL, Lhe rlch have goLLen rlcher and Lhe poor have goLLen poorer.
1he real wages of Amerlcans
have noL lncreased slnce Lhe 1970s, and Lhe bargalnlng power of workers Lrylng Lo lmprove Lhe
condlLlons under whlch Lhey labor has decllned slgnlflcanLly. 1oday fewer workers are parL of labor
unlons, and ma[or law and pollcy changes have made lL harder for workers Lo organlze and uLlllze Lools
llke labor sLrlkes Lo lncrease bargalnlng power and push demands.
More work-ers have been forced
lnLo Lhe conLlngenL labor force, worklng as "Lemps" of varlous klnds wlLhouL [ob securlLy or beneflLs. AL
Lhe same Llme, Lhese developmenLs are lauded by proponenLs of neollberallsm as lncreased "flexlblllLy''
and "cholce" ln Lhe [ob markeL, where workers are porLrayed as havlng more of an enLrepreneurlal role
ln Lhelr own employmenL as lndependenL conLracLors. ln re-allLy, workers have losL real compensaLlon,
ln Lerms of boLh wages and beneflLs. 1hese changes ln Lhe relaLlonshlp beLween workers and owners,
and Lhe reducLlon ln unlonlzaLlon resulLed ln Lhe loss of cerLaln lmporLanL beneflLs LhaL were foughL
for and won by organlzed labor forces ln some lndusLrles and for some employees. 8eneflLs such as old
age penslons and healLh care LhaL many used Lo access Lhrough Lhelr [obs have dlsappeared as labor
has been resLrucLured. uurlng Lhe same perlod sLaLe pro-grams Lo supporL poor people, people wlLh
dlsablllLles, and old people have also been dlsmanLled. As a resulL, more and more people have been
lefL wlLhouL Lhe baslc safeLy neLs necessary Lo ensure Lhelr very survlval.
AL Lhe same Llme, Lhe already weakened welfare sLaLe has been sLeadlly aLLacked, ellmlnaLlng
enLlLlemenL Lo baslc safeLy neLs for Lhe pooresL people. 1he real worLh of already lnadequaLe beneflLs
has conLlnuously decreased slnce Lhe 1970s whlle Lhe laws and pollcles governlng Lhese programs
have slmulLaneously changed Lo exclude more and more people from ellglblllLy. LlfeLlme llmlLs, new
provlslons excludlng lmmlgranLs, famlly caps llmlLlng beneflLs for new chlldren enLerlng a famlly, and
new reglmes of work requlremenLs lmposed on Lhose ln need of beneflLs were lnLroduced ln Lhe
1990s Lo "end welfare as we know lL."
1hese drasLlc pollcy changes have lefL mllllons of poor people
wlLh less access Lo baslc necesslLles: Lhese changes have desLroyed publlc houslng pro[ecLs, greaLly
reduced vlLal healLh and soclal servlces, and produced a slgnlflcanL lncrease ln Lhe number of people llv-
lng wlLhouL shelLer.
Clobally, Lhe upward dlsLrlbuLlon of wealLh has been alded by Lrends of Lrade llberallzaLlon comblned
wlLh coerclve rules lmposed upon poor/lndebLed counLrles by rlch/granLor counLrles. 8oLh of Lhese
elemenLs creaLe rules LhaL reduce Lhe ablllLy of counLrles Lo proLecL Lhelr workers and naLural
envlronmenLs from explolLaLlon and bulld programs llke educaLlon and healLh care sysLems LhaL
lncrease Lhe well-belng and securlLy of Lhelr own people. 1rade agreemenLs llke Lhe norLh Amerlcan
lree 1rade AgreemenL (nAl1A) and Lhe lree 1rade Area of Lhe Amerlcas AgreemenL (l1M) are used
by corporaLlons Lo aLLack rules LhaL proLecL workers or Lhe envlronmenL, argulng LhaL such rules are
barrlers Lo "free Lrade." AL Lhe same Llme, organlzaLlons such as Lhe lnLernaLlonal MoneLary lund
(lMl) and Lhe World 8ank place llmlLaLlons on whaL lndebLed counLrles can do, forclng Lhem Lo focus
on produclng cash crops ln order Lo make paymenLs on debLs lnsLead of lnvesLlng money ln baslc
necesslLles and lnfrasLrucLure wlLhln Lhe counLry, or growlng susLenance crops Lo feed Lhelr people.
1he sLrucLures of Lrade llberallzaLlon and coerclve debL allow wealLhy counLrles and corporaLlons Lo
perpeLuaLe resource exLracLlon agalnsL poor counLrles and Lhelr populaLlons, leavlng Lhelr people
ln perll. 1hese condlLlons drasLlcally lmpacL Lhe llfe spans of people ln poor counLrles: deaLhs from
prevenLable and LreaLable dlsease, hunger, and envlronmenLal damage are Lhe dlrecL resulL of economlc
arrangemenLs LhaL dlvesL explolLed naLlons of conLrol over local human and naLural resources.
condlLlons also produce lncreased mlgraLlon as people flee economlc, pollLlcal, and envlronmenLal
dlsasLers seeklng safeLy and a means of survlval. Many of Lhese people rlsk enormous danger, and even
deaLh, when Lravellng Lo rlch counLrles. And when--or lf--Lhey arrlve, Lhey Lhen face raclsm, sexlsm,
xenophobla, homophobla, Lransphobla, economlc explolLaLlon, and crlmlnallzaLlon.
1hese changes ln global economlc arrangemenLs, such as Lhe emergence of "free Lrade agreemenLs" and
debL schemes LhaL re-placed prlor forms of colonlallsm wlLh new ways of conLrolllng counLrles, have
also had slgnlflcanL lmpacLs wlLhln Lhe unlLed SLaLes. uomesLlc [ob loss has resulLed as corporaLlons
move Lhelr operaLlons Lo places wlLh more explolLable and unproLecLed work- forces. As more and more
worklng class people feel Lhe effecLs of economlc resLrucLurlng LhaL reduces Lhelr earnlngs and employ-
menL securlLy, pollLlclans and Lhe medla offer raclsL and xeno-phoblc scapegoaLlng Lo explolL Lhls
dlssaLlsfacLlon, prevenLlng Lhe dlsconLenL from produclng lnLervenLlons on Lhese economlc agendas.
As workers ln Lhe unlLed SLaLes experlence Lhe lmpacLs of Lhelr decllnlng power, Lhe medla and
governmenL have shaped messages LhaL channel frusLraLlon aL Lhese changes lnLo pollcles of raclallzed
conLrol raLher Lhan economlc reforms LhaL mlghL ben-eflL Lhose workers.
SexlsL, raclsL, and xenophoblc lmages and ldeas have been moblllzed ln Lhe medla and by pollLlclans Lo
Lransform growlng economlc loss and dlssaLlsfacLlon lnLo calls for "law and order."
lncreaslngly, soclal
problems rooLed ln poverLy and Lhe raclal wealLh dlvlde have been porLrayed as lssues of "crlme,"
and lncreased pollclng and lmprlsonmenL have been framed as Lhe solu-Llon.
1he lasL LhlrLy years
has seen a masslve growLh ln sLrucLures of law enforcemenL, boLh ln Lhe crlmlnal punlshmenL and
lmmlgraLlon conLexLs, fueled by Lhe rheLorlcal devlces of Lhe War on urugs and Lhe War on 1error.
numerous law changes have crlmlnallzed behavlors LhaL were prevlously noL crlmlnallzed and drasLlcally
enhanced senLences for exlsLlng crlmes. MandaLory mlnlmum senLences for drug vlolaLlons have
severely lncreased Lhe slgnlflcance of drug convlcLlons, desplLe an overall reduc-Llon of drug use ln
Lhe unlLed SLaLes durlng Lhls perlod.
"1hree sLrlkes" laws, whlch creaLe a mandaLory exLended prlson
senLence for people convlcLed of Lhree crlmes llsLed as "serlous," have been adopLed by almosL half Lhe
sLaLes ln Lhe unlLed SLaLes, conLrlbuLlng Lo Lhe drasLlc growLh ln lmprlsonmenL. 8ehavlors assoclaLed
wlLh belng poor, such as panhandllng, sleeplng ouLdoors, enLerlng publlc LranslL wlLhouL paylng Lhe
fare, and wrlLlng grafflLl have also been lncreaslngly crlmlnallzed, resulLlng ln many poor and homeless
people endlng up more enLangled ln Lhe crlmlnal sysLem.
Many clLles have Laken up "quallLy of llfe"
pollclng sLraLegles LhaL LargeL for arresL people ln Lhe sex Lrade, homeless people, youLh, people wlLh
dlsablllLles, and people of color as parL of efforLs Lo make clLles comforLable for whlLe genLrlflers.

1he resulL of Lhese Lrends has been a rapld growLh of lmprlsonmenL such LhaL Lhe unlLed SLaLes now
lmprlsons one ln 100 people.
WlLh only 3 percenL of Lhe world's populaLlon, Lhe unlLed SLaLes now
has 23 percenL of Lhe world's prlsoners. Cver 60 percenL of uS prlsoners are people of color, and one
ln Lhree 8lack men now experlence lmprlsonmenL durlng Lhelr llfeLlmes.
naLlve populaLlons also
experlence parLlcularly hlgh raLes of lmprlsonmenL, aL a raLe of 709 per 100,000, Lhe lmprlsonmenL
raLe for naLlve populaLlons ls second only Lo Lhe raLe of lmprlsonmenL for 8lack people, esLlmaLed aL
1,813 per 100,000.
Women are Lhe fasLesL growlng segmenL of Lhe lmprlsoned populaLlon. 1he raLe
of lmprlsonmenL for women has lncreased aL nearly double Lhe raLe of men slnce 1983 and Lhere are
now more Lhan elghL Llmes as many women locked up ln sLaLe and federal prlsons and local [alls as Lhere
were ln 1980. "War on urugs" pollcy accounLs for much of Lhls shlfL--40 percenL of crlmlnal convlcLlons
leadlng Lo lncarceraLlon of women ln 2000 were for drug crlmes.
1wo-Lhlrds of women lmprlsoned ln
Lhe unlLed SLaLes are women of color.
Such Lrends have prompLed many commenLaLors Lo observe LhaL lmprlsonmenL of communlLles of
color ls an exLenslon of sysLems of chaLLel slavery and genoclde of lndlgenous people.
Angela uavls
has descrlbed Lhe hlsLorlcal Lra[ecLory LhaL formed Lhe crlmlnal punlshmenL sysLem as a response Lo
Lhe formaLlon of slavery. As she and oLhers have polnLed ouL, Lhe 1hlrLeenLh AmendmenL's abollLlon
of lnvolunLary servlLude lncludes a very lmporLanL caveaL: "excepL as punlshmenL for crlme, whereof
Lhe parLy shall have been duly convlcLed." As uavls relaLes, ln Lhe years followlng Lhe abollLlon of
slavery, souLhern prlsons dras-Llcally expanded and wenL from belng almosL enLlrely whlLe Lo prlmarlly
lmprlsonlng 8lack people. new laws were passed--Lhe 8lack Codes LhaL made an enormous range
of behavlors (e.g., drunkenness and vagrancy) crlmlnal solely lf Lhe accused was 8lack. 1hese legal
schemes permlLLed Lhe newly freed slaves Lo be recapLured lnLo a new sysLem of forced labor, conLrol,
and raclal vlolence. 1he naLure of lmprlsonmenL changed durlng Lhls Llme, Laklng on Lhe meLhods of
punlshmenL common Lo slavery, such as whlpplng, and lmplemenLlng Lhe convlcL leaslng sysLem LhaL
allowed former slave owners Lo lease Lhe labor of prlsoners who were forced Lo work under condlLlons
many observers have suggesLed were even more vlolenL Lhan Lhose of slavery.
1he conLemporary
crlmlnal punlshmenL sysLem flnds lLs orlglns ln Lhls raclally LargeLed conLrol and explolLaLlon of people
of color, and lLs conLlnuaLlon of Lhose LacLlcs can be seen ln lLs conLemporary operaLlons. As uavls
Pere we have a penal sysLem LhaL was raclsL ln many re-specLs--dlscrlmlnaLory arresLs and
senLences, condlLlons of work, modes of punlshmenL .1he perslsLence of Lhe prlson as Lhe
maln form of punlshmenL, wlLh lLs raclsL and sexlsL dlmenslons, has creaLed Lhls hlsLorlcal
conLlnulLy beLween Lhe nlneLeenLh and early LwenLleLh-cenLury con-vlcL lease sysLem and
Lhe prlvaLlzed prlson buslness Loday. Whlle Lhe convlcL lease sysLem was legally abollshed,
lLs sLrucLures of explolLaLlon have reemerged ln Lhe paLLerns of prlvaLlzaLlon, and, more
generally, ln Lhe wlde-ranglng corporaLlzaLlon of punlshmenL LhaL has produced a prlson
lndusLrlal complex.
1he speclflc orlglns of Lhe crlmlnal punlshmenL sysLem ln relaLlon Lo chaLLel slavery has noL llmlLed
Lhe LargeLs of LhaL sys-Lem Lo 8lack people. Whlle 8lack people conLlnue Lo be Lhe prlmary LargeLs,
oLher people of color and poor whlLe people are also profoundly lmpacLed by caglng and pollclng,
boLh Lhrough Lhe crlmlnal punlshmenL sysLem and Lhe lmmlgraLlon enforcemenL sysLem. ln Lhe lasL
decade, Lhe War on 1error has prompLed a masslve growLh ln lmmlgraLlon enforcemenL, lncludlng
lmprlsonmenL, slgnlflcanL law changes reduclng Lhe rlghLs of people lmprlsoned ln lmmlgraLlon
and an overhaul of Lhe admlnlsLraLlve sysLems LhaL govern ldenLlflcaLlon ln ways
LhaL lock lmmlgranLs ouL of baslc servlces and make Lhem more vul-nerable Lo explolLaLlon. ln Lhe
lasL decade law changes aL boLh Lhe sLaLe and federal level have made lL more dlfflculL Lo geL lu and
governmenL beneflLs. Some of Lhese changes have been fu-eled by well-publlclzed campalgns such as
Lhe 1994 campalgn Lo pass roposlLlon 187 ln Callfornla, a proposed law LhaL almed Lo ensure LhaL
undocumenLed lmmlgranLs could noL use publlc servlces such as healLhcare, educaLlon, and oLher
soclal servlces. 1he 2003 8LAL lu AcL, passed by Congress, focused on changlng how sLaLes lssue drlvers
llcenses ln order Lo prevenL undocumenLed lmmlgranLs from obLalnlng lu. Many oLher law and pollcy
changes LhaL garnered less aLLenLlon slmllarly reduced access Lo key servlces and lu for undocumenLed
people. uurlng Lhe same perlod, Lhe federal governmenL has lncreased lLs enforcemenL of lmmlgraLlon
laws, lmprlsonlng and deporLlng more people and creaLlng new programs, llke Lhe conLroverslal "Secure
CommunlLles" program,
LhaL lncrease Lhe use of sLaLe and local crlmlnal [usLlce enforcemenL resources
for LargeLlng lmmlgranLs.
Law and pollcy changes LhaL have lncreased crlmlnallzaLlon and lmmlgraLlon enforcemenL have been
lmplemenLed Lhrough Lhe uLlllzaLlon of some lmporLanL reframlngs. ln Lhe wake of Lhe pollLlcal
upheaval of Lhe 1960s and 70s, where sLrong soclal [usLlce movemenLs' demands for redlsLrlbuLlon and
LransformaLlon galned vlslblllLy and were Lhen sysLemaLlcally aLLacked and dlsmanLled by Lhe l8l's
CounLer lnLelllgence rogram (CCln1LL8C) and oLher governmenLally orchesLraLed operaLlons,
conservaLlves regrouped uslng raclsL, sexlsL, and xenophoblc scapegoaLlng.
MovemenL organlzlng and
soclal proLesL became crlme" and lncreaslngly "Lerrorlsm," [usLlfylng Lhe lmprlsonmenL of pollLlcal
acLlvlsLs from effecLlve organlzaLlons and Lhe ongolng survelllance and crlmlnallzaLlon of dlssenL.
AddlLlonally, Lhe War on urugs changed how drug use ls percelved, floodlng Lhe culLure wlLh raclsL
lmages of dangerous, vlolenL drug users and dealers. undersLandlngs of drug addlcLlon as a healLh
lssue, Lo Lhe exLenL LhaL Lhey exlsLed, were replaced by Lhe framlng of drug abuse as a crlmlnal lssue,
wlLh punlshmenLs for drug possesslon lncreaslng slgnlflcanLly. 1he War on urugs resulLed ln masslve
prlson expanslon Lo accommodaLe a growlng mass of drug offenders servlng lncreaslngly long
senLences. new laws llke Lhe Amerlcans wlLh ulsablllLles AcL (AuA) of 1990 speclflcally ldenLlfled drug
users as people Lo be excluded from proLecLlons almed aL ellmlnaLlng sLlgma from healLh lmpalrmenLs.

Lven Lhough drug abuse decllned preclplLously ln Lhe unlLed SLaLes sLarLlng ln Lhe mld 1970s,
conflnemenL of people based on drug convlcLlons ln sLaLe and federal prlsons lncreased 973 percenL
beLween 1982 and 1996.
WlLh Lhe advenL of Lhe War on 1error ln 2001, an enormous range of law
and pollcy changes resulLlng ln locklng up lmmlgranLs was [usLlfled Lhrough a new framlng of all
lmmlgraLlon pollcy lssues as "Lerrorlsm prevenLlon." 1hls crlmlnallzlng framework exLends Lo Lhe
realm of soclal welfare pollcles. 1he noLlon of people defraudlng welfare and Soclal SecurlLy ulsablllLy
beneflLs sysLems was popularlzed by medla exposes" on Lhe Loplc, conLrlbuLlng Lo Lhe raclsL porLrayal
of Lhe poor as crlmlnal and supporLlng pollcles reduclng poverLy allevlaLlon programs and enhanclng
punlshmenL sysLems. AL Lhe same Llme, law changes deallng wlLh drug use or possesslon lncluded
ellmlnaLlng ellglblllLy for college flnanclal ald and publlc houslng for people wlLh drug convlcLlons and
enhanclng Lhe barrlers Lo employmenL, credlL, and soclal servlces for communlLles LargeLed by
lncreased pollclng and lmprlsonmenL.
lueled by raclsL, sexlsL, and xenophoblc scapegoaLlng, Lhe lasL
four decades have seen slmulLane-ous slashes Lo soclal servlces and masslve growLh of sLaLe capaclLles
Lo survell, pollce, and lmprlson, suggesLlng a dlslngenulLy Lo Lhe small governmenL" credos of pollLlclans
ln power durlng Lhe pasL four decades.

1hls perlod also saw a ma[or rollback ln Lhe law reform galns of Lhe clvll rlghLs movemenL. 1he
dlsmanLllng of !lm Crow laws and Lhe lmplemenLaLlon of pollcles almed aL lnLegraLlng school sysLems
and workplaces Lo redlsLrlbuLe economlc opporLunlLy and leadershlp had only a brlef llfe before
leglslaLures and courLs ellmlnaLed Lhem.
1he clvll rlghLs movemenL succeeded ln changlng uS
law Lo ellmlnaLe expllclL raclal segregaLlon and excluslon laws, buL courLs responded by creaLlng
a new docLrlne of "colorbllndness" LhaL Look Lhe LeeLh ouL of Lhese law changes and preserved Lhe
raclal sLaLus quo. Cne way LhaL Lhls was accompllshed was by maklng afflrmaLlve acLlon programs
and school desegregaLlon programs lllegal because of Lhelr race consclousness.
AnoLher key
LacLlc was creaLlng a docLrlne of anLl-dlscrlmlnaLlon law LhaL makes lL almosL lmposslble Lo prove
1hese Lwo elemenLs allow Lhe unlLed SLaLes Lo conLlnue Lo espouse raclal equallLy
as Lhe law of Lhe land whlle blamlng wealLh lnequallLles on populaLlons whose "fallure" Lo Lhrlve
under Lhese purporLedly equal condlLlons musL be Lhelr own faulL. 1hls also serves Lo ensure
LhaL Lhe law ls an lneffecLlve Lool for addresslng ongolng raclsm LhaL resulLs ln raclally dlsparaLe
access Lo wealLh, educaLlon, houslng, healLhcare, and soclal servlces. 1hese meLhods also mlrror Lhe
general Lrend ln neollberal pollLlcs of denylng LhaL unequal condlLlons exlsL, porLraylng any unequal
condlLlons LhaL do exlsL as naLural or neuLral, and suggesLlng LhaL key access/resource lssues are
a maLLer of lndlvldual "freedom" and "cholce." 1he deep lnequallLy of educaLlon beLween publlc
school sysLems LhaL falls along race and class llnes, courLs Lell us, ls a maLLer of Lhe cholces of parenLs
Lo move Lo parLlcular areas and cannoL be addressed by courLs.
Workers are now "free" Lo move
beLween workplaces, worklng Lemporarlly and flexlbly, wlLhouL Lhose cumbersome relaLlonshlps
Lo long-Lerm employers accompanled by Lhlngs llke meanlngful rlghLs Lo organlze, penslons, healLh
lnsurance, and [ob securlLy. 1hrough Lhese lenses, sysLemlc lnequallLy has become lncreaslngly
unspeakable and Lhe long- Lerm myLh of merlLocracy ln Lhe unlLed SLaLes, coupled wlLh Lhe renewed
rheLorlc of "personal responslblllLy," suggesLs LhaL Lhose beneflLlng from Lhe upward dlsLrlbuLlon are
dolng so because of Lhelr moral flLness, and, respecLlvely, LhaL Lhose on Lhe loslng end are blameworLhy,
lazy, and, of course, dangerous.
1he changes ln condlLlons and Lhe ldeas underglrdlng Lhe neollberal pro[ecL have also slgnlflcanLly
lmpacLed whaL soclal movemenL pollLlcs look llke ln Lhe unlLed SLaLes.
1he conservaLlve Lurn has
been reflecLed ln soclal movemenL pollLlcs, where Lhe radlcal pro[ecLs of Lhe 1960s and 1970s LhaL were
LargeLed for dlsmanLllng by Lhe l8l were replaced by a growlng nonproflL secLor.
Lmerglng nonproflL
organlzaLlons boLh fllled Lhe gaps lefL as Lhe governmenL abandoned key soclal and legal servlces
deslgned Lo asslsL poor populaLlons, and creaLed a new ellLe secLor of law and pollcy reform funded by
wealLhy phllanLhroplsLs. 1hls new secLor dlffers slgnlflcanLly from Lhe more grassrooLs and mass- based
soclal movemenLs of earller eras. lLs reform pro[ecLs reflecL Lhe neollberal shlfL Loward Lhe pollLlcs of
lncluslon and lncorporaLlon raLher Lhan redlsLrlbuLlon and deep LransformaLlon. 1he newly expanded
nonproflL secLor ls mosL concerned wlLh servlces and pollcy change. 1radlLlonal sLraLegles of mass-
based organlzlng have been underfunded and sysLemaLlcally dlsmanLled, as funders prefer Lo channel
resources Loward pro[ecL-orlenLed programs wlLh shorL Llmellnes for quanLlflable ouLcomes. ln Lhls
conLexL, soclal [usLlce has become a career Lrack populaLed by lndlvlduals wlLh speclallzed professlonal
Lralnlng who rely on buslness managemenL models Lo run nonproflLs "efflclenLly." 1he leadershlp
and declslon-maklng come from Lhese dlsproporLlonaLely whlLe, upper-class pald leaders and donors,
whlch has slgnlflcanLly shlfL-ed prlorlLles Loward work LhaL sLablllzes sLrucLural lnequallLy by leglLlmlzlng
and advanclng domlnanL sysLems of meanlng and conLrol raLher Lhan maklng demands for deeper
1he legal reform work LhaL currenLly operaLes under Lhe ru-brlc of lesblan and gay rlghLs (or someLlmes
LC81 rlghLs) ls an example of Lhls shlfL from a more LransformaLlve soclal move-menL agenda Lo an
lncluslon, and lncorporaLlon-focused professlonallzed nonproflL legal reform pro[ecL. CounLless
scholars and acLlvlsLs have crlLlqued Lhe dlrecLlon LhaL lesblan and gay rlghLs acLlvlsm has Laken slnce
Lhe lncendlary momenLs of Lhe laLe 1960s when crlmlnallzed gender and sexual ouLslders foughL back
agalnsL pollce harassmenL and bruLallLy aL new ?ork ClLy's SLonewall lnn and San lranclsco's CompLon's
1he ac-Llvlsm LhaL arose durlng LhaL perlod sLarLed as sLreeL reslsLance and unfunded ad hoc
organlzaLlons, lnlLlally Laklng Lhe form of pro-LesLs and marches, uLlllzlng sLraLegles LhaL were mlrrored
across a range of movemenLs, reslsLlng pollce bruLallLy and mlllLarlsm, and opposlng paLrlarchal and
raclsL norms and vlolences. 1hls emerglng sexuallLy/gender-focused reslsLance was lnsLlLuLlonallzed ln
Lhe 1980s lnLo nonproflL sLrucLures led by whlLe lawyers and oLher people wlLh class and educaLlon
prlvllege. CrlLlcs of Lhese developmenLs have used a varleLy of Lerms and concepLs Lo descrlbe Lhe shlfL,
lncludlng charges LhaL Lhe focus became asslmllaLlon,
LhaL Lhe work lncreaslngly marglnallzed low-
lncome people,
people of color,
and Lransgender people,
and LhaL Lhe reslsLance became co-opLed
by neollberallsm
and conservaLlve egallLarlanlsm. CrlLlcs have argued LhaL as Lhe gay movemenL of Lhe
1970s lnsLlLuLlonallzed lnLo Lhe lesblan and gay rlghLs move-menL ln Lhe 1980s--formlng such lnsLlLuLlons
as Cay and Lesblan AdvocaLes and uefenders (CLAu), Lhe Cay and Lesblan Alllance AgalnsL uefamaLlon
(CLAAu), Lhe Puman 8lghLs Campalgn (P8C), Lambda Legal uefense and LducaLlon lund, and Lhe
naLlonal Cay and Lesblan 1ask lorce (nCL1l)-Lhe focus of Lhe mosL well-funded, well-publlclzed work on
behalf of queers shlfLed drasLlcally.
lrom lLs rooLs ln boLLle-Lhrowlng reslsLance Lo pollce bruLal-lLy and Lhe clalmlng of queer sexual
publlc space, Lhe focus of lesblan and gay rlghLs work moved Loward Lhe more conserva-Llve model
of equallLy promoLed ln uS law and culLure Lhrough Lhe myLh of equal opporLunlLy. 1he LhrusL of
Lhe work of Lhese organlzaLlons became Lhe quesL for lncluslon ln and recognlLlon by domlnanL uS
lnsLlLuLlons raLher Lhan quesLlonlng and challenglng Lhe fundamenLal lnequallLles promoLed by Lhose
lnsLlLuLlons. 1he key agenda lLems became anLl-dlscrlmlnaLlon laws focused on employmenL (e.g.,
Lhe federal LmploymenL non- ulscrlmlnaLlon AcL [LnuA], as well as equlvalenL sLaLe sLaLuLes), mlllLary
lncluslon, decrlmlnallzaLlon of sodomy, haLe crlme laws, and a range of reforms focused on relaLlonshlp
recognlLlon LhaL lncreaslngly narrowed Lo focus on Lhe legal recognlLlon of same- sex marrlages.
arLlclpaLory forms of organlzlng, such as nonprofesslonal membershlp-based grassrooLs organlzaLlons,
were replaced by hlerarchlcal, sLaff-run organlzaLlons operaLed by people wlLh graduaLe degrees.
8road concerns wlLh pollclng and punlshmenL, mlllLarlsm, and wealLh dlsLrlbuLlon Laken up by some
earller manlfesLaLlons of lesblan and gay acLlvlsm were replaced wlLh a focus on formal legal equallLy
LhaL could produce galns only for people already served by exlsLlng soclal and economlc arrange-
lor example, chooslng Lo frame equal access Lo healLh care Lhrough a demand for same-sex
marrlage rlghLs means flghL-lng for healLh care access LhaL would only affecL people wlLh [obs LhaL
lnclude healLh beneflLs Lhey can share wlLh a parLner, whlch ls an lncreaslngly uncommon prlvllege.

Slmllarly, addresslng Lhe economlc marglnallzaLlon of queer people solely Lhrough Lhe lens of anLl-
dlscrlmlnaLlon laws LhaL bar dlscrlmlnaLlon ln em-ploymenL on Lhe basls of sexual orlenLaLlon-desplLe
Lhe facLs LhaL Lhese laws have been lneffecLlve aL eradlcaLlng dlscrlmlna-Llon on Lhe basls of race, sex,
dlsablllLy, and naLlonal orlgln, and LhaL mosL people do noL have access Lo Lhe legal resources needed
Lo enforce Lheseklnds of rlghLs--has been crlLlclzed as marklng an lnvesLmenL ln formal legal equallLy
whlle lgnorlng Lhe pllghL of Lhe mosL economlcally marglnallzed queers. lramlng lssues relaLed Lo chlld
cusLody Lhrough a lens of marlLal recognlLlon, slmllarly, means lgnorlng Lhe raclsL, sexlsL, and classlsL
operaLlon of Lhe chlld welfare sysLem and passlng up opporLunlLles Lo form coallLlons across
populaLlons LargeLed for famlly dlssoluLlon by LhaL sysLem. 8lack people, lndlgenous people, people
wlLh dls-ablllLles, queer and Lrans people, prlsoners, and poor people face enormous LargeLlng ln chlld
welfare sysLems. Seeklng "famlly rec-ognlLlon" rlghLs Lhrough marrlage, Lherefore, means seeklng such
rlghLs only for queer and Lrans people who can acLually expecL Lo be proLecLed by LhaL lnsLlLuLlon. Slnce
Lhe avallablllLy of marrlage does noL proLecL sLralghL people of color, poor people, prlsoners, or people
wlLh dlsablllLles from havlng Lhelr famllles Lorn aparL by chlld welfare sysLems, lL ls unllkely Lo do so for
queer poor people, queer people of color, queer prlsoners, and queer people wlLh dlsablllLles. 1he quesL
for marrlage seems Lo have far fewer beneflLs, Lhen, for queers whose famllles are LargeLs of sLaLe
vlolence and who have no spousal access Lo healLh care or lmmlgraLlon sLaLus, and seems Lo prlmarlly
beneflL Lhose whose race, class, lmmlgra-Llon, and ablllLy prlvllege would allow Lhem Lo lncrease Lhelr
well- belng by lncorporaLlon lnLo Lhe governmenL's prlvlleged relaLlon-shlp sLaLus. 1he framlng of
marrlage as Lhe mosL essenLlal legal need of queer people, and as Lhe meLhod Lhrough whlch queer
people can obLaln key beneflLs ln many realms, lgnores how race, class, ablllLy, lndlgenelLy, and
lmmlgraLlon sLaLus deLermlne access Lo Lhose beneflLs and reduces Lhe gay rlghLs agenda Lo a pro[ecL of
resLorlng race, class, ablllLy and lmmlgraLlon sLaLus prlvllege Lo Lhe mosL prlvlleged gays and lesblans.
1he followlng charL provldes some examples of Lhe framlngs and demands developed by Lhe mosL
vlslble and well-resourced lesblan and gay organlzaLlons for addresslng key problems faclng queer and
Lrans communlLles and compares Lhem Lo alLernaLlve framlngs offered by queer and Lrans acLlvlsLs
and organlzaLlons who cenLer raclal and economlc [usLlce.
Lach of Lhese examples makes vlslble Lhe
cenLerlng of formal legal equallLy demands, and Lhe llmlLed poLenLlal of Lhose demands Lo Lransform
Lhe condlLlons faclng hlghly vulnerable queer and Lrans people. 1hls charL does noL alm Lo be exhausLlve,
only Lo lllusLraLe some of Lhe concerns ralsed and alLernaLlve approaches proposed Lo Lhe "offlclal" gay
and lesblan law reform agenda.
1hese quesLlons of lssue framlng and rlorlLlzaLlon came Lo Lhe forefronL durlng Lhe welfare reform
debaLes and subsequenL pollcy changes of Lhe mld-1990s, soclal [usLlce acLlvlsLs crlLlclzed lesblan and
gay rlghLs organlzaLlons for noL reslsLlng Lhe ellmlnaLlon of soclal welfare programs desplLe Lhe facL
LhaL Lhese pollcy changes had devasLaLlng effecLs for low-lncome queers.
Slmllar crlLlques have been
made of Lhe efforLs Lo pass haLe crlme laws, argulng LhaL Lhe alm of enhanclng penalLles for assaulLs
perpeLraLed because of anLl-gay anlmus dlrecLs resources Lo crlmlnal punlshmenL agencles, a move
LhaL ls deeply mlsgulded and dangerous.
Cueer acLlvlsLs focused on opposlng pollce bruLallLy and
mass lncarceraLlon of low-lncome people and people of color ln Lhe unlLed SLaLes have argued LhaL
haLe crlme laws do noLhlng Lo prevenL vlolence agalnsL queer and Lrans people, much of whlch happens
aL Lhe hands of employees of Lhe crlmlnal punlshmenL sysLem, a sysLem Lo whlch haLe crlme laws
lend more resources.
1he shlfL ln focus from pollce accounLablllLy Lo parLnerlng wlLh Lhe crlmlnal
punlshmenL sysLem and almlng for lncreased penalLles represenLs a slgnlflcanL beLrayal of Lhe concerns
of low-lncome queer and Lrans people and queer and Lrans people of color, who are frequenL LargeLs of
pollce and prlsons. 1hls move cenLers Lhe perspecLlve and experlence of whlLe, economlcally prlvlleged
queers who may feel proLecLed by Lhe pollce and crlmlnal punlshmenL sysLems. 1hose who feel
proLecLed and are noL dlrecLly lmpacLed by Lhe vlolence of lmprlsonmenL and pollclng are less llkely Lo
see Lhe urgenL need for a fundamenLal shlfL away from relylng on LhaL sysLem.
Cverall, Lhe lesblan and gay rlghLs agenda has shlfLed Loward preservlng and promoLlng Lhe class
and race prlvllege of a small number of ellLe gay and lesblan professlonals whlle marglnallzlng or
overLly excludlng Lhe needs and experlences of people of color, lmmlgranLs, people wlLh dlsablllLles,
lndlgenous people, Lrans people, and poor people. 1he lnsLlLuLlonallzaLlon of lesblan and gay rlghLs
LhaL sLarred ln Lhe 1980s and produced a model of leadershlp based on educaLlonal prlvllege and
a model of change cenLerlng ellLe sLraLegles and law reform faclllLaLed Lhe abandon-menL of soclal
[usLlce sLruggles LhaL concern Lhe mosL vulnerable queer and Lrans people ln favor of Lhe advancemenL
of narrow campalgns Lo lnclude Lhe mosL prlvlleged queers ln domlnanL lnsLlLuLlons. AsLhe leadlng
lesblan and gay rlghLs organlzaLlons emerged, Lhey were (and remaln) prlmarlly funded and sLaffed
by whlLe gay people wlLh professlonal degrees and/or wealLh. 1hese organlzaLlons operaLe Lhrough
hlerarchlcal models of governance, concenLraLlng declslon-maklng power ln board members and senlor
sLaff who are even more llkely Lo be whlLe, wealLhy, and have graduaLe-level educaLlons.
1he gay rlghLs agenda, Lhen, has come Lo reflecL Lhe needs and experlences of Lhose leaders more
Lhan Lhe experlences of queer and Lrans people noL presenL ln Lhese ellLe spaces. 1he mosLly whlLe,
educaLlonally prlvlleged pald leaders can lmaglne Lhemselves flred from a [ob for belng gay or lesblan,
harassed on Lhe sLreeL (ofLen by an lmaglned assallanL of color),
excluded from 8oy ScouLs, or kepL ouL
of mlllLary servlce. 1hey do noL lmaglne Lhemselves as poLenLlally lmprlsoned, on welfare, homeless, ln
Lhe [uvenlle punlshmenL and fosLer care sysLems, ln danger of deporLaLlon, or Lhe LargeL of conLlnuous
pollce harassmenL. 8ecause such flgures shaped and conLlnue Lo shape Lhe "gay agenda," Lhose
lssues do noL recelve Lhe resources Lhey warranL and requlre. lurLhermore, Lhese pald nonproflL
leaders come ouL of graduaLe schools more Lhan from LransformaLlve, grassrooLs soclal movemenLs of
people faclng cenLurles of sLaLe vlolence. 8ecause of Lhls, Lhey do noL possess Lhe crlLlques of noLlons
such as formal legal equallLy, asslmllaLlon, professlonallsm and equal rlghLs LhaL are developed
Lhrough grassrooLs moblllzaLlon work. Lven relaLlvely popular femlnlsL crlLlques of Lhe lnsLlLuLlon of
marrlage could noL Lrump Lhe new call for "marrlage equallLy"-meanlng access for same-sex couples Lo
Lhe fundamenLally unequal lnsLlLuLlon deslgned Lo prlvllege cerLaln famlly formaLlons for Lhe purpose
of sLaLe conLrol.
Where Lhe money for Lhls lesblan and gay nonproflL formaLlon comes from, and how lL ls dlsLrlbuLed,
ls also an area of slgnlflcanL concern. 1he largesL whlLe-founded and whlLe-led organlzaLlons dolng
lesblan and gay rlghLs work have generaLed much revenue Lhrough boLh foundaLlon granLs
sponsor-shlp by corporaLlons such as Amerlcan Alrllnes, 8udwelser, l8M, and Coors. 1hese parLnershlps,
whlch lnclude adverLlslng for Lhe corporaLlons, have been crlLlclzed by queers concerned abouL Lhe
narrow framework of organlzaLlons wllllng Lo promoLe corpora-Llons whose labor and envlronmenLal
pracLlces have been wldely crlLlqued. 1hese parLnershlps have furLhered Lhe ongolng crlLlclsm LhaL
lesblan and gay rlghLs work has become a "slngle-lssue pollLlcs" LhaL lgnores vlLal soclal [usLlce lssues,
promoLlng a pollLlcal agenda LhaL concerns gays and lesblans experlenclng marglnallzaLlon Lhrough a
slngle vecLor of ldenLlLy only-sexual orlenLaLlon. Such a pollLlcs excludes queer and Lrans people who
experlence homophobla slmulLaneously wlLh Lransphobla, poverLy, ablelsm, xenophobla, raclsm,
sexlsm, crlmlnallzaLlon, economlc explolLa-Llon, and/or oLher forms of sub[ecLlon.
Lesblan and gay organlzaLlons have also generally followed a model of governance and efflcacy based
on prlvaLe secLor norms raLher Lhan soclal [usLlce values. 1he mosL well-funded organlza-Llons have
pay scales slmllar Lo Lhe prlvaLe secLor, wlLh execuLlve dlrecLors ofLen maklng Lhree Lo four Llmes Lhe
salarles of Lhe lowesL pald employees. ay ofLen correlaLes Lo educaLlonal prlvllege, whlch agaln means
LhaL Lhe greaLesL share of resources goes Lo whlLe employees from prlvlleged backgrounds whlle
Lhe leasL goes Lo employees of color and people wlLhouL educaLlonal prlvllege. lurLhermore, Lhese
organlzaLlons for Lhe mosL parL do noL provlde healLh beneflLs LhaL lnclude gender-conflrmlng healLh
care for Lrans people, desplLe.,Lhe facL LhaL Lhls soclal [usLlce lssue ls an essenLlal one for Lrans pollLlcs.
1hese organlzaLlons also have a record of noL prlorlLlzlng Lhe developmenL of raclal [usLlce wlLhln Lhelr
work. Many have conslsLenLly refused dlrecL requesLs for meanlngful anLl-oppresslon Lralnlng and
developmenL work wlLhln Lhe orga- nlzaLlons. 1helr refusal 'Lo devoLe resources Lo Lhe developmenL of
lnLernal anLl-raclsL pracLlces reflecLs Lhe broader marglnallzaLlon of lssues lmporLanL Lo people of color
ln Lhese agendas.
Cverall, Lhe mosL well-funded lesblan and gay rlghLs organlzaLlons provlde sLark examples of Lhe
crlLlques made by acLlvlsLs from across a wlde range of soclal [usLlce movemenLs regardlng Lhe shlfL
from Lhe LransformaLlve demands of Lhe 1960s and 70s Lo Lhe narrow focus of Lhe granL-funded
"soclal [usLlce enLrepreneurs" of Loday. Lack of communlLy accounLablllLy, ellLlsm, concenLraLlon of
wealLh and resources ln Lhe hands of whlLe ellLes, and explolLaLlve labor pracLlces have become
norms wlLhln Lhese organlzaLlons, creaLlng and malnLalnlng dlsappolnLlng and dangerous pollLlcal
agendas LhaL fall Lo supporL meanlngful, wldespread reslsLance Lo vlolenL lnsLlLuLlons ln Lhe unlLed
SLaLes and of Lhe nonproflL form, cerLaln loglcs LhaL supporL crlmlnallzaLlon, mlllLarlsm, and wealLh
dlsparlLy have peneLraLed and Lransformed spaces LhaL were once locaLlons of fomenLlng reslsLance
Lo sLaLe vlolence.
lncreaslngly, neollberallsm means LhaL soclal lssues Laken up by non proflLs
are separaLed from a broader commlLmenL Lo soclal [usLlce, nonproflLs Lake parL ln produclng and
malnLalnlng a raclallzed-gendered maldlsLrlbuLlon of llfe chances whlle pursulng Lhelr "good work."
As Lrans acLlvlsm emerges and lnsLlLuLlonallzes, Lhere ls ofLen an assumpLlon LhaL followlng
Lhe sLraLegles of lesblan and gay rlghLs organlzaLlons, wlLh Lhelr sLrong focus on law reforms
lncludlng haLe crlme and anLl-dlscrlmlnaLlon laws, ls our suresL paLh Lo success. ?eL Lhe plcLure of
economlc marglnallzaLlon, vulnerablllLy Lo lm,prlsonmenL, and oLher forms of sLaLe vlolence LhaL Lrans
communlLles are descrlblng suggesLs LhaL Lhe "successes" of Lhe lesblan and gay rlghLs organlzaLlons do
noL have enough Lo offer ln Lerms of redlsLrlbuLlon of llfe chances-and LhaL Lhelr sLraLegles wlll ln facL
furLher endanger Lhe mosL marglnallzed Lrans populaLlons. lf formal legal equallLy aL besL opens doors
Lo domlnanL lnsLlLuLlons for Lhose who are already closesL Lo lncluslon (l.e., Lhey would be lncluded
lf lL wasn'L for Lhls one characLerlsLlc), very few sLand Lo beneflL. Clven Lhe conLexL of neollberal
pollLlcs, ln whlch fewer and fewer people have Lhe klnd of raclal and economlc access necessary Lo
obLaln whaL has been casL as "equal opporLunlLy'' ln Lhe unlLed SLaLes, and where populaLlons deemed
dlsposable are abandoned Lo poverLy and lmprlsoned only Lo be released Lo poverLy and re- capLured
agaln, we face serlous quesLlons abouL how Lo formulaLe meanlngful LransformaLlve demands and
LacLlcs. Speclflcally, because changlng laws ls Loo ofLen Lhe assumed meLhod of changlng Lhe llves
of marglnallzed people, we have Lo Lake lnLo accounL Lhe ways ln whlch law reform has been boLh
lneffecLlve and co-opLlve ln Lhe conLexL of neollberallsm and Lhe non proflLlzaLlon of reslsLance. We
have Lo carefully conslder Lhe llmlLaLlons of sLraLegles LhaL alm for lncluslon lnLo exlsLlng economlc
and pollLlcal arrangemenLs raLher Lhan challenglng Lhe Lerms of Lhose arrangemenLs. We musL
endeavor Lo creaLe and pracLlce a crlLlcal Lrans pollLlcs LhaL conLrlbuLes Lo bulldlng a pollLlcal
conLexL for mas- slve redlsLrlbuLlon. A crlLlcal Lrans pollLlcs lmaglnes and demands an end Lo prlsons,
homelessness, landlords, bosses, lmmlgraLlon enforcemenL, poverLy, and wealLh. lL lmaglnes a
world ln whlch people have whaL Lhey need and govern Lhemselves ln ways LhaL value collecLlvlLy,
lnLerdependence, and dlfference. Wlnnlng Lhose demands and bulldlng Lhe world ln whlch Lhey can
be reallzed requlres an unyleldlng commlLmenL Lo cenLer raclal, economlc, ablllLy, and gender [usLlce.
lL also requlres 'LhoughLful, reflecLlve sLraLeglzlng abouL how Lo bulld leadershlp and moblllzaLlon ln
ways LhaL reflecL Lhose commlLmenLs. Cur demands for redlsLrlbuLlon, access, and parLlclpaLlon musL
be reflecLed ln our reslsLance work every day--Lhey can'L be someLhlng we come back for laLer.
1. "1he decllne ln real wages over Lhe pasL Lwo generaLlons also has made unpald leave lmpracLlcal for
a large ma[orlLy of Amerlcan faml-lles. Average hourly earnlngs were $8.03 ln 1970 buL fell Lo $7.39 by
1993, whlle average weekly earnlngs fell from $298 Lo $233 over Lhe
same Llme perlod. 1he medlan lncome for Amerlcan famllles was $300 less ln 1986 Lhan ln 1973. 1he
purchaslng power of Lhe dollar (measured by consumer prlces) was $4.13 ln 1930 buL only $0.69 ln
1993. 8y 1983, lL,Look Lwo lncomesLo malnLaln Lhe same sLandard of llvlng LhaL was posslble wlLh
one lncome ln Lhe 1930s." Arlelle Porman Crlll, "1he MyLh of unpald lamlly Leave: Can Lhe unlLed
SLaLes lmplemenL a ald Leave ollcy 8ased on Lhe Swedlsh Model?" compototlve lobot low jootool
17 (1996): 373, 383-390, clLlng aLrlcla Schroeder, "arenLal Leave: 1he need for a lederal ollcy," ln
1be loteotol leove ctlsls. 1owotJ o Notloool lollcy, eds. Ldward L Zlgler and Meryl lrank (new Paven,
C1: ?ale unlverslLy ress, 1988), 326, 331, and 8ureau of Lhe Census, uS ueparLmenL of Commerce,
SLaLlsLlcal AbsLracL of Lhe unlLed SLaLes, 114Lh ed. (WashlngLon, uC: uS "ueparLmenL of Commerce,
8ureau of Lhe Census, 1994), 396. See also eW's Lconomlc MCblllLy ro[ecL, "Lconomlc MoblllLy: ls
Lhe Amerlcan uream Allve and Well?," 2009.
uream_key_llndlngs.pdf, and uS 8ureau of Lhe Census, Meosotloq 50 eots of cooomlc cbooqe
usloq tbe Motcb cotteot lopolotloos 5otvey (WashlngLon, uC: uS CovernmenL rlnLlng Cfflce,
2. Llsa uuggan, 1be 1wlllqbt of poollty? Neollbetollsm. coltotol lolltlcs, ooJ tbe Attock oo uemoctocy
(8ostoo. 8eacon ltess, 2004).
3. ln 2009, lnequallLy was aL Lhe hlghesL level slnce Lhe uS Census began Lracklng household
lncome ln 1967. 1he Lop 1 percenLlle of houSeholds Look home 23.3 percenL of lncome ln 2007,
Lhe!argesL share slnce.l928. Lmlly kalser, "Pow Amerlcan lncome lnequallLy PlL Levels noL Seen Slnce
Lhe uepresslon." noffloqtoo lost, CcLober 22,
20 l 0. hLLp://W> l 0/10/22/lncome-lnequallLy-amerlca_n_772687.hLml.
4. Some lmporLanL cases and laws LhaL llmlL Lhe bargalnlng power of workers lnclude lobot 8ootJ
v. Mockoy koJlo & 1eleqtopb co., 304 uS 333, 343 (1938) (flndlng LhaL "lL [was noL] an unfalr labor
pracLlce [under Lhe naLlonal Labor 8elaLlons AcL (nL8A)] Lo replace Lhe sLrlklng employees wlLh oLhers
ln an efforL Lo carry on Lhe buslness"), mpotlom copwell co. v. 1!-steto AJJltloo, 420 uS 30 (1973)
(flndlng LhaL Lhe nL8A does noL proLecL 8lack Workers plckeLlng Lhelr employer over lssues of
employmenL dlscrlmlnaLlon, because Lhey are only allowed Lo bargaln Lhrough Lhelr unlon), Ametlcoo
5blp 8ollJloq co. v. lobot 8ootJ, 380 uS 300 (1963) (holdlng LhaL an employer dld noL commlL an
unfalr labor pracLlce under elLher 8(a)(l) or 8(a)(3) of Lhe nL8A when lL shuL down lLs operaLlons
and hlred replacemenL workers afLer an lmpasse had been reached ln labor negoLlaLlons ln order Lo
exerL economlc pressure on Lhe unlon), N.l.k.8. v. locol uoloo No. 1229, l8w, 346 uS 464, 477-
78 (1933) (holdlng Lhe.dlscharge of workers for dlsLrlbuLlng handbllls crlLlcal of Lhe company durlng
a labor dlspuLe was lawful under Lhe nL8A), and See 8(b)(4)(ll)(8) of Lhe naLlonal Labor 8elaLlons
AcL, 61 SLaL. 141, as amended, 29 u.S.C. 138(b)(4). Labor hlsLorlans also commonly polnL Lo Lhe 1981
Alt 1rafflc ConLrollers sLrlke as a key Lurnlng polnL ln uS labor hlsLory marklng Lhe aLLack on workers'
bargalnlng power. Cn AugusL 3, 1981, followlng Lhe workers' refusal Lo reLurn Lo Work, resldenL
8onald 8eagan flred Lhe 11,343 SLrlklng alr Lrafflc conLrollers and banned Lhem from federal servlce
for llfe. 1helr unlon, Lhe rofesslonal Alr 1rafflc ConLrollers CrganlzaLlon, was decerLlfled from lLs rlghL
Lo represenL WCrkers by Lhe lederal Labor 8elaLlons AuLhorlLy.
3. 1hls phrase was one of resldenL 8lll CllnLon's 1992 campalgn promlses. 1he law changes he
supporLed have lndeed proven Lo have severely weakened publlc beneflLs systems, Lhrowlng many
people off beneflLs and lnLo more severe poverLy." 8esearch show[s] LhaL one ln flve former reclplenLs
ulLlmaLely became LoLally dlsconnecLed from any means of supporL: 1hey no longer had welfare, buL
Lhey dldn'L have [obs. 1hey hadn'L marrled or moved ln wlLh a parLner or famlly, and Lhere Weren'L
geLLlng dlsablllLy beneflLs. And so, afLer a decllne ln Lhe laLe -1990s, Lhe number of people llvlng ln
exLreme poverLy (wlLh an lncome less Lhan half Lhe poverLy llne, or below abouL $8,300 for a famlly
of Lhree) shoL up by more Lhan a Lhlrd, from 12.6 mllllon ln 2000 Lo 17.1 mllllon ln 2008." eLer
Ldelman and 8arbara Lhrenrelch, "Why Welfare 8eform lalls lLs 8ecesslon 1esL," 1be wosbloqtoo
lost (WashlngLon, u.C.), uecember 8, 2009. hrrp://
arLlcle/2009/12/04/A82009120402604.hLml, ''Accordlng Lo Lhe Lhlnk Lank-CenLer oo 8udgeL and ollcy
rlorlLles, federal ald Lo poor faml-lles supporLed 84 percenL of ellglble households ln 1993, buL 10
years laLer, 1emporary Ald for needy lamllles [1Anl] reached [usL 40 per-cenL. Servlng a shrlnklng
percenLage of needy people means Lhe program has 'become less effecLlve over Llme' aL counLerlng
exLreme poverLy, or Lhose llvlng below half Lhe poverLy level." Mlchelle Chen, "lr's 1lme Lo 8esLore
Lhe Soclal SafeLy neL," ceotte uolly 1lmes (SLaLe College, A), !une 23, 2010, "8y 2008, Lhe number
of chlldren recelvlng 1Anl had fallen Lo only 22 percenL of dle number of poor chlldren, down
from 62 percenL under Ald Lo lamllles wlLh uependenL Chlldren [AluC] ln 1993. LllglblllLy crlLerla ln
some sLaLes ls seL aL subpovelLy levels, maklng many poor chlldren lnellglble, and barrlers Lo access
have blocked many poor chlldren who are ellglble from acLually geLLlng asslsLance. 1he per-cenLage of
ellglble famllles recelvlng beneflLs has decllned preclplLously under 1Anl, falllng from 84 percenL ln
AluC's lasL full year ln 1993 Lo 40 percenL ln 2003, Lhe mosL recenL year for whlch Lhe federal govern-
menL has provlded esLlmaLes of Lhe number of famllles ellglble for buL noL recelvlng 1Anl. 1Anl
beneflL levels are grossly lnadequaLe for Lhe famllles Lhe program does reach, and have been eroded
by lnflaLlon or only mlnlmally lncreased ln mosL sLaLes slnce 1996. ln !uly, 2008. Lhe beneflL amounLs
were far below Lhe offlclal poverLy guldellne ln every sLaLe." ueepak 8hargava eL al, 8otteteJ 8y tbe
5totm. now tbe 5ofety Net ls lollloq Ametlcoos ooJ now to llx lt (WahlngLon, uC: lnsLlLuLe for ollcy
SLudles, Lhe CenLer for CommunlLy Change, !obs wlLh !usLlce, and Legal MomenLum, 2009), www.lps-, "nearly 16 mllllon Amerlcans are llvlng ln severe poverLy, Lhe
McClaLchy WashlngLon 8ureau reporLed recenLly. 1hese are lndlvlduals maklng less Lhan $3,080 a
year and famllles of four brlnglng ln less Lhan $9,903 a year, hardly lmaglnable ln Lhls day and age. 1haL
number has been growlng rapldly slnce 2000. And, as a percenLage, Lhose llvlng ln severe poverLy
has reached a 32 year hlgh. Lven more Lroubllng, Lhe reporL noLed LhaL ln any glven monLh only 10
percenL of Lhe severe poor recelved 1emporary AsslsLance for needy lamllles and only 36 percenL
recelved food sLamps."1racklng overLy: ConLlnue Survey of rogram LffecLlveness,1be 5octomeoto
8ee, March 12, 2007.
6. Pa-!oon Chang, 8oJ 5omotltoos. 1be Mytb of ltee 1toJe ooJ tbe 5ectet nlstoty of copltollsm
(London: 8loomsbury ress, 2007), nlrmala Lrevelles, "ulsablllLy ln Lhe new World Crder," ln colot
of vloleoce. 1be lNcl1! Aotboloqy, ed. lnCl1L! Women of Color AgalnsL vlolence (Cambrldge, MA:
SouLh Lnd ress, 2006), 23-31, Sllvla lederlcl, "War, CloballzaLlon, and 8eproducLlon," ln 1bete ls
oo Altetootlve. 5obslsteoce ooJ wotlJwlJe keslstooce to cotpotote Clobollzotloo, ed." veronlka
8ennholdL-1homsen, nlcholas laraclas, and Claudla von Werlhof (London: Zed 8ooks, 2001), 133-
143:vl [ay rashad, "uebL," ln keeploq up wltb tbe uow Iooeses. uebt, ltlsoo, wotkfote (Cambrldge,
MA: SouLh Lnd ress, 2003), 1-68, naoml kleln, 1be 5bock uocttloe. 1be klse of ulsostet copltollsm
(new ?ork: lcador, 2007).
7. uavld 8acon, llleqol leople. now Clobollzotloo cteotes Mlqtotloo ooJ ctlmloollzes lmmlqtoots
(8osLon: 8eacon ress, 2008), 31-82, !ennlfer M. ChacCn, "unsecured 8orders: lmmlgraLlon
8esLrlcLlons, Crlme ConLrol, and naLlonal SecurlLy," coooectlcot low kevlew 39, no. 3 Culy 2007):
1827, ln Lhe year LhaL nAl1A was lmplemenLed, 1994, Lhere was an average of 6,000 people ln uS
lmmlgraLlon prlson each day. 8y 2001, Lhe number had grown Lo 20,000 per day. ln 2008, Lhere was an
average of 33,000 people ln lmmlgraLlon prlson on a dally basls. Anll kalhan, "8eLhlnklng lmmlgraLlon
ueLenLlon," colomblo low kevlew l 10 (2010): 42, 44.
8. uuggan, 1be 1wlllqbt of poollty?
9. Lo'lc WaquanL, loolsbloq tbe loot. 1be Neollbetol Covetomeot of 5oclol losecotlty (uurham, nC:
uuke unlverslLy ress, 2009).
10. 8uLh Wllson Cllmore, "CloballsaLlon and uS rlson CrowLh: lrom MlllLary keyneslanlsm Lo osL
keyneslan MlllLarlsm," koce & closs
40, no. 2-3 (March 1999): 171-188, 173, Angela ?. uavls, Ate ltlsoos
Obsolete? (new ?ork: Seven SLorles ress, 2003).
1l. Alex vlLale, clty of ulsotJet. now tbe Ooollty of llfe compolqo
1toosfotmeJ New otk lolltlcs (new ?ork: n?u ress, 2008).
12. vlLale, clty of ulsotJet.
13. 1he LW CenLer on Lhe SLaLes, Ooe lo 100. 8ebloJ 8ots lo Ametlco 2008 (2008), uploadedllles/8013C1S_rlson08_llnAL_2-1-1_lC8WL8.pdf.
14. 1homas . 8onczar, revalence of lmprlsonmenL ln Lhe uS opulaLlon, 1974 2001,
nC!197976 (WashlngLon, uC: uS ueparLmenL of !usLlce, 8ureau of !usLlce SLaLlsLlcs, 2003), Wllllam
!. Sabol and PeaLher CouLure, rlsoners aL Mldyear 2007, nC!221944
(WashlngLon, uC: uS ueparLmenL of !usLlce, 8ureau of !usLlce SLaLlsLlcs, 2008).
13. Creg Cuma, "naLlve lncarceraLlon 8aLes are lncreaslng"
(1owotJ lteeJom, May 27, 2003),
16. Amerlcan Clvll LlberLles unlon, "lacLs abouL Lhe Cver--lncarceraLlon of Women ln Lhe
unlLed SLaLes" (2007),
17. CorrecLlonal AssoclaLlon of new ?ork, Women ln rlson ro[ecL, "Women ln rlson lacL SheeL"
(March 2002),
18. uavls, Ate ltlsoos Obsolete?, Andrea SmlLh, "PeLeropaLrlarchy and Lhe 1hree lllars of WhlLe
Supremacy: 8eLhlnklng Women of Color Crganlzlng," ln colot of vloleoce. 1be lNcl1! Aotboloqy, ed.
lnCl1L! Women of Color AgalnsL vlolence (Cambrldge, MA: SouLh Lnd ress,
2006), 66-73.
19. uavls, Ate ltlsoos Obsolete?, 29.
20. l lnLenLlonally use Lhe Lerm "lmprlsonmenL" raLher Lhan "deLen-Llon" and "lncarceraLlon'' when
posslble for Lwo reasons. llrsL, l fear LhaL Lhose Lwo Lerms euphemlze Lhe pracLlce of caglng people and
conLrlbuLe Lo how LhaL pracLlce becomes ordlnary or a maLLer of course ln Amerlcan culLure. Second,
l belleve we should analyze Lhe rlse ln boLh crlmlnal punlshmenL and lmmlgraLlon enforcemenL
uses of lmprlsonmenL as connecLed concerns and avold Lerms LhaL make lmmlgraLlon lmprlsonmenL
seem more Lemporary or less vlolenL Lhan lL ls. Whlle "lmmlgraLlon de-LenLlon" ls ofLen porLrayed by
lmmlgraLlon enforcemenL offlclals as shorL- Lerm and somehow less concernlng because lL ls offlclally a
parL of clvll raLher Lhan crlmlnal law enforcemenL, ln reallLy lL ls marked by Lhe same feaLures as crlmlnal
punlshmenL lmprlsonmenL: raclally dlsproporLlonaLe, characLerlzed by sexual assaulL and medlcal
neglecL, arblLrary and ofLen lndeflnlLe ln lLs duraLlon, and dlsLrlbuLed aL Lhe populaLlon level hldden
behlnd a raLlonallzaLlon of lndlvldual culpablllLy and lndlvldual rlghLs.
21. Secure CommunlLles ls a program Where parLlclpaLlng [urlsdlcLlons submlL Lhe flngerprlnLs
of everyone Lhey arresL Lo federal daLabases for an lmmlgraLlon check. As of CcLober 2010,
686 [urlsdlc-Llons ln 33 sLaLes were parLlclpaLlng. lmmlgraLlon ollcy CenLer, 5ecote commooltles.
A loct 5beet (WashlngLon, uC: lmmlgraLlon ollcy CenLer, november 4, 2010),[usL-facLs/secure-communlLles-facL-sheeL. AcLlvlsLs around Lhe counLry are
waglng campalgns Lo sLop Lhe [urlsdlcLlons Lhey llve ln from [olnlng Lhe pro-gram. See CenLer for
ConsLlLuLlonal 8lghLs, 1ell Covetoot coomo. 5top 5ecote commooltles lo New otk (neW ?ork: CenLer
for ConsLlLuLlonal 8lghLs), hLLp://www.ccr[, Amerlcan lrlends Servlce CommlLLee,
5top "5ecote commooltles" lo Mossocbosetts, (hlladelphla: Amerlcan lrlends Servlce CommlLLee,
lebruary, 2011), afsc.orglevenL/ sLop-secure-communlLles-massachuseLLs, LorneLL 1urnbull, "SLaLe
Won'L Agree Lo naLlonal lmmlgraLlon rogram." 5eottle 1lmes (nov. 28, 2010), seaLLleLlmes. 3041_secllre29m.hLml?prmld=oblnslLe.
22. Cllmore, "CloballsaLlon and uS rlson CrowLh."
23. 1hls was a change from Lhe AuA's predecessor, Lhe 8ehablllLaLlon AcL, whlch dld noL exclude currenL
drug users from Lhe group of people who mlghL clalm dlsablllLy dlscrlmlnaLlon.
24. Cllmore, "CloballsaLlon and uS rlson CrowLh."
23. Lrevelles, "ulsablllLy ln Lhe new World Crder."
26. Wendy 8rown, 5totes of lojoty (rlnceLon, n!: rlnceLon
unlverslLy ress, 1999), WaquanL, loolsbloq tbe loot.
27. Alan uavld lreeman, "LeglLlmlzlng 8aclal ulscrlmlnaLlon 1hrough AnLl-ulscrlmlnaLlon Law: A
CrlLlcal 8evlew of Supreme CourL uocLrlne," ln ctltlcol koce 5toJles. 1be key wtltloqs 1bot loooeJ
tbe Movemeot, ed. klmberle Crenshaw, nell CoLanda, Carry eller, and kendall 1homas (new ?ork:
1he new ress, 1996), 29-43.
28. See loteots lovolveJ lo commoolty 5cbools v. 5eottle 5cbool ulsttlct No. 1, 331 uS 701 (2007),
where Lhe uS Supreme CourL re-fused Lo allow a school dlsLrlcL Lo asslgn sLudenLs Lo publlc schools
for Lhe sole purpose of achlevlng raclal lnLegraLlon, decllnlng Lo recognlze raclal balanclng as a
compelllng sLaLe lnLeresL, Mllllkeo v. 8toJley, 418
uS 717 (1974), where Lhe uS Supreme CourL held LhaL buslng sLudenLs across dlsLrlcL llnes for Lhe
purpose of raclal lnLegraLlon was only permls-slble wlLh Lhe exlsLence of evldence showlng LhaL Lhe
school dlsLrlcLs had dellberaLely promoLed segregaLlon, and nopwooJ v. 1exos, 78 L3d 932 (3Lh Clr.
1996), where Lhe llfLh ClrculL CourL of Appeals held LhaL Lhe unlverslLy of 1exas School of Law could
noL use race as a ,facLor when evaluaLlng appllcanLs.
29. See wosbloqtoo v. uovls, 426 uS 229 (1976), where Lhe uS Supreme CourL ruled agalnsL
Lwo Afrlcan Amerlcan men who alleged LhaL Lhe WashlngLon, uC, pollce deparLmenL used raclally
dlscrlmlnaLory hlrlng procedures by requlrlng appllcanLs Lo Lake a verbal skllls LesL. 1he courL held
LhaL under Lhe llfLh AmendmenL Lqual roLecLlon Clause, "[an] offlclal acLlon wlll noL be held
unconsLlLuLlonal solely because lL resulLs ln a raclally dlsproporLlonaLe lmpacL."
30. loteots lovolveJ lo commoolty 5cbools, 331 uS 701, Mllllkeo,
418 uS 717, Angela . Parrls, "lrom SLonewall Lo Lhe Suburbs? 1oward a
ollLlcal Lconomy of SexuallLy," Wllllam and Mary 8lll of 8lghLs !ournal
76 nC8MAL LllL
14 (2006): 1339-1382.
31. 'orLlons of Lhe resL of Lhe LexL ln Lhls c,hapLer are adapLed from uean Spade and 8lckke
Mananzala, "1he non-roflL lndusLrlal Complex and 1rans 8eslsLance," 5exoollty keseotcb ooJ 5oclol
lollcy. Iootool of N5kc 3, no. l (March 2008): 33-71.
32. uylan 8odrlguez, "1he ollLlcal Loglc of Lhe non-roflL
lndusLrlal Complex," ln 1be kevolotloo wlll Not 8e looJeJ. 8eyooJ tbe Noo-ltoflt loJosttlol complex, ed.
lnCl1L!'Women of Color AgalnsL vlolence (Cambrldge, MA: SouLh Lnd ress, 2007).
33. 1he SLonewall 8ebelllon ls ofLen undersLood Lo be a key lncen-dlary momenL for conLemporary
reslsLance Lo sexual and gender norms. 1he CompLon's CafeLerla 8loL Was far less dlscussed unLll Susan
SLryker's 2003 documenLary, 5cteomloq Ooeeos. 1be klot ot comptoo's cofetetlo lnLroduced scholars
and acLlvlsLs Lo Lhe lmporLanL evenLs LhaL unfolded ln l966 when gender and sexual rule-breakers
responded Lo Lhe consLanL onslaughL of pollce harassmenL and vlolence ln San lranclsco's 1enderloln
34. lan 8arnard, "luck Commu_nlLy, or Why l SupporL Cay- 8ashlng," ln 5totes of koqe. motloool
toptloo, vloleoce, ooJ 5oclol cbooqe, eds. 8enee 8. Curry and 1erry L. Alllson (new ?ork: new ?ork
unlverslLy ress, 1996), 74-88, CaLhy !. Cohen, "unks, 8ulldaggers,
and Welfare Cueens: 1he 8adlcal oLenLlal of Cueer ollLlcs?" ClO, A Iootool of lesbloo ooJ Coy 5toJles
3, no. 4 (1997): 437-463, MaLLllda 8ernsLeln Sycamore, ed., 1bot's kevoltloq! Ooeet 5ttoteqles fot
keslstloq Asslmllotloo (8rooklyn, n?: SofL Skull ress, 2004), 8uLhann 8obson, ''AsslmllaLlon, Marrlage,
and Lesblan LlberaLlon'' 1emple low kevlew 73 (2002): 709.
33. 8lchard L. 8lum, 8arbara Ann erlna, and !oseph nlcholas
uellllppls, "Why Welfare ls a Cueer lssue," Nu kevlew of low ooJ
5oclol cbooqe 26 (2001): 207.
36. kenyon larrow, "ls Cay Marrlage AnLl-8lack?" (2004), hLLp://
ls-gay-marrlage-anLl-blackl, Sycamore, 1bot's kevoltloq!, uarren Lenard PuLchlnson, "'Cay 8lghLs'
for 'Cay WhlLes'? 8ace, Sexual ldenLlLy, and Lqual roLecLlon ulscourse," cotoell low kevlew 83 (2000):
37. Shannon . MlnLer, "uo 1ranssexuals uream of Cay 8lghLs? CeLLlng 8eal AbouL 1ransgender
lncluslon," 1toosqeoJet klqbts, ed. alsley Currah, 8lchard M. !uang, and Shannon . MlnLer
(Mlnneapolls: unlverslLy of MlnnesoLa ress, 2006),141-170, Sylvla 8lvera,"Cueens ln Lxlle, Lhe
lorgoLLen Cnes," ln CeoJetpoeet. volces ftom 8eyooJ tbe 5exool 8looty, ed. !oan nesLle, klkl
Wllchlns, and Clare Powell (Los Angeles: Alyson 8ooks, 2002), 67 83), ln 1bot's kevoltloq! Ooeet
5ttoteqles fot keslstloq Asslmllotloo, ed. MaLLllda
8ernsLeln Sycamore (8rooklyn, n?: SofL Skull ress, 2004), 31 38.
38. Parrls, ltom 5tooewoll to tbe 5obotbs?, uuggan, 1be 1wlllqbt of
39. Parrls, ltom 5tooewoll to tbe 5obotbs?, urvashl vald, vlttool poollty. 1be Molostteomloq of Coy
ooJ lesbloo llbetotloo (new ?ork: 8andom Pouse, 1996).
40. uean Spade and Cralg Wlllse, "lreedom ln a 8egulaLory SLaLe?:
Lawrence, Mar"rlage and8lopollLlcs," wlJeoet low kevlew 11 (2003):
41. aula LLLlebrlck, "Slnce When ls Marrlage a aLh Lo LlberaLlon?" Oot/look. Notloool lesbloo & Coy
Ooottetly 6 (lall1989): 14-16, Spade and Wlllse, "lreedom ln a 8egulaLory SLaLe?"
42. 1hls charL ls excerpLed from Morgan 8asslchls, Alex Lee, and uean Spade, "8ulldlng an AbollLlonlsL
1rans MovemenL wlLh LveryLhlng We've CoL," ln coptlve CeoJets. 1toosemboJlmeot ooJ tbe ltlsoo
loJosttlol complex, ed. naL SmlLh and Lrlc A. SLanley (Cakland, CA: Ak ress,
43. 8lum, erlna, and uellllppls, "Why Welfare ls a Cueer lssue."
44. Laura Magnanl, Parmon L. Wray, and. Lhe Amerlcan lrlends Servlce CommlLLee Crlmlnal !usLlce 1ask
lorce, 8eyooJ ltlsoos. A New lotetfoltb lotoJlqm fot Oot lolleJ ltlsoo 5ystem (Mlnneapolls: lorLress
ress, 2006), uean Spade, "MeLhodologles of 1rans 8eslsLance," ln 8lockwell compooloo to lC81O
5toJles, eds. Ceorge PaggerLy and Molly McCarry (London: 8lackwell ubllshlng, 2007), 237-261, !oey
L. Mogul, Andrea !. 8lLchle, and kay WhlLlock, Ooeet (lo)Iostlce (8osLon: 8eacon ress, 2011), kaLherlne
WhlLlock, lo o 1lme of 8tokeo 8ooes. A coll to uloloqoe oo note vloleoce ooJ tbe llmltotloos of note
ctlme lows (hlladelphla: Amerlcan lrlends Servlce CommlLLee, 2001).
43. uean Spade and Cralg Wlllse, "ConfronLlng Lhe LlmlLs of Cay
PaLe Crlmes AcLlvlsm: A 8adlcal CrlLlque," cblcooo-lotloo low kevlew
21 (2000): 38.
46. ChrlsLlna PanhardL descrlbes how early gay vlgllanLe groups almed aL prevenLlng homophoblc
bashlng ofLen Look up such work wlLh raclsL percepLlons of bashers ln mlnd, parLnerlng wlLh pollce Lo
LargeL men of color, ofLen ln genLrlfylng nelghborhoods where whlLe gays and lesblans were dlsplaclng
people of color. ChrlsLlna PanhardL "8uLLerflles, WhlsLles, and llsLs: Cay Safe SLreeLs aLrols and
Lhe 'new Cay CheLLo' 1976-1981," koJlcol nlstoty kevlew 100 (WlnLer 2008): 61-83.
47. 8uLh Colker, "Marrlage Mlmlcry: 1he Law of uomesLlc vlolence," wllllom ooJ Moty low kevlew
47 (2006): 1841, kaLherlne M. lranke, "1he ollLlcs of Same-sex Marrlage ollLlcs," colomblo Iootool of
CeoJet ooJ low 13 (2006): 236.
48. Accordlng Lo a 2000 sLudy, 66 percenL of foundaLlon board mem-bers are men and 90 percenL are
whlLe. ChrlsLlne Ann, "uemocraLlzlng Amerlcan hllanLhropy," ln 1be kevolotloo wlll Not 8e looJeJ
8eyooJ tbe Noo-ltoflt loJosttlol complex, ed. lnCl1L! Women of Color AgalnsL vlolence (Cambrldge,
MA: SouLh Lnd ress, 2007), 63-76.
49. 8odrlguez, "1he ollLlcal Loglc of Lhe non-roflL lndusLrlal Complex."

BDSM Defined:
An Exploration of Adult Sexuality and Lifestyle
By Deborah Teramis Christian
Excerpted from
There are many styles of kink that people engage in, but they all have one thing in common:
they are activities that take place between consenting adults. Contrary to stereotype, neither
SM nor BDSM encompasses or condones abuse, nor do these activities necessarily relate to sex
or sexuality, for that is not the exclusive realm in which BDSM plays out. This section takes a
look at what BDSM is, and what it is not.
BDSM - The Umbrella Term
BDSM is an acronym combined of several phrases: bondage and discipline, dominance and
submission, sadism and masochism. This term evolved in the early-mid '90s in internet
newsgroups as a quick catchphrase to designate any of a myriad of kinky activities which or
may not have to do with traditional SM (sadomasochism).
No acronym is ideal for capturing the totality of wiitwd ("what it is that we do") - the "BDSM"
phrase does not speak directly to the interests of the fetish community, for instance - but in
recent years it has come to be a term in common parlance among the alternative lifestyle
population in America. When a person identifies themselves as "being into BDSM" this does not,
of itself, pinpoint their interests in any of the activities that come under that umbrella.
To understand exactly what kind of a kink a person has, you have to have dialog with them. In
the same manner, some people refer to themselves as "SMers", even if their interest has
nothing to do, strictly, with the sensation-oriented play that sadomasochism tends to focus on.
BDSM and SM are often used interchangeably. These are terms commonly used to describe
one's general interest in kinky activities, and perhaps also one's affiliation with the BDSM
community at large.
Safe, Sane, Consensual
In 1983 the term "safe, sane and consensual" was first used in a flyer for the Gay Men's SM
Association (GMSMA) in New York to describe the types of activities that SM-identified folk were
engaging in. The phrase rapidly caught on nation-wide, because it accurately captures the
defining aspects of our BDSM interactions. People educate themselves about safety, they
distinguish between fantasy and reality, and they negotiate consensual agreements as to the
activities they engage in. SSC was never intended to be a dogmatic yardstick for scene
behavior. Rather, it reflects the philosophy that adults take responsibility for themselves; they
make choices using common sense about risk and safety; and that they do this consensually.

"SM" used to be the only phrase applied to wiitwd, but lately the language of kink has become
more differentiated than it once was. In traditional usage, the term sadist meant someone who
derives sexual pleasure from inflicting pain; masochist meant someone who gets sexual
pleasure from receiving it. In contemporary usage, SM is a general term referencing the broad
spectrum of sensation play: i.e., interactions where one person does an activity that gives
sensation to the partner.
In SM the person doing the action is called the top; the person being done unto is the bottom.
Activities that top and bottom engage in may or may not be pain, and may or may not be
sexual - what is fairly constant, however, is that the sensation (of whatever sort) generally
carries at least some degree of erotic charge to it. SM can range from light, innocuous
sensations to the brutally fierce - all depending, of course, on the mutual agreement of the
partners involved.
Dominance and Submission
Dominance and submission, or D/s as it is often called, is about the psychology of control. In
D/s the person exerting control is called the dominant; the one being controlled is the
submissive. Parties negotiate the degree and limits of the control being exercised. Submission is
not taken from an unwilling person, but is given as part of a negotiated exchange of power
between the two partners.
SM and D/s are distinctively different forms of play: a person can engage in D/s and never
experience or inflict pain or other sensations. It is not necessary for these forms to mix,
although frequently they do. SM often incorporates some degree of D/s, and D/s often
incorporates some degree of SM.
While SM activities most often revolve around a "scene" or finite encounter, D/s may just as
readily extend out beyond the limits of a scene and into the daily life of the participants on an
ongoing basis. D/s can become the prevailing dynamic of a loving adult relationship, predicated
upon explicit agreements about who has what authority and power, and who is obedient to
whom. It has been observed that many vanilla (non-kinky) relationships revolve around a core
of D/s, although it is not conscious, mindful or negotiated as such. When it is negotiated and
consented to, as it is in the BDSM community, both parties are empowered to shape the
relationship as they wish it to be. There are many variations and styles of D/s relationships.
Common to them all is a mutual agreement about how much control is exercised by the
dominant, and how much autonomy is maintained or given up by the submissive.
A Master/slave relationship is the most controlling of D/s relationships. While a submissive
retains control over at least some aspect of his or her life, if not most aspects, in consensual
slavery this is not the case. This is a relationship based on agreements about absolute control
and obedience which is exercised on a 24/7 basis.
Other Kinks
The World O' Kink is vast, and BDSM interests many. I cannot do justice to them in this short
essay. Suffice it to say that there are websites, interest groups, educational workshops and

social events that cater to the specialized interests of BDSM subgroups. Some of the more
popular include:
Bondage - getting restrained or tied up
Fetish - the wearing or admiring of fetish clothing or gear, these being items for which
individuals have a fetish (one classic is the traditional high-heeled shoe) - or clothing which
evokes an erotic charge and so becomes fetishized. This ranges from skintight latex to leather,
to corsetry to other exotic erotic fashions.
Role play - pick a character, craft a scenario, and interact with your partner in role.
Discipline - revolves around an authority figure correcting an errant person, often in a domestic
setting. Frequently expressed in roleplay forms such as: strict governess/delinquent school boy
or stern aunt/naughty nephew.
Animal play - no, this is not play with animals, but with people who are role-playing animals.
Commonly expressed in the roles of pet owner and pet, or trainer and beast. Popular animals
are dogs, cats, large felines, and ponies, though any creature imaginable can be roleplayed.
SM is Not Abuse
BDSM organizations have spent a great deal of thought defining ways in which SM differs from
abuse, and creating checklists and information pamphlets elaborating on these attributes. Many
of these items are works in progress, and some do not take into consideration all the varieties
of behavior that are acceptable between consenting partners within the range of D/s
Rather than reference these lists and material, then, I offer my own minimum definitions about
the ways in which SM differs from abuse. While I am not speaking for any organization or group
beyond myself, it is worth noting that these definitions are in keeping with current community
thought regarding SM versus abuse, and reflect a commonality of kinky experience.
1. Trust, honesty and communication are central to an SM relationship. Broken trust,
manipulation or dishonesty, and abortive communications are central to an abusive
2. SM interactions leave all parties feeling good about what just happened. Abusive
interactions leave at least one person feeling awful about what just happened.
3. Both parties give conscious, informed consent to what is happening in SM. At least one
party in an abusive circumstance is not consenting to what is happening.
SM is Not Non-Consensual
Of all the factors distinguishing SM from abuse or criminal behaviors, there is one thing above
all that cannot be stressed enough: CONSENT. No one who is abused consents to be
emotionally damaged, or verbally or physically attacked. No one who is criminally assaulted

agrees to such a violation of their person. Such actions are unwarranted, uninvited and
unwanted boundary transgressions, and these are not things the victim of abusers or criminals
give consent to.
In SM, it is important to note that while some activities may appear to be violent or pushing of
boundaries, it is the existence of consent that makes all the difference in the world. If there is
no consent, there will be no SM interaction. With the presence of consent, the dynamic is one
of two adults sharing an exchange that brings them both pleasure. A kinkster on the receiving
end of a consensual paddling is no more being abused or assaulted than a football player on
the receiving end of a tackle. Both parties have consented to physical contact in the welcome
pursuit of their activity of choice.

The Alt Sex Anti-Abuse Dream Team
Jaunary 16, 2011
* * *
BDSMers face a lot of stigma around our sexuality, and this can be a major problem when
BDSMers are trying to deal with abusive situations. Ive written before about generally negative
conceptions of BDSM they can briefly be summarized as:
* S&M is wicked,
* abnormal,
* a sign of mental or emotional instability,
* inherently abusive,
* or even antifeminist.
Given this climate, its not surprising that two things almost always happen when BDSM and
abuse come up:
1) People of all genders who are abused are often unwilling to report. People of all genders
who are abused within BDSM relationships tend to be particularly unwilling to
report. Victim-blaming is already rampant in mainstream society just imagine what happens
to, for example, a woman who has admitted that she enjoys being consensually slapped across
the face, if she attempts to report being raped. And thats assuming the abuse survivor is
willing to report in the first place; ze may prefer not to negotiate the minefield of anti-SM
stereotypes ze will be up against, ze may be afraid of being outed, etc.
2) Members of the BDSM community sometimes push back against real or perceived anti-SM
stigma by talking about how abuse is rare within the BDSM community. This BDSM blog post
and comments claim that not only is abuse within the community rare, but abusive
BDSM relationships seem more likely to happen outside the community. In fact, if you
look then you can find posts from submissive women who found that getting into the BDSM
community, being exposed to its ideals and concepts, helped them escape or understand their
past abusive relationships.
I tend to think that #2 is a really good point particularly the bit about how abusive BDSM
relationships are more likely to happen outside the community, due in part to lack of resources
and support for survivors. For this reason, I tend to stress the role of the community in positive
BDSM experiences, and I encourage newcomers to seek out their local community. But lots of
people dont have access to a local community at all, especially if theyre not in a big city. Plus,
lots of people have trouble enjoying their local community for whatever reason, perhaps
because they have nothing in common with local S&Mers aside from sexuality, or because they
dont have time to integrate into a whole new subculture.
Theres also the unfortunate fact that point #2 sometimes reacts with point #1 in a toxic way
that is, it can ironically be harder for abuse survivors to talk about abuse within the BDSM
community because the community is pushing back so hard against the stereotype of abusive
BDSM. Ive spoken to BDSMers who feel that the S&M community pushes back far
too hard, and that survivors are being aggressively silenced simply because the rest
of us are so invested in fighting mainstream stereotypes. I have never personally
experienced this, but I would not be surprised if I did. And the fact is that Im sure there are
toxic dynamics in some BDSM communities we arent a monolith, folks and that even in
100% awesome communities, Im sure there are at least a few abusive relationships. And even
one abusive relationship in the community is obviously too many.
As Thomas MacAulay Millar wrote when the most recent abusive BDSM case hit the media, Our
declaration that the abusers are not us has to be substantive. This is something we should be
taking action on. But how?
* * *
Dynamics Within the Community
I have personally had excellent experiences within the S&M community. However, I am also
pretty thick-skinned (unfortunately, this is partly due to lots of time spent working in a sexist
industry); and I have a well-developed sense of my own boundaries. I am saying this not to
sound self-congratulatory but because I believe that, due to being thick-skinned, I may be less
bothered by actual harassment and pressuring dynamics than others are. Also, I am lucky
enough that Ive never experienced an assault. Therefore, its incumbent upon me to listen to
how other S&Mers especially female or genderqueer S&Mers feel about their experiences
being pressured within the community.
There are issues that even I have noticed. For example, I think that there is a distasteful
tendency to talk about real BDSM or serious BDSM, as if some S&M is more legitimate than
other S&M. Thats wrong and dangerous because it can make some people feel as though they
have to push past their boundaries do things they arent comfortable with in order to be
accepted, liked, or seen as real. On the rare occasions that I encounter this, I try to point out
the problems right there and then. There is no such thing as more real and less real
S&M. The only truly important part about any S&M activity is that it happens among
enthusiastic, consenting adults.
Thomas once wrote to me by email that I tend to think that the dynamics of abuse in the
community are a combination of the desire to avoid washing our laundry in public, patriarchy
colonizing our own, and the usual thing in small communities where peoples willingness to do
the right thing in theory bumps up against their personal friends and loyalties. I completely
agree. Id add that similar issues arise in almost all small communities, and its not fair to blame
S&M in itself for these problems. At the same time, though, its incumbent upon all
BDSMers to contribute to an environment where people who dont want to
participate can easily say no, and can rely on being supported by others when they
* * *
Existing Anti-Abuse Initiatives in the BDSM Community
Finding existing initiatives is a bit of a piecemeal project, but heres what Ive run across.
* A variety of pamphlets and written statements. For example, The Network/La Red, a
rather unique anti-abuse organization for lesbians, bi women and trans people, released a
pamphlet featuring black text on a white background with a picture of handcuffs. The text says:
The most basic difference between S/M and abuse is Consent. It is not consent if
* You did not expressly give consent.
* You are afraid to say no.
* You say yes to avoid conflict.
* You say yes to avoid consequences (i.e. losing a job, losing your home, being outed).
S/M is
* Always consensual.
* Done with respect for limits.
* Enjoyed by all partners.
* Fun, erotic, and loving.
* Done with an understanding of trust.
* Never done with the intent to harm or damage.
Just because you consent to play does not mean you consent to everything. You have the right
to set limits.)
(For the rest of the pamphlet, check out the images at my Flickr account heres the front,
and heres the back.)
Some SM organizations have also released statements on SM and abuse, such as the national
Leather Leadership Conference and New Yorks Lesbian Sex Mafia. Note that at the bottom of
the LSM page, they mention that theyve sensitized a local abuse hotline; if I ever get a grant or
something to start a pro-sex anti-abuse center, Ill immediately grill the LSM to see how they
got in with that hotline and what they said.
* Kink Aware counselors. The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom maintains an online list
of Kink Aware Professionals, which is a grassroots effort begun by writer/activist Race Bannon
and includes doctors, lawyers, and therapists. The list is pretty much open and opt-in
professionals go to the KAP site and offer to list themselves there and this is one reason its
not a good idea to assume that any given professional will be a great fit for you. Personally,
when I was coming into my BDSM identity, I found a Kink Aware therapist to be incredibly
helpful but while I was finding him, I visited another therapist who was not at all helpful.
When people ask me for kink-friendly survivors resources, I always tell them to seek a KAP
therapist first.
* The annual Alternative Sexualities conference. This is a comparatively new effort from
the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities. They describe it
as a conference for clinicians and researchers, addressing issues around BDSM/Kink sexualities
and consensual non-monogamies.
Unfortunately the third annual conference is already over (San Francisco, September 23), but
therell be another one next year (Washington D.C., August 3). Fortunately, counselors and
other relevant professionals can get continuing education credits for attending. I was on a panel
at the 2009 conference in Chicago, and I thought it was pretty awesome, but I am obviously
* Community workshops. Most BDSM communities in large cities have educational
workshops (for example, heres a calendar of BDSM events in Chicago.) These teach SM-related
ideas or skills such as community etiquette, how to use various types of equipment, etc. Every
SM workshop I have ever attended has emphasized careful negotiation and has, at the very
least, mentioned safewords. One workshop The Emotional Aspects of BDSM Play, taught by
San Franciscos EduKink gave a detailed list of ideas for how to tell BDSM from abuse, which
I wrote down:
1) Consent. BDSM is consenting; abuse is not.
a) Assuming consent was given was it informed consent? Did everyone know what they were
consenting to?
b) Was consent coerced or seduced from the partner? Did everyone feel like they could say no
if they wanted? Was anyone worried about suffering negative consequences if they said no?
2) Intent. A BDSM partner intends to have a mutually enjoyable encounter; an abusive partner
does not.
a) Did everyone leave the scene feeling somewhat satisfied?
3) Damage. A BDSM partner tries to minimize the actual damage inflicted by their actions; an
abusive partner does not.
a) Did the two partners learn what they were doing before they did it? Did they learn how to
perform their activities safely?
b) Were the partners aware of the potential risks of their activities?
4) Secrecy. Abuse often happens in secret. This is the hardest one on this checklist, because
due to the fact that BDSM is a very marginalized, misunderstood sexuality BDSM often
happens in secret, too. But this is one of the benefits of having an entire subculture that deals
with BDSM: we try to look out for each other.
a) Were the two partners involved in the local BDSM scene? Did they get advice from
knowledgeable, understanding BDSM people during rough patches in their relationship?
Ive heard of one or two workshops specifically focused on BDSM for Survivors. Ive also
heard of support groups for BDSM-identified survivors of abuse, but Ive never run across one
in person. Ive said this before, but Ill say it again: I believe that the safest place to have a
BDSM relationship is within the BDSM community.
* * *
My Fantasy Sex-Positive, Anti-Abuse Program
You can tell from the above list that relevant community efforts have focused on raising internal
awareness, consolidating useful information, and educating. If I were to get a grant or
something (ha!), I would certainly look for ways to use it on a dedicated pro-sex, anti-
abuse initiative, hopefully more expansive than a hotline, and considerably more extensive than
a pamphlet. Ive never developed this thought too extensively I hate to torture myself when
I know theres no money for one of my ideas but I know Id want my Dream Anti-Abuse
Team to have the following qualities:
* BDSM is obviously my main interest, because thats how I identify the core of my sexuality.
But I have a strong interest in destigmatizing all forms of sexual expression practiced by
consenting adults. Everyone involved in my initiative would emphasize that people of all
genders and sexualities could come for help whether straight, gay, lesbian, bi,
trans, asexual, BDSM, sex worker, polyamorous, swing, or whatever amazing fetish
could conceivably come up.
Ideally, I would personally try to shock the hell out of anyone before I agreed to work with
them because anyone whose face twists up or who gasps at the idea of any kind of
consensual weird sex is a person who shouldnt be anywhere near altsexual abuse survivors.
* Id want destigmatizing alternative sexuality among the mainstream, especially
mainstream anti-abuse organizations, to be a major focus so that abuse survivors could
feel less anxious about being misunderstood while seeking help. So Id need people who were
willing to go out and charismatically shock the abuse officers at police stations, feminist
organizations, college campuses, etc. Id want us to be running everything from anti-stigma
poster campaigns to sex communication workshops.
* Id want the program to be well-advertised to the general public, so that people who
arent in the community yet who are practicing S&M or poly or whatever on their
own could still find us.
* Of course wed also do the more traditional work of offering walk-in counseling to abuse
survivors, including help making a concrete plan, altsexual-friendly legal advice, and so on.
Aaand this is the point where I throw open the floor to comments. I havent been directly
involved with any anti-abuse organizations, so I really only know the basics but Im sure that
some of you have. Anyone have experience with altsexual abuse survivors? Anyone have other
aspects theyd want included in an altsexual anti-abuse program?
Anyone willing to fund my Dream Team?

IV. Race,
Colonization, and

Forms of Oppression

Institutional Oppression - The network of structures, policies, and practices that create
advantages and benefits for some, and discrimination, oppression, and disadvantages for
others. Examples: Harsher sentencing for white drug users than Black drug users; health
insurance often covering Viagra but not birth control; criminalization of poverty through quality
of life policing (e.g., loitering). (Perpetuated in institutional contexts, such as education,
policing, healthcare)

Interpersonal Oppression Interactions between people where individuals use oppressive
behavior, insults or violence. Example: Using racial slurs in conversation; perpetrating or
minimizing sexual assault; writing degrading and homophobic statements on someones

Internalized Oppression The results of a process by which members of an oppressed
group come to believe and act as if the oppressors belief system, values, and way of life were
correct. External oppression becomes internalized, resulting in shame, the disowning of our
previous understandings of reality, and previously unseen levels of violence within communities.
Internalized oppression means the oppressor doesn't have to exert as much pressure, because
we now do it to ourselves and each other aka, Divide & Conquer.

Cultural Oppression Norms and patterns that perpetuate implicit and explicit values that
guide or bind individuals and institutions; the cultural perspectives of dominant groups are
imposed on individuals by institutions, and on institutions by individuals. This includes
philosophies of life, definitions of good and evil, beauty, health, deviance, sickness, and
perspectives on time.

The Color of Violence: Introduction
By Andrea Smith, Beth Richie, Julia Sudbury, Janelle White, and the
INCITEAnthology Co-editors

Many years ago when I was a student in San Diego, I was , driving down the
freeway with a friend when we encountered a Black woman wandering along the
shoulder. Her story was extremely disturbing. Despite her uncontrollable
weeping, we were able to surmise that she had been raped and dumped along
the side of the road. After a while, she was able to wave down a police car,
thinking that they would help her. However, when the white policeman picked
her up. he did not comfort her, but rather seized upon the opportunity to rape
her once more.
Angela Davis's story illustrates the manner in which women of color experience violence
perpetrated both by individuals and by the state. Since the first domestic violence
shelter in the United States opened in 1974, and the first rape crisis center opened in
1972, the mainstream antiviolence movement has been critical in breaKing the silence
around violence against women, and in providing essential services to survivors of
sexual/domestic violence. Initially, the antiviolence movement prioritized a response to
male violence based on grassroots political mobilization. However, as the antiviolence
movement has gained greater prominence, domestic violence and rape crisis centers
have also become increasingly professionalized, and as a result are often reluctant to
address sexual and domestic violence within the larger context of institutionalized
In addition, rape crisis centers and shelters increasingly rely on state and federal
sources for their funding. Consequently, their approaches toward eradicating violence
focus on working with the state rather than working against state violence. For example,
mainstream antiviolence advocates often demand longer prison sentences for barterers
and sex' offenders as a frontline approach to stopping violence against women.
However, the criminal justice system has always been brutally oppressive toward
communities of color, including women of color, as the above story illustrates. Thus, this
strategy employed to stop violence has had the effect of increasing violence against
women of color perpetrated by the state.
Unfortunately, the strategy often engaged by communities of color to address state
violence is advocating that women keep silent about sexual and domestic violence to
maintain a united front against racism. Racial justice organizing has generally focused
on racism as it primarily affects men, and has often ignored the gendered forms of
racism that women of color face. An example includes the omission of racism in
reproductive health policies (such as sterilization abuse) in the 2001 United Nations
World Conference Against Racism. Those forms of racisms that disproportionately
impact women of color become termed simply "women's issues" rather than
simultaneously racial justice issues.
There are many organizations that address violence directed at communities (e.g.,
police brutality, racism. economic exploitation, colonialism, and so on). There are also
many organizations that address violence within communities (e.g., sexual/domestic
Angela Davis's story illustrates the manner in which women of color experience
violence). But there are very few organizations that address violence on both fronts
simultaneously. The challenge women of color face in combatting personal and state
violence is to develop strategies for ending violence that do assure safety for survivors
of sexual/domestic violence and do not strengthen our oppressive criminal justice
apparatus. Our approaches must always challenge the violence perpetrated through
multinational capitalism and the state.
It was frustration with the failures on the part of racial justice and antiviolence
organizations to effectively address violence against women of color that led women of
color to organize "The Color of violence: Violence Against Women of Color" conference
held at University of California-Santa Cruz on April 28-29, 2000. The primary goals of
this conference were to develop analyses and strategies around ending violence that
place women of color at the center; to address violence against women of color in all its
forms including attacks on immigrants' rights and Indian treaty rights the proliferation of
prisons, militarism attacks on the reproductive rights of women of color, medical
experimentation on communities of color, homophobia/heterosexism and hate crimes
against lesbians of color, economic neo-colonialism, and institutional racism; and to
encourage the antiviolence movement to reinsert political organizing into its response to
Few events have been as profoundly important to the antiviolence movement in the
United States as this conference. It was initially conceptualized as a small gathering for
impassioned women of color activists who were fed up with having our contributions
ignored, taken for granted, and in many instances sabotaged by an increasingly
mainstream social service-oriented agenda.
As news about the event spread, the conference grew both in significance and in scope.
Women of color from across the country urgently called the organizers asking to be
included in the discussion, imploring us to find a larger venue, and insisting that we
consider the establishment of a longer-term strategic response to their anger and
disappointment. This wellspring of interest made it clear to the cofounders of INCITE
that this conference could not simply provide opportunities for a small groups of women
of color to reflect on our experiences; instead, we had touched, and needed to tend to,
a collective raw nerve.
In the years leading up to "The Color of Violence," women of color came to understand
that the once-radical analysis of violence against women had narrowed so greatly that
almost all remnants of a social justice approach had virtually disappeared. The legacy of
the lesbians of color, particularly Black lesbians, who built the movement had
disappeared from the collective memory of the mainstream movement. Instead, women
of color in the antiviolence movement were engaging in "high-risk activism." Women of
color tend to occupy roles in the antiviolence movement that place them on the
frontlines of the work, and in situations where they must negotiate complex and at
times adversarial relationships among and between their organizations of origin their
home communities, other communities, formal institutions of power, and perpetrators
and survivors of violence.
Cultural workers and scholars addressing gender violence and the oppression of women
of color are also often faced with marginalization in communities of color and women's
communities, as well as within their academic and cultural communities; thus, their work
can be identified as high-risk, too. In fact, it could be maintained that women of color
involved in antiviolence mobilization share particularities-the motivation to negotiate and
build solidarity with other women of color, the ideologies of resistance that contribute to
taking action to transform systems, and the salience of race and class (and their
intersection) in confronting gender violence-that, combined, make it more likely that
these women will find themselves engaged in high-risk roles.
As a result, many women of color had left the antiviolence movement by the time the
conference was convened in 2000, feeling forced out because of exhaustion and feelings
of betrayal. These women of color had been attempting to do radical work in the face of
deep contradictions inherent in the prevailing white feminist responses to violence,
which refused to accommodate analyses of race and class. At best, the women of color
who continued to do the work felt unappreciated and misunderstood. and many felt
under personal and political attack as they attempted to provide support for women of
color who had survived violence but had no, other resources except programs controlled
by white women. Even in programs where women of color were in leadership or working
with white women acting as allies, the prevailing ideological conditions in the
antiviolence movement made it incredibly difficult for women of color with a radical
vision of structural oppression to do radical antiviolence work.
Within this context, "The Color of Violence" became an extraordinarily significant event.
In unexpected ways, it offered myriad opportunities to advance radical analyses of
violence developed by women of color while re-igniting a radical social justice movement
to end violence against women. Two thousand women of color attended the conference;
more than two thousand had to be turned away. The success of this gathering and
commitment of the attendees disrupted the mainstream movement's hold on the
energies of women of color. At "The Color of violence," power was shifted from those
who claim authority over antiviolence work, and women of color survivors of violence
were empowered to speak the truth of their experiences.
From this conference, INCITE Women of Color Against Violence formed to continue
efforts to develop strategies to end violence that addressed community and state
violence simultaneously. The overwhelming response to this conference suggests that
women of color (and their allies) are hungry for a new approach toward ending violence.
INCITE held follow-up conferences in Chicago (2002) and New Orleans (2005) in which
thousands more attended. Many of the articles from this volume come from
presentations at these conferences.
INCITE stresses the importance of transcending the "politics of inclusion" to actually
address the concerns of women of color. As the antiviolence movement has attempted
to become more inclusive, attempts at multicultural interventions against domestic
violence have unwittingly strengthened white supremacy within the movement. All too
often, inclusivity has come to mean that the sexual or domestic violence prevention.
model, developed largely with the interests of white middle-class women in mind, should
simply add a multicultural component. Antiviolence multicultural curricula are often the
same as, those produced by mainstream groups with some "cultural" designs or
references annexed to the pre-existing format, and most antiviolence programs servicing
communities of color are constructed exactly like those in the mainstream, with the
addition of "community outreach workers" or bilingual staff.
An alternative approach to "inclusion" is to place women of color at the center of the
analysis of and the organization against domestic violence. That is, what if we do not
make any assumptions about what a domestic violence program should look like, but
instead ask: What would it take to end violence against women of color? What would
this movement look like? What if-we do not presume that this movement would-share
any of the features we take for granted in the current domestic violence movement? As
mentioned previously, when we shift the center to women of color, the importance of
addressing state violence becomes evident. This perspective then benefits, not only
women of color, but all peoples, because it is becoming increasingly clear that the
criminal justice system is not effectively ending violence for anyone. In fact, The New
York Times recently reported that the effect of strengthened anti-domestic violence
legislation is that battered women kill their abusive partners less frequently; however
batterers do not kill their partners less frequently. Thus, ironically, laws passed to
protect battered women are actually protecting their batterers.
When we shift the center of analysis, there is no permanent center of organizing.
Rather. by constantly shifting the center to communities', that face intersecting forms of
oppression, we gain a more comprehensive view of the strategies needed to end all
forms of violence. The articles in this volume reflect an attempt to shift the center, to
better understand how various forms of intersecting oppressions contribute to the
creation of a violent world and to devise the strategies necessary to end violence.
The first section of this book focuses on reconceptualizing violence against women
beyond interpersonal forms of sexual and domestic violence. As Andrea Smith has
argued elsewhere, if we look at the history of women in color in general and Native
women in particular, it is clear that sexual violence has served as a tool of patriarchy
and as a tool of racism and colonialism. Consequently, it is problematic to assume that
the state, in the form of the criminal justice system, can effectively address violence
against women. Historically, it has been the primary perpetrator, particularly against
women of color. In "Federal Indian Law and Violent Crime," Sarah Deer demonstrates
how federal policy, supposedly designed to protect Native women from violence, entraps
Native women in further violence.
Julia Sudbury's "Lessons from the Black Women's Movement in Britain" considers the
deleterious effects of reliance on the criminal justice system as the primary strategy for
ending violence against women. While antiviolence activists often conceptualize the
state as a protector, standing between women and violent males, Sudbury argues that
this has not been the case for women who defend themselves against potentially lethal
intimate violence. For women convicted of defending themselves against a violent
partner, the criminal justice system becomes a site of secondary victimization. And for
all women prisoners, the state acts as a punitive perpetrator of violence. subjecting
women to invasive body searches. emotional and physical isolation, and physical and
verbal abuse. Sudbury calls for the antiviolence movement to develop a radical solidarity
with women found guilty of "offending" the state, and suggests that women of color
must resist the criminalization of survival strategies by women of color.
Nirmala Erevelles' "Disability and the New World Order" further develops the links
between globalization, violence against women, and ableism by analyzing the material
conditions within which the social category of "disability" is constituted, and the
ideological effects that these constructions have oil the reproduction of race, gender,
and class 'oppressions. In particular, Erevelles elaborates on the relationship between
poverty and disability in Third World contexts. She reflects on the underlying
assumptions behind structural adjustment programs (SAPs), delineating how SAPs
impact women living in poverty and contribute to the social construction of disability in
Third World contexts.
In "The Color of Choice," Loretta Ross argues that reconceptualizing state violence also
impacts how we look at reproductive justice for women of color. She challenges the
prochoice framework and articulates a reproductive justice agenda for women of color
that addresses white supremacy as it intersects with attacks on the reproductive rights
of women of color. Dorothy Roberts's essay. "Feminism, Race, and Adoption Policy,'"
further investigates how these logics contribute to a racialized gender violence within
adoption politics.
Andrea Smith argues that much of the tension in women of color organizing is the result
of simplistic understanding of white supremacy. In "Heteropatriarchy and the Three
Pillars of White Supremacy," she argues that white supremacy operates through three
distinct logics--slavery, genocide, and orientalism--that impact communities of color
differently. Women of color organizing, she asserts, will be more effective if it is not
based on shared victimization, but rather on strategic alliances based on how we are
particularly impacted by what she terms the "three pillars of white supremacy."
Nadine Naber's work addresses the connections between gender violence and state
violence in the form of militarism and colonialism. Naber further investigates primitivist
analyses of women of color, focusing on Arab women. She asserts that the discourse
around "female suicide bombers," particularly prevalent after 9/11, is part of an
ideological framework that represents Arab women either as passive victims who need
to be saved from Arab men or as barbaric terrorists who, according to,the 2003
Interfaith Summit on Zionism (Washington, DC), "hate Jewish children more than they
love their own." Instead of entering debates within mainstream feminist discourse about
whether or not we should "support" suicide bombing, Naber argues, we should ask:
What are the conditions that give rise to suicide bombing? This excerpt from Noura
Ereat's poem, "Three Home Demolitions and One Pending Order," poignantly portrays
some such conditions, as well as the will to survive and resist the violence of Israeli
The second time they came
I stood in the doorway
Israeli bulldozers need to crush me
If they wanted to trample my home
But the soldiers didn't care that I was
Fifteen and female
Long hair just made it easier to pull me away

They spit on Mama but she wouldn't move.
Not her baby's home she screamed
She looked so strong, I swear
I thought her fingers would shoot lightning
It took three soldiers to take her down
Expose her breasts to the watchful sky
Spill her hair from her God-fearing hijab
And push her into the, wailing dirt

Having reconceptualized violence against women of color, it becomes important to
address the myriad forms violence takes, particularly as it is perpetrated by the state.
The essays in the second section. "Forms of Violence," reveal violences against women
overlooked in traditional activism and scholarship.
Andrea Ritchie's essay, "Law enforcement Violence against Women of Color' contests
the notion that the ,criminal justice system can effectively protect women. In her
analysis of police brutality. she notes that the mainstream anti-police brutality
movement tends to focus on men as victims. while the mainstream antiviolence
movement does not defend women who are victimized by police-particularly when the
vicitimization occurs as police respond to situations involving domestic violence.
In "Crime, Punishment, and Economic Violence," Pat Allard demonstrates how seemingly
gender-neutral anti-drug laws serve to oppress women, particularly women of color,
who are attempting to survive an exploitative economic system. And in "Porno Woman,
Ex-Prisoner, Speaks Out," Stormy Ogden further explores gender violence committed by
the state in her essay on Native women. in prison. Writing as a former prisoner, she
analyzes how the Incarceration of Native women in California can be understood as a
continuation of the genocidal policies the US government has implemented against
American Indians. Her essay reveals the extent to which the mainstream antiviolence
movement, through its implicit support of the criminal justice system, helps to promote
additional forms of violence against violence survivors who are prisoners.
Dana Erekat, S. R., and Dena Al-Adeeb address the impact of military violence on West
Asian and North African women, particularly since 9/11. Their voices highlight the
history and experience of surviving and resisting colonial violence. Renee Saucedo and
Sylvanna Falcn address the gendered forms of violence that are perpetrated by the INS
and Border Patrol. Saucedo looks at the tactics of sexual terrorism within INS raids,
while Falcon's essay explores the rampant gender violence faced by women at the
hands of the Border Patrol.
Rosa Linda Fregoso's "The Complexities of Feminicide' on the Border" explores the
intersecting logics of capitalism, national boundaries. and misogyny that have resulted in
more than one thousand unsolved murders of women, primarily poor and indigenous.
She complicates the explanation provided by critics of Third World development policies-
-that the murders are simply the outcome of the introduction of maquiladoras to Mexico.
The implication is that as transnational corporations introduce Western values and ideas
to the Third World, they break down traditional gender roles. Fregoso argues that these
interpretations while critical of the Western development model; reinscribe primitivist
notions of women in Mexico.
"The Forgotten '-ism'," by the Arab Women's Solidarity Association (AWSA), further
explores the colonialist representation of Arab women in Zionist ideologies. This essay
argues that Zionism--the belief that Israel should be a Jewish-only state and exclude the
Palestinian peoples indigenous to the area--is responsible for policies of genocide
against Palestinians that have relied heavily on gender violence. They note that
mainstream feminist organizations have nonetheless .failed to address the colonialist
and apartheid policies of Israel when they might. condemn similar practices in other
countries. A consistent antiracist, anticolonial politic, AWSA argues, must recognize
Zionism as an axis of oppression. Within the context of Hawai'i, Haunani-Kay Trask
argues that much of the colonial violence suffered by indigenous women can be
understood as a "quiet violence" in which women of color are killed slowly through
oppressive social structures. In particular, Trask focuses on the damage caused by
nuclear testing in the Pacific, which has wiped out many Pacific Islander communities,
with no public outcry. She argues that the strategy for addressing this violence is
national self-determination that recognizes the United States as a settler colonial
country, rather than reform within the current US system. Neferti Tadiar extends Trask's
analysis to argue that the US war on terror is not an indication of "declining" democratic
ideals in the United States, but rather a reflection of the United States as war. She notes
that the United States is fundamentally structured under a colonialist ideology that holds
that in most peoples are not, in fact, human.
In "The War Against Black Women, and the Making of NO!," Aishah Simmons traces the
eleven years it took to make her powerful and revolutionary film on Black women and
sexual assault, and chronicles the fierce resistance and resourceful activism that Black
feminists have always drawn from in matters regarding justice, visibility, and community
accountability. Recently, many antiviolence advocates have reconsidered their reliance
on the criminal justice system as their primary strategy for ending violence. However, as
Clarissa Rojas argues in "The Medicalization of Domestic Violence," there are
innumerable ways the antiviolence movement can find itself coopted by the state. One
such way is simply shifting from a criminal justice model to a medical model for
addressing violence, even though the medical model both individualizes and
pathologizes women who are victims of violence. Rojas further contends that while both
approaches are problematic, each has been aggressively promoted to antiviolence-
activists as the model for ending violence.
Having established an expanded analysis of violence against women of color, the
anthology moves to address the following question: What strategies are necessary to
truly end violence against women of color in all its forms? In section three, "Building
Movement, the contributors offer possible models for organizing from a more
comprehensive and holistic analysis of violence. While there are no simple solutions to
these issues, these essays explore strategies that both challenge state power and rely
on grassroots political organizing. These strategies also assume that part of the work of
ending violence is the creation of communities that will hold perpetrators accountable.
Currently, anti-prison advocates often argue for "restorative justice models" as
alternatives to prison for addressing crime. "Restorative justice" is an umbrella term
describing a wide range of programs that attempt to address crime from a restorative
and reconciliatory framework rather than a punitive one. That is, in contrast to the US
criminal justice system, which focuses solely on punishing the perpetrator and removing
him or per from society through incarceration, restorative justice efforts involve all
parties (perpetrators. victims. and community members) in determining the appropriate
response to a crime. However, as articulated in the Critical Resistance/INCITE statement
on gender and the prison industrial complex these models often depend on a
romanticized notion of "community" that seldom exists in practice. In the absence of this
ideal community, there is no guarantee that restorative justice measures will actually
hold perpetrators of gender violence accountable. Consequently, many survivors find
themselves further victimized by these strategies, as they are often pressured by
community members to "reconcile" with the offender with little regard to their safety or
need for justice and accountability.
TransJustice contributes a statement that highlights the importance of a gender binary
system in maintaining systems of capitalism, violence, and exploitation. Patriarchy under
which men are entitled to oppress women depends on the acceptance of the
construction of two and only two genders-men and women. Thus, this statement
illustrates that challenging transphobia and the gender binary system is central to the
work of the antiviolence movement.
Eini Koyama presents the bold critique that the domestic violence shelter system itself
replicates the dynamics of abuse it seeks to eradicate. She argues that most shelters
police women in a manner similar to the criminal justice system, and that the system
particularly victimizes women who are already criminalized, such as sex workers and
transgendered peoples. Koyama further suggests that an alternative approach,- based in
harm reduction, would not require survivors to act like "model citizens" in order to
receive assistance, but would recognize, interrogate, and work with the conditions within
which women actually live.
Sista II Sista in Brooklyn and Communities Against Rape and Abuse in Seattle describe
models of organizing against violence that rely neither on the criminal justice system,
nor on restorative justice models. Instead, they focus on grassroots political organizing
strategies that attempt not only to circumvent the state, but also to oppose the violence
the state inflicts in the forms of police brutality and the prison industrial complex. Traci
West maintains that one of the sites critical to target with these grassroots strategies is
spiritual/religious communities. She notes that because the Black church in particular
has often implicitly or explicitly promoted violence against women, it remains an
important location for organizing and transformation.
Puneet Kaur Singh further demonstrates that our work against violence today comes
from a legacy of women of color who have created a space before us. The Combahee
River Collective, a group of Black lesbian feminists, began meeting in 1974 to confront
violence against women and girls. Thus. from the very inception of the antiviolence
movement in the United States, Black women, and Black lesbians in particular have been
both central actors and challengers to the approaches and practices of the
predominantly white antiviolence movement. Finally, longtime organizer Elizabeth
Martnez reflects on her history of women of color organizing and calls on us to be
hopeful, rather than despairing, because we have opportunities to build a better future
for everyone. Her hope is reflected, in the poetry of Maiana Minahal.
It is indeed hope, fierce resistance, and a belief in the power of women of color united
in the face of the profound devastation wrought in the lives of low-income women of
color, their families, and, communities in the aftermath of. Hurricane Katrina that
inspired the INCITENew Orleans chapter to build the Women's Health and Justice
Initiative, which includes a clinic for low-income women and a Women of Color
Organizing and Resource Center. This effort reflects the leadership of women of color
struggling for the survival of their communities where government and non-profit the state and interpersonal violence that followed in the wake of the storm
have been systematically racist and sexist.
The historic Treme community in New Orleans, the first free community established by
Black people in the US and home to hundreds of Black women and their families, many
of whom are poor, hosted INCITE!s Color of Violence III conference in March 2005. Our
hearts continue to go out to the families and communities that graciously welcomed us,
and we continue to provide them with as much support and as many resources as we
can so that they can rebuild the rich and vital communities that have been devastated.
Unfortunately, due to strictly technical limitations, a full-length chapter providing an
analysis of the feminization of disasters and displacements as experienced by women of
color during and following Hurricane Katrina and sharing the struggles and successes of
the INCITENew Orleans chapter in rising and rebuilding does not appear in this
anthology. INCITE!'s initial analysis of the raced, classed. and gendered dimension of
this catastrophe is posted on our website, and a full-length article featuring the voices,
analysis, and organizing efforts of the women of INCITENew Orleans can be found in
South End Press's anthology on Hurricane Katrina, What Lies Beneath.
Another critical issue not addressed in this volume is the impact of the nonprofit-
industrial complex on the antiviolence movement. This subject is vast enough to warrant
another anthology, which INCITEwill be publishing with South End Press. Entitled The
Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the NonProfit Industrial Complex, this work
challenges antiviolence activists to develop organizing models not dependent on the
non-profit/NGO model that currently dominates antiviolence organizing (as well as social
justice organizing in general) in the United States. For the antiviolence movement in
particular. the non-profit model has contributed to the transformation of a complex
political, grassroots struggle against violence into a sprawling network of social service
All of these essays represent our collective struggle to rethink strategies for eliminating
violence. The question we ask as women of color is not how do we set up a model
antiviolence intervention program, but what will it take to end the violence against us?
This anthology places women of color at the center of analysis and argues that neither
white-dominated discourses on gender violence' nOf male-dominated discourses on
racial violence provide the comprehensive analyses required to develop' effective
strategies to end racism and sexism. It is the hope of INCITEthat this work will provide a
space to continue dialogue around strategies and analyses that can end violence and
oppression against not only women of color, but against all peoples.
In the end, "The Color of Violence" conference reminded feminists of color that as we
take power, we must remember that our goal as women of color is not to secure
promises of more diverse workplaces, or. inclusion in white feminist organizations. Our
goal is nothing less than the liberation of our peoples. And if we are truly committed to
ending violence against women, we must start in the hardest places in our own
communities. These are the places where the mainstream movement has not made an
impact. We can't look for-the "easy alliances," or be the "friendly colored girls" that
antiviolence programs and male-dominated commuinity-based organizations demand us
to be. As women of color activists, we must not deny the parts of ourselves and our
work that is the least acceptable to the mainstream movement and to our communities.
We must not let those who reject our liberation as a people coopt individuals and our
work, and we must remember that our antiviolence movement,will never be "legitimate
in a patriarchal, racist society.
Indeed, we have made very important progress. But that progress has cost women of
color a lot. Too many deals have been cut that undermine our legitimacy. We have built
too many coalitions with -people who don't understand our work, we have collaborated
too much with our enemies, and we have accepted too much abuse-so much so that
twenty years into the antiviolence movement, the situation for women of color in
prisons, at home, and on the streets is as dire as ever. Our movement's relevancy and
our integrity as women of-color are only as' solid as our work against the oppressive.
dangerous systems that imprison women. So we must build a solid base of feminists of
color, and engage in independent mass mobilization around specific campaigns. OUf
work must be founded in a radical analysis and we must resist cooptation. Our work is
not about populating ethnically specific programs, not just about reparations for the
past, not just about multicultural interventions, and not about reform. Our work is about
justice and freedom.

Prisons for Our Bodies, Closets for Our Minds
Racism, Heterosexism, and Black Sexuality
By Patricia Collins

White fear of black sexuality is a basic ingredient of white racism.
-Cornel West

For African Americans, exploring how sexuality has been manipulated in defense of
racism is not new. Scholars have long examined the ways in which "white fear of black
sexuality" has been a basic ingredient of racism. For example, colonial regimes routinely
manipulated ideas about sexuality in order to maintain unjust power relations.
the history of contact between English explorers and colonists and West African
societies, historian Winthrop Jordan contends that English perceptions of sexual
practices among African people reflected preexisting English beliefs about Blackness,
religion, and animals.
American historians point to the significance of sexuality to
chattel slavery. In the United States, for example, slave-owners relied upon an ideology
of Black sexual deviance to regulate and exploit enslaved Africans.
Because Black
feminist analyses pay more attention to women's sexuality, they too identify how the
sexual exploitation of women has been a basic ingredient of racism. For example,
studies of African American slave women routinely point to sexual victimization as a
defining feature of American slavery.
Despite the important contributions of this
extensive literature on race and sexuality, because much of the literature assumes that
sexuality means heterosexuality, it ignores how racism and heterosexism influence one
In the United States, the assumption that racism and heterosexism constitute two
separate systems of oppression masks how each relies upon the other for meaning.
Because neither system of oppression makes sense without the other, racism and
heterosexism might be better viewed as sharing one history with similar yet disparate
effects on all Americans differentiated by race, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality.
People who are positioned at the margins of both systems and who are harmed by both
typically raise questions about the intersections of racism and heterosexism much earlier
and/or more forcefully than those people who are in positions of privilege. In the case of
intersections of racism and heterosexism, Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgendered (LGBT) people were among the first to question how racism and
heterosexism are interconnected. As African American LGBT people point out, assuming
that all Black people are heterosexual and that all LGBT people are White distorts the
experiences of LGBT Black people. Moreover, such comparisons misread the significance
of ideas about sexuality to racism and race to heterosexism.

Until recently, questions of sexuality in general, and homosexuality in particular, have
been treated as 'crosscutting, divisive issues within antiracist African American politics.
The consensus issue of ensuring racial unity subordinated the allegedly crosscutting
issue of analyzing sexuality, both straight and gay alike. This suppression has been
challenged from two directions. Black women, both heterosexual and lesbian, have
criticized the sexual politics of African American communities that leave women
vulnerable to single motherhood and sexual assault. Black feminist and womanist
projects have challenged Black community norms of a sexual double standard that
punishes women for behaviors in which men are equally culpable. Black gays and
lesbians have also criticized these same sexual politics that deny their right to be fully
accepted within churches, families, and other Black community organizations. Both
groups of critics argue that ignoring the heterosexism that underpins Black patriarchy
hinders the development of a progressive Black sexual politics. As Cathy Cohen and
Tamara Jones contend, "Black people need a liberatory politics that includes a deep
understanding of how heterosexism operates as a system of oppression, both
independently and in conjunction with other such systems. We need a black liberatory
politics that affirms black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sexualities. We need a
black liberatory politics that understands the roles sexuality and gender play in
reinforcing the oppression rooted in many black communities."
Developing a
progressive Black sexual politics requires examining how racism and heterosexism
mutually construct one another.
Mapping Racism and Heterosexism: The Prison and the Closet
We regarded the struggle in prison as a microcosm of the struggle as a
whole. We would fight inside as we had fought outside. The racism and
repression were the same; I would simply have to fight on different
-Nelson Mandela

Like Nelson Mandelas view, when it comes to racism in the United States, life for African
American women and men can be compared to being in prison.
Certainly the metaphor
of the prison encapsulates the historical placement of African Americans in the U.S.
political economy. The absence of political rights under chattel slavery and Jim Crow
segregation and the use of police state powers against African Americans in urban
ghettos have meant that Black people could be subjugated, often with little recourse.
Moreover, prisons are rarely run solely by force. Routine practices such as strip
searches, verbal abuse, restricting basic privileges, and ignoring physical and sexual
assault among inmates aim to control prisoners dehumanizing them. Visiting his brother
Robbie, who was incarcerated on a life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison, author John
Wideman describes this disciplinary process:
The visitor is forced to become an inmate. Subjected to the same sorts of
humiliation and depersonalization. Made to feel powerless, Intimidated by the
might of the state. Visitors are treated like both children and ancient, incorrigible
sinners. We experience a crash course that teaches us in a dramatic,
unforgettable fashion just how a prisoner is in the institution's estimation. We
also learn how rapidly we can descend to the same depth ... We suffer the
keepers' prying eyes, prying machines, prying hands. We let them lock us in
without any guarantee the doors will open when we wish to leave. We are in fact
their prisoners until they release us. That was the idea. To transform the visitor
into something he despised and feared. A prisoner.

As direct recipients of the anti-civil rights agenda advanced under conservative
Republican administrations, contemporary African Americans living in inner cities
experienced the brunt of punitive governmental policies that had a similar intent.
Dealing with impersonal bureaucracies often subjected them to the same sorts of
"humiliation and depersonalization" that Wideman felt while visiting his brother. Just as
he was "made to feel powerless, intimidated by the might of the state," residents of
African American inner-city neighborhoods who deal with insensitive police officers,
unresponsive social workers, and disinterested teachers report similar feelings.
African American reactions to racial resegregation in the post-civil rights era, especially
those living in hyper-segregated, poor, inner-city neighborhoods, resemble those of
people who are in prison. Prisoners that turn on one another are much easier to manage
than ones whose hostility is aimed at their jailers. Far too often, African Americans
coping with racial segregation and ghettoization simply turn on one another, reflecting
heightened levels of alienation and nihilism.
Faced with no jobs, crumbling public
school systems, the influx of drugs into their neighborhoods, and the easy availability of
guns, many blame one another. Black youth are especially vulnerable.
As urban
prisoners, the predilection for some Black men to kill others over seemingly unimportant
items such as gym shoes, jewelry, and sunglasses often seems incomprehensible to
White Americans and to many middle-class Black Americans. Privileged group; routinely
assume that all deserving Americans live in decent housing, attend safe schools with
caring teachers, and will be rewarded for their hard work with college opportunities and
good jobs. They believe that undeserving Blacks and Latinos who remain locked up in
deteriorating inner cities get what they deserve and do not merit social programs that
will show them a future. This closing door of opportunity associated with hyper-
segregation creates a situation of shrinking opportunities and neglect. This is the exact
climate that breeds a culture of violence that is a growing component of "street culture"
in working-class and poor Black neighborhoods.

Given this context, why should anyone be surprised that rap lyrics often tell the stories
of young Black men who feel that they have nothing to lose, save their respect under a
"code of the street.''
Ice Cube's 1993 rap "It Was a Good Day," describes a "good"
day for a young Black man living in Los Angeles. On a "good" day; he didn't fire his gun,
he got food that he wanted to eat, the cops ignored him and didn't pull him over for an
imaginary infraction, and he didnt have to kill anyone. Is this art imitating life, or vice
versa? Sociologist Elijah Anderson's ethnographic studies of working-class and poor
Black youth living in Philadelphia suggests that, for far too many young African American
males, Ice Cube's bad days are only too real.
Just as male prisoners who are
perceived as being weak encounter relentless physical and sexual violence, weaker
members of African American communities are preyed upon by the strong. Rap artist Ice
T explains how masculinity and perceived weakness operate:
You don't understand anyone who is weak. You look at gay people as prey. There isn't
anybody in the ghetto teaching that some people's sexual preferences are predisposed.
You're just ignorant: You got to get educated, you got to get out of that jail cell called
the ghetto to really begin to understand. All you sec is a sissy. A soft dude. A punk.

Women, lesbian gay bisexual and transgendered people, children, people living with
HIV, drug addicts, prostitutes, and others deemed to be an embarrassment to the
broader African American community or a drain Upon its progress or simply in the wrong
place at the wrong time become targets of silencing, persecution, and or abuse. This is
what prisons do they breed intolerance.
The experiences of people in prison also shed light on the myriad forms of African
American resistance to the strictures of racial oppression. No matter how restrictive the
prison, some prisoners find ways to resist. Often within plain sight of their guards,
people who are imprisoned devise ingenious ways to reject prison policies. Nelson
Mandela recounts the numerous ways that he and his fellow prisoners outwitted,
undermined, tricked, and, upon occasion, confronted their captors during the twenty-
seven years that he spent as a political prisoner in South African prisons. Craving news
of the political struggle outside, prisoners communicated by writing in milk on blank
paper, letting it dry to invisibility and, once the note was passed on, making the words
reappear with the disinfectant used to clean their cells. They smuggled messages to one
another in plastic wrapped packages hidden in food drums.
In the case of solitary
confinement where an inmate could be locked up for twenty-three hours a day in a dark
cell, just surviving constituted an act of resistance. As Mandela observes, "Prison is
designed to break one's spirit and destroy one's resolve. To do this, the authorities
attempt to exploit every weakness, demolish every initiative negate all signs of
individuality all with the idea of stamping out that spark that makes each of us human
and each of us who we are.
Mandela and his fellow prisoners recognized the function
of actual prisons under racial apartheid and of apartheid policies as an extension of
Recognizing that their everyday lives resemble those of prison inmates often politicizes
individuals. Autobiographies by African Americans who were imprisoned because of their
political beliefs, for example, Angela Davis and Assata Shakur, or who became politicized
during their imprisonment, for example, Malcolm X or George Jackson, point to the
significance of actual incarceration as a catalyst for resistance. In the 1980s, many poor
and working- class African American youth who were locked up in urban ghettos and
facing the closing door of opportunity refused to turn their rage upon one another.
Instead, many chose to rap about the violence and intolerance around them and, in the
process, created an influential hip-hop culture that reached youth all over the world.
Crafted in the South Bronx, an urban landscape that had been abandoned by virtually
everyone, African American, Latino, and Afro-Caribbean youth created rap, break
dancing, tagging (graffiti), fashions and other cultural creations.
Ice Cube's rap about
his good day represents the tip of an immense hip-hop iceberg. With few other public
forums to share their outrage at a society that had so thoroughly written them off, Black
youth used rap and hip-hop to protest the closing door of opportunity in their lives and
to claim their humanity in the face of the dehumanization of racial segregation and
ghettoization. Without strategies of noncooperation such as those exhibited by
Mandela and his colleagues and without developing new forms of resistance such as hip-
hop, Black people simply would not have survived.
What is freedom in the context of prison? Typically, incarcerated people cannot
voluntarily "come out" of prison but must find a way to "break out." Under chattel
slavery, the history of the Underground Railroad certainly reflected the aspirations of
enslaved Africans to break out of the prison of slavery and to flee to the quasi freedom
offered by Northern states. But just as gender, age, skin color, and class affect the
contours of oppression itself, these very same categories shape strategies of resistance.
As African American women's slave narratives point out, men and young people could
more easily break out by running away than women, mothers, and older people. Then
as now, African American women are often reluctant to leave their families, and many
sacrifice their own personal freedom in order to stay behind and care for children and
for others who depend on them. Under Jim Crow segregation, very light-skinned African
Americans faced the difficult choice of "passing" and leaving their loved ones behind.
More recently, as prime beneficiaries of the antidiscrimination and affirmative action
policies of the civil rights movement, many middleclass and affluent African Americans
have moved to distant White suburbs. Such actions certainly reflect a desire to escape
the problems associated with poor and working-class Black neighborhoods. If one can
"buy" one's freedom, as Nike ads proclaim, why not exercise personal choice and "just
do it"?
In other situations, African Americans have recognized the confines of the prison and,
through unruly, spontaneous uprisings or through organized political protests, have
turned upon their jailers. A series of urban uprisings in cities such as New York, Detroit,
Miami (1980), Los Angeles (1992), and Cincinnati (2001) typify the explosive reactions
of many poor and working-class African Americans to bad schools, terrible housing, no
jobs, little money, and dwindling prospects. The catalyst is usually the same-police
brutality against unlucky African American citizens. More organized Black protests also
reflect this process of turning upon the jailers of racism and refusing to cooperate with
unjust laws and customs. Historically, social formations that kept African Americans
impoverished and virtually powerless chattel slavery, labor exploitation of the Jim
Crow Southern agriculture, and the continuing growth of urban ghettos all sparked
organized African American political protest. The abolitionist movement, the formation of
the NAACP (1909) and the Urban League (1910), the size of Marcus Garvey's Black
Nationalist United Negro Improvement Association (1920s), the many organizations that
participated in the civil rights and Black Power movements, and the increased visibility of
Black youth through hip-hop culture reflect resistance to racism.
Racism may be likened to a prison, yet sexual oppression has more often been
portrayed using the metaphor of the "closet."
This metaphor is routinely invoked to
describe the oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people. Historically,
because religion and science alike defined homosexuality as deviant, LGBT people were
forced to conceal their sexuality."
For homosexuals, the closet provided some
protection from homophobia that stigmatized LGBT sexual expression as deviant. Being
in the closet meant that most hid their sexual orientation in the most important areas of
their lives. With family, friends, or at work, many LGBT people passed as "straight" in
order to avoid suspicion and exposure. Passing as straight fostered the perception that
few gays and' lesbians existed. The invisibility of gays and lesbians helped normalize
heterosexuality, fueled homophobia, and supported heterosexism as a system of

Because closets are highly individualized, situated within families, and distributed across
the segregated spaces of racial, ethnic, and class neighborhoods, and because sexual
identity is typically negotiated later than social identities of gender, race, and class,
LGBT people often believe that they are alone. Being in the private, hidden, and
domestic space of the closet leaves many LGBT adolescents to suffer in silence. During
the era of racial segregation, heterosexism operated as smoothly as it did because
hidden or closeted sexualities remained relegated to the margins of society within
racial/ethnic groups. Staying in the closet stripped LBGT people of rights. The absence
of political rights has meant that sexual minorities could be fired from their jobs, moved
from their housing, have their children taken away in custody battles, dismissed from
the military, and be targets of random street violence, often with little recourse.
Rendering LGBT sexualities virtually invisible enabled the system of heterosexism to
draw strength from the seeming naturalness of heterosexuality.

Since the 1980s, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people have challenged
heterosexism by coming out of the closet. If the invisibility of sexual oppression enabled
it to operate unopposed, then making heterosexism visible by being "out" attacked
heterosexism at its core. Transgressing sexual borders became the hallmark of LGBT
politics. The individual decision to come out to one's family or friends enabled formerly
closeted LGBT people to live openly and to unsettle the normalization of heterosexuality.
Transgression also came to characterize one strand of gay group politics, moving from
the gay and lesbian identity politics of the first phase of "gay liberation" to more recent
queer politics.
Gay pride marches that embrace drag queens, cross-dressers, gay
men who are flamboyantly dressed, individuals with indeterminate gender identities, and
mannish lesbians push the envelope beyond accepting the LGBT people who are
indistinguishable from everyone else, save for this one area of sexual orientation.
Through public, visible, and often outrageous acts, "queering " normal sexuality became
another hallmark of LGBT politics. The phrase, "we're queer, we're here, get used to it"
embraces a clear stance of defiance. At the same time, another strand of gay politics
strives to be seen as "good gay citizens" who should be entitled to the same rights as
everyone else. Practices such as legitimating gay marriages and supporting adoptions by
gay and lesbian couples constitute another expression of transgression. By aiming for
the legitimacy granted heterosexual couples and families, gay and lesbian couples
simultaneously uphold family yet profoundly challenge its meaning.

Racism and heterosexism, the prison and the closet, appear to be separate systems, but
LGBT African Americans point out that both systems affect their everyday lives. If racism
and heterosexism affect Black LGBT people, then these systems affect all people,
including heterosexual African Americans. Racism and heterosexism certainly converge
on certain key points. For one, both use similar state-sanctioned institutional
mechanisms to maintain racial and sexual hierarchies. For example, in the United States,
racism and heterosexism both rely on segregating people as a mechanism of social
control. For racism, segregation operates by using race as a visible marker of group
membership that enables the state to relegate Black people to inferior schools, housing,
and jobs. Racial segregation relies on enforced membership in a visible community in
which racial discrimination is tolerated. For heterosexism, segregation is enforced by
pressuring LGBT individuals to remain closeted and thus segregated from one another.
Before social movements for gay and lesbian liberation, sexual segregation meant that
refusing to claim homosexual identities virtually eliminated any group-based political
action to resist heterosexism. For another, the state has played a very important role in
sanctioning both forms of oppression. In support of racism, the state sanctioned laws
that regulated where Black people could live, work, and attend school. In support of
heterosexism, the state maintained laws that refused to punish hate crimes against
LGBT people, that failed to offer protection when LGBT people were stripped of jobs and
children, and that generally sent a message that LGBT people who came out of the
closet did so at their own risk.

Racism and heterosexism also share a common set of practices that are designed to
discipline the population into accepting the status quo. These disciplinary practices can
best be seen in the enormous amount of attention paid both by the state and organized
religion to the institution of marriage. If marriage were in fact a natural and normal
occurrence between heterosexual couples and if it occurred naturally within racial
categories, there would be no need to regulate it. People would naturally choose
partners of the opposite sex and the same race. Instead, a series of laws have been
passed, all designed to regulate marriage. For example, for many years, the tax system
has rewarded married couples with tax breaks that have been denied to single taxpayers
or unmarried couples. The message is clear it makes good financial sense to get
married. Similarly, to encourage people to marry within their assigned race, numerous
states passed laws banning interracial marriage. These restrictions lasted until the
landmark Supreme Court decision in 1967 that overturned state laws. The state has also
passed laws designed to keep LGBT people from marrying. In 1996, the US Congress
passed the Federal Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as a "legal" union
between one man and one woman." In all of these cases, the state perceives that it has
a compelling interest in disciplining the population to marry and to marry the correct

Racism and heterosexism also manufacture ideologies that defend the status quo. When
ideologies that defend racism and heterosexism become taken- for-granted and appear
to be natural and inevitable, they become hegemonic. Few question them and the social
hierarchies they defend. Racism and heterosexism both share a common cognitive
framework that uses binary thinking to produce hegemonic ideologies. Such thinking
relies on oppositional categories. It views race through two oppositional categories of
Whites and Blacks, gender through two categories of men and women, and sexuality
through two oppositional categories of heterosexuals and homosexuals. A master binary
of normal and deviant overlays and bundles together these and other lesser binaries. In
this context, ideas about "normal" race (whiteness, which ironically, masquerades as
racelessness), "normal" gender (using male experiences as the norm), and "normal"
sexuality (heterosexuality, which operates in a similar hegemonic fashion) are tightly
bundled together. In essence, to be completely "normal," one must be white, masculine,
and heterosexual, the core hegemonic white masculinity. This mythical norm is hard to
see because it is so taken-for-granted. Its antithesis, its Other, would be Black, female,
and lesbian, a fact that Black lesbian feminist Audre Lorde pointed out some time ago.

Within this oppositional logic, the core binary of normal/deviant becomes ground zero
for justifying racism and heterosexism. The deviancy assigned to race and that assigned
to sexuality becomes an important point of contact between the two systems. Racism
and heterosexism both require a concept of sexual deviancy for meaning, yet the form
that deviance takes within each system differs. For racism, the point of deviance is
created by a normalized White heterosexuality that depends on a deviant Black
heterosexuality to give it meaning. For heterosexism, the point of deviance is created by
this very same normalized White heterosexuality that now depends on a deviant White
homosexuality. Just as racial normality requires the stigmatization of the sexual
practices of Black people, heterosexual normality relies upon the stigmatization of the
sexual practices of homosexuals. In both cases, installing White heterosexuality as
normal, natural, and ideal requires stigmatizing alternate sexualities as abnormal,
unnatural, and sinful.
The purpose of stigmatizing the sexual practices of Black people and those of LGBT
people may be similar, but the content of the sexual deviance assigned to each differs.
Black people carry the stigma of promiscuity or excessive or unrestrained heterosexual
desire. This is the sexual deviancy that has both been assigned to Black people and
been used to construct racism. In contrast, LGBT people carry the stigma of rejecting
heterosexuality by engaging in unrestrained homosexual desire. Whereas the deviancy
associated with promiscuity (and, by implication, with Black people as a race) is thought
to lie in an excess of heterosexual desire, the pathology of homosexuality (the invisible,
closeted sexuality that becomes impossible within heterosexual space) seemingly resides
in the absence of it.
While analytically distinct, in practice, these two sites of constructed deviancy work
together and both help create the "sexually repressive culture" in America described by
Cheryl Clarke.
Despite their significance for American society overall, here I confine
my argument to the challenges that confront Black people.
Both sets of ideas frame a
hegemonic discourse of Black sexuality that has at its core ideas about an assumed
promiscuity among heterosexual African American men and women and the impossibility
of homosexuality among Black gays and lesbians. How have African Americans been
affected by and reacted to this racialized system of heterosexism (or this sexualized
system of racism)?
African Americans and the Racialization of Promiscuity
Ideas about Black promiscuity that produce contemporary sexualized spectacles such as
Jennifer Lopez, Destiny's Child, Ja Rule, and the many young Black men on the U.S. talk
show circuit have a long history. Historically, Western science, medicine, law, and
popular culture reduced an African-derived aesthetic concerning the use of the body,
sensuality, expressiveness, and spirituality to an ideology about Black sexuality. The
distinguishing feature of this ideology was its reliance on the idea of Black promiscuity.
The possibility of distinctive and worthwhile African-influenced worldviews on anything,
including sexuality, as well as the heterogeneity of African societies expressing such
views, was collapsed into an imagined, pathologized Western discourse of what was
thought to be essentially African.
To varying degrees, observers from England,
France, Germany, Belgium, and other colonial powers perceived African sensuality,
eroticism, spirituality, and/or sexuality as deviant, out of control; sinful, and as an
essential feature of racial difference.

Western religion, science, and media took over 350 years to manufacture an ideology of
Black sexuality that assigned (heterosexual) promiscuity to Black people and then used
it to justify racial discrimination. The racism of slavery and colonialism needed
ideological justification. Toward this end, preexisting British perceptions of Blackness
became reworked to frame notions of racial difference that, over time, became folded
into a broader primitivist discourse on race. Long before the English explored Africa, the
terms "black" and "white" had emotional meaning within England. Before colonization,
white and black connoted opposites of purity and filthiness, virginity and sin, virtue and
baseness, beauty and ugliness, and God and the devil.
Bringing this preexisting
framework with them, English explorers were especially taken by Africans' color. Despite
actual variations of skin color among African people, the English described them as
being black, "an exaggerated term which in itself suggests that the Negro's complexion
had powerful impact upon their perceptions."
From first contact, biology mattered-
racial difference was embodied. European explorers and the traders, colonists, and
settlers who followed were also struck by the differences between their own cultures
and those of continental Africans. Erroneously interpreting African cultures as being
inferior to their own, European colonial powers redefined Africa as a "primitive" space,
filled with Black people and devoid of the accoutrements of more civilized cultures. In
this way, the broad ethnic diversity among the people of continental Africa became
reduced to more generic terms such as "primitive," "savage," and "native." Within these
categories, one could be an Ashanti or a Yoruba, but each was a savage, primitive
native all the same. The resulting primitivist discourse redefined African societies as

Western natural and social sciences were deeply involved in constructing this primitivist
discourse that reached full fruition in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Through laboratory experiments and field research, Western science attempted to
understand these perceived racial differences while creating, through its own practices,
those very same differences. For example, Sarah Bartmann's dissection illustrates this
fascination with biological difference as the site of racial difference, with sexual
difference of women further identified as an important topic of study.
Moreover, this
perception of Africa worked with an important idea within nineteenth-century science,
namely, the need to classify and rank objects, places, living things, and people.
Everything had its place and all places were ranked.
With its primitiveness and alleged
jungles, Africa and its peoples marked the bottom, the worst place to be, and a place
ripe for colonial conquest. Yet at the same time, Africa was dangerous, different, and
alluring. This new category of primitive situated Africans just below Whites and right
above apes and monkeys, who marked this boundary distinguishing human from
animals. Thus, within Western science, African people and apes occupied a fluid border
zone between humans and animals.
With all living creatures classified in this way, Western scientists perceived African
people as being more natural and less civilized, primarily because African people were
deemed to be closer to animals and nature, especially the apes and monkeys whose
appearance most closely resembled humans. Like African people, animals also served as
objects of study for Western science because understanding the animal kingdom might
reveal important insights about civilization, culture, and what distinguished the human
"race" from its animal counterparts as well as the human "races" from one another.
Donna Haraway's study of primatology illustrates Western scientists' fascination with
identifying how apes differed from humans: "the study of apes was more about humans.
Moreover, the close proximity to apes and monkeys that Africans occupied within
European derived taxonomies of life such as the Great Chain of Being worked to link
Africans and animals through a series of overlapping constructs. Apes and Africans both
lived in Africa, a place of wild animals and wild people. In both cases, their source of
wildness emerged from their lack of culture and their acting out of instinct or bodily
This family resemblance between African people and animals was not
benign viewing Africans and animals alike as embodied creatures ruled by "instinct or
bodily impulses" worked to humanize apes and dehumanize Black people.
In this context, studying the sexual practices of African people and animals took on
special meaning. Linking African people and animals was crucial to Western views of
Black promiscuity. Genital sexual intercourse or, or colloquially, the act of "fucking,"
characterized animal sexuality. Animals are promiscuous because they lack intellect,
culture, an civilization. Animals do not have erotic lives; they merely "fuck" and produce.
Certainly animals could be slaughtered, sold, and domesticated as pets because within
capitalist political economies, animals were commodities that were owned as private
property. As the history of animal breeding suggests, the sexual promiscuity of horses,
cattle, chickens, pigs, dogs, and other domesticated animals could be profitable for their
owners. By being classified as proximate to wild animals and, by analogy, eventually
being conceptualized as being animals (chattel), the alleged deviancy of people of
African descent lay in their sexual promiscuity, a "wildness" that also was believed to
characterize animal sexuality. Those most proximate to animals, those most lacking
civilization, also were those humans who came closest to having the sexual lives of
animals. Lacking the benefits of Western civilization, people of African descent were
perceived as having a biological nature that was inherently more sexual than that of
Europeans. The primitivist discourse thus created the category of "beast" and the
sexuality of such beasts as "wild." The legal classification of enslaved African people as
chattel (animal-like) under American slavery that produced controlling images of bucks,
jezebels, and breeder women drew meaning from this broader interpretive

Historically, this ideology of Black sexuality that pivoted on a Black heterosexual
promiscuity not only upheld racism but it did so in gender-specific ways. In the context
of U.S. society, beliefs in Black male promiscuity took diverse forms during distinctive
historical periods. For example, defenders of chattel slavery believed that slavery safely
domesticated allegedly dangerous Black men because it regulated their promiscuity by
placing it in the service of slave owners. Strategies of control were harsh and enslaved
African men who were born in Africa or who had access to their African past were
deemed to be the most dangerous. In contrast, the controlling image of the rapist
appeared after emancipation because Southern Whites' feared that the unfettered
promiscuity of Black freedmen constituted a threat to the Southern way of life. In this
situation, beliefs about White womanhood helped shape the mythology of the Black
rapist. Making White women responsible for keeping the purity of the White race, white
men "cast themselves as protectors of civilization, reaffirming not only their role as
social and familial 'heads,' but their paternal property rights as well."

African American women encountered a parallel set of beliefs concerning Black female
promiscuity. White Americans may have been repulsed by a Black sexuality that they
redefined as uncivilized "fucking," but the actions of White men demonstrated that they
simultaneously were fascinated with the Black women who they thought engaged in it.
Under American slavery, all White men within a slave-owning family could treat enslaved
African women within their own families as sexual property. The myth that it was
impossible to rape Black women because they were already promiscuous helped mask
the sexual exploitation of enslaved Black women by their owners. Using enslaved Black
women for medical experimentation constituted another form of control. As individuals
who are trained' to watch, dissect, and cast a critical eye on biological and social
phenomena, scientists became voyeurs extraordinaire of Black women's bodies. For
example, between 1845 and 1849, Marion Sims, now remembered variously as the
Father of American Gynecology, the Father of Modern Gynecology, and the Architect of
the Vagina, conducted surgical experiments on slave women in his backyard hospital in
Montgomery, Alabama. Aiming to cure vaginal fistulas resulting from hard or extended
childbirth, Sims discovered a way to peer into Black women's vaginas. Placing Lucy, a
slave woman into knee-chest position for examination, Sims inserted a pewter spoon
into her vagina and recounts, "introducing the bent handle of the spoon I saw
everything, as no man had ever seen before. The fistula was as plain as the nose on a
man's face.

The events themselves may be over, but their effects persist under the new racism. This
belief in an inherent Black promiscuity reappears today. For example, depicting poor and
working-class African American inner-city neighborhoods as dangerous urban jungles
where SUV-driving White suburbanites come to Score drugs or locate prostitutes also
invokes a history of racial and sexual conquest. Here sexuality is linked with danger, and
understandings of both draw upon historical imagery of Africa as a continent replete
with danger and peril to the White explorers and hunters who penetrated it. Just as
contemporary safari tours in Africa create an imagined Africa as the "White man's
playground" and mask its economic exploitation, jungle language masks social relations
of hyper-segregation that leave working-class Black communities isolated, impoverished;
and dependent on a punitive welfare state and an illegal international drug trade. Under
this logic, just as wild animals (and the proximate African natives) belong in nature
preserves (for their own protection), unassimilated, undomesticated poor and working-
class African Americans belong in racially segregated neighborhoods.
This belief in Black promiscuity also continues to take gender-specific forms. African
American men live with the ideological legacy that constructs Black male heterosexuality
through images of wild beasts, criminals, and rapists. A chilling case was provided in
1989 by the media coverage of an especially brutal crime that came to be known as the
"Central Park Jogger" panic. In this case, a White woman investment banker jogging in
Central Park was raped, severely beaten, and left for dead. At the time, the police
believed that she had been gang-raped by as many as twelve Black and Latino
adolescents. The horror of the crime itself is not in question, for this attack was truly
appalling. But as African American cultural critic Houston A. Baker points out, what was
also noteworthy about the case was the way in which it crystallized issues of race,
gender, class, and sexuality in the mass media. The assault occurred during a time
when young Black men and hip-hop culture were becoming increasingly visible in urban
public space. Lacking spacious basement recreation rooms and well-tended soccer fields,
African American and Latino youth set up their equipment on streets and in public parks,
creating public hip-hop theaters. Graffiti, breakdancing, and enormous boom boxes
blasting the angry lyrics of gangsta rap effectively "blackened" urban spaces. Baker
describes how public space became a site of controversy: "Urban public space of the
late twentieth- century [became] ... spaces of audiovisual contest. It's something like
this: 'My billboards and neon and handbills and high-decibel-level television advertising
are purely for the public good. Your boom boxes and graffiti are evil pollutants. Erase
them, shut them down!"

The attack in Central Park occurred in this political, social, and cultural context. The
"park panic" that followed the incident drew upon this fear of young Black men in public
space, as evidenced by their loudness, their rap music, and their disrespect for order
(graffiti). In doing so, it referenced the primitivist ideology of Blacks as animalistic.
Media phrases such as "roving bands" and "wolf pack" that were used to describe young
urban Black and Latino males during this period were only comprehensible because of
long-standing assumptions of Black promiscuity. Drawing upon the historical discourse
on Black promiscuity, the phrase "to go buck wild'! morphed into the new verb of
"wilding" that appeared virtually overnight. Baker is especially insightful in his analysis of
how the term "wilding" sounded very much like rapper Tone-Loc's hit song "Wild Thing,"
a song whose content described sexual intercourse. "Wilding" and "Wild Thing" belong
to the same nexus of meaning, one that quickly circulated through mass media and
became a plausible (at least as far as the media was concerned), explanation for the
brutality of the crime.
Resurrecting images of Black men as predatory and wild, rape
and "wilding" became inextricably linked with Black masculinity.
The outcome of this case shows how deeply entrenched ideologies can produce
scenarios that obscure the facts. Ironically, twelve years after five young Black males
were convicted of the' crime, doubts arose concerning their guilt. A convicted murderer
and serial rapist came forward, confessed to the rape, and claimed he had acted alone.
After his story was corroborated by DNA testing, the evidence against the original "wolf
pack" seemed far less convincing than in the climate created by "wilding" as the natural
state of young Black men. In 2003, all of the teenagers' originally convicted of the crime
were exonerated, unfortunately, after some had served lengthy jail terms.

African American women also live with 'ideas about Black women's promiscuity and lack
of sexual restraint. Reminiscent of concerns with Black women's fertility under slavery
and in the rural South, contemporary social welfare policies also remain preoccupied
with Black women's fertility. In prior eras, Black women were encouraged to have many
children. Under slavery, having many children enhanced slave owners' wealth and a
good "breeder woman" was less likely to be sold.
In rural agriculture after
emancipation, having many children ensured a sufficient supply of workers. But in the
global economy of today, large families are expensive because children must be
educated. Now Black women are seen as producing too many children who contribute
less to society than they take. Because Black women on welfare have long been seen as
undeserving, long-standing ideas about Black women's promiscuity become recycled and
redefined as a problem for the state.

In her important book Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of
Liberty, legal scholar Dorothy Roberts claims that the "systematic, denial of reproductive
freedom has uniquely marked Black women's history in America."
Believing the
unquestioned assumption of Black female promiscuity influences how poor and working-
class Black women are treated. The inordinate attention paid to the sexual lives of
adolescent Black women reflects this ongoing concern with an assumed Black female
Rather than looking at lack of sex education, poverty, sexual assault, and
other factors that catalyze high rates of pregnancy among young Black women,
researchers and policy makers often blame the women themselves and assume that the
women are incapable of making their own decisions. Pregnancy, especially among poor
and working- class young Black women, has been seen as evidence that Black women
lack the capacity to control their sexual lives. As a visible sign of a lack of discipline and/
or immorality, becoming pregnant and needing help exposes poor and working- class
women to punitive state policies.
Arguing that Black women have been repeatedly
denied reproductive autonomy and control over their own bodies, Roberts surveys a
long list of current violations against African American women. Black women are denied
reproductive choice and offered Norplant, Depo- Provera, and similar forms of birth
control that encourage them to choose sterilization. Pregnant Black women with drug
addictions receive criminal sentences instead of drug treatment and prenatal care.
Criticizing two controversial ways in which the criminal justice system penalizes
pregnancy, Roberts identifies the impossible choice that faces women in these
situations. When a pregnant woman is prosecuted for exposing her baby to drugs in the
womb, her crime hinges on her decision to have a baby. If she has an abortion she can
avoid prosecution, but if she chooses to give birth, she risks going to prison. Similarly,
when a judge imposes birth control as a condition of probation, for example, by giving a
defendant the choice between Norplant or jail, incarceration becomes the penalty for
her choice to remain fertile. These practices theoretically affect all women, but, in
actuality, they apply primarily to poor and working-class Black women. As Roberts points
out, "prosecutors and judges see poor Black women as suitable subjects for these
reproductive penalties because society docs not view these women as suitable mothers
in the first place.

African Americans and the Whitening of Homosexuality
Depicting people of African descent as symbols of embodied, natural sexuality that
"fucked" like animals and produced babies installed Black people as the essence of
nature. Moreover, the concern with Black fertility linked perceptions of promiscuity to
assumptions of heterosexuality. Within this logic, homosexuality was assumed to be
impossible among Black people because same-sex sexual practices did not result in
Among the myths Europeans have created about Africa, the myth that homosexuality is
absent or incidental is the oldest and most enduring. For Europeans, black Africans of
the native peoples of the world most epitomized primitive man." Since primitive man
is supposed to be close to nature, ruled by instinct, and culturally unsophisticated, he
had to be heterosexual, his sexual energies and outlets demoted exclusively to their
natural" purpose: biological reproduction. If black Africans were the most primitive
people in all humanity if they were, indeed, human, which some debate then they had
to be the most heterosexual.

If racism relied on assumptions of Black promiscuity that in turn enabled Black people to
breed like animals," then Black sexual practices that did not adhere to these
assumptions challenged racism at its very core. Either Black people could not be
homosexual or those Blacks who were homosexual were not "authentically" Black.
Black people were allegedly not threatened by homosexuality because they were
protected by their "natural" heterosexuality. In contrast, Whites had no such "natural"
protection and thus had to work harder at proving their heterosexuality. By a curious
twist of logic, these racist assumptions about an authentic Blackness grounded in a
promiscuous heterosexuality helped define Whiteness as well. In this context,
homosexuality could be defined as an internal threat to the integrity of the (White)
nuclear family. Beliefs in a naturalized, normal hyper-heterosexuality among Black
people effectively "whitened" homosexuality. Within a logic that constructed race itself
from racially pure families, homosexuality constituted a major threat to the White

Contemporary African American politics confront some real contradictions here. A
discourse that constructs Black people as the natural essence of hyper- heterosexuality
and White people as the source of homosexuality hinders developing a comprehensive
analysis of Black sexuality that speaks to the needs of straight and gay Black people
alike. Those African Americans who internalize racist, ideologies that link Black hyper-
heterosexuality with racial authenticity can propose problematic solutions to adolescent
pregnancy, rape, sexual violence, and the troubling growth of HIV/ AIDS among African
Americans. Such beliefs generate strategies designed to regulate tightly the sexual
practices of Black people as the fundamental task of Black sexual politics. This position
inadvertently accepts racist views of Blackness and advocates an antiracist politics that
advocates copying the heterosexist norms associated with White normality. Such beliefs
also foster perceptions of LGBT Black people as being less authentically Black. If
authentic Black people (according to the legacy of scientific racism) are heterosexual,
then LGBT Black people are less authentically Black because they engage in allegedly
"White" sexual practices. This entire system of sexual regulation is turned on its head
when heterosexual African Americans reject promiscuity yet advocate for a Black
In a similar fashion, visible, vocal LGBT Black people who come out and claim an
eroticism that is not predicated upon heterosexuality also profoundly challenge the same
system. The historical invisibility of LGBT African Americans
reflects this double containment, both within the prison of racism that segregates Black
people in part due to their alleged sexual deviancy of promiscuity and within the closet
of heterosexism due to the alleged sexual deviancy of homosexuality. The closets
created by heterosexism were just as prominent within Black communities as outside
them. For example, the Black Church, one of the mainstays of African American
resistance to racial oppression, fostered a deeply religious ethos within African
American life and culture.
The Black Church remains the linchpin of African American
communal life, and its effects can be seen in Black music, fraternal organizations,
neighborhood associations, and politics.
As religious scholar C. Eric Lincoln points out,
"for African Americans, a people whose total experience has been a sustained condition
of multiform stress, religion is never far from the threshold of conscious-"ness, for
whether it is embraced with fervor or rejected with disdain, it is the focal element of the
black experience.

At the same time, the Black Church has also failed to challenge arguments about sexual
deviancy. Instead, the Black Church has incorporated dominant ideas about the dangers
of promiscuity and homosexuality within its beliefs and practices.
Some accuse the
Black Church of relying on a double standard according to which teenaged girls are
condemned for out-of-wedlock pregnancies but in which the men who fathered the
children escape censure. The girls are often required to confess their sins and ask for
forgiveness in front of the entire congregation whereas the usually older men who
impregnate them are excused.
Others argue that the Black Church advances a
hypocritical posture about homosexuality that undercuts its antiracist posture: "Just as
white people have misused biblical texts to argue that God supported slavery, and that
being Black was a curse, the Bible has been misused by African Americans to justify the
oppression of homosexuals. It is ironic that while they easily dismiss the Bible's
problematic references to Black people, they accept without question what they perceive
to be its condemnation of homosexuals."

One reason that the Black Church has seemed so resistant to change is that it has long
worried about protecting the community's image within the broader society and has
resisted any hints of Black sexual deviance, straight and gay alike. Recognizing the toll
that the many historical assaults against African American' families have taken, many
churches argue for traditional, patriarchal households, and they censure women who
seemingly reject marriage and the male authority that creates them. For women, the
babies who are born out of wedlock are irrefutable evidence for women's sexual
transgression. Because women carry the visible stigma of sexual transgression unlike
men, they become pregnant and cannot hide their sexual histories churches more
often have chastised women for promiscuity. In a sense, Black churches historically
preached a politics of respectability, especially regarding marriage and sexuality because
they recognized how claims of Black promiscuity and immorality fueled racism. In a
similar fashion, the Black Church's resistance to societal stigmatization of all African
Americans as being sexually deviant limits its ability to take effective leadership within
African American communities concerning all matters of sexuality, especially
homosexuality. Black Churches were noticeably
silent about the spread of HIV/ AIDS among African Americans largely because they
wished to avoid addressing the sexual mechanisms of HIV transmission (prostitution and
gay sex)."

Within Black churches and Black politics, the main arguments given by African American
intellectuals and community leaders that explain homosexuality's presence within African
American communities show how closely Black political thought is tethered to an
unexamined gender ideology. Backed up by interpretations of, biblical teachings, many
churchgoing African Americans believe that homosexuality rejects varying combinations
of: (1) the loss of male role models as a consequence of the breakdown of the Black
family structure, trends that in turn foster weak men, some of whom turn to
homosexuality; (2) a loss of traditional religious values that encourage homosexuality
among those who have turned away from the church; (3) the emasculation of Black
men by White oppression; and (4) a sinister plot by White racists as a form of
population genocide (neither gay Black men nor Black lesbians have children under this
Because these assumptions validate only one family form, this point of view
works against both Black straights and gays alike. Despite testimony from children
raised by Black single mothers, families headed by women alone routinely are seen as
"broken homes" that somehow need fixing. This seemingly pro-family stance also works
against LGBT African Americans. Gay men and lesbians have been depicted as threats to
Black families, primarily due to the erroneous belief that gay, lesbian, and bisexual
African Americans neither want nor have children or that they are not already part of
family networks.
Holding fast to dominant ideology, many African American ministers
believe that homosexuality is unnatural for Blacks and is actually a "white disease." As a
result, out LGBT African Americans are seen as being disloyal to the race.
Historically, this combination of racial segregation and intolerance within African
American communities that influenced Black Church activities explains the deeply
closeted nature of LBGT Black experiences. The racial segregation of Jim Crow in the
rural South and social institutions such as the Black Church that were created in this
context made living as openly gay virtually impossible for LGBT African Americans. In
small town and rural settings of the South, it made sense for the majority of LBGT Black
people to remain deeply closeted. Where was the space for out Black lesbians in Anita
Hill's close-knit segregated community of Lone Tree in which generations of women
routinely gave birth to thirteen children? Would coming out as gay or bisexual Black men
make any difference in resisting the threat of lynching in the late nineteenth century? In
these contexts, Black homosexuality might have further derogated an already sexually
stigmatized population. Faced with this situation, many African American gays, lesbians,
and bisexuals saw heterosexual passing as the only logical choice.
Prior to early-twentieth-century migration to Northern cities, Black gays, lesbians, and
bisexuals found it very difficult to reject heterosexuality outright. Cities provided more
options, but for African Americans residential housing segregation further limited the
options that did exist. Despite these limitations, gay and lesbian Black urban dwellers did
manage to carve out new lives that differed from those they left behind. For example,
the 1920s was a critical period
for African American gays, lesbians, and bisexuals who were able to migrate to large
cities like New York. Typically, the art and literary traditions of the Harlem Renaissance
have been analyzed through a race-only Black cultural nationalist framework. But LGBT
sexualities may have been far more important within Black urbanization than formerly
believed. Because the majority of Harlem Renaissance writers were middle-class, a
common assumption has been that their response to claims of Black promiscuity was to
advance a politics of respectability.
The artists of the Harlem Renaissance appeared to
be criticizing American racism, but they also challenged norms of gender and sexuality
that were upheld by the politics of respectability.
Contemporary rereadings of key texts of the Harlem Renaissance suggest that many had
a homoerotic or "queer" content. For example, new analyses locate a lesbian subtext
within Pauline Hopkins's novel Contending Forces, a homoerotic tone within the short
stories of Black life detailed in Cane, and an alternative sexuality expressed in the corpus
of Langston Hughes's work.
British filmmaker Isaac Julien's 1989 prizewinning short
film Looking for Langston created controversy via its association of Hughes with
homoeroticism. Julien's intent was not to criticize Hughes, but rather, to "de-essentialize
black identities" in ways that create space for more progressive sexual politics. At a
conference on Black popular culture, Julien explains this process of recognizing different
kinds of Black identities: "I think blackness is a term used in the way that terms like 'the
black community' or 'black folk' are usually bandied about-to exclude others who are
part of that community ... to create a more pluralistic interreaction [sic] in terms of
difference, both sexual and racial, one has to start with deessentializing the notion of
the black subject."
Basically, rejecting the erasure of gay Black male identities, Julien's
project creates a space in which Hughes can be both Black and queer.
Middle-class African Americans may have used literary devices to confront gendered and
sexual norms, but working-class and poor African American in cities also challenged
these sexual politics, albeit via different mechanisms. During this same decade, working-
class Black women blues singers also expressed gendered and sexual sensibilities that
deviated from the politics of respectability." One finds in the lyrics of the blues singers
explicit references to gay, lesbian, and bisexual sexual expression as a natural part of
lived Black experience. By proclaiming that "wild women don't get no blues," the new
blues singers took on and reworked longstanding ideas about Black women's sexuality.
Like most forms of popular music, Black blues lyrics talk about love. But, when
compared to other American popular music of the 1920s and 1930s, Black women's
blues were distinctive. One significant difference concerned the blues' "provocative and
pervasive sexual-including homosexual-imagery."" The blues took on themes that were
banished from popular music--extramarital affairs, domestic violence, and the short-lived
nature of love relationships all appeared in Black women's blues. The theme of women
loving women also appeared in Black women's blues, giving voice to Black lesbianism
and bisexuality.
When it came to their acceptance of Black gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, urban African
American neighborhoods exhibited contradictory tendencies. On the one hand, Black
neighborhoods within large cities became areas of racial and sexual boundary-crossing
that supported more visible lesbian and gay activities. For example, one community
study of the lesbian community in Buffalo, New York, found racial and social class
differences among lesbians. Because Black lesbians were confined to racially segregated
neighborhoods, lesbians had more house parties and social gatherings within their
neighborhoods. In contrast, White working-class lesbians were more likely to frequent
bars that, ironically, were typically located near or in Black neighborhoods.
In her
autobiography Zami, Audre Lorde describes the racial differences framing lesbian
activities in New York City in the 1950s where interracial boundaries were crossed, often
for the first time.
These works suggest that African' American lesbians constructed
sexual identities within African American communities in urban spaces. The strictures
placed on all African American women who moved into White- controlled space (the
threat of sexual harassment and rape) affected straight and lesbian women alike.
Moreover, differences in male and female socialization may have made it easier for
African American women to remain closeted within African American communities.
Heterosexual and lesbian women alike value intimacy and friendship with their female
relatives, their friends, and their children. In contrast, dominant views of masculinity
condition men to compete with one another. Prevailing ideas about masculinity
encourage Black men to reject close male friendships that come too close to homoerotic
On the other hand, the presence of Black gay, lesbian, and bisexual activities and
enclaves within racially segregated neighborhoods did not mean that LGBT people
experienced acceptance. Greatly influenced by Black Church teachings, African
Americans may have accepted homosexual individuals, but they disapproved of
homosexuality itself Relations in the Black Church illustrate this stance of grudging
acceptance. While censuring homosexuality, Black churches have also not banished
LGBT people from their congregations. Within the tradition of some Church leaders,
homosexuality falls under the rubric of pastoral care and is not considered a social'
justice issue. Ministers often preach, "love the sinner but hate the sin."
This posture
of "don't be too out and we will accept you" has had a curious effect on churches
themselves as well as on African American antiracist politics. For example, the Reverend
Edwin C. Sanders, a founding pastor of the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in
Nashville, describes this contradiction of accepting LGBT Black people, just as long as
they are not too visible. As Reverend Sanders points out: "the unspoken message ...
says it's all right for you to be here, just don't say anything, Just play your little role. You
can be in the choir, you can sit on the piano bench, but don't say you're gay."
Reverend Sanders describes how this policy limited the ability of Black churches to deal
with the spreading HIVI AIDS epidemic. He notes how six Black musicians within Black
churches died of AIDS, yet churches hushed :up the cause of the deaths. As Reverend
Sanders observes, "Nobody wanted to deal with the fact that all of these men were gay
black men, and yet they'd been leading the music for them."

The dual challenges to racism and heterosexism in the post'-Civil rights era have
provided LGBT Black people with both more legal rights within American society (that
hopefully will translate into improved levels of security) and the potential for greater
acceptance within African American communities. As a result, a visible and vocal Black
LGBT presence emerged in the 1980s and 1990s that challenged the seeming
separateness of racism and heterosexism in ways that unsettled heterosexual Black
people and gay White people alike. Rejecting the argument that racism and
heterosexism come together solely or even more intensively for LGBT African Americans,
LGBT African. American people highlighted the connections and contradictions that
characterize racism and heterosexism as mutually constructing systems of oppression.
Working in this intersection between these two systems, LGBT African Americans raised
important issues about the workings of racism and heterosexism.
One issue concerns how race complicates the closeting process and resistance to it. Just
as Black people's ability to break out of prison differed based on gender, class, age, and
sexuality, LGBT people's ability to come out of the closet displays similar heterogeneity.
As LGBT African Americans point out, the contours of the closet and the costs attached
to leaving it vary according to race, class, and gender. For many LGBT Whites, sexual
orientation is all that distinguishes them from the dominant White population. Affluent
gay White men, for example, may find it easier to come out of the closet because they
still maintain many of the benefits of White masculinity. In contrast, in part because of a
multiplicity of identities, African American gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered
individuals seem less likely than their White counterparts to be openly gay or to consider
themselves completely out of the closet.
Race complicates the coming-out process. As
Kevin Boykin recalls, "coming out to my family members, I found, was much more
difficult than coming out to my friends. Because my family had known me longer than
my friends had, I thought they at least deserved to hear the words 'I'm gay' from my
own lips .... On the other hand, precisely because my family had known and loved me as
one person, I worried that they might not accept me as another. Would they think I had
deceived them for years?"
Gender and age add further layers of complexity to the
coming-out process, as the difficulties faced by African American lesbians and gay
African American high school youth suggest.

Another related issue concerns the endorsement of "passing" and or assimilation as
possible solutions to racial and sexual discrimination. Black LGBT people point to the
contradictions of passing in which, among African Americans, racial passing is routinely
castigated as denying one's true self, yet sexual passing as heterosexual is encouraged.
Barbara Smith, a lesbian activist who refused to remain in the closet, expresses little
tolerance for lesbians who are willing to reap the benefits of others' struggles, but who
take few risks themselves:
A handful of out lesbians of color have gone into the wilderness and hacked through the
seemingly impenetrable jungle of homophobia. Our closeted sisters come upon the
wilderness, which is now not nearly as frightening, and walk the path we have cleared,
even pausing at times to comment upon the beautiful view. In the meantime, we are on
the other side of the continent, hacking through another jungle. At the very least,
people who choose to be closeted can speak out against homophobia .... [Those] who
protect their closets never think about ... how their silences contribute to the silencing of

Even if the "wilderness" is not nearly as frightening as it once was, the seeming benefits
of remaining closeted and passing as straight may be more illusory than real. Because of
the ability of many LGBT individuals to pass as straight, they encounter distinctive forms
of prejudice and discrimination. Here racism and heterosexism differ. Blackness is clearly
identifiable, and in keeping with assumptions of color blindness of the new racism, many
Whites no longer express derogatory racial beliefs in public, especially while in the
company of Blacks. They may, however, express such beliefs in private or behind their
backs. In contrast, U.S. society's assumption of heterosexuality along with its tolerance
of homophobia imposes no such public censure on straight men and women to refrain
from homophobic comments in public. As a result, closeted and openly LGBT people
may be exposed to a much higher degree of interpersonal insensitivity and overt
prejudice in public than the racial prejudice experienced by Blacks and other
racial/ethnic groups.

Black churches and African American leaders and organizations that held fast in the past
to the view of "don't be too out and we will accept you" faced hostile external racial
climates that led than to suppress differences among African Americans, ostensibly in
the name of racial solidarity. This version of racial solidarity also drew upon sexist and
heterosexist beliefs to shape political agendas for all Black people. For example, by
organizing the historic 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave
his legendary "I Have a Dream Speech," African American civil rights leader Bayard
Rustin played a major role in the civil rights movement. Yet because Rustin was an out
gay man, he was seen as a potential threat to the movement itself Any hint of sexual
impropriety was feared. So Rustin stayed in the background, while Martin Luther King,
Jr. maintained his position as spokesperson and figurehead for the march and the
movement. But the question for today is whether holding these views on race, gender,
and sexuality makes political sense in the greatly changed context of the post-civil rights
era. In a context where out-of-wedlock births, poverty, and the spread of STDs
threatens Black survival, preaching abstinence to teens who define sexuality only in
terms of genital sexual intercourse or encouraging LGBT people to renounce the sin of
homosexuality and "just be straight" simply miss the mark. Too much is at stake for
Black antiracist projects to ignore sexuality and its connections to oppressions of race,
class, gender, and age any longer.
On May 11, 2003, a stranger killed fifteen-year-old Sakia Gunn who, with four friends,
was on her way home from New York's Greenwich Village. Sakia and her friends were
waiting for the bus in Newark, New Jersey, when two men got out of a car, made sexual
advances, and physically attacked them. The women fought back, and when Gunn told
the men that she was a lesbian, one of them stabbed her in the chest.
Sakia Gunn's murder illustrates the connections among class, race, gender, sexuality,
and age. Sakia lacked the protection of social class privilege. She and her friends were
waiting for the bus in the first place because none had access to private automobiles
that offer protection for those who are more affluent. In Gunn's case, because her
family initially did not have the money for her funeral, she was scheduled to be buried in
a potter's grave. Community activists took up a collection to pay for her funeral. She
lacked the gendered protection provided by masculinity. Women who are perceived to
be in the wrong place at the wrong time are routinely approached by men who feel
entitled to harass and proposition them. Thus, Sakia and her friends share with all
women the vulnerabilities that accrue to women who negotiate public space. She lacked
the protection of age had Sakia and her friends been middle-aged, they may not have
been seen as sexually available. Like African American girls and women, regardless of
sexual orientation, they were seen as approachable. Race was a factor, but not in a
framework of interracial race relations. Sakia and her friends were African American, as
were their attackers. In a context where Black men are encouraged to express a hyper-
heterosexuality as the badge of Black masculinity, women like Sakia and -her friends can
become important players in supporting patriarchy. They challenged Black male
authority, and they paid for the transgression of refusing to participate in scripts of Black
promiscuity. But the immediate precipitating catalyst for the violence that took Sakia's
life was her openness about her lesbianism. Here, homophobic violence was the prime
factor. Her death illustrates how deeply entrenched homophobia can be among many
African American men and women, in this case, beliefs that resulted in an attack on a
teenaged girl.
How do we separate out and weigh the various influences of class, gender, age, race,
and sexuality in this particular incident? Sadly, violence against Black girls is an everyday
event. What made this one so special? Which, if any, of the dimensions of her identity
got Sakia Gunn killed? There is no easy answer to this question, because all of them did.
More important, how can any Black political agenda that does not take all of these
systems into account, including sexuality, ever hope adequately to address the needs of
Black people as a collectivity? One expects racism in the press to shape the reports of
this incident. In contrast to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a young, White, gay
man in Wyoming, no massive protests, nationwide vigils, and renewed calls for federal
hate crimes legislation followed Sakia's death. But what about the response of elected
and appointed officials? The African American mayor of Newark decried the crime, but
he could not find the time to meet with community activists who wanted programmatic
changes to retard crimes like Sakia's murder. The principal of her high school became
part of the problem. As one activist described it, "students at Sakia's high school weren't
allowed to hold a vigil. And the kids wearing the rainbow flag were being punished like
they had on gang colors."

Other Black leaders and national organizations spoke volumes through their silence. The
same leaders and organizations that spoke out against thepolice beatil1g of Rodney King
by Los Angeles area police, the rape of immigrant Abner Louima by New York City
police, and the murder of Timothy Thomas by Cincinnati police said nothing about Sakia
Gunn's death. Apparently, she was just another unimportant little Black girl to them. But
to others, her death revealed the need for a new politics that takes the intersections of
racism and heterosexism as well as class exploitation, age discrimination, and sexism
into account. Sakia was buried on May 16 and a crowd of approximately 2,500 people
attended her funeral. The turnout was unprecedented: predominantly Black, largely high
school students, and mostly lesbians. Their presence says that as long as African
American lesbians like high school student Sakia Gunn are vulnerable, then every African
American woman is in danger; and if all Black women are at risk, then there is no way
that any Black person will ever be truly safe or free.

1. The field of postcolonial studies contains many works that examine how ideas
generally, and sexual discourse in particular, was essential to colonialism and to
nationalism. In this field, the works of French philosopher Michel Foucault have been
pivotal in challenging prior frameworks heavily grounded in Marxism and in Freudian
psychoanalysis. Here I rely on two main ideas from the corpus of Foucault's work. The
first, expressed in his classic work Discipline and Punish, concerns the strategies that
institutions use to discipline populations and get them to submit under conditions of
oppression (Foucault 1979), The second idea concerns the normalization of such power
through the use of hegemonic ideologies. Volume I of Foucaults The History of
Sexuality uses sexuality to illustrate this normalization of power (Foucault 1980). Despite
the enormous impact that Foucault has had on studies of power, few works analyze his
treatment of race Ann Stoler's Race and the Education of Desire is exemplary in this
regard (Stole; 1995). Stoler examines how Foucault's analyses of sexuality in European
societies can be read also as an analysis of race. In this chapter, I rely on many of
Stoler's insights. For a comprehensive overview of works on Foucault and sexuality that
do not deal with race, see Stoler 1995, 19, n. 1. For a description of the specific
manipulation of sexual discourse within colonialism, see McClintock 1995; Gilman 1985;
and Young 1995, 90 117.
2. Jordan 1968,3-43. 3. Jordan'1968, 136-178. 4. See, for example, White 1985a. 5.
Despite the marginality of all LGBT Black people, subpopulations did not place issues of
sexuality on the public agenda at the same time or in the same way. Black lesbians
raised issues of heterosexism and homophobia in the 1980s fairly
early in modern 'Black feminism. For classic work in this tradition, see Combahee River
Collective 1982; Lorde 1982; Smith 1983; and Clarke 1983. For a representative sample
of more recent works, see Clarke 1995; Gomez and Smith 1994; Moore 1997; Gomez
1999; Greene, 2000; Smith 1998. In contrast, works by gay Black men achieved greater
prominence later. See, for example, Hemphill 1991; Riggs .992. Tongues United, the
documentary by the late Marlon Riggs, represents an important path breaking work in
Black gay men's studies in the United States (Tongues United 1989). More recently,
work on Black masculinity that analyzes homosexuality has gained greater visibility. See
Hutchinson 1999; Riggs 1999; Thomas 1996; Carbado 1999c; Hawkeswood 1996
Simmons 1991. 6. Cohen and 'Jones 1999,88.
7. Mandela 1994, 341. Foucault suggests that the prison serves as an exemplar of
modern Western society (Foucault 1979). The techniques used to discipline and punish
relevant populations constitute a punishment industry. Prisons operate by controlling
populations via disciplining the body. Foucault's work on sexuality also emphasizes
regularization and discipline, only this time via creating discourses of sexuality that also
aim to control the body (Foucault 1980). For an analysis of Foucault's treatment of race,
sexuality; and gender, see Stoler 1995. 8. Wideman 1984, 52.
9. For works that detail the effects of welfare state policies on African Americans, see
Quadagno 1994; Brewer 1994; Neubeck and Cazenave 2001. For general works on state
policy and African American economic well-being, see Squires 1994; Massey and Denton
1993; Oliver and Shapiro 1995. For analyses of jobs and urban economies, see Wilson
1996; 1987. .
10. West 1993. 11. In the 1980s, homicide became one of the leading causes of death
of young Black men (Oliver 1994). For work on the vulnerability of Black youth in inner
cities, see Anderson 1978; 1990; 1999; Canada 1995; Kaplan 1997; Kitwana 2002. 12.
Anderson 1999. 13. Anderson 1999. 14. Anderson 1978; 1990; 1999. 15. As quoted in
Cole and Guy-Sheftall 2003, 139. 16. Mandela 1994, 367-368. 17. Mandela 1994,
341. 18. Rose 1994, 21-61; George 1998, 1-21. 19. Sociologist Steve Seidman traces the
emergence and decline of the closet as a metaphor describing contemporary LGBT
politics (Seidman 2002). Seidman dates the closet as reaching its heyday in the 1950s
and early 1960s during the early years of the cold war. In his research, he was surprised
to find that many contemporary gay Americans live outside the social framework of the
closet. Seidman suggests that the two main ways that gay life has been understood
since 1969, namely, the coming-out narrative or the migration to gay ghettoes, may no
longer be accurate: "as the lives of at least some gays look more like those of straights,
as gays no longer feel compelled to migrate to urban enclaves to feel secure and
respected, gay identity is often approached in ways similar to heterosexual identity as
a thread" (Seidman 2002, 11). Unfortunately, Seidman's methodology did not allow him
to explore the ways in which Black LGBT people have similar and different
experiences. 20. Both science and religion advanced different justifications for
stigmatizing homosexuals. Until recently, Western medicine and science viewed sexuality
as being biologically hardwired into the human species and obeying natural laws.
Heterosexual sexual practices and reproduction were perceived as the ''natural" state of
sexuality, and all other forms of sexual expression were classified as deviant. Religion
offered similar justifications. Promiscuity and homosexuality emerged as important
categories of "unnatural" sexual activity that normalized monogamous heterosexuality
within the context of marriage and for purposes of reproduction.
21. This is Foucault's argument about biopower, the normalization of practices that
enable society to discipline individual bodies, in this case, sexual bodies, and groups, in
this case, straight and gays, as population groups that become comprehensible only in
the context of discourses of sexuality. This view prevailed until shifts within the study of
sexuality in the 1980s and 1990s. 22. Seidman 1996, 6. 23. The term queer often serves
as an umbrella term for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and anyone else whose
sexuality transgresses the status quo. Not everyone claims the term as an identity or
statement of social location. Some argue that the term erases social and economic
differences among lesbians and gay men, and others consider it to be derogatory. Still
others use the term to acknowledge the limitless possibilities of an individual's sexuality.
They see terms such as gay, lesbian, and bisexual as misleading in that they suggest
stable sexual identities. Beyond these ideological differences, I do not use the term
queer here because LGBT African American people do not prefer this term. When
participants in the National Black Pride Survey 2000 were asked which label from a very
extensive list came closest to describing their sexual orientation, 42 percent self-
identified as gay, 24 percent chose lesbian, 11 percent chose bisexual, and 1 percent
married transgendered. In contrast to high levels of agreement on gay and lesbian,
"queer" was one of the least popular options (1 percent). As the survey reports, "Black
GLBT people do not readily, or even remotely, identity as 'queer'" (Battle et al. 2002,
19). 24. LGBT politics and the "queering" of sexuality has been one important dimension
of the post-civil rights era and Seidman contends that the postcloseted world of the
post--civil rights era has shown greater acceptance of LGBT people. Yet, suggests
Seidman, acceptance may come with a price. Today, LGBT people are under intense
pressure to fit the mold of the "good gay citizen" to be monogamous and to look and act
normal. This image may be safe, but it continues to justify discrimination against those
who do not achieve this ideal (Seidman 2002). 25. Here I use the framework of
"domains of power" to examine the convergence of racism and heterosexism. Briefly,
race, sexuality, gender, class, and other systems of oppression are all organized through
four main domains of power. The structural domain of power (institutional policies), the
disciplinary of
power (the rules and regulations that regulate social interaction), the hegemonic domain
of power (the belief systems that defend existing power arrangements), and the
interpersonal domain of power (patterns of everyday social interaction) are organized
differently for different systems of oppression. Here I use this model as a heuristic
device to build an argument about the interconnections of racism and heterosexism. For
a discussion of the framework and its applicability in Black feminist politics, see chapter
12 of Black Feminist Thought (Collins 2000a, 273-290).
26. For a discussion of the Loving decision and. its effects on interracial marriage, see
Root 2001. For the full definition of the Defense of Marriage Act, see U.S. Census
Bureau 2000. 27. Racism and heterosexism share this basic cognitive frame, and it is
one shared by other systems of power. 28. Clarke 1983. 29. Both sets of ideas also
serve as markers for constructing both heterosexuality and homosexuality within the
wider society. Prior to the social movements of the civil rights era that called increased
attention to both racism and heterosexism, racial protest was contained within the
prisons of racially segregated neighborhoods and LGBT protest within the invisibility of
individual closets. 30. Mudimbe 1988; Appiah 1992. 31. Young 1995, 90-117; McClintock
1995. 32. Jordan 1968, 7. 33. Jordan 1968, 5. Jordan suggests that the reactions of the
English differed from those of the Spanish and the Portuguese who for centuries had
been in close contact with North Africa and who had been invaded by peoples both
darker and more civilized than themselves. The impact of color on the English may have
been more powerful because England's principal contact with Africans came in West
Africa and the Congo, areas with very dark-skinned Africans. Thus, "one of the fairest-
skinned nations suddenly came face to face with one of the darkest peoples on earth"
(Jordan 1968,6). 34. Torgovnick 1990, 18-20. 35. Historically, scientific racism has made
important contributions to creating and sustaining myths of-Black promiscuity as well as
constructing a normalized heterosexuality juxtaposed to the alleged deviancy of White
homosexuality. The scientific racism of medicine, biology, psychology, anthropology, and
other social sciences constructed both Black promiscuity as well as homosexuality and
then spent inordinate time assisting state and religious institutions that aimed to
regulate these practices. For general discussions of race and science, see Gould 1981;
Harding 1993; Zuberi 2001. 36. Fausto-Sterling 1995. 37. Foucault 1979. 38. Haraway
1989, 262. In this context, studying animals that were clearly not human but close to it
might reveal what granted Europeans their humanity and Africans their putative
bestiality. Here the interest in animal behavior as a form of human behavior
uninterrupted by culture appears. Within primatology, monkeys and apes have a
privileged relation to nature and culture, in that "simians occupy
the border zones" (Haraway 1989, 1). "In Africa, the primate literature was produced by
white colonists and western foreign scientists under no pressure until well after
independence to develop scientific, collegial relations with black Africans. African
primates, including the people imagined as wildlife, modeled the 'origin of man' for
European-derived culture ... Africa became a place of darkness, one lacking the
enlightenment of the West. India has been used to model not the 'origin of man,' but
the 'origin of civilization.' Both are forms' of 'othering' for western symbolic operations,
but their differences
matter" (Haraway 1989, 262). 39. Collins 2000., 69-96. 40. Wiegman 1993,239. 41.
Quoted in Kapsalis 1997, 37. Understandings of Black women's promiscuity also build
upon a deep historical theme within Western societies that links deviant sexuality with
disease. The hypervisible, pathologized portion of Black women's sexuality centered on
the icon of the whore, the woman who demands money for sexual favors. This image is
pathologized in that prostitutes were associated with ideas about disease and pollution
that bore stark resemblance to ideas about the threat of racial pollution so central to
conceptions of whiteness grounded in purity (Giddings 1992,419).
42. Baker 1993,43. 43. Baker 1993,33-60. 44. Dwyer 2002. This case also resembles the
well-known case of the Scottboro boys in which a group of Black men were convicted of
allegedly raping White women. They too were eventually exonerated. 45. White
1985a. 46. Gould 1981; Zucchino 1997; Amott 1990; Brewer 1994; Neubeck and
Cazenave 2001. 47. Roberts 1997,4. 48. In a context in which the United States has the
highest teen pregnancy rate in the Western world, the even higher rates of teen
pregnancy among African American adolescents is a cause for alarm. Many factors
influence high rates of pregnancy among young Black women. For example, adult men,
some of whom may have coerced girls to have sex with them, father most of the babies
born to teen mothers. Studies show that as many as one in four girls are victims of
sexual abuse (Roberts 1997, 117). 49. See Gould 1981; Lubiano 1992; Zucchino 1997;
Neubeck and Cazenave 2001. 50. Roberts 1997,152. 51. As quoted in Cole and Guy-
SheftaU2003, 165. 52. For a discussion of the type of racial reasoning that generates
ideas of racial authenticity, see Cornel West's "The Pitfalls of Racial Reasoning" (West
1993, 21-32). 53. These same pressures fostered views of homosexuals as invisible,
closeted, and assumed to be White. Normalized White heterosexuality became possible
and hegemonic only within the logic of both racism and heterosexism.
54. The general use of the term "the Black Church" refers to Black Christian churches in
the United States. This includes any Black Christian who worships and is a member of a
Black congregation. The formal use of the term refers to independent, historic, and
Black-controlled denominations that were founded after the Free African Society in
1787. For a listing, see Monroe 1998, 297, n. 1. For a general history of the Black
Church, see Lincoln 1999. For analyses of Black women's participation in the Black
Church, see Douglas 1999; Gilkes 2001; Higginbotham 1993.
55. See, Patillo-McCoy 1999, especially Patillo-McCoy 1998. 56. Lincoln 1999, xxiv. 57.
Douglas 1999. 58. Cole and Guy-Sheftall 2003, 116.
59. Cole and Guy-Shefta1l2003, 120. 60. Cohen 1999,276-288. 61. Simmons 1991. 62.
For a discussion of the family networks of Black gay men In Harlem, see Hawkeswood
1996. Also, see Battle et al. 2002, 13-17.
63. Higginbotham 1993, 185-229. 64. Somerville 2000. 65. Julien 1992,274. 66. Davis
67. Davis,l998, J. 68. Kennedy and Davis 1994. 69. Lorde 1982. 70. Monroe 1998,
281. 71. Comstock 1999, 156. 72. Comstock 1999, 156. 73. Boykin 1996, 90. 74. Boykin
1996, 19. 75. Moore 1997; McCready 2001. 76. Smith 1990, 66. 77. Boykin 1996,81. 78.
"Skeleton in Newark's Closet: Laquctta Nelson Is Forcing Homophobia Out into the
Open" 2003.

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conLalned Lwelve famlly members, lncludlng boLh of her parenLs, Plll recounLed how 1homas had
sexually harassed her when he headed Lhe Lqual LmploymenL CpporLunlLy Commlsslon Len years
earller. AlLhough she passed a lle deLecLor LesL, her LesLlmony dld noL affecL Lhe upshoL of Lhe hearlngs.
1he SenaLe !udlclary CommlLLee slmply dld noL belleve her. Plll was no maLch for Lhe fourLeen WhlLe
men ln dark gray sulLs, many of whom had made up Lhelr
mlnds before hearlng her LesLlmony. 1homas's opporLunlsLlc clalm LhaL Lhe senaLors were engaged
ln a "hlgh-Lech lynchlng" sealed Lhe ouLcome. 8ecause lynchlng had been so assoclaLed wlLh Lhe
aLroclLles vlslLed upon 8lack men, lL became vlrLually lmposslble for Lhe senaLors Lo refuLe 1homas's self-
presenLaLlon wlLhouL belng branded as raclsLs. 1he comblnaLlon of male domlnance and Lhe need Lo
avold any hlnL of raclsm made Lhe cholce slmple. 8ellevlng 1homas challenged raclsm. uoubLlng 1homas
supporLed lL. 1homas won. Plll losL.

8uL was lL really Lhls slmple? CerLalnly noL for Afrlcan Amerlcans. lor 8lack women and men, Lhe
1homas conflrmaLlon hearlngs caLalyzed Lwo Lhorny quesLlons. Why dld so many Afrlcan Amerlcans [oln
Lhe "fourLeen whlLe men dressed ln dark gray sulLs" and re[ecL Plll's allegaLlons of sexual harassmenL?
Lven more puzzllng, why dld so many Afrlcan Amerlcans who belleved AnlLa Plll crlLlclze her for comlng
forward and LesLlfylng? CrlLlcal race LheorlsL klmbere Crenshaw offers one reason why Lhe hearlngs
proved Lo be so dlfflculL: "ln femlnlsL conLexLs, sexuallLy represenLs a cenLral slLe of Lhe oppresslon of
women, rape and Lhe rape Lrlal are lLs domlnanL narraLlve Lrope. ln anLlraclsL dlscourses, sexuallLy ls
also a cenLral slLe upon whlch Lhe represslon of 8lacks has been premlsed, Lhe lynchlng narraLlve ls
embodled as lLs Lrope. (nelLher narraLlve Lends Lo acknowledge Lhe leglLlmacy of Lhe oLher)."

Crenshaw [olns a presLlglous group of Afrlcan Amerlcan women and men who, from lda 8. Wells-8arneLL
Lhrough Angela uavls, have examlned how dlscourses of rape and lynchlng have hlsLorlcally lnfluenced
undersLandlngs of race, gender, and sexuallLy wlLhln Amerlcan socleLy.
ln Amerlcan socleLy, sexual
vlolence has served as an lmporLanL mechanlsm for conLrolllng Afrlcan Amerlcans, women, poor people,
and gays and lesblans among oLhers. ln Lhe posL-emanclpaLlon SouLh, for example, lnsLlLuLlonallzed
lynchlng and lnsLlLuLlonallzed rape worked LogeLher Lo uphold raclal oppresslon. 1ogeLher, lynchlng and
rape served as gender-speclflc mechanlsms of sexual vlolence whereby men were vlcLlmlzed by lynchlng
and women by rape. Lynchlng and rape also reflecLed Lhe Lype of blnary Lhlnklng assoclaLed wlLh raclal
and gender segregaLlon mandaLlng LhaL eltbet race ot gender was prlmary, buL noL boLh. WlLhln Lhls
loglc of segregaLlon, race and gender consLlLuLed separaLe raLher Lhan lnLersecLlng forms of oppresslon
LhaL could noL be equally lmporLanL. Cne was prlmary whereas Lhe oLher was secondary. As LargeLs of
lynchlng as rlLuallzed murder, 8lack men carrled Lhe more lmporLanL burden of race. ln conLrasL, as rape
vlcLlms, 8lack women carrled Lhe less lmporLanL burden of gender.
Afrlcan Amerlcan pollLlcs have been profoundly lnfluenced by a 8lack gender ldeology LhaL ranks
race and gender ln Lhls fashlon. Lynchlng and rape have noL been glven equal welghL and, as a resulL,
soclal lssues seen as affecLlng 8lack men, ln Lhls case lynchlng, have Laken precedence over Lhose LhaL
seemlngly affecL only 8lack women (rape). WlLhln Lhls loglc, lynchlngs, pollce bruLallLy, and slmllar
expresslons of sLaLe-sancLloned vlolence, vlslLed upon Afrlcan Amerlcan men operaLe as consensus
lssues wlLhln Afrlcan Amerlcan pollLlcs. Lynchlng was noL a random acL, lnsLead, lL occurred lo pobllc,
was sancLloned by governmenL offlclals, and ofLen served as a unlfylng evenL for enLlre communlLles.
ln Lhls sense, lynchlng can be deflned as rlLuallzed murder LhaL Look a parLlcular form ln Lhe posL-
emanclpaLlon SouLh. ln LhaL conLexL, Lhrough lLs hlghly publlc naLure as specLacle, lynchlng was
emblemaLlc of a form of lnsLlLuLlonallzed, rlLuallzed murder LhaL was vlslLed upon 8lack men m
parLlcular. Afrlcan Amerlcan anLlraclsL pollLlcs responded vlgorously Lo Lhe publlc specLacle of lynchlng
by proLesLlng agalnsL lL as damage done Lo 8lack men as represenLaLlves of Lhe "race."
8ecause Afrlcan
Amerlcan men were Lhe maln LargeLs of Lhls hlghly publlc expresslon of rlLuallzed murder, Lhe lynchlng
of 8lack men came Lo symbollze Lhe mosL egreglous expresslons of raclsm.
ln conLrasL, Lhe sexual vlolence vlslLed upon Afrlcan Amerlcan women has hlsLorlcally carrled no publlc
name, garnered no slgnlflcanL publlc censure and has been seen as a crosscuLLlng gender lssue LhaL
dlverLs 8lack pollLlcs from lLs real [ob of flghLlng raclsm. 8lack women were raped, yeL Lhelr paln and
sufferlng remalned largely lnvlslble. Whereas lynchlng (raclsm) was publlc specLacle, rape (sexlsm)
slgnaled ptlvote humlllaLlon. 8lack male leaders were noL unaware of Lhe slgnlflcance of lnsLlLuLlonallzed
rape. 8aLher, Lhelr pollLlcal soluLlon of lnsLalllng a 8lack male paLrlarchy ln whlch 8lack men would
proLecL "Lhelr" women from sexual assaulL lnadverLenLly supporLed ldeas abouL women s bodles
and sexuallLy as men's properLy. SLaLed dlfferenLly, 8lack women's sufferlng under raclsm would be
ellmlnaLed by encouraglng verslons of 8lack mascullnlLy whereby 8lack men had Lhe same powers LhaL
WhlLe men had long en[oyed.
8y 1991, Lhe 1homas conflrmaLlon hearlngs made lL palnfully obvlous LhaL Lhese anLlraclsL sLraLegles
of Lhe pasL were no maLch for Lhe new raclsm. 8anklng elLher lynchlng or rape as more lmporLanL Lhan
Lhe oLher offered a palnful lesson abouL Lhe dangers of chooslng race over gender or vlce versa as
Lhe LemplaLe for Afrlcan Amerlcan pollLlcs. WhaL ls needed ls a progresslve 8lack sexual pollLlcs LhaL
recognlzes noL only how lmporLanL boLh lynchlng and rape were ln malnLalnlng hlsLorlcal paLLerns of
raclal segregaLlon buL LhaL also quesLlons how Lhese pracLlces may be changed and used Lo malnLaln
Lhe conLemporary color-bllnd raclsm. 8aLher Lhan concepLuallzlng lynchlng and rape as elLher race
or gender-speclflc mechanlsms of soclal conLrol, anoLher approach vlews lnsLlLuLlonallzed rape
and lynchlng as Jlffeteot expresslons of Lhe some Lype of soclal conLrol. 1ogeLher, boLh consLlLuLe
domlnance sLraLegles LhaL uphold Lhe new raclsm. 8oLh lnvolve Lhe LhreaL or acLual physlcal vlolence
done Lo Lhe body's exLerlor, for example, beaLlng, LorLure, and/or murder. 8oLh can lnvolve Lhe LhreaL
of or acLual lnfllcLlon of vlolence upon Lhe body's lnLerlor, for example, oral, anal, or vaglnal peneLraLlon
agalnsL Lhe vlcLlm's wlll. 8oLh sLrlp vlcLlms of agency and conLrol over Lhelr own bodles, Lhus almlng for
psychologlcal conLrol vla fear and humlllaLlon. Moreover, wlLhln Lhe conLexL of Lhe posL-clvll rlghLs era's
desegregaLlon, Lhese seemlngly gender-speclflc forms of soclal conLrol converge. SLaLed dlfferenLly, [usL
as Lhe posL-clvll rlghLs era has seen a crosslng and blurrlng of boundarles of all sorLs, lynchlng and rape
as forms of sLaLe-sancLloned vlolence are noL now and never were as gender-speclflc as once LhoughL.
Lynchlng and rape boLh served Lhe economlc needs of SouLhern agrlculLure under raclal segregaLlon.
ln Lhe Amerlcan SouLh durlng Lhe years 1882 Lo 1930 Lhe lynchlng of 8lack people for "crlmes" agalnsL
WhlLes was a common specLacle--mob vlolence was nelLher random ln Llme nor geography. Llke many
oLher vlolenL crlmes, lynchlngs were more frequenL durlng Lhe summer monLhs Lhan ln cooler seasons,
a reflecLlon of Lhe changlng labor demands of agrlculLural producLlon cycles.7 Cne funcLlon of lynchlngs
may well have been Lo rld WhlLe communlLles of 8lack people who allegedly vlolaLed Lhe moral order.
8uL anoLher funcLlon was Lo malnLaln conLrol over Lhe Afrlcan Amerlcan populaLlon, especlally durlng
Llmes when WhlLe landowners needed 8lack labor Lo work flelds of coLLon and Lobacco.
Lynchlng also had pollLlcal dlmenslons. 1hls Lool of gendered raclal vlolence was developed Lo curLall
Lhe clLlzenshlp rlghLs of Afrlcan Amerlcan men afLer emanclpaLlon. 8ecause 8lack women could noL
voLe, 8lack men become LargeLs for pollLlcal represslon. Lxplalnlng Lhe power of lynchlng as a specLacle
of vlolence necessary Lo malnLaln raclal boundarles and Lo dlsclpllne populaLlons, llLerary crlLlc 1rudler
Parrls descrlbes Lhe slgnlflcance of vlolence Lo malnLalnlng flxed raclal group ldenLlLles:
When one 8lack lndlvldual dared Lo vlolaLe Lhe resLrlcLlons, he or she
was used as an example Lo relLeraLe Lo Lhe enLlre race LhaL Lhe group
would conLlnually be held responslble for Lhe acLlons of Lhe lndlvldual.
1hus an accusaLlon of rape could lead noL only Lo Lhe accused 8lack
man belng lynched and burned, buL Lo Lhe burnlng of oLher 8lack homes and
Lhe whlpplng or lynchlng of oLher 8lack lndlvlduals as well.
1hls ls why lynchlngs were noL prlvaLe affalrs, buL were publlc evenLs, ofLen announced well ln advance
ln newspapers: "1o be effecLlve ln soclal conLrol, lynchlngs had Lo be vlslble, wlLh Lhe kllllng belng a
publlc specLacle or aL leasL mlnlmally havlng Lhe corpse on dlsplay for all Lo wlLness. Whereas a murder--
even a raclally moLlvaLed one--mlghL be hldden from publlc scruLlny, lynchlngs were noL."

1he rlLuallzed murders of lynchlng noL only worked Lo Lerrorlze Lhe Afrlcan Amerlcan populaLlon overall
buL Lhey also helped Lo lnsLall a hegemonlc WhlLe mascullnlLy over a subordlnaLed 8lack mascullnlLy.
Lynchlng symbollzed Lhe Lype of vlolence vlslLed upon Afrlcan Amerlcan men LhaL was grounded ln a
consLellaLlon of dally mlcro-assaulLs on Lhelr manhood LhaL achleved exLreme form Lhrough Lhe acLual
casLraLlon of many 8lack male lynch vlcLlms. AlLhough 8lack women were also lynched, 8lack men were
lynched ln far greaLer numbers. 1hus, lynchlng lnvokes ldeas of 8lack male emasculaLlon, a Lheme LhaL
perslsLs wlLhln Lhe conLemporary 8lack gender ldeology Lhesls of 8lack men as belng "weak."
myLh of 8lack men as raplsLs also emerged under raclal segregaLlon ln Lhe SouLh. ueslgned Lo conLaln
Lhls newfound LhreaL Lo WhlLe properLy and democraLlc lnsLlLuLlons, Lhe sexual sLereoLype of Lhe newly
emanclpaLed, vlolenL raplsL was consLrucLed on Lhe back of Lhe 8lack buck. no longer safely conLrolled
under slavery, 8lack men could now go "buck wlld."
Wlde-scale lynchlng could only emerge afLer emanclpaLlon because murderlng slaves was unproflLable
for Lhelr owners. ln conLrasL, Lhe lnsLlLuLlonallzed rape of Afrlcan Amerlcan women began under slavery
and also accompanled Lhe wlde-scale lynchlng of 8lack men aL Lhe Lurn of Lhe LwenLleLh cenLury.
LmanclpaLlon consLlLuLed a conLlnuaLlon of acLual pracLlces of rape as well as Lhe shame and humlllaLlon
vlslLed upon rape vlcLlms LhaL ls deslgned Lo keep Lhem subordlnaLe. 8lack domesLlc workers reporLed
belng harassed, molesLed, and raped by Lhelr employers.
AgrlculLural workers, especlally Lhose women
who dld noL work on famlly farms, were also vulnerable. ln Lhe SouLh, Lhese pracLlces perslsLed well
lnLo Lhe LwenLleLh cenLury. lor example, ln Lhe 1990s, [ournallsL Leon uash lnLervlewed WashlngLon,
u.C. resldenL 8osa Lee. lL Look many conversaLlons before Lee could share famlly secreLs of sLorles of
sexual abuse LhaL had occurred ln rural norLh Carollna. 8ecause Lhe experlences were so palnful, she
herself had learned abouL Lhem only ln blLs and pleces from sLorles Lold Lo her by her grandmoLher and
aunL. 8osa Lee came Lo undersLand Lhe harsh llves endured by her moLher 8oseLLa and her grandmoLher
Lugenla aL Lhe boLLom of Lhe SouLhern 8lack class sLrucLure. uescrlblng how WhlLe men would come
and look over young 8lack glrls, 8osa Lee recounLed her famlly's sLorles:
"?ou could Lell when Lhey wanLed someLhlng. 1hey all would come ouL
Lhere. Come ouL Lhere ln Lhe fleld whlle everybody was worklng. And
Lhey're looklng aL Lhe young glrls. Per mouLh. 1eeLh. Arms. ?ou know,
llke Lhey're looklng aL a horse. leellng her breasLs and everyLhlng. 1he
whlLe men would geL Lo whlsperlng."
"And Lhe moLhers leL Lhem men do LhaL?" 8osa Lee asked her
"WhaL Lhe hell do you Lhlnk Lhey could do?" Lugenla answered.
"Couldn'L do noLhlng!"

1he overseers apparenLly preferred llghL-sklnned 8lack glrls, ofLen Lhe chlldren of prevlous rapes, buL
dark-sklnned glrls dld noL escape WhlLe male scruLlny. ln exchange for Lhe glrls, moLhers recelved exLra
food or a llghLer load. 1he cosLs were hlgh for Lhe glrls Lhemselves. 8ecause 8oseLLa developed early,
her moLher Lrled Lo hlde her when Lhe men came. 8uL afLer a whlle, lL was hopeless. 8oseLLa dld noL
escape Lhe rapes:
"?our mama was puL Lo aucLlon so many Llmes," Lugenla Lold 8osa
Lee. "1hey [usL kepL wanLlng your moLher." 1he overseers would
asslgn Lhe glrls Lhey wanLed sexually Lo work ln lsolaLed parLs of Lhe
farm, away from Lhelr famllles. 1he glrls would Lry Lo geL ouL of Lhe
work deLall. "lL never worked," Lugenla sald. "1hose men always goL

Lugenla conLlnued her Lale by sharlng how Lwo WhlLe overseers had raped her when she was fourLeen,
and how Lwo of her daughLers, lncludlng 8oseLLa, had suffered Lhe same faLe. Cnly one daughLer was
spared, "because she was so faL," explalned Lugenla. As for Lhe chlldren who were concelved, Lhey were
lefL wlLh Lhelr moLhers. Cnce a glrl was pregnanL, she was generally never boLhered agaln. As Lugenla,
recalled: "1hey only wanLed vlrglns .... 1hey felL Lhey'd caLch dlseases lf Lhey fooled wlLh any glrl LhaL
wasn'L a vlrgln."
1hese soclal pracLlces of lnsLlLuLlonallzed lynchlng and lnsLlLuLlonallzed rape dld noL go unconLesLed.
lda 8. Wells-8arrneLL's anLllynchlng work clearly re[ecLed boLh Lhe myLh of Lhe 8lack male raplsL as
well as Lhe Lhesls of 8lack women's lnherenL lmmorallLy and advanced her own hlghly conLroverslal
lnLerpreLaLlon.13 noL only dld Wells-8arneLL spark a huge conLroversy when she dared Lo clalm LhaL
many of Lhe sexual llalsons beLween WhlLe women and 8lack men were ln facL consensual, she lndlcLed
WhlLe men as Lhe acLual perpeLraLors of crlmes of sexual vlolence botb agalnsL Afrlcan Amerlcan men
(lynchlng) ooJ agalnsL Afrlcan Amerlcan women (rape). Conslder how her commenLs ln 5ootbeto nottots
concernlng Lhe conLradlcLlons of laws forblddlng lnLerraclal marrlage place blame on WhlLe male
behavlor and power: "Lhe mlscegenaLlon laws of Lhe SouLh only operaLe agalnsL Lhe leglLlmaLe unlon
of Lhe races: Lhey leave Lhe whlLe man free Lo seduce all Lhe colored glrls he can, buL ls deaLh Lo Lhe
colored man who ylelds Lo Lhe force and advances of a slmllar aLLracLlon ln whlLe women. WhlLe men
lynch Lhe offendlng Afro-Amerlcan, noL because he ls a despoller of vlrLue, buL because he succumbs Lo
Lhe smlles of whlLe women."
ln Lhls analysls, Wells-8arneLL reveals how ldeas abouL gender dlfference-
-Lhe seemlng passlvlLy of women and Lhe aggresslveness of men--are ln facL deeply raclallzed consLrucLs.
Cender had a raclal face, whereby Afrlcan Amerlcan women, Afrlcan Amerlcan men, WhlLe women,
and WhlLe men occupled dlsLlncL race/gender caLegorles wlLhln an overarchlng soclal sLrucLure LhaL
proscrlbed Lhelr prescrlbed place. lnLerraclal sexual llalsons vlolaLed raclal and gender segregaLlon.
uesplLe Wells-8arneLL's ploneerlng work ln analyzlng sexual vlolence Lhrough an lnLersecLlonal
framework of race, gender, class, and sexuallLy, Afrlcan Amerlcan leaders elevaLed race over gender.

Clven Lhe large numbers of lynchlngs from Lhe l890s Lo Lhe 1930s, and ln Lhe conLexL of raclal
segregaLlon LhaL sLrlpped all Afrlcan Amerlcans of clLlzenshlp rlghLs, Lhls emphasls on anLllynchlng made
sense. CfLen accused of Lhe crlme of raplng WhlLe women, Afrlcan Amerlcan men were lynched, and, ln
more gruesome cases, casLraLed. Such vlolence was so horrlflc LhaL, caLalyzed by lda 8. Wells-8arneLL's
Llreless anLllynchlng crusade, and laLer Laken up by Lhe nAAC and oLher ma[or clvll rlghLs organlzaLlons,
anLllynchlng became an lmporLanL plank ln Lhe 8lack clvll rlghLs agenda.
ln large parL due Lo Lhls advocacy, lynchlngs have dwlndled Lo a few, lsolaLed albelL horrlflc evenLs
Loday. 1hls does noL mean LhaL Lhe use of lynchlng as a symbol of Amerlcan raclsm has abaLed. 8aLher,
8lack proLesL sLlll responds qulckly and passlonaLely Lo conLemporary lncldenLs of lynchlng and/or Lo
evenLs LhaL can be recasL Lhrough Lhls hlsLorlc framework. lor example, Lhe 1933 murder of fourLeen-
year-old LmmeLL 1lll ln Mlsslsslppl was descrlbed ln Lhe press as a lynchlng and served as an lmporLanL
caLalysL for Lhe modern clvll rlghLs movemenL. 1he 1989 murder of slxLeen-year-old ?usef Pawklns ln
Lhe 8ensonhursL secLlon of new ?ork ClLy also was descrlbed as a lynchlng. When Pawklns and Lhree
frlends came Lo Lhelr nelghborhood Lo look aL a used car, abouL LhlrLy WhlLe youLhs carrylng baLs and
sLlcks (one wlLh a gun) lmmedlaLely approached Lhem. lurlous LhaL Lhe ex-glrlfrlend of one of Lhe
group members had lnvlLed 8lack people Lo her elghLeenLh blrLhday parLy, Lhe WhlLe klds LhoughL LhaL
Pawklns and hls frlends were Lhere for Lhe parLy and aLLacked Lhem, shooLlng Pawklns dead. ln 1998,
Lhree WhlLe men ln !asper, 1exas, chalned a 8lack man named !ames 8yrd, !r. Lo a plck-up Lruck and
dragged hlm Lo hls deaLh, an evenL llkened Lo a modern-day lynchlng. LvenLs such as Lhese are publlcly
censured as unaccepLable ln a modern democracy. 1hese modern lynchlngs served as rallylng crles for
Lhe conLlnulng need for an anLlraclsL Afrlcan Amerlcan pollLlcs.
unforLunaLely, Lhls placemenL of lynchlng aL Lhe core of Lhe Afrlcan Amerlcan clvll rlghLs agenda has
also mlnlmlzed Lhe relaLed lssue of lnsLlLuLlonallzed rape. Lven lda Wells-8arneLL, who clearly saw Lhe
connecLlons beLween 8lack men's persecuLlon as vlcLlms of lynchlng and 8lack women's vulnerablllLy Lo
rape, chose Lo advance a Lhesls of 8lack women's rape Lhrough Lhe dlscourse on 8lack men's lynchlng.
ln Lhe posLbellum perlod, Lhe rape of free Afrlcan Amerlcan women by WhlLe men subslsLed as a "dlrLy
secreL" wlLhln Lhe domesLlc spheres of 8lack famllles and of 8lack clvll socleLy. Speaklng ouL
agalnsL Lhelr vlolaLlon ran a dual rlsk--lL remlnded 8lack men of Lhelr lnablllLy Lo proLecL 8lack women
from WhlLe male assaulLs and lL poLenLlally ldenLlfled 8lack men as raplsLs, Lhe very group LhaL suffered
from lynchlng. 1he presence of blraclal 8lack chlldren was Langlble proof of 8lack male weakness ln
proLecLlng 8lack women and of 8lack women's vlolaLlon wlLhln a pollLlcs of respecLablllLy. 8ecause rapes
have been LreaLed as crlmes agalnsL women, Lhe culpablllLy of Lhe rape vlcLlm has long been quesLloned.
Per dress, her demeanor, where Lhe rape occurred, and her reslsLance all become evldence for wheLher
a woman was even raped aL all. 8ecause 8lack women as a class emerged from slavery as collecLlve rape
vlcLlms, Lhey were encouraged Lo keep quleL ln order Lo refuLe Lhe Lhesls of Lhelr wanLon sexuallLy. ln
conLrasL Lo Lhls sllenclng of 8lack women as rape vlcLlm, Lhere was no shalne ln lynchlng and no reason
excepL fear Lo keep quleL abouL lL. ln a cllmaLe of raclal vlolence, lL was clear LhaL vlcLlms of lynchlng
were blameless and murdered Lhrough no faulL of Lhelr own.
8ecause Lhe new raclsm conLalns Lhe pasL-ln-presenL elemenLs of prlor perlods, Afrlcan Amerlcan
pollLlcs musL be vlgllanL ln analyzlng how Lhe pasL-ln-presenL pracLlces of 8lack sexual pollLlcs also
lnfluence conLemporary pollLlcs. Clarence 1homas cerLalnly used Lhls hlsLory Lo hls advanLage.
8ecognlzlng Lhe hlsLorlcal lmporLance placed on lynchlng and Lhe relaLlve neglecL of rape, 1homas
successfully plLLed lynchlng and rape agalnsL one anoLher for hls galn and Lo Lhe deLrlmenL of Afrlcan
Amerlcans as a group. Shrewdly recognlzlng Lhe loglc of prevalllng 8lack gender ldeology LhaL rouLlnely
elevaLes Lhe sufferlng of 8lack men as more lmporLanL Lhan LhaL of 8lack women, 1homas guessed
correcLly LhaL 8lack people would back hlm no maLLer whaL. lf noLhlng else comes of Lhe 1homas
hearlngs, Lhey ralse Lhe very lmporLanL quesLlon of how sexual vlolence LhaL was a powerful Lool of
soclal conLrol ln prlor perlods may be an equally lmporLanL facLor ln Lhe new raclsm.
Afrlcan Amerlcans need a more progresslve 8lack sexual pollLlcs dedlcaLed Lo analyzlng how sLaLe-
sancLloned vlolence, especlally pracLlces such as lynchlng (rlLuallzed murder) and rape, operaLe as
forms of soclal conLrol. Mlchel loucaulL's lnnovaLlve ldea LhaL oppresslon can be concepLuallzed as
normallzed war one socleLy as opposed Lo beLween socleLles provldes a powerful new foundaLlon
for such an analysls.18 Mass medla lmages of a mulLleLhnlc, dlverse, color-bllnd Amerlca LhaL mask
deeply enLrenched soclal lnequallLles mean LhaL open warfare on Amerlcan clLlzens (Lhe exacL case
LhaL lynchlng 8lack men presenLed ln Lhe pasL), ls fundamenLally unaccepLable. Many Amerlcans were
horrlfled when Lhey saw Lhe 1992 vldeoLape of 8odney klng belng beaLen by Lhe Los Angeles pollce.
llcLlonal aLLacks on 8lack men ln movles are accepLable, assaulLs on real ones, less so. Managlng
conLemporary raclsm relles less on vlslble warfare beLween men Lhan on soclal relaLlons among men
and beLween women and men LhaL are saLuraLed wlLh relaLlons of war. ln Lhls conLexL, rape as a Lool of
sexual vlolence may lncrease ln lmporLance because lLs assoclaLlon wlLh women and prlvacy makes lL an
effecLlve domesLlc Lool of soclal conLrol. 1he LhreaL of rape as a mechanlsm of conLrol can be normally
and rouLlnely used agalnsL Amerlcan clLlzens because Lhe crlme ls Lyplcally hldden and lLs vlcLlms are
encouraged Lo remaln sllenL. new conflguraLlons of sLaLe-sancLloned vlolence suggesL Lhe worklngs of
a rape culLure may affecL noL [usL 8lack women buL also 8lack men far more Lhan ls commonly reallzed.
Clven Lhe slgnlflcance of Lhese Lools of soclal conLrol, whaL forms of sexual vlolence do Afrlcan Amerlcan
women and men experlence under Lhe new raclsm? Moreover, how do Lhese forms draw upon Lhe
ldeas and pracLlces of lynchlng and rape?
8aclal segregaLlon and lLs rellance on lynchlng aml rape as gender-speclflc Lools of conLrol have glven
way Lo an unsLable desegregaLlon under Lhe new raclsm. ln Lhls conLexL, Lhe sexual vlolence vlslLed
upon Afrlcan Amerlcan women cerLalnly conLlnues lLs hlsLorlcal purpose, buL may be organlzed ln new
and unforeseen ways. 1he Lerms lnsLlLuLlonallzed rape and rape culLure encompass Lhe consLellaLlon
of sexual assaulLs on 8lack womanhood. lrom Lhe sexual harassmenL vlslLed upon AnlLa Plll and 8lack
women ln Lhe workplace Lo sexual exLorLlon Lo acqualnLance, marlLal, and sLranger rapes Lo how
mlsogynlsLlc bellefs abouL women creaLe an lnLerpreLlve framework LhaL slmulLaneously creaLes Lhe
condlLlons ln whlch men rape women and erase Lhe crlme of rape lLself Lo Lhe lack of punlshmenL
meLed ouL by Lhe sLaLe Lo 8lack women's raplsLs, sexual vlolence ls much broader Lhan any speclflc
acLs. CollecLlvely, Lhese pracLlces comprlse a rape culLure LhaL draws energy from Lhe eLhos of vlolence
LhaL saLuraLes Amerlcan socleLy. Afrlcan Amerlcan essaylsL Asha 8andele descrlbes Lhe perslsLenL
sexual harassmenL she experlenced durlng her Leenaged years as parL of growlng up ln a rape
culLure: "alLhough Lhe faces may have changed, and Lhe place may have also, some Lhlngs could always
be counLed on Lo remam Lhe same: Lhe pulllng, and grabblng, and plnchlng, and slapplng, and all Lhose
dlrLy words and all Lhose bad names, Lhe leerlng, Lhe proposlLlons."19 lL ls lmporLanL Lo undersLand how
a rape culLure affecLs Afrlcan Amerlcan women because such undersLandlng may help wlLh anLlrape
lnlLlaLlves. lL also sheds llghL on 8lack women's reacLlons Lo sexual vlolence, and lL demonsLraLes how
Lhls rape culLure affecLs oLher groups, namely, chlldren, gay men and heLerosexual men.
8ape ls parL of a sysLem of male domlnance. 8ecall LhaL hegemonlc mascullnlLy ls predlcaLed upon
a pecklng order among men LhaL ls dependenL, ln parL, on Lhe sexual and physlcal domlnaLlon of
women. WlLhln popular vernacular, "screwlng" someone llnks, ldeas abouL mascullnlLy, heLerosexuallLy,
and domlnaLlon. Women, gay men, and oLher weak" members of socleLy are flguraLlvely and
llLerally "screwed" by "real" men. 8egardless of Lhe gender, age, soclal class, or sexual orlenLaLlon of
Lhe reclplenL, lndlvlduals who are forclbly "screwed" have been "fucked" or "fucked over." "lreaks"
are women (and men) who en[oy belng "fucked" or who "screw" around wlLh anyone. 8ecause Lhe
vasL ma[orlLy of Afrlcan Amerlcan men 'ack access Lo a 8lack gender ldeology LhaL challenges Lhese
assoclaLlons, Lhey fall Lo see Lhe slgnlflcance of Lhls language leL alone Lhe soclal pracLlces LhaL lL
upholds. lnsLead, Lhey deflne heLerosexual sex acLs wlLhln a framework of "screwlng" and "fucklng"
women and, by dolng so, draw upon WesLern ldeologles of 8lack hyper-heLerosexuallLy LhaL deflnes
8lack mascullnlLy ln Lerms of economlc, sexual, and physlcal domlnance. ln Lhls lnLerpreLlve conLexL, for
some men, vlolence (lncludlng Lhe behavlors LhaL comprlse Lhe rape culLure) consLlLuLes Lhe nexL loglcal
sLep of Lhelr male prerogaLlve.
CurrenLly, one of Lhe mosL presslng lssues for conLemporary 8lack sexual pollLlcs concerns vlolence
agalnsL 8lack women aL Lhe hands of 8lack men. Much of Lhls vlolence occurs wlLhln Lhe conLexL of
8lack heLerosexua love relaLlonshlps, 8lack famlly llfe, and wlLhln Afrlcan Amerlcan soclal lnsLlLuLlons.
Such vlolence Lakes many forms, lncludlng verbally beraLlng 8lack women, hlLLlng Lhem, rldlcullng Lhelr
appearance, grabblng Lhelr body parLs, pressurlng Lhem Lo have sex, beaLlng Lhem, and murderlng Lhem.
lor many 8lack women, love offers no proLecLlon from sexual vlolence. Abuslve relaLlonshlps occur
beLween Afrlcan Amerlcan men and women who may genulnely love one anoLher and can see Lhe good
ln each oLher as lndlvlduals. 8lack glrls are especlally vulnerable Lo chlldhood sexual assaulL. WlLhln Lhelr
famllles and communlLles faLhers, sLepfaLhers, uncles, broLhers, and oLher male relaLlves are parL of a
general cllmaLe of vlolence LhaL makes young 8lack glrls approprlaLe sexual LargeLs for predaLory older
8ecause 8lack male leaders have hlsLorlcally abandoned 8lack women as collecLlve rape vlcLlms, 8lack
women were pressured Lo remaln sllenL abouL Lhese and oLher vlolaLlons aL Lhe hands of 8lack men.
arL of Lhelr self-censorshlp cerLalnly had Lo do wlLh relucLance Lo "alr dlrLy laundry" ln a WhlLe socleLy
LhaL vlewed 8lack men as sexual predaLors. As nell alnLer polnLs ouL, "because dlscusslon of Lhe abuse
of 8lack women would noL merely lmpllcaLe WhlLes, 8lack women have been relucLanL Lo press Lhe
unLll recenLly, 8lack women have been hlghly relucLanL Lo speak ouL agalnsL rape, especlally
agalnsL 8lack male raplsLs, because Lhey felL conflned by Lhe sLrlcLures of LradlLlonal 8lack gender
ldeology. uescrlblng herself and oLher 8lack women rape vlcLlms as "sllenL survlvors," CharloLLe lerce-
8aker explalns her sllence: "l dldn'L wanL my nonblack frlends, colleagues, and acqualnLances Lo know
LhaL l dldn'L LrusL my own people, LhaL l was afrald of black men l dldn'L know. ... l felL responslble for
upholdlng Lhe lmage of Lhe sLrong black man for our young son, for Lhe whlLe world wlLh whom l
had conLacL. l dldn'L wanL my son's vlew of sex Lo be warped by Lhls crlme perpeLraLed upon hls moLher
by men Lhe color of hlm, hls faLher, and hls grandfaLhers."
Afrlcan Amerlcan women grapple wlLh long-
sLandlng sancLlons wlLhln Lhelr communlLles LhaL urge Lhem Lo proLecL Afrlcan Amerlcan men aL all
cosLs , lncludlng keeplng "famlly secreLs" by remalnlng sllenL abouL male abuse.

8lack women also remaln sllenL for fear LhaL Lhelr frlends, famlly, and communlLy wlll abandon Lhem.
8uLh, a woman who, aL LwenLy years old, was raped on a daLe ln Los Angeles, polnLs ouL: "?ou can Lalk
abouL belng mugged and boasL abouL belng held up aL knlfepolnL on MarkeL SLreeL 8rldge or someLhlng,
buL you' can'L Lalk abouL belng raped: And l know lf l do, l can'L counL on LhaL person ever belng a
frlend agaln .... eople have one of Lwo reacLlons when Lhey see you belng needy. 1hey elLher Lake you
under Lhelr wlng and explolL you or Lhey geL scared and run away. 1hey abandon you."
8lack women
recounL how Lhey feel abandoned by Lhe very communlLles LhaL Lhey alm Lo proLecL, lf Lhey speak ouL.
1heologlan 1racl WesL descrlbes how Lhe very vlslblllLy of 8lack female rape vlcLlms can work Lo lsolaLe
Lhem: "When sexual vlolaLlon occurs wlLhln Lhelr famllles or by any member of 'Lhelr' communlLy,
black women may confronL Lhe profound ln[ury of belng psychlcally severed from Lhe only source of
LrusLworLhy communlLy avallable Lo Lhem. 8ecause of Lhe amblgulLles of Lhelr raclal vlslblllLy, black
women are on exhlblL preclsely aL Lhe same Llme as Lhey are conflned Lo Lhe lnvlslble cage."
ConLemporary Afrlcan Amerlcan femlnlsLs who ralse lssues of 8lack women's vlcLlmlzaLlon musL Lread
llghLly Lhrough Lhls mlnefleld of race, gender, and sex. 1hls ls especlally lmporLanL because, unllke prlor
eras when WhlLe men were ldenLlfled as Lhe prlme raplsLs of 8lack women, 8lack women are now more
llkely Lo be raped by 8lack men.
lncreaslngly, Afrlcan Amerlcan women have begun Lo vlolaLe long-
sLandlng norms of raclal solldarlLy counsellng 8lack women Lo defend 8lack men's acLlons aL all cosLs
and have begun acLlvely Lo proLesL Lhe vlolenL and abuslve behavlor of some Afrlcan Amerlcan men.
Some Afrlcan Amerlcan women now openly ldenLlfy 8lack men's behavlor Loward Lhem as abuse and
wonder why such men rouLlnely elevaLe Lhelr own sufferlng as more lmporLanL Lhan LhaL experlenced
by Afrlcan Amerlcan women: "8lack women do noL accepL raclsm as Lhe reason for sorry behavlor--Lhey
have experlenced lL flrsLhand, and for Lhem lL ls an excuse, noL a [usLlflcaLlon."
Slnce 1970, Afrlcan Amerlcan women have used flcLlon, soclal sclence research, Lheology, and Lhelr
wrlLlngs Lo speak ouL abouL vlolence agalnsL 8lack women.
Many Afrlcan Amerlcan women have noL
been conLenL Lo wrlLe abouL sexual vlolence-some have Laken Lo Lhe sLreeLs Lo proLesL lL. ueLermlned
noL Lo dupllcaLe Lhe mlsLakes made durlng Lhe 1homas conflrmaLlon hearlngs, many 8lack women were
furlous when Lhey found ouL LhaL a homecomlng parade had been planned for Afrlcan Amerlcan boxer
and convlcLed raplsL Mlke 1yson upon hls release from prlson. 1he Mlke 1yson rape case caLalyzed many
8lack women Lo challenge communlLy norms LhaL counseled lL was a 8lack women's duLy as sLrong
8lack women Lo "assume Lhe poslLlon" of abuse. WlLhln Lhls loglc, a 8lack woman's ablllLy Lo absorb
mlsLreaLmenL becomes a measure of sLrengLh LhaL can garner pralse. ln efforLs Lo regulaLe dlsplays of
sLrong 8lack womanhood, some 8lack people apparenLly belleved LhaL promlnenL 8lack men llke Mlke
1yson were, by vlrLue of Lhelr sLaLus, lncapable of sexual harassmenL or rape. "Many apparenLly felL
LhaL WashlngLon [1yson's vlcLlm] should have seen lL as her responslblllLy Lo endure her paln ln order Lo
serve Lhe greaLer good of Lhe race," observes culLural crlLlc Mlchael Awkward.29 8e[ecLlng Lhls poslLlon
LhaL vlews sexual vlolence agalnsL 8lack women as secondary Lo Lhe greaLer cause of raclal upllfL (unless,
of course, sexual vlolence ls perpeLraLed by WhlLe men), 8lack women ln new ?ork sLaged Lhelr own
counLerdemonsLraLlon and proLesLed a homecomlng celebraLlon planned for a man who had [usL spenL
Lhree years ln prlson on a convlcLlon of rape.
8ape ls a powerful Lool of sexual vlolence because women are forced Lo "assume Lhe poslLlon" of
powerless vlcLlm, one who has no conLrol over whaL ls happenlng Lo her body. 1he raplsL lmaglnes
absoluLe power over hls vlcLlm, she (or he) ls Lhe perfecL slave, suplne, legs open, wllllng Lo be subdued
or "fucked," and en[oylng lL. 8ape's power also sLems from relegaLlng sexual vlolence Lo Lhe prlvaLe,
devalued, domesLlc sphere reserved for women. 1he ablllLy Lo sllence lLs vlcLlms also erases evldence of
Lhe crlme. 1hese dlmenslons of rape make lL a llkely candldaLe Lo become an lmporLanL form of soclal
conLrol under Lhe new raclsm.
We have learned much from Afrlcan Amerlcan women boLh abouL Lhe meanlng of rape for women
and how lL upholds sysLems of oppresslon. lor one, female rape vlcLlms ofLen experlence a form of
posLLraumaLlc sLress dlsorder, a rape Lrauma syndrome of depresslon, anxleLy, and despalr, wlLh some
aLLempLlng sulclde LhaL affecLs Lhem long afLer acLual assaulLs. Women who survlved rape reporL effecLs
such as mlsLrusL of men or of people ln general, conLlnued emoLlonal dlsLress ln connecLlon wlLh Lhe
abuse, speclflc fears such as belng lefL alone or belng ouL aL nlghL, and chronlc depresslon LhaL lasLed
an average of flve and a half years afLer Lhe assaulL.
1hls cllmaLe harms all Afrlcan Amerlcan women,
buL Lhe damage done Lo women who survlve rape can lasL long afLer acLual assaulLs. ?vonne, who was
molesLed by an "uncle" when she was elghL and raped aL age Lwelve, descrlbes how Lhe rape and sexual
molesLaLlon LhaL she endured as a chlld affecLed her subsequenL aLLlLudes Loward sexuallLy: "l dldn'L
Lake prlde ln my body afLer Lhe rape. AfLer lL happened, l became a blL promlscuous.... Lveryone LhoughL
l was bad, so l LhoughL, l should [usL be bad. AfLer Lhe rape lL was llke sex really dldn'L maLLer Lo me. lL
dldn'L seem llke anyLhlng speclal because l flgured lf people could [usL Lake lL, ... lf Lhey [usL had Lo have
lL enough LhaL Lhey would Lake a llLLle glrl and puL a knlfe Lo her neck and Lake lL, ... LhaL lL had noLhln'
Lo do wlLh love."
?olanda's experlences show how as an acL of vlolence, rape may noL leave Lhe vlcLlm
physlcally ln[ured--emoLlonal damage ls key. 1he rape lLself can Lemporarlly desLroy Lhe vlcLlm's sense of
self-deLermlnaLlon and undermlnes her lnLegrlLy as a person. Moreover, when rape occurs ln a cllmaLe
LhaL already places all 8lack women under susplclon of belng prosLlLuLes, clalmlng Lhe sLaLus of rape
vlcLlm becomes even more suspecL.
8lack women are [usL as harmed by sexual assaulL as all women, and may be even more harmed when
Lhelr abusers are Afrlcan Amerlcan men wlLhln 8lack nelghborhoods. Call WyaLL's research on 8lack
women's sexuallLy provldes an lmporLanL conLrlbuLlon ln furLherlng our undersLandlng of 8lack women
and rape.
WyaLL found llLLle dlfference ln Lhe effecLs of rape on 8lack and WhlLe women who reporLed
belng rape vlcLlms. Cne lmporLanL flndlng concerns Lhe effecLs of exposure Lo sexual vlolence
on people who survlve rape: "8ecause lncldenLs of aLLempLed and compleLed rape for 8lack women
were sllghLly more llkely Lo be repeaLed, Lhelr vlcLlmlzaLlon may have a more severe effecL on Lhelr
undersLandlng of Lhe reasons LhaL Lhese lncldenLs occurred, and some of Lhese reasons may be beyond
Lhelr conLrol. As a consequence, Lhey may be less llkely Lo develop coplng sLraLegles Lo faclllLaLe Lhe
prevenLlon raLher Lhan Lhe recurrence of such lncldenLs."
SLaLed dlfferenLly, Afrlcan Amerlcan women
who suffer repeaLed abuse (e.g., parLlclpaLe ln a rape culLure LhaL rouLlnely derogaLes 8lack women
more Lhan any oLher group) mlghL suffer more Lhan women (and men) who do noL encounLer hlgh
levels of vlolence, especlally sexual vlolence, as a dally parL of Lhelr everyday llves. lor example, belng
rouLlnely dlsbelleved by Lhose who conLrol Lhe deflnlLlons of vlolence
(AnlLa Plll), encounLerlng mass medla represenLaLlons LhaL deplcL 8lack women as "blLches," "hoes," and
oLher conLrolllng lmages, and/or experlenclng dally assaulLs such as havlng Lhelr breasLs and buLLocks
fondled by frlends and perfecL sLrangers ln school, Lhe workplace, famllles, and/or on Lhe sLreeLs of
Afrlcan Amerlcan communlLles may become so rouLlne LhaL Afrlcan Amerlcan women cannoL percelve
Lhelr own paln.
WlLhln Lhe sLrlcLures of domlnanL gender ldeology LhaL deplcL 8lack women's sexuallLy as devlanL,
Afrlcan Amerlcan women ofLen have Lremendous dlfflculLy speaklng ouL abouL Lhelr abuse because
Lhe reacLlons LhaL Lhey recelve from oLhers deLers Lhem. Women may be Lwlce vlcLlmlzed--even
lf Lhey are belleved, members of Lhelr communlLles may punlsh Lhem for speaklng ouL. As ?vonne
polnLs ouL, "where l llved ln Lhe SouLh, any Llme a black woman sald she had been raped, she was
never belleved. ln my communlLy, Lhey always made her feel llke she dld someLhlng Lo deserve lL-
or she was lylng."
Adrlenne, a forLy-year-old 8lack woman who had been raped Lwlce, once by a
much older relaLlve when she was seven and agaln by her moLher's boyfrlend when she was Lwelve,
observes, "8lack woman Lend Lo keep quleL abouL rape and abuse ... lf you Lalk abouL lL, a man wlll Lhlnk
lL was your faulL, or he'll Lhlnk less of you. l Lhlnk LhaL's why l never Lold Lhe men ln my llfe, because l've
always been afrald Lhey would noL look aL me ln Lhe same way. We all llve ln Lhe same nelghborhood. lf
someLhlng happens Lo you, knows."
Cne lmporLanL feaLure of rape ls LhaL, conLrary Lo popular oplnlon, lL ls more llkely Lo occur beLween
frlends, loved ones, and acqualnLances Lhan beLween sLrangers. 8lack women Lyplcally know Lhelr
raplsLs, and Lhey may acLually love Lhem. vlolence LhaL ls lnLerLwlned wlLh love becomes a very effecLlve
mechanlsm for fosLerlng submlsslon. ln a sense, 8lack women's sllences abouL Lhe emoLlonal, physlcal,
and sexual abuse LhaL Lhey experlence wlLhln daLlng, marrlage, and slmllar love relaLlonshlps resembles
Lhe bellef among closeLed LC81 people LhaL Lhelr sllence wlll proLecL Lhem. !usL as Lhe sllence of LC81
people enables heLerosexlsm Lo flourlsh, Lhe reLlcence Lo speak ouL abouL rape and sexual vlolence
upholds Lroublesome concepLlons of 8lack mascullnlLy. WlLhln Lhe domesLlc sphere, many 8lack men
LreaL Lhelr wlves, glrlfrlends, and chlldren ln ways LhaL Lhey would never LreaL Lhelr moLhers, slsLers,
frlends, workplace acqualnLances, or oLher women. vlolence and love become so lnLerLwlned LhaL
many men cannoL see alLernaLlve paLhs Lo manhood LhaL do noL lnvolve vlolence agalnsL women.
8lack femlnlsL Lheologlan 1racl C. WesL uses Lhe Lerm "domesLlc capLlvlLy" Lo descrlbe women. who
flnd Lhemselves ln Lhls cycle of love and vlolence: ''AlLhough Lhey are lnvlslble, Lhe economlc, soclal,
and legal barrlers Lo escape LhaL enLrap women are exLremely powerful. 1hls gendered denlal of rlghLs
and sLaLus compounds Lhe breach wlLh communlLy. 8elng conflned ln a cage LhaL seems lnvlslble Lo
everyone else nulllfles a woman's sufferlng and exacerbaLes her lsolaLlon and allenaLlon."

As 8arbara Cmolade observes, "8lack male vlolence ls even more polgnanL because 8lack men boLh love
and unashamedly depend on 8lack women's loyalLy and supporL. MosL feel LhaL wlLhouL Lhe supporL of
a 'sLrong slsLer' Lhey can'L become 'real' men."37 8uL Lhls may be Lhe hearL of Lhe problem--lf Afrlcan
Amerlcan men need women Lo brlng Lhelr 8lack mascullnlLy lnLo belng, Lhen women who seemlngly
challenge LhaL mascullnlLy become LargeLs for 8lack male vlolence. LducaLed 8lack women, 8lack career
women, 8lack women sex workers, rebelllous 8lack glrls, and 8lack lesblans, among oLhers who refuse
Lo submlL Lo male power, become more vulnerable for abuse. vlolence agalnsL "sLrong" 8lack women
enables some Afrlcan Amerlcan men Lo recapLure a losL mascullnlLy and Lo feel llke "real" men. 8y
descrlblng why he conLlnued Lo flnanclally explolL women, and why he hlL hls glrlfrlend, kevln owell
provldes lnslghL lnLo Lhls process:
l, llke mosL 8lack men l know, have spenL much of my llfe llvlng ln fear. lear of WhlLe raclsm, fear of Lhe
clrcumsLances LhaL gave blrLh Lo me, fear of walklng ouL my door wonderlng whaL humlllaLlon wlll be
mlne Loday. lear of 8lack women----of Lhelr mouLhs, Lhelr bodles, of Lhelr aLLlLudes, of Lhelr hurLs, of Lhelr
fear of us 8lack men. l felL fraglle, fraglle as a blrd wlLh cllpped wlngs, LhaL day my ex-glrlfrlend sLepped
up her game and spoke back Lo me. noLhlng ln my world, noLhlng ln my self-deflnlLlon prepared me for
deallng wlLh a woman as an equal. My world sald women were lnferlor, LhaL Lhey musL, aL all cosLs, be
puL ln Lhelr place, and my lnsLanL reacLlon was Lo do LhaL. When lL was over, l found myself drlpplng wlLh
sweaL, sLarlng aL her back as she ran barefooL ouL of Lhe aparLmenL.
owell's narraLlve suggesLs LhaL Lhe connecLlons among love, sexuallLy, and vlolence are much more
compllcaLed LhaL Lhe slmple llnear relaLlonshlp ln whlch Afrlcan Amerlcan men who are vlcLlmlzed by
raclsm use Lhe power LhaL accrues Lo Lhem as men Lo abuse Afrlcan Amerlcan women (who mlghL Lhen
use Lhelr power as adulLs Lo beaL Afrlcan Amerlcan chlldren). CerLalnly one can Lrace Lhese relaLlons ln
love relaLlonshlps, buL Lhe hlsLorlcal and conLemporary lnLerconnecLlons of love, sexuallLy, vlolence, and
male domlnance ln Loday's desegregaLed cllmaLe are lnflnlLely more complex.
ln Lhese conLexLs, lL may be posslble for Afrlcan Amerlcan women and men Lo geL caughL up ln a
dynamlcs of love, sexuallLy, and domlnance whereby Lhe use of vlolence and sexuallLy resemble
addlcLlon. ln oLher words, lf 8lack mascullnlLy and 8lack femlnlnlLy can be achleved only vla sexuallLy
and vlolence, sexuallLy, vlolence, and domlnaLlon become lmpllcaLed ln Lhe very deflnlLlons Lhemselves.
Cnce addlcLed, Lhere ls no way Lo be a man or a woman wlLhouL sLaylng ln roles prescrlbed by 8lack
gender ldeology. Men and women may noL engage ln open warfare, buL Lhey do engage ln muLual
pollclng LhaL keeps everyone ln check. As a form of sexual vlolence, acLual rapes consLlLuLe Lhe Llp of Lhe
lceberg. 8ape [olns sexuallLy and vlolence as a very effecLlve Lool Lo rouLlnlze and normallze oppresslon.
1he effecLlveness of rape as a Lool of conLrol agalnsL 8lack women does noL mean LhaL Lhey have
escaped oLher forms of soclal conLrol LhaL have dlsproporLlonaLely affecLed 8lack men. Worklng
[obs ouLslde Lhelr homes helghLens Afrlcan Amerlcan women's vulnerablllLy Lo oLher forms of sLaLe-
sancLloned vlolence. lor example, 8lack women are vulnerable Lo physlcal aLLacks, and some 8lack
women are murdered. 8uL unllke Lhe repeLlLlve and rlLuallzed form of male lynchlng Lo produce a
horrlflc specLacle for WhlLe and 8lack vlewers, 8lack women nelLher served as symbols of Lhe race
nor were Lhelr murders deemed Lo be as slgnlflcanL. 1here ls evldence LhaL forms of soclal conLrol
hlsLorlcally reserved for 8lack men are also lmpacLlng 8lack women. lor example, ln Lhe posL-clvll rlghLs
era, Afrlcan Amerlcan women have lncreaslngly been lncarceraLed, a form of soclal conLrol hlsLorlcally
reserved for Afrlcan Amerlcan men. 8lack women are seven Llmes more llkely Lo be lmprlsoned Lhan
WhlLe women and, for Lhe flrsL Llme ln Amerlcan hlsLory, 8lack women ln Callfornla and several oLher
sLaLes are belng lmprlsoned aL nearly Lhe same raLe as WhlLe men. lncarceraLlng 8lack women cerLalnly
shows an lncreaslng wllllngness Lo use Lhe Lools of sLaLe-sancLloned vlolence hlsLorlcally reserved for
8lack men agalnsL 8lack women. 8uL ls Lhere an lncreaslng wllllngness Lo use Lools of soclal conLrol LhaL
have been prlmarlly applled Lo women agalnsL 8lack men? lf lnsLlLuLlonallzed rape and lnsLlLuLlonallzed
lynchlng consLlLuLe Jlffeteot expresslons of Lhe some Lype of soclal conLrol, how mlghL Lhey
affecL 8lack men?
Afrlcan Amerlcan men's experlences wlLh Lhe crlmlnal [usLlce sysLem may slgnal a convergence of
lnsLlLuLlonallzed rape and lnsLlLuLlonallzed murder (lynchlng) as sLaLe-sancLloned forms of sexual
vlolence. Slnce 1980, a growlng prlson-lndusLrlal complex has lncarceraLed large numbers of Afrlcan
Amerlcan men. WhaLever measures are used--raLes of arresL, convlcLlon, [all Llme, parole, or Lypes
of crlme--Lhe record seems clear LhaL Afrlcan Amerlcan men are more llkely Lhan WhlLe Amerlcan
men Lo encounLer Lhe crlmlnal [usLlce sysLem. lor example, ln 1990, Lhe nonproflL WashlngLon, u.C.-
based SenLenclng ro[ecL released a survey resulL suggesLlng LhaL, on an average day ln Lhe unlLed
SLaLes, one ln every four Afrlcan Amerlcan men aged 20 Lo 29 was elLher ln prlson, [all, or on probaLlon/
racLlces such as unprovoked pollce bruLallLy agalnsL 8lack male clLlzens, many of whom dle
ln pollce cusLody, and Lhe dlsproporLlonaLe appllcaLlon of Lhe deaLh penalLy Lo Afrlcan Amerlcan men
cerLalnly suggesL LhaL Lhe sLaLe lLself has assumed Lhe funcLlons of lynchlng. 8ecause Lhese pracLlces are
lmplemenLed by large, allegedly lmparLlal bureaucracles, Lhe hlgh lncarceraLlon raLes of 8lack men and
Lhe use of caplLal punlshmenL on many prlsoners becomes seen as naLural and normal.
8uL how does one manage such large populaLlons LhaL are lncarceraLed ln prlson and also ln large
urban gheLLos? 1he ways ln whlch 8lack men are LreaLed by bureaucracles suggesLs LhaL Lhe dlsclpllnary
pracLlces developed prlmarlly for conLrolllng women can be Lransferred Lo new challenges of
lncarceraLlng so many men. ln parLlcular, Lhe prlson-lndusLrlal complex's LreaLmenL of male lnmaLes
resembles Lhe LacLlcs honed on women ln a rape culLure, now operaLlng noL beLween men and women,
buL among men. 1hese LacLlcs begln wlLh pollce procedures LhaL dlsproporLlonaLely affecL poor and
worklng-class young 8lack men. Such men can expecL Lo be sLopped by Lhe pollce for no apparenL
reason and asked Lo "assume Lhe poslLlon" of belng spread-eagled over a car hood, agalnsL a wall, or
face down on Lhe ground. 8enderlng 8lack men prone ls deslgned Lo make Lhem submlsslve, much llke
a female rape vlcLlm. 1he vldeoLape of members of Lhe Los Angeles ollce ueparLmenL beaLlng moLorlsL
8odney klng provlded a mass medla example of whaL can happen when 8lack men refuse Lo submlL.
ollce LreaLmenL of 8lack men demonsLraLes how Lhe command Lo "assume Lhe poslLlon" can be abouL
much more Lhan slmple pollclng.
8ape whlle under cusLody of Lhe crlmlnal [usLlce sysLem ls a vlslble yeL underanalyzed phenomenon,
only recenLly becomlng Lhe sub[ecL of concern, 8ecause rape ls Lyplcally concepLuallzed wlLhln a frame
of heLerosexuallLy and wlLh women as rape vlcLlms, mosL of Lhe aLLenLlon has gone Lo female lnmaLes
assaulLed by male guards, ?eL Lhe large numbers of young Afrlcan Amerlcan men who are ln pollce
cusLody suggesL LhaL Lhe relaLlonshlps among prlson guards and male lnmaLes from dlfferenL race and
soclal class backgrounds consLlLuLes an lmporLanL slLe for negoLlaLlng mascullnlLy. Moreover, wlLhln
prlsons, Lhe connecLlons among hegemonlc and subordlnaLed mascullnlLles, vlolence, and sexuallLy may
converge ln ways LhaL mlmlc and help sLrucLure Lhe "prlson" of raclal oppresslon. 8ecause prlsons rely
on survelllance, belng raped ln prlson Lurns prlvaLe humlllaLlon lnLo publlc specLacle. 1he aLmosphere
of fear LhaL ls essenLlal Lo a rape culLure as well as Lhe mechanlsms of lnsLlLuLlonallzed rape funcLlon as
lmporLanL Lools ln conLrolllng 8lack men LhroughouL Lhe crlmlnal [usLlce sysLem. Whereas women fear
belng dlsbelleved, belng abandoned, and loslng Lhe love of Lhelr famllles, frlends, and communlLles, men
fear loss of manhood. Male rape ln Lhe conLexL of prlson slgnals an emasculaLlon LhaL exposes male rape
vlcLlms Lo furLher abuse. ln essence, a prlson-lndusLrlal complex LhaL condones and LhaL may even fosLer
a male rape culLure aLLaches a very effecLlve form of dlsclpllnary conLrol Lo a soclal lnsLlLuLlon LhaL lLself
ls rapldly becomlng a new slLe of slavery for 8lack men.
urawlng upon a naLlonal sample of prlsoners' accounLs and on a complex array of daLa collecLed by sLaLe
and federal agencles, No scope. Mole kope lo u.5. ltlsoos, a 2001 publlcaLlon by Puman 8lghLs WaLch,
clalms LhaL male prlsoner-on-prlsoner sexual abuse ls noL an aberraLlon, raLher, lL consLlLuLes a deeply
rooLed sysLemlc problem ln u.S. prlsons. 1hey noLe, "[udglng by Lhe popular medla, rape ls accepLed
as almosL a commonplace of lmprlsonmenL, so much so LhaL when Lhe Loplc of prlson arlses, a [oklng
reference Lo rape seems almosL obllgaLory."
rlson auLhorlLles clalm LhaL male rape ls an excepLlonal
occurrence. 1he narraLlves of prlsoners who wroLe Lo Puman 8lghLs WaLch say oLherwlse. 1helr clalms
are backed up by lndependenL research LhaL suggesLs hlgh raLes of forced oral and anal lnLercourse.
ln one sLudy, 21 percenL of lnmaLes had experlenced aL leasL one eplsode of forced or coerced sexual
conLacL slnce belng lncarceraLed, and aL leasL 7 percenL reporLed belng raped. CerLaln prlsoners are
LargeLed for sexual assaulL Lhe momenL Lhey enLer a penal faclllLy. A broad range of facLors correlaLe
wlLh lncreased vulnerablllLy Lo rape: "youLh, small slze, and physlcal weakness, belng WhlLe, gay, or a
flrsL offender, possesslng 'femlnlne' characLerlsLlcs such as long halr or a hlgh volce, belng unasserLlve,
unaggresslve, shy, lnLellecLual, noL sLreeL-smarL, or 'passlve', or havlng been convlcLed of a sexual
offence agalnsL a mlnor."

As ls Lhe case of rape of women, prlsoners ln Lhe Puman 8lghLs WaLch sLudy, lncludlng Lhose who
had been forclbly raped, reporLed LhaL, Lhe LhreaL of vlolence ls a more common facLor Lhan acLual
rape. A rape culLure ls needed Lo condone Lhe acLual pracLlces assoclaLed wlLh lnsLlLuLlonallzed
rape. Cnce sub[ecL Lo sexual abuse, prlsoners can easlly become Lrapped lnLo a sexually subordlnaLe
role. rlsoners refer Lo Lhe lnlLlal rape as "Lurnlng ouL" Lhe vlcLlm. 8ape vlcLlms become sLlgmaLlzed
as "punks:" "1hrough Lhe acL of rape, Lhe vlcLlm ls redeflned as an ob[ecL of sexual abuse. Pe has
been proven Lo be weak, vulnerable, 'female,' ln Lhe eyes of oLher lnmaLes."
vlcLlmlzaLlon ls publlc
knowledge, and Lhe vlcLlm's repuLaLlon wlll follow hlm Lo oLher unlLs and even Lo oLher prlsons. ln
documenLlng evldence LhaL sounds remarkably llke Lhe properLy relaLlons of chaLLel slavery, Puman
8lghLs WaLch reporLs on Lhe LreaLmenL of male rape
rlsoners unable Lo escape a slLuaLlon of sexual abuse may flnd Lhemselves becomlng anoLher
lnmaLe's "properLy." 1he word ls commonly used ln prlson Lo refer Lo sexually subordlnaLe lnmaLes, and
lL ls no exaggeraLlon. vlcLlms of prlson rape, ln Lhe mosL exLreme cases, are llLerally Lhe slaves of Lhelr
perpeLraLors. lorced Lo saLlsfy anoLher man's sexual appeLlLes whenever he demands, Lhey may also be
responslble for washlng hls cloLhes, massaglng hls back, cooklng hls food, cleanlng hls cell, and myrlad
oLher chores. 1hey are frequenLly "renLed ouL" for sex, sold, or even aucLloned off Lo oLher lnmaLes.
1helr mosL baslc cholces, llke how Lo dress and whom Lo Lalk Lo, may be conLrolled by Lhe person
who "owns" Lhem. 1helr name may be replaced by a female one. Llke all forms of slavery, Lhese slLuaLlons
are among Lhe mosL degradlng and dehumanlzlng experlences a person can undergo.

rlson offlclals condone Lhese pracLlces, leavlng lnmaLes Lo fend for Lhemselves. lnmaLes reporLed LhaL
Lhey recelved no proLecLlon from correcLlonal sLaff, even when Lhey complalned.
Analyzlng Lhe connecLlons among lmprlsonmenL, mascullnlLy, and power, legal scholar 1eresa Mlller
polnLs ouL LhaL "for mosL male prlsoners ln long-Lerm conflnemenL, Lhe loss of llberLy suffered durlng
lncarceraLlon ls accompanled by a psychologlcal loss of manhood."
ln men's hlgh-securlLy prlsons
and large urban [alls, for example, sexlsL, mascullnlzed subculLures exlsL where power ls allocaLed on
Lhe basls of one's ablllLy Lo reslsL sexual vlcLlmlzaLlon (belng Lurned lnLo a "punk"). Cuards relaLe Lo
prlsoners ln sexually derogaLory ways LhaL emphaslze Lhe prlsoners' subordlnaLe poslLlon. lor example,
guards commonly address male prlsoners by sexually bellLLllng Lerms such as possy, slssy, coot, and
bltcb.43 Moreover, Lhe soclal pecklng order among male prlsoners ls esLabllshed and relnforced Lhrough
acLs of sexual sub[ugaLlon, elLher consensual or coerced submlsslon Lo sexual peneLraLlon. 1he Lheme
of domlnaLlng women has been so closely assoclaLed wlLh hegemonlc mascullnlLy LhaL, when blologlcal
females are unavallable, men creaLe "women" ln order Lo susLaln hlerarchles of mascullnlLy.
Mlller reporLs LhaL Lhe pecklng order of prlsoners conslsLs of Lhree general classes of prlsoners:
men, queens, and punks. "Men" rule Lhe [olnL and esLabllsh values and norms for Lhe enLlre prlson
populaLlon. 1hey are pollLlcal leaders, gang members, and organlzers of Lhe drug Lrade, sex Lrade,
proLecLlon rackeLs, and smuggled conLraband. A small class of "queens" (also called blLches, broads,
and slssles) exlsLs below,Lhe "men." A small fracLlon of Lhe populaLlon, Lhey seek and are asslgned a
passlve sexual role assoclaLed wlLh women. As Mlller polnLs ouL, "Lhe queen ls Lhe foll LhaL lnsLanLly
deflned hls parLner as a 'man.'"
Powever, "queens" are denled poslLlons of power wlLhln Lhe lnmaLe
economy. "unks" or "blLches" occupy Lhe boLLom of Lhe prlson hlerarchy. "unks" are male prlsoners
who have been forced lnLo sexual submlsslon Lhrough acLual or LhreaLened rape. As Mlller polnLs
ouL, "punks are LreaLed as slaves. Sexual access Lo Lhelr bodles ls sold Lhrough prosLlLuLlon, exchanged
ln saLlsfacLlon of debL and loaned Lo oLhers for favors."
ln essence, "punks" are sexual properLy. A
prlsoner's poslLlon wlLhln Lhls hlerarchy slmulLaneously deflnes hls soclal and sexual sLaLus.
Male rape culLure has several feaLures LhaL conLrlbuLe Lo lLs effecLlveness as a Lool of soclal conLrol. lor
one, ln Lhe prlson conLexL, malnLalnlng mascullnlLy ls always ln play. Mlller polnLs Lo Lhe fluld naLure of
mascullne ldenLlLy: "8ecause sLaLus wlLhln Lhe hlerarchy ls acqulred Lhrough Lhe forclble sub[ugaLlon
of oLhers, and one's sLaLus as a man can be losL lrreLrlevably Lhrough a slngle lncldenL of sexual
submlsslon, 'men' musL consLanLly demonsLraLe Lhelr manhood Lhrough sexual conquesL. 1hose who do
noL vlgorously demonsLraLe Lhelr manhood Lhrough sexual conquesL are more apL Lo be challenged and
be poLenLlally overpowered. Pence, Lhe suresL way Lo mlnlmlze Lhe rlsk of demoLlon ls Lo aggresslvely
prey on oLher prlsoners."
Consensual and forced sexual conLacL among men ln prlson has become
more common.
8ecause mascullnlLy ls so fluld and ls Lhe sub[ecL of sLruggle, lL ls lmporLanL Lo noLe
LhaL sexual relaLlons beLween men does noL mean LhaL Lhey are homosexuals. 8aLher, sexual domlnance
maLLers. 1hose men who are LreaLed as lf Lhey were women, for example, Lhe "queens" who volunLarlly
submlL Lo Lhe sexual advances of oLher men and are orally or anally peneLraLed" llke women, may
become lesser, less "manly" men ln prlson buL need noL be homosexuals. Moreover, Lhose men who
are forclbly peneLraLed and labeled "punks" may experlence a subordlnaLed mascullnlLy ln prlson, buL
upon release from prlson, Lhey Loo can regaln sLaLus as "men." Lngaglng ln sexual acLs Lyplcally reserved
for women (belng peneLraLed) becomes Lhe mark of subordlnaLed mascullnlLy. ln conLrasL, Lhose men
who are "on Lop" or who are servlced by subordlnaLe men reLaln Lhelr heLerosexuallLy. ln facL, Lhelr
mascullnlLy may be enhanced by a hyper-mascullnlLy LhaL ls so powerful LhaL lL can Lurn men lnLo
AnoLher lmporLanL feaLure of male rape culLure ln prlson concerns lLs effecLs on sexual ldenLlLles. Slnce
male prlsoner-on-prlsoner rape lnvolves persons of Lhe same sex, lL ls ofLen mlsnamed "homosexual
rape" LhaL ls LhoughL Lo be perpeLraLed by "homosexual predaLors." 1hls Lermlnology lgnores Lhe
facL LhaL Lhe vasL ma[orlLy of prlson raplsLs do noL vlew Lhemselves as belng gay. 8aLher, Lhey
are heLerosexuals who see Lhelr vlcLlm as subsLlLuLlng for a woman. 8ecause sexual ldenLlLles as
heLerosexual or homosexual consLlLuLe fluld raLher Lhan flxed caLegorles, mascullnlLy ln Lhe prlson
conLexL ls performed and consLrucLed.
1he sexual pracLlces assoclaLed wlLh rape--forced anal and oral
peneLraLlon--deLermlne sexual classlflcaLlon as "real" men or "punks," noL blologlcal maleness. ln Lhls
predaLory envlronmenL, lL ls lmporLanL Lo be Lhe one who "fucks wlLh" oLhers, noL Lhe one who "sucks
dlck" or who ls "fucked ln Lhe ass." As one llllnols prlsoner explalns lL: "Lhe Lheory ls LhaL you are noL
gay or blsexual as long as ?Cu yourself do noL allow anoLher man Lo sLlck hls penls lnLo your mouLh or
anal passage. lf you do Lhe sLlcklng, you can sLlll conslder yourself Lo be a macho man/heLerosexual."

1he meanlngful dlsLlncLlon ln prlson ls noL beLween men who engage ln sex wlLh men and ln sex wlLh
women, buL beLween whaL are deemed "acLlve" and "passlve" 'parLlclpanLs
ln Lhe sexual acL.
lnsLalllng a male rape culLure ln prlson has Lhe added lmporLanL feaLure of shaplng raclal ldenLlLles.
WhlLe men rarely rape 8lack men. lnsLead, Afrlcan Amerlcan men are ofLen lnvolved ln Lhe rape of
WhlLe men who flL Lhe caLegorles of vulnerablllLy.
Cne 1exas prlsoner descrlbes Lhe raclal dynamlcs
of sexual assaulL: "arL of lL ls revenge agalnsL whaL Lhe non-whlLe prlsoners call, 1he WhlLe Man,"
meanlng auLhorlLy and Lhe [usLlce sysLem. A common commenL ls, 'ya'll may run lL ouL Lhere, buL Lhls ls
our world!'"
AnoLher prlsoner sheds addlLlonal llghL on Lhls phenomenon: "ln my experlence havlng
a 'boy' (meanlng whlLe man) Lo a negro ln prlson ls sorL of a Lrophy Lo hls fellow black lnmaLes. And
l Lhlnk Lhe rooL of Lhe problem goes back a long Llme ago Lo when Lhe Afrlcan Amerlcans were ln Lhe
bonds of slavery. 1heyhave a favorlLe remark: 'lL aln'L no fun when Lhe rabblL's goL Lhe gun, ls lL?'"

urawlng upon psychoanalyLlc Lheory, Wllllam lnar offers one explanaLlon for Lhese raclal paLLerns:
SLralghL black men could have flgured ouL many klnds of revenge, could Lhey noL: physlcal malmlng
for one, murder for anoLher. 8uL somehow black men knew exacLly whaL form revenge musL be once
Lhey were on 'Lop,' Lhe same form LhaL 'race relaLlons' have Laken (and conLlnues Lo Lake) ln Lhe unlLed
SLaLes. '8ace' has been abouL geLLlng fucked, casLraLed, made lnLo somebody's 'punk,' pollLlcally,
economlcally, and, yes, sexually."

?eL anoLher lmporLanL feaLure of male rape culLure ln prlson LhaL shows Lhe effecLlveness of Lhls form
of sexual vlolence concerns lLs effecLs on male vlcLlms/survlvors. Men who are raped ofLen descrlbe
sympLoms LhaL are remarkably slmllar Lo Lhose of female rape vlcLlms, namely, a form of posLLraumaLlc
sLress dlsorder descrlbed as a rape Lrauma syndrome. Men expressed depresslon, anxleLy, and despalr,
wlLh some aLLempLlng sulclde.
AnoLher devasLaLlng consequence ls Lhe Lransmlsslon of Plv.

Powever, because male rape vlcLlms are men, Lhey sLlll have access Lo mascullnlLy and male power, lf
Lhey declde Lo clalm lL. As one 1exas prlsoner descrlbed hls experlences ln Lhe rape culLure: "lL's flxed
where lf you're raped, Lhe only way you [can escape belng a punk ls lf] yourape someone else. ?es l
know LhaL's fully screwed, buL LhaL's how your head ls LwlsLed. AfLer lL's over you may be dlsgusLed wlLh
yourself, buL you reallze LhaL you're noL powerless and LhaL you can dellver as well as recelve paln."

8ecause prlson auLhorlLles Lyplcally deny LhaL male rape ls a problem, Lhls lnmaLe's response ls raLlonal.
As one lnmaLe ln a MlnnesoLa prlson polnLs ouL, "When a man geLs raped nobody glves a damn. Lven
Lhe offlcers laugh abouL lL. l beL he's golng Lo be walklng wlLh a llmp ha ha ha. l've heard Lhem."

lL ls lmporLanL Lo remember LhaL Lhe vasL ma[orlLy of Afrlcan Amerlcan men are noL raplsLs nor have
Lhey been raped. Powever, male rape ln prlson as a form of sexual domlnance and lLs clear Lles Lo
consLrucLlng Lhe mascullne pecklng order wlLhln prlsons do have Lremendous lmpllcaLlons for Afrlcan
Amerlcan male prlsoners, Lhelr percepLlons of 8lack mascullnlLy, and Lhe gendered relaLlonshlps among
all Afrlcan Amerlcans. llrsL and foremosL, such a large proporLlon of Afrlcan Amerlcan men are elLher
locked up ln sLaLe and federal prlsons and/or know someone who has been lncarceraLed, large numbers
of Afrlcan Amerlcan men are exposed Lo concepLlons of 8lack mascullnlLy honed wlLhln prlson rape
culLure.61 Among Lhose Afrlcan Amerlcan men who are lncarceraLed, Lhose who flL Lhe proflle of Lhose
mosL vulnerable Lo abuse run Lhe rlsk of becomlng rape vlcLlms. ln Lhls conLexL of vlolence regulaLed
by a male rape culLure, achlevlng 8lack manhood requlres noL flLLlng Lhe proflle and noL assumlng
Lhe poslLlon. ln a sense, survlvlng ln Lhls male rape culLure and avoldlng vlcLlmlzaLlon requlre aL mosL
becomlng a predaLor and vlcLlmlzlng oLhers and, aL Lhe leasL, becomlng a sllenL wlLness Lo Lhe sexual
vlolence lnfllcLed upon oLher men.
Second, so many Afrlcan Amerlcan men are ln prlson on any glven day LhaL we fall Lo reallze LhaL Lhe
vasL ma[orlLy of Lhese very same men wlll someday be released. 8lack men cannoL be easlly classlfled
ln Lwo Lypes, Lhose who are "locked up" ln prlson and Lhose who remaln "free" ouLslde lL. lnsLead,
prlson culLure and sLreeL culLure lncreaslngly relnforce one anoLher, and Lhe eLhos of vlolence LhaL
characLerlzes prlson culLure flows lnLo a more general eLhos of vlolence LhaL affecLs all 8lack men. lor
many poor and worklng-class 8lack men, prlson culLure and sLreeL culLure consLlLuLe separaLe sldes of
Lhe same coln. SoclologlsL Lll[ah Anderson's "code of Lhe sLreeLs" has become lndlsLlngulshable from
Lhe vlolenL codes LhaL exlsL ln, mosL of Lhe naLlon's [alls, prlsons, reform schools, and deLenLlon cenLers.
uescrlblng young 8lack men's encounLers wlLh Lhe crlmlnal [usLlce sysLem as "pecullar rlLes of passage,"
crlmlnologlsL !erome Mlller conLends: "So many young black males are now rouLlnely soclallzed Lo Lhe
rouLlnes of arresL, booklng, [alllng, deLenLlon, and lmprlsonmenL LhaL lL should come as no surprlse LhaL
Lhey brlng back lnLo Lhe sLreeLs Lhe vlolenL eLhlcs of survlval whlch characLerlze Lhese procedures."

lor mlddle-class 8lack men who lack Lhe acLual experlences of prlson and sLreeL culLure, mass medla
represenLaLlons of gangsLas as auLhenLlc symbols of 8lack mascullnlLy help flll Lhe vold. 1hey may noL be
acLual gangsLas, buL Lhey musL be, cognlzanL LhaL Lhey could easlly, be mlsLaken as crlmlnals. varleLles
of 8lack mascullnlLy worked Lhrough ln prlsons and on Lhe sLreeLs sLrlve Lo flnd some place boLh wlLhln
and/or resplLe from Lhls eLhos of vlolence.
8lack men who have served Llme ln prlson and are Lhen released brlng home Lhls eLhos of vlolence and
lLs culpablllLy ln shaplng 8lack mascullnlLy. CerLalnly Lhese men are denled access Lo full clLlzenshlp
rlghLs, for example, havlng a prlson record dlsquallfles large numbers of 8lack men from geLLlng
[obs, ever holdlng [obs as pollce offlcers, or even, voLlng. 8uL an equally damaglng effecL lles ln Lhe
vlews of 8lack mascullnlLy LhaL Lhese men carry wlLh Lhem Lhrough Lhe revolvlng doors of sLreeL and
prlson culLure, especlally when belng vlcLlms or perpeLraLors wlLhln a male rape culLure frames Lhelr
concepLlons of gender and sexuallLy. Cne wonders whaL effecLs Lhese forms of 8lack mascullnlLy are
havlng on Afrlcan Amerlcan men, as well as Lhelr sexual parLners, Lhelr chlldren, and Afrlcan Amerlcan
As soclologlsL Melvln Cllver polnLs ouL ln 1be vloleot 5oclol wotlJ of 8lock Meo, Afrlcan Amerlcan men
llve ln a cllmaLe of vlolence.
8ecause Lhe Amerlcan publlc rouLlnely percelves Afrlcan Amerlcan men
as acLual or poLenLlal crlmlnals, lL ofLen overlooks Lhe cllmaLe of fear LhaL affecLs 8lack boys, 8lack men
on Lhe sLreeL, and 8lack men ln prlson. ln hls memolr LlLled llst, 5tlck, kolfe, Coo. A letsoool nlstoty
of vloleoce lo Ametlco, Ceoffrey Canada deLalls how he and hls broLhers had Lo work ouL elaboraLe
sLraLegles for negoLlaLlng Lhe sLreeLs of Lhelr chlldhood, all ln efforLs Lo arrlve safely aL school, or
buy lLems aL Lhe grocery sLore. As chlldren of a slngle moLher, Lhey lacked Lhe proLecLlon of an older
8lack man, Lhus maklng Lhem vulnerable ln Lhe pecklng order among 8lack men.
All 8lack boys musL
negoLlaLe Lhls cllmaLe of fear, yeL lL ofLen Lakes an especlally Lraglc lncldenL Lo arouse publlc proLesL
abouL 8lack boys who vlcLlmlze one anoLher. lor example, ln 1994, flve-year-old Lrlc Morse was
dropped from a fourLeenLh floor aparLmenL wlndow Lo hls deaLh ln Lhe lda 8. Wells publlc houslng
pro[ecL ln Chlcago. Pls LormenLors allegedly Lhrew hlm down a sLalrwell, sLabbed hlm, and sprayed hlm
wlLh Mace before dropplng hlm from Lhe wlndow. 1he Lwo boys convlcLed of murderlng hlm were Len
and eleven years old.
1he quesLlon of how Lhe eLhos of vlolence affecLs 8lack male adolescenLs ls of speclal concern. ln many
Afrlcan Amerlcan lnner-clLy nelghborhoods, Lhe presence of gang vlolence demonsLraLes a synerglsLlc
relaLlonshlp beLween 8lack mascullnlLy and vlolence. 8esearch on 8lack male youLh lllusLraLes an
alarmlng shlfL ln Lhe meanlng of adolescence for men ln large, urban areas. AuLoblographlcal work by
uavld uawes on Lhe ?oung Lords of Chlcago, naLhan McCall recalllng hls youLh ln a small clLy ln vlrglnla,
and Saylnka Shakur's chllllng auLoblography LhaL deLalls how hls lnvolvemenL ln gang vlolence ln Los
Angeles earned hlm Lhe nlckname "MonsLer" all dellneaLe shocklng levels of 8lack male vlolence.
revealed ln Lhese works, many young 8lack men parLlclpaLe ln well-armed sLreeL gangs LhaL resemble
mlllLary unlLs ln whlch Lhey are rouLlnely pressured Lo shooL and klll one anoLher. ln Lhese condlLlons, lL
becomes very dlfflculL for 8lack boys Lo grow up wlLhouL fear of vlolence and become men who refuse
Lo use vlolence agalnsL oLhers.
Cnly recenLly have scholars Lurned Lhelr aLLenLlon Lo Lhe effecLs LhaL llvlng ln fear ln cllmaLes of vlolence
mlghL have boLh on Lhe quallLy of Afrlcan Amerlcan men's llves and on Lhelr concepLlons of 8lack
mascullnlLy. SoclologlsL Al ?oung conducLed exLenslve lnLervlews wlLh young 8lack men who were ln
Lhelr LwenLles, wlLh some surprlslng flndlngs. 1he men ln hls sLudy dld noL exhlblL Lhe swagger and
bravado assoclaLed wlLh glorlfled hlp-hop lmages of gangsLas, Lhugs, and husLlers. lnsLead, Lhese men
shared sLorles of llvlng ln fear of belng vlcLlmlzed, of dropplng ouL of school because Lhey were afrald
Lo go, of spendlng conslderable Llme flgurlng ouL how Lo avold [olnlng gangs, and, as a resulL, becomlng
cuL off from all sorLs of human relaLlonshlps.66 Some suggesL LhaL 8lack men have glven up hope, or as
columnlsL !oan Morgan sLaLes: "When broLhers can Lalk so cavallerly abouL kllllng each oLher and Lhen
reveal LhaL Lhey have no expecLaLlon Lo see Lhelr LwenLy-flrsL blrLhday, LhaL ls sLralghL-up depresslon
masqueradlng as machlsmo."

unllke ?oung's work, Lhe effecLs of vlolence on Afrlcan Amerlcan men, especlally Lhose wlLh flrsLhand
knowledge of a prlson male rape culLure, have been neglecLed wlLhln soclal sclence research. Moreover,
Lhe effecLs of sexual vlolence on Afrlcan Amerlcan men also generaLes new soclal problems for Afrlcan
Amerlcan famllles, communlLles, and Amerlcan socleLy overall. As Lhe graphlc dlscusslon of Lhe
male "slaves" as properLy wlLhln Lhe penal sysLem lndlcaLes, many 8lack men vlcLlmlze one anoLher and
sLrlve Lo reproduce Lhe same male pecklng order wlLhln Afrlcan Amerlcan communlLles LhaL Lhey learn
and undersLand as mascullne wlLhln prlson. 1hese men vlcLlmlze noL [usL women and chlldren, Lhey
harm oLher men and place all ln a cllmaLe of fear.
1he new raclsm reflecLs changes ln mechanlsms of soclal conLrol of Lhe posL-clvll rlghLs era. Lynchlng
and rape as forms of vlolence sLlll permeaLe u.S. socleLy, buL because Lhey no longer are as closely
assoclaLed wlLh Lhe blnary Lhlnklng of Lhe loglc of segregaLlon, Lhese seemlngly gender-speclflc pracLlces
of sexual vlolence are organlzed ln new ways. llrsL, movles, fllms, muslc vldeos, and oLher mass medla
specLacles LhaL deplcL 8lack men as vlolenL and LhaL punlsh Lhem for lL have replaced Lhe hlsLorlcal
specLacles provlded by llve, publlc lynchlngs. When comblned wlLh Lhe crlmlnallzaLlon of 8lack men's
behavlor LhaL lncarceraLes so many men, Lhe comblnaLlon of mass medla lmages and lnsLlLuLlonal
pracLlces [usLlfles Lhese gender-speclflc mechanlsms of conLrol. lor example, as vlcarlous parLlclpanLs
ln specLaLor sporLs, audlence members can waLch as men ln general, and Afrlcan Amerlcan men ln
parLlcular, geL beaLen, pushed, Lrampled, and occaslonally kllled, prlmarlly ln fooLball arenas and boxlng
rlngs. 1he eroLlc arousal LhaL many specLaLors mlghL feel from vlewlng vlolence LhaL hlsLorlcally came
ln aLLendlng llve evenLs (Lhe vlolence vlslLed upon Lhe lynch vlcLlm belng one egreglous example of
Lhls slLuaLlon) can be experlenced vlcarlously ln Lhe anonymlLy of huge sporLs arenas and prlvaLely
vla cable Lelevlslon. lllms and oLher forms of vlsual medla provlde anoLher venue for framlng socleLal
vlolence. ConLemporary fllms, for example, Lhe slasher horror fllms LargeLed Lo adolescenLs, produce
lmages of vlolence LhaL rlval Lhe mosL gruesome lynchlngs of Lhe pasL. Lynchlng ls no longer a llve show
conflned Lo Afrlcan Amerlcan men, buL, as ls Lhe case wlLh oLher forms of enLerLalnmenL, has moved
lnLo Lhe fleld of represenLaLlons and lmages. 1hus, Lhere ls Lhe same ablllLy Lo waLch kllllng, buL ln Lhe
safeLy of one's llvlng room, wlLh uvu Lechnology allowlng Lhe scene Lo be replayed. 8oLh of Lhese mass
medla specLacles flL nlcely wlLh Lhe lack of responslblllLy assoclaLed wlLh Lhe new raclsm. vlewers need
noL "know" Lhelr vlcLlms, and vlolence can be blamed on Lhe "bad guys" ln Lhe fllm or on governmenLal
or corporaLe corrupLlon. WlLnesslng beaLlngs,LorLures, and murders as specLaLor sporL fosLers a curlous
communlLy solldarlLy LhaL feeds back lnLo a dlsLlncLly Amerlcan eLhos of vlolence assoclaLed wlLh Lhe
fronLler and slavery. 8lack men are well represenLed wlLhln Lhls lndusLry of medla vlolence, Lyplcally as
crlmlnals whose deaLh should be celebraLed, and ofLen as murder vlcLlms who are kllled as "collaLeral
damage" Lo Lhe explolLs of Lhe real hero.
Second, ln Lhls new conLexL of mass medla glorlflcaLlon of vlolence, rape of women (buL noL of men)
along wlLh Lhe consLellaLlon of pracLlces and ldeas LhaL comprlse rape culLure has been moved from
Lhe hldden place of prlvacy of Lhe pasL and also dlsplayed as specLacle. WheLher ln Pollywood feaLure
fllms, lndependenL fllms such as Splke Lee's 5be's Cotto nove lt, or Lhe exploslon of pornography as
lucraLlve blg buslness, vlewers can now see women raped, beaLen, LorLured, and kllled. Clearly, Lhe
ldeas of a rape culLure perslsL as a fundamenLal form of sexual domlnance LhaL affecLs Afrlcan Amerlcan
women. As femlnlsLs remlnd us, Lhlnklng abouL rape noL as a dlscreLe acL of vlolence buL as parL of a
sysLemlc paLLern of vlolence reveals how soclal lnsLlLuLlons and Lhe ldea sLrucLures LhaL surround rape
work Lo conLrol acLual and poLenLlal vlcLlms. noL every women needs Lo be raped Lo have Lhe fear of
rape funcLlon as a powerful mechanlsm of soclal conLrol ln everyday llfe. Women rouLlnely ad[usL Lhelr
behavlor for fear of belng raped. 1he worklngs of a rape culLure, Lhe prlvacy of Lhe acL, Lhe secrecy,
Lhe humlllaLlon of belng a rape vlcLlm, seem especlally well sulLed Lo Lhe worklngs of rouLlnlzaLlon
of vlolence as a parL of Lhe "normallzed war" LhaL characLerlzes desegregaLlon. 8ape becomes more
readlly avallable as a publlc Lool of sexual domlnance. AL Lhe same Llme, prlson rape of men ls noL Laken
serlously and does noL rouLlnely appear as enLerLalnmenL.
1hlrd, Lhe mechanlsms of soclal conLrol assoclaLed wlLh a rape culLure and wlLh lnsLlLuLlonallzed rape
mlghL be especlally effecLlve ln malnLalnlng a new raclsm grounded ln advanclng myLhs of lnLegraLlon
LhaL mask acLual soclal relaLlons of segregaLlon. 8oLh 8lack men and 8lack women are requlred
Lo "assume Lhe poslLlon" of subordlnaLlon wlLhln a new mulLlculLural Amerlca, and Lhe pracLlces of
a 'ape culLure help fosLer Lhls ouLcome. MosL Amerlcans llve far lnore segregaLed llves Lhan mass medla
leads Lhem Lo belleve. 1he vasL ma[orlLy of men and women, 8lacks and WhlLes, and sLralghLs and
gays sLlll flL lnLo clearly ldenLlflable caLegorles of gender, race, and sexuallLy, Lhe hallmark of a loglc of
segregaLlon. AL Lhe same Llme, Lhe lncreased vlslblllLy and/or vocallLy of lndlvlduals and groups LhaL no
longer clearly flL wlLhln Lhese same caLegorles have changed Lhe pollLlcal and lnLellecLual landscape. lor
example, many mlddle-class Afrlcan Amerlcans now llve ln Lhe unsLable ln-beLween spaces of raclally
desegregaLed nelghborhoods, lesblan, gay, blsexual, and Lransgendered (LC81) people who have come
ouL of Lhe closeL undercuL Lhe lnvlslblllLy requlred for assumpLlons of heLerosexlsm, some worklng-class
klds of all races now aLLend ellLe unlverslLles, and blraclal chlldren of lnLerraclal romanLlc relaLlonshlps
have challenged blnary undersLandlngs of race. Crosslng borders, dlssolvlng boundarles, and oLher
evldence of an lmperfecL desegregaLlon does characLerlze Lhe experlences of a subsLanLlal mlnorlLy of
Lhe Amerlcan populaLlon.
When lL comes Lo Afrlcan Amerlcans, focuslng Loo closely on Lhese lmporLanL changes can leave Lhe
lmpresslon LhaL much more change ls occurrlng Lhan acLually ls. 1he record on Afrlcan Amerlcan
raclal desegregaLlon ls far less rosy. 1hls llluslon of raclal lnLegraLlon, especlally LhaL presenLed ln a
powerful mass medla, masks Lhe perslsLence of raclal segregaLlon for Afrlcan Amerlcans, especlally
Lhe raclal hyper segregaLlon of large urban areas. MalnLalnlng raclal boundarles ln Lhls more fluld,
desegregaLed slLuaLlon requlres noL [usL revlsed represenLaLlons of 8lack people ln mass medla buL also
requlres new soclal pracLlces LhaL malnLaln soclal conLrol yeL do noL have Lhe vlslblllLy of pasL pracLlces.
lnsLlLuLlonallzed rape serves as a mechanlsm for malnLalnlng gender hlerarchles of mascullnlLy and
femlnlnlLy. 8uL lnsLlLuLlonallzed rape and Lhe worklngs of rape culLure can also serve as effecLlve Lools of
soclal conLrol wlLhln raclally desegregaLed seLLlngs preclsely because Lhey lnLlmldaLe and sllence vlcLlms
and encourage decenL people Lo become predaLors ln order Lo avold becomlng vlcLlms.
ln Lhls sense, Lhe lessons from a rape culLure become lmporLanL ln a socleLy LhaL ls saLuraLed wlLh
relaLlons of war agalnsL segmenLs of lLs own populaLlon buL LhaL presenLs lLself as falr, open, and
wlLhouL problems.
llnally, Lhese emerglng modes of soclal conLrol have lmporLanL lmpllcaLlons for anLlraclsL Afrlcan
Amerlcan pollLlcs generally and for developlng a more progresslve 8lack sexual pollLlcs ln parLlcular.
vlolence consLlLuLes a ma[or soclal problem for Afrlcan Amerlcans. SLaLe vlolence ls cerLalnly lmporLanL,
buL Lhe vlolence LhaL Afrlcan Amerlcans lnfllcL upon one anoLher can do equal lf noL more damage.
When confronLlng a soclal problem of Lhls magnlLude, reLhlnklng 8lack gender ldeology, especlally
Lhe ways ln whlch ldeas abouL mascullnlLy and femlnlnlLy shape 8lack pollLlcs becomes essenLlal. As
Lhe Clarence 1homas conflrmaLlon revealed, Afrlcan Amerlcans' fallure Lo undersLand Lhe gendered
conLours of sexual vlolence led Lhem Lo choose race over gender. lncldenLs such as Lhls suggesL LhaL
8lack leaders have been unable Lo help elLher 8lack women or 8lack men deal wlLh Lhe sLrucLural
vlolence of Lhe new raclsm because such leaders Lyplcally fall Lo quesLlon prevalllng 8lack gender
ldeology. WhaL happens when men lncorporaLe ldeas abouL vlolence (as an expresslon of domlnance)
lnLo Lhelr deflnlLlons of 8lack mascullnlLy? Can Lhey remaln "real" men lf Lhey do noL engage ln vlolence?
Pow much physlcal, emoLlonal, and/or sexual abuse should a "sLrong" 8lack woman absorb ln order Lo
avold communlLy censure? SLopplng Lhe vlolence wlll enLall much more Lhan 8lack organlzaLlons who
proLesL sLaLe-sancLloned vlolence by WhlLe men agalnsL 8lack ones. 8ecause vlolence flows from soclal
ln[usLlces of race, class, gender, sexuallLy, and age, for Afrlcan Amerlcan women and men, eradlcaLlng
vlolence requlres a new 8lack sexual pollLlcs dedlcaLed Lo
a more expanslve noLlon of soclal [usLlce.
l. Plll 1997, 13.
2. Afrlcan Amerlcans may have losL far more Lhan AnlLa Plll as a resulL of 1homas's appolnLmenL.
8ouLlnely allgnlng hlmself wlLh lLs mosL conservaLlve wlng, 1homas's record on Lhe Supreme CourL
concernlng raclsm has been dlsappolnLlng Lo labor organlzaLlons, women's consLlLuencles, and
clvll rlghLs groups. AnlLa Plll also suffered personal loss. ln Lhe Len years followlng Lhe hearlngs, Plll
experlenced haLe mall, unwanLed phone calls, and deaLh LhreaLs. ln conLrasL, 1homas has remalned on
Lhe Supreme CourL, en[oylng lLs prlvlleges. Plll was vlrLually run ouL of her [ob as a law professor aL Lhe
unlverslLy of Cklahoma and underwenL perslsLenL harassmenL by sLudenLs, colleagues, and sLrangers on
Lhe sLreeL (Plll 1997).
Crenshaw 1992,403.
Wells-8arneLL 2002, uavls 1978. "
lor a dlscusslon of consensus and cross-cuLLlng lssues wlLhln 8lack pollLlcs, see Cohen 1999.
Lynchlng has noL always been so cenLral Lo 8lack anLlraclsL pollLlcs. See hlsLorlan aula Clddlngs' analysls
of 8lack leadershlp, whlch lnlLlally Look llLLle acLlon concernlng lynchlng before lda 8. Wells-8arneLL's
sollLary crusade (Clddlngs 2001).
8eck and 1olnay 1992, 22.
Parrls 1984, 19.
8eck and 1olnay 1992, 7-8.
Cender analyses shed llghL on why casLraLlon reappears ln accounLs of. 8lack male -lynchlngs. 8obyn
Wlegman provldes a psychoanalyLlc analysls of lynchlng LhaL examlnes lLs power ln Lerms of naLlonal
ldenLlLy-Lhe end of.slavery consLlLuLed a reblrLh of Lhe naLlon LhaL needed Lo develop new race
relaLlons. Afrlcan Amerlcan bodles were no longer commodlLles, and maklng Lhls LranslLlon from
slavery Lo Lhe reenslavemenL of !lm Crow de [ure segregaLlon requlred a compllcaLed process of
reworklng 8lack male sexuallLy and Afrlcan Amerlcan mascullnlLy. Wlegman suggesLs LhaL lynchlng
served as a "LhreaL of rlLuallzed deaLh" LhaL provlded one means for hegemonlc WhlLe mascullnlLy Lo
be rearLlculaLed wlLhln Lhe uncerLalnLles of posLemanclpaLlon. As Wlegman polnLs ouLs, "noL only does
lynchlng enacL a groLesquely symbollc-lf noL llLeral-sexual encounLer beLween Lhe whlLe mob and
lLs vlcLlm, buL Lhe lncreaslng uLlllzaLlon of casLraLlon as a preferred form of muLllaLlon for Afrlcan
Amerlcan men demonsLraLes lynchlng's connecLlon Lo Lhe soclosymbollc realm of sexual'dlfference.
ln Lhe dlsclpllnary fuslon of casLraLlon wlLh lynchlng, Lhe mob severs Lhe black male from Lhe
mascullne, lnLerrupLlng Lhe prlvllege of Lhe phallus, and Lhereby reclalmlng, Lhrough Lhe perverslLy of
dlsmembermenL, hls (mascullne) poLenLlallLy for clLlzenshlp" (Wlegman 1993,224).
Colllns 2000a, 33~33.
uash 1996,223.
uash 1996,226.
uash 1996, 226.
ln 1892, lda 8. Wells-8arneLL learned flrsLhand Lhe lengLhs Lo whlch some WhlLe clLlzens of Memphls
were wllllng Lo go Lo malnLaln Afrlcan Amerlcan pollLlcal and economlc subordlnaLlon. ln March,
Memphls \whlLes lynched Lhree successful Afrlcan Amerlcan managers of a grocery buslness. Wells
knew all Lhree men, and also undersLood LhaL Lhey were resenLed because Lhelr sLore successfully
compeLed wlLh a WhlLe sLore. 1hls palnful personal experlence of her frlends' lynchlng was a Lurnlng
polnL ln Wells-8arneLL's commlLmenL Lo soclal [usLlce acLlvlsm. Wells-8arneLL "1oLe an edlLorlal LhaL, for
1892, advanced Lhe shocklng hypoLhesls LhaL noL only were Afrlcan Amerlcan men ofLen falsely accused
of rape buL also LhaL because some WhlLe women were aLLracLed Lo 8lack men, some sexual relaLlons
LhaL dld occur beLween Afrlcan Amerlcan men and WhlLe women were consensual. lorLunaLely, when
Lhe edlLorlal appeared, Wells-8arneLL was ouL of Lown orshe Loo mlghL have been lynched. Memphls
clLlzens burned down Lhe lree Speech and LhreaLened Wells-8arneLL's llfe lf she ever reLurned Lo
Memphls. 1hls shocklng caLalysL marked Lhe beglnnlng of lda Wells-8arneLL's lmpresslve over LwenLy-
year crusade agalnsL lynchlng LhaL Look Lhe form of golng on speaklng Lours, publlshlng edlLorlals,
preparlng pamphleLs, organlzlng communlLy servlces, parLlclpaLlng ln women's and clvll rlghLs groups,
and publlshlng 5ootbeto nottots, A keJ kecotJ, ooJ Mob kole lo New Otleoos, Lhree of Wells-8arneLL's
lmporLanL pamphleLs on lynchlng (Wells-8arneLL 2002).
Wells-8arneLL 2002, 6.
!amos 1996, Clddlngs 2001.
1hese ldeas come from Ann SLoler's excellenL analysls of Mlchel loucaulL's ldeas abouL race. SLoler
sLaLes, "as 'prlvaLe wars' were cancelled and war was made Lhe prerogaLlve of sLaLes, as war
proper,moves Lo Lhe marglns of Lhe soclal body, as socleLy ls 'cleansed of war-llke relaLlons' LhaL
Lhls 'sLrange,' 'new' dlscovery emerged, one ln whlch socleLy lLself was concelved as an enLlLy saLuraLed
wlLh Lhe relaLlons of war" (SLoler 1993,64-63).
Pandele 1999,86.
See Wllson 1994 and lerce-8aker 1998, 117-139. Afrlcan Amerlcan adolescenL moLhers also reporL LhaL
Lhe faLhers of Lhelr bables are much older men (kaplan 1997).
alnLer 1992, 213.
lerce-8aker 1998, 64.
Cleage 1993.
lerce-8aker 1998, 91.
WesL 1999, 39.
8ecause so many Afrlcan Amerlcan women llve ln large, raclally segregaLed urban areas, 8lack women
more llkely Lo be vlcLlms of rape Lhan WhlLe women--reporLed rapes are 1.4 Lo 1.7 Llmes hlgher. ?eL
such women are less llkely Lo have Lhelr rape cases come Lo Lrlal Lhan WhlLe women, and LhaL Lhey are
less llkely Lo geL convlcLlons for Lhose cases LhaL do come Lo Lrlal. Moreover, Afrlcan Amerlcan women
who are sexually assaulLed are less llkely Lo use rape-counsellng servlces. lL ls lmporLanL Lo sLress LhaL
paLLerns of 8lack male vlolence agalnsL 8lack women occur wlLhln a broader soclal conLexL ln whlch Lhe
rouLlnlzaLlon of vlolence works Lo desenslLlze everyone Lo lLs effecLs. vlewlng one's flrsL vlolenL movle
may be shocklng-vlewlng Lhe flfLleLh fllm has far less lmpacL. 1he genre of sLalker fllms LhaL make raplng
and kllllng women a specLaLor sporL conLrlbuLes Lo Lhls broader cllmaLe of vlolence agalnsL women.
8lack men whose vlolenL behavlor ls LargeLed Loward 8lack women are cerLalnly noL lmmune from Lhese
socleLal pressures.
8ell 1999, 240.
Chlldhood sexual assaulL (Maya Angelou's l koow wby tbe coqeJ 8ltJ 5loqs and 1onl Morrlson's 1be
8loest ye), famlly vlolence (see Allce Walker's flcLlon, especlally 1be colot lotple and 1be 1bltJ llfe of
Ceotqe copelooJ), and Lhe effecLs of rape on Afrlcan Amerlcan women (Cayl !ones's vo's Moo) have
all been explored ln Afrlcan Amerlcan women's flcLlon. 8lack women's essays examlne slmllar Lhemes.
SLaLemenLs abouL Lhe paln of rape (AusLln 1993), rape as a Lool of pollLlcal conLrol (uavls 1981), and Lhe
pervaslveness of vlolence ln Afrlcan Amerlcan clvll socleLy (Cleage 1993) all have recelved conslderable
LreaLmenL ln Afrlcan Amerlcan women's wrlLlngs. lncreaslngly, womanlsL Lheologlans are provldlng a
new lnLerpreLlve conLexL LhaL encourages 8lack women Lo speak ouL abouL abuse. See uouglas 1999 and
WesL 1999.
Awkward 1999, 137.
WyaLL 1992,87.
lerce-8aker 1998, 136.
SupplemenLlng survey daLa wlLh lnLervlews wlLh 126 Afrlcan Amerlcan and 122 WhlLe women ln Lhe
Los Angeles area conducLed 'by a same race lnLervlewer, WyaLL lnvesLlgaLed women's percepLlons of
rape. WyaLL's lnLervlewers also asked Lhe quesLlon, "Why do you Lhlnk you were vlcLlmlzed?" Afrlcan
Amerlcan women were slgnlflcanLly more llkely Lhan WhlLe women Lo offer explanaLlons abouL Lhelr
vlcLlmlzaLlon LhaL lnvolved Lhe rlsklness of Lhelr llvlng clrcumsLances (WyaLL 1992,84).
WyaLL 1992, 83.
lerce-8aker 1998, 124.
lerce-8aker 1998, 161.
WesL 1999, 38.
Cmolade 1994,89.
owell 2000, 74.
Mlller 1996, 1~9.
Puman 8lghLs WaLch 2001, 3.
Puman 8lghLs WaLch 2001, 3.
Puman 8lghLs WaLch 2001, 7.
Puman 8lghLs WaLch 2001, 8.
Mlller 2000, 300.
MaLerlal ln Lhls secLlon ls Laken from Mlller 2000, 300.
Mlller 2000, 302.
Mlller 2000, 303.
Mlller 2000, 303..
Puman 8lghLs WaLch 2001.
SoclologlsL 8. W. Connell offers an explanaLlon for Lhe fluldlLy of gender caLegorles: "ln our culLure,
men who have sex wlLh men are generally oppressed, buL Lhey are noL deflnlLlvely excluded from
mascullnlLy. 8aLher, Lhey face sLrucLurally-lnduced confllcLs abouL mascullnlLy confllcLs beLween Lhelr
sexuallLy and Lhelr soclal presence as men, abouL Lhe meanlng of Lhelr cholce of sexual ob[ecL, and ln
Lhelr consLrucLlon of relaLlonshlps wlLh women and wlLh heLerosexual men" (Connell 1992,737).
Puman 8lghLs WaLch 2001, 70.
vlolence LargeLed agalnsL gay 8lack meo can be especlally vlclous, ln parL, because gay 8lack men
become sulLable LargeLs for Lhe vlolence. Some guards vlew homosexuallLy as an open lnvlLaLlon Lo
sexuallLy. As one prlsoner, who was heLerosexual, recalled: l had an offlcer Lell me LhaL 'faggoLs llke Lo
suck dlck, so why was l complalnlng'" (Puman 8lghLs WaLch 2001,114).
lnar 200L, 1031-1046. Clven Lhe myLh of Lhe 8lack raplsL, placlng 8lack men ln prlson slLuaLlons
ln whlch Lhey are encouraged Lo rape oLher men produces Lhe very sLereoLype creaLed ln Lhe
posLemanclpaLlon era. 8lack men become dange-ous, a reason Lo keep Lhem locked up.
Puman 8lghLs WaLch 2001,169.
Puman 8lghLs WaLch 2001, 216.
lnar 2001,1119.
lnar 2001,1033-1037.
Puman 8lghLs WaLch 2001,109-12.2.
Puman 8lghLs WaLch 2001, 171.
Puman 8lghLs WaLch 2001,168.
Afrlcan Amerlcan men consLlLuLed 42 percenL of Lhose admlLLed Lo prlson ln 1981 and, by 1993, had
become an unseLLllng 33 percenL of Lhose admlLLed (Mlller 1996, 33).
(Mlller 1996, 97). SoclologlsL Lll[ah Anderson descrlbes Lhe code of Lhe sLreeL ln whlch demandlng
respecL and exhlblLlng Loughness funcLlon as lmporLanL dlmenslons of 8lack mascullnlLy wlLhln lnner-
clLy nelghborhoods (Anderson 1999). ln hls lengLhy sLudy of lynchlng and prlson rape, Wllllam lnar
ldenLlfles anoLher connecLlon beLween prlson culLure and mascullne ldenLlLy: "rlsons are noL allen
womanless worlds ln whlch men resorL Lo unlmaglnable acLs. rlsons dlsclose Lhe profoundly womanless
worlds mosL men ln facL lnhablL, ln whlch womel). are fundamenLally flcLlve, unlLs of currency ln a
homosoclal economy ... perhaps mosL men 'llve' ln an all-male world lnLrapsychlcally from whlch women
are aggresslvely banlshed. lL ls a slgn of manhood" (lnar 2001,1119).
Cllver 1994.
Canada 1993.
McCall 1994, Shakur 1993.
AnecdoLal, unpubllshed maLerlal.
Morgan 1999, 73.
Race, Class, Gender, & Prisons

Excerpts from "Race, Class, Gender and Prisons," a talk given by INCITE! co-Founder,
Beth Richie, on a panel discussion that occured as a part of the art installation, Voices
in Time, Lives in Limbo

I want to talk tonight about the perfection of the movement to remove women of color,
especially women that have experienced violence, from our communities and put them into the
criminal justice system. I think there are very few places where we can see such a
perfect exhibition of racism and gender oppression than when we look over the
walls of a women's correctional facility. There we will get a perfect glimpse of how racism
feeds people into the system, how gender oppression, especially violence against women, keeps
women in the system.

There really is no better place to look for a perfect example of what poverty does to destroy
people's lives than women's prisons and jails. If we're interested in knowing how
perfectly violence against women works to coerce women into behavior, activities,
situations that they would rather not be in, we could look in jails and prisons and
see how perfectly violence against women works. Jails and prisons and probation
departments and even secure halfway houses show us how perfectly conservative ideology in
this country about safety and risk has dominated public policy.

As some of my colleagues on the panel will discuss, if we're interested in understanding
how perfectly civil and human rights are being eroded in this country, how blatant
violations of rights are accepted in the service of maintaining gender, racial,
national, cultural subordination, we could see that perfectly if we look in women's
jails and prisons. We could see perfect sexual repression, xenophobia in perfect terms, the
perfect oppression of young people, and we could go on and on.

There is no better place to understand that the increasingly concentrated
disadvantage in this country is based on race, class, and, I would argue, gender than
in the women that are incarcerated. We might start that perfect story at the Cook County
Jail where there are 1,000 women tonight. 70% of them are Black women. Like most of the
women in jails and prisons in this country,

most of them - 80% -- are detained there because of their involvement in non-violent
crimes, mostly crimes of survival to take care of themselves and their children;

most of them are mothers, and most of these Black mothers that are detained for non-
violent crimes have no idea where their children are;

most of them are poor and they've lived lives that have been characterized by conditions
of poverty. They've had long periods of unemployment. They've probably been homeless
for most of their adult, if not also their juvenile, lives;

they've had very little access to the incredible health resources that this country offers.
They probably have HIV, TB, asthma, diabetes, depression, some anxiety disorder,
substance abuse problems;

they've probably been involved in prostitution. Conservative estimates would say about
30% of them, but anybody that has gone to a jail or prison or spent time with women
that have been there knows that it's probably much more than that;

according to the official data, which we have good reason to distrust, but even
conservative data would suggest that they have a rate of violence against women three
times higher than the national average. Some studies suggest that 60% of the women
in jails or prisons in this country have experienced physical violence at the hands of an
intimate partner, but in 20 years of going to jails and prisons and working with women I
have rarely encountered somebody who has not experienced some form of violence or
coerced sexual activity. They are at high risk of physical and sexual abuse from
their intimate partners, co-dependents, parents before that, authority figures
in the system, and others that have a lot of power to make decisions that will
impact the lives of these women, such as drug treatment counselors and
prison guards who have coerced women into sexual encounters.

So that's the picture from the jail. It's a picture of perfect racial disadvantage, perfect use of
violence against women so that women get incarcerated instead of getting support services...

It's a picture of perfect racial stigma attached to being poor and in trouble with law
in this country. It's a perfect picture of abandonment from their communities, including
communities of color, and their prison activist allies and by society. These are people held in
almost perfect and complete isolation from us.

And what makes the picture even more perfect is that if we took a map of Chicago or New York
or Houston or Atlanta or any major city in the country and increasingly in less urban areas and
we put a circle around the neighborhoods that most of the women come from we would find
the worst public transportation, the worst schools, the fewest parks, the most abandoned
buildings, the most liquor stores, the highest rates of children that have been removed from
their homes.

And instead of women being free to organize around these things, we'd find
disproportionate and increasing levels of surveillance of women and their families.
Surveillance by court orders, ankle bracelets, probation and parole departments, high tech
cameras perched on top of high buildings and unmarked police cars. We'd see a
disproportionate number of child welfare workers, mandatory treatment counselors and, of
course, the highest rates of incarceration of women of color. It's like a perfect picture, and,
of course, you recognize that when I'm using the 'perfect metaphor' here it is not to
say how good it is, but to say how perfectly orchestrated this movement to
incarcerate women of color really is.

Although we know people that live in low-income communities are not more violent or less
respectful or more reckless, this country has found a perfect way to warehouse women and
girls of color and men of color and boys of color who live in disadvantaged communities by not
responding to violence and being reckless with their lives when they incarcerate them. In fact,
it's a perfect plan. So violence against women becomes a much more serious problem
when Black women and other women of color have to worry about police brutality
at the same time we are worrying about our own safety and health.

...If we've used drugs to numb pain or if we are abused by someone who's on parole or on
probation, if we allow someone who is on parole or probation to live with us in Chicago public
housing, if we have contraband in our bathrooms, those are the things that make us vulnerable
to greater violence and cause that violence to be ignored by both our community and the
system. In these cases, we are much more likely to end up in jail or prison.

So we have mass incarceration on the one hand, that's the set of criminal justice and social
policy that target women of color and result in huge overrepresentations of women of color in
the criminal justice system. On the other hand we have a national agenda that advocates
criminalization, the tendency to respond to any social problem by developing a law that makes
illegal many behaviors that are about survival. We have a national agenda that is increasingly
advocating the erosion of civil and human rights in this country as a strategy to allegedly
increase someone's safety - it's not clear whose safety they are concerned with. Then we
have gender oppression not only in the larger community, but also in communities
of color where violence against women is not a priority, so much so that in some
communities men who have used violence against women receive honors like Image
Awards from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

So it makes a very complete picture for us. Since we have been witness to this picture, I believe
we now have some responsibility to take action to change the picture. Just imagine if we
worked to change the processes of racism and sexism that lead to the mass
incarceration of women of color in this country, that's the background to the
Sexism and Misogyny: Who Takes the Rap?
Misogyny, gangsta rap, and The Piano
By bell hooks
For the past several months white mainstream media has been calling me to hear my views on
gangsta rap. Whether major television networks, or small independent radio shows, they seek
me out for the black and feminist "take" on the issue. After I have my say, I am never called
back, never invited to do the television shows or the radio spots. I suspect they call, confident
that when we talk they will hear the hardcore "feminist" trash of gangsta rap. When they
encounter instead the hardcore feminist critique of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, they
lose interest.
To white dominated mass media, the controversy over gangsta rap makes great spectacle.
Besides the exploitation of these issues to attract audiences, a central motivation for
highlighting gangsta rap continues to be the sensationalist drama of demonizing black youth
culture in general and the contributions of young black men in particular. It is a contemporary
remake of "Birth of a Nation" only this time we are encouraged to believe it is not just
vulnerable white womanhood that risks destruction by black hands but everyone. When I
counter this demonization of black males by insisting that gangsta rap does not appear in a
cultural vacuum, but, rather, is expressive of the cultural crossing, mixings, and engagement of
black youth culture with the values, attitudes, and concerns of the white majority, some folks
stop listening.
The sexist, misogynist, patriarchal ways of thinking and behaving that are glorified in gangsta
rap are a reflection of the prevailing values in our society, values created and sustained by
white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. As the crudest and most brutal expression of sexism,
misogynistic attitudes tend to be portrayed by the dominant culture as an expression of male
deviance. In reality they are part of a sexist continuum, necessary for the maintenance of
patriarchal social order. While patriarchy and sexism continue to be the political and cultural
norm in our society, the feminist movement has created a climate where crude expressions of
male domination are called into question, especially if they are made by men in power. It is
useful to think of misogyny as a field that must be labored in and maintained both to sustain
patriarchy but also to serve as an ideological anti-feminist backlash. And what better group to
labor on this "plantation" than young black men.
To see gangsta rap as a reflection of dominant values in our culture rather than as an aberrant
"pathological" standpoint does not mean that a rigorous feminist critique of the sexism and
misogyny expressed in this music is not needed. Without a doubt black males, young and old,
must be held politically accountable for their sexism. Yet this critique must always be
contextualized or we risk making it appear that the behaviors this thinking supports and
condones,--rape, male violence against women, etc.-- is a black male thing. And this is what is
happening. Young black males are forced to take the "heat" for encouraging, via their music,
the hatred of and violence against women that is a central core of patriarchy.
Witness the recent piece by Brent Staples in the "New York Times" titled "The Politics of
Gangster Rap: A Music Celebrating Murder and Misogyny." Defining the turf Staples writes: "For
those who haven't caught up, gangster rap is that wildly successful music in which all women
are `bitches' and `whores' and young men kill each other for sport." No mention of white
supremacist capitalist patriarchy in this piece, not a word about the cultural context that would
need to exist for young males to be socialized to think differently about gender. Staples
assumes that black males are writing their lyrics off in the "jungle," away from the impact of
mainstream socialization and desire. At no point in his piece does he ask why huge audiences,
especially young white male consumers, are so turned on by this music, by the misogyny and
sexism, by the brutality? Where is the anger and rage at females expressed in this music
coming from, the glorification of all acts of violence? These are the difficult questions that
Staples feels no need to answer.
One cannot answer them honestly without placing accountability on larger structures of
domination and the individuals (often white, usually male but not always) who are hierarchically
placed to maintain and perpetuate the values that uphold these exploitative and oppressive
systems. That means taking a critical looking at the politics of hedonistic consumerism, the
values of the men and women who produce gangsta rap. It would mean considering the
seduction of young black males who find that they can make more money producing lyrics that
promote violence, sexism, and misogyny than with any other content. How many
disenfranchised black males would not surrender to expressing virulent forms of sexism, if they
knew the rewards would be unprecedented material power and fame?
More than anything gangsta rap celebrates the world of the "material," the dog-eat-dog world
where you do what you gotta do to make it. In this world view killing is necessary for survival.
Significantly, the logic here is a crude expression of the logic of white supremacist capitalist
patriarchy. In his new book "Sexy Dressing, Etc." privileged white male law professor Duncan
Kennedy gives what he calls "a set of general characterizations of U. S. culture" explaining that,
"It is individual (cowboys), material (gangsters) and philistine." Using this general description of
mainstream culture would lead us to place "gangsta rap" not on the margins of what this nation
is about, but at the center. Rather than being viewed as a subversion or disruption of the norm
we would need to see it as an embodiment of the norm.
That viewpoint was graphically highlighted in the film "Menace To Society" which dramatized
not only young black males killing for sport, but also mass audiences voyeuristically watching
and, in many cases, "enjoying" the kill. Significantly, at one point in the movie we see that the
young black males have learned their "gangsta" values from watching television and movies--
shows where white male gangsters are center stage. This scene undermines any notion of
"essentialist" blackness that would have viewers believe the gangsterism these young black
males embraced emerged from some unique black cultural experience.
When I interviewed rap artist Ice Cube for "Spin" magazine last year, he talked about the
importance of respecting black women and communication across gender. He spoke against
male violence against women, even as he lapsed into a justification for anti- woman rap lyrics
by insisting on the madonna/whore split where some females "carry" themselves in a manner
that determines how they will be treated. When this interview was published, it was cut to
nothing. It was a mass media set-up. Folks (mostly white and male) had thought if the
hardcore feminist talked with the hardened black man, sparks would fly; there would be a
knock-down drag out spectacle. When Brother Cube and I talked to each other with respect
about the political, spiritual, and emotional self- determination of black people, it did not make
good copy. Clearly folks at the magazine did not get the darky show they were looking for.
After this conversation, and talking with rappers and folks who listen to rap, it became clear
that while black male sexism is a serious problem in our communities and in black music, some
of the more misogynist lyrics were there to stir up controversy and appeal to audiences.
Nowhere is this more evident that in Snoop Doggy Dogg's record "Doggystyle". A black male
music and cultural critic called me to ask if I had checked this image out; to share that for one
of the first times in his music buying life he felt he was seeing an image so offensive in its
sexism and misogyny that he did not want to take that image home. That image (complete with
doghouse, beware the dog sign, with a naked black female head in a doghouse, naked butt
sticking out) was reproduced, "uncritically," in the November 29, 1993 issue of "Time"
magazine. The positive music review of this album, written by Christopher John Farley, is titled
"Gangsta Rap, Doggystyle" makes no mention of sexism and misogyny, makes no reference to
the cover. I wonder if a naked white female body had been inside the doghouse, presumably
waiting to be fucked from behind, if "Time" would have reproduced an image of the cover along
with their review. When I see the pornographic cartoon that graces the cover of "Doggystyle," I
do not think simply about the sexism and misogyny of young black men, I think about the
sexist and misogynist politics of the powerful white adult men and women (and folks of color)
who helped produce and market this album.
In her book "Misogynies" Joan Smith shares her sense that while most folks are willing to
acknowledge unfair treatment of women, discrimination on the basis of gender, they are usually
reluctant to admit that hatred of women is encouraged because it helps maintain the structure
of male dominance. Smith suggests: "Misogyny wears many guises, reveals itself in different
forms which are dictated by class, wealth, education, race, religion and other factors, but its
chief characteristic is its pervasiveness." This point reverberated in my mind when I saw Jane
Campion's widely acclaimed film "The Piano" which I saw in the midst of mass media focus on
sexism and misogyny in "gangsta rap." I had been told by many friends in the art world that
this was "an incredible film, a truly compelling love story etc." Their responses were echoed by
numerous positive reviews. No one speaking about this film mentions misogyny and sexism or
white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
The 19th century world of the white invasion of New Zealand is utterly romanticized in this film
(complete with docile happy darkies--Maori natives--who appear to have not a care in the
world). And when the film suggests they care about white colonizers digging up the graves of
their dead ancestors, it is the sympathetic poor white male who comes to the rescue. Just as
the conquest of natives and lands is glamorized in this film, so is the conquest of femininity,
personified by white womanhood, by the pale speechless corpse-like Scotswoman, Ada, who
journeys into this dark wilderness because her father has arranged for her to marry the white
colonizer Stewart. Although mute, Ada expresses her artistic ability, the intensity of her vision
and feelings through piano playing. This passion attracts Baines, the illiterate white settler who
wears the facial tattoos of the Maori--an act of appropriation that makes him (like the traditional
figure of Tarzan) appear both dangerous and romantic. He is Norman Mailer's "white negro,"
seducing Ada by promising to return the piano that Steward has exchanged with him for land.
The film leads us to believe that Ada's passionate piano playing has been a substitution for
repressed eroticism. When she learns to let herself go sexually, she ceases to need the piano.
We watch the passionate climax of Baines seduction as she willingly seeks him sexually. And we
watch her husband Stewart in the role of voyeur, standing with dog outside the cabin where
they fuck, voyeuristically consuming their pleasure. Rather than being turned off by her love for
Baines, it appears to excite Stewart's passion; he longs to possess her all the more. Unable to
win her back from Baines, he expresses his rage, rooted in misogyny and sexism, by physically
attacking her and chopping off her finger with an ax. This act of male violence takes place with
Ada's daughter, Flora, as a witness. Though traumatized by the violence she witnesses, she is
still about to follow the white male patriarch's orders and take the bloody finger to Baines,
along with the message that each time he sees Ada she will suffer physical mutilation.
Violence against land, natives, and women in this film, unlike that of gangsta rap, is portrayed
uncritically, as though it is "natural," the inevitable climax of conflicting passions. The outcome
of this violence is positive. Ultimately, the film suggests Stewart's rage was only an expression
of irrational sexual jealousy, that he comes to his senses and is able to see "reason." In keeping
with male exchange of women, he gives Ada and Flora to Baines. They leave the wilderness. On
the voyage home Ada demands that her piano be thrown overboard because it is "soiled,"
tainted with horrible memories. Surrendering it she lets go of her longing to display passion
through artistic expression. A nuclear family now, Baines, Ada, and Flora resettle and live
happily-ever-after. Suddenly, patriarchal order is restored. Ada becomes a modest wife, wearing
a veil over her mouth so that no one will see her lips struggling to speak words. Flora has no
memory of trauma and is a happy child turning somersaults. Baines is in charge, even making
Ada a new finger.
"The Piano "seduces and excites audiences with its uncritical portrayal of sexism and misogyny.
Reviewers and audiences alike seem to assume that Campion's gender, as well as her breaking
of traditional boundaries that inhibit the advancement of women in film, indicate that her work
expresses a feminist standpoint. And, indeed, she does employ feminist "tropes," even as her
work betrays feminist visions of female actualization, celebrates and eroticizes male domination.
In Smith's discussion of misogyny she emphasizes that woman-hating is not solely the province
of men: "We are all exposed to the prevailing ideology of our culture, and some women learn
early on that they can prosper by aping the misogyny of men; these are the women who win
provisional favor by denigrating other women, by playing on male prejudices, and by acting the
`man's woman'." Since this is not a documentary film that needs to remain faithful to the ethos
of its historical setting, why is it that Campion does not resolve Ada's conflicts by providing us
with an imaginary landscape where a woman can express passionate artistic commitment and
find fulfillment in a passionate relationship? This would be no more far-fetched than her
cinematic portrayal of Ada's miraculous transformation from muteness into speech. Ultimately,
Campion's "The Piano" advances the sexist assumption that heterosexual women will give up
artistic practice to find "true love." That "positive" surrender is encouraged by the "romantic"
portrayal of sexism and misogyny.
While I do not think that young black male rappers have been rushing in droves to see "The
Piano", there is a bond between those folks involved with high culture who celebrate and
condone the sexist ideas and values upheld in this film and those who celebrate and condone
"gangsta rap." Certainly Kennedy's description of the United States as a "cowboy, gangster,
philistine" culture would also accurately describe the culture evoked in "The Piano". Popular
movies that are seen by young black males, for example "Indecent Proposal, MadDog and
Glory, True Romance", and "One False Move", all eroticize male domination expressed via the
exchange of women, as well as the subjugation of other men, through brutal violence.
Contrary to a racist white imagination which assumes that most young black males, especially
those who are poor, live in a self- created cultural vacuum, uninfluenced by mainstream,
cultural values, it is the application of those values, largely learned through passive uncritical
consumption of mass media, that is revealed in "gangsta rap." Brent Staples is willing to
challenge the notion that "urban primitivism is romantic" when it suggests that black males
become "real men" by displaying the will to do violence, yet he remains resolutely silent about
that world of privileged white culture that has historically romanticized primitivism, and
eroticized male violence. Contemporary films like "Reservoir Dogs" and "The Bad Lieutenant"
celebrate urban primitivism and many less well done films ("Trespass, Rising Sun") create
and/or exploit the cultural demand for depictions of hardcore blacks who are willing to kill for
To take "gangsta rap" to task for its sexism and misogyny while critically accepting and
perpetuating those expressions of that ideology which reflect bourgeois standards (no rawness,
no vulgarity) is not to call for a transformation of the culture of patriarchy. Ironically, many
black male ministers, themselves sexist and misogynist, are leading the attacks against gangsta
rap. Like the mainstream world that supports white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, they are
most concerned with calling attention to the vulgar obscene portrayals of women to advance
the cause of censorship. For them, rethinking and challenging sexism, both in the dominant
culture and in black life, is not the issue.
Mainstream white culture is not concerned about black male sexism and misogyny, particularly
when it is unleashed against black women and children. It is concerned when young white
consumers utilize black popular culture to disrupt bourgeois values. Whether it be the young
white boy who expresses his rage at his mother by aping black male vernacular speech (a true
story) or the masses of young white males (and middle class men of color) seeking to throw off
the constraints of bourgeois bondage who actively assert in their domestic households via acts
of aggression their rejection of the call to be "civilized." These are the audiences who feel such
a desperate need for gangsta rap. It is much easier to attack gangsta rap than to confront the
culture that produces that need.
Gangsta rap is part of the anti-feminist backlash that is the rage right now. When young black
males labor in the plantations of misogyny and sexism to produce gangsta rap, their right to
speak this violence and be materially rewarded is extended to them by white supremacist
capitalist patriarchy. Far from being an expression of their "manhood," it is an expression of
their own subjugation and humiliation by more powerful, less visible forces of patriarchal
gangsterism. They give voice to the brutal raw anger and rage against women that it is taboo
for "civilized" adult men to speak. No wonder then that they have the task of tutoring the
young, teaching them to eroticize and enjoy the brutal expressions of that rage (teaching them
language and acts) before they learn to cloak it in middle-class decorum or Robert Bly style
reclaimings of lost manhood. The tragedy for young black males is that they are so easily
dunned by a vision of manhood that can only lead to their destruction.
Feminist critiques of the sexism and misogyny in gangsta rap, and in all aspects of popular
culture, must continue to be bold and fierce. Black females must not be duped into supporting
shit that hurts us under the guise of standing beside our men. If black men are betraying us
through acts of male violence, we save ourselves and the race by resisting. Yet, our feminist
critiques of black male sexism fail as meaningful political intervention if they seek to demonize
black males, and do not recognize that our revolutionary work is to transform white supremacist
capitalist patriarchy in the multiple areas of our lives where it is made manifest, whether in
gangsta rap, the black church, or the Clinton administration.
Sexua| V|o|ence as a 1oo| of Genoc|de
Andre SmlLh
[8ape] ls noLhlng more or less Lhan a consclous process of lnLlml-daLlon by whlch all
men keep all women ln a sLaLe of fear.
8ape as "noLhlng more or less" Lhan a Lool of paLrlarchal conLrol underglrds Lhe phllosophy of Lhe whlLe-
domlnaLed women's anLlvlolence movemenL. 1hls phllosophy has been crlLlqued by many women of
color, lncludlng crlLlcal race LheorlsL klmberle Crenshaw, for lLs lack of aLLenLlon Lo raclsm and oLher
forms of oppresslon. Crenshaw analyzes how male-domlnaLed concepLlons of race and whlLe-domlnaLed
concepLlons of gender sLand ln Lhe way of a clear undersLandlng of vlolence agalnsL women of color. lL ls
lnadequaLe, she argues, Lo lnvesLlgaLe Lhe oppresslon of women of color by examlnlng race and gender
oppresslons separaLely and Lhen puLLlng Lhe Lwo analyses LogeLher, because Lhe overlap beLween
raclsm and sexlsm Lransforms Lhe dynamlcs. lnsLead, Crenshaw advocaLes replaclng Lhe addlLlve"
approach wlLh an lnLersecLlonal" approach.
1he problem ls noL slmply LhaL boLh dlscourses fall women of color by noL
acknowledglng Lhe 'addlLlonal' lssue of race or of paLrlarchy buL, raLher, LhaL Lhe
dlscourses are ofLen lnadequaLe even Lo Lhe dls-creLe Lasks of arLlculaLlng Lhe full
dlmenslons of raclsm and sexlsm.
uesplLe her lnLersecLlonal approach, Crenshaw falls shorL of descrlblng how a pollLlcs of lnLersecLlonallLy
mlghL fundamenLally shlfL how we analyze sexual/ domesLlc vlolence. lf sexual vlolence ls noL slmply
a Lool of paLrlarchy buL also a Lool of colonlallsm and raclsm, Lhen enLlre communlLles of color are Lhe
vlcLlms of sexual vlolence. As neferLl 1adlar argues, coloolol telotloosblps ote tbemselves qeoJeteJ ooJ
1he economles and pollLlcal relaLlons of naLlons are llbldlnally con-flgured, LhaL
ls, Lhey are grasped and effecLed ln Lerms of sexuallLy. 1hls global and reglonal
fanLasy ls noL, however, only meLaphorl-cal, buL real lnsofar as lL grasps a sysLem
of pollLlcal and economlc pracLlces.already aL work among Lhese naLlons.

WlLhln Lhls conLexL, accordlng Lo 1adlar, "Lhe quesLlon Lo be, Who ls geLLlng off on Lhls? Who
ls geLLlng screwed and by whom?"
1hus, whlle boLh naLlve men and women are sub[ecLed Lo a relgn
of sexuallzed Lerror, sexual vlolence does noL affecL lndlan men and women ln Lhe same way. When
a naLlve woman suffers abuse, Lhls abuse ls an aLLack on her ldenLlLy as a woman and an aLLack on her
ldenLlLy as naLlve. 1he lssues of colonlal, race, and gender oppresslon cannoL be separaLed. 1hls facL
explalns why ln my experlence as a rape crlsls counselor, every naLlve survlvor l ever counseled sald
Lo me aL one polnL, "l,wlsh l was no longer lndlan." As l wlll dlscuss ln Lhls chapLer women of color do
noL [usL face quanLlLaLlvely more lssues when Lhey suffer vlolence (e.g., less medla aLLenLlon, language
barrlers, lack of supporL ln Lhe [udlclal sysLem) buL Lhelr experlence ls quallLaLlvely dlfferenL from LhaL of
whlLe women.
Ann SLoler's analysls of raclsms sheds llghL on Lhls relaLlonshlp beLween sexual vlolence and colonlallsm.
She argues LhaL raclsm, far from belng a reacLlon Lo crlsls ln whlch raclal oLhers are scapegoaLed for
soclal llls, ls a permanenL parL of Lhe soclal fabrlc. "8aclsm ls noL an effecL buL a LacLlc ln Lhe lnLernal
flsslon of socleLy lnLo blnary opposlLlon, a means of creaLlng 'blologlzed' lnLernal enemles, agalnsL
whom socleLy musL defend lLself."
She noLes LhaL ln Lhe modem sLaLe, lL ls Lhe consLanL purlflcaLlon and
ellmlnaLlon of raclallzed enemles wlLhln Lhe sLaLe LhaL ensures Lhe growLh of Lhe naLlonal body. "8aclsm
does noL merely arlse ln momenLs of crlsls, ln sporadlc cleanslngs. lL ls lnLernal Lo Lhe blopollLlcal sLaLe,
woven lnLo Lhe web of Lhe soclal body, Lhreaded Lhrough lLs fabrlc."6
Slmllarly, kaLe Shanley noLes LhaL naLlve peoples are a per-manenL "presenL absence" ln Lhe u.S.
colonlal lmaglnaLlon, an "absence" LhaL relnforces aL every Lum Lhe convlcLlon LhaL naLlve peoples
are lndeed vanlshlng and LhaL Lhe conquesL of naLlve lands ls [usLlfled. Llla ShohaL and 8oberL SLarn
descrlbe Lhls absence as,
an amblvalenLly represslve mechanlsm [whlch] dlspels Lhe anxleLy ln Lhe face of
Lhe lndlan, whose very presence ls a remlnder of Lhe lnlLlally precarlous groundlng
of Lhe Amerlcan naLlon-sLaLe lLself ...ln a Lemporal paradox, llvlng lndlans were
lnduced Lo 'play dead,' as lL were, ln order Lo perform a narraLlve of manlfesL
desLlny ln whlch Lhelr role, ulLlmaLely, was Lo dlsappear.
1hls "absence" ls effecLed Lhrough Lhe meLaphorlcal Lransfor-maLlon of naLlve bodles lnLo a polluLlon of
whlch Lhe colonlal body musL consLanLly purlfy lLself. lor lnsLance, as whlLe Callfor-nlans descrlbed Lhem
ln Lhe 1860s, naLlve people were "Lhe dlrLlesL loL of human belngs on earLh."
1hey wear "fllLhy rags
wlLh Lhelr persons unwashed, halr uncombed and swarmlng wlLh vermln."
1he followlng 1883 rocLer
& Camble ad for lvory Soap also lllusLraLes
we wete ooce foctloos, fletce ooJ wllJ,
lo peocefol otts ootecooolleJ
Oot blookets smeoteJ wltb qteose ooJ stolos
ltom boffolo meot ooJ settlets' velos.
1btooqb sommet's Jost ooJ beot cooteot
ltom mooo to mooo oowosbeJ we weot,
8ot lvOk 5OAl come llke o toy
Of llqbt octoss oot JotkeoeJ woy
AoJ oow we'te clvll, kloJ ooJ qooJ
AoJ keep tbe lows os people sboolJ,
we weot oot lloeo, lowo ooJ loce
As well os folks wltb polet foce
AoJ oow l toke, wbete'et we qo
1bls coke of lvOk 5OAl to sbow
wbot clvlllzeJ my spoow ooJ me
AoJ moJe os cleoo ooJ folt to see.
ln Lhe colonlal lmaglnaLlon, naLlve bodles are also lmanenLly polluLed wlLh sexual sln. 1heorlsLs AlberL
Cave, 8oberL Warrlor, P. C. orLer, and oLhers have demonsLraLed LhaL ChrlsLlan colonlz-ers ofLen
llkened naLlve peoples Lo Lhe blbllcal CanaanlLes, boLh worLhy of mass desLrucLlon.
WhaL makes
CanaanlLes suppos-edly worLhy of desLrucLlon ln Lhe blbllcal narraLlve and lndlan peoples supposedly
worLhy of desLrucLlon ln Lhe eyes of Lhelr col-onlzers ls LhaL Lhey boLh personlfy sexual sln. ln Lhe
8lble, CanaanlLes commlL acLs of sexual perverslon ln Sodom (Cen. 19:1-29), are Lhe descendanLs of Lhe
unsavory relaLlons beLween LoL and hls daughLers (Cen. 19:30-38), are Lhe descendanLs of Lhe sexually
perverse Pam (Cen. 9:22-27), and prosLlLuLe Lhemselves ln servlce of Lhelr gods (Cen. 28:21-22, ueuL.
28:18, 1 klngs 14:24,2 klngs 23:7, Posea 4:13, Amos 2:7).
Slmllarly, naLlve peoples, ln Lhe eyes of Lhe colonlzers, are marked by Lhelr sexual perverslLy. Alexander
WhlLaker, a mlnls-Ler ln vlrglnla, wroLe ln 1613:"1hey llve naked ln bodle, as lf Lhelr shame of Lhelr
slnne deserved no coverlng: 1helr names are as naked as Lhelr bodle: 1hey esLeem lL a vlrLue Lo lle,
decelve and sLeale as Lhelr masLer Lhe dlvell LeacheLh Lhem."
lurLhermore, ac-cordlng Lo 8ernardlno
de Mlnaya, a uomlnlcan clerlc, "1helr marrlages are noL a sacramenL buL a sacrllege. 1hey are ldolaLrous,
llbldlnous, and commlL sodomy. 1helr chlef deslre ls Lo eaL, drlnk, worshlp heaLhen ldols, and commlL
besLlal obscenlLles."
8ecause lndlan bodles are "dlrLy," Lhey are consldered sexu-ally vlolable and "rapable," and Lhe rape of
bodles LhaL are consldered lnherenLly lmpure or dlrLy, slmply does noL counL. lor lnsLance, prosLlLuLes
are almosL never belleved when Lhey say Lhey have been raped because Lhe domlnanL socleLy conslders
Lhe bodles of sex workers undeservlng of lnLegrlLy, and vlolable aL all Llmes. Slmllarly, Lhe hlsLory of
muLllaLlon of lndlan bodles, boLh llvlng and dead, makes lL clear LhaL lndlan people are noL enLlLled Lo
bodlly lnLegrlLy.
l saw Lhe body of WhlLe AnLelope wlLh Lhe prlvaLes cuL off, and l heard a soldler say he was
golng Lo make a Lobacco-pouch ouL of Lhem.
AL nlghL ur. 8ufus ChoaLe [and] LleuLenanL WenLz C. Mlller...wenL
up Lhe ravlne, decaplLaLed Lhe dead Cua-ha-das, and placlng Lhe heads ln some gunny sacks,
broughL Lhem back Lo be bolled ouL for fuLure sclenLlflc knowledge.
Lach of Lhe braves was shoL down and scalped by Lhe wlld volun-Leers, who ouL wlLh Lhelr knlves
and cuLLlng Lwo parallel gashes down Lhelr backs, would sLrlp Lhe skln from Lhe qulverlng flesh
Lo make razor sLraps of.
ur. 1uner, of LexlngLon, lowa, vlslLed Lhls sollLary grave [of 8lack Pawk] and robbed lL of lLs
LenanL. and senL Lhe body Lo AlLon, lll., where Lhe skeleLon was wlred LogeLher. [lL was laLer
reLurned] buL here lL remalned buL a shorL Llme ere vandal hands agaln carrled lL away and
placed lL ln Lhe 8urllngLon, lowa Ceographlcal and PlsLorlcal SocleLy, where lL was consumed by
flre ln 1833.

Cne more dexLerous Lhan Lhe resL, proceeded Lo flay Lhe chlefs
[1ecumseh's) body, Lhen, cuLLlng Lhe skln ln narrow sLrlps. aL once, a supply of razo-sLraps for
Lhe more feroclous" of hls breLhren.
Andrew !ackson...supervlsed Lhe muLllaLlon of 800 or so Creek lndlan corpses-Lhe bodles of
men, women and chlldren LhaL he and hls men massacred--cuLLlng off Lhelr noses Lo counL and
preserve a record of Lhe dead, sllclng long sLrlps of flesh from Lhelr bodles Lo Lan and Lurn lnLo
brldle relns.
A few nlghLs afLer Lhls,some soldlers dug Mangus' body ouL agaln and Look hls head and bolled lL
durlng Lhe nlghL, and prepared Lhe skull Lo send Lo Lhe museum ln new ?ork.
ln 1990, llllnols governor !lm 1hompson echoed Lhese senLlmenLs when he refused Lo close down an
open lndlan burlal mound ln Lhe Lown of ulxon. 1he SLaLe of llllnols had bullL a museum around Lhls
mound Lo publlcly dlsplay lndlan remalns. 1hompson argued LhaL he was as much lndlan as currenL
lndlans, and consequenLly, he had as much rlghL as Lhey Lo deLermlne Lhe faLe of lndlan remalns.
remalns were hls." 1he Chlcago press slmllarly aLLempLed Lo challenge Lhe ldenLlLy of lndlan people
proLesLlng hls declslon byasserLlng LhaL Lhey were elLher only"parL" lndlan, or merely clalmlng Lo be
ln effecL, Lhe llllnols sLaLe governmenL conveyed Lhe message Lo lndlans LhaL belng on consLanL
dlsplay for whlLe consumers, ln llfe and ln deaLh, ls accepLable. lurLhermore, lndlan ldenLlLy lLself ls
under Lhe conLrol of Lhe colonlzer, and sub[ecL Lo challenge or eradlcaLlon aL anyLlme.
ln 1992, CnLarlo flnance mlnlsLer !lm llaherLy argued LhaL Lhe Canadlan governmenL could boosL healLh-
care fundlng for "real people ln real Lowns" by cuLLlng Lhe bureaucracy LhaL serves naLlve peoples.

1he exLenL Lo whlch naLlve people are noL seen as "real" people ln Lhe larger colonlal dlscourse
lndlcaLes Lhe success of sexual vlolence among oLher raclsL and colonlallsL forces, ln desLroylng Lhe
percelved humanlLy of naLlve peoples. As Alme Cesalre puLs lL, colonlzaLlon = LhlnglflcaLlon.
As SLoler
explalns Lhls process of raclallzed colonlzaLlon:
1he more "degeneraLes" and "abnormals" [ln Lhls case naLlve peoples] are ellmlnaLed, Lhe llves
of Lhose who speak wlll be sLronger, more vlgorous, and lmproved. 1he enemles are noL pollLlcal
adversarles, buL Lhose ldenLlfled as exLernal and lnLernal LhreaLs Lo Lhe populaLlon. 8aclsm ls Lhe
condlLlon LhaL makes lL accepLable Lo puL [cerLaln people] Lo deaLh ln a socleLy of normallzaLlon.
1he pro[ecL of colonlal sexual vlolence esLabllshes Lhe ldeology LhaL naLlve bodles are lnherenLly
vlolable-and by exLenslon, LhaL naLlve lands are also lnherenLly vlolable.
As a consequence of Lhls colonlzaLlon and abuse of Lhelr bodles, lndlan people learn Lo lnLernallze self-
haLred, because body lmage ls lnLegrally relaLed Lo self-esLeem. When one's body ls noL respecLed, one
beglns Lo haLe oneself.
Anne, a naLlve boardlng school sLudenL, reflecLs on Lhls process:
?ou beLLer noL Louch yourself ...lf l looked aL somebody...lusL, sex, and l goL scared of Lhose
sexual feellngs. And l llld noL know how Lo handle Lhem...WhaL really confused me was lf
lnLercourse was sln, why are people born?...lL Look me a really long Llme Lo geL over Lhe facL
LhaL...l've slnned: l had a chlld.
As her words lndlcaLe, when Lhe bodles of lndlan people are deslgnaLed as lnherenLly slnful and dlrLy,
lL becomes a sln [usL Lo be lndlan. naLlve peoples lnLernallze Lhe genocldal pro[ecL Lhrough self-
desLrucLlon. As a rape crlsls counselor, lL was noL a surprlse Lo me LhaL lndlans who have survlved sexual
abuse would ofLen say LhaL Lhey no longer wlsh Lo be lndlan. naLlve peoples' lndlvldual
experlences of sexual vlolaLlon echo 300 years of sexual colonlzaLlon ln whlch naLlve peoples' bodles
have been deemed lnherenLly lmpure. 1he Menomlne poeL ChrysLos wrlLes ln such a
volce ln her poem "Cld lndlan Cranny."
oo tolJ me oboot oll tbe loJloo womeo yoo cooosel
wbo soy tbey Joo't woot to be loJloo ooymote
becoose o wblte ot oo loJloo ooe topeJ tbem
ot kllleJ tbelt btotbet
ot someboJy ttleJ to too tbem ovet lo tbe stteet
ot losolteJ tbem ot oll of lt
oot Jolly bteoJ of bote
5ometlmes l Joo't woot to be oo loJloo eltbet
bot l've oevet solJ so oot looJ befote. . .
lot mote tboo beloq booqty
bovloq oo ploce to llve ot Jooce
oo Jeceot job oo bome to offet o Ctoooy
lt's koowloq wltb eocb lovlslble bteotb
tbot lf yoo Joo't moke sometbloq ptetty
tbey coo booq oo tbelt wolls-ot weot otoooJ tbelt oecks
yoo mlqbt os well be JeoJ.
Mendlng Lhe Sacred Poop 1echnlcal AsslsLance ro[ecL ln uuluLh. MlnnesoLa, reporLs LhaL prlmary
barrler anLlvlolence ad-vocaLes face ln addresslng vlolence ln lndlan counLry ls LhaL communlLy members
wlll argue LhaL sexual vlolence ls LradLlonal." 1hls phenomenon lndlcaLes Lhe exLenL Lo whlch our
communlLles have lnLernallzed self-haLred. lranLz lanon argues, "ln Lhe colonlal conLexL, as we have
already polnLed ouL, Lhe naLlves' flghL among Lhemselves. 1hey Lend Lo use each oLher as a screen, and
each hldes from hls nelghbor Lhe naLlonal enemy."
1hen, as Mlchael 1ausslg noLes, naLlve peoples
are porLrayed by Lhe domlnanL culLure as lnherenLly vlolenL, self-desLrucLlve, and dysfuncLlonal.
example, Lownsperson Mlke Whelan made Lhe followlng sLaLemenL aL a 1990 zonlng hearlng, calllng for
Lhe denlal of a permlL for an lndlan baLLered women's shelLer ln Lake
Andes, SouLh uakoLa.
lndlan CulLure as l vlew lL, ls presenLly so mongrellzed as Lo be a mlx of dependency
on Lhe lederal CovernmenL and a prlmlLlve socleLy wholly on Lhe ouLslde of Lhe
malnsLream of wesLern clvlllzaLlon and LhoughL. 1he naLlve Amerlcan CulLure as we
know lL now, noL as lL formerly exlsLed, ls a culLure of hopelessness, god-lessness, of
[oblessness, and lawlessness...Alcohollsm, soclal dlsease, chlld abuse, and poverLy are
Lhe hallmarks of Lhls so called culLure LhaL you seek Lo promoLe, and l would suggesL
Lo you LhaL Lhe brave men of Lhe ghosL dance would hang Lhelr heads ln shame aL
whaL you now pass ofL as LhaL culLure....l Lhlnk LhaL Lhe lndlan way of llfe as you call
lL, Lo me means clgareLLe burns ln arms of chlldren, double checklng Lhe locks on
my cars, keeplng a loaded shoLgun by my door, and car bodles and beer cans on Lhe
fronL lawn....1hls ls noL a maLLer of race, lL ls a maLLer of keeplng. our communlLy and
nelghborhood away from LhaL evll LhaL you and your ldeas promoLe.

Slmllarly, ln a recenL case among Lhe Aborlglnal peoples of Aus-Lralla, a [udge ruled LhaL a 30-year-old
Aborlglnal man's rape of a 13-year-old glrl was noL a serlous crlme, buL an example of LradlLlonal culLure.
Pe ruled LhaL Lhe glrl knew whaL was expecLed of her" and dldn'L need proLecLlon" when raped by a
man who had prevlously been convlcLed of murderlng hls former wlfe. An experL" anLhropologlsL ln
Lhls case LesLlfled LhaL LhaL rape was LradlLlonal" and morally correcL."
Accordlng Lo !udy ALklnson,
an Aborlglnal professor, survlvors have reporLed numerous lncldenLs of law enforcemenL offlclals
dlsmlsslng reporLs of vlolence because Lhey conslder such vlolence Lo be culLural behavlor." We are
llvlng ln a war zone ln Aborlglnal communlLles," sLaLes ALklnson. ulfferenL behavlors come ouL of LhaL,"
she says. ?eL Lhe courLs of law valldaLe LhaL behavlor."
1ausslg commenLs on Lhe lrony of Lhls loglc: Men are conquered noL by lnvaslon, buL by Lhemselves. lL
ls a sLrange senLlmenL, ls lL noL, when faced wlLh so much bruLal evldence of lnvaslon."
8uL as lanon
noLes, Lhls desLrucLlve behavlor ls noL Lhe consequence of Lhe organlzaLlon of hls nervous sysLem or of
characLerlal orlglnallLy, buL Lhe dlrecL producL of Lhe colonlal sysLem."
1adlar's descrlpLlon of colonlal relaLlonshlps as an enacLmenL of Lhe prevalllng mode of heLerosexual
relaLlons" ls useful because lL underscores Lhe exLenL Lo whlch u.S. colonlzer's vlew Lhe sub[ugaLlon
of women of Lhe naLlve naLlons as crlLlcal Lo Lhe success of Lhe economlc, culLural, and pollLlcal
SLoler noLes LhaL Lhe lmperlal dlscourses of sexuallLy casL whlLe women as Lhe bearers
of more raclsL lmperlal order."
8y exLenslon, naLlve women are bearers of a counLer-lmperlal order
and pose a supreme LhreaL Lo Lhe domlnanL culLure. Symbollc and llLeral conLrol over Lhelr bodles ls
lmporLanL ln Lhe war agalnsL naLlve people, as Lhese LesLlmonles lllusLraLe:
When l was ln Lhe boaL l capLured a beauLlful Carlb woman. ...l concelved deslre Lo
Lake pleasure. . l Look a rope and Lhrashed her well, for whlch she ralsed such unheard
screams LhaL you would noL have belleved your ears. llnally we came Lo an agreemenL
ln such a manner LhaL l can Lell you LhaL she seemed Lo be have been broughL up ln a
school of harloLs.
1wo of Lhe besL looklng of Lhe squaws were lylng ln such a poslLlon, and form Lhe
apperaence of Lhe genlLal organs of Lhelr wounds, Lhere can be no doubL LhaL Lhey were
ravlshed and Lhen shoL dead. nearly all of Lhe dead were muLllaLed.
Cne woman, blg wlLh chlld, rushed lnLo Lhe church, clasplng Lhe alLar and crylng for
mercy for herself and her unborn babe. She was followed, and fell plerced wlLh a dozen
lances. 1he chlld was Lorn allve from Lhe from Lhe yeL palplLaLlng body of lLs moLher,
flrsL plunged lnLo Lhe holy waLer Lo be bapLlzed, and lmmedlaLely lLs bralns were dashed
ouL agalnsL a wall.
1he ChrlsLlans aLLacked Lhem wlLh buffeLs and beaLlngs. 1hen Lhey behaved wlLh such
LemerlLy and shamelessness LhaL Lhe mosL powerful ruler of Lhe lsland had Lo see hls
own wlfe raped by a ChrlsLlan offlcer.

l heard one man say LhaL he had cuL a woman's prlvaLe parLs ouL, and had Lhem for
exhlblLlon on a sLlck. l heard anoLher man say LhaL he had cuL Lhe flngers off of an
lndlan, Lo geL Lhe rlngs off hls hand. l also heard of numerous lnsLances ln whlch men
had cuL ouL Lhe prlvaLe parLs of females, and sLreLched Lhem over Lhelr saddle brows
and some of Lhem over Lhelr haLs.
1he hlsLory of sexual vlolence and genoclde among naLlve women lllusLraLes how gender vlolence
funcLlons as a Lool for raclsm and colonlallsm among women of color ln general. lor example, Afrlcan
Amerlcan women were also vlewed as lnher-enLly rapable. ?eL where colonlzers used sexual vlolence
Lo ellmlnaLe naLlve populaLlons, slave owners used rape Lo repro-duce an explolLable labor force. (1he
chlldren of 8lack slave women lnherlLed Lhelr slave sLaLus.) And because 8lack women were seen as
Lhe properLy of Lhelr slave owners, Lhelr rape aL Lhe hands of Lhese men dld noL "counL." As souLhern
pollLlclan declared ln Lhe early LwenLleLh cenLury, Lhere was no such Lhlng as a "vlrLuous colored glrl"
over Lhe age of 14.
1he LesLlmonles from slave narraLlves and oLher sources reveal Lhe sysLemaLlc
abuse of slave women by whlLe slave owners.
lor a perlod of four monLhs, lncludlng Lhe laLLer sLages of preg-nancy, dellvery, and
recenL recovery Lherefrom. he beaL per wlLh clubs, lron chalns and oLher deadly
weapons Llme afLer Llme, burnL her, lnfllcLed sLrlpes over and ofLen wlLh scourges,
whlch llLerally excorlaLed her whole body, forced her Lo work ln lnclemenL seasons,
wlLhouL belng duly clad, provlded for her lnsufflclenL food, exacLed labor beyond her
sLrengLh, and wanLonly beaL her because she could noL comply wlLh hls requlslLlon.
1hese enorml-Lles, besldes oLhers, Loo dlsgusLlng, parLlcularly deslgnaLed, Lhe prlsoner,
wlLhouL hls hearL once relenLlng, pracLlced...even up Lo Lhe lasL hourS of Lhe vlcLlm's
[A reporL of a norLh Carollna slaveowner's abuse and evenLual murder
of a slave wornan.]
[My masLer] was a good man buL he was preLLy bad among Lhe women. Marrled or
noL marrled, made no dlfference Lo hlm. Whoever he wanLed among Lhe slaves, he
wenL and goL her or had her meeL hlm somewhere ouL ln Lhe bushes. l have known hlm
Lo go Lo Lhe shack and make Lhe woman's husband slL ouLslde whlle he wenL lnLo hls
wlfe....Pe wasn'L no worse Lhan none of Lhe resL of us. 1hey all used Lhelr women llke
Lhey wanLed Lo, and Lhere wasn'L nobody Lo say anyLhlng abouL lL. nelLher Lhe woman
nor Lhe men could help Lhemselves. 1hey submlLLed Lo lL buL kepL praylng Lo Cod.
[Slave LesLlmony from SouLh Carollna.]
"Some of Lhe Lroops," a whlLe complalned Lo Lhelr commander 8ufus SaxLon, "have
forclbly enLered Lhe negro houses and afLer drlvlng ouL Lhe men (ln one lnsLance aL Lhe
polnL of a bayoneL) have aLLempLed Lo ravlsh women." When Lhe men proLesLed and
soughL Lo proLecL "Lhelr wlves and slsLers," Lhey "were cruelly beaLen and LhreaLened
wlLh lnsLanL deaLh." "1he morals of Lhe old planLaLlon" SaxLon feared "seem revlved ln
Lhe army of occupaLlon."
[A reporL of Lhe acLlvlLles of unlon soldlers durlng Lhe Clvll War.]
lmmlgranL women as well have endured a long hlsLory sexual explolLaLlon ln Lhe u.S. lor lnsLance,
raclally dlscrlmlnaLory employmenL laws forced Lhousands of Chlnese lmmlgranL women lnLo
prosLlLuLlon. 1o supplemenL Lhelr meager lncomes, lmpoverlshed Chlrese famllles ofLen sold Lhelr
daughLers lnLo prosLlLuLlon. CLher women were lured Lo Lhe u.S. wlLh Lhe promlse of a sLable marrlage
or [ob, only Lo flnd Lhemselves Lrapped ln Lhe sex Lrade. 8y 1860, almosL a quarLer of Lhe Chlnese ln San
lranclsco (all female) were employed ln prosLlLuLlon.
karen Warren argues LhaL paLrlarchal socleLy ls a dysfunc-Llonal sysLem LhaL mlrrors Lhe dysfuncLlonal
nuclear famlly. 1haL ls, severe abuse ln Lhe famlly conLlnues because Lhe famlly members learn Lo regard
lL as "normal." A vlcLlm of abuse may come Lo see LhaL her abuse ls noL normal" when she has conLacL
wlLh less abuslve famllles. Slmllarly, Warren argues, paLrlarchal socleLy ls a dysfuncLlonal sysLem based
on domlnaLlon and vlolence. uysfuncLlonal sysLems are ofLen malnLalned Lhrough sysLemaLlc denlal,
a fallure or lnablllLy Lo see Lhe reallLy of a slLuaLlon. 1hls denlal need noL be consclous, lnLenLlonal, or
mallclous, lL only needs Lo pervaslve Lo be effecLlve."
AL Lhe Llme of Columbus's explolLs, Luropean socleLy was a dysfuncLlonal sysLem, racked by mass
poverLy, dlsease, rellglous oppresslon, war, and lnsLlLuLlonallzed vlolence. lor example, ln Lhe
lnqulslLlon, hundreds of Lhousands of !ewlsh people were slaughLered and Lhelr conflscaLed properLy
was used Lo fund Columbus' voyages. uavld SLannard wrlLes,.
vlolence, of course, was everywhere.ln Mllan ln 1476 a man was Lorn Lo pleces by an enraged mob
and hls dlsmembered llmbs were eaLen by hls LormenLors. ln arls and Lyon, PuguenoLs were kllled
and buLchered, and Lhelr varlous body parLs were sold openly ln Lhe sLreeLs. CLher erupLlons of blzarre
LorLure, murder and rlLual cannlballsm were noL uncommon.
lurLhermore, Luropean socleLles were Lhoroughly mlsogynlsLlc. 1he ChrlsLlan paLrlarchy whlch
sLrucLured Luropean socleLy was lnherenLly vlolenL, as has been Lhoroughly documenLed.
lor example,
because Lngllsh women were noL allowed Lo express pollLlcal oplnlons, a woman who spoke ouL agalnsL
Lax-aLlon ln 1664 was condemned Lo havlng her Longue nalled Lo Lree near a hlghway, wlLh a paper
fasLened Lo her back deLalllng her offense.
PaLred for women was mosL fully manlfesLed ln Lhe wlLch
hunLs. ln some Lngllsh Lowns, as many as a Lhlrd of Lhe pop-ulaLlon were accused of wlLchcrafL
women LargeLed for desLrucLlon were Lhose mosL lndependenL from paLrlarchal au-LhorlLy: slngle
women, wldows, and healers.
1he more peaceful and egallLarlan naLure dld noL escape Lhe noLlce of, Lhe colonlzers. ln Lhe "colonlal"
perlod, lL was a scandal ln Lhe colonles LhaL a number of whlLe people chose Lo llve among lndlan people
whlle vlrLually no lndlans volq,volunLarlly chose Lo llve among Lhe colonlsLs. Accordlng Lo !. PecLor SL.
!ohn de Crevecoeur, Lhe elghLeenLh-cenLury auLhor of lettets ftom oo Ametlcoo lotmet, "1housands
of Luropeans are lndlans, and we have no example of even one of Lhese Aborlglnes havlng from cholce
become Luropeans!"
ColonlsLs also noLed LhaL naLlve peoples rarely commlLLed sexual vlolence,
agalnsL whlLe prlsoners, unllke Lhe colonlsLs. 8rlgadler Ceneral !ames CllnLon of Lhe ConLlnenLal Army
sald Lo