[Trigger Warning for Survivors of Sexual Assault]


I am twelve or thirteen. There are five of us and one of her. She hasn’t lived in the neighborhood long. The others hold her down, laughing. One pries her legs open. I know what’s happening is wrong, but I don’t say anything. I grope her breast, the first one I have ever touched. I stand up and back away. Thankfully, it’s enough, and we let her up. I never tell anyone.

I am eighteen. I’ve gone out on a couple of dates with a girl whose friend just broke up with me. We’ve made out once or twice. One night in the middle of the night I go over to her house. The door is unlocked, and I sneak into her room. We have sex. After, I ask if we can do it again, and she says no. I leave. It’s not until a few years later I realize I probably raped her. I don’t tell anyone til I’m in my forties.

I am twenty-one. I’m having consensual sex. She freezes up, asks me to stop. I finish. I never tell anyone.

This list of my transgressions is hardly exhaustive. I can only hope it’s the worst I have done. In two of three cases, I’ve never told anyone until now. I didn’t want people to know. More than that, I didn’t want those things to have happened.

But they did happen. I did those things. And if it’s taken this long for me to human up and acknowledge them, well, that’s on me, too.

I could make excuses. I was young, dumb, and full of cum. I didn’t know any better. I came of age in the ’80s, when rape culture was just culture. Men were supposed to want sex, and anything shy of actual or threatened violence was on the table for getting it, be it deception, cajoling, or just getting her drunk enough to let you take her panties off and do what you wanted. I was a product of my environment.

Those excuses are bullshit. Basic human decency isn’t hard to grasp once you admit to yourself that other people are people.

I am sorry for the things I did. I apologize to the people I did them to. But I don’t presume to ask forgiveness. Some stains can’t be washed out. Just like some wounds never heal.

The idea of hitting publish scares the absolute shit out of me. People I don’t know are going to judge me. Worse, people I do know will, too.

But after reading as much of this as I could stomach, my conscience compels me to come clean and own up to the things I have done. Somebody has to go first.

I may not be a good person. But I can at least try and do the right thing. If we, as men, are going to do something about rape culture, we’ve got to look inside as well as out. You can’t fight something you’re not willing to face.


Why I Wouldn’t Kill Hitler with My Time Machine

So, it’s a pretty classic thought experiment: If you had a time machine, would you go back and kill Hitler before he had a chance to start WWII?

Thanks to my daily internet divagations, I found myself revisiting this classic hypothetical today, and, given my brain’s penchant for the road less traveled (and for giving concrete answers to rhetorical questions), I found myself answering the question with a pretty definitive ‘no,’ though for practical rather than the usual moral or ethical reasons. I offer my rationale below, not as any sort of definitive answer, but as food for thought for hungry thinkers.

It goes like this: Continue reading “Why I Wouldn’t Kill Hitler with My Time Machine”

Things I Learned on the Internet This Week 8/8/14

Another week gone, and the internet (and the world it reflects, or possibly refracts) continues to fascinate. So, in my continuing efforts to excuse to myself the embarrassing amount of time I spend surfing the internet, here is a selection of highlights from my procrastinations this week:

Warren Layre, 61, told The Inquirer in an interview last year that the officers beat him with a steel bar and kicked in his teeth during a warrantless raid on his machine shop on West Sedgwick Street in June 2011. Speaking to a reporter two years later, he pulled back his lip to show the gaps in his teeth that remained.

According to Wednesday’s indictment, Liciardello reported less than $7,000 of the $41,158 they seized from Layre’s shop.

Truth really is stranger than fiction, as this story of six corrupt cops up on racketeering charges in Philadelphia attests. For ten years, these guys ran rampant through the city, shaking people down and sending people to jail on trumped-up charges and basically running a standover operation, and the only thing that stopped them was that one of them finally got caught and turned stool pigeon. If this was on TV, it’d be a huge hit, and I expect some day it will be. In fact, I think these guys are a natural extension of the portrayal of law enforcement in our entertainment culture, which I think has a lot of similarities to what happened (and continues to happen) between Hollywood and the Mafia.

Moving on to American law enforcement at the institutional level, we learn from the Washington Post that

Nearly every criminal case reviewed by the FBI and the Justice Department as part of a massive investigation started in 2012 of problems at the FBI lab has included flawed forensic testimony from the agency, government officials said.

For years, even decades, a team in the FBI crime lab misrepresented its results in order to secure convictions. Not unlike the situation in Philadelphia, the problem was known but institutional inertia prevented it from being attended to until outed by investigative reporter Spencer Hsu.

The review comes after The Washington Post reported in April that Justice Department officials had known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people but had not performed a thorough review of the cases. In addition, prosecutors did not notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled.

Worst of all, innocent people may have been executed. The first article in the series sums it all up pretty well, I think.

Officials started reviewing the cases in the 1990s after reports that sloppy work by examiners at the FBI lab was producing unreliable forensic evidence in court trials. Instead of releasing those findings, they made them available only to the prosecutors in the affected cases, according to documents and interviews with dozens of officials.

In addition, the Justice Department reviewed only a limited number of cases and focused on the work of one scientist at the FBI lab, despite warnings that problems were far more widespread and could affect potentially thousands of cases in federal, state and local courts.

As a result, hundreds of defendants nationwide remain in prison or on parole for crimes that might merit exoneration, a retrial or a retesting of evidence using DNA because FBI hair and fiber experts may have misidentified them as suspects.

And, just in case you weren’t yet fully convinced of the dysfunction in US law enforcement culture, here’s one more slug to the guts.

“I felt so vulnerable being laid out on a table, with all my clothes off and in a bag and all the swabs and brushes and combs,” she recalled. But at least, she figured, the police would use the swabs and hair samples to help catch the rapist.

They did not. Like hundreds of thousands of other rape kits across the country containing evidence gathered from victims, that of Ms. Ybos lay untested for years on a storeroom shelf.

(hat tip to Charles P. Pierce, one of my favorite writers, period, for this post, where I found most of the above)

Having gotten through all that, I think we could all use a break. Here’s a picture of the sunset at Second Beach, where I went camping with my girl and just the loveliest bunch of people you could ever want to hang out with last weekend. Continue reading “Things I Learned on the Internet This Week 8/8/14”

On Being and Doing, and How They Relate to #NotAllMen and #YesAllWomen

There are two kinds of people in this world, people who divide the world into two kinds of people, and people who don’t. I’m generally the latter, and generally suspicious of binary frames as anything other than analytical tools to be picked up and put aside as they are useful, because in the world of lived actuality things are always more complicated than that. You have to be careful with them, because like many tools they convert easily to weapons. But when handled properly they can be used to adjust one’s perspective in way not dissimilar to the way a wrench adjusts the torque on a bolt.

One pair in tension that has much occupied me in recent months is that between being and doing. One takes as its basis a sort of existential status, the other actions and their result. Both are widely applicable as conceptual frames, and I think their deployment in the #YesAllWomen conversation speaks very clearly to the underlying problem, the thing so many men just don’t seem to get (John Scalzi did this better than I’m likely to, but bear with me).

One needn’t look hard to find the protestations of men aggrieved to be lumped in with the Eliot Rodgers, the Pick Up Artists and their seamy underbelly, or the endless ticker of women in America assaulted, raped, and killed by men over their sexual availability and, more importantly, their exercise of agency over it. Not all men are like that, they say. I am not like that, they say, sometimes explicitly. Indeed, the very existence of the above is the proof of their virtue, because they are not like the bad ones, the ones who hate women and speak and act on that hatred in obvious ways. They are not misogynists. Because they are not misogynists, their actions cannot be misogynistic. So stop judging them. Some of these men even have the gumption to claim some victimhood for themselves.

Either way, by this point we’ve been completely diverted from the discussion of misogyny, rape culture, and the culture of masculine entitlement that makes life for women everywhere so much more difficult and dangerous than it is for men. One suspects this was the unconscious intent of the speaker in the first place. Continue reading “On Being and Doing, and How They Relate to #NotAllMen and #YesAllWomen”

A Suggestion for Heterosexual Men

It was in the boys’ locker room of my high school that I learned the true meaning of homophobia. I took a weightlifting class my senior year, and one day after I was standing around talking with a couple of guys I ran cross country with. The subject of homosexuals came up, and one of them said something that’s stuck with me ever since.

“I don’t want some guy looking at me the way that I look at girls.”

Even at the time, I thought that very telling, and have told the story many times in the decades since. A few years ago, reading something online (I wish I remembered well enough to find the link) written by a teacher, a similar story came up. A boy in class declared his homophobia, with the excuse that he didn’t like being looked at that way. The teacher asked the boy if his discomfort arose from being the object of unwanted sexual attention from someone who might physically overpower him and he agreed that yes, that was it precisely. The teacher then asked the class if anyone else had had a similar experience. Every girl’s hand went up.

It’s a tribute to the depth to which masculine privilege is embedded in our society that I missed that part of the lesson for so many years. I’m often a pretty bright fellow, though I felt pretty dim in that moment.

It’s said that though not all men harass women, all women are harassed by men. It can be difficult to grant that validity, or even conceive what it’s like if you haven’t experienced it yourself, which most men frankly haven’t.

There is, however, a corrective available, and I urge all straight men to avail themselves of it. Go spend some time in a gay bar. Have a couple drinks (they’ll be strong), make some new friends, be the object of unwelcome advances. Chances are it’ll make you uncomfortable if not outright ick you out. Stick around, see how long you can stand it. See if you can successfully shut down someone who won’t take no for an answer without resorting to violence or harming his ego so he does. Continue reading “A Suggestion for Heterosexual Men”