Julie Gillis looks forward at the ways in which we can help heal ourselves and others after the horrors of Steubenville and other assaults in the news.
Throughout this last week I’ve posted some pretty intense and hard to read (and write) articles. What can I say, it’s what’s going on in the world, in my world and as an advocate for healthy relationships, pleasureful consensual sex, and a world of compassion, I’ve been agitated by the news.
I’ve gotten really, really angry at the tweets, comments, and posts conflating what the boys in Steubenville did with sex, as if they were just having a sexual night with a girl who wanted it. Because that’s not what it was. It wasn’t that at all. It wasn’t even “people who were drinking too much and got out of control.” Cause go read the transcripts.
This was group of people who decided to do something very cruel to someone they knew, either with the use of alcohol alone, or alcohol and other drugs that couldn’t be traced.
I’ve seen so many posts as well saying if only she wasn’t drinking, or if only all of them weren’t drinking… And I just don’t believe this is an alcohol issue. This is a gang rape issue and assault issue.
This was not consensual sex or lust or passion, drinking or not. This was an intentional gang rape, more akin to group bonding through extreme humiliation, possible use of date rape drugs, and not entirely the same situation at all. The physical act looks the same in each case, but the message is completely different.
This isn’t a friends don’t let friends fuck drunk issue, though of course the more clear-headed people are in consensual encounters, so much the veryveryvery better, I’ve got no problem with that, in fact I’m for it!
The message is..don’t let friends bully, humiliate, and assault your other friends. Stand up for them.
Which didn’t happen, not because of alcohol, but because of the huge toxic emotional field they were all enveloped in, one of violence and entitlement and rage and power, and the fear bystanders had of the leaders of the group. We can blame it on social media, or alcohol, but it’s far bigger then that. It’s a culture of violence that allows for such callousness and cruelty, blaming and shaming.
I’m going to share an article that points at where I think at least some of the public health issue is, and video with a potential antidote.
This article is from Thomas at Yes Means Yes Blog. I’m putting a trigger warning on it due to some graphic description of other gang rape cases. It’s all about how the use of sex in the Steubenville case wasn’t for pleasure, passion, or lust, but for humiliation as a bonding ritual.
Looking back on it, here’s the awful conclusion: the social media blitz, and pictures, the video, the bragging, the guy who raised the idea of paying people to urinate on her — these were not byproducts of the exercise. Humiliating her wasn’t something that happened because they raped her. Humiliating her was the reason they raped her. That was the exercise. Humiliating her was the point of the whole thing.
They didn’t get caught because there was an audience. If they wanted to rape her in secret, they could have found a bedroom and locked the door. They wanted to do it and celebrate it. They wanted to put on a show. They didn’t get caught because when they raped her there was an audience; they raped her because there was an audience. The whole thing was for the attention. They thought it was funny. Nodianos could barely contain his laughter, and his glee, and he wanted everyone who saw that video to laugh along with him, laugh at the helpless victim and how completely she had been mistreated.
This is sickness, and a distillation of my thoughts in my piece, Roots. I don’t know about you, but when I read that I just feel ill. My anger turns into this kind of deep sadness. Hopelessness, that there it is, the truth and so many people just refuse to see it. And I feel even more so when people describe what happened that night in terms of sex as something people choose to do, or as something men do to women. “She was down for it.”‘He got some.” “Sluts are sluts.” And so forth.
I have the feeling the case is going to keep exposing things, keep illuminating dynamics we need to understand and deal with, but for now, I’m exhausted. There are many who will keep the work up this next week, but tomorrow is my birthday and I’m going to spend it by writing peaceful fun things.
So what to do? What’s the cure to this ailment, this public health crisis of bullying, and violence, and cruelty Zimbardo has warned us about?
I’ll leave you with the concept of moving sex from a model of competition to that of sex as an improv jam, a pleasurable, mutual, playful joining that is always dependent on both actors communicating fully and well, with bodies and words, about the next move, the next dance, the next touch.
It’s a gorgeous, uplifting video (which I also found at Yes Means Yes) about reframing our relationship with sexuality and partnership. Unlike the first post, I don’t think it will be triggering to anyone, unless you don’t like thinking about world where sex is so peaceful.
As an actor, artist, improviser this hits me right where I live-in play and hope and possibility. As an activist and as a sexual person, I think this model is something that could change us all. I want us all to learn a new language for how we talk about and learn about sex, moving from a culture of violence and bullying, to one of compassion and support. It’s one piece of the puzzle that could have a huge influence.
It’s a start, at the very least.