Things that will send me to hell, #956 – Contraception (or Why My Husband Will Soon Hate My Selfish Ass.)

Today’s Vagina News is a peek into crazytown.

This is a post on a pro-life, anti-contraception website in which an individual asks for help in explaining why contraception is morally wrong, and a friendly theologist steps up with an answer. 

An INSANE answer.

This theologist says contraception turns sex from a beautiful act of selfless love to an act of sexual exploitation that will inevitably make the husband and wife hate each other. (He only talks about sex between married people, because that’s the kind of sex he thinks should happen, so best to ignore the other kinds. Fingers-in-ears, lalalalalalala.) Also, because he can’t resist trotting out the crazytown classics, he reminds his readers that if you use contraception, you’ll go to hell. 

Normally I wouldn’t consider this kind of kookoopants garbage to be news. But unfortunately, there are voters who think like this, and use their votes to elect officials who make decisions about contraceptive services. Also, pro-choice people tell me all the time that they don’t think anyone is seriously proposing limiting access to contraception. Not so. 

Know thine enemy. Even if thine enemy is batshit crazy.

Is An Abuser’s Right to Bear Arms Greater Than a Woman’s Right to Live?

Thank you, The New York Times, for this excellent article on a piece of Vagina News I’ve been thinking about for a while.

We know a lot about the role guns play in domestic/intimate partner violence. More than half of all female murder victims in the US are killed by current or former intimate partners. Most of those intimate partner homicides involve guns. And many of those victims had active protective orders against their murderers when they were killed.

We know that when a women is trying to protect herself from an abuser, the most dangerous time is immediately after a protective order is served. We also know that, in places where police take possession of weapons at the time an order is served, intimate partner homicide decreases dramatically. (And yes, we know the NRA says protective orders are issued baselessly, and we know they’re wrong. There’s a high threshold of credible danger before a protective order can be issued, and the vast majority of protective orders are upheld in court.)

In a time when we still casually blame women for being with abusive men because ‘she could just leave’, I ask this; if you were in an abusive intimate relationship with someone who owned guns, would you be more likely to leave and/or pursue legal action if you knew the guns would be removed, at least temporarily? I would. 

So this is the question. Which do we value more as a society – the Second Amendment rights of domestic abusers, or women’s lives? 

Steubenville Fallout Roundup

I probably don’t need to tell you what’s dominating the world of Vagina News today. But I will – Steubenville.

There’s a LOT happening in the wake of Sunday’s verdict. Let me try to round it all up for you.

First, the verdict & sentence. Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were tried as juveniles, so things work a little differently. ‘Delinquent’ on all charges (rape, and ‘illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material’ for Mays.) Minimum one year in detention, maximum until they’re 21. (They’re 16 & 17 now.) It’s unclear whether they will remain on a juvenile sex offenders’ list after that. There’s been a lot of discussion about their statements, in which they expressed remorse for taking & sharing pictures, but not for the rape(s) & assault(s) themselves. 

Then there’s the press coverage and ongoing public reaction. CNN’s message was that the lives of these two promising young men have been destroyed. Several media outlets aired the victim’s name, a practice often made illegal by Rape Shield laws, and even more egregious given that this victim is a minor. 

Almost immediately following the release of the victim’s name, stories started popping up that she and her family were receiving death threats. (Her legal team said they’d already received an unprecedented number of credible threats over the course of the investigation & trial.) Today, police arrested two young women in association with death threats made against the victim over social media. 

This comes on the heels of yesterday’s news that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine plans to convene a Grand Jury to look into charges against other people involved in the case – and that could be a lot of people. It IS a crime in Ohio to have knowledge of a felony and fail to report it. Then there’s obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, and other related charges that are likely to come into play, as testimony suggests at least one coach knew about the crimes and tried to shield the young men from prosecution, and the small-town football fever in Steubenville leaves a lot of overlap between law enforcement, the legal community, and the football team Mays and Ma’lik played on. It’s all further complicated by the fact that some witnesses have already been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony in the original trial. (Here’s a great visual representation of that mess.

Finally, there’s an internet full of reaction to all of this, from every imaginable person/organization/angle. (Find and read as you like, but I highly suggest being kind to your soul by avoiding the comments.) 

It’s exhausting and heartbreaking and infuriating, and I’m really, really, really glad it’s happening. 

Senator Kirstin Gillibrand on Military Sexual Assault

Yesterday, we talked about the Steubenville rape trial as an example of the failure of law enforcement and the legal system to adequately address crimes involving sexual assault. Recently, we talked about the much needed change female Senators like Elizabeth Warren and Claire McCaskill are bringing to Congress. Today, we talk about both.

This week, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing with military leaders on the issue of military sexual assault. In particular, they talked about the case of Kimberly Hanks vs. Lt. Col. James Wilkerson. Wilkerson was found guilty by a military jury of aggravated sexual of Hanks while they were both stationed in Italy last year. He was stripped of his rank and sentenced to a year in the brig.

But two weeks ago, Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, who did not attend the trial (he’s stationed in Germany) and has no law enforcement experience, overturned the jury’s conviction, restored Wilkerson’s rank, and had him released from the brig. Why? The military allows officers with “convening authority” to overturn decisions made by military courts, no questions asked.

In this video, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand does what Senators are supposed to go – she speaks for Americans, as our representative. And she does a pretty phenomenal job of it.

Everywhere is Steubenville

There is some big Vagina News happening this week in Ohio. Today is the third day of testimony in the Steubenville rape trial. (Need a primer on the case? Here’s a timeline. )

What’s stunning about this case is that dozens of people witnessed an unconscious teenage girl being dragged from party to party and repeatedly sexually assaulted, yet did nothing to intervene; The victim reported it herself the next morning, after learning what happened to her via social media. The perpetrators didn’t even think they were doing something shameful – There were videos posted online, volumes of voicemails and text messages between participants, some of the dozens of eyewitnesses, even faculty members who were involved in helping cover up the crimes. 

If ever there was a real-time example of the issues surrounding sexual assault (victim-blaming, white male privilege, failure of law enforcement to adequately address sexual assault, failure of the legal system to hold perpetrators accountable, the need for grassroots education and advocacy, etc.,) this is it. 

For coverage, I’m partial to the New York Times, who first brought the story to national attention, but here’s lots of coverage to choose from – Google ‘Steubenville rape trial’ to choose your media outlet. If I find someone doing an especially good job of it, I’ll let you know – please do the same.

It’s Not a Game.

Today’s Vagina News is a followup to a recent post on the Vagina News Facebook page¬†about the first installment of Anita Sarkeesian’s video series on sexist tropes in video games. (If you haven’t seen that video, you must. Anita Sarkeesian is the creator and host of Feminist Frequency, which is absolutely fantastic.)

This is her recent TEDTalk about the horrifyingly misogynistic response she faced after launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the series. In addition to Anita having to close comments on most of her content to stop the barrage of threats to her physical safety. TEDTalks had to close comments to this video for the same reason.

(Spoiler alert – her Kickstarter campaign received 2500% more money than she was asking for, so there is cause for hope. But this video is an exploration of where that awful backlash came from. To quote my wonderful husband, “She is one tough lady.”)

Ring the Bell

In today’s Vagina News, Obvious Edition… Patrick Stewart is fabulous.

He’s spoken openly on a number occasions about witnessing his father physically abuse his mother. What’s unusual – it shouldn’t be, but it is – is that he blames his father for the violence, rather than blaming his mother for staying. And more than that, he believes the responsibility for ending such violence lies with men. All men.

He was joined last week by a number of other fabulous men, including Dallas Mayor Michael Rawlings and former NFL quarterback Don McPherson, at an event marking the launch of ‘Ring the Bell’, a campaign calling on men to commit to doing whatever they can to end violence against women. 

(This is a good opportunity for a little patriarchy-jailbreaking. Do you think the media/public response would have been different if this event/campaign/call-to-action were being led by women? I do. And I think that’s a great example of why we need more men to follow Mr. Stewart’s example.)

Men of Vagina News, I hope you’ll join the campaign. We women need you. And we’re not invited to this party. DISCRIMINATION! (Kidding.)