Fuck Off, Dawkins: An Emotional Response

Okay, I already wrote a rational response to Richard Dawkins’ inflammatory tweets about the relative badness of various types of rape and sexual abuse…but I have feelings, too.

Mainly rage.

Dr. Dawkins, have you ever sat in a room full of survivors of sexual abuse and rape and listened to them tell their stories?  Have you heard them disparage themselves, saying that they didn’t deserve to be there because their trauma wasn’t as bad as someone else’s?  I very much doubt that you have.

I have.  I’ve been in that room.  I’ve been the one saying I don’t deserve to acknowledge the devastation sexual abuse and assault caused me and don’t deserve to get help, and I’ve also been the one reassuring another woman that her feelings about being raped were legitimate even though she hadn’t been subjected to the same degree of violence that others were.  It rips your heart to shreds.

I was sexually abused by my father for 16 years and then repeatedly raped for several months by another person.  My father was occasionally violent and sometimes threatened to kill me, but most of his abuse was not violent.  The person who raped me as an adult wasn’t violent and never threatened me.  By your definition, my trauma is bad…but not bad bad.  But I have severe, debilitating complex PTSD and dissociative identity disorder, which are a direct result of those traumas.  DID is generally recognized as the most severe trauma-based disorder, but if my abuse and rape weren’t bad bad, then why is my life so devastated?

It’s incredibly offensive to use rape or sexual abuse just to make a point.  It’s like the movies and books where the writer needs something bad to happen to a female character to move the plot along, so he uses rape even though many other traumas would’ve worked just as well.  It trivializes rape.  You could’ve just as easily used theft as an example for your fucking syllogism.  Clearly you knew that, since you later tweeted about that as a cruel, sarcastic response to people who objected to your comments about rape and sexual abuse.  You’re not a stupid man; you clearly did this to be provocative and offensive, and you did it at the expense of all the people who have been traumatized by nonviolent rape and sexual abuse.

You know what?  I think “nonviolent rape” is a contradiction of terms.  Rape is an inherently violent act, even if it doesn’t leave visible injuries.  It is violence against a person’s soul–in many cases, the emotional equivalent of murder.  To suggest otherwise is incredibly offensive.

I hope you’re ashamed of yourself, but I’m pretty damn sure you’re too narcissistic to feel that.  I am disgusted by you.  I wouldn’t wish rape on anyone, but I wish you could live a day with the emotional aftermath of it.  Then you’d stop being so fucking insensitive about it. 

I want you to hurt the way I do.  I want you to feel the guilt and the shame and the self-hatred and the self-blame every day.  I want you to be afraid of almost everybody, especially anyone with a penis.  I want you to be completely isolated because you can’t trust anyone.  I want you to live on constant red alert because you can never feel safe again.  I want you to live with the flashbacks and the body memories and the nightmares.  I want you to live with the feeling of despair and hopelessness because you will never be able to undo what was done to you.  I want you to feel what it’s like to want to die because the pain is so constant and unbearable.  I want you to know what it’s like to realize the person abusing or raping you doesn’t even see you as a human being.  I want you to feel the utter helplessness when you realize there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.  I want you to fucking HURT.

Define Your Terms, Dr. Dawkins: A Rational Response

The other day, Richard Dawkins decided to illustrate syllogisms for his Twitter followers.  Fine, good; more people should understand logic and how to use it.

The part that’s not fine and good is that he used child sexual abuse and rape as examples of syllogisms.  “Mild pedophilia is bad. Violent pedophilia is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of mild pedophilia, go away and learn how to think,” he said in one tweet.  Then, “Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.”

Here’s my syllogism: “Punching someone in the face is bad.  Murder is worse.  That’s not an endorsement of either one, but Richard Dawkins makes both look like attractive choices.”

This is his typical MO.  He likes being provocative.  It gets him attention and free media coverage.  I’m sure his stunt generated thousands of tweets responding to him, mentioning him, and retweeting him.

But for a guy who claims to be trying to teach people about logic and rational thinking, he’s committing some pretty glaring logical transgressions.

First of all, most US statutory law doesn’t differentiate between acquaintance/date rape and stranger rape.  There aren’t separate charges for raping someone you know or raping someone you don’t know.  There are often more serious charges in cases where more force is used or cases where the victim is a child or disabled, but that wasn’t what Dawkins was arguing.  So that’s strike one for his logic.

(To be fair, I don’t know if English statutory law has different charges for acquaintance rape and stranger rape.  I doubt it, though, since English law is in most regards very similar to American law.  But if someone knows differently, please correct me.)

Also, his argument assumes that date/acquaintance rape isn’t violent.  There’s nothing to keep a date rapist from raping his girlfriend at knifepoint or inflicting violence upon her.  Strike two, Richard.

My freshman year of college, I had this stereotypical mad professor who would shout at us in his Irish brogue, “What exactly do you mean?  Define your terms!”  He was nuts, but he taught me the importance of crafting an argument using precise language so the audience understands the precise point you are making.  Apparently Dawkins needs to study with this guy.

How is he defining worse?  I think it’s fairly clear that he wasn’t making a legal argument, so I don’t think he means worse in a legal sense.  I assume that what he means when he says worse is that it has a more negative effect on the victim.  If that is indeed what he means, then he’s still wrong.

The degree of violence inflicted on the victim in the course of sexual abuse or rape does not necessarily correlate with the emotional impact on the victim.  What Dr. Dawkins is employing here is a good ol’ logical fallacy, folks.  There are tons of studies showing that when several people experience the same trauma, some develop PTSD, while others don’t.  Dawkins implies a correlation between degree of violence and degree of negative emotional impact on the victim, but the data doesn’t support that conclusion.  In point of fact, sexual assault perpetrated by someone the victim trusted is often more emotionally traumatic than stranger rape because the victim has to deal with betrayal trauma and rape trauma.  Strrrrrrrrike three!

Or maybe he’s trying to make a moral argument: that violent sexual abuse or rape is more morally wrong than nonviolent sexual abuse or rape.  To make that moral argument, he’d first have to define the moral code by which he is judging the degree of wrongness.  In general, we base our moral codes on a set of values that can vary widely from one culture to another or even in different subcultures within a single culture.  Almost every moral code recognizes that it is bad to hurt another person, but the specifics of what’s more or less acceptable vary.  That’s why logical arguments are usually recognized as being separate from moral arguments, something a very educated scientist should already know.  Strrrrrrrrike–wait, you’re already out of strikes, so shut the fuck up.

Knitting and Flowers

Today, I dragged myself out of bed.  (Admittedly, not until almost 5:00 in the evening, but….)  I put on real clothes (you know, not the same pajamas I’ve been wearing for the last week or so), got my knitting and my music, and sat on the front porch swing to work on the shawl for my sister’s wedding gift.

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The size is deceptive–it’ll grow a lot once I block it, but it’s still a little way from being done.  Blocking will also make it look less wrinkled/messy.

It was nice out, mid-70’s and sunny for the first time in days.  I love thunderstorms, but they get old when you have them for days on end.  And my landlady has a lovely garden out front, so I could smell the flowers while I was knitting.

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It made me feel a little better about life, so I guess that’s something.

Afterward, I started choosing what clothes I’m going to take on this trip and sorting out the laundry that needs to be done.  I’ve been pretty unmotivated to do laundry lately because I basically wear pajamas all the time and just wash those and my underwear.  I’m classy like that.  So I have tons of laundry that needs to be done before this trip.

Then I had an asthma attack, so I’ve been taking it easy since then.

I think I’m going to try to get out of my bedroom every day.  I mean, there’s a swing right there on the front porch, so it’s not like it requires much of an effort.  It’s not going to magically fix all my problems, but it does make me feel a little bit better.  That counts for something.

Trip Anxiety

I’m starting to get anxious about the trip.  I’m trying not to obsess over it, but it’s hard.

Mostly I’m stressing because B won’t be able to go with me.  When I thought about the trip, I’d planned it with him.  I’m afraid that without him, I’ll lapse back into the person I was seven years ago when I was last there instead of the person I am now.  He’s the only one who’s been around for that shift, and I’m afraid that being surrounded by people who haven’t really known me since then will drag me back.

The person I was when I left was miserable.  She hated herself and spent most of her time and energy trying to destroy herself.  She nearly killed herself so she wouldn’t have to feel anything but that self-hatred.  She couldn’t even consider that she might matter, that she might deserve to live and be safe and happy.  She was desperate for approval and love that only came if she was perfect, but she kept killing herself to try to win that love.  She was doing the best she could in that situation, but she was miserable.

Now, I’m so much better.  Yeah, I’m dealing with some pretty serious depression here lately, but not like it was before.  I don’t want to destroy myself anymore; I want to fix myself, even on the days that I don’t see any way of doing that.  When I imagined this trip, I imagined seeing all these relatives at the wedding.  Naturally, they’d ask what I’ve been up to.  I imagined telling my very Republican family, “Oh, I get Democrats elected.  My record is three for three, and I’m now working on getting a governor elected who defeated DOMA and defended buffer zones, and the first lesbian attorney general.  What have you been up to?”  (As I paraphrased it to my former therapist, “I work for the Democrats, so fuck all y’all.”)

Now, alone, I’m less certain I’ll be able to hang onto my present self.  I doubt I’ll slip all the way back into full-blown self-destruction, but it would be easy to start letting my family bully me and not stand up for myself.  That’s the pattern I’ve enacted with them my entire life, so it’s hard to pull the wheels out of those familiar ruts.

I’m worried people are going to be judgmental.  My bridesmaid dress is sleeveless, so a lot of my scars will be showing.  And I’m probably going to have to use my cane at the wedding, and I may even have to have a chair or something if I can’t stand up for long enough.  Certain family members have not been very understanding of my difficulties in the past.  One aunt called me up out of the blue about a year and a half after I moved to Massachusetts.  I hadn’t talked to her in 2 or 3 years, but she decided to call me and lecture me about how my problems were a choice and I was hurting the family.  And then there’s my grandfather, who I can easily imagine mocking me for needing to use the cane, or accusing me of faking it and being over-dramatic.

My youngest sister told me the other night that she’d already planned to run interference for me if people were being assholes.  I love that kid to death.  We also had a conversation about how I could just whack people across the shins with the cane to shut them up.  I mentioned wanting to find a way to electrify it so I could zap them if they were being assholes, but then I’m not sure the TSA would let me take it on the airplane.

And I don’t know what to expect when I go to Florida to help my mother.  Both my sisters say she’s a lot less crazy now that she’s remarried.  (Well, Middle Sister phrased it as “…now that she’s getting laid,” but you get the point.)  And most of the time I’m there, she’ll be at work, so I can knock out some chores and then go to the beach or kayak with the manatees.  So I think that should be manageable.

But I’m still afraid of losing myself when I go back to Birmingham.  I’m trying to calm myself down about it and convince myself that being aware of the potential for that problem will let me guard against it.  I’m trying not to let myself worry obsessively.  I’m trying to make plans to do fun stuff with people I like so I have an excuse not to spend much time with my extended family.  My sisters and I are getting matching tattoos, Little Sister and I are going to the zoo and the hands-on science museum where I used to work (possibly with Mother and Fake Stepdad, too), and Little Sister and I are going to hang out and smoke some pot.  (It’s medicinal!)  I’m going to get together with my best friend from high school, meet her daughter, cuddle with her kitties (she breeds and shows GORGEOUS Bengals), and do some yarn shopping.  I might get together with some other people, too.  So I have some good things going.  Hopefully it’ll make the trip okay.

Feeling Unwanted

FO called me last night to see if I wanted to go to the opening of the new campaign office in our end of the state.  I thought it would be good to get out, and that’s something I could do mostly sitting down, so I said yes.  He said he’d call me in the morning and come pick me up.

He didn’t.

So now I feel pretty horrible.  I feel unwanted.  I feel like everyone hates me and wishes I’d just disappear or die so they wouldn’t have to deal with me anymore.  I feel like cutting.  I feel like purging.  I’m not quite suicidal, but I wish I could die.

And then I feel crazy for feeling this way.  I know I’m overreacting.  Probably something came up at the last minute, so he couldn’t pick me up or go.  And even if it were true that he didn’t want me around, that can’t possibly be true of everyone.  Hell, the vast majority of people in the world don’t know me, and it’s generally pretty hard to hate someone if you’re not even aware that they exist.  I know it’s crazy to go from “One person failed to give me a ride to an event” to “Everyone hates me and wishes I were dead.”  That’s a HUGE leap.  It’s even a big leap to go from “FO didn’t come get me for the office opening” to “FO hates me and doesn’t want to deal with me.”  He’s always been nice to me.  We’re not best friends or anything, but we’ve always been friendly.  So it’s probably not even true that he doesn’t like me.

But none of those rational arguments make me feel any better.  I still feel like everyone hates me and wants me to die, and I still feel like hurting myself to dull the feelings.  I still feel like I shouldn’t exist at all.

I think I’m going to take a nap instead because otherwise I probably will end up purging or cutting.

Connecting

Lately I’ve been feeling very disconnected from…well, everything.  It’s not a fun feeling.  I feel like there’s no one to turn to, no one to talk to.  I keep thinking that if I died, it would be at least a week before anyone noticed.  (Don’t worry; I’m not suicidal.)

Nothing seems to fill the hole.

And then I realize I don’t even know what it is I’m looking for.  I desperately want someone to do or say that magical, perfect thing that will make me feel like I’m not all alone, like I matter, like my existence is worth something.  But I don’t know what that thing is.  Like smut, I know it when I see it.

I keep thinking about this one therapist I saw for two years who I felt very connected to.  I can’t pin down what it was in that relationship and that way of interacting that helped.  She was the first person ever to make me believe that I matter, but I don’t know why I believed her or the hundred other people who’ve said the same thing before and since.

It frustrates me.  I want something from people, and I don’t know what.  So what ends up happening is that people try to help, they try to give me advice, and I just shut it down.  All I can see right now is my own helplessness to change my circumstances.  I’m sure it’s frustrating to the people I interact with, too.  Who wants to talk to someone who says, “No, that won’t work” every time you try to help.  No one wants to deal with that person who’s a bottomless pit of neediness and will be hurt when you don’t give her the thing she desperately needs but can’t understand or tell.

I want.  I want, I want, I want.

But everything is empty.

What do we do?

I went and bought a suitcase today.  Actually, a three-piece luggage set, which at regular price was $199, but I got it for $70.  Pretty great deal.  It’s just weird to buy luggage.  It struck me as something real people do, and I’ve lapsed back into feeling like I’m not a real person.  Does the fact that I now own a matched luggage set make me a real person?

I’m not sure that will make any sense to anyone outside my head.  I’m not entirely sure I’m capable of making sense.

It’s all surreal, you know?  I’m really dysfunctional; I hardly leave my bed or get dressed or brush my hair or anything.  But at the same time, I’m planning for this big trip all on my own.  Going back to where I grew up, to most of the people I grew up with.  And I don’t know how I’m going to do with it.

I still sort of think of Birmingham as home.  It’s a little confusing–I never intend to live there again, I never really fit in anywhere there, but I’m still fond of it.  But I haven’t been back there in seven years, and there are a lot of bad memories there too.  And some bad people.

And then–Florida, with my mother, to help her after her neck surgery.  I volunteered for that: why?  I thought I was past trying to be good enough to make her love me, but is that why I’m doing it?  I’d prefer to think it’s mostly selfish, that I wanted to spend time at the beach and I volunteered because she’ll be at work most of the time, so I’ll get to do what I want.  I don’t know which is true; it’s probably a combination of both.  But it disgusts me that I’m weak enough to still go seeking her approval by playing the good daughter.

I think a lot of the confusion is because there are so many parts with conflicting feelings.  Cognitive dissonance, because it doesn’t make sense together.  Luckily I’ve gotten good at ambivalence.  I can hold multiple contradictory beliefs or wishes simultaneously, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or if it just means I’m extra crazy.  It probably doesn’t matter which.

I’m not making sense, am I?  I don’t think I’m making sense.  Part of me cares, but most of me doesn’t, anymore.  I don’t know what I’m talking about.  I don’t know what I’m writing.  It probably doesn’t matter.