Heads Up: This post is about blind spots regarding sexual violence and gender assumptions.
So... what do we call the activities recorded in those "embarrassing moment" photos taken by drunken straight girls and boys of the things they do to even drunker and/or passed out members of their own sexes? (No, I'm not going to post photos I was quickly able to find but you should be able to find some just as quickly.)
So here and over at the other blog (e.g. The Problem With Prosecuting Rape is Patriarchy - Time to Get Rid of It) I've been wrestling with the gradations of understanding/misunderstanding degrees of sexual violence, who commits it, who it's committed against, and especially how we prioritize different kinds of violence either for greater punishment or outright dismissal.
The classic example would be 1970s throwback Whoopie Goldberg's dismissal of Roman Polanski's notorious aggressive assault on a drugged and still resisting teenager because "I know it wasn't rape-rape." Because, presumably, Polanski didn't jump out of a dark alley and assault a complete stranger. See also erstwhile Senate candidate Todd Aikin's 1870s throwback requirement that an assault is "legitimate" only if the victim experiences organ failure.
We can mock and scorn those attitude for being benighted, but I'd like to argue instead that rather than being different from the rest of us their lines are only drawn unfashionably further along the spectrum of unambiguous sexual violence than we draw ours.
I mentioned photos I'd found. You know the kind, right? They're what really drunk or high people do to whoever passes out first -- usually involving undressing them, tying them up, writing obscenities on them with Sharpies, putting phallic objects in their mouths or buttocks, getting behind them and pretending to "hump" them?
Oh, and, duh!, taking and posting photos! All, pretty obviously, without the unconscious victim's consent.
And with the extra juicy assaultive/abusive elements of a) intentional wielding of power advantage, b) implicitly establishing or enforcing relative status over the victim, c) calculatedly sex-related humiliation of the victim for not-necessarily-directly-sexual gratification, d) triumphal disclosure to peers. Oh, and for even juicier extra credit, e) doleful tisk-tisking by peers and parents at the victims for passing out rather than the perpetrators for committing "not rape-rape" sex-related violence, and f) further peer and parental tisk-tisking about how their damaged reputations (but somehow not their assailants!) will haunt them in later years.
Who's doing this sort of stuff? Well, about half an hour with Google Images I'm able to confidently say "everybody." Stoner dudes assaulting other passed-out stoner dudes? Check. Sorority members assaulting other passed-out members? Check. Drunk male and female college students assaulting other passed-out male and female college students. Drunk women drawing penises on passed out men? Check. Drunk men drawing arrows and words like "fun" on passed-out women's legs or collarbones? Check.
On the other hand you may not want to check. Not just g) because "eww" but just as often because "yikes!" And other times "why didn't someone call the police?" Even though you know that, h) once sober, the victims are generally too ashamed to do so themselves. (Gee, doesn't this all sound familiar?)
Please note, by the way, that these are just the photos that people are willing to post. That these are the photos that Memebase- and LOLcats-style sites with names similar to "passedoutfirst" and "embarrassedmyself" are willing to keep up unflagged. Keep in mind these are just incidents people happen to photograph at all!
Where do you sit on the... let's call it the Goldberg spectrum of "legitimate" vs. "all in fun" sexual violence?