Curves.

Last week I attended VioDy in Minnesota. As per always, even though much of the material is familiar to me because I’ve attended before, I either manage to pick up something I previously missed or to apply something I knew to a different setting. I’ve been thinking about creeps a lot lately (shameless book plug) so that’s what I’ve been picking up the most.

The first thought bomb came from Randy King’s presentation of the logic of violence. Randy put up a graph of the comparative speed of the adrenaline dump for men and women. I knew about the differences from Rory’s books and others, but I’d never seen it in pictorial form. My take home was that, if being creeped at caused us an adrenaline dump, the time we spend frantically trying to work out whether someone is a real creep or “just” socially awkward, trying to work out what the he’ll is happening and what our response should be, is time that decreases our cognitive and physical abilities. Meanwhile, the creepo can stay as cool as a cucumber because no part of what’s going on is a shock or even a concern to him. This is issue one: by delaying in our response until we’re absofuckinglutely sure of what’s going on, we’re allowing our physiology to work against us.

If our final response is to do nothing, that response is going to be filed in our brain in the special little folder it saves for experiences acquired under adrenaline, i.e. as super duper important. The next time we have to deal with this kind of situation, we will have an adrenaline-ingrained go-to response as another hurdle to overcome.

Practice dealing with creeps successfully (for our own measure of what success is) can reduce both issue. We’re ingraining useful responses while building the familiarity with the issue that will make us less likely to get badly adrenalised.

Moral of the story: we need to work with our physiology or accept that it will work against us, and we need to get over the fact that getting the shakes or the weepies after we’ve dealt with a creep means that somehow he retroactively won.

Another few thought grenades came from Tammy Yard-McCracken’s presentation of ConCom (my 7th time listening to the program, 4th presenter, and every time I pick up something different). Tammy mentioned the differences between social conditioning, which is slow, and operant conditioning, which is much faster. Our social conditioning schools us towards non-reaction against creeps, and the fact that we come out of our creep encounters alive, if not always unharmed, confirms non-reaction as the “right” response. The response can become our go-to response, and very hard to shift. Operant conditioning can overlay/replace/underlay (I need to ask someone who knows such things) a different response that better suits us, and with much fewer reps. But until we do the thing, actually engage in behaviors that fly in the face of our social conditioning and the multiple reps of our ingrained response, it doesn’t have a damn chance to. It can be done, though, and it can be done fast. We can shed a ton of limiting behaviors in minutes or moments. We have to do the thing, though, whatever our thing is going to be. Thinking about it won’t cut it.

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Them.

One of the issues I’ve tried to push in the Creepology book is that some conflicts have a middle ground, some don’t. If you want taxes at 10% and I want them at 30%, we can agree to disagree at 20%. Sexual assault and consent violations can’t be negotiated on in that manner. “Just the tip” is not an acceptable solution.

Another issue is that when it comes to social problems, there’s no such thing as neutrality. Inaction is support for whoever has the upper hand in that given moment. Whatever reasons (or excuses) we give ourselves for not taking action, it doesn’t matter: if we do not take action (and that includes speaking out – anything that influences the world around us IS AN ACTION) then we are supporting whoever has the upper hand.

Those aren’t just theories. The world provides us almost daily with living examples of these principles.

 

Kaja Sadowski of Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly wrote this post following the Harvey Weinstein scandal:

“There’s a lot of men in my feed posting their outrage about Harvey Weinstein, and wondering how to make things better.

I’d like you all to do something for me: read (or re-read) Zoe Brock’s account of getting “Weinsteined”. But this time, ignore Weinstein himself, and set aside Brock as well for the moment. Instead, I want you to pay attention to the sheer number of people who enabled this incident. The personal assistants and agents who delivered Brock to him; the friends who disappeared when it was time for him to have his fun; the guy who had a novelty word for what he did and who’s “trying to warn” Brock didn’t include actually pulling her aside and telling her he was dangerous. The list is very, very long.

The list is always long, with men like this. Not every predator is a billionaire with staff and sycophants to cover his ass, but they’re very rarely alone. Every creep has the friend who’ll reluctantly play wingman while hoping his buddy goes home alone that night; the roommate who’ll call a cab for a crying girl at 3am and gently usher her out of the house; the colleague who’ll write him referrals and send him work because he’s really good at what he does even though he can’t keep his hands off the clients; the student who looks up to him and who’ll close his ears to a friend’s complaint about what happened at a workshop because he can’t afford to lose a hero; the squad that’ll shout down any inquiry as a “witch hunt” that might hurt their friend who’s “just not great with girls”.

When a predator like Weinstein is unmasked, women often call for introspection from the men in their lives. And those men look at the predator, and they see nothing of themselves. They’re good people, and genuinely have little in common with the naked, desperate, monstrous figure on the hotel room bed. I’m asking you now to look at the bystanders and the enablers, and see if you recognize something of yourself in them. In their discomfort, and quiet disgust, and fear, and silence.

You want to help? Shut down the system that gives the predators power. Look again at the number of people helping Weinstein in that story. What would’ve happened if they didn’t leave the room? If they warned Brock of what was coming? If they refused to send her off alone with Weinstein? If they believed her when she told them what happened?

That’s your singular power in all of this. Victims can say “no”, and they can speak out after the fact, but the cost is high and their odds of success are depressingly low. Even if they do succeed, they’ll only take down one predator. You? You can take down the system.

Take responsibility for you sketchy friend, your pick up artist brother, and that creepy guy in your training group. Talk to them if you think it’ll help, just cockblock them if it won’t. Don’t help them access targets. Don’t cover for them afterwards. Don’t help. And when something happens, stop it if you see it, and believe the victim if you only hear about it after the fact. Let there be consequences for what they do.

If you’ve got guys like this in your circle, it won’t be fun. It’ll be uncomfortable to call them out, or to intervene. You may lose friends. You may have a fight. If you really want to make the world safer, though? This is what it’ll take. Clean your house. Sort out your people. Stop making excuses for the creeps and monsters, and leave them to fend for themselves.”

 

Facebook kindly reminded me that it’s a year this week since the “Grab them by the pussy” trainwreck. I lost a whole bunch of “friends” in that incident. I was upset about it at the time. Looking back now, I think maybe I should have lost more. Maybe I should have demanded more of the fence-sitters, of the “yeah that’s sad but that’s just the way things are” people, not because of the need for ideological purity in my social group but because over the last twelve months those are the people who brought creeps into my life. What a shocker, hey? Who woulda thunk that people who tolerate creeps tolerate creeps?

In the last twelve months, none of the creeps I met hurt me. They upset me, they made me despair, they sucked time and resources I would have preferred to put into more rewarding activities, but they didn’t actually hurt me. I don’t know whether they hurt anyone else, though. I flushed them through my life and now they’re gone, but the support group that enabled them to get close to me is still there. Their friends still back them. Their families still support them. They still have their jobs and their hobbies. I’ve lost more social capital out of these incidents than they have – though, by my metric, said capital was worthless to begin with. I have no use for people who won’t have my back.

I thought back then that I understood the issue, but I didn’t. What I failed to see is that “when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything…” is absolutely true, but the “they” isn’t, as I thought back then, the women in question. The “they” is a whole constellation of people who aid and abet the creeping (and worse) by actions and omissions, by prioritising the wants of the perpetrators over the needs of the targets, by preferring to pretend that everything is okey-dokey instead of working to make it so. I failed to see that every time I could act and I don’t I’m one of them, and the thought repulses me. Dunno about you, but I just don’t want to be one of them anymore.

Asocial

I was talking to Dillon about the Creepology manuscript  (currently available on paperback only, because I did things backwards, but hey if you wait until the 12th you’ll be able to get it cheaper on the Kindle). He pointed out something I’d missed. My classification of creeps distinguishes between what I call “malignant creeps” – who creep on purpose because they enjoy the rush they get from creating fear and distress – and “negligent creeps” – who are so focused on seducing people that they don’t care that they’re creeping the heck out of them. Both groups know they’re creeping people out, but for the malignant lot that’s the goal, while for the negligent lot it’s just the fallout of their courting behaviors. If you ask me, they both suck, but they are definitely different beasts and they present different dangers, particularly if the circumstances allow their behaviors to escalate.

Dillon pointed out something I’d missed. The classification aligns neatly to Rory Miller’s breakdown of resource vs. process predators. Process predators hurt people cos they want to. Hurting people is their goal. Resource predators, on the other hand, hurt people if they need to in order to get access to the resource they want. The resource is their goal, not the hurting. How badly they’re willing to hurt us will depend on how badly they want the resource. Are they after our phone because it’s the latest model and it’d be cool to have it, or do they need money right this second because they’re undergoing drug withdrawal and they need to get a fix? Are they after the latest Justin Bieber CD (are CDs still a thing? Is Justin Bieber?) or are they after food because they haven’t eaten in three days?

How far a resource predator is willing to go will depend on a variety of factors, but it’s generally the result of a cost-benefit analysis and – this is important – it will have little to do with us as people. At the moment that decision is made, we are nothing but a living cash box. If they need to dent us a bit to get the cash out, too bad.

Rory has talked in details about the difference between social and asocial behavior in the context of violence. What about seduction, though? At which point does someone’s sexual attraction turn our interactions asocial? Is it something that happens on a sliding scale, or is it an either/or thing?

I believe that if someone sees me as a walking vagina, then I’m inherently in an asocial situation. Whether me and said person are part of the same social group doesn’t matter to me. Whether they are willing to hurt me or not in order to access said vagina doesn’t matter to me. The only thing that matters to me is that in their eyes I am no longer a person; if I still feature as an individual, it will be mostly as a gatekeeper of my genitalia. Personally, I find that repugnant, regardless of how it manifests or how much it impacts on my life. I just don’t like that kind of “relationship”: it makes me feel icky.

I know that there are plenty of people out there who believe that this attitude is the inevitable result of male sexuality, but I don’t buy that. I’ve met plenty of guys who can see women as actual people – and no, they’re not all gay. If you don’t believe such a beast exists, try and find a guy who has a mixed gender friend group – not a group of his male friends and their spouses, but a group composed of individuals of all genders. There’s a huge difference between the two. Guys who can see women as people tend to be able to interact with them in all kinds of fields and situations without causing chaos and botheration, so they have actual female friends. And no, they’re not all cucks, and sometimes they do get laid.

That’s one of the modern narratives, though: that if a man treats women with respect he’s never, ever gonna give his end away, and if he does he’ll regret it because women will inevitably fail to respect him, will exploit him, and eventually will dump him for a superior specimen of maleness. This narrative is actively and openly sold to men; if you don’t believe me, google “red pill” sites. Bring your own sick bucket.

(A similar narrative is sold to women. It might be delivered in a less overt manner, but it seems to me that half of women’s mags are about how shitty men are, and the other half about how we can get them to bang/marry us. But then I only read that kind of thing at the dentist, so my sample size is limited.)

Thing is, there is a market of guys for which that narrative will work: the guys for whom “treating women with respect” is A Thing, an effort, a process they have to actively embrace, perhaps purely a trick to get close to women or an imposed behavioral code of this crazy world we live in. Guys for whom the world is split by gender, and for whom the other gender is practically another species. Guys who “other” women, whether by instinct or because that’s how they’ve been raised.

Those guys who look at women and see a bunch of walking vaginas will struggle to retain women in their lives, in any role, because their attitude inevitably colors their behavior. Those are the guys for whom being Nice© is loansharking for sex: they are not nice to women because they want to, but as a series of down payments for a fuck. When that fuck does not materialise, they feel aggrieved. Those are the guys who bitch about being “friendzoned”, not because they are upset that their love is unrequited (that genuinely sucks) but because their investment didn’t bring a return. Those are the guys who treat all interactions with women as a possible step bedward, and are eternally surprised if women don’t like that. Those are the guys whose attitude towards women is like a defrosting fish: it may start off relatively inoffensive, but as time goes on it ends up getting stinkier, until it’s so disgusting that it can’t be ignored and it drives people away.

This is my theory, and it’s worth precisely what you paid for it: men whose interactions with women are fundamentally asocial will have problems retaining women in their lives. If they do manage to get women in their lives, they will inevitably treat their relationship as an exchange of goods or services, sex being one of the items on the menu. The creepiness inherent in that kind of relationship is the fount of all their problems. Eventually, it becomes the fount of women’s problems when it manifests itself as a gazillion of shoddy behaviors, from pick-up artistry to date rape.

I wonder if I’m right, and I wonder it if matters. Would telling those guys that their problem is that they dehumanize women bring an actual change? As I’m writing this, I’m not optimistic. I don’t know if there are words that can turn that concept into a shape that will fit their brains. The fact that prominent, ‘successful’ male experts continue to defend that attitude as inherently manly can’t help, either.

 

Put it away, put it away, put it away now.

Yet again, a self-defence conversation sparked by a video of a woman doing a self-defence thing went off the rails. Yet again, part of what pushed it off the rails was a person of the male persuasion making sexual comments about said woman’s physical attributes. Yet again, instead of that person being reprimanded for their behavior, the whole thread was pulled down. Yet again, a post went up after the fact to lament not the inappropriateness of said person’s behavior, but the rise of intolerance and the decline of civil discourse at large. And yet a-fucking-gain, some bright spark used that clean-up post to sweep the entire thing under the carpet because Women Do It Too.

That was the moment when I realised that some people REALLY don’t get it. They actually, for real and no shit, do not comprehend why their actions continue to bring forth a certain reaction, because they don’t get what the problem is. I’m hereby going to try and simplify a complex issue as much as I can (so I’ll miss lots of bits out, sorry ’bout that) in the hope that I can get it across.

 

Dear Johnny,

I understand that you don’t get it. You liked the pretty lady, you said you liked the pretty lady, and everyone yelled at you. That wasn’t nice. You weren’t trying to be mean to the pretty lady: you really like her! You wouldn’t do that! You were just trying to express how you feel, and everybody turned on you, and if that happened to me I’d feel bad.

I know that your friends also like pretty ladies. I am sure that you have lots of talks about how and why some ladies are pretty, and what you’d like to do about it. I understand that you believe that “all men do it”, and I can’t comment on that, because I don’t know all men. I’m not entirely sure that you do, either, but that’s beside the point. The prettiness of ladies is a common topic for conversation; we can agree on that.

I like looking at pretty people too, regardless of their gender, and so do many of my friends. Sometimes we have conversations about the people we like and why, though because we’re incurable nerds we tend to come up with things like “look at her posture in that longsword class” or “he looks so joyous when he’s playing the accordion” or “I just want to crawl inside their brains and never come out again”, rather than “look at the rack on that”. But that could be just a matter of taste and style. The bottom line is that we do precisely what you did and got yelled for. The thing is, that’s not the point.

You didn’t get yelled at for finding a pretty lady attractive. You got yelled at because you barged in on a conversation that wasn’t about the attractiveness of pretty ladies – a conversation about that lady’s ability to do a thing, and the value of the thing she was doing – and shoved in some comments about your sexual attraction. That wasn’t the right place for that kind of comment. Other men may have been thinking the same thing, but they didn’t make those comments. Other men may have made those comments, but they did so in private. Other women may have been thinking the same thing and been making those comments about that one lady, or about other men and women and sundry others, but they also didn’t do it there and then.

You didn’t get yelled at because you are a man. You didn’t get yelled at because you find pretty ladies attractive. You got yelled at because you behaved inappropriately in a public place.

Let me try and draw a parallel. My favourite person in the whole world has a pee-pee. I don’t. It’s just one of those things. Sometimes he whips his pee-pee out in front of people and fun times happen. He only does at special times and in special places, though, when he knows for sure that said people want to see his pee-pee and maybe even play with it. If he whipped his pee-pee out on a bus, he’d get into terrible trouble. It wouldn’t matter that he whips his pee-pee out in private all the time and it’s ok. It wouldn’t matter that other men whip their pee-pees out too. It wouldn’t matter that women whip their coochies out. Most people take out their genitals at some point, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that if my friend took his pee-pee and whipped it out in a public place at some random strangers who’d not asked to see it, he’d be doing something inappropriate. That’s what he’d get into trouble for.

If I whipped my coochie out on the bus, I’d get in trouble too. I would probably  get into a different kind of trouble, because other things matter beside the fact that he has an outie and I have an innie. He is tall and big and strong and I am tiny and not very scary, so people treat us different. Maybe he’d get people in blue uniforms putting him in cuffs and taking him away and I’d get people in white uniforms putting me in a padded jacket and taking me to a different away, but – this is the important thing – we’d both get into trouble because we did a naughty thing in public.

In that conversation, you metaphorically took your pee-pee out and waved it about. Problem is, that wasn’t the right kind of place for pee-pee-waving. Nobody had asked to see yours. Hell, if anyone did, that would have been inappropriate too, because pee-pees really weren’t part of that deal. Because people found your behavior icky, they yelled at you.

Of course, talking about how your pee-pee feels about something and waving it around are not equivalent. Both things tend to piss people off, though, and those people may yell at you. You might think it’s all unfair: that you should have a right to let your pee-pee do the talking everywhere and anywhere, regardless of the topic of the conversation. If you want to campaign for that, you have the right to give it a go. If you want to ignore societal conventions because you think they’re crappy, you can give that a go too. Chances are, however, that for the time being you’ll keep getting yelled at.

I have to say, I will be one of the people doing the yelling. I don’t want to see your pee-pee, real or metaphorical. But – and it’s very important to me that you understand this, even if nothing else I’ve said made a lick of sense – I’d yell at you just as much if you were shoving your coochie in my face. It’s not about your plumbing. I want to be able to have conversations about men and women doing non-sexual things and leave sex totally out of the equation, not because sex is dirty but because there are other things beside it and I’m interested in those things, too. I want to be able to do a thing and have a conversation about the thing I’m doing that doesn’t revolve around my body’s ability to make people think about sex.

You are not being punished for having a sexuality, or for what your sexuality is. You’re being punished because you’re shoving that sexuality in people’s faces when they’re busy doing their thing and without asking them first. There’s a time and place for everything. That wasn’t it.

Consent & the media.

Lazyblogging. Sorry, but I fried a couple of circuits in the production and editing of “Creepology”, which is coming out on the 12th Oct but is ready for preorder right now. Get it while it’s hot. If you want to hear me talk about it, I’ll be at VioDy in Minnesota in October.

And hey, did you know that if you buy a paperback copy you get the e-book cheap? So you can keep the e-book and give the paperback to someone you don’t like too much? Nothing says “happy holidays” like a book about sex pests, after all.

Anyhoo, check out this article from Cracked, because it’s brilliant.

I’ve had numerous conversations with young and not-so-young men re. inappropriate dating activities. I’ve been told a whole heap of times that if various Hollywood heroes had taken my approach, they would have gone to their deaths having never known the embrace of a woman. Them women: you can treat them like they’re actual human beings or get with them, but not both! The movies tell us so!

I find this particularly ironic when it comes from guys who’re fond of complaining about how Hollywood misrepresents their particular discipline/job/subculture/whatever. Apparently it is possible to spend hours on end going on about how movies spread misinformation about violence/astrophysics/plumbing/giraffes, yet to be willing to fight forevermore for the Right of Man to behave in a socially inappropriate manner and even manhandle women against their consent Because It Worked For John Wayne. Go figure.

And yes, sometimes it works. Thankfully Oglaf explained it to us. Alas, nobody paid any notice.

Oh, while I’m moaning: rapiest mainstream movie ever has got to be “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” Rapiest song I know is probably “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (seriously, what is it, an ad for Rohypnol?). If you can think of anything better, do feel free to link it in the comments, though please refrain from referring to media you would hide from your grandma. We can find our own porn, thank you.

Creepology.

It’s only taken me forever and a day, but the release date for Creepology is now set as the 12th Oct. The Kindle version is available for pre-order.

Creepology Kindle Cover copy.jpg

This is what the book is about:

For many women, creeps are a serious, ubiquitous, pervasive problem. They seem to be everywhere. Not only they pester us in public, but some are capable of worming their way into our social life, poisoning our experiences.

For many men, creeps are like unicorns: they hear about them a lot but they never actually see one. Even when they do, they don’t understand what the fuss is all about.

This books aims to bridge that gap by explaining the nature of creeps, how and why they manage to infiltrate our social circles, and how we can best deal with them in a safe and timely manner.

 

“It’s easy to teach what to do – legally and physically – when a stranger raises his hand against you. Much harder to teach what you can do – legally, physically and socially – about the guy who just happens to rub up against you whenever no one is watching.
Anna has taken on the complex subject in this little book. For the people dealing with creeps, it’s invaluable advice. For people teaching self-defense, it’s a wake-up call.
Read this one.”
– Rory Miller, author of “Meditations on Violence”, “Conflict Communications”, “Facing Violence”, and many other works.

US link:

UK link:

You can access the Kindle version via the free Kindle app on pretty much any device. A paperback version will be available at the end of October.

 

 

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Apropos of nothing, here is a list of conversations that I don’t have anymore, on- and off-line. Nearly a year into kicking them, I find that not only I don’t miss them, but that the ability to fill the time they used to take with stuff that is good for me – stuff that entertains me, educates me, or uplifts me – has significantly improved my life and my outlook on it.

Them: “Question?”
Me: “Answer.”
Them: “No, you don’t mean that.”

If you can run both sides of the conversation, please do so without involving me. It will save us both a ton of time.

 

Them: “Question?”
Me: “Answer.”
Them: “But it doesn’t work like that for people.”

Dammit. I keep forgetting I’m actually a raccoon in human clothing.

 

“I don’t want you to think that I only get in touch with you when I want something, but I want something.”
This from people who only ever get in touch with me when they want something. I don’t know whether the intro is supposed to actually sway my memory of our past interactions or to somehow change the nature of reality, but it just doesn’t work.

 

“How about you do work for me for free so I can sell it.”
It’s never actually phrased like that, oddly enough, but this is a surprisingly common request. Sometimes it’s padded out with promises of ‘exposure’, sometimes not even that. The underlying psychology is a mystery to me: why the hell would I want to put time and effort into feathering someone else’s nest? Has that ever been a thing?

 

“I know you said you’re dead busy but gimme gimme gimme your time.”
I don’t fully understand this one either. If I really don’t have time for something, what’s the point in hassling me? I’m only going to say no again, and probably more loudly. And if I am lying and I have all the time in the world but I don’t want to spend it on a certain thing, what’s the point in hassling me? I still have to say no again to be a good, consistent liar. The only thing this kind of conversation achieves is to make me file people as potential consent violators. Seriously, there is nothing cute about ignoring people’s ‘nos’, and if the only way you get to have human interactions is by doing that then you have a problem, and a big one.

My favourite permutation of this particular convo is:
“Sorry, can’t talk, I’m busy”
“What are you busy doing?”

My second favourite permutation is when someone hassles me to do work on boundary setting for them. That’s so meta it hurts.

 

“I know you said you don’t/can’t/won’t do X, but I want you to do X.”
There are some activities I don’t engage in for a variety of reasons, the simplest reason being that I don’t want to. There may be more complex reasons underpinning that one, but anyone who doesn’t respect my original ‘no’ is unlikely to get to find them out. I neither want to do X, nor do I want to engage in hours of conversation with someone trying to rule-lawyer me into doing X. X, in all its aspects, is off the menu. It’s honestly not complicated.

 

“Hey so you needed help with something and I didn’t help you at all even though I said I would but I really really meant to, so now you have to do this thing for me.”
It’s not quite loansharking, I don’t think, but it’s near as dammit.

 

“Here is something you haven’t asked for, now you have to do what I ask.”
Straight-up loansharking. Not endearing.

 

“Hey so I don’t know you but here’s my personal life history, trauma highlighted, you better fix this.”
I don’t actually mind helping people out, if and when I can. I do mind being treated like a public convenience. Aside from the fact that the people who can’t say ‘please’ are generally also incapable of saying ‘thank you’, I am an actual person with an actual life that I kinda need to prioritise because nobody else does that for me. My existence isn’t entirely issue-free. I don’t always have the time, energy, and emotional capacity to handle the personal shit of total strangers. Oh, and there’s a reason trigger warnings were invented: maybe ask first, give details later?

 

“<flings feces>”
For reasons entirely beyond my very limited comprehension, some people not only think it’s ok that the only way they participate in my life is throwing shit at me, but they seem to believe that I’m somehow obliged to let them continue to do so. Alas, I’m just not in the market for that. If the sum total of our interactions is negative, three strikes and you’re out. If so many of our interactions are negative that I end up dreading crossing your path, it might take longer, but you’ll still be out.

 

“A flock of seagulls.”
No, not the band. Some people are in themselves ok, but they are the human equivalent of a discarded bag of chips at the seaside. There they are, on a bench next to you, not particularly pleasant but not much of a problem in themselves, and next thing you know you’re getting attacked by a flock of screeching, pecking, shitting seagulls. There are a few people I know whose arrival on a thread ought to be accompanied by a horn, because moments later the orcs trolls will inevitably descend. I could spend hours working out whether it’s their fault or just their responsibility or whatever… or I could just look at the effect they are having on the quality of the discussions they engage in, and more broadly on my life.

 

“Tag.”
I’m not precisely famous for my reticence. I’ve been occasionally known to get into debates on topics that are dear to me, or that annoy the everloving shit outta me. That doesn’t mean that I want to get into every damn debate on all topics I might have an opinion on. Tagging me in conversations I’m ignoring doesn’t make me want to participate; it just makes me want to scream into the void. Re-tagging me because I ignored or removed the first tag makes me want to throat-punch people. Three-tagging me because I’ve left the damn conversation makes the block hammer come down.

 

“Your opinion is invalid, lemme mainsplain you the reasons why.”
There are certain activities and places which have traditionally been the domain of dudes. If you are into one of those activities and you’re a ostensibly a woman, then any opinion you might have on women’s participation in said activities is invalid because you’re an outlier. If you’re not into one of those activities and you’re ostensibly a woman, then any opinion you might have on said activities (including why you eschew them, or why you might have tried them and quit) is invalid because you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.

Sometimes it almost seems to me that being a woman is enough to invalidate your opinion in certain environments. Sometimes I even wonder whether that simple fact could be what is keeping women out of those environments. Thankfully there are plenty of men out there able and willing to explain to me that I’m wrong about that, too.

 

My “friend” Ang

Storytime, again. I’m cleaning out the archives. Normal services will be resumed soon-ish.

 

There are people who like living by the rules, who find reassurance in Being Good People and Doing The Right Thing. There are people who choose to live the lawless life of the outlaw, regardless of the potential dangers. There are people who think they’re above the rules because of their superior social or financial status – and, until they push things too far, they’re often unfortunately right. And then there are people like my friend Ang.

On the surface, Ang looked like a complicated person. Her behaviour never failed to confuse or even shock people, anyway. She was really a very simple person to predict, though, once you worked out how she looked at the world.

The vast majority of social interactions tend to have both costs and benefits to both parties. They are based on a spoken or unspoken acceptance of the principle of quid pro quo, give and take. It’s only natural: most people don’t want to be taken for a ride. Most honest people don’t want to take others for a ride, either. They might be playing fairly because it’s the right thing to do. They might do so because their egos are invested in them being Good People. They may also be motivated by the purely self-serving wish to continue being seen as honest in order not to be ostracised. After all, being unfair or just unreliable could very well result in other people not wanting to continue dealing with them. You don’t need a degree in psychology to work out that, if you want to have long-lasting and healthy relationships with those around you, acting like a predator or a parasite is not the way to go.

Ang didn’t see things that way. She looked at every interaction and saw her potential benefits as God-given rights, and any costs as a sign of oppression. She was the sort of woman who, at the least provocation, would have no qualms about resorting to verbal or physical violence; yet, if anyone tried to control her, would switch to demanding to be “treated like a lady.” Afterwards, instead of feeling any guilt or shame, she would congratulate herself for having “stood up for what is right.” And I know this because she’d do much of the congratulating out loud.

 

When I first met her, she was the girlfriend of a friend’s friend, and an Abused Woman. I capitalise the term because she seemed to do the same: I’ve never seen a woman being so smug about of her bruises. She always seemed to stand a little bit taller when she sported a black eye. Growing up, I met plenty of people in violent relationships, but that was my first time meeting someone who seemed proud of it. Her partner’s face was hardly without a mark, too, but that could have been the natural result of her defending herself. Anyway, men must not hit women. It was one of the rules of my social group. Another rule was that you don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong, so we kept an eye on the both of them in case things escalated, but otherwise let them do their thing. Eventually he broke up with her, and after some histrionics she evaporated.

I lost touch with her completely for a couple of years, until we reconnected. Again, she was the girlfriend of a friend’s friend. Again, she was getting beaten up. The only thing that had changed in the equation was the male doing the beating. In fact, the male role had been covered by a number of partners in the interim, all of them people with no history of violence, all of them violent towards her, and all of them never violent towards anyone else afterwards.

Call me suspicious, but I started to smell a rat. If everywhere you go you encounter the same problem, it could be that you’re extremely unfortunate… or it could be that you are, in fact, the problem. A minimum amount of research revealed that Ang was the instigator of the violence. She had a habit of slapping her partners around when she got shitfaced, which was not a rare event. The guys put up with it up to a point, trying to contain her behaviour, but eventually either snapped and walloped her or just hit her back in self-defence.

The guys were labelled as abusers. She was a woman getting beaten by a man, so she was the victim. She truly saw herself as the injured party, and she made sure that everyone around her saw her the same way. As that description of the situation fit many people’s prejudice, they didn’t bother looking into it enough to realise how the reality and the narrative didn’t match.

Anyway, that was history. Her current partner, Pat, was different. He grew up in a social group where mutual, consensual domestic violence is perfectly acceptable. He wasn’t overly invested in stopping the behaviour or escalating it; he was happy with things as they were. So they beat each other up at night, patched each other up in the morning, and got on perfectly fine. Domestic bliss, it seems, is a very subjective state of being.

Ang and Pat were two peas in a pod. They had both decided to be unemployed, because – and I quote – “working for a living is for sheep.” Why work to earn, when you can do nothing and be kept by the state?

As two single lots of benefits add up to more than a couple’s worth, they elected not to declare they were living together. Why should they miss out on the additional income “just because of some stupid rule?” That meant that Pat had to rent a completely unnecessary house, but as all costs were covered by the government that wasn’t an issue. They knew they were doing the right thing, because “taxation is theft.” If the money wasn’t used to support citizens, it’d only be syphoned off by corrupt politicians or be used for totally unfair war efforts, anyway. Their bottom line was  that “screwing the system” was inherently righteous.

Alas, their combined benefits still weren’t enough to keep them in the state to which they had become accustomed, which was off their respective faces on recreational drugs. Being enterprising people with an eye for opportunities, they decided to convert Pat’s otherwise vacant house into a weed-growing facility. It wasn’t a particularly good location, being a subdivided Victorian house with neighbours literally all around, and they weren’t particularly subtle about their activities, but it didn’t really matter because “drugs should be legal anyway.”

The enterprise was more involved that they had anticipated, alas. Plants need stuff like soil and water and food and heat and light; all stuff that costs money. Their utility bills, in particular, were horrendous. They overcame this problem by resolving not to pay them. What could the supply companies do, anyway? They couldn’t cut their water and electrics because “those are human rights.”

The problem escalated to the point that the landlord became aware of it. He tried to talk sense to them informally, and failed. Instead, what his intervention achieved was the two deciding to stop paying him any rent, because he was “being a fascist.” Paying rent was inherently unfair anyway because “all landlords are useless parasites.” So what they did was collect their rent money from the government and keep it for themselves. That would teach him! What could he do to them, anyway? Evicting tenants can take months, and surely the fact that Pat was unemployed would protect him from being thrown on the street by a court.

The landlord, however, decided to take an unorthodox route. One day Pat and Ang went to the house to gather their crops only to find that the locks had been changed and the house had been obviously emptied of everything therein, dope included. The landlord had not only unfairly evicted Pat, but had also stolen from them! It took a lot of people a lot of time to prevent Ang from calling the police on him. The fact that “officer, he stole the drugs I was growing in a house I was pretending to be squatting in as part of a benefit scam” is the sort of sentence that could cause more trouble than it could ever solve was either beyond or beneath her.

At that point, my life took a different turn and I left that group of people, with all associated drama. I didn’t get back in touch with Ang until five or six year later, by which time Pat was history, and she was In Love.

It was True Love. She had met an internationally-renowned artist and decided that he was The One. Their romance shone brighter than any other romance ever had or ever will. She was determined to celebrate and seal their Love by bearing his child. Unfortunately, he was refusing to play ball.

It emerged that, although he was very willing to occasionally engage in sportfuckery with her, he had no intention whatsoever to be her partner. He was even less inclined to co-parent with her, and he would not contemplate the merest possibility of getting her pregnant. To Ang, that was obviously unfair. He had a steady supply of sperm that Ang was obviously entitled to by virtue of their Love, and he wouldn’t give her what was hers. To make matters worse, he already had a kid with someone else. If that woman could have his child, why not Ang? So Ang had begged and nagged and chased him – literally and internationally – for months and months. It’s not stalking if it’s True Love, obviously. Her biological clock was ticking ever louder, and he still refused her. She might end up dying childless, and it would be his fault.

The conclusion Ang shortly came to is that All Men Are Bastards. Everything clearly pointed to that very simple explanation. Men’s evil was the source of all iniquities in the world. Ang decided to address this problem by taking steps to avenge not only herself, but the entirety of womankind, one man at a time. Even better, she would let men’s own evil trap them.

The concept was simple: you find a guy who’s interested in you; you gate-crash his house, claiming damsel-in-distress status; you get off your face on drugs (his, ideally, because drugs are expensive and every penny counts); you jump in bed with him; in the morrow, you claim rape; a couple of weeks later, you claim pregnancy and demand payment for a private abortion, or you’ll report him and his rapist ways to the cops.

It worked. She got her money. Unfortunately, she had neglected to consider that people, even male people, tend to have friends and families. Even her highly forbearing social group wouldn’t stand for entrapment and blackmail, particularly when it was conducted on members of that same group. The explanation for this irrational behaviour on their part was obvious: “they were all in this together.”

Given that at this point Ang was sofa surfing, finding herself persona non grata was a serious problem. In order to change her situation, she decided to make some money and make a last stab at her artist’s sperm at the same time. He was temporarily in Morocco, were certain recreational substances are, I’m told, both cheap and plentiful. Ang would travel down, woo her man, load up on sperm and drugs, travel back up, and sell the drugs for a lot of money to start a new life with her sprog. It was a flawless scheme. Yes, it was ever-so-slightly illegal, but “you have a moral obligation to ignore unjust laws.”

The problem was that she didn’t have any money to buy the drugs with. She needed backers. The solution she came up with was to contact the local chapter of an association whose members find cars to have two wheels too many; an association which is also one of the main distributors of certain plant products in that area, or so I’m told. Having had previous dealings with her in her growing days, they decided to give her a chance.

Ang duly went to Morocco, reconnected with the Love Of Her Life, was told where to go yet again, loaded up on herbs, and toddled back off home without a hitch. All she needed to do was hand over the product and take her share of money.

…or she could keep everything. After all, she was the one who had done all the work and taken all the risk. She was going to be paid wholesale prices too, which was a total rip-off. And anyway, what could those guys do? “It’s not as if they could call the police,” after all.

She was completely correct in that respect. The guys in question did not contact the authorities. Instead they sent some of their members, tastefully dressed in black leathers and casually bearing metal implements – you never know when you might need to chain something up, change a tyre, or sharpen a very large pencil, after all – calling to each of her known addresses, none of which were actually her addresses. They were her friends’ addresses. Out of the blue, these completely uninvolved people, some of whom had young children, were rewarded for putting her up and looking after her by receiving these rather ominous visitations. Thankfully, all of her friends thus affected had the sense to be both helpful and courteous to their visitors, and nobody got hurt.

That was it, though. Ang was no longer welcome anywhere. Nobody was willing to do a damn thing for her anymore, because it had become bitterly obvious that her particular brand of reckless had a tendency to spatter.

I never saw Ang again. She might be alive, or she might not. I have no interest in finding that out. In fact, if she turned up at my door right now, I’d slam it right in her face. If she taught me anything, it’s that helping people like her is not only useless, but actually dangerous. It is useless because they create the majority of their problems. You can sink all the time and resources you want into them, and as soon as those run out their situation will revert to its original state, because they make it so. It is dangerous to you, because there is no way of preventing an Ang from deciding that her problems are actually your fault, and taking steps to redress that iniquity, or simply from bringing a ton of trouble to your doorstep. So this story might not have an ending, but maybe it has a moral: do not get burnt by the Angs of this world.

The problem is that nice people have a tendency to be, well, nice; and Angs are some of the most skilful damsels- and gentlemen-in-distress (the phenomenon is utterly gender-neutral) you’ll ever meet. Relying on people’s kindness is not only something they have no reluctance to do, but the way they keep afloat. With enough practice, they get damn good at it.

So how do you spot an Ang before it’s too late?

  • They are incredibly good at voicing their needs and asking for people’s help. That might sound like a good, healthy way for them to be, but it’s actually the result of their fixation. They are solely interested in what they want and who can/should provide it for them. By contrast, people who are in trouble due to genuine reasons tend to be quite bashful about their situation. If they do ask for help and you do provide it, they will be thankful. They may consider themselves obliged to you until they’ve repaid the favour. They do not consider you obliged to help them.

(Oh, and anyone who tries to guilt you into helping them is an asshole, anyway, whether they are an Ang or not.)

  • Their problems are always someone else’s fault, or the result of a systemic issue. They never take any personal responsibility. They might be surrounded by scores of people living similar lives in similar circumstances who do not share their difficulties, but that doesn’t even register with them.
  • However much their situation changes, they constantly seem to manage to experience the same problems. Over time, it can look as if they are constantly recreating the same reality with different players. And, believe you me, a mash-up of “Groundhog Day” and “Leaving Las Vegas” is not where you want to find yourself.
  • They lack all feelings of repentance, guilt, or shame. We all make mistakes at times, or do bad things because we give in to temptation. However, most of us do not feel proud of those mistakes. Angs, on the other hand, are righteous about their misdoings and even brag about them because, in their heads, they are the heroes. What they are doing is always righting wrongs, regardless of what it is.
  • After all, if they have an unmet need or want, it’s because the world is out of kilter. It doesn’t have anything to do with their efforts or abilities. They shouldn’t have to work harder for what they want, because everything is due to them. Anyone or anything that stands between them and what they want is iniquitous. Their sense of entitlement can be mind-blowing.

What this all boils down to is that in their heart of hearts they believe that they are entitled to everything but never owe anyone anything – you included. There’s no helping someone like that. If you do manage to put their lives in order they will only ruin them again at the earliest occasion, and sometimes yours with it.

Strictly business.

Two things.

 

First, I’ve mentioned VioDy a bunch of times in the past. The reason for that is that it’s the best self-defence seminar I’ve ever attended, which is why I’ve gone twice thus far and I’m about to go for the third time. If you want to spend four days getting the pick of the crop from the brains of folk like Rory Miller, Terry Trahan, Kasey Keckeisen, and Tammy Yard-McCracken, that’s the place to go. Randy King will also be there, but don’t let that put you off. It’s worth it.

The next VioDy is in Minnesota on the 19th-22nd October. I had one of those moments when I open my mouth and stuff comes out, and the result is that I will be running a working dinner kinda thing, on the theme of:

Creepology – self-defence for your social life

(Sounds good, doesn’t it? I stole it.)

To a lot of women, creeps are a serious, ubiquitous, pervasive problem. To a lot of men, creeps are like unicorns: they hear about them a lot but they never actually see one. This class aims to explain the nature of creeps, how and why they manage to infiltrate our social circles, and how we can best deal with them in a safe and timely manner.

If you’re interested sign up here.

 

On the theme of “whoops, I did it again”, this also happened:

https://www.amazon.com/Last-Song-Heinleins-Finches-Book-ebook/dp/B07572KJWB?tag=swiindeewat21-20

It is also available as a paperback that comes with a free ebook, so you can keep the ebook and give the paperback to someone you don’t much like. Christmas is coming. You know it makes sense.

 

This blog may become even more sporadic than normal as I’m trying to finish the damn creep book I’ve been working on for about two years now on time for VioDy. Bear with me. If you miss me, buy my stuff. You know it makes sense.

PTG/PTS/WTF

Facebook threw up an ad for a course last week and I died a little inside. I am not going to share it here because I don’t want to draw traffic to it, but the gist of it is that for under $100 you can get a whopping 7 videos, audios, and transcripts to help you guide your clients into Post-Traumatic Growth. Learn the Ten Steps of This and the Four Ways of That and the Two Easy Ways of the Other and the One Essential Protocol of Everything. Roll up roll up! Get it while it’s cheap!

Post Traumatic Growth is a newish concept, but not that new (1990’s). In its most simplistic form, it basically states that people can experience personal growth as a result of adversities.  There are plenty of useful resources about PTG, some free and some not. This is the one I got; I can’t recommend it as such because I’ve not compared it to everything else out there, but as it’s currently going for $0.01 plus postage for a used copy, I’d encourage everyone to take a look at it. If nothing else, you’ll be able to turn around and tell me if I’m full of shit.

I have no beef with PTG per se. Frankly, it seems like a bit of a duh; the only surprising thing about it is that the professional world has taken so long to ‘prove’ something that people who’ve managed to get themselves out of the shit see going on day in, day out. Adversity can make people more resilient, more self-confident, more optimistic, more thankful, more aware, more insert-good-stuff-here. I know I have benefited from PTG and so have most of the people I know and love.

I also think that it’s a damn good thing that the concept is gaining popularity, particularly as PTSD is currently pushed as the inevitable result of certain life events. Survivors of certain occurrences, in particular war veterans and rape survivors, way too often look for help only to be told that they’re scarred for life – not merely changed by events, but broken by them. I could go on forever about the agendas that I believe are pushing this point of view, but I doubt that’d do any good.

I’m pro PTG as a concept both in normal life and in therapy. What scares the hell out of me is that it’s now become a buzzword, something that’s getting thrown around by a whole bunch of people who haven’t experienced adversity and a whole bunch of people who haven’t experienced the lack of it. Both poles come at the issue with their own biases and are turning the concept from a useful tool into a rod to beat survivors with, or at least into a pot of gold to mark the end of the recovery process.

I am meeting way too many people who haven’t gone through any major traumatic event and who covet PTG as if it were a special prize you get for gaining RealExperience™; people openly wishing that something awful enough would happen to them so they could unlock their next level, so that PTG could turn them into something more than the person they currently are. I can’t tell them categorically that it wouldn’t work out for them, that a little bit of suffering wouldn’t be good for their character or some suchlike shit, but I know for a fact that pretend suffering doesn’t cut it and real suffering fucking hurts. Seriously, people: don’t throw yourself into a meat grinder just because you think that pain is formative. First and foremost, pain is painful.

I am also meeting way too many people who, fresh with their meme-based knowledge of PTG, turn to survivors and demand to know what superpowers they’ve got. Something awful happened to you, so clearly you must be a better person for that! What did you get? Resilience? Self-confidence? Spidey-sense? Don’t tell me that you got raped or beat up or whatever and you forgot to collect your prize! That’s, like, disappointing, man.

’tis a fact that people – not just survivors – may need to be encouraged to look for the ways in which life has made them better people, because otherwise they might not notice it. However, that doesn’t come even close to putting pressure on them to be better than they were before their trauma, particularly if they’re still working towards overcoming said trauma. Being a survivor can be hard enough work without people expecting you to be able to suddenly overdo your old self because they’ve read all about how good trauma is for you in an article in Cosmo.

This kind of attitude isn’t just the domain of the clueless. I’m seeing more and more survivors who embrace it. This seems to be particularly a thing with survivors of childhood trauma – people who, through no fault of their own, have never actually experienced a trauma-free life – but it isn’t exclusive to them. Some survivors become not only proud of their struggle, but dismissive of people who haven’t overcome some kind of major adversity. They believe that survivors are a better class of people, almost a breed apart from the ‘normies’ who just can’t begin to comprehend the intricacies of the survivor mind. To a certain extent, they’re absolutely right: certain life events can alter your perception of life, the universe, and yourself enough to make it very difficult to communicate with people who haven’t seen what you’ve seen. You may find yourself to respond differently to stimuli, to have a whole new set of personal resources, to function better in certain situations. Thing is, that’s not necessarily a sign that you’re an upgraded form of human overall.

PTG and PTS aren’t mutually exclusive. The same life event can take something from you and give you something else. For instance, you can come out of a violent encounter with a spidey-sense for predators and a bunch of inconvenient triggers. You can grow up in an abusive family and be a god at spotting and interacting with people with personality disorders and completely incapable of maintaining functional relationship with ‘normal’ people.

Perhaps most importantly, if you buy into the PTG promise to the point that you become invested in your identity as a survivor, that’s who you’re going to be. That’s where you’re going to stay. It’s not necessarily a problem if it that’s what you want, if that’s enough for you, but survivorship doesn’t have to be the end of the recovery road. There are things beyond being a survivor, and you might not reach them if you’re wholly wrapped up in the wonder that is your survivor identity because you believe that it’s inherently superior to any other state of being.

Whether you’re ‘better’ or ‘worse’ as a result of your suffering really depends on what matters to you. Did you get closer to the person you want to be? Did you gain attributes that you consider desirable? Did you lose anything of value? Looking only at one side of the equation – post-traumatic losses or post-traumatic gains – doesn’t make much sense to me – but then neither does running my life as some kind of point-scoring exercise. That’s just me, though. If it’s what you want to do for yourself, if that’s what works for you, go do it. However, before you try and force that viewpoint on other people in the belief that it will be good for them too, you might want to have a good think about it. And if you’re doing that solely on the back of a discounted course that didn’t even take up a weekend… just don’t.