Words by Sahar Mushin
Where have all the good men gone?
As we are learning nation-wide, issues of oppression are not just black and white, or simply defined through duality or dichotomy, they form a matrix of domination. Let’s examine a personal but simple example of the context of target/non-target identities and intersectionality. As a beautiful woman I gain access that I would otherwise not have, at the same time I gain both sexual attention I do not want, in conjunction with my appearance as youthful an assumed lower intellect that is inaccurate, and given my perceived gender, less credit than I am due.
In this article series I will begin to unpack sexual diversity and rape culture. The same week as this prompt request I woke to a text from a friend living abroad, she had been sending me inspirational memes for weeks which I occasionally uploaded to my instagram.
Opening the message, I saw pictures of her covered in bruises – battered. I can only guess that she’d finally had enough of covering the abuse and her need for true connection and support with trite spiritual references. I thought back to a book top shelf of my Mother’s library titled, Rape in Marriage.
Within 24-hours of the lengthy phone call following that disturbing text, I had interacted with 5 other women who were or had faced cases of abuse. A similarity in these experiences was legal tactics of intimidation by abusers, and the traumatized mindset of the abused.
One of these women, my roommate, an amazing empowered and heart open being (who was beaten within an inch of her life by her son’s father) had her son abducted by the dad during a dhs supervised visit.
The synchronicity of multiple cases brought to my attention in one day, and the clearly apparent mental deterioration of one of the women in particular due to the length of abuse prompted me to action beyond trauma stewardship. I named this abuser (who had custody of the child by preying on the woman’s traumatized state) on Facebook: Ashland peeps, exposing how I witnessed access to the child, used to exploit sex, money, and housing.
Within 48 hours I received harassing messages, threats to sue and run me out of town (reminding me of the historical context in Oregon of sundown towns), the unannounced appearance of the abuser at night in my home, followed the next day by child protective services responding to false reports claiming my 4 year old physically disabled son was abusing his able-bodied but similarly innocent aged child. I had unwittingly made myself a target for the abuse and legal intimidation tactics based in narcissism.
This opportunity allowed me to connect with several local advocacy groups, DHS, and community members all verbally offered validation and support, but had little to offer in terms of substantial deterrents. Living for 72 hours as the target for an abuser made it abundantly clear why the abused, often support their abuser. Because they are traumatized, and chronically exhausted (mentally, emotionally, and physically), with no authentic support or protection.
Stories like these are not the exception; they are the rule.
This is another example of the internalized oppression born of patriarchal white supremacy. The internalized viewpoint of less than is made manifest in the lived but often unconscious actions of individuals. It inspires an apathy seen as various levels of non-engagement, or open rebellion to societal norms. This leaves vulnerable populations exposed. The trauma-based perspective that the oppressed are operating from, and this violently explosive entitlement mentality used by the dominant society, seeks to subvert agency. A false claim to dominance is made over the bodies and minds of women and non-normative target identities.
The lack of accountability or systemic deterrents has ramification that almost subverts hope in the abused for resolution or peace.
We live in a culture filled with media that desensitized individuals to sex and violence. When over sexualized girls appear even in Disney cartoons, it’s no wonder that the mental framework people are operating with is full of rifts. The justification of sexual abuse or rampant child prostitution becomes another compartmentalized deviancy of our culture.
As a self identifying Dakini I present as a very sensuous creature. Having spent the majority of my life celibate I can attest to the fact that embodying your sensuality can subvert other often deviant manifestations of sexuality. Likewise, I concur that “It is the presence of shame that distorts sexuality into something dark and sleazy.” (From Peter Gardella’s, Innocent Ecstacy) This is why in my estimation countries like India where sex is made taboo and subverted by society present as such rape pervasive cultures.
The US is also a rape culture, and it comes from historically chaste roots.
We have hit both sides of the spectrum here. Nowadays, American women are simultaneously programed to believe their bodies are commodities; just as men are programed to objectify us. Patriarchy, like white supremacy, has very little to do with an individual (for example your best friend, who is a white man) and everything to do with a mindset – and the way a system is ordered. This internalization of this context lives within all of us that are ignorantly complicit in this system.
What to do: Take a stand
I’m liking the theme at standing rock: stand in solidarity. In some cases, if the physical safety of a target group is challenged, then put your body on the line. Being a feminist, and having never been in an abusive, romantic relationship, this experience was the first time in my life that I thought, “Wow, I really wish there was a beefy guy around to scare off the toxic element.”
I asked my roommate, “Why don’t we get a group of guys and get your kid back?,
She said, “I would, if anyone in this community would show up to help,” Sshe lived for some time in Williams, when this was happening – an Oregon town saturated in what is reminisent of California’s spiritual bypass culture.
I have two sons. In my family, when the boys want to wrestle, or practice karate, we talk about consent. We speak to the need to get clear unpressured permission to do any form of play where bodies come into contact. When my son jumps on the bed and goes to wrestle me into a hug, I stop him, and say, ‘Did you ask if mommy is ready for a hug?’ Consistently embedding this lesson in all interactions with our youth, is one way to actively subvert this toxic context.
Want to be an agent of change? Wondering where to start? Study moment: Know your terms.