Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony is the context of every rape joke

Men’s violence against women is too often just a joke to them.

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Today, Christine Blasey Ford testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Ford alleges that during the summer of 1982, Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, pushed her into a room at a small house party, sexually assaulted her, tried to tear her clothes off, and covered her mouth when she tried to scream.

Judge went on to write a memoir of having been a teenage alcoholic. He spent this week hiding in a Delaware beach house, and hasn’t been called in for questioning by the committee majority.

The news in the US has been about almost nothing else for a week, and it has been wrenching for many women to watch social dynamics so many of us are too familiar with, through our own experiences, playing out on the national stage.

What Ford said she remembered most from the assault, was her two alleged assailants laughing together, with each other, at this hilarious thing they were doing — these good friends, living the good life.

This was their own live action summer buddy movie that they were making together, about a year after teen movie Porky’s, a story about sexually aggressive boys trying to lose their virginity, came out. This was the party life so many women have begun to say they remember very differently.

Because it’s funny and entertaining when a girl or woman thinks she’s a person, but a boy or man casually tortures her, terrorizes her, and then goes on about his business like it was nothing. Like she was nothing.

Ford’s experience, like that of the many other women subjected to male sexual violence, is the “boys will be boys” punchline of every rape joke. That’s what they tell us, right? It’s no big deal. It just happens. Many of us don’t bother to question, or we don’t for a long time, anyway.

Don’t make a fuss, it will all be over soon enough. This is the guys’ good life — a good laugh.

Not all boys act like this, of course. Only about one in 10 is a rapist:

“Across samples, 178 of 1642 participants (10.8 per cent) reported having perpetrated at least one rape from 14 years of age through the end of college.”

So when someone tells a rape joke, we try not to remember. Maybe we remember anyway. The laughing men probably look something like this:

Getty Images

We know what they will say if we say it isn’t funny.

If we say something, men might ask if we were drinking. As if that were a reason — as if a man caught with a stolen wallet would say to a police officer, “Sorry officer, I guess I didn’t know it was wrong to steal a wallet from a drunk man.” As if the female consumption of alcohol, even once, creates a zone of impunity for male behavior.

When women say anything critical to men, we usually try to put those men immediately at ease. Maybe by trying to point out that we’re only trying to help.

Most women are used to asking men, demurely, deferentially — as though we are not walking on broken glass, when we most certainly are — not to hurt us. We know they can hurt us. It’s allowed. So we try to remember to ask politely. We all know what happens to girls who aren’t nice and it’s never good.

So we can’t usually be direct.

Women have to be nice. The correct kind of nice. It’s so easy to get it wrong, or to simply be the wrong kind of woman from the start.

You have to be careful not to specifically ask him not to hurt you — it would be undiplomatic, it would insult his honour and imply unsavory motivations on his part. He would probably be offended if she pointed out the context for the fear she has lived under for her entire life.

Honour is a thing that men get to have. How nice for them.

“When Grassley asked Ford if she would like to take a break, she replied, ‘Does that work for you? I’m used to being collegial.’”

Of course she’s collegial. No one wants to be the punchline of a joke about men abusing women more times than they have to be. He says, “Come on, it’s funny, right?” “Have a laugh, have a chuckle,” he says. “Don’t take it so seriously. Don’t be a bitch,” he says.

We suspect, but don’t want to find out, how men like that act when they think we’re being bitches.

It was just a joke, right?

Natasha Chart
Natasha Chart

Natasha Chart is an online organizer and feminist living in the United States. She does not recant her heresy.

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  • thebewilderness

    They are lying about the drinking age. It was raised from 18 to 21 in 1982 when Kavanaugh was 17.
    They lie for pleasure when the truth would serve them better.

    • TwinMamaManly

      Just add it to the long list of fake truths…

  • Step

    She says they laughed. She’s telling the truth. Every woman knows that if there’s more than one man in on the sexual assault, that they laugh. They do it for the fun of it.

    • Sharpie

      That case where the Irish football/rugby players raped that girl a few months ago is proof of this. They were having fun doing it, I remember the articles about it. This also reminds me of another case that I read on a woman’s blog a few years ago. She was a cheerleader in highschool and one day she accepted a ride home from a few male football players that were her classmates and they raped her in the car. The poor girl thought she could trust them because they often indulged in chit chat, went to the same parties etc. I felt bad reading that story because it made me realize how not even bonding with men will save you from rape. You might be thinking you’re “friends” with them but who knows how they think of you, really.

  • Robert Gonzalez

    I think the statistic that only 1 in 10 men is a rapist is unrealistic. The boys and men that I’ve either grown up with or observed have all demonstrated a high level of what I see as rapist potential. And of them I’m fairly certain at least 60% have committed at least one act of sexual assault on a female or another male.

    I haven’t been this upset in months. I made myself watch/listen to the entire hearing while I was at work, only to find myself triggering my own rape memories. I had a panic attack shortly after. I honestly don’t know how Dr. Ford went through with all of this, with so much on the line and only death threats to go back to when she returns home. I could barely keep my composure just watching her. To say that I respect her would be an understatement.

    I can honestly say that today I was ashamed of my own sex. I couldn’t believe the way those old men treated her. I can’t believe what the news anchors are saying about her or Anita Hill. I can’t understand how dismissive men can be of rape. I just can’t understand how men or even women can be so heartless about this. I watched the down votes on the Youtube live feeds when Dr. Ford came on. And late I could just feel the people out there soaking up the strong man act that Kavanaugh put on for his Daddy Trump. It’s the same bullshit macho, loud-mouthed attitude that I’ve grown to despise. All I see is an old frat boy testifying before congress, not a potential Supreme Court Associate Justice. The man made it a big fucking poorly acted sob story about how much he has suffered through this. He even threw in his poor daughters into the testimony, “Let’s pray for that woman.” He roared and slammed his notebook and refused to answer questions. Like a petulant child he kept dodging the question about whether he supports an FBI inquiry. He smirked and laughed when asked how much is too much alcohol. The always lovely Lindsey Graham even chided everyone for attacking the poor manchild Kavanaugh. It was such a complete contrast with Dr. Ford. Yes, she most certainly was collegiate. Brett “Boof” Kavanaugh wouldn’t know what collegiate meant if it slapped him on his face like his own dick.

    I believe her and I believe that Kavanaugh spent a large portion of his youth drinking beer and assaulting women. But what makes all of this scary is not just that Kavanaugh assaulted her and lived a rapist’s fantasy life. No, the scariest thing is that I’ve known many, many Brett Kavanaughs. I remember when my high school friend Michael talked to me very casually and calmly about how he was using a girl for giving “him head.” I remember one of my male coworkers making comments about how much he enjoyed another female coworker’s “bouncing tits” (the same co-worker I eventually reported to H.R.) All of this shit sandwich of rape culture is typical for most men. It’s alarmingly normal, in fact. Men are right to say that “boys will be boys.” They’re telling you plainly that none of this is anything out of the ordinary, even while they deny ever committing sexual assault. They don’t think of sexual assault as sexual a-s-s-a-u-l-t. What most men know as sexual assault is just “getting pussy” or “being a man.” In my opinion, most men are either rapists or potential rapists. That is completely unacceptable. Yes, it matters what you do as a teenager. Rape matters. Rape ruins the victims. Rape is not sex. Rape is trauma. Rape is violation. Rape is a derailed life. Rape is not a fucking joke for rich White boys to derive a great laugh from.

    Before I left work today I had a discussion with a female coworker about why I believe Dr. Ford. I told her simply, “I’ve been there. I was assaulted. I hear the pain in her voice. I see it in her eyes. I see myself.” She went quiet and then several minutes later made a post on her Facebook that said “I believe Kavanaugh.”

    • Wren

      I didn’t watch all of her testimony, and the parts that I did I put on mute so I just read the captions. That’s all I could handle. It’s taken me a loooong time to learn that I’m no good to myself or anyone else if I don’t take prioritize my own mental health, and I’ve become incredibly careful about who I confide to. What I’m trying to say, and would say to any woman or male ally, is don’t push yourself. And certainly don’t push yourself because you feel shame for being a man. That doesn’t help you or us.

      About 1/10 men being rapists, that figure refers to the men who ADMIT they committed rape. Most do it and cognitively justify it as something else.

      • Robert Gonzalez

        You’re smart to do that. I agree with everything you’ve said, Wren. I need to stop pushing myself like that. I think I felt obligated to because she was able to stand up there and testify. But you’re right, I have to know my limits. I’m no good to anyone or myself if I’m a complete mess. And lately I have been just that – – a mess.

        In reference to the statistic, I got a bit dramatic there out of my own anger for all the rapey men I’ve known. My static was pulled out of my ass, but I stand by it. That 1 in 10 statistic from JAMA is definitely accurate for self-admission. There are so many men out there that simply don’t see rape as sexual assault or admit to doing it. Again, that’s horrifying, and I’m glad it’s getting attention, right now.

    • Tobysgirl

      I have thought a lot about your post, Robert, and hope you will not be offended if I suggest that you are too open with people who do not deserve your trust. Unless you know someone is a sympathetic and decent human being, there is little point in being honestly oneself with them. If I shared what you did and had happen what happened (a woman being complicit in sexual violence), I would be deeply hurt.

      • Robert Gonzalez

        You haven’t offended me at all. I promise. I think you are right. My therapist recently told me the same thing. To make it worse, I had a really close female “best” friend who went behind my back and actually told my rapist that I had been talking about him. We all used to work at the same place, so she knew him, too. I was devastated when I finally found out.

        I have always been very empathetic and trusting. But I think after all of this that the trusting part of me is quickly fading away.

  • Meghan Murphy

    His efforts to paint himself as a Good Guy with Female Friends who Loves Women were pathetic and transparent. Like you say, we all know how these fratty dudes act.

  • Alienigena

    “Kavanaugh is an alcoholic — you can see it in his demeanor, his blotchy skin, his barely repressed rage, his whininess, his self-pity, his aggression.”

    I didn’t watch all of the testimony but the bit that I did watch showed him turning white (whiter than he normally is) with rage. His pinched nose bridge became even more pinched as he ranted. He looked very dangerous. If people think he was expressing righteous anger they need to increase their level of emotional intelligence.

  • Hekate Jayne

    Males routinely find our justified fear of them funny. This is yet another universal truth that all women know. And we know it because we experience it.

    I am not convinced that they are human.

  • TLT

    Great piece Natasha. Also was reading that the women’s march is (of course) behind Doctor Ford bc they “believe survivors.” does anyone else find it a bite contradictory that the womens march “believes survivors” UNLESS it’s a survivor of the sex trade industry.

  • Robert Gonzalez

    I don’t think I could do it. I can barely make it through crowded places.

    Oh, I definitely noticed. It was like watching a football player (how appropriate of a comparison) getting a pep talk from his coach before a big high school game. Fuck all those old men. I don’t know how they can stand themselves. It’s horribly disconcerting, yes.

    I’ll be okay. But thank you for saying that. I need to step away from all of this. I can barely handle it. I just feel so weak.

  • Robert Gonzalez

    I’m so sorry, Polly. I hate that you went through that. At least you’re not alone. So many people are feeling exactly the same way we do. I hate how the mind etches these memories in such a vivid way. It can be torture.

  • FierceMild

    Himpathy

  • Elanore

    I am so sorry for what you went through.

  • Serai 1

    Women have very little idea of how much men hate them. – Germaine Greer

  • Serai 1

    I have no idea what you’re talking about. Colbert makes political jokes, yes, but he can hardly be construed as being anywhere near the side of these slimeballs. If humor is never to be used if the topic is controversial, then we are seriously screwed.

  • TwinMamaManly

    He also lied and lied and lied….it was like he thought he was entitled to exactly what he wanted or something…

  • TwinMamaManly

    But but but L’Orange One says he’s a “high quality person”, so it must be true!

  • TwinMamaManly

    Oh my goodness Omzig, what a traumatic, horrific thing to happen to a little girl. Truly, I weep for all the “beautiful, healthy young spirits” of girls and women that —are crushed by these terrible, heinous, vicious predators.

  • TwinMamaManly

    It’s all a farce – a carefully orchestrated pantomime to keep the angry, wrinkled, wealthy, entitled, smug, white males in power. It’s repellent. I seriously feel like opting out of society altogether, most of the time.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Right. And women are also socialized not to trust themselves — not to trust their guts. So we have to relearn that, and actually force ourselves to trust our perceptions of men, instead of pushing those feelings and assessments down.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Dudes and their fucking crocodile tears. These kinds of men either fake it for pity (and waaaaay too many people buy it) or cry out of rage/anger that they are being held to account by a WOMAN. (How dare she!)

  • Feminist Reprise

    “For me family violence acted as a kind of innoculation against unwarranted trust in males”

    #MeToo

  • Hanakai

    Ana Maria Archilla and Maria Gallagher —- these two women are heroes and their actions in accosting Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator and making him listen to them and their stories of being sexually assaulted are what caused Flake to change his mind and to call for an FBI investigation. Also, women have been speaking up and calling and faxing and texting their Senators.

    Here is a link to the story and video:
    https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/30/politics/suzanne-malveaux-reporters-notebook-jeff-flake-elevator/index.html

    Raise a ruckus. Silence only helps the oppressor.

  • Mexican American Lesbian

    Kavanaugh is essentially using DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender), an extremely effective tactic that naturally appeals to the faux anti-authoritarian language conservatives love. Blasey Ford to them is a lying whore, and Kavanaugh is a poor oppressed white man. Abusers use this tactic ALL THE TIME because its effective.

    This is the same kind of tactic Cathy Young used on Emma Sulkowicz by attempting to show her as a conniving woman (using doctored text) in order to score points for that serial rapist Nungesser. @meghan_murphy:disqus wrote a tremendous piece on the incident at the time, calling out this crap.

    Conservatives are naturally receptive to this nonsense because their neoliberal programming mandates they do. That’s how they’re trained to think because their trusted sources and relatives are programmed to do so so that men like Kavanaugh can get away with this nonsense.

    That’s what the dictatorship of the rich, heterosexual white man does to you.

  • shy virago

    What keeps going through my head is ‘Women’s Lives Men’s Laws’. The title of a book by Catharine MacKinnon. And we live it every day.

  • shy virago

    you’re so right.

  • shy virago

    You make the best points and I agree w/ all of them!
    You can start off nice or polite – mostly to keep things less stressful, but if he won’t leave you alone,
    that ‘fuck off’ attitude can save you. Every situation is different, and of course you have to assess.

  • shy virago

    I’m glad there are men who support women, and who say they believe us.
    Now ya’ll need to take action:

    Start a Men Against Rape group and educate men and boys.
    NOMAS still exists although it’s mostly online. Online does not change anything – we need men standing up to
    other men at work and in life, and trying to reach the boys and teenagers.

  • Hekate Jayne

    We are groomed to be nice, polite and endlessly kind to males from birth for only one reason. And that is to make running over us, victimizing us, hurting us, controlling and owning us easier for males.

    Fuck that. I am not nice. I am not friendly, either.

    Males have called me a bitch often. Maybe I am a bitch.

    But I am not dead. Or in some dude’s trunk.

  • susannunes

    Bill Clinton WAS impeached–over basically nothing–and the Senate rightfully threw it out for the partisan b.s. it was. Just correcting the record.

  • Nemesis

    testerical tantrum, more like

  • Meghan Murphy

    There is an enormous difference between how female musicians/rock stars looked in the 70s vs how they must look now. You can’t make it unless you’re young and sexualized. Women used to be allowed to look human.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Tracy Chapman was big in the 90s. The 90s also brought us Alanis Morisette and Courtney Love, who were not porny. There were also a whole bunch of great female rappers in the 80s and early 90s who weren’t sexualized at all. They didn’t make it past those decades, while so many of their male counterparts did. So, yeah, it wasn’t just the 70s, actually. My mistake. But there is a marked difference between who is famous/makes it today vs decades ago.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I’m talking about appearances, though. Not whether or not or how much people were fucking.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Female rappers in the early days all looked like dudes or lesbians. And they were super talented. Foxy Brown and Lil Kim came later, once it was established that women in rap had to be porny and decorative, or couldn’t participate. Today, we have Nicki Minaj, whose music I find incredibly boring, and who is suuuuuper sexualized and has a ton of plastic surgery. It’s depressing.

    In pop, I feel like female rock stars all have to be young and hot. Decades ago, we had totally normal, unattractive women in music. It doesn’t mean the industry itself was any less sexist, necessarily, but the objectification factor has fully taken over.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I don’t think Courtney was objectified at all. I think she was wild, for sure, but again, that’s not the same as being pornified. She was just being herself imo.

    • Jani

      Robert can’t tell the difference between ‘sexualised’ and a women’s sexuality being part of her identity. Robert only thinks in terms of ‘fuckability’ — and usually in relation to himself 😉

  • Meghan Murphy

    I like some of her music, in that, like, it’s fun to listen to, but yeah, she’s like all the other female rappers who make it in the mainstream today — pro capitalism, pro porn culture…

  • Jani

    That’s great news

  • Jani

    Chrissie Hynde never got her tits out. In fact she never even showed her knees. She didn’t go onstage dressed as a stripper, did she? She writes songs, she plays guitar and always says she loves being in a band with other players. The fact she’s a 67 year old grandmother and still getting onstage with her guitar is pretty fucking brilliant. Her sexuality was always her own. She’s a fucking legend to many women precisely because she didn’t pander to the entertainment industry and their insistence that women in music present themselves as fucktoys and not much else.

  • Jani

    “I knew some of those people personally”

    Delusional Robert is back! I’m sure Belinda Carlisle has been missing you. She lost your number … and you know, Stevie Nicks mentioned you in a documentary recently “oh! There was this guy Robert I used to know” And didn’t Grace Slick recently exhibit a painting of you, from when you were… you know … a male model… ahahahahaha!

  • Alienigena

    “Young women did not dress like street walkers and porn performers.”

    Uhm, tube tops. I remember girls wearing them in high school and they seemed pretty revealing and a bit unnerving (potential for slippage). But I don’t remember boys grabbing at girls in the hallways, making harassing comments. And I agree that there didn’t seem to be an expectation that girls play the part of porn actor in their relationships with boys. Better in the sense of less harassment from strangers and peers but not in terms of what happened in the home or any willingness to acknowledge male violence and abuse. In my family (including extended family) there was basically a refusal to acknowledge anything harassing, they acted as if they were blind to things that happened right in front of their faces. At least now people talk about these issues, including with their parents. Maybe not often enough but most contemporary parents of children and teens in western countries (barring US) seem to want their children to know things related to their sexuality and to discuss things with them. My mother wouldn’t even talk about sex or related topics she just handed us books to read, they weren’t intended as prompts to conversation.

  • Alienigena

    Sexual politics discussion groups? Not in my experience. Not kidding. Maybe in large American cities not in my western Canadian city that was already a bit conservative. There were no female conscious raising sessions in my family or among my mother’s nursing colleagues (nurses used to train in hospitals and live in residence together and became quite close, lifetime friendships) or neighbourhood friends. Men talk about being whipped by women but in my family, the females outnumbered the males but were whipped by them, particularly my abusive father. I don’t think my mother could be described as a feminist (she read Cosmo, thought male streakers were amusing but that her daughters should be friendly but modest when dealing with male peers). She donated items to women’s shelters in our city but that was about the extent of her involvement in woman-centric endeavours.

  • Robert Lindsay

    It’s a BIT higher, not much. It goes up to 15%. By the way, 3% of all university men commit 90% of all the rapes at universities. This is something we men have always known.

    But carry on with the “most men are rapists” canard, please do.

  • -Jane Don’t-

    I really liked her b/c she was outspoken & I always wished I could be like that. I’m getting better in my old age of 33 years!

  • Meghan Murphy

    I have to say, I don’t think writing = porn. Porn is about imagery/graphic depictions of ‘whores’, as it were.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I don’t mean to say writing can’t be harmful, like, porn, I just mean I think the definition of porn = imagery.

  • James Dosher

    [Fair Warning: I’m a porn writer, reader and watcher. I’m not a feminist. I come to this site to learn about feminism from actual feminists. If my statements, questions, or very existence offends you ~ I apologize in advance.]

    Ummm … I’m not teaching random children under 18 to do anything. I am teaching my children sex is not something to be ashamed of, is theirs to control and to find happiness in, or without. It is up to them. They should never feel pressured by anyone ~ emotionally blackmailed, physically forced, or cajoled.

    Also … so now you’ve labeled me a bully. Because I write porn? If what you were saying was true … and since I’ve written extensively on Amazons … then I’m teaching girls to be Amazons … and by my description of what Amazons are like … that would truly suck for the vast majority of the ‘man’ in mankind.

    It would take them about a week to cull 95% of us. We (as in the males of the species) would never stand a chance because my Amazons don’t play fair & they don’t have a ‘Code of Honor’ which might restrain their butchery. They ‘play’ to win and they have been doing so quite effectively and efficiently … for 3000 years. Whoops! I’ve doomed us all.

    Bye now!