Why Being Chatted up Is Not Always Nice

This is a difficult topic. It’s hard to explain why exactly is it that sometimes sexual attention is unwelcome, especially coming from strangers in non-sexual situations. You always face the risk of being accused of frigidity or rudeness if you’re not always in a receptive mood when someone tries to hit on you. Like if you’re a woman, you’re expected to feel flattered just because some man thinks you’re pretty enough to warrant unsolicited attention. Like you should be nice and appreciative in return, even if you don’t feel like it, because it’s meant as a compliment.

Well, this story (link below) illustrates pretty well why it gets old real fast. It’s a rather extreme example… but while many women never have it quite as bad as that, there are many others who go through even worse experiences.

http://unwinona.tumblr.com/post/30861660109/i-debated-whether-or-not-to-share-this-story

I’ve never had situation escalate to that point but I’ve had enough bad experiences to immediately catch onto what unwinona is saying there. When you’re in some public space – commuting, waiting for a friend or just enjoying a cup of coffee and a good book, and suddenly some guy comes up and asks, “What are you reading?” there are no right answers. There is nothing you can do or say to get out of the situation without causing some kind of confrontation. Unless, you know, the guy is absolutely gorgeous and you happen to be free and looking for romance – and let’s face it, what are the odds?

So let’s say the guy is okay-looking, and he pulls off the question without immediately coming across as a creep. He seems rather nice. And let’s say, furthermore, that you’re in a sociable mood, you don’t mind being interrupted and you feel pretty safe because there are lots of other people around. You respond politely. The guy takes this as encouragement and you’re stuck with him for the next 10 minutes, half an hour, an hour. Inevitably, pretty soon he’s asking for your number and doesn’t seem to understand why you’re not comfortable with the situation anymore. After all, you responded positively to his approach! If you weren’t interested in him, you shouldn’t have led him on!

Dang! Being nice was the wrong response after all! Ding ding ding! Try again!

Okay, so you know being nice and polite like a normal person will only give the guy the wrong idea. You have to assume that anyone who asks about your book is only angling for an opportunity to ask for your phone number, so you think it’s best to make it clear from the start that you’re not interested. You can try to be really nice about it, or you can be matter-of-fact like unwinona, but the result is always the same. Indignation. “Why are you so rude?! I was only making small-talk! Sheeesh! What is a guy to do???”

Yeah… I really don’t have a clear-cut answer to that. If I did, I would write a book about it and make a lot of money. All I can say is, don’t butt into anyone’s company. Don’t invade their personal space. Yes, it’s really hard to meet new people these days when everyone is so suspicious but don’t blame women for being cautious. We are cautious because experience has taught us to be. Pick-up lines rarely work. Trust me, I’ve heard them all.

If you really want to connect with the cute girl on the metro, sit somewhere close to her but not too close. Don’t try to talk to her immediately but see if you can catch her eye first. If you manage to catch her eye (several times), then you can probably talk to them without being immediately shot down. Instead of asking for the cute girl’s number, give her yours. That way, she doesn’t have to take the risk of giving her contact information to a stranger. She may not call you… but then, if the attraction is mutual, she might!

But if you just barge into someone’s personal space and demandattention, your chances of getting a positive reaction are pretty slim. Of course, I can’t say it will never work. But if you’re really interested in that person rather than just looking to intimidate them, why not try an approach with better chances of success?

Posted in Culture, Equality, Feminism, Life, Men, Personal, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Would you use the pronoun “ey” instead of “he or she”?

Anglophonism

 

Sundays are a Day of Rest – by which I mean a Day of talking about the Rest of my life; that is, outside linguistics.

This little rant was initiated by this article.

I clicked on a link someone put up on facebook, and the headline caught my eye, and I ended up reading it – and all the comments.

Several things got to me upon reading it.

Firstly, the article calls Silvani Marquez “a transgendered man”, “he”, and “him” throughout the article.

A biological male who identifies as female is a transgendered woman; a biological male who likes to dress in women’s clothes is a transvestite. You’d think a well-known newspaper would do their homework.

However, it’s the comments that really upset me.

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Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor

Last time I went clubbing I had a great time… although a lot of that time was spent fending off the dicks on the dance floor. Now, I don’t mind guys coming up to dance with me, as long as dancing is what they’re doing. But if they’re only using dancing as an excuse to crowd my personal space or try to hump me, it stops being fun. You see, I go to the clubs to dance. I love it, and though I say so myself, I’m good at it. Unfortunately, there are always men who can’t take a subtle hint and just leave me be. Don’t get me wrong, if I find the man attractive, I don’t mind him coming into my personal space. But if that’s the case, I’d be looking at him and smiling, not trying to get away from him. You’d think men would notice the difference! Not all of them do, apparently.

There was this guy who made a beeline for me as soon as he saw me and my friends on the dance floor. He came right up to me, shoved past a friend of mine to get close to me, and tried to make an eye contact. I avoided looking at him. That should have been his clue number one, letting him know that I wasn’t interested. He ignored it and huddled even closer, as close as he could get without actually touching me, doing a very good imitation of humping me. That was really creepy, considering it was early in the night and the dance floor wasn’t crowded, so he had no excuse to invade my personal space after I had given him a clear signal that I wasn’t interested.

I thought about telling him to back off. To do that, I would have had to look at him and lean towards him so he could hear me. But he was giving off such a creepy vibe that I really didn’t want to talk to him. I realise he was probably just some poor sod with no clue on how to approach women but I didn’t feel like it was my duty to educate him on the subject. Thinking back, it sounds reasonable that I should have simply told him to back off since he didn’t understand from my body language that his attention was unwelcome. But when I was in that situation, I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him. I wanted nothing to do with him. I just wanted to get away from him, asap.

So I took a step away from him, still not looking at him. He took a step towards me to close the gap. I took a couple of fast steps away from him, and he followed like he was attached to my hip with an invisible cord. We went like that around the whole dance floor. Occasionally I dodged him behind other dancers, trying to put people between us, but he wouldn’t let that discourage him. He simply shimmied around anyone that came between us and resumed mock humping me and trying to make an eye contact.

By the time we had gone a full circle around the dance floor, me trying to get away from him and him chasing me, we were back with my friends and I was sure he must have understood I didn’t want to dance with him. But he seemed oblivious, as if he hadn’t noticed he had just chased me around the floor. As if he thought we were dancing together by mutual agreement. Doesn’t his behaviour remind you of those rape apologists who insist that it’s really hard to tell when the woman consents?

I hadn’t had a very good time while trying to get rid of that moron. Dodging a creep doesn’t count as partying. I couldn’t enjoy the music or the company of my friends while I was fending off that idiot, and I couldn’t move freely because he was crowding my space. I still didn’t want to talk to him but I considered shoving him off. It felt like a justified response in that situation but it’s also a good way to start a brawl. Besides, I didn’t want to ruin my own mood by getting aggressive, so I decided to leave the dance floor for a while. That didn’t seem fair. The DJ was playing my favourite songs and I wanted to dance, but I couldn’t, because of this idiot who was bothering me. But I thought that surely my walking off without so much as a glimpse towards him would let him know that I really wanted him to sod off?

I hid in the ladies’ room for a while but I couldn’t stay away from the dance floor when the DJ put on another favourite song of mine. But sure enough, the creep was right there waiting for me. He resumed his mock humping without actually touching me – if he had touched me, I would have shoved him so hard – but this time my friends were up to the situation and they pulled me away from him, closing the circle around me, and they wouldn’t let the idiot get through, though he tried.

He got the hint then! He vanished and my good mood returned. Later I saw him harassing another woman. She was doing the same thing I had been doing – avoided looking at him, tried to get away from him, but she was doing it more subtly, like she was embarrassed to make a fuss just because the guy couldn’t take a hint. He grabbed her hands and the woman allowed that, though she still wouldn’t look at him. I thought the woman was just being spineless now – you don’t have to let someone grab your hands if you don’t want them to! But she still appeared to think that if she didn’t respond at all, he would go away.
I thought about interfering. I felt like the woman needed someone to defend her because she was apparently too timid to defend herself, but in the end, I decided against it. It was none of my business, and who knows what would have happened if I had gone and shoved the guy off some other woman. I’m quite small so I can’t trust to come out on top of it if I start a bar brawl.

I didn’t see the pair in a while because the dance floor was quite crowded now, but the next time I saw them, the man was holding the woman in a kind of ballroom dance hold, with one hand around her back and the other hand holding hers. She had put her hand on his shoulder but she was still looking away from him and her whole body was awkwardly twisted away from him. I can’t see how the guy could have possibly got the idea she wanted to dance with him, and I also don’t understand why she didn’t get away from him. When he was bothering me, I hadn’t wanted to talk to him or even make an eye contact with him, so I knew how she felt but if that guy had touched me, I would have made it very clear to him that I didn’t allow it.

After a while the two left the dance floor together and I was sorry I hadn’t interfered after all. What if she never found the nerve to tell him to fuck off, and the guy followed her home like a leech? Since he was so blind to other people’s body language, there’s no knowing what he could have done. I was relieved to see him come back alone after a few minutes, and I didn’t see the woman again, so I assumed she had left without him. He tried to approach me again but this time I gave him a little shove as soon as he got near, and my friends blocked him again, so he gave up.

There was also one guy who said into my ear, “Lovely bum!” I pretended not to hear him. I don’t know why men think women are pleased to hear comments about their body. Of course I don’t mind if people appreciate my body. But I take an issue if they think they’re entitled to tell me what they think about it. If someone tells me they like the way I dance, I take it a bit more kindly, I may even acknowledge it with a thanks… but I still wonder why a random stranger would think they have the right to vocalise any evaluation of me.

If you want to approach a stranger on the dance floor, try making an eye contact first. If you succeed in that, you can move closer and dance with that person – but try not to get in their way! Assume they came to the club to dance, not to be humped or groped by strangers. If you continue to get positive signals – eye contact, smiles – you can take that as a go-ahead to come closer still and touch them. If that doesn’t make them take a step back, then you’re probably okay. That’s how I would approach someone on the dance floor, and it has never failed me yet. But I don’t expect a guy to feel flattered if I told him I like his shoulders. I would expect him to be weirded out. Complimenting strangers on their appearance implies you think you are in a position to assess them.

I encountered a few more dicks that night. A couple of guys came late to the club and they were pretty drunk. The dance floor was crowded but that didn’t stop them from dancing like they were the only ones there, jumping and flailing their arms around in wide arcs. They didn’t care if they hit other people, making them spill their drinks or drop them to shatter on the floor. (You’re not supposed to bring drinks to the dance floor but no one cares.)

I moved away from those guys but it’s a small club and they dominated the dance floor. There wasn’t a corner where you were safe from being hit by one of them, or by someone who staggered into you after being hit by one of the inconsiderate assholes. When the DJ put Smells Like Teen Spirit on, they went completely nuts. Suddenly the biggest one rammed into me. He was taller than me by a head and shoulders and he probably weighed twice as much as I, so I lost my balance and nearly fell from the impact. Also, it hurt and it took me by surprise, so I cried out.

When I regained my balance and looked up, there was a guy looking at me and he made a zipper motion across his mouth… as if I shouldn’t have yelled when that huge jerk rammed into me?! What the hell? I had no time to wonder, though, because the bouncing idiot was coming my way again. I moved out of his way just before he hit me, thinking he would hit someone else instead or eventually, the wall… but no! He fell over and crashed on his back, flailing like a toppled beetle, having apparently intended to ram into me with his whole body weight. He gave me a sort of astonished, disbelieving look as he lay there on the floor amid the broken glass. I raised my eyebrows at him. Bitchy, maybe, but that’s what you get for being a dick. If he thought I would just let him use me as a bouncy, he had another think coming.

All this makes it sound like the evening was a total disaster but actually my friends and I had a fantastic night out. That was just the normal quota of jerks we have to deal with, even on a good night. This time none of us got groped, and that’s saying something. And there were plenty of well-behaved guys who danced with us to have fun with us, not to harass us.

But what I was trying to say here is that even though the vast majority of men are decent, there are still quite a few dicks out there. When women go out, they can’t just expect to have a good time without being harassed or even assaulted. They have to be prepared to deal with these idiots. I’m sure there are women who behave badly, too, stumbling around drunk as skunks and forcing their attentions on men who are not interested… but I’ve never seen a man back away from an overly amorous woman and make a full circle around the dance floor in an attempt to avoid her.

For a small woman, these situations are always a bit worrying because I know for a fact that if it comes to wrestling, I won’t stand a chance. If I shove a guy off and he backs off, it’s because he has finally taken the hint, not because I could physically overpower him. It’s not that I’m afraid of being assaulted at a club. But there’s always the risk that some idiot with no social skills takes a shine on me, won’t take no for an answer and follows me after I leave the club.

A male friend of mine once complained to me how difficult it is to approach women on the dance floor because they are always so unfriendly, though he never forces his company on someone who clearly doesn’t want it. Even the decent guys suffer from the hostility that the dance floor jerks inspire in women. After fending off a couple of dicks, a woman’s temper is starting to fray and she’s not likely to form a positive first impression of someone who tries to get her attention. So I feel your pain, all you well-behaved men out there! You probably don’t deserve to be rejected right off the bat.

Then again, women are under no obligation to welcome a guy into their company just because he might be okay. Sometimes a girl just wants to dance. I’ll be polite about it – if you haven’t done anything to warrant a less than polite response – but if you don’t get positive signals, don’t keep trying. No man is entitled to a woman’s attention. She’ll pay you attention if she’s interested.

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A Bit of Fun – and Issues of Priviledge and Oppression

I stumbled on a blog titled the Pervocracy and the following post in there, The People You Meet When You Write about Rape: http://pervocracy.blogspot.fi/2010/10/people-you-meet-when-you-write-about.html

The list is both accurate and funny. Though some of the rape apologist types are slightly exaggerated, none are made up. I have encountered those arguments in rape discussions around the Internet, in the papers and sometimes, in my own social circles. If you want to have a bit of fun at the expense of rape apologists, read the post! But I should warn you, the comments turn somewhat ugly. The funny thing is, you can find many of the ridiculed arguments right there in the comments, proving that there really are people who use those arguments in rape discussions. Whether that’s hilarious or horrible, is up to you…

I thought the way Holly, the author, responds to these arguments was somehow refreshing because instead of trying to be polite to everyone – as feminists often feel compelled to do, to avoid feeding the stereotype of angry women who froth at the mouth as they fight against perceived injustices – she just doesn’t bother. And why should she be nice and polite to people who don’t extend the same courtesy to her?

One comment in there got my attention because it deals with something I touched on in my previous post on how to talk about sexism. I wrote about how men sometimes feel uncomfortable when women talk about sexism because they feel wrongly accused, or in some cases, guilty for having been inadvertently sexist in the past. I totally failed to point out that sometimes men perceive hostility from feminists even when there is none. I’ll just quote Laura’s comment because she explains it so well:

I have something to point out to people who find this to be a “hostile” environment, that I’ve learned from trying to be a good ally in queer, racialized, and other spaces.

Privilege can be uncomfortable. If you are in a space in which you are privileged, and you feel uncomfortable, it’s what you do with that discomfort that matters. 99% of the time, it’s because you’re feeling the weight of your privilege, not because you’ve done anything wrong personally at that moment, or that anyone is saying you have, or that less privileged people are doing anything wrong or hostile or unfair to you (though they may turn hostile if you start getting defensive…read on).

Part of being a good ally is learning to live with your discomfort and not get defensive. It’s recognizing that people have a right to be angry about their oppression and that their anger is probably NOT directed at you unless you’ve done something specific to provoke it. If you find yourself getting defensive, it almost always means you need to examine your privilege and/or the topic more carefully.

The people who get the most defensive are the people who abuse their privilege (and are sexist/racist/homophobic/classist/etc assholes). So when you get defensive, people start to feel like you’re one of those people, and that’s what escalates the situation. But 99% of the time, there’s nothing to get defensive about in the first place, because the anger you’re perceiving (initially) is not directed at you personally, even if it feels like it!

(this is where feminists critiquing patriarchy/rape culture turns into “all feminists hate men!!” or “women think all men are rapists” – that’s male privilege getting too defensive!)

Another big part of being an ally, possibly the most important part, is listening to what people say about their oppression. The Gabby’s Playhouse comic that someone linked to is all about this. This is basic social theory: the oppressed know INFINITELY more about their oppression than their oppressors do. If you are not a person of colour, or someone who has studied racism extensively, you do not understand racism as well as a person who lives with it daily, therefore, you should listen when someone explains something about racism to you. And you should not get defensive or try to correct them, because they are way more likely to be right than you are. Period.

In sum: if you are in a space in which you have privilege, and you find yourself getting defensive, YOUR PRIVILEGE is probably the reason, and you need to check it, and start really listening to people, rather than responding defensively and pissing people off.
Even if you are frustrated. Even if you don’t get it. Even if you think the original post is ‘hostile’ – people are allowed to be angry once in a while (especially within their own spaces). Or maybe even a little bit, all the time. Because they are oppressed, all the time.

Note: this is not to say that you can’t discuss anything with anyone, ever. Just that, when you have privilege in a situation, you need to do it carefully because your privilege creates massive blind spots.

So there! That explains pretty well the persistent misconception that feminists hate men. We don’t hate men. We hate being oppressed. We are allowed to express anger and frustration at our circumstances, and men who also hate gender inequality should not take those expressions of anger personally. If you’re not a sexist moron, don’t get upset when feminists make fun of sexist morons!

Finally, I’d like to point out that I still stand behind the statement I made in my previous post. Women won’t gain anything by being sexist in return, so when we talk about sexism, it would be wise to make it clear who we are accusing of sexism. Is it all men? Is it most of the men you know? Is it all your male colleagues? Or is it just your boss who thinks your only qualification is looking good in a skirt?

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How to talk about sexism?

Women face sexism daily. It’s a problem in the society and women are getting more vocal about it, but women’s protests against sexism are not always a success. Some men don’t believe in sexism or belittle its impact on women. Others feel wrongly accused and get defensive. Some men profess to hate sexism, and prostate themselves in front of women to show how respectful they are. And then, luckily, there are men who simply acknowledge that sexism is a problem, and want to do their part in the fight against it.

Sometimes men’s adverse reactions to women’s talk of sexism are due to the way we talk about it, but how about the men who simply deny the existence of sexism? They say there is no sexism. They may admit that women take a lot of crap from men (as shown by the everyday sexism project http://www.everydaysexism.com/ ) but the denialists feel it’s not a question of sexism but a question of some men being jerks, just like some women are jerks.

Well, yes and no. Let’s look at an example. Someone tweeted to the everyday sexism project that when she walked past a construction site, one of the workers shouted at her, “Show us your hairy axe wound, you fat cow!” Nevermind that the woman wasn’t actually fat, but do you think the construction workers shouted similar things to the men who walked by? I don’t think so! Yes, men can shout obscene insults to other men, but not at random strangers in the street, right? Imagine a construction worker shouting to a random male by-passer “Show us your hairy crack, you big twat!”

It just doesn’t happen. Men may exchange such insults as cheeky banter among friends (or among enemies) but men who are considered sane don’t yell such things to unknown men in the street. However, some men find it in themselves to yell insults or praise to bypassing women. They choose their targets on account of their sex. Therefore it’s sexism. There is nothing women can do avoid being yelled at. Attractive women get yelled at because they’re attractive, and unattractive women get abusive comments because for some reason there are men who think it’s okay to let a woman know when they don’t like her looks. It doesn’t much matter whether you hear sleazy whistles or obscene insults. Both are unwanted and aggressive attention that reduces you into an object.

So, the men who yell at women in the streets are without doubt jerks, but they are jerks in a specific way. They are jerks to women, for being women. To be fair, there are also women who are jerks to men, because they’re men. That’s sexism too, and it can be quite shocking for a man who experiences it. I can’t come up with examples off the top of my head. Maybe that’s sexism too? Maybe I don’t notice the sexism encountered by men because I’m focused on sexism experienced by women? Or maybe sexism practised by women is different, harder to perceive? If you have personal experiences to share, it would be interesting to hear about it.

Now, how about the men who get defensive when women bring up sexism? They don’t want to deny the existence of sexism but they get upset and angry when women talk about it. Maybe they feel wrongly accused or maybe some of them feel a twinge in their conscience if they realise they have been behaving in a sexist way without intending to? Either way, the men who get defensive don’t necessarily want to defend sexism as such. They just don’t want to be held accountable for some collective fault in men. “Bloody hell, I’m a stand-up guy! Is it my fault if some men are jerks?”

It’s not an unreasonable reaction. I don’t like to be lumped together with other women either. It’s not nice to hear, “women are like this, women always do that.” This is something that women might pay attention to when they talk about sexism. Sure, when we say, “men shout obscenities at women,” we don’t mean all men shout obscenities and all women have experienced it. We know what we mean, but would it be such a huge effort to be a bit more specific about it to avoid provoking those men who might be sympathetic to our cause if they didn’t feel they’re being accused for something they didn’t do? “Some men shout obscenities at women” allows for the fact that most men don’t.

Then what about the men who hate sexism so much that they proclaim to worship women as divine beings, and happily let us rule the Earth? Isn’t that nice? Not really, no. I appreciate the sentiment, at least if I think the speaker is being sincere, but really that kind of attitude is sexist, too. It puts women on a pedestal for no other merit than being women. What women want from men is the same respect they would show to other men, not worship. Fairness, not groveling. Equality, not pedestals.

As for happily “letting” women rule the Earth, that implies a patronising attitude and the inherent belief that men have the power to let women rule. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to rule the Earth. I don’t want to be treated like a princess. I just want to be treated like a normal human being. I don’t want to hear obscenities or flattery, or to get groped in the street, but I don’t mind getting polite compliments. However, don’t need compliments, so men shouldn’t feel like they have to say something nice to me because I’m a woman.

Finally, as for the men who acknowledge that sexism is a problem, and want to do their part in eradicating it – what can they do? Well, for starters, think about who usually makes the coffee at your workplace? Unless there’s a cafeteria or a person hired specifically to make coffee, don’t ask your female colleagues or secretaries to make coffee for you. If you want coffee, make it yourself. At home, do your share of the housework, cooking and grocery shopping. Don’t help your spouse with the chores. Children help. Adults pull their own weight.

And generally, if you have the guts, think about speaking out when you encounter sexism in your life. For instance, if a male colleague of yours belittles a female colleague, you could either call him out on it then and there, or if that doesn’t feel appropriate, you could point it out to him later, privately.

Women could also try standing up for themselves more. The problem is, when women try to fight sexism, things may get even worse for them, so they don’t always have the courage to do it. But when you go to a meeting and a male colleague asks you to bring coffee (because you’re a woman), you could say, “It’s not in my job description.” Or you could say, “Sure! Could you come along and bring the cups/the cakes/whatever?”

Of course, women shouldn’t have to fight against sexism. In an ideal world, sexist men would just become aware of the error of their ways and adjust their behaviour, and we could all live together without trying to oppress the other sex or struggling against oppression. But for that to happen, we need to start somewhere.

 

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On Being Highly Sensitive

Zinemin’s post on being a highly sensitive person (link below) is very informative and enlightening, especially if you browse through all the linked articles. I’ve sometimes suspected I might be a highly sensitive person (HSP) but seeing as I have strong conflicting traits like extroversion and thrill-seeking, even occasional impulsiveness, I thought I couldn’t be HSP.

But it turns out that some HSP people can have a component of high sensation seeking (HSS) in their personality, though it’s not very common. I took the tests and it looks like I can now label two conflicting aspects of my personality. I am HSS/HSP!

So, if…

  • you experience loud noises, smells, tastes and/or pain more strongly than other people
  • alcohol, caffeine, lack of sleep, hunger or stress affect you more than others
  • too much sensory input easily overwhelms you
  • you are very slow at making decisions
  • you need a lot of time alone, doing fuck all… (i.e. wasting time)

you may well be highly sensitive. Read and find out! In this, as in so many other things, knowledge is power.

 

On being highly sensitive.

 

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Another great post on “legitimate” rape.

theradicalidea

Irrelevant disclaimer: I just moved to a new apt where I don’t have internet, so there may not be much on this blog for a while.

That said, while I DO have internet, I think the issue of “honest” rape/”legitimate” rape is definitely what I want to talk about.  Know why? Because there is NO SUCH THING AS “HONEST RAPE” VS “OTHER RAPE”.  Nope. Rape=Rape.  Every time.  Doesn’t matter if the people were married.  Doesn’t matter if it took the woman weeks to report.  Doesn’t matter if she didn’t take the morning after pill because she thought pregnancy was unlikely and then three months later realized she needed an abortion.  Doesn’t matter if she was drunk.  All of it is rape, people.

So all my readers, don’t vote for Ron Paul or Todd Atkin.  They’re obviously not going to defend your rights as a woman.

So let’s backtrack, in case…

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