The Capacity for Violence
April 3, 2009
We all have the capacity for violence. Rape, and promoting rape, is not limited to cis straight men, to white men, to men of color, to men you don’t know, to men at all, to cis people, to straight people, to people who aren’t survivors, to people who aren’t your close friends, to people who don’t speak out against rape, to people who don’t volunteer on rape-crisis hotlines (that really sucked, by the way), or even to people who don’t write forwards to anti-rape anthologies, or who haven’t written songs against date rape and dedicated them to Sarah Palin.
Those last two categories are pretty specific, huh?
In case you’re wondering, I’m talking about this (trigger warning):
If it’s hard to see, here’s a basic rundown: a Katy Perry lookalike comes onstage to lip sync “I Kissed a Girl.” A few people make brief passes at her, then Margaret Cho, wearing a purple strap-on, and Amanda Palmer come up from opposite sides of the stage and trap “Perry” between them. Cho takes “Perry’s” hand, puts it on her strap-on, and *holds it there* while Perry looks anxious and uncomfortable and tries to remove her hand. Then Palmer touches her belly, “Perry” momentarily looks more uncomfortable, and then suddenly “gives in” and starts acting enthusiastic, making out with Palmer and pushing her butt back towards Cho. (You can see her facial expressions better in this video if it’s hard to see clearly.)
Just in case it wasn’t clear that this was a revenge fantasy rather than just a “oh she really wanted it it’s ok” fantasy (still rape promotion, but still)–A curtain goes up, and when it comes down, Cho is dressed as a minister/pastor/whatever, and “Perry” and Palmer are in wedding dresses… and “Perry” is bound hand and foot, with duct tape over her mouth. She tries to hobble away, and Palmer stops her, making an expression of overdone, false-looking bliss with a sinister undertone. (This part is somewhat more easily visible here) A “Fuck Prop 8” banner goes up and the crowd cheers.
There’s really not a lot more to say. I understand being angry about “I Kissed a Girl”–I’m none too pleased about it myself. (Not knowing my name, fine, I can work with that, but I’m your “experimental game”? … Excuse me?) The song is exploitative/exoticizing/fetishizing/objectifying whatever other words you want to use. Basically it’s gross, keep your hands off my sexuality. But resorting to dramatizing sexual violence as a revenge strategy? (Hell, revenge at all?) Not cool. And it’s not as though Cho could ever objectify or fetishize anyone. Nor Amanda Palmer.
At Women & Children First, one of two Chicago stops of the YMY! tour, there was a comment exhorting [straight/bi] men to stand up and say they’re not rapists, because otherwise all the women would assume they were. But standing up and speaking out doesn’t make you an ally/not a rapist. Not raping people makes you not a rapist. If you don’t think of yourself as a potential perpetrator of violence and consider carefully how to exist in the world as nonviolently as you can, you will perpetrate it. Violence, including but in no way limited to sexual violence, is the norm in this society, not the exception–though often it’s not quite as blatant as Cho and Palmer just put on display for us, or quite as clearly intentional.
X-posted to the Yes Means Yes! blog