You know what’s fun? Cute animal names for people behavior! It is like dressing a dog up in a little outfit, but in reverse. So adorable! “Older” ladies who date younger dudes are “cougars,” and younger “older” ladies who date younger dudes are “pumas,” and people who date people their own age are “yaks,” and people who go on dates during the wintertime are “emperor penguins.” And date rapists are “cheetahs!”
Wait, WHAT? That’s not cute! Not cute at all! Not even an animal name can cheer me up about that! And yet, it is the case, as per the New York Observer and its no-doubt-intended-to-be-hilariously-tongue-in-cheek article re: the cheetahs. It’s too bad the date rape brought the whole thing down, really! And also the sexism. Because then I had to be miffed about it, on the Feministe. But now it is time to bring the conversation to A Higher Level (people who do this are known as “mountain goats”) by talking about the supremely downery and difficult topic of how ladies are capable of abuse and bad stuff sometimes. And how we deal with this, in a world where ladies are stereotyped as The Weaker, Nicer Gender. (Hint: jokes!) And also Tiger Woods. Because, UGH, why not. Coincidentally, can you guess which story a person with a Google alert for “Tiger Beatdown” will be hearing A LOT about? Yep.
Anyway! Time for a surprisingly joke-free Sexist Beatdown, featuring Amanda “Ruffed Wood Grouse” Hess of The Sexist! And me, of Tiger “Tiger” Beatdown!
ILLUSTRATION: Ha ha! Silly Princess Fluffy Snowball, those are PEOPLE clothes! That I forced you into while you spit and growled and hissed and took big chunks out of my inner arm with your claws and… oh, who am I kidding? I can’t be mad at you while you are wearing that hilarious and adorable outfit, Princess Fluffy Snowball! Now let me take your picture so that I can show it to all my OH GOD NO NOT THE EYES AGGGGGGHHHHH.
SADY: hi! sources inform me it is CHEETAH TIME!
AMANDA: you are mistaken. cheetah time is around last call, which situates it around 2 a.m. here in washington d.c. although i am ignorant to the exact hour of cheetah time in new york.
SADY: well, i kind of hope that no time is cheetah time? because the new york observer informs me that the “cheetahs,” this new and playfully named subgroup of ladies, are actually kind of engaged in some QUITE UNETHICAL behavior, possibly.
AMANDA: what are you going to do about it? round up all the cheetahs and put them in … some sort of zoo?
SADY: THE JAIL ZOO.
AMANDA: i have determined that the only way to deal with the very rapey behavior of these “cheetahs” is to jokingly incorporate them into some sort of homosocial masculinity-building exercise, in order to not have to think about women sexually assaulting people.
SADY: oh, good! i think some people have already started this project, potentially!
SADY: i mean: i don’t actually think that we are meant to think that the cheetahs as described in the observer article are out date raping people. i should say that. i think it’s just an unfortunate combination of language choices and hyperbole, intended for humorful effect, that leaves one with that unmistakable impression. but still: i think it’s worth noting that the language choices and hyperbole went unnoticed as “accidentally coming together to describe a serial date rapist” because the serial date rapist in question was a lady. because if it were a dude behavior pattern this article was talking about? people would PROBABLY NOTICE. and not give it cute animal names and a tongue-in-cheek article treatment.
AMANDA: well, it’s interesting, because whenever i write about sexual assault, particularly DRUNKEN sexual assault, i always get the same comment from men: “how is this different from the time i totally got beer goggles and woke up next to a super ugly chick i instantly regretted fucking?” and i can say, well, i know the difference between having sex and then saying, ‘oops. bad idea,” and, you know, rape. but this article made me question whether men really have a way to talk about sexual assault experiences as something OTHER than the beer goggles
SADY: yeah. there’s a crucial difference between “i shouldn’t have wanted to do that but at the time i seriously did want to do it, OOPS” and “i did not want that to happen and then it did because i was unable to resist or know what was going on.” and in this article, one blends in to the other in a way that disturbs me. because i seriously do wonder if the conversation we have around rape – which is a conversation i take part in, a lot, and which i’m happy with on a number of levels – does us a disservice in that it doesn’t stress that informed consent is necessary no matter WHO you are. so the possibility of a dude being taken past the point of informed consent, bullied, abused, coerced, intimidated, etc. doesn’t register as serious for us. it registers, if at all, as FUNNY.
AMANDA: yes, and the men express a lot of discomfort with this situation in the piece, but it’s all carefully divorced from non-consent—it’s discomfort with her not looking good without makeup on, discomfort with kissing a cheetah IN THE LIGHT OF DAY, discomfort with her totally wanting to marry him. nd the idea in the story that these girls have tried to coerce these drunk men into DATING them seems pretty off-base to me. it seems almost like a stand-in for the experience of the women coercing the drunk men into having sex, honestly. i mean, if the “cheetah” (OK. I am going to use the word) is only propositioning the guy anytime she happens to see him drunk in da club at 2 am, and not over the phone on the weekend looking for a dinner date, it seems pretty clear that the lady is looking for sex.
SADY: right. there’s a discomfort there that’s probably meant to be just standard “don’t let ‘em stay for breakfast”-ness but given the details of ladies waiting until a guy – ANY GUY – is wasted past the point of no return and then isolating them from a group under false pretenses and then employing their sex/boyfriend-nabbing maneuvers? it seriously comes across as more sinister than that. and again, so that it doesn’t come across as me randomly accusing some person i don’t know of sexual assault based on a clearly-meant-to-be-funny essay: i don’t think that’s EXACTLY how it went down. i think those elements were played up to make it funnier. but if you knew anyone who operated this way in the actual world, that would be cause for serious, serious concern. but maybe even my urge to be cautious about this is indicative of something.
AMANDA: well, i know that i usually don’t hesitate to point out that behavior like this, while not necessarily rape—who knows what happened after they stumbled into the cab—it’s still something we should address in the larger context of sexual assault. but again, given the obvious hyperbole of the piece, it’s hard to know what’s honest and what’s exaggerated
SADY: yeah. ultimately the only people who know what happened are the people involved. but i definitely don’t think it’s out of line to talk about it in the CONTEXT of sexual assault behaviors. because seriously, all those “accidental” rapes we keep hearing about where the person WHOOPS just up and raped someone? could really be avoided by adopting a measure such as, “don’t pick out piss-drunk people who can’t even form a coherent sentence as sex partners.” but it’s hard to even see it in this case – it almost slips under the radar – because we have the idea that men are unrapeable. always being willing and ready and able to have sex is a big part of our idea about how the male sex drive works.
AMANDA: you pointed out in your piece on Feministe that the joke doesn’t work, but if it DID WORK it would be because a. men want to have sex with everything! and b. it’s absurd that a woman could force a man to do something he didn’t want to do. and it’s interesting to think of the expectation that men are always up for sex in the context of sexual assault, because that traditionally masculine requirement basically translates into a constant state of consent. but the morning after, when the Observer writes a humorous essay about the situation, the perceived damage isn’t that the man had sex when he didn’t want to, but that he had sex with the wrong woman when he did want to, and had there been any hotter, younger, less desperate girl at the bar that night, there wouldn’t have been a problem at all.
SADY: righto. and, i mean, i don’t think it’s out of line to point out that the MAJORITY of rapes, as far as i’ve ever been able to gather, are of women. and that may, in fact, feed into our perceptions of men as unrapeable, because we’re just not used to imagining the victim as of the male gender. but sometimes these things are hard to measure because societal expectations and biases are getting in the way of people (a) naming their experience, or (b) having people pay attention to their experience. like, it’s been really hard for me to find statistics on domestic violence in same-sex relationships, because most people are measuring the rate of violence by straight men directed at straight women. or sometimes, the other way around. but that doesn’t mean domestic violence in same-sex relationships is nonexistent, it just means we aren’t out there looking at those stories enough. sorry, LONG. and also we’re not used to the idea that women are capable of violence? PS? like, gender stereotypes tell us that ladies don’t do violent badness, that is a Male Thing.
AMANDA: right, and I also think it’s very much a reflection on who we will accept as a victim. two boyfriends getting into a fight is perceived differently than a boyfriend and girlfriend—first, because people don’t like to talk about gay relationships, AT ALL, and second, because people have a hard time seeing a “true” victim in male-on-male violence
SADY: right. like lil’ wayne and the lady who sexually abused him as a kid! i mean, he was A CHILD at the time, and it’s been spun as “wow, you got lucky at a really young age, HILARS.”
AMANDA: and they’re also so bent on seeing a woman as a victim in a domestic dispute that, in cases where women do beat up on their partners, it’s sometimes ignored, because men don’t want to be seen as victims, either. and so—I know you didn’t want to talk Tiger!—but Tiger Woods’ wife’s club-wielding will be announced publicly by Woods as an “act of courage,” no matter what actually happened that night. meanwhile, he’s getting a lashing in the presses over having sex with a lot of women, which is pretty standard, but also just very tiring to me, because the very serious ALLEGED CLUB WIELDING INCIDENT MY GOD has been all but excused by his infidelity
SADY: yeah, precisely. and maybe part of that has been about the fact that we don’t fully know what happened, too, because i know that there are already people who are like, “this would never be so readily excused if the victim were A WOMAN,” and it’s like: hello, i would like to introduce you to The Many Conversations About How Rihanna Deserved It And Also The T-Shirt To That Effect And Also Basically A Shit-Ton Of Other Incidents Of Domestic Violence And Victim-Blaming.
AMANDA: (I had forgotten about the t-shirt!)
SADY: i mean: yes, it would be excused by some. but also: i think it’s really important to say that this shit is unacceptable no matter who you are or whose car you are beating with a golf club. NOT. COOL. and i think sometimes we, as women, forget that we can be guilty of shittiness to our partners that is just as damaging as a dude being shitty to a lady. i mean: i think the notion that women can’t be abusive or that men can’t be victims of abuse is actually pretty sexist.
AMANDA: it’s extremely sexist. and i think it often actually encourages women to be abusive, because there is the sense that you can’t “really” hurt a man. and that’s awful.
SADY: it relies on this concept of us as impotent, and that our little fits are just womanly irrationality and kittenishness, and that men are always stronger than we are and in control of the situation. and, i mean, i’ve caught myself being shitty with my anger, and seriously had to ask myself if i would ever accept this scenario if it were a dude doing it. answer: sometimes, no. granted, i’ve never gone at someone with A FUCKING GOLF CLUB, but still. the idea that women are weak and men are strong becomes a lot less plausible (if it ever was) when the woman in question is armed with a large metal object.
AMANDA: haha. right. but even if not! i remember, a while back, sort of forcefully slapping my boyfriend’s shoulder in frustration. no golf club! and it took a couple of times for him to tell me that that hurt him and it wasn’t acceptable. and i was confused and then really ashamed about it, because i sort of didn’t realize that it hurt him. which is terrible.
SADY: right. and that is the thing! like, everyone in the world should be taught how to identify when they’re being abused, but they should also be taught how to identify when they’re being abusive. Not that we all will be abusive or go around beating each other, but we shouldn’t teach only one population to examine and control themselves. and i actually think the concept of An Abuser, as this super-human monster freak who is always only one way in his (note the “his”) lifetime ever, prohibits people from that. the same way that saying, “that thing you did was sexist” is hard because people hear, “you are a sexist,” and how those are different things, really, but our concept of A Sexist is so scary to us that accepting we are BEING sexist and need to deal with that is hard. like, i think the fact that men are taught to express anger in certain ways may in fact (and does in fact) lead to more men being violent to their partners. but. that doesn’t mitigate the possibility of women as abusive as well.
AMANDA: i can attest to people freaking out by being associated with being A Sexist, since I have gotten many confused, angry phone calls from people who have been featured in my column who believe that the name of my column, The Sexist, is a reflection of their personal character. it’s really a bit of a problem! what a stupid idea for a column name!
SADY: i find it hilarious and charming!
AMANDA: of course, a lot of the people I do feature are A Sexist. Which is probably why they get so mad about it!
SADY: oh, well. THAT CAN HAPPEN.