On Asking For It



This picture has made the rounds in social media for a while now. Recently it has surfaced pretty strongly in my circle of Facebook friends, and has produced something of a contention among them. The argument seems to be over the degree to which someone should take responsibility for their own safety and not engage in risky acts. One guy even went so far as to edit the image so that instead it read, “Still nutso. Asking for it.” Not only does this diversion miss what I think is the central point, I don’t see how the notion is defensible when we reward people like extreme sports athletes for taking big risks with their safety.

The first time I ever heard the phrase, “She was asking for it”, in connection with sexual assault against women, I balked. I still do. Not for any really noble reason. What boggles me about such a statement is that it is literally impossible. This is one of those things that people say that make me wonder where they learned their language, and if they actually know the meaning of the terms they are working with.

Let’s be clear: we are talking about rape. One of the most explicit definitions of the word that webster.com gives is this, “unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent.”

I take issue with that definition, as I don’t see rape as a sexual act, but rather as a violent act. However let’s leave that point aside and deal with the definition as given. (I also don’t like the words, “usually female” in there because I think making this an issue about women is a case of extremely muddled thinking and victim shaming.) Note the phrase, “against the will.” For me this is where the boggle comes in. If something is against someone’s will, they cannot possibly ask for it. The two statements are contradictory. They cancel each other out. The sentence, “She got raped, but she was asking for it”, is nonsense.

There may, or may not, be a valid conversation to have about being aware of ones environments and acting in a way that is more likely to keep one safe. I am a martial artist with two and a half decades of training in self-defense. There are certain situations and settings I avoid because I don’t relish the idea of having a violent encounter. That being said, if I did go into those situations and I did get victimized I would not be at fault. I would not be to blame. It is never possible to ask for a violation of one’s person or property. Period. In my book, anyone who thinks that such a thing is possible is operating under the weight of insanity.

Now, I am a man, and am not enough of a fool to think I am completely free of the influence of rape culture in the modern world. I don’t have all the answers. Not even close. I invite anyone who wants to offer a refinement, or refutation of what I have said to engage me in conversation. I want to learn. I think we have a real problem with this subject in the modern world and I would like to be further educated on it. I know I have blind spots.

That being said, it is simply not possible to “ask for it” when it comes to rape. The definition of the term does not support such a view. Any conversation about safety and awareness needs to be free of the phrase “asking for it” to avoid confusion and to have a chance of being at all helpful. That’s my opinion, and I don’t see how the matter can be seen any other way.

Manic-Depression for Fun & Profit


Manic-depression runs in my family. For some of my relatives it has been a crippling condition. For some it has been lethal. For myself, it has been a long standing condition that colors my reality-tunnel in a number of ways. Thus far I have not had to medicate to manage the condition. I have nothing but good opinions about using meds to deal with clinical depression in all it’s forms. The careful use of prescribed pharmaceuticals have been a great relief for several of my family member, as well as several of my friends. I have simply fallen on the portion of the spectrum where the use of medication is not indicated. So far. Depression can be a progressive disease, and I often take stock of my fluctuating moods to see if I might need that help.

That is not to say that I do not self-medicate to a degree. I do. Mostly that self-medication comes in the form of daily meditation, and frequent journaling. Some may not think of these activities as self-medicating, but I do, and having these tools has helped me a great deal.

This post isn’t about medication though. It’s about a shift in how I operate within a context that contains manic-depression. I have come to see that I have been on a particular cycle that is less than fruitful. One of the less-than-skilled ways in which I operate during the manic cycles it to spend money. Often a bit more than I actually have. That leaves me with the depressive cycle for earning money. Not such a good combination.

So, I am building the habit of reversing this trend. I now focus on doing work that pays when in a manic phase, so that I can enjoy the afforded comforts during my depressive phases.

This all seems like a complete no-brainer, but then again most good epiphanies do in hindsight.

I would not have been able to see this pattern were it not for journaling and daily meditation. I guess they worked! 😉

Photo Credit: Rick Stegeman

Homophobia as Misuse of Sexuality


One of the “steps” on the Buddha’s eight fold path (the set of suggestions on how to lead a life more conducive to awakening) deals with how we approach sexuality. For Monks, Nuns, and Priest, the admonition is to lead a life of celibacy. For the laity however, this step is often interpreted as not engaging in abusive sexual relations, or participate in sexual “misconduct.”

As an aside here, the eight fold path is not a thing you do one step at a time, but is rather a group of guidelines for conduct to be tackled contemporaneously within one’s life.

When looking at the eight fold path, and applying it’s suggestions to our own life, I think one of the things we need to take into account is the cultural context in which it developed. The trick then is to find a way to adapt it to your own cultural context. As an example, one of the steps deals with “right livelihood”. This has to do with making sure that the way you make your living doesn’t generate any entanglements to trip you up. Or, at least as few as possible. The thing is, a whole lot of the jobs available now were no where to be seen in the Buddha’s time.

Unfortunately, there was a whole lot of baggage around sexuality in the time of the Buddha. Well, hell, there is now as well, but I’d like to think we’ve grown up some. In that light I’d like to propose a wrinkle of possibly useful modern interpretation for the “step” that has to do with sexual misconduct. This wrinkle directly deals with any cultural and habitual hangups we might be carrying in ourselves. In terms of keeping our process clean in the way that the Buddha proposed so that we have less hang ups to deal with in pursuit of awakening. What I am suggesting is that we also carry this step into our dealing with others. Two of the other steps are right speech, and right thought. Those steps expressly with our conduct with others. So why not the step about sex?

Part of our hang ups with sexuality have to do with judgments about others and how they should be living their lives. So, for me, the admonition to use sex “correctly” includes not having anything to say about other people’s orientation, or expression of gender. As far as I can see butting into other people’s affairs causes just as much blockage in our path, as when we misuse our own sexuality.