Re: *chokes on water*

I have a lot I want to say in reply to this post:

https://theacetheist.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/chokes-on-water/

which, to try to clarify, is Coyote blogging about their reaction to a certain tumblr post, and more specifically I want to reply to epochryphal’s comments too (and Coyote’s replies to co as well).

This is not actually a real blog post. This is basically a mess of jumbled thoughts type way-too-long comment on someone else’s blog post, a way-too-long comment from luvtheheaven. (Whoops that didn’t make sense, did it?)

(To clarify:) This is basically something that started as a comment on someone else’s blog post and still basically is a REALLY long version of yes, a comment on someone else’s blog post.

And then because I was turning it into its own separate blog post, yeah, I made it way longer and just kept writing. Feel free to move along as if there is nothing to see here.


 

Wow. This is a lot to take in, you guys. Side note for Coyote: Because you linked it, I’ve just now (re?) read your “Models of Conceptualizing Morality” post and even if I did read the post itself before (and I do think I probably did?), well, for probably the first time I have now read the comments there too.

When you first posted this Coyote, epochryphal hadn’t commented yet. And I read just the post and tried to appreciate what you were saying. I went back and forth between the linked tumblr post and your blog post reaction to it here until I got through the whole thing, but of course I first looked at #12.

[Content Note for mentions of publicized news stories about gang rape:]

My first thought is for the ones like #1 and #12 where the two words used are “Survivor” and “perpetrator” that the OP was talking, specifically, about sexual assault and/or rape. Not sure if that was the intention, but “perpetrator” in my mind means “rapist” unless further clarified, especially when juxtaposed against “survivor”. That is my bias, my gut reaction, etc, for better or worse.

For context, I am not a sexual abuse survivor, I 100% have never experienced any type of sexual abuse. I consider myself a child abuse survivor, and able to relate to at least some sections of almost all discourse on the topic of abuse because my mother emotionally and, to a lesser degree, physically abused me for many years, but I do react differently if I think the thing I’m reading is about sexual abuse, about something I can’t relate to.

I want to be supportive of survivors of sexual assault.

When I looked that “the survivor’s needs are always more important than the perpetrator’s needs” as an norm in anti-abuse discourse that needs to be challenged, and was seeing your reaction Coyote, immediately, that that seemed to mean “abusers are [often/enough of the time] the REAL victims here!”, I generally agreed. It brought back to my mind the thought of *more than one* horrific news story of (I think it was) 17- and 18-year-old teenage boys/young men gang-raping unconscious young girls and the reaction of the prison sentence and conviction in general for the perpetrators was “ruining” their lives “before their lives even had a chance to be lived” (because the rapists were “so young”). It brought to my mind a story of an instance of perpetrating where too many people, in general, were reacting from afar with “that punishment makes me feel so bad for the boys” without any comment for the survivor, the girl, essentially implying to any reader who spends their time wanting to combat rape-culture that clearly this commenter is not prioritizing the survivor over the perpetrator(s), and clearly we need to fight to remind people that the needs of the survivor are more important than the needs of the perpetrator.

That’s how that kind of thing became a norm, and then this tumblr list seemed to be fighting it and saying “But sometimes the perpetrators needs are more important than the survivors”, and I was trying to think of a fair time to apply that idea, and all I could think of was like, if you’re someone who thinks the American criminal justice system needs reform so badly and that’s more important than anything else, that what we’re doing to rapists is so so bad that yeah, even in the gang rape horrors mentioned that it is sort of fair to cast the perpetrators as “the real victims here”.

[end content note]

And if that’s not what the OP of this list meant to conjure in me, well… I mean I know of course my focus wouldn’t have jumped right to #12 without even reading the rest until after if I hadn’t seen Coyote’s commentary on it as my introduction to it as a post. But I do think this entire list could really use the context you provide, epochryphal, and would make for a more powerful and better conversation if we understood how personal it was to the poster. Because when I see a post titled “Oppressive norms of anti-abuse discourse that I would really like to see deconstructed, challenged and outright demolished” out of context and then a list of generalizations, even if it does start with “survivors can’t also be perpetrators”, it doesn’t even cross my mind that the OP might be writing the entire list because they themselves are both a survivor and a perpetrator, and they knowingly acknowledge this.

One of the many big things that makes this hard is because so often abusers don’t agree they are abusers, especially not before the survivor cuts the abuser out of their life. epochryphal, when you say:

for me, it’s sort of…i’ve watched my abusers change. and it freaks me out to know they’re better, and that whenever i talk about them no one will believe that? like i get to talk about my bad experiences with them. but talking about how i /know/ they’ve improved, is, is seen as wishful and triggering and dangerous and disruptive. and it makes me less believable and trustworthy and valid. which Sucks.

Gosh I am really sorry that kind of thing happens to you when you try to bring up this stuff, that people even call it Triggering and Dangerous?? Like Coyote said, that is extremely unfair. I think if you wrote a post about how people didn’t give you any space to talk about this real thing you’re experiencing, who dismissed what you’re saying as NOT real and just “wishful”, etc, maybe that would help at least a few people change their mind the next time someone like you tried to talk about this experience. I think tumblr, when it comes to conversations on abuse, almost always is this antagonistic place of fighting abuse on a societal level and on an individual level and there isn’t space for supporting the survivors at all in this context, especially not the nuanced experiences like the ones you are describing. tumblr’s culture is really really not built for that at the current moment.

I think the majority of abuse survivors come to expect their abuser to never treat themselves as an abuser. So they don’t expect abusers to be writing tumblr posts on the subject, and something really really powerful would be if this post ended with “by the way, everything you just read? Written by someone who is both a survivor and a perpetrator”, even if they just left it at that with no more context. Because it would put the whole thing into a different light, for sure.

But of course, tumblr can be a dangerous, “toxic”-even kind of a place, and even if they were able to post a list like that with my suggestion as the final sentence in an anonymous way, like a guest post on someone else’s blog or whatever, even if people couldn’t directly come back at them with “Suicide baiting” as you two called it and other horrific, abusive actions, people could still reply horribly to the post in a way that would make the (even if anonymous) author afraid to ever read the comments, etc. I’m not sure there is a great solution, because tumblr is so many things, and for better or worse you’re gonna get a certain type of reader there, and you’re going to get more readers via reblogs on tumblr than you’d get most other places you could easily post it.


Okay so I actually have a million more thoughts on this stuff.

[Content Note: Discussions of borderline personality disorder, abuse, etc.]

epochryphal mentioned bpd twice in passing in cos comments on Coyote’s post and I definitely don’t know where I should be looking to find nuanced spaces for conversations on the intersection of Cluster B personality disorders or Borderline Personality Disorder itself and abuse, but I don’t think tumblr is gonna be it?? I mean I would be extremely personally invested in reducing my ableist tendencies (please skip to the end of that post for the relevant part, Find in Page the words “My mother screams and yells”) and fighting the impulse to treat bpd or maybe another personality disorder as the full excuse for why my mother hurt me and my family so badly.

It may not be fully healthy, it might not be a productive use of my time, but I do want to understand my abuser as much as I can.

In fact earlier this week I was reading some really fascinating posts likely relevant to my abusive mother that would in fact explain some of her continued actions.

What I was reading was this post:

Down the Rabbit Hole: The world of estranged parents’ forums

And then also so many other articles/posts on that website, linked on the side (or linked below if on mobile), about the particular topic.

About forums like: http://www.rejectedparents.net/ and http://www.dailystrength.org/groups/parents-of-estranged-adult-children/discussions

But I also don’t want to hurt people if there is something I could be doing that is NOT hurtful. I don’t want to be perpetuating wrong stereotypes/generalizations about bpd and abuse. I don’t want to cast all symptoms of a mental illness as always abusive, since I now believe that is incorrect – not just morally wrong but factually so as well. I want to be able to talk about sexism in the diagnosing of bpd, about unfair assumptions and ways certain mental health professionals treat personality disorders, I want to READ about this stuff, but I can’t just go to a tumblr meant to support people with bpd and what seem to be the main two symptoms discussed – “fear of abandonment” and “clinical depression” – and feel like any good conversation could possibly be had that is useful for me, someone who suspects her abuser’s bpd is a huge contributing factor to her abusive actions, or at least that color all of the abuse…


Back to “Oppressive norms of anti-abuse discourse that I would really like to see deconstructed, challenged and outright demolished” and *chokes on water*, um…

Well #7, “books such as “how does he do that” by Lundy Bancroft are good ways of analyzing abuse” and Coyote’s reply: “well. I know this is just a brief list without elaboration, but book recommendations would be good.”

Good books on analyzing abuse may not have ever been written for all I know, they certainly can be tricky to try to find, but that doesn’t stop Lundy Bancroft’s book from being a mess in many ways… I full-heartedly agree with that… and the way it’s considered the bible on abuse in a lot of “the” anti-abuse discourse still bothers me, still seems extremely problematic. This list is not a good way to stop people from holding up the book as a good way to analyze abuse because the list doesn’t explain the problems.

I read an e-copy of the book borrowed from my local library after being on a waiting list for it so I can’t just go back to the book and cite specific examples of problems without um, going back on a waiting list and checking it out again. Plus e-books are harder than paper to cite from sometimes but I could do it, I know…

But…

Lundy Bancroft does have experience working with abusive men, no question about it. But he argues from his own authority and however tempting it is to believe he knows what he’s talking about, that doesn’t mean the conclusions he is drawing are correct. What Bancroft does throughout this book is hypothesize about why abusive men act the way they do. His hypotheses are based on years of listening to what these abusive people say, watching what exactly they do, noticing when they change and when they don’t, etc. But they are just that, hypotheses, and he has not proven any of the claims he makes, and he has not properly studied all the counterexamples, the things that explicitly falsify what he claims by existing. In fact, he hurtfully dismisses some counterexamples, especially along the lines of gender, as essentially not being counter examples at all. Bancroft gaslights survivors like me and my family when he writes about the concept of a woman abusing a man, writing about a woman having no power over a man in our patriarchal society, etc. And I can tell he has great intentions, he doesn’t mean to do what he does, but he does it nonetheless. He acts like he knows things when often he is just guessing. He’s giving advice, explicit lines that read something like, “if a man tells you his ex-wife was abusive to him, that’s a major red flag and you should start suspecting him of being abusive” as if that is fair and reasonable and not ridiculous benevolent sexism if I’ve ever heard of it, because he would never tell a man “if a woman tells you her ex-husband was abusive to her, that’s a major red flag and you should start suspecting her of being an abusive woman”. Because it leaves no room for the actual victim man of his wife’s abuse to exist. (Like, uh, my father and my mother’s boyfriend/fiancé after him, men I witnessed being abused by a woman firsthand.)

And I can read his chapter on “The Victim” as a type of abuser and see a lot of my mom in it, try to look at all the female pronouns as applying to men and the male pronouns as applying to women just to fit my own life into it, but the gender existentialism in his language undermines most of its power, especially given the lip-service he later tries to give to same-sex couples and the abuse possible within them.

And I can see my mother, by the way, in way way more than just “The Victim” type of abuser. He lists, what, 10? types of abusive men and my mom (despite her gender) fit probably six of them well.

And it’s just… I would love to see a book other than Why Does He Do That? being recommended so I agree that it is not an ideal “norm” in anti-abuse discourse that this one is the only one. Especially since this one only really accounts for romantic relationships, despite uh, at least 75% of what he is saying feeling applicable to someone who has experienced abuse from a parent, or a friend, or an otherwise non-romantic partner, and again Lundy Bancroft’s limited experience skews his view, and he’s mainly worked with men who physically hurt their girlfriends/wives and ended up sent to his classes, and he didn’t realize that uh, sometimes mothers do the exact same things to their kids and sometimes friends do this shit to their friends and usually these abusers just don’t get sent to his classes, don’t go to prison, aren’t on his radar at all.

And it’s hard to fight Lundy Bancroft’s book’s power because wow, he paints some really amazing pictures of what abuse is like for survivors. Because he really does know and understand, because he wrote it so accurately, because he is sympathetic to the survivors and none of us have seen a book before talking about so many different ways abuse can play out in such a clear way that like, we feel like we aren’t alone – or like we can finally hand this to someone who didn’t experience it and they will finally understand.

But that doesn’t mean the man didn’t um… make some mistakes, and even if he had none of the gender bias in the book, which is a freaking huge if, he still asserts the “Why” the abuser does that in a way that isn’t really… based on anything other than his own guesses. And doesn’t leave open the possibility that he knows he might be wrong. He presents it as an explanation. You’ve read his book, so now you really do know the answers.


*Sigh*


I think the culture of black-and-white thinking (the irony of this being a symptom of bpd is not lost on me) when it comes to abuse and survivors is hurtful and damaging to EVERYONE.

One of the norms in anti-abuse discourse being #5 “there is such a thing as a toxic person and you [every other person on the planet] should avoid them at all costs” is clearly one example of that (yes, your post “Models of Conceptualizing Morality” was surprisingly appropriate, Coyote).

So is #4, “trying to pay attention to the grey is just enabling abusers and being an apologist” which I guess is linked to #14, “some people really are and should be considered disposable, trash, etc.” and #6, “ostracism, exile, murder, imprisonment, public shaming, and other punitive responses are acceptable and should even be celebrated on a systemic level in response to abuse” for that matter.

I would love to be somewhere that embraced the grey, that didn’t treat sympathy for a person that may be an abuser as “just as bad as” abuse itself because really, there are only two ways to just any action anyone can be taking, “bad” or “good” and no levels of badness or complication or room for conversation on the matter… this reminds me of the importance of posts like [content note for childhood sexual abuse:] Sex Offenders Can Be Nice Guys: How Making Jared Fogle a Monster Encourages Abusers (consider steering clear of the comments) and it just…

I don’t even know what #15 “revenge is revolutionary” is referring to and what this is in anti-abuse discourse, but the idea of revenge is certainly something that scares me. Luckily I don’t see people talking about it much unless in a case like the linked article immediately above, I suppose? But yes, we should fight the idea that revenge is… Good?

Numbers 1, 2, 3, 9, and 10 are all about the problem of “all or nothing”, “black or white”, etc type thinking. Most of this post is. I don’t know how to react to them but yes, attitudes that certain things “never” are true or “always” are true are causing actual harm. Generalizations are too rampant, and exceptions are a tricky area to navigate of course, but especially in call-out culture and in conversations as heated/charged as ones about the topic of abuse, generalizations often are all the stronger and therefore all the more hurtful whenever someone reading it feels like their experience is an exception.

I’ll leave you all with this:

which I just stumbled across… lol it was in my YouTube’s recommended vids for me. I wonder why.

Lyrics: http://lyrics.wikia.com/wiki/Tim_Minchin:The_Fence

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6 thoughts on “Re: *chokes on water*

  1. thank you for all these words! (and an excellent breakdown of that book.)

    i agree that going to a bpd resource blog isn’t going to be very helpful. almost all of my learning about thing i don’t experience has come from following personal tumblrs over several months or years and listening to them talk about their experiences. which is hard to recommend, hard to put into a list, and is very osmosis and long-term.

    the main people i’ve seen talking about the need for more nuanced discussion of abuse (is it a systemic power dynamic? what happens when it isn’t intentional? what happens when a literally uncontrollable symptom is felt as abuse? what about more controllable symptoms? what’s just being uncompatible? can we hurt each other without it being Abuse? where are lines?)…have been folks with or partners of folks with bpd.

    i think splitting in particular (seeing someone as The Best or The Worst and alternating based on often “small” things) gets interpreted and cast as gaslighting, as manipulative. when like, it’s a true emotional experience.

    like yk, it can absolutely affect someone, to be constantly asked for reassurance (which is part of a lot of personality disorders and anxiety disorders).

    and yeah, a lot of things that are unintentional symptoms that people are working on, and that could be managed pretty well via clear and compassionate boundaries, are instead conflated with abusive behaviors and villified.

    intention and mental illness (or mental disability!) are really messy, and i need a lot lot lot more room for them in abuse discourse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. It’s all so so messy and you (we) really do need room to talk about this stuff.

      This post is so important to me because it was probably the very first time I saw a good idea of how to draw some of those lines, of acknowledging that a gray-area can exist: http://samanthapfield.com/2013/09/25/raised-to-be-a-monster/

      As for: “what happens when a literally uncontrollable symptom is felt as abuse?” — I think we need more words than just “abuse” for sure, and we certainly need really specific examples, people baring their hearts and souls, in order to understand what solutions are needed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. that link is 100% yes.

        and yeah. room to be messy and taken on good faith and not immediately witchhunted as apologism. and more words, without creating hierarchy and word policing and “bad enough.”

        Liked by 1 person

    2. ” what happens when it isn’t intentional? what happens when a literally uncontrollable symptom is felt as abuse?”
      Perhaps this is related to something that gets talked about in disability discourse called conflicting access needs. (In case you are not familiar “access needs” are literally the things a person needs to be able to actually have access to A Thing, whether that thing is a space, an action they want to accomplish, or a social setting they want to comfortably exist in.)
      But when conflicting access needs happen this can come in the form of two people not being able to coexist in the same space. This could be because of their disabilities requiring opposing accommodations (a hard of hearing person who needs things LOUD and a person with sensory sensitivities who needs things quiet) or because their trauma’s triggers are “fighting” each other. (EX: one person might need you to always say their name when you address them so they don’t feel invisible, and some one else might need you to avoid saying their name as much as possible because an abuser repeated it when they were about to berate them.)
      This happens for non-disabled people too, usually in less extreme ways, but the old toilet seat up or down example is actually something I’d class as a type of conflicting access need, where both people want the space to conform to their comfort/preference.
      Also when conflicting access needs happen the simplest solution is for the people to not be around each other.

      Something seeming abusive but not being intentional, I feel like it probably fits that bill and that it’s more likely to happen if the parties involved just don’t have the language to describe conflicting needs. Uncontrolled symptom, possibly same depending on the symptom. Like a person who feels it as an anxious desire to check in on their spouse several dozen times a day, but the spouse perceives this checking in as controlling – it could easily happen.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting read. This conversation at large is certainly a thing I’d like to see expanded upon. It’s absolutely true that it’s not an all or nothing clear cut topic, and while I feel like a the idea of challenging narratives of abuse needs to give a *very* wide berth to the majority of survivors of abuse who view the topic as cut and dried, I agree with you that the conversation needs more room for some nuance too.
    Like what happens when there is mutual abuse in a relationship, and also conversations about how much of abuse is not to do with romantic relationships. (Even if that prolly is the most common situation it comes up in)

    I haven’t read it so I can’t guarantee it’s value, but I have heard that “The Gift of Fear” is another good book which critically examines abusive behaviours. Worth looking into at least, perhaps?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What topic, exactly, do you think the majority of abuse survivors view as cut-and-dried?

    I would really like to check out that book. I just glanced at the Amazon reviews and it seems fascinating, if also quite old as a book. I’ll try to get access to it as soon as I can.

    Thanks for the really insightful comments!! I really appreciated reading them.

    Like

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