I’ve long been of the opinion, and spoken publicly about the double-standard that exists in Western society, at least, when it comes to violence against men vs. violence against women, and sexual assault against men vs. sexual assault against women. The fact of the matter is, of course, that there should be no “vs,” and no debate about the fact that, basically, what is good for the goose is good for the gander when it comes to violence. In some ways that is happening — I often think she must have been mighty surprised and unhappy, and rightly so, when I read the local news and see that some girlfriend or other called the police because her boyfriend “grabbed her arm” and, along with him, she also was arrested because he grabbed her arm in response to her pushing him. No doubt while screeching hysterically something like “You can’t put your hands on me,” or “Go on … Go on … Hit me!! Hit me!!! DO IT!!” so she could run crying to the police and wear the badge of “victim” of “domestic violence.” And while both of these “victims” of “domestic violence” (yes it all does deserve quotation marks) are charged with the same offence(s), appear in the same court (often a special “domestic violence” court) I have this sneaking suspicion that so-called “Victim Services” at the court will be quite different for the female involved in “domestic violence” than for the male. By the way, what makes any victim of crime “special”? I find it odd and troubling, actually, that various police services choose the name “Special Victims Unit” to single out a particular group of people: Is any victim of crime fundamentally more entitled to anything (how their case is handled, sensitivity, services, support, justice) than another victim? Words have meaning, and particularly in official capacity/use words matter and their meanings have impact, intentional or unintentional, conscious or subconscious.
I reflect on a sexual assault case involving a young man that I met a few years ago: Throughout the two years that his life was ruined and he was on house arrest over the charges the “victim” repeatedly contacted him, sending many text messages and emails professing her sincere apologies for what had happened, stating that she made it up, she was afraid he was going to leave her, she was sorry, she didn’t think it would get this out of hand, she’s tried to stop the train-wreck but now that she has started it the police and prosecution won’t stop “in case she’s being threatened or coerced to withdraw her statements.” At the start of a trial scheduled over the course of a week the prosecution simply announced they were withdrawing the charges. That’s it. No admission or even suggestion that they got it wrong. No compensation, assistance, counselling or pat on the shoulder for the accused (well … maybe a pat on the shoulder, from his defense attorney) whose life had been turned upside down (several years later he has still not recovered financially or otherwise). And, to add insult to injury, out in the hallway was waiting good old “Victim Services” to escort the “victim” down to an office where free legal services were available to “women” (no mention of men) to sue the bad men who had so violated them … but the criminal court didn’t buy it. You see, because the “burden of proof” in civil court is different (beyond a reasonable doubt vs a balance of probabilities), and they could likely shakedown the now formerly accused man and get him to fork over money, or at least a promise to pay when he got a job again, in order to avoid years of his life being dragged through civil court. But no, if you were wondering, there were no “services” waiting in the hall, or elsewhere, to do anything for the young man who had been not just wrongly accused, but wrongly accused with malicious intent.
Where I’m from if you order one of those you’d get kicked in the nuts. — Joe Sasto III, Los Angeles
Now, I realize that was one heck of a long introduction to get to where I was going; although I’m glad I got the opportunity to get that down on paper, as it were. Tonight I watched S15E06 “Now That’s a Lot of Schnitzel” of the hit U.S. reality food/cooking competition Top Chef. Part of the contestants’ challenge was to create their own version of the radler, a German beverage. Apparently Chef Joe Sasto III from Los Angeles had a problem with, presumably, how non-masculine such a beverage is and stated, “Where I’m from if you order one of those you’d get kicked in the nuts.” With his impish twinkly-eyed gaze and Rich Uncle Pennybags mustache I’d actually be inclined to guess that Joe would very much enjoy sucking on a German radler. And, as far as where he is from — perhaps he means prior to moving to Los Angeles? Because California, in general, and Los Angeles, in particular, is exactly where I’d expect fruity beer drinks to be lapped up. Maybe Joe personally associates more with the image of a tough swashbuckling beer guzzling Home On The Range cowboy of yore.
Imagine, if you will — and it certainly is rather a distasteful image/thought, I agree — if Joe Sasto III, or indeed anybody said, publicly and in all seriousness, that where they are from if a woman ordered a particular masculine drink, at odds with her femininity (or imposed standard of such), she would be kicked (violently physically assaulted) in the vagina (or any other term that could be used in place of vagina — because “nuts,” as used by Mr. Sasto is a slang term, while vagina is not). Can you imagine that? No, of course you can’t, because you are a normal, sane, moral and right-thinking individual. And, to be clear, I don’t actually hold it against Joe Sasto for what he said, to be honest; but I do take umbrage with Top Chef giving a platform to what really does amount to trivialization of sexual violence against men, at best, and possibly a threat. Again, just make the change that I suggested above — state that where you are from a woman would be kicked in the vagina if she ordered a particular drink — and then ask yourself would Top Chef have aired that particular comment from a contestant? I’d say that no they would not have and, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised in 2018 if they announced that the particular contestant had been asked to leave the contest because of “troubling statements,” “creating a hostile atmosphere,” or violating some intersectional written contract clause. To clarify again, I’m not advocating that Mr. Sasto be eliminated from the program (too late for that anyway) over his comment.
We live in a society and culture where kicking a man in the balls is comedy gold. For some reason, however, kicking a women in the twat is “violence against women” and requires “standing up” and “speaking out” and “raising awareness” and “zero tolerance” … not to mention #MeToo and other pithy hashtags. Why is that? I’d suggest that people can let the mental acrobatics start and offer up all kinds of reasoning and argument as to how and why “but that is different,” however, honesty really is the best policy — honesty with ourselves, most importantly — so let’s be honest and admit that fundamentally there is zero difference; and from a practical perspective we need perhaps to engage in both a personal (ourselves, family, friends, immediate circle and communities) and wider societal and cultural dialogue about violence, discrimination, and harassment that involves and is just as much about men, indeed all persons (if you buy into the modern non-binary gender claptrap), as potential and real “victims” (a word that I have difficulty with in some cases — like many “domestic violence” cases — given how it has been used and abused over the past decade or so) and not the continued perpetration of the myth that some how and in some way “but it’s different” when it involves women as the “victims” or men as the targets of the abuse — or comedy, depending on how you like to view it.
We are left with three possible scenarios (choices): Either men and women are equal in this domain also, and therefore kicking a man in the nuts (or joking about it or normalizing or trivializing it publicly) is just as wrong as it would be if the situation involved kicking a woman in the vagina. Or, secondly, men and woman are not equal in this domain and therefore it is different when a man gets kicked in the nuts vs. when a woman gets kicked in the vagina, as is the joking, normalization and trivialization of it. In that case I would suggest that we need to get into a more thoughtful and detailed analysis and discussion of how and why it’s different, along with some other factors, and whether or not that difference and those other factors makes it acceptable (perhaps there is a difference, but the conclusion is that it is equally as unacceptable as violence against women). And finally — and no woman is going to accept this option — both men and women are equal, there is no fundamental or practical difference sufficient to warrant treating the parties differently, and kicking a woman in the twat should be just as much accepted, normalized, trivialized and become television and movie comic gold as kicking a man in the nuts. Again, however, I can hear an overwhelming chorus of “but that’s different.”