Defining Rape

If you know me, you know that I mostly roll my eyes at politicians and at politics in general.

But if you know me, you also know that on occasion, I get very angry with politicians and politics in general.

This is one of those occasions.

If you don’t want to read any more about Rep. Todd Akin or his definition of rape, you should probably stop reading this post and read something happier.

Todd Akin on Rape

A few days ago, in an interview on KTVI-TV, Akin stated:

“From what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy caused by rape is] really rare…If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something….”

From there, Akin went on to discuss his views on abortion, which I am not going to get into here.

What I am going to get into is his definition of rape and how it affects women.

And yes, I realize that he later apologized and attempted to clarify by stating that what he really meant was “forcible rape,” not “legitimate rape.”

Excuse me, sir — but what kind of rape is not forcible?

Defining Rape

Yesterday, I posted the following status update on Facebook:

I know I’m inviting a firestorm, but I don’t care. I’m going to say it anyway.

Rep. Todd Akin is an idiot and an enemy of women.

That is all.

As of 11:50am today, the firestorm I expected has not come. But a few responses did prompt me to post further comments on the status, and I thought these worth sharing here:

I do agree that Akin’s comment is being used to distract from other issues. But that’s not what concerns me.

What concerns me is that every day, the burden of defense in rape cases is placed on the shoulders of the woman who was raped instead of being placed on the shoulders of her rapist. In private circles, in public, and in courts of law, a woman who has been raped must prove that she really meant it when she said “no.”

Was she wearing clothing that “invited” the attack? Did she fight back? Did she try to hurt her attacker? Did she scream? If she doesn’t answer these questions to her questioners’ satisfaction, then the assumption is that she didn’t really mean “no”; that she must be lying in some way; that she maybe even enjoyed it; that she wasn’t really raped.

The reality is this: If a woman says “no” and the man continues and succeeds in penetrating her, then it is rape — even if saying “no” is all she does. If she chooses to lie there and take it instead of “fighting back,” it is still rape. If she chooses to lie there and take it and not subject her body to further stress beyond what she is already enduring, it is still rape.

What Akin has done is take away a woman’s right to defend herself in whatever way she sees fit — even if the single way she chooses is to say “no.”

A political figure has uttered a stupid, ignorant statement in an admittedly uncomfortable situation — and it’s a statement that, once again, places the burden of proof on the woman who was raped. Yes, we all make mistakes, and we all say stupid things sometimes when we’re under stress. But if Akin doesn’t know the basics of human biology and can’t keep his tongue under control when in public and under stress, he needs a different job. Most of us don’t utter our stupidities in an arena that affects the lives of billions worldwide.

As for the question of stress and ovulation, I can speak only from personal experience. No, I haven’t suffered the kind of stress brought on by rape. But still, my body has been subjected to fairly heavy amounts of stress since I had my first period. Not once in the 21 years since I had my first period have I missed a cycle due to stress. Not once has stress had any effect on my ovulation.

The times I have attempted to get pregnant, I got pregnant on the first try — no doubts that it was the first try, and no paying attention to where I was in my cycle, either.

But according to Akin, if I get “raped” and get pregnant as a result, then my knowledge of my own fertility means nothing. According to Akin, if I get “raped” and get pregnant as a result, it means (1) that I wasn’t “fighting back” hard enough to cause my body enough stress OR (2) I’m lying.

Again, the burden of defense rests on the shoulders of the woman. Again, she must prove that she was “legitimately” raped — and her single, possibly quiet “no” is not enough defense. Not against her attacker, not against Akin, and not against accusations.

Minutes after I hit “enter,” an acquaintance replied with a link to this excellent letter to Todd Akin from Eve Ensler, a rape survivor in the Congo.

Since I have never been raped, her words present the realities of all of this far better than my words ever could.

Humans, Yeah…But Love Them Anyway

A fellow blogger recently reminded me of the following: a “poem” that circulates around the intarwebz under the title “Anyway” and is generally attributed to Mother Teresa. After doing some research, I discovered that the original was penned by one Kent M. Keith and entitled “The Paradoxical Commandments.”

It seems worth reblogging.

The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

~ Kent M. Keith

(A version of these was made famous by Mother Teresa.)

The last two “commandments” stir up a lot of thoughts and mixed emotions in me. On one hand, every one of these resonates with me, and I want to shout, “YES! The world would be a glorious place if every one of us believed these things and acted on them!”

On the other hand, I struggle with setting healthy boundaries. The fight is not as tough as it once was, but there are still areas of my life in which I know my boundaries are ridiculously shoddy. (And I have a hard time not beating myself up about this.) So, to someone who has difficulty with drawing a firm line in a healthy place, Mr. Keith’s final two “commandments” can feel intimidating.

At what point do I withdraw (not my love but my self)? Where do I need to draw the line so that I’m not enabling instead of helping? For I know that there are, indeed, situations in which loving someone means not giving them my all. How do I know when I’m approaching the need to set that boundary? How do I know when I’m right on the line?

How do I know when I’ve crossed it?

These aren’t questions anyone can answer for me. The answers depend on the situation, on the people involved, and on my level of comfort (which, again, also corresponds to situation and persons). Relativity strikes again, I suppose. I just have to keep reminding myself to be patient — with me. It’s frustrating to have come so far in learning these boundary-setting skills…and then discover that I still have so much to learn.

But. In the meantime, “The Paradoxical Commandments” are good ones to live by, and I stand by the truth of that statement. Even the final two will, I think, lead one into a more meaningful and intentional life.

And that, really, is the kind of life I want: one that’s deliberate, intentional, infused with meaning. I don’t want to look back at my life and see a woman who has let fear or complacency or apathy rule her. I don’t want a life in which individuals or society have determined my choice, my direction, my goal.

Every one of Keith’s commandments resonates with my desire and my passion to brighten the corner where I am.

Every one of Keith’s commandments resonates with my desire and my passion…

“…to live deliberately…to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,
To put to rout all that [is] not life and not when I…come to die
Discover that I [have] not lived.”

~ Henry David Thoreau
(adapted)

Loving people “anyway” — not giving up on them, not casting them aside — seems like a good way to do that.

In the Beginning (Consortium Roots)

Hile, inklings! I hope you’re all having a cramazing life today.
: )

At the end of a blog post on her Go To El, the fabulous El recently posed the following question:

Did you ever walk into circumstances and come out with a lot more than you bargained for?

I posted the following as my response, and I felt it worth sharing here (especially for the benefit of MY NEWEST READERS, WHOM I WELCOME WITH MOST HYPERACTIVE JOY!!!):

“Did you ever walk into circumstances and come out with a lot more than you bargained for?”

Yes. ; ) Here’s the story:

Shawn: Courtney, you know Aaron Pogue? He likes writing, you like writing, our friend JT likes writing, and I like writing — we should form a writers’ group!

Me: Um, sure!

Me: Hi, Aaron and JT. Shawn says we should form a writers’ group. What do you think?

Aaron, JT: Um, sure!

*many writers’ meetings happen*

Aaron: Hey, Courtney, we should start a nonprofit organization to support the arts, and you should be the head of our writing school.

Me: Um, sure!

*shortly thereafter*

Aaron, Hey, Courtney, part of this nonprofit should be an indie publishing house, and we should help each other and all of our writer friends self-publish our novels.

Me: Um, sure!

Aaron: And Carlos and Julie want to help us with cover art.

Carlos, Julie: Yay!

Me: So does Amy!

Amy: Yay!

Aaron: And Jessie wants to be our editor.

Jessie: Yay!

Aaron, Courtney: And here are all these other people who want to help and whom we can help in return!

Everybody: Yay!

18 months later, the Consortium has published 6 novels, 1 speculative fiction magazine, and a stand-alone short story.

It’s unimaginably more than I bargained for. And it is wonderful. : )

_________

And you, dear readers? When did you get more than you ever dreamed possible? Share in the comments!

Also, I know that when we get “more than we bargained for,” the “more” isn’t always good. Sometimes, it’s pretty bad. Please do share those times with us as well, if you’re so inclined.
After all…”shared pain is lessened” (Spider Robinson).

Stop and Smell the Everything

Threads of joy turn to strong, protective cables.

I logged on to my blog’s dashboard, intending to tell you dear inklings a few things about my NaNoWriMo shenanigans of the past ten days. But before I started penning my post, I checked Twitter and got distracted by @Chief187s Candice Smith’s latest blogpost on Simple Joys.

Pop over and read Candice’s heart-warming post about her family and her appreciation of the little things, the Simple Joys that keep us all going even when we don’t realize it.

Maybe especially when we don’t realize it.

Candice’s post prompted me to record these thoughts:

We all need frequent reminders to stop and pay attention to the little things that infuse small threads of joy into our hearts. Those threads wind and bind together until they form a powerful net of joy that catches the negatives of life and casts them back out, keeping our hearts safe and protecting our joy, protecting our appreciation for life and love and the world around us.

One of the things I’m appreciating most about these ponderings is that they give me an excuse to use one of my new favorite blogpost tags: “entropy takes one in the kisser.” BANGERANG.

Simple Joys. Simple, tiny threads of pleasure, happiness, contentment, hope. If we let them, those tiny threads will turn into solid, powerful cables that will never let us fall.

Take a page out of Candice’s book: What are your Simple Joys?

Harlan Ellison, Alan Dean Foster…and Courtney Cantrell

YEAH BABY.

I’ve known for just over 48 hours, and I’m sure it hasn’t really sunk in yet. But, lack of sink-innage notwithstanding, I’m a-gonna blare it out to the world anyway:

Around Christmas of this year, I shall have a story in the SAME short story collection as HARLAN ELLISON and ALAN DEAN FOSTER.

As my friend Josh (who’s gonna have a story in the same collection) says,

“This is what we in the business call a pretty big deal.”

In case you’re unaware, dear inklings, Ellison and Foster both are so well-known in the sci-fi world, it would be downright silly for me to tell you about them here. Really that’s why God gave us Google and Wikipedia. Thus, if you go get Googwikified over these two gents, you’ll find out everything you need to know.

But. I’ll say this much: Ellison has been in the writing biz since the late 1950s, and Foster made me fall in love with him when I read his “Pip and Flinx” novels as a teen. If that gives you even a slight reference point for my excitement, we are good to go.

So! The short story collection in question is KINDLE ALL-STARS: RESISTANCE FRONT, the brainchile of one Bernard J. Schaffer.

Sometime around three months ago, Bernard put out an intarwebz call for short stories: He wanted to do a ground-breaking anthology to showcase independent authors in today’s e-media. The “resistance” aspect of the project refers to our collective determination no longer to let the traditional publishing model squelch our writerly voices. Bernard writes,

“Whole generations of authors have been lost to us because they could not penetrate the murky swamps of corporate publishing. I imagine all the works of art that we’ll never know of simply because the vicious cycle of query-letter, agent, synopsis, publisher, book-seller, and eventual consumer did not work out for that individual.

“When an industry coins a phrase like ‘Slush Pile’ to reflect their opinion of where your work belongs, you get a pretty clear idea of your place in their world.”

You might imagine, my darlings, that every word of this resonates with me. : ) Not only that, but the proceeds of the project all go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. These people find kidnapped kids and fight child porn. No question that I can get on board with that!

So. Longish story shortened, I finished up the short story I’d been working on and sent it in to Bernard. He sent it back with edits, and I had a mild freak-out while my writer self dealt with the knowledge that I’d not only sent my work to a total stranger, but now he was asking me to change it. And I mean change it. The dude wanted me to clip an entire thread from the story. And it was a thread I happened to like. Zoinks.

In the meantime, I found out that Ellison and Foster both had donated stories to the project. So now, if I got in, I’d be getting in with Ellison and Foster.

Have I mentioned that this is kind of a big deal?

Here I am, trying to edit and re-write a story, and the deal just keeps getting bigger and bigger. No pressure, right? I had to get over myself — no, really, I had to get over my fear. Why does it always come back to that?

Fear holds me back again and again. This time, it was fear of rejection…and maybe even a little fear of success. I have no idea where all of this might lead. But some possible future paths aren’t necessarily grand.

But I sucked it up, did my re-write, sent it back to Bernard — and waited. Ten days, y’all. I kept telling people it wouldn’t ruin my day if my story got rejected in the end…but that was only a half-truth. I wanted this bad. And during those 10 days, the fear kicked in again.

I rode it out. Did other stuff. Painted a crimson dragon. Published a whole magazine. You know, the usual. ; )

Then, two nights ago, the final participant announcements rolled in over Twitter, and I was on the list. Even better, Josh was on the list, too. Spider Robinson Wisdom ruled my personal celebration:

“Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased -— thus do we refute entropy.”

I love it when entropy takes one in the kisser.

For the record, applying Bernard’s feedback to my story was fun, once I got over myself. (Strangely enough, I’m wanting to paraphrase Pumbaa from The Lion King: “once I put my behind in my past”; but I don’t think it really applies here.) As I trimmed and re-wrote and copypasted, I saw a startling new shape emerge from the story…and it was a shape I very much appreciated.

It was the shape of a story that was better for the changing. Having an editor’s feedback made me a better writer for the story. Who’d a-thunk? ; )

My horror short “If This Were a Stephen King Story” will appear in Kindle All-Stars: Resistance Front in December 2011.

“Few projects slung my way, these days of electronic idiocy and bad writing, can perk me up and get the fireworks. This is one of the best, sweetest ideas I’ve heard in years. Nothing but the smiles of Success are due the project, the people putting it together, and the good kids who will benefit from every penny garnered. I am 100% and a bag of marmosets behind it!”
— Harlan Ellison.

“Growing up, I had access to all the books I wanted to read, and they made my life. This is a project to benefit kids who have nothing. I can think of no better cause.”
— Alan Dean Foster

This really swings my verge, y’all. : )