Forty One Weeks
project_41
When I started this blog, I imagined that this week's post would be my 41st, and that also I'd be healthy as can be and going back to the real world where I could let people know what was going on with my life by actually interacting with them face to face rather than through a livejournal account. If all had gone to plan, today would've been my second first day of lectures of 1B.

Things have not quite gone to plan. I'm significantly less healthy than I was this time last year, have posted 18 times (this included) and am somewhat of a social recluse. I've intermitted for a second time and what will happen through this year and beyond it is unclear to say the least.

There's a whole bunch of stuff that I haven't told the internet about, partly through laziness and partly because being able to make posts I'm happy with requires brain energy to write them and energy of all sorts is something I've been lacking.

I don't know how much I intend to blog over the next the next year. It might be lots, it might be not at all. There's a lot I'm rethinking for a whole bunch of reasons and I have no idea how or whether this blog will fit in when that settles.

There are a few things I would like to get out publically though, so here they are:



1)**Content warning for discusion of Mental Health problems** I am having a spot of trouble with my mental health. This has come in two forms, slow waves of anxiety/depression, and occasional episodes where my grip on reality is somewhat loosened. I'm not a danger to myself or others, but if I'm acting odd (odder than usual), then that may be why. I'm planning on producing and carrying around little cards explaining what to do if I'm having an episode but the take aways are:
* If you aren't sure if I'm myself, ask me if I'm sober. I should know what you mean.
* If you're sure I'm not myself, tell me that I'm not sober. Again, I should know what you mean (though this hasn't been tested in a very-not-sober situation yet, bad episodes are rare).
* If I become reclusive or wonder off, let me be, I probably need the space. That said, if you don't think I'm safe, keep an eye on me from a distance.
* Talk to me slowly, don't panic, don't interrupt each other, and if communication with me is possible then give me as much control over the situation as possible.
* Guide me to a nice empty, quiet room, preferrably with a TV or a laptop, then ask me if I'd like to be alone. This is by far the most reliable way of making everything okay and will usually result in me "sobering up" in a fairly short period of time.
* If I'm acting like I'm scared of you, I probably am. Reassure me that you're a friend, that you don't secretly hate me, and that you will follow any (reasonable) instructions I am able to give you.

It's pretty unlikely that anything will happen around you and even more unlikely that I won't be able to just talk to you about it at the scene and deal with it myself. These instructions are here because if you're in the middle of a confused panic attack, you're finding it difficult to talk and no-one around you understands what's going on, they can easily make things far worse instead of any better.

Apart from in the above situation, don't bring this up unless I am not the primary thing you want to talk about, I'm happy to talk to other folks with mental health problems about that, but not willing to explain to this in detail, individually, to every mentally healthy person I know. This restriction doesn't apply if I bring up the subject, but even if I do that respect my right to change the subject to something else when I want to.

2) I am (in a shocking turn of events) trying to build up an active lifestyle, including socialising, exercise, brain exercise and routine. History indicates there is a good chance that this attempt will fail, but in the mean time I am looking to (re-)start weekly activities and also be more social if I can be.

If I've been terrible at keeping commitments and generally really bad at making an effort, then it's not because I don't want to see you but because I really don't have enough energy to go around. So, if you'd like to see me then please do contact me, and try to forgive me when I bail at the last minute or ask to re-arrange to a less energy intensive event. Do bear in mind that I am far more likely to have the spoons[1] to play cards with two or three friends in my dining room than to have enough to go to a dinner with eight people or a party with thirty somewhere on the other side of town.


3) FYI: I get a nasty twinge everytime someone uses "crazy", "insane" or "mental" as a synonym for "outrageous","ridiculous","irrational" or "evil", as well as getting a similar twinge when people use "lame" to mean "bad" or other ablist slurs. You don't have to go far back to see me using those words like that, but trust me that when you fit under the literal definitions of words like that, they feel very different.


4) I understand the urge to help, but please do not come to me with health or dietry advice unless you have similar first hand experience. And if you do have that experience then tell me about your experience and if I'm interested then maybe I'll ask you for advice.

Relatedly, I am now a vegan. I like it. You do not have a right to tell me that it's bad for my health or to give me worried looks because of it. Just because I'm iller than most of you doesn't mean I don't have a right to make my own choices and this is a choice I made very carefully.

I'm happy for people to enjoy eating meat around me and to cook it in my kitchen and yada yada, and am currently happy to talk about why I'm vegan and to talk about the ins and outs. However, I will get pretty irritated pretty quickly with anyone (short of one of my own doctors, i.e. someone who has a clue) who tries to tell me that I shouldn't be a vegan. You may mean well but please just don't.


In other news, my parents may be moving away early next year. So if that happens I'll either move into social housing or leave town, I'll keep you all posted on that. I've got various projects on the go, even if they're all suffering from my never spending any time on them.

Project 41, while not a complete failure, hasn't really left me where I hoped it would. And it's certainly left me with no idea of what might come next. The potential candidates being: uni, more sicknes, everything else. I guess I'll just have to find out as I live it.



I realise this post sounds kind of grim, and potentially ending on a grim note is kind of grim, but don't worry, I'm doing fine. Honest.

I dunno if I'll post again, I guess you'll just have to wait and see, apologies for the inconvenience.

Sochi 2014 and activism as an Ally
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** Content warning for discussion of homophobia, transphobia and related torture and murder**


I'm sure most readers of my blog have at least some awareness of what's currently going on in Russia, but I'm gonna some it up to fill in any gaps people might have.

Despite homosexual acts being decriminalised in 1993, and the right to change your legal gender being introduced in 1997, Russia has as far as I can tell never been particularly LGBTQIA* friendly. The only time a Pride march (or anything approaching one) has not been met with violence by counter protesters and/or the police was in 2009, when LGBT Russia organised a flash mob. And last year pride marches were given a 100 year ban.

Over the past seven years laws have been passed in 10 regions (which I think is around a quarter of the country by population, starting with Ryazan Oblast in 2006 and most recently Kalingrad Oblast 6 months ago) banning the promotion of homosexualism, with some also banning promotion of bisexualism and transgenderism. Eventually in June a federal ban was enacted.

In a country where surveys seem to agree that at least half of the population consider being queer unnatural and as many people would vote to ban homosexual acts as would vote to bring in anti-discrimination laws (around 40% each), it's hard to tell how much homophobic violence has increased since these laws have been enacted, especially as the police don't seem to care about it, but certainly there have been some particularly horrifying and well publicised cases.

The most well publicised are the attacks by a Neo Nazi group called Occupy-Pedofilyay, who have taken to luring young queer teenagers over the internet, then torturing them, then releasing videos and images of themselves standing proudly beside their victims. An unnamed teenager who was kidnapped and tortured last month (at least going by when the pictures were released) is now thought to have died from his injuries. Another is known to have committed suicide after being attacked by them then outed publicly.

Follow this link for details if you want them, but it comes with trigger warnings for images which do not contain gore but are of the boy who died, taken while he was being tortured.

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/08/06/gay-teenager-kidnapped-and-tortured-by-russian-homophobes-believed-to-have-died-from-injuries/

This has left lots people angry, and I along with many of my non-cis-het friends, now include Russia on my list of countries that are terrifying. Countries would be too risky to travel to for fears of personal safety.  So what do we do? The initial reaction was to boycott Russian vodka, quite symbolic, but unlikely to affect the big guns in Russian politics. The next thing people have turned to is boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics, which are current planned to be held in Russia.

Now at first this seems like a good way to show solidarity,  but before we rush on with our petitions and public letters to the IOC, there's a question we should ask. Is this what the Russian LGBT community want us to do?

Whilst the thought does count for something, if we actually want to *help*, we should make sure that the people we're trying to help want the help we're trying to give. This is an important general rule for being an activist that is helping to support a group you are not a member of. Good Allies do not take the lead but instead lend support where it is wanted. I hope it's obvious why members of the Russian LGBT community are in a better position to know what will help the Russian LGBT community than the rest of us.

So do they want us to boycott Sochi 2014? No.

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/07/31/russian-lgbt-network-dont-boycott-2014-winter-olympics-boycott-homophobia/

What we're in fact being asked to do is the exact opposite, we're being asked to all attend the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, and to show our solidarity. That means we send our athletes and our cultural whatevers, and anyone who can goes as a spectator, then we gay it up. Wear pride flags, share public gay kisses in the stadium, go in drag. Basically we do whatever we can to be clear that we are proud to be queer and we are proud to be tolerant and they can take their bigotry to hell.

But what about in the mean time, what can we do? How do we sate our need to sign petitions? Well, luckily there's an answer to that. The only other request I've seen made by the Russian LGBT Network is that we try to get the key supporters of these anti-gay laws on visa ban lists.  The following petition asks the UK to make a start on that:

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/53359
Good Allies do what they're told, and we've been given our orders. Beyond signing petitions and keeping an eye out for any more requests from those we're trying to help, the best thing we can do is make a lot of noise about what's going on. Write to your MP, share an article on your Facebook, talk to your friends about it at the pub.


P.S. I know that I'm behind on replying to people about my last blog, I haven't forgotten you, I just don't currently have the energy to do that kind of replying.

Minimum Standards for Friendship
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** Content warning for discussion of micro agressions and macro agressions against gay people, bi people, disabled people, people from ethnic minorities, trans* people, non-affluent people, asexual people and women **




Okay, so this is a thing that I've been putting off partly because I wanted to do it right and the finishing touches could do with a delicate hand and partly because it was easier to put it off and so I did.
Through being the person I am (white, male, cis and affluent), I have through my life formed friendships with people who are perfectly pleasant when interacting with me, but who are living secret lives as horrible bigots. I've done this without realising because it does actually take an active effort to notice when someone is discriminatory towards a group that you are not in.


However, that is not an excuse for not trying to make that effort and root out those people. I would like for all my friends to be able to be in the company of all of my other friends without fear of harassment or bigotry, not because I'm some kind of moral puritan, but because I don't want to be inadvertently resposible for ruining someone's day. Today someone who I previously counted as a friend did something that was kinda day ruining for another friend of mine. I'm sorry doing this took me so long.


Establishing just exactly who is a bigot and who isn't is tough and something that will require more effort than a single half hour blog, but the first sweep is easy.
So here is a questionaire:
1. The gender of parents seeking to adopt is:
a) Not an issue, why would it be an issue?
b) Something we should be discussing, the jury's still out.
c) Kids need one parent of each gender. (And that means two parents, obviously, what else would it mean)


2. This website (http://straightprideuk.com/):
a) Horribly hetero-sexist
b) A joke right?
c) Makes a fair point.


3. Men who have had sex with men in the past 12 months are excluded from the blood service because:
a) Homophobic stereotypes that made it into old policy are purposefully not changed. Three guesses why.
b) Possibly statistically valid reasons? I'd have to do some research before voicing an opinion.
c) Numbers don't lie and safety comes before political correctness.


4. If you found out your partner was bisexual or pansexual you would:
a) Not care, if they're into your gender then where's the problem?
b) Faintly concerned, but only from a statistical "they have more people to cheat on me with" standpoint.
c) Dump them, you're not a bisexual and dating one just isn't a thing you can see yourself doing.


5. A teenage girl says that she's bisexual, is she:
a) Bisexual, weren't you listening?
b) Probably bisexual, but then teenagers say a lot of shit.
c) Probably a straight girl trying to look cool.


6. I mention that I have a boyfriend now, you:
a) Are happy for me, relationships are often nice.
b) Are kinda confused, didn't I have a girlfriend for most of the past 3 years?
c) Are surprised, usually you can tell if someone is gay.


7. Someone uses "lame" as a syononym for "bad", this is:
a) Not very nice, why would you use a perjorative that is used against certain disabled groups as a synonym for bad? That'd serve to dehumanise the groups.
b) Nothing wrong, people don't use that word as a perjorative and historical meanings of words are basically irrelevant.
c) Completely reasonable, it is just inherrently bad to not be able to walk.


8. Someone is horribly depressed and unable to leave the house for an event you'd planned with (just) them. Your reaction is:
a) To be sympathetic and ask whether they'd like you to come over, be useful in some other way or whether they'd just like to be left alone.
b) Again? They did this last time and it makes planning things with them not feel worth doing. It must suck for them though.
c) This person needs to get a reality check and start taking responsibility for their own productivity. Everyone gets sad at times, most of us just deal.


9. The word "ATOS" fills you with:
a) Fear, loathing and disgust.
b) Who are they? I got a shiver down my spine when you said the word, but haven't actually heard of them before. I'll go google them now so I can be a more educated and useful person.
c) Those lovely folks who help sick people back into work? A necessary cog in the welfare system, without which people just end up using benefits as a crutch*.


10. A friend from an ethnic minority tells you that a word you said is racist. You have no previous knowledge of this word having racist connotations. Your reaction is:
a) To apologise for not paying more attention and to promise never to use the word again.
b) To google the word in question to double check, and then never use that word around that friend again.
c) But you didn't mean it in that way. How dare they accuse you of being a racist?


11: Your friend goes to Superdrug and they have no products that cater to her hair type or skin tone. This is:
a) A very real prop to the edifice of strutural racism, relating to how women of colour are significantly treated as invalid women.
b) Probably racist, but not the worst part of it.
c) A valid marketing decision on the part of Superdrug. They have to turn a profit, you know.


12: Romany people are:
a) A horrifically demonised group, even among people with few other racist beliefs.
b) Probably treated unfairly by the media.
c) Part of a culture that makes them unable to integrate into normal society.


13. (With hopefully a little bit of self awareness.) You note that your white friend is writing anything about racism, your reaction is:
a) Suspicion, it's nice of them to try and all, but what the hell do they know?
b) Well it's good of them to be an active ally, and they are the sort of person who reads lots of blogs.
c) Why is their whiteness relavent? This question is racist.


14. A friend requests that you use the pronoun "they" to refer to them from now on. You respond by:
a) Using that pronoun for them from now on. Even if you've not done it before, you're a grown-up who can quietly adjust without further discussion.
b) Use 'they' with some errors, which you apologise for at great length every time. Enjoy relaxing into binary pronouns when they're not around.
c) Refuse - it's ungrammatical, and your feelings about the grammar of the famously standardised and consistent English language are far more important than someone's trendy identity. Doesn't he/she realise this is hard for other people?


15. A woman is trans and says "I am a woman". This statement:
a) Requires no qualification, even if you didn't find it obvious.
b) Isn't the same as if a cis woman said it, in that it's not all the information, but it's not really my business.
c) Isn't the same as if a cis woman said it, and she should be legally obliged to qualify that she means "trans woman" in some circumstances.


16. The word 'cis' is:
a) A neutral and welcome descriptor. It's good that we now have a counterpoint to 'trans' that's on the same linguistic level.
b) Not a word I know the definition of. I'll google that now.
c) An insulting word made up by trendy trans activists who don't accept that I don't need labels. I'm just normal and they won't let me be.


17. You have a friend who is a cis gay man. He expresses disgust about vaginas and links this to his sexuality. He is:
a) Probably mostly misogynistic, but also ragingly transphobic.
b) Speaking in bad taste, but he gets a bit of a pass on this stuff, because he has to deal with being maligned for his sexuality.
c) Completely reasonable, that's his sexuality, right? Don't yuck others' yums!


18: You read a story about someone who is on benefits owning a flat-screen TV. You:
a) Don't link this to their benefit-recipient status or their right to such.
b) Accept this, because who knows, maybe it was a gift. You don't know, and the media likes to spin these things.
c) Think their benefits should be cut. Why not sell such extravagances before burdening the public purse?


19: You are organising a night out that involves going to a restaurant, which will probably cost about a tenner per head. Beforehand, you:
a) In reasonable privacy, check this is OK with everyone. Not everyone can afford to just blow a tenner to hang out with friends.
b) Choose a restaurant that seems reasonable to you and has cheaper options that you percieve to be affordable.
c) Book ahead. All your friends are people it's fun to go out with, and people who can't afford a night out aren't going to be any fun.


20: The word 'chav' is:
a) An unacceptably classist word to apply to anyone.
b) In bad taste but funny.
c) A descriptor for those people in trackies outside the jobcentre, blowing their JSA on tacky jewelry and fags.


21. The Tories are:
a) Not to be trusted.
b) Not a party I would ever vote for, but they believe they're doing the right thing.
c) A group which I'm proud to be a member of.


22. Asexual people are:
a) A group that I educated myself about or am a part of.
b) Not something I know about - is it related to autism or something?
c) Welcome to their label, but almost certainly the result of trauma or repression.


23: An asexual person tells you they write erotica. You:
a) Take in this information and remind yourself not to visit their tumblr at work.
b) Are a little surprised, but assimilate this into your understanding of asexuality, reminding yourself to google in your own time.
c) Question their asexuality.


24: Street harrasment is:
a) A clear product of the sense of entitlement men in our society are raised with and something women should never have to tolerate.
b) Something I would never raise my sons to think is OK, but also probably a fact of human nature.
c) A compliment.


25: Campaigns that teach women how not to get raped are:
a) Part of the problem and enabling rape culture.
b) Not the best approach, but all campaigns on this issue are probably a good thing, right? It's not like people don't know rape is bad.
c) A valid approach, rapists are rapists and unreachable. Women need to take responsibility for navigating that. I wouldn't leave my front door unlocked then complain about getting burgled would I?


26: The pay gap is:
a) Misrepresented. The discourse should include that 77 percent is an average and that race, sexuality and trans status all affect the pay gap for groups of women.
b) Awful and we should work to change that 77 percent stat!
c) Misrepresented. It's due to women not being as proactive or productive, rather than any unfairness.


27: Feminist terminology:
a) Can be alienating, but that's to do with how feminism intersects with class, English as a first language, etc, rather than being to do with men.
b) Is understandable to everybody.
c) Short-sightedly alienates men who would otherwise be allies and is often misandric.


* See question seven for the phrase "using as a crutch".


Tot up your results before reading the rest of this blog.
All 'a)': Well done, you meet some minimum standards. Cookies are available at the counter on your way out (bit.ly/9ta00D).
Any 'b)': Uhm, we need to talk. It sounds like there is a thing you may not have thought through completely, and you could be accidentally being hurtful (on the same token, if I have done something here that is harmful at all here or elsewhere, please apply the same standards to me).
Majority 'b)' but not 'c)': We really need to talk, soon, this stuff matters.
Any 'c)': We never need to talk again. Arrange that please. You can also stop reading now.


So I've marked the 'b)'s as less absoultely horrible than the 'c)'s. If you're in a group that I'm not in, and you feel I'm not sufficiently horrified by some of the 'b)'s, feel free to let me know and I'll make what ever edits you like. The same applies for if I've missed something obvious, focussed in the wrong place, or screwed up in some other fashion. Suggested edits for things to do with groups I am in are also welcome from people in those groups.

Note that if you've answered lots of 'b)'s (but no 'c)'s) then that's not necessarily a problem, so long as you're willing to    talk to someone about it (and do some googling yourself, there are lots of good 101s out there).
I hope that I can still be friends with most of you, but I really would like people to follow the instructions at the end of the questionnaire. I am seriously not interested in hearing defences of any 'c)'-grade beliefs or continuing friendships with those that hold them. On an irrelevant note, watch this space, I'm hopefully gonna start blogging regularly again soon.


Progress check 2 of ?
project_41

It's been almost exactly 22 weeks since I started this blog, and 10 weeks since I last did a progress check. In this 10 weeks I've posted three times (not including this one) and one of those posts wasn't much more than an apology for not posting more.


People who I was doing stuff with may also have noticed I'm not getting out as much as I used to be.


So why the slow down?


You've guessed it. I'm getting worse.


Nothing massively dramatic, but the slow decline I've been experiencing since 2009 hasn't stopped. At the beginning of the year I said I could probably function at 45% or a normal person's functionality (in terms of productive time), I guess I'd now put that at 25%, maybe less.


This doesn't mean that I'm not going to get better at some point, anyone who's dealt with a serious illness before will know that this sort of thing takes a lot of time. My first appointment this year with someone who isn't a GP will be a couple of weeks from now. Any treatment they try will probably take on the order of months to test, and it's not hugely likely that the first thing they try will work.


I (and my family, friends and doctors) all hoped that my having time away from the stresses of being a Cambridge student would be enough to tip the balance and get me on the path to being healthy again. That hasn't worked, but something else might.


I don't think that my continuing deterioration means I necessarily won't get better again, but it does have some pretty big consequences.


The biggest one is that it's looking increasingly unlikely that I'll make it back to Cambridge in October. Even if the hospital's doctors completely fixed me up within a month of seeing me, I'd have just over two more months to bring myself back up the academic standard needed to do the second year of my course.


That's an incredibly optimistic situation, and that's a tight-squeeze given that my math skills have been rusting away over the past year.


I haven't told my college yet, and nothing is set in stone.


Hopefully I'll be able to delay going back for twelve more months, and give the doctors a chance to sort things out.


Whatever my college decides though, there's another situation I have to prepare for.


This year I've been hiding away from some aspects real life in the hope that being protected from them would give me the time to heal. I stand by that decision, but from October, it'll have to stop. I can't work a job where I'm not in complete control of my hours, not even a part time one, but if there's a chance that I'm going to live with this forever, I've got to find a way to get by anyway.


I'm still hopeful that things will improve, that I'll return to normal, but if I don't I've got to live my life anyway.


P.S.

As someone who gets given a lot of awkward condolences and isn’t a huge fan (kind of a conversation killer), can I ask anyone who feels the need to express empathy to do so over the internet, and not as a part of some other conversation?

P.P.S.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate your sympathy, and I know that it's tough to know how to show it non-awkwardly. It’s just a bit of a buzz kill if every third conversation you have ends with someone else saying “I’m sorry that you’re vaguely broken.”.


Getting By - Spring at Last, Political Music, Online Poker & Safe Spaces for the Young and Ill.
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It's been a while, which is largely for the same old reasons so I shan't go into it beyond saying that it's not been massively rough, I've just been too tired to get much done. This blog isn't going to have have heavy content and it's not about a new direction I've found myself following, it's Project-41 lite. And it comes in four mini-parts:
Spring at Last
I've been waiting for this weather so long that I don't even know what to do with now it's here.
Everything seems more bearable when the sun is shining. It's been a long, long winter. I go outside and my troubles melt away a little. It's not like I haven't been tired or in pain since the sun came out, and my productivity hasn't shot up hugely, but it's been easier to get through it all with a smile intact.
Political Music
I've rediscovered how immersive music can be when it has a message that rings true. For this I should thank Xander and Lucy, who between them introduced me to ONSIND, Jesus and His Judgemental Father and Grace Petrie last week.
In the hope of paying the favour forward, Here's a link to a song from each:
I also love that all the above bands give you total access to their music online and leave you to decide whether to buy a download (often at a price of your choice). They've gotten more money out of me with this attitude than itunes/HMV have between them in about half a decade.

I promise to stop linking everyone to them now.
Oh, and while I'm subjecting you all to my musical tastes, this is a song about ulcerative colitus (not what I have but fairly similar symptomatically) that always makes me happy when I listen to it:
Online Poker
I've spent a lot of time mooching about, not feeling up to anything that requires any movement or creative thinking. To fill those times I've restarted an old habit - online poker.
Playing in $0.01/$0.02 rooms with a buy-in of $0.70, it doesn't matter when I'm too tired to avoid the competant players and too absent minded to milk the idiots. Losing a buy-in every hour or so really doesn't cost me enough that I care. Add in to that that when I'm paying attention I make money about twice as fast as I lose it when I'm not paying attention, and the habit is fairly close to zero-sum.
Playing poker on this level is a mixture of calmy having the patience for the cards to even out and taking note of which players learnt to play poker by watching Casino Royale.
It's just the right mix of interesting complexity and soothing regularity.
A Safe Space for the (Young and) Ill and Disabled
This is something that occured to me a few days ago.
I expend a lot of energy on pretending that I'm not as ill as I am. I do it around everyone, but especially around healthy people. In fact, I just feel safer and more secure in myself when I'm around sick people. It's not that healthy people are being purposefully judgemental, but it's difficult for most 20 year-olds to understand that sometimes I need to sit down and mutter to myself because the pain is overwhelming, and that if I do this and ask you not to make a big deal, then it's not a big deal. It's also easier to remind myself that it's okay to bail on someone for the 5th time running because I'm too tired if the person I'm bailing on has done the same or similar to me in the past.
It occured to me earlier today that this desire to spend time with other people in your plight isn't exactly unique to young sick people*. And there's a common solution. And it's called a safe space.
As far as I can tell, there isn't currently a regular safe space meet in Cambridge for the generically young and ill. CUSU has meets for several specific groups, but nothing that is just for anyone who is iller than society expects of someone their age.
I've asked around a little, and been met with enthusiasm on all sides, so I think I'm gonna try and organise something. It'd be about once a week, somewhere fairly warm and comfortable with good disabled access. We'd meet up, possibly do some complaining, but mostly just relax a little.
If you're interested in joining in (either as just a user or as an organiser) then do let me know, either by commenting somehwere or by sending me a message.

*I specify young sick people because the difficulty I'm trying to avoid comes from the expectation of health which I feel is less there for older sick people, but maybe I'm just saying that because I'm young.

Failure
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Counting this one, seven out of the eleven posts on this blog will essentially be about my relationship with failure: How I'm intending to avoid it; how much it sucks to live through it; how I'm adjusting my ideas of success.

At this point, I'm going to try to stop talking about it, but I realised that there's one thing that I haven't said that is very important in living with failure.

Sometimes you fail and the best option available is to try the exact same thing again. Sometimes spending a week on a die-roll that will only pay off on a hard eight is something you have to do.

I've spent the past week and a half doing "not much", I haven't been massively ill, but then I haven't been massively well either. The  thing that is holding me back the most is lethargy. I've tried building a routine, I've tried following a simple set of rules to slowly improve my health, I've tried all the things I'm supposed to be trying. And they haven't worked.

A graph of productivity today vs productivity tomorrow has a whole range of stable positions. It's a lot easier to maintain productivity than it is to gain it. In fact, it's difficult enough that trying hard isn't sufficient. You also need to be lucky. In my case I need my motivational drive to coincide with particularly healthy week where I also have minimal external stresses. And if that happens I'll be back to where I was before my clash with Piriton.

I can't control two of those things but I can do my best to be ready to catch the wave if it comes.

So I'm trying to do the same thing I've been trying to do for the past month or so. I'm working on my health as best as I can, I'm trying to stay on top of self-maintenance, I'm trying to build a routine and I'm trying to do enough stuff that I don't get stuck in the cycle of being unproductive because I'm depressed at how unproductive I've been. I'm trying to do all these things, in the knowledge that the odds of my plans working out any time soon are fairly low. In the knowledge that in all probability in a week I'll be where I am now but with a little less hope.

Failure is an expected part of success.

10 Hobos and a Bottle of Moonshine
project_41
It is a fundamental belief of our society that trying harder will lead to more success. On an individual level, this can sometimes be seen to be true. If I study a bit more, I learn my subject a bit better, and I'm more likely to pass an exam and get the grade I want. If I'm unemployed and I submit ten decent job applications a week I'll probably get a job faster than if I submitted five applications of similar quality each week. If I train harder for a race, then I'll run faster, increasing my chance of victory. If the odds are in my favour, I'm likely to outlive the other tributes.
The problem of course is that many games are zero-sum. There are (within normal circumstances) a set number of jobs at Poundland, Olympic golds and victors. Each contestant only benefits from extra effort that isn't matched by their competitors. It doesn't matter that any individual could potentially have succeeded by trying harder, we know only one person will get each job or each gold medal. Therefore giving all the players the same advice that they should try harder doesn't help any of the players. In fact, they lose out because the bar has now been raised so they have to work harder just to get to where they were.
Not all games are zero-sum. For example, the game of "live a happy life" is in fact often (though not always) made easier by increasing the success of other players. In these games, there it's not a lie to say that if we all worked harder we'd all do a little better. Other games in this category include "making friendships" and "build a Mars rover with a sky-crane".
Let's go back to jobs at Poundland. If you and forty nine others (all of whom are trying equally hard and have similar qualifications and employment histories) apply for a job at Poundland, then you've got around a one in fifty chance of getting the job. The chance of your group's applications being so spectacular that they decide to employ two of you is next to nothing. So odds are you don't get it, but the next day you apply for another job, and you roll the same dice again right? Well, not quite. As you've now been unemployed a little longer, you are now a slightly less attractive potential employee, so your odds have gone down a little. Over time, especially if you don't have a good education and if the Kyriarchy isn't your best friend, a little bad luck can lead to your being at the bottom of the barrel.
But luckily your government is here to support you, we live in a welfare state and that means that no-one is left hungry just because the system has left them without a job. The £10.14 (or £8.03 if you're under 24) plus housing benefit you're given to live off each day really isn't much, but with your abundant free time (no human being has the will power to apply to jobs all day long and there aren't enough jobs going to do that anyway), you can shop the sales and always take the cheap time consuming option over the one most people take.
Well, not anymore. The government's workfare scheme involves forcing job seekers to work for free in low value jobs that aren't exactly useful experience. Even if this does improve your personal prospects, it doesn't create any jobs, it just fills them, so as a group, unemployed people lose out. In fact, the only people who benefit at all from this situation are Poundland, because they no longer have to pay for all their workers. Well that and our government gets some more votes because they're combating the supposedly lazy people at the bottom.
A month back the appeals court backed two claimants who said that they hadn't been given enough information about the scheme and so were unlawfully punished when they refused to take part. To be clear, the court ruling didn't even put the DWP's scheme in danger, all it did was say that the government had to pay people who had been unfairly denied benefits after making a decision without having been given the sufficient detail.
The government's response to this court ruling is to push through emergency retroactive legislation over ruling the courts (it passed the other day[1]). I assume what they're doing is legal, but it shouldn't be. You shouldn't be able to change the rules after the event so that you win and the people who have it the hardest in this country lose.
I mostly finished this a few days ago, before the bill passed. I was gonna conclude with a bit where I told people to write to their MPs and spread the word in a last ditch attempt to at least slow it down but it's obviously too late for that now. The bill isn't the problem though. The problem is the cultural belief that poor people are poor because they haven't tried hard enough. If we're ever going to live in a society where no-one is in poverty, we have to stop acting like unemployment is the fault of the unemployed.
And if you're wondering how giving poor people enough money to live on works out economically, I recommend reading this very approachable article on Keynesian economics by the late Aaron Swartz: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/keynes
[1]  No-one rebelled from the coalition, though around a third of Lib-Dems didn't vote. Less than one in seven Labour MPs showed up, but at least they all voted against it. It passed 263:51. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-03-19&number=195

Progress Check 1 of 4
project_41
Hey all and sorry for missing a week. No excuse this time I just forgot to do it. That and this one took longer than expected.

Of the 41 weeks I've been given to get healthy and to restore my engineering know-how to the point where I am physically and mentally prepared to return to Cambridge, 12 weeks have now passed. That's more than one in four, it really feels like I should've gotten somewhere by now. And yet I haven't. My immediate answer to "What've you been up to?" is "Not much.". So where has the time gone?

In an attempt to answer that question, this blog has three parts:
- Weekly summaries (complete with pie charts) of how I spend my days.
- A breakdown of what rules I've kept to and projects I've started.
- A ramble.


Weekly breakdowns:
For impatient readers, there's a big graph at the bottom with all the weeks together.

Week 1 - Christmas
2012-12-20 to 2012-12-26
Blog: Project 41

The week leading up to Christmas, mostly spent with Lucy and my family.
Week01


Week 2 - Skiing
2012-12-27 to 2013-1-02
Blog: Discovery

An amazing week spent skiing in Andermatt with Lucy's family. Skiing is awesome. Lucy and her family are pretty cool too. This was a good week.
Week02
Week 3 - Adjusting
2013-01-03 to 2013-01-09
Blog: Fun Science

A lot was changing, and pretty quickly. For one, whilst me and Lucy were hopeful that we'd remain friends after breaking up (which we have), we weren't exactly brimming with confidence at this point, so there was a lot of not wanting to leave each other's sides going on.
Week03
Week 4 - Socialising
2013-01-10 to 2013-01-16
Blog: A Year of My Own

Aware that during term time everyone at uni would have time constraints I didn't which would make socialising difficult and uneven, I was happy to spend a week doing not much but hanging out with my fellow King's Folk.
Week04
Week 5 - Form Filling
2013-01-17 to 2013-01-23
Blog: Problems

This was a fairly tough week, I spent lots of it filling in forms and chasing up letters, and far more of it worrying about the same.
Week05

Week 6 - Building momentum
2013-01-24 to 2013-01-30
Blog: A Routine

This week featured my first set of worries that I wasn't doing enough. More than a month in and I hadn't begun work yet. I built a routine and actually started to get down to it, though looking back my increased productivity was probably more caused by this being my first healthy week where productivity was my main priority.
Week06

Week 7 - Coping
2013-01-31 to 2013-02-06
Blog: Ups and Downs

This was a somewhat turbulant week emotionally. I had a few truly healthy days which were followed by a crash that knocked me all the harder for having been doing so well before hand. Given that, the time averages won't really add up to a sensible sounding day.
Week07

Week 8 - Visiting my aunt
2013-02-07 to 2013-02-13
Blog: None

This week I was visiting my aunt, who had recently broken an ankle and so needed a hand looking after herself and her 13 Lhasa Apsos* It started well, I was getting work done at a reasonable rate and helping out my aunt made me feel closer to normal human being and further from dependant sick person than I had in a goodly long time. However, an ear-ache I had been cheerily ignoring on the grounds of "It can't be an ear-ache because it doesn't hurt enough to be one" made its presense known in style around Tuesday and gave the week a sour aftertaste.

*Yes my aunt breeds doogles, be jealous already.
Week08


Week 9 - Dosed up
2013-02-14 to 2013-02-20
Blog: Update

The thing that was really bothering me with the ear-infection was the itch. So when offered some antihistomines to reduce said itching, I grabbed at the chance ignoring any and all warnings of nasty side effects. This was a mistake. Combining a drug that makes you drowsy with an illness that makes you low on energy is not a good idea. I was no longer ever truly awake or truly asleep. I almost fell down the stairs on several occassions because my reactions had slowed, and couldn't even begin to hold a conversation. I also had a lot of trouble keeping track of my pill schedule. When my parents got back from holiday it took them several shouting matches to convince me that this drowsyness probably wasn't worth the lack of itching in my ear. My memory of this week is incredibly dodgy so the numbers are basically made up, but you get the point.
Week09


Week 10 - OMG Piriton. Also blogging
2013-02-21 to 2013-02-27
Blogs: Marching with the EDL - a nice day out,
How to not be a rapist
A few days after coming off piriton (the anti-histomine thatI wouldn't now touch with a sharp stick) I began to have normal awake time again. I still had incredibly short awake-days and tended to get that funny kind of drowsyness fairly often. This week was a mix. I got some stuff done that I really enjoyed, and had some good times. I also managed to forget that this level of tired wasn't normal for me and get incredibly depressed about my prospects for the year.
Week10

Week 11 - Catching up on life.
2013-02-28 to 2013-03-06
Blog: None

This was the first week back to normal after the piriton disaster. I spent most
of it doing washes, catching up with friends and generally feeling a lot better about life.
Week11
Week 12 - Catching up on edX
2013-03-07 to 2013-03-13
Blog : ~#Recursion error 208
Around week 7 I started some online courses with edX.The ones I'm still doing are one in basic programming, one in AI, and one in Quantum Computing. Whilst I was ill I got very behind on these, and in week 11 I did enough to get by in those three and dropped the others. This week I spent large proportions of my high energy time actually trying to understand what was going on in the courses, just in time for the mid-terms coming up in week 13.
Week12

Everything Together

Part1

Rules and Projects:
These can really be broken down into two, the rules I came up with in "A Routine" and the projects I came up with in "A Year of My Own"

Rules:
- No booze*: I've stuck to this one pretty much as intended, and I think it's helping. The other day I had a very small amount of alcohol for the first time in about a month, and the following morning was horrible. Until I'm a significantly healthier person, this is one I should just stick to.
- No staying out past 23:00*: I was fairly good at doing this for the first week or so, but since my encounter with piriton, my sleeping pattern has been all over the place and hard to control. I think I've stabilised enough to get back to this now, and am starting to set alarms again.
- Be up by 8:00 and ready for the day by 10:00**: Same as above.
- Set aside six hour for productivity in general: Again, something I was getting closer to before the ear-ache and something I hope to start to make progress on again now.

* Outside of special events
** Unless ill

Projects:
Unicycling: Not started.
French: Not started.
Go: ~21 Kyu (high is bad).
Spelling: Not started.
Computer programming: Beginner-intermediate at both C++ and Python. 3 or 4 programs on the boiler.
Bicycle repair: Not started.
Origami: Not started.
Juggle: Not started.
Vlogging: Mused upon, maybe I should make a cooking channel?
Email: Not started.
MakeSpace: I've had quite a bit of fun and learnt a lot at MakeSpace, but haven't actually made anything I'm proud of there yet. All things in their time though.
Room: Longest record of 8 days
Cooking: Not started.
Patching: I fixed a pocket on my jacket, only to realise the jacket was falling apart all over the place. I love the jacket though so I'm just gonna fix the whole thing.
Grammar: Not started.
Reading: Shamefully not started.
Driving: Not started.
Gardening: Me and Xander have planted leeks, lettuces, broad beans, aubergines and squashes. Though given the recent frosts our hopes aren't exactly sky high.
Assassins: Not started
Boating: Not started

6 started, 0 completed.

A Ramble:

So 12 weeks in and ostensibly not that much done. Looking at it week by week has made me feel better about it though, I don't think I could've expected much more of myself. I'm slowly coming round to the not so controversial idea that a year taken for health may end up primarily being spent being ill. Hopefully it won't and hopefully I'll get stuff done, but in the mean time I'm not going to beat myself up about it.

How to not be a rapist
project_41
** TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR RAPE/SEXUAL ASSAULT **

I suspect most people reading this will have been linked here by a status that looks something like this:


** TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR RAPE/SEXUAL ASSAULT **

An 11 step guide to not being a rapist:

- If the person you are about to have sex with has not consented, then you are raping them.

- If the person has said “yes”, but only because you made them feel they had to, you are raping them.

- If the person is too drunk to knowingly consent, you are raping them.

- If the person is too young to consent, or is a vulnerable adult, you are raping them.

- If the person is asleep, you are raping them.

- If the person is your partner, and they haven't consented, you are raping them.

- If the person consented to other acts but not to the one you are about to enact, you are raping them.

- Nothing apart from a free and willing yes*  means yes. No means no. Anything else means ask/wait for a yes.

- If you commit rape, then whatever else you are in this life, you will always be a rapist.

- In no circumstances is anyone responsible for the rape but the rapist.

- It is never, ever okay.

No I’m not taking the piss. Yes I believe that it is important for this list to be read. Yes I think you should probably share it. And here is why http://project-41.livejournal.com/2909.html”

*There are two points to note here. Firstly, a yes can be any definite positive affirmation, it’s not necessarily the word “yes”. If you aren’t 100%, ask. Secondly, not every yes is consensual.
"


This blog is designed to answer any question you might have on why something like that appeared on your news feed. And also to encourage you to share it further.

Contents:
1. Why the hell would anyone post such a thing?
2. What is rape culture?
2i. Who does rape culture hurt?
2ii. What causes rape culture?
3. Okay, so there are lots of rapists out there. But isn’t it still horrible of you to call all your friends potential rapists?
4. Okay, so there may be rapists on my news feed, but how will this stop them?
5. Okay, I’m convinced. What can I do to help?
5i Wait, but rape jokes are just jokes, surely it’s bad to restrict humour?
6. But what about *insert situation here* where consent ambiguous?
7. What about rape that isn’t a man raping a woman?
Resources
Notes and references

1. Why the hell would anyone post such a thing?

If you’re wondering about this, then you probably need to read the answers to all of the questions here. In short though, if you’re wondering why I would write this, then the odds are I wrote it for you. To be clear, I’m not saying that anyone who doesn’t understand why I wrote this is a rapist or potential rapist or even a bad person, just that there are some things you ought to know.

I want to be clear that before I start that I am not ‘accusing men’ of being bad people. I am a man myself, not that that should change how you read this. When I say something like “one in twelve men [in the survey] admitted committing acts that amount to rape or attempted rape”, I’m not trying to imply that this means that men are untrustworthy, or evil by association. In fact, I’m not trying to imply anything about the other eleven in twelve. That said, this is a subject about which I feel very strongly, and I’m trying to get a lot across in a way that will make it stick, so the odds are I will come off as aggressive  or anti-men even if I don’t mean to. I apologise for that if I do.

2. What is rape culture?

We live in world that blames victims of rape for getting raped and one that lets rapists go free unscathed by their actions. One thing that highlights this is the proliferation of  “educational” campaigns that are designed to teach women How not to get raped. These campaigns are simultaneously victim blaming and rape apologist. These campaigns are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem. These campaigns help to teach that victims deserved it. Because they were wearing revealing clothes. Because they had the audacity to walk home by themselves. Because they were a tease.

Everytime you hear someone say “they were asking for it” or you see someone take clothing or inebriation as an invitation for sexual interest you are experiencing rape culture. Rape culture is in the way we think not just about rape, but how we think about sex in general. It’s also in how we think about humour, how our legal system works and all manner of other places.

Rape isn't something that happens in a far off country, it isn't something that happens to people you don't know. It can happen to anyone. And the only action someone can take that will definitely stop a rape from happening is to not rape someone. It's that simple.

2i. Who does rape culture hurt?


The short answer to this question is that it is more damaging to more people than you could ever want to believe.

One in three women around the world will be raped, beaten or coerced into sex[2]. And before anyone thinks that that statistic is skewed by massive percentages in war zones or unstable countries, think again. According to an anonymous survey in the US, one in five college women answered yes to "In your lifetime have you been forced to submit to sexual intercourse against your will?"[3i].  That statistic isn’t an outlier, and it isn’t something that is unique to colleges in the US, it’s very similar to the numbers produced by lots of similar surveys.

Before even getting through university, that's one in five, that's from a stable western country and that's from middle class backgrounds. One in five. Assuming that things aren't so different over here[4][9i], that means if you pick five female people you know, then odds are one of them has been or will be raped.

The murder rate is one in eighty three thousand. The fraction of people who died from international terrorism between 1995 and 2004 is less than one in a million[10].The reported victims of other violent crime make up less than one in thirty[5].

On average, one in five female people you know are victims of rape. The other four in five have to live with that number hanging over their head.

Who does rape culture hurt? It hurts kids, adults, and people of all genders. It hurts women more than men and transpeople more than cispeople. In different ways it hurts everyone, not just victims.

The first time I found out about a friend who had been raped, I spent a week thinking about picking up a baseball bat and a knife and going to find the guy who had done it. It's now happened so many times that when I now hear about a friend who has been raped, all that happens is I get sad.

2ii What causes rape culture?

Why is rape so common? The answer is that there are simply too many rapists. In another anonymous survey, one in twelve men admitted committing acts that amount to rape or attempted rape. Of those one in twelve, just under six in seven said what they did "definitely wasn't rape"[1ii]. That means one in fourteen men are rapists who claim not to know what does or doesn't count as rape. More shocking than that is the number of men that don't seem to understand that any non-consensual sex is rape. Only just over half of men believe that it is rape if you don't stop when your partner asks you to[9ii].

If all my Facebook friends read this, then assuming half are male, then there would be around 100 men reading this who don’t seem to understand consent and 15 men reading this that are or will become rapists.

3. Okay, so there are lots of rapists out there. But isn’t it still horrible of you to call all your friends potential rapists?

This is a surprisingly common response. It’s also dangerous and part of the problem.

Rapists are not men hiding in alleyways or dark parks. They’re our friends and our peers[3][13]. Only one in twelve rapists are strangers to their victims, whilst just under half of rapists are their victims’ current partner. If you think this is a slander on “nice normal guys” then I offer you the following. If you choose not to ever rape anybody, then you have a zero percent chance of becoming a rapist. One in eight of us don’t make that choice.

4. Okay, so there may be rapists on my news feed, but how will this stop them?

To answer this question, we have to answer why so many people are rapists. They certainly weren’t born as rapists.

While we can’t know, we can make a pretty good guess. A study a few months back found that “both men and women found it difficult to differentiate between statements given by convicted rapists and the way lads’ mags routinely describe women”[8]. Women that go to the police are asked what they were wearing at the time of the incident. In rape cases, the prosecution is not allowed to bring up previous sexual offences that the suspect was accused of/committed, but the defence is allowed to grill the victim on things like personal relationship history. If you say that people who have committed adultery in the past are likely to likely to be lying for a conviction, you are also saying it is okay to rape someone who has committed adultery. If you don’t bring up past offences, someone can attack again and again without getting convicted. If you say lads’ mags are “just a laugh”, then you are allowing rapists to feel normal and acceptable.

Our society creates an atmosphere where rape is just something guys do. It creates an atmosphere where we suppress and ignore victims until they’re out of sight and mind[14].

None of the the points I've made on consent so far are rocket science. I suspect far more than that thirteen in fourteen men know the difference between consenting sex and non-consenting sex. The problem is that our culture carefully legitimises rape and rapists. We imply it’s only rape if it’s violent or if it’s not someone you regularly have sex with until we believe it. So we need to send out a message. A message that goes like this:

"If someone dosen’t want to have sex with you, if they haven’t willingly confirmed with you that they want to have sex with you, it is rape. If you’ve blackmailed someone - emotionally or physically - into saying yes, then that is rape.

And rape is never ever okay."

This post and the list at the top of it are my attempt to get that message across. If you share the list, then you can help send out that message.

5. Okay, I’m convinced. What can I do to help?

If you want to help then fight rape culture, call people out if they say something that is victim blaming or something that brushes off rape as a joke. Be careful never to do any of those things yourself. Educate yourself and others about rape culture. Sharing the list can be a part of that. Please remember to include trigger warnings[11].

Rape culture is just one aspect of a huge all-invasive social construct that facilitates sexism and makes life easier for men at the expense of women. That construct is called Patriarchy. Patriarchy itself is just one aspect of something larger called Kyriarchy which is the name for the social construct that facilitates sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism and everything else that exists to make life easier for some at the expense of others. Below are a few links that may get you started on learning about all this[12].

* http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/ - A brilliantly simple introduction to privilege.
* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXAoG8vAyzI - A very watchable 3 minute video on sexuality and gender. The bits on gender are over-simplified, but still worth watching if you’re new to the scene.
* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qFojO8WkpA - A shocking example of how Patriarchy affects the way we think about everything, from a YouTube channel on sex+ feminism.
* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vUmpU2olT0 - A video on street harassment highlighting why it isn’t okay, from a feminist vlog.
* http://radtransfem.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/under-duress-agency-power-and-consent-part-one-no/ - One of the best written things I’ve ever read, a brilliant and detailed breakdown of why “no” or “maybe” mean “no” - followed by an equally brilliant breakdown of why “yes” means “maybe”.
* http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/pages/about - ** TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF RAPE ** - A project that hopes to stop combat the use of rape as a tool of war.

5i Wait, but rape jokes are just jokes, surely it’s bad to restrict humour?

This is a common view amongst people that otherwise align with feminist thinking most of the time. The simple answer is no, they aren’t just jokes.

The difference between a rape joke and a joke that involves murder is that the chances of anyone in the room being someone affected by murder or someone who is likely to become a murderer is very low, whereas the chance of someone listening to the rape joke either being someone who was affected  in some way by rape approaches one.

If you use the word “frape” to describe when someone hacks into another person’s Facebook, you are making light of and normalising rape. Take a moment to think how it would feel as a survivor to hear your friends talking about raping your Facebook, and then laughing. Would you think “well it’s just  joke” or would you feel that they think rape is funny?

Any reference to rape or sexual assault can also act as a trigger to traumatic memories or a panic attack. That’s why it’s important to include trigger warnings when talking about rape and sexual assault, but that’s also why it is important to not reference them when it isn’t for something constructive.

By making rape jokes you are (consciously or not) exerting your privilege over rape victims. You gain by having made a joke everyone laughs at, and they lose by being shown yet again how little the world can seem to care.

And no that doesn’t mean you can make the joke when it’s just a room full of guys. Or people you know aren’t affected by rape. Because you never know. Because guys get raped too. Because by doing that you exclude victims from your inner circle of people who find rape funny.

It's common to hear that people say that rape jokes aren't, can't be funny.  This isn’t the right thing to say. The problem isn't that they aren't funny. In fact, there wouldn't be a problem if people didn't find them funny, because no-one would make them. The problem is the effect of these jokes being made, both on potential rapists and on survivors.


6. But what about *insert situation here* where consent ambiguous?

The TL;DR here is that if consent is ambiguous, then you have sex, then you are maybe raping someone. If you're okay with that then I'm not okay with you. So if you aren’t 100% that you full and proper consent has been given then don’t continue. Just don’t. Consent isn’t something that to be assumed until proven otherwise, it is something that to be assumed not until proven otherwise.

The full story is that consent is complicated. If you have do have a question, you should feel free to ask, though I should point out that while I'm willing to talk I'm certainly no expert. If you'd like to ask something privately then comment anonymously below that you'd like me to provide a decent means of asking things in private.

The things I've said here are the very basics of consent, and there's no excuse not to know them. There is a whole lot more to learn though. For a brilliant in depth analysis of why "yes" means "maybe" (as well as a far better written and more in depth analysis of why "maybe" or "no" means "no"), follow this link: http://tinyurl.com/7cmewqt.

7. What about rape that isn’t a man raping a woman?

In this post I’ve focussed a lot on men raping women, I did that because it’s by far the most common, but it isn’t the only rape. People who aren’t men can/do rape and people who aren’t women can/do get raped. The stigma around that is an important issue but not on for this post.

I've also ignored people who aren’t cis, which is something I wouldn't usually be comfortable with doing, but something I did here for simplicity.

Resources:

If, after reading this, you feel like you would like to talk to somebody about personal experiences of non-consent:


  • Readers in England and Wales can visit the Rape Crisis England and Wales website (http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/), which also has info on the national freephone helpline, 0808 802 9999

  • Scottish readers and trans* people anywhere in the UK may prefer to visit the website of Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (http://www.ewrasac.org.uk/), phone number 0131 556 9437, which has a good track record of trans*-inclusivity

  • Irish readers could go to Rape Crisis Network Ireland (www.rcni.ie) which offers, among other things, information on finding your nearest crisis centre

  • Readers in the USA could visit RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (http://www.rainn.org/get-help), which offers a hotline, an online hotline and information on local counselling centres

  • RAINN also has a page on international resources which may be useful for readers in other countries.



Notes and references:

Thank you to those that have helped me write this. I missed some important stuff in my initial drafts and have shamelessly copied your suggestions in, often word for word. I’ve also copied ideas and even phrases fairly shamelessly from the amazing in depth two part analysis of consent I linked to above.

If you’ve noticed I don’t distinguish between rapist and sexual assaulter then that’s on purpose. Whilst I haven’t changed the wording of any statistic (if I’ve referenced to it as being a statistic on rape, then the report it’s from calls it rape too), I just don’t find the distinction very useful. It doesn’t matter if you are raped with a penis or with a finger, rape is rape.

I’ve posted this now not because it is complete but because I realised it wouldn’t ever be complete and so waiting for completion would mean never posting it. So if there’s something I’ve gotten wrong or missed out, please do let me know and I’ll do my best to fix it (probably by stealing your words).

For references of the format [nii] or [niii], the same link as [n] or [ni] was used as reference, but I've included some note on my interpretation of the reference. Notes under [n] apply to all of the references to that link.

[1] linked here http://tinyurl.com/6ylutxo
[2] http://www.oneinthreewomen.com/
[3i] http://www.oneinfourusa.org/statistics.php
[3ii] For those that think that these men were just refusing to admit that to rape, note that they admitted to non-consensual sex on the same survey. Maybe they’re just telling themselves that, but it’s probably something they have made themselves believe and something that contributed to their decision to rape someone.
[4] http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/news_show.php?id=67   - Mumsnet survey indicated one in ten. I can't find a copy of the survey so don't know how the questions were worded. In the US, the numbers were 33% higher when the question was a technical description rather than a direct inquiry.
[5] http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110218135832/rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs10/crimestats-userguide.pdf I couldn't find anything offering a statistic on actual rates, hence the different statistic in this case. I don't know whether assuming this will do as a rough guide is fair given reported the discrepancy between reported rapes and police rape statistics.
[7] http://www.thehavens.co.uk/docs/where_is_the_line.pdf
[8] http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2011/dec/09/lad-mags-rapists-study
[9] http://www.thehavens.co.uk/docs/where_is_the_line.pdf Many of the questions on the survey appear to be weighted, but not all. Becuase of this I've included a quote from the report for each reference, along with any interpretation that is required to get to the point I made in the main body of the text.
[9i] "A quarter of women have been silent and allowed sex to happen even though they did not want it to." A lack of a no isn't a yes, and not asking makes it non-consenual.
[9ii] "Three quarters of women (75%) compared to just over half (54%) of men believe that if you change your mind and the other person continues with sex, that is rape."
[10] This was sourced from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patterns_of_Global_Terrorism) Not the best source in the world. If anyone wants to seriously dispute the number then I’ll find a better source.
[11] For those that haven’t come across them before, a trigger warning is a warning that something the follows may trigger an episode of PTSD, or a panic attack or just horrible memories. It’s important to always include trigger warnings when talking about a subject like this one.
[12] Please suggest better links if you know of any and I’ll change the list to include them!
[13] http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/rape-a-lack-of-conviction/
[14] The answer to why rapists rape is complicated. It’s only partly about sexual fulfillment. We live in a society that is intensely misogynistic and patriarchal, and Women’s bodies are presented as constantly sexually available and as a man’s natural right. In a society that revolves around power, rapists use rape to assert their dominance over others the only or easiest way they know how.

Marching with the EDL - a nice day out
project_41
For those that don't know, on Saturday there was a static protest by the English Defence League in Cambridge. There was also a far larger counter protest organised by Cambridge Unite Against Fascists The EDL protest had around 30-40 attendees, where as the CUAF march had something far closer to the thousand mark.
It's been an embarassingly long time since I've been on a proper protest[1]. It started when I was working a proper job in Leamington Spa during my gap year. A trip down to London or Cambridge would cost me not only thirty quid in train fares, but also one of my precious weekends - or worse a day of holiday. I had a lot going on and a full time desk job was more exhausting than I'd expected, so any free time was reserved for recuperation. I expected that once I got back to the student life I'd go back, but once again I found myself excusing myself everytime people went off on a protest. It wasn't that I didn't want to go, I just didn't prioritise my political life over my social or academic life. My apathy was probably partially fuelled by the outcome AV referendum.

Anyway, it'd been a while. Long enough that my memory of marches had been partially replaced with what I told myself marches would be like when trying to justify the lazy option of not going. Not long enough that I was going to skip a CUAF march in my home town on a weekend where my only other commitment was to try and remember to put a wash on. So I layered up (t-shirt, thermal, shirt, hoodie, jacket), picked up some sock-gloves[2], and made my way out into the light snow. I was only forty minutes late, so had plenty of time to socialise before the march began. Three hours later, I had run into six separate groups of people I knew, spent half an hour walking up and down the march looking without success for some people I'd lost in the first 10 seconds, boogied with the English Disco Lovers and been fed delicious food by some charitable members of the Mill Road community.

I obviously can't know if I'll let myself slip again once I re-enter the fold and resume a life of panic and deadlines, but I hope I don't. There's something really lovely about being surrounded by people who've come out for the day to help ensure that Facism remains on the sidelines in the UK and to make sure everyone remembers that it is on the sidelines. There's also clearly something rousing about marching along in a chanting crowd.

In case I have any readers who only really hear about protest marches when they make the national news, I'll add that the march was very peaceful, and that the police were offered somosas too, and some of them accepted. The closest we got to the EDL[3] was 20 meteres with two fences and about 50 members of the police force inbetween. The tone was largely a mix of jovial and concerned.

Something interesting that came up with a reasonable percentage of those I ran into was whether or not exclusionary or aggressive chants/placards where a good thing[4]. Certainly there's something weird feeling about responding to xenophobia and fascism with a sign asking people to "smash" the offending group and a chant telling that group that their members aren't welcome in these parts. On the other hand if two equal sized protests marched by, one shouting agressive chants and the other chanting something politcal but pacifist, passers by could easily end up feeling that the angry group was bigger, or at least the angry group might leave a bigger impression.

I guess I'd be a lot more reactionary if I felt more threatened. The EDL is small fry (at least in Cambridge), unable to attract a big enough crowd to get a permit for a march rather than a static protest (or so the grape vine tells me). No-one could think that their presense of forty was representative of a larger group than our thousand, even if we'd curled into balls to look small while they jumped about waving their arms. I hope that they were unable to make anyone feel threatened, and they certainly didn't try to start any actual fights. They do get a lot of attention though, so maybe puffing ourselves up and shouting is worth it if it emphasises how many more people are willing to turn out to an anti-facism protest than to the alternative. Also, fascists are scary, and if some people do feel threatened by them, then it isn't my place to point out that there weren't many of them. As usual on this kind of issue, I don't really know where I stand, not wanting to suppress anyone's politcal freedom at the same time as being far happier when the EDL are hidden and subdued than I would be if they were proud and walking down our streets.

To steal something an anonymous but deeply sexy and intelligent friend of mine[5] said to me on the subject "I feel like pacifism is kind of a privileged position to be able to hold. Like many such positions, it might be genuinely better, but not acknowledging that others don't have the option is dickish".[5i]

Moving onto something lighter, my favourite part of the march was spent dancing with the true EDL, the English Disco Lovers[6]. A bicycle trailer sporting a reasonably impressive mobile sound system was in the middle of the march. Surrounding it was the happiest bunch of people in the march. There's no issue of what kind of chant to chant when you're boogeying along Love Train.
While with these lovely people something occured to me. Great as the idea of google-bombing the EDL is, it won't really change any attitudes and the EDL can just laugh it off as something nerds have done on the internet. What would be really cool would be "EDL" bringing up "Disco" before "Defence" in people's minds. Which feels like just the job for a small bunch of enthusiastic folks who have no sense of shame and a little free time. It'd need to stop just following the EDL about, we could still protest their events, but to get real cultural presense we need to sometimes be seen independantly. If it were me, I'd go for a combination of monthly disco flash-mobs, a couple of leafleting campaigns including handouts of funky disco glasses[7] and bi-annual disco marches. A semi-constant presense in and around town would slowly cause the Disco Lover's to be a more culturally relevant thing than the Defence League.
I'm actually fairly serious about doing this as one of my year-out projects, volunteers for joining a weekly club with the goal of proliferating love of disco in Cambridge should watch this space.



[1]Hopefully you can guess which one I was attending today.

[2]Otherwise known as socks.

[3] Ignoring the slight altercation as we got back to Parker's Piece when an English Defence League flag was spotted walking past in the distance. Word is there was a single CAUF arrest and 3 EDL arrests, but the vast majority of protester-police interactions were friendly - or at least not agressive in any way.

[4] All the songs I could remember are in the comments, there were others - if you can remember any then add to the list.

[5] That's right! If you say something that I quote on this blog then unless it'd ruin the point, you get to pick how I refer to you!

[5i] Speedy readers may have noticed this quote seemed weird  that's because I missed out a "not" in the middle. It has now been corrected.

[6] Alternatively Earth's Disco Lovers for those who don't fall under the label "English". Or Earth's Disco Likers for those that aren't massively attached to disco but want to join in.

[7] Cut out easily and for cheap from coloured card with MakeSpace's laser cutter.

[8] Using references is fun.

[9] Go to www.edl.me to help with the google bomb.

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