On the need for emotion

There’s been some hubbub in Reformed circles recently about how you’re supposed to tell your feelings to “shut up” because presumably Jesus wants you to. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if you’ve been following the back-and-forth; it’s something that tends to crop up a lot in those theological circles.

Here’s what I think about that: aside from setting yourself up to ignore all kinds of atrocities, ignoring your feelings is just terrible creative practice.

I mean, Aristotle’s rhetoric is built on ethos, logos, and — shocker — pathos.

I wrote something for Medium about this, which you can find here.

There was a familiar joke growing up about why the Devil got all the good music. The joke had no punch line. The joke lay in the asking.

The 19 Individuals who are Ruining Burning Man for the Tech Bros

The Honeypot: attractive girl paid to stand in front of steampunk leatherwear or wallet-busting, all-inclusive camps. Like everyone else, dressed in a few wisps of bespoke spandex; a fair-trade body chain; forehead crystals; and thigh-high boots to ward off the chemical burns of the toxic alkali Black Rock desert. Looks sexier in this costume than most people. Is not flirting with you because she thinks you’re hot.

The Pharmacologist: carries around at least eight different drugs in his fanny pack, each measured out by milligram; still manages to be 1,000 times more with-it than you. Is currently on DMT and MDMA, relaxing on a cot with a joint after being up all night, his offensively defined abs soaking up the sunlight. Extremely health-conscious and considers alcohol the worst of all the drugs; also dislikes cocaine but uses it as a “tool” to bridge the gap between better highs. Visiting from Breckenridge.

These markings are so intricate because the information is so complex.

The Messiah: muscular man with a large beard who has just thrown his boots in the trash because “shoes were an inside job.” Has taken one hit of LSD and subsequently discovered an ancient rock artifact that proves we are all being kept in the dark about our evil alien overlords. Is agitated that you can’t read Alien so that you can tell him what the markings on the rock say. Must convince everyone that this artifact is real before he himself comes off his high and forgets how real it is.

The Tourist: flew in from Europe for his first festival and isn’t sure how to find the drugs. Wanders around asking random people, who give his long, boring shorts the suspicious side-eye. He doesn’t want to buy too much, so finally settles on purchasing one low-dose Adderall from a girl with a septum piercing. He pays $20 for the pill, which she tells him is a “great deal,” and stands in a long line to test it. Thinks he’s friends with you.

The Healer: older woman with flowing hair who makes poultices on the spot out of plantain leaves she carries around with her. Makes you feel nurtured, in an intense kind of way. Also carries essential oils and tinctures in her first-aid kit. Not a vegan, because plants are just as sentient as animals. Has the unfortunate side effect of making you remember that you haven’t called your mom in three months.

IMG_0527The Unattainable Hippie: she’s beautiful and you want her. She makes no money at all, so she should be soooo into you. But your aura is all wrong. So she’s not into you at all, bro.

The Volunteer Helper: circles the parameter in an orange reflective vest, checking to make sure everyone who is sitting with their head lowered is OK, and not having a mental breakdown. Exchanges lots of thumbs-up and high fives. Annoying because he’s more socially-adjusted than you, and he’s not even wealthy or anything.

The Happy Fatstrong Guy: Teddy-bear-like day raver who likes to occasionally pull out the swing dance flips. Constantly smiling and hugging people. Gets sweat on you.

The Hoola Hoop Girl: hangs out at the back of the dance area so she doesn’t bump anyone. Bumps you anyway because you’re apparently invisible. Dreams of being asked to perform on stage. Dresses in circus attire just in case.

The Belly Dance Enthusiast: easily spotted by her coin hip scarf, she’s taken a lot of adult dance lessons and is not about to let them go to waste. Aspires to be able to shimmy the drum beat with her loins while simultaneously waving out the melody with her arms. May or may not be successful at this. Looks at you, however, like you’re a scarecrow jerking in the wind.

The Baby Raver: looks 12, is actually a few years older. Wears glow sticks and face paint. Migrates in a pack with friends of similar persuasions. Cannot currently move because they’re stuck in a K-hole, and their legs are not actually their legs.

The Kandi Kid: attracted to things that make her prettier, which does not include Tech Bros. Wears plastic-beaded bracelets saying “love” and “dance4ever”; makes these to hand out as gifts. Fond of costumes, the more reminiscent of Anime the better. Mixes fishnets with leopard-print thong leotards. Much maligned by Old Timers, particularly when she pulls out the flashing pacifier.

The Old Timer: has been raving for 20-plus years. Extremely picky about which DJs and substances are worth his time. Serious fan of day naps and conversing about topics “most people aren’t into.” Back in his day, there weren’t all these irresponsible kids ruining everything. Often also a Head.

The Head: does not migrate from the House stage; holds it down long-term with the other Heads. Likes old-school DJs like Garth and Jeno, but always interested in new stuff as long as it’s groovy and “brings the knowledge.”

The Browser: bounces from stage to stage constantly looking for the best party. Is wearing gold lamé and a platypus backpack for hydration.

IMG_0482The Fun Guy: having more of a blast than you are, at all times, even though he’s not that ripped or probably all that successful. Finds innovative ways to connect with women instantly.

The Wook: grotesquely dirty hippie who is currently ruining a five-foot circle of dance floor with his body odor and his oblivion to personal space. Spits in your face when he talks to you.

The Nudist: Happiest when naked. Merely by existing, teaches you the art of not staring directly at him while also not avoiding staring at him.

The Drunk: the most hated of all types of festival-goers. Gropey guy who cannot use the port-a-potties correctly. Currently falling on a tiny girl in a body stocking.

The power of gossip

Some of the women who were harassed by Harvey Weinstein mentioned a kind of code: whispered information passed between women about who to avoid, who was a creep. This code was even the source of a joke in an SNL skit from last Saturday; “the code was ‘he raped me.’ That way, if any men were listening, they’d tune us right out,” Kate McKinnon’s silver screen character quavers out.

IMG_1297 - Version 2Essentially, in fact as well as fiction, women gossiped to keep each other and themselves safe.

Now, arguably, this doesn’t fall into the traditional definition of “gossip,” but it’s certainly how the word is used in certain institutions, as in “now, now, make sure you’re not spreading gossip or slander about that man.”

Harvey Weinstein likely never would have been outed had it not been for this kind of gossip. If every woman had kept quiet about her own experience, then the women, collectively, would not have realized that there were enough of them to take this powerful man on.

If the victims of Catholic clergy abuse had all kept silent, the abuses would have been allowed to go on, shielded from the light of day. In so many circumstances, if the “gossip” from one woman had been heeded, then a second woman would not have been injured.

The parade of “MeToo” stories and hashtags should tell us one thing: women (and men) don’t always feel comfortable talking about who assaulted them and how. In no small part because this is so often dismissed as “gossip” or “slander,” and the victims are told both overtly and covertly to keep quiet about it.

This is why it is so problematic if any culture or community reacts to reports of sexual harassment and assault with “now, now, let’s remember not to gossip.” Very often, there is a motive for keeping the information quiet: churches look bad if their pastors or elders or seminary students are known predators. Schools rarely survive open discussion about two, three, four, teachers committing illegal sexual assault on students. But if there is a pattern of this kind, there is probably a reason for it. The culture of silence invites inappropriate behavior; where there is no significant consequence for terrible behavior in adult men (or adults in general), adult men will behave badly. Not all adult men or even most, but some will, and those who are tempted to do similar things will see that they, too, can get away with it.

So if any institution you are involved with — a club, a school, even a tight-knit group of friends — insists that “gossip” be avoided in matters of sexual assault, understand that that institution is not a safe place for anyone who is being or has been assaulted. But it is a safe place for serial assaulters.

If you’re noticing red flags around assault-related “be sure not to gossip or slander” admonitions, it’s worth doing a little digging. For example, ask schools what their policy is on reporting teacher harassment or assault. Do they report every illegal student-teacher action to police right away, or do they quietly shoo the teacher into a different kind of position in another town or district? Maybe just demote him (or her) to community tutor rather than full teacher?

Do schools tell parents if a teacher or principal is dismissed with pending criminal assault charges, or do they instead send out a letter noting his resignation for reasons unknown, painting the man as a wonderful and upstanding member of the community who is going to stop by the school whenever he feels like it? If a teacher becomes sexually involved with a student, do they spin it as merely an inappropriate “consensual relationship” or do they recognize that middle school and high school students cannot legally (in nearly all cases) or morally (in all cases, due to the power dynamic) consent to a “relationship” with a teacher? Do they ever repeat the teacher’s (legally bogus) claims that the “relationship” was all the fault of the student? Do they ever shrug harassment away because the teacher seems like such a nice guy otherwise?

Parents should know: if a student comes forward to report unwanted physical contact or inappropriate advances of any kind, what is the protocol for responding? Is the student taken seriously, even if the student is not considered a model of perfect behavior? Note: children and teens who are being sexually targeted and harassed may act out or react in ways that are not always productive. Even more insidiously, if they have a choice, predators often target children and teens whose credibility is already in question — or whose shame, social class, malleability or general “attitude” make them easy to manipulate. Like any predator, they pick the easy targets rather than the more difficult ones.

And, perhaps most importantly, is there a certain degree of transparency so that parents can be assured that these things are appropriately handled rather than swept under the rug? Can you, for example, get straightforward questions answered in a clear and straightforward way when you ask them?

This is particularly important where students are part of a culture that values obedience over independence. If children are trained from birth to obey quickly and without questioning, they will likely go along with things they are innately uncomfortable with if it’s initiated by an authority figure. Where authority figures are astute and caring, this won’t be an issue. But if they’re tempted to abuse their power, where they’re tempted to get their personal, extracurricular needs met by those they’re in charge of, this becomes a real problem.

What do you do if you find yourself witnessing or experiencing harassment in a culture or community that inherently or overtly promotes silence in such circumstances? To quote my dear friend St. Tara:*

I want to outline some strategies for whistle-blowers to keep themselves out of the swamp of proving their stories to a hostile audience just looking for a way to trip them up. Here’s what I have so far:

1. Stick to what you experienced and how you experienced it. If you had unwanted attention shown to you it ultimately doesn’t matter what was “meant” by it. Your experience is legitimate information that even people who disagree should be willing and interested to assimilate. 
2. Point to the culture/community pressure that made it difficult for you to speak up, either to defend yourself in the first place or to report it. 
3. Avoid trying to prove the nature or intent of the other person even when you’re personally very sure of the meaning.

In a nutshell, when it comes to the safety of yourself and those who are or may become targets of assault, fearing “gossip” should be much less important than telling the truth.


*special thanks to anonymous research assistants


For the not-all-men

My little brother once carried an unconscious woman to her friend’s house so that the man who had roofied her, whoever he was and nobody seemed to know, would be far away; so she would wake up in a familiar and comfortable place.

This is for all the men who have chosen to use their strength that way rather than the other way.

A man I knew once slept outside a drunk woman’s room because she was scared of something; maybe it was illogical of her, and maybe it was inconvenient for him, but he curled up in her doorway — not inside it, because that would have been disrespectful — and kept her safe.

This is for all the men who have cared more about women than they cared how “logical” or with-it they were being.

Another man I knew told me his deepest, darkest secret: that when he was a broad-shouldered teenager, he was walking by himself at night through a park and he stumbled upon a man assaulting a woman. So he, the teenager, attacked the man, stabbed him, and grabbed the girl by the hand and ran with her. He did not know if the man survived. That was the secret. He had maybe killed someone.

This is for all the men who have risked themselves for someone smaller than them.

A friend of mine invited me to visit him in his home state, and met me at the airport with flowers. I blushed and worried, because I wasn’t sure if I liked him like that. Maybe I did, but I didn’t know yet. He took me out, showed me things I had never seen before, sat on sunny benches with me while I sighed and put my head on his shoulder. One night, he spent a hundred bucks on complex cocktails and we went home to his apartment, where I was sleeping on a couch made of pillows. I hugged him and I thought, maybe I want to kiss him now. So I kissed his cheek, shut my eyes, and then changed my mind. He let me go to my pillow bed unpestered, unkissed. He never made me feel guilty about any of it. He never pushed me, he never acted grumpy. I didn’t know how to tell him thank you; how much it had meant to me that he let me not know what I wanted.

This is for all the men who understand that women owe them nothing.

But. This is not for the brand of “nice guy” who thinks of himself as an upstanding all-American Christian, the guy who didn’t quit no matter how many times I told him no and shoved his hands off me, overandoverandover. I know how offended he would be if I suggested that he had done anything to violate me. I told him no and he asked why not. “Because I said so,” I retorted. He groaned. “That’s the best reason ever,” he said, and then, five minutes later, he tried again.

This is not for the pair of well-off, “upstanding” males who started talking to a friend and I at our local pub. She liked one of them; let’s call him John. John bought us drinks, which I refused to do anything but sip. He tried to dance with my friend, and I watched them; watched her tell him that he’d have to take her out on a real date and get to know her, that she wasn’t going to do anything with him that night, she just wasn’t. I watched her smile at him as she said this, trying to smooth the presumptive assertions by making the smile arch, feminine. Watched him buy her drink after drink, watched her drink them. I tried to scoop her away, but when I got close, John’s friend — let’s call him Fred — would start touching me. He tried lifting the hem of my shirt up, tried grazing my thigh with his hand. I yelled at him and whacked his hand. Overandover. After awhile, I told her I was leaving and asked her to come with me. “I’ll be right behind you, ten minutes,” she said. She never followed me. I texted her all night, asking if she was OK, guilt coursing through my veins. The next morning, she came to my house and lied; she said she was fine with what had happened. So what was I going to do except hug her? And hug her, later, when she admitted she was not fine with it, that he hadn’t listened to her, that she wanted to swear off men entirely.

This is not for the school principal who spanked a pre-teen female student. This is not for the “repentant” husband who demanded his wife move back in with him. This is not for the male teacher who made a joke about a female student’s body. This is not for all the men who are subtly-but-not-overtly creepy.

I’m positive these men think of themselves as model citizens. They would be appalled if anyone punched them; nothing wrong, nothing untoward going on. Pushing a woman’s boundaries, ignoring the words that come out of her mouth, that’s just part of being an all-American male. Women want a man who is assertive, who doesn’t back down. Women, also, don’t always know what’s appropriate, since their feelings are on the delicate side. This is often what they tell me when I broach the subject. “I’m so glad you know me better than I know myself,” I snort. “I’m so glad I’ve got a big, strong man to interpret my feelings for me.”

This is not for these men. But.

This is for all the men who have felt ashamed of their sexuality because of these stories, like maybe it was something that would hurt women.

This is for all the women who have felt ashamed of their sexuality because of these stories, like maybe it was something they had to hide under layers of fabric or it would somehow hurt them.




Ode to Jael

He thinks that you, a woman
will give him all that he desires:
warm welcome, the work of your body,
a pillow to repose upon and sleep.
So when he speaks, he uses his own language;
the glint of his armor and the dried blood on his sword
will do the translating for him.
He is a commander.
You are a woman as women ought to be,
and your deferential bows will bring your forehead to the floor.

And his, as well:
His head will never leave it
when you show him what a woman can do in the strength of her own power,
and drive the tent stake through his temple
as he sleeps in your perfumed bed.




Hipster Yuppie First World Problems

1. Never been to Burning Man.

2. Whole Foods Kombucha selection not local enough.

3. My spa-day anti-aging intravenous vitamin drip is making my arm burn a little bit.

4. Have to keep hitting “connect” every 30 minutes for the free wifi at the airport.

5. Bartender is out of smoked hibiscus salt.

6. Google maps sent me to the wrong Anthropologie and now I’m stuck in traffic.

7. Yoga class did not warn me before beginning meditative Oms.

8. My friend has way more Instagram followers than me.

9. Forgot puffy jacket for my weekend camping trip; had to stop at REI to buy a new one.

10. My solidarity-showing Social Justice Warrior pin clashes with the rest of my outfit.

11. Local artisan ice cream shop discontinued the pine nut honey ricotta flavor I would brag-order in front of other people.

12. The Gucci sunglasses I found in the trunk of the rental car are scratched.

13. Unsure how to let the valet parking guy know I’m not a racist and that I think he could be doing so much more if he only believed in himself.

14. The complimentary hotel breakfast is not gluten free.

15. Favorite celebrity tattoo artist will not call me back.

16. Coat closet too small for all of my scarves.

17. My jerk boyfriend didn’t put my gold-status frequent flier mile number on my ticket when he bought it for me and now I have to wait in line like a chump.

18. Paris is still more smelly and less sexy than I wanted it to be.

19. My waiter keeps asking if I need anything.

20. My waiter doesn’t ask if I need anything.

21. Nobody ever asks if I’m gay.

On tribes

I recently visited a woman in an assisted living home in Texas, near Fort Worth. I remembered how, as a child, I visited my great-grandmother and her twin sister at their shared home in Fort Worth, how I tentatively touched the folded skin of her ancient hands and throat and how small, even then, their house seemed to me.

The assisted living place was nicer. Clean and replete with coffee on demand, nice chairs to sit in. But surrounded by miles of freeway and urban loneliness. The woman talked about how much she missed Fairbanks, her home of many decades — a place where the winters sink to -60 degrees, but where she had her circle of friends and her activities.

Now, currently, has got to be about the most lonely time of human history. We take care of people by putting them in nice places like this — whereas in so many other cultures, in our own country once in other places still — the old people stay as mobile as they can and participate with family life as one enclave, part of a tribe, part of something.

Tribes have all but disappeared now, although we still hunger for them. We join cults because we hunger for tribes. We collect friends on Facebook because this is the closest thing we have: the clamor of superficial support for a selfie or some musing about a bad day. Of course, we could not stand tribal living: we have adapted to being lonely, solitary, independent, having everything just-our-way, dishes loaded thusly, everything under our control. Some large families come close, maintaining their ties over the years through sibling loyalty and shared holidays. My own family comes pretty close. My parents bought a house next to my sister and her four daughters, and my youngest brother lives there; the remaining three siblings visit frequently. We all watch the girls so my sister can do things, maybe go on a date with her husband, maybe run to the grocery store. We all teach the girls things, like how to be strong in the woods. We have a running group text we post videos to, because we live over a hundred miles apart: my other two brothers are in Denver and Minneapolis. When we are together, we make fires and sing songs that my dad wrote for us as children. We cook food. We remember things. Growing up homeschooled in a rural area with no TV, no internet, we were a tribe. We invented our own tribal structures, rules, language. Not all that many of them, but we still had them. We had tribal conflicts — lots and lots of fights, shifting loyalties and alliances. We protected the younger ones, but they were always the younger ones until they proved themselves strong. There were rules from above, from outside us, that we had to follow, but these did not affect us nearly as much as our own codes did. And none of us could force any of the others to do anything: pragmatically we were anarchists, and our egalitarian democracy lead to many compromises and yes, more fights. Our play clothing was often unisex, passed down from sister to brother and worn full of holes. We learned to climb trees quickly to evade attacks, walked over gravel to make our feet tough. We tried fishing; my brother hunted birds in the woods and we cooked them. But more than this, we knew we were blood, that we would take care of each other and band together against outside danger — I was a scrawny child, but as the oldest, if anyone did anything to my younger brothers, even yelled at them, I confronted them. The first boy I ever liked — an eight-year-old who gave me a tape to listen to and who was almost-my-boyfriend for a whole day — said something disparaging about my sister and I instantly dumped him in my mind.

I am very grateful that I have this tribe, that I have essentially the closest modern equivalent available to the urban whitey, short of some kind of unhealthy situation where group conformity is the price for group acceptance.

Of course, it’s normal on some level to want to band together with people who “get” you. The jocks, the preppies, the cowboys. The metalheads, the potheads, the skinheads. These are artificial tribes people pick in order to belong. A particular church can be an artificial tribe, and the more conformity is demanded, ironically, the closer the circle draws; like any artificial tribe, if you’re a little persecuted or misunderstood by an outside group, to the inside group it means you’re not “just a poseur.” You’ve earned your admittance. You belong. If you have to give up certain ornamentation, wear a limited array of clothing, do a limited number of things with your hair, that sets you apart as a member of the tribe.

The rules themselves remind me of when I ordered my brother not to part his hair down the middle because I deemed it stupid and overly trendy. And our family was not stupid and overly trendy; despite the holes, we were classy. He ignored me because, as I mentioned, we were anarchists for all practical purposes: I couldn’t actually order him how to wear his hair. The same went for when I told him he should not wear shoes that looked like toilets, or wear bent staples around his ear. I made rules, and he didn’t obey them, because they were abstract and dictatorial despite all my best intentions to just tell him the best possible way to live. I mean, I was older and wiser in every possible way, but he grew up and pierced both his ears anyway, and they looked good and I was wrong. And I didn’t kick him out of my tribe.

In Biblical times, as in the Middle East currently, hospitality to those outside your tribe was a big deal. And it meant that people could survive in strange places. If people attacked outsiders, outsiders died; if they welcomed them as guests and recognized them as being part of some other also-established way of life, different and perhaps without all the same cultural mores, then the outsiders would live. They would not starve, or suffer from lack of water, or be forced to seek shelter in a cave inhabited by a she-bear and a dozen snakes.

I remembered this as I listened yesterday to a story of how a boy moved in sixth grade to a new state in the south, to a new school where everyone, and especially the self-professed Christians, dressed in 501 jeans and polo shirts, where the boy’s clothes set him apart as an outsider. Where his accent set him apart as an outsider. Where his innocence and inexperience set him apart as an outsider. Where every instance of being an outsider meant a threat of physical violence from the insiders. Where the only way of surviving was to join the tribe of other outsiders: those with the weird hair and the piercings. To grow tough and challenge the bullies, make them think twice about hitting him; laugh when they struck, scare them away with his skull t-shirts. To find somewhere to belong, even if it came with suffering. To find psychological resilience rather than succumb to being bullied.

There’s a well-known Bible verse that says Let your adornment not be braided hair and gold jewelry and fine apparel. These were not the signs of an outsider in the ancient middle east; they were the status symbols of the wealthy insider. If you will, the polo shirt and the 501 jeans of the 1980s; the pencil skirt and tastefully trendy bird jewelry or chaste pearls of the current conservative Christian. Do not be defined by the status symbols of your day; do not let them define the edges of your tribe. All are welcome into the tribe; beware of yourselves and your own conceits, not tribal outlines you do not understand and that are foreign to you.

Tamar, 1% temptress

Dear friends,

This is Jonadab, Prince Amnon’s confidant. I am happy to report that Amnon is repentant and has accepted the gospel. Ammon really nailed himself over this stuff to me, so please accept him back into the fold and remember: I’m still a great guy even though I’m friends with men like Ammon. Why? Because I’m only friends with them to make sure they confess their sins, no matter how abrasive or “victim-blaming” I might sound to the feminists and the uninitiated. In case you missed it, here’s a transcript of Ammon’s public confession just to prove how much he’s seen the error of his ways:


Hi, I’m Amnon, and I’m a pretty average guy with average guy struggles. Sure, I struggle with lust sometimes. Doesn’t everyone?

People get a little weird because the lust thing was for my own sister Tamar. But remember, everyone: she was my half-sister. Our forefather Abraham married his half-sister and our entire lineage was blessed by God from the union. No big deal, really, having a crush on your half-sister. We need to remember that God’s ways are not always our ways.

From my understanding of biblical modesty requirements, in fact, it stands to reason that I would have a crush on Tamar. I can see a lot of her. She’s not always super-modest with herself in the confines of her own home. Sure, she wears courtly robes like the rest of my sisters most of the time, but she doesn’t veil herself like girls do for strangers. Occasionally I spot her in her nightgown, down the hallway, looking all supple and nubile. I’m pretty sure she does this on purpose, and if she doesn’t, it’s stupid of her to let herself be seen like that. Almost like she’s asking for it. I mean, I would never say she was asking for it, because I’m a gentleman and a prince, but let’s be honest: a girl can get raped and also be at fault. Maybe she was only at fault 5% or even 1%, but in God’s eyes a little sin, like immodesty, is just as damning to your soul as a big sin.

Technically, her dad is also at fault for telling her to hang out with me alone in my bedroom. What did he expect would happen if he left a young man and woman without fatherly supervision? Everyone, even his devoted servants, left us alone and allowed it to transpire, so they’re maybe 10% at fault each. Our house has over ten inhabitants, though, so that makes the math tricky. Basically, what you should conclude from this is that I’m a really upstanding guy for taking the blame at all. I even shed a few tears to our dad about how sorry I am, and I recited a lot of scripture to extra-prove it.

You guys, I’m so very, deeply, gosh-darn sorry about hurting my little sister’s delicate little sisterly feelings.

I must confess another thing, too. My buddy Jonadab is a real alpha, almost as much of an alpha as my dad when it comes to women. One afternoon Jonadab said to me: I can see you’re sick over the fact that you can’t get any from this fine chica Tamar who keeps playing hard to get. So listen, bro, all you gotta do is make up an excuse to get her alone, and if she plays along, you know she wants it too, even if she says “no.” No means yes, and it’s just the natural order of things that men colonize women. Every woman dreams of being raped if she’s not getting taken in hand by her proper covenant head, because total submission is an erotic necessity. And if she sits in your bedchamber and feeds you by hand as you recline in bed alone with her — low and lilting voice, fingers brushing your lips, “accidentally” flashing a little cleavage or elbow as she leans over you — you know what that means.

It means she’s tacitly agreeing on the propriety of getting raped. What else could she possibly expect would happen in that situation?

Obviously, I’m only quoting here. You guys, I am so very sorry that I listened to the counsel of a master ladykiller.

You guys, take my repentance to heart and please don’t fall into the same trap as me. If we’re looking at this from a proper gender and family perspective, it could have happened to anyone. It all started out with a normal desire to be closer to my family. You know that sisters are supposed to take care of their brothers. That’s just how it is, how God designed it. Especially when your father is off starting wars all the time and expanding his kingdom, amusing himself with new wives. God gave men sisters to fulfill the need for feminine companionship so you don’t have to do things like take lots of wives. Someone should tell that to my dad.

And you know that sisters are supposed to forgive their brothers if their brothers do anything to hurt them. Especially when it’s partly the sister’s fault the brothers hurt them. And especially when the brothers have a good reason to get a little confused telling right from wrong because their dads are so heavily into ministry and taking dominion of the region.

Here’s the deal: I already got in trouble with my dad about it. My dad was mad. So I don’t know why it’s anyone’s business anymore now that I’ve repented and you’ve all witnessed it. My dad gave me a real talking-to. We even met more than once about it. I confessed my sins to him and my dad called my sister in and asked her to forgive me. She’s a good sister so she said yes. We were immediately restored to fellowship, although she was still sulky and would only hang out with our bro Absalom, not me.

According to the law, I’m supposed to marry her because I raped her, but she’s so sanctimonious about it that it really turns me off. Sort of kills the vibe when she acts all dutiful and wounded. Wives are supposed to be way more pleasant about submission. Smile and act complimentary. You can’t blame me for not wanting to be married to someone who just grins and bears it. Or who cries and peppers her hair with ashes, God forbid. Our dad should teach her more about maintaining a sweet, forgiving, feminine demeanor.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean much if the person forgiving you doesn’t immediately act exactly how you want. And I want her to act supple and nubile and innocent and nightgown-y all the time. If she can’t do that, it’s her own darn fault I don’t want to marry her.

Blessings on my sister Tamar. Let’s all pray that she learns how to act more feminine, shall we?


Jonadab’s note:

Amnon isn’t quite accurate in how he portrays me in this account, but I think we can forgive him that. Let it be known that all of my counsel to Ammon was purely theoretical, a commentary on the nature of gender. And yes, let’s all pray for poor Tamar.

However, I’d like to point out that Amnon is being a little too hard on himself. The law states that if a woman is in a city and claimed rape, and nobody heard her scream, she should not be treated as if she was raped. Nobody heard Tamar scream for help — she seemed to turn “willing” pretty quick. In fact, Ammon himself had to eject her from his quarters for being too clingy. Do real rape victims immediately insist on marrying the man who just raped them? Or is this so-called “rape” merely a seduction technique? It all sounds very suspicious, wouldn’t you say?

There are two sides to every story, and women can’t be expected to be believed just because they say they’re victims.

This is why I have developed my patent-pending five-point technique for determining if women are lying about sexual harassment, or if it’s actually the men who allegedly “hurt” them who are lying. Compare and contrast:

  1. Who is more open to hearing my wisdom? A contrite heart will be teachable.
  2. Who confesses their sin the most, without passing blame to the other party or getting hysterical?
  3. Who is the most joyful? A truly repentant soul, when presented with the good news of the gospel, will be initially sorrowful over their sin, however “small” it is, and then overjoyed upon hearing they are forgiven.
  4. Who (or whose parent) has already donated the most money and/or time to my Ministry of Truth?
  5. Who uses the most amount of telling catchphrases revealing the unresolved sins of envy, bitterness, and pride, such as “my older brother” (instead of merely “my brother”) or “my heart hurts” (instead of “my heart is desperately wicked”)?

Depressing diatribe on date-rape

Maybe it’s the mid-January slump where people are most likely statistically to commit suicide, but in the past six days, I’ve learned that five of my friends have been date-raped and that a sixth friend, whom I already knew was raped years ago, had been raped again recently. Nobody reported any of it. Additional women voiced that they felt shades of this in their marriages; Christian marriages to Christian husbands. Marriages they have been encouraged to stay in by the pastors of their church.

I doubt the pastors themselves have experienced anything close to sexual coercion sanctioned by their larger culture and microculture. Of course these men, and many more like them, say that rape is wrong; they also may refuse to call anything rape unless the woman is pretty much dead from fighting back so hard the man was obliged to beat her up first. A couple of bruises don’t count. “No” doesn’t count either unless someone else heard you yell it.

Oddly, the absence of a screaming tantrum is not considered a sexual invitation in any other situation. As a guy, you would probably never feel obliged to tell the stranger next to you in a dark theater: “by the way, just in case you feel like groping me while this movie is playing, please don’t, and anyway I have installed razor blades in my jock strap.” But in more private man-on-woman situations? No provable screaming tantrum, no rape.

All of this perpetuates an attitude that allows for rape with literally zero consequence. Secret, serial rapists are entitled assholes who operate in the shades of gray created by the idea that women should be polite and “submissive” to what men want, even if men are not polite or “submissive” to what women want. And the more your culture believes this, the more date-rape tends to get spun as something other than a violation and more like an inevitability of the woman doing something less than perfectly.

Even if patriarchal types do acknowledge that something happened, it’s usually accompanied by annoyance that it hasn’t already been resolved. It happened last week, or last year, or a decade ago. For those who did it, it’s in the past. But for those it happened to, it’s now. Every single day may bring flashbacks. Injuries never heal if you continuously demand things from the broken limb, and even if an injury is cared for in the most healthy way possible, there’s often a scar; a spot on the skin that doesn’t stretch the same way uninjured skin does.

If my friends are any indication, date-rape is not a rarity; it is a reoccurring problem. And if you don’t understand it, try to step inside a compiled average of the internal and external struggle my friends went through. Or don’t, if you’re adverse.


In the skin

You don’t know how confused you’ll be when you say no

When you move his hands ten times, twenty times,

And he laughs it off, contradicts you, tells you how much you’ll like it,

So you laugh a little too, break the tension nervously

Try to stop the slow creep forward as he gets further and further inside your clothes

With every trick that occurs to you: with a joke, with a wriggle, with more words.

Then silence so he doesn’t get angry.

You can’t scream; that would be ridiculous. You share too many friends, he bought you dinner, you kissed him too when your lips first touched.

Your screams are mute; tense muscles clamped together, the liquid waves of your hands breaking against his solid and insisting shore.


You don’t know how hard you’ll fight

Or not fight

What a hostile private thing will feel like in your fist when you try to push it away

Hands around your throat and crowded into your jaw

Women want dominance, women want a real man who takes what he wants

You don’t know when you’ll give up and decide it’s your fault

You got yourself in this situation, why were you so stupid

Maybe if you tell yourself it’s Ok it won’t feel like this

How is this happening

It isn’t happening


You don’t know how he’ll laugh when you claw his smug face

And call you a feisty little kitten

Tell you it builds character that you bleed

I’m sorry that I hurt you, he says, with a smile

But you’re tough, you’ll get over it

You want him to die, and you want to die too.

You have never hated anyone like this. Anything like this.

You go into the bathroom and vomit because the smell of his raw fluid inside you is like poison.

You are so tired, so…



Two tracks play in your head, competing for airtime. One: You got yourself into this, you accepted his invitation, you kissed him, you should just lie down and try to sleep. You told him he was handsome. You told him you were interested. He was so kind. He listened so well. He heard you, you felt seen by him. Did you really disappear, that he stopped listening so completely?

Two, slamming into the other and settling over you like a lead sarcophagus: You are a piece of human trash, diseased from his seed, diseased from your own inability to stop him. Shame on you for not stopping him. No one will date you now. You can’t tell your mom, your best friend. It would kill them. They would look at you differently. What to do? What to do?

The next day, you go to the hospital. It’s too late for a rape kit. You’ve showered, you’ve brushed your teeth, you’ve gotten him off you. They ask you if you’re Ok, and you’re not Ok. You can’t handle their questions, the bright lights, the exam, so you leave. He was inside your skin and you don’t want anyone inside your skin again, not even a doctor.

Why are you so stupid? Why do you always do the wrong thing? What the hell is wrong with you?

Well: it’s Ok, you’ll get over it. Something good will come of it. Don’t be upset. Think positive thoughts. Too much pain if you do anything else.

Too much pain. Cover it up with something else. A smile, that’s what.

Everyone likes smiles.

How (not) to bribe a Mexican cop

Tulum is uneventful, unless you consider shopping, yoga, food and beach time eventful. I try not to voice my opinion that I feel like I’m stuck in some alternate reality created for tourists, although I frequently fail. We leave for home at 3:45 am on Christmas Eve, filling up the gas tank on the way back. The gas attendants tell us it’s cash only, after we’ve filled the tank. We scramble to ply together the last of our pesos to pay for it, and then roll on. Half an hour later, we get pulled over by a Mexican cop, who tells us we were speeding. I don’t doubt it, and he seems reasonable, almost like he’s about to let us off with a warning. Surely, I think, in the middle of this super-touristy upkept resort strip, he’s not going to do anything weird.

However, the second he gets Collin’s driver’s license, he tells us (specifically me, since nobody else understands him) that we will have to pay the ticket at the police office 20 kilometers away, and it doesn’t open until Monday, and he needs to keep Collin’s license to make sure he pays the fine. We can’t, I tell him, because we’re on the way to the airport and won’t be here on Monday. Well, says the police officer, then maybe just one of you can stay behind to pay the ticket? I shake my finger at him. “No está possible,” I inform him.

At this point, the police officer asks Collin to get out of the car and come back to his car with him. I get out my wallet and survey the pesos we have left: maybe $10 worth, mostly coins, and I’m not sure how much bribing a Mexican police officer runs these days, especially on the resort strip with their gargantuan edifices. Collin opens my door and hisses: “he wants $150 US. And of course nobody carries any cash but me!” Ben hands us a US $20 he has, and Collin takes the wad of small bills. I dump my coin purse into my hands and go to help negotiate; Collin is notoriously shy about any type of haggling, and I have a feeling the cop can sense it. I gesture to the money we have and say, “está todo, está todo,” and Collin shows his empty wallet just to prove it. The cop asks when our flight leaves. “Ahora, ahora,” I say. The cop shrugs reluctantly and says Ok, he’ll take it. I pretend to give him all the coins, although really I only give him some and palm the rest. Meanwhile, he tells me sternly not to speed. “Si,” I say, and jump into the car. “He wouldn’t even write the amount on a piece of paper,” Collin says as we inch away. “He wrote it on his hand, with the peso amount next to it.”

We make it to the airport on time; our flight has been delayed 15 minutes. We make it back to snowy Idaho within 12 hours, and play a certain track from N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton on the way home.

Meanwhile, over the internet, our friends give us advice on how to handle this situation, lots of information, none of it useful unless we decide to revisit a place where bribing police is a thing. Specifically: don’t act like you’re in a hurry. Make small talk. Don’t give them any important documents they can hold hostage; bring photocopies and give them the photocopies. Say “well, how can we fix this?” and offer them the equivalent of $5. Next time I have to bribe a public official, I’ll be sure to keep this in mind.