Why didn’t she call the cops? Rape cases and rape culture.

I see people still arguing that Christine Ford has to be lying about Kavanaugh or she’d have reported it to police at the time. Let’s look at some rape/assault cases (sorry, I’m pressed for time, so almost no links).

Brock Turner sexually assaults an unconscious woman. His father tells the judge Turner shouldn’t have his life ruined for a few minutes of bad judgment. Sentence: three months in county jail.

Larry Nassar, a gymnastics doctor at the University of Michigan molested and felt up his patients for years. Patients complained to the university administration, repeatedly. The university does nothing.

In Alaska, Justin Schneider was charged with kidnapping and assault in a rape case. He pled guilty to one assault charge. No jail time. Prosecutor and judge say losing his job and spending a year on house arrest with his family is enough punishment, so he gets a free pass. But he’d better not do it again, by golly!

A rapist in Maryland some years back choked his victim before the actual sex act. Cops conclusion: he wasn’t choking her at the moment of penetration, so he wasn’t really using force. No charges.

A man in Colorado leaves an answering machine message telling a woman that yes, the sex they’d had the night before was rape. Prosecutor (now congressman) Ken Buck told the woman it still seemed to him like “buyer’s remorse.” No charges filed.

Elizabeth Bruenig, in a recent WaPo article, writes about how there was a rape case in her home town. The victim reported it, and got villified, with graffiti popping up everywhere suggesting she should be raped some more (FAITH, for “Fuck Amber In Three Holes”).

Multiple Protestant churches have covered up for rapists. As, obviously, does the Catholic Church. And mosques. And some Jewish communities).

A Brooklyn cop a couple of years back said that he wasn’t worried about the uptick in rape cases in his precinct because they were all acquaintance rape, which isn’t as bad as stranger rape (men who rape strangers, they’re the evil ones!). For some reason that eluded him, a lot of the victims decided not to cooperate with the police.

Cases like these tell rape victims they won’t be believed. And even if they’re believed, there won’t be charges or a trial. And that if there’s a trial, the court won’t want the rapist to suffer or see his future ruined. His redemption, and being sincerely sorry, is taken as a given. Conversely, rapists learn the risk/reward ratio favors them (as one guy put it after the election, Trump winning demonstrates you can commit sexual assault and not suffer any consequences). The system’s on their side. Bystanders learn that only losers get raped. Rapists are winners; siding with them and judging the victim (as in the Bruenig case, or Steubenville) makes you one of the cool kids. If you’re part of a college/church/organization, you learn you’re expected to shut your mouth at a minimum, at a maximum to provide cover.

Rape culture isn’t an organized set of beliefs. It’s dozens of individual acts, individual cases, all of which combined tell us what’s acceptable and what isn’t. What’s a crime and what’s just boys having a little fun. And until we root it out, women will continue not to come forward.

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Story Behind the Story: Not In Our Stars But In Ourselves

As I’ve mentioned before, my protagonists in Atoms for Peace are a lot less racist than they’d probably be in the real world. In some vague gesture of realism, one of the leads in Not In Our Stars, Not in Ourselves, is a good deal more bigoted.

L.G. “Elegy” Walker was born in East Jesus, Kentucky, grew up poor white, but by 1958, he’s a mid-level official at Cape Canaveral. The space program, a joint US/USSR effort, is about to launch humanity’s first lunar mission (reverse-engineering alien ships has jump-started space flight). Walker has remade himself into a calm, accomplished professional. He’s shrewd about who to kiss up to and who he can safely ignore, and intensely career focused. Like a lot of people who know what it’s like to have nothing, he’s a little intense about not losing what he has, hence security officer Valentina Eisenstein nicknamking him Elegy.

Despite the changes in him, the racism Walker grew up with is alive and well in him. He’s able to accept that a few blacks can be as good as a white man (there are black astronauts in the program), but they’re the exception. When ‘s framed for murder, the horror isn’t the murder but the supposed motive: he had a black lover, she got pregnant so he killed her to avoid scandal. The thought that people might think he’d crossed the color line, the thought that his parents or the other folks back home might believe it … his brain pretty much shuts down with horror.

Fortunately Eisenstein’s brain is working. A WW II Soviet sniper turned security officer, she identifies with Elegy in a way; they’ve both had to work and fight to get their present position. She knows he wouldn’t take a black lover, or one who was bottom-drawer of the working class (that’s what he’s running away from). But can she prove it? And given that he’s not really anyone important, what possible motive could anyone have for the frame?

I really like Eisenstein. She’s smart, capable, smokes a pipe (it keeps men off balance, which is useful for a security officer), and hates life in Florida with its head, humidity and lack of culture. I’d love to use her in Brain From Outer Space but I doubt I can work her in.

This was the first story in the series I wrote after moving to Durham, and the writer’s group helped a lot, straightening out some plot points. Thanks, y’all!

#SFWApro. Cover by Zakaria Nada.

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Rape, predators and prey

As several bloggers and pundits have pointed out, it’s creepy that the response to Brett Kavanaugh saying he totally did not assault Christine Bresley Ford is to declare that even if he did, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Given the chance to pretend they don’t tolerate predators, that they protect human prey — something that’s part of government’s police function — the right wing picks the predator’s side. When a second accuser spoke up against Kavanaugh, the Republican response was to speed up the vote.

And we’re not talking incels and other creeps venting online, we’re talking the Republican mainstream. Of course, they’re not always pro-predator: if the predation is black-on-white, or hispanic on white, then they want the hammer dropped. Even after the Central Park Five were cleared, Trump kept insisting they were guilty. But white man praying on woman? No big!

This isn’t unique. Communities shit on rape victims. The religious defends in-church predators just like the Catholic Church. Paige Patterson, the former Southern Baptist leader who told women to stay with their abusers, is preaching again; some supporters say firing him for not reporting a students’ rape wasn’t Biblical. At this point, part of Kavanaugh’s appeal is that appointing him is a triumph for sexism: ” It has to be this guy, now, because he has been accused, credibly, of attempting to rape a 15-year-old girl in 1982—moreover because people believe this should be considered a disqualifying blight on his record. The thing that must happen is that those people must be defeated.” It’s a nastier version of owning the liberals, but it’s also about reinforcing male supremacy: men can do whatever they damn well please to women without consequences.

As I’ve said before, that’s the nature of patriarchy. I suspect it’s one reason court evangelicals are comfortable supporting Trump (or Roy Moore). Men are free to do what they want with women, it’s up to the women to find a way to restrain them. If not, the men are entitled to prey. Those who aren’t comfortable saying that aloud just lie: Bible-thumper Franklin Graham’s response to the allegations has been to lie that Kavanaugh stopped as soon as Ford said no. The stuff about him covering her mouth, turning the music up loud? Look, crickets!

Dennis Prager explains it’s taking the charges seriously that will damage “America’s moral compass” and the proper way to deal with sexual assault at work is to hide: “When my wife was a waitress in her mid teens, the manager of her restaurant grabbed her breasts and squeezed them on numerous occasions. She told him to buzz off, figured out how to avoid being in places where they were alone, and continued going about her job. That’s empowerment.” No, it’s survival. I’m sorry your wife is married to you, dude.

A White House lawyer says that if Kavanaugh can be brought down by these accusations — “brought down” meaning going back to his current job as a lifetime-appointed federal judge — “every man should certainly be worried.” Well, no, only men who’ve held a woman down and covered her mouth to prevent her screaming. As Lili Loufbourow says, the underlying message is that boys do evil things and we should just accept that’s the way of the world (not a new right-wing insight).

An alternative theory is that it happened but Ford misidentified the attacker. Right-wing think-tanker Ed Whelan actually accused another man by name; Kathleen Parker tried the same tack without naming anyone. This seems like a split-the-difference tactic (nobody’s lying, someone’s just wrong!) but as noted at the first link, it’s not getting any traction. And possibly Whelan came up with it after talking with Kavanaugh.

Law professor Amy Chua, who knows and supports Kavanaugh’s nomination, also told female students who wanted to clerk for him that “it was no accident” his female clerks look like models.

By the time you read this, I may already be a couple of developments behind. So to end on something a little more upbeat, here’s advice on consent: don’t make people drink tea.


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Women, rubber, luck, Hitchcock and ‘toons: books read

I’ve been meaning to reread THE MISMEASURE OF WOMAN: Why Women are Not the Better Sex, the Inferior Sex or the Opposite Sex by Carol Tavris as research for Undead Sexist Cliches and finally did so. Tavris looks critically at the assumptions men are the default normal setting for homo sapiens, and that women are a defective copy, so when women do it differently, they’re doing it wrong. Tavris doesn’t deny women and men are different, but sees the differences as rooted in different life experiences rather than fundamental biology, and she shows how the explanations shift constantly; brain science, for example, “proves” men are superior because their brains are bigger, or more specialized, or particular parts of the brain are bigger, depending which theory is currently popular. Despite coming out in 1992, still timely; even though sociobiology seems to have vanished into the trash can of science, evolutionary psychology has filled the same place.

THIEF AT THE END OF THE WORLD: Rubber, Power and the Seeds of Empire, by Joe Jackson, shows why several Doc Savage novels such as The Flaming Falcons revolved around the USA getting its own rubber supply. Starting in the 19th century, rubber became as vital as oil would be to the 20th: waterproofing, insulation, molding into plastics, and as a cushion wherever mechanical parts in engines had to smash up against each other. The only source was South America, in part of the Amazon, until a Brit named Henry Wickham smuggled some seeds out, a shining triumph in an otherwise unsuccessful life. Complicating his efforts were Brazilian authorities interested in stopping such acts of biopiracy, and the classism and bureaucracy of the British government (collectors such as Wickham were considered lower-class, less scientists than gardeners). Overall, very good.

CITY OF LOST FORTUNES by Bryan Camp caught my attention because of his discussion on John Scalzi’s blog of the roles luck and trickster figures play in the novel. In practice, it’s a fairly standard urban fantasy set in New Orleans and being the demigod son of some Trickster doesn’t make the protagonist any snarkier or more anti-authoritarian than, say, Harry Dresden. So not for me, but if you like urban fantasy more than I do … One thing I do notice is that the power level is notably higher than most urban fantasies I’ve read; Dresden took a lot longer to actually start squaring off against gods.

THE HITCHCOCK ROMANCE: Love and Irony in Hitchcock’s Films by Lesley Brill argues that far from being cynical, Hitch’s films hold up love and marriage as the ideal end game for his protagonists, though not necessarily an attainable one. Brill divides much of Hitchcock’s output into Romances (true love triumphs over past tragedy [Marnie] or current obstacles [North by Northwest]) and Ironic which uses the same tropes and elements, but the lovers are dragged down (Vertigo). Heavy academese made this a slow read, but Brill’s persuasive enough I’ll keep it handy if I ever go through a Hitchcock rewatching cycle.

THE FIFTY GREATEST CARTOONS offers a nice range of viewing between #1 (What’s Opera Doc?) and #50 (Felix in Hollywood), including UA, Warner Brothers, Tex Avery, Disney and assorted indies. The picks (based on a survey of professional animators) include the landmark Gertie the Dinosaur, the unconventional The Old Mill, Tex Avery’s classic Northwest Hounded Police (“Don’t look now/use your noodle/You’re being followed/by Sgt. McPoodle.”) and weirdies such as Bambi Meets Godzilla. I’m not sure this list is one for the ages — would anyone my niece’s age get the parody elements of The Dover Boys and does it work without them? — but I still enjoyed this. The book includes a listing of various collections containing the ‘toons, but it’s a 1990s book so they’re all videotapes.

#SFWApro. Cover by James Bama, all rights to image remain with current holder.


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A bandleader, a silent Frenchman and Dr. Mabuse (sort of): movies viewed

Anthony Mann directed two movies that gave Jimmy Stewart a darker edge, Winchester ’73 and Bend of the River. He also directed the very non-dark THE GLENN MILLER STORY (1954), starring Jimmy Stewart as the once legendary band leader and June Allyson as the woman behind the man. This is a standard musical biopic showing Miller’s (largely fictitious) rise from struggling musician to band leader before he vanished flying over the English channel in 1945. The most interesting thing is Allyson as Mrs. Miller because she’s such a fantasy figure: drops her current boyfriend when Glenn calls for the first time in two years, infinitely patient and understanding, and finances his first band by saving money every week from the household accounts. With Henry Morgan as Stewart’s best friend and Louis Armstrong and Gene Kruppa playing themselves; well-executed with pleasant music, but it definitely suffers that it’s music from an older generation (I imagine millennials would be just as uninterested in The Mick Jagger Story). “I like Moonlight Serenade, you like Moonlight Serenade … but nobody else does”

LA SILENCE DE LA MER (1949) is Jean-Pierre Melville’s adaptation of the same-name WW II novel, in which a French gentleman and his daughter greet the German officer quartered in their house during the occupation with stony silence. They keep this up despite the charming officer’s willingness to monologue at length, declaring himself a Francophile who dreams of the day their nations will be one — only to learn near the end that his fellow officers have no more use for the French than they do for Jews. This created a fair amount of controversy over whether it was soft on Nazis or showing that even when they appear nice, they’re still the enemy; another controversy (as detailed in the multiple special features) was that Melville didn’t get the author’s permission. Instead he made it over a couple of years (he only scraped together money for one day’s filmmaking at a time), then offered to show it to a jury of resistance fighters to decide whether it was worth releasing (one of the interviewees scoffed that the chance of them saying no after he’d labored so long was nil). Well done, but more interesting than enjoyable. “Poor Beauty — she is at the Beast’s mercy but he insists on imposing his awful presence.”

French filmmaker Claude Chabrol was a big admirer of Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse films,  and in DR. M (1989) he got to make his own, including a poster that would have fit some of Lang’s films perfectly. When a wave of suicides strikes East and West Berlin, a detective (Jan Nicklas) sees a connection with Sonja (Jennifer Beals), the spokesmodel for a booming vacation resort. Beals insists that’s crazy, but it turns out sinister Dr. Marsfeldt (Alan Bates) is using her without her even knowing it. In the ultimate gamble for men’s souls, “Dr. M” is brainwashing people across Berlin to kill themselves, a plot he gloats can no more be broken than the Berlin Wall itself.

Of course as this came out right about the time the wall came down, the heavy use of the divided city made it almost instantly dated. Mabuse expert David Kalat says Dr. M also fell between the stools: not enough of a thriller for the mass audience, but not arty enough for Chabrol’s established fans. As the other films listed in Kalat’s Strange Case of Dr. Mabuse are unavailable, that wraps up this little cycle of rewatching. “It’s like God’s playing Russian roulette”

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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Dogs and disease bedevil me

An unanticipated side effect of Hurricane Florence (trivial in comparison to what some of my friends are dealing with) was that our doggy day care, Suite Paws, was shut this week.

They were shut last week for a remodeling job that was supposed to end Wednesday. However the contractors were stuck in Fayetteville due to the floods, so they didn’t reopen for daycare until today. So I haven’t had a break from dogs since Dragoncon. Well except TYG took them Friday last week when she was staying home because of Florence. After a while, the lack of any personal space adds up and stresses me out. Being squeezed together on the new love seat doesn’t help. Even though they’re so damn cute (below, Plush mid-drying after going out in the rain).

While we could have taken them in today, they have a new collar requirement so I wanted to pick up the right kind of collar before we went in (though I gather they have some on hand). So no break today.

And earlier this week, the Con Crud (most likely) hit me. Sore throat, general dragginess. So I just rested up Thursday and today, and lavished care on my throat to ensure it didn’t become really bad as it has in the past. Seems to be working — I’m definitely not feeling worse today, and maybe a little better. Maybe.

I did pass the 70,000 word mark on Southern Discomfort which was my goal for the month. I intend to get further next week, assuming I recover by Monday. And I batted out a half-dozen articles for Leaf, which brings in more money. I also discovered that if I write my 1,000 words of new material (a daily goal I have consistently fallen short on) first thing in the morning, I can actually succeed. However I tried this on Wednesday and so I haven’t been able to repeat the trick.

Wish me a full recovery by Monday.



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One Loveseat, Furnished With Dogs

Our couch was old.

As in, TYG got it back in the 1990s right after college. You can see it below, on the curb, but that doesn’t do the sheer rattiness justice.

Age is no big deal for us. Neither of us is into spending money just to have fashionable furnishings. But it was getting kind of lumpy and squishy (though my friend Cindy, during her visit, pronounced it great to sleep on) and it’s also got patches of exposed fluff which the dogs could easily swallow (Trixie’s gone in to the vet with a stomach of “unidentified fluff” though not from that source). So we decided to replace it, along with our easy chair, which is almost as old and not as comfortable.

While TYG delegates a lot of household stuff to me, this decision was aesthetic so it was primarily hers. After checking out some local stores she went online and found a love seat and a chair that seemed to work. She showed ’em to me; I agreed. Part of the appeal of the chair is that it should be wide enough to hold me and bothd dogs. It’s really frustrating when I’m in the chair, Plush is in my lap and I can’t make space for Trixie if she wants to join us.

The new love seat arrived Tuesday. Due to Hurricane Florence, our garbage pickup had been pushed back a day which was providential: we hadn’t missed the Large Items pick-up day so we had the delivery guys take the old couch to the curb. Kind of sad to see it disposed of so summarily … but not really. And thank goodness the timing was right: watching them struggle with it, I can’t imagine TYG and I pulling it off, even if we asked our neighbors to help.

The dogs were freaked out enough that we had DUDES IN THE HOUSE!! And that I wouldn’t even let them get under foot and demand petting. Then they came up and began sniffing at the new couch, wondering what the hell it was, and eventually deciding they approved. And so now they and we are adapting.

I knew the new love seat would be smaller than the couch, as did she, but we didn’t really visualize what that would feel like or be like to use. If I have the dogs on either side of me, it’s fine, but if Plushie’s in my lap, it’s really difficult to fit my lap desk to the side as I usually do. I wind up typing with my desk and keyboard at a very awkward angle (though I manage it). It’s also trickier to take naps with the dogs and fit us all in.  And to fit in the ramps up to the couch, we have to keep the coffee table a little further away, making it harder to rest anything on it.

All of which can be worked around. I’ll be doing some rearranging once we get the chair in and I’m confident we can find an optimum arrangement.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine. And yes, I know I didn’t actually show the love seat furnished with the pups, but hopefully soon.

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Kavanaugh, sexual assault and witch hunts

I’m already on the record that I consider Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, a dreadful candidate. He’s been picked because he’s a reliable right-wing voter who apparently has zero respect for women’s control of their bodies (he ruled the state could impose abortions on two mentally handicapped women who didn’t want abortions).

And now a woman, Christine Ford, has gone public with charges he attempted to rape her back at a high school party (she has discussed it years earlier) To which the Republican response has been outrage, at Ford and at Dems, for scheming to stop Kavanaugh. How dare they! Along with “he didn’t do it!” and “you can’t prove he did it!” I’ve seen arguments that even if Ford’s telling the truth, what Kavanaugh did at 17 is completely irrelevant to who they are now; that we shouldn’t punish him for a teenage error; assault is just teenage horseplay; that this is a “witch hunt”; and that if they can destroy Kavanaugh this way, all men are vulnerable!

All of which leads Scott Lemieux, among others, to wonder why the GOP still supports him. The Republicans have stuffed the federal judiciary with right-wingers so finding someone with the same right-wing views and paper credentials shouldn’t be hard. True, he favors insulating Trump from legal charges, but he can’t do that without a majority of the court on board. And as noted at the link, it’s unlikely the Dems will be able to block a new nominee, even if they take the Senate in the mid-terms. So why not look for someone who doesn’t have any allegations of sexual assault against them?

Well, Trump already has a history of supporting men with a history of spousal abuse. I doubt he’d have an issue appointing a rapist to the Supreme Court, but I’m sure he resents liberals telling him no or suggesting that a man doesn’t have the right to do anything he pleases with women. For some on the right, the charge may give the nomination more spice: take that feminazis! A nastier version of owning the liberals. White House sources say it slightly differently: giving in would ruin Trump’s image as the guy crushing his adversaries.

As for the specific arguments I mentioned, well they don’t hold water either. “He was 17” is a fair argument if he was misbehaving but assault is something else again. It’s not harmless teenage mischief (as Caitlin Flanagan points out), any more than Trump bragging about harassing women was just locker-room talk.  As Lance Mannion says, the real question is, should someone who committed a violent crime be on the Supreme Court? “He was 17” assumes the answer is yes; it shouldn’t be. We’re not talking about jailing him based on Ford’s letter, but whether he should sit on the country’s highest court.

I can’t help wondering if some of the men dismissing Ford are thinking back to their own teen (or adult) years and assuring themselves this is bullshit: they did stuff like that, they’re obviously not rapists, so what he did must have been okay! Rough horseplay, that’s the word!

As for being a witch hunt, how? A charge has been made. It’s being investigated. Nobody’s suggesting removing Kavanaugh from his current lifetime gig as a federal judge. And I’ll bet very few of the “witch hunt” screamers are as vocal about the charges Hilary Clinton is leader of a vast ring of pedophile Satanist cannibals, which comes a lot closer to being a literal witch hunt (and as the Pizzagate incident shows, one that could potentially lead to violence).

I doubt this will derail Kavanaugh, but Ill be delighted if it does.

PS. Bonus note: After Ford’s charge hit the news, the Republicans presented a list of women who supported Kavanaugh. Most of whom now take it back And Kavanaugh’s buddy and character witness Mark Judge isn’t exactly known for his supportive views of women. More examples here. And here (including blaming rape on the way women dress)

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Philadelphia Story: Movie vs. Play vs. Book

One of the things that struck me rewatching THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940) was how effectively director George Cukor uses our eyes.

There’s a scene, for instance, where Mac (Jimmy Stewart) is checking out the array of high-priced wedding gifts in Tracy’s house. As he toys with some of them, we see (and he notices) the butler watching him warily in case he pockets something. He waits a second then withdraws, conscious he’s been pushing the envelope. There’s no dialogue; it’s all in the two men’s expressions and body language.

Later in the film, when Mac proposes to Tracy, the camera cuts to both Dex (Cary Grant) and Liz (Ruth Hussey), both of them startled and alarmed as that’s not at all what they want. Again, the visuals to the work.

Jeanine Basinger’s commentary track points out how different some of this is from the Broadway play the film is based on. Cukor can focus the camera on Dex’s face, then Liz; in the theater, we’d be looking at the whole tableau or more likely Tracy and Mac. Cukor’s camera use not only breaks up what might be stage-bound scenes (when Dex and Tracy rehash their marriage, the camera keeps cutting to the reluctant witness Mac) but makes sure we see what we need to see.

With print fiction, it’s a mix. Our words function like a camera; we can use them to point readers’ attention at whatever it needs to pay attention to. On the other hand, we can’t impart visuals as effortlessly. To show Liz and Dex reacting, we’d either have to tell their feelings (which is perfectly legitimate) or strain to focus on their expression (“Behind Mac, Liz’s face froze in a mask of alarm.”). Neither is as smooth as just pointing the camera.

Likewise, the sumptuous luxury of the household, the elegant gowns and suits, we’d have to describe them instead of effortlessly showing them.

Then again, it’s not really effortless. Sure, the images hit our eyes without any trouble or exposition, but it takes a shit-ton of hard work behind the scenes for that to happen. We don’t need set crews, set decorators or props to build a fantastic, beautiful mansion. Just words. And we don’t have to worry about casting.

It’s one reason I’m happy to work in print.

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Story Behind the Story: A Many-Splendored Thing

So Buckshot Magazine‘s third issue came out last week, including my flash fiction story A Many Splendored Thing. Which I realize now is wildly different from the way I originally imagined it.

Back in 2008, I read Guyland by Michael Kimmel, and got creeped out by one of the twentysomething men Kimmel quotes, venting about how That Bitch he’d been hitting on shouldn’t have the power to decide whether he got laid that evening. Of course, she doesn’t, she only has the power to decide if he sleeps with her, but apparently he felt that was unreasonable. So I started with a simmering, pissed-off potential rapist and imagined someone egging him on, encouraging him to cross the line.

By itself, that wasn’t enough, so I began adding more incidents, more people out for sex or love and getting really bad advice. Why were they getting it? Well, read the story. Like Dark Satanic Mills in Atlas Shagged, it became a satire on lifestyle magazines and their endless advice about finding the right person, wearing the right suit to attract the right person, being sufficiently manly or sensitive or … well, whatever.

In the process, it got a lot funnier, so I had to rewrite the initial incident. A rape incident didn’t fit with a light-hearted satire, so I kept “why should she decide?” line but just made the guy resentful about being turned down, not a potential rapist.

It’s flash fiction so if you want to click on the link, it won’t take you long to read.

#SFWApro. Don’t know cover artist, but all rights to image remain with current copyright holder.

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