The Masks Come Off Before Midnight This Year

By Maria Padhila

If you wanted to hide something, this wasn’t the year. From the NSA to the PTA, everyone was getting outed, all over the world. Polyamory, of course, had a big year. It was like it was just invented or something, instead of being simply another way humanoids have been living and loving together for thousands of years. Polyamory is also being “positioned,” as they say, for the next big social and political battle, now that there have been so many victories in LGBT marriage. If right wingers have started to notice it and fight it, you know it’s going to be a thing.

Poly Paradise at Burning Man. Photo by Eric.
Poly Paradise at Burning Man. Photo by Eric.

The dynamic of what is hidden and what is revealed, what is privacy and what are its uses and abuses, is the critical question when it comes to relationships. How much of my relationship is nobody’s damn business, and how much should I reveal in order to live simply and love freely? I think it’s going to be the big question that defines the next several decades. It affects how we’re going to live together, as we realize we can no longer use the tribal model, that we’re all in this same big boat here on Earth.

A lot of the “outing” of polyamory has come from the bravery of people allowing themselves to be written about, filmed and shown live and in color in various media, sharing their thoughts, emotions and daily lives. I don’t consider myself brave, and I’m not obviously and boldly out. My strategy is to share information with discretion, because I like my privacy. But that might not be possible much longer.

My own decisions aside, when I pull back and look at people like the triad who is willing to appear in their local paper, I am really moved by their courage. So I really want to thank everyone who has commented here this year, for starters, and kept this conversation going. You might have helped someone more than you know with your thoughts and your shared experiences. You help me, and always keep me thinking. I wish you a year full of love.

But I wanted to look at the latest in an ongoing event that’s turning out to have long-lasting results in this year without privacy: the rape case in Steubenville, Ohio. At the end of November, the New York Times reporter who helped get wider attention to the case wrote:

A year ago this week, Michael McVey, the superintendent of schools in Steubenville, Ohio, sat in a conference room down the hall from his office and said he knew none of the details of Aug. 11, 2012, the night a 16-year-old girl was raped by two Steubenville High football players at a series of parties on a hot summer night.

Nope, he said, he didn’t know much, aside from the rumors that had been swirling around the football-crazy town for months. He told me and a colleague that he had not spoken with any of the students thought to be involved in the event because it hadn’t taken place on school grounds or during the school year. Besides, he said, he usually let the football coach take care of that sort of thing.

Basically, he was saying, it was none of his business. So he stayed out of it.

Yeah, no. Wrong approach. Anonymous got involved, and broadcast some of the social media that teens around town had posted about the incidents; a crime-fighting blogger also played a big role, and before long, it was way out. The latest is that four adults, including that superintendent, have received various charges in the case, in addition to two young people who were charged and sentenced.

In November, four adults were charged with crimes in connection with the rape case. The superintendent, McVey, was charged with tampering with evidence, among other charges. Accusations of a second rape have emerged.

The response from much of the town’s power structure has been from the beginning to “put this behind us.” Not happening. Along with the charges for the adults, another legal issue is coming out — and this is guaranteed to keep the whole thing in the public eye for a good long time. One might call this guy the Snowden of Steubenville.

From Rolling Stone:

Shortly after the news [of the adult charges] hit that morning, Deric Lostutter, a skinny, scruffy 26-year-old programmer in Lexington, Kentucky, whipped out his cell phone and texted me a message. “We were called liars and more,” he wrote, but “we were right about it.” He had reason to feel vindicated. As one of the most notorious members of the hacker collective, Anonymous, Lostutter battled to bring justice to Steubenville, exposing secrets of a town that’s still reeling from the fallout today. He just never expected that he’d get raided by the FBI, and face more prison time than the rapists in the end.

Yes, you read that right: the one who helped bring it to light may get more prison time than rapists. Read the Rolling Stone profile, because Lostutter, who also targeted the viciously bigoted Westboro Baptist Church and revenge porn sites, is kind of the flip side of the football players — a young person in a dying heartland town, looking for something meaningful to do with his energies, and getting no kind of guidance, proper protection, or support from adults, who are too busy scrambling to cover up any trouble and shut down any talk of trouble, so the reality of their own lives won’t be revealed.

Even Anonymous itself outed Lostutter, saying he had too much ego and had violated the collective’s standards on privacy. They said he bragged and talked too much — he was too out there. See why this matter of privacy just keeps getting more and more complicated?

Then came the FBI raid — as usual, enormous overkill for a kid who likes to play around on his computer and doesn’t like bullies:

April 17, after hunting turkey, he came back home to take a shower and heard a truck roll up his driveway. He assumed it was UPS delivering a t-shirt he’d ordered from a gun dealer, but a SWAT team stormed inside instead. “Get the fuck down!” They shouted, cuffing Lostutter as Thor helplessly watched. Awakened by the noise, Lostutter’s brother stormed downstairs with his .45, thinking a robber had broken in, only to be cuffed too. As the cops turned the house upside down looking for what they called “anti-American” contraband, Lostutter told them, in his southern drawl, “I guess I know why you’re here.

Lostutter claims he was not shown a warrant before the raid, nor was he Mirandized. As they showed him alleged correspondence between him and McHugh, they said they’d been watching him since before Steubenville and that someone out there was “selling you down the river.” He says they’d spent hours smashing through his property, busting out the windows of his RV looking for evidence. He also claims they told him never to tell anyone of this raid or he would face additional charges for destroying and tampering with evidence. (The FBI did not comment).

When his girlfriend came home to the chaotic scene later that day, he finally broke down and told her of his secret identity as KYAnonymous. He had no idea how she’d react, but she threw her arms around him in support. “I think what he did was awesome,” Hannah tells me, “he stood up for someone who no one else was.” In that moment he felt something surprising, relief. “It’s the most freeing fucking shit in the world,” he says, “Like you’re just living a double life and now you can just be you.”

” … There was one more rally in Ohio too, but this time it wasn’t Lostutter’s doing. It was organized on his behalf by Demand Progress, the activist organization co-founded by Swartz, and UltraViolet, the women’s rights group. For UltraViolet co-founder Nita Chaudhary, his prosecution is “horrifying,” she tells me, “This is rape culture at work. Deric helped expose a horrible crime and cover-up, and he is facing five times more jail time than the rapists? It’s disgusting and it’s a wake up call for our entire nation.”

As the Times reporter, Juliet Macur, says of her investigation: “Many of the adults I spoke to in Steubenville feigned ignorance about the rape, including the high school’s principal and football coach, or blamed the victim for what happened.” That won’t be possible when they’re facing a judge.

When this went down, I asked the question: Who benefits from rape culture? The question came to mind because the whole situation was looking like some kind of noir movie. The small town with the corruption at the top; the wild youth who stop at nothing to get what they want; the scandals and the coverups. The football coach even threatened the New York Times reporter, seemingly taking a line right out of one of Bogart’s lesser efforts.

It’s laughable until somebody gets hurt. Then you see, from the outsider’s perspective, the snow globe world this Ohio town represents. It could be a model for the larger world. It’s surely where the workers, the teachers, the members of Congress are coming from. So what happens there matters. The question applies: Who benefits?

My answer — and your mileage may vary — is that the adults in this situation, with many of the usual routes for finding value and happiness (fulfilling work, loving relationships, challenging social or creative problems to solve) had placed their identities and their esteem at the mercy of the wins and losses of a sports team. The “winners,” the young people who looked like they had a chance to get out, and at the same time who could bring pride to the town, were all they felt they had going for them.

Why else were they treated like young gods, allowed to violate every boundary without a word, strenuously protected from any consequences? Why did so many find it impossible to believe that these young people could have done such a thing; why did they deny it had even happened, even when the photos were right there in front of them?

Because their identities were tied to those of these children. And this is the tragedy, by my lights. I’m open to hearing what others have to say, but what I can say is this: I’ve been raped and physically abused, but the abuse that warps my life to this day is this sort of “identity theft,” where as a child you are made a proxy for someone else’s happiness and fulfillment. It destroys trust and it implants self-doubt in the DNA. And it’s how most people raise children. They’re “our” children and they “belong” to us — how often do you hear that?

So I’m going someplace pretty radical with this, and it’s something we can open up more down the line. This sense of “belonging” to another, either overt or unacknowledged, certainly has a lot to do with marriage, monogamy and other types of relationships. For today, just consider the question: Who benefits from rape culture?

But even without going that far, the recent news from Steubenville is heartening. The first place people go is to say that adults are responsible for teenagers, shouldn’t allow teenagers to drink — and yep, that’s against the law — should set up a culture where if you see something, you say something. This latter is the only even slightly wrong lesson I can see coming out of this. We don’t need a spy culture; we need a culture that doesn’t accept rape. This is why the Anonymous response is OK with me: they simply put out what was there, possible evidence of a crime. We still have a long way to go, but meaningful prosecution and public vilification of those who benefit from rape culture is one step.

6 thoughts on “The Masks Come Off Before Midnight This Year”

  1. This is a wonderful & informative conversation. I have long believed that a culture’s “god(s)”
    are a projection of that culture, something I’ve been harshly criticized for daring to say. I find the ongoing rape of the planet just another aspect of the belief that the Genesis myth, in the case of the Christian system, gave humans “dominion” – it’s all about US, which becomes it’s all FOR US.

    An example which particularly grieves me is occurring on land next to mine, where my neighbouring land owner, as pious & meek a Christian as one could meet, is turning a beautiful patch of prairie into gravel pits – supplementing his comfortable income & enabling him to better support the missionary work of his church.

    Other pillage takes the form of acres of aspen forest being bulldozed & burned & lovely empty farmyards & windbreaks destroyed, to make larger fields for the big machinery of corporate farms. Then the miles & miles of GMO canola can be planted.

    I see what’s happening in the North American “breadbasket” of grain growing areas as the latest chapter in the modern version of the destruction of ways of living that once sustained families & communities in very self sufficient ways. Now, it’s all about competition, & the small land holder gets squeezed off the land or becomes a peasant tenant required to grow what he is told, how he is told, without regard for the health of the land, the animals, or people. The “bottom line” has become a kind of deity itself.

    wandering_yeti, I find your references to heavy meat consumption possibly being conducive to a particular attitude & behaviour most interesting. This is consistent with my observations. Some say that one can’t survive in an extremely cold climate without eating large amounts of meat, but I don’t agree. Healthy fats certainly help generate energy, but meat is not the only source.

    In terms of attitudes toward women, I can definitely say that the men I’ve known whose preferred diet was 75% meat were also the ones most likely to regard sex as something like a steak: me want it – now. Just another appetite. Hardly a scientific survey, just my personal anecdotal experience.

  2. Pasta and pesto for me tonight! I’m overdue a serious detox, which is the first thing for me to take care of in the new year. Love to you and best wishes for 2014. nilou

  3. Scarcity, a possible scenario: when the horse lords invaded the Middle East and Europe I think they had already adapted to actual scarcity. When they found the forest people they did the same thing corporations do now, but with less machine power: hack up the forest to make grazing land for livestock and to fuel the furnaces to make more swords. The powerful of the raiding parties had already adapted to taking what they want by force, couldn’t speak the local language, and had no idea they were trashing a food forest, a source of abundance for all. They could only see the abundance of woods as fuel, as timber. They lost the sense of a forest as the source of all our shelter, clothing, tools, art and food. They had so long adapted to an actual scarcity that they couldn’t recognize abundance that wasn’t of their own making. Just like the CEOs of the present competitor’s club.

  4. Suria: The stories of those ‘gods’ were written down by people of the cultures that did the things those gods were said to have done. Of course the Greek gods rape; Greek soldiers raped and the stories will reflect the practices of a culture. Where does it come from? The dominator style came out of vast grasslands and deserts where there was little to eat but goats, chickens, horses and cows. A culture that eats that much meat will probably be dominated by males whose livers become a painful knot that inspires violent behavior. They roam around on horses so a woman is a burden, especially if she’s pregnant. They have no gardens, their food forest long ago destroyed by climate change. Maybe aliens dropped them off in deserts.

    I don’t know how they got there originally but I’m pretty sure from my wide reading that dominator humans arise out of eating too much meat and later on beer, bread and meat. Our digestive tracts are best suited to digesting fruits and vegetables with the staples of empire diets as a decoration, not the main support. We’re forest critters. We fry in the sunlight of the desert. Dehydration makes us more crispy, makes violent emotions easier to happen.

    I think you’re right, Suria: no one truly benefits from this practice. I think it’s a bad habit some humans picked up during the last great cataclysm and spread over the Earth one ecosystem at a time. The king of the hill dies paranoid and alone. If this universe is here to be enjoyed by all that doesn’t seem like a good way to do it.

  5. The profiteers who scrape their spoils from violence benefit from rape culture. Rape is just another aspect of war. It’s tradition. Greeks, Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Huns, etc. etc. would use armies to destroy the web of life supporting the people of the land they wanted to invade, taking slaves and killing everyone who rebelled, raping at will any women they could catch.

    Competition culture thrives when we fear each other enough to create enemies again and again. Competition seeps into every aspect of American life. The idea that competition is the engine of evolution pollutes the great grand children of Rome as it polluted the lands Rome invaded. Vomitoriums and gladiators: these are the heroes of the empire builders and the CEOs. Money doesn’t care if you get raped. It only cares if the money stays in the hands of its chosen few. The King of the Hill mentality pervades American society, fuels the consumer trance where we buy buy buy and constantly measure ourselves against other people’s collections of stuff. The King of the Hill takes what he wants and ends all arguments with a tantrum.

    I see rape as another aspect of the thing that’s ripping up the life web of Earth. Tripping out on money games while the Earth goes up in flames, it’s not just Rome this time. Burning burning, fire and metal worship tear up the soil, poison the wind, burn up the wood, fill the water with plastic, set up nuclear time bombs everywhere while calling them ‘power plants’…rape is just another damn thing in the many layered pie of damn things that arise from the actions of internally cracked humans.

    Looking through the lens of money, the competitors don’t see this happening. They pay all attention to the health of their creation and don’t give a shit about the Earth that makes it all possible, including Earth’s creatures, including the humans who they see as merely resources to be exploited: rape trains women to be obedient. Soft men too. If women rose up against the empire they would tear it apart.

  6. Hey, Maria!

    Thank you! So much here, but I’m still in holiday mood and finishing the pink bubbly I was having with dinner, so please could I keep this at the level of after dinner chat?

    Who benefits from rape culture? in the long run – absolutely no-one at all. Like war it leaves a trail of wounding, harm, and psychic death, and embeds the patterns of pain and destruction in another generation of innocents. Where does it come from?

    Could we blame it on the gods? According to the Western myths rape is just one of the things gods do. Especially when there is a need for the social order to be reminded who has power – who is in charge.

    By the time the mythic world is translated to a global 21st century phenomenon abusive expressions of power seem pervasive. Rape is one form of violation in a culture that continues to glorify violence. And in living within this culture we may easily become locked into survival and scarcity thinking and easily suspicious of the next threat to our autonomy. That is, until we stop, and look for another way. Until we create a better way for us to live, in community where we consciously take up the routes of our collective healing.

    I would say that the prevalent feature of the society in which ownership equals power is fear. Fear of not having enough. Fear of not being enough. Fear of not surviving. Fear of death above love of life. The culture of competition seems compelling because it pretends there is a way out. Compete, be better, more, faster, richer, younger, anythinger than the next person and perhaps death can be dodged after all. That ain’t gonna happen.

    So where to go from here?

    First, thanks to you from me for carrying these issues so bravely and boldly, and for creating a safe space where things can be discussed out in the open. My feeling is that in some ways you have been asked to carry too much – but isn’t that a condition for us all at certain times, especially all us women who don’t like to be dictated to about our bodies, our minds, ourselves?( yes, i’m smiling ‘cos that feeling of being called to defend my right to be human gets me really mad, even in my partially-aged calmed tempered state…).

    What I love most about this column is that it is constructive. That you provide a model that says ‘there is another way’, and we can talk about it: that we can see properly what our ideas are and where they come from and find out for ourselves if they truly serve those values we claim to hold most dear.

    This is what’s at the top of my topics for (continued) discussion:
    – Relating models to take into the future
    – Means and ways of changing the destructive patterns in relating
    – Wounding of sexual identity and sexuality
    – Drawing from old wisdom – as you noted people have been relating for some time now, and there are lots of models out there that never or rarely make it to mainstream media.

    At PW in 2013 you gave me the best laughs. Proper goddess-honouring laughter – the type that curdles milk on a good day!

    Peace and blessings to you and all your loved ones and let’s all make 2014 something really special.


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