Thursday, 4 November 2010

sometimes i think about

how the concept of rape within marriage did not exist in english and welsh law until 1991.
"Marriage gave conjugal rights to a spouse, [...] a spouse could not legally revoke consent to sexual intercourse, and if there was consent there was no rape."
the implications of this just boggle my mind. imagine signing over your body like that. so in my parents' marriage.. in all our parents' marriages... i think this is such a terrifying illustration of how the possibility of abuse is silenced, in our culture, thus creating fertile conditions for abuse. i've been thinking about how one of the most important safeguards against abuse is to acknowledge that it happens, it can happen, it probably will happen where someone has power over another. in fact it can only not happen where one person has more power, if the powerfuler (yep, i'm needing more words, help please) person works actively not not misuse their power.

so for centuries women entered into marriages, and people who loved them watched them do so, usually in the total absence of any discussion about whether they would be raped (or otherwise abused), and what they could do if they were. well i'm sure this is still the case. you could call this trust. i'd call it silencing.

it is not safe to not acknowledge the existence and possibilities of power, how it can change, and how it can be used... i was joking with another polyamorous friend recently about pre-nups. i was saying that in any situation involving serious commitment and investment of any kind between me and a group of people, or an individual - i want and need agreements about what will happen if... things change. against the silencing of the possibility (likelihood) of abuse, manipulation, and less dramatically, to create conditions that mean people can leave if they need to. this is not anti-trust, or anti-love (i'm big into trust and love!), but a safeguard against any of us screwing one another over in an unknown future, as people shift, and as power shifts.

and i was asked at a workshop about this stuff what advice i'd give to groups to safeguard against abuse and manipulation - both as in domestic abuse within a community, and lunatics trying to stir and manipulate a scene - and my answer is prenups. like, before you set up, agree what you'll do if someone behaves abusively. define abusively. research how to tell where the power lies in situations where it's not obvious. know where to go for support, know how to support each other. know that this stuff will happen, in any group of people. if you are ready, you are more likely to be able to defeat it before it destroys your group. and read "Why Misogynists Make Great Informants".

...but, marriage? really? can't you think of something more fun? less horrendous? like Mattilda says,
 "Many straight people know that marriage is outdated, tacky and oppressive -- and any queer who grew up in or around marriage should remember this well. Marriage still exists as a central site of anti-woman, anti-child and anti-queer violence, and a key institution through which the wealth and property of upper class (white) families is preserved. If gay marriage proponents wanted real progress, they'd be fighting for the abolition of marriage (duh), and universal access to the services that marriage can sometimes help procure: housing, healthcare, citizenship, tax breaks, and inheritance rights."*
nah, gleeful, leaping queers are my idea of ceremony:

* It was hell whittling this incredible article down to a short quote - read the whole thing!

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