Open Letter

An Open Letter To Richard Dawkins: Check Your Penis, Please

Is it still there? Good for you.

Hello, Mr. Dawkins. We haven’t met yet, and to you, I’m just some random unknown person with a blog on the internet. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been reading about you in your own words, or that it shouldn’t strike you as important that what little I have been reading has been grating against me for a number of reasons. Such as this little gem I caught wind of as soon as I opened Twitter the day you posted it:

Richard Dawkins: the mere prospect of imaginary torment is worse than the actual experience of child rape.

Before I go into why exactly this grates against me (in case the caption I’ve attached doesn’t reveal enough to you), I’m going to tell you a little bit about my personal life. You see, just a couple days before you posted this, I was at home, and someone I have known for only a couple of months now told me a very deeply personal part of his history. He had been raped as a child. Twice. The second time it happened to him, a male family member stood up for him by beating his perpetrator so badly that the offender was hospitalized on account of his injuries. No one in the family ever spoke of these events any further. It seems reasonable to conclude from this detail that neither the rapist nor the family member who severely battered him ever stood accountable for their actions in a court of law, and that these offences were likely never formally reported to authorities. I don’t think it’s a particularly profound leap to assume that he never received therapy either. He is an addict, and has been for quite some time.

Later that evening, the man who told me these things about himself informed me that he had been talking about me to a third party. Although he did not state directly for what purpose, he made some comment about how she advised him that my body language will tell him “everything [he] need[s] to know.” From that I think we can agree, Mr. Dawkins, that it’s transparently clear what he and this third party were discussing. He then asked me point-blank about my sexuality, and as I began to respond honestly (it’s complicated), he started talking over me to tell me it doesn’t matter to him if I’m queer, and how his friend (the third party) has had a sex change — something he reminds me of as if it were a badge of honour. As I walked away to go back to eating my dinner, he remarked that I’m “sensitive”. That’s something else he reminds me of, as if it were a deficit in my character to have my own personal boundaries.

A little more than a week prior to this event, this same man has raised his fist at me when I declined an offer for food he had made (simply due to lack of appetite), and day after after the event I’ve detailed above, he barked a “Fuck you” at me when I didn’t instantly jump up at the prospect of watching one of his DVDs as soon as I had gotten home that day.

The same night of his deeply personal disclosure to me, he started shouting through the floor and stomping while I was in the kitchen washing dishes, to get the attention of two teenagers in the basement. He was calling them names, putting them down, and swearing at them. One of them came upstairs, and when he had successfully gained her cooperation in executing a simple household chore, he said “You’ve got something on your shirt.” After glancing at her looking down at her own shirt, I turned to him, chuckling, and said “Yeah, they’re called boobs.” She started to giggle but he recoiled in disgust, saying “she’s just a child“, as if I had just said something only a pedophile would say. He also made a point of telling me I’m “fucked in the head.” The silent young woman, still in the kitchen with us, looked like some confusing sort of sadness had just stolen the very brief smile off her face. I can only imagine how his instant recoil at my remark about her shape would make me feel if I were her: I’d feel disgusted and ashamed of my own body. I am reminded profoundly (and in the worst ways possible) of my Sperm Donor. And why do I speak to this man at all? I don’t have much of a choice until after January 1st. His room is separated from mine by a linen closet.

Mr. Dawkins, I’m telling you about this man and his behaviours because both your tweet and your “Dear Muslima” response to Rebecca Watson indicate to me that you identify more with someone like him than with someone like me, Rebecca Watson, or any survivor of sexual abuse (regardless of gender) at the hands of men. Your answer to being called out on your apparently fucked up gender politics concerning women is a red herring about sexually abused boys — which is a whole other topic that has no bearing on how fucked up your politics towards women may or may not be. This indicates to me that you are thinking “What if I was accused?” rather than “What if I was abused?” In other words, you’re thinking with your penis rather than about it — to you, it’s not just conspicuously attached to your body (and not removable), but it’s also a part of your body you personally associate with innately positive experiences. That’s great for you, when you’re talking about consensual sexual intimacy.

But you’re talking about rape and sexual harassment. And while you’re talking about rape and sexual harassment, you’re neither thinking of your penis as a potential weapon of sexual violence, nor of your own body as a crime scene (or even as a potential crime scene). When the man I’ve described recoils in disgust at the audacity of an under-age woman having curves like someone he’d fuck, when he raises his fist at me and then walks away complaining about how “sensitive” I am after I tell him that’s not fucking cool, and when he talks around his desire to fuck me by bringing up his transsexual friend (as if that was part of the secret code to access what’s between my legs) — even despite the fact that he has been raped (as have I) — he is also thinking with his penis. Neither of you has a valid excuse for this ignorance.

But unlike him, you have a huge following of people who hang on your every word and follow your lead concerning what to stand against and how to fight it. And when you write the kind of shit you posted to respond to Rebecca Watson, or to “opinionatedpavs”, you are issuing an open declaration of war against all women. You are blurring every previous distinction I could make between the atheist community and hate groups like the pro-life movement and the men’s rights movement. The fact that women might be happy to re-tweet you or sing your high praises is not an indicator that you are being a good ally against misogyny. Women can be (and often are) bad allies too.

But possibly even worse in your ledger, Mr. Dawkins, is that what you posted on Twitter makes you a bad ally to male survivors of sexual abuse and sexual violence. I don’t assume you even want to be an ally to women, but I think it’s perfectly clear that you take issue with boys being sexually abused. That boys who are sexually abused are disproportionately more likely to sexually harass, sexually abuse, or rape women and/or boys (on multiple occasions) as adults is beside the point that no child should have to suffer at the hands of a pedophile. If anyone understands how profoundly repeated childhood sexual trauma can fuck a person up for life, it’s someone like me, because I am a survivor (if that wasn’t clear earlier when I mentioned my Sperm Donor, it should be now).

And it is from that place in my heart that I am condemning both your decision to defend your apparently fucked up politics around sexual harassment and rape by derailing the issue with male survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and your decision to compare the trauma of being sexually abused as a child to the threat of imaginary eternal torment to declare which of the two is worse. It’s that second decision that indicates to me that you think the sexual abuse someone like me suffered stays frozen in time when it happened, as if it exists in a self-contained chronological vacuum.

But Mr. Dawkins, it doesn’t work like that. Sexual trauma resurfaces at every available opportunity, and often in ways that reflect the coping methods the individual who suffered it had to use at the time, just to survive it. With therapy (I’ve already been in weekly psychotherapy for nearly three years total now over the past four years), I have learned to recognize these symptoms of my many horrendous traumas, and I might even learn ways to cope with my instinctive reflexes to withdraw, dissociate, become irrationally infatuated, feel the urge to become sexually self-abasing and masochistic, panic, experience sensory overload, or literally feel the trauma I’ve experienced re-awaken in my body, among other coping mechanisms I’ve learned to recognize. But those memories will always be there in one form or another. It is its own eternal torment. Your decision to post what you wrote on Twitter is just one more barrier against male sexual trauma survivors coming forward and speaking out about what has happened to them. Did you think you were helping anyone when you said that?

Thus, it is completely insensitive of you to use traumatic childhood experiences like mine, of which you seem to know little to nothing about, to deflect criticisms of which side you appear to stand on in relation to traumatic adulthood experiences like mine, of which you also seem to know little to nothing about. Society is organized in such a way as to promote a very palpable hatred of women, and when someone like you ignores your part in minimizing, trivializing, or even actively promoting the same, word gets around. When someone like me stands up to someone like you, we’re told we’re “anti-male”. Only I’m not opposed to the whole of men. I’m opposed to you being a shithead to women and sexual trauma survivors of all genders.

Take the right side for a change, Mr. Dawkins. Be a positive masculine influence.



13 thoughts on “An Open Letter To Richard Dawkins: Check Your Penis, Please

  1. I believe he said that hell fire is worse than sexual abuse, not teaching about hell fire is worse than sexual abuse. Am I wrong in this being his more exact statement?

    If hell fire i defined as infinite torment, then how could anything be as bad or worse?

    I know, you’ll say that I just don’t understand being a survivor of said abuse. But come on. Hell fire is worse than anything else.

    Do you think that Dawkins was perhaps assuming for a moment that hell fire exists so as to make a point?

    • Dawkins is a well-educated atheist, and as such, does not believe that Hell fire is a Thing. Therefore, yes, he is communicating that this Imaginary Thing being taught to children is worse than sexually abusing them. If he meant to communicate otherwise, he needs to give his publisher more work hours.

      • You do not allow the possibility that he was implying:

        IF hell fire existed, THEN it would be worse than sexual abuse?

        You inserted “teach” into his thoughts, then wrote extensively excoriating him for it.

        This is not responsible on your part. You seem to be manufacturing outrage against someone you dislike.

        The part where you say Dawkins was unclear and, if you misunderstood, it is his fault is wrong. You and others filled in the blanks and then went off. Why didn’t you INSTEAD first ask him exactly what he meant?

        You will not relent though. Once most bloggers put up something, they will defend it to the death.

        • Dawkins, as I have said already, is well-educated. Certainly far better educated than I am. Dawkins has no valid excuse for publishing bullshit like this. I’m not interested in pandering to the possibility that he didn’t mean it, because that doesn’t change what he published or how I perceived it. I am sure I’m not alone (I’ve seen other conversations about it), and these conversations — like the one you’re trying to lead me into now — about intent are bullshit.

          • You don’t see that you are the one that is making this all based upon intent? You seem to think his intention was that TEACHING kids about hell fire is definitely worse than sexual abuse. Maybe you took him wrong. Whose fault is that then? Would there possibly not be any fault, just a misunderstanding? And that others are speaking about this also and took it similarly is inconsequential. And your personal perception does not matter if it does not correspond to the actual signal.

            “I’m not interested in pandering to the possibility that he didn’t mean it, because that doesn’t change what he published or how I perceived it.”

            Right here, you are the one giving it its meaning by inserting what you think must have been his intent by adding “teaching”. And you are right it doesn’t change what he published because what he published does not contain the words “teach”. And how you perceive something doesn’t actually matter to anyone outside yourself in matters like this. What if I perceived Obama’s last speech as a direct threat that he would key my car? So what.

        • No, I am referring to literally being subjected to having my entire face soaked in someone’s spit, before being called an ignorant cunt and my neck grabbed, being turned around and pinned against a wall while he squeezes his hand around my throat.

          Criminal charges are pending.

          You would think being told you’ve said something shitty and insensitive (or are defending someone who did) is significantly easier to deal with.

  2. Pingback: Richard Dawkins, Child Rape, & Cultural Relativism (Trigger Warning): Rape Culture 310 | HaifischGeweint

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