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The Penis Threat

Twitter this week has been living up to its terrible reputation. In addition to all things political, there’s been a lot of penis waving. Actually, there’s always a lot of penis waving on twitter.

This ought to be alarming to anyone reading it. But Heather is sort of like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Sadly, Heather works at Southwest.

Twitter being Twitter and all, this is the perfect moment to decide that @ShariatPR is the problem. There is no shortage of people to call her a liar or to intimate she is one. Which I find troubling.

There will always be people who question the validity of a claim. After all, it is only a claim and this is the internet. What I find troubling is that no one appears to be noticing that Southwest has yet to respond with any level of alarm.

I find it doubly horrifying that Southwest’s representative on Twitter is a woman (or possibly a bot with a woman’s name).

I understand that there are people who cry wolf. I understand that we are human and prone to exaggeration. I also know that the majority of sexual assaults will never be reported. An astounding 63%. The reasons for that? Shame? Harassment of victims? Stigma? The fact that these crimes happen most often without witnesses? Tiring of being called a liar?

Twitter is not the place for civil discourse

Research shows false reporting for sex crimes at rates between 2 and 7%. Included in many of those cases are victims who decide not to cooperate with investigators, delayed reporting, or inability to identify a suspect. The false reporting of sex crimes is not remarkably different than the false reporting of other crimes in the US. The major difference between the victim of a sex crime and the victim of any other is the way they are treated. 

Sexual assault victims are routinely harassed, blamed, or questioned about their role in the crime. In no other setting is the victim routinely queried about their consent. Some of this is obviously necessary. As we now know the greatest danger isn’t limited to strangers. Danger begins with grooming and coercion.

The statistics around sexual violence are astounding. It is safe to assume that no one you know is untouched by it. Either they’ve been prey or close to someone who has been. It feels inescapable, which is likely why so many of us are loathe to read about it.

But sexual violence begins in subtle ways. We’re now aware that we don’t teach our girls that boys who hit them just have crushes. Many of us stopped teaching our children of either gender to allow themselves to be touched, as young as toddlerhood. We don’t make them hug and kiss anyone, not even Granny. We arm our children with ownership of their bodies.

And then young men get mad and say, “Suck my dick.”


Or, “Shut your cocksucker.”

No, again.

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I understand why Heather at Southwest didn’t respond to a tweet that would have made other people sound the alarms. It’s because we have embraced abuse at every level beginning with threats that are just jokes, dismissing violence as the norm for boys who are just being boys, and then asking women why they didn’t fend things off better. Heather has absorbed the messages we’ve sent her.

I won’t even go into what we’ve accepted for kids who are not gender conforming. There’s an extra layer of cruelty that most of us will never understand.

That @ShariatPR didn’t behave the way you believe you would isn’t the problem. The problem is that her behavior is questioned before, “Are you going to be okay?” is asked. The problem is that her behavior is questioned before any attempt to care for her is made.

People don’t know how they’ll behave in awkward situations any more than they know how they’ll behave in frightening ones. People freeze. People get loud. People get quiet and retreat. People who experience trauma many times over have reactions to frightening events that baffle the rest of the world.

From The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR):

It is normal for victims to freeze and be unable to physically fend off their abuser.

When faced with imminent threat or danger, most humans will freeze as opposed to fighting or fleeing. This hard-wired, biological response is an automatic impulse that is seen in many other species. The brain instruct parts of the body to literally “shut down” in order to improve the odds of surviving a dangerous traumatic situation.

No victim—whether a teenager, adult, male or female—should have their instinctive response to being sexually assaulted called in to question. No victim should be expected to prevent or interrupt their abuse. The fault for abuse lies squarely on the abuser.

Even if you look at an event like the one that unfolded on Twitter this week and privately doubt the victim, I would ask you to look at the knee-jerk reactions to her. Who would subject themselves to that willingly? If your voice is one that looks to silence and mock her, understand that you’re silencing 30 other people who read your words, internalized them, and will decide to not report a crime one day.

That’s how the next crop of victims is made available.



5 thoughts on “The Penis Threat”

  1. a million thank-yous’ for your comments ‘the penis threat’.i cried as i read because everything
    you wrote is so true. I was raped
    by a former boyfriend,robbed of my
    virginity back in the day when if
    you knew the guy, it wasnt called
    rape or even date rape. i froze &
    fainted when he uttered ‘you are
    not a virgin’. MM

  2. Miss Jessica, Thank you for the GREAT read. May I plaster it everywhere I can? I just saw this whole story for the first time an hour and a half ago. And I’ll be honest, I’ve been bitching, yelling and screaming the whole time. The person next to me finally got tired of it and passed out. This was also their first time hearing about it which shocked me since this person may be employed by a company that’s being mentioned. Your whole blog was dead on and I don’t want you to think I’m dismissing any part of it okay? I just need to say something so I can be at peace with all this and try to get a nap in since I’ve been up for two days dealing with airline nightmares/TragedyTrainRiders. So here goes.

    1) I read the headlines and was disgusted.
    2) Clicked the link to open and immediately yelled, “wtf is the airline apologizing for, I’m tweeting them right now ******”. And then they watched me tweet Miss Heather.
    3) I then clicked on the Twitter feed to get to her profile. IMMEDIATELY i in she was lying. a) she’s in PR (coincidence, SURE. Unicorns are real, btw) b) I began to read the posts and then I just lost my shit because that person is a bold face liar!

    My motto (which I stole from a family member who is one of four lawyers in my family), “if you ain’t got a picture or video-IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. I know, I know.

    *NO ONE will ever sit for hours next to someone who is “masterbating & watching porn” on a plane.

    *You’re scared to say anything? Scared to seek help?

    *But NOT too scared because your tweet, tweet, tweeting that shit the whole time.

    *Your so appalled you don’t speak up but you catch a few peeks then mention what you saw on Twitter?

    No ma’am, I’m gonna call bullshit. It’s people like that PR NoBody & the other recent TragedyTrainRider who screw over the people who have real complaints. You know, what would put an end to this bullshit? These airlines who are falsely targeted need to stand their ground. Turn the tables. Seek damages. Id sue the pants off that lil nightmare and gave her begging for boarding school in Beirut.

    It’s all tragic because NO ONE wins. Every person involved gets screwed and why? Because the public sees a girl who was subjected to a horrible act of sexual whatever on a plane. Which they saw on Twitter because she’s twitting the whole time. So now the public wants answers and are backing this girl with their lives. So they attack the airline, blames them, how dare they allow this, southwest must now pay… .

    WTF is wrong with people? I know in less than 60 seconds that hit mess was a liar and I called her on it. I don’t care. You still insist it’s true? Cool. GREAT. Prove me wrong. Please do. Because I don’t want to believe there’s men who do shit like that, PR waste of space who lie about shit like or SaltySoccerMoms who don’t do shit all day long except sit on Facebook but when something news worthy happens they can relate since it’s NEVER happened to them AND now like magic a new breed has been awoken that I like to call, The TragedyTrainRiders. All aboard. NO NO NO! This shit happens because society allows it, hell they help create it. But I mean, what about southwest or than man-who was probably a old lady-that a month from now comes forward as the seatmate. Guess what? Sweet Nana is blind and has one arm but does remember the flight. She remembers this younger lady with a fake tan, fake boobs, a shut accent and wouldn’t get off her damn phone for the whole trip!

    Anyhow, I’m sorry about this. I haven’t had much sleep and now this person is snoring so loud I’m just gonna stick my head in the toilet. SMH. Moving on, your blog was excellent and if you give me permission I’ll pass it on. But I also want to leave you with this, I’m not sure if you write for fun or for a living but I’m sure I’ll eventually find out. If your interested in writing a story about something happening to a person (can all be backed up in black & white, phone records, videos, etc) and by one of the biggest companies in America basically didn’t do anything to help and the situation got beyond anything you could imagine in your worst nightmare then I know someone you might want to talk to. They recently have been thinking about finally going public but wants their story to be told in their words and they want everyone to know the truth after all this time. If your interested let me know, I’ll pass along the info.

    Have a lovely day though. Again, your blog was awesome.

  3. Also, I’m sorry about my crappy Grammer and punctuation. It was half auto correct and half me. Typing 50 words a minute on my cell. At least trying to – all angry.

  4. The SW passenger story ended up being totally fabricated. Basically someone who runs (or ran, it seems) a PR firm, looking for PR. Fortunately the perpetrator of this fiction has since closed the firm and deleted much of her social media, likely disgraced by her idiotic story.

    We can both “believe women,” and still use our brains to determine if a story is highly likely to be false. I believe this woman was a huge liar w/ no morals.

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