Bitchslap & Other Writing

Some bits and pieces from my far-flung media empire:

I’ve written two columns–Bitchslap and Fear, Inc., for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. All the columns are indexed here.

And here are some other things I’ve written for McSweeney’s:

Who’s a Good Dog with a Gun?
Jingle Bell FAQ

Little Housing Crisis on the Prairie
Secret Service Emergency-Response Protocol 1127B: If the President Falls Down a Well
Worse Things Happen at Sea
Borges Teaches Self Defense
Mid-Life Crisis Bible Stories
NFL Players Whose Names Sound Vaguely Dickensian, and the Characters They Would Be in an Actual Dickens Novel 
Midterm Exam On Kelly, The Woman With Whom My Husband Had An Affair

My work at The Rumpus:

Destroying Angels: A How-To Guide
Threat Assessment and Risk Analysis for N. Drew

At The Hairpin, I’ve written The Shark has Pretty Teeth, Dear. And my friend Jennifer and I wrote about Classic Film Heroines who Suck at Personal Safety.

Here’s a short piece I wrote about my encounter with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam, whom I did not kill.

Here’s a podcast I did with the Smart People folks, about my book, Smile at Strangers.

And here’s the first chapter of Smile at Strangers, read by yours truly, at Poets & Writers.

The photos and videos page has more links to readings I’ve done.


And now and then I write fiction. Here are six short stories, exploring themes of danger, courage, and triumph: Small Heroes.

In her first short story collection, McSweeney’s columnist Susan Schorn presents six tiny epics, each featuring an unlikely, everyday hero. The protagonists—among them an ambitious Cadillac salesman, a despondent Japanese retiree, and a nurse in a children’s hospital—face challenges from the heart-stopping to the absurd, providing glimpses of courage, initiative, and sacrifice on a distinctly human scale. In Small Heroes, Schorn reminds us that true heroism isn’t confined to fantastic worlds and high romance; it can flourish on more familiar ground as well.

12 thoughts on “Bitchslap & Other Writing

  1. Hi!
    I would love to send you a copy of my book, “Beauty Bites Beast.”
    I’m doing the 3d edition preface and have included your brilliant efficacy study and compilation.
    Thank you for all the work you do.

    Warm regards,

  2. Hi Ellen! I’d love to have a copy of your book–I used to have one and it’s been borrowed so many times I’ve lost track of it. If you’ll ping me at my gmail account (gsschorn), I can give you my mailing address.

    One important note: The compilation of self defense stats I posted was compiled by Katy Mattingly, at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor!

  3. Hi Susan,
    I am 19 years old and a college freshman. Being on a large college campus sometimes at night, I have become more concerned about self defense. I have taken a local basic self defense course but still feel quite ill equipped and over matched to fend off a real attacker. I recently ran across your article in Jezebel which gave me more confidence and a clear strategy but I have some follow up questions for you.
    I showed your Jezebel article and the videos to a boy friend of mine and he says that you are wrong. He says that your videos are hogwash because the kicks in the videos are delivered by professionally trained and strong men fighters and not by women. He says that women legs are not strong enough and cannot kick hard enough to really hurt or disable a man but rather just make the him madder and more violent. He says that a blow to the balls does not hurt for more than a second if delivered by a woman. He also claims that the reactions to groin kicks in movies and TV are exaggerated by Hollywood for dramatic and comic effect. Lastly, he says that a woman cannot beat or even compete with a man in a real fight even if groin strikes were allowed because women are the weaker sex and I have to just resign myself to that fact.
    Is my boy friend right? What do you think? What has been your experience? Thank you for taking the time to answer.
    Diane G.

  4. Hi Diane–Sorry it took me so long to respond! Your boyfriend is wrong. Groin kicks work very well even if the kicker isn’t big and strong. No single technique is foolproof, of course, but I’ve seen little kids break boards with a snap front kick, and I’ve seen male martial artists–wearing groin protection–incapacitated by groin kicks that were NOT full force, delivered by women. Some men feel compelled to question anyone who points out that they’re not invulnerable. That seems to be what your boyfriend is doing here, and it doesn’t strike me as a very friendly behavior. In fact it sounds like he wants to control you and make you feel afraid of men. I hope you don’t put too much faith in his opinions, because first of all he’s not very well-informed on the facts, and secondly because he really does not seem to have your best interests at heart. Trust me, you are NOT “the weaker sex,” and you don’t have to “resign yourself” to anything a boy tells you.

  5. Susan,

    I do happen to agree with Diane and her boy friend that those video;s shown on jezebel show 300lb fighters pounding into the groin of some unfortunate male. Perhaps an average size female doing the same would be much more realistic, and not give away the impression that it takes a lot of strength to injure testicles.

    Although difficult, some advice to give gals like Diane, that if and when they ever get interment, and she will at some point, she will, is to ask to handle her partners groin, and being careful she will actually find out how delicate his parts really are, that is the best advice to give any woman. This was mentioned on another website, whether it be your husband, boyfriend of just some small pieces of fruit in an empty sock. After a few moments of gentile squeezing, there is no doubt that we are not the weaker sex.

    Lastly on jezebel, there was one written reply at the time which was removed. It stated the story of a middle age man boxing a younger female, who kicked him in the groin. However before he went down, he was able to get a punch in her face and knocked her out. However while both lying on the floor, she came back first, was standing and talking to the man, while he was on the ground holding his injured testicles, unable to walk. Thereby the more proof that she is not and never be the weaker gender.

  6. Yes, the UFC videos only prove the case up to a point! I imagine it’s possible to find video online of smaller people incapacitating larger people with groin attacks, but the ethics of that seemed more dubious to me than sport fighting situations. And Re: stories about “I saw this guy kicked and this woman knocked out”–do you ever get the feeling that the people telling those stories are WAY too excited about the violence suffered by the women in the stories? I get that vibe a lot during Twitter interactions, and it totally creeps me out.

  7. Susan,
    I showed my husband your article on how (and why) to kick to the groin, and my husband basically said Big deal. He said that those were men kicking, and women do not have the “quick twitch muscles” that men do. He seems to believe that in a real fight situation, women aren’t fast enough. I myself was a tomboy in school and i ended several altercations with boys very very quickly and easily, and he knows this. Or maybe he doesn’t believe me. Or maybe he thinks it is different as adults, that women become slower after puberty and men faster?
    What is he talking about with these “quick twitch muscles”? He can’t seem to elaborate but it is clear he believes it. He got very defensive about this, almost but not quite angry. Had it been real anger, i am still pretty certain i could relive my tomboy days and de-escalate things fairly rapidly. I have seen him put out of commission by a child’s wild swing of a pinata bat (blindfolded, flimsy plastic bat, niece’s birthday party–too funny!) I have never kicked am adult male there, i have never had the need to kick there since middle school, but i thank you for writing the article and reminding me, Yes, i have access to weapon against males that they have no answer for. With or without these “quick twitch muscles” that men supposedly have.

  8. Hi everyone!

    In reply to the previous responses. I think I found a pretty useful clip. I don’t think it would de unethical in any way, since it is filmed inside what seems to be a self-defense dojo. Furthermore, here we see the effects of a woman kicking + the men are wearing cups. Seems to me it is still pretty effective:)

    Kind regards,


  9. Hello, Ms. Schorn,

    I’ve been a follower of yours for a while now. I just wanted to give my experiences in response to the commenters here. I’m nineteen years old and have been doing a variety of martial arts for most of my life. I can say from experience that with “no rules” and no protection, women can very easily “beat” men in fights. Granted, I’m young, scrawny and very underweight, but I know my way around a fight. I can say that any time I’ve been kicked in the balls, I’ve gone down, curled up and occasionally bawled like a baby. When I was younger, some of the other kids my age in my MA studio wanted to do boys vs girls with full contact and no rules aside from eye gauges and throat strikes. There were eight groups of people. Seven out of those eight fights ended with the boy curled up on the ground after a kick in the balls.

  10. Susan
    I am surprised you do not discuss the groin pull more. Groin grab, groin pull, whatever you call it.
    My husband is, shall we say, “cremaster muscle challenged.” Even when we were young he was that way. BTW I’m a nurse so I know the anatomical names of which I speak. We used to rough house, horsing around like young people do. Of course. Anyway, I once kicked him in the balls, or where I thought a man’s balls ought to be. He simply would NOT stop tickling me. He had a habit of that. However, it had no effect whatsover, and he gloated and leaped on me and pinned me and tickled me mercilessly even more and what have you.
    The next time we were at it, I had learned my lesson. I did not want to be tickled to death. So I cupped my hand and scooped upward when I saw what he was doing and as he came at me. Again, you’d think the percussive impact of the palm alone would have had an effect on most guys, but not my man. His balls were not at home. But I had formed my fingers into like a stiff, upward claw, and I quickly raked my fingers down where the path I felt the trailing scrotum. I seriously had to follow it down a pant leg. Sheez. I never could have guessed which one, but you could feel the fleshiness so it was easy, and my ultimate target was facilitated by the fact that he jumped away from me quickly just as soon as he figured out what I was doing with my hand, but this only made it more quick for his balls to rapidly collect in the claw. I closed my fingers and that was that, just like that he was begging and pleading and there would be no tickling me beyond the point where I couldn’t stand it anymore that night. We’re talking instant surrender.
    Months later he tried it again, but I just did the same thing. Didn’t even mess with the kick again. Didn’t even slap upward. Just quickly found the base of the scrotum with stiff, upward pointing fingers, and this time he freaked and pushed me away as he figured out even faster what I was doing. His push was almost violent, but that didn’t do his balls any good. I felt my upward pointing fingertips rake and prod his testicles as they quickly encountered and then exited my grasp, and then, boom, he dropped to the ground. The impact of my fingertips was all it took.
    Those are the only times I ever resorted to that in my life. Maybe my man learned his lesson about tickling me after I told him to stop, or maybe we just got old together and stopped rough housing. Whatever. But I got to tell you, Susan, some guys hang lower than others. Believe it or not, feet can sometimes miss. Fingers never miss, as I and I guess I should say my husband found out.

  11. Sometime since someone posted here but I share Susan’s observations as published in Jezebel (I just read them for the first time). It so happened that I got to be kicked between my legs while being part of freestyle fighting demonstartion to a group of teenagers. One of them was asked to demonstrate on me the practice and moves she learned in the last two years. The only thing her lady instructor told her before we went on the mat was that if she thinks this is only a demo and not a feal life situation, there will be no benefit in the exercise and for the other girls that watched. I wore a cup BTW. But as I walked towards her with mean face and raised my hand she grabbed the other hand and twisted hard. Despite me being taller and believe me significantly stronger and well trained I bent down from the pain in my hand and petite Romy found herself standing behind me. When she delivered a kick to my groin from behind it must have sent the protection I wore to my ballsac forward and it basically “ironed” my family jewel. As ugly as it sounds, I instantly vommitted and was (sorry fellas…) peeing in my pants. Then I lost my conscious for a brief and when awakened with water and slaps I started sobbing heavily (the clip a girl took shows me crying “my balls my balls i lost my balls”, and, importantly, that the kick i got from the trainee was a not a crazy one – a good meaure kick and not more). This was an accident of sorts but I never came back to training and I am under psychological treatment since. To be grounded like that in front of female crowd added to the psychological impact. So I read all these stories about boyfriends telling you otherwise and I know you do not believe them that much: otherwise, why do you bring it to this forum? because you know its BS. The testicles are the reproductive part of the male, OK got it. We all need it. But when it comes to combat, the balls are horrific – no less – liability. You do not want as Susan say to carry them and worry about them all day long. Bottom line – this is where you are heading do when you are in trouble. No adrelaine in the world can save the recipient of a blow to the balls. The psychological impact combined with the pain makes a man understand (yes yes, understand, not “believe”), that the end of the world is here. Its worth a research why on earth men would try to convince women that pain when inflicted on testicles is a relative thing. The mere suggesiton that some males can get hit down there and remain standing cannot really stand because stories is one thing, but show me a true video of something like that and I will believe it. None exist!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>