Jezebel featured another thing I wrote! This one is about the horrifying student manual for Rape Aggression Defense, the most popular women’s self defense program on college campuses. Take a RAD class and you will learn, among other things, that you shouldn’t try to run away from an attacker unless you get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least three times per week. Otherwise, running may make you too tired to fight. Yes, they really tell you that.
I have new column up at McSweeney’s as well–this one about those darling Do-It-Yourself “anti-rape gloves” featured recently on Instructables:
What I find fascinating, reading through these directions, is the way the glove-maker’s amorphous anxiety about his sister’s safety is transformed, through a laborious 15-step process, into a tangible object, a comforting piece of proof against the risks his sister faces: a weapon. You can almost see the therapeutic benefits accrue as the worried man applies his knowledge and skills to the problem. In his workshop, he has tools to help him create safety: clamps, vice grips, an angle grinder, a drill press, an automatic center punch, a vernier caliper. Every material he handles is measured, every step is planned. The process offers control. It requires precision. It lets the glove-maker think creatively, consider options, make choices—all things that help us feel we’re in command of our lives.
Are the gloves he produces going to help to his sister? It’s possible. Unfortunately they aren’t dressy enough to wear on dates, which is when women are most likely to be assaulted.
I had a piece over at Jezebel recently–something I never really expected to happen given that when my very first McSweeney’s column ran, waaaaaay back in 2009 (!), they didn’t like it much. But Emma Carmichael and Jia Tolentino were a delight to work with, and the finished piece is lushly illustrated with clips from various MMA fights, demonstrating the effects of groin shots on some unlucky fighters.
These days, only Muay Thai fighters strike to the groin—and they only do it in Thailand, where they wear groin protection made from fucking steel. But even armor plating isn’t enough for western sportsmen; in addition to groin protection devices, they shield their balls with every rule, regulation, law, and covenant they can think of. The Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, for example, list 31 official fouls, with myriad subtle variations on things like kidney strikes (only a foul if you kick with your heel) and elbows (disallowed if striking downward; OK in other directions). And then there’s Item vii: “Groin attacks of any kind.”
My latest McSweeney’s column, Cage Match: Victorian Novelist Edition, addresses the important question of how to choose the best 19th-century writer for your side in a gang war:
Authors of marriage-plot novels might not be the first place you’d look for fighting prowess, but I see them as a deep talent pool. Seriously, go read Middlemarch and then tell me with a straight face that George Eliot wasn’t capable of terrible things. Or pick up any of Madame de Staël’s novels (go on, I dare you). Hell, Harriet Beecher Stowe started a war. These ladies knew some shit about conflict, even if they did bury it under calling cards and teacups.
I’ve been working on my next McSweeney’s column and realized I forgot to post the last one. Here it is: Control Freaks.
If, in discussing “appropriate” use of force, we reduce every violent police encounter to the moment the first blow is struck, we willfully ignore all the other what-if moments leading up to it, all of which offer much better opportunities for intervention and safe resolution. Shooting bad guys may sound more fun and exciting, but I don’t see why people should die just because our collective attention spans are too short to think about the problem in larger terms.
I have a new post up over at McSweeney’s, wherein I share a little bit of what I’ve learned this summer in my EMT classes:
I’ve spent some happy evenings this summer learning about the zygomatic and sphenoid bones and the maxilla of the face, comparing their most common fracture patterns to the places where my own face has been forcibly reconfigured, and thinking about how I might adjust my own punching technique to increase or decrease damage. EMT training has given me a new way to think about my martial arts and self-defense skills. I feel like a humble Florentine statue cleaner who has finally taken an art appreciation class.