sexuality Archives - The Jose Vilson



by Jose Vilson on September 13, 2011

in Jose

"Society Teaches 'Don't Get Raped' Rather Than 'Don't Rape'."

I read a story today by Kathy Dobie for GQ about the 11-year-old girl who was raped by 19 or so men ranging from ages 16 to 27 in Cleveland, TX. The crime as an isolated incident? Heinous, and as an isolated incident reeks of the sexism some of us have numbed ourselves to over the last few decades. As I dug further in the story, I saw the rapers exemplified this country’s culture, which perpetuates the perception of women as objects for a man’s pleasure. Not only did these young men believe they did nothing wrong (they all pleaded not guilty despite the plethora of video, photo, and first-hand accounts as evidence), they had a whole community who forced themselves to believe they did nothing wrong because it was their own. We definitely see elements of racial conflict here, as we see Black men and boys raping a young Latina girl.

But fuck that. It could have been any girl with any group of guys. It’s still rape.

Our culture gives too many passes to people we prize in our communities or feel like “they looked after us.” (Yes, I’m referring to athletes and fraternities in college, to start.) Some of this comes from the backlash of centuries of people treating people unlike them as sexual objects. We can discuss colonialism, the theory of manifest destiny, slave labor, and undocumented servitude under this huge umbrella. Yet, the only way some of us think they can combat these societal tragedies is to find someone (or ones) to oppress as well. We have underground cultures where women let men “run trains on them” for quasi-protection, or see themselves having to “give it up” just on the threat of physical and mental abuse by other means.

Men, if we don’t respond to this in clear terms, we are part of the problem.

I’ve never known rape first-hand, but I’ve known harassment vicariously from people very close to me. Rather than focus on the victim / survivor, I’ll focus on those who perpetrated these acts. I’ve heard of men who slap women just to gain some control over them through fear and escalated violence. I’ve seen men who pretend to love their woman, but leave tire-streak scars on their otherwise beautiful and fragile appendages. I’ve seen men psychologically abuse women who they know they can do that to because of their deteriorating health, and she stays because she feels she has no other alternative but to continue getting abused in this manner. I’ve heard men tell other men to serve up concoctions of local anti-depressants and Nyquil with Kool-Aid served in a red cup to a woman who, unbeknownst to her, will fornicate with this man whether she wants to or not. I’ve waited for police officers and judges to make proper judgements on cases like these, only to tell their local newspapers that, because the woman didn’t come naked, scarred, and intoxicated with hallucinogens on her breath as evidence of the acts, her case has no validity.

Before I continue, some men might already think that I’m some sort of apologist, and that, realistically, there are women who “look for trouble.” They dress a certain way, act a certain way, and don’t say “no” when offered sex. There are women who go to clubs under-age and get in because of how they look and the people they see. They’ve already developed a reputation in their neighborhoods for promiscuity (whether it’s false or not). If they continue down that path, they’re bound to be raped. That’s where I hold a mirror to their faces and alert them to their own fallacies. How do we still live in a country that focuses intently on the abused and not the abuser?

How does “what a person looks like” constitute tolerance permission for rape? Before we look at a person’s form or dress, look at the person’s soul. Too many women I know experienced trespassing of their persons at a young age from people within their families. Some went on to become very successful in their own right, others not. Unlike the narrative that’s often told about women who get abused early in their lives, many of them actually lead normal lives. Some of them might be your best friends, your closest colleagues, your current lover, your parent, your wife, and, in some cases, your current students.

There’s a reason we have laws against this sort of stuff, because, if we look at this idea of consent, it’s the understanding that the person with whom you’re about to have consensual activities with mostly acknowledges the consequences of crossing this threshold with you. They have an understanding of their bodies in general, and, until such time, our society ought to set boundaries on our boys and girls (with or without parents). Little girls, by such definition, can’t consent to this sort of activity, and women, upon arriving at the ability to consent, should have the choice as to whom they let within their gates.

Without caveats. Otherwise, “no” is “no.” And if you think the opposite of “no” is silence, you’re dead wrong.

Mr. Vilson, who isn’t a lawyer, but hopes this made sense to people reading this before I calm myself down now …

p.s. – I do acknowledge that rape happens with and across other gender types, but I just wanted to hone in on this one, because we still don’t talk about it enough.


Why Little Girls Shouldn’t Be Single

by Jose Vilson on May 17, 2010

in Jose

Teaching middle school has taught me at least two things about the thought process of children under 15: they believe they’re too old to be chastised by anyone but their parents (and in some cases, no one at all) and they have control over their own bodies. Part of that is developmental and evolutionary; we look to grow into ourselves, finding the rapid changes disturbing and replying by controlling the smaller parts that haven’t changed. Adolescence is scary, and not enough people know how to handle it delicately.

I do, however, have serious trouble looking at the above video and simply let that go. Many of you have seen this video and probably thought, “Why did this happen? Why do I feel strange about this? What makes this video so different from the other YouTube videos of gyration and bouncy baseline? The dancers are talented, surely, the uniforms look well done, and the replication of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” is also remarkable. The energy on the stage seemed as infectious for the audience as for the hundreds of viewers and commenters to this exhibition.

That’s the most interesting thing about infections. People who have infections often jump up in excitement, preoccupied with the curiosity of this infection, but it’s still an infection, in need of a cure. The central point of intrigue is that the video isn’t showing grown women well in control of their sexuality or their lives; it’s showing little girls imitating such women. It’s not only distressing, but also indicative of the values our society holds (or doesn’t) for our young girls and boys.

Pardon me in my conservatism here, but shouldn’t we teach children how to be children until they getting closer to adulthood? For many of our children growing up in hardship, we find their parents groom them into young men and women well before they’re ready, and it often leads to children thinking they’re too grown for reproach or critique in their daily lives. They learn the harshest parts of adulthood without understanding the emotional and the genteel. They curse without understanding who they’ve damned, and retaliate without feeling consequence. They kiss and they’re immediately told they’re no longer “single.”

Children shouldn’t have such the burden of anything above a friendship. That’s where the issues of relationships start.

Furthermore, we see a dose of the sexualization of little girls, whose dance moves and dress emulates full grown women, but they can’t handle such a responsibility. Do they understand what Beyonce means when she asks a suitor to put a ring on it? When she tells her former man, who after several years never asked for any real commitment from her, to go away? In what club will the young ladies in the video pretend to be besides the Boys and Girls Club? Do tea parties and jumping jacks no longer exist for little girls to entertain themselves? Will their parents, who clearly didn’t think these ramifications through, have to pack them a lunch before they get into the club?

Children under a certain age shouldn’t be allowed to bestow titles meant for grown-ups upon themselves. That’s a roll call too many of us can agree with.

Jose, who, according to Mr. McLeod, deserves a bigger audience. Clap for him.


No Homo

by Jose Vilson on April 7, 2010

in Jose

Sagging Pants

“Just shut the fuck up, you fuckin’ bitch, what the fuck?”
“Hey, what’s that about?”
“No, it’s that they’re bothering me!”
“Let’s talk about it outside.”
“I’m not getting kicked out because of these two. I’d rather just leave!”
“Come back here! I need to talk to you!”
“No, I’m mad!”

And off he ran. This is a typical scene in the classroom. A student gets mad and the teacher, in trying to investigate, finds his or herself frantically trying to put together pieces to a situation he didn’t understand, only to infuriate the purported victim. The offended student was already 15 minutes late to class, and didn’t take out anything to write with in the least. Made more interesting by a fire drill and a re-lesson on transformation, the day might have ended badly on all levels if I didn’t sniff out the situation a little deeper. I pinpointed the students in question, but didn’t get quite what they said until I heard from the student, mad enough that he wouldn’t talk to me for a few periods.

But he did let out a little tidbit. They uttered two phrases I just cannot stand:

“You’re a homo.”
“Fuckin’ retard.”

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on this ridiculous idea of “homo” and the quizzical relationship homophobia has with my students’ culture. I’m no ableist, and certainly I had a discussion with the young student who I addressed about his little insult that had no place in my classroom. I just had to handle the “homo” part quickly since that’s the insult that took the student over the edge.

In my teaching career, I’ve encountered a few students who some people considered as acting opposite of their sex (i.e. effeminate for a guy or masculine for a girl), and that characteristic alone sends a misguided message to the boys in the room that they can bully the student by proclaiming him (or her, in some instances) gay. This especially happens with the guys, who, unable to fully express themselves and what’s going on with them during their maturation, have to find their sexuality relative to other boys in their group. Because this society’s predominantly heterosexual, and I use even that term loosely since I don’t believe in the binary definitions of sexuality either, people learn that homosexuality is an aberration.

We only exacerbate that in our hoods. Looking around Washington Heights (and I’m sure this holds true for other neighborhoods around the country, and the world), I see hypersexualized figures all around me. Many men speak of checking girls’ IDs for ages, and many young mothers, a couple of whom I’ve taught. Crews advertise parties using women of consenting age but tender looks. The men dress in tight t-shirts and button-down collared shirts with gaudy jewelry with visible underwear and a bit of skin from the navel to the waist.

We look to the adults of these young boys and girls and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’m not saying that this is the majority of the neighborhood because it’s not. However, it’s too frequent for us to ignore. We can blame the media and the music, but without TV and music, these things may continue to happen. In this type of environment, with young men, there tend to be 2 cases: there’s no father at home to teach the boy how to be a man so he’s learning from other boys or there’s a father at home and he too is an extremely conservative man pushing his ideas of masculinity passed down to him.

Thus, the worst thing anyone studying this idea of homosexuality can assume is that “no homo” or simply “homo” is anything new. Even with some of the contradictorily masculine things these men stick to (i.e. wrestling, baseball, low-riding pants, following rappers who have had public homosexual encounters), these gentlemen need a redefinition of what makes a man. Yes, Barack Obama is cool, but for kids in the hood, he’s as far off as … well, he’s simply far off. Plenty of men in the hood want to build a world where, irrespective of these sexual differences, we can build better neighborhoods for all humans to live in.

Insert Mr. Vilson.

“So let me ask you a question. Why did you call him a homo? What’s that about?!”
“Because he looks like one.”
“What does that mean?”
“Iuno. He just looks like one.”

After noticing that I wasn’t giving in, he said,
“I don’t really know.”
“Me neither. Did he bother you?”
“Does he have anything to do with you learning math?”
“Does he have anything to do with you going home?”
“Does he have anything to do with you eating and sleeping?”
“So then why him? Why do you think that’s appropriate? I don’t know if you’ll understand this now, but when you’re a man, you’re gonna say Mr. V was right: just because you don’t like how someone else looks doesn’t give you the right to be disrespectful towards them, especially if it has nothing to do with your life. He’s living, You’re living. That’s what matters, man. I don’t want to hear that word outta you or you picking on him for any reason. If you don’t like him, leave him alone then, but if we have to go through this again, we’re gonna have to have this conversation again. Clear?”

I hope it was. I spoke to the student in question, and apologized for not recognizing that the students insulted him. He didn’t even know what “to apologize” meant, so I had to explain that. I said, “However, that’s not proper protocol. I need to know when there’s something going on so I can address it. And I will address it. Alright?”

In times like these, I wish I learned more about how to deal with these situations in this setting, but instead, I’m the one writing on it, not as some theoretical piece, but as a reflection of practice.

Ed school won’t teach this.

Mr. Vilson, who preaches tolerance wherever possible …


The World Is Not Enough (World AIDS Day 2008)

December 1, 2008 Jose
World AIDS Day 2008

AIDS is not a disease in isolation. My first consciousness of AIDS didn’t come from Magic Johnson’s infamous press conference, per se. Around my way, the acquired immunodeficiency virus was a deadly version of the kooties. Kids would run around tagging each other with “the big, bad AIDS,” and some even alleged that the most […]

Read more →

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

January 28, 2008

“That’s so gay.”“What a fuckin’ homo!” “No, no, that’s it. You’re gay and that’s it.” “Que maldito maricon del diablo (What a damn faggot from hell)!” Snapshots of the realities of working in sexually conservative neighborhoods, where the parents of these 1st generation US citizens learn their sexual intolerance from their parents and neighbors who […]

Read more →

Mars and Venus Are in the Same Damn Universe

November 8, 2007 Jose

This week, I’ve decided to focus on my girls because, 1) I’ve been reading Pandagon far too much and 2) sexism is still alive, simple and plain. Unfortunately, women are still making 77 cents to the dollar of a man, and even in this state, which many consider to be a beacon of liberalism, we […]

Read more →