Feministing Chat: Kitty Pryde takes on rape culture and Danny Brown’s on-stage blow job

Ed. note: This is a joint post by Maya and Alexandra in response to Kitty Pryde’s recent article at Noisey about the on-stage assault of her friend and  fellow rapper Danny Brown, with whom she has been touring. As KP wrote, “This past Friday, in Minneapolis, the tour made some waves when a female fan pulled Danny’s pants down in the middle of the show and started performing oral sex on him.” Before Kitty’s piece, the public response had mostly been a mix of congratulations and criticism for Brown, with no acknowledgment that what had occurred was an assault.

Alexandra: The first thing I have to say is that I’m so, so glad this was written. I’ve been really pro-KP for a while, but I’m even a bigger fan now. Kitty makes a lot of really good points about why people haven’t understood the assault of her friend for what it was. I thought her analysis of why Danny Brown was paralyzed by expectations of masculinity was really spot on. She wrote:

If he had figured out a way to gently push the girl off him immediately without looking like he was smacking her in the face, he’s faced with attacks on his masculinity by every douchebro in the building. Yo dude, you don’t want your dick sucked, bro? Are you gay? Haha you’re gay you don’t want girls to suck your dick haha gay dude bro man swag! And that’s a rapper’s literal nightmare.

We often talk about how gender roles in rap–and, you know, life in general–constrain women, but here’s a really powerful instance of a man forced to sustain physical violence in order to maintain his public masculinity.

Maya: Definitely. And Kitty also brings up the point that, even aside from that aspect, the whole being unsure of what do when someone assaults you is probably pretty common. She points out that she had her pants ripped off onstage, and didn’t know what to do either, “because being naked in front of 1000 people is incredibly scary and there’s not much quick decision-making happening in your brain during that sort of thing.” I think that’s an important point to make, too. Because while Kitty says that other people got mad on her behalf when she was assaulted on stage, we also know that that’s not universally the case. So many survivors–regardless of gender–are asked, “Well, why didn’t you do anything?” Freezing is a real and normal response, for men and women, and people need to understand that.

Kitty Pryde, left, with Danny Brown

Kitty Pryde and Danny Brown

But for sure expectations of masculinity come into play here. And that pressure to maintain a masculinity that is supposed to be always thrilled to receive a blowjob, at all times and places and from anyone, was then totally reinforced by the “high-five, brah!” reaction to news of the incident. I mean, in many ways, I think this dynamic is especially relevant when it comes to understanding the experience after the fact, since, as Kitty said, you’re probably not doing any real decision-making in the moment. And when I say “understanding the experience,” I mean both collectively as society and individually as a survivor of sexual assault–since those are not as distinct as we’d sometimes like to think. As a (rape) culture, we make it pretty difficult for many survivors–again, regardless of gender–to identify their experience as a violation. And when everyone is giving you props, when the possibility that you didn’t want that to happen is not only dismissed but never even entertained, that just makes it all the harder.

Alexandra: Exactly. But one problem I had with Kitty’s analysis was where she located the source of this oppressive power. Obviously a woman was in the wrong here, but it seemed like she’s arguing that ladies have some sort of privilege–to fight back, to claim victimhood–like a ‘reverse sexism.’ Men, as we were saying, are hurt by gendered expectations, and often in different ways than women are–but it’s the same sexism, the same patriarchy that constrains everyone. We can acknowledge men’s unique problems within this system without pretending the scripts are flipped and women are rolling in power now.

After all, part of the reason we have so much trouble imagining a woman assaulting a man is that we can’t break the assumption that masculinity equals aggression and power while femininity equals passivity and weakness. It’s not a woman’s privilege that allows her to get away with terrible violence like this, but that we can’t conceive of her holding any power at all.

Maya: True, well said. Permission to be seen as a victim–”to at least attempt to kick the shit out of you”–is super important, particularly if you don’t have it. And, as we’ve said, it’s not just male survivors who often don’t. Think of the New Jersey FourCeCe McDonaldMarissa Alexander, and all the women of color in prison for acting in self-defense against domestic and sexual violence. (I mean, it’s really only the “small white girls” like Kitty who even have that permission–and then only if you’re not drunk or wearing a slutty outfit. Oh, and being a virgin would help.) But that permission is not actual power, and it’s also not going to fundamentally change a culture in which people think it’s ok to do things to other people’s bodies without their consent. Although I feel like Kitty would probably agree with that? I dunno, it seems like she gets it.

Alexandra: That’s fair, but I think without an explicit acknowledgement of that we risk providing MRA fuel–though yes, she definitely recognizes that the nuance of the power dynamics at play. And the races of Danny and his assailant, of course, add a whole other dimension. By Kitty’s account, the girl was white. White women are stereotyped as innocent, and black men as sexually voracious, so the assault doesn’t fit any of the predetermined narratives to which we, as a society, are so deeply committed.

Maya: Yes, I think this is key–especially, as Kitty points out, in terms of constraining Danny’s options for reacting during the assault. “Guys pushing girls is not a good look when people are taking photos,” but especially black men pushing white girls. And the fact that as a black man, Brown is automatically considered hypersexualized is only compounded by the fact that he is also a dude in hip hop, and one who has a very sexualized persona and lyrics. (I’m not super familiar with his work, but Lori tells me that he’s got a rebel rockstar kind of sex appeal that is very sexual but doesn’t necessarily adhere to traditional ideas of masculinity–which sounds pretty awesome and I will be checking out asap.) So those are a few strikes against him right there.

Alexandra: I think that’s what I find so powerful about Kitty’s piece–this idea of “disqualifiers” from survivorhood. Because who is the perfect victim? I’m part of this online survivor community and so many people are really weighed down by the strikes against them: that they were dating their attacker, that they’d slept with him or her before, that they’re black, that they’re queer. Of course, none of these factors excuse violence, but you can be smart advocate and still be sensitive to the ways your narrative deviates from the standard, “correct” story you’ve internalized. Luckily, most of us don’t have to figure this out literally on a stage. I’m grateful to Kitty for bringing this issue forward, and hope Brown’s able to find the time and support he needs.

Maya: Indeed. Oh, and I think it goes without saying, but apparently it needs to be said: I hope people stop sexually assaulting their favorite musicians. As Grimes wrote recently, they are not “an object that exists for their personal satisfaction.” They’re people.

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16 Comments

  1. Posted May 4, 2013 at 12:54 am | Permalink
    • Posted May 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      What is sad about that blog is it doesn’t even consider men can be raped by woman:

      “Like women (though at lower rates), men, too, are raped (by other men).”

      Looks like this blog follows the same train of thought in that men can not be raped nor sexually assaulted by women,

  2. Posted May 4, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    I appreciated this post. Then someone else had to come on to question it.

    I’ve read online about this incident, and on the sexual assault side, is basically those based on this Kitty Pryde account. Others I have read question it. I don’t know what to think about it.

    But why do we have to hear from Brown directly (as that writer says) to consider it a sexual assault? Do we only care about women being sexually assaulted if they have the courage to come forward in public? Why does she have to question the Kitty Pryde account? Are we as welcome to question the accounts of female victims, if witnesses have a different story, or we have “incriminating” pictures and videos? I’ve read about videos showing a woman who reported being gang raped, where she appeared to be directing the camera and action, just like Brown is said to have had his hands on the back of a woman’s head. Haven’t some young women committed suicide over having their reputation smeared in public recently?

    The writer of the article at your link asks if we don’t care if the genders are reversed. Well in the same article, she says that men are raped “by other men,” implying that a man cannot be raped by a woman. So she answers her own question. People do in fact care less, if a man is a victim. The FBI and Department of Justice definitions of rape does not provide a way for a woman to rape a man, for example, by mounting a man without his consent or against his will (what some call “envelopment”), which is part of the reason up to 98% of sex offenders are male. According to the FBI, DOJ, or many sexual assault survivor sites, only BEING penetrated by an offender counts as rape. A woman forcing something into a man’s anus is rape. Mounting him against his will is NOT considered rape. Forcing a man to perform cunnilingus is probably not considered rape, according to the FBI/DOJ definition.

    FBI/DOJ: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

    RAINN: “Rape, as defined by the NCVS, is forced sexual intercourse. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by offender(s).”

    See reports by the CDC on men “being made to penetrate” or “coerced” if you want to see a more accurate picture on sexual assault of men by women. Pages 42 and 43:

    http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf

    According to the recent National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey reported in the 12 months prior to being questioned, a similar percentage of men (0.5%) reported being “made to penetrate” as women who were raped (0.6%). Another 1.0% of men vs. 1.7% of women reported “sexual coercion”. Why do I claim this represents mostly sexual abuse of men by women? Because “rape” of men (i.e., a gay man anally penetrating his partner without consent) is not reported. On page 24, “The majority of male rape victims (93.3%) reported only male perpetrators. For three of the other forms of sexual violence, a majority of male victims reported only female perpetrators: being made to penetrate (79.2%), sexual coercion (83.6%), and unwanted sexual contact (53.1%).”

    Remember, according to legal definition, only a man can use his genitals to “rape” (penetrate) another man. It is not surprising that 93% of rapists of men, were men, as opposed to 79% of the time when it was a woman who made a man penetrate someone else against his will. Also according to CDC, “Being made to penetrate someone else includes times when the victim was made to, or there was an attempt to make them, sexually penetrate someone without the victim’s consent because the victim was physically forced (such as being pinned or held down, or by the use of violence) or threatened with physical harm, or when the victim was drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent.”

    RAINN, which has the high end of the estimate, reports that 10% of rape victims are male. They used to report that 1 in six boys were sexually abused as well, which is when most victimization of males is reported to occur. CDC reports that 2.2% of men have been “made to penetrate” vs. 6.6% of women who have experienced “completed forced penetration,” not counting “attempted.”That’s a full 31% as many men as women as victims. The CDC did not report any significant number of men as “rape” victims who were penetrated, even over their lifetimes.

    The CDC is a government agency with a much better overall picture of sexual abuse of males, than the FBI, DOJ, or most groups which devote themselves to mainly women’s issues. At worst are those who question or discredit the abuse of men in general, or the possibility of women actually raping (not merely “assaulting”) men.

  3. Posted May 5, 2013 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    I wish you had used the term rape or at least sexually assaulted in the headline instead of blow job.

    @ Lisa Rupert

    I started to read it, but it had so much rape apology that I stopped. It’s not rape unless Danny Brown calls it rape. 54% of rapes go unreported. Are they not rapes unless the person publicly calls it such? But he was inviting other women to touch his privates, so that means she had the right to do what she did? But he’s a misogynist, so I guess he deserved it. His lyrics are sexually charged. Yet we’ll say nothing a victim wears or does justifies a rape.

    One line saying that I’m not saying he’s unrapeable or men can’t be raped doesn’t negate an entire article that spends the rest of the space saying precisely that. If it changed half way through, let me know and I’ll finish reading it, but it’s just so wrong I can’t bring myself to finish it.

    • Posted May 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      They never even said sexual assault or that rape in the interview itself. They barely said it was physical assault.

      • Posted May 6, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        Steve and John: Seriously? This was an entire post about how the incident should be called a sexual assault and an analysis of why people have a hard time seeing that way. I’m sorry that you are upset that we did not specify “sexual” assault. I mean, I didn’t even notice that–I kinda figured it went without saying? What other kind of assault would it be? We used “blow job” in the headline since that’s what people are talking about so it’s more google-able, and since in the very first line of the post we name it as an assault. (Also we do use the term “rape” in the headline.) I gotta say–nitpicking comments like this are why many feminists believe that most MRAs are more concerned with picking fights with feminists than anything else.

        • Posted May 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

          Alright, I get your reasoning behind your headline. Thank you. You wanted to make it easier to search, but do consider it an assault.

          Which is even more reason why I am curious that Alexandra would then seem to turn on her heel and ask “Are Danny Brown’s misogynistic lyrics relevant to the analysis of his alleged (by someone else) assault?” linking directly to that same victim-blaming feminist current page. Yesterday, at least, when there were only 16 comments, every comment except two agreed with the writer. Do Feministing writers ask “Was her habit of wearing revealing clothes relevant to discussion of her ‘alleged’ assault?” “Was her sexual history relevant to discussion of her ‘alleged’ assault?”

          One does not need to be an MRA to see and ask what is wrong about it. One does not need to be an MRA to ask why the official definition of rape requires BEING penetrated either, which automatically excludes most female offenders from being rapists. Who benefits by not counting women as rapists, counting and promoting the view that up to 98% of sex offenders are men? Not men, and not equality. Why NOT officially count women as rapists, if they “have sex” with someone without their consent?

        • Posted May 7, 2013 at 4:24 am | Permalink

          Yes, you did discuss it, but you miss the subtle nuances in the way it is talked about. When people in the MRM talk about infant male circumcision, many feminists (I’m trying not to generalize and I’m not asserting that anyone particular person here holds these views) will take the position that it’s bad (or not), but not as bad as female circumcision. That leads some feminists to either not support a ban on infant make circumcision or actively oppose one. They hold the parents religion, culture or aesthetic preferences as superior to the child’s bodily autonomy. In this case the LEVEL of victimization is considered.

          Now we talk about make victimization in rape. Kitty Pryde seems to suggest on some level that when men are victimized especially by a woman, they are affected more severely than a woman victimized by a man at least this is how I read it. Since men can’t even claim victim hood, it makes it more difficult for him to heal. This article seems to suggest that men are affected the same. Their situation is just “unique”.

          “We can acknowledge men’s unique problems within this system without pretending the scripts are flipped and women are rolling in power now.”

          “rue, well said. Permission to be seen as a victim–”to at least attempt to kick the shit out of you”–is super important … But that permission is not actual power, and it’s also not going to fundamentally change a culture in which people think it’s ok to do things to other people’s bodies without their consent.”

          I agree permission to at least be able to acknowledge one’e victimization is not power, but it does affect the way and extent to which a person is victimized (I’m not sure that was a component of what is being said because the example is about fighting back. If it is maybe it could be clarified.) because in addition the last part makes it seem irrelevant anyway. It’s not power and it won’t change a thing.

          This is a hot button topic for me. I’m passionate about it and have maybe been over zealous in my critiques, but I do think that the way we talk about male victims is important. It’s maybe unfair to hold feminism to a high standard, but that is both the advantage and disadvantage of the feminist “brand”. It’s considered top shelf, but that’s a hard standard to live up to. On the other hand most of the MRAs I’m familiar with (myself included) looked at feminism first.

  4. Posted May 5, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I respect Lisa Rupert’s view. She’s just repeating what most others I have seen say, and that is not her fault. Only Kitty Pryde, and the accounts based on that account are calling this a sexual assault. Maybe it was not an assault. But the fact that many stories like even this Feministing post call this a “blow job” while considering it an assault; just like many stories call a raping a woman “sex” does offend me as well.

    I’m saying we’re not supposed to question when a woman is involved, right? Why the difference? Because Brown has a sexualized image? Because he was allegedly inviting women to touch him and his genitals previously? Because he’s an entertainer and public property? Because he looks good? Because it allegedly only lasted an instant? Because he didn’t actively resist? Because he didn’t make a public statement or press charges? Isn’t the same true of many women and their assaults? What happened to, “X is not an invitation to rape me”?

    Brown has not made a statement, that I have seen, which is what some critics are expecting, before calling this uninvited or an assault. What is he, sexualized rapper man, supposed to say in public? A woman unzipped me and put her mouth on my penis onstage and she sexually assaulted me? I am a victim? Is a rapper allowed to say that and be taken seriously?

    • Posted May 6, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      “Because he didn’t make a public statement or press charges?”

      I think one point that everyone seems to miss is what he hasn’t said. He hasn’t said it was OK or I’m the man or I wanted it. You would think that based on his professional persona that if it was not unwanted he would be playing it up rather he says I didn’t miss a beat or something similar. That’s not the same as saying that I wanted it. It’s akin to a wide receiver taking a massive hit and holding on to the ball.

  5. Posted May 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    He hasn’t said anything, and I think it’s pretty shitty of Pryde to publish this. If we should listen to anyone, it’s him. He said he ‘didn’t miss a bar’ mid-fellatio, which leads me to believe that he enjoyed it if he was bragging about it later.

    Proof: http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/dc9/danny-brown-bj.jpg

    This blog holds no version of the truth. Neither does Pryde’s piece. We can only judge is Brown actually says something.

    • Posted May 6, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      I understand why someone would have your view based on Brown’s comment. It could also mean he didn’t miss a beat *despite* someone taking their liberties with him during a live performance. He could have ranted about that crazy “bitch” later backstage, or cried himself to sleep, but we don’t know. Does a victim have to come out, to be a victim?

      What would you expect someone with a rapper image to say about possible abuse? What “should” Brown have done, or how should he respond, if it really was unwelcome?

      Are you also going to tell us how female assault victims “should” behave so we believe or recognize them as victims? Should have resisted or fought back? Should have attracted the attention of bystanders? Should have made a public statement? Should have gone to the police?

      Do you know why many surveys do not simply directly ask participants if they have been raped or assaulted, instead asking for results ANONYMOUSLY about behaviors or experiences in more general terms; then discover from results a higher report of victimization? Answer: because despite being able to identify the abusive behavior like being fondled or someone engaging in “sex” against their will, they will not recognize it as sexual assault, or themselves as a victim. It could be simple ignorance, or denial.

      • Posted May 7, 2013 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

        Sorry I just don’t buy that. I heard that he was fondling her breasts as well, that it was consensual! And at the end of the tweet he was like ‘bruh bruh’, implying that he was actually bragging about it!

        I just don’t think he is a victim, at all. Just like you said we don’t know. All we’ve had is Kitty Pryde’s account. I really dont know much about the guy, and his sexualized image – but I honestly disagree on the fact that he would have been ‘bullied’ for not getting a blow job in public.

        I am aware of why those studies are done anonymously, thanks for telling me though. I don’t know if he’s in denial, if he’s ignoring it, or and I understand that sexual abuse against men is usually dismissed, but I just don’t think there is enough evidence to claim any of this. None of us were there. Kitty Pryde was there, but I seriously doubt I can trust her account.

        • Posted May 7, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

          To clarify, I don’t think victims of sexual assault should behave a certain way, or whatever it is that you implied. I just think that facts are extremely hazy and it’s VERY dangerous to write about something as confusing as this. Especially with such strong opinions.

          I am a huge defender of victims of sexual abuse. I’m just pointing out that the fact that there isn’t much proof, except for some ones account – not the victim’s, so not a great account, IMO. As I said there are conflicting accounts (he was kissing her, he was fondling her, it seemed consensual – and before you say this is me telling victims how to behave, it’s not. If it was consensual, there would be gestures to show that the fellatio was OK. Anyone can see that)

          I understand why this is being discussed, I just don’t think it’s a great starting point.

        • Posted May 7, 2013 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

          * Sorry, I meant I just don’t KNOW if he’s the victim, at all.

  6. Posted May 7, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Nice analysis/discussion! I have no idea where other commenters are reading minimization into it.

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