1127 s. 51st, street West Philadelphia, Pa. 19143
Sometimes, situations are handled almost exactly the way that you feel they should be. When dealing with fucked up situations-the best remedies normally are most present in retrospect—but sometimes things fall into place exactly how they should. Last month a negative situation emerged and I can truly say that it was handled well by the community I am part of.
I start this story with Robyn and I waking down the alley, talking about how well everything was going. See, we were at the after-party on the Saturday night during the Pointless Fest. Greg ran a bar that night and chose the three best people for the job-people who are used to being around drunks-and are responsible enough to keep track of the cash-myself, Robyn, and Cris Crap. The show went well, the punx bought beer and near the end the beer was gone and we decided to take a well deserved break. There we were, Robyn and I walking down the alley, amidst the good Chaos of the show, talking about our lives, our friendship, and the horde of French Canadians who were staying at our house. Yep, we were in quite good spirits when we turned the corner to witness a young women crying and a group of concerned guys talking about calling the cops.
Now neither Robyn or I are ones to shy away from confrontation so, of course we stopped to find out what was going on. The young women was sitting on the curb crying, saying she just wanted to go home and forget everything. We then found out that she had just been raped by someone at the Fest. We all set out looking for the boy in question, he was nowhere to be found, but we did find out that he intended to go to the next days show. We went home and this became the talk of our house, because this is something that is far more important than the other aspects of the fest (the music, the socializing, the parties etc.) There was a rape, and it was something that needed to be dealt with in a quick and organized fashion. Calls were made, and in the morning a meeting was set up in order to come to a consensus of how to handle this situation. It had come out that the rapist had also attacked a second women, showing a repetitive behavior—a behavior that needed to be stopped. Because the rapist was from outside the area (he lived in Minneapolis) and the victim was unsure if she wanted to file legal charges, it was decided to confront the rapist and use physical force to inform him that his actions were fucked up. The confronters would all be women with male allays nearby for support. The next day everyone went to the Fest ready to confront the rapist.
The rapist was found, met by the group of women and asked to come to the alley behind the show space. He was resistant, knowing his actions, and it was obvious what outcome was ahead. However the numbers and momentum were against him and he was whipped off. The women informed him that his behavior was out of hand and there were going to be consequences for his actions. Shouts were given and I doubt this boy will ever forget the repercussions. It was inspiring seeing a group of my close women friends come down on him, and it was just perfect seeing my roommate swing a club to his head. I am not an avid proponent of violent means for repercussions, but I believe that in certain circumstances force is needed, this instance being one of them. I hope this boy clearly remembers what exactly can/will/should happen to him when he assaults a women. During this alteration someone made a call to the cops, they arrived to find this spectacle and surprisingly, were supportive of the women and took the boy to jail so he could face rape charges. (One of the only negative occurrences were the insensitivity of the ‘Fest bouncers’ towards the male alleys of the women. Having someone who is not part of your community telling you to ‘move on’, when you have made it quite clear that you are there by request to support the women’s group is annoying. Why Greg & Tony insist on hiring Philly’s hardcore meatheads as Pointless fest staff is beyond me.)
In the aftermath of the arrest and the confrontation other measures were taken up by the community. A women’s and a men’s group formed to formally discuss this issue and ones like it. Both these groups are trying to build a dialogue with the rapist—because of the common agreement that the most positive goal for this rapist, is that he realize the atrociousness of his actions, learns from his mistakes, and to never again carryout this brutal behavior. These discussion groups also focus on other gender issues, and how we can go about making sure these anti-social behaviors stop plaguing our community.
I really have to say that I am proud of how my community has handled this situation. Really, I am. We prepare for these occurrences - we talk, theorize, make plans of what we should do to combat any anti-social action like rape, and it is good to see us set in motion a process for handling it. We live in an American culture that is very violent and sex-negative. Where sex is commodified, its beauty is stripped away, and sex can be seen as a situation of conflict - instead of an experience in sharing. When so many boys see sex as something they can get from a women, in extreme situations this manifests itself in a boy deciding he is entitled to take this sex, as a rape from a women. If we should be doing anything, it is to modify our own counter-culture to work against these violent, sex-negative values.
The week after the fest, I remember someone saying how disappointed they were in this punk scene, the whole scene, for they said that it was a scene in which a rape could happen. I think this is too simple minded, too easy to scapegoat the whole community. I brought up that with this amount of people you will have some that do not fit into the dominate, positive mindset of the group. Take any sample of the American population of 1000 people between the ages of 18 to 25, put them into a weekend ‘party’ situation and I will sadly forecast that rape will happen. That is American/ patriarchal culture for you. One of the great things about the Anarko-punk community is the fact that these situations will not be brushed aside, they will be dealt with. The reason why we make these confrontations public, and that we talk about it (or write columns about it) is to create a culture where this doesn’t happen. We create a community where boys learn that attacking women and forcing sex is not allowed or accepted.
I am not advocating the beating of everyone who is accused of rape and sexual assault, every situation needed to be handled according to its own circumstances. Not all situations are as clear as the one I painted above, and I know personally that some people use a false accusation of sexual assault as a weapon to attack. We still have to face the sad situation that some people lie or distort the truth for their own personal reasons, and we as a community need to establish how to deal with these people, as their actions are also detrimental. But when the situation of assault is clear, I believe we should/must take strong action in order to certain a cohesive and safe community and at the Pointless Fest, I believe that is what we did.
—Mike Straight c/o the Catbox/ 218 Buckingham Place/ Philadelphia, PA 19104 or email@example.com
1) So since last issue I moved, not to any exotic countries or anything, but a couple blocks across West Philly. So send any mail to the Catbox, instead of Random Haus. Also we occasionally do shows in our basement - so if you got a band that is coming through Philly, and you all are good, fun, & people that Rock contact me - but if you suck, as a band or as people, you should stay away - as I have stated before in these columns I can insult and heckle in multiple languages.
2) Now on the topic of “sex positive West Philly happenings” Pigpen and I have started our new identities as “comical/exotic male dancers” of the scene. Starting as a joke and ending up with Sara Hope offering us a case of beer if we can put together a stripping/burlesque routine, Me, Pigpen, & and a lad named Roach put together a routine using the music of ‘going away party and all the whos in whosville showed up to see the dance moves of me and Pigpen. Overall it was pretty fun and liberating, as there we were, trying to prove that aging krusty men can still be some sort of sex symbol. We were also adding to the overall revolution against the structural problem of the dominate society, where only a select age & body type, for both genders, is allowed to be sexy. I do have to say that it is good for my “aging male body image issues” when my neighbors tastefully comment on the quality of both my butt and my ability to “shake it”.
3) It was when I was saying goodbye to Cris Crap that I realized how the numbers of Queer males in the West Philly Anarchist punk community is entering “endangered species” status. I don’t know, I don’t like it. I don’t want to sound “hetrophobic” but scenes filled with only straight males tend to become a little stale and boring to me. There was a time when this town was filled with Queer punx, where me and Pigpen were the straightest guys around (for those who haven’t met myself or Pigpen - Pigpen gets drunk and starts kissing all his male friends and I, while primarily having female partners, still have been known to get it on with men - the point being is; neither me or Pigpen are really all that straight.) These days me and Pigpen are among the queerest punk men around. Now we haven’t really changed, the scene has, and I for one, am not too happy about it. Back in the summer of ‘93, during the Anarchist gathering here, a joke went around saying we need to recruit more people to West Philly, so a deal went out. If you moved to Philly the package you would receive was 1) a room in a squat 2) $10 3) a bike 4) a six pack of Yuengling 5) 5 dates with local folks.
Well a couple of years ago the deal was unofficially called off, as Philly was becoming one of the better places in the states to live, but now with Queer punk men on the endangered Philly species list, I think a new insensitive plan should be established if you want to move here. Here it is:
1) 5 dates - 2 being with me and Pigpen 2) a quart of Yuengling 3) a bike you can fix 4) a crowbar and a house you can open 5) a chance to be in the “men of West Philly” calendar that Wilder is putting out. Ok, this might not be all that good, but we are running on a limited recruiting budget—and hell, punk queer boy, what the hell is Portland offering you these days?
4) So I have returned from my month long whirlwind tour of Europe (Berlin, Liege & Amsterdam) - it was hectic, a little crazy, and overall really damn good. Highlights include: hanging out with Punx my age, getting into an argument with some German football fans, passing out on Rigearstrasse, seeing a bunch of good krust bands, drinking better beer, and getting into a number of long conversations ranging from: the formation and influence of national identity, the dismantling of the welfare states in the EU, gender/queer identities, the different interpretations of languages, and the overall meaning and importance of life—awww— Das ist gut—Ja. My sister Eleanor met me in Liege for a punk fest and I kept thinking that we were getting a little too obnoxious (as we do this when we get together) but when we tried to leave the house we were staying at to go to the other squat in town - Philty Phill from Australia talked us out of it by saying what fun, good people we are - so I guess we weren’t too obnoxious for them—or maybe we were, but they must have liked it if they wanted us to stay—or maybe this was all because of Monica’s prophecy that 2 crazy American’s would one day come and fix the toilet...which we did. Oh speaking of Philty Phil from Australia (not to be confused with Filthy Phil from Philadelphia) I was really going to get Greg to fly him over for next years Pointlessness, cause that man can cook. Really, I have met some good punk cooks in my time, and he is right up there with the best. I mean they fly the best crust bands in every year, why not one of the best punk cooks to make the food? I would be pushing for flying in Philthy Phil to do all the punk catering, but this year, at the same time Phil is organizing the 1st annual “Punx hike” where we are walking from Liege to a formally squatted house in Vaals, Holland and then back. It is only about 30 km (20 miles for all you metricphobic Americans) and we are doing it over a few days (I mean we are punx, right? No need to rush or be athletic about it). So if you like good company, and bad international jokes in multiple languages, drinking European beer, and you’re a fun person - think about joining us next summer, Phil is even making patches for the occasion.
Ok, Ok, I am going to stop this column - as in these endnotes I keep rambling about the strange happenings in my weird little life - but I do want to say I just discovered the best band - they are this Polish political dance band called SUPERGIRL & THE ROMANTIC BOYS and it is really some of the best poppy dance stuff I have ever heard—Really!!!