On Derrick Rose, Chris Brown, And Black Men’s “Non-Existent” Pain

"Walk it off, little bitch."

“Walk it off, little bitch.”

As last season’s NBA playoffs intensified, I found myself rooting for Derrick Rose harder than I’ve ever rooted for any professional athlete. Defending him, even. Sometimes, I’d even feel my temperature rise when hearing or reading a criticism lobbed his way.

This by itself is nothing really worth mentioning. Rose is very popular and plays with an aesthetically pleasing recklessness and audacity that is completely unique to him. Of course I—an NBA diehard—would be a big fan of his game.

Except, well…

Derrick Rose is not one of my favorite NBA players. In fact, if I had to list the 20 or players I enjoy watching the most, Rose probably wouldn’t crack the list. I actually think he’s somewhat overrated.

Also, he did not play a minute of NBA basketball last season.

So, um, why was I rooting for him?

Well, in April of 2012, Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. For an athlete, this is one of the scariest and most devastating injuries you can receive. For someone like Rose, a man whose livelihood is predicated on his ability to twist, torque, and explode off that knee, it would be especially harrowing.

Between surgery and rehab, it usually takes a year before you “fully” recover. And, “fully” is in quotes because, as long as I’ve been watching NBA basketball, I’ve never seen anyone recover completely from a torn ACL. Sure, players have returned and have had very productive careers, but no one has come back as quick and explosive as they were before.

So, Rose sat out the entire 2012-2013 NBA season. But, as the Bulls advanced into the playoffs—and as reports leaked that his knee was healthy enough to play—he became a national source of ridicule for his decision to not suit up.

“Man, that dude has no heart!!!” men screamed while sitting on their couches in their Dad’s old pajamas, smearing Cheetos stains on the universal remote.

“Derrick Rose is a quitter” others typed on message boards, moments before going back to XHamster.com and searching for Asian DPs.

“F*ck you, p*ssy!” some even screamed at him during games, shouting so vigorously that the rolls on their backs did the Wobble.

None of this surprised me. The sports world is a strange place, and strange things—like people questioning the heart of a kid who scratched and crawled his way out of the Southside of Chicago to become one of the best athletes on Earth—happen in strange places.

It did, however, reinforce the idea that athletes in general—and young Black athletes in particular—aren’t supposed to own their bodies. It didn’t matter that Rose repeatedly said he wasn’t physically or mentally ready yet. A doctor whose salary is paid by the Chicago Bulls said he was ready, so that nigga better play! F*ck how you feel, and f*ck your future. Get on the court, and help us fill up that arena!

You know, I thought about Rose yesterday when reading a piece at Jezebel about Chris Brown’s recent admission that he lost his virginity to a teenager when he was eight. (Eight!!!)

Titled Chris Brown Brags About Losing His Virginity When He Was Eight, it mocks Brown as the author wonders how he was able to turn “…a personal confession into yet another opportunity to showcase how unpleasant he seems.” If you think the author’s tone completely and intentionally glosses over the fact that if Brown was truly eight years old (Eight!!!) when this happened, he was raped, you’d be right.

Although Brown’s admission obviously is in a completely different ballpark than an ACL tear, the flippant reactions to both Brown’s story and Rose’s injury seem to come from the same place: Black men aren’t supposed to feel any physical, mental, or emotional pain.

You blew out the knee your career is dependent on? Who gives a damn? We’re playing the Clippers. You need to guard Chris Paul. You admit you had sex with a person twice your age when you were still at an age where some kids still think Santa Claus exists? You’re a Black male, and you’re inherently hyper-sexual. I’m sure you loved every minute of it, and I’m also sure that experience had absolutely no effect on your self-esteem, your self-worth, or your feelings about women. Go take another nude selfie.

The NBA season is a couple weeks away. The Bulls open up against the Heat. Lebron James is one of my favorite players, and I want the Heat to win. I do not want everyone who questioned Rose’s heart last spring to tear their ACLs while jumping off their futons to celebrate a vicious Rose dunk. But, you have to admit, that would be kinda poetic.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Danny Brown Got Head On Stage And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

Chicks dig this guy.

Chicks dig this guy.

So a couple of weeks ago, indy-alt-ratchet rapper Danny Brown allegedly got some head from a which while he was performing in Minneapolis. Not only did he get head in the whip without crashing it on stage, he FINISHED his verse AT THE SAME DAMN TIME!

I don’t care who you are, that’s talent. I remember one time at band camp, I was performing Michael Jackson’s “Speed Demon” on stage and some chick yelled out “you suck” and I totally forgot the words and stood there doing the same ole two step while the instrumental played in the background. Totes embarassing.

Since I’m a dude, you’re a dude, she’s a dude, we’re some dudes my first thought was how crazy that is and also how cool that is. I mean, you can’t see that type of thing coming can you? No pun intended. But he’s just on stage doing his thing and some chick just can’t wait for the hotel room and not only grabs his crotch but yanks his chain and domes him off. That is some rock start sh*t.

But of cousre, I have the Internets. And the Internets told me that Danny Brown was sexually assaulted. Tour mate and friend Kitty Pryde penned (or typed since I don’t know if you can pen something if you don’t actually use a pen) a letter where she mentioned both Ricky Smiley and To Kill A Mockingbird within 200 words of each other. That, my friends, is a some amazing command of the written word. I remember once I used the words Barack Obama and new Bugatti pretty close to one another. That was a good day.

Champ wrote a post some time ago about a time when he got drunk and woke up to some sexxing that he didn’t even remember til the next day. He immediately felt like he got a happy ending while being able to realize that had something like that happened to a woman it’s rape, thru and thru. But for some reason, when situations like Danny Brown or a man waking up to some woman humping him to high hell just don’t seem…bad, per se. I realize this makes no sense. But I also realize that double standards exist.

Back in 2005, I was out in the mean streets of NYC with a gang of folks for New Year’s Eve. Long story short, a friend of mine pulled out my johnson at the bar. No dome, just freedom. Why she did it is unimportant because it happened. I was too drunk to immediately react but I’m fairly sure that had I just grabbed some woman’s boobs and pulled them out I’d potentially be on my way to jail. And that would be fair.

Kitty Pryde brings up a good point via her letter though. Men aren’t well equipped to handle these situations either. When my homegirl pulled out my wang, I just laughed it off and waited for her to return him to my Hammer pants. In school, and actually out and about, I’ve had women walk up to me and grab my wang. Never once did I feel compelled to say something to an authority. I guess it’s because I had no idea what to say. It happened and after the shock wore off – face it, we’re taught that women just aren’t generally that foreward – I just laugh it off and tell my boys that some chick grabbed my sh*t, to which they usually want to know which chick so hopefully she’ll do the same to them.

Men and women view sexual contact differently. It’s clear that the same interactions can elicit wholly different outcomes depending on who is doing the initial contact. Which is probably why Danny Brown wouldn’t punch the chick in the fore head when she domes him off. Can you imagine if Rihanna is on stage and some dude jumps up there and puts his mouth on her vajayjay? He’s going to jail, the concert is going to stop, and news media would explode from all of the articles about how dangerous men are getting and how prevalent rape culture is nowadays. This Danny Brown story barely got any traction anywhere outside of rap blogs. It doesn’t matter as much. It’s the same reason why people shrug off the idea that men can get raped.

Men are bigger and usually stronger – though Wendy Williams pisses all over that theory – so a man should be able to stop some sh*t from going down. If he doesn’t he must want it and since all men are all sex all the time its hard to fathom the idea of a man being sexually assaulted.

Was Danny Brown sexually assaulted? Yes he was. But do most of us view it along those lines? Hell does he? Probably not. And if you aren’t upset that you got assaulted, is it still assault?

Overall, I just find it curious that this happened, and even if it wasn’t to an A-list superstar artist, there’s really not much coverage of it all. I think we can all agree that male sexual assault isn’t getting as much face time, no pun intended, at the sex crime table. I wonder why that is?

Or do we all, men and women, truly subscribe to the boys will be boys mantra and as long as its happening to him and not by him then he’ll be alright? I don’t know.

But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t punch any chick in the forehead for doming me off on stage either.

Help me.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. DON’T STAGE ME aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

The Responsibility of Knowledge and Compassion

manThe recent details and verdict in the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case seems to have rightly brought a lot of the issues regarding rape front and center. I watched the Melissa Harris-Perry show this weekend and there was a significant discussion centering around sexual assault and how so many of the conversations around the topic have all centered around the woman’s ability to prevent herself from getting raped as opposed to the idea that perhaps, men just shouldn’t rape women.

Oh, and that if you know a woman like Ronnie from The Player’s Club, you should stay away from her at all costs. She’s a woman with a male mentality. Or at least a “male” mentality when it comes to her outlook on how the world works. I do happen to know a woman like her. And yes, she’s in Atlanta. And she may or may not be apart of my family. I’ll never tell.

But, while listening to all of the discussions, I really took a minute to think about the very idea and concept of sexual assault. See, I can honestly say that I’ve spent very little time ever actually concerning myself with it. To be completely real, not until my daughter showed up did I start to really think about the possibility of “bad” things happening. By bad, I mean roughly anything too. Which is odd considering many of the places I’ve lived in life where “bad” things were just commonplace. Perhaps because of my background I’ve just been desensitized to certain violent acts. But nearly all of them involved violence of men towards other men. For me, thats a norm (or was). The fact that violence is a norm is problematic in and of itself, but that’s another talk show.

Let’s just skip the academics and get right to the point. I have four sisters. To my knowledge, none of them have been victims of rape or sexual assault. To my knowledge. But more importantly, I’ve never even thought to ask. It has never dawned on me ’til today, amidst a Twitter “rant” per se, to ever ask any of my sisters – and we’re all close – if they’ve ever had anybody force them to do something against their will.

Then comes the second half of that thought process: I’m afraid to find out.

Think about it, what do you do if you ask your sister, and she says, “yes, I was raped. But I didn’t tell anybody because who was going to believe me?” What do you do if you ask all of your sisters and they tell you that they’ve been the victims of some sort of sexual violence?

I used to date a woman, years ago, who told me that she was the victim of rape when she was very young. I didn’t even know her that well but that bit of information rocked me to my corps. It still does and I haven’t spoken to her in quite some time.

What do you do when somebody that you actually love and care about tells you that something so heinous happened to them? That’s what gets lost to me in so many of the ridiculous commentary and opinions and the whole  idea that a woman can prevent it from happening. Yes, the chick in Steubenville was drunk off her gourd. That doesn’t mean that she asked for it. And considering some of the statements that the main dude made against her, I mean, as his parent…don’t you kind of have to move? If I found out that my child was the one who engaged in those activities and got caught saying stuff like, “she’s basically a dead boy. I just want some sexual attention.” (or whatever exactly it was that he said), I’d be going to jail as well.

Am I ever going to look at my sister and wonder what she did to invite that violence should she tell me something happened to her? Hell no. The rage I’d feel wouldn’t allow me the time to even allow for that. There’s never a reason to violate somebody’s person, no matter what the circumstance and I’m a bit surprised that anybody thinks that is okay. It truly dumbfounds me

But again, I’ve never asked. And as much as it’s on my mind, I’m likely not to ever do that. Part me of believes that if something ever did happen, I’d already know. But part of me also knows that my sisters know that I’ve got a dangerous aspect to my life. One that’s gotten itself into trouble before and who has been a “squeeze first, ask questions last” mentality type of guy. But the other piece is, I’m just not ready for that answer to be “yes.”

I’m just not. That would be real pain to me. The idea that women so strong could be turned helpless and given up on hope while some man (or Ronnie) decided to prove to her that her life wasn’t her own bothers me as I’m writing this.

The thing that makes the Steubenville case so important is that the guys told on themselves and there are like a million “accomplices”. We’ve never had such a window into how a woman was treated so disrespectfully before. Hell, she didn’t even know until she found out via others. I can’t imagine what that feels like.

Ultimately, this entire episode caused me to evaluate my own thoughts because despite being raised around nothing but women, I’ve always viewed them as sisters, not women. But when I realize they’re both sisters AND women, I have to realize that the possibilities are endless. Hell, I don’t even like going out with them because of the attention they get.

Because of where that attention might lead and what that might lead me to (have to) do. Its the proverbial head in the sand approach.

Seems like the approach many of us have taken. The problem is that at some point you have to take a look to see what you’re avoiding, so you can make sure you’re still avoiding it. Hopefully you don’t see a trail of blood and tears.

Because once you know, you know, ya know. And if you know you have to do something, right?

Maybe that’s the problem. And that’s a problem.

-VSB P

On “Smart Drinking” And Happy Endings

I’ve always been what you (well, I) would call a “smart drinker”—basically, a person who does what’s necessary to end up in a bed by the end of the night instead of outside of a boarded up KFC, naked with church socks on, and singing the chorus to Redman’s “Sooperman Lover.” I don’t drink and drive anymore. If out, I only drink drinks I’ve drank before. I make sure to eat before I know I’m going to be drinking heavily. I also have a good idea of when I’m about to cross the line from “f*cked up” to “I’m about to die!!!!,” and I usually stop drinking by then.

This hasn’t always been the case though. I’ve definitely been a dumb-ass drinker before. One time in particular, I was hanging out with a chick I was seeing at the time (“Carmen”). We started the night off at her place, passing a bottle of Jack around before going out. We then hit a couple clubs, each had a few more drinks, and finally ended up at this lounge spot to meet up with some friends.

Now, at this point I was feeling a bit more wasted than usual. Considering the relatively small amount I had to drink, uncharacteristically wasted. And, while I was at the lounge, halfway to the bottom of my second Long Island in a 10 minute span, I overheard Carmen say something that sounded like “Fee fearful. Wu pennet beat many moods.” It wasn’t until the next afternoon that I realized she was actually saying “Be careful. You didn’t eat any food.” 

Now, anyone who’s had any experience drinking knows what happens when you drink heavily on an empty stomach. Basically, you go from zero to DMX in less than five songs. I don’t know exactly when it happened—I think while I was awkwardly attempting to heel toe during a dancehall set—but I all of a sudden wasn’t able to keep my balance, falling into random couches and chicks with fuzzy chests. My words weren’t even slurring. They were slobbering.

Apparently, my friends parked me on one of the couches, and apparently I passed out and stayed there for the rest of the night. I say “apparently” because I honestly don’t remember. I don’t remember laying on the couch. I don’t remember falling down the steps and busting my elbow. I don’t even remember singing “I Like The Way You Move” to an embarrassed Carmen as we were all waiting for a cab.

I do remember somehow “waking up” on Carmen’s bed. We apparently had just gotten back to her place, my clothes were somehow off, and she was giving me head. I remember still being so out of it that I was looking down at her and thinking “Why is she trying to tie my shoes? Doesn’t she realize my shoes are off?” Apparently I even said “Carmen, stop. I’m shoeless.” (And, apparently this made her laugh so hard that she almost bit me)

But while I still wasn’t completely awake, my penis definitely was, and she climbed on top of me. We both, um, finished, and I went right back to sleep. It wasn’t until a conversation the next afternoon that I even remembered having sex. And, when the experience finally started coming back to me I thought “Yessssss! Happy endings like a motherf*cker”

That night has been and will always been one of the most memorable nights I’ve ever had. I had a great time—too great of a time, perhaps—acted a fool, hung out with some friends, made it to a familiar bed in one piece, and had a very happy (albeit, not completely lucid) ending. It remains the most drunk I’ve ever been, and it will likely be the last time I ever get that f*cked up.

Yet, as I sit here today, reading through the comments on this piece at The Frisky, I’ve come to realize that if the roles were reversed, and Carmen was the too-f*cked-up-to-really-consent-even-though-I-know-she-wants-to-have-sex one instead of me, I could have been charged with rape. And, well, even if I wasn’t actually charged, it would have been rape. Having sex with a woman when she’s not able to consent, regardless of your relationship to her, is rape.

While I’ve never slept with someone who was clearly passed out, I have initiated sex with women who were laying next to me, drunk or half asleep. Sure, their bodies eventually responded to my advances, but those reactions were initially instinctual/unconscious before they woke/sobered up. And, while I was 99% sure that each of these women would be okay with me doing that, I don’t remember getting any clear consent.

I guess the best and smartest thing to do would be to just not sleep with a woman if there’s a possibility that either of you are too drunk/sleepy/tired to give unambiguous consent.

Or, even better (and more realistic), have a conversation beforehand to explicitly state that it’s okay to go ahead if in that situation. Even this has some loopholes, though. I mean, can you really consent to something weeks, days, even hours before it actually happens?

I don’t know where I’m going with this. I’m kind of just thinking aloud right now, and I know that a man using the wrong words and tone when even mentioning subjects like consent and rape have the potential to trigger some very serious reactions. This is me treading light as a motherf*cker.

Trigger or not though, I have to admit that in situations like the one with Carmen—situations that many of us reading this have been in—there seems to be more gray than black and white.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Todd Akin Doesn’t Know Shit About Rape. And, Neither Do I.

It’ll be August 21st by the time most of you read this, which makes it almost seven months since I wrote “Rape Responsibility,” And The Fine Line Between Victim-Blaming and Common Sense” and followed it up the next day with “Takeaways From Yesterday’s “Rape Responsibility” Discussion.” I’m sure many of you remember exactly what happened here that week, but for those who don’t, here’s a summary.

I crafted a very ill-informed, arrogant, and hurtful opinion piece about how women can help to avoid getting themselves in situations that may lead to rape by being more vigilant and acting more “responsibly.” It was a response to Zerlina Maxwell’s “Stop Telling Women How Not To Get Raped.”, and I assumed that it would lead to a day of insightful, occasionally heated, but ultimately forgettable discussion and debate. Basically, just like any other day at VSB.

I was wrong.

It was not a good day. Dozens of women left comments recounting stories of their own sexual assaults. Some even said that coming to VSB and reading this was a slap in the face, a gut punch that forced them to recall some feelings they hoped to never have to feel again. VSB was (deservedly) trashed on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, The Huffington Post and at least a dozen other places. (Actually, let me clarify that. VSB was trashed, but Liz and Panama had nothing, I repeat, nothing to do with that piece. They didn’t deserve to have to deal with criticisms caused by something I did.) And, for many people, the sting still remains. Even last week, I saw VerySmartBrothas referred to on Twitter as “the guys who wrote that rape post.”

Now, while all of this was going on at VSB, I spent much of that day (the rest of the week, actually) engaged in Gchat, text, email, and phone conversations with various people about this topic. Friends, family, and even notable feminist-leaning writers I was cool with — Jamilah Lemieux, Latoya Peterson from Racialicious, Deesha Philyaw, Kimberly “Dr. Goddess” Ellis, etc — all hit me up to basically hear directly from me what the hell inspired me to write that. Some, even after expressing how deeply hurt and disappointed it made them, asked how I was doing. One friend even said that when she saw it making its way around Twitter, she desperately hoped that I wasn’t the VSB who wrote it.

The “Takeaways...” piece came the next day. It was an apology that had twice as many words as the entry that sparked it. And, along with apologizing for writing it, I attempted to explain what led me to feel like writing it wasn’t a bad idea. Still, at that point, I still believed that what made people upset was more the tone than the content. Basically, I still believed that I had a valid point, but I just didn’t articulate it in the way I should have.

The abject wrongness of “advising” women that “more vigilance” would equal “less rapes” finally dawned on me a couple weekends later.

I was laying in bed with a person I was seeing at the time. We were both playing on our phones, having a conversation about whatever the hell it is that people talk about while laying in bed half sleep and playing with their phones. After a few moments, she turned her back to me, put her phone down, and went to sleep.

As I watched her fall asleep in my arms, it hit me. I am six foot two, and I weigh somewhere between 220 and 225 pounds. I am a foot taller than her, and I outweigh her by close to 100 pounds. I’m also a former division one athlete who is in reasonably good shape. Yet, here she is, half-naked, sleep, and completely vulnerable. She must really trust me. She must trust me in a way that I’ve never trusted anyone outside of my parents. She trusts me enough that she doesn’t consider me to be a threat to her safety, but she had to work to get to that point.

Although I know I would never sexually assault her, she doesn’t know that. Sure, she trusts that I wouldn’t and she hopes that I won’t, but she doesn’t know. She’s not certain, and she can never really be. This lack of knowledge, this not knowing whether a boyfriend or a husband or a fuck buddy or a platonic friend or a nice neighbor or the cool guy who bought her a drink at the bar is going to be the man who rapes her, is something women always have to think about. Always. Is it always the prevailing thought? No. (Well, at least I don’t think that it is.) But, from what I’ve come to understand, it is a perpetually subconscious thought for most women, a fear that is never really not there.

You know, I’ve heard people use the Black/White analogy when attempting to explain the difference between men and women and the concept of rape. Basically, just how Whites in America will never understand how it is to be Black, we (men) will never understand how it feels to always be aware that a person they adore, a person they love, could do something so awful to them. While I think the analogy works in some way, it ultimately fails because on some level, I do think that White people can have at least a peripheral understanding of what it means to be Black in America.

On the other hand, my insensitivity about rape — and the insensitivity possessed by men like Todd Akin — stems from the fact that I just never had to give more than a superficial thought to it. It — and “it” in this case is “how a typical woman feels about the fact that every man is a potential rapist” — is completely unfathomable. I can read books and blogs, I can ask questions and take classes, but I’ll never know. When I bring a date upstairs to my place for the first time, I don’t have to even consider thinking about how I’d defend myself, alert help, and (hopefully) exit if she wanted something I wasn’t comfortable offering. If I’m laying in bed with a woman and I tell her that I’m a little too tired to have sex right now, I don’t have to worry about her deciding that my “No” wasn’t really a “NO No,” and forcibly coercing me to change my answer. I don’t have to go through the same mental, emotional, and spiritual process a woman does when eventually getting to a place where she can trust that a man won’t take advantage of the access she’s granted him, where she can sleep in his arms and not paralyze herself with worry about what he might do when she’s most vulnerable.

I forgot exactly where I first heard this, but one of the best things I’ve ever learned is that true intelligence is knowing exactly what you don’t know. With this in mind, I have one message for Todd Akin and any other man who thinks they have some irreverent and important insight about rape — a message I wish I would have told myself seven months ago:

“You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)