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Excerpt from The Culture of Make Believe

Anderson Valley Advertiser (p. 214)

From chapter "Seeing Things"

I subscribe to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, which is, I think, the best damn rag in the country. It’s subhead is: The Country Weekly That Tells It Like It Is!, and below that are its slogans: “All Happy, none rich, none poor,” and “Peace to the cottages! War on the Palaces!” It features local events for its geographical namesake, a couple hundred miles south of here, as well as analysis of national and international events, including by far the best coverage I’ve seen anywhere of the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas and more recently the worldwide WTO protests. (And if this plug doesn’t gain me a positive review in the mighty AVA, then I simply don’t know what I’ll do.)

A couple of weeks ago the AVAran an article about a woman who’d gone to a strip bar, gotten falling-down drunk and taken some drugs, then at the urging of members of the volunteer fire department, had gone to their headquarters, where at least eight men had sex with her on the pool table, while others wandered in and out, watching. The men burned candles left over from their wives’ charity candle sale. The melted wax damaged the table’s felt. The point here is not to excoriate the men for what they later called consensual sex and what the woman called gang rape (the newspaper has done an extraordinary job of that), but to mention two letters to the editor attacking the AVA’s coverage. One writer, a man named Michael Connelly, who lives in a town called Elk, wrote, “From what I read about the incident at the firehouse a good time was had by all. The only upset was the candles slightly damaging the pool table. So being a house painter, they should have put down a drop cloth first. I asked one of the Elk volunteer firefighters if an incident like this could have happened in Elk and we both agreed it could not—as the Elk Fire Department doesn’t have a pool table.” The paper received one other letter to the editor about the coverage, this from a Charles Moton (I include the men’s names in case any women who read this book ever happen to meet them), who wrote, “I simply cannot understand the uproar. What did people think the red light on the firehouse meant anyway? . . . Bruce Anderson [the editor] . . . complained that the woman was … practically unconscious … when the alleged incidents took place. Of course, she was zonked. Did Anderson think she could have endured the incidents if she had been sober? … My sympathies, if sympathies are due, are for the much abused and maligned pool table. The underlying slate could take the physical pounding, but I fear for the green baize. Some stains simply will not come out.”

It is no wonder that one out of four women in our culture are raped within their lifetimes, and that another 19 percent have to fend off rape attempts. They are objects, to be used, receptacles for our semen, willing or no, conscious or no, less worthy of our sympathy, empathy, or consideration, than the felt of a pool table.