On “Roosh V”, Sexual Violence against Women, and Security: Questions of Resistance

By Johanna DeBari

I have never been so aware of my embodied vulnerability, than after reading an article about Roosh V and his followers.

Sparked by Daryush Valizadeh or “Roosh V” initially advocating for the legalization of rape when it takes place on private property, the blogger has now launched an “International Meetup Day” for men who have been following his blogs, to meet and form community with one another. Transgender individuals, women, and men under the age of 21 are forbidden from attending these meetings, which are happening in major cities all over the country. Some feminist organizations are organizing counter-protests to “f**k with them,” responding to the hostile outcries from Roosh V claiming to “exact furious retribution” on those who challenge him.

My initial reaction was honestly disbelief: how can people think this way? And further…how are there so many people who all feel this way and can support this movement? These men must have friends, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, peers, daughters, co-workers or other women in their life they care about. So how can they love the women in their lives, but preach such hateful, violent rhetoric?

This disbelief slowly slipped into fear: fear for my safety, and for my bodily integrity; and for that of other women. If there are so many men in this country (in this WORLD) that this organization is trying to stage an internationalmovement in support of legalized rape on private property, how safe am I really? I always feel like I am hyper-aware of my vulnerability as a young woman on college campuses because of all of the statistics I hear (and the focus of my academic projects on sexual violence against women on college campuses as a human security threat), but this organization takes it to a whole new level.

I am terrified for where this country is going. If men like this are gaining ground, and finding community, it seems like a blatant affront to my security and safety, and that of other women as well. My embodied security feels threatened by their mere existence as an organization. The fact that I feel I have the right to be free from violence, is invalidated and violated by their existence. My want to be able to have control over my body and what happens to it, becomes subordinate to the male entitlement decree of sexual pleasure from female bodies like mine. I have never been more aware of my vulnerability, or conscious about how some of the men in my own country may perceive me as I move through the world.

While still afraid, I am moved to want to resist and take action against this hateful group: but how? Participating in a counter-protest at one of these meetings feels like it could be dangerous because it might be a trap: where these men would come ready to commit acts of violence against women who dared to resist their assembly formation. But at the same time, this makes me want to interrupt and disrupt their organizing all the more: to signal to these men I will not stand idly by and watch them form a community on a platform of hatred. But how can I do that without endangering my safety?

So I ask you, dear reader, fellow feminist, activist, or simply someone who happened upon this blog out of coincidence: what would you do?

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