Guns, Dicks, and Body Spas

Here are some facts:

There were about 12,000 gun homicides in America last year. That’s about one and a third per hour, or about 33 a day.

During that same year, American men raped more than 250,000 people, the large majority of them women. That figure is conservative. It doesn’t count rapes in prison or the military, or the sexual abuse of children. Including those, it’s reasonable to add at least a hundred thousand more. The overwhelming majority of these rapes are committed by men, and in the overwhelming majority the weapon used was a penis.

In America, we talk a lot more about guns than we do about rape. For or against, pundits and politicians are happy to talk about firearms. The violence done to women by rape is a comparatively rare topic, unless we’re talking about the rapes our president committed. Regardless, remember: Every time someone — usually a man — murders someone else — sometimes a man, sometimes a woman — with a firearm, another man will use his penis to rape someone, and that victim will likely be a woman. Then another man will rape. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then another will. Then someone else — again, usually a man — will use a gun to murder someone, and another 29 men will rape, and the cycle will repeat.

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Blitz Body Spa is a woman-only spa and wellness center in Toronto. Like most Canadian cities, Toronto’s firearm homicide rate is significantly lower than even a small American city. Unless you are racialized, indigenous, or poor, your chances of rape are also slightly lower — at least according to the statistics reported by the Canadian government. Organizations like Vancouver Rape Relief and the London Abused Women’s Centre paint a different picture.

Currently, large numbers of transgender activists are harassing Blitz Body Spa because they don’t allow people with penises to walk around nude with female patrons. Many call for a boycott until the policy is changed; some have gone as far as to demand forced closure by the Canadian government for violating human rights.

The politics of those opposing these boundaries likely vary, but I imagine most of them consider themselves liberals. Most of them would also consider themselves feminists with women’s safety and comfort in mind. And, of course, most of them would likely oppose forcing establishments to allow firearms on their premises if it made patrons feel unsafe. Why not extend a similar safe space to women, a group far larger than victims of gun violence?

Penises are, by any measure, a greater threat to women than guns. I say that as an owner of both. This is especially true in Toronto, where thousands of women will be raped yearly while fewer than a dozen, if that, will be murdered with firearms. Of those women who are murdered with firearms, someone with a penis — a husband or boyfriend, most likely — will almost certainly be the killer.

What this means, in other words, is that there is no simpler common denominator to the violence women face than the presence or influence of people with penises. To put it another way: If your list of acceptable methods for securing women’s safety and comfort does not extend to excluding penises, then it is deficient, and your dedication to that goal is clearly incomplete.

Before you interject: Yes, I know. Penises are not capable of harming anyone by themselves. A disembodied penis has never raped a woman, just like disembodied fists have never beaten one. The people who bear those penises — we call them men — do that, because they can, and they make the decision to. Plenty of people with penises never rape. But then again, I own plenty of firearms and I’ve never shot anyone. I don’t expect that to comfort anyone when I’ve got an assault rifle strapped across my back.

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Guns and dicks have an odd bond in our culture. They both function as sacred implements of the right and left respectively. Conservatives see any restriction on gun ownership, no matter how reasonable, as an existential threat to liberty. Liberals love to mock that hypervigiliance. But they demonstrate an equal paranoia on the subject of penises. Both are nakedly, irresponsibly, absurdly devoted to maintaining the freedom of their respective phallic object. Even the most insane Second Amendment advocates, however, would not advocate for open carry at a center for victims of gun violence; how disgusting, then, that the inclusion of penises in rape crisis centers and women’s shelters is a central pillar of mainstream transgender activism.

These camps even trade back and forth the same tired slogans and retorts. I’m not sure if they notice, to be honest. All I know is the same people who scoff at “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” are more than happy to let penises into a women’s clothing-optional spa because, well, “penises don’t rape people, rapists rape people.” Or they might tell you that restrictions on penises don’t prevent rape because if he’s willing to rape, he’s willing to violate a policy keeping him off the premises. Maybe they’ve never heard the same gotcha used to keep firearms in schools and hospitals.

All of this is to say that no possible logic endorses gun-free zones but not penis-free zones. If someone with a pistol on their hip can be kicked out of a restaurant, then someone with a penis between their legs can be kicked out of a spa.

These boundaries don’t exist to mark any one person for shame — except, perhaps, the person who works to violate them. They exist to acknowledge an indisputable fact about the world: Guns are dangerous. Dicks are dangerous. It’s not easy to know who might use either one to maim or kill. And anyone who refuses to accept that is likely the gun or dick you’re justified in worrying about.

So if you have a penis, and you meet resistance from women — if your presence makes them uncomfortable or unsafe, or just annoyed — you might want to ask yourself why. Think about it for a moment. Imagine your penis is a weapon, one like the type used against them or their friends or their family. Likely, at one point it was. But most of all, remember: If you stop to think for more than two minutes, someone with a penis just raped another woman. While you were thinking just how unfair it is that women fear your body, that body was used as a weapon by someone out there. Maybe try organizing against him and his ten thousand co-conspirators. You’ll find it’s a better use of your time than bullying a day spa.

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