Um, there’s some rape culture in my neuroanatomy…

When I was in graduate school, I took a human neuroanatomy class. It was both awesome and boring. Why boring? Because decades of people had mistreated their donated cadavers so that, by the time I came along, students weren’t allowed to dissect cadavers anymore if they were non-med school classes (and, yes, the worst part of that is not my lost opportunity to dissect but the mistreatment of people’s donated bodies). Why awesome? Because actually I only a little bit wanted to dissect a cadaver brain and really didn’t want to smell that smell (you know what I’m talking about, some people, zombies, and undertakers!). Though, to be honest, it was awesome when I dissected a sheeps brain in undergrad (FOR A CLASS), so maybe I did miss out. I DIGRESS. So, anyway, someone else had dissected the cadaver brains and we got to see them.

Are you having cold sweats remembering that bell ringer test yet?

Are you having cold sweats remembering that bell ringer test yet?

Here is a quick trip down halcyon memory lane. Remember that pia mater?! Wowzer! And how the grey matter was grey and the white matter white? Like, WHO KNEW?! Remember when you had to memorize those craniofacial nerves because people might bust into your faculty office one day and be like: QUICK! AND BY QUICK I MEAN IMMEDIATELY: WHICH OF THESE NERVES IS THE ABDUCENS AND WHAT DOES IT DO? I mean, easy peasy if we’re talking the glossopharyngeal nerve (glosso… something with the tongue or taste? near the tasty nerves???), but the abducens… um, abdomens?? Anyway, each time this has happened to me – i.e., each time someone busted into my faculty office being like IMMEDIATELY SAY ALL THE CRANIAL NERVES SO WE CAN DEFUSE THIS BOMB AND SAVE THE HUMANS – I have been lucky enough to be sitting with real neuroscientists who still remember all their cranial nerves so they can shout out IT’S THE SIXTH… THE SIXTH!!! Then, luckily, we prevent armageddon, save the humanity, and live happily ever after. All because someone (not me) really learned their cranial nerves rather than just memorize and immediately forget them due to never needing to know them again.

I, apparently, am not the only one who didn’t really learn the cranial nerves and instead just cast them to memory. Lots of people memorize them, it turns out. And how do they do so? With a mnifty mneumonic. Or mnot so mnifty, as the case may be. There are lots of mneumonics (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PRONOUNCE THE FIRST M EACH TIME BECAUSE THIS POST IS A LOT MORE FUN THAT WAY!). You can find them on wikipedia. Some of the mneumonics are ‘regular’.

Ooh, ooh, ooh to touch and feel very good velvet. Such heaven!

That stands for olfactory nerve, optic nerve, oculomotor nerve, trochlear nerve, and then the other nerves (I’m too lazy to type them out).

Some of the mneumonics are ‘dirty’. Not dirty like you fell into dirt. They aren’t even dirty like a good roll in the hay (either sexual or non-sexual works, I suppose, BECAUSE WHO DOESN’T LOVE TO TO NON-METAPHORICALLY ROLL IN THE HAY?! Remember that slogan: Hay Is For Rolling?! Me neither). They’re not really dirty or rude – they’re mostly just crude – lots of vaginas and anuses (not that there’s anything wrong with vaginas and anuses. And, I know, feminists, I am TOTALLY outraged by the lack of vulvas too! WHERE ARE THE VULVAS IN THESE OFFENSIVE MNEUMONICS!?). And crude is by definition not funny.

When I was in my grad neuroanatomy class, I somehow missed the memo that there mneumonics for the craniofacial nerves (it would have been a mnemo, obviously. Or maybe a mnemno? I KILL ME!). I knew about mneumonics in general, and made them up myself, like: Love Ma Vest, which was lateral vestibular nucleus for visual processing, medial vestibular nucleus for auditory processing, and something-something for somatosensory processing. Are these right? Too bad there is nowhere for me to look it up and check. Back to the cranial nerves though (keep up!). Do you know what I learned about craniofacial nerves?

Scientific culture is messed up. That is what I learned. There are weird, rapey, disturbing mneumonics for cranial nerves. (LMGTFY.) (i.e., let me google that for you if you don’t believe me.) And people don’t think anything of them. Like, people don’t seem to think it weird to teach students, or relay to peers, mneumonics like

Oh oh oh to touch and feel young virgin girls’ vaginas and hymens.

Because, hey: doesn’t every adult want to touch a young girl’s virgin hymen?!?! Doesn’t every young virgin girl want her hymen touched? Shall we unpack that, as one says? Deconstruct it, so to speak? Well, it’s not very complicated, is it. It’s weird enough for adults to talk about touching girls genitals because girls are, by definition, not adult women. But, in case it wasn’t clear that the girl is a not-adult, apparently it was important to clarify that this was a young girl, not your run of the mill non-adult girl. And then! The best part! SHE’S A VIRGIN! Does it get any better?! Oh, also? Some of the mneumonics involve Hitler because young virgin girls’ vaginas are not enough for some people.

It’s like FOR FUCK’S SAKE! Could we just have ONE place where we don’t get all rapey? Could that place be, I don’t know, the fucking cranial nerves!? I know you’re like: could we just have one place where we don’t get all swear-y, and that place is a feminist science blog? (You have your answer to that one.) (It’s ‘no’.) And I know all the other people are like Can’t we just have one place where we get to make weird rape jokes and that one place is the world?! And also, the neuroanatomy students are like: can’t we just get to be funny for once about rape and young girls and nonconsent and hymens because hahahaha pedophilia?!

Do I even need a concluding section here? I mean, there is weird rapey fetishization of young girls in my neuroanatomy, sir! I’d like to send it back and get what I ordered! Which was an understanding of the brain that didn’t rely on rape culture. What’s going on in that kitchen anyway?


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1 Response

  1. Comrade says:

    Go into your class with an audio recorder (for example, an app on your cell phone). Record the rapist-misogynist-fratboy commentary. Show recorded audio to your university’s equity office. Record the reactions of the equity office staff to your recording. Keep backups of all these audio files, and keep them to yourself until you’re in a safe position to expose this bull**** (safety first). When you’re ready, show audio files to either an internal or an external legal party. Most universities offer some form of legal aid. External lawyers may be interested in pro-bono work.

    …if your equity office knows how to do it’s job, they can help you out and put and end to this. If not, bring it to the legal system because your equity office is supposed to respond to these kinds of incidents.

    …this is the kind of stuff lawsuits are made of. 😉 Have fun with it!

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