Let's talk about rape, shall we?
It's an important talk, so don't get squeamish.
It's not a talk about a "women's issue."
It's not a talk about football, or if children can rape, or whether or not woman "asks for it" when she's raped...that maybe an inch of length on her skirt, that a higher neckline could have prevented a willful violation of her body, mind and spirit.
This is a talk about a "human issue," because rape--and rape culture, specifically--affects both women and men. It violates, hurts and scars our sisters and mothers, and it's born of a fundamental flaw in how we raise our sons, what our brothers and fathers have been taught about privilege and power and the value of a woman.
The question for me when I think about Steubenville, is not whether these young boys "deserved" their sentence or not, but whether they had, in fact, raped before...or if they hadn't been caught, when would they have raped next?
I'm tired of posting things like the following to my Facebook page and having someone report it as offensive:
I really don't understand what's so difficult about "don't put your dick in a person who doesn't give you express permission to do so." If you should happen to put your dick into someone who does not give you permission (or does not have the ability to give you permission), it is not the person's fault who did not grant permission, it's actually your fault.
These concepts are not complex. Permission? Yay! Put your dick in that. No permission? Aw, shucks. Do not put your dick in that.
Oh, and your perceived idea of a person's willingness to have you put your dick in him or her as demonstrated by that person's drunkenness, clothing choice or situational behavior isn't, in fact, "permission." Get it together, Internet.
I'm tired of explaining that presenting a post like that with the word "dick" in it several times is still far less offensive than a culture that permeates rape. I'm tired of knowing that one of my so-called "friends" had some sort of issue with the post because of my flagrant use of crass language, rather than seeing that the reason I feel like I must be crass is to hammer the message home, clearly, in black and white.
Because we're far past the point of talking about rape in hushed tones, with language that might be acceptable at a women's tea.
Rape is not a polite topic, because rape is not polite.
And if we're STILL having conversations like some of the ones I've seen and heard on the Internet since Monday's verdict, you bet your ass I will refuse to have a calm, decent discussion about rape. I will yell and scream and swear not just until someone listens, but until I'm heard.
We had hooked up once, a not-so-great experience, due to his love of substances that tend to have an adverse effect on erections.
For some reason, we found ourselves hooking up again, and I'm--surprisingly--enjoying myself, but not exactly heading toward a "resolution."
No big deal. An orgasm, to me, isn't always the point of sex.
He had other ideas.
"What's wrong with you?" he said. "You must be really repressed."
As if, somehow, his dick were magic. And of course, me even looking cross-eyed at it would mean multi-orgasmic bliss.
I'm tired of meeting men who feel like their advances toward women work on a "risk/reward" system. That somehow, when they pay attention to a woman, or talk to her, or buy her a drink, she "owes" him something as part of the deal.
This sense of entitlement pervades the mindset of many men in our culture.
I owe you absolutely nothing if I wear a short skirt. I owe you nothing if I flirt with you. I owe you nothing if you buy me dinner or a drink. I owe you nothing--not even the tiniest orgasm--EVEN IF I SLEEP WITH YOU.
When it comes to my body, my person, I owe you nothing. Ever.
She and I walked down the street to our car. It was late, the neighborhood sketchy, but we were alert, vigilant, as we've been taught to be. A habit born of far too many stories and incidents and statistics.
She grabbed my arm, said, "Let's walk faster," when two men on the other side of the street decided at that moment to cross, and made what looked like a beeline toward us.
I straightened my spine, set my jaw, re-gripped my keys...an instrument only so recently a means to start my car, now a makeshift weapon.
We held our breaths as they overtook and passed us, breathed again only when they walked into the waiting bar.
"Can I walk you to your car?" he asked.
We'd met for the first time earlier that evening, in what would be my last foray into dating strangers off the Internet. He was twenty minutes late, and started the conversation with a rather foul joke about fucking a South American girl, then pissing blood a few days later.
I don't know why I stayed. I normally leave those situations immediately, throwing down cash for my drink and ignoring consequent text messages and phone calls. But I stayed, disregarding the tightness in my gut, thinking, "If only he has a smart, intelligent, powerful woman explain things to him, he'll calm down."
Instead, the jokes grew worse, and his eyes lingered on my body far longer than a casual glance. When I didn't laugh at his jokes, he became agitated. "I thought you could handle it. You presented yourself as a person who could handle extreme humor."
I shot back a long-winded response about appropriate humor, that me being a slightly edgy, funny woman doesn't mean that--like most women--I appreciate disgusting, denigrating jokes about women, and I certainly don't appreciate a man not going out of his way to at least appear somewhat non-threatening in what still is--despite all modern conveniences--a relatively dangerous situation for women.
He scoffed, couldn't believe that women believe the all-too-true joke by Ever Mainard, "Here's your rape."
Because for us, it's not an "if" situation, but a "when."
"Can I walk you to your car?" he asked as I closed my tab and made to leave.
"Absolutely not," I said as I walked out, putting as much distance between us as I could.
He followed slightly behind.
"I'm good," I said emphatically, putting my hand up, indicating he should stop at the edge of the lot. My keys were out, ready. My car, parked under a light. I'd taken precautions.
"So," he said, "Will we do this again?"
"I don't think so," I said, in disbelief, immediately wishing I had used stronger language. I climbed in my car and locked the door, glad to see him walking away.
Later, he texted to say that I had "hurt his feelings" by not wanting to go out with him again.
Sorry YOUR feelings are hurt, asshole. Also, you're what's wrong with American men.
We are far past the point of imagining that rape is something that only happens "SVU" style...that the only rapes that matter ("rape-rape" according to certain celebrities) are the ones we see violently personified on television. All white vans and masked men and bruises.
It's not as if those rapes don't happen. They do. But most rape is far more insidious.
Most rapes are perpetuated by people the victim knows, and it may not be the violent, multi-camera experience that makes us sensationalize (then rationalize) rape.
Rape happens between husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, or high school classmates at a party.
Let's talk about rape.
Let's get angry and gesture-y and scream and shout.
Let's refuse to be shouted down, to be called "feminists" as a euphemism for "trouble-maker."
Let's not be satisfied with living in a country where twenty-two of our elected politicians would vote AGAINST a Violence Against Women Act.
Let's talk about rape with our children. Explain to our sons what it means to be kind, explain to our daughters the value and beauty of their personhood, explain to our children the meaning and joy behind "enthusiastic consent."
Let's not stand idly by while cowards shield themselves with a computer screen and threaten anonymously to rape the women they see on YouTube, read on blogs. They are not anonymous...they are people close to you, wrapping their real views on women in language disguised as "jokes" or behavior masquerading as "this is the way a real man acts."
Let's talk about it when we see it, call them out, put their foolishness and misogyny on display. Find the cancer, excise it without worrying about neatness.
Let's take rape personally, because it's personal. It affects every one of us in one way or another. It's not something removed from our everyday experience. It permeates and pervades our communities, leaves nothing untouched.
Let's talk about it until there's nothing left to talk about, and may that day come sooner than we hope.