The first time I experienced sexual violence, I didn’t tell anyone. The perpetrator was the uncle of one of my classmates and I was sixteen. I lived in a windswept farm town of less than 500 people, and I would have died of shame if anyone had known about the sex…the beating he gave me was secondary, I was less concerned about the bruises that I knew would heal than I was about the sex. I couldn’t un-fuck him. I really thought I was going to die that night and I couldn’t believe he let me out of the car to go pee. I didn’t go back to the car – I ran home – through back alleys and hiding behind shrubbery…knowing that every time I saw headlights it was him and if he saw movement he would know it was me. I was sobbing as I slipped in the back door and down the hallway to my bathroom. I ran a bath and I soaked, running the water out and fresh, hot water in at least three times before I got out and I never told anyone. Ever. The bruises healed and faded, the memory did not, and I eventually confronted him and realized just how pathetic and small he was. Raping a cheerleader in 1979 was the peak of his power – and I went on to lap him so many times at life that it’s hilarious to think about from the vantage point of 35 years out. The first thing I did when I got home was load the shotgun and keep it at arms length. I do know this all those years later – if he had come into my home that night or any other, I would have shot him dead.
I knew the incubation time for STDs so I stayed abstinent for a month and got checked at the monthly Planned Parenthood clinic. I think they had an inkling what had happened based on how I was acting and what I was asking for and why; but there was no rape crisis line to refer me to back then, and no counselors who specialize in treating the victims of sexual violence, so they tested me for STDs (the tests came back negative, thank the goddess) and sent me on my merry way to cope and recover as best I could.
And I did. I had an abusive boyfriend along the way, but I didn’t have him for long, when he said “You’ll never do better than me,” I decided to take that challenge.
I went on to college. I met my husband, I got married, had kids and had a career. And all along the way, I’ve been the object of unwanted sexual attention that has ranged from the unwanted, unwelcome comment that made me feel denigrated and devalued as a human being to the groping/pawing/pressing a whole body against/blocking the hallway between the ladies room and the bar where I left my friends. I actually look forward to the day it doesn’t, but Nana says there are still letches in the nursing home, so maybe I’ll be fending the bastards off forever.
The most blatant time was around my 19th birthday. My now-husband and I were staying in that weekend, studying for finals. We were drinking rum-and-Cokes and smoking weed in my dorm room, and I ran down to the pop machine in the lobby to get more soda. I was wearing my husband’s fatigue shirt from his previous hitch in the Air Force and a skimpy pair of stretchy, crushed velvet shorts. I remember being self conscious about the attire but rationalized that the dorm was empty anyway. The only person in the hallway put my mind at ease. It was a black guy, but one of the bookworm types, not a jock. I didn’t notice that he turned around and that he was behind me in the concession area and that he grabbed me – not a cheek, but right in the center, and he moaned, a deep, satisfied, gratified moan – as I bent over to get my sodas out of the machine. I snapped upright and the seven years of self defense that I had taken that should have allowed me to lay him out flew out the window. Instead, my blood ran cold and I stiffened. He took advantage of this opening and split.
I never saw him again and I kept my eyes open. Back then, just anyone could walk into a dorm during certain hours so maybe he didn’t even live there. Who knows?
The third time I avoided being a victim of violence. It was about 8:30 on a Sunday night and I was getting ready to take a shower. I had taken a 30-plus-mile bike ride, and had peeled off my jersey and sports bra, and come down the hallway to tell my husband that our infant son was asleep but I had a hunch he wasn’t going to stay that way, so please keep his ears open. I first got interested in what he was watching then the baby cried. I was sitting in my living room with my drapes closed nursing my baby and watching a documentary, topless. I felt that creepy someone-is-watching feeling and looked up at the gap at the edge of the window that the drapes didn’t quite cover and there was a young man masturbating. All my grandmother cared about was that I was topless – not that I was in my own living room, not that he was peeking in my windows and violating my privacy but that I was “giving him courage” by being topless.
So yes. It does happen to every woman. I’m nobody’s idea of a victim, and I have been the target of gender-based violence and sexual abuse.
There is your context. If I can be targeted, anyone can.
And that is the thing that is really scary. There are men out there who don’t care how smart I am, how good I am at my job, nothing will ever matter as much as the same achievement or accomplishment would if I was a man. In fact, there is a certain segment of the male – and female – population that is openly hostile to me because I’m both smart and pretty and I don’t feel like I need to hide either one. I don’t feel like men are entitled to special consideration just because they’re men and this sets some fellas back on their heels – an advantage I don’t squander when fate sees fit to offer me such an opportunity.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve lost the ability to see the entertainment value in movies like Taken,a prime example of the “exploited-innocent-girl-saved-by-the-alpha-male-but-the-dirty-impure-whore-is-left-to-her-life-of-degradation-addiction-and-slavery” genre. My husband doesn’t like to watch movies or even old teevee shows with me any more. I yell things like “Women Aren’t Property, you Dickhead!” at characters that we know are going to do something horrible.
I fail to see the entertainment value, of any sort, in the women-as-property meme. It’s played out. When we live in a world where 276 Nigerian schoolgirls are kidnapped because they had the audacity to get a western education and someone like Elliott Rodger can legally buy multiple assault weapons and gun down six people in cold blooded rage because he wasn’t getting any.
Pardon me, I need a moment to compose my thoughts about that…WHAT THE FUCK??? AM I MISSING SOMETHING??? Girls don’t owe him – or any other guy – pussy.
It doesn’t matter what you drive, what cologne you wear, where you work, what your major is, whether you have PC/Android or Apple products
whether or not you play guitar (okay, that one matters) or what you spent for dinner. She doesn’t owe you her body.
Jesus. Who do you think you are, anyway, that you are so fucking important that mere material wealth on your part is to be reciprocated with a woman’s body?
I mean that. Sincerely and with all my heart.