Reaction Part 1
I’ve been getting linked in a lot of places. Exciting and horrible! I can try and fool myself all I want about, ohhhh this blog is just for me and I don’t care what anybody thinks or says. And then a new link pops up and it’s not that I care what that link says but I should just really I mean in the name of detached sociology take a little peek there and
They think what?
But I’m not fat! Well, maybe a little, but not fat like they’re—
Hey, I’m not angry! Well, okay, yeah, I am angry, I am super angry sometimes, but I can’t see as how that’s a bad thing that means my opinions are automatically refuted because I’m not a fucking Vulcan and—
Oh, hey, now that I didn’t even say!
Well, I am just going to write THE MOST SELF-RIGHTEOUS RESPONSE and put EVERYBODY TO SHAME except I don’t have any internet because the café is closing so I am going to GO HOME and SIT IN MY UNDERWEAR and DRINK THIS BOTTLE OF CHEAP CHAMPAGNE and regale my boyfriend with tales of my theoretical internet greatness. WELCOME TO MY WEEKEND EVERYBODY.
While my sudden and terrifying blog popularity couldn’t have come at a worse time – sudden move that I had a week to plan for, sudden houseguest that I had a day to plan for, work cranking up to volume 11 – in other ways, it was the best time possible, because it was an enforced period of relative internet silence, which nipped my bad case of blogolalia right in the bud.
What I wanted to do, what I thought would be “the thing” to do, would be to move on to new topics or old topics I haven’t finished, like the Offensive Words thing where I eventually want to address “bitch” and “ghetto” and “crazy.” What I did not want to do was write any particular response to any particular thing I saw on the internet in relation to my blog, because I don’t like this idea of blogs operating as call and response games, and I don’t like the idea of reacting to others rather than making up my own posts to fulfill my own internal needs.
BUT! Some of the conversations being had surrounding my blog disturbed me, disturbed me in the way I usually get disturbed before I suddenly burst and make a drearily long post at work. I also have been reading a lot of links where women say things like, “This is everything I want to say but can never figure out how to say it.” I want to avoid getting big-headed and thinking that I am now a spokesperson for anybody at all, but if people find something helpful in what I wrote, well, that’s just awesome, and I can’t say I don’t hope that keeps happening. But it’s really not my goal, and if I make it my goal, I’m going to fuck up, because I’m going to be working on assumptions about my audience instead of what I usually do, which is dissect myself, which is the only topic I know a lot about.
I come up with these posts because I spend a long time thinking about and processing things until they sit all right with me. I went through that process with many of the links I was seeing around my blog, but then I thought, you know, maybe somebody would like to hear about this. Maybe somebody would like to hear how I reconciled myself with so much of the commentary going on that is, theoretically, ALL ABOUT ME. Because that is a weird feeling, and it has taken some doing to cope with.
So, here are some of the things that grabbed me, the things I had to spend some time thinking about and rearranging until I could feel all right with them.
I Dunno, Rape Jokes Are NEVER Funny? I Can’t Really Agree With That
You know, neither can I. Which is why I didn’t say that.
What I did say was:
- It sucks to be a rape survivor and hear a joke that a) triggers you out of nowhere, and b) is about how fun and wacky rape is
- There are a lot of ways you can react to hearing a joke like that, but nearly all of them have a serious cost to you, the rape survivor, who was just trying to have a nice day that didn’t involve thinking about that time you were raped, and that’s pretty fucking unfair and unbalanced, considering how little of an emotional cost it would be for the rape joker to just not tell a rape joke in the first place.
- The idea that rape, inherently as a concept, has enormous comedic potential is based in the same dehumanizing of women that makes rape prevalent and possible, and that is not lost on rape survivors hearing rape jokes. That is, if the experience of raped women is not considered to be serious or relevant, it’s because raped women are not considered serious or relevant. Which is how rapists and rape-apologists justify rape in the first place. The hilarity of rape is a symptom of how little we, as a society, care about stopping it, and the deep and angry defensiveness of the hilarity of rape is a symptom of how much we, as a society, are emotionally invested in the status quo, even if that status quo is rape.
- People may make jokes or laugh nervously at jokes that are both not funny and terribly offensive because they are uncomfortable in dealing with the reality of the situation. That urge to nervously laugh doesn’t make you a bad person, but it does indicate how far you are from the reality of the subject, and actually laughing indicates how little consideration you’ve given to the idea that somebody in the room with you is very near the reality of that subject. Defending your nervous laughter after somebody has called you out on its offensiveness is an even larger indicator of how deeply you cherish your right to ignorance over their right to not have their life experience mocked, and people have a right to think you’re an asshole for that (you are).
- Survivors get to say whatever the living fuck they want to say about rape, because the know a whole lot more about it than you.
- The idea that you might be causing severe PTSD for somebody you know and love, and doing so with a callous disregard and consciously maintained ignorance, is deeply disturbing and provocative. And it should be.
I talked about rape jokes where the joke, the punchline, is justification for rape, enjoyment of rape, or trivializing rape. I said that those jokes were deeply disrespectful, that I did not personally find them funny, and that as far as I can tell the joke is, well, raped women. In the whole universe of jokes that can exist, there is a dizzying array of other jokes involving rape as a concept that can somehow manage to not involve rape apologism as the punchline, and I never said boo about those. And while I did say that I personally didn’t see the funny in the justification for rape, enjoyment or rape, or trivialization of rape, I never once said that ALL rape jokes are NEVER funny.
Now, I’m not interested in defending my post and making sure all people in the entire world have the conversation I want them to have, with the interpretations I designed, and come away with exactly the enlightenment detailed in my Master Plan of Making Everything Serious and Unfunny All the Time.
What I am interested in doing is pointing out how hundreds upon hundreds of people hallucinated a blog post that didn’t exist. That is curious.
Here’s the thing: We live in a culture that is highly tolerant of rape. To maintain that tolerance, our culture is also highly resistant to any attempts to chip away at rape-tolerance and replace it with something, you know, less rape-y. That resistance crops up in a myriad of ways. One of those ways is by re-phrasing anti-rape-culture viewpoints and arguments as somehow patently ridiculous and therefore obviously wrong. The argument, “Jokes that justify, glorify, or trivialize rape are damaging, ignorant, and shitty,” doesn’t sound too radical, and might cause individuals to re-examine their use of or involvement in those jokes, which could also lead to individuals noticing just how many of these jokes exist as a part of casual culture, which could lead to an increased awareness of this whole concept of a “rape culture,” which is sort of a gateway drug into a lot of things that sound eerily like feminism.
So, we rephrase the argument into “DOUR-FACED ANGRY FEMINIST THINKS RAPE JOKES ARE NEVER FUNNY.” It’s real easy to knock that argument down, because it’s full of unkind characterizations that nobody would like to be associated with, and it’s full of logical fallacies of the “all” and “never” and “always” variety. So, take that argument and copy/paste it over the original, and now you can conveniently knock down an argument that might have required some inner turmoil to resolve and replace it with an argument so ludicrous it bears no consideration at all.
Repeat this fake copy/paste argument over and over, and it becomes automatically associated in the minds of multiple people. Those who were making unrelated arguments that involve tertiary topics get roped in, find themselves defending a position they have never advocated, arguing over topics they were never interested in, dignifying the whole thing with a response (example: I am now responding to a rebuttal to an argument I never made — a fiction hallucination of an argument — and this is taking my time and energy away from other things. like the nonfiction reality-based post I actually made. Do you see how this works?).
And, then, a magical thing happens. People hallucinate words on a computer screen that were never there. They see “rape joke” and skim the rest, already having classified all words following as “RAPE JOKES ARE NEVER FUNNY,” even if this argument was never, not once, in any way, made.
I’m only pointing this out because, well, it’s disturbing to watch your own reactions sometimes. To read a thing about one topic, and discover that your brain has turned it into another topic entirely, with no evidence of how or why that happened. On a basic psychological level, anytime your brain registers a reality that is quantifiably different from the one that verifiably exists, you should be investigating why that happened. You should be wondering how that reaction came to exist within you. You should also be asking if anybody benefits from having you, and possibly others, react in that way.
I’ll just leave you with the words “rape culture” and move away from the scene.
I Don’t Know Any Women Who Haven’t Been Raped
Well, I don’t.
Okay, if we open up the definition of “women I know” to include my mail carrier, the lady who just cut me off in traffic, the lady who just served me coffee, then probably in that abundance of women there will be some proportion who have not, at this moment in time, been raped.
But if we are talking about people with whom I have a personal connection, then I don’t know any women who haven’t been raped.
One can infer several possible reasons for this.
- I am lying, because A) All Women Have Been Raped, B) ?????, C) Profit!
- I have extremely bad luck (though I have to say it’s somewhat offensive to equate “knowing women who have been raped” to “bad luck,” as if they are an ill omen of evil or something).
- I specifically and prejudicially seek out deeper emotional connections with women who have been raped, meaning all those who end up in my social circle are rape survivors. That’s a possibility, and not one I would find offensive. The type of people I enjoy the most are ones who have overcome something, especially if it was something that made them reconsider some of their most basic values. I like recovered addicts, I like religious converts, I like runaways, I like survivors. Because I like that survival and recovery aspect in people, it stands to reason that out of the women I have an opportunity to be friends with, I would be more attracted to those who are rape survivors over those who are not.
- I unconsciously seek out rape survivors because of some undefined weirdness within me. I guess that’s a possibility, though it’s very vague, and I guess it’s a possibility I’m okay with, because I’m enjoying my life and the company I keep, so however my buried unconscious makes that shit happen, go for it.
- The number of women who are willing to report being raped is already fairly high, so it wouldn’t necessarily take an enormous effort and statistical work to have a circle of female friends who have all been sexually assaulted. It also stands to reason that there are a fair proportion of women who are not willing to report having been raped to a survey taker, thus increasing the actual proportion of raped women in the population, and making it even less statistically significant to end up knowing a bunch of raped women.
So, that is one reason why I said I don’t know any women who haven’t been raped; I, personally, don’t.
The only time in my life where this likely wasn’t the case – where it was quite possible that I knew several women who had not been raped – was between infancy and middle school. As soon as I hit high school, that circle started narrowing, until pretty soon it was just me. I was the only person I knew who hadn’t been raped. And then, I lost that, too.
Sometimes I disclose my rape to the people I know. Sometimes I don’t. It can depend on a lot of factors, ranging from the mundane (just don’t feel like it today) to the serious (this person scares me and I don’t trust them). For a while, just after the rape, I didn’t disclose to anybody except my boyfriend, because I just didn’t want to have to talk about it yet. Which means, during that period of time, I may have had friends who could have heard the phrase “Every woman I know has been raped,” and thought to themselves, “Ridiculous! I know women who weren’t.”
All right, I’m circling. Let me put this succinctly:
Just because you know people who haven’t told you they’ve been raped doesn’t necessarily mean you know people who haven’t been raped.
It’s a pretty simple logic puzzle. If A, then B does not equal If B, then A. If I tell you that I have been raped (A), then it necessarily follows that I believe I have been raped (B). If I believe I have been raped (B), it doesn’t necessarily follow that I have told you this (A). To make an assumption based in no fact indicates that something about the assumption is convenient and pleasing for you. It’s obviously very pleasing and convenient to believe that all the women you know who haven’t disclosed their rape to you haven’t actually been raped, and it’s obviously extremely troubling to believe that many, perhaps all, of the women you know who haven’t disclosed their rape to you have actually been raped and have made a conscious decision not to tell you this. I mean, that kind of burns, and it’s also kind of scary.
It could be that you know people who haven’t told you they’ve been raped because it’s a topic that’s never come up. Just like rape survivors don’t care for being reminded of their rapes out of nowhere when somebody cracks a shitty joke, they don’t tend to like to bring up their rape, out of nowhere, when they’re talking about what size of Cheetos bag to get.
Additionally, if you have never had a conversation with a friend that relates in some way to sexual harassment or assault, they may not have disclosed their rape because they are not certain how you will react. It is not overly uncommon for a rape survivor to have a friend they think is all wonderful and peaches, and suddenly have them turn “WELL YOU MUST HAVE DESERVED IT” when rape comes up. Why this happens is probably another blog post entirely, but happen it does. That’s a shitty thing to deal with when you’re in the middle of making yourself vulnerable, and after it happens once or twice, survivors are likely to be a little more picky over who they disclose to.
Additionally Part 2, if you have never had a conversation with a friend that relates in some way to sexual harassment or assault, but you have, say, dismissed the relative worth of women by calling them sluts, bitches, what-have-you, a survivor may have judged that you’re not a really great person to disclose rape to, since you have illustrated that you’re capable of and comfortable with dismissing a woman’s thoughts, feelings, actions, and beliefs based on their sexual availability.
Additionally, Part 3, if the only conversation you’ve ever had with a friend relating to sexual harassment or assault is the time you brought up that stupid fucking blog post about how rape jokes are never funny, welcome to the world of never knowing your friend was raped, which is, honestly, probably where you specifically wanted to be, even if you didn’t realize it till now.
Let me expand on that a little bit. A lot of the anger I saw directed at the rape joke post seemed to be defensiveness. It seemed, to a lot of people, like I was saying that people who make rape jokes or laugh at rape jokes are bad people. To think that something you may have said caused somebody you care about intense pain is pretty difficult to deal with. And you’ve got two choices there: confront your mistakes and make amends, or shoot the messenger. When rape survivors or allies speak up during rape jokes, it embarrasses the joker and all those who participated, and it forces them to make that choice: do I feel bad about this, or do I get angry at the person who is telling me I did a bad thing? Choosing the latter is ranking one person’s feelings over another’s. A rape survivor says, “That makes me uncomfortable,” and the joker says, “Stating that you’re uncomfortable makes me uncomfortable. Stop talking about this so I’m not uncomfortable anymore, because my feelings are more important than yours.”
That kind of interaction sends a very clear message to rape survivors: your need to have your trauma respected is less important than my need to ignore your trauma. Your experience is less important than my interpretation of your experience. Your right to your opinion that offends me is less relevant than my right to my opinion that offends you. One of us has to win, and it’s going to be me.
Without realizing I was doing it, I used to assume that unless a woman had told me she was raped, she probably wasn’t. I don’t assume that anymore. Since I’ve been raped, I talk about rape more in groups of all women. And I have always found that as soon as I disclose my rape to a group of women, several others will chime in with their rape disclosures, too. If I had not been talking about my rape — if I had not been making clear that I understand rape is a terrible experience, have empathy with rape victims, and do not think rape is a woman’s fault — those women might never have disclosed. And the women who don’t disclose, I no longer have any reason to believe they haven’t been raped, rather than believing that for some reason, they do not feel safe or comfortable chiming in.
I also frequently have the experience of disclosing my rape and having another woman tell me a story that is quite obviously rape, but she doesn’t call it that. I had a friend in high school who was raped multiple times in multiple years, and had begun to rank the rapes. This one was rape because it was obviously rape, but this one wasn’t rape because it was only a forced blowjob, and this one wasn’t rape because he “didn’t get all the way in,” and this one wasn’t rape because she was drugged and asleep and didn’t even remember most of it, and so on. They were all rape, but rather than try and cope with the devastating knowledge of having been violently assaulted multiple times, she compromised. All of them were (mostly) wrong, but only one of them was rape. It’s not my job to tell women what is and isn’t rape; my friend from high school didn’t have the psychological stability or family support at that time to deal with her multiple rapes, and she wouldn’t have gained anything by calling all her rapes by name. If a woman describes to me a rape, but doesn’t call it rape, I may tell her that I would consider what she described to be rape, but I am not going to demand that she take on the identity of a rape victim just so I can keep up my “Every Woman I Know Has Been Raped” percentage.
Aside from that, I also assume all women have had an experience of sexual violation, ranging from street harassment to rape. So bearing all of that in mind, when I’m talking about rape, or subjects relating to it, I work on the assumption that I’m talking to a survivor, and I temper my conversation accordingly. I do this because I want to perceive myself as a good person, and part of the definition of a “good person” to me is showing respect and integrity. If I am with somebody that I know extremely well, and I know they are okay with some kinds of offensive humor, I may launch into that with them. But if I am with somebody that I don’t know down to the core, I leave that shit out, because it is extremely arrogant of me to assume that they have the obligation to inform me of their traumatic life experiences just so I don’t make a mean and ugly joke. I should be mature and grown-up enough that I can manage a conversation without having to make a joke about torture, that it’s not a terrific hardship for me to do so. I assume in conversation that the women I speak to have experienced rape, not only because it’s very possible they have, but because it would be far worse to assume they haven’t and launch into a very painful conversation than to assume they have and speak to them respectfully and with consideration. It doesn’t take a lot out of me to speak respectfully and with consideration, and because I want to consider myself a good person and because women matter to me, I put in that extra effort, rather than ask others to make the far more considerable effort to inform me of my tremendous fuck-up after I have just put them through a bout of PTSD.
I’m not unaware of the fact that saying, “I treat all women like they’ve been raped,” sounds like feminist crazy talk. Let me put it this way: My bear often tells me about something his grandfather told him when he was young, one of the few bits of non-practical wisdom he chose to pass on. “I try to treat everybody like they’re Jesus,” he said. I don’t think I’m saying anything very radically different.
Why Do You Even Hang Out With That Guy/I Would Have Punched That Dude In The Face/Why Don’t You Just Tell Him You Were Raped
It is sometimes a matter of personal consideration for me, wondering who is and is not healthy for me to spend time with. But it’s not a consideration of yours, because I don’t hang out with you. There is a difference between asking a question like this because you are interested in my reasoning and are actually looking for an answer, and asking a question like this rhetorically and snottily as a way to dismiss any complaints I might have about the way I’ve been treated because, seriously, I mean you’re the one hanging out with him. It’s not that the question is irrelevant, though I think it’s somewhat irrelevant to anybody who isn’t me and The Dude in Question – but I would think the more pressing question is “Why Does Dude Make Rape Jokes,” not “What is wrong with you that you happened to be in the vicinity of somebody who made a rape joke?”
I have lost friends to the rape. Losing friends is never a fun or easy process; throw in that you lost them because you were raped and they don’t believe you, and it’s just the worst feeling thing. A horrible thing happens to you, and your door prize is more horrible things. Well, fuck.
There is an argument to be made for how awesome it can be to lose the kind of friends who would refuse to believe you; in fact, I’ve made that argument. But, as I say a lot, a person’s primary consideration needs to be their own safety. Losing friends doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s not a process acted out only between you and the other person. It turns into a bad break-up scenario. What do you do about mutual friends? What if they show up at the same party? What if you still have classes with them, or a job? Now throw in rape with all these things. Disclosing your rape to a friend is very vulnerable, not just because of how they might react in the moment and how that’ll make you feel, but because of what might happen after. That is, are they going to tell people you’ve been raped? People you don’t want to know? People who are maybe your rapist?
So now, imagine that you disclose your rape to a close personal friend. That close personal friend reacts the opposite of the way you expected and tells you the rape was your fault. You end the friendship with them immediately, because who needs it? People begin asking you, Why aren’t you friends anymore? You get to decide whether or not you want to lie, evade the question, or disclose your rape some more. In the meantime, you know that people are asking them why you aren’t friends anymore. And you have no idea what they’re saying. You have no idea if they’re refusing to answer, or lying, or if they’re telling the whole world (which might include your rapist) that you claim you were raped. Or maybe you do know what they’re telling people, because suddenly, in public, a friend comes up and demands to know why you told so-and-so you were raped. Or, you know, maybe your rapist asks you this in public, or at a party. Was getting rid of your friend worth going through that? Maybe not.
It’s not so simple to end a friendship, any friendship, and it is less simple when you end that friendship based on a very vulnerable piece of knowledge that you don’t want the whole world knowing. Survivors aren’t wimping out when they don’t cut down a joker by telling them about their rape, and they aren’t necessarily doing a safe and healthy thing when they do disclose. Whatever decision they make, they’re making it based on their perception of their safety at the moment. And, yeah, that can be a hard blow to be on the other end of: if you find out your friend was raped and they never told you, there might be something they perceive as unsafe about you. And to take that anyway but graciously is to give yourself an eyeful of what they thought was unsafe.
I’ll use my personal experience here. The fellow who made the joke that inspired the post, let’s call him Mickey. Mickey is not exactly my friend. He is my bear’s friend. He and my bear have been friends since they were little boys, but as the years have gone on, my bear has become increasingly more uncomfortable with Mickey’s occasional (getting more frequent) bouts of sexism. Sometimes he throws a little racism in there for good measure. But, like all people, Mickey is a complex human being. In some ways he is a very wonderful person, and extremely enjoyable. And then he busts out with a Korean shopkeeper joke, or a rape joke, and you’re like, Mickey, WTF, I thought you were cool, man. I think Mickey has been learning not to make these kinds of jokes around me and the bear anymore, but it’s obvious that he hasn’t learned why he shouldn’t make them at all. That puts me and the bear in this strange position where things are okay for now, but we fully expect that this shit will come up again, and we will have to deal with it.
My bear is a good bear, and I know if I eventually came to the decision that I couldn’t stand Mickey and didn’t want him in my life, my bear would accommodate me. He might still hang out with Mickey, but he has a relationship with Mickey that is distinct from my own, and he gets to make his own decisions about how to handle that. What I’m saying is, I know he’d help arrange circumstances so we never ended up at the same party, and he’d never nag me about how I should hang out with Mickey because it would be way easier and anyway he’s a nice guy just get over it.
So it’s a possibility that I could tell Mickey to fuck off. But, thing is, Mickey is a really, really small part of my life. I rarely see him. When I do see him, 80% of the time is awesome fun, and 20% of the time is “Mickey let us have a conversation about vaginas in funhouse mirror detail until you are so uncomfortable that you stop talking about women entirely, which will please us all.” If I just wanted to avoid Mickey, that would be easy enough. He’s the bear’s friend, and I could just stop going to Taco Bell with them. But if I want to get all Afterschool Special on his ass, and tell him why he’s wrong and bad and sexist and racist and mean and also I have been raped, that requires a pretty significant output of my emotional effort. I don’t feel good when I’m in the kind of state of mind that allows me to angrily tell somebody off. Even if it’s the right thing, it doesn’t feel nice. It’s tiring, and it’s angering, and it lingers. If I’m going to put that effort in, it’s got to be for something worth it. I don’t feel that Mickey is worth that effort. I barely know him, I hardly see him.
In the instance of The Rape Joke Heard Round the World (I am so so amused that Mickey has no idea I’ve made him internet famous), the bear and I were visiting Mickey at an out-of-town location. He was our last visit for the night, and afterward we were just going to go back to the hotel and hang. I could have started a big fight with Mickey, and the bear would have backed me up, because Mickey did a shit thing. And then we could have gone back to the hotel room several hours early, and instead of having spent our day doing nice fun things and coming back to our hotel room late at night all happy and relaxing, I would get to spend several hours cooped up in a hotel room spitting mad, probably triggered, and feeling incredibly alone and unhappy. And it is so not worth that for some guy I kinda know and sometimes see.
As for the “I Would Have Punched Him In the Face Like Fuck You For Justice” crowd, sorry, but I call bullshit. It’s pretty easy to be an internet warrior. It’s a lot harder to admit to the (sometimes shameful) complexities of human nature. I’ve got a friend, Levi, who is Senor Punch You For Justice in his public life. He has stood up in situations that are downright terrifying, where anybody would be excused for not pulling the Afterschool Special. But in his personal life, he is Senor Without-A-Spine. When his friends treat him shitty, when his wife treats him shitty, when his parents treat him shitty, he meekly accepts it, and consoles himself by standing up to neo-nazis in public so he can keep thinking of himself as Assertive and Aggressive and Totally Not Taking Any Shit, No Way, No How, even when all evidence points to delusional
I have done a pretty good job of making my personal life a place where putting up with some crazy bullshit is a rare and shocking occurrence (the last fucking year notwithstanding, but hey, we all make mistakes). But in my public life, I can never tell whether I’ll be able to speak up or if I’ll suddenly get paralyzed with inaction. It’s something to work on, sure, but the first thing to work on is the shame. That is, there’s nothing wrong with keeping yourself safe, and there’s nothing wrong with not knowing what to say in a shitty situation. We all have a responsibility to ourselves to be safe, and a responsibility to ourselves to be respectful. But the people who make us unsafe, the people who are disrespectful that we would like to call out for their actions, they have a responsibility, too. They should not behave that way in the first place. And that is their obligation, and not yours. I am under no obligation to help make Mickey a better person, or make him see the error of his ways. It’s his obligation to make himself better, and if he’s forfeited that obligation, well, that’s none of my goddamn business, because it’s not my goddamn life. My business is how and when I interact with him, and while maybe someday I will punch him in the face, there is nothing wrong with preferring fifteen minutes of uncomfortable conversation within two hours of fun conversation to weeks and weeks of unending drama and triggering.
It’s Just a Joke, Get Over It
It’s just a blog post. Get over it.
OR IS IT PERHAPS SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT
I know I was raped. From the minute it started happening, I knew what it was. I put it in the back of my mind for a few months until I felt I could deal with it. But I knew I was doing that, even announced it cleanly and clearly to my bear when I told him about the rape. I was all, “Here’s what happened and I know what it was but I just can’t even deal with that right now so I want you to know but I am not going to be talking about it yet.”
And after a few months of not even being able to say the word “rape” out loud, it just suddenly broke one day, and it was okay to deal with. Not that there wasn’t pain and badness, but I had waited until I was strong enough to cope, and strong enough I was. But I think I also got a teensy bit arrogant. I work so hard sometimes to maintain my mental health, and every time I plateau I think, “Ah, there we are, now The Thing Has Been Dealt With.” And when an issue comes up again, I’m all, “GOD FUCKING DAMMIT I THOUGHT I ALREADY DEALT WITH THIS.” I walk around thinking about how sick I am of all this health.
It’s not hard for me to write about rape. It’s not hard for me to read about it. It’s hard for me, sometimes, to hear other people’s stories. I mean here to include the people I sometimes rage at in the comments, about “ignorant” this and “privilege” that. It’s hard to hear people’s ignorance, and it’s hard to hear people’s stories, because both those things are so much about pain, about how hard it is to live in this world that is so toxic to our bodies, so hateful to sex, this world that keeps men and women from being able to fully and freely connect with one another. I hear the same confusion and anger and fear and hurt and grief, whether or not it’s coming from a disclosure of rape or a disclosure of misogyny. (Please note I’m not saying being raped is like being a jerk. What I am saying is that being raped and being a jerk are both products of the same ugly shit that we’re all swimming in)
Sometimes that’s hard, or draining. But otherwise, talking about rape isn’t that hard for me, which might lead people to think I’m brave or together or totally reconciled with my rape or some such thing, because other people find it so hard to talk about. It’s not hard to blather on an anonymous blog. What I have found surprisingly hard, what struck me in a way I didn’t expect, was reading places where my blog was linked and hearing people describe me as a “rape victim.” I have called myself a rape victim or survivor or whatever’s appropriate at the time, and I’ve gotten used to that and it doesn’t bother me anymore. But somehow, hearing other people identify me as somebody who has been raped filled me with a bout of horror and self-pity. Oh my god, that’s me. That’s me they’re talking about, and they’re not wrong.
I, uh, I don’t know how many women out there feel like they’re never going to be over their rapes. And “over it” is bad terminology, because no, you won’t get over it. You’ll learn to integrate it, it’ll become a part of you within a swimming sea of other parts. In some contexts it will be very important and in others it won’t really exist at all. But it doesn’t go away, and every now and again you have to deal with a new part of it, because your life has changed and all your parts have to fit in this new space. I was okay identifying myself as a rape victim. I discovered, to my surprise, that I am viscerally sickened when others identify me as a rape victim. I guess I still feel it’s too frightening to discuss my rape on any terms other than my own; I can be a rape victim to myself, but I cannot be a rape victim to you. I’m glad that I had this relatively stress-free way of discovering that about myself.