Trigger Warning/Author’s note: this post contains a discussion of rape and underage sexual activity. It is also a very personal post.
The subject of rape has been in the news again recently, specifically in regard to Serena Williams’s recent remarks about the Steubenville victim.
Of course, any time the subject of rape appears in the news, there is invariably a chorus of people talking about how victim X shouldn’t have been doing such and such, and if the wanton trollop had just covered up her tits and not drunk to abandon, she wouldn’t have been raped.
Every time I see someone saying this, I counter with the standard litany that we can’t blame the victim, that it’s the rapist’s fault and theirs alone, that women already know they need to be safe and they don’t need to be informed of it again by someone who wasn’t there.
I’m tired of it. I’m tired of repeating myself over and over only to be told that it’s okay to say the victim’s behavior was incorrect even if it’s ultimately the rapist’s fault. Rape is not about some woman wearing something too revealing and getting some guy so aroused that he just can’t help himself. Rape is about power. If you have been raped, you know this. If you haven’t been raped, you only know this if you’ve listened to people who have been.
I’m going to tell you a story. I was eight years old. It was a typical school day. There was a break between classes and I stopped in the bathroom to relieve myself. I finished, and as I was turning around, an older boy entered the room. I didn’t know him; I think he was in sixth grade. I just know he was a lot bigger than me. He grabbed me, and I thought I was in for another round of bullying. But this was different. He pushed me into a stall. He came in with me and shut the stall door behind him. He was blocking it with his body.
He told me to kneel. I still had no idea what was going on, but I had started to cry by this point. And then he pulled it out. I looked up at him and he said “suck it.”
“Put it in your mouth.”
And I did. I don’t remember the next few moments at all. I do remember him eventually pulling out and laughing at me. “If you tell anyone, I will kick your ass.” Then I remember him hauling ass from the bathroom as he finished zipping himself back up.
It was my first sexual experience of any kind. I was lucky that my father had already explained what my sex organs were, and I wasn’t ashamed of them. I still felt shamed by the assault I had just faced, however. It wasn’t because I had put another boy’s cock in my mouth, either. I actually didn’t mind that part, and maybe part of me even liked that part. But I was ashamed because had been degraded and abused. My dignity had been completely taken away from me in that moment. I didn’t really know the words for what happened, but I knew how it made me feel. I got up off my knees, still crying, wiped my face, washed my hands, and left the bathroom to go on to class.
I really have no idea what made him do it. I never will. But having experienced it, I understand one thing. Rape is not about sex. It is not about arousal. It is not about being horny. It is about dominance and power. Any sexual component of the rape is entirely separated from the shame and humiliation that results. By extension, any arousal that leads a rapist to initiate a rape is entirely separated from the rapist’s desire to control and dominate the victim. And someone who rapes is not doing so because the victim was too enticing. They do it because they can, and they know they can, and something in them makes them think it’s okay, and society validates that feeling that it’s okay by pretending the victim’s behavior was somehow the cause.
I was raped in an elementary school bathroom because I happened to be in the presence of a predator. The girl in Steubenville was raped because she happened to be in the presence of multiple predators. Maybe if she hadn’t gone to that party, she wouldn’t have been raped. By that logic, maybe if I’d held it in until I got home that day, I wouldn’t have been raped.
Don’t talk to me about rape unless you’ve been raped. If you haven’t gone through it, I guarantee I know more about it than you do.