My name is Emma. This is my feminism.

The Line – 2009

on April 11, 2012

This was a really interesting, really intimate story about date rape.  The woman making the documentary was raped when she went home with a co-worker.  To be clear, she went home to have sex with him.  He wasn’t a creepy stranger who jumped out at her an in dark alley.  She was in his bed, having sex with him.  Some people think that this means that she was asking for it, she deserved it, or she wasn’t really raped. 

But to me, this is terrifying.  I know it’s fucked to teach women to not get raped.  But honestly, hearing ‘don’t talk to strangers,’ ‘don’t walk home alone,’ ‘stay in a populated area,’ and other victim blaming statements thinly veiled as advice and concern really does have an impact.  I probably wouldn’t walk through a dark alley alone at night after I had been drinking.  Doing the things that, as women, we constantly do to avoid rape make us feel safe and in control (to some extent). 

But what if I just want to have sex with a guy I work with?  Or even a stranger at a bar.  I’m already going to have sex with him, so why would I have to worry that he would rape me?  Well, in this case, because he wanted anal sex, and she didn’t.  He seemed to interpret her consenting to vaginal sex as her consenting to any sexual act he wanted, regardless of her screaming and crying.  This is terrifying.  Really.

I think that most women have had an experience similar to this (but hopefully much less extreme).  You think you’re just making out, but he thinks that means he can undress you, or touch you, or make you touch him.  You’re not really okay with it, but you don’t want to freak out and be ‘that girl’ either.  Whispering no should be just as powerful as screaming it, but it often isn’t. 

Of course I don’t mean to minimize more intrusive, penetrative rape by comparing it to a much less intense situation, but I think it all comes from the same place.  And I think it’s really important to recognize that a lot of women have experienced this.  Almost every woman I know has experienced it to some extent.  It’s such a huge, complex system of patriarchy, entitlement, low self-esteem, and women’s objectification that it sometimes feels impossible to find your line and speak up, but we all have to.

I really admire the woman who made this documentary for doing just that.  She talked about how she sometimes questioned whether or not it was really rape.  Maybe she was overreacting.  The man who did it certainly didn’t think he was a rapist.  That’s why date rape is so dangerous and so scary.  Who knows how many men are walking around thinking they’re decent guys while a woman knows that they are a rapist. 

This documentary really changed the way I think of date rape.  It’s not ‘just’ date rape.  It’s not just that she kinda didn’t want to, but she compromised for him.  She thought she was having consensual sex and ended up being anally raped.   Then, when she told her friends, they didn’t believe her.  If her case had been judged by a jury, she almost certainly would have lost.  She is seen as a drunk slut who was asking for it.  Or maybe she’s lying to get attention.  Either way, it was her fault and she deserves no sympathy.

I think people need to really take a minute to think about how awful being raped would really be.  Then think about the rape myths they are perpetuating, and how damaging they would be to hear as the survivor of rape.  Then, next time you hear of someone being raped, consider saying, “That’s horrible.  I hope she’s okay.  I can’t believe someone would do something like that,” instead of, “Well why was she walking there alone?”  Just because you haven’t been raped doesn’t mean the person you’re talking to hasn’t.  Or the person nearby who can hear you.  Or someone they love.  You never know who is listening, so be careful, and be supportive.  We’re all in this together. 



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