Sunday, May 19, 2013

Why I'm sad right now

I wanted to write a happy post. But I can’t.

I want to write about how incredible, insane, hilarious and ridiculous my trip to Las Vegas was. I want to write about how I reconnected with my best friend and how we partied harder at 31 than we ever did at 21.

I want to write about how I genuinely enjoy my new job, how I’m being trained in SEO and Google Analytics and all the things I’ve needed to learn to excel at my career but have never taken the time to learn on my own.

But I can’t write about any of that right now, because I’m sad. I’m sad about our society and what’s being accepted as “normal” and “OK.” I’m sad at the headlines I keep reading, at the comments people keep making that they think are OK to make, and at the disgusting victim-blaming. And I need to get it off my chest. I’ve started many happier blog posts, but I keep coming back to this.

The subject I’m so upset about is difficult to talk about, much less write about: rape culture. People love to think our society is fine and rape is clearly defined and punished. But I’ve realized that people are wrong. It’s happening everywhere, it’s happening more than we think, and it’s being excused and accepted.

I live in Seattle and am surrounded by progressive, sex positive feminist badasses. So naturally, the subject gets talked about on occasion. But what really opened my eyes to just how bad our society is, initially, was the horror of the Steubenville case. And it wasn’t even the actual atrocities committed that night that opened my eyes, as disgusting as they were. It wasn’t even the way those vile boys photographed and video taped their own evidence, as if they were proud.

I can’t bring myself to re-cap what happened to that girl that night. Here’s a link to the Wikipedia page in case anyone needs a refresher: 

What horrified me the most and bitch slapped me into reality was the public’s reaction to it. When the boys were found guilty, newscasters commented on how sad it was that their lives had been ruined. The public seemed to agree, chastising the girl for getting drunk and “making bad decisions.” The comments on the news articles horrified me.

But this Buzzfeed article with screen shots of actual reactions made me physically ill and unable to sleep at night (warning, humanity at its worst ahead):

Aside from my whirlwind trip to Europe, I really only drank alcohol twice in high school. One time I drank a couple of wine coolers before getting sick from the sugar and giving up on getting a buzz. But the other time, my first time drinking alcohol in my life, was a disaster. I had no idea what I was doing. I drank beers, schnapps, wine coolers, anything I could get my hands on. Needless to say, I was a mess, falling down stairs, laughing at everything and lying dramatically on my friends’ shoulders. The next day I was sick as a dog, naturally.

Some people who were at that party accused me of faking being drunk, which was hilarious since I would’ve had no idea how to do that. And yes, I regrettably smooched someone that I normally wouldn’t have (but consented to, fully, because beer goggles are a thing). But that’s the worst that happened. Thank God. I didn’t black out, but I was in NO position to make good decisions, nor could I hold my alcohol. I easily could have been that poor girl, as could any teen girl in America who makes the decision to drink.

That girl in Steubenville chose to drink underage. That was the only thing she did wrong. When someone is passed out, you cannot blame them for a damn thing, much less initiating sex. And yet, people did blame her, labeling her a whore. Two teenage girls were even charged with threatening the victim, which is exceptionally awful. And society wept for these “poor teen boys’ lives being ruined” at the hands of this “evil little slut.”

And it hit me just how deep the problem goes. It’s not just about actual rape, it really is a rape culture we’re living in….in the United States, in 2013. And let me just state a fact…not an opinion, a fact: if a woman does not fully consent to what’s being done to her, what is being done to her is rape. It does not matter if she gets drunk and flirts with you all night, then changes her mind about sealing the deal. It does not matter if she’s had 500 partners in her past, what she is wearing or how much she drinks. Rape is rape, it is a crime, and there is no excuse for it.

One of the biggest problems is the assumption that rape is always committed by a stranger. One day I read a frightening account of a young woman who was raped by her boyfriend at 19 on one of my favorite sites, She was in her bedroom with her boyfriend and they were making out. She decided she didn’t want to have sex. He decided he didn’t want to accept her answer. The comments, from both men and women, were shocking: “Why didn’t you run? Why did you go into your bedroom with him if you didn’t want to have sex? What were you thinking?”

No… no. Not what was she thinking…she made a decision and informed her partner of that decision. He was the one who decided to commit a crime. Really, I don’t understand the gray area here. But I understand why people are thinking this way. People are being allowed to think this way and even encouraged to think this way. We’ve got assholes like Donald Trump spewing out their ignorant opinions like garbage, implying that men simply can't help it.

Rapists are rarely big hulking men who hide in bushes. The fact is, 90% of rapes on college campuses are committed by someone the victim knows. And as for the fact that a rapist is always some giant man no woman can fight off, well, I know for a fact that’s not true.

I am quite lucky in the sense that I’ve never been raped…it’s sad that I have to consider myself blessed for never having experienced the horror, but that’s a whole different post. But I have been sexually assaulted. It was a long time ago, and I healed from it many years ago. But it wasn’t by a stranger, and it certainly wasn’t by a big strong man. And it wasn’t any kind of struggle like in the movies. I was simply mentally manipulated, something happened I did not consent to, I went home in shock, eventually realized what had happened, healed from it and moved on. And it was not, in any way, my fault. 

What happened to me many years ago happens all the time, every day, to women and girls of all ages. And no matter what they’re wearing, what they’re doing or what they’re drinking, it’s wrong. And I’m really, really fucking tired of them being told by society that it is partially their fault. And furthermore, I’m really tired of people rolling their eyes or labeling me some kind of “militant feminist” every time I bring it up. I was actually worried about writing about this for fear of getting labeled. Well label me all you want, because I'm tired of not talking about it.

On that note, I’m also sick to death of the “What if it was your sister?” excuse that we use to try and humanize rape victims to the fucktards who victim blame. Are you kidding me? Every single woman who is raped is someone’s daughter, friend, sister or mother. It makes no difference whether you know her or not.

In addition to being degrading to women, I honestly find victim blaming degrading to men as well. Men are being brought up to believe that they can’t control their urges, that they will commit rape if a woman tempts them enough. That’s bullshit. With some obvious exceptions (Donald Trump, for one), men are highly emotionally intelligent creatures fully capable of knowing how to ask for consent… and they are also emotionally able to determine when they are about to fuck up and do something wrong. Let's give them both credit and accountability.

Of course I am all for women learning self defense training, and I am all for being responsible and learning to stop drinking before you black out (because in addition to crimes happening, you also get dangerously ill). I am also aware that we won’t achieve a perfect society anytime soon and bad things will happen.

But there’s so much we can do…today, right now. We can change the way we think, all of us. Mothers and fathers can teach their little boys from a very young age that no ALWAYS means no and everyone, girls and boys, should be respected. We can fight back against the mentality that starts in high school with the slut-labeling. But I don’t see it happening enough.

And that’s why I’m sad right now. 


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