Maybe it’s the mid-January slump where people are most likely statistically to commit suicide, but in the past six days, I’ve learned that five of my friends have been date-raped and that a sixth friend, whom I already knew was raped years ago, had been raped again recently. Nobody reported any of it. Additional women voiced that they felt shades of this in their marriages; Christian marriages to Christian husbands. Marriages they have been encouraged to stay in by the pastors of their church.
I doubt the pastors themselves have experienced anything close to sexual coercion sanctioned by their larger culture and microculture. Of course these men, and many more like them, say that rape is wrong; they also may refuse to call anything rape unless the woman is pretty much dead from fighting back so hard the man was obliged to beat her up first. A couple of bruises don’t count. “No” doesn’t count either unless someone else heard you yell it.
Oddly, the absence of a screaming tantrum is not considered a sexual invitation in any other situation. As a guy, you would probably never feel obliged to tell the stranger next to you in a dark theater: “by the way, just in case you feel like groping me while this movie is playing, please don’t, and anyway I have installed razor blades in my jock strap.” But in more private man-on-woman situations? No provable screaming tantrum, no rape.
All of this perpetuates an attitude that allows for rape with literally zero consequence. Secret, serial rapists are entitled assholes who operate in the shades of gray created by the idea that women should be polite and “submissive” to what men want, even if men are not polite or “submissive” to what women want. And the more your culture believes this, the more date-rape tends to get spun as something other than a violation and more like an inevitability of the woman doing something less than perfectly.
Even if patriarchal types do acknowledge that something happened, it’s usually accompanied by annoyance that it hasn’t already been resolved. It happened last week, or last year, or a decade ago. For those who did it, it’s in the past. But for those it happened to, it’s now. Every single day may bring flashbacks. Injuries never heal if you continuously demand things from the broken limb, and even if an injury is cared for in the most healthy way possible, there’s often a scar; a spot on the skin that doesn’t stretch the same way uninjured skin does.
If my friends are any indication, date-rape is not a rarity; it is a reoccurring problem. And if you don’t understand it, try to step inside a compiled average of the internal and external struggle my friends went through. Or don’t, if you’re adverse.
In the skin
You don’t know how confused you’ll be when you say no
When you move his hands ten times, twenty times,
And he laughs it off, contradicts you, tells you how much you’ll like it,
So you laugh a little too, break the tension nervously
Try to stop the slow creep forward as he gets further and further inside your clothes
With every trick that occurs to you: with a joke, with a wriggle, with more words.
Then silence so he doesn’t get angry.
You can’t scream; that would be ridiculous. You share too many friends, he bought you dinner, you kissed him too when your lips first touched.
Your screams are mute; tense muscles clamped together, the liquid waves of your hands breaking against his solid and insisting shore.
You don’t know how hard you’ll fight
Or not fight
What a hostile private thing will feel like in your fist when you try to push it away
Hands around your throat and crowded into your jaw
Women want dominance, women want a real man who takes what he wants
You don’t know when you’ll give up and decide it’s your fault
You got yourself in this situation, why were you so stupid
Maybe if you tell yourself it’s Ok it won’t feel like this
How is this happening
It isn’t happening
You don’t know how he’ll laugh when you claw his smug face
And call you a feisty little kitten
Tell you it builds character that you bleed
I’m sorry that I hurt you, he says, with a smile
But you’re tough, you’ll get over it
You want him to die, and you want to die too.
You have never hated anyone like this. Anything like this.
You go into the bathroom and vomit because the smell of his raw fluid inside you is like poison.
You are so tired, so…
Two tracks play in your head, competing for airtime. One: You got yourself into this, you accepted his invitation, you kissed him, you should just lie down and try to sleep. You told him he was handsome. You told him you were interested. He was so kind. He listened so well. He heard you, you felt seen by him. Did you really disappear, that he stopped listening so completely?
Two, slamming into the other and settling over you like a lead sarcophagus: You are a piece of human trash, diseased from his seed, diseased from your own inability to stop him. Shame on you for not stopping him. No one will date you now. You can’t tell your mom, your best friend. It would kill them. They would look at you differently. What to do? What to do?
The next day, you go to the hospital. It’s too late for a rape kit. You’ve showered, you’ve brushed your teeth, you’ve gotten him off you. They ask you if you’re Ok, and you’re not Ok. You can’t handle their questions, the bright lights, the exam, so you leave. He was inside your skin and you don’t want anyone inside your skin again, not even a doctor.
Why are you so stupid? Why do you always do the wrong thing? What the hell is wrong with you?
Well: it’s Ok, you’ll get over it. Something good will come of it. Don’t be upset. Think positive thoughts. Too much pain if you do anything else.
Too much pain. Cover it up with something else. A smile, that’s what.
Everyone likes smiles.