Monday, October 10, 2016
Rape Culture and Triggers
Yes. People are tired of hearing about the upcoming election. They're tired of hearing slams on "their" team, their player. They're tired of hearing about this tape of disgusting conversation between Billy Bush and Donald Trump. I've heard- "It was ten years ago!" and "Trump wasn't running for president then!" and my favorite- "But Bill Clinton...!". If you're tired of reading about it, close out this window.
Guess what? I'm tired of people defending Donald Trump, no matter what he says or does. There is no defense as a candidate for the presidency. I think Maya Angelou was the one who said- "If someone shows you who they are the first time, believe them". Donald Trump has shown from ten years ago through today exactly who he is. Supporters are filtering out the garbage stuff as "not really him" and just twisting the rest of it to their own interests.
Nevermind anything else- perpetuating rape culture in this country is what I want to discuss now though. It's a trigger for many of us who have been in some way sexually assaulted or harrassed, for other women to accept this behavior as "men will be men". Or calling this "just locker room talk that all men engage in at some point in life". Even if you wanted to talk about a less mature person making stupid comments, Donald Trump was fifty-seven when he made those comments about grabbing women's pussies and getting what you want sexually when you're a "star". He can't get a pass on being young and stupid. Especially since he continues to degrade women. He may not have been caught talking about grabbing pussies this year, but he still fat shames and objectifies. None of which is presidential in the least.
I mentioned triggers. Every time someone says what he said "isn't that bad" and doesn't affect his ability to be a great leader, it's a slap in the face to those who have been on the receiving end of that kind of deplorable, disgusting, treatment. It's unfathomable how anyone can give a plausible explanation to their daughters how they can excuse this away. Someone on Facebook said, "Don't we have bigger things to worry about than him having a potty mouth?". No, we don't. Because clearly you don't know the difference between potty mouth and talking about taking women sexually without their consent. There IS a major difference. *I* have what would be considered a potty mouth. I'm not offended by potty mouth. By cursing. This and that is comparing apples and oranges. One thing IS actually just words. The other is discussion actions where someone is dominant and someone is unwillingly submissive. One is called potty mouth and one is called rape culture.
I have a story. I don't know if I've ever even told my husband this story. I don't think I told my boyfriend at the time either. Because when this happens to you, there is part of you that feels like maybe there is something you could've done to prevent it from happening. Did you give off a signal? Give him the wrong idea?
It's a little scary to tell this kind of story even now, because I know there are going to be people judging. The internet is always judge and jury. But it is what it is. I'm forty-two now and of course hindsight is 20/20. Nothing I can do about that now.
I was seventeen years old. I was in a pretty serious relationship for about eight months or so by the time this happened. I was always a flirt but never indulged in willy-nilly sexual behavior. I'd had boyfriends, all had been pretty good to me by that point. Very respectful. Guys who cared, didn't pressure me to have sex. So I didn't. My parents told me that if I didn't have sex, I'd have the upperhand. I believed them. I was a virgin until this boyfriend I had when I was seventeen. Up until this boyfriend, other guys had coined the nickname for me- V.A.P.O.I. (Virgin And Proud Of It). Even losing my virginity was a really good experience though because he really loved me. I never felt used or experienced pressure with him or anyone prior. He was a little older than me but careful to let me be in control of that aspect of our relationship.
Like I said though, I was always very social and what you'd call- a flirt, but I thought that was normal. I liked the attention but never planned to act on it and no one ever made me feel like I had to act on it. I was naive and very trusting. I had no reason not to be.
I worked like three days a week at a telemarketing place my senior year of high school. I met all these new friends there, of all ages, guys and girls. Of course it was more fun with the guys though and there were more guys that worked there in general than females. We worked in four hour blocks, different people doing different surveys. You would sit next to the people working on the same survey. If the managers were feeling nice, they'd let you work on the same survey as your friends so you could sit together.
I started sitting next to this guy a lot and we struck up what I thought was a friendship. He was twenty-three, sort of good looking in a nerdy kind of way. He wasn't big- not much taller than me and not stocky. He was in law school. He was smart and he seemed interesting. He lived a few towns over from my hometown. I had my boyfriend who I loved and had no plans to cheat on. But flirting with him was a way to pass the time in between surveys. It's funny, I still call it flirting, putting the onus on that, when really, it could've just been misinterpreted talking. I call it flirting because somehow he got an idea that there was going to be more than talking, so here, I assume still I must have projected that. When the reality is, he was twenty-three and I was seventeen. He shouldn't have been thinking anything of the sort. Or at least thinking that maybe the conversations wasn't meant the way he was taking it.
I had ongoing community service hours to do at a church near his apartment because of a motor vehicle ticket. That's another story entirely. It was a lot of hours over many months. He kept telling me that I should stop by his apartment some night, on my way home from community service. Just to see his apartment and hang out. I hadn't taken him up on that but something made me impulsively decide to do that one night. I thought I'd just stop by quickly, chat a little, and leave. It was a school night and I think I was done at community service at eight o'clock. I thought I'd hang for like an hour and go home.
I stopped there. I can still picture his apartment. It was the upstairs of a two family house. Or some kind of apartment in a house. It was very private and had it's own entrance. I can remember going up a pretty long staircase and all of a sudden getting a weird feeling, like maybe this was a bad idea. I ignored that feeling and continued in to his apartment where there was nowhere to really sit but the bed. Then I really felt weird. I talked for a few minutes and then said I was going to go home.
He proceeded to grab my arm and try to kiss me. I told him to stop and tried to get away. I told him that he knew I had a boyfriend. He said that I knew what I was coming there for, not to play dumb. That I wasn't leaving because I being a total dick-tease. I got really nervous, like, how did I get into this mess? Did I subconsciously know what I was going there for? I didn't think I did. I was second guessing myself, but I just knew I had to get out of there. He had a grip on my arm, but I said I was going. I'd never felt like he was imposing, physically, till that moment. But as I write this, I feel like I'm remembering he was into some kind of martial arts.
I really think when he really looked at my face, he got nervous in that moment too, because he was in law school and working or interning for a law firm. I didn't know anything about law firms then, but it was probably a prestigious law firm and lucky for me, I think he saw his future career flash before his eyes. The thought of what might happen to HIM in an aftermath outweighed what he wanted sexually. He let go of my arm and basically threatened me. He said something to the effect of I better not tell anyone, especially because he knows and I know that I wanted it. That I was a child trying to act like an adult and I'd be "sorry" if I told anyone.
I felt so dirty when I left. I felt dirty and not like myself for weeks after. I had to see him at work for another few months until I left for college. Some would say that nothing really happened. That I was lucky to have escaped without anything else besides the grab of my arm and the threat. I didn't feel like I could tell anyone because I thought people would think it was my fault for going there. I didn't tell my boyfriend, who was also who I considered my best friend at the time. I didn't tell him because he was very jealous and I knew he'd get angry that I even went there. He always said I was naive to guys liking me. I didn't tell my mom because I wasn't supposed to go anywhere but home after community service. I had to just live with it and be glad I got away relatively unscathed.
What ever happened to that guy? I've followed his career somewhat. I obviously never forgot him. There was no internet until years after he did what he did to me. Once there was, I looked him up. I didn't know what I hoped to find but it wasn't what I found! Guess what he's doing these days? Well, he's a highly-respected JUDGE. Yes, folks, a judge. AND, he's presided over rape cases. Awesome.
Now, granted, he may have never done something like that again. I don't know. What I do know is I will never forget that night. I will never forget him. And when people, especially woman, make light of or excuses for vile things a man says about taking a woman sexually against their will, I think about that night again. And how I felt like no one would care or be on my side. How they'd say I deserved it. How I felt like I may have deserved it.
If we don't hold the person trying to be elected to the most powerful position in the world to a higher standard of treatment and talk of others, who do we hold? If we don't hold the POTUS nominee to that higher standard, why would a twenty-three year old law student feel like he should be held to any standard? If we let it just be men being men, those are men going out with your sisters, your moms, your daughters. Nevermind that they're just people on their own- but it seems to have to be put in a closer perspective for some. As parents, how do you explain this kind of talk and thinking to your daughters? Do you tell them men are just pigs? How do you explain why you would be with a man at all if they all just talk like that? Do you just tell them not to do anything to deserve it? What about your sons? Is this what you want them to think is acceptable talk and action toward women?
Sure, the country has big problems as we stand. But I'm stymied that the perpetuation of rape culture isn't as high up on the priority list as the other things. How do you quantify sexual assault or attempted sexual assault as less than other things. We don't live in caveman days where men just club and grab their women by the hair to do as they please. I have a son. There is no way I'd ever allow it to be acceptable for him to talk or think that way. Somehow, we excuse the person who is seemingly wants the job to lead us all. Billy Bush got suspended from his job. Rightfully so. Just for not speaking up. Yet, the person who actually talked the talk is allowed to run for the biggest, most important job in the land. With people clapping. Condoning calling her the C-word and worse.There is something very wrong with that.
Don't tell me that rape culture in this country doesn't exist. Every time discussion comes up about lewd and vile things that Donald Trump has said about women, people bring up Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton who isn't running for office. And you can think anything Bill did or was accused of is horrifying. But that doesn't make this other wrong any less important. You can concurrently feel like they're both horrifying and still neither is Hillary's fault. It doesn't make Trump's behavior any less wrong because someone else did something wrong. Wrong is wrong. And wrong is wrong when someone is running for President. People want to blame and call Hillary out now for Bill Clinton's indiscretions, for staying with her husband. Accusing her of covering up for his cheating and whatever other sexual atrocities of which he's been accused. Hear me. Really hear me. SHE was a victim. In our rape culture, she's to blame. There is also something very wrong with THAT.
Kelly Oxford, author and social media personality tweeted asking women to tweet back with their own sexual assault stories. She thought if no one responded she'd take the tweet down. By Saturday night she said she had NINE POINT SEVEN MILLION TWITTER INTERACTIONS. Read that number again and then try to deny there is rape culture here. Read more here: Kelly Oxford rape culture tweets