This essay is cross-posted with permission from Hay Ladies.
What makes me most angry about the reprehensible, privilege-denying behavior of Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann and their allies in the whole Julian Assange-can’t-be-a-rapist-because-he’s-a-freedom-fighter ordeal, addressed beautifully by Sady Doyle and a number of brilliant feminists in the form of the #MooreAndMe Twitter hashtag? The fact that, in the likely event I am ever a victim of completed or attempted sexual assault, powerful men (and women!) of liberal privilege may not–indeed, very likely may not–take me seriously.
At 27 years old, I have not yet been a victim of sexual assault. But let’s be real: that fact is likely to change. Because one in six women will, in their lifetimes, be the victim of a rape or attempted rape. And I mean, we’re estimating there–sixty fucking percent of rapes are never reported to the police. I’m more likely to be raped than I am to get breast cancer.
But you don’t have to be a stat-wielding, card-carrying feminist to feel the threat of rape in your life. Really, all you have to be is female. All you have to have is some kinda voice in the back of your mind that says, watch what you wear, who you talk to, where you walk, what you say. The question you’re always kind of asking yourself is, Who will rape me?
I jogged to the gym earlier today–I’m still sweaty, actually, because I wanted to sit down and write this before I lost my nerve–in my walkable, historic Dallas neighborhood, and because it gets dark early now, I thought, Better watch out. Not many people around of a Monday. Could get sketchy. I didn’t carry my wallet with me just in case, but I can’t exactly leave my vagina at home. And I thought, ye gods, if I am going to be raped, let it be this way.
Let me be a white, middle-class woman in a long-term heterosexual relationship who is jogging to the gym at 6:30 on a week night, stone-cold sober, in a lovely little historic neighborhood, who is hit over the head in some back alley by some drugged-out crazy fuck with a criminal history who drags me behind a dumpster and beats me senseless before he rapes me. Because then I will not have to apologize for getting myself raped and no one will wonder if I made it up because I was mad, because I was drunk, because I dressed like a skank, because I was a sex worker, because I was in the wrong neighborhood, because I was ashamed, because well, that is just what women do, the silly things what can’t tell the difference between sex and rape.
I was on that beastly stair-stepper-elliptical-machine-thing, and to the beat of my workout, I kept hearing in my head, Who will rape me? I thought of all the different women I knew of who’d been raped, women I knew and women I’d only read about–inspired probably by this Sady Doyle post–and I wondered, fuckinghell, when does this happen to me?
Will it be someone I know? Probably. Two-thirds of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Like, knows knows. A roommate, a buddy, a classmate, a co-worker, a friend-of-a-friend. If you want to expand it out a little bit, at the very least, I’ll probably be raped by someone I at least recognize–73 percent of rapes are committed by a non-stranger. Will it be someone I’m intimate with? Good chance–30 percent chance–I will be raped by my boyfriend or husband. Hell, it could even be a family member. Seven percent of rapes are committed by a relative. And you know what? The person who rapes me probably won’t even think I’m all that special since he’ll probably have raped seven to nine women, depending on what stats you rely on, before he’s ever put in jail.
And Chripes, that’s only if I’m a woman–it’s worth saying here, if only because I think some people really don’t believe it, that men get raped. One in 33 in their lifetimes.
So, who will rape me? It might be a prominent professional athlete. When that happens, my motivation, personal life and all former sexual exploits will be analyzed by people who think I should just count myself lucky to have been on the receiving end of a famous dick.
I might be raped by someone I’m dating. When that happens, I might try to rationalize the whole thing and continue seeing him because I might believe that women in relationships can’t revoke consent.
I might be raped by my husband. I mean fuck, in a lot of places and up till way more recently than I’m comfortable with in the United States, it wasn’t even possible to rape your wife.
I might be raped by someone I meet at a party where I’ve gone to have fun with my girlfriends. If that happens, I might be told by the authorities that I can’t report my rape because I can’t remember it clearly enough. I might be raped by an abuser who sabotages my birth control or refuses to wear a condom in order to control my reproductive capabilities. If that happens, I might hear from many people that it is only vicious, money-grubbing women who do this and that I can’t be trusted.
I might be raped by a famous artist. If that happens, people might say that the quality of his art is too good for him to be a real rapist, and that I probably am blowing things out of proportion. I might be raped by ten or fifteen people outside my school dance while others look on. If that happens, many people will go to great pains to point out that well, I had been drinking. I might be raped by a beloved liberal activist. If that happens, people might post my name and address on the internet so that I can be hunted down if need be, because people might be incapable of believing someone with a great political idea might also not think he had to take “no” for an answer in the bedroom.