||[Sep. 28th, 2005|10:03 pm]
I was struck by inspiration today, and started writing. By the end of the day, I was writing other stuff.|
Rape has always been a big deal for me, and I've spent lots of time trying to find a way to express a lot of complex truths. I've just finished an essay that could tentatively be entitled "What's the big deal about rape, anyway?" It's an attempt to express why rape is damaging. There's a method to this madness, that I'll explain later if anyone's interested.
It's entirely unedited, at the moment, and at the end, I ended up going into "talking to guys about rape" mode. Still... if anyone wants to read it, it's behind the cut tag. Commentary is welcome, even if it's of the form "Not bad" or "this sucks". Advice, edits, suggested reading and research, etc., are welcome as well.
A note on language:
Men can rape women, and men can rape men. Women can rape women, and women can rape men. Never forget this.
However, by far, the most common occurrence of rape is a man raping a woman. As such, I will tend to use "he" if referring to a rapist, and "she" if referring to the person attacked. Striving for gender neutrality would be wrong, because rape is gender biased. However, men and women can rape, men and women can be raped. Never, ever, forget this.
So, what is rape, exactly? What is the big deal?
There are a lot of people who are afraid to ask those questions, because to do so is to invite scorn. At the same time, someone has to talk about these things because we expect them to be obvious, and they aren't..
Let me start with the second question, then. What is the big deal?
This is one of the things that few people understand. For example, they'll hear a prostitute is raped, and say "that's not rape, that's theft!" After all, prostitutes have sex all the time, how could they be hurt by having sex?
It's a complicated issue. I think that rape isn't traumatic because it's sexual, but I think that sex is what opens the door to make it traumatic.
This is pure theory, this is a guy who hasn't been raped, who is working from what he's heard from others, what's he's seen, felt, and read.
First, and I think the biggest issue, is vulnerability. Sex puts us in a very vulnerable position, both physically, and emotionally.
Has a doctor ever put those drops in your eyes that make your pupils open wide? Your eyes are made to see, to sense light; it's their job. Now, your eyes are hypersensitive to that. What does the doctor do before those drops go in your eyes? The doctor dims the lights, and afterwards, if you don't have a good pair of sunglasses, you'll get a cardboard pair. Ordinary light would hurt your eyes.
What I'm saying is that sex is something that opens the pupils of our emotions wide. Even ordinary emotional input is magnified. Being attacked in that state is like having someone pop a flashbulb in your face when your pupils are fully dialated.
In addition to that, there's the physical vulnerability. A person who is being raped might not have been threatened with violence (other than the rape itself), but the fact of the matter is, the rape victim simply doesn't know what will happen. If a person willing to commit rape, who knows what else that person will do? If you've ever been beaten up, so that you realized you were helpless to defend yourself, you probably have a good idea of this fear, and how terrible it can be.
I know that sometimes victims of physical violence feel a sense of gratitude that they weren't hurt worse, especially if the attacker evokes this sense. Now, the real term for this feeling is "relief"; if you think about it, gratitude is simply a feeling of relief evoked by another person. Nevertheless, a victim can feel gratitude, and feel ashamed for feeling grateful. This is another large block of painful and confusing emotional input, while a person is still emotionally vulnerable.
Finally, we're taught that sex is private, and personal, and meaningful; we have a large number of feelings about sex. Some of them might stem from nature, and some from nurture; many believe that there's also a spiritual component to sex, as well. Regardless, sex is powerful stuff. If you had good sex last week, you might be able to smile and feel a tiny bit horny about it today; if you've ever had a painful experience, it might still evoke painful memories today, no matter how long ago it happened.
There's more; there's always more. Nevertheless, I'm going to assume that this is enough. If you read this, if you understand this, you should be able to say that rape is a big deal, and have at least a vague understanding of why.
Not everyone can understand; some folks don't have the ability to place themselves in another's shoes well enough to understand how it will feel. Still, you can use these ideas, that the trauma of rape is based upon vulnerability, emotional overload, especially of fear, and a variety of issues that come from our feelings about sex.
For example, if you want to reduce the possibility of sex being unpleasant, you want a feeling of safety for everyone involved, so the vulnerability is not a bad thing. You want the situation that everyone feels good about, so feelings about sex aren't torn up, during or afterwards. You want to understand that emotions will be high, and vulnerable to negative shifts, so you want to make sure everything is okay from an emotional standpoint.
Some folks have gone so far as to say that violating these boundaries makes otherwise consenting sex into rape. I disagree with that... but violating these boundaries can make consenting sex as painful and regrettable as rape.
What I say here is that people can feel raped without being raped. Now, let's ignore whether it hurts "as much" as rape. It's not relevant, really; people who are in pain are in as much pain as they're in, and there's no way to measure it. The pain can be there, it can be real, and that's what's important.
What am I getting at? Well, as I said before, I'm going to go into "guy does the deed, woman gets hurt" mode for simplicity's sake, but keep in mind that you can change either gender and still keep the important ideas.
If a guy pressures a woman into sex, she can feel terrible if she gives in, because her feelings about sex weren't respected. It can hurt, and only an asshole would let sex cause this kind of hurt to another person. Also, if a guy has sex just to get his rocks off, without letting her know in advance, she can feel terrible for the exact same reasons. Only an asshole would do that.
If a guy is grabby, the kind who keeps reaching for more (figuratively and literally) than he's being offered, he's leaving a woman feeling vulnerable and quite likely frightened. Again: only an asshole would do this.
A guy who doesn't know a woman well enough to have a guess as to how to protect her emotionally during sex is taking a terrible risk... but this can be as much stupidity as assholishness.
But a guy who doesn't make sure that a woman has every chance to call for a halt, a guy who pushes when she seems uncomfortable, a guy who uses even the tiniest hint of force in trying to get sex, is an asshole, at least.
There are women who stopped struggling, because the guy they were struggling against made them so afraid that they decided to let him continue rather than risk having him hurt them, and then rape them. These women can be as traumatized as those who are shown a weapon, and told to submit to the inevitable, or they'll be hurt.
No one but the most cold hearted of bastards would even want to take a chance of that happening. "Asshole" is much too weak a word for this. And if any guy out there is reading this and says "How do I, er, I mean, how does he know she's scared?" well, he should ask that question long distance, or I'll be sorely tempted to smack him upside the head.
You don't know she's scared. Instead, you're supposed to know she's eager, or at least ready, willing and able. If she's not, you figure out why. You don't go on just because you don't know she's scared!
See, this is the really, really stupid thing about this kind of discussion.
A guy who lets the woman set the pace, by going slow, and making sure he never makes her unhappy or uncomfortable, he'll make a woman feel safe. A woman will notice if a guy cares about how she feels. A woman will notice if a guy respects her feelings about sex. Put all these together, and if she's hot for the guy, she'll be hot and ready, sooner than otherwise.
In short, the best way to get laid is to be patient and willing to let things progress naturally. Sure, be seductive; sure, make sure she can tell you're eager; sure, try to move forward, slowly, giving her plenty of time to tell you to slow things down, and when she does, slow down. And don't pout about it, for heaven's sake. Your slowing down when she asks you to is what helps her realize you can be trusted; it's what helps her feel safe.
The guys who don't take care, who aren't willing to make their partners comfortable, not only are they being jerks, they're frustrating themselves, and making it harder for rest of us. It's a lose-lose-lose situation, no matter how you look at it.
But I'm starting to get off-track here.
Rape is a big deal, because it's a crime that relies on deep vulnerabilities, fear, emotional overload, and rips people apart, mentally and emotionally. People who aren't assholes will not only avoid rape, they'll avoid the things that evoke any of the pain that's vaguely similar to rape, beause even those pains can be a big deal.
That's the first part. Next, we'll deal with "what is rape?".