Rape: A Year in Review

 hatoum

It’s been said that every two minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. In past years maybe this bit of statistical information would have been unbelievable but lately it’s become more obviously so. Maybe it’s because every five minutes there’s a new post, article, tweet, or controversy regarding rape. Honestly, between “comedian” Daniel Tosh’s less than hilarious rape jokes to the Steubenville teens who raped and urinated on an unconscious sixteen-year old girl, 2012 has definitely been the rapiest year yet. And it’s not because there have been substantially more rapes this year than the last. Quite the contrary, it’s because rape is finally emerging as a real issue. No more hiding it behind closed doors or stuffing it under our beds with the rest of our dirty laundry. We are talking about rape while challenging those who perpetuate it and I believe that’s something to celebrate.

Earlier this spring Daniel Tosh made some rape jokes. Of all of the things to chuckle at he chose something that directly affects 1 in 5 American women not to mention the countless men and children who have been sexually assaulted. Did he really think that would go over well? I never got a chance to properly address the witless comments left on my Facebook status which read, “Hey Tosh, rape jokes aren’t funny!” So, to respond to those who believe standup comedy is an art and rape jokes are just artistic expression, I say this: No, some things aren’t funny. It wasn’t funny when I lost my sense of self. It wasn’t funny when I’d cry myself to sleep thinking that somehow I was responsible for my own rape. By laughing at atrocities like rape we clearly continuing it. When we laugh at something we get comfortable with it. We allow it to come into our homes and sit down with us on the couch. Laughing only separates it from its own ugliness because after all if something makes us laugh than it can’t be that bad. Ending rape culture is more important than five minutes of half-assed standup.

Right wing politicians sure had a lot to say about rape this year. They even went so far as to take personal experiences and divide them into different “types” of rape. There was forcible rape, rape-rape, Legitimate rape, and of course emergency rape! Like, um excuse me but when isn’t rape a fucking emergency? Listen, anyone with half of a brain will tell you that categorizing rape is completely asinine but just in case you’re not sure, rape is when a person has sex with you without your consent. This can happen out of force, unconsciousness, inebriation, intimidation, or manipulation. I hope this simple definition cleared it up for everybody but if you forget just try and remember that rape is rape is rape is rape.

In December a 23 year old Indian woman was out with her boyfriend after 10pm and was raped. Some will try and argue that this is the very reason why she was raped. “What was she doing?” “Why was she out so late?” and the victim blaming will go on and on like this. Victim blaming is prevalent all over the world and India is no exception. However, this case was so undeniably horrific that it got people talking. Jyoti Singh Pandey was attacked by five men who gang raped her with pipes, leaving her completely disemboweled. She survived the encounter but died some days later in the hospital. India, a country where sex is so stigmatized that victims of rape are often shamed into marrying their rapists, is pissed. They are finally getting angry at rape and demanding that the perpetrators of this crime be brought to justice. From this ghastly incident rose a voice that is insisting rape be taken seriously. What happened to Jyoti was nothing short of tragic but if a conservative country like India can stand up against rape than why can’t we?

Oh, Steubenville just a little town with a big problem. Steubenville, like most of the United States, glorifies its high school athletes to the point that they are sure they can’t be rapists. Just like they’re sure these rising football stars didn’t rape an unconscious girl and then urinate on her at a party. You’re right coach. That little tart was just trying to bring down your team for her own selfish reasons! Err wrong. That’s most definitely not how that works. Sadly, this story is constantly repeating itself. For some reason Americans can’t come to terms with the fact that standing up for a rape victim is considerably more important than standing by the athlete who raped her, go figure. This time things turned out differently for the small town story. It made the national news and it’s still being talked about. Of course that little video of Steubenville teens referring to themselves as “the rape crew” Anonymous leaked last month sure didn’t help keep it out of the headlines.

So, there it is. We’re finally talking about it. The conversation has started without any intention of stopping. Rape is a truly insidious action and the fact that we can’t turn on our computers or pick up a newspaper without seeing it on a headline doesn’t mean the world is getting worse. It means that instead of pretending it doesn’t happen we’re finally addressing it and holding perpetrators accountable.  This year we’ve seen politicians, entertainers, athletes, and entire countries face this controversial topic. Finally, it’s the majority who’s standing up against rape. As advocates we are no longer the minority. In 2013 my only hope is that we can continue the conversation so that rape and rape culture can meet an ultimate end.

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Voices To Vote For

She gasped for breath and sat up in bed. Startled by her own unconscious screaming she awoke with shaking legs and stared at the clock which hung crookedly on her bedroom wall. The paint around it was peeling and the state of her dilapidated apartment reminded her of a post-apolocolyptic movie she had seen some years earlier. You get what you pay for, she’d always think, even in the south Bronx your money won’t get you very far. Beads of sweat sat still on her forehead. She wiped them with her hands and laid back down. Biting her blanket and pressing her eyes tightly together until hot little tears appeared on her face and dripped off of her nose, she tried to fall back to sleep. Cassie was haunted by a memory that didn’t exist. Her dreams were plagued with the body of a person that had never come into being. The formation of her newborn baby wasn’t real, but the guilt she carried was. For weeks after her abortion every night was the same. She would dream of holding her baby in her arms, rocking it gently back and forth. Her dreams were so vivid that she could feel its soft, warm body pressing into her chest. She felt save and loved in a way that she never had before. Hearing its cry sent her stirring restlessly into waking. Then the dream was distant, fleeting too fast to catch it, she was stuck with the harsh reality that none of it was real, and she was alone.

The meetings helped. Every other Wednesday she sought refuge from her sadness by attending a support group for girls and women who had become pregnant and “taken care of it.” The group was put together by a social worker as part of some community outreach program. The women’s health clinic had recommended she go as a way to “alleviate the pain of having an abortion”. The nurse had handed her a box Kotex along with their card. “Every little bit helps sweetie.” She said gently, looking over the desk through tiny reading glasses, probably purchased from the Dwayne Reade around the corner. Still in shock and nauseas from the anesthesia, Cassie brushed it off. She hadn’t once considered actually going to group until the nightmares began.

“So how is everyone feeling today?” Janice, the social worker on hand that day said, as she smiled and looked around the small, lifeless room. The meetings were held in the basement of a women’s healthcare building in Spanish Harlem. The room was dark and the smell was a combination of feet and Lemon Pledge. The walls were pretty much bare aside  from a diagram of a cervix plastered on the wall. Besides a few groans and mumbled “Fine”‘s no one really responded, but no one ever did.

“Lola, I’d like to hear from you today, how is everything going? Are you still in recovery?”

Lola was a dancer for The New York Ballet and she was beautiful. She even sat like a dancer, with her back straight and her tiny feet splayed out to each side. Lola had planned to keep her baby. She was engaged to a young surgeon named Luke, and when she found out about her pregnancy the two were overjoyed. That is, until Lola started getting sick. Nausea hit her like a gust of wind pushing her into the bathroom until it threw her over the toilet. It came at all hours of the day and night. Her OB/GYN had told her it was normal, and it probably was, but what Lola was feeling wasn’t. She liked throwing up. She liked it ever since she was eight years old, when she would lean over the toilet, emptying her stomach of meals. Then in a poised manner she would gracefully stretch her long, lean leg into the air, rest her foot upon the toilet handle and flush it gently. She would dance around her Upper East Side apartment loving her thin body, catching glances of rib cage in the hallway mirror. Lola stopped when she met Luke. She was devoted to staying healthy and dreamed of enjoying cake on her wedding day like other “normal” brides. Morning sickness had caused her monster to resurface. Knowing she wasn’t ready, she made the appointment.

“I’m fine. Just worried, I guess.” Lola looked at the floor as she spoke.

“Why is that, dear? What are you worried about?”

“Sometimes I wonder if I’m gonna get a second chance, you know? Maybe that was my one shot and I blew it. Everyone thinks that I can help it, wanting to be skinny. But I can’t. If I’m not fit to be a mother yet, what if I never will be?”

“Recovery is a process Lola. It takes time and everyone’s different. There is no expiration date on grief or recovery. When you’re ready, really ready, you’ll have what you’re looking for.”

Lola bit her lip and nodded her head as she began to cry.

“I’ve got something to say.” Tanya called out from the group.

Tanya was finishing her junior year at Columbia when he took it. He didn’t take it in an alley, behind a bar, or in a parking garage. He took it in her home with the doors locked. He worked with her at the diner down the street from her building. They spent most nights talking and laughing with one another, flirting with each other and teasing the patrons behind their backs. Tanya was ecstatic when he finally made the first move and asked her out for drinks. He told her that he was working on his law degree, which wasn’t true, he also told her that his name was Allen, which wasn’t true either. His real name was Tom and he was facing three counts of sexual assault and battery in his home state of New Mexico, another fact that he forgot to mention. He had lead Tanya to believe he was from Rhode Island. Tanya was drugged, carried back to her apartment and raped in her own bed. Several people passed them on the street that night but none of them stepped in to investigate. One eye witness told police that, “Girls go out and get drunk. How was I supposed to know she didn’t have too much to drink? I thought it was her boyfriend.” The next morning Tanya awoke huddled at the edge of her bed. Her body was sore and she had no recollection of what had happened. When she looked down to see where the throbbing was coming from her heart felt like stopping. Dried semen covered the inside of her legs. She screamed into her hands. As tears flooded her face she realized that her lips were burning. Tanya stumbled wearily to her dresser and didn’t recognize the girl looking back at her. Her bottom lip was split open in a way that made it look like another set of lips. Her nose was broken and just above her brow laid a gash in the shape of a crescent moon, crusted with dried blood the color of merlot. Five weeks later Tanya found out she was pregnant.

“Yes, okay go ahead.”

“Yeah, well I was passing a church yesterday on my way to class and I saw all these little crosses in the front yard so I stopped to read what the sign next to them said.” She paused, turning red with anger.

“Go on dear, this is a safe place.”

“It said they were graves for aborted babies. Like, what the fuck? Are you kidding me with that bull shit? Where’s the grave for my fucking dignity? It wasn’t even a real person. It made me so angry!” Tanya began to cry, so much so that she couldn’t catch her breath. Every part of her seemed alive in that moment and she was pulsating with rage.

“Just breathe Tanya. I know it hurts but you’re doing okay. If those people who put up the signs and the markers knew how it felt to be you, if they even had a glimpse into your life then maybe they would’ve gone about things a little differently. Let’s hear from someone else in the group now.”

“But they don’t know what it’s like to be me…to be us. How could they? How could a man know what it feels like in woman’s body? How could a woman know if they’ve never had to go through it?” Laura looked up and around at the faces that stared back at her as she spoke.

Cassie hated the sound of Laura’s voice. She hated her story, hated that she was left behind by a man that didn’t want her. She felt sick when she thought about how weak Laura must have been to throw herself at a married man and toss out the product of their affair like garbage. The only lasting memory of their love and what they had made together. Cassie hated it, because it sounded all too familiar. They shared a similar experience and it was too close to her own. Laura represented something bigger to Cassie than a woman scorned. She was living presentation of Cassie’s unwavering guilt.

In an effort to distract herself from the lump that was forming in her throat Cassie directed her attention to Nikki who was kicking her feet back and forth and chewing on the zipper of her oversized coat. Like Cassie, Nikki usually didn’t say much. Mostly, Cassie guessed, because her English wasn’t very good. She lived close to Cassie and sometimes they would exchange glances on the subway but would never say anything even though they both knew they were going to the same place. One of Cassie’s friends once lived in the same building as Nikki and used to catch her and her boyfriend kissing passionately under the stairwell, which Cassie figured was probably how she found herself in group. Nikki was seventeen and her family had immigrated from Honduras some years earlier.

“She probably doesn’t even care.” Bella whispered to Cassie once, “I heard that in Honduras they’re so poor and Catholic that they have babies and just lay them down in rooms to die because they have no food to feed them and they’re going to die anyway.”

“No way!” Cassie shot back.

“Yes way! it’s the reason why the pope got rid of purgatory…”

Nikki could understand what the girls were talking about. Contrary to popular believe, her English was just fine. She chose not to speak because she was nervous and embarrassed. Her parents didn’t know about the meetings. She would tell them that she was going to the library to study and would instead take the long subway ride into Manhattan. She felt different and alone there but not as alone as she felt at home when her father ignored her at dinner and her three brothers and sisters would call her a slut and a murderer behind her back.

Taylor was fifteen when she got pregnant. She didn’t have any family members to sign the consent forms for her. Her family believed in Jesus Christ and the power of the holy ghost, who they praised rigorously and feared with the same sort of intensity. They believed that every life was a blessing, but Taylor didn’t see it that way. To Taylor, any baby born to a dirt poor, teenage mother in an already crowded Brooklyn apartment was more of a burden than anything else. Taylor had big dreams. She was smart, and wanted to be the first person in her family to go to college. Her math teacher, Mrs. Wilson accompanied her to her appointment, signed the papers, and let her spend the rest of the day watching soap operas in her bed. Taylor loved Mrs. Wilson and envied her soft blood locks. Sometimes she would look in the mirror and tug at her dry hair half heartedly. Taylor was bigger than most girls her age and had been fully developed since she was eleven. The boys at school always noticed her, which made her feel strange and embarrassed. Eddie was different than them. At nineteen was a man and his love made Taylor feel beautiful. He would hang around outside in the school yard and wait for her to get out of class then he would take her behind the laundromat and kiss her. He would start with her lips then slowly move to her neck, all the while caressing her smooth brown skin, whispering to her that it was “sweeter than chocolate.”

“I thought we were in love.” Taylor’s voice was small and shaking. “He was the only boy I ever had sex with but when I told him I was pregnant he called me a hoe and accused me of running around with all the guys in my neighborhood. I can’t tell my parents. They’d throw me out…does God hate me now?”

“No, honey, God doesn’t hate you.” Janice softened her gaze as she attempted to comfort Taylor with her words. “Nobody knows more about God, or religion than anybody else. God doesn’t hate or hurt, only people can do that. It only forgives and loves. Cassie, what about you, would you like to share something?”

“Like what?” Cassie turned red.

“Anything dear, anything you have to say is important.”

“I just wasn’t ready to be a mother…so I took care of it. That’s all.”

“I don’t understand what you mean about ‘taking care of it’. Could you explain further?”

“I was in love with a man…well, no. Let me start over, a boy. I was in love with a boy who didn’t love me back. He didn’t like condoms, so I didn’t make him wear one. I found out I was pregnant and that’s it. Accidents happen.”

Cassie looked around the room and could see that no one was really satisfied with her answer. Everyone seemed to be waiting for her to confess that her boyfriend beat her or her uncle raped her or something truly tragic but Cassie didn’t have any of those stories.

“Cassie, I think it would be beneficial for you to really reach down and make contact with your suffering. Can you do that for me?”

She paused for a moment and thought about yesterday. She had come home to an empty apartment filled with roaches and sour smells from the surrounding units. She sat down, unsatisfied with her new life. The life that was supposed to be truly amazing, the one she left her family and friends for, and began to cry. She cried harder than she did when the doctor laid her down on the plastic, wax paper covered table, and told her to stay still. She was more terrified than when he inserted the plastic probe covered in blue gel into her body. She was more furious than when she locked herself in the bathroom stall and saw red and blue striped throughout her white underwear. Cassie had been running for months and for the first time realized that she was alone in a city that didn’t know her.

“I can’t touch it. I don’t want to. There are entire populations and groups of people who hate me for what I’ve done, for a choice that made and they don’t even know me! You know, I want to be a mother? I do…but I wasn’t going to have somebody’s baby who didn’t want me.” Cassie’s body was buzzing with energy as her voice grew strength.  “Why? So his whole family could look down on me and my child? I wasn’t going to have his shamed baby! Every man who has ever come into my life has left me and that’s fine but I will be damned if they leave my child!” She took a deep breath and thought for a moment. “My body is a warzone. It’s hurt and it’s angry. It’s no place for somebody to grow. I let the little soul go because I wasn’t ready for it. I loved it so much that I just let it go.” Cassie’s voice was calm as she gazed at her knees. They had stopped shaking and she felt a great sense of relief come over her.

Cassie took a seat on the train and pulled her red curly hair up over her head and exhaled. Her eyes were closed for a slow moment when she felt someone sit down next to her. She quickly snapped back into the present, letting her hair fall down around her shoulders, when she looked over to her right. It was Nikki. She smiled up at her and placed her head on Cassie’s shoulder, saying nothing. Cassie responded with a weak smile and allowed herself to gently wrap her arm around Nikki’s shoulders, bringing her in close. The two walked in silence to Nikki’s building. Sometimes silence says it all and words lose their meaning at time when things felt become more powerful than things said. Cassie drifted off to sleep that night knowing in her heart she would wake up twisted with pain and guilt, but she didn’t. The guilt had faded along with her isolating silence. The next morning brought with it new hope as she smiled, admiring the newly fallen snow.

This is a fictional story meant to remind those who choose to vote what they may or may not be supporting. For millions of women throughout The United States our right to choose is being ripped from our hands while our bodies are being put on display. No matter what political party you primarily support or religion you choose to affiliate yourself with, remember that their are two sides to every story and to judge someone is to lack understanding and empathy. Your choice in this election will directly effect the health and wellbeing of women and girls. Please stand with women and reproductive rights by voting for Barrack Obama in the 2012 election. This may be a work of fiction but it was inspired by various articles, first hand accounts, and testimonies of women and girls.

The Man Who Was a Monster

It took him three minutes to ruin my life and completely destroy my sense of self. The ownership I had over my body had vanished. I didn’t control it anymore, he controlled it. He had me, and he was in charge. I know it only lasted three minutes because I was counting, holding on to every second and pleading with time to stop. I didn’t ask him to stop until the end. The words didn’t come. I went into survival mode. I moved into a world where words didn’t exist and all I could do was react. I screamed the entire time. I screamed so loudly and powerfully that my it made my throat hurt. When it was over, he apologized, put on his pants, and told me it was an accident. He didn’t mean it and he was sorry. He did mean it, and he knew what he was doing, but I let myself believe his twisted little lies. I took what he did and pushed it down so far that it would take me two years to uncover the truth and be able to tell my story.

I was drunk. We started early and I had, had margaritas and beers upon beers with my friends all before ten thirty. The other girls I was with were tired so I went on with out them to meet up with some guys from work. I stumbled through the door, giddy and giggling and dizzy from drunkeness. I quickly found my friends and proceeded to move towards the bar. There was a man standing at the bar and he was staring at me. My stomach flipped and my hands began to shake even before I realized who he was. I looked deeply into his eyes and studied his face. I skimmed his cool, weak smirk and thats when it hit me. I knew this man. I had loved him once and for far too long. I used to tickle and touch and laugh with this man. I used to sleep in his bed and wake up with him in the morning. This was the man who raped me.

Once again the words didn’t come. He was smiling and waving at me and all I could do was turn away. None of the people I was with knew my secret. They didn’t know who he was or why I couldn’t catch my breath. I found my friend and grabbed his arm, “That’s my rapist…that’s him at the bar…” I managed, my voice still weak and wavering. I pushed through the crowd and into the bathroom. I locked the door and bent over the toilet. I held my hair back and emptied the contents of my stomach. I flushed the toilet with my foot and stood in front of the mirror. Still breathing heavily, I stared back at my reflection and hated what I saw.  I’m weak, I’m worthless, I’m dirty, I’m a whore. I pushed my makeup around my face and smoothed my hair. No, I won’t let him do this to me again. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. I am none of those things, I’m strong and I can do this. 


I’m a runner. Not in the sense that I go for runs or run for exercise. Rather, when I feel threatened or scared I leave. I take off and I don’t deal with it. This urge of flight is a direct result of being raped and just another component of my PTSD. I want to run when I’m sitting in class, when we’re discussing trauma and affects of sexual abuse. I cringe and shake and sweat and the only thought in my head is I’ve got to get out, I have to leave, I need to leave, I’m not safe here, and it pounds within my skull like a bass drum. I’ve never wanted to run more than in those moments. I had no one to comfort me, no kind of support, I was frozen in space and completely alone. My friend kept telling me that it would be okay, that he wouldn’t do anything to me because they were all right there and they had my back. They didn’t understand, how could they? His presence was violent in and of itself. I was terrified and silenced all from one look.

In therapy, I’m asked what I would do if I ever saw him again. I think about it a lot. I think of saying all of these powerful things that would hurt him the way he hurt me. I think about smashing a beer bottle on the bar and thrashing it at his jugular. I even imagine punching him in the face until I remember that he towers over me. (That was the way of us, though. I was always too little to get away, or to stand up to him.) Instead I just stood there and said nothing. God, if I could have only said something.

At last call he came up to me and as I saw him walk towards me I thought my heart was going to explode within my chest. “Hey, I’m sorry.” He ripped the breath from my lungs and my mouth fell open. “You’re sorry?” As I looked at him in disgust, I thought about everything I had been through in the past year. I thought about all the times I cried myself to sleep, believing that it was all my fault. I thought about how many relationships I had ruined because I’m incapable of real intimacy. Laying in the dark and letting the tears fall from eyes after sex wasn’t rare for me. I remembered the cool fall night when I stood on my ex’s porch, facing him and crying, listening to his pleas for me to calm down, “I’m not him Liz, I’m not Joe, I would never do that to you.” I thought about the progress that I had made with the help of somatic therapy. There were times when the exercises we’d do in class stirred up too many emotions and I would cry, or try to run away but instead I remained grounded and strong. The other women in my class would put their hands on my back and tell me that I was enough and that I was safe.

My mind was flooded with memories of my entire healing process. The ups, the downs, all of the struggles and the progress I had made trying to return to my body and understand that I have a voice. So when, I heard him say “I’m sorry” I was incomplete disbelief. “You destroyed everything for me, and you want to tell me that you’re sorry?” I pushed the words out of my mouth, “Do you even know what you’re apologizing for?” “Listen, I’m just trying to apologize.” With that, he left and I felt completely trampled. My friend came towards me and I held back my tears. I told him I was okay, everything was okay, but it wasn’t. It was the least ‘okay’ I had felt in months, but nothing could be done and it was what it was.

I didn’t consent to what he did to me. It broke my heart and ripped apart what little trust I had left. My problems with men and intimacy have all stemmed from my relationship with this person. At first when I woke up this morning I was disappointed in myself for not saying more to him than I had. Now, I understand that I could never relay the fact that he had ruined my life in a matter of sentences. Sometimes I try to see the positive side of my situation. I’m more empathetic, I have a stronger voice, I am a better person because of my suffering, but most days this outlook doesn’t work. I would rather have my innocence back. It took three minutes for him to derail my young life and years to put the pieces back together.

Words With Friends

I walked into the dusty cool house before letting my eyes adjust to the sunlight outside. I looked around, feeling terrible from the night before, I gave a wave and said nothing. “Sup Slut McGee!” My coworker held his hand out for me to shake. Ugh, so it begins. Apparently this has become my new name. I had to admit, it had a certain ring to it although it was a definite downgrade from the more familiar “Tits McGee”. It was Sunday, a day that should be honored by laying around in sweatpants rather than guzzling flat forties.

When the drinking games commenced suddenly anyone who couldn’t finish a cup of beer in twelve seconds became a “pussy”. Yes, because that’s exactly how we should be referring to female sex organs. In the midst of my fuzzy drunk fog I couldn’t help but picture everyone standing around the beer pong table as walking vaginas. I squinted my eyes and shook my head.

I’ve been surrounded by words like slut, pussy and the always heartwarming bitch, since before middle school. Sometimes these words were thrown at me in anger, spat by a serpent’s tongue. Other times they were nudged in my direction, “I don’t sleep around because I’m not a slut.” Then the eyes of the girl across the room moved gently in my direction. For as long as these words have been used to hurt me, or describe me, they’ve also been used in a way that’s playful and inviting. “I love you Bitch!” “I’m proud of you slut!” When we really sit and analyze the meaning behind these words it’s absurd to think that we use them in everyday diction. No respectable individual would throw around racist slurs, so why then are we allowed to get away gendered insults and slut shaming?

I stepped away from noise and grabbed a beer from the fridge. Upon returning to the table I was startled by my friend yelling “You slut! Why didn’t you grab me one?!” How did he know that the real reason why I forgot his beer was because I was blowing the rest of the party in the bathroom? Damn he’s good. I rolled my eyes in silent protest, turned the can towards the Ceiling and drank.

The truth is that I hate even hearing words like slut or whore because they hurt. They’ve been used to stab me in the heart so many times that the sound of them makes me cringe. Pussy doesn’t give me the chills, instead I find it absolutely infuriating. To refer to part of the female anatomy as weak is nonsensical at best. Men enter into this world through vaginas, they grow up fantasizing about them, they make love to them, and then they have the audacity to call them weak or worthless. My vagina and your drinking buddy are not one in the same.

Even worse than slut shaming or degrading the female form, are rape jokes. Last Tuesday I was sitting in my Spanish class and a particularly rowdy male in the back yelled “Dude, the culture section of the exam totally raped me, it was so stupid!” Oh really? Those three little multiple choice questions forced themselves inside of you? He later apologized for saying that they were “stupid” while completely disregarding the more insulting part of his comment. Rape isn’t something that should be played with. I don’t want to get comfortable with rape. It’s not funny to me or the countless other victims who have suffered through it. It’s more than a word, it’s a scar, a tear, a constant pain in my chest. Laughing about rape will only perpetuate it. In the same way that making words like slut, pussy, whore, and bitch appropriate for recreational use perpetuates gender discrimination.

I congratulate movements like Slutwalk for trying to reclaim language that has been used to divide and shame women but it is still very much a work in progress. There’s an idea floating around our society which insists that “words don’t hurt”, but I assure you that they do.  If you know how it feels to be hurt by a word, any word, than why would you use another to hurt someone else? We have to be conscious of our language and what we are actually saying before we say it. If you’re a gay man, stop using the word dyke because you know how it feels to be called a fag. If you’re a black man, stop using words to discriminate against gender, because you know it feels to be ostracized for your race, and for God’s sakes us women must stop using slut shaming to police the sexuality of our sisters. Using positive language and behavior is the first step to eliminating inequality.

Let’s Talk, Girl Talk: Vaginas

Essentially, The Vagina Monologues is about different women and their relationships with their vaginas. It’s creator Eve Ensler interviewed hundreds of women and asked them questions like, “If your vagina could talk what would it say?” and even “What would it wear?” Of these testimonies some were chosen, blended, or rewritten to represent the differing views between society and women about their “down there’s”. After seeing this performance at Ohio State the other night I felt inspired to investigate my own relationship with my down there.

To me, vagina was never a dirty word, and it certainly didn’t sound like some shameful disease. Although I have always reserved a quiet disdain for the words “pussy” and “cunt” I always thought that vagina sounded beautiful and even exotic, rather than medically necessary. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware that I had  a vagina until I was forced into sex education in fifth grade. I can still recall our science teacher’s shaky explanation of intercourse. She stood uneasily beside the projector with her left pointer finger and thumb forming an “O” shape while she slowly jabbed her right finger through it. “See class, the penis goes inside the vagina just like this” All of the girls in the class just sat there with a confused look on their faces. I leaned over and whispered into my friend’s ear, “Where’s that hole supposed to be?” she whispered back and said, “The middle one.” We both stuck out our tongues in childish disgust. Until that shocking revelation I believed that all my vagina was, was a chubby, hairless triangle between my legs. I stayed away from my fat little pouch until I was forced to deal with it. I had started my period for the fist time in the eighth grade and it was now time to woman-up and learn how to use a tampon. I sat on the toilet for almost an hour listening to my friends cheering me on and shouting out directions from outside the bathroom, as I tried desperately to understand why that damn thing wouldn’t go up my vagina. It took three hours to figure out that it was because my vagina was not up but back. 

I really never understood the concept of hating the look of one’s vagina. A young man had exposed himself to me in the park by my house the fall of my seventh grade year so I knew what a penis looked like, and after seeing how gross they were I thought vaginas might as well be masterpieces. In the story, Because He Liked to Look at it, the character explained that she was so disgusted by the sight of her own vagina that she imagined there was furniture between her legs. Who taught us to hate the aesthetics of our perfectly personalized vaginas?  It’s yours, and it’s the only one you’ve got so you should love and honor it.

I was still pondering what my vagina would wear when I was shaken back to reality by the words of the next character. She was a Bosnian woman who had been captured by four soldiers who had raped and tortured her for six days. As she told her gruesome tale I squeezed my legs tightly together as an effort to protect mine from invaders. It was then when the burning started between my legs and I realized that I was mourning for her, and what she had lost. I swallowed hard and shifted uncomfortably in my chair as I listened to her explain that the soldiers raped her with a rifle and that on the sixth day of  being raped part of her labia fell off in her hand. Her vagina was destroyed and so then, her heart was as well. This wasn’t even the most horrific rape story I’ve ever heard. Indigenous Guatemalan women raped with machetes as a response to their political upheaval, Women in Eastern Europe who have been kidnapped and forced into prostitution in other countries, and the gang rapes of young girls IN THIS COUNTRY are among the one billion tragic stories of the nameless and voiceless victims of sexual violence.

I know my vagina. I know how she looks, and what she likes, I know how to take care of her. I never feel a disconnection to my vagina, that is of course when I’m alone. When a man comes into the situation that’s when I lose her, abandon her, and hand her over because she no longer belongs to me, she is his. I don’t even notice it’s happening, really. I always enjoy the beginning but then the fear sets in, and it grows and gets loud. It screams inside my head until I start panicking, that is not my partner…he’s in me and I don’t know him…I’m not safe here…I’m not safe…and then I tell him to stop, and he does and it’s over and I’m embarrassed and ashamed and he feels like he did something wrong when he didn’t. I used to block all of this out, but since I finally acknowledged my trauma my thoughts have become more powerful.

That’s the thing about vaginas, they’ll hold inside whatever it is you place in them. That is to say, they will hold shame, pain, and sadness, just as much pleasure or desire. This is why they must be taken care of, respected, and loved. If my vagina could talk she’d say, “STOP, take me on a date, like me and love me before you touch me”, “Don’t call me pussy, I’m no pussy…I’m more powerful than you think!”, and of course, “I am not a whole that was created for your penis, I am my own proud, perfect, separate entity and your bullshit is drying me out like a desert.”

I Believe in Change

(Inspired by Eve Ensler’s article: Over It)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eve-ensler/over-it_b_1089013.html

 

I believe in a world where people understand rape, and not just when it’s forceable.

I believe in a world where children can play outside with out their parents watching every move, and not fear being kidnapped.

I believe in a world where women are no longer afraid to walk home alone at night, or to their cars by themselves, simply because they’re women.

I believe in a world where young girls aren’t taken advantage of at parties just so that it can be blamed on the fact that, “they were drunk”

I believe in a world with out ruffies.

I believe in a world where no one justifies rape as “Well she was asking for it”

I believe in a world where women can wear whatever they want and won’t be attacked for it.

I believe in a world where women don’t have to sell their bodies for money.

I believe in a world with out forced prostitution or human trafficking.

I believe in a world where women can trust men, and there bodies won’t be broken.

I believe in a world where women and children are safe.

I believe in a world where little girls and boys can grow up with out being molested.

I believe in a world with harsher punishment for rapists and child molesters.

I believe in a world where harmful rape kits aren’t necessary because a victim’s statement is valid evidence.

I believe in a world with out gang rapes.

I believe in a world with out brutal rape videos and child pornography.

I believe in a where women are allowed to be powerful and own their birthrights.

I believe in a world where women and homosexuals are no longer held down by sexual violence.

I believe in a world where women in the military aren’t raped.

I believe in a world with out South African rape camps for lesbians.

I believe in a world where men and women aren’t raped for being gay.

I believe in a world where women can negotiate condom use, regardless of the country or situation.

I believe in a world where women can negotiate when and who they have sex with.

I believe in a world where women have choice.

I believe in a world where sexual assault is considered a hate crime.

I believe in a world with safe homes for victims of sexual violence.

I believe in a world where women can establish community and a voice for themselves.

I believe in a world where that voice will be heard.

I believe in a world where women and victims no longer live in shame.

I believe in a world where women are free and accepted as leaders.

I believe in a world with out sexual violence.

I believe that it can happen, and that we together can make a positive change for our community, wherever it may be.

I believe we can start a social movement and finally end sexual assault. Everyday move forward towards a more positive future and walk for these victims. If you also believe in a world with out rape, speak up, act out, and pass this message of hope along to whoever you can. Retweet it, “like” it or share it on facebook, e-mail it, Re-post it, do whatever you can. Get the word out that we’re seeking justice and we won’t give up until we get it!

Your Boyfriend’s Dirty Little Secret

We’re all guilty of sneaking a little peak at the virtual world of pornography. What was once considered wicked or unheard of is fast becoming a bankable commodity directed mostly towards men. Sex sells, and thanks to capitalism it is definitely selling. When sex becomes a hot market item, who is really paying the price?

I have talked to many different women about their feelings on pornography and their answers have varied. Some women have been extremely outspoken about their moral disgust for pornographic material on the basis that it seriously degrades women and provides men with false sexual fantasies that many women (who aren’t being paid) would never fulfill. Others have taken a more relaxed stance by regarding porn as generally harmless and just a part of human sexuality. After hearing these equal but opposite arguments I decided to poke around one of these sites, (no pun intended) and make a decision for myself.

In all honesty, what I saw was rather disturbing. I found it quite obvious that these sites are dominated by masculine ideals of lust and domineering sexual fantasies. I mean, even the titles to these videos were outrageous. Dirty, seedy words were thrown in randomly and were completely unnecessary. Call me old fashioned but I’ve always preferred candles to “XXX COCK PUSSY CREAMPIE” Really? You practically need a decoder to figure out what that even means. Is this the kind of language that romantic “sweet nothings” have been reduced to? Even the picture previews made sex look extremely unappetizing. Even worse were the sidebar advertisements which read “Barely 18” with images of young girls that were certainly younger than 18 or even 16. Perfect! It’s a pedophile’s playground, I’m so glad there is a free mainstream website that caters to these individuals, because after all that’s not illegal or anything.

Am I missing something here? In my book, the act of buying and selling sex violates some deep inner laws but I would be less inclined to argue against it, if the sex that was being exchanged was completely consensual. However, some of the ads and pop-ups that bombarded my computer with titles like, “Punish Her” and “Brutal” leads me to believe that these women are not consenting. Even if they are, but they’re “acting” like they’re not, doesn’t this also pose a serious problem? It’s obvious to me that there is fan base of men who enjoy climaxing to the degradation and humiliation of young women. That is a sexual disorder that is being facilitated by the online porn community. Disturbed men are buying and so an even more disturbed, money hungry market is selling.

I have often been considered an over-analyst but this is a very serious issue. It goes far beyond the private use of a lusty visual, or catching your boyfriend, husband or God forbid teenage son with his pants down at the keyboard. These rough and tumble videos are perpetuating rape culture and turning sex from an act of unity on the physical and emotional to a power struggle in which the man comes out the valor. Even “soft core” videos further negative female stereotypes. I know that I sure haven’t ever considered “Whore” and “slut” to be flattering terms. I’m also sure that male actors rarely wear condoms, (since one would make it that much harder to ejaculate on a woman’s face, which seems to be extremely popular.) which only tells the viewer that it’s okay for them not to wear them, making condom negotiation even harder for women. It is, in fact obvious to me that even though more men may be whipping out their credit cards in exchange for a little skin, women are the ones who actually pay. In a society where everything can be bought and sold to the highest bidder, the pornography industry is taking sexuality to an entire new level, which leads me to ask, is nothing sacred?