Trigger Warning: This post, as well as the posts linked inside it, discusses sexual assault, rape culture, and victim blaming.
I’ve been following some conversations here on Feministe and here at Shakesville about an article to which I will not link directly. The article in question advocates that women not get drunk in order to “have control over” our “side of the equation” when it comes to sexual assault. There are terms for that– namely, victim blaming and rape apology.
While it’s not as simple as man-as-rapist and woman-as-victim, what is simple is this — Rape is not an equation; it’s a fundamental inequality. There are many different choices I could have made the night I was raped. But there is no choice I could have made that would have made my rapist not a rapist. That was never my choice, and it shouldn’t have been my responsibility to carry all these years.
Don’t think I haven’t replayed the situation thousands of times in my head, analyzing and reanalyzing it from every angle. Don’t think I haven’t tried blaming myself. Really, it would have been a lot easier that way. If I’d done something wrong that time, then I could change course. I could fix it for next time.
But here’s the thing: None of my choices hurt anyone else. When talking to people about rape, either personally or in the abstract, there’s often a supposition that I must regret at least some of the decisions I made that night. For me, though, that’s not true. While I would like to alter the outcome, I don’t regret the choices I made that got me there. Because my choices were never the problem.
I went to a party at a friend’s. Parties are good, right? So are friends. I was even sociable and friendly at said party, which, if I am understanding the world correctly, is not an automatic green light into my vagina (and/or other orifices of choice). In the intervening years, I’ve been to parties in less familiar places with people I knew less well — and again, was even sociable and friendly. Some events were good and some bad, but there’s nothing inherent about friends or parties that must lead to violating criminal acts.
I stayed out late. As a legal adult, I’m sort of entitled to define my own bedtime. It wasn’t the first time I’ve stayed out that late, nor was it the latest I’ve stayed out. Generally, the natural consequence that stems from this decision is that I end up very sleepy.
I wore short shorts. And probably a tank top, maybe with spaghetti straps, even. It was summer, and my legs are kind of awesome. Just like every summer before and every summer since, I’ve found shorts incredibly convenient for not steaming inside my own clothes. My parents have been letting my dress myself ever since they discovered I could, and aside from some early unfortunate incidents with matching, that has mostly worked out okay.
I was alone with a man. This is sort of the kicker, the one people think I should regret, where they think I should have known better. In reality, I’ve been alone with many men — friends, family, colleagues, strangers — and the general trend is that they don’t assault me. I suppose, yes, I could never again have a personal relationship that places me alone with another person, but that seems cumbersome at best and something that would lead to an unsatisfying and unhappy life for me. I’ll pass, thanks.
The long and short of it is that I’m not sorry, and I wouldn’t do anything differently. I’m not saying there is no shame or regret to be had from my rape. But the person who should be feeling it — and the person who should have been subjected to so much scrutiny over the years — was never me.