The Secret World Of Rape; Or, I Enjoy Being A Girl

LC: I Have To Tell What Happened To Me from Center for Reproductive Rights on Vimeo. All this talk about legitimate rape is making me seethe. It's just as well that I didn't have a daughter, because I'd worry every time she went out the door.

LC: I Have To Tell What Happened To Me from Center for Reproductive Rights on Vimeo.

All this talk about legitimate rape is making me seethe. It's just as well that I didn't have a daughter, because I'd worry every time she went out the door. But if there's one thing I know about rape, you can only lessen the odds - you can't eradicate them completely. And if I had a daughter, I would not want her to walk trembling through this world. I would not want her to think there's no one she can trust.

And yet, I can't forget the forcible rapes (the "good" kind) that happened to the women I know. The friend waiting at the bus stop who got pulled into a car. The teenager who was surrounded on a suburban street, gang-raped and impregnated. The good girl from a religious home, raped by her grandfather and then her father. The young girl on her college orientation weekend, whose guide forced himself on her and left her pregnant. The young student, raped as a tourist in a foreign land. The young professional raped by her old boyfriend after he ran into her at a party. (Acquaintance rapes? Rule of thumb: Once you give it away, it's no longer yours to keep. I can't even keep track of those.)

These girls, these women: You know what their crimes were? That they dared to think they could just walk around, like they weren't women. As if the world belonged to them, too. Like sex wasn't something that men could just take from them, as long as they were stronger and could catch you off guard. It's not yours to give, it's theirs to take.

Men don't always understand that rape is all around. They think if they wouldn't do such a thing, no one else would.

Rape is exciting. Rape is glamorous. We see it in the movies, that transcendent moment when the woman just stops struggling and gives in to what we all know she really wants. I remember watching "Blume in Love". Wikipedia says, "The plot concerns the efforts of Stephen Blume, a Beverly Hills divorce lawyer played by Segal, to regain the wife (Anspach) who has divorced him."

It doesn't mention that the method by which he "regains" his wife (like yards in a football game, I suppose) is by raping and impregnating her. And then they all live happily ever after. A romantic comedy!

I remember feeling distinctly angry after that movie. My then-husband didn't. "Yes, but they were married, it wasn't like they were strangers," he said. Yes, I know that emotional ties are complicated. But it was clearly a rape. (Oh, and Roger Ebert didn't even mention the rape in his review. It just wasn't ... important, I suppose.)

We see it on TV all the time. Whenever a women is raped by someone she knows, she falls in love with her rapist. It's just the way it is. Search "rape" on YouTube and see how many movies and TV shows turn up.

A rape-aware woman's world is curtailed in all sorts of unconscious, subtle ways. You wouldn't want to have a drink with a work friend, he might take it the wrong way. You don't take public transit, you never know what might happen. (Some years ago, I was talking to Atrios about public transit. "A three-block walk from the bus late at night is no big deal for you. Women don't feel that way. It's a safety issue.")

Oh, and women "shouldn't" get drunk. I have beloved nieces. When they went to college, I told them, "Don't go to a frat party and get sh*tfaced. But if you do, make sure one friend is sober and checks on all of you." Many feminists would be annoyed with me for that; the real problem isn't women drinking, the real problem is men raping, they say.

Well, I agree. Of course I do. But getting drunk raises the odds of "something" happening (and I think by now we all know what that "something" is), and given their druthers, women would rather it didn't. So I gave the best advice I could under less-than-ideal circumstances. I didn't want my nieces raped to prove some point.

Something gets taken from you, against your will. Something important. And then, to top it off, some Bible-waving moron wants to take more, either by insisting you weren't raped in the first place, or that you owe it to Jesus to have your rapist's baby. This might be the sickest part of all. You don't deserve to get your own life back, you're just a vessel for some man's desires: psychological, carnal, or theological.

At least two of the women I know who got raped also got pregnant. One got an abortion and went on with her life, because it was a time we had those kind of options, that kind of privacy, and it was unthinkable that it could be otherwise; the other hid her pregnancy with the help of her mother and gave the child up for adoption. My God, it has screwed her up big time. Big time.

Shortly before she died, my mother told me something that helped me understand a lot of the sexual insanity in the Catholic church. "In our day, in many Irish families, the oldest son was promised to the priesthood and the oldest daughter to the convent," she said. "Those people had no choice at all, and I think it made some of them crazy. Imagine."

Yes, imagine. Imagine having no choice, and being told it was God's will. I don't think I have to imagine all that hard.

So when men, men who consider themselves progressive, don't get why progressive women are tired of being pushed to the back of the bus on abortion rights, they don't understand how primal, how elemental our personal autonomy is to us. Not just the ability to have an abortion, but the ability to have one without shame or second-guessing. Women aren't children. If they know they can't have a child, take them at their word. There's a reason.

And if you don't like abortion, don't freaking have one.

About Susie Madrak

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