This post is a revisit of some of the comments in my previous post on rape culture. It gets personal and is a potential TRIGGER for survivors, so it'll go behind a cut. And for my family, you may want to skip this one; not that I'm ashamed, but that it shows stuff I don't necessarily think you need to see.
To start, yes there are situations that are dangerous, and people need to be aware of their surroundings. But I see where this is sort-of saying that someone who's been mugged because they live in a bad area since they cannot afford to live in a good one isn't looking out for themselves. We know that's not the case, anymore than a man who's in a wheelchair is asking to be assaulted for his chair, or that the girl who's being bullied is asking for her library books to be destroyed or the trans-sexual is asking to be beaten up or...
The onus shouldn't be put on potential victims to not live their lives because someone else may put them at risk. It should be put squarely on the shoulders of potential attackers to not commit acts of violence, theft, hate.
I don't think some of you were around the year of/year after J from T-wolfe was attacked at Pennsic, but that was infuriating for me. The men and some of the women in my clan were adamantly opposed to any of the women leaving camp unescorted because "it could happen again". I'm sorry, but no. That limits our interactions, our choices, our freedom to enjoy ourselves. It was and is utter bullshit. As much as I love them, they reacted badly, and their attitude that an unescorted woman is an invitation to rape or sexual assault is a part of the problem, not the solution.
It also led to me pretending to go to bed the first night out next year, then slipping under the tent/sheetwall and going out through the back, which meant that no-one knew I was out of camp. Had something happened, the situation could have been made worse by that, so it was probably less than smart in hindsight (I was very angry, sober, in need of a drink and saner friends). If I'd left with others knowing I wasn't home, with my tent wide open like it usually was, someone would have come looking for me when I wasn't back the next morning, but they didn't know until I came traipsing back into camp at one or two the next day, corset askew and shoes in hand feeling much less angry after a good night out.
As a society the thought that women need to be protected from themselves has a long history, and it's oppression plain and simple. If the attack had happened to J's husband R, would those same men have said to each other you can't leave camp alone because you may be attacked? Would the women? Not a fucking chance.
And I also know policemen/women, so I've heard some of the same stories. Yes, there are sometimes false reports of sexual assault, and that is wrong. But there are many more true reports that are recanted because of the behaviors of the police, the press, the courts, of friends and family, of the rapists and attackers. And those true but recanted reports are often counted as false, when the sexual assaults did in fact occur, but the victims become convinced that the process of confronting their attacker(s) is not worth the pain, the humiliation, the additional mental stress, the embarrassment to their families, etc, so they drop it.
As for whether I confronted anyone about what happened to me? Yes in one case, no in others. (And coming from someone who didn't know me well, that question would be offensive and my answer would probably be it's really none of your business. But even coming from a close friend if I hadn't already processed this to the extent I have it would probably trigger another round of self-blame, etc. so it is not really a good question to ask, ever.) There was really no-such-thing as date rape or acquaintance assault back then; so I had no options to confront them. I was drunk, I had attended the parties, I had chosen to go with him to his room or take him to mine or to go for a walk with him. As far as anyone was concerned what happened after that was my fault.
Even though in one case the guy next door told me later that he heard me yelling at X that I was "too drunk to fuck", but that he thought I was joking, quoting the Dead Kennedys song. (That song became a mantra for a while, painted on clothes, sewn on patches, laughed over with a partner when I was starting to get my life back in control years later.)
Instead I got to see X all too often - in classes, at practice, even to perform/have a kissing scene with his roommate in a play. I figured out how to compartmentalize that night of drunken, non-consensual sex as something I had to live with. I also gave myself an ulcer, lost a few weeks in a mentally fubar haze, had emotional scars that seriously impacted my life for over a decade (they've faded, I've grown, but they're still a part of me).
But that wasn't the first time I'd been a victim, nor the last. Another boy apologized for the bruises and bite marks, for being so rough, but not for ignoring my pleas to stop. I got the message loud and clear.
On the one hand, I survived the 80's without getting killed or contracting an STD or HIV, and eventually worked out how to be happy. On the other hand, I spent a lot of time in between treating sex as something that wasn't worth saying no to. Time thinking that I was just a plaything, and since that was the case why not at least make it my choice who I was going to let "take advantage" of me every time I went out.
These days, I do still enjoy casual sex. But now it's solely on my terms. I choose to sleep with friends, to be non-monogamous, to cultivate FWB and polyamorous partners. But those are learned choices, and not necessarily the choices I would have made had I not spent so many years as a victim rather than a survivor in my own mind.
Would I have become involved in an open/poly relationship anyway? Perhaps, because I was/am/will always be bisexual, and because I am not wired for monogamy. But I also think I'd have made better choices, it wouldn't have taken me as long to develop the self-esteem to say "nope, not interested", and I probably wouldn't have been hurt by or hurt as many people along the way.
The comments brought up points that are important in this discussion, and I felt they needed the wider audience a seperate post carries.
Things have changed a bit since the 80's for the better. But it's not enough. We need to be teaching everyone that rape culture exists and making sure they understand that the only way to fix the problem is for the rapists to stop raping. We need to not let them find a safe space anywhere, and to call everyone out on sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ablism, and the other attitudes that allow rape to happen.