The Enormous Elephant In Society’s Living Room

[CN: sexual assault, rape culture]

I went on to Tumblr for a little break, and a bit of inspiration found me. I ended up writing a blog post there, but I wanted to share it here as well. Wil Wheaton posted a story by Stacey May Fowles, entitled What can’t be published from The National Post. Ms. Fowles writes:

The week the Bloor and Christie suspect was revealed by the police, a male friend walked me home through the neighbourhood where the attacks took place. It was late on a Friday night, and he insisted on accompanying me after sharing dinner and ice cream, noting the sheer lunacy of me doing it myself after the constant reports, tweets, blog posts, Take Back The Night and self-defence course invitations.

While we were walking past Bloor and Grace, where one of the assaults reportedly occurred, two extremely drunk boys, estimated to be in their teens, staggered towards us and slurred their directions. We obliged them, and watched as they stumbled on their way, towards the subway.

In that moment, I realized they were enjoying a freedom I had never had and could never have. Blind drunk and exposed in the middle of the night, they wandered gleefully, happily and safely, conversing with strangers and inviting attention. The very things the written words that week had told me I wasn’t allowed to do.

The entire article stuck a nerve; I relate to it in so many ways. From being a woman who is constantly told how to protect myself from men to someone who has just started speaking out and writing candidly about my own sexual assault, Fowles’ words spoke to me. I hope you will read the entire article, these are the stories that need to be told and heard. Here is my own response.

We’ve far to go to bring society to put the blame on the rapists, and teach men that they should not rape. I hope in my lifetime that mentality replaces the past, and unfortunately still current, views of teaching girls to be careful & not get raped. Today’s standard of how we treat rape only perpetuates the idea that victims are somehow responsible. What a tremendous burden for a victim to carry, in addition to the myriad of emotions experienced and injuries endured during and after a rape.

Why more men aren’t outraged by this is beyond me. If women were constantly portrayed as unable to control ourselves, and that men had to constantly be on the look-out because I or my friends may attack them, I’d be disgusted. I would never want the rest of the world to see me in that way, as an animal. I can still remember from adolescence learning how if a guy had an erection, it had to be taken care of. He’d end up in miserable pain, even possibly have medical problems if he didn’t ejaculate. Yes, that myth was still alive and well not too long ago, and I assume still is in the halls of middle and high schools. As a teen, I was scared to even kiss a boy for this reason; the pressure of knowing I’d have to touch him, no matter what because that’s just how it goes, was too intense for me. As an adult, I’ve had experiences where grown men still claimed this same rule, that if they were aroused, it was my duty to “help” them out. There’s few things more pathetic than a grown man sitting there telling you how painful it is or begging you to just jerk him off because “look what you did to me” as he points to the bulge in his pants. And men are not entirely to blame here. These ideas were taught, either directly or indirectly, by society.

I think a major reason why the disconnect exists is because when it comes to sexual assault, we don’t talk about it enough and there is far too much shame (on the victim/survivor’s part) involved. I’ve been told before to not speak about my rape, even warned that others may use it to harass me. So not only does society tell me I’m somehow at fault for getting assaulted in the first place, but now I must hush up or else others will try to inflict additional harm? Rape is the enormous elephant in society’s living room. In order for everyone to understand exactly what rape is and the legacy it leaves, we need to continue to speak out, and speak loudly. Women, I beg of you, tell your stories; from catcalls to sexual assaults, get vocal and be heard. It is never your fault. We must keep doing so until this shift occurs and men are taught to be held accountable for all of their actions.