My Rape Schedule
May 8, 2010 § 11 Comments
Last night I walked into the subway station and pulled out my wallet just as a train was pulling in. I scrambled to swipe my MetroCard and ran into the train as the doors were closing. Settling on a seat and tucking away my wallet, I slowly noticed that the car was empty except for me and a 35-ish-year-old man a few seat blocks over.
My first thought: I should switch cars at the next station.
My next thought: But he doesn’t look dangerous. (What makes someone look dangerous?)
And then: Even if he doesn’t look dangerous, I still shouldn’t be here alone. What a terrible idea. What if something happens?
And then, as we sat in peaceful silence from station to station, I came to the best realization of all: We could sit here, alone, for days and days, and he would not rape me if he is not a rapist.
What a fucking revolutionary idea!
See, women are told from birth that men can’t help themselves. They just can’t resist. Girls and women are supposed to control their appetites, their body odors, their excretions, their facial expressions, their words, their sexual cravings. Men and boys? Can do whatever the fuck they want. Guys who eat as much as they like, burp, sweat, use impolite phrasing, and have sex when and how they please are neither reprimanded nor socially punished; often, in fact, they are glorified. And men who rape? Are usually just “boys being boys.”
Here’s the thing: nothing makes rape happen except a rapist. Not being drunk, not wearing “slutty” clothes, not walking home alone, not leaving your drink momentarily out of sight, not being passed out, not agreeing to some sexual acts but not others, not retracting agreement in the moment. Men are capable of resisting these opportunities to rape, because rape is not about sex, it’s not about pleasure — it is about control.
The threat of violence is a universal experience for women and queer people. It binds us together. And the organization of our lives according to a rape schedule is not easy; it takes mental effort. And it starts early — I remember being concerned about sexual assault as early as 11 years old, and planning my route to the subway accordingly. Can you imagine what we might use that brainspace for? There are so many other beautiful, fascinating and lovely thoughts that might fill the space that we are forced to reserve for violence prevention. Men do not have to negotiate the constant threat of violence in the same way as women; their minds are unburdened by how to prevent attacks — and prove that such attacks were not their own fault.
It is not too much to ask men not to rape; indeed, it is insulting to insist that they are incapable of treating people with dignity and respect.
I refuse to accept a life planned around the threat of violence. I refuse to accept that I should tailor my comings and goings to a rape schedule. And I refuse to accept that rape is anything but a violent, cold-hearted, and inescapably deliberate act.
I’m keeping my seat.