This is a post about rape.
I keep in casual contact with a dude I dated a year ago. A few weeks ago he revealed that he was having a “terrible” week. He said he wanted to tell me what was going on with him because he wasn’t sure I would take his side. I immediately wrote back, “If it’s about a girl, I’m already on her side lol.”
A few nights later, he called me in the middle of the night. I didn’t pick up, because that’s the type of call you ignore. I messaged him in the morning asking what was up. He told me some “dumb girl” accused him of rape and he had been arrested and was in talks with lawyers. I froze. I was stuck between two impulses. The first was to block him immediately and vomit. That felt like the right thing to do, both physically and politically. But I also knew I had an opportunity. I could spend a few minutes talking to him about what he had done and try to get him to take some responsibility. That also felt right politically, if not physically. So that’s what I did.
I was more generous than he deserved. I asked him to consider the possibility that he had crossed a line, even if he didn’t realize it at the time. I told him it would serve everyone better if he listened to what she had to say. Inevitably, he told me to fuck off and deleted me from his friends list.
It was a pretty sickening exchange. It wiped me out emotionally and frankly it scared me. I spent the rest of the day crying and asking male friends to send me pizza to soften the impact of this misogynist world. (I got two pizzas.) I don’t know if I did the right thing in trying to talk to this guy. I wondered if I had said something else if it would have made a difference. I thought back to the time I spent dating him. This was a guy who I asked to use condoms when we slept together, but he never did. This was a guy who I told not to cum inside me, but who did anyway. This was a guy who regularly crossed my sexual boundaries and thought nothing of it. Though I had told him his behaviour was not okay, I couldn’t help wondering if I had said something else, had a stronger response, gotten through to him somehow, would some other woman not be going through hell right now? Or was I a fool for trying at all?
I’ve spent a lot of time in the past year defending women I don’t know to men who supposedly used to care about them, who supposedly cared about me. This includes explaining why they should believe the women who say they’ve assaulted them. This includes explaining why agreeing with some dude that their ex-girlfriend of over six years is a “cunt” for disliking Arrested Development is a misogynist thing to do. I have sat with men who I know are rapists, with men who have assaulted me, and still carefully explained consent and rape culture. I have made more than one personalized Power Point presentation explaining male privilege. These men don’t deserve my time, my careful explanations, my patience, my creativity, my experiences, my tears, my expertise, or my generosity. But women do.
These things shouldn’t be happening. But they are. Men should be better. But they aren’t. It shouldn’t be my job. But who else is doing it? As long as I have the capacity, and as long as men call women “dumb” or “cunts” for disagreeing with them, I will be there with my years of feminist study and my sassy jokes and my “this-is-unacceptable” voice. I will use anything at my disposal, from Star Wars analogies to Power Point, and I will be more tender than they deserve. Does this make me a fool? Maybe. But I don’t do it for them. I do it for you, the legions of women I have never met, but still love and will always believe.