WARNING; Potential to trigger. Read at your own discretion.
I was reading an entry in Melissa McEwan's excellent series of blogs about rape on Shakesville, and as I read through the various different stories about privilege and rape culture and the excuses society makes, a memory surfaced of an event I had long forgotten.
Those of you who know me and/or have thoroughly read this blog know that I'm a rape survivor. You also know when I was a teenager and full of rage and anger I thought about committing rape out of a desire to hurt a girl who tormented me in my group home.
After I myself was raped, brutally for over three months straight, I often looked back on my youthful rage with shame. I had never acted on the thoughts beforehand, and afterward I knew having survived it I could never be capable of committing it. But in my apparently chronic need to beat myself up and punish myself, I was often wondering if, BEFORE my own rapes, I COULD have gone through with it had the opportunity ever prevented itself. Could I, as an angry rage-filled closeted teenage transgirl trapped in a boy's life, have destroyed another human being with the act of rape before it happened to me?
Sometimes I even convinced myself the rapes I endured were my punishment for ever having pondered committing rape. Karma, the universe balancing things out. Honestly? Sometimes I still DO wonder if what I endured was my punishment for the bad shit I did as a kid out of rage.
But tonight while reading Melissa's blogs, a memory surfaced that reassures me. And at the same time saddens me as I realize from this memory just how pervasive rape culture really is.
I was 15, still living male, still binding my breasts, living in the group home my parents shunted me off to so they wouldn't have to deal with me. The special needs school they shipped us to also had kids from other group homes in the chain, and one of them was Anne-Marie, a Native girl whose parents shipped her off for her slutty behavior/self-harming resulting guilt issues.
One day at lunch Anne-Marie, with I had spent a few weeks flirting kissing, and once boob touching, took me a a couple other boys down under the nearby highway bridge. \
The two boys and I engaged in the expected stupid sex goading boys do while she tookoff her pants and lay back on the ground ten feet away, watching us. One boy stayed away knowing his girlfriend would kill him if she found out. So they goaded me over there.
I loved Anne, I wanted her badly, I hoped maybe the apparently impending sex would be the start of something that would help chip away some of my misery I lived in. So I walked over to her, took off my pants, and straddled her missionary, with my boy bits beginning top push inside her.
That's when she said no.
And I stopped.
And I stood up and walked away while the third boy went over and pretty much fucked her without protest I stood there, refusing to let the girl inside cry and reveal herself beside a tall musclehead who would've beat me up for it.
She started dating the boy who didn't take no for an answer. Itwas test. She declared me a pussy from then on and mocked me. The whole thing had been atest to see which of the boys she liked was man enough for her. I was a pussy to her because I took no for an answer. And for years I never thought about that incident, and I'm not sure why.
But I remember it now, and knowing I had every opportunity in that moment to ignore a girl saying no and commit a rape....
And I stopped when I was asked to.
So I know now, in my heart, that I never could've done it, even when I pondered doing it, I know I never could've gone through with it, and that gives me some peace.
I'm also very disturbed by two things in the memory.
First is that, while I myself took no for an answer, I stood by motionless in my own hurt feelings while my friend did not take no for an answer and fucked a girl I had feelings for, which for all I knew at that moment really was rape. I had no way of knowing she didn't really mean no, I only knew that she said no to both of us. For all I knew he was raping her and I just stood there, and that really really bothers me. Now I find myself wondering if I'd have the courage to interfere if I stumbled across a rape while out, if I'd try and stop or just sit there frightened. I don't like that feeling.
The other thing that bothers me is that it WAS a test. Anne-Marie took boys down to a secluded place, made herself sexually available and set up a scenario in which she could be raped to test our manhood, and in her mind, the one who had the balls to rape her was boyfriend material while the one who took no for an answer was a worthless pussy.
I can only begin to imagine what her parents may have done to her to leave her with the belief that rape is macho and real men don't stop if you say no. In fact I'm horrified by the most likely scenarios that left her with those ideas. I didn't understand it then but I know now that everything that happened under that bridge was a product of rape culture. Rape culture in North Americateaches us that
- No means yes
- Real men take what they want
- Respecting women makes you weak
- She probably wants it
In hindsight the only comfort I take remembering that day is the knowledge that I took no for an answer. If I was the potential teenage rapist I had often feared I may have been before I myself was raped, I would have kept going. I wouldn't have stopped. So I take comfort in that.
But the rest of it disturbs me. It unsettles me deeply. My complacency while my friend was possibly raping her. Her doing it all as a manhood test. The idea that any of it was okay. The idea that a teenage girl thought rape was just what real men do to girls. And the new nagging question that will eat at me for a long time.
I'll never again wonder if I could have committed rape. I know now without a doubt, I'm not just incapable of it now as a survivor, I never WAS capable.
But now I'm always going to wonder, nagging at me, asking myself in the back of my mind, I'll always wonder now...
IfI saw a woman being raped, would I be brave enough to save her? Would I try to stop it?
And what bothers me most of all, is that no matter how much I tell myself yes I would, I know, unless it happens, unless I find myself in the position to stop a rape, I will never truly know if I'm capable of interfering to stop it. I think I would. I know I'd want to. But I honestly don't know if I would have the spine to.
And that shames me more than anything.
God I hate what if's.