Dear Amy: I recently attended a frat party, got drunk and made some bad decisions.
I let a guy take me to “his” room because he promised that he wouldn’t do anything I wasn’t comfortable with.
Many times, I clearly said I didn’t want to have sex, and he promised to my face that he wouldn’t.
he quickly proceeded to go against what he “promised.” I was shocked,
and maybe being intoxicated made my reaction time a bit slow in
realizing what was happening.
We were soon kicked out of the room by the guy who lived there, who was pretty angry.
I guess my question is, if I wasn’t kicking and fighting him off, is it still rape?
I feel like calling it that is a bit extreme, but I haven’t felt the same since it happened.
Am I a victim?
—Victim? in Virginia
Dear Victim?: First of all, thank you. I hope your letter will be posted on college bulletin boards everywhere.
Were you a victim? Yes.
you were a victim of your own awful judgment. Getting drunk at a frat
house is a hazardous choice for anyone to make because of the risk
(some might say a likelihood) that you will engage in unwise or
unwanted sexual contact.
Jude sent this to me with an exhortation to stop killing journalism. My immediate reaction was to grab the nearest scotch bottle and a straw and go back to bed for the rest of the day in hopes of killing the brain cells that processed this. My more considered reaction was ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
Leaving aside the classic YOU FILTHY WHORE and quibbling over “forcible rape” at work here, this is my problem generally with a lot of what young women hear as “rape prevention” strategies: They focus entirely on the woman’s behavior, on controlling women and making them fearful. Don’t go alone to a party. Don’t drink at a party. Don’t drink too much (and of course you always know how much is too much, and of course you would never just let loose and have a good time like a guy could) or kiss someone you don’t know. Don’t walk home alone. Don’t walk home late. Don’t walk home at all. Be on your guard constantly. Be afraid to go outside. Be afraid of sunset. Be afraid of yourself. Be afraid of every man you see.
Be constantly constrained into a smaller and smaller box, until someday you can’t move at all. And then be hurt from within that box, when it’s your husband or your brother or your friend. Look, I’m not being naive here. I’ve been in situations, traveling alone, where I lied to a stranger that friends back at the hotel were expecting me when there were no friends and was no expectation. I lock my doors at night. I walk all over at all hours, sure, but I know always, always, that if something were to happen to me the first question would be not, “What bastard could do this?” but “What was she thinking doing that?” I, like most women, hell like most people, live knowing that anything shitty that happens to me will somehow be my fault, because that’s what we need to believe in order to live without knocking down all our assumptions and all our fears.
But I don’t for a minute think that the problem with the world is that I don’t take enough precautions. I think the problem with the world is that such precautions are necessary.
This just kicks in my whole kink about our security generally, that we — men, women, all of us — place all the burden on ourselves to avoid trouble, rather than making sure trouble does not exist. We drive an extra mile to get around “that” neighborhood, we draw these imaginary walls and then stay within them and tell ourselves it’ll all be okay if only we color inside the lines. When something horrible happens in our own little imaginary fortresses we say, “But this is a NICE community” and act like the world has come crashing down on our island of exceptions. It’s the world. And either you fix it or it’s a matter of time before it fucking finds you. That’s it.
If our streets are not safe for young women the answer is not to tell young women to stay off our streets, it is to make those streets safe. If frat houses, as one of the many outraged commenters to this steaming pile point out, are rape houses, the answer is not for people to stay out of them but for many, many more people to go in. If a woman drinks too much at a party and gets raped the proper action, first last and always, is not to tell her to drink less but to tell the man in question TO RAPE LESS. Preferably while said gentleman is occupying the rear of a squad car.
Which, another commenter:
Amy, how often do you tell young men to watch how much they drink, so
that they don’t rape someone? How often have you advised young men not
to rape? When the majority of rapes against women are perpetrated by
men they have pre-existing relationships with (family, friends and
acquaintances), you would think that we as a society might see the
value in telling young men not to rape their friends and loved ones.
Instead you chose to engage in victim-blaming a women who came to you
The next time a rape survivor comes to you, please remember that not being raped is not a skill or a talent.
you’ve never been raped, Amy, it’s not because you figured out some
secret of common sense ViV didn’t. You deserve no pat on the back.
you’ve never been raped, Amy, the ONLY reason, is because you have
never been in the presence of a man who wanted to rape you. Nothing
Fucking THANK YOU.