Somebody threatened to rape my friend today. He did it in a private forum, one he thought no-one would ever see; he said it to his boy.
He’s a nice guy – well, everyone thinks he’s a nice guy. And that’s the problem. Because as much as women are in danger from GSU officers and angry thugs and rowdy makangas, we are often in greater danger from the ones we think are safe. Our fathers, or brothers, our neighbours. Our nice guys.
I have a friend. He’s smart and witty and brilliant. He’s talented and inspiring. He’s married with beautiful children. And he likes my chest. We make jokes about it all the time. Even his wife knows he’s a boob man. But he’s my friend, and so he’s safe.
But … what if he’s not? What if his words on my Double Ds are more than harmless jokes? What if when he’s alone with his boys, his jokes evolve into detailed discussions of what he’d like to do to me – whether I want him to or not?
That’s what women are really afraid of. The safe men we love and trust who turn on us. And that’s why the man who threatened my friend is such a scary violation, because he is someone she sees and interacts with every day.
How many men around us are really safe? How many of the men we say ‘good morning’ to are really thinking how they’d like to put us in a dark room and rape us? How can any woman live in a world like that? How can she stay safe and sane?
Statistics often say that 1 in 4 women are raped. That’s terrifying. So terrifying that I never want to be in a room with 4 men. Or even one man. Because, as it turns out, even my father, brother, my husband can be one of those men. Because … if 1 in 4 women have been raped, then 1 in 4 men is a rapist, right? And what are the odds that 1 man is with me in this room right now?
I have been raped. More than once. The first time, I was six or seven years old. It was the neighbourhood bully. He had a dog and everyone was terrified of him. I was too, actually. But I never showed it. I’d stand there and yell back every time he picked on me. Then he’d bring out his dog and I’d run for my life.
When he finally got his hands on me, my friends said I asked for it. I was wearing this frilly girly dress. You know the ones. And I was playing that game where I spin around until I get dizzy and my dress twirls into a pretty umbrella. So he grabbed me, locked me in his room and raped me. And my friends said it was my fault, because when I was playing my little twirly game, I showed my underwear. I was six.
I still hate dresses.
The times after that it was men I trusted. Men I was in relationships with. Men who did things to my body that I had asked them not to do, and they didn’t stop even when my body froze and I started to cry. How many of the men I interact with every day would like to do the exact same thing?
Many years ago, when I still lived with my abusive-baby-daddy, I interned at a publishing house. The man who supervised my work was sweet, kind, and socially awkward. He was also very big. He trained me, and bought me lunch every day. He gave me tasks to do that kept me in the office late at night. But he was a nice guy. He knew I was ‘married’ and I wasn’t afraid of him.
One day at 8 p.m., he backed me into a corner and kissed me. All I could think was where’s the fucking door? How long has he wanted to do this? If he does more than kiss me, he’s too big for me to fight off. Where’s the fucking door?
When he pulled away, I smiled awkwardly, inched towards the door, reminded him I was married, and prayed he wouldn’t take things any further. He didn’t. He apologised and offered to drop me home. I agreed, because I had no other way to leave the office. But the whole ride to town, I kept my hand on the unlocked door so I could jump out into traffic if I needed to. Thank God I didn’t.
So … how do I stay sane in a world where the nice guy at the next desk can turn on me at any time? In a world where I leave my beautiful teenage baby in the morning, exposed to a world full of men, and can only pray that she’s safe when I get home?
I focus on the other three.
If 1 in 4 men is a rapist, then 3 in 4 men are not. 3 in 4 men will protect me from the evil of the 4th. 3 in 4 men will make sure my baby gets home safe at night. 3 in 4 men will not share that rapey joke.
Here’s the thing though. That 1 man, that 1 monster that wants to rape me and would do it if he can. He’s loud. Really loud. He likes attention and he likes power. That’s what makes him a rapist. That’s what makes him come after a woman who has the presence to make him feel small simply by being herself. And in a room with 10 men, 2.5 of them are rapists, statistically. Those 2.5 are really, really loud.
Last night, I was working late again. I was alone in the office with 7 male colleagues. Statistically, 2 of those 7 men are rapists. And in a world where rapists destroy a woman’s body, mind, and soul, there’s no way I could have stayed here, alone in an office with 7 men. But I did.
How? I focused on the other 5. I told myself, over and over and over again, that even though 2 of these men might want to ambush me and break my spirit, the other 5 want to keep me safe and get me home to my baby. That’s how I live. That’s how I get out of bed every morning, leave my house and go to work. That’s how I let my baby exist in a world where I can’t always protect her. That’s how I stay sane.
Rape is a powerful weapon, and the fear of rape is stronger still. There’s a reason rape is used unnecessarily in war, in relationships, even in fiction. Because the fear of it keeps women in line. If you can’t make her wear what you want, work where you want, marry who you want, or shut up when you want, then you can make her so fucking scared that she will do what she’s told.
You can make her so terrified (of being raped) that she will stay inside with the doors locked, which exactly where you want her to be. That’s why women who are vocal in the public sphere get so many rape threats. Whether it’s in gamergate or at the office or in traffic or on twitter, the world wants to make us so scared that we lock ourselves inside our homes and shut up. And even there, we’re not always safe.
Well guess what. I’m bigger than my house. I want to be out in the world, and I want my daughter to be out in the world. I want to do the things I want and live the life I believe. And the only way I can do that is to believe that #NotAllMen.
So to the 3 guys out of 4 that are NOT rapists, put your hand up and say ‘I’m right here.’ Not in words, because women don’t believe those anymore. Say it with your actions. Call out your boy. Tell him rape jokes are not funny, because rape is not a joke. Tell him witty remarks about kupeana bakora to a hot female GSU officer are not a pithy phrase. Make the women feel safe, not by shouting #NotAllMen but by showing #NotAllMen.
And to the girls. There are good guys out there. We can’t always spot them. We can’t always recognise them. But we have to believe they’re there. It’s the only way to keep us from locking ourselves at home and keeping our mouths shut.
Women should never be raped. Men should never rape women. It’s not ever going to be okay that even 1 woman is raped. 1 in 4 is not okay. But if we’re going to stay sane and dare to live in this world, we need to help that one survivor, punish that one rapist, and remember the other 3.
So, girls, be vigilant, be safe, protect yourself in any way you can. Teach the men not to rape, and the women to look out for each other, and for themselves. And stay sane. Remember the other three. And remember that sometimes, Twitter is that serious.
♫Why don’t you and I ♫ Santana ft Alex Band ♫