Let’s Talk About Rape Culture

Trigger warning–assault, rape and the perpetuation of such including the culture of violence and oppression will be discussed.

Rape sucks.

I was raped three years ago by a former friend. I had been drinking, but was in no way drunk. I was in jeans and a Star Wars crew neck. I was made up. I had high-heeled boots on. My hair was up. We had just come back from a party and all the rest of our friends had paired off. We went to his room to crash–something I had done many, many times. He raped me. I was SAFE-kitted the next day.

Then I was told that by the police at my university that because they found no evidence (he used a condom) and there was no sign of a struggle (I was afraid of getting physically hurt so I didn’t move…something I learned to do, ironically, from a workshop that the UPD ran), they couldn’t help me. The fact that I had alcohol in my system, regardless of how little, also worked against me. I had one of the police officers tell me that “drunk sex that you regret” unfortunately didn’t constitute as rape. I was so shocked at the dismissiveness and immediate victim-blaming (although in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been) that I dropped it.

So yes. Rape sucks. It is shitty.

But I think that as a survivor, worse than the actual act of rape or assault is rape culture. Rape culture is like a perfect shit storm of what-the-actual-fuckery. It’s something that I myself find so difficult to talk about that I’m going link crazy in this post to avoid explicating it myself and thus buggering it up for those who want a clear, conclusive, and non-rambling definition of rape culture.

So here it is (again) if you need it.

Normally, I’m not rape-triggered. I’ll feel triggered when it comes to issues of sex and orientation. I understand that those issues and rape often go hand in hand, but normally my rape does not come up for me, personally. In fact, I remember only two times post-rape that I was triggered. One was when I was at a club; I had been  ass-grabbed by seven different men several different times during a one-hour time span and security did nothing about it (“If you don’t like it, leave,” I believe was the professional response that they came up with). The other was when I actually ran into my rapist after more than two years of not having seen or heard from him.

Today was lucky number three.

I had been walking to grab some lunch with a group of my co-workers and as I briskly passed the street crosswalk, a man bumped into me. He grasped my inner thigh, dangerously close to my crotch, and trailed his hand to my ass as he brushed past me. I was so shocked and it happened so fast that I barely had enough time to register it and half-heartedly shouted “you fucking asshole!” to his retreating figure, which was already on other side of the street.

My co-workers looked at me quizzically. None of them had noticed, and I didn’t blame them–it really did happen fast.

Without another word, I broke away and strode ahead of them and to the gourmet food truck to place my order for lunch. By the time the rest of them had caught up with me, I had already ordered and was waiting for the service people to prep my food. The adrenaline dump was dissipating, my breathing was beginning to even out, my heart rate was starting to slow back down. An older female co-worker of mine, seeing that I was distressed asked me if all was well.

“Some dude just groped me out of fucking no where,” I explained. “Just walked right by me and grabbed my thigh–can you believe that?”

She chuckled. “Jeez. Well, I guess that’s what happens when you’re a pretty girl, right?”

My heart sank as she chuckled again. “Well, I would think that that’s what happens when you’re an asshole.” I tried to say it light-heartedly, but it came out as somewhat of a humorless murmur.

We both laughed uncomfortably and I immediately felt upset. I wanted to be mad at her, but I couldn’t because what she said was out of ignorance. She is not a rape apologist. She is just not informed. And that fucking depresses me, because she is what a lot of people (even myself included) would call progressive, and genuinely meant what she said as a compliment.

Placing the blame of being groped on someone’s level of attractiveness invalidates their experience and shifts the fault of being groped onto the victim. It’s a sad state of affairs and incredibly telling of how we societally think of rape that the first reaction we have to a person who was just groped is to compliment them on how attractive they must be.

I listed my level of sobriety, what I was wearing, and who I was with in the beginning when explaining the events surrounding my rape to demonstrate that it doesn’t fucking matter. A rapist will rape regardless of the situation.

So yeah. Rape sucks. But rape culture? Somehow, it will always just feel infinitesimally worse.

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Wedding Shit or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Planning My Nuptials

For those of you who don’t know/actually care, Bourgie is planning a wedding. Apparently, some folks were a little miffed at Obi-Wayne’s and my decision to begrudgingly pay $200.00 to the government to recognize our six-year relationship as somehow more legitimate than the twenty-two-year relationship my old neighbors Joseph and Darryl had. Not because of the preferential treatment Obi-Wayne and I had received, but because WTF, no party?

At first, Obi-Wayne and I ignored the puppy dog eyes and the pouty faces. Who cared? It was a contract between the two of us that we needed to have fulfilled for a valid reason (one which shall be explored another day) and that was it.

But holy shit, YOU GAIS. The social pressure was enormous. People who had seen our relationship blossom from two best friends to two drunk (alright, mostly one) folks that occasionally made out to two lovebird and eventually two marrieds were disappointed because they too, had wanted to share in that moment. They, as our family and our family of friends, wanted to witness our joining together in not-so-holy matrimony, and then immediately imbibe copious amounts of champagne (because remember folks, we’re a classy bunch here) and attempt something close to something resembling dancing, probably with much flailing of the arms.

The point is, no matter what we have been told, the wedding is not about us. It is about our community.

So, here I am, a month and a half later, planning a wedding. At first, it was begrudgingly. “Curse you, Wedding Industrial Complex!” I would say, with my hand resting daintily betwixt my breasts for no other reason than to give me an opportunity to say “betwixt” and “breasts” in the same sentence. I’d downplay our upcoming post-nuptial ceremony-slash-reception as “something to do for the family”. I’d give nonchalant “I dunno’s” to anyone that asked if I was excited.

"You are tearing me APART, Wedding Planning!"

“You are tearing me APART, Wedding Planning!”

But as I slowly began to tell more and more people of our elopement and our plans to celebrate, the more I realized that this meant a lot to them. We had friends get happily teary-eyed. We had others beam joyfully back at us. I had one friend jump on my lap and dry-hump me in excitement.

We have weird friends.

Also, I may have dry-humped her back.

Also, I may have started the dry-humping.

The point is, that the deeper I got into the wedding rabbit hole, the more I realized that much of my trepidation wasn’t with the wedding itself, but with the possibility that I might be sucked into the wedding industrial complex (WIC). When I thought “wedding”, I thought about the white dress and the fancy cake and the something-blue-heels and the sleek-straight-hair-that-was-then-curled-and-lol-what-why and UGH. I didn’t want to have flowers. I didn’t want to have bridesmaids. I didn’t want to be “given away”, or lose my identity as Bourgie, and suddenly turn into The Bride or Mrs. Obi-Wayne’s Last Name. I hated how gendered the wedding world was. I hated how heterosexist it was.

I was afraid of selling out.

But as I cautiously searched the web for ways to navigate the WIC, I was able to find wonderful communities dedicated exactly to that. I didn’t have to have a hairsprayed no-hair-out-of-place undo! I didn’t have to have a wedding cake! Or blue shoes! Or a white dress! I didn’t have to be “classy“! Suddenly, I was excited at the prospect of trying on dresses, entrenching myself in bridal magazines, perusing the world of Offbeat Bride, picking colors with my mom…

And the more excited I got about planning, the more people fed off my energy, and the more I saw just how deeply people cared about us. The outpouring of love has been immense. A make-up artist friend told me she would put my social warpaint on for free the day of. A friend of a friend has offered to make gluten-free cupcakes at a heavily discounted price (Obi-Wayne has a gluten intolerance), and the latest gift I was given was so touching that it made me break down crying in the middle of my train ride home from work.

A lovely man with a conspicuous MOB tattoo even pulled out his red handkerchief and told me he hoped I was crying because I was happy.

It was nice…in a gangbanger with a heart of gold, customer service kind of way.

Anyway, this particular gift had come from my mother, who told me that she was paying for my wedding gown, which we’re collaborating on (i.e., designing). That right there saved me more than a couple grand.

It’s all so overwhelming.

And even my mother, traditional as she is, has been respectful of my offbeat wishes, although admittedly, she is far more encouraging of my more traditionally “classy”, “wedding-y” ideas. She, for example, nodded approvingly at my choice to have cupcakes rather than wedding cake (which is not as scandalous as it was ten years ago), and has been supportive of my choices in flowers and color schemes. She may or may not have balked at the idea of playing John Williams’ “Han Solo and the Princess” when Obi-Wayne and I walk down the aisle together and keeping lightsabers and nerf guns at a table so that when people get into political/ideological/religious disputes, they can solve it with a duel…you know…like civilized people.

But at the very end of the day, my Mãe-zilla (an affectionate moniker that my mother finds hysterical) and my family of friends have been supportive about every decision, every step of the way. So much so, that there may not be any need for the nerf guns.

…well…we’ll see…