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.

Misadventures in Tampon-Hunting

Squeamish people uncomfortable with the fact that I am a dysmenorrhoeaic cis-woman: thar be crimson tides ahead. Proceed with caution.

I got my period today.

No, no, put away your congratulatory menarche cupcakes, I’ve had it for a while now. What I mean is, I got my period today…kind of by surprise. Now, this normally does not happen to Bourgie. Oh, my period comes, yes. Regularly. Like…annoyingly regularly. Like, so annoyingly regularly, that even when I was extremely physically overactive and medically underweight, it would burst forth from my vagina like a catastrophically drunk, uninvited guest who got tangled up in some endometrial curtains when they stumbled through from wreaking wanton destruction on my uterus, all like, “don’t wanna be tardy for THIS party!”.

In short, I KNOW when my period is coming. DAYS ahead of time.

Because as a woman with endometriosis, my body gives me all these little excruciating reminders of what’s to come. I’ll start feeling some cramping a few days ahead of time. Next, I’ll get the ever-present exhaustion, maybe about 48 hours beforehand. I will literally be falling asleep at my desk at work. Then, I’m bombarded with waves of nausea hours before, until finally I’m retching into a garbage bag while I’m begging for Obi-Wayne to hand me a tampon, a pad, some hugely oversized cotton panties, a hot water bottle, and three pills of Vicodin to make it all stop.

So you can imagine how surprising it was for me when I went to the porcelain throne not to throw up everything I had eaten in the last week, but to take a very much-deserved piss only to find that the toilet paper came back pinkish-red.

“Oh you’ve gotta be fuckin’ kidding me…” I muttered to the crumpled up bunch of bloody toilet paper in front of me. Wiping a few more times, I got up, rolled a new clump of toilet paper into a makeshift tampon and pulled my leggings back on, cursing at myself for having wasted a perfectly good shave.

I waddled over to the sanitary napkin machine, already dreading having to go back out to my desk at work to grab some change–and froze.

Fuck yeah, someone totally forgot the key in the box. Free tampons for err-body!

I breathed an audible sigh of relief, thankful that no one was seated close enough to the ladies’ room to infer that I was just taking a very complicated shit, and opened the box.

Empty.

“Really?” I shot back at the tampon-free tampon-box, as if I could scare it enough to materialize tampons into existence.

The box remained empty.

Clicking my tongue, I spun on my heel and left the restroom to go on a tampon hunt. Now, this is where I started to get worried. I’m one of three women working in my building. One of them is pushing menopause, and the other one, despite being significantly closer to my age, doesn’t seem like a heavy bleeder.

Is that weird to say? Like…I dunno, she just legit doesn’t “seem” like a heavy bleeder.

But I digress.

I walked over to the first woman and prayed she was a genetic anomaly like my mother and was still bleeding well into her fifties and huddled down next to her near her desk. She finished typing out her sentence and looked at me expectantly.

I ignored her male employee sitting across the way, just out of ear shot. “Do you have a tampon?” I mouthed to her, feeling oddly embarrassed. The act of asking or talking about anything period-related in front of men never bothered me, really, but for as nice as my male co-workers are, I just wasn’t up to “outing” my cycle like that.

Female Co-Worker Numero Uno shook her head sympathetically. “So sorry,” she whispered back. “Maybe you’ll have better luck with Female Co-Worker Numero Dos?”

I nodded and then wordlessly made my way over to where FCND was…wrapped up in a conversation with a male co-worker.

I chewed on the inside of my cheek and thought it through. Okay, I could just walk over there and be like, “Hey, FCND! Can I talk to you for a second?” But then I feel like that’d be weird, because then Male Co-Worker will be like “OMG what’d she want?” and then she’ll tell him I wanted a tampon anyway. Why is this a big fucking deal? Why can’t I just be like “Hey, gimme a tampon.”? Baahhhh, co-workers already thing I’m weird thooooough…

They do think I’m weird. All I did was get blank looks when I wanted to discuss the economy and the militarization of the Starfox 64 universe. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to wonder how a brain disguised as a disembodied head and a pair of hands enslaved an entire star system with an army that somehow crippled the entire Cornerian military but got fucking annihilated by four Arwings (but really though? Like, one Arwing…what do Falco, Peppy, and Slippy really do, anyway? Like, okay, yeah, you keep Falco alive long enough and he’ll breeze you through to a planet that’s somewhat more difficult than the last, but really what do they do??).

Okay, yeah, but how????

Okay, yeah, but how????

Anyway.

I didn’t have time to continue my internal monologue–I felt my makeshift tampon starting to fail.

“Shit.”

I waddled over to where FCND and Male Co-worker still conversing. “Hey,” I started, and before I could change my mind, “do you have a tampon?” I blurted, not making eye contact with MC.

“Yeah, sure,” FCND said with a shrug, and, without getting up from her seat, wheeled over towards her desk.

I practically kicked myself. This was totally NBD, yo! All I seriously had to do was waltz over and just ask. MC appeared relaxed in his chair, and FCND had already pulled out what looked to be a…regular flow tampon.

And then, all of a sudden, my super chill, NBD proposition got really awkward.

“Yeah, there’s no way this is gonna hold back what’s coming,” I snorted.

“I dunno, I’m white!” FCND replied hastily.

I raised an eyebrow, “Wait, what, and that like…lessens your flow?” Hah. New she didn’t look like a heavy bleeder.

“I dunno!”

“Well, shit me neither!”

“Well, uh…I dunno!” she said again

“Me neither!”

“Ah!”

“Ahh!”

We both looked at each other like scared rabbits until MC cleared his throat uncomfortably. “I’m…learning a lot today…” he mumbled.

I felt my face burn. “I’m sorry,” I blurted to FCND.

“Me too–wait for what?”

“I dunno!”

“Ah! I dunno either!”

“Ah!”

“Ahh!”

And then, to avoid further embarrassment, I fast walked as quickly as my four inch heels let me all the way back into the bathroom.

“Damn it, damn it, damn it…” I muttered under my breath as I pulled the completely soaked rectangle of toilet paper from inside me and inserted FCND’s ring finger-sized excuse for a tampon. It would have to do for now.

I pushed past the flip-door and strode back out of the restroom, making a beeline for my desk. After managing to fish my wallet out from under two hundred dollars’ worth of makeup from my purse, I ran to the lobby, pressed the down button on the elevator, and waited for what seemed like forever, periodically (har, har) touching my crotch in the slickest way possible to check if I’d bled through.

With the cheerful ding of the elevator came an exhale of the breath that I didn’t realize I’d been holding.

As soon as I arrived downstairs, I broke into a run through the unnecessarily long corridor that led through to the entrance of the building, my heels clicking loudly against the marble floor. Once outside, I froze. Where the fuck was I supposed get fucking tampons?? I work in the heart of The City, but the actual building isn’t anywhere near a grocery store or a even a Walgreens. The street I worked on, despite being only a few blocks away from all the high-end stores, was occupied by crackheads and working girls, with the only real businesses being strip clubs and liquor stores.

I wrinkled my nose. Ugh. Liquor store tampons.

Seriously? Now you’re too good for liquor store tampons? Who the fuck is too good for liquor store tampons? You fucking diva! Quit your bitching, Bourgie, and go shove some cotton up your vagina!

I grumbled my way into the store and was immediately slammed with the smell of shitty, skunky, weed.

Nope. Leaving. Leaving now.

I felt my tampon get wetter.

Damn it.

I strode in, and the first thing I noticed was two security guards on either side of the store.

Well that’s a good sign.

Telling my instincts to shut the hell up, I nodded courteously to a bald woman who was particularly strung out and then decided to keep my head down instead. I clicked through the aisles, my eyes scanning for an abundance of pink (probably one of the few times that gendering certain items actually helped me out) until I finally found the “feminine needs” section. Which is stupid. They should call it “for your female badassery”. Because if you think about it, you’re bleeding for seven days, mother fucker. I think marketers need to up their game. No more women in white doing yoga.

Be like, "got tampons, motherfucker?"

Be like, “got tampons, motherfucker?”

I reached for the last box of supers (isn’t it always the last box?) and made my way up towards the register just in time to have a dark-skinned man looking rather worse for wear throw up on the floor right next to me.

“‘m drunk, sorry ma,” he croaked, and was immediately hauled up to his feet by one of the security guards, and then dragged towards the door. “Ahh, y’hurtin’ me, man!” he yelped.

“I’m sorry, but you gotta stop struggling, sir,” the security guard shouted, not sounding like he was very sorry at all.

The drunken man made eye contact with me. “I’m Virgil!” was the last thing I heard him shout back at me before the guard closed the door on him with a resounding chime of the bell.

I shifted uncomfortably in line and stepped away from the vomit. The funny thing about all this is, I’ve been to and even lived in places far worse. On any other day, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash. But when you’re trying to keep from bleeding all over your own crotch, everything takes on a sense of urgency.

“Whatchu got there?”

I jumped and came face to face with the bald woman from beforehand. I couldn’t tell if she was brown or if she was just dirty. “Tampons,” I replied, trying to at least be friendly.

She moved closer to me, not seeming to care that she was now stepping on Virgil’s vomit. “Why’s that?”

I raised an eyebrow. “That’s a weird question,” I chuckled pleasantly.

“WELL THEN WHY DONCHA FUCKIN’ ANSWER IT YA SPIC SLUT?!”

“BECAUSE MY VAGINA IS BROKEN!” I wailed back hysterically and, without another word, slammed the box of tampons on the counter, overpaid the nice Indian man by eight dollars at the register and stomped my way back to work.

“I hope your vagina get better!” I heard someone shout as I blew past them.

Me too, Virgil. Me too.