It Starts When You’re Always Afraid

W. has asked how it is that men and women live differently in the world. It’s a fair enough question. I often look at y’all and think, “wow, you don’t even know how lucky you are.” Well, if you don’t know how you’re hogging all the good shit, how can I expect you to make some god-damn room for me?

So, I’m going to say the hardest part right up front here, so you can get it out of the way. The biggest privilege you have is that you get to hog all the good shit and not have to think about you don’t ever have to share or how we want it, too. You don’t have to hear us.

And worse than that, when you want to dismiss us, you do it by disparaging us in ways we can’t even defend ourselves against. I do have a cunt. If a bitch is a loud, pissy woman, then I am a bitch. If all a whore is just a woman who won’t have sex with you, then I am a whore. If I’m unavailable to all of you, I’m frigid. If I love another woman, I am a fucking dyke. What can I say in response to those words?

“No I’m not”? But I am. Me and my mom and your mom and your sisters and your daughters and your lovers and your wives. When you say those things, you mean all of us. You may not think you do, but we know it. We are all always just one pissed-off man away from being reduced to our genitals.

The thing that really gets me is the way you never have to think about your body if you don’t want and yet, because of you, I can never forget mine. And not only that, but those words, the ways in which you so casually dismiss me, they make me feel like a stranger in my own body, like my body is not a place for me to inhabit, but a place you own, that I just haunt, as ineffectual as any other ghost.

(And, it’s for exactly this reason that I am becoming more and more rabidly pro-abortion–yeah, I said ‘pro-abortion’ motherfuckers–a woman ought to be under no obligation to play host to unwelcome guests. Under no other circumstances would we tolerate an uninvited guest moving into our home and we should not be forced by the government to do it in this case. If the government can’t force me to put up a soldier in my house, how dare it insist I put up a human in my uterus?)

This brings me to the second (the first being that our very bodily incarnation is seen, rhetorically, as some kind of appropriate insult), but closely intertwined way we live lives very different from yours: We don’t trust you. We trust particular individuals of you, more or less, but in general, we don’t trust you not to hurt us.

Here’s why. You’ve raped or almost raped one in six of us and two-thirds of us knew you when you did it. When we love you, we have a one in three chance that you’re going to beat us up at least once.

I think feminism or its less radical cousin, anti-misogyny, would be a lot easier for y’all if there were some clear-cut bad guys. If we knew that all guys with green eyes were dangerous patriarchal bullshit jackasses, and I presented you with a list of grievances and a way for you to draw some circle that included you and me and excluded him, I know I could convince you to stand with me against him. Maybe you think you need that list of grievances about the patriarchy anyway. If so, you can start here.

But the biggest problem between us, and the thing I think that cripples us women so severely that we sometimes can barely function is that we are constantly struggling to find ways to love you, wholly and completely and openly, to count on you and have you count on us, to grow old with you, to raise you and entertain you and be entertained by you while protecting ourselves from you. We want to love you and be safe with you and be safe from you.

It doesn’t work.

Obviously, not all men are rapists or abusers. Most of you are good, decent, loving, caring people. But the problem is that the snakes among you seem just like you. And when we misjudge, it’s our fault.

We shouldn’t have gotten in the car. We shouldn’t have gotten drunk. We shouldn’t have been out so late. We shouldn’t have been out alone. We should have a roommate, a chaperone, a body guard. What do we expect, living in that neighborhood? Why don’t we have a dog? A gun? A fortress? What did we expect, leading you on like that? Dressed like that? Looking like that?

Most rape prevention folks will tell you that rape is not about sex, that it’s about violence. It’s really not quite (and yet really is) about both of those things. It’s again, about whether I inhabit my body or if I just haunt it. Rape is the extreme end of a continuum that starts at “slut” moves through “cunt” and has to do with whether it’s me or you who decides how my body is perceived, either as the physical manifestation of me or as house you can inhabit whenever the mood strikes you, while taunting that ghost (me) in the corner.

Rape, and rape prevention, is always on us. But it has almost everything to do with you and nothing to do with us. The only way we can assure we won’t be raped is to lock ourselves in the bathroom our whole lives.

But there’s lots you can do to assure we won’t be raped. For starters, don’t fucking rape us.

Most of you have that down.

The second thing you can do is stop rewarding bullshit behavior. If your friend tells you he “gives it to her right in the ass whether she likes it or not,” don’t go paint his fucking house or help him get his boat in the water or let him buy you beers. Don’t sit around looking at each other like “Will the rest of you think I’m a pussy if I speak out?”

Because, seriously, that’s my third thing–if someone calls you a pussy or a little bitch, he’s insulting you with me, with my body, with your mom’s body, your sister’s your favorite cousin’s, your sweet lover’s; those bodies belong to women too precious for you to be rewarding that bullshit with your silence.

10 thoughts on “It Starts When You’re Always Afraid

  1. I remember getting into a heated argument with my ex over this very thing. I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t walk alone on the beach at night, being a woman. He was insisting that men have to worry about being assaulted just as much as women do. That his position was ridiculous was totally hidden from him. He honestly didn’t get it.

  2. What’s the worst thing you can call a man?

    A woman.

    Why am I being punished because of my biology? Tell me the fuck why?

  3. Go ahead…reduce ME to my genitals. They seem to have grown teeth lately. Yep…vagina dentata, caused by too much male bullshit and abuse. Having said that, it has occurred to me that the greatest contribution I can make to the struggle is to teach my son how to treat women. His dad’s gone, then died, so there isn’t anyone to teach him wrong. And I’ve got to his conscience before cultural norms did. We’ll see how it works out in a few years…

  4. Man-part insults are just as bad. When someone is weak or inferior, they’re a “pussy.” When they’re aggressive or offensively tasteless, they’re a “dick” or a “prick.” Just as your love flaps’ namesake shouldn’t be associated with weakness, my fuckstick’s namesake shouldn’t be related to aggressiveness or insensitivity.

    Really, the only flattering genitalia word we’ve got is “balls” (or “nuts”), frequently used to describe bravery or gumption.

    “Whoa, that dude’s got some serious balls to wrestle an alligator like that!”

    A female equivalent definitely needs to be adopted. I like to swap “balls” with “ovaries” in conversation. Catches folks off guard and keeps everything fair and balanced, unlike Fox News’ Linda Vester. So long as “ovaries” catches on, we’ve all got unfair connotations associated with the names of our most privatest parts, but we’re all packin’ a pair of pretty flattering love-grenades too.

  5. if someone calls you a pussy…, he’s insulting you with me, with my body, with your mom’s body…; those bodies belong to women too precious for you to be rewarding that bullshit with your silence.
    This section is particularly beautiful and eloquent. It’s a topic that bothers me as well. Had this conversation with a friend the other day when he said he was too much of P* to watch his wife give birth. Couldn’t resist pointing out what an inappropriate choice of words it was, especially in this case! ;)

  6. if someone calls you a pussy…
    Weak defense, but…. I think most guys don’t even consider the orgin of that particular insult. Rachel’s friend obviously didnt’. :-)

    It’s like using the F bomb as a curse. I’ve never understood how that came to be bad, because it’s a slang term for an activity that almost everyone who’s participated enjoys a lot.


  7. This post, every time I read it which is four, gets me all riled up. I kinda want to punch somebody in the throat or stomach. (But that could be the PMS.)

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