First, I hate that it’s become kind of a requirement for women to trot out their personal pain in order to get people to give weight to their political opinions.
Suffice to say, I’m a Gen-X-er. I lived through the 80s and 90s. As it did to all of us, bad shit happened to me.
I had thought that what I wanted in the wake of that was for it to not happen to women in the future. I was fighting for that.
But it turns out I should have also been fighting for it to ever stop for women my age. Not just being assaulted but the blame for having been assaulted back then.
Here’s a thing that I have come to realize: many, many men think this is what women are for. One of the perks, then, of being powerful is that you have access to more women to use this way.
But here’s the thing I have only just realized and I hate it: a lot of folks, men and women, who consider themselves progressive believe this, too. The “progressive” stance is that women aren’t just for your amusement, we also can be doctors and lawyers and reporters and whatever. Which means a dude can seem like a feminist hero–cough cough Al Franken cough cough–and still believe that women are for him to do what he wants to to. After all, he believes we should be able to do everything we want to, as well.
It makes me so mad. It hurts my heart. So much of our pain doesn’t matter because people believe pain just comes with the territory of being a woman. This suffering is what we’re for. To suffer for men’s pleasure.
And I wish I could unknow that, truly.
They don’t even KNOW that’s what they think. It’s so deep down assumed that they don’t see it. And I know that because it’s in me too. GenX hasn’t been interrogated on this because the Boomers and Millennials took all the space, but we shouldn’t get off the hook. The other problem is that, the more you understand about how bad sexism, the breadth of it, the harder it gets to comprehend. As in, your brain can’t cope. I’m struggling with this right now because how do I communicate this to my nearly-teen soon, (the real brutal history of sexism) without traumatizing him? But I have to, or he will end up perpetuating it whether he means to or not.
Yes, this is it exactly. The don’t even know that’s what they think. And I think you’re right that it’s really impossible to comprehend the scope of it. I made fun of Lovecraft’s elbow in the basement, but there is a way in which these societal issues are mind-breaking if you get a glimpse of their true size.
The willful blindness of my fellow Minnesotans in electing Al Franken in the first place still baffles me. It wasn’t some hard-to-find secret what he was. It was right there. Yes, his various political operatives were trying like crazy to re-invent him, but it was a re-invention. It didn’t take digging to find out what he really was — an appalling bigot who gets off on pawing women.
As you said, though, it wasn’t hard for him to show faith in his own lies, because he’d never questioned that this is what women are for. You don’t question whether you’re an air-ist bigot because you breathe air.
I was a late-80s teen. And I had a certain kind of super-innocent young-girl glow that was some kind of freakish man magnet. Luckily for me, I also had a grim determination to hang on to the right to be a naive and innocent young girl for as long as I chose and a bunch of friends determined to try to protect me — I got used to accepting that when my friends told me I couldn’t go to a show or a concert or some other event that they went to, they weren’t kidding and it was for my well-being. And I am grateful.
Without my own intransigence about being forced to “grow up” in the tawdrier sense and without the friends trying to protect me, often from what I didn’t know and couldn’t understand, I’m now realizing there were some situations of a very specific type that would really have cost me. Part of what #MeToo has brought out is some anonymous written confessions by men who committed various sorts of sexual assault, all the while believe very happily that they were very good guys who would never do anything remotely of the kind. And how they pulled off that level of of self-deception was because they never, as you said, even questioned that this is what women are for. They didn’t even experience cognitive dissonance as they happily raped women in the utter certainty that the woman who was repeatedly coming right out and saying “no, I don’t want this” actually meant “I WANT SEX WITH YOU NOW”. Because there was no question to them that she “wanted” it — that’s what she’s for. Any odd mouth noises she made or struggles to get away were just weird porngirl logic and funny things women do to make themselves more attractive to men. These men would just tell themselves that she was only saying she didn’t want it in order to not appear like a slut because she wanted to make a good impression so she could get to have sex with the dude in question again as part of a relationship. So “NO,” meant, “PLEASE BANG ME NOW AND IN THE FUTURE.”
Because what else could she possibly mean?
And there is nothing that a woman could do or say, no nunlike existence pure enough, to protect her from some dude deciding that she’d been “saving herself” all these years so she could throw herself at said guy in some porny “Against all reason or odds I need you to deflower me for and my whole life has been building to this moment in which you, Random Dude I Have No Interest In, uses me and tosses me aside, because that is of course the entire reason I exist.” Because a woman can’t exist for any other reason, any focus on her own goals or education is only a side attribute, that she only really does, when it comes down to it, to make her a better porn fantasy.
As a friend of mine (and of other friends) was trying to get me to understand when he explained that he was going to rape me.
See, I thought I was a bookwormy virgin because I was smart and had been carefully prioritizing my own educational and intellectual development and because there is no form of birth control without a failure rate. I wasn’t understanding that I was a conventionally hot girl, and therefore had no real purpose in existing other than to have a hot-girl dudely porn fantasy enacted on me. I kind of got that a lot of guys, an insane number really, thought I existed to be their personal angel from heaven, but I was used to this being a really chaste version that was supposed to end in my marrying the guy (I hated this — I am nobody’s damn princess). I had no idea that it would be even possible for a guy who knew me, who knew what I was like, to ever think for even a millisecond that the reason I existed was to be used sexually and tossed aside.
And I thought he was a great guy, not just incredibly charismatic, but long looked up to by a circle of friends because he was the kind of guy who really cared about people and cared about what was right and would do things like protect girls from jerks who harassed them. I thought he meant all that Christian stuff about his faith and being a “Godly man” that he was always on about. I wasn’t understanding that his great-guy, good man, musician charisma meant that he was owed the very rarest, hottest virgin to deflower as some kind of offering to his rock-star masculinity, and that this being manifestly his natural right as a tribute to What Masculinity Should Be was abundantly clear to him and all the guys in our circle.
So when he called me up and started explaining to me that it was time for me to get with it and time for him to get his rape on, there was a lot of bewilderment on both sides. I thought he’d taken leave of his senses to think that I would ever in a million years have sex with him. He was bewildered why I wasn’t being cuter about accepting that it was time for my ritual good-girl protests to be done now and get on with arranging for him to…take delivery or something. I said various forms of “no” to having sex with him upwards of a hundred times in that conversation. There was no amount of “no” that would ever be enough, though. Because, as he kept explaining to me, I was “just saying that”, and “everyone” knew otherwise — he’d had repeated discussions with all the guys to check. And they’d all agreed that he was so awesome that he actually got to have the kind of things they fantasized about, that all men should really get to have, like raping Helen the hot virgin and tossing her aside without it counting as rape or as anything but awesome. Because why else would such a hot virgin of such rare qualities exist, if not to be a prime reward for a man at the top of the masculinity rankings?
I was bewildered after I got away from that phone conversation. Among other things, I’d dated this guy’s best friend and hadn’t had sex with him, nor had he asked me to, because as was usual with guys I dated, he figured I was the wait-until-marriage type. There was nothing in my experience that could tie anything about that phone conversation to anything but temporary insanity on the guy’s part. I kind of awkwardly internally laughed it off, as we were all expected to do about rapes and rape threats back then. It wasn’t until this past year of #MeToo and anonymous rapists explaining their “thinking” online that I fully got and had to face what I had tried my best to avoid facing all those years ago — that he would have raped me if he could, and my careful never being alone with him ever again was very necessary to my safety. That without my only-be-around-him-in-a-crowd care after that, he would taken any chance to be alone or to trick me into being in his power as me delivering myself for what he’d decided, not only that he was owed, but that I wanted, because why else would I be existing at him like that if I didn’t?