Trigger warning– “This is hella triggery.” -one of my proofreaders. Discussion of rape culture and graphic description of a rape (starts below the photo of Taylor Swift in a white dress comforting a redheaded girl).
Also, if you are my parents you should not read this. Please stop here and close this page.
I grew up the pastor’s daughter in fundamentalist evangelical churches in the Deep South. The church and southern culture both have pretty particular ideas about how women should be and what they’re worth and where that value derives from and the consequences of deviating from prescribed behavior.
This virginity cult(ure) is a tentacle of our lovely rape culture, and it serves very effectively to help women know that they bear the blame for any sexual assault that happens to them other than “stranger jumps out at me in the church parking lot in the daytime.”
I am going to have a whole post on the virginity culture and its pernicious tenets and effects that follows this, but especially in light of the media coverage surrounding the Steubenville rape case and recent verdict, I want to get this post out first.
pacific.edu apparently has cool LED lights. This was not my campus, but I liked the photo.
One aspect of that southern culture that I simultaneously loved and loathed was that when I was in college, I was never “allowed” to walk alone at night. I definitely could have if I wanted to, but I never had to ask for, and I never lacked, an escort across campus in the dark no matter how short or far the distance. And since I’m terrified of walking alone in the dark, I certainly appreciated my friends’ efforts. But I hated myself for wanting it, and I hated the world that I needed it.
I’m a physically strong woman with an aggressive personality, and people joke sometimes to me that they wouldn’t want to meet me on a dark street. I’ve had a disturbing number of people tell me they know I’ll never get raped because I’d never let that happen. That they don’t worry about me. Generally, I silently choke through that part of the conversation, trying not to look like a frozen weirdo, because they don’t know that it’s too late to say it’ll never happen to me, they don’t know or don’t care to think about my horror at the implication that if I’m raped I “let” it happen to me, and they don’t know or don’t care to think about the reality that rape doesn’t always (or even often) involve strangers and streets.
Being escorted at night and jokes about meeting on a dark street both perpetuate the prevalent
idea lie that rape is only something that strangers and criminals do. But rapists are people, too. They’re people you probably know. They might have sex with someone without bothering to ascertain consent. But they would never call that rape. Most of your mutual friends may not use the rape word, either. Continue reading