“That’s How It Happened”: Taking Rape Victims At Their Word

TRIGGER WARNING: This entry is about rape, and I do discuss moderate details about my own rape. Please proceed with caution.

I had an interaction with a commenter on here recently that was so triggering for me, I deleted the thread. It was on my post about sex-positive feminism. And look, there’s plenty to criticize in a lot of what I post; I’m far from infallible, and sometimes I don’t realize how wrong I am until I’ve thrown my opinion out there, and have gotten some backlash. My biggest error there is probably that I’ve only known a small proportion of sex workers, and don’t have the right to speak for them as someone not in the trade. So rip me a new one, where warranted. But where is it not warranted? In my discussion of how sex-positive feminists abuse and alienate rape victims. I’m not going to relive the entire thread, but here are the relevant pieces:

Reader: I don’t like the term “unjustifiable kinks” because what happens between two consenting adults requires no justification.

Me: We’re never going to agree on this point. Rape is rape, it is not a “kink.” Rape-play normalizes rape, convinces men that rape is just a deep-dark fantasy all women have. It’s the justification my rapist used when he raped me, that he was just giving me what I really wanted. It’s not kinky. It’s damaging.

Reader: This is patently untrue. Men who commit rape don’t care about what the woman wants – their whole aim is to make that woman submit to them; they don’t want her to want it, secretly or otherwise. Rape is about power. Ideas about female rape fantasies may be exploited by such men as an excuse for their actions, but it is never the motivation behind what they do.

Me: You say this in direct response to me telling you this is why I was raped, that my rapist was showing me how I “enjoyed” it. I was going to formulate a reply to all of this, but that is so delegitimizing and cruel I’m done talking to you. You do not get to tell me that my rape didn’t happen as I say it happened, that is triggering, disgusting selfishness.

Reader: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be cruel. I actually wasn’t saying your rape didn’t happen as you say it did and I never would do that. I was saying that the excuse a man gives to rape a woman is a rationalization, and not a true reflection of his motives. We see this with all the insidious, disingenuous things rapists say to their victims. They are not truly reflective of what the rapist believes, they are just mantras exploited to justify unjustifiable actions.

Except no. So many rapists don’t even think they’re rapists. They aren’t telling you a lie, they honestly believe they aren’t rapists. They honestly believe it’s about seduction and secret desire.

My rapist doesn’t think he’s a rapist. In fact, he probably thinks he’s a pretty awesome dude. You can try to attribute whatever motives you want to him, but you weren’t there, you don’t have my insight. You didn’t have his gin-soaked breath in your ear, whispering about how no one would ever give it to you like he did. You didn’t have his grubby hands shoving you aside after it was over, spitting out sex-shaming slurs and insisting that you know you loved it. And I shouldn’t have to fucking outline any of this, because it’s not my job to convince you of my rape’s circumstances or legitimacy. If a rape victim bares their trauma to you, you don’t argue with them about it! Do you have any idea how hard it is to share something like that? Really fucking hard. I’m a habitual over-sharer, and I’m still so nervous about posting this that I’ve gone over it for days, and still want to vomit when I look at the “publish” button. Because there’s a tiny little part of me that fears that my rapist might find my blog. He might read my words, know I’m talking about him, and track me down to punish me for calling out his “seduction” as the rape it really was.

And yes, I do believe rape is about power. I do believe it’s about domination and wrath and violence. But you’re being fucking naive if you don’t think there’s a reason rapists use sexual violence to exercise those inclinations. They could just beat us bloody, but that’s not enough for them. No, they need control of our sexualities, and sometimes their motivation is “proving” that you desire them. It’s actually the same logic used when people with penises are raped–if they get an erection, they must want it. It becomes a punishment for assumed desire, even if it’s really only your body desperately trying to protect itself, or reacting to instinctual stimuli. Then you have the added shame and self-doubt that accompanies those reflexes, which mingles with your rapist’s taunts to haunt you for ages to come.

The point is, it’s not just justifications to help them sleep at night. They aren’t losing any Z’s to start. Some of them really, truly believe the things they tell their victims. And it’s not anyone’s place to tell a victim they’re wrong in how they interpreted their rape.

Of course, there’s real irony in a sex-positive feminist dismissing a rape victim in a post where I accuse sex-positive feminists of dismissing rape victims. But it’s the sort of irony I fucking hate experiencing, like when men make rape threats while telling me misogyny isn’t real. It really shook me to my core, regardless of what good intentions the commenter may have had. Intent isn’t magic, and those comments were flat-out inappropriate. You can’t, can’t say things like that to rape victims. We are already so ignored by society, you can’t claim to be on our side while taking away our voice. Our experiences matter, and part of our experience lies in what we know or suspect our attackers’ motives to be. It may be easier to imagine that rape is only about violence and not sex, but that doesn’t change the very messy reality.

Once again, I’m at the point where I just beg you all to please, please respect rape victims. Do not talk over us, do not dismiss us, do not over-analyze our attacks. Do not think that you know what happened better than we do. Do not correct us, quibble with us, or spar with us. This may be an academic discussion to you, but it’s our lives, our trauma on the chopping block, and it takes a lot of courage to put ourselves out there. We need our allies to stand strong with us, and part of that is knowing when to stand down.

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About bunnika

shout at the brick wall; if it doesn't hear you, shout louder
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