If You Think Drunk Girls Cause Rape, You Are Rape Culture.
Trigger warning: graphic description of sexual assault
At first, I couldn't quite figure out why the Steubenville rape case had captured so much of my attention. Sure, I've been passionate about many other stories about sexual violence, but something about this one really dug in deep. I chalked it up to a general anger about rape culture and continued on my tweet sharing way.
I remembered. And then, I realized.
When I was fourteen, I got drunk for the very first time. I told my mother was I sleeping over at a friend's house and we caught the bus to her mother's Waikiki apartment. Her mother cooked us scrambled eggs with cheese, then told us to have fun when we walked out the door. We had no curfew.
It was my first time out unsupervised. A year earlier, I was in Catholic school. I'd had absolutely no experience with boys except for my cousins and my neighbors, and while my mother let me have that one sip of champagne on New Year's Eve when I was in the second grade, I was a total innocent little baby. But I had spent a lot of time in Waikiki with my family so I was totally comfortable walking around the city at night. I always knew where I was in relation to my cousin's flower shop in Kapahulu, and my aunt's house beyond.
I felt, you know, safe.
As we were walking past a Denny's on our way to the beach, we were stopped by a group of people, teenagers mostly. They asked if we wanted to party, and we said sure. We bummed money from tourists coming out of the ABC store and when we had enough, found someone to buy us a jug of Bacardi 151.
"Demon semen!" somebody joked. I giggled about that almost all night long.
We walked a few blocks to the beach and sat in a circle on top of a bunch of rocks. The jug was passed around and I watched intently as every person took their share. I wanted so much to stop being a baby; stop being sheltered. When it was finally my turn, I copied what I had observed and took giant pulls straight off the bottle. Okay, so I chugged. It burned. It was awful. The jug was passed around again. I have no idea how many more times I drank from it.
When the bottle was empty, I was picked up by one of the guys in the group, tossed over his shoulder and spun around. I laughed and he laughed, and he put me down again. We all decided to head back to the Denny's, I think to just sit out in front of it and beg more money off of tourists. I thought I was dizzy because I had just been spun around by my new friend.
By the time we got to the Denny's, I was wasted.
Another guy in the group was sitting at a table, and we sat with him. I'm actually not sure how all of this happened, because my memory goes from meeting the group of street kids to being spun on the rocks to sitting down in a booth inside of the Denny's.
And then, vomit.
I remember sliding down the vinyl seat and heaving. And heaving. And heaving.
"All I wanted to do was eat my egg," lamented the guy whose table we had crashed. I remember thinking that was incredibly funny. And then I don't remember much else.
What I do remember is a choppy slideshow of coming to. The guy with the eggs volunteered to walk me around. "To sober her up," he said. To keep me safe.
We walked for awhile. Well, he walked and I stumbled. He dragged. I don't remember any more vomiting, but I'd be shocked if there wasn't any. But what I do remember is being laid down on a slope of prickly grass and having lips pressed against mine.
I turned my head away, mostly because my mouth tasted like demon semen come back up and I was ashamed. If I had been sober, I probably would have kissed him back, mostly because I was super curious about kissing. I would have kissed very nearly anybody.
But the kissing didn't stop even when I turned away. Maybe I turned back and did kiss him. I'm not sure. But I am very sure that I didn't want to do anything besides not be drunk and awake anymore. I sure as hell didn't want to have sex.
But my new friend did, and all of a sudden I woke up to a velvety softness being run through my hand. It felt...amazing. I had never felt anything that smooth and tempting before.
When I realized that it was his penis, it didn't seem as amazing anymore. I was confused and embarassed and still completely wasted. I couldn't sit up or stand or even really control my arms. I was pinned, and this boy wasn't stopping.
He tried to take off my pants, but it was 1989, man, and my pants were skin tight black jeans that zipped up the side. I'd lost the button and had secured the wasitband with a plastic headed diaper pin. He fought with the closure for awhile but gave up after awhile. And I did not become a victim of rape.
The next thing I remember is being with my friends who were appalled by what had happened to me. I don't know how they knew. Did I tell them? Did they find us? Did they save me? If they didn't, how did my attempted rape end? And what happened to me during those moments I cannot remember?
I do remember being walked back to my friend's place by another guy. A sweet one who told me that what had happened to me was messed up. I told him it was okay. I was fine. Nothing had actually happened.
And all this time, I've really believed that nothing happened. I have always remembered everything I have just described, and none of it seemed to bother me. It was just this creepy, weird thing that happened to me, and I got lucky. That's all. I mean, what did I expect anyway? I was the one there in the first place. I was the one puking in the Denny's.
For twenty- four years I have ingested the rape culture that diminishes my experience. I have asked myself what I expected, getting that wasted off my ass in the first place. And I have told myself that nothing actually happened. Because I left that night with my virginity intact, I wasn't actually assaulted. I wasn't actually a victim.
It took the Steubenville rape trial to make me face the fact that what happened to me that night really was attempted rape. I was not in control of my body because of the alcohol I had very stupidly consumed. But someone else saw my lack of control and, instead of seeing an obligation, saw an opportunity. I will never fully understand exactly what kept that boy from raping me that night, but I will always feel grateful for that stroke of good luck.
But I shouldn't be lucky that I am not a rape victim. And my diaper pinned pants shouldn't be the thing that keeps a boy from becoming a rapist. Because his intent was absolutely there. He saw a girl who was puking drunk, then separated her from the group. He took her to a secluded park, kissed her, and took his erection out of his pants. And before that, he got an erection.
Another person wouldn't have become aroused at the sight of my flailing, vomit smeared body. Or, maybe they would have, but they would not have done anything about it. But this boy did get aroused, and did do something about it. He may not have succeed with penetration, but that doesn't mean that nothing happened. Something totally did happen. But for twenty-four years, I have been saying that nothing happened. I didn't think of his actions as anything more than creepy.
But rape isn't creepy. Attempted rape isn't creepy. Sexual assault is horrifying and wrong and absolutely not the responsibility of the victim. Everybody should get the chance to decide when they are ready and willing to explore the amazing soft flesh of another person's genitalia. My decision was taken away, and it doesn't matter what I was doing. It was still assault. It was still violence, and it was still a crime.
It's appalling to see how many people don't understand that. How many people tell a victim that s/he isn't actually a victim, or dissect the victim's actions before saying that rape is wrong. This is what we're talking about when we talk about rape culture. Rape culture is wrong. And we need to fight it.
If you're the kind of person who reads a story like mine and says that I'm making a big deal out of nothing, you are rape culture. And if you're the kind of person who tells me that I shouldn't expect any better if I'm going to make the mistake of getting wasted, then you are rape culture. And if you're the kind of person who thinks that I shouldn't post something like this to a public blog because people will know this terrible thing about me, well then you're the worst kind of rape culture of them all.
And if you are rape culture, just like I was rape culture on the night that I was almost raped, you don't have to be. You can stop being rape culture. We can stop being rape culture. And we will.
But not, it seems, without a good goddamn fight.