A piece at XOJane:
It happened on a hot August night in Texas.
I’d left a party after deciding it would be more fun to walk home than wait until my ride got bored enough to bail. A three-mile walk at 1 am wasn’t my idea of a good time, but neither was that party.
I walked. And walked. After what seemed like forever but was probably about 45 minutes, a black Lexus pulled over. The driver was lost and trying to find I-35. I told him how to get there and he asked, “Why is a pretty girl like you walking alone at this hour?” When I explained, he offered to drive me the rest of the way home.
I was tempted. I knew better than to accept rides from strangers, but I was sick of walking and his car had air-conditioning. I wasn’t completely stupid, though; I made him promise not to hurt me before gratefully climbing into the passenger seat.
“I was at a party myself,” he said. “Would you like to go back to it with me?” New people, a new party — maybe a reboot was just what I needed.
“There’s just one thing,” he said. “My wife’s out of the country on sabbatical so I need to swing by my house and check on the kids.” Lexus, wife, kids, sabbatical — these were clearly good people, not dangerous criminals.
It has to be mentioned that this piece is written as part of a contest called “It Happened to Me” in which the winning writer wins “big money”, according to the website. Several small points hinder credibility. For instance, 45 minutes into a 3 mile walk would put her pretty close to home. But for the sake of argument we’ll play this story out assuming it’s all true.
The author “avoided rape”, as the headline states, by bolting out of the house after the man began taking cushions off of his couch and told her she should go take a shower since she had gotten so sweaty from walking “several miles” (again the distance incongruity that harms the author’s credibility here). She doesn’t indicate that she ever asked to be taken directly home, or that she thought twice about a married man asking to take her to a party, or that the guy was not prepared to take ‘no’ for an answer.
She begins walking:
In Texas, if you find a patch of grass you will find stickers, tiny balls of hatred and thorns. I hadn’t put my shoes back on, so of course I stepped into a sticker patch.
“Ow! Fuckfuckow!” I tried to balance on one foot while pulling stickers out of the other, all without dropping my shoes or falling over. I was so tired and this night was going to last forever and it would not stop sucking. I burst into tears.
This could be a very feministy metaphor, not that the author intended it as such. Other feminists do believe that Texas is full of “stickers, tiny balls of hatred and thorns” – rapists by another name. Texas is a Red State; Red States churn out soldiers in the War on Women. Yet young women continue walking alone in these places. This woman basically blames the stickers for stinging her foot even while she trounced through the countryside without shoe.
After the first run-in, while walking home and after speaking to a cop who she says didn’t know what to do for her, she repeated the mistake:
A car pulled over. The driver got out and asked what was wrong. I told him the whole story in one breath, a two-minute run-on sentence of epic proportions. “Where do you live?” he asked.
“Near campus,” I told him.
He said, “I work near campus. Why don’t you come use my phone? I have to be at work at 5.30, so if you can’t get hold of anyone, I’ll drop you off on my way to work.”
It sounded like a rescue, like a happy ending. Still. I hesitated, and he said to me, “I promise I will not hurt you.” I must have looked unconvinced because he added, “I won’t even touch you.” I got in his car, still sniffling.
When we got to his place, he put on some Pink Floyd. I sat on the floor and we talked for a while. He handed me a scrapbook his girlfriend had made. She was pretty, with short brown hair and a dazzling smile. He went into another room to change clothes while I made some calls with no luck. When he came back, he had a joint.
All of my tension fled — he was a stoner. The only way I’d be in danger was if I suddenly became a Cheeto. After a few hits I was buzzed and happy and safe, and when he tried to kiss me I started to let him. Then I remembered his smiling brown-haired girlfriend and pushed him away. That’s when it happened.
The man then penetrated her even while she told him she didn’t want to have sex. Summarizing: He took her home; he said he thought that everything “was great”; he asked her to go down on him in the car; she made excuses for his behavior to one of her friends; she later realized that she was raped and that it wasn’t at all her fault.
Little has been done to foster a new conversation for this type of situation. As of now, the discussions never get passed “his fault” or “her fault”. What’s the point? Just make factual statements: this woman increased her odds of a whole host of victimizations by walking around at night and getting into cars with strangers and going to their houses. She was absolutely stupid. She also increased her risk of getting run over by a car by walking on the highway in the darkness of the night. We can completely blame a guy who is driving drunk and swerving and speeding, but we’d also think it’s kind of weird that the pedestrian was walking right in the middle of the highway.
Both are to blame, but for different reasons. The key point is the punishment.
This is where taxonomy comes in. Some claim “rape is rape” while others like myself differentiate depending on circumstance. In fact, the cops do this too – not just for sexual assault but also for homicides and many other types of crimes. They differentiate between a crime of passion or anger and call it manslaughter whereas someone who commits pre-meditated murder is given a higher charge. People who murder while committing another felony receive a harsher sentence too. They indicate that they are a greater risk to society at large. The system does this as well with sexual assault, though when it enters the realm of feminist rhetoric all sexual assaults are lumped into one category. All of the perpetrators are considered cut from the same cloth. The criticism I’m writing here is basically saying that this woman had some amount of control. She made very many decisions and chose something that increased her chances of finding herself in a bad spot. There are many rape victims who aren’t given any choice at all, but we’re supposed to feel as much anger and sympathy for this girl as we do for them? Nah.
My question to feminists would be: does a young woman have any responsibility at all to keep track of how people around her are perceiving her behavior? And let’s say she does know that she’s doing things that men are often turned on by – the feminist argument taken to its extreme is that nary a condemnatory word can be leveled towards her.