When I posted the original story that I included an excerpt of in my last post, I got quite a few comments & emails in response. Of all the responses I got, one-third had experienced something similar (or worse). Another quarter had a friend or relative who did. Not even counting the secondhand reports, that’s a lot – ONE-THIRD! Think about that. Think about your daughter. Or niece. Or sister. Now think about her and nine of her friends – her swim team, her cheerleading squad, her girl scout troop. Three or four of them will go through something like I did – or worse. Maybe it will be her.
Did it happen to you? Maybe you weren’t raped, but maybe – like me – you narrowly escaped it. Or maybe you were just forced to go further than you wanted. Or maybe there was no physical force – you made the decision to do something that you didn’t want to because someone berated or threatened or belittled you. Maybe you feel responsible because you were drinking.
Maybe you were high. Maybe you were passed out and you woke up having sex. Maybe you weren’t sure if you initiated it or not. Maybe you felt guilty for being upset because after all – you left the party with the guy and thought he was hot. And in fact – you probably would have slept with him anyway.
Not you? You’re lucky. Ask a couple of your friends. I bet you won’t go through too many of them until you find someone who’s been through it.
A long time ago, had a guy – a nice guy – tell me (in a skeptical & sarcastic manner), “Every girl I know has a story about being forced.” Think about that for a minute – about all those women – every girl he knew. Even if “every girl” part is hyperbole, it’s still enough for him to think of it as every girl. For someone to say that every woman (or most women or any portion of women) they know has that story is frightening and sad and very, very telling about the sexual practices of the youth of America. That women & girls are not only not believed when they make such claims, but that they are mocked for making them, whether true or not. It’s a prime example of the way women’s rights to their own bodies are not taken seriously. Is it any wonder that more than 60% rapes go unreported?
And getting back to this “nice guy”, how does one hear this story from “every girl”? I think basically two ways one – from girls who are your friends, who are clearly opening up to you about something traumatic. Do you mock them? If yes, you’re no kind of friend. And two – from girls in that very situation – being encouraged, coerced, or even forced to do something they aren’t comfortable with. Nice guy indeed. I think of him occasionally now and I wonder if he is married or has daughters. I wonder how he’d feel if they told him their stories.
We as a society need to take some action. It doesn’t need to be a big grass roots movement. All we need to do is talk. Start talking to our girls (and our boys, for that matter). Start telling them that they and only they get to decide what they do with their bodies. That they can say no. That they can tell someone if something like this does happen. We need to stop blaming the victims. We need to stop calling women sluts and whores because they are sexually active or even sexually promiscuous. Because if we want them to believe that they have the right to say no and be respected, then they need to know that just because they may have said yes once or twice or even a thousand times, it doesn’t take away their right to say no this time.
We need to start young. Start teaching them that being pretty isn’t important. Start teaching them that being beautiful on the inside is what matters. Start teaching them that it’s OK to care about how they look, but that the motivation for that should be health and fitness and natural beauty, and not to please others or to get attention. Start teaching them that they ARE beautiful as they are. Start teaching them that just because they are beautiful doesn’t give anyone a right to touch them. Start teaching them that their beauty or their body – no matter how well-endowed or sexy – doesn’t make them public property.
Start teaching them that the billboards and magazines and commercials are not reality. Start teaching them that the sitcoms and movies are wrong – that beauty and brains are not mutually exclusive. Start teaching them that love and lust are two very different things. Start teaching them to love themselves so others can show them love and not just lust. Start teaching them that they are worthy of respect and love. Start teaching them that respecting themselves is necessary for others to respect them. Start teaching them that it’s better to be alone than with someone who doesn’t respect you. Start teaching them alone doesn’t mean lonely. Start teaching them that they are strong. Start teaching them that no matter what they wear. . .or how they walk. . .or what they drank. . .that no means no.