As you may know, SlutWalk NYC is happening tomorrow at noon in Union Square. Essentially a protest against victim-blaming, the SlutWalk asserts that nobody ever deserves to be raped, regardless of where they work, what they wear, whether or not they’re a virgin, whether or not they drink alcohol, what race they are, what gender they identify as, etc. Although this may seem obvious to many, sadly, we still live in a society where rape victims are regularly “discredited” on the grounds that they are slutty and devious jezebels. It’s sickening. By calling it “The SlutWalk,” organizers are hoping to re-appropriate a word that has been used against women for a very long time, depleting it of its destructive power in the process.
What does one wear to a SlutWalk? Whatever one likes; that’s kind of the point. Personally, I think I’m going to wear the plain brown dress I was wearing one night a few years ago when I was almost definitely sexually assaulted. I say “almost definitely” because I can’t remember what happened, but basically, I know that sex was had, and that I didn’t remember it, and that I was probably passed out (or at best, incredibly groggy) at the time. I’m never going to know for sure because I don’t trust that guy to tell me the truth, but there are some fairly damning things working against him.
For instance, my vagina felt like sandpaper the next morning. It’s never felt that way before or since, and I’ve had some pretty bad sex. If I’d been awake and participating, it probably wouldn’t have felt that way. Also, he’d had plenty of chances to have consensual sex with me during the time we were “hanging out” (a step below actually dating), but each time, he seemed to get nervous and make some weird excuse to get out of it. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the one time he summoned the courage to throw it in me was a night I just happened to have overdone it a little and gone into some kind of blacked out, vegetative state. (The only time I’ve ever done this, not that it matters.)
Of course, he claimed that I was acting totally normal and that he had no idea I wasn’t going to remember anything the next day. I chose to believe him at the time, because I didn’t want to think I had been raped. For the next 72 hours, he regaled me with numerous texts about how much he liked me, how freaked out he was by what had happened, how he wanted to meet up and talk, etc. This was odd, as ours was not a deep relationship, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and said okay. As soon as that 72-hour window had passed (not coincidentally, the window of time in which a rape kit can be done), he dropped off the face of the Earth and began ignoring me completely.
I should also say as background that we were both struggling restaurant workers/writers at the time, and I was doing a bit better than him at getting my career off the ground. He was a little jealous, I think. He was also afflicted by that latent emo-sogyny that so many young Brooklyn men suffer from. Perhaps still stinging from being called nerds and fags in high school, he and his friends made a lot of sexist jokes (including rape jokes, LOL), and were basically frat boys in American Apparel v-necks. Once, he submitted a long and un-funny story about semi-consensual sex to Vice Magazine, only to have it rejected on the grounds that it was disturbing and awful to read. That’s right, it was too offensive for Vice. I know this because he told me.
Why did I hang out with such a person? He was cute, and mostly fun to drink with, and gave me compliments, and I was feeling really lonely and bored at that point in my life. Why didn’t I, a self-identified feminist, get a rape kit done and try to piece together what had happened the night before? Because I knew the system would treat me like shit. I’m naked on the Internet, I write about sex, and I basically roofied myself. I knew nobody was going to treat me with respect. People much more virginal and less uncertain than me have had an infuriatingly tough time getting justice. I didn’t want to put myself and my family through that for such an uncertain outcome. Plus, there was the small amount of doubt I had about what had happened. I didn’t want to ruin a guy’s life (even if that guy was an asshole) when there was a chance he hadn’t actually raped me (at least, not on purpose?).
Should I have had to think about any of this? Fuck no. In an ideal world, the doctors and police officers would have helped me figure it all out, and then they would’ve helped me prosecute him in court, if necessary. But I knew the world doesn’t work like that. I’m walking in SlutWalk NYC because I think that’s extremely fucked up.
I’m also walking because this kind of thing has happened to about half of the women I know. I’m walking because when a friend of mine got beaten up by her boyfriend, the cops treated her like she was the one who’d committed a crime. I’m walking because I know people who have to see their rapists in social settings and act like everything’s okay. I’m walking because I know someone who has to see her rapist on TV. I’m walking because Dominique Strauss Kahn will never face justice for assaulting a hotel maid, because he’s a rich white man and she’s a poor immigrant from Guinea who has not led an absolutely perfect life. I’m walking for all sorts of reasons! I hope that you will join me. A protest might not change things overnight, but it’s important to send a message that the status quo is unacceptable. What will you be wearing?