This is the beginning of a piece about sexual assault:
It is deep inside me, a sliver of an idea, an idea that I have tried to banish by reading feminist criticism, by performing in The Vagina Monologues, by reading those sad, captioned photos online that have rape victims holding white signs with handwritten quotations from their abusers, by paying attention to politics, espousing liberal, evolved beliefs, by talking about myself as a feminist, even though there are a lot of women—outside the leftist intelligentsia—who are afraid to call themselves that. I have no difficulty thinking of a woman’s right over her reproductive choices as not remotely debatable by anybody with a lick of sense. But I cannot shake this ugly little kernel of a thought that on some level, women deserve to be raped.
The misogynist rhetoric is so, so deeply ingrained. Take this list of facts and rhetorical oddities and crimes.
- My parents are fundamentalist Christians who oppose abortion, gay marriage, and still talk about liberty.
- I was raised with the notion that a woman’s place is at home. My mother trained me well in the domestic arts. By the time I was 12, I knew how to cook, clean, do laundry, and sew. I enjoyed cooking and doing laundry.
- I was taught to fear sex. Sex makes you have babies, and if you do it wrong, you can go to hell. Sex is sacred and not for discussing or for doing with strangers.
- My mother has often told me that I “think too much.”
- God punishes the wanton. If women dress slutty, then the men around them have no choice but to do their Godly duty and teach them a rapey lesson.
Naturally, in college I learned that 100% of what I knew about being a woman and sex and having a spirituality was useless. My sense of spirituality was all about feeling guilty and asking God to make it stop. My sense of womanhood was slavery to a husband, baby making. My sense of sex was so broken and hung up that I’d become afraid to lose my virginity: I clung to it as this remaining bastion of legitimacy for the dogma that authored my childhood, my sense of how men and women are supposed to interact, and my own ridiculous, misogynist reflexes about why and how women come to be raped.
So around my twenty-first birthday, I set out to prove that God wouldn’t punish me for being “bad.”