Monthly Archives: December 2012

Does Anyone Know What Rape Is?

(TRIGGER warning: discussion of sex and rape).

When I was about 13 years old I read a story in a newspaper about a trial. A woman claimed she had been raped by her husband, and I – appallingly – furrowed my brow. How, I thought to myself, can a woman be raped by her husband?

It amazes me now that I thought that way. I don’t believe I hated women and I didn’t fully understand sex, but on some level I had developed an idea of women as secondary to men.

And I don’t think I got this from my parents. I picked it up from everywhere.

At 13 I didn’t know what rape was. And no-one ever told me, I had to work it out for myself. At the end of my teens I was still under the impression that rape was something done by monsters hiding in bushes. I probably thought it was something women didn’t need to worry about, as long as they took precautions. Their problem, not mine.

No-one ever taught me about sex either. I went to a Catholic school. Sex education took up one term of one year, a period of 3 months when I was 14. The syllabus included the dangers of drugs, alcohol, smoking and – bizarrely – road safety. The only thing I recall was watching a video of some naked babies running around. Some of them had penis’es and some of them had vaginas. The difference in sexual organs was based entirely on their gender.

Sex education came from my classmates, fervent, breathless chats with other boys about what they’d like to do to such-and-such girl.

Do to, not with.

I remember crowding around a porn magazine that someone had brought to the playground, aged perhaps 13. A woman, in ridiculously uncomfortable pose, peeling open her vagina. I remember feeling queasy, repulsed.

And young boys today have all of the internet, full of characterless women, playing the part of objects, existing solely for the pleasure of men. Ready to be used and degraded. Women, of course, are always degraded by sex.

I read a blog about the novel “Crimson Petal and the White”. A brilliant novel, whose central character is a Victorian era prostitute. A man left a comment, “I wonder if it would be so interesting from a male perspective”.

Because reading about a female lead character, understanding a woman’s motivations, feelings, thoughts, could that possibly be of interest to a man?

Women are inferior. Sex is something you do to them. Whatever they think doesn’t matter.

These are not ideas I’ve actively sought, but ideas I have actively had to reject. The world around me has done it’s absolute best to try to make me a misogynist.

And I don’t intend this as any sort of defense, but how is a boy meant to learn what a woman is or what it’s like to be a woman, or that it is even worth trying to find out?

Everyday Sexism is an important website. Every post should be put into a hat, and shaken, and 500 should be pulled out at random. Next, the 500 would all be put together at a big publishing house and made into a big book with a shiny cover. The book would be sent out to every school in the Country, to be read by every girl and boy.

If it happened, they would read things like this:

“I know an awful lot of my female friends have been raped, or nearly raped, and I know that an awful lot of my male friends find that terribly hard to believe.”

“I’m 16 and have been receiving sexist comments …since I was 13. Boys (in school) shout “rape!” if they see a girl in the corridor, loudly rate girls out of 10 while we walk past, look at Page 3 and compare girls to it…happens literally every day…”

“My little sister (15) asserted that if somebody claimed they had been raped they were “probably doing it for attention”, that if a girl wants to avoid being raped she shouldn’t go out in ‘slaggy’ clothes. I don’t know where she got this mentality from but that a 15-year-old girl is so ill-informed of the facts is a massive failure of our society.”

And some people would say: This is unsuitable for children. And I would say: Yes! Yes, it is. So lets make this the last generation that has to experience it.

I’ve read heartbreaking posts about women’s experience of rape and sexual assault. No-one ever talks about these things, except to warn women to moderate their behaviour to avoid it because it’s your problem, not ours.

I read these words from a woman who had been raped:

“During the ensuing 15 years, I sometimes referred to the event in my head as “semi-consensual sex.” It wasn’t rape because I hadn’t screamed, I believed. It wasn’t rape because I hadn’t told anyone, ever.”

By being so afraid to talk about sex and to talk about rape and to talk about what rape is, we have allowed, as a society, rape to happen. Rape is not a woman’s problem. We have a duty to educate both sexes about what rape is, and a duty – to women, to children, to everyone – to tell boys this:

“This is rape. Do not rape”.

Thank you to the following blogs for educating me:

About rape. 

And rape.

About slut-shaming

How rape culture hurts men too

(Trigger warnings for all).

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“Shame is the lie someone told you about yourself.”

~Anais Nin~

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Songs about Breaking Up

Listening to music can be like cauterizing a wound. It burns and it stings but the purpose is curative. If you’re cut open by infidelity then I want you by Elvis Costello. Beginning like a love song, it quickly collapses into the sound of someone clawing at their chest, trying to dig out and discard their heart. Three words run through the song, visceral, broken, angry, defeated.

I want to know the things you did that we do too, I want you

I might as well be useless for all it means to you, I want you

A rival to Something I can never have by Nine Inch Nails as saddest song ever.

Self-pity, like saunas, should only be wallowed in for a short while, but having the person you love inexpressibly, hurt you so viciously can leave you conflicted.

For bitterness, (but to be kept at bay) When did you stop loving me? (When did I stop loving you?) by Marvin Gaye.

For anger, You oughta know by Alanis Morrissette and for infidelity specifically Piglet by Arab Strap Controlled rage, as rage should be.

And for sadness, the kind that paralyses all but your tear ducts, You don’t know how lucky you are by Keaton Henson. An acoustic guitar, a heartbroken voice and an almost unbearably sad video.

As time passes, open wounds become scars. I can never be by (the male Amy Winehouse) Maverick Sable, drips with regret, but is hardened by resilience.

And lastly, if you’re British you’ll know that no-one is ever quite so succinct in song as Jarvis Cocker. TV Movie by Pulp is at once achingly stark, lonely, dark, wry and moving.

Without you

my life has become

a hangover without end.

A movie, made for tv:

Bad dialogue, bad acting, no interest.

Too long with no story and no sex.

Dear M, it still hurts, but I think any anger has gone and I never let the bitterness best me. I think more about the future than the past now, and though it terrifies me it’s good to feel alive again. Goodbye my lover, goodbye my old best friend.

Any other songs for the broken-hearted? Leave them in the comments below.

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Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory

Oscar Wilde

Rivers and German Shepherds

If you’d gone down to the woods last night, you’d have been sure of a big surprise. Assuming they were woods in Vietnam and you’d had the misfortune of running into my naked friend P.

You would have seen me also, because I was sitting in those woods too. I was in the middle of an almost circle of 14 friends. If you’d been half hidden behind a tree you would have seen us, surrounded by discarded empty bottles and heavenly-cherished full ones.

You’d have seen me happy too. In front of me was just about everything I generally ever need. A glass of something alcoholic, a cigarette and a i-pod with a fairly decent speaker attached.

From your hiding place, you wouldn’t have heard me. I sat listening mostly. I don’t wish to be the centre of attention, don’t like to tell long stories. I prefer to sit, and listen and lose myself a little.

Also, the music was really loud.

It was because of me. I was the amateur DJ. It isn’t easy to pick songs to please 13 people, but as someone with a sometimes crippling need to please, I did my best.

I kept it eclectic. Some Desmond Dekker , Beirut, Ernie K-Doe, Metronomy. Some classics – Lou Reed, The Kinks, Curtis Mayfield and some crowd pleasers, Elbow, Dizzee Rascal. Oh, and always, always Azealia Banks.

Every so often someone would break from their conversation to shout out to me, “Oh, I love this one!” or “This is really good, who is it?” And I would smile and realise how simply and easily I can be made to feel happy.

As I got happily, quietly drunk our friend P sank himself to new depths. Notorious for his alcohol induced idiocy, last night he went too far.

It was fine when we swam in the river during the day, and he perched his ample frame upon a rock in mermaid pose. Less Copenhagen, more coping badly. But by evening he had drank too much, and was refusing to stop. He became maudlin, and then aggressive, all the time demanding of attention.

And then he accidentally fell through one of the tents. Twice.

Having insulted several, he blundered off into the woods. As genuine and kind-hearted as he is while sober, you would have recoiled at the sight of him.

Three of us set off in pursuit, and for 3 hours we wandered around, blindly calling his name. We didn’t find him, and it wasn’t until five in the morning that he returned, naked, and accompanied by two German shepherds.

By which I mean the breed of dog, not a couple of professional sheep handlers from Munich.

P collapsed into sleep and the dogs ran off. At some point, while we cleaned up, he must have woken and left.

His nocturnal misadventures remain largely unknown, although a couple of our friends did find the women’s shower had been used as a toilet.

He’s done similar things before, but always remembers nothing. Too often in retelling him we’ve treated his antics as a joke, as amusing anecdotes.

He knows he is bad, but he doesn’t know how much. As a group of friends we’ve decided to tell P exactly what he did and that it was not funny. That he has a problem that needs to be fixed. That he cannot drink. It’s the harder thing to do, but we wouldn’t be friends if we didn’t do it.

And I came home to a message from G. She’s flown again and landed in my hometown in the UK, my hometown being not so far from hers. And I feel sad that she isn’t here. And I’m finding life harder without her presence. But life, like rivers and German shepherds, has to run on.

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“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart”

~ Anne Frank ~

 

 

 

 

Olivia A. Cole

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