This one needs a content warning folks, because I’m going to be talking about sexual assault and rape. Not in graphic detail, but I’m going to explore how, right at this moment, I am so scared of being sexually assaulted, of being raped. I am really fucking scared.
Let me start off by saying that I know how lucky I am: I have never been raped or sexually assaulted. I really hope I continue to be lucky… but even saying that makes me feel guilty, because if I’m lucky then undoubtedly there will be another woman who isn’t lucky. Does that make me the most selfish person in the world, if I hope my luck will continue knowing the sexual violence I want to never experience won’t stop?
Maybe. Sometimes it feels like this.
If you want facts or figures, I’m afraid I can’t help you. I can’t read the statistics, not today. If you want to know, go and do your research. There are people who write more eloquently about why our culture “excuses” sexual assault, and there are survivors who share their stories. I can’t do either of those: I can’t do anything. Or at least it feels that way right now.
There are small things I can do, and these things are important. What I mean is that there is no single act I can undertake myself to stop sexual assault overnight. Donating money to charities who support survivors helps. Calling out people who joke about rape helps. Believing those who come forward with their stories of being sexually abused helps. Yet none of these things will save me, if I end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. And if I’m lucky enough to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time, another woman will not be so lucky.
That makes me really fucking scared.
The sexual harassment I have to deal with on a daily basis usually doesn’t amount to more than condescending coworkers calling me sweetie or men wolf-whistling at me in the street. It’s not that this is ok – it is not ok, and I’m not sure I’ll ever quite forgive the people who tell me that I should be grateful that it’s not worse – but… but honestly, if this is all I have to face I will be lucky.
Think about that – especially if you are a cisgender heterosexual man reading this blog post. If I walk away from a group of men catcalling me on the street, with my cheeks flushed and my eyes prickling with tears, with my legs shaking and my skin crawling, with my head and heart so heavy with confusion and shame, I will consider myself lucky. Later I will scold myself for not being brave enough to turn around and shout at them, swear at them, because if I don’t I will feel violated. None of them will have touched me, but that won’t change how utterly shit I will feel, and how scared I will be. And that is if I am lucky.
I moved to a new city recently. A new city with streets I don’t know and alleys that feel especially dark now the clocks have gone back and it’s pitch black at 5pm. I love this city, and I love my new flat, so I don’t understand why walking around my own city scares me. Maybe it’s because I can’t – and don’t want to – hide from the reality that roughly one in five women experience sexual assault and one in three women are raped.
There is rarely a day when I don’t think about being raped. Not when I’m getting off, when I’ll admit I love to explore consensual non-consent play and sometimes even rape fantasies. Not when the arsehole in a seminar announces that “the #MeToo movement is getting too powerful” or when the person next to me interrupts a presentation to correct the speaker that it is “alleged sexual assault” as though they don’t believe the sexual assault victim who has come forward with their story.
I think about it because I am scared – so very scared – that it is going to become a reality.
I am scared because I’m an openly bisexual woman who is proud of the fact that I wear clothes that out me as gay, and I am not going to stop doing so just because I’m scared that someone will think the fact I like sleeping with woman is a challenge to make me like dick. From tomorrow I’ll have a hair-cut that will make me look as queer as possible, and I can’t wait. But I also can’t stop being scared that it will all but equate to painting a target on my own back.
I am scared because I have vaginismus, and because I know that if someone attempted to penetrate me without my consent it would hurt. In fact, it would be more painful than I can imagine. I know there will be pain if I work on my vagina, so one day I can enjoy PIV sex with a partner, but the very real possibility that this pain will not be chosen but forced? I sometimes wonder if it would be possible for my vagina to be penetrated against my will, and more often how much force and hate would go into the act of raping me and my “broken” vagina.
I am scared because I don’t know what I would do. Would I scream and shout? Would I run? Would I fight? Would my body ever feel like mine again, afterwards? I walk away from so-called “harmless” verbal sexual harassment feeling defeated and defected: what would I feel like after experiencing “real” sexual assault or rape? I’m scared because I’m not even sure I would be brave enough to tell a friend after it had happened.
I am scared because even if I continue to be lucky, another woman won’t be. I am really fucking scared.
Image sourced through Pixabay. Please don’t contact me to tell me that my fear is unfounded or irrational. While I shouldn’t let it consume me, I have a right to be scared: the point is that I shouldn’t have to be. No one should.