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There's a rape joke that goes like this

Rape culture is real. It teaches men that a woman who says no repeatedly is just 'flirting'.

 |  8-minute read |   25-09-2017
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There's a rape joke that goes like this: "Every woman has that one moment when you think - ope, here's my rape! This is it!"1

Well, this is mine. [Sexual assault]

My hope is that it will help you understand how insidious and ubiquitous sexual assault actually is, and how crucial Title IX is. This morning, Betsy DeVos just rolled back Title IX, announcing that schools can use a higher standard of proof for sexual misconduct violations than for other violations like physical assault and plagiarism.2 In other words - accused rapists get special rights.

About two months ago while studying for the bar exam, I swiped right on the "perfect" match - Harvard Law graduate, recent Democratic Party candidate, professor at a top law school, self-professed social justice advocate. We met up at a bar in Center City. As it turned out, we shared the same leftist political values and 30 mutual friends on Facebook.

The bar was emptying, so he suggested we go to the rooftop of his apartment complex. I'd been there many times to visit Wharton friends, so I said why not - we were in the middle of a great conversation. But the rooftop turned out to be closed, so he suggested we go back to his apartment unit instead. I flagged this as a potential bait-and-switch, but I agreed because I wanted to keep talking. (But why does that even matter? Why am I already defending myself?)

After maybe an hour of talking in the living room, I decided I wasn't staying. So I announced: "I'm going home now." He looked at me and, without saying anything, kissed me. I kissed him back. Then I stood up and repeated more firmly, "Okay, but I'm actually leaving now." He looked at me and, again without saying anything, picked me up, carried me into his bedroom, and pinned me to the bed.

rape-culture-is-real_092517084912.jpgI told him, "I'm not playing hard to get with you. Maybe you think I am. I'm not." He finally stopped smiling. I left. Photo: Representational

It happened too fast for me to react. Women are conditioned to minimise their own discomfort, maintain social harmony, and avoid conflict. So I laughed. And then I said for the third time, "I told you, I'm leaving right now. I'm not joking." I tried to push him off of me.

He didn't move. He continued lying on top of me without moving, kissing me as I tried to push him off. I extricated myself by peeling myself out from underneath him. He never moved. I stood up. "Okay, I'm leaving," I said for the 4th time. I walked back into the living room toward the door. When I reached the door, he grabbed my arm and dragged me back to bed. He was laughing.

That's when I realised - he didn't even realise that he was assaulting me. He thought he was being "sexy" and "manly". I wrenched my arm out of his grasp and went back into the living room to put on my shoes. I was still pretty calm on the exterior because it's really difficult to process that someone doesn't give a f*ck about your consent when you were just talking about social justice advocacy a few minutes ago.

I told him, "I'm not playing hard to get with you. Maybe you think I am. I'm not." He finally stopped smiling. I left.

As I walked home, I called a close friend (thank you I love you) to process what had just happened. I have been a trained advocate for sexual assault survivors for seven years - I know what rape myths are. I know what victim blaming is. But still I felt the need to apologise repeatedly to my friend on the phone for being so upset - I was "fine" and "nothing" happened and "it could have been worse."

But here's the thing - my date could have raped me without even knowing it. Remember, he was laughing. And then, if I had reported him, he probably would have accused me of lying because I "regretted" it.

It took me three hours on the phone with my friend to finally fall asleep - one hour of angry rehashing and two hours of listening mindlessly to him tell me about the detailed history of the British Empire (thank you that was amazing, please start a podcast).

The next morning, my almost-rapist texted me to ask why I had unmatched him on the dating app. He wanted to "talk". I said fine, call me. He was worried. "I get the feeling that you were upset at me last night. What happened?"

"I know what happened. What do you think happened?" I asked him.

He punted. "I think I have an idea, but I would rather hear it from you." Translation: He didn't want to admit to any more wrongdoing than what I was upset at him for. He didn't want to verbalise and confront the possibility that he wasn't a Good Person.

So I started talking/yelling at him about consent and what he did wrong each time I said I was leaving. He had so many excuses. "But it was late .... and you came to my place ... I thought you were just playing hard-to-get ... But most girls..." It was your textbook Justin Bieber what-do-you-mean bullsh*t. I was livid. Why would you ever want to have sex with someone who said no to you five times on the off-chance that they maybe meant yes?

And, how many other women have you done this to? Were any of them too drunk or afraid to push you away? (I don't drink because my alcohol allergy gives me heart palpitations, but my level of sobriety is absolutely irrelevant to his conduct.)

45 minutes later, I became tired of his non-apologies. I told him I had to hang up and start my day.

And then, the most magical thing happened. He asked me for a second date because he was "really disappointed" about how things turned out. F*ck out of here. You almost raped me and now you're "really disappointed" we won't go out again?

Rape culture is real. It teaches men that a woman who says no repeatedly and who is actively trying to push you off of her is just "flirting".

It teaches men to believe that when she resists, she just wants you to overpower her - that is, rape her. Rape culture teaches us that men can't be raped (because men always want sex) and that sex workers can't be raped (because sex workers are always available to anyone and everyone). Rape culture teaches us that survivors lie.

But rape and assault happen all the time.

Maybe what happened to me has happened to you.

Maybe what my date did to me is something you have done to other people. Maybe this possibility makes you uncomfortable.

Jon Oliver recently used this analogy: "Sex is like boxing. If both people didn't agree to participate, one of them is committing a crime."4 

If you want to box with someone, and they say "no", and you punch them anyways, that's not boxing - that's physical assault. Similarly, if you want to have sex with someone, and they say "no", and you touch/have sex with them anyways, that's not sex - that's sexual assault.

If you disagree with me, or you think it was even partially my fault, I strongly urge you to reconsider. Not for me, but for the people you love. The "1 in 5" statistic is real.3 

Statistically, someone you love (statistically, a woman) has experienced some form of attempted or completed sexual assault at least once in their life. When you engage in victim-blaming, you are telling that person whom you love, "You can't talk to me about your assault. I won't believe you. It was your fault. Your rapist is still my friend."

Ending sexual violence is on all of us. It's on you - especially men. Check yourself and go get your friends.

1. Ever Mainard, a Chicago-based female comedian. The rest of her skit is racist as hell, so I'm not linking to it #whitefeminism. But speaking of rape jokes, if you want to tell one, make sure the punchline is the rapist, not the survivor. In other words, punch up, not down.

2. All civil proceedings use the preponderance of the evidence standard. The Supreme Court has only ever applied a greater-than-preponderance standard in civil suits where deprivations akin to incarceration, like deportation and involuntary psychiatric confinement, were at stake. Title IX consequences do not come anywhere close to incarceration, involuntary confinement, or deportation. You can find the new guidance here.

3. I'm not sure if Oliver came up with it or merely popularised it. Sex Education: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, HBO (Aug. 9, 2015), available here.

4. In 2007, a Department of Justice research agency found that 1 in 5 women experience attempted or completed sexual assault during college, where sexual assault is defined as sexual battery or rape, not merely verbal harassment. The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study, National Institute for Justice xiii, 3-14 (Oct. 2007), available here.

(The above post first appeared on Elizabeth Tang's blog.)

Also read: We are all living inside a rape story

Writer

Elizabeth Tang Elizabeth Tang @elizabethtang

Equal Justice Works Fellow at National Women's Law Center.

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