TW for non-graphic description of rape, victim blaming & rape culture.
Tonight, I can’t sleep. I’m normally a pretty rubbish sleeper anyway, I wake up a lot and anxiety causes me to have a disrupted sleep pattern. But tonight, it feels different. Menacing.
I have the light on, and radio 4 playing in the background, drowning out the silence. The cause of my sleeplessness? Online abuse. Yup – abuse from lots of men (and women) that I don’t know, has caused me to lie awake wondering (for the tenth time) whether I’ve locked the door, or whether Little Pavs is safe, despite her sleeping peacefully in the room next door. It started like this.
My good tweet mate @judeinlondon contacted me to say that she was taking a lot of abuse for posting about rape on International Women’s Day. These men had tweeted her with appalling comments, questioning her mental health – one of them even suggested she should be ‘put down’. So I decided to take action.
I tweeted out their disgusting comments, and suggested that as they were so keen to abuse women online, instead of calling out the men who do rape and abuse women; they were probably rapists. Well, that certainly got them angry.
None of them got angry at the poor attrition & conviction rates in the UK.
None of them got angry at the fact that women risk-assess *all the time* in order to attempt to reduce the risk of being raped.
Oh no. They got angry at me (and other tweetmates who were supporting me). Angry & defensive. They even used the what about teh MENZ line without any sense of irony.
The abuse I suffered varied from the sublime – ‘I feel sorry for the kid’ – no need love, LP will be kept well away from men like you; to the ridiculous – ‘she should be raped by a lesbian with a strap-on’. The worst one was probably the abuse from a woman.
Now, I’m a feminist. One of the extreme ones that demands an end to violence against women and girls, but I’m reasonably kind, and try my best not to be hurtful to other women. After all, women do what they have to do, in order to survive under patriarchy. So I go easy on them. I try to educate, and encourage them to see the sexism & misogyny in our society – because as I found out – once you’ve seen it, had your eyes opened to it, you can’t un-see it. No matter how much you might want to.
Anyway. The woman. She suggested in her tweet, that I need not worry about being raped. Implying that I’m too ugly. Coz we all know only those who pass the Patriarchal Fuckability Test (thanks, @therealsgm!) get raped, amirite? Because therein lies the problem. A woman, thinking only ‘attractive’ women get raped. When we know that rape isn’t about sex. It’s not about desire. It’s about power and control. It’s about a man wanting to put a woman ‘in her place’. Showing her ‘who’s boss’. It isn’t about him being so overwhelmed with desire and want for a woman that he doesn’t listen for a ‘yes’. It’s about him not caring about a ‘no’. It’s about him not caring if she’s frozen in fear, or still in case he kills her. Or just tolerating it, hoping it’ll be over soon and that she can escape and be safe. Rape isn’t about sex. Women who believe that only attractive women are raped are just as damaging as those men who shout ‘we’re not all rapists’. In fact, maybe more so.
I didn’t tell any of my friends that I was raped. Partly in case one of them had disguised themselves as a woman like her. The first woman I used the word ‘rape’ to, in respect of my sexual assault was my wonderful wife-to-be, @planetcath. Almost 16 *years* after it happened. You know why? Because she made me feel safe. She (without me even backing up with any details), believed me. She said ‘I believe you’. She didn’t ask if I’d deliberately gone out that night wearing make-up, or high heels, or trying to pass the Patriarchal Fuckability Test. She didn’t tell me that I was too ugly, or too attractive, or that it was just ‘rough sex’, or that I asked for it, or why didn’t I get a taxi home. She assumed nothing about me, and everything about my rapists. She assumed that they’d not been interested in my consent. She assumed that they’d decided to rape me because they believed that they could, and would, have access to my body – with no regard to my feelings.
I’ve digressed a little from my original aim, which was to talk about online abuse. But talking about my rape is related to online abuse. It’s misogyny, and women are threatened with rape if they dare speak up about rape. It would serve the world much better if those men spent their time & energy on tackling those men who do rape, rather than attacking women for discussing something that we think about almost *everytime* we go out, and lots and lots of time when we’re at home – where statistically, we’re more at risk of rape anyway.
So to the Manchester United supporters (I checked!) who abused me tonight – you are the reason I fell out of love with football. I used to stand in the Stretford End (as a season ticket holder) listening to you shouting that the players wives deserved to be raped, or that someone should teach the women ‘a lesson’ and I looked around and realised that I didn’t want part of this culture. You can keep your club, and the culture around it, and piss off out of my airspace. Sir Matt must be spinning away, listening to you knuckle-draggers threatening women with the very thing that you could help stop.
Unless you’re a rapist. In which case, you’ll have every desire to continue the rape culture that we live in.
After all, it helps you to continue to get away with it.
* I will be Storifing the tweets later