February 16, 2011

Should Have Known

I want to return to one of those stupid things that people are saying about the sexual assault of Lara Logan. It's the idea that "I'm not saying she deserved to be assaulted, but she should have known that her hair/her clothes/traveling to a country where (insert Middle Eastern or Muslim stereotype here) would make it more likely that she'd get raped."

Of course she knew.

We all know. Women can't avoid being aware of any of the standard trappings of rape, real or fictional. That's what living in a rape culture is all about. There's no escaping this.

We know when we wander away from friendly faces.

We know when we're alone with a guy.

We know when we're with a group of guys.

We know when we're alone--probably.

We know when we get close to a strange guy.

We know when we're near a man more likely than we are to be listened to and believed.

We know when we step into roles and situations traditionally reserved for guys.

We know when we break any of the rules that "other" us and make us "fair game" for inhumane treatment.

We know when we admit to any history of victimization.

We know when we express any kind of weakness.

We know when we express any kind of strength.

We know when we acknowledge ourselves as sexual beings.

We know when we're near a powerful guy.

We know when we're near a powerless guy who may see us as weak representatives of those who deny him what he wants.

We know when we accept a ride or other favor from a friend of a friend.

We know when we make a guy angry.

We know when we deny a guy something he wants.

We know when we defy a guy.

We know when we allow ourselves to become intoxicated.

We know when the guys around us are becoming intoxicated.

We know when we get dressed.

We know when we decide we want to look our best.

We know when we're in the presence of a guy who has decided he knows why we've chosen to look good.

We know when we accept a date.

We know when we ask a guy on a date.

We know when we show provisional interest in a guy.

We know when we express interest in information or assistance a guy can give us.

We know when we express polite curiosity.

We always know. Always. All of us.

That doesn't mean we always look at the knowledge straight on. It's a hell of a thing to know, and it is, as is the point, oppressive knowledge. But we all know and we all deal with the knowledge in our own way.

Some of us tell ourselves we can control whether or not we're raped and avoid...well, everything. Some take a more moderate approach but still try to diminish the risk. Some of us side with the powerful people in the equation and hope that means they'll be liked well enough to avoid being raped. Some of us say that the chances of being raped in any particular circumstance will never be 0% and will never be 100%, no matter what we do, so we'll do what we do while spending as little time as possible worrying about how that affects our chances.

None of these choices are perfect. They can't be, given the massively messed-up circumstances. But we all face the constant threat of rape and make our choice, assuming we have the luxury of choices at all.

Lara Logan appears to have made a choice very much like the last one I described. That doesn't make her assault inevitable. It doesn't make the assault her choice. It doesn't mean she could have avoided being assaulted by making other choices.

It does, however, make her a role model for people who want to make a similar choice. As it should.

Of course she knew. She just didn't let that keep her from her life and the work she had to do.


D. C. said...

When Daniel Pearl was beheaded in Iraq, he was a victim of thugs and a hero for going to a dangerous place to get the story. He was admired because he didn't let the danger keep him from doing the job.

Funny, isn't it, how having a vagina changes the whole story.

Glendon Mellow said...

Powerful, Stephanie.

Stephanie Zvan said...

D. C., that's one of the things that goes a long way toward putting the lie to "I'm not saying it's her fault." Suddenly it turns into "I'm not saying it's her fault, but why didn't she protect that vagina better?"

Thanks, Glendon.

Stacy S. said...

Wow! You hit the nail on the head!

Stephanie Zvan said...

Thanks, Stacy.

Heather M. Rosa said...

I have this fantasy. It's a dark, cruel one. Remember those things we called Chinese finger cuffs? They were a woven straw tube made in such a way that pushing your fingers in them made them widen out, and trying to pull your fingers our made them narrow and tighten. Until you figured out the trick, they kept your fingers prisoner.

Now, re-engineer them to be made of a coated metal with sharp barbs inside, of a size and shape to fit inside the vagina, tucked behind the pubic bone like a diaphram. Any rapist who pushed his way in, could, but would get sliced to ribbons when he started to withdraw.

They could of course be removed easily for consensual sex, but rape would enforce its own nasty punishment. Sure, he'd likely kill you in retaliation, but he'd never rape again. It's a dark choice, but when do we get to retaliate?

Shari said...

I was followed (briefly, humorously, and in the least creepy and subtle way humanly possible) at the library this week. Seriously, the entire event was straight out of a ditzy romantic comedy. Oodles of people around (to see the lack of subtlety) bright lights, and I was meeting someone I knew.

When I told Jon at home, he was very creeped-out, and said, "I can't imagine what women go through." The whole scenerio would have felt different if I'd been alone, in a parking lot, or even a store near closing time.

Innocent-seeming interactions feel a whole lot different when the setting is...not in favor of the woman in question.

As a woman, I can choose to hide from the world, to fight the world, or to prepare myself, mentally, for the worst, and hope for the best. And, in some circumstances, trust no one.

I will cheer my head off for the day when ALL men Also champion equality rather than misogyny, respect rather than objectification, and support for victims, rather than wondering if 'she was asking for it".

Anyone with a daughter, a sister, a mother, or even one female friend probably feels the same.

I hope.

Elaine said...

Thank you for writing this. You. Said. It. My question: Is there any way for her to know, really, how much support she *does* have? I hope so. I hope it somehow helps in her recovery.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Elaine, I don't know that she'll ever see this particular post, but I'm happy to say that much of the support for Logan has been fairly high profile. I certainly hope she knows.