none of them were "bad guys." they usually aren't (a repost)

The following post is a repost from February. I wrote this post in response to #FreeKesha and this piece by Emma Gray which aligned completely with my feelings on how to talk about, write about, and, yes, DO SOMETHING TO CHANGE rape culture. Because, I believe we can. I believe that MOST men would agree that "locker room talk" and bragging about sexual assault are two different things. I've also heard, experienced, dealt with far worse from men and said nothing, did nothing, laughed it off...  I've been my own version of Billy Bush, except I was laughing off my OWN harassment. Laughing off my OWN assault -- smiling as not to buckle and falter... which is what Hillary appeared to be doing last night as well. 

I couldn't help but watch last night and see a woman SMILING because SHE HAD TO KEEP HER SHIT TOGETHER or RISK LOSING HER JOB. 


THIS IS NOT just an election. 

These are not just debates.

This is OUR MIRROR to who we have become, hell, who we've always been, as a society. These are our skeletons on display on a world stage... 

People LOVE Trump. People ENABLE Trump. And for the MANY MILLIONS of us who don't feel we do, certainly we've loved and enabled men similar to him. I know I have. Which is one of the reasons watching this trainwreck of an election is so triggering for so many of us. It's why last night's debate was physically painful. 

In the words of Lindy West, in her Saturday Op-Ed:

"...Every woman knows a version of Donald Trump. Most of us have known more of them than we can (or care to) recall. He’s the boss who thinks you owe him something; the date who thinks that silence means “yes” and “no” means “try harder”; the stranger who thinks your body’s mere existence constitutes an invitation to touch, take, own and destroy. He’s every deadbeat hookup, every narcissistic loser, every man who’s ever tried to leverage power, money, fame, credibility or physical strength to snap your boundaries like matchsticks. He is hot fear and cold dread and a pit in your stomach. He’s the man who held you back, who never took you seriously, who treated you like nothing until you started to believe it, who raped you and told you it was your fault..."


1. My first sexual experience with a boy happened while I was sleeping at a girl friend's house. We were young and he was curious and I, like most young girls in similar situations, didn't have a clue how to react or respond. And so? I did nothing. Pretended to be sleeping. Told no one. Moved on.

2. Years later, I woke up to a boy having sex with me at a party. But because I had been "passed out" when it started, I never "woke up."

"If I don't wake up, this won't count," I thought. 

And besides, this was my friend. I didn't want it to be weird between us. I didn't want to make him feel uncomfortable if I woke up. Wouldn't it make him feel uncomfortable if I woke up? Probably.

Over the years, it became almost expected. Boys would touch me when they wanted to touch me. Sometimes that meant when I was sleeping. Or passed out. Or in a mosh pit where "being groped" was part of the deal. Or just, you know, sitting on my couch.

3. One night, when I was living alone, I invited a friend to come over and watch a movie with me in my apartment, when out of nowhere, he pinned me down and assaulted me. When I told him to stop he reminded me that we had "had sex before" so "why are you fighting me this time?"

And he was right. We HAD had sex before. But THIS was different.

He was one of my best friends at the time so I didn't know how to react. He was a good guy. A wonderful friend, which is probably why, when it was all over, he burst into tears.

"I'm so sorry," he said.

See? He was sorry. He was so sorry. He was a good friend and he was sorry and I had to forgive him. Didn't I have to forgive him?

I forgave him.

4. That same year, I had a boss who thought it was funny to lock me in his office during conference calls and put on porn. He thought it was hilarious to watch me try to deliver pitches to various companies while porn played on mute in front of my face. He would laugh until tears came. One day, while we were alone he asked me to pull up my shirt and show him my breasts. And then I let him feel me up in the middle of the hallway. Because he was my boss and... what was I going to say, NO?

I didn't know how to say no. What if I got fired? What if he got angry? Violent? He had thrown things at me before, after all. A coffee cup. A stack of papers. A book...  

These examples are important to share because for many years, I didn't think they affected me. I didn't think they were wrong. I mean, yes, I knew they weren't RIGHT but I also just assumed it was par for the course.

I didn't disassociate myself from these guys. Not even close. I kept working for them... kept hanging out with them... kept calling them friends... because what was I going to do? Quit my job? NOT be friends with someone anymore? What would I tell people? What would they think about me?

Sometimes doing nothing is the only thing that feels safe. 

Sometimes "saying nothing" is the only way for it to go away.

Except it doesn't go away, does it? It just shapeshifts. Makes you angry in new places. Scared in others. Sad behind closed doors. 

5. It didn't end there. I lost count over the years, mainly because I had found, in therapy, that I had buried so much of what had happened in my youth and early twenties ... that it all became obscure, almost surreal. Perhaps the gaps in my memory was a defense mechanism. Or maybe it was denial. Or an understanding that this was just the way shit was when you were a girl, keep your mouth shut and keep walking... I had memories of certain instances -- one in particular that perhaps, someday, I will feel comfortable sharing. But I'm not ready yet. And even if I was, I still don't believe it ACTUALLY happened. Could I have just made the whole thing up? 

Over the years I have gone from feeling shame at what happened to feeling shame that I couldn't fight back. I'm a "tough girl," so what was I so afraid of?

And that's the thing about sexual violence, it fucks your head up nice and good. Makes you feel ashamed for having experienced it -- for being paralyzed by the fear of wanting to stand up but being FOR A THOUSAND different reasons, unable to.

I don't want to get anyone in trouble. 

I don't want people to think less of me. 

I don't want to be perceived as a victim. 

People won't believe me, anyway.

It was probably my fault. I probably gave him the wrong idea... I must have. 

It's not a big deal. I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm fine... 

My four short stories are deeply personal and yet not at all particular to my experience. I know that now. I've read enough and heard enough and recognized the patterns -- the way women speak up, usually much later... and the way the men and the media try to brush it off, make excuses, call women liars, strip them of their autonomy, punish them yet again for daring to speak up...

The truth is, for every woman willing to speak up, THOUSANDS will say nothing. And yet? They are listening. WE ARE ALL LISTENING. I know you're listening. 

In my experience, I never realized what damage was done until recently when I wrote a draft of a script that, in a roundabout way, excused a rape because the boy didn't know any better.

In my script, he was sorry. He was a good kid with a fucked up past and he was sorry.

That script has since been rewritten and with it my POV on speaking up. On creating something that combats destructive behavior. Which, in today's case, I guess, is this post.

Because I am a parent. Because I have a son. Because I have three daughters. Because -- and here's where I lose some of you -- I don't think it is ALWAYS their fault.

Shhhhh. Hold on and hear me out. I have spent A LOT OF TIME thinking about this. Years of time. Time on top of time on top of time. And in a roundabout way, I've written about it before, but this time I ask that you humor me for a moment -- and open your mind to what I am going to say.

I used to think it was my fault for falling asleep at a sleepover, for drinking too much at a party that one time or, THINKING I could watch a movie with a friend I had also slept with or... you know, working alone with a male boss. I used to think it was a friend's fault for waking up at stranger's house with no recollection of how she got there.

"If you hadn't have been there... this wouldn't have happened," I heard myself say.

Boys can't help it, I'd think.

Boys will be boys, I'd think.

Boys only want one thing, so, naturally.... I'd think.

Those THOUGHTS didn't come from nowhere. They came from everywhere. They came from parents of friends and teachers and school yards. They came from music and movies and television shows and and and and.... they came from BEING.

And in the same way those thoughts helped me and MANY other girls and women justify bad behavior, so did they enable MANY boys and men to do the same.

They still do. 

And while many years in therapy helped me recognize that I DID NOTHING WRONG, I also came to the realization, through time and age that we live in a world and a culture that praises, supports and enables the treatment of women as objects and that fucks men up royally as well.

"Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety."

A perfect example? See Urban Dictionary's definition of Rape Culture which claims it doesn't exist.

See, also, the GOP candidates and the platforms on which they are running. Stripping rights. Closing health clinics. Punishing single mothers against their will.  These are MEN DECIDING with their laws what is RIGHT for women. These are men DOMINATING the female demographic with aggressive legislature and dangerous ideas, insights and measures that would HURT women. And? IT'S LEGAL.

What message does that send to women? What message does that send to other men?

Earlier this week I read the following post written by Emma Gray in response to the Dr. Luke's tweets about his friendship with Kesha. And his three sisters and daughter. And his feminist mom. Gray writes:

I thought of my own experience, and the experiences of friends who have also been victimized by men who were also friends, boyfriends, co-workers...  Who had sisters. And daughters. And, yes, even feminist mothers... and I thought, well, THIS, we can talk about.


It's so simple and yet so impossible for us to dialogue in a healthy way that doesn't vilify. Especially when so many of us refuse to tangle with the nuance of power structure, sexuality and the seldom discussed sexual urges that many men -- and some women --  have that cannot be controlled. Sexual predators are SELDOM lurking in the shadows.

"It isn't uncommon for men with wholesome reputations to be accused of rape. Daniel Holtzclaw was "a nice kid." Bill Cosby was a "father figure." R. Kelly was "in love" with Aaliyah. James Deen seemed like a "really nice dude." (To date, only Holtzclaw has been convicted.)

...In reality, it's the "nice guys" -- the acquaintances, friends, lovers and partners -- who are most likely to commit rape. According to RAINN, 4 out of 5 rapes are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. Forty-seven percent of rapists are friends or acquaintances of the person they assault, and another 25 percent of sexual assaults occur in the context of an intimate relationship. Half of assaults occur within a mile of the victim's home."

The truth is, some boys and men have impulses they THINK ARE OKAY to act on.

Even when a girl is sleeping. Especially when a girl is sleeping. 

Even when a girl is passed out drunk. Especially when a girl is passed out drunk. 

Even when a girl says NO. Especially when a girl says no. 

This is not APOLOGIZING for the behavior of rapists or those who sexually assault. But it is ALLOWING them to be judged, not as monsters, but as people, who, I believe, are capable of knowing better. Who are capable of learning. Of listening. Of talking out in the open about their urges and worskshopping where they come from while recognizing WHY they cannot act on them.

I believe we aren't doing NEARLY enough to protect our children, our sisters and each other while ALSO recognizing that sexuality is nuanced and in many instances, violent in urge. (50 Shades of Grey is a great example.

In The Atlantic, Emma Green writes:

Women can be turned on by men tying them up, even hurting them. This can be extremely confusing to men who SEE and HEAR and KNOW women who LIKE to be "taken."  (As of June, 2015, 50 Shades has sold 125 million copies worldwide.)


When I think of how I can make any REAL change in this world, I look to my children -- to ALL children and I look to myself -- to ALL parents. I, like most mothers, believe my son is near-perfect. A model student and sensitive musician with three little sisters. And yet, I would be doing a disservice to him and everyone else by recognizing that HE IS JUST AS CAPABLE OF DOING THE SAME THINGS THAT WERE DONE TO ME.


Everyone is capable. 


"Statistics show that ONE IN THREE MEN would rape if they thought they could get away with it and that 1-16 men have raped. (Some studies show as many as 1 in 7 men have raped.) One in five white women have been raped. One in four black women have been raped. One in three native american women in the United States has been raped. One in four women will be raped in college..."

... By men who will grow up and become model citizens, husbands and fathers. 

Statistics also show that most women who have experienced sexual assault are like me:  "Only 27% whose assault met the legal definition of rape consider themselves rape victims, so great is the minimization and normalization of sexual assault in our society."

It's SO prevalent -- so completely and unbearably systematic, it overwhelms. Perhaps it's just too hard for us to wrap our heads and hearts around the idea that a good boy, raised by a feminist mother, is also capable of pinning a girl down in her apartment and saying "YES, YOU DO!" when she says, "NO, I DON'T."

In Gray's piece she writes:

And fighting that culture? Starts at home. It starts with talking to our children about sex, about what is and isn't appropriate touching... It starts with talking to our children about consent and the nuance of sexual urges that, in some cases, can be dark and damaging to others. It starts with YOU and ME and all of us -- the parents -- the sisters -- the women with stories we are afraid to share because we don't want to be perceived as victims. 
Because here's the thing: good mothers raise rapists. Good fathers raise rapists. WONDERFUL people raise WONDERFUL children who...  will go on to rape. Molest. Assault. Harass....

Rapists are not always monsters. In many cases they are ALSO victims themselves. Of assault. Of toxic masculinity. Of peer pressure. Of NOT KNOWING ANY BETTER BUT TO THINK IT'S OKAY. 

Which is why CONSENT is something that desperately needs to be taught --  introduced at an early age, talked about in a way that empathizes and recognizes all parties. And this list right here (CLICK ON ME! CLICK ON ME!) is a GREAT place to start.

ESPECIALLY for fathers. TALK TO YOUR SONS, DADS! UNCLES! GRANDPAS! Guide them to make healthy choices. TEACH them about the importance of consent. That a real man doesn't FORCE himself on a woman. Or wait until a girl is passed out drunk to "get his piece."

"Rapists are human beings, not monsters. The sooner we can wrap our collective minds around that fact, the sooner we can get down to the business of fighting the culture that creates and protects them."

Because a girl's first sexual experience shouldn't happen when she's pretending to be asleep. Just like a boy's first sexual experience shouldn't be with a girl who is "sleeping." And we NEED to talk about what we're doing, collectively as men and women, parents and guardians to fight, to guide, to LISTEN, to empower, to MAKE LASTING CHANGE...  (Thank you.)