Of all the responses I’ve received to admitting having been raped, I’d like to talk a minute to ramble about what I’d consider probably the strangest one.
Y’know, the one where I was told that I should see it as a compliment.
Basically, this is a pared-and-watered-down version of the blanket assumption that Rape Is Caused By Sexual Attraction. That’s the same fun little paradigm that tells women that they got raped because of what they wear/otherwise being Too Sexually Attractive, that considers it Not Rape if consent was initially given but then retracted because clearly A Man Can’t Help Himself Once He’s Aroused, and so on and so forth. The flip side of the coin is that you are expected to be somehow proud of being Rape-able; that you are attractive enough to cause someone to lose self-control to the point that they would rape you.
Okay, look. I’m not trying to say that rape has nothing to do with sex. I’m sure that plays a role in a reasonable number of cases. But you cannot, should not, and (in my presence) will not treat them as different levels of the same thing. Rape is not caused by sexual attraction, although distorted and fucked up kinds of sexual attraction can play into the rapist psyche. I’m no PH.D. psychiatrist or anything, but I consider myself to know more than a little about the mental processes of one rapist in particular – and I know that he freely admitted to me that he found women in desperate or helpless situations extremely arousing. He got off on the feeling of power, on a very basic and routinely disturbing level.
In case anyone needs it spelled it out for them, this is not the same thing as a victim being targeted by virtue of sexual attractiveness. A rapist getting off on the idea of, or aspects of, rape is not the same thing as a prior non-rapist suddenly being turned into a rapist by a particularly attractive woman walking by.
Despite all this, I recently heard this exact phrase:
That’s too bad, but you should be happy because at least someone wanted you.
Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I tried to explain that, even if that were the general impetus for rape (which, as stated above, I don’t believe it is), that wouldn’t exactly follow from the situation.
Rape does not happen because you are sexy; and I can say this because I myself am both a rape victim and not sexy. It’s not that I’m ugly or anything – I am, however, baby-faced and oddly proportioned, like a more awkward cross between Betty Boop and Baby from Dirty Dancing. My nose is perpetually red, I rarely know what to do with my big hands and feet except hide them under long jeans and baggy hoodies, I have extremely small breasts and a disconcerting habit of picking at my fingers when I’m talking to people. And in fact, on the first day he raped me, I don’t believe I’d even showered yet; I had knotted bedhead and was wearing a sweatshirt that probably needed to be washed pretty badly. I had on old, faded pink underwear that I rarely put on except to go to the gym and no makeup. I was not stealing smoldering glances in his direction or speaking in a lusty, breathy Marilyn Monroe voice.*
If you glean one thing from all this, let it be that I sincerely doubt I was raped due to feminine wiles and sexual allure. When it comes to the vast majority of people in my age group, I remind them in looks much, much more of a younger sibling than a hookup prospect.
So, no, I was not raped because Someone Thought I Was Just So Irresistible. And I sure as hell do not need to take it as a compliment.
*Of course, let it be known that none of these are an excuse for rape, anyway (I have previous posts on the subject). Just trying to show the contrast.