Monday, November 17, 2008

Sexual Jealousy? I Don't Think So.

I adore Helen Mirren, for more reasons than just a shared name. She is an amazing actress - there hasn’t been much that I’ve seen her in that I did not enjoy. And this crazy old broad has been known to say some crazy shit, some of it downright offensive – but I always seem to find her bluntness refreshing. But she recently made a comment that got me thinking:

"In a rape case the courts in defense of a man would select as many women as they could for the jury, because women go against women," Mirren says. "Whether in a deep-seated animalistic way, going back billions of years, or from a sense of tribal jealousy or just antagonism, I don't know."

In other words, if you get raped, make sure that there are all men on the jury, otherwise those jealous bitches are going to let the guy off.

While I think she may be onto something in terms of the makeup of the jury and how likely they are to acquit, I think her reasoning is off. It’s not because they are jealous, it’s because they are afraid that they could be victimized in the same way. By blaming the victim (she had too much to drink, or should never have gone back to the guy’s place), they can regain control.

We've come a long way, baby. But despite our college degrees, high-paying jobs, and ball-busting attitudes, men are still physically stronger, and that is a terrifying realization. By transferring the blame to the victim, we can say "Oh, that wouldn't happen to me, because I'd never put myself in that situation." And while it can be empowering on an individual level, it is also devastating to our gender, because we have basically turned the blame on ourselves, instead of putting it where it belongs: squarely on the shoulders of the animals who do this sort of thing.

When I was in college, I developed a huge crush on this guy. We started hanging out and fooling around, but I was very clear with him that I was the “everything but” girl. He tried repeatedly, but I never backed down. One night we were at a party at his house. And of course we were all drinking. I can hold my alcohol pretty well, but for some reason this night was different. And that was the night I became the 1 in 4. And I eventually became part of another statistic – I was one of those women who never reported it.

I blew it off. I dismissed what had happened as no big deal, and just stopped hanging out with him. And I was fine. Or so I thought. But it wasn’t long after that when I started slipping. I was drinking to the point of blackout almost every time I picked up a beer. I slept constantly. I acted out, putting up this façade of toughness that was backed by fear and anxiety. I had wild mood swings. Ironically, I went from being the “everything but” girl to the “anything goes” girl. After all, he can’t rape you if you’re already saying yes. Within 18 months, sweet, kind Helen turned into slutty, drunk Helen - the college dropout.

One day, as I was on the bus on my way to my crappy minimum wage college-dropout job, I overheard a conversation – two girls talking about a common experience – being raped by the same guy. The same guy who had raped me. As it turns out, there were a lot of us, and our stories were remarkably similar. And none of us ever reported him until it was too late. And as dumbfounding as it was that he had done the same thing over and over and never been reported, it was also consoling to know that there were others who understood. For the first time, I didn’t feel alone.

I eventually went back to school and got my life back together. It was made easier by the fact that he had graduated and gone back to Norway. But the ghosts from my past continue to haunt me. I don’t trust men – which explains why, since that night, I have not dated a single guy that I wasn’t really good friends with first. I am fiercely protective of my female friends. I am obsessive about making sure that doors are locked, and I usually leave half the lights on in the house when Ship is out of town. I keep a police-issue Mag Lite under my bed for defense. And I would buy a gun if I had a couple extra hundred dollars sitting around. And I tell myself that I’m okay. Even though I know, deep down, I will never truly get over what happened.

1 comment:

jo said...

We shall talk privately, of course but *big hug*. I didn't know about his hon! I wish you had told me. Lots and lots of love. Will see you soon (if not this weekend then tgiving for sure).