The number of “get me out of here” tactics women have developed and shared to help each other escape from overly-insistent-to-borderline-predatory dudes in public places should probably be enough evidence of the existence of rape culture all on its own.
I especially like how, in the majority of cases, you don’t have to verbally communicate what your signals are to other women. I’ve had women I didn’t even know come save me. Literally every woman recognizes the “Dear god, help me” facial expression, and knows exactly what they should do. We don’t get a handbook for this. We don’t have a sit-down nail polish party where we talk about a standardized woman code for preventing creepers. It’s just part of being a woman.
BUT LOL RAPE CULTURE DOESN’T EXIST.
Yup. I’ve definitely taken strangers by the arm and pulled her aside to go, “Oh my GOD it’s you! How ARE YOU?!? It’s been so long!” and then been like “hey I could overhear that guy who wouldn’t leave you alone so I figured I’d give you an out” and then see their VISIBLY RELIEVED expressions. This is part of girl code, because rape culture is that pervasive.
I once had a girl sit on my lap and say “hey baby” after she witnessed a guy (who was easily 20+ years older than me) hitting on me and harassing me for my number even after I told him I was taken. After he got up and left she asked if I was okay. I couldn’t thank her enough times, I even bought her a drink.
Ive had a woman grab my arm in the girls room with fear in her eyes begging for help and asked me to hide her and escort her out of the club just so she could leave without a specific guy that was harassing her all night follow her home. He was waiting outside of the washroom but I put my coat on her with the hood up and we managed to sneak past without him noticing and get her safely into a cab. This happens far too often!
(Sorta long, sorry)
I was at a karaoke bar with my best friend and we got hardcore hit-on by this total creep, who turned away from the stage to stare at us non-stop for several minutes. First we asked him to stop staring at us and he straight-up refused so we got more aggressive and demanded he stop staring at us, which caused him to throw a massive tantrum which involved cussing us out and getting in our faces. When my friend (who was receiving the majority of the attention and aggression from him) told him she’s gay, he screamed that she is a “fucking dyke whore” in her face. I tried to get a bouncer to help but as soon as the guy saw security coming, he stopped freaking out and sat back down. A few minutes later the creep went over to a woman sitting with friends at the karaoke stage and sat next to her, and over the course of a few minutes began leaning closer and closer to her and eventually put his arm around her and started playing with her hair. Everything about her body language said “Leave me the fuck alone”. She was facing away from him, leaning as far away from him as she couldn’t without falling out of her chair, etc. But he either didn’t get the hint or he just ignored it, and kept touching her hair, rubbing her shoulder and whispering who knows what into her ear while she pretended it wasn’t happening and continued her conversation with her friends, who sat horrified but never told the guy to fuck off. I walked up and asked the woman if she knew him and if she wanted me to make him go away and she said she didn’t know him but that she was fine, I didn’t need to intervene. However, her body language was SO clear (imagine sitting with one buttcheek on a chair, leaning as far as humanly possible to one side) that I went and got the bouncer anyway, who kicked the guy out finally. Hands down to this day it is one of the worst cases of predatory sexual harassment I’ve experienced in a bar. It also proved to me how afraid women are of men that they won’t stand up for themselves and say “No”, even if they are being touched and creeped on, and how important it is that we trust our guts and stick up for each other.
An open letter to the ‘nice guy’ who tried to hit me because I stopped him from taking home a drunk girl who was begging him to leave her alone (or: why you should never ask a poet if she’s really an ugly cocksucker or if that’s just her day job):
The thing is, everyone assumes that by taking away our rights, you make us weak.
In reality, just the opposite occurs. We are used to the sling of insults - there is nothing you can say that hasn’t already been said to me. We are used constantly being on the outlook for our aggressor - so yes, I can spot an asshole from across the room and it’s because I often have to.
The thing is: you are making our skins thicker and our spines stronger than anyone who doesn’t have to put up with the shit that we do. We are the same generation that can wear pretty dresses and cut up your corpse in the same moment: because trust me, we know how to get blood out of our clothing.
You think women are little helpless flowers but I know at least a quarter of my lady friends with self-defense classes under their belts, at least half who can fight their way out of a chokehold with nothing but their carkeys like daggers in their fists, at least three-fourths who are so used to any kind of slur you can throw at them that they have four witty comebacks just resting on their backburners, and all of them - all of them - are baptized in the fire of another person’s violation, whether verbal or otherwise. You are not making the submissive housewives or the shy secretaries of your wet dreams. You have made dragons.
You have made mothers with sharp teeth who can balance eight different tasks and still remember your favorite dinner. You have made CEOs who do better work because they’re used to being told they’re sub-par. You are making artists and poets and musicians who’ve seen the dark in the world. You are making social justice warriors - I use this not as a defamation but as a banner, as the way they brand themselves because it is a battle, isn’t it, and nobody’s come out without their share of scars - you are making a generation of caustically beautiful ladies who have seen more shit by six a.m. than you have all your life and they still walk better in heels than you do in your boat shoes.
We do not invite your ‘nice guy’ into our beds, you’re right, because the nice guys of our lives have been our fathers asking us if we ‘are really going out in that,’ have been our best friend telling us that his girlfriend should give up sex because he’s paid for dinner, have been our uncles and brothers and the great gentlemen who hang out of their cars and laugh when the thirteen-year-old they just honked at jumps and looks terrified (but should totally accept the compliment as if it was a gift instead of the moment she recognizes she’s never going to be safe) -
you wanna know why we don’t let nice men into our beds? Because we rarely find them.
They’re out there, I know it, but they’re not the ones wetting themselves when a woman asks ‘why do you think that?’ instead of sitting back and letting him laugh with his buddies about femi-nazis. They’re out there and they’re probably as pissed as we are that at least one third of their population has openly admitted there are times when they think it’s okay to force their significant other to have sex: they’re out there, and the sad thing is, if you’re a male, you’re statistically not one of them. As far as we know, you don’t exist. You are a white knight only you believe in.
Here’s the thing about forcing people down: eventually they’re going to get strong enough to push right on back, and when you’ve spent the whole time sitting on your ass sinking your teeth into your healthy wage gap, you’re not going to be ready for it.
You’ve hurt us, over and over. When the time comes for us to hurt back, do you know how many of us are going to ask ‘Where was the mercy when I was begging like he is now? Where was that mercy when I got pregnant? Where was that mercy when I was called selfish for being a single parent? Where was that mercy when he forced himself on me? Where was that mercy, in anything?’
The thing about oppression is that it can only last for so long. You are not making yourself dominant, you’re making yourself weak. I’ve seen men crumble because they feel uncomfortable when they get hit on by other men as if the stench of their own mistakes is strangling them. I’ve seen them get impassioned because a teacher preferred females and I’ve laughed because I had eight other classes where it was reversed and in all of those eight, it went uncontested. I have legitimately punched a boy who said that a show for girls was shameful because it tries to teach lessons instead of catering to his desire for sex - as if just by liking something, he owns it. I’ve seen boys growl about women’s history month and had to wonder if they’ve ever held a textbook where the only names of girls are tiny footnotes. I’ve seen fathers ask why the curriculum I use for my six-year-olds is carefully gender neutral, why I let his son play at cooking or his daughter be a doctor.
I have never heard a mother complain except to beg me to get her little girl to talk more, to do more, to succeed - do you see? Do you see?
Here’s the thing about stepping on us: we have learned to stop licking your boots
and now we want to ruin you.