09/27/2013 by syrbal-labrys
There is what I am sure will be an unpopular title. And one of the people it refers to, Samantha Geimer, Roman Polanski’s “victim” in 1977 at age 13, will likely be unpopular for having her say as well. Even the interviewer in that linked story asked her if she is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome!
I find it rather patronizing, to be honest; to suggest that the girl/woman “it” happened to, the one who was THERE doesn’t “really” know what was going on at all. Society has a pair of twin reactions and to be honest, BOTH of them piss me off. The rape-cultured men claim that all girls are Lolitas, and therefore not victims. The rape-cultured feminists? Well, they want every raped girl or woman to be a victim more than a survivor….so they will NOT be seen as Lolitas. So, in a very unfortunately patriarchally flavored reaction, the anti-rape feminists get more upset when the raped person does not accept THEIR judgement of what in fact occurred. So, really, rape victims of a certain time got the “Oh, you don’t fucking know what happened to you” from BOTH sides. If it is wrong when a MALE doesn’t listen to what a female is saying; why is it ok when women also refuse to listen?
How do I know this? Because in 1971, still a virgin at age 20 (unlike Samantha who had already had consensual sex with a boyfriend before the night with Polanski when she was drugged and raped), I was raped. I was not drugged. I had some wine, but I was not drunk or impaired. I said “No” and was ignored. As Samantha said, in those days….mind you even more so 6 years earlier than her rape, “rape” was something done by violent strangers. Not by a date, not by a person you had been seeing, not by the person who just threw a birthday party for you….so back then, we didn’t know HOW to categorize what was happening. We had been told to say “No”….but not told what to do if that did not work.
Like Samantha, I knew what sex was even though I had not done it; because yes, in 1971 “oral” was just VERY heavy petting, not sex. Good girls were never supposed to be in a situation where politely saying “no” was insufficient. So of course, if you WERE in that situation, you were not a “good girl” and it was your own fault for not knowing how to manage the situation. I only told one friend. She was sorry for me; I was “ruined” now.
Rather like Samantha, I didn’t feel ruined. But I felt misled and betrayed by all the dictums of my society. “Rape” didn’t happen to good girls unless it was something involving a stranger and an alleyway. My rapist, a man I had dated for about six weeks, was 13 years older than I was and he was honestly mystified by my post-rape behavior of refusing to see him. He enlisted friends and neighbors to get him through my door. He wanted to marry me, my saying “No” had proved I WAS a good girl and he thought that was ALL my ‘no’ meant.
What it meant to me? Well, it meant all the years I’d been told to ‘save it’ for a husband, who almost surely wouldn’t be saving it for me, was a crock of religious CRAP. It meant I’d been drinking the fucking Kool-aid…which at least Samantha Geimer had NOT. My “no” WAS my betrayer, in a sense. I had LIKED this guy….but I had not been taught that I could say YES as well as NO. Well, my rape taught me that. My sexuality was MINE. It was not “God’s”, not my father’s, not my someday-husband’s. And it was not my rapist’s either. It was MINE! And henceforth, I would say “NO” as emphatically as necessary, or I would say “Yes” when and if I wanted to do so.
I neither sank in self-hatred or guilt, nor became promiscuous. Samantha, to be honest, had that all way ahead of me a few years down the road. So neither of us allowed the traditional victim label attached to either forehead or ass. Both of us survived an involuntary sexual encounter that was rape, though without the violence that would have “legitimized” in back in the ’70’s. Both of us were betrayed long before someone pulled our clothing aside and inserted a penis. We were betrayed by a culture lying to itself about sexuality and holding up a double standard. We were not prepared to extricate ourselves from someone who might have been breaking the law, being manipulative, utilizing drugs and/or alcohol to obtain an objective….but was NOT threatening us with palpable physical violence.
And here is the part the world REALLY does not want to hear: NEITHER rapist thought they were doing any real harm. Because NOT every rape is about power and violence; and yes, a stiff prick HAS no conscience…but that doesn’t mean every man who doesn’t hear “NO” is a monster. It means SOME (not all) men have likewise been BETRAYED by what THEY were taught masculinity and sex and seduction were about. Some father/brother/uncle/friend TOLD those men “Oh hey, ALL girls SAY ‘no”…they HAVE to, Man….so you won’t think they are sluts.” Because, that being what they were told? They don’t have anything more to work with than I did, or Samantha did….in the 1970’s there was no such term as “date rape”….and since I was of legal age, I couldn’t say “statutory rape” for myself as she could…and did.
But we were survivors, not victims. Both of us suffered from what society attached to what happened to us more than we did FROM the rape itself. I haven’t read Geimer’s book (yet), so I can’t say for her….but I not only survived my rape; I took something good away from it. I took away what my society had taught I could NOT have: SELF-possession. I became my OWN that October night and would never be property again. I remember what I had for dinner at the party that night; the rapist who cooked for me put nutmeg on the peas. I still put nutmeg on peas now and again and remember that a society that lies to BOTH men and women about sexuality and self-hood betrays BOTH. I remember the stricken look…many weeks later as my rapist came back again and again, when I finally got through to him that I would not have him, not because he hurt me or traumatized me, but because he was incapable of HEARING me.
He lost more than I did in the over-all encounter. Perhaps Roman Polanski did as well, I don’t know. Both did wrong, intentionally or not. But Samantha and I? Well, we will not “Bernhardt” ourselves into popular mythology, and while I cannot speak for her? I can speak for me. There ARE monsters out there, that take women and children not only with manipulation and power in mind, but with violence and hatred. Samantha and I were fortunate in the sense when compared to the three girls taken by Ariel Castro. We were both fortunate compared to girls treated as ‘party favors’ at fraternity parties, too. OUR rapists at least thought we were HUMAN, and mistakenly assumed that if it was good for them, it was good for us.
Nobody who insists ALL rapes are equal and all rapists equally monstrous actually serves society by that claim. Because if men who have been taught, as my rapist was and doubtless as Polanski was, that seduction involves women who lie with their “no” for society’s eye, will ever ASK “Did I do wrong?” Because no man, even wanting to confront a situation setting off some belated inner alarm bell, wants to be THAT monster. So, rape of the non-horrific, non-vicious variety remains the unspeakable topic. As long as EVERY man is branded as a rapist by dint of possessing the ‘weapon’ of rape…well, that is much like branding every gun-owner a serial killer. It accomplishes nothing good at all.
And it makes more victims. I’m just glad I am not one of them.