Words and image by Kyle LaMar Not until she told me she was raped, did I begin to care about rape. Before she told me she was raped, it didn't affect me, personally. It wasn't something I had to worry about, being male. I didn't have a daughter or a sister. I, like many, was/am blissfully privileged.
Not until she told me she was raped, did I start to notice how many men and women use rape as the butt of a joke—how often we casually slip it into an anecdote. Suddenly, I found myself wincing at the word, looking to see if she was reacting to what they were ignorantly saying. Could people now read on my face that I felt uncomfortable in the way they casually used the word rape? And then, did I ever ignorantly slip the word into a "harmless" joke? I'm sure I did. I definitely did. Was she around when I did?
Not until she told me she was raped, did I start to notice how often rape was used as a plot-line in television shows and movies. While we both sat on the couch together, a female character became yet another rape victim, before the both of us. Suddenly a casual scene became visceral trauma. It was alive in the room. Did the writers know anyone that was raped when they wrote this story line? Odds are, yes, although they may not have been aware. Were they male? Odds are, yes. Would they have written it differently, or at all, if their lover told them they were raped before they knew them?
Between us, it became a conversation. We examined these scenes and noted how flat they were. How the worst and surprisingly common thing that can happen to a woman in a story line was for her to be raped. She would be victimized usually, and another (usually male) character would come to her rescue. There was little resolution, and even less reality. It was a trope, a few lines in a script. They never seemed to show a woman triumphing over her victimization. They never represented her triumph, the woman I know now.
The truth is, I don't know why someone decided to write that rape scene. Maybe they are aware of how common it is. Maybe they did know someone who was a victim of rape. Maybe they were raped themselves. But the disconnect is there still. Perhaps it's mostly cultural, societal, privileged patriarchy writing the accepted norm. I can say that even my closest friends are guilty of pretending like rape isn't commonplace. I can say that even I, before she told me she was raped, thought it was just a thing that happened. Not to me, not to anyone close to me. There was nothing for me to worry about, before.
And now, all I have to do is turn on the TV to accept that we live in a culture of rape.
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