On Penetration, Pt. II

I’m getting kind of rape-culture over-inundated. But I’m pressing on. Because this is important. Earlier this week I was fighting off triggers left and right to read about the Steubenville case and the conversation that’s taken place after the sentencing. I do feel like, as much as the “delinquents'” fates have been bemoaned by news media and rape apologists everywhere, it’s worth mentioning that this is a huge landmark case in our culture, and thank goodness the judge made a stand in his sentencing. He didn’t pull punches because these kids were “such promising athletes” or some bullshit. (Although they could, and I think should, have been tried as adults and sentenced more harshly, the judge did sentence them pretty heavily as minors.) And the state is going after girls who have been threatening and harassing the victim, too. So, for as much horrible news there is to go around about how wrongheaded people can be about rape in our country, it’s good to see people in positions of power having none of the bullshit and treating this like the very solemn topic it is.

And in a way I have to admit that I’m glad that the conversation around it is taking place. There have been a lot of despicable things said by a lot of people, but once again, the subject of rape is part of our cultural consciousness. It needs to be. Along with reports of what’s happening in India and Egypt and Syria, what happens here in our own country, what goes on between people who are not “evil” monsters but regular human beings. All of this is being shoved into the faces of our country, relentlessly, by out-of-touch republicans, news networks who don’t seem to know who the real victims are, bloggers, writers, commenters… the conversation is ongoing, and it NEEDS to keep going for as long as it takes for change to happen. So, as much as I’m not in any way ok with that happened in Steubenville to Jane Doe, I am at least glad that it has caused us all to continue paying attention to rape, its consequences, and what it means.

But anyway. I’ve been battling hardcore insomnia lately and have been feeling like barely-warmed-over (it’s still below 40 in NYC) ass, so I haven’t been writing much. But I have been thinking a lot when I’m up in the middle of the night. And last night I was thinking about rape apologists. Guys who say things about how it’s the girl’s fault in Steubenville, people who are more worried about the young men who raped a passed-out girl and their futures than the emotional trauma the victim is suffering… and it made me ponder: I bet there’s a direct link between the ringleaders of “What’s the big deal, they just had sex with her” thinking and a lack of ever having been bodily penetrated without your consent. Actually, I bet there’s a link between not understanding the experience of being penetrated at all, and not getting what the “big deal” is when people get raped.

There seems to be an “it’s just sex” undertone to the internet comments that don’t take rape seriously. The idea that there are lots of worse things that could happen and people should get over it and leave well enough alone. “Boys will be boys” and all that. And it occurred to me that, if sex for you is an act of sticking something in somebody else, it can maybe (if you’re a douche) seem simple. Mechanical. No big deal.

But for me, at least, and I’d wager for lots of other people, penetrative sex and/or violation is a big deal. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to voluntarily be penetrated in consenting sexual activity, and a lot of people who have sex that way never really get over how invasive and frightening it can be. Sure, it feels fantastic when you’re into it and consent has been given. And for plenty of people, I hope that the pleasure is all there is to experience. But to anyone who has ever been shamed over their sexuality (and for whom sexuality implies penetration), or who has ever had their body violated by being penetrated when they did not wish to be, the act of penetration can be a violation that is hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it.

This is not in any way to say that violation that does not involve penetration is less serious. Or that any kind of violation is superior/inferior to another. But I do think that there is simply something missed in the discussion for people who have never had a piece of another person’s body enter their body. It is an intimate and a unique experience. If, for some people, sex becomes merely a mechanical act of insertion, then it would follow that the act of violation might just not “be that bad.” Getting over it would seem less of an issue.

I’ve written about this before. And if you are reading any of the horrifying accounts that are going around the internet right now, people’s stories about being raped in public, in private, out in the world in general, you can’t ignore the feeling of frustration, of helplessness, of the loss of something private and sacred, in the accounts of people who have been penetrated against their will. It is violent in the way that being stabbed with a knife is violent. It is unacceptable. And I hope that this conversation keeps going until things change.

Also, I’m glad this is happening. Click that link. You’ll like it.


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