Men who want to flirt with women have to realize: Women live in a state of continual vigilance about sexual safety. It’s like having a mild case of hay fever that never goes away. It’s not debilitating. You’re not weak. You’re not afraid. You just suck it up and get on with your life. It’s nothing that’s going to stop you from making discoveries, or climbing mountains, or falling in love. Sometimes you can almost forget about it. It doesn’t mean it’s not there, subtly sucking your energy. You learn to avoid situations that make it worse and seek out conditions that make it better.
If a female stranger is wary around you, it is not because she suspects you are a rapist, or that all men are rapists. It’s because a general level of circumspection is what vigilance requires. Don’t take it personally.
If this frustrates you, try to remember that women are blamed for lapsed vigilance. If a woman does get raped, everyone rushes to see where she let her guard down. Was she drinking? Was she alone? Was she wearing a short skirt? Did she go to a strange man’s room for coffee at 4am?
A woman must be seen to be vigilant as well as be vigilant. If she is deemed insufficiently vigilant, she will be at least partly blamed for any sexual violence that befalls her. If she’s regarded as downright reckless, that “evidence” can be used to completely exonerate her rapist. If it comes down to a he said/she said dispute over whether sex was consensual, as so many rape cases do, the dispute becomes a referendum on whether the woman seems like the sort of reckless person who would have sex with a stranger.
If a woman does go back to a strange man’s hotel room at 4am, even if she only wants a coffee and conversation, she’s more or less given him the power to rape her. No jury is going to believe she went up there for anything but sex. So, don’t be surprised if a stranger reacts badly to that suggestion.
I want them to be walking around in a public place, like a grocery store, and suddenly recognize what they did and dissolve into panicked tears. I want them to lie awake at night and spend hours replaying those scenes wishing through choking, pathetic sobs that they could change the endings. I want them to be terrified of being around the opposite sex because it might happen again. I want them to be so deeply ashamed of themselves that they truly believe their own parents would stop loving them if they really knew the truth. I want them to get the cold sweats and shakes whenever someone mentions the word “rape”.
I want them to look at other people who are happy, who have healthy and pleasurable sexual relationships, and feel broken. I want them to feel enraged whenever someone spouts off “just world” philosophy bullshit. I want them to avoid mirrors because they can’t stand to look at themselves. I want them to spend countless nights getting drunk so they’ll finally have the courage to commit suicide only to realize that they’re a coward (just like they already knew). I want them to spend 15 minutes of every hour in the handicap bathroom at work trying to calm themselves down. I want them to feel inescapable panic about half of the time they have sex for years after the fact. I want them to think about my face any time they’re feeling sexual pleasure or getting naked or masturbating and I want that image to crush any hope of arousal.
I want them to explain to a significant other, through hysterics, exactly what happened on those nights. I want them to fear being out in public because it feels like the truth of those experiences is written on their faces. I want them to spend years in therapy. I want people to tell them that their pain is not a big deal and that they should just stop thinking about those nights because honestly, what is it really helping? I want them to feel a deep, unabiding sadness when people tell women not to go out alone or drink too much or wear sexy clothing because they know it’s not going to help a damn thing.
I want them to feel like I know them better than anyone ever could because I was there, I know what they look like when they rape someone. I want them to feel like I’m inside them, all the time, mocking them for every failure, panic attack and sick day. I want them to believe that it’s always going to be like this. I want them to feel like trash, actual use-and-throw-away trash. I want them to feel angry and have no outlet for that anger except their own body. I want them to feel weak and useless. I want them to feel DEFINED by those experiences. I want them to feel like a monster.
I want them to feel like me.
"After all", she remarked "where is the guarantee of happiness in a woman’s life anyway?"
Every goddamn conflict, every goddamn war, women always suffer the most and are forgotten the fastest.