The other day I had an article that just was not coming together. I don't remember what it was... stupidest haircuts in Final Fantasy or something non-essential like that. I decided that I needed to go outside to walk and clear my head so I walked to the Sonic nearby to take advantage of the Happy Hour. Nothing makes a Route 44 Coke Zero taste better than only paying half the normal retail price.
While I was waiting on my drink I noticed a woman walk past the restaurant wearing a Kroger uniform. She was obviously heading home after her shift. She was my age, maybe a little older, slight, pretty in a girl-next-door sort of way with frizzy hair and some rather impressively thick glasses I thought were adorable. I didn't think much about her beyond simply noticing her before being distracted to pay for my soda. Once accomplished, I started walking the same direction she was going on my way back to work.
I wasn't really thinking of anything in particular... just letting the wheels of writing turn in my head while I zoned out. I was brought back into focus when I realized I was about to walk right into the woman in front of me, who apparently didn't have as fast a gait as I did. She turned around startled just as I observed to myself, "It's probably not a good idea to give off the appearance of a man sneaking up behind a woman. That's a little rape-y."
She didn't scream or whip out a can of Mace or anything, and I smiled a little and held up my cup as a sort of, "Would a rapist have such an improbably large drink?" gesture. She somewhat hesitantly returned my smile, but immediately moved sidewise into a nearby parking lot away from the shadow of the trees and the line of bushes that grew along the sidewalk. Every bit of body language screamed, "I'm sorry, but I'm scared of you."
I just nodded, still smiling, and walked on ahead of her toward my door.
There's a recurring motif I find when I masochistically peruse Men's Rights blogs, and that it is somehow worse to have someone be worried that you might be a rapist than to actually be afraid of being raped. More than that, but that such a fear is proof of a woman's blatant hatred of men, and that it constitutes discrimination and attack.
I'm not going to pretend that a part of me deep down wasn't thinking about saying something along the lines of, "Jeez, lady, lighten up." After all, I was just a man with a drink walking down the street minding my own business and thinking the least rape-like of thoughts. Suddenly there's some woman treating me like a criminal.
Yeah, there's a bit of me that felt that way, but there's a bigger part of me that truly understands the concept of privilege. The Men's Right crowd likes to call what I feel guilt. I feel guilty that some men rape woman. I feel guilty that some men have taken advantage of women in a variety of ways over the course of history. In short, because men are this perfectly united and homogeneous group with absolutely no dissension among us, I must be assuming that the work of criminals among my "class" should speak ill of me personally.
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My assumption of this "guilt" is abhorrent to such people because to them it implies I am willingly placing myself in an inferior position to womankind in the name of sins I have not actually committed... which is the plot of these feminazis who seek to establish a matriarchy over jkhfc;r/;';
Sorry. I couldn't keep the laughter inside and I spit soda all over my laptop.
No, I don't feel guilt as a man over the existence of rape. Every woman I've ever come in contact with has left my presence so thoroughly un-raped, you guys. What I do feel is sadness. It hurts me to see other people in pain or scared. Maybe it's all the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic my daughter makes me watch, or something, but the sight of someone recoiling in fear, even from me, doesn't make me angry. It makes me wonder how I can help.
One thing I know I can do to help is admit that as a man I have the privilege of not walking down the street and wondering if the person coming up behind me is going to rape me. Sure, it does happen, but at a very, very low percentage compared to incidents that happen to women at the hands of men. I can also admit that if I am ever raped no one is ever going to ask what I was wearing, or how much I had to drink, or if I am just regretting a one-night-stand, or if I am vindictively trying to ruin someone's reputation, or a hundred other things that come up whenever a prominent rape story appears in the news with a female victim. The odds of that ever being my problem are slim to none. The odds of it being a woman's problem are more like one in six.
Long ago I read a story right here in the Houston Press about a high school girl that sneaked out to a party, got drunk, was raped, and how everyone around her treated her as some sort of sex-crazed assailant just trying to ruin the lives of the upstanding young men that took advantage of her. I remember, so clearly, my girlfriend at the time telling me that she didn't feel sorry for the victim, that she got what was coming to her for acting so irresponsibly. She did feel bad about her treatment by the people around her, though.
I, being 17 dating a 25-year-old (long story), agreed with her. What the hell did I know? I'd never known anyone who was raped, and she was a woman. She must know what she was talking about. I thought she was smarter and wiser than me, so I went around repeating this position whenever it came up in conversation.
Which is how I almost lost my job when I said it to my female boss.
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Years later, on the other side of a whole lot of life experiences, I know that that position is wrong, and more than wrong -- abhorrent and cruel. Yet it still persists, and it infects every aspect of our lives. There is something in the air that whispers to women that it's their job to not get raped, and that if they don't perform that job adequately they deserve reprimand.
It's an insane amount of pressure to live under, and it means that someone I might have just exchanged a quick "Hello" with for a brief moment had to consider if I might not be up to throwing her down in the bushes. No, I don't assume the guilt of the millions of men that would and have done that. They don't get to dilute their evil by pouring it into my soul. That said, I acknowledge that many women walking alone who meet me will be forced to consider that I might be one of those millions because of attitudes like the one I used to espouse. That rape is something women bring on themselves, not something that is done to them against their will.
I'm not mad at the woman who probably thought I was going to rape her.
I'm mad at a million tiny pieces of the world that told her I might.