I read this article yesterday about women in the gaming community and the daily harassment they experience. Before you click on the link, prepare yourself for very graphic language/threats. Seeing the things that some guys said to these women made me disgusted and fearful.
I'm no one. I wrote some books. I have some FB/Twitter followers, but mostly I'm not worth anything in terms of online harassment. I'm not in a male-dominated field and I don't write for the Internet so I have not been a victim of that level of hate.
Which is not to say I haven't experienced it. I don't know a woman in the world who hasn't experienced something that has left her feeling hated for her gender. But my experience of it has been "not that bad."
I'm interested in women's experience of "not that bad." It's a bigger article. It's a bigger anthology. I believe somewhere it's being planned out right now. For my own part, "not that bad" means that everything I experience that isn't rape feels like a gift. Like if I'm just ogled, pushed up against, catcalled at, etc. this really is nothing in the grand scheme.
I reread Margaret Atwood's "Rape Fantasies" short story last night. I will always remember this story as one of the first I wrote a paper on in my Fundamentals of Literary Analysis class. I remember my teacher not giving me a grade, but instead writing a note at the bottom of my paper that said "See Me" and when I went to see him, he said that he'd never read such a beautifully written paper that misunderstood the text completely.
I know why I misunderstood the text. Of course I know why. I focused on Estelle's humor. I called it a dark comedy. I comped it to things like Heathers. I don't think I was completely wrong, but the bigger point, the point that Estelle was in fact talking to a man at a bar, trying to engage with him, trying to suss him out so that he understood her fears and that she was terrified of being raped, terrified of leaving the bar with him, I didn't talk about that part.
I don't talk about that part. Or I do, but I talk about it academically. I talk about it in terms of books. But I don't let that part slide beneath my skin. I cannot. It leaves me way too exposed. So instead, I talk about sex. A lot. I chose my day job for a reason. I wear sex-positivism like a cape. It buys me something, being able to talk about sex without flinching. And I do like sex. But I also understand the defense behind it. I understand that for me, I need to have that or I will have nothing. I will curl into a ball and not be able to come out. So sex-positivism has become a source of power for me. My willingness to engage in conversation, to ask for what I want, to write an essay about 'first times' for The V-Word, all of this is power.
And that in the end, is what I think Margaret Atwood's Estelle was grappling with. In describing these scenarios, she was attempting to control a situation, hoping to empower herself so that these things would not happen to her. Which is really silly. This is not on us to prevent. We can't make ourselves "un-rape-able", but I 100% understand the instinct to try.