The reality of being female

FYI/head’s up – this post discusses rape and trauma

The Men’s Rights Movement has been claiming for awhile that women are as often abusers as men are. And recently there have been some MRM members saying women rape men as much as men rape women. There has even been some non-MRM posts citing research that a higher than expected percentage of men report being raped/sexually assaulted by a female.

I wrote before about my concerns with this research. I just keep thinking if it’s true that women attack men as much as men attack women, why doesn’t it feel that way? Because when you know you’re at higher risk of being raped, your whole life becomes impacted. #YesAllWomen illuminates how women over and over are impacted by not just gender-based violence but also the threat of it. Women are impacted by rape in a way that men aren’t – at least not in a way I’m aware of.

The article by Soraya Chemaly that I linked to above (oh heck, here it is again) is one I can relate to all too well. Soraya indicates that women in India won’t use the bathroom for hours on end because they fear being raped. I can add the sobering reality that this issue is not unique to India. As an undergrad in the United States I experienced this same issue. For two semesters of my undergraduate career, men were raping women in the dorm bathrooms during the night. This means that for 25% of my college experience I was afraid to go to the bathroom at night. I often wouldn’t go to the bathroom for hours because of it, which certainly impacted my sleep. Or sometimes my roommate and I would wake each other in the middle of the night and say “Hey I’m going to the bathroom, if I’m not back in five minutes, get help.” I talked with other women around campus and the vast majority of them said they’d avoided nighttime trips to the bathroom because they were worried about being raped. I mean seriously, how terrible is that? And this happened in the US, in a small, quaint, beautiful New England town.

So Men’s Rights Movement, let me ask you, have you ever spent months holding your pee at night and losing sleep because you didn’t want to be attacked? Have you ever felt the need to buy pepper spray or carry a knife just so you could get around? Have you ever not gone out with friends or not taken a job with late hours because you didn’t want to walk alone at night? Have you told your friends who you’re going on a date with and where so in case you disappear they’ll be able to help the police find you? Have you taken a difficult, trauma-reenacting self-defense class because you hoped it would help you feel safe? Did you find that the class instead gave you nightmares and made you feel unsafe in your own bed? Have you heard about a rape in your neighborhood and become sick with dread and fear that you’ll be the next victim? Have you had nightmares because of rape in your neighborhood? Have you repeatedly dreamed of a group of gun-wielding assailants trying to break into your apartment? Have you been raped in a dream? Well, have you?

If you have then I am truly sorry to hear this. No one should have to go through those things, as I have and other women have. But my best guess is that kind of horror is not part of the typical (straight, cisgender) man’s experience. This is not the reality for people who haven’t felt the very real threat of rape. This is not the reality for people who belong to a group that maybe a handful of research studies indicate possibly experience rape semi-often. Rather, this is the reality of a group that has been systematically and historically controlled by actual and threatened rape. This is women’s reality in a rape culture.

The experiences I mentioned above are my experiences as a woman. Certainly not all women have the same experience as me. Some have not been as impacted and some have unfortunately been impacted far more. But we, as women, all have been impacted by rape and the threat of rape because we are women.

I don’t write this article to convince the Men’s Rights Movement to re-think their stance. I don’t think that even a genuine public disclosure about painful aspects of my personal life would make any difference to them. I say this so that non-MRM-involved people will have other viewpoints to consider when they hear the Men’s Rights Movement claim men and women are equally impacted by rape. I tell my personal experiences so that they and you can join me in asking if men are impacted just as much as women then why doesn’t it feel that way?

Some therapeutic art from a time when my nightmares were pretty bad.

Some therapeutic art from a time when my nightmares were pretty bad.

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