This is the essay I read yesterday at Sit N Spin… after reflection, I’m changing the title from the above SNL homage to something more thematically useful, as seen below. The reading was a big success… in performance, I cut out the very last question upon the producer’s request (“Is it you?”) lest the audience implode from discomfort. It is, after all, a night of comedy. But I was satisfied with the results: it was still effective in promoting thought and discussion, and that’s what I seek to do, always. Entertainment without reflection is like junk food. We need nutrients!
Anyway, if you weren’t there, you may enjoy it now. Bon appetit.
For all intents and purposes, any man could be a rapist. They’ve all got the weapon, all they need is a shade of psychosis. This logic is applied in the airport every day: why else would a fifty-year old Minnesotan’s nail clippers be confiscated? Because even people in wolf sweaters can be terrorists. In the same vein, every man can be labeled as “Potential Rapist”, just as every mouth possesses “Blowjob lips”. My sister once was complimented as having blowjob lips, and I said, aren’t they all? Any lips could do that. Potentially.
But I am an optimist. So I try to be open to new, unknown men, though somewhere deep within me, when you’re shaking my hand, I’m probably thinking: “does this guy have a rape vibe? Or is he just kinda European?”
I’ve always envied men because of their upper body strength, external sex organs and ability to backpack across Europe, sleeping in train stations without so much as a trace of anal violation. At worst, someone sells them fake weed and they get money wired to them from their stock broker dad. Roam solo as a woman and rape is basically inevitable. Try to imagine Into the Wild with a female lead—she would get about a mile from her house before surfacing whored out in a crackden.
I try to live as free and interesting a life as I can without getting sexually assaulted. Depending on your definition of sexual assault, I’ve met with moderate success. I attribute my survival to my Cinderella Instinct. This is my inner timer which basically sounds the alarm to abort mission. I’ll be in a questionable situation, and about a hair of a second before things turn bad, the clock strikes twelve, my carriage becomes a pumpkin and regardless of what I’m doing, where I am, who I’m with, I get the fuck out of there. And so I run. Literally run, usually in a dress, most times barefoot, with my heels in my hands. Cinderella-style. Only I’m leaping from a moving Jaguar convertible, sprinting from a stranger’s room in Vegas at 5:30 AM, or, as a naïve freshman, am escaping my leg getting tickled by a sketchy dude by summoning the Biblical willpower of Samson to emerge from an intense pot coma caused by a bong named “Moonbug”.
These experiences all wind up sounding like the snappy anecdotes of a free-spirited Zooey Dechanel-type indie film girl, who’s gonna open up your world with her quirky spunk. But in reality, they are pretty harrowing. One not-so-awesome potential rape experience was in Nice, where every night is Ladies Night. No matter what day it was, I could pay seven euros for an unlimited amount of cheap alcohol and play drinking games with the lady locals. It was stumbling home time—3 AM—and my hostel was near the train station, a notoriously dangerous place to go after sundown. The girls I drank with didn’t want me to walk alone, suggested I crash with them, but ever proud and not wanting to be beholden to no man, I said my hostel was “just up the street”. Though really it was about 15-20 minutes up the street. Which wasn’t a big deal… until I got lost. The street kept going, and things did not start looking familiar, but I kept thinking, it will be the next block. The next. The next.
By this point it’s about 4:30, and I have no idea where the fuck I am, and it is really, really shady. I’m nowhere near the beach, where people walk the streets and little shops abound. The buildings start looking industrial. There is no one out, except for the street cleaners who start hosing down the road, and I wonder to myself, “if I had to approach them, would they be able to help me?”
And then I notice the shirtless man. You know that feeling you get when someone’s watching you? And it’s 5 AM and you’re in a shady part of the south of France and you’re wearing a sexy halter dress and are twenty years old with a sign that says “Free Vagina Funtime!!” on your back? Well, for whatever reason, I glanced over my shoulder and noticed, walking a block and a half back, a man without a shirt on. And that tingly feeling shivers down my spine and I increase my gait, each step an inner “oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck, where the hell is Avenue St. John Baptiste!!?” And my New York-pace walk becomes a stiff trot, the kind where you don’t want to seem like you’re running or scared because you’re a woman by yourself on the city streets so you keep your neck really high and kind of move from the knees at an accelerated pace, and by this point I’m pretty sure I will have outstripped the guy by at least two blocks. But instead when I look over my shoulder, there he is: JOGGING. He is jogging at the same rate of my trot, and this sends a shot of fear through me, this sickening, utter certainty that if he catches up with me, I will be raped, dead or mutilated. A shirtless man in Nice does not chase you down at 5 in the morning to share with you a delightful surprise.
So I take off like a shot, and Shirtless Man starts running too, in his leering probably-on-drugs way, and shouts out something in French to me, to which I respond in a guttural bark, “LAISSEZ-MOI TRANQUILLE!” which means leaves me alone, but had the subtext of “My spirit will return to castrate you”. I ran at breakneck speed—a considerable feat in Rainbow flip flops—until I could no longer, hoping one of the guys hosing the street would come to my aid if needed. Say what you will about sanitation workers, or the French, I just couldn’t see one standing idly by if a young woman was tackled and dragged off screaming in front of him.
Luckily, Shirtless Man was nowhere to be seen. The dim light of dawn was seeping into the sky as a single car drove up the street. Still horrified and shaking, I waved it down and knocked on the window. It was a man. A middle-aged man smoking a cigarette. Half in tears, I asked in broken French where the train station was, only to find that I had run nearly seven miles past my street. I then explained as best I could: “a man disquieted me. He chased me.” The man in the car offered me a ride. I looked at the empty seat beside him, the car door locks, wondered who drives around at this ungodly hour, thought of Lifetime movies. I realized: I am too tired to walk anymore. If he’s gonna rape me, he’s just gonna rape me. As the French say, c’est la vie…..
He did not rape me. (Yay.) He was up early because he worked in the post office. I was so grateful, and kept thanking him and saying Oh my God over and over, so completely traumatized that I was still unable to speak coherent French. I start work in an hour, he was saying. Ah oui, ah, merci, merci, o mon Dieu, ooooooooo mon dieu, I said. We were finally near the train station and came to my hostel. Would you like to get a cup of coffee? he asked me. Hell no. But I said, politely, Non, non, merci. Au revoir. And got the fuck out of there.
It seems unfair that my Cinderella instinct has saved me so many times when others have not been as fortunate. I’ve never been raped… just had a few of those gray area experiences where it wasn’t no, but it wasn’t yes… the nonconsentual/nonrape thing, or as I like to call it, Los Angeles dating. Yes, nonconsentual/nonrape love is a battlefield. But actual violence of that sort I’ve escaped. I’m not the most prudent girl. I’ve wound up insensible in the company of many a man who’s not laid a finger on me. So, why me? How have I escaped being the one in six women? Why not me, but my best friend? My sister? Is it because it’s more likely to be someone you know? My sister went out for drinks to forget the problems she was having with her boyfriend. She felt safe being drunk because she was with one of her best guy friends. He rufied her and she woke up naked with bruises appearing on her limbs.
So who that I know is the real potential rapist? Is it you?