Rape Is About More Than Sex

bd9b3e929d2b7e3fb6ef4f0af3bad8e5I took myself on a beautiful winter’s walk yesterday morning. Many locals think that autumn and winter are the most beautiful seasons in Sydney with their blue skies and lower temperatures, and although I hate the cold, the beauty of this time of year has grown on me – after all, keeping warm is only a matter of layering.

The dog was by my side as I pounded the cliff tops – a vain attempt to pre-work off lunch that afternoon – and exhilarated by the cool kisses of the winter breeze on my face and the sense of freedom at finding myself alone on the streets, I didn’t notice the stranger ahead of me, until he was a few metres away. A boy of about eighteen, I would guess, he was also on his own. I watched him as he mounted the hill and felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise as, subconsciously, I did what every woman does in that situation – I did a personal risk assessment.

The boy was of average height, wearing slightly too-short trousers, old-fashioned trainers, and a cap. His hair was at that in-between stage that can only be described as unkempt ie. not surfer-long, yet too long for school. Pale, underweight, and with a twisted smile on his face (that I realized later was because he was listening to music), I tightened my grip on the dog’s lead and looked around me, briefly comforted by the fact that it was daylight and that I was within shouting distance of several houses to either side of me. Reassuring myself that I was being stupid, I felt myself relax as he walked past, his eyes focused firmly on the ground.

I breathed again.

I know what you’re thinking. I stereotyped that poor kid as some mentally-ill delinquent who may have picked that moment to do something out of character or opportunistic. And the biggest irony of that judgment is that I am the mother of a kid like him, of roughly the same age, who I am certain will be stereotyped in the same way by another woman.

That’s what women have to do, to survive.

Since the murder of Eurydice Dixon, I have listened to the furor on social media from women about the need to educate men, (as opposed to curtailing the freedom of women), to stop the increasing number of murders and rapes. I have also listened to the argument of men that #NOTALLMEN rape and murder. I will ignore the argument that women need to be ‘situationally aware’ and take responsibility for their own safety (which is blatantly sexist), but I understand the frustration felt on both sides, even though I can’t help thinking that now is not an appropriate time for men to become defensive with such fresh, awful evidence staring us in the face. We have driving laws because of the few that refuse to drive safely; we need better laws for the protection of women against men that abuse.

I can’t see what’s not to understand about a sensible and long-term approach to enforce change? This issue is not about men – for once – it is about saving the lives of women.

I know that most men will not abuse women, but no man can tell a woman how she feels when she walks home alone late at night, nor can they pretend to understand the preventative (and often costly) planning measures those journeys require. On many occasions when I have voiced my own nervousness about taking public transport late at night, men have laughed off my qualms, in a way that I can only interpret as ‘who would want to rape you?’ – the inference, I can only assume, that they believe that rapists and murderers are selective, with a  preference for younger women.

If only.

That belief implies that rape and murder are pre-meditated, calculated acts, or acts of violence committed by normal people – which of course they can be. Sadly, however, it is not true that only young women are victims. Rape is rarely about sexual attraction or prowess, it is about power, control and the need to dominate – behaviors linked to entitlement in some men.

Eurydice’s memorial was vandalized last night, and the only explanation I can find for such behavior is an innate and gross disrespect for women – even the dead. Some men feel threatened by women, and there are many reasons why they rape,  many of which have nothing to do with seeing women as an object of desire – it’s just that it is easy. It is a sense of entitlement that we need to stop for the sake of our daughters and for every young woman like Eurydice Dixon, with their futures ahead of them and the world at their feet, so that they can feel safe.

 

Every Woman Has Had A Harvey Weinstein Experience

I had to take the old man’s car to the garage the other day to get a quote for some hailstorm damage. When we first moved to Australia and our friends warned us about hailstones as big as golf balls and that the priority in terms of buying a house was to have either a garage or a carport, we laughed, just like we did when they told us about spiders the size of dinner plates. Nevertheless, we followed their advice until last year and made sure that each of our first twenty-five houses had some form of off-street protection. 

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Inevitably, when the hailstorm from hell finally came, we only had off-street parking.

 

And it turns out that the size of Australian hailstones can be closer to the circumference of a tennis ball than a golf ball, as we found out a few months ago: penance, according to NC, for laughing in the face of the predictions of impending doom from our in-house climate scientist.

 

The long and short of it is, hail damage has re-sculpted the old man’s car, and the new, beautifully, un-tessellated design on its bonnet may affect its worth even more than Kurt’s attempts at re-sculpturing it, should we ever need to sell it.

 

As the old man had already left the house a few times this month, it was my turn to face the general public to organise the quote for repair, and inevitably, the only place that does this very special type of repair work was one of those seedy, dimly-lit garages down a dodgy side street with enough testosterone in the air to grow back the hairs on my legs after my recent Spring shave.

 

Without stereotyping, there was one tattooed, grimy gorilla under a bonnet and another under a chassis when I walked into the establishment and it is fair to say that in my younger days, I would have been quite terrified to approach them. Some men don’t seem to understand that lecherous looks and comments such as ‘smile, love’ are hardly conducive to the creation of a new business relationship. But as it was, that day my entrance barely caused them to pause, which I like to think was because they were modern, intelligent men of a feminist persuasion who have come to realize that the historically sexist and crass behavior of their mechanic forefathers – those who thought it acceptable to ogle at posters of naked women in the workplace – is inappropriate and downright threatening behaviour.

 

Or maybe it’s because young men have an innate fear of cantankerous women over the age of forty-five – most likely because we remind them of their mothers.

 

Anyway, the boys gave me a predictably unintelligible response to my query, but for the first time I was not made to feel afraid and I left the garage with a skip in my step. What the experience did do was compound my disgust for those women who see feminism only as a battle about equal pay or educational and professional opportunities, and who refute the claims of women who have been (and still are) threatened, compromised and sexually objectified by men in positions of power.

 

Every woman has had a Harvey Weinstein experience, but we have been so brainwashed by male privilege that many are unable to see it.