The following is an essay I wrote for the forthcoming zine We Will Not Go Quietly. We Will Not Go Quietly is a project of two Australian feminists, Kate Ravenscroft and Mel Hughes. It’s a zine for survivors of sexual assault, and the people who love and support them. It’s posted today at Feministing.
Earlier this year, my friend Jamie, who is a young feminist blogger living in Chicago, wrote a post called “Today I had to leave class to cry.” Her tears were tears of frustration and anger, the ones you feel when an injustice is being done – or in this case, excused – in front of you, and you feel powerless to stop it.
Jamie, who is in her first year of university, was in a class called “Free Speech,” and the topic of discussion was whether or not it would be a restriction of free speech to ban a manual for how to rape someone. The conversation soon turned to rape prevention, and to what women can do to prevent rape:
There is no such thing as “rape prevention.” The only way for people to not get raped is for people NOT TO RAPE THEM. We can’t end rape by dressing modestly or avoiding dark alleys or letting friends babysit our drinks when we go to the bathroom. The only way to abolish rape is for nobody to rape anyone else. It really isn’t a difficult concept.
I chimed in politely and explained this to the class. I fully expected at least one other person to agree with me. I looked around. Nobody agreed. A bunch more people raised their hands and tried to correct me. “They can at least be aware of a rapist’s techniques!” they argued. “It is silly to think that women can’t prevent rape.”
At this, Jamie writes, she could no longer control herself. “It isn’t the job of women to prevent their own rape!” she said. “The only people who can prevent rape are rapists!” And then, she left had to leave class to cry.
As I read Jamie’s post, I felt a hot, uncomfortable dread creep over me, that prickly feeling under your skin that you sometimes feel when you’re ashamed of something you’ve done. I sat for a moment and thought about what Jamie had written. And then I opened up my browser and wrote her an email.
You can read the rest of the essay here.