To The Men I Turned Down, About the Men Who Almost Didn’t Let Me
Why I remain cautious of all men
Flashback to 1995
I stopped walking. "Wait, what did you just say?"
One of my friends frowned at me and shook her head. “I swear that’s what I heard him say.”
“So…” I dragged the word out, as I tried to sort the words she’d overheard in the communal laundry room into some semblance of order and understanding in my young 20 year old mind. “He and X plan to grab me tonight, so that…”
Here was the difficult part.
I swallowed hard and exhaled slowly, as she stood there patiently and watched me process it. “So that…” I repeated and licked my lips nervously. “Um, he, X and six of their friends can fuck me.”
Gang bang. That’s what you call that, right? When a group of people plot to kidnap and sexually assault you without your permission, right? Gang rape.
I rolled that thorny mess inside my mental mouth, and the tears came. At first silently, as my friend wrapped her arms around, but then hysterically, as my imagination went into overdrive and replayed every rape scene I’d ever seen in a movie, on television.
She insisted that we report it to the drill sergeants, but I stopped her, because even if they believed us, what proof did we have aside from her word against theirs. And if I was honest, I was afraid of what they’d say.
Add in that I’d had consensual sex with both men. Separate times, weeks apart, but I had. What if they said I’d asked for it, that my history with them counted as consent? Or that men only do things to promiscuous women, so my sexual history meant I should’ve known this could happen? Or how I should just avoid them and let it go, because nothing would come of any investigation? Because things like this didn’t happen in the Army, and these guys were probably joking around.
So I said nothing, and I convinced my friend to stay with me instead. We’d wait it out, I’d decided, and together, in my room that night, we sat there, like two children, in the dark.
At first, there was knocking, followed by sweet words and promises that it would fun, and didn’t I like fun? They talked about how amazing it had been to fuck me, that I was the best lay they’d had, and no, there were no other guys. Just them. Just a threesome. That’s harmless, right? Just three friends enjoying a little naked fun time.
But when I told them for the hundredth time that I wasn’t interested, anger bled into the tone of their voices and punctuated the sound of their fists slamming against the metal door of my barracks room. Then the threats began, about how I had to leave my room sometime, that I couldn’t stay in there forever, that they’d find a way in and bring the party with them.
And those were their ‘nicer’ options.
There were worst ones, but I’m not sharing them. Especially when so many ended with my body discarded in the desert around our military installation. I don’t want to relive them again, and you’re better off not hearing about them.
The whole disaster lasted less than an hour, before they grew bored of trying. Final threats made, they left us alone. An hour later, I dared to peek out my window, but they were gone.
The rain of threats still fresh in our heads kept us awake for the rest of the night. And morning found us exhausted, and I wondered how much of last night was a real threat and how much was bluster.
We left my room paranoid and wary, but when our paths crossed, they acted like the night before had never happened. My neighbors never said anything to me, and if I’m honest, had we been in their shoes, we probably wouldn’t have said anything either.
But I didn’t go out or hook up for months, until I started dating my first husband.
That one night stays with me, even now. And it’s just one of hundreds of incidents that has happened over the course of my life. And the lives of almost all the women in your life, too.
I share this with you, not out of pity, but for two specific reasons:
1. Incidents like mine really happen more often than we, the victims, would like to admit, and
2. While this thankfully did not end with rape, the ‘logic’ I had used to convince myself not to report, because that no one would believe me if I said anything, is indicative of the perpetuated rape culture we women get hardwired into our heads.
Which leads me to three other things:
1. The culture will not change, if we do not demand that it do so, and
2. Report, even if you’re not the ‘ideal’ victim. Do it for you, but if you can’t, then please do it to possibly prevent a next victim. Because if you don’t report, there will be a next victim.
3. If you’re a man who hears your friends objectifying women, making rape jokes, or planning ways to rape a woman, then say something. Be an ally and stand up for us when we’re not looking.
Together is the only way we dismantle this rape culture.