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  • Sara Perry

Historical Burden



I am reading an article online about a certain pseudo-celebrity and a sexual encounter with a party hookup. The article is written by an award winning woman writer, I'll let you guess her race. Ironically, I came across the article because a new friend mentioned that they were reading a new book and it reminded them of me. A book about modern relationships. A book written by said accused assaulter.


The story goes that someone wrote an article based on the story of a girl that met said celebrity at a party (yes, that many degrees of separation), got his number and went out with him a while later. The date turned in to some type of sexual coercion after some oral sex that was (we assume) consensual. In the original whistleblowing article, the woman left the apartment upset and echoing the words of every single cliché woman ever "guys are all the same". The article I came across retells the story much as I have told it to you and adds that it is evidence that "women are angry, temporarily powerful" and willing to cause harm to an innocent man's reputation. It even goes so far as to equate it to the white-woman-claims-rape-by-brown-man narrative. She then places the cherry on top, noting that it appears evident that our generation of women seem to have "forgotten how to call a cab".


Rage.


I continue to witness previous generations shaming newer ones for their struggles and activism. The iconic "I had to walk to miles to school every day". Why does this generational erasure occur? Are we so stuck in our traumas that we don't allow others to express theirs as well? It seems that the generation of women who were fighting to have access to safe and legal abortions somehow completely forgot all of the other dangers they face. It's the equivalent of a man telling us that if we don't want to get raped, we shouldn't' be alone at night. When did this become a battle of shaming the victim for claiming to be victim? I want to know what moment marked that.


Was it capitalism? Consider this: capitalism only works if we tell people that their success is completely in their hands. People must work hard, to get money, to buy the things they want (and those they desperately need). Framing it this way has given birth to the idea of deadbeat dads and child-support traps and welfare queens. We have vilified "lazy" people, created an entire DEADLY sin around the idea, and punished those who are not killing themselves to make a penny. We even punish those who are. In a study done by Peder J.Pedersen and Nieis Westergird-Nielsen, personal background differences seem to be directly related to rates of unemployment, with each unemployed person tending to have longer lapses of unemployment and lower rates of hiring based specifically on these periods of unemployment, something they coin the scar effect, due to lagged duration dependence.


Was it gatekeeping? Did someone decide that their experience was so difficult that there was no way they could share it with you- that you could've been a part of that? Did women internalize their feelings of shame and responsibility so much that they never stopped to say: hey, maybe the problem is the rapist?


Look, I understand the dynamic. People in a house, alone (did I ever tell you about spacial awareness and how it dictates socio-sexual behaviors), having some form of sexual contact. One person is thinking it will lead somewhere, the other has different plans. How often does this happen? Every. Fucking. Day. Peggy Orenstein (Cinderella Ate My Daughter) writes that in some of the interviews she has conducted with teen women, most of them are engaging in sexual encounters because they feel it would be quicker than to opt out, or -worse- because they feel they would be in danger if they did. While an entire generation may argue that this is not rape, do I really need to sit here and convince you that it is not acceptable?


Consent is not about arguing that you were held down and violently penetrated as you screamed for them to stop. Consent is breaking down the hairs that make the horn into why we agree to act the way we do and how we can help make sure that we are agreeing because we whole-heartedly wanted to.


The situation that the article refers to does not claim that the man raped her. It claims it was assault. Because it was. Because coercing someone into sexual acts is assault. EVEN IF YOU BAIL. Even if you felt that it was uncomfortable to leave.


The issue is that we have created an entire world where we try to sell people. The insurance salesman, the used cars, the fitness program, the first date, the first kiss, the marriage proposal. We are a world of "sell it to me" and we are all. fucking. begging. to be convinced that something is a good idea.


We need to purge our relationships of this. We need to create new patterns of behavior less concerned with the joy-heartbreak-compromise pattern that we are fed in every romcom, literally designed minute by minute to showcase it. We need to change our perceptions of romance from compromise (nobody gets what they want) to collaboration (we all get what we want). And we need a multi-generational army that is willing to stand up and say: yeah this was messed up and we can start to change it now.


Now I'm going to do something I don't typically do, offer a solution (or the start of one). Here are two very simple and very targeted tips to shifting into collaboration dynamics:

1. Have no expectation: creating something that works has to be invented together, you can't start with a picture in your head because it will literally never end up that way. Focus on if something will bring you new joys, not if something can fit your dream.

2. Engage creativity and curiosity: this is why we need art and music in the classrooms. Whatever you have been told about how your relationship has to work (aka "how IT works") is a lie and now that you know that you are free to make up whatever crazy world you want to love in.


Funny how writing can transform itself from rage to healing.


The point is, I don't find it helpful to write in lecture to let young women know that they need to learn that men will always try to fuck you and that it should be expected.It's damaging and inaccurate. And no, no one forgot how to "call a cab". We forgot how to act like we didn't care. No one needs to be told that their struggles are not important.


Maybe being sold products has become the new normal, the new hunt and chase. Let's just let it replace our outdated courtship rituals. If you want a hook-up, it's ok to ask for it. And if you don't, let's make it equally easy to opt out.


How freeing would your dates be if you felt comfortable setting up expectations ahead of time? How about if you felt safe collaborating on new expectations if they started to shift?


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