This email was sent to the Alas moderators and I thought it would be a good thing for everyone to discuss.
So I have an interesting, for lack of a better word, anecdote relating to rape culture. I am a 22-year-old white queer female, fresh out of one of the most lefty elite colleges in the US — and I even majored in queer studies while there (and yes, they actually call it queer studies!). I was raised by Democrat-to-leftist parents who are economically upper-middle-class (~$60k combined/yr) but socially and educationally upper class (Harvard.). I never had a feminist “click” moment, because I didn’t realize feminist was anything but a positive term until sometime in high school, at which point I affirmed it ferociously, being the rebellious protodyke I was.
I am currently dating a dude (bio and identified as such), and have been dating this dude for over two years. I tend to go to sleep a couple hours after him, which occasionally, and very consensually, results in my waking him up for a bit with nightnight sex, if he’s up for it. Tonight I started feelin’ it, looked over at him, saw how cute he looked, and found myself thinking very distinctly, in my inner stand-up comic voice, “Oh I am so gonna rape you– wait, what!?”
Now, I did not mean rape literally. What I meant was “wake you up with sexual advances that will lead to sex if accepted.” But my inner monologue went ahead and made a) a joke about rape that b) belitted what rape actually means and c) treated rape as rape-as-compliment!
My point in sending this e-mail is, how horribly pervasive rape culture can be — I look at someone I love, sexually desire them, and want to give them a hopefully pleasant midnight experience, and my broseph inner monologue compares that to rape. As if rape is just surprise sex! If they don’t want it they’re moody! Also I’m only doing it because they’re totes hot right now!
I’m just so, well, terrified that rape can come into my innermost thoughts as “boy, you are gonna love this unexpected goodness!” I spend a good part of my day finding and analysing the evidence of rape culture that show up in advertising, television, and social interactions, and yet my uncensored self still uses “rape” casually and incredibly inappropriately. Horrible and amazing, and something I’d love a comment on, if any of you have got the time.
That’s really intense. I think we all have moments like that where it becomes weirdly clear how much our brains have been “colonized” by the dominant culture. For me, they’ll often be about internalized fatphobia, directed at myself and at other women.
I don’t know if there’s a way to get rid of such things entirely. Writer Nisi Shawl describes those quick-thought rising-from-your-subconscious bad reactions as being sort of your “lizard brain,” although obviously that’s metaphorical. We all have those kinds of bad reactions, but the point is to know why they’re bad, and then sculpt your action in the world around that.
Would you like us to post this on our blog and open it up for comment from others? People might learn from this, or have more substantive comments to add than mine — or feel relieved at seeing the ways other feminists experience and cope with mental “colonization.”*
The writer agreed that posting might be interesting, so let’s open it up to comments. What do y’all think?
I’m going to warn y’all: please be respectful of the person who wrote in. She’s a guest in this posting space, and exposed some tender and personal details, even if they are being released anonymously. I’m not going to limit this to feminist-only commenters because I think non-feminist-identified people may have smart things to say about this — but only as long as they are respectful of the subject and the poster.
*I put colonization in quotation marks because I know that some people of color object to the term being used as they see it as appropriation. I don’t know of a better way to express the concept clearly, though, off-hand, so I hope that the quotation marks will suffice to demonstrate that the term suggests an imperfect metaphor that should not be taken to diminish the real effects of colonization on literally colonized minds.