Rape culture is when I was six, and
my brother punched my two front teeth out.
Instead of reprimanding him, my mother
said “Stefanie, what did you do to provoke him?”
When my only defense was my
mother whispering in my ear, “Honey, ignore him.
Don’t rile him up. He just wants a reaction.”
As if it was my sole purpose, the reason
six-year-old me existed,
was to not rile up my brother.
It’s starts when we’re six, and ends
when we grow up assuming the natural state of a man
is a predator, and I must walk on eggshells, as to
not “rile him up.” Right, mom?
Rape culture is when through casual dinner conversation,
my father says that women who get raped are asking for it.
He says, “I see them on the streets of New York City,
with their short skirts and heavy makeup. Asking for it.”
When I used to be my father’s hero but
will he think I was asking for it? (will he think)
Will he think I deserved it?
Will he hold me accountable or will he hold me,
even though the touch of a man - especially my father’s -
burns as if I were holding the sun in the palm of my hand.
Rape culture is you were so ashamed, you thought it would
be easier for your parents to find you dead,
than to say, “Hey mom and dad,”
It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t ask for it.
I never asked for this attention, I never asked
to be a target, to be weak because I was born with
two X chromosomes, to walk in fear, to always look behind me,
in front of me, next to me, I never asked to be the prey.
I never wanted to spend my life being something
someone feasts upon, a meal for the eternally starved.
I do not want to hear about the way I taste anymore.
I will not let you eat me alive.
Rape culture is I shouldn’t defend my friend when
an overaggressive frat boy has his hand on her ass,
because standing up for her body “makes me a target.”
Women are afraid to speak up, because
they fear their own lives - but I’d rather take the hit
than live in a culture of silence.
I am told that I will always be the victim, pre-determined
by the DNA in my weaker, softer body.
I have birthing hips, not a fighter’s stance.
I am genetically pre-dispositioned to lose every time.
Rape culture is he was probably abused as a child.
When he even has some form of a justification
and all I have are the things that provoked him,
and the scars from his touch are woven of the darkest
and toughest strings, underneath the layer of my skin.
Rape culture leaves me finding pieces of him left inside of me.
A bone of his elbow. The cap of his knee.
There is something so daunting in the way that I know it will take
me years to methodically extract him from my body.
And that twinge I will get sometimes in my arm fifteen years later?
Proof of the past.
Like a tattoo I didn’t ask for.
Somehow I am permanently inked.
Rape culture is you can’t wear that outfit anymore
without feeling dirty, without feeling like
you somehow earned it.
You will feel like you are walking on knives,
every time you wear the shoes
you smashed his nose in with.
Imaginary blood on the bottom of your heels,
thinking, maybe this will heal me.
Those shoes are your freedom,
But the remains of a life long fight.
You will always carry your heart,
your passion, your absolute will to live,
but also the shame and the guilt and the pain.
I saved myself but I still feel like I’m walking on knives.
Rape culture is “Stefanie, you weren’t really raped, you were
one of the lucky ones.”
Because my body wasn’t penetrated by a penis,
but fingers instead, that I should feel lucky.
I should get on my hands and knees and say, thank you.
Thank you for being so kind.
Rape culture is “things could have been worse.”
“It’s been a month, Stefanie. Get out of bed.”
“You’ll have to get over this eventually.”
“Don’t let it ruin your life.”
Rape culture is he told you that after he touched you,
no one would ever want you again.
And you believed him.
Rape culture is telling your daughters not to get raped,
instead of teaching your sons how to treat all women.
That sex is not a right. You are not entitled to this.
The worst possible thing you can call a woman is a
slut, a whore, a bitch.
The worst possible thing you can call a man is a
bitch, a pussy, a girl.
The worst thing you can call a girl is a girl.
The worst thing you can call a guy is a girl.
Being a woman is the ultimate rejection,
the ultimate dismissal of strength and power, the
When I have a daughter,
I will tell her that she is not
When I have a daughter, she will know how to fight.
I will look at her like the sun when she comes home
with anger in her fists.
Because we are human beings and we do not
always have to take what we are given.
They all tell her not to fight fire with fire,
but that is only because they are afraid of her flames.
I will teach her the value of the word “no” so that
when she hears it, she will not question it.
Don’t you dare apologize for the fierce love
you have for yourself
and the lengths you go to preserve it.
I am alive because of the fierce love I have
for myself, and because my father taught me
to protect that.
He taught me that sometimes, I have to do
my own bit of saving, pick myself off the
ground and wipe the dirt off my face,
because at the end of the day,
there is only me.
I am alive because my mother taught me
to love myself.
She taught me that I am an enigma - a
mystery, a paradox, an unfinished masterpiece and
I must love myself enough to see how I turn out.
I am alive because even beaten, voiceless, and back
against the wall, I knew there was an ounce of me
worth fighting for.
And for that, I thank my parents.
Instead of teaching my daughter to cover herself up,
I will show her how to be exposed.
Because no is not “convince me”.
No is not “I want it”.
You call me,
“Little lady, pretty girl, beautiful woman.”
But I am not any of these things for you.
I am exploding light,
my daughter will be exploding light,
better cover your eyes.
A hand on my thigh. That is
what I’m thinking about, most of the
A hand slipping under my dress,
the other holding the steering wheel,
and me, upright in the passenger’s
Always fearless in love, like
I’ve had practice.
Look, I know you’re sick of
hearing about the skin of it all, but
I’m not done being shameless
with where I want to be touched.
A hand pressed lightly against
my neck. Lips grazing
the apple of my bottom lip.
Your name like a tongue over the
ridges of my teeth.
Your body like a downpour
with me dancing underneath
But what if I never get over you?
What if I continue to wake up every day of my fucking life & want you so badly that my bones shake so much that they feel like they’re going to break?
What if I keep waiting for a call or a text or a sign from God that never comes?
What if you were the one but I wasn’t?"
Look around your college classroom, spot the virgins.
See, this seems like a game until you skip over the girl with a short skirt and hair in front of her eyes because you heard last summer that she slept with like nineteen guys. You can’t see her hands, but they’re under the table, pulling a rosary through her fingers as she tries to wash the sin off her. She’s only ever kissed three people in her whole life and they’re all girls. She turned down the wrong guy and he told everyone she’s “a whore.” The label “slut” stuck to the bottom of her shoe and swallowed her up.
But that quiet girl who is always reading probably never touched someone else’s penis, you figure, because you don’t know that she goes home and strips down and pulls on tight black leather, you don’t know she’s got a set of whips that could make any set of knees quiver, you don’t know because she’s proud of what she does but she’s not stupid enough to let anyone know about it. She’s sexy, just not here, not where people judge.
See, the truth is: you have no idea who has lost their virginity, because it doesn’t change you. It doesn’t give you some kind of glow or superpower or stamp on your forehead. You know the feeling of waking up on your birthday and thinking “I don’t feel any older whatsoever”? That’s what maybe they’re all so afraid of you finding out: sex doesn’t change you. Sex doesn’t make you an animal, sex doesn’t suddenly make your relationship a million times more stable or intimate or romantic - it can’t fix what’s broken, although it can make the pain go away for a bit. Sex doesn’t really occur with eighty tea lights and a thick white rug. Sex is ugly and loud and frequently awkward, sex is excellent and breathtaking and when you wake up the next morning, you’re the exact same person. There’s not some magical connection with the person in bed beside you. Believe it or not, pregnancy isn’t some kind of punishment - but practice safe sex, get tested, don’t spread your germs around. They want to tell you, “Sex can ruin you” and I’ve heard that a lot as a little girl, that some boy would join me under my sheets and then dump me four days after, used, unhappy.
But I figured out that I’m not a fucking toy. Letting someone have sex with me is not letting them “use” me, because I’m not an object. My father said the issue lay in the fact “Men are insecure and need to know that they’re the best you ever had,” but I think that’s a steaming crock of absolute-wrong and if I didn’t tell the people I’m with how many others I’d slept beside, there would be literally no way for them to know my number, because I don’t rust, I don’t wear out, I don’t get bruised. I’m not a wilting fruit, I don’t go rotten.
But here’s the thing: some people connect sex and emotion. I don’t personally because I am probably secretly an ice storm in disguise, but I still respect my partner’s desires. If they’re the type to want love and sex to coincide, I let them. I don’t make fun, I don’t pull one-night-stands or friends-with-benefits, because it’s not their “reputation” I’m afraid for: it’s their heart I’m defending.
Here’s the thing: Instead of worrying about people’s “purity” and how it defines them as a person, worry instead about how you can protect other people’s emotions.
Because here’s the thing: look around your room and spot the virgins. Look harder. You can’t tell. Sex doesn’t alter people, it doesn’t make them act in a certain way nor dress in a certain manner. Sex and personality have nothing to do with each other. There’s a reason that virginity doesn’t show on someone’s face: because having sex doesn’t cause you to change."