*TRIGGER WARNING* -domestic abuse, sexual assault, rape, rape culture, fraternities, etc. This is a serious letter about violence against women, so please take caution upon reading.
Dear Straight Male Friends,
I’d like to take a moment to talk to you about consent, rape culture, and male privilege. I was recently asked by a straight, cisgendered male, white friend of mine “why I’m so upset about Brock Turner’s sentencing,” to which I took great offense and vehemently expressed my opinion. I was then told to, “just try to see the other side and consider it. I mean, the kid was drunk as hell.” Uhm, what?
If you somehow haven’t heard of this case, the oversimplified, short version is that Brock Turner, a 19-year old white male athlete at Stanford, raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, and went on to claim he was too intoxicated to know what he was doing. He was caught red-handed by two exchange students and convicted of three felony sexual assault charges. His sentence was a mere 6 months behind bars (which has now been reduced to three), probation, and life on the sex offender registry. I repeat: this guy violently raped an unconscious woman, was found guilty by a jury of his peers and was sentenced to six months in prison. To call that a mockery is an understatement, and to say that it is offensive is obvious.
You see, you and and I live on two opposite sides of this thing called the gender gap, where you have the advantage. You, my straight male friend, can comfortably ask me these questions because you do not, and cannot understand what it is to live as women, constantly surrounded by potential danger.
You, my straight male friend, you don’t know how it feels to be catcalled while walking down the street because it’s summer in Florida and I’m not covered head to toe. You will never understand how it feels to rush home from work, hoping to beat sunset, so that I don’t have to walk up to my apartment alone in the dark. You can’t understand the feeling of checking under my car, and in the backseat before I get in, just in case someone is hiding there. You don’t know the feeling of clutching keys in between your fingers like makeshift brass knuckles in case I do encounter someone on my way home. You don’t know how it feels to be an empowered female, yet deep down know that my 5’3´´ frame is no match for a 5’9” + stature. You may not know how it feels to be routinely and continuously beaten for two years by a boyfriend, and have nobody believe you. You may not know how it feels to be pushed down a flight of stairs by someone who is supposed to love you. You don’t know how it feels to then be questioned as to “what I said/did to make him lose control” as if the problem is my mouth, and not his lack of general human decency.
My straight, male friend, you ask me to consider a rapist’s point of view, and to “think about it.” As if I don’t. As if I don’t go through the mental calculations when I go out for drinks or a night at a club. You don’t know that when I pick out my outfit I consider what it would look like if I was found behind a dumpster. Does my miniskirt or high-waisted shorts make me look guilty? Does this top read 50% polyester / 50% asking for it?
My straight, male friend, you don’t know that I have to consider every drink I take. As if I don’t “think about it” when I calculate if this level of intoxication makes it my fault if I can’t verbally say no. Like I don’t know that every drink I have is one step closer to a not-guilty verdict or a pathetic six-month sentence. Your intoxication level will be your savior, mine will be my downfall.
My straight male friend, you don’t know that I have to pretend to be interested in a conversation with this loser guy because I don’t know how he’ll react if I blow him off. You don’t know how it feels to be incessantly touched, grabbed, and grinded on when I’m just trying to dance with my friends. You don’t know what it’s like to be called a “b*tch/ c*nt/whore” simply because I asked you not to touch me.
My straight male friend, you don’t know how it feels to live on the other end of your privileged existence. You were never told as a child that if a boy pulls your hair, pinches or hits you it’s because he likes you. You got to push people around with the excuse that “boys will be boys.” I got told “act like a lady.” You were told that your loud mouth showed “strong leadership skills,” while mine got me deemed “bossy.” You were never sent home from school because your tank top straps were too thin or your shorts were more than 2 inches above the knee. As if the two extra inches of my upper leg would be “too distracting” to you. You get to tell me that wearing makeup is a lie, yet when I don’t you ask me if I’m sick or having a bad day. You weren’t told that you needed to learn how to cook and clean, because that’s apparently the only way I can conceivably provide for you. You weren’t told to consider your future wife in everything you do, the way I was told to mind my future husband. If you go your whole life unmarried you’ll be considered a bachelor, a cool guy, a free spirit. If I do the same I’ll be considered a spinster, a failure, and unlovable.
My straight male friend,you may have never been given a safety pep talk before you went to university. You weren’t told to vigilantly watch your drink, and never set it down unattended. You weren’t told to avoid the ice at frat parties because they’d started putting roofies in it. You weren’t told to go out in groups, and never go alone to a male stranger’s apartment because there is safety in numbers. You don’t worry about losing your friends at the bar, or god forbid being left there. You get to glorify in the astronomical and probably untrue number of women you’ve slept with. If my number reaches double digits, I get called a slut. And god forbid I do get attacked because that number will surely translate that I am inherently a sexual being and therefore want to have sex with everyone I meet. You don’t get told that it’s safer to give a fake phone number than to turn a guy down. As a woman, I have learned that yelling “fire” in a crowded auditorium is more effective than sobbing “rape” at a police precinct.
I could go on, but I hope my point is clear. As in, no means no. As in, I am able to change my mind at any time. As in, the inability to speak does not mean yes. As in, an intoxicated or unconscious person cannot consent. As in, sex without explicit consent is rape.
My straight, male friend here are some facts for you:
-On average, women are paid about 81 cents to every dollar their male counterparts make. (ILO)
-In 2015 only half of the world’s working age women were in the world’s work force, while 77% of men are.(ILO)
–4 out of 5 human trafficking victims are women. (WHO)
-On average, 30% of women in a relationship reported that they have been physically or sexually assaulted by their partner. (WHO)
-On average 1 in 5 women on college campuses have experience sexual assault. (NSVR)
– One in three women worldwide have experienced intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.(WHO)
-Out of every 100 rapes, only 46 are reported, 12 lead to an arrest, 9 will be prosecuted, five will receive a felony conviction, and only three out of 100 rapists will ever serve jail time. (RAINN)
. These are the things I have to think about every damn day of my life. Things I walk around aware of, while you get to pretend they don’t exist or don’t effect the people around you.
So when you ask me why, as a woman, I’m so offended by Brock Turner being sentenced to a measly three months in prison, this is why. Every single man I meet has the potential to be a Brock Turner. The fact of the matter is Brock Turner violated an innocent woman, and throughout the trial violated her again and again by his inability to accept responsibility for his actions. Yet, because he was a white, male, privileged athlete, “a good kid who made a mistake,” he will serve three months and get to move on with his life. His victim has to forever live in a body she wishes she could “take off like a jacket.”
You may call me a capital F feminist, a raging bitch, a man-hater, a liberal, biased or any other name I’m supposed to be offended by. I’m sorry, I just can’t hear you over the resounding sound of your straight male privilege.
So, why don’t you think about it.
If you or someone you know have suffered from physical, emotional, sexual or any kind of violence I encourage you to seek help. Here are a few resources: