Updated: Apr 24
I didn’t get raped, but I sure made it easy for them
I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can protect ourselves better against sexual assault, particularly young girls and women. Especially what us older and more experienced women can offer, because the earlier you teach women how to take charge of their own safety, the less likely they’ll be sexually assaulted. An ounce of prevention, etc.
Female psychology, some biological, some socialized, makes us vulnerable to male predation. We want to be liked. We want to be nice. We value relationships. We’re good at communication. We recognize an actual feeling when we have it. I wrote something a few years ago about how you shouldn't do dumb shit, evidenced by some whiny female celebrity who got hacked and her nude photos seized, then cried publicly when Whoopi Goldberg informed her quite clearly that you can’t do dumb shit.
I guess being scolded by your symbolic mother in public is worse than having your nude photos stolen.
I don’t know how many times this has to happen before young women come to understand that just because you have a right to privacy doesn’t mean others will respect it. You don’t have to be a celebrity; teenage girls have been ‘slut shamed’ and sometimes committed suicide over such events.
If someone can violate your privacy, they will. It will probably be a man.
My mother raised me to not do dumb shit. She taught me some great lessons about how not to become victimized. She drilled into my head that if I had sex, I was the one who’d get pregnant, and the man had the option of skipping out on the whole thing and leaving me holding the baby. I could handle it however I wanted, Mom said, except for one unavailable option: Living with my parents and the baby. “I’m not going to raise your child for you,” Mom told me. “I did my bit raising you and your brother, if either of you have children they’re you’re responsibility.” My brother’s non-option was skipping out on the girl. “If you get someone pregnant,” Mom told him, “she makes the decision and you will support it. If she wants an abortion you help pay for it. If she wants to keep the baby, you either marry her or you pay child support.”
Neither my brother nor I made any little bambinos before our time.
Mom, who said neither her ex-husband nor my father ever hit her, also taught me never to let a man abuse me. She made it perfectly clear I had a lot of say in the matter. She said never let him hit you a second time. If he hits you a first time, there WILL be a second time, and many more after that. She said the sooner you get out of a bad relationship the better.
Point taken. I’ve never been in an abusive relationship and I recognized early on where the potential abusers lay.
Honestly, I don’t know where my Depression-era mother got this stuff. Her generation was raised to be good little helpmeets to their husbands. Maybe it was marrying the wrong guy at 19, a manchild who couldn’t handle the responsibilities of adulthood and marriage, despite having survived one of the toughest outfits — the 82nd Airborne — in World War II. When the American soldiers parachuted down from the sky the Germans made a game out of trying to shoot their legs off. Mom’s ex escaped from the war with his body, but not his mind, intact.
Nevertheless, sometimes, despite Mom’s best advice, I did dumb shit. I did things that she warned could get me raped and/or murdered.
Sometimes it was a mental lapse, or an unwarranted opinion of my own good judgement. Sometimes, I think, I was lulled into a false sense of security because I did have pretty good judgement overall about men. I avoided the ones that created trouble for my friends and came to recognize toxic male subcultures before ‘misogyny’ became a household word.
I made mistakes. We all do. I got lucky and nothing bad happened.
“Don’t get in a car with a strange man. Never hitchhike!”
Before I could read, Mom saved Ann Landers articles about young women who came to a bitter end because of bad judgement. It might be drinking and driving; excessive speeding; not watching your drink at parties; drug-taking; and one of her favorites, the perils of hitchhiking or otherwise getting into a car with a strange man.
Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker — 1979 TV movie
Mom told me absolutely never to do this dumb shit.
I never did hitchhike until one extremely rainy evening I ignored Mom’s warnings, and all the 1970s TV movies too, and I did some dumb shit.
My uncle had just passed away and I needed to drive down to Long Island for the funeral. A nor’easter was blowing up the East Coast and making the drive quite miserable. I drove carefully, but traffic was horrible on the Merritt Parkway (as always) and at New Rochelle I had to rethink my route as the Merritt had flooded under an overpass and there were cars stalled in the middle of the mini-lake.
(Never try to cross a very deep highway pool with your car. That’s some seriously dumb shit.)
I pulled off to a diner, grabbed dinner, and got directions on how to re-route myself (this was in the days before GPS).
All was fine until I pulled off somewhere on the Long Island Expressway for a potty break and to gas up. When I was ready to roll, my car wouldn’t start.
I accepted a ride from two brothers from Guatemala who were also headed out to my end of the island, against my best judgement. They seemed nice. I didn’t want to spend the money on a motel. And, to be perfectly honest, I’d always felt a little bit invincible.
Long Island is well-named and to drive it takes even longer in a nor’easter in the dark. I sat in the back, with the two brothers up front. Almost immediately, one of them began trying to get a date.
I kept hearing how beautiful I was. How he wanted to see me again. How he wanted to see me again. How he wanted to see me again. How he wanted to see me again.
I explained I had a partner in Connecticut. I told him about my uncle’s death and how I was down here for the funeral. I said I’d be very busy and couldn’t meet up with him.
But I was so beautiful. And he really wanted to see me again. I was so beautiful. I was so beautiful. I was so beautiful.
I was patient, didn’t lose my temper, realizing that being dumped by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere was one of many bad possible options. I don’t remember being terribly scared although I knew I was in a bad situation. I knew I needed to keep my cool and act ‘nice’. I know women chomp at the bit at having to act ‘nice’ to get out of bad situations but that’s how the world works when men are bigger and stronger than you.
It’s not a particularly female thing. Smaller men confronted by bullies and other ass-kickers often have to rely on their wits, too.
I remember being mostly annoyed that I had to put up with this shit for hours because Mierda-For-Brains wasn’t gonna let it go, no matter how much I tried to turn the conversation away from my alleged beauty.
When we got to Southampton I said just drop me off at a popular diner on Route 27. I’d call my cousin and he could pick me up.
They insisted on taking me all the way to East Hampton. First we were going to their house where we’d switch cars; the driver wasn’t going with us, and we’d switch to Romeo’s car. Oh yay. This was turning into the longest night of my life and I was well aware that it might be my last.
We loaded my shit into Romeo’s jeep and headed out, even though I kept trying to talk him into just dropping me off at the diner. No no no, he insisted on taking me all the way to my cousin’s house, presumably so he could spend another half hour nagging me for a date. You’re so beautiful, if you say it often enough eventually she’ll wear out and spread her legs for you! Every man knows that! It’s never failed in the history of the world!
I did some quick risk calculations in my head and realized I had a near-zero chance of getting raped although murder was still a small possibility. There was so much shit in the jeep there was barely any room for either of us to sit, much less sexual assault. And outside, it was so cold and raining so hard I found it highly unlikely he could keep it up long enough to rape me.
Dumb shit I did: When we finally got to my cousin’s house I kissed him as thanks. I figured it was the least I could do because he did, in fact, get me to my cousin’s house and saved me a motel bill and didn’t rape or murder me. And because I was nice. Far nicer back then than I am today. “I want more,” he growled in what I think he thought was a sexy come-hither tone as I pulled away from him and grabbed my suitcase.
I wanted to yell at him, “YOU’VE HAD YOUR FUN, ASSHOLE!!! YOU’VE NAGGED ME FOR THREE FUCKING HOURS ABOUT A DATE WHEN I’VE SAID REPEATEDLY I HAVE A PARTNER AND I’M OUT HERE FOR A GODDAMN FUNERAL! YOU SCARED ME AND I THINK YOU KNOW IT! NOW FUCK OFF AND DIE!!!” But of course I didn’t. Because I was nice. And because I was hoping he wouldn’t shoot me in the back.
That was one of the worst nights of my life because I did Dumb Shit.
Don’t get in a car with a nearly-strange man, Part II
This was the event that made me seriously question just what the hell is wrong with female psychology because, well into middle age, I put myself in danger because I wanted to be liked by a guy who I frankly found kind of boring.
I’d met him a week or so previously when I’d walked into my apartment building and he greeted me and told me how pretty I was. Thank you, I said, and went on my merry way. He followed me down the hall and asked if he could get my phone number. He was tall and cute and several years younger and, well, I have zero problem with younger men, so I gave it to him.
We talked, we agreed to meet at a coffee house. We spent about a half hour there, although talking wouldn’t be the way to put it. We made some small conversation but he didn’t seem to have much to talk about. He was from Italy, and I would be visiting in a few weeks. So we talked a bit about Italy and then there was nothing much more. He was cute, but boring.
“C’mon, let’s go take a ride together,” he said.
No, I said, I think I’m just going to go home.
I’ll drive you home, he said.
I can walk in less than five minutes, I said.
He pushed, c’mon, just for a few minutes, so I did, even though I didn’t feel comfortable about it.
We drove around for maybe ten or fifteen minutes, and when I asked him to take me home, he did. Customarily a drop-off happens at the entrance of my apartment building. But he drove down into the dark parking garage.
“Hey, not here,” I said. He parked the car.
Photo by Chris Cagle on Unsplash
He started kissing me, and I obliged him a bit. He was much bigger than me, and I felt nervous, so I opened the car door a little. He didn’t object. Then he lunged for my breasts and I jumped out of the car. “Gotta go,” I said.
I was rattled when I jumped out, but in the three minutes it took me to get to my apartment, I was really pissed.
When he texted me he wanted to see me again I told him no and why. And he texted back, ‘But I want 2 see u again,” and I didn’t respond. He knew where I lived. I can’t remember if I’d told him my full name, but I was cautious for a few days after in case I ran into him again.
I still blame myself, because I did Dumb Shit
There was NO excuse for his behaviour. But…I did dumb shit. I put myself in danger. Well into middle age. I didn’t have the excuse of being a clueless ingenue. I was old enough to know better.
That was actually the third time I’d gotten into a car with a stranger. The second time was several years prior after I’d moved to Canada and no longer had a car. I was waiting at the bus stop, some guy offered me a ride. I said no, I can wait for the bus. He asked where I was going, I said the mall up the street. Come on, I’ll take you there, it’s on my way, he said.
So I got in, and he took me there, and he bugged me for a date. Fortunately it was only for a few minutes. I got out, thanked him for the ride, and that was that. But I noted to myself: No strange man offers to give you a ride who doesn’t want something.
I put myself in danger three times. I made the same goddamn mistake. I Did Dumb Shit. I didn’t listen to my mother, and I’m pretty damn lucky things didn’t turn out way worse in any of those scenarios.
I DO NOT now get into cars with strange men, or men I barely know anymore. Ever.
Men are responsible for their own behaviour, and must never be excused from harassing, abusing, or attacking a woman. Feminists are right to keep hammering this lesson home because some of these thick-as-a-brick dimbulbs just don’t get it. Or, they do but their dick takes over and makes them do dumb shit. Aziz Ansari’s dick made him do dumb shit but at least he stopped when ‘Grace’ asked him to, who also did dumb shit by going to his apartment. Doesn’t matter if he was a celebrity. I think it’s a bad idea in the age of #MeToo ESPECIALLY if he’s a celebrity.
I considered myself a pretty smart cookie back in the day, and still do today, although I find, ironically, the older I get and the farther past the rape demographic I get, the more cautious I am about strange men.
I offer my dumb shit stories because there’s a pervasive trend in feminism in the last twenty years or so that holds that women are never responsible for getting sexually assaulted. Which is true to an extent — there’s simply no excuse for sexual assault, boys. But. Women still have to take charge of their own safety. We may never completely eliminate the possibility of getting raped or otherwise sexually assaulted but we can reduce — perhaps greatly — the likelihood.
All it takes is one lapse of judgement. I got very, very, lucky with three of them.
If I could do dumb shit like getting in a car with a man with all my years of experience, the temptation will be even greater for younger women with less experience and feminine wisdom, with their own overblown opinion of their own good judgement. “I can handle myself!”
Maybe you can. Maybe you can’t. But do your very, very level best to not do dumb shit. Because bad judgement can happen at any age.
And ruin your life.
This first appeared on Medium in June 2019.