Trigger warning for mention of rape/assault especially of inebriated persons, and of sexual slavery.
Hello! I’m Maggie, usually called Wednesday hereabouts.
My first post here at SGB will be on the subject of media and rape culture. For those who don’t know me, I am a student in a field related to media analysis, and I’m a rape survivor, so these are both issues in which I have really strong interests. Specifically, I’ll be addressing the rape-apologist ‘Spring Break’ T-shirts marketed by the Star Trek franchise.
(Fellow non-American peeps not familiar with North American culture: spring break refers to the term break for college students right about this time.)
Context: the Star Trek online store advertised ‘Get your exclusive Spring Break gear featuring Orion Slave Girls and Romulan Ale at the Starfleet Academy Campus Store.’ (source) The Facebook page is saturated with misogynistic comments, and there have been reports of survivors being harassed and threatened when they criticised the publicity material.
If you’re not a Trekkie (and goodness knows I’m not, though because of my fannish interests I have some favourite lady characters), you might be wondering what this means in terms of canon. On Star Trek, the Orion are a species who can emit emotion-altering pheromones. Their first appearance was as a race whose women are frequently sold into sexual slavery, although retcons later suggested that they could control their owners using their pheromones.
Using this justification, I have been told – and apologists have been saying – that the T-shirt is alright, and that the concept of ‘Orion slave girls’ is alright, because the Orion are in control, anyway.
I’m going to unpack this very, very briefly here: Who created these characters? Whose gaze is served and fulfilled by the notion of always-sexually-available women being owned? Who gets to invent a back-story that magically makes it ‘acceptable’ and puts a veneer of consent upon the female body?
Emily Smith of the Oregonian writes of Beaverton, Oregon police officer, Joshua Jensen, who was convicted of two counts of prostitution, coercion, and two counts of official misconduct. He was sentenced to 30 months in jail - a sentence I feel is not long enough. As the comments on this story clearly show, there are those who think that people that sell sex are less than human; not worthy of respect; incapable of being victims. I could not disagree with that line of thinking more, and this story embodies exactly why.
"When he first took me back behind the Dumpster ... my hands were shaking," one of the victims told The Oregonian Wednesday.
"I was scared – his whole demeanor was very intimidating," she said. "I really didn't know what to expect or what would happen."
In the first incident, Jensen told the woman what she was doing as a prostitute was wrong. Then he asked for oral sex. She asked if she had to, and he said she didn't. Afterward, he paid her $40.
But with the second woman, Jensen asked her why he shouldn't arrest her. She replied that she wouldn't do it anymore.
He said, "Well, if there's something I want out of it," then unzipped his pants, reports show.
The woman told investigators and The Oregonian that Jensen then "grabbed me by the back of the head and forced my head down, and I really didn't have a choice."
Rare are the cases when the rapist is some stranger. Most often it’s someone close to the victim – a boyfriend/girlfriend, a husband/wife, a long-time friend. This makes it hard for the victims to identify whether they were raped, and they try to forget the whole event. But by not coming forward, they make themselves victims forever.
The goal of this campaign was to raise awareness of the most common three types of rapes: acquaintance, date and marital rape.
I’m watching The Vagina Monologues on HBO right now. I’ve read the book, but I never saw it being performed. It’s a good show, I like how this particular adaptation has mini interview with Eve Ensler and a group of women between each monologue. No matter how many times you hear these stories, they never lose their power to move.
The Little Coochi Snorcher That Could
Memory: December 1965: Five Years Old
My mama tells me in a scary, loud, life-threatening voice to stop scratching my coochi snorcher. I become terrified that I’ve scratched it off down there. I do not touch myself again, even in the bath. I am afraid of the water getting in and filling me up so I explode. I put Band-Aids over my coochi snorcher to the cover the hole, but they fall off in the water. I imagine a stopper, a bathtub plug up there to prevent things from entering me. I sleep with three pairs of happy heart-patterned cotton underpants underneath my snap-up pajamas. I still want to touch myself, but I don’t.
Memory: Seven Years Old
Edgar Montane, who is ten, gets angry at me and punches me with all his might between my legs. It feels like he breaks my entire self. I limp home. I can’t pee. My mama asks me what’s wrong with my coochi snorcher, and when I tell her what Edgar did to me she yells at me and says never to let anyone touch me down there again. I try to explain he didn’t touch it, Mama, he punched it.
I was taking the bus the other day, every day now since my license was temporarily suspended because of unpaid parking tickets, and I noticed a sign advertising the fact that at night, if asked, the bus driver will stop between two stops in an attempt to make it safer for women taking public transportation at night. On one hand, I think it’s an interesting service, but on the other it kind of annoys me as well.
It annoys me that we live in a world where such measure are needed. It annoys me that it is a service designed for women. Oh, I’m sure they would also stop for men who would like to stop closer to where they live or to where they are going, but I wonder how many people actually make us of this service. I mean, the underlying assumption is that the person making the request is in need of extra protection and by definition weak. I think it’s hard for anyone to ask for that extra help, to show that they are vulnerable to exterior circumstances that may or may not come to be. I know I’ve always tried to play it cool, to pretend that it didn’t matter that I’m a woman and that I could go anywhere or do anything alone.
The first time someone went down on me, I was about fifteen and we had broken into an abandoned house on the highway walking distance from my house. The summer after grade nine was what I used to refer to as the best summer of my life. To put it mildly, I packed all the hijinks a teenager could get themselves into in two short months. For instance that very night, I had snuck out of my house to hang out with the boy I liked and his friends.
Sneaking out was exhilarating, but rather simple. I’d come home right around my curfew, say goodnight to my mom and go into my room. The moment I would get home she would go to bed. Once, I knew she was asleep, I’d put some pillows under my blanket, tiptoe out of the house and put my shoes on once I was outside. The trick was to come home before she woke up, something I forgot to do that very night.
The guy I liked, his friend and I had broken into an abandoned house. The place was a mess, clearly, we were not the first kids to enter the premises. Broken plates littered the floor, some of them broken by our very hands. Our friend passed out on the living room couch while the boy and I snuck into one of the bedrooms. A dirty mattress laid bare on the floor, but I didn’t mind. Two firsts would happen that night. It was the first time someone would explore my cunt with their hands and with their mouth. It was great. It was exhilarating. He was slightly off the mark, but I didn’t mind.
My Mom used to be a fan of psychics, I remember her dragging me along to a couple of readings where I invariably spend most of my time bored as hell waiting in an adjacent room. Sometimes, she would bring along my white and red Fisher Price tape recorder so she could painstakingly analyze every detail with one of her friends at a later date. She wasn’t what I would call a true believer, but she did enjoy her own little slice of the mystery.
I never partook in the fun, perhaps the uncertainty (of life) I faced as a kid wasn’t as frightening as the uncertainty of adulthood, but when I was sixteen my mother brought me to have my cards read. Now, the strange part was that the psychic in question also happened the be the janitor of the elementary school I went to from grade 5 to 6. He was a tall skinny man with long black hair, come to think of it he kind of looked like Alice Cooper, but the most striking feature of his whole persona was the van he drove to school. It was one of those vans, popular in the eighties, not meant for a family, but for fun times. Pitch black, it had one tear drop shaped window on the side near the rear and it also featured some kind of purple airbrushed design. Now, the reason it was so remarkable was the fact that he washed and buffed that piece of metal every single day during lunch hour. It shone like black ice.
It was a odd feeling to be standing in his house, years later, waiting to have my fortune told. I can’t tell you if any of the things he told me came true, because I can’t recall any of them, but what I do remember, vividly, is that he began his reading by looking into my past and told me I had been raped. You would think that a 16 year old girl would remember such an event and when I told him he was wrong, he plainly assured me that no matter what I had to say on the matter I had indeed been raped.