Glance at Its Face

Hey all! So in the wake of the impending doom ushered in by Trump being elected, I’ve been so so lucky to find solace, support, and hope in the creative people in my life.

The following is a piece I wrote about my own brushes with and understanding of rape culture. It was featured in a zine about Trump’s election. It’s really great, and if you like this definitely check out some of the other work in the zine!

photo by Savannah Nolan

***

freshman year of college, i took a film class called race class and gender in american film. we watched silence of the lambs and spring breakers. in 35mm i saw the glorious pearly wad of semen hit jodie foster’s face and vanessa hudgens give a blow job to an ak47 in a neon bikini.

 

we discussed class for both films. we never talked about gender at all.

***

i’ve been told by a close male friend that i’d get more instagram likes if i posted pictures of myself because it’s “prime real estate.”

 

***

i interned at an indie publishing house over the summer in downtown los angeles. i was approached by the crooning voices strange men every single day i went to work.

 

***

one of my friends recently scolded me for often walking home alone at night. i had never thought of this as unsafe before.

 

***

the publishing company I interned at employs almost exclusively hip, educated, feminist women. two of the novels i read for them were about male leads who use female characters as sexual objects. these female characters had no other development whatsoever. i still don’t understand what they saw in these projects when everything else they were working on seemed so groundbreaking

 

***

in high school i was once the only girl hanging out with a group of boys. they made me watch a porno of two people having sex on top of a dead bear.

 

***

i’ve been told by a close male friend that in co-ed relationships, sex is always on the table

 

***

in high school, one of my friends said that a group of guys referred to a girl as “triangle boob” because of the shape of her breasts. i often feared people would call me this as well.

 

***

often my girl friends will tell me their male friends find me attractive. it’s never mentioned whether they find me smart or funny or compassionate.

 

***

i’ve been told by a close male friend that when i dyed my hair blonde it made me more fuckable

 

***

in kindergarten a classmate grabbed me by the arm and asked why i was chasing other boys on the playground. when i said it was because i didn’t like him, he gave me an indian burn.

 

***

 

in high school two of my male friends who were best friends with each other were both interested in me. their entire friend group blamed me for the rift in their group. i was told by one of the guys that i should apologize to all of them.

 

***

one guy that all my friends know has taken advantage of his female friends who were too drunk to remember having sex with him. all anyone says about him is what a great filmmaker he is.

 

***

once when a guy i used to be friends with was asked about the new girl he was hooking up with, he said he’d probably “fuck her a few times then never talk to her again.”

 

i knew this guy because he was roommates with someone i was seeing at the time. this guy became a close friend of mine as well. he told me often that his roommate was using me for sex and didn’t like me.

 

since he was a close friend, i believed him. i made out with him when he drunkenly told me he liked me. after that he never spoke to me again. he deleted me on facebook. who knows if his roommate had actually liked me or not.

 

***

i go to a college where only girls are allowed to attend frat parties so that the brothers have a “higher ratio”

***

I once heard a story of a girl who came back from one of these parties, wandering the dorms crying and looking for mints. she said someone had locked her in a bedroom and wouldn’t let her leave until he had forcibly anally and orally raped her. she wanted the mints to get the taste of him off of her tongue.

 

***

i go to these parties assuming that won’t happen to me.

 

***

my school’s title ix office encourages survivors not to report rape to the police because it will hurt the university’s reputation

 

***

i was roofied at a party once. nothing happened.

 

***

i’ve had boys whose faces i’ve never laid my eyes on before rub their crotches on my ass at parties. this is a normal occurrence.

 

***

when I was studying in paris, a guy bought a table in one of the city’s most exclusive and expensive clubs. he invited only girls. everyone i asked said they weren’t really friends with him. everyone i asked also said he stuck his hands up their skirts. none of the other girls left the club early

 

***

i actually prefer going to the frat parties where they control which guys are there. i’m aware that it commodifies sex, but it feels more safe. i’ve never been groped, belittled, harassed, or roofied at a frat party.

 

***

once at a party at my house i told a strange guy that we’d rather not have people stand on the porch. he told me to calm down because he would have fucked me if he wasn’t there with his girlfriend.

 

when i was visibly upset by this, my boyfriend at the time didn’t understand. i had an anxiety attack and he went home.

 

***

someone told me that my ex’s friend’s girlfriend was a bitch. it was because she made him late to his birthday party by having an anxiety attack.

 

***

that same ex’s friend tried to hook up with me at a party when i was very drunk. it made me uncomfortable and i yelled at him in front of everyone. he told people that i had tried to hook up with him and he didn’t know what to do because he was friends with my ex.

 

it was two days after he broke up with the girl who had the anxiety attack.

 

the next time I saw him, i apologized for being weird, because i didn’t know what else to do.

 

***

i’m part of a professional fraternity at my college. pledging is a period where we all had to prove that we deserved to be in the fraternity to the active members by fulfilling certain tasks and social obligations. during this time i was sexually pursued by three different active members.

 

this is technically a jailable offense under title ix. the power dynamic set up in a pledging situation creates a coercive environment where consent is not possible.

 

other girls in my pledge class experienced more overt passes than i did. they were too afraid of not getting into the fraternity to say anything to anyone.

 

one girl had a guy drunkenly hit her in the face because she didn’t like him back. there were no repercussions for him.

 

***

when i was a freshman in high school, two boys that were older than i was posted on my facebook wall asking if i was “a moaner or a screamer.” i had never spoken to them before.

 

***

when i was a sophomore in high school, a senior spread around a nickname for me that was a play on words of my last name and the act of forcibly anally penetrating me. i had never spoken to this boy before either.

 

years later he texted one of my friends saying he saw me on my college campus. when she asked why he didn’t say hi, he said it was because he didn’t remember my name.

 

***

when i was 12, a boy at camp tried to fondle me. i kneed him in the balls. he called me a bitch and a “herpes whore.” i didn’t know what herpes was.

 

***

one time in high school, a strange man on the subway put his hand up my friend’s dress and touched her vagina. we didn’t believe her at the time.

 

***

i’ve only ever had one serious boyfriend. he’s in the fraternity i’m in. before i ever met him, he had a group chat with his friends where he referred to me as “hot pledge.” when he told me this i was flattered.

 

he also told me he was surprised i was kind and smart. he expected that because of the way i look i would be “a stupid bitch.”

 

we said we loved each other.

 

he texted the last girl he had sex with everyday. it confused her and me.

 

when i asked if he was still attracted to her he said no because she had gained weight.

 

he often told me that if i gained weight i obviously wouldn’t be as hot as i am now.

 

when i told him i feared he would cheat on me with that girl he told me that was unfair to him, that it was hurtful to our relationship.

 

he once told me I didn’t truly know him and he was only interested in sex.

 

when i brought this up later he said i had misremembered what he had said. that he never said that.

 

he did this a lot when i would bring up things that made me uncomfortable. he often cited my high school struggle with depression as a reason why i was not as logical as he was.

 

when we broke up he told me i never truly knew him and that it was “hard for him to care about my feelings.”

 

i believe both.

 

***

because i lived at our fraternity house he often hung out there after we broke up. i told him that it made me uncomfortable, that i felt i couldn’t escape him. i asked if he could refrain from being there until i moved out at the end of the month. he said that was “ridiculous.” he spent everyday the following week at my house.

 

***

his two best friends were girls. he called them cunts to me often. he’s still best friends with them. maybe he calls me a cunt to them now.

 

***

six of my best friends have been cheated on by ex boyfriends.

 

***

my mom said my dad cheated on her when they were together. he says he didn’t.

 

***

one of my friend’s exes hit her once. she didn’t tell me until they broke up.

 

***

i once saw my dad raise his hand to hit my mom, but decide against it. we got an alarm system at our house after that.

 

***

three of my best friends are survivors of rape.

 

***

one was held at gunpoint.

 

***

another was in middle school when it happened.

 

***

the third’s rapist texted her over the summer.

 

***

they are three of the best people i know.

 

***

the first person i ever kissed was a counselor at a resort i went to growing up. he was 21. i was 14.

 

***

i can imagine my father saying everything trump said.

 

***

trump talked about her “big phony tits”

 

trump said he kisses women without even speaking to them. “when you’re a star they just let you do it.”

 

trump said “grab ‘em by the pussy.”

 

***

but billy bush was there too. billy bush said “oof, get out of the way honey. oh that’s good legs.”

 

“all i can see is the legs.”

 

he said you can do “whatever you want.”

 

no one seems that mad at him.

 

***

trump didn’t just say that stuff in that tour bus but also said a lot of similar things throughout his career. even publically. on an episode of howard stern he described walking into the dressing rooms of the miss universe contestants while they were changing. because he owned the pageant he could “get away with stuff like that.”

 

but howard stern agreed, saying he’d rather have a “retarded hot woman than a slob who is a doctor.”

 

he still has his show on satellite radio and is regarded well as an intellectual.

 

***

daniel tosh is a comedian who often makes jokes at the expense of women.

 

he does this on his show on comedy central.

 

***

In 2015, gawker revealed that louis ck forced a handful of female comedians to watch him masturbate.

 

he’s currently has a show on fx. he’ll be preforming at madison square garden this year. it’ll probably sell out.

 

***

roman polanski raped a 13-year-old girl.

 

he is still regarded, discussed, and taught as an important filmmaker.

 

***

woody allen sexually abused his daughter.

 

since this news has gone public, he’s released four well regarded films and has a show on amazon.

 

***

i’ve never seen such a cultural upheaval at a person because of their misogynist rhetoric before.

 

***

ive been surrounded by this rhetoric my entire life. surrounded by this faceless voice like a short person craning to see in a crowd.

 

i have swallowed it. gobbled it like berries, let it stain my lips with its juice.

 

i have let it fog my bathroom mirror like steam after a shower

 

***

i wasn’t viscerally affected by the tapes of trump. i found it offensive but wasn’t offended. i wasn’t appalled. i couldn’t have been because i wasn’t surprised.

 

i was more surprised by how much everyone cared. as if they had never heard talk like this before. as if suddenly, this treatment of women is not something we accept.

 

or cared for a few weeks. until he became president. until it became a game, trending on twitter—see how many girls you can grab by the pussy

 

and it’s normal again how this talk curls its way through our hot breath in messy cursive letters.

 

i was not offended because i had already assumed that some of the men i know had talked about me in the same way.

 

which is even scarier.

 

because realizing this was the first time i ever realized that what rape culture actually is. that it isn’t always being raped, but that it is the stripping away of personhood, peeling personality from women like old paint until they are shells to be filled by men.

 

maybe sometimes it’s the fear of being raped, the very real fear of being forced open like a mussel by buttery fingers.

 

but it is also all the other fear.

 

the fear of being hit or grabbed.

 

the awareness that in the palm of a strange man, my forearm is as snappable as a chicken bone.

 

the fear of being touched or fondled or followed.

 

the fear of being painted as a bitch, a witch, hysterical, ill, anxious, crazy or mean for ever acknowledging the fear.

 

the fear of being erased, invisible to the men who think they know me because they aren’t even aware that they cannot see beyond the meat of my body.

 

the fear that perhaps this fear lives sewn to my feet like a shadow. that maybe i have already learned to never glance down at its face.

 

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