Today, I had a frustrating discussion about sexual assault.
It started out relatively well. While driving somewhere, I was riffing with a friend about the fact that Senegal—where I will be going soon—has something of a street harassment problem. We joked that this had something to do with the country’s French colonial past. (Paris has a by all accounts more physically agressive street harassment culture.)
I joked that I was going to try to mimic the Senegalese response, which I find amusingly direct—a few months ago, I spoke to a graduate student who does research there and she noted that Senegalese women often go with a blunt “Nah, you’re ugly” in response to marriage proposals.
There is of course the more evasive route suggested by my guidebook, which is to murmur “maybe next time” in Wolof, which is apparently a culturally-accepted way to brush someone off politely. I said that in reality I would probably use this response, since I’m not that confrontational. (I could also go with the American response of pretending to understand neither French or Wolof and wandering blankly past.)
Another passenger in the car, who was a friend of my friend and who I had just met, said, “You don’t want to give them false hope or make them angry. That’s a good way to get raped.”
I responded that statistically, that’s untrue. Most sexual assaults involve alcohol and disorientation. He said he disagreed. I gave up and another passenger in the car changed the subject.
But seriously? I am so tired of having to pretend that random boys get an input on the likelihood of someone trying to assault me by virtue of their Having Feelings on the issue.
Are you Senegalese? No.
Have you been to Senegal? No.
Is the threat of sexual assault something that you have to negotiate in your daily existence on a college campus? No.
So no, your feelings about my likelihood of suffering a violent crime in a Scary Foreign Country with Scary Dark Men do not, in fact, get to be treated as more than the baseless, victim-blaming bullshit they are while I am giving you a ride in my car.
In fact, here is a comprehensive list of ways to increase your likelihood of “getting raped.”
- Be around a rapist when he decides to rape you.
There we go.
But, since we’re talking about Feelings, here are mine on how to increase your likelihood of getting punched.
- Be the sort of clueless asshole who brings up rape in the car of someone who’s driving you.
- Refuse to back down.
- Refuse to deal in things like “facts” or “lived experiences.”
See, sharing our Feelings can be super productive. I’m glad we had this talk.