The Scarlet Rape Letters

I have tried to wear my sexuality on my spaghetti straps right next to the lace of my underwear. I have tried to be unapologetically female on the streets, in clubs, at work, but I have been shouted down by leering eyes and leering hands. They say a woman should not simply go out like this in the rainbow nation because, if she is raped, she’s “corrupt”—they don’t use the word, but it seeps out of everything: What did you wear what did you drink how did you resist how well do you remember did it even
happen
at
all?

If it’s found that you “contributed” to your rape, red letters are stitched to your metaphorical sleeve:

I-M-M-O-R-A-L.
F-I-L-T-H-Y
I-R-R-E-S-P-O-N-S-I-B-L-E

We are the scarlet letters of the 21st century, and our rapes are no less shameful than those of Hester Prynne. We are marked guilty because we went out at the wrong time on the wrong street as the wrong gender.

If you’re mugged, “we’re sorry.” If you’re burgled, “we’re sorry.” If you’re raped, “we’re sick of hearing this story from women who wear their sexualities on their spaghetti straps next to the lace of their underwear.” There’s only one crime that’s more forgivable than the act of wearing your favourite dress.

I have rights, anyway. I can vote. I can have a career in a male-dominated industry. I can insist on political and economic equality, can live out of slavery, can have my children raised by a male partner. Yes, my uterus and I have rights, but they don’t include the right to move freely through my city wearing That Dress; Don’t include the right not to be raped. That ended the second I forgot to watch my drink.

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