This post was originally published on the blog, Frequent FlyHer.
I must've been in high school when I was riding in the car with my mother as we listened to Tom Joyner, I believe it was, call Aaliyah up in school, yes school, and ask her about her marriage to R. Kelly. I don't really remember all of the details, but I do remember her reticence and discomfort with the conversation. Afterwards, I remember still listening to the song pinned by her "alleged" husband, "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number," and rocking back and forth to it (no pun intended), jamming, singing along, not understanding that I was listening to a Lolita-esque anthem written by the chocolate Humbert Humbert himself. The same Humbert "R. Kelly" Humbert, who asked for some I.D. before he got deep in...Who the fuck needs an ID though! Whom are you fucking whose age is really that questionable that it makes for an actual song lyric?!?!?!!?! When you step back for a moment, and really look at this, you have to scratch your head, and think, "like you can't make this shit up, it's so crazy." And we all excused it, we all ignored it, because the music was goooood, or was it just the music that we identified with?
In college, I remember the hype over seeing the R. Kelly sex video. I personally never saw it and when I think back now, I think wow, people were really that hype over watching child porn? Like people were really excited over watching the exploitation, violation, and urolagnia of a an underaged girl, why? Because it's ok, because rape culture is so pervasive in our society that we don't even notice it, because it's in our music, and we buy it, and buy into it, and goddammit if we don't love it!!!!! We needed video evidence of R. Kelly raping a girl, and we still didn't believe it. Even after he told you he was the PIED PIPER OF R&B, the fucking pied piper who lured kids off with his music!!! Even though there were multiple accounts of him using his power and money to sexually exploit young girls. We blame the girls for being too fast, or having bodies that are too well developed, or wearing clothes that are too mature for them. We excuse the uncle who hugs us for too long, or asks for us to always sit on his lap, or brushes up against us, or corners us in a room, right before someone walks in and rescues us. We accept it, because boys will be boys and men will be men, and they can't control themselves, so we have to do everything in our power to not be victims.
I remember sitting at a bar with a group of friends when a Lil Wayne and T.I. song came on, the video and the song were new and we were all immediately hypnotized by the lyrics, "this club so packed, these hoes so drunk" and even had the lyric, "I'm killing these hoes like that nigga Ted Bundy," Wait, what the fuck did he just say????... Ted Bundy, though?!?!?!? The mass murderer, the serial rapist, Ted Bundy?!?!?!? Miguel had a pretty popular song where he croons, "how many drinks does it take for you to get with me?" Damn, I can't even get a meal, Miguel? ....oh and let's not forget Rick Ross putting mollies in people's drinks, all the while you were singing along to all of these songs, and you ain't even know how rapey they actually were. Because maybe just maybe, you've been a little rapey too.
Our culture is even a little rape obsessed, I mean think about how popular the show Law & Order S.V.U. is, it has had almost FOUR HUNDRED episodes, and we always know what is going to happen in each one, someone or some child is going to be sexually exploited, and we still tune in to watch, and it's still on the air even in all of its predictability. But how often do those episodes involve what most rapes really are, date rapes, not done by strangers, not done in alleys, but in the homes of the victims or perpetrators, while they are in their pajamas, while their guards are being let down, after they've had that drink. What else does S.V.U. give us? It gives us bruises, and rape kits, and scratches, and black eyes and evidence that she fought off the attack, that she didn't want it. It gives the viewer, the man handing out drinks and weed and quaaludes justification that what he is doing, does, and did, isn't rape, just having a good time and because they always catch the bad guy at the end. However, that's not even remotely close to what happens in real life, seeing as about 97 percent of rapists never see a day in jail.
The interesting thing about people defending Bill Cosby is that he CLEARLY stated, under oath in 2004, after he admits to giving his victim something to help her for her insomnia that, "I don't hear her say anything. And I don't feel her say anything. And so I continue and I go into the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection. I am not stopped." I'm trying to figure out what more definition of rape do we need, he gave her something that he knew would incapacitate her, and then had sex with her, that's called RAPE, like as if the absence of a "no" is the presence of a "yes." Now, there are maybe some people defending him because they know someone, who knows someone who was falsely accused of rape, but let's be honest the amount of silent victims vastly outnumbers the amount of loud liars, like really how often does that even happen?!?!?!! I also find it interesting that people are calling the victims groupies, hoes, whores, sluts, thots, like as if Bill Cosby, a man who at the very least is a serial adulterer, is of some upstanding moral fiber, as if he is the only rich and powerful man, that didn't abuse his power and how people trusted him. (Oh, and by the way, the same reason those women went to Mr. Cosby's room, as many have asked, is the same reason people can't believe he did it: TRUST). But that's what we do, we blame the victim for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, wearing the wrong thing, believing the wrong person, drinking the wrong drink... We blame the sheep for being devoured by the wolf. We victim shame, we blame women for being too trusting and yet we also give them hell for being too cold to people. We don't relent, we ask the wrong questions to the wrong person, we don't ask "why did you rape?" we ask "why were you raped?" And we wonder why it takes so much for anyone to come forward with their account, as if healing the most broken part of you is so easy and therefore should come with a statute of limitations.
As a society, we have this view of the tall, dark dressed man, with a weapon, in the alley, trying to rape women, but the reality is that most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, and the closer the victim is to the perpetrator or the more she trusts him and therefore the less likely she is to tell. In fact, our society's rape culture is so pervasive that it is not only in our music and television, but understood and accepted as almost some sort of rite of passage. In college for instance, it is far too common for frats to have parties, that mix a cornucopia of alcohol and sex crazed young adults. The primary goal at these frat parties is to get young women drunk so that it is easier to have sex with them, let's call it what it is. Yet, we don't talk about that as rape, because some of the readers of this blog have been guilty of that as well, or at the least coercion sex, which we won't even get into, because that's a whole other post. Look, I am not saying there is no time when someone has sex with someone and is under the influence and was going to do it anyway. Hell, I've definitely gotten loose before having sex with someone, but I knew that I wanted to have sex with them before the alcohol was ever presented, chances are, I was probably already sexually involved with them anyway.
But honestly, there has been an instance or two in life when my drunken "no's" somehow got lost in the depth of the darkness, and I had to wake up to a friend not being a friend anymore and reconcile that situation and justify what happened, making it be more of a misunderstanding than it actually was. Because "no" is the same word in only three languages. And that's what happens, you make it okay, because you have to, because you don't want police reports, or questions about how you got there and what were you thinking, because smart girls can't possibly be rape victims. Because sometimes you can't continue any other way. You may even still be kind to your rapist, you may still even talk to them afterwards, because sometimes that's the only way to keep yourself from being labeled a victim, is if you pretend you never were.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.