(something I wrote for my feminist theory class last semester (spring '05).
figured i'd post it.)
I write this as a woman, as a feminist, as a women’s studies major, but perhaps most importantly, as a sexual abuse/rape/incest survivor. The word, “survivor,” is in itself a troublesome term - it implies that I’m 100% better, 100% over you, something I’ve only recently come to terms with, but something I may never fully be.
You see, recently, I’ve become angry, but not with just any anger. I’ve become angry with that kind of rage that bubbles up, rage that is not unlike the high-pitched wail of the teakettle signaling the boiling of the water, rage that doesn’t stop at that wail, and forces its way out of the pot, blowing the lid off as it goes. And it’s that kind of rage that needs to be shared, that needs to be reconciled, that needs to be outed. So, here we go:
#1. Your penis does not entitle you to any part of my body; not my breasts, not my mouth, and sure as fuck not my vagina. These parts of my body? They’re mine. Only I can grant access to them, and only I can take that access away. And that goes for all women you might think about victimizing or have already. Every “I” I use in this manifesto applies not only to me and to all victims/survivors, but to all women, everywhere. Men the world over think that because of their status in this patriarchal society, they can lay claim to everything they think they rightfully own, from land to animals to us women. They buy up and conquer any land not otherwise claimed by other men, pen up and cage animals meant to run wild, and marry off and rape women in epidemic numbers. In 2003 alone, there were well over 198,850 victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault, NOT including those victims under 12 years of age, or the innumerable amount of rapes that go unreported each year. What these men don’t realize is that someday, these people, that they think they own, will rise up against them in insurmountable numbers. Your penis entitles you to nothing. Least of all, the virginity of a child or access to the woman of your choice. (You only have as much power as I grant you.)
#2. I am more than a sexual object. I have a mind, I have a future, and I have a self that exists entirely outside of, yet intertwined with, my sexual self. You cannot fuck with my sexual self without fucking with the rest of me. You cannot look at me as though I were a piece of meat you were picking out at the deli, because I’m more than that, and I deserve more than that. My cunt, as well, is more than just a receptacle for your pleasure, or a baby-making machine. My cunt is so much more than that. “My cunt is...like a wound that won’t heal.” Except it is healing. And it’s only a part of me now, not the be-all and end-all of my being, as you would have it be. Yes, my body is sexual, and it is sexual outside of the purposes you would have it be used for, but it is so much more than that. When I wear a low-cut top, I’m not asking you to stare at or fondle my breasts. When I wear a short skirt, I’m not asking for rape. I’m a sexual person, but I will not be sexually objectified. (You only have as much power as I grant you.)
#3. Along with that, my body is capable, and deserving, of sexual pleasure. (Please note: What you “gave” me was not pleasure.) It can orgasm. It loves to orgasm. And you no longer have an effect on that. You no longer have any place in my sexual life, because what I had with you was not sexual. What I had with you was a simple exchange of power and control. Come to think of it, it was not so much exchange as surrender. I surrendered my power, my control, because I was afraid. I surrendered because I thought that’s what was supposed to happen. I surrendered because that’s what girls do when boys want something. This goes along with point #1, regarding Penis Entitlement. Boys want, girls give. We’re taught from day one that this is the way the world works, from toys to independence to sex. Little girls give up their toy trucks when little boys come stomping on their play area, reverting back to the little-girl ideals of playing house and dolls. Women give up their independence through marriage or other similar commitments of “love.” And rape victims give up their entitlement to their own sexuality when boys/men demand it of them. This needs to end. In my own life, it ends (or, as it were, starts) here. I’m reclaiming my own sexuality, taking back my stolen innocence. I’m not innocent anymore. But I am sexual again. And my sexuality has absolutely nothing to do with you. (You only have as much power as I grant you.)
#4. I will not be afraid anymore. I am done with the fear of intimacy, the fear of trust, the fear of commitment -- all that shit that you started, I’m ending. Right now. So if you think that you can continue to control me through my fear of you, of sex, of another rape, you’re wrong. Get over yourself. I won’t tailor my every move to what you would have me do anymore. I’m not afraid. I will walk down the street at night, and not be immobilizingly afraid of being victimized again. I will have sex with whomever I wish, whenever I wish, and not be afraid of being close with them. I will masturbate, and not be afraid of feeling sexual in my own right. I will talk to people, confide in them, I will tell them the truth about me, about my past, about my present, and not be afraid of another betrayal. My fear of you, and of rape in general, parallels women’s fear everywhere. Men have so terrorized women through sexual abuse and rape that they fear the streets at night, they fear being out alone, they fear being anything but feminine, and they fear being seen as promiscuous. The simple act of wearing a short skirt is frightening, because you ingrain into our minds that this makes us whores, promiscuous, asking for rape. This is no way for women to live, and no way for me to live. I am done with living this way. We are all done with living this way. (You only have as much power as I grant you.)
#5. My vagina is not at fault for your penis’ intrusion. Nor are my breasts, my eyes, or I, as a woman. There is no such thing as “suggestive eyes” or “she-wanted-it eyes.” Your penis stepped over the line when it entered my vagina, as did the rest of your body. It is not my fault. Let me repeat that. It is not my fault. It is yours. You, as my abuser, as my rapist, bear full responsibility for my rape. I will not deny that you were influenced by certain social conditions, but it was your choice to abide by those social conditions, and your choice to fuck me. Whose fault is it? In the end, that’s not really my decision to make. But I do know one thing: it is not my fault. (You only have as much power as I grant you.)
#6. There is no way to curb this violence against women unless we as women stand up for ourselves. The patriarchal state cannot effectively do this for us, as it is infected and infested with racism, classism, misogyny, and homophobia. Its racism prevents it from helping a woman of color who seeks assistance after a rape, its homophobia prevents it from helping a lesbian who is abused or raped, and its classism downplays the impact of rape on lower- and working-class women. Then, of course, there’s the general misogyny and gender-based bias of the state, which downplays the impact of rape altogether, regardless of how much they claim to substantiate this crime. Consider, for example, the TV show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’s introduction, which declares “sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous.” This may be true for individual officers of the law, but the state overall does not consider them “heinous” in the least. Angela Davis was absolutely right when she explained that the criminalization of rape and sexual abuse could not be a solution to the problem. A corrupt, misogynistic state cannot cure an epidemic based on corruption and misogyny. (You only have as much power as I grant you.)
In short, I’m done with your bullshit. I’m moving on. I will not be a victim, and I will not allow you to victimize others. My cunt is my own. I am reclaiming it for myself, for my sexuality, and for my personhood. You only have as much power as I grant you. And I grant you none.