“He thought I was a baby-raper,” he said. “I explained that we were just friends.”
“When you fuck someone without their wanting it,” Ignacio said. “Sex is like a game. It takes two people – or more, I guess, if you want – to play, and both players have to agree to the rules ahead of time. Anything else is cheating.”
That’s a little snippet from iD, in case you were curious. Javier is having a flashback to his life in a Nicaraguan prison. I wrote those flashbacks to grant a better sense of the experiences that made Javier who he is, and to explain a bit (but not too much, as this book was already the cause of much drinking) about the role of vN in enclosed societies like prisons. Enclosed societies are a theme in the book, so it seemed relevant.
But I’m really writing today to talk about rape. Because what Javier’s roommate tells him about sex are what I wish more people heard, growing up. That’s it’s not okay to suddenly change the rules of play, in sex. That it’s okay to feel betrayed and frightened if the other person does. “Well, I know I told you I was wearing a condom, but I really wasn’t,” is about the same as “Well, I know y’all are wearing Nikes, but I thought I’d bring my cleats, so don’t, like, let me slide into you, or anything.” Obviously, cleats can’t give you HIV or get you pregnant, but it’s still unfair play, just like fucking someone (or stripping her, or photographing her, or sticking your fingers inside her) when she’s passed out is unfair play. Fair play requires an equal playing field. So does consent. That unconscious girl who was flirting with you may indeed have wanted to have sex with you. But that was an hour and three Cherry Comforts ago, and it is not now, and now you will never know, because the only thing you’re going to do with that girl is pull a blanket over her and get her some water and maybe a bucket, because you are a man, and not a monster.
I know that rape is not a game, and sex really isn’t, either. But what we learn about fair play — online, on the field, on the gaming table — has value in the bedroom, too. A long time ago, we pushed kids into sports not so they could lose weight, but so they could gain ethics. I know that’s hard to believe after Lance Armstrong, Jose Canseco, Pete Rose, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, and the lot of them, but that’s how it used to be. Once upon a time, we wanted to teach kids not just how to win, but more importantly, how to lose. How hear “no.” How to take it on the chin and walk away. But now, schools protect accomplished student athletes from accusations of rape. Now, high school football players expect their coaches to take care of rape allegations. Now, football coaches can rape little boys and their universities will let them get away with it. So much for fair play. So much for “no.”
I bring this up because Christie Blatchford seems not to get it. Writing about the late Rehtaeh Parsons of Nova Scotia, who killed herself in response to the bullying that followed her sexual assault, Blatchford goes to great pains to explain that “there are two sides, even in this wrenching tale,” and explains, ever so delicately, that maybe Parsons was just asking for it. In so doing, Blatchford is taking advantage of Parsons’ absence of life in much the same way that the boys accused of raping her may have taken advantage of her absence of consciousness. She’s not awake. She can’t say no. She can’t push back. It’s possible that, as Blatchford asserts, the local RCMP would not have pursued a case. But Parsons didn’t kill herself because the RCMP didn’t make a case. She killed herself because she wanted to. Because it seemed like the best idea at the time.
Parsons is not the only woman to come to that conclusion. She’s part of a trend. Amanda Todd. Jessica Laney. Lizzy Seeberg. Samantha Kelly. Recently, it has become all too common for young women to choose suicide as their response to rape. And that’s dangerous, because suicide is viral, and those who know someone who has committed suicide or hear of someone committing suicide are 3.5 times more likely to attempt it themselves.
You know what else is viral in its epidemiology? Mass shootings. Mass shooters copy each other, possibly because they hear so much about each other on the news. Although research is ongoing, we do know that mass murderers also tend to kill themselves, either because they sincerely wish to die or because suicide is now part of the standard mass shooting process.
Inevitably, these two trends will converge.
Think about it. What’s to stop a young woman whose accusations have been ignored by police to decide that killing herself, her rapists, and some of the victim-shaming bitches who made her life a living hell on Facebook? Certainly not the strength of America’s gun laws. Or how its media treats “promising” young rapists. At what point does someone decide that the rage, the pain, the betrayal, and the despair should be focused outward, not just inward? At what point does a victim decide that the world is better off without the people who victimized her, and that if the cops can’t keep him off the streets, maybe she should? Statistically, women are not rampage killers. But all it takes is one. One girl, and a family gun collection.
As a human being, I don’t endorse this course of action. But as a futurist? I think it’ll take an event like the one I’ve just described to get the majority of American public schools to start talking about consent, rape, and victim-blaming with any degree of nuance. In much the same way that Columbine galvanized the school security movement after 1999, a rape revenge murder at school could provoke a change in how we handle accusations of rape among students. I think that’s what it would take for educators and legislators to realize that rape isn’t a private problem, it’s a community problem. It’s sad that I think that’s what it would take. I would love to be wrong. Only time will tell.