“Ever since the Steubenville sexual assaults made the news, I’ve been thinking about three things that happened in my life, things that have to do with the culture of rape.”

party woods

A 60-year-old man is still unable to comprehend rape. But looking back at stories in his life, he gains insights he wants to share.

Editors Note: A fan of ours on Twitter, Jupiter @dumbsainted, pointed us to the story below, which appeared as a comment on her blog post   I Don’t Want To End Rape Culture. I Want To Destroy It.

seekerofmetta says:

Ever since the Steubenville sexual assaults made the news, I’ve been thinking about three things that happened in my life, things that have to do with the culture of rape.

Rape perplexes me. It simply doesn’t make any sense to me, and I just can’t comprehend that a boy or man could even have the physical capability of performing rape.

I’m not a shrinking violet, either. I’ve had a lot of sex in my life, and many women in my life who meant (and mean) a great deal to me. Once a friend told me that her mother wouldn’t allow her as a young girl to wear tampons, insisting instead that she use sanitary napkins. Sandy described the intense humiliation she felt wearing something that felt like a canoe between her legs that she was sure everyone could see. I laughed, and then told her that from sixth grade on I was plagued with monster erections that would occur at the most embarrassing and inopportune times. In retrospect, I realize that my adolescence was a decade of nothing less than balancing a telephone pole on the edge of my pelvis. So, yeah, I was a horny little bastard, and that’s what made my first encounter with rape culture so horrifying.

It was nearly fifty years ago, at a beer party at the small, rather expensive and exclusive Catholic men’s college I attended. I was just seventeen, and the idea of my first beer bust was very cool. Of course, once I got there I had too much to drink (which would become a nearly fatal habit in my life, but that’s another story) and that only amplified what I later experienced.

Perhaps a quarter of the people at the party were girls who attended a small and equally exclusive Catholic women’s college just down the road from our school. I was surprised to learn that some of the ladies could belt down as many brews as I could (believe me, that’s saying a lot!), and everybody got very sloshed, in the way kids do because they don’t yet know how to drink. As the evening wore on, I noticed some guys were smirking and going into the woods. So finally I followed them.

A young girl was there, sitting, slumped against the trunk of a tree, drunk out of her mind, and a few of the guys were trying to make out with her. The guy I followed already had his hand in her blouse.

Now, I don’t know why I did what I did, but, like self defense, it was automatic. I stepped up and shouted “Stop it! Stop it right now!” and the guy came up with both fists clenched. I slipped around him so that the drunken girl was behind me. In the meantime, several of his friends showed up, and I honestly thought I was going to get a terrible beating from these polished, cosmopolitan Catholic brats. For whatever reason that made me even more resolute, and I raised my fists and said, “Nobody’s going to touch this girl. Nobody.” I’m sure that wasn’t too terrifying coming from a 120 lb. beanpole like me, but it worked. We glared at each other for a time, I in front of the girl and they standing around looking tough in the way football players do.

Then, thank God, her friends showed up and hurried her out of there, and I was able to rejoin the guys I thought were my friends. They weren’t. They not only had not tried to help, but thought I was some kind of Dudley Do-Right. “Why did you do that, you asshole?,” one asked, “it was none of your business.” Another said, “Shit, I was hoping they’d kick the shit out of you.”

This was just incomprehensible to me. I couldn’t imagine that my friends didn’t share my protective impulses, that they were content to watch what would have inevitably developed into a gang rape. Years later I read Edmund Burke’s aphorism that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” and the first thing that came to mind was that night in the woods.

The beer bust broke up shortly afterwards. As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed a guy abandoned by his friends, who was drunk out of his mind, and I just couldn’t leave him there to freeze. Nobody would even help me to get him up off the ground, but I was able to shame a guy from my floor to help me, a guy who would later become a conscientious objector during Vietnam. He just couldn’t fathom the fact that I wouldn’t leave the drunk alone in the woods to sleep it off, and he complained bitterly about my insistence that we walk the guy the few miles back to school.

After that night, people began to treat me differently. At first, it was nothing all that noticeable, but later it became unmistakable. I was never invited to another beer bust because I was a “straight arrow,” someone who couldn’t be trusted, and I was gradually eased out of the group on my floor at the dorm. It was odd that I was thought of as impeccably moral, because I smoked, drank and swore more than all of the rest of the guys put together.

I left school a year later because my girlfriend was pregnant, and ended up joining the Army because the draft board was breathing down my neck.

Fast forward twenty years. I’m a criminal defense lawyer, and I’m talking to Alan, a friend of mine. He was black, an athlete and a body builder, and the handsomest guy I’ve ever known. Women flocked to him. We were talking about a guy I didn’t want to defend, a vicious serial rapist. I said to Alan, “How in the world do these guys keep their hard-ons? I mean, I can’t thing of anything that would turn me off more than beating up a woman.” “I know, man,” Alan said, “I can’t figure it out either, but there must be a lot of guys out there who get off on beating up chicks.”

Another decade passes, and it’s time for me to have the “talk” with my teenaged son. He knew all about the birds and the bees and all that, but we hadn’t talked about relationships with women. I thought and thought about how to convey to him how I thought real men acted in a relationship. Finally, I came up with this: “You will never use a woman as a receptacle or a object for your sexual desires. You can do whatever you want with a girl as long as she wants to, and as long as you realize that her pleasure, and her well-being, is just as important as yours.” I told him that because it was the sum total of everything I’d learned about loving women.

I’m in my late 60s now, and I still can’t comprehend rape. Well, I learned as a lawyer that more men are raped in prison than women are out in the world, and that people rape their little kids, and that there’s more rape going on out there than anyone ever dreamed, and that some of the most innocuous guys in the world can be the worst sort of rapist. I still don’t know how the bastards keep their hard-ons, about how this horrible brutality is somehow sexually exciting to them.

But I’ve surmised that rape is only apparently about sex, that the sexual violation of someone is just the vehicle for that which the rapist really craves: the sadistic humiliation of another human being. It’s his diseased way of saying, “I ain’t much, but at least I’m more than you.” Rape, I’m convinced, is really about violence, and the reason why it hurts so much – not just physically, not just immediately, but emotionally, and for years and years and years – is because that’s exactly what the rapist wants. Rape is the scar he wants to leave on your soul.

One other thing. I’m in my late 60s now, very sick – I have three different kinds of heart disease, and a prostate the size of a basketball, and I ache all over – but I look back at that night so long ago and I am so proud of that skinny little 17 year old who hesitated not a single second to defend another human being in a moment of helplessness. After all, that’s what it means to be a real man, a man who protects, who gives rather than takes, who spends his life helping those who need him. And a man who loves, who really loves, women.

photo: homini / flickr

 Originally posted on crazy dumbsaint of the mind.

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Comments

  1. One of the best things I’ve read on this website – and I’ve been here since it started. Thank you. I hope my sons grow to have this sort of awareness as men.

  2. Sir, please let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for your bravery. Standing up for someone defenseless, no matter what the cost is what a real man is and I applaud you for it. everyone hopes as they age that their existence on earth meant something. Well, to that poor girl who may have been scarred for the rest of her life was the reason for yours. Bless you, sir.

  3. You know, I think bringing good role models and concrete examples of someone doing the right thing to light and thanking them as done here would be much more effective than “men can stop rape” campaigns which often seem to have accusatory undertones.

    seekerofmetta has every right to be proud about his 17 year old self. He wrote it’s being a real man – I’d say it’s a matter of being a good human being. Women also have to capability to protect helpless people – and often do so – and it would be sexist to say that they have any less obligation to do so than men.

  4. Evy MacPhee says:

    Thank you!

  5. This is so true, and not just about rape:

    “the sexual violation of someone is just the vehicle for that which the rapist really craves: the sadistic humiliation of another human being. It’s his diseased way of saying, “I ain’t much, but at least I’m more than you.” ”

    This is bullying, stalking, many kinds of malicious gossip. This is what used to motivate people to bring their children to whippings, hangings and beheadings. This is domestic violence, bar brawls and many wars. This is at least part of the reason we are so fascinated by sports – not just because we love to watch teams we admire win, but because we crave to see teams we detest lose. This is a lot of reality TV and much of the so called “news”.

    The Germans call is Schadenfreude – taking pleasure in the pain of others – and it corrupts our species.

  6. Another hero, thanks

  7. Thank you for sharing this. I’m so glad that you were the straight arrow that did the right thing, and I couldn’t agree more with your comment here:
    “the sexual violation of someone is just the vehicle for that which the rapist really craves: the sadistic humiliation of another human being. It’s his diseased way of saying, “I ain’t much, but at least I’m more than you.”

    You’re an inspiration.

  8. This is so beautiful it left me with a tear in my eye. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  9. It’s all very well stating how you don’t understand rape. Pretty much all of us here fall under that perspective.I don’t see anything other than an elder telling us how morally great he is. I’m half you’re age and I’ve been able to count on my integrity in protecting the weak since I was in single figures. Like most other people. Stating all this does not make rape go away.

    What is driving men to hate women ( and men ) to the point where they rape. What has happenned to these former babies, who entered the world innocent, loving and kind, that they have been so damaged that they rape women, men and children. Rape is everywhere. What has happened to rapists to turn them into rapists. What is happenning to prevent rapists raping again?

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