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I did. I was drunk and I’d do it again, sober. I was dressed in all black, a thought bubble taped to my shirt. I was half of the costume duo “Thoughts and Prayers,” a last-minute creation for a last-minute party. My friend and I showed up to a house, the porch covered in white Christmas lights and pumpkins carved into quirky pop-culture references, the Saturday before Halloween. We were sort-of invited by old high-school friends who love catching up. The house was decorated with fake bloody sheets, spooky dolls hanging from doors, and a keg. Nothing was over the top, no one was trying too hard.
After midnight, my friend and I stood in the backyard watching people smoke. Even though the cold midwestern fall was in full force, none of us had coats on because we were drunk enough to stay warm. Samantha (the AI system from Her) stood next to Theodore in a red button-down and a fake mustache, Linda and Bob Belcher, that guy at every costume party dressed in the tan short-shorts from Reno 911!, my friend and I made a circle on the concrete. Multiple people were telling stories at the same time and no one listened to any of them. I noticed a man dressed as Jack Sparrow and I said “gross” loudly. I turned to my other half and continued with my loud criticism that no one asked for, “Why would you dress as someone who literally abuses women?”
Bob Belcher turned to me and told me to “Calm down, it’s Halloween.”
I screamed back part joke, part angry feminist, “Every white man should be considered a rapist until proven innocent.”
The circle’s reaction wasn’t a slow burn. I could hear people clearing their throats to respond, but then they must have remembered it was Saturday night and that was reserved for only positive, fun talk. In a matter of two minutes, the area was empty except for my friend, Bob Belcher, and me. Everyone had scattered. To be fair I had told them I considered them rapists. Bob pointed at me, “How could you say that? Why would you use my race against me. I am trying my best.” Which was a bad rebuttal. He could have attacked my timing, no one wanted to talk about rape culture and privilege at a party with a dance floor in the basement. He could have said I was causing a scene, invalidate me by claiming that I said something outlandish for attention. He could have also left. Walked away, brushed me off as a drunk bitch. I could have come up with a dumb response to all of those,
“Oh now isn’t a good time? Then when is BOB? WHEN IS? LET ME KNOW WHEN I AM ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT PLEASE.”
“Maybe I do want attention … FOR RAPE SURVIVORS.”
“Fine, walk away! I love being alone!”
This image from an outside perspective: Bob Belcher, spatula and all, essentially yelling “not all men” at me, is funny. I do not doubt that Bob is trying, but I still have to worry about being the one out of five women that will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. To be constantly reminded that I am not safe anywhere; bars, dorm rooms, concerts, parties, big cities, traveling, in politics, in movies, nighttime, daytime, in a tight dress, in a bulky sweatshirt, in this black button-down shirt with a thinking bubble taped to it, with my hair up, with my hair down, in my own skin, is hard and I am mad most of the time.
Bob looked like he was about to cry. Prayers laughed. Not at Bob, but at the whole situation. Bob asked again, “How can you say that?” I said, “Because it’s true.” Bob stormed off, dismissing my friend and me from the party. I didn’t have the articulation at the time, but I wanted to tell Bob that he shouldn’t be so shocked. Most of us already think everyone is going to assault us, we just don’t tell you because you’d yell at us in a backyard of a Halloween party. Those of us who do not benefit from your privilege of not worrying are groomed our whole lives to assume everyone is out to get us. My mom enrolled me in karate when I was in second grade before she even warned me what men were capable of. I didn’t hear the word “rape” until I read it in an old issue of Seventeen magazine with my best friend, sandwiched between one of the first “How To Do a Smokey Eye” and an interview with Jesse McCartney. For most of my life I could tell that more bad things happened to women, but I didn’t know how to talk about it yet. Finding words to describe the things men have said and done to me has taken a while. I have searched op-eds, textbooks, and the blogs of women much smarter than me to collect all the correct terms to create a language to provide evidence for how I am feeling.
My friend and I walked to the front of the house and waited by the street for our ride. A group of guys from the party were smoking near us on the porch. I half-heartedly apologized for ruining their party, but one guy whose face I knew, said “Don’t be sorry, you’re right.” I felt validated for three seconds until I saw the other men looking away as they finished their cigarettes. Our ride showed up and my friend and I left as the inside of the house continued to dance. Bob probably stayed at the party for a while longer, drinking with his other hip friends dressed as other hip characters. Bob probably told these friends, over the emptying keg, that my comment had made him uncomfortable, unaware that that was the point.