Usually at this time of year, if I were still at ELAC, I would be frantically organizing for Take Back the Night, and I wouldn't be thinking about what I would say when I took the mic. I wouldn't be planning to take the mic, except to thank the folks who had donated the cookies, and given up a night of perfectly good cram for finals studying. Given the news that has been bouncing around the country and blogosphere out of Durham N.C. it feels a little strange to be blogging about sexual assault, especially because I feel I have nothing to say about the Duke case. But I can't let the sunny days of April go by without talking about sexualt assault.
I am a story collector. I carry people's stories in my gut, and every April those stories want to talk. I know about the fourteen year old girl who was walking home from school one day and was raped against the gravel by the traintracks. I know about the sixteen year old girl who was raped in the back of a car after a date by someone on her (co-ed) sports team. I know about the twelve year old girl, who was pushed against a washing machine in her parents house and fingered by her friend who was thirteen. I know about the little girl who was molested by her grandmother's gardener. The twelve year old raped against a chainlink fence. And I know all of those people now. Some of them I have counseled through their fear, craddled through their nightmares, some of them I know no details about. Trust me when I tell you that I know all of these people very well, some of them are family, some lovers, some youth I've mentored. And I know my own story -- I know that when I was seventeen I was having sex for the first time with a woman. I know that we were fooling around at midnight on a playground, I know that when she asked, I said I didn't know and pulled away, and I know that the next second her hand was inside me, and I felt pain for days, and dirty for years.
Power and sex cannot be disentangled, and there is so much grey area. Consent is active, it is not silence or doubt, it is the screamed, whispered, and winked yes. It is not saying yes through gritted teeth after saying no seventeen times. It is not closing your eyes, or being so drunk you've passed out. It is not waking up naked without any idea of what happened. Consent is also incredibly sexy, as a fellow anti-rape activist once said, "Why wouldn't you want to make sure that the other person was having a good time?" So take back the night, the day, the walk home, the lover's embrace, and your own ability to say "yes" and "no".