I want to return to one of those stupid things that people are saying about the sexual assault of Lara Logan. It’s the idea that “I’m not saying she deserved to be assaulted, but she should have known that her hair/her clothes/traveling to a country where (insert Middle Eastern or Muslim stereotype here) would make it more likely that she’d get raped.”
Of course she knew.
We all know. Women can’t avoid being aware of any of the standard trappings of rape, real or fictional. That’s what living in a rape culture is all about. There’s no escaping this.
We know when we wander away from friendly faces.
We know when we’re alone with a guy.
We know when we’re with a group of guys.
We know when we’re alone–probably.
We know when we get close to a strange guy.
We know when we’re near a man more likely than we are to be listened to and believed.
We know when we step into roles and situations traditionally reserved for guys.
We know when we break any of the rules that “other” us and make us “fair game” for inhumane treatment.
We know when we admit to any history of victimization.
We know when we express any kind of weakness.
We know when we express any kind of strength.
We know when we acknowledge ourselves as sexual beings.
We know when we’re near a powerful guy.
We know when we’re near a powerless guy who may see us as weak representatives of those who deny him what he wants.
We know when we accept a ride or other favor from a friend of a friend.
We know when we make a guy angry.
We know when we deny a guy something he wants.
We know when we defy a guy.
We know when we allow ourselves to become intoxicated.
We know when the guys around us are becoming intoxicated.
We know when we get dressed.
We know when we decide we want to look our best.
We know when we’re in the presence of a guy who has decided he knows why we’ve chosen to look good.
We know when we accept a date.
We know when we ask a guy on a date.
We know when we show provisional interest in a guy.
We know when we express interest in information or assistance a guy can give us.
We know when we express polite curiosity.
We always know. Always. All of us.
That doesn’t mean we always look at the knowledge straight on. It’s a hell of a thing to know, and it is, as is the point, oppressive knowledge. But we all know and we all deal with the knowledge in our own way.
Some of us tell ourselves we can control whether or not we’re raped and avoid…well, everything. Some take a more moderate approach but still try to diminish the risk. Some of us side with the powerful people in the equation and hope that means they’ll be liked well enough to avoid being raped. Some of us say that the chances of being raped in any particular circumstance will never be 0% and will never be 100%, no matter what we do, so we’ll do what we do while spending as little time as possible worrying about how that affects our chances.
None of these choices are perfect. They can’t be, given the massively messed-up circumstances. But we all face the constant threat of rape and make our choice, assuming we have the luxury of choices at all.
Lara Logan appears to have made a choice very much like the last one I described. That doesn’t make her assault inevitable. It doesn’t make the assault her choice. It doesn’t mean she could have avoided being assaulted by making other choices.
It does, however, make her a role model for people who want to make a similar choice. As it should.
Of course she knew. She just didn’t let that keep her from her life and the work she had to do.