I’ve never been raped. In my years as a hetero- and then bisexual identifying person (in my teens and early 20s), I was sexually harassed and sexually coerced by men numerous times, and long before I knew what consent was I definitely had sex without really wanting to, for various psychological reasons. But I have never experienced the horror of having a man enter my space and force himself on me explicitly against my will.
And yet, the fear of having this happen is at the forefront of my thoughts when I interact alone with any man I do not know intimately well.
Someone I used to volunteer with – a white man in his 50’s – came to my house the other day just to catch up. He requested a get-together at my house so he could see my chickens. He’s a nice person and I was happy to catch up and show him our set-up. But we were going to be meeting at my house on a day when I was going to be alone. My wife and daughter were out of town. On the days leading up to our get-together, a dark thought started running through my mind:
What if he plans to assault me?
I had horrible images in my head. As the hours to our visit ticked closer, I became scared. But I also felt ridiculous for being scared. I’d worked on odd projects and had board meetings with this person for a year prior. We weren’t close, but he was really nice and easy to get along with. While I KNEW he wasn’t actually a threat, I also KNEW the statistics around sexual assault occurring mostly in the victim’s home, by people the victim knows.
Our visit came and went, and I was unharmed. He was a perfectly pleasant human who legitimately wanted to catch up and learn about my chickens. And I felt horrible for fearing the worst of him.
But that’s what it’s like to be a woman.