14 March 2013

Cheyenne Connors: This is What Rape Culture Looks Like

The Ms. Foundation for Women is celebrating Women’s History Month with a blog carnival featuring the voices and profiles of women across the country. This Month of Action is generously supported by our friends in Seattle.

By Cheyenne Connors

This weekend I am visiting my friend at Antioch College. In order to do this, I am taking a five-hour bus trip. I have books, music and bus people to entertain me, and I am totally comfortable with this.

Do you want to know who is not comfortable with this? My entire family. They aren’t stopping me, of course, since I am 20 years old and they learned long ago that I make my own decisions. They have all, however, warned me very specifically about “skeevy old men” and to “sit in front of the bus.” I nodded, smiled and agreed.

Of course, I was silently fuming. Not because they are wrong in these warnings, and not that they are trying to do anything but help me be safe, but because I am expected to keep myself from being raped on a bus. If someone did rape me, I can only imagine that part of my family’s reaction would be, “Why weren’t you more careful?”

As I got dressed, I thought about each article of clothing. Was this tank top too revealing? (Maybe). What about this eye shadow? Too much? (It’s dark purple because it brings out my eyes). What about my red lip stain, my scarf, my silver chain? Would they be used against me in the Court of Rapists?

I don’t know, but I hope not. And, quite frankly, if anyone tries anything, they may find themselves without corneas or testicles. But it’s ridiculous that I have to think about this. This is what rape culture looks like. 

Cheyenne Connors is 20 years old.


  1. I agree 100%.

  2. I don't consider being raped when I go out alone, and I hope I never do, but I do take precautions to make sure I do not look like a victim. I don't want my purse stolen, I don't want to be carjacked.. I think taking general precautions against sociopaths and thieves is not 'rape culture' but human nature.

    1. "but I do take precautions to make sure I do not look like a victim."

      There is no way to not look like a victim. the vast majority of rapes are committed by someone you already know, not a stranger.

    2. What are "general precautions," though? You see, I am a D-cup and I have a smallish waist and wide hips (even when skeletally thin). So you know what? I can go outside in a sloppy sweatshirt and jeans and kickass boots (incidentally, pretty much the only kind of shoes I ever wear)... and still get harassed and heckled at every turn. I used to try to hide the size of my boobs, hide my waist, hide my hips... and I'm not doing that anymore. I can't. It hurts like hell, for one thing, and for another — I am a woman. Why the hell should I be forced to deny my gender any more than any man?

      No. Our bodies are not property like our purses; they are our *bodies.* What we need to do is fight rape culture and its underlying root, the patriarchal society that, in the end, hurts *everyone,* women and men alike.

    3. The issue, Connie, is that we as a society tend to blame the victim in almost all those situations. I don't think it's specific to rape. Why is it my fault if someone mugs me? Because I was carrying a purse? Because maybe for a split second I wasn't hyper-aware of every little thing that was around me? Or was it because someone else (the mugger/rapist/thief and general low life) is a piece of s***?

  3. Riding mass transit at night is probably the worst. The waits are longer, the people are fewer and groups are rowdier, and the feeling of vulnerability is enormous. Plus, the condemnation from people, "you shouldn't be riding alone at night" is pervasive. The feeling doesn't leave me til I get my door shut and locked behind me. You don't want to call it "rape culture" fine, call it violence against women culture, but we all change our awareness as soon as we step outside.

  4. I am 30 years old, and in my mind, not particularly lovely or pretty. I tend to wear baggy hoodies and little make up (do you hear how rape culture has conditioned me to tell you what i am wearing?!) I live in a small town where everyone knows their neighbor. I never worried about rape. One night I was famished and I went down to the friendly corner bar to order some food, a drink, and watch my university team play on TV. I went alone. Why worry? The bar was closer to something out of Cheers, than a crazy youthful dance club. I wasnt worried about anything that night, just the fact I was craving a bacon cheeseburger.

    I sat down and ordered a light beer and food. My first mistake was leaving the drink unattended for 3 minutes to use the lady's room. By the time I had finished the drink, I knew something was wrong. Folks need to know what a date rape drug feels like. The fuzzy, numb feeling, the tingling fingers, the damped sense that someone has their hands over your ears and your hearing gets dim.... it is very subtle but if you're self-aware at the onset, you'll know it's not just alcohol in your system. I was able to get out of there safely. By the time I was home, I did not remember anything else of the night. I woke up on the floor of the bathroom with no recollection of anything.

    rape happens everywhere, to anyone. Dont get comfortable. Dont walk around thinking it wont happen to you. Because I did. And If I hadn't been smart enough to call a friend, I could have woken up somewhere very different. Or I might not have woken up at all. When I think of the men in that bar - old loggers and orchardists... I cringe and want to cry.