The number of “get me out of here” tactics women have developed and shared to help each other escape from overly-insistent-to-borderline-predatory dudes in public places should probably be enough evidence of the existence of rape culture all on its own.
I especially like how, in the majority of cases, you don’t have to verbally communicate what your signals are to other women. I’ve had women I didn’t even know come save me. Literally every woman recognizes the “Dear god, help me” facial expression, and knows exactly what they should do. We don’t get a handbook for this. We don’t have a sit-down nail polish party where we talk about a standardized woman code for preventing creepers. It’s just part of being a woman.
BUT LOL RAPE CULTURE DOESN’T EXIST.
Yup. I’ve definitely taken strangers by the arm and pulled her aside to go, “Oh my GOD it’s you! How ARE YOU?!? It’s been so long!” and then been like “hey I could overhear that guy who wouldn’t leave you alone so I figured I’d give you an out” and then see their VISIBLY RELIEVED expressions. This is part of girl code, because rape culture is that pervasive.
I once had a girl sit on my lap and say “hey baby” after she witnessed a guy (who was easily 20+ years older than me) hitting on me and harassing me for my number even after I told him I was taken. After he got up and left she asked if I was okay. I couldn’t thank her enough times, I even bought her a drink.
We have done this. In fact, we are this. Because we are asexual and we don’t like alcohol so we never drink, we have gone with friends to parties/places where our sole job was to keep an eye out for everyone and be the permanent ‘aggressive man-sheild.’ Not one of our female friends has ever questioned this or found it all strange. In fact, often once they realized we were willing to do it, it would be pre-arranged. Every guy friend we ever did this in front of or tried to explain to looked flabbergasted. They had no idea that this was a) an intentional thing, b) a planned ahead thing, or c) universal.
Rape culture is the fact that every woman understands this. Male privilege is the fact that no guy on earth seems to know or understand.
I’ve been asked to pretend to be my friend’s girlfriend every time we go out at night, just because she wears clothes that show off her curves and guys won’t leave her alone. They only back off when I put my arm around her and act as if we’re together romantically, and sometimes not even then.
i once ran interference for a friend, only to receive the unwanted advances myself. he wouldn’t back off until my (male) friend literally wrapped me up in his arms and acted as if he was my S.O.
It happens online too. A guy I know started Facebook-stalking me after a recent interaction, and my roommate immediately got on Facebook and told him she was my girlfriend. He thankfully backed off after that.
I can’t count the number of times I have pretended to be somebody’s girlfriend or sister in a bar when a guy wouldn’t leave her alone. Both with friends and strangers.
What can you do when a loved one is suffering? When it is ultimately up to themselves to get better? When lies have been told, trust broken? I am at a loss. I don’t know how to fix what is not mine to fix. Love and support is the only thing I can provide. And to lead by example.