The world is not filled with monsters. It's filled with normal, flawed human beings.
Don't be the person who demands to know who has and hasn't suffered.
A few years ago I was at a party and people began to talk about whether it was OK for people in other countries to use words that in the United States we considered sexist slurs if in those other countries the words have different connotations. Specifically, it was about the C word. Everyone agreed that in the United States it is a terrible word that people shouldn’t use, but in Britain and other places it has a different usage. Two friends—one an American woman, one a foreign man—started to really go at it. I was sitting directly between them and kept trying to diffuse the situation since there were a lot of people there and everything was getting a bit personal. At one point my female friend said to my foreign friend that he should tell his friends back home to never say the word and that even if women in that country aren’t offended by it they should be told about why they should be offended by it. And for some reason I said, “it seems a bit weird to tell other people in other countries what they should be offended by.”
She turned to me and said, “have you ever been raped, Ben?”
This was the first time rape had been brought up.
“Have you ever been raped?”
It was so inappropriate that I couldn’t believe it. Again, this was not a private conversation. There were lots of people sitting at this table and even more in the densely packed West Village speakeasy. I was so outraged that time slowed down and my heart began to race, and then after what felt like an eternity but was really only a few seconds, I told her a story about something that had happened to me when I was a teenager that I had never told anyone before.
When I finished the 15 word version of this event that I had put in a little box inside of me for twenty years, she turned to another person, a woman who had taken the other side in the argument, and asked them, “have you?”
“No,” she said, laughing at the absurdity of this line of questioning.
And then the inquisitor, having gotten what she wanted, launched into a speech about how if you haven’t been raped you can’t understand the power of the C word.
The next few minutes were a haze. I was seeing red. I couldn’t believe that I had revealed this deeply intimate thing to this prompting and that even worse my friend couldn’t care less. She didn’t care about my answer because it was the question was not really a question: it was a rhetorical device. In her defense, she didn’t know that I had literally never told anyone that story before. I had never spoken about it out loud. I had never let the memory touch my larynges. But I was angry that she had put me on the spot like that—as if my answer either way had any bearings on the debate—and then put the other woman on the same spot! And took her answer that she hadn’t been raped as some sort of win! It would be totally understandable that when confronted with this situation you might not feel comfortable revealing information like that! The only reason I did was because I was incensed at what she was doing.
The night ended a few hours later with me drunkenly bursting into tears and storming out without explaining why.
I’m personally glad that it happened because if it hadn’t I don’t know that I ever would have talked about my experience, which I’m not going to detail here because it’s none of your business, but which subsequently I did tell my therapist about. And we’ve talked about it a lot and it’s been a healthy development.
This is a very extreme example of what happens on Twitter on every day.
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