She was asking for it.
That is the seed from which much rape culture lore has sprung. While sexual assault and molestation can happen to anyone of any gender, the implication in our rape-culture-dominated world is that sexual violence is reserved to punish the females who step out of line.
Develop breasts too soon? Whore. Wearing the “wrong” clothes? Whore. Had a drink? Whore. Be a girl in a family of sons? Whore. … Are you breathing? Whore.
We’ve explored this territory in different ways and often here on SCS. But there are still fresh hells to explore, as was the case with the #FastTailedGirls hashtag on twitter today. The story behind the hashtag and what it represents is equally compelling, and painful.
Fass is nothing more than a synonym for whore. Nothing more than a polite calling card, a proverbial welcome mat plastered on a child’s reputation that invites public scorn, objectification or, worse, tacit approval for the physical sexual exploitation of minors. The gentler sounding “fass” allows the person using it to cloak him or herself in innocence while engaging in one of the most vile forms of victim shaming imaginable.
In the most horrific incidences, this intra-cultural “red-lining” has been historically used to malign and silence victims of molestation and rape. Its usage is designed to assuage any notion of guilt for the man who commits these vile acts, reassigning the blame to the young girl that he has victimized. Sadly, fass is an epithet most frequently weaponized and hurled by older women—women who have an emotional and/or physical stake in the outcome.
Tragically, the necessity of protecting children from abuse is sometimes overwhelmed by the desire to protect a husband or boyfriend and, by extension, the relationship. In those instances, whatever financial, emotional or physical benefit she enjoys effectively trumps any responsibility she might feel to her child. Blaming the child can be written off to the fates– a curse from the heavens above– while blaming your significant other is an immediate indictment of your own failed choices.
To be clear, this is not a new phenomenon, nor is this confined to the immediacy of family. There is no more prominent example of this than the case of Robert Kelly. Otherwise known as chart-topping R&B recording artist R. Kelly, when he stood accused of engaging in sex with minors it was his fans—many of them women– (and a jury) that came running to his rescue.
In recent weeks, I was aghast to see that Kelly has been on a bit of a comeback tour and has been featured on at least two national television broadcasts—Saturday Night Live and the American Music Awards—alongside Lady Gaga. Kelly and Gaga simulated sexual acts on stage, during a live rendition of “Do What U Want” on both shows.
However, it was the AMA performance that left me with the most stridently offensive imagery. Moments after “President Kelly” exits the stage, childhood photographs of Gaga playing the piano danced across the video screen behind her.
A Twitter chat, launched by feminist bloggers Mikki Kendall and Jamie Nesbitt Golden of @HoodFeminism and who post individually as @Karnythia and @thewayoftheid, laid bare some of the most disturbing pathologies and their ruinous impacts. @FeministaJones, a New-York-based writer who often contributes to Salon.com and other digital publications, lifted the veil on her own life to fuel the discourse with some of the most compelling and personally painful posts.
One look under the hashtag #FastTailedGirls reveals a minefield of agonizing personal stories, as well as vestiges of the misogynistic victim shaming that continues to fan the flames of devastation reeking havoc on so many of our communities.
Our collective torment was matched with defiant calls for solidarity. “If we don’t stick up for our girls, and stop blaming them for the actions of grown men, who will? SMH. #FastTailedGirls,” actress and voice-over artist Reagan Gomez tweeted.
Who will, indeed?
Who will talk about these ugly, terrible truths? It can’t just be a handful of folks like me, sitting at our keyboards trying to choke back the tears and rage to share it all, again and again and again. It can’t be the untold scores of survivors out there who have not yet found the power of their voice, trapped behind the terror that still feels as real as the heat on our skin left by the pawing hands that held us down. We already had to fight so hard to survive. When I say I scratched and clawed my way to freedom, that is not figurative. When I say there are scars, that is not a metaphor. I cracked bones — to get away. I learned how to throw a punch and, later, martial arts to take someone down in three convenient steps. What more do you want from me?
Just a little more. Just a lot more. The world asks just that much more of us, we survivors. Or rather, it wants nothing to do with us and our wide-eyed trauma. Why did you have to be such a fucking whore? So fass? Such a slut? Puta. We’re wrecking it for everyone. We’re telling inconvenient truths. We’re liars. We must be crazy. Meanwhile, we’re trying to learn how to hide the blood and rage and truth as fast as we can in a world that not only doesn’t want to acknowledge what made us survivors but wants to collectively turn its back, tossing out just one more insult to silence us.
We’ll be better next time, we promise.
Right? That’s what you want from us. You want us silent. Ashamed. Small. Weak. And sexless. Covered up. What did you do to encourage him? That’s what too many women in my family asked me when I finally talked about being molested. I didn’t even talk about it until well after it was over and I was an adult. I didn’t even ask them to save me when it was happening. I was a good girl. Most of the time, I just sat back and took it. That’s what good girls do, right? You didn’t know five year-olds could ask for it, did you? I didn’t know what asking for it was when it started. Hell, I only fractured my wrist trying to get him off me after I went through puberty and thought I might just have enough strength. (I didn’t.) And still, for nine years, I stayed quiet. I protected him. Can you believe that shit? I protected him. Even as no one protected me — not one motherfucking soul on earth or angel in heaven. And I protected everyone else from the inconvenient truth. Because ultimately, I already knew the most painful lesson of rape culture — that I deserved it.
Except that is a lie — a putrid, repulsive lie as painful as it gets. But I had to unlearn that lie, that script. And even as I did, so many fucking people pushed back on me to stop. Stop unlearning that. And then, stop challenging it. Shut up! Nobody wants to hear that! It’s dangerous to challenge the status quo of rape culture. It’s dangerous to speak the truth to a world that is not ready. I’ve felt the heat of that danger many times, the threats. But nothing can hurt me now worse than I have already survived. Because the thing that people do not understand who have never lived through that is that the warrior in me is not just strong but wild, ferocious, unpredictable. I had to summon the ancient power of survivors everywhere to stay alive. Literally, to stay alive. And make no mistake, he would have killed me several times over if I had let him. I am not speaking in metaphors right now. Is this fucking clear, yet? So go ahead and keep calling me a whore. Keep telling me how I deserved it.
There are probably people who read this and think, “Why is she so angry?” Don’t make me laugh. Why am I so angry? Because somebody needs to be angry. Because anger can be useful. Because rape culture and #FastTailedGirls. Because of the people who are right now still trapped. They have screams choked in their throats! Can’t you hear them? Somebody should be fighting for them. So fuck it, it might as well be me. It really should be you, too. I mean, really. Are you that disconnected from your own humanity to not feel angry, too?
People ask me why I write about being a survivor of sexual abuse. It makes people shift uncomfortably in their seat and drop their gaze. Emotions like anger, frustration, helplessness, and guilt start to surface. And many people feel unnerved by that. They don’t know what to do with it. So, they want me to stop. Why do you write about it? Because somebody has to. Because now you can’t say you don’t know a survivor of sexual violence. You know me.
I’ve been beaten and pushed and threatened. My skin has been cut and been bruised well beyond black and blue. My voice was practically annihilated — pounded down over and over. But I wouldn’t let go of life. I survived. My voice came back, stronger than it was before. And I’m done being quiet. I’ll never be the good girl you want me to be. And I won’t stop. Ever.