Inspired by: Tasha Receno – “Just Another Rape Poem”
Trigger Warning: rape mentions
I see a sea of faces, bright lights, and look down for just a moment. I have performed before, but in most cases I focus less on the audience and more on the stage. But I am alone out here, so I peer through the light like its a mirror, and begin to speak.
“When I used to imagine sex, I imagined pain
Pictured a force tearing me apart
Me, with no choice
Him, with no mercy
Tearing me apart even when I screamed for mercy
Or a break
Or it was too much sensation
Or I was too dry
I have the vague memory of a penis entering me –”
I am cut off by a voice, detached at first, coming from nowhere. Then I begin to see the audience, scanning it, when the invisible voice comes again. Now I’m able to pinpoint it, find his face, hear his words.
“You should stop whining about rape and learn to defend yourself,” he says.
He doesn’t know, none of them do. This is why, after all, I’m up here. Because people don’t know what I know, because I’m tired of being misunderstood, because people need to understand. Because I know someone will, and fuck the rest.
But this man’s still talking, still interrupting me, even while he calls me the interruption. He doesn’t see the hypocrisy. And as he continues to challenge me, I become the monster on stage, curling my fists hard, imagine launching myself at him.
But I don’t. I stand still, frozen as I force myself to remain frozen, imagine physically holding myself back. I take a few deep breaths, stop imagining my fist in his face, and start imagining yelling at him instead.
“You know what?” I say, “Fuck this. You think it’s so simple? I’ll write another slam poem, just for you.”
I wander downstage, then return to the mic upstage, preparing myself. I take a deep breath to steady myself, and when I begin, my voice is screaming.
“I won’t be silent!
Men like you
Have been silencing women like me for centuries!
I was raped!
And I deny it pretty often in my own head, but I won’t anymore!
You think you know me?
You have silenced me.
I spend every minute of every day bowing to your whims.
I don’t speak about it, I am afraid!
Afraid of offending someone,
of provoking someone,
of embarrassing myself,
of crossing some line.
But it’s all a lie!
I don’t owe you shit!
I was raped!
And men like you defend those rapists.
You degrade me,
as if I’m to blame.
I don’t have anything to do with it.
No matter what, they will still rape,
no matter who you blame.
You ask why I don’t defend myself.
day in and day out,
why don’t I defend myself against violence that is everywhere?
I take beatings, don’t get me wrong
I get abused
I take this abuse in my body just as if you had punched me in the face
But I take it
because I don’t want to be a bitch,
don’t want to complain,
am told I deserve it.
I don’t deserve it.
But everyday, my fear and my anger grows
My body corrupt
my mind twisted
so that I lose my compass
and lose myself in the forest of right and wrong
a forest of my own emotions
a forest of my inner selves
I search, decade by decade, for myself
I’m searching for how I feel,
I’m searching for -” I burst into song, “when will my reflection show
who I am inside -” and back,
“I’m searching for who I am,
and I’m searching for the bravery to wear my heart on my sleeve.
I doubt even you’re man enough to do that. Most men aren’t.
Men are balls of fear wrapped up in bravery,
a paradox men like you are completely blind to.
Many men are bullies
That’s why many men rape
Because they need to take in order to feel whole
To feel powerful in order to feel in control
To control others rather than yourself
To violate someone else’s rights in order to feel your own.
It’s been happening for centuries,
so you must be afraid, ‘why stop now?’
End of an era.
And it’s coming
And that terrifies you, doesn’t it?
So much you have to condemn us to ‘just a distraction’ in order to convince yourself we’re not a threat
Yeah, keep thinking that, because before you know it
we won’t be
just a distraction
We will change the world.”
I take a breath, thinking back on everything I just said, while looking him the eye again.
“You know, I should really thank you
By standing in as my muse
You only fuel my power.
Critics like you
remind me how much hate there still is in the world
Hate versus hate, there should really be art
Because hate plus art equals heart
And that’s really what we could use more of.”
And with that, I spin from him and exit the stage, invited into the fold of my fellow performers, and I’m awash with praise once again.