That's not how rape works, Mr. Crankshaft!
A few days ago, I read about the controversy regarding a recent "Crankshaft" comic strip written by Tom Batiuk and drawn by Chuck Ayers . After reading the strip in question, my initial reacton was "They're still running Crankshaft?" My second reaction was amazement that a comic strip published in 2007 would still propogate this long-disproven myth about the nature of rape: that only youthful, Hollywood-attractive women get sexually assaulted.
My third reaction hit me a lot closer to home. It was a chilling reminder. It happened when I reread the dialogue. "You're sixty-eight, Lois. You can probably stop carrying the pepper spray." states Lois' boyfriend, titular character Ed Crankshaft.
Really? Being elderly bestows women with some kind of special immunity from rape, not to mention other violent crimes like mugging, armed robbery, carjacking, assault and battery, and even murder, because the perpetrators don't find those women sexually attractive enough? So much so that those women no longer need to worry about these crimes or to take any special measures to protect themselves?
Well, Mr. Crankshaft, or rather, Mr. Batiuk, I wish that were true. In fact, I have a personal reason for wishing what your character said was reality. Look at the words again. "You're sixty-eight, Lois."
Sixty-eight years old.
My mother is sixty-eight years old.
Sure, she looks younger than her age would suggest, certainly younger than Lois is depicted here. But she's not a Meryl Streep or Jane Seymour look-alike either. To the best of my knowledge, she has not been the victim of rape or any other violent crime. But that doesn't mean she's never feared it or had good reason to do so. She's a very independent and active woman and does her own errands, often alone.
It would be a relief for her if she didn't have to worry about being sexually assaulted in the midst of doing some mundane chore like shopping or laundry or taking out the garbage. It would be terrific if her age meant she could stroll anywhere she pleased without fear of predators lurking in the shadows. It would be wonderful if being an older woman automatically protected her from the threat of traumatic attack.
But rape doesn't work that way.
It's not about sex. It's not about admiration. It's about power and control. It's about the ultimate domination, humiliation, and degradation of another human being, usually a woman. Victims of rape include the plain along with the glamorous, and can range in age from the old to the young to, unfortunately, the very young.
If you think it's a compliment, Mr. Batiuk, I defy you to go to any rape crisis center and ask the victims if they feel "flattered" by the experience. I pray that my mother, my girlfriend, and the other women and girls in my life are never paid such a "compliment".
In an ideal world, rape would not exist, and no woman would have to live in fear of it. Failing that, it would still be a relief if at least women became immune once they grew old or plain.
But rape doesn't work that way, Mr. Batiuk.
Stop suggesting that it does.