Rape Culture in the PH: To Be or Not To Be Triggered?
An honest look at one woman’s apathy towards rape culture
When it comes to rape culture, most people live on a hairpin trigger. Some are quick to scoff and make fun. Others are quick to defend. Some argue that the P.C. is overboard and beyond ridiculous, while others say we’ve got a long way to go.
As for me, I have no trigger. I feel nothing and that’s a problem.
Picture this. I’ve had a long day. A long month, even. So I decide to treat myself to a massage. Nowhere fancy, just the backroom of my condo’s nail salon turned spa. The receptionist says all the female masahistas are busy at the moment, but would I like to try a male masseuse? I say sure, because hey, gender equality. So I’m whisked away, lights are dimmed, towels are spread and the massage begins. It’s pleasant enough and Mr. Hands is working the heck out of my shoulder kinks. Then he strikes up a conversation:
“Taga rito po kayo?”
“Ah. Mag-isa ka lang.”
“Hindi po. May kasama.”
“Ha? Hindi po.”
“Ah. Wala ka bang boyfriend?”
“Gusto mo ba mag ka-boyfriend?”
“Ah. Sayang. Ang ganda niyo po eh. Malaki lang pero maganda pa rin. May mga lalaki na gusto ng ganyan.”
“Okay, tapos na po. Thank you, come again soon.”
Reader, I didn’t tip him.
But that was it. That was the extent of my outrage. I didn’t whip him with a sassy retort. I didn’t complain to the manager. I didn’t even leave an indignant 0-stars on my Customer Satisfaction card. I left feeling two parts meh and one part icked out by the whole matter.
My nonchalance got me thinking: Why didn’t I care? And had I ever cared?
Ever since my boobs announced themselves to the world, leery encounters like this have become a matter of course. Men who stand too close. Men who openly stare at me while their kids squabble and play by their side. Men catcalling and following me down the street. Mentally undressing me while I’m out on a date with another man. Using a crowded elevator to stare down my shirt. Taking way too much interest in the way I ate an ice cream cone. Dry humping me while I lay semi-passed out on the grass of a friend’s house, everyone else laughing while I push him off and try to knee him in the groin. You know, normal, everyday encounters with my fellow human beings.
After decades of casually being treated like a character in someone’s amateur porno daydream Mr. Hands body-shaming me while coming on to me didn’t trigger me.
The sad, uncomfortable truth is: There was no trigger. I have never stood up for myself. I have never fought against rape culture. While I don’t want anyone to get hurt, I don’t spend my days crusading for women’s right’s. I have never wished someone would get raped, but I haven’t stopped to correct anyone from joking about it. Callous, careless words have consequences, I know. But as long as I didn’t spread the same filth, I thought I could stay clean. I was wrong.
By not speaking up, I became part of a bigger problem.
My silence encouraged others to continue to be sexually aggressive even when I obviously didn’t welcome it. Instead of shaming them, I looked away and gave myself up as an object for their pleasure. And even though my buzzy, drunk brain went into overdrive and triggered me to fight back, one drunk asshole thought he had every right to mimic raping me for the amusement of his equally drunk asshole friends.
I know it isn’t my fault. No matter what I wore, how drunk I was, the size of my breasts, the flavor of the damn ice cream cone—none of it is my fault. Men (and women) should be held accountable for their own actions and how they treat others. I am not responsible for another person’s sexuality.
But my silence might have encouraged others to do the same. To “calm down” because it was just a joke. To “stop being so sensitive” and move on. To stay silent and stop feeling. To not be triggered.
In these ‘woke’ times, there’s no excuse for my behavior. Women around the world are fighting back. In my own life, every woman close to me is incredibly strong, brave and outspoken— mothers, teachers, activists, CEOs, artists, risk-takers, opinion leaders, movers and shakers in their communities. It’s harder for me to think of a woman who hasn’t been a role model worth admiring and emulating in some way.
It scares me, this lack of caring. If a whole country of women stayed silent like me, what kind of country would we have 10, 20, 30 years down the line? Is it a country I’d want to raise my future daughters and sons in? In this future, the assumption is every man my daughters meet might rape them one day. In this future, the assumption is my sons might become rapists.
Who wants a future like that?
I know I don’t. So stay triggered, dear Reader. I know I will.
Words Sara Dumaup
Art Alexandra Lara