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Artwork by Baby with a Nail Gun
Words by Constance Wilde
Content warning: Rape, rape culture, sexual assault, victim blaming, acquaintance rape, friend-zone, torture.
I am afraid of boys. Attracted to, but afraid of men.
Terrified that if I’m too polite to this stranger,
He will turn my words against me,
And tell me that of course he raped me.
I gave permission with my sweet nothings and attention.
I was asking for it.
So he gave it to me.
These are the thoughts that cross my mind when I meet men:
My smile is a bullet in your gun with my name on it.
You’re either a rapist or you aren’t,
But I can’t tell the difference as you pass me in the supermarket.
Is your laugh genuine or something sinister?
How do I know there isn’t a monster lurking beneath your patterned jumper?
Because rapist aren’t just monsters,
Lurking in dark alleyways;
They are ordinary people and so are you.
Please don’t hurt me just because I was nice,
I could be rude,
But of course, but that’s a catch 22.
Making you angry would just be handing you another excuse.
The responsibility is inescapable.
It’s there in the morning when I dress,
Telling me that my skirt is far too short;
Could I show my body any less?
It’s with me when I lock my car,
And when I’m walking home.
Clearing my throat in case I need to scream.
Or dialling the number of a friend into my phone.
I’m not wondering what if?
I set my sights on men I know would never look at me,
To protect myself from actually being seen.
I am queen of an empire filled with women,
I keep boys at arms-length as if it is part of my religion.
Somehow fearing rapists means I’m afraid of all men,
They make it difficult to tell them apart,
When they jump to each other’s defence.
Yet I am desperate… to fall in love.
To have my own piece of magic that will hold me in his arms,
And say he loves me.
But how do I know I’ve found the right one?
He is sweet, but is he safe? What will happen when we’re alone?
What if he waits for doors to close?
Or for me to let him take me home?
Is there something in his smile?
Some way I could know?
It is lonely on this throne I have created.
How am I supposed to fall in love if I can’t even make friends?
I call my mates up for coffee without thinking,
But I won’t call them if they’re men.
In case my invitation is all the consent they need.
I am sorry, but not sure that I should be,
When people still have the nerve to say:
“You invited him over. What did you think was going to happen?”
I pinpoint cameras in the parking lot,
But hyper-vigilance doesn’t help.
I am not the only woman,
That is living in this hell.
I must look desirable, but not irresistible.
Show enough skin to get your attention,
But not arouse your inner demon.
I must make you want to date me,
Without making you want to
I tell my friends,
And they agree with me.
This fear of men is all I ever see.
Rose-tinted glasses, except they’re tinted red.
Screaming “DANGER: that man’s appetite needs to be fed”
I feel consumable, overpower-able, and weak.
What if my body is the answer to whatever it is you seek?
Of course nice guys exist but are they the men that I know?
I am powerless to stop this but I’m still holding onto hope.
I’m not afraid of commitment, but I am afraid of dating.
It seems ridiculous, but I spend night after night waiting.
In my mind, it’s not a question of what if but when.
And when I meet someone else it just starts all over again.
A boy in class told me being in the friend-zone counts as torture;
Told me the pain was unimaginably overwhelming,
As if it was on par with electrocution and waterboarding.
When I asked if he was joking,
He exploded in my face as if my question was a detonation.
Every boy I pass daily could be a rapist or a harmless stranger,
But he’s the one complaining.