I almost never think of my fiction these days: the real-life struggles of folks like Chelsea tenants, like the urban school principals I met this week, like the Committee of Sergeants are absorbing enough. But reading in Salon about this blog controversy, and a Cosmo piece calling certain kinds of encounters “gray rape,” brought me back to a memory I actually put into this story. My thinking on the use of the term can probably be summed up in a line from Susannah Moore’s The Whiteness of Bones that has always haunted me. I can’t locate the book this second, but it was something along the lines of:
It occurred to Mamie that the power equation between men and women could be contained in one fact: that he could, if he liked, lean over and snap her slim wrist in two.
That rule holds even if you’re drunk, like the women under Cosmo discussion, or just numbed for other reasons.
His body shaped like a guitar, thick honey-colored hair and tattoos on each ankle: I dove for both. …Carl raped me one lazy Sunday morning, as I shut myself down rather than wake the landlady’s kids. He turned out to have some other name entirely, which I only learned after I’d made a key for him. Jerzy, who had broken up with me the week before because he felt too bipolar, showed up with power tools and changed the lock so Carl couldn’t get in.
Even though I wasn’t under the influence one bit, it took me until 2002, a full 11 years after the events described, for me to use that word even in my head. I can’t imagine why anyone, especially writing for a magazine that supposedly speaks to sexually empowered women, would want to make it harder for young women to sort that out.