They Is Us

--image by bramblejungle on Flickr

–image by bramblejungle on Flickr

I once read a book about the annexation of Earth for use by an alien race that wanted majestic purple mountains and fruited plains for themselves. They didn’t bother to murder us. Instead, an uncounted number of our generations before they made the trip to Earth, they did something that caused every passionate encounter between a man and a woman to become a crime of passion. Men who got turned on killed those who turned them on. This happened over and over until finally there were not enough women left alive to birth the human species.

Sometimes, I wonder if what I read was fiction. Worldwide today, in 2017, women between the ages of 15 and 44 are more likely to die or to be seriously injured by men than they are to be killed or maimed by cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined. For pregnant women, the situation may be worse: The leading cause of death for pregnant women is being killed by their husbands.

Personally, I’ve not experienced serious injury. However, I was punched by a husband once. He was angry that I didn’t have a petticoat to put on so it could peek out from under my skirt at the restaurant and turn him on while we celebrated his birthday. Petticoat? Who knew?

And I was violently raped twice.

I wasn’t popular enough to have gone on dates in high school. How gratifying it is in my first semester of college to be asked out by a junior psychology major! We’ve been to the movie and had the popcorn, and now we’re on our way back to my dorm. Suddenly, the car swerves off the road. It’s bucking over corn rows, destroying green and gold. “What’s happening? What’re you doing?” I cry out. No answer.

A huge hog flashes by on my side of the car. Now, there are more, big. My hand is on the door handle, but I remember watering my horse in a pasture full of these monsters, perched on the saddle cross legged after one of them tried to rip off a foot. Nevertheless, I’m considering flinging myself out of the car when we jolt to a stop. Now, I’m pressed up against the driver’s door, my head banging against the wheel, my panties on one leg, and it feels like sandpaper. I don’t know where I am. I stare at a hog that’s now staring through the window on the passenger side of the car at junior psychology’s major’s naked backside.

When it stops, my panties are far away. I fumble them back on and they absorb some of the mush. I am driven back through the corn field, down the long deserted road, to the dorm.

I’m so thankful to see my dorm room, with my picture of Leonard Bernstein conducting West Side Story tacked to the door, that I almost stumble. In just a minute, I’ll be where I know I am. But when I open the door, everybody inside turns and shouts, “Happy birthday!”  

I’m 18 years old today.  I don’t even know the word “rape.”

My granddaughters surely would not understand why I didn’t dissolve in tears, tell all my friends, call the cops. It would be difficult for them to fathom that when we girls born in the 40s were assaulted by our men, we blamed ourselves for having been complicit, even if we were only compliant. They would not know the result of having been raised to be good girls who don’t complain. They would underestimate the power of a society that kept us in our place. I imagine trying to explain the state of the world in 1961 to my granddaughters, but I fail at that. I’m glad they don’t understand.

Somebody else’s granddaughters would understand, say in a country like …

  • Ethiopia, where more than half of all women and some girls are subjected to sexual violence
  • Or Sri Lanka, where the rape of women is an accepted pastime for men
  • Or Canada, where one in three women has been sexually assaulted
  • Or France, where rape was not even a crime until 1980
  • Or, or, or

It’s a little after 2:00 in the morning and my shift is over. I’ve been without my car for a couple of months and after work each night on the Sunset Strip have been sitting in a coffee shop waiting for buses to run in the morning to The Valley. Tonight, I simply cannot sip bitter coffee for three hours and then catch no more than 40 winks on a bus, my head banging against the window, hoping I wake up in time to get off at my stop, walk the rest of the way home, yell an 11-year-old, a 9-year-old and a 7-year-old out of bed, fix peanut-butter oatmeal, slam meat and cheese on bread for box lunches, wash dishes, pick up discarded clothing and toys, and then get to my noon-to-3:00 shift. Hitchhiking will get me home in time for three extra hours of sleep. Sticking your thumb out is out of style, but I still occasionally see people doing it. 

He pulls the knife out of his pocket about half way through Mulholland Drive. He makes sure I see it, that knife, and then he steers the car one-handed about 50 feet up a side road that goes into the wilderness. Stopping the car, he drops the blade into a pocket on the driver’s door, turns to me—and attacks! The next instant, he has one hand over my mouth and somehow has managed to trap both my hands behind my back. So I do the only thing I can do. I open my mouth so the soft part of his palm is between my teeth and I bite, as hard as I can. He screams. I spit out blood and meat. We negotiate.

“I just want you to fuck me. If you fuck me, I won’t hurt you.”

I tell him I would do that, except that I have cervical cancer—which is true—and he might get it from me—which is probably not true.

“OK, then you can suck my dick.”

While I’m doing that, I picture the damage I did to his hand and I wonder. But I am obedient to the knife, which is back in his hand.

When it is over, he checks for my address in my purse. I am driven back through the wilderness, down the long deserted roads, to my home just in time to yell kids out of bed.  

“Surely you reported this one,” I imagine my granddaughters saying.

If they ever found out about this incident, I would have to tell them I did not go to the police, but not for any of the reasons you find in those lists titled “Why Women Don’t Report Rape.” Not because I might be slut slammed. Not because the police and the courts might not do their jobs. Not because I felt powerless or ashamed. Not even because I feared he would come after my children if I reported him. No, I kept this rape private because I was just too busy to take the time to get outraged, sign statements, get physical exams, give evidence. I was just too damned busy.

If he’d used the knife, though, I’d have reported the incident. That is, if I lived.

At least a third of all women killed in the United States are killed by men with whom they are intimate. Last year, more than 1,600 women were murdered by their men. Men are raping and killing women. We’re turning Eros into Thanatos, love into death.

I really am wondering about that story I read. Could there be aliens? Could there be alien pioneers who want to colonize our planet? Could there be alien pioneers who want to colonize our planet and who are planning to get rid of us to do that?

What, exactly, could these aliens be doing to us? Well, being aliens with spaceships, they would probably be doing something we are not advanced enough to understand. On the other hand, there is something we do know about called “behavior mutation.” Behavior mutation alters genes, as do all mutations. However, this type alters those particular genes that control a particular behavior, often a sexual or aggressive behavior. We know that genes can be altered by viruses, radiation and chemicals, all of which can be administered to huge numbers of individuals. We’ve even foisted off such alterations onto various animals.

A population of a type of nematodes, for example, was altered genetically so their tails would not curl when it was time to mate. This would not seem to be life threatening, but in the Nematode, the tail normally hides the sex organs. Apparently, a nematode has to see the receptacle to know what o put the plug into.  We’ve done similar things to male flies, which apparently have actual courtship rituals—really—and as a result of behavior mutation no longer even remember how to perform. We’ve not tried melding copulation with assassination, but give us time.

So there they are, the aliens, out in the stratosphere in those spaceships. They’ve been experimenting with different formulas for a long time, and by now they know they’ve got it right. They’re mixing up a massacre and putting it in a gigantic sprayer. They’re going to be misting manhood with murder.

It’s either that or, as Walt Kelly has Pogo say in the old cartoons, “We have met the enemy and they is us.”

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