Ugly is wherever you choose to see it.

Dave Futrelle has shown us some “interesting theories about why feminists are “obsessed” with rape and abortion” from an MRA, and I was expecting some fresh batch of fuckery that would get me all good and pissed off. Imagine my disappointment to find out it’s just a rehash of the old rubbish about how rapists only target pretty women, and we feminists are all ugly bitches with nothing to worry about.

(Go ahead and picture Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna reading that paragraph. “I was told you were drunk, impertinent, and thoroughly debauched.” Yes, that’s the voice that keeps going through my head.)

Seriously, though, that’s all they’re saying. We feminists are ugly bitches, and rapists only target women they find attractive, so we’ll never have to worry about getting raped and that’s why we’re all pissed off. That’s the content of the comments shown in the link. That’s the entire range of these fuzz-nuggets’ insight into the feminist psyche. It would get me plenty angry if it were anything new. By now I’ve seen so much of this attitude, my reaction is mostly boredom.

I’m jaded and cynical as fuck, but that doesn’t mean the attitude isn’t also incredibly violent.

Here’s what we need to understand:

No, wait, first off, THIS much is what you need to understand: if you ever, EVER, think it’s okay to suggest that anyone is “too ugly to be raped,” do not ever darken my virtual doorstep. We have nothing to discuss. We have nothing in common. Fuck off and never come back. I’ll ban your sorry little ass without a cursory exhalation.

That aside, it must be pointed out that if rape is a matter of who is “irresistible,” then basically everyone is irresistible to someone. Rapists target everyone from the most conventionally attractive to the least. Rapists target symmetrically flawless 20-ish blondes, they target children, they target elderly women, they target fat women, they target women who are about to faint due to starvation, they target people with serious mental illnesses and cognitive disabilities, they target pretty much everyone. Women are more frequently targeted than men, and women of color (particularly black, undocumented immigrant, and Native American) are more often victimized than white women, and generally those of lower privilege profiles have higher victimization rates than those of us who enjoy relatively high privilege, but ultimately, rapists decide what type of people they want to victimize, and they find a way. They don’t exclusively attack the ones who look like the fashion models who appear most often in the pages of Vogue and Cosmopolitan, they just…target whomever they think is least likely to be taken seriously if they have the courage to report to the police.

There is no woman in the known world who is too good-looking to be told she is too ugly to be raped.

This is what the narrative of “rapists target pretty women” does: it creates a division that has more to do with perception than risk. We are all at risk, to some extent. No matter how beautiful or how hideous, we all have to watch our backs. No matter how compliant with current beauty standards, or how divergent from what is considered desirable, we all have to worry that we either should have seen the rape coming, or that we should be grateful for the attention. We all have to worry about being victimized, and we all have to worry about being blamed.

I don’t like to use the passive voice, but it’s tricky to determine who is responsible for choosing victims and assigning blame.

No one will ever be able to convince me that I’m not a good-looking woman. I’ve received waaaay too many messages on OKCupid with little content other than to tell me I’m cute. (Speaking of which: up your game, guys. That shit gets old in a hurry.) It’s far too late for anyone to tell me otherwise.

And perhaps one might think I could sneer at these rape advocates (they’re not even apologists for rape anymore) with a sample of the shots that photographer Barbara Glaeser just posted on her blog from my session with her. Here’s one of those old, ugly, repulsive feminists who are so obsessed with rape and abortion!

Clockwise from top left: Fuzzy scarf with a smile, close-up with serious face, leaning back with glasses in hand, leaning in to show off my peacock feather fascinator! I'm sexy and I know it!

Clockwise from top left: Fuzzy scarf with a smile, close-up with serious face, leaning back with glasses in hand, leaning in to show off my peacock feather fascinator! I’m sexy and I know it!

…but never fear, the rape advocates would find a way to argue that I’d be so lucky to attract the attention of a rapist. They’d harp on my weight; my hair being short, red and obviously dyed; my nerdy glasses; my lack of makeup (even though I’m wearing plenty of it in those photos); and I wouldn’t be surprised if they got something in there about my bust size. They would not hesitate to include me in the roster of ugly bitches who would benefit from a good raping.

They don’t want feminists to shut up about rape because they think we’re ugly. They think we’re ugly because they want us to shut up about rape. And everything else, for that matter.

The myth of rapists targeting only attractive women creates a situation in which all women are in the wrong. If someone on the wrong side of beauty standards wants to talk about having been raped, they tell her she must be lying and if she’s not lying, then she should be grateful for the attention. If someone who is widely understood to be gorgeous wants to talk about her experiences with rape victimization, they tell her alternately that her rapist couldn’t help it and maybe she should stay home if she doesn’t want men attacking her; that she’s only talking about it because she wants attention; and anyway she’s not all that beautiful. If all these messages seem mutually contradictory, it’s because they are. They’re not using a testable hypothesis. They’re using the perception of ugliness as a weapon to silence any women who think they can talk about sexual violence.

(Comment policy for this post: If you comment to tell me I’m pretty, I will give you a face-full of yawn. If you comment to tell me I’m ugly, I will point and laugh.)

3 thoughts on “Ugly is wherever you choose to see it.

  1. I was going to say “rapists target whomever they think they can get away with targeting.” Then it occurred to me that wasn’t right, either: some rapists target people just to prove (to whom? eff if I know) they can get to people they “shouldn’t” target.

    Also? U r so very vry pretty.

  2. I was an ER nurse and hospital nurse for 30 years (and also rape crisis advocate for a couple of those years). I can tell you that rape victims come in all shapes and sizes. The oldest one I ever cared for was in her 80’s and died from the attack. Many were very vulnerable people with mental health and homelessness or drug issues, some were children. It’s not about someone being irresistible, I think it’s more of an expression of power over someone who has less power.

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