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A rapist is a person who commits rape

It's been demonstrated, over and over, that the vast majority of rapists are not gibbering lurkers dressed in jizz-stained trenchcoats. Socially, they present themselves well and most of them use drugs, alcohol, and intimidation rather than outright force to commit their crimes. Many rapists deny that they have committed a sexual assault; they view sex as something they're entitled to, something a man takes from a woman like a conquistador taking gold.

My mother was raped when she was 19. This was in 1948, more than a decade before she married my father. She was working late at the local newspaper, and a couple of the reporters who worked there offered her a ride home so she wouldn't have to walk and face the unknown dangers in the dark. They seemed like nice guys; she accepted the ride.

Instead, they drove her out to the woods. The wingman walked away and the rapist told her that he was going to have sex with her, and if she tried to fight he'd beat her and then she would have to explain her black eye to her family. They both knew that if she came home bloody and she had to admit to the rape, the only thing her stern, practical grandmother would care about was that she was no longer a virgin and was broken merchandise, no longer worthy of being married or being respectable.

So closed her eyes and he raped her. He didn't use a condom, but he didn't leave any marks on her body she'd have to explain, and later she was relieved that she wasn't pregnant and wouldn't have to make a choice between carrying the baby and having to raise the child alone in poverty after her family disowned her, or seeking out a shady abortionist in another state.

Those were the good old days, right?

Rape was so easy back then and there was so much victim-blaming and victim-shaming that I don't doubt that most women suffered. When I was growing up in Texas decades later, the shaming wasn't nearly so bad. But even still, every girl and woman I knew well enough to have earned their confidence told me stories of having been molested by relatives or assaulted by dates, seeming nice guys all. Some girls who'd been sexually assaulted had been gaslit into thinking it wasn't a big deal -- it's not really rape if a guy drives you to the woods and threatens to leave you out there for the coyotes and lurkers unless you give him a blow job, right? Sure, you wake up in a cold sweat and feel nauseated every time you think of that night, and you can't stop thinking about it, but your hymen's still intact, and that's what should be most important to any God-fearing girl. That rapist was a gentleman.

To reiterate: it wasn't most of my close female friends who had been sexually assaulted. It wasn't many of them. It was all of them.

Later, I found out it was some of my male friends, too.

Nobody called the cops. Nobody even told their parents (or their mothers, if the rapist was their father). It wasn't ever the "right" kind of rape, the kind where a stranger gets cocky and puts his hands on another man's merchandise. These boys and uncles and fathers assaulted boys and girls and women they felt entitled to. 

Rapists are as common as rusty nails.

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