Monday, December 20, 2010

#talkaboutit No Word for "Let's Fuck" for Nice Girls

[Trigger Warning for description of rape]

When I was about 11, my family was watching a Chinese serial about Temujin, or Genghis Khan.


In one episode, Temujin's sweetheart is kidnapped by a rival tribe. The camera showed only a feast, followed by the leader of the rival tribe picking her up, even though she's clearly protesting and trying to clamber out of his arms. He dumps her onto a bed and climbs on top of her. The next shot is only a closeup of her face, in that weird expression that looks like pain, but which these days you can also find in regular porn. There is saliva trickling down the side of her face from her mouth.

I asked my mom, what happened?

She said, she was raped.

And I asked, what's that?

She answered, she got raped!

A few episodes afterward, Temujin has rescued her, and he's trying to unite with her in their tent, to be happy, but she's sad. She grabs the wrist of one of his hands on her shoulders and pushes it down to her belly. He asks, "what happened?" in distress. She replies, clearly miserable, "[rival leader]." But Temujin assures her anyway that he still loves her. The next episode is 20 years on, and two young men arguing, which an older Temujin has to come settle. It's clear that although the elder son is clearly not his, Temujin still raised and loves him as his own.

I was lucky in being able to see how a rape victim should be treated afterwards: with love and respect, acceptance for what happened. She was never blamed for the rape. But she was also portrayed as completely innocent and the rape was implied to have been violent.

What I also took away from the conversation with my mother was this: rape makes babies. So for a long time, I thought rape was the verb for sex. I mashed my bootleg Ken and Barbie together, Barbie saying "rape me."

The thing about this is that even in these imaginations, where in my head, women are more or less always seducing men, the word I used was "rape". Because the one time I used the word "fuck" I was told it was a bad word. My family didn't speak any Chinese dialects around me (and certainly NEVER sex-related topics in dialects) nor did I know Malay well enough. So in my understanding, this action which tended to result in pregnancy, which I knew anyway was something adults did for pleasure, was "sex" when it was a noun, but the verb was "rape".

It would be a few years before I understood that rape is a bad thing, only after several newspaper reports using the word to describe really awful situations.

Because there is no word for a woman to use to a man to invite him to have sex with her. It would take me more than a decade to be able to begin to articulate how I, as a woman, had sexual desires, beyond boy-crazy teen hormones. There is no easy, polite word to use that a woman -- anyone -- can say, "LET'S HAVE SEX NOW BECAUSE WE CLEARLY DIG EACH OTHER" without the consequence of being labelled a Bad Person. And I grew up with all the attendant expectations that I, as a middle-class, respectable Chinese girl in an equally respectable middle-class neighbourhood, was a Nice Girl. I was taught, in all manner of ways implicit and explicit, I should be the Kind Of Girl Boys Want To Marry.

And, I guess, Nice Girls Boys Would Want To Marry do not ask boys to fuck, especially for her own pleasure. And because Nice Girls Boys Would Want To Marry do not ask boys to fuck, neither do they ask boys to stop. Because Nice Girls do not have an opinion on sex. It's just one of those things people do to make babies.

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