The banner hung over the auditorium, a dainty shade of white with chunky red writing proclaiming this to be the “Rape and Sexual Assault Seminar.” Students drudged in with heavy feet and tired red eyes, their sneakers squeaking across the floor. The swim team guffawed at the sight of the banner and murmured about the thin-lipped woman who stood before the microphone, center stage. Her hands where held stiffly behind her back, and her bespectacled fish-blue eyes wide as a young man explained to her how the microphone functioned.
“Rape is such a funny word,” drawled Sydney, “I mean it. Whenever someone says it I just start laughing.”
“Rape rape rape!”
“Stop RAPING me Ethan!”
“Rape rape rape,” Ethan sang, snapping his fingers, “rape rape rape, rape…”
Gentry put the water bottle to his lips and took several large gulps of water.
“I don’t even get why we HAVE to attend this,” whined Mike, “It’s not like I’m going to rape anyone. They should just tell girls to stop dressing like prostitutes or something.”
“I like it when girls dress like prostitutes. That means I can rape them!” Sydeney stood up, thrusting his pelvis forward. Gentry stared at the thrusting organ, which was a few inches left of his face.
“Sit the fuck down, you look like a faggot.” He hissed, taking another swig of water.
Sydney looked taken aback, but the others just laughed. It was unusual to see the redhead so wound up! And it was funny!
A tap on the mike silenced them, and the room darkened as a slide came to view.
“Rape.” The bespectacled woman said, folding her hands together, “Is a very serious crime.”
Her fish eyes bulged.
“It is not a crime of passion or lust, but an act of degradation. An act of dehumanization and objectification.”
Sydney yawned. Gentry leaned forward in his seat.
“Unlike what some people believe, rape is NOT natural. It does not HAVE to happen--- it can be prevented if people change their attitudes towards the nature of the crime. Sexism is one of those attitudes. Our culture furthers a kind of hyper-masculinity, which tells us that men are sexual beasts who can’t control their sexual appetites, and that women must please men or face their wrath. This same complex tells men that if they are raped, they are weak. This sexist ideal also creates a blanket of acceptance for rape, covering up an inexcusable crime.”
Gentry listened to the words, but didn’t feel anything from them. He didn’t need this bitch telling him what rape was.
“… And men and women must work together to eliminate hyper-masculinity, to eliminate the objectification that allows rape to occur…”
Bullshit. If people counted on each other to work together, humankind would have gone to hell long ago. No, you couldn’t count on anyone. The weak got raped. You had to be strong enough to take what they took from you or to fight them before they could take it. It was everyman for himself. He didn’t need this old fish-eyed bitch telling him what he already knew from the pain in his gut and the Church bells that rang through his mind, drowning out thought and reason. Drowning...
The crowd erupted into applause, jolting Gentry back to the itchy seat and darkened room. He half-heartedly clapped along, mustering up a suitable expression.
“Is there anything anyone would like to say?” asked the woman on the stage, peering towards the crowd. There was a numbing silence, and a sudden rage coursed through his blood. Clapping like it was a circus.
Oh, he had something to say all right. Wanted to tell her she was full of crap. That you couldn’t count on anyone, that he hoped her vagina was ripped open because she obviously had no idea----
“Yes, you. With the red hair.”
He now realized, in heated embarrassment, that his hand had been up in the air. Drawing his lips into a line, he slowly pulled himself from his seat and cast a wary glance at the woman who smiled as she ushered him up onto the stage. With heavy reluctance, his reddened hand clasped onto the microphone, and his dark eyes peered spacily at the empty black hole in front of him.
Protected by the darkness he had once so feared…
“What is your name?” the woman inquired.
Gentry turned to her suddenly and replied, “Gentry Lee Johnson.”
He took a deep breath, and threw a few thoughts together.
“Rape is really bad. I’m against it. I think people should do things to stop it. Stopping rape is a really, really good thing.”
The words sounded awkward, tossed together. He could the coach’s eyes burning into his soul, and a blush spreading over his face.
“And… as the captain of the swim team, thank you for coming here. Athletes are typically viewed as rapists, or people think that we’re just insensitive. But the team here isn’t... in fact, we were talking about it as we came through the door. Thank you for empowering us so that we can do more to fight a crime that ultimately affects all of us--- male and female. As a rape counselor, you are my hero.”
To his surprise, the room burst into applause. Gentry looked over the woman’s shoulder as he handed back the microphone, but she caught his glance in hers and looked at those pit-like depths with a confused sympathy. Amidst the cheers and whistles, he slinked back to his seat and sunk back into the darkness.
“He did good, I want it in the paper during Nations,” he heard the coach murmur to the barely visible outline of another adult, “He might be fit for Valedictorian.”