Afro Sexual Wisdom

Why are we silent about lesbian rape?

Posted By

On Sep 27, 2015

By Hejin

Trigger warning: sexual assault, rape

We think about sexual violence not only in a very binary way. In a very one-directional way: men commit it, women suffer it.

However, looking back this just doesn’t add up. I look upon my life, and I think about the sexual violence I have endured, and it was not just the hands of cisgender men. My experiences of violence, even those outside the binary narrative of men on women, are not unique, and recent conversations have made me think this through even further.

My own experience has been further coloured by the fact that this happened to me long before I transitioned. Being a trans woman (who also happens to be a lesbian) I have often justified incidences so as to avoid terming them as instances of sexual violence, which, even in retrospect, are so much stronger and prevalent then when I have faced sexual violence at the hands of men. The idea that a woman can be a perpetrator of sexual violence is so strange to people, yet it is something that happens. It is something that is often ignored, or seen as, somehow, less violent.

One harrowing experience involved me waking up in the middle of the night at a party – we were all sleeping over, and sharing a bed – to a friend being raped by another lesbian there. It is a moment where one just doesn’t know what to do. Despite my own experiences, the situation still was so surreal. It took me a moment to intervene and shield my friend from the woman who was forcing herself on her. In the aftermath of it, the argument was simply made that ‘there ain’t such a thing as lesbian rape’. In the end it became something that was never discussed again, the entire idea was seen as too silly, too ridiculous.HOLAAfrica, rape culture

Women are as capable as men of committing rape, in being perpetrators of sexual violence. In an anonymous experience posted on Everyday Feminism, a woman who shared her experience of being raped by another woman compared our inability to see women as rapists to the argument that sex between two women isn’t really considered to be sex. This resonated to me so clearly, the entire idea of rape and sexual violence in society is based on the idea that there is the “masculine” that acts violent to the “feminine”; the latter here is seen as being unable, not just to be sexually aggressive, but to be sexual without the “masculine” present. Somehow, even among lesbians we stick to this idea, despite that it is the same argument that is made to invalidate our own sexuality.

I have asked myself at times what this means when it comes to sexual violence in lesbian communities. Do those who are perpetrators not think they are doing anything wrong? Part of me thinks that some seriously believe that, because they are women, there is nothing wrong with what they do. It does not matter whether the sex is consensual or not

The question is how do we address this? We think about our communities as ‘safe spaces’, but how safe are they really? When violence is perpetuated but then cloaked in silence?

I have heard people chalk what happens to ‘lesbians adopting problematic heteronormative attitudes’, and how it is somehow linked to some lesbians acting ‘too masculine’. However this argument feels very weak, it feels as if we are trying to shift to blame for this problem onto broader society, absolving ourselves of having to address it.

For other stories of sexual assault within same sex sexual interactions see when the assailant is one of us and this haunting piece called The Sexual Conquests of Toni Johnson.

This piece forms part of  the #QueeringTheCloak series which is part of a larger project exploring sexual, emotional and physical violence in queer women spaces on the continent.  The project seeks to essentially ‘pull back the cloak’ on shame and silence around this violence.

For all the articles and pieces on #QueeringTheCloak click here.

Also an article on 11 Signs You Are being Gaslight in a relationship and another 10 things the author learned from someone using gaslighting as an abuse tacticFor more on supporting people here is a piece on supporting someone in abusive relationship and also a piece where the woman says At least she didn’t hit me”. There is also a piece by a woman who writes a letter to her ex abuser’s new girlfriend.