I recently went on an overnight hike, on a trail not too far from where I live. I was stopped at one of the designated camp sites, when another hiker came by—in keeping with hiker nick-name culture, we’ll call him Dirty David.*
Dirty David and I spent some time talking with each other about our lives. When I mentioned I am a rather involved activist he pressed to know more, so I told him I focused mostly on anti-rape work. Without skipping a beat, Dirty David wanted to know: Oh, is that because you’ve been raped?
Having just met Dirty David a mere half-hour ago, I couldn’t really tell what kind of broken had caused him to ask that question.
You know, I told him somewhat skeptically, I’m not really sure how that’s relevant.
Dirty David contemplated this for a moment, nodded his head, and asked: Is that your way of telling me I’ve just asked you a kinda-fucked up question.
I gave a non-committal shrug. And just to be sure he got the point I made sure to note to Dirty David that if I haven’t been raped, it’s in fact true that the un-raped are capable of caring about sexual violence. And if I have been raped, it’s unlikely I’d tell you since I’ve known you for oh, less than a half an hour.
Again, Dirty David contemplated my words, nodded, and this time, proclaimed that he guessed that was all kinda reasonable.
What’s funny is that I don’t think Dirty David meant to do a fucked up thing. I think he was just hella-awkward and didn’t understand that mystical gap between “things I think in my head” and “things I say to women who are alone with me in extremely isolated woodland areas”. It doesn’t make what he said less inappropriate, but I do sort of find it intriguing.
I live in a bubble of activist, feminists, and kind-hearted souls who don’t think you need to be acting on vengeance to want to prevent rape from happening to others. Dirty David lives in a world where it doesn’t make sense for folks to fight rape, and where it’s okay to pester strangers about their sexual violence history. These worlds are very different, and probably I’d accomplish much more if I could spend more time having heart-to-hearts with Dirty Davids.
Of course, it can be hard to find people that stop and listen, especially if they aren’t trapped in an isolated woodland area with you. Dirty David’s question was fucked-up, but he listened to my answer. I guess more than anything, I’m bummed I don’t get that chance more often.
*Dirty David is pseudonym-lite. Dirty was a real part of his self-selected trail name, but I changed the second half to David, in cases he writes about himself online, I didn’t want this to be google-able.