Recently, the so-called “Reddit Rape Thread” sparked an online discussion about the rape culture in America amongst everyone from feminist bloggers to news outlets. After reading the fifth or so article about it, we at The Gabbler thought, “Hey, we have something to say about that, too!” and sought our own angle. When we were able to track down Big Bertha, the couch found in the library of one of Duke University’s most prestigious frat houses, we were ecstatic. Little did we know that sometimes the biggest rape apologists are found in the nicest powder blue upholstery.
The Gabbler: Hi Big Bertha, it’s great to speak with you today!
Big Bertha: Just Bertha will be fine, dear. Please, sit down.
G: Oh, thanks! I didn’t just want to assume that it’s okay, you know, now that I know that couches feel and think and stuff and aren’t just furniture in our homes and all.
BB: Oh no, honey, this is what I’m here for. Take a load off!
G: Oh, wow, Bertha, you are comfy! So, how long have you been a couch here at Duke?
BB: Oh, going on 50 years now. It’s really been quite a lovely place to furnish.
G: I bet you’ve seen a lot of stuff. (Wiggles eyebrows) You know what I’m sayin’ Bertha, don’t you?
BB: Oh don’t be so puritanical, sweetheart. Sex. People love to have sex on me. Last night one of the pledges was–what are the kids calling it nowadays?—”gettin it in” right where you’re sitting. I was so proud.
G: Oh, Bertha! Gross! Why didn’t you tell me?
BB: Oh don’t worry, all the stains are dry by now.
G: (Moving to nearby armchair) So, you’ve seen a lot of “getting in it” or whatever during your lifetime, huh Bertha? Was all of it consensual?
BB: Of course! My boys would never! That’s disgusting. They’re not creeps waiting in back alleys to prey on unsuspecting women. They’re fine, upstanding, handsome young men who any girl would be lucky to be with.
G: It’s interesting that you say that, Bertha, because I have a complaint filed by a female student this year, saying that she was sexually assaulted right here, in this library on a, what did she call it? “A grungy old powder blue sofa.”
BB: I’m not grungy! That whore! I know exactly who you’re talking about. She came in here with the president of the frat, during their lingerie party, wearing nothing but a bra, panties, and some stilettos. What did she think was going to happen? With a man that powerful? And in clothes that revealing? Why would a girl come to a lingerie party if she didn’t want to slut it up with some hot frat boys?
G: Did she tell him no?
BB: Well, of course she did. Most girls do, just to prove that they’re “good girls” so that boys will still respect them enough to take them out for waffles the next morning. They’re greedy! They want it all! They want to be able to have uninhibited, wild, hot, slutty sex and still be able to get waffles the next morning. My boys don’t have money for waffles! You should see what they pay in social dues!
G: So this happens a lot? Where girls come into this room with members of the frat and tell them no and the boys completely disregard them?
BB: Not all the time. Like last night for example, he was the one who wasn’t into it. The poor dear was a virgin, I think, really nervous. I guess all those tales of conquests he told during rush were just lies. But, he kept telling her no, maybe they should just talk, get to know each other first. But that girl, she had spunk, I liked her! She just kept on going until he stopped whining. Made a man out of him! That boy was lucky to find a girl that determined to get it in or else he would still be a virgin.
G: But, Bertha! That was rape! If he said no and she kept going, that’s rape! Don’t you get it?
BB: Boys can’t be raped, honey. That’s absurd. In fact, I remember seeing, a few years ago, while some boy was doing a bit of research, the FBI defines rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” So men can’t get raped at all! And while I’ve seen a lot of carnal knowledge of the female body, I’ve never seen anyone use too much force.
G: I believe that was the old definition. I think they’ve replaced that with something a bit more comprehensive. In fact, in 1998 the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda defined rape as “a physical invasion of a sexual nature committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive.”
BB: Oh, honey, that’s ridiculous. If that were rape, then your boyfriend would have been raping you that time he coerced you into having sex during the season finale of Real Housewives by nibbling on your ear.
G: Hey! How did you know that? Have you been talking to my sofa?
BB: We have our channels of communication.
G: Bertha, not cool! But that wasn’t coercion, that was seduction. If I ever had told him to stop, at any point, he would have listened, no questions asked. That’s how sex is supposed to work.
BB: Oh, coercion, seduction, tomayto, tomahto. Same thing. Listen, this is one of my biggest pet peeves about women. You dress up like you want it. You kiss like you want it. Some of you even get down on your knees like you want it. And then all of a sudden you change your mind and the poor boy is left to choose between coercion (which now apparently equals rape) and a hardcore case of blue balls, which we all know could affect their reproductive ability later in life. And the fact that you even think that these boys, who have basically been turned into puddles of mindless hormones by these whores before they back up and say no, can even think logically about that decision is absurd! They have no control at that point. And these sluts all bring them to that edge and then expect them not to topple over.
G: Bertha, that’s crazy talk! I assure you that, unless it’s part of consensual rape fantasy play (which I don’t get, but whatever, each to her own, right?), no woman is asking to be raped or “wants it.” And men who rape are fully responsible for their actions. We don’t look at murder victims and say: “oh well, it’s their fault for being so murderable. They should have worn bullet-proof vests instead of those flimsy cotton t-shirts. They were asking for it, really.” Women have the right to rescind consent at any point, regardless of what they wear or what they’ve done prior to that point.
BB: No, they don’t. Consent isn’t just a license that you can take away for driving drunk. Once you show him your road, he can drive on it however he wants. I mean, just look at me, do you know how many people sit on me without permission? But that’s what I was made for, that’s all I’m good for. Just like women and sex. It’s really my own fault for looking so damn comfy. And I can’t very well just tell them to get their asses up halfway through Glee just because I feel uncomfortable.
G: But, Bertha, you do know that there are couches who live in homes with families, who only sit on them with respect and love, right? People who get home from work and just snuggle up with their couch and sigh contentedly because, in that moment, a good cuddle with their couch is more than enough to bring them complete joy. And they respect their couches, they have their upholstery cleaned when it’s stained and sewn up when it’s torn and they buy them beautiful throw pillows and even take family portraits on them because their couch is, well, part of the family. You do know that respect and love can be part of the male-female relationship or of the couch-owner relationship, right?
BB: (Shakes head) Oh, honey, you have so much to learn about life.
G: I’m sorry you feel that way, Bertha. But thanks for speaking with me today. It’s been a very…interesting experience. And I really do hope that one day you find yourself a nice family that appreciates your comfy cushions for what they truly are.
BB: You’re very welcome. And listen, just a word of advice: even though you believe all of this about not wanting it or asking for it with your clothes, you might want to wear a less low cut top next time you venture into a frat house. Because, frankly, you’re kind of asking for it.