I went to the gun range with my brother and two of our friends. This was about fifteen years ago. They romanticized law enforcement, one even became a cop, so they were going out to "practice." I didn't particularly like guns, my policy being to stay away from them as much as possible; but I was partly curious and partly still in a phase trying to prove that I could be as butch as they were, so I went along. I shot a glock, and some other sort of pistol, and a shotgun. The glock was loaded with a Black Talon at one point, and the shotgun with regular small-guage shot first, then a slug. I wasn't good, but I could do some damage to someone if they held still like the target and gave me time to aim. I tended to shoot low, so when aiming for the heart, I tended to hit the cock.
There's another story in there somewhere.
The targets would come back shredded. The targets were the standard sort that have a man's sillouette on them, so that the shooter can practice hitting the torso. The one that had been the victim of the Black Talons was in several pieces, as was the one that had received the shotgun slug. Those two bothered me the most. A human body would be torn up just like the paper, but much worse. I felt very sad for the rest of the day. The human body suddenly seemed very fragile and too easily destroyed; and the human mind that could come up with something like the Black Talon seemed outside of my comprehension. When we left the shooting range, I didn't feel too butch or curious anymore.
The guys all hopped about like puppies as we left. They high-fived one another and said "fuck yeah" a lot. "Man, did you see that shit!" they said to one another, pointing at a particularly good hit, or a particularly piecemeal target. "That shit rocked!" They turned to me. "See?" they said, "isn't it cool? You feel so powerful."
"Uh-huh," I replied, then looked out the window.
"Man, I'm really horny now," one of them said. "What about you guys? Does shooting make you horny?" "Hell yeah," the other two agreed. "I could really fuck a chick right now."
Now, I personally did not feel in any danger from any of these guys at the time. I wasn't even offended by the subject. I didn't think any of them were going to pull over and start a gang-bang. At this point, especially considering that one was my brother, I figured only one of them really thought that was a come-on. Mostly, I figured that they were posturing for each other, all but pulling out their dicks to measure them. I had pretty much ceased to exist by not jumping in on the post-firing range euphoria. Boys were being boys, I thought. Plus, I was getting a glimpse into this male world, even if some of it was showing off for the chick in the car.
That glimpse unsettled me. These were guys that I knew, liked, was related to. Yet, I felt as if I was getting some idea of how rape happens. In every war, there is rape. Rape is part of the business. You can't even soften the statement by saying "more so in the old days when we were less enlightened" or "more so in 'uncivilized parts of the world amongst less civilized people like in Bosnia or Africa." Rape happens always in war, and by the good guys as much as the bad guys. By Americans as much as anyone else. Rape happens in peace, as well, and in the same way. All sizes and shapes of women are raped by men who could be defined both as good guys and bad guys in the rest of their lives. You probably know both, and don't even know that you do.
A man I knew tried to rape me on a date not too long before this firing range incident. (I only just now saw that maybe there was some connection, but save that for later.) He insisted later that he really did not intend to rape me. He thought I was playing a "game." Other women had played such a "game" with him before. They acted like they didn't want to have sex with him, he explained; but really, they wanted him to take them forcibly. "What kind of a sick shit game is that?" I thought. "And what in my terrified shrieking and clawing and kicking and crying made him think that I was playing it?" I thought, "fuck those other women for playing such stupid shit games and leaving me with this fallout of expectation."
What I said was, "how did you know that's what they wanted?" "Because they were fine the next morning," he said. "They acted like nothing had happened." I began to have a little more sympathy for the women. "Besides," he said, "I'm not a rapist, so I can't rape women." I almost laughed in his face at the sheer -- I don't know what, ignorance? idiocy? -- that being a rapist were like some profession, as if some men become doctors, and some become lawyers, and some become rapists. I felt very sick realizing that he was, in fact, a rapist. I had narrowly escaped, and I still don't know why.
I go back to that day at the firing range. Those guys there, when I had told them parts of the story, had thought that what the would-be rapist did was wrong, although they admonished me for getting into the situation in the first place; but they would not see any connection between their own sexual arousal at the firing range and his in trying to overcome me. They would say that I was making too much of nothing. Ironically, they would probably think like my would-be rapist. "I'm not a rapist, therefore I don't rape," much the way people think, "I'm not a racist, therefore I don't do racist things," or "I'm a feminist, therefore I don't so sexist things." Ipso facto.
Yet, the close connection of violence and sexual arousal scared me very much. These were not anonymous thugs with long records, hiding in the bushes waiting for a good-looking woman in a short skirt to walk past. These were not invading soldiers of a heathen race. These were not psychopaths. In other words, these were not stereotypes of rapists. These were guys that I knew fairly well. One was the father of a little girl. One all but worshipped his mother. One was a middle school teacher. One was interviewing to be a cop. Yet, these guys had guns, they knew how to use them, and they were horny. My would-be rapist had a gun in his house, I later learned, "for protection." Still, without the gun, he seemed perfectly willing to bludgeon me into submission.
For these men, violence led to the desire for sex. There is a step in between there; but only one step. My shooting-range companions had not taken that step. In rape, the violence and the sex are the same thing. My would-be rapist seemed capable of taking that step. What removes that step? What makes the violence of rape the gratification? While I believe that some rapists are just born that way, already wanting to rape; I also think that otherwise regular guys can step over into that category. That worries me because it could happen at any time for any reason, and I want to know when and how and why.
That is what I was seeing that day at the firing range, the potential for these friends of mine to become rapists. Not that they would, but that they could. That haunts me.