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Today's Story by Carolyn Cooke

The atmosphere was both political and festive, like a party – a party of the raped.

The Rape Parade

The rape parade bore down Mission Street, men, women and children of all sizes and ages wearing hand-lettered tee shirts or carrying signs that read, “3 rapes & molested,”   “Respect this Vagina!” “8 years old when I was rape by my uncle you never said sorry. I’m over it.  I’m done with the secret,” and “I [heart] Consent.” The ones in front sang the loudest, like in a church; they carried the banner. Many of the raped wore warm-blooded colors – red and orange. Their chanting reached us in the upper floors of the Institute, and we left our desks and crouched around the window to see the rape parade as it passed. The parade stretched from Tenth to Ninth, and from there to the Federal Building, so singularly defended with its concrete reinforcements and aggressive green design (and yet the raped in their warm bloody colors poured across the plaza). From where we sat crouched on our haunches in the upper windows of the Institute we saw a ribbon of the raped, each person in the rape parade representing a protest against a specific, historical rape, or series of rapes endured, survived and embodied by that person.  Each person also represented a protest against the whole form of violence collectively understood as “rape,” and the parade represented the solidarity of the raped.

The atmosphere was both political and festive, like a party – a party of the raped.  It was impossible not to notice and admire the solidarity and diversity of the raped. The raped had been violated by their fathers, brothers, uncles, dates, johns, pimps, soldiers, strangers. They had been attacked by penises, bottles, sticks, bats, guns, sperm, viruses. The raped looked like a 400-pound man, a woman on stilts in an orange dress, like twins holding hands, like children with braces, like the old man with no teeth, like the transman with a blonde bob, like the sex worker with the silver bone, like the one with a cigarette, like the one with a puppy on a leash. The raped looked like a twelve-year old and an eight-year old and a fifty-one year old and an eighty-one year old. The raped came from Anchorage, Brazzaville, Chiang Mai, Delhi, Kigali, Lodz, Mill Valley, New Orleans, Stockton and Zagreb. They came from villages, suburbs, islands and ice caps.  The raped had piercings.  The raped looked androgynous. The raped looked like babies. The raped looked mad. We crowded in the window and looked down as the rape parade passed by.  The raped called out in loud, boisterous tones; they demanded everyone’s attention. On this Saturday afternoon the raped became ascendant, a supermajority. The raped dominated both the rapists and the unraped – they exceeded all the others. The raped became supreme.  It seemed in that moment inevitable that the old regime that had tolerated and even subtly encouraged rape as a tool of oppression, a means of expression or a weapon of war must finally topple. The future would be dominated by the raped, by the point of view and the agenda of the raped. The raped and the allies and constituents of the raped would rule – by force, if necessary. The masses would submit to the wisdom of the raped. The administration of the raped would force underground the supporters and practitioners of rape, the hard- core believers.

These few would take their cause underground, to caves and bunkers from where they might still wield a marginal power, issuing videos and press releases denouncing various actions by the raped, going so far as to accuse the raped of hypocrisy for imposing their political will on those unwilling to submit to their agenda and thus replicating the act upon which their entire protest and very existence as “the raped” rested. Even in a position of power – dominant, on top! – the raped could not rest. The regime of the raped could not be passive, benevolent, idealistic, hopeful. It must remain always vigilant and fierce, a shark in the water alert to any scent of blood. We waved casually and then more urgently from the upper windows. We called out to the raped, we screamed like maniacs.  Before the parade passed by, we wanted to be counted.


Carolyn Cooke is the author, most recently, of the novel Daughters of the Revolution, which was listed among the New Yorker Magazine Reviewers’ Favorite books for 2011 and as one of the top five novels of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle. She teaches at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.

This piece was read as part of the inagural production of “Action Fiction!”, sponsored by Fiction365 and Omnibucket.  Other pieces in the series include:

Die Brizl, by Scott Lambridis

The Fix, by Benjamin Wachs

Sculpture Garden, by Ben Black

Look at Murphy, by Cary Tennis


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