Shirani Rajapakse: “Asking For It”

Asking for It

They say I’m
asking for it because they
don’t like the clothes I wear, want to
put me in a shroud. Yet the picture
on the net someone posted
the other day says it all—the man groping
a woman in a burqa, all covered up
like a big black garbage bag,
nothing showing, not even the eyes. But no.

I’m wrong.
I’m a woman.
I should know better.

Dress decently. Whatever that means.
Don’t show your arms, your legs, your midriff.
Your neckline’s too low, the eyes
wander down the road, the T-shirt
too tight, your breasts pop out.
Don’t you realize
they are meant to stand up strong
not flop down like a lonely phallus stuck tight
between your legs?

Do you realize those words thrown at me
don’t make sense? Don’t wear jeans, it’s not
in our culture, we are conservative, Asian,
jeans — foreign. They are too tight,
they excite men when you move.
Don’t roll your hips when you walk, you
are tempting them, merely by
walking from here to there.

Don’t go out late at night.
You are asking for it.

Don’t wear those clothes that
stick to your body like another skin, you
can’t blame him if he does
something he’s not supposed to, like rape you,
behind a dumpster, or somewhere
less conspicuous. That’s not his fault.
It was you.
All you. You were inviting him, remember.

You look at me and decide for yourself
even before I’ve opened my mouth
to tell you anything.
The way I dress seems to say
consent to you to do what you want.
A fleeting look your way and you get
all excited, I led you on by giving you the look,
when I only glanced your way to check
if you were about to attack me, as I felt your
ugly stares running all over my body
like you were undressing me.

Don’t cross your legs,
it turns them on,
you are soliciting it. Leave your legs
where they are, preferably at home,
with the rest of you. That would be best
because he needs to go someplace
and you are distracting him,
making him want to do things he
wouldn’t dream of if you weren’t there.
He’s such a good man. A model citizen.
It was just that you
were asking for it.

What are you looking for?