The Padlocked Vagina

Despite the First Amendment and her relative safety from the brutality of men, Falconberg's dissident voice for women's and animal rights could brand her a terrorist in the US.

OF THE MANY RAPE ZONES on Rape Planet Earth, the Congo is currently the most savage. After gang raping women and girls, soldiers are piercing their labia and padlocking their vaginas shut. Hot plastic as well as sticks and bayonets are being inserted into the women. Six-month-old girls have been raped to death.

Gang rapes are so severe that many women are suffering from fistula (the tearing of the vaginal wall so that the contents of the colon and urine seep in). Unable to reach medical care, some women are dying of massive infections. Even if the women do reach a doctor, fistula is very hard to repair — few practitioners can do it.

To intensify the cruelty, soldiers are even shooting women in the vagina, destroying their systems so completely that numerous operations are necessary — and even then repair may not be possible.

Despite how horrifying all this seems, there is nothing new Under the Rape Sun. 'Fistula Rape,' I call it — needing to find my own vocabulary for a reality rarely written about. The Romans, at one time, inflicted it on women in wartime. The Japanese were masters at it — the soldiers own photos of Nanking show naked, dead Chinese women in the streets, objects like pitchforks shoved into them.

Nothing new, either, about "sexual terrorism," the use of women's bodies as battlefields for male cruelty, for political ends — we have seen it all before, in Bangladesh, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur. (And now in Iraq.)

Anderson Cooper, reporting on the 'fistula rapes' in the Congo on a recent 60 Minutes (13 Jan. 2008) asks why men do this? It is a huge question. As a gentle woman, I have no answer. Do you men hate us women so much that you have to destroy our vaginas and our wombs, the very source of life itself?

But this article is not really about fistula rape or the Congo or that huge question in the previous paragraph. It is about the Padlocked Vagina and about my place in this confusing world. I am what is called a 'dissident' voice. I am a woman who speaks against those who inflict sexual suffering (whether it be in the Congo or in Iraq). As such, I am, according to my government, a terrorist.

Previously, the American Congress labeled me one when they passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. It condemned me for speaking up for the other animals species we torture by the billions (in factory farms and in labs, for example). Now the "Thought Police" are promoting a Homegrown Terrorism Bill (H.R. 1955/S. 1959) that tells me my 'dissident' voice is a danger to my country.

My take on all this is hardly original: A democracy is strong precisely because of its dissident voices. All Americans should nod to me, in approval, or maybe even clap for me — with high rejoicing — that I speak up. I don't want my vagina to be padlocked next. It has been through enough.

To not sound too corny, as an American I cherish my rights. That first amendment is precious beyond gold and diamonds to me. (Never mind that I never buy gold and diamonds because of the exploitative way they are mined and marketed — it is the metaphor I am after here.) Being a woman of little courage, I tremble every time I exercise my first amendment right to be a dissident voice. But I am aware that I live in a country that, so far, has let me speak — loudly, dissidently — without imprisonment, torture, or execution.

When I saw a photo of a Congolese woman being held down by soldiers, while another one pierced the most sensitive area of her body, it was like having cold water thrown on me. It was a wake-up call. I don't want to be that next padlocked vagina. I sit in comfort, in front of my computer. I am relatively safe — no immediate threats of physical violence, no one beating me up. Despite having known some severe sexual mistreatment in the past (like gang rape and being a 'dirty joke' to a lot of men since I sold sex, once, a long time ago), I realized, when I saw this picture, that at least I was not having my vagina padlocked.  What a joy! To sit here, with the freedom to write — and an unpadlocked vagina, too! This is true happiness.

After I write this article, I can get up and take my dog for a walk. No bleeding, infected, padlocked vagina holding me back.  Then I can come home, to a warm, safe room, out of the winter chill, and give Boromir (that's my dog's name) a treat and we can both sit by the fireplace — me with a (vegan) buttered English muffin and hot chocolate (vegan) by my side — and watch an old movie on TV. I can sip my cocoa and pet his big, comforting body (having a big dog makes a cowardly woman like me feel safe).

I have to keep being a dissident voice in order to keep Boromir safe and myself safe and my vagina free from being padlocked.