When the woman at the center of a very public and highly publicized Tel Aviv orgy, which The Sisterhood’s Allison Kaplan Sommer wrote about here, confirmed to police that she had not been coerced or raped, I was relieved. Why had we assumed she was a victim in the first place?
According to reports, the incident involved a group of young men, most of them teenagers, and a woman who was decades older. The woman was laughing as she led the men into the water, and rejected the efforts of a stranger who tried to come to her aid.
Then why, if nothing about her demeanor screamed “victim,” did so many people read this as a gang rape? It occurred to me that society has adopted a victim mentality when it comes to women in unorthodox situations.
Years back, during law school, I interned for an organization that represents children in abuse and custody proceedings. Throughout the internship, and for months after, I was suspect of every seedy-looking man holding a child’s hand. If a little girl on the subway platform so much as sniffled, I was immediately sizing up her guardian and trying to determine what horrible things he might be capable of. I couldn’t help but read into every situation.
Similarly, frequent reports of women suffering in abusive relationships, being forced into group sex and getting date-raped seem to have hard-wired us to think in terms of male aggressors and female victims.
As it turns out, this woman was not a victim. Quite the contrary, given that she was heard reportedly offering oral sex for a shekel, she may have simply been a savvy street walker bringing in some new clients. Prostitution, but not pimping, is legal in Israel.
Sure, most women in their right mind would not parade around a beach half naked, servicing multiple men in broad daylight. This Tel Aviv woman might not have the same moral compass as the typical modern woman, and maybe that’s okay for her. The rest of us, on the other hand, are prone to confer upon her victim status. Because if put in that situation, we would hope someone would rescue us from ourselves and those who would take advantage.