Promising Young Woman should be required viewing for everyone ages 10-13. Immediately. That might be too late for some boys considering the average age for discovering porn is now 8. Watching this film was bittersweet. See, I grew up thinking most men were good. Parents-I’m begging you-do not teach your daughters this. You’re doing them a grave fucking disservice. I’ve met 2-3 handfuls of decent men in 30 years. And even those I had to explain male privilege to, they don’t “believe in” the wage gap, and truly think “all chicks are fucking nuts”. Yep, those are the good ones. The ones who don’t usually shove, hit, rape, coerce or assault.
My friend was gang raped in 1997. But we didn’t call it that. I’m not sure it was ever called that. As I was gearing up to go from community college to university, she’d dropped out of HS to be a dancer, and we had grown distant. So it was amazing, that summer, when we started dating best friends. I’d had a crush on Stephen for 5 years; saw him as a gorgeous, stoic, tortured soul-totes my type. His friend, Billy, had always been extroverted, the life of the party, promiscuious since the age of 12. Just typical, normal, wealthy, sporty, privileged white 19yr olds. We spent about 4 weeks hanging out in a bunch, me, Karena, Petra; Stephen, Billy and Nate. Late summer nights drinking cheap beer intoxicated by our freedom, burgeoning love and adult lives unfurling in front of our eyes. Spoiler alert: come to find out, all this time together had nothing to do with love.
I got into a bad car accident putting me out of commission mid summer. A week or so later Petra told me that Billy and Stephen had “run a train” on Karena with a few other members of their boy clique. I didn’t even know what that meant. The story was she’d invited them over to party and things got sexual. No one had condoms so she made them leave and go buy some. Then she let them back in. Sex commenced. I was heartbroken. Devastated. Livid. That fucking whore. How could she? She was beautiful, wealthy, all guys loved her; did she really also need to take the guy I’d wanted since junior high? Those were my 19yr old thoughts. We never spoke about it and swiftly grew apart. I never saw Stephen, or the other guys again. In the story of my life, my friend slept with a dude I was madly in love with and my heart broke twice, once for him and once for our friendship.
My vantage point 20 years later: what are the chances that all 5 of them left to buy condoms? Zero. Why would they all go? So she was in her apartment with 3+ men. She was 4’10, 85lbs. This was before cell phones. She was trapped, no escape. Whether she called it rape or coercion; what are the chances it was 100% consensual? ZERO. And she got no support from me. Or anyone else. It was far easier to say she was asking for it. What did she expect? She often hung out in her apartment in stripper clothes, doing coke with a wad of money on her hip. She was 19 years old. We are all, at that age, playing dress up as grown women. We were not old enough to survive the consequences of the roles we tried on for size. Oh, and we were raised to think men are good. That we can trust boyfriends to not offer us up to friends. That we can count on men to protect, adore and cherish us. How tragic is that? We are lambs being lead to the slaughter. And then we’re blamed for being led.
So what happened to Karena, such a promising young woman? Already, she’d been molested by dad and disbelieved by mom which was the leash that led to dropping out and dancing. She was a feature entertainer for a while, travelling and partying. Then she did a well known reality show, and the real downward spiral began. A sleazy older dude we’d known in HS (literally a nerdy, ugly Best Buy clerk) Ken, created a dumb bro video series racing street bikes. He took her from “hot bikini model”, to soft porn, then harder stuff. I found this all out when I tracked her down and talked to her five years ago. She’s a mom. Married to a horrifically abusive man. She’s had so much plastic surgery on her face and body she barely looks human. She is completely disconnected from the mountains of trauma she’s been through and won’t seek help. I can’t blame her; how the fuck do you even begin to face it? All of those men are married with children. Most have daughters.