I’ve read a lot of Rapunzel stories, a lot of times. I can’t tell you when I really grasped the events leading to Rapunzel getting booted out of the tower and having babies in the desert, but I can tell you I was mad. I’m still mad. I’m more than mad. I am deeply, profoundly disturbed. And I’m terrified.
Imagine you’re a little girl, growing up in complete seclusion. You have a mother. That’s it. No friends. Certainly no men in your life. You live by yourself in a tower.
Imagine how innocent you’d be. How unprepared for the real world. I can’t tell you how old Rapunzel is, but given her isolated upbringing, let’s at least say she’s a bit young for her age.
You’re a lonely little girl. A beautiful man appears at your window. What do you do?
“I love you,” he says. “Sleep with me,” he says. “I want to marry you,” he says, “but I don’t know how to get a priest up here.”
So what do you do?
You sleep with him.
What do you know about sex? You’ve never even seen a guy before. He says people do this, says it means you love each other. And what do you know about love, for that matter? But why not? He says it’s normal. You haven’t learned, yet, not to trust people. The woman who kidnapped you never really talked about stranger danger.
There are many versions of Rapunzel. Plenty are beautiful stories. But I don’t care about those right now. Right now, I’m telling you a story of statutory rape.
I didn’t grow up in a tower, but I have been innocent, too. I don’t understand how people can do this.
I have told this version of the story many times. I have been funny, sarcastic. I have turned this nightmare into a joke to hide from the things that scare me. But tonight I have nothing amusing to say. Tonight I am only bitter.
Children trust beautiful men who tell them they love them. Children have more children, and don’t understand.
Let’s not beat around the bush here. The world sucks. People take advantage of each other. People take things from little girls and boys who didn’t even know they had them to give.
I can’t do this. I really can’t. I don’t know what to say.
This, maybe: For the grown up Rapunzels, you’re allowed to forgive. You’re allowed not to, too. But know what you’re forgiving, if you do. You do not have the magic tears to heal the blindness of a man who can’t see what he did to you was wrong. You can’t heal people, you can’t fix them, you can’t transform them with your love. Sorry. Maybe, in his blind journeys, the prince will learn some things. But this is Rapunzel, not Beauty and the Beast, and you can’t teach him not to be a monster.
For the ones still safe in their towers: Don’t let strangers climb your hair. Tell your mother of your guests before your clothes grow too small.
And for Mother Gothel: Don’t keep your child locked up in a tower. It isn’t safe. Sooner or later, the real world will find Rapunzel, and it’s only more painful that way.
I’m angry. I’m so angry, and I don’t know where to go from here. Rapunzel was just a girl. She gave up everything—her youth, her home, her family, everything—without ever knowing that there was even a risk. The charming prince hurt her. He took things he had no right to. He destroyed her life. And by the end of the story, she still doesn’t realize how much he hurt her. He has left her with nothing else in the world, so she can only stay and trust him.
I have seen Rapunzel too many times in real life.