Grasping the idea of sexual assault and rape can be a difficult task. We know of it within our world, but it may not effect us in our own lives. Vulnerability is a more comprehensible feeling. Many girls around the world can relate the constant comparison between themselves and others, their need for attention, and insecurity. In Joyce Carol Oats’ Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? , the main character, Connie, displays these feelings through her subconscious thoughts and mindless actions. Her longing for acknowledgement leads to the extremely unfortunate event, meeting Arnold Friend.
Connie’s low self-esteem, constant need for male attention, and lack of judgment force her to be helpless to the manipulative people she attracts. Connie’s insecurity causes her to constantly desire for male attention. She consistently daydreams about the boys she has been with, “Her mind slipped over onto thoughts of the boy she had been with the night before. ”(365) Even as Connie goes through her normal, relaxing day, her mind subconsciously slips to thoughts of boys. This shows her obsession, desiring more from the males with whom she interacts.
Connie’s clothing also displays her low self-esteem, when talking about Connie’s two different appearances: “She wore a pullover jersey blouse that looked one way at home and another way when she was away from home. ”(362) Connie’s need for male attention causes her to dress in an inappropriate way, that she cannot show at home. She lost all self-respect, allowing herself to dress in a way to fulfill her mind’s desires. Because of the way she dresses, males treat her as they would someone much older, who dresses in the same way.
Connie’s low self-esteem causes her to think that being pretty is all that matters, “She knew she was pretty and that was everything. ” (361) Connie believes she is pretty and that she is better than anyone else because of that. Her world revolves around boys, and she thinks that all men care about is how pretty women appear, therefore being pretty is everything. The actions and thoughts of Connie cause her to have little self-respect in a world that revolves around males. Connie’s attitude and action towards males does not attract her the kind of attention she desires.
Her mother tends to get angry with Connie for her arrogance. When Connie explains her mother’s preference for her older sister, June, she said, “If Connie’s name was mentioned it was disapproving. ” (364). In Connie’s mind, the importance of the boys in her life is much greater than the importance of family. Spending nights at the drive-in restaurant, a popular hangout spot, Connie attracts the attention of older boys. This is what she intends to happen, but she is unaware of how this can lead to trouble. Older boys treat Connie as they would a girl their own age.
This pressures Connie into doing things she would not normally do with someone as young as herself. In addition to the pressure from older boys, her actions by hanging out at the drive-in put her in danger. When Connie was with a boy at the drive-in restaurant, she caught the eye of a man who would prove dangerous: “He wagged a finger and laughed and said, ‘Gonna get you, baby. ’” (363-364) Connie does not know at the time that she was attracting danger. Connie is naive of the world around her, acting without thinking about the affects these decisions could have on her life.
Through flirtatious acts and her attitude, Connie attracted a rapist, from whom she was unable to escape. By hanging out at the drive-in restaurant, flirting with older boys, and wearing provocative clothing Connie attracted the attention of the creepy Arnold Friend, whose intentions can be inferred from the story. When Arnold first pulls up to Connie’s house, and they officially meet for the first time, Connie instantly thinks about his impression on her: “She couldn’t decide if she liked him or if he was a jerk. (367). Connie did not find this abrupt encounter with Arnold strange, because he showed up at her house and knew about her.
She first thinks about whether she liked him or not. She is oblivious to the danger of strangers, only thinking about if he is worth her flirting. Once Connie fell into Arnold’s trap, she is unable to escape: “She thought for the first time in her life that is was nothing that was hers, that belonged to her, but just a pounding, living thing inside this body that wasn’t really hers either. (377). She no longer had control of herself or of her fate. Everything lies in the hands of Arnold Friend. A potential rapist easily takes advantage of Connie, because of her vulnerability, longing for male acknowledgement, and not thinking about her actions. Connie’s whole world is centered around boys, consistently in her thoughts, which influence her actions. As a result, Connie’s daydreams of being with boys turned into nightmares of reality.