Writer’s note: Rape is a sensitive topic so please think carefully about whether you’d like to read this article. I have really struggled with talking about my experience on my own terms because of how saturated our culture is with conversation and opinion on this topic, please bear with me. (Please don’t send me any emails about how I didn’t write about my rape correctly!!!)
The only time I talked to my rapist about my rape, I called it “the sex thing”. As in, “I was really upset about the sex thing.” I didn’t want to call it what it objectively was. I thought there was a good chance using the word “rape” would make him freak out and I was trying to keep the conversation calm.
It was a Tinder date. A few weeks earlier I was in his bed and we were hooking up for the first time. He asked if we could have sex and I said we could if he put a condom on. He didn’t have one which was fine with me because I thought that meant we could just hook up for awhile and that would be it.
I reminded him that we couldn’t have sex. I told him I wasn’t on birth control. I said “not without a condom”. When we were kissing, I said “We can’t do anything more than this.” I hadn’t even taken my underwear off. He flipped me over and put his dick inside me anyway and he didn’t apologize or stop or acknowledge that this was wrong or abnormal in any way. He knew I was saying no to sex and he had sex with me anyway.
It feels disorienting to tell someone that they don’t have your permission to enter your body and they do it anyway. It’s so clearly wrong I want it to be a mistake but I begrudgingly have to acknowledge that I know it wasn’t. I said no too many times. It’s especially egregious given that I’d only been nice to him and also had provided him with several other options for how he could get off if the lack of penis in vagina sex was going to cause problems for him. How do you respond to that kind of care and generosity by invading my body?
I’m scared that if I text him and ask him about whether he knows he raped me he’d get angry, deny it was rape, and say something mean about how I asked for it. I don’t know why this bothers me so much to think about. Obviously it’s infuriating, but people are infuriating all the time and given what went down, it’s not as if this is someone whose opinion I respect or trust. To be charitable, I’m worried he’ll do this to other women. To be selfish, it’s just not fair that I have to deal with how it feels to be raped. Why shouldn’t he have to deal with how it feels to be a rapist? He gets plausible deniability but I don’t?
I still think there’s a chance I don’t remember it right. Maybe when he flipped me over I sucked my breath in or said “okay” or just kind of adjusted my body in a way that made him feel I was consenting. We often don’t remember things the way they really happened. It doesn’t mean anyone is crazy, it’s just one of the known limitations of the human brain. If I did one of those things, it doesn’t change how I feel. It just means my body reacted in a way that felt familiar while my mind was busy trying to figuring out what the fuck was happening.
I also know the reason I kept saying “no” so many times was so that I could be sure he knew what page I was on. I kept my underwear on for that reason too. At the time, I thought “if I take my underwear off he’s not going to understand that I don’t want to have sex with him” so I kept it on. If it was someone I was comfortable with I never would have been so vocal about not wanting to have sex. I remember thinking I was going overboard with how many times I said it. I just wanted him to know. I wanted to do my part.
When he was inside me I thought about if I should try to push him off me and I realized that if I decided to do that I’d have to admit (To myself? To him? I’m not sure.) that he was in the process of raping me but if I went along with it I could just pretend it didn’t happen. These were just thoughts flashing through my head in real time as I processed what was happening. It was quick, maybe 30 seconds before he pulled out and came on me. He got me a towel and we lay touching in bed and listened to music and I thought about if I should tell him “btw this is literally what rape is. Don’t do that to someone else.” I came to the realization that I couldn’t do that without crying and I was no longer in the mood to perform free emotional labor or make decisions based on anyone’s needs but my own. I just tried to breathe deeply so I could say goodbye and drive home.
I tried to see him again after all this went down. He asked me to text him when I got home and I ignored that request but sent him a nice message a few days later. It’s so weird to think about the fact that I did this. I think I wanted the rape to be a mistake and if we had some kind of copacetic conversation or hangout, maybe I would have a different understanding of what happened other than one in which he chose to do something objectively evil to me. But I was understandably really upset and eventually yelled at him for something unrelated before it occured to me to tell him I was upset about “the sex thing”. He never responded to that message.
I had a bad day and then another and I couldn’t figure out what my deal was until I sat on the couch and thought “Oh. Maybe I’m having a bad day because I was raped a few weeks ago?” And I wondered whether something like that takes a part of your soul away. And then I wondered if that was just something I think because I grew up with evangelical purity culture and now it’s 2019, which in the random lottery of times I could be living in is the #1 year of all time that we care about rape. How do you think rationally about how something makes you feel when you are aware you are in the middle of a kind of fever pitch?
I want to have a good response to this. I want to rise to the challenge. Not because I want to be the perfect rape victim but because he took something from me and now I am even more conscious of holding on tightly to the things that are important to me. I want to not allow this guy to fuck up all the work I have been doing in my life to be more centered and less anxious. I also want women to feel like I am being sensitive to the fact that this is a traumatic event and if I manage to have an even-handed response to it because I happen to have recently spent a large chunk of my waking life working on my mental health and resiliency, it doesn’t mean a single thing is wrong with anyone who responds differently. If this broke me, that would be okay too. I’ve been broken over less.
I don’t know if my rapist knows he is a rapist. I don’t know that he’s not going to do it again or if he will ever be punished. I don’t know if I can take on the burden of being responsible for these things. I can’t comfort him if he says he knows he is and I can’t deal with how much more it will hurt my feelings if he says no.
This is where I’m at. This is what I want to do. In the face of this encounter I want to be authentic with myself and with others about how it feels. I have been healed by so many people’s memoirs whenever there is a truly human moment and I can see that my own human moments aren’t singularly messy or pathetic. This is the human experience. It sucks sometimes. For everyone. I’m going to get through this and I’m going to do it in a way that doesn’t compromise my values by approaching it with the same curiosity and patience I try to approach all my problems with. Those are the boundaries I have left.