Thursday, October 24, 2013
I've posted a good deal lately about consent and rape culture. It's no secret that I'm adamantly in favor of changing the way people talk about (and have) sex.
But there's more to this story.
My journey to my current mindset is long and meandering. It has a lot to do with becoming poly and joining a community of sex-positive, equality-seeking folks who place a high value on respect and autonomy.
The more I learned from these people, the more I understood about rape culture, and the more vociferous I became to change it. It's wrong, I believed, the way we blame victims, and shame women who enjoy sex, and teach children all the wrong things about sex.
Then one day, not that long ago, I was struck by a realization: I have been raped.
I'll relate each story individually. I am not changing names because the men who raped me are not innocent and I have no desire to protect them.
Several years ago I went on a date with a man I met on a dating site. He told me his name was Ryan. I can't vouch for the veracity of that, but we'll go with it.
Ryan and I started our date at a fantastic local restaurant. We discovered we had a lot in common, including being somewhat addicted to video games. Interestingly, Ryan worked for Blizzard, the company who makes World of Warcraft. He told me about all the amazing, dorky schwag he had at home, provided by Blizzard as incentives or rewards for good work. He offered to show me. I accepted.
We drove, separately, to his apartment, not far away. Inside he showed me a small statue of a dragon he had received for several years of service. He then started kissing me. A lot.
Soon he was trying to undress me. I protested: I didn't really want to. I was on my period. It was late and I needed to get home. I said no pretty much every way there is of saying no.
Ryan didn't listen. He kept kissing me and taking my clothes off, until eventually he was having sex with me.
After he came (I didn't) he asked me to leave.
A few weeks later I went out with another man I met online, KJ. We met at a bar he recommended, which turned out to be loud and crowded. After a couple of drinks, he asked if I'd rather go somewhere else. He offered that his condo complex had a hot tub. That seemed like a good idea. We headed there.
I changed into my swimsuit at his house (I keep one in the car, just in case). We hung out in the hot tub for a while, talking and kissing. I said it was late and I should get going. We went back to his house.
Inside, KJ started kissing me. At first I went along with it. But eventually he was on top of me, his body pinning me down. I said I wanted to leave, probably a dozen times. He acted as though he hadn't heard. He stayed on top of me as he took off my swimsuit. He didn't get up until after he had fucked me. As with Ryan, he was the only one who came. Also as with Ryan, immediately after, he asked me to leave.
I never reported either of these rapes to police. Why? Because it was years later that I realized they were rapes.
At the time, I thought it was bad sex. Miscommunication. Jerky guys. I was never terrified, which is what I thought you're supposed to be when you get raped. I never panicked. I didn't fight or try to run or scream for help. I wasn't really scared. I was annoyed, and insulted, and a bit angry. But not scared. So I didn't think it was rape.
And this is exactly what's wrong with our current culture.
I'm not a stupid person. I got good grades in school. I have a college degree. I work in a challenging field. I can describe to you both the process by which your body breaks down food for energy and just what the hell a dangling participle is.
So why the living fuck did it take me years to understand that men who had sex with me after I repeatedly told them no had raped me?
Rape is awful, certainly. But it isn't always scary. It's very rarely a stranger in a mask. It's not even that commonly someone you dislike. Most of the time, the victim knows and even likes the rapist. Like me. Had I not found my rapists attractive, I would not have been on dates with them. Had I not liked their company, I would not have extended my dates with them.
But my attraction to them, my enjoyment of our dates prior to them raping me, absolutely does not mean that they didn't rape me. I understand that now.
I never once said I wanted to have sex with either of them. In fact, with both, I said no multiple times, in multiple ways. I wasn't frightened of them, but I didn't give consent.
We must change the conversations we have about consent. Consent isn't lack of a fight. It isn't wearing someone down until they give in. It isn't pretending not to understand what "no" means. It isn't threatening someone until they change their mind.
Consent is yes. It is unequivocal, unambiguous, obvious.
And rape isn't just one experience. It doesn't have to be terrifying. It doesn't have to be life-changing. It doesn't have to be violent. It doesn't have to make you hate yourself or anyone else. It doesn't have to make you feel dirty, ugly, or ashamed. It doesn't have to make you ill.
It might do those things, but it might not. It can happen just as easily to men as to women.
Being fucked by someone who didn't listen to your repeated requests not to have sex isn't bad sex. It's rape. Being held down by the body of a person bigger than you so that you can't leave until you give him what he wants isn't bad sex. It's rape.
I was misled. By a culture that focuses more on saying no than saying yes. By a society that paints rapists as evil villains instead of the normal people they are. By media portrayal of rape as a violent, bloody assault involving screaming and kicking and crying.
I get it now, but it took me a long time to get it. I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Sex without consent isn't bad sex, it's rape. This shouldn't be a puzzle, but it's surprisingly difficult to recognize unless you've learned specifically how to see it.
Which means it's the responsibility of all of us to teach each other about consent. To stop glamorizing "sexy silence" and emasculating men who ask permission. To ask each other what's okay, and actually listen to the answers. To quit applying labels like "tease" and "bitch" to women who go on dates that don't end in sex, even if there was obvious mutual attraction.
Otherwise, we're all complicit.
Posted by Elizabeth Rubio