Warning: The following article can be considered graphic, unsettling or triggering to some, particularly those who have been a victim of sexual assault. Please proceed with caution. The personal account has been published anonymously to protect the identity and the privacy of the writer.
“I don’t understand what the fucking problem is.” He stops kissing me.
His whisper is harsh and raising to regular volume, and I start to feel the weight of his body on top of me more than I had before.
My head is heavy and my vision is blurry. It’s dark. I’m drunk. He’d brought me nothing but straight liquor all night, despite my saying repeatedly I just like beer and wine. But I felt guilty declining. So I didn’t. And now I’m drunk, and alone with a man. And he’s starting to seem less charming, less kind, less harmless.
“There isn’t a problem, I just met you, I, I just don’t want to yet.” My voice cracked.
“Fine.” He pulled away, coldly. His expression looking angry and mean. “I don’t have sex with people who don’t want to have sex with me.” (well yeah no shit, that’s illegal)
But I feel guilty again. Like I’ve done something really wrong.
I feel guilty, even though I told him in a full conversation leading up to this date that I’m not comfortable having sex with people I don’t know well. That I don’t hook up, and the choice wasn’t intended to be insulting or hurtful it was just something I decided a long time ago wasn’t for me.
Even though I specifically said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to. Even though I said that when I agreed to be alone with him too. Even though I didn’t NEED to say it any amount of times beforehand, regardless. Because you only need to say it once.
“No.”— That’s it.
But I still feel guilty. Because that’s how the world teaches women to feel.
“I’m sorry, I do like you. I’m sure I will want to, one day, if we keep seeing each other. Just not now.” I say gently, smiling, an additional invitation I didn’t mean to extend.
Because he’s on top of me again, kissing me again. Soon pulling up my dress. I pull it down again, he pulls it back up. He undoes his belt, unbuttons his pants.
“Please,” I say between kisses, my head spinning. “Don’t.”
“I won’t fuck you,” he says back. The word fuck stings me and I cringe, feeling scared again, fear collecting in my throat.
He grabs my hand and puts it on his penis, now exposed. I pull my hand away. He grabs my wrist and puts it back. And again.
“Please I really can’t,” I repeat, my eyes closed because I don’t want to look.
He tries a little longer, forcing himself on me. Asking me for oral sex, pushing me until I physically move away and am visibility upset. Then he raises his voice to me. Condemning me for refusing. He’s angry. My heart pounds and I wonder if he’s capable of hurting me. I start to shake.
Flashbacks play into my head of the last man who yelled at me drunk and I wonder about this man I barely know. Is he going to do the same?
Will he throw something at me? Is he going to punch me in the stomach, twist my arms or throw me on to the floor? Is he going to kick me? What is this man capable of? Because I know all too well the answers are always more terrifying than you think. And if someone who loved me did that to me, what could a stranger do?
Please God, no. Not again. I think with my eyes closed.
But he doesn’t touch me anymore. He storms into the other room.
I start to cry. Tears stream down my face. I feel humiliated, worthless.
I scramble for my phone, trying to think of where I can go, how much it will cost to get a ride home because the train wasn’t running anymore and I couldn’t drive. I feel trapped. I call my friend. I panic. He sees, comes back into the room and apologizes. Hugging me, returning to gentleness. Convinces me to stay. Tells me if I leave it’s disrespectful.
Because trying to force someone to have sex with you against their will and then yelling at them about it is I suppose not disrespectful. Not for a man, at least.
But I do stay. Because I don’t want any more conflict. I can’t handle any more anger. Because I’m drunk and scared, alone with him. And I just want him to keep being nice to me. Which makes me feel even more pathetic and helpless. A patheticness I decide is my fault as I fall asleep, the arms of a man wrapped around me, a man who knows no shame.
There are two things I thought the next day. Two mental lies, ruthlessly instilled in the minds of women, that make it ok for men to do this.
1. Maybe it was my fault.
The phrase women reason with and debate on for hours after a man mistreats them. The phrase I’ve beat into my brain so many times before, convinced myself of.
It was my fault. I shouldn’t have gone back with him. I always make guys come to me for a reason, so I can make them leave if I need to and I’ll be safe. I know better.
I shouldn’t have let him kiss me if I didn’t want anything more. I shouldn’t have worn a dress to work that day knowing I’d be out with a man later. I shouldn’t have taken all of those drinks.
I should have left the second I was uncomfortable, or maybe known the situation was risky earlier than I did.
2. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal anyway.
He didn’t rape me. He did, eventually, stop forcing me.
He didn’t hit me. He did, eventually, walk away.
He didn’t mean it. He did, eventually, apologize.
Maybe I overreacted. I shouldn’t have cried. That was silly. I shouldn’t have tried to leave. That was dramatic. I’m always being dramatic. Men have told me that many times.
Maybe I should have just had sex with him, then none of this would have happened.
It wasn’t until today, when I had a chance to write, reflect and think about what happened, that I realized this is rape culture. Living and breathing in my own mind.
This is the absolute bullshit that perpetuates the idea that we, as women, don’t have the right to say no. Because we do.
YOU. CAN. ALWAYS. SAY. NO.
You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. Never. Never ever ever ever ever. It’s called consent and they need it. Otherwise, it’s against the goddamn law.
And what happened to me was wrong. Has it happened to you at some point? Because if so, it was wrong, and not on your part. On his. 10000000% on his.
It’s not something to be reasoned with or debated. It’s not something you can assume fault for.
It is fucking wrong. Wrong for a man to not accept that you don’t want to have sex or do anything sexual for that matter. Wrong for a man to try to force you. Wrong for a man to be cruel to you for not consenting. Wrong for a man to get naked and physically force you to touch him when you are trying to get away. That’s sexual assault, and though it may not be rape, it’s absolutely wrong. And it’s not your fault.
And if you gave in, complied to avoid the eventual fallout I experienced. That’s not your fault either, because sometimes it’s scary to say no. Terrifying even. And it shouldn’t be.
Sexual assault rarely happens the way it does on Law and Order SVU. The likelihood of being jumped in Central Park by a complete stranger is much lower than it being someone you did at one point know or consider relatively trustworthy.
It’s situations like this, where men think it’s ok not to accept no for an answer, think there is something fundamentally fucked up about a woman denying them, that assault happens.
It’s when the lines are blurred with alcohol and the fact that you did consent for some things, that scary and uncomfortable forcefulness arises.
I wanted to share this story because we need to talk about it. We need to address the varying levels of rape culture, because it can be convoluted and difficult to define, especially as it exists in our own minds.
We have to change the mindset that men are entitled to sex with a woman. That they’re somehow owed it, and our saying no is what’s wrong. That we deserve to be berated and persuaded relentlessly until we either give in or freaking cry.
Because that’s bullshit.
Sex is a choice. All sex. Intercourse, oral sex, sexual touching, is a choice. Your choice.
It’s not an obligation. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first date or the 100th. It doesn’t matter if you’ve done it before. It doesn’t matter if the person is your boyfriend, or your husband for that matter. You can say no, always. And you never, NEVER, have to feel guilty about it.
And they never, NEVER, have the right to force you.
This is what we have to teach our sons, over and over. It’s what we have to repeat to our daughters. It’s what we have to tell our friends when they describe situations like this. It’s what we have to make clear in school, in the workplace and in relationships with others.
It’s what we have to scream from the mountain tops until decades and decades of rape culture, of seeing women like objects men get to choose as they please, finally starts to diminish.
Until no means no. And there aren’t ANY physical or emotional consequences that women must suffer for it.
Because I am done suffering.
I am done letting men make me feel like my body is not mine to give, and mine to keep.
I am done letting men intimidate and pressure me into sex.
I am done letting men make me explain myself, repeatedly, for choices I am entitled to.
I am done letting men make me feel guilty for preserving my rights, not women’s rights, but human rights.
Because I am just as much a human as they are, and I would never in my wildest dreams force a man against his will to do something he’s uncomfortable with. So why is it ok for him to do it to me?
So please if you’re reading this, man or woman, feel that. Feel it in your heart. Believe it and understand it. Teach it. Champion it.
That’s all we can do. And I’m going to do it too.
Because we can change the dialogue, one step, one heart, at a time.
And we have to.
Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
You are not alone.