I originally wrote this piece for an anthology. It was rejected, but it began to snowball the healing process. Please feel free to share. I'd like this one to be heard.
Sleeping with the Rapist
Jane VincentAnd she said don’t (don’t!)
Maybe you better go.
Yes she said don’t (don’t)
She kept on saying no.
Til she cried, “Don’t stop don’t stop loving, Dan.
You got fifty nine minutes to go.”
from “Don’t Stop Dan” by the Checkers
I lost my virginity to a rapist.
He didn’t rape me. I didn’t know he was a rapist at the time. Later I learned he had raped two acquaintances.
But I still feel guilty. I wonder if my actions that evening enabled the belief of “no means yes”.
At 18 I was sick of being a virgin. I found a guy that was reputed to put out (he was a playa' or whatever is the equivalent of a boy slut). We met with a group at a hookah bar about a week before graduation. He would come in to IHOP and drink coffee until I got off work. We'd drive around dark country roads with the windows down and Led Zepplin blaring. He would make awkward attempts at compliments and gave me a Pink Floyd t-shirt for my birthday. He would do.
An integral part of this decision was the fact that he was going in to the services. The coast guard. Reserves. (This was before the current war torn state, so it really was a joke). I was leaving on a ten day trip to Europe with my parents. By the time I returned, he would be at boot camp. He would not get out of camp until I had already left for college in New York. So, theoretically, I wouldn't have to worry about a relationship or any of that icky dumping-the-guy stuff.
The evening before his coast guard physical, he picked me up from a particularly long shift at IHOP. We got a room at the Comfort Inn. I was convinced everyone knew what we were doing. The only room available was a suite. This meant we got a bottle of cheap champagne and two plastic dixie cups and one of the regionally legendary jacuzzis.
He popped the champagne and drew me a bath. We sat across from each other in the jacuzzi, full of conditioning-shampoo bubbles, and he gave me a foot rub (waitresses of the world sigh in ecstasy). At this point I was ready to just go to sleep.
So we got out of the tub and toweled off. I then walked to the bed with my towel slung over the shower rod. He modestly tucked his towel around his waist and made some comment about me being "wild" and "bold". Um, I walked ten feet in the buff. Really wild, there.
He turned on the TV to some war movie set in Asia so there was karate, ninjas, and guns. We started making out. I went down on him. At the last minute I pulled up, bit his nipple, and asked him to get a condom."What? Oh, man, I don't have any. I didn't want to make any assumptions."
Hello! We are going to a hotel together. Translation: we will be having sex. You are the boy. The boy gets the condoms. (Thankfully, I am now liberated enough to carry around a dozen or so condoms for all my friends at any given time. And condoms do not assume anything. They are a responsible person’s way of preparing for the future, which could possibly include sex or the need for water balloons).
“Never mind,” I rolled over and huffed."In that case, I'm going to sleep." I said and closed my eyes. He spooned against me. After a few minutes he began kissing my neck. And then we were making out. And mutually jacking the other off. And he pulled up. "I'll pull out," he whispered as he pushed his way inside me. So romantic.
I never said yes. I even said no, although I acknowledge it was more the role of the good girl to deny sexual desire and especially sex without condoms then actual opposition. I wanted to have sex but couldn’t give myself permission to consent. I knew how to say no. What I didn’t know was how to say yes.
Later, I was raped. The scenario was strikingly similar to the loss of my virginity — the difference being my consent. At the end of my freshman year I was raped by a date that I trusted. It was actually a third date. I had been so proud of myself for not putting out immediately. I was going to do the three date standard. I really liked the guy and had plans for a relationship.
But I had been diagnosed with mono the day before. He wouldn't let me cancel the date so we went to a bar that didn't card. After one drink I was swinging and flushed. My hair caught on fire (no lie). I was so exhausted that I needed to go home.
He was too cheap for a cab so walked me the fourteen (okay, they were only street) blocks. Then he asked to come to my dorm room for a phone number. I agreed and signed him in. Soon after he was upstairs, I lay down because I was tired and sick. He lay down next to me. We were making out and getting hot and heavy.
I asked him to put on a condom. He didn't have one. Said he never used them. I didn't have one because I was still the girl. I hadn’t learned to carry my own condoms as I still wasn’t entirely comfortable with my sexual appetite. I didn't steal one from a roommate because I didn't want to have sex at that point, I just wanted to sleep. I told him I wouldn't fuck without a condom but he was welcome to stay the night.
I fell asleep after that. I woke up to him fucking me. I didn't really feel much of anything. I dissociated and watched. Couldn’t speak or scream or push or anything. Then I felt his fingers in my ass. He pulled back and pushed his dick inside me. I was in shock. I had never had any sort of anal sex before. I thought I was crying but I could see my face that was completely emotionless. After he came, he fell asleep in my bed beside me.
In the morning we took a shower together and I signed him out of my dorm. I was still in shock. I avoided his calls and emails that lasted the next six weeks.
It was the calls and emails that most shocked me. They now cause me to question whether he knew he had raped me? Did he know my no meant no? Or did he think I was just playing the part of the girl, resisting what she really wants but can’t ask for.
I am not accepting blame for my own rape or the rape of others. I am questioning the knowledge of the rapists. Did they understand the effect of their actions?
Sexologists refer to the use of “no” when sexual intimacy is desired as “token resistance.” Token resistance is a part of our sexual culture. As boys are taught to pursue and girls are taught to resist, each side is endowed with a simple term. We learn the rule early, boys always say “yes”, and girls always say “no”.
Our culture needs a two-pronged approach to sexual communication to prevent rape. First, we need to teach men (and women) to respect no. When either partner says no, sexual activity stops. In the BDSM scene there is the concept of “safe words”. Partners will predesignate a word to mean no or stop. This word is generally something not uttered during sex play, for example: apple. If the word apple is said during sex play, all activity stops immediately. Similarly, another word can be designated for slow down. Going with the fruit theme, we could say banana. When banana is said, the particular activity can be stopped while sex play continues. Armed with an understanding of the meaning of apples and bananas, a couple’s communication skills are miles above the general population that is still entrenched in “no means no except when it means yes”.
The second, and equally important step, is teaching women (and men) how to say yes to their desires and to sex in general. Because, in the current state of romantic scripts, “no” has multiple meanings. Only when we are provided with the tools to articulate our desires, will “no” be used strictly as refusal. No can’t mean just no until we have the ability to say yes.