A couple of months ago, my heart was broken when my best friend called me, unsure of the label that she should put on the sexual encounter that she had had the night before. This is one of the most important people in the world to me, my sister, so I felt her pain. I felt her sense of helplessness, her feelings of powerlessness. I felt these things before I even understood them for myself. I only have one regret regarding that conversation: my first question for her was, per the status quo, “Did you say no?”
Saying no is not what’s most important. What matter is that she didn’t want to. We must change the question from, “Did you say no?” to “Did you want to?” We have to stop looking for a no; why can’t we look for the lack of a yes?
I’ve seen anger. I know aggression. Sometimes, though, the worst, most malicious acts aren’t angry. Sometimes, a lack of consent isn’t rough and forceful. Sometimes, the victim can’t even admit to themselves that wrong was done.
I have now. I have admitted it. You didn’t just hurt me. You raped me.
At the time, you didn’t seem aggressive. The anger didn’t come until afterwards. You didn’t want me to ruin your reputation. You didn’t want people to think you were a rapist, though you couldn’t even bring yourself to use the word. I convinced myself that it couldn’t have been that word, because you weren’t violent.
But, now, I have the anger. I have all the hatred and aggression. I hate your room, that bed, your smell, your laugh. I hate seeing you. I hate that you didn’t understand that “I don’t want to do this. I’m drunk.” means no. I hate how I can’t forget how your hand felt on my face, repeating that phrase over and over again: “It’s okay.” I hate myself sometimes. I hate my body and how you made it feel. I hate myself for still missing the relationship we had. I hate that I miss you.
I’ve noticed how scared we are to say the word. The “R” word. We’ve been clear: no means no. But the societal parameters and definitions aren’t clear to everyone; they weren’t to me. I so desperately want to unblur the lines and answer the questions that I struggled with for so long. What if I didn’t say no? What if I just said that I didn’t want to? What if I didn’t push you off of me? What if I had consensual sex with you later? What if we’re in a relationship? What if I stayed in the relationship after you, my partner, raped me?
What if I was drunk?
What if you were drunk?
For a long time, I tried not to be angry. I tried not to hate you. Letting myself feel those feelings caused an inexplicable pain. My heart is hardened. My first experience having sex was supposed to be special. It was supposed to be awkward, a little silly, maybe, but not like that. It wasn’t supposed to crush me. I wasn’t supposed to think about it every single day. You weren’t supposed to do that to me.
I’m not going to talk to you about it. I’m not going to report you. I’m not going to let you take any more of me. You don’t get to put me through more hurt. You know what you’ve done. Somewhere inside you, no matter how much you’d had to drink that night, you know what you did to me. I don’t even hope it haunts you like it did me. I wouldn’t wish how you made me feel on anyone, not even you.
COVER PHOTO: Social Policy Association