In which I talk about my personal experiences of sexual coercion

This post has been a long time coming.

When I started this blog, one of the main topics I had in mind was abuse, and my own experiences thereof. I was really deep in the work of trying to develop a coherent narrative of what had even happened in my abusive relationship, and writing was, of course, helpful for that. I wrote some things about it here, and wrote at much greater length in more private venues. It helped.

I am actually in an extremely healthy place around the whole thing, now. Which is probably part of why I am finally getting around to writing the post I wanted to write almost two years ago, but just wasn’t ready to.

Trigger warnings for what follows

You see, there was a question I have always had trouble definitively answering. And as I understand it, it’s a pretty common one:

Was I raped?

What happened to me (and I will get to that) is definitely in a grey area. It is reasonable to describe it as rape, and also reasonable to decide that it is something else, also horrible. I mostly don’t even care anymore. I get that it was fucked up. I know that it was damaging and awful to experience, and I know the ways that it has impacted me in the long term. These are the important things for me. Everything else seems irrelevant.

Nevertheless, I want to talk it through, as it might help other people achieve some clarity in framing their own experiences. I want to start with some things I know to be true.

So here goes:

Fact #1: Nothing ever happened until I said “yes”

Or, you know, at least until I said, “Ok.”

Of course, oldest story in the book, the yeses and oks were often begrudging. Scratch that: they were often made from a desperate desire to escape the “conversation” (y’know, the one where he begged and pleaded and guilt-tripped me about not wanting to have sex, endlessly, for as long as it took – and believe me, I tested it; these could go on for hours, long past when I needed to be asleep in order to function the next day, and I never found any way out other than giving in and getting it over with).

But my point is, there was never any physical force involved.

As if that matters any more.

Fact #2: A lot of the time I didn’t want sex, but I said yes right away, anyway. No convincing required.

I actually have a very clear memory of making a conscious decision one day. I wasn’t going to refuse him anything ever. I was up for whatever whenever.

Because just saying yes and getting it over with was so much less painful than trying to stand up for myself, and being beaten back into a position where I had to say yes and get it over with anyway.

Because it was quicker, and then we could do something else.

But, I mean, that’s a thing: I decided to do that, of my own free will, right?

For years I actually framed the whole thing as me using him as a tool of my own self-destruction. Like I tricked him. What *really* happened, I told myself, is that I used him to rape myself. I was awful, and cruel, and unfair, and exploitative. Wasn’t he the real victim here, a victim of my dishonesty?

Fuck it.

Fact #3: This was some fucked-up shit

One day, at some point after I had given up the ghost, when I had stopped even checking in with myself to know what I did or did not want, when I was an automaton on autopilot every time he wanted to have sex (I had that shit down to a routine that I knew to be efficient; he never even noticed as far as I know), I did a very strange thing.

In the middle of sex, without doing anything else, I just started saying “No.” Over and over. “No no no no no no no.” In one long, flat, monotone sentence. No sign of distress whatsoever. Just the word. I can’t explain it. I think I just wanted to know how he would react.

I couldn’t see his face.

He didn’t even break his rhythm, though.

I felt… empowered, somehow? Giddy, anyway. I felt like I had let out this big secret I had locked inside of me.

So I did it again. Just once, or maybe twice more, I’m not sure. I never got a reaction from him. And then I stopped.

I think that I was getting way too close to a reality I wasn’t ready yet to face.

I brought it up in conversation some months later – I guess I still wanted to know what he had thought was happening with that.

He indicated that it had made him “uncomfortable”.

Yeah.

Fact #4: No matter how convinced I may be about the truth of Fact #1 (I always said “yes”), it’s not, strictly speaking, true

Here’s the tricky thing about me brain. Its knows that the things I’m about to tell you about happened, but it still constantly tells me that I always said “yes”.

If I actually include all of the things I know in the narrative, this is really easily disproven.

On at least one occasion (I know it happened once for sure. I just wouldn’t put it past myself to have forgotten other instances), I was lying half-conscious, very drunk, on the bedroom floor. And he took off my pants. And he “had sex” with me.

I was entirely aware of what was happening the entire time. I was entirely capable of asking him to stop. I really was. But I didn’t.

Instead, I played a game. I decided I wanted to know what he would do if I just did nothing. Just lay there, conscious but unresponsive. I wanted to know if he would actually go through with it.

Of course he did.

I don’t know who won that game.

So, was I raped?

I don’t give a shit, any more. I was someone’s glorified sex toy (and not in the consensual, kink-positive way) for a few years. It was awful. He is a shitty, selfish person.

I am pretty much done with that shit.

9 comments

  1. I think you probably know the answers to your questions.

    I am so sorry about what happened to you and I’m glad you’re in a better place both physically and mentally now. X

  2. I know the “I could say something, but I won’t” feeling very, very well. My own sexual abuse experience was similar. All I can offer is my empathy, and you have bucketloads of it.

  3. I’m sorry you went through this, and I’m so glad you’re out of it now. *jedi hugs*

    I also struggle with what to call my coerced sexual experiences. I did verbally consent to most of the sex that actually happened, so “rape” has never felt right. I also genuinely enjoyed much of the sex that I had with this guy, and it’s hard for me to think about the fact that that “good sex” coexisted with a general coercive dynamic around sex for most of our relationship.

    *about to talk about my own experiences, expect awfulness*

    One of the things about my own experience that really fucks with me is that sometimes sex that I started out not into but “consented” to because it was easier… I ended up enjoying. Sometimes a lot. And he realized this, and would say things like “see, I was right, we should have had sex! you had fun! you should listen to me more often!”, which made me feel like a silly girl for being reluctant in the first place, and ultimately like he was more of an authority about when we “should” have sex than I was. This was also all tied up in my mental health issues at the time–when I’m depressed in particular, sometimes I don’t feel like having sex, but once I do I’m glad I did, because I feel better afterwards. Travis basically used this to convince me that when I was depressed, I pretty much didn’t have a right to say “no”, or if I did I was being irrational and he had every right to be pissy about it. In the end, I’m sure the dynamic this created did more than enough harm to outweigh any benefits I got physiologically from having sex. But for a long time, I fully bought his bullshit, and so wouldn’t say no even when I didn’t want it.

    A slightly more clear cut situation that I also experienced with the same dude: sometimes he would start things with me while I was semi-conscious (like when I was just waking up in the morning, or had just fallen asleep), and my BODY would respond, and sometimes I’d even give mumbled positive responses to things like “you like that baby?”, and then I’d wake up fully and find myself in the middle of sex that I had not asked for, but I had been at least somewhat participating in.

    Obviously, the first time that happened really could have been an honest mistake on his part–sometimes half asleep keely is responsive but very suggestible, sort of like I’m hypnotized–but I was CLEARLY distressed by it and he was a jackass about that–how was I supposed to know/you’re crazy/etc. I then tried to make rules to make sure it didn’t happen again: I have to have my eyes completely open and be able to carry on a full conversation before you even touch me sexually, much less actually initiate intercourse. But he kept doing it anyways, always claiming that he couldn’t tell I wasn’t fully awake. I tried to make even more rules to make it easier for him, but he acted like I was being ridiculous and huffed about how soon he would NEVER be able to have sex with me in bed EVER. Eventually I just stopped trying to stop him when I “came to”, because it would always become a fight in which he treated me as the irrational one. And I eventually got to a place where my body would respond to half-awake (usually early morning) sex, but my mind would completely dissociate and wait for it to be over.

    It has been three years, and I still tell every partner I have the full list of rules of how responsive I must be before they initiate sex with me. I also until very recently had a blanket “no first-thing-in-the-morning sex” rule. Like, we can have sex after we’ve gotten up and done other stuff for an hour or two, but not before either of us has gotten out of bed. For the longest time, it was just too fucking easy to trigger that dissociation response. With one of my current partners, I have started having and enjoying morning sex on occasion, which is only possible because he is totally cool about my two remaining caveats 1) I must be the one to initiate, no exceptions and 2) He should consider it a fun treat and not something he is entitled to every time he sleeps over.

    It’s still really frustrating to me that I have limits/triggers sexually that are a result of coercive experiences with Travis. Like, a number of my partners have talked about really enjoying half-asleep sex, and I wish I could enjoy that with them. Hell, these days I can even imagine there being a world in which my suggestibility when half-awake would be fun to play with in a sort of D/s fashion, somewhat similar to hypnosis play. And maybe I’ll get there someday. But for now, these things keep my ex present in my life in a weird way, and I fucking hate that.

    1. Oh, so many things.

      1) Yeah, the thing that continually pisses me off about abusive behaviours is that abuser just gets to walk away, and in many cases, no matter what they do, the survivor has to carry that shit around with them for the rest of their lives in all kinds of ways. It makes me so mad. It is so unfair.

      2) One of the things that I originally talked about in this post, but then took out because I wasn’t *totally* comfortable with it was the fact that most of the time when I had sex with my ex (disregarding the last six months we were together, which were another thing entirely), I would orgasm. Because my body is generally responsive, and because I’m good at getting myself off.

      And also, for sure for, there were many times in that relationship that I wanted to have sex, that I initiated sex, or that I enthusiastically consented with him. And there was everything else on the continuum between that and just grinning and bearing it. It’s all such a mess that it’s hard to even say where the line is, or figure out how to reconcile those things.

      It is suuuper tough. And I feel you. Jedi hugs right back at ya <3

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