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?
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”.
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.