I was listening to an expert describe different types of rape, specifically date rape, and realized a situation she described happened twice to me. She called it date rape.
Hearing what I lived through given that label felt nauseating but not for the reasons you'd think.
Let's get down and dirty with my experiences. Or my memory of them.
I didn't want to have sex but I liked the guy(s) and didn't really know how to say no (I sure as SHIT hope this doesn't happen as much these days. God, we were badly educated--and I'm talking about the men, too, so don't get all Like That.) Anyway I went along with these events.
One turned out not so bad--although the sex wasn't on my agenda and he didn't do much for me. I was unenthusiastic and said, maybe we shouldn't do this. It wasn't a no. It was a meh. He didn't hear me. He was really turned on and not listening. I'm sure absolutely sure, if I'd pushed him, hit him, yelled at him he would have stopped.
The aftermath, hanging around etc, wasn't so bad. I knew the attraction wasn't there for me, but he was a nice guy. I told him that it wasn't going to work between us and he said something about how we'll always have Paris. I didn't say it was more like the South Bronx for me.
The second time was less positive. Did I go through with it? Yup. Why? Ummm. it was a long time ago. Afterwards I was annoyed enough to point out that I felt coerced when I wasn't really interested. The guy apologized. We actually went out a couple of times after that, but I didn't spend time alone with him. I wasn't afraid--I wasn't interested. Again I'm fairly sure if I'd freaked out, instead of lying there, he would have stopped. Am I 100 percent certain? It was a long time ago. Maybe I was stupid not to be afraid.
I remember that second event as a more unpleasant experience. Still, I was mostly annoyed. The incidents were not my favorite moments of my life but I didn't feel anything very strong or deep. That's the way I prefer it to this day. It was easy to get past them and get on with life.
So anyway lately, I've read descriptions of rape that have included exactly these kind of meh experiences. Women who were ambivalent or unsure but didn't act at the time. They might read the description later on, have a bolt of horror and think "god, I was raped" I believe there's potential for harm in that--for the women.
I might be a little unclear about what exactly happened but here's the important part: I didn't lose any sleep over the incidents. In fact I joked about one of them with a friend at the time. I wasn't scarred. Do I wish they hadn't happened? I don't think I even really thought about them that much to care. I might have used the experiences to think about what I did want in a lover and it wasn't what those guys had to offer.
this is important: I might have been bent a little by them but nothing precious within me had been broken. If that had happened, oh yeah, that is a whole nother story.
But I think if anyone else had informed me that those times were"rape" and I believed that description there would have been scarring and pain and horror all around. Would I have believed it? I was impressionable then and hmmm I don't know. But if I had, that word is so strong. It would have packed so much of a punch I would have turned into a victim instead of a kind of bystander participant. I would have given a label to something that was essentially a non-event and charged it into something that would have lasting power over me. I would have seen myself in a new and not happy way. The guys--they're secondary to this point I'm making.
If I'd labeled it rape, itwould have brought in other people and god, that thought really does make me feel sick.
I think, if I were doing it all again, with my 20-20 almost worthless hindsight, I would have been more forthright with the guys. Maybe, if I were doing it again--if my memory of it was faulty and it might be because that's the way memory works, people. our memories are not usually the only reality--I could have worked up an interest instead of just opting out and waiting for the sex to end. I would have said "more of
this, less of that" and helped them be better lovers. I was young. I was
hoping to please them more than I wanted to please myself. (Another thing I hope women today have moved beyond)
Maybe I wouldn't have gone along with the sex. This is hard to look back on because the 20th century was a different world. I wanted people to like me and sex was a source of entertainment, not always a deeply moving experience. The difference between me and someone living through the same
thing and ending up scarred and a victim might be a teflon layer,
and maybe my lack of sensitivity not always a good thing.
so anyway, another person living through those same incidents might have felt them more. They might need to find a reason for the harm and the search might reveal rape. I would think yeah, that might fit. Those people need to have a word strong enough to uncover pain and shame that they carry. They have suffered real harm and need real strong words to help them. In those cases, they need the power of that word.
This is about me and my story, not theirs.
But NOT everybody needs that kind of answer for that kind of incident. And in fact, I think it might forcing a strong drug onto people who don't even need an aspirin.
If I were young and impressionable and read that article by an expert -- I might have thought oh shit, RAPE. That's a lightning bolt of a word. It lights up everything to a terrifying degree. That word would have seared me--as well as the guys involved (but again, this isn't about them). It would have left marks where there were none.
To look at disappointment or regret at an act or look at a couple of clueless people who can't communicate and give it that label afterwards? SOMETIMES it helps no one. Turning a dissatisfying or even a sad sexual event into a crime -- sometimes that gives something that's best moved past and forgotten, or laughed at, real staying power in a woman's life.
Before you get indignant, keep in mind that my point is this is personal. This isn't my pointing fingers at someone else who's lived through this sort of experience and saying "laugh it off, girl." It's about me.
I wish I knew how a younger version of me would have respond if someone I respected had described what I'd experienced as rape. The older one's response is to write this long meandering look back that probably won't help anyone--not even me.