I was sipping on an iced coffee, perusing Tumblr and avoiding anything that had to do with actually getting ready for work, when I stumbled across a particular post on one of my favorite feminist blogs that read in bold lettering: it’s not consent if you made me afraid to say no.
It rattled me. Deep down in my little bones, I felt something stir.
However, instead of addressing the rogue emotion I shut down my computer and ambled through my apartment, trying to shake the nagging suspicion that I’d just discovered a deep dark truth. A deep dark truth that I had never fully admitted to anyone – especially not myself. I was straightening my hair, glancing up at where I’d scribbled my favorite line of a Lord Byron poem across my mirror in eyeliner, when I started to cry. It wasn’t a pretty cry because I’m not a pretty crier. Because I knew, finally, that I had been raped.
(This may seem bizarre to some of you; it certainly still feels strange to type. It probably seems like something I should have definitively known before a picture on Tumblr showed me the light, but the truth of the matter is, I was so busy buying into all that bullshit that society had fed me on rape, it was hard to both identify and classify what had happened to me when I was nineteen until someone took the time to phrase it in a way that made sense.)
I was nineteen years old when I trusted a boy, and I trusted that he would stop when I felt uncomfortable. He did not. When I said, “No,” he ignored me. I was scared; I was overpowered and eventually, I simply gave up. I laid beneath him and did not fight because I was tired, because he was stronger and because I wanted it to be over with so I could get away from him as soon as possible.
However, in this situation, what society would have seen was that I had been drinking. I had flirted with him earlier in the night and kissed him. If I did not sleep with him, I led him on. I was a tease and a slut. I knew what I was getting myself into because I “asked” for it.
I spent years blaming myself for his inability to stop when I was uncomfortable, to listen when I said no. I genuinely felt bad for wearing something that showed off so much cleavage that night. And I chastised myself again and again for taking that last shot. When I was upset with him the next day, he shrugged, “You eventually stopped saying no, so what was I supposed to think?” I let him make me question whether or not my silence qualified as consent. So when his friends jumped to his defense, commenting that it had sounded like we were both having a good time, I was the one who felt guilty. He was supported.
When I was finding my stuff so that I could leave and noticed all the bruises from trying to push him away, the same friends laughed, “Well, I guess somebody likes it rough!” Instead of standing up for myself, I was humiliated. With burning cheeks and smeared makeup, I hurried out to my car, cried the whole way home and wore jeans with long-sleeved shirts for two weeks so I did not have to remember.
I let them cast me as a whore, and I took on the role with two eager hands because I wanted someone to blame. Society would not let me blame him; they taught me that it was my fault. They taught him that it was acceptable behavior.
Back then, I hadn’t been exposed to any literature or information about ‘rape culture’ or ‘victim-blaming/slut-shaming’ so I wasn’t able to process what had happened to me for what it actually was. I still was buying into the ‘be careful what you wear/don’t go anywhere late at night alone/always watch your drink/don’t give him the wrong idea’ way of thinking. It took a few years, lots of reading, amazing posts from even more amazing women on feminist blog sites alongside the support of my incredibly strong, funny and loyal best friends to understand what actually happened.
It was rape. It was unacceptable. It was NOT my fault. It was his.
There’s nothing cookie-cutter about being raped. For me, rape used to mean some masked figure jumping out of the bushes with a knife while I was walking home in the dark and attacking me. But it is just not that simple. You know what is simple, though?
The word ‘NO’.
And if someone did not choose to understand the very base meaning behind an ‘N’ and an ‘O’ strung together when you spoke them, screamed them, whispered them, implied them… it’s THEIR fault. Not yours. I’m on your side. I don’t care what you wore, I don’t care how much you drank, I don’t care how long you knew them, I don’t care if you decided halfway through that sex with someone wasn’t what you wanted and you changed your mind.
I am on your side & so is the Bitchtopia nation. Chin up, pretties.
Lolly Says is a 23 year old book junkie, residing in the Midwest. You can check her her website here.