I don’t like being raped
Apparently, that makes me a weirdo.
This piece is Part 1 of a series of two. Part 2, a Q and A style response to responses to part 1, once its own entry, is now appended to the end of this post. Part 3 (now 2), an exploration of how to heal this, is here.
Contrary to our othering, vilifying approach to most rapists, rape is not just an easily recognizable crime that select evil people commit. It is a system of behavior that is connected to a toxic patriarchal masculinity, entitlement, sexism, misogyny, the prevailing misuse of substances and alcohol, as well as racism.
It’s also a subtle learned behavior that’s been rampant in the experience of my life and has taken years upon years to awaken from. But perhaps, as a woman, not simply in the ways in which one might think.
RAINN says “Rape Culture” is not a considerable cultural problem, but they are only focusing on violent first degree kinds of rape. Barbra Kay, a Canadian journalist, cites that “Rape culture” is overblown because it’s only a tiny percent of the population that rapes, so saying we live in a culture of rape is misleading. And this kind of stuff is really kinda starting to piss me off.
“Being considered ‘crazy’ by those who are still victims of cultural conditioning is a compliment.” — Jason Hairston
As has seemed to have been the experience of most promiscuous women I’ve chatted with, I’ve been raped by others more times than I will ever be able to count, including while sleeping (And I defended that guy as not being a rapist. I was 16, what do you want.). I spent more than a decade in a close friendship with a rapist who raped me multiple times (not. anymore.)
But the flip side is that I’ve pressured men who clearly didn’t want to sleep with me into sex, because, essentially, “I’ve groomed my entire existence to be beguiling and desirable, my worth is completely wrapped up in your sexual interest in me, and your body *peers down* wants it; so sit down, and shut up.” — and that was rape, too.
I spent nearly 12 years in a relationship with a person I raped. He was visiting my city, as a friend, when I jumped him from out of nowhere while we were shitfaced drunk. We’d discussed nothing of embarking on a sexual relationship, I gave him no time to respond or consider what was happening, let alone consent (which he wasn’t capable of doing anyway.)
Turned out, I found the next morning, he was a virgin. Oops.
Know how many times I told that story to our gigantic group of friends, people we met, people who watched him propose to me? It was one of my favorites for a long time, and I told it likely hundreds.
Know how many times anyone pointed out that it was rape?
Know how many times people laughed and egged me on?
There was a reason it was one of my favorite stories.
That marriage, by the way, didn’t work out.
Enough “Hmmm”s equal an “Aha”.
I have spent a lot of time in my life chatting sex and poop and bodily functions with others. And from that vantage point I am here to tell you that I am surrounded by people whose lives are just like mine has been; saturated with sex that isn’t consensual. People who have developed with a clear and complete, respectful value of consent are the rarity of my experience, not the norm, and those people have usually had to work very hard at unlearning what is considered normal.
And sex that isn’t consensual is rape.
I know someone who started their multi-decade relationship-and-now-marriage by flat out feeding their person of interest shots, staying sober, and raping them, after a long string of other forward and direct advances hadn’t worked.
I’d heard that story for years and laughed along with them both. Last time I was just like ‘Um, that’s rape, you know?’. There was this strange moment of clarity that washed over him, then. The rapist is a woman, in this case, btw.
Something is seriously wrong.
We rape one another in this culture. Rape is all over Hollywood, all over our media and cultural representations, and most of the time we don’t even register that shit.
Rape is imbibed in the liquid that feeds our growth into sexual beings. We think rape is sexy and fun, we think rape is courtship and romance.
We think the rush we get is passion, we think it’s the fire burning, the indication of a mutual spark, while so often not having the awareness or connective skills to perceive mutuality.
In my experience, that rush whisking me into bed with someone was my red alert alarm, not my ‘holy shit I am turned on and want this!’ alarm — and it took me nearly 25 years to figure that out.
Why? Why did it take me 25 fucking years to get this?
Because we think rape is normal.
We think rape is trivial.
We think rape is the victims fucking responsibility.
We think rape isn’t rape if the cells in our bodies respond sexually.
We think being pressured into performing sex acts that make us uncomfortable is how to show our love toward somebody.
We think being manipulated into having sex under false pretenses is just sleezy.
And in my experience, not only do women like me who adopt contemporary models of ‘masculinity’ in their empowerment and rejection of oppressive feminine roles also fall into the traps of a toxic and dominating rape culture, many men seem to think of tolerating being raped as a part of a passive sexuality that makes them in touch with their ‘feminine’ side.
Rape culture is a “phrase used to describe a culture in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender, sex, and sexuality.”, but the common use of “Rape Culture” and its examples aren’t speaking to how much of a rape culture we truly live in.
The problem, in my view, with the common use of the term “Rape Culture” is not that we don’t, actually, live in one. It’s that the term is often used when only looking at the tip of the misogyny iceberg of rape apology and the most vile of threats and opinions regarding rape. Like that prisoners deserve it, and women who have brains and use them need a dick forcefully shoved down their throats.
I’m using it, and I will continue to use it, despite the discomfort of those around me, because we live in a “Rape Culture” and I think it’s about time we woke the fuck up about the role that rape quietly plays in our everyday lives and started looking at why that is, not just tooling about the role it loudly plays in social justice propaganda that perpetuates the myth that rape is only about violent strangers and trolls threatening to skullfuck people.
But “What does consent really mean?” …
…someone, usually a geeky white guy who (like me not long ago) doesn’t quite want to give up rape, inevitably asks this.
I know, it’s so weird right?! Surely I simply don’t understand how fluid consent is in this society, how tricky and nuanced it is. Surely I must be mistaken, doing that chick overreaction thing, doing that ‘using rough words and putting people off’ thing.
And probably, I need some supposedly level-headed, emotionally vacant dude to sit me down and explain to me why rape is so unavoidable and consent is so ambiguous and why rape just isn’t actually rape and I should stop saying rape is rape because authority figure.
Nah. I’m good, thanks.
For everyone else: Here’s my living framework for consent, derived from my original post about it on my blog, improved upon by Ava Mavin of The Attractive Arts. ALL parameters must be met/negotiated for ALL PARTIES in order to have consent to engage sexually, and frankly, for me, in a lot of other nonsexual scenarios, too.
IDEAL (Informed Direct Engaged Aligned Lucid) Consent is:
I am fully aware that I am being propositioned, and what it is I am being propositioned for. I am aware of any surrounding circumstances that pose a risk to me. I am free to ask questions and am given clear and honest answers.
I have communicated clearly and emphatically through my words and/or actions “I want this.”
I am interested in what we’re planning and I’m enrolled in that process as well as in the results. I am decisive; even if that means I have decided that I want you to decide what it is we do.
My words and actions match up, there is no contradiction between what I say I want and how I am behaving. Furthermore, this activity is aligned with my values as I understand them; my overall feelings about participating in this activity are positive.
Lucid means I am awake, I am conscious, and I have control of myself.
A working definition of Rape Apology: The phenomenon of relating to an act of rape, and choosing to distance from that relation by holding the person who was violated responsible for your discomfort.
Where I come from
Though I’ve been watching, absorbing, observing this for a long time, years, thus attempting to dismantle and address rape culture in my personal life within the context of my relationships, I am writing this now as my own point of view after hitting a wall.
Actually, probably more accurately, I hit the ice berg I was only previously looking at the tip of.
The solidification of this long coming epiphany has occurred in direct correlation to having been raped early this year by a casual dating partner, and being subsequently emotionally abandoned in favor of rape apology by the primary one.
In hindsight, it was, of course, really silly of me to think that I would have gone from being a person who casually raped people and had tolerated rape and rape apology for most of my 30+ years living, directly to having found people I was attracted to being with who were truly safe and removed from all that shit.
But I did think that. Hope that. And they weren’t safe, and neither was I, and having been wrong about that has really sucked.
The warning signs from them both keep flooding back. Remembering how I bullied my felt senses with my brain. Remembering the boundary pushing. Remembering my primaries favored catch phrase “Can’t rape the willing!”. Remembering my sense of not actually being safe. Remembering my sense of not actually being supported and respected.
Warning signs are also coming back in other forms; Remembering the subconscious abuses I rendered to both of my ex’s while I avoided and downplayed my instincts that I needed to get away from them. Remembering how I would lash out to try to protect myself and make sense of what was happening. Remembering holding on and on and on to that intimacy, while I stuck around, begging them with bricks, to face themselves.
True goodness is its own kind of heroic. It takes attentive, solemn, unending work to be a good person. It requires skilled humility and having learned a firm, yet supportive self accountability. It requires self love and the honoring of ebb and flow; to be a good person is to recognize when oneself is not doing so and to return to balance. True goodness can not survive unexamined shame, or the avoidance of facing growth of ones own ethic. True goodness is action, not of simply performing external deeds and favors, but of profound personal integrity, and quality apology when having drifted astray of it. It requires giving up, over and over again, the compulsive circular chase for superficial proof of ones goodness. To be a good person means to be under your own constant examination, and to have the willingness and ability to question your ideals and beliefs. True goodness is pure courage.
Unlearning thousands of years of conditioning.
At this point in my personal evolution, I believe that sexual consent is only ambiguous when it is held up against the persisting ideals of a culture of rape.
A culture that lied to me about what rape is, what consent is, and told me that I was supposed to be a sleeping beauty waiting for a stranger to come turn me on by taking advantage of me in my fucking sleep.
A culture that supported and encouraged me in my dangerous, hurtful sexual aggressions and coercion.
I will not again make it my responsibility to educate the intimates in my personal life about rape culture, much less ever again doing so while I struggle to heal from being raped by one of them.
I will not again use my sexuality as a weapon to garner a sense of dominant power, or as a plea for the acceptance of others who remain indoctrinated in a culture of rape and raping I cannot unsee now.
In my new sex life, there is no role for the passive cuckhold who wants to be pressured by me into fucking. There is no role for that ‘nice’ objective lover viewing all sides of my rape so strenuously that he forgets to stand up for me.
I’m also so thrilled to announce that I am super, SUPER done with attempting to teach “that guy” who insists he’s not “that guy” who rapes like “that guy” about how one might learn to eventually stop fucking raping like “that guy”.
I have resigned my guilt and shame-marinated position as The Rapist/Rape Apologist Whisperer. Now I’m awake, and I know: My safety and growth is more important than anyone’s conceptual understanding of rape, no matter who they are or what I may feel for them.
Sex for me is bonding, healing, deeply intentional, aware, spiritual and sacred, or it doesn’t fucking happen. Period.
I have wanted for my entire sexual existence to own the above value for myself, while being relentlessly steeped in the deep end of a culture which has done virtually everything it could to deny me of that empowerment.
A culture that taught us all that being raped brings us in alignment with our womanhood.
From physical violence to gaslighting to emotional blackmail to being sexualized by grown men since I was ten years old, I have been steeped in a culture that wants me to rape and be raped.
Fuck “Rape Culture”.
It’s not for me. It never really was for me. And that is no longer up for debate.
Still don’t like being raped: Extended discussion ping and pong
Your definition of consent and of rape is not leaving room for developmental exploration, and for people who are just finding their way about sex.
I am speaking to awakening from a cultural influence which tainted my sexual development and caused a lot of hurt and confusion for both myself and my partners.
My point includes that the ways in which we encourage our selves and one another to explore and find our way about sex needs an overhaul — because a lot of it revolves around unconscious rape and being unconsciously raped.
IDEAL consent and a more stringent definition of rape are two tools to combat this which I expand upon in my third and final piece in this series.
You’re being prejudice against people like me, who like being woken up with sex/being unconscious during sex, by calling that rape.
These behaviors are not in and of themselves corrosive when at some point an agreement was made surrounding them. What is consented to by saying “wake me up with sex some time” or “I want you to fuck me after I’ve passed out” is rape play. You will be unable to consent when the physical act is initiated and/or carried out. You are asking to be raped by your partner.
I’ll repeat that: You are asking to be raped by your partner.
Rape fantasy exists. I’ve enjoyed it myself in my life, and there’s nothing wrong with it. I may, at some point, enjoy it in my life again — I doubt it, but who knows.
Rape fantasy being ‘wrong’ is not the issue — it isn’t wrong. Rape not being seen as rape is the problem, and it’s a subversive problem that is effecting our society in both subtle and tremendously dramatic ways.
But most pointedly, rape not being seen as rape was devastating to my life, my psyche, and my personal development. As part of my reform from that, I am drawing a very, very clear line in the sand. Our tendency of accepting the actualization of rape fantasy by claiming it isn’t actually connected with rape is something I take issue with.
The act of calling a rape victim and perpetuator ‘prejudiced’ because they’ve figured out they don’t want the rape you want is fucking absurd, but it’s a common kneejerk response in the rape culture environment which we espouse.
In my experience this is exactly the kind of attitude that is helping to perpetuate our larger (and often unconscious) victim blaming rape culture, and keeping us from making better headway in addressing it.
The behavior you’re talking about is bad, but it’s not rape
I do not agree, and neither does Washington State. RCW 9A.44.050 clearly defines a number of the examples I gave. RCW 9a.44.060 goes further to include any threats to property rights and expands upon non-consent in situations other than mental disability or physical helplessness. RCW 9a.44.010 speaks more granularly to consent as well as other terms used to describe the offenses.
That the laws of my state leave room for my interpretation of this, however, is a fairly moot point, because arguing over the current largely accepted definition of rape is basically my anti-point — I’m saying it’s lacking.
Of course I think what I’m describing is rape, I wrote an entire essay about it and why I think that is. The real point of sharing my story with the public is to shake up some apathy and stimulate this conversation.
Is it rape? If not stated in my state legislature, should I consider it rape in my intimate life? When I dig down into my guts and listen to myself about this, have I raped? Is that why I have been feeling so fucked up about sex maybe?
If so, do I want to continue to rape? If not, do I want to continue behaviors that cause me to question whether I’m raping?
Was that time in the back of that guy’s car after he fed me shots for three hours rape?
Was that time I manipulated those two women by lying to them about one another and withholding my STD status rape?
How do my actions and beliefs contribute to rape culture?
When it comes to combating this cult of personality on both an individual as well as broader level, I think it’s really important to take a look at how we are defining rape and what that’s been meaning for us, not just say “pfft. That’s not how rape is defined.”. Especially when it.. erhm.. is.
At the very least, we should be asking how we are unconsciously encouraging rape that IS defined. I, and Washington State, have made our decision about that for the time being.
You’re lessening the impact of the word “Rape”/I don’t like the word “Rape” therefore I will not listen to you.
I’ve seen this notion in both question form and as outrage. My friend Ava has encapsulated this well, and touches on why I tend to simply say ‘rape’ rather than using ‘casual rape’ or ‘common rape’ or ‘second degree rape’:
“Well, there’s rape. And then there’s rape coupled with assault. Which, interestingly, is what most people think of as rape. But an absence of assault is not an absence of rape, or even a lesser degree of rape. It simply leaves less physical evidence, which also makes it more difficult to identify and prosecute.”
When someone punches me in the shoulder to greet me at a party, I don’t sneer at them “That’s assault!!”, even though that’s exactly what it is. I tell them to knock it off, and use the stronger language if they escalate. Or, if we have that arrangement, I punch them right back.
Has defining assault in the way that we have watered down more severe versions of assault?
Has it stopped buddies from punching each other in the shoulder as acts of endearment?
Does calling it ‘assault’ tend to get a persons attention and call for pause of some sort?
Has it given recourse to people who are being punched non-consensually and then receiving resistance to their objection?
“When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.” — Carl Jung
Calling rape rape does not take away from the severity of other versions of rape.
The premeditated assault type of rape being held to such an extreme degree, and overwhelmingly being the type that’s generally referred to when rape is decried, has had, I think, the side effect of stigmatizing all rape and rapists into that ‘they’re gonners, kill them with fire’ category.
All rape, or people who have raped, are not in that category.
I am not in that category.
Rather than lessening the impact of the word rape, I am using the truth about the existence of rape to increase the impact of the concept of consent in my life.
I see the arc being akin to the last few decades of working toward the de-normalization of domestic abuse. For someone, somewhere, it dawned on them “Holy shit. My husband beating me is abuse.” and got that whole thing started. Now, we also have the resulting campaigning to end child bullying recently, which I perceive as a focus shift to a part of our accepted culture which helps create the environment for those adult abusers.
I believe the culture around the type of rape I am referring to is similar.
What about intent? If someone isn’t intending to rape, then how can it be rape?
Google ‘accidental rape’ and ‘unintentional rape’ — it’s actually a thing — and/or, watch this video of a stirring rape prevention advert which speaks to the subject https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIX9oREk8Fw
I know from my own experiences and from being certified in grief recovery that our systemic misunderstanding of grief and misinformation regarding how to address that emotional process leads the way to unidentified feelings like betrayal, shame, and mistrust being stifled — only to pop up later looking like they’re directed at something else.
Our current stigma makes it really damn hard for a person to admit to themselves that they were raped. At 16 I didn’t believe I was raped when my rapist was confessing that’s what he’d done: and he was right.
It is my opinion that the intent of the rapist, as well as their response to being called out about the behavior, has more to do with how one might handle the situation and less about whether or not having had non-consensual sex with someone is raping them.
Did I intend to rape people in my life? No.
Did I rape people? Yes, I did.
Pussyfooting around that is not working to address the cultural grooming, the rape-encouraging behaviors we also need to be looking at to transform our rape culture, and it adds to the stigma of people who do have the courage to face those rapes for what they are.
I’m open to the possibility of the people I’ve sneak attacked not thinking I raped them, but that doesn’t make it any less rape to me. Seduction is wonderful, but it ceases to be seduction if the object of that seduction does not want to be seduced. I didn’t have consent, and didn’t ask for it.
Whether they want to hold me accountable doesn’t effect whether I should.
This [piece] is fucking deranged. You need help.
This troll actually brought some thoughtful response to me, because he is right — people who have developed like I did need help to overcome it.
In my case, I was raped in my sleep when I was young when I was already enraged and hurting from parental abandonment. I refused to see myself as a victim of either of those people’s choices, the result of which is another example of why our culture of victim blaming is abusive unhelpful bullshit.
Rather than surrender and accept that I was gravely injured, I snapped and became the Fuck Highlander for my adolescence and 20's. Fuck Highlander was welcomed with open arms until I chose to stop her. I had very little outside incentive to change.
I have needed every ally, therapy session, healing circle, recovery method, and self care regimen I’ve ever had to own and address that pain and the ensuing rape in my life; both what I’ve inflicted, as well as breaking free of the self loathing cycle which kept me enmeshed in a pattern of being re-traumatized over and over by more rape.
It’s a tremendous undertaking to own and recondition something like this, and it requires the totality of a person to do so. To give up stealing sex as power and a means to sooth and validate oneself. To untangle the automatic habits developed in all the time doing it (of which I may find there are more). To embrace meaningful consent, to understand that doing so would transform and limit the role of sex in my life, and that because of this I might just have to develop other parts of myself to lean into besides my sexuality.
A lot of people need the same help I did. Thanks, troll.
Edit: The ensuing conversation which evolved from this piece, in which I added the Ping/Pong section to address some comments, and my trusty troll friend, inspired me to “finish” my thoughts on recovery at “I recognize rape happening in my life: But now what am I going to do about it?”