She can’t stand Sean Penn.
Nothing against the actor personally, but he looks too much like a guy from college. So much, in fact, that the guy was nicknamed after one of the actor’s most famous characters.
We all make mistakes when we’re young and think we know it all. Hers was drinking too much and flirting with a guy who looked like a famous actor. Oh yes, she flirted. They may have even made out at the party; she can’t remember much of the before. No one batted an eye when she stumbled out the door accompanied by Sean Penn’s doppleganger, who graciously offered to see her to her room — wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
She was wearing black leggings, a black tank top, and an oversized tie-dyed blouse. Later, she threw the clothes away.
She had a roommate in college, plus two other girls who would regularly crash in their room. None of them knew he was Brock Turner-ing her that night. She can still remember clearly that whenever he would hear one of the roommates coming in, he would pull his hand out of her pants and rub her back as if he’d been sweetly caring for her the entire time. Why did she wear pants that were so easy to get in and out of? Maybe if she’d worn jeans he wouldn’t have been able to stick his hand in her so easily.
It took her years to realize that no self-respecting man would want to violate a semi-conscious woman. No good man would even want to have sex with someone who was not into it, much less someone who was so drunk she couldn’t stop puking and couldn’t do anything but moan the occasional slurred “no.”
The word “rape” is hard to say, hard to accept. Rape is when a stranger violently accosts a random woman walking down the street, not when the guy down the hall who’s on the victim advocate panel for psych fingers the semi-conscious drunk coed who flirted with him earlier. Rape is when she says no-NO-NO!, not when her moaned no’s are slurred and barely intelligible. Rape is when she pushes him away, not when she’s paralyzed from alcohol poisoning or roofies or anything else.
But it is rape. It is, was, and ever shall be.
There were two other men in her life who were not respectable. One was in high school. They’d had consensual sex earlier in the day and he wanted to do it again. She agreed, even though she wasn’t really into it — the place was wrong, it was late, she just wanted to go. When he was in her it hurt a lot and she asked him to stop. He said, “It’s okay, I’m almost done.” What a guy. (She still remembers what she wore that night, too — blue hippie skirt, black shirt, sandals. Those clothes ended up in the garbage too.)
The other time was different. While walking to her downtown office building, a stranger came up next to her. She smiled politely in her naivete. He grinned at her, grabbed her hard in the crotch, and ran away. This was the only incident she reported; it’s still hard for her to ascribe the word “rape” to the other two incidents, and she is well aware how women are treated when they are even a little complicit in their own violation. The cop who interviewed her said only that she should have been more aware of her surroundings. Apparently she would have been able to recognize him as a rapist if only she’d been paying better attention. As if he were wearing a sign or something.
Respectable men do not finger semi-conscious women while they vomit. Respectable men stop when the woman says stop. Respectable men do not take advantage, even if the girl is pretty or her skirt is short or she was drunk or she flirted or anything else. Respectable men certainly do not accost strangers. Respectable men want their partners to want it back.
She eventually married a man who taught her about respectable men. He taught her that he only wanted her if she wanted him too, that any man who didn’t care about the woman’s pleasure was not respectable. He is an honorable man—a respectable man.
She never told her husband about the others. She hasn’t told many people at all, really. She never confronted Sean Penn’s long-lost twin, and the two boys from her youth probably never knew they did anything wrong. She knows better than to bring it up again. There’s no point in urging a woman report her assaults, only to be treated as if she did something wrong by being raped.
But she knows now that it’s never okay. Nothing she did gave them the right to do what they did. She may have been drunk and flirty, but they are rapists. They are not respectable.
If this article is about you, please know that what he did to you was wrong. It’s not okay, never okay. But you are stronger. You will get through this. You are a survivor. You are woman, hear you ROAR!