If you knew what being roofied is like, you wouldn’t make threats like these
Trigger warning: r*pe story
Have you ever been roofied?
No? Let me try to give you some sense of how it feels. Maybe then, you’ll understand why it’s not something to lightly threaten, “a joke,” of course. Maybe then, when a woman tells you she’s uncomfortable with your language, you’ll stop.
Imagine heading to the bar with a couple friends. It’s kind of early. Maybe you’re dressed to the nines, celebrating a birthday. Maybe you just came from the gym. It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re there.
Maybe you’re a couple drinks in and the music and voices around you are starting to blur together into a kind of oddly soothing background noise as you laugh and talk with your friends. Soon, an interesting person joins your group. We’ll say it’s a man, because although women can be perpetrators, they aren’t as often.
The guy is funny. He laughs at all the right times and compliments you and your friends and gets to know you, at least as well as a stranger can in a loud, dark bar over the course of a couple hours. He asks you to dance, then goes to the bar and returns with two drinks. Vodka sodas, exactly what you were drinking before and nowhere near what he was.
You drink and dance and have a good time and don’t notice the hours slipping by, night fading to morning as the liquor keeps flowing.
Suddenly, you find yourself in an unfamiliar place, dizzy and nauseated and not yourself. Your pants are off and you’re having sex, or at least someone is having sex with you, but you don’t remember choosing that and you want it to stop. But your brain can’t seem to make the “get out of here” signals reach your mouth or limbs and it’s taking everything in you just make your eyes focus on whom you’re with. It’s the guy.
You’re dragging yourself home. You don’t remember leaving and you don’t know where the guy is. You can barely move, but you know you have to get home and walking makes the most sense. You have a dozen texts from the friend you were with earlier, but you don’t have the energy to talk right now. You tell her you decided to walk home and you’ll be fine. The text reads like a garbled mess.
Sunlight is streaming in through your windows, but it’s coming from the wrong place. It’s afternoon. You’ve never slept this late, even on your craziest nights. You feel as though you were beat up. You may have been. You never vomit, but you can’t keep anything down.
You don’t tell your friends what really happened. It’s too much to think about. So you joke about hooking up with the guy to explain your absence the night before, and your friends are happy for you, but surprised. You’ve never had a random hookup in your life.
Fast-forward a year, when you’ve only recently started coming to terms with what happened that night. You’re at a different bar, with different friends, having a quick post-work drink to celebrate the historical significance of the day: Hillary Clinton has just become the first woman in U.S. history to secure the presidential nomination of a major political party. You feel hopeful about gender equality progress for the first time in a while. This means something to you, even though you know there’s still a long way to go. Symbolism means something.
You leave your empty glass at your table while you go to order another round. Two men you don’t know have seated themselves at the table next to you, and on your way back from the bar one of them tells you he’s going to roofie your drink if you leave it alone again. It was empty, you tell him, and you really don’t appreciate being threatened with date-rape drugs.
You don’t tell him it’s happened before.
It’s weird that you’ve never seen either of them. This is your bar, and it’s out of the way enough that tourists don’t generally find their way there. Not at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday. But here they are, and they’ve joined your table and the guy who thinks date rape is funny is sitting next to you and making more roofie jokes. You say, loudly enough that the entire bar turns toward you, that you really love it when men joke about spiking your drink. That seems to shame him, for a moment, so you decide to stay with your friends instead of going home. Why should you have to be the one to leave, anyway? On a map of downtown bars, this one would have your name on it.
You know that every bar employee has your back and that if you complained, the guy and his friend would be kicked out in a heartbeat. But you feel like you’re the only person who’s uncomfortable and you don’t want to put a damper on the night for your friends, who seem like they’re having a lot of fun with the guys, somehow. You know it’s internalized sexism but you can’t seem to make yourself move. And that reminds you of that night, too.
You’ve spent so much time on your phone that date-rape joker decides to make a show of “not bothering you” anymore. He stands up and says, “Oh, shit, she’s got a boyfriend and she just called him and told him I threatened to roofie her; now he’s on his way to beat me up.” He doesn’t know anything about your life, but assuming those details makes him respect your right to be safe more than your asking him to respect you had.
Eventually, the date-rape joker and a couple of his friends decide to take your group for pizza. You mostly want to go home, but you’re afraid of leaving your friends alone, especially the one the date-rape joker has had his hands on all night. So you join them, hating every decision you’ve made tonight but feeling impossibly caught between two different realms of responsibility. Do you take care of your own mental health or become the wingwoman on your friends’ night out? They haven’t asked you to, but you’re still worried. You stay.
The pizza is gone, beers are emptied and the check is paid. One of your friends, the one date-rape jokester has been all over all night, has already left. He asks if you’ll get home safely. You have no intention of getting in the car with him, so you tell him you’ll order a Lyft and he walks away. You round the corner into the darkness.