I am reading a book right now by Sarah Tuttle Singer, Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered. She gives more than one description of her rape/sexual assault experiences. They are actually the most accurate portrayal of rape/sexual assault I have ever read. Many will likely read it and think, WTF- was that really even rape? I mean, he didn’t hit her or hold a weapon to her- so why didn’t she just throw a good kick or punch at him?
The problem with our culture is they think rape is what they have seen in the movies or read about in a novel. The fact of the matter is rape is not violent much of the time. In fact it can be slow, calm and measured. There is a moment and STS captures it perfectly. The moment is where you realize the man wants intercourse and is hell bent on putting his penis in your vagina. You say, “no,” “don’t,” “please stop it”… in that moment you suddenly know that it will only stop if YOU are the one to become violent. In order to make it stop, you will actually have to throw the first punch. For most women, they have never been in a violent confrontation in their lives; they’ve never brought a fight to anyone, women were not schoolyard bullies as little girls, beating up on everyone. It is a moment that you cannot explain- it is paralysis. Unless you have been raped, you do not understand this paralysis I speak of.
I was sexually assaulted in the Old City last year and didn’t tell a soul. When I read STS’s experience, I realized what she and many other women know here. The Old City is not a place for a single woman to ever be alone. Period.
Why aren’t there signs posted? Why don’t we warn women of this? Why is it that the people who live in the Old City know this fact, but don’t talk about it?
Our culture thinks rape is about a bloody nose, a broken wrist or a black eye. The world doesn’t understand that most of the time, it’s only bruises on the forearm, which goes away in a couple of hours. Women don’t fight. We have centuries of an engrained value that teaches us to be peacemakers and agreeable. The idea of having to become a violent, aggressive person is so foreign to the female psyche.
Hollywood shows us feme fatale’s, super heroes and badass characters with weapons, martial arts training and stealth moves. I don’t know more than one woman like this. I did once meet a guy who was a total badass. He had weapons training and was a black belt. Yet he had been jumped twice- both times mugged and said that all of the training in the world cannot predict how you will respond when attacked. So if this badass guy can’t handle a violent confrontation, why should we be surprised that a woman with a man on her back can’t quite pull it together either?
This is also why women don’t report rape or call the cops. The only time it would seem like a good idea is if you have in fact been beaten to a pulp. Every woman I have spoken to who is sexually active has admitted to me that there has been at least one incident where they had sex, but didn’t want to, said “no”, yet it still happened.
Women have advocated for learning self-defense, which I support 100%. I think every female, starting at Junior High age, should begin learning. Do men advocate for learning restraint and respect for women? Do men teach their boys starting at Junior High age that when you want to have sex and she says “no” you have to stop? Do they remind them of this throughout their lives?
(As a side note, the sex talk with your children shouldn’t be a one-time lecture. It should be an ongoing dialogue throughout their lives. I never wanted my daughter to learn about sex through her friends, porn or sex-ed class. I wanted her to learn it from me, her mom.)
I recently read a blog about a woman who was freaked out because she got wet when she said “no” and struggled to get away from the guy. She was so confused by this and I read the comments of other women who shared the same detail. Why would I get wet if I’m being raped? She was not turned on psychologically, yet her body had a physiological response. Fortunately there was an educated remark by a medical professional that said that when our sex organs are stimulated, the reaction is physical. That physiological response is two fold during a rape: 1. The vagina can and will get wet via touch and 2. The brain will always intervene to protect itself during a trauma. If a woman gets wet during a rape, it isn’t because she is cooperating, it is the intelligence of our bodies working to protect us from harm, and otherwise we would rip down the middle.
To take this a step further, one woman said that she and a guy were on a date kissing and of course she was totally turned on, but that didn’t mean she wanted to have full-blown intercourse. Sometimes a woman wants a sexual experience, but not necessarily sex. She said she was wet and aroused, but when he pinned her down and started removing his pants, she said “no, I don’t want this now”- he continued and yes- he raped her. There shouldn’t have to be a fight or a struggle. There shouldn’t be a split lip or a broken nose as evidence it happened- neither an injury to the woman or the man for that matter. The shit just needs to stop. The act just needs to be shut down.
Let’s get more specific, let’s be more graphic, shall we? It’s not easy to say no to sex when you like the guy and are into him. Yet there are times when we don’t want it and this does not nullify our attraction to him. Just because a woman says “no”, does not mean anything beyond the context of that specific moment. She may very well want sex at some other point and time in the relationship. She may have one reason, a dozen reasons or no reason for saying “no” and that’s ok. She may get all hot and bothered, hell; she may even be brought to orgasm orally or manually. Guess what? That’s ok too and she STILL GETS TO DECIDE IF THERE WILL BE INTERCOURSE OR NOT.
Sex is only going to happen if the woman says so. Period. Full stop. Back off buddy. Accept this fact of life.
…And let’s talk about the other non-consent gray area. What about when you are in a relationship and it is sexual, but he wants something sexual that you are not ok with. You explain this to him, but he pressures you, guilt’s you out, brings it up often, sends you porn gifs of it and makes you feel like you are a disappointment if you do not do this particular sexual act. What do we call that? I mean, if he wore you down and you gave in because it was just was making you feel shitty, is it rape? Yeah, it is. How can it be rape if you eventually gave consent?
Because you said “no”, and the only reason you gave consent is because there would be CONSEQUENCES if you didn’t. Well he didn’t threaten to harm you, so how can you interpret it that way?
Because being judged is not love.
Being coerced is not love.
Being manipulated is not love.
If your man cannot respect “no” and has to resort to exploiting your need for validation from him in order to get what he wants, that consent you gave is bullshit, it was not sincere and you did it under pressure as the result of him ignoring your effort to not do it in the first place.
Dear men of the world, you are NOT a man if you do this, you are a failure of a human, not worthy to be called a man.
Instead, couples should communicate their hard limits and soft limits.
The difference is this:
A hard limit is something that you absolutely cannot do.
A soft limit is something you do not really like, but it could be negotiated if done rarely and under the terms the woman sets.
I also think this conversation for men is important in order to dispel the myth that rape has to be severely violent to qualify as rape. There are men who do not see themselves as one who has committed rape because they didn’t hold the woman down, tie her up, gag her and there were no broken bones or blood- so nope, it wasn’t rape. If men consider what I am describing in this informal essay, then it is likely all men have committed rape at some point. Suddenly the word rape isn’t such a terrifying, gruesome violent act of misogyny. In the specific terms I am laying out here, rape is common, it happens all the time and everyone has experienced it either on the receiving end or the doing end.
Am I making light of rape? Hell no. I am making a point that rape is non-consensual sex and that words like “don’t,” “stop” and “quit” mean non-consent. What I am trying to point out is that I think all women have been raped and all men have rapped.
So where do we go from here? Here’s a thought: TALK ABOUT IT FIRST. It is a sign of pure immaturity if the guy starts to make his move to put his penis in your vagina without having a conversation first.
People ask strangers on the bus if the seat next to them is taken to clarify if they can sit next to him or her. People will say, “excuse me” if they accidently bump into someone. There is a courtesy that should come with a man putting his penis in a woman’s vagina. In many states now, the law has been amended to say that there has to be verbal expressed consent to intercourse. This means you have to ask for it. How difficult can that be? I’ve been having sex for thirty years and can say that it’s totally cool and acceptable to utter such a simple phrase.
What about rape play? What about the notion of women who fantasize about rape?
Here we go kids, now put your grown-up hats on because this is serious adult shit we are talking about. If you are in a nurturing, CONSENSUAL relationship with someone you TRUST and RESPECT, then indeed, the sky is the limit. The two of you together should decide what is acceptable in your sexual relationship.
If the woman (or man) expresses a sexual rape fantasy, that means they trust you to not judge them. They feel safe enough with you to divulge this. That is to be taken quite seriously. Rape play is carried out as a scene and the rules are to be clearly established- including a safe word. Outside of the context I have just described here- you don’t get to ‘play rape’ someone because you feel like it.
Communication, communication, communication. No means no, stop means stop. If you can’t handle that, then you are immature and don’t deserve her or any part of her body.
Even when you are in the middle of sex, if she says, “stop”, you must pull out. If you remain inside, that’s rape my friend. She gets to change her mind. She may be uncomfortable, experiencing a cramp or some other issue- doesn’t matter. There is no entitlement in sex. Sex is about communication and if you don’t have that, you have nothing to stand on.
Ask yourself if what you are about to do was done to your mother, sister or daughter- would you think it’s appropriate.