There was this one time.
I was having sex with with a guy. Now truth be told, I had been waiting for this moment forever. We had been vibing and finally the mood was right.
So we get into it. Consent, condom usage all of that.
And it feels…. Good. Not great or mind-blowing. But good.
At some point, while he’s on top of me – thrusting in and out – something clicks in my mind.
I hear this voice in my head, “I’m not having fun anymore.”
As I become accurately aware of this feeling, I could sense my body going limp – legs dropping to the bed, arms at my side.
I went still.
I know what rape is and this wasn’t it.
I had wanted this for so long and he had too. Which is how we got here. But now I wanted him to stop. And this was confusing.
So I let him use my body.
He continued to thrust into me for several more minutes, unaware (I assumed) of my bodily reaction and how the enthusiasm was now gone.
Finally he came. Collapsed. And withdrew from my dry vagina.
I avoided him for several months, beating myself up for not stopping him. I spiraled into depression not understanding what was wrong with me and why I had allowed that to happen. Thinking back to the other times I had been in this situation, anger & a deep resentment towards myself deepened.
Why didn’t I say anything? Why did I let it keep going when I wanted him to stop? These weren’t questions that I could answer just then.
All of this came to mind after reading about “Grace” and her experience with Aziz Ansari. Something felt almost familiar about it and nagged at me (although the situations are pretty different), but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The divide up and down my Facebook timeline only brought further uneasiness as people attempted to wade through something that wasn’t as clear cut and quite murky to some.
“Why didn’t she leave?”
“Why was she naked with him?”
“Why didn’t she say ‘No’?”
Familiarity. I had asked myself (or a variation of) these questions that night and many nights thereafter.
Then I read an article, “Aziz Ansari & the Paradox of ‘No’ ” by Megan Garber. As she addresses the complexity and muddledness (I don’t care if this isn’t a word) of this experience, she points out what I had been trying to gather about the connection between my experience & Grace’s. Garber wrote:
It’s an awful irony: Women spent so much of their time and energy and capital reminding the world of their right not to be raped, that the next obvious step in their sexual liberation—discussions about what makes sex good, in every sense, for all involved—got obstructed. This is another way in which Ansari’s story serves as a parable. Way, informed by Grace, presents someone who is keenly aware of the letter of the law—“‘Oh, of course, it’s only fun if we’re both having fun,’” Ansari replies, when she tells him that “I don’t want to feel forced”—with a much-less-keen awareness of the spirit. She presents someone who is conversant with the language of consent, but who is not yet conversant in its practice.
Now while there’s much to draw from that selection, the last sentence hit me like a truck.
I know what rape is. And that wasn’t it.
I know what consent is and I had given it.
But when I wanted to withdraw consent, I couldn’t/didn’t find the words to do so. I’m not ordinarily someone who vocalizes well in person. My boundaries at that time were in shambles. The fear of what would happen – not an escalation of violence but a loss of friendship? or connection? something? – kept my lips bound but my legs open, regardless of if I wanted to or not.
“She presents someone who is conversant with the language of consent, but who is not yet conversant in its practice.” – I think this sentence has so many implications for how I was raised as well as many other women and girls, to a certain extent. And its one that I’ll continue to ruminate on in order to gain a better understanding of my past experiences and what I hope for in the future.
I made a comment on a friend’s Facebook status. She opined on why there were so many women jumping to the defense of Ansari. Immediately I responded that his behaviors fall more along the lines of what many, many of us have experienced, in addition to and possibly more than rape. And truth be told, who really wants to come to terms with that?