Essay

HARVEY WEINSTEIN DIDN'T RAPE ME. BUT I WAS RAPED.

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I had had sex twice before. Both drunkenly. Both embarrassingly. Both publicly. Both consensually.

I was 16. I had a crush. He had a party. He was a little older and a lot cooler.

I wanted to sleep with him that night but I was on my period (a topic that was even more taboo than rape in 2008).

The night was spent attempting to flirt, getting second-hand updates on his relationship status and eventually browsing some dirty magazines together in a very un-sexy way - mostly laughing at all the tacky union jack g-strings and fake tits.

I was too young to go into town, so I hung around with the other after-party dregs at the house. I text him that I needed to crash in his bed that night. He replied that that was fine because he would be staying at his girlfriend's that night anyway. Damn.

Disappointed and a little drunk, I eventually climbed into his bed alone (with a fresh tampon in of course, so I wouldn’t leave a stain).

I woke up in his arms, glad that he’d came home, but a little embarrassed because in some cruel twist of fate, I was actually wearing a union jack g-string. Before you judge, no they weren’t very practical period pants, but I like to think it was more of an ironic decision and less of a sexy/tragic one. So I lift the covers to reveal my shame, asking him ‘do these look familiar?’, and as I turn my head to see his reaction two things happen. Firstly I realise my neck is stiff and sore in a way my 16 year old body has never been before.

And secondly, I realise that my crush did not come home that night.

Later that day, after multiple attempts and contortions, I painfully retrieve the tampon from deep deep inside my body. After scrubbing my skin to the bone I lay in the sun in the middle of my driveway and try to convince my friends to run me over with their car. My hair is wet and my body is bruised. I am so ashamed that I want to die. We compromise on McDonalds drive-thru breakfast instead.

We didn’t know what sexual consent was or what it meant. We were just sluts. And when one of my friends started dating my rapist soon after, it made me sick but I didn’t know why. I  just assumed I was jealous. A jealous slut.

 

RAPE ISN'T LIKE WHAT YOU SEE ON TV

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I was 13, he was 14. I was a virgin, he was a virgin. 

I wasn’t drugged, I wasn’t drunk, he wasn’t a stranger, he wasn’t an old man with round glasses, he was my boyfriend. 

It wasn’t dark, we weren’t in an alley, we weren’t in a field, we weren’t in a basement. I wasn’t scared, we were watching a film on the sofa. 

I was there, he was there, his friend was there.

Suddenly his hands were under the duvet. Then his hands were inside me. Then his dick was inside me. Then he got up and picked up objects from around the room. And then the objects were inside of me. 

He was laughing, his friend was laughing. His friend got involved. I didn’t scream, I didn’t cry, I didn’t struggle, I didn’t say no. I just lay on the sofa and thought, why do people do this? I thought sex was supposed to be fun? It hurt, it was uncomfortable, I felt awkward, I didn’t like it, but I was intrigued by it. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do .. do I get involved and get it over with quicker? Do I say I don’t like it and upset my boyfriend? Do I just pretend I like it until I get used to it one day? Whats with the household objects though? Is this us being kinky?

I was 2 years out of year 6 sex education.

They didn’t tell us how to deal with this.

Back then they still happily ignored that anyone under 16 was sexually active. They refused to acknowledge that 13-year-old girls and boys have sexual curiosities, and if that’s not properly informed it becomes dangerous. This day it became dangerous.

I didn’t understand what rape was, I didn’t know I was being raped, I didn’t know that I’d been raped for a very long time. 

The next day I got to school, everyone knew. He had absolutely no shame in letting everyone know what HE had done. Because he hadn’t done it, WE had done it. In everyone else’s minds, though WE hadn’t done anything, I had let it happen. Obviously my fault, I’m the girl, I should be more ladylike, I should conduct myself with more modesty. I was called a slut, a slag, a tramp. 

For the next week, the next month, and the rest of my school life I was a slut, a slag, a tramp. If you’re told that often enough, you believe it. So I acted accordingly.

That’s what was expected of me, that’s what I was, I didn’t know how to be anything else. I was proud of it. I continued to have sex with anyone, anywhere, in front of anyone, whether I wanted it or not. When anyone asked how I lost my virginity, I didn’t tell them about that time. I told them about the next time. Not because I was ashamed, but because I’d forgotten. 

2 years later, I’m 15. I call the police on my boyfriend. He’s cautioned for ABH, kidnap and harassment. He’s not cautioned for rape. 

4 years later, I’m 17. I’ve left school and I have finally found a nice boyfriend after a string of definitely not nice boyfriends. We’re talking about our sex lives; our likes, our dislikes, our experiences. This is the first time I’ve ever had a conversation with a boy about my likes and dislikes, it’s the first time anyone’s ever asked. For some reason, the experience popped up in my brain and I told him about it. I was laughing, I was joking ‘kids, eh!’ He gave me a look but said nothing. 

Later I remembered that look, and there it was. I was raped. I had been raped 4 years ago and I’d only just realised it. I was raped out of my virginity and didn’t know about it until then. Why had I believed my own lie all this time? Why had I allowed people to walk past me every day of my life and call me a slut? Why hadn’t I defended myself? I felt stupid, ashamed, confused; I was questioning everything. 4 years later. Every sexual experience I’d had since then had been a product of my rape. I was submissive, I was an exhibitionist, I didn’t care what happened to me. For 4 years I genuinely believed I was just more sexually liberated than most girls, when in fact I was a product of an incredibly suppressive situation. Everything changed, nothing made sense. 

I didn’t just have one rape to come to terms with, I had 4 years of sexual experiences to untangle. If I’d have known, if I’d have read a blog like this, I wouldn’t have lost those 4 years. I might have been able to live my life my way. I might have been in control of my body. I might have cared about myself. 

11 years later, I’m writing this. I’ve accepted my circumstance and I’m so incredibly grateful that I realised when I did. Now I have sex with anyone I want to, anywhere I want to, in front of anyone I want to. Without shame or regret. I still feel sexually liberated and explorative, but now it’s because I want to be. Not because I’m playing a character created by my abuser. 

My rape didn’t look like the ones you see on the TV.

Please, if you’ve read this and it’s made you question something, or it’s resonated with you in any way, speak about it. As women, it doesn’t serve us well to live up to societies expectations of ‘ladlylike’ and keep our sex lives quiet. Fuck ladylike. Talk to a friend, a family member, a counsellor or a helpline. 

Email hello@theuglygirls.com if you want a girl to chat to or have any questions about what has been spoken about in this blog. Or follow some of the resources below:

Rape Crisis
0808 802 9999
rapecrisis.org.uk

Victim Support
0808 168 9111
https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/rape-and-sexual-assault

RASAC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre)
0808 802 9999
rasasc.org.uk

Women Against Rape
womenagainstrape.net

The Survivors Trust
0808 801 0818
thesurvivorstrust.org

Women’s Aid Federation
0808 2000 247
womensaid.org.uk

ROUGH SEX & THE POLITICS OF TRAUMA

I don’t really want to write this. It feels a bit personal, a bit close to home, a bit attacking. It feels too grey – half consensual, half not. Half good, half not. But maybe it is the uncomfortable in-betweens we need to talk more about. The moments of pleasure laced with pain, the points where things that were okay all of sudden weren’t. The moments where your hands wrapped around my throat and I could no longer tell whether or not you wanted to fuck me or just hurt me. Maybe it is these conversations that are worth having.

You see, as soon as you start bringing criticism into the most gratifying, and sacred, and wonderful acts, you run the risk of swallowing the hardest truth of all. The awful, unflinching truth of how men as a whole have hurt women as a whole. And how even between the most gentle and considerate and passionate of lovers, one single movement can trigger centuries of trauma, embodied so deeply, the individual relationship barely registers enough to make it tolerable.

And this is how I felt. I felt scared. And I felt powerless. Because if you really wanted to hurt me, you could have. And I wouldn’t have been able to do fucking anything about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I like rough sex, as a general rule. But that’s the problem right, the general? Because sometimes I don’t. Sometimes when I don’t know you or trust you or love you, I don’t. I don’t like your hands around my neck. I don’t like you slapping me or pulling my hair. I don’t like you getting me only wet enough to shove yourself inside me. And I especially don’t like thinking that this is most likely how you’ve been taught to fuck women, and how they’ve probably never felt strong or desired or culturally valuable enough to disagree.

Because nobody wants to tell the man they are shagging that he is too rough, and that his version of sex is fucking degrading, and that you are literally praying for him to cum so this awful attempt at pleasure can cease to involve you. Especially, especially when you actually care about him. When outside the four walls of your bedroom, he is legitimately a nice guy, and what’s more, a nice guy who genuinely cares for you. No, you don’t want to tell him that his 3-1 ratio of orgasms is just plain old bad fucking manners, and yes, consent is sexy. Especially if he feels inclined to bring his cache of pornographic tricks into your sheets and quite literally up and inside your body. Then yeah, he should probably want to ask if it feels good.

The politics of trauma are blurry and complex and fucking messy. It is less about the individual, and more about the structural. The structural violence committed against women – the very real, and very terrifying fact, that most women experience sexual or domestic abuse at some point in their lives. The very real, and very terrifying fact, that most porn is less concerned with what feels good and safe for women than what looks arousing and pleasurable for men. The very real, and very terrifying fact, that most women have been virgin-fetishished, slut-shamed, or sexually objectified by every form of authority that pretends to care for them. The politics of trauma functions in a way that every act committed against women outside of the bedroom inevitably becomes a trigger for their emotional well-being within the bedroom. And yes, if they do not orgasm but you do, you have indirectly told them that their pleasure is worth less than yours. That what constitutes sex is your ejaculation, full stop.

And when you are rough with them in bed without their consent, you are assuming that they have never been violently touched before, that their best friend hasn’t been raped before, that their bodies have never been viciously thrown about before. You are assuming that in a culture where sexual and domestic abuse are devastatingly common rather than rare, that they do not have a multitude of triggers that inform how safe and sexually empowered they are. And I am not blaming you, I am truly not. Like I said, structural sexism does not inform every individual. The truth is most probably you love women, you care about their needs and their desires, you want them to feel protected and worthwhile and sexually satisfied. But if, perhaps, the first thing you want to do when you sleep with a woman is choke her out, then maybe you need to reconsider your relationship to that structure. And, if not, that doesn’t mean that the suffocating hand of patriarchal rule that has quite literally shamed and silenced her for thousands of years disappears because you do not personally adhere to it.

What it does mean is that you should tread carefully, always. You should defy, dismantle and smash the very systems and behaviours that oppress women. And you should always, always ask for consent before engaging in any act that might trigger a multitude of misogynistic wounds that haven’t quite had time to heal and perhaps in your lifetime won’t be able to. It means being more gentle than you think necessary, and more giving than you think equitable. And it means asking for feedback and taking it, without anger and defensiveness, without guilt-tripping and reverse-critiquing, but with complete willingness despite the fact that it is fucking uncomfortable and you would rather be personally absolved from it than accept yourself as systematic collateral in it. And it means having awkward conversations about those in-between moments, those grey areas, those half-good, half-not encounters because without them change will struggle to become meaningful, and sex will remain to be a space where raw, long-embodied and dormant traumas continue to rise to the surface.

 

- Frances

https://sexualsenseis.wordpress.com/