So I’m quite a private person, and don’t like to share intimate details with my closest friends, let alone with strangers on the internet. However, sometimes I believe it’s important to talk about the things which affect us as a person, not just because it acts as a kind of catharsis, but also because more often than not there are other people out there who can sympathise in some way. So I write this not as a cry for attention or help, not because I’m angry or upset, not because I want any sort of resolution; just because I believe I deserve to be able to convey my deepest emotions in a world where we are constantly taught to suppress them.
Six months ago, I was ‘not’ sexually assaulted. This phrase sounds like a paradox, and I in no way mean to cause offence or infantilise the serious issue of sexual assault, but what I mean is that although I wouldn’t describe my experience as sexual assault, it was unconsentual. And it was horrible. In the 21st century there is such an emphasis on consent and safety, which I believe is absolutely amazing, but I read an article recently about unconsentual sex recently which really got me thinking. The writer was talking about a sort of ‘grey’ area, where although she didn’t feel her experience was severe enough to constitute as rape, it was a violation of her sexual rights. As a feminist this is a difficult concept to except: if a woman says no, and isn’t respected, then surely she was raped? However, having been in a similar situation myself, I sort of understand where she was coming from… It seems so difficult to even mention the word consent nowadays without people immediately panicking, but what happens when what we experience is in that grey area? Am I still allowed to feel violated, am I allowed to talk about it, yet not pass blame?
Let me put this into context: last year I was sort of seeing somebody (by that I mean Netflix, weed and make out sessions… how romantic). I’ve suffered from a long history of mental health issues, and consequently struggle to trust people or accept intimacy, so the idea of a ‘boyfriend’ absolutely terrifies me, and although I liked him, I didn’t like the fact that seeing him meant breaking down the wall I build to protect my vulnerability. I’d only known him for a couple of weeks, we’d kissed and I’d gone down in him, yet I knew i wasn’t ready to sleep with him – I guess I hoped he’d respect that… unfortunately I found myself as his house one night, really drunk after a party, in his bed… Shit.
What happened next still upsets me, yet I don’t know whether I’m overreacting? We were kissing, I was passing out, I felt the cold of his hands all over me, I felt my clothes coming off and lethargic waves of alcohol pull me under. I didn’t say I didn’t want him to touch me, I didn’t pull away, but I guess I just assumed he’d stop. Next thing I know he’s trying to sleep with me, I don’t want this, I feel the panic rise up and I pull away, battling the drunken haze I’m under. I don’t think anything happened, I think I got away in time, but I still can’t get rid of that feeling of helplessness as I felt him disrespect me.
Yet I know I wasn’t raped, I don’t even count it as sexual assault. My friends have all been so supportive and comforting, telling me what he did was wrong, and although I believe them, I still feel like I overreacted- why can’t I put the blame on anybody but myself? I was drunk, he was sober. I was uncertain, he was sure. I thought he understood, he didn’t. Yet I led him on, I went to his house and let him undress me… do I have any right to call it sexual assault? Now all I’m left with is the memories he gave me, and this uncertainty over my right to feel ashamed, my right to feel hurt. Even if I did overreact, it doesn’t change the experience, and it certainly doesn’t take it away, and for that I am angry, I am hurt, and I am ashamed.
I’m sorry for burdening you with this confusing, emotional-train wreck of a story, but I honest don’t know how else to address it. Next post I’ll be back to my usual whitty self, but for now I’ll just try and learn to forgive myself, and the people who’ve hurt me…