A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

The Night I Didn’t Get Raped

by Sid

[TRIGGER WARNING: rape, sexual assault]

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 1.23.43 PMGather round, friends. I want to tell you a story.

When I was 22 years old, I went to a party at a coworker’s house. Between the alcohol and the intervening years, the night is mostly a blur of photos I saw the next day, but a few parts of the evening remain clear to me—particularly toward the end.

It was a party of the “we’re young enough to still be super excited about legally buying booze” variety, and I’m not even sure exactly who was there anymore. Toward the end of the night, though, I found myself in the garage with a few people—it was set up like an extra living room, with a rug, a lamp, and a couple couches. People slowly filtered out until it was me and two guys.

I’m sure they were both perfectly fine looking (I don’t remember), but I was particularly attracted to one of them. No idea what his name was or how old he was now—I knew him for maybe an hour out of my entire life—but I remember that I really wanted to make out with him. Not have sex with him. Just make out with him.

So three of us are in the garage. I forget the specifics of the conversation that led to this, but we were joking around and Other Guy asks some question like, “Why are you in still in the garage?” I said, “I’m waiting for you to leave.” It sounds mean, but I remember it not feeling mean in context, and we all laughed. I just don’t remember the context.

This ≠ "Undress me."

This ≠ “Undress me.”

They exchanged a knowing look and Other Guy left. I got off my couch and went to sit at the edge of the couch where the guy I fancied was lying down. We started making out. Yay me, right? Then suddenly, I remembered—my obligation.

I’ve never had sex, see. To this day. I have reasons, but they’re irrelevant to this conversation. The point is that I knew I wasn’t “allowed” to kiss someone for too long without telling him we weren’t going to have sex, because otherwise he would get super pissed off (whoever he was). I prided myself on not being naïve, see. I prided myself on “not being stupid enough” to expect someone to respect my not wanting to have sex right that moment.

Wait, what?

Yeah.

Let’s rephrase for just a second: I had already accepted that my role as “sexual partner of any kind” universally meant that I was expected to do whatever my “partner” wanted. I understood that I was a minority and a freak, so I felt it was my obligation to get it out of the way early.

I need to put this as plainly as possible: I was wrong on every count.

I sat up quickly and spat out, “We’re not going to have sex.”

The words hung in the air for a second, and he looked at me as though I’d said, “I like pie!”—not upset, not pleased, just…thrown. “Okay,” he said and, satisfied, we went back to making out.

Under a minute later, he was unbuttoning my pants.

I sat up again and pushed his hands away—we struggled gently for control of the button, and finally I refastened it and covered it with my hands. I looked up, and he was irritated.

“Just because we’re not having sex means you can’t take your pants off?”

My brain said, “Well…yeah,” but my mouth only stuttered. I finally managed to get out something like, “I don’t want to,” and he didn’t force it as such, but he was pissy as hell. And I believed that I deserved it, because I was the freak. I was the outlier. I remembered the look he and Other Guy had exchanged. They had both thought he’d be out in the garage getting laid. I had made them both believe that, and I had implied sex by wanting to be alone with a boy I thought was cute.

In case you’re just tuning in, let me be clear: I was wrong on every count.

But because he was now pissy as hell, I felt like I had to make it up to him. So I tried to make him not angry with me by going further than I actually felt comfortable—not very far, but definitely further than I’d wanted. And I felt ashamed.

I was ashamed that it made me uncomfortable.

Not that I was doing something that made me uncomfortable. The actual feeling of being uncomfortable shamed me.

I froze. The combination of discomfort and shame and the shame of being ashamed all spiraled together until I melted down and had a panic attack right there in the garage. I cried and apologized ten or twenty times before I ran out. He made no effort to pretend like he gave a shit about anything except the fact that I was no longer touching his body. I locked myself in the bathroom to collect myself—the house was dark with people sleeping on the floor scattered across two rooms. When the guy finally came out of the garage, Other Guy made a rude comment about how long I’d been in the bathroom (har har, asshole) and I just felt even more humiliated. I finally went to lie down on the floor in the other room. I wanted nothing more than to go home, but I was in no shape to drive.

After lying there for at least an hour, though, I knew I wouldn’t fall asleep. I didn’t want to see him in the morning, and what if he came over to me during the night?

I say night, but it was 4 a.m. when I finally walked out the door and crawled into my Jeep. I should not have been on the road. My last drink had been hours ago and I lived nearby, but neither of those are the point. I was too drunk to drive.

But that’s the choice. Stay in a house where I was deeply uncomfortable on a number of levels (some part of me was aware how aggressive he’d been, but I was too busy blaming myself to properly acknowledge it), or don’t stay in the house and risk driving home. (And yes, now I understand the concept of getting a cab, but I was 22 and lived in Southern California—hell, what’s a cab?)

I wonder sometimes—if I’d been more sexually active at 22, would things have turned out differently? To be clear, I am in no way making comment on anyone else’s life choices—those are your own, just as mine are my own. But for me, personally, I wonder if he would have pushed harder if I hadn’t blurted out that sex wasn’t an option. I wonder if I would have been too afraid to stop him from unbuttoning my pants. If I had already had sex, I think I was just insecure enough that I would have wanted him to think I was cool…by not protesting.

This knowledge scares me. Because I shouldn’t have had to stop someone from trying to remove my clothing. Forcefully stop, actually. I should never have had to answer a question like, “Just because we aren’t having sex means you can’t take your pants off?” Because honestly, what the fuck kind of question is that? If that’s not blatant manipulation, then I need to re-up my Merriam-Webster subscription.

The night I didn’t get raped came down to luck. It was nothing I did or didn’t do—I was so insecure at 22, I barely did what I did. It shouldn’t have had to come down to luck. I shouldn’t have had to push someone’s hands away from my pants once, let alone multiple times. I shouldn’t have had to struggle for control of my clothing.

I was lucky. So many women are not. And this, folks? This is rape culture.

This is our culture.


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.

31 responses

  1. rikibeth

    This reminds me so much of things that went on when I was fifteen. Like the guy I was crazy about, who, when I told him I wasn’t going to have sex with him that night, said “you realize I’m going to try to convince you otherwise.” I had already decided that, when it reached that point, I was willing to give him a blow job, and I figured that’d work fine as a substitute… but I’ll never know, because an adult walked in on us at the point where he had his hand down my pants (with my enthusiastic cooperation, I might add). He wasn’t pissy, he didn’t wheedle… but he stated his terms when I stated mine, and who knows how it might have turned out?

    And then there was the boy with whom I didn’t bother to set limits at the beginning (we were both high as kites) and, sometime around hands-down-pants, he asked “Wanna fuck?” and, when I said no, was content to keep on making out and making each other happy, and we fell asleep in each other’s arms (yeah, one of those parties). But he could have been the sort of boy who didn’t ask and who didn’t take no for an answer.

    Later I ran into guys who got pissy when I didn’t want to kiss them. And I felt much ickier giving in to their wheedling — even though it was only one kiss, with them! — than I felt about the boys who had their hands down my pants when I was fifteen.

    July 4, 2013 at 7:39 am

  2. Natalie

    Oh man, do I know this one. Just because you like what you see, doesn’t mean you get to touch it. I am bisexual but currently not interested in males, due to the fact that if I do kiss them (I have strong morals about intimacy, so I don’t kiss a lot of people) they think that’s a go-ahead to put their hands wherever they want and try to initiate more, even when I make myself clear on how far I will and won’t go. I’m sick of having my butt and breasts grabbed without any permission given that it’s okay to do that. I’ve gotten better about not getting into the situation in the first place but I’m still asked “why??” when I don’t want anything to happen between myself and a guy. My body is not a free-for-all. Or free for ANYONE, actually. Don’t touch my lady parts. Don’t grab my clothes…. Just don’t touch me. I said no, so piss off. I agree, I should not have to fight to keep my clothes on and keep someone’s hands off me. I’ve gotten excuses telling me I asked for it. No, if I didn’t actually ASK for it/say I wanted it, you assumed and that’s not my fault at all. Unfortunately, yeah, we live in a rape culture. I hate the way sex has become something people are taught to just expect because they are attracted. We, as humans, have the intelligence over other animals to control that urge. If you want to put yourself down on that level, whatever. Don’t expect it from others and don’t cop everyone else out. Seriously, what happened to trust and respect?? And that’s my rant for this topic. P.S.I know not EVERY male is like that but I too, have had it come down to luck. And I can’t get lucky in finding a respectable gentleman. People say, “you’re just not looking right.” Eff you, thanks for giving in to this culture and telling the woman it’s her own fault. “This is rape culture. This is my culture.” Sigh…

    July 1, 2013 at 5:11 pm

  3. Your story struck a particularly familiar chord, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, not by a long shot, who had that experience. I married the guy who relentlessly bulldozed over my sexual boundaries, spent the next five years rationalizing his emotional abuse, then finally called it quits, discovered feminism, and here I am. I’m still looking for the guy who absolutely understands and agrees with the concept of enthusiastic consent, which is a predictably fruitless endeavor. My generation came of age well before the reemergence of movement feminism, so my male contemporaries grew up believing in the post-feminist world myth. We’re all equal now, rainbows and unicorns for everyone! Which isn’t meant to dismiss the severity of the backlash to the new feminist movement and extreme growing pains Western culture is experiencing at the present moment, but at least the younger generations are more comfortable with out-of-the-patriarchal-box thinking.

    Anywho, I hope you find someone who fully respects and appreciates you as a fully fledged human being, if that’s what you want, to share sexyfun times with (if that’s what you want).

    June 17, 2013 at 6:55 pm

  4. “His choice to attempt to get into her pants after she told him no–his choice to keep trying as she kept trying to stop him? I don’t know–I call that assault.”

    I would actually call it attempted assault. If that had been me, I would have walked away as soon as she had said no sex. My point being that “making out” is not just a kiss on the cheek. When people decide to have sex they usually “make out” as a prelude. You can drink together and even talk about sex without having any intention of having sex, but “making out” is a well known gateway to having sex.

    Many, many years when I was in junior high, there was a word for a girl that brought a guy to the brink and just dropped him and it was called cock tease. This was in the late 50’s when the perception was that a mere accusation of rape by a girl against a boy, would send that boy to the electric chair. It may not have been a fact, but we all believed it to be a fact. And the fear of punishment, especially the electric chair , was very real to boys in those days.

    I have 3 granddaughters and never want any of them to be raped or sexually assaulted in any way. But they have to understand not to put themselves in a position where bad things can happen to them. This is not victim blaming, it is just good common sense. If you don’t want to be attacked in the water, you don’t swim where there are known to be sharks.

    May 28, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    • It might have been attempted sexual assault, but when a person keeps trying to take off your pants as you keep trying to stop them? I think that might just meet the legal definition of plain old assault, were it to come to that.

      And actually, it is victim blaming when you hold the victim responsible for the attack because of something they did. In the context of rape culture, the whole world is shark-infested waters. I absolutely hope you teach your granddaughters common-sense ways to keep themselves safe. But I also dearly hope you teach them that putting their trust in someone else does not mean it’s their fault when that trust is betrayed.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:45 am

      • Well I’m no lawyer, so I have no idea as to the legal implications. Again in the case mentioned the man or men involved should have just left, after of course offering to call her a cab , since she was too drunk to drive. To me there’s nothing sexy about a drunk woman. If it were me, I would have not walked away, I would have run. Even as a horny young man, sex was not more important than staying out of jail.

        I never tell my grandkids how to live. That’s for my daughter and son in law to do. And I think they’ve done a great job so far. I just saw the 2 oldest a couple of hours ago. I’m very proud of my family and consider myself the luckiest old man on the planet.

        May 29, 2013 at 2:54 pm

  5. I agree it your choice to have or not have sex. But when people are drunk, they don’t think clearly. And it is very easy for young drunk men with raging hormones to misread what you say. It’s not an excuse, and it would be wrong of these young men to not to heed what you were saying and since you did not get raped, it appeared they did at least to the extent they didn’t rape you. Ok they were pissed off, but being pissed off is not nearly as bad as sexual assault. No doubt there were other times when young men did not listen to other women and there was sexual assault. I’m happy for you that things worked out and you were not assaulted.

    I haven’t been a young man in a very long time, but as a young man there were several instances where I had been drinking with a young woman and we were “making out” and it was made clear to me there was not going to be any sex. I had no problem and stopped dead in my tracks. But I didn’t stay and continue to “make out”, I got up and left. The women present at those times made their choice and then I made mine. We all need to have and make choices for ourselves.

    May 28, 2013 at 12:32 am

    • No one is claiming that sexual assault occurred. Only that it seemed to be a situation that might have turned ugly in a second. In fact, it IS pretty ugly when you tell someone “we’re not going to have sex” and they start trying to undress you. That wasn’t a misunderstanding–that was an attempt to coerce.

      I’m glad you were the kind of young man who stopped when it was time to stop.

      We all do need to make choices for ourselves. Sid’s choice to make out with a guy did not equal a choice to have sex with him, regardless of what he might have thought. And if he thought that it did, then he was in the wrong, regardless of her choices. His choice to attempt to get into her pants after she told him no–his choice to keep trying as she kept trying to stop him? I don’t know–I call that assault.

      May 28, 2013 at 7:35 am

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  7. Thank-you for bringing this up! At one point when my son was about 2yrs old I decided that I was going to have a vow of celibacy. It wasn’t religious reasons or anything, and I can talk about why I chose that but at the end of it all, it was my body and my choice to remain celibate until I was in a committed monogamous relationship. Well because I was a mother already that choice did not go over well with most of the men I dated. It was as if because I’d clearly been intimate with someone before it was expected that I should just give up the rights to choose who else should be inside of my body whenever they felt like it. I was celibate for over 3 years, and quite open about it. It was almost as if I had to announce it so that no one got angry with me when I wouldn’t have sex. The comments not just from men, but from women too were at times SO vile about it. I remember one woman told another man they shouldn’t stand too close to me or I might jump them because it’d been so long since I’d had sex last. It was humiliating to be treated as if I was a pariah for my wish to not share my body with just anyone who decided they wanted it. One guy asked me why and so I said, I made a vow to myself. He wouldn’t believe me; he kept asking me who I’d really promised. As if I as a person wasn’t important enough to promise something like the rights over my own body too. It’s horrifying how we’ve all been taught to view a woman’s body and her own basic rights to say “it’s mine, and I choose who gets to do what to it and when”

    April 25, 2013 at 11:32 am

  8. Andrew Blake

    Maybe the issue is that women just need to stand up for themselves. If you don’t want to have sex, don’t, and don’t be gentle about it. Simple. Men, for better or worse, evolved to want sex, and to be the gender that badgers for it. Raise confident women, and many of these issues might wane. These men aren’t rapists (otherwise you would have been raped) and alcohol makes them confident. Not sticking to your guns teaches men that persistance works, and if you don’t want that learned behaviour, tell them to fuck off. Just my thoughts.

    April 19, 2013 at 2:27 am

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  10. I was moved by the article but even more so now that I’ve come back and read the comments. We all know about the unspoken pressures to say yes, to be compliant and the consequences of saying no, but we rarely talk about it. Yet when women do come out and speak about it, honestly, bluntly, telling it like it is without self-blame, the reality sets in. And the reality is deeply disturbing. The reality that consent is not even ours to give. When we say it’s “implied,” what that really means is that the man gets to decide when we’ve given consent. He decides that talking about sex is consent, whether we meant it that way or not. And at that point, saying no is like taking something away from him that we’ve already given. To do that often elicits and angry response, so it’s terrifying to withdraw consent at that point, even though we didn’t actually give it in the first place. This is so messed up I think I need to go lie down for awhile.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    • Sid

      That is incredibly well said. I think the part that really hits it is that if we don’t give consent, we’re seen as actually taking away something we’d already given–and that knowing that makes us afraid to illicit that anger, because that anger could manifest into anything from physical violence to social mortification. I think you’ve really nailed it there.

      April 16, 2013 at 9:03 pm

  11. You are right because so many are not lucky. I count myself as lucky as well. I was always very forth coming right from the get go with guys in college that I would not be having sex with them. And I was lucky in the fact that when I consented to being all touchy feely that few didn’t mind. But with those few, alcohol wasn’t involved. But you’re right. We as women for some odd reason still have to make thst distinction because it’s as if sex is always expected. I count myself lucky that when I partied I never partied alone because one night while I was out some guy started pulling me into a bathroom and was being very aggressive…and I kept saying no and my friend came around the corner and pulleled my arm to get me away. I was in a tug of war between them before I finally fell down and crawled away and my friend and I ran from the party. Thats what else is sad….. some of these girls get abandoned by their friends for odd reasons. I don’t understand that at all because there is safety in numbers. But the fact that we even have to think about safety in numbers is even more sad.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    • Sid

      I’m so sorry you had to go through that. It’s terrifying, feeling like you aren’t in control of your own body, of your own person.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:59 pm

  12. anon

    You were brave. I almost lost my virginity to a guy in college because I thought that since I was talking about sex with him and he thought it was an invitation (it wasn’t), I wasn’t allowed to say no. He told me to take off my pants and I really didn’t think I had a choice. The only reason it didn’t happen is because he “completed the act” before he could penetrate me. It is so hard to be a young girl when saying no to sex makes you a tease or frigid. But saying yes, makes you a slut.

    April 12, 2013 at 11:54 am

    • Sid

      I have too many times felt like I wasn’t allowed to speak up or stop something. It’s so hard to know what to do when you’re insecure and not very good at speaking your mind yet (that was the case with me, anyway).

      April 16, 2013 at 8:53 pm

  13. This is wonderful.

    April 12, 2013 at 9:52 am

    • Sid

      Thanks so much.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:04 am

  14. To this day, no matter how strong I’ve become in any other way, when someone is touching me in ways that make me uncomfortable, I can’t figure out how to tell them to stop. I either freeze up or I try to remove myself, but they think it’s some kind of game and keep doing it, and when I freeze up I’m no longer ‘fighting it’ so… yeah… :(

    April 12, 2013 at 7:14 am

    • Sid

      Yes. This. The thinking it’s a game. This is actually a problem with a couple of my friends, and I always try to find ways to bring it up. The assumption is that I laugh because I’m having fun with the “game,” but uncomfortable laughter is a real thing. Your body can react with laughter when it just doesn’t know how else to process something.

      What I usually try is forcing myself to say, “I’m being serious” or “Hold on” or something. It’s not easy, and we shouldn’t have to. If it’s someone I interact with regularly, I try to bring it up later. “I don’t really like it when…” I’ve found that if the person is worthwhile, they listen and actually care about the words that follow.

      April 12, 2013 at 8:45 am

      • So your post inspired mine: http://exploringmyculture.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/dont-touch-me/

        April 12, 2013 at 8:53 am

        • Sid

          That post is beautiful. Very well said. I’m actually working on a similar post for MMAS.

          And you very accurately touched on what I think the big problem is: access to other people’s bodies is something too many people just *assume* for reasons I can’t really understand.

          The post I’m working on explains my feelings behind it, but I think yours speaks an even more important message: “I don’t have to explain why. Just don’t do it.”

          Lovely.

          April 12, 2013 at 9:09 am

          • It’s terrifying to think at 36 I’m still trying to learn how to say it. I can write it…

            April 12, 2013 at 9:12 am

  15. I love this. absolutely love it.

    April 12, 2013 at 5:29 am

    • Sid

      Thank you. :)

      April 12, 2013 at 8:38 am

  16. You are right on every level. Where does this feeling of subservience come from for us women? Is it what we see on television, the roles played out in front of us by our parents? How do we stop this cycle? As a woman I’m saddened, as a mother I’m terrified, and as a survivor I’m enraged. But none of this is our fault… whose fault is it?

    As awful as this might come out sounding – are the boys in any way innocent? Are they taught to behave this way like we are taught that “good girls” do *this* or DON’T do *that*? Something I’ve been thinking about lately.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    April 11, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    • Sid

      I think all of it is learned behavior, and that’s part of the problem. Fixing the problem starts with raising children with the understanding that they alone control their bodies, and that they should respect the bodies of everyone around them.

      The subject of “fault” or “innocence” in these cases is so tricky, because there’s something to be said for personal responsibility and self-awareness, but there’s definitely something to be said for influence and learned/reinforced behavior.

      Thank you for commenting.

      April 12, 2013 at 8:38 am

      • I agree; it is a learned behavior for women *and* men. I suppose that all we can really do is start advocating for change in the way that boys and girls are taught to see themselves. And the best way to do that is to teach them at home. Then maybe we can create a ripple effect that will echo in advertising, music, literature… One can always hope. Thank you for writing. xo

        April 12, 2013 at 4:15 pm

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