Consent is a term that gets tossed around a lot. Most people would agree that consent is a simple yes or no, but sometimes it’s more difficult to understand than that. When people think of rape they picture a girl (or guy) being held down against her will, struggling with her attacker. Some people picture the victim a drunken mess, perhaps even drugged, unable to put up a fight. But there’s a different kind of rape that no one ever thinks about. The kind of rape that goes unnoticed and unreported. There are no tell-tale signs. There are no visible marks left signifying a struggle. The victim may not even realize that they have been sexually abused, or assaulted, or whatever you want to call it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and that certainly doesn’t make it okay.
It took me several months to realize I was a victim. Ben and I never “dated,” although we repeatedly went on dates. In the beginning of our non-relationship we stayed fairly public, frequenting movie theaters, ice cream parlors and Italian restaurants. Slowly we stopped going on dates. We began to stay home more and more often. I’d go to his place and we’d watch movies or just hang out. Usually we’d end up making out, eventually losing our clothes, and generally fooling around. But we didn’t have sex. It just wasn’t something I was comfortable with yet. I knew Ben wanted to but he never pushed me, at least not that I realized. He never directly said to me “I’m going to leave you if we don’t start having sex,” but I’m not dumb, and I knew that it was bound to happen eventually.
The first night I let him have sex with me started off like most others. We went out to a lovely dinner (which he paid for) and then headed back to his place. We settled in for the night to watch a movie. I laid next to him and he wrapped his arms around me. We watched the entire movie like that, cuddled together and happy. In a way it was almost innocent. When the credits rolled however, I started to fidget. It was getting late. I should probably drive myself home. But he hugged me tight in his arms and begged me not to leave just yet. “Please just stay for a while,” he said. My heart pounded and my face blushed, so I stayed. Ben leaned over and kissed me and my heart raced even faster. I kissed him back as he positioned me on top of him. His hands ran up and down my back and then he was unhooking my bra, tossing it to the side in the darkness. He removed my shirt and I ran my hands up his body. Soon enough we were both completely naked. This was nothing new, like I said we had fooled around before.
Ben flipped me on my back, his body hovering over me and I knew what was about to happen. I turned my face away from his kisses and closed my eyes. “What’s wrong?” He asked, recognizing my discomfort. But before I managed to spit any words out, he continued. “It’s okay. We don’t have to do that.” His words helped me relax and we resumed our activities as normal, until I again began to feel like it was just a little much. “I’m not taking birth control,” I reminded him in an attempt to find a logical excuse to not have sex right then and there.
“Okay we don’t have to, but let me just put it in one time”, he purred into my ear. And with that he eased himself inside me. There was no intense fight, there were no punches thrown, there were no screams. I just laid back and let him have sex with me. I lacked the courage and the energy to argue, so I let him. I didn’t enjoy it, it didn’t feel good, and it hurt. My body recognized that I was uncomfortable and as a result I was not very receptive to his intrusion. I spent the entire time thinking to myself “I hope this ends soon. Is it over yet?”
Ben on the other hand seemed rather confused. “Doesn’t this feel good for you? Are you ever going to finish?” My lack of enthusiasm concerned him, but not enough to stop. Ben had made me orgasm before, just never from actual sex, so he knew I was capable. Eventually I told him to just go ahead and finish because I knew it was impossible that I’d ever reach that point.
We laid together afterwards and I thought to myself, “How long do I have to stay here? Will he be offended if I just leave?” I couldn’t take it though, so I got out of bed, found my clothes in the dark, and started to get dressed. He asked why I was leaving and repeatedly suggested that I stay the night. But I insisted that I had to go home, I had responsibilities and all. Ben was genuinely disappointed but reluctantly walked me to the door wishing me a goodnight along with a kiss. On the ride home I felt guilty and confused but the thought that I had been raped never once crossed my mind. Ben hadn’t forced me down, he hadn’t drugged me, and so the thought hadn’t occurred to me. However, I didn’t consent. In fact I had told him that I didn’t want to have sex, but he did it anyway.
For a few weeks it continued on like this. I enjoyed being with Ben, talking with Ben. We’d stay up late talking about our lives and our pasts. I told him the tragedy that was my life: divorced parents, an alcoholic dad, an ambitious older brother whom I could never seem to compete with academically or in the eyes of my parents. He told me about his cheating ex-girlfriend, the reason we could never officially date. I let him cry in my arms as he shared with me that his dad was also an alcoholic with a failing business and a shrinking income. In my mind this meant we loved each other. It mean that I loved him, and that he loved me back and that things would be okay. So I let Ben have sex with me. But I never actually wanted it, and I never actually enjoyed it. He slowly became receptive to the fact that I wasn’t into it. He talked to me less. We went out together less. Eventually we stopped doing anything at all.
For a solid few months we made no contact at all. I agonized over whether or not I should just reach out to him. I had tried once before with no success and finally decided to give up. Part of me still obsessed. Part of me still analyzed every detail. But one thing became increasingly clear the farther I distanced myself from him. All of the times we had sex, I never once consented. Sometimes I even flat out said no. I don’t want to report Ben. I don’t want him arrested. I don’t want him to rot in jail or suffer the consequences. I want Ben to understand what consent is. I want him, and others like him, to realize that consent isn’t simple. Just because someone doesn’t put up a fight does not mean that they are consenting. Consent isn’t black and white, yes or no. Consent is complicated. Consent is important. Consent was all I had, and I didn’t give it..
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