“That's when things got out of control
She didn't want to, he had his way
She said, "Let's go"
He said, "No way!"
Come on babe it's your lucky day
Shut your mouth, we’re gonna do it my way”
- Date Rape by Sublime
I never really thought about it that way. When I remember the night, it has never been with any sort of disdain or disgust, not even anger. Just an umbrella of negative thoughts and emotions and even pity for the guy. As far as I can remember, he was a terrible conversationalist, had very poor taste in music and alcohol, and to top it off, he didn’t strike me as the sharpest tool in the shed. Except for the tool part. He was definitely a tool.
I met him that same week when I was out working for a door-to-door pyramid scheme. It was nearing the end of the day, and my partner and I were making our last rounds, selling at some shopping centers near the office, to cap the day with one last sale. It was the week of the 4th of July, so we were discussing rather animatedly what our plans would be for the weekend. We walked into what would be the last stop of the day to close that last sale, and get on our way home.
I walked into what seemed like an independent nutrition store, and soon noticed the sole occupant of the locale at that moment; a very cute and friendly looking store clerk. I tried my best at flirting, which I’m not exactly good at, but I guess my floundering speech and twitching eyelashes had some sort of effect, because I walked out of there with a new contact on my phone and a date for Friday night.
Friday soon came and we agreed to meet at this new sushi place in the Uptown neighborhood of Dallas, where most of the fun and nightlife happens on the weekends. He was a strong, muscular, and overall good looking guy, the type that you just know works as a club bouncer on the side. Not really my type, but kind eyed, friendly, and just about anything you could describe as “dreamy”.
How could I say no?
Before then I never really had sushi, or gone on a date with this type of guy, so I decided to not have sushi and just go for something that sounded like egg noodles and vegetables in a soupy form. Turns out the food was pretty alright, but the conversation was forced, often stagnant, a dull at best. Not only did he mock my aversion to most modern rap and hip hop, but also didn’t seem to be capable of comprehending how someone my age could be so keen on the entire Beatles discography.
After dinner, we decided to hit up a couple of places for drinks, with the excuse of celebrating the 4th of July appropriately. After a couple of hours and a few too many drinks, certainly more than I had intended to drink anyway, he insisted we call it a night, and go hang out at his place while I sobered up enough to drive home.
While he wasn’t really interesting by any means, he seemed like a nice enough guy, so I agreed. Getting to know him some more surely couldn’t hurt, if anything, maybe I’d discover something about the guy, something interesting that would redeem him and make me possibly want to go on a second, hopefully not as excruciatingly forced date. We took a cab to his place, and I realized that he lived fairly close by.
We walked in the door, when he promptly offered me another beer. At the time I didn’t think too much of it, but we were killing time while I sobered up... so why was he offering me another drink? I declined the beer and asked for a water instead, but it seemed like my alcohol limit was breached two beers and one shot prior, because as the night progressed, I only seemed to get dizzier, and less coherent.
After about an hour of mindless chatter, he offered that I just stay the night, since it seemed like I wasn’t getting anywhere near driving capacity, and it was getting late. At the time I had no friends in Dallas that I could simply call up, and calling my parents to come pick me up from some stranger’s apartment at 4 AM was simply out of the question. In a reluctant drunken stupor, I agreed, and he led me up the stairs to his bedroom. I would be more comfortable on the bed than on that ratty old couch, anyway.
As soon as my head hit the pillow, and my feet were out of my boots and in the bed, I started drifting away into a deep, drunken, slumber. The next thing I know, the nice guy who’d been taking such good care of me and making sure I did not attempt to drive home drunk, was slipping his naked body into bed right next to mine. I remember feeling slightly uncomfortable at the fact, but I didn’t say anything. I felt his hand running up my leg, into my skirt, and began to pull down my undergarments.
As this thought made it’s way slowly through my head and into sense, I felt parts of his body make their way into parts of mine, which I had not in any way, shape or form consented to. It was that force, the pinch of dry skin, and the repetition of that slightly painful motion that snapped me out of my drunkenly dormant yet slightly conscious state for long enough to ask him what the fuck he thought he was doing. I put my arms up between us with as much force as I could, but it was still not enough to push him off. My clothes were still on, even my socks, but my undergarments were at the foot of the bed somewhere, and he was inside me. He remained on top of me and pleaded that I “play along”, and that it would be fun; we were already at this point, we “might as well finish”. The anger brought on by the impotence my form had on this two-hundred-pound human sobered me up long enough to speak up very quickly at that moment - “No. I don’t want to do that right now. I will leave if you want me to, but it’s not happening. And that is that.”
He pulled out of me and proceeded to grunt and gripe something about ungratefulness. We didn’t speak for the rest of the night, and the next morning when I woke up, I couldn’t get in a cab fast enough. He felt that it was necessary he escort me to my car, to make sure I made it ok, to which I did not object, but wasn’t completely comfortable with. As soon as we got to my car, I got out of the cab, and with a “see you later”, I slammed the door of the cab without looking back. I’m not sure why I even stayed the night after that happened, maybe I was way too drunk to function on any other terms than an absolute emergency, which I guess getting unwillingly stripped of my underwear by a virtual stranger counted as one. I remember getting home that next day and sitting on the couch for hours in the same clothes I’d gone out the night before, just watching television. My mother asked me how the date had gone, and I said “okay, but he was sort of boring”. And that was that. I remember being quiet that day, and sort of generally uncomfortable. I knew I had made some wrong choices the night before, but it never occurred to me to re-think the reality of what had happened.
Not until two and a half years later, while sitting on a couch in my apartment in Chicago, listening to Spotify radio, a familiar song came on. As the song progressed, and it explicitly described the happenings of this fictional woman’s night, the memories of my own experience rolled slowly, perfectly in sync with the lyrics of this particularly disturbing song.
I don’t feel stupid, or ashamed, or disturbed, or disgusted with myself by any means. The feelings I have about this night are only of anger. Anger not towards myself, not even completely towards him, but directed towards all the men and women out there who have been in similar situations and thought “I should be thankful that he let me be in his home”, and “It went the way it was supposed to go because he bought me drinks and we were on a date”, “because we were out having fun, and I agreed to go to his place after, so I should have known”. Those people who think that because I had too much to drink that night and I laid down in that bed, it was a given that I wanted to have sex, therefore making it appropriate for him to lay beside me naked, put his hands on me, and even penetrate me without my explicit consent.
We live in a society that brushes situations like this under the rug, making this very occurrence pervasive and normalized and therefore nauseatingly okay. It’s simple, one would think; a man or a woman getting in my bed does not grant me the right to make any kind of sexual decision for them without their explicit consent, because they are them, and I am me, and we are two different people with individual rights and opinions. However, in our society, the definition of the word “consent” is still up for debate.
Did I go out that night with the prospect of possibly sleeping with this guy ? Absolutely. Did I even wear attractive undergarments in case the occasion presented itself? Yup, sure did. Did I have one too many drinks that night before getting to the moment when that decision needed to be made?
Yes. Yes I did.
But does any of that mean that this man had the right to force himself on me without knowing for certain whether or not his advance was in the slightest bit welcome, or even acknowledged? The fact that the answer to that question is still not socially and situationally unanimous is why I am angry.
Even if an individual on a date has the full intention of engaging in sexual activity with the other at some point during a given night, either party has the right to change their mind at any moment, for any reason, without the weight of any supposed social obligation.
Let me put it this way:
- Mark and Claire are friends. In fact, they kind of like each other.
- Claire invites Mark for dinner and drinks and makes a delicious main course and a dessert.
- Half way through the night, after dinner, but before dessert, Mark decides that he doesn’t want to eat any more food for tonight.
- Mark politely refuses dessert.
- Claire is clearly upset, but she has two options:
- She can accept Mark’s choice about dessert and move on with the night
- She can try to shove Cookie Cake into Mark’s mouth even though he doesn’t want to eat anymore.
Logically, Claire is going to respect Mark’s decision and simply not serve him cake. She can save her cake for someone who wants it, or just eat cake by herself. It’s that simple.
Sadly, 21-year-old me simply chalked it up to a failed date, where I just didn’t like the guy enough to let him stay inside me as long as he wanted to. In reality, all I could think of was “how the hell did I allow myself to get that drunk to where I had to stay the night at some random dude’s apartment?!” while subconsciously ignoring this simple fact: when a person forces themselves sexually onto another person while he or she is borderline unconscious, and incapable of explicitly giving consent, it is called rape. And that is that.
Two and a half years later, I finally understood.
It has been months since that realization, and not a day has gone by that I didn’t wish I could tell somebody without being asked the same patronizing, insulting, and subtly dismissive questions: but are you sure? How much did you have to drink? Well, what were you wearing that night? Well, weren’t you planning to maybe sleep with him anyway?
Does it actually make any difference?
If I buy a guy a drink (or seven) and he is wearing a football jersey, does that mean I now have the right to tackle him? What if I buy him dinner as well? And if I take him home, is it ok to tackle him there? Well, absolutely not! Why would drinking and wardrobe choice have any bearing on whether or not to inflict violence on each other?! That logic is crazy and somewhat silly!
But if we trade in a man in a jersey and football for a woman in a mini skirt and sex, the irrational suddenly makes sense, the definition of consent is subjective, and rape might just be too strong of a word for what actually happened.
Victim blaming, and a society who still places instilling self-defense to women over respect for human life to all, is our current reality. Luckily, people are finally acknowledging the need for change, and we as a society are slowly making our way into a an enlightened perspective. Until then, perhaps we can each take the initiative to be respectful of each other as human beings, physically and emotionally. To me, that doesn’t seem like too much to ask.