I met the guy online. He lived on Long Island, I lived in Brooklyn, and he wanted me to come over to his house so he could cook for me. I told him I wasn’t comfortable meeting a stranger at his house; I wanted to meet in a public place in the city, which seemed most fair to me. He suggested we talk on the phone so that I would feel more comfortable, but he never entertained the idea of coming to the city and going somewhere public. I don’t know if that was deliberate or if he was just lazy; he said he wanted to make me dinner–he wanted, he said, to do something nice, which made me feel like a jerk when I expressed uncertainty. After I talked to him, I felt reassured. I’ve always made “bad” choices when it comes to dating. This guy seemed like a “good” choice, the kind of guy I “should” date. He developed some kind of financial app that I never understood. He made money and owned his townhouse. He was not my type at all. I thought maybe I should step outside my type (junkies, hipsters, anarchists, musicians, grad students) and take a chance on someone I’d normally dismiss. I made him give all of his information to my friend–his address, phone number, full name, a picture of his drivers license to prove none of it was fake. He knew I had a safety call. He knew someone knew where I was. I felt nervous, but my friend told me she’d do anything I needed or wanted her to do. I felt like I was being safe and also getting out of my comfort zone. I thought I was doing something good for myself. I was also in the midst of a health problem, a major crisis of self-confidence, a sexual drought, and depression. I was lonely and maybe stupid. I was twenty-six or twenty-seven years old. I had plenty of experience with casual sex (less with actual dating), and I kept telling myself that I’d taken all the necessary safety steps, that this yuppy guy really did just want to make me dinner, that I should let him because I’d had little success ! with the kinds of men I usually dated. I wanted to see what other “types” had to offer.
I made the date for 6:00 pm so that I had time to hang out, decide how I felt about this person, and get back to Brooklyn before the trains stopped running back to the city if I wanted to. The train took longer than I expected it to, and I didn’t get there until 7:00. He hadn’t finished cooking yet; I’m not sure he’d even started. I was already afraid I didn’t have enough time to stay a “polite” amount of time and still make it to the last LIRR train at 11:00. He seemed like a perfectly nice guy, but I knew I didn’t want to spend the night. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have sex. I remember thinking, “I’m not going out with him again, but it’s not like I have to be in love to have sex.” Which was true. I’d had sex with plenty of guys I hadn’t loved. I liked sex. I liked casual sex. I’d walked up to guys in bars and literally said, “Wanna have sex?” (They always did.) I generally felt empowered by casual sex, or at least sexually satisfied. And because I’ve never been big on relationships, I didn’t have many other options for sexual release.
So, when he said we should watch a movie, I looked at the clock, calculated that I had enough time, and said, “As long as it’s not scary” (I hate scary movies). We “watched” that movie with Johnny Depp in it that’s something about the gates of hell or the seven something–I don’t remember the title, but I remember that when I said, “But that IS scary!” he insisted it wasn’t. He started kissing me, and it felt sort of nice to have someone want me; I didn’t think it could hurt to make out with him and then leave in an hour. When my safety call came, he was standing right there. I couldn’t really say, “Everything’s fine, but I don’t want to fuck this guy or spend the night here. Can you call me in thirty minutes and tell me you need me for some reason?” I got off the phone, and we resumed making out. He asked if I had a condom, I did, but I said I didn’t want to have sex. But I did have a condom. I don’t remember when I changed my mind or if I really did. I just remember that the condom didn’t fit (a fact I had to point out; he would have fucked me with his circulation cut off). I said no way was I having sex with him without a condom. As he tried to convince me that it did fit, I started to feel like the situation was gross. I decided I’d deescalate the sex situation and get out of there. But then he stuck his uncovered dick in me. He insisted it was his finger, but I know the difference between a dick and a finger. I’m not that stupid. I jumped off the couch and started crying the minute I felt it. He kept insisting. I went outside to smoke a cigarette and “calm down.” I didn’t know what to do. The fight about his “fingers” in my vagina took up so much time that it was too late to leave. I could ask him to drive me home (he had a car), but he was bigger than I was, he was a stranger, and I didn’t know how he’d react.
My memory kind or blurs here. Not because I was stoned (I was, but I’m an experienced stoner) or drunk (I wasn’t) or high on the opiates I took for a pain problem (my tolerance was so high I couldn’t get high on my painkillers anymore). I just don’t remember. I think I’ve sort of blocked it out. I remember that I was scared to say that I didn’t want him to so much as touch me not just because he was big and could get angry but also because I was afraid he might steal my valuable painkillers, which seems stupid because he didn’t even know I had them, but I remember thinking, “What if something happens to your pills?” I felt too stupid to call my friend, and I didn’t think she could do anything anyway; if I couldn’t take a train out, she couldn’t take one in. I didn’t know the car services there. I couldn’t go home. I remember that I said I was tired and that he told me I should sleep in the bed; I thought he meant he’d sleep on the couch (I had said I was going to sleep there). I got into his bed with all my clothes on and pretended to fall asleep quickly. He was rustling around in his bathrooms, and I was scared. He announced, like this was even desirable anymore, that he’d found a Magnum condom. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t say no, and I didn’t say yes. I felt so worn down and intimidated and foolish that I just lay there while he had sex with me. I didn’t think of it as rape. I thought of it as sex I didn’t want to have.
In the morning, I was angry, and I showed it. I don’t think he knew or knows what he’d done. I didn’t either. I thought I was just mad that I was there. I made him drive me to the train station. He bought my ticket. This was surely just regrettable sex, I thought, even though I’d never regretted sex in my life. But I felt weird and sad on the ride home. I told my friend it had gone fine and thanked her for being my safety call. I didn’t tell her any of this.
I kept calling it “that time I had sex when I didn’t want to” until I was hanging out with an on-again-off-again lover and good friend. I was upset and felt weird about having sex with him (he was the first person I’d ever had penetrative sex with, and we’d been friends for almost a decade), so I told him what had happened. He called it rape and pointed out to me that having sex when you don’t want to is basically the definition of rape. He comforted me. He didn’t ask me again that day if I wanted to fuck. He was good to me, and I’m grateful for that. I tried to talk about it with my therapist, but she told me it wasn’t rape. She said I shouldn’t have gone to Long Island and that I’d made a bad decision.
But I couldn’t get the word out of my head. When I tried to have sex with a really nice guy with whom I’d gone on a couple of dates, I couldn’t. When he went to get a condom, I had the most intense panic attack I’d had in years. He was understanding, but he wanted me to calm down before he called me a car (I didn’t know the car services in his neighborhood). While he’d been gone, I’d taken five Klonopin. I lay down and waited for him to call me a car, and I fell asleep. It felt familiar: I wanted to leave, and I couldn’t or didn’t because transportation was out of my control.
I still get nervous if sex isn’t on my terms or if I’m at all unsure about it. I sometimes don’t go to parties if I’m not certain that I can leave when I want to. I’ve had more supportive therapists, but I’m still not over it, and it’s been almost three or four years. I feel like I don’t deserve to call myself a rape victim because I didn’t say no. My rapist doesn’t consider himself a rapist. I don’t like telling the story because I’m always afraid someone will say, “That’s not rape. You just made a stupid decision.” I’ve since realized that I’ve done this before; the second time I had sex, no one asked my permission. The guy just stuck his penis in me without even asking if I wanted to use a condom. I was inexperienced. I just went along with it. I thought maybe that was how people who’d had a lot of sex had sex. And now that I know it wasn’t okay and that it wasn’t consensual, I feel so stupid and unsure about almost every subsequent sexual decision I’ve ever made.
I haven’t had sex since the last time I felt trapped and told my partner (with whom I’d been having sex for nearly two months) that I didn’t want to have sex that day because I didn’t want to associate him with past experiences. I did anyway. I broke up with a good guy because I couldn’t have sex with him anymore. The only person I feel comfortable having sex with lives on the other side of the country. He was the third (or second, if you don’t count my other “second”) person I’d has sex with, and he’s the only person out of at least thirty who’s ever asked me if I was sure I wanted to have sex and whether I was too drunk to consent. He’s exactly my type. Maybe I put myself in an unsafe situation (I let a stranger’s band stay at the apartment where I lived alone), but that time nothing bad happened. It’s a perfect example of why we should never blame the victim: two people had essentially the same opportunity to rape me; one did because he was an oblivious asshole, and the other didn’t because he respected a girl who’d taken him home within hours of meeting him. It also proves that there’s no such thing as safe, and that’s what scares me most.
I feel, when I use the word, as though I’m not allowed to call my experience “rape”–like I’m trying to claim a victimization I don’t deserve–because I’ve heard few stories like mine. It wasn’t violent, and I was entirely lucid. I made the decision to stay still and try not to turn the situation into anything more dangerous. I’m sharing because I don’t want other people to feel that way. No court would ever prosecute either of the guys who’ve raped me. I’m not even sure I’d want them to. I’d just like these rapists to know who they are and what they’ve done, to understand so that they don’t do it to anyone else.