Thy Name is Consent

Photo Courtesy of _zhang / flickr

It was an ordinary day. I went to my second job and worked all day long. After a week of long nights at my main job, and a long weekend day behind me, I texted the guy I had been talking to for a while and asked if he wanted to hang out. He was cute and nice but the best part was that he seemed to think I was funny. I mean, how could he not? I’m hilarious.

I got off work at 10:30 pm and drove to his house. We talked and hung out. We started kissing and everything seemed to be proceeding as planned.

Now, this is the part where it gets hazy and not because of any drugs or alcohol or short skirts getting me in trouble but because I did something that is seen as a no-no when you are getting intimate. After what seemed like hours of intimacy with no end in sight I decided that I needed to go home. As much as I hate getting up early, I needed to get up super early the next day, so I needed to get home. I decided that I wanted to leave.

“Oh come on baby. Stay,” he murmured. I said ok.

“It’s really time for me to go,” I said, while trying to get out from under him.

“You know you like it. Come on, stay,” he responded while continuing. I let him.

Maybe I can grab my clothes and sneak out while he’s in the bathroom, I thought. But the distance of my clothes from me on the bed, to my keys on the dresser, of the bed to the bedroom door, and the bedroom door from the front door was too great for the few short seconds I had, so I decided it was not that bad and that I’d stick it out. I was overreacting.

As I look back I see this should have been the first sign that something was not right. That something was off. He came back in the room and we continued. I continued like those thoughts had not happened at all.

This went on for what seemed like an eternity. Me saying I needed to leave. Him continuing and saying I should stay. Me agreeing even though I really did not want to. Finally we finished. He asked me to stay over and I said I really needed to get home. I told him I had an early morning. I told him that I wanted my own bed. I told him anything I could think of so I could leave. I gathered my clothes, keys, shoes, and left as fast as I could.

I called my best friend on the ride home and left a message for her. The message was me telling her a tale of a man who took forever, a night of intimacy that wasn’t as great as I thought it should have been, and the drive to his place that was 30 minutes from my apartment, all the while laughing at my misfortune. I realize later I had called her so that I could hear her voice on the messaging machine since it was 4:00 am and she was asleep.

Cut to a couple of months later and I was reading a story that dealt with consent during intimate moments and whether consent can be given and then taken away while in the process of intimacy. The human being inside of me thought, “Of course it can! And that person better stop immediately!” It was during this thought that I had a moment to think about that night 30 minutes away from my apartment.

I had said yes. Then I had said no. He had not stopped. And I had just let it happen.

Why had I let it happened? Why had I let it continue? Why had I not demanded that he stop?

The intimacy had not been bad. Nothing to brag about, but it had not been horrible either. That’s when I realized there were two things that helped me to explain why I had let it happen, why I had let it continue. One, I had been enjoying myself. Even after I said no, I still enjoyed myself. It couldn’t have been bad if pleasure was happening…right? Movies depict rape as someone struggling and hurting and looking void in the eyes. None of that happened, so therefore it was not rape.

And second, and probably the most important, I was scared. This man was bigger and stronger than me, which is what had attracted me to him in the first place but, in those seconds, I was scared of what could happen if I actually showed a sign of defiance of this act that we had previously agreed upon.

I had said yes, but could I really change it to no? What that allowed? Can I change it back to a yes in the future? Or am I locked into an answer like in Jeopardy with no take backs and no re-dos if the answer isn’t right.

I read stories of other people’s sexual assaults and I cannot help but think that what happened to me cannot be rape because it just does not measure up. There are people who experience horrifying experiences but mine was a consensual one and to this day I do not feel like that changed.

Except, I guess, it did. Which is hard to come to terms with, and something I am still working on. To this day I hate and am reluctant to even say I was raped because it seems disingenuous and not true. I look back at that night and I don’t feel raped. I say feel and, as I type it, all I can think is: what is rape supposed to feel like? Like I said above, I’m not supposed to like it.

Coming to terms with what happened will likely take a long time because, right now, I just don’t know.



Erica O’Brien wrote this piece for Flux, a forum for those of us encountering adulthood. Erica just recently celebrated her birthday and is currently living and working in North Carolina. She enjoys long walks in museums because beaches are outside and she doesn’t go outside unless she is at a winery. Erica, like a lot of people of her generation, misses when Pluto was a planet. And she recently almost lost a friend when said friend said tea is life when, clearly, it is tacos. When she gets the chance she writes for her personal blog, “Erica Is A Professional”.


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