The first time I had sex wasn’t sex – it was rape. Writing this feels a bit surreal because for a long time I was in denial and brushed it off, placed it in the back of my mind as if it didn’t happen. Or maybe it wasn’t pure denial, but something worse: a desensitization to sexual abuses in general.
The word ‘rape’ brought along images of big, scary men preying on a pretty young girl: jumping out of bushes or dark alleyways, using physical force, screams and cries emitting from the victim. But this isn’t always the reality. In fact, most of the time our generation’s rape isn’t all that scary when it happens. Sometimes you’ll be lying in bed when your roommate lingers in, casually lays himself beside you and starts to coerce you into sex, like what happened to a friend of mine. Sometimes groups of girls will get together and tell stories and sometimes these story sessions will include tales of drunken nights in frat houses or at a club with handsome strangers or with old friends, and sometimes these girls will end the story with a light-hearted giggle, “It was like, casual rape.” They’ll all laugh.
Only rape is never casual. Rape cannot be divided into percentages, either (“I think it was 50% rape. But I mean I was really drunk”). Rape is rape – no matter what violent images we may have in our heads prior.
Our generation’s rape is, like many underlying issues in society, an insidious one.
Our generation’s rape is life going on normally after the act is over.
Our generation’s rape is looking for ways to blame one’s self.
Our generation’s rape is a feeling of indifference, a subconscious ignorance.
Our generation’s rape wants to pretend it doesn’t exist. It hides in our daily lives. It warrants curt remarks in hushed tones on the occasion that it’s brought up in conversation; like death, it’s a topic we tend to avoid. Of course this isn’t true of the first kind of rape I mentioned – the scary, horror movie kind – this kind is so clearly and openly condemned. Our generation’s rape, contrastingly, does not receive this type of universal disgust or blatant disapproval.
It wasn’t until about three months later that it hit me that the night I ‘lost my virginity’ wasn’t a funny tale I could pull out years later and laugh at. But still, rape was such an ugly word, one I didn’t want to attribute to myself.
The day I told myself that the night three months ago was, truly and “100%” rape (not some weird percentage as I’d rationalized earlier to soften the blow), I flashed back to a discussion I’d had a year before regarding a local boy whose mother had been a friend of a friend of my mom’s. He was expelled from college after only a few weeks into his freshman year because of a girl’s accusation of rape. I flashed back to the look of disapproval on the face of my mother’s friend before going on about how this boy’s life was now “over”. He wouldn’t get accepted into another school! He’d have to go to community college. And he was such a good kid. Then I thought of how a girl I’d gone to high school with had so zealously defended her college’s reputation after a rape scandal was leaked, even though that very college had tried to cover up the occurrence, tell the victim to keep things hush hush. I thought of these two memories and felt at first anger, but it was quickly replaced by sadness and suddenly – and I couldn’t have understood why in the moment – the all-consuming need to cry.
But why should I have cried? I was at work at the time, what was I going to do? – sit in the bathroom stall and let the tears flow, even though I couldn’t comprehend why? And then what? I’d leave the stall, go back to my work station, and the day would continue on normally. I’d go to lunch and make small talk with my coworkers and even if they did notice my weepy eyes or flushed face, they’d act like they didn’t out of politeness. If I brought up my revelation to someone, explained that night from my updated point of view, they’d just feel uncomfortable, maybe look down and think too hard about what to say or – perhaps even worse – not believe me. Think I was being melodramatic. Was I being melodramatic? I’d immediately regret bringing it up, so I decided not to say anything.
It hit me that this feeling of shyness, of not wanting to be a nuisance to someone or disrupt the flow of everyday life, was a trait so depressingly typical of our generation’s rape. It was better to keep quiet than to bring unnecessary attention. This realization made me feel, for the first time in my life, like a cynic. I tried, I really did, but I could not think of a single way that would make our generation’s rape situation any better. It would keep on happening because there was no way to stop it as long as rapists and victims alike could not claim it nor accept that it happened. I wondered if other girls felt a similar distaste a few months after their rape. A similar disheartenment and feeling of loss on not themselves, but humankind in general.