Consent Still Exists in a Committed Relationship
We were going steady, but it was still attempted rape.
At the age of 11, I made the commitment to save myself for marriage. I’m currently 25-years-old, engaged to be married, and my wedding is exactly 6 months from today.
Also, I’m still a virgin.
And believe me — the 14 years between then and now haven’t been free of factors threatening the vow I’ve taken. I’ve come face to face with my own temptations, of course, as well as the sincere desire to give my whole self to my partners throughout the years.
But even if my physiology is saying ‘yes’, and I do in fact ‘want’ to, does not mean I am willing to.
The conscious decision to take action and participate in sex is the piece which makes consent fundamentally what it is.
Just because I’ve consented to dating you, doesn’t mean I’ve consented to handing over the rights to my body.
Unfortunately, that truth didn’t stop my first love from trying to claim ownership. When I wouldn’t willingly give it up, he got increasingly impatient.
So he tried to take it by force.
Rape is rape. It truly is that black and white.
Right before we broke up, I tried to approach him about this; about the fact that the night we “almost had sex” wasn’t a “close call” to me, it was forced and wasn’t consensual.
He became incredibly upset, and said something along the lines of, “Don’t you dare twist it like that, and make me out to be the bad guy”.
There are two sides to every story.
From his side, he did nothing wrong that night. We were in a committed relationship. Both of our bodies were screaming, “Yes!”, so that was consent enough in his eyes. We were just exploring the next progression in our sexual relationship. Plain and simple.
From my side, it’s a very different picture. I remember him pinning me to the bed. I remember covering myself with one of my hands so that he couldn’t force his way in. I remember crying and saying, “No, please. No, I’m not ready. Please, no. I’m not ready. Please, don’t.”
I remember being afraid, and horribly aware of how much stronger he was than me, which meant I couldn’t shove him off. And if I took the risk to remove my hand from covering myself, he would likely take that opportunity to act. I remember, when begging him to stop didn’t work, I switched to desperately telling him over and over again how much I loved him, hoping to crack through his carnal determination to reach the human inside of him who I knew, in his own twisted way, loved me too. When it felt like that wasn’t working, I prayed like I had never prayed before, for God to make the nightmare end.
My ex was drunk, and had been actively trying to take my virginity for what felt like hours, but was probably only 20 minutes. I could tell he was worn out, both physically and mentally, and that in his drunkenness he was getting tired. He eventually gave a big huff and rolled off of me. I got the cold shoulder and he didn’t talk to me for the rest of the night.
I laid awake staring blankly at the ceiling for hours after that. My brain couldn’t quite process what had just happened. What I did know was I didn’t like the feeling that was left over.
And of course not — my perception of him had been changed forever and there was no going back now that I knew what he was capable of.
He wanted to have sex. I said no. He tried to make it happen anyways.
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, odds are it’s a duck.
Because he wasn’t successful, I didn’t think it really counted.
I tried to brush off the initial disturbing feelings of the incident. I started calling that night a “close call”, instead of calling it what it really was.
I understand now, after some therapy and loads of self-reflection, that my subconscious was trying to dissociate me from the impending trauma.
I just wasn’t ready to face it head on yet. It was a simpler time. The calm before the inevitable storm.
So I told a few close friends that we “almost had sex”, but then didn’t.
They were relieved I’d decided to stay true to my vow. I didn’t give further details of that night.
When I did open up about the details a month later, I finished my story with a nervous laugh and said, “Well, it was a ‘close call’”. My friend stared at me in sadness and shock.
Gillian… you do understand that what he did was attempted rape, right?
What? Noooo. No, no. It wasn’t.
Did he try to have intercourse with you?
Did you want to have intercourse with him?
I mean, sure, physically a part of me did, but…
Did you say “no”?
Then it was attempted rape.
But how can it be called rape when nothing actually happened?
Because something did happen; he tried to forcefully have sex with you. Just because he didn’t succeed, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a violation. That’s why it’s called “attempted” rape.
Your body is your own. Period.
It’s 5 years later and I’m still living with the remnants of emotional trauma related to that night. I suffer from some anxiety, but it’s usually not too bad these days. My PTSD is mostly gone, I just have the odd day every few months when the paranoia makes me so fearful that I can’t leave my home, go around the house continuously making sure all the doors and windows are locked, and close all the curtains so that it looks like no one is home.
Well, so that it looks like I’m not home. Because I feel unsafe in my own house and my brain is trying to convince me that my ex is going to show up at my front door and finish the job he started.
I can never tell when days like that are going to happen. I just wake up and can feel that something in the world is off.
That said, I want to make some points very clear:
In any and all matters related to your body, you get the final say.
This is a non-negotiable right, and if you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect that, you need to seriously consider if you’re safe with this person. Trust me, you don’t want to live with this.
Someone can look charming and friendly on the outside, but have a vulgar monster lurking below the surface, waiting for their next prey. I don’t want that to be either of us.
Again, your body is your own. Period. And even in a committed, romantic relationship, you are still entitled to that right.
Though this is a fundamental truth, it’s heartbreaking that in 2019 women’s bodies are still so incredibly disrespected by our government, leaders, misogynistic males, and even fellow females with deeply seeded insecurities.
That means it’s up to us to support and hold one another up, and fight for the right to have our say with our own bodies.
And sharing our stories with each other is a great way to start.