Okay, okay, so before I launch into the next part of this series, I should clarify that I understand that the internet (particularly Reddit and 4chan, both of which I frequent) is a haven of anonymity that can bring out the worst in people. I understand that it’s biased, that assholes will run their mouth there in a way that they probably wouldn’t. I get it. But I also have had my online experiences echo my real-life experiences enough times, in enough ways, on enough important subjects, that I’m not going to distinguish between a Redditor bawwing about how women cry rape if they regret sex, and a sorority girl saying, “Well, sometimes girls get drunk and just want attention”.
Side note: I almost wrote “girls gets drunk” about ten times before I finally corrected it. I got my wisdom teeth out yesterday, so this will be an interesting experiment in how well I can argue against rape culture while on vicodin.
Anyway, moving on.
In real life and online, I’ve seen the question asked countless time – sometimes it seems as though the person is actually asking, and sometimes it’s obviously rhetorical and meant as an assertion. Yeah, but was this actual rape, or sex you regretted later?
Despite the fact that I have my head buried in the Wonderful World of Rape Culture on pretty much a daily basis, this is an issue I’ve put off addressing simply because it makes me angry to the point where words just don’t even happen correctly. False rape accusations happen. False accusations of anything happen. But this absurd idea that 1) being accused of rape immediately ruins a man’s* life forever (as I addressed in a previous post), and 2) rape has to be treated first as an excuse and secondly as a real accusation of a real crime with real, terrible consequences makes me tear my hair out.
Unless a woman has very deep-seated issues (to the point, I would argue, that she would not be mentally or emotionally competent enough to consent to sexual activity anyway) or has never been taught a thing about how consent is supposed to work, I wager that she knows the difference between sex and rape. Enough, at least, to not assert** that something was rape when it was not. To automatically assume that every rape accusation is just a secret struggle for revenge or attention, or to avoid embarrassment, is a very dangerous assumption to make.
There is a lot of difference between bad sex and rape. There is a lot of difference between sex you didn’t want to have, and sex that you feel dumb for having had.
How can I be so sure about this?
Well, how about this. I’ve had sex that I wish I didn’t have before, and it was not rape. See, in high school, I at one point hooked up with this guy named Chris. He was a friend of mine, but I didn’t particularly like anything about him. He was not my type physically, he had a pretty abrasive personality, he wasn’t all that smart, and he and I shared no interests whatsoever. But, we were stupid and hormonal and bored, and we did what we did. It wasn’t particularly good, but it was consensual, albeit embarrassing and something I regret.
It was also nothing like rape.
I do not still lie awake at night thinking about what happened with Chris. After what happened with Chris, I did not start to see my body as a foreign and frightening entity. I did not lose the ability to handle interpersonal reaction. I did not feel violated, hollowed out, empty, or like life was not worth living.
Did I feel stupid? Sure, I felt stupid, especially after some people found out. I cringed and blushed when friends brought it up, and I still don’t talk about it much. It was not my proudest moment.
But it also did not destroy me on a fundamental level. Not like rape does. Not like the time when I was thirteen or fourteen did, not like the time when I was seventeen did. I knew the difference way back then, with Chris, before I’d even realized or come to terms with the fact that I’d lost my virginity to rape. Before realizing that I’d been raped before, I knew Chris had not raped me. I never said otherwise.
No one in their right mind would.
*Rather than my usual gender-neutral language, I’m going to be echoing the genders society assigns this particular argument. I have literally never heard anyone try to claim that this happens the other way around, so I’m not going to address it here.
**Non-jokingly, that is. I’ve heard women pull the stupid, “The sex was so bad, it was practically rape! LOL!” line as just another form of a rape joke, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.