Two weeks ago, my gentle and loving boyfriend of three months held me down and forced me to have sex with him against my will, and then told me I had asked for it. And technically, he was right.
Jacob and I had only been dating about a month and a half when I intimated that I had a rape fantasy. Over the years, I’d had my share of experience with role-playing and rough sex. I vividly recall a male friend of mine in college telling me that I had a distinct air of “sexual prey” about me, and me thinking that this was a huge compliment. Being dominated and playing the innocent who secretly wasn’t had been my currency and had guided the sexual dynamic I forged with partners for the last 10 years. But only for the last few months had I allowed myself to entertain what I considered to be the final frontier — a simulated rape.
Growing up as I did in an era where the phrase “no means no” was seared into my brain from grade school on, I was nervous about revealing my dirty secret to Jacob, worried I’d scare off my relatively naïve partner or make him think I was sick. I was relieved and excited when he told me he would be into trying it out. From there, the content of our emails, texts and video chats became decidedly faux-rapey, as I told him how I wanted him to hold me down, force my legs apart and screw me even as I begged him to stop. It was foreplay, and it got me incredibly hot. In my mind, it was still very much in the realm of fantasy, and I was secure in knowing that if and when I decided to take things to the next level — i.e., act out the fantasy — the inevitable and, for me, dreaded conversation involving safe words and boundaries (things I’d always associated with schoolmarms and humorless girls who’d read too much Third Wave feminism) would have to happen.
I never got the chance to have that conversation before things went horribly wrong. To celebrate Jacob’s birthday, I’d booked us a room in a fancy hotel, where we’d proceeded to make very quick work of every surface in the first few hours of our stay. Late that night, we returned home from a tame evening out, both totally sober. We’d been arguing intermittently and there was a strange vibe between us when I flounced onto the overstuffed bed in my underwear, pouting petulantly. As he crawled on top of me, I rather sternly informed him that I didn’t want to have sex with him. To my horror, he got a menacing look on his face and ignored my protests. I knew after a few misguided attempts to block him from entering me that he thought what was happening was drastically different from what I knew to be taking place. To him, this was the fantasy I’d been talking about. To me, it was not.
As the knowledge of what was happening dawned on me and the seconds crawled by, I made the decision to lay as mute and motionless as possible, to drive home the point that it wasn’t, in fact, what I wanted and I wasn’t enjoying what he was doing. I was worried that fighting back would only make him think I was play-acting all the more, and I didn’t feel imperiled enough to try to hurt him in the service of getting him to stop. When it was over, I lay there, shaken. When I finally sat up, I whispered to Jacob that what happened wasn’t what he thought happened. And it was then that what might feasibly have been dealt with as simply an unfortunate miscommunication (a very unfortunate one) took on the weight of an irrevocable transgression. Horrified at the suggestion that he’d misread my signals and overtaken me, Jacob began to lash out. He insisted that I was to blame, that I’d made him into a monster and led him down the road to ruin by suggesting the fantasy in the first place. He furiously maintained that despite what I said, I could’ve stopped him. I could’ve uttered the magic words that would’ve made him know I was serious, that I wanted him to stop, that this was not, in fact, my fantasy. But because I didn’t, I was, as he eloquently put it, asking for it.
If this had happened to any one of my friends, indeed any woman I know, I’d have been the first to rail against any sort of “blame the victim” stance. But knowing what I know about my own reticence to set concrete limits, not out of laziness but out of sheer spite for what I’d always thought was a lame, overwrought, touchy-feely set of principles, I can’t assuage myself fully from blame.
In the days and hours and weeks since that night in the hotel room, I fought hard to make Jacob understand that I didn’t blame him entirely for what happened. I knew I’d failed to explain my boundaries to him, but the incident itself wasn’t what had upset me as much as his single-minded belief that I and I alone was responsible for the f**k-up. His lack of compassion and empathy proved to me that he wasn’t the sort of person I could rely on when things got, as it were, rough. Maybe with the right person, the relationship could’ve recovered from such a catastrophic misunderstanding. But I’ll never know. I’ll never let such a catastrophic misunderstanding happen again.