This Is What They Don’t Tell You About Sex After Rape

I was surprised that I had become so emotionally bound and conflicted by Christian. We hadn’t spoken or made love in months, as the transgression he made on my body one night made me feel as though I could and should not engage with him.

Yet here we sat in front of one another in the back of a restaurant as if we were just two old friends catching up. Before I was ever subjected to it, I’d always assumed that date rape would be an automatic deal-breaker. But Christian and I made love over and over again afterward anyway as if it never happened. He moved forward in the relationship, ignorantly believing that what he did was what I wanted. I moved forward trying to subdue my discontent, first convincing myself that what happened wasn’t a problem. Then I ghosted him, trying to forget Christian all together so I wouldn’t have to deal with the issue. It didn’t work and now 10 months later we were facing each other again.

I wanted closure. He wanted answers.

No one ever told me that I could still have gratifying, passionate sex with a man after he had forced himself onto me. No one ever told me that I could still care about a man and be attracted to him after he had coerced me—or that he could still care about me after the fact, too. No one ever told me that I might even want him back after I’d already shut the door on him, either.

In the months (and partners) that followed, I sometimes found myself using sex as a tool to smother any shame I had about my body, and the fact that my partner once made a decision about my body for me. It stopped just being something I did to selflessly exchange my feelings for someone. I’ve yet to fully reverse the tide, and I don’t think about my body or about sex as casually as I used to.

We unofficially deem rape as the worst thing that could ever happen to a woman. Then we assume that those of us who have been raped are resultantly disinterested in sex for the rest of our lives. For some, there is truth to this idea. But my experience of sexual coercion didn’t negate my ability to enjoy sex or to initiate it, even with the man who made me feel uncomfortable in my body for such a long time.

This adds to my shame, humbles me, makes me question myself. The way that I’d once envisioned and understood rape was completely flipped, and I realized that we as a society do ourselves a disservice when we strictly depict and talk about rape as an overt, excessively brutal act.

[pullquote align=”right”]We as a society do ourselves a disservice when we strictly depict and talk about rape as an overt, excessively brutal act.[/pullquote]

Something needs to be said for the subtle ways our society—and men in particular—undermines what women need, what we want and what we say. Something also needs to be said for the elusive nature of coercion that inherently makes men and women dismissive, confused or small-minded about what consent is (and rape, for that matter). We need to invest more thought and sensitivity into recognizing the nuances in women’s experiences of being forced into sex—particularly by the men who we are closest to.

The fact that Christian and I still had feelings for each other confounded me, hence why I struggled to explain to Christian why what he did was wrong.

“I told you that I didn’t want to have sex that night,” I said. My eyes locked into his and my voice sounded steadier, more confident than I would have thought. “Yes, I wanted to be alone and I wanted us to be intimate. I wanted to kiss you and take off my clothes. But I didn’t want to have intercourse and I said that. And then you pushed yourself onto me, anyway.”

Christian stared back at me looking dumbfounded and remorseful. His wide, thick shoulders hunched forward and his chin hovered a quarter of the way over the table. It relaxed me to see that he was fully taking me in as I spoke. I was comforted to see him responding in the way that I wanted and expected him to.

“I’m sorry that I hurt you and made you feel so unsafe,” Christian said. “It saddens me that you held onto this—and to your misgivings about me—for so long.” Christian paused and glanced at his lap before looking back at me. “Honestly, I don’t remember all the little things I did or how it came about.” He paused again but kept his wide, sorrowful eyes fixed on me. “…But I realize that I did something that made you feel like I didn’t care about you or respect you and I take fault for that.

“I do care.”

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