This post has been sitting in my drafts for some time now. I started writing it a month ago after reading the Nate Parker transcripts, then stopped. I starting writing again as the transcripts of Derrick Rose’s sexual assault case leaked…and I stopped again.
I’ve been reading this post over and over for the past thirty days. Every time I get closer to finishing it, I get anxious. The reactions I’ve had in the past, when I’ve shared this part of my life with former lovers or people I thought I could trust, has been… awkward to say the least.
Ya MCM on here debating the definition of consent.
— no,my name is shorty (@LifeWithJRDN) August 16, 2016
Everyday as new allegations of sexual assault or rape against someone’s favorite rapper, actor, or athlete rise, so do people’s newfound definitions. I’ve seen people try to define consent to fit situations in which they don’t want to seem like they’ve sexually assaulted a woman or man — but have. I’ve seen people try to explain what is “not really” rape and what is. Typically, I would just roll my eyes and continue scrolling through my timeline, as I do when any other dumb topic arises, but some of the conversations I’ve seen recently have actually scared me.
When your first couple of sexual encounters are nothing like the fairytale that you, your friends, or society has concocted for you, it fucks you up. You might even start to wonder if sex was even meant for you to enjoy. I was about 14 the first time I was sexually violated. My “NOs” and “STOPs” seemed to be a foreign language to the horny 16-year old boy in my at-the-time best friend’s bathroom. So I waited, waited and continued to wait some more until he finally acknowledged that my silence was an uncomfortable one. I remember trying to lock my knees and hold my breathe in an attempt to pass out. After the longest 7-minutes of my life — which included numerous uncomfortable moments of fondling and slobbering on the inside of my neck— he stopped and asked “What do you want me to do?” I wanted to say “Listen,” but my mouth couldn’t form the words, so we just looked at each other uncomfortably until I decided to leave.
The second time a man mistook my “no” for a “yes, please continue” was in college after a late party. He invited himself over to my dorm room. Exhausted and annoyed after a failed attempt at partying on campus, I assumed we would cuddle and go to sleep. It was around 2AM, my roommate was gone, and we both had been drinking so, according to Twitter logic, I should’ve known what was coming next. We had hooked up consensually before, so, according to more Twitter logic, it wouldn’t “really” be rape. I spent the majority of that night/early morning taking turns between attempting to fight him off and being silent. Because just like the last time, if I was quiet it would be over sooner.
That night I lost my virginity.
As I read the transcripts of phone calls exchanged between Nate Parker and his victim, it took me back to places I truly didn’t want to go—places I had tucked behind my positive sexual experiences. Places that so many other girls have been. Places I had tried to push to the back of my head because, as I’ve learned in the past, sharing them rarely leads to nothing more than making other people uncomfortable.
When I shared my stories with friends who often questioned why I made sex “such a big deal,” some pitied me and called me brave, while others shared stories that were all too familiar. The thing is: I never have and never will share my experiences for a consolation prize. I never wanted pity or a pat on the back for finally deciding to speak out. I didn’t chose to finally write this post because it’s “trendy,” but simply because I’m fucking tired.
I’m tired of being silent on consent. I’m tired of having to explain to grown people what consent means. I’m tired of (some) men believing that women can be coaxed or seduced into sex by what they’ve done for us in the past or what they think they can do for us in the future. I’m tired of hearing stories the morning after from friends who feel guilty after sex because they felt pressured and had to give in. Most importantly, I’m tired of my words not being fucking respected.
The word “No” does not mean “convince me.” The word “No” does not mean “try harder.” The word “No” doesn’t not mean “relax, you’ll like it eventually.” The word “No” means just that— and it’s about time we all start respecting it.