I Don’t Know if It Was Rape or Assault—​but It was More Than Just Bad Sex

Life & Love


Had I been raped?

I had bruises on my neck. They were turning purple and black and it had only been a few hours. My neck was sore and tight. I wasn’t sure what had happened or how to feel.

The Tinder date I had gone on the night before left me feeling uneasy. It was a hook-up date, the kind that both parties agreed before meeting would be just for sex, no strings attached. He was attractive, with pale blue eyes, a chiseled jaw and body to go with it—stylistically too square for my liking, but possibly the most attractive man I had seen in person.

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I didn’t really need to like him that much. I was in the midst of my own mini sexual revolution. After twelve years of being on the pill to control endometriosis and having a suppressed sex drive, I was free and I wanted everyone. I had talked with “Robert” a bit about what I liked, and obliquely referred to domination. Not the S&M and whips and chains version, but the more psychological kind—the kind that had a hand over your neck and told you what to do, the kind that makes you feel overpowered, but without the real fear of pain, because you are mutually consenting adults who are play-acting roles.

During the date, he was cocky and arrogant. He was an asshole, and was shitty to the server. Normally I would have been turned off and ended the date. But I was blinded by his male beauty and my own raging hormones, and I wanted to know what making out with him felt like. I wanted to try on his type, like a dress I would never buy. He lived a few miles away so we drove to my apartment which was located in an area notoriously devoid of parking. A three-minute load/unload parking spot was across the street, and he pulled his sports car (of course he had a sports car) into the spot. “It’s a calculated risk,” he said, pointing out that at 11 P.M. or midnight, it wasn’t likely a meter maid would be at work.

It was a calculated risk I was taking too. The jokes about online dating are clichés, but have a bit of truth to them: a man’s biggest fear is that the woman will not look like her pictures, and a woman’s greatest fear is that a man will be a rapist or serial killer. I had gone on a lot of internet dates by that point, and I had yet to be raped or murdered. I had met a lot of weirdos, a couple of cool guys, a few liars—but the great majority had been merely nice people with whom I didn’t have any chemistry or anything in common.

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We went inside and starting making out and it wasn’t long before clothes started coming off. I proceeded to go down on him, and that’s when it got weird. He started to choke me, pushing my face further into his crotch with force. He seemed manic, excited, frenetic. His eyes were wide, and I was in pain. I told him it hurt and he said, “Okay,” and relaxed. I kept going, but then he started to do it again, harder.

I had crossed a physical and mental barrier, and now I didn’t know how to get out of this situation.

He was big, tall, strong, six feet or more; his arms were muscular and thick. I am 4’11” and three-quarters, and weigh around 112 pounds (120 if it’s winter). He could do whatever he wanted to me, including snap my neck. “You’re hurting me,” I told him again. “Yes, but isn’t it exciting, not knowing if it’s real or not?” he asked. I couldn’t tell if he was saying that as a person who wanted to hurt me and was letting me know that he could and would and wanted to, or as someone who was new to this type of roleplaying and didn’t really understand how it worked. His hands were still around my throat. I was still on my knees. I didn’t know how to answer.

We had progressed past the point of making out, some of my clothes were off, it felt too late to turn back. I had crossed a physical and mental barrier, and now I didn’t know how to get out of this situation, how to get this man out of my house. I didn’t think he would just leave if I asked. I didn’t know what I would say if he hurt me and I had to call the police—if I was still alive to call the police—how I would explain the situation, that I had taken a stranger to my home and trusted him not to hurt me. I thought of these things with his semi-limp, small dick in my mouth, his hand was still squeezing my neck, shoving my face harder and harder into him.

So I kept going, my neck like a twig between his hands. I just wanted him to orgasm so he would leave, so I could not be hurt any more than I was already being hurt. So did what I had to do. I got him off.

I had told him I hurt, I had tried to get out of his grasp, but he ignored me. I had gone home with a man I barely knew and didn’t even really like after a few hours and felt ashamed. The voices in my head were self-flagellating, no whips or chains necessary: I was a slut, I was stupid, I should have listened to my intuition. He was an asshole, what was I thinking? I was embarrassed, I was foolish, I was dumb.

###

When I went on my first date with my most recent beau, #MeToo was fresh, just a few weeks old. He was from the South, and had a loose drawl and a sharp haircut. We were three hours and three drinks into our date and the chemistry was apparent. He said that that he now felt he had to ask permission to flirt or do the smallest thing, like touch a knee. I laughed at that notion, because I was already leaning in, I was already touching him. “I don’t know,’” I said, “It’s pretty obvious that I like you.”

Or was it? I thought about all those chemistry-free but pleasant dates, the men with crestfallen faces whom I politely thanked for their time, shaking their hands. It had been obvious to me there was nothing there, but it hadn’t been obvious to them. I thought about the OKCupid date years ago that was three hours of arguing and banter, and the guy saying in frustration, “Like, right now I have no idea if you want to fuck me or if you hate me!” (Both.) I thought about my friend who would text me in drunken frustration that a girl he had spent all night buying drinks and who had left her friends to hang out alone with him was upset when he tried to kiss her, how he had been sure she liked him. “Hand on thigh the whole time! I’M NOT SUBTLE!” he texted.

I thought about how when I was 20, still dealing with Catholic schoolgirl guilt and having only slept with one or two other people, I made out with a guy I didn’t know very well, how when his hands meandered into my pants I was turned on but kept pushing his hands away, and how he tried again anyway, how I had fought my feelings (it feels good, I feel bad) inside my head the whole time. Finally, on the third try, he stopped, and said, “We don’t have to.”

I thought about how sometimes you’re sure you’re into it, until you’re not.

I thought about how I find the notion of “enthusiastic consent” to be awkward and forced but how when the Southern gentleman turned to me and said, “Can I kiss you?” I was so turned on I nearly tore all his clothes off in the middle of the bar.

I thought about how sometimes you’re sure you’re into it, until you’re not, until someone has his hands around your neck and he is hurting you.

With Robert, I should have known better than to take a stranger I barely knew home. I had ignored the warning signs. I was in the privacy of my own home, a safe place, but with a stranger, who was not safe. I had taken a calculated risk, and I had lost.

I still don’t know whether to call what happened rape or assault. Some would say I was complicit, too. But it was more than just “bad sex.”

The next morning, my neck was black and blue and purple, and stiff. I opened Tinder and looked at his profile, and texted him. He no longer looked so handsome. “My neck is bruised and sore. You really hurt me last night. That was really not cool.”

“Sorry,” he wrote back. His response was inscrutable. Was he actually sorry? Did he even know, really, how terrible it was? Did he care?

When I went to reply, his profile, my messages, and his photos were gone. But the bruises were still there.



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