Trigger warnings: explicit discussion of rape, corrective sexual violence
The thing that is always going to kill me about what happened to me is that I did everything “right.”
I knew my attacker for two years before I asked her out.
I communicated up front that I wasn’t into doing anything sexual.
I gave her pamphlets and resources about asexuality.
The night it happened, I said no.
But I guess when you live in a culture where sex and love are viewed as the same thing, and women “can’t rape” it can set you up for a difficult situation. It didn’t help either that I was a sensual creature who loved snuggling and making out, and didn’t realize the kind of effect that had on her (I can be a little oblivious). I had been dating her less than three months, and it was Valentine’s weekend. Our dates generally went something like eat pizza, make out, fall asleep in my awkwardly small dorm room bunk bed. I’d also learned, through communication and testing my own boundaries, that I didn’t mind (actually kind of enjoyed) being sexual towards her, in a “stone butch” kind of way. But even in that, I was very clear: I didn’t want that reciprocated. Even the thought made me feel a little gross on the inside. For some reason, however, that night, she decided it didn’t matter that I wasn’t into it. Maybe because she knew I’d grown up a conservative Catholic, steeped in purity culture, and she assumed it made me repressed. Or maybe because she took my being into making out as a sign that I was also into having sex. Even further still, maybe she didn’t even consider my own situation, and instead was just thinking about what she wanted. I don’t know. I’ve never really gotten an explanation from her, even four years later.
I just know that at some point, she rolled us over, and started to touch me. And when I protested, from my awkwardly wedged position, she shushed me and told me I’d like it. Like she was taking me to Disney world or presenting me with a new food to try. Up until that point, I regarded penetration with the same level of disinterest as any other sexual act. Now, even years afterward, even though I have been sexually active with other partners from time to time, I can’t stomach it. At some point, I mentally checked out, and that offended her. So, she left the room to go get a soda, and left me to kind of sort out what just happened. I just curled up quietly, and ignored her the rest of the night. She left in the morning, and we continued to date on and off for the next couple months.
What made it so difficult to break up with her and then move on with my life was that it didn’t fit what I’d been taught sexual assault and rape was. I wasn’t battered, or even drugged. My “attacker” was a woman, and she wasn’t doing it to be evil. It was this misguided sense that if she showed me her version of “sex” I would realize I was missing out and blossom into a sexually active person. When I broke up with her, I told no one what had happened. I lost my entire community, with the exception of my best friend, who didn’t know what was going on, but he had noticed something dark had happened to me.
I would go on to leap into a relationship with the next asexual person I found, then just continue to fall in and out of love for the next couple years. I’d try therapists who’d assign my asexuality the status of sexual aversion on account of assault. Or they’d ignore it completely. It took a couple years before I would admit I was an “assault” survivor. It took even longer for me to call it rape. And finally, it took the longest for me to say that my attacker was a woman and my girlfriend at the time.
These days, I’m healthy and happy again, but it was a longer, harder road than it should have been. I still have my moments where it all comes rushing back, but many reminders have since gone away. The dorm where it happened was remodeled. I began my own transition as a genderqueer person, so I guess I’ve also remodeled myself. Jokes about being a tease when I date allosexual people still strike a nerve, but not so painfully anymore. I don’t expect to go back to how I was before, but I think I am on a path that will end in a happier, healthier me. And I’m just fine with this new me.