(This is part 1 of a series on Rape Culture, read Part 2, which dives indepth into Purity Culture and Gender Identity, here.)
Warning: The following post contains discussion of a traumatic sexual event involving coercion. I’m asking that the content shared here, not be shared in any other format without my express consent. I am sharing a very personal story, with people that I trust and with those who I believe can benefit from hearing. Thank you for respecting that request.
I am currently an active member of Demia @ Butler University. Demia is BU’s Student Feminist and Social Justice Organization, and is actively involved in advocating for equal rights, gender and sexuality issues, battling rape culture, etc…
On September 18 I took part in an event called “Take Back the Fight”. TBTF is an annual production of Demia’s, inspired by Take Back The Night, which is a program aimed at raising awareness regarding sexual assault and rape culture in both the U.S. at large, and on college campuses in particular. (We use Take Back The Fight instead of Take Back the Night because we took issue with the implication that sexual assault occurs only at night.) TBTF consisted of a candlelit vigil in honor of assault survivors, followed by a discussion of our stories and what we can do as a campus community and individuals to change our culture from rape culture to consent culture.
I was not assaulted, no one has used violence to have their way with my body. However, I have been coerced into having intercourse when I did not want to and when I thought it was wrong.
It goes like this: I was 17, and had not yet come out as Trans. I was dating a girl I had met through a theatre camp and for the first time we were alone in my bedroom. She had been wanting to have sex, while I had expressed that I thought sex should be saved for marriage. Here is where the confusion begins. I had never had any form of sexual education. All I had been told was “don’t have sex until you are married,” I was never told what exactly constituted sex or why anyone would want to have it outside of marriage. Wasn’t it mostly reproductive? Yet, I had sexual feelings and I knew they felt good. Was that bad? I never knew, and I never approached my parents because, despite evidence to the contrary, I thought of my parents as a homogeneous “one flesh” that always agreed. So when all my dad would say was: “keep it zipped,” I assumed my mother would agree with him. So these conflicting ideas stayed inside.
Anyway, the encounter involved me penetrating my then gf. It lasted maybe about five minutes. But it was long enough for me to feel uncomfortable. Afterwards I ignored all of her texts and phone calls, until it was obvious that I no longer wanted to have contact with her. As I said before, this happened before I transitioned from identifying male to identifying female, and I had been socialized to believe men couldn’t be raped (not that I really see it as that), and so all I really knew was that I had had an uncomfortable sexual encounter.
Looking back on this now, I clearly see my immediate cutting of my-ex out of my life as a manifestation of my extreme discomfort with the situation. I also found a book on “Christian” Purity that shared a story from a woman who due to her distress over marrying a man who had waited for her, while she had slept around, prayed to God and her virginity had been restored. At the time I found this to be amazing, so I prayed for it, and came to believe my virginity had been restored.
So now we have a young person who not only was coerced into having sex and doesn’t recognize it, but literally believes that the encounter has been erased from existence. It wasn’t until this year that I had even begun to rethink what consent meant in terms of that encounter, that and my radically different conception of what sexual purity means, slowly led me to realize how problematic that encounter had been.
I’ve also come to realize just how much purity culture is intertwined with rape culture. The story about the woman who prayed for her virginity to be restored is slut shaming, and as we saw played very easily into my own denial. Soon I’ll be posting Part 2 which will discuss in more depth the mess that is Purity and Rape Culture and how it denies real gender expression, followed by Part 3, where I’ll be outlining ways that consent culture provides healthier alternative.
Remember, Create Don’t Kill