So you want to get with* an assault survivor?
*And by “get with” I mean consensually date or have sex with.
Reposting this essay from my old blog because something tells me it will only continue to become more of an issue in the upcoming years. I use hetero-normative pronouns for ease of story telling, knowing that assault can happen to anyone/anyone can be on either side of this healing process.
Rape changes a lot of things.
Sex gets complicated. Walking home in the dark gets complicated. People who remind you of the person who assaulted you get complicated. But I personally refuse to let that moment of ugliness win. I think of putting distance between me and the night I was raped as a challenge and adventure, rather than the end of the world.
Then some new thing comes along that reminds me that being a rape survivor will always be a part of me. A teeny tiny part, but a part nonetheless. After going on a slew of first dates recently I realized dating was going to be another thing that gets complicated.
There are two things I need to get out of the way with guys up front to see if it’s worth our time to have a second drink. Is he into rope? And how does he react to a casual mention of the other r-word? I know better than to torment myself with a fella who can’t handle either.
Since I tell my assault story a lot usually I say something about having been in a story telling show or having recently finished writing something.
“Oh, what was it about?” The good ones will say.
“I’m so sorry.” The keepers will say when I tell them, when I say the big scary words that will make a lesser man run in the other direction…“I was raped.”
Some will say, “Wow” or “gee” or just reach across the table and touch my hand while making an apologetic face. Those are also acceptable.
The ones that I want nothing to do with will say, “That happened to my sister once” or “not all guys are like that.” That’s when I ask for the check and go home. Even if they aren’t purposefully douches those guys aren’t ready to deal with the reality of dating and/or sleeping with a survivor in any meaningful way.
Casual sex is usually pretty do-able with some negotiation and discussion of the things that are trigger to avoid. Fuck buddies will gladly dance around those land mines in order to get laid on occasion. And I've found it empowering at times to get my brain casually fucked out during the healing process but your mileage my vary.
It’s the friends and longer term dating partners that get complicated. At first it will be great and I’ll think “yay, this is working I don’t have to have a hard talk about consent and rape with this person.” Then the universe reads my mind and shit gets weird.
It happens again and again. I’ll meet a person and we get along swimmingly, we’ll flirt, and maybe even casually sleep together or engage in kinky play. Then one day not to long after I can feel a shift in the universe. I’ll notice they’ve liked things on my Fetlife profile or visited my website. Suddenly the flirtation is no longer there, the hugs get briefer, and the conversations more awkward. And I know...they’ve read about my rape. Shit just got weird.
Sleeping with a rape survivor is scary. I understand. Especially one that refuses to shut up. So I started asking these interesting men that seemed to be pulling away for no other good reason what was going on and I was right. My being vocal on the subject makes things a little weird for my well meaning sexy friends.
I understand, but hot guys of the world, we can still rub yummy parts on one another if you’re into it. Consent is hot and I’ll gladly show you why. So don’t pull away or disappear. A whole ton of other things, glorious delicious body rocking things have also happened to me. Let’s focus on that stuff!
I’ve already before about what folks can do to support a rape survivor but what can a fella do to make sex and dating less weird when pursuing a person who has been assaulted?
1. Ask before you touch. Not every time but the first couple of times is not only nice but required. There are few things sexier than a guy who grabs the band of my underwear, looks up with eyes full of trouble and lust to ask, “Can I take these off?” It establishes that consent is a thing he understands and that he will ask when in doubt instead of barreling forward. I will go so much farther with a person who asks because I don’t have to stay on alert and worry about him. He gets it, he’s trust worthy.
2. It’s just as important to not withhold sex as it is to not force it. Of course it’s okay to not be in the mood but if you’re not having sex because you think it’s what she needs, that’s not kosher. Rape makes intimacy difficult to trust, and has a tendency to make survivors feel alienated from their bodies. So if she says “fuck me” then by golly fuck her! Don’t do any of this “but if I fuck her I’ll remind her of her rapist and then…” If you can’t trust her enthusiastic fuck yeah consent then take your squishy bits and go home.
3. Remember eventually something will go wrong and that’s okay. It’s just the way things go, no matter how careful you are a boundary will get crossed slightly or someone will get a bit hurt. That’s no reason to avoid whatever activity because it’s kinda extreme or tangentially related to the person’s assault. Tiny mistakes are a learning experience and not in the same neighborhood as a blatant consent violation. So go forth and do all the things both of you are into and communicate like crazy when something weird happens.
4. Rough sex is not equal to rape. Just as being bound is not equal to being held down against your will. When those things were used against me as a form of physical violence it was scary. What makes BDSM hot is the part where I beg you for those things. So there is no reason to tiptoe around stuff if I asked for it, okay?
5. Don’t be afraid to ask her on a date/to play. Just because you may know this intimate thing about her past isn’t a reason to avoid her like a broken toy. If you’re interested, go for it. Survivors already worry about what people think about them so don’t treat her like she’s dirty or fragile.
6. Relax. It’s not a big deal unless one of you makes a big deal out of it. Don’t force her to talk about it. Asking questions to understand is perfectly okay. But if she wants to go into it, let her talk about it on her own terms. And for the love of everything don’t try to be her therapist, she needs to recover from the experience with a professional not her special man friend.
7. Trust her. Your instinct might be that since she hung out with a person who ended up violating her consent that she has shitty taste or instincts. You should protect her from life and especially from new partners, right? Nope! The fucked up thing about psychopaths is that they are super charming right up until they mess up your world, so it wasn’t her lack of instincts it was his being a icky mother fucker that led to the rape.
8. There will be hard days. If she’s ready to be shopping for sex partners/in a relationship then 99% of the time things will be fine. Every once in a while something will come out of nowhere and trigger her into a tiny ball of tears or fury. You can’t fix anything, just stick around and hold her or listen, this too shall pass. If she’s emotional and having a rough time more like 99% of the time, she has work to do before she’s ready for you. Just stick around until the timing is right or transition into being people who don't rub genitals together. Friends are something every survivor needs more of, after all she probably lost most of her old "friends" when she outed the asshole who assaulted her because they "didn't want to chose sides."
9. But she reported her rapists, what’s to stop her from reporting me? Don’t rape her!
Want to know a secret? These are things you should be doing with anyone you’re dating/sleeping with. It’s so easy!