(Trigger warning: Some details of sexual assault mentioned; not super graphic)
This seems to be a thread that has come up a few times since back when I shared my very first story right around a year ago.
I talked about how a man had been hurting me and I asked him to please stop, and he wouldn’t. I would have happily had sex with me had he not been hurting me, but he was really hurting me. I kept asking over and over for him to please move positions. He was really hurting me. And he wouldn’t. And that ended with me bleeding.
And someone on twitter was like, “Oh, the girl who’s upset that the sex is bad and claims assault.” And I’ve heard that about the more recent assaults (from last year) that I’ve been talking about.
I don’t mind having some laughs about “bad sex.” Heck, I wrote a comedy song about bad sex as one of my audition pieces for BMI.
If somebody does a sex move in a way I’m not used and it’s not really doing the same thing… That’s potentially some bad (or maybe even just neutral) sex. Sex is not always the most mind-blowing exceptional wonderful thing that’s ever happened.
But there is such a super giant difference between a night where you’re like, “we didn’t really have any fun. We kinda just didn’t really like the same stuff, or didn’t mesh, or didn’t do it for each other vs. “I was crying in front of him. I was shaking with fear. I told him I was afraid. I told him I was crying because he made me uncomfortable. I said I wasn’t okay. He shoved his dick in anyway.” They’re so different!
And I feel like I would try to make some case here for the nuances of things, but I don’t really think there is a lot of nuance in this.
I guess the only thing I can think of that’s even sort of nuanced is that the specific word “uncomfortable” covers a lot. (A lot.) If I thought a chair wasn’t as nice as another chair when furniture shopping, I might say, “this one is a little uncomfortable.” I have told people before, “you made me a little uncomfortable the other night when [whatever small thing out in public, whatever].” I’ve even used it in different ways during sex. You might be having sex in a weird position, or against a weird piece of furniture, or you’re hardcore balancing on something weird, and you’re like, “I’m a little uncomfortable,” which means something way different than crying and being like, “Please. Can we please not do this? You’re making me really uncomfortable right now.”
[Side note: One thing I will say about that word though, is if I have been weirdly positioned on a piece of furniture, and someone during sex has been like, “are you a little uncomfortable?” and I say, “I mean, I’m okay, but I guess, yeah, a little,” – they’ve always changed. They’ll just pick me right up [with permission and respect] and be like, “How about this? Is this better?” “Why, yes it is! Thank you!”
So, while “uncomfortable” specifically doesn’t always (or even often) mean violent or criminal or truly hardcore boundary-crossing, I’ve still always known people to try to fix an uncomfortable situation. For the most part, people don’t want to feel uncomfortable, and generally, people don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable.]
“Uncomfortable” is maybe too all-encompassing of a word, and one perhaps I use too often. And I did use it a little too often when trying to talk to sexual assault guy about what he did. But I also used words like, “horrific,” “nightmare,” “cry myself to sleep every night,” “yes, you took away my agency,” etc., and those aren’t words I use about just like some random not-super-enjoyable sex.
As far as it relates to my last post of basically “if in doubt, go to the police,” I’m obviously not advocating that if something is a little awkward or some guy was pressured you a little that you just run to the police. Of course I don’t think that.
Sometimes, as I have been talking about assault so much, that is a question that comes up or is posed to me – “well, where is the line between assault and just kind of awkward or sort of pressured sex (because they have some parallels sometimes)?”
I think for the most part it’s clear, but a couple of distinctions that helps with clarity (if it’s needed) is – 1) Did they ignore your boundaries? (I was completely clear and he went way past them as I cried.) 2) Were you under threat? (Any reasonable person in my position would say yes. I was under threat with him.)
I have been in a small handful of situations (really not that many) with men before, in which for whatever reason I wasn’t super in a mood to do a very particular sex thing that night (e.g. maybe I’d be happy to have sex, but I didn’t feel like getting on my knees) or whatever, and they’d be like, “Oh, come oooon.” And sometimes I’d be annoyed. But most of the time I’d do it anyway.
…And a couple of times when they were being a little pressure-y and it felt a little gross, I even had a conversation later of just like, this behavior kind of makes me uncomfortable and it’d be nice if you didn’t do it again.” But it wasn’t assault. It was merely annoying (to me). (I can talk to people about being uncomfortable or a little unhappy without thinking or implying they assaulted me.)
But in this instance, it was far more than just “annoying.” Annoying doesn’t begin to cover it. He was threatening. I don’t know how clear I’ve made this on the blog that the reason I laid there and did practically nothing while he had sex with me was because I was under real threat – that’s one of the defining characteristics that makes it assault) – being threatened.
He didn’t extremely directly come out and say the very exact words that “if you don’t let me have sex with you right now, I’m going to badly injure you” but based on maaaaany things (that in so many words would give you the extreme vibe of that sentiment) which he’d said that week – and especially that night leading up to it, and physical ways in which he intimidated me as well, it was beyond reasonable to think that if I did anything else, I would’ve been seriously hurt.
He is a very vey smart man who kept most (maybe all?) of it out of writing, and made it explicit enough to scare me, but perhaps not explicit enough to use in court. So, is it prosecutable/provable in a court of law? Seemingly not. Did it happen? Yeah, it did.)
He was strong and on top of me. He had a documented anger issue. He was very threatening. My case (sadly, and like many others) may not have been prosecutable. But it doesn’t change that it was assault. (Not prosecutable and not real are two different things.)
So, anyway, I just wanted to be very clear that I’m not trying to give irresponsible advice of like, “Pressured in any way, even a tiny bit? Run to a police officer! Have any tiny relationship communication issue? Get the law involved!”
But, “Get threatened? Have someone climb on top of you and completely ignore you when you’re crying and saying out loud you’re crying because of him and how he’s scaring you in that moment? Have someone who makes it very clear you’re gonna be in a boatload of real trouble if you dare to anything other than cry and lay there? Yeah. Go to the cops. That’s sexual assault. Or don’t go. It’s your life and your impossible decision (that I talked about the other day).
Anyway, the point is, even though for some weird reason it’s come up multiple times, I don’t think slightly bad or slightly uncomfortable sex or kinda blegh guys are assault or assaulters. I think sexual assault is assault. And they’re different. And hopefully I’ve said it in the post in a clear enough way to make sense?