Sex, self-love possible, even after being raped
Sex and the SUNY
Published: Thursday, March 27, 2008
Updated: Friday, October 10, 2008 01:10
I woke up around 10.
It was Feb. 10, 2007. I was in my bed, in my underwear. Cold, confused - still drunk - my aching head lay, unmoving, on a pillow stained with tears. I'd passed out crying seven or eight hours earlier.
I didn't remember most of the night before. I didn't remember the party I was at, I didn't remember how I got to my room, and to this day I'm fairly thankful I don't remember most of the rest.
But I know what happened.
But I didn't call the police immediately. I didn't go un-showered to the hospital for an exam with the clothes I'd worn preserved in a sandwich bag, like you're supposed to. Like a nervous seventh grader, I summed up the assault in a sentence or two in a scribbled note to my now-boyfriend.
The ending to that chapter is bittersweet, but it's not what I want to talk about today. This note I'm writing is everything I wish someone had told me last year about really, truly moving on.
These days women have access to all kinds of advice regarding sexual assaults. From a local Planned Parenthood to any rape hotline, there's a community of strong women ready to help, to hold you close and hear all you have to say about your experience. I've definitely found a number of them, and their kind words have been essential in my journey from victim to survivor.
But in some areas of healing, I was either unsure of where to turn for advice, or just afraid to ask: how do you have, and enjoy, sex after rape?
For me, the answer was simple - you don't. I didn't want to be touched, hugged, or kissed. I didn't want anyone to even think I was pretty. After time, however, I started missing all the things I used to enjoy: flirting, touching, innuendo… and sex.
To say I felt guilty is an understatement. I thought, if you're raped, and you want to have sex, it means you weren't raped. I know it doesn't make sense now, but at the time I thought any lustful feelings were an indication that I was indeed just a whore who was asking for it. I thought I had to be frigid, bitter and celibate forever.
Like most things in life, I learned recovering from rape doesn't just happen. It comes in baby steps. It's falling in love with love all over again - the first hug, the first kiss… and so on.
It's terrifying, I won't lie, and sometimes not in that good-butterflies sort of scary way. To put it bluntly, having a man on top of me ever again was the absolute last thing I wanted.
What it all boils down to is this: It takes a while to remember who you are, but remembering isn't enough. I knew who I was - a classy broad who happened to be into burlesque and bondage, and was now afraid that getting tied up meant I liked being dominated, and therefore, couldn't truly get raped. It was painstaking, and I don't even know how long it took, but slowly, eventually, I found the courage to once again be a dirty little girl.
And for the record, I can make jokes like that, because rape won't take anything from me again, even my sense of humor.
And I do know these five or six hundred words can't really convey the long road that so many women, including myself, are still traveling down. What I really hope is to open a dialogue about sexual empowerment, even in the shadow of assault, and I really, truly, strongly urge anyone struggling in the aftermath of rape or abuse to talk to someone, talk to me. Call me at the Cardinal Points office (where I live) and talk to me, swing by Macdonough (where I sleep) and let me give you a hug. You're not alone.