A while ago, I wrote about an incident that occurred during a foursome where, having discussed our boundaries, one of the foursome crossed mine. After writing about the incident, I thought I had pretty much dealt with the fallout, how it made me feel, my regret, my shame, my hurt, humiliation and anger. I had all but put it out of my mind, chalked up to another lesson learned on how I might handle such a situation differently next time. Mostly I hoped there would never have to be a next time. Turns out, I was less over it than I realised.
The incident came up recently in my counselling training. We were discussing boundaries, how we form them, how we negotiate them in our day-to-day, and so on. We broke into pairs to discuss our experiences and to talk about a time when a boundary had been set and then crossed. I related my foursome story of how I had set my boundary (no anal) and how one of the foursome had crossed it anyway. My colleague’s immediate response was, ‘So he raped you.’ Not a question—a statement of fact.
Initially I was defensive, angry. Why did she have to use that word? I didn’t use that word. How dare she?
I started to say something along the lines of, ‘Well no not that, just not what I consented to…’
It sounded flimsy, even to me.
Fortunately/unfortunately, we were short on time, so I exited the conversation and ducked to the bathroom to pull myself together for the next exercise.
But with the genie out of the bottle, I couldn’t ignore it.
Unwillingly I realised I had tried very hard NOT to conceptualise and identify what that guy did to me as rape, and I’m not entirely sure why. Part of me thinks it’s because I don’t want to be a ‘victim’ or even a ‘survivor’. Part of me doesn’t want to process it, to accept that it happened—that it happened to me.
At the time, as I wrote, I was more worried about everyone else’s feelings and not wanting to ruin the encounter for them than I was about what had just occurred to me. Don’t make a fuss, we’re taught. Smooth things over. You’re in someone else’s house, be polite.
He claimed it wasn’t deliberate and his partner immediately defended him. ‘Sweetie, it was an accident, let’s keep playing….’ It was not an accident. You don’t accidentally stick your dick in someone’s butthole, not from that angle. It just doesn’t work like that.
My partner didn’t bother to check in either, didn’t stand up for me. I think he just wanted things to go smoothly, without fuss, without any awkwardness.
With everyone else in the room just wanting me to ignore it and get on with things, I did.
I didn’t call it ‘rape’ then, just an unfortunate incident; if not a mistake then a misunderstanding, perhaps…
To call it rape now, I have to acknowledge I was alone in that room, that there were witnesses who did nothing.
To call it rape, I have to also acknowledge what I didn’t do. I didn’t call him out. I didn’t call the other participants out. Other than declining to continue ‘playing’, I did nothing.
To call it rape, in the way I understand rape, I am forced to process it as a traumatic event.
Perhaps not every sexual violation has to be traumatic. I don’t want this one to be, I don’t want to frame it in those terms. Yes, it was a boundary violation. Yes, I had explicitly denied consent. But it was in a broader context, one of mutual consent…and there I go making excuses again. Why?
Until that conversation, until that word hung in the air between my colleague and I, I could ignore it—diminish it. I could acknowledge it was unpleasant, awkward, and not something I ever want to go through again, but just get on with living as normal, as a sometimes sexually adventurous Perky.
I was also all too aware this encounter was supposed to be a special treat, something I negotiated to do outside my relationship, and I knew what that had cost. I wanted the experience to have been worth it. (It wasn’t).
I also learned the importance of language, the power of choosing the right words, of how heavy the wrong word can be. Perhaps my brain is being kind, offering a gentle reframe to help me move on without lingering on things I’d rather not feel.
Perhaps I am in denial and there is unprocessed trauma bubbling away below the surface. Perhaps that I am writing this post, that I reacted so strongly to that word, indicates the wound is a lot deeper than I realised. If that is the case, I will deal with whatever comes up, when it comes up, but I won’t force it.
And perhaps one day I will use that word when (and if) I feel I can bear its weight.