In this instalment of #Gendercidal, Semtex discusses the little spoken about (but we suspect more common than we would like to believe) loss of virginity to rape.
It is in part the disclosure by the popular comedienne Amy Schumer about her rape/”grape” that is the catalyst for Semtex’s own recounting. And while rape in any form is abhorrent, Semtex also explores the act within a “loving” relationship. In many respects perhaps rape within the confines of love is much harder to understand.
Though Amy Schumer has of late incited all manner of feministic vitriol for the premise of her new film, I Feel Pretty (2018), a recent interview with another semi-polarizing figure of the moment, Oprah (who no, should not run for president), has softened many women to a common though still not talked enough about plight: losing one’s virginity to rape. But more than that, many of us have been or will be raped by someone we assumed was close to us, who loved us and would therefore never do anything to violate us. Unfortunately, it is very often the case that our worst betrayals come from people we’ve let our guard down for and allowed into our hearts in a way that we may never have done before. Perhaps we will never trust again thanks to the trauma of the Judas kiss we can refer to as being taken advantage of because we happen to love the person and want to excuse their unacceptable behavior.
As Schumer recounts how she had trouble separating the man she cared about from the man who raped her, she remarks, “This isn’t someone I wanna see rotting in a jail cell, but what he did to me was wrong…and I didn’t consent. And for me I lost my virginity while I was asleep, and that’s not okay. So in my stand-up I would say, ‘If she’s asleep, that’s a no.’” It also led to her coining the term “grape”: “gray area rape.” While some might not understand this form of “making light” of a matter this serious, it is, for the most part, the only and best way to cope with something so incomprehensible to the fragile psyche, which can be torn apart if the scant spit and glue known as a sense of humor holding it together is put aside for the sake of political correctness.
Hearing Schumer rehash the details of her first time, it made me think of my own. I was late to the virginity loss game by normal standards: nineteen. I had been sequestered and overly protected before going to college in Los Angeles, where naturally I was inclined to finally let my freak flag fly. Well, let it fly as much as someone as misanthropic and hateful as myself could. This tended to translate primarily into drinking. It made me feel like I could act how I was “supposed to”: uninhibited, less afraid. Tragically, that standard-issue fear might have been very useful in evading my eventual assaulter, who also had the nicety to tell me I ought to wax for the next guy. He had placed me in the back of his car after encountering me and a friend outside of an 18 and over club on Hollywood Boulevard, which already automatically spoke of some ill portent. I had had too much to drink and, like an asshole, fucked us over on getting into the club. The bouncer was sure to not let someone as incapacitated as I was inside. That’s when we met Adrian. I still remember his name. Always will. You never forget your first, right? He seemed so nice, so eager to help us out. I was a fool, a lost lamb about to be devoured by the wolf in sheep’s clothing. I was too drunk to remember where my friend had gone during the rape, but eventually he at least had the decency to drive us back to my apartment, as opposed to letting me drive my own car home wasted.
He had placed me in the back of his car after encountering me and a friend outside of an 18 and over club on Hollywood Boulevard, which already automatically spoke of some ill portent.
I didn’t keep in contact with my friend after that night. Things became strained between us for the rest of her visit. We had known each other in high school, and she had come to visit me from her own college up north. Without her to remind me of the incident, it was easier for me to put it out of my mind, to suppress it. In fact, I didn’t engage in any sexual activity for some time after that, maybe not until I was twenty-three and I had moved to New York for a contrasting change. That’s when the promiscuity phase kicked in. It was as though the first encounter set the precedent for me feeling as though I needed to be drunk to have sex, or attract the interest of someone who wanted to prey on my weakened faculties. I never thought I would be in a relationship of any kind, so when I did finally and unexpectedly end up in one, I trusted that not only would I be safe, but also that it would last forever. The naive little suburban girl in me took far longer to wake up from her fantasy world than she ought to have. If I could, I would go back in time and slap her around to make her open her eyes faster.
Maybe I should have been alerted to the fact that it was within my then boyfriend’s moral compass to take advantage of a female while she was not “fully present” when he told me the story of bringing home a drunk girl and fucking her while she was passed out. He then proceeded to tell me without any sense of compunction that she was clearly enjoying it despite her blackout mode. “I thought to myself, ‘She likes it. I’m gonna do it again!’” And so he did. The story made me feel sick inside, but I tried to chalk it up to “boys being boys” as we so often do. Even still. Or worse, buying into the mentality that a girl brings such things upon herself if she chooses to let herself get to that point of intoxication.
Throughout our tumultuous relationship, there were many nights when one or the other of us would come home drunk (though, usually, it was me). On one particular evening, it was him. And he wanted something from me. Something that I, too drowsy and somnolent to refuse, gave. Or rather, I didn’t stop by any other means than clenched legs and a clamped labia.
“I feel weird about what happened last night.” I say it the next morning cautiously in a text, not wanting to invoke some latent beast, or worst of all, have come to fruition my fear that he will deny that there was something more than “off” about the way he chose to penetrate me. Rather than discuss what happened, it was shrugged off, and I didn’t probe it further, until now. I was asleep, he was drunk and overly forceful. But when a man’s ready, it’s expected that his girlfriend, his rightful property, ought to be as well and at a moment’s notice, even if consciousness isn’t exactly in the mix, whether the haze is sleep or alcohol-induced. And then, afterward, we are always afraid. Afraid that we’ll be deemed as the ones who are somehow in the wrong, the ones with a false perception of what constitutes consent. The ones glomming onto the “trend” of #MeToo. But it’s not a trend, it’s merely the first time in history that people are feeling vaguely comfortable about rehashing what has long been written off as “part of being a woman.” Schumer added, “People hear a woman say that she was sexually assaulted and I think it’s nine times out of ten people’s first reaction is to doubt the woman. It’s just something that men and women do. We think, ‘Well, wait, what was…what happened?’” As in, are you blowing things out of proportion or did you do something to “deserve” it?
And when it comes to “grape” by someone you’re in a relationship with, the cloud of love is what permits so many women to excuse away what would very distinctly be defined as sexual assault because the person doing it to them is their boyfriend. As Schumer explained after waking up to unearth what had happened and that combination of being so upset mixed with the instinctual feminine need to make the other person feel better, “He was my boyfriend, I loved him. I had to comfort him. I also felt really angry, and it’s a rage that has stayed with me. I don’t think you really lose that. As women we’re really trained not to get angry because that makes people dismiss you right away. There’s sort of no place for that anger. I wanted to comfort him, so I tried to just push my anger down.”
Ultimately, Schumer did have consensual sex with him. Just as I continued to do with my boyfriend after that one-off “grape” moment. But is there ever really a gray area to this form of betrayal, or do we only tell ourselves that while still under the arresting spell called having feels? Surely Priscilla Presley can tell us, and already did in her 1985 autobiography, Elvis and Me.