Ambiguous Sex

Ambiguous Sex

The recent arguments regarding Kobe and the rape allegations from earlier in his career have caused so much ugliness in the media that it caused me to look back at the incident. I remember the incident with Kobe. I remember feeling somehow victimized by his actions. I remember feeling empathy for the victim and then not believing her. And then I stopped following Kobe Bryant and just chose not to think about him, the rape allegations, the victim, or his wife. However, since his tragic death and the nasty threats towards Gale King for bringing up the past, I decided to review the case again 20 years later. My life experiences allow me to give an unpopular perspective that I have never heard. Recently, needing to clear my thoughts, I broached the subject with friends.

I have been in a situation in which I consented but the acts that followed my consent felt like rape. It was rough. We were not communicating; he was off to the races, and I was overwhelmed and scared. I was shocked by the abrupt change in the behavior of a man that I thought I knew. Up until this then, he was friendly and easygoing. Suddenly, I was being aggressively mauled. It seemed he was angry. During the conversation with friends after detailing the incident, a friend stated," Yeah - that ain't rape to me unless you asked him to stop."  And part of me agrees. Additionally, our friendly debate determined that I was responsible for indicating that I was no longer a willing participant. As a mature woman, I am aware of my obligation to keep myself safe.

In hindsight, I knew then. But, just as quickly as my partner's demeanor changed, my instincts told me that to deny him would be dangerous. Because I no longer felt familiar with the man inside me it was easier and safer to allow it to continue.

My vagina had tears both inside and out inflicted intentionally with his fingernails and carelessly from his penis. I am certain a medical examination would have stated that I had trauma indicative of a sexual assault. But, I had said yes. And, because I never said "no: or "stop", this was not considered rape. And, I suppose, it should not be. But, while it was not rape, I wonder about the gray area of withdrawing consent after the fact.

In order for me to ask my partner to stop, I needed to feel safe. And I did not. I cannot say if the infliction of fear was intentional, excited him, or merely a byproduct of two people inexperienced with sex, boundaries, and communication. Undoubtedly, we did not have the subtle nuances of consent down. We had never discussed whether I enjoyed rough sex or fingers. We had not discussed any of it.

Adding insult to injury, I felt stupid for not knowing how to protect myself better. For trusting someone, I did not know well to be kind to my body. I was disappointed in myself for not ensuring my safety. While I was aware it was my responsibility to protect myself, I wonder if every woman does? Indeed, other women felt raped after they gave a lover consent and DID report it. And he was charged with rape. But if she never said "no" or "stop," was it rape?

After drafting this article, I listened to Malcolm Gladwell's new book Talking to Strangers on Audible. While listening to Chapter Eight: Case Study: The Fraternity Party, I heard what I thought was my unique perspective illustrated perfectly. In comparison, some of the situations he discussed may have included alcohol. The crossed wires of communication stuck out the most. One man felt that the interaction he had was consensual and enjoyable for him and the young woman. So much so that he invited her for fish and chips the next day. How does this happen?

How can there be a situation in which communication is so poor that it ends in a terrible experience for one party? Could it be that, on one hand, some young bull needed more experience in pleasing women? And on the other hand, a young woman needed to learn how to speak up for herself? Or vice versa?

Have you ever had a sexual experience go wrong? How did you learn to interpret your partner's needs? How did you learn to choose safe partners?  Is it your partner's responsibility to stop sex if they hurt you and you don't tell them? Is becoming aggressive after consent is given a form of rape?

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