TW – sexual assault

You drank coffee with a man. You agreed with some of what he said as he talked about business, politics and life. He was motivational in a way — he’s accomplished. He talked a lot, and you were drowning in so many of his words that you didn’t realize you’d hardly said a thing.

So why did you go home with him?

At the time, this conversation seemed decent. Vaguely interesting, just like any first date conversation. Now you can only focus on all the bad things, all the little red flags peaking out and revealing themselves to you.

Now, you hear it again and again: why did you go home with him?

You were able to talk about social issues with him, which you like. But then you talked about how men call you innocent. He said it was a compliment. He called you innocent too. “I just gave you a compliment,” he said. “Say thank you.” You were startled by how aggressive it sounded — another red flag — but he quickly laughed and said it was clearly the wrong time to make a joke. Oh, a joke. OK.

Why did you go home with him?

He liked talking to you, supposedly, and he wanted to continue doing so but the cafe had closed. Conveniently, he couldn’t find another bar or cafe to go to, so he asked if you’d mind going to his apartment. You saw his tinder bio blinking in front of you: no hookups. You told him you wouldn’t be having sex.

So why did you go home with him?

You weren’t opposed to making out, but that night you learned something new: how it feels to be nothing more than a body. Lying on the bed, you said “no, no, no, no” and he enjoyed himself. You said, “didn’t you hear me say no?” No answer. In and out, in and out, in and out, flesh smacking against yours as you waited for him to realize he was doing something wrong. “Did you ignore me?” you said.

“Yeah,” he said. “Because I wanted to.” Eventually he stopped. You put your clothes on. He didn’t want you to leave. You ignored most of what he said to you. He told you he didn’t know that you really meant no. He thought you were being shy. “What would you expect someone to say if they really meant no, then?” you asked. He didn’t answer. Exactly.

You walked out, ordered a taxi, and got in. “He’s not coming?” the driver asked, referring to the man who had raped you then followed you out the door. “No,” you said firmly, for maybe the fifth time that night.

Why did you go home with him?

You had the supposedly ridiculous expectation that a man would respect you. Being robbed of that power hurts, but it didn’t hit you right away. You have a way of keeping your cool, and you did that on your way home. The next day, you met your friend for coffee before work. She told you you were raped. She supported you 100 percent. You cried a little. All you heard was why did you go home with him?

You met up with friends after work. You listened to the vague sounds of their conversations. You heard one of your friends say that if you go home with someone, it’s pretty clear that you’re going to have sex. She didn’t say this to you specifically, but the words sank into you. Why did you go home with him?

You texted a friend about the situation, and he told you it might be difficult to take any sort of legal action because you did, after all, go home with him. Why did you go home with him?

You continued to make excuses for him and blame yourself. You thought you were naive, in a way, for expecting him to listen to you when you said no. When you really thought about it, though, you realized that regardless of the situation — in a park, in a cinema, in your bed — you wouldn’t continue to have sex with someone who said no. Most people don’t do that. Rapists do that. Most people listen. You deserve to be listened to, like anyone else.

You still can see the look in his eyes when he went inside you. You still hear the sound of his skin smacking against yours. But you also hear yourself saying no, no, no, no — an important detail.

Why did you go home with him?

You still don’t know the answer to this question, but a couple months have gone by and you’ve finally realized the answer doesn’t matter. You are not the problem. The fact that you went home with him isn’t the problem. Maybe you could’ve decided to have sex with him that night. Maybe you considered it a possibility at first, but then changed your mind. Maybe you just wanted to chill and talk. It doesn’t matter. People can change their minds. People can enter a space, and it doesn’t mean they’re consenting to sex. People can revoke consent. Overwhelmed by emotions, you had forgotten everything you had once believed to be true: no means no means no.

You went home with him because you can make decisions for yourself. You said no, and expected him to listen to you, because you should be able to make decisions for yourself. You drank coffee with him. You listened to him talk. You walked through the door of his apartment. You did not consent to sex.

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