*Trigger warning for sexual assault*
I used to wear a purity ring.
I know it seems outdated and slightly misogynistic, and I know virginity is really just a social construct, but I was raised with certain values. And even after I grew up and explored my own beliefs, I still knew I wanted to wait until I was married to have sex. I had strong convictions about it, sex was a big deal to me, and it still is.
I got my purity ring from my mom. She picked it out just for me and it made me feel closer to her. Now, the ring sits in my jewelry box and I only wear it when I see my family. The morning after I lost my virginity, my ring was the first thing I thought of. Do I still wear it? I didn’t know the answer to that question, because there was an even bigger question I didn’t know the answer to: Did I give consent to have sex? Was I raped, or do I just not remember?
I know, I know, there are women all over the world who will hate me for writing this, but I really don’t know. It all seems so black and white until it happens to you. I was stupid drunk, hardly had control of my body, and said “No” at least three times. But I invited him over, I told him to sit next to me on my bed, and ripped his shirt off. He didn’t know I was a virgin, and I didn’t realize I wasn’t anymore until the pain started and I recognized I wasn’t strong enough to stop it. I didn’t fight that hard, I just gave up.
So, was I raped?
The truth is, I wanted to be with him. I craved his body against mine, I wanted someone to wake up next to. I wanted his fingers to explore me, and I wanted mine to explore him. I wanted it so badly. He spoke French and had an accent, he kissed my neck and whispered phrases in my ear, his warm breath tickling my skin, first with French, then English. I wanted him.
But when he said he didn’t have a condom, I realized how far in over my head I was. I thought I could distract him, but it was clear he only wanted one thing. I said “No” and then got on top, trying to sway his attention. But he rolled over, and ten seconds later I said “No, no,” and his answer was a kiss, starting on my lips, and then moving further down.
After, “No, no, come on, no,” the French response made a reappearance, and the battle waged on. He was strong, I wasn’t. I felt the pain, and, once I knew it was too late, just waited for it to be over.
He spooned me in his sleep, and didn’t budge when I got up to go to the bathroom and winced at the blood on the toilet paper. I crawled back in bed, his arms wrapped around me again and I tried to forget.
The next morning I only said “No,” once. I wasn’t a virgin anymore, so what was the point of fighting? I was tired, so tired. At least it was over faster this time.
So, I’ll ask the question again: Was I raped? I don’t know. I didn’t technically give consent, but I didn’t exactly try too hard to stop it either. There was a tiny part of me that wanted it, that relished the fact that he wanted me. But then, the entire next day I cried—when I had to buy the morning-after pill, and when I realized I didn’t even know his last name.
I used to wear a purity ring. I also used to be a virgin and never even considered the possibility that I might get raped. I knew if that time ever came, I would fight. I would kick and scream and get out. But I didn’t. I gave up. So, was I raped? Or was I just exhausted? Is it rape if I didn’t scream? Was it consent even though I said no? For some reason, the word “rape” makes me imagine fighting and yelling and tears. But that didn’t happen with me, and because it didn’t, I don’t know if it was. Was laying back and waiting for it to be over consent? If anyone else was telling me this, I’d clench my fists and yell out “No!” But it’s me, so I just don’t know.
I’ve only told a very few of my closest friends, and when I told them what happened, they simply widened their eyes, said, “Wow,” and moved on with the conversation, nodding their heads in a display of sorrow and feelings of distance. The “Rape” was never even on the table. It couldn’t have happened to me, they know me. To them, I couldn’t have been raped, I was just drunk. To them, it wasn’t rape, I let it happen. To them, it’s not rape, so how can it be rape to me?
I don’t know if I’ll ever say that word out loud either. It opens up doors I’m not sure I want opened. I become a victim, a number in a book of college sexual assault statistics. But am I a victim? His breath felt so good in my ear. I know I wasn’t just drunk, I know I said “No” numerous times. But right now, I can just close my eyes, take myself somewhere else. If I say I was raped, it’s real, inescapable. I don’t know if I even want to know if I was raped.
What I do know is that now, I’m always thirsty. No matter how many water bottles I drink, I still want more. Now, blank spaces in my day are my worst enemy—too much time to think. Now I see just how much that ring means to me, because not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. Now I try my hardest to avoid the attention of men, and to definitely not get drunk around them. Now, I still don’t know if I was raped or just made a very poor decision.
And I don’t think I’ll ever know the answer. But maybe one day it won’t matter anymore. Maybe, one day, all that will matter is that I’ll be with someone who loves me. Maybe, one day, I’ll forget about my purity ring. Maybe.