The Shame that Doesn’t Belong to Me


He was my boyfriend. I was 17. I lied to my parents about having a sleepover at my friend's house so I could instead stay out all night with him and friends. We rented a room at a local motel so we could have a place to hang out and drink and have fun. I remember drinking some kind of hard alcohol straight up, poured about a third of the way up a red Solo cup. My boyfriend encouraged me to drink it. I looked up and stared at a spot on the ceiling as I choked it down, feeling a little muscle twitch under my left eye. It was nasty, but I tried to just chug the stuff without tasting it as best I could.


The next thing I remember, I felt really drunk. The room was spinning. I felt unsteady on my feet. I was slurring. And then my boyfriend wanted to have sex. I don't think any other people were in the room at the time, but I'm not entirely sure. I don't remember consenting ... not like I had the ability in that state anyway. What I do remember is him undressing me, him on top of me, him flipping me over and moving my limp body around, him essentially masturbating with my body, and me feeling more like a rag doll than a human being.


After that night, I felt disappointed and hurt. But I didn't completely blame him. I mean, I chose to drink. I chose to let myself get that drunk. He was my boyfriend and he claimed he loved me. We'd had sex before. He was a guy, so of course he'd want to have sex. I didn't say no (I don't think I did, but I'm not sure). I didn't know that that was rape. I blamed myself and made excuses for him.




He was my coworker. I was 19. He was cute and cocky, and I had a little crush on him. But he never paid much attention to me. It was his last day of work, and a group of us went out to party and say goodbye. The more I drank, the more interest he showed. Several of us ended up going back to another coworker's apartment. We started making out in a bedroom. I was pretty wasted. He kept pushing, but I resisted. I just wanted to make out, nothing more. I didn't believe in casual sex. I wanted to be in love first. That wasn't what he wanted. I remember us getting kicked out of the bedroom. We ended up on the living room floor, still making out. He kept trying for more. I must've continued resisting because I remember him repeatedly telling me, "Relax. Relax." Clearly I wasn't. I remember him putting on a condom and having sex with me as he continued telling me to "relax."


He promised to call the next day. Of course he didn't. I felt used. I tried to tell myself that it wasn't a big deal, that lots of people have one-night stands. Who could blame him? I was a willing participant in making out, even if I wasn't enthusiastic about having sex. I mean, I chose to drink that night, and I chose to make out with him. Maybe I led him on. Once again, I blamed myself and made excuses for him.




Yesterday, I heard a woman talk about being grateful that nothing bad ever happened to her when she was drinking in her younger years, and how she felt lucky considering the "situations she put herself in."


I used to agree with that idea. I no longer do. I now recognize that I have been sexually assaulted on more than those two occasions while I happened to be intoxicated. I spent years minimizing what happened -- other women had it much worse, I didn't scream or fight so it must not have been that bad, it was more subtle than a blatantly violent act, etc. Instead, I blamed myself for putting myself in those situations and I internalized that shame.


But that stops now.


I will no longer take on shame that does not belong to me. The shame belongs to the men who CHOSE to take advantage of me in my weakened state, who PREYED upon that weakness, who felt ENTITLED to do what they wanted with MY body, who treated me as an OBJECT for their enjoyment. I will no longer blame myself (or other women) for "putting themselves in situations." I will no longer excuse bad male behavior as "boys will be boys." Men need to be held accountable for assaulting women no matter how much we've been drinking, no matter what we're wearing, no matter what situations "we put ourselves in."


I don't give a shit if a woman is naked and blacked-out drunk. NO ONE has the right to sexually assault her. And I'm fucking sick of the onus being on women to take all sorts of precautions to somehow "avoid" being assaulted instead of putting that responsibility where it belongs -- on men who feel so fucking entitled to take what they want.


I will no longer blame the victim, including myself. I will no longer take on the shame that belongs to someone else.

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