Not all rapes are rape.

My legs shoved against his hips to stop him from raping me.

(That wasn’t rape.)

He shoved his penis in my mouth and hissed “Watch the teeth.” Then he told his friends I’d given him head before I knew what “giving head” was.

(This guy didn’t rape me, either.)

He used so much force I threw up then he kept pushing his penis into the back of my throat despite the puke.

(What this guy did also wasn’t rape.)

As reasonable people know, forcing sexual intercourse in any form without consent is a violent act called rape. That’s a simple fact. Rape, however, isn’t a simple subject.

In some important ways, there is such a thing as a rape that isn’t a rape. “Nearly rape” can be a violation comparable to actual rape. There are variations and shades and complications involved in many sexual violations that might cause reasonable people to disagree about whether or not something is rape.

When Marty tried to force his penis into my vagina (my feet on his hips, shoving him off) we were drunk and naked in bed together. My audible “no” and “no I won’t have sex with you” and “don’t do that” were very clear. My physically fighting him off of me was also very clear. But, his penis never did enter my vagina. Afterwards we sat near each other at the pool where the party was going on as if nothing had happened. A therapist once told me I should have expected him to think intercourse was okay—even though I said no—since I was naked and drunk in bed with him. My own thoughts told me I was a slut for being there with him.

I call these experience I’ve described, “nearly rapes.” The shame, self-blame, self-doubt, and trauma that followed felt like they had been “really rape.”

There’s no such thing as a rape that isn’t “legitimate.” It’s nauseating to even take a moment’s time to utter the phrase. But not all rapes are rapes. Some are only nearly.

17 thoughts on “Not all rapes are rape.

  1. I am sorry for your horrible experience, from the asshole who doesn’t deserve to be named to your “therapist.”
    If I’m reading the above correctly, you experienced rape. Rape includes any unwanted sexual intrusion, whether in your vagina or your mouth.

    • Thank you. I think what I meant to convey was that even when something is clearly assault, clearly a violation, it’s still complicated for those of us who survive it. But, yes, the therapist was an asshole (a woman) idiot.

  2. This is very nicely put. I was “nearly raped” my first week of college. At a frat party, drunk, ended up in bed, guy was all but ready to do the deed and I said no… and he stopped. And I rode my bike home alone realizing I had dodged a huge bullet. Mercifully, I got a good one that night. Many many women aren’t so lucky.

    • Uh, in what way, shape or form is that “nearly raped”? You said no, and the guy stopped. Is he guilty of “nearly committing rape” for just wanting to have sex? Help me to understand this.

      • I guess this is like saying that you worked a shift as a clerk in a convenience store, and you were “nearly shot to death”, because a customer came in and bought something. Because, you know, even though he paid for his stuff and left, he could have shot you instead. Is that how this thinking goes?

          • Yes, my questions are sincere. I am not hostile, but I am indignant, imagining myself in the place of the guy in the story. Let’s look at it from his point of view: He meets a girl at a party, finds her attractive, they are enjoying each other’s company, she goes back with him to his room, she climbs into bed with him, he gets the urge to have sex with her. He suggests/initiates sex, she says no, she leaves. No big deal. The next day or week, he hears that she is telling her friends that he “nearly raped” her. WTF? In what way is that fair?

            I am struggling to understand the mindset behind this, the level of suspicion and hostility towards men that it reveals. This is like the above-mentioned convenience-store clerk who is so suspicious of every customer, that every time one walks into the store, the clerk points a loaded shotgun at them, because they are all criminals anyway. Speaking as one of the customers, I have a problem with this clerk and his or her attitude.

            • What I describe above is different than what you are describing. That is, I didn’t describe situations where there was an interest in sex expressed (or even started), the woman says “no,” and the issue is closed. What I described above are situations where most reasonable people would recognize the woman was saying “no,” (vomiting, for example) and would stop.

              I appreciate your frustration, frankly, because sexuality isn’t an easy area to negotiate. However, I’m surprised you read the above and perceived the examples as simple “sex? yes/no.” interchanges.

              As for your metaphor about the convenience store, I think it would be more accurate if you imagined the customer was carrying a loaded gun with the safety off as they made their purchase. Not that they were literally threatening to shoot, but the gun weapon was there.

              (It sounds like you won’t like that addition because, I suspect, you don’t consider yourself as someone carrying a loaded and unlocked gun up to the counter.)

              Here’s another metaphor that has been floating around the ‘net lately that I think relates here: You see a bowl of M&Ms. Only ten of them are filled with an undoubtedly deadly poison. Do you still grab a handful and eat them with glee?

              • I have been reading about this some more, and I think I understand this better. It seems to me, though, that the solution to this problem might not be compatible with modern feminism, however.

                Those who study these things believe that humans became monogamous hundreds of thousands of years ago, and that this was a strategy adopted by human females in response to we as a species becoming more violent and more intelligent (and therefore more successful at using violence). Using the convenience store analogy, it is as if the clerk had stationed an armed security guard with them in the store.

                The female not only desires to retain the ability to choose whom she becomes pregnant by, but she also has to protect the offspring she already has. For example, a male lion, upon taking over a pride, will kill any cubs that are born in the first 3 months afterwards (the gestation period of a lion). This ensures that all the cubs that do survive will carry his genes, and it brings the females back into estrus faster, since they are not nursing anymore. Chimpanzees can be as violent as humans, but the chimpanzee females have adopted a different strategy in that case, which is to mate with every male in the group. This way, the male is never sure which child might be his, and so they leave the infants alone. The exception is if a male has never seen a particular female before; in that case, the male chimpanzee is likely to kill any infant that the female is holding. Similarly, if you look at cases of homicides of children today, there is a disturbing pattern where the killer turns out to be the new boyfriend of a single mother.

                Which brings us back to humans. There is the old-fashioned idea that women need men to provide for them. This may have been true for a few hundred years of our civilization, but it certainly wasn’t true for the vast majority of human history or prehistory. In primitive societies there is a division of labor along gender lines, with men doing the hunting and women doing the gathering, but that just has to do more with the limited range of a woman who is nursing a child rather than the ability of men and women to produce food. Women would provide the vast majority of the calories in any event. The men would occasionally (every six weeks or so) show up with an animal carcass, but the women would starve if they had to wait for that. It is true that animal meat provides a much higher quality protein source than the insects that the women might be gathering, but the men aren’t strictly needed for survival.

                The most common answer I have really found to the question, “Why does a woman need a man?”, is that when a woman is lying in bed and she hears something go bump in the night, she feels much better if she also hears her husband snoring next to her. To feel safe–that is a big part of why women like to have men around. They like having their own personal security guard with them.

                But, as I said, this answer is incompatible with modern feminism. It is true that humans have become continuously and increasingly socialized to be less violent from prehistory into modern times. For example, it is estimated that, in primitive societies without any social structure, about 25% of the members of the society will end up dying violently at the hands of other member of that society. Even in historical times, the world was a much more violent place than today. In the Middle Ages, for instance, the murder rates for European cities were much, much higher than today.

                So human males are capable of learning to become less violent in general. But that has probably been because non-violent mediation of disputes has proved to have so many benefits for the survival and reproduction of these men. Can they also learn to become less violent in relation to women? That is less clear. Looking at it from an evolutionary standpoint, it would have to provide similar kinds of benefits for the men to adopt new behaviors other than the ones that they have evolved to exhibit.

                • Thinking about this some more, this might explain a lot of the rage that one sees on display in the so-called “manosphere” these days. Carried to its logical conclusion, feminism might be foisting an entirely new model of human mating behavior on us, one that is different from the one that humans have practiced since the dawn of time. In so doing it might in the process be depriving most men of the reproductive opportunities that would have otherwise been available to them.

                  Faced with the constant threat of sexual coercion, to avoid being impregnated by an inferior male, under the old regime a woman would pair-bond with a “pretty good” male, or at least the best one she could find. In exchange for his protection, she would give him exclusive sexual access. She would still be free to improve the genetic quality of her offspring by having the occasional illicit affair with a celebrity/bad-boy type, but this would be the exception. Monogamy (or serial monogamy) would prevail..

                  Under the new regime, where the threat of sexual coercion has been removed through societal sanction, wouldn’t it make more sense for women to ignore the lower-quality males, and focus only on mating with the higher-quality ones? This would portend a wholesale shift in the human mating model, towards one that gorillas and sea lions practice. Most of the mating opportunities are given to a select few males (the so-called “alpha” males), and the rest of the males (the “betas”) are left without any descendants.

                  I think that may be happening already in the so-called “hook-up” culture on university campuses these days, where supposedly 80% of the sex is being had by the top 20% of men.

                  Note that under the old system, the beta males were able to find mates, but not every beta male had to be violent. Only a few had to be. Like the analogy about the M&M’s, if only a few beta males were violent, that would be enough to cause almost all of the women to seek out their own personal protectors.

                  But under the new system, the beta males would be feeling ignored, passed over, and left out. At least under the old system they were able to stay in the gene pool.

                • Everything you’ve said is based on a foundation with which I disagree.

                  It wasn’t until agriculture (around 10-8,000 BC) that monogamy became the standard; property became important and knowing who fathered children became more important.

                  If you want to look at the animal world to discuss “natural” human sexuality, we would need to discuss the Bonobos and in some respects we could consider chimpanzees.

                  Frankly, relying on “Darwin-esque” descriptions to explain human behavior is particularly specious. It can be used, like most statistics, to bolster an argument in any direction.

                  I appreciate thoughtful people, though, so thank you for replying.

  3. Of the fair number of women who’ve come to trust me with their intimate stories, well over half experienced nonconsensual sex when they were young, many of them brutally. Bad enough knowing this to be more prevalent than a naive male could imagine, much worse to know so many men still regard “real” rape as so narrowly defined. What deeds, long since shrugged off, do you suppose people like Aikin can remember from their college days etc?

    • One of these guys friend-requested me on Facebook. So, I’m very sure there are men out there who have no idea the kind of harm they have done. (I didn’t accept the friend request, as you might imagine.)

      I hadn’t realized until writing this how less upsetting the “fought him off” experience was compared with the much murkier situations (and there were more than those three situations in my experience of “nearly rape”). I think it’s something like the impact of physical abuse being almost “easier” to survive than emotional abuse because at least you can *see* the violence. It’s risky saying that, of course, since there’s no “good” kind of abuse.

      Anyway, thanks, Don.

  4. One day, as my maybe children are growing older, I feel the need to write a book, so I don’t miss anything… and I want it to be called, “The things I wish you didn’t need to know” or “The stories I wish you didn’t need to hear.” My life has been somewhat of a gauntlet and I’m one of the lucky ones to make it out reasonably headstrong and resilient. One day I may ask your permission to use your blog entry. Thank you for sharing. Safe Happy Journeys.

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