05 January 2020

0 definitions

K is the fifth person i've told this story from college, from beginning to end.

she's over for pizza and we're doing the 36 questions to fall in love thing. two questions ago, we did "what's your most terrible memory?" and i lied, told her it was something else, something i don't even remember less than 12 hours later. and then we get talking about something else and i tell her this story.

that's rape, she says.

matter of factly. without pause.

she sees me flinch.

i've been thinking lately about how much of this hinges on definitions. it's something that connects to my writing and teaching-- where i'm constantly reminding us all that we have to clearly define our terms. but what if our definitions have been wrong?

what is the definition of rape? the definition of sex?

historically, particularly as an adolescent, my working definition of rape was informed by the tori amos song "me and a gun," which meant rape was an act of penetrative sexual violence by a stranger who has a gun.

similarly, my adolescent definition of sex was informed by american purity culture and the sex life of william jefferson clinton. so, sex was simultaneously an unforgivable sin and limited to penis-in-vagina penetration-- oral didn't count.

i was not held at gunpoint and i did not have PIV sex. therefore, whatever happened to me was not rape.

for 19 years, this has been the story i've told myself. something i didn't want happened in college, but it wasn't that bad so it wasn't that.

that's rape, K says and i flinch because, for the first time, i feel that word is actually probably true.

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