Why “they never said no” is not a defence (Trigger Warning: Rape)

I’m going to take a deep breath and elaborate on something I’ve alluded to in a previous post: the short-lived liaison with a dominant (whom I will name Decepticon) on my arrival back on the London kink scene. “Decepticon” and “D.” are not the same person.

I first encountered Decepticon on a vanilla dating site. I thought he was cute, so I messaged him. His proclivities were pretty obvious from his username, and since I was only really looking for something casual, this was fine by me. After a little back and forth, he convinced me to go to one of the larger London club nights, which he would also be attending.

Being a cautious sort, and suffering from chronic social anxiety, I decided to go with my dear friend A. Together we took in the atmosphere of the event, had a bit of a dance, checked out some of the equipment, and eventually I got the text saying Decepticon wanted to try and meet up. As event photographer, he was having a busy night, but he’d finally managed to find some time to try and get together.

I found him. He smiled, kissed me, and immediately stuck his fingers in my cunt. I’d been half-expecting this. I was a little surprised that there was no negotiation, or any conversation to speak of, before things started, but I felt OK at the time.

I felt less OK when the fingers started probing neighbouring orefices. I froze. A was poised to intervene, but I didn’t say anything. Decepticon had to leave moments later, camera in hand, and I was left with A to nervously sip my beer and figure out what had just happened.

That beer, I hasten to add, was the one and only alcoholic beverage I consumed that evening. Not so for Decepticon, who told me a few days later that he had been off his face and could barely remember any of our encounter.

We ran into each other again about 40 minutes later. I passed on a message from his play partner, who was waiting for him in another room. He beckoned me away to somewhere more secluded, where he pinned me to a wall and his hands started roaming again. So far, this was consensual – if I hadn’t been interested, I would have stayed in the other room with A.

Decepticon appears to have something of a breast torture kink. I have very sensitive breasts, but a generally very high pain tolerance. It was a while before I realised that I’d reached my limit (and that I was bleeding profusely), and used my safeword.

“What was that?” he said.
“My safeword,” I replied.
“Oh,” he said. And carried on.

This conversation is burned into my brain. I am fairly certain that I have reproduced it verbatim.

By this point, it was abundantly clear that my “no” wasn’t worth a damn. So I did what a lot of people do in this situation, and what I’ve been doing as a response to unwanted sexual contact since I was 15 years old: I dissociated. I left my body there to be handled like the meat puppet it was. It was like watching myself on a TV screen. What happened to me at that time, at his hands, stopped mattering because I wasn’t really there.

Eventually, his play partner caught up with him. He straightened himself up, gave me an apologetic nod, and went away after her. I shakily got myself together and went to find A, who gave me hugs and aftercare and let me use his first aid kit to patch myself up. I couldn’t wear a bra for several days afterwards, and some of the scars are still there.

So, to recap: a drunk man started a scene with me without prior negotiation, ignored my safeword, and left me to fend for myself when he was finished.

Dissociation doesn’t remove the pain or trauma from an encounter. It only delays it a while. In this case, the trauma was delayed for long enough for me to see Decepticon a couple more times. He apologised for leaving scars (though not for anything he’d actually done to put them there in the first place). We arranged to meet again and sleep together. He asked me to call him Master, though he’d done nothing to earn my submission or even to indicate that he particularly wanted it. Eventually, after mildly embarrassing myself for a while, I realised that he wasn’t interested in me. I also realised that what he had done that evening wasn’t OK, and that I deserved a hell of a lot better.

If I were to go out into the scene with this story and his real name, I would fully expect to be blamed, shamed and silenced in approximately that order. After all, what was I expecting from an encounter arranged on a dating site? Why didn’t I make a scene? Why didn’t I try harder?

I was expecting that, this being BDSM, he might have made some efforts at negotiation. I didn’t make a scene because I’ve been in that situation enough times to be convinced that it wouldn’t have made a difference if I had. I didn’t try harder because, when you’re bleeding and shaking and pinned against a wall by someone twice your size, and when something you were enjoying has just turned unpleasant, and your safeword has been acknowledged and roundly ignored, all you can really do is absent yourself.

And I’ve had a lot of fucking practice at absenting myself. My first boyfriend would wake me in the night and wouldn’t let me sleep because he wanted sex. So he got however many long, often uncomfortable hours it took for him to be satisfied. I was 17. I knew nothing about sex, or consent. I wanted to please him, and I wasn’t sure if it would matter whether I wanted sex or not. So he got sex, and I learned to dissociate.

And after a while, when it happens that often, dissociation practically becomes routine. When my third boyfriend wheedled and cajoled me into having sex with him because nothing else would convince him that I still loved him, I dissociated. When a partner in a group scene crossed a hard limit twice and neither he nor any of the three others present acted or even noticed, I dissociated. In some cases, I stopped even bothering to try and say no, because what was the point? Half the time I was only a vagina to these people anyway.

I’m not a unique or special case here, guys. I’m not writing this because I want your pity. I’m not writing it to get back at Decepticon, because I could just as easily post his full name and a link to his website here if I wanted to. I’m writing it because this pattern – unwanted sexual contact, ignored attempts at withdrawing consent, dissociation, lather, rinse, repeat – is all too fucking common. I’m writing it because you can’t just say that what you did to a person is OK because they didn’t say no while it was happening. They almost certainly did say no – if not in words, then with their eyes, their body language. You just weren’t fucking listening. You didn’t want to hear it.

Listen to your partner. Know them. Know what you’re doing. And, if you or your partner is not 100% OK with what is happening, then stop doing it. Take 5. If you’re not sure, ask, and listen. Sure, it’s disappointing not to have sex, or get a blowjob, or use that new toy you just bought, or whatever else. But it’s nothing compared to the the damage you can deal by crossing a line.

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