Lie 2: Rape is “non-consensual” Sex: It’s Not Sex at All

yes-means-yeswhen you think about the word “rape” what do you think about? do you think about power and control? do you think about weakness? do you see women in short skirts; high heals stumbling down a dark, abandoned road? for some, these are just some of the thoughts that go through their head when thinking about the word “rape”. but underneath all those thoughts is one thought that is always present, and that is, sex.

how can we not, right? i mean, it basically is sex, right?

we’ve heard it said over and over that rape is about power & control and not sex. but we’ve never heard it put blatantly that “rape is not sex”. it’s so subtle that we don’t see a point in mentioning it. but there are several reasons why it’s important to make a distinction between rape and sex.

sex requires mutual consent whereas rape doesn’t care about consent

growing up, i didn’t learn much about sex other than to wear a condom or abstain so i didn’t get pregnant or contract an std. i learned the biological and the mechanics of sex in school. at home, i had the, “respect yourself” discussion with my father on a few occasions as well as the, “boys will say and do anything to get in your pants” talk. but still, I didn’t hear anything about consent until after I had already had sex.

after experiencing rape in my early adulthood, i made the decision to wait until i got married, purely from a false sense of security rather than a spiritual conviction. through my therapy sessions i soon learned that it was actually an important step of taking back what my perpetrators had taken away from me, my right to consent or not.

because i knew i was waiting, i really put off learning what it meant to consent, and what sex really means, telling myself i would figure it out when that special man came into my life. in walks the man of my dreams, and bam! it’s time to figure out how to say yes!

as a new follower of Christ, i looked to God to define sex and sexuality for me. but i was left saddened, angry, and had more questions than i did when i started. the bible is full of threats about sexual immorality but doesn’t really define it other than laying with someone of the same sex or an animal. almost every book alluded to rape, yet spoke about it as if it was as common as breathing.

women were bought, sold, captured, beaten, stoned and forgotten. none of this made me want to say yes! but our pre-marital counseling and certain others in our lives said i didn’t have a choice, because “the husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to the husband. for the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, the wife does.” 1 cor 1-40.

i married the man of my dreams, my best friend under a cloud of fear of not being able to be the wife he deserved. but i quickly learned that my God wasn’t a God of rules, as much as He is a God of promises. God created sex and sexuality to help His children experience a level of intimacy that only our souls can feel. this required faith and trust in Him. so, while i may not be the wife that pastors like mark driscoll want me to be, and am the wife that God called me to be.

what i have learned is that sex isn’t about one person performing specific acts, but both persons coming into agreement, communicating about their deepest desires, laying everything down on the table including their insecurities and fears to experience oneness with one another.

rape required me to do and say nothing of my own will. though my body and my mind screamed, “no! stop!” the person on top of me didn’t care, because the person on top of me wasn’t trying to have sex, he was trying to control me, to own me, and destroy me.

sex ends when one or both participates want it to whereas rape ends only when the perpetrator wants it to.

i think this distinction is rather obvious, but it is seems to be forgotten about when talking about sex. when i was a teen, i remember hearing that once men get to a certain point there is no turning back, and you’d better make sure you finish what you start. talk about pressure. what’s worse is this was told to me by adults!

can you imagine growing up with this philosophy? the fear of saying, “wait, please stop,” when you’re already feeling uncomfortable in the situation is both not needed and untruthful. it is this message that perpetuates our rape culture. are we seriously raising our girls up to believe they can’t change their mind? furthermore, that saying yes mean yes to everything, all the time?

God created sex to be conversation with one another, where we can be honest with how we are feeling throughout the whole process. and like any conversation, there is a beginning and an end. it was never intended to be an activity that only one participant gets to fully enjoy, but society has created that ideology.

i went to a conference with my husband before we got married, and the amount of books they sold to women about this topic was absurd. each of the books promised to give you the recipe to have sex even with your ‘headache’. thanks but no thanks.

i feel fairly confidant God doesn’t require i have sex when i am not feeling safe, or connected with my spouse.

in short, the idea that men can’t help themselves is disrespectful towards the male sex. men are not strong physically but weak sexually. rather than stressing girls to make a decision and stick with it, let’s teach our men to stay in control of themselves and assure they are checking in with their partner.

let’s teach that sex is a conversation between two people, not a silent activity.

sex magnifies and strengthens your sexuality, whereas rape suppresses and can kill the victim/survivors sexuality.

many people think that the sex we have defines our sexuality, but it’s really the other way around. sex is our sexualities play ground for exploration. our sexuality will define our sex, because without our sexuality we wouldn’t be able to even begin the conversation God designed for us.

during rape, our body responds like it was made to, and this can cause so much shame for victim/survivors. our body can’t tell the difference between positive and negative touch, it only responds to touch. it is only after we add in our desires, our sexuality, that sex becomes more than a biological action to procreate.

its important to make this distinction because many victims/survivors walk away feeling ashamed about way their body reacted during the sexual assault. individuals who experience arousal during sexual assaults believe they did so because they enjoyed it, rather than because that’s what our bodies were made to do. i will address arousal during sexual violence in a later post.

many people believe that being sexually assaulted damages you and some how makes you unworthy of love and marriage. in countries all over the world, we still see women banished from their communities because they were raped. growing up having experienced sexual abuse, i worried this would be my fate too, who would want me with all this baggage?

but the Lord has a heart for redeeming His children. i didn’t cause what happened to me, and He made it clear to me that my sexuality was not and would not be defined by what someone else decided to do to me. its not an easy road, that’s for sure, but it isn’t a closed road either.

victims/survivors of sexual violence can overcome what was done to them. they needn’t reclaim their sexuality, as their sexuality was never harmed. they only need to learn how to how to engage in a conversation.

sex is a mutual expression of love and connection whereas rape is a single expression of power, control & anger

having experienced sexual abuse, my concept of sex was incredibly distorted. sex to me was unsafe, uncomfortable, painful, manipulated and always surrounded with fear and confusion. i knew nothing of the truth when it came to sex, i only knew what it meant to be raped and because i had no other definitions to work with, that became my definitionof sex.

sex can be a very uncomfortable topic because of the way our society looks at it. even if you haven’t experienced rape, we still shush people when sex is brought up. it’s the thing we all do but don’t talk about. and we don’t need to talk about what our sex lives are like, but if we don’t have a firm understanding of what sex is verses what rape is, then we risk telling victims/survivors to “shut up” when talking about their experiences.

when i experienced a flashback for the first time, i told my friend and she said, “yea? so, you’re not there so just get over it.” or something to that effect. it left a profound mark on me. this was the first time i was recalling my past abuse and the first person i told was so uncomfortable that i need to get over it? of course looking back i now understand that my friend didn’t have the knowledge about the impact sexual abuse can have on a person. it wasn’t something we learned in school.

but for months, for years i actually felt bad about that moment and i questioned my strength. sex moved from being everything it was in the abuse to something even more confusing and frightening because now i couldn’t tell the difference between reality and flashbacks. even worse was i didn’t have a single person to talk to about it.

as i have healed, i have begun to recognize the depth to which sexual violence as touched me and attempted to define sex for me as something God never intended it to be. i am not meant to just, “push through” or “get over” things in the way my friend suggested.

without a mutual understanding and mutual consent and readiness to experience sex, it cannot happen. sex is meant to be enjoyed, not tolerated. furthermore, sex should never be forced, or coerced.

i once heard someone describe sex with a prostitute as, “men masturbating inside women.” while it’s graphic, it certainly does sum this last distinction up very well. rape does not provide a connection between two people, only sex can do that.

a quick blurb on rape play or rape fantasies

in “my secret garden” nancy friday enlists the help of her readers by having them submit their very personal sexual fantasies. this book was the first of it’s kind, and provided a wonderful outlet for women to finally have a voice when it came to claiming their sexuality. but many were shocked and appalled by the rape fantasies.

even the women themselves were worried about their fantasies, wondering if that meant they wanted to be raped. yet when you look at the core of what rape entails, aside from the fear and psychological trauma, there is the very real feeling of total and utter loss of control. when done properly, meaning when two consenting adults emphatically say yes! to one person remaining submissive while being dominated by the other, you don’t have rape play as some in the bsdm community say, you just have consensual rough sex.

i think it’s incredibly important to remove the words rape play or simulated rape scenes from our vocabulary when showing and talking about consensual submission. one cannot consent to being raped, because the entire definition of rape relies on the premise that one is not consenting.

so whether you’re a victim of sexual violence or not, learn how to emphatically say yes! learn the distinctions between sex and rape, and practice those throughout your life.

do you know how to emphatically say yes! ? if not, let’s start the conversation on what it means.

 

see you next week!

2 Comments

  1. Powerful, very powerful. I find myself teary eyed and realizing how many others are out there that have my similar feelings. I myself had an opposite reaction and did not abstain but found that sexuality was the only way that I had learned how to express myself. We all react differently and travel down multiple different paths. In the end if you allow it I think God shows you your way but I do still think it’s a struggle to see how the Bible lays out sexual deviance as homosexuity and doesn’t approach the topic of rape as something to be condemned. I’m a Christian and I’m searching for answers. I trust in God but I’m still not understanding where my place is with him. I don’t feel that I would be wanted to speak out about my experiences in the church setting and this confuses me because I think that our friends in our church should be our biggest supporters and be able to help us through our emotions. I’m curious to know what kind of support you received through your fellow church members? I often find myself lost without people to talk to. When I try and talk to my husband about it he becomes sad and feels that he is going to somehow hurt me more or cause flashbacks and then I feel like he is a million miles away. I would love to read more from you and where you have found support. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • rosie, thank you for your comment and questions. i’m glad that my post has helped you feel not so isolated anymore.

      i have been doing a lot of studying and looking into the whole rape vs sexual immorality topic for a bit now. slowly the Lord is revealing more and more to me, which i plan to write a post about soon. please stay tuned. in the mean time, i highly recommend checking out “a year of biblical womanhood” by rachel held evans, or “jesus feminist” by sarah bessey. two great books meant to empower the daughters of Christ.

      i didn’t grow up in the church. i had gone a couple times with some friends of mine and i always felt like i didn’t belong. then, i ran into an old childhood friend of mine who introduced me to a close-knit fellowship group who met once a week at their house. it was here that i gave my life to Christ, because for the first time my questions were respected and honored. i saw a different side of God, one that was more relational rather than instructional.

      if you’re looking for spiritual based healing and friendships, see if there is a “becomers” group located near you. it’s based off of “helping victims of sexual abuse” by lynn heitritter and janette vought. this was the first group i ever attended after years of recommendations from therapists, and i’m so glad i went. for the first time i was in the company of other women, experiencing something similar to me and it was spiritually focused. i got to ask the tough questions i had towards God in a way that provided healing, because at least one of us in the room probably had the answer to that question. i actually made some long lasting friendships with the women in this group. i would also recommend the book for both you and your husband to read.

      my husband and i also sought out a couples therapist who specializes in sexual abuse and couples counseling. the impact of sexual violence cascades into so many different people. its important that our spouses/partners get help as well, because so often they will focus on being the “care-giver” that they don’t get their needs met. this can lead to people walking on egg shells around each other because they don’t want to trigger their spouse. this is honorable, but it’s important to remind our spouse that we understand they have needs and desires of their own, and sometimes we can’t met those needs because we are so focused on healing.

      another option for support would be finding your local sexual violence center. usually these centers will provide counseling or crisis management for free or fairly inexpensive for both primary and secondary (your spouse) victim/survivors.

      i don’t want to overwhelm you so i’ll stop there! i hope at least one of these options works out for you. let me know if you have any further questions, i’m happy to help.

      -jess

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