I am handing the reins over today to a writer who wishes to remain anonymous for reasons that you’ll understand. In the wake of the Steubenville verdict, a lot has been said about rape culture in the US. In this post, you’ll find an extremely candid discussion of how rape is not isolated to one particular demographic of society. Even the most “upstanding” men can be rapists. – Emily
I want to share a story with you. I’m going to do so anonymously, because the story involves details that can not be made known in our circle and can not be attached to mine or my husband’s name. But the story has to be told.
My husband used to have a best friend. They were frat brothers, but beyond that, they were very, very close…like real brothers. Somehow they survived undergrad, grad school, career changes, financial struggles, being roommates, multiple heartaches, and several moves…all with their friendship intact.
Over time my husband’s former BFF watched my husband marry, start a family, and progress in his career – all the while envious of his success. To our knowledge all he’d ever wanted was a family of his own.
My husband and his former friend both work for the government, they’re both Southern Gentlemen, and by society’s standards, they’re both “catches”. So when my husband’s friend bought his first house with four bedrooms and no children to fill it, our hearts hurt for him. We looked at him and we really hoped that one day he’d find a wonderful woman to love and share a life and family with.
But a few years ago, after the demise of one of his relationships, our eyes were opened to who this man really was…and how alive and well rape culture IS.
My husband and his friend shared drinks and video games the weekend proceeding his recent breakup. And after the drinks had softened their brains just a bit, the video game controllers were set down, and the walls were lowered, and thus began the end of their friendship.
His former friend began sharing with him the events of the night of he and his ex’s breakup. My husband listened with a compassionate and open ear, ready to take his BFF’s side. He told him, “She was insecure.”, “She had Daddy issues.”, “We fought all the time.”, “She never trusted me.” He went on and on and on like this.
But as the alcohol took a firmer hold, he spilled details that have haunted my husband since.
On the night of their breakup, they were taking part in some heavy petting in her car. They’d just seen a movie and had dinner. And they couldn’t wait to make it back to his house. They’d entered into a physical relationship very early, but to our knowledge, they seemed to really enjoy each other’s company, beyond the physical attraction.
As they petted, and rocked the vehicle, just moments before intercourse, she whispered, “No. Stop.” My husband’s former BFF was taken aback by her request. They’d gone “all the way” so many times before, so he assumed it was because they were in a car. But, she corrected him. She told him she felt like this was “all” they did. She felt like their relationship was only a physical one. And she wanted to know that she was more to him than just her body.
The words that came from his lips next were what killed their friendship. With pleading eyes, he looked into my husband’s, and he said, “I mean…it was right there. I was already throbbing. I was ready to go, I had the condom on, and then she just f*ing stopped it. You can’t just stop something like that. That sh*t’s unforgivable.”
My husband’s mouth dropped open. My husband – father to a daughter, older brother to a younger sister, son to a mother, my lover and best friend – his mouth dropped open and he sat speechless. He swallowed hard and asked him what he did next.
And his friend admitted to him…
…he forced himself upon her. He made every excuse in the world for it. He didn’t say “rape” because he didn’t see it as rape. He saw it as an injustice that she denied him and his right. He said she protested at first, but she just needed to be warmed up. He made gross and disgusting observations about her body language that “assured” him she really DID want it, even though she said “No.”
After he was finished, she screamed at him, and left him in the parking lot (they’d taken her car to the movies). And that was the end of their relationship. And somehow…this was all her fault.
My husband excused himself to the bathroom, gathered his composure, and left his former friend’s house, citing he needed to get home immediately. He came home, fell into my arms, and he wept at the monster this man was. He wept that he’d known him for over ten years and never known he was capable of such behavior. In the weeks following my husband confronted him about it and thus ended their friendship. We don’t know what happened to this young woman. But, we do know charges were obviously never brought against him. For to this day he’s single, working his fantastic government job, living in his beautiful suburban house, driving his brand new car, and all the mothers want him to marry their daughter…
and he’s a rapist.
Rape culture isn’t JUST about the act itself. It starts with someone believing that they are owed the sexuality of another. Somewhere down the line somebody taught my husband’s former BFF that it was okay to see women as a vagina to be conquered. Someone, or maybe lots of someones, taught him that he is owed sex from another, simply because he was born with a penis. The phrase “blue balls” is thrown around as a legitimate medical condition, guilting women into taking part in sexual activities they may not really want to take part in. And if they don’t submit, they’re titled a “cock-tease” and, ironically, a “whore” for not putting out.
Rape culture is born when the fathers of sons don’t teach their sons that sex is NOT their birthright. It’s perpetuated by television shows with male casts that redeem sleezy sex fiends, but condemn the women they seduce. (Barney from How I Met Your Mother, for example). Rape culture is sewn into the hearts of young men who ogle at young women freely, citing their wardrobe as the reason for it, and they wouldn’t dress that way if they didn’t “want it”.
Rape culture isn’t JUST about the act itself. It’s about a society that continues to encourage a bullying approach towards sexuality. My husband’s former BFF wasn’t born a rapist. Being born a man didn’t make him one. But, he became one. And it didn’t have to be that way. But it will be that way. It will be that way for other young men, who become grown men, because too few are stepping up and saying, “ENOUGH.”
I have a daughter. At night my husband tucks her into bed, and we have to accept the possibility that she could begin dating a man like his former BFF and this could happen to her as well. And there’s nothing we can do about it. Because not all rapists hide in back alleys, and drive creepy, old minivans. Plenty of them are your next door neighbor, and the cute guy in the cubicle next to you.
Today’s rapist is just your Average Joe. And THAT’S the reason why rape culture is alive and well.
This is a true story, and one my husband and I will carry with us for many years. We’ll hear it every time our daughter goes on a date. We’ll remember it every time she tells us she’s met someone wonderful. We’ll try to trust him, but we won’t. Because we trusted someone once…and we were wrong to.
Thank you for sharing this story and for putting words to the crippling anxieties I have about my own daughter sometimes. She’s only 17 month old, but someday she will be grown and dating, and I can’t always be there to protect her. It’s scary. And it’s scary that people like that exist in the world. I so feel for your husband for the friendship and trust that he lost to that man.
It was devastating for him, but what is most devastating is knowing this probably wasn’t the first time, on account of how nonchalant he was about the whole ordeal. And we have felt so helpless over it.
Thank you for sharing this story. Your husband is a strong person for ending that relationship. So often we hear this horrible kind of story (I have my own, unfortunately) but never hear it from a man’s point of view. I know we have just as many compassionate men like your husband in this world- but too many like the former-BFF and they rise the to the surface like scum on the pond.
I think that’s why I reached out to Emily and asked her to consider sharing our story. So few times we hear the man’s side of things. Whether they be victims of sexual assault themselves, or bystanders to the rape of another, we don’t always get to see how men feel about it. The trend is to demonize all men, but I wanted the point to be made that his former BFF wasn’t born a rapist, nor more than my husband was born NOT to be a rapist: our society made this. And it has a responsibility now to FIX this.
I never have, and never will understand how people can rationalize and condone this type of behavior. There is never a legitimate reason for rape. EVER. If someone says no, that means no. It doesn’t matter who is wearing what or how someone is behaving. Their state of sobriety doesn’t matter either.
Rape is wrong no matter how you try to justify it. I’m going to stop now before I start ranting on cussing on Emily’s blog…
Ranting and venting is sometimes necessary to work out the hurt and sorrow. I’m so grateful Emily allowed me this post to work out this story. It’s one we’ve never shared. So, rant away. Some things must be said.
Wow! I have a lot to say but, I can’t let my gut reaction take over the keyboard.
What I can say is that I have forever embedded “NO MEANS NO” in my kids’ brains! With a million examples of life that happen to pop up here and there. It’s important for everyone to understand it in both directions – “NO MEANS NO!”
It is. But, we live in a world where we expect to always get what we want, all the time. We can recite “NO MEANS NO!” till the day is done, but until we live in a culture that understands the difference between want and need, I fear we won’t see the end of this trend. However, parents like you and I who are raising our children to know the difference ARE making an impact. I have to believe that.
Thank you for posting this piece from your guest blogger. I’m glad that we have a community where this can be shared without loss of anonymity. Yes, we do have a culture where rape is the accepted “norm.” And honestly, I think most women have suffered rape in some form. It is simply not acceptable in any way, shape or form.
I’m so grateful to Emily for allowing me this anonymity to share this story.
Emily, I thank your guest blogger for sharing her story. It makes me wonder just how many people have this type of experience that we don’t hear about. We hear about the convicted rapists. What about the ones who live next door?
Tragically, many of us have this story. Even I have my own. More often than not, our stories are swept under the rug, pushed into corners, and all but forgotten for the sake of just surviving another day. And our offenders? They go on. They get to recover. We don’t. There’s so much wrong with that.
Incredible and chilling tale. It’s important that these stories are shared. Conversations need to be started early with boys, and they need to be repeated at developmentally appropriate levels as the boys get older. And although mothers should do their part, fathers really have to speak up as well. The same-sex parent is the most critical role model. Only when men stand up and speak out about things like this will real change come.
You’re absolutely right about fathers doing their job to instill the value of life (ALL LIFE) in their sons. I’m proud to be married to a man who would do that if we had a son. This culture CAN be changed. But, ALL parents have to start stepping up and accepting their responsibility to “teach their children well”.
It seems strange (and irreconcilable) to me that pop culture and language haven’t changed with this, and that the public perceptions you describe are still so common.
I know. I can’t quite wrap my brain around it. And yet, here we are.
Wow I’m glad this was shared with us. I hate the idea that rapists can only go to jail for a year while internet down loaders can go for up to 15 years. It’s so twisted.
I watched the movie This Boy’s Life last night with my husband and when Robert De Niro’s character came on the screen my husband said, “He’s so nice!” and he was…until he let his true colors show. The movie reminded me that a lot of people don’t realize that you can be raped by your own husband. So crazy.
The idea of rape makes me sick to my stomach. No means no. Not now means no. I don’t know means no.
It still baffles me that we knew him for over ten years and never really KNEW him. We’ve had to go back and second guess everything he’s ever told us about his failed relationships, his friendships, his life decisions. Everything. In some ways, we feel like the friendship was a lie. On more than one occasion he was made aware of my own story of sexual assault. Knowing he perpetrated another female, after he knew what happened to me…and I welcomed him into my home…I fed him my dinner…I tried to introduce him to my single lady friends…it makes me so sick to my stomach.
I am particularly glad that this man was confronted. That sounds like the last thing your husband did as his friend- to confront him. He needs to hear that this behavior is unacceptable. And that it’s unacceptable to everyone – not just to the female objects he dates and can explain away as sluts or crazy bitches.
Thanks for sharing the story.
Having grown up with five brothers and being the mom to a son, I firmly believe it comes down to respect. It is a total cop-out when men say, “I couldn’t stop”. They can and of course, they should. Nothing could ever excuse that. It’s sad that men feel they are “owed” something. Tragic that women are still blamed in some cases for being raped.
My thoughts and sentiments exactly. Thank you.
If only there were more men in the world like you that do agree, Eric.
My husband and I have gone back and forth exchanging our dismay over this case. He wants us to sit down with our girls and explain to them that the only way they can protect themselves is to be aware, vigilant, careful. The thought of this appalls me. The fact that we live in a society where women are viewed as objects. That they have to prevent themselves from becoming prey. We are taught to hold onto our drinks at a bar, to not make eye contact with strangers, be careful of what we wear, to not put ourselves in a situation. That the young man who picks them up for a date may not take no for an answer. That we live in a society where if you pass out at a friends party you might get raped. A logic that confounds me. And I am sadden by the fact that no matter how much it appalls me I will have to have the conversation with them. Recently I took the train home late. I did not want to make my husband drag babies out to pick me up. So I ran home. I ran as fast as I could because I was a woman alone at night. I was taught to be afraid.
Ugh. For me this is an unrelenting issue – will it ever stop? Will our society ever figure out a way to change this? I hold the courts accountable. If we had much stricter laws and they were actually enforced and citizens understood them, we might see a drop in frequency. In a case like this, though, it’s hard to prove, he said, she said, and all your left with is the psychological damage. Great post. I wish the message would infiltrate and saturate our culture.
I am so glad you could post this anonymously because it needs to be told, but truthfully I wish we lived in a world where it was as simple as putting this out there and letting this man be scorned for what he did. Your husband is a decent man for confronting him. I saw a facebook meme the other day that rang true to me: we shouldn’t be teaching our girls how not to get raped, we should be teaching our sons not to rape.
You are so right that many believe that they are entitled to sex as if the woman is nothing more than a walking vagina, as if her thoughts on the idea are irrelevant. It’s heartening to see a man recognize this as well. Thanks for writing this.
Great post. And such an important thing to keep in our minds as we see society moving forward in so many other ways. It seems impossible that attitudes like this still exist.
Just the fact that these people get away is truly hateful. Most of the time, women are placed in a difficult position to put it out in the open because they have already been humiliated enough. If only it’s easy to bring justice or stop crimes like this. But they’re the most difficult to do because it happens in the shadows and the victims don’t even find the voice to vindicate themselves because of the shame. I could just imagine how torn you and your husband must be to know of this heinous offense and yet be seemingly incapable to right the wrongs. All we could really do now is to try and prevent things like this from happening again. Thank you for sharing this story.
Deeply moving post… chills. Terrific writing, but the story is truly amazing. Kudos to your husband on so many counts, and impossible not to feel sad, knowing how often this kind of thing happens… and is not written about. Thanks for sharing. (Emily and Anonymous)
Really frightening story, thanks for sharing. I have so much to teach my daughter… One other comment — the writer wasn’t “wrong” to trust; the former friend was wrong in violating that trust.
This brings some particularly ugly and personal feelings to the surface of my mind, but I’m not going to share them.
I will, however, say this was one of the most powerful pieces of writing I’ve read on WordPress.
Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for this. It’s a message that needed to be heard. Sadly, I believe it’s something that happens all the time and goes unreported often. Gave me chills.
Reading your friend’s post is very timely. It helped me with my doubts. Thank you for sharing.