An Evolution of Consent – Rape Victim and Predator

broken bottles cannot be mended

At the end of the day, theUMB is a blog about sex. Sex is a beautiful thing in the ideal context. Even Christians who disapprove of premarital sex can’t is a fun thing in many other contexts. Yet when it’s part of abuse, it devolves into a grotesque parody of intimacy that harms the very souls of those involved. Today, I’m going to talk about that side of things. And it’s not going to be fun.

Corruption of a God Thing

Within a context of marriage, I’m fairly permissive about sexual behavior. As we’ve stated before, so long as it doesn’t introduce adultery or fornication, the marriage bed can remain undefiled with almost anything. I’ve expressed limits to that, though.

For example, I’ve delved into how rape roleplay gets into a highly questionable area that might not (though it also might) be sinful, but it should at least mark the need for introspection.

I’ve mentioned, in admittedly a cursory context, how I’ve experienced rape at the hands of a family member. That’s in addition to a number of repeated sexual assaults and molestations I experienced throughout childhood. The ripples of helplessness and fear those experiences introduced into my soul required years to wrestle through.

And this is the true corruption of rape and sexual assault. The beautiful, godly creation of sexuality is perverted by force wherein one person is unable or unwilling to consent.

Headlines and Allegations

Consent is a word that has made many headlines recently. From a chronic creep in the now publicly notorious Harvey Weinstein to a handsy former president, sexual harassment and assault are part of a public discourse to a degree I haven’t seen in my lifetime. Even this weekend, allegations came against Kevin Spacey, a favorite actor in the Osgood home.

This appears to be a watershed moment wherein the confidence and bravery of the few will buoy many other victims, and we may see this continue long into the future. I feel we might begin to glimpse how common of an issue this is.

I’m also concerned, as I’m sure some readers might be as well, about false allegations.

In my teenage years, I was falsely accused of (though thankfully not charged with) rape by two different ex-girlfriends. These accusations found their way to my ears years later.

I tried to reconcile with one of them and had no luck. She seemed to genuinely remember me raping her, despite my proof to the contrary (she had written me a note thanking me for not betraying her trust on the night in question). Memory, I’ve since learned, is a funny thing, and not nearly as immutable as we might believe. Studies in this area can make one question reality itself. Don’t Google “false memories” unless you want your mind blown.

As a result, I’m sensitive to the plight of the falsely accused.

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
– Exodus 20:16 (NIV)

But most of my concern about false allegations is for the sake of true victims. Every allegation that is proven false only serves to discredit those that are proven true. And, in all honesty, even those that aren’t publically proven false serve to discredit allegations in general to those who are nonetheless falsely accused. To my shame, most of my adult life has found initial suspicion of the alleged victims. My default stance has been one of suspicion rather than sympathy.

Many men, I feel, fall into that trap.

Getting Personal

That stance was challenged, though, when Clara approached me several months ago with a statement that shook me to my core:

You raped me.

It was stated more sensitively than that, but that’s what it amounted to.

Racking my brain, I tried to recall any sexual encounter, from high school into adulthood and marriage, that resembled a rape scene: she’s fighting violently, and I use my overwhelming physical prowess to dismiss her attacks while I force myself upon her. Nothing came to mind other than the laughable image of my scrawny high school self trying to physically overpower anyone. She could have kicked my butt easily in high school.

Nonetheless, unlike with quiet claims whispering through the grapevine from long-forgotten ex-girlfriends, this was a woman I loved and trusted. This was a rational, careful person who would idly make such a claim.

I set aside my suspicion.

I listened.

And I dismissed her claim. Initially.

Then I reflected, considering what I’ve learned in recent years, and I realized it to be true.

Years before we were wed, parked on the side of some random backroad, I stole my future wife’s virginity. She said no. She resisted. She did not consent. And I raped her.

Rationalizing Rape

Seems pretty clear-cut. So how could I have initially dismissed her claim?

It was a cultural artifact, of sorts.

I can’t speak to every teenage boy’s experience, but I suspect many will relate to what I’m about to describe.

When I was a teenager, having sex was elevated to one of the highest goals in life. With the sort of myopic perspective that only teenagers (and toddlers, I suppose) can achieve, I pursued sex as the ultimate objective of any relationship.

It wasn’t because it was particularly good. I certainly wasn’t all that great. I’d hardly call my teenage self capable, much less great. The action might have taken a few seconds. Perhaps a minute or two if I was lucky. Sure it felt good, but it was rarely more than a clumsy fumble of novice novelty.

It wasn’t because it satisfied my desire for intimacy. When the deed was done, I felt more self-loathing than pleasure. I found myself regretting the unbridled pursuit of such an anticlimactic climax yet I shamefully found myself wanting more. I felt toward my mate much like an addict feels toward their drug of choice: impersonal, transactional, objectifying.

If I could describe it as anything, it was a pursuit of manhood. Lacking any clear direction toward what healthy masculinity was (and lacking an awareness that there was a distinction between healthy and unhealthy masculinity), I sought my manhood between the legs of a woman. My maleness was in question if I could not — let’s call it what it was — conquer women. Each time I successfully navigated the currents of consent, I felt I was that much more of a man.

And within the culture of my teenage years, consent was “permission” in a very limited sense.

A girl would say no. That’s what they did. As a guy, it was my job to convince or coerce them to say yes. Or, barring that, at least convince them to stop saying no. If she “allowed” it to happen, it was consent. Yet, if I had ever stopped to try to define such an “allowance”, it would have likely amounted to something like:

If she doesn’t persist in opposition, it’s consent.

Yet the nature of “opposition” seemed to be lost to me. So, in my mind, Clara’s tearful pleading of “no” was not accompanied by her absolute physical rejection of me. She resisted, but only to a point. So it was a question of stubbornness, to my shortsighted mind. I just had to persist longer than she did.

This was all part of the dance. She had her steps, and I had mine. I had a whole culture of equally fumbling, functionally fatherless boys telling me this was how it worked.

So years later, when Clara recounted the story to me, I instinctively put on my oblivious teenage boy hat and said “no, that’s not rape. That’s just boys being boys.”

Then I actually thought about it. And I shuddered to see how wrong I was.

It took me far too many years to recognize and repent of my choices.

As both a rape victim and sexual predator, this has been particularly difficult to write. And I still have more to say on the subject of consent. But I need to clear my head before I move on. So next week, we’ll dig deeper.

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About Phil (251 Articles)
Philip Osgood is a Christian husband, father, and writer who considers himself a passable video game player, fiction reader, camping and hiking enthusiast, welder, computer guy, and fitness aficionado, though real experts in each field might just die of laughter to hear him claim it. He has been called snarky, cynical, intelligent, eccentric, creative, logical, and Steve for some reason. Phil and his beautiful wife Clara live in Texas with their children in a house with a dog but no white picket fence. He does own a titanium spork from ThinkGeek, though, so he must be alright.