When I was young my mother had “the talk” with me. I had my first boyfriend and even though I was too young to be having sex I was having sex anyway. She sat me down and talked to me about her first sexual encounter.
“I was raped.”
She told me that it was by someone she knew, someone she had trusted, someone her family knew well but she wouldn’t tell me who. She told me that even though she was raped very young she didn’t lose her virginity until years later to the man who would she would marry at 15 to get out of her house.
Rape was all around me but I didn’t know it yet. My mom having this talk with me was introducing me slowly to what it would mean to be a woman. All of the abuse and sexual violence that I was going to be threatened with, already threatened with although maybe only somewhat aware of this threat at this time.
It was in my family even though we never talked about it. It was with my boyfriend even though I wouldn’t call it that for years. Most women I know have been assaulted and the word rape is not always used to describe that assault.
Such a word that is meant to mean something so specific that it actually becomes almost useless. A man rapes a woman when he forces himself inside of her against her will. What about all of the other times that men forced themselves on me but did not penetrate me, is that rape? Yes, well if he forced you to have sex against your will then yes but only if you said no. What about the times I said yes but he took it too far, is that rape? Well now we are getting a bit blurry but if you said no at some point and he kept going then it is rape. What about when I never said no but I didn’t want it, is that rape?
My mother did not want it. I don’t know if she said the words or not but I know she did not want it. This man asserted his masculinity on her the only way masculinity can be asserted – violently.
My mother passed down her rape story to me, her rape trauma, but she also helped me with other aspects of my sexuality as well. She helped me understand my body and whenever I had questions she was always open to hearing them. She taught me that sex isn’t one way for everyone, that I should enjoy sex and that I should figure out what works for me in order to enjoy it. The talk isn’t just about rape but also about breaking from the ways that we are told to think about our bodies in relation to men. I appreciate her for that more than anything. And one day I ever have a daughter, I will have the talk with her too.