You were never a rapist. You were our friend – and friends aren’t rapists. It didn’t matter that we girls all knew that being alone with you meant constant sexual bombardment. It didn’t matter that we knew you didn’t take “no” for an answer easily, if at all. We all joked how “no is only a soft yes” with you. You were likable; funny, talkative, trendy, and fairly cute. You weren’t supposed to be a threat. Rapists were back-alley men or strangers in a bar. Rapists were violent and caught you unaware and unsuspecting from some remote location. Rapists weren’t supposed to be the guy who played video games with you and made bad jokes and had an elastic charming smile. Rapists weren’t supposed to be the kid you grew up with on bikes, went to movies with, and stumbled through adolescence with. Then again, friends and partners weren’t supposed to keep touching and prodding and grabbing and cajoling after being told “no” again and again. Even friends with benefits should have had boundaries which were respected. There were no boundaries which you held in regard.
All these years have past, and I find it distasteful how long I held on to the idea that we were friends. We were, at one point, friends. Yet I believe that time was so long ago as to be almost obsolete. Since the time I wore my first non-training bra the tone of our friendship changed. Our first sexual encounter I said no so many times it became scary, so I said yes instead. “Yes” made me feel like I had a say in the matter. “Yes” made me feel like we were friends, and I was safe, and that I was actually wanted and not merely used. After the first time we had sex, I didn’t speak to you for several weeks; I remember you saying I made you feel like you were a rapist. Rapist was such a strong word, stronger than “no” – so I decided we were still friends. Looking back, I’m not so sure you weren’t exactly right.
Years passed and the same pattern developed. Anytime I, or any female member of our group, was alone with you the sexual pressure was on. I made excuses to not be alone with you. I rearranged plans to make sure you left before me, or if you were at my home – I tried to make sure someone took you with them so you didn’t stay behind. Yet you did, with regularity, find a way and our strange sexual relationship continued on. We were friends, and being your friend meant accepting that I either had to use physical violence to keep you away – or accept that I would be pressured into sex. Ten years this went on, until I made the gulf between us wider and tried to see you less & less. You still tried after that, but the distance was power. On the occasions I did see you, I was able to contain your advances to inappropriate groping we could laugh of (sort of) as I told you more & more angrily to stop.
Ten years past that, now I see you on Facebook with parts of our old group having a good time. They’re supporting you and accepting you as the guy who’s just “kind of a perv”. I know better now, and it’s a sad truth I think we all mostly knew. Sometimes we girls are friends with a rapist – and we make every kind of excuse for them. Because if we don’t excuse them, then we have to see ourselves for what we are, too.