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Lessons I’m Learning Late in Life

I’m a middle aged woman, divorced. I have been dating since my divorce, and have found myself “graped” 3 times within the last year.

I was raised with the ideas that you can’t be in any way sexual around men (dress, makeup, eye contact, language, whatever) because they are basically unable to control their urges. But as an older woman, I realize that this is bullshit, and if a man can sit in a deer stand for 12 hours, or march in a Marine parade, or do any of the million other astounding things I see men do every day, he can sure as hell not rape a woman.

I’ve gone to empowerment workshops designed to help me re-program my beliefs about consent and relationships, and setting boundaries. For the most part, I feel my boundary setting and keeping is strong.

But after reading some graphic accounts from rape survivors of experiences of men going from nice guy to monster in less than 60 seconds, I have realized that I have been very lucky over the years in my dealings with men. And as I have increased dealings with men in my dating life, I begin to wonder when my luck is going to run out.

So, even though I am extremely selective about who I am willing to meet, and I listen to my intuition if it balks even a little, I still have found myself alone with men that I didn’t know so well. And when you have been married for as long as I was, and your spouse does a full-on Jekkyl and Hyde right before your eyes, you begin to wonder how long you have to know someone before you know them WELL ENOUGH. Or, if you can EVER know them WELL ENOUGH.

So, here I am, on a third, first, second date..with someone I really like. Someone I MIGHT even want to have sex with..but maybe not just YET. Maybe next week. Or next month. Maybe not at all. But we are alone, and I know that he’s absolutely wrapped up in his own hopes and expectations for where this is going to go. MAYBE, if I tell him I want to wait, he’ll be exactly who I need him to be, and back off, and so, “Oh, of course. Not till you’re ready.” And not be angry or try to manipulate or coerce me. Maybe.

But maybe not. Maybe he’ll be that guy that I read about, who flipped his date over and held the back of her neck down and …if I’m lucky, I’ll still be alive when he’s done.

I like to think he’s not that guy. But I’m not 100% sure.

So, I’ve had sex 3 times this year, with three different men, in which I came away from it wondering if it was rape, and analyzing it to see what my take-away lesson is.

All three were kind, sweet, sensitive men. The kind I date. Two of them, I’m fairly certain now, would have been completely fine with me asking to wait. IF I had not been to scared to ask. The third guy..I’m not really sure. I placed my hands over my zipper as he was trying to undo it to signal for him to stop. He ignored my signal. So, now, I’m more fearful, and I don’t like being fearful. Fuck fearfulness. Diligence, yes. Fear isn’t my thing anymore.

I’m tired of bearing the full weight of others’ actions. We need to teach our kids..our BOYS, especially…not to rape. To ask and obtain for a verbal yes. The way we do that is if they fuck up, we show them that it’s a really big fucking deal, and not give them 6 months jail time with 3 off for “good behavior.” Rape is not good behavior.

— Survivor, age 45

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