No Means No
When reading this post, please remember that it was written in 2011, when I was quite trapped in a Betrayal Bond. Although I detail much of the occurrences that night, I don’t go into a blow-by-blow recount of what I now realize surpassed even the extended sexual assault of the evening and crossed into oral and digital rape. Anyone, especially in the Steampunk community, who wishes to know more can contact me directly. I’ve always been very open about this and I will continue to be. Please refer to the very bottom of this post for an ***AUTHOR’S NOTE 15 May 2013*** — for further insight and understanding. When I wrote this post in 2011, I was very much still influenced by rape culture rhetoric, not to mention in love.
Original Post from 14 Sept 2011:
No means no.
If a man coerces you into a sexual situation after you’ve said no, multiple times especially, then you seriously need to look at this man. He does not respect your boundaries, and he does not respect you.
No means no.
I hope that my experience typed out for all to see helps other women (and men) avoid the chaos and seemingly unending pain that follows when one gets involved with someone like that. The crippling pain that’s the result of not following your own moral code and not respecting yourself.
I have learned, again and again, that I am really far too nice for my own good. I’m a loving and nurturing person by nature, and I have a self-destructive tendency to put other people’s feelings before my own. I’m really working on that, because it causes a world of pain.
This past May, I met a man who seemed to be the sweetest, gentlest man I had ever met, save my amazing husband, and I was deeply drawn to him. Brilliant performer and over all nice guy, so it seemed. He had me quite fooled for three months, actually. Still, the initial attraction was obviously mutual, and I had already cleared it with my husband, if things were to go that way. And went that way they did.
As I got to know him better, and really was more and more into him as the night progressed, the conversation eventually revealed that, although there was no ring on his finger, he was for all intents and purposes, married with a daughter. Crestfallen, I backed off. But still, I knew he would make a good friend and colleague, for we had an undeniable connection. We continued to chat, excusing ourselves from our friends periodically to share a cigarette in the rain and talk more privately.
He told me how unhappy he was in his relationship. He said he didn’t know if they were going to make it. He told me it was an instance of two people who shouldn’t have had a kid, but they did. And now he felt stuck between what he needed to do and what he wanted to do.
Then he propositioned me. And although every cell in my body wanted to go back to his hotel with him, I knew I couldn’t because of his situation. It’s one of the rules. And I told him so. He said, “Really? We’re going to come this close and not do this?” I just told him I couldn’t. I told him I would rather have him as a friend and a colleague than a one night stand.
He asked why we couldn’t have both.
Now say it with me…
BECAUSE YOU FUCKING CAN’T
Still. So sweet and charming. He said how much he fancied me, and I sure did fancy him. He said he wanted to kiss me, and there on that romantic rainy night in NYC, I let him. What could one kiss hurt?
I can answer that question now. Nearly four months later, and I see that one moment of weakness caused all the pain that was to follow.
I should’ve said, “Absolutely not. This is not going to happen. I’m going back to NJ to my hotel now, and we’ll stay in touch as colleagues.” But I didn’t say that. I kissed him, and it was amazing. Seriously. Changed my life.
I continued to protest his continuing seduction throughout the evening, telling him that he would be asking me to go against who I am to do this, but I kept letting him seduce me just the same. I told him I didn’t do casual. He said, “Just let me love you for tonight,” and, of course, the famous, “We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. We can stop anytime.”
I was nauseous, actually. All night. He stopped for a slice of pizza, but I couldn’t eat. I stopped next door and got some antacids to calm my nervous stomach.
Finally, as the evening drew to a close, we shared a cab. I told the cabbie to take me to the train station where I could catch the last train back to NJ, but he said, “No. Take us here.” And told the cabbie the address of his hotel instead.
Even while in his tiny hotel room, I tried to leave. Twice. Knowing it was wrong. But he physically stopped me, both times. And the seduction continued. And I begrudgingly let it. Halfway through that night, he told me his partner was eight months pregnant with their second, and that he probably should’ve told me earlier.
I didn’t ask him, but I wish I had: If you shouldn’t have had the first kid, why are you having a second? After nearly four months I can answer that, too. Because he is incapable of dealing with conflict on any level. He pushes problems aside, thinking it’s easier just to ignore them. And that saddens me deeply.
He told me that after seven years he hadn’t strayed until just a few weeks ago at another convention. He told me he had never had a one night stand. That he was a long-term relationship kind of guy, and with tears in his eyes, he told me how he hasn’t felt loved in years. He told me how he was going to leave his GF after the baby was a year old. My deep ability to empathize felt a nurturing sort of love for him even then. I love so deeply, and I could help this sweet man feel loved.
I trusted him, a man who was cheating on his family, on his unborn baby, and I trusted him. Yes. Quite a character flaw in myself, to believe the best in people. I do understand that when basic biological needs aren’t being met, people make unfortunate decisions, but was it really an excuse?
After that night, not only physically intimate one but also deeply, emotionally intimate, something he obviously wasn’t used to, I expected that it would fade into a special friendship or close working relationship, as we do some of the same shows.
We stayed in contact after his return home, and we acknowledged how that night was magical and special…and then the emails started to get more and more romantic. Long, heartfelt emails expressing love and desire and longing. DMs after shows, lamenting our distance. And it continued.
And I fell in love. No, we fell in love.
I had even asked him early on if this needed to remain a fantasy between us, and he said no. He wanted a real relationship with me with all the ups and downs.
I planned a trip to England, not just to see him, but he was definitely the catalyst. Just one afternoon, just a few hours of conversation, was all I hoped for. The rest was to write a book.
Our love affair grew, and then, the day before I left for a seven week trip alone, he left me. Turns out his partner asked him if he was having an affair the night before, and it scared the shit out of him. I have no doubt he denied it, but it scared him enough to cut me loose.
Six week whirlwind, and it was over. Just like that. At the height of it all.
He said he was determined to make it work between us as friends. He said that we would ease each other through this transition. He said that we wouldn’t hide anything from each other and it would be okay. Just a shift in focus, no less meaningful, just not wrapped in lies.
That lasted for two days.
Upon my arrival in the UK, there were travel issues. Cut off from my networks and unable to call my husband in CA, I felt as if I hadn’t a friend in the world. My beloved was just a few miles away, but he refused to see me, even for a few minutes.
After a very stressful phone call with him, I realized that if I didn’t do something totally against my nature, I would lose him for good. I proposed we take a four week break in communication so he could get himself sorted. He was under so much stress with me, the pending arrival, his career, a suspicious GF, and his day job, that it was just too much. So a break we took. I spent the next four weeks holding onto a fading hope of reconciliation, hoping that he meant it when he said he was determined to make things work…Paris. Normandy. London. Weeks of tears and questions and the inability to do anything, write, read, or even watch movies. The only thing I could do was walk for hours or talk about this to anyone who would listen. Friends and strangers, alike. Trying to find a way to regain my equilibrium and loss of self-respect.
And at the end of those four weeks, he wrote. He was supposed to call. I would never have a real conversation with him again. He said that although I had been on his mind, we could only be friends. I sent him a message basically saying that when he was ready, no matter how much time he needed, I was here. I still believed in him. I did ask him one favor, and that way to not refer to our love affair casually or in passing. That was just too painful. If he wanted to talk about it seriously, I was happy to do that, but just not as an afterthought or an aside.
He threatened to cut off all communication with me if I couldn’t agree to only friends now and forever, so I told him that I didn’t expect anything romantic from him and wanted to be friends.
That next week was awesome. We exchanged emails almost every day, and although ignoring the huge elephant in the room, it seemed we were in the awkward early stages of a meaningful friendship. Although he did refer to our affair in passing in nearly every one, his emails were affectionate and loving in tone, but not overly so. Just from a person who seemed to genuinely care.
Not another email until the day I was returning to the states. The tone now cold, somehow. And there was one line referring to my trip that had me breathing fire.”I know it had a bit of a sad start, but you seemed to turn it into something unforgettable and wonderful.” Seems innocuous enough, I suppose. But I was shaking with anger. “It had a bit of a sad start” – completely removing himself of any responsibility.
All my hard work of trying to come from a place of love and understanding came crashing down. It was from this dark place that I wrote the guest post “Puck My Life.” I felt as if I had totally lost who I was. The loving, empathetic doormat who had gotten me in this situation to begin with was gone, and a rabid bitch stood in her place.
He had referred to our affair in passing again, making me feel even more insignificant than ever. I was furious. Finally, I guess, I was getting angry. After a very long flight home, jet lagged and exhausted, I sent him a very angry email basically telling him he hasn’t shown me or his family any respect whatsoever, that he needed to take responsibility for his actions.
He didn’t respond well to that email.
He said that we had best just leave it here. That he would never live up to my expectations and after I said all that he no longer wants to.Yep. My fault. My expectations are too high.
After a week of healing at Burning Man with my husband, I returned to my loving self and felt guilty about that email. So, against the advice of my husband and several friends, all who said I had nothing to apologize for and the guy deserved far worse after the way he had treated me (and his family), I apologized for the abuse. The email was loving and healing, and it reiterated what I had said in that voice message a month before, I wasn’t going anywhere.
I had no expectations. I told him that if he chose to be in my life again, in any capacity, he would be most welcome, but that I accepted it was over and was letting go.
I never expected to hear from him. After all, he had gotten his out.
But a little over a day later, I did! I was so happy! His email was short, but kind. He said how much he appreciated my lovely words and he would write again when he had time to sit down and do it properly. He signed it “lots of love.”
I was thrilled! I thought we could salvage a friendship and a working relationship after all! I didn’t know what he was going to say when he wrote in full, but I knew it wouldn’t be we shouldn’t talk anymore, because if he was going to say that, then why would he have written in the first place?
Lines of communication were open again, and as long as we were communicating, we could work out anything. His reply told me he really cared about me. Above all, it told me that the loving, gentle man I saw–when everyone else just saw a heartless bastard–was really who he was.
Honestly, I’m so fucking naive. It’s embarrassing.
A few days ago, the end of this three-plus-month saga, I got that “proper” email from him. The tone, once again, was cold. And he said that he was glad we were on good terms, but we shouldn’t be in contact anymore. I couldn’t believe it. I read the lines again to make sure I was reading them properly. I was. He said maybe we could meet for a drink next year sometime at an event and catch up, but that was that.
I DMd him asking if we could just have a real phone conversation, just 15 minutes. That he owed me that much. I knew so much of this was the misunderstanding of communicating on the internet, but he harshly said, “It’s not going to happen.”
Now. If I only could’ve said those five words four months ago.
The last thing he said to me was this: “That’s it from me. Take care of yourself.”
And I cried. Again. All day, really. But no more. Not one more tear over him.
I offered him love, and he spat it back in my face.
I offered him friendship, and spat it back in my face.
He gave up on me. He gave up on us. He gave up on love.
Loss of a lover and a friend. Loss of two doghters after 14+ years of companionship.
All in three months.
It’s been a rough summer.
Please know that I am deeply ashamed for my weakness in this situation, and although I was open and honest with my husband and my lover every step of the way, I allowed myself to be part of another deception. And for that woman who is still oblivious to who her husband really is, I’m so sorry that no one gave you a choice in this matter. You deserve far more respect than that.
I didn’t follow my own rules. I let a man coerce me into betraying my own moral code, and this is what I get. I didn’t have enough self-respect to stand my ground. I somehow kept thinking that if he would show one shred of integrity, it would somehow be okay. But none of this is okay. And now, comes the end of this long, rambling confessional. Letting it all out and letting it go once and for all.
It’s over. There’s nothing more to say.
Salting the fucking earth.
All this is because one person wouldn’t take no for an answer and the other was too weak to stand her ground. And this is the price. Months of crippling pain. Hope dashed again and again. Humiliated. Too high a price for a moment of weakness.
But there it is.
No. Means. No.
Respect yourself. Respect each other.
And don’t fucking give up on love. It’s too rare, too precious.
**Author’s Note – 14 Sept 2011** I almost didn’t post this. Although many of my blog posts are personal, this is far more detailed than most, far more revealing. I was afraid. But then I received an amazingly brave message from a friend and reader telling me about a time she was coerced, nearly raped, in her case. She was afraid that she would be raped if she didn’t give in, and I remember feeling that way many times throughout my twenties. She was responding to my post “When Does Silence Become Complicity?” And I knew, after reading her story, that I could not stay silent on this matter. This happens to far too many women.
No fucking means no. Seduction with consent is still seduction, still coercion. Still not okay.
As for now, I must heal and forgive myself. I hope my readers can forgive me, too — for going against my own advice. For this blog and my honest posts have brought me new friends and readers. It has brought to light many a wrongdoing. Couples have been brought closer together by taking my advice. I so hope that my grave mistake, for which I’ve paid too dearly, will not tarnish the information herein. Perhaps it will serve to show that the rules are in place for a reason, that honesty and integrity, even for a relationship that is ultimately not your responsibility, must be adhered to no matter how charming your potential lover might be.
There are real fucking consequences.
I look forward to your comments and to discuss this further. Peace.
****AUTHOR’S NOTE 15 MAY 2013****
I haven’t read this post in a long, long time. I wrote it nearly two years ago. This post and the subsequent discussion with a colleague lead me to the Yes Means Yes blog. It’s what started me on my journey of healing and rape culture education. I even wrote a post called “Yes Means Yes” in which I write about my beginnings of understanding to enthusiastic consent, but in this post, I clearly still do not understand as I say I didn’t refer to this instance as “sexual assault” because “I never felt in danger nor was I drugged.” Bottom line: I said no, he didn’t listen and did what he wanted to anyways, sometimes with the use of force. That’s non-consensual. That’s sexual assault. It doesn’t matter that I was into him. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t fight back “hard enough.” It doesn’t matter that we had a brief relationship afterwards. It doesn’t matter that I enjoyed much of it.
None of that matters. What matters is this: I said or indicated NO repeatedly for six-plus hours. He ignored every one and did what he wanted to anyway. Period.
I feel something between a deep sense of shame and a comical disbelief when I look at the language I used in the above post to describe this sexual assault. Phrases like “let him” and “seduction” along the multi-hour ordeal in which he ignored my every NO-STOP-DON’T and used force to get what he wanted. Granted, not the kind of overt, brutal force that comes to mind when one hears the word “rape” or “assault,” but force nonetheless. He not only didn’t wait for a yes, he continuously ignored no after no after no for a total of about six hours. Each time I tried to physically stop him from removing a piece of clothing or from doing a specific thing, of which I will not publicly go into details, he strong-armed me until I “let him.” I tried to physically leave the room twice, and he physically stopped me with his body blocking the door until he could manipulate me into staying longer.
I consented to kissing him that night, nothing more. Anything and everything else was the result of extended coercion and force. Technically what happened that night does cross the line into oral and digital rape. It wasn’t borderline sexual assault, as I refer to it in the “Yes Means Yes” post. It was indeed sexual assault, and even rape. At the time of this incident and the subsequent events, I was still so immersed in rape culture, I blamed myself for “my weakness.” I minimized and normalized my own assaults, just as this culture teaches every woman to do. Besides, I was still trapped in the Betrayal Bond with him when I wrote this post.
I’m far out of it now.
It took a third rape in as many years by a third man, ostracism from my community, a dark decent into complex PTSD, and extensive rape recovery therapy to accept these things. No woman wants to admit she was raped, especially by someone she likes or loves or respects. I was still of the “it couldn’t have been assault because he cares about me” instead of the “he couldn’t have cared about me because he assaulted me.”
I don’t care how talented or charming or “nice” or funny he is…he is still a rapist, too. Those things aren’t mutually exclusive. One can behave in a “nice” way. One can have great talent. One can, indeed, be charming. AND one can be a rapist.
- Solidarity Link: The Order of the White Feather
- Victim-Blaming and Slut-Shaming
- Yes Means Yes
- Emotional & Sexual Predators
— this post that called him by his stage name has been taken down as of September 2014 due to a “legal complaint,” likely by Paul, so I’ll write it here. The Steampunk Musician found on these pages is Professor Elemental. My experience. My story. My right.
I will never be silent again.