Posted by: Karen (Betty Bear) | March 23, 2013


This is a follow-up to my last post – here – and I don’t really know how to say what I want to so I’m just going to put it out there and see what happens.

In the comments to the post, Lora wrote that she wished that she had the kind of sex ed my daughter has when she (Lora) was in school and I replied, “Oh me too, me too. If I’d felt more empowered and better able to stand up for myself I could have avoided several unpleasant encounters.” And Julie chimed in with “like date rape.” Um, yeah. Like that.

The thing is, I have never really categorized my experiences as date rape to myself. It’s always a yeah, well, sorta, kinda, but not really. Even now, writing this I’m having trouble with it. In one instance, I was on a date in college with a graduate student, first date, and we ended up going back to his apartment and having unprotected sex. I didn’t really want to but I didn’t know how to express that and I, at the time especially, thought that if I couldn’t express the “no,” then it did mean yes. And, in particular, not saying no before we went to his apartment meant yes. If I ended up in someone’s apartment with them (or dorm room or whatever) I believed that I had then abdicated my right to say no, that my “yes” was implicit in my going to that private space with them. And the person I was angry with afterwards was me. It never, ever occurred to me to be angry with the guy involved. He was just doing what guys do – try to get you to have sex with them.

Even now, thirty years later and much better educated about sex, rape, empowerment, etc. I’m still having trouble with moving my anger from me to him. I realize that we were both acting from what our then current culture had taught us and maybe I shouldn’t really expect anything different from who we were then. I don’t know. There is a part of me that does think, wrong though it may be, that when you willingly get yourself into a situation where something happens that you don’t want, you are still in some way culpable. Your (my) willingness to put myself in a dangerous situation means that while I’m not responsible for the bad thing that befell me, I do bear some responsibility for putting myself in danger.

I find myself looking at my daughter and wanting it to be different for her. Most importantly, I want her to feel empowered. I want her to feel that she and only she is in charge of her body. I want her to feel comfortable expressing her sexuality. I want her to have a good and satisfying sex life. (I can hear the thud of my mother’s body hitting the floor as she faints from here.) I want her to be able to say no, even if her clothes are half off and it had been a yes up until then.

I also want her not to put herself in the dangerous places. I want her to be safe. I don’t ever, ever want her to be hurt. I know I can’t protect her from life and I don’t want to make her afraid. I just want her to be aware.

What do you all think about this? Please be kind and considerate in your commenting.



  1. I tended to think the way you did, back then. Once I got into college, if I went into a date’s room, I often felt like I was kind of saying yes. Surprisingly, I was better able to say know when I was drunk than when I was sober. I was also desperate for connection and affection and I think a lot of females in our general age group often traded sex for affection and a perception of caring.

    I want what you want for you daughter. I want it for my niece. I want it for all girls, and boys, to be aware of dangerous situations and to not get themselves into them so that they won’t blame themselves what the abuse that others commit.

    • Maybe being drunk helped remove the inhibitions that didn’t allow you to speak your mind? And you are so right that girls and women did then and still do now trade sex for that perception of being cared for.

  2. Good post, Karen. I think what Skye says, about being desperate for connection and affection, was true and, alas, continues to be true for way too many women — of all ages. I think it’s important for women to realize that they needn’t be afraid to be on their own.

    • Being alone does seem to be very difficult for many. I would far, far rather be alone than be with many men, but then I like being alone. I don’t think that is true for many.

  3. You did this so well. Beautifully written. I appreciate very VERY much.

    And yes, we DO want that for your daughter, and for mine and for, as Skye said, all daughters and sons. We do NOT want them to go through what we did.

    As for me, I’ve never actually talked much about it. Ever. With anyone. I typed and erased my comment more five times last night. Then, I just left it there. And looked at it. The memories came back and I didn’t cry as I had in past rememberings of them (yes, more than once).

    Although, like you, I never actually labeled it that before this point. I know the law, I am older now, the technical details are that I did not give my consent. On the other hand, there were situations when I also just didn’t stop it from happening.

    I was between 13 and 17 years old.
    And I thought it meant that the boys liked me. They did not. Later, they liked me even less.

    Thank you, for the follow-up and for the space to put this.


    • My heart is breaking for that girl that was you. It wasn’t her fault, there was nothing lacking in her. I think that perhaps you, but definitely me, need to forgive that young girl that was me or you for not stopping the situation. We didn’t know. We made mistakes. But IT WASN’T OUR FAULT! Think of what you would say to Emma or Hanna if she told you this story and tell it to that past self and let yourself be healed.

      • what Karen said, and hugs to you, Julie.

  4. This is a very brave post, Karen, do you know that? Thank you for writing it. And thank you for providing a space for Julie and other people who probably don’t feel like saying anything to be able to re-frame what happened to them. That whole uptight-ness around sex at the same time that the so-called sexual revolution was going on– how did any of us survive the 70s? It affected me in the opposite way– I was so terrified that anything I did might be interpreted as “yes” that I kept my sexuality totally under wraps until I was well into my 20s. It was safer, for sure, but I still occasionally regret that I missed normal teenage exploration of sexuality.

    • Well, thank you. I don’t really feel brave for writing it, but it felt like it needed to be written.

      I don’t think there are very many people who grew up comfortable with their sexuality. There is so much WEIGHT to it and so many conflicting messages that we are bombarded with that comfort and ease are very hard to come by.

      • I know. Sometimes I think we are doing a better job with our children, but sometimes I’m not so sure. Maybe every generation has to go through this in their own way?

        This is me replying: I KNOW my daughter is far better informed than I was – about all aspects of sexuality – which I believe is only to the good. But then I do hear her criticizing her body, questioning, wondering, etc. so, yeah, there is learning that only comes through experience.

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