Another Card Against Humanity: Rape Culture and Max Temkin

I’d heard about this story over the weekend and was even reminded of it by a totally unrelated article by Talarian in which he talks about what an awesome time he had a Gaymer this weekend. For those not in the know, game developer Max Temkin was accused this weekend of raping a dorm mate back when he was in college. This would have been ten years ago. The woman never reported it (as is common) and he’s never been convicted of such a crime.

We’ll never know for sure, but I also think it’s not important to know “for sure”. This is a good opportunity for us all, especially men, to talk about what rape culture is and how many of us have been Max Temkin in a dorm with a woman we wanted to have sex with. A room in which consent was blurry for us, but in which sex happened anyway. I know many men have been in this or a similar situation myself included, so I’ll talk about my own experience with it in the hopes that other men will step up and confront their own.

One thing that really stands out to me is that, in his great fear and panic, Max wrote a response that I thought was pretty manipulative. I read it and didn’t quite know what to think about, but it didn’t feel right. Sure, I expected him to defend himself but it felt like a hollow defense, like he was cloaking himself in the goodwill he’s earned as a game developer with all the appeals to feminism and such. In a way, I believe his story, which basically boils down to he wasn’t/isn’t sure that they mutually agreed to sex. He had sex with her even though he didn’t know how she felt about it (which is quite damning enough).  I think his response was inspired more by fear and panic than by the candor and honesty the situation deserved. Admitting you may have raped someone has to be among the hardest confessions one can make. I think this is an issue he should have gone first to his accuser about, dealt with it there, and made long public statements after the fact. His running to the public to explain away the heinous accusation might be understandable, but when you’re dealing with traumatic events, you should take your accuser serious enough to deal with the situation on a personal and private level. Appealing to your fans just makes you look manipulative.

My Story

So what about me, what about my experiences with consent? Bear with me, if you can, because while my situation was somewhat different I feel it’s also common among young men.

I used to be afraid of girls. Not in the “she’s got cooties” sort of way, but as many of you may be aware I lived in an abusive house with an abusive father, which I eventually ran away from. I spent all of my teen years with the crippling fear that most men were like him on the inside and there was a monster in me waiting for an opportunity to lash out. This had a direct impact on my relationships with girls, whom I tried to just stay away from. That was the best way to keep the monster in the closet, or at least that was the rationale I used as a teen.

Well, I eventually became close with one young woman after high school, when we were both early adults. We liked each other a lot, but I was totally avoiding talking about sex or having it with her. I think back now and laugh a little at how absurd I was. Still, we wanted to have sex, but because of my insecurity we didn’t talk about it for a long time. That all changed one day.

We were making out and it was time to talk about sex. She wasn’t backing down either this time and she pressed the discussion. I wasn’t entirely comfortable, but I knew her, I trusted her and she trusted me. So we had the loathsome conversation …and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought (of course). I remember feeling relieved and amazed at how easy it was. We didn’t have sex that day, but we saw each other naked for the first time and that was plenty exciting. We talked, we fooled around, but we didn’t have sex.

The day came though. I remember having all of these ideas in my head that day about what men are supposed to do and how I was supposed to do things, and what I was supposed to know from what she DIDN’T say and all that confusion. I wanted to be prepared to handle things like a man, an experienced one …even though I had no experience. Then while we were making out, she said something to me that jolted me back into reality. She said “you’re not listening”. Until that moment I hadn’t really heard a word she said. She pushed me away, left the room and I sat there wondering what the hell just happened. A few minutes later she came back into the room, fixed her clothes and told me to leave. I didn’t protest, but I did apologize and started to leave. We had known each other a long time though, and she knew I didn’t have anywhere to go for the night. So before I got out the door she stopped me, sat me down and asked what the hell was going on with me. She was, rightfully, angry. I’d spoiled the night.

I told her I’d never had sex before, to which she replied she already knew that (she did). I told her I heard things about it and I just started doing those things, thinking that was the “way it should be”. And as I talked to her I realized I had become someone else in those heated moments of making out and it scared her. I wasn’t the person she had made out with before and I was acting different. I was being aggressive and ignoring her. If she had been any other girl, we would have never had that conversation. But she was someone I already knew from the neighborhood, had grown up with, and had a close relationship. All of those things made that conversation more likely. If I imagine that she was just some dorm mate in college who I knew only for a few hot weeks and a couple of hot nights, that memory becomes a bit more scary. How far would I have gone?

Young Men in a Rape Culture

Rape culture for men usually means fuzzy boundaries when it comes to consent, but certainly not in the way Max tried to describe it. Rape culture is made possible by the irrelevance of consent. It’s nice, but not necessary. Men are expected to behave certain ways and when they live up to those ways, they are pardoned and even praised for it. That is the essence of rape culture: Consent is assumed.

I have long thought back on those early days of my sexual life and wondered how many boys and men I’ve known who raped. These would be guys I cared about, broke bread with, and who were like brothers to me. Nice people, well-mannered, but also raised by a culture that tells them they aren’t men if they don’t behave certain ways, to ignore silly girls who are fickle and need to be told what they want in one way or another. They wouldn’t know they’d raped someone until accused, and even then they might respond the same way Max has by citing their credibility and feigning complete ignorance of consent. That’s rape culture when men can be so totally unaware that the person they’re laying with doesn’t want them there and they don’t have to care.

Young dudes tend to have a “get it while you can” attitude toward sex. They work hard to get a girl to want to sleep with them, and then they try to make it happen before she changes her mind. This eagerness to take sex any way we can get it is the reason many of us aren’t sure anymore that we haven’t raped in the past. The thing is, unless you remember unbridled enthusiasm to have sex with you, you can’t be sure that she wanted things to happen. You’ll always be unsure about that time. The result is that young men are rushing into sex blindly, because they’re afraid they won’t get it otherwise.

Exacerbating the issue is the pressure young men feel to have sex. It’s considered a rite of passage to manhood, and young guys are literally desperate to have sex so that they can proudly wear the title of Man. The very recent Elliot Rodgers is a prime example of this mentality. Our young men think something’s wrong with them if they’re virgins. If we believe the “rules” about manhood and virginity, we certainly believe the “rules” about consent which popularly, but falsely, accuse women of being incapable of making their own decisions about sex. We’re taught that women need to be lured, persuaded, and they often need a push in the “right” direction. How many of you were insecure and unsure young men who struggled with the whole dating thing in your early adulthood?

To top all of that off there’s the vast gray zone between being labeled a rapist and not being a rapist. The stigma of the word makes it really hard for young men to own up to non-consensual sex. Rape sounds like such a violent word, and when men reflect on events and note the stark absence of violence, they may admit it was non-consensual, but they will not call it a rape. Even though those things are equivalent. Men who don’t take their victims by violence or overt coercion struggle to identify the event as an act of rape. For them, rapist means something else, something that’s clearly wrong, something that’s obvious. For them, rape can’t simply be having sex with someone who isn’t struggling against you, sex with someone who just lays there without participating, sex with someone who hasn’t shown interest, but who appears to allow it to happen. I think most of the time, these are what typical rapes look like.

Max either still doesn’t understand what happened, or he really does understand and is in sheer terror that his mistake has come back to haunt him.

The language he uses makes it unclear which one it is, but it’s illustrative nonetheless of how young men participate in rape culture. According to Max, the norms surrounding hooking up make it unclear to young men whether they’ve done something wrong.

  • “brief relationship”
  • “never had sex” and then later implies they did (the “hookup” he mentions)
  • “broke things off” abruptly because he was 19 and that’s what 19 year olds do
  • “awkward college hookup”

These little phrases describe a “normal” situation in his mind. They were young, awkward, and unsure of themselves. The break off indicates he had a sexual interest in her, but nothing beyond that so after he got what he wanted (consensual or not) he started ignoring her. When he ignored her apparent calls after the incident, this was a normal 19 year old thing to do. All of these behaviors he attributes to the norms of young sexually active men, which is to say he blames the culture. In the end he calls the accusation “baseless gossip” for which “there is no proof”.

I understand that people like Max, during early adulthood, probably made some terrible mistakes. I have to think that so many of us who have reached our 30s look back to the women we’ve been with when we hear new rape allegations and denials such as this. Details about it being a date and that the men thought everything was consensual make us relate to the guy, as they remind us of nights we’ve had which sound similar. Then we wonder “did I rape?” and we try to wrestle with the definition, try to insert “male” and “female” behavior into the equation to see if that one fateful night was consensual. Some of us realize, but will never confess publicly, that we raped someone. If a woman rightfully accuses you and believes that you’re her rapist, then you are (I say rightfully because there are people who are malicious and lie about such terrible things, but again, if you can remember that night and NOT remember clear consent, you ought to believe her and talk about it with her).

It is entirely possible she read something completely different than I did into an awkward college hookup. If any part of that was traumatic for her, I am sincerely sorry, and I wish we would have had a chance to address it privately. – Max Temkin

Emphasis mine. There’s no situation in my mind in which two people are getting sexual and you’re both reading something different into it. That makes no sense to me generally, even if he is innocent in this particular case. If you’re with a woman and you don’t know if she’s on the same page as you, then you don’t have her consent. Rape culture teaches young men that women must be aggressively pursued and to therefore ignore this lack of interest or participation as “normal”.

Max seems to not fully doubt that a rape may have occurred. The language he uses makes me believe he has his own doubts about what happened that night. And because he has doubts, it was the wrong move to go to public statements, wrapping himself in feminism and suggesting that rape culture causes him to be unsure of what consent looks like. It matters a lot that he himself has doubts .

Guys, if you’re with someone and you can’t tell if she consents, STOP. You should never look back on a sexual encounter and think “I’m not sure if they were on the same page as me”. That’s all kinds of fucked up!

It’s not too late for him to deal with this issue privately, as they both deserve. Hopefully he understands that his first efforts to contact her might have been very scary for her, and that it may take some time to get around to this very important conversation for both of them. But I think he at least owes her his patience and understanding, and he should keep trying the private route and leave these public pleas out of it. They aren’t actually helping his situation or hers.

Maybe having this internet break will make him do right by his accuser. Whatever happens next, only he and she can deal with it and make it right.

UPDATE: Follow-up article on Rape Culture and Consent

17 thoughts on “Another Card Against Humanity: Rape Culture and Max Temkin

  1. Good piece, although the intro contradicts some of Max’s statements (if you take them at face value): “He had sex with her” vs. “we never had sex” and “he should have gone first to his accuser” vs. “I’ve sent her an email and a Facebook message and given her my contact information, but so far I haven’t heard back”

    • I focused more on the sum of his words, unless I specifically break them down. That’s because his own account is contradictory. I only pointed this out a little bit in the article so that’s a mistake on my part. But he at once says nothing happened while telling us something did; denies that he had sex while implying that “whatever” happened was being read the wrong way by the victim. Saying they hooked up, but then saying its possible that something happened different from his own memory of it. His response feels like fear and panic, understandably.

      • “Hooking up” does not necessarily imply sex, the phrase can be used to imply only making out. Not saying that doesn’t mean other things didn’t happen, but it depends on your definition of the word sex. It seems to me that he means vaginal intercourse, so he never did contradict himself. His hesitation, to me, stems from the fact it is impossible to be completely sure of other people’s interpretations of the same events. He thought she gave consent. She thought she didn’t. It isn’t fair to call him out for not being inside another person’s head when you yourself weren’t there. And, to me, the reason he went into rape culture is that he didn’t want to just call his accuser a liar without showing his understanding of the danger of doing so. Not that it makes it OK.
        Finally, he said he contacted her and got no response, she said she contacted her and got no response. This course of events shows how difficult it is to take anyone’s words at face value, and why we shouldn’t get too carried away with a story that lacks any supporting evidence. It sucks that this is the way it shook out for everyone.

      • Hooking up does imply sex. What it does not imply is sexual penetration, which is usually what men want everyone to infer by using vague terms such as hook-up. So again, his language is contradictory, because he already confesses that they did have sexual relations. What he tries to deny is sexual penetration using vague descriptions of actual events. Either way, these are moot points because I’m not challenging his guilt or innocence, nor do I lay importance on what kind of sexual relations they had (they did hook-up and have sexual relations; he confesses as much). I took a critical look at what he DID say.

        I want to stress that I’ve stated at least twice now that I don’t blame him for responding. It was a defensive reaction that any of us likely would have done. But what he said when he responded is what I’m critiquing from the perspective of learning about cultural norms and individual decisions that created the situation. His priority might have been resolution with his accuser, not trivializing and discrediting her out of hand (“baseless gossip”) or veiled threats with appeals to his credibility as a feminist (“My lawyer said I can sue but I’m such a good guy …”). This was inappropriate, to say the least, but really I don’t think that’s the big takeaway for us either. It’s his mistake to make and I’m sure he will survive it.

        Either way, I’m not really interested in whether he did it or not. I think for the public, that’s not the important take away. But how consent was dealt with here, their disparate memories of events, the “normal” behavior he recalls for 19 year olds …are all very, very familiar territory for the average young male. And it’s worth thinking about how our behavior in those situations create the possibility for consequences such as this.

  2. “sex with someone who just lays there without participating, sex with someone who hasn’t shown interest, but who appears to allow it to happen. I think most of the time, these are what typical rapes look like.”


    (not paying attn to partner + not listening, sometimes willfully not listening)

  3. Pingback: Rape Culture and Consent | XP Chronicles

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  5. “Men who don’t take their victims by violence or overt coercion struggle to identify the event as an act of rape. For them, rapist means something else, something that’s clearly wrong, something that’s obvious. For them, rape can’t simply be having sex with someone who isn’t struggling against you, sex with someone who just lays there without participating, sex with someone who hasn’t shown interest, but who appears to allow it to happen. I think most of the time, these are what typical rapes look like.”

    I think this is even more true when it comes to non-penile rape and sexual assault more generally.

    In the six years since I committed the abuse, I have come to realise that I committed rape. At the time I was disturbingly able to justify the act to myself, all the while telling myself, ‘She’d say something if she wasn’t in the mood’ and ‘I’m only doing what I did yesterday and lots of other times before when she was enthusiastic about it’ and ‘She can move away if she wants – I’m not holding her in place or restraining her… she seems fine’; etc. fucking etc.

    Without getting too explicit, my ex-girlfriend and I were spooning together in bed in our underwear. She said said she was just in the mood to cuddle. I started to move my hands down her back and she put them around her chest and told me that she just wanted to be held. After several minutes of spooning, I slowly moved my hands to the point that I was eventually touching her in a violatory way, to which she silently acquiesced.

    It was when I read that acquiescence is not consent and that rape does not need to involve a penis, that I came to realise that I committed rape and am a rapist. I think it is very easy to think of rapists as ‘the other’ and never once look in the mirror. Since telling many female friends about the rape I committed, several have told me about similar abusive incidents with their own ex-partners. Men who didn’t stop when asked. Who moved hands. Who didn’t use contraception when they said they were going to. None of these guys recognise themselves as rapists. Some of them would even say that rapists should be executed or tortured.

    As for whether rapists are monsters… well, I feel like a monster. I’m certainly a shitty human being. But, objectively, even the worst humans are still humans. Even if we or you or anyone else don’t want them to be, it’s just a fact.

    My ex has stated that she feels I’m taking the matter waaaaaaay too seriously and doesn’t see what legal action there would be to take. She told me this a few years back and I imagine, but do not know, that she still feels the same. I have not been contacting her, but I got the impression that she was OK and getting on with life.

    Personally, I wish there was a way for me to kill myself without hurting anyone (especially not my ex – the idea that she would feel whatsoever responsible is horrible horrible horrible). I don’t really think there is a place in this society for rapists and I think it doesn’t do people any good having rapists and sex offenders walking around. I think the majority of people who are not rapists would want this and understandably so!

    I do think that more men are rapists than society would would like to accept, though. If you look at Lisak and Miller (2002) they found that 6% of male college students admitted to using violence or the threat or violence or intoxication to the point of black out to have intercourse with someone. WcWhorter (2009) had a result of 13% amongst navy recruits.

    However, I could easily answer ‘no’ to all their questions.

    I didn’t use force or intoxication. It wouldn’t have crossed my mind to do so. Likewise, the rape I committed was not intercourse. My victim just did not give consent and I ignored that. This is rape. I wish it was possible to look every man in the eye and know how many have committed sexual abuse… yet it really does seem that some men never even accept the fact to themselves, as hard as that is for many people, especially victims, to understand. It is a mind-bogglingly awful thing to consider, but it really does seem to be true.

    • This is a deep and complex situation and I want to make sure I respect your situation. So I’m going to take all of your words about the events of your life as fact. If you know you committed a rape, then it’s a rape.

      Now the question of monsters ….all of us have committed crimes and some crimes feel or seem worse than others. Rape is nothing to take lightly, but I think this is because of what it means as a psychological and physical act.

      It’s a violation of our autonomy and a disrespect to persons and bodies. It’s dehumanizing. This is what’s so deeply troubling about rape and why, as you say, many people feel strongly about the punishments rapists deserve based on the power of the term to invoke feelings of anger and revenge.

      Rapes also vary, drastically. And I think there are certainly monsters among us. Not to put rape on a scale, because to me 1 is as bad as a hundred, but I do think the more the act dehumanizes and seeks to destroy the victim, the more monstrous. That’s just my personal take on it. If you’ve admitted your crimes and talked with the survivor about it, you’ve done a very powerful thing in seeking after their welfare and submitting yourself to their justice. I think you’ve fulfilled part of your responsibility here and for that I don’t think you’re a monster.

      If they’re ready to move on, then you must respect it. And even though you need to move on, you should probably do it in ways that don’t involve contacting that person. After all, you’ve already done that. So you should make your peace with it, but continue to live your life in a way that makes amends for your mistakes. By all means, you should learn to move on LIVE. Fewer people deserve death than people who need to redeem themselves by confronting the issues that have deeply impacted their lives. In your case, maybe you might consider talking to other men about what happened to you and what you’ve learned. Talk to young men who are beginning their sexual lives and help them understand how to handle sexual situations. Work for organizations which support victims and provide resources for education and prevention. Most importantly, live your life and try to never make those mistakes again. Move forward and use your experience to grow. It’s really all you can do, so try to focus on that.

      You’re not a monster. You’re human. And if we can recognize our errors and take care of the people we’ve hurt, we can earn our place in society. In your case, it’s important that you continue to work on your self, while using your experience to educate other men. You’d be amazed how powerful your story can be in helping others to see that rape isn’t always a violent or monstrous act. Most of the time, it begins with the simple, non-monstrous act of ignoring another person to pursue our personal desires. Thank you for sharing your story. I think that’s a great start on the road to redemption.

      • Thank you for your exceedingly compassionate reply. I haven’t been feeling so hopeful lately and have in truth been thinking a lot about suicide so your words are really helpful. I think being recognised as a human being (however shitty or ignorant or dangerous or whatever else) is something that all human beings need, really. Thanks. 🙂

    • I agree with Doone. Obviously we cannot speak for you or for the survivor, but as a survivor of the sort of thing you describe and also incidents involving force and intoxication, I do feel admitting your crime to yourself and her is much more important and redemptive than you may be giving yourself credit for.

      As a rape survivor, some of the common things are the shame and loss of control. It’s hard to explain, but having control over how things are handled and seen feels important. I think being honest with yourself and the survivor about your culpability in this and respecting how big of a deal she considers this is the best thing you can do here. This is something I fear 99% of survivors never get and I hope that helps her, and hopefully you can give yourself some credit for going forward from that mistake in the best way you can.

      I mostly commented on this because I understand your thoughts about suicide, albeit for different reasons. And I just want to say that for me, at least, the only rapist I would ever wish death on is an unrepentant one. People like you I very much wish will stay alive – not just for yourself but for the world at large. You say you think it does the world no good to have people like you walk around but I just want to say that I disagree so strongly with that.

      The majority of rapists, and humans who commit grievous crimes against others, in general, will never give their victims the type of respect you’ve given yours. The majority will probably never feel bad to any degree, and certainly not to the degree that they consider suicide. The fact that these thoughts have gone through your head indicate that you are someone capable of self-awareness and compassion. People like that are needed in this world, where terrible things like rape happen so often. It doesn’t do the world any good if everyone with currently accessible compassion and empathy gives up because the world is too depressing or because they are too remorseful about their crimes. This leaves the world to the criminals who have no remorse and no desire to change or protect the innocent.

      Sure, there are those who’ve never made any mistakes we consider as grievous. But tbh, there aren’t enough of them to successfully fight to protect the innocent. They need the help of anyone who cares enough, anyone with the empathy and compassion that you’ve demonstrated. And I truly believe there is incredible power in redemption and transformation, and that one who has been in a darker place or done dark things can help others tremendously. There can be an understanding of these situations, that as Doone suggested, may help you reach others who may make bad decisions. There is an incredibly hopeful and inspirational aspect for survivors like me to see that people can change. And I feel those who have changed can have an intensity of motivation/need to help that can be hard to match. I feel this myself from the mistakes I have made, even though you would doubtless consider them a lot smaller.

      So yes, volunteer/donate to charities relating to this issue. Try to educate men who may have similar ignorance to the younger you. And don’t just limit yourself to these things. Fight for those who aren’t in a position to protect yourself whenever you can. Fight for victims of all sorts of abuse, fight for disadvantaged children and animals. Donate to important charities, reach out to people in need, adopt/foster some animals and give them good lives. Don’t be afraid to allow yourself another chance, to be a better person than the one you were, to live with new, or renewed and strengthened, purpose. And remember the importance of butterfly type effects in life – you can do so much good in the world by dedicating yourself to helping, by waking up every morning reminding yourself to spread love and support in everyone’s life that you encounter, however small.

      • Thank you for your kind and compassionate comment. I get low, but I will keep fighting and doing good works. I would prefer to live with anxiety in truth, than with complacency in falsehood… as survivors will know more than any perpetrator, it hurts living with shame, but I’d much rather turn that shame into productive goodness, than try to ignore it and pretend that I didn’t do something deeply horrible and selfish. I know this is also what my survivor wants and deserves… not for me to suffer every day, but to learn and change and to stop other young men and boys from doing what I did.

        She told me: “Don’t spend your time dwelling on this or feeling like you owe me anything. Move forward, redirect the negative energy from worrying about this, turn it into positive energy and put it towards something productive.” I feel thankful and privileged and frankly humbled to have been given the chance to give back and to hopefully help things get better 🙂

        This interview between bell hooks and Maya Angelou also gives me faith and I read it very regularly to keep me going:

        Thanks again. Much strength and joy to you on your journey. Your words really are appreciated. I also hope more people read Doone’s post as it is important and true. 🙂

  6. I’m sorry to hear about your past and it’s understandable why you’d believe what you did, but there are both good and bad people amongst men and women and we’re all capable of making mistakes too. The issue of rape is an awkward one because we tend to always think of it as being like an attack in a dark street somewhere, when in reality it also happens amongst people who think they know each other very well and the lines are more blurred. I’ve thought I’ve known people, just to suddenly feel like their personality has changed and to be honest it can be scary at times. Sometimes I say I’m not in the mood but they don’t always listen and continue to push for it anyway. I remember an advert about rape was on TV a while back stating that it could also happen amongst friends and partners, and my boyfriend would always look dismayed when it came on because I think he was afraid he’d possibly done the same thing to me at one point. He’s often shown a huge willingness to listen to me though, so I know he cares about my own sexual needs as much as his own. Sometimes I think it’s my fault as I’m not very good at putting my foot down. I think many women feel almost like it’s their duty to please their man and sex can start to feel like a chore that you have to tick off your to do list. I’ve read articles stating things like it’s unfair to be with a man if you can’t fulfil his sexual desires. It’s almost as if it’s a one way street, when it should really be an enjoyable experience for both involved. Women can be insecure about things like not being able to satisfy their man properly and that makes it difficult to stick up for what you really want.

    • Your reply here reminded me of something I read recently on Stackexchange. A parent posted a question about their 11 yr old being afraid that she’s a lesbian. The little girl apparently was very upset about this idea and was asking their parents if the thoughts they were having about boys and girls mean they were gay. The parent didn’t know what to do, so they asked on this forum.

      The amount of responses which did NOT include “You should talk to her about what sex and sexual feelings” was staggering. There were about 3 people in the dozen responses or so that said “you should probably just explain sex and relationships to her”. The other responses went so far as to suggest getting the girl a psychiatrist.

      These are the lengths we go through in our culture to NOT talk about sex. It’s really no wonder so many people, especially men, are confused about what to do about consent, even though it’s really, really, REALLY simple to grasp. We’ve created this gray area where men have to be uncomfortable watching commercials about rape but who are less likely to just start a conversation with their partner about their sexual desires.

      I think ALOT of guys are in the same position as your partner. They have these memories and today those actions are increasingly under a magnifying glass, defining them pretty clearly and these men aren’t sure any more. The anger and defensiveness is almost reflexive in this case.

      • I don’t actually agree with how we treat sex as a society; This is an opinion that has come from my own experiences while growing up. I was actually sheltered quite a lot from sex and at the same time I never received a sex education at school despite my mum signing the form for me to get one. The teachers actually told me that they were too embarrassed to teach sex education so they were going to cancel the classes. I never felt comfortable trying to teach myself about sex because I’d been made to feel like it was such a taboo subject and I thought I was doing something inappropriate to even show an interest in it. I think it can be even harder when you’re a girl too because of the differences in attitudes over the genders, plus it’s actually quite normal for women to develop an interest later than men.

        As I got older I met a few men along the way who looking back now I feel didn’t treat me right. At the time I didn’t know how to act or feel and thought that maybe I was to blame because of my lack of knowledge. I’d never been taught how to expect men to treat me or how to talk about sex. At school they said I was too sensitive so I tend to question whether it’s just me over-reacting rather than confronting the person who’s upset me (yeah I went to a dreadful school that’s probably the root of many of my problems.) That’s what I mean about how sometimes when confronted by pushy men, it’s not always easy for a girl to stand her ground because we’re not always sure what’s right. I want to give the man I love what he wants, but at the same time it’s not always right for me. There are also too many false ideas spread around about how women work from the media and even porn that you feel you have to live up to.

        I think my current partner and I helped to balance each other out in some ways. There were some misunderstandings at the start but in the end he came to respect and understand women better and I learnt to be more comfortable in my own sexuality. We’re incredibly open about everything now and I feel like our relationship is healthier for it. I know that if I ever have kids I will probably approach sex in a more open way with them. It’s a perfectly natural thing to all of us, so why do so many people treat it like a dirty subject. It’s terrible that they didn’t feel comfortable simply talking to that girl about how she was feeling.

        It’s never nice being pushed into a sexual act that you don’t want to do, but it depends how everything happens exactly. I can understand that during your first time there’d be all sorts of emotions running high – excitement and nerves – and that it’d be easy to misinterpret some of the signals. In this case it’s an innocent mistake and so long as they learn from them and the partner understands then you can move on from it. I don’t agree with continuing to hold people accountable for mistakes they made years before. Of course, there are more severe cases where perhaps the other person was very clear in what they wanted but continued to have force used against them anyway.

        • I think people have to be held accountable for as long as it takes them to make amends. Time does not heal things unless the wound is tended first. And an untended wound only gets worse as time goes on. Racism in America is an excellent example of this. It’s never been dealt with on a systemic and political level. People just wrote up some new laws and kept the old ones right where they were most of the time. No one changed their attitudes — they went home telling themselves “its over” and kept right on being a bigot, proclaiming it as their right. And today that wound continues to erupt into painful, bloody events. Those responsible have to actually deal heal treat the wounds.

          Men who have raped in the past and weren’t held accountable live their own private hell in fear that it will come back to them. No one wants to go to jail and all that stuff, so they use time as a barrier to insulate them from being accountable. That kind of thing isn’t healthy for anyone involved and there’s usually no healing and no justice done for it.

        • Yeah I get what you’re saying. I have my own emotional wounds that have festered with time and I feel silly that even though it all happened a while ago I still carry resentment. I’m the kind of person that prefers to talk things through straight away and I don’t like holding past mistakes over people so that they get the chance to make amends, but it’s easier said than done. I think in my case things felt worse because even though they said they were sorry on multiple occasions I still feel like they take more than they give.

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