Notes

First Drafts, Conversations, Stories in Progress

Gender Stereotypes of Rapists: Your Stories
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Spurred by Conor Friedersdorf’s piece “The Understudied Female Sexual Predator,” readers share a broad range of personal experiences around nonconsensual sex and grapple with their meaning. If you have something to add, please send us a note: hello@theatlantic.com. (For related threads, see “On Rape and Empowerment” and “How Should Parents Talk to Their Kids About Rape?”)

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When a Man Is Too Drunk to Consent

Several readers are touching on that theme. One writes:

My first sexual experience was rape, in the sense that I was coerced and given drugs and alcohol. I was 14 years old, and the girl was 16. She was much more worldly, and very pushy. The whole experience was extremely unsettling, not least because I contracted a rather painful yeast infection from her, and visited several doctors who all told me I didn’t have an STD (VD, in those days). They told me to go away, that I was imagining things. Eventually, after a long time, it went away on its own, with me completely ignorant of what it was until many years later.

From a guy in his late twenties who got “black-out drunk”:

A few years ago I was at a small party with a few close friends and some other guests. I had been drinking prior to the party and so by midnight I was very intoxicated. Since it was a friend’s house, I decided to go ahead and fall asleep in the spare bedroom rather than continue drinking and get sick/embarrass myself. Around the time I decided to get into bed, I blacked out. I only remember flashes of what happened afterwards.

At some point I got out of bed to get myself some water. I remember having my shorts and shirt still on and going into the kitchen. As I am filling up a glass, I remember talking with a girl in the kitchen. I can not remember what we talked about at all.

I then remember being in the bedroom and her pushing me against the wall while kissing me. Then flashes of moments: I am pushed on the bed; my shorts are off and she is on top of me; and finally I am in the middle of the bed on top of her.

Yesterday my colleague Conor reported on new research into “the understudied female sexual predator.” Here he relays some of the conclusions from the peer-reviewed paper by Lara Stemple, Andrew Flores, and Ilan H. Meyer:

Stereotypes about women “include the notion that women are nurturing, submissive helpmates to men,” they write. “The idea that women can be sexually manipulative, dominant, and even violent runs counter to these stereotypes. Yet studies have documented female-perpetrated acts that span a wide spectrum of sexual abuse.”

They argue that female perpetration is downplayed among professionals in mental health, social work, public health, and law [...] And according to the paper, when female abusers are reported, they are less likely to be investigated, arrested, or punished compared to male perpetrators, who are regarded as more harmful.

Largely because of those female stereotypes and the stigmas feared by men, such stories of sexual assault are rarely told (James A. Landrith’s being a notable exception). But when we opened the hello@ door for reader experiences, several men came forward. The first story is from Down Under:

I’m an American living in one of the state capital cities in Australia, and I used to enjoy hosting guests on an online house-sharing site. I know how hard it is to find safe, reliable, and cheap accommodation while travelling, so I like trying to give back.

Back in August, I hosted a girl from China who was spending a “working holiday” one-year visa out here, travelling to my city as one of her first stops. On her first night I showed her around my neighbourhood and we went to a nearby bar for a drink. After one beer for me and one cider for her, she said she was feeling tipsy and wanted to go back to the house before going back out for dinner.

When we got home, I was setting out the sofabed for her for later when she suddenly grabbed me around the shoulders and told me how well we got along, how we were great together. (I had known her for about four hours at that point.) I took it as the effusive enthusiasm of a friendly traveller with somewhere between intermediate and semi-fluent English skills.

She said she was sleepy, so we ate in that night. During dinner she just sort of stared at me. I was starting to get uncomfortable but I went with it—cultural differences and all. It couldn’t be easy travelling through a new country for the first time, I thought.

In the middle of the night, I awoke to find her next to me in my bed (I hadn’t locked the door to my bedroom) wrapped around me. Her hand was moving downwards and—well, we don’t need more detail.

I pulled away and asked her what was going on, giving her even some benefit of the doubt that maybe she sleepwalked or for some reason didn’t find the sofabed comfortable. She said she wanted to have sex, and I clarified that I don’t sleep with my guests, that it makes things weird. The whole reason I do this is to provide a safe space for people, that I wasn’t going to be one of those guys trolling for vulnerable travelling women. Even if she wanted it, it wasn’t my style.

This is where it got stranger.