The first, narrow definition of rape doesn’t require anything of us. It allows us to go about our days comfortably undisturbed because rape is something that happens out there somewhere. It is perpetrated by psychopaths only. It is always marked by physical violence.
The broader definition calls upon us all to become a little uncomfortable. To engage with the complex nuances that make up rape means we all have to take an unpleasant look at our lives. It’s difficult, messy and so much easier to ignore.
One researcher, Diana Russell, believes that the remarkable thing about rape is not that it occurs but that we have managed to see it as a rare and deviant act when it is so embedded in our culture.
Rape is not rare or deviant. It is all around us.
In my first year at university, I meet a guy through one of my friends in Stellenbosch. I’m studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics and live in a women’s residence on campus. My friends there are conservative, but fun, girls who also live in my res.
André is a nice, respectable, rich Afrikaans guy. The first night we dance in a bar to sokkie music. I’m blown away by him. He wears chino pants, a blue golf shirt and a white sweater. André has a narrow face with straight blonde hair, thick lips. When he asks me to dance, I’m shocked.
Then he tells me I beautiful. It’s the first time any man of my age had told me that. We kiss.
He says I can trust him. And why wouldn’t I?
A couple of months later, my friends and I are at a Stellenbosch night club. Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” blares over the speakers as young students drink, smoke and dance in their stylish clothes. I haven’t heard from André since the night we kissed a couple of weeks ago. I thought this was not because he didn’t want to see me, but because of some other extenuating circumstance. So, after the third shot of tequila, I decide it’s a good idea to message him. I don’t tell my friends what I’m doing. I simply stand on the deck outside and type: ‘We’re at Tapas. Plz come’
He replies: ‘I’ll pick you up.’
A huge smile lights up my face. Throughout my high school career and so far during my first year of varsity at the University of Stellenbosch, I’ve always been the single one. The third wheel. The sad girl. I’ve never been asked to a dance or out on a date.
When I read his reply, it finally feels like I belong. I’m excited for him to take me to his residence, Simonsberg, I’ve never been there before. It’s considered very prestigious in my friend group if you get invited to hang out or sleep over at a guys’ res. I was the only one of my friends who hadn’t been. But instead of taking me to his res, he drives outside Stellenbosch to where his parents own a house.
I think, strange! But okay. Maybe he wants to spend time alone with me.
I’m standing outside. It’s a cold night and I’m shivering on the damp grass in my blue skinny jeans and white halter neck top. He forgot the keys for the house and has to jump in through a window. I laugh. The huge white house is on some kind of estate and far away from anything else.
When we enter the house, I make my way to the kitchen. He’s probably going to make me a cup of tea. I lean down and peel off the black heels I can’t walk in.
He takes my hand and leads me away from the kitchen into the bedroom. It looks like a hotel room. Thick cream carpets, red curtains. The sheets on the bed are crisp and white.
He sits down on the bed and pulls me down next to him. He leans over.
I’m getting a boyfriend so I might as well let him kiss me. Isn’t that part of the deal?
As he undresses me with his cold hands, I think: I’m not sure I want this. What harm is there? It’s not like anything is going to happen. It won’t matter once he’s your boyfriend. Your friends have gone this far, nothing bad has ever happened to them. Should I be doing this? Don’t be a prude, you’re fine.
I’m in the bed, naked. He turns off the lights and I realise I need to vocalise my boundaries. Like I was taught.
“I’m a virgin, I don’t want to have sex with you.”
“Okay, sure. I understand.” He leans down and sticks his tongue in my mouth again, his naked flesh softly rubbing against mine.
Then I feel him poking himself against me. Trying to get inside of me. What is happening? Is he teasing me? Is he playing around? What is that thing anyways? He pushes in. I jerk.
He turns on the lights. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m a virgin! I don’t want to sleep with you!”
There’s blood everywhere. On the sheets, on my thighs, on his legs.
He sees it and his mouth twists. Disdain? Horror? Shock?
“You have AIDS!” He yells and runs to the bathroom. He locks himself in the shower. He turns the tap and tries to rub the blood off.
I stand outside the door. Naked, my thighs covered in my broken hymen, I try to teach him what happens when you have sex with a girl for the first time.
“When a girl loses her virginity, her hymen breaks. That’s why I’m bleeding.”
“What happens when you push something big into something too small?”
“Who else have you slept with?”
“No one… have you never heard of what happens when a girl loses her virginity?”
“Have you ever been for STD tests? Fuck, I think this is AIDS. This looks like AIDS.”
“But I told you I was a virgin.”
“All girls say that!” A pause. “How am I going to get the blood out of the sheets before my parents get home tomorrow?”