Trigger warning: Sexual violence and rape
As the co-founder of Scarlet Ladies I had little choice but to take part in our #ITalkSex campaign. Partially because Jannette would not have let me off the hook even if I tried to get out of it. I am not particularly keen on having my picture taken after all, although the shoot turned out to be great fun and Faby and Carlo were so amazing to work with.
The other reason why I had to get involved in this campaign is because I deeply believe in its value and just how important it is. I hope that this campaign will blow up, go viral and reach as many women as possible, challenging perceptions and, dare I say it, be a catalyst to provoke a change in the world (no pressure, eh?)
You see, working with women and talking about sex with them every single week, I get to hear on a regular basis how much shame and stigma is still attached to female sexuality and how deeply this affects us as human beings. Not only does the fear of the shame and stigma keep us from living our best sexual lives, revelling in the pleasures our bodies can produce, it also keeps us quiet when we are violated. After all, it seems these days it is still more shameful to be a victim of rape than it is to be a rapist.
If you have ever been to any of our events, you will know that I was raped, because I talk about it openly. Not because I just love to talk about it, but because I believe that by speaking up, I will encourage others to do the same. I am hoping that I can be an example for other women who have been suffering in silence, support them and maybe even inspire them to speak out and get help if they need it.
Rape is often not how they show it in the movies. There seems to be an assumption that it always involves a stranger, a beating, lots of violence and plenty of cuts and bruises to show for it. A doctor can see she was raped because of micro tears in the vaginal wall due to the force used whilst not lubricated. Only it rarely happens like that.
Most incidences of rape happen with a person we know. There is no violence, there are no bruises to show for it. Unlike in the movies, we may not fight tooth and nail, collecting his skin samples under our nails. Instead, our instincts kick in and survival mode has us in autopilot with little control over our bodies. We may not fight, we may just lie there, limp, waiting for it to be over. Our bodies may act as though we are aroused, which is part of its protective mechanism to avoid injury. But nobody tells us this and so we are left afterwards confused and feeling betrayed by our own bodies.
So many conversations I have with women who have been raped or sexually assaulted, they seem to think that their case was not clear cut. That somehow there are blurred lines or grey zones where you cannot be sure it was rape after all.
Let me tell you something: There is no grey zone. There are no blurred lines. If you did not consent, it was rape. Not sex without consent. There is no such thing. There is sex, which by definition ALWAYS has consent. And then there is rape. After all, you would not hit someone in the head with a shovel and argue that what you were attempting was gardening rather than murder, right? It is as easy as that and very clear cut.
I believe we need to talk about this to stop the myth of blurred lines, to encourage women to speak up and to better understand our bodies and our experiences.
Photo by Faby and Carlo