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An ocean of feelings have moved through me in response to Bill Cosby's admission under oath in 2005 to using drugs to rape women. I waver between clinging to my adoration for the man and his work while despairing over the monster lurking within him. And I'm even more saddened by the fact that our culture so disenfranchises women that in their efforts to be recognized they frequently make bad and unsafe choices.
Let me be clear, there is nothing in me that believes any woman deserves or asks to be raped. However, I've experienced within myself that willingness, for the sake of feeling worthy and cared for, to give my power over to the hands of a man.
In both cases where I was date raped—meaning I knew the men, said no to sex, and they proceeded without my consent—there was some part of me that turned over the responsibility for my care to the perpetrators. And in all honesty, something in me knew both of these men were not mature enough to put their desire after my own. In a scenario with competing needs, they opted to take care of themselves at the risk of being rapists.
The first date rape happened when I was in college with a man I barely knew. I'd gone to his home for a date and during a heavy make-out session things went too far. When I said no, he proceeded and that was that. I never saw him again and never reported it. I tried not to think about it later, but I couldn't help but wonder whether he'd heard me say no.
The second time occurred more recently with someone I was very close to and had dated for a few years. I'd gone to his home because I was depressed and needed someone to be with that night. We'd been dating and had had sex often, but that night I asked if we could just sleep because I was very sad. I'll admit I smoked some pot (which I don't do often; pot knocks me out) and could not drive home. I went to sleep and was awakened by his attempt to enter me.
Do I see myself as so worthless that I'd place myself in the care of men who aren't capable of caring for me?
The more recent date rape got me thinking about my first experience and what I could have done differently to prevent them. But rather than any concrete behavior, I just keep coming back to the more amorphous notion that I should have simply grown up. I should have grown up and trusted what I intuitively knew about these men. I should have grown up and stopped believing that someone else can and will care for me better than I can care for myself. I should have grown up and stopped waiting for "daddy" to finally show up and love me. I should have grown up and recognized that just because our culture empowers men through a host of patriarchal privileges, it doesn't mean they are all responsible human beings who can be relied upon to care for the well-being of others.
Bill Cosby has been a god in our culture. His success and his homespun image provided him with exceptional access into people's hearts. Who was more trustworthy than America's dad? And so many women, not unlike myself, abdicated their care to him and he abused them; he raped them.
For me, the rapes I experienced forced me to reflect on my sense of my own value. Do I see myself as so worthless that I'd place myself in the care of men who aren't capable of caring for me? I don't see myself as blameworthy, but I don't want to disown my responsibility for ignoring my inner direction and for placing my well-being into the hands of boys in men's bodies.
I've spent time with many men who've slept by my side and never violated any request, and I know it takes a poor excuse of a man to have sex with a woman when she has said no. In light of the Cosby admission and having known what nonconsensual sex feels like, I'm asking myself two things: What will it take for women to assume full responsibility for their care and well-being? And how do we dissolve this unspoken agreement that men deserve the power to control and even abuse women because they are somehow not capable of managing on their own?