This account is the second part of the first Sex Diary, “The Cardinal Letter.” Read Part I here.
It wasn’t until the words dropped out of my mouth that I realized I was scared. But locked in a room with someone I had just accused of rape, I could process no other reaction.
This isn’t a story about rape. Creepy Hot Guy did not rape me — he didn’t try. After he vaguely answered that “no charges were filed,” he was meticulously careful to not assert himself onto me. Like someone suspected of alcoholism who politely sips at a glass of wine, he sat with determined restraint.
It was up to me. What ensued was not a “no means yes” or a concession to my own sexual wanting, but rather a mental and physical back-and-forth. My mental determination against sex with this relative stranger would give way to my sexual certainty in what became a stopping and starting of sexual momentum. And yes, he stopped when I asked him to.
We didn’t have sex, then or ever. The words I used to describe why we wouldn’t, why I “couldn’t” were something like not being “that kind of person.” When I finally gave a firm answer, he said I should leave, and I did.
I still want him. I still fantasize about him, want to see him walking on Escondido or turning down Mayfield in his car. But I didn’t let myself have him because I was afraid of what type of person it would make me.
Regardless of whether it was my own weakness or inability to overcome what was expected of me, the reality is that at Stanford and in general, the expectations and restrictions, oftentimes imposed by peers and people our own age, guide our actions.
I’ve told five people about this event in the time prior, during and after this anti-climactic exchange, and a handful more answered inquiries I had about him or generally “sketchy” guys at Stanford. Four of the five and all those I asked told me to stay away from him. And this is what I wrestled with.
They, without any official confirmation of CHG’s involvement in any sexual assault, imperatively forbid that I continue any form of communication with him, let alone allow myself a sexual desire. No one ever said, “it’s your choice” or “go for it.” They said, “You should stop talking to him” or “Don’t do it.”
Regardless of whether or not my sexual interest — piqued prior to discovering the rumors — in someone with a questionable past was unusual, or “wrong,” or even “deviant,” in every instance I expressed a want that was condemned. Consensual sex with this man was something to fear, to avoid at all costs.
The judgment was made for me and against me that I could not want him. Yes, the possibility of his involvement in sexual assault complicates the situation. Yes, I acknowledge and continue to feel shame that I wanted him despite this fact.
Even so, the absurdity of my taboo sexual desire is far less absurd than the fantasy that there are safe and open spaces to talk about sex at Stanford. People could only conceive of me as a victim, and to avoid appearing as a victim, or even a harlot, I cut all communication with the accused and held my tongue about myself.
Even on this “progressive” and “accepting” campus, I was forced to choose between wearing a scarlet letter and concealing my own emotional turmoil. There’s no safe space to say, “I’m attracted to a man accused of rape.”
I could not talk to anyone about it. I still cannot. The dialogue that occurred over Part I of this story, both online and remarks I’ve heard, has only confirmed this. People judged me based on my feelings toward CHG, precluding any real or meaningful discussion about why I felt the way I felt, or how I was handling this situation.
That’s it. I didn’t do anything. I wasn’t raped, I didn’t ask to be raped, I didn’t have any type of sex. Yet the shame and embarrassment I felt then, and still feel over my lingering sexual regret, are not accepted topics of discussion. The most vocal critics condemn me for having an emotion, for being confused about a volatile sexual encounter and desire.