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The Ghomeshi scandal made me remember all the times I was sexually violated

Svea Vikander's picture
As former CBC talkshow host Jian Ghomeshi goes to trial for four counts of sexual assault this month, Canada is forced to confront its attitudes about sex, consent, and the validity of victims' stories. Each day of February, Svea Vikander, a Canadian radio host and therapist, shares another of her personal experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

Day 18: Jian Ghomeshi reminded me of the time a man 'accidentally' put his penis inside me

| February 18, 2016
Svea Vikander, his penis was not

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Jian Ghomeshi went to trial this month. And so, in a way, did Canadian women. The Ghomeshi trial is not only about a man who violated the four women pressing charges, but about whether we, as a society, trust women who tell. 

It's personal for me. Today and every day of February, I am sharing my own stories of sexual harassment and violence. Today is day eighteen, in which I share my experience of having a man 'accidentally' insert his penis into my vagina. If you're joining us now, may I suggest that you start at the beginning, by reading my introduction here. I also shared an excellent guest post from a woman whose prominent ex harassed her extensively here. And remember, practice self-care. The Ghomeshi scandal has one hell of an undertow. 

***

This is incident number 32.

I had known him for more than a year but not well at all, in the way that it's now possible to know a lot about someone -- the names of their family members, their political leanings, their favorite soup -- without ever talking to them. I had invited him over to a dinner party at my mom's house in Vancouver and while he left early that night, we made plans to get together on another. We had a little chemistry. He was a consummate feminist, spoke well about his frailties, and even performed in a kids' theatre production. He had a good heart but he also had an MBA.

On the night in question we met at a touristy downtown bar, drove around the city, and wound up talking and kissing in his car. He told me that he thought I looked like an anime character, which I appreciated for its surprising accuracy. As we began to more seriously engage, I mentioned that I was just coming off my period and wouldn't want anything going on below my waist. He looked aghast. He said that a woman on her period was a big turn-on for him, as it embodied the most womanly aspect about her. Despite myself, I had an oh jeez moment.

Like what, does he also "love women" but surround himself with only perfect-looking female friends, claiming to be seriously aroused by cunnilingus and thinking it makes him a revolutionary? Does he tell girls in bars that he's a feminist? What I'm saying is, I don't essentialize women into any one aspect of their bodies and I also don't hook up with Pick-Up Artists.

But you know, whatever. People, even PUAs, are allowed to have their turn-ons. I just felt pretty clear that I didn't want to get it on with a new sexual partner in the car on my period. I let him know that.

We moved to the back seats of his Honda and it was enjoyable, if scrunched. I remember being underneath him, and him behind me. He moved my panties to the side and nuzzled his penis into my vagina. It felt good. But it wasn't what I wanted. I reminded him of the boundary I had drawn earlier, saying something like, "Remember I said I didn't want to" and he acquiesced, pulling out. A few minutes later he said, "That was an accident, it just kind of slipped in there."

It.

Just.

Kind of.

Slipped in.

There.

Patently.

False.

His penis, his hands, his mind had made it happen because he thought he could get away with it. And he was embarrassed either that he had tried or that he hadn't succeeded. There was no accident. His penis was not strolling along minding its own business while my vagina suddenly stopped to send a text on a busy sidewalk. His penis was not a drunk person boarding an elevator and my vagina a wall of small buttons. His penis was not a child's right foot and my vagina their left shoe.

 

Svea Vikander, his penis was not

 

After that night we remained friends, touching base once again when I moved back to Toronto, where he tried to coordinate a threesome with his new girlfriend (it's hard to schedule three people to be in the same place these days). He told me he loved me over G-chat. I ghosted on him.

Until the Ghomeshi scandal hit and I began to remember all the times that my "no" should have been respected (which is, apparently, every time), I had no idea why I had disappeared like that. I had felt guilty. He was a good guy! He had done nice things for me! He was a friend! We had hooked up once! I should check in with him! What was wrong with me?!

But no. And this is where I sigh my biggest sigh of relief. I don't have a great track record for being assertive in the moment, or even in the months after, with men who have violated me. But (small victories) I don't keep them as friends. And (big victory) I didn't marry one. 

***

In my dating days, I was a big fan of refraining from intercourse in initial sexual encounters. I wanted to get to know someone's sexual self before engaging in Penis-in-Vagina (PIV) sex. It helped me to feel safer and to make clearer choices. Also, it was less risky from a sexual health standpoint. The male tendency to get "swept away" in these non-PIV sexual encounters and to initiate it despite my stated boundaries was nearly universal. For the most part, I expected these attempts at intercourse and men seemed to feel no compunction about giving the doors of my vagina the ol' college try. I doubt I would have remembered the incident I described today, save for his presentation of it as some kind of cosmic mishap. 

Again, we have no word for this kind of violation. Except that technically we do. The word for someone putting their penis inside your vagina when you said you didn't want them to is 'rape'. But if this is rape, then I have been raped a dozen times. And the emotional fallout I received from these events was, I am sure, not as severe as that of other, more lengthy, forceful, or persistent violations. This man stopped when I reminded him of my boundary. Not all men do. 

But then I think about the deep depression I struggled with in my early 20s. It was a dark time and I thought about decapitating myself a lot.

Between the ages of 15-24 I can remember 30 incidents of sexual violation. That's 3.3 per year, or a little more than one every four months. These numbers don't account for everyday street harassment or the harassment that is expected (albeit undeserved) in occupations such as casino dealing, waitressing, hostessing, or bartending.

With frequency, an incident happened in which I felt enraged or frightened enough for its memory to stay with me. At the time, I thought my depression was the result of biology, my own moral failings, or of the pain in my childhood. Looking back on it now, I can imagine how nine years of these events could accumulate into countless mornings spent crying into my pillow "for no reason." 

Who knows. I believe in biology and the lifesaving power of psychotropic medication. And I believe in bodily autonomy and a woman's right to make out without penetration in the back seat of a compact sedan. 

Tomorrow: Bloor and Bathurst, the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Svea Vikander is a Swedish-Canadian radio host and therapist currently residing in Berkeley, California. Find her on twitter (@SveaVikander) and Instagram (@SveaVikander). 

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