To the young man who told me not to apologize for not wanting to have sex with him: You give me hope.
It was half past midnight on a Friday night and we were half past naked. Hands were traveling on smooth skin and his facial hair tickled my neck. As I came up for air I told him, “I don’t think we should have sex yet.” He told me that was okay and then I whispered, “sorry” because despite the avid feminist that I am, years of living on planet Earth have taught me to apologize for not giving myself willingly to every man who shows a desire for me. He pulled away and looked at me seriously. “Don’t apologize,” he said with sincerity and conviction, holding my gaze to make sure I got the point. I knew as soon as I had said that words that they weren't necessary, knowing that my sexual agency is not something I need to feel bad about.
This young man gave me hope for a world where girls never feel the need to apologize for not wanting to have sex. Where no one needs to apologize for not wanting to have sex. He gave me hope for a world free of victim blaming and shaming. Where a person’s blood alcohol content is not the equivalent of consent. Where a woman does not need to apologize to the man who bought her a drink at a bar, as he guilt trips her into coming home with him. Or the other way around.
He gave me hope for a world where people don’t slap my ass at a party because I’m wearing a tight dress. Where an outfit is not an invitation for sex no matter what I have on. Where the police won’t tell my friend that they won’t catch her attacker because she can’t remember what he looked like and maybe if she’d had one less drink they could but since she didn’t… Well, it’s all her fault they say as they turn her into another statistic.
He gave me hope for a world where we don’t teach children how not to get raped, but rather give lessons saying, “There is no sex without consent.” Where the pain and mistrust enveloping her violated body is more tragic than his prison sentence. Where “one in four” becomes “none in four.” A world where walking alone at night doesn’t automatically make me hold my keys between my fingers out of fear for what’s around the next corner.
He gave me hope that someday I won’t be writing words like these. Or if I am, they will all be in past tense. Hope for a world where one syllable doesn’t need justification. A world where everyone will feel safe in their skin, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. He gave me hope for future generations, which will grow up understanding the word “respect.”