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Posts Tagged ‘new year’s eve’

Reading this article in the Daily Mail made me wonder about the nature of sexual assault. Halfway through it, a memory from a few years ago crept into my head and wouldn’t go away.

One New Year’s Eve, I was offered the chance to work for the night instead of partying. Not a terribly tempting offer, but when an astronomical amount of wedge was mentioned, the work was easy and that taxis would be guaranteed for all staff, I wrote off my NYE plans. The job was to help out at a bash thrown by a corporate organisation who wanted people to top up glasses and make sure the bigwigs were happy. This wasn’t my usual line of work, but the pay was too good to be true for one night’s work, as it was probably what I earned post-tax in one week at the time. I showed up, slightly regretting my decision, thinking about the various invites clogging up my phone. Relief gradually settled over me, when my fellow workers all seemed to be young, fun and doing it for the same reasons as me.

As it headed towards midnight, things relaxed a lot and we were allowed to avail of the free bar, not to mention the ubiquitous champagne. One of the guys working was from New Zealand, and we got on really well all night. He was quiet, almost shy, but very charming. Gentle and polite, it seemed, and I’m a sucker for those guys. We flirted innocently for most of the night, and when all the Auld Langs Syne stuff was over and done with, the music started and the staff were allowed to join in. We danced a lot, laughing and circling each other in a cloud of chemistry, before he eventually kissed me. Easy work, a free bar, a big pay cheque AND a snog – what a great New Years, I thought.

When it came time to pile into taxis, cabs were thinner on the ground than the so-called guarantees. Australian guy lived very nearby; not near enough to brave the Baltic weather conditions, but enough for me to philanthropically donate my taxi to someone else, and agree to go home with him. He told me that all his housemates were away, and despite the fizzy champagne head, I made clear that staying over was not necessarily a precursor to sex – I wasn’t really in the habit of sleeping with people I’d met three hours before. Disclaimer provided, we went straight to bed as it was an old house, full of draughts and the cold was almost as big a distraction as him. There was kissing, passion, some wriggling, but underwear stayed on and we fell into a cosy sleep on that icy night.

The next morning I woke up with my back to Aussie boy and a couple of things hit me simultaneously. One; the gargantuan nature of my hangover and two; how cold it really was in that old house. Then I felt a sense of something not being quite right and it took me a few seconds to realise what it was. His hand was in my underwear, poking and fidgeting and my heart started to race. Not in some just-awake fit of desire, but in the way that it does when you feel uneasy, flustered. As far as he was aware, I was still asleep, so why was he doing this without my consent? In a flash, I remembered that we were the only two in the house and that no one I really knew was aware of where I was. I lay there in a panic, while all the while he kept probing and prodding, his barely palpable breathing a little erratic.

The mood of the night before evaporated, and yet here I was, a willing entrant to this man’s bed. Did I have any right to be outraged? Was my being there – albeit asleep and still in my underwear – consent enough for him to doing what he was doing? It was the morning after the night before, so was he right in assuming that my presence there was a green light to continue where we’d been the night before? Either way, all I wanted to do was go home. I didn’t even know what to say to him. I feigned “waking up” and dressed quickly. I remember that I was polite to him while trying to work out what had happened and quell my disquiet. Violation is probably too strong a word for what I felt, but to me, he had definitely crossed a line. I caught a bus home, and stopped in the only open shop I could find to buy juice and comfort food to lie on my couch and contemplate the night before.

Lots of us have found ourselves in bed with people that we don’t necessarily plan on sleeping with. Not every co-sleeping arrangement has to mean sex, but if you share a bed with someone, does that mean you’re automatically putting yourself in a situation that sex is expected of you? Even if you declare your – no pun intended – position, before anything happens? I’ve shared a bed with men I had only recently met many times, and while most guys hope you’ll sleep with them, no one has ever pushed the issue. If you’re asleep, you’re not consenting with words, but by physically being there, are you consenting with your body?

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