If a boy untags himself in a Facebook photo or unfriends a former flame, he refuses to publicly admit a negative part of himself or past. Facebook exists as a space for sharing; to untag is to present a false self-image to the world that leaves out blemishes and drunken nights, the moments that make a person more than just another URL. I leave everything on the internet. I share my positive and negative qualities, my balding and my bubble butt, my tragedies and my triumphs. Sharing everything allows me to feel ashamed about nothing. Oversharing is how I survive. That’s why until two weeks ago I refrained from unfriending my rapist on Facebook.
For those of you haven’t read “He Shoved His Dick Up My Ass,” let me quickly recap the month’s episode. My freshmen year of college, I went home with the Boy. He shoved his dick up my ass without my permission (hence the title) and stole my virginity without my permission. I asked the Boy to keep our night PG-13; he put his cock inside me two more times. I left his apartment, but went on a date with him the next day because I had no self-esteem at the time. I was so engrained within rape culture, I didn’t consider myself a rape victim until two years later when my best friend described how her boyfriend anally raped her.
After I sent my first draft to my editor, The Homo Life Editor-in-chief Alex Hughes, he asked me to refrain from posting the article on my Facebook timeline. Alex and I still attend college with my rapist and his classmate; he wanted to avoid unnecessary drama. The Boy didn’t realize he raped me; to find out he raped someone from a personal essay wouldn’t go over well. I agreed with Alex. I already had enough drama last December.
Along with writing about my rape experience, last month I wrote an essay for VICE about Charles, a gay boy that studies at Oxford where I currently study-abroad, and Charles didn’t take it well. The essay spread across Oxford like syphilis in the eighteenth century and damaged Charles reputation. Logically, he wanted to kill me. At the time I thought I might like Charles as more than a frienemy. (The only thing worse than being hurt by someone you love is the guilt that comes after you hurt someone you love.)
I’ve since realized that I never liked Charles in a romantic way. He fascinates me the same way the tragic female cartel princesses I grew up with enthrall me—he’s a mess I enjoy watching burn out—but since he’s male I confused the muse attraction for a romantic one. Although I love my cartel princesses (or in this case, cartel prince) the same way most people love Snooki, I want them to reach happy endings. I love them in my own fucked up way, and it hurts when they hate me. I was happy not to post “He Shoved His Dick Up My Ass” on Facebook and repeat the Oxford gays debacle. Of course, I shouldn’t care about the Boy. He raped me.
I should have wanted to embarrass him, and I should have wanted to delete him from Facebook, but revenge felt wrong. I know he doesn’t realize he raped me; he sees rape as flirting. Is it his fault if rape culture taught him to rape other boys? As shaming him seemed unjust, unfriending him seemed like denial of our past connection, even if that connection was just rape.
But what felt worse is that I was willing to link revealing articles about my family and friends on Facebook, articles that often force my loved ones to admit their negative qualities to themselves and our mutual friends, but unwillingly to force my rapist to stare his sins in the eye. Yeah, the article still floated around on the internet, but I purposely hid the article from my rapist. I preached about oversharing, hurting others in the process, but refused to overshare about someone who had done me wrong.
I thought about posting the article anyway. I stalked the Boy’s Facebook profile. Looking at his smile, I saw a happy, average twenty-year old boy—not a back alley rapist. Posting the article would hurt him, I thought, as I scrolled through his photos. I saw his profile picture again. Suddenly, his smile looked smug and for some reason the smugness pierced my blurry thoughts. Post the article, I said to myself. Hurt him. Shame him and name him. But I couldn’t do it. Although we lived in different countries, I had become one of those rape victims who lets the rapist control his life. I let him instill me with the quality I hated most: shame. To escape him, I had to change my internet tendencies.
I moved the mouse across the screen and clicked unfriend. For the first time since I realized he raped me, I felt freedom. To admit who I was and admit what happened to me without shame, I had to untag myself from my negative past.
Follow Mitchell on Twitter! @MitchSunderland
More from Mitchell Sunderland: