I am reading Jodi Picoult’s book, The Tenth Circle, for my book club. I did not know that this was a book about teen rape when we decided to read this book. If I had, I would have voted to read another book this month. I am slammed with my new job and won’t come up for air until June 2, so this is not the best timing for reading a book about rape.
Nevertheless, I am reading it while I work out at the gym in the early mornings, and I am enjoying it despite its serious content. The book delves into the many facets of teen rape. You have a 14-year-old girl who was dating a 17-year-old boy with her parents’ consent (which I, personally, cannot imagine supporting as a parent). He broke up with her. This was her first crush, and she is having a hard time getting over him, so she follows her best friend’s stupid advice to make him jealous by engaging in dangerous behaviors.
In a nutshell, the 14-year-old girl attends a sex party at her friend’s house (where the ex-boyfriend is invited). They are playing the “Rainbow Game” – a game I had never heard of but will now be preventing my son from going to any unsupervised parties!! – where each girl wears a different colored lipstick and performs oral sex on different boys. The boy sporting the most colors on his “rainbow” wins the game. Yuck!
Anyhow, the girl participates in the “game” one time and then throws up. After everyone else leaves, it is just her, the 14-year-old friend, the ex-boyfriend, and another 17-year-old boy. The girl is wearing a sheer shirt, low-rise jeans with no underwear, and plays strip poker with the boys. The other couple goes upstairs. One thing leads to another. The girl just wants to kiss and make out (“second base”) with her ex-boyfriend. He interprets all of the above as consent to sex and rapes her. The rest of the book (or at least as far as I have read) explores the many facets of this scenario – sadly one that happens frequently at teen parties and on college campuses.
The 14-year-old girl never said yes to sex and was a virgin. Her reaction to the sexual contact is the same as other rape victims – deep shame, feeling dirty, dressing in baggy clothing, insomnia, etc. There is no question that her reaction is of one a rape victim.
The 17-year-old boy was at a sex party where all of the girls (including the 14-year-old girl) were providing all of the boys with oral sex. She was in a sheer blouse with no underwear, kissing him, and taking off her bra for him. Both had also been drinking. From his perspective, all was consensual. His reaction is dumbfounded.
How can the same act be absolutely devastating to one party and viewed as completely consensual by the other? I was in a similar situation with an ex-boyfriend in college (minus the sex party – we were alone in his dorm room talking about whether we could work things out). He took things farther than I wanted. I dissociated. He performed intercourse on my body – something I did not want, did not ask for, and had repeatedly told him that I was not ready for because I believed I was a virgin. He saw it as consensual. I gained 30 lbs and experienced numerous trauma aftereffects. I was terrified of him and was never alone with him again. He expressed befuddlement at my “rejection” since we had finally “consummated” our relationship.
How can the same act between the two parties involved be so different? How could he truly believe that sex was consensual when her reaction was with trauma?
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