What does a pinky promise mean in terms of consent?

TW: sexual violence

1 gallon of Diva detergent costs $71.95. His apartment reeked of its sweet scent, clogging my pores and cutting off my airways. When I folded my clothes the morning after, the faint scent of the detergent made my stomach churn and I immediately threw up.

I was visiting a friend from college in her new city when I agreed to meet up with him. He had always had a girlfriend, I had always had a boyfriend, but the sexual tension between us was still charged a full year after college graduation. When I told him I was coming into town, I made it clear that I wasn’t looking for anything. I said “I’m taking a break from men” and “No, I won’t change my mind” and “I’m letting you know so you don’t get your hopes up.” He said “I won’t push you.”

We pregamed with tequila. My mistake. Around 1 am, I made my way across town to meet him at another bar. My mistake. I kissed him at the bar. My mistake. He wanted to go get a drink at his place, so I made him pinky promise that he wouldn’t try anything if I went with him. My mistake.

The problem with making promises when your brain slowly fades to black is that you begin to question how much you can trust yourself. Snippets of the night come back to me as short videos with blurred edges. Are they memories or am I dreaming? Stepping on the balcony to escape the scent of detergent stirring up old memories. Looking out at the city with an impressive pour of wine. Pressing me up against the wall. Pushing me onto the bed. Never stopped him, never tried leave. A rag doll with huge glass eyes. A puppet going through the motions without resistance.

My next memory is standing in his shower, washing my makeup off, scrubbing away his scent. Yelling threats and insults, expressing fear the only way I could. I thought my vulnerability would save me as I told him how this situation reminded me of a previous sexual assault. He responded by asking for my consent in writing. I apologized that my previous trauma triggered a panic attack. He asked me to leave.

I cried the entire uber ride home, first humiliated, then relieved. I took another shower at my friends apartment, this time to wash away the shame and anger. Why did he push me? Why didn’t I resist? Why doesn’t anyone honor a pinky promise anymore.

One month into therapy, these questions remain: Does sex with an acquaintance in a dark one-bedroom apartment, in a strange city, at 3 am, with too much alcohol in my blood and frozen terror in my limbs amount to sexual assault? Does asking for consent after the fact negate the lack of consent during the act? Finally, why did he ask me to come over the next night, and why did I almost say yes?

Post Date: July 26, 2019

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