"I thought I knew what could be defined as rape and sexual assault. But in reality, the lines were very blurred."Yuxin Li

Content Note: This article contains detailed discussion of rape and sexual assault

One of the most difficult parts of speaking up about rape and sexual assault is knowing how your experiences are viewed in light of the law, so that you can appropiately describe what has happened to you from a legal standpoint. Even when writing this article, I had to check myself to ensure I was terminologically accurate, so I could express my experiences using the weight of the English law to support me.

Inform yourself of the definitions below, as they will help you offer better advice and direction for yourself and if you know someone impacted by rape or sexual assault.

Rape: a person intentionally penetrates another’s vagina, anus or mouth with a penis, without the other person’s consent.

Whilst this definition above is correct in terms of English law, it is important to note that for lots of people this definition can feel restrictive, as it can make some people’s experience less “serious”, particularly if they were not penetrated by a penis. Therefore, it is also worth noting the US definition of rape which is the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.

Sexual assault: an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation in the form of a sexual act, inflicted on someone without their consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts.

When I was 17, I was forced to give a guy head. A boy I had known for 5 years of secondary school refused to accept that I did not want to have unprotected sex with him. He said I, at the very least, ‘owed’ him a blowjob, so he proceeded to push my head down to complete what he regarded to be my duty.

You can’t turn someone on and then not finish the job right?

"I just assumed that this was how sex would be."

I just assumed that this was how sex would be. The only objective was to make a guy come. I felt a sense of personal failure when I couldn’t make someone finish.

When I got into my first relationship, I explained what I had experienced aged 17, and he said he would never want to put me in a similar situation. Despite this, he would often bring up the fact that I didn’t give blowjobs to tease me, subtle digs that appealed to a very raw sense of sexual failure on my part.

When we broke up, a part of me couldn’t help but think maybe that was one of the reasons why. I told myself that I just needed to get over the blowjob thing. What was the point of risking potential anger and disappointment. It was hardly sexy to explain the reason why I didn’t really want to give head.

For a while that worked. I just ‘got on with it’ as best as I could. But I noticed a repeated action whilst I was giving head. The guy would grab my head or my neck and force me to go faster and deeper, ignoring the fact that pushing so hard on my gag reflex simply made me cry involuntarily.

I repeated things to myself in these instances. You’re ok. This is ok. It will be over soon. What is the point of resisting realistically?

Of course, I know in theory I could have stopped. I could have simply got up and left. Told them I didn’t want to do it any more, or at the very least not in the way I was currently being forced to. But who wants to be ‘that’ girl? Much better to be unproblematic and get on with it. Indeed, when I have asked someone to stop, it didn’t ultimately change the experience drastically, within 5 minutes their hand was back on my head.

I thought I knew what could be defined as rape and sexual assault. But in reality, the lines were very blurred. The idea that ‘I turned him on, so I can’t leave him like this’ quickly turned into a reasonable justification for blowjobs I felt uncomfortable with. Despite the sense of shame afterwards, it seemed useless to class it as sexual assault. I hadn’t consented to the act occurring, but I had deeply bought into the idea that the most important aspect of sex is a guy finishing, and that overruled any discomfort I felt.

“I’m always shocked when a guy explicitly states before anything has happened that I can say stop at any time.”

I’m always shocked when a guy explicitly states before anything has happened that I can say stop at any time. Who asks before they do anything and checks I’m comfortable with what’s happening throughout. When it first happened, I was somewhat confused. I didn’t realise that the lessons taught in sex ed at school had permeated outside the confinements of the classroom.

When I was 17, I was sexually assaulted. When I was 19, I was sexually assaulted. When I was 20, I was sexually assaulted.

It needs to be laid out like that. Not saying no should not automatically be taken as saying yes. Consent should not be passive or implied. Checking verbally whether someone is comfortable with what’s going on isn’t unsexy - it shows a basic level of respect for the other person.

It should not be down to the victim to find their voice at a point of vulnerability and speak out. The stress should be on the creation of an environment in which both parties involved feel safe to say when they aren’t comfortable.

We need to move away from a culture in which girls feel obliged to please a man above anything else. More importantly, we need to move away from a culture in which this fact is exploited by men for sexual favours.


Mountain View

Sexual harassment in and out of lockdown

I make no apologies if you feel ‘called out’. The most important step I took towards working through sexual assault was acknowledging what had happened. Those boys who pushed my head manipulated my emotions, and all those who force sexual acts without explicit consent, need to acknowledge their role in perpetuating a culture of sexual intimidation and ‘guilt tripping’.

If you have experienced rape or sexual assault, or are seeking to help someone else who has, these links provide information and support:



Rape and Abuse Line: 0808 800 0123

Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre: 0808 802 9999

Nightline: 01223 744444