Archive for January 27th, 2012

Things We Don’t Talk About

We interrupt the regularly scheduled sarcastic/happy/random/baby-related daily musings  that appear on this blog for an important message. One I’m not entirely at all comfortable talking about, but maybe that’s why I’m putting it out there.

WARNING: It’s long. And graphic. If you’re having a good day or are in a particularly good mood, save this post for later. Because it’s a total downer and I don’t want to be responsible for ruining your day.

Okay? Are you sure? Alright…you’ve been warned.

Over the last two days, I’ve read a handful of posts that have stirred a few emotions I’d long ago put behind me.

On Being an Object, and Then Not Being an Object – Finslippy

It should be said – Mom-101

Speaking up for Gray – Frema

Why I Talk About Rape – xoJane

I encourage you to read each of those. If not now, please do so after. This post will make so much more sense.

And now for my story.

When I was 15-almost-16, I had my first kiss with a boy my same age. I’d met the boy through church and we spent an entire year as boyfriend and girlfriend. We never had intercourse, but we took advantage of every moment alone, pushing the envelope as far as we could that year.  And we went REALLY far. As two metal-mouthed, acne-ridden virgins, we agreed that we would “save” the one lewd act we hadn’t committed for our wedding night, which would undoubtedly take place some time after we’ve both graduated from high school.  As most teenage romances go, we never even made it to senior year. I was devastated, and spent most of my junior and senior years holding onto the hope that we would someday get back together, despite his new blonde cheerleader girlfriend.

Graduation came and went and before I knew it, the summer was over and I was unloading my things in a dorm room the size of a walk-in closet with my best friend. A couple weeks later, I returned home for a party one of my friends was throwing at her house while her parents were away. Most of the party-goers were friends of hers that lived in the neighborhood; kids I’d never met before. But the real reason I was there was because I’d heard that the ex-boyfriend was expected to attend. And he did, but with blonde cheerleader on his arm. Of course. I spent most of the night showing off for them. Trying to show how “cool” I was by taking shots (maybe 2 or 3) and flirting with pretty much anything that moved. And just like a wolf can sense fear, one guy at the party sensed my weakness. He flirted back, and then he took it a few steps further. Before I knew it, we were making out, and it felt so great to have someone pursue me and make out with me, when the alternative would just be watching my ex hook up with his new girlfriend. Could the ex see this right now? Was he watching and thinking that maybe this could be him instead? Would this send him into a jealous fit of rage and he’d grab this guy, knock him out, and whisk me away on his trusty white steed Ford Ranger?

Ah, teenagers. We are so stupid.

By the time I had a chance to look up and catch my breath, the ex was gone. As was just about everyone from the party. Except, of course, the guy I had been making out with. He told me he lived down the street and his parents wouldn’t miss him so he was planning to spend the ENTIRE night with me. Oh goody. Feeling exhausted and needing a place to sleep, my friend said it would be okay if we slept in her sister’s bedroom. (I hadn’t told my parents that I was home that weekend, for fear I’d have a ridiculously early curfew, so I had already planned on crashing there.) We took a blanket in the bedroom, except one of us didn’t have plans to sleep. Things got more intense once the door was closed. I remember letting him take off my pants, already feeling like I’d let things go way too far. I mentioned concern over going this far because I was a virgin. Stating this was a HUGE mistake because it only made him more excited and determined. When he started to take off his pants, I remember saying “Wait a second, we are NOT having sex.” His response: “Why? I’ve got protection.”  I laughed, as I tend to do when I get nervous, and tried to explain that no, I’m a virgin by choice, and this was not happening. I barely knew him. Then the begging and negotiating began. “Please? It’ll be fast. It won’t hurt, I promise.”  I denied him more than a few times, but I never got up. I was frozen. Then with his hands on my knees, he slowly but firmly pushed my legs apart. I don’t know why I finally gave in. Maybe it was the fear of causing an argument. Maybe it was the fear of not being liked anymore. Maybe it was a combination of exhaustion and the emotional turmoil of seeing the ex that night. I don’t know, but I do know that I finally said, “Fine, but make it fast. You’ve got 30 seconds.”

And that’s all it was. Maybe less.

I saw him again a few days later, and we did it a couple more times. Those times were voluntary, but only because I couldn’t live with the fact that I had just let a complete stranger take advantage of me. No, he was going to at least be a guy that I’ve dated for awhile, maybe even be my boyfriend, if only so I could sleep at night. Things didn’t last long though. I could barely tolerate looking at him. Just the sound of his name made me want to vomit. Fortunately, I was four hours away at college and he had plenty of other conquests to occupy his time so it was pretty easy for us to go our separate ways.

Did I consider what happened to me “rape”? No. Like most women, I blamed myself. I had led him on. I put myself in that situation by being too flirtatious. I didn’t scream or kick. He didn’t punch me or threaten me or hold me down. Eventually, I had said okay. I had a million reasons for why this wasn’t rape, but just some unfortunate circumstance that I deeply regretted.

But I still hated him. I still resented him for not saying “okay” when I said “no” at least a dozen times. For knowing I was a virgin and thinking it was some prize that he was entitled to take from me. A girl he didn’t know. And I wondered if he ever remembered it that way. If he felt guilty. Or if maybe he never thought of it at all.

In the last article I linked to above, the writer says this:

I talk about rape because rape is still misunderstood, even by those who have experienced it. Because when we don’t hear real details of actual sexual assaults, we are forced to believe the presiding cultural narrative, which is that rape is something only perpetrated by strangers with guns and knives. We want rape to be scary and foreign, a stranger jumping out of the bushes, because if it looked familiar, like our own boyfriends and sons, how would we keep going?

We want it to happen to drunk girls or slutty girls or girls who were somewhere they shouldn’t be because the alternative is that it can happen to any girl. That it could happen to us. But the other side of that is that when it does happen to us, we don’t recognize it. We poke holes in our own experiences, make up reasons why it was our own damn fault.

YES. A thousand times yes. I never talked to my friends about what had happened. Retelling the details in my head only made me feel like a slut, so I could imagine how my friends would react. I never told my parents either, although not long after it happened, a friend of mine had let it spill to my mom that I was no longer “innocent”. She cried, and I didn’t have the heart back then to tell her what really happened. I was too ashamed.

Several years later, I received word that the guy had committed suicide. Apparently, he went into his friend’s house, borrowed his gun, and blew his brains out. The news shook me as I was forced to recall the events of that one late summer. And immediately my mind started to make excuses for him. “Of course! He was depressed! No wonder he was such a scumbag. He was fucked up! He had issues!” And what happened between us must’ve just been another cog in the wheel for his downward spiral. And while all of that may be true, it’s not an excuse. There’s never an excuse. I spent a few days grappling with my emotions after hearing that news, but what eventually came out of it was relief and peace. He was dead. I no longer had to wonder if he regretted his decisions because he was obviously in a lot more pain than anyone realized. And though I never would’ve wished that fate on him, part of me feels vindicated. And relieved that I don’t have to endure seeing his face or his name pop up on Facebook, like so many other women who have had people from their past that have violated them just reappear into their life.

So why am I talking about this? Because it’s something I haven’t before, and like the excerpt above says, most of these “unfortunate incidents” don’t happen in the dramatic, abusive way we’ve always envisioned. With strangers and weapons and physical scars. They’re secret, shame-inducing encounters that, in some ways, may even be more traumatic.

We don’t talk about it because it makes us feel dirty and worthless. We don’t talk about it because we feel we’ll be judged. We don’t talk about it because we want more than anything to erase it from our brains. And talking about it out-loud makes it more real than anything we remember in our heads.

But now I’m talking about it. Because like Liz at Mom-101 said, “it should be said.” Girls need to understand that we’re not put on this earth to please men. That we can’t find love (or make ex-boyfriends jealous) by lying on our backs. And the fear of making guys, friends, or parents angry at us should never trump the fear of going beyond our physical intimate boundaries. More importantly, guys need to be taught at an early age, that if a girl says no – even if she’s laughing, even if she’s not kicking you or crying, even if it seems like she’s really probably okay with it – it’s not okay.

And for god-sake, understand that taking someone’s virginity is not like collecting merit badges at Boy Scout Camp. It’s not something to be proud of or brag about. That honor deserves to go to someone that loves her more than anything, and if that person isn’t you, then respect what dignity she still has left and move the fuck along.

If you’ve made it to the end of this, thank you. And thank you to all the other bloggers I linked above, and so many more, that have had the courage to talk about this sort of thing. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have said anything either.

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