With the rise of the “Me Too” movement and its subsequent ripple effect, it is hard not to look back on and re-evaluate your own sexual history. I, like most women, have been yelled at on the streets, assaulted by people I know and strangers alike, been poked, groped, prodded, and even molested. The insane thing is most people who did any of the above to me never thought they were doing anything wrong. And the most horrifying part of it all is that I consider myself lucky. Lucky it was not worse, lucky I was not ambushed walking to my car and raped by a stranger, lucky I was never stalked and violated, lucky I am alive.
I have had one experience though that most women haven’t and that is being a redhead. Being a redhead is my entire identity. I love my hair and the boldness it affords me. But it does have its drawbacks. This is not to say that other women have never encountered anything like this, but it is a unique perspective, it is my perspective. Being a redhead means that since before I hit puberty people would ask if my hair was natural and quickly follow it up with “oh well, are you a redhead everywhere?” Most of the time it was asked in pure innocence, but that does not make it any less disgusting. I even have a good childhood friend that thinks it is a hilarious question and even though I have asked him to stop for over a decade, and even though he is married with children, he keeps asking. He “has to know or [he] will die!” His wife just laughs and brushes it off like it is completely normal; it’s not. It breaks my heart to think of the conversation I may someday have to have with my daughter if she too is a ginger.
It is all too common, however, when men think they are being appropriate but aren’t. And in retrospect, maybe I should have been louder in my objections. Maybe 7 year old me should have told my adult neighbor to fuck off when he asked about the color of my pubic hair. Maybe I should have called the police when the bouncer of the bar wouldn’t let me in unless I agreed to sleep with him but let all my friends through. Maybe I should have yelled and screamed after I told my family another family member all but molested me when their only reaction was to stare at me and said “well, he was drunk”. Maybe I should have done all of those things, but I didn’t. Yet, more importantly, maybe I should never have been put in those positions in the first place.
I was an adult when I had sex for the first time. My whole life I had put this idea behind sex that it was something you did with someone you loved and it was special and romantic. Well, time came and went. I dated, but never seriously. And I never fell in love. I realized that rose petals and soft music weren’t in my future and decided to sleep with the guy I was currently dating. We had gone on a few dates, I told him I wanted to take things slow and he seemed ok with that. Then one night I invited him back to my place and just went for the Olympic gold. I don’t regret it in the slightest, I was at a point where I just wanted to get it over with and I did. In all honesty, I wasn’t even that sad when he left the next morning and I never heard from him again.
A short while later I started online dating. I met this sweet looking guy who was really funny and kind. We dated for a couple of weeks and the night I decided to sleep with him I consciously made the choice and then singlehandedly downed an entire bottle of wine. We moved to the bedroom and there I was again. Sleeping with someone I had little emotional attachments to, someone who spent no time on foreplay, someone who didn’t even bother taking off my dress. It made me feel uncomfortable, like he didn’t even want to see me naked. But I was present, I was persistent, and I was giving him every verbal and non-verbal cue I wanted to continue, because I did. I had a fun, albeit unsatisfying time, and wanted to continue seeing him.
Over the next couple of weeks we hung out, mostly outside of our houses so we really didn’t have much time to hook up again. I was in school, he had a full time job, and we lived in different cities. I think by the time the night in question happened, we had slept together only one more time. Again, fun but unsatisfying and hasty. Every time we would kiss he would grab my hand and shove it towards his penis. He would sigh loudly when would be making out and I made no move towards his groin. Keep in mind, neither his hand nor his face had been anywhere near my groin. One night we were on our way to having sex and he loudly yells at me “I want a blowjob!” I told him that was a two way street and to my shock I was suddenly on my back and he was kissing down my body. To say I was fucking thrilled would be an understatement. I finally started to relax and get comfortable with the idea of sexually exploring someone else and vice versa. That is when it all started to go down hill.
Somehow when I wasn’t looking this man must have brought a jackhammer, a crab claw and a goddamn shovel into the bed. He was down there, his tongue randomly flailing about and he was using both hands to, I assume, hold open my vagina so he could check to see if my cervix was still there (it was). At some point he was digging, literally digging, into my vagina with both hands and, fun fact, that’s not how vaginas work. I know I should have told him to stop, but I didn’t. He seemed so fragile and I was really trying to make it work. I finally faked an orgasm just to get him to stop and we had sex. I still didn’t give him a blowjob. The sex was terrible and he ended up losing his erection. Admittedly I was not being very active since there was a throbbing leftover pain in my vagina from where he tried to dig through my body cavity with his teeth and hands. Most likely, however, it was the alcohol.
The next morning we woke up and I was pretty hung-over. I had not drank a lot the night before but at a certain age after college a few glasses on wine will produce a unique and terrible headache that lasts all day. We were making out, my vagina still throbbing. He again exclaimed he wanted a blowjob and this time he kept pushing my head towards his penis. Head pounding I genuinely tried, but I was in so much pain and I couldn’t think clearly. It was terrible; I know that. At some point he told me to just stop and I felt so relieved I immediately laid back down and closed my eyes. That is when I felt him roll on top of me. I pulled my legs up to block his body, he was naked at this point and I was clothed but no underwear on. My knees were blocking him and I could feel his erection on my legs. I told him I had a headache and he pouted at me and persisted. I held my legs tight as he tried to pry them open, which he succeeded at doing. I said I was sore and I didn’t want to have sex and he kept kissing me and moving his penis on the outside of my vagina. I said no, I meant no, and I gave all the non-verbal cues. I was uncomfortable, stiff, unmoving, and not kissing him back. And suddenly he was inside me. I pushed him out with my legs and again said I was really sore. He told me that was hot and shoved his penis inside me. I gave up. I tensed up and endured the pain and tried to lay back and wait until it was over. He asked me if I came and I laughed and said absolutely not.
I do not feel like I was raped, what happened I still do not consider rape for me. But if I heard the same story from a friend I may think otherwise. He was a nice man, I assume he is still a nice man. We started dating shortly before Valentines Day and he even made a reservation at his favorite restaurant after our first date “just in case”. He made the night so fun and romantic and we genuinely had a great time together. I am not justifying his aggressive behavior with his kind behavior, I am just saying I would never ever label him as a rapist; I do not believe he is one. But lines got blurred and the situation could have been avoided. His mindset that it is ok to push boundaries and ignore what I wanted was not ok. The idea some men have that if they push us far enough we will just say yes, is sickening. And what is worse is they generally do not know that is their mindset. What happened between us, he would never consider a violation. I was there, I let it happen and it was not violent or overly aggressive. It was, at first, sweet and fun, but it took a turn somewhere. We fell off the same page and never could get back on. After that night I ended things. I could never get comfortable around him again. Every time he called me beautiful or reached for my hand I would cringe. I didn’t want to sleep with him again and how was I supposed to continue our relationship but take a step backwards?
I am not casting blame on him. I was there too. I should have and could have done more in my particular situation. This is not to say that every woman should and could do more in theirs, each situation is unique and each story deserves to be heard. I write this not to cast blame on either or us or make myself feel better about what happened. But to understand the evening and show how quickly a night can turn from fun to pushy even if you are in a relationship. I want more men to pick up on verbal and non-verbal cues even if women are going along with what is happening. I kept going because I thought maybe it would change, or maybe I would feel differently. I kept going because I liked him and if I stopped maybe he wouldn’t like me. I kept going because, fuck it, it was already happening. I kept going because I felt too old to be as sexually inexperienced as I was because society tells you you can’t be a virgin after a certain age. I was 24. I kept going because I hadn’t found my voice. But now I have. And millions of other men and women have too. We are loud. We are united. And we are over this abuse of power.