It was my birthday, and I’d been fooling around with this guy a couple times — a friend of a friend. At the time, I was very sexually empowered, and endorsed the ideology of sex positivity. Sex to me was natural, healthy, and a wonderful space for exploration and the pursuit of pleasure. I was outspoken against shaming labels for people who were sexually active, open about their sexual activities, and tolerant and accepting of others. It was a source of pride for me that I was very vocal about, and it felt very progressive.
Two years ago, on the night of my birthday, I was drunk and high, but excited to have birthday sex with my new-ish lover. When we started, he didn’t want to use a condom. We argued for about thirty minutes about it. I insisted he did. He finally went to get one, and we started having sex. He entered me from behind. At the end, he pulled out to come on my back, and we hugged and he left. I was confused about that at first, as I was intoxicated. Then, after he’d left I realized he must have taken the condom off even though I had verbalized that I would not consent to unprotected sex. I was angry, and horrified. I went to the doctor the next day, to get tested, and take the morning after pill. I didn’t contract anything. I shared the story with some close friends, and expressed that I felt violated. They told me that it would pass. I didn’t even understand until much later that it counted as sexual assault.
I felt guilty identifying with people who had experienced more violent encounters, so I downplayed it in my head, and to others. I instantly became more withdrawn sexually. I stopped having sex for about a year, and when I started again I would often have panic attacks during sex. Then I would feel guilty for ruining the sexual experience for the other participant.
Now, I have a wonderful partner and we have wonderful sex. He was patient about my occasional panic attacks during intimate moments and I feel safe and comfortable with him, to the point that they no longer happen with him. We are polyamorous, and when I have sex with people who are not my partner, I nearly always experience panic attacks. Often, I am unable to have sex, or start to cry. They seem to be getting worse, and more frequent, the more I acknowledge that what happened to me was sexual assault. Often I feel dejected before the sexual encounter because I know it will likely happen again, though I hope it won’t the next time. I also have panic attacks and am wracked with guilt and self shame after I party, or become intoxicated, because I feel I have put myself in a situation to cloud my judgment, and am wracked with regrets the next day for having allowed myself to drop my guard like that. I have become more socially withdrawn.
I feel like I lost a part of my identity — the part that felt free and empowered in hedonistic contexts. I have begun expressing more openly how damaged I was by that experience, and my friends make sure I don’t cross paths with that individual, but some of my friends still maintain friendships with this other person. I haven’t seen him since then, and I never confronted him about it, and I don’t even know if he knows the effect it had on me. I just wish I could move on. I feel like it’s never going to go away, and I’m never going to get my old fun-loving self back, and I feel like a failure for not being able to get past it.
Thank you for giving me a space to express this. I think it’s a first step.