My #MeToo Story Was My First Sexual Experience
Other women expanding their “me too” story has made me want to expand my own. So, here’s mine:
The year I before my junior year at college, I was 20 and I realized I wasn’t going to be able to be a Christian the way I had been. This was heartbreaking. It was my whole world, but I just couldn’t believe some of the things I had anymore. So at the beginning of my junior year, when I made it clear to my Christian roommates that I wasn’t going to be involved in our Christian fellowship, it was awkward and uncomfortable and I felt like a pariah. I was still living with my former Christian friends because I’d already signed an apartment lease the year before. I needed new friends. This is when the film majors and theater kids at Cornell really came through. They invited me to lunch. They invited me to hang after class. They saved me from a loneliness they didn’t even know I was going through. But I still longed for a friend I could talk to about the spiritual loneliness I was going through.
That’s when I ran into him on the sidewalk walking home one night. He was a PhD student, a few years older than me, who was still in the Christian fellowship I had been in. But he was kind and warm to me and he talked with me openly. We started catching up whenever we ran into each other, and it was like a breath of fresh air. It was the first time I felt like maybe I could stop feeling like a pariah in my home.
I’ve gone back to journal entries I wrote during the two weeks that came right before my 21st birthday and they are full of statements like this: “It’s like having an older brother to talk to,” “It’s so nice to have a friend who understands my past.”
This is when he asked if I wanted to go to a wine place on my birthday. You see, I really wanted to do something for my 21st birthday that involved some festive drinking but was nothing too crazy. So on the night of my birthday, we met up, he drove us to a restaurant and we visited while he bought me a birthday glass of wine and some dessert. It was a very pleasant time, and then he drove me back to campus.
He pulled up in front of his apartment. “Do you want to come in for a while?” “Sure,” I said. So we went inside.
So we’re in his one-bedroom apartment when he offers me some tequila. And I say yes, because I feel safe. I’d had a total of three drinks in my life up to this point. I was not an experienced drinker. In fact, I was the definition of a lightweight – a term I had just learned the night before. But this was my friend who was a Christian who was like a big brother to me. And I knew he wouldn’t try anything. He was my friend who understood me. I felt safe.
Two shots of tequila later I was feeling chatty and hyper, because that’s how I get when I’m drunk. We were talking about a cat video I’d seen and he asked if I wanted to look it up on his computer and I said, “Yeah!” So we went in his room and looked it up on his desktop. This led to us watching and laughing at several more cat videos. He had a bag of skittles by the computer and offered me some. I was eating them and laughing and happy and feeling like this was a pretty great birthday.
And then he leaned in and kissed me and I was the most confused I’d ever been.
You know when a computer is glitching and unable to process or keep up with the new information you’re giving it. That’s how I felt. My heart started racing with adrenaline and I was so confused. All I knew was that we were making out.
Now, I imagine, this is when it gets hard to keep reading this story, so I’ll tell you this now: We did not have sex. We did not have intercourse, but he did give me my first sexual experience, and it was traumatic.
The next parts I only remember in flashes. We were on the floor kissing. I looked at the clock. It was one in the morning. I was angry. 1AM was too late for me to walk home alone and feel safe. I didn’t have a way out of this room. He was supposed to be my ride home. He took off my shirt. I felt stupid – so incredibly stupid. How did I miss this? How did I miss that this is what I was agreeing to by coming inside? I felt resigned to my stupidity and lost. I took off my bra. I didn’t want him to stretch it.
You know when people use the phrase “hate fucking”? If you don’t, it’s basically when someone has sex with another person while still hating that person. Usually, it’s used to describe hooking up between two people who used to date or who recently broke up. In short, their sexual drive towards the other person is fueled by hate. That’s how I felt.
When I resigned to the fact that I didn’t have an easy way to leave this room, this apartment, this building, and no good way to get home, I felt angry that I was stuck there and I felt hatred for him. My one consolation was that maybe I could expose him as a hypocrite and as a fraud – if only to myself. So we kept making out.
Then, we were naked and on the bed. He asked what was wrong. I felt numb. I was only wearing my underwear. What had just happened was that he’d fingered me, but at the time, I didn’t even have the vocabulary to know or describe what had happened. I didn’t even know what fingering was. I just felt numb and cold. So I asked him the question that had been burning on my mind: “Do you want to have sex?” He looked at me and smiled and said, “I mean only if you want to.” I was confused. He was a hypocrite. He was a Christian and in the Christian Fellowship that I knew did not believe in sex before marriage. Did he feel like he could defile me because I was no longer a Christian? I felt dirty. I laid down with my head on the pillow. I pulled a sheet over me and said I was tired. He turned off the light and went to bed.
As I laid next to him as he slept, I prayed to God and asked that he would wake me up as soon as the sun came up so I could sneak out of this apartment. I woke up ten minutes before dawn. I silently grabbed my clothes and tip-toed out of the room. I walked home in the morning light with my arms folded, ashamed of my clothes.
I snuck into my own apartment. I quickly shut my bedroom door behind me as I heard one of my roommates start to get up. “Did she hear me come in?” I wondered. “Do they think I was out partying or doing something reckless?” I wondered. And then I felt so angry that I couldn’t tell my roommates the truth – that one of their Christians was the reason I had come home so late feeling defiled and dirty. That if I’d had it my way, I would have slept in my own bed last night.
I went to class that day. That night I came home to find him sitting on my couch. He had come over to watch the TV show House with my roommates, as he did every week. “Hi,” he said. I was in shock. I silently walked to my room. He Facebook messaged me then. “Everything okay?” he asked. I finally wrote back: “I feel weird about last night.” He responded: “Oh, really? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable. You were just so cute. Do you want to get together and talk?” I said “Sure,” but we never did.
That was my first sexual experience ever.
It took me six years to stop taking responsibility for what happened that night. It took me six years to process that I never said “yes” to what happened and I was never given an opportunity to say “yes.” And even if I had been given an opportunity to say “yes,” I was drunk and I could not have given consent if I wanted to, which is what a therapist finally told me six years later in her office as I cried with relief. I cried for three days after that. I cried exhausted, stale tears.
I’ve never written out this story anywhere but in my journal, but I wanted to share it because this is the reason I felt numb and dirty for years after this. This is the reason I dated “bad boys” through my early twenties and appreciated how low expectations made me feel safe and in control with the assurance that I wasn’t going to be disappointed. This is the reason I couldn’t see a church without feeling pure hatred for two years. This is the reason I didn’t start talking to God again until last year when my therapist told me that if I wanted to, I could. And this is the reason I cried when I realized I was falling in love with an amazing man last year and I became scared I wouldn’t ever be able to completely trust another person sexually.
Thankfully, it was possible for me to completely trust another person again sexually but it was by no means easy to get there. It required a lot of therapy, a lot of hard, honest conversations, a lot of journaling, and a lot of crying. But, thankfully, I found that there was another side to that unpleasant experience I’d had in college.
This is one of the reasons I’m such a big therapy advocate. Talking was and is my salve and it’s how I heal. Mental health resources have helped me grow and recover from pain in ways I never thought possible.
So I think it’s really good that we’re doing this. I think it’s really good that we’re talking and challenging ourselves to be honest and share our stories about sexual assault and harassment. And it feels really good that people are listening.