“If you don’t do this, I’m going to tell your parents all the bad things you do when I’m here.” There weren’t really any bad things, but we were allowed to bend the rules when the babysitter was there, and as it was, I was the scape goat for the family’s ills…
So in 5th grade, I gave my first blowjob to our next door neighbor. I told no one. Who would I tell?
Years later, I realized what that white creamy stuff was. (He had come into a tissue.)
Years after that, I told my family. In a letter. My sister emailed and “screamed” at me. Why would I tell them that? I upset Mom and they have to deal with the fallout. (I was not living locally, which was true once I graduated college.) You’re being selfish. “He told me the same thing and I just said no.”
It’s your fault.
My freshman year of college, as a no-sex-until-marriage Catholic girl, I dated a guy who—as I learned much later—had the goal of breaking people of their Christianity. (He was Jewish.) Step one was sex, regardless of my clear boundaries that I didn’t want to have sex.
When I talked/cried about it later, he said, “You make it sound like I raped you.” But being the good don’t-make-waves girl that I was, I didn’t push that line. But yeah, that’s what you did.
I remember details of sex with him only two other times. Once, I was exhausted and told him no, I needed to sleep. He didn’t take no for an answer and then was irate that I fell asleep while he fucked me.
And the last time, he refused to take his shirt off. When I finally insisted, he was covered in hickies from the other woman he was sleeping with. He decided at that moment that she was better. They eventually got married and divorced.
We worked together at the campus newspaper. Everyone there (or everyone there who was vocal) thought I was insane for being so upset. I got notes in my mailbox (at the paper) saying “You’re a psycho.”
You see, we had gotten engaged, because if you can’t save sex for marriage, then you can at least marry the person you have sex with. (Another tangent for another day.)
From my vantage point now, marrying your rapist is a bad plan. At the time, it didn’t seem like a bad plan. Our breakup had a lot wrapped up in it.
A lot of people know parts of this story—at the very least that I was raped by my first college boyfriend. Very, very few know the story of what actually happened that night.
When I told the story to my therapist, the first words out of his mouth were, “How could you?” I don’t tell that story any more.
Those were the big ones.
They don’t include the teacher I had in 7th grade who used to hold my left hand while I sat and did writing work with my right.
Or the 7th grade boy who pinned me to a table backstage when I was in 8th grade.
Or the high school teacher who, when on a trip post-graduating (we happened to be chaperoning different schools on the same trip), interpreted me going to his room to hang out as me going to his room for sex. (He kissed me, and I stopped it right there, and he gave me all the reasons I was “sending mixed messages.”)
Or the guy who, upon my moving across the country, said he had some leads for places I could play my trombone (I had no contacts in the new location), met up with me for lunch without any leads—he just wanted to go out with me.
Or the guy in the band I played in who would tell me I was too pretty to play the trombone, then make a point of staring at my boobs and reading my T-shirt out loud.
(My boobs are not much to look at. Even if they were, it’s not acceptable, but there’s not even the “they were distracting” defense. B-cup boobs in a loose-fitting crew-neck T-shirt?)
(And there—I did it. Defended myself by explaining what I was wearing. IT DOESN’T MATTER. I’m leaving that there, instead of editing it out.)
I have spent a lot of my life being grateful that I was not “hot” growing up. By how many times would this be magnified?
All men? No. I’ve dated lots of boys (when I was young) and men who have been perfectly respectful. I’ve befriended boys and men and have not felt unsafe or uncomfortable with them.
Does that mean that they’ve never been the cause of someone else’s #metoo? Nope. I would be sad—in some cases, completely heartbroken—to learn that they carry that transgression.
This is the first time that I’ve seen men really speaking out, saying, “I believe you” publicly. Explaining why women don’t report. Arguing on my side. Explaining to other men. Sometimes explaining to women. (More on that in a moment.) It’s made me teary.
But there are also men I know who are very vocally feminist who have told stories that were “funny” that I’m reasonably sure the woman on the other end remembers differently.
Next, to all of the women who are putting down women right now: you’re hurt. Something happened to you that still hurts, and when things like this come up (as they seem to on a constant basis lately), you can’t have empathy for her, because it hurts too much. Instead, you put her down.
Work through your pain. Start to heal it, so you don’t feel like you have to hurt others to protect yourself.
If you made it this far, let me say thank you. For reading. For letting me share my thoughts, my experience, my life with you. A lot of people already know some or all of these stories, but putting it here and hitting “publish” is terrifying. I see other brave women standing up and owning their stories, not just to the people they trust, but to everyone. I see the backlash.
It’s my turn.