I lost my virginity when I was 20.
There was nothing romantic or charming about it. It wasn’t done after a long, intimate talk or some “connection”. No. I lost my virginity at the age of 20 through a whirl of pain, fear, panic and a hazy thought of, “Oh my God, why is this happening to me?”
You see, at the age of 20, I was raped. This event was made all the more painful by the fact that I was a virgin. I had escaped social and peer pressure, had protected myself during a time when girls in my middle and high school were getting knocked up left and right. I was proud of myself for being a virgin, not because our society does or doesn’t value a girl’s virginity, but because it meant that I hadn’t allowed myself to be pressured into sex by a guy who would do and say anything to get me to sleep with him. I wasn’t necessarily proud of my virginity; I was proud of my willpower to resist.
It took me years to figure out what had happened, mostly because I refused to confront it myself. I was the type that followed the mantra “out of sight, out of mind”; if I didn’t think about it, it wouldn’t bother me. I was back to a smiling, laughing, joking girl barely two days after the attack. I didn’t tell anyone. I was too ashamed. What would people say? I decided that if I pretended it didn’t happen, it would never bother me.
Unconsciously though, I did question it. I questioned why it had happened. I began to read up on stories about how many people in nursing homes were raped every year. I recoiled at at the number of little girls who were abused by their own fathers. When we imagine a typical bar scene, you don’t see guys looking at an obese girl and saying, “Damn, I’d tap that”. And yet physical appearance doesn’t seem to play much of a role in rape. Anyone can be raped. Why?
Rape involves sex. Yes, I won’t deny that. Rape, by definition, is when someone uses force or threats to have sex with someone else. But the mentality behind rape is not sex. It’s about power. Control. Being (pardon the pun) on top.
He was older than me. He wasn’t good-looking, perhaps more plain than average, but he was charming and sweet. Initially, he appeared wise and mature, a result of both age and experience. He was thoughtful. On particularly rough emotional nights, he’d drive over as fast as he could to be there and hold my hand.
And then he wanted to have sex. It started out rather jokingly. He’d try to put his hand down my shirt. He’d try to unbutton my jeans. I’d push his hand away, half-laughing, half not. He took it rather good-naturedly. Then it became more insistent. He would begin to complain whenever I stopped him. He would randomly buy condoms and leave them around for me to find. His idea of a good joke was to put a condom in my wallet and have it fall out onto the floor of a crowded restaurant. He would buy condoms and leave the empty boxes around for his roommates to find. He would buy flavored condoms and insist that I would like how they tasted. When I complained or protested that these things made me uncomfortable, he would tell me to lighten up.
After a while, I began to question myself. Was it my duty, as his girlfriend, to offer my body to him? Was I obligated to have sex with him simply because he was my significant other? Was that what was expected of all girlfriends? Was I really the one who was wrong?
But then I had another thought. What was stopping me from sleeping with this guy anyway? I already knew the answer though. I just didn’t want to admit it. But I didn’t trust the guy. I didn’t like his pressure, his authoritative-ness, his threats, his condescending manner. He didn’t care that some of the things he did got me in trouble, as long as I did what he wanted me to do. Class at 8AM? Who cares, I was going to stay on the phone with him until he fell asleep, even if it took 4 hours. Went over on my minutes? Then stop calling other people.
All those screamed a neon-red “WATCH OUT”. So why was I still with him then? Part of it was an issue that I’ve discovered many girls have: I didn’t want to face being single and alone. It’s a stupid reason, but those first few weeks are hard because a sense of comfortable security is gone. The other reason, in part, was fear. I wasn’t afraid he would hurt me. I actually didn’t think he was capable of doing any physical harm to me. I was more afraid of the fact that he would insist on coming by and that we would argue. He would make threats. I would cry. He would be immediately contrite and try to soothe me. And then insist that we shouldn’t break up because “obviously you still have feelings for me.” I didn’t want him to crumble my resolve to end the relationship. I was afraid to admit that I was weak and afraid.
I may have been 20, but God, was I naive about love and relationships. I didn’t trust my own strength and willpower.
Eventually, he moved out-of-state for work. Our already failing relationship was rapidly declined. And I finally got the nerve to say it. I wanted to break up.
He didn’t take it well, and I didn’t expect him to. I felt slightly guilty for dropping that on him when he had just moved out-of-state, but I knew that if he were anywhere nearby, I wouldn’t be able to gather to courage to say it. After hours of arguing, he finally pleaded with me to at least break up with him in person. He would drive down the next day and we would end it properly, like civilized adults. No phones, no Internet. Just face-to-face, like two mature people. He asked that we talk in private, because he didn’t like arguing in front of other people. This was something I knew to be true of him, so I didn’t think much about it. In fact, I didn’t like arguing in front of other people either. So I agreed.
I never regretted a decision more.
I don’t recall much of what happened that day. There are still big blank spots in my head that I don’t want to recall. Oh, I remember that the conversation started out civilly enough. I remember how nervous I felt as I stared at my hands and told him in a trembling voice that I wanted to break up. I wasn’t sure why I felt nervous. I attributed it to the fact that I am horrible at confrontation and this one was one of the least pleasant ones I had to do.
His immediate response was, “Why?”. I didn’t want to drag the conversation on. I had already laid out my reasons the night before, I didn’t see why he needed to hear them again. But I told him again anyway. With each reason, I saw his face become darker. And then… And then I brought up the sex. How I didn’t like that he was pressuring me. How I wish he could have respected my boundaries more, but he only laughed at them. How I didn’t appreciate the little condom jokes he played. I didn’t want to have sex with him because I wasn’t comfortable with him and I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t respect that.
Maybe I could have said that a little more tactfully. Maybe if I hadn’t let the words rush out of my mouth in such a raw and bitter way, things wouldn’t have gone the way they did. But the words were out and I remember my heart pounding because I had never spoken to anyone like that before.
The next thing I knew, I was on the floor. I remember the sharp pain on my face as he slapped me. I remember the tears, the feel of his hand over my mouth. I remember the panic because he was strong, so much stronger than me. I remember wondering why I couldn’t pull away, why no amount of fighting or kicking or screaming made any difference. I remember the words: liar, bitch, slut, whore – each one piercing through my heart like a knife.
I don’t remember the rest of it. I don’t want to remember what actually happened. I don’t need to know because I already know what happened. I don’t want to recall the more painful details.
As he was about to leave, I remember huddled on the floor, covered in tears, blood and God knows what else. I couldn’t cry anymore. My throat was raw from trying to scream so much. My body ached from bruises that wouldn’t show up until later. And yet I needed to know.
Why? Why did he do this?
I’ll never forget what he said. To this day, it still haunts me.
“I thought that’s what you wanted.”
And then he left.