During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, “Not for Ourselves Alone” is running a special series called 30 Days of Bodyshaming, designed to give a voice to the many different experiences of girls and women. This series will feature guest posts by professors, writers, a cartoonist, young girls, and mothers. Gut wrenching and honest, these stories are presented in an attempt to bring about a deeper understanding of the plight of girls and women as we make our way in world that, for us, is hostile at its best and violent at its worst.
Trigger warning – today’s post may be especially difficult to read given the content.
I’m Fine. It’s Okay.
I was a high school junior, in a relationship with a senior — my first true love. He was an athlete, an outstanding student, a Sunday school teacher, and more. My parents loved him, and his parents would someday become, at least in my young mind, my in-laws. Everything was perfect until he sodomized me in the den of my parents’ house on a Saturday night while we were hanging out watching videos on MTV.
We’d been making out on the couch, just kissing and cuddling, when things began to heat up. Early in our relationship, we’d both agreed to remain virgins until we were older…but now, almost two years later, our emotions and hormones challenged those earlier feelings. I was 16, he was 17, and we were in love. We knew he’d be leaving for college in a matter of months, and all the feelings and desires we shared were completely overwhelming.
After my parents and siblings had gone to bed, we moved to the floor and made out with abandon. Although terrified that someone might open the door and walk in, I was thrilled that he found my body so irresistible, so desirable. I felt beautiful and passionate and I loved feeling my body so close to his. Keeping a blanket over us, we took off our clothes from the waist down, rubbing our bodies against one another. Several times, we came very close to having sex…but we always pulled away from each other before anything happened. I felt euphoric being this close. It was risky and exciting in a way I’d never felt before. Keeping the blanket wrapped tightly around us, he sat up, leaning against the couch, and pulled me onto his lap, facing him. I was in an upright, kneeling position, with his legs extended out, straight underneath me. As we groped and clung to one another, kissing and pulling up the blanket, I felt his erection against the front of my pubic bone. We should stop, I told myself, but it felt like someone else was in charge of my body, moving it in ways I didn’t tell it to. He put his hands on my shoulders and pressed me down toward the floor. My buttocks rested on his legs so I pulled myself back up. He dropped one hand to my waist, pulling me toward his chest, pushing down on my shoulder with his other hand. I felt the tip of his penis at the opening of my vagina and let out a yelp, pulling myself up and away again. Now, with force I could not counter, he pushed me back down. I jammed my hand down to his penis to push it away, but his hand clutched mine and guided it, and his penis, back, further back, readjusting and maneuvering until the tip pushed into the opening of my rectum and then he jammed me down on top of it until his penis had fully penetrated me until I could feel it hit my tailbone, my buttocks directly on his legs.
The intense pain and shock of what was happening left me immobile, but I remember trying to look into his eyes in that dark room illuminated by the TV and seeing him turn his face away from mine as he ejaculated inside of me. As he squeezed my arms tight, I felt every pulse.
I felt betrayed and confused and embarrassed.
Is his penis inside of me? Is his penis inside my…oh GOD. This is so disgusting and what if I…
I couldn’t understand what was going on.
Then, his whole body slumped and he rubbed the back of my hair.
I remained frozen. I wanted to run away but I didn’t know how I’d even move. I wanted to say, “What have you just done to me?” but I was too afraid to ask. Wasn’t it obvious? Was this what he’d planned to do? He didn’t say, “Sorry…I didn’t mean to do that.” My mind was numb with confusion and pain, a searing, throbbing tightness I couldn’t name, though I was just as (if not more) worried about defecating as I was about what was inside of me. My legs, shaking uncontrollably, slowly supported my body as I straightened and raised myself up off his lap, and as his penis came out, my sphincter muscle squeezed tightly around it with the same sensation as a bowel movement. I wanted to jump up and run away in shame, but I was terrified that any fast movements would cause me to defecate all over both of us. I felt dirty and overcome by fear and a total loss of control.
I’d been sodomized, but I didn’t know that’s what it was.
I walked gingerly toward the door with the blanket wrapped around my waist, slightly bent over. My boyfriend reached for my leg and asked if I was alright.“I’m fine,” I lied, convinced excrement – my excrement — was all over his penis. I couldn’t bear to look back at him.“I’m really worried I hurt you.”“It’s okay,” I said, just wanting to get out.
In the bathroom, I found blood and feces on the toilet paper and felt more ashamed of the latter. I’m disgusting, I thought. I’ve shit on my boyfriend. He must be completely grossed out. I was grossed out. He HAD to be, right?
Why didn’t I speak up and say, “That hurt me so badly and I never want you to do that again”?
Why didn’t I say, “Why did you think it was okay to do that to me?”
Why didn’t I understand he’d anally raped me? Why did I care less about myself than him?
Why didn’t I speak up for myself? Where was my voice?
Why, instead, did I walk back into that den, where my boyfriend had already pulled on his underwear and jeans? He held out my panties for me with tenderness in his eyes and an expression that seemed to say, I love you so much and I’m so, so sorry and I didn’t mean to hurt you and for some reason, I was willing to accept this silent apology and continue to watch TV with him.
The next time we were in the den, he did it again.
After the first time he sodomized me, we never spoke of it. We’d gone on as always, meeting at each other’s lockers, doing homework together, hanging out, writing notes, talking on the phone. It never came up and I was glad. I’d hoped he was as embarrassed as me. He’d given me a card that called me his “Little One”, making an offhand remark about never wanting to hurt me. That’s all I seemed to need to make myself believe that he never meant it and would never do it again. I wanted to put it away. I never wanted to think about how it made me feel or, worse, that it would change us.
But when he did it again, under somewhat similar circumstances, I went to the bathroom again, this time telling myself I had encouraged it. That I hadn’t stopped it. That if I’d have spoken up, it wouldn’t have happened. That I’d teased his body to the point he couldn’t help himself and that I was the one who had the problem, not him. I convinced myself that I was the one who had to show restraint. That it was my body and that I’d done a poor job describing what could and could not be done to it. I told myself I was the one who wasn’t playing fair, taking off my pants like that and rubbing my body against him in a way that left him no alternative but to find release in the only way he could without taking my “virginity”.
The truth is, he did take my virginity, in a way I neither offered nor chose for myself. And it was only when I reached my 40s that I admitted to myself that what happened between us was sodomy — and that I was NOT responsible for it.
If I could go back to my 16-year-old self, before that first time, I’d say, You’re allowed to say, “To hell with it all.”
To hell with loving someone so deeply you lose your sense of self.
To hell with what might happen if you break up with him or he breaks up with you.
To hell if he tells everyone you wouldn’t put out or that you were a prude or that you were too scared to go to the next level.
To hell with someone hurting you for one second.
To hell with hesitating even one second to say, “ENOUGH. STOP. NOW.”
To hell with feeling too embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated and disgusted by something that you choose to ignore it altogether instead of facing it head on.
To hell with worrying you’ll offend someone when your pain consumes your heart, your body and your mind.
To hell with assuming blame for someone else’s actions.
And to hell with someone doesn’t have the decency to carry himself like anything more than a dog in heat.
I’d say, “You did not bring this on. You did not invite him into your body. You did not go willingly into a position that compromised you, both physically and emotionally.”
I’d say, “Promise me you won’t hesitate loving yourself more than you think you should, because I promise you that love is limitless.”
And I’d say, “It’s NOT fine if he does that. It’s NOT okay if he does that.”
Today, I know these things. Today, I realize what I wish I’d known.
Today, I am fine. Today, I am okay. And that is because you know, and because I’ve found my voice.