I’ve never been raped. I’ve never said “no” and been ignored. For that, I am grateful. I know many people who have had that experience and could never claim to fully understand how confusing and difficult it can be to go through. However, it is hard for me to say that I have never compromised my true feelings when it came to sleeping with a guy.
My own confusion came with a guy I was seeing while in college. He was nice and I could tell he cared about me; if anything I may have unfairly led him on a bit. On the surface, he was perfect for me. We had tons in common and so one date turned into two and so on.
We had rolled with the same group of friends for a long time and even made out at a party once before, so I didn’t find it totally surprising or unreasonable when he asked if I wanted to stay over after our first date, but I politely declined. Our second date was a movie night at my house. I agreed to let him stay over but still didn’t let things go too far.
On our third date, I felt a twinge of guilt. Date three, that’s normal right? He kept moving in, kissing me more intensely. I could feel that he was expecting me to “put out”. I found myself thinking, It’s not like this is my first time so what’s the big deal? and He’s been perfectly nice to me, why am I being such a prude?
So I slept with him that night.
Things spiraled from there. Once we’d done it once, I felt there was I didn’t have a reason not to whenever we hung out. Every time I didn’t feel like it, he’d ask me questions that brought back that initial guilt.
“Do you even like me?”
“What am I doing wrong?”
I didn’t have answers for his questions, so it felt easier to pretend to be into it. This pressure continued until one day I couldn’t even stand the thought of him touching my hand. I knew I had to bring things to an end, so I did.
Even at this point, I saw myself as the asshole in our “relationship”. He was being perfectly nice to me, so what was my problem? Only looking back much later did I see what the real issue was.
Without even knowing it, he had put unfair pressure on me. I feel that, as a woman, I will always carry the burden of being the one to say no. Back then I didn’t realize that I should never feel guilty for denying my body even if I can’t explain why I don’t want to have sex.
I still have not decided whether or not I hold this situation or the resulting distress that I feel against him, although I don’t see myself being friends with him again.
I do, however, blame a society that never taught me that I can say no without a reason and not feel badly about it. I don’t want to is the only reason I ever need to give. I blame a culture that creates a dichotomy of prude or slut in which I felt I held a position and was expected to operate within it at all times. Why should saying no or not in a situation define me in any way? I blame the media, including every rom-com that I admittedly binge watch, for giving us the impression that if someone is “a good guy” then we must also be sexually attracted to them. It is twisted that I would equate taking control of my own body with wronging someone who was nice to me.
Looking back on that immensely flawed relationship, I realize how unfair it is that I felt that obligation. Sex is supposed to be a beautiful thing enjoyed by two consenting adults. It is supposed to be fun and exciting, sometimes serious and sometimes silly, sometimes wild and other times simple and comfortable. Sex is a great many things to me, but in no way do I think it should ever be an obligation. Moving forward I vow to always look within myself when it comes to giving consent. As a woman, I feel the burden of saying no. And in the culture I live in, I have a responsibility to ask myself why I feel an obligation and to dispel that ridiculous notion from my mind.