He went into the guest bedroom to lay down and casually suggested I follow. I’m not an idiot – I knew what was happening. Still, despite my promise to myself to take things slow, I went. We were clothed. I told myself we would just cuddle and talk. I would stop him if things went too far. I knew what I did and did not want to do.
The truth was, I felt conflicted. I’m a very physical person and I hadn’t had any romantic contact with a man in a long time. It might sound silly, but I wanted to cuddle. I wanted to feel appreciated. I wanted to be touched. Human contact is so important and when I’m single I don’t get much. I end up craving it in my body in a primal, instinctive way. I had feelings for someone else, it hadn’t worked out, and I wanted someone to remind me that I deserved attention.
Still, I’d made a decision. I was going to take things at a snail’s pace, especially on dates with complete strangers. I knew this would be the best way to figure out a guy’s true motives. I wanted to weed out those men who only aimed to get laid. I wanted to stop making the mistake of jumping in too soon only to realize months later that the relationship wasn’t actually sustainable. I wanted a man who truly put in the effort to build something real with me.
This particular guy and I had spent a few hours together that evening. We’d discussed books and life and family issues. We’d been fairly open and honest with one another. I thought that if he did anything I didn’t like, I could tell him to stop, and he would back down. He was a grown man. I’d explain and he would understand.
I was so very wrong.
I’d forgotten there are men out there who will say and do anything to get laid. They lure you in and make you feel comfortable. They allude to a possible future so you think that they have genuine interest. They open up to you about their lives so you think that they like you enough to trust you. Maybe I should’ve seen the warning signs, but we had a lot in common. We’d read all the same books. He appeared to be a responsible adult. I wanted so badly to finally meet someone in this big lonely city who honestly liked me for myself.
So, I followed him, albeit cautiously. I kept my shoes on – I even hung my feet off the bed, my reminder to myself not to proceed any further. He laughed at me and tried to pull me closer, but I resisted. I told him I didn’t want to kiss him yet. I explained why. He assured me that he understood.
Five minutes later he was shoving his hands down my pants, grabbing my bare ass with no hesitation. I pushed him off me, and he allowed it. I restated my position. I made it clear that I was not okay with his aggressive behavior. He just kept on pushing, over and over, and I kept on pushing back, over and over. I should’ve left. I should’ve told him off. I knew it was wrong.
I knew a good, well-intentioned man would stop the first time I asked. Actually, a good man would never have gone there once I told him I had no intention of even kissing him.
He treated the whole situation like a trivial game. He treated me like a pawn in that game, something he would push just to see how far he could get. It wasn’t about me at all. Sure, he complimented me, told me I made him laugh, waxed poetic about the softness of my skin. He spoke to me as if we’d been dating for weeks, all the while disrespecting me left and right. It was bewildering – exactly as it was meant to be, I imagine. His odd familiarity mixed with his blatant disregard for my personal space confused me enough to let him push my boundaries too far.
Eventually I even kissed him, because honestly, kissing was better than him groping me anywhere and everywhere despite my protestations. I felt like I could control kissing to some extent. I should’ve gotten up and left a hundred times, but I didn’t. I stayed. Some twisted part of me wanted him to like me, wanted it to somehow work out, wanted this horrible beginning to lead to something good even though I knew it couldn’t.
I managed to taper things off to a point where I felt safe excusing myself and leaving the premises. That had been my first and biggest mistake – going into his house at all. Even as I told him I was leaving, he tried to get me to stay the night. I refused – but still weirdly felt that I had to be nice about it. I let him walk me to my car like he was my boyfriend. I let him kiss me goodbye at my car … like he was my boyfriend. I did all this knowing that I’d never hear from him again because I was leaving, knowing that I didn’t even want to see him again.
I felt disgusting inside. That girl, that simpering, laughingly protesting, polite-in-the-face-of-repulsive-harassment girl – she’s not who I am. Not one little bit. I’ve never suffered any fools and I have no patience for men who feel entitled to a woman’s body – but something in me reflexively reacted the way I did anyway. Something was wrong. I slept terribly that night and tossed and turned all morning. The longer I thought about it, the dirtier and more violated I felt.
Try as I might, I still can’t shake that evening. It makes me angrier every time I think about it – angry with him for blatantly ignoring my clearly stated wishes, angry with myself for turning into a version of myself that I don’t particularly like. Most of all, I can’t dismiss the uneasy feeling that something deeper is wrong. I’ve tried to rationalize it but the sickness in the pit of my stomach simply won’t dissipate.
I’m beginning to feel as if I’m repressing memories of something damaging that happened to me. If I am, then the trauma is buried way deep down and I have no idea how to unearth it. All I know is there is this nagging thought in the back of my mind that something more is going on here than one creep violating my physical space. Why did I react the way I did? Why have I let other men abuse me sexually in the past? Why don’t I stand up for myself when it comes to issues of physical intimacy?
Right now I’m not sure how to answer any of those questions for myself. All I know is that
every creepy interaction I’ve had with men, even as a young girl, has stuck with me my entire life. I remember drunk men lunging at me on the sidewalk when I was barely a teenager. I remember being sexualized at age eleven because I reached puberty and developed generously-sized breasts. I remember every disgusting and inappropriate interaction I’ve had in eleven years of waiting tables and every time a man has tried to take advantage of me in any way.
I don’t know why I’ve conditioned myself to react the way I do. All I know is that it stops now. Whatever did or did not happen to me in the past, I won’t let it happen again. Next time a man pushes me, I’m going to stand up for myself. When he doesn’t listen to me, I’ll scream it from the rooftops, and if he still doesn’t listen, I’ll get the hell out.
Not everyone gets that chance. I won’t take it for granted again.