At the age of eighteen, I lost my virginity. He had been my boyfriend for a month or so, and I was terrified. I wanted to get the first time out of the way so that I could eventually get around to enjoying the act.
About six months after my relationship with him fizzled out, I started dating an old friend who lived on the other side of the country. The chemistry between us was electric; we started sleeping together pretty much as soon as the relationship started. At first it was fun and exciting. Best of all, he encouraged me to explore and try new things.
I didn’t get to see this new boyfriend very often, considering it was a four-hour train journey between us. When we did get to see each other, there was a lot of sex. We openly discussed what we wanted to try during sex and any fantasies we had. I was, and still am, shy when it comes to discussing these things. I never crave sex when I don’t have a partner; it’s only once I’m in their arms and we begin to kiss that I realize I want that closer sense of intimacy with them.
It was different with him. I convinced myself that he was the love of my life, that I would do anything for him—and that we would be together forever. The relationship was extremely intense—in every sense of the word. I stopped spending time with my friends and spent hours Skyping my boyfriend each night because I thought I couldn’t live without him.
As we spiraled downward into ever-more-frightening intensities within our relationship, I started to see a darker side to him. He always came across as very shy and self-deprecating—but he was far from it. The sexual fantasies he opened up to me about terrified me. At first, he just wanted to try the occasional spank or to tie me up to the bed with soft ties. I gave in to these fantasies; nothing mattered to me more than making him happy. I didn’t enjoy being hit—it did nothing for me sexually, and frankly it just hurt.
I constantly try to remind myself that I was fully consenting during every session of sex we undertook, but it is difficult to shake the fact that I did not enjoy the majority of things he put me through. He would treat me like a slave, and if I didn’t do exactly what he wanted, he’d slap me harder and harder across the face. He’d choke me by holding my throat until my eyes started to roll into the back of my head from lack of oxygen. He’d tie my hands behind my back and tie my feet together so that I couldn’t stop him from spanking me. Even with tears rolling down my cheeks from the pain, he seemed to think it was all in good taste and that I was playing up to the submissive character he wanted me to be. I continually let him do these things to me because I truly believed I’d make him happier and he would love me more. I told him I needed him to stop, which would only lead to him hitting me across other parts of my body instead. I came home covered in painful bruises that I had to hide from my parents so that they wouldn’t get worried.
One day he told me he wanted to rape me.
As if the sadomasochism he put me through wasn’t enough—he told me explicitly that he wanted to creep up behind me when I wasn’t aware, “kidnap” me, and rape me into submission. The thought of such an act filled me with terror, and luckily, this scenario never played out.
It was only when I went to volunteer in Nepal for a month, away from technology and away from him, that I got my head straight. I wasn’t in love with this boy. He may have never hit me or assaulted me outside of the bedroom scenario, but he sure as heck abused me when I was at my most vulnerable.
I realized in this month away that I needed to get away from the relationship and give myself time to grow up and explore new people and new experiences.
He took it very badly. For months after I ended it, he bombarded me with verbal abuse and was constantly threatening to kill himself because of what I’d done. He said I had broken his heart and now he wanted me to feel as bad. It took every ounce of strength and courage I had in me to tell him to stop guilt-tripping me and that killing himself would never solve anything.
It has been over two years since we split, and I am still plagued by the way he treated me back then. I tell myself that it was never really rape or sexual abuse because I actually consented to it—but it is only now that I realize that my “consent” was out of fear rather than actually wanting to do those things.
Did he actually rape me? I’m not entirely sure. I think I convinced myself so much that I was OK with what was happening that I blurred it out in my mind. He was doing it out of love. He was doing it to have fun.
Sexual or physical abuse doesn’t have to necessarily mean “non-consensual.” I am living proof of that. And I will never again let a man manipulate me into submitting to things that I don’t want to do.