I lost my virginity** to non-consensual sex. It's taken nearly 15 years to call it rape.
It was summer, I was a teenager and I thought I was in love. He was charming, sweet, as sexually inexperienced as I was - and looking back; equally stupid. We had dated for a few hormone driven wonderful months and had at length teasingly discussed sex.
He had delightful, charming, disarming brown eyes and was forever telling me to be more self assured.
One February afternoon in the summer holidays we were making out and things were getting intense. As we fooled around and explored each other he rolled on top of me. At that point, I said no.
I told him I wasn't ready. I was three months shy of my 16th birthday, and I actually wanted to wait until the age of consent. We had spoken about this at length, in several conversations, and he had verbally supported and encouraged my wishes.
He rolled off and we went back to making out, for a little bit. The next thing I knew, he was on top of me and penetrating me. I remember it hurting, and I remember wriggling away, putting a quick end to our steamy interlude.
He didn't hold me down.
He didn't mean to hurt me.
But he did rape me.
When Rape Isn't Violent It's Still Rape
After the fact he recognised what he did was wrong. He wrote a long and detailed letter explaining that he should have listened to me, that he should have respected me, and that he should have stopped when I said stop.
And he should have.
He wrote a long and detailed letter explaining that he should have listened to me, that he should have respected me, and that he should have stopped when I said stop.
And he should have.
As with most teenage romances, we broke up shortly after and both went on to see other people. I stashed the letter in a box with other letters from him, and hid it in the back of my wardrobe.
Slut Shaming and Naughty Boys
My mother "stumbled across" the letter (read, hunted it out and found it when she was rifling through my private things!) and proceeded to tell me that if I was going to have sex I shouldn't lead boys along, that boys were driven by hormones and that essentially it was my fault that I was raped.
Because I wasn't hurt, because I wasn't beaten, or left bleeding and injured, it couldn't possibly be rape - and I must have been a wiling participant in the entire sex act.
But I was hurt. A boy I put my trust in with my most intimate experiences exploited them and I learned as a naïve 15 year old that boys have all the power in a relationship.
From Bad to Worse
My next relationship re-enforced those learnings, and I was violently held down, my arms wrenched behind me, breath restricted and raped by my "boyfriend".
Again, he was charming, and verbally respected my boundaries. He said all the right things. He was charming to my parents and friends.
Several times throughout our "relationship" I turned him down for sex, and he ignored my no's and went ahead and fucked me anyway. On some occasions, I lay, passively waiting for him to do his thing. On others, I was forcibly engaged in the act.
Even today, nearly 20 years later I can't talk about it without feeling scared, triggered, and sick to the stomach.
He moved on with his life, unaffected by his actions, not accountable for them - and I've had to live with the trauma and damage for each day since.
Just because rape doesn't leave a woman (or man) injured visibly does not make it less damaging. Rape is rape, and rape is wrong.
Rape Apologists and Social Pressure
One of my abusers was a naïve 16 year old boy, who had self entitlement issues, and meant no real harm in his actions. He was remorseful, and deeply apologetic - but he raped me, and society essentially permitted him to do it.
I sought help from my school psychologist, and police officer, and my situation was largely dismissed.
According to them, he was just a naughty boy who was overcome by his teenage hormones.
To which I say fuck that shit.
The only type of sex that is OK is enthusiastically consensual sex. *
The type of sex where both partners are enthusiastically into it and participating actively.
If you're not sure - it isn't enthusiastic.
*I wrote this article when I was beginning my career as a sex educator. My position on consent is a little more pragmatic and inclusive these days - largely to recognise that some sexual situations aren't necessarily viewed as enthusiastically consensual (as in the case of sex work, or consensual-non-consent) but still require consent, respect, and safety.
Consent can be withdrawn, boundaries re-negotiated, and must always be respected, and purchasing the services of a sex worker does not give you the right their body.
**I genuinely do not believe that virginity is anything of value, and I don't believe you can lose it/misplace it/ or that it's any indicator of my worth as a woman.