I had barely turned 15 the first time I was taught that my consent didn’t matter. He sat in the back of my math class, he’d never acknowledged my existence. I didn’t really care about his, either, if we’re being honest. But all my friends had already had their first kisses, and I felt so behind. He was interested, so I took the chance.
On our first date, (we saw the Avengers) he was intent on kissing me. I was more intent on watching the movie. I wasn’t even sure I was ready, or that I liked him enough to kiss on the first date. I was even less sure I was ready when he immediately forced his tongue into my mouth… So I bit his tongue. Hard. It didn’t deter him, though. No matter how many times I bit his tongue, he kept pushing. Eventually… I gave up. Eventually, because I was so desperate to have my first kiss (and to enjoy it, because everyone said I had to) I ended up accepting tongue as a part of kissing.
This boy and I went out a total of 4 times over the course of a month. He still didn’t acknowledge me in the class we shared every day, and rarely texted me unless it was a day he decided he wanted to see me (i.e., one of those 4 dates). On our last date he grabbed my ass despite me telling him it wasn’t something I was ok with… But I let him, because I thought I was losing him.
After another week of radio silence, and fear that he was cheating on me (he was) I broke it off. But the damage was done.
My next relationship was so different from the first. This guy had been into me for years before I finally came around. Even though he pursued me, clearly wanted to define me as his, he only kissed me once in all 4 months of our relationship. He made me feel simultaneously unwanted and like no one but him could want me.
After having an emotionally abusive relationship that destroyed my self-worth, I was primed and ready for what happened next.
That ex’s best friend had been putting the moves on me for my entire past relationship. While he’d initially made me deeply uncomfortable for an unknown reason, feeling wanted when my relationship was making me feel the opposite had warmed me up to him.
When I was suicidal, during the end of my relationship with his friend, and in the days after its end, he talked me through the darkness. I felt like he saved my life… He brought me over to his house a week or two later, and he kissed me. It felt electric, finally like kissing ought to be, I thought.
He texted me that weekend that his parents didn’t allow him to date during the school year. He didn’t speak to me for the next 6 months, and actively pretended not to see me or know me. Because I thought he had saved my life, because I thought I was in love with him, this shattered me.
6 months later, in the middle of July, the summer before my senior year, I encountered him at a mutual graduated friend’s house. He actually spoke to me, as though nothing had ever happened that day at his house, and as though he hadn’t avoided me for half a year and broke my fucking heart.
After I left that night, he texted me. But this time, it wasn’t the supportive, benign texts of the winter prior. No, they were explicit, of things he wanted to do to me sexually.
“I’ll lick you like a lollipop” What if I didn’t want to be his fucking lollipop?
I’ve never been able to hear the phrase “silver tongue” since then without feeling the panic that I felt that night. Even when I told him I was uncomfortable, the texts continued. This was my second lesson that my consent didn’t matter.
So started another six months of silence between us, but this time, I initiated it and pretended he didn’t exist. I have crippling anxiety disorder, and seeing him only exacerbated it.
But, this silence was to be as short lived as before. At the time, I was still friends with my emotionally abusive ex, and the two were still close. We were also all on the speech and debate team together. Because my ex was my only friend on the team… Well, I had to deal with my shit regarding his friend. So… I began to spend time with him again. And despite the ways he made me feel uncomfortable and unsafe… I was still attracted to him. I still thought he saved my life, even though my heart still leapt into my throat when I saw him. I still thought that maybe, just maybe, we could fix whatever had happened.
He and I lived 2 blocks away from each other. I was the only one with a car. One night, after we got home from a meet, I was driving him home. He suggested we pull over, and make out. I had had a shitty, shitty meet, and was feeling wretched about myself. So I said yes. I thought feeling like someone wanted me would fix the bad day.
I stressed that kissing was all I wanted to do. Thus begins the third lesson that my consent didn’t matter. It went beyond kissing. It went beneath my dress, grabbing and pulling at my bra, over my underwear, and into the back of my own car. He forced his tongue, his whole mouth onto and into mine like a mother bird trying to force feed its child. He was on top of me, grabbing and grasping and choking me. He forced me onto his lap, pushing my hand onto his penis, over his pants. I was terrified, I couldn’t say no. He weighed a full 100 pounds more than me, and since it was in my car, since I said yes in the beginning, I thought it was my fault. Sometimes I still think it’s my fault.
I would have been raped. But my saving grace was my illegal parking job. A police car’s lights showed up, and I vaulted myself back into the front seat. The police officer gave me a warning, and then tips on how not to get caught “next time.”
I told the boy in the back of my car that the mood was ruined. I dropped him off at his house, and went home. I sat in the fetal position on the floor of my bathroom for an hour, shaking. I didn’t know why.
I believed it was my fault for the next year. I still can’t function for the entire month of January, because I don’t remember what day it was, simply that it was January.
Because of this vehement lesson that my consent didn’t matter, within 2 weeks of this incident, I was in a relationship with another guy I didn’t particularly like, and I let him do whatever he wanted to me. I broke it off two weeks later, after letting him do nearly everything but sex, because he told me I couldn’t go off to college and function without him. He threatened to kill himself, calling me at all hours of the night, telling me about the gun in his bedside drawer. I reported him to the counselors, and blocked his number in a last ditch effort to reclaim my ownership of my own needs.
With the end of high school came the end of my education in all the ways that my needs, my selfhood, and most of all, my consent, didn’t matter.
Now, three years into college, almost exactly one and a half years into a new relationship, I am finally relearning my autonomy. I have a significant other who understands when he can’t touch me, or when I can’t bear to let him see me naked, or to see his penis, but that I still need him to hold me til I can stop shaking, til I can sleep again. He knows most of my story, but I still don’t know how to tell him that I hate it when he puts his tongue in my mouth, no matter how gently.
I am finally coming to understand that I am not the sum of all the men who have touched me, and nothing more.
I am more. I am mine.
Author: Anonymous Middlebury College Student