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August 2018

Education, Relationships

I Lost My Virginity to Rape

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.

I’ve spent the better part of 20 years taking that power back.

I’ve spent the better part of 20 years taking that power back.

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.

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.

 

when sex isn't rainbows and unicorns
Education, Relationships, Sex Ed

When Sex Isn’t Rainbows and Unicorns.

Most of us have been sold a lie. Movies, romantic books, and even the social expectations of love and relationships mislead us greatly.

Boy meets girl, girl and boy fall in love, lots of orgasms, happily ever after, right?!

Apart from being particularly hetero-normative (sorry) and simplistic, it’s a pretty common story for what a lot of us are told is the love, sex, relationship model.

A generation of slut shaming, kink shaming, and the repression of healthy sexual education has left us ashamed, afraid, and unable to accept the darker side of our sexual proclivities and desires. Much less realise that love and sex are two different concepts that don’t necessarily co-exist in the same bedroom.

It’s left us unable to communicate our needs, and accept that sex is a normal part of human behaviour and our desires and pleasures come in a mixed bag.

And that mixed bag can look like hookups, relationships, casual dating, poly-amorous adventures, and any number or variations of the above.

So why is this romantic view so bad?

The challenge with a repressed and idealistic  view of sex and love is that so many of our desires and fantasies extend far beyond procuring marriage and producing offspring. Thank you very much, Jane Austen.

We humans are pleasure seeking creatures, and the denial and repression of our basal instincts can lead to shame, pain, and fear.

So let’s take a look at some of those Cinderella stories we got told, bust them wide open, and move forward to accept, and celebrate sex for what it is. Perfectly normal, occasionally mundane, and hopefully lots and lots of fun.

Busting some good sex bad sex myths

Sex and Love Go Hand in Hand

When I first started dating as a teen, I “saved” myself for a boy I fell in love with.  I was pretty devastated when that six month relationship came to an ugly and nasty close.  I’d had so closely related sex with my feelings of love and companionship, and while I’m not suggesting for a second that teens can’t experience love – I was really naive and had no idea how to make a longer term relationship work.

If I’d had the perspective of experiencing sex and relationships in the moment, and let myself be completely in the present, I probably would have had healthier expectations about how my partners behaved, felt, and responded to me.

As an adult in a poly relationship now, love and sex can still be pretty tightly coupled, but I also recognise you can have fantastic, amazing, earth shattering sex without love being involved.

If you think of sex and love as a Venn Diagram, you can see how sex and love are pretty loosely coupled. You can have sex without love. You can have love without sex, you can have sex and love.

There is no hard and fast rule on how how sex and love are coupled, and how that forms a relationship. All are valid definitions.

You can have sex and love that last for the term of the sexual encounter – you can have loving sexual relationships that last a lifetime. You can have loveless sexual relationships that last a lifetime. And sexless loving relationships that endure as well.

In terms of HAVING great sex, choosing to respect yourself and making choices that fill your needs, and respect your partner’s needs seems to be a healthy reasonable approach.

You don’t have to love your partners, and sex isn’t a transaction for love.

You don’t have to love your partners, and sex isn’t a transaction for love.

Sex should be sensual, soft, and kind. Kinks are bad mmkay?

As a young adult, I discovered that the bedroom can be a really interesting place to work out “stuff” It started with experimentation with a particularly enthusiastic partner who loved rougher sex, and was very, very into when I struggled and pushed back.

As someone who’d been raped, and someone who’d had really negative experiences with sex up until that point, it was really bizarre realising that I LIKED being restrained. I ENJOYED the hurt so good, painful experiences that consenting non-consent brought for me, and I really got off with rough sex.

It messed with my head. But it turns out that it’s pretty normal, and there are LOADS of people who engage in kinky sex.

Do you get off by getting hurt? Love that hurts so bad it’s good feeling?

Desire the feeling of power and control as you inflict pain on your partner?

Leather rings your bell and floats your boat?

Something else? Don’t worry. Your desires are pretty normal. The great thing about the internet these days, compared to what our parents had available to them is that if there’s a kink, there’s a forum/ sub-reddit/or facebook support group for it.

You and your kinks probably aren’t alone in the big wide world, and there are probably others out there who get off on the same interesting stuff you do.

Spend the time educating yourself on safe ways to indulge your desires – and always practise safe, sane, consensual sex.

Sex is always pleasurable…

Ahhhhhh if only sex WAS always pleasurable. The thing about human relationships no matter how long or short, they’re often fraught with imperfection.

And there is such a thing as unpleasurable sex.

That doesn’t mean that the relationship is bad, or that either or the people within it have failed in any way – it just is what it is sometimes.

Unpleasurable sex becomes more of an issue when the partners involved don’t talk about it, for reasons of shame, fear, embarrassment, not wanting to hurt the other person’s feelings or just not being aware of what they want or need.

Don’t fake orgasms. No-one benefits from that!

Don’t fake orgasms. No-one benefits from that!

I’m a huge advocate of knowing your own body, it’s turn ons, it’s turn offs and what gets you off REALLY well. And practising being able to communicate your desires, and show your partner how to get you off.

If you don’t communicate, nothing ever changes, and resentment, failed expectations, and anger can fester under the surface. Communicating your desires and feelings without your partner feeling inadequate can be a tricky territory – speak kindly, focus on the positives, and use “I” statements.  For example “I feel” “I love” etc.

Talk about it in the moment, address it as a debrief, and keep talking. You’ve got everything to gain here.

Good sex results in orgasm

Orgasms are amazing! I love orgasms, and I think we should all be having more orgasms! But sex doesn’t have to culminate in orgasm for it to be incredible.

Heck sex doesn’t even have to involved intercourse – but more on that in a second.

Great sex is about connection and pleasure with your partner (s) (or yourself) slow burning, sensual, loving touch, or rough, limit, pushing masochism don’t always peak with the big O.

That doesn’t mean it’s bad sex.
If you’re both fulfilled, feeling good, and happy with the outcome, that’s totally okay.

Communicate with your partner and find the things that are important to you.

A sexless relationship is a poor quality relationship

Relationships go in ebbs and flows. That early burning, euphoric, sex on tap part of any new relationship eventually runs it’s course, and it can be anything from 3 months to three years depending on you and your partner.

The trouble is that people expect that to be THE relationship.

Oh if only…

After the euphoria, there’s work. There are domestic duties, there are bills, there are illnesses, there are daggy underpants, and sweat pants that you would never parade around in a lover you’re trying to woo.

But there’s also intimacy, connection, friendship, and solidarity that builds as the bright flash subsides. Relationships take work, and sometimes sex is on the back burner.

As life happens, sex drives peak and flow. Children, stress, work, and medications can all impact on our sex drives-  and every individual is different.

Avoiding resentment with communication and really understanding what each other’s needs are is key to helping keep things moving on.

Of course there are other relationship models that you can consider like polyamory  and consensual non-monogamy

But intimacy is a myriad thing, and it doesn’t necessarily come from sex alone.

Cuddles, time spent together, touch, massage, and other acts of intimacy are valid and normal ways to keep connection with your partner.

Here’s to normal sex

Hopefully you’ll see what I did there, in that I think most sex is pretty normal. Obviously we want more of the good stuff and less of the bad.

By accepting reality and facing the fact that sex can be terribly mundane, delightfully pleasurable AND painful if we like it like that we can move past the myths and fables told to us in the movies.

Let’s talk about sex, let’s talk about the good and the bad, (I’m not singing I swear) and let’s talk about how we want it, how we don’t.

This is how we grow, this is how we feel better about our desires, and kinks, and the things that get us off.