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Your first experience with anything dictates your feelings subconscious and otherwise. My first sexual experience was a rape. I didn’t want to be scathed in any way. So I decided I wouldn’t be. I was young, I still had time to have impactful experiences. I’d just make an effort to do a bunch of other stuff and effectively knock this one out of the ring. I was desperate to have a sexual experience that could replace the assault. I wanted a first time story I could tell in drinking games. It had to hold up while reminiscing with friends, laughing about how short it was, how uncomfortable, how I had grown frustrated with fumbled buttons and clasps and done the damn thing myself. Unfortunately life and I weren’t on exactly the same page on that front, so I would create one.
An opportunity to do just that came up the following summer in Brugge. He was a part time youth-hostel receptionist slash bartender. I’ll give the ladies a chance to clean themselves up before continuing. He showed me to my room and told me to come down for a drink later. I did. He gave me several for free, along with some fries. Well nothing in this world is free. I did endure several stories about his kickboxing championships. He snuck away and showed me a balcony where he kissed me and though I didn’t enjoy it, I was more focused on my foggy head from whatever red substance was in those glasses. He told someone downstairs that we were leaving.
Afterwards, I was escorted to an abandoned movie theatre where we continued kissing and he proceeded to take off every stitch of my clothing before even one of his own. I don’t know if you’ve had the unique pleasure of being completely naked in the midst of a fully clothed stranger, but speaking for myself, it was less than ideal. Back to... hmm let’s call him Leo. Back to Leo. I removed my own tampon, after being told he “couldn’t do it” and looked around for a suitable resting place of which I found none. I popped it in my nearby shoe and pressed on, or rather he did. He was thrusting like there’s no tomorrow. My legs were touching my ears. I was making sounds against my will as my lungs compressed each time he lurched towards me. I stared at the backs of the theatre seats and tried to remember what movie I’d last seen. At some point that was to his credit and my horror not the shortest of time spans, he finished and rolled over.
Within seconds I was up and dressing. “Wait, you don’t want to fuck?” he asked. I was so confused. What was it we had just done? He expected that to be a double feature? I mumbled something about being tired and started walking. Though it was more of a limp, the reminder of my humiliation squelching with each right step. To my dismay, he walked me back to my room, attempting to touch me intermittently. After assuring him that I did not want him to come in with me and shutting the door, I waited for his receding footsteps to fade away completely. I didn’t waste a minute.
I grabbed my obligatory travel shampoo and headed for the showers. As I watched blood swirl down the drain I thought… well, that’s that. That’s the new story. I met an older guy while travelling in Belgium and lost my virginity in an old theatre. How nonchalant and cool was I? No big deal. This is what adults do and say and think. Perfect. I had lost my “virginity” and an iPad in less than 48 hours. Yes, I’d also misplaced some technology but is that really what you want to hear about?
What I don’t let myself think about, is that the first time he entered me, he came from behind, forcing me onto a mattress he’d placed on the floor. He moved in one full motion, I felt like a shish-kabob. I lay flat on my stomach, his hand on my neck, my face imprinting on the fabric. I don’t let myself recall how it took me completely off guard, how my body froze, my muscles tightened, making it even more painful. Most every part of me wanted to stop but that one small voice rang out: “keep going, you haven’t finished yet, this won’t count as a new story.” Not only would the rape remain as my “first time,” I would also add this to the oeuvre of sexual mishaps. Some may take issue with me referring to assaults as “mishaps” but that is how I saw them at the time. I played them off as funny stories, quirky encounters. To this day I’m not certain where I stand on that experience. I don’t think Leo was a bad guy. A little more Ed Hardy T-shirt than brain sure, but hardly a super villain. I didn’t say no or stop. I actively pretended to like it in order to see it end and suit my own motives. Am I in fact the skeevy one in this situation? I suppose, he could, maybe should have, asked before going right ahead, but I’d been giving the green light so far. What was he to think? I think we can all agree, anal’s a bit of a risk. Not sure what vibe I was giving off. Is that relevant? How much space does vibe take up on a police report? Do you think I’m a slut for letting him do that? Do you think I’m hotter now? Or gross? I wondered what he thought. I wondered what I thought. Options ranged from I’m one of those cool girls, sexually expressive and free, to I’m disgusting, he did that because he could tell what I’d done before. He knew I was small and worthless and would let men do whatever they wanted. He could smell it on me a mile away.
I often thought that people sensed that about me. Probably in my own head but there’s really no way to verify it. It’s not the smoothest thing to tap someone on the subway and ask “Can you tell I was raped?” Leo certainly couldn’t. He seemed so proud of himself the next day as he repeatedly mentioned how he “couldn’t believe I’d let him have my virginity” at a volume hardly appropriate for breakfast. I hated his terminology. It made my stomach curl. I felt like I’d been cut (or rather cut myself) into smaller pieces, fed one to a stray cat, and now had a bite sized hole in my side I’d have to strategically dress for.
Present day me would have read him his rights and waxed on about feminist empowerment. About how sex is a mutual experience, giving and taking should not apply, a women is not lesser for having engaged, nor is a man more for having done so. But at 17, I did little more than shrug and laugh while side eyeing eggs I’d said I didn’t want but he’d ordered for me anyway. In the span of the next hour, I swear laws of physics were broken, seconds stretched to years. But somehow the meal did end. I made an excuse about meeting someone for a walking tour and promised to meet him for drinks later.
I then walked around for what I deemed an appropriate amount of time before sneaking back to the hostel, gathering my things, and stealthily checking every corner before proceeding to the train station. With the ability to breathe freely and a newfound respect for Charlie’s Angels, I looked at the departures board, mulling over my next destination, hoping that perhaps Switzerland was known for better judgement and boys with less gel in their hair.