Parents, parental figures and anyone who watched me grow up – I promise to keep it mostly PG-13.
Girl Guides Honour.
There’s something to be said for replacing the memories of one with another.
The thing is, after I was assaulted, the tiniest of things could trigger me. To this day I don’t drink IPA’s because the taste, the sourish kind of after taste, reminds me of his breath that night. If I’ve had a particularly tiring week the simplest touch can have me flinching away unnecessarily. Even now, all these years after the incident, on occasion I will wake up drenched in sweat and convinced that there is an unwelcome intruder lurking in the darkest corners of my room. In the months immediately following the assault not a night went by I didn’t wake up in that state, the memories of his touch still lingering on my skin.
I was alone and this seemingly massive trauma was weighing me down and I didn’t know how to deal with it. It seemed that everything I did reminded me of him, everywhere I went I heard his voice telling me to “just be a good girl”, every hand around my shoulders was him manhandling me into a more accessible position. I couldn’t get rid of him and none of the healthy coping methods were working.
So I decided to try my own coping method and replace the taste, the feel and the thought of him with other men.
It takes a special kind of man (asshole?) to willingly and happily sleep with a girl (because god knows I wasn’t yet a woman) who is clearly mentally distraught. And I was. I was at my very rock bottom. I was living on my own, of legal drinking age, with no immediate family anywhere nearby to stop me from self-destructing. I put myself out into the universe as a hot mess and lo and behold – the sleazy men of the world came running.
I can’t tell you most of their names – I don’t remember asking for them. I can’t describe most of them to you – I don’t know if I really even took a good look. They weren’t an itch to scratch – I really had no desire to be sexually intimate with anyone at that point.
I just couldn’t stand the thought of his hands being the last to touch me intimately.
It was as though I needed to purge him from my system, over and over again until the very last remaining memories were gone.
It wasn’t about satisfaction or finding a connection and it most definitely was not about enjoying myself – I don’t know if you’ve ever…been intimate…on the cold hard ground in the dead of winter, but it is the least enjoyable activity I’ve yet to partake in. And I did bootcamp TWICE.
These men didn’t care about me. Not in the very least. I was a conquest, a charitable good deed for the month. They didn’t care that I refused to take my top off or turn the lights on or let them hold me or let them know any personal details about myself ESPECIALLY where I lived. They couldn’t be trusted with any of that and they didn’t care. They were happy to get some action and rarely noticed the tiny flinches or the glazed over look in my eyes. I was more than happy to let them go under the delusion that they were helping “fix me”.
I need to be clear – I don’t blame them. I was looking for detached, emotionless sex. And while I swear that if I someday have my own son I will raise him to know that if a girl is visibly emotionally distraught and drunk – YOU DO NOT ENGAGE IN SEXUAL ACTIVITIES WITH HER, it’s not as though I was telling them to stop. I’m to blame here. I so desperately wish I could go back in time and just give myself a good shake. Maybe a hug. Definitely some food to eat before drinking all that vodka.
I try really hard not to hate myself for that period of my life. I wholeheartedly believe that you should do as you please with your own body so long as you’re safe and not harming anyone (including yourself). Unfortunately the world is full of those who are all too happy to judge a strangers actions and I often find myself thinking of those “lost years” as just another series of events to add to my list of regrets.
It’s not all been bad. Many years later, I engaged in a casual and immensely pleasurable relationship (?) with an older man. 12 years my senior, he was wise and knowledgeable, a massage therapist with a truly magnificent skill-set and was only a tiny bit of a self-righteous dick. At the age of 23, he was the first man to teach me what I was worth. Don’t worry Papa – I won’t go into details.
He had this thing – he refused to be intimate with me until after he had fed me a home-cooked meal or at least an absurdly big snack. I was so completely weirded out at first. Seriously, I’d go over to his after work and he’d cook up a massive plate of schnitzel and put on a movie. Here I was – throwing myself at him – and he refused to touch me until I’d eaten and relaxed a bit after a long day at work. He’d hold me, rub my shoulders, play with my hair, listen to my every complaint about the idiotic guests staying at the hotel I was working at. He apologized on behalf of the male race for my lack of sexual pleasure and vowed to do better than his predecessors (he most definitely succeeded).
All this and he expected absolutely NOTHING in return.
I repeat – NOTHING.
He even drove me home at the end of every evening when I refused to stay the entire night in his bed because along the way I’ve picked up one or two minor commitment issues.
He was a real eye-opener. At the risk of yet again sounding like a terribly cliche millennial – he taught me that I needed to set my standards a little higher and start respecting myself and my body more.
So here are some final thoughts on this topic. No one EVER has the right to call you a slut or any of the other various words used to describe women who enjoy sex. Your body, your decisions. If you want to sleep with a different man every night until you find the one that really does it for you – GO AHEAD! All the power to you, I quite honestly wish I had that kind of stamina. But never do so out of fear or lack of self respect. Never settle for the sleazeballs. Your body is sacred, it is YOURS. Treat it with the utmost respect and only allow those who are willing to worship it the way it deserves to be worshiped to become intimately acquainted with it.
Find healthy coping methods. Yoga and meditation never worked for me so I dance it out. I close all my blinds, put on my favourite pair of underwear (leopard print a la Bridget Jones) and blast my terrible music as loud as I can while dancing along (also terribly). I dance, I laugh, I cry, and I cope.
Occasionally I pull a muscle. But I’ll take silly dancing and thigh cramps over demeaning sex any day.