Chapter 4 – Saying No
“I became a feminist as an alternative to becoming a masochist.” – Sally Kempton
Technically, I lost my virginity with a scalpel under general anesthesia on a gurney when I was 19 in a procedure called a hymenectomy. While I didn’t have a complete imperforate hymen, my opening was far too small. However, that’s not to say that I was sexually inactive until that point. On the contrary, by the time I was 13, I was over the whole sexual exploration mania that most boys and girls in their teens experience. Sadly, I had grown sick of the sexual scene earlier than most, because my sexual experiences were anything but pleasant. Aside from a few tingly kisses on dares, all my sexual activity felt forced and uncomfortable. In two specific cases, they were, in fact, forced.
Most girls imagine their first time with a boy as something magical and sweet. Their dream is of two people sharing a moment, connecting on a new level and expressing a deep and profound love for one another. Unfortunately, this is hardly the typical scenario. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has documented that approximately 30 percent of 17-year-old girls whose first sexual intercourse was forced did not report it as such.
At first, I thought it was great to be running with the popular crowd in junior high. I had new friends who accepted and liked me based on our mutual use of recreational drugs. My newfound friends and I also thought it was terribly cool to drink, even though most of us were underage. Wherever there was a big party or gathering that involved kegs, pot or pills, we were bound to be found. At the barn where my new best friend Amber and I rode, we were able to get our hands on all kinds of mood-altering substances from the people around us. Our riding instructor smoked weed with us, the workers offered us alcohol, and what we couldn’t find there, we brought with us from other sources. It was easy to find someone selling something in my hometown of Boulder. During one of our typical weekend evenings after a day of riding and cleaning out stalls, Amber and I found ourselves ingesting speed and drinking beer with the much older and very-good-looking men who were employed as ranch hands. Devin, the blacksmith, was, in my eyes, the most impressive of the bunch. Not only was he good-looking, he was also fit and fun, and just happened to be flirting with me! It didn’t really strike me as odd that this guy was 26 while I was a mere 13. All I cared about was that someone as handsome as him was paying attention to me. It also didn’t seem out of the ordinary when he led me away from the group and kissed me out in the fields.
When he asked if I wanted to have sex, I didn’t say a word. To be honest, I wasn’t sure. I was 13 and very curious, but not at all sure if I was ready. He then asked if I would rather have oral sex instead. I didn’t know what that meant. He took my inability to speak at the moment as an unspoken agreement to venture forward rather than recognize it as simple confusion on my part over what his question really meant. I wasn’t afraid of him or anything; he wasn’t the type to hurt anyone. I was just naïve and didn’t know what to say.
The situation only started to worry me when we were naked on the waterbed inside my instructor’s trailer, and, instead of feeling the pleasure of intercourse that I had somewhat anticipated or at least hoped for, I was feeling tremendous pain. After enduring the pain of him repeatedly trying to penetrate, I started to resist. It seemed obvious to me that something was wrong. I was no expert, but this couldn’t be what all the hype around sex was about, and if it was, I wanted no part of it. He seemed unresponsive to my voiceless pleas to stop. Pulling away was not working, so I finally activated my vocal cords. I said “stop.” He didn’t. Maybe he thought I was acting a part. I said it several times more, and tried several variations on the word in case one of those might be the secret that would work. However “don’t,” “wait,” “please stop,” and even cries of pain all failed to have an effect. Finally, I became altogether rational about the situation and decided I must appeal to his intellectual side in order to make him stop, so as calmly as I could, I said, “You know this is rape, don’t you?” Finally, that got him to stop. Without a word, he got up, got dressed and left. Oddly, I was overcome with a horrible sense of guilt. I felt rejected and depressed. I don’t think he was intentionally trying to rape me or hurt me; it was just a very unfortunate and confusing situation. Of course now I realize how very wrong it was for a 26-year-old to be making sexual advances toward girl so young, but at the time, I experienced only overwhelming guilt.
I carried this growing guilt around with me for several days. I was completely embarrassed about what had happened and didn’t know how to handle the current state of affairs. I remember distinctly that I only ate two carrots the day after it happened. I felt fat and disgusted with myself, so the hunger pangs eased the bad feelings to some extent. Like some enlightenment seeker’s strange form of self-flagellation, I tried to focus on resisting any temptation to eat. Of course, this didn’t last long, and I was back to eating fairly normally in a day or two, but I was still depressed as the scenario replayed itself over and over in my head.
Devin and I continued to see each other from time to time out at the barn. I couldn’t believe that I was still attracted to a guy that I felt had taken advantage of me, but I was. We avoided each other like the opposite poles of a magnet, yet both of us clearly acknowledged, awkwardly and without words, what had happened. We never talked about the incident. In fact, we rarely talked at all, but I could feel a bond between us. This strange connection was probably the result of unresolved guilt on his part as well as mine, but it managed to make me feel even more miserable over what had happened and especially about my part in it. I often mistakenly took responsibility for things beyond my control, but I honestly felt that I was at fault in this situation.
I wish I could say that this experience led me to change my ways, clean up my act, quit doing drugs or at least say no. It seemed like all the positive influence that riding had given me was shot down in a moment by my own poor judgment and inability to say no with conviction. I was left feeling even more unsure of myself than before I started riding. Unfortunately, my self-confidence would take one more blow, a blow that would have such an impact on me that it would eventually completely change who I was.
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