I recently had a strange experience for which I am still finding the words. I met a girl online. We quickly arranged to meet after work. She was smart and charming, and we got along well. After dinner, we went on a walk that took us to the door of her house. I kissed her and she asked if I wanted to come inside.
It’s hard for me to explain what happened next. We continued to kiss in her room. I asked whether she wanted me to take off her shirt, and she said yes. I asked again before taking off her bra, and she told me that I didn’t need to keep asking. She took off the rest of her clothes and I took off mine. I felt happy and lucky. But it changed. She got on top of me and began to have sex with me. I wasn’t expecting that and it happened really fast. By the time I grasped what was going on and realized I didn’t want to, it felt wrong to say we should stop. I felt confused and dissociated.
Things felt cold afterward. She was angry that I wasn’t wearing a condom, which confused me even more. I never felt like I had the time to make a choice. I left her house to find a pharmacy and tried to make sense of what had happened. It was hard to reconcile why I felt so bad. I should have been happy — what guy wouldn’t be after sleeping with an attractive girl? — but instead I felt terrible. I called my roommate and tried to explain, but I didn’t even know what to say. I tried again with my dad. How I was feeling felt beyond comprehension.
Back at her house, I apologized. I gave her the contraception, we made brief small talk, and I left to go home. The train ride down felt forever.
The experience has kept coming back to my mind. Some thoughts recur:
- It’s my fault that this happened. I should have said no. She couldn’t have known that I didn’t want it to happen.
- It’s not that big a deal and I’m stupid for feeling bad. It’s just sex and I should get over it. I’ve done all there is to do so there’s no point in being mopey.
- I know many people who have gone through a lot worse. I don’t deserve to feel bad for myself.
- What would this be if she were a boy and I were a girl?
I’ve found it hard to explain to people how this experience affected me. I felt like I shouldn’t be too unhappy about getting laid, but this experience really got to me, and I felt so out of control. I couldn’t control my body in the moment, and I couldn’t control my mind afterward. My thoughts drift back to it in idle moments and they just keep going in circles.
Writing this down is one act of control. Putting words to the experience gives me power over it, but there are still some words I’m not sure I should use. The last few days have made me think a lot about consent, control, and what it’s like to be a man. Growing up in a progressive community, I’ve been taught about consent a couple of times. And each of those times, there’s an implicit narrative when talking about heterosexual encounters, where a boy asks for a girl’s consent and it is up to her to say no. I don’t think what she did was malicious, but just a result of what we think about men saying no. She didn’t think I would, and I didn’t think I could.
It’s hard to know what to change. Maybe the way we explain consent, or the way we talk about male sexuality, or the way we teach women to talk about what they want, or maybe something else. I’m not sure. I find it hard to share this because I feel wrong begging attention to my problems with so much worse going on. But I also want to highlight the importance of consent and the feelings that can come with sex in a situation that we don’t talk about too much. In so many ways I’m lucky. My parents and my friends have been really understanding, and a lot of the conflict I feel comes from within. But even with all these sources of support, it’s so difficult to talk about how I really feel while I privately feel guilt, shame, and weakness. In sharing this, I want to give another bit of context to a broader conversation, and help others who might have similar experiences to mine feel a bit more comfortable talking about feelings they have.