TRIGGER WARNING: No-holds-barred descriptions of sexual violence and strong language to follow (also, discussion of depression, PTSD, alcohol abuse, and anorexia). Please, practice self-care in reading this, as I made sure to do so in writing it. Also, please be mindful of your comments, because this is very delicate subject matter and … pretty much as personal as it gets.
. •°*•*°• . CHAPTER 4 . •°*•*°• .
Back at school, I finally moved into an apartment off campus. I tried to keep up my exercise routine, but since I was out of my parents’ house, my anorexia was able to thrive uncontested, so I could barely do 20 minutes of yoga a day without feeling faint. Unhealthy, I know, but it sure made me look (and feel) amazing.
And I wasn’t the only one who noticed.
There was a man who worked at the Jamba Juice in my student union who was pretty keen on me. Let’s call him *Grumpy, shall we? *Grumpy had been hitting on me for about a year already, but starting this particular September — the September of my junior year — he started laying it on really thick.
I thought that, even though I didn’t want to have sex ever again, maybe sleeping with someone else would turn *Doc into a distant memory for me. So one afternoon, *Grumpy suggested we get dinner sometime. I gave him my number, and he called me that night.
I learned that he was 34 years old, divorced with kids, working two jobs. One of his kids was a daughter, which made me feel relieved, because I thought that that would have conditioned him to be more respectful toward women (especially women like me who were significantly younger than him).
I was wrong.
The first night we spent together, he was having some trouble maintaining an erection, so he tried to get me to have anal and oral sex with him. I said no. Then, at several intervals throughout the remainder of the evening, he said, in his frustration, things like, “Ugh, I wish you’d sucked it!!”
He also made a lot of comments, suggesting that I had so much to learn, and that he was going to “teach me.” It was the same condescension I received from *Doc on various occasions, and it really made me feel uncomfortable and small … and somewhat threatened.
We talked on the phone a couple of times after that night.
During one of our conversations, he kept ragging on me about the oral sex thing, saying, “I really wish you’d done that other thing that I like …” So I bitterly and disingenuously replied, “Sorry.” He replied, “It’s alright, I’m not going to rush you.”
That comment really pissed me off. So I angrily answered, “Well, if you’re only staying with me because you’re hoping I’ll change, then that’s not a very good reason, and you know it.”
His brilliant response? “Oh, quiet, woman! Don’t start with that!”
Where do I even begin to unpack that one?
Anyway, we had a tiff for awhile, and eventually he said he had to go, but that he’d call me later. As soon as I hung up, I crawled up into the fetal position and had another typical breakdown, replete with tears and suicidal thoughts.
He called me back twice that night. I didn’t answer.
The next night we saw each other, I asked him to pick up a bottle of Captain Morgan on his way to my place (as I wasn’t old enough as of yet to buy it myself), and I said I would pay him back as soon as he came over.
We started having sex for awhile, but I really wasn’t feeling into it. I stopped him and took a couple of swigs of rum, and he commented: “Yeah, baby, drink up. Maybe if you get drunk enough, you’ll do something else …”
Yeah, right. “Not going to rush you” my ass.
After that, we started having an argument about the existence of God (for the record, he started it, not me), and the next thing I knew, I woke up alone and naked at 5 AM, my make-up smeared all over my face and my sheets, both of my pillows mysteriously out of their cases, I had the worst hangover I had ever experienced in my life (even to this day), and there was vomit all over the bathroom floor.
But the worst of it was that, playing and replaying through my head were two blurry, brief snapshots of memories: one of his dick in my mouth, and the other one of me running to the bathroom with the intention of puking.
But that was it. That was all I could remember.
That’ll teach me to drink liquor on a 3-day-long empty stomach.
I texted *Grumpy and told him that I totally blacked out and was wondering what the hell happened. It took him three days to call me back. When he did, he told me that I started going down on him (he didn’t mention the level of coercion or force that it took to get me to that point, but I can imagine), but that I had to stop as soon as I began bawling and talking about my abusive ex-lover (aka: *Doc). Then, according to *Grumpy, I demanded that he return the two 20 dollar bills I had given him for the alcohol and proceeded to flush them down the toilet. (Allegedly.) Next, he said I got really angry about him not wanting to stay the night, locked myself in the bathroom for, like, an hour, and I didn’t respond when he knocked on the door, so he decided to just leave.
He sounded so angry as he was telling me this story. I apologized over and over again, saying that I didn’t have any control over myself because I had blacked out (and apparently, passed out), but he continued to yell at me. He said that I shouldn’t even be drinking and that I was somehow being abusive by losing control like that.
All I could think to do was apologize.
The next day, I went by Jamba Juice to give him the money he said I still owed him (even though I figured there was a good chance he was lying about that, just to scam a little extra cash off of me), and he insisted that we needed to talk. He said he’d call me later. I told him not to bother, but he was determined to.
When he called me, it was just to say that he really enjoyed me sucking his dick the other night before I stopped.
In the midst of all of this drama, *Doc texted me. I distinctly remember entertaining the thought that I kind of … missed him, actually.
I mean, I tried going out into the real world and having a sexual experience without him — with *Grumpy — and that was a complete disaster too. At least *Doc was capable of not talking about blowjobs for 5 seconds … And the more I thought about it, the better I managed to convince myself that everything that had been wrong with my relationship with *Doc was my fault, that he had only been trying to help me explore my sexuality, and blah blah blah …
So I decided to text him back.
A couple of days later, *Grumpy called me while I was in Chicago seeing Louis CK perform live. He left an angry voice message about how I never call him anymore. I called him the next day to apologize for not answering. He replied, “Girl, when I call you, you should act like it’s God calling you!”
Naturally, I responded by telling him that I no longer wanted to see him. When he asked me why, I said that it was because I couldn’t give him what he wanted. He essentially hung up on me, but a couple of days later, I saw him at Jamba Juice, and he said that he “missed me.” I explained very thoroughly how the way he was pressuring me to give him head made me uncomfortable, but he just tried to deny that he had been doing any such thing. I got frustrated trying to talk sensibly to him, so I just walked away.
The next day, I ran into *Doc. We had a nice, light-hearted conversation, and started texting again. Which led to us seeing each other again.
And to be honest, it felt different this time. Mostly because I had come to the conclusion that I was a terrible lover, that I brought absolutely nothing to the table, and so I figured I would just let *Doc do whatever he wanted to me — no matter how it made me feel — because I figured I owed him that much for all the hell I’d put him through.
(N.B.: One of the signs of an abusive relationship that you can deduce as a third-party observer is that the relationship ends over and over and keeps starting up again. If you notice this happening to one of your friends, be sure to make yourself available to him/her for support. Do not blame the victim or tell them what you think they should do. They have had enough control stripped of them already.)
I sunk even lower into depression during this period; I remember distinctly feeling as though I was the embodiment of the walking dead. The only time I ever felt remotely alive was when I was with *Doc, because I had been reduced to nothing more than his sex toy. I had no other purpose.
I’ve always considered this phase of our relationship to be one where he didn’t actually rape me, but that’s only because I stopped fighting back. He had drained all of the fight out of me by this point, and I was just a hollow shell of the person I used to be.
Now, someone else came into the picture at around this same time, and he’s the only one whose identity I am actually happy to protect in this story, because he is, indeed, a good, well-intentioned man. I’m only mentioning him now because I think my experience with him contributes to the whole point of this epic.
And I’m going to call him *Happy, because it suits him.
So, I met *Happy through my student group. He was a grad student as well, a self-proclaimed feminist, and we had been good friends for almost a year by the time we slept together. As soon as we got to his bedroom, he started making a move to go down on me, but I stopped him. When he asked me why, I said that it was because I wasn’t comfortable reciprocating. He said that that was fine, that he just wanted to make me feel good. I said, “Then just fuck me.”
So he did.
I ended up walking out on him for no good reason that night. I still to this day don’t understand why I did it. Maybe I was afraid to be with someone who would treat me with respect. Maybe I just wasn’t ready for it. Maybe I didn’t think that I deserved it. Who knows.
Alas, I felt guilty about what I’d done, so the next time I went over to his place, I naturally brought him a homemade pie as atonement.
But before that happened, I saw *Doc for one last time.
We didn’t have sex right away that night. Instead, we started arguing about free will vs. determinism, and he accused me of thinking so critically to the point of lacking empathy for other human beings. (Oh, the irony.) He attacked the way that I lived my life, claiming that his lifestyle was superior to mine because he was a pleasure-seeker and I was a truth-seeker, so naturally, he was happy and I was depressed. Then he started trying to school me on sadomasochism, saying that the kind of sex we’d been having can actually be good — with a “willing masochist,” that is — and that he thought that I was a closeted masochist who just hadn’t seen the light yet. He also bragged, at one point, about how many virgins he’d deflowered, and made a point of mentioning how much worse at sex they were than their older, more experienced counterparts.
So I just laid there feeling thoroughly inadequate and belittled and wanting to no longer exist.
He told me to get on top of him, so I did, and I rode him till he came. Then he turned on the pr0n channel on his TV and made me watch it, making comments like, “Ooh, yeah, that’s such a great position, we should do that, it’s so relaxing, mmm …”
It made me feel sick. I suddenly wondered what I was even doing there, with this man who made me feel so terrible and objectified and shamed me for not being kinky enough. I just closed my eyes and waited for it to be over.
At one point, he asked me to give him a massage, so I did. And I stayed the night and hoped he would have sex with me in the morning (because that was usually the routine, and he hadn’t even touched me all night), but when we woke up the next morning, he ignored his morning wood and said he had to leave to go to an appointment.
I left and cried all the way home. Suddenly, the words that my best friend (and confidante) had uttered over a year ago popped into my head. In the beginning, when *Doc had first begun to sexually abuse me, she had said to me:
“Cassy … you will know when you’ve had enough.”
And as I walked home that morning after seeing *Doc, it became all too clear to me: I had had enough. It really was over this time. That was indisputable. So I skipped all of my classes that day because I was too busy laying in bed listlessly and falling apart.
And that was the last time I ever slept with *Doc. (No, really.) I still ignore his calls when they come and refuse to acknowledge him when he approaches me on the street.
A week or so later, I slept with *Happy again. He was incredibly sweet and respectful, which was still throwing me for a loop. But at one point, we were laying in his bed, talking, and I saw that he was hard. He started stroking himself and he gave me this look, and … I just knew exactly what he was going to say before he said it: “I know you’re not into it, but … I really wish you would taste my cock.”
I scoffed and turned away from him. He thought it was funny … but then he realized I was genuinely upset and said he was only kidding. I still couldn’t look at him. So he stroked my arm and said, “I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to do. You know me. Have I ever been that kind of person?” I concurred that no, he wasn’t. So he said, “Then why would I do that?”
But I didn’t know how to answer that. It was such a good question. Why would anyone do that? I still don’t know. But they do, and that’s the point.
He asked me not to be upset with him. I told him that I just needed a minute. We laid in silence for a long time. Eventually, he fell asleep, but I just stared at the wall for hours, wishing I could just be someone else. Why did I have to be me? Would I ever be able to satisfy anyone? It seemed that no matter how much I gave, men were always going to be pushing me for something more. Sex was going to be a constant tug-of-war for me, forever. Why couldn’t I just be enough??
We had sex again in the morning, and it was very pleasant. But I couldn’t un-know the fact that he couldn’t accept me the way that I was, and I hated how much I resented him for that.
In retrospect, I could have handled the situation much better, and he certainly didn’t deserve to be the object of my resentment, which was only a culmination of so many other exhausting exchanges that had come before him and had ended up breaking me down in front of someone who had only ever been kind to me.
Needless to say, he never called me after that. I understood why. After all, it was completely his prerogative whether to sleep with me or not. And in a way, it was kind of refreshing to meet a guy who wasn’t going to just continue seeing me with the intention of trying to change me.
But what hurt was that he completely wrote me off. I had sent him a few scattered, platonic text messages over the next couple of months (texts that I would’ve sent anyway, even if we hadn’t slept together twice), but he never replied to them.
It seemed to me as though I wasn’t just useless to him as a lover, but I was useless to him as a friend as well.
This realization didn’t help. I, once again, resolved to never have sex again, and continued to break down at every opportunity, because I apparently wasn’t worth a single, solitary damn.
(P.S. — I’ve since cleared the air with *Happy, and we’re on friendly terms again. Communication is key!)
Your rape experiences sound extremely terrible and traumatizing, and I am sorry for them. You had pretty bad experiences with cruel and low empathy men and they led to you seeing such things as normal.
I’ve been on the side of where the feminist guy was, feeling a woman shy away and and have rather painful emotional reactions from quite normal things, see in her eyes that she expects you to do terrible things to her. It’s rather sucky and left me rather annoyed at her past partners. I have stayed though, as I am quite resistant to negative emotions. I can understand why another would leave.
Did you ever explain to Happy how his “I know you’re not into it BUT” comment was coercive? I’m curious as to if he understood and/or acknowledged that.
We didn’t discuss that directly, no, but I’m sure that if he didn’t realize it then, he’s come to realize it now, especially since we have talked about that incident, and he’s aware now of what I was going through.
He’s someone who I know has his head in the right place on gender issues and consent. And while I know that I had every reason to shut down like I did, I wish that I hadn’t, and that I’d been in a better place so that I could have actually communicated with him about it at the time. I know he would have listened and apologized, and then things may not have ended the way they did.
But yes, that type of behavior was coercive, and I’m glad you pointed that out.
I am so sorry you had to experience all of this for so long alone. My first time was non-consensual and I’ve had to work out my left over issues on my own in my way. I’m so glad you’ve managed to come through this stronger and mostly whole. I also admire that you’re using your experiences to help educate other people (it’s not always women) and show them it’s possible to get away from the situation and learn to value yourself.
Good luck in all your future endeavers!