When I was growing up, I focused on having a nice house, a career I enjoyed and maybe a pet turtle. Any kind of romantic relationship just wasn’t on my radar, and I’m not saying that as if ignoring relationships deserves a prize, I’m just being honest about my mindset, and the reality of who I am as a person. .
I never dated during school, and I only dabbled a few times during sixth form and university.
My inexperience wasn’t exactly that much of a problem, until I met someone who was interested in it, I was woefully unprepared for the entire thing. I didn’t really know how to act in a relationship, due to not having many to my name, leading to multiple awkward moments in which I expected far more than is usual, and sad moments in which I accepted far less than is usual.
I didn’t know what I wanted, and to be brutally honest, I only went out on the initial date because I was shocked someone asked me. Looking back, I can’t think of anything I even liked about him. I have a notebook full of random streams of consciousness in which I declared my undying love for him, but none of it makes it clear what I actually loved, and why I actually loved, so I’ve come to the conclusion that I was grateful that someone liked me, rather than in love. That’s fine, I suppose, but there were things that weren’t, which is the point of all this.
I don’t think he actually liked me. Now, when I say this, I don’t mean he disliked me. I just mean that he, as I did, didn’t have any specific things that turned basic attraction into love. I was young, naive, and very inexperienced, which I’ve now discovered is very attractive to a certain type of person, and I’m pretty sure he was that certain type of person. This isn’t a baseless accusation, because he told me so, in fact, that was one of the only things he could pinpoint when asked why he liked me, and naivety isn’t exactly unique to me.
I don’t think he liked me specifically, and the entire thing would have played out just the same with any young, naive and very inexperienced woman he successfully asked on a date. I think his attraction to me was based more on the idea of taking a blank canvas, and painting his desires onto it, than on anything about me in particular. That’s disappointing to my ego, and disgusting to the rest of me.
He knew that I was pretty clueless, he even asked me, quizzing me on how much I knew (fuck all, for those wondering) and giving me a long speech about his needs and wants, as well as reading material. No, seriously, there was a reading list of very specific erotica, that I didn’t particularly enjoy. Slightly off topic, but as a writer, I don’t understand the insistence on describing a woman’s bra size instead of her actual breasts. There are so many different kinds of boobs that can all fit in one bra, so bra size isn’t actually an indication of what kind of boob you are dealing with, and is honestly just poor writing. Maybe he just gave me poorly written erotica, which is even more insulting, really.
I didn’t know much about sexual relationships, consent, equality in relationships, or any of that essential stuff because it wasn’t covered in sex education, with only the logistics of actual sexual intercourse (for straight people only), and a short presentation on menstruation (with no freebies, I might add) making up my sex ed class. Just one class by the way. I was left to fend for myself in that regard, and a little paranoid about what was safe to google.
By the time I was brave enough to do proper research (it took half a bottle of wine and a telling off from one of my close friends), it was already too late. I didn’t realise until after the fact that it isn’t normal to be coerced into things you don’t want to do. Nobody told me that it isn’t normal to be pressured and rushed into things you don’t even understand, or might be afraid of. It was only after getting worried looks from my friends when discussing the subjects and having serious talks on what their own experiences were like that I noticed that I didn’t have to do half the things that kept me awake at night, hating myself. I thought it was expected, because nobody had told me that I could say no.
I still hate myself, sometimes. I look back on myself at that time and I hate, I hate so much that I feel like I’m burning, because I just want things to be different. I want for the girl I was to be different, and for her situation to be different.
I don’t know if it’s as serious as some things other people go through, but he still keeps me awake at night, for all the wrong reasons, and I just want to sleep. I’m not by any means on some kind of “all men are evil and their sexual desires are evil, and stop men” tirade, and I’m very aware that women are capable of this too, but this is not, in my opinion a “Men vs Women” issue, this is a “Everyone should have equal preparation and be able to protect themselves” issue.
This is something I’ve experienced, and something that I’m sure a lot of young people, both male and female may unfortunately experience, and it begins, because there are still places where the actual important details of sexual relationships aren’t taught. You might think it’s just the bible belt, and well to do boarding schools, but schools all over the world are neglecting to actually allow young people the full facts, and they grow up thinking that they shouldn’t question things at all, no matter how much their situation disturbs them. .
I’m not even sure why I’m writing this, maybe just to remove it from my body, so I can think and breathe and find some kind of legitimate freedom from the mixture of guilt, anger and confusion that still follows me, despite people in my life having tried to “fix” me and erase what I went through.
All I will say, because I heard it too late, is please don’t let yourself feel pressured. Please don’t let someone make choices for you and push you to do things you don’t want to. I know that’s easier said than done, and I’m not sure why you should listen to me (I don’t even listen to me half the time), but if just one person does, that is one less person with the negative and fearful attitude I have to their own body and it’s many (hopefully happy) adventures.