More Than Two commentary – Chapter Four: Tending Your Self (part 4d – prologue to my dark night of the soul)

I’m a bit sorry that this is taking so long to tell. But I don’t think I can tell it without putting all these words in. My point is, for the first parts of it, in many ways, this seemed like a good relationship. Really, truly good. Healthy. David was a teacher and was older than me by about five years. But for the first months of that relationship, he was respectful. He encouraged me to think for myself, at least in my art. There were a lot of things he took charge of; where we went to eat, who we spent time with (mostly we spent time alone with each other, or with his family), what we did. He starting making suggestions to me about what I should wear. Initially, I was mostly thrilled and it felt exciting. I thought he knew so much more than me, so I was happy to give him the lead in most things.

Giving him the lead also meant that I didn’t have to take responsibility for certain things. Like how much less time I was spending with Elias. Previously, when boyfriends (who I didn’t really want to be dating) wanted to spend all their free time with me, I rebelled. I wanted to be with Elias, and the few other friends I had. Some of this was based off of my strong feelings that romantic partners shouldn’t automatically usurp friendships. Some of it was also based on me not being particularly interested in those guys. My friendships meant more to me.

Over the time that I met and got close to Elias, my friendship with him slowly usurped the few other friendships I had. At the time, this made sense, because Elias needed me more. Elias had so many needs, and I was the only person who could really pull him out of a funk, help him through his depressions, keep him steady. So my other friendships had slowly been choked off in the face of Elias’ needs. But as time went on, and Elias never really good better, and kept needing more and more attention from me, I got stressed out. I couldn’t just back away from my friendship with Elias. He needed me! But at the same time, it seemed like he needed me too much, and I couldn’t figure out how to pull away. I had absolutely no understanding of boundaries, much less healthy ones. I didn’t know how to get away from Elias.

David was the perfect answer. As my boyfriend, he was a socially acceptable reason to get more and more time away from Elias. As much as Elias didn’t like it (and Elias really didn’t like it), he couldn’t say much about David taking up a goodly chunk of my time. He was my boyfriend and he said he loved me…and he starting talking about getting married. Of course he was going to take up my time!

Marriage was brought up…I honestly don’t remember when. But I do remember that it was brought up. David thought I was perfect for him. We’d known each other for years. Sure, it was a student/teacher relationship. We needed time to get to know each other outside of that. But I still had college to get through, and David suggested that I go to college a few hours away as planned, and we get married after I graduate.

This sounded amazing to me. That childhood dream I’ve had, of a rambling Victorian…it was going to come true. I’d go to college a few hours away. I could come back on the weekends. David and I would get married after I graduated. He would teach and I would be an accountant (because taking some creative electives in high school was one thing, getting a job in a creative field would have been beyond the pale. I was good at math, and accounting seemed like a reasonable, smart job to go for). On the weekends, we’d work on our art together, restore our amazing Victoria home, and have amazing dinner parties. Everything was going to be perfect.

If we could only get there. In the meantime, there were a few difficult patches to navigate. Like sexual contact.

After I graduated, David started pushing for more physical intimacy. At first, that was exciting. I think he’s the first person who ever touched my breasts and my ass that I actually wanted to be touched by in those places. I liked him touching me. I liked touching his ass. When he pulled me against the outline of his dick under his pants, that was exciting and arousing without being too much. When he slid his hand between my legs over my clothes, that was exciting and arousing without being too much too.

But when he started trying to take his underwear off and mine, that was too much.

I explained things to him. I wanted him to understand all of me; we were going to get married, remember? I explained that as a good Christian, I was saving myself for marriage, even if I wasn’t exactly a virgin anymore. And I explained that to him too, Elias’ suicide watch, how I lost my virginity. How that was a one-time thing, and I had no interest in actually having sex again until I got married.

David’s reaction to my disclosure about how I lost my virginity was one of shock and outrage, directly mainly towards Elias’ parents. He was also shocked and upset at my parents for letting me stay, but mainly upset that Elias’ parents would have left us alone in his bedroom every night for hours. David was the first person to try to persuade me that the way I’d lost my virginity was bad for me, that it was a really unhealthy and fucked up situation. David was the second person other than Elias who I’d told (I had told one female friend, a few months after it happened), so it’s not as though a crowd of people knew the story and thought everything was fine. But before David, I hadn’t considered what had happened in terms of right and wrong. I just considered it to be…something that had happened.

After David got over his initial shock, he didn’t have much to say, other than he wanted me around Elias as little as possible. I figured that was something that David and I would have to work on over time. Even though Elias did want too much of my time, he was still my very best friend and someone I had close bond with, and would always be in my life. But I had time to make peace between David and Elias.

Sexually, David pulled back a bit for a few weeks after I told him what happened with Elias. David talked a lot about how I needed to trust him, how he wanted me to be happy, how my first experience with sex was wrong and bad and that it could be so much more than that. I knew it could be more than that, and I knew I’d get there some day…after we got married.

During the time of these talks, our sex life had a pattern to it. We’d make out and touch each other. David would often end up laying down, with me on top, straddling him. I’d touch and squeeze him through his underwear. He’d rub himself against me through my underwear.  He’d take off his underwear. Then he’d got to take off my underwear and I’d stop him. The panties stay on until marriage. Just to be safe.

One day our routine went a bit differently than it had before. This time, I was under him. Things progressed in the usual way; the kissing, the touching, him removing his underwear. When he went to take off mine, I got a little angry. I shoved at him. I told him that I was tired of telling him to stop trying to take off my underwear. It’s staying on until we get married, I snapped.

And he snapped back. These may not be the exact words, but they’re damn close. I’ll never forget the meat of what he said: We’re going to get married, so we may as well have sex now. Besides, you’re not a virgin anymore. You don’t have anything to complain about.

Just writing that down gives me a wave of vertigo. Nearly half a lifetime later, and I still vividly remember how I felt.

I felt like I’d been slapped. I felt shocked. Not that he’d said something so crude, so cruel, so ridiculously untrue and utterly uncaring of my feelings or my desires. I felt shocked because I thought he was right. I wasn’t a virgin anymore. We were going to get married. I was being a bad girlfriend, a bad fiancée, a bad person by saying no. Why was I saying no?

I stopped saying no. I didn’t say yes. I mostly just laid there, limp. And dissociated. I didn’t want to be having sex. I had no interest in sex. But not having sex meant I was being shitty to this person I loved, this person who loved me. So I had to have sex.

This is why I think enthusiastic consent is so important, and needs to be taught. This is why “No is a full sentence” needs to be pounded into the head of every single person in the world. This is why “I don’t want to” should never need any further explanation, especially when it comes to sex.

I didn’t have any of those tools. I honestly had no concept that no one should ever, ever, ever coerce me into having sex for any reason at all. I didn’t even understand that what happened was coercive, or rape. It took years to figure that out.

At the time, I accepted that David has the right to have sex with me. I did my best to do a good job at it, but it was mechanical. Awkward. Uncomfortable. I never again tried to push him away when he took my underwear off. I went along with it, as best as I could, even though any passion, any sexual interested I’d had from touching and kissing died away as soon as he started to pull my underwear down. It was the least I could do for my future husband…

…who broke up with me a few months later. Right before I left for college. It was a sucker punch for me. Sure, he’d been weird and argumentative for the last few weeks, but that would pass, I thought. It was a phase. No, he was gearing up to break up with me.

Among the reasons why: I was a lousy lay. He literally said those words “And you’re a lousy lay”. I protested that one. I’d been in shock until he said that. And then I said “That’s because I never wanted to have sex with you in the first place…”. Before I could continue, he did the one physically violent thing that he ever did to me (not counting all the rape, but that was emotionally and mentally violent. It wasn’t really physically violent). He grabbed me by the throat and slammed my head against the wall that was behind me. Once, twice. Leaned down into my face and growled “Don’t you ever say that. Don’t you ever say that again”.

I was terrified and bewildered. I had no idea why he reacted like that. I honestly had no concept that what I’d said more or less implied that every time we had penetrative sex it was rape. All I knew was that I was now frightened for my physical safety, and would agree to anything he said, so long as he let go of my throat and let me go.

So I agreed never to say it again. He let me go. I left.

I never saw or heard from him again.


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polyamorist, cat-lover, hopeless optimist when I'm not being a firm realist.

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