How I realized I was worth more than my body
There used to be a time when I thought differently about sex
I lost my virginity when I was 16 to someone I really loved at the time and for the next few years, sex didn’t really phase me. It meant something when I had sex with some guys and nothing with others. I wasn’t shy about it. I wasn’t incredibly picky about who I was having sex with, as long as they were attractive and mildly nice to me.
My “relationship” with one guy consisted of me going to his house, walking up the stairs, having sex with him and then immediately leaving. Nothing about this bothered me. I didn’t feel used. I didn’t really feel anything. I don’t think I was a “slut” or a “whore” for this behavior, I just thought differently about sex at the time.
There were many times where I partook in sexual activities because I felt I had to, but one memory really sticks out as the first time I felt extremely uncomfortable with it. I had recently gotten out of a serious relationship and was in a “I’m single and having fun” phase, which I’m sure most of you have gone through before. I decided to go over to a cute guys house that I matched with on Tinder one night, just to hang out. I had no expectations. Minutes after talking to him on the couch he started sucking my face off, which I was not ready for so quickly. He then coerced me into going to his room. Much to his disappoint, I refused to take my pants off. Crazy concept after knowing someone for 15 minutes, right? No. I still ended up letting him kiss me and do other things that I didn’t want, because I felt I had to. I could have just gotten up and left. But I didn’t. I wasn’t confident enough to say no to this man I hardly knew. A man who could tell I was uncomfortable with his actions.
I don’t want anyone to ever feel that, the feeling of obligation to someone else.
Then there was last July 4th. I was at a fraternity chatting with a guy about study abroad, just casually. He asked if I wanted to go take a shot with him and I agreed. He led me to his room, and giving him the benefit of the doubt, I figured he had better alcohol in his room. The second he closed the store he forced himself on me. Luckily I wasn’t too gone yet and pushed him off of me and shut the door. I was in pure shock. How could someone just force themselves on me like that? Was I really flirting with him that much? I didn’t think so. I’m just glad this time I had the confidence to walk away.
There are plenty of other instances where I gave into men’s advances because I felt obligated. Times where our expectations didn’t match. Times where I was too tired or just not in the mood, but they kept trying despite knowing this. I don’t feel the need to recount all of these instances. You understand.
There wasn’t a particular moment where I woke up and realized, “What the fuck Caitlin, why are you letting men take advantage of you?” However, therapy really helped.
Last summer I studied abroad and as you can imagine, it changed my life forever. During one class, my teacher asked us, “What made you who you are today?” The discussion turned serious pretty quick. I shared that I believed growing up with two brothers and a mom who struggled with mental illness really shaped who I am as a person. A light bulb went off in my head right at that moment.
Caitlin, you struggle with it too.
I realized right then and there, that I too had depression and anxiety. That’s why I cut myself months before. That’s why when I drank too much I cried and cried and felt terrible about myself. Shortly after I started going to therapy.
I quickly learned that a lot of my anxiety and depression came from my experiences with men. I let them treat me poorly and then blamed myself. I kept seeking them out anyways, because they wanted me, so I should want them too, right? No. For months after, I didn’t hook up with anyone. I spent time on myself and learned methods for coping with my anxiety. I stopped drinking and started spending more time by myself. I started to feel happy and love myself again. I finally learned that what I want is most important. And I finally felt confident enough to walk away from any uncomfortable situation.
Unfortunately, that is not where the story ends. Shortly after, I had to accept that this would be something that would affect my life forever. I got into a serious relationship and not far into it, we started fighting about sex. He thought since I was so sensitive about it and not willing very often, that I wasn’t attracted to him. It bothered him that he always had to be gentle and couldn’t just throw me around. I explained why I am the way I am, and he understood, but he could only handle my ways for so long. There was one time when he grabbed my face to kiss me and I just started crying. That one little action made all of these horrible memories of men taking advantage of me flash right before my eyes. Our relationship ended after only six months.
So this is my life now. There are still times where I give in to a guy’s wants over mine, but I am working on it. I recognize the issue. I learned how to say no. I’ve started to ask guys before I hang out with them, “What are your expectations?” This way I know theirs and they know mine. I’ve even started opening up to some guys, so they understand where I’m coming from.
I want you to know that it feels silly to me too, when I start to feel that tightening in my chest, the anxiety coming on, when a boy just tries to kiss me. And that’s OK. What might be silly to one person, can be a serious issue for another.
To those of you who have had similar experiences, I encourage you to find coping mechanisms. Whether it be going for a drive or calling a friend. Don’t be afraid to go to therapy if you feel it will help. As my teacher told me, it is cowardly to recognize you have these issues and do nothing about it. And if you are fortunate enough to have never felt this way, try to be there for those who have.