real life

"I thought it was love until I realised that my first sexual experience with him was rape."

Warning: This article contains a graphic account of sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers. 

No matter how much I think I’ve moved on, experiences I had as a teenager still come back to haunt me from time to time. We all have memory ghosts. Those images, thoughts, and feelings that slip into our minds at any given moment, sneaky in their quiet approach, flashing behind our eyes without warning.

One minute I’m giving a blow job to my partner, completely turned on as he takes charge and dominates me with his forcefulness.

The next minute he’s coming into my mouth and the memory of my first blow job pops into my head through no control of my own. That little devil is locked away deep, but it’s still as vivid as ever whenever it flashes to the surface.

When I was 18, I experienced what I thought was falling in love for the first time. I was convinced I’d found my soulmate — the man I would marry someday. My physical and mental connection with Adam was the most intense thing I’d ever experienced.

At that age, I’d been dating for a whopping two years. A worldly-wise teenager that I was, I just knew I’d never experience a connection like that with any other man ever again.

When blood-red flags started popping up everywhere, Adam and I argued our way through them. I thought it meant I was mature enough to handle a real relationship, even though his cruel words would often bring me to tears when his temper got the best of him.

As mean as he could get, he had a special knack for convincing me that I was incorrect for feeling hurt. He’d tell me all the reasons I was misunderstanding the situation, and that my feelings were misguided or didn’t make any sense. And I’d believe him. I’d agree that I was overdramatic, misinformed, or unaware of how adult relationships worked.

Sometimes he’d use my generalised anxiety disorder against me and tell me that my mental health made me overly sensitive. It wasn’t that he was being emotionally abusive, oh no. The problem was that I was slightly out of touch with reality whenever we fought.

Mia Freedman explains the term Gaslighting and how to know if it’s happening to you. Post continues below.

Video by Via Mamamia

I was gaslighted before I ever knew what the term meant. I was mentally and emotionally manipulated without seeing it. Sometimes my 33-year-old self looks back at my 18-year-old self and wants to wring her clueless little neck. My vision was so limited back then. My mind so narrow. I knew he made me unhappy a lot of the time, but I thought that was because our love was fiery and passionate and totally intense. I thought a relationship that took this much hard work was something special, something worth fighting for.

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My first sexual experience with Adam is a prime example.

He got me alone, but I never saw it coming

The night it happened, Adam and I were hanging out with one of his friends. We’d made plans to go on a date, but he blew me off last minute to have some guy time with the aforementioned buddy. Adam had graduated a year earlier and worked full time.

It was my final year of high school, and I was busy with homework, college prospects, and my part-time job. We also lived over an hour away from each other. It was a busy time and we rarely got to hang out, so being stood up when we had made plans in our hectic schedules stung.

We had one of our classic blow-out arguments about it over the phone and via text, and he ended up inviting me over to his friend’s apartment later that night. He’d already been drinking, and I soon caught up to him. We worked on the case of cheap beer together, making out intermittently whenever his friend left the room. I was still a mixture of hurt and angry, feeling vaguely dissatisfied by how things had resolved, but I thought his physical affection meant he regretted not inviting me along in the first place.

In my mind, kissing and groping was going to magically smooth things over.

Before long, Adam was drunk. I couldn’t hold my booze very well back then, so after a few beers, I was pretty off-kilter. When we ran out of beer and he suggested we go out for more, I went against the warning voice in my head and let him lead me to his truck parked in the dark, quiet lot.

The whole time we walked down the steps to the first floor, I talked about how neither of us could drive. I was confused — I knew he was too smart to try driving like that, but for whatever reason, I went along anyway. I told myself maybe he could hold his alcohol better than I thought. I trusted his judgment. I was stupid-drunk.

We got to his big black truck and slid into the bench seat, him at the wheel and me right next to him. He closed the door but didn’t start the car. Didn’t even put the keys in the ignition. Good, I remember thinking. He shouldn’t drive like this.

“What are we doing?” I whispered.

He didn’t say a word in response.

“Hello? What’s going on?” I asked. Then I tried convincing him again that we shouldn’t be driving anywhere.

Instead of answering me, he unbuttoned his jeans and took out his penis.

I stopped talking, my mouth open like a fish. At this point, we’d never done anything beyond some heavy petting. His hands had been in my underwear before, but I’d never even seen his penis. Or any penis.

I was a pretty awkward teen and very sexually timid. I knew I wanted to wait until marriage for vaginal intercourse. And with anything else, I needed to take things slow. I had explained this to him on more than a few occasions — any time he put the pressure on me to do more.

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Without a word, he grabbed my head and pushed it down, holding his hard cock with his other hand and feeding it into my mouth. It went so far in that I choked and my eyes watered. I remember gripping the tops of his thighs, the denim of his jeans rough against my palms as I tried to steady myself.

I tensed up and froze at first, completely taken by surprise. He kept his hand heavy on the top of my head, and I stayed where he put me, not stopping him as he bobbed my head up and down. I didn’t scream. I didn’t fight back. Before I could get a grip on how to respond, it was over. I think it took less than half a minute. I’m guessing he was already pretty ready to go by the time we got down to the truck.

There in the dark parking lot, I experienced my first blow job. The man I thought was the love of my life simply took it without bothering to ask.

I almost puked when he came into my mouth. And I wasn’t given the option to spit. He held my head down as his semen shot straight to the back of my throat. After that, he let me go, and I immediately sat straight up and slid away from him across the bench seat. I choked on the warm gooey substance and swallowed as an involuntary reflex, shuddering at the taste as it slid down my throat. Once it was down, I started coughing.

Safe to say I’m still not a fan of that taste, no matter who I’m with. Very rarely do I muster up the desire to swallow.

I thought of it as a challenge to our love — one that we could work through

We got out and went back into the apartment, where we drunkenly cuddled up under a blanket on the floor. I think I was in shock, but he didn’t act like anything abnormal had happened. He fell asleep without a word, hugging me to his chest as I replayed the scenario over and over in my head, wondering how the hell it had all happened so fast.

I thought about how he’d ditched me for his buddy. How he reluctantly agreed to let me hang out, plied me with alcohol, then tricked me into going down to the empty parking lot under the guise of driving to the store. He’d wanted to get me alone, the whole time planning to have me blow him once we got into the truck.

I felt incredibly confused. I didn’t know if he’d wronged me or if I was being overly dramatic, as he would often accuse. I certainly never thought of it as sexual assault. I was floating in some sort of moral grey area, fighting with myself over whether to make it yet another big fight with him.

We were both drunk, so I (wrongly) shouldered part of the blame. He wasn’t in his right mind, and I wasn’t in mine. If we’d been sober, he would have been more respectful, I thought. He would have been slow and patient and gentle with me. It would have been special. Maybe he would have even reciprocated the pleasure.

But we’d both gotten drunk and ruined this first time, and there was no amount of arguing that would fix it. So I stayed quiet.

The next day he was in a much better mood, the arguing of the previous night forgotten. I can’t remember our exact dialogue, but we never addressed my true feelings about the drunken incident.

He was happy with me. He loved me. He thought I’d given him great head. He was proud of me for getting over my sexual fear and sucking his dick. We were at the next level in our relationship, I thought. Maybe we didn’t get there the way I’d wanted, but we’d make it better next time.

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This was love, I thought. Imperfect, but committed. This was worth all the pain and tears. There would be the occasional misstep on both our parts, but we’d love each other through all the shit.

I stayed for years, thinking that’s what love meant.

I’m a different woman now

I love rough sex. There’s something about being submissive, being controlled in the bedroom that always turns me on.

I never got a chance to discover this about myself with Adam. I ended up eventually detesting sex with him, and we never got to explore my kinky side.

That’s because on some level, I never fully trusted him with my body. I never felt safe enough to be completely sexually vulnerable with him.

I’m not the only woman who has experienced sexual assault who also happens to love rough sex and sexual domination. It might seem complex at first glance, but it’s really very simple. When consent is involved, rough sex and domination is incredibly sexy to me. It’s one of my kinks. Without consent, it’s grotesque. It feels terrible.

Germaine Greer will not be defined by her rape, and she sits down with Mamamia Out Loud co-host,  Jessie Stephens to talk about it. Post continues below.

Without consent, it’s rape — plain and simple.

I’m not sure why I didn’t run away screaming from my boyfriend and dump his ass that night. I’m not sure how it somehow turned into a “Good girl, you did it,” situation, and why I went along. Adam and I built our physical relationship on a broken foundation, and that’s why it eventually fell through.

Staying was a mistake, but I couldn’t see that until after I got out. So many of us often don’t see a lover’s abuse until we’re outside of the relationship looking in. That is, if we’re lucky enough to get out of it.

My abusive relationship went in cycles. The good was REALLY good. But the bad was so bad that it was unhealthy for both of us. I stayed for the highs, not realising what the lows were costing me.

Sharing my story helps me face my ghosts of relationships past

Writing about this memory — this vivid, negative memory that I’ve never spoken of to anyone — helps me sort out the emotions that still bubble up to the surface from time to time. It helps me connect with others who have, unfortunately, experienced something similar.

And to those who have experienced sexual assault from a partner who supposedly loves you, I hope you’re someday able to get out and experience what real love feels like.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

This article was originally published on Medium and was republished here with full permission.

You can read more from Holly Bradshaw on Medium, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook

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