For many women, the fictional story of Margot, a 20-year-old university student and Robbie, a 30-something-graduate, spoke a truth they had not quite ever been able to articulate themselves.
Titled ‘Cat Person‘ and published in the December issue of The New Yorker, the story by Kristen Roupenian explores the uniquely female experience of having sex with someone out of obligation, or perhaps politeness, and being haunted by that decision later.
In a world where men are socialised to be the aggressors, and women are socialised to be nice, sexual encounters are among the most complex of all social experiences.
Every woman who is either single, or vividly remembers being single, can relate with the story of Margot and Robbie.
We spoke to three women who could easily recall a sexual experience that, in hindsight, they wish they’d never had.
I’d been close to David all through high school. He’d been my rock, my best friend, and the one person I could always rely on. Looking back now, I imagine he just saw himself as friend-zoned.
On the afternoon of our high school graduation party, he’d dropped a bombshell – he liked me, and as more than a friend.
We’d gone back to his parent’s house together, as he had his own man cave set up in the garage. He was leaving to go back to live in his home state, and he didn’t want to go home a virgin. He begged me to sleep with him. He was 19 then, as he’d been held back a year, and he burst into tears making this plea to me.
I remember feeling hurt, betrayed and appalled – he’d assumed that because I was sexually active I was therefore also available to him to do this ‘favour’. But another part of me just felt horribly sorry for him. More to the point, I felt trapped.
I didn’t have the language to turn him down. It’s hard to explain, but ‘no’ wasn’t an option. There was no way I could leave that room without leaving immense hurt in my wake. I was almost too embarrassed to say no. And I told myself maybe it wasn’t a big deal, maybe because I’d slept with other people, he was right and it would just be a mindless favour.
I told him if he grabbed some alcohol from his parent’s kitchen, I would do it. And I did. The whole thing was awful. I was completely repulsed by his naked body, and my own felt odd to me, like I’d lost possession of it.
He was very… small down there, and because of that, as well as struggling to maintain an erection due to his nervousness, the condom wouldn’t stay on. I gave in and let him go ahead without it, which made me feel doubly gross.
Despite all his nerves, once we got started he was demanding, asking to arrange me in a position he’d seen in a porn film. I couldn’t wait for it to end, making every possible effort to get him to climax while he continued to try and drag it out. I’ve never been so relieved when someone came.
LISTEN: How taking sex out of the equation helped Sophie Monk.
I’d been sexually active for three years at that point, and had had three sexual partners. He was my fourth, but it was the first time I’d had sex with someone for whom I had absolutely no desire. I still think about it, and I’m angry at him, though ultimately I don’t think he did anything wrong. I was too scared and embarrassed to hurt him, to reject him, so much so that I just lay down and got on with it.
He was wearing a very expensive cologne that day which had been a gift, and he gave it to me afterwards. I almost threw up every time I sniffed it, until I eventually chucked it in the bin. We never spoke again.
Loneliness is one of those emotions difficult to describe if you’re not in the midst of it.
When it sits in your past, it feels impossible to properly grasp. But I know it was one of the heaviest and most consuming feelings I’ve ever encountered.
I was 23, and the thing I wanted most in the world was to feel loved – which I know sounds utterly pathetic.
I went out to a bar one night for a friend’s birthday, and the moment I walked in, a guy I vaguely knew showed some shred of interest.
We sat next to each other, and spoke all night. He wasn’t particularly interesting, and he certainly wasn’t funny. He spoke a lot about himself and managed, over the course of many hours, to not ask a single question.
But there was something intriguing about him. Or at least that’s what my fourth glass of wine told me. He was tall, with light hair and incredible brown eyes. A few times he laughed at something I said, and I thought to myself, “Maybe this is the beginning of something”.
I drank and drank and at some point must have decided I would sleep with him.
At about 1am, he said something tacky like, "Let's get out of here..." and I followed. I liked having someone hold my hand and put their arm around me.
We got into a taxi, and arrived at his house.
Once we entered his bedroom, things became... tense... or I suppose uncomfortable is a better word. We both knew why we were there, but neither of us wanted to initiate. Eventually, I kissed him.
I knew the second I did, that I wanted to leave.
It just didn't feel right. Perhaps thousands of years ago we were part of the same gene pool or something because every cell in my body was telling me to retreat.
I didn't feel scared, to be clear. He wasn't aggressive, and he certainly didn't pressure me. But once I was there, and my clothes started coming off, and he unbottoned his pants, I knew this was not a decision I could go back on. I remember thinking: "How would I even get home?"
He took his shirt off and laid on his back, and I realised I hated how he smelt. It was a mixture of sweat and cheap cologne. I felt dirty even letting him touch me.
The sex was awful. I can clearly make out the shelves of clothing that were peaking out from his open wardrobe, and the pattern on his ceiling. I just desperately wanted it to end. He kept talking the whole way through, using words like 'pussy' which made me feel sick.
Eventually, he finished and rolled over. I snuck out his door, without waking him up, and caught a taxi.
There was no way I could have spent another second in bed next to him.
From the moment I met Franco, I felt bad about myself.
I'm not sure that was actually his fault, if I'm honest. But he was smart, and I interpreted a lot of the things he said, about my job, and about my degree, as put downs.
He had this incredible career, and was always impeccably dressed.
We went on three dates, and on the third, I went back to his place. It seemed to be this silent understanding that we'd be having sex that night.
I think I felt that by that stage, I sorted of... owed it to him. I still hadn't warmed to him particularly, but I was interested.
We went into his room, and he took of his shoes. The smell was rancid.
I felt... gross.
He put on a movie and then we started kissing. He seemed very excited and energetic and everything moved very fast.
There was no chemistry or attraction. It felt mechanical. His hands were cold and I kept trying to avoid his feet coming anywhere near me.
He hardly touched me before trying to enter me with his penis. At first he was hard, but then he went soft, then hard again. I could tell he was getting frustrated, and he seemed so in his own world. He went very fast and didn't look at me at all. It was like a task he just had to complete. As he grunted and tutted, I felt for a moment like he might be mad at me.
Eventually, he finished.
He then spent the next half an hour trying to explain to me that that had never happened before, but I couldn't even look him in the eye. I didn't care that he couldn't stay hard, it was how he behaved because of it that had made me the most uncomfortable.
When I left his house at about 3am, I just knew I would never see him again.
I still shudder when I think about it, more than five years later.