real life

'I lost my virginity at 14. That one, single event still haunts me 30 years later.'

Content warning: This post contains mentions of sexual assault and suicidal ideation and may be triggering for some readers. Support is available via Lifeline on 13 11 14, and 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

‘I didn’t like sex, but I wanted to be liked, so I did it. A lot.’

I was 14 when I lost my virginity. Sounds young. It was. I remind myself that it was only a couple of weeks before my 15th birthday. Like that’s going to make any difference.

The truth? I was a 14-year-old girl when I started having sex.

There was nothing pretty about my first time. Nothing lovely and memorable. I wish I could forget it, erase it, start again. I imagine squinting my eyes, gritting my teeth and shaking my head vigorously from side to side, until the memory is spat from my mind onto the gutter below, where it belongs.

Team Mamamia confess: how we lost our virginity:

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The reality is I consume all my mental energy in an attempt to suppress the memory. As soon as it pops in my mind I ‘change the channel’, because I figure if I don’t tune into it then maybe it never really happened. But it did. For nearly 30 years that one, single event, which triggered a chain of others, has held power over me. Yeah, I’m in my 40s and I still carry this.

If you’re wondering if I was forced – no. I mean he didn’t ask me if it was okay, he just started doing it, but I didn’t try to stop him or give him any indication that I didn’t want to do it, I just let it happen. To make it even more embarrassing, my best friend and her boyfriend were in the room. I know, romantic.

But I wasn’t seeking romance then, I just liked him. If you asked me at the time why, I couldn’t say. He was just the friend of my best friend’s boyfriend, and the four of us would hang out now and then. Simple as that.

I can’t remember if I was allowed to go out that particular night or not. If I wasn’t, I must have sneaked out of home. If I was, then I lied to my parents about where I was and who I was with. It’s not their fault, they trusted me and simply didn’t know any better. They thought I was spending time with my best friend at her house, like I often did. We were good kids up until then. We’d write fiction stories and read them to each other over the phone, have sleep overs, perform in our own made up dance competitions. God I loved those times. We were young and carefree. I wish I could pinpoint the moment all of that changed.

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This particular night his parents weren’t home, so we went to his place and hung out in his room. My best friend and her boyfriend were on his bed, not having sex though. She was smarter than me. We were on the floor, fooling around, touching each other, kissing. I remember thinking he must like me if he’s doing this with me. It started going further and then I realised, he was trying to have sex with me. I was scared and confused. He wasn’t my boyfriend, he never asked me out, never asked me if I wanted to have sex, but I wanted him to like me so I thought I just have to do this. Big mistake.

If only in that moment I woke up to myself. If something in my mind snapped and I pushed him away and told him no, I’m not doing that, I don’t want to do that. But I didn’t, and it happened. We didn’t remove our clothes as we looked into each other’s eyes; we just somehow fumbled our way through and had sex, plain and simple. And it was over as quick as it started.

So that was it. That’s how I lost my virginity to someone who didn’t really like me, on his bedroom floor, with my best friend and her boyfriend in the room.

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"If you asked me at the time why, I couldn’t say. He was just the friend of my best friend’s boyfriend and the four of us would hang out now and then. Simple as that." Image: Supplied.

I don’t remember what was said afterwards or how we parted ways that night. I think to him I was just someone he had sex with so what did it matter, he got what he wanted and that was it. If I was smart, that would have been it. Put it down to a big silly stupid regrettable mistake and learn from it. But remember, I wasn’t that smart.

I felt lost after it happened – down, flat, kind of funny, icky, weird. Sadly, that fed my craving even more for him, and other guys, to like me. And guess what, other guys did. Not because of who I was on the inside or how I smiled or how I made them laugh, but because suddenly I was someone who would have sex. God I was so naïve. If guys showed interest in me and took me somewhere to be alone, I thought it was because they liked me. Again, none of it was forced but they just started doing it, and I let them.

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It’s not surprising I got a reputation. I never heard anyone say it or see it written anywhere, but deep down inside I knew. I didn’t go looking for sex or offer it. I didn’t even like it. I just oozed desperation from every part of me. I wanted to be someone, be liked, noticed, seen, accepted. To them, that just made me easy.

All the time this went on I still wanted him to like me. Why? I don’t know. Because he was my first, someone who I thought liked me? He didn’t. He never did. Maybe I was okay or bearable but, in the end, I was nothing more than someone he could have sex with, without resistance.

My last encounter with him was the lowest of them all. My parents had decided to sell up and move to another city. Probably the best thing for me. When I told him, he suggested we meet up one more time.

The morning was sunny and we had sex on the roof of a supermarket. Why? Who knows, his idea. When it was over, we stretched out and stared up at the clear blue sky as we dragged on our cigarettes. After we got down and ate something, I remember looking at him as we walked through a car park, the sun shining on his face. He smirked and said something to indicate we weren’t done.

He took me to the male public toilets, into a cubicle, and asked me to perform oral sex. Gee, didn’t I feel special. Again he didn’t force me, but I did it. And if all of this isn’t bad enough, I suddenly had a feeling that I was being watched. As I was…you know, I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw an eyeball staring back at me through a peep hole. Yep, a f**king eyeball! He found it funny and I giggled with him because if I didn’t, I would have broken down and sobbed on the urine-stained floor. That image haunts me to this day. When two eyeballs meet – almost funny if it wasn’t so incredibly disturbing.

The last contact we had was from me, writing him a love letter before I moved away, telling him the exact number of days that I loved him. Wow, it’s hard to admit that. Out of all the things I have admitted here that is by far the hardest. What person does that? Why? I didn’t love him, but at the time I convinced myself that I did. I thought I was declaring my love to a boy because that felt easier to cope with. I now see I had counted the amount of time I felt anything but love. Humiliated. Ashamed. Dirty. Worthless. Empty. Nothing.

He never replied to my letter. We never saw or spoke to each other again.

I wish I could say that moving to a different city stopped my behaviour. It did initially. I started from scratch with a new place to live, new school, new people – no one knew who I was or what I had done. Then came the school work experience program. I selected the local racecourse as my preferred placement. I liked horses. I had seen the movie Phar Lap multiple times. I knew the lines off by heart. “He wasn’t just a horse; he was the best.”

One of the school coordinators, a lovely woman, said it might not be safe for a female to be around jockeys and instead placed me at a travel agent in the city mall. She genuinely thought an office environment would be safer. She meant well, I always liked her. She’s dead now. Cancer. I found that out last year.

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The placement at the travel agent was fine. After the program finished, I would sometimes pop in and say hi to the people that worked there. This particular day only one of them was in. I was 16. He was in his late 20s, maybe early 30s. He pulled me into the corner, where no one from the street could see, and sexually assaulted me. He didn’t rape me but it was sudden and quick and I felt totally and utterly powerless. He asked me if I liked it as he did it. I felt sick. I got out of his hold and left. I remember walking through the mall, in a fog, a daze, not sure of what just happened.

Years later while on a work assignment in a different city I had a panic attack in the mall. At the time I couldn’t work out why that happened. Now I can see both malls clearly in my mind. They look the same. Funny, that just dawned on me.

I never told anyone what happened. I never went back to visit. I figured I deserved it. Recently I tried to track him down. I wanted to ask him why he did it, what made him think he could do that to me and if he did it to others. I imagined grabbing his face and pulling it close to mine, staring into his eyes and whispering to him how much I hated him for what he did. I never found him. Somehow, I know I never will. Too much time has passed. I think I’m at peace with that now.

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Image: Supplied.

After that, my sexual behaviour started again. It happened less but it was still there. Even after moving back to my home city a couple of years later, I did the same thing just with different guys. I never asked for it, but I did it. I just wanted them to like me. They never did.

Over time things finally changed. I was no longer hanging around with boys. Men wanted sex but it felt different because they were attracted to me. If I was attracted to them and wanted to I would. If I wasn’t then I didn’t. I guess I was finally starting to get better at saying no. I had relationships that were okay. I was engaged but broke it off. He wasn’t nasty, just not right for me.

I then spent a lot of time on my own. That helped. I dated guys here and there but not many. I met one man in particular. I just realised; his name was almost identical to the boy I was with at 14. How weird.

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He was different. He wanted to show me the importance of a mutually enjoyable sexual experience. And he did. I was in my early 30s then and I like to think of that as the moment I lost my virginity. I can actually smile, in a good way, when I think of that.

So much time has passed since then. I’m so removed from all of that early behaviour now that I wonder if I’m referring to a different person. I’m married now. He’s from New Zealand, just like Phar Lap. Huh, funny that.

I’m not that 14-year-old girl anymore, I left her a long time ago. But her echoes still haunt me to this day. The self-hate and destructive, sometimes suicidal, thoughts are at times debilitating. But somehow, I have finally realised that the only way to stop that is to accept her, all of her. What happened to her and what she did is with me, and it will be forever.

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"So much time has passed since then. I’m so removed from all of that early behaviour now that I wonder if I’m referring to a different person." Image: Supplied.

I heard someone say recently, “acceptance is freedom”. I guess now I grab her hand, pull her out from the shadows and into the light so that she can walk beside me. Then she will be someone, be liked, noticed, seen, accepted. And maybe then the two of us can finally be free.

Kerry Pickles is a freelance writer who specialises in instructional design and is passionate about sharing people's stories. Her writing inspiration comes from great conversations about life with friends, which she revisits while jogging the streets of Melbourne, listening to her favourite 90s music.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 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.

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