sex

My date slapped me in the face while having sex. It completely changed the way I saw my sex life.

This post deals with sexual violence, and could be triggering for some readers.

A few weeks ago, I went on a well-belated first date with a guy I met on Tinder at the start of Sydney's lockdown back in June. For the sake of the story, let's call him Darcy.

I got to know Darcy pretty well over our months of messaging. 

We had a similar sense of humour, and by the time we were meeting I felt like I was catching up with an old friend rather than going on a first date.

I liked Darcy. I immediately felt comfortable with him, but I didn't particularly want to rip his clothes off. 

The reason the date was six months late was because I never felt that intense attraction I would have liked, but I was trying to get over another silly boy, so I did a shot of vodka and ubered to my local to catch up for a drink.

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As expected, I liked his company. With a bit of alcohol I was even a bit attracted to him. There wasn't the ~spark~ I was looking for, but it was a Thursday night and I was feeling a little lonely so I invited him back to my house. 

I was under the pretence that Darcy was a *nice* guy, I felt like having sex (sue me!), so I took him home, prepared for mediocre sex, a quick goodbye the next morning, and to never see him again.

... And I wish that's where the story ended.

We got back to mine and started things slow. To be honest, the sex was shaping up to be pretty average, but then when in missionary, I lightly placed my hand on his neck. 

Very abruptly, he slapped me in the face.

"Don't f**king put your hands on my neck unless you're going to choke me," he said.

My immediate response was that of fear. Then, not a moment later, I realised it was intended to be "sexy". This was the same polite man who held my hand earlier in the night and told me I looked beautiful. He wasn't trying to harm me, it was just a kink — I told myself.

You see, violent sex the first time you're sleeping with someone is nerve-inducing at best

I felt shaken by the abrupt change of mood. I felt anxious and unable to relax for the rest of the encounter. And I certainly did not enjoy myself for the rest of the night.

But despite that I said nothing, as I have so many times before when sex teeters on uncomfortable.

It feels like a dirty confession to admit that I've never told someone to stop a sexual act I'm not enjoying. In fact, I've never even indicated that I might not be enjoying myself. Part of me may have even encouraged it in an attempt to end the encounter quickly.

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But, until this moment, I'd never feared for my safety during sex. And while it was very, very fleeting, it rocked my sexual identity.

Suddenly, not speaking up felt bigger than myself. 

I considered how many other women may be put in an uncomfortable situation as a result of my not speaking up with Darcy. I felt confused, guilty, overwhelmed and quite lost. 

To this day I still have many conflicting feelings about it.

It's hard. We're given so many mixed messages as young women. Be careful of men as they can be violent, but in bed — at your most intimate, violence can be sexy.

I've internalised that idea myself.

In the past, I've asked to be choked or have my hair pulled, but it took someone crossing that boundary by slapping me in the face for me to reconsider if rough sex was ever a conscious choice I was making, or a ploy to be the cool girl who likes it rough.

Since that day I've thought a lot about what person in their right mind would have thought slapping someone in the face without consent was an appropriate move the first time sleeping with someone. And the more I've considered it, the more I've realised how common it is; assuming women have the same rough, porn-inspired preferences as men might.

I'm young. 20. 

Maybe we can put my need to please others before my own comfort down to my age. But the uncomfortable fact is, young women and men like myself have been conditioned to believe rough sex is normal.

And that's a really hard concept to "undo".

Call me crazy, but I don't think my date was a bad guy. 

Aside from the slapping incident, he was lovely, and didn't make me feel threatened at any other point of the night. 

When I very loosely asked him to be gentle after we had had sex and he was kissing me, in an attempt to regain a little control, he didn't think twice. 

"I'm sorry, I'll be more gentle," he said.

But is the onus then on us as women to speak up when we are shocked by a violent sexual act? Is it fair to be scared or threatened at any point of a sexual encounter, even if your partner is prepared to stop right away?

I don't have the answer.

All I know is that my habit of prioritising men's pleasure over my comfort ends now. 

For every other woman who's been too scared to speak up, and for myself.

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. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

Feature Image: Getty.