After being coerced into losing my virginity, I taught myself the power of saying 'no' and enforcing my boundaries

After being coerced into losing my virginity, I taught myself the power of saying 'no' and enforcing my boundaries
  • My first sexual encounter wasn't entirely consensual.

  • The experience led me to reevaluate my people-pleasing tendencies in dating.

  • I now prioritize self-advocacy and have learned to set and uphold boundaries.

I was three vodka crans in and flirting with a shot when he approached me that December night. Yelling over the bar's music, he told me he had moved from India and graduated from the college I attended.

I asked him how old he was, and he told me to guess. I guessed 28, and he said, "Spot on." I couldn't bear to divulge how much younger I was.

Vodka prevailed over the rest of the night. I recall him sucking on my neck so hard that I felt more pain than pleasure. After I gave him my number, my friends extracted me from him. Still, I wore heavy concealer on my neck every day that week to hide the marks he left on me.

At that point, I had just turned 22 and had never had sex.

We eventually went out for dinner

Almost two months later, he followed me on Instagram, and we set a dinner date, which was awkward. He eventually invited me to his place, and I — tipsy from the wine — said yes.

The furnishings at his place demonstrated that whatever equity brokers do, they make lots of money. He fetched more drinks and turned on some music.

"I made this," he admitted as we sat on his expansive gray couch.

"You're a musician?" I asked.

"Kind of," he said. Then, the self-taped rap began. I pressed my lips together to contain laughter as his voice crooned, I'll take CARE of you, slurred and off-beat.

Suddenly, I wasn't sure why I was there. I sought refuge in a stack of books on his coffee table. I opened one, but the pages were blank. He told me they're "just show books."

That should have been the final red flag that waved me out of that apartment. Instead, he pulled me back to the couch, where we kissed. I told him I didn't want to have sex. He hit me with the typical arsenal: Are you sure? Just for a little? When it became clear we were doing this, I asked for lube. I knew I was too dry. He looked at me askance and told me he didn't have any.

As he tried to change positions and I felt an unbearable scraping sensation, I told him to wait, but he said, "You seem OK." Every thrust stung.

I then said what I should have before anything happened: "Stop." He listened. Later, he finished. I didn't.

We exchanged two texts during my Uber ride home; then, I never heard from him again, although he was remembered for two days of bleeding. Initially, the pain was so bad that I could only apply a cold washcloth and lie staring at my ceiling, wondering why I did what I did.

After he ghosted me, I learned a valuable lesson

I kept blaming myself: I was drunk, I had just wanted to get it over with, and I thought it wouldn't be that bad. That was all true, but I knew what happened wasn't my fault.

I realized I just lacked the refusal skills to tell him no. I've always been a people pleaser. In college, I poured over rubrics to tailor assignments to professors' criteria. I later became a teacher because I love helping people.

But the desire to please became toxic in my dating life. I've never had a long-term relationship and turned 20 before I got my first kiss. The fact that it took so long for anyone to show romantic interest in me contributed to my willingness to succumb to men's desires because I didn't believe I deserved anything better.

My friends' appalled reactions to my virginity story helped me want more for myself. I took a six-month break from dating and listed priorities in a partner before trying again. When I joined a dating app, I automatically swiped left on guys whose profiles didn't say "looking for a relationship."As a first-year teacher for students with intense mental health needs, I also used work as a chance to practice setting boundaries. Saying no when necessary helped me advocate for myself more with men.

I know now that if I don't stand up for myself, people can hurt me — physically and emotionally, intentionally or not. Letting men do what they want because they've shown interest in me will never lead to fulfillment.

I can't change my experience, but I've never repeated the same mistake. When a guy I dated ignored my request not to mark up my neck, I ended our contact. I did the same when another man tried convincing me to keep seeing him against my wishes.

Having my boundaries respected was more important than further entertaining these men. I learned the hard way to choose self-advocacy over appeasement. That lesson will never leave me.

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