Very short nonconsensual sexual activity: confused, upset, guilty, anxious, please advise!
January 14, 2008 8:54 PM   Subscribe

I had a bad, less than entirely consensual sexual experience that I'm confused about and having difficulty moving past. I'm hoping for insight about resolving this and moving on, because it's causing me some anxiety and I want to feel good about my sexuality.

Sorry for the length!

I'm a woman in my late twenties. I haven't and don't want to talk about this with anybody out loud. I feel a bit too stupid and I didn't want it to be important. But I can't let go and I can't seem to process any more on my own, even if it is silly.

About four months ago, I was starting to 'fool around' with a guy I had just started seeing. It was actually really good. I told him that I didn't want to have sex and he agreed. Not ten minutes later, he subtly moved from fingering me to putting his penis into me. At first I didn't even realize what he was doing, which is weird for me believe now! I don't know, I was just into things and I couldn't *see* what he was doing, and I didn't want to think he'd do that. I realized, but by the time I sat up and pulled away, I'm pretty sure he'd been all the way in.

I was really upset. I got up and started getting dressed. He seemed upset too and wanted to talk about it and kept saying how 'he was sorry, and he was just so into it, he was sorry, don't leave, wouldn't I come back, he was sorry'.

And I went back! It *had* been good and it was good after. I thought I explained how upsetting it was, and that he got it, and that it was fine. I fooled around with him once after that, and even saw him a couple more times before things fizzled out.

I feel dumb for going back! It was really upsetting! I've had sex with one man before this, and I've messed around with plenty of guys over the years, and nothing like this has *ever* happened to me before. I told him, I *said* I didn't want his penis inside me.

I wish I'd just walked away. I feel like I should have known better, should have known to give myself the distance to process what happened before deciding about going back to bed with him. But I wanted it to feel good again, I wanted it to not be a big deal, I wanted to not feel raped.

Did I have sex with him? I didn't want to have sex him. I planned not to have sex with him. But he had his penis in me. I don't want this to be sex with him, I don't want to have had sex with him.

I wish I'd never went out with him. He was a friend (but not close) of friends, who warned me that he went after a lot of women and was sort of a player, or at least a wannabe player. I'd just been dating someone who said 'I love you' on the third date... I wanted easy. I thought he would be easy. I feel so dumb for not listening to my friends!

I wish I wasn't so hung up on the traditional definition of sex, which intellectually I criticize, but I guess emotionally it still means something to me, and for me there is a difference between, well, penis-in-vagina sex and other forms of sexual gratification. I wanted to have more experience and a greater sense of familiarity with him before that.

But I keep thinking about it and I can't get away from that it SEEMS like it WAS nonconsensual sex. I don't even want it to be sex at all! And when I think about it, I feel dumb, so dumb, and gross, yucky, guilty, anxious. I don't want to have slept with him. I don't know why but that's so important to me.

I've always had such good sexual experiences before (and I KNOW, I KNOW how incredibly lucky that makes me). Sex/uality was just *fun* and good and pleasurable. I haven't been in a sexual situation with a guy since then, and I noticed that I feel more, I don't know, reticent? wary? than I used to.

I know that as bad sexual experiences go, this is practically nothing, and I should and do still feel pretty lucky. But I'm still chewing on it and I want it to be gone!

Please, I would love to hear insight and experience and advice. What happened? Did I have sex with him? Does it matter? How do I get it out of my head? I want to make it not a big deal.

I wanted to be anonymous so I understand if other people do too, I made an e-mail address:

Thank you!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (49 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

Whatever happend with this guy happened. It is done, over, and finished. I know it might make you feel better to be able to classify this guy as bad and evil, and the situation as one that was completely out of your control, but it seems from what you've written that you feel you bear some of the responsibility for how things turned out. I encourage you to work through your guilt on your role in whatever happened and use the strength you gain from that to make better decisions on who to be sexually involved with in the future; to focus on the specifics of this one particular incident will probably drive you crazy and not be really helpful for you going forward. Good luck.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:13 PM on January 14, 2008

It sounds like it was a difficult experience. It is resonating a lot with you and you are thinking about it non-stop.

Let me ask you if you are having other problems that you might not want to think about. You cannot go back in time and changed what happened. Often we focus on things that cannot be changed when there is something that we can change but don't want to.

I'd look to se if there is something in that category.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:34 PM on January 14, 2008

"But I wanted it to feel good again, I wanted it to not be a big deal, I wanted to not feel raped."
It sounds like you have problems with assertiveness. And I feel you. It may take a while to become comfortable with a guy but I think you will grow into it. Next time you give yourself these contrasting thoughts, try to reason what is truly the issue and let him know in no uncertain terms where you stand and BE ASSERTIVE (verbal or non-verbal). If you enjoy the sex you need to get more comfortable in your skin so you don't beat yourself up. Maybe You have no clue in the initiation process and you just let him have his way, Let him know you want (or don't want) this too.

Know that you are a sexual being . Don't feel ashamed.

"I wish I wasn't so hung up on the traditional definition of sex, which intellectually I criticize, but I guess emotionally it still means something to me, and for me there is a difference between, well, penis-in-vagina sex and other forms of sexual gratification."

Hmm, No, there is not, Sexual gratification is just that. There are degrees but they are under the same umbrella. You need to discard your traditional notions of sex and banish those thoughts from your mind that make you feel worthless, they are not true. They were designed to suppress and control women. All the other women who have come into their own know this and they would tell you.

This young man betrayed your trust, but it may not be his fault. It may be that he buys into the same traditional views of sex that you did (when women say no, they mean yes etc.) which informed your last sexual experience with him. You will both soon learn that this is not the way things are done. He will get his comeuppance and you will bloom into a sure, willfull and strong woman.
posted by Student of Man at 9:35 PM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

i'm not sure how i understand the transition from fingering to fucking occurring unbeknownst to you...but suspect this all happened rapidly, and at the time you just let it happen, and didn't make a decision either way. IE, didn't get really into it, but didn't initially pull away either. And you've been agonizing ever since. you definitely had sex w/him, but it shouldn't freak you out. did he rape you? only you know the answer to that. And if you're not going to pursue anything against him then you should start working to get past this, and learn for next time. There are few blacks and whites, but many shades of grey when it comes to sex, consent and so on. I'm sorry this happened to you, but working hard to untangle this in your mind is the only way to move on, and it sounds like you really need a therapist to help you with this. Your concerns are not uncommon....
posted by Salvatorparadise at 10:03 PM on January 14, 2008

That was wrong of him, and not a normal thing to do. Whether it "counts" as sex or rape or whatever, it's understandable that it's very upsetting! WTF, jerky guy?

It seems like it's a borderline case of sex and also of rape -- doesn't seem to be clearly either one. It's such a borderline case that I really think you should choose to view it in whatever light makes most sense to you. The point is not to decide on which words to use, but to come to an understanding of how you feel about it. (And of course your feelings about it will change over time.)

I think you've nailed it with "nonconsensual" -- that's the kernel of what's so icky. We count on sex partners to respect our boundaries, to basically be "on the same team" as we are. Any case where a sex partner doesn't act this way (for example, where s/he deceives us about something in bed) is jarring and scary and angry-making, even if it doesn't involve force or p-i-v. Someone you thought was trustworthy turned out not to be. You felt in control, but then this guy's shitty action showed that you weren't fully in control (just as none of us is fully in control when interacting with others -- we all rely on others to be trustworthy/decent, both in daily life and in bed). Violations of basic social trust, like this, are profoundly unnerving even in the best situation when we have our pants on and our defenses up -- so much more so in bed when we're more vulnerable.

I would call it a shit-head move. I would say "I was fooling around with this guy, and he pulled this complete shit-head move, and I'm not going to put up with that." (After reflection, that's how you feel, it sounds like?) I don't think you have to feel as if you are damaged permanently, or as if this needs to be a crisis for you. You'll be a little leery for a while and your defenses against shit-heads will be heightened; this is appropriate and will moderate over time as you regain trust that your judgment is good etc.

But on the other hand, if you're feeling like it actually is causing you some deeper shake-up, respect that. You're entitled to be seriously shook up over this. You say you feel "guilty" and you mention that you're having lots of second thoughts about your judgment in dating this guy, or in meeting him again after his shit-head move. Now, you don't bear responsibility for him choosing to do what you had explicitly asked him not to do. That was his decision. If you are thinking you should have made better decisions (known to avoid him because of his reputation, or not to meet him again after you knew he was untrustworthy), this shouldn't make you feel guilty, it should make you feel better -- it means you have control, you can make better judgments next time.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:05 PM on January 14, 2008 [5 favorites]

Of course you had sex with him, and of course it mattered. A penis in a vagina is sex if anything is. It was non-consensual sex because you didn't want it to happen and you didn't agree to it happening. People could (and probably will) get into the semantics of this: if you were to call it rape I personally wouldn't argue, though with the various factors it definitely seems like a real gray area situation. It's possible that from his perspective, he didn't know you were not aware of what he was doing - that he assumed that he was so awesome that you had arrived at a silent agreement that you wanted to have sex after all. I don't know whether his perspective matters or not. People do change their minds about their boundaries in the midst of sexual activity but obviously a decent and adult person renegotiates consent verbally before transgressing a previously agreed boundary.

You've made it to your late twenties with only one sexual (intercourse) partner so obviously it's important to you that you're very selective about that decision. And you've made it to your late twenties without having any sexual experiences that you really regret. So it's not surprising you would really like this to be something other than it was. But to move on I think you will have to accept what it was. You're not a bad person and you're not stupid and your personal standards haven't changed, but something bad was done to you and it resulted in you now having a sexual experience in your history that you have cause to regret. It will always be a part of you and you will never look back on it fondly or think it was no big deal (although it will come to be less important to you over time).

You need to forgive yourself for the entirely understandable reaction of trying to normalize and minimize this experience and allowing your sexual interaction with him to persist, both that evening and later. I think if you accept what it was, and allow yourself to experience the natural feelings arising from it - regret, and loss, and anger at this person for what they did - you will gain perspective on it that allows you to put it behind you. You need to forgive yourself for the entirely understandable reaction of trying to normalize and minimize this experience and allowing your sexual interaction with him to persist, both that evening and later.
posted by nanojath at 10:10 PM on January 14, 2008

Mmm against my better judgement I'll say it... I suspect you're kind of sheltered because as far as bad sexual experiences go - it kinda was nothing. If you didn't like it then learn a lesson from it.
You said you didn't want to beforehand and you thought that would be sufficient. Whether it should or whatever you are now aware that sometimes it happens that it's not. If you're trying to protect something you keep an eye on it.

I have no real sort of sexual hang ups ect BUT I am incredibly paranoid and attentive about guys trying to fuck me without a condom. (Heads up, look out for that one!!) Ethics and rights and morals and whatever aside - in the heat of the moment people get real damn selfish and it is always your responsibility to be doing your part to look after your self.

What he did was low but not everyone is entirely honorable 100% of the time. Sounds like you were warned. Sounds like you now know what that warning actually means. Because yes you should be wary, it's irresponsible if you know better and you're not.

You weren't raped - you just weren't paying attention. If he kept going after you realized - that would've been rape. But be aware he just as easily could have kept going and the lines start to blur with the more things you 'allowed'. You said yourself you're not sure how you didn't notice. (Maybe you should talk to someone about this... Not 'this' but about having a clear and healthy veiw of sex - whatever you want that to be. Because you seem a little confused about what you think about the subject...)

Don't worry about this overly Hun, naive is only a bad thing when you get taken advantage of. But it might be handy to hear of the experiences that others have had so you can be aware of what's out there without having to be jaded by living these things yourself. Also I'd say you didn't 'sleep' with him, more like he tried to and you told him to fuck off.

Going over this in excruciating detail is only worth doing if you let it happen to you again! Otherwise it's ok, just live and learn babygirl, live and learn.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 10:27 PM on January 14, 2008 [5 favorites]

Did I have sex with him?

Yes, you had sex. It was, technically, the shortest possible sex you can have with a person, but... well, sex, nonetheless.

I didn't want to have sex him.

And this changes things how? You still had sex.

I planned not to have sex with him.

Still sex.

But he had his penis in me. I don't want this to be sex with him, I don't want to have had sex with him.

Sounds like you're really hung up on the technicality, which makes me wonder if this isn't a religious or cultural issue--like you're worried that you won't be able to say you're still a virgin.

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:54 PM on January 14, 2008

I agree with LobsterMitten. You can decide how to feel about it. You want it not to be sex, well in fact, it doesn't really sound like sex to me. It doesn't sound like a passionate embrace, making love, in-out, in-out, ecstatic release. It sounds like "eww, what is that touching me, get that thing off me!" I think you can say to yourself "he touched me with his penis and got it partway inside me, and I didn't want that and jumped away."

It sounds like what shook you up so much is that you went back. So, why did you? And why is it later so upsetting that you did? I'd try to come to peace with the answers, or about what the answers tell you about yourself. I could see feeling betrayed by myself if I'd decided to continue making out with someone who had just repulsed me [literally] and whom I suddenly did not trust or respect. Or, maybe it's that you went back because the feelings were just so good that for a few minutes you didn't care who it was with, and maybe that disturbs you to realize, maybe you judge sex-for-sex's-sake (it doesn't sound like that but maybe) (oh, and I keep conflating "making out" with "sex," but you know what I mean). In any case, I bet a lot of people have done something like that at least once. I don't know, all I can tell you is that it's all about your relationship with yourself here: your duty to protect yourself, or your duty to uphold your values, or your judgment of yourself, or...only you know. So, I'd work out what part was your decision, and why you did it, and why it's later so upsetting.
posted by salvia at 12:09 AM on January 15, 2008

I think a source of your confusion and anger is this idea that certain types of sexual activity "counts" as sex, and other types do not. It's a little too simple to call only vaginal penetration by a penis sex. Oral sex is sex. Anal sex is sex. Lesbian sex is sex. The 10 minutes of touching and penetration by finger that you were enjoying, that was sex too.

This has to be unclear to the guy: you withhold consent at first, then give consent when you start fooling around. Then it sounds like you withdrew consent, and he stopped. Then he apologized, and you consented again. Not that there's anything wrong with this, this is your right. But it is not very clear cut.

I'm sure you know this, and I think you're more angry at yourself for not being clear and strong than you are angry at him. He was inconsiderate, but not completely so. You didn't go through a traumatic experience -- you stayed the night. It sounds like your own discomfort is due to regret.

I would move on, with the understanding that, above all, you didn't actually get hurt. Everyone needs to learn to get through life accepting the things they regret. Everyone. You have learned something about yourself, your boundaries, and what you need to do to assert them. Life goes on.
posted by cotterpin at 12:15 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

My bullet points:
- As mu-hya etc puts it, "I suspect you're kind of sheltered". This lack of experiience is what makes you dwell on it to such an extent; don't know what you can do about that.
- The guy was/is an ass. Maybe not all the time, but in this event. Men aren't perfect - actually, I don't think they're even working on it :(
- It's understandable that in the grip of passion you didn't straight away realise what he was doing: you are not to blame.
- It's not the end of the world, however unpleasant. If this is the worst that happens to you, in sex or in life, you're either an extremely lucky person or haven't really lived.
- Whether you "had sex" or not is a semantic quibble. I would say that post-Modernism, or ex-President Clinton, has opened the way for you to define the answer to that question anyway you like.
- Don't let it put you off the next guy.

posted by londongeezer at 3:16 AM on January 15, 2008

Sex is at its very essence a consensual act.

So, this is one more vote for "It's not sex if you don't think it is (within reason)." If this had happened to me, and a friend later asked offhand how many people I'd slept with, I would not count that experience as sex. And I would feel absolutely OK with that.

However, if I were speaking with a new partner about previous sexual experiences, I probably would bring this up. It's obviously been on your mind, and it may still niggle at the back of your mind until the next time you actually have sex.

Honestly, sex always seems like a way bigger deal when you're NOT having it. When you meet a new partner, you may look back on this and wonder why it mattered if it was sex or not.

Finally, I'm so sorry you felt violated. That's a terrible feeling. I can only say that he probably wasn't lying when he was saying sorry-- he probably felt badly for pushing you beyond your limits. Player or not, he's probably still a person.
posted by samthemander at 4:05 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had something similar happen to me. Only in my case I was a virgin. I was engaged to the guy at the time, and he too apologized profusely.

For years I felt only numb about it, blamed myself, acted as if it was no big deal.

Now, over thirty years later, I am telling you it kinda is a big deal.

My email is in my profile. Feel free to write me anytime.
posted by konolia at 6:29 AM on January 15, 2008

I don't really think that arguing about whether or not this was precisely sex is actually all that helpful. (Remember "I did not have sex with that woman"?) What matters is that there was sexual contact beyond the bounds of what you thought you had clearly negotiated, and you are unhappy about that.

I do have two observations. One, that all of us (with a very few exceptions, perhaps) have made sexual decisions that we are later not so proud of. There is a lot of sexual activity that isn't perhaps clearly illegal or immoral, but certainly leaves a bad taste in your mouth and is best thought of later as a learning experience. Two, that a lot of good sexual encounters take place that same very ambiguous space, where you start by saying "hey, let's just kiss", but then things are feeling good and one thing leads to another and sex happens but maybe no one has actually explicitly given consent or announced intentions or any of that. But the flexibility of that ambiguity also contains the potential for misunderstandings and outright dishonesty, which is why college consent policies tend to emphasize explicit verbal consent. In real life, I think that consent is often more assumed and conditional, which is easier but more risky.

It is possible, I suppose, that you had not really communicated the boundaries as clearly as you thought you had, and his actions were (in his head) within the bounds of what he thought you had agreed upon. For example, if you had said at the beginning, "no penetration," but then you had be loving all the finger penetration, him thinking that the old rule of "no penetration" was out the window isn't completely unreasonable. (That said, him sneaking it in without putting on a condom -- which I can't imagine you not noticing -- is pretty underhanded.) If this is the case, there is a lesson here about finding ways to communicate clearly and openly, and continuing that process throughout the sexual encounter.

It's also totally possible, perhaps quite likely, that you did clearly communicate your boundaries, and he blatantly violated them with the nonconcensual sexual contact. But I'm not sure that knowing that would change what you would do next time -- you communicated what you want, you were enjoying what he was doing, you said "NO!" the minute things crossed a line, etc. That's pretty much a textbook case of what you are supposed to do. The productive approach here is not for you to beat yourself up for the (largely reasonable) choices you made, but rather to find a way to process this and stop having it be a big deal in your thoughts.

Honestly, I think you should talk about this with a therapist. You write, "But I can't let go and I can't seem to process any more on my own, even if it is silly." If you aren't managing this on your own, you need help; if you are having trouble, then clearly the issue is not silly. Something that is bothering you so deeply needs time and effort to work through, more than just reading words on a screen.
posted by Forktine at 7:32 AM on January 15, 2008

I can tell you that what I consider my "rape" to have been a situation with a lot of grey, like yours.
I can tell you that I still spent time with the guy afterwards.
I can tell you that I still, clearly, have a difficult time calling it rape, even though I was 18 and now am 32.
I can tell you that the facts remain: I said I did not want to have sex and he did it anyway.


I think the reason women normalize a thing like this afterward is because the internalized voices telling you everything you could and should have done differently outnumber the one internal voice that says someone just violated you. I don't think this is in any way uncommon. You were confused.

And don't frame it like you're hung up on some antiquated notion of sex == intercourse. Can you imagine a more physically intimate act than someone putting part of their body inside yours? Would his be a less offensive act if you had said, "Do not put your toes in my mouth," and ten minutes later he did? Even if you had let him put his fingers in your mouth, toes are something else entirely, and already you told him not to do that.

I truly hope with time you get some peace with this.
posted by loiseau at 7:40 AM on January 15, 2008 [5 favorites]

This happened to me. And I went back. And he did it again. It took me three years to get out of that relationship and it eventually became abusive in other ways.

My analysis from the distance of 15 years and one terrific relationship later is that he had no intention of going along with my wishes. He was going to try to get as far as a he could and use the heat of the moment to his advantage.

Calling it date rape helped me to wrap my head around it. I have since come to call it rape.

The most important thing that you can do right now is to forgive yourself. This man took something from you without your permission. Don't let him take any more happiness from your life.
posted by mausburger at 7:48 AM on January 15, 2008

I haven't and don't want to talk about this with anybody out loud. I feel a bit too stupid and I didn't want it to be important. But I can't let go and I can't seem to process any more on my own, even if it is silly.

It's not silly. Even though you didn't want this event to be important it appears to be important to you. You say it's causing you some anxiety, which is absolutely understandable. It doesn't matter if the anxiety you feel doesn't have a *reason* or that you don't feel as though this is "important" enough for you to feel the anxiety over and to not be able to let this go. The only important thing in this situation is that this is what you *feel*. Despite what everyone else in this thread will say that is the only thing that matters. And no one here can provide you with the answer as to how to make this anxiety and weird feeling go away. I know it's very tempting to want to use logic and attempt to reason it away, both for you and for observers in this thread. But it doesn't work that way.

Here's the part where I encourage you to call 1-800-656-HOPE (if you are in the U.S.) because I sincerely believe in the power of hearing yourself describe what has happened and how it makes you feel. The great thing about this hotline is that the person on the other line is a total stranger and will hold everything that has been said in the strictest confidence forever. It doesn't matter what you say to her. You can call it 24 hours a day and talk as long as you like. There is likely a rape crisis center where you are located (again, if you are in the U.S.) which has further, long term specialized counseling available for no or low cost--if you feel it's necessary, that is. If you want to just talk to someone then call.

Good luck.
posted by hecho de la basura at 9:07 AM on January 15, 2008

You specifically told him that you did not consent to sex. He penetrated you anyway. I don't see how this is not rape.

I believe you'd be unsuccessful at prosecution because you consented to lots of sexual activity before and after. But non-consensual penetration is rape. Stop feeling stupid. Stop feeling sheepish and inexperienced and embarassed. He was and is completely and totally wrong. He preyed on your feeling of insecurity. I believe you need to find a female therapist with experience in sexual trauma to help you process this experience. Sex should be so much fun, and it should always be consensual. You should not have t feel ashamed because some jackass was unable to keep control of his dick.

I think you are going to need to talk about this out loud, and I think you should be careful about choosing a very experienced therapist.
posted by theora55 at 9:08 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

The first relationship I had eased into "having sex" through an extremely similar progression of acts. The difference is that I was entirely consenting when it happened.

We laughed at the time over the ludicrous concept of "one inch penis sex" - i.e. even if he's only inside me by one inch, that would still count as sex for a man whose penis was only one inch long - but the reality is that, at root, your experience and to some extent my first experience(s) with my ex were as Civil_Disobedient calls, "the shortest possible sex you can have with a person."

Still, I wrestled with whether or not we had truly had sex before we both agreed to intentionally have sex [with candles, music, the whole cheesy shebang]. I'm going to get into the semantics because I majored in linguistics, but it's going to be vague and wishy-washy because I was a terrible linguistics student as far as memorizing proper terminology goes. I propose that "have sex/having sex" implies an ongoing act, and sticking a dick in a vagina for a second doesn't really pass muster.

As others point out, it's entirely within reason to classify being fingered as having sex, too, but I think there is a vast difference between hands and sexual organs. loiseau mentioned that it is really f'ing intimate to have another person's body part(s) inside you, and I would say that the stakes get much, much higher when you introduce the possibilities of body fluids that, moreover, carry the threat of impregnation and/or STIs. [Note: I know it's still possible to transfer diseases and even impregnate someone without actual penis-in-vagina penetration but I think it's obvious that the risks go up exponentially.]

So: you're not nuts to feel as you do about this. Your trust was violated, your safety was apparently compromised, and I don't think that this is small potatoes, as some people seem to be implying, just because a much broader spectrum of sexual experience might dwarf this encounter in retrospect. It was a HUGE deal for you, and I further agree with others that you may want to seek counseling about this to work through it. I wish you the best -- hopefully one day you can look back on this situation and feel nothing but objective interest in what you've learned from it.
posted by dorothy humbird at 9:16 AM on January 15, 2008

I think the people mentioning good ol' Billy Clinton are on to something -- it depends on what your definition of "having sex" is. To me, "having sex" with someone is a consensual act. I would not call rape, even penetrative rape "having sex". But your definition may vary. You have to decide what this experience was to you, and only you can do that. I also think that you have a lot of guilt over this whole situation. From seeing the guy in the first place, to hooking up with him, to not paying attention to what he was doing, to not realizing he had his penis inside you, to coming back after you realized, to enjoying it after you realized, to seeing the guy after the fact...

It sounds to me like you acted pretty well -- you made some decisions, you stood up for yourself, you got your rocks off without letting this guy walk all over you, and you kept control of the situation and kept things on your own terms. Now, if you are not proud of some of these decisions, well, we all make bad decisions from time to time in degrees from trivial to heart-attack-serious, and part of being an adult is being able to come to terms with your own bad decisions. I can't tell you how to do that -- maybe talking it over with friends, maybe therapy, maybe laughing at your dumb-ass self in the mirror (I'm not saying you are a dumb-ass here), but if you can do it, it will serve you very well in life.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:18 AM on January 15, 2008

First off, technically it was rape. Sometimes, people are better able to deal if they call rape something else, but it doesn't seem like that is working for you. Also, I'm not an expert in dealing with rape survivors, but I have picked up some info here and there.

I feel dumb for going back! It was really upsetting!
It happens. It's not uncommon for women to return to a guy who raped or sexually assualted them.

I don't want this to be sex with him, I don't want to have had sex with him.
You didn't have sex with him. Sex and rape are not the same thing. Sex is sexual intercourse with consent. Rape is sexual intercourse without consent. It's kind of like the difference between lending someone something and them stealing it. If you see some guy driving done the street in your car, you're feelings and actions would be different based on whether you gave him the keys or if he stole the keys from you.

I thought he would be easy. I feel so dumb for not listening to my friends!
Did you friends tell you that he would stick his penis inside your vagina after you explicitly told him not to? No? Then you did listen to them. Playa does not equate to rapist.

I know that as bad sexual experiences go, this is practically nothing, and I should and do still feel pretty lucky. But I'm still chewing on it and I want it to be gone!
Just because some people have it worse, doesn't meant that what happened to you wasn't fucked up and tramautic.

How do I get it out of my head? I want to make it not a big deal.
I think it is a big deal to you. You should accept that. I think trying to minimize it is part of what's driving you crazy. Also, I think that you trying to deal with this all by yourself is problematic for you. I would suggest that you visit or email or phone a rape crisis center in your area. Even if you don't think it's rape. What you are describing sounds a lot like what woman who are raped go through and they can probably give you some advice on how to heal.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:25 AM on January 15, 2008 [4 favorites]

Everyone seems to be hung up over making the point that fingering and penis-in-vagina are both sex. They are, but that doesn't mean that this wasn't rape. You said you didn't want to have "sex" after he started fingering you, and he knew what you meant by that and did it anyway. He could pull all the semantic bullshit he wants, but there's no way that this could be considered not rape.

Also, it's far more dangerous to be fucked by a "player" not wearing a condom than it is to be fingered by one. I'm not a woman, but if I were and this happened to me, I'd be outraged and looking to wreck this fool. You have every right to be angry and bothered by it.

Still, though they are justified, it's not going to help you to hold onto these feelings. As theora55 mentioned, you should talk to a therapist about this so you can move on.
posted by ignignokt at 9:28 AM on January 15, 2008

I want to make it not a big deal.

Yet clearly it's a big deal for you and there's nothing wrong that. Since it's still bothering you, therapy would be a good choice to help you sort it out and answer your own questions. Good luck!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:52 AM on January 15, 2008

for me there is a difference between, well, penis-in-vagina sex and other forms of sexual gratification

Well, there is a difference between PIV sex and other forms of sexual gratification. They are not the same. You can feel that other forms of sexual gratification are sex in one way, and feel that in another way that they are not. It's a little contradictory, and that's OK. There are a lot of contradictory opinions out there about sex, and many people don't examine their ideas about it.

It seems like it was nonconsensual sex because it was nonconsensual. Imagine for a minute that he had said "I want to pee on you", and you told him that, no, you were not interested in that but that you would like to fool around without doing that particular activity. You fool around with him and suddenly realize that a sensation you've been feeling is him peeing on you. You would probably be pretty upset, and it would probably be pretty clear to you that this thing which he used his penis to do was not something you consented to. You didn't consent to this either.

I thought I explained how upsetting it was, and that he got it, and that it was fine. I fooled around with him once after that...

I'm not sure if you are saying that he inserted his penis into you without permission again after the first time or not. Just because you explained that you didn't want this, and he understood that you didn't want this, doesn't protect you from him deciding to do it again.

I think you should call the hotline number someone posted above, and talk to them. Read them your post if that's what feels right. It's not silly that you need to work through it.
posted by yohko at 10:02 AM on January 15, 2008

First, I understand how your need to discuss this with someone coupled with your wish to not talk about it in person with anyone has led you to AskMe, but consider how much baggage every person has about this subject when you’re picking through the responses in this thread.

It seems that you are experiencing what happened as a big deal, but you either feel silly about making it a big deal or you want it to not be a big deal so that you don't have to deal with it.

It was a big deal, but that doesn’t mean that you are ruined forever and can’t get past it. Recognizing it as such could very well be the first step in helping you move on to reduce your anxiety and enjoy sex again. But you will have to talk about it out loud with someone at some point -- perhaps with counseling or the hotline previously mentioned (and I would take up Konolia's offer, too).

Please don't feel guilty or like you did anything wrong. You told him you didn't want to have intercourse. The fact that you still hung out with him afterwards doesn't change anything. Your reasons make sense and are fairly typical: "I wanted it to feel good again, I wanted it to not be a big deal, I wanted to not feel raped." Your friends warned you that he was a player, not that he would not respect your boundaries. Your problem isn't about what they warned you about, so you have no reason to feel stupid for not following their advice. Hindsight is 20/20.
posted by pluma moos at 10:23 AM on January 15, 2008

saying things out loud is a wonderful way to minimize them. maybe you can call an anonymous rape hotline, just to get it off your chest? don't worry about wasting their time because it wasn't textbook rape--they are trained to help with all traumatic sexual experiences.

i'm so sorry this happened to you. something similar happened to me. i spoke to my friends about it, and that helped a lot. i think keeping silent about these things make them -become- more important than they really are. likewise, nobody wants a broken ankle to be a big deal, but it is a big deal, and not addressing it makes it an even bigger deal. so address it. it's really the only way to move on.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:26 AM on January 15, 2008

"consider how much baggage every person has about this subject when you’re picking through the responses in this thread."
posted by pluma moos
This is key. A lot of women on this thread seem to be internalizing this. This kind of thing happens all the time. The fact is you were passive aggressive. This is a result of the classical and arcane notions of sex between women and men which permeates our culture. Which means the real reason you are wasting energy is probably because of how it ended. Which you noticeably put little emphasis on in your question. That is the rub, not how the sexual events unfolded. Analyzing that is what will finally get you past this.

You were not raped. Banish this from your mind. Nothing was irretrievably lost. You are not one of the women who has been raped. You were not raped.

This is nothing but a bunch of strange women giving you bad, subjective advice. This will only serve to blow it out of proportion even more than you already have. Both of you felt beholden to some outdated notion of sex. Most young womens sexual experiences are far from ideal because of this.

You need to learn that playing the field does not make you a slut. It is what the modern woman does. What you need to work on is your assertiveness being more comfortable with yourself. The modern woman does not let a man take the lead all the time.

How do you become more assertive? You need to know things about you that you are sure of. Approach things pragmatically and in good faith. That way, if things go sour, You can always reassure yourself of your honorable intent and realize that you were the bigger person. This is a safety net. Telling yourself "But I wanted it to feel good again, I wanted it to not be a big deal" is bullshit, Your just screaming for someone to take advantage of you and people will do it, even despite themselves.

You need to tell yourself that you were just going over there to watch a movie or hang out a while then get going. "I just enjoy his company but I can leave if he gets pushy".

Don't be clingy, be more independent.

If you do as I say the next guy you meet will not be this type.

And this coming from a dude. I am working on similar issues with assertiveness and harboring anger so believe me.
posted by Student of Man at 1:11 PM on January 15, 2008

Student of man, you are so wrong on so many levels I could just spit.

I lost my virginity involuntarily, not of my choice, and HOW DARE YOU TELL THE POSTER, OR ME, OR ANY OTHER WOMAN ON THIS THREAD that how we feel is "wrong."

I am not going to graphically explain here what happened to me. It might not technically be rape, as how can you be coerced if you don't even KNOW a penis is approaching, but hell yes I was violated. And in my opinion, so was the original poster.

I have wasted way too much time and energy blaming myself over the years. Yes, I put myself in a position I should not have put myself, but I never even got the CHANCE TO SAY NO.

How dare you, as a man, even think you know how we feel.
posted by konolia at 2:15 PM on January 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

You were not raped. Banish this from your mind. Nothing was irretrievably lost. You are not one of the women who has been raped. You were not raped....

This is nothing but a bunch of strange women giving you bad, subjective advice....

And this coming from a dude. I am working on similar issues with assertiveness and harboring anger so believe me.

Most of all, listen to the people up-thread, and discount advice like that given above.

This is something that a lot of women go through. There are degrees to violation. One person's "rape" is another person's "poor decision-making."

Think of it, and call it, whatever helps you. Find a counselor -- NOW, NOT LATER -- so you can deal with it before it becomes a plaid suitcase handcuffed to your wrist 10 years from now.

It was a one-time thing. It sucked. It hurt you. You need to deal with those feelings.

But you are not broken. This did not break you. It is simply a matter of finding a way to analyze it, feel okay about your actions, and move on.

Don't listen to the people who tell you it's no big deal. It's not up to them to define what is and isn't.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:19 PM on January 15, 2008

Anon, your story is a bit hard to follow, so I'm not wondering this because I doubt you, but because 1) I'm a bit confused, and 2) this feeling could happen to anyone: did you begin to question whether or not he raped you after things fizzled out? I ask because it's not unusual to feel squicked out and icky even after entirely consensual sex. No one expects to feel that way, but sometimes you end up just being grossed out, or feeling shameful, or like you lost control. I guess what I'm wondering if you were feeling weirded out first, and later began to wonder if it was because you had been raped. I can't really answer that question; I think only you can. My opinion, however, from what you describe is that in the heat of the moment, neither one of you was really paying attention to signals the other was sending. He got carried away and started pushing the issue, and you failed to notice his signals that he was doing so, and he took that as an implicit OK. He stopped when you made it clear again, and some people here would argue that you shouldn't have needed to do that, and they might be right... all I'm saying is, there has to be some undressing and fidgeting to get to that point, and it's not entirely unheard of for someone to think they're giving all the signs you need to know what's going on, when in fact, they're not. My larger point, however, is that even giving consent and being fully informed and all that doesn't necessarily mean you are protected from feeling like crap after an encounter. Maybe it's related to having control issues, or issues with sexual morality, or for some unknown reason, what seemed like a fun, good idea at the time just left you feeling slimy for no apparent reason. You wish you could take back the encounter, you play it over in your head, but the ick factor is still there. I think it's just part of sex. It's a complicated, emotional thing that is sometimes simple to figure out, but it's also not. You say you wanted things to be "easy" (a perfectly reasonable wish), but sometimes they're just not. I dunno, I could be way off base here, but maybe you need to consider this encounter in light of possible control/letting go issues. Talking to a therapist seems like a really helpful way to sort this out.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:19 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Crap, I hope that didn't come off sounding like I don't think anything bad happened to you. I do. And personally, I'd call it rape. I just meant that you need to frame it in a way that works for you, and not worry about what other people will call it. How other people would define it is entirely, unequivocally irrelevant.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:21 PM on January 15, 2008

BTW, I don't think you should be beating yourself up over this:

I wish I'd never went out with him. He was a friend (but not close) of friends, who warned me that he went after a lot of women and was sort of a player, or at least a wannabe player. I'd just been dating someone who said 'I love you' on the third date... I wanted easy. I thought he would be easy. I feel so dumb for not listening to my friends!

Sometimes, our friends are wrong, and sometimes, we just need to find these things out on our own. It's really hard to find out that maybe you can't trust your instincts about a person, but you really can't just go around believing what your friends say about other people all the time either. It's an experience most people have had, and it's OK to feel dumb and upset about it. It happens to everyone- in fact, some people go on deluding themselves about other people for years. You're well out of that, so you should be proud about being the sort of person who can adapt to these kinds of revelations.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:34 PM on January 15, 2008

Um, and just to clarify: I'm NOT saying because you felt weird first, and then began wondering if you were raped that means you were not. I'm just wondering if you're trying to determine if you were raped, because it would help to explain why you feel so crappy and conflicted. You can feel crappy and conflicted regardless of whether or not you were raped. I have had encounters that gross me out now, even years later, even though they were completely consensual and even fun at the time. Now I look back and shudder with revulsion, wondering what the hell I could have ever been thinking.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:46 PM on January 15, 2008

Student of Man's comment above strikes me as very strange and off-base, and I find it ironic that he says "don't listen to the women because they have baggage" but proceeds to analyze your situation in light of his own "issues with assertiveness and harboring anger" and in light of his own view of what "the modern woman" does, as if he is somehow magically free of baggage in thinking about sex.

He says "The fact is you were passive aggressive". I don't think that we have evidence from what you've said that this is true. Maybe, as you mull things over -- with a counselor or phone hotline answerer listening? -- you'll come to think that you were giving mixed signals or something. I don't think we can answer that question here. Based on what you said here, I think it would be crazy to say "you actually wanted him to do that, but you told him not to" or something. It sounds like you were clear with him that you didn't want to have sex, and it sounds like he decided that, after you had been fooling around for a while, he might just give it a shot, sneak in and see if you told him to stop. Well, that sucks. That's a shit-head move, even in the best light, and he shouldn't have done it. And you have every right to be upset and feel unnerved and so on. This isn't something that "the modern woman" has to put up with, and if you are -- rightly -- freaked out and angry about it, that's a totally natural reaction and it doesn't mean you're a wimpy or naive "un-modern" woman. What the hell?

It sounds like your reaction after (angrily getting up, then being softened when he apologized, wanting to still salvage a nice night after this stupid shit-headery, wanting to "be cool" about it) was totally natural and not anything you should feel ashamed about. Maybe you will decide, in thinking it over, that if anything like this happens again, you will handle it differently (you'll make it even more abundantly clear that you don't want p-i-v sex, you're really going to leave right then if anything bad happens, etc), but that doesn't mean you did wrong here, or that you should feel guilty.

The reason to think of this as not being rape, it seems to me, is to help you feel like it is less of a permanent hurt. I think there's a huge emphasis in our culture on rape being a permanent injury, something that women never get over. This can be useful in allowing women space to deal with their feelings after a rape, etc, but it can also make us feel like we never fully recover, like it has to be the Biggest Thing about us rather than a bad thing that happened once and that we can move past. So if it helps you to accept that your feelings of anger etc are justified, then think of it as rape. But don't feel like it needs to be something that hangs over you, as if you are Marked and this is something you must be haunted by, just because of the label. Anger, upsetness, etc are justified here even if it doesn't count as "rape".
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:02 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

And I completely agree with oneirodynia that you shouldn't beat yourself up over dating a guy who has a reputation for being a player. Players aren't necessarily shit-heads, and especially if you're looking for no strings attached, which it sounds like you were, it's not a bad idea to date a player. (Players are bad ideas if you're looking for longterm monogamy.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:04 PM on January 15, 2008

No, you don't have to beat yourself up about it, but you should learn something from this.

Out of curiosity, can you be more explicit about the lesson to be learned from this? Because it sort of sounds like you're implying that a woman who goes out on a date with a reputed player or a guy who has a lot of experience is, in some sense, deserving of whatever she gets.

I know you couldn't possibly have meant it that way (right?), so if there really is a constructive lesson you see in this, could you share it?
posted by mudpuppie at 3:59 PM on January 15, 2008

dating a guy who is skilled at getting women to have vaginal sex with him is probably a bad idea

Most guys I know who have a lot of sex are charming and use verbal persuasion etc to convince women that they (the women) indeed want to have sex with them (the guys). They don't -- I know what the women have told me anyway -- say "ok honey, no sex, great" and then take it upon themselves to initiate sex anyway by just popping it in. There is a big huge difference. This was a weird and out of bounds act.

I mean, the poster can think about whether it was reasonable to expect no-strings fooling around, but no sex for a few weeks, from this particular guy given what she knew. But I don't think that what she knew should have led her to expect he would do this, maybe that he's say "c'mon, let's" etc, but not that he would completely ignore her stated boundaries.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:32 PM on January 15, 2008

If I am correct, the original poster explicitly asked for advice on how she can be more comfortable with her sexuality. If you guys tell her to view it as a rape, then you are further suppressing her sexuality And adding to the myth of what rape is and isn't. If their is some details she left out which veers this statutorily, then she should take action against him. I'm guessing it's the tone of my post which was off-putting. I apologize if they were hurtful. But I don't mince my words. The whole gist of my argument was from a helpful angle. I tried to get to her deeper issues of passive-aggressive behaviors and issues with assertiveness (As I gleaned from the original post). I didn't mean that during the course of events that she was acting passive aggressive.

I deduced this question would not have been posted if they had still been together and the abuse would have continued. We should be helping her look forward, not reinforcing her defeatist thoughts or fostering more anger; which I agree she has every right to feel.
posted by Student of Man at 4:36 PM on January 15, 2008

You have to face the anger and pain before you can heal.

I thought everything was peachy keen for years. No, it didn't bother me-I thought. I was wrong.

The OP is facing her feelings and therefore will be able to work through them healthily. To tell her to stuff these feelings-for this is what Student of Man is really saying-is about the worst thing to do.

No, these sorts of events do not have to ruin our lives. Mine was changed,certainly, but not ruined-but if I had been able to face what actually happened and then made decisions accordingly, my life could have been better.

Student of man, you are presumably a straight man, so please don't presume what it is like to be a woman when it comes to sex.
posted by konolia at 4:49 PM on January 15, 2008

Being a man does not preclude my empathy or reasoning... Nor would it have, If I were a gay male. He would have just as little insight about being a woman as I do.
posted by Student of Man at 4:59 PM on January 15, 2008

You need to learn that playing the field does not make you a slut. It is what the modern woman does. What you need to work on is your assertiveness being more comfortable with yourself. The modern woman does not let a man take the lead all the time.

Wha... wait, did the time machine short out again? Wake me when we get to 2008 and intelligent people don't advocate static gender archetypes.
posted by zennie at 5:38 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am not saying to stuff those feelings. I'm saying (right or wrong) those feelings may have been conjured. As I just said, I don't think those events would be an issue if they were still together. My take on this is that her self-esteem is taking hits and she is angry that it ended (badly?). She feels like a hoodwinked loose girl. As a defense mechanism, she labels the events in her mind as rape. Maybe this post better illuminates the female dynamic of which I speak of.

"i've been on the receiving end of several kinds of breakups:

1. the vanishers, who just stopped contact- who made me feel like a dumb slut
2. the honest ones, who said "i don't wanna pursue this, sorry," who made me feel like a dumb, cheap, ugly, boring slut,
3. the gentle liars, who said "you're cool. but i am confused about my feelings for another person and you got caught in the crossfire, sorry," who made me feel like i was interesting and cute but the timing was bad, oh well.

now i'm a liberated woman and i KNOW, in my head, that i am NOT dumb, cheap, slutty, ugly, unfunny, or boring. (in fact, i'm smart, expensive, choosy, cute, funny, and interesting.) but the #1s and #2s in the scenarios above still made me feel like shit. yes, i'm an adult, but on a subtle level, their honesty damaged me, and then i got stuck doing work to fix that damage.

if you have nothing to offer to this woman but hurt, keep it to yourself. don't make her feel like shit.

as for all the #3s i met out there, i still think of them fondly- "we had a bit of fun, the timing didn't work out, i wish them the best." in hindsight, i know that some of them were indeed telling the truth (we're still pals, and i know they actually did reunite with exes, etc). but i also assume that some were probably letting me down easy- and my undamaged self-esteem thanks them for it.
posted by twistofrhyme at 2:37 PM on November 5 [36 favorites +] [!]

Now I may be wrong in my prognosis but that is the rationale that underpinned my point.
posted by Student of Man at 5:48 PM on January 15, 2008

Well, ok. Poster, you can consider for yourself whether you are upset because this guy tried to pull a seriously shit-head move on you (which you quite appropriately called him out for), or merely because the two of you aren't still dating. I think it's pretty weird to think it's for the latter reason.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:22 PM on January 15, 2008

At this point, the discussion is starting to be about Student of Man, and is edging towards debate, which is not how AskMe is intended to function. So, I'd like to suggest that the focus be on the poster, not on 1 commenter.
posted by theora55 at 7:24 PM on January 15, 2008

Thanks for the clarification, 23skidoo. Your lesson is a good one. I just needed it spelled out, I guess.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:00 PM on January 15, 2008

Anon, I am really sorry this happened to you. This dick did not respect you and he fooled you.

But you are not a fool. Your feelings are valid. And you deserve to be respected.

And I know that one day you will find the right man who will respect you and listen to you.
posted by bitteroldman at 8:05 PM on January 15, 2008

I’m so sorry that this happened to you.

What stands out to me from your post is how uncomfortable you are with your feelings. If you have some ideal notion of how you are "supposed" to feel, it will hold you back from dealing with what you do feel. Give yourself permission to feel very bad about what happened to you -- even if it wasn't the worst form of rape that you can imagine. Reserve some time and allow yourself to be as sad and angry as you actually are. Don't guilt-trip yourself about those feelings. Don’t try to measure them against what some ideal person would feel in your situation. Don’t compare yourself to people who have had experiences that were worse than yours. Just let yourself be upset about what happened to you. Feeling these things won’t make what happened to you any worse or any more real. It’s already real. But bottling them up will just make it harder for you to deal with them later.

Is there someone who can give you permission, as it were, to go ahead and feel sad? If you have a trusted friend whose opinion you respect, share this with them. It may be that you need to hear them tell you that your feelings are completely OK and that you should allow yourself to feel them. Your hesitation to talk about this with your friends might come in part from your own projected fears. If that doesn’t feel right for you, perhaps call the number that was linked above or drop in on a counseling center or therapist.

I am reminded of how common it is for sick people to put off seeing a doctor. If they see a doctor, then their sickness becomes “real.” The possibility that it might not be cancer (or whatever) disappears. The longer they wait, the more difficult it is for the doctor to treat them. I understand your desire to avoid dealing with what happened. It’s something that everyone feels when they’re faced with a bad situation.

The fact that you saw him again after what happened is a pretty common phenomenon. It does not make what happened your fault. It does not make you a bad person, or a weak person, or a stupid person. You had a completely natural and understandable reaction, and you do not need to punish yourself.

Take a look at this blog post about a rapist whose victims wanted to believe that nothing bad had happened to them: (you're not alone)

I hope this helps, even though it comes from a stranger: what happened was not your fault. Your feelings about it are normal, healthy, and appropriate, and you can confront them and deal with them and regain your sexual confidence. Talking about what happened to you with people you trust is a good idea.
posted by prefpara at 8:05 PM on January 16, 2008

Yes, in my opinion what you experienced was rape. It certainly wasn't as violent as what others have experienced but it was just as sleazy and dishonest; from how you describe the experience I definitely think you've been violated. He penetrated you with his penis without your consent. Nobody has the right to be putting their penis in you anywhere unless you request it. A finger and a penis are two totally different things. The guy's got lousy boundaries (still it's no excuse). I do hope you have supportive friends there who will listen to you without judging, and not blame you for his obscene behavior, because you did nothing wrong.
posted by mamaraks at 5:42 PM on January 17, 2008

In my opinion, it was rape. But whether or not you call it that is ultimately up to you. Continuing to think about it, though, is perfectly normal. As is your decision to hook up with him even after it happened. As fucked up as it sounds, it happens all the time. Maybe it's a way to regain that last little bit of control/power over your body after its been stripped away, maybe it's a way to make yourself feel better about what happened or convince yourself that you made a decision that you didn't, in fact, make. Either way, don't beat yourself up for it. But it might be healthy to never talk to this person again.

I'm so sorry this happened to you.
posted by lunit at 1:12 PM on January 18, 2008

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