One of my favorite blogs to read is Revenge of Eve and in one of her postings today, she reflected back on a traumatic sexual assault at 14 she didn’t recognize as assault at the time. I thought it was refreshing to hear somebody say that they were a willing participant in the moment, but that the perpetrator (in this case a man in his 30s) is appalling and should have known better. I think a lot of sexual assaults aren’t as cut and dry as “this person did X against my will” and they need to be talked about.
While I’ve written a little bit about sexual abuse I endured at the hands of a babysitter when I was a child, I’ve not written about another incident that happened to me in my early 20s. This is partially because I don’t think I’ve completely processed it, but also because I haven’t figured out how it fits into the narrative of my life story.
The Incident in Question
When I was 22, I was living on my own for the first time in my life in Portland, Maine. It’s a fun city, and as close to cosmopolitan as you get north of Boston. I had recently been named editor of a B2B trade paper covering the burgeoning high-tech sector of Northern New England. This was about 2-3 years before the dot-com explosion took a nose-dive.
I had to regularly attend tech networking events, and among those in Portland, I ran into a lot of the same people. As a single guy on the lookout for dating opportunities, these were mostly dry wells, as the women were usually double my age, married and with children. However, I did bump into a woman I’ll call Ann, multiple times.
Ann was about my age, maybe a year or two older. She was a bigger girl with naturally bright red hair, bordering on orange. Ann seemed sweet enough, although a bit socially inept, although at networking events with high-tech types, social ineptness was the norm.
After one of our conversations about a mutual enjoyment of tennis despite a lack of motor skills, we agreed to meet in the park to play after work later that week. As expected, neither of us brought a lot to our games, but it was a chance to hang out and converse in a non-professional environment.
We played three or four times before I recognized that this was just somebody I would not be pursuing romantically. I didn’t find her physically attractive and while she was fun to be around, I thought we clearly lacked a necessary spark. After one of our games, she suggested that we both go home, take showers, change and reconvene at her house where she’d make us dinner and she’d pick something up at the video store for us to watch. With no ulterior motives, I agreed and about 90 minutes later, I arrived at her apartment house.
She was just finishing making dinner when I got there. We ate and then made our way to the living room. She got us each a beer and popped whatever movie she rented into the VCR.
My next memory is laying on my back in a bed, both of us naked, with her straddled atop of me. She was placing my limp hands on her breasts and clearly enjoying herself. I blacked out again.
The next memory is waking up in her bed with the clock reading 4:30 in the morning. I was groggy, but since I was laying on the outside, I was able to get out of bed, and gather my clothes from her floor and make my way out of her room.
I dressed in her kitchen and left her apartment. She sent me an email later that day at work telling me she had a good time and hoped we could play tennis later in the week. I agreed, but we never conversed, nor saw each other again. I didn’t even see her at networking events.
Making Sense of Things
My theory is that she spiked the beer and before I was completely unconscious, she led me back to her room where she had her way with me. From an objective point of view, especially if I reverse the gender roles in the situation, it’s hard to not call this experience a rape.
Here’s the thing though: I don’t believe I carry a lot of baggage because of it and I wonder why. The few people I’ve told about this usually look on with horror as I get to the end of the story and uniformly agree it was sexual assault.
I know how many rape victims suffer some kind of PTSD or other trauma from their experience – and while I have both from other incidents in my life – I question why it feels like this one didn’t cause an emotional or mental scar. Isn’t being sexually violated supposed to shake you to the core?
I never consented to having sex with this young woman, nor would I have as I just didn’t find her attractive. She coerced me into it without my approval. That is, technically, rape.
Did this have any subconscious effect on my developing pornography and alcohol addictions at the time, or play any role 15 years later as other repressed memories aided in me spiraling out of control?
Is it possible that this could just be “something that happened to me” and there is no deeper meaning, context or result? I’ve never felt anger or hate toward Ann. It’s more a sense of pity and confusion. I don’t think there’s any answer to “Why did you do that to me?” that I need to hear for any kind of closure. Maybe I shrug off the women-rapes-man dynamic we rarely hear about. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t a child. I just don’t know why I don’t feel more of…something.
Perhaps the biggest scar this incident left is the notion that something is wrong with me for not feeling more deeply about what happened. Maybe someday a door will open in my mind that gives the situation a deeper meaning and context, but for now it’s just going to remain an enigma. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to feel.