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Author Topic: Not sure what I'm supposed to feel ...
palm09
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Hi,
So, this is perhaps a slightly unusual scenario and question, but I'm just interested to get some opinions in an anonymous environment.

The scenario is this: I did something / something happened to me between the ages of 15-19 which I hadn't really thought about for a while, but now (aged 23) I've been thinking back over it a bit, and I'm not sure how I should think about it or what I'm supposed to feel.

The story: [sorry this turned out to be so long!!]
When I was 15 turning 16, I was in my final year of school (I skipped ahead). I lived a pretty isolated life - just me and my mum at home, no real friends or independent life of my own outside school and home, and scared about my future, feeling way too young to know how to go to university or find jobs or start any kind of life. Still a kid. But at the same time, feeling trapped and squashed in a tiny life, desperately wanting to escape, but not having the life skills or tools to know how to do it.

I didn't have anyone close to me, but I guess in retrospect I felt very lonely and wanted to reach out and be heard. So I went to the internet. I talked to a few people on a gaming site (chess, backgammon etc), which was fine. One day though, I was feeling bored, and I signed up to an internet dating site. I lied and put my age as 23 on my profile, wrote some stuff about enjoying walks on the beach etc, nothing very far away from reality, boom done. I guess it was just exciting to do something a bit naughty - I absolutely never expected to meet anyone off that site, but maybe just to make contact with a few people, talk to them by email, get a bit of a kick out of it, no big deal.

Which I did, and it was fine. I didn't tell them how young I was. Some of them wrote to me with sexual stuff, and sometimes I'd play along. I had no experience whatsoever of any contact with a boy, and would not have been ready for it, but I guess I was still interested in sex in an intellectual kind of a way. (Masturbation? Never dreamed of it!!!)

So, one of the people I got talking to was a guy called Scott. He wasn't one of the ones who wrote overtly sexually, just a bit flirty, nothing out of line for a dating site, and I played along I guess - though it was just a game for me, and for him it would have had the potential of turning into reality. When I felt that there was some kind of real connection there and it wasn't just a game any more, I told him my real age - 15. He was pretty taken aback, and was conscious that on the surface this made him look like some kind of internet predator, but to be fair - I'd lied about my age, I was intellectually mature for my age and by email could easily have come across as someone much older, and I didn't feel like I was being predated in any way.

How old was he? 58. 42 years older than me, more than three times my age, a divorced dad with three kids, the youngest of whom was a year or two older than me. Older than my dad. I knew all this. But he was a nice guy and we had interesting discussions, and he never made me feel unsafe, so we kept talking. We both felt a strong connection to one another, and even said that we loved one another.

We'd talked for about three months, including two or three times on the phone when my mum was out, and he raised the idea of us meeting. I was wary about it at first, because that would be something in my head turning into something real, and even though I trusted him I wasn't a total idiot and was wary of internet predators. We exchanged photographs, and I remember being totally shocked when I first looked at his - it just made it *real* that he was 58 and I was a kid but we were talking like equals. But I got used to the idea, and became ok with it, and two weeks before my 16th birthday he drove the 4 hours from where he lives to the place where I lived, and we met.

Now, this was all *absolutely* in secret - nobody in my life had any idea that I was talking to Scott. I didn't tell anyone that I was meeting him; I lied to my mum and told her that I was visiting my dad. I met Scott in a relatively public place, but I was still an absolute idiot about it and was completely vulnerable - no mobile phone, nothing. I trusted him. Anyway, so we met, and it was strange at first but I kind of got used to it, and I got in his car (I know - stupid!!) and we drove somewhere and had lunch. He was still the same nice guy I talked to over the internet.

I should make it clear that even though I was obviously far more vulnerable, he was also trusting me. He shared just as much of his life and his story with me as I did with him. I knew his home address and his phone numbers. He runs a photography business, and with one email or phone call I could have contacted one of his kids or workmates and completely wrecked his life. He never lied to me, and he wasn't deliberately leading me on to get something from me. In retrospect, it was misguided (of both of us, but I was a child and he was a responsible adult and should have known better), but not malicious.

So, on that first visit, he kissed me. We'd talked about it, and it wasn't something he sprung on me without my consent.
Fast forward the next three years. I'd moved out of home to another city to study when I was 16, and he met me once there, and then when I was 17 I moved to the same city he lives in, and we saw one another more often. We kept the emotional connection. Things started getting more sexual though - and this is the bit where I'm especially not sure how I'm supposed to feel.

Over the course of a number of visits, it got to the point where he'd done everything to me except penetrate me or give me oral sex. He knew I was a virgin and had no experience with anyone other than him, and respected that. He never forced me into anything. In my head, it was exciting to know what it felt like for someone to find me attractive and sexy. I didn't think it was possible that any boy would ever ask me out or find me attractive, and part of me just wanted to know what it was like to be touched, so that when I was an old wrinkly spinster, at least I would know.

I was completely passive with Scott. I never initiated any sexual contact, I never ever touched him sexually, I never even saw him naked because it was either in the dark or I kept my eyes closed. I didn't even open my mouth when he kissed me. He tried to get me to touch him downstairs few times, but I resisted nonverbally and he stopped right away. Similarly when he tried to perform oral sex on me. He didn't force me to do anything. The only time he overstepped the line was when he got too excited once and came on me. I was totally grossed out and vigorously wiped it off my skin with a tissue. He realised afterwards that he'd crossed the line and apologised.


So, eventually I grew up, built the rudiments of a social life, grew into my own life, and stopped needing him any more I guess. Contact had petered out by the time I was 20. I moved on, and basically forgot about the whole thing, no big deal.

So now, I'm 23, and in a six-month-old relationship with the boy of my dreams, and when we were getting to know one another and sharing histories, I remembered this thing with Scott, and realised that I'd have to share that. And, for the first time, regretted utterly that I'd lost some of my innocence in such a way, especially when my boyfriend came to me completely without experience, a new unopened box. I wished I'd kept my first experiences for him, and that I didn't have this sordid secret to tell.

I started to think about the idea of consent, along with reading some of the articles on here, and for the first time realised that even though some part of me had wanted Scott's touch, my completely passive behaviour was the weakest excuse for consent there ever was. Now I'm thinking back over the whole affair, and I don't know what I'm supposed to feel about it. Was I abused? I don't know. Wouldn't I feel like I had been violated if that were the case? I honestly don't feel any identifiable trauma associated with what happened. The only thing is the stigma of it, having to carry a secret like that for the rest of my life, and wishing I'd had enough self-confidence to wait until things happened in the right way. It just feels like I did something a bit stupid when I was too young to realise what it meant.

I'm just not sure what I'm supposed to feel about it all. Thoughts???

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Heather
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What I hear you expressing in this is that at the time, over those five-ish years, this was something you wanted to be engaged in and wanted to pursue, and where you felt like your limits were respected. I hear you voicing getting mostly positive things out of it at the time.

I hear that now, though, you're feeling shame about this, though I'm not sure if that's about this specific situation or having been sexual with someone else before this boyfriend, period, or sexual before this boyfriend in a situation you feel wasn't the "right" kind of sexual debut situation. Do you think you might be able to sort that out for me/yourself a little more?

In addressing questions about abuse, this is a pretty tough scenario, I think, to sort out in that regard. Let me walk you through why it is, in my mind.

Trying to suss out what is and isn't abusive based on if people feel traumatized is not often a good way to go, because people can be abused and not feel traumatized, and people can NOT be abused and feel traumatized, too.

From a legal standpoint, I don't believe any of this wasn't lawful in Australia. It seems like you were over the age of consent at the time anything sexual happened, like consent was sought and respected throughout (even though it was more often nonverbally expressed than verbally), and like you made your own efforts to meet with this person to engage in these things with them. Do I have all of that right?

That said, though, just because things are legal, or aren't abusive, still doesn't mean things are always equitable or sound. Personally, I don't think it's appropriate for a much-older person to be engaging in a secret sexual relationship with a much-younger person. If this man knew you were dishonest with everyone in your life to see him on the sly and supported that, and didn't put limits on that (as in, "why don't I meet your parents first to be sure this is okay,"), and asked you to meet him when you were 15 without asking you to bring someone else for your safety, etc. I do think he was out of line, and not earnestly treating you with respect AS a young person, if you follow me. Part of being an older person who respects young people in a real way is respecting the difference you're in per your position, and doing what you can to even the scales and make sure they're protected in ways culture/the world/the law doesn't protect them or afford them rights.

We can talk more about all of that if you want, but it sounds to me like your big issue here to work through is feeling ashamed, and that's something that is likely to be an issue no matter what you call this or how you wind up classifying it around abuse/exploitation (or not).

So, where do you want to take this conversation from here? Just let me know, and I'm glad to follow your lead.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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palm09
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Hi Heather, thanks for your reply. Lots of food for thought.

Well, in reply to your first question:
Yes, of course I feel shame that I had sexual contact with a 58-60 year old when I was just a teenager. It's not exactly something to go yelling over the rooftops about!!! I don't mind that I had sexual contact with someone before my boyfriend, and neither does he. Even though it's difficult to accept yourself when you're at your lowest, and I'm not proud of having ever been so desperate, I do accept my reasons for having allowed this man into my life, and I can live with it. Yes, I was getting mostly positive things out of it at the time I guess, and I learned some things about myself and about life through my talks with him. That's something of value, and even though it's a bit unusual, I wouldn't really feel ashamed to say that I had this man as a penfriend and that we talked about a lot of things, or even that we met. So, on an intellectual/emotional level, I don't have a problem with it.

The bit that I'm having trouble reconciling is the sexual contact, and how I feel about that. There is something special about the first time you experience things. Yes, I feel like all those firsts I experienced with this man were experienced in the wrong way, and I wish I could undo them. Even if they hadn't been the first experiences, I wish I could undo them. There's something really just not right about the whole thing.

I realise now that I was really, really not ready for sexual contact with anyone. Let alone in this situation. I was completely not comfortable with my body, and had never thought about myself as a sexual person. This is all coming into focus now with the complete contrast of my current situation with my boyfriend and all the talking that we do. We've talked a lot about sex and how we feel about it and what it means to us - and there are completely open communication lines, so that both parties are 100% on-board with any contact that happens. That was absolutely not the case with Scott. He'd been sexual with I don't know how many people in his life, and it was no big deal for him. I don't think he really thought about what it meant for me. There was absolutely zero talking about sexual contact when it came to doing it in reality. None of asking how I felt about the thought of doing X, would I want him to do X, was I comfortable with X, did I like X. He just did things without really asking and I froze up and didn't resist unless I absolutely had a problem with it (as previously mentioned), because I had never ever thought about any of the different Xs and thus had no conscious response to it, nothing that I could put into words.

But part of me thinks that my non-conscious response to it, i.e. the complete passivity, was a pretty big signpost of what I was feeling even if I didn't have words for it. And that this response should have been noticed by him, and interpreted by him as a no and not a yes, and that he as the responsible experienced person should have known to consider that. Or at least discussed it with me to try and figure out what I was feeling, rather than barging ahead. I don't think he really thought about the nonconsent, other than an absolute screaming yelling NO. And now we're left with totally different experiences and memories - for him, something a bit naughty and exciting, both the secrecy of it and feeling young again with a young new body beside him (ugh! makes me uncomfortable to write that), but for me ... hands and body parts where they shouldn't have been. Experiences that can't be undone. Feeling like someone took something from me that I didn't want to give. Feeling ashamed having to tell this part of my story.

So, in response to what you wrote - no, I do think that there's a bit of a problem with the consent issue here, and in terms of making my own efforts to meet him and engage in sexual activities with him ... yes, I made my own efforts to meet him, but I think I was excited by the idea that someone could find me alluring. Not by the idea of the actual sexual acts themselves, or of being sexual with him. I remember clenching my fists as hard as I could trying to resist becoming aroused by it, trying to not let myself enjoy it. And I think that's part of the reason that I can be okay with it now ... because even at the time, there was some little voice in my head that I wasn't aware of, telling me that it was wrong - and I think I'd feel far more ashamed if I'd actually let go and actively engaged and enjoyed it. I think I'd feel far, far more ashamed if I had to tell a story with me *initiating* sexual contact with a 58-year-old, desiring it, enjoying it.

I *do* intiate, desire and enjoy contact with my boyfriend - so I don't think it's just that I'm unable to be comfortable with sexual stuff generally, I think it's something more specific to this situation.

I guess I would just like to figure out once and for all how I feel about it, and then not have to really think about it any more! [Smile] Thanks so much for helping to talk me through it.

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Heather
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Of course, I'm glad to do so.

So, between this post and you're last, I'm feeling like there's kind of a sticky wicket here that's presenting a big barrier to you really having a sense of what happened, and knowing a) what you need to call it for yourself and b) how to process it, and that's shame.

In something like this, when we're not sure what something is, but one answer would make us feel more ashamed of ourselves than another, that can potentially really obfuscate what's true, you know?

That given, can we perhaps agree that IF there was no exploitation here, and if there was consent, full consent, you'd have nothing to be ashamed of? After all, there's no universal rule that says that being attracted to a person of X age or X way of looking is automatically not shameful, while being attracted to a person of Y age, or who looks Y way, is. There's also no golden rule that says feeling sexual, engaging in sex or pursuing a sexual relationship when someone is NOT feeling strong physical attraction, but has other things that attract them to a person or situation is not okay, or that any one criteria is less acceptable than another.

I get that it sounds like what you feel now would have been more ideal for you was pursuing a romantic/sexual relationship when you felt better about yourself, potentially with someone same age, and with different motives. But it might help to know that for someone else -- setting aside possible exploitation -- that scenario might have been right for them or might have been a "first" they felt good about. As well, sometimes when things feel better down the road in a different situation, it's tricky to try and paste them on to another time of our lives.

In all of this I'm saying, I am not assigning values to what happened with you or deciding for you if this was or wasn't exploitive (especially since I'm hearing some things in both these posts that do suggest to me that it was) or non-consensual. I think this is one of those scenarios that's really tough for someone on the outside to make a call on, and something only the person you were then and the person you are now can basically draw a sound conclusion about. In this second post, I hear statements that sound like someone who didn't have the ability or skills or dynamics to really give full-consent, but I also hear, and hear more in the first post, statements that sound like someone who was able to do that and did do that. So, again, I'm feeling like this is one where it's really going to have to be your call.

But I do think that if you can do your best to take shame out of the equation here, figuring that out, processing this AND talking about it in your current relationship are all going to be much less difficult.

One other thing I'd try and do is accept that this early in your life, you probably -- like with anything else -- are not going to be able to figure out, once and for all, how you feel about this. So, I'd make sure you're not trying to do that, and see if you can't aim more for just figuring out how you feel about it for now.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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palm09
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Hi Heather,

ok, so after a bit of thinking I think I have ome further clarification on how I'm feeling about this thing.

I don't think I feel shame about it, actually. I think shame is where you feel negatively about something you did, because the way you behaved violated some moral or principle that you strongly believe in. Where you don't like yourself for something.

I'm ok with myself and the way in which I behaved in this situation, even though I'm sad that the situation ever happened.

If I *had* been anything other than passive when it came to the sexual stuff with him, I *would* have felt shame. Not because I think it's morally wrong in absolute terms for a teenager to be sexual with a 50-something-year-old ... (I think it's definitely questionable, in that in 99% of cases, there is going to be something not quite right, but that's something different. It would quite probably be something *related* to the age difference, but not the age difference itself.)

I would have felt shame if I hadn't been passive, because for me at this early stage in my life, being sexual with someone is very, very intimate. For me, it should be an expression of a deep emotional intimacy with someone, of totally open doors - nothing held back. For which you need trust, respect and equality. Those key ingredients weren't all there with Scott, and if I hadn't been totally passive, I would have felt shame, because I would have violated something in myself.

(I have no problems with sexual stuff meaning different things to different people - that's just how it is for me.)

I think I feel regret. The same as shame, except minus the part where you don't like yourself. I regret that it happened. And the person making the sexual stuff happen wasn't really me, it was someone else. Yes, I bear some responsibility (?), because if I hadn't been passive and had figured out that I didn't want it, and said so, he probably would have stopped. But as the more experienced and adult person, I feel like he had some kind of duty of care towards me which he didn't carry out to the full.

But whether or not that's true ... as long as I figure out how I feel about my side of things, maybe that's enough, I don't know. If (more generally speaking than my own situation) someone does wrong to you, is there much point expending energy wishing they hadn't, and wanting them to change or pay for it somehow - some kind of positive outcome or "justice"? I guess the answer is yes, if a crime was committed, or some serious transgression. I guess my situation is a grey area, and that's what's tricky for me to figure out.

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Heather
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This is all great stuff!

I wonder if I can't bump this one step further for you.

I hear you saying that for you, NOW, at this stage of your life, sexual activity is something you want to have paired with a lot of emotional intimacy, and in which trust, respect and equality are part, all things you don't feel were part of the equation in your relationship with this older man.

However, it seems you spent many years engaged with this person in various ways, and went to some efforts, from what I can tell, to continue that relationship. You don't seem to feel like you were pressured to continue the relationship with him (including talking), so that suggests to me you were getting something out of it then that you liked or valued, and you've voiced some things, even if now, at this point in your life, those things would not be things you like or value or feel you want to pursue.

That given, do you think it's possible that what you want and need has changed as you've gotten older? That the person-of-then, was looking for different things than the person-of-now? And perhaps, even, what the person-of-then experienced had something to do with what the you-of-now wants and needs?

(Just to be clear, all these things I'm asking should not be interpreted as me saying this older person has my approval in how they acted. I, like you, think that they certainly did act in ways that were not sound when it comes to equality and respect, and per things and ways of behaving I personally feel older people owe younger people, or people with any kind of power/rights/privilege owe people who don't have it.)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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palm09
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Well - to better clarify once again:

Taking shame out of the equation, I guess the question becomes one of whether or not this situation was nonconsensual and/or exploitative. And whether or not that even matters - if I've got my head straight now about what consent should be, and what behaviour is ok and what isn't.

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Heather
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I think it's fair to say that most of us grew up with either very little information about what real consent was, or very mixed messages. For instance, a lot of little kids get told that certain parts are private, no one should touch them, and their bodies are their own, while at the same time, they're told to hug people or kiss people they might not want to, to let Mom or Dad hold them even when they don't want to be held.

So, most of us are going to be constantly evolving what real, full consent is and what's healthy around it, which is, of course, one way in which a much-older person has a serious edge over someone younger, and a way it can be easy for much-older people to exploit younger people.

So, I do think it's appropriate to apply what we know about consent NOW to a situation/time in which we knew less.

When you do, and just going with your head and your gut -- and trying very hard not to assign a value to it or think out of a shame or regret place -- how do you feel about that situation? Does it seem like any or all of that relationship was nonconsensual? Exploitive? Abusive?

There's no right or wrong answers here, just your truth as you know it.

[ 07-11-2011, 10:22 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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palm09
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Sure, I got something out of it. It was interesting to talk to him, and to see inside the head of someone at a totally different stage in life from where I was. But I was on-board with that bit of it.

In terms of the sexual stuff though - I don't think it's that my wants and needs have changed, but that when I was that young, I didn't *know* what I wanted or needed. And when you haven't thought through something for yourself, it makes you weak in that you're far more susceptible to other people's wants or needs or opinions. So I wasn't on-board with that bit of it. And I think it's pretty regrettable to learn how things should be by experiencing how they *shouldn't* be when it's something more serious with more consequences than just mucking up learning to tie your shoelaces.

Gut instinct says that if it was exploitative or nonconsensual, it wasn't consciously so. Maybe if someone doesn't know that what they're doing is wrong, you should be more forgiving ... both for him, and for me.

But then again - he was an adult, with life experience and kids of his own my age. Surely he must have had at least some inkling of it. How would he have felt about it if it was his daughter? Then I start feeling like calling it misguided or unintentional is being a bit too generous. :/

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Heather
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quote:
when I was that young, I didn't *know* what I wanted or needed. And when you haven't thought through something for yourself, it makes you weak in that you're far more susceptible to other people's wants or needs or opinions.
I very much agree with you. And again, this is something older people know about being young, having been young themselves, so in my mind, is an important piece in being older and engaging with young people in any way.

That said, I don't think this person could have been unaware of the problematic nature of any of this. I think that might be harder to see when you are still very young, but at his age, he had to know. Even the fact that he met you as a minor without asking you to bring parents or a friend, etc. says to me that he DID know what he was doing was not likely sound or appropriate. So, I agree with what you're saying in your last paragraph here a lot.

quote:
And I think it's pretty regrettable to learn how things should be by experiencing how they *shouldn't* be when it's something more serious with more consequences than just mucking up learning to tie your shoelaces.
I think one thing to know about this just to let yourself off the hook is that it's very, very typical for us to learn some things in life "the hard way." (Not a fan of that phrase, because it sounds flippant, thus my air quotes.) Whether or not that's regrettable is, I think, very personal and individual, and often has a lot to do with how much we invest in the idea that we can lead a life in which everything happens perfectly, and the idea that X choice is always going to equal Y feeling or consequence, if you know what I mean.

In other words, let's say you had your first sexual relationship in the kind of setting you now feel would be ideal. That still doesn't mean it's go the way you think it will or you'll feel the way about it you think you will, especially down the line.

Of course, I think it gets pretty iffy to even compare things as sexual experiences and debuts if and when there is any nonconsent, inability to consent, abuse or exploitation, you know? So, even comparing these things or putting them in the same box, may be really problematic. For instance, I was sexually assaulted twice before I really explored consensual sex, and, to me, those were not sexual experiences. They may have been for the people who abused me, but they were not for me.

I'm much more concerned with you giving yourself understanding, acceptance and forgiveness than whatever you do or don't give this other person. That's some of why I have been focusing much more on your choices with this in our talk than on his, if that makes sense.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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palm09
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It's almost 2am here and much though I'd like to continue this conversation right now, I really need to go to bed!

Will respond to what you've written above in the morning. Thanks again for your thoughtful inputs!

One for the road:
One question that sprang to my mind on first reading what you wrote, though - why didn't you count those two assaults as a sexual experience? Does it have any significance for you *not* counting them as a sexual experience?

I'm not sure if I'd count my experience or not, or whether this is important - that's why I'm asking.

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Of course. I'll be around tomorrow if you want to keep talking.

(A sentence below might be triggering)

I don't count them as sexual experience because I wasn't having sex: I was being assaulted. I didn't consent, I wasn't asked for consent (and in one of the two, I was literally dragged, physically, in order for the group to assault me), and I didn't feel anything during those incidents I recognize as my own sexual feelings. All I felt was fear and confusion and panic or pain, physical and emotional. I had no agency at all in either of those situations.

The only thing those situations had to do with sex at all was a) that they were likely in some way sexual for the perpetrators, and b) they involved activities or body parts being engaged that, in a different situation, can be sex. But I could say the same of, say, a gynecological bimanual exam, you know (save that I am asked for consent for those and do give consent)? Just because the same body parts and movements that, in another situation, would be a partner engaging in manual sex with me are involved doesn't make a bimanual exam sex.

I'm not sure what you mean about it having significance that I don't "count" my assaults as sexual experiences on my part. I mean, I think it's significant in the respect that it's significant for me to have names and words and framing of my life experiences that are real and true to me, and significant to hold a line between what is and isn't sex and what is and isn't consent; what has been my choice in life and what hasn't been, what has been about what I wanted and what wasn't.

But that might not be what you're asking?

[ 07-11-2011, 11:05 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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breath
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(sorry to interpret here, but i think that is a great dialogue/exchange, thanks!)
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palm09
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Hmm, ok - thanks. Yes, I guess that's what I'm trying to do here - get my head around what happened, i.e. finding words for it.

Was it a sexual experience for me? In other words, were the things he did desired and enjoyed by me, things that I got pleasure from?
I'd have to say, for the vast majority of it, no, not really. I wasn't able to relax and enjoy it - I couldn't look it straight in the eye. I didn't want to. And anyway, why *would* you enjoy doing sexual things with someone you don't find sexually attractive and have no desire for sexual contact with?
But in amongst the "meh," there were definitely a few occasions where I was really not comfortable with what was going on. I guess if you take your experiences as the black on the greyscale of what is and isn't ok, then my experiences were grey, and sometimes a rather darker shade of grey.

I think it sometimes *is* regrettable to learn things the hard way. Not because of beating yourself up about it, though. Sure, if you make a mistake, and have to learn something the hard way, then fine - you were responsible for this mistake, and you bear the consequences.

I think it's sad when you have to learn something the hard way because someone *else* made the mistake, but you're the one who has to bear the consequences.


I was trying to remember how things were with this experience of mine, and read through a few emails, and when I come across things like the following:

"When Pete heard how old you were, he said “Oh, be careful”, but he knows how mature you are, and I think he thinks we have an intellectual relationship..which we do, of course. (Well, on your side, at least!!)"

plus me writing things like
"are you sure I'm old enough for that kind of thing?" and
"just remember than anything at all is a hugely bigger deal for me than it is for you.", etc.

I really can't help but feel like I was exploited. He didn't think about what I wanted. He wanted something and he took it.

But what are you supposed to do, other than accepting yourself and the way you behaved, and then just living with it, even if it makes you sad? Or is that just it? That's really terrible though ... not for me, because my experience was about 0.00001% of what other people have experienced, and I can deal with it, but for people who really get dealt a bad hand in life, so bad that they *can't* deal with it ...

So I guess I just deal with it, and try and get a positive outcome by using the strength that I have to help others that can't deal with things on their own.

But I guess you know that - it's pretty much what you do for a living! [Smile]

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palm09
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(Along with educating people so as to avoid these situations ever happening, I should say. Not that I should have been so presumptuous in the first place as to tell you what you do for a living!)

And thanks breath, good to know that I'm not the only person getting something out of this exchange. [Smile]

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Heather
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For sure, I hope you realize I put out there what I did about my experiences based on what you asked, and not meaning to put out some kind of yardstick. Clearly, those experiences of mine and this one of yours were very different things, even if they're both examples of something that is sex for someone else, but not for us, which is sounding more and more like that was the case for you with your experiences with this person.

I agree, it absolutely sucks when learning things the hard way is more about -- or totally about -- someone else's choices for us than our own choices. For a lot of reasons, but one is that when it's not our choice, or less our choice, we get to learn less that's rich because we own less of what happened.

I also don't think it's helpful to try and create any kind of scale where we universally quantify people's life experiences as awful-to-good, because the way people experience things and process them varies so much, that two people can go through the exact same thing and experience it very differently; have it impact them very differently. Again, I don't see a use for comparisons here. You are clearly, and validly, very upset with what happened, and finding you're having a hard time dealing with some of it. That's really all we need to know, you know?

I think we're at the point in this conversation where it makes sense to start talking about HOW to process and deal with this and how to move forward.

Can I ask if you can think of anything (or things) you think you might need or would be useful to you in working more of this through so you can move forward, including in the relationship you're enjoying so much right now?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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palm09
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Point taken re experiences potentially meaning different things to different people, and trying to compare individual experiences to some kind of external absolute scale. It's just difficult though, because if you only listen to your own voice, it's often hard to keep a sense of perspective. Sometimes our hearts and brains skew things, and tell us things that aren't quite right. Mine does, anyway - and then that's when I try to see myself from the outside in rather than from the inside out. I guess making comparisons is useful, but only up to a point.

So, anyway. My boyfriend and I read through this whole conversation together last night, and then we talked about it. I'm glad he and I are on the same page now. Funny how things that seem like a huge mountain of a problem often become rather small molehills once they're out in the open.

I'm not really sure how to proceed with working through this. I'm kind of feeling ok about it at the moment. Maybe that means I've processed what happened, at least for now? I don't really know! There isn't anything that I'm really fighting with, or not that I can identify right now.

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Heather
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I think it is so fantastic you shared what you needed to with your boyfriend by just sharing this whole conversation. What a great way to communicate all of this and talk together. Brava!

I'm also glad that it sounds like you're feeling really good about that. What a wonderful thing to wake up to!

I think the only way we can really evaluate what we need is in the moment. So if, for now, you're feeling like you're in a good place and don't need extra help around this, you know what your own needs are. You might stay feeling that way, or there might be times you feel differently. If you ever want any more help with this, or find you need something else around it, you get to ask for that help, whether it's here or elsewhere. [Smile]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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palm09
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Feeling better about things, for sure.

I think I might lay this one to rest for now. Rather than focussing on ghosts from my past which no longer affect anything in my present, I think I'll spend that energy on the wonderful relationship I have now.

I think I found some words for how I feel about this thing, which is what I wanted to do. Thanks so much for being a sounding board while I did that. And thanks for the fantastic resource you offer here at Scarleteen - you guys are just great!

- with warm appreciation and good vibes all the way from Oz [Smile]

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