We all seem to expect that sexual harassment primarily occurs on first dates or at parties, or when a creep hits on someone late at night on a subway or on the street, or maybe even from co-workers or bosses. But it happens in relationships too; we just don’t recognize it as harassment because of our expectations about what relationships are supposed to be.
Here’s how it happened to me.
When I was just a couple of months shy of my 20th birthday, I met my first serious boyfriend. We were both still virgins, and he was eager to lose his virginity; I was not. Nonetheless, after we had been dating for two months, I began to consider having sex with him.
I had a lot of feelings about losing my virginity. I wanted it to be meaningful, to lose it to someone who I was in a committed relationship with, to someone who I loved. At this point I still did not love him, so my proposition was that we at least wait until I turned 20, an age that seemed a lot more “adult” than 19. I set a tentative date for us to do it: my parents were going on vacation a month after my birthday. We could do it then.
Even after I clearly articulated my feelings about my virginity and my ideas about how I would lose it, my boyfriend still pushed me. In one breath he would say that he did not want to make me do anything I did not want to do, and in the next he would complain, moan and quite literally beg me for sex.
“My parents won’t be back for an hour,” he said one day, as I entered his house. “We should do it now.”
“No, we shouldn’t,” I said. “I told you.”
We were going out to spend the day together. “But I want to fool around first,” he said to me. He pulled me into his arms at once, the minute we entered his bedroom. I remember thinking “Ok fine, just a little.” Red flag number one: why do I have to fool around with him anytime he’s horny? At the time my answer to myself was because that’s what boyfriends and girlfriends do.
It was really uncomfortable, mostly because my boyfriend was very, very juvenile. He had a childish fascination with my breasts, and when he pulled up my shirt he said in a ridiculously babylike voice “I just wanna play with em.” It was not a turn on for me.
I was giggling nervously because the whole situation was so ridiculous. If this were just another guy I’d most likely have been angry, but I remember thinking that I should be okay with this and endure it because he was my boyfriend.
I kept telling him that I just wanted to go out. He started pulling my clothes off. Even as I giggled I was saying “No.” Then I got annoyed. He unhooked my bra and I pushed him off me, got up from the bed, and looked in the mirror as I re-fastened my bra.
I turned around and my boyfriend was sitting there with his penis out.
I was offended. And then he started begging – legitimately begging, like a little boy – for a blowjob. I could have laughed at the complete absurdity of the situation. Especially when he started chasing my around his bedroom smacking his penis against my leg.
I told him to put his dick back in his pants. He did, and we went out.
I broke up with him later that month. I began to ponder the idea of sex with him and I didn’t like it one bit. I was not ready for it, especially not with him. I told him that I wanted to still be friends – because I did. And we remained friends for another month after that.
He said to me, on two occasions: “So, we’re still going to have sex, right?”
I wasn’t a girlfriend. I was just someone he was attracted to enough to have sex with – at least that’s how I look back at it. He never treated me in a way that I thought was indicative of someone in a relationship. He never brought me out on a single date or bought me any gifts, little surprises – you know, the things I thought couples do for each other.
I brought him to a Fourth of July party at my friend’s house a month later. We were sleeping over, and things got heated between us again. We were kissing… until I felt him shift underneath the blanket we were sharing. I couldn’t see what he was doing because it was dark, but I had a bad feeling that I knew all the same.
“Is your dick out?”
“Yeah,” he said. I knew at once that even after I told him earlier that day that I did not want to have sex with him that he wanted to have sex tonight. I swore, got up, and walked into the other room.
We both went to sleep in separate rooms. I think he stayed up all night, waiting until he thought I was sober enough to drive, and then shook me awake and demanded that I drive him back to my house, where he had left his car. I had only been asleep for about 3 or 4 hours at this point; it was 7 am. I drove him back to the house in silence. That was the last time I ever saw him.
I have related the story to several people since then, but it was only two months ago that I truly realized that what I experienced was sexual harassment. I was discussing the situation with one of my friends, and I remembered how I had said “NO” time and time again, all to no avail; he still begged. Throughout the whole relationship I had felt manipulated into doing things I was not ready to do or not comfortable doing.
But I endured it because it was my boyfriend – I felt guilty for being so timid. And the worst part is that I don’t think my ex-boyfriend was actively trying to be manipulative.
I think guys can unknowingly shame or guilt girls because of the expectations we all have about the roles that boyfriends and girlfriends play. I was willing to tolerate legitimate sexual harassment – to let him get away with pushing me even after I said the word “no” over and over again – because he was my boyfriend. He didn’t take me seriously even when I said the word because I did not emphatically and angrily say it. I was giggling because I was uncomfortable and nervous, and he took advantage of that.
It does not matter how the girl says it: no means no, end of story. That should be all you need to hear in order to stop. We need to reevaluate our expectations, and how we approach our relationships as a result.
Written by Taylor Morgan