February 18, 2014

Big deal

 I met a guy freshman year and was instantly hooked. He was exciting, he was funny, and he liked me. Sometimes he would tell me my taste in music sucked or that I was no fun, but it didn’t matter because I liked him. I liked him a lot.

A few years later, we started dating. He told me that in the meantime, he had been with other girls. I was surprised and felt humiliated and deceived. But it didn’t matter because I was completely enamored with him.

I had only dated one guy before him. And we had never had sex. I had always wanted to share that experience with only one person: the person who would commit the rest of their life to me. It was something that was sacred, and special, and so deeply intimate that I when it happened, I wanted to be sure that I was with the guy that deserved to be so profoundly familiar with me, my body, and my heart. It was a very big deal.

One night after an evening of drinking and dancing, we went back to his room to sleep. We had had a great time. I was drunkenly happy and happily exhausted.

But then, he just went for it. Sex, I mean. Without saying a word. It just started happening. I was shocked because I thought he knew I wasn't ready. I started crying uncontrollably. I didn’t know what to do. I hadn’t agreed to this.

He eventually stopped and the next morning, he apologized. I forgave him.

My grandma had once told me that when the Spanish came to India, to convert the Hindus into Christians they would put pieces of meat in the drinking wells. When the Hindu people found out that they had been drinking from these wells, they would feel as if they were no longer vegetarians…no longer Hindu. So, they would convert. I felt the same way about what had happened that night. It was done and there was no turning back. But maybe it didn’t matter so much because I was in love with him.

We developed a sexual relationship that went on for nearly a year after we broke up. I knew that having sex meant so much more to me than it did to him. I felt overwhelmed by how ardently I adored him and so much grief when I felt uncertain as to whether the feeling was mutual. So even if I didn’t feel good about it, I let it happen. I believed he knew what effect sex had on me, and I believed that he wouldn’t misuse it and hurt me. I trusted him. Sometimes he would refuse to kiss me, and sometimes he wouldn’t wear a condom even though I had asked him to. But it didn’t matter because I was so attached, I wanted him back so much, and I didn’t want to disappoint him.

We tried to be friends. I felt jealous and replaced when he spent time with other girls, but that’s how break ups go. It just felt too ridiculous to discard such a close relationship. After all, we had had sex. None of my friends liked him or the way he treated me. I almost always blamed it on myself, or came up with some excuse for him. But yesterday after being blown off and left a crumbling mess for the umpteenth time, I decided that his behavior mattered. Even though sometimes he was nice and thoughtful, it still mattered that he was also inconsiderate and rude. Even though I made my own share of mistakes in our relationship, it mattered that he made me feel small and useless. And every time we had sex when I didn’t want to, it should have mattered.

Getting through such a massive disruption of my personal values and such a deep betrayal of trust has made me a much stronger person today. But I realize now that a lot of my pain could have been avoided if I had valued myself and my feelings more and earlier on. I have never been comfortable sharing anything about my sex life with anyone, but I feel strongly about any effort to increase awareness of these kind of violations. It’s personal. If these sentiments resonate with you at all, I implore you never to discount yourself. It is a big deal. You are a big deal.

[Note from the editor: This is one of the many anonymous anecdotes and survey responses collected for the dx/dt project that were not used in the film. They are being posted here as contributions to the discussion of sexual violence, relationship abuse, and stalking in the MIT community. Thank you to all of the authors of these posts for your willingness to speak out.]