Content Warning: this post contains details of a sexual encounter where consent was not enthusiastically given.
The recent story about Aziz Ansari got me thinking about a sexual encounter I’d put from my mind. Reading Grace’s story brought it all flooding back. I think it’s a powerful story, not just because of Aziz Ansari’s personal politics being (publically at least) pro-feminism, but because so many women can relate to it. I wouldn’t be surprised if most women have, at some point, been in a situation where they felt obligated to perform a sexual act that they didn’t really want to do. Sometimes there’s so much expectation laid on our shoulders it makes it feel impossible to get out of the situation. Here’s what happened to me.
I was 19 or so, and studying for my undergraduate degree. Some band that I liked was coming to play the town, and I had tickets for me and my best friend. Unfortunately, something came up, and my friend cancelled her visit to me the night before the gig. None of my new uni friends liked the kind of music I liked, and I didn’t really want to bring someone to the gig that would ridicule it or pull a face and not enjoy it.
There was this guy I knew, he was a friend of a friend really, I’d only met him a handful of times. We’d spoken online a bit and shared music occasionally. He was in a band, and back then things like that impressed me (I’ve been serenaded too many times to think it’s impressive anymore). He lived in another city, but it wasn’t too far away, so I send him a message asking if he would like to come to the gig with me. I said he could sleep on the floor of my dorm room.
To be honest, I didn’t really expect him to come. Like I said, I didn’t know him that well. I was a bit surprised when he jumped at the chance, and was really enthusiastic about the gig. I didn’t have any romantic feelings towards him, but I did think he was cool (the whole semi successful band thing, and being knowledgeable about music), and I probably wanted to impress him.
This part is important. I knew that he was straight edge. It was another one of those things that made him cooler on the punk scene. I thought being straight edge meant no alcohol, no drugs, no casual sex. Those were the rules I thought this guy lived by. I myself was far from straight edge, liking to indulge in all of the above regularly. I realised later that it was my perception of him as straight edge that lead me to be in a situation that I didn’t see coming.
He arrives, and it’s a bit awkward but okay, we don’t have a brilliant connection, but we chat in a friendly way. Anyway, we go to the gig, and because he is sober, I stay sober. I drink so much coke that I’m probably a little giddy from the sugar. I enjoy the bands, and so does he, and he’s being very complimentary about the headlining act. I didn’t think much of this, I thought he must just genuinely like them, but now I wonder if that was an attempt at flirting. Other than that there is no flirtations that I notice. We don’t touch each other at all. Not even a hug. I have a lot of respect for him, but I am not sexually attracted to him. There’s no spark, and I don’t think I’m on a date. I think I’m hanging out at a gig, with a new-ish friend.
We go back to my dorm room. All it has is a single bed, a sink, and a desk. I have a single blow up mattress that I use for visitors. We’re just sitting on my bed, backs up against the wall and the main light it on. It’s weird, this was a decade ago, but I still distinctly remember the light being on because of how odd I found what happened next. There I was, in the bright light, stone cold sober, talking to someone about a gig whilst casually wondering what time he’ll go to sleep and whether I should put something to watch on my computer. Suddenly he unzips my hoody and is shoves his lips against mine in an urgent and aggressive attempt to make out.
I was so blindsided by the whole thing. I just did not see it coming. Particularly for his first move to be unzipping my hoody. I had a t-shirt on under it, so it wasn’t like he exposed my breasts or anything, but it still was a very fast move to go from not even touching my hand to making it very clear that he wanted me to undress. I remember thinking that I wasn’t enjoying being kissed, and that it was really bright. Mostly I was confused.
The confusion quickly subsided to the blinding realisation that we had probably been on separate pages since I sent him the message inviting him down. He had definitely come here because he thought he would get laid. The “no casual sex” must not be part of his personal straight edge philosophy. I felt incredibly awkward. I felt I couldn’t send him away because there was no way for him to get home and nowhere else for him to sleep, other than in my room.
I can’t remember exactly what happened. I remember not being turned on at all, and not feeling anything for him. I also remember that he didn’t talk to me at all. He didn’t ask if anything was okay. He didn’t compliment me, or ask if anything felt good. To be honest, I don’t remember him being that in to my body at all. What I do remember is it being dark (I must have insisted on turning out the light), him straddling my chest and putting my hand on his penis. I then gave him a handjob and he came on my chest and face, almost completely silently. I remember how watery his cum was, and wondering if it was because he didn’t eat enough protein (that’s how not in to it I was). The next day I took him in to the city center and he left. We never mentioned what had happened.
I think the reason I did a sex act with him, even though I was not sexually interested in him at all, was that I felt socially trapped by the situation. As soon as it was made abundantly clear to me that he was expecting a sexual interaction, I could not think how to get out of it. I honestly felt like it would be rude of me to tell him to fuck off. I felt inexplicably confused; I had felt safe in my (false) knowledge that he didn’t have casual sex. Consent was not enthusiastically given. I more just numbly went along with things.
I think it would have been more difficult if he had tried to do more things to my body, other than undress it. Afterwards I was not an upset mess, but I had no interest in seeing him again. I think that says a lot. I subconsciously knew he shouldn’t have put me in that situation, but consciously I didn’t feel too much about it. I never invited him to see me again, and I stopped talking to him online. I did see him again a year or so later, drunk at a music festival (he’d given up trying to be straight edge at all), but we didn’t interact much.
I’m not sure how to unpack this experience. It’s foggy in my mind. I know that as my older, wiser self, it is unlikely to happen. But that has less to do with my own personal strength of character, and more to do with life experience guiding me not to get in to that situation again. Not living in a dorm room certainly helps. I thought I could treat him the same way as my friends. That fact that it all went wrong when I tried to left me with no social script to follow. If he’d been grabby / flirtatious at the beginning of the night, I would have gently let him know I wasn’t interested. I had plenty of experience and tools to use that allowed me to do that.
I just wish I had the tools to tell him to stop kissing me and get off my bed when it first happened. That is why conversations about consent are so important. If he had understood that consent should be enthusiastically given, he would have thought to ask and would have understood ( and cared) that I wasn’t in to it. It wouldn’t have happened.
The question that still haunt me today is this: did he know full well what he was doing? Did he purposely lull me into a false sense of security in the hope that I’d be too polite to reject him when the time came? I like to think that he didn’t. That perhaps he was just shy and didn’t know how to flirt, and thought that me inviting him to sleep in my room (if not my bed) was indication enough that I wanted to be sexual with him. But then I think, would a shy man put my hand on his cock without even talking to me? Maybe.
I will never know what was going through his head that night. All I do know, is that a weird night, when this guy I thought had no interest in sex came on my face, has been brought back to me 10 years later because of Aziz Ansari.