I tried not to remember it and for years it stayed a dusty memory in a far-flung corner of my mind. Then I read about Aziz Ansari and the “date from hell”. The other stories, so many other stories, first a trickle, then a torrent as they flood every place we know. If many women have been victims of rape, how many more of us – maybe all of us – have at one time inhabited the space where power, desire, domination, and fear have led us. “And your desire shall be for your husband…”
How many of us – all of us? – have looked in the mirror and realized that to the men we know and don’t know, to the men we want to experience intimacy and love with, we are in our essence, a cavity interchangeable with any other. I remember him mumbling to his friend that “they all feel the same in the dark.”
The twisted root of the poisoned tree is this. Do you remember the first time you realized that to a man you were nothing but a hole to be fucked? And every time after? Do you remember the first time that sex was something a man gave you, not something he demanded, cajoled, or manipulated from you? Are you still waiting for that day? Was there ever a time that your pleasure came first?
It’s not a surprise to me that the next wave of #metoo is “really bad sex we pretend to enjoy” and “if I give him a blow job maybe he’ll leave me alone” stories that we women have traded quietly for generations. My grandmother called them “bad dates” when she warned me in high school. So much of what passes for our sexual culture is rotten fruit hanging from the poisoned tree, whose root we have not even found a name for. This twisted root takes hold everywhere that men and women are; that is, everywhere. Even in church. Especially in church.
When I was 23, I met a man named Stephen*. I had finished college and moved to a large urban area for my first real job. I met Stephen on a Catholic young adult chat page where I was spending time, trying to make friends in my new city. We discussed books and music, and he regaled me with stories from his time as a missionary with a popular Catholic missionary program. Having finished his time with them, he was working and looking for friends, he told me, “that shared his faith and values”.
We decided to meet for dinner. Maybe it was a date, maybe just some online friends meeting. Likely some mix of both. We had pizza and talked about theology, and work, and mundane things too. I had worn my best jeans and a velvet blazer in the early fall chill. He was wearing a new shirt, I could tell, and smelled faintly of sandalwood. There was chemistry, but only a few kisses that night. He was a good, Catholic man after all.
I don’t remember which movie, but I do remember how his eyes changed after I said yes. A hunger that I’d never noticed before was suddenly staring back at me as we crossed the threshold of the door. It’s that hunger in those eyes that I remember staring down at me as later, after much pressuring and manipulation, I knelt before him, performing oral sex on this “good, Catholic man” who didn’t seem capable of hearing the reluctance and fear in my voice.
Not when I, worn down from being pressured to take off my clothes, then get on the bed, finally agreed to a blow job, still daring to believe this story could end not in the hot tears of humiliation, but intimacy and maybe even love. He didn’t see the tears forming in my eyes as I knelt there, or maybe he did and it just made him like it more.
Maybe it was just a mistake, and not a deliberate choice to use me like soulless husk, when he reached climax and grabbed my hair, holding me in place, despite my attempt to pull my mouth away. What had I misunderstood in trusting this “good, Catholic man” who had been the star of a missionary scene?
Did I hit him? No. Did I bite, scream, run away? No, I didn’t.
I stayed, and like the good girl I had been trained to be, I obeyed. He was holy, he was someone with a life ahead of him. He was looking for God’s will. And for all I knew, maybe this was the price that had to be paid to keep a “good, Catholic man”.
As far as I knew, he didn’t see anything wrong with what he did, though he remarked casually and with some disdain, “I can’t believe you let me do that. My last girlfriend would slap me.”
Was that what I was supposed to do? Did he say Girlfriend? Is that what it means to be a girlfriend – having the great privilege of being the only woman who is “hole” to him? Is this a privilege or a curse?
I couldn’t have told you what I decided as I put my clothes back on, and washed the remnants of him from my face. I could only tell you I left and never spoke to him again. I changed my number and never returned to the message board. I never told my roommates, friends, or anyone.
And when I met the man who would become my husband six months later – I never told him about it.
After all, I was a good, Catholic girl.
image credit: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1105720