My Boyfriend Sexually Assaulted Me

The following content may be triggering to those affected by assault.

 

The fact that I had been raped took months to sink in. As ignorant and naive as it may sound, I never thought a significant other could sexually assault me. My definition of rape back then was that it had to be outwardly violent, and that it happened between a stranger and their victim. My assault was passive-aggressive, it was manipulative, and believe it or not, it was soft. 

I remember saying no both times. He was only aggressive the second time around, but it was something I was used to — so it never alarmed me. I found temporary comfort in the thought that we had been consensually rough in the bedroom before, so that moment wasn’t any different.

What confused me the most is how he would ask and beg, but he’d still do whatever he wanted halfway through my responses. 

I loved him and I didn’t have the strength to stop him. Deep down, I knew it was wrong but I perceived him like a beam of light. He had my mom’s phone number, he watched movies with my brother, he went out with me and my friends, he even told me he loved me. So there was no way he had the heart to hurt me like that, right?

I buried both of those experiences in the back of my head for what felt like forever. I was too ashamed to bring it up to him, and even when I found the courage to leave him, too much time had passed. I felt as if there was no point in me confronting him. Not only because it felt like I was re-opening an old wound, but also because I had naturally fallen out of love. I began to build sexual relationships outside of the one I once had with him, so the last thing I wanted to do was think about it. 

Little by little, I began to realize what he had done to me.

Soon after cutting things off with him, I went home with someone I had known for two days. I remember teasing him for asking for my permission to do the smallest of things. From holding my hand to kissing me. I found it sickly sweet, but deep down it comforted me. For the entirety of our night, he’d ask for reassurance on everything he wanted to do, followed by a whisper, “Just let me know if you want to stop.” I loved it, but I couldn’t help but feel saddened at how someone I had dated for nearly two years couldn’t compare to someone I had known for barely two days. 

Even though my assault did not necessarily affect my sex life, it wrecked me in other areas. I have been working on my commitment issues that are tied to long-term emotional trauma in therapy for almost a year now. I’m proud to say that I’ve made a tremendous amount of progress, but I definitely haven’t seen the “other side.”

My confidence and self-worth fluctuate at a comical rate. There are days where I am filled with guilt and I bombard myself with questions like how could you let this happen to you? I know now that I am not at fault for what I went through, but some days it’s just harder to remember that than others. 

When I say my relationship was tainted by two unfortunate events, I don’t ask for pity. It’s simply a fact. I’ve had the hardest time coming clean about this particular issue, mostly because it’s not a pill that’s easy to swallow. To be quite honest, I believe I’ve only told three or four people, one of them being my therapist. I’m a lot stronger and healthier than I was two years ago, but most importantly, I’m educated. 

Any sort of unwanted sexual act that violates consent is considered assault.

It doesn’t matter if the culprit is a stranger, a friend, a family member, or even your partner. Like I mentioned before, I loved my ex-boyfriend with every fiber of my being.

Despite no longer being together, I’m still carrying an array of moments we  shared — both positive and negative. If someone mentions something that reminds me of a date we went on or an inside joke we had, I’m not afraid to mention him in conversation. It’s hard for me to hate him, but I am also not too keen on his memory. 

Would I like to speak to him again? I don’t think so. Part of me feels like we’ve grown too far apart, but aside from that, I’m slowly finding closure within myself, and I am perfectly fine with that. 

 

If you feel as though your boundaries have been crossed, call the RAINN Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.For more information on what consent looks and feels like, click here. 

Photos (in order of appearance) by Willow Gray, Dariana Portes, and Juliet Denbaugh. 

How I Discovered I’m a Love Addict

 

“Hi, my name is Ana. I am a 21-year-old junior in college, and I’m pretty sure I struggle with love addiction,” were the first words to come out of my mouth during my first Sex Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) meeting. 

Realizing that I was love addict was a lengthy process, but finding what triggered it was almost instantaneous.

For almost two years now, I have been conducting a strict, solo-polyamorous lifestyle. Which, simply put, just means “single with multiple partners.” Most of the relationships I am currently in are nothing but casual, and they are based on both sex and friendship. In my head, this pattern seems ideal. I mean, I’m getting all the perks of being in a relationship without having to worry about commitment, having to introduce someone to my family, or wanting to be intimate with someone new.

So why does it hurt so much?

I began to suspect I had some addictive tendencies whenever I would find myself mistaking sexual encounters with a new romantic opportunity. To this day, I crave emotional connection, non-sexual affection, and the feeling of falling for someone. All because it temporarily boosts my perception of self-worth. Unfortunately for me, I oftentimes find myself having sex in order to obtain all of those things. Mostly because it seems to be the easiest and quickest method. Unsurprisingly, all this does is put me in the perfect position to get constantly burned. 

I frequently catch myself putting other people’s needs, specifically those of my sexual partners, before my own.

Although I can admit this is a nice gesture, it is definitely an unnecessary one. I begin to act like “the perfect girlfriend” in order for me to get a glimpse of the perfect boyfriend. Deep down, I’m aware that I could never really hold a genuine romantic relationship with a lot of the men I’m involved with. Yet my mind never fails to overwhelm me with negative emotion whenever these men don’t treat me how I dream of being treated. In the past, I caught myself defending this behavior with “the golden rule” — but I recently discovered it’s rightfully inapplicable in this scenario. 

So, what exactly is love addiction? To be quite frank, I found out about it less than a month ago. In fact, it was hard for me to believe it was a real thing. However, that thought quickly changed after going on an hour-long Google binge which ended on the SLAA website. 

While The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not officially recognize love addiction as a real disorder within the manual, it is considered a behavioral addiction amongst many psychiatrists. Like any other addiction, this particular one provokes compulsive behavior that can lead to self-destructive tendencies: practicing unhealthy habits, having falling-outs with friends and family, and even developing new addictions. 

In my case, I am severely addicted to the rush I get from the disingenuous relationships I’ve developed over the past two years. My symptoms are merely focused around the dependency within romance. My coping mechanisms include finding new partners or contacting old ones, fantasizing about love, restricting my eating, and of course, having sex. 

Though I’m still unsure from where exactly my addiction stems, I am confident that the absent relationship I had with my father growing up, the highly manipulative, age-gap relationship I had with my first love at sixteen, and the sexually and emotionally abusive relationship I had with my most recent ex boyfriend are all contributors. I will not go into detail about what exactly happened in each of those chapters of my life, but I am grateful to be at a place where I am comfortable enough to admit that they happened and that these events still haunt me. 

I’m still having a hard time trying not to blame the people I mentioned before for my current struggle with love addiction. I understand that being angry at them is acceptable, but at the end of the day I know I’m the only one who can improve my life.

In other news, I also have a hard time staying away from sex and the habits that come with my addiction. For example, I only ate one meal yesterday and I spent the entire day crying because I told myself I should try and limit how much I communicate with my current partners.

All I want is the constant reassurance and happiness that stems from a romantic relationship. It makes me feel confident, it makes me feel wanted, and unfortunately, it makes me feel good enough for everyone.I’m still confused as to why I seem to need it from a man I find attractive. But I’m proud to have been brave enough to come to terms with my ongoing problem.

 

 

For more information about sex and love addiction, you can visit Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.

Photos (in order of appearance) by STAA Collective and Francesca Iacono.

 

Emotional Roleplay

I did not seek him out specifically to fill the gap left by the man I have feelings for, and I’m confident he would say the same about his wife and me.

We were friends for years before we ever became intimate. I knew him before he was married, which was ironically around the time I had the craziest crush on his co-worker. Although sexual tension always seemed to linger between the two of us, the lack of communication and moral guilt kept us at an uncomfortable distance.

Still, four months ago we mutually decided to introduce sex into our friendship.

He was in town for work and had asked me out to dinner. I vividly remember being excited to meet up with him as it had been so long since I had last seen him. But, I was also nervous. He had just gotten married, and his co-worker and I were not on speaking terms. I trusted my self control, but I did not want to face any temptations whatsoever. As the night went on, I caught myself flirting a bit, and I noticed that he reciprocated. Sure, I was flattered, but I’d also grow angry every time I caught a glimpse of his wedding ring.

Eventually, I gave in.

Opening up about sleeping with a married man has gifted me an array of feedback. While many perceive it as an intriguing and somewhat erotic scenario, I still have not discovered, let alone understood, the “thrill” behind it. However, my situation is a bit unique.

The married man I occasionally sleep with — who we will call “X” — is in an open marriage. Consensual non-monogamy is encouraged within their relationship under an agreement they constructed. X and his wife are not from the United States, but his work requires him to stay within the country for extensive periods of time. This means that they are not together for the majority of the year.

This coupling system has proven to be successful for them, and from what he has told me, it has kept them sane and happy.

According to their agreement, their marriage is open but not polyamorous. Even though they are allowed to take in new partners, the connections they have with them should not be romantic under any circumstances. At the end of the day, they are each other’s “home base” — and their secondary relationships are only there for temporary companionship and sexual relations.

I truly enjoy spending time with X. Some might say that the nature of whatever we have is not authentic, but I have learned to label it as “untraditional.” Like I mentioned earlier, we were friends before we ever decided to move past that. So, hanging out with him is never awkward. In fact, I feel like it has allowed us to be more comfortable as we open up about our concerns and our relationships outside of the one we share. Currently, I am not in any type of committed relationship.

However, I do have feelings for someone who, unfortunately, lives in a different state. This guy and I have discussed the idea of embarking on a long-distance relationship, but we have both agreed that it would not work due to our tender and emotional natures. This is why we see other people. In my case, I see X here and there.

One of the bittersweet things that I have experienced throughout my relationship with X is the phenomenon that occurs after we are finished having sex. We tend to get overly affectionate — sometimes to the point where it is almost peevish. I won’t lie and say I am irritated by this because, to be completely honest, I look forward to it.

However, sometimes our post-coital dynamic would leave me feeling off. I could tell what he really wants is to be giving and receiving affection from the person he loves, but she is not here. I am only a medium… although, I suppose he is as well.

Though I have an incredible amount of platonic love and respect for X, he provides both physical and emotional support when I cannot get it from the person I truly want it from. X and I have not really ever talked about this, but sometimes body language is enough.

We don’t live in the same city, and when he is in the United States, he is always a plane ride away. As sappy as it may sound, not seeing each other regularly is what keeps our relationship free of any romantic feelings. Either way, I always tend to see him more than I see the guy I truly like. What I’m trying to say is that, ultimately, this arrangement works out for us. Even though X has been a friend of mine for a couple of years now, he has served as a bit of a therapist for the past couple of months. Despite having access to all kinds of therapy, formal and alternative, I have found his sessions to be the most comforting.

Believe it or not, when I am with X, I don’t pretend that he is the man I like. I also don’t picture someone else when I am being intimate with him because I genuinely enjoy his presence. What I have received from this relationship is something I call “emotional roleplay.” We give each other what we wish we were getting from someone else because that person is not with us.

No matter how intimate or cuddly X and I get in bed, I know I will never replace his wife, and I know he will never have any sort of romantic feelings for me. Reversely, I am aware that he will never take the spot of the guy who has my heart, and I am content with that.

When my friends have asked me if I’m happy with X, I always say “yes.” Am I happy with my romantic life? Not really. I wish I could come home to the man I have feelings for every day. I wish I had the ability to drive to my partner whenever I felt like it. I wish I did not have to rely on my phone for intimacy and half-assed romance. Lastly, I genuinely wish he was the only person I was currently involved with. But, it’s simply not realistic… and I’m sure X feels the same way about his marriage.

In the meantime, we help each other.

 

 

Photos (in order of appearance) by Lucia Rosenast, Kate Phillips, and Adyana Covelli. 

 

What I Learned From Sleeping with Older Men

 

At the beginning of the year, I unconsciously embarked on an odd sexual journey: everyone I slept with was six to twelve years my senior.

I got out of my longest relationship back in November of 2017. For me, this meant that after a month of mourning, I chose to go through the stereotypical bucket list every recently-heartbroken RomCom protagonist makes for herself. This, of course, included casual sex.

But the question remained, why was I only devoting my attention towards men in this particular age range?

After stepping into my twenties, I began to look for deeper qualities in potential partners other than “attractive”, “nice”, and “doesn’t hate his parents.” I found myself blocking out every man with a little drive, ambition, or creative output. This, in turn, resulted in me blocking out everyone who was not successful in their field, or had minimal motivation to move up the ladder. Subsequently, I had zero luck finding people my age that I was not only attracted to but also not bored by. I only wanted to be intimate with people I could really click with. So with my own blessing, I began to have sex with “older” men.

“Refreshing” is the first word that comes to mind when thinking about these new interactions. It was nice being able to connect with guys who I found deeply interesting. Guys who knew how to hold a mature conversation, as well as guys who didn’t constantly quote The Office, or play Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap after dubbing it a musical masterpiece. Not to mention, I was awed by their confidence and honesty. And the sex was far better!

Although sleeping with relatively older men benefited me in most ways, it still damaged me in others. I was having a lot of fun, but I also noticed a change in my overall behavior.

As someone who is easily overwhelmed, the aftermath of these encounters drove me insane.

I was genuinely happy for all the guys I was being intimate with, but I couldn’t help but envy them for their professional success, financial independence, and sense of direction. I wanted to feel like I could relate to them in those ways, but as an anxious junior in college, I was only halfway there. Unsurprisingly, this caused me to underestimate my worth for not being able to achieve things that I was perfectly capable of doing, but for which I was simply (and rightfully) not ready.

Though the resulting self-deprecation began long ago, it only started to sting more recently.

Last month, I started sleeping with someone who most wouldn’t hesitate to call “perfect.” Despite this and our capacity to get along well, we were simply at different parts of our lives.

While I opened up about my frustrations regarding final exams, he told me about his duties as a small business owner, how he had to play golf with some clients, or how his friends were either getting married or having kids. Again, this sent me spiraling into unhealthy thoughts, like, Why haven’t I done that yet? It was as if every time I met up with him, I was no longer a girl in her early twenties, but rather, an odd, ageless being, attempting to morph into someone and something she wasn’t.

Putting all of these men’s triumphs on pedestals caused me to undermine my own. I began to doubt my abilities, and despite being happy for the things I was accomplishing, I felt like they were never enough compared to my sexual partners’.

Eventually, I grew sick of placing my partners and myself on a scale. There was nothing fun about going over to their place with a smile on my face, only to return home hours later with tears in my eyes. I became obsessed with the idea of growing up, only because I wanted to feel as fortunate and successful as them. I knew it was unhealthy, but I didn’t know how to stop it. So, I asked for help.

A week’s worth of strenuous healing and a therapy session is all it took for me to get back on track. I was given the tools to realize that being in the 26-32 age range is a beautiful thing, but so is being in your early twenties. Sure, in my case, there’s not loads of financial independence or luxurious job opportunities, but I am still doing well.

Comparing yourself to other people is the worst kind of mental self-infliction, and I had hurt myself everywhere.

I don’t blame my sexual partners for what I went through. They have the right to talk about their lives, and censoring certain aspects of it to please me (or anyone) seems ridiculous and unrealistic. I was just handling the information I was given poorly. I just needed to remember that I have the tools and resources to go as far as they’ve gone. To expect me to be there now, however, is simply unfair.

I do not think on these relationships with bitterness, but rather, with gratitude. If it wasn’t for the raw exposure to their sexual and professional personas, I wouldn’t have come face to face with such difficult thoughts, and thus learned to appreciate my youth, among other things.

I have no idea if I could ever seriously date anyone who falls under the 26-32 category. I now know I am deeply attracted to someone’s passion, dedication, and ability to be a hard worker. As much as I hate to generalize, I haven’t found any of those qualities in men my age.

In a way, I’ve given up on them. I’m sure they’re out there, but frankly, I’m tired of overthinking whether or not it’s acceptable for me to keep my older streak going. I personally see no danger in it, and I’m proud to admit that despite once feeling ridiculously anxious over this situation, I’ve come out a winner.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with searching for those desired attributes, whether it manifests in a serious or strictly physical manner. If the only candidates happen to be older — as well as respectful and genuine — then there’s no harm.

So, should you try sleeping with older men? Only if you really want to (and it is, of course, legal and consensual).

Personally, I learned a lot about myself, but such a revolutionary experience is by no means guaranteed. If nothing else, these men set the bar high. Though it took me a while to find a balance of appreciating their success without comparing it to my own, dating older men did make me realize that I am worthy of a partner who is not only kind, but also diligent and innovative.

Of course, I could’ve done this without the help of a man — it just happened to unravel this way. If you choose to date older, my only advice is to stay grounded. Know that no matter how much you may have in common, some significant differences will always remain. Have fun, while keeping tabs on your mental health.

At the end of the day, there is nothing more important. 

 

 

Giphy by Waywardteacup.

First photo by Sohpie Kubinyi, and the following by Cordelia Ostler.