*For the sake of protecting identities, and the fact I still live in fear of her presence, her name in my story will be Jesse.
A few years back, Jesse and I met online on OKCupid. I had used OKCupid ever since 2010, both as a haven for friends and for dating. We had very similar interests and an equal amount of differences; we both enjoyed the same music artists but we had different tastes in movies, we matched very well on social issues but disagreed on economic policies. In other words, she was similar to me in a good amount of ways but also was different enough to intrigue me, and for this reason alone I found myself quite drawn to her. She was well-spoken. Her hair was dyed in different colors. She spoke in a squeaky voice when trying to be cute. She smiled sheepishly when looking at me. She was tiny and plus-sized. Her smile was a bit crooked and she would blink a lot the first few times we talked. I thought it was charming. We talked every day after the first time we met, and even though she was dating someone else at the time, she broke up with him and began dating me instead. It was one of those stories you see in movies, where the main character makes many sacrifices to be with the one they love.
They embrace as the sun sets.
They passionately kiss.
This is the story of one such person I fell in love with deeply.
This is also the story of the same person who raped me and abused me for over a year.
I was very early into my twenties.
The thing is, when you’re a young adult with anxiety issues and a fear of sudden changes, it becomes a little difficult to solidify exactly what you want; from yourself, from your friends, from your family, and, in this case, your relationships.
“What do I want from a partner?” I asked myself all the time.
We want them to be nice, to be somewhat like us, to be exciting, to be attractive in our eyes, and to awaken feelings from within our hearts.
I know that people are programmed differently, but in my case, I tended to fall hard for different kinds of people. Sometimes suddenly. I become blinded in my feelings, and it becomes difficult to see the bad in them.
It becomes difficult to see the bad in them.
I still identified as a cis boy at the time we began dating; this was long before I knew anything about gender non-conformity and queer culture. I had been in about six relationships since I was fourteen. and I was a virgin. I knew nothing about sex and intimacy, nor did I particularly care to pursue it. I knew in my heart that if sex was to be available, I would want my partner to be comfortable first.
One hot June morning, I was lying down in bed next to Jesse. In my half-awake state, I felt her hair brush softly against my neck. She smelled like Victoria’s Secret perfume, and she was still a bit sweaty from her walk to my house.
“Babe, I have an idea,” she said.
“What is it?”
“We should have sex.”
This is me attempting to re-awaken repressed memories, so I apologize for any inconsistencies.
At first, I refused, primarily because I used to fantasize about building something heavily emotional first and consider sex within a few months. But I also refused because I didn’t have condoms. She cared nothing for either.
“I just got off my period,” she said.
She then mentioned the “rhythm method”, a method of practicing “safe” sex by restricting penetrative sex to certain times in a menstrual cycle. Of course, I kept saying no, and she spent an entire hour and a half googling statistics on how effective it is, all the while gaslighting my feelings on sex. She wore me down eventually by saying “Don’t you love me, Kai? If you love me, you’d make love to me.”
I somewhat recall saying, “If I promise to sleep with you, will you stop asking me?”
She then responded, “Yes. Don’t worry. I’m on the pill.”
After the deed was done, I found myself lying next to her and she whispered, “I’m not on the pill. But trust me. We’re fine.”
I couldn’t believe it. I proceeded to scream, cry, and break all of the lamps in my room, and rip my pillows apart. Jesse screamed in fear and left the room yelling “YOU ARE CRAZY, YOU KNOW THAT? YOU ARE GODDAMN FUCKING INSANE AND YOU NEED TO CALM DOWN.”
Hours later, I went downstairs in my house to find her reading, and we immediately kissed and apologized to each other.
The only thing I regret in this situation was failing to tell her that what she did was wrong.
At the time I couldn’t figure out why I believed she was wrong.
At the time I thought I was “crazy” and “overreacting.”
This is coming from someone who has spent their entire life being told they’re overreacting.
It didn’t end there.
As all negative things start, they snowball and hit harder the more often they happen.
I can recall almost every single time we slept together mostly because she would constantly pressure me into it. She would create any weapon she could to get me to sleep with her. She would get me intoxicated. She would create a barter system. She would do nice things for me and ask for it in return. She would question my masculinity. She would even use her religion to guilt me.
Why can’t you sleep with me more than once a month?
My friends’ boyfriends fuck them like six times a week. Why can’t you?
I cleaned your fucking room. You’re a goddamn mess.
God says sex is sacred. If you love me, you’d have sex with me.
You don’t even have a job to pay for dates. The least you could do is fuck me.
I thought you loved me. Don’t you love me?
Don’t you want me to feel good?
Are you sure you’re not gay?
You always invite me in your home when your parents aren’t around. I thought you wanted to have sex.
If I had any answers to any of these questions, Jesse:
Over time I became tired of sleeping with someone I always had to be pressured to sleep with, so I would do everything possible to kill my sex drive.
I would watch porn and masturbate a number of times before going to see her.
I avoided aphrodisiacs.
I drank enough to be completely dizzy when we were at parties.
I pretended to have fetishes that she was not into.
There came a point in my life where I just couldn’t stand the idea of sleeping with her, because that would be the only time she would ever look at me with loving eyes.
During times when we did sleep together, I would turn her around and imagine other people.
The sad thing is, she wasn’t only sexually abusive.
I was fired from a number of jobs because I would wear long-sleeve shirts to hide my bruises, and refused to take them off.
There was even a time when Jesse and I had a very heated argument, I forget what it was about, but I stormed off, tripped over a remote, and it hit her in the face. She looked at me with such rage. I begged forgiveness and apologized numerous times, only for her to scream and attack me with her fists.
As she punched me repeatedly, I raised my arms up, and hugged her, pinning her arms to her sides.
“Please stop,” I begged. I cried and begged her to stop. I cried hysterically as she attempted to bite me. I collapsed to the floor, and even though she hit me a few more times, I didn’t react to it. I couldn’t.
My parents arrived and the door opened downstairs. She immediately stopped and hugged me. “Don’t say anything,” she said. I had to concoct a story about a movie we were watching and how sad it made me. I could go on forever about every single instance she has ever assaulted me, sexually or physically, but it’s the same thing. It all kind of blurs together and it becomes all too blurry to differentiate.
I didn’t just let this happen all the time. I asked friends for help.
They said that I had to man up.
Some asked how it’s possible for a male person to be raped by a woman.
Some insisted that I’m staying in it, so it’s my fault.
At this point, I can see how simple it is to ask, “Why didn’t you just leave?”
There are many answers to that, depending on the relationship. I can refer to an endless list of articles and profiles that go deeply in detail on why victims stay with their abusers. But I have my own answer for this case.
I stayed because I believed she was good. I believed that she was capable of being the beautiful person I wanted to see her as.
And she was.
She had her beautiful moments.
Whenever I was sick, she would come over and take care of me.
She would pay for hotel rooms so we would pretend to be a married couple living together.
She would take me out for dinner at lovely restaurants; for the longest time I used to think that TGI Friday’s was the height of food luxury.
She would kiss me and hold me when I was at my lowest.
She would hold my hand in big crowds.
And most importantly, she was the first person to tell me that she loved me and think that she meant it.
She’s not an evil person.
She was just flawed.
She needed help.
With that said, one problem about addressing rape culture is how quick we are to dismiss rapists as monsters; beings that we cannot relate to for their monstrous behavior. Good amounts of people still perceive rapists to be the trenchcoat-wearing stranger in an alleyway who rips women’s clothing in the night. Statistics obviously show otherwise; rapists tend to be our loved ones. I can understand why it’s hard to believe when we all grew up thinking that rapists are strangers who attack us in the night.
Then there are people like Brock Turner and Bill Cosby. People who have societal power and several people defending them saying, “No, they’re nice people they would never do such a thing. I know him better than that. I won’t believe it.”
There needs to be a middle ground; an understanding that rapists are people. No, Brock Turner’s crime shouldn’t be ignored just because he’s a great swimmer. Of course not. But that’s the deal with Jesse. That’s the message I want everyone to know.
Jesse did many things.
She is my abuser.
As well as my first love.
But what I want everyone to understand is that everyone, absolutely everyone is capable of abuse. Just because someone is sweet to you doesn’t make the case for everyone else. If someone ever speaks forward about such personal issues such as this, it’s best to listen. Rape culture exists in all of us.
It is a monster of many faces.
It is up to us to humanize it and realize that rape is a monstrous act that is committed by people.
And everyone is capable of abuse.
Including those we love.