After many disturbing and some traumatic sexual experiences, it was difficult for me to allow real intimacy for a long time. I was very lucky that in my last relationship, I found a partner with whom I could safely explore my sexuality and slowly let go of a lot of anxiety, fear and guilt that had been part of my sexual life until then. I am incredibly thankful for that, but this still was only the first step on a long path that I have yet to walk.
In the past months, I was blessed to meet countless beautiful male human beings with pure and open hearts and good intentions, where everything could, but nothing had to happen. I’m especially thinking about The Art of Sex Festival here, which I have written about shortly already. For four days, a safe space was created by all of us, in which everyone could share their fears and desires without being judged and instead being comforted and embraced. In this safe space, it was possible to hug, kiss and touch each other, also with erotic connotation, without any strings attached. Meaning, for example, that I could be blindfolded and kissed and touched by a guy after giving my consent to this, and then this experience would end – just like that! No sex! No penetration!
This was a radically new experience for me – to be able to trust a relative stranger so much without this trust being betrayed. To set boundaries and see them being respected to the fullest extent. To be able to explore my sexuality and play around with a relative stranger, without always fearing that sooner or later I would be talked or even forced into doing something I didn’t really feel like doing.
Like many other things, my way of approaching sexuality and the opposite sex changed after these beautiful experiences during Art of Sex. I found myself saying No a lot more often, and still was amazed when this No was actually accepted. (And truly accepted, rather than tolerated with a comment of some sort.) I found myself even more reflecting on what I actually wanted in a sexual encounter and, most importantly, immediately expressing my thoughts or feelings and asking the same from my respective partner.
This atmosphere of trust and love I found again during the Healing Rainbow Gathering a few weeks ago. It’s really hard to put into words, but I’m trying my best: Contrary to how I mostly experience it in “normal” society, here it didn’t really matter to me whether I was talking to a man or to a woman. There were no obvious flirtations and not even the slightest hints of boundary crossings. Instead, there was a lot of respect, a lot of openness, a lot of love. Maybe I’m idealizing now, but I feel like I didn’t encounter a single person on this gathering with bad intentions for their surroundings.
Thinking back now it’s amazing to me that it was possible for two girls, Kate and me, to go and each sleep in a hotel room with a guy we had met only one or two days before and be absolutely sure that our trust wouldn’t be taken advantage of in any way. Thinking back now, it’s amazing for me that it was possible to form a relationship to the opposite sex simply based on friendship, respect and pure love, with no strings attached. That it is possible to sleep in the same bed and maybe even cuddle with a man I met only some hours or days ago without him expecting to put his fucking dick inside me.
And I think this is incredibly sad. It is incredibly sad that my past experience has very much shown me that this is usually not possible at all.
So, coming from this beautiful and loving Rainbow experience, I continued practicing this openness and kind of naturally expected that my surroundings would do the same. For the most part, this even was the case – my last couchsurfing host Giada was super open and we shared a lot, cutting right through the bullshit. And during my night out in Sevilla, I met a super cute guy, who invited me to stay at his place if I decided to visit Sevilla again. But in the end, he never answered my message asking whether I could actually stay with him over the weekend. This made me a bit sad – why invite someone and then not even answer this person’s message? Doesn’t make sense to me.
But anyway. I had very briefly talked (about how capitalism is the root of all evil – this was at the height of my Spanish skills that night, lol) to another guy, who also invited me to stay at his place near Granada if I decided to go there. And he did answer when I asked him again the next day whether I could visit, so I went to Granada a few days ago. He even picked me up from the place I got dropped off and I was super happy and thankful for having met yet another open human being.
He offered that we could either drive right back to the village outside of Granada, where lived, and go to sleep soon, or we could go for some beers and tapas in the city and then sleep in his van. I was in a very content and equanimous state and said I was fine with whatever he preferred (something I wouldn’t have been able to say at all not to long ago, as my ex can very much bare witness of :D), so we went for beer and tapas in the city.
After looking for an okay space to park for almost an hour, we had already quite exhausted both our vocabularies – my Spanish is still very basic, and his English was as well. But I think this was not the only reason he looked at his phone for most of the time that we spent in the three different bars that we went to – I think he was just not as open as I had thought he was. I could feel a sadness and lots of worries coming from his presence, and in a last attempt to break his endless staring-at-his-phone, I expressed this and asked what was on his mind – it didn’t really help.
Even though he had been the one who wanted to go out in the first place, he soon said he was tired and wanted to go back to the van and sleep. This was also fine for me and on the way back, I tucked my arm into his, partly because it was cold and partly just because I liked him and wanted to communicate some of my positive energy towards him in a non-verbal way.
Back in the van, he already wished me a good night and closed his eyes while I was still writing some lines in my diary. After climbing into bed myself, I cuddled up to him because it was freezing and he was already super warm under the blanket.
I feel like I have to stress at this point that this was not an erotic cuddle at all and we were both fully dressed. Also, there had been no erotic advances at all between us – nor the night we met in Sevilla, neither throughout this evening, nor from his side, neither from mine. He surely was an attractive guy and I did compliment his well-defined arms (he’s an acrobat), but I wasn’t really looking for a sexual adventure and thus certainly didn’t flirt with him. And the most peculiar part for me is that he certainly didn’t flirt with me or in any other way indicated that he was sexually interested in me.
So, I was quite baffled when he suddenly asked, in the dark van:
“So… what do you want from me?”
I answered honestly:
“Uhm, like… nothing really? Why do you ask?”
“Well, you come here to sleep in my van, like this…
[I suppose he referred to the cuddling]”
It was really hard to communicate with our respective basic vocabularies about this topic, especially in the dark. It was also hard for me to decipher his somehow suggestive questions and to find out what he actually wanted when he instead asked me what I wanted – because I didn’t want anything at all, I was fine with how things were. It was hard for me to communicate with someone who obviously did not openly share what he wanted – or maybe didn’t know what he wanted.
So, at one point I asked:
“Well, do you want to have sex with me?!”
“I don’t know” and kissed me.
I tried to explain that I would be fine with some kissing and touching, but didn’t really want to have sex as in penetration. He said that he understands, so we started kissing and touching each other. But it felt strange right from the start, because there hadn’t been any signs for this beforehand, and because it was completely dark, so I couldn’t see his reactions to anything I was doing. He didn’t seem to care about that and very soon I found his penis in my hands. I felt that this was going in a direction I didn’t enjoy anymore and thus said that this was going a bit too fast for me and that I wanted to stop.
There was a bit of a back and forth at this point and we were again struggling with the language. I could tell that he was going to try and penetrate me soon. And knew that this would be it, that this was his idea of sex.
I tried to explain to him that this is not how I like to have sex and that almost all the pleasure will be on his side. He reacted with rubbing his erected penis against my leg.
In this moment I thought:
Now this is it again.
Maybe you’ll enjoy it after all.
I went for the second option.
And I indeed did enjoy it for the full three minutes it lasted.
* I highly recommend you to read the linked article, ‘Women are having sex out of politeness and that’s got to stop’ and the short story it refers to, ‘Cat Person’. It radically changed the way I look at my past and present sexual experiences.
I’m quite sure I survived this particular case of sexual coercion without trauma, and now writing about it helps a lot too. I can share this story because I’m not ashamed anymore to talk about this – because I know that almost every woman has experienced something similar at least once in her life, but probably more often. I have also shared this story with Kate already, who experienced similar disillusioning encounters with the opposite sex since she left the Rainbow.
Knowing that we are not alone in this – as in all the other traumas we suffer from – is crucial to overcome and heal them.
I also don’t feel anger towards this guy, who on the next day continued looking at his phone, but in the end made a big effort to organize for me to stay with a (female) friend of his, who usually hosts workaway volunteers, without me even asking for it. Instead I’m still trying to figure out what was going on in his head. The best theory I could come up with is the following: For him, the only logical reason for me to come and stay with him was that I wanted to have sex with him. He wasn’t particularly attracted to me, but since I was a woman and so freely offering myself sexually to him, he probably thought he might as well seize the opportunity and blow off some steam. (Because if he was in fact sexually attracted to me, he did a sensational job in hiding it, lol.)
The funny thing is that I probably would have wanted to have sex with him if he had started talking about it. But this way it was just really weird and sad – at least for me.
I wonder how he feels about this now. I wonder if he is so out of touch with himself that he doesn’t realize that he crossed my boundaries to satisfy his needs, and his needs only. I wonder if he will keep this memory as a positive one, or if after some time he will feel a bit dirty and ashamed about taking advantage of my openness and pure intentions.
My point being: All of this could’ve been resolved or avoided with some basic open communication.
A prerequisite for being able to communicate openly, though, is to be in touch with your feelings, needs and desires. Since I’ve only been connecting to my feelings, needs and desires very recently (and am still learning), I know very well that this is easier said than done. It needs a lot of work and courage to be able to open up to others and share what’s really on your heart and mind. Yet it is so much needed…
What did I learn from this experience?
I learned that the world is not a Rainbow Gathering – yet 😉
What did I not learn from this experience?
I didn’t learn to be more careful or to be less “naïve” – this would mean blaming myself for this case of sexual encroachment, like I have done many times before.
I say it should be possible to be invited by a guy you have briefly spoken with about capitalism as the root of all evil and go out for beer and tapas without any goddamn strings attached. I say it should be possible to encounter the opposite sex without having to be afraid right from the start that the guy just wants to get into your pants.
What I wish for is a world in which people of the opposite gender can meet on fair grounds, without expectations or fear. A world based on respect, love and kindness. This, I have learned, starts with respecting and loving ourselves, and thus getting back in touch with ourselves, our feelings, needs and desires.
Only when we love ourselves, we are able to extend this love without any strings attached.
Only when we truly love and respect ourselves,
we can truly love and respect others.