It’s amazing how many years of depression and self-doubt can be traced back to a single conversation that put in motion so much pain, manipulation, confusion, and choices…yes, choices.
I wish my husband could fully understand why I break down in tears when I read stories on this website. Because I can relate, but I don’t feel like I have a right to.
Or how I come home sobbing hysterically because my students were joking around about sexual things and about sexting…because I feel that’s where my heartache started. And yet, my husband encourages me to write, because he knows that sharing the truth, the long truth, will help me feel release.
I was naïve in high school. I had a bunch of guy friends and thought that joking around with the guys, making “that’s what she said” remarks, and making sexual references was normal. And, for many teenagers in society, it is normal. But one action, one thing can trigger so much more. For me it was my senior year when a friend pulled me backstage in our school auditorium and twisted my arm behind my back. He wanted me to admit that I liked him; he “saw the way” I looked at him. I denied and he twisted my arm harder. He almost broke it before I just admitted it so he would let me go. He jokingly slid his hand up my shirt before smirking and walking away. I brushed it off.
Then, things got confusing. He walked up to me a week later and bit my arm to the point it broke skin. I told him the next day to never do it again, and I forgave him because he was only joking. Days later he bites my other arm, piercing my leather jacket, just to make the bruising “symmetrical” on my body. I report it the police officer on campus.
His defense? I asked for it. All of it. Because I was just a slut. I had given the signs I wanted him to hurt me.
To my principal, to the police officer (my family friend), to my teachers, and to me, it became all my fault. I was a slut. They told us to never speak of it again. Walking up to our mutual friends after being dismissed, I am met with anger and questions of “Why did you report him?” “Why did you overreact?” “He was just joking!”
I get home, the phone rings, it’s his mom. She wants to talk to my mom. She tells my ever-loving mother that the daughter she has raised is a slut, a whore. My mom is told she has been living with “blinders on” if she is unable to see what a slut her daughter has become. My mom still has never looked at me the same way.
I begin questioning everything I do. Questioning everything I say. I convince myself that I must subconsciously do things that make me seem slutty. I question everything. My guy friends begin texting me. They seem supportive. For a while. Then, out of the blue, I get my first “dick pic.” My best friend. My hands shake, I quickly delete it. And I respond with, “Haha cool.” (I could’ve made a better choice). He convinces me that I need to send him a picture too. He reminds me of all the times I joked about sex at school. The voice in my head that has been repeating “slut” for weeks, finally changes it’s phrase to “might as well, slut.” I convince myself that by setting some boundaries and just showing a little, I won’t be a complete slut. Over time, my body is all he can talk about. In my vulnerable state, I begin believing that not only am I a slut, but my body is all I’m good for. The inappropriate pictures keep coming and now it’s two of my friends, then three, then four. At school, I just act like the texting, the pictures, the feelings never happen. Until one day, one of them says that I need to come over and make things happen for real. I quickly close the phone. I isolate myself. I just have to make it through a couple more weeks of school, then I’m out of the situation and away from these boys that I fear will one day act on the things they say to me in text.
I go to college in Hawaii, hoping that the distance will make them leave me alone. They continue to text, message, and send pictures. They tell me over and over again how beautiful my body is and how much they just want to appreciate it in pictures. And now the voice in my head says, “That’s all you’re good for.” I go through the first year of college loathing my body. I break down one night and write “slut,” “whore,” “bitch,” “filth,” and haphazard penises all over my body. I jump in the shower scrubbing my skin raw hoping that this symbolic washing will help the pain go away. The pain continues and I become numb.
I look for any opportunity to escape. I decide to go on a mission for my church, and I try to make everything right so that I can go. I leave the country and my cursed phone behind me. The hate is harder to leave behind. Halfway through my mission I become horribly depressed. I start cutting myself and harming myself to try to relieve the emotional pain. I tell my companions that I am depressed and they laugh. Months pass and I lose so much weight that my mission president becomes concerned. He has seen me struggling emotionally. I sit down with him and tell him how depressed I am. He asks me, “Did you make good choices before your mission? Did you live a virtuous life?” And the voice returns, shouting “SLUT.” And now, again, it is my fault that I am here, feeling this way.
I check my email, one month before I return home. One of the boys has found my new email address. Tells me he misses me. I accept that this pain will never end.
After my mission, the messages continue, until I finally start dating seriously and they start getting the hint.
I meet a wonderful man, says all the cheesy pick up lines to make me laugh. We become engaged and I know something is not right. One night I ask him to tell me his deepest, darkest secret. He bows his head and tells me he has been addicted to porn since he was a young teenager. I express to him how much that hurts me and he agrees to give it up for me. I check with him for weeks, check his history, and all seems to go well.
Then, one night, sitting in the living room watching a movie, he moves my hand on to his lap. I feel the bulge through his jeans and my heart sinks. A text message from years ago comes to mind: “If you get a man excited, you’re a bitch if you don’t finish him off.” He slowly slides my hand down his pants and he asks if it’s okay. I numbly say yes. Sitting behind him, my tears begin to flow and the voice tells me again, “This is all you’re good for.” It occurs several more times before one day I finally ask him, “Am I just replacing your porn addiction?” He feels ashamed, begins to hate what he has done, and we agree we need to stop.
It’s been over a year since he gave up porn and a few months since we got married. He tries each and every day to show me how much he really loves me and appreciates all of me. He helps me get through the hard times.
He recognizes he is part of my story and we try to move on.
I made choices; they made choices. I’d like to recognize that some of my choices were a result of others manipulating my vulnerability. I don’t know if my truth truly belongs on this site, but I want peace.
But I still don’t know when the voice inside my head will ever stop saying, “Is sex all I’m good for?”