I must have been sixteen. I had befriended a girl who I’ll call Kayla. We had the type of adolescent female friendship that bordered on obsession and was predicated on reckless teenage risk-taking. Together, we drank, smoked a ton of weed out of pipes we fashioned from tin cans, and navigated the rocky terrain of sex with the dusty misfit boys in my hometown.
Most weekends, we would go to Kayla’s house, invite over a small group of people, and all drink from a water bottle I would fill with whatever assorted alcohols I could steal from my parent’s liquor cabinet. Often it was a horrifying mix of cheap vodka, tequila, cachaca, and wine. We would all pass it around, chase it with room temperature orange juice, and play spin the bottle. As we became drunker and drunker, we would all make out for longer and longer durations. It often evolved into a weird semi-orgy (god, high school) until couples would split off and continue their escapades in different rooms.
One night, I ended up in a separate room with my friend Max. He was sweet, troubled, older than me. We wrote poetry together in the same after school club. I didn’t especially want to hook up with him, but I wanted that priceless social capital that came with hooking up with anyone. These nights were sort of designed for the acquisition of that capital anyway. We made out in a sleeping bag on the floor. He took of my shirt, and I realized I didn’t want to be there. It was cold in the room, but too hot in the sleeping bag, and we were both sweating. I objected in my head, but not out loud.
He unhooked my bra. I said, “Oh, um.” He giggled and said “shhhh,” with a finger to his lips. He put his hand down my pants and I said, “Don’t, please,” in a voice that was panicked but still trying to be cute. In retrospect, it occurs to me that in my refusal, I was still trying to be seductive. I didn’t know how else a woman should be. He stopped, looked at me, and rolled off me. “It’s okay,” he said, “I can’t really picture you having sex anyway.” I asked why. He said, “When you have sex, you have to do a lot of weird stuff. You have to act like an animal. It’s embarrassing, and I know you. You’re embarrassed by everything.” It was cruel, but in a weird way, he wasn’t wrong. As a teenager, just existing as a person in the world was painful for me. I was a virgin, and it made me more scared than ever of sex.
In that moment, sex transformed before my eyes from something mysterious and wonderful, something I was eager to do with the right person, into something humiliating. I was, somehow, fundamentally too anxious for sex, too uptight. It fucked me up until I did lose my virginity. I played that sentence, “you’re embarrassed by everything,” over and over in my
head during every hookup for years.
*names have been changed in this story to maintain anonymity.