In the online world, chat is everything. But, asks Abi Symons, how much is too much to reveal before you’ve even been on a date?
There are two things you need to know about me before you read this. Firstly, I am a terrible liar. I don’t bother trying anymore because my face, traitor that it is, gives away anything that I’m thinking. It doesn’t benefit anyone to lie anyway. So I don’t do it. I’m not perfect. I have other terrible habits. But I don’t lie.
Secondly, 10 years ago, a month before my 18th birthday, I lost my virginity to a man who was five years older than me and should have known better. He lied to me, manipulated me and eventually after wearing me down, after I had said no repeatedly, he had sex with me anyway.
I’m single (gentlemen, try to contain yourselves) and I’m attempting online dating yet again. A guy and I had been messaging every day for three weeks. We hadn’t met yet because of distance, and two nights before our scheduled date, he was sending me some fairly harmless memes until he sent me this:
A better version of this joke might be: Feminist: This glass will later become the ceiling women bump their heads on trying to get ahead in the workplace. Sure, it’s wordier but at least it’s relevant.
It took me eight years to tell anyone how I lost my virginity. It’s not a nice story and I told my best friend as if it were a normal experience – no one’s first time is good, right? She nearly cried and I didn’t understand why. I wrote about it once after that and then put it away again, back in the box in the back of my mind.
The short version of this story is that I didn’t feel like a victim. I didn’t feel anything. I really enjoy sex and don’t have a traumatic association with it. I didn’t identify it as a rape. It wasn’t violent, I didn’t struggle, he didn’t chase me or tear my clothes and I didn’t scream. But I didn’t want to do it. I said no a lot before he twisted reality and I uncertainly relented. He knew I didn’t want to, that I wasn’t ready to but he persisted until I caved.
It wasn’t what happens on TV or in films but there isn’t another word for what happened. I didn’t know it until recently, or maybe some part of me did because I didn’t talk about it, but it was rape. It is the only time I have ever cried after sex.
I cannot fathom why a person would send anyone a joke about that.
“I like some of these memes – they’re funny. But I don’t like that last one at all. Rape isn’t funny,” I typed.
He immediately replied saying, “I’m so sorry, you’re absolutely right. I shouldn’t send things like that. It was a mistake. It’s disrespectful and insensitive because I don’t know what the person on the receiving end may have been through and now that I look at it properly, it’s not even a real joke, and the intense and total violation of another person’s human rights is a subject I should treat more carefully.”
OH WAIT. No. He didn’t say that at all.
He actually replied, “Is this the part when I feel bad because you tell me you’ve been raped?”
I didn’t know how to answer. It felt so alien to lie, like a betrayal of myself. Because the answer was “yes” but as much as I didn’t want to lie, I did not want him to know.
“It took me eight years to tell anyone how I lost my virginity. It’s not a nice story and I told my best friend as if it were a normal experience – no one’s first time is good, right?”
I don’t know this person. At this point, we haven’t met. And how much am I supposed to share, or how much am I allowed to share about myself before we do? Not this much, that’s for sure. Nothing has prepared me for this business of knowing someone before you meet them. Even if you take out the online exposure of Facebook, Twitter etc, we used to meet a person first and then decide to talk to them. Now we talk to a person and maybe decide to meet them. The order of social interaction has changed.
This isn’t limited to deeply sensitive and personal experiences. I also wouldn’t choose to reveal straight off the bat that among my accepted music preferences, I still have a deep and unabiding love for Celine Dion. I know three albums’ worth of lyrics, including the songs in French and Spanish, by heart. If people found that out before they knew how funny and smart I am, they’d never make it to the funny and smart bits.
It’s probably subjective, where you draw your line of revelation. I don’t like it, but I think it’s easier to ask someone to forgive you for not being ready to talk about something, for fobbing you off or telling a placeholding lie than it is to get past knowing something too soon. I think when you know something like that so early on it becomes all you see. And we should all get to choose how we are seen.
I panicked and burst into tears, unsure of why I felt so shaken up by this stupid non-joke. I sent him seven different other funny gifs and jokes to distract him from the fact I hadn’t answered.
“Was I right with that question? Was my last joke right?” He persisted.
Joke? He asked if I’d been raped as a joke?
“No. And I don’t want to talk about this. Can you just look at the stupid things I’ve sent you to change the subject please?”
I wouldn’t have believed me either.
I couldn’t tell if it was self-protection or a betrayal. I am an unskilled, unpractised liar but nothing felt like the right thing to say. I just knew it felt like too much to send those words, delivered so impassively by Whatsapp, to someone I had never met.
Apparently the joke is meant to be about a particular type of feminist, one who claims everything is rape. I’ve never met that kind of feminist. I’m not sure I believe she exists. I know that’s not me. I’m the feminist woman who is only just managing to call her own experience what it is: rape.
But I choose to reveal that about myself now. Oh and the love for Celine Dion. I guess that’s out there too.4394 Views
Abi Symons is a writer, feminist and klutz. She’s handy with a pen and paper but not to be trusted near expensive objects. www.klutzface.com/blog