Trigger Warning:  This post contains a personal story about rape.

I was 17 and he was my friend.

We were having sex – my first time – and I wanted to stop. I said, Can we stop?  He said, But I didn’t come yet. I said, But it really hurts.  Silence.

He was on top. He was bigger. He continued until he was finished. I stared at the ceiling.

When he was done, he told me he thought it was great – that I was great. He got dressed. I got dressed. He kissed me goodbye.

I was 17 and he was my friend.

I wrote this post over and over again, and was conflicted about publishing it.  It feels messy and complicated even 15 years later.   I invited him over to my house with the intention of having sex.  I invited him up to my room, put on some music, and happily made out with him.   We got undressed together. He asked if we could have sex and I said yes.

But in that one moment when I asked to stop, it all changed.  In that one moment, it went from two teenagers messing around to one person deliberately hurting another person.  What happened to me hurt me in that moment – physically, emotionally, and mentally.  The physical hurt was brief but the emotional and mental damage lasted for many years after that.

In the end, was it bad sex or rape?

For years, I thought it was just sex – not even bad sex.  I thought that once I said yes, it meant yes to everything and everything was defined on the other person’s terms. It didn’t matter if it hurt me or I didn’t want to do it. I thought there was no point in speaking up during sex because my voice would be ignored.

This isn’t what healthy sex looks like, but it is what sex looks like for so many people.   If you accidentally step on someone’s foot, you apologize and stop doing it. If you stepped harder or did it again on purpose, you would be considered a mean person, a sadist, or otherwise deranged.  But if two people are having sex and one person wants to stop, it’s a completely different narrative.

Since that first experience, I learned that lack of empathy during sex is actually NOT the norm. Good lovers and good humans want full and enthusiastic consent for sex – each and every time.  They want their partners to be present – not drunk, high, or even anxious. They want to know whether it feels good, and if it doesn’t, they STOP.  Why would you want to have sex with someone who didn’t want to have sex with you?

I call what happened to me rape. Many would not.  They would call it a “bad sexual experience.”  But sex without consent is rape, and he did not have my consent for half the time we had sex. Whether it started with a yes or with a kiss.  If someone says no or stop, you stop. Immediately.

Maybe this happened to you and you don’t call it rape.  Maybe this happened to you and you do call it rape.  Maybe you aren’t sure what to call it.  Maybe this happens to you on a regular basis.  Maybe you have had sex with someone who wasn’t totally into it.  Maybe you kept going after it was clear that someone wanted you to stop.  Whatever your experience, stop and think.  Think about consent.  It matters.  Listen to yourself.  Listen to others.

Consent. Do you really have it at every moment?  If you don’t know the answer, just stop.