Welcome to my first ever guest post. A friend wanted to share her #metoo story and asked me if I would post it for her anonymously. I think most women will be able to relate to this story and have similar experiences, I guess that’s what #metoo is all about. It doesn’t make it any more ok though. This is why my blog has a strong feminist component to it. Because as long as we live in a patriarchal society, stuff like this will continue to happen and I’m not going to stop fighting until it doesn’t…
When was your first Sexual Experience?
I had my first sexual experience at sixteen.
Now, that doesn’t sound that unusual. But, I was bullied through school, I had no confidence and literally never even held a boy’s hand until the end of secondary school. I was focused on studying, getting through school and getting to the next chapter of my life. Relationships just didn’t play a role in my life at that point.
But, in the spring before I left school my workplace won an award. It was the ‘Store of the Year’ and a huge thing for my colleagues and I. I’d been working there since I was 14 and I was very much part of the team, working weekends, some evenings after school and through the school holidays. Work was a major part of my life and a huge distraction from school.
As well as the award, we got a prize – to be picked up in a coach, taken to a country hotel and treated to an overnight stay with a really nice dinner and drinks whilst employees from other stores looked after the shop for us.
Back then staying at hotels was something completely new to me – I’d never stayed in a hotel before but it was an experience I begged my parents to let me go to – and in the end they did, after being assured by the Store Manager that I’d be well looked after.
One Saturday, once the store had closed for the day, we all got on the coach, arrived at the hotel and got ready for dinner. From the start to the end the alcohol was flowing – something I had little experience of. I was sixteen, and shouldn’t have been drinking, but aside from one other sixteen year old who was there with her colleague boyfriend – and who was a lot more mature than me – I was surrounded by adults. I was in an environment where I felt safe, surrounded by my colleagues and having a really nice evening.
After dinner we went and gatecrashed a wedding party that was going on, having a dance and enjoying the free bar. But, the next thing I remembered was being in a deserted lounge area of the hotel with my store manager. The man who had promised my parents to look after me.
Now, the store manager had a reputation. He was a married man in his thirties and would flirt with young women who came into the store and make inappropriate jokes, full of innuendo – most of which went straight over my head. I was so innocent back then. But, up until that night I thought he was all talk, that his demeanour was just banter. I really didn’t think I had anything to worry about with him.
But, before I knew it I was squashed under him on a sofa, his tongue in my mouth and his hands everywhere. He was heavy, inebriated and forceful. I was so slight and he was so much bigger than me. I had my hands against his chest but he kept moving them, making me touch him.
I was so drunk, for the first time, and it felt like it went on forever. Eventually, he pulled me to my feet and led me up the stairs of the hotel and the whole place was spinning. I felt so sick that I made some excuse to get away, and thankfully he let me go, before getting back to my own room and spending the night laying awake, willing the room to stop spinning and trying to make sense of the evening.
The next day we got back on the coach and my colleagues were making jokes about the manager disappearing the night before. All nudge nudge wink wink stuff – but no-one looked in my direction. They thought he’d got lucky with a wedding guest or something and I was left to my own thoughts, looking out the coach window, willing the journey to be over.
I didn’t tell anyone about what happened and my manager went back to being just that – my manager. It was as if I had imagined it – or maybe he was so drunk he didn’t remember it. He left the store shortly after and I didn’t have to see him again. But, it didn’t stop that night playing on my mind, having flashbacks and remembering snippets of it even years later.
Even now, in my thirties, I remember parts of that night so vividly that it’s as if it happened yesterday. But why am I talking about it now? Part of it is that it’s cathartic to write about things, talk about them and get them off your chest. Also, the whole #MeToo movement made me think about times in my life that I haven’t been entirely comfortable but where I haven’t actually said no. Where I’ve been in a position I shouldn’t have been in and where, even now, I find it hard to think about.
After that experience I went on to have relationships but I felt tainted by the past. I felt like he had taken something from me that wasn’t his to take. I was still a virgin, thankfully, but a massive chunk of my innocence had been destroyed and that was something I always just tried to push to the back of my mind.
Legally, back then, my manager did nothing wrong. I was very drunk and I didn’t say no. If it happened now, I know that would be looked on differently. But even back then, morally, he massively overstepped so many lines and it’s only now, at a similar age to what he was back then, that I realise how wrong he was. Middle-aged men shouldn’t be in any way interested in sixteen year old girls and really shouldn’t go anywhere near drunk sixteen year old girls either – unless it’s to actually look after them and keep them safe.
I guess I am writing this because looking back I would hate for something similar to happen to my children. For them to get to their teenage years and for someone to take advantage of them. But, more than that, I would hate for them to think they couldn’t talk to me about it if anything did happen.
Back then I was embarrassed and ashamed. I had a diary and I didn’t even write about it in there for fear of someone reading it. But, in hindsight, I had nothing to be ashamed about. I didn’t do anything wrong and not being in a position to say no is not something anyone should ever feel ashamed or embarrassed about.