In the basement bedroom, sweltering from artificial heat pumping through the vents, I lay in an unfamiliar bed with a boy — or rather, a man. The heat in the room warded off the bitter Lake Tahoe cold, but my lips were frigid. This was my first kiss, and it was not what I expected.
In light of the 40 recently defamed men accused of sexual misconduct, I started thinking about my experiences with sex. The headlines flood the media daily. And the “#MeToo” social media campaign encourages countless women and men to speak out and share their experiences of sexual harassment, exploitation, abuse, misconduct and assault. Moved to share my own story, this isn’t my only experience of sexual misconduct, but it’s my first.
I was a 15-year-old sophomore and he was an 18-year-old senior in high school. I may have learned his name at the time, but I don't remember it now. He was from a different high school, somewhere in San Diego. We met on a snowboarding trip.
Weeks prior, I’d begged and begged my parents to allow me to go on this highly anticipated trip. All of the cool kids in my school were going. Their parents seemingly had no qualms about letting their children attend. But my parents had reservations.
I eventually convinced my parents to let me go. In preparation, I snuck into our liquor cabinet and carefully poured vodka into a water bottle. Showing up empty-handed was inexcusable. My friend supplied Goldschlager, and I remember thinking that nothing was cooler than drinking cinnamon-flavored gold.
After a long, eight-hour chartered bus ride from Los Angeles, we arrived in Tahoe. The crisp air revived us. It was too late to hit the slopes; but it wasn’t too late to party.
Drunk enough to not feel the cold, I shed my jacket and wore only a t-shirt and jeans. My friends and I wandered through the condominium complex where the students from our school and the students from dozens of other high schools stayed.
I vividly remember looking up at a balcony two stories up and locking eyes with a hot guy. We yelled at him to come down. He and his friends did. He bragged that he was a senior, which made him even more attractive to me. I felt sexy and confident and invited them to hang out with us.
While our friends partied, the guy and I snuck downstairs to the bedroom that my friend and I shared. We lay down and he started to kiss me. But, this guy had one thing on his mind — sex. The whole time, in between sloppy kisses, he whispered in my ear, I want to f*** you. He must have repeated it dozens of times. His hot breath filled my ear, and I felt empty and disgusted.
Each time he said it, I said, “No.”
We kept kissing, except the kissing was more like him sucking my tongue in his mouth. It felt nothing like what kissing looked like it’d feel like in the movies. It felt more like what I imagined sex to feel like but in my mouth.
Through the rustling of sheets and heavy breathing we heard a loud bang on the door. Our chaperone and my friend yelled, "Are you OK?" I slurred back, “Yes, we’re fine.” I was fine; I was having my first kiss. My highly anticipated, seemingly long overdue, dreamy first kiss. Eventually they demanded that we open the locked door.
The guy slunk out and left.
I carried on drinking and partying with my friends. Beaming with pride, my feet barely touched the ground, I felt so light and happy. I’d had my first kiss.
I called my best friend on a payphone. I bragged to her that I’d finally done it. I’d kissed a boy. She said, “I’m so happy for you.” But I could hear a tinge of jealousy through her gritted teeth.
Now, in my mid-30s, I realize that my first kiss wasn't nice. It wasn’t the story of a first kiss that I’d like to share with my kids.
I’m grateful I wasn’t raped. I’m lucky I wasn’t raped.
Had my friend and the chaperone not insisted we open the door, who knows what could’ve happened.
I don’t feel I was a victim of sexual assault; it was consensual, if unpleasant. But was I a victim? If he did do something against my will, in the court of law he’s an adult and I am a child.
Not only was I underage, I was intoxicated. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network), some circumstances that [consent] does NOT look like are the following: “Someone being under the legal age of consent, as defined by the state. Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol.”
Until recently, I didn’t understand the variables of consenting and not consenting. In addition to this realization, it scares me that I looked back on the experience fondly. My desire to have my first kiss was more important than my desire to enjoy my first kiss. I don’t even think I expected to enjoy it. I just wanted to do it so I could tell my friends. I wanted to do it so “it” was done. My first kiss was under my sexual experience belt.
I can’t go back and enlighten my 15-year-old self about how kissing can feel good and that waiting for a pleasurable kiss is more important than accomplishing a first kiss.
But I can tell my three children what I’ve learned. I’ve started the conversation. I tell them that love is acts of kindness. Love is mutual. Love is loving.
As they get older, I may share my experience -- not to scare them, but to impart knowledge. Consent is essential, and it’s a starting point. But pleasure is also important. It took far too many years for me to realize that my first kiss was wrong and not OK. I can teach my kids that if something feels wrong, it's wrong.