Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“When Should I Tell Guys I Was Raped as a Virgin?”

I was raped about a year ago, as a virgin, at age 20. At 21, I still have yet to have consensual sex. At first, I was very affected by the rape, but a year later, I just want to put it behind me and have a normal sex life. I wast a virgin not for religious or moral reasons, but simply because I had not yet had a serious relationship. I really want to start having sex; I have a high libido and feel that I am missing out on something great, but I have been hesitant to get intimate with guys, because I’m afraid I will scare them away if I tell them I was raped and that I’ve never had consensual sex (this has happened before).

I have recently started dating around, but I’m having anxiety because I know in adult relationships, sex happens quickly, and I don’t think I could have sex with a guy before we’re exclusive and especially without him understanding my situation. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but more often than not, a man and a woman will have sex during the ‘dating’ phase before they decide to become exclusive, right?) Ideally, I would like to wait to have sex until I’m in a relationship, but I feel like I will have to explain the rape to justify my wanting to wait. In addition, while I don’t feel “traumatized” by my rape, I am still affected by it to some degree and would need a guy to be sensitive to that. So, at what point in dating a guy (in his late 20s) would it be appropriate for me to tell him about my rape? How can I manage to keep things at my pace until that point? And how can I present my situation as not to overwhelm him but still be honest about the extent to which it still affects me? — Survivor


First of all, I’m very sorry to hear about your rape, and I will tell you the same thing I told another rape survivor who wrote to me last year with a similar question: if you haven’t already, I would highly recommend you speak to a therapist, preferably one who specializes in rape counseling. Much more than I can help you in a short column, a counselor can help you deal with any lingering feelings of anger, sadness, rage and fear. Even if you don’t feel “traumatized” by your experience, these are issues and feelings that you may have buried and haven’t let yourself feel yet. Even if you have, counseling will certainly help you process them in a way that allows to you move on and have “happy, healthy relationships not only with men, but with yourself and the world around you.” Before you entrust your story with a potential boyfriend, it’s really important that you allow a trained professional help you decide how and with whom to share your story.

What I wrote in my column last year can be applied to you now: “A qualified counselor can give you the tools you need for sharing your news with potential mates and dealing with their reactions. For the record, I do think the news should be shared with someone you plan to have a committed relationship with, but you need to learn when and how to share the news, first. In the meantime, I assume you’ve shared the story of your rape with your parents and close friends you trust, but if you haven’t, begin there. Start with people who have known you a long time and whose support and encouragement you can trust. While they may not have the professional tools a counselor has, they can complement the work you’ll be doing in therapy and support you on your road to healing.”

Now, while a counselor can give you tools that help you share story with potential boyfriends, it’s up to you to decide when and with whom to share it. I cannot stress this enough: sex or the desire to have sex is not a good enough reason to share your personal story with someone. In fact, both the decision to have sex and to share your story should only be made when you really trust someone. Just because some people have casual sex does not mean that everyone has casual sex or that you have to to secure a boyfriend. I’d give this advice to you whether you’d been raped or not: any guy who pressures you into having sex before you’re ready is not worth one second of your time. End of story. It doesn’t matter if it takes you months before you’re ready. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t ready until marriage. A man who respects you and is invested in having a relationship with you will wait if that’s your wish. That’s how you’ll know you can trust him. I’d also suggest that at 21, you widen your dating net and include guys who are closer to your age rather than just those in their “late 20s.” Not only does casting a wider net yield a bigger pool of men to choose from, younger, more sexually inexperienced guys may be more inclined to wait for sex, too.

Now, in case I haven’t made it clear enough: you do not owe any guy any explanation for waiting for sex other than you aren’t ready yet. That’s it. He doesn’t need to know that you were raped. He doesn’t need to know that you’ve never had consensual sex. He doesn’t even need to know how long it’s going to take before you are ready. All he needs to know is that you aren’t ready now. If he can’t respect that, he isn’t worth your time. Eventually, as you begin to trust him more, you’ll want to share these private parts — um, literally and figuratively — with him. And, again, a professional counselor can help you determine when and how the best way to do that might be. I hope this goes without saying, but when you decide you’re ready for sex, make sure you are both tested first and use protection!

Finally, the rape survivor who wrote to me last year wrote an update several months after reading my advice. Sharing her story with me and reading supportive reader comments helped her to open up with people in her life. She even contributed her story for a series on sexual assault in her college newspaper. Doing so, she said, helped her heal and to put her rape behind her. I hope in sharing your story — even just with us — you begin reaching a similar sense of closure and healing.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected].

53 comments… add one
  • avatar

    kerrycontrary February 24, 2011, 9:25 am

    There’s nothing wrong with telling a guy that you aren’t ready to have sex with him yet, and you don’t even need to explain any more than that. I’ve said this to guys before and they say “ok” and are fine with it. If you find a guy who isn’t OK with this response, then you shouldn’t waste your time on him anyways.

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    ArtsyGirl February 24, 2011, 9:30 am

    Wow LW I am sending internet love your way! Great advice Wendy and I will quickly add that there is no formula on when a couple reaches the sex stage in a relationship – do want feels right, and when you feel more ready you can always experiment with foreplay and other sexual acts without engaging in sex. I do agree that you need to let a partner know what happened before you reach the sex stage in case you start feeling uncomfortable or need to slow things down.

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  • avatar

    demoiselle February 24, 2011, 9:53 am

    It’s OK to say, early on, that for personal reasons you will not have sex outside of an exclusive relationship. No explanation is necessary at that point. If a guy doesn’t stick around long enough to form a closer connection, then you’ll know he’s not interested in a relationship, just sex.

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    • avatar

      demoiselle February 24, 2011, 9:56 am

      And to be more precise, you don’t even have to explain that it’s for “personal reasons.” It’s your decision, and probably a healthy one.

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    Amy February 24, 2011, 10:21 am

    I’m so sorry that you’ve had to go through such an ordeal! I agree with Wendy – you certainly don’t have to feel pressured to have sex before you are ready. And – MANY MANY people wait until they are in exclusive relationships before having sex. Best wishes for happiness to you!

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  • avatar

    Maracuya February 24, 2011, 10:27 am

    What demoiselle said. You don’t even have to say the reason why. There are plenty of guys out there who don’t want to have casual sex either, and if you don’t want to that doesn’t make you in the minority (even if you feel that way.)

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  • avatar

    _jsw_ February 24, 2011, 10:30 am

    Minor point: the fact that someone doesn’t have the same timeframe for sex as you do can also simply mean that they’re not compatible with your needs. They could still be a decent person, still be someone to get to know… just not right for you at the time.

    Anyone who pressures you for anything, though, isn’t worth ever seeing again.

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  • avatar

    ReginaRey February 24, 2011, 10:57 am

    I’m so sorry for what happened to you, and I hope that you have a loving and supportive group of family and friends who have helped you through your ordeal. Like Wendy and other commenters have said, it absolutely is not necessary to tell a potential partner about your rape until you feel 100% ready. A truly decent, genuine, and GOOD guy will respect your desire to wait until you are ready, and will be compassionate and understanding without EVER having to know the reason behind your decision to wait. And when you do feel like opening up to your potential partner about your rape, no man who is right for you will run away – the right person for you will be there to support you in every way you need, and will love you unconditionally. I suggest you do what I have done with my past and current boyfriends – tell them that you don’t feel comfortable having a sexual relationship with someone until there is a mutual feeling of exclusivity and love. I’m not saying it’s necessary to be in love with every person you have a sexual relationship with, but being in love with each other certainly establishes the kind of committment, trust, and comfort you might need as a survivor of a traumatic event in order to feel safe and comfortable sharing your ordeal and embarking on a sexual relationship. I wish you the best of luck, and I’m sending good thoughts your way! 🙂

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  • avatar

    rainbow February 24, 2011, 11:03 am

    Hi! I’m very sorry that this happened to you.
    I was raped and tortured some years ago, even though I had already had consensual sex before that, and I have been polishing my “telling boy” technique for about six years now, and it can get so difficult! So I hope everything goes well for you.
    Some things that work for me (might sound stupid or not work for you):
    1.- If you have flashbacks or triggers or nightmares sometimes, don’t use one of those as an opportunity to tell. It’s convenient, but maybe it’s better to do so when you’re being positive. That way, instead of being a freaky crying mess you can be assertive about it, stress the fact that you’ve managed to put it behind you, that you’re looking forward to experimenting, that you find it exciting but scary, and that’s why you need some special treatment. It takes a lot of pressure off everybody if instead of “I’ve had it rough and I’m damaged” it comes out as “I’m going on this awesome self-discovery journey and since you’re special and I trust you you get to come with me”.
    2.- Any time is a good time. You don’t have to be talking about something related, or be answering his questions about anything. You can just go “Listen, since we’re spending so much time together, I thought you should know some things about me, and I’d rather tell you now that we’re both sober and relaxed instead of waiting for some opportunity where it might come out less clearly”.
    3.- If it’s ok for him to ask questions, right then or in the future, say so. People tend to think you don’t want to talk about it.
    4.- By the time you finish, the dude will be confused as hell. So complete your story with instructions. Exactly what does this mean for you guys and your relationship and your sex? Do you need specific conditions or stimulation to get off? Specific positions? Would you prefer to take off your own clothes to set the pace? Would you like to leave penetration for a next stage and start with some other things? etc.

    I hope you find these at least a bit useful, when you find your own structure please write an update! Big hug if ok, and I hope you have lots of fun.

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    • avatar

      Survivor LW February 24, 2011, 11:22 am

      Wow, that advice is so helpful and I appreciate you sharing it. Especially the point about not letting it come out in an emotional, high-stress moment. I’ve been worried that eventually it might just come out after drinking and in the form of an anxiety attack–and I want anything BUT that. I’d like to express it as “This happened, but I am OK, and I want to move on, but I need you to be understanding.” I just don’t know when I will be ready to even say that. Thanks for the advice and support!

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      • avatar

        _jsw_ February 24, 2011, 11:56 am

        I’ve been on the receiving end of that story a few times, including once when it happened to someone I was dating and in love with (it occurred during a New Year’s party when I’d been away). I know you’re very concerned about it coming out at the right time, and I understand that, but I really believe that someone who is caring and who has even a bit of maturity will handle it no matter how it comes out. In an odd way, having it spill out at a time of stress/intoxication actually helps to show how upsetting it was, so it’s not necessarily bad.

        I was told when driving to a wedding. I was told on the phone. I was told during sex.

        I assure you, the message is more important than the moment.

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    • avatar

      Uyzie February 24, 2011, 1:39 pm

      Awesome advice, rainbow!

      LW, I’m so sorry that this happened to you, but I think it’s great that you have taken steps to heal and want to have a fulfilling sex life in the future. I was also raped as a virgin at 15, and in the 15 years that have followed, I’ve had five guys that I’ve had to have “the conversation” with. Rainbow’s advice about not telling just because you had a flashback or trigger is great. It’s much better to have that conversation when you can think clearly, answer any potential questions, and stay calm. It’s super hard to have an already difficult talk if you’re already emotional and crying.

      That being said…if you are actually in the middle of having sex with a guy that you like and respect, and you have an obvious flashback where you are really freaking out, then it might be best to just tell him. (This is especially true if in the course of your freakout, you accidentally hurt the guy.) Of course, if you’re absolutely not ready, then you shouldn’t feel obligated to do it, but he’ll most likely be very confused as to why you switched gears so fast and will probably ask you what’s wrong. In my opinion, if you like and respect the guy enough to be having sex with him, and he’s sitting there naked and a little freaked out himself, it’s better to be simply be honest with him in the moment. Otherwise, your two choices are 1) being cryptic, which isn’t really fair to him, or 2) making up some excuse, which will leave you feeling lousy, since you’ll feel like you’re hiding something from him. That only happened to me once, but luckily, I felt comfortable enough to explain the situation to him, and he was incredibly understanding. Because I was honest with him, he didn’t leave my place that night thinking that he had done something wrong (which was important for me to make sure he knew), and I think it actually brought us a little closer together. But again, this is a sort of worst-case scenario, which I hope doesn’t happen to you…but it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared for the possibility.

      In all the other cases where I had to have “the conversation”, I simply waited until I felt close enough to the person and trusted them enough to share that part of my life with them. In all cases, it happened at different times, and in all cases, I tried to keep things from getting too heavy, so that he would understand that I wasn’t “damaged”, and wanted to experience good things with him. There’s no perfect time to ever tell, and it will always be a tough talk, but hopefully, if the guy is worth it, he’ll be supportive and understanding.

      One last thing to be aware of: In addition to the guy being confused as hell after you tell him, there’s a strong possibility that he’ll also be angry. Not at you– but at your attacker/abuser. So if your attacker is someone who is still in your life, you’ll need to help him work through any feelings that he might have about that person. I know it sounds unfair– you’re the one it happened to, so why should you have to be helping someone else with their feelings about it? But the truth is that if he cares for you strongly and you plan on him being in your life, he’s going to have strong feelings about what happened to you, and he’ll need your help in sorting them out.

      But rest assured, it gets easier over time, and after a while, it actually becomes pretty empowering to be able to share something painful without having it completely wreck you. At some point, sharing your story– and how far you’ve come since then– will actually feel pretty freeing. So don’t worry. It gets better, I promise! *e-hugs*

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      • avatar

        _jsw_ February 24, 2011, 1:48 pm

        “One last thing to be aware of: In addition to the guy being confused as hell after you tell him, there’s a strong possibility that he’ll also be angry. Not at you– but at your attacker/abuser.”

        This is very, very true.

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        rainbow February 24, 2011, 2:06 pm

        “if you like and respect the guy enough to be having sex with him, and he’s sitting there naked and a little freaked out himself, it’s better to be simply be honest with him in the moment”. very true.

        “In addition to the guy being confused as hell after you tell him, there’s a strong possibility that he’ll also be angry”. yup. I once read an advice column for rape survivor’s partners that included something like: “Ok, your angry that someone did that to her. Understandable. But don’t overdo it and get territorial or talk about revenge. The last thing she needs now is having to deal with another violent man”

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      • avatar

        _jsw_ February 24, 2011, 2:16 pm

        “The last thing she needs now is having to deal with another violent man”

        Exactly. I mean, look, if the guy cares about you, he’s going to be angry at the man who raped you. He’ll fantasize about “getting even.” It doesn’t mean he’ll do anything at all, and it doesn’t mean he’ll even mention it to you, but I can assure you, he’ll think about it.

        But – as rainbow said/quoted – the last thing you need is for him to get really angry. However, please also try to understand that this is probably the first time he’s had to deal with this, and no one gets a “how to deal when you find out your partner/loved one was raped” talk, so it will likely take him a little time to react rationally. Basically, just accept that you might need to ignore large parts of his reaction for a short time after you tell him. And, as rainbow and Uyzie said earlier, it’s not a bad thing to help guide his reaction along. You’ve known this time might come, he didn’t, so… as terrible as it is for you, as a victim, to need to help him react, he might need that help. He very well might react well… but it’s not really a character flaw if he doesn’t when he first finds out.

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      • avatar

        Survivor LW February 24, 2011, 2:30 pm

        This is all so helpful and I so appreciate you taking the time to write such thoughtful responses.

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      • avatar

        callmehobo February 24, 2011, 3:11 pm

        LW,

        I just want you to know that the man that I am currently with waited 2 years into our exclusive relationship until I was ready to have sex. I was sexually assaulted and was working through (physical and emotional) intimacy issues. We are still in our early twenties.

        That is what a good man who loves you will do. He will wait, and he won’t ever make you feel guilty for making him wait. Anyone who does is not worth one second of your time.

        I want to send you so much internet love right now!!

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      • avatar

        Woman of Words February 25, 2011, 1:52 am

        Yes, this was my experience too. Not just my partner (who also became angry with police with a perceived blunder in the investigation), but also my male doctor (who asked if I had considered revenge!) and male friends. I felt that was because they felt powerless to do anything at all to ‘fix’ the situation.

        I was raped by an acquaintance and I have made sure not to share any details of him with anyone but the police. I sincerely hope that talk of revenge is just a reaction, but the last thing I want is for my attacker to turn into a victim, and someone who means something to me to be up on charges.

        You are left dealing with lots more than just the ‘rape’, on an ongoing basis, and that’s possibly the part of it that made ME the most angry.

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    • Kristina

      Kristina February 24, 2011, 2:34 pm

      That’s really helpful advice. I’ve been dating someone exclusively for over a month and we already have really strong feelings for each other. I really want to tell him about my past sexual abuse, but I worry it’s too early, and I worry what he’ll think cause he has the least amount of issues of anyone I’ve dated in the past.

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  • SixtyFour

    SmileRhode February 24, 2011, 11:10 am

    I promise there are decent guys out there who will not be scared away because you were raped. I know this because my younger brother is one of them. His girlfriend was raped a few months before they began dating towards the end of high school. My brother was very understanding that she was just not ready for sex to be part of their relationship at the time. While he never came out and said it, I know that if she said yes, let’s do it, as a young red-blooded male, he would have hopped into bed right then and there without thinking. But he was head-over-heals in love with her and respected her decision and they waited. My brother stood by her side when friends at school gossiped about the her and said it was her fault she was raped (she was 16 when the manager at the place she worked got her drunk and then raped her – he was 40). My brother supported her through the trial. And two years later, they are still together. I am so proud of the man he has become, and I know that there are others out there like him.

    And besided the rape, you don’t have to give any explanation to a guy besides “I’m not ready for intimicay until we are exlusive.” if he can’t accept that, then he does not deserve to be with you!

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  • avatar

    Survivor LW February 24, 2011, 11:13 am

    Hi ladies, LW here.

    @ Wendy–Thanks so much for responding to my letter and giving me comforting advice and reassurance that I should not feel pressured to have sex or justify my wanting to wait.

    I probably should have included that I have been to a great deal of therapy and have told my family and close friends. I have also been through a law suit (that didn’t get anywhere) and have been tested a million times, so I know my physical health is in good shape.

    @ Everyone–Thanks for the comments and support, I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

    One thing that has been on my mind is the notion that if I go back to a guy’s place, even if I say at the beginning that I don’t want to have sex, he still might think I was just saying that and didn’t really mean it. I think that this anxiety is a bit irrational on my part and mostly a result of what I’ve been through, but it still lingers.

    Also, I’m worried that if I spend the night with an older guy I’m seeing but don’t “put out” I’ll be considered a tease.

    Or, if I’m comfortable with foreplay and oral sex but not intercourse, he will think it’s stupid that I am willing to go that far but still put intercourse on such a high pedastool that I would only have it in an exclusive relationship.

    A friend of mine suggested that I admit that I am a “virgin” but not include the part about the rape, so he will understand at least a little bit. But if I do that I think I will feel untrue to myself and I’d rather just not say anything about it.

    Thanks again for the suppport. I would appreciate your thoughts on the aforementioned things if you care to share those as well.

    <3

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    • avatar

      _jsw_ February 24, 2011, 11:44 am

      I was replying when you wrote this.

      If you say you don’t want to have sex, any decent guy will respect that. Anyone who doesn’t is at best a waste of your time. Even if he hopes more will happen, any decent man will not push it.

      If you find that the older men you date think not putting out makes you a tease, find different (older or younger) men to date. Period. Sex is not owed anyone. It’s their right to want it, your right to not want it, and there are men who will wait for you to feel comfortable about it. I’m truly saddened that things have gotten to the point that people feel sex is expected or obligatory. It’s not.

      A guy who’s lucky enough to have foreplay/oral with you is a fool to demand more or think it’s stupid not to do more. Do only what you’re comfortable doing. The right men will respect that.

      As far as the virgin/rape bit goes: I think that, if you say anything, just saying that you were the victim of an assault should be all you need to say. However, if you ever do tell someone that the only time you’ve had sex was the time you were raped and that you want to wait for it to mean something, then only a complete asshole would continue to push for it.

      Basically, if you find the right guy, none of these things will be issues, and if these things are issues, he’s not the right guy.

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    • avatar

      rainbow February 24, 2011, 1:04 pm

      “I say at the beginning that I don’t want to have sex, he still might think I was just saying that and didn’t really mean it.”
      Noone has a right to expect sex just because you go to their place, even if you don’t say you don’t want it before that. If you do say it… then that’s completely taken care of. Anybody who’s first time worthy won’t think “you didn’t mean it”.

      ” I think that this anxiety is a bit irrational on my part and mostly a result of what I’ve been through, but it still lingers.”
      “Also, I’m worried that if I spend the night with an older guy I’m seeing but don’t “put out” I’ll be considered a tease.”
      I think these two go together. Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in “my body is for your pleasure whether I really want it or not” mode after going through tough objectifying stuff. It took me years to get out of it. To really ask myself “do I want to do this? does my BODY want this?” before having sex with somebody. Now I look back and lots of times I thought it was “only logical” and “the right thing to do now that we’ve come this far”, I could have stopped and nobody would have been disappointed. I think this is the most complicated part to deal with.

      “Or, if I’m comfortable with foreplay and oral sex but not intercourse, he will think it’s stupid that I am willing to go that far but still put intercourse on such a high pedastool that I would only have it in an exclusive relationship.”
      meh… penetration is overrated =). I think that sometimes, while getting to know eachother, people do it because it’s how sex is “supposed to be”, but could very well go without it. I’ve never heard someone complain about foreplay/handjobs/oral instead of penetration. If you guys are having a good time and getting eachother off, it’s not something “he’ll have to put up with”, it’s just how you guys do it, and it’s not a second best.

      Here’s a blog I found really helpful. It’s by a sex educator: http://enagoski.wordpress.com

      Lots of love =)

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    • avatar

      fallonthecity February 25, 2011, 11:30 am

      I dated an older guy for awhile in college, and he always wanted me to stay over, but I wasn’t ready to have sex with him. The way I handled that was to ask him when he invited me to stay over, “What does staying over involve?” And he would always answer that it wouldn’t involve anything I didn’t want it to. I can’t relate to having been raped, but I can relate to being on a different time frame for sex than the person I’m dating. This particular guy wasn’t used to waiting so long, but he was respectful and understanding. I think it helped that I was really upfront and unapologetic about what I was and wasn’t willing to do. Good guys don’t want to pressure you into doing anything you don’t want to do, regardless of your reasons for waiting.

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  • avatar

    _jsw_ February 24, 2011, 11:37 am

    My first reply took several tries on a bus with terrible reception, so I wanted to add to it. First, Survivor, as the others have said, I’m very sorry about what happened to you and very happy that you’re working to move on from it.

    Second, as a man, and especially as a man who’s dated women who had been raped, I can assure you that anyone who is worth staying with will deal with the news whenever and however you tell them. However, it will be disruptive to them for a bit in at least some way. That is to be expected – you’ve had much time to process it, and they’ve just found out. I very much like rainbow’s suggestions, although I am sorry about why she is able to suggest them.

    Third, while I agree that you don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you want to wait for a relationship, I think that, if you feel you’re with someone who might make a good partner, you shouldn’t feel the need to wait to tell him something. The fact of the matter is that you did nothing wrong, that you were a victim, and that there is no shame in what happened. It wasn’t your fault. I completely understand not broadcasting the event to everyone, but anyone with even a modicum of empathy will understand, and even a vague reference to the event will help someone to understand why you’re taking things slowly. If you wait – which obviously is your choice – it is possible that the guy will end up feeling like a complete ass (once he finds out) for ever trying to get you to do more before. He doesn’t need the whole story. Even something like “I was assaulted when I was younger. I’d prefer not to discuss it more right now, but I wanted to let you know because I think we have potential and I trust you enough to mention it” would work.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Wendy February 24, 2011, 11:41 am

      Great advice.

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    • Chicago-Dude

      Rahmtown_Dan February 24, 2011, 12:04 pm

      True talk, _jsw_

      To LW: Sending lots of good & healing thoughts your way.

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    • avatar

      rainbow February 24, 2011, 12:45 pm

      “you’ve had much time to process it, and they’ve just found out”

      That’s a very important point. It’s good that you mentioned it.
      That’s why I think that, even though any time to mention it is ok, it’s useful to do so when you’re feeling well. Because it’s kinda sad if you speak up because you really need to be comforted, and the guy goes goes blank and “wait… what?”, and can’t be there for you like you would want him to until he processes it. You’re stuck in a situation involving two confused, upset people, and that’s not the ideal, i think. But it’s also ok.

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      • avatar

        _jsw_ February 24, 2011, 1:34 pm

        I agree completely that it’s better when at least one of you is able to remain calm. In my case, I’m one of those people who tends to remain most calm because people nearby are upset (it’s why I’ve given a number of eulogies, I think). So, for me, it worked to hear about it when she was upset. However, I truly see your point for many others. I just don’t want anyone to feel as though they can’t mention it when they’re upset.

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      • avatar

        rainbow February 24, 2011, 1:47 pm

        definitely. that’s a very good point too.

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    • avatar

      Survivor LW February 24, 2011, 2:28 pm

      Yes, this is great advice, and I appreciate all of it. It’s also really great to get a man’s perspective. Thanks so much to everyone for sharing their stories, offering advice, and for general support 🙂

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    • avatar

      Survivor LW March 15, 2011, 10:05 pm

      All of this advice has been so helpful, especially the comments from _jsw_.
      I have been casually dating this guy who is 28 for about a month. Everything has been going great so far. I’ve spent the night at his place twice, and when I told him I did not want to have sex he didn’t pressure me or ask any further about it. We’ve done everything except for sex and I’m starting to get anxious that he is anticipating sex in the next few dates. I have a lot of anxiety but let me stress that it has nothing to do with anything he has said to me or any way he has acted–I just get stressed by what I perceive as social norms and typical expectations.
      I was planning on saying that I don’t have sex outside of exclusive relationships, so that it would be easy to put it off for now without divulging everything, but now I’m starting to feel anxious that if I say that, 1) he will assume I’m anticipating an exclusive relationship with him (even though we are still in the dating phase and it feels too early), 2) if we do enter an exclusive relationship, he will assume that once we have the title I will hop into bed with him. If I tell him right when we agree to be exclusive, I feel like I will have mislead him or manipulated him by not telling him until I know he won’t go anywhere.
      I feel like the 5th date is too soon to tell him about this, but I think once I do, I will feel very relieved. I’m worried about him judging me for (at the moment) being okay with everything except intercourse. Again, this is all anxiety produced inside my own head…he has been great to me.
      The last thing I’m worried about is that *IF* after I tell him, he reacts badly and/or no longer wants to be involved with me, it will take a strong toll on me psychologically. When the last guy I was dating decided he did not want to be involved with me “romantically” after I told him what happened, it really freaked me out and I think that event is the basis for a lot of the anxiety I’m feeling right now.
      Any further advice would be greatly appreciated!

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        _jsw_ March 16, 2011, 11:22 pm

        @Survivor: I wanted you to know I saw this reply this morning (via email notification) and have been out all day and am really tired now… but I do intend to reply tomorrow.

        Short summary: it will be fine. I understand the anxiety, but… it will be OK. It might not go exactly as you’d like – and it also very well might go just as you’d like – but it’s very likely going to go far far better than you are worried about. 🙂

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        Woman of Words March 16, 2011, 11:35 pm

        Just wanted to say that I think you are lovely to let LW know she’s not forgotten… Cudos.

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        Dani March 17, 2011, 12:23 am

        Give him whatever level of description you’re comfortable sharing at this point. Let me know that you’re not looking for him to be your therapist but you wanted him to understand why you want to take things slow. Maybe at this stage you leave it as you were sexually assaulted and save the details for later. If he responds the way your ex did, then you’re better off without him. The rape was not your fault, and if you can move past it then he should be able to do the same.

        Slight tangent: You might be surprised at how many people can relate to your experience. I was supposedly molested at daycare when I was three. While I have no memories of being assaulted, I do remember the doctors visits, legal proceedings and trauma following the abuse. (The counselors were very pushy when I couldn’t provide details, and my innocent father ended up being implicated when they continued to try to force me to “tell a story”.) When I told my high school boyfriend, I was shocked to learn that his biological father had molested him as a toddler.

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        _jsw_ March 17, 2011, 11:33 am

        @Survivor: Please keep in mind that I don’t know your whole situation and that I’m a man who has never been in nor will ever be in situations you have been in and are in now. That said, I’m absolutely familiar with anxiety related to sexual situations. I’m also keenly aware of how the past actions (and words) of others can have a lasting affect. So… I get why you’re anxious, at least to the extent I can as an Internet stranger.

        That said, here’s what I think: there is never a way to avoid all possible risk of pain/heartache in relationships except to avoid them entirely, which is even worse. It is entirely possible that you can tell this guy about your past or that you want to be exclusive first but even that won’t guarantee sex, and he’ll leave. However, if he leaves, which I think is unlikely based on what you’ve said, then all you’ll have done is weed out someone with whom you wouldn’t have had long-term potential, and you’ve done it in a month without compromising your needs. That would be a major win, and most of us have suffered far more hurt after giving up far more – in one sense or another – before realizing a person wasn’t right for us.

        The thing is, though… there are men with whom you have a real chance at a loving, happy, intimate relationship. There are good guys out there who will love you even more for sharing something so painful about your past and will want to honor your trust by showing how worthy they are. There are men who will truly understand why you feel anxious about even mentioning your anxiety. The only way you are ever going to find them – or at least weed out many who aren’t that way – is to give them the chance to react.

        You are afraid that someone will reject you either because of your past assault or because you don’t want casual sex. I understand that. What I think you need to understand is that, by rejecting you for such shallow reasons, those men aren’t proving that you are flawed – they are letting you know that they are flawed. I know it’s scary to find out that they’re not right for you, and I know that the rejection of you hurts and the fear of that rejection causes anxiety. I know you were hurt before by someone who rejected you romantically because of those shallow reasons. But… you need to remember that a man who is right for you – and in fact a man who is just a decent guy – is not going to reject you because you tell him about your past. His acceptance of you – his acceptance of the pain you’ve suffered because of your assault and its consequences – will relieve you of a terrible burden, and that is worth taking a few chances with the wrong guys.

        This guy sounds like he’ll be understanding. Give him a chance. Just please remember that his acceptance of your anxiety and its cause is necessary but not sufficient. Make sure he makes you feel good about yourself in addition to the base requirement of accepting you.

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      • Kristina

        Kristina March 17, 2011, 3:16 pm

        This comment was really helpful for me as well. I’ve been debating for a couple weeks about telling a close guy friend of mine about my past sexual abuse, but I also fear that he will be done with me, as we’re not exactly dating, but we both like each other a lot. Certain circumstances right now are really the only reason we’re not dating right now, and I just want him to know before he leaves for several months, but I’m afraid of his reaction. But knowing that he’s a really good guy, I guess I shouldn’t be afraid to tell him.

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        Survivor LW March 18, 2011, 10:10 am

        Thanks so much _jsw_. Your advice has been extremely helpful and reassuring. Whatever lady ends up with you will be extremely lucky to be with someone so caring and thoughtful. Thanks again!

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        _jsw_ March 18, 2011, 10:30 am

        I’m glad it was off some help to the two of you. I hope things go well for you both, and it’d be much appreciated if you’d keep in touch to let us know how you’re doing.

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        _jsw_ March 18, 2011, 10:31 am

        “was of some help” 😮

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    Jess February 24, 2011, 11:49 am

    I think tv shows/magazine articles focus on sex outside of relationships because people think it is interesting, but I don’t think its that ubiquitous in real life. I’ve personally only had sex outside of a relationship twice, and that wasn’t until I was in my late 20s (and I really really wanted to have casual sex, break up related! haha)

    I don’t think its actually *that* common to have sex casually. At least, no one will think its strange if you insist on waiting until you are exclusive. Even with older guys. I know its portrayed on TV like, you go on 3 dates and then have sex, and then have more dates til you have the “are we exclusive?” talk after 2 months… but the evolution of real relationships isn’t usually like that.

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      LennyBee February 24, 2011, 12:36 pm

      I complete agree! The media portrays casual sex as the norm and waiting for a relationship as strange, but I suspect that entirely depends on who you define as “the norm”. I personally don’t know anyone who’s had casual sex, but I do know a lot of people who remained virgins (for non-religious reasons) into their mid-late 20s. Any man who respects you will respect your feelings and decisions about your body as well.

      @LW: If you’re concerned about being seen as a “tease” if you don’t put out or if you place your boundaries just before intercourse, I would simply be very clear about boundaries and expectations before agreeing to spend the night. Just say “I would love to spend the night, but these are my boundaries, and this is where we stop and go to sleep.” You can’t tease or lead someone on if you’ve been clear from the beginning, and any person worth your time and energies will agree.

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    TMSC February 24, 2011, 1:08 pm

    Firstly, I am so sorry you had to go through such a terrible experience. I am happy that you have been able to work through the experience and have come out the other side.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to a guy’s place and not having sex, or enjoying other sexual acts without having intercourse, or letting a guy know you are physically attracted to him without actually having sex. Though I do not have the experience with assault you did, I did not have sex until my mid-20’s, as I felt personally that I wanted to be in a committed relationship. But…I did do all the other things you mentioned, and that is perfectly OK. If at any time there was a guy who had a problem with that, it was his problem, and his loss. And really, the majority of the time, the guys were understanding and we were able to have relationships or to date without it affecting the dynamic.

    You don’t owe anyone any explanations, unless you are ready and comfortable with the person to share your experience. In the meantime, please know that you can enjoy the company of men (both emotionally and physically if you wish) without having sex. And that is totally OK.

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    princesspetticoat February 24, 2011, 3:56 pm

    LW, I’m sending you lots of love.

    I also lost my virginity to rape and it really screwed up my sex life. The biggest issue was that I had had a big crush on the guy who raped me and he used the fact that Iiked him to take advantage of me. However, after having sex with me, he had no more interest in me and it made me feel that sex was all that I was good for. In the few years following, I had a few one night stands (that I regretted because they made me feel worse about myself) and I pushed sex too quickly on guys who were actually interested in dating me. Since I had learned from the rape that one guy only wanted sex, I thought that I needed to have sex in order for any guy to be even remotely interested in me. Your comment about worrying about being a tease struck a chord with me… those were the kind of thoughts that went through my head too. I worried about what the guy thought and what the guy wanted and didn’t pay attention to what felt right to me.

    Only just recently have I realized that I was pushing AWAY those relationships by bringing sex into things too quickly. Please LW, believe that you are worth more than sex and that guys will want you MORE if you respect yourself and refuse to be pushed into sex before you’re ready.

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    AKchic February 24, 2011, 5:18 pm

    Woah….

    You say you have a strong libido. Did this start AFTER the rape occured?

    It is VERY common for a person to become hyper-sexual after a rape as a way to cope and as a way to “prove” that the rape did not affect them and that they are “okay”. It’s also very self-destructive.

    You need to get involved with a rape victims support network ASAP and they can recommend a good counselor/therapist who can help you out with these things. The last thing you need to do is have a flashback to your rape while having sex. It can be traumatic not only to you, but to the guy you are with. Not many are understanding of such things, and those that are still won’t understand fully unless they have dealt with it before. (I know this from experience, unfortunately)

    If you must date, date. Be up front that you want to take things slow. Don’t spring up the rape on the first date. Wait until the 3rd date at the very least. Personally, I would wait until he shows some interest in exclusivity. At that point, most expect sex. That is when I would break it to him. If he’s a good guy, he will understand and allow you to initiate the sexual encounters at your own pace. If he’s not understanding of it, then honey, you’re better off without him.

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    blurpke February 24, 2011, 6:28 pm

    LW – I can’t add much that anyone else hasn’t already said. I wasn’t raped, but I was threatened with it when I was 16 and it took a toll on my dating life and the trust I had in guys for years. I am almost thirty and my current SO is the only man I have dated. We’ve been together for almost a year and a half; we have not had sex, and he’s always said that it will be entirely my decision when we do. He respects me and my boundaries, and I love him all the more for it. It may take time, but you have time to be choosy, and the man who is worth having sex with, will know that you are worth waiting for. My best wishes to you for the future!

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    twiglet February 24, 2011, 7:12 pm

    I’d just like to say that while I am a great advocate of therapy of all kinds for those in need of it, and would be the first to recommend counselling to any traumatised person, when someone is showing all the signs of having dealt with her situation, it is not neccessarily good to go back into it all again. Endless counselling on the same bad event can give it a pivotal and defining postion in our lives-which it does not deserve. She’s dealt with that then- she just wants to know about this; now- and hats off to her.That aside, great advice here.

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    Lacey February 25, 2011, 12:57 am

    I was sexually assaulted a few times when I was younger. None of it had to do with vaginal sex, but pretty much everything else against my will. When I was eight or so I was beaten when I wouldn’t get into a sex position, (fully clothed) with an older guy with a leather belt . . . among other things. As a direct result I like rough sex, and I still deal with what happened to me all the time and it’s been fourteen years since then. (I also have an abusive ex that I’m still working through too.)
    When it comes to guys though, I tell the guys I start to date usually before we get intimate. When any guy pressures me intentionally or not I still completely shut down, among other things and I want them to know ahead of time. I want them to care enough to not put me into a position like that, and I want them to know ahead of time before I do shut down.
    It is really hard to get through, and over with. I’m sorry that you had to go through it dear. When you find the right guy, you will be willing to take the risks of flashbacks, and all the discomfort of going through it. I think you will be able to make peace with it, but it will take time, and you will need to be with the right person for it to work out.
    Stay strong love!
    *hugs*

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  • Emily

    Emily March 6, 2011, 10:39 pm

    First off let me say that I am sorry you had to go through the rape, as a fellow survivor I can truly empathize. I estimate that as many as 1 in 2 women are raped or sexually assaulted so there are many women around you who have been through the same thing. Understand that working through rape is a process and there is no set time table. Much like the grieving process, it is different for everybody. I strongly agree with Wendy’s suggestion to see a rape counselor. A trained professional can help you work through the recovery process more quickly and also help you better understand some of what you are experiencing.
    Don’t be afraid to set boundaries, it takes confidence to set boundaries, and many men find that hot! I have always told my partners that I was raped. If I could not tell him about my rape I felt I should not be having sex with him. I knew when I lost my virginity I needed it to be on my terms with a man I cared about. Losing my virginity provided some closure for me and I am still in contact with the man I gave my virginity to. I wish you well in your recovery!

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    TaxMan March 9, 2011, 5:46 pm

    Survivor LW, I read your letter right after it had been posted, and initially I felt bad for you and all you had to deal with as a result of your ordeal. It was just one of those dull feeling that you feel for strangers though, and not something clear and defined like you would have if it were more personal. In the past few weeks though what you experienced hit home with me, because my girlfriend of the past 3 months told me that she had been assaulted and raped about 4 years ago. So, I just want to thank you for having the courage to write about your experience. I also want to thank all the people who wrote comments above here. You have no idea how much of a help they were to me when during and following her revelation. Many of them have given great advice. I especially found Uyzie’s and _jsw_’s advice to be helpful. Again thank you for your courage to post your letter, and I wish you luck with whatever you decide to do.

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      _jsw_ March 9, 2011, 6:27 pm

      I’m very sorry to hear about your girlfriend, TaxMan, but I’m glad that she felt comfortable and safe confiding in you and that she has your support. It is truly sad that so many of us have experienced rape either firsthand or via a loved one.

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    Jules February 13, 2013, 3:33 am

    I was raped as a virgin (17) and at 19, have yet to have consensual sex. I understand how you feel completely! I feel like I am missing out and am curious, yet also terrified, especially of scaring people off. It’s difficult for me to open up, but I don’t want to live my whole life in fear. I told a guy who was interested in me some of the traumatic details. It was sudden, and I thought it would scare him (he’s 22), but he said he could handle it. I told him he didn’t have to say anything (what can you say, really?), but to me, knowing someone could hear that and not run away was enough. I realize this won’t always be the consensus, but I felt so free, not used and unworthy as I previously had. Anyway, I hope things work out//have worked out for you. Don’t give up or be afraid if the first guy you tell doesn’t handle it well. You deserve real happiness, and sometimes it just takes some time. XX

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