Q: My first complete sexual experience was ‘forced sex’ on a date under the influence of alcohol in the backseat of a car. I have unpleasant memories of the same. I broke up with my boyfriend after that, because he viewed what happened as a non-issue. When I labelled it as ‘date rape’ he said that the sex was consensual. I am no longer sure about myself, because the same thing happened at an off-site with my colleague after a few drinks in his room. What he called as ‘consensual sex’ felt like rape to me. I have also been inappropriately touched as a child by my uncle and cousin brother. Have I been scarred by my childhood experiences where even when I seem to consent on the surface it feels forced to me? Will I ever be able to feel comfortable in a sexual relationship?
A: There are several issues at play here. Let us list them out and then address them one by one –
Your being forced to have sex (for the first time) on a date with your boyfriend under the influence of alcohol and your discomfort with it.
Your sexual experience with a colleague under the influence of alcohol and your eventual discomfort with the experience.
Your childhood experiences of being inappropriately touched by a cousin brother and uncle and you postulating you’re currently inability to say ‘no’ when you feel like your body is being violated.
Your fears about the ability to have a comfortable sexual relationship.
Being forced to have intercourse under any form of duress or against your will can be legally seen as being raped. For your boyfriend to dub it as a non-issue could mean that he is unaware of how traumatised this experience has left you. He may be dismissive of your feelings, because he doesn’t want to or simply cannot fully understand your feelings. It could also be based on the assumption that you are okay to sexually experiment with him (being his girlfriend). Sex between adults can only be consensual if both adults involved (are in a sound and balanced state of mind). The consumption of alcohol before intercourse makes it difficult to sustain a sound and balanced state of mind and this can affect one’s behaviour too. The loss and decline of inhibitions and ‘self-control’ after one is inebriated are well known and documented. One may become open to certain dubious or uncomfortable situations that one may later regret after one has had a few drinks too many.
The common thread between your experience with your boyfriend and your colleague (apart from the fact that you had sex) is the consumption of alcohol. If you feel so uncomfortable with the aftermath of what happens with you after you have consumed alcohol, then it would probably be a good idea to either lay off the liquor completely or drink in moderation. You could appoint a trustworthy friend to let you know when you have had enough or you could engage in moderation yourself. Having sex with a colleague could lead to an awkward situation at the workplace and that could affect your reputation and even subsequent employability if someone were to choose to engage in ‘office gossip’ about your alleged ‘exploits’ when you have been sent on company money somewhere.
Its unfortunate that you had to go through as a child. However, while you were dependant and clueless about what was happening with you then, that is not the case anymore. You can choose to give your consent responsibly. As an adult, you are solely responsible for your own physical and emotional safety. This means knowing when to stop drinking alcohol, so that you reach home safely and this also means knowing who to ‘choose to have a few drinks with’. If you have trouble being assertive or still need to work through childhood traumas, you should consider investing some time in visiting a psychotherapist, so that you can learn to better understand your minds-pace and so that you can learn how to ‘actively take control of your life’.
Your ability to have a happy and fulfilling sexual relationship will be based on how much time you invest in ‘working on yourself’. You will need to learn to move beyond your own limitations by getting over the past and course correcting worrying behavioural and thinking patterns. You will need to learn to work diligently on your own plans for yourself to build a future that you are happy with. This is easier said than done and don’t be afraid to ask for help from a counselling professional if you are unable to figure this out for yourself.
(Aman R Bhonsle is a qualified Psychosocial Analyst and a Professional Youth Mentor with specialisation in Transactional Analysis and REBT. He is available for consultation at the Heart To Heart Counselling Centre.)