Names have been changed.
I was 17 and a virgin. Part of me wanted to lose my virginity to someone I loved, but another part of me just wanted to get rid of it. The idea of “losing it to Prince Charming” was starting to feel like a burden.
I was insecure. Growing up, my mother physically abused me and put me down. She said hurtful things like “You should’ve been aborted.” I went into foster care, with my grandmother, when I was 11. If my own mother didn’t love me, who could? So why not drop this hope to lose my virginity to my true love before I was disappointed?
Around that time, I noticed a young man in the neighborhood of my all-girls school. He was handsome, with a confident walk. He was a couple inches taller than me and had dark brown hair with a light, smooth complexion and bright green eyes. His arms were covered in tattoos.
I chose him not to be my boyfriend, but, specifically, to lose my virginity to. I didn’t have history with him, so I could lose it and move on. He looked tough with all his tattoos, so I assumed that he was a player, not a guy who’d get attached. If a boy could use girls, I figured, then I could use him.
But it didn’t work out like that.
I saw him three times before I actually met him, and the fourth time, the last day of my junior year, he asked me out. We texted a lot and video-chatted before we saw each other again. His name was A.J. He texted sweet things like, “You’re so pretty,” with a kiss emoticon.
On our first date, at a Mexican restaurant, I found out he was 20. He went to college and worked at a fast food place near my high school. He said he wanted to be a correctional officer, and then asked, “What about you, Catholic girl? When do you graduate?”
“I’m going to be a senior this September.”
“Aw, that’s so cute. Your uniform is adorable.”
We kept flirting and laughing and after we finished our food, we went to his apartment, which he shared with a roommate. As we entered, he said, “Those jeans look uncomfortable; put these on,” and threw me a pair of basketball shorts. I tensed up: Was he going to try something?
Even though sex was my plan, I was scared. I wasn’t ready for the pain, or to give up something I’d been holding onto for so long. I realized I wasn’t as brave as I’d decided to be when I’d hatched my plan. But the shorts did look more comfortable than my jeans, so I put them on.
His roommate wasn’t home. We watched the movie Pineapple Express and during it he grabbed my chin to kiss me. This kiss consumed my entire body. I actually felt dizzy, just from kissing. I left feeling lucky.
I Gave In
Our second date was a few weeks later. We hung out at his house again, and it was fine until he touched me high on my thigh. I recoiled. Did he think I was easy? This was moving too fast. I panicked. I told him it was too soon, but he wasn’t listening to me.
“I really like you and I want you to myself…you know what I mean, right?” And he kissed me.
“I understand that, but we just started hanging out, A.J.”
“I know, but I just want to make you mine.”
Those words and the way he looked at me made me feel like an object. What did he mean by “make me his”? If I had sex with him, would I become his property? There wasn’t any comfort or concern in his eyes; he seemed emotionless as a robot.
My panic made me realize that maybe my virginity was important. My plan to be casual about it began to seem unrealistic. But he begged and persuaded for over 25 minutes, while I repeatedly said, “I’m not ready.” Overwhelmed, I finally gave in.
Afterwards, I looked in his bathroom mirror and thought to myself, “Who am I now?” Yet I didn’t look or feel different; it wasn’t momentous.
Judging him from his appearance, I figured A.J. wouldn’t want to be someone’s boyfriend. But I was wrong. After we had sex, he called, video-chatted, and texted a lot. It was strange to me. I’d never had anyone make such an effort. I certainly didn’t expect it after having sex with someone I barely knew. I slowly grew closer to him—not because we’d had sex, but because of his effort.
Happy at First
At first, being “his” felt special. He showed me off to his friends, put his arm around me in public, kissed me goodbye, and even wanted to introduce me to his mom. He surprised me with designer clothes he bought for me. We were happy.
I showed him off too. My friends said, “Girl, he’s hot!”; “If he wasn’t with you, I’d have him!”; and “Damn, he’s cute!” No one asked how the relationship was going; they just saw the surface. But what was below the surface was less and less cute.
When he wanted to have sex, I was supposed to want to do it too. He assumed that I belonged to him whenever for whatever. But I didn’t want to have sex every time we got together; I did it only to satisfy him. I didn’t enjoy it most of the time, but I liked the way he looked at me when we did it.
We’d been dating for a month and a half when I met him one night after his shift at the restaurant. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and told me I looked nice and that he liked my outfit. Then we started walking to his house. A text from my friend Kevin popped up on my iPhone screen, so I unlocked it and wrote back. A.J. grabbed the phone from my hand and angrily said “Who’s Kevin? And what the f-ck does he want?”
I took the phone back, but A.J. smacked it out of my hand and sent it flying onto the sidewalk. I picked it up and tried to shove him, but he caught my arm and squeezed it hard, forcing me to walk with him.
He let me go after a couple of minutes and I ran in the opposite direction, furious. He screamed and ran after me. Catching up to me, he grabbed my arm from behind and said, “Baby please. Come back! I’m sorry.” I whipped my hand away. “What is wrong with you? Don’t touch me.” I was a little scared because he’d never grabbed me like that before.
But then he told me how grateful he was to have me in his life and gave me that look that said, “You know you’re my girl, right?” And I forgave him and ended up back in his arms.
I was starting to see a scary side of him, but it was like A.J. had cast a spell on me. I couldn’t leave him. When I got mad, his smile and his green eyes could win me over. My attraction to him was stronger than I thought. And we could still laugh and be ourselves around one another when he wasn’t angry.
Controlling and Cheating
Then he started telling me I had on too much make-up or not to wear certain clothes and that I couldn’t go to certain places. He bugged me for my phone password, then locked himself in his bathroom with my phone and texted all my friends that I didn’t want to be friends with them anymore because I had him. (But I could never see his phone because that “wasn’t my job.”)
When I did see his phone accidentally, I discovered that he was cheating on me. He denied it and claimed that it was just a friend, but A.J. wasn’t a good liar.
I asked him one day, “Who’s Ms. Jay on Instagram?”
A.J. hesitated and then chuckled. “I don’t know who that is.”
“Are you sure? I can just pull it all up right now.”
“She’s nobody, just someone I met on the ’gram.”
“I thought you didn’t know who she was?”
“It took me a minute to remember.”
It was strange how the combination of losing my virginity to him and his cheating affected me. I gave him chances knowing that I shouldn’t, but I became attached to the idea of what we could still manage to be.
I thought, “He’s chasing me for a reason.” The other girls were a problem but I still felt more important to him because he wouldn’t let me go. I knew that I had some power over him because he threatened to hurt himself if I broke it off.
We had three physical fights over his cheating: I hit him and he hit me back. One time he slapped me in the face and I pushed him so hard he fell back into a chair and to the ground. I got scared then and locked myself in the bathroom. He beat the bathroom door like crazy, and when I opened it I was holding a bottle of Windex in my hand to defend myself. I didn’t know what he might do to me.
He laughed and said, “You’re scared of me? Why are you scared? Come here and give me a hug. I would never intentionally hurt you.”
“Well it seemed like it—you slapped me in the face!”
“If I really wanted to hurt you, you would know.”
He ignored or minimized my feelings, and he got upset when I talked to other people. He’d call and text me 15 times in a row. When I blocked his number, he would call me from other numbers and beg me to unblock him, which I eventually did. Whenever I tried to do what I wanted, we ended up arguing or fighting.
Three months into the relationship, I realized I was tired of this. He’d been abusive longer than he’d been nice. My friends noticed how unhappy I had become and told me that I deserved better, that A.J. was just an insecure punk.
I didn’t like the person I became when dating him. When I didn’t want to have sex and he did, I gave in and became that object for him. I felt ashamed that I was giving my all to a person who didn’t deserve it. One time he even said to me, “I don’t force you to have sex, you know. I’m not a rapist.” But he would beg and plead to make me give in.
Six months after our first date, I told A.J., “I’m done with you. I really tried and nothing I do is enough. I’m leaving you.”
Ready for Respect
I was standing in front of him while he sat on his couch looking remorseful. He said, “No, please, you can’t! Life is so hard for me right now and I don’t have anyone. My mom is all the way in Georgia; my father is God knows where. You have your grandmother who does anything for you. No family is here by my side. I didn’t mean to f-ck up, I’m sorry. Just please don’t leave me.”
In that moment, I realized how selfish he was. Living with my grandmother instead of in a foster home was a blessing, but watching the cops arrest my mother was painful no matter how badly she’d treated my sister and me. My childhood was just as rough as his, but I never made it an excuse for my actions. From the beginning of the relationship, he’d only showed kindness or interest in me to get what he wanted and most of the time, that was sex. I was done.
I hadn’t expected that losing my virginity to him would attach me to A.J. the way it did. And that attachment made me put up with bad treatment for too long, but I learned from that too. If someone cares about you, they don’t tell you what to do or what to wear; they don’t insult you. Now I know that a good partner doesn’t make you feel insecure but instead makes you feel comfortable, accepted, safe, and free—not “his,” but your own person.