Ground Control to Danger Man

written by Rebecca Schuh

*names have been changed to protect identity of those involved
**except only the guys names have been changed because the girls are just in there doing nice things for me

He asked me, at least. He asked me if he could hit me, slap my chest, as I lay on that mangled ground. I said yes—not because I wanted to, or because I didn’t want to. I just didn’t care. I hadn’t been having an opinion on much since I’d entered this party. Sam seemed to find me as soon as I walked out the back door. We were what you call “party friends.” He immediately started stroking my arm, leaning down towards me, doing all the things that are so easy for any college age girl to decipher. I was surprised, but I didn’t mind—hey, he wasn’t a rando, he was hot asshole from my class last semester! Sam quickly pulled me back onto the bridge that connected this fraternity to the street behind it and started making out with me.

“Come back here, this will be fun,” Sam said, holding my hand as we hopped the rope fence into the field behind the fraternities known to much of the Greek population as “Nam.”

I went along with it, thinking that this would at least be a good story. We were on the ground almost as soon as we reached a tree about midway through the field. We started making out again, in the rushed, intense way that has nothing in common with the kisses that you see in movies when you’re hoping so desperately to fall in love.

We’d gotten to the point of removing almost all of my clothing, but Sam was still clothed except for a few buttons undone on his shirt and his pants being halfway to his knees. We began having sex, his pants still not completely removed. He reared up in the night sky above me, slamming his body down into mine, and I was almost starting to feel bored.

It came out of the blue:  “Can I hit you?”

I was slightly confused at first, but I had no reason to say no. I wasn’t offended, I tend to be of the camp that if sex is between two consenting adults it doesn’t really matter what they do during it. I was a consenting adult and I didn’t care, so I told him yes.

Sam punched me, between my collar bones and my breasts, holding himself up with his other hand and keeping his groin positioned over mine. It was actually a feat of balance. He’d alternate and slap me, testing out which different forms of abuse came closer to getting him off. It hurt, as it generally does when someone is using physical power against you. We kept going, my back causing so much friction with the ground that I’d have scratches all up and down it the next morning to rival the bruises on my chest.

I told everyone that I have this really weird thing where I bruise when I get hickeys. Some people said it looked like I’d been punched, and I laughed. I laughed.

Less than a month later, I was in bed with a guy that, this time, I really liked. We’d been flirting for the past six weeks, and I had been about to give up on any chance when he came up to me on Halloween and asked me playfully why we hadn’t snuggled yet. This also took place on a bridge behind a fraternity. Two hours later we’d found our way from the party to his single, and had eventually transitioned from a serious amount of cuddling to kissing. It felt slower at the time.

This boy’s name was Sean. Pretty close to Sam. That night he told me I was an intellectual snuggler. We engaged in witty banter during our foreplay, which was extensive. I didn’t think we were going to have sex that night. Then, he asked me if I had a condom. My response should have been, “No you idiot, I’m a girl and we’re in your room.  Also, since we are two people who seem to be attracted to each other, why don’t we hold our horses and maybe just make out for tonight?”

What I did say was, “Uh no, do you?” And while he went to the bathroom to get one, I internally freaked out and knew that this was going downhill. I had to say something. I knew exactly where this was going. Guys do not date girls they sleep with the first time they get together, guys do not date girls they sleep with the —

“Hey uh, this is kind of awkward, but um…are you sure we should have sex? I mean, I just don’t know. I just feel like this is going really fast and it scares me because I do like you and I want this to be a thing that could happen again and I feel like if we do it right now that usually…do you know what I mean?” I trailed off, although in reality I was probably rambling for about five minutes longer.

“Uh…what do you mean?  Like you want a relationship?” His voice was already faltering.

“No, I mean…” My response should have been yes. “No, I mean, I just want to keep things open, I’m not really a planning things like that out type of person.” Liar. “I just don’t want us to hook up and then get awkward and never talk again, you know?” He nodded. Please remember that phrase. Keep in mind that I said literally those exact words.

“But do you still, uh, want to?”

“Yes!” Maybe. Silence. “Was that really awkward? I’m sorry,” I asked as Sean stood there, naked, holding a condom, leaning over the edge of his bed.

“Yeah, it was pretty awkward,” he laughed as he leaned down and sat on the bed next to me. “But it was actually really sexy.” He kissed me then, and my poor little heart fluttered.

We had sex twice that night, we talked the whole time, we cuddled, we poked fun at our own issues and forgave each other’s.  After the first time we spooned for a few hours, falling in and out of sleep with our bodies still touching.

That morning he told me he had to start doing homework, and awkwardly hugged me as I left through the door. I knew that it had been wrong, that I had made a mistake. I found my friend Stephanie the second I got back to Holt, laughing with her when we realized we were both awake at 8 AM on a Sunday for the same reason. I told her the whole story, and by the end I was almost crying.

“I know I should be happy, but I’m not. I feel like shit.”

She tried to tell me that I couldn’t know at this point, but she knew too. We always know. If we’re honest with ourselves, we always know.

Sean ignored me for a week, then threw a French fry at me in the commons. I tried to be friendly to him, I’d text him once in a while that I was cold; our old joke had been that since he was always hot when he slept and I was always could we should clearly sleep together. We obviously took it too literally. I tried to talk to him even though I was scared. I only told a few of my friends because I wanted to respect his privacy.

He either didn’t respond to my texts or responded generically. He started flirting with another girl in my sorority. He called me “Schuh” if he deemed it necessary to say hello to me. My first name would have been far more appropriate.

Three weeks later I texted him and said, “We need to talk.  I don’t care if it’s in person or not.” He surprisingly agreed and picked me up from Holt. We talked for three hours, during which time he told me: a) He didn’t want to date me because I wasn’t a math major; b) He wasn’t a hook up type of guy, but he wanted to “try out” the one night stand thing so I was his “experiment;” c) He recognized that I had specifically asked him to not do exactly what he did, namely ignoring me and making me feel like shit, but that I was just really awkward afterwards.

I could easily continue with this list of grievances. When he dropped me back off at Holt around six AM, I stood outside the front door and screamed. I crouched down on my knees, put my head back, and wailed. I didn’t even cry. I just screamed, and screamed, and screamed.

Two boys, one letter, one fraternity. Both treated me like shit, in opposite ways. Sean and I are friends now, he gives me advice about my abroad plans and we hug at parties. It’s not for his sake, but for mine. I couldn’t take all that hatred festering around inside me. I was never really mad at Sam.We’re very friendly; he sincerely asks me how I am when we see each other.

What do these two boys have in common? Sleeping with me during the month of October a year and a half ago? Yes, but moreover, they both took the power that men are inherently given into their hands, whether it was intentional or unintentional, and abused it to a high degree.

While I also think it’s messed up that a twenty year old thought it was socially acceptable to ask me if he could hit me during sex in a field, it’s also messed up that I said “yes” without a second thought. Why did I not care about being physically abused during sex? Why did I say “yes” to something that is so clearly demeaning to women and that perpetuates the exact societal and cultural problems I just ragged on?

Men and women are not the problem here. The problem is that we live in a society where men are praised for acting a certain incredibly demeaning way and women are trained to accept it.

Photo by Anthony Sgro

Society needs to alter how people perceive men and women and their sexual relations, but that must start with individual people. It’s an endless cycle unless we stand up for ourselves, are honest about our intentions, and recognize that every single action we take could be hurting someone far more than we ever realize. Bruises fade and I can joke now about being rejected for hating math, but the implications these abuses of power had on my life are far deeper than the blood that rises to the surface when your skin is hit by a powerful fist.

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