• Meighan Leibert

Identifying and Healing

That I recall, I did not masturbate as a child/young adult and I did not explore myself intimately.

My first sexual experience was not consensual. I was 17, my dad had died Oct 29, 1984 and on my birthday Dec 31 of that same year I found myself at a party with friends. At this time in my life I was eager to belong, be seen and included.  I was very aware of the 'cool kids' and how much I wanted to be just like them.

I was sleeping in a pull out bed with a friend. I got woken up and moved to the floor. I know I resisted. I also know the ruckus was irritating my friend. I was both scared and curious. I was also really tired and just wanted to go back to bed. The guy was popular. In my head I was thinking this would mean something, we would become boyfriend/girlfriend, this would grow us into more, it was a solid. Of course, right? I said no, I tried to find others to engage and I was unsuccessful. I couldn't stop it from happening. Maybe I didn’t even really try because I thought it would take me somewhere I wanted to be. His actions were fueled by desire, right? He wanted me. I had no experience and therefore no reference. To be blunt: It was awful, not enjoyable, it hurt. My body did not respond as it simply was not ready. It felt very wrong. I lost my voice. I was scared and embarrassed.

The public aspect to it all was unbelievably hard. I remember moving to a hallway in front of a washer/dryer, the lights being flipped on while I lay there naked and my hands moving to cover my face (to hide) from all the faces looking down at me. Denial for this event was immediate, I never ever considered this a rape. Just a shitty experience that I probably deserved. My mom had said a week before: "Do not go to that party, you will get drunk, have sex and probably get pregnant." Well, I did not get pregnant.

If I had any self-esteem before this experience, it had now completely disappeared. The drive home the next morning was in a car filled with girls and their silent stares. I was in so much pain and the judgement was intense. I was not cool, I was a wannabe loser girl who got with the right guy. It seemed so natural to fit into the label that descended upon me: SLUT. So that's what I did, I just slept with anyone who was interested. I wanted to be wanted. I needed to feel like I meant something to someone. When I remember, I realize I had none of these feelings toward myself. I did not belong to me. I was yours for the taking.

Thereafter I never really enjoyed sex. It was just something to do. Kissing was my favorite because it felt safe. Oral sex? Terrifying, too intimate. Most times I just wanted to get it over with. Pleasure? I was clear on giving it and had no idea how to receive it. I had never experienced pleasure, I was never given an introduction or the chance to know what made me feel good in the company of another. Most guys would ask “What do you like?” and I would answer “I don’t know.” The conversation ended there and I never considered finding out. Now that is weird. This is sad for me to admit. I was ashamed to be curious. It felt like I was supposed to know, naturally. I cannot begin to really understand what made me so afraid to know myself. Yet it explains so much of my confusion and struggle.

I closed myself off from feeling down there. I had become desensitized. My first masturbation experience came in my late twenties. I remember opening the vibrator and getting really mad that there were no instructions. (!!!!????!!!!) I guess I really am a late bloomer. I did figure it out and it was all very exciting. Personal and private. Not yet shareable.

I worked with a Shaman years ago who helped me recognize the truth of that first sexual experience. My homework was to imagine young love and romance in a beautiful way, imagine a new truth.

The hardest admission is that I feel sexually inadequate. This is not my truth. It is merely something I believe. I will change my mind.

I am greatly influenced by these statements:

It is not what happens to you, it is how you handle it.

Every experience is an invitation to grow.

Forgiveness toward other is for self.

Compassion is my ticket to freedom.

Often, I have experienced sincere desire/inclination to retreat. These moments have had their own lessons, the ones where I play it safe and force myself to believe I have chosen me and exercised 'protection'. Sometimes that is absolutely true, I have the ability to nurture and care for self. I also know excuses come in many colors. This is not judgment, just awareness.

I spoke with that boy ( I do not remember his name) over the phone a week after the incident. ( We never saw each other again) He told me he had no idea I was a virgin. I believed him. Now, today, I can question his language where I had no fortitude do so at the time. I would say: "Really, you had no idea? I said no. I told you I didn't want to take my clothes off. And when you persisted, nothing worked, everything was forced, how is that not telling?" And this is where I can consider that maybe he just couldn't hear anything I was saying, because he himself was disconnected. Blurred by drink? Driven by his own need? Lost to reality? I have never, once, considered his side of this situation.

I do not recall an apology. That doesn't mean it did not happen. I just do not remember one. What i do know is that whatever he said, I was pretty focused on making him feel okay. I was not communicating anything of my hurt because I thought we were going to date, be boyfriend/girlfriend.

And 36 years later I can absolutely generate some compassion for a kid who may have had no idea what he was doing, really. This mind game is BIG. When I put myself in his shoes there is a boatload of stuff I can imagine. I will tell you this, I do not for one second believe he wanted to hurt me or even take something away from me. His actions may have had nothing to do with me personally, as gross as that is to admit, it is very possible.

The hookup culture for my kids today is based on NOT KNOWING anything about the other participant, the goal is to have sex WITHOUT connection. Maybe our culture has had seedlings of this all along. I fall right in line with feeling guilty for shaming another.

I can taste his innocence too, along with his curiosity, his inconsiderate and his agenda. None of this makes what happened RIGHT. It does, however, help me cultivate understanding.

I am accepting the invitation to grow NOW.  I have been living with these ideas for so long: He was a stranger, I did not know him, he hurt me, he did not care, he did not listen, he was not in love with me, he took something I was not willing to give, he was disrespectful, he was a monster.

When I turn it around, my whole body lights up: I was a stranger, I did not know myself, I hurt me, I did not care, I did not listen, I was not in love with me, I gave myself away, I was disrespectful, I was a monster.

This might sound crazy, but when I take full responsibility for myself, I feel better. I move into my body and get out of my head. I just set myself free from a pattern of thinking that caused me real pain and anguish. Who knew? I certainly did not. I am growing my reliability and my accountability. Maybe even my generosity ;-)

My conditioning made me a victim. Can I say that? (Yes, I said that.) If I think it and believe it then I will most definitely live it.

I am not a victim!

I have been watching SEX EDUCATION with my kids on Netflix. I missed out on all that mutual exploration in adolescence, the excitement and delight two people can generate together. It is amazing to be introduced to the innocence surrounding playful romantic discovery, it makes me so happy. I get totally thrilled for my kids. More importantly, I know this is possible for me too. I can have it as well.

Peggy Orenstein has met with Terry Gross on Fresh Air (NPR) to support her books about boys & sex and girls & sex



She introduces the necessary communication to create positive intimate experiences for both parties. We are learning together how to take care of ourselves in relationships. She identifies and labels so much to help all of us understand what is most valuable for true connection. She explores porn as well and the effects it is having on our youth. Her description of female pleasure and the strong reality that most girls are satisfied when their partners are satisfied hits home. A young lesbian, when asked what losing her virginity means to her responds with something close to: “I am so glad you asked me that question. I have been thinking about it a lot. I think a person loses their virginity when they orgasm with another.” I listened to this three times while I cried.

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