My First “Sexual Experiences” Felt Demeaning

Stop sexual assault

By Fe Hmelar

I’ve never had a boyfriend, never gone on a date, or even been kissed. But I have been sexually assaulted. Twice.

And that is partly why I have never dated.

In middle school I was quiet. I wasn’t the popular girl always going to parties. Most days I spent my time in play rehearsal, drawing, or watching Bones with my grandma.

A few boys did ask me out but I always said, “No thank you.” I didn’t feel ready to have a boyfriend and wanted to wait until I was more mature.

But on the last day of middle school, as I waited in line for my graduation ceremony, I suddenly felt hands on my butt and my chest. I froze. I didn’t know how to register what had just happened.

I looked up and two boys I knew from math class were staring at me and laughing. Behind them other boys egged them on, “Good job guys!”

I couldn’t believe that those boys had violated me right in front of the entire school, my friends and my family.

It’s sad that my first “sexual experience” felt demeaning and embarrassing.

I didn’t report them or tell my parents since offenders so often get just a slap on the wrist — if anything. 

In high school I was determined to never be violated again. I avoided boys and said “No” to any guy who looked my way. I didn’t want a boyfriend to think that he had a right to touch me just because we were in a relationship.

Still, I was assaulted again. It happened last summer while I was living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

When I first arrived in KL I was assigned a personal chauffeur and a bodyguard named Mike. I couldn’t understand why I needed a body guard but within the first 24 hours it became clear. I was catcalled repeatedly that first day. Men’s stares were even more disturbing as I felt eyes piercing through me and practically undressing me — despite being forced by my family to wear modest clothing. Because apparently Western women are seen as “loose” and my mom didn’t want to attract attention.

Other than catcalling and stares, life in KL was filled with gratifying adventures. My bodyguard made it possible for me to carry on as if I were home.

All was well until the day I went to a bookstore and told Mike to wait in the car. I’d just be a couple of minutes, after all. But in that short time I felt a hand press up against my pelvic area and make its way to my chest. It was so quick that I just kept walking, feeling completely petrified. I felt both saddened and enraged.

In this foreign land the moral code and manners felt alien. I was not seen as a man’s equal. I was treated like property and made to feel that I had no control over my own body.  

While I’m glad I live in a country that has progressed far beyond that mentality, America still has far too much sexual assault. And I’m tired of girls being told to carry pepper spray or use the buddy system. It’s time to teach men to treat women with respect and to reliably punish those who do not.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on November 5, 2019, in rape and sexual assault and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. In an abrahamic culture it is impossible to have sexual experiences that are not demeaning. A woman is defined by how much sex she hasn’t had therefore once a woman has sex even in a sanctioned context her value goes down because she has been possessed (defiled) by another male. She is incapable of being a full and equal economic actor in the sexual marketplace.

  2. My heart really goes out to young women (or any women) who have experienced this sort of behavior.

    I personally have witnessed “old” guys catcalling and honking horns at high-school aged girls. It is sad and pathetic behavior.

    I can recall the story the daughter of the woman I knew told me. She stated she was 14 years old and cut classes with some other kids. They were all at the home of this one kid. The rest left the house except for her to find weed and some alcohol. She thought she was alone in the home. Well, there was the uncle of the kid home who was asleep upstairs. He came down to find her alone. He forced her to perform oral sex. She was only 14 years old!!! The guy was nearly 40 she stated. Disgusting.

    This is one area where I 100% support women and young girls. There is very widespread sexual abuse in the Black community. It is rarely discussed. During my time volunteering at the women’s homeless shelter, I saw the consequences. I heard the stories. I saw the trama. A few years ago the maid service that cleans my home sent over three ladies to clean. One was a regular. I overheard these two women talking in the bathroom. One stated that her now husband “took her” when she was 15! She looked to be around 25ish.

    I truly believe a lot of young women (and girls) are suffering from PTSD the result of this sort of behavior.

  3. It took me a bit to reply to this blog. I was sharing it with my co-worker as I thought it was interesting because we were speaking to how can parents at our school district not want to educate their kids (developmentally appropriate of course) on sexual misconduct. There were so many waivers trying to protect the innocence instead of educating. “My First Sexual Experience Felt Demeaning” when the author mentioned make men accountable I completely agree. The thing that I would add is to teach them when they are young prior to becoming men. My co-worker was assaulted in college and had to go through several sessions of therapy to be able to function. She has a son and shared with me that she gives the following information to him. No means no, drunk yes means no, I’m not sure means no, and even a yes followed by no means no! “No control over my body” sadly, even in this day it’s a familiar situation because you get a group of insecure boys trying to prove something. I truly felt the pain as I too had my breast grabbed in middle school. It was 8th-grade graduation and he said it was something on my chest. The feeling of violation truly never leaves your mind and parents should teach their boys to be respectful instead of trying to protect their innocence.

  4. I feel as though sexual assault has always been a major problem but in todays society it has drastically increased and its kind of scary. the fact that most women can’t even feel safe while walking around by themselves, says a lot about the kind of world we live in. we hear so many things about what happens with men or other problems, but I feel as though sexual assaults are mainly overlooked or not taken as serious as they should be. I applaud the author for being able to tell her story because like she stated many times we see girls try and speak up but their offender is not even treated as harshly as they should be, its just like a slap on the wirst. I myself carry mace on me when I walk around by myself because of all the what ifs in my head, but even with the mace I do not feel as safe as I should. sexual assault can happen anywhere and committed by anyone, girls being told to carry some sort of a weapon does not do anything because sometimes the person targeting you is the one you least expect.

    • It’s too bad that women have to worry about this on such a regular basis. And it’s not good for men either to have women Fearful of them. We will all be better off without sexual assault.

  5. Sexual assault is not treated as a priority. That’s probably why most women don’t speak up about their assaults. It saddened me to read this post. No one deserves to be assaulted. Your body is your temple. No one should experience any type of assault. Women are individually strong and goddesses in their own way. I believe women go through sexual assaults on a bi weekly basis. Women are assaulted in the randomness locations. Their work environment, shopping, partying, going for a jog, etc. For example, I was apprehended by a gentlemen in the work environment several times after being asked not to. I had to move forward with reporting him because I wasn’t interested in a date and he kept insisting and eventually got touchy. Some men don’t know the respect in keeping their hands to themselves and in those cases you need to report it. I strongly agree that women shouldn’t have to carry a pepper spray in order to feel safe. Regardless, pepper spray will probably give you the advantage of a couple minutes. Within time, the assaulter can catch up to you and really hurt you. Women should feel safe in their community, work environment, and globally. We shouldn’t carry pepper sprays to feel safe. Women are the seed of the world. We bare children. We contribute to empower other women and the world. Our bodies deserve the same respect!

  6. It is unfortunate that that women years ago and still today have to endure such harassment. While I have not had the same experience of physical harassment I do recall many times being “cat called”. I was one to begin developing at a very young age. By the age of 12 training bras were not ideal for me, and my mom and I became more aware of it when she witnessed me being stared at and cat called when my nipples were hardened from the cold weather. I didn’t fully understand my moms anger until years later when I was in my later teens and while walking in a store I heard two guys speaking mumble quickly as they passed by me “nice ass”. I can’t even full recall if I said anything back but I remember telling my mom about it and her saying to me that “guys will never change”. I do not fully believe in that term that guys will never change because I am optimistic and do believe that people can change for the better, but that makes it difficult when society does nothing about harassment that is delivered by men, I do not mean to go political here but we do have men in the government office who have pressed harassment on women and we have yet to see them receive punishment for their behavior making it “acceptable” for men to continue harassing women. I have not had the experience of feeling harassed in a foreign country, but I will be visiting Morocco soon and I have been told that men are possessive and controlling of their women so I am curious to see how my experience there will be. However, it shouldn’t matter what country someone is in, a woman should never feel like she has no control over her own body. Living in a country that many foreigners look up to, we should lead by example and show other countries that women are to be treated with respect and those who fail to do so shall be disciplined for it, and this needs to include people in office as well. 

  7. I understand how scary this can be I’ve gone through this scary experience myself so never feel like you’re alone. I don’t understand and never will why boys and even men feel like they are entitled to our bodies like we’re objects. Finding the courage to talk to someone and report it is scarier than people think and it stays and affects you for a very long time and many people don’t realize that. I do believe there should be consequences even though nothing ever rarely ever happens to them even when it is reported. If the roles were reversed and men were as worried and scared like we are when things like this happen things would change.

  8. In this article, “My First “Sexual Experiences” Felt Demeaning”, I really felt for the girl who was narrating her experiences. I honestly commend her for speaking out to the public about her sexual assaults because it helps others who went through the same experience feel like they are not alone. It also helps makes others feel like they are a survivor instead of being a victim and that they are not for blame for the action that was taking part. I relate to her of never having a boyfriend, and never having a first kiss and the fact that her first encounters with males were of sexual assaults instead of someone that she wanted to be sexual with breaks my heart for her. It just breaks my heart because I feel, especially never having a boyfriend, actions like those should always be with someone who you trust. Those people who sexually assaulted her literally took that first experience away, not to mention scarring her into these horrible memories.

  9. Sexual assault has been such a big issue and sometimes I wonder how it still is in 2019, especially with things like the #MeToo movement and with so many people coming forward to share their experience. There is this whole culture of “boys will be boys” that is unacceptable as an excuse to not punish them for sexually assaulting someone. And women are so scared to come forward or to press charges because often times they are blamed for it or not believed. And even if charges go through the punishment does not fit the crime. If you look at cases like Brock Turner it is horrifying to see how little the seriousness of sexual assault is taken. While it is nice to see “not all men” stories, it would be better to teach boys about consent instead of teaching women how to protect themselves from being sexually assaulted. That feels like trying to come up with a prevention to the problem instead of trying to get rid of the problem itself.

  10. This honest piece demonstrates the fact that unwanted sexual attention can have a lasting effect on its victims. Often times those responsible for these acts are only thinking about their own desire, neglecting to acknowledge the human they are violating. I think that too often, men are not taught to respect women as human beings, but instead that their worth is boiled down to how they can please a man. One thing that strikes me in this post is that the men who violated the writer are never held responsible for their actions, but this is also the reality of many situations exactly like this one. The track record of reporting sexual assault to any degree is largely in the favor of men, whereas the female victims are often belittled or humiliated. This post presents the honest truth that is often ignored in sexual harassment, which is that any level of violation can have a tremendous affect on victims, and repercussions are often rare.

  11. Charlotte Greatwood

    I remember the first time I was catcalled. I was biking home from school, and two men leaned out of their car and yelled at me. I almost fell off my bike, I was so scared. I was barely eleven. When I went home and told my mom, she asked if I was okay and then she explained to me that I had to get used to this. She told me not to make eye contact when walking down the street, not to go out in the dark, and never to talk back to catcallers. I don’t think that boys who were the same age as me got these talks. They weren’t catcalled, so they never asked their parents. Unfortunately when sex education is taught, the ideas about respect and consent seem to be too little, too late. I wish there were some kind of basic ideas of respect taught after the initial kindergarten kindness ideas. It seems like after kids stop pushing and punching, that’s enough. Then when we are teenagers, we learn that consent exists, but not the underlying respect that creates good consent.

  12. “While I’m glad I live in a country that has progressed far beyond that mentality, America still has far too much sexual assault. And I’m tired of girls being told to carry pepper spray or use the buddy system. It’s time to teach men to treat women with respect and to reliably punish those who do not.”

    I strongly agree with this statement. While we may not require a bodyguard to run errands, there are many things my friends and I refuse to do alone due to safety precautions. I don’t think men realize the minor state of fear and hyper-awareness that is constant when we are out alone. I’ve mentioned to men how I wanted to buy a self-defense weapon of some sort for when I’m hiking or running alone and they seemed taken aback by the comment. That reaction, to me, says that it doesn’t seem to be common in their lives but also that its uncommon for them to realize that we feel like that regularly in everyday circumstances. Also, in regards to reliable punishments, this made me think of the Stanford student case. He assaulted an unconscious woman and only served 3 months of jail time. That doesn’t seem just to me and if I were the victim I would have expected more.

    • Speaking of men’s surprise I once interviewed a transwoman on how her life changed when she transitioned from male to female and she talked about how she wasn’t prepared for the constant worry and surveillance her new life brought. How unfortunate that women have to live our lives that way.

      • I’m surprised guys are taken back if a woman wants a weapon or protection if hiking or running by herself. Unfortunately abductions and murders have happened to women who were joggers or hikers which some bad guys seek or go after women doing such activities alone, because the women are isolated and vulnerable. It sucks women have to think about that. I’m one who would want any female family or friends who run, to do so with a group and not by themselves. Or what some do and I think helps with protection is if they have a dog and not just any dog, but has a big dog they own. Then go jogging while taking your dog for a walk. Examples, if you have a pitbull, Rotweiller, Dolberman, German Shephard, etc.

        My buddy has a German, great dog, but they are quite protective which can be good in that case. Very lovable, but very loyal too and they will be on guard if they don’t know you and you come up to the house. By buddies dog just adores me, he knows me quite well since it’s my best friend and I hang out with my friend often and he adores my buddies gf and my friends family, my family and close friends. Good people he knows of course. He’s a big boy though ha, like 120lbs. But seriously, I would not want to fight mike tyson as I would get destroyed of course. But if I had to choose, I’m getting in a fight with mike tyson anyday of the week over my buddies German. He’s a good dog, I’m just saying if he likes you, he would guard you with his life from an intruder and he would destroy that dude, I don’t care if it’s mike tyson. So yeah I think it’s best for girls to go in groups, but the exception is if they have a beastly dog breed as said ha. Well I guess St Bernards could be pretty good too, just because they are so damn huge. Like slobbery bears.

      • Getting a friendly but scary dog sounds like a great idea.

  13. Jennifer Valenzuela

    It always makes me sad when I read or hear about someone being sexually assaulted. It made me even more frustrated to read that this traumatizing experience happened twice. There is no excuse for another man or woman to feel as if they have a right to violate another person’s body. I personally didn’t have a boyfriend, kiss, or sexual relationship until after graduating high school. It would have shattered my heart to have someone else assault me before I was ready to live that part of my life. It’s frustrating that men feel as if they can do whatever they please and there wont be any consequences. I’ve noticed that these men always seem to gravitate towards the quiet or shy girls and decide to prey on them. It makes me sad to read that the boys sexually attacked in front of the whole school, something should have been done, that’s not OK! I agree that they usually only get a slap on the wrist, that not enough.

  14. It’s unfortunate that many women are in constant fear of being sexually assaulted because it can happen at any moment and quickly, as you mentioned. It’s unfair that women have to constantly look out for not only themselves but other women as well because of how likely it is that women go through something like this. It’s sad to say that most men have little respect for women; that talking or showing off the things they do to women is what makes them cool. it’s extremely unfair for women to be treated as an abject like that; just used to prove a man’s power. I believe that there needs to be more talk with men about what they’re doing and less talk to women about what to do when situations like this happen because they shouldn’t be happening. Men need to understand how situations like these affect women in the future.

    • I think that many many men do respect women, probably most, in fact, but those who don’t create problems for everyone.

      • It makes me wondering what is missing for these men who sexually assault or are in this manner? I’m sure it’s culture, but why more so men and what is it about men do like not care about doing something violent or threatening? I see sexual objectification brought up and it sucks that women have to deal with that and have such fears. I see something in common or an overlap. Men who commit sexual crimes, you notice they also just commit bad crimes in general though? Like I’m lucky to not have to fear about being raped like women don’t since I’m a man. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the same man who sexually assaulted a woman, is the same man who saw me in a dark alley at night, and tried to rob or mug me…or hijack my car. Like you often see men who are domestic beaters, also get arrested for picking a fight in a bar or badly assaulting a guy over out of control anger and jealousy. Or drunk drives and hits a pedestrian and then speeds off.

        Often male criminals even when in regard to sex crimes, are arrested for other bad things not related to sex, but just violence and other crimes. Like we talk about objectification, but there’s something male about “not giving a fuck?” about people and where does that come from. Isn’t it true it seems like more often there are not just more male criminals but much more male criminals with Narcissism?What is it about society that can cause men more likely in a way then, see things and people as an object of means and not care? Women are targets because most men are straight and such bad men don’t give a fuck, so they don’t give a shit if they treat the women as objects in the process. But to steal or mug, you don’t really give a shit about someone as a person. So something seems maybe to culture for men to remove or suppress empathy? Which is why men can more so than women can treat victims as an object and therefore do bad things?

      • One of my professors wrote a book called “Seductions of crime” and I haven’t read the whole thing but my memory is that he said that armed robbers did it partly because they were trying to feel a sense of personal empowerment. Breaking and entering. It’s similar to rape. And rapists are often also trying to create a sense of personal empowerment. It’s one of the most common reasons why some men rape and assault. (Although the reasons are varied. In group assaults the men are often trying to prove to each other how “male superior” they are by overpowering a woman and humiliating her. And yet they are actually demonstrating their lack of humanity.) There are a number of other motivations too. I should write about this sometime. The different motivations.

        I wrote a bit about it in this post
        https://broadblogs.com/2010/10/26/mind-of-a-rapist-trying-to-bridge-a-gap-between-a-small-self-and-a-big-man/

  15. It enraged me and saddens me so much to read. It is disgusting that women have to be careful wherever they go because they could be sexually assaulted at any moment. Women have to be constantly aware of their surroundings because they are afraid of men approaching them and abusing them. Some women live inconstant fear because they may live alone or just be alone in remote areas. Men do not have to be as fearful and as careful. They are not afraid when a woman is following them to their car or home. Women also have to spend more of their money in order to buy protective tools to feel safe. Even when having those tools, some women still do not feel safe in remote areas. The fact that women are just seen as objects for men’s pleasure is a saddening reality of the world that should be changed for the benefit of women.

    • Yes, and without sexual assault the world would even be better for men. For their partners, mothers, daughters, sisters and friends are less likely to be harmed, which aids the mental and emotional well-being of everyone. Plus, as women come to associate sexuality with something negative like assault they grow less positive about sex.

  16. I’m male. I’ve told my sons that the odds they would grow up to be car thieves or murderers were close to zero, but the risk that they might be rapists is scarily high and unfortunately odds are also scarily high that at least one of their friends would be a rapist. I’ve tried to impress upon them how critical consent is.

      • Wtf? Why would car thieves and murderers be rare for them to grow up to be, but rapists scarily high? There’s too much rape that happens, but that’s sexist too. If a boy rapes, there’s many things going on with what you say about society, but morals are quite missing too. Which if morals are missing, it doesn’t take much for same man to have a problem to steal or murder too does it? A lot of rapists murder or assault people so brutally. Unless you’re implying on the drunk, blurring line, college rape that can happen, but where a guy thinks the woman is consenting. None of my friends or friends friends are rapists and would be the first to brutally beat anyone rapists in fact. It’s like saying guy’s will have a high chance of being wife beaters.

      • You’re right. Thankfully the vast majority of men don’t rape. Those who do make everything worse for everyone. Victims experience trauma, which is bad for them and for those they love. Women who are raped lose interest in sex. And growing up in a world where sexuality is so closely associated with violence taints sexuality for all women. And, all men become scarier because women don’t know who they can trust.

  17. It is unfortunate that you had to experience such degradation at such a young age, not that its okay at any. Your experiences in KL are sadly not uncommon as women in developing countries continue to endure an oppressive patriarchal society. Women in these countries have little to no protection under the law and may be less inclined to report abuse for many reasons such as fear or fear of ostracization. You mention how America has moved on past that “mentality”, I would disagree slightly. We are definitely headed in the right direction, but there is still far too much unpunished sexual assault going on like you said. The me-too movement exposed just how much assault takes place in areas we least expect it and how its was seen as “normal”. Even males were coming forward; for example, Terry Crews. These women and men who came, and continue to, forward has been met with backlash and disbelief by those who want to ignore a problem in our society. Victims often do not come forward for the very reasons we are seeing unfold before our eyes in the media. Discrediting campaigns,mockery,insults, and victim blaming.

    I don’t have much personal experience to share in this regard, but something that definitely opened my eyes on this issue, I think is worth a mention. I was a floor manager at a theater and instructed a female employee to take some trash out to our garbage bin. I didn’t think much of it as sending a lone employee was normal. She asked if she could have another employee go with her or if someone else could do it because it was dark outside, as in very dark with sparse lighting. My mind immediately assumed a fear of the dark, so I sent a male employee who had come back from break. I brought this up to another employee who had been there several years and she looked at me like some fool for trying to send her out on her own. This specific employee shared her experience of being nearly assaulted by a lone male in the parking lot where our garbage bin is, and it is quite a large and dark area. Long story, yes, but it goes to show that women, even in America, still live in fear of assault and that is just plain wrong.

    I’m sorry you had to go through that Fe, no one should have to through these experiences.

    Best regards, Jorge

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