Howdy, Sparklers! There's some PG-13 content in today's letter to Auntie, FYI. OK, that's all! Just wanted to mention it. See you around —the Eds
I have no one I can talk to this about so you are my last resort. I have been dating my boyfriend for fourteen months and things have been almost perfect. However, there is one major problem: he overstepped sexual boundaries. Let me explain.
The first time it happened he went down on me without warning me. I had never gone that far with someone and I was not sure if I was ready. He kissed around/below my hips before he went down and said "let me take your pants off for easier access," but I was not aware this was an indication "I am about to give you oral"; we never talked about oral and had only done fingering which is what I thought he was going to do. The next time, a couple months later, he pushed my head down to his crotch, motioning for me to give him oral. I did not comply with his request; instead I removed his hand and talked to him about how horrible that move made me feel and forcing my head down was not okay. These are the only times where he crossed the line, but I still feel some resentment buried down inside me towards his actions (even though I am fine with performing/receiving oral now).
I was wondering if any of this would be considered sexual assault? And how should I move past these things? My boyfriend is one of the sweetest guys I have ever met and I don't want to lose him; these two instances are the only dark spots in our relationship. Is he a bad person? He doesn't seem to be to me but I desperately need an outside opinion. Other than the head push incident, he has never tried to pressure me; in fact I told him I don't want to have PIV sex for a while and he agreed not to bring it up until I voice I am ready. Also he has not crossed a line in over nine months, so he has learned. Please help!
Have you ever heard of Hanlon's Law, Sparkler? It's a smart little axiom, and it goes like this:
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
Or, in this case, by simple misunderstanding.
Because your letter is a great example of just how easy it is, even in the best of circumstances, for people to misunderstand or misinterpret each other when they're negotiating the unfamiliar territory of a first-time sexual relationship. You said it yourself: in both the instances you've mentioned, your boyfriend was communicating to you what he wanted to do, or what he wanted you to do to him. But because you were both still figuring out each other's needs and desires—and, more importantly, learning the language you each use to convey what those needs and desires are—neither one of you was picking up what the other was putting down, and you ended up having to stop and talk about it in order to make things better.
You know what? That happens. And it's okay when it happens. People are complicated, sex is complicated, and figuring out sex for the first time with a new person is especially freakin' complicated—and that goes double for inexperienced couples, who often have to figure out their own limits at the same time as they're learning each other's. Intimacy takes time, and most people don't get there without a bump or two along the way. What's important is not that misunderstandings never happen, but that when they do happen, you deal with them maturely, respectfully, and responsibly.
Which brings us to this: your boyfriend unwittingly asked for something you weren't ready to give. But he stopped, listened, and took note of your boundaries the moment he realized what they were. You said, "Hey, I don't like that," and he never did it again.
And in return, here's what you could have done: You could have taken responsibility for being more vocal about your own needs and desires, the better to avoid future misunderstandings. You could have admitted that not telling him what the boundaries were until he overstepped one wasn't particularly fair. You could have recognized that being asked for a certain sexual act, once, is not the same as being pressured to perform said act, even if you would have preferred to be asked in words instead of body language.
But instead, you're resentful and suspicious of your boyfriend—and you're looking to justify your feelings with an accusation of sexual assault—all because of a single clunky request for a blowjob that happened almost a year ago.
And look, if that's how you feel, really and truly, then you should break up with this guy. Not because he's a bad person, but because you're just not ready to be involved in a sexual relationship—not if you can't be an engaged, active, enthusiastic, vocal advocate for your yeses as well as your nos; not if you can't accept that people who don't know your boundaries will inevitably overstep them; not if you can't experience a minor and quickly resolved misunderstanding without still dwelling on it a year later; not if you can't deal with the fact that two individuals with unique needs and desires will not always need or desire the same things; and not if you can't tell the difference between a malicious violation and an innocent mistake. Even the most loving, respectful couples sometimes stumble beyond each other's comfort zones, not because they're bad people, but because they're human beings.
Which is why intimacy requires trust, care, confidence, and constant, two-way communication—and why it doesn't work when you've got one person making all the first moves, while the other is a passive gatekeeper who only speaks up when something is wrong. And until you're in that place, where you've got the confidence in yourself and the trust in your partner to weather the tricky territory of your first sexual relationship, then it's in your best interests (and his, too) to wait.