Did I ever think in a million years that I'd be sitting down to write about this? No. Did I ever think that it would be something I'd put online, out into the big wide world for anyone and everyone to read? Absolutely not. But here's the thing: I started this blog, several years ago, to write; to document personal experiences and to share my thoughts and feelings. So while I have to think carefully about my content now that this website is my career, I can't help but feel as if I'm not using this platform properly if I don't talk openly about things such as ... this. So here goes. As I type, I'm sweating profusely and shaking just ever so slightly. I hope I don't regret this.
So here's a bit of back story, to start things off. I'm self-conscious, I always have been. I'm not a fan of getting my kit off and it took 12 months of being with my one and only serious boyfriend to fully undress in front of him - yep, really. I was just lucky that he was one of the kindest and most wonderful people I have ever met, something that still holds true to this day. And after that, we were together for a further 2 and a half years. So you know, I didn't scare him off with my naked body. But it's always been a personal thing, I guess I've just never had the self-confidence I crave.
So when the relationship ended 3 years ago, I found it very hard to open up to or to be more frank - be intimate with - anyone else for a very long time. How could I? How could I know who to trust? Who would accept me for me - a far cry from the tanned, lithe and beautifully proportionate girls plastered all over social media. I found myself shutting down, rejecting any opportunity of intimacy. I'd get close to someone and then back away just in time to save myself.
And it went on like this for quite a while. Then Tinder happened. I'd heard the stories, seen the screenshots and after one of my closest friends ended up meeting her boyfriend on the app, she rang me one evening and almost demanded that I use it. So we set up a Facebook account (I deleted mine years ago) and within half an hour, I was up and running - or, to be more accurate, swiping. It was fun, it was amusing and I remember one evening almost weeing with laughter as my Mum had a go at swiping on my behalf, somehow finding each profile more funny than the last.
It was harmless fun, the attention was nice and the male interaction was refreshing. I'd speak to some guys for a few hours, some for a few days but it didn't tend to go anywhere. Then this one guy was different. We spoke every day for weeks; we had a lot in common, he was interesting, he made me laugh and I enjoyed talking to him. So when I returned from a family holiday earlier this year, we finally agreed to meet in a bar and just see where things ended up. We'd both driven (him a particularly long way) so after a drink, maximum two, I had planned to drive home. It didn't quite happen like that.
He was just as lovely as I'd expected. We chatted, laughed and soon realised we had far more in common than we first thought. And with each drink I sipped, the more I was sure I liked him, trusted him (alcohol can do that to you). It was late, I was in no fit state to drive, so we booked a hotel room. It all happened so fast. It's taken me 254 days to write about it. Because though I consented to spending the night with him, I didn't consent to what actually happened in that hotel room. And the mind does this funny yet wonderful thing of blocking things out, protecting you and reassuring you that you're okay, that it's not as bad as it seems. The physical evidence sadly tells a different story. And the truth? You don't need the details, I just hope you can understand. Because I didn't, not until I told a select few friends and eventually, after a few glasses of wine and with tears streaming down my face - my Dad - whose reaction said it all. Even now, there are words I can't say, can't use about what it all actually means. Because I somehow feel, and know, that others have experienced worse things. I wasn't grabbed off the street, I wasn't attacked in an alley, I chose to go and meet this guy, to trust him. That's on me, right?
So forgive the drama, an article that seems out of place on a blog about style and travel. But this is my platform. And I know that tens and hundreds of thousands of girls, maybe even millions, have had similar experiences. Maybe if I speak out, others can too.
And for the record: no means no. Regardless of how many drinks have been had, consent should never be blurry.