things that matter

After Years Of Hearing Dangerous Falsehoods From Anti-Vaxxers, Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Measles

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Here’s a fun fact: measles are so contagious that if one person has it, then 90% of nearby people who aren’t immune to it will become infected. Yikes. This is why it’s important to stay up to date with your vaccinations. Considering that the recent rise in measles cases has been linked to people failing to vaccinate, we figured we’d put together a list of facts and photos for those of you who have a morbid curiosity about the measles. 

*Just a warning, though – if you’re as squeamish as we are, you might find these photos graphic.*

1. Once you’re infected with the measles, there’s no cure.

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Okay, we had to start with the most dramatic fact. Basically, the only way to heal is to let the disease run its course. However, the symptoms can be managed. But, that doesn’t mean that once infected, you’re not contagious – and, of course,  getting the measles can make for one hell of an awful experience.

2. It can take almost two weeks for the disease to develop after being exposed.

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Generally speaking, symptoms appear between 10 to 12 days after being exposed to the virus. So you could think you’re in the clear after being in contact with someone who has the measles, but really, the sneaky sickness is just biding its time. 

3. The measles usually has four initial symptoms.

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These initial symptoms include a fever, a cough, a running nose, and inflamed eyes. The infamous measles rash usually starts to appear on the head a few days later, and from there, it spreads.

4. Most of the world’s measles outbreaks are located in Africa.

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the most measles cases have been found in Africa, in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Madagascar, and Sudan. That being said, other countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Ukraine have also been pretty badly affected, too.

5. The measles vaccine has been in use since the 1960s.

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And the vaccine can be given either as a single immunization, or as a combined dose in a measles-rubella (MR), measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine. That’s right: you can get a two-for-one deal like you do at your favorite restaurant! Or four-in-one – if you’re like us and hate having needles stuck in your arm.

6. 7 million people were affected by measles in 2016.

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Which is wild, considering that global measles deaths actually decreased by over 84 percent between 2000 and 2016.

7. Most deaths from measles happen due to economic and healthcare barriers.

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The fact that anyone’s dying from measles in this day and age is a travesty. But, kids and babies don’t have strong enough immune systems to fight off the disease, and so it’s more common for them to eventually succumb to it. This happens even more so in countries with low per capita incomes and weak healthcare systems.

8. Contracting measles can result in some pretty messed-up complications.

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These complications can include blindness; an infection called encephalitis, which causes brain swelling; severe diarrhea and dehydration; and respiratory infections, like pneumonia. These kinds of complications can result in lifelong disabilities and brain damage. Bueno.

9. Measles can be transmitted by fluid from the nose, mouth or throat from infected people.

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Since it’s an airborne disease, it means that measles can easily be transmitted through coughing sneezing. This is why it’s very important for people who have contracted measles to wear a face mask since that’ll prevent the disease from spreading!

10. The measles goes by a total of five different names.

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Beyond just the standard “measles” title, it is sometimes called morbilli, rubeola, red measles, and English measles.

11. The measles caused 110,000 deaths in 2017.

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Even worse, complications happen in up to a quarter of cases for the measles – and these complications don’t discriminate between low- and high-income countries. 

12. Measles is almost entirely preventable.

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So even though there’s no cure, two doses of the measles immunization are the best way to protect against the disease – especially since those who don’t have a strong enough immune system to be vaccinated are protected by people who do get the vaccine. However, WHO estimates that at this point, only 85 percent of the population has been vaccinated against it … with only the first dose. For outbreaks to be prevented, 95 percent of the global population needs to get both doses of the vaccine.

13. Cases of the disease have risen by 300 percent worldwide. 

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This. Is. Wild. 28,124 measles cases were recorded last year … and that’s only the ones that were reported. The Americas have seen an increase in cases by about 60 percent.

14. The first recorded instance of the measles was sometime around the 9th century.

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A Persian physician, Rhazes, published a book called The Book of Smallpox and Measles.

15. 21 strains of the measles virus have been discovered.

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This basically means that the measles has got 21 different forms that it can take to attack the body.

16. The disease can be seen as a test of sufficient vaccination levels within a population.

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This is because measles outbreaks can easily occur in populations that are under-vaccinated. FYI, guys: if a community is affected by a measles outbreak, then it leaves the population at an increased risk for mortality from other diseases for up to two to three years afterward.

17. Measles as an endemic disease was eliminated from the US in 2000.

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The reason why it hasn’t been completely eradicated is that carriers of the disease have traveled into the US, bringing the disease with them. Unvaccinated people then contract measles, making it spread.

18. In 1531, a measles outbreak caused the deaths of half of the population of Honduras.

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Two years beforehand, an outbreak killed two-thirds of natives who had previously survived smallpox. Measles is brutal stuff.

19. As of 2018, measles is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in the world.

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It’s also the leading cause of vaccine-preventable childhood mortalities. Really, guys, prevention is key to fighting this disease.

20. Mothers who have immunity to measles pass on their antibodies to children in the womb.

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Typically, the mothers have to have had contracted the disease to pass on these antibodies. But before you think that this is a good reason to contract measles … these antibodies only kinda-sorta protect newborns from the measles. And, usually, they’re lost within the first nine months of life anyway.

So the moral of the story is: take this article as a reminder to stay up to date with your vaccinations! Was there anything that surprised you about the measles, or are you a hypochondriac who already knows all about it? Tell us about it on our Facebook page – you can find it by clicking on the logo at the top of the page.

The FDA Approves A Viagra-Type Drug For Women, But Skeptics Say Women Shouldn’t Feel Obligated To Have ‘Mercy’ Sex

Things That Matter

The FDA Approves A Viagra-Type Drug For Women, But Skeptics Say Women Shouldn’t Feel Obligated To Have ‘Mercy’ Sex

How many times do we women say they’re not in the mood and blame it on a headache or that time of the month? It’s a common enough occurrence that sure has frustrated some men for centuries. Men don’t necessarily have that excuse, and that changed in 1996 when Viagra was officially patented and then approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) two years later.

Now 23 years later, women who are just not in the mood to get busy will be able to remedy that within 45 minutes.

The FDA just approved a new drug called Vyleesi that is the equivalent of Viagra but for women.

In 2015, researchers released a groundbreaking Viagra-type drug for women called Addyi. However, that drug had many issues. Women would have to take it every day and not consume any alcohol because a side effect could result in fainting. Vyleesi is different because women can take it 45 minutes before sexual intercourse, and experience minimal side effects.

According to The New York Times, 40 percent of the women that participated in the study for Vyleesi said they experienced nausea, and one percent of women said they had “darkening in their gums and parts of their skin, which did not go away in about half of the patients after they stopped treatment.”

They also suggest women who have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease should not take Vyleesi. About 18 percent of the women dropped out of the study because of nausea. The biggest drawback appears that Vyleesi doesn’t come in a pill, but rather an injection.

Some claim that this drug will only enforce the notion that women must have sex with their partners despite not wanting to, and it has nothing to do with not being in the mood.

Some medical professionals say that women “not being in the mood for sex” doesn’t necessarily have to do with having a low sex drive but rather dealing with another range of emotions from stress, depression, and a slew of other mental health issues. This new drug will just reinforce that women must comply with their duties as partners and give in to sex.

“[Women] oftentimes having mercy or duty sex because they want to maintain their relationship,” Dr. Julie Krop, of AMAG Pharmaceuticals said to The New York Times. “The problem is, they’re distressed about having that sex that they are having.”

13 Latinas Share What Their First Sexual Encounters Were Like

Things That Matter

13 Latinas Share What Their First Sexual Encounters Were Like

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Latinas are viewed as extremely sexual beings but there are rarely nuanced depictions of what sex is really like for Latinas. From religion to culture to family, there are many factors involved when it comes to a Latina’s relationship with sex. For this list, we asked women of all ages to share what their first encounter with sex was like.

Due to the sensitive nature of this discussion, we respected the request for privacy so each woman has been identified differently. Each experience is unique and there are cases of assault which may be triggering.

In a time when discussions about sex are still not common in Latinx families, this openness is essential to making it less taboo and help empower Latinas to take control of their sexuality.*

The Allure of the Older Man

Caro U., 37, San Francisco, CA.

My first sexual encounter was at 16 years old. It was with a guy named Sam who was 21 or 22 (definitely of drinking age) while he was on college summer break in my small hometown. That night, I snuck out after my curfew and went to a party with this college guy whom I had been “dating” for about a week.

I don’t remember the sexual encounter being anything special. It didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t really enjoyable. He was a good kisser so that was good.

I went home and wrote in my journal that I was excited and that I really liked this guy. In hindsight, it was technically statutory rape because of my age and his, but I just remember feeling like I was a cool kid being with a cool older guy. Sam went back to college in the fall and although we didn’t talk often, we did stay in touch here and there.

When I went to college, we actually dated for a few months after I broke up with my high school sweetheart. The sex then was amazing and I remember it sorta validated any awkwardness I had felt back in high school about losing my virginity to an older guy who probably didn’t care about me as much as I cared about him at the time. The fact that he did in fact, have a nice-size package was another point of validation.

Now that I have a daughter, I wonder how I would react if she went through a similar experience. One thing I will absolutely do is be honest and open about our bodies, sexuality, and the difference between enjoying sex and confusing it with love. I want to do away with the Latino mentality that love should always accompany sex or that women who are promiscuous are sluts and men won’t consider them as serious partners. Latina women would enjoy sex more if we liberated ourselves from archaic machista assumptions and judgment.

High School Deception

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Jacquelyne Perez, 25, San Diego, CA

I was 14 when I had my first sexual encounter. A few weeks after the start of the school year, I received a message from a senior. He said he had always had a crush on me. I had never met him before but had seen him all over campus. He was a popular student, handsome, athletic, funny. I was surprised that he wanted to meet me in person for the first time the following day. At school, we met up during lunchtime. He greeted me with a very warm hug and a large kiss on the forehead. He explained that before we could eat, that he needed to get his sports gear from a classroom. It would be quick. He needed his gear before they locked the classroom for the day. I agreed to accompany him.

We headed to the classroom. It was in a secluded annexed building so no one was around. He opened the classroom door, looked around and pulled me forcefully inside. I was stunned. He slammed the door behind us. He picked me up and pushed me against the wall. He kissed me so deeply that it hurt. I was taken aback and completely shocked. I hadn’t realized that he liked me this much. These were nothing like the make-out sessions I had in the past. The ones before never had any tongue, just lips, just hugging. I wanted to impress him so I kissed him back, trying to mimic the way he was kissing me. I was uncomfortable and grossed out and this was happening all too fast. But I kept going. I told myself not to be scared. I tried to convince myself that this is what I wanted. Although reluctant, I let him slide his hands all over my body. No one had ever done that before. But I let him because I didn’t want to seem like a child. I was mature. Why else would a senior be interested in a freshman?

I kept kissing him trying to ignore the forceful grabbing at my breasts and butt. I kept kissing him hoping he wouldn’t notice just how inexperienced I was or how self-conscious I was. I kept kissing him hoping he wouldn’t notice that I was, in fact, a little frightened. I wasn’t ready to lose my virginity — and in a classroom of all places. It wasn’t until he started pulling at the button of my pants did I realize that he wanted more. Way more than I had anticipated. I should have never come here, I started to think.

Nervous, I finally spoke up. “Please… I have never done this before.” He ensured me that it was okay, that he’d be gentle. He told me that he was in love with me.  He said he had been admiring me from afar for weeks. He told me that it was his birthday and that I was his present.

I wanted to say no. I wanted to tell him not to go further with what was about to happen. But I also had a feeling that he’d be upset or mad. What if he never spoke to me again? If I let him have what he wanted, maybe he’d fall in love with me. “Just your hands” I heard myself whisper. He thanked me and began unbuttoning my pants. I tried my best to zone out. I began mimicking the girls I had seen in the love scenes of movies. I closed my eyes and tilted my head back. I didn’t want to see. I wanted him to hurry. He finally took his hands out of my pants. We had to stop before the bell rang.

We never got a chance to eat lunch. He never fell in love with me and we never became high school sweethearts. Worst of all, there wasn’t even any sports gear.

Too Soon

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Rose E. 39, Florida

I was 13 and went to a school outside of my school district so I didn’t have many friends but enough to get by. There was this boy named Sammy everyone had a crush on, but I wasn’t too into him. My friend insisted I give him a chance. So I gave him a chance that we dated throughout that school year. He would come to my house and when my mother wasn’t around we would fool around. The conversation of actually doing it came up several times. I wanted to wait because of course, I didn’t want to lose my virginity so young.

One afternoon we were fooling around and it got extremely hot and heavy. He asked to just put the tip in and that led to four to five strokes and before I knew it, I lost my virginity at 14 years old. At the very moment, I felt him taking my virginity I told him to stop because I was afraid. When the thrusting began, I felt fear, sexy and loved all at the same time. It was a weird sense of ecstasy and pain at the same time. Now that I’m older I wish I would have waited until I was much older.

Sexual Violence

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Adriana, 43

It was with a neighbor’s uncle. He locked me in a room and told me I could not leave unless I let him touch me. I was 5 years old. To this today I have trust issues with healthy relationships. I told my abuser I had let him do what he asked, told him he had to let me go and I ran to my house and never stepped foot in his house again. As an adult, I can now rationalize it was not my fault but somehow, this is still hard to get over it because I can’t rescue the little girl in harm’s way.

It’s difficult to open up a conversation about this in Latinx families because usually the abuse comes from people you know and usually the families involved can have a very machista point of view and end up blaming the victim.

Religious Guilt

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Lisa M.

I was 20 and he was 21. I went to the most conservative university in Texas and he studied at a seminary. We were engaged so sex seemed to be a natural progression to our relationship. We were both virgins.

I was brought up in a strict, typical Hispanic household where sex was not something that we talked about. Although my father told us stories of his young and wild days, my mother never had “the talk” with us. Sex was whispered about and only “sluts” had sex at our age.

It happened when we found ourselves alone in his apartment one Sunday afternoon after church. He had been asking me about how I felt about doing more than just kissing because he felt a little guilty. Regardless, we started kissing. Then our clothes started coming off. Alarms and whistles were going off in my head to stop, but it felt good and I convinced myself that it was ok since we were going to get married. He got on top of me and asked me if it was ok… and I nodded yes.

It lasted about 3 minutes, just as I started to get into it, it ended. Worse, he had pulled out before he came and collapsed on top of me. I couldn’t move. Then he asked me if I was ok — as if we had just committed some crime. I was disappointed. I had just given myself to this man and it ended so quickly. Then he acted like I needed consoling. It was so awkward and weird. I was embarrassed because I didn’t understand what was happening and the ramifications of it. Then the guilt started to set in. It consumed me.

Eventually, he wanted sex more and more frequently. Sex literally changed the focus of our relationship, so I resisted more and more. I was no longer happy with him. I looked for every reason not to be alone with him. Every fault that he had became magnified after that. I broke off the engagement three months later.

Now as a mom of three teenage girls, I try to be as open and age appropriate with them about sex. I try to teach them that it is one of the most beautiful experiences – with the right person. Try as they may, I hope they wait until the right person comes along.

From Lovers to Strangers

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Jazmin, 38, Chicago

It was probably a little past midnight and I could not sleep. I decided to call my boyfriend at the time. To my surprise, he answered.

It turned out that his parents were out of town along with his ex-girlfriend and baby mama. After talking for a few minutes, he invited me over. The convenience of it all was that he lived a block over. From when I got there to when my first sexual experience actually happened is a bit of a blur for me. Not because anything bad happened but I suppose those details don’t stick to me. Once I’m laying in the bed I wanted him to turn the lights off. I also recall being under the sheets as if I didn’t want him seeing me naked. And just like that, we did it. I don’t remember feeling happy that it had happened. More like “this is it?”

A few hours later I got dressed and walked home just as the sun was rising. Something in me was so turned off by my first sexual experience that I avoided him. I believe about 8-9 months had passed by when I finally decided to contact him. After an awful breakup, we parted ways and never saw each other again.

On the Road

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Samantha Rae Lopez, 32, Austin, Texas

He was a senior, I was a sophomore and we rode the same bus after school. Toward the end of the year, our casual flirting ramped up to a full-on crush. I could feel him attracted to me and it was exciting for someone who rarely felt that from anyone.

Our stops were towards the end of the route, so every day there was a small period of time when we were mostly alone. One day, he came over to my seat and kissed me. It was welcome, but not subtle or gentle at all. I liked how aggressive he was. I felt wanted and welcomed his advances over the next few days too. Eventually, he became a bit more handsy and I asked him to stop. He did, but over the last few weeks of school I saw less and less of him on the bus and when I did see each other, we didn’t speak.

Eventually, he was gone and I never heard from him again. I remember crying on the last day of school feeling as if I had done something wrong and maybe if I saw him again, I’d let him touch me. I have however accepted that a negative reaction to my boundaries is not my fault, it’s theirs.

When the Excuse is Love

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Lillyvette, 54, Annapolis, Md.

*warning: sexual assault*

I am from Puerto Rico and I grew up in a close-knit family with very strict rules. When I was 15 I fell in love with a 20-year-old college boy that used to attend my Catholic school. He was an athlete just like me and was very popular. The catch was if he wanted to date me, he needed to ask my parents for permission. No one thought he would, but he did.

One night, we were at my brother’s senior class party. Everyone knew my boyfriend Sergio. I was allowed to go because it was my brother’s party so I had the appropriate chaperone. Sergio’s neighbor asked him for a ride home, so I asked my brother if I could go because I wanted to turn in for the evening. My brother was busy with his girlfriend and said it was fine to go without him. After we dropped off Ivan, Sergio parked at the Catholic church next to my house and said, let’s just make out for a little while, I never get to have you to myself. I agreed because we were always chaperoned.

The next thing I knew, he was shoving me down the seat pulling my panties off of me and I was trying desperately to fight him off. I must have cried the word NO at least 20 times and he kept telling me, “It’s okay, please…everything is okay.” All I remember was repeating the words “NO” and “please don’t” over and over again as I cried. When he was finished, he got out of the car; he straightened himself out, got back in the car and drove me home. I ran into my house, everyone was asleep. I took all of my clothes off in the bathroom. My underwear was full of blood. My mother came to the bathroom and asked me if I was okay. I told her I had gotten my period and needed to take a shower, so I got in the shower in hopes that I could wash the events of the night off of me. That night, I didn’t sleep at all.

The next day, when Sergio called, I told my mom I was not well. She told him I was ill. I completely changed. I was isolated. I would stay in my room and barely eat. I was depressed. Feelings of guilt overwhelmed me. I confessed to one of my best friends what happened and she cried with me. I was afraid of getting pregnant. The afternoon my period actually came, was on Friday the 13th, 1980. I called Sergio and asked him to come to my home. I told my parents we were going to go for a walk around the block.

That night, I broke up with him. I told him that I’d gotten my period and that I knew I owed him nothing. I told him that I hated him for what he did to me and that I would never forgive him. He cried and said he wanted to marry me when I graduated from high school. I said he was crazy if he thought I would ever marry him. I told him, “you robbed me of my virginity, why would I want to marry you after you stole that from me?”

I never told my mother or father. I buried everything deep inside of me. When I was 31 everything bubbled up to the surface and I began to have terrible dreams. I couldn’t be touched, and I got terribly depressed. I had to seek counseling because I was lost and didn’t know what to do. My troubled marriage brought all of my deeply hidden issues to the surface and I was staring at a terrible monster in the face. Counseling was the best thing for me. I was able to get things off of my chest I had never done before. I wrote Sergio a letter that helped me purge my deep emotions. I was never going to send the letter, but in my letter, I was letting him know the damage he had really caused me.

I regret never having told my parents, especially my mother. I regret not having her there for me, holding me and telling me it really was not my fault and that the word no really is no. I could never tell my parents today because they are older and fragile and I am afraid it would hurt them to no end. I will die with this, regretting I kept this terrible secret from my mother. Today I am a stronger woman, happily married to my best friend who loves me and respects me.

First and Only Love

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Ann V., Los Angeles

I’m fortunate enough to say that my first sexual experience was with the man I now call my husband. The circumstances preceding it also made it more significant. We had been together for a bit when he decided to move across the country. We were on a break for the first half and the second half, we were trying to repair our relationship while still far apart. There was much reflecting that happened for both of us and when he returned to live back home permanently, we knew we wanted to take our relationship to the next level.

Like many people’s first time, I was nervous and self-conscious. It wasn’t the most romantic intimate encounter, but it was meaningful, and I feel that’s what is important. Although sex can make some feel vulnerable, I trusted him and knew that the experience was filled with love. My first encounter taught me that sex is made special when there’s a balance between physical and emotional attraction, and when you know your partner respects you.  

The Art of Manipulation

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Lori, 32, Los Angeles

My mom kept me sheltered and protected and wouldn’t let me do what other girls my age were doing. I am a light skinned second generation Chicana attending a heavy populated Hispanic high school. One of the reasons why I was bullied was because I was deemed too light to be Latina. My identity was lost and I didn’t fit in.

One night a longtime neighbor friend met someone on a phone-chat and they were scheduled to meet in person. She didn’t want to go alone and asked me to come along for moral support and promised me her new guy would bring a friend. That friend spoke to me on the phone briefly the night we were scheduled to meet. The night we met, we walked through Hollywood and I was smitten at the idea that an older guy was interested in shy, awkward me. He told me he was nine years my senior, making him 26. Within hours, he kissed me and asked me to be his girlfriend. Looking back, that should have been the first red flag. I was so thrilled at the thought of having a guy of my very own, that I missed the warning signs.

A few weeks later, my boyfriend picks up my longtime neighborhood friend and me to go out to the mall. He drops her off with her guy and says he wants to spend more time with me because he missed me. He had a way with words. I thought we were circling to find parking but since it was crowded, we left the premises. I didn’t think twice about it because he was my boyfriend and I was safe with him. That was until we pulled into a motel close by. He promised we would go back but since it was a hot day, he wanted to cool off and use the restroom.

Once we were inside the room, he started to hug me and rub me. We ended up in just our underwear and t-shirts. I told him I was not ready because I felt like we needed to get to know each other. He said that because he was my boyfriend and I was his girlfriend, we would get to know each other as each day passed but that sex was a big part of a relationship. Although he said that, sex came first, and the getting to know each other part came second. He said he really liked me, that I was so beautiful and he wanted to consummate our relationship because he couldn’t otherwise date me. He told me if I was too scared that he understood and would only kiss me. He started to kiss me and rub me and just as soon as that happened he penetrated me slowly. I froze and tighten up and he told me it would only be the tip so it wouldn’t count. Within seconds what I didn’t want to happen happened. I remember looking at my reflection in the mirror and feeling so empty and disgusted.

I was a virgin. I imagined my first time as something sweet and right. When I told him he took my virginity he denied it and said it wasn’t true because I didn’t bleed. The relationship after that wasn’t much of a relationship. He wasn’t as attentive anymore. He was always busy. By then he had confessed to me that he was actually 32 and had two children instead of one. On days he would actually make an appearance he would see me for a few minutes and try to make a move. If I told him no, he would say he had to go and give me the guilt trip. This continued on and off for a couple of years until it faded out on its own. A few years after that, I started getting calls from unknown numbers who turned out to be a woman looking for my old flame.

It turns out that this lady was his wife of 20 years. He had two children, the oldest being a year or two younger than me. And to add insult to injury, when he met me, so many years prior, he wasn’t 26, nor was he 32. He was in fact, 44 and I was 17. My first time was through the art of manipulation. In other words, it was rape.

Church Friends

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Kathryn James, 27, Houston, Texas

My first sexual encounter is one I try not to think of because I forgave him, and put it behind me. I was in eighth grade and he was in high school. We briefly knew of each other from church and mutual friends. I don’t remember how it began or who initiated the conversation, but we talked all the time, and I mean daily, after school, on AIM (who remembers that?). I couldn’t wait to get home, take off my away message, and ask him about his day.

Even though we saw each other weekly at church, he wanted to spend time with me outside of our mutual friends and his family members. It gave me such an adrenaline rush knowing he felt like that; especially seeing him at church and knowing we had this “thing” going on. It didn’t feel like he was hiding it or embarrassed at all. Little did I know, he was, because I was younger — being in middle school while he was in high school was so “uncool.” Still, my feelings didn’t change.

When I finally had a moment of no practice, we met up in my neighborhood. I was beyond nervous to see him. He came up to me and after a quick hello, his tongue was in my mouth and he was already asking for me to lay down on the ground with him. I hesitated because it was damp and muddy from the rain, and I had to think ahead — coming home with wet, muddy clothes would look suspicious. We found a dry spot to sit down and he started taking off his pants. Whoa, was all I could think. What impression did I give off? I was so taken aback because my naivete had gotten the best of me. I just wanted to spend time with him outside of an AIM chat!

My head was flooded with questions and the next thing I know, he’s grabbing my hand, pulling it towards his unzipped jeans, and asking me to rub his penis. He proceeded to try to get me to take my pants off, and when I said no, he reached for the button and zipper. I backed off, immediately stood up and asked him what he was doing. He said, “I thought it’s what you wanted.” Again, what impression did I give off that made him think that?! He was super embarrassed and took off with his bike.

I went home, took a shower, removed him from my AIM friends list, and if we saw each other at church, he’d look the other way or put his head down.
A few years passed and we ran into each other again during confirmation classes. Did he act like he didn’t know who I was or what had happened? He sure did.

Sex as an Obligation

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Grace Ann G., 66 yrs. Dallas, Texas

I was 18 and thought I was on top of the world and in love. I was staying with my grandmother and he sneaked into the bedroom. I told him I was nervous and scared. He answered it will be good. So we kissed and hugged and before I knew it we were starting to have intercourse. I just laid there quietly and was somewhat enjoying it, though at the same time not knowing what to expect. My mom never talked to me about sex. Since I was somewhat tense I really did not (I guess) get the effect, he thought I should. Before long it was over and after he left I cried.

My mom was a traditional Catholic Latina – you did not ask questions about sex. I asked her what was sex and how do you handle, she gave me this look and said, “when you get married, just say yes to your husband” I kept asking questions and I truly believe I embarrassed her. Her answer was always, “someday you’ll understand.”

Embracing Sexuality

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Lorraine R., 52, Texas

My first sexual encounter was my first year in college. It was with a guy whom I went to high school with and that I had had a crush on when I was a junior and him a senior. Growing up Hispanic and Catholic will mess with your whole sexual identity. I was involved with a guy who was going to college out of town and would go to the local dance club on weekends. I was getting some serious attention from some random guy who wouldn’t take no for an answer. I ran into Mike and told him to play along and pretend he was my boyfriend and we just kind of clicked. We started seeing each other, but I had always told him I had a boyfriend and we weren’t doing anything sexual. He was either playing a long game or something because he went along with it. Looking back, I feel sorry for my partner, I strung him along for months before we actually had sex for the first time. I, on at least two different occasions, lead him to believe that we would complete the act — I’m talking, in bed, completely naked, but just couldn’t do it — Catholic guilt is a bitch!

He must have loved me, or something, because we finally did it after going to a New Year’s party, staying in a hotel room for the evening. When I came home the next morning, I was promptly kicked out. My very traditional Hispanic parents were furious and wanted nothing to do with me. How dare their sainted baby girl stay out all night with my boyfriend. We eventually continued having a two-year relationship where I learned a lot about sex.

I loved him with every piece of my being. Things didn’t work out for us and it took me a long time to get over it. But I did eventually. However, the “Good girl, Catholic guilt” persona never really left me. I’m in my 50s now and am fully at ease with my sexuality. I’ve had serious relationships, casual relationships, a roster of men in different cities — but finding that one who will be with you forever through all of life’s ups and downs. Well, I haven’t been that lucky yet.

Note: These personal anecdotes have been edited for clarity and length.

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