The most (potentially) dangerous thing I’ve ever done

When the time comes to talk to the girls about sex in more detail, and about making good choices there is a story I am going to have share that I’m not looking forward to.

When I was 20, I went did a short term abroad in France.  We were based in the South of France, about an hour north of Marseilles.  The school kept us busy between classes and outings, so there wasn’t much time for unsupervised travel, with one exception.  We had one three day weekend, and while going to Paris (my dream) was beyond my reach both in terms of time and money, I decided to go to Cannes.

Cannes was too expensive for me to stay the night, so I picked a smaller town along the coast to spend the night, Juan-Les-Pins.

It must be said that this trip to France was huge for me.  It marked my first time out of the Northeast of the US, the US itself, and my first time on a plane.

I hadn’t traveled solo previously.  What I had done, was filled my head with the idea of a fling with a sexy Frenchman.  I had done some hanging out in bars during my first few weeks (the drinking age in France is 18), but beyond a conversation or two, had made no progress in this area.  However, this was an opportunity I wouldn’t be able to repeat-I had a hotel room all to myself and no one to answer to.  So my mission that night was to hook up.

It was mid afternoon, so I decided to go for a walk before taking a nap and hitting the bar and dance scene.  I was enjoying the gorgeous architecture and snapping photos (pre-digital camera so I have nothing to show, sorry) when I heard someone call down to me.  I looked up and saw three men on a balcony.

From the vantage point of 14 years and a great deal of travel later, I can tell you that I was ripe for the picking.  It was blindingly obvious that I was a tourist–not only did I have the camera, but I was dressed in shorts, a tank top and sneakers.  No French woman would be caught dead in such boring/casual/rumpled clothes.  American women have a reputation as being easy (which, granted, yes in my case, very true).

They called down to me and invited me up.  I decided that this was my chance to get laid and told my better instincts to go to hell.  I was going to have some fun with a cute French boy.  So I climbed the stairs and entered an apartment where I was alone with three men.

Again, looking back, I’m pretty sure that they were a mix of stoned and drunk.  I was a bit too naive to know what pot smoked like (I’ve grown up a LOT since then), but there was ample alcohol around.  One of the guys began playing a video game and barely seemed to register that I was even there-I sometimes wonder if he knew what the other guys were thinking and just didn’t want to participate, or what.  Of the remaining two guys, one was geeky cute and I was hoping he’d like me in return and the other was over-muscled (past the point of being attractive) and over-tanned.

I spoke some French-enough that I could stumble along, but not so well that I understood much slang or every word spoken to me.  So there wasn’t a lot of talking.

Over muscled blonde guy asked me to go with him to the bedroom.  In the US I would never have been interested, but this was my one shot at a fling, so I needed to bite the bullet.  My fear of going home without having fucked a French guy was greater than my lack of interest, and I followed him.  There was a mattress on the floor with some sheets.  He pulled me down and we kissed.  It wasn’t bad at first.  We made out, and clothes came off.  Then he began pushing me to give him a blowjob.  I tried to say I wanted sex instead.  He pushed my head back toward his crotch.

It was at that moment my brain finally started to kick in.  I was alone in an apartment with three men.  I was alone in a city I’d never been in before.  No one knew where I was.  I didn’t have a cell phone and the internet was still fairly new, so there was no Facebook update or tweets about Juan-les-pins.

I’m not sure why I didn’t just say no and pull on my clothes.  I don’t think I was scared of getting raped, exactly.  I think I decided that a blow job was the path of least resistance to getting out of there.  So I gave him a blow job.  After he came in mouth he got up and went to the bathroom.  Part of me was still phenomenally stupid and I just lay there, trying to figure out what would happen next.

The guy I’d actually considered cute came into the room, and grabbed his crotch raising an eyebrow at me.  I was stupid enough to be shocked at the idea that they might take turns with me.  That shock was the moment I realized that they were going to take turns with me.  That they could rape me without consequence.

I said NO and pulled on my clothes. I ran out the door and down the stairs.  Once out on the street, I heard their laughter as they watched me run away, having resumed their positions on the balcony.

Back in my hotel I realized how phenomenally lucky I was that I didn’t get raped.  I stayed in that night.  The next morning I took the trip to Cannes, determined not to let those assholes ruin my weekend.  Then I took the train home.  I didn’t try to flirt or pick up another guy on that trip.

My biggest mistake was that I did things I would NEVER have done in the US.  I didn’t stop and think about what was safe.  I was stupid, and I was lucky that things didn’t turn out so much worse than they did.  Fourteen years later, many of the things I did at 20 have faded into memory, but that memory is still sharp.  I’m horrified by my poor choices that day.  Yes, the guys were assholes.  But I’m the one who chose to put myself into that situation.  And while they might have been assholes, I’m deeply grateful that they weren’t inclined to take my presence for blanket consent.

You might wonder why I’d tell my daughters about this story.  I don’t want them to be afraid of sex.  I do want them to know the difference between being adventurous and being stupid.  Hopefully they’ll never be as stupid as I was that day.

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