Or to be punk, in this kinda sexy bleached blonde but kind of too lazy to really care sort of way. Or to be so up front. I had an ex boyfriend who said he thought rapists should be subjected to capital punishment, which I suppose is a more extreme articulation of that unconscious belief. Once a woman has been raped, she has been destroyed. They suffer immensely, but they are just as much themselves after the rape as before. Another rape victim I dated was a butch woman who had just adopted a kitten that completely befuddled her.
When I went back to her apartment, the kitten was everywhere attacking everything. But, despite her anger, she was completely and fully her. Even if she drank too much, and even if she hated men, her fundamental essence was untouched. How I think of women who have been raped contrasts greatly with how I think of men who have experienced non sexual violence.
One of my male friends was standing outside a club when he was hit from behind. He fell down, and two guys came up and kicked the shit out of him before running away. I think that event changed him in some ways. We used to do jiu jitsu together, but he had a particular drive that I think was borne of that experience.
None of us want to be broken. And, at least for me personally, this belief in the uniquely destructive power of sexual trauma prevented me from honestly confronting some of my more difficult sexual experiences. A few years ago, I was out getting drunk with a bunch of male friends, and one of them offered to let me crash at his place. I remember confusion, and then shock at realizing his fingers were inside of me. And, I remember how he wilted when I stopped him.
He shrank with shame, and I felt so guilty. Then, I brushed it off. Yet, there were a few differences. I stopped dating men, and then stopped dating anyone. I lost all sexual desire, and have been single now for about a year and a half. I also started meditating. Just, nameless, faceless crying with no discernible reason. I sat a meditation retreat for 7 days, and the first 5 days were spent crying. And, after that I felt better. It was just like — this nameless sadness that seemed to have no bottom ran out, and where it had been there was nothing.
Shortly after my retreat, I was reading a Savage Love where a woman talked about a male friend of hers trying to finger her when he was drunk. I pondered over that. I read about what happened emotionally to people who had been sexually assaulted, and a lot of it fit with my experience. The blocking it out. The guilt, the aversion to touch, and hyposexual desire. They were all common responses from people who had been sexually assaulted.
And, when I read about that, I felt relief. These mysterious things that I had been feeling had a source. Boys asked me to kiss other girls, and initially I complied. When I got to high school, I was regularly asked for threesomes before ever losing my virginity.
Boys would sometimes grope my breasts, or put their hands up my skirt, or make loud public comments about my body. Eventually, I learned to fight back. Additionally, I was on the wrestling team with a bunch of guys who respected me for my wholehearted commitment to the sport, and I think that helped.
Having a bunch of big, jock friends made people less inclined to fuck with me. Still, between the ages of about 12—14, I had been bombarded with so much sexual harassment that I had normalized the feeling of it.
In retrospect, I think I may have had an especially bad run because I am a bisexual woman. Bisexual women experience a disproportionately high amount of sexual violence compared to straight and lesbian women, and that innately makes sense to me.
I was repeatedly singled out for sexual attention because I was bisexual and, as the only out bisexual woman in the grade, I was a single target for the many boys who were fascinated by female bisexuality. Anyway, I had already normalized the sensation of sexually directed harassment before I was even a teenager.
I cried the first few times I felt it, but it soon became so common that I started numbing myself to it. By the time I was in high school, I was already fairly numb.
So, when I started dating men for real, I was already primed to not complain when I felt this feeling. Sometimes, however, it was so bad it broke through my numbness. When I young, one of my early boyfriends pressured me for sex. We were lying in bed, and he kept asking over and over again. Then, he became really sad. I think something in me closed that day, and I could never be really open with him again. He could tell when I was wincing in pain.
When I told him I had been in pain afterwards, he showed no surprise. She was telling you what you wanted to hear, CIC, and you knew it. Is that the way you would treat a person you cared about?
Men need to care when they are making women suffer. People need to care when they make each other suffer. There is a whole pretense that goes on around these sort of toxic sexual exchanges. He will keep up the pretense that I matter to him so I will not cut off his access to my body. So, that night my friend shoved his fingers in my vagina, I just felt a more intense version of a feeling that was already deeply familiar.
He was hoping if he did it fast enough, when I was intoxicated enough, I might just go with it. And the truth is, if that had just been a momentary violation followed by my anger and immediate leaving, it may not have had such a negative emotional impact on me. Once, in college, a male friend of mine slapped me in the face. I got pissed of and hit him right back although never landing a good smack before storming away.
And, because I defended myself — even though nothing major really came of it — that event held less trauma. It was my friend who spent the night crying, not me. Now, however, I think what happened was that she was trying to heal an emotional hurt. I always believed that because I was able to defend myself physically, I would be able to defend myself sexually, but that turned out not to be true. Ironically, the men I have been with who have been more overtly abusive have been easier for me to deal with.
I once had a boyfriend with some anger issues, and we would get in terrible fights. All my friends thought I was crazy for dating him, but he did me less long term damage than some of my more acceptable looking partners. I had another boyfriend who used to cry when I went out too late with my friends, so I stopped going out. I would never have accepted a request like that stated in anger, but when faced with a crying man, I capitulated immediately.
I was ashamed that I had caused him pain by denying him access to my body. I felt like there was something wrong with me for not wanting sex with him. Emotionally, to me, it was assault. It was the culminating event in a series of sexual violences against me that caused my body to finally shut down. It did exactly the right thing. Some of my friends have said that I hug them more, and I feel that an unnamable omnipresent psychic pain has lifted somehow.
The fact that some women have experienced more, worse sexual violence only means that they need more help not that I need less help or that my emotional response to a traumatic event is invalid. As I tell my female friends about my experience, basically all of them remember experiences when they felt similarly and just absorbed it.
When you are with someone, they should care about how you feel. If someone who loves you also knows they are hurting you, they should stop hurting you. If you tell them they are hurting you, this should not make them angry.
You have the right to tell them to fuck off. This last one is, for me, the crux of the pain I have felt over the years. More than any explicit action, this societal expectation for me to provide nurturance to the very people who resent me has poisoned me. It requires my complete effacement, for me to deny the value of my own experience. It has required a betrayal of the most personal kind, and to recover from it necessitates re-learning one of the most basic human instincts.
My own suffering matters. If you are a victim of sexual assault, or think you might be, please consider calling the national sexual assault hotline. You can also non-anonymously connect on my fb page.