TW/CN: Rape, Sexual Assault, Cis White Men Getting Away With It

There have been three or four high-profile cases in the news lately of young, cishet, white men getting away with raping women. Some of the victims have been vocal, speaking against the judge and system and man and family. Some have been ‘compassionate’ (I’ll get to that), talking about how a ‘mistake’ shouldn’t define a person’s life. Some haven’t really been able to defend themselves or speak for themselves. Some have been quiet.

I was quiet. For a long, long time, I was quiet. I still am, in most ways. Most of the people who knew me then don’t know. Most of the people who knew us then–me and him–still don’t know. And I don’t use his name when I do talk about it. I use veiled references. I hint. I don’t give exact dates, I don’t give details. I know that people on my friends list are also on his friends list, and they don’t know, and I don’t want to go through he-said/she-said drama and bullshit. He’s a my-age cishet white male. I never turned him in. There’s no evidence. And at the time, I don’t even know if there would’ve been bruising or tearing. I know a hymen is no indicator of anything (they’re so varied naturally), but mine had torn at a young age to a bouncy horse incident. Whether it grew back..? I don’t know. Anyway.

We were dating. Boyfriend and girlfriend. In love, or so we said. I thought so. I found out later that he mostly wanted sex with virgins. He grew tired of me when I was no longer virginal enough for his tastes. Of course…that was his fault. And of course, virginity is a ridiculous societal construct meant to hold women down…but that was the point, right?

Anyway.

I didn’t speak, for years. I didn’t even call it rape, for years. I lied to myself. I lied to everyone, because who would believe me? I knew my parents wouldn’t. They always assumed I was having sex, doing drugs, drinking underage, smoking, partying. What a laugh. I got straight A’s, never did find out where to buy drugs or alcohol. I still awkwardly call it alcohol. I still have only had champagne at weddings and wine at the Table, and a little mead at my own wedding. Two swallows, enough to know the fire of it and that I wanted no more. I never even snuck out. I was too terrified to try.

And, because of my Purity Promise, I thought I had to marry him. I thought that the first person to stick their penis in me–with or without my consent–claimed me.

Even if I felt my soul die the instant it happened.

Even if I liked women, too.

I lied. To myself, to my parents, to my grandparents, to my friends, to him. And when he kept using my body, over and over, and telling me I was too stiff, too unemotional, too uninterested, I tried to force my body to respond.

Because that’s how it had to be, right?

Years later, when I finally began to hesitantly call it rape, I realized he probably didn’t. And, at the time, I thought, “Okay, there are two sides to this story. To me, this was rape. To him, it was sex.”

But that’s not how this works.

It has taken me almost half my life since then to realize that.

Rape is rape is rape is rape.

And I say that even though I know consensual non-consent is a Thing. Because that is different. See how ‘consensual’ is included there? Trust is a Thing there. Conversation, knowledge, consent. It can still go too far, it is a dangerous Thing, but consent is built in.

Anyway.

We had talked. He knew I wanted to wait for marriage. He decided–apparently–that he didn’t. And just like that, suddenly, I had no choice. I was trapped, and there was no escape.

I put it off, thinking about it, dealing with it emotionally, for years. I couldn’t make a scene, you see. Every tiny emotion I showed was so -dramatic- in my family.

And so I live with the knowledge that every time I show emotion about this, or about any rape, I might be seen as ‘dramatic.’ I hear it in that Emily Gilmore voice, “Everything’s so *dramatic* with you, Lorelai.” I am keenly aware of how my family takes this any time I talk about it.

I have told my mom and my dad now. It was…it was traumatic and relieving, telling them. Terrifying. I had panic attacks and nightmares, but they both accepted me and my story. I don’t know that they would have all those years ago, but they did now. Half a lifetime later. I’m glad.

But I’m also still aware of how my mom is still with my step-dad, and how my step-dad said, multiple times, that women were to wear skirts so men could have “easier access” to them.

I wore pants. Not even shorts. Jeans, always.

I finally bought a pair of shorts I like this year. For the first time in…I think since I was a little girl, I wore a dress without pantyhose and shorts underneath, too.

I am very aware that whenever a rapist gets away with it–and they are always cishet white men, almost invariably young–that all of this is going on in the back of my mind. My stomach is tightening. This all comes to the forefront, washing over me.

I want to tell my story, but how can I? How can I, when I lied for so long? How can I, when I know that my family is watching? How can I, when I know that so many people are mutual friends even now? How can I, when I am battered with the idea that women are supposed to be compassionate, even to their perpetrators? How can I, when talking about it in the company of mutual friends–like on my Facebook feed–feels like I am somehow hurting him?

 

These are some of the things that keep me up at night, that make me think I am a terrible person. Reason #3383 Why I Am A Terrible Person, on repeat as a litany through my mind: I lied. I lied in a big way, and I lied to myself, and I can’t trust myself, and so how could anyone else trust me? I lied to cope, to deal with my circumstances, but it hardly seems to matter when honesty is such a big part of my foundation.

And that’s part of why I want to tell, too: confessionally. I want to cleanse myself of the lie, to let it go. But who deserves such a burden? And how many times must I unburden myself? How long before I will be able to get out of bed with ease, and for more than a day or two at a time?

 

Will this ever get easier, seeing these stories? Will we ever learn to treat victims/survivors of rape better? Will we ever stop telling victims/survivors that they must be ‘compassionate’ to their perpetrators? Will we ever start treating cishet white male perpetrators of rape the same way we treat cishet black male perpetrators of rape? Will the day ever come that we teach consent to everyone, candidly, from birth on up?

 

I don’t know, but now, I am exhausted.

 

Wrestling With Anger

I haven’t written in a little over a month because I’ve been dealing with anger, with being angry.

It’s a scary place for me.

So I’ve been running away, hiding. Mentally abusing myself for feeling anger. Verbally abusing myself, when there’s no one around to hear it. It’s a thing I can’t stop. I’ll think of all the things I should be doing, and all those shoulds that I’m not doing (no matter the reasons), and then “I hate myself” will pop out of my mouth, or “I’m not a good person” or “I’m a terrible person.”

Being alone has been hard.

Being with people has been hard.

I keep assuming that all the people I care about who aren’t around me every day, who don’t see my physical and mental struggles every day, must hate me. I keep assuming they think I’m terrible and a fake.

I keep wanting to take time away from what little activism I do, because my first response to it is anger.


 

I do some of my best writing in anger.

It’s a white-hot flash, an energy buzzing over me. I hum with it, almost sing in the clarity as words flow from brain to keyboard.

Whether I write or not, though–whether I publish or not–once the flow stops, something else happens.

If I write, usually I feel good. Usually, I write well, and I write something that I think furthers the cause, or helps my audience understand better.

But then there’s a crash.

If I don’t write…if I just press it down, ignore it, try to move on…I’m sad. I usually wind up more depressed.

The solution seems to be to write–but I don’t want to be angry all the time. I have these flashes of things to write about all the time, and I’d love to write more. I just don’t want to be angry all the time.


 

I have a complicated history with anger.

Anger–rage, really–prefaced many of my step-dad’s worst abusive bouts.

Anger had center stage at my grandparents’ dinner table when my dad was home, as he and my grandpa shouted at each other, red-faced over politics and mashed potatoes.

Anger fueled the retorts that protected me from more physical abuse, but also shamed my family.

Anger has made me feel both impotent and powerful, both clouded and clear.

I can’t trust it.

Anger scares me.


 

Anger is an appropriate response to social injustice, particularly when one experiences that injustice.

Often, we as a society treat anger as something totally unacceptable, particularly in women and people of color. I’m a white woman. I ‘win’ on the white front, but not the woman front. It’s never been acceptable for me to be angry, even when it was appropriate.


 

In my depression, I am deeply angry at myself for disappointing everyone (myself included). Sometimes I’m angry at my family for how they treated me growing up, but mostly I turn that rage inward.

I don’t want to always be angry. Reading social justice things has become dicier for me lately, because I feel the flash of anger, and that flash too quickly reminds me of my self-anger and how I’m not doing enough.

I don’t want to respond to things out of anger always. I want to respond out of empathy and gentleness and compassion. Those are the things I admire. I’ve spent so long trying to do that, but the walls I’ve put in place are crumbling down, and now I don’t know how to rebuild them. I don’t know if I can. I don’t want to be my dad or my step-dad, always yelling, frowning, red-faced, wild-eyed.


 

I hope I can find peace with this soon, because I don’t know what to do with all of this anger.

The Town of Angry Bees

For me, there’s a town full of angry bees.

Sometimes the bees are dormant, as if covered in snow. The buzz is there, but buried under feet of cold crystals. It can be ignored, talked over…for a while. But there will be a price to pay if I wait too long, because snow does eventually melt.

Other times, the bees are very active. Sometimes they’ve been swatted at by others, made angrier, ready to sting with no provocation. Sometimes they’re just…there…being angry bees…and it’s wise not to go near.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, especially if I’ve been away or out of contact for a long time.

I’ve discovered that there are bigger bees and smaller bees; bees whose stings I notice immediately and those whose stings take a long time to show.

I thought some of this swelling was protective, and to a certain extent, it was–but it turns out it never needed to be there if the stinging hadn’t taken place.

I almost never want to go to this town of angry bees, but I keep getting pulled back. Responsibilities. Guilt. That one bright spot amid all the bees.

The bright spot plans to get out.

After that…I think that town will always be filled with angry bees for me.

What I Wish I Could Un-Know

CW: Abuse


The sun brightens most of the rooms of my family’s house. Mom sits at the table, working on a paper for her college course–an emotional piece, designed to sway people.

I’m in the long, skinny bathroom next to her, doing laundry: bend, dig out one of my abusive step-dad’s work shirts, shake it out, turn and hang it; fish out a sock for the sock box; fold one of my siblings’ shirts and toss on their pile of clean clothes.

The TV patters in the background. Kids shout. Mom finishes her draft.

“Can I read it to you?”

“Sure.”

She’s written about my step-dad. About how he was abused as a boy. She’s persuasive. I don’t know how those details could fail to make anyone’s eyes fill with tears.

My heart breaks.

I hate her for that, a little bit.

“How was it?”

“Good.”

I Got Breasts When I was 11.

CW (content warning): Personal post about a sexual/bodily violation I experienced as a child at the hands of other children. I’m writing/sharing partially for my own edification–for my own healing journey–and partially because I recognize myself as one of too many who have experienced such. You are not alone.

Thank you to the friend who helped me find the words.

Continue reading

How I came to polyamory

I came to polyamory more slowly than I probably should have.

In undergrad, I took a Philosophy of Love course with my eventual spouse. Even before that course, I’d rejected the idea that there was only one true soul mate for each of us–because the world is large, because time is infinite (what if my true soul mate had been born in the 1500s? how screwed [or not] would I be?! and what about that poor sod?!), because there are so many ways to be happy with so many people…–and she had, too, for about the same reasons.

During the course, we talked, off and on, about what it would mean if she and I were to commit to one another forever, and whether we thought we’d always be monogamous and monamorous. We both agreed that we thought the idea unlikely, because neither of us could imagine one person fulfilling all our needs forever–because we would grow, because our selves would change, because of all those wonderful people out there.

Neither of us had ever heard of polyamory nor been really introduced to the concept of open marriages.

We got engaged anyway, happy that we were in agreement here and knowing that we’d always talk about these things whether such ever manifested in our lives.

Shortly after our engagement (or perhaps shortly before–I don’t remember the exact sequence), the chaplain fellow at my school took myself and another Theology-major classmate on a trip to visit the seminary from which she’d graduated. On the way there, she asked us very casually what we thought of ‘polyamory.’

I’d never heard the term, and I doubt my classmate had, either. I don’t remember what my classmate said in response. I remember thinking, Poly – many, amory – love, so that must mean many loves…. And then I said something like, “Well…it would take some pretty special people to be able to work out the jealousy factor, but I don’t see anything wrong with the idea.”

I don’t remember how the rest of the conversation went. In hindsight, I can see how I should have put together the word ‘polyamory’ with the concept my now-spouse and I had been discussing. I didn’t. Not for a couple of years anyway.

It wasn’t until after my spouse and I married (which was a full year after graduation, and that conversation had occurred during the January of my junior year) that I began to put that word together with our concept. And that happened because I met someone.

I wasn’t actively looking, and neither was my spouse. We were very happy with one another. But I did meet someone, and we talked and talked. He was funny and smart and kinky. I was in the beginning stages of exploring kink (and still am in a lot of ways, because I’m always exploring). And eventually, feelings developed.

So I talked about it with my spouse, and things developed, and though the relationship didn’t last long, it was fun and good.

There were a few more short-term partners and potential partners before I settled into another relationship. Around the same time, my spouse had also met someone. Both relationships lasted for a while–mine for three years, hers on and off for two–before we each found ourselves with only one another again.

There’s been a lot of ironing out of things for us–jealousy, rules, negotiations. At first, there were rules about talking about all partners, to help mitigate jealousy. But after a while we found less jealousy happening and more happiness for one another’s happiness (later we would learn the term ‘compersion’). We started out discussing every online flirtation, every online sexual encounter. Now we discuss those that seem more lasting, more likely to leave some sort of deep imprint, more likely to become real life sexual encounters.

Now, she has a long-distance long-term partner, and flirtations with others. Now, my long-term boyfriend/partner (who started out long-distance) lives with us, and I have another long-term, long-distance lover and a long-term, long-distance Dom. There have been some wrinkles to iron out with each of these–her partner wanting to tell me how to deal with my spouse’s depression issues, my boyfriend wanting me to commit to one penis policy, my lover and my Dom conflicting with one another in the beginning. But there have been so many more joys–my Dom guiding my explorations of Domminess with my lover; my lover and my spouse and my boyfriend and I gaming together; my spouse’s partner (my metamour–a new term I picked up recently) sending my spouse a gift card to buy feminine shoes to help with her transition and recommending excellent Indian recipes; my spouse and lover getting along so well that there’s at least slight attraction between them; my spouse and my boyfriend both kissing me at the same time on New Year’s.

I am so glad we listened to ourselves and explored together.

Previously posted on my FetLife profile.