Archives for posts with tag: consent matters

I was already feeling sort of testy about weird man/woman shit when drama erupted in a relationship totally not my own, still somehow spilling over into my experience, by way of my Traveling Partner supporting a friend going through a bad bit as a failed partnership ends. I’d have been, perhaps, less enraged by how that friend is being treated by an ex… but emotions are what they are, including personal loyalty, and I found myself wondering what I could do to actually help – and offering up “anything” that could be to my Traveling Partner.

I’m still angry this morning. Maybe it was the Facebook post about the news article on “stealthing”, maybe that’s what got my ire up? That’s some unsavory wrong-headed bullshit, all by itself, and enough to make any woman angry – even the suggestion of it, and reading the article, was enough to anger me. Ancient rage. The sort that does not stifle easily. For some reason, in April of this year it seems a popular topic for news articles. That bothers me too.

A pleasantly distracting picture of the first spring goslings. 🙂

The scene on the bus ride home last night, though, irritates my consciousness in this whole other “see your therapist soon!” sort of way, like picking at a scab, or scratching a bug bite… I feel very much that I should not “pick at this”, unfortunately that’s often the rallying cry of “this is some root cause to a bit of your madness, but let’s not deal with all that now” that pushes things into dark corners of chaos for the later “amusement” of my personal demons. It wasn’t an uncommon scene, either… a young woman and a young man riding the bus together…

He was tickling her. She said “stop”, laughing. The way she said stop, and it came up repeatedly as the bus ride continued, caused more heads than mine to turn. Her laughter, to me, sounded uncomfortable. She said “no”. She said “stop”. She said “quit it”. She said these things firmly. She continued to laugh while she said them, mostly. He kept on. I was very uncomfortable, but in a confined space, like a bus, was an involuntary witness. When my stop approached, I stood at the door, which was immediately next to them, they were facing me. I turned to face her and made eye contact. “This bus ride was very uncomfortable for me.” I said. Heads turned. Conversations stopped. She held my gaze. People were listening.  “You keep telling him no”, I said to her, “but you are laughing. He keeps doing this thing that appears to be violating your boundaries, you keep telling him no – and you keep laughing. If you are enjoying this, why are you telling him no? If you are not enjoying this, why are you complicating your effort to set boundaries by laughing?” I waited. She looked uncomfortable and said nothing. He finally spoke up for her “she’s having a good time.” He said it firmly with conviction, he looked resentful of the intrusion. I turned to him as the bus pulled forward from the last signal light. I looked into his eyes for a long minute before saying slowly, with forced calm,  “I wasn’t talking to you, and it isn’t up to you to decide if she’s having a good time. It is up to you to decide if you will respect her boundaries and require clear communication of consent.” I turned my back on him deliberately, and turned back to her. The bus doors opened, and I felt my eyes fill with tears I didn’t intend to share, and only enough time to say “Your choice of behavior is teaching him that it is acceptable to violate your boundaries.” I can hope she heard me, but I’ll probably never know. I walked home sad and angry. Sad because this bullshit goes on all the time. Angry with the woman in the mirror because it’s my fault, too. Angry because it took men who understood consent to bring it to my awareness. Angry because I even had to be persuaded and cajoled into taking care of myself, into learning to set clear boundaries firmly, into learning that my agency actually matters, and that my consent is sacred and must remain inviolate – and is my own. I had to learn not to laugh uncomfortably any time I said “no”. I still struggle with these things, and that is one source of my anger.

I got home angry. The addition of needless break-up drama in other lives that matter (don’t they all?, isn’t that why it’s so hard to turn away?) didn’t help ease my simmering fury. It was an evening that touched on a lot of my chaos and damage. It all felt very personal. The pendulum swung from anger at a human experience of one sort, to a very different sort – that ugliness whereupon people behave as though they have some entitlement to what is not their own, in the midst of breaking up. Stealing things, tit for tat bullshit, and “getting even”. Ugly. I am so fucking sick to death of people behaving in these ways. We are not each other’s property. We are not chattel. We are not entitled to some particular outcome in life, which when deprived of it we are then entitled to steal, to break shit, or to commit assault or murder. Your relationship ended? Get the fuck over that shit, and walk on. Leave it all behind. Don’t chase after each other, poisoning the future. Treat each other well in celebration of love that once was. Vengeance? That’s bullshit. Walk away. Your life and your heart matter most, all the rest are just the material trappings of existence. It’s hard to stand idly by while a friend is robbed, and my anger at the pettiness and drama of his ex acting out surged again and again as the evening wore on… but not because of him (or even her, although her behavior has certainly cost her my respect, and any potential for friendship in the future; I’m just not okay with that behavior). I stayed angry because the events of the evening touched me – me personally, my own heart, and I am having my own experience.

More goslings, and a moment of perspective.

I’m fortunate to have a strong, reciprocal, boundary-respecting, loving relationship with my Traveling Partner. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it is my first relationship in which my boundaries are respect and my explicit consent is required, just generally and day-to-day. When we got together, I was almost 50. It’s more than a little uncomfortable to be aware of that, and of the years of internal struggling and suffering that preceded it. I stayed angry through much of the evening, because I am still so very angry with myself, with my circumstances, and with all those preceding relationships in which my agency was not valued, my boundaries were not respected, and my consent was violated regularly. I am angry now, because I spent so much time then laughing uncomfortably, and waiting for unpleasant moments to just… end. I am angry because I have been punished for taking care of myself, for setting boundaries, for walking away, and for speaking up for myself. I am angry because it took so long to choose to change – and to understand that indeed, I had to change before my circumstances could. Even then, there were verbs involved.

Evenings are short during the week. My temper simmered over dinner. I continued to fret and stew over drama in the shower, and as the evening began to reach its end. I didn’t really want to go to bed angry… I wished my Traveling Partner well, and logged off of devices, and sat down on my meditation cushion in front of the open patio door. I let the cool marsh breeze wrap me the scent of meadow flowers. I let everything else fall away, and just took time to breathe, and to be, and to listen to the rain fall. Over some unmeasured time, I found my way back to the present moment, content and calm. It wasn’t that my anger no longer existed, it simply found a welcome home within my own heart, and some understanding. Calm anger. Weird. I went to bed and found sleep while listening to rain tapping at the window.

Sure. I still feel angry about the things I am angry about. There are plenty of things worth feeling angry about. This morning I sip my coffee also feeling content that I am able to put things in context and gain understanding from them, over time. I can grow. I can choose change. I can be more removed from drama than I once was. I can offer support to people close to me, without being destroyed in their dumpster fire. I can heal. I can walk on.

I can begin again. So can you. 🙂

I woke in a good mood this morning, in spite of the challenges last night. I’m definitely settled in enough now to sleep easily and deeply, and through the night. That’s a big win. The worse my sleep is, and the longer I go on less-than-ideal sleep, the more the volatile I am, emotionally, and the less skilled I am at managing the routines and practices that build something I can count on as executive function – and trust me, having a disinhibiting brain injury throws some career curve balls, and the most loving partner will have a surplus of ‘wtf??’ moments with me. Good sleep matters a lot.

This morning I am smiling over my coffee, and the nice note from my traveling partner – he’s very understanding about rescheduling our possible hang out time this weekend. He’s no fool, and recognizes that the furious itching and whatnot of these [probably] spider bites will impact our time together, and not for the better. It feels good to set boundaries for myself more skillfully, and without rancor. It’s these easy moments that I feel his love, even at a distance.

Today the way ahead seems obvious and pleasant.

Today the way ahead seems obvious and pleasant.

I was reading an article that the FDA has approved ‘female Viagra’ for women suffering from low sex drive (who decides their sex drive is low in the first place?), and there have been brief periods in my life when my own rather unfortunately robust sex drive dropped off (usually because the partnership I was in was a sex drive killer emotionally, or because I was on medication that affected it). For me, personally, the issue of sex drive hasn’t been one of a deficit at all. I have a disinhibiting brain injury – trust me, there’s no shortage of sex drive – and on top of that, an early life sexual trauma history that tends to result, as a package, in sufficiently high sex drive to have negatively affected most of my relationships over the course of a lifetime. The big driver in my lifelong lack of monogamy has been my sex drive. Reading the article, I couldn’t help wondering how many women will take this new medication, increase their sex drive, and find themselves faced with partners who don’t want the same amount of sex? There’s this strange myth lurking out there in some corners of the world that women don’t want as much sex as men do… that hasn’t been my experience, at all.

My high drive used to be an easy thing to deal with through my utter lack of monogamy. There was no shortage of willing folk to have some fun with. I’m in a weird place in life, now, with myself…at some point I lost interest in sex that lacks a good connection and authentic desire between willing equals. I can’t (and don’t care to) fake that. Now I’ve got this crazy sex drive, and the bar is set pretty high… It is not easy to imagine wanting to increase my sex drive from this place life. Hell, my sex drive was one of the things the VA used to justify putting me on powerful psych meds that were not actually appropriate for my issues. They didn’t actually reduce my sex drive, either. You know what kills my sex drive? Being treated poorly. lol

One thing I do find encouraging about the existence of a female Viagra, and it’s a pretty big deal; it implies acceptance that women want and need sexual fulfillment, too, and that it’s normal and okay to want more of what feels so good. That’s actually a very big deal in such a sex-negative culture, and a sign of real cultural progress. Now if we could just shift the cultural perceptions that older women, women with physical limitations, and very heavy women don’t want sex, or are not sexual beings, that would be amazing. At almost 52, I want sex as much and with as much fervor as I did in my thirties and forties – and way more than I did in my twenties. lol I not only want more – I’m way better at it. 🙂

Sex makes life sparkle - your results may vary.

Sex makes life sparkle – your results may vary.

It’s Friday, and the weekend is ahead of me. I will perhaps hunt down a wee allen wrench and finish hooking up the stereo. Saturday I will go to brunch with an old friend, and visit the Farmer’s Market. Sunday I’ll get some laundry done, and catch up on correspondence. An ordinary weekend, in an ordinary life; there are verbs involved, and sure – my results vary. 🙂

This morning I am sitting here in the quiet of dawn, and contemplating this sweet chill moment of satisfaction and contentment; I want for nothing. At least right now, this very specific and limited immediate moment of now, I am not experiencing desire, hunger, craving, yearning, or any urgent sense of need. It’s lovely.

It got me thinking, though, of recent tragedies, and lives lost to the dark side of desire: entitlement, jealousy, possessiveness, attachment, and yes, craving, yearning, wanting, ‘needing’ – those urgent hard-to-resist feelings that say there is something amiss in the world when some object, experience, or person is not available for ownership, possession, or purchase. I doubt it is the desire itself that is the challenge. My own experiences tell me that the difficulties (and horrors) develop when a person is overcome by the conviction that some outcome is their due. Expectation. Demand. Entitlement.

I’ve struggled with it, too. It’s very human to want something or someone so badly that it takes over reason and good sense, destroys compassion and consideration, impedes respect, or seems to justify bad behavior; it isn’t appropriate to take action on those feelings in any way that encroaches on someone else’s will, personal liberty, control of their own body, sense of safety, or freedom to withhold consent.  Rapists are a problem, and the lack of consent is the defining thing, and even in the face of the obviousness of it there manages to be discussion about it, as if there is some permissible amount of non-consensual conduct that is acceptable. (There isn’t.)

It took me a long time to get here. I have been wading through a lot of wreckage, and looking back on me over the years, I owe a number of very good-hearted people apologies of one sort or another; damage doesn’t truly excuse being a shitty human being.  I have struggled with myself, and I still do, figuring out the consent piece, for myself, as I find my way in the world.   I wasn’t exactly brought up to respect my own boundaries, to expect that my consent – or lack of it – would be respected, or even to say no and mean it in clear, explicit terms.  The result? I sometimes didn’t treat other rape survivors well; I treated them as badly as I treated myself. I didn’t understand the nature of consent, or that the word ‘no’ had any power to change events. My own experiences didn’t support that. I didn’t understand it is my right to choose, to say yes or no, and to have those choices be accepted and honored.  I spent years as an unwitting accomplice to rape culture; the survivor-apologist, so busy being ‘accountable for my own actions’ that I was willing to excuse my violation.  Getting past that and building a healthy understanding of the sanctity of my consent has been a complicated battle.

[Are you listening? It isn’t too late to show yourself compassion, to respect your own pain, to stand on your values and say ‘no’. It’s okay, too, to feel shame at the damage you’ve done as a tool in your own destruction – and to choose another path, now. You said it would matter if just one woman, one survivor, would say “I’m sorry I made things worse.” I’m here. I’m one woman. I’m sorry.]

So… here we all are… talking about the issues more openly, more insistently, more frankly. That, in spite of the pain and the circumstances, is an important step forward.

In the midst of pain, there is still beauty.

In the midst of pain, there is still beauty.

Today is a good day to talk about difficult subjects honestly. Today is a good day to be compassionate and concerned. Today is a good day to respect myself, and others. Today is a good day to change the world.