Archives for posts with tag: rape

[Trigger warning: sexuality, sexual assault, female anger, vaginas]

Today is weird and wobbly. I’m just finally finishing up Vagina, by Naomi Wolf. Powerful material that really resonates with me. I feel heard. I feel understood. I feel… betrayed. Shit. That’s not what I expected… Wait… did I expect something? What was I looking for? Healing. That’s going to mean staring into the damage… Scary.

I can read a book. There are still verbs involved in changing anything.

I can read a book. There are still verbs involved in changing anything.

“Vagina” could be one of the most important books I’ve ever read. I finally added it to my Reading List, too, linked for convenience of course. I considered and reconsidered adding it, again and again, because… well.. hey, only half of us or so actually have vaginas in the first place… and… well… I’d have to use the word ‘vagina’… in public… Facing that I feel resistance to doing so pushed me in a whole other irritated direction, because why the hell should I be the slightest bit self-conscious about the word ‘vagina’ when half of us have one?? Seriously? I am so irritated with myself over that. I am sick to fucking death of cultural defaults intended to meet male needs or support male emotional comfort at the expense of my own. (If that came out with a snarl, you’re hearing me correctly, and I’m even sorry about feeling the way I do… because… brainwashing. So fucking over this bullshit! How do I end it without… ‘ending it’?) Sorry about the anger. Why? Um… I always apologize for my anger. I don’t know. Shouldn’t I? I’m a woman. (Yes, I heard it, too. It’s a journey.)

Every sexual relationship I’ve had has contributed to real-life challenges I now have as a sexual human being, including the relationship I have with myself. Maybe that one most of all… I have profound difficulties feeling comfortable sexually, and have for a while. I feel as if my sense of ‘agency’ is completely lost. Facing ‘having to’ ‘fix’ it seems a mammoth and overwhelming task, and I don’t even think I know what ‘fixed’ would look like, for the woman in the mirror. These are very ‘me-centric’ issues, far more than they are issues to do with partners, partnerships, lovers, techniques, frequency, orgasms, sexual satisfaction, or any of all of that; this is about being and becoming, and sorting out the chaos and damage, and healing the woman in the mirror. It’s about taking back my soul, and my personal authority over my own experience. My agency. Over my life. Trusting myself on this very dark bit of path is scary. One foot ahead of the other… one step at a time… It’s time to take a deep breath and get to work on the hard stuff, the scary stuff, the stuff that is so very painfully real it generally goes without mention. Fuck.

I think about my physical therapist saying something to me yesterday about having to be patient about restoring motion to joints that have been stiff or frozen up for a long while. I think about my feelings, my very hurt feelings about being female, and about the impossible standards, impossible odds for success, and very different demands, limitations, and expectations placed on female human beings. I think about my anger – because thinking about it is far less difficult than feeling it. It seems beyond cruel to have to exist in a world that doesn’t value me as a human being solely because of my gender. That sucks… most particularly considering how powerfully valuable females are to the survival of a species. It sucks that it’s almost impossible to discuss easily with trusted male friends; it isn’t part of their experience, and defensiveness often precedes actually hearing me… and it is hard to hear, harder still to accept how terrifyingly commonplace it is, for all the women they know.  I’m emotionally impaired in my relationships with women on this whole other level, and trusting enough to be vulnerable enough to talk about some of this is painfully awkward – and then I’m ‘preaching to the choir’ anyway. We can commiserate, but there is no satisfaction in it. No sense of being more understood, or nurtured, or healed… or changing anything. I don’t want to injure them further in the telling, either…  I guess that’s the hope in discussing feminist issues with male friends and lovers; I somehow hold on to the possibility that the world will change for having had the conversation. They can’t easily change something they aren’t guilty of themselves  – in some cases they can’t even see it happening around them. 😦

Hell yes, I’m an angry feminist. Get over it. I’ve been egregiously wounded, trauma specifically directed at my very femaleness (some literal physical trauma directed at my genitals and brain through violence; rape), repeatedly, over time (some of it legislated, by putting me permanently at a disadvantage on purpose, creating a culture of diminishment, dismissal, and disregard – yep. Traumatic.). Why would I not be angry? How could my anger not affect my relationships? How could my anger and pain over being sexually assaulted not affect my emotional life and my sexual wellness? Why would anyone reasonably expect women to ‘just get over it’? Does that even sound sane? Or supportive? Or healing? Go fuck yourself – I’m not over it. (Sorry, it hurts every time I recognize that some bit of me is still locked up, frozen in time, wounded and stalled over things that are so far in the past.) I can’t retrieve what was taken from me.

I want to be over it. Fuck I am so grateful for the strength of the women who have told their stories in so many public ways, lately; I have been silenced for so long. Silenced – and everywhere the silence touches my heart, my heart is frozen. When does summer come?

Today is a good day for meditation. Today is a good day to understand I’m not alone, however alone I feel right now. Today is a good day to walk on – anger and all – and keep practicing. Today is a good day to cry honest tears, and remember to begin again. I’m okay right now.  ❤

I imagine people cry in Las Vegas frequently. It seems like the sort of city that could provoke it, under a variety of circumstances.  The experience of  Las Vegas is intense; there is just so much going on, continuously.

Las Vegas at Sunset.

Las Vegas at Sunset.

I’ve had a great time in Las Vegas, so far. Great accommodations, and in another post, on another day, I’ll link places that impressed me. This is not that post. It wouldn’t be fair to all the wonders of this city, or this hotel, to do that here, because right now I am crying in Las Vegas.

I’m not even sure these are ‘my tears’. I’m tired. I’m overloaded with new information, professionally. This is a very busy and very successful conference, and I’ve learned a lot that has value, and rates further contemplation, and future action.  I am, however, crying right now. I’m not even fighting it. I got back to my room before the wave of emotion overtook me, and there’s some comfort in that, because I can just give in to the tears. Perhaps another time I’ll write more about those, too, but there are already many strong voices on the subjects of rape, of gender, of parity, of suffering, of the everyday lack of decency, consideration, and goodness.  Those strong voices are already shouting into the wind. Right now, I am not that strong.  I’ll cry awhile instead, splash some cold water on my face, and get back to work.

This trip has been ‘all about people’ in a beautiful, very open way. That’s worth celebrating. So, I’ll cry awhile longer, and consider the people I’ve met here and the stories they have had to tell. Eventually my tears will dry, and I will once again feel a smaller part of a much larger whole, with my own story to tell; and words rather than tears will flow.  In the meantime, I’d like to introduce – Las Vegas people.

Hotel staff...

Hotel staff…

...Of all sorts...

…Of all sorts…

...at all hours.

…at all hours.

Practical work that goes on almost continuously...

Practical work that goes on almost continuously…

...in the sun, in the heat, in the background.

…in the sun, in the heat, in the background.

Shopkeepers with a dizzying array of goods, open almost 24/7.

Shopkeepers with a dizzying array of goods, open almost 24/7.

Street performers...

Street performers…

...girls in costume, and more. (Superheroes, cartoon characters, celebrity look-a-likes...)

…girls in costume, and more. (Superheroes, cartoon characters, celebrity look-a-likes…)

Las Vegas is a city of illusions for sale, for business, pleasure, and consumption.  It’s still a city. These are still people, each with their own story to tell.  Each storyteller bringing something to the tale of humankind that is worthy of a moment of attention; honest, heartfelt, and fearlessly engaged.

Not every story is a fairytale.

Not every story is a fairytale.

Today is a good day to say thank you. Today is a good day to be grateful. Today is a good day to be aware that we are each having our own experience.

 

Fearless Flowers

Fearless Flowers

Today feels strange. Mindfulness feels difficult. My heart wants to run away from home. I don’t mean to hurt inside. I don’t mean to ‘be bad’ or be broken or be less than I could be or to hurt unexpectedly over something good…but sometimes I do. Today, I am feeling incredibly grateful for the new trend toward providing ‘trigger’ warnings. I see more bloggers doing it, more documentaries that have them, more popping up here and there all the time. It’s a huge value add for survivors of trauma who still struggle with their pain in their ‘now’. I’d love to see more trigger warnings, because it can provoke hours or days (or weeks) of pain and emotional turmoil to be taken by surprise by a triggering event, or sound, or phrase, or experience…and if you are fortunate to have the emotional resilience that you just don’t understand what I’m talking about, please take a moment to appreciate that.  Me personally, I have several triggers that are pretty close to ‘everyday things’ – difficult to avoid, harder than hell to explain to someone else when it comes up. Some examples? Sure, why not – some of my triggers include the sound of footsteps on a hardwood floor outside a closed door, the sound of a loud aggressive knocking at the door, being awakened from sleep by a question, the sound of a woman screaming or crying, the sound of yelling from another house during the wee hours of the night, being prevented by another person from leaving a room, a hand being raised suddenly seen out of the corner of my eye, being asked to take off my glasses, excited unleashed dogs, being mocked when I am angry, seeing images of domestic violence, seeing images of torture… those are just the obvious things that occur to me without taking time to consider the question. There are more. I imagine it must be very tough to live with me.

People keep writing about rape. It keeps hurting me. Every time I read another article it re-awakens old pain, throws me off balance, leaves me vulnerable to a level of emotional volatility that carries a loss of dignity I can’t adequately describe, and pollutes my experience with fear. Fear sucks. Little girls are born fearless. The world, society, our cultures, our religions, and some very bad people take turns teaching them fear, by hurting them, by demeaning them, by continuing to infantilize them well into adulthood, by robbing them of free will, by reducing them as beings to physical bodies and demanding a standard of perfection that isn’t achievable, and by sending a pretty steady message that rape is their own fault.  By the time I was ‘an adult’ I wasn’t even sure any more what ‘consent’ meant for me, since it didn’t seem to me that saying yes or no was actually up to me at all, much of the time.  I definitely got the explicit message that nice girls don’t get raped, that choosing to be sexually active means anyone can have some, and that if I think I got raped I must have chosen the wrong clothes – and by the way, how can I put that man’s future at risk with such an allegation? That’s just not ok. Hell, I get angry thinking about it, and feel like I should apologize for that. It gets ugly in here, sometimes.

I keep dragging my feet on doing the paperwork for my MST claim… ‘MST’. What a relief! Conveniently I don’t have to say I was raped in the military! I can fall back on a politely sterile abbreviation that doesn’t force other people to think about my rape! I think I may be angry about that…but I don’t want to think about it, either.  I don’t want to think about any of it, and can’t figure out how to write about it without thinking about it…and certainly don’t want to acknowledge that mindfulness – which I am practicing and committed to – is the opposite of ‘not thinking about it’.  I don’t want any of this to be part of my experience, or part of who I am – I didn’t choose it, and I’m angry as hell every time I try to think about it, and that anger never seems to dissipate.  So…I’m looking at making reservations somewhere close to home, to hole up alone with my pain and my rage to write about rape.  I don’t know how else to approach it candidly, openly, accurately and with vulnerability, and not risk laying waste to the emotions and hearts of everyone dear to me while I do.

I need to be alone with my rape history.  That’s a hell of a thing.  The enormity of what is stolen from us when we are raped is hard to share.

Soon I’ll go to lunch with one of my partners, and this will fade into the background again, to be considered further later. Like it or not, even in the background, these experiences are part of who I am as a whole being.  I will keep practicing mindfulness, and perhaps someday the meaning and value of these things that hurt so much will be more clear, and maybe I will even move on from the pain and the rage.  I sort of have to, don’t I? It isn’t as if I can really talk about it.

I woke in an ok place this morning, after an ok night’s sleep. I’m feeling better, but…small things…I am struggling with small deviations from the routine, small chronic frustrations with every day life, minor mishaps and disappointments, more than seems appropriate.  I want to shrug it off as being ‘a little cross’ with myself, or ‘waking up on the wrong side of the bed’, or anything at all that minimizes it and ‘makes it go away’, but those things are not true.  I’d rather be disappointed to the point of heartbreak that my brand new blow dryer didn’t work this morning, or irritated that my cell phone battery didn’t recharge, or anything at all that isn’t what is really grinding away on my consciousness, in the background.

I don’t know that I have the words, or the appropriate forum, to discuss what’s on my mind – rape.  For me to discuss rape honestly requires the willingness to face a level of information sharing that is ‘too much information’ on multiple levels, and possibly damaging to hear, for some people.  The internet is buzzing with it anyway, and that’s why it’s grinding away on my own consciousness –  I’m a rape victim, myself. How can I not be affected by politicians negotiating whether or not I can have an abortion if I get pregnant from a rape? How can I overlook that there are people who actually think the consequences of a rapist being convicted are worthy of more serious dialogue than the consequences of the rape itself for the victim? How can I overlook the horrible numbers, the statistics, the historical data – the strong likelihood that just about any woman, anywhere, is probably going to face some kind of sexual assault at some point in her life? I feel agitated and ‘trying not to be’. I feel fearful and struggling with a veiled feeling of hostility. I feel anxious.

How did we ever come to this? ‘Civilized’? Hardly. I could almost feel the smugness mingling with the horror of so many voices in the wake of one heinous Delhi gang rape in December…but Steubenville was already seething in our cultural undercurrent, it happened in August.  Where are the good guys? Where are the heroes? Where is the country where there is no rape?

I feel sad. I feel wounded. I feel lost.  I will fill my ‘now’ with the day’s work, and hope that the distraction from ancient hurts will ‘be enough’… I need to feel wrapped in love, in the arms of lovers who would never hurt me…but for now, fluorescent lighting and the low steady din of ‘busy as usual’ will have to do. I am learning more about living mindfully every day, and practicing meditation, learning compassion…but just at the moment I feel rather as if I am attempting to apply a small band-aid to a sucking chest wound…or gasping for air in a vacuum…or drowning…

…Wait..wait…am I missing this moment? Is there a lesson here, too? I will take time for me, before I move on soaked in fear, and just breathe…I mean, hey…it’s just a Tuesday. I’m certainly worth a few minutes of my own time and compassion…it hasn’t all been easy, and hurting sometimes is probably a given. I hurt right now, but I don’t always…

A Person comes to a Friend bereft because a Loved One offered poison to drink, and having consumed it, this Person was in terrible pain and agony. The Person and the Friend commiserate at length the nature of the crime, the motive to offer poison, the sort of poison it was and how agonizing the pain. For days they spoke and there was no relief from the agony. The Person and the Friend went to the Law to address this grievance, and the Law spoke at length on the punishment suitable to the crime, depending on the sort of crime it could be determined to be. For days the Law spoke and there was no relief from the agony. The Person went far and wide with the pain and the agony, speaking at length with other persons, looking for agreement that a crime had been committed. The Person railed at and against the Loved One, demanding redress, acknowledgement, change and even vengeance, and shared the anger and pain and terrible agony far and wide with many other Persons.

One day, the Person met a Wiser Person and related the tale and the pain and agony of having been given poison by a Loved One. The Wiser Person listened carefully, and asked “Why did you drink it?”

Hmm…

I read something recently that gave me some clarity around the emotion of anger, but differentiating clearly between the emotional experience (‘the feeling’) of anger, and how it moves us to behave (‘the expression’) being called hostility, instead of also calling that anger. Nice wordsmithing, actually, because that actually gave me a foothold on greater understanding of a complicated piece of my experience.  Anger isn’t pleasant, but the emotional experience is pretty personal, and limited to the individual experiencing it – until they share it with another, in the form of hostility, and it isn’t all that different from offering someone poison… but if I am offered poison, in theory, I don’t have to drink it. 😀

Yesterday I woke in a good mood, but considerably sicker than the day before, and drained, exhausted, and suffering a pretty horrible headache, too. The morning went sideways when my limited emotional reserves met real-life unexpectedly – and it really was as if someone I love had walked right up and handed me a cup saying ‘here’s this poison, I made it myself, have some?’ and sure enough – I drank it right down. lol. Learning compassion and practicing mindfulness haven’t put me beyond the realm of human experience, for sure, and I not only took the whole mess quite personally, I over-reacted more than a little. As sick as I was, my supply of good decision-making was also diminished and I found myself out in the world, walking and crying like a madwoman, and under-dressed for the weather, which was a dumb choice since I was already ill. All too human, right? lol. I sort of ‘forced myself’ to make some better choices; to go home, to have some calories, to rest, to let the small stuff go, and sure enough things sorted themselves out – because it wasn’t my experience that had me wound around the axles in the first place, and I didn’t really have to drink that poison.  I am hoping to learn how to politely say ‘thank you, no’ when I find myself ‘offered poison’ in the form of someone else’s anger being directed into my experience as hostility…

Other ‘cups of poison’ being handed round recently include a variety of news articles about rape and rapists, after the news about the Steubenville rapists being convicted.  Another blogger really ‘gets it’; being sympathetic to the convicted rapists rather than to the victim is more than inappropriate, it is offensive. They said it better than I would have, and it’s definitely a share-worthy message.  I’m glad I’m not reading/watching media news right now – the heinous insensitivity of the talking heads on parade could easily have triggered my PTSD for weeks, and I just don’t need it.

It’s a good Monday, in spite of being sick, and I am eager to be well and able to enjoy spring.