Too Many

This post discusses sexual assault, domestic abuse, rape culture, and victim blaming.

Fragile Emotion

I’ve been putting off writing my own piece for this, both because it’s painful and difficult to think about and because I’ve been having trouble finding something to write about. I mean, I realize there are a lot of facets to how sexual assault and rape culture play out in our society. I just sort of felt like I’d written about all of them before, like I wouldn’t be saying anything new.

Then it hit me. While I haven’t written about “all” the facets of sexual assault, I have already written extensively about it. Like, in roughly 14 months of blogging and 388 posts published, no fewer than 40 of them tap into my personal experience with sexual assault or the ramifications thereof. That is, in a blog I ostensibly started to talk about yoga, I spend more than 10% of the time dealing with issues surrounding assault.

So much of my emotional baggage is tied up in those feelings of victimization and fear. I used to say “from my assault” — singular — before realizing there wasn’t really only one. To clarify, there was exactly one incident where I filed charges for rape because I interpreted it as clear-cut: he initiated contact, I said no, I struggled, he penetrated me anyway, it was violent. Despite the fact that law enforcement didn’t agree, that matched all the cultural scripts I had for what rape looked like.

But not everything matches our narratives for what assault looks like because some forms of it are so normalized.

The number of times my body has been groped and grabbed, twisted and pulled, against my will. Often I was both outnumbered in it and publicly shamed for speaking against it.

“Oh, honey. That just means he likes you.”

“This is a nightclub. What did you expect?”

The number of times an ex has whined and guilted me into having sex, even after I’d given an explicit no:

“But we haven’t had sex all week!”

“I guess you don’t love me, then.”

“When did you become so frigid?”

The many times I woke up to fingers digging between my legs or an erect penis insistently prodding me in the butt. His startled and hurt expressions, whether real or imagined, when I responded to his initiations of “surprise wake-up sex” with irritation, anger, tears, or resentment.

I’ve had “yes” pried out of me and my “no” ridiculed more times than I can count — and I don’t think my life is particularly abnormal in that respect. What gives these events so much baggage is partly that they happened, yes, but also partly that a lot of people — witnesses, friends, family, people who I trusted with my story or who shared the experience — expected me to downplay how utterly shitty those violations were. Expected, in fact, that I wouldn’t name them as violations at all. Annoyances, certainly, or the luck of the draw, or even a (few) bad relationship(s).

“You can’t blame the man for trying.”

But violations they are, and there are so many. Too many. They add up, and the hurt they cause is so often left to fester and work in on itself. If we’re going to have a conversation about healthy sexuality, we have to bring these too many “small” violations to light and start talking about them as well.

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I'm here. I like stuff. Some other stuff, I like less.

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4 comments on “Too Many
  1. Petra says:

    “You can’t blame the man for trying.”

    And yet, apparently you CAN blame ME for saying “no”… Ugh. Yes, similar experiences with this. Thank you for sharing

  2. Caitlin says:

    “What gives these events so much baggage is partly that they happened, yes, but also partly that a lot of people — witnesses, friends, family, people who I trusted with my story or who shared the experience — expected me to downplay how utterly shitty those violations were.”

    Yes, THIS. That’s maybe been the hardest part about a lot of the stuff I’ve experienced, is just seeing how normalized so much of it is. Like being worn down by your partner until you consent to sex, just to get him/her to leave you alone? That’s considered normal by so many, but the truth is that it’s manipulative and emotionally abusive, and it took being with a partner who believes in enthusiastic consent to understand that.

  3. Lisa M. says:

    I’ve always viewed manipulation and whining as verbal sexual assault. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be verbal. Sometimes it’s the silent treatment and cold shoulder I’d get after standing by my NO. I don’t want to downplay the sexual aspect of it at all, but it’s an extreme reflection of the general tendencies of a lot of folks to work their agenda into all their interactions in a relationship. Constantly trying to exert control by what is said or unsaid.
    Thanks for sharing this.

    • I agree with your comment. It is often ‘just’ one of the signs of an abusive partner, a partner who doesn’t actually care about his partner’s feelings, but wants to control everything.
      And it is a level of abuse that most people don’t even acknowledge as abuse, because it has become so normal. Women are expected to just let that stuff slide.
      And we are expected to be available for sex.
      So than the whole thing combines into more nastiness.
      Good point.

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