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