Tuesday, May 09, 2006
" lost clown has broken the ultimate taboo and named her abusers.
in doing so she is taking back her power. she is clearing a path for us all to do the same. how many of us dont tell, ever? how many of us keep these men's secrets? how many of still feel dirty and shamed and silenced by the violence they committed against us?naming the abusers gives us power back. we put the blame and the shame and the guilt back in their hands, where it damn well belongs.i love lost clown for doing this, it is an amazing step forward. i hope i can follow her."
well, here - I'll get in line too. I will name my abusers, at least one of them. I'm not sure how much of my power I'll get back, or how much I even had in the first place. but let's see what happens.
My first sexual experience was a lot like life in the middle ages - nasty, brutish and short (well, not that short). It was also painful, violent and nonconsensual. I was seventeen.
I and my abuser were counselors at a summer camp in 1986. God I can't believe it was twenty years ago already. My abuser was a well-known bully around the camp, shunned by the "cool" counselors and not especially well liked by the campers. Although I found this person intimidating in general, I really had nothing to base my fear upon but reputation. I had nothing against anyone at camp. For me, camp was a paradise, a place where I felt safe and valued and useful, a place entirely unlike home.
It was late in the evening and I and my abuser were "on taps", as we called it, watching the unit as the campers slept. My abuser was not from my unit, but had switched with another counselor to give her the night off.
"Rub my back," my abuser said. I complied. It was just a back rub, after all. That was allowed. We all did back rubs.
I'm not sure how I wound up on my back, staring at the canvas tent roof, with teeth biting and mouth sucking and hips grinding and fingers poking. I said "hey, stop!" but this was before any of us had ever even heard of the Antioch Rules. I protested. I winced. I squirmed. "Not so loud!" said my abuser. "You want to wake up the whole unit? And anyway, if you say anything I'll tell the camp director you're gay. Now do me," she said.
That was not a typo.
Camp? a Girl Scout camp in Massachusetts. My abuser? A young woman named Millie M.
After she had finished with me she bounced over to the next cot and said "I'm not a lesbian. I have a lot of boyfriends at home. There's this one guy, who's a senior, and he took me to his prom but I don't let him touch me - but this other guy, my best friend's cousin, he...," chirping on into the night like a sadistic cricket.
Finally our unit leader returned and relieved us of our night watch duty. Giggling conspiratorially, Millie went back to her own unit. I was left to my own perplexed devices.
Was it a rape, I wondered as I made my way to the bath house for the usual sit-under-the-shower-until-the-water-goes-cold-but-the-shame-just-won't-scrub-off post-sexual-assault ritual. I mean, everyone already knows I'm queer, I thought. Why would the threat of telling the camp director make me do something so stupid as to put up with her bullshit? And anyway, I'm supposed to want sex with women...Rubyfruit Jungle did not cover this at all, I mused, running a finger over the bruises and bitemarks. Rita Mae, you let me down, I thought bitterly.
So there you have it. but what was "it", exactly? Did she somehow pick up on signals of desire I didn't even know I was broadcasting? Was it even rape, considering the absence of penis? Was it not sex but power? Just what the hell happened that night in the tent?
I googled her name before I posted this, and discovered that Millie M. went on to do great things. She's a Very Important Sister of Color and president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and recipient of many awards from Girl Scouts and other organizations.
I went on to drift away out of my own life, to let others make my decisions for me, to wind up again and again in situations where people did not particularly care about my opinion.
I'd ask her for an apology but I doubt she'd even remember me.
I hesitate to call myself a "victim" of sexual assault, because that would imply that the bruises and bitemarks never healed, and damaged me irreparably. Such is obviously not the case. I feel like identifying as "victim" insults people who really are victims of savage and crippling brutality. but then I hesitate to call myself a "survivor", but jeez - sexual assault feels so commonplace these days, you might just as well call yourself an allergy "survivor" or a sprained ankle "survivor".
and yet I get a little hot under the collar when the blogosphere discussion turns to rape, and rape statistics, and people say "well, women could rape, I guess, but statistically they don't and men who rape are the real problem and why do we have to even discuss f/f rape anyway? what are you, some kind of MRA?"
because it happened to me, this statistical hiccup people say never happens.
as per calling yerself a "victim"--imo, it's totally up to you, but it really doesn't bear on anyone else's experiences either way (or vice-versa) if you do ( or don't). Your pain is your pain. It's real, and legitimate. You're right--it's vastly upsetting when other people, especially the ones who are supposed to be on your side, effectively minimize and dismiss your experience. the worst part is--it's really easy to internalize that stuff, too.
it's been so long - it almost feels like it happened to someone else.
I wonder what (if any) fallout will occur.
Bitch | lab is covering the Dworkin Commemorative Conference as well, btw. I note oneradfem has a gushing ode to Sheila Jeffreys. bleargh.
yeah, I really don't think I have anything much in common with these people. I encountered queer theory before I did old-school radical feminism, and on the whole I still feel a lot more at home there.
god, there are 10,000,000 ways to abuse. we've probably all been both ends of it to some degree at some point in our lives. but I guess it's safer to assume that penis=weapon if you don't have one; that means that *you* could never, ever, ever, in any possible world, be an abuser, yourself.
My first lesbian lover abused me -- first as in not among the girls in my neighborhood. First as in a real relationship. When it turned sour, I quickly left. I discovered others .. later, in academic settings, where I wanted to work on raising awareness about domestic violence, I was just shut down all too often as some kind of weirdo who wanted to derail the convo, just as you say.
Fortunately, there are people out there working on this, mostly on the front lines in domestic violence hotlines in bigger cities.
I get static at BB when I post there. I can only imagine the lubeless reaming I'd get other places.
don't you hate when people who are supposed to be your friends say you're statistically not worth discussing? that you're so irrelevant you may as well not exist at all?
Finally: this is what’s at the heart of my deep gut reaction to radfem dismissals like the ones we’ve been hashing over here and elsewhere: sexual transitioning means this, BDSM means that, “the pursuit of orgasm is inane,” “gender trumps race,” yadda yadda. Because they are, in the course of solidifying a framework that helps to reassure them that
>Reality is when something is happening to you, and you know it, and can say it, and when you say it, other people understand what you mean and believe you.
…*yes*, my experience was real, *yes* this really happened, *yes,* I’m not alone, I’m not crazy, other people get it…
…they are turning around and denying that very thing, that SO IMPORTANT THING, to somebody else. No, your reality doesn’t matter. No, your experience isn’t valid. Yes, you are alone. No, I don’t get it, and I can’t get it, and I won’t get it; there must be something wrong with you.
THAT is the problem. Not the orgasms (or lack thereof); not the arguments; not the name-calling and thrashing about. “I know you better than you. This is reality; I define it. What’s going on inside you *doesn’t count.*” And all in the name of a movement that was designed to counter all that in the first place! “You’re not alone…oh, wait, you do/think/feel *that?* Okay, NOW you’re alone.”
and that’s why people get even angrier at the supposed allies than at the “enemy.” Because one doesn’t expect any better from the “enemy.” This feels like…betrayal. On top of everything else.
and in turn I suspect that it's (often) precisely that feeling of betrayal that causes (for example) the radfem lashing out against "sex positive" feminists, or people who sexually transition, or people who suggest that there might indeed be another way to frame the Big Picture besides "the Patriarchy" (white supremacy? capitalism?) Because it seems to threaten everything they've worked for: a sense of place, a place where everything makes sense.
Which, all well and good; except from *my* perspective, most of the time, such people/ideas in fact do no such thing; if anything, they/we strengthen the movement. "Hey, this experience is real and shared by others; and THAT experience is ALSO real and shared by others. And THAT OTHER experience, well, that one doesn't resonate personally so much, but, yep, I'm listening and I see how it maybe parallels what we've been talking about in certain ways. What does it all mean, dear? I don't know for sure, but, given the framework we already have as a starting point, here are some possbilities. Whoa. Cool."
But if your sense of...identity is fragile, then you're not going to be open to hearing most of that. You've worked too hard to get to this place; and here's where I stop and draw the line, dammit. And from there, the line becomes a gate, and then a solid wall. and maybe a bunch of people left on the other side eventually regather their forces and go through the same process the original gatekeepers did, only smaller. Lather, rinse, repeat.
why do you think that? seriously? it takes courage to come out about abuse.
I get the sense that if my abuser were a Milton M., much would be made of the institutionalized patriarchal culture of violence and society's condoning of male abuse of female partners and on and on and on.
and the echoes of support would be deafening.
I might even be encouraged to speak out in an even more public place than this blog, in order to make the world aware that this Very Important Business Leader and Pillar of the Community was in fact nothing more (or nothing less) than a predatory rapist, as though this one act (and assumedly all the others he would have committed with the tacit consent of society) negates the good work he might have done for the local spanish-speaking and urban communities.
I guess the world of women is used to speaking out against M/F rape. We know the language. we are familiar with the territory. But we're not so sure what to say about F/F rape.
I was really not expecting anyone to comment at all.
but I'm glad y'all have.
I don't actually understand what you're referring to, here.
F/F abuse in a relationship context is especially tricky, or can be, because you have internalized and external homophobia to deal with as well as an added layer of defensive disbelief from your own folks. (Women don't do such things, *and* lesbians, especially, don't do such things. And, this was supposed to be an egalitarian, power-free relationship, right? Right?...)
That. I was referring to the idea that male feminists are unicorns.
..."Feminist" men assault.
The last is why I don't agree that men can call themselves feminists ("pro-feminist" or "feminist ally" is a whole other thing). When you no longer carry on you a weapon with which you can and will use to assault women, then I'll start talking about you being a "feminist." It's like a pacifist who carries a gun. You have a gun, fool. You're no pacifist.
I assumed that she (I realize you can't speak for her) was in fact saying that the "weapon" the man is "carrying" is in fact his dick; or at best a male privilege that, well, has a *lot* to do with his phallus. From the context of the overall thread and the rather unjokey feel (to me) of the post I assumed that it was on the level; if it's part of a running joke, I did miss it.
you're right, it isnt something ive seen discussed much, but i have seen it mentioned. it does seem to be overlooked because everyone is busy trying to deal with m/f abuse, and you're right that we shouldnt be overlooking it. i hope this post from antiprincess inspires discussion of f/f abuse, because clearly we can't ignore it. i know my local dv shelter does deal with abusive lesbian relationships.
that's probably the best any of us can hope for.
frankly I'm grateful for whatever is thrown my way on this subject, however little/late it is.
sometimes I look at the MRA guys and, much as I think, well, they really *are* from Mars, aren't they, I do wonder, in a couple of cases, whether this isn't part of what's really going on. maybe they're bitching about the evil courts and how women get away with everything and so forth because they don't have a framework in which to deal with what might have happened at the hands of dear ol' Mom. or grandma. or big sister. (I have a male acquaintance who talks very passionately about just that abuse from female relatives, his personal experience. fortunately, he's a lot more conscious/evolved than the MRA bunch and is thus usually able to check any misogyny bubbling up with the understanding that it's probably laregly projection).
so, but yeah: they're (the MRA's) trying to find a way to articulate a sense of victimhood, I think (and they may very well be actual victims of *somebody*; I think people who are that angry and unhappy pretty much always are); but at the same time desperately clinging to the traditional idea of "manliness," which doesn't actually allow for any sort of real vulnerability. so instead of focusing on old wounds, they focus on their anger at being cheated, as they see it, out of the traditional male "entitlements:" status as a Father, respect of his Authoritah, sex when and how he wants it with no reciprocal demands, his moneymoneymoney...doesn't seem to be working out too well from where I'm sitting; but I guess they don't or won't see any other alternative. and, as we know, once one finds a group of compatriots who will validate one's reality and have your back, it's a lot less likely that one will turn one's back on that newfound sense of solidarity and safety, unless one has some compelling reason to do so.
and yeah, there is f/m domestic abuse. the stats go up a lot a lot when you start factoring in abuse that isn't necessarily sexual or even (very) physical. or would do, if anyone really knew how to properly measure such things. (that is also true for m/f and all other forms of abuse, of course). There's emotional abuse, there's verbal abuse, there's financial abuse...spiritual abuse. Never underestimate the power of a headfuck. Yeah, in a patriarchal society, there are a lot more institutional supports for male-over-female abuse, no question.
but an abusive situation is a not-so-fine and private place, ultimately; and once you're in it...it kind of doesn't much matter what the statistics are. Pain doesn't really answer to statistics.
And now your sexual play of choice is the kind where you're held down by women who leave bruises and bite marks...
...but you say you're "over it"?
I know several people who dig it, but even they like their partners to be respectful and not so damn pushy.
not all kinky people enjoy the same things. not all kinky people enjoy the same things at the same time. but I'm sure you knew that, so I won't insult your intelligence by going into the whole spiel about diversity in the kinky community and the importance of communication and consent. Since you're such an expert in human sexuality that you can assess my sexual issues over the internet, there's no need.
I'll make it plain and state the obvious: it's not the behavior. it's the lack of consent. it's the intimidation. it's the bullying. it's the denying afterwards. it's the threatening to expose me. if she had said to me "hey, I'm interested in exploring this aspect of human sexuality - are you free on Tuesday?" I would not have any cause to carry a grudge.
But she didn't.
I hope that explains it a little better.
"not the behavior" - by which I mean that I absolutely did not mind that she wanted to engage in rough sex, with me or with anyone.
what makes her behavior objectionable is the fact that she never once asked me what I wanted, how I felt, what I might like.
I assure you, if she had just once asked me a question, any question at all, I would not have a rape story to tell.
What makes her behavior even more objectionable is that she wouldn't stop when I asked her to stop. If she had just stopped for a minute when I asked her, so I could catch up and process and stop freaking out and maybe discuss things with her for a moment, I would not have a rape story to tell.
"And now your sexual play of choice is the kind where you're held down by women who leave bruises and bite marks"
my sexual play of choice is the kind where I have a choice.
sometimes that involves bruises. sometimes it doesn't. rarely it involves bite marks. (really not often.) these days, monogamous as I am with my male partner, my sexual play of choice involves no women at all.
so what's your point?
fuck that noise.
listen up, whoever you are:
Sexual etiology is one fuck of a lot more complicated than you appear to believe; and so is playing with strong sensation ("pain," if you prefer). One does not have to have been physically or sexually abused to enjoy it (erotically or otherwise). I was not abused in such a way. I do enjoy the odd flogging and/or spanking. Why? Ever had a sports massage? Ever done any sort of intense physical workout whatsoever? Eaten a handful of chili peppers? It "hurts," right? But in a particular "way," right? Or perhaps you haven't.
Well, it works like this, or in part:
The body releases endorphins as a natural pain-reliever. (the steady drumlike "beat" of the crop or whatnot also helps release endorphins; rhythm, with or without accompanying physical sensation, alters the brainwaves and puts one into a trance). Endorphins are known as the "feel-good molecules." They relieve stress; they can create feelings of euphoria; they are partly responsible for the feelings released with orgasm. (They are also associated with reduced blood pressure and risk of several diseases, but that's neither here nor there for our purposes).
more on endorphins here:
In short, it's a natural high. And the techniques used in what's termed "S & M" now are very carefully designed to induce such feelings without causing injury. frankly I've found a lot more such carefulness of the delicacy of the body than in, say, organized sports. The practice of which, gee, also tends to land people with heavy bruising. not to mention the occasional broken bone or worse. but *that's* okay because no one's trying for an orgasm, in team sports. overtly, anyway.
Kink is a big umbrella; the "sensation exchange" is of course just one part of it. Domination and submission is another, different part (this is where the "power exchange" and role play comes in). fetishes are still another. (Leather would be one of those. certainly there are plenty of others that are simply less popularized). Some people practice one or two of those general categories without the others; some are into a combination. I recommend Midori's "Wild Side Sex" for a better breakdown of all of this. That is, of course, assuming one wants to actually learn about it from someone who knows what the fuck they're talking about, as opposed to simply shooting armchair psych/cliff notes' radfem theory pronouncements at random strangers.
Abuse is soul damage. I maintain that the constant cultural and/or personal shaming of gay folks for our desires is in fact abusive, even if no one ever lays a finger on us.