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24 March, 2009

Examination Burnout

I was reminded of something by this post, and it's stuff I've mostly found too raw to post about, but I feel like writing a bit now while it's in my head.

I've written before about "Just Say No" culture and sexuality. What I haven't talked about was the way denial-and-examination culture intersected with my inner kinks.

When I was an elementary school child, I started building an understanding of my sexuality as it was at the time. I had very separated experiences of physical sexual pleasure and romantic attraction - it had not occurred to me that these were related - but I explored both as best I could. I was aware that my experience of romantic attraction was somehow related to "grownup things" like marriage and families, but I recognised (consciously, even) that that was something I would figure out when I was older; for now, there was the boy, and I could beat him at wrestling.

Once my fantasy life had developed into fiction rather than fascination with the boy, and once I had grown enough of it for my sense of physical pleasure to get tied into my sense of attraction, they took on a structure of extreme power differential, often with bondage aspects. I was never ashamed of these fantasies, or, as I thought of them, the stories I told myself when going to sleep; however, I knew, bone-deep, that I could never talk about them.

I never have.

(Think about that for a moment. I have never talked about those fantasies in more than generalised referents, themes and content.)

I knew that if I told anyone about them, they would try to figure out what was wrong with me. I didn't know words like "misogyny", but I knew that I'd have the concept thrown at me. I knew that I'd be treated as sick and wrong, because Good People don't have thoughts like that. I knew that I would never, ever be able to express these things; at least on that last I was wrong.

And as I became aware that these things were things I should not express, I became aware of the idea of examination. I had an obligation, I knew, to figure out where these things had come from, that they could be excised. I was a sleeper agent of the oppressor, my sexuality out to subvert everything that women could achieve, and I had to cure myself. There was no support for this - it was still unspeakable horror - but it was clear that the wrongness was something that I would be expected to purge before I was an adult.

Guilt started to creep in around the edges. The fantasies became even more secret, because there was this edge of belief that I should not be that way, that I should be someone else, someone more loyal, more diligent, more compatible with the universal goals that I had been assigned on the basis of my sex, class, and race. I squelched the impulses in my more conscious mind, leaving them only the release of the nighttime stories, giving me dreams of the taboo-breaking man who might love and own and honor me despite the shackles of surrounding culture.

I was an emotionally isolated young adolescent, full of need and loneliness and hunger and wanting to explore the concepts of sex and not knowing how. Nothing in the world around me had ever given me any understanding for figuring out what I wanted or how to implement that safely; I was still half-consciously aware that what I wanted was Bad anyway, so figuring out how to get it was unthinkable.

It didn't go away, of course. And sometimes these things come out in badly sublimated ways. Hook a loop of fear-paralysation into a mind frantically denying its need to surrender, bait a touch-starved, curious adolescent with affection from a pretty older boy, and watch a psyche fragment into a perfect rape victim and a panicked, impotent observer. Respectful and loving submission was unavailable, unthinkable, unallowable, so all I had was deer-in-the-headlights capitulation, where my sexual drives and my terror and his unceasing pressure conspired to shove me into a closet in my head.

And maybe, with a little more examination, I might guess that this is one of the real reasons that I have never really been able to forgive myself. Because, after all, if I didn't have those wicked, shameful desires, then maybe the combination of mental lockup and pressure wouldn't have been enough to get my psyche fridged. It can't really be his damn fault, right? He just happened to luck into that siren song of unacceptable woman-hating sexuality. And I can't hold it against him, because he stopped short of rape in the end, when he saw that I was broken. (I can't even write 'that he'd broken me' and feel honest, right now.)

This was not ... the only time I fell into that pattern, though it was the only time it was assault. I had an abusive vanilla relationship that hit my submission buttons around music until I hit a wall and threw him out of my life. I had a relationship with someone who was deeply uncomfortable with my submission, and so like a good little subbie and a good little woman I stifled it again to make him happy. I had other issues. And I worked on it until I came to a place where I could return to childhood and refuse to be ashamed.

Where does it come from? I don't give a damn. And not giving a damn is not just a political position about the unworthiness of the question, but me fighting back against the investigation of myself for which fruit of Original Sin was why I deserved to be nearly raped before menarche.

If the message had been that I needed to figure out how to deal with these desires in a sane, reasonable, and balanced manner, if it had included discussion of consent and how to set boundaries, if it had been anything other than "WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?! WHY ARE YOU A FREAK?!", maybe things would have been different.

Why am I like this? If my established answer isn't good enough, fuck off. Why am I a freak? Welcome to the edge of the map. The Antipodes, where men walk upside down.

Watch your step. I bite.

13 comments:

Hope said...

Wow.

Reading that felt a little like looking into my own brain from the outside. Eerie, and heartbreaking.

I was sixteen. He never saw that I was broken.

Maybe I'll write more about it sometime, but not right now. Thanks for writing it, and I understand why it's ranty. If it wasn't it might be too hard to say, I think for me it would be.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I understand it being too hard to write. Hell, that's the first time in the ... near seventeen years, now ... that I've said that. Or anything really like it, pointing out the line between the repression and the victimisation.

I'm sorry you know how it is so well.

garbo in paint said...

It scares me how much I can identify with this, to a point.

There's so much of my childhood fantasies, so much of my adult sexuality, I conceal. And still so much guilt around it.

My brain is broken atm, so I have to stop there. heh.

Trinity said...

Thank you, Kiya. Thank you.

annwyd said...

Something of a tangent:

I had these child's sexual fantasies, too. Not the same ones, of course, but I have no doubt that mine would be considered just as horrific, misogynist, and wrong, wrong, wrong.

But I never--at least consciously; I may have on some level--ever realized what they were, not until I was much older. For two reasons.

One was that they were just too violent, grotesque, and terrible to be about love, or anything related to it.

The other was that men played only the briefest background roles in them, and of course, I thought, you need a man and a woman for love.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Where does it come from? I don't give a damn.

That's the spirit! :)

MP said...

It's by reading this stuff, that intersects with my life, that I learn better about there not being a vacuum in regards to privilege and racism.

The people who ask, only once, "have you examined why you do bdsm?" haven't hurt anyone they ask - haven't insulted them, denigrated their experiences.

Not intentionally.

But they aren't asking in a vacuum, they are asking after dozens of people have asked it, many of whom DO think that people who are into bdsm are either abusers or abused.

And, so, every time someone in the bdsm community gets asked "have you looked at this?" it comes with the weight of the hundreds, nay thousands, of people who ask while thinking "you poor deluded victim!"

Dw3t-Hthr said...

MP --

One of my big realisations about privilege recently was that one of its hallmarks is being able to treat everything as an isolated incident.

And sure, in that thread over on Feministe, a lot of people reacted with anger to a couple of "innocent" questions -- though the first anti-kink comment was unquestionably hostile. But the questions are never innocent. As you said, badgering the witness.

SnowdropExplodes said...

Thank you for this.

Some of it (obviously, not all of it) echoes so strongly for me.

For me and my examination, there's this kind of a sentiment as well:

"There's stuff when I've examined, that you don't get to know about, you don't have a right to know about and you don't need to know about to understand when I say 'That's not how it works'."

Where does it come from? I don't give a damn.

Amen.

Cereus Sphinx said...

Thank you.

garbo in paint said...

Motto, MP, you hit it on the head.

And indeed, that asking where it comes from presumes a right to know information that should not have to be shared with anyone. People define what is private and sacred for them and asking a question like that invades that sanctity.

And the freedom inherent in owning one's kinks, without angsting over where they've come from, just enjoying them because they make one feel good, is powerful and wonderful.

Hope said...

Can I link to this for a similarly themed post? I don't want to impose, but I think you did a better job of articulating a few things than I could.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Blogs are made for linking. :) Go ahead.