So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

09 May, 2007

Owning It

A few of the places I read have been talking about women's sexuality of late. The way it gets warped, the way it gets used, the way it gets controlled or whatever.

When I was a kid -- I mean eight or nine, pre-pubescent -- I had an active fantasy life. It was a little fairy-taley, complete with questing to free beautiful princes who were trapped in towers sort of thing, with an entire sort of Disney-movie notion of how to woo and win the boy of my dreams, and I was too young to get that this was the early, inchoate processes of sex, but it was there. As I got older, I got to experimenting with my body, figuring things out, learning what I reacted to; my fantasy life got more explicit as I got to understand sex, and much more explicitly kinky, in ways that would probably really bother some people who're concerned about male/female dynamics patterning.

And that was back when I owned my sexuality. Not securely, because I didn't have a good handle on what any of it meant, but it was mine and nobody had messed with me yet.

I was a shy, weird kid, not so up on the social development thing, and significantly later than most of my peers on the physical development end of things. Which meant, in practical terms, that mostly I didn't know what junior high school slang-laden conversations about sexual things were about -- I was sharp enough to pick up that it was sex or sexually related, but I didn't speak the language.

And because I was a shy, weird, socially inept kid, I was a favorite target for the overbearing bullying type. And because my body type is within social expectations for 'attractive female' -- in other words, I'm too damn skinny -- that targetting was not physically violent, but rather intensely sexual. I spent my days in a perpetual haze of encounters with people who made constant oblique references to my sexuality in terms I did not understand, who enjoyed treating it as a toy for their amusement. They only got physical once, but the taunting was ever-present, the suggestiveness, the unpersoning of me into some sort of sex toy. When my parents tried to get the authorities at school to intercede, the response was, "Well, boys will be boys"; my only defense was to arrange my life to avoid them as much as possible and develop a shell that detached me further from my sexuality, as that was something they were working desperately to claim as public property and their avenue of attack on my self.

At the same time, I had one friend -- another shy, weird kid who happened to be male. We had very little in common other than loneliness and a few games; we spent a reasonable amount of time in each other's company, eating lunch together at the isolated end of a particular table, occasional afternoons spent playing Tetris on his Nintendo, that kind of thing. And -- innocently in his case -- he also laid claim on my sexuality with his assumption that this meant romantic connection rather than amiable companionship. He took my willingness to spend time with him as attraction and felt betrayed by my involvement with someone else, despite never having asked if I was interested in bestowing my sexuality upon him.

It wasn't mine to give, apparently, just some stray boy's to pick up.

This was a major factor in the assault -- this notion that asking for consent, asking if I wanted to share my sexuality, was beyond the possible. I was a curious fourteen-year-old, interested in grappling with this whole question of sex and sexuality, trying to figure out what I wanted; I was not, of itself, averse to exploring the concept, but it was all very new, it needed contemplation, and I was never asked. The mode of interaction seemed to be "gently try something and see if I get told 'No'". But without the time to think about it beforehand, I couldn't reasonably or honestly say "Yes", so there was this constant pressure on untested boundaries and transgressing across them clogging up my processing of consent, leaving me trying to catch up with it, and leaving me with the sense that, y'know, I wanted to say no to something a month or two ago, but now it's too late, I need to figure out the now ... and that progressed until I hit something where I was certain of the no and folded up into a little ball of panic pinned down by a much larger body that was trying to understand why after all that quiet compliance there was a wall there.

I had been taught that I had to say "Yes"; I wasn't taught a damn thing about people who would presume that lack of being slapped meant yes. And, again, my sexuality was something that was made his without me being able to figure out what to do to prevent it. I didn't have good boundaries on my sexuality -- I hadn't even really begun to figure out what my sexuality was, and the experiences that might have helped me define it and explore it in more practical terms mostly tugged it out of my grasp and turned it into someone else's plaything.

Among the things I lost then was my fantasy life; even that most private and intimate bit of my sexuality, the stuff that existed only in my own head, was lost to me. It wasn't safe anymore to even contemplate sex, to explore the intensity of power and eroticism, to construct the little narratives that I used to soothe myself to sleep with. Nothing of my sexuality was mine anymore; it belonged to other people and their visions of me.

When I started to get it back, when I started to heal, it was a headlong thing, grabbing a hold of sex, seeing what it wanted, and going there maybe a little faster than I would prefer in an ideal world, because if I initiated, if I was the one to push my boundaries, at least I was the active force, the determining one. I was deciding where things would go. I was in control -- a rickety, headlong, no-brakes-down-the-mountain sort of control, but at least I was steering the wagon.

Which isn't really owning it either, but it was a step up from having it all under the control of others.

It was a long, rickety route with a lot of sliding and slipping to get to where I am now, more or less -- a few complexes and places where I can't hold on to my sexuality, a few broken bits that are outside my command, but an awareness that I can roll sex around in the curve of my hips and keep it as my secret, an awareness that my desire is my own, and something that I can share with who I want to, and can share how I want to. I read Renegade Evolution's post on power in sex work, and there's something there that is part of the owning it that I aspire to -- having it as a tool, something that I can apply to situations when I want to, having the power of command of my own sexuality, which, perhaps, has something compelling about it, to the right sort of people. To choose to present it in a manner under my control, rather than having it something that other people suck out of me.

I get really twitchy around people who talk about sexuality like it's public property. Or property of someone other than the person who has it and the person or people they have consensually agreed to share ownership with. That Purity Ball crap freaks me the hell out. The obligated-to-put-out-by-the-third-date crap freaks me the hell out. The "nice girls don't do that" crap freaks me the hell out. The "what you do with your sexuality has to be framed and considered in terms of what it says about genero-woman!" crap freaks me way the hell out. The Barbie-whore clothing for toddlers freaks me way the hell out, oh gods. There's a lot of stuff out there that freaks me the hell out with this regard.

But when I see people talking about sexuality, especially women's sexuality, I look for the code language to sort out who they think owns it. Because people who think that they have some level of entitled position to control someone else's sexuality without explicit consent ... are scary, scary fuckers.


Tony Lovett said...

Fascinating. This is incredibly well-written and insightful. Thank you for sharing.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Thank you, phiasko.

belledame222 said...

this is fantastic, thank you.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Hi Belle! ;)

And everyone else who's here from the Carnival.