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

14 January, 2010

Ignorance and Bliss

I was, for various reasons, having That Conversation the other day. The interminable one, with someone who almost certainly means well, but hasn't quite managed to claw up to spitting distance of social awareness. You know how it goes; you ask, "Look, do you worry about whether you'll be raped if you go out?" and get a response like, "I totally worry about being mugged, I live in a bad part of town." (Because we all know that women totally don't ever have to worry about being mugged; it's one crime or the other.)


One of the other people in That Conversation commented that her moment of revelation was a Savage Love column in which someone had written in asking for advice for how to deal with anal tears, because she'd been mucking about with bondage with her partner and he took advantage of her helplessness to do something she'd previously refused. It hadn't occurred to the writer that she'd been raped.

And, well, it hadn't occurred to the person relating the story that that was rape either. Because she had internalised the "sexuality is like this: resist resist resist resist resist lie-back-and-think-of-England-in-the-end". So: revelation! That is rape!

My first thought on this was relief that I had never been that naive.

My second thought, following immediately after, was that actually, I had been.

Because the cascade that led into my assault was, as I've ruminated before, a long chain of violations, minor building up to major, where I hadn't figured out if I wanted any of them - and by the time I realised I had wanted to say no long ago, it seemed so pointless, so cruel; he expected to be able to do that stuff now, it would be so nasty to suggest that I didn't like it, right? It wasn't nice to lead people on like that. All of the minor transgressions were written off as the price of my failures of promptness, and anything built upon them likewise, not because of resist-and-submit per se, but the same complex of expectation. The things already lost cannot be a crime against person, because they are lost already. And that is what sex is about: resist-and-submit, and if I wasn't able to articulate the 'resist' right on, well, that left me the resolution to do.

Tied for third thought, cascading out of this moment of someone else's enlightenment:

That I didn't know what happened to me was almost rape, and denied that word for many years because I didn't want to appropriate the experiences of "real" victims of assault, but I knew it was wrong, and that's why I wouldn't have been surprised by the opportunistic rape from the letter-writer being named as it was;

That there is a bonus complex narrative about the consequences of being female and kinky (reminded as I was of a friend who was raped under similar circumstances), too;

That for all that I missed out on a lot of the social expectations of femaleness (all the things women are supposed to do 'by default' when they go out because of the risk of rape are things that don't occur to me most of the time - perhaps because I'm a shut-in by preference, perhaps because I was assaulted by a supposed romantic partner and not a stranger and none of them would have protected me) I ... have no idea ... how to show this world ... to someone who does not already see the space in which it inhabits.

I often feel that I don't live in the same world as other women who are talking about the world women have to move through; that was not the case yesterday.

I'm looking at my daughter, now, and it matters that she is female-bodied whatever comes after, because I look at her and think about this world she has no idea exists, snugged as she is now in the arms of her loving family. I have the tears welling up, knowing that she will have to learn to navigate that godawful world, however it looks when she gets older, my happy, sweet child who has never known cruelty, whose sense of betrayal is keyed to a diaper left unchanged a little too long, not ... all the world can wreak.

And I wish for all the world that she could remain as sweetly unaware of the awful things that humanity will do to women as that annoying guy who wanted to know better. That her education could be as gentle as a heated conversation with a handful of frustrated women on the internet, women armed only with domestic violence stats and a fistful of personal experience.

(And I am worlds further away from understanding my mother than I have ever been.)

1 comment:

Eve said...

I hear you on being naive. I had no idea that what happened to me was wrong until it had been happening for a few years. I was taught about boundaries with strangers, but not boundaries with trusted family members. The emphasis was always on stranger danger (when I was 6 the Polly Klaas kidnapping and murder occurred just a couple towns over from where I lived, and I think my parents were scared). I can't help but think that things might have been different for me if I had known how to recognize inappropriate behavior from people I trusted. I don't feel like I'm articulating this well, but I hope it makes sense.