Thursday, September 27, 2018

penetration without consent

If the accepted legal definition of rape is penetration without consent: two boys raped me in my youth.

I have been raped twice.

That is one hell of a brainful. And one, I'll be honest with you, I am not prepared to accept.

To explain ...

I have long said that my experience of sexual assault has been pretty tame. Even if we change the name of experiences of my past, this is true.

But, of course, this week, I have been forced , like millions of others (not all women, but probably most of us), to grapple again with old experiences.

Like Dr. Ford, this is nothing I asked for, nothing I desire - much as the two penetrative acts in my past were without my consent. Revisiting these things is no pleasure. Does not feel constructive. And I am old. These things long past. Redefining my very life is difficult both emotionally and just in literal *terms*.


The first was a boy in my crowd. We were friends, we flirted, one night he gave me a ride somewhere, we started kissing, and he started something more. I didn't even get in his back seat, he just crawled over to my seat.

He didn't get far, he didn't get violent, he didn't finish anything, and I tried to tell myself I was not broken.



It's a word choice both literal (not that most girls of seventeen or eighteen, whatever I was, had intact hymens in the mid-80s; we were physically active enough that that was mostly an antiquated measure of virginity) and figurative. No, this guy didn't make me bleed. But he broke a TABOO, in the most human-lawful, mystical sense.

I was raised with the most intense focus on virginity. To this day, when I am fifty and have been in the process of menopause for just over a year now, my mom has nightmares of me turning up pregnant or promiscuous. From the youngest age, I understood that the consequences of sex were not merely that I would be a sinner, but that I would lose the life I understood. Sex all but *equalled* pregnancy in my instruction, and pregnancy was a one-way ticket out of my family and my home.

Whether this would have ended up actually happening is academic: I expected it, and the moral fury with which it was presented as inevitable was sufficiently cowing.

Fourteen years ago now, on a trip with my mom to her hometown ... I came to a real understanding of just what drives her sense of sexual morality. Mom was considered an "old maid" by twenty-one, in a place where some of her high school friends were married before graduation. Oh, their sex was sanctioned - but it started young - and so mom was an odd bird, working and unmarried well past her sell-by date. There was alcoholism and abuse in the community, and she protected herself from all of these things by having a plan for her life. She set her mind upon marrying a college man. She preserved her virtue, she found my dad, they were discussing marriage by date #3 (my mom does not fool around - pun intended). They were married that December. She may have seemed old to some, by her marriage, but it's not because mom could not act when the time came.

Between her religious faith and her rigorous life plan, my mom's dedication to extramarital purity is something I finally came to appreciate in a real and practical sense. I met those who had formed her, other than my family, and things snapped into greater focus.

Focus is not something we have when we're very young.

As a kid ... my appreciation for virginity, being more conceptual than anything else, took on the hue of my own spiritual values.

And I was named Diane.

There was a boy I "liked" twice - the first boy I ever kissed, whom I actually dated later, during my junior year - and not one of the boys this post really is about. But he gave me a formative brainworm of sorts.

This boyfriend once talked of The Daughter Goddess. We were both theater nerds, we were also at "that age", when philosophy is still both breathless and Ever So Arch, and his talk of me being named for the goddess of the moon, and chastity (and childbirth and the hunt and virgins etc. - this was not a new obsession to me, even then) led to his proposing an archetype. In the mythological family, there is the Father God and the Mother Goddess, and a guy looks for the Daughter Goddess, when it comes to love. Whatever his idea of that is, and this guy had a type - I once thought a pic of an ex-girlfriend of his was me - he cements that in this archetypal family myth, and seeks her.

My identifiable goddess being rather wrapped up in virginity - and mom's and my church's morality - and consequences being ever present in my life ...

Well. Virginity was not merely that thing I needed to keep track of, lest I lose the comforts of home, it took on a talismanic magic, and was MADLY important to me. It was romantic and dangerous, and fundamental to who I was, particularly at that age when sex starts to become a serious issue in our lives. Virginity was the greatest treasure I understood was wholly mine.

This spiritual view provided me a cover story in a time where some of the people around me were losing it, and was a shield I began to burnish in my imagination.

I actually dated a decent amount in high school, and I also had flirty friends both in and away from school.

It was one of the mall guys who got horny, didn't quite take my whole mythology and good girl thing seriously, and ... he took a shot. He also did back off, even if too late by my standards. Bottom line:

He never would have gotten that far at all if it were not for the given cultural dynamic, which still stands: his gratification was more important than my consent. Hell, than my actual, specific and clear DISsent.

Even if only for a minute. Even if he backed off.

Is this rape?

I remember odd details. He said he was convinced the "smell" of a girl's intimate body was urine. I can still remember his pronunciation of that word - not intentionally cruel at all, just a steeped, conditioned, unthinking and unconsidered contempt. Like, this thing I want so much, this thing I think I need - it's still gross. It's dirty.

He drove me back to my car, I guess. I don't know where we were, or where we went. The moment eclipsed the context.

The effect of those few moments, for me, were pretty difficult. Semantically. Emotionally. How could I rewrite this story to make myself not broken?

Whatever the medical scope of the thing, or complete lack of anything I now would or could sanction describing as "sex" - for that girl I was: my virginity was gone. My shield.

I hadn't "let" anyone do anything. That I did know, never questioned. But I also hadn't succeeded as any sort of archetype, *nor* as my mother's daughter. After that, I was ... compromised. Broken?

From there, it was technicalities and playacting. *I* thought I was altered - I thought I knew I had been damaged, lost that thing that was wholly my own. But the horror of that being "true" - being  known - kept me acting like nothing had changed. Nobody else in the world needed to know. Nobody else could anyway. Even right now, I think.

I have acted that way to this very morning. THAT night is not one I have ever allowed to be what ... it was. Even now, to relinquish the power of that thing that was wholly mine, which I lost without my consent, is more than I can bear - even just the semantics of it. Now, it is the idea I really wasn't a virgin that sounds contrived to me, sounds not real.

The revelation this morning ... is that I need that still. This is shocking to me. That this still holds. Right now. Today. That I am not past this place.

I needed it that much. I needed not to have been violated. Because violation made ME impure. Imperfect.

Wholly mine, no longer whole.



Life moved on for a good while. I think I told nobody; TEO, did I ever tell you? Mr. X, did I ever tell you? That guy and I still hung with the same friends, but more rarely as I lived somewhere else in college. I recall no anger and no animosity. Life shifted, and he was an irrelevancy.

And then there was the roiling pit that is white, privileged University life.

Dating is not a given in college, but I actually managed "relationships". More-advanced crushes that got mutual. The guy with the metaphorical towel. The guy who took me to a movie, and gave me his coat (I found out this summer, BEx still has that coat - and no, it wasn't his - hah!). The one in the pink shirt.

It was in a relationship that The Thing That Was Not a Rape took place.

That is what I literally called it. Until this week. The Thing That Was Not a Rape. I was penetrated. I didn't consent. But (that dark secret I had not told) I wasn't a virgin in my own mind, and maybe my defenses were down. Or off. The Thing took place in a pretty charming relationship, actually. He was *sweet*.

And here I tread un-surely, thinking ... It can't not be possible to convey the psychological blow to me this thing was. The spiritual chasm over which I was propelled, flailing away like Wile E. Coyote over a canyon. Flailing for decades, disbelieving I could fall.

The Thing That Was Not a Rape ... wasn't even about me. It was barely about sex. He was drunk (the only time I remember that happening), and eating his heart out about someone else's accomplishing something before he did.

He took me home.

We'd gone out on a date, and *both* of us had a rotten time because he was feeling bested. He was young, and got drunk easily - precipitately.

He did not hold me down. He did not even silence me. His body was just ... bigger. It was on top of mine, and a certain body part was in a certain state. And I had left home without a chastity belt that night.

I complained. He was a bit woozy and focused on his upset. Something he'd ... lost. Nothing permanent. It was just an act of frustration, of taking something else, when his real interest and goal had been usurped. Sour/other grapes. In fact, he achieved his goal himself, in greater fashion, soon enough. Not soon enough for me, that night. Thinking that now - it is a sickening coda. My stomach revolts, I edit, I pause, I write again.

It literally had nothing to do with me.

That is when, even now, I believe I "actually" lost my virginity. The guy who actually meant something to me. That made it ... better? Something not acceptable, but supportable? Less-worse. I wonder now, is that even sicker ...

Endurable, as you get older, as you form yourself. These are the things that form our selves. No longer having deniability is a release.

Really, the vase was broken. That was when I could no longer deny it, anyway.

Whatever justifying superstructure or semantics or Jesus-appeasing earthwork defenses I had built around that first time I was violated longer fit as scaffolding this time. The earthworks were breached, and so was I.

This *broke* something important to me, about me, in my fundamental self.

Maybe for a week, I reproached, and, though the stewing never stopped for me, I quit talking to him about it. The relationship continued. Then it didn't. Ultimately, that was because of the Thing, though I don't know that we ever spoke about it again. I sabotaged things other ways, he sucked in other ways, relationships end.

To this moment, I have never concerned myself with whether he even remembers the Thing, never mind what he'd think of it after, or might have thought at that time. He may not be aware; many men are not. I'm NOT sure I would ever reach out to say what I am saying here. It might be illuminating for him. It is possible that to communicate whatever weak sauce might hint at the flavor of that moment in my life, of the way it's changed the whole recipe of my existence, would be constructive beyond myself.

But I am old, and I am tired. Honestly, I give not two shits about his illumination, and am skeptical it would lead to good for me or for/from him.

And, ultimately: this has nothing to do with him. Could have been once, perhaps. Not anymore. His life is his to reckon with, that is not my job nor my desire. This is wholly mine now.

Why would I fight him on the facts, or burden him with the truth? What the hell is the truth? "I was raped." It might be a fact, but I've never let it be my truth. Can't conceive it.

Least of all in this moment, when I am grappling - again - with this Thing ... That Was a Rape.

... ?

Was it? Without question - ever - it was violation. Both of these things were violations, physical and in every way. But sex is a murky thing. Humans are a soup of atoms and events and subjectivity and real facts, which sometimes are untenable, even internally contradicting.

I have made excuses for the second guy for decades now, and I don't despise him. I just can't deal with remembering that, or contemplating it.

Were he be nominated for high office? what would I do?

I honestly do not know.

TODAY is the day Dr. Christine Blasey Ford must do what I, right here, both am doing, and am refusing to. Doing and not doing.

Life went on. That was the choice I, and most other women on Earth, have made.

For me, life going on was unexpected. It left me confused.

I punished myself for years. There is no doubt I punished certain men. And ... my mom.

I punished her for giving me this simple standard, which I had built up to very literally mythic proportions, to shore up and even justify my own behavior (or lack of it), and which became the core of the worst parts of my experiences and who I was.

I was a punishing wife to BEx, and it stemmed from my broken faith. The silly mythology being so important to me I had trouble even with faith for many years ... my resenting its breaking. My great personal story had been rejected. I had been damaged in the violations, and finally, irrevocably, could not be remade nor reborn. Sex and men. I had to remove myself from both, and I did so ungracefully, because I had gone and gotten married. There had to be time. To learn, and breathe, and hopefully grow.

I saw it when I became a wife. The bitterness, and its metastasis. It made me angry to know I was so angry, and I was positive I had no room, if I were in a relationship, to find the way to stop. These things are a path, and it wasn't a path I could travel with him. It's why I took a hand in destroying our marriage, not that I was alone in our failure. BEx had and has his faults, but we were doomed very much because I was broken, and had not admitted it, and thought there was no room to remake anything out of my pieces. Flailing, I broke things.

This is probably the most edited post I have ever produced for this blog, and even still it feels incomplete and raw. I'm not ready for some of the words in here. The concepts may marinate with me for the rest of my life.

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