No Tresspassing! My Body is My Property

This is a long delayed follow up commentary about my last post The Devil Is In The Details here  If you haven’t read it, it might be helpful to read it first but it is explicit in nature and does describe a sexual assault in graphic detail so trigger warning.  I would like to think there is still some useful information regardless of whether you read the other piece.  

 

Why do we as a society think it’s impolite to go into someone’s fridge without asking, and yet often presume consent access to other people’s bodies?  The absence of a “no” does not mean yes.  

I know some people are stringent on getting verbal consent, but I don’t think it’s always necessary.  I do however expect that if it’s non verbal, that it be enthusiastic consent.  If you’re not sure, then you should probably stick to the verbal.  Even then, verbal consent isn’t always reliable.  A good rule I once heard was from Greta Christina: “Saying yes when you have the power to say no.”  It is unreasonable to think you can get an honest yes if someone is under duress, such as if someone has a knife to your throat while asking.  More common scenarios are when someone can feel pressured by someone who has some kind of power over them such as a boss, professor, counselor or a medical care provider.  This isn’t to say that I think there have never been consensual relations in these scenarios, but it makes it more complex.  That being said, if I could only give consent to those that don’t have any power over me, my list of possible sexual partners would be extremely limited, due to my compromised health.

In my last post I gave two scenarios that seem similar on the surface until you read the details.  One of these women was sexually assaulted, and one of these scenarios was completely consensual.  Did you even notice that when I was talking about the sexual contact in these stories that it was largely what HE was doing to her?  There seems to be this pervasive assumption in our culture that women are suppose to be passive in and out of the bedroom. In my experience it’s a lot more fun if everyone is actively participating.  

If you couldn’t tell which woman was sexually assaulted without the details did you still find yourself thinking they both put themselves in sketchy situations, and they were probably both just sluts anyways and they deserved it?  If you do, you are part of the problem.  Everyone has the right to seek and fulfill their pleasures as long as it’s consensual and legal.  As a woman who has been an openly polyamorous woman, I have been constantly subject to slut shaming, or people just having this weird curiosity about me,  even within my own atheist community.   I’m somehow strange because *gasp* I’m a woman who admits that I enjoy having sex because it feels good, and I actively seek it out, and not because I’m searching for my one true love to come along.  

My friend recounted that she had been trying to rationalize the situation the entire time it was happening.  Maybe he didn’t understand her? Maybe he couldn’t tell how freaked out she was ?  Many people ask why victims don’t fight back, but part of why they are victims is because they they feel that their power has been taken from them.  They will often do whatever they can to survive what’s happening, and make it end as quickly as possible with as little harm to themselves as possible.  This too frequently means them going along with something they don’t want to because they are afraid of the harm that might come to them if they say no, which means they are incapable of actually giving consent.   

The guy knew he couldn’t presume he had a ride home from her, why would he presume he had access to her body? You should assume NO, not yes when it comes to access to someone elses body.  Non verbal consent can work when given enthusiastically which I tried to demonstrate in scenario A.  Unless agreed upon in advance, all those taking part in the sexual encounter should be actively participating!  My partner commented on the fact that he liked how responsive I was.  I assume this is because he could tell I was enjoying myself.  In most of my experiences, people do actually like knowing that they are actually making the other person feel good.  Let them know what you do, and don’t like verbally, or non verbally.  If at any point you aren’t sure they are enjoying themselves, just ASK!

I don’t subscribe to alcohol automatically negating your ability to give consent depending on the situation, but that might just be because I only allow myself to get inebriated with people I trust and feel safe with in the first place.  I also don’t usually allow myself to drink enough where I’m incapable of making coherent decisions.

The kink community is a definite exception to non-verbal consent.  If you’re entering a world where power is being given over and taken willingly, then you better know exactly what power you do and don’t have, and even after they’ve given you that power, they STILL have the right to take it back and say no at any time.

It’s also important to remember that  just because you’re in a relationship with someone doesn’t mean you have an all-access pass anytime you want.  Also getting into bed with someone doesn’t automatically give you consent.  Your body is your property, and my body is my property, and without my consent you are TRESPASSING!

The Devil Is In The Details

Trigger Warning.  This post involves sexual assualt, and explicit sexual descriptions.

I’m going to share with you two very different stories.   On the surface they will appear very similar, but the devil is in the details.  The devil in this case being sexual assault, but unlike the devil, these are both true stories.

Scenario A: It’s Tuesday night.  They’re at a local bar where they’ve both been drinking with some friends. They spend several hours together, before they walk back to his place.  She invites herself in, and he suggests she sit down for a few minutes before walking home.  He then offers to let her crash at his place for the night.  She knows he has other commitments, and that she may never see him again.  She crawls into his bed.  He turns off the lights and then he begins to kiss her lips, then moves down to her neck, and then starts using his teeth, leaving marks on her delicate skin.  Shortly after, his mouth finds its way down to her nipples, and then he’s putting his fingers on her clit and then up into her pussy.  He continues fucking her, and he has her change positions.  Afterwards he drives her home. He hugs her and gives her a kiss on the cheek before he leaves.

Scenario B: It’s Tuesday night.  They meet at a kink party, where they’ve both been drinking.  They’ve spent several hours together. Their erotic likes and dislikes have come up through discussion within the group.  She notices that he has taken a particular interest in listening to hers.  She has been eagerly making friends with a group she feels at home with.  They go to the after party together.  He asks her if she will give him a ride home at the end of the evening, and she says yes.  They are likely to see more of each other at future events.  They are relaxing on the couch together.  He begins to kiss her lips, then he moves down to her neck and starts using his teeth, leaving marks on her delicate skin.  Shortly after, his mouth finds its way down to her nipples, he’s putting his fingers on her clit, and then up and into her pussy.  She drives him home, and kisses him before he gets out of her car.

Now lets fill in the gaps with those pesky little details.  

Scenario A: It’s Tuesday night.  They’re at a local bar where they’ve both been drinking with some friends.  They spend several hours together exchanging ideas, laughing about the same British comedies, and the terrible choice of 90’s music that’s been playing in the background.  They are sitting across from one another, but he eventually stands up to move closer to her.   They continue to find excuses to put their hands on each other.  She can’t stop thinking about running her hands through his hair and wanting his hands all over her.  His eyes suggest he’d like to get her out of that dress.  He puts his arm around her as they walk back to his place. She invites herself in, and he suggests she sit down for a few minutes before she walks home. Once seated, he slowly begins rubbing his toes against her feet.  She rubs his feet with her toes, that are covered by sparkly black tights that cling to her skin.    Each gesture he’s made has been a careful escalation testing her boundaries, and each time she has has responded enthusiastically to his advances.  He then offers to let her crash at his place for the night.  She knows he has other commitments and that she may never see him again.  She wants to stay with him, so she crawls into his bed with him fully clothed, knowing he would be ok if she just wanted to sleep.  They’re friends, and she feels safe enough to say no to him at anytime.  They share a look of anticipation, but not of expectation. He puts his arm around her and she burrows next to him. He turns off the lights, and then he begins to kiss her lips softly, she returns his kisses eagerly. He moves down to kiss her neck and then starts using his teeth,  leaving marks on her delicate skin.  She brings him in closer and begins exploring his body.  Shortly after, his mouth finds its way down to her nipples, he kisses, sucks, and bites them. The room is dark but she can feel her body flush all over.  Then he’s putting his fingers on her clit, and then up into her pussy.  Her whole body shivers from the motion of his fingers inside her.  She is caressing his cock, trying to hold on as she is continually incapacitated by pleasure.  He is very generous, and seems content to just continually satisfy her, but she eventually stops him, takes a breath, and then puts his cock into her mouth.  She continues to suck, but he stops her before he cums.  She asks him if he wants a condom.  While she has learned not to depend on the other person for safety, this is also her way of asking him to penetrate her.  He says he has his own and leaves the bed for a moment to retrieve it.  He returns and enters her and continues fucking her. She feels good, and she feels safe.  He gently moves her hips, guiding her with his hands to change positions.  She’s on top of him now, and finally his head and hips quiver.  She locks eyes with him and they smile.  They have both been gratified, and then they nestle together and fall asleep with some gentle caresses throughout the night.  The morning afterwards he drives her home.  He gets out of the car and they embrace and kiss each other on the cheek.

Scenario B: It’s Tuesday night.  They meet at a kink munch party; a potluck where people within the community can get to know each other through conversation.   They’ve both been drinking.  She has had two glasses of wine over a five hour period. They’ve spent several hours together in the company of others.  Their erotic likes and dislikes have come up through discussion within the group. She notices that he has taken a particular interest in listening to hers.  She has spoken of her health issues, and how she always negotiates before playing.  She has explicitly mentioned how she has nerve damage and doesn’t like anyone touching her clit or nipples because of how much it hurts.  She has been eagerly making friends within a group she feels at home with.  They go to the after party together, because he has no car.  He asks if she will give him a ride home at the end of the evening and she says yes. They are likely to see more of each other at future events.  They are relaxing on the couch together, watching YouTube videos he insisted upon.  The host says he’s ready to go to sleep and people begin to leave.  She goes to the bathroom expecting to leave when she’s done, but he is making other plans for them.  He asks the host if the two of them can stick around after he goes to bed and the host consents.  He tells her he wants to stay longer so she sits back down thinking he wants to continue their conversation, but instead he begins to kiss her lips. She goes along with it, unenthusiastically.   Then he moves down to her neck and starts using his teeth, tearing at, and leaving marks she doesn’t want on her delicate skin.  She tells him she doesn’t do this without pre negotiation. Shortly after, his mouth finds its way to her off limit nipples. She tells him she doesn’t go this fast, and that she needs to take things slower. Then he’s putting his fingers on her clit and then shoving them up and into her pussy.  She tells him, no, not that. She grabs his face and tells him to stop.  Now he’s slamming her down and dislocating one of her hips trying to shove his mouth into her pussy.  She tells him no, not that either.  He asks to see her ass.  She agrees to this because this will mean he has to get off of her, to let her stand up.  She tells him he can look, but not touch.  He still can’t keep his hands to himself even after she has repeatedly said no.  Finally standing, she starts gathering her bags, saying she needs to go home. Because she is afraid to be “rude,” she still drives him home. He says he wants to do this again. She says she doesn’t know. He won’t get out of the car before she agrees to see him again, and so she kisses him instead, pressing her weight against him to get him out of her car.

Both women had similar things happen to them, but only one of them walked away feeling blissful.  The other was left traumatized. Much of the sexual contact in these scenarios is the same.  What makes them so drastically different is consent.  In Scenario A, the woman was an active participant.  She gave enthusiastic, non-verbal consent.  In Scenario B, he was all over her and never asked if she wanted him there.  He knew to ask for a ride home, yet he didn’t feel the need to ask before accessing her body.  While it’s clear that had she been asked, she would not have given her consent, that’s not the point.  The point is that he never asked.  That is the missing detail.

Frequently details are left out, and that somehow translates into making it easier to blame the victim.  People hear they were friendly with each other.  They hear alcohol was involved.  They ask what she was wearing.  They hear that she didn’t knee him in the groin and run.  They hear she didn’t report it to the police.  What they don’t hear is that he never asked for her consent.

Next time you’re feeling judgemental, remember the devil is in the details.

If you have somehow managed to get to the end of this post and think the woman in Scenario B wasn’t sexually assaulted, then please do me a favor and remove yourself from my life.

 

 

“Everybody Lies.”

Image

It’s Memorial Day weekend again, and once again I am overcome by grief and guilt over my friend Matt who died in Iraq, but this year I’m asking myself different questions.  I’ve been watching the television show House M.D and a recurring line from the character Dr House is that  “Everybody lies”.  A cynical outlook perhaps but I think it’s worth exploring.

I can’t stop thinking about this line because when I read the obituaries for Matt that say he always wanted to be a soldier, and that he was doing it to protect his little sister, but he never expressed these things with me.  I wasn’t happy when he signed up, and he never tried to give me an honorable reason for doing so.  He had a fuck it all attitude when he spoke to me, and spoke as if this was his way of forfeiting his life without doing it himself.  I would never accuse this beautiful young man of being a coward for doing so.  It was more like he knew people would have to die for this cause, and fuck it, it might as well be him, and not some poor other John Doe who wasn’t in so much pain.  This gives me pause.   Does what he expressed to me necessarily invalidate what he might have told his other family and friends?

Perhaps Matt  was telling me what he thought I wanted to hear.  Maybe he didn’t think I would believe the other reasons because when I met Matt we were both drowning in our own wells of pain, which is why we connected so quickly I think, but I would be a fool to think that he didn’t have other aspects of his complicated life.  He shared his pain with me because it’s what we had in common.  I do think people have a tendency to not be completely honest with each other.  We tell each other what we think the other person wants to hear, but how often do we also just hear or see what we want of others?  It’s in our nature to try to connect with others, so we will identify what we can in others that remind us of ourselves.   An example of this is how people act differently around different people. My personality might change depending on whether I’m hanging with fellow writers, or whether I’m hanging out with my atheist friends. As a general rule I try to not give a false representation of myself, but I can be represented in so many different ways, all different, but all true.  I am an atheist, a writer, an aunt, and so much more, and my behavior and actions do change as appropriate.

I miss Matt every day.  I am grateful that he was one of the few people that could understand the pain I was in.  Very few people have the courage to share how much pain they are actually in, like he did with me.  Cheers to my friend Corporal Matthew P Wallace, you will not be forgotten while I remain coherent and still have breath.

 

 

A Band-Aids Companion

It began with a safety pin

-an unnatural curiosity-

blended with boredom.  It brought her a simple satisfaction;

she was comfortable feeling pain, only natural that she

would begin to find pleasure in it.

 

Quickly she became bored -of pricked fingertips-

she soon craved more of an edge; something that would allow

the wounds to linger, enabling her

-to feel-

 

Foolish friends- with their inhaled sharpies,

rancid grape juice, stolen yeast,

and the bottles of NyQuil they used to numb their pain.

They knew she wanted to die,

but didn’t realize she cut open her skin

because the spilled blood made her feel more alive.

 

She squeezed Neosporin onto her wounds, encountering

a different kind of satisfaction, as she watched them heal.

Long sleeves adhered to her skin as makeshift bandages

that she only peeled off when alone, revealing scabs on scars.

 

At seventeen she succumbed to her vanity

and wore a short, stretchy skirt, abandoning the long sleeves

for two small strings, to stir the desires of an older man.

For once someone saw her wearing her scars,

and caressed them and said she was too beautiful

 

for such things. She believed him because of the way he kissed,

and even though his affection would fade faster than her scars,

he left her with a foreign feeling of beauty, that let her

reconsider the skin that she had forced so many scars upon.

 

This Is Not A Suicide Note

This is not a suicide note, it is however the thoughts of a 31 year old woman, who has had suicidal thoughts every day now for over 20 years.  I don’t think a day has gone by since the age of ten where I didn’t wish that I would just die already, so no, I’m not afraid to die. It took me many years later, to discover that this weren’t normal thoughts to have on a daily basis.

The world became a grim place for me after my grandmothers death, and I didn’t understand why I had to be here without her.  It was around this time that I began teaching myself how to numb myself out from the world.  This seemed liked a great idea at the time, but as discussed in this great Ted Talk by Brene Brown http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability, if you numb out the bad, you also numb out all of the good; a very lonely reality that I have spent most of life living.  Eventually I realized I knew I had to feel anything, so I throw myself into sports where I got two big pay offs, the huge adrenaline rush, and the inevitable pain from being involved in contact sports. These are the two things I learned to rely on to feel something.

Junior high, my emotions tried even harder to seep out, but I pushed them down so far that I eventually felt I have nothing left to feel. Wanting to die only made me feel dead inside.   The adrenaline, and the contact sports are no longer enough.  One day I began playing with a safety pin and I prick one of my fingertips, until I see drops of blood surface.  I find the sight of my blood strangely soothing. Eventually I prick each of my fingertips, the process of my blood spilling and then clotting is evidence that I am still somehow alive.  I must still be human in some capacity.

In high school my feelings were occasionally allowed to be released, always with disastrous results.  People found my emotions intense, intimidating, and overwhelming.  It was clearly safer to be numb.  I wanted to be anyone else but me, so I threw myself into the theatre. Every moment I got to play a character was another moment I didn’t have to be me.  This wasn’t sustainable, and I had to find another release.  Safety pins have lost their appeal, but I don’t want to draw too much attention. I began to take the tabs off of soda cans and split them apart and use them as razors against my arms.  They weren’t that sharp, but sharp enough to draw blood, which is all I ever really cared about.  I begin this ritual where I cut to feel, and then did everything I could to make it heal.  After the ritual satisfaction of blood, I used neosporin to heal it, and bandages to hide it.  I found almost as much satisfaction in watching the wound heal itself as creating it. These are feelings I had control over.  This is what this was for me: complete control. Eventually I will use anything sharp I can get my hands on, and even burn myself. The form of self harm doesn’t really matter as long as I’m in control.

This is why I get so angry when people freak out and think cutters are trying to kill themselves or crying out for attention, because it was never that for me, and many others I have spoken with.  Just because I also happened to be having suicidal thoughts doesn’t mean I was actively trying to kill myself with cutting.  It was always very controlled, until it began to control me.  I got into this vicious cycle where I would cut myself because I hated myself, and the more I cut, the more I hated myself.  While people at high school were praying to do well in school, or get someone to like them, I was praying to die.  I once had a counselor actually tell me that cutting probably saved my life in high school because it gave me a way to cope without killing myself.

At seventeen something beautiful finally happened to me.  I get to hold my first niece in my arms.  She was pure sunshine in my life, and I felt joy being with her like nothing else I had ever experienced.  She seemed so innocent,  perfect, and free from the darkness of the world.  I wish I could say that she got me to stop cutting, but it would take a couple more years for that to be a possibility.

I was sitting across the table from a young man I was in love with who asked me about the scars on my arms.  I made my confession to him reluctantly, and he said “You’re too beautiful to be hurting yourself.”  He was sincere and I actually took it to heart.  I stopped for several years because of those words.

I did have slip ups afterwards, but they started getting farther and farther apart. The thing about self harm for myself, and I know for many others is that it became an addiction.  I may not be an alcoholic, or a drug addict, but make no mistake, I am an addict.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about, or want to self harm.  When I tell you I’m becoming self destructive, self harm is my deepest desire.

It became easier to deal with as I threw myself into a job, school, and social life.  I made sure I stayed too busy so that I could keep all of these thoughts at bay.  It was working really well until I got sepsis and then POTS and stayed very sick.  Now I am often left alone with my thoughts.  I wish I could say those desires were gone, but I now know they shall always remain.  Since I got sick at twenty-seven, I have often wished I had died there in the hospital, instead of getting out, because I left that hospital in someone else’s body, and have never been the same.

So how can I live every day hoping it will be my last but say with confidence that I won’t take it myself? I now have five beautiful reasons instead of just one.  Yes I am broken.   My grandmother didn’t choose to leave me but she did, and I was traumatized at a young age because of it, and I have never fully recovered.  That is how I can promise I won’t ever take my own life.  I now have five beautiful children that call my aunt Heather and I could never intentionally inflict upon them what happened to me as a child.  They are too precious, and still full of hope.  I will never choose to be the one to takes that from them.  They deserve better than I had, so I soldier on, trying to let them know how important they are to me, and try to offer them more joy and wonderment than I allowed myself.

I think it’s important to talk about these things because I know I’m not the only one with these types of feelings and thoughts, and if I can help one other person feel less alone, than it was worth talking about.  I think it’s also important to talk about depression, cutting, and other things that often get stigmatized.  It’s important to remind others that it’s a struggle for some of us to just be.

This doesn’t mean I don’t see the wonderment in life, and get joy out of many things.  I try not to take my life for granted.  I try to learn as much as possible, be the best possible version of me.  I love, laugh, and smile as often as I can.  I love spending time with my friends and family, and I love music, I just happen to also have a soundtrack on repeat telling me it would be a relief to no longer be.

Slippery Skin (The Lament of a Selkie)

Born into the beauty and chaos of the sea

but free to come and go on land as I pleased.

Able to shed my slippery seal skin,

and appear as just a girl.

I stayed on shore because I found solace

from a kindly old woman,

who could actually hear me sing.

She showed me how to love fiercely

and to assume there was good in all.

but then she was taken from me at the age of ten.

She had been keeping my skin safe.

It was stolen the day she was taken.

I could feel it being shredded in to pieces,

and scattered across the earth.

Now trapped on the shore,

slowly dying where I don’t belong.

Forced to wander the earth for my skin

knowing I can never be whole again.

Still loving more fiercely than most,

but now consumed with a deep rage within.

Always searching for the warmth of the skin

as I grow ever colder,

becoming now just a bitter woman.

Screaming out a song that no one else can hear,

In hopes of finding yet another,

that can finally subdue me within,

of the pain of what I have become,

and what I can never regain again.

Finding Autonomy

Losing my health resulted in the loss of my autonomy in ways I’m just now realizing.  I have let myself be defined by my illness and by others.  I promised myself I would not let this happen to me again, but here I am eating multiple humble pies.

I began waking up a few months ago when I made the choice to make my only responsibility be taking care of my health.  I began exercising again, one of the best decisions I’ve made.

I currently have too much time on my hands to think about everything.  Lately I’ve been thinking about relationships.  I realize I allowed myself to become too much of an us, and lost myself in the process.  I promised myself I would never let myself become defined by anyone else again, but I find myself there yet again, and now I have to find myself again.

The benefit of having to find myself again, is getting to find the real me.  I believe I was busy hiding  behind school, work, and lots of socializing. I was taught as a young girl, that I should eventually want to settle down and have kids, but I’m realizing I don’t.  I want to travel, and soak up different cultures and as many experiences as I can.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to settle down.  I’ve tried twice but I always end up feeling suffocated.  I always end up wanting change, and feel the need to move on.  I use to tell myself I had bad luck choosing people that were emotionally unavailable, and now I’m realizing that I choose people that are emotionally unavailable probably because I am also emotionally unavailable, at least for long periods of time.  It’s not as if I’m incapable of loving someone.  I have a tendency to be overwhelming people, but eventually I go numb, and that’s when I get the itch to move on, no matter how great the person may be. This doesn’t mean I stop loving them.  I just don’t seem capable of loving them and staying.

I use to think I was lonely and wanted to settle down, but now I realize I’m just social, and just don’t like living on my own. I don’t need someone in my bed to not feel lonely, I just like knowing someone else is in the next room.

I don’t believe in “the one” or think I have a “soulmate”.  Just certain people that I connect with at different times and moments of bliss.  Sometimes I’m able to have multiple blissful moments with the same person over time, as long as the expectations don’t grow.  I think this is why I was initially drawn to polyamory.  It gave me more freedom.  I thought I would be ok settling down if I felt more free, but it’s not enough.  I want all the freedom.  I want to be able to pick up and move at anytime.

As far as children go, it’s not like I never think about being a mother.  I get sentimental when I see babies and how beautiful children are, but my very next thought is how I will have to anchor myself somewhere and I will be bound to another being for at least 20 years or so.  Then the urge quickly disappears.

My culture tells me I am broken because I don’t want to settle down and have children, and perhaps I am, but I have made peace with it, and I don’t want to live a lie.  I want to be free.  I will regain my autonomy,  find a way to travel, and fill my life with as many experiences as possible.  And hopefully then, I will be capable of writing about more interesting things than my illness.

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