Life is Just One Big Ole Trigger Warning
The first time I was raped, a man kept me in a hotel room for three days, violating me in every way possible. The graphic details aren’t important, it doesn’t help anyone to know how many times he held me down and in what positions. What is important is that I was scared. So scared that he didn’t have to physically hold me hostage, I came back to the hotel each day to endure hours of violence “of my own free will.” Is what he said. He also said, “If you don’t show up I’ll tell your parents what a whore you are.”
He had a lot of threats, that’s the one I remember all these years later. I believed him. He knew where I lived, worked and went to school. So I showed up and like a statue lay there while he took what he thought I owed him for being female. This was only the third time I’d been naked with a man so he also took my ability to think of sex acts as intimate or arousing.
Later my mother found a piece of paper with a rape support line written on it and cornered me. “What’s this? Who did it?” I said his name. “That’s what you get for hanging out with older men and going to hotels with them. What did you expect?” She took the number from me and closed me in my room to cry.
When I told my then boyfriend he asked, “Why did you cheat on me? I don’t know if I can forgive you.”
So of course I thought it was my fault. For two years I went ahead and slept with anyone who looked in my direction. I deserved to be used, I was worthless, a whore, just a body to be used. I got no pleasure from sex; not with these random encounters, not with boyfriends, not with tender female lovers. It was all penance I was paying with my body, hoping one day to have fucked away the memories of that man.
My male roommates seeing the parade of one night stands stage whispered from just outside my door so I would hear, “Her legs are like a map; spread wide open and impossible to fold closed.” Laughter.
Later one of those boy roommates would threaten to kill me with a machete and send an email full of nude pictures he’d found while going through my things to everyone in our creative writing group. All because I wouldn’t sleep with him. He was owed it after seeing everyone else in school have a turn at me after all. When I refused to live with him any longer I was an over reacting bitch.
The second time I was raped was by a man I was learning rope from, he was sexy and fun until he decided to take the one thing I didn’t want to give him. There was no rope the night he put himself inside me, the event so shocking I didn’t struggle, simply left as soon as it was over. After all the intensely physical and consensually rough scenes we’d shared it was the tenderness of the act, the lack of bondage or sadism that hurt the most.
We had been intimate for months without any hint of this. He was a rope pro, everyone in town loved learning from him and going to his parties. So did I. This was a decade into my exploration of kink. One of the things I enjoyed most about BDSM is the focus on negotiating, boundaries and consent. Finally I was enjoying physical intimacy; kinky sex and play made me feel safe. Especially when this man declared, “Don’t worry, I have no interest in your cunt. You couldn’t handle the chi of my penis anyway.” A joke to let me know how safe I was with him.
He went ahead and stuck it inside me anyway. And when raping me wasn’t enough he went ahead and ruined my reputation in the kink world through the typical “he said, she said” bullshit as well. No one wanted to believe me, I was the crazy ex. He had a venue, taught classes and had been around for years, I had nothing to offer other than my story and that was easy to ignore it.
When other women spoke up, dozens of us, it was harder to ignore but he still taught, I got the side eye for ruining the rope community in Portland. I stopped playing, I couldn’t even trust kinky folks. I was the rope slut who didn’t do rope. Later he rapes a famous rope bottom at a famous conference and people get interested in my story. He’s run out of the scene, the rope community gathering around with bamboo pitchforks and hemp nooses. She shouldn't have had to go through that, (none of us should have) his time in the scene should have come to an end the second one person spoke up.
In the aftermath people say, “Oh I believed you all along.”
I get a lot more selective about who’s allowed in my life and my bed. So no surprise the scent of trauma and pain on me makes me a perfect victim for a narcissist. He swoops in with love and lust and big protective papa bear arms. He’s going to heal me with consensual sex and this unbreakable bond we have. Oh it’s sexy and exciting and he’s the only thing in my life: he’s that bright and shiny and comfy. We understand one another like no one else could ever understand us.
Until he leaves me for his next victim. It’s only after therapy and SSRI’s that I realize he had made sure he was the only thing in my life on purpose. Cut me off of from everyone else to better manipulate and gas light and break me into some sad suicidal victim. #3: soul rape.
The fourth time I’m only almost raped. He’s drunk. “But I have a condom!” He wines. I push him away from my held open legs and torn stockings, my friends watching, knowing I can handle this, I need to handle this on my own. He cries like he’s the victim, as if I was the one that had a hand on his throat a minute earlier.
He goes home with his partner, my friend, and takes it out on her with cruel words. We’re strong, smart, capable women but she can’t get away from him and I don’t stop her from going home with him while he’s that drunk and angry. I’m a terrible friend, I saved myself that night but not her.
She’s free now and we promise one another, “Never again, never men like that, we’re worth so much more.” We’re a pack of fierce women looking after one another now, there’s safety in numbers and in unconditional sister love.
The fifth kick in the gut is an email from the person that’s supposed to be protecting my manuscript. About one of my early explorations with kink that didn’t go perfectly she confronts me with the metaphor “So, if a dude walks up to me and punches me in the face, even if my nose isn't broken and I'm not traumatized by it...it's still assault.”
As if she gets to define trauma for me. As if I need more hurt in my life. As if I haven't experienced enough pain to know what is and isn't trauma. As if it’s her or anyone’s place to tell me or anyone what I should be troubled by.
This book is my gift to the world, to all the sad or lonely souls who are suffering and don’t know yet that they aren’t to blame. I want to garner more healing and love in the world. There’s enough suffering and pain. Every day is a struggle to lift someone up, to make good from the cruelty of suffering and death. Sometimes all I can do is lift myself out of bed and I call that success.
But here is another women trying to take me down a peg instead of lifting me up. Adding to the weight of the world. Cutting a sister down at the knee for no good reason. I’ve known so many women like this before and I’ve called them mother, metamor, lover, self. So much violence for women and here we are heaping more on one another.
I say no thank you to anymore of that.
To those of people that instead of being led by their fear or by their empathy-less logic, chose to be guided by their hearts, the ones who share words, space and open arms I love you. Let’s not let the triggers of the world get us down. I don’t need anyone telling me what should hurt. I don’t think anyone does.