Some Things are Hard to Say
[Content Note: Sexual Assault]
I struggled about whether I was going to write about this. I have written a bit about it before, but the subject has come up again in fuller force than usual and I find myself doing some major processing. I am going to be talking about a traumatic event in my life, so feel free not to read it. As Ginny suggested the other day, doing a google search about cute animals might be a better choice. I figured, fuck it. It’s therapeutic for me and maybe someone else will find it helpful. Or something. I don’t know. I apologize in advance. I’m kind of pissed and sad.
Two and a half years ago I was feeling like a new woman. I had successfully plowed through a number of issues that were keeping me from embracing polyamory for myself. I had my jealousy issues under control. I felt confident and datable. Soon after my 30th birthday I had my first real dates as a poly person. The first one went well and I dated that guy for a month. It ended stupidly, because he was a jackass in lot of ways, but it was good because it showed me that I could enjoy other relationships in a healthy way. That was awesome news!
Near the end of this relationship, I had a couple of dates with another guy…we’ll call him Dude. I had known Dude for a few years, mainly through our interactions at a local karaoke night. I thought he was funny and cute and entertainingly kooky. Once I felt ok about dating, I talked to him and we expressed mutual interest. We went on a date and it was cool. I thought I could trust him. He seemed harmless. So when we decided that the second date would be at his house, I wasn’t particularly worried.
At the time, he was on crutches nursing a badly sprained ankle, so I decided that it made the most sense for me to make dinner for him at his place and then watch movies, since moving around was a laborious task for him. And that’s what we did. Until a while later, I found that I had drifted to sleep. I woke up to him rubbing my arms and some kissing happened. One thing led to another, as the kids say, and I went upstairs with him, even though I didn’t really want to.
This is where the “I should haves” start. They’re so useful, right? I mean, I didn’t think I needed to worry, but in hindsight, obviously I should have just said, “You know, it’s getting late. I think I’m going to head home,” instead of going upstairs. But I figured there would be more communication.
So there I was upstairs. Things progressed quickly. I went with the flow, still not really wanting to but at this point I was thinking the other really helpful thing, “Well, you let it get this far, didn’t you? What are you going to do, stop???” The rational answer is YES, but I wasn’t thinking rationally. I figured that as a newly liberated poly person that I was supposed to be “slutty” and to do any less was somehow betraying my new lifestyle.
That’s completely embarrassing to write, by the way, but there it is. Not to sound like a fucking public service announcement, but there’s not wrong with slutty behavior. But there’s also REALLY nothing wrong with wanting to feel safe with partners. If something doesn’t feel right, you do not owe it to ANYONE to go through with it.
Ugh. Anyway, things continued and in the beginning, I noticed that he wasn’t really making eye contact with me AND he was being pretty rough with me. I was suddenly terrified. I began thinking about how I didn’t really know this guy and how we hadn’t talked at all about what we liked/what we were into. Had I found myself in a situation with a kinky person who failed to communicate this? I stiffened up immediately, but he didn’t notice. I was quiet and barely moved and didn’t know what to do. I figured that there was nothing I could do but continue since, you know, I had let it get this far. Also I could manage to do before the “main event” was say, “please be careful. That can be really painful for me.” His response was something about “Oh, I hope I can control myself then.”
Well, he didn’t and it hurt like hell and I took it because I believed stupid things. Eventually, I took what control I thought I could take and tried to steer things to activities that were less awful.
During all this, he never really checked in or seemed to care. After everything was over, he asked if he managed not to hurt me. I told him that yes, it hurt. I recall him being sort of sorry, saying something about how it was hard to control himself since I was so hot. God. FUCK YOU.
And then I spent the night. I don’t really know why. I wanted to run home and cry, but I also didn’t want the guy to feel like a rapist or anything…for some reason. I was embarrassed and all night I lay awake thinking about this is what happens to women ALL THE TIME. I think I stayed over also to attempt to make it feel legitimate somehow. And then the next morning, I should have just left, but I felt empty and terrible and wanted to own the experience, so I initiated more activity in a stupid attempt to have the experience on my own terms. It didn’t help. Obviously.
None of these were healthy or good choices.
I got home and felt awful. It took me a while to admit to Wes and Jessie what had happened. I feigned okay-ness, but started to fall apart as the evening wore on. I had an Arcati Crisis show that night and was thankful for the opportunity to rock out some of my stress, but Dude was there and I could barely bring myself to make eye contact with him.
A few days later I wrote Dude a scathing email detailing all the reasons I couldn’t see him anymore. He was mortified. And few days after that we had a gchat about it during which he apologized but also told me that he talked to some of his feminist friends and they don’t think he’s aggressive or scary. Oh! I’m glad your feminist friends don’t think so! That makes this all better. Again. FUCK YOU.
But, despite thinking that he was full of shit for various things he said, I let him off the hook. I thought I would be OK eventually and be able to go back to the way things were before all that crap.
But it has been two years and it is clear that I am NOT OK. Not at all.
This came up recently because we’ve been looking for a place to hold a monthly poly meetup in Philly and he runs a weekly event at a cool venue. There would be a lot of plus sides about doing it there, but the downside is that he would be there and would be benefitting from us. Wes, Jessie, and Ginny went to the event to check it out. I declined, wanting a night at home and also not wanting to be around Dude. I felt uneasy about it but thought I was being selfish and stupid for that. I figured if it was awesome, I would just suck it up and deal.
Of course, it WAS awesome and I had simply made the decision that I was going to handle it because I didn’t want to get in people’s way of having a good time just because I had a bad experience with Dude. Wes talked to me about it and had to really drag it out of me that no, actually, I wasn’t OK with this. I would be OK with it for other people’s benefit, but given my choice, I would not support Dude and really, would enjoy never seeing Dude again. The conversation had me remember all of the incident in annoying detail, and also do all the second guessing again and again. “Oh, well, I should have left or communicated or something…I should’ve been able to avoid that. I made dumb choices. I’m being too hard on him. I can be comfortable enough in the face of really good craft beer specials…”
Yes, folks, I have such a hard time putting my own sanity first that I actually weighed its value against awesome beer specials…and the beer specials were winning, in my view. WHAT?!?
So, it was a pretty fucking illuminating conversation. I spoke recently about My List of things I need to work on or be vigilant about. Knowing and respecting my own value is on there but always kicked to the bottom. I don’t know what that is. I guess it’s easy to do? Who knows. It’s a hard truth about me.
I am writing this today to affirm a few things. First, yes, what happened to me was assault. I don’t care what his intentions were. I don’t care if he felt bad about it after I called him on it. I don’t care if his feminist friends think he’s fine and dandy and that he would never hurt anyone. He hurt me, after I asked him not to. He can go fuck himself. It was assault and it wasn’t OK and it’s reasonable for me to want nothing to do with him. He was unkind and uncaring and we are not friends.
Second, admitting that something is traumatic and that this trauma makes you not want to be around certain people is not weakness or wrong or stupid. I spend a lot of time analyzing my reactions to things and trying to get past negativity and move on. But I shouldn’t be so obsessed with this that I make myself hang around with people who have hurt me.
Third, I know I am worth a lot to myself and the people who love me. The fact that I thought it was better to just deal with this guy and be uncomfortable instead of telling them that it wasn’t ideal for me is baffling and ridiculous. We’re not talking about having it at a bar that doesn’t sell cheap red wine here. We’re talking about a bar event sponsored and hosted by someone who sexually assaulted me and I don’t have to be OK with it.
Fourth, some may question why I put all this out into the ether. Well, I feel foolish and embarrassed and various other self deprecating feelings, but I know they are not original or unique feelings. Writing them down puts them into reality. This is what happened and these are the choices I made, for better or for worse. I am not writing for sympathy. I am writing because I need to write it down and own the story. Perhaps next time I can own a story about a unicorn tea party in the clouds or something.
Man, this post is depressing. Maybe a little empowering, but mostly angry and depressing. Not great for a Friday but that’s the way it goes. You should probably go listen to the podcast because I’m much funnier on there and didn’t talk about sexual assault AT ALL.
Anyway, I’m OK. It’s just hard to see in real time how self destructive I can be. Luckily, Wes is good at getting me to be real, so in the end it was a good conversation to have. I kind of want a liquid lunch now, but instead, I’ll go get a sandwich and chill the fuck out.