03 February 2021

0 your silence will not protect you

the thing that is so wild about the brain is how hard it works to protect you in ways that can ultimately so badly fuck you up. 

when i was raped in college, i had no framework for identifying what had happened. because it wasn't like in a movie. i knew him. we'd been dating for several months by then. it wasn't intercourse. there was no physical violence. we were at his mother's house, on the lower bunk in his nephew's bedroom. i had pushed him away, gently. he knew i was waiting until marriage to have sex. i did not say no. i did not scream. it was all very, very quiet, frightfully quiet. 

he was my boyfriend. i was 19. and i went on to stay with him for two more years. 

only in the last three years, the last year in particular (the testimonies women have given about harvey weinstein have been particularly helpful), have i come to see how violence pervaded the whole relationship and how deeply afraid i-- and even the men around him-- was of this man at the time. 

in october 2017, when we all started taking these things more seriously and expanding our definitions, when i told the man i was dating then that my first sexual experience had involved unwanted sex (that's what i was calling it then. sexual assault i would call it as recently as three days ago. right here, right now is, in fact, the first time i have ever felt comfortable calling it what it was), that man i was dating then first clarified that the experience i was referring to wasn't one i'd had with him. (if ever there was a red flag, that was one.)

he then asked if i had been naked. like that was the most relevant detail.

i told him i had been. 

i did not think i was lying. i truly thought i had. 

it wasn't until i was raped on a date two and a half weeks ago, that i realized i was wrong.

the man i was on a third date with asked if he could pull off my tights and i said yes. i distinctly remember my own shock when he pulled my underwear off too. i had not expected nor wanted nor thought i would be nor agreed to being naked. 

a third date; the first date where, after extensive discussion, a full debrief on our recent activities, multiple phone conversations and two previous dates freezing our asses off outdoors, we rolled the dice, took off our masks, and went Inside together. 

i had already, verbally, seconds/minutes/hours/? before, made explicitly clear that i did not want to have sex that night. 

again. it wasn't intercourse. there was no physical violence. it was all very quiet, almost normal, the violence was breathtakingly muted and banal. 

but that one moment within the broader events of the evening-- most accurately characterized as date rape-- haunted me for two full weeks, the image of my tights and underwear coming off. it ran through my brain like a movie, until a therapy session yesterday moved it into the past, so it went to being more distant, still, like a painting. 

my memories of that night twenty years ago, in late february 2001 are extremely fragmented and fuzzy. the years of coercive control and sexual violence that followed with that man seem to have erased the tape of that first foray.   

we were in his mother's house, on a lower bunk bed in his nephew's room. all i remember is the darkness but i realize now i would not have been naked then, in that context. i realize now, after having this other man remove my underwear against my wishes, i know i would have, at the very least, spent some amount of time preventing my college boyfriend from pulling my pants down. 

no alcohol or drugs were involved in either of these events. not that that matters. consent is consent. my point is that, even sober, the brain tries to protect you but sometimes it does you no favors. 

the need to remain polite, to support the fragile male ego, to not make a scene, to not escalate, these impulses, they are not great. they ofttimes keep you alive, but they also fucked you up. likewise the compulsion to take back control by whatever means necessary once it has been taken from you. doing whatever one can to make what just happened feel as though it were, in fact, what one wanted, laying a veil of consent over the whole endeavor where consent did not, actually, exist.

after i was raped two saturdays ago, i was struck by the reality that one does not typically feel the need to bang on about how consensual the sex was if it were in fact.  

threatened, the brain-- conditioned by a whole world constructed to accommodate men-- does its damnedest to convince you you're ok with this, it wasn't what you thought it was, and none of the available words apply. 

icky is where i initially landed in the text i later sent him, in my effort to hold him accountable. a text in which i reassured him not once but twice that everything that had happened between us was absolutely consensual. i said this not because it was accurate but because it was a rhetorical move that felt necessary to my being heard by him, the language required to be taken seriously. i felt i had to downplay the severity of what had occurred, to deny it even, in order to hold him to account. in the hopes that he would never do the same thing to someone else. 

icky. and, while i was not wrong, it sorely undersold the matter. 

i feel icky that icky was the best i could do. 

this post is a mess and i have no ending. and there's a lot of shame attached to it. unique to this moment is the question of WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING TRYING TO DATE IN A PANDEMIC?!?! 

yes, i did do that. as safely as i could. and yes, this did happen. and yes, those circumstances are actually unrelated. 

i keep pointing out that hopefully the communication demanded of this moment in regards to health safety will make us better at communicating consent. seems we now have compelling evidence: no, it won't. 

every sermon i've heard at my church since this happened has been on the matter of truth. 

last sunday, as i paged through a copy of audre lorde's your silence will not protect you looking for a passage that had popped to mind to write about for a fellowship application due later that day, rev. gayle looked out of the screen on facebook and said, "it's as the poet audre lorde says... your silence will not protect you."

i teach her in all my classes. i'm teaching her again next week. this is the clip i show, which i've now heard at least twenty times, so that when i read this passage or hear it quoted, in my head, it always plays in her voice. 

this is a post without an ending, so i'll just give you this:

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