Category Archives: Feminism

Rape culture

I was sexually assaulted again.  A couple weeks ago.  It was a friend of a friend.  It wasn’t as bad this time.  He didn’t pin me down and try to rape me, like the previous guy did, but he did repeatedly grope me as I tried to sleep–while each time I told him to get away from me–and he eventually put his hand in my pants.  And guess what?

It’s my fault.  Again.

I’m making it up for attention.  Again.

I’m making it up to get revenge on him.  Again.

I must’ve been leading him on.  Again.

I must’ve done something to deserve it.  Again.

If it really happened, I would’ve screamed.  Again.

If it really happened, I would’ve called the police.  Again.

It’s my fault again.  It’s always my fault.

And hey, bonus, here’s a new one: I must’ve fooled around with him willingly, then pretended it wasn’t consensual in the morning so my boyfriend couldn’t get mad at me.

These are the thoughts that people have had about me since I spoke up.  These are the thoughts that people have had about me, because a man believed he was entitled to my body, and I told him no.

Again.

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My insensitivity toward abortion

Something I’d like to work on is learning to be more sensitive to women who experience negative feelings when they choose to have an abortion.  It’s something I’ve never really understood.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read the tragic stories of women who had to terminate a pregnancy for health reasons when they wanted and loved their coming child.  I understand that’s a devastating situation, and I feel empathy for those women and their families.  What I’ve never understood, though, is women who know they don’t want to or can’t keep the baby, and for some reason, they still feel sad about having an abortion.

Maybe part of it is because I can’t relate to the idea of a “wanted pregnancy.”  I hate kids and never want to have them or even be in the general vicinity of them.  Abortion, for me, is a no-brainer.  But I’ve never been pregnant, never had an abortion.  Hell, I’ve never even taken a pregnancy test, because even when my period is late, I just don’t care.  If I got pregnant, it would just mean another doctor’s appointment.*

Not all women feel that way, though, and I want to become more sympathetic in that regard.  There’s no right or wrong way to feel about having an abortion, and sadness is a very legitimate feeling, regardless of the circumstances.  I recognize this, so I am going to start working to become more sensitive toward the issue.

 

*Privilege check: I have health insurance and live in a progressive, major metropolitan area.  Many women can’t access abortion or other reproductive services as easily as I can.

Analyzing my abusive relationship

I did my best to convince myself and anyone I talked to that we were happy and in love, because if we weren’t, it didn’t make sense that I let him so blatantly take advantage of me.  Instead of calling the police so they could force him out of my apartment, I acted like I was making a choice to help the man I loved.  I was ashamed of myself for what I was letting him do to me, so I tried to deny it to myself.  I still carry that shame, even though I know I shouldn’t, because I regret the entire situation so much.  Damn it, I’m a feminist, for fuck’s sake!  My feminism is a huge part of my identity, so why would I let a man treat me that way?

Because he’s terrifyingly manipulative and deceptive, not just to romantic partners, but to his friends and family and even himself.  It was almost like mind control the way he got into my head and made me comply with whatever he wanted.  I constantly acted contrarily to my own best interests, and even my own mental health, because he had managed to gain control of me.

I’m changed for the worse because of him.  I know I need to go to therapy to process his abuse, but I keep putting it off because I don’t want to relive the pain.  I have PTSD and trust issues in a relationship now, as well as just recently developing occasional flashbacks to the way he’d beat my ass during sex until I cried, and I never told him to stop because I did whatever he wanted.

My boyfriend now is gentle as a lamb, a feminist, and a self-described beta male.  I know he would never intentionally hurt me.  But I can’t help having an underlying fear that anything is possible, because there was a time when I insisted that my ex was “a good man” too.  I’m not afraid of my boyfriend at all, but I’m afraid of the fact that I wasn’t afraid of my ex either, in the beginning.

Much more so, though, I’m afraid of unintentionally doing to Colin what my ex did to me.  I worry about it all the time, actually.  Because he’s so passive and always wants me to make the decisions, I’m so scared that I’m going to make choices for us that hurt him.  I’d hate myself forever if I hurt him in even a fraction of the way that Kevin hurt me.  This is something that haunts me constantly.  I’m paranoid of becoming the monster that Kevin is.  While I don’t think I have that much evil in me, I can’t help worrying about it.

Christmas

Putting up the tree is one of my favorite parts of the year.  My family always made a big deal of it, with a crackling fire and hot cocoa and Nat King Cole.  Last year I got my first apartment and my first Christmas tree, and I was so excited about carrying on the cutesy traditions in my own home.

But last December was awful for me.  I was very depressed, in an abusive relationship and trying so hard to convince myself and everyone else that we were madly in love.  Reading my blogs from last fall and winter–not early summer, because that was still genuine–I can’t believe how fake it all was.  I’m not even sure I realized it at the time, though.  I was deceiving myself, insisting I was happy even though I resented him so much for refusing to leave my apartment no matter how much I begged.

Again, come this time of year, I was very excited to give my new Christmas traditions a second try.  And then, ironically enough, he came back into my life in an unexpected way, terrorizing me again a year later.  But, this time, even though it’s been emotionally excruciating, it’s still for the best.  No regrets at all.  It has been painful, but it’s progress.

Anyway, what I wanted to share was not all that pain and disappointment, but how I was pleasantly surprised last night, when I forced myself to put up all the Christmas decorations even though I was sick to my stomach when I started.

Colin and I built the tree together (yeah, it’s a fake tree, but stop judging me for my need for convenience), but then he accidentally got too stoned and had to sit down and veg for awhile.  For some reason, I was really intimidated by the idea of putting the lights on.  It’s silly in retrospect, but I’d never put lights on a tree before, and my dad always bitched and moaned about it, so I was worried.  But, I did it!  I strung all the lights myself, while Colin DJed and gave a stoner-grin of approval.

I explained to him which ornaments were most important to me, and why I valued them so much, as I placed them on the tree.  He watched me and really listened.  Sure, it was partly the weed, but I felt a real sense of peace and happiness that I hadn’t expected to feel.  It was the best I’d felt after an emotionally grueling week.

Then, it was like a movie.  Love scenes in romance films are always so contrived and fake, and most people never have those kinds of experiences, because they’re not usually realistic.  (Again, in terms of our experience, I’m sure the weed factored in.)  But he came up to me next to the tree and gave me a peck on the lips, and that peck immediately turned into making out.  I pulled his body against mine, kissing him deeply and running my hands through his hair as I felt him get excited against me.  We groaned and kissed and fell into bed (pretty literally, since it’s a small apartment), and it was like the main sex scene in every rom com–clothes flying, stealing kisses in between unbuttoning jeans, nails dragging across each other’s backs.  We proceeded to have the kind of unbridled, screaming sex that the whole neighborhood can hear.  What we did, I’d always thought of as a movie cliche.  And maybe it is, but it happened for us, for whatever reason.

Instead of basking in the afterglow, though, he picked up the laptop right away and put on a song, Queen’s “Love Of My Life,” and he belted it out to me, even louder than the wild sex we’d just had, and I thought it was so silly and cute.  This was immediately followed by simply making funny faces at each other and laughing until our abs hurt, because we were stoned and giddy and in love.

Then we finished decorating the tree naked.

I think I’m finally ready to talk about my experience with intimate partner violence

It’s kind of out of nowhere, but I think I’m ready to talk about the time I was sexually assaulted, even though it’s minor compared to what other women have experienced. Inspired by this Feministing story, I decided to just go ahead and share it. The more we talk, the better the world may become.

I was already asleep in the bedroom and had been for awhile.  My then-boyfriend Kevin was in the living room, presumably binge-watching Netflix or channel 11 and growling profanities at my pet duck.  I woke up when he opened the bedroom door, and I saw him standing there, just his dark silhouette in the doorway.  He loomed there looking at me for a moment, and then suddenly he threw himself on top of me, pinning me down with his weight.  I shifted under him as he started kissing my neck, telling him politely, “No, Kevin, not now.  I need to sleep.”  He didn’t stop, but grabbed my hands and held them down so I’d stop trying to push him away.  “No, stop, I have to work tomorrow.”  He was pulling my pajamas off and I started fighting, trying to push him and protesting, “Stop, stop!”  But he wouldn’t listen.  He said nothing, just held me down under the weight of his body, tearing at my pajamas, swatting my hands away when I tried to grab or shove him.  I was crying hysterically, protesting louder and louder, and we fought progressively harder.  It continued on, in a violent struggle on the bed, as he used his strength to try to get me naked and force me to compliance.

Then suddenly, the look in his eyes changed.  The animalistic passion disappeared and they became clearer.  It was almost like he suddenly remembered that rape is bad.  He stopped, rolled off me, and said sorry.  He fell asleep, and eventually after I’d calmed down, I admittedly went back to sleep next to him.

Worse things have happened to other victims of intimate partner violence.  I’m lucky that the lightbulb went off in his brain and he stopped trying to rape me.  But in those five minutes or so that he attacked me, I felt what it’s like to be a helpless victim of a physical assault.  Fortunately that was the extent of the experience. I’m also lucky that he was my boyfriend, so I consented to sex with him many times, though not that particular time. It would’ve been much worse if it was someone I never consented to sex with.  Regardless, it was not at all consensual by any stretch of the imagination.

People question why women stay with men who hurt them, and the reasons are usually very valid and important: financial dependence, fear of further violence, protecting the children.  But reasons of that magnitude are not why I stayed with him.  I stayed because I was so physically (though not very emotionally) attracted to him, and I stayed because I wanted to see where his music would go.  I also stayed because I felt sorry for him, for what a wreck his life was.  He still needed me.  But even though I stayed, things did change after that incident.  I saw a glimpse of the abuser he really was, underneath the charisma and charm.  My rose-tinted glasses came off, and what I saw was scary.  I should’ve explored those feelings further, but I didn’t at the time.

I didn’t tell anyone about it for almost six months, and even then, I only told a couple of my closest friends.  I was embarrassed, I guess, and while we were together I still wanted to protect him.  I didn’t want people to know he was capable of being violent.  But now I think it’s time for me to be open about it, because silence helps no one.  What happened to me is on the low end of the scale of intimate partner violence, but it was real and it was scary, and I have much sympathy and empathy for other victims.

So why speak out?  Just for awareness.  To remind people that these things happen, and they can happen to anyone.  Anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator.  Anyone can be hiding this secret.  Trust victims.  Believe them.

Street harassment

I’m very glad to see that street harassment has lately been getting the mainstream media attention it needs. Articles about it pop up all over my Facebook feed, and they’re not just from feminist groups. All sorts of publications and forums are weighing in–Playboy comes to mind as a particularly surprising one–and important discussions are being had, whether on TV or among friends.

(Then of course you have the obligatory Fox News panel continuing to insist that it should be a compliment when you’re standing in a small crowd at the bus stop and a guy rolls by in a truck laying on the horn and yells, “You sexy fucking bitch!” before speeding away like a coward, and you’re left there, shaken up and humiliated in a group of awkward strangers.)

Living in a questionable neighborhood and taking the CTA to work, I experience a variety of types of street harassment on a very regular basis, whether it’s milder forms like being pestered about what book I’m reading or what music I’m listening to, or the downright disturbing examples, like the 8-year-old boys who rode by on bikes shouting in their high-pitched, child voices about shoving their huge cocks up my tiny asshole. These are the daily reminders I get that many men see me as simply a sex object, and that by not sleeping with them, I become subject to their public ridicule and humiliation.

I read this article today about the University of Chicago student who suffers from PTSD after experiencing terrifying street harassment while studying abroad in India, and she highlighted numerous instances of men masturbating at her on public transportation. That, I thought, was brilliant phrasing–masturbating at her. We usually use the term “masturbate to,” talking about what gets us off. I masturbate to lesbian porn and Aerosmith songs and fantasies of all the weird, kinky shit my ungodly hot boyfriend is willing to do to/for me. But men on public transportation masturbate at women. It’s an affront. It’s a blatant attack on a woman’s comfort, security, and sexual privacy. Men knowingly make women unwilling participants in their sex acts, and they do it because they enjoy the sheer disgust and mental anguish it causes these women. This video mentioned a common trait of these offenders: the smirk. They smirk at their victims, because they get off on seeing how upset the women become. They victimize women because they hate them. It’s about offending women, not about finding them sexy.

And it is in no way, under any circumstances, flattering.

Someone recently lamented that #notallmen (blah) are creepy, and sometimes men just want to say hi to a woman on the street, but women always react negatively to this and butbut what about teh menz??? It’s true, women do assume that all men who say hi to them on the street are creepy. Because, the thing is, most of them are. So here’s what you do if you want to say hi to a woman on the street: you keep your stupid mouth shut. She doesn’t want to hear it. You may be the friendliest guy in the world and totally not a rapist, but you shut your fucking mouth and do not say hi. She does not care about you or your intense desire to greet her. Leave her the fuck alone, and go on with your day.

This is one of the smartest things I’ve read in some time

Our sexual market is such that men are expected to do most of the pursuing and women are supposed to be more reticient, and this can feel for men who find it frustrating to be rejected like women just want it [sex] less. But it’s actually just a result of the system. Men only hit on women they find attractive, so they get a skewed perception of how that works. Just because a man hits you up doesn’t make him hot, you know. If women hit on men more, maybe men would notice that they don’t actually want to fuck every woman they meet, because they mentally just exclude women they don’t find attractive from the category “women”.

Full article here, by Amanda Marcotte.