Thursday, April 26, 2012

Triggers and My Voice: The Story of a Hard Limit

Note: If you’re someone who gets triggered by mentions of non-consensual sexual violence, you’ll want to skip this one.

Last week I talked a lot about being protective of my voice and being subject to panics. I’m unsure if these facts about myself disqualify me from experiencing BDSM in the ways I want to. I guess I thought there would be failsafes or at least compassion in case someone’s triggered, but that doesn’t seem to be the case so far. I’m trying to not judge the whole “lifestyle” based on one group of people.

A lot of things contributed to me being an anxious girl with shaky self-worth. I had both a happy childhood and a terribly abusive one. Both my mother and father were physically and verbally abusive to myself, my siblings, and each other. They often fought loudly about sex. One night, I’m pretty sure I heard my dad rape my mom. I got it to stop, in fact, by crying loudly. “Now you made (me) cry.” she said as the action simmered down in there.

But the biggest factor in me being protective of my voice was something that happened when I was seventeen. I’ve been telling the story in the same stupid way for twenty years: I was promiscuous in high school and it lead to an inevitable conclusion of rape and assault. That is a bullshit way to tell the story—it’s sad that I only realized recently that there was no cause-effect relationship. It was a terrible, evil crime, not a path I put myself on.

What happened was, my friend Sheri and I lied and said we were going to each others’ houses so that we could hang out with her boyfriend and his friend and get laid. That didn’t take very long, so after the guys were done with us, they dropped us off in the park three doors down from my house. We were considering sleeping in the park when a pickup truck full of hooting and hollering people we vaguely knew pulled up and asked if we wanted to go to a party and we said sure—I thought of how mortified my mom would be if she knew I was riding in the back of a pickup truck.

They either put something in my drink or I drank way too fast. I don’t remember drinking very much at all, but we were playing Quarters around the time that the guys started asking, “So which one of us are you gonna fuck?” I was woozy and tired and I didn’t want to fuck anyone, no matter how known for it I was. But I knew I didn’t really have a choice—I wasn’t in any condition to stop anybody, and this was kind of who I was now. So I chose Willie, the cutest guy at the party. He was a tall, skinny African American guy, cute but with kind of a dismissive face. I chose him partly because he was there with his girlfriend, I think her name was Lisa, a blond in acid-washed jeans. I thought he couldn’t do anything with her there, but he sent her home.

Willie took me to the party host’s bedroom and told me to get undressed. “All the way,” he said, and I did. He got on top of me and put it in, humped quickly and mechanically. I opened my mouth to cry out, not for help, but to moan so I’d be doing a good job. He put his hand over my mouth and I shut up. When he was done, he left the door open so that the whole party could see me scrambling around for my shirt.  

That’s when I started to get sick, just throwing up copious amounts everywhere, so, so much. I must have passed out then and when I came to, I couldn’t see, and they were hitting me with something hard. (I found out later it was tennis rackets) and yelling at me for throwing up. They were screaming all kinds of names at me, but I just remember them saying I was bad. I’m not sure how many people were doing the hitting, but Willie and Lisa were two of them.

I screamed and screamed and screamed and some angel neighbor called the cops. When they got there, Lisa or some other blond girl took me into the bathroom to try and clean up the blood that had spattered all down my shirt. I remember she was talking to me so sweetly.

So far we have three reasons why my voice (which includes these paragraphs) feels like a lifeline that could get taken away: “saving” my mom by crying, Willie’s hand over my mouth, and the screams that maybe actually did save my life. But the fourth reason is much guiltier: I didn’t tell the police the sex part of the crime. They couldn’t get it out of me. Everyone knew, but I refused to say it on the deposition. I’d been drinking, I was a slut, I didn’t know how to prove I didn’t deserve what happened.

I didn’t know how to prove I didn’t deserve what happened. I’ve told this story so many times, but never understood it quite that way.

I felt like I couldn’t really say it was rape because I’d chosen him, I didn’t try to stop him. The Accused had somehow become embedded in my consciousness, having the opposite (?) of its intended effect. I knew the danger of being “put on trial” for it and I wanted no part of that. So I lied my face off and told the police the assault story without the first part. A few of them, including Willie, did some jail time for the assault, but the fact that I didn’t tell the truth about the rest of the crime makes me feel like a co-conspirator, like I didn’t do enough to protect myself or my fellow women.

The crying, the hand over my mouth, the screams that saved my life, the guilt over not telling, they’ll always be in my body. Sometimes they make me very hard to be close to, but they also make me brave, protective, and they make me try to be transparent.

I guess what I want people to get out of this is that you never know what stories can be inside someone’s body. Every single person you touch, even in the most casual way, sitting next to her on the bus, tying him up at a play party, or hugging them on a first date, has a body full of stories. Give up the idea that enough negotiation can make those complications got away. The stories inside us, even the screams, are beautiful and deserve to be treated with care.

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