Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Bittersweet Breakthrough “No”

I was over the moon. It was finally going to happen. Cute Master and Pretty Slave were
planning to come over Saturday night for dinner and a playdate and he was excited to be my (at long last) first ass guy. I’m super tired of that storyline, but because this quest is riddled with a Three’s Company level of misunderstandings and pratfalls, a six-letter word had to get in the way.

Day after yesterday, he was sending me a series of exuberantly smutty texts about how hard he was going to fuck me, and I was getting happier and happier. Turned on and glowing, I wrote their names on the calendar and added a cute little Snoopy sticker marked “sleepover.” And then he said this:

“I’m going to make you cum from raping your ass.”

*record scratch…*

What…huh? Raping? I thought we were friends? Doing this together for…fun?

We had a nice text-conversation about why not to use that word, but really, should this really be a thing I have to tell people not to say? What kind of a WORLD is this? I didn’t want to call off the plan but the trigger was triggered and…I just couldn’t. It hurt my heart to say no to a fun night with favorite pals, but I did. I don’t really know what it means for our friendship and I’m really hoping that Pretty Slave isn’t mad at me. But even if she is, I know I did the right thing.

It’s not that using the word in a sext means he’s likely to do it, in spite of rumored allegations to that effect, my body’s always felt mostly safe with him. It just represents a worldview that I just can’t be okay with. To me, using that word meant that we wouldn’t really be in it together, that one of us would get to be a person and the other one, just a thing. I don’t think that was his intention in saying it, but it’s the feeling I got.

I’ve always felt out of sync with the way people joke about rape and throw the word around, like it’s nothing, like it isn’t a deep horror. This is why watching a Seth MacFarlane movie feels more transgressive to me than, say, getting set on fire. To me, lighthearted use of the word "rape" feels contemptuous not just to rape victims, but to humanity in general. It’s a vicious and untenable thing that feels impossible to fight, pervasive as weather.

Because this attitude that the word “rape” is no big deal is so pervasive and rape culture is so much the norm and on the surface in my local BDSM community, I’ve tried to adapt and make peace with it. Because being a rape victim has caused me to overbuild my defenses, I’ve tried to be a little bit less dogmatic about how people speak and act when it comes to matters of consent. There’s the dungeon owner I really like but who regularly dispenses the advice “Don’t go over to someone’s house unless you are ready to have sex with him.” as if driving over there is somehow an implied yes. There’s the way even some of my favorite kinksters often dismiss rape accusations as “drama.” And of course there’s the Scary Party staff treating its patrons like an all-you-can-take-advantage-of buffet. None of it is okay at all but I’ve played happily right in the middle of it for a couple of years. So what does that say about me?

It’s complicated because parts of my inner fantasy life isn’t super-consensual, but I guess what I’m realizing is that that doesn’t mean that I have to accept a guy for whom rape is part of the fantasy. The idea of sexytimes in which one of the people isn’t enjoying it makes me sick, and I don’t want a partner who’s turned on by that, even as a casual playpal.

From a vanilla standpoint, most of this seems like, yeah, duh, but it has been a boundary that is surprisingly hard from me to draw. I have had this semiconscious compulsion for a couple of years that rape culture is something I need to accept, something I need to compromise with in order to move forward. Because hating it sends me to such a dark place, I thought it would be better to love and accept it, and I have loved a few embodiments of it (though this is not that) but it doesn’t make me any less dark. It tunnels the darkness down to a pinpoint and makes me blind to everything else.

I’ve sometimes grabbed myself by the metaphorical hair and shoved myself into unsafe situations because if I could learn to love the dark things that have happened to me, if I could desensitize myself and not wince at little everyday cruelties, I could somehow reclaim the dignity I’ve lost. If I could love it, then I could make it my fault somehow and just say I’m sorry and move on. But I can’t get the dignity back, I can only hold onto what I have now, which is a choice every time somebody gets in my space.

All of this is a lot to get from one hapless and essentially harmless text, but I’m exhilarated by the breakthrough of it. Saying no to him because he used that word, even though it breaks my heart and makes my ass mad at me, means that I’ve stopped trying to compromise about this. The only rape I have to accept is what’s already happened to me. There’s never going to be a way to swoop in and save myself from the past, but I can do it in little calm ways every day in the present.

When I’m triggered, there’s a little voice in me that says I’m worthless, that if I say no to this person who made me feel yucky then I’ll never learn to be part of the world and I’ll never be loved, that I’ll never go to a party or have any friends. The little voice says no one will want me unless I can be exactly what they want, which sometimes means being nothing. As my readers well know, that voice has stopped me from taking care of myself too many times. I’m glad I was able to slow myself down this time, to see a choice instead of a catastrophe.

Today I kicked the bad little voice’s ass and closed the door on a whole set of compromises that I just don’t want to try and force myself to make anymore. Once the fear simmers down and the horizon widens out again, I think the world will look a whole lot brighter and freer. Welcome to me just not liking the stuff I don’t like. Personhood, huzzah.

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