I wrote the following four years ago in the run up to Trump's election and amidst all of the grab em by the pussy comments he had made, that were, ignored.
I write lots on the subject of female sexuality and also rape...some find my perspective quite odd; how can a woman who has been raped still enjoy her body so much/be so in touch with her sexuality? Answer; I refuse to let the fuckers wear me down. I.Own. My. Body... End of f**king story. Scars (mental and emotional ones) have been left, yes, but they did not break me...
I dedicate it to anyone who has suffered sexual assault/rape and also to all of those out there, who deep down believe that rape culture is a myth, that most women are lying and/or culpable and that the biggest issue, for them is all of those men that get falsely accused, which for reference, is minimal. As a man you are more likely to be raped by another man than falsely accused of rape, fact!
Trump, rape culture and me
(Trigger warning, details of rape and abuse contained within)
I am a writer and a mother of two girl children. I am also a dancer and am currently working on an idea for a performance art piece around rape culture, objectification of women and the ways in which patriarchy slaps unhealthy values and norms upon ‘femininity’ and female sexuality. Hot potato at the moment in the light of Trump’s latest abhorrences. There has been much written about this all over the media and for a variety of reasons, I have, all sponge like, absorbed it…become slightly obsessed.
In the midst of poring over different takes on Trump’s vile ‘locker-room’ chit chat and the general disgust and dangerous nature of his comments, I saw an interesting little meme that made me realise something, about both of my experiences with rape. Yes, I, like so many women in the UK and across the globe have been raped. It is hard to write those words down, get them out properly, because it has taken me so long to fully accept that ‘rape’ is what they were. The term ‘non-consensual sex’ carrying with it, too many connotations of victim culpability as well as just being an oxymoron.
I think that part of the guilt I have carried all of these years (the more recent experience happening just last year), has been to do with my inability to say 'no' (with my voice) and fight (physically). I am an athletic and strong woman and as many people who know me personally will attest, I am not shy of telling it as it is in a whole host of scenarios. But seemingly, feeling threatened by a sexually aggressive man has, at these points, rendered me incapable.
So… was it rape, if I didn't fight, if I didn't say, ‘I don't want to do this?’ Or was it just me being a bit 'wet' and not asserting myself? How should consent have been sought? How should it be given? How much rope should someone be given in regards failing to interpret a lack of consent?
The meme I saw said "it's not consent if you make me too scared to say no". I burst into tears because I knew that this had been at the root of my issue in regards to my victim guilt, in both scenarios. In the first, I had said to the man, the rapist, my first rapist, after we started kissing that I didn't want to take this further than kissing. Was (unusually I think for a woman of my age) pretty upfront about the fact that I was having a loose (open) relationship with someone else at the time and much as I knew the guy I was seeing would be fine with me sleeping with someone else (he was), I didn't think I wanted to. Me and a friend were living together in a flat in a small town in Herefordshire. I had moved there for a job, doing care work. She had come all the way from Zimbabwe. There was nothing to do in this isolated and slightly culturally devoid village for two young ladies of colour. So, we had decided to go to The Q club in Birmingham for the night. Early on in the night, we met these two guys. They were cute. It was flirty. They sold us some pills. We took them. I was wearing hot pants, massively high heels and a tiny top and as many people who know me know, when I dance, it can be quite sexually provocative. I mention this, because these were all the thoughts running through my head post. They offered to give us a lift back, we had initially intended to stay till closing and then get the train back in the morning, but decided that this was a better idea. When we got back to mine, my friend went straight to her bedroom with his friend. Me and the guy I was ‘with’ started kissing and I told him, again, that I was sort of seeing someone and said, albeit it sassily, that I didn’t want it to be a sex thing. He said it was cool baby, let’s just chill but then almost within seconds, he had grabbed me from behind, pushed me up against the dining room table and pulled my shorts and knickers down (they were ripped actually – oddly I kept them for about 6 months), my body just went completely catatonic and stiff. I remember knowing immediately that he was going to rape me and trying to make my legs taut, shut them so he couldn't penetrate me but the violence with which he opened them made me entirely submit. I literally let him do it. I was terrified and just bought my mind somewhere else. I remember crying throughout and him telling me to relax, that I might enjoy it. Once he had finished I got up and ran into the bathroom and locked the door. He tried to get in for a bit and then him and his friend left.
The scenario last year, was to be honest, not entirely different. 20 years apart, almost to the month. That was a date, set up. We had been talking online for a few months or so and we had arranged for me to go and stay for a few days in his hometown, Glasgow. I had not felt able to engage with anyone, a man since me and my ex, the father of my youngest, had very messily and traumatically split up 6 months prior and actually had been so upset by that break up that I contemplated suicide. Didn’t go through with it, but was close enough that I had found the pills to do it with. Not the only time in my life I’ve had suicidal thoughts and also not the closest I’ve gotten to an attempt but having kids reframes those thoughts. So really, I was far too vulnerable to be engaging in anything. I kind of knew that but I was drawn in by his seeming to understand my situation and having some very caring and insightful things to say to me. He made me feel understood and there was a semblance of trust there because I had known him years before when he lived in the city I still live in.
I stayed in a hotel, so I wouldn't have to stay with him (my choice, out of attempting to be cautious). He agreed. I had attempted to cancel at the last minute because it looked like perhaps me and my ex were going to get back together (wasn’t the case), but he suggested I come anyway and we just meet as friends. No pressure like. I agreed but stated I wanted to have the first night there on my own, to have some headspace. Again, he agreed. But then whilst I was on the train he suggested meeting me at the station and driving me to my hotel. When we met he said we should 'just go for dinner' and then it was ‘just a few drinks’ and then he ‘just wanted to talk’ in my hotel room. Each suggestion he made, left little room for my opinion and even little details about food choice etc, were controlled by him throughout the evening. I felt a little intimidated by him but wasn’t sure if that was just the scenario and my head state and in so many ways he seemed nice, interested and interesting and I just couldn't make my mind up if I was attracted to him or not. We hadn't seen each other for over 10 years. But I thought, we would have one more drink in my room and then he'd go and I could decide.
I still find it hard to use the word rape. Because I didn't say no or cry (in front of him) or fight. But he left little room for my consent, as if by him having gained access to that point in the evening that was consent enough. The bruises he left on my arms and thighs from throwing me on to the bed and holding me there told me that I indeed would have struggled to have escaped physically if he was unwilling to listen to my voice. His calling me a 'dirty fucking sexy bitch' (in that kinda dirty talk way) and the aggressive look on his face as he tried over and over again to force his semi limp cock inside of me, for the main part failing, says to me now that he wasn't interested in me, who I was or what I wanted. He was just seeking a high octane thrill. This was pure fantasy for him. My fear possibly added to it. But much as I didn't say no, attempt to physically extract myself, he MUST have known my consent was not being given. Even if he wasn't being purposefully intimidating (which at that point I just couldn't tell one way or another) then he must've known that I was intimidated. I was catatonic but he was holding me down anyway.
He slept in the same bed as me in the hotel room that night but I couldn’t sleep. I felt absolutely fucked and hideously emotionally wrung out, to the point of almost tripping. Had talked myself round to it being entirely my fault. Have no idea if I will publish this but I wonder, if I did...what percentage of people reading this would think it was my fault too? Maybe this is the standard guilt that ALL victims of sexual assault and rape feel. If only I'd done this, hadn't worn that. Hadn’t been so sexually flirtatious in our online discussions. Hadn’t agreed to go to his fucking hometown, miles away from my own, away from anyone I knew. Perhaps I was asking for it? Perhaps it was unfair of me to expect him to be able to control himself when maybe all he saw was a green light? Was I giving a green light? Except I hadn't asked to be raped. I hadn't asked for him to use his physical strength and the knowledge (I had given him) of my emotionally vulnerable state, against me, so he could try and feel like a man in the light of his fading virility. I may well have wanted to sleep with him on the second night if he hadn't been so abusive, aggressive and controlling on the first, because there was some attraction there, after all. If I was attracted to him and flirting, where exactly was the line? Had I got it wrong? Was he just into ‘rough sex’ and it was up to me to assert myself more fully?
I spent the next day on my own and said we should chat later. I phoned up my ex and cried down the phone. I didn’t refer to what had happened as rape but ultimately I was distraught and it should, I think, have been obvious what had occurred. I think all he heard was that I had had sex with someone else and even though he had not wanted to try and make our relationship work, I think his male pride just kicked in. I needed someone to say to me. This is not safe. You are too vulnerable. That was an abuse of your trust at best. Come home or I'll come n get ya. Instead I felt he tried to just calm me down - that was always at the root of our problems when together, I never felt heard fully, just managed. My ex suggested that I should meet said guy and tell him I wasn't comfortable with what had happened and tell him I didn't want to spend that last night with him. Would have been a great idea if I was in a strong enough headspace and he wasn't the manipulative fuck that he was/is. I don’tknow why I thought to phone him, should have called a female friend but we were still living in the same house and despite it being hard, we were still close, closer than we had been when together and I felt I could trust him.
I met him, the rapist, my second rapist, for dinner. I told him that I wasn't comfortable with what had happened the night before and that I was going to go back to the hotel room alone. I even apologised (fuck!!). He agreed and said he was sorry I felt that way. It all seemed amicable and he offered to drive me back to my hotel. We made chit chat in the car. But when I said goodbye and got out of the car, he got out too and started towards the hotel bar. ‘Just one drink’ he said, or stated rather. I'm a twat and I should have stood my ground and said no but I didn't. I thought I'd be making a fuss by refusing...maybe part of me was scared of making him angry, still with the vision of his aggressively contorted face from the night before in my head. And really, there was no one else I knew in Glasgow, which he was well aware of. I also should've said no when he then pleaded being too drunk to drive home and asked if he could sleep on the hotel room floor...
Intimidation and manipulation working its magic by someone who I think, in fact I kinda now know from having spoken to a few other women that knew him, had used these tactics before...
He did go to sleep on the floor. Said goodnight and seemed to just go straight to sleep. I felt sort of safe, albeit a little on edge.
I awoke, in the morning. The light was blue, so it was early. I was on my front, which is not a natural position for me to sleep in, so it immediately felt wrong. He was behind me, on top of me with a knee on the back of mine and his hands touching my back and bum. I asked him what he thought he was doing. I felt the familiar prickle of catatonia set in. He said he was just giving me a massage and that I should go back to sleep. At which point he put his hand on the back of my neck pushing my head into the pillow. I don't know quite what happened then, in fact have a memory blank during this period that I’m still unsure how long for or exactly what happened, but evidently I somehow must have released myself from the grip of fear and got free. I just remember sitting at the other end of the bed to him, shaking and staring at him. He had red marks on his face, a bite mark on his arm and some of his hair was in my hands. I assume we had a physical fight. His response was "that look speaks a thousand words. You don't have to speak one". We got dressed and I went home.
I cried all the way home on the train. I was (and still am) so fucking angry with myself. Why did I let this happen? How could I have misjudged him so badly? I knew that he had been manipulative and aggressive and controlling. But at this point, I took the blame for what had occurred neatly and squarely upon my shoulders. It was only after talking to a few good friends that I started seeing that I shouldn't. He literally orchestrated the whole thing. I think he knew exactly what he was doing. I also had a few people, very subtly doing the thing of talking about 'mistakes' and 'chalking it up to experience' and 'some men are just...' Yada yada yada... But the people that knew me and understood how consent and a lack of works helped me through this. I sent him a detailed message, using the words 'non consensual sex', which I now regret that I hadn’t used the word rape. He was 'sorry I felt that way' but apparently I had got it all wrong. Of course.
Upshot is. Consent is both complicated and very, very simple. A person cannot give consent if there is any kind of power imbalance. If they are too intoxicated and it hasn't been specified prior that sex will definitely be happening. If they are vastly younger - think statutory rape. If they are vulnerable and you are using 'tactics' to get them into a position in which they are too scared to say no. Or, if they say no. Rape occurs when person a) doesn’t get consent from person b) for any of the above reasons. And probably more... A failure to recognise a lack of given consent is not an excuse. The actively seeking it should be fairly integral. Check. Check. Always check...with them and your own moral compass.
Effects...well, if I am completely honest, the effect has been, in the short term seemingly, not purposefully, for me to go through a phase of promiscuity. After the first rape, that lasted about 5 years and was fairly extreme. I had a series of few month relationships, followed by months of frequent 1 night stands. Huge intimacy issues and an inability to connect, with others and myself, but at the same time a real desire and need to. I felt empty. In the few months following the last experience, I went on lots of dates with men and just ended up bursting into tears mainly – a couple of them I did sleep with but largely, it made me feel sick. Part of the difference, I think is due to different places in life/age so not being able to immerse myself in drug culture like I did 20 years prior (which stops you experiencing true feelings) and also partly to do with having already gone through that once before. I think, that what this is also to do with is a desire from deep within, to take control of my body and sex. To not be disabled by the abusive nature of the men who raped me. I think this comes from how I dealt with the domestic violence (from my dad) that I grew up amidst, as in the need I have felt, as an adult, to assert control over my life and not be told what to do. I also think my 'catatonic' reaction during the rapes could be attributed to the violence I experienced at the hands of my father - i.e. there is a deeply set fear of aggressiveness in men that I have a close connection with/am intimate with. That innate fear is perhaps quite paralysing if bought up in extreme situations. It’s almost like when trust should be there, the fear is heightened when it is pulled away to reveal abuse. I think I would react entirely differently if a stranger attacked me in the street, for example. In fact I have done, when a guy tried to steal my bag in Benidorm once, I chased him, attacked him and fought him to the ground. Got my bag back too.
In the long term, I'm not 100% sure. I can be incredibly divorced from feelings during sex at points and don't see it as existing in the same realm as love necessarily. This has fed my promiscuity at points in the past, during my 20’s, and also in relationships has made me use sex as a way to not feel, to avoid dealing with my emotions, like a cut off button. But then seemingly at other points, I become so immersed I end up crying because the connection I have allowed myself to feel during sex is too strong. I also think part of me is always anxious about my trust somehow being broken. Not necessarily in regards to men stepping over a line in regards sexual consent but just a general trust thing. There are many shades of abuse running through from emotional to physical. I think my trust issues with men are equally to do with my father though.
Trump was right really. In regards the reality of the world we do live in, there are a lot of men who have been infected with that same toxic masculinity he has been and speaks from. A universal ill, it would seem. And by that, I mean that it transcends all barriers and borders. There are men out there from all walks of life who will use any power they have to get what they want. The guy from last year is a dentist and a Christian and seemingly a pillar of the community in Glasgow. I write this for anyone who has experienced rape and/or sexual assault. I write this for any woman or man, girl or boy who has suffered or who might in the future. Men like Trump will always exist, will indeed be given credibility if Trump wins. Please be gentle with yourselves. Surround yourselves with good, strong, loving people who understand you and talk. Talk as much as you can and use people as a sounding board. And listen as hard as you can to your inner voice, hard as that can be with all the background noise at points.
Thank you for anyone who has read this and listened.