on #kava-NAW, sexual trauma, and & trying to live your damn life

CW: sexual assault, Kavanaugh confirmation

 

you know what’s surreal? trying to go about your day while being constantly re-traumatized by the news cycle.

full disclosure: i haven’t yet watched the kavanaugh hearings, and i’m beginning to doubt i ever will. and actually what i mean is i haven’t watched kavanaugh’s part of the hearings. i stumbled upon Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimonies at the laundromat – i hadn’t even realized the hearings were happening. i loaded my clothes into the washer and stared up at her face, imagining the sea of white men she had to look into as she bared her trauma to the world. imagining the fear, and the simmering rage, and the knowledge that unless she kept absolutely cool, calm, collected throughout, her emotions would be weaponized against her, against all women.

because #yesallwomen. yes all women have experienced harassment. yes all women have experienced assault (in some way). yes all women are subjected to (some form of) gendered violence. and yes, that includes transfemme folx, it basically includes all of us but cishet men.

anyways. i was at the laundromat, i hadn’t even realized the hearings were happening that morning. i hadn’t even realized i was about to be asked, yet again, to feel the things i do about my own assault. about my sister’s assault. about my mother’s. about my friends’ assaults. about the many named and unnamed assaults that have happened and do happen and will continue to happen because the problem is not that the world won’t #believesurvivors, won’t #believewomen. it’s that the world doesn’t care. the people in power do not care. cishet men do not care. why should they? to care is to acknowledge that their power rests upon centuries of violence against womxn, that entire societies exist only in the way that they do because some people — women, people of color, indigenous people — are oppressed, while others are awarded undue amounts of power.

i was at the laundromat, and then i was home, and then i was applying to jobs, and then i was walking to meet my girlfriend. and then i would open twitter, and then i would see the news, seemingly the only news, and then — racing heart, panicky, on the verge of tears, because y’all, it’s just so fucking unfair. how can this be real? how i can be sitting here, years and years of womxn’s activism behind us, and still Dr. Ford will not receive recognition for her trauma? still, there are tens of qualified men who could be put on the supreme court (which like… the matter of whether that court should even exist is a conversation for another day), but still, the GOP and the government will uphold this one man, this one man who is proven to have assaulted, proven to have a blackout drinking problem, proven incapable of addressing past mistakes — still, he will end up being judge to us all.

how can it be that i was raped and i spent two years denying it, how can it be that i blamed myself when later i learned that my rapist was a serial offender, how can it be that so many of us are sexually violated, brutally violated, our brains and emotions and bodies breached, and still, this? it’s fucking unfair. it truly is.

and to be asked to continually process all of this, right now? i’m trying to apply to jobs. i’m trying to date someone. i’m trying to be happy. i’m trying to get my shit done. i’m trying to remember to take my iron pills, for god’s sake, i don’t have the time or energy to be pulled into rehashing my own trauma, but still i am, we are, asked to.

i think about the idea that people pose, that abusers necessarily dehumanize their victims. i don’t think it’s so. dehumanizing isn’t the right phrase. we aren’t being dehumanized. it’s just that our humanity weighs less in the that of cis men. our humanity means less, our humanity counts less. we remain utterly human in the eyes of our abusers, and that’s why they abuse us. their abuse of us would mean less and carry less power than if we were less than human.

standing with all survivors this week, and sending my most loving, strengthening vibes. we need it. ❤

on Assassination Nation, witch hunts, and feminine rage

Have you seen Assassination Nation yet? It came out on Friday, and to sum it up, it’s about a wide-scale hacking that happens in Salem, Massachusetts (yes, that Salem — very intentional) and the veritable witch hunt that follows, wreaking violence and sexism all around town. The following absolutely contains spoilers, as well as reference to sexual violence, so proceed with caution.

For me, Assassination Nation took the feeling of simmering, explosive rage that women* have been feeling extra hard since the 2016 election and bottled it up into one kick-ass film. The film’s message isn’t exactly subtle — “don’t dress like that, you’re asking for it; don’t take pictures like that, you’re a whore; come on, show a little skin, you’re such a prude” — as the main character Lily explains explicitly in voiceover several times, but it’s effective and viscerally real. It taps into the rage that women have been feeling so intensely these past 2 years, because we now live under the regime of a sexual predator/overall monster, we now live in a state that is actively defending the election of a r*pist (though obviously many of our public officials have been sexual predators) and we have always lived in a patriarchal, white supremacist state that is violent and oppressive to us, especially non-white, non-cis women.

The young women are so, so clearly the victims here. The more the men in the film hyper-sexualize and de-humanize them, the more apparent it becomes that they are girls, they are children, regardless of what they are doing and how they are dressing. The scariest character in the whole film is *heart eyes*Daddy (the father of a toddler that Lily used to babysit for) who groomed and seduced her, texting her for naked pictures, asking her to play the child/daughter role in their sexual scenarios. Towards the end of the movie — at this point their affair has been leaked and both are dealing with fallout, though Lily much more so — we discover that *heart eyes*Daddy murdered his wife and presumably his baby daughter when they tried to leave him. Running from *heart eyes*Daddy, Lily falls into the corpse of the wife in the bathtub, comes up screaming and drenched in her blood. He’s terrifying because his violence seems senseless, uncontrollable — but actually we know that it’s grounded in his understanding of his power over women as absolute. He sees himself as being the final authority in his relationships with women; he decides when to end them, when to end their lives.

There’s a lot more that could be said here to unpack, as well, the specific type of violence that Bex, a transgirl character, is subjected to. Interesting to note is that Bex was never misgendered, even as a mob of fuck-wad jocks colluded to literally hang her for “emasculating” one of their own who had hooked up with her. Their rage against Bex was a mix of homophobia and transphobia as in, they were reacting homophobically to the boy who hooked up with Bex, which is transphobic in and of itself because it denies Bex her girlhood, and further it represents established cis-male violence against transwomen. I liked that the film itself supported and respected Bex’s girlhood, though the jock mob did not.

This movie is wild, y’all. Essays could and should be written. Towards the end there’s this perfect image of the four main girls in these red patent trench coats with a load of guns and various weapons strapped to their bodies just gunning down their would-be assailants. I loved the aesthetic, which was an ode to Tumblr’s kawaii-sex-baby look — think ringer shirts with pink hearts above the nipples, platform jellies, lots of pink, tiny sunglasses, all washed out pastel lighting.

And then, of course, the ending. Who did the hacking? We know that the hacker used Lily’s family’s IP address — it really could not have been her, and definitely not her luddite parents. Naturally we forget about the silent, almost unnoticeable little brother character; just a geeky little white boy with very little impact thus far, of course the only other person with access to that IP address. He’s the one who did it, “for the lols” — for no reason except his privilege and his inability to see or care about the impact on other people, for no reason except perhaps he felt outshone by his wise-cracking, beautiful older sister. You could just hear in the theatre the chorus of confused murmuring — but honestly, who else could it have been? Like most terrorists in America, the culprit behind it all was a dissatisfied young white man.

 

*and everyone who is not a cis man, though gendered policing is against femininity/femme-ness, perceived or actual, IMO

 

(Also! Can we talk about how Mike Montgomery from Pretty Little Liars played the evil ringleader of the jocks — I screeeeamed.)

a small violence (TW: sexual assault/violence; writing prompt)

Prompt: write about a small violence.

 

I tried to do it to myself, the small violence. It was August, and heady. I just wanted to do something meaningless, moorless; I just wanted to have my body do a meaningless act. I didn’t want to bother with emotions. I wanted the kind of solitary feel-nothing hookup sex that everyone else seems to have. I brought him to a party where the theme was finding a date online — I operated through Tinder.  We kissed, and if I had thought harder I should have realized that it would be no good. It was rough, no finesse — rote moves, squeezing chest, ass, rubbing p*ssy through jeans in quick, cyclical succession. (Wearing a path.) We kissed shamelessly against the brick wall holding up my friend’s apartment building; I reveled in the randomness of it, the publicness. I guess I’ve got some exhibitionist in me — I relished the cars behind us, paused for the traffic light, doubtless (blessedly) watching. Anyway.

Later, when his body rose up over mine — I still didn’t realize. He left the lamp on and we removed our clothes, separately, and he rose up over me, stroking on the condom. I lay there and felt as detached as I had wanted — I forgot myself and the reality of my body, forgot the thick heaviness of my middle, weight I’d put on during a recent sad spell, forgot that I had worried I’d feel embarrassed, naked. Then he was on me and that’s when I realized it wouldn’t work. Literally would not work — my body would not let him in.

And the harder he tried to enter — lube and fingers and more and more pressure — it hurt and I felt the frustration rise, a bile, and then quickly, panic. It wouldn’t fit, it wouldn’t work, it hurt it hurt and then suddenly I was back under the boy who raped me, my first time having sex, having sex done to me, even though that time he hadn’t been on top, I had been on top, kissing and then suddenly pain and burning and I was crying but he was still having sex with me and that’s all I really remember. He’d come home with me after we’d danced, after we kissed outside, laying on the dusty ground, after I’d thrown up all over my shoes and some on him too, after I’d begged off and he claimed to have been locked out of his own room and couldn’t he stay in mine? After – after – but really I barely remember.

It’s not uncommon, actually, though I only heard it called by its name a few months ago. Vaginismus. Painful sex, extreme tension — from trauma, from anxiety, my body tightening to wall out intrusion, a sort of inverted vagina dentata. The “cure,” if it’s to be taken as such, is to go slowly, so slowly, with someone you trust. But the reason I chose a boy to fuck, senselessly, is that I wanted the senselessness. I didn’t expect it would be good. I just wanted to drown myself in another body, detach. I couldn’t do that with a girl.

It’s frustrating to have even the ability to be reckless with your own body taken away from you — swallowed, somehow, into your trauma. It’s frustrating that my body won’t do what I want it to, makes me make much of something that I don’t want to have to think about, forces me to look at a trauma I rarely think about and thought I had recovered from and see that it’s lingering (festering, waiting). It makes me feel weak and angry — I didn’t think it would be a big deal but my body made it a big deal. My body feels like it somehow belongs to my trauma, not to me — a small, terrifying violence.