If it’s not a ‘Fuck Yes’ it’s a no.

As I’ve gone more public about sexual assault awareness, more women have pulled me aside to open up about their own sexual encounters gone awry. They want to discuss what happened because rape is endlessly confusing and many survivors drive themselves mad asking, “did this count as rape?”

The trust is, most sexual assaults happen between two people who know each other. Quite often the act begins as consensual and ends in force. Survivors sometimes put an enormous burden on themselves replaying the encounter over and over again asking, “did this count as rape?”

The stories I’ve heard sound much like my own. The man who raped me was very attractive and I was eager to participate in the early stages of our encounter. We were lying on his bed. We were kissing and of course he made me wet. However, I didn’t want to do more than make out and fondle a little. The moment I said “no” it became rape.

Sex is awesome. There’s a million different ways you can have it and plenty of people you can have it with. None of those combinations are wrong. The only important part of the equation is that both people are saying “Fuck Yes!” There should never be any doubt that either party is into it.

Sexual assault doesn’t just happen SVU style in the back of in alley. In fact, the majority of the time, it doesn’t. So stop beating yourself up and asking if it was your fault. He doesn’t have to hold a gun to your head for it to count as rape. The moment it stops being “Fuck yes!” it’s a no.

Flickin’ the Bean on a Quest for Self-Love

Learning to masturbate changed the way I experienced my sexuality.   Crazy enough, I had never successful masturbated before college. (You could not have imagined my teenage angst.)

I had heard rumor that people touched themselves and I even tried a couple times, but my mind knew so little of what sex actually looked like. I hadn’t a thing to keep my mind busy. My inner dialogue usually sounded something like this,

“Okay, I think I’m supposed to finger myself but actually getting my fingers in there is difficult from this angle. Alrighty, they’re in! Uh now what? Is something supposed to happen…. Something will definitely happen. I wonder what’s for dinner? I hope it’s not meatloaf again. NO! Focus. Okay okay. Fingers in and out. Yeah okay. Oh fuck I need to study for that Spanish test Thursday. I think I left my notes at Savannah’s house….Oh God, where were we? Uh huh, yes the fingers. There they are. Fuck. I give up.”

Let’s talk about what went wrong here. Two things went terribly wrong here. First of all, let’s mention that I didn’t know where my clitoris was. I swear I saw angels the moment I eventually discovered her. Secondly, half of any sexual experience is in our heads. Maybe even 2/3 the experience. Sure there’s the “Touch me here. Oh yeah, just like that,” part of the equation, but I dare say the “sexiness” of sex is that our minds get so lost in the experience. When flying solo, mental stimulation is even more crucial. This introduces the question at large today: how do I make my mind “sexy”?

The first time I saw porn, I was a freshman in college…and in the library. I had been in school for about two weeks and after a couple hours of studying calculus, I was in the market for a good distraction. I began to wonder about porn. You’ll laugh, but I was actually convinced it was on the dark web with like illegal weapons and exotic animals and the such. But hey, I thought it couldn’t hurt to pursue. I googled “porn.”

Lord in heaven! You wouldn’t believe what came up!

It was more than I ever dreamed. And it was ALL right there. Out in the open. Unprotected.  I watched a couple videos while sitting in the back of the school library. My mind was blown and my clitoris was awake and alive!

That evening, when my roommates were gone, I readied myself for a little lovin’. I was so mentally aroused. I rubbed my clit for a few moments and had my first self-induced orgasm. I have never felt so empowered. I could give myself orgasms whenever I wanted?!

Several years later, porn has lost is luster to me. My threshold for mental arousal continued to increase, so many of the images I chose to watch became more degrading. It completely sickened me. I’ve mostly stopped watching it…which means I’ve mostly stopped masturbating as well. I’m sad to say that I never learned to masturbate without it.

I’m lucky enough to have found real love in my life. The kind of love Nicholas Sparks couldn’t have imagined. It’s pure and passionate. When I make love to him, our souls join together and sex becomes a sort of dance. It’s beyond words.

If 2/3 of our sexual experience is in our heads, then to masturbate to porn, is to participate in their sexual act. If my mind takes part in their sex act, then I, as a person, do too. I might as well be in the room joining in. And let’s face it, mentally participating in a gang bang is a stark contradiction from love.

I might not know what career I want, or even where I want to live next year, but I know my life’s greatest pursuit is to experience as much love as possible. When I look into my lover’s eyes, I experience true love. When I masturbate I don’t.

But wait! Does that mean I should swear off masturbating? I think not! It is just as important that I love fall in love with my own body as I do with his. My self-pleasure is beautiful and necessary. That only leads me to wonder, where I do find it? I might still be experimenting, but I’m damn well going to figure it out.

Every sex act I partake in, whether with a partner or alone, will be an act of love.

“I’m practicing being nice instead of right.”

“I’m practicing being nice instead of right.”

Matthew Quick, author of Silver Linings Playbook, discretely places this line in throughout his novel.  Could it be that he has found the answer to every screwed up relationship?  Every bickering match I’ve engaged in has been focused on a mutual need to be “right.” But at the end of it, neither of us really gives a shit about who was right, the point is that neither of us were nice.  The focal point of any relationship, romantic or otherwise must be kindness and respect.  Blame, pride, arrogance, all these things get in the way.  Perhaps I will make this my mantra toward the ones I love.  In exchange for pride I will insert my desire to be loved.  Mutual kindness can overcome all of our differences.

Love is not a feeling but rather a choice.  I can choose to love you and it has nothing to do with whether or not we use the “L” word.  Love is a set of actions by which I choose to show you that you matter.  I have been blessed to be raised by two people who are madly in love with each other.  They explained to me that this was no accident.  They aren’t “lucky” to still be in love after 25 years, but they chose to love one another.  They decide to love each other at the start of every morning.  My dad chooses to make coffee for my mom in the morning and tell her she’s beautiful.  My mom chooses to kiss him and touch his face when he worries about his daughter thousands of miles from him.  They hold hands at dinner because affection is how they remind one another that they matter.

I do not know if I’ll ever get married, although I think I’d like to.  There is something incredible about someone else witnessing your life.  Every triumph, every heartbreak, all the adventures of a lifetime belong to someone else.  The story of my life is safe with you.  It will matter because you will see it all. I find that so romantic.  I do worry that I will not find a partner I want to commit to because I change so often.  I want so many things and do express so many parts of myself.  I fear that no one else could embrace the version of myself I present each morning.  Maybe we all worry about that though.  All I know, is that I want to be in love with someone that will choose to love me every day.

 

I became a woman when I overcame evil.

Really the only thing you can do is stare at the ceiling, numb your soul and wait. Feel his filthy body heave while he is so consumed with his own pleasure that he doesn’t notice you weep. See, the funny thing about evil is that there is some unknown amount of it in all of us.  Horror films lead us to believe that when we look evil in the eye, we’ll know.  No I did not become a woman when I turned 18, when I lost my virginity, or even when I moved 3000 miles from home.  I became a woman when I overcame evil.  The night I walked back to my dorm room with a ripped shirt and filthy cum still between my legs, I survived something that buried my innocent childhood away to a place far removed.

The first time I touched a man I was seventeen and thrilled.  Young love filled my heart with joy and I wanted nothing more than to give all of myself.  He was gentle and we carried on our romance for over a year.  Together we discovered pleasure and intimacy.  I treasure the memories of us laying in the bed of his pickup truck past curfew, counting the stars in the night sky.  I am grateful that I learned to make love with someone who treasured the gift I was giving.

Living in a dorm with over 2000 other freshman, we called it “the eternal sleepover,” and rightly so.  The first months away from home we bathed in freedom.  We drank cheap beer on Wednesday afternoons and framed our noise violation tickets.  I met Robert after a long night of drinking and dancing with my girls.  We came back to our hall to find new faces. After all drunkenness loves company.  The dozen of us socialized together until dawn.

He had dark wavy hair and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen.  We would stay up talking about art, politics and dreams.  He was the mysterious man from every teen romance novel I’d read in high school and I wanted to see him again. 

A lonely Tuesday night in December he invited to look at some art in his dorm room.  He hung white Christmas lights across the ceiling.  Soft indie music played as he pulled me in for a kiss. Intoxicating passion. 

He went for a second kiss when he grabbed my breast.  That sure was a hell of a lot faster than I was used to but I bit my lip. So long as things don’t go passed here, I could just get over my prude self right?

Moments latter he pulled a condom out of his pocket and held me down. I begged him to stop. I screamed NO and ripped the condom out of his hand and threw it. 

Then all at once he was inside me.  With one arm he held me down and looked the other way while he fucked me.  He turned his head from my silent tears.  Consumed with his pleasure he thrust me harder and harder.

What I remember most was the moment I relinquished control. I fought him and begged him to stop but eventually the moment came when his physical strength overpowered me and at all at once I went numb.  The tears stopped and time stood still. I stared up at the Pink Floyd poster on the ceiling.

I waited.

That night, I settled into my own bed, still moist with his cum inside me, but I didn’t cry.  Numbness had overtaken me in an unrecoverable way.  I felt disgust, but not anguish.  I looked introspectively to find that hollowness.  Something inside my soul had perished.

I have been blessed with incredible parents.  We share our lives with one another and lean on each other to this day.  A week after my rape I realized that if I kept this secret from them we could never be close ever again.  It would not be possible to continue an intimate relationship with my parents and keep something this life altering to myself.  After all that Robert took away from me, I would not let him take away my most cherished relationship.  A dark winter night I called my house phone. My mother answered, chipper with the details of her workday. “Put dad on the phone too. I have to tell both of you something.” I could feel my mother’s voice tremble as she heard the weakness in my voice.  I spared them the details of my rape but I made it clear what had happened.  My father didn’t say a word but I heard him cry. My big, strong, Marine of a father wept in a childlike way.  The three of us sat on the phone and together mourned the loss of our peace of mind.  Things would be different now. We all knew it. 

For months I struggled with PTSD. I would get up and check that my door was locked fifteen times a night.  I isolated myself from my friends and began binge drinking.  Fear became me and I had nothing to lose. God? What God. Who did I have to honor with my life? Fuck it all. I’ll drink and smoke and wash away the pain on a daily basis. How dare you tell me to do anything different?

My parents begged me to turn Robert in to the police but I wouldn’t.  We still lived in the same dorm building and I was terrified of friends finding out.  I didn’t want to be “the girl who got raped.” I wasn’t ready to talk about what happened to me let alone recount my story to an unsympathetic judge who would simply weigh my word against my rapist’s.  The possibility of losing the case for lack of evidence scared me even worse.  What would Robert do to retaliate? What would people say during trial? I couldn’t handle it.  But deeper than that, I feared that maybe part of me wanted it to happen.  Maybe I was curious about my sexuality. Though I screamed no, I was terrified of what was in myself that he took advantage of.  See that’s why rape is the worst crime a man can commit.  It is not just a physical crime.  It degrades what a woman thinks of herself.  Guilt permeates her body for what he did.  For when his filthy semen is inside her, her most sacred place is turned into a crime scene.  Every glorious pink fold, tainted with his dishonor.

The next day my mother flew here to be with me.  I never said a word to her of the details, but for three days, she laid in a fluffy white bed with me and held me.  I cried in her arms and she stroked my dark hair until I fell asleep.

It wasn’t until Christmas break that my dad spoke of my rape. I was in the car with him driving back from dinner when he told me his plan.  Initially he wanted to kill Robert.  As a former Marine, I knew that he had thought quite seriously about this.  Weighing the amount of jail time with the satisfaction of justice, I am grateful he had the self-control not to seek revenge.  Thankfully, he conspired another way to ruin this twisted man’s life.  “I’m going to call his grandmother. I’m going to find out where he lives and tell his family exactly who he is and what he’s done.  And then every few years, I’ll come back around to find out who is closest friends are or if he has a serious girlfriend. And then again I’ll call them and tell them what he’s done.  I will haunt him and make sure that the shame follows him the rest of his life.  Everyone he loves will feel disgust.”

I wouldn’t let my father do this either.  As much indignation as I felt, I had took no interest in what happened to Robert.  He had to live with what he did.  God will repay his wrath more than me or my father could ever achieve.  My rejection hurt my father.  He needed retribution.

Two months later I went into Student Health to get tested for HIV.

This warm, maternal nurse walked in humming as if the day were bright. My face was stone cold. As I watched the syringe fill with my red blood, every emotion I should have felt the night I was raped came to me all at once: the rage, the injustice, the disgust.

At that moment I collapsed on the floor. I screamed. My face was red with furry and blurred from the tears.  I fell apart.

Half dozen nurses fled to my side and carried my writhing body over to the psych ward as I sobbed uncontrollably.  I couldn’t support my own weight. The world faded in and out.

I began seeing a therapist regularly. She explained to me that trauma is stored in our short-term memory.  That’s why the adrenaline rush won’t go away. It feels like it’s still happening. All day. Everyday. It’s still happening.

By verbally reliving the rape, every detail, every angle, I was able to transfer the memory from something that is “happening” to something that “happened.” 

My third session of therapy was on a Tuesday. It was the beginning of spring and everything was beginning to come alive except me.  This was the session where I finally finished retelling my store to her. My beautiful therapist looked deep into my eyes as I recounted every agonizing detail. I welled up with tears when I finished.

That afternoon walking home, I felt lighter.  A few blocks into my walk I paused in front of an apartment complex. I looked down at the garden and the most delicate roses looked back at me.  We stared at each other.  I examined each perfectly formed petal and it was at that moment that I finally saw.

They were pink. 

At this moment, I saw color for the first time in months.  Joyful, glorious pink! The gray haze had lifted and I felt this small spark of joy in my soul!  I cannot explain to you the ecstasy of seeing color as if it we’re your first breath of air on earth, but it felt something to that impact.  My deadened senses tinged with life.  As I shared this moment with most beautiful pink roses I’ll ever see, I decided I wanted to live. 

All at once, I had hope. 

Dare to love it all.

I spent the majority of my teenage years planning my breast augmentation.  All of the woman in my family were born with small breasts and rectified the situation at a young age. Why wouldn’t I do the same? Fix this flaw and enjoy the beauty and attention for decades to come.  At sixteen years old, I would research the best doctors, prices, and payment plans. Though I wore push-up bras and no one besides a couple of beaus had seen my breasts, my gaping bra was a constant reminder that I wasn’t a woman.  I so desperately wanted to feel the curves of womanhood.  

Here I am at twenty and somewhere along the way, I learned to love myself (even my breasts).  Though what men don’t realize is that a woman’s journey to love herself is purposeful, life-long, and exhausting.  Even after I was able to desensitize myself of monthly Victoria’s Secret magazines, I still attract beaus who enjoy the regular “harmless teasing.”  I have dated some very kind men, but the two long-term relationships I’ve had that include regular sex, also included regular scrutiny.  

Last night my lover accompanied me in my brownstone apartment.  We laughed, sipped wine and made love until the first rays of the sun peaked through the blinds.  Laying intertwined post-coitus, I couldn’t have felt more at peace…until the titty jokes came out to play.  Though spoken teasingly with smiles and playful banter, I do believe I was compared to a “boy with a pussy” or “little girl.”  Either way you spin that, my lack of full-figured breasts keep me from qualifying as a woman in my lover’s eyes.  

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the kind of woman who silently takes emotional abuse from men.  You bet your ass he got a piece of my mind, but with tender kisses, he pulled me back into bed.  “Women are so sensitive.” What he doesn’t understand, and what most men do not understand is that his playful insult is just one wire in the birdcage. One of my favorite feminist philosophers created the most accurate analogy of a woman’s plight.  

“Consider a birdcage.  If you look very closely at just one wire in the cage, you cannot see the other wires.  There is no physical property of any one wire, nothing that the closest scrutiny could discover, that will reveal how a bird could be inhibited or harmed.  It is only when you step back, stop looking at the wires one by one, microscopically, and take a macroscopic view of the whole cage, that you can see why the bird does not go anywhere.  It is perfectly obvious that the bird is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers, no one of which would be the least hindrance to its flight, but which, by their relations to each other, are as confining as the solid walls of a dungeon.” -Marilyn Frye “Oppression”

Similarly, it is not one issue of Cosmo magazine that has ruined my perception of my body, nor one insult from my boyfriend that is responsible.  Rather, it is society’s network of impossible standards that every woman is subjected to hear.  

I have decidedly rejected these standards and I encourage others to be bold enough to do the same.  Make your self-esteem your next project.  Acknowledge lies when you are lied to.  Boycott any magazines and men that will lie to you.

 Though I am secure, deep down I will always be vulnerable.  I must choose my influences carefully. 

Some wires in the birdcage will be there until the end of time, but there are many of them that we can rid ourselves of.  Look introspectively at who or what is negatively influencing your body images and cut them out.  Silence the lies. Walk with your head held high and know that God created you in perfection.  Hold on to your beauty and learn to love yourself; your crooked piggy toe, your freckles, your hips.  Dare to love it all. 

“In youth, it w…

“In youth, it was a way I had,
To do my best to please.
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know
And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you.”
― Dorothy Parker, The Complete Poems of Dorothy Parker