I decided to start writing again because I went on a terrible date. We had only been together for an hour and a half when he climbed on top of me after I kissed him on the side of his face, mostly a gesture out of fear, an attempt to satiate something. He started to face fuck me. No proclamation, no hearing notice, no pre-boarding announcement. He climbed on top of me, shoved his penis into my face and mouth, and only after a few seconds did he grab my arm, tight, and say “Let me know if this gets too aggressive.”
I should have seen the warning signs. Two days before our date, he texted me a picture of a record player that he brought to work, and said “Ever since we started talking I have been in the mood for swing music.” I experienced instant waves of nausea, not only because the tired “romanticism” of the quintessential soft boy is so 2012 it physically hurts me, but comments like that remind me of the first person I ever developed romantic feelings for, a sociopathic super senior in college who would never shut the fuck up about “literature” (what does that even reference anymore?) and used to mercilessly stalk an ex girlfriend after she broke up with him.
My body had physical reactions based on the negativity I felt, but I didn’t listen to them because I experience them all the time. Two weeks ago, a man drinking Keystone Light at 8:30 a.m. on Main St followed me with his eyes, and when he raised his hand to take another sip, I started running. I don’t remember why. It was a standard example of old Pittsburgh morning drinking and sexual harassment; he probably behaved the same way toward 6 other women and never left his porch, but my first instinct was to run.
When you are flooded with fight or flight, it’s hard to decide which instincts are real, and which ones are a result of trauma based memories emerging from a swamp. In some instances, I become irrationally angry. I think about slashing someone’s tires, or elbowing them in the gut, or pulling a scarlet letter type stunt on their house venue.
I still feel as if my body is not in my control two years after being raped. If I can’t trust the very foundation of being human, the instinctual run from danger, how can I trust my body to guide me to do anything?
I was seeing someone for a couple of months and got comfortable. I remembered what it was like to be surrounded by sweetness, the ease of getting out of bed and putting clothes on just to go eat pizza. A lot of people dread that moment of contentedness; this is where a partnership gets boring. I try every day to get to that place because it means my fear is slightly assuaged. I only feel the instinctual need to run when a car speeds past me at a busy intersection. I don’t wince if a man moves his position too quickly on a public bus. Everything slows down.
Rather than hiding behind an inflated sense of security, I realized it’s more important to have conversations with the people around me. Do you initiate rough sex before talking about it? How many of you have groped someone’s ass in a busy bar line? Tried something “riskier” because your partner had 5 margaritas? Sent someone pictures of your genitals before asking? Assumed your partner wants to have sex simply because they agreed to have sex with you a week before? Are you even asking what your partner is comfortable with? Did you keep hounding someone via iMessage or DMs or texts because they aren’t responding yes to having sex with you? Do you call out your friends when they exhibit this sort of behavior?
A lot of people that don’t label themselves as monsters would answer “yes” to many of these questions and believe no consensual lines have been blurred because you’re both drunk, you’ve been dating for 6 months, you’re in a punk band full of feminists and are above a consent and boundaries discussion…
I am exhausted going on dates with people who do not understand this. I am tired of seeing 30 + Facebook friends share an article about the Bill Cosby trial, reposting in an ignorant 5 seconds, not knowing I had to hide in the bathroom at work and cry after reading too many of the same headlines. I am tired of living in a constant state of anxiety because I outed someone with a lot of friends who has raped multiple women. I am tired of people telling me sexual assault is the worst thing that will ever happen to me. I am tired of explaining why I have an ongoing list of bars to avoid.
I hope that writing it down here will make me less tired.