Showing posts with label teen sex. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teen sex. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I never called it rape...

*Trigger Warning*

I’ve been thinking a lot about rape lately.  It seems like I can’t go online without someone somewhere talking about rape.  Even though I know it puts me at risk of being triggered I can’t seem to stop myself from looking.  It shouldn’t surprise me really.  When I was a teen trying to come to terms with my own assault I collected articles and research on sexual assault in a big fat folder.  My best way of dealing at that time was to understand the big picture and make it political.  My big project for OAC (grade 13) drama was a play about a girl getting raped by her best friend and killing herself.  In retrospect the two predominant themes in my adolescence were sexual assault and suicide.

And yet, with all the of the processing I’ve tried to do over the last twenty three years I am still unearthing new and surprising aspects of my own trauma, and today is no different.  Over the last two decades I have called what happened to me sexual assault or sexual coercion. I have said he did something I didn’t want him to do. I have told myself that what happened to me was bad and it messed me up but women who’d been raped had it worse.

And then I was reading the comments on this post and I felt like I’d been punched in the gut.

Because rape is not only non-consensual intercourse, it is non-consensual sexual intrusion.  That means that if the perpetrator puts anything inside of you against your will it is rape.  I knew this.  I’ve always known this but I didn’t somehow take the next logical leap.

I wrote a post a few years ago and published it on someone else’s blog.  In it I wrote about not only my sexual trauma but about the physiological anomalies that have complicated my relationship with my sexuality in oh so many ways.  In short I had what is called an imperforate hymen.  I couldn’t get a pelvic exam, I couldn’t wear a tampon, and there was no way in hell anyone’s fingers could have gotten past that particular barrier.

I guess that’s why it hurt so much when he tried.

Immediately after he finished I said to him , “You said you’d never finger me” and he said, “I didn’t.” And I guess in his mind he didn’t, because my body wouldn’t let him in.

But in reality he tried, he really tried. And the question I’m forced to ask myself is this: Is it any less rape because my physiology kept him from “going the distance”?

Between the nature of the assault and my own physiological weirdness I have been invalidating myself for more than twenty years.  I have told myself that my trauma was lesser than that of rape victims.  Despite all the evidence of what it did to me I have been gas-lighting myself, feeling like I was crazy, like I was blowing it out of proportion, that I didn’t know what it was like to be raped, I “only” knew the pain of a lesser sexual assault.

But today I finally understand.  I get it.  Because what happened to me was indisputably rape.

And I don’t know how to incorporate that into my understanding.

It makes me angry, it makes me sad, and it makes sense of so many things.

But please, let there be no more surprises.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


 Slut. Whore. Tramp. These are the names so many of us live with. Whispered under the breath, like a cold rustling wind that follows us through the hallways or down the streets.  This is a letter to those girls in school right now who have been labeled and slut shamed for the sin of being a girl. And make no mistake – that is all it takes to be at risk for this brand of bullying.

Wear short skirts? Slut.
Hang out with guys? Slut.
Dated the wrong guy? Slut.
Wear baggy clothes? Slut.
Live on your own? Slut.
Wear heels? Slut.
Goth? Punk? Slut.
Listen to hip hop? Slut.
On the pill? Slut.
Have a single mom? Slut.
Get along with a male teacher? Slut.
Popular guy likes you? Slut.
Unpopular guy likes you? Slut.

There are a million reasons why someone might call you a slut but they all come down to this: All girls are fair game. While boys are kept in line by the threat of being labeled “fags” girls are forever at risk for a big fat serving of slut shaming.

When it happens it’s so easy to say, “No honey, you’re not a slut. You’re a virgin/you only slept with one guy/ you have a boyfriend.” But this misses the point.

This is what I need to say to you. It is never okay to call someone out as a slut. You’re body is yours and only you get to decide when, how and with whom you want to have sex. No one has the right to tell you that you are deficient or depraved because of your sexuality.  So long as we accept that it’s okay to call a girl a slut if she “really is one” we are giving implicit consent to those who use the word as a weapon against all girls and women.

I don’t care if you’re having sex. I don’t care who you’re doing it with and I don’t care how often.

I care that you only do it when you really want to. I care that you take ownership of your sexuality and talk openly with your partner(s). I care that you take care of yourself and use protection. I care that you don’t do anything that makes you feel ‘less than’. I care that you don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re wrong or bad for being a girl who is comfortable in her own skin.

So no honey, you are not a slut. None of us are.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fatal Attraction or how I learned to fear men

Dedicated to the memory of Racquel Junio, and every other woman or girl who has died for the sin of being female.

[trigger warning]

I was thirteen when I learned what a dangerous world it is for women. And not just because of my personal experiences with abusive boyfriends and sexual bullies at school.

The year was 1989 and on December 6th of that year Mark Lepin went on a shooting rampage at L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. He was angry at “the feminists” for taking up spots in a school that he thought rightfully belonged to men. He killed 14 women. Those events quickly came to be known as the Montreal Massacre.

When I heard it on the news I cried. I still cry every time I think about it. Not just for the women who died or were terrorized on that day but because I understood in that instant just how dangerous it could be to be a woman.

Plaque commemorating the victims of Mark Lepin

In 1992, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy were abducted and killed by Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, it was later discovered that Bernardo had also been the Scarborough rapist. As a teen girl living in St. Catharines this was constantly on my mind. I had friends who had known Kristen, I knew someone who had known the Homolka family. The tension in the air was palpable. Those of us who were living in St. Catharines at the time all bear a collective scar from those years.

In 1993 Kara Taylor, a student at my school, was raped and killed by an ex-boyfriend who had been stalking her. Once again, I had friends who had known her, some of whom had begun escorting her to her car in order to protect her from her ex.

These events, partnered with my own experiences with abusive men, shaped my understanding of what it means to move about the world as a woman.

If you’re a trans woman, belong to a racialized group or have a disability you’re at even greater risk.

Do you think that Robert Pickton could have abducted and killed women for so long if his victims had been white, middle class women?

Do you think the McDonalds staff would have been so indifferent to the beating of a cis woman?

Of course not.

Every time I hear about a woman being killed by her male partner it feels like a punch in the gut. For every murdered woman there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others who are daily subjected to emotional and physical abuse. From partners, from employers, from friends and family members; we watch our backs as we walk the streets at night but deep down we know that it’s not the strangers on the streets that pose the greatest threat.

Statistically, we are told, a woman stands a 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 chance of being sexually assaulted in her life. My experience is that more than half of my female friends throughout my life have been victimized in one way or another.

In the aftermath of the Montreal massacre there was a lot of heated debate over the significance of the fact that Mark Lepin targeted women. Some made the point that it was an extreme example of the misogyny and violence that rests in the hearts of so many men. Others said that he was just a deranged madman, as though that precluded his delusions from being shaped by the dominant culture’s antipathy towards women. In the midst of all this, some men decided that it was high time that men take on the responsibility for ending male violence against women. Of all the things that Jack Layton did in his life, this is the one for which I am most grateful.

We often talk of the negative impact on girls of being inundated with images of women as sexual objects. But we forget that they are also absorbing the much more visceral lessons about what it means to take up space as a girl or woman. Walking through life in a heightened state of vigilance, worrying about being called a slut, a tease, a whore. Hearing boys and men brag about “hitting that” in yet another conflation of sex and violence. Watching as friends or loved ones take hit after hit (physical or emotional) from abusive partners.

I don’t have any pithy comments. I don’t have a stunning conclusion. I only have this: If I’m rude to a man who makes a pass at me it’s because I have learned that a man showing interest in me is one of the most dangerous things of all.

Some stats on violence against women in Canada

Related posts:
Padded bras and victim blame: it’s always your fault

Silence means no

And at my other blog: Sexual harassment is bullying

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Silence means "no"

Get ready 'cause this is a long one.

When I was thirteen I had a bad boyfriend that changed everything.  I spent years telling the story of K__ to any friend that would listen, I processed until I was blue in the face.  As an adult I don’t talk about it.  Like an old wound, it’s the scab that I don’t want to pick.  I am scared that if I tell that story one more time it will open a crack and that crack will become a chasm.  This is not okay.  This is not healing.  Out of fear of rumination I have locked that confused, hurt thirteen-year-old in a cage.  Just thinking about writing this makes my heart clench and my tears flow.  I don’t want this 21 year-old wound to have this kind of power over me anymore so for the first time, I am going to write it.  I apologize in advance for some of the language but these are words I haven’t let myself say in twenty years, this time I won’t shy away from them.

K__ was my second ever boyfriend.  I was in grade 9 and still not used to the idea that boys might actually find me attractive.  Both he and his best friend E__ wanted to go out with me but I chose K__.  From the beginning I was very clear about my boundaries, I told him that nothing was going to happen below the belt.  I spent every lunch hour and every weekend with him, mostly at E__’s house.  Because I didn’t live in town I would spend the whole weekend, sleeping at E__’s house because his mother was never around and we could do whatever we wanted.  In two months we never went out anywhere, no movies, no hangin’ at Tim Horton’s (kind of like Dunkin’ Donuts for all the Americans out there), not even the pool hall.  All we seemed to do was make out. 

Before I started dating him I went to every dance.  The one time I went to a dance while I was dating K__ he refused to go and threw an all-out passive aggressive temper tantrum.  He even had E__ and his girlfriend ganging up on me about what a horrible bitch I was to go the dance.  I though I was so empowered when I went to that dance.  I had my small victories, like when he tried to tell me I couldn’t have male friends.  I told him that he didn’t get to tell me who to be friends with.  I fooled myself into believing that I was “not taking any shit.”  I knew enough not to let him tell me what to do, but I wasn’t prepared for the more subtle and insidious kinds of control. 

One incident that sticks out in my mind was one of the most baffling and surreal fights I ever had with a boyfriend.  His best friend E__ had a crush on me, he had since before I started dating K__.  This one day E__ was particularly mopy about not having “got” me and complaining to K__ about it.  So K__ got mad at me.  Seriously, I’m not shitting you.  My boyfriend got mad at me because I didn’t “like” his friend.  What the hell can you say to that?  In everything K__ ever did that was manipulative, hurtful or controlling E__ was his sidekick.

Throughout all of this I was sinking into a depression.  One day, when the four of us (me, K__, E__ and The Girlfriend) were walking to E__’s house I became so overwhelmed by it that I just stopped dead and sat down on the sidewalk.  Nobody knew what to do, it took about ten minutes for them to get me up and walking. 

K__ was always testing my boundaries, he’d try to get his hand in my pants, I would move it away.  He’d put my hand on his crotch, I would pull it away.  One time, when I didn’t want to touch his dick he badgered and whined, “just this one time, don’t you love me, come on are you going to be a virgin forever?!” then he moped and E__ and girlfriend hounded me for the next half hour.  I don’t really know how to convey the atmosphere of relentless pressure, it was exhausting.  My mother, my friends and even one of his friends kept telling me that he was treating me like shit, that I should leave him. 

One day we were making out at E__’s house, as usual, and he tried to get his hands in my pants, as usual, but this time I just didn’t have any more resources to say no.  I was worn out, worn down.  It was not a “yes” it was defeat.  When he finished I said, “you promised you’d never finger me” and he said, “I didn’t.”  And I believed him.  I fucking believed him because I didn’t know any better.  Then he asked if just this once he could kiss me “down there”  “I promise I won’t eat you out” he said.  “Fine” I said as I turned my head to the side.

Later, I ran into a friend of his who told me that K__ said he’d eaten me out.  I was angry that he’d talked about it but I was also confused.  Who had he lied to?  Me or his friend?

The next day I raided my mother’s closet for an outfit that would be too hard for K__ to get his hands into.  When I think about that, it’s like there were alarm bells ringing in my head but I didn’t know what they meant.  That day K__ and I got in a huge fight because I was upset that all we ever did was make out.  It ended with a lot of yelling and swearing and me dumping him for the third and final time. I don't remember the details of the first two break-ups but I do know a few things.

I know that the first time I dumped him he wrote me a letter with veiled suicide threats, “if you don’t take me back I may as well kill myself.”  I knew it was manipulation and yet I went back. 

I know that the second time I dumped him I wrote a poem* about how badly he treated me, and yet I went back, hiding the poem from him to protect his feelings. 

I know that he cheated on me more than once and I continued to trust him.

I know that he forced me to watch porn.

When I left the house that day I had nowhere to go.  I walked straight to the house of a guy who had been nice to me at the dance.  He seemed so nice and understanding, he listened to me and I told him what had happened.  He promised never to pressure me.  The next day when I wouldn’t let him in my pants he told me we were “moving too fast" and we shouldn't go out together.  It was like a brick to the face.  I couldn’t believe I’d fallen for his “understanding guy” routine.  I walked out of the house and sat dead in the middle of the intersection.  I sat there for twenty minutes while he yelled at me.

Sometimes my depression made me seem batshit crazy but I honestly didn’t know what else to do, I was literally stopped dead in my tracks.

After that last time I broke up with K__ I swore I wouldn’t go back, but then I started to weaken.  The only thing holding me back was the thought of what my mother and my friends would say.  Still, I was on the verge of taking him back when I found out in an unceremonious prank call that he had cheated on me.  Not just with hickey’s this time, no, he had fucked R__.  It saddens me that everything else he did wasn’t enough to keep me away.  It saddens me to think that I was only thirteen.

Not long after, I had a major emotional break down.  My parents were away on business for the night so I had the house to myself and I lost my shit.  I mean breast beating, throwing myself at the walls, shrieking, wishing someone would strike me dead.  So I called K__.   He was so freaked out that he told his mother who told the cops who came to get me and take me to his house. And that is how I wound up crashing at my asshole ex-boyfriend’s house talking to his mother until 3AM.

I never told her about how her son had treated me, but I think she knew.  She told me his story of abuse.  It was horrifying the amount of abuse that boy had taken.  It didn’t make it okay but over the years it helped to have some understanding of why he may have been the way he was.

Over the next couple of years I stopped talking to him and he and E__ spread all sorts of nasty rumours about me.  I was labelled a slut just for having dated him. 

Three years later, after suffering from the rumours he and E__ spread about me and his occasional attempts to become my friend, I saw him at the pool hall and decided that it was time to confront him.  I told him that he had sexually coerced me and made it clear how much damage he’d done.  I thought he was going be defensive, I thought he was going to tell me to “fuck off bitch!”  I said to him, “I know you’re probably not even listening to me.” And he said, “I’m listening.”

I think that was as close to “I’m sorry” as he was able to get.

After that I was able to find forgiveness for K__.  I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to forgive E__.

In reading about depression recently I came across a description of one’s first depressive episode as being triggered by a catastrophic event.  When I look back at my first “major depressive episode” I can see that it started when I was with K__.  So while I know that K__ is not to blame for every problem and every depression, it is clear that that catastrophic relationship pushed me to the brink.  In two months he damn near broke me.

That experience cast a shadow over every relationship I had after that.

So let me be perfectly clear, in case you haven’t picked this up yet, just because no physical force or threats are used doesn’t mean there’s no assault.  Nobody talks about coercion.  Nobody takes it seriously.  When I tried to get a youth support worker to help me work through this and I told her I’d been pressured into doing things I didn’t want to do she dismissed it saying, “Oh every girl goes through that.”

She’s probably right.  And that scares the shit out me.  So, to all the parents out there, what is the most valuable thing you can do to prevent your boys and girls from falling into this trap?  Teach them to talk openly and honestly about their sexuality.  Teach your boys that it’s okay to not want sex, teach them about respect for themselves and their partners, teach them that sex is something that is shared, not taken.  Teach your girls that their sexuality is their own, teach them to talk about what they don’t want and what they do want, teach them to use their voice.  And if nothing else, teach them all that if you can’t openly talk about it, you’re not ready to do it.

*Used (1990)

I don't know where my mind is
I think I've lost my heart
I think I've lost my everything
you've ripped me all apart.
I don't know if you love me
you always say you do
but often you just treat me like
I'm just another who.
I wish I knew my feelings
I lost them with my heart
it seems to me that I'm to you
another little tart.
You may have never noticed
but I have feelings too
I tried to understand,
I pretended I was you.
I know you were confused
and I know you lost your head
but don't say you lost compassion
I know that I've been led.
Around your little fairground
of mind destroying games.
I don't want to see you
I don't want to hear the names.
I know they call me slut and bitch
I know they call me wench.
I also know who started that,
I know who was their hench.
I appreciate your caring
I appreciate your love.
Those last two lines are bullshit,
you just aren't good enough.

And I still took him back.