I’ve been beating myself up lately because it feels like really, the only thing on my mind that compels me to write is fucking rape, and then I get like, “who wants to read about that? who comes here to read my navel-gazing about how fucked up I am and how I can’t stop obsessing about a stupid event that happened ten fucking years ago? and why do I need to dwell on it anyway can’t I fucking move on with my life?” and the truth is my life has moved on, and it also hasn’t. And the same people who were interested in reading about my relationship and my random thoughts about queer politics might or might not be interested in reading me process my trauma, but that’s not my problem. And processing this rape isn’t really only just processing this rape but it’s about processing how everything in my life before and at the time was already brittle and it’s about trying to piece those things together so that I can figure out how to want, fully, to be alive.
I saw this the other day and was like, yes. This is my anthem.
The past two weeks I’ve been on the east coast and have spent a bunch of time with friends of mine from college. These friends were the very first people in the world who knew about my rape other than my rapist and the nurse at Planned Parenthood a few weeks later who, when I went for STD testing, knew immediately what the situation was just by looking at me, even though the whole reason I waited a few weeks was to avoid just that likelihood. But otherwise my friends in college were the very first people I ever told and it has been so strange now, at the ten-year mark, to revisit my relationship to it then. In ways I can’t believe how much I was able to separate myself from myself, how much I clung to this “this fucked up thing happened but it is in the past and anyway now I’m stronger for it” fucked-up survivor narrative which is now the whole reason why I have so many problems with the word “survivor.” Cuz in retrospect it doesn’t really feel like I survived it feels like I was just getting by however I could, and in college, my m.o. was like, I just gotta have a normal life, have real friendships that are meaningful to me and I can’t fuck them up by dumping some insane fucking trauma on them. I was also scared, I think, because I didn’t know what would happen to ME if I actually started really talking. When I was in Boston last week I spoke about it a bit with my best friend from college who is actually the first person I ever told about it and she said that yeah, it had been clear to her at the time that I hadn’t really known how to talk about it, how to be both a person who was still reeling from this nightmare AND a person who could be normal and thrive. And I of course remember still having intense flashbacks during those years, especially the first two years of college, and just not being able to move for hours, days, but not being able to even think about telling anyone why.
I guess I had a lot of internalized shame and to be honest I guess I still do. Otherwise I wouldn’t be feeling disgusted with myself for continuing to use this blog as a platform to write about this stuff. And if anyone else who has ever experienced any kind of sexual trauma or violence were to say to me that they felt shame around talking about their experiences I would SO VEHEMENTLY reject that without skipping a fucking beat, and so I’m trying to have that same graciousness with myself. And it makes me wonder how in another five years, ten years, how I will look back on myself now and think, “how did I do it? how did I survive?” the way I’m looking back now at college. I try to remember when and how it started getting easier and I can’t even force my mind to go back there without feeling like I’m going to throw up so I don’t know how to figure it out.
In early May, I went to a queer dance party in Oakland and left early by myself because I was feeling tired and drained, and I was followed by two assholes who were bantering with each other about my ass as a piece of fucking meat and I turned around and yelled at them to fuck off, yelled as loud as I could and was so angry. And rather than leave me alone they shoved me against a building and one of them went through my shit and stole all my cash and the other one went through my dress and stole my body. He couldn’t get a full erection (evidently my fault because I was a “fucking pervert dyke”) so he decided his hand was good enough. The whole thing lasted all of about five minutes and I am insanely proud of myself for staying in my body and not abandoning it. I stayed put with all my might. And I consciously decided at some point to just cry, thinking that maybe if I let it all out and just let my emotions be what they were, maybe it would stop them. So I did, I cried and crumpled to the ground and begged them to stop. And the one going through my shit was like, “this isn’t fun anymore, let’s go” and they left. And I felt broken and shaken and flattened and disgusted and terrified and humiliated, but I was like, whoa, I’m still here. I’m all here. And I called about eight different people to try and connect with someone, to stand up to my inner voice that wants me to isolate, cuz I was like, I am not going to do this again, I am not going to go through this alone. And I am so proud of that.
And then last week I was with my dad in my hometown and we were driving back to his apartment but there was some sort of race or parade or something through my town so he had to take a weird route and he drove right down that street and passed right by the spot where my rapist watched me run by him from his car ten years ago. And my clueless father took us right down that street and I have very intentionally avoided that spot for ten whole years. I haven’t been to that spot since it happened. And it’s funny because I was just thinking recently about how maybe I would want to pay that spot a visit sometime, maybe by myself or maybe with someone close to me, but maybe just by myself and sit there and rock. I thought maybe it would be good to confront that and see it as a regular spot on a regular street in a regular town. But the very second I knew where the car was going, I started throwing up and I had to frantically open the car door and lean out and puke on the street while my baffled father tried to figure out what to do. I couldn’t even talk to him I couldn’t even think, I just had this total panic meltdown and every tiny millimeter of my body needed to get the fuck away. And it was raining and we got back to my dad’s place and I couldn’t go inside, I needed air so I walked to the playground at my old elementary school and sat on the bench in the rain and stared at the playground that I used to play on before, and I tried to connect to a time before everything, when I would just play, on that very playground, with the same (child) body I have now.
I’m struggling. It’s like time is fucking around with me and has decided that it doesn’t need to move in a linear fashion, it doesn’t need to make things easier for me, it doesn’t need to be predictable and it will just do whatever it wants so-help-it-god. And I’m left trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of it all. Sometimes though it feels like even picking up the pieces is too much work, let alone the making sense of it.
One of my very favorite bloggers, and someone who in the meantime I feel really close to, wrote recently about a particular memory of her own trauma, a very specific memory that always flattens her and leaves her shattered. And someone commented, and said to her, have you ever asked that memory what it wants? Asked it why it keeps coming back? Cuz maybe if you can figure that out, you can give it what it wants and it will eventually stop coming back.
The simplicity of that stunned me. What does it want, this part of me that keeps poking and prodding and sticking, and what do they want, these images and memories and body-memories that keep revisiting? I know I need to figure that out. The thing is, the only way I’ve really known how to deal with it has been to push it away and say “no, you are not allowed.” I’m so terrified of giving it space and letting it in, I’m so terrified of what it will do it me and by syllogism, what it will do to everyone in my life.
In the meantime, I’m on the plane to Berlin right now. By the time I post this I will be there already but I’m writing this on the plane. And for the next three weeks I’m hoping that whatever part of my brain it is that is rising up and needing attention will just quiet down so that I can get some rest, get some space, and maybe then try to start figuring this out when I get back.
Also, sorry for saying fuck so much lately. It just sorta happens.
Gulp, it’s already the middle of January… whooops. Classes start on Tuesday, and I’ve been working and catching up with various friends the past week and a half since getting back from the east coast. Also trying to get in a lot of pleasure reading, since my books for this semester have started tumbling in and it’s veeeery clear to me that I will not have any time to read things of my own choosing this semester! So. Many. Books. ANyway, last year at the beginning of January I did a sort of year-in-review and some intentions for the coming year, and I decided to revisit that this year and see where I was last year, whether I did the things I’d been planning to do, and then look ahead to this coming year.
From last year’s post:
[I]n 2010, I hope to:
- continue to fall in love and deepen my relationship with ML. I’m looking forward to more great sex, more power play, even better communication as we learn each other through and through and more and more, mini-retreats (that hopefully won’t be too expensive), accompanying her to her sister’s wedding where she’ll be outing herself to all of her extended family and family friends, and maybe even moving in together (!) (but we’ll wait to see what my grad school plans are before we really talk about that seriously).
Well, I certainly had a functioning crystal ball on this one; this has all happened, and more! We’ve really fallen in cozy with each other, in a good way — we have had very few big fights this year, and the fighting has gotten easier as lurking questions like “will she leave me over this?” have faded away. While the frequency of our sex has decreased somewhat, it’s still great, and we did do some interesting work with power play this year. Mini-retreats… we went on a few I think? We went to Palm Springs in March for her birthday, and to Cazadero for Thanksgiving… That might be it. But two per year might be enough given our busy lives. Her sister’s wedding in August was lovely if also somewhat challenging, and I felt a bond with her through and after that that I describe in that post. AND, we moved in together! At the beginning of June. So we’ve been living together now for seven+ months and it’s fantastic. We both have such busy independent lives but we almost always manage to end the day together, in bed, with a bit of time before we have to go to sleep.
- start graduate school (speaking of).
And ever! I started the MA degree program in anthropology at CIIS here in San Francisco, and it’s got to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself. I fucking love it. I can’t wait for classes to start next week (even if it does mean less time for pleasure reading…).
- leave my job (which should be concurrent with grad school, but in case I don’t get into any of the programs I’m hoping to enroll in, I STILL would like to leave my job).
Yup, I left my job at the end of May, and continued to work somewhat part-time during the summer but with very flexible hours. The summer was nice, I had a lot of time to cook and plan and read and think and do fun stuff… but I was also ready for it to be over when it was over. Too much of a good thing :)
- continue to take care of myself and be strong enough to seek help in taking care of myself, from medication and therapy, but also from intellectual, spiritual, and physical mentors, as well as friends and family.
I think that this past year, especially this fall, I have really figured out how to be at my mental and emotional best: be busy with things that I care about. It was really that simple. As soon as I started graduate school, so much of my stress and anxiety and existential ennui and co-dependency tendencies just … started to evaporate. I’m doing my thing, and it feels right.
- come out to my grandparents. There. I said it. I made it a goal.
Uh. Whoops. I forgot that I’d made that an intention this past year. We’ll see if it happens this year. I’d love to make it an intention. Problem is my grandma’s in early stages of Alzheimer’s, and I’m just not sure what coming out to them at this point would accomplish. But it’s a possibility.
- continue to write here and use it as a platform for airing my relationship-, life-, and self-processing, and continue to strengthen my internet bonds.
I did continue to write here, although with less frequency. As I’ve said before, that’s been for lack of time, not lack of motivation. But I’m still here, and I hope to figure out a way to write weekly.
So, you see, I did alright in 2010. As for 2011, I’ve got some intentions for the record as well:
- continue to fully invest myself in graduate school, worrying less about social aspects of it (which totally have been falling into place) and knowing that the more I bring myself fully to the table there, the more things will continue to open up for me. This year I’ll have to figure out a practicum and a research focus, so one of my intentions here is to think that through and carefully weigh my options. And also, I want to start ironing out post-MA plans: Ph.D.? Here, or elsewhere? Work? I’ll be meeting with my academic advisor early this semester to start talking about that.
- continue to prioritize friendships and relationships both in my graduate program and outside of it. I adore my grad school cohort.
- with ML, continue to communicate well, to set aside time to do fun things together, to leave San Francisco every so often for a breath of fresh air, to love her and appreciate her with intention. We also want to continue to grow and expand our sexual life, and though we’re not quite sure yet what that’s going to look like, we’ve got some hopes and intentions: set aside time and boundaries to work more with power play, specifically with figuring out a way for her to push through topping insecurities and me to push through subbing insecurities; push more against boundaries of monogamy/non-monogamy, and play with how we can approach those explorations as a team and make it something fun for both of us; go to sex/play parties and increasingly take our sex life out of just our own private and exclusive domain. Very excited about all of that, and I imagine I will be writing about all of that at times throughout the year.
- travel at least once out of the country. I will have so many opportunities for that this year: my sister is living in Vienna, and wants me to visit this summer and travel to Poland and Croatia with her. One of my best friends is getting married in Paris in August. And another mutual friend of ML’s and mine is getting married in Japan in the fall. Not to mention, I would love to get back to Germany, Berlin specifically, and then there’s always the possibility that my master’s work will take me out of the country too…
I think that’s a pretty good list of intentions for this year. Of course there will be surprises too, and that’s as it should be. But I will just state for the record: I am excited about this year. And I intend to continue to make this space somehow a part of it all.
Happy New Year <3 xoxo AF
PS: I will be doing a pin-up modeling shoot in a few weeks. I’m thinking I might share some photos… :)
Shanna of Essin’ Em fame has been here the past few days, crashing on our couch (actually, our featherbed) while in town for the Folsom Street Fair. And because Shanna is so very Shanna, we have ended up talking a lot about sex (as well as things like front shops and cats and what vegetables we’d be if we were vegetables) — and last night (or was it Saturday night?) she ended up more or less facilitating a conversation about fantasies between ML and me. (If you ever are in need of a sex therapist, I think Shanna should be charging for it.) Now, I wouldn’t say ML and I have ever thought we needed a sex therapist, or have even ever been dissatisfied with our sex life. We have a rather robust sex life, actually, and when we’re healthy and not travelling, we generally fuck 3-5 times a week. Some of those times, to be sure, are nighttime quickies, but many of them are also middle-of-the-afternoon-because-we’re-horny fuckfests. And we’ve sort of vaguely talked about things we’d like to do sometime, but then “sometime” tends not to materialize because, you know, life happens.
So, sex is good. But somehow, with Shanna (who also lives at ShannaKatz.com, by the way), we ended up articulating fairly clearly and specifically (through her pointed and guiding questions) what we’d each most like to explore. I thought I’d share mine.
Imagine that we live in a foreign world and you speak the language but I don’t. This means that you have to be my guide through the world, taking me under your wing and being my voice. Imagine we’re in a restaurant and I can’t read the menu — but because the cuisine is so different from what I’m familiar with you can’t really translate it for me in a way I would understand either. So, instead, you order for me, and I trust you utterly to order with care and absolute attention to my mind and body. Because you know me. And my mind is submitted to yours: when the food arrives, I’m not thinking about whether or not you picked “right,” whether or not I like the food. I’m not worried about that. I know you picked right just because you picked it, and I trust you.
That’s the best way I can think of to illustrate the dynamic I want to explore. I want to be your little girl and your most cherished thing, delicate and pretty and wholly yours. And I want you to feel the largeness of that, the expansion of your self that comes with enveloping mine. This isn’t just responsibility, in the sense of being responsible for a child, though of course there’s that. But this is bigger than responsibility. I don’t want you to feel anxiety about whether or not you’re doing the right thing, I want you to just know that by treating me with the utmost care and respect and paternalism and delicacy and love and nurturing that you’re automatically doing the right thing.
And I know I haven’t said the word “sex” here at all, but this has everything to do with sex. Nothing and everything.
Thank you, Shanna ;)
As for her fantasy, I want it to come in her words. She says she’s willing to contribute. GUEST POST, PEOPLE. GET READY. Just, not tonight, because it’s 11:15 on a Monday and we have to be up in 7.5 hours.
The other night, I attended a volunteer orientation for the Frameline queer film festival. (You get a voucher to see a film for every volunteer shift you take.) There were probably a hundred fellow volunteers, and most of them were men. But when the volunteer coordinator stepped up to address us, I was surprised – because the volunteer coordinator was a woman. A queer woman. As in, asymmetrical haircut, half a shaved head, totally tatted, hip young San Francisco queer woman. And after a few moments of being surprised, I became perplexed, because after all, it is a queer film festival. So why the surprise at the volunteer coordinator being a queer dyke?
It reminded me of the feeling I got when I first visited my women’s college campus as a junior in high school. Until I visited, I had been pretty vehemently opposed to attending a women’s college. I had thought it would lack diversity (which in retrospect seems laughable). But when I visited, I was suddenly struck – wow, this all exists for the education of women. The male professors and campus police and facilities staff etc., despite being men, were working at an institution that educated women. Women matter! Holy shit! And it dawned on me that it had been so internalized in me that women don’t matter that I was actually surprised and delighted to be confronted with evidence to the contrary.
And I got the same feeling at the very first Dyke March I ever attended in San Francisco, in 2006. I was with my ex-girlfriend at the time, and I remember holding her hand, processing down Valencia, feeling giddy from all the solidarity and empowerment I felt, due in no small part to the fact that there were gay men hanging out of windows, waving rainbow flags and hoisting banners that read “FAGS <3 DYKES” and the like. And I was all, “omg! Gay men love us! They care! Whoaaaaa!”
And somehow I got the same feeling while at this orientation – because here was a group consisting largely of middle-aged-ish white gay men and they were all paying attention to this queer-as-fuck dyke, who, by the way, was absolutely hilarious and cute and rocked her job. I felt somehow vicariously visible. And it struck me again, as it did at my first Dyke March and when I first visited my women’s college, that I’m so accustomed to women being invisible to men in any way that’s not sexual. And it’s so consistently ingrained in women that we’re only useful to men as sexual objects that it surprises me every time I find myself in a situation in which I’m being genuinely appreciated, as a woman (or in which women in general are being genuinely appreciated), by a man for a non-sexual reason. And it makes me wish that it would happen more often. Not just to me, on an individual level, but publicly, and in media, and in culture-at-large.
You see, gay men and gay women are natural “bedmates” (har har).* We are among the few combinations of adult human beings that (in general) have a non-romantic/non-sexual connection. And there’s something really special about this bond, I think, that goes largely ignored. And it’s different from the relationship between gay men and straight women, which, if judging by the connotation lent by the term “fag hag” alone, is largely a mutually objectifying relationship (and, yes, that’s a gross oversimplification, but fag hags are not the topic of this post, and the relationship between gay men/straight women has been addressed again and again elsewhere). Maybe I’ll write about my thoughts on that some other time.
No, the point is, I wish the common bond between gay men and gay women were more acknowledged and respected. When I went to Berlin’s pride celebration in 2007, I was struck by how different it felt from San Francisco’s pride. In San Francisco, there’s Dyke March of course, and then Dykes on Bikes lead the main parade the following day. In Berlin, there’s neither – and without the women-centric portions of the celebration, I realized how gay-male-centric the whole celebration felt and was. Specifically, how middle-to-upper-middle-class-white-gay-male-centric. At the time, I remember having conversations with the folks I went with (a mix of genders and sexual orientations) about how these men were taking up all the “space,” probably without even realizing it. Gay pride parade means gay (male) parade. Gay bar means gay (male) bar. Gay issues are gay (male) issues. Gay white men are the default Gay, just like straight white men are the default Human in our society. And obviously, yes, gay men’s issues are super important. Of course they are. It’s just a matter of gay women’s issues also being important. And being similar, yes, but also largely different. The problem is, though, that there have been so few studies on lesbian/queer women’s issues specifically that we don’t even know what our issues are and what distinguishes them from gay men’s issues. And this, of course, isn’t the fault of gay men individually or even as an entity. It’s the fault of a society that naturalizes maleness as the default human, and that renders women a sub-category of human. (Same goes for queer people of color – their issues are woefully under-studied too, and POC are always just sub-categories of a humanity in which White is default and “normal.”)
So, right, individual gay men are busy taking up their own issues and fighting their own battles and taking care of their own survival, which completely totally makes sense. And yet I think it’s really sad that the bond between gay men and gay women is so often overlooked, or dismissed, or undervalued. I think it has tremendous value, as we are perhaps each other’s best natural allies. Sex and romance doesn’t get in between us, not personally and not in terms of prescribed roles. When I see a gay man, I see someone who both understands what it feels like to be queer in this straight world, and who will relate to me inherently free of any sort of sexual tension or sexual judgment. We understand what it feels like to be otherized. The homophobia we each experience often looks and feels different, sure, but when all is said and done, it’s the same animal. We can learn a lot from each other. I have learned a lot from my gay guy friends, and I count one of them as among the best friendships I have. I hate this phrase, but it just is what it is. There’s nothing underneath, no undercurrents, no invisible social glue that’s trying to glue us together in awkward ways. We just get each other. And I wish this were more typical, not just on an individual level but on a socially recognized level. Because then, maybe I wouldn’t be so surprised by gay men holding “fags <3 dykes” signs, or laughing at a queer gal’s jokes.
Has anyone else felt this way? Or is this peculiar to me? Maybe in other communities, gay guy/gal crossover is much more common. But even if that’s the case, where are our friendships ever portrayed in the media (TV, books, news outlets…)? Right, exactly. Never. And why do I not know a single gay male blogger? Where are they all? I just want to be friends, guys!
What’s your experience?
*In this post, I’m addressing specifically gay cismen and gay ciswomen — and yeah, I know that leaves out a lot of people, including queer but not-gay-identified folks, as well as genderqueer and trans people… Sorry about that, this is just what’s most familiar to me.
So, for those of you who don’t follow me on twitter, you may not know that mi’lady and I hosted a party at my flat on Friday night. In the spirit of not caring about my job, I took the afternoon off of work to prepare (just finger foods and cookies, not dinner thank god). It’s the first time I ever took the hosting controls for something of this scale—we had about 40 people come, and people, my flat is microscopic—and it was stressful but SO much fun. I wish I had pictures, but sadly my camera ran out of batteries after approximately one dismally out-of-focus photo.
On the menu:
- ricotta, parmesan, scallion & black pepper stuffed cherry tomatoes
- spinach, pine nuts & feta stuffed baked mushrooms
- mozzarella, basil & tomato skewers, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt & pepper
- baked pepperjack cheese bites (gluten-free)
- vegan cream cheese, garlic & herb dip
- various assorted crackers
- Acme baguette
- various assorted hummus
- cheese platter
- snowball cookies
- triple chocolate cookies
- gluten-free mint red & green M&M cookies
- friends brought cookies too! candy cane sugar cookies, and peanut butter chocolate chip cookie bars
- mulled wine (we ended up using 8 bottles of red wine!)
- hot toddies, choice of whiskey or brandy (used a full handle of each)
- pumpkin pie martinis (which were… meh)
- eggnog martinis (which were yum!)
- folks also contributed spiced beer (forget the brand) and prosecco
So, we had an abundance of delectables. I did the dry pantry grocery shopping earlier in the week, and the produce shopping the day of. The cookies were all done several days ahead of time and packed in airtight containers to keep them fresh. And then midday on the day of, I sat down with all my plans and made a comprehensive list of what-to-do-in-what-order-and-when. So it looked something like this:
Take spinach out of freezer to thaw.
Prepare ricotta filling and put in refrigerator to chill.
Trim and hollow cherry tomatoes.
. . .
Make cream cheese dip.
. . .
Prepare ingredients for hot drinks and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375F.
. . .
Pop stuffed mushrooms in oven and set timer for 30 mins.
Take stuffed tomatoes and mozzarella skewers out of refrigerator and set out on platter.
There were a lot more directions under each time slot, but that’s just an idea. It was SUCH a good way to plan, because it meant I was left with no ugly surprises or last-minute chaos. I kept pretty much exactly to the schedule. There was a moment of panic around 5:30 when I found out mi’lady wasn’t going to be able to get here until around 7, and she was on playlist duty and still had to put it together so I wouldn’t really be getting any help from her, but that panic subsided when I realized I did, in fact, have it all under control. And she had a legitimate excuse for being held up – it was pissing rain, and she had errands to run (get creme de cacao for the martinis, buy small plates and cups, etc.), so she got a ride from a coworker and was basically at her generous mercy. (Mi’lady also drew a fabulous reindeer for Pin the Red Nose on Rudolf.)
And then the party itself was great fun. We expected to have it go until around midnight and then hit the Mission bars afterward, but some people lingered and we ended up staying in, cleaning up, and dancing to Erykah Badu and then the Nutcracker Suite.
And for about 24 hours I was like “I never want to see the kitchen again” and now it’s Monday evening and I’m at home and I’m all like “hmm, shall I bake some parker rolls? challah? date bread?”
Oh my god, SO BUSY!
1) I’m positively SLAMMED at work this week, and since work is where I usually blog, it’s going to be a slow blogging week.
2) One of my very best friends is coming to visit TODAY from Portland on his way to Taiwan, and he’s staying until SATURDAY! So awesome. Also a hindrance to my blogging. But a good hindrance.
3) I had an amazing time last night in Palo Alto meeting Ellen for the first time in person (Hi Ellen!) and participating in her play reading. So much fun!!! Can we do it again?
4) Mi’lady and I have not been having enough sex lately. We’re just so busy. It’s not cool. We had a quickie on Saturday afternoon, and then a sort of last-minute rushed fuck on Sunday morning before getting up and going about our busy days. We’d WANTED to have all evening Saturday to just take our time and do some playing around with power/control dominance/submission stuff… but then we had to go to her friend’s good-bye party and we were there all night. And now we won’t have another chance until Saturday at the earliest… And it’s not just sex, it’s time. I want to spend time with her, good time, time where we pay attention to each other. I haven’t really been feeling like we’ve had that enough lately. Maybe I’m crazy. I don’t know. Or maybe I’m in the last few days before my period and my hormones are getting wacky and my low Prozac dosage isn’t enough. Whatever it is, something’s off.
I wish I could just be fine.