You're Not Just A Survivor, You're A Badass
CW: rape, graphic descriptions of childhood physical harm
I share deeply intimate details about my life on my personal Facebook Page, despite the fact that maybe only 75% of my Facebook "Friends" are actually people I know in “IRL” & even less are actually people I consider friends (I have a very strict definition of friend, so while there are many people I like & am friendly with, there are very few I consider friends). After seeing my rapist in "an official capacity" at yet another fucking community event, I took to my Facebook page to vent. At the time, I was not using the word "rape" to describe what happened, or "rapist" to describe her. I'd settled on the more palatable word "predator" although it didn't sit well with me. In my post I described in detail what happened the night she raped me & I concluded with several hashtags including #DoIGetToCallHerMyRapist. I didn't realize that I was looking to my community for validation; that I was unable to name what had happened to me by its correct name & that I needed others to give me permission to do so. I got that validation, that permission, in droves.
But what I want to focus on is that after I made a response in that thread thanking my FB fam for their support, I made another response thanking my body.
Part of my confusion about what to call what she did was because my cunt responded to her penetration. That the nerve endings in my vagina felt pleasure rather than pain from being penetrated was the main reason I'd had difficulty calling it rape even though her & I both knew I didn't want to have sex. But after re-reading my post, and re-reading the comments my FB fam made, some stuff started to crystalize for me.
Part of what helped that crystallization is that in the past 7 years or so I have been actively working on the trauma from having my physical boundaries violated as a child. I don't mean sexual trauma. I was in a Ford Pinto (depending on your age & country of origin this may not mean anything to you, but it's a digression I don’t want to get into, so I'm gonna tell you to "Google It"), and the boundaries of my physical self were literally violated (broken bones & burned skin are physical violations). My autonomy over my body was violated as part of the healing process, and I was forced into regimens that caused excruciating pain, sometimes with no pain medication at all (when I read studies that show that in this century some medical professionals actually believe Black people don’t feel pain, & have to wonder if this was part of the reason that pins were unscrewed from my legs without giving me any pain meds, my brain shuts down & I start to see red). As part of working on this trauma I've been doing EMDR. During one of the sessions, I re-lived a dis-association so severe my therapist ended up driving me to the subway rather than letting me wander the streets by myself. But what I recognized was that that dis-association, that dis-embodiment had been my body making sure I would survive. In order to not get overwhelmed by the pain of my burning flesh, or my broken bones, or thoughts of who was living & who was dying & who was already dead, or the fear that I might die; my body shut down everything that made me "me" so that it could divert all resources to my broken legs so that I could climb over my dying Grandmother & get myself out of the burning car. My body made a decision that kept me alive & protected me from unimaginable pain (if I hadn't gotten out of the car I would've burned to death & been conscious for too much of it).
Let me reiterate that. In the literal "heat of the moment", my 9-year-old body made an assessment of damage, made a decision about what could be borne and what could not be borne, and implemented a strategy to ensure I survived. It wasn't worried about collateral damage, it wasn't focused on what the future fallout might be; it was focused on the moment: on protection & survival. I was in tears when that came to me in the session & I am in tears right now as I type this. But while I cry for that poor, poor child, I was/am also struck with awe & gratitude. In awe that my body was able to do this (one of my calves was so broken that it was bent the other way & had to be braced on the back of the police car seat while waiting for the ambulance—I literally cannot fathom how I supported my own weight enough to get out of the car, my body protected me from what must have been excruciating pain) & gratitude that it did so. And I resolved to thank my body, silently & out loud; both alone in my room & publicly on my FB page. My body did what it ultimately is designed to do: protect & survive (there are other jobs the body has, but here I’m focusing on what I consider its “Prime Directive”). Yeah, I've got all manner of fucked up triggers & have difficulty navigating parts of society as a result of surviving, but I survived. Kudos to you, body!
So what does this have to do with my rape? I was finally able to acknowledge that my body had made a snap-second decision. A warning, an assessment, a decision, and an implementation. It recognized I was in danger (lying naked on a massage table while a woman I'd told explicitly 3 times I didn't want to have sex looms over me naked wearing a strap-on is definitely a sign of danger); made an assessment (can we physically enforce the boundaries that’ve been repeatedly stated—I'm deliberately using "we" in this case, because self-defense requires the body and the mind: not only a physical ability, but an emotional/energetic ability, a will to "commit violence" in spite of societal conditioning as girls that says we can’t/won’t/don’t); and made a decision to protect me from the pain of a physical altercation (by freezing) and from the pain of vaginal tears (by producing vaginal lubrication, relaxing my vaginal muscles, and by finding what pleasure it could).
Now the fact is that Rape Culture thrives by calling some actions that are rape "rape" & other actions that are rape "not rape" in the same way that White Supremacy thrives by calling some racist thoughts/behaviors "racist" & other racist thoughts/behaviors "not racist". That is, Rape Culture perpetuates itself by denying that rape happens in a variety of contexts, and by denying that there are societal structures in place that normalize rape & are directly responsible for its insidious ubiquitousness.
And one of the ways Rape Culture does this is by decreeing that rape always hurts:
If there isn't genital pain, it is not rape.
If there are no tissue tears, it wasn't rape.
If you experience any physical pleasure, it is not rape.
If you orgasmed, it wasn't rape.
Another way Rape Culture perpetuates itself is by decreeing what the reaction of the person being raped must be in order to qualify it as rape:
If you didn't say "No" in the moment, it wasn't rape.
If you didn't scream or cry, it wasn't rape.
If you didn't fight, it wasn't rape.
If you didn't try to get away, it wasn't rape.
If you calmly put your clothes back on & said goodbye and left, it wasn't rape.
If you said hello to your rapist the next day, it wasn't rape.
If you are able to enjoy sex with someone else afterward (or ever again), it wasn't rape.
THIS IS ALL BULLSHIT AND ONLY SERVES TO GIVE RAPISTS A PASS & TO ABSOLVE EVERYONE ELSE OF THEIR DENIAL OF & COMPLICITY IN RAPE CULTURE.
(It was rape because I told her several times I didn't want to have sex with her & I meant it. There is no way you can interpret "I don't want to have sex with you" as anything other than "I don't want to have sex with you." So not only did she not get my consent, she deliberately & with forethought did the direct opposite of what she knew I wanted. She decided what she wanted was more important than what I wanted. She knew I didn't want to have sex & she made the decision to insert her dildo into my vagina anyway. That is what makes it rape.)
These false decrees also deny the sovereignty of the body, deny the wisdom of the body, deny the great power of the body. In situations of peril, the body has one goal: survive. Whatever the decision your body made, it was an informed decision. Whatever ultimately happened, whether your rapist was foiled or succeeded in their attempt to rape you; your body was still doing its job the best way it knew how with all the tools it had at its disposal. Your body was not worrying about your rapist or pissant rape apologists trying to gaslight you later. Your body wasn't thinking how the inherent misogyny of Rape Culture would turn your Protection Protocol into evidence against you. Your body wasn’t weighing how its decision might impact your future romantic, sexual, filial relationships. Your body wasn’t concerned with whether or not you might start doubting your decision-making ability or intuition in the future. YOUR BODY, MY BODY WAS JUST TRYING TO SURVIVE. Whatever ultimately happened, as it was happening my/your body was still trying to protect you/me, to spare me/you further pain, to make sure you/I survived. Can you acknowledge that? Can you thank your body for that?
Warriors protect & serve. They are often portrayed just as “great fighters”, but what differentiates a fighter from a warrior is a warrior has a goal, and a strategy to achieve that goal. A warrior has their eye on the future & is completely focused on what must be done now to secure that future; & is able to ignore any & all distractions that might prevent them from doing so. So sometimes being a warrior means fighting & sometimes being a warrior means retreat & sometimes being a warrior means submitting. Can you acknowledge that whatever your body did in that moment, that you were being a badass warrior? Can you acknowledge that whatever you did to get through the next minutes afterward, the next hours afterward, the next day afterward to get to a place of (relative) safety (if you had one), you were still Taking Care of Business Like A Badass?
When we take in & let ourselves believe the lie that it wasn't rape because we didn't fight or because we felt pleasure in our genitals, or because we spoke to our rapist civilly afterwards; we end up divided against our Self, letting society place another obstacle in our path to healing. When we believe those lies, we deny our own inherent power to make & carry out decisions that lead ultimately to our survival.
(It’s so so challenging to buck conditioning, to keep your mind from believing things your body knows isn’t true. If you believed those lies, can you be gentle with yourself about it? Can you not place more blame/shame on yourself? Can you still focus on the fact that you survived?)
I invite you to thank your body for doing what it had to do to make sure you survived, that you are still here on this planet living & loving & thriving, & giving some lucky bastards the opportunity to know you for the badass you are.
Say it with me: "Thank you, Body." Force it out through tears, through snot, through clenched teeth if you must, but can you say it with me, beloved?
"Thank you, Body. Thank you for making sure I survived."