As I’m about to get into this I realize that some readers may disagree about how I have categorized this person: Rapist. I’m sure that he also carries out many other nicer-sounding roles for other people, but to me he is the one who clearly crossed a sexual boundary that I had not consented to having broken.
Also, I am not writing this to accuse any individual, and I’m not writing this so readers will feel bad for me.
I am writing this to say it. It needs to come out, and be read, I think. It speaks to the dynamics of the sexual culture I grew up in, and have carried with me in my interactions with men. My story is merely an instance of a much larger dynamic involving many people. You may relate with my story or reject it, but read it and let me know what you think (if you’d like to share something in the comments…).
The meeting happened around a group road trip organized by a friend from yoga. During the fun trip we all did a lot of spiritual things like participating in sweat lodge ceremonies and walking in the woods. We all shared some deep stuff. The guy asked me privately if I had thought about having children. It seemed like a serious question. I was in the latter part of my mid-thirties. I believed that if I was going to have a child that I might have to hurry up! (Notice how I don’t say if I want to, I just state the cultural expectation.)
It all seems kind of stupid looking back on it, but we were inhabiting a mind space that permitted miracles and signs. People could find healing in nature. Maybe I could find the perfect guy there, too!
It seemed that I had met someone my age who was super-interesting, caring, hot and knew all the words to Prince songs (like I do).
– When Doves Cry (Prince video link.)
It was fun! I had never met a guy who could sing all those songs before! My inner teenager was thrilled.
I now see that the road trip allowed a kind of magical space where we could enjoy each other very simply and easily. Back home things were really different.
We saw each other a few times. I invited him into my apartment. We fooled around. Clothes came off. I said that I would like to use a condom.
He said, “Let’s just see what this feels like.”
And my life changed as he shoved his naked enormous-feeling penis into my vagina. I wasn’t excited or turned on at that point. I was overwhelmed. The imaginary world where boyfriends cared about what I thought and wanted was shattered. And I still wanted to please him, or at least I was going through those motions. I’m really not sure where “I” was at that point. I seemed to be watching the scenario from above, and feel a bit sick when I think about it. When he finally pulled it out of me, and I came back to my body I felt my pelvic floor sag in despair. “I will never be the same again,” I thought to myself. I literally felt as though my body had been ruined, overstretched by that enormous-feeling body part.
I now know that perception not to be true, but I was deeply sad. I had let someone into my life and had made the wrong call.
Some time later—I think it was at least a month—he called and wanted to come over to my place again. I remember saying “no” several times and in several ways.
He said, “I’m coming over.”
I heard this horrible sound come out of me as I said or screamed/squealed at the phone: No! It was sort of an animal shriek.
This time he said, “Okay.”
And that’s it. It was over.
When I think about the alien sound that came out: pure terror, I realize that there was wisdom somewhere inside me. Some part of me knew the truth about how I felt about it, but I had been socialized to be polite and accommodating to men who I saw as potential mates. I would step aside and allow the guy to take charge and guide the flow in a lot of ways. I would power-down to create space for him to power-up.
Yes Means Yes! Visions Of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape by Jaclyn Friedman & Jessica Valenti clarifies the question of consent quite nicely. It is appropriate to go forward with sex only when the people involved enthusiastically want to. And if someone changes their mind in the middle: it stops. The title Yes Means Yes! refers to an uncoerced and joyful yes-saying. I really think that every person should read this book that holds that authentic, consensual sexual pleasure is worth fighting for across genders, within genders, and supportive of a full range of gender and sexual expression.
According to the worldview expressed in this book, I was clearly raped in my own apartment by someone I knew. According to other perspectives I might have been “asking for it” by letting him in. Or perhaps some people would notice that I didn’t appear to fight back sufficiently—so the default would be that I really wanted it. There are endless ways to pick apart my behavior and choices. Some might even call me “lucky” for “getting some.”
But I can tell you that this interaction hurt my relationship with myself, including my confidence, self-trust and my ability to trust others. I see it as an effect of countless actions and expectations on my part, a lot of which were dictated by this culture which is sick when it comes to visions of how people should behave with one another, especially sexually. I don’t claim to have the answer, but I am committed to discovering better ways together with people I am in contact with.
This scenario happened some time before I took my first Female Pelvic Floor Yoga workshop with Leslie Howard. And it was there in the workshop with Leslie that I truly started the process of befriending my pelvis after this trauma. So you might imagine how working with the pelvis in yoga can be a very rich and powerful journey.