Every Guy’s Nightmare: Rape Rape

EVERY GUY’S NIGHTMARE: RAPE RAPE

 

THE INCIDENT

Summer 2004. I tell him he can sleep over if it gets late. We’re old friends from high school. I haven’t seen him in a few years. He lives in the Bronx which is a long hall from the East Village where we are hanging out at a friend of a friend’s place. Especially temporally distant late at night with the after hours weekend subway schedule. It gets late. As it does when you are young and drinking.

In my bedroom I point to the respective beds where we are sleeping: he in the bed bed along the long wall, me on the mattress on the floor against the sliding door wall. He asks if we can sleep together. I say separately. I check if he needs anything, say goodnight, crawl onto my mattress, and fall soundly asleep. An undisclosed amount of time later, he shoves me over into my wall and asks if he can sleep in me bed, “Is this okay?” I grunt, which he takes as a yes, and I am too out of it to protest. An undisclosed amount of time after that, I wake up to a sharp pain. I look up and see my limp limbs. Except I’m not sure I see them with my eyes because it is dark. He’s shoving himself inside me. I fall in and out of consciousness. It’s hard to string a complete thought together. I know only this: This. Is. Rape. I’m not sure where I am. In my living room? Someone else’s apartment? Like I said, it is dark. I don’t think he’s holding me down but my body is limp. I might be able to leave if I knew where I was but as is I have no idea where to escape to. I have to pee but am uncertain if I could locate the bathroom. And the biggest problem is that I can’t seem to figure out how to stand up. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had a surreal experience where you are walking through the snow or some other uncharted terrain and temporarily forget how physics work because the mechanics of doing ordinary things are suddenly so different. Hiking up a snowy hill through the crunch of the woods when you are storybook high? Well, I am hopelessly confused by the fact that I’m lying on something soft that I appear to be sinking into, yet I have to push down to get myself up. It seems counterintuitive. With all the confusion, I keep fading in and out. In retrospect, I’m not sure if it is because I’m drunk or because I’m being raped: I freeze in place, as people do when they are raped. Except that I don’t tune out more and more, I gradually gain consciousness and usage of my limbs. By that time he is done. Has removed himself from me. I guess he’s back in the bed I directed him to at the beginning of the evening. Because I don’t remember any more contact that night. I don’t remember much. Whether he came, whether he used a condom. I only remember the sharp pain when he entered me, seeing myself as a pile of limp limbs from a distance like I was in a movie hovering over myself. Speaking of which, Larry Clark’s movie Kids was hard to watch for years afterwards. I mean, that movie is fucking hard for anyone to watch, irrespective of personal history. It’s no feel good summer flick. But I see myself in that girl as she’s getting raped. I am that girl except for the HIV. I could be that girl. I don’t know whether he used a condom. I looked in the garbage can afterwards, as part of my rape post-mortem, and there was nary a wrapper in sight.

I remember the rest of the summer in snipbits, much like the rape itself. The next morning he was still there. I told him I was meeting my best guy friend Danny for pizza. Which was true. Also an attempt to get rid of him. But he wouldn’t budge. Invited himself. I know a lot of people analyze what happens directly following an alleged rape to determine whether rape occurred. Before I ever watched Madmen, I read comments on feminist fora about whether Joan could have been raped by her husband. First of all, because she voluntarily had sex with him most of the time. Second, because she went out to dinner with him directly afterwards. I’m not a spokesperson for rape and I don’t think I represent every female or male victim’s experience, but I will say this: What happened subsequent to the depiction of Joan’s rape seems very prototypical to me. When people are raped, they go about their daily lives. It isn’t like attending a funeral. The world doesn’t stop for you. So the next day, I had pizza with my rapist and my best guy friend. It was like any pizza eating when you are a little hungover but not so hungover because you are only 20 and can bounce back easily. Resilience. What else was I supposed to do? Accuse him of rape and tell him to get the fuck out of my apartment? It seemed like that could only escalate an already awful situation. He was unpredictable and I didn’t trust him. My feelings about the situation were fledgling and already confused. I didn’t need his input to influence me. You know the old phrase “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Though I’m not one for misplaced politeness, I figured anything I could possibly say would only make things contentious, and then I might say anything to get the awfulness to stop. I might even end up apologizing.

Either later that day or the next day I took a shower. Woah, a shower. Exactly what you are told not to do after you get raped. I’ve had the all-girls school, liberal, privileged, pseudo-feminist education. I know the protocol. I’m also not a social justice hermit and know that you don’t report rape to get someone convicted. You report rape only if you are brave or and idealist and you believe telling your story will make you feel more powerful or righteous regardless of outcome. You report rape only if you believe it will not destroy you to be socially ostracized, called a liar, a slut. In the best case scenario kind people might call you naïve. I did not want to be one of these people. I did not feel there was any benefit to telling a traumatic story that would not be heard. It was he-said she-said. I was not a credible witness. I was a slut and intoxicated. Who would believe me?

Even worse, I was living with my parents at the time. I had no money, no institutionalized power. I was certain that my mother would be concerned, as she should have been, but that her maternal instincts would manifest in her telling me I should be more careful, not get so drunk. Which is true. Like many people, female or male, when I was 20 I got dangerously drunk. I should not have drank that much because it is unsafe for your body, not because I should have assumed a friend would violate me while I was incapacitated. Maybe I’m underestimating my mom. It’s unfair for me to assume. After all, soon after she graduated from law school she threw a house party and invited a fellow lawyer; he asked took two of the women he met that night out on dates and raped them both. I doubt my mother would have said, “You should have known better.” But my reticence does go to show that we live in a society where women are afraid enough that they will be held responsible for their rapes that they do not even feel safe telling their liberal, Second Wave Feminist mothers. There is another strange dimension to my rape that I feel uncomfortable sharing. He is Black. Anyone who has taken a Women’s Studies class (or dropped one and read all the books in her free time) has been exposed to the travesty that is Katie Roiphe’s The Morning After. Let me summarize it for you: women cry rape when they have regrettable sex. Moreover, anyone who has graduated from middle school has read Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird. I didn’t think I’d be believed because he was Black. I mean, not exactly. I knew it wasn’t Alabama in the 1930’s. I think what I mean is I didn’t want to accuse a Black man because it is already so horrible that Black men are considered sexual predators and criminals in general. Also, my mother knew and liked the guy. She thought he was bright and charismatic (he was) and would make a great politician. Though it made her uncomfortable that he addressed her as “ma’am,” as if she were a librarian in the Old South. A few years after the incident she inquired as to what ever happened to him. I said I didn’t know. Which is not a lie. Never have I ever been tempted to look him up. He’s dead to me.

Back to the shower. I can visualize it. The location and the instance. The toy I usually fucked in it: a royal blue Fun Factory dildo that I still own. For about a year I lived in the apartment across for where I currently live, on the other side of my parents’ apartment. The cord to the detachable showerhead was a little too short, the pulse not quite right. I felt like I couldn’t request another showerhead without an explanation. So I used to make excuses to masturbate in my parents’ shower, my childhood refuge. Not verbal excuses. I would do a bunch of unrelated things in my parents’ apartment—like buying a bottle of Coca Cola to disguise a box of condoms—then would casually announce that I was taking a shower. No one ever questioned me. Even though I had my own ostensibly functional shower right next door. Which isn’t to say that they didn’t know. Only that if they did, they did parenting right. And deserve high fives, with non-cummy hands! So the shower in my apartment was mostly a disappointment. And also where I washed off rape. So it has some significance. Here is what a post-rape shower feels like: excruciating. It’s bizarre to run your hands over a body that is no longer yours, doesn’t belong to you, has been places of which you are not aware. Your body, the stranger. My body, the stranger. See how I put that in the second-person, the first time?

 

DISCLOSURE

It wasn’t a secret, exactly. Sexual assault for college-aged women is ubiquitous to the point of being a cliché: a rite of passage. Later that summer, I told my best guy friend Danny. Asked him if he remembered that guy we had pizza with. It’s like September 11th if you are my age or JFK’s assassination if you are an Old: I’ll always remember where I was when I told him about my rape. Wandering around in my neighborhood, near Blockbuster when VHS still existed as the viewing medium de jour for commonfolk and not some hipster delicacy. He did the right thing: he listened. Which might sound obvious. But it shouldn’t be. Or, at least, it isn’t. In 2010 when I got raped again, I shared with my close guy friend Parker, and he got all machismo on me. I’m not trying to hate on Parker. I know he cares about me and just reacted viscerally. I can imagine feeling defensive when you are a big dude and your little, pretty, usually kick-ass lady friend tells you about being violated by some disgusting skinny long-haired shit who follows Phish around, makes a living selling wire jewelry and whatever you mechanically do to pot to make it saleable, has profound revelations at Shamanic ceremonies that he should eat raw, and feels emotionally unbalanced (feng shui?) when paintings aren’t hung exactly even. But it wasn’t very helpful when he inquired about sending his people in San Francisco to fuck that guy up. It made the experience about the guy and not how it fucked me up, when I really needed to be attended to. I needed to vent about how scary and shocking it is to be raped. How it shatters your worldview, specifically your trust in people and ownership over your body. How you feel feeble and defenseless. How you feel like a woman. For the first time. Since the last time you walked down the street and were treated like a walking vagina. We made out on my cousin’s porch later that evening, Parker and I.

There were other revelations around the time of my first rape (that sounds like a Fischer Price toy, somehow). First, when my best female friend got home from a summer abroad. I have no recollection of that conversation, whether it took place in person or over the phone. Then, there was college. I played Truth or Dare with a group of people I had recently met, a girl who eventually got involved in Women’s Studies initiatives around campus and two guys. I was asked how many guys I had had sex with. Not how many penises had entered my vagina. But I clarified whether rape counted. They were nice about it. Later I made out with one of the guys; he had lesbian mothers and was the sweet silent type. Since then I have never included my rapist in my number because I feel like having sex is an active thing and I was certainly not an active participant. Lastly, mid-year I went to the campus health care center to get tested. Which I had done routinely numerous times over the course of my sexual history, to very little hoopla. The precipitating factor was that I was involved with a man and I didn’t want to put him at risk, even though he refused to get tested so we continued using protection against either of our wishes. It’s sort of fucked up that I wouldn’t take precautions for my own health, but when something like that happens you’d rather not know. It wasn’t like there was anything I could do about it anyway (this is before PEP became available to the public). Besides, HIV can take 3 months to seroconvert and show up on antibody tests so it seemed kind of pointless to get tested immediately. The nurse or nurse practitioner or whoever did my intake interview asked me why I wanted to get tested. I could have said anything. Because I was unsafe (which would have been untrue). For peace of mind (which would have been true). Because I think every sexually active, non-monogamous person should get tested periodically (also true, though too moralistic for my taste). Instead, I told the truth: Because I got raped and I’m not sure if he used protection.

A decade later, I’m not sure who did my interview. I don’t remember her name or title or face. But I’d like to give her a long-distance, digital hug. She dealt with me so calmly. Not that I expected her to freak. After all, I’ve visited Santa and told him I wanted my parents to get divorced. I’ve visited Santa and told him I wanted to get a breast reduction. These people are well trained. Or jaded. Going to a campus health center and saying you got raped is probably less scandalous than saying you had Chinese food for lunch. There are women lined up at campus health centers for this very reason. And that might be the one place they are uniformly believed. Because we have nothing to gain with disclosure. No social desirability, that’s for sure. There are no high fives for rape, and for the most part nurses don’t give a shit about the whereabouts of your vagina nor your vagina’s intentions. The year before I arrived at Reed College, there was an outbreak of crabs on one floor of a dorm. They’ve seen it all. Besides remaining very calm, the medical professional asked me some routine questions. Mostly logistical. Whether I currently felt unsafe or threatened. Whether I had gotten counseling. Whether I wanted counseling. And that is the part for which I think she deserves a hug. I told her I didn’t think I needed it: I had been with many guys voluntarily; I had good guy friends; I didn’t think guys were creeps; I was okay. And she believed me. She shouldn’t have. Because I was wrong. I wasn’t okay. But she treated me like a rational adult who was capable of making decisions. Rape is at its core a wholly disempowering experience, and if there was one thing that empowered me it was that medical professional treated me like I was a competent, functional human being. Like I wasn’t irrevocably ruined. Could you imagine how much worse it would have been if she told me I didn’t know what I needed?

 

THOUGHTS V. FEELINGS

When I think of the ravages of abuse, I think of my best friend growing up: Tina. I give her that name because of Thora Birch’s character in Now and Then. Her father was an abusive alcoholic and everybody knew but there was so little we could do. Like many people who are physically abused, she was additionally broken down mentally. He told her she had provoked him, she was an embarrassment, the ultimate disrespect was talking about your family matters in public. She was made to cook and clean as if she was the hired help (which they had), yet nothing she did was ever good enough. When I came over, he praised me in front of her, said he wished she could have been more like me: I had good grades and good posture. It wasn’t flattering or edifying; it was humiliating. The worst part: she depended on him for affection and approval. It was hard being in her 7th grade English class when we read The House on Mango Street, aloud: “Sally was going to get permission to stay with us… And would’ve stayed too except when the dark came her father, whose eyes were little from crying, knocked on the door and said please come back, this is the last time. And she said daddy and went home.” It was hard when her father came home with glazed, bloodshot, mosaic shards of eyes and broken English slurred out of his quivering, dictatorial lips. He thanked me for keeping his daughter company, told me it was time to go home. I wanted to tell him I refused to leave her alone with him like that; I wasn’t the dutiful daughter he thought I was. What are you gonna do, punch me? I wanted to tell him how lucky he was to have her; that he was the embarrassment. I wanted to tell him that we all knew. But I was afraid that he’d take her away from me. I wanted to take one punch for her to show her it wasn’t her. It was hard when we whispered truths at sleepovers, only in the literal dark. Her bravado inverted and she shrank from a radiant beam into a sullen, sad girl. She didn’t like for us to see her like that. She preferred to craft an elaborate fantasy life that others would call lies. To mastermind our reactions by making up appalling and shocking stories: “Once I blew a heroin addict without protection.” Like when Roberta in Now and Then pretends to be unconscious in the lake. She dared us to jump in after her, to be scared for her but never sad for her. Who knows if acknowledging her pain enabled her to act out, enabled her to act. She was mesmerizing. I remember the way she pulled her silky hair back into a hair tie, the scent of the soap her housekeeper placed in her stacks of Bonpoint shirts, how doll-like she looked when she slept, what her hot breath felt like against me, and her precocious fascination with makeup. He was smart enough never to hit her porcelain face, and by the time we were in high school it became murky. As the ultimate fuck you to her parents, she ran off from the marble floors of luxury to the grimy alleyways of the UES with low class delivery boys, and then the origins of her bruises were unknown.

When I think of how we couldn’t resuscitate her, no matter how far we jumped in after her, I think of the movie Good Will Hunting. From my memory, Robin Williams’s character tells Matt Damon’s character, “It’s not your fault.” And Matt keeps brushing it off curtly, “I know,” not really internalizing it. After a bunch of repetitions there is an emotional breakthough and they hug it out. As a young kid, Tina didn’t intellectually understand that she was being abused. In fact, that’s how we first found out. She made some offhand comment in art class (I wasn’t there; this is a second- or even third-hand account): “You know that look your dad gets in his eyes before he hits you?” And my classmates didn’t know because we were too old to still be spanked. So another kid reported it. After a while, she realized her family was not like everyone else’s, and not just because they were foreign and she was adopted. But as much as she intellectually knew that she had been dealt a shitty hand and had to deal with shit that other kids didn’t, she was never able to internalize that it wasn’t her fault. When the people you depend on for basic confidence as well as physical survival constantly undermine you, you start acting out and giving them a real reason to think you are a bad seed, and by then it is obfuscated who I no good. To anyone outside the situation, accountability is obvious; adults should be adults. But like Sally, she still said “Daddy.”

As overbearing as my mother was and as absent as my father was, they never physically or sexually abused me. Up until at least age ten, I had a firm foundation. My sexual education was flawed in many ways and my mom instilled some bad messages in me, but she did teach me the difference between a good touch and a bad touch. So when I was raped I knew it was not my fault. I knew I didn’t provoke it. I knew I didn’t deserve it. Because of my firm foundation, I believed that, unlike Tina, I both intellectually and emotionally understood these things. I thought I was better. I thought I was smarter. I thought I was stronger. I thought that the assault wouldn’t alter me because it had nothing to do with me.

I credit the feminism movement for my sexual development: my values helped me grow into a well-adjusted, confident, and resilient woman in a society that does everything to rob women of their sexual agency. Feminism taught me to set my boundaries and express my desires (sadly, in that order). Unfortunately, it furnished me with unreasonable expectations that ended up being of disservice when it came to coping with my rape. I believed that my values would insulate me from the effects of rape; that rape is only traumatic if you believe a woman’s value is her body and the debasement of her body renders her irrevocably ruined. After being raped, I felt helpless, filthy, scared, and foolish. Worst of all, I felt silly for feeling all these things when all I should feel was anger. I wondered why all these years I had been taught to distrust strangers when it happened in my own apartment at the hands of someone even my mother liked. In my own bed that I did not recognize before I did not recognize my defiled body disembodied. I thought of all the what ifs: What if I didn’t get so drunk? What if I told him to stop once I was conscious of what was transpiring? What if my friend we were hanging out with earlier that night let me sleep on his friend’s floor when I told him I was too drunk to go home? I wondered, Why me? I wondered, Why him? I’ve been drunk and alone with other male friends and they have not raped me. I wondered how someone I trusted could do this to me. HOW COULD HE DO THIS TO ME? I considered how I could naively assume that we were equals when in fact he had power over me on account of having a penis and being physically larger.

I guess what I’m saying is that I needed someone to tell me that it’s okay to feel fucked up about rape. That you are entitled to feel helpless, filthy, scared, foolish, and anything else. Because even if you are strong and even if your head is screwed on straight, rape is a profoundly disorienting experience. And it isn’t something you can ever make sense of. It isn’t an intellectual concept.

 

TRAJECTORIES

In discussing casual sex, Clarisse Thorn reposted an image with the quotation “I sleep around because I WANT to devalue sex. That way, I can devalue being raped.”

Like Clarisse, I experienced reading that as a punch to the stomach. It makes me sad and nauseated to think that someone would fuck everything to make rape mean less in comparison, but maybe it’s not as sad as how I coped: by withdrawing. By becoming protective of my body and staving off pleasure. Which sounds obvious. Common, even. But it takes a lot to make me lose interest in my vagina. Pro-tip: chemo and steroids also work wonders. Maybe rape is a wake-up call no matter who you are, and the automatic reaction is to do the opposite of whatever you’ve been doing. As if what you’ve been doing is the problem and pretending it is gives you s semblance of control. The thing is, I couldn’t fuck everything to prove that sex was meaningless; I had already fucked everything. Suddenly sex had a meaning. And I didn’t know how to manage it.

As if there was no reason to be overly careful or sensitive—sex was just a game I cold play, like a sport—where the worst that could happen if I screwed up was a skinned knee. I wish that there had been acknowledgment of the fact that we can really hurt ourselves, and others, when we’re cavalier about sex…

—Clarisse Thorn, Liberal, Sex-Positive Sex Education: What’s Missing, The S&M Feminist

For the rest of the summer, I made sure I didn’t have any sexual encounters while drunk. One night I let my ex-boyfriend’s best friend sleep over because he lived far out in Queens. I explained to him that I would be interested under ordinary circumstances but I was being careful with my body while drunk because of something bad that had happened. He was respectful and we stayed up all night talking. When we finally tucked ourselves into separate beds, he jerked off under the covers. Which TOTALLY turned me on and I contemplated reneging on my resistance, “Just kidding, let’s fuck!” Instead, I joined him in the illicit blanket masturbation racket. Quite suddenly I saw him cup his spare hand over his dick and I jutted my head forward with wide eyes and mouth agape to catch the cock confetti show. Even more suddenly I inadvertently put an end to the proceedings. He played dead. Surreptitious sexytimes over. I was devastated.

That year I vowed to not have casual sex. I wanted a relationship. Specifically, I wanted a man who cared about my body but had no idea how to bring by desire to fruition. I naively believed commitment in the form of monogamy to be the cornerstone of care; as a result, intimacy, affection, and selflessness fell by the wayside.

I wasted my junior year of college chasing after a man who was gay and additionally a bad person. He treated me terribly, refusing to acknowledge me in public or let me meet his friends, who, as it turns out, believed he was gay. He found my objectively attractive body uncompelling, touched me only begrudgingly, was unable to put his penis inside my vagina, and acted as if my sexual needs were grotesque in both type and proportion. It was the ultimate I don’t care about your body. I felt undesirable, he felt inadequate, he blamed me for pressuring him, I implored him to take the initiative, and in sum it was a shame spiral of resentment. Every attempted encounter became a referendum on masculinity. I didn’t want to encroach upon his; I just wanted to touch his manhood. Quite literally I did not want to wear the pants in the relationship. He insisted I keep them on as he bent me over and envisioned me as someone I was not. I’ve always wondered whether my large labia look like balls when I’m bent over! I think of Jaclyn Friedman’s piece On Sex & Compromise when I recall that relationship and realize that I could never be in a libido-mismatched relationship again. Maybe it takes an extremely secure woman to concede being an object of desire in a society that prescribed that role; maybe it takes someone who craves sex less. While I believe in coincidence and don’t think everything happens for a reason in a religious sense, I think it’s no accident that during the year I was seeking to protect my body, I found a guy who was wholly uninterested in it and unable to protect me emotionally. It taught me that caring about someone sexually goes beyond not violating her; it encompasses attending to her needs and stepping down if you are unable to attend to them and actually care about her well-being. Moreover, it includes not shaming her for wanting what you can’t give her. The way I was treated inhibited me from seeking someone who could please me; he played on gender stereotypes, rejecting me for being overly “needy.” I assumed anyone else would find me equally demanding and repulsive. Worried I might be insatiable, I felt increasingly alienated from my body. This is going to sound like SUCH a liberal arts college cliché but I don’t think I really experienced pleasure again and felt good about my sexuality until I was with a woman.

While my immediate response to rape was to close for business, the cumulative effect was to make me more sexually careless or carefree. It wasn’t that I wanted to fuck haplessly to devalue sex. Just that being raped by friends made it easier to fuck strangers. It erased my fear of physical harm and scruples about societal judgment. It’s like an extreme version of that Gossip Girl exchange:

Dan: You’ll really go out with some guy you don’t know.

Serena: Well, you can’t be worse than the guys I do know.

Ironically, through rape came liberation. When there’s nothing left to lose, anything’s possible. And some of the strangers were instrumental to restoring my faith in humanity.

I think I explain it best in this message to a guy I had been corresponding with for a while and hadn’t yet met:

I was kidding about being cut into person-pie pieces. My fears about strange men being violent are minimal. 1) on a academic level, I understand that almost all male-on-woman violence (rape, assault, murder) is perpetrated by an intimate partner or someone the woman trusted. 2) on a personal level, I’ve invited numerous strangers or loose acquaintances over with casual expectations, and for the most part they’ve been polite, respectful of my physical boundaries, and interested in pleasing me. experiences where people have offended, pressured, or violated me are an aberration not the norm. 3) I generally assume that men and women want the same thing (sex and companionship). So I don’t go into dating situations assuming things will be adversarial and I will have to be manipulative or defensive.

 

RECLAMATION

Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for. Prepare to drop your jaws but not your drawers.

That fateful summer I lost an interest in touching myself. My body seemed like such fraught territory. It seemed like territory, something someone could stick a flag in; not a living, breathing, dynamic part of me. When I was in the shower, I had flashbacks to THE shower.

Over the preceding few months I had developed a fascination with clit (hood) piercings. Spent evenings searching for pictures of them. I wouldn’t say I got off to them, per se, because I don’t really masturbate to photographs. But my interest was sexual, not aesthetic. I figured if looking at pictures could turn me on so much, perhaps having my very own would be even more exciting. For my 18th birthday I did a sex tour of Alphabet City and the LES: got my left nipple pierced at Venus Body Arts and bought baby’s first toys at Toys in Babeland (now Babeland). I knew I could handle the piercing, yet was hesitant for obvious reasons. If you are grabbing your genitals in sympathy pains reading this, that is how I felt. I want to be a gynecologist and I almost passed out watching the How Babies Are Born video in human sexuality class in college. Plus, clit seemed more extreme than nipple in terms of functionality. Masturbating happens whether you like it or not, and I couldn’t figure out how I’d hold off while my very fun, novel, built-in toy healed.

With my newfound repulsion toward my body, I figured now was the time to go for it. I viewed getting the piercing—approximately a month after my rape—as an act of reclamation. I was reclaiming my desecrated body as a site of desire and pleasure.

I lasted just under two weeks before I played with it. I got stupid stoned with a guy friend and locked myself in the bathroom for so long that he knocked on the door to ask if I was okay. I’m doing awesome! A week later, I masturbated to orgasm for the first time. When I’m stoned, I can touch myself basically forever without getting off—which is sort of a problem. Of course, the more you play with it during the healing process, the longer it takes to heal. It was such a shiny new toy and fuck impulse control! I’ll pre-empt all the questions about what it felt like. No, I did not walk around aroused all the time. Though walking up the hill from class to my dorm was something! I’d say that with the piercing in my clit got harder faster or I was more aware of it being engorged, but when it was time to orgasm it sort of got in the way. This is going to sound like a movie plot: I finally removed it years later when I had a boyfriend who deeply cared about my body. He was the first man who ever truly satisfied me.

 

LETTING IT DEFINE YOU

In fall 2011, my postbac classmate Patrick picked me up in his car and drove me to class. We weren’t friends, exactly, but I certainly respected him intellectually and ethically. On our drive, he told me he was interested in rape. I think he might have phrased it that clumsily, though I knew what he meant. I was considered an authority on sex and gender issues: even if my expertise in a particular area was lacking, I was enough of a dilettante to direct people to useful resources. He asked if I had any reading recommendations and I said I didn’t know exactly what he was looking for, but I had written two papers in grad school covering certain factors that contribute to rape and he was welcome to either read my papers or look at the bibliographies. He said, actually, he wasn’t interested in studies about rapists so much as first-person accounts of survivors. Oh. I recalibrated and suggested Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape—a diverse compilation of personal essays edited by two of my favorite feminist writers, Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman. If he was interested, he should remind me to pick up my copy next time I went home to New York. We reached our destination and our conversation concluded.

Until a few weeks later when we and other postbacs were scattered throughout a house where some of us lived. The topic resurfaced and I elaborated some more on the book. After giving it general accolades I added: “I read it after I was raped [for the second time, in December 2010]. It really helped me process my feelings and put things into perspective.” Patrick was surprised by my admission and thanked me for sharing. I think I’ve mentioned this before on my blog, I’ve internalized the perspective of “Don’t show it, but don’t hide it,” which originated from my middle school classmate’s sage advice on how to display self-mutilation cuts at inter-school dances, but which applies to many situations that one might encounter beyond middle school. This was a don’t show it but don’t hide it moment because my postbac classmates were on the periphery and while I wasn’t especially interested in having a campfire moment and sharing my rape story with an audience, it didn’t seem quite right to tell Patrick that I’d prefer to talk in private because I’m not ashamed of what happened and anyone who wants to listen respectfully is welcome to. My classmate Jenny overheard and chimed in, “I’m sorry to hear that happened; I didn’t know that about you.” I think it’s always appropriate to express condolences when someone tells you something indisputably bad happened to them. But the second part kind of irked me. Because why would you know that about me? I don’t go around with a red R on my head. There is no one way a rape victim looks. The first time it happened was nearly a decade ago. I’ve had numerous other sexual experiences that have contributed to my development, some good some bad. It isn’t something that I think about every day. Or even every time I get naked with a guy. In fact I doubt I’ve ever actively thought about it during a consensual sexual experience. Except maybe directly after the incident.

I told Patrick it wasn’t meant to be a secret, though there were reasons to conceal besides fear of social ostracism or vindication. By way of the third paragraph of the following story, I explained a good reason to avoid disclosure.

During my year in between grad school and postbac, I spent a lot of time partying with the Burning Man community. In case you are wondering why, I was lonely and lost and at any given time I could always find someone from the scene who was down to hang and turn the evening into the morning. I like staying up late, dancing, and bright colors. Also, at that point I was trying desperately not to have random sex. It might seem counterintuitive that I would immerse myself in a group that is obnoxiously emphatic about sex, but I actually found the performative aspect so repellent that it kept me at bay. Mostly, though, the scene is so overtly sexual that you can get casually fingered on a dance floor, run away when you can no longer handle it, and dance it off or wank at home. I know, I know, it’s ridiculous, but it kept me afloat while reducing my risk for making what I perceived to be a mistake. It was a safe place to dance, safe place to share physical affection, and safe place to explore limited sexual stimulation. In case you put two and two together, this is approximately the time period during which I discontinued blogging. There are various explanations, one being that I was embarrassed because I felt like I was cheating. Getting fingered while you are trying not to fuck is like going to an NA meeting and claiming sobriety because heroin is your drug of choice but you are only doing cocaine.

The thing with subcultures is that norms tend to be enforced more stringently than in the mainstream culture. It’s like that pin they used to sell at Ricky’s in the ‘90s: “Why do all the non-conformists look the same?” To pledge your allegiance to the underworld, you must be promiscuous and/or polyamorous. Otherwise you are a member of the default world, woefully repressed, and leading a life unexamined. Seriously, members of the community use snobbish, condescending terms like “default world” to distinguish themselves as enlightened individuals who are where they are as a result of conscious choices they made. To me, they are sparkly sheep. To them, anyone not spreading the herps is a total dweeb. Bring on the pocket protector! For once, I get to be a prissy, prude, pretty princess! I found their ignorance hopelessly amusing and did not do anything to correct their outlandish assumptions about me. In fact, one of the first girls I met took me under her wing as a sexual charity case—a project. I tried to explain that I was actively abstaining from random sex. I think she believed I did not know how to get laid but was embarrassed to admit my incompetence. Who’s naïve, now?

One weekend I had the misfortune of being stuck with two idiots on a long car ride home from camping. They took great pleasure in mocking and analyzing my super boring sexual preferences. When the topic of face fucking came up, I responded with aversion. They asked me if I had ever been sexually assaulted. Yes, why? Is that relevant? According to them, it is. Apparently girls LOVE being face fucked. The gaggier the better. I wondered whether they had been misinformed by porn. They said, no, they had both been with the same girl who loved having cock shoved down her throat. Now, I don’t doubt their accounts. Especially since years later I met this girl and she confirmed; she talked about the throat lube that comes up when something is forcibly shoved down. Look, people are allowed to like what they like and I don’t care. But violent sexual acts should not be presumed the default preference. I have to hand it to those boys, though. Because in mainstream society if a woman expressed interest in violent sexual acts, people would likely undermine her preferences by asking her if she had a history of sexual assault. For members of the underworld, the desire to explore deviant sexual acts is considered the default as nature made us. Therefore, harboring standard sexual preferences is considered evidence of internalizing puritanical ideals that have alienated you from your desire or evidence of sexual assault that has led to inhibitory defenses. I think it’s preposterous to claim that I hate being face fucked because sexual assault. I hate being face fucked because it is physically brutal; gagging is an unpleasant reflex. Most people have an aversion to having objects shoved down their throats. Nevertheless, I’m looked at differently.

Ryan interjected and asked thoughtfully, “How do you want people to view you when you tell them you’ve been raped.”

“I wish people realized that rape isn’t this all-encompassing thing and didn’t determine all of my sexual preferences; that’s so revictimizing. Like, once a victim, always a victim. I had sexual experiences and preferences before I got raped. Explaining everything in terms of it robs me of any agency and individuality.”

He clarified, “You don’t want it to define you?”

“Yes, exactly. That’s the PERFECT way to phrase it. It’s one aspect of me, not the definitive one. I don’t want people to look at me and see it.”

Part of gives a pop star or artist longevity is the ability to capture and express universal or common sentiments. Mostly Lady Gaga provokes for attention-seeky soundbytes; occasionally she does an interview that is thought-provoking and I’m blown away. What she said to Howard Stern recently was so spot-on:

The singer said… that she’s been fearful about talking about the incident publicly. “I don’t want to be defined by it. I’ll be damned if somebody’s going to say that every creatively intelligent thing I’ve ever done is all boiled down to one dickhead that did that to me.”

—Anna Merlan, Lady Gaga Tells Howard Stern She was Raped at 19

I wish this mindset that women are defined by their experiences instead of their desires were limited to rape, but I think it is endemic in how we view deviant female sexuality: with suspicion and mistrust. As something that has to be justified and defended. Because sex in general is viewed as something that happens to women, not something we enact ourselves.

Women may choose to stay silent about rape out of fear that anything divergent about their sexuality will be explained away or dismissed as an instantiation or expression of trauma. Saying “because rape” is reductive, misses the complexities of the human experience, and robs people of their capacity to have cognition in between stimulus and response. We undoubtedly arrived at rape with different preferences and experiences under our belts, processed our rapes differently, and proceeded on different trajectories. Rape isn’t monolithic because people aren’t prototypes rolling off the same mass-manufacturing conveyor belt.

It sounds bizarre, but I’m thankful that my slutiness long proceeded my rape. Partly because—as a guy I was friends with junior year of college astutely noted—rape didn’t have the power to spoil my pre-existing notions of men or sex. But mostly because my prior experiences lent credibility to my current ones. It is hard to dismiss me with “because rape” when I had a long track record preceding rape. It is hard to claim rape as deterministic.

Restrictively and nonsensically, women’s sexual preferences aren’t considered valid if the argument can be made that they are influenced by personal encounters or societal expectations. As if it is possible for us to be raised in bubbles such that preferences can ever be independent of past experiences. People seem to think men’s sexuality is hardwired, while women blow in the wind. Which is in accordance with Hugo Schwyzer’s Paris Paradox wherein men are socialized to desire and women are socialized as the objects of desire.

 [W]e currently conceptualize sexuality through “orientations”: we have built a cultural “orientation model” focused on the idea that “acceptable” sexuality is “built-in,” or “innate.”… [O]ne thing I don’t like about the orientation model now is that it makes us sound like we’re apologizing. “Poor little me! It’s not my fault I’m straight! Or a domme! Whatever!” Why would any of these things be faults in the first place? Our bodies are our own, our experiences are our own, and our consent is our own to give.

—Clarisse Thorn, BDSM “versus” Sex, The S&M Feminist

The most noxious instantiation of this attitude in my life is when people— almost always men—ask me the very dumb question: “Why do you like porn?” Sometimes I turn the question on them. Often I answer with an equally dumb, utilitarian response, “Because it gets me off.” If they continue looking at me quizzically as if I’m an extraterrestrial being beamed down to Earth from planet Ork, I elaborate, “Because it gets me off. And I like to get off.” Duhhh? I’m not sure whether they expect me to give a reason that I am different from (their conception of) normal women, e.g., because I was molested by aliens when I was an impressionable ladychild. Or whether they expect me to tell them I watch porn for another reason entirely, e.g., because I appreciate its aesthetic, narrative, and cultural value—women are so high-brow and highly evolved! Well-meaning, clueless men do not bother me nearly as much as evil anti-porn feminists who would like nothing more than to pathologize and punish me for my desires. I’m thinking specifically of people like Ariel Levy who would argue that I like what I like because I’ve internalized the patriarchy; i.e., my preferences are not my own. Even worse, I’m colluding with the enemy, supporting the subjugation of women, and in denial. Well, okay, my vagina is acting under the influence and I’m an aggressor. But orgasms. Do I really care why I have them? I like them. Is it impossible for me to own my sexuality because of society? That seems unfair. Not to mention convoluted. I’m into viewing naked bodies because of the patriarchy? No, ma’am, I believe that’s called biology. And you are THE MAN embodied. As Jane Ward pointedly asked Ariel Levy during a discussion about what constitutes authentic female sexuality and who determines whether desire is genuine as opposed to socially constructed, “what do you want women to find sexy?” i.e., what are we allowed to claim as our own? (See: Jane Ward’s Essay “Queer Feminist Pigs” in The Feminist Porn Book).

Male sexuality is considered biological and thus taken at face value. Women are considered relational creatures and so female sexuality that diverges from accepted norms, feminist or mainstream, must be justified. Explain your unwillingness to accept your sexual lot in life in 500 words or less! One male college classmate of mine requested the link to my blog and—when he didn’t find whatever he was looking for—asked flippantly whether getting off needed to be defended then probed skeptically, “What’s your mission statement?” WHAT? My vagina, the missionary? I need to support my sexual escapades with a mission? Can I get crowdfunded for that? This would never be expected of a man. No one has ever solicited Tucker Max for his fucking mission. Marginalized voices are thrust into the realm of tokenism, becoming unwitting representatives of vast and heterogeneous groups. This is why I feel for Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling and other voices from the fringes who aren’t allowed to depict experiences they personally relate to without getting flak for having a narrow or skewed perspective. Asking a woman to speak for all can be even worse than asking her not to speak at all.

 

SILENCING

I feel uncomfortable writing this section in part because there is no way to obscure the guy’s identity. Even though he ultimately couldn’t be what I wanted him to be and even though he has mostly been a shit ex-boyfriend, I’d like to respect what we had at the time. He was good to me while we were together, I am grateful to him in many ways and I genuinely wish him well. I think this particular situation is too important not to talk about, though, and it feels horribly ironic to remain silent on the topic of silencing. I also feel uncomfortable writing this section because I feel conflicted about my position. Here goes…

For a few years after we broke up, he was unable to talk to me at all. He believed that because I broke up with him, I single-handedly annihilated all we had built together—which entitled him to be as mean as he wanted to be. And I accepted some of the abuse; truthfully I really missed him and just wanted to hear his voice, even his angry fanatical one. Eventually he came to realize that he had vilified me as a defense mechanism and that he played an instrumental role in the dissolution of our relationship. Over the course of a few phone calls, we apologized for things we had done and made amends. With the distance that time grants, we could acknowledge each other’s perspectives and there was a sense of reconciliation and relief. At the end of one of our conversations, however, he said something I will never get over. So much for making amends.

He told me there were two things I should have never told him about. One was my rape. I’m choosing my words deliberately here. I don’t mean to say that he wishes he didn’t know about it. I mean to say that he thought I was wrong to tell him. That by telling him a story about my assault, which he declined to hear, I was in effect assaulting him. As if my disclosure was an attempt to punish him for the wrongdoing of another man just because he had the misfortune of also having a penis. I suppose I need to add some context.

In this post I discuss a situation where he stopped a consensual sexual encounter to-be that involved physical restraint, because it reminded him of my rape. It made me feel like he was robbing me of my agency, like he didn’t think I was competent to set my own limits. It also didn’t make a lot of sense given that it didn’t remind me of my own rape, which I have little recollection of and which I assume did not involve physical restraint; there is no need to restrain someone who doesn’t have control over her own limbs. I decided we needed to have a conversation so there would be no future misunderstandings. In order to be heard, I needed to detail what I knew had happened to me. He declined to hear the details. I told him it wouldn’t be hard to hear because I had very little visual memory of it, and I proceeded despite his protests. In other words, he was a non-consensual recipient of the story. And that is the part I feel conflicted about to this day. The rest of the evening was tense, but eventually we worked it out and came back together physically and psychologically. As far as I remember, it wasn’t something that came up again. Like all couples, we had recurring fights. This was not among them.

So fast forward three years and this is the last bit of resentment that is lingering. He just wants me to know so I don’t ruin another relationship with my inappropriate disclosure. I feel sick to my stomach when I hear him saying this—that my story isn’t mine to tell. That to protect the propriety of innocent men I must stay silent. We went through so much together, made real mistakes. And when all was said and done the worst (the most worstest, if I can get away with using the extra super superlative) thing I had done was describing to him what it was like and what it wasn’t like to get raped?

Every time I leave my apt, regardless of how I’m dressed or what my plans are, my errands are interrupted by being reminded that I’m a walking vagina and the streets don’t belong to people like me. And if I speak out online about my disgust for being treated like a piece of meat and my lack of physical safety, I’m told I’m misinterpreting things—I should be grateful for the compliments. By being uptight and bitchy, I’m oppressing men who just want to offer a friendly hello, who are entitled to my time because women are put on this goddamn earth to affirm men. So now I need to add to that: if the guy to whom I gave free reign of my body is made uncomfortable by the reality of what my body has been through, of what my body goes through to some degree every single day, I need to shut the fuck up about it. Wouldn’t want to offend the sensitive mens. Wouldn’t want them to share the lived reality.

All he sees me as is someone with a red R emblazoned across my forehead. I’m not a complex human being. I’m not someone with agency and preference and god forbid kinks. R is for raped. R is for ruined. S is for silence and shut the fuck up. Be a supple, willing twat. But don’t be site of conflict and strife, a singed battleground. Think of only pretty things. Be pretty for me, baby. Smile!

He gave me so much sexually. Genuinely loved and cared for my body. Introduced me to a level of satisfaction that exceeded orgasms. But I cannot help feeling like someone who requires you to erase your body’s history is not worthy of becoming part of it.

 

PRIVILEGE

Just like I think partners are entitled to maintain privacy on certain matters, I think partners are entitled to decline becoming privy to certain information. For example, if you were to cheat on your partner and they’ve expressed that in that event they’d rather not know, you should probably keep it to yourself. Even though I think people are entitled to a basic white lie level of interpersonal ignorance, I’m not sure this extends to systematic oppression.

Part of privilege is feeling like you are entitled to ignore problems that don’t directly harm you. Often my black friends post articles that make me uncomfortable because white guilt. Some friends consistently post informative and thought-provoking things and I often feel like the greatest indicator of how important something is for me to read is how uncomfortable it makes me. The more emotional resistance I feel, the more I’m confronting and breaking down pre-existing assumptions, prejudices, and complacency. Not everyone feels this way.

Ilana: I swear privilege is the funniest thing. The fact that ppl honestly think calling attention to racism is “dividing” or generalizing would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad. You are missing the point… because you can… Your delusional mindset is actually a danger to others.

Lynn: Racism is dividing. Ending racism is unifying. Duh smh

During this period of racial unrest in our country I’ve read many comments by people who feel that in calling attention to and fighting oppression, victims are causing unrest—they are the aggressors. Because they are inconveniencing people who did not personally cause the systematic injustices. The night of the Ferguson verdict, my facebook feed was flooded with people furious about the complaints that Dancing With The Stars was interrupted by the news. I cringed when my own mother complained not about the breaking news interruption, but that it was on every single channel; it was inescapable. Well, here’s the thing. When black people leave their apartments they can’t switch the channel and avoid being black to make sure they aren’t hassled by the police. Just like I can’t go incognito and hide my femaleness to make sure I’m not harassed by men. These are injustices oppressed groups deal with all the time whether they like it or not. There is no changing the channel until everyone is forced to watch and confront how members of those groups are being disproportionately victimized. I’m pretty sure that when black people are killed by the police for non-violent crimes and when black people are jailed by the police for non-violent crimes for which white neighborhoods aren’t under surveillance, their families are more than inconvenienced.

Jeremy: I will never understand people who call for less disruptive protests. Like, the folks who get angry at protestors who block traffic because “some people just want to go about their day.” WE KNOW THAT. It’s literally the reason we’re trying to get in the way—to stop you from being able to “just go about your day”. Because people just going about their day is what allows tis shit to keep happening. It’s not gonna stop happening until we stop going about out days as we have been and work to make something different happen.

So do I feel guilty for telling my then-boyfriend about my sexual assault when he wished to remain ignorant and did not personally violate me? No, until boyfriends and brothers and sons and fathers are confronted with the harm that has been done to the women in their lives, until they bear part of the burden, nothing will change. Even if they personally don’t assault and oppress women, they benefit from a system that does. And the ultimate oppression is silence. Confronting systematic oppression is not meant to feel comfortable. Comfort is complacency and complacency is complicity.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

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Every Guy’s Nightmare: Intro

EVERY GUY’S NIGHTMARE: INTRO

December 4th, 2014

It’s every guy’s nightmare: learning that sex meant something different to a woman than it meant to him. Feeling that he had a nice, mutual, consensual, pleasurable experience that somewhere along the line went terribly wrong. It’s my nightmare: feeling used. Feeling feelings. This isn’t a post about sexual assault or even getting taken advantage of. This is about what it feels like to get hurt after the fact. To experience something so wonderful it is life-changing, then to have it taken away. This is about how memories aren’t static. They aren’t neat and can’t be compartmentalized. They change meaning as they are put into perspective by future events. Mostly this is a post about how I am lost and embarrassed and don’t know how to file away feelings I never expected to have. I don’t want to be a decent guy’s worst nightmare. I don’t want to be an unstable mess. I don’t want to be a thirty-year-old who can’t handle sex, who requires aftercare for an experience that was likely insignificant and routine for the guy no-longer involved. For a guy who should be one-in-sixteen of the past year-and-a-half, nothing but a number, a frivolity, a diversion. A hose teeming with semen.

There are a lot of things I don’t want to be and a lot of things I wish never happened. But here I am. An embarrassment to sex writers. A downer to my friends who always counted on me for fun times and good stories—sexual shenanigans.

This week has been enormously rough. Friday someone from my doctor’s office called me from home to tell me my surgery on Monday had been cancelled. Insurance assholery. Monday when I was supposed to have my surgery I got a sweet card from my cousin saying “The Ordeal Is Over.” Too perfect. Only it wasn’t. Today I slipped into my mother’s apartment to take a new box of cat food and I hoped to go undetected. We don’t talk face-to-face about my medical problems anymore. It’s too overwhelming. Mostly it’s texts from nextdoor. Like I’m a modern day Cher Horowitz. Except less perky. Before I escaped, she said, “Don’t think I forgot about you.” And added some logistical things about where we were in the insurance process, as I averted my eyes and edged toward the door. Forgotten is how I feel every day. The world has turned and left me here.

I was supposed to write the finale to my The 13th Step series. It was the “Rock Bottom” section. It has been outlined for a few days. But I can’t. I just can’t. I don’t have the emotional energy for it. Or anything. I’ve been waking up crying. Alternating between waking and shaking. I rock myself back and forth, like an autistic kid, to soothe myself. I touch myself in a non-sexual way because orgasms are traumatizing, though inevitable. I can’t handle all the catharsis so long as I am trapped in my body; ejaculation is in retrograde. The best I can do is sniff my fingers like I am Mary Katherine Gallagher in Superstar. Except, I’m inhaling my vagina instead of my armpits. My life would be funny, like an SNL skit, if it weren’t so devastating.

Here is a post that has been pending since early summer. My feelings have gotten increasing overwhelming as the recent medical setback has forced me to take time to consider my body, where it’s been in the past and how it’s transformed over the last year. As dealing with the medical and insurance industrial complex has made me feel, once again, like I’m a fucking science experiment when I just want to drown in sperm and feel like a real live human. An animal, not an instrument.

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The 13th Step: Descent

THE THIRTEENTH STEP: DESCENT

 

I stay out too late

Got nothing in my brain

That’s what people say

That’s what people say

I go on too many dates

But I can’t make them stay

At least that’s what people say

That’s what people say

But I keep cruising

Can’t stop, wont stop moving

—Taylor Swift, Shake it Off

 

We’re supposed to meet at Dumbo’s Festival of Lights, but one of his friends is already there and has inside information that it’s body-to-body crowded.  We agree that a crowded subway is never an excuse for sexual harassment, buckle up it’s the law, and we will keep our hands to ourselves until we meet up. Our alternative destination is Hank’s Saloon in Downtown Brooklyn, which he warns me is Halloween scary. He’s already there with some friends but we can break off and not do the group thing because that would be rude on his part. When I show up he praises me for being cool and meeting his friends. And I think, well, at least one of us has friends. But, mostly, this bar is New Jersey scary. It’s a cash-only dive you would encounter near an NJ transit stop, it looks like a converted corner store in the idiom of Quick Stop from Clerks, buck hunter machines abound, and a hardcore band is playing to a crowd of white men wearing baseball hats and bandanas with redundant hoodies. I think the band is called Yuppicide, judging from the audience’s patches and the singer’s (screamer’s?) beanie. We hang back and finish our drinks as his friends move on to their next location, a much more civilized pizza shop slash bar slash all-purpose event space in Boerum Hill. Eventually we follow. On the way over, he inquires about what I’m doing with my life: about to have surgery, applying to med school, writing a book. And, if nothing else, I amuse a middle school English teacher with a punctuation joke: There is a colon in the working title of my book about losing my colon. Thus far it is entitled “Flushed: Stories About Sex and Shit.”  (Alternative suggestions welcomed!) This is not nearly as clever as my friend’s boyfriend’s joke: “My brother has Crohn’s and had part of his colon removed; now he has a semi-colon.” Geek life!

It’s half group hang, half date. And I totally bomb the date portion of the evening. Not like we have a bad time or I don’t get laid, assuming that is the goal. But like I am my worst self. Super schticky. It is an award winning performance for sure. But he probably ordered a person not a stand-up routine. Out of nowhere he asks me if I’m happy. And I think I answer honestly, “I don’t think I’m, like, a categorically unhappy person. But I’ve been through a lot of shitty things recently.” “Pun intended,” he adds. You know it’s bad when all you have to talk about on a date is farcically tragic dates: a premature ejaculator with a surprise baby, an impotent old who insisted upon incorporating kitchen utensils into a failed family role-play. At the end of the evening his friends disband and we are left alone. The energy is dying down. We agree that it is time to move on. But don’t agree on a next location until we are outside in the freezing cold and are forced to hold on to each other and shiver in a doorway. I want him to invite me back to his place. I expect him to invite me back to his place. He lives in Brooklyn. I tell him no matter what the destination, we should walk toward the subway and when we are there I lay out the options: another bar, his place, my place. We are going to my place, strangely, so I alert him to the mess. And he tells me I’ve already mentioned it. As in, stop preemptively apologizing. I attempt to attenuate my redundancy by adding the quippy, “My cat (whom I introduced to him earlier when he inquired about roommates) is no help.” “She doesn’t observe the chore wheel?” “No, today was her day to vacuum and instead she coughed up a hairball on my rug.” He falls asleep on me during the nonsensical 40-minute cross-borough after-hours subway journey. Despite multiple warnings, I think he is slightly shocked by the state of disarray of my apartment and to top it off he’s still half asleep. Welcome to my nightmare! My living quarters have crossed the line from ‘creative people are messy’ to a physical manifestation of my dilapidated life—my self-neglect externalized and inflicted upon my physical environment. I fix myself a drink as he awaits my company on the flamboyant floral couch on which he is half passed out—teachers are on early schedules. I talk nervously while I am fixing and finishing my appletini-ale, which at least methodically matches my pink and green decor. By the time I join him, it is clear that whatever we had last weekend has fizzled out. Or at least flattened. As I climb over him and settle side-by-side in my matchy-matchy leafy print leggings, he exclaims, “Aaaaah, you are going to disappear!” It must be a metaphor for something, now nothing.

I want to make it crystal clear when I say I don’t think he’s bad in bed: he had skills, privileged my pleasure over his own, and was receptive to whatever I wanted to do. Not to mention, he has a banging bod, according to my very specific standards. Nevertheless, the sex was torture at worst, unpleasant at best.

I would like being eaten out a lot more if I didn’t spend half the time plotting my eventual escape. He does an excellent job, really burrows his face in my pussy and goes at it like he’s a racoon in a Skippy container, but it’s time to move on to the next activity and his course beard hair is giving me raucous rug burn. I have trouble wriggling out from under him because he’s so buried that he isn’t monitoring my face. By the time he gets the point, my level of arousal is back to where it was before he started. He pops up on his knees, junk towering over me, and I think, Holy sweet Jesus his cock is huge and so, so hard. This guy loves pussy: YES! And I love putting it in my mouth. But when it is time to put it inside me, it is a repeat of my experience with elephant cock: consensual vaginal assault. HOW IS THIS MY LIFE? Can’t guys just wear nametags: Hello, my name is Jonah. Please refer me to a larger friend. Missionary is not happening. I ask him if we can switch positions, tell him it hurts, he’s bigger than I expected. I don’t mean to phrase it as a neg. I meant “Your cock is huge,” not “I expected you to have a smaller penis,” but he looks more appalled than flattered. Oh well. I swing one leg around so my thighs are pressed together on one side of me and he can’t get all the way inside. The vag torture persists.

We switch positions one or two more times until I give up and take it. Jammed in a physically and mentally defensive posture, I focus on protecting my cervix instead of achieving pleasure. To tell you the truth, physically speaking, I wasn’t that aroused to begin with, so maybe my vagina hasn’t fully expanded. I chalk up the pain to this, his oversized penis, and whatever vagina ailment I was contending with earlier in the day. Sometimes things are extra sensitive inside with no external explanation—my ovaries are sore or my cervix is tilted down because of the time of month, making it extra susceptible to a jostling. The non-menstrual bleeding and pain must be related. The penis an exacerbating factor. Woe is me. I can’t take it any longer; I ask to switch back to oral for a while, straddle his face and lean forward. He verifies that I have another condom before unsheathing his penis and informing me that I can instruct him to cum whenever I want him to. He can cum on command. It’s this “neat trick.” I think, Good boy, want a treat? Just kidding. I think, Oh fuck, I’m not nearly there and I don’t think I can get there. He expects me to orgasm and I don’t give a shit either way. What to do, what to do. When I’m at least reasonably aroused, I reach under my bed for a Magnum, flip around, and start riding him. He stops me before he cums. I wish he would just cum already; this, sir, is a sinking ship. Somehow I manage to get myself closeish with my hands even though my clit is barely hard. I put him back inside me, hope he’s almost done, and finish. As much as I appreciate his generosity, there are no high fives for forced orgasms. I think, Goddamn it, I just had an orgasm I didn’t want, he still isn’t done, and now I’m going to have to work on him. He’s been so attentive and accommodating. Time to feign enthusiasm! All aboard? He rips the condom off and straddles me: YES! This guy is the best! What a life of leisure I lead. I tell him to cum anyplace but my eyes. He laughs. Because who am I!? For sure he was just going to go for my stomach or tits. He says he’ll be polite about it. Obviously. And he gives himself a penis polishing. Brandishes it. Sometimes watching a guy jerk off is just like watching someone shine a candlestick. Not that I’ve ever watched that, per se, but his trophy penis and pile of semen are so decorative. Almost ceremonial. He looks around lost and I direct him to the towel hanging over my desk chair. Pretty sure it’s crusty from me, myself, and I. He tells me a buffing comes with the service, and wipes me down rhythmically and thoroughly like I’m a car being wrung through the rollers at a Wash and Lube. Inspecting me, he takes turns the towel into a hand rag and touches up my belly button. This man takes pride in his work. “You are better at cleaning up than I am,” I compliment. “Facts.”

The next morning, when he wakes up and gets ready to go, I pretend to be asleep. Which is how I feel about mornings in general. Nothing personal. But it’s a futile act and eventually I act like a sleepy human being and ask if he needs directions home. We do some formal combination of hug-kiss goodbye and I have no clear perception of whether we will see each other ever again; I’m not quite sure I care either way. Men’s follow-ups in similar situations range from “Morning! Had a great time, and you are cute 🙂 Try not to destroy too many paintings while you’re tripping today, and let me know if you want to meet later this weekend. (I’m free tomorrow. Just saying ;))” to “You fucked my brains out. Woohoo! FRIDAY NIGHT!! -Sent from in bed” to radio silence.

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The 13th Step: Ascent

THE THIRTEENTH STEP: ASCENT

 

Some will die in hot pursuit in fiery auto crashes

Some will die in hot pursuit while sifting through my ashes

Some will fall in love with life and drink it from a fountain

That is pouring like an avalanche coming down the mountain

—Butthole Surfers, Pepper

 

Allister is having a party at his place. It will be all comedy people and he will be fluttering around like a social butterfly, but I am always invited. Emily is going to some fetish party sponsored by FetLife with her stripper friends. She can get me in for cheap and it happens to be three blocks from Allister’s. So it’s settled: pregame with the comedians; end evening with the fetishists. I show up at Allister’s with a 6-pack to exchange for drinks that I can drink. And they have whiskey and ginger ale, which seems like a fair trade, though I’m a little intimidated by the lack of cups. Seems like an egregious omission at a perennial party house. But whatevs, I settle for a Tupperware container. Which is a good talking piece. GKF: classy broad. Secretly, I’m also intimidated by the swarms of strangers in costumes. Until I remember the last time I went to one of Allister’s official house parties: May 2009, the night after I nearly broke my tailbone rollerblading.

Incorrigible and undefeated, I asked Allister to introduce me to the guy I deemed the hottest, and he said he’d be happy to even though he didn’t know him himself. So I said, don’t worry about it, and the cold approach worked better than expected. That night Lee invited me over to smoke pot and I told him I could barely walk nevertheless make it to the next location, and he told me nice innuendo but he was strictly inviting me over for pot smoking. Which was such an effective neg. Two weeks later, I was slung over the arm of his couch and discovered that doggystyle is not a wise position for someone with a freshly injured tailbone. But I stuck it out anyway, because I had pregamed with Tylenol rather than narcotics as to not ruin the presumed sex, and because I had given myself a pep talk about how I refused to leave his place without orgasming first—if I had to go home and masturbate I would literally cry. Sex endorphins are nice bandaids that eventually wear out. And then you are left with your freshly injured, recently banged up tailbone. But you don’t have to go home and commit crimes against nature, alone! Winnn! Later that week I bent over once again, and had a verry awkward doctor’s examination followed by a set of x-rays conducted through the paper gown equivalent of Bermuda shorts. Bruised but not broken. Another win!

I scan the room of people in costumes. Cold approaches are even easier on Halloween: you can always inquire about what people are or tell them in your jappiest accent how much you love their Mike Myers in Cawfee Twalk. Hard, though, to discern who is superficially worthy of your attention. I spot two guys I decide to work on: a mad professor Andy Warhol and a Jewish Liberace—slim and skinny, respectively.

Liberace is up first, if only because of his physical position in the room. His name is Jonah. Because Jew. He primarily knows some guy who used to be a roommate in the party house and secondarily knows Allister and Julian, Allister’s first friend whose penis I touched. (For clarification: Allister and I went to college together and met when I hooked up with two of his friends, in succession, while they were in town for the campus-wide end-of-year drug and fuck festie). He doesn’t know what he is dressed as, just threw on a bunch of crazy shit he owns from all the dress-up parties he goes to. I tell him I dig his vest, run the lace between my thumb and forefinger, and peer up at him. Pretty soon it escalates from glances and light touches to tantalizing and tactile. He runs his fingers through my untamed mane and tells me how fascinated he is by all of my hair, which seems to have a life of its own, unrelated to my pumpkin costume and competing with its ambiguous plant stem hat. I take a risk, a calculated one with a disclaimer as padding, “This is going to sound weird… Lllike something you wouldn’t say when you first meet a person…” He nods, signaling me to go on. “A few years ago I was on chemo drugs. I didn’t have cancer. They were for another disease. But I lost a lot of hair. And when it grew back, it was a completely different texture. All my life until then I had straight hair, and now this,” I comb my fingers through my curls demonstratively. “So… I’m fascinated with my hair, too,” I conclude, pausing for puzzlement, shock, disgust, incredulity, anything? Instead he one-ups me. Matter-of-factly, “I’m on chemo drugs.” Which throws me for a loop. I furrow my brow suspiciously, “Which one?” “Mercaptopurine.” “6-MP? Umm, that’s the one that made me lose my hair.” Then I lean in conspiratorially, “What Jewish inflammatory bowel disease do you have?” We exchange short stories. I tell him about my lack of colon and sympathize, “Wow, Crohn’s disease, cancer medication: you’re in even worse shape than I am.” He counters, “I still have my colon.” “Touche.” Or, as the Jewish moms put it: “Tushy.”

We dance it off and he’s surprisingly good for a jewboy. He’s a teacher so he knows all the top 40 hits. I offer him the last drops of my whiskey-ale, encouraging him to drink from the same container, to share my mutated DNA. Once we get the Tupperware out of the way, we get down to business. He pulls me against him, up against the wall and we swap spit for serious. Tactile turns handsy. He squeezes my tits, the only globular part of my just-passing-for-pumpkin outfit, and strokes forth like he’s summoning my nipples. I wrap my leg around his waist and tilt my pelvis forward as he reaches up my skirt and rubs my clit through my tights. It almost happens too fast, like I had planned on stopping by, chatting him up a bit, moving on, working the room—simultaneously exploring my options and exhibiting social proof—then sweeping back in for the kill. Instead our grubby paws are sweeping each other’s bodies and I’m cumming all over myself, breathy. I wonder what the wetness pressed up between my legs is going to feel like when I get back outside and the breeze rushes through it. It’s the first time I’ve been sexually excited in six months. The transformative kind of arousal where you are completely outside of your head and can think nothing but the monomaniacal, How do I push this further? If we were on the street, I would have let him finish me under my skirt, it’s that pressing and imminent. Instead, I think, Fuck, I can’t blow my proverbial load on this. So we break. Whew, air. And dance that off a little bit. We go back and forth between dancing to Dancing on My Own and humping against walls.

During one of our breaks in action Andy Warhol approaches and speaks. With the addition of his voice to his face, his identity finally registers to me: “Oh my god I didn’t recognize you!” His eyes widen to meet mine, and he matches my voice to my face. He didn’t recognize me either. And we have an “Oh my god I haven’t seen you in sooo long” moment. Except now I’m puzzled that he didn’t recognize me, because, sure, I’m wearing a pumpkin hat, but my face is my own, I think? I guess it is sort of out of context. With all of these comedy people. Instead of just us. It’s Julian, Allister’s first friend whose penis I touched. Back in May 2005. That’s right, kids: it’s almost our tenth anniversary! Olds, we are. We establish the last time we saw each other: May 2011, when Allister called me (yes, he still uses a phone as a phone) and requested my presence on Juliann’s rooftop in Bushwick. Weeks before I moved to Vermont. Since then, Julian’s lived at three addresses, gone through two girlfriends. Which makes me remember what a good person I am, only I tell him the half story.

The whole story: I’m at some impromptu housewarming party on his JMZ Bushwick rooftop and this girl, Allegra, whom they know through comedy, is really into me. Not in a sexual way, just I charm her with stories about my gynecologist. And she asks me if I do stand-up. Clearly no. Because I botch this comedic moment badly. I say, “Hey, I just went to my gyno and he called with my results. I’m totally clean.” I’ve been waiting for this moment forever: to prove that I’m a safe slut. Wait for it… So I play my voicemail, which is quite full because I’ve been communicating with landlord in Vermont. Messages range from, “Yes, the unit will be vacant by blah blah blah date, the rent is 750…” to “Of course it’s okay that you have a cat. Do you have multiples? I absolutely love cats. Aren’t they the sweetest creatures! Is it a male or female? I have two males and they pee all over the place. Isn’t that precious?” We get through literally 15 messages and Allegra and the boys are still leaning in waiting patiently for my test results, from when I was a patient. And, shit, I must have erased that to make room for my new life of fresh air and celibacy. Somehow, Allegra forgives me for my comedic flub and pulls me aside toward the end of the night. It’s girltalk time. We are the only girls there. So I’ll do. She confides that Julian wants her, she used to date his friend Noah. Wants to know what she should do. Should she stay over and take the JMZ home during working hours. I recalibrate and say, “This is awkward. I actually slept with him years ago. And I’ve also been with your ex. I say go for it. You won’t regret it. He’s totally cute and sweet and doesn’t last long, but he’ll put in the effort to please you once he’s done. Even if it isn’t great physically—I’m not saying it won’t be—he’ll be a total gentleman tomorrow and thereafter. It will never be weird. And that’s almost the most important thing.” While I’m in Vermont, Julian moves in with Allister, and Allegra and her adorbs bichon soon follow. Allister tells me Allegra is their grossest roommate in their adult dormitory, because she’s a verrry pretty girl and no one has ever told her that she’s had to clean up after herself before. I’ve done a good deed.

Every year since I’ve saved my voicemail from my gynecologist, in hopes that one day I’ll have the opportunity to redeem myself publicly. We all have aspirations.

The half where I help set him up with his ex girlfriend. And thus deserve karma points. I’ll scratch your back if your friend pets my vagina! Jonah disappears for a sec and we are left alone discussing what we’ve been doing since three years ago. I say, “Hey, I’m writing a book. Don’t worry, you don’t have a scene in it. Though Allister does. If you are mentioned in passing, what would you like your name to be?” His only stipulation is nothing ethnic; IRL he has a rather distinctive name. Understood: Julian, it is.

Jonah reappears and we head to the sink area to suck the last few drops out of the whiskey bottle. Enter: his sleepaway camp friend Justin and Justin’s live-in girlfriend. This is truly the Jewiest party I’ve been to since Bar Mitzvah season. Jonah stands squarely behind me, embracing me with one arm and sliding his spare hand under my skirt. I’m impressed by how good he is at locating my clit, through my tights, from behind. This is the funnest game ever: trying to maintain a conversation with two friendly strangers and not break into a ceaseless sex grimace while I’m being fondled. Heaven! What did I do to deserve this? How did he know that I’m this kind of girl? Granted, we did just hump against the wall for twenty minutes (in imaginary sex time; IRL it was probably more like three). Allister’s friends are the best! I recall that video of Stoya reading that necrophilia book staidly as she’s being worked on under the table. Only, I never crack! The girlfriend cannot get enough of how cute Jonah and I are together, asks how long we’ve lived together. Umm, we’ve just met tonight! But I’ll take it. She insists on taking a picture of us, as if to commemorate the inception of a long romance. As if she’s doing for us what I did for Julian and Allegra.

Finally Emily texts to tell me where to meet her, and Jonah and I wait on the bathroom line before I bail. As I slip into the bathroom, I hand him my phone and instruct, “Put your number in my phone while I’m in there.” Not a feeble, Can I have your number? An authoritative, Give me your number.

The next morning I wake up to a text from Allister: “Glad you stopped by! Seemed like you had fun.” HAAA, it was a variation on his traditional sex follow-up message. A by-proxy pre-sexual encounter follow-up message. I like to think of him as my pimp. Or whatever the cute, non-scary, Jewy version of that is. My sex broker? He’s such a substantial portion of my sexual history if you consider his posse. Or whatever the cute, non-scary Jewy version of that is. His gaggle of gangly Jews? Yes, our friendship is based on sex. No, he doesn’t only hang out with me because I’m loose. In fact, it was a few years before my vagina’s admissions committee offered him a warm welcome.

At the time of Allister’s observation, I wasn’t conscious of his presence in the room. After the fact, I love knowing that he was tracking me, watching me with another guy. It is beneficial for both of us. He feels like he’s been with a desirable girl, has maintained a firm grip on her across the great divide that is time. I provide the social proof that I’m a hot bitch. After all, we haven’t fucked since my series of surgeries. No more deafening way to yell, I still got it! I respond with the most insincere, superficial message possible, “Me too. Ha, I always do!” Not that it is untrue, per se; just that something feels viscerally wrong as I’m typing it. Which is weird, because with Allister I don’t have to paint on my game face. Demonstrating sexual desirability is important; demonstrating social desirability is not. With him, I can be for real.

Over the next few days Jonah texts me and we make plans for the following Saturday.

Thursday night I attend my monthly digestive disease support group and I can’t wait to tell them the story about meeting this guy at a party, the hair playing, the cancer meds. One of the girls around my age interjects, “He’s a Crohnie!” I affirm, “Yup, and he’s just my type: skinny! Probably from not being able to absorb food properly.” Twisted laughs. On my walk home, feverish thoughts flare in my head. I’m going to ascend the thirteenth step—THE THIRTEENTH STEP! I’ve been waiting forevs for this! It is finally going to come full circle! What an occasion! My excitement dissipates when the gruesome and troubling logistics come into focus: What of semen and cancer meds? My life goal is to have somebody cum inside me regularly, but I lost my hair when I was on that medication. It’s serious medication. Do I want it inside me in any form? What are the metabolites of mercaptopurine? Is this boy a walking biohazard? Gosh, what a very weird, specific dilemma. Not to mention the fact that IBD couples can’t make babies because the effect of both parents having an IBD on the probability of passing on one of the diseases is interactive not additive (If one parent has an IBD, the chance of any given child getting either UC or Crohn’s is only about 5%, but if both parents have an IBD, the chance skyrockets to about 30%). UCers fucking Crohnies: the ultimate taboo. Well, this summer I did commit incest’s kissing cousin. GKF: breaking boundaries with my broken body!

Friday night I go to my harm reduction street outreach volunteer job. It’s the first cold night of the year, so frigid that the junkies have fled Thompson Square Park like cockroaches scattering at the flicker of a street lamp. My body is so numb by the end of my shift that I decide to stride home forty blocks, and even though I’m impervious to my frozen appendages, I can hear the staccato of my thoughts racing. Oh my god, what if it’s actually good this time, what if it turns into something? I’m thankful for Allister and his bounty of male compatriots but thus far all the sex I’ve had has been middling. Fifth guy’s the charm! Wonder when I can tell him that I’ve been with our two mutual friends— separately and together! Ha, I think the answer to that is never. Or at least not until after I’ve caught him in my sticky vagina trap. Is that coercion or just tactical planning? Allister would never sell me out and tell Jonah about our history, would he?

The sex part I am a master of. Mine, he is already. But I start thinking about how this night is different from every other night, like it’s fucking Passover, and suddenly I’m nervous about this date. Usually I play the ‘Once upon a time in recent history I used to shit out of my abdomen, do you want to fuck me now?’ game. And this has worked well enough to ensure me a steady stream of penises. BUT, HOLY SHIT, WHAT WILL WE TALK ABOUT IF NOT SHIT? There’s no reason to dare him to reject me because his body is just as gross as mine. With shit off the table, that leaves sex, but not sex with his friends? My mind flips back to Jake Douchebag J.D., how when I suggested that things might not be working he told me I was just upset to discover that I was not very good at the one thing that defined me. Are sex and shit all that define me? Am I not that special or charming now that the latter topic has been downgraded from taboo to humdrum? What am I if not a spectacle?

Arriving home, I draw and thaw out in a nice, hot bath. Queen of the chillaxing multitask, I get wasted on half a bottle of rose, eat snacks in lieu of dinner, switch from bath to shower mode, and wank to oblivion. Friday night: Woo! This. Is. Thirty. I am drowning in tears and wine in lieu of semen. I wonder, Is there any way to preemptively be like, “Hey, let’s say we hang and aren’t so into each other, can we continue fucking anyway?” Of course I don’t want him to get the wrong idea—that I expect not to like him. It’s just that I know for sure we have awesome physical chemistry regardless of how much else we do or don’t have in common. The truth is, I could really use the sex. I’m not actively fucking anyone else and for the first time in my life, I don’t have aged reserves. I gave this lifestyle up years ago. I guess it’s like how when you start doing coke, you meet people who do coke: when you smell like sex, people smell sex on you.

The next morning I wipe when I pee, and encounter non-menstrual bleeding. Not, like, dripping blood. But, like, spotting. Tinted ladycum. I wonder, Did I get so drunk last night that I missed a birth control pill? Don’t need no no-baby pills when I’m only fucking myself! Except I check the pack and the slots are empty up to Saturday night—tonight. So there is only one possible explanation left, Did I fuck myself so hard that I made myself bleed? Jesus Christ, I’ve become a bloody, bloody massacre investigator. HOW IS THIS MY LIFE? I’m not friction sore, so whatever I knocked out of myself came from deep inside. This is deeply disturbing. I remember what Annie told me when she served as my de facto herpes coach, Sometimes shit just gets weird and it’s nothing serious.

I reduce this disaster to a Philosophy of Mind puzzle: What percentage of ladycum must be replaced by red blood cells before the substance takes on the identity of blood instead of blood-tinted ladycum? I don’t have to tell him I’m bleeding, I decide. This is small time in the grand scheme of things proximal to our date, which includes ass bleeding, after all.

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The 13th Step: Intro

THE THIRTEENTH STEP: INTRO

Two days before Halloween I’m lying in bed at 3pm (I’ve started waking up, eating, and crawling back into bed) despairing about how I have no friends. Which is sort of true. I moved out of New York for a year and when I came back, I immediately incarcerated myself in the hospital to undergo IV chemo. By the time I got out, two and a half weeks later—weaker, sicker, and with fewer hairs—I couldn’t leave my apartment to walk around my neighborhood without my mom in tow just in case. Then there was the series of surgeries, after which I was even weaker from being home- and hospital-bound for so long. Then add to that the dehydration from being colonless, which prevented me from taking the subway by myself for fear of fainting. And eventually people kind of forget about you. Especially when you consider that I reemerged briefly and had a coming out of sorts before my back crapped out on me. So one possibility is that my friends are insensitive assholes who don’t care about me. And the more likely one is they just don’t know. It’s easy to get lost in New York—urban isolation. When people don’t see you for a while they assume you are with other people—distracted, overextended, and self-absorbed like all able-bodied New Yorkers. It isn’t exactly like I’ve reached out. In general, I’m not so great at keeping in touch. Even worse when I assume I’m nothing but a burden.

This seems extreme, though. Not only do I sit at home alone on weekends. But I don’t even have plans on the holidays. Is this thirty? Should I give up now? And then it occurs to me: I could just text my friends and see what they are up to. I guess I feel dumb tagging along, instead of inviting them. I have nothing to invite them to. I am never included anymore, not even on anyone’s radar. Announcement: Genie is sad and lonely and has nothing to do on a Friday night that is also Halloween.

I think about the people who have been good to me while I’ve been sick, those who have gone out of their way: Emily and Allister come to mind. By sheer happenstance, Emily was the first I told about my deteriorating back. Weeks later she really came through when I frantically canceled on EFB and her the night before we were supposed to go camping. Even though I had texted EFB, not her, she contacted me directly to say if I couldn’t make it because I was drowning in work, she understood, but if I couldn’t figure out how to carry my stuff with my broken back, she’d help. The next morning, Emily showed up at my place bright and early, without having gone to sleep after being out all night stripping (she’s living the NYC dream: daytime student, nighttime stripper). She arranged for us to travel in a way that wouldn’t involve climbing up and down stairs and helped me lug my many pounds worth of pillows in a granny cart (I’m living the crippled dream). And then there’s Allister, my old standby. When I was still at home recovering from surgery number one, he came over and brought me lunch, unsolicited. I showed him my bag of shit while we were eating. Told him I was consuming salt pills and potato chips to raise my blood pressure and was afraid that someday some guy would eat me out and feel like he was gargling salt water or had just done a backflip in the ocean. He reciprocated with a gross story about a comedian who ate lots of salt and sampled his semen everyday and didn’t realize how salty it had become because he was so desensitized from all the salt. Allister knows how to be there when he needs to be. FRIENDS!

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Whorified

September, 2014

I clock in at two thirty am, well two thirty army—I mean European—time. Eight hours before it’s ten thirty and I have rise and shine to check out of my hotel room in Amsterdam—three stories above from where I could have jumped to when I was on mushrooms and unsteady. Half an hour after Banenenbar and its attached strip club have closed for the evening. So it’s sort of an oh shit, I couldn’t accomplish everything I planned on this trip, I don’t quite qualify as Jonathan Ames. But mostly an oh well, getting to touch real live penis trumps spending monies to watch fake-titted women shimmy, shake and tease. And my orgasm was immaculately orchestrated—the crescendo to my week of lucid lunacy, followed by a gentle fade out to next destination Germany. Anyway tomorrow after lunch I have my sensory deprivation tank Jonathan Ames literary excursion scheduled. Need to rest up my mind and asshole. Remember to Vaseline it. Them. My brain begs for balm.

As I sum up my gains and loses, take inventory of the stay and recalibrate, I stuff my clothes into my suitcase, mentally and physically preparing for the next leg of my drug, sex, and fine artwork jaunt. I finger the crevice between my Ernie and Bert side-by-side not-so-platonic single beds and when nothing surfaces, I separate them. Parting the white sea, I make way for Moses: a bra is wedged in the cleavage and a condom is tangled in the sheets—stuck to them, flailing. So I wrangle the bra and toss it in my suitcase, folding one cup into the other to reinforce the underwire and maximize space. And I unpeel the condom, which I’m sure is a common thing cleaning staff have to contend with. A simple courtesy for me to remove it, a gesture. And.

PANIC. Strikes my face. Then settles, freezing it in place. Like when you are kid and your parents tell you if you keep stretching your skin it will stay that way. Which is true, wrinkles considered. All things considered, whatever is happening is likely to age me considerably.

Is this the real life, is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide no escape from reality…

The slate grey sky opens up and the seedy memories come rushing in. My fluorescent-lit life flashes before my eyes, those two fucking terrible months when I had to deal with Allister and his willful denial. When it got complicated. When I became Lena Dunham, an OCD investigator. What about the stuff that gets up around the side of the condom? Orange semen. Blood in semen. Bloody semen…

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

 

 December, 2009

Allister and I had been fucking casually on-again off-again for a few years by the time of my landmark investigation—which generated data so remarkable it was immediately inducted into the annals of semen science. The sex was mediocre but consistently so: it always got the job done. Most importantly, we got along swimmingly: never had I ever left his place thinking, I had a bad time, or the more somber cousin, I regret this. I admired his reliability. He was always down to fuck. I knew what to expect.

 Except for that one time when I got more than I bargained for. An orgasm with a bonus gift! Look, we were both huge whores. Even though I made him use protection each and every time, I guess somewhere not-so-deep down I figured WE would get a minor communicable disease, eventually. The herps, hopefully. And then we’d spread ointment on each other and have a good giggle and make a mock Valtrex commercial and fuck some more. Because herps is mostly a laughing matter and ointment makes good lube so I’ve heard. Plus I’ve always aspired to be the Bob Dole of mock Valtrex. We had gotten our money’s worth and you know how Jews feel about a good deal. It behooved both of us to maintain the façade of friendship. Friends we were, and still are.

 Ultimately sex is a numbers game, and our combined number: extraordinary. By that time, fiveish years ago, I’d say we had sixtyish partners among us, buried and intermittently surfacing in our joint graveyard of sexual partners past. If you are only counting penis-in-vagina sex. At this point, it’s probably more like one hundredish. Hey, we’re friendly peoples! We’re sexual socialists. We get around. Allister has the glib superficial charm and cheesy handsomeness of a door-to-door salesman. He’s brilliant, not indiscriminate. He knows how to pitch it, how to make you want it and keep wanting it. So I wasn’t surprised that it happened; I was just surprised HOW it happened. I suppose these things always materialize after-the-fact, the incubation period. Once you’ve long since forgotten. Because the sex itself is inconsequential. Which isn’t synonymous with consequence-free. Blrlrgh (shakes head side-to-side), I get the heebie jeebies even thinking about it.

 Once upon a time Allister came over and we fucked and I forgot about it. Because move along, there’s nothing to see here! Nothing out of the ordinary. Anyway, I never got off to him. Prior to not having seen a penis in SIX MONTHS (a sight that cannot be unseen). So let’s say I wasn’t running through the series of events, combing my mind for clues—wank-worthy hair flippings or whatever the male equivalent.

 Until I planned on inviting another gentleman over for a gentle fucking. An old friend was in town for the weekend and I presumed we would end up back at my place. We had consummated our friendship on his previous trip to the city. Like a sexy Girl Scout I vowed to be prepared and wipe dry all traces of testosterone; no man should ever be subjected to a non-consensual encounter with another man’s semen. I am a woman of principle, after all. So I took special care that there was no evidence that another penis had sputtered in my presence, penetrating my virginal aura and rendering me no longer a nun.

 Out of the swarming goodness of my smarmy heart, I reached down into my garbage can. The one in my bedroom which is perennially empty due to lack of trash produced in my bedroom. A 3ish-week old condom lay alone, a nostalgic reminder of Allister and my routine. GONE HORRIBY WRONG. WHAT THE FUCKITTY FUCK!?! 3ish weeks later and the semen was tinted ORANGE. Because I believe in semen, not magic, I believed that what was in the condom three weeks earlier lingered and festered there still. Unless evaporation. Due to the condom’s isolation, the likelihood of contamination was slim-to-none. How had this fate befallen me? I mean, I had mentally prepared for the spread of herpes. Now, instead of arranging a spread of rosé and brie for my forthcoming date, I was Lady Macbething my biohazard bin. But like, I figured it was on Allister’s side of the condom. So I went ahead with the bougie planned fucking of my out-of-town friend (who eventually raped me, talk about a blemish on a relationship that cannot be smoothed over with ointment).

 I pull a Lena Dunham, before Lena Dunham is a thing, and google ALL THE THINGS: orange semen, bloody semen. I speculate about how if left long enough a tiny drop of blood might infuse into a load of cum causing orangeness, the quality of being orange. Like that demo you are given in Intro Bio about diffusion, specifically osmosis, where the teacher puts of drop of dye into a tank of water. My mind is simultaneously buzzing with thoughts and empty. All I am left with is Allister (we are the sexual cockroaches of the nuclear apocalypse) and the realization that I must go to the source.

 I invite myself over and we have a strained, stunted conversation where he denies having orange semen, he sees it almost every day. Fair point, but do you think I’m making this up, how could I possibly benefit from that? And he says he doesn’t think I’m lying, but I must be mistaken about what I saw. There must be some other explanation. Uhh, divine intervention? I assure him that I had looked at it in many lights, literal. That it was the only thing in my garbage, untouched. An uncontaminated sample! I tell him I’m sorry, I can’t touch his penis again until he gets tested. It was on his side of the condom. I am confident about the physical separation. Sex, a separatist act. I leave defeated. On my way out, he tells me the girl he is about to bone is making her way up the stairwell. He had warned me in advance that he had limited time but wanted to see me. Had another engagement booked. Am I going to bump into her on my way down? He asks if it matters, will it be weird for me? Umm, on a scale from what to what—touching all your friends’ penises to orange semen?! A five, I give it.

 A couple weeks later I’m having brunch with my friend Ian, who is an environmental-friendly biologist, and he’s drinking a bloody Mary. That’s not some symbolic detail I’m slipping in to paint the story; for real, that’s what he’s drinking. And I’m like, Not to ruin your brunch, but I had this really fucked up thing happened to me and I’m kinda concerned. So I tell him my story, play-by-play, and he’s like, Genie it’s the condom. And I’m like, I know it’s the condom. And he’s like, No, I mean the material. You told me you used some new kinda condom. There was a chemical reaction.

 Oh shit, that was a detail I had glossed over. Mid-play Allister was like, Wanna try something new. And I was like, Sure, I guess. Didn’t know what he had in mind but we had been hooking up for long enough that I trusted him to do whatever. As long as it didn’t involve an undue amount of pain, or any amount of piss, shit, or vomit. That’s where I draw the line. And I didn’t think he was into werid shit anyway. Because if he were, he woulda told me, proudly. He’s a stand-up comic. A self-sabotager like I am. Self-satirist? Same difference. His idea of something new and exciting was a new brand of condoms, Skin condoms, made out of polisoprene. His “friend” swears by them.

 A couple weeks after my brunch with Ian, I get my hands on my next victim, I mean partner. And the next day when I’m recounting the sordid deets to my best friend, I’m like, Oh shit, I have a used condom in my bedroom garbage. A fresh sample. So I excuse myself to Duane Reade where I buy a box of Skin condoms. I remove the specimen from my garbage can and pour half of the semen from the regular latex condom to the weird and wild polyisoprene condom. I lay them side-by-side in my otherwise empty garbage can, approximating the conditions of the Allister fiasco. A very scientific experiment! A few weeks later when I fetch them, the semen in the latex condom looks the same and the semen in the polyisoprene condom is tinted orange. Eureka!, I exclaim.

 I text Allister. He is pleased with my findings and wants to know when we can fuck again. That one, he doesn’t skip a beat. Our relationship: unblemished.

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September, 2014

Here’s a new one: Blood but no semen.

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On mushrooms I thought I was the ugliest ever. If only. THIS is the grittiest. The most sidewalk trash. Yuppiecrustpunkscum. Not even a fashion statement. Give. Up. Now.

I vacillate from despondent to scientific. There has to be some other explanation, I repeat to make it true. What would Allister do? I can’t believe I’m culling wisdom from that situation. Letting him guide me. But surely, there is something I’m missing. Some chemical equation. Some sleight of hand.

First hypothesis: non-menstrual bleeding. That would have been a welcome visitor according to my emergency management rubric. More slow burn than bloodbath. Wouldn’t be the first time in recent history, either! It always feels good while it’s happening, when you’re teeming with endorphins and oriented toward excess. Theoretical line of investigation: I flashback to my bathroom wank a few hours earlier, The Most Bourgeois Wank. In an elite, well-lit, high-ceilinged location. But I was fast and neat, wiped my fingers and vagina thoroughly with toilet paper afterwards. Even washed my hands before I fondled food! Class act. No way I wouldn’t have noticed blood. Empirical line of investigation: I reach into my vagina, hold two fingers up like I’m hailing a cab and fresh lady cum glistens in the harsh light. No dice. In my vagina. I eliminate myself as the culprit.

WHAT THE FUCK HAVE I MADE OF MY LIFE? HOW IS THIS REAL!?!

He is such a sophisticated, pristine Dutch man.

I feel filthy, hygienically speaking. Contaminated.

I thought I managed to escape my life of medical misery to Amsterdam to do mushrooms in my hotel room alone, spectate a live sex show in a traditional theater, have a few decent fucks with one righteous dude, and visit fine art museums and a science museum for redemption. I thought I struck the perfect balance between absurdity and adulthood. Revelry and responsibility. Frivolity and significance. Becoming Jonathan Ames has a pricetag, I suppose. In broken epidermii. Shattered dreams!

In the flash mob of current events, I assess what should be in the condom v. what is in it. And here is a fun fact for you: I came first. Finished him with my mouth/hand. It should be EMPTY. Except for maybe a tiny trace of precum.

IMG_0784

Here is where it becomes technical, a physical examination. I place the condom on the white-washed surface of the wooden bedside table which serves as a neutral background, if we are going to privilege white as neutrality. If nothing else, it is a baseline. Visually sterile. Pure. I try to line it up with waves in the wood, like height marks in a police line up. Because, really, this whole ordeal is beginning to feel like a criminal matter. Unrolling and smoothing it down like a tube of toothpaste holding on to the last drop, it hits me: the peculiar pattern. The smudge isn’t concentrated at the tip; it’s smeared across the middle portion. When I pinch it between my fingertips, it doesn’t move much; it’s affixed to the latex. I realize it’s on the interior. The condom must have reversed when I removed it, like a sock turned inside out. The dirty parts are now in the interior.

IMG_0783

I flip the condom inside out, which is how my mind feels. Inverted one too many times.

And it hits me again: the smudge isn’t floating around with the spit bubbles. Or precum. Or whatever the viscous, runny fluid. It doesn’t budge.

Someone text Cat Marnell, innovator of beauty product reviews for the snorting, smoking, and sexing lifestyle. Modernizing the makeup game for women who want to look put together as they get sloppy. She conceived of the imaginative and humorous “Lipstick That Won’t Come Off on a Dick.” My inadvertent foray into lipstick that won’t come off of a condom is eerily reminiscent of her ploy. And that rainbow party hysteria that permeated middle school PTAs in the mid-90s, leading clueless helicopter moms to offer, “If you are ever at a party and you feel uncomfortable…” Made gullible by the concern-trolling trope of The Secret Lives of Teenage Girls—popularized in books such as Reviving Ophelia and School Girls as well as daytime TV—mothers bought into an urban legend that their impressionable daughters were being invited to parties where they and their friends would be expected to apply various shades of lipstick and line up to wrap their adorned lips around a tiny prick, leaving behind a rainbow trail. If only. Rainbows and penises are two things I like a lot. One could only imagine how this one lucky pubescent boy got chosen as the canvas. One could only imagine because I doubt such a party has ever occurred.

Vice Magazine, hire me for a blow job expose! Does Revlon’s ColorStay lipstick live up to its trademark? Or must one splurge for Laura Mercier’s Healthy Lips Sheer Lip Colour, the culprit of my crime scene, if she aims to paint the town red?! Obviously I should be paid to perform this important cultural duty—product tester, dick sucker, secret tweeker. Not that men care if lipstick stays affixed or becomes askew mid-bj. With tears dripping from my eyes, snot dripping from my nose, and drool rolling down my face, seldom has a man pulled back my bj ponytail and cooed, Mmm, baby, your pouty lips look positively radiant wrapped around my bulging cock.

Laura Mercier Healthy Lips

Flipping through mental frames, I’m left wondering: how is it possible that my lipstick remained on the condom throughout a vigorous fucking? Granted I didn’t last long—but still. For sure I rolled the condom on with my mouth. I couldn’t have also removed it with my mouth, could I have? Even then it is remarkable that lipstick remained on my lips for so long, through so much! Durable. That’s how I’d like to be viewed by men. I’m that kind of girl.

Laura Mercier Healthy Lips Blot

Laura Mercier, I applaud you: brava! If I could smooch your geeky chemists for elevating the art of blow jobs, they would be marked with my enduring praise.

Happy Halloween, kids. And, as goes Cat Marnell’s motto: LET IT BLEED!

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Public Property, Part Two: Cautionary Tale

Public Property, Part Two: Cautionary Tale

October 7th, 2014

 

LAID BARE

It’s that shoddy candy wrapper analogy (no one wants to eat used candy) imparted in Celibacy Ed class in states that should secede from the Union. Since sexual modesty is a woman’s virtue, once her delicate skin is exposed to the harsh air of social scrutiny she is devalued. Failing to attend properly to her god-given role as a gatekeeper, we set her back in her rightful place, keep her in line. For her own good. To make an example of her. As we knock her off her marble pedestal, reversing her good fortune, we kvell in schadenfreude and gloat in our presumed superiority.

[I]f she shared nude images consensually, then people wouldn’t get to revel in her humiliation. And that’s really the point, isn’t it? To take a female celebrity down a notch?… [T]here is an obsessive tendency in American culture with elevating women—young, beautiful women, especially—to celebrity status just to bask in their eventual fall.

—Jessica Valenti, What’s Wrong With Checking Out Stolen Nude Photos of Celebrities

Valenti is right: it is precisely the humiliation that captivates us; we delight in knowing that someone who appears to be superhuman, to have it all, can be taken advantage of—is just a naked body underneath her clothes. If we wanted nudity, there are thousands upon thousands of naked people on the internet who encourage us to view to their bodies for fame, fortune, or exhibitionistic fortitude. Women are routinely penalized and pathologized for daring to be beautiful and confident, for claiming their bodies as sites of pleasure and adoration—on their own terms.

Part of our satisfaction in sneaking a peak, in intuiting that celebrities with vaginas are vulnerable humans just like the rest of us, is borne out of our tacit acceptance that nudity is something of which to be ashamed. We have internalized the notion that bodies, especially female ones, are base instead of bare. Otherwise the risk of having our bodies put on display wouldn’t hold such an air of gravitas—it would be more of a shrug than a snarl. There is something so barbaric about it all: I’m picturing nakeds and crazies on display in a Town Square, with clumsy court jesters and a clamorous procession along Main Street. Heralding the discovery that a powerful female has flesh covering her bones and lady bits with ostensibly indecorous needs. There is almost a mortality threat undertone to the public ostracism and adversarial outcry. As if nudity is humiliating for even the extra attractive because it reminds us that we are all animals—with bodies bold enough to outsmart our supposedly superior brains, bodies that will sooner or later betray us entirely.

When we take advantage of a woman who is young, attractive, and enjoys her vitality, she should have known better. She was foolish to think she could have gotten away with revealing her skin to only a select audience. A loose woman becomes public property—careless with herself, we are given the green light to handle her with rough paws. This classic victim-blaming paradigm is not an exaggeration. People really believe that women are responsible for how men behave towards them, that they could control men by exercising more self-control. When women are harassed on the street, they shouldn’t have worn short skirts or dared to be out at a late hour in a certain neighborhood, when women are raped and have been drinking they shouldn’t have let their guard down, when girls wear leggings to junior high and high school they prevent men from being able to think straight and impose their intellectual authority. Women must be put in their place, taught a lesson: regardless of the thoughts that run through their minds and the words that fall out of their flapping lips, they are at fault for being tricky tricky temptresses, for bewitching men—their bodies so bodacious and men’s brains so pea-sized. Men suffer from constitutional weakness to an extent that women are puppeteers of their behavior. Unwitting ones. When a man invades a fortress of pheromones, well, what did you think was going to happen? You left your door unguarded.

Every woman knows you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If you dress frumpy or turn down sexual advances, you are a prude bitch or a pretty, pretty princess. If you are proud to express yourself sexually, you are ripe you be violated. I bet these men on the internets who blame the photo “leak” on the women who allowed men to snap pictures of them (or who GASP asked to be photographed—for posterity or provocation), would tell their own girlfriends that they were frigid bitches for refusing to pose.

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LEAN TOWARD LENIENCY

We’re supposed to guard our bodies like a secret. We’re supposed to be on such high alert for sexual assault that we test every stupid drink that passes our lips. We’re never, ever supposed to relax. When something as comfortingly frivolous as painting our nails becomes a reminder that we’re all just one unlucky Tinder right-swipe away from the emergency room, what psychic space do we even have left for fun?

—Judy Berman, Nude Selfies, Rape Nail Polish, and the Dumb Idea That Women Don’t Deserve Fun

I almost feel like this idea that we are expected to be on high alert all the time encourages women to be lackadaisical. Not out of rebellion but because it’s like, oh well, if we are fucked either way we might as well have fun going down!!! Fatigue leans toward leniency.

She should have known better? Well, what if we preempt their predictable judgment by outing ourselves. If we all got naked on the internet—which I think is sorta the direction things are going in these days anyway, with our lives transformed into marketing tools and our innards mined for data—there would be no more scandal in nudity. Bodies would be seen for what they are: something that all of us have, whether we like it or not. And the real failure would be in our bodies failing to function. Diverging from an algorithm. As mine has. Gradually then suddenly.

I’ve always thought that the clothing we choose to wear reveals far more about us than the physical attributes we dress. Bodies are merely the hangers on which our identities are hinged. The canvases on which our stories are inscribed. I’m not purporting that our constituent parts don’t matter. I’m fully aware that the reason I’m able to get away with talking about literal shit on first dates and still get fucked is that I’m a conventionally attractive 30-year-old woman (tiny girl with huge tits!) who has the outward appearance of a 20-year-old despite the physical (dis)abilities of a 65-year-old. Often I think about how hilarious it would be if someone stole nude pictures of me, distributed them without my consent. First, they would be assaulted with medical porn, pictures of my shitting out of my ajar abdomen. You can’t ruin me: my immune system already has!

Years ago my ex boyfriend’s best friend explained to me how he keeps all his porn centralized in a conspicuously labeled folder on his desktop, so when people poke around on his computer they don’t snoop. Seriously, there are things on my computer wayyy more personal than nudie pics. There are all sorts of emails and essays in which I’m laid bare—emotionally and intellectually. That I consider far bigger threats to my current, past, and future reputation and identity. Given all the prospectively incriminating digital material out there, it seems silly that we demand a higher level of security for women’s bodies. That we expect women to keep their bodies on lockdown. Which, in theory, should be averse to men, too—men who like women’s bodies and want to view and touch them. But it’s all about controlling access, retaining power. As long as we can strip women of their dignity by exhibiting their naked bodies and mocking their sexual exploits, as long as their exposure can have actual consequences for gaining or maintaining employment, men will have a leg up. Me, I prefer for women to have a leg up—on the sofa.

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HEED THIS WARNING

Here is a facebook conversation demonstrating the double standard, the higher standard to which misogynists hold women. Victim-blaming in action. A digital foot-in-mouth print that can’t be erased:

SHARI: “I’ve never heard anyone respond to financial hacking by saying, Just don’t use online banking. That’s what you get for using credit cards.”

[quotation by Farhad Manjoo]

JUSTIN: I’m assuming your referring to the pic leaks. The difference being. Credit card fraud happens thousands of times a day. Usually you call, cancel the card, verify charges and get a new card. Minor inconvenience.
Morally yes, stealing from someone’s computer or phone sensitive information like photos is wrong. But it won’t stop.

SHARI: I think you are missing the meaning behind this quote… this is referring to the countless people “Slut-shaming” the women. Saying that it is their fault in the first place because they took the photos. What they do in their personal life with their partners is not wrong. It is not their fault, it’s the assholes who committed a sex crime. The countless comments I’ve read from (usually misogynistic) men that the women are to blame and shouldn’t do it in the first place is incredible.

JUSTIN: I agree it’s their business, and no doubt they are victims of a crime. I think this should be viewed as a cautionary tale. How many photo leaks need to happen before people realize that it’s a bad idea. You are one lost phone, angry ex, hacker, away from the public. Simply put, don’t do it.

SHARI: When you are on set for months on end, halfway across the country or world from your loved one…. then I can totally understand wanting to still keep that part of your relationship “fresh” and utilize the technology that exists today. Why should they not work on the sexual part of their relationship because asshole hackers exist? That’s like saying I shouldnt online shop because financial hackers exist (yes I did just requote the quote. ha) Also, these photos were not on a phone, they were on the cloud, many of the victims stated that they deleted the pictures years ago from their mobile devices.

JUSTIN: I’m not talking about just movie stars. Anyone should be aware of the risk. And that’s what it comes down to, risk. Comparing it to online shopping is apples and oranges. For me the risk of online shopping does not outweigh the rewards. As for the cloud. Quick tech lesson. When you digitize something it can and in many cases will exist forever somewhere. When you “delete” something it doesn’t disappear, instead the computer just marks that area of the memory as available for writing.

Cell phone interceptors exist all over the us. Many law enforcement have them as well as hackers, spys, whatever. Do not send anything sensitive over cell networks. Photos, banking, etc. Wait until you are on private WiFi and using a secure server. Online banking should always start with “https://” the “s” stands for secure. Encrypt everything, your phone, computer, tablet. It’s the first thing I do with any new device. Now if you want to securely send some sensitive file to a friend use an end to end encryption service. Also you should trust this person if the relationship goes south. For the victims I truly do feel for them and the lack of justice. Hopefully in the future though people will heed this warning. Ignorance to tech security does not make it go away.

Operative word: cautionary tale. Women are respectable only as words of warning and paragons of contrition. I love that he mansplains how computers work, when she has moral objections about the allocation of blame; not confusion about technology and how deleted images can magically reappear years later. He assumes “ignorance.” It shouldn’t go without saying: Shari is an exceptionally pretty girl, a successful model. Incidental to her prettiness and demonstrated in this exchange, she’s no dummy (in fact, she’s quite attuned to social injustices). But I’m sure she gets treated as such because of her looks. Not that all women aren’t the recipients of condescension on some account.

Our lives could get infinitely small if we ceased doing anything with prospective risks. And living in the constant vigilance that Justin’s attitude engenders is not a psychic space I wish to inhabit. I’d far prefer to be considered unrespectable by people whom I don’t respect.

We, women, pay for men’s blatant abuses. And that’s the epitome of misogyny. What if it isn’t an issue of our being ignorant to the way the internet works, to the possibility of resentment and revenge rearing their ugly, inflamed heads. What if it is an issue of their being indignant and refusing to cede to abuse. What if we aren’t dumb sluts. What if we make conscious, active and informed decisions. That don’t jibe with your propriety.

What if we, collectively, don’t negotiate with terrorists.

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SELF SABOTAGE

Americans are obsessed with ruining lives, especially of the successful, fortunate, or famous, who should have known better. Who have too much to lose. (I mean the poors—excuse my French, the proletariat—they have so little value anyway, who cares about their presentation?) The farther one has to fall, the more hardcore the tragedy porn.

Which brings us to my career: How do we wrap our heads around it when someone sabotages herself on purpose? When she is perfectly aware of the risks but goes ahead and takes liberties anyway. When she broadcasts her transgressions proudly. In an attempt to shift the status quo. To win over hearts and minds. Okay, so that last one was an exaggeration.

The whole humiliation angle is one I can’t relate to, because I like my body. I want it to be seen. Sort of like how someone with a nice voice (not I!) might want to sing aloud. Bring joy to others with her physical gifts! Which isn’t to say that I don’t know my audience. I wouldn’t, for example, send my family a Hannukah card with me spread eagle. But to imply that a woman should be humiliated by her body being out there, that the exposure of her flesh is the principal threat to her social status (likely to precipitate her downfall), is to imply that there is something distasteful and embarrassing about lady parts. And it’s just weird and inane to think that something roughly fifty-percent of the population have can be cause for shock and shunning. Like, we live in a society inundated by sex, but within such limited contexts and with such a deliberate spin on it, that we haven’t become habituated to most of the permutations. We are shocked that women can be smart and hot, that women with less-than-desirable bodies still get laid, that confidence is actually attractive and something to be lauded. We look at a dumpy naked woman and say she is brave; at an attractive naked woman and say she is foolish or vain. If of a certain education level or socioeconomic class, we assume both are trying to make some point. Their nudity is political, deliberately situated. We miss the most obvious explanation: that some people like to be naked and don’t buy into the myth that bodies are something about which to be ashamed, something that only certain types are allowed to enjoy guilt-free.

…I would not be surprised in the days ahead to see arguments as to why this is somehow the fault of the celebrities whose phones were hacked—that these women took the pictures, that they were posing, that generating publicity is part of their job… The underlying premise is that these women have consented to being there for public entertainment…

—Jessica Valenti, What’s Wrong With Checking Out Stolen Nude

So, no, it is not an actor’s job to be public about her private life, to exist for male consumption. But as a future gynecologist I do believe that it is part of my job to teach women that they shouldn’t be embarrassed by their bodies—shouldn’t conceal tampons as they walk to the bathroom, shouldn’t run water while they poop, shouldn’t wear clothes that hide their figures, shouldn’t wax and clean their vaginas so they look and smell like dolls instead of adult humans. As a doctor who will primarily treat women, I am a model for women. Reducing sexual stigma necessarily starts with me. If someone who examines hundreds of vaginas per year has to hide her own, if someone who interacts intimately with hundreds of women and other vagina-havers per year has to hide her humanity, follies and all, then that’s a sad world for vaginas and human connection.

I refuse to accept my inevitable fate as a cautionary tale, to be made into an example. I want to set an example.

Look, guys: I’m no role model. I’m fucking miserable. But I’m doing the best that I can. I really am. And part of that is living life according to desire, not fear. Ignoring fear to pursue my desires. Triumphing over bullies with two parts ambition and one part insouciance. Refusing to negotiate with terrorists. It is an active rather than passive stance. Pursuing a divergent path, I am inadvertently thumbing my nose at society, as a woman who just wants to be fucking human.

Don’t assume that women who disobey have been led astray, misled, manipulated. Give us more credit than that. Women can make choices too, albeit constrained ones.

I’m your worst nightmare come to life – I’m a girl who won’t shut up.

—Kathleen Hanna

What if being sexual as a female wasn’t synonymous with being out of (your) control and having poor judgment (according to your broadly imposed standards).

What if fear of breaking code was seen for what it is: cowardly.

What if we were outspoken.

What if we were out. In the open.

What if we impelled the movement in between iconoclast and icon.

Posted in public property: part 2 | 1 Comment

Public Property, Part One: That Kind of Girl

Public Property, Part One: That Kind of Girl

September 14th, 2014

 

RUINED

There are a couple of current events (“current” encompassing the past month or so) that are germane to the direction of my blog. Specifically, concerning the topics of professionalism, transparency, and hypocrisy. As someone who is in the process of applying to medical school, my image is something I think about constantly and the relationship between my personal life and professional aspirations is fraught. I hope someday those two facets of me will be less uneasy bedfellows, less compartmentalized. This Melissa Febos quotes comes to mind:

After therapy that day I walked through Union Square farmers’ market with the particular lightness of step that I’ve come to associate with hard-won revelations… Telling the truth to other people, about my job, my addiction, or anything I concealed, had had the same effect, had been followed by the same lightness of step. Honesty brought my double lives together and in doing so made the world a bigger place, in which I could move around more freely.

—Melissa Febos, Whip Smart, pg. 257

I am extra protective when it comes to women being ruined professionally, having to monitor their bodies and safety constantly, especially when their personal experiences have bearing on their career trajectories. If a woman’s worth is based on her body, and she becomes devalued upon exposure what are the implications for transparency and honesty?

Prevalent is the idea that women’s bodies are a liability, something we have to guard and conceal. Their misuse could ruin our lives, jeopardize our professional appearances. We have so little ownership over our flesh, strangers feel as if they have the right to comment on our physical attributes, as well as the insight to speculate on the complicated relationships we have with our bodies—why we would choose to display ourselves in a particular fashion. Show off? Must have low self-esteem, daddy issues: poor young thang! As if the waves we make with our curves are for public consumption, wholly self-conscious. Our value as human beings, the entirety of our self-worth hinges on how we allegedly appraise ourselves sexually. Hint: if we have consorted with and enjoyed the admiration of multiple men indiscreetly, we are used up instead of affirmed. We are the naive victims on a two-way street. Wanting sex and wanting to be wanted are both viewed as character defects. Which neither benefits women nor men.

We men have to learn this Golden Rule over and over: Women want to be wanted and they love sex.

—Jonathan Ames, Self Sentenced: My Life As A Writer The Last Few Years

 

CELEBRITIES HAVE BODIES, TOO

And thus the week of The Fappening (Is there a grosser onomatopoeia?) began, with scandal and sarcasm.

Dad: Did you hear about Jennifer Lawrence?

Me: Oh my god, did you know that female celebrities have breasts, too?

The way I feel about our society’s antiquated, histrionic views on nudity and sex can pretty much be summed up in my response to a Facebook friend’s prompt…

Joan: I get that there are naked celebrities all over the internet, but why isn’t anyone talking about the fact that someone HACKED ICLOUD. It seems like JLaws boobs are burying the lead on this one…

That black strappy thing is pretty nice, I will agree. But still. iCloud. Hacked.

I feel like PR managers around the world are hyperventilating.

Chris: Blah blah Patriot Act online privacy blah OH LOOK TITS. Because women’s bodies are public property in rape culture.

Tony: lets be more sensationalist chris

Me: if only we lived in a society where nudity was considered natural, not scandalous.

 

THEIR BODIES BELONG TO US

My most significant high school boyfriend and his friend made some good points and missed some others.

High School BF: i don’t know, i feel strange about the outrage after the nude photos of jennifer lawrence…i feel like i’ve never seen such a backlash to nude celeb photos being leaked. i’m trying to put my finger on why the outrage bugs me so much, but maybe this has something to do with it:

notice anything in the picture? a strange juxtaposition? i see the difference obviously, but it feels like we created a culture obsessed with celebrity nudity and then decry it when it occurs under the wrong circumstances…

high school bf celebrity nudity

Jon: Consent, consent, consent, consent, consent. 

I agree the reaction as been wholly different (and that’s a good thing). Maybe a critical mass of Millennials are old enough now that we have enough of a public voice to publicly scold the scolds who are clucking about how these young beautiful people have had the temerity to act like young beautiful people always have. 

I am perversely gleeful that the sick fks who were swapping these pictures are now vulnerable to kiddie porn charges. Burn, mother fkers. Burn.

High School BF: i think the difference here is just that we see jlaw differently from other celebs — we like her more, we find her more personable, like us, etc. — and so it angers us more. if the other celebs had had their pics leaked and not jlaw, i’m not sure we would have this anger.

look i’m not suggesting the two situations are the same. i don’t have any desire to objectify these women by saying if they show their bodies in one context, they have no right to object to us seeing them in other contexts, as though their bodies belong to us. i just think it’s weird that we engage in actions along the same or similar lines, and then express outrage when it goes too far. we seem to have a strange and unhealthy obsession with celebrity nudity, with the private lives of celebrities, and really with celebrities in general. there’s such an outcry to denounce these leaked photos, while i don’t know a single person who is able to pass up a good celeb tabloid. it might not be the same thing, but it seems to me that the same urge that created the former (curiosity, obsession, the plain old urge to gawk at a famous person) also created the latter.

Yes, consent is the critical difference in women voluntarily deciding to display themselves, whether in acting roles or just because they feel like it. But I think there are others reasons why we have a guttural negative reaction to this particular celebrity outing.

 

ARCHETYPAL WOMEN

I’m not interested in discussing the relative merits of particular celebrities, because I care very little about celebrity culture. But we can analyze celebrities as archetypes. On the one hand we have J Law, who is viewed as everybody’s BFF, slurping soda and devouring nachos like one of the dudes—not much of a threat in terms of intrasexual competition. She even cut her hair short, and not in that manic pixie dream girl cliché way. We are especially offended when this happens to her because she is relatable and ordinary so it could happen to anyone! Also there is the problematic notion that she did nothing to provoke it, doesn’t deserve it. Sure she is cutesy and has a hottish bod but doesn’t explicitly sexualize herself. Does not give a fuck what we think. On the other hand we have the polar opposite, let’s say Courtney Love. Desperate for attention, relevance. I think it’s safe to conjecture that we wouldn’t feel outraged if private information, specifically nude photos of her, were made public. Even with explicitly malicious intent, even if she did not consent to such exposure. Sure, she is an extreme example: we see her as a black widow whose own daughter chose to divorce her. She’s probably a shitty person, undoubtedly a wholly unsympathetic character. Relevant to my critique, she also happens to be a trainwreck, a not-so-hot mess.

 

UNTAME

Which brings us to the concept of a ruined woman. For a more intermediate example, there is someone like Kristen Stewart, or perhaps this generation’s Drew Barrymore whoever that may be. She is precocious and messy and has smeared eyeliner. Slightly wild, untamed. She hasn’t done anything blatantly immoral, hasn’t publicly hurt others or made a fool of herself as far as I know, but we expect bad behavior from her. At least slipping a sneaky bottle of booze into her garter belt at an award show or whatever the kids are doing these days. Because sex or drugs wouldn’t be shocking coming from her or her ilk, we empathize a little less if nonconsensual sex or sexual exposure befalls them. It isn’t so divergent from their normal behavior as to be noteworthy; it isn’t so out-of-character. They had it coming.

There are kinds of women, ruined women. And in a culture where women’s bodies are already viewed as public property, we believe they have less of a right to privacy than the rest of us—the supposedly sound decision-makers. We all know that sluts be cray cray. Since bitches don’t like sex and only give bee jays in exchange for true love or to make an impression, if a woman is willing to give it away like candy and <gasp!> pretends that she likes it, she’s already lost her scruples. There is a distrust of sluts because we have been taught that sex is an antagonistic act only really wanted by one party. We take the feelings and desires of an allegedly mentally imbalanced or manipulative person into lesser consideration.

 

ALL ACCESS

Let’s talk about rape, baby, and whether if someone reveals her body or allows us to touch her body in one context, we have a right to it in any context that suits our fancy. The way that rape laws work in the United States of Godbless America, until fairly recently marital rape wasn’t considered a crime. Like, the term “marital rape” would have been viewed as an oxymoron. Once you agreed to take a man as your lawfully wedded husband, to love and to cherish chastely ‘til death do us part, he had full and legal access to you. Remember that horrifying divorce case between David Hager, that nutjob evangelical gynecologist whom George W. elected head of his Celebacy Ed. Commission? As in, a guy who was responsible for making official decisions governing the drugs the FDA approved for reproductive health, yet refused to prescribe contraceptives to his unmarried lady patients and prescribed bible study as a cure for menstrual cramps. During his divorce proceedings, when his wife accused him of anally raping her regularly while in bed, he argued that he didn’t realize it was up the butt. (Like, that was his alibi.) Which does not bode well for his competence as a gyno if he was unable to locate his own wife’s vagina. And, moreover, implies that it would have been permissible if only it had been up the correct hole. All-access pass. Rock ‘n roll! Then there are legal proceedings that are commonplace in rape cases. Regardless of the admissibility as evidence, women’s sexual pasts are brought into the courtroom to call into question their character and reliability as witnesses. Their social media presence is exhumed for offhand comments and song lyrics with potentially sexual overtones. Anything to suggest they were asking for it, are looking for it.

Sluttery is evidence of consent. If you like sex, you must accept it in all instances from all people. Sluts are viewed as indiscriminate, not the enterprising sexual opportunists that we are. And let me tell you, because I’ve boned tons of guys, I know my preferences. I’ve honed my game. I know what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. What is par for the course and what is uncalled for.

 

IT CUTS BOTH WAYS

Are sluts out of control and not to be trusted because they’ve made what we view to be a series of questionable decisions? Or does their vast amount of experience make them all the wiser? As a lawyer I once dated answered when I posed that very question, “It cuts both ways.” A few dates later when I grew concerned that he just did not get it, I got personal. (For the sake of transparency, at the point of disclosure to him, I had only been raped once). I’ve been raped twice, once in June 2004 when I had just turned 20 and once in December 2010 when I was 26. The experiences were different from one another in various ways. For one thing, at the time of the first rape I was young, scared of what others would assume, naive about the emotional repercussions, and I did not feel empowered to confront the man afterwards. In contrast, by the time of the second rape I was older, more proactive about self-care, and I had already had the first experience to give me more realistic expectations of how I would feel and what it would take to cope. More significantly, my state of consciousness and resulting participation varied. During the first rape I was passed out drunk, thus lacking the physical or mental capacity to consent or move. Directly prior to the second rape I explicitly stated my lack of consent, declaring, “We are not having sex right now;” yet the guy decided to proceed with utter disregard anyway. I’m not sure which is worse, fucking someone who doesn’t know (I woke up disoriented with him inside me) or fucking someone who says no in a complete fucking sentence. Both are bad. And both were wholly uncalled regardless of my previous sexual history or my desire to get fucked sometimes by some men, even one of them.

Besides getting raped by two men, I have had consensual penis-in-vagina sex with fifty-four men, including one of the eventual rapists, and consensual not-quite-sex sexual relations with numerous other men and women. Which is to say, I know a thing or two about sex. And I know that even though I have had a spectrum of consensual experiences and even though the circumstances of the two non-consensual experiences diverged from one another, those two experiences were distinct from all the rest. They were inverted spaces in which men did things to me. Without any regard for my body or desires. Without acknowledging that I am a human being with needs, like the need to feel safe and in control of my body—autonomous. I had no level of participation in either act beyond physically pushing man number two away, which was more reflexive than conscious.

I surmise, though, that most people would feel a lower level of sympathy for me than they would if they read a similar story written by someone with less of a history.
Some might argue that I got myself into those situations; I made my bed and was forced to lay in it.

 

GATEKEEPERS

Women are expected to assume the role of sexual gatekeepers, to keep men in line because men can’t control themselves. Men are animals with desires and women are recipients, passive except to maintain boundaries. When women fail to guard their bodies or, god forbid, express sexual desires of their own, and men take advantage of their moral or cognitive slippage, touch or talk to them in unwanted ways, they should have known better.

I invited man number two into my bed, but I did not invite him for a round two after I told him I was done for the evening. There is no such thing as a sexual all-access pass. Women (people in general) have the right to revoke consent at any time and retain the respect of their partners.

Context and consent are everything. Just because celebrities have agreed to be public figures, exposing select facets of their lives, does not mean their bodies belong to us.
If only “gatekeeping” referred to having dominion over how much of ourselves we choose to expose. If only we were the initiators rather than the refusers.

Posted in public property: part 1 | Leave a comment

political pornography

Political Pornography

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October 7th, 2014

5ish years ago, during the Obama-McCain election season, an artist friend-of-a-friend created a brilliant website called “Political Pornography” to express her dissatisfaction with how women are disempowered by the political process.

First she situated “political” and “pornography” within our cultural lexicon, culling definitions from traditional dictionaries. These are the ones that grabbed my attention:

po·lit·i·cal (pə-lĭt’ĭ-kəl)
Of or relating to your views about social relationships involving authority or power; “political opinions.”

pornography /pɔrˈnɒgrəfi/

Obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, esp. those having little or no artistic merit.

I’d also like to add this, less biased one, to the mix:

pornography (pɔːˈnɒɡrəfɪ)

Writings, pictures, films, etc, designed to stimulate sexual excitement.

Then, she wrote a poetic mission statement for her concomitant project.

This is a project born out of frustration.
A suburban child of the cul-de-sac,
I know this emotion well.

Unfortunately, once I got past these teenage rites of passage,
President Bush was elected.
Or rather, Al Gore worked really hard and won the popular vote,
and George W. Bush was sworn into office.
Then I realized, oh no, its not just about being a teenager.
No, power just doesn’t play fair. Okay. Fine.

We all remember the past !!! years of government corruption.
We can all relate to the stagnation of America.

It’s time for change.
Make the vulnerable strong.
Subvert the scientia sexualis.
Empower an emphatic expression of personal politics.

Legally speaking, America is still a democracy.
A nation powered by the people.
But only when the people take advantage of this right.
We are privileged to live in a country that gives us
The power to vote freely and without fear.
To speak our minds. Let’s do this.

Finally, she posted the “meat” of her project, i.e., nudie pics of her with cheeky political statements scrawled across her sprawled out body, reframing catchy pop-culture phrases. Eventually she unposted those, abandoning her endeavor at least in the public sphere. Not sure whether she lost her nerve or lost interest.

The following e-mail exchange is pertinent to a lot of ideas I’ve been tossing around in my head recently. Concerning whether one can create text and images simultaneously intended to arouse physically (sexually and emotionally) and incite intellectually. Whether such works are valueless in the censorious eyes of society. Whether the prospective hazards to one’s career are portentous enough to be prohibitive instead of progressive.

Will people look the other way out of disappointment or disapproval, or because they are scared stiff of being discovered guilty by association? To what extent can one transgress before tipping the boundary between being edgy and falling over the edge? Is sexual something that we as “professionals” are only allowed to know self-consciously and not experience sensually? Are we so far gone that natural impulses are subversive?

I am jealous of artists and their freedoms. To create. To explore. To err.

Five years later and still no impressive degree. At age thirty my body has already betrayed me.

FYI, Karen didn’t give me the link to her blog, our mutual friend did. So when I emailed her out of the backlit blue it was a “Surprise, I’ve seen you naked and I’m into it—but not like that!”

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January 16th, 2009

Me:

i leave my fluffy wuffy daughter unattended for five minutes, and there she is surfing the interweb and viewing pornography!

Busted!

Busted!

 

January 16th, 2009

Karen:

cats are devilish aren’t they?

i’ve been thinking it needs to be updated…

 

January 17th, 2009

Me:

i was thinking what pictures i would contribute if i didn’t have a career to ruin 7 years from now when i finally have an impressive degree.

photo set number one: picture of me fully clothed in clueless-era preppy clothing (thick-framed teacher’s glasses and argyle knee socks included), suggestively chewing on a pencil, behind a desk strewn with women’s studies books and psych text books. the caption would be “scholar.” followed by picture of me lying nearly naked on pile of said books, with “dumb slut” written on my body in fuck-me-red lipstick.

photo set number two: me lying in my girly bed innocently, fucking a barbie in a wedding dress (legs only), with “faux-lesbian feminist” written on me in pretty pink lipstick, the tube of lipstick lying next to me evoking lipstick lesbianism. followed by a pic of of me in a vest, boots, and lesbian pins (i have a “rainbow for hillary” pin), lying next to a pile of dildos, with the caption “straight but not narrow” (nothing like a little slut humor).

[NB: “Not narrow” is a reference to loose vaginas, which ignorant people believe sluts to have. I personally am tight as fuck from my well-toned dildo-fucking muscles.]

i’m pretty sure that academia loves artistic freedom and if i were ever seriously a professor of women’s studies-oriented psych, i could write-off political nudie pics in a feminist essay.

i’m a huge fan of your website. my reaction:

me: um, i love the “what do you do with ur smarts?” ingenious!

smart people like being naked too!

Daria: it’s true

me: i like the “what we do with our power matters” pic too

me: i’m sort of in love with karen’s mission statement

Daria: nice

me: the marriage of politics and sexual empowerment, awesome. let’s be emphatic about our freedom of speech by getting naked publicly! a public declaration of frustration over the political process, by means of exercising one of the rights we still have. way to stick it to the man!

oh, how i envy artists

and their freedoms

i wonder how i can get naked with a message without ruining my career

oh what it would be like to be naked and self-righteous

Daria: it might be okay

me: maybe if i actually became a therapist my clients could get off to me and i wouldn’t even need to have red hair

or a soothing voice

[NB: This is a reference to the therapist I had when I was 16. As many are, I was devastated when she mentioned her real family. In my case it was because then I realized she was straight, or at least straight enough to be living the New England equivalent of a bicoastal picket fence lifestyle.]

I like Karen’s line “A nation powered by the people. But only when we take advantage of this right.” it seems to delineate the difference between power and being empowered.

Daria: I like that too

feminine wiles are powerful, albeit not taken seriously. way to intellectualize them or, at least, use them for something intelligent.

 

January 17th, 2009

Karen:

I love (love!) both of these ideas.  Thank you for making me think more seriously again about how this sight needs to be updated.  You inspired me last weekend to start think about this again and I started the political pornography blog

[M]y original intention of political pornography was to connect the political act with the person, and underline that political ideals are reified (and defied) on a personal level. Ultimately, any one of these politicians could have been put in the position to make decisions that will affect me the individual.  I was thinking that to express my own personal political argument, in the loudest and most obvious way possible, while implicitly blatantly ignoring any social logic dictating the ways in which I present and express myself, would an interesting and thought provoking (if not just plain provocative) project.  That said, yeah, its not usually the first thing that I shout out about myself.  I’m generally okay knowing people have seen me naked, that said, its hard looking people in the eye when you know their thinking, what the fuck is this girl thinking?  And then I remind myself, fuck them…
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October 7th, 2014

Ah, to be naked and self-righteous. Or, more simplistically, to be naked and invulnerable. If only exploration didn’t risk exposure didn’t risk exile. In the United States of Godbless America.

On the enemies of the United States, the Axis of Evil: “They hate our freedoms—our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”—W

If only we had the sovereignty to make decisions about our bodies. If only we were free to speak about our bodies, to express ourselves with our bodies, without being penalized.

Forever frustrated!

Posted in political pornography | Leave a comment

Face Fuck, Part 4

Face Fuck, Part 4

August, 2014

Culver Hotel

I told him I was overly sensitive, neurologically speaking, post-orgasm. Could not be touched. True, somewhat, of orgasms resulting from mostly clit stim. Inherently unsatisfying, uncomfortable afterwards. After a minute or two of imposed separation, I relented, ceding to his touch. My skin stood on end, a provisional sheath. Impertinently, he called attention to my armor. Accused me of maintaining distance. As if that would soften me, draw me closer. I never understand what people are fucking thinking when they point out, unsolicited, that someone is acting shy, seems sad, etc. Does that kind of exposure ever dampen an undesirable response or steer it on another course entirely, rather than magnify one’s irritation and increase the original aversive inclination. So intrusive. Sort of like instructing a woman to smile on the street, it implies her mopiness or dumpiness. Turns your desire into her flaw. Recoil, is how my body reacted in relation to his. I repeated my thing about being sensitive post-orgasm. Easy way out.

That’s when the unbearable, overbearing effusion really kicked in. Before the jump, he had made an excessive display of how superior, specifically scrumptious, my pussy is. The first time it was flattering at best, polite at worst. After his referring to my pussy as “sweet,” specifically “the sweetest,” multiple times, I thought, with subdued sarcasm, Gee, that’s funny I don’t remember seasoning myself with powdered sugar beforehand, leaving an Appalachian trail of fruity pebbles for scraggly stragglers to follow.

Post-orgasm, more of the same. Ceaseless, effusive rambling. ENOUGH, already.

Bart: …taste your sweet pussy.

Bart: Sweetest pussy I’ve ever tasted.

Me (trying to shut him down): Sweet nothings.

Bart: Sweet nothings of sweet pussy.

VOM provoking.

Bart: Your breasts, so beautiful.

Me: Yeah, I know I’m a tiny girl with huge tits.

Bart: Not just their size. It’s their shape, too. Your little pink nipples are so beautiful. So perfect. You’re underselling yourself.

Uhm, I’m not trying to sell myself, at all. How do I dismiss his compliments without coming off as insecure?

After a minute or two more of social niceties my “Why the fuck am I here, again?” routine resumed. There was just one thing left, I hadn’t gotten him off yet. He was being “difficult,” but fair is fair. I attempted to swipe out of my shift, to verify that I was off duty before bailing:

Me: Do you want me to touch you again?

Bart: Nah, I’m really drunk.

Me: Yeah, I figured. Just don’t want to seem selfish.

Phew, my work here is done. A superhero with places to be, I shifted my weight, popped up, positioned myself for the closing sequence. This would be an easy one, so I thought. Had to get back to my hotel room and be presentable in 5 hours, afterall.

Needy, he insisted upon being. Needy, he was. And since I felt I owed him something, I complied for a little longer. Reciprocation is an unmitigatable human urge. There’s a whole chapter on its success as persuasion tactic in Robert Cialdini’s classic “Influence.”

Bart: Selfish, not at all. I’m gonna dream about you coming all over my face forever.

Good, I gifted him with a year’s supply of wank material. Have more than paid my dues. I am a good person, afterall. “I welcome that,” I replied rhetorically. And also as a narcissist. Good, this is ending on amicable terms. As it has to, because he’s my cousin’s cousin.

Bart: Then I’ll dream about you welcoming that forever.

Okey dokie, ENOUGH. Let’s not get carried away here. Everyone wants to be the fuck of the century, but part of me would rather not know.

Bart: I just wanna hold you. Kiss me.

G is for gross. Nothing is Genie kryptonite like a guy asking me to kiss him. After I’ve orgasmed. I became suspicious that I had gone above and beyond my call of duty. And began charting a definitive escape plan.

A is for antsy. I called the evening, let him down easy:

Me: I’m going to head back to my hotel in ten minutes.

He argued with me about staying over. Pleaded with me. In a last ditch effort:

Bart: I love tasting your sweet pussy. Can you come on my face again?

Me: No, I’m done for the night. I told you, things are sensitive down there.

What the hell is this. I want to go home. Never have ever wanted to escape sexual captivity so badly. Show over. Not that I was interested in putting one on in the first place. How did this become about him? I offered to touch him and he declined.

And that’s when annoyance turned into assault. He slipped a hand between my legs. I removed it. Back it went. That was my cue to leave.

My armor turned to stone. I retracted my body fully.

Me: Stop, that’s uncomfortable.

Bart: I want to make you come again. How about if I’m gentle?

I don’t care what you fucking want. It’s my body. I’m not going to stay here and argue with you about why I don’t want to be touched. Uncomfortable or not, I don’t have to fucking justify it. It isn’t a point to be debated.

Just like street harassers are not entitled to my time, you are not entitled to an explanation. Both are unwanted attention and I don’t owe you shit. Regardless of my consenting to previous acts, I have the right to revoke my consent at any time. I have the right to have my boundaries observed and respected.

Ohh, gentle, that’s so sweet. After being rebuffed—verbally and physically—multiple times, you are willing to downgrade to a lesser version of molestation, which I might only find mildly irritating?

Let me pose this question: Why would you want to touch a girl who DOES NOT WANT to be touched? How is that exciting for you?

Fuck you for pretending you want to please me. Like you are doing me a favor. It is all about you.

Fuck. This. Shit. I’m out.

As I collected my things, not nearly as furious at the moment as I became recollecting the scenario a week later, he planned our future meetings. Half dismissing him half placating him, I told him I had finals the next week so would be out of communication until my summer classes are over, but would be happy to hang out with him after that. Which was not a lie: I was willing to hang out as friends and this was hardly the time to negotiate the terms of our relationship.

He pushed.

Bart: Or if you want some stress relief before then, I can go down on you while you study. I want you to come all over my face again. I love how you spray all over me.

As if. This guy will not take no for an answer. I told him I would “consider it,” whilst I considered the following quotation:

Spencer was quite impressed with this story, and I added that I was thinking of looking that woman back up. His therapeutic side emerged. “Listen,” he said, “You can do better than a woman who just sits on you for an hour.”

—Jonathan Ames, What’s Not to Love?: Bald, Impotent, and Depressed

How pathetic would that be if I traveled all the way to Bed Stuy to sit on some guy’s grody face, stress relief or none.

Gag me with a spoon.

I can do better than that.

AFTER AFTER HOURS

Yes I know I’m going to hell in a leather jacket

‘least I’ll be in another world while you’re pissing on my casket

All that I can do is sing a song of faded glory

And all you got to do it sit there, look great, and make ‘em horny

Together we’ll sing songs and tell exaggerated stories

About the way we feel today and tonight and in the morning

—Julian Casablancas, Out of the Blue

Approaching my purse, I thought a wicked thought: I wonder if I can still meet up with Garrett. I’m good to go the fuck to sleep for sure, but not DONE, exactly. I’m ready to size-up, up-size. Wait, does my vag smell like Bart’s spit? I could freshen up in his decadent bathroom beforehand. Old Hollywood glam-o-rama style. His toothpaste was orange flavored. Maybe my pussy tastes like oranges? Will match Garnet Garrett’s ginger hair! Perf!

This is an actual thought I had.

I’m going to hell in a handbasket. Or an insane asylum for ginger enthusiasts.

Sliding my phone out of my purse, the blue light blinked in my face and my heart skipped a beat.

1:49 am LA time

Garrett: Should be out in 5… Where you at?

Fuck, I missed his message. What if I were 8 MINUTES more patient or less exhausted. Did I blow it?

 2:05 am LA time

Garrett: Bad news…a friend in Hollywood is in a bit of an emergency & I gotta go help him out:( Raincheck I hope though somehow…may even be in NYC in about a month…sorry tonight didn’t work out.

Pheww. High fiving myself like a frat bro, I muttered under my breath, “Well played, sir. A sure thing is a sure thing,” and patted myself on the back on my way out.

Bart: If you can’t get a cab, call me or come back here and I’ll find you one. Or you can stay here.

Me: Got it!

Marriot Courtyard

PM

You know, I thought you made love like an ugly girl. So present, so grateful.

—Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock

Tucking myself into bed, I recorded some of the evening’s dialogue and estimated his desperation.

Was this a pity face fuck? I could not enjoy it knowing I was taking the virginity of some gawky, acne-speckled, D & D dungeonmaster teen with a fearsome role playing alter ego. I don’t need to feel special, but I do need to know that someone achieves other hot chicks so I can bask in the glow of being in good company. It’s like being the smartest at an online junior college v. a dunce at a competitive school. At least in the latter case you can rest assured that you’ve passed some kinda admissions criteria. Our exchange was his “selflessly” serving me for the price of accruing endless jack off material. Is it fucked up that I wish he needed me less? Not that I want someone to be dishonest and purposefully play hard-to-get. But as I demonstrated earlier in the evening, displaying casual indifference almost connotes high mate value. Holding out for the next highest bidder to raise their flag before the auction is closed. Starting out with a high asking price. I hate to quote insufferably snide people, but he’s what Ashley Cardiff would refer to as “tragically grateful.” Sometimes I honest-to-atheist-god wish I hadn’t been so sexually blessed (i.e., been with so many dudes) so I wouldn’t be compelled to remain such an ungrateful twat.

Here’s where sex gets tiresome: I have no interest in feigning excitement while I fuck someone’s grubby face. I miss not having to pretend I’m someone I’m not. With Andrew, there was no impression management. We could give each other shit, call each other out on our shit, and be our worsts. And that’s what I liked best.

Time to retire. Sex is the pits.

AM

The next morning, I was smacked by my alarm clock and the jam-packed day ahead of me. Washing my unrested face off with a bar of cheap hotel soap, I realized that I was not the great mastermind behind my evening’s escapades; I had let the night seduce me.

I gathered my well-organized possessions, took stock, and assessed my damage: my favorite lipstick was missing. My most expensive, most luxurious, most physically substantial: Laura Mercier’s Pink Dusk. This possessed me to think the second-to-wickedest thought of the weekend: Was the orgasm really worth the lipstick?

Laura Mercier Pink Dusk

Good sex has no monetary value. I’m willing to do basically anything. Like, I was totally being sarcastic when I offered to get down on my knees and suck Andrew while reading his book aloud. Sarcasm and dignity aside, I would have done it were it physically possible. Because who fucking cares. But when bend your brain trying to devise a formula to discern whether sex is a step above or below masturbation, whether it is worth a cab ride or lipstick or losing half a night of sleep before a cross-country flight, you should have just fucking masturbated. Real talk with GKF.

 

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