"I don't want the burden of being flawless in my self-advocacy; I want to be as courageous against injustice as I am loving to my humanness. I want to be OK being scared, or intimidated, or lazy, or tired, or indifferent sometimes. I want to be those things and still be alright in your books. You would be, in mine."
But, it’s also too much (pressure) (for me). This is hard to say in the enthusiastic consent / sexual empowerment communities that I travel in. To be clear, I wouldn’t choose unwanted sex or grey-area sex for myself or anyone else. But, at the same time, I want to be able to roll with it when I don't do exactly the thing I feel, or don't know what I feel. I don't want the burden of being flawless in my self-advocacy; I want to be as courageous against injustice as I am loving to my humanness. I want to be OK being scared, or intimidated, or lazy, or tired, or indifferent sometimes. I want to be those things and still be alright in your books. You would be, in mine.
'Cause as a woman, when I tell stories about the unwanted sex and grey-area sex I have had or may have again, I want some say (actually, all the say) about what it means for me. Some of it is devastating and I denounce it fully. But while I still denounce it fully, some of it was OK: I made some choices, I lost some agency, I walked away from it afterwards, and I tossed it onto the I-did-not-like-that pile. Many people may read that and feel alarmed. Does it sound like I support coercive or non-consensual sex? Does it feel dangerously like an excuse for rape? I realize it might. And that’s exactly why I have to say this.
But I refuse to, for the sake of defending what’s right (e.g., unequivocal consent), paint everything else catastrophically. That is just not accurate. And those are not exclusive categories: I have more than two options beyond A (consensual sex) and B (rape of the spirit) and I want it acknowledged.
Rape and sexual violence of all kinds are inexcusable because they are violations – of bodies, rights, laws, and tacit agreements of respect. They cross boundaries we explicitly or implicitly uphold for each other. And they don’t have to cause me great emotional, physical, or spiritual trauma to be regarded as wrong, or to be stopped. The insistence on consent doesn’t need any justification.
In a world where sexual violence is normalized by rape culture, rampant misogyny, and a generalized numbness towards any kind of violence, I can understand the urge to fight invisibility with visibility, and to emphasize the impact of how we are hurt. But, to really have choice and autonomy about this whole thing, I would argue that I also need to have the choice to brush the hurt off. Not out of self-denial or minimalizing (although, maybe that’s OK too, we all have to cope somehow, and bodies are wise to timing and safety), but out of resilience and choice.
From my perspective, the urge to frame any unwanted sexual contact as catastrophic (and the survival of it as necessarily a huge ordeal) is more an indicator that we are not being listened to enough, than proof that we are actually having catastrophe after catastrophe.
This is not to minimize trauma we survive (and sometimes don’t) that is devastating, life-altering, irreparable, and unforgiveable. If anything, I want to honour them with conscious gravity. In a widened spectrum of experience, where there are infinite options to feel and know and be, catastrophic pain, and hurt, and rage, have their rightful place.
Misogyny and sexism already deprive me of the ease I want when I'm saying no, or changing my mind, or wanting better. I don’t want to be further stripped of my hardiness, my spirit, my ability to dust myself off. I don’t want it written out of my script that I can go through shit and emerge just fine. I don’t need to be told that unwanted sex necessarily comes with a high price to pay, for my body, my heart, or my spirit. I want the whole full-spectrum truth of experience for myself and for everyone else. I work hard for “the cause” but I don’t want to be its poster child.
Telling me that my body is sacred and precious is telling me that every unwanted interaction (that I didn’t stop) ruins or stains me somehow. It is to charge me with protecting and maintaining my body (and my integrity?) in some kind of imaginary original state. It makes me think of that scratchy little white lace dress that, when I was a child, my mom put on me for weddings and things. I wasn’t to sit anywhere that was potentially dirty. I wasn’t to run, jump, fall, or get it caught on anything. For some, that would have been delicious, to play lady for a day. For me, it sucked, and was the furthest thing from a good time.
And, that’s what I want to have – a good time, in and with my body. I want to be able to scrape my proverbial knees, over and over. I want to tell the story of every scar and keep on playing. And in all the playing I do I expect that sometimes I will get hurt (which doesn’t excuse the jerk who pushed or tripped me). Sometimes I must go and set things right. Other times I need a good cry, a pat on the back, or an excuse to go home for the rest of the day. I want to be cared for when I need it, and I want to be taken seriously when I say I’m fine. And always I want to know that I deserve respect even though I have been disrespected, that my humanity is intact and nothing can render me ruined, ever, that I am more tenacious than precious, and that I am vulnerable at all because I choose to remain open.