Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Assault

I am in South East London, underslept, a little hungover. I've been to a lecture, seminar and spent a couple of hours in the library.

I'm at the bus stop, waiting to make my journey into the West End and smoking a roll up, when a man jumps off a bus and demands, not asks, to be given one. He is 6 foot + and beefy, and looks me directly in the eye. There is something confrontational about his gaze. Usually, if someone asks me nicely, I happily share my tobacco, but he is trying to get me to give in by intimidating me. There is no-one else around. I have two paths of choice, and perhaps rather rashly choose the riskier one.

I say 'no, sorry' politely. Usually most people would shrug and wander off.

But he is clearly not in the mood to be refused.

"Why the fuck not, bitch?" he spits in my face.

I look straight back at him, fighting to stay calm. "I don't want to give you one", I say.

He begins shouting in my face.

"Give me a fucking cigarette."

I ignore him. I look the other way. I stay calm and attempt to look bored.

"Take that look off your face and give me a fucking fag or I'll fucking steal your bag and stick my dick in your dirty fucking mouth, you stupid piece of gash." he yells.

He comes over and leers over me, putting his hands above my head. But I have decided I will not give in.

"Fucking cunt! You look like a fucking dirty slag." he yells. But still he does not lay a finger on me.

I look up, and summoning every ounce of courage stare him straight in the eye.

"Leave me alone," I say, quietly and calmly. "And stop threatening me, please.

He steps away. He runs off.

It is not about the cigarette. Let it be known that I couldn't give a damn who I share my tobacco with, if they ask politely. This is about not allowing a man to dominate me because he is male, and I am female. And he is using my femaleness to show me that I am somehow weaker, that I am in some way there for his use - whether it's about cigarettes, my bag, or his cock. I won't let him dominate me. And he is clearly shocked by my refusal.

Bizarrely, perhaps, the more I delve into submission, the more I make sense of my taste for psychological masochism and degradation, the less shit I take in situations where I would usually be subordinate. I can imagine playing a scene of this kind - taking pleasure in it. Still playing myself at my most stubborn and insolent, still not giving way. Being forced, assaulted, taken. But my ability to consent to play of that kind only makes me stronger in situations where there is no consent, where my submission is expected, even at the expense of the certainty of my safety. It is the principle of the thing, and I have lived up, for once, to my own principles.

My bus arrives. I board, elated.

14 comments:

Amanda said...

I've been reading for a while, but haven't commented until now. I just wanted to say thankyou.

I've always known I have submissive tendencies, but never really faced up to them. Getting them to fit with my feminist ideology was hard- until one day I came across your site, and through it some other fantastic resources.

I too was assaulted, by a man who felt that because I was there, I was there to be used as he was fit. In my case, it was a matter of him masturbating in close proximity to me, in public, while staring at me. I left as soon as I realised what was going on, but I do wish I'd had more of my wits about me and taken his license plate number and reported him, if only to feel like I'd taken control of the situation.

I spent the next 24 hours repulsed, both by the man and my own sexuality- how could I submit to a man when there were such horrible men in the world. It was that weekend that I found your blog, and was able to put into words what I've always implicitly known- willingly giving consent to be dominated by a trusted partner is perfectly natural (for me), and completely different to allowing myself to be assaulted by a stranger.

Again, thank you- finding your blog has been somewhat of a turning point for me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Just want to say I'm glad your blog is there, and there are a lot of us out here benefitting from it.

verte said...

Amanda and anony:

Thank you! I'm so glad I set this thing up because the level of discussion is often awesome. That it actually benefits some people who stumble across it? That's amazing and thrilling to hear. Though thanks must mostly go to Trinity, who regularly writes such terrific stuff here. I'm a slacker (though also fucking busy).

I was hesitant to post this particular blog here (it's posted elsewhere on a full-on BDSM site), simply because I realise that saying I might actually play with a scenario similar to this is probably enough to worry some regular readers... But timidity begone! I have a post on some of the more extreme elements of psychological masochism I enjoy in mind, if I ever have time to write it.

For instance, I've fantasised about rape sicne I was 10 or 11. I was actually raped when I was 17, and it didn't seem to make any difference to my fantasy life whatsoever -- other than to worry me and make me concerned about my politics and my sexual preferences.

I'm terribly sorry to hear about your ordeal, Amanda, and I really do completely empathise with that feeling of digust, and self-disgust. But that also gets you nowhere.

Brina said...

I really like this story because SM to me is about unveiling a mask of power exchange. If you see SM that way then it is about exactly how you ended the story... that you won't take shit in certain situations because you are understanding the implications of that power dynamic.

belledame222 said...

right on.

verte said...

Brina:

Yes. Yes, exactly. "A mask of power" -- I like that.

(and ps; I'm a face-slapping junkie too)

EthylBenzene said...

YEAH RIGHT ON! Thanks for the post!

I think that part of finding your way sexually (as Verte mentioned "the more I delve into submission, ... the less shit I take...) is finding out who you really, REALLY are, if that makes sense. For a lot of people into BDSM of various varieties, that journey is crucial, because a lot of who you are can get hidden and pushed away because of, well, you all know all the reasons :D

The self-discovery journey can be scary, and conflicting, and can make you feel downright crazy at times. But knowing yourself better and knowing what you want often naturally leads to being more assertive (I'm using "you" in the general sense, as the French would use "on") and self-confident -- whether you're dominant or submissive.

That self-confidence in who you really are, that IME really ups the self-confidence, because, hey, I'm finally who I am. I'm more ME, I'm more "whole" than I was when I wasn't having these experiences.

That self-confidence can help you be unafraid to get what you want -- whether that's having the nerve to tell a new partner exactly what you want in bed, or whether that's telling the asshole on the street to leave you alone. Whether you're dominant or submissive or like pain or whatever. Because you're more really yourself. And I think knowing who you really are can be the key to some confidence that maybe you didn't have before, especially if you've been living with a part of yourself you were not expressing fully before.

I hope that makes sense...it's kind of ranty...Sorry:)

And as always, this mostly expresses my own experiences and thoughts, YMMV.

Trinity said...

wow. I hadn't seen this entry.

Good for you. I hope you're OK.

alternative4 said...

"...the more I make sense of my taste for psychological masochism and degradation, the less shit I take"

"I've fantasised about rape since I was 10 or 11"

I have too, and I can totally see where you're coming from in this. My fantasy life has definitely given me a sort of weird protection from sexual vulnerability, which my vanilla friends lack. I have unpacked the idea of ravishment (nicer word for me!) so much in constructing my small private scenes, and analysed its dynamics and justifications. I've had my fun looking at ideas of erotic shame and humiliation, social expectations, both male and female power, male/female differences, manipulation and the "I'll make you want/desire/need me" thing, and a lot more...

Because of this, my awareness of these undercurrents in real-life situations is heightened, and I know how *not* to be swayed by domineering assholes who might otherwise have interested or aroused me or got my sympathy. I also believe - though I won't test this! - that my familiarity with the subject would allow me to defuse situations that would lead to sexual assault, or at least protect my emotions afterwards. Knowing how to play the scene also means you know how to turn it off when it starts to play unrequested, and sometimes I think all women should take a kind of rape analysis class.

Fluence said...

Great post, really good to hear how understanding your own responses to power dynamics can help you to resist domination. (Even in a situation where many would give in for an easy life - most of my male + dominant friends for example!)

Trinity said...

alternative4, I'm of two minds reading your comment. One, I think you're right -- I think that once we think about and study what makes us tick, we can be aware of when and how someone is using those buttons to try and manipulate us. Or of when we're responding with our emotions/lusts, rather than with wisdom.

But I'm also not entirely sure that helps us to avoid rape. I mean, there is of course the whole "assessment" thing whereby a rapist tries to figure out if you're the sort he can push, or not. And I'm sure it helps with that.

But not all rapes are pressure. Some do involve physical overpowering, and I'm not sure how much reasoned understanding of human nature gets one out of that. And I'm also thinking that... well, life comes at you fast, as a recent ad says. Sometimes something we know about or understand in our head doesn't help us as much as we think it will when we're really being pressured, coerced, or attacked.

But to return to my first point: I do think that understanding our fantasies, rather than pushing them aside as creepy or something to not get involved with, is actually a good thing.

I've had fantasies of doing the ravishing since my teen years. And, well, when I was that young, I do think I was confused about all that, or at least frustrated. I didn't force anyone, but I did have this idea that: okay, I wanted freaky intense sex, the mild-mannered nerds I wanted it with would never say yes (and they were boys, and the myth goes that boys always want sex, so if they're being shy they're not really meaning no), and I think some of that was part of why I had those fantasies. Well, I don't know what to do about your No, so I'll go off into fantasyland where you don't mean it and I do things to you anyway and you love them and thank me.

And I think that really sitting down with myself and having to figure out: what is fantasy? what is reality? what is really getting consent? was all very important. I'm not sure I would have done all that to anywhere near a similar degree if I hadn't been aware that somewhere deep down in my soul there was an attraction to *not* caring, or at least (more accurately I think) to pretending not to care.

I had to wrestle with that beast and figure out what the appeal of that is, and when those feelings can be explored (which is: in a situation that really IS consensual but pretends not to be.) And I think a lot of people don't like the idea that those feelings can be part of dominance. That there are all kinds of ways to take control, and some of them are not so nice.

There is this divide in some people's minds between the two kinds of fantasy: someone like you is affected by patriarchy, or just likes submission, or whatever, and someone like me is a threat. Regardless of what I've done or how or anything I've ever said, thought, or did about consent ever. The fantasy erases the reality in people's minds.

Which really bothers me, actually, because I'd be lying if I said those thoughts were never there. And I think a lot of people do lie about that sort of thing, or hide it, because really talking about those feelings is scary.

alternative4 said...

I think I agree with that partly, Trinity. Some assaults are unavoidable, and awareness of the attacker's mindset won't help you against superior physical strength. And not all rapists have the same mindset anyway, though I'd argue there were key similarities.

But I wasn't really thinking of stranger attacks, but the more common date-rape or friend-of-a-friend situation. In this case, there's usually prior knowledge and some kind of conversation with the man, during which you can notice aspects of his behaviour and beliefs, and decide whether to trust him. This is where a knowledge of the dynamics of sexual violence can be useful, not just in avoiding attacks, but also in handling those strained awkward situations when one party wants sex more than the other does. Sometimes the same dynamics are present, just less extreme and less obvious. Misogyny, blaming others for your own lusts, "you don't know what you want" and the rest of it - all there.

The "life comes at you fast" thing is a good point. Awareness increases your likelihood of keeping your head and avoiding assault, in those situations when it can be averted. It's not perfect by any means, but I still think it's useful...

site said...

This won't work in reality, that is what I suppose.

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