Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Examination Burnout

A post by Kiya on this "examination" meme, so wonderful that I reproduce it in its entirety:
I was reminded of something by this post, and it's stuff I've mostly found too raw to post about, but I feel like writing a bit now while it's in my head.

I've written before about "Just Say No" culture and sexuality. What I haven't talked about was the way denial-and-examination culture intersected with my inner kinks.

When I was an elementary school child, I started building an understanding of my sexuality as it was at the time. I had very separated experiences of physical sexual pleasure and romantic attraction - it had not occurred to me that these were related - but I explored both as best I could. I was aware that my experience of romantic attraction was somehow related to "grownup things" like marriage and families, but I recognised (consciously, even) that that was something I would figure out when I was older; for now, there was the boy, and I could beat him at wrestling.

Once my fantasy life had developed into fiction rather than fascination with the boy, and once I had grown enough of it for my sense of physical pleasure to get tied into my sense of attraction, they took on a structure of extreme power differential, often with bondage aspects. I was never ashamed of these fantasies, or, as I thought of them, the stories I told myself when going to sleep; however, I knew, bone-deep, that I could never talk about them.

I never have.

(Think about that for a moment. I have never talked about those fantasies in more than generalised referents, themes and content.)

I knew that if I told anyone about them, they would try to figure out what was wrong with me. I didn't know words like "misogyny", but I knew that I'd have the concept thrown at me. I knew that I'd be treated as sick and wrong, because Good People don't have thoughts like that. I knew that I would never, ever be able to express these things; at least on that last I was wrong.

And as I became aware that these things were things I should not express, I became aware of the idea of examination. I had an obligation, I knew, to figure out where these things had come from, that they could be excised. I was a sleeper agent of the oppressor, my sexuality out to subvert everything that women could achieve, and I had to cure myself. There was no support for this - it was still unspeakable horror - but it was clear that the wrongness was something that I would be expected to purge before I was an adult.

Guilt started to creep in around the edges. The fantasies became even more secret, because there was this edge of belief that I should not be that way, that I should be someone else, someone more loyal, more diligent, more compatible with the universal goals that I had been assigned on the basis of my sex, class, and race. I squelched the impulses in my more conscious mind, leaving them only the release of the nighttime stories, giving me dreams of the taboo-breaking man who might love and own and honor me despite the shackles of surrounding culture.

I was an emotionally isolated young adolescent, full of need and loneliness and hunger and wanting to explore the concepts of sex and not knowing how. Nothing in the world around me had ever given me any understanding for figuring out what I wanted or how to implement that safely; I was still half-consciously aware that what I wanted was Bad anyway, so figuring out how to get it was unthinkable.

It didn't go away, of course. And sometimes these things come out in badly sublimated ways. Hook a loop of fear-paralysation into a mind frantically denying its need to surrender, bait a touch-starved, curious adolescent with affection from a pretty older boy, and watch a psyche fragment into a perfect rape victim and a panicked, impotent observer. Respectful and loving submission was unavailable, unthinkable, unallowable, so all I had was deer-in-the-headlights capitulation, where my sexual drives and my terror and his unceasing pressure conspired to shove me into a closet in my head.

And maybe, with a little more examination, I might guess that this is one of the real reasons that I have never really been able to forgive myself. Because, after all, if I didn't have those wicked, shameful desires, then maybe the combination of mental lockup and pressure wouldn't have been enough to get my psyche fridged. It can't really be his damn fault, right? He just happened to luck into that siren song of unacceptable woman-hating sexuality. And I can't hold it against him, because he stopped short of rape in the end, when he saw that I was broken. (I can't even write 'that he'd broken me' and feel honest, right now.)

This was not ... the only time I fell into that pattern, though it was the only time it was assault. I had an abusive vanilla relationship that hit my submission buttons around music until I hit a wall and threw him out of my life. I had a relationship with someone who was deeply uncomfortable with my submission, and so like a good little subbie and a good little woman I stifled it again to make him happy. I had other issues. And I worked on it until I came to a place where I could return to childhood and refuse to be ashamed.

Where does it come from? I don't give a damn. And not giving a damn is not just a political position about the unworthiness of the question, but me fighting back against the investigation of myself for which fruit of Original Sin was why I deserved to be nearly raped before menarche.

If the message had been that I needed to figure out how to deal with these desires in a sane, reasonable, and balanced manner, if it had included discussion of consent and how to set boundaries, if it had been anything other than "WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?! WHY ARE YOU A FREAK?!", maybe things would have been different.

Why am I like this? If my established answer isn't good enough, fuck off. Why am I a freak? Welcome to the edge of the map. The Antipodes, where men walk upside down.


Synna said...

Delurking to say thank you for this post.

Trinity said...

Don't thank me, thank Kiya. :)

Synna said...

I know,

But I just wanted to say thanks for 2 reasons.

1, sometimes (especially when things are really shitty, which they may or may not be right now) its nice to have people say thank you for your work, or for recognising the work of others

2, The post of Kiya's work and the links have lead me to discover a whole new place on the intertoobs that I wasn't familiar with before - Which has been both enlightening and validating for me.

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