My “me too” isn’t just something that happened to me.
It is me.
I’m not sure when the sexual assault started. I don’t remember a time before dark closets, groping hands, admonitions spat between gritted teeth that I better not tell. Warnings whispered–what would our friends think of me, the whore, if they knew what I let him do to me? In that closet. With that boy. Seventh grade. He was ugly but he was rich and so he was popular and got what he wanted. For weeks following, he would sniff his fingers at me in the hallway, a theater of cruelty designed to let me know: you are disgusting.
Correct. I’m disgusting. I agree.
But don’t worry–another boy likes me–and this one plays soccer! Prettiness is our god in Danville. Fail at anything, but not this. Another boy likes me–the hot soccer star–he invites me to his party, and I am accepted by the tastemakers of George Washington High…?
At the party, he pulls me into a room, invites his friends, and in droves the handsomest, most popular boys in all the land have their fingers on me, in me, cum from different boys–I don’t know which ones–sticky on my body, a room they left, one by one, until I alone remained, alone with that mess and that shame. When I finally gathered the courage to reenter the party, the boys gave toasts to one another with solo cups while I disappeared in the the wall, invisible, used, done. I was fifteen.
I thought the soccer player wanted to romance me alone in that room. A kiss, maybe. Maybe ask me to be his girlfriend. When the others came, I didn’t say no. I cowered into a ball inside my self but I didn’t say no because I wanted these gods, these boys, to shine their favor upon me. The tastemakers at GW High. The elite.
I ain’t never been shit and I gotta admit, I wanted to be something.
And so I gave them what they wanted; I gave beyond what was asked; I didn’t exactly give, now, did I, but I didn’t scream either–I gave them what they wanted, so they’ll like me now, right? Right?
But instead, I am disgusting. A whore. Not a one of them who’d been inside my body would look into my eyes in the halls at school.
They had their way with me and I guess I allowed that?
Wait, there’s more:
Fifth grade, another dark closet, a boy I thought was my best buddy, grabbing my breasts and laughing, this is a joke to him. I guess I’m not his friend.
Fourth grade, a table of boys jeer at my newly developed breasts, tell me to “bounce up and down.” Cafeteria attendant moves me to a corner of the room where I won’t distract anyone.
Seventeen. My boyfriend has just beaten my ass and I am covered in bruises, concussed, with a broken rib. I escape to see an old guy friend who swore he would protect me. Spoiler alert: he doesn’t protect me. He gives me several lines of coke and several lines of oxycontin which by the way is a fucking lethal combination but I do them anyway, and he fucks me for hours with a non-functioning strung-out dick, grasping my thighs where the bruises from another man still remain. Tears roll down my face but he doesn’t notice. I am fucking wasted–wasted on these bruises. Wasted on mourning for a man who pummeled my ribs until they cracked. Wasted on worthlessness and longing for one man, just one goddamn man, to hold me with love and apologize for the crimes of his brother, but instead no–I am wasted on drugs strong enough to kill me, speedballing towards death, while this man fucks hard a battered high schooler still covered in the violence of another man. So much for comfort. Used again.
I understand this is who I am. I understand this is what I get. And I am sick with myself. I cut my body with razors I hide in the mattresses of doll baby beds because I am still a child. I carve “useless” into my arm. This problem is me. This problem is me.
Now, in present day, I meet women with scars on their arms and I think: oh, you too etched epithets of abuse on your sweet child’s skin that only ever deserved love but you were so used to hate that you forgot love existed. You mistook the sear of the razor for love. We only wanted to feel something we could control.
Age 18, awakened in a hotel bed with a stranger fucking me. As my eyes adjust, I see the room is filled with more boys, watching, waiting their turn. They smack my ass hard, leave bruises. The boy who is fucking me orders me to suck the dick of his homeboy. I look up to see a dick in my face. I say no. I beg no. I don’t remember how this melee ends. Some things we forget on purpose. I do remember that I returned to my hotel room that I was sharing with friends the next morning acting (and feeling?) mostly fine. I didn’t think anything wrong had happened. I really didn’t think anything wrong had happened.
I am now 36 years old, and when I think upon this time I awoke with a stranger fucking me, even now I have a hard time processing that as RAPE. But–is there another definition? And yet, why can’t I quite call it that?
Enough examples. We haven’t even touched on my 16 years as a sex worker. We could be here all day. And frankly I am sick writing this shit but this is the evisceration I am willing to enact to make this shit clear. These are the guts I am willing to spill so you don’t have to, sister. I know this story isn’t mine alone.
These things that happened to me–somewhere deep in my heart, I can’t divorce myself from the notion that they were my fault. Deeply, I feel I asked for it. I understand this is lunacy. I understand this is against my politics. I know logically I am wrong. Yet nonetheless I can’t shake the feeling–stop being a drama queen, Lux. You got yourself into this. Stop complaining.
And that feeling–that deep one, that one that grows from seeds planted in the soil of my youngest years, those seeds planted in the janitor’s closet in elementary school, those lessons learned so early that your mind converts them into Truth–that feeling that I am to blame; that these takings of my body are normal; that my sexuality is my ticket to my upward mobility and I must simply accept any unpleasantness as collateral damage–that feeling becomes more than the sum of experiences.
That feeling–becomes you.
Guiding the way you act. Informing the decisions you make. Limiting the risks you take. Should I wear this outfit in public? Better not–you know what happens then. Should I add a smiley-faced emoji at the end of this halfway assertive email in order to protect this man’s tolerance of me? Yes, definitely. Should I clutch these keys in my knuckles and plot murder in every parking lot of my fucking life, heart pounding, checking my backseat before I get in my own car? Yes. This is life. Look away when alone in an elevator with a man. Eye contact is the wrong message. When he touches you inappropriately, nervous-laugh your way out of this situation.
Why don’t you kick him in the nuts, they’ll ask. Why don’t you scream no?
I’ve been screaming no all my life. But you didn’t learn my language, unwilling to understand the way I pulled back, the way I looked away, the silence and coldness that befell my body: a language you’d rather not understand. You never learned my language, and I was afraid to use yours.
And now–here I am, changed.
To think: I wasn’t born to be afraid.
Yours in counterculture feminism and beyond,