Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taking Back That Night

*trigger warning*


Sent to you by moya via Google Reader:


via The Crunk Feminist Collective by ashafrench on 4/15/10

It's Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which means that on college campuses across the country, survivors' tee-shirts fly like flags. It means that women will talk about finding voice, about supporting the dues-paying sorority of women with victim nightmares and survivor badges. It means that some of these women will add to their stories a critique of the patriarchal culture in which women's victimization is endemic. It means that these women will fight attempts at silencing, as critiques of patriarchy are akin to bitching.  It's Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which means that the anniversary of the night I can't take back is near.

Like too many women I know, I was wounded in the dorm room of a friend. I was 19.  I remember the moon. It cast shadows on the walls as they moved closer together. Was there a framed picture of slain rappers on the wall? Did Tupac look over me as ___________ stole my choice?  We'd argued earlier about why I protected my virginity like some prize. Was it that night or the night before?  In the course of our relationship, I'd repeated the word "wait" like a Catholic prayer. When had I said it last? I remember that in one moment we were kissing and in the next, I'd lost my tongue.  I forgot its function, forgot that it must touch the roof of my mouth to make the "sss" for stop, the "n" for no. I froze, my body a rigid receptacle disconnected from my own desires. Having forgotten my tongue, I swallowed the moon whole as _________'s head disappeared into the pillow beside my stuck face. Maybe I gagged on moonbeams. Maybe that is why ___________ rolled off of me and wordlessly strolled to the bathroom to grab the washcloth to wipe away the evidence of the crime the moon had witnessed.

 I've spent thousands of dollars in school-provided health insurance to talk about the moon on counselors' couches, or surrounded by women with similar and more horrific stories. As a mental healthcare advocate, I won't deny that this has been helpful. But if these are the only spaces in which my story is told, then it becomes little more than a unit of expression and loses political power. After all, if surviving nonconsensual sex makes one a sister, I shouldn't have so much family.

Maybe I remember the moon for a reason. From her vantage point, I can see the event as a symptom if the capitalist patriarchy in which I live—in which women belong to men and rape is a property crime.

 From the moon perspective, I better understand the morning-after call I made to my mother. "You know," she said, "this was bound to happen. When you play with fire, you get burned." I understand now that she was raised calling a vagina a "pocketbook"- an object you don't let nobody touch unless you don't care if they open it.

From this vantage point, I understand that ___________ was no monster, but a miseducated patriarch. I imagine him, a "nice guy" upperclassman, complaining to his more sexually experienced friends about my hold-out. I wonder if he asked the same men who raped my friends during freshman orientation. I wonder if they repeated what their fathers' fathers' fathers had passed down—that some women don't know what they want until you show them. That if I didn't want it, I wouldn't have come to the room.

With distance, I understand my brother's reaction to the story. The moments that ticked by before he spoke. "If that was rape," he laughed a little, "then I feel bad. I've done that to girls more than a few times."

Looking down from space, I understand my Pentecostal (former) pastor's investment in Judeo-Christian property law, which includes land, livestock and women. That's why he convinced me that I was not mad at _____________, but the devil. The devil, he said, had dirtied me, but God could make me as white as snow. "I speak by faith," he said, "that God will make it so that you can bleed again on your wedding night." Then we both lifted our hands to white Jesus in prayer.

And this is where my feminism is a crutch on which I lean to explain the unbearable—the moments in which the people I loved forgot my humanity and saw me through my object-status. ___________ and the moon, Momma and her pocketbook, my brother and his laughter, my pastor and his prayers for more blood…

The tee-shirts on the schoolyard are stained with blood. And no one waves a blood-stained banner for sympathy, but to garner support for war. It's Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which means that somewhere, someone continues to fight the systems that create victims and perpetrators , someone continues to speak above the silencing, and someone continues to give women back their tongues so that they may use them as they will.


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