My husband doesn’t always want to do what I want him to do, and I’m not talking about the dishes or laundry. I can’t really blame him. He’s a good person. He doesn’t want to hurt me.
That’s the problem. I want to be hurt.
Let’s go back a few years.
There was this guy that everyone thought was amazing. Tall, handsome, dark and brooding, the whole package. Let’s call him Keith. We hung out in similar circles, and I knew him casually. We used to hang out at this coffee shop that was a couple miles from my place – close enough to walk, but far enough to make it inconvenient.
I don’t remember what happened to my ride that night. It’s likely that my roommate got tired of waiting for me and left, or maybe we were fighting. We fought a lot in those days. I don’t really remember. A friend of mine agreed to walk home with me and crash on the floor. Then, like a Knight in Shining Black Armor, Keith appeared and offered to walk with us – after all, it was dark and we’d be safer if a guy was with us.
We arrived at my apartment – my roommate was out – and my friend and Keith pulled up some floor space in my bedroom (such as it was – it was really more like a large hallway) and everyone proceeded to crash. Well, everyone except Keith.
I was drifting off when I felt him slide under the covers.
“Mind if i sleep here?” he said, obviously not planning on sleeping.
Of course, I agreed. This guy was like a legend, the way my friends talked about him. I was flattered.
After a few minutes of typical young adult making out (oh, did I mention he was almost 30?) his hand found its way to the waistband of my underwear. I caught it and whispered to him, “I’m a virgin. I’m not ready.” He replied, oh so smoothly and sweetly, that he could still use his tongue.
I relented. My ex had gone down on me a couple of times, so I thought it would be ok. It’s nothing i haven’t done before, right? It’s fine.
So I let him kiss me. I let him take my panties off. Then he rolled on top of me, pinning me, trying to get inside of me.
I tried to push him off. I couldn’t. I tried to block his way with my hand, saying “wait, no. Please.” My hand offered no resistance. He ripped through me like tissue paper.
I was so quiet. I didn’t cry or scream.
After it was over – how long was it? A minute? Two? – i stepped over my still-sleeping friend and headed to the bathroom. I sat there for a long time, bleeding, not sure what to do. Hoping that maybe he’d just leave. After a while i went and stood in front of the sink, washing my hands and brushing my teeth, and staring at myself in the mirror. I stood there a long time – 20 minutes? 45? – working through what just happened.
Listen, you knew that not every guy is going to be satisfied with oral, right? I mean, you did accept his offer to come with us, you let him in your bed, you let him take your clothes off – I mean, what was he supposed to think? I must have wanted it in some way. I mean, you can’t ask a guy to stop after he’s gone so far, right? If I didn’t want this, I should have said something earlier. So this is who I am now. Everything is fine. I didn’t just get raped. I didn’t.
And i believed that for a long time.
For the record, he didn’t leave. He was still in my bed when i came out of the bathroom, motioning for me to come back to bed.
“Are you alright? You were in there a while.” Like he didn’t even know.
“yes, I’m fine”. And I thought I believed that, too.
Then, a month later – get ready for it – I fucking married him.
You might assume that this marriage would be a shit-show, and you would be 100% right. Predictably, he wasn’t the “love, honor and obey” type. More like the “fuck, belittle and cheat” type. Though, to be fair, it wasn’t technically cheating because technically we were in an open marriage. What? Of course. And you thought this couldn’t get any more fucked up.
Now, let me explain what this open marriage, as he called it, meant. It mean that we could each have sex with whoever we liked. He happened to like extremely young women – 16, 17, 18 years old – and he liked to get me to “join in”, or more accurately, lay there and watch. I suppose it’s fair to ask why I let this go on. After all, this is illegal where I’m from. I struggle with this now, the thought that I might have prevented someone’s future pain, or that I somehow caused it by my inaction. I don’t have an excuse. Thinking back, I think the reason it didn’t occur to me to get the authorities in involved was twofold.
First, I saw these people as my peers. I was 18 (and a young 18, at that) when this started and 19 or maybe 20 when it ended. I didn’t see them as fundamentally different from myself. They were my friends, and more. I didn’t want them to leave me.
Second, I wanted to make my husband happy. I know, it’s ridiculous. He made me miserable, destroyed my life, and yet I wanted to make him happy. I suppose that all boils down to not wanting him to leave, either. That was the implication, at least to me. If I couldn’t give him what he wanted, I’d be alone.
Being in an open relationship also meant that he could invite his friends over and tell them, “go for it, man. She’s down.” Whether or not I was actually “down” didn’t matter. My husband let everyone know I would fuck pretty much anybody, and so I pretty much did. I hesitate to say that I was forced into any of these relationships. I certainly had the appearance of choice. By that time, though, it had become what was normal, what was expected. Was it training, or grooming? I don’t know. I just know that it was my reality, and i had to exist within it.
Eventually, someone was able to talk me into leaving him, though not before I’d found a replacement, of course. That was a pattern that would repeat throughout my life. I would fall madly, passionately in love for a blissful, short period of time. Then, the passion would turn sour. The same energy that was so fulfilling would become toxic (or maybe I needed it to turn toxic, needed the drama. I don’t know) and I would have to find a different partner so that I could leave the previous relationship without ever being alone. Rinse and repeat.
I never claimed to be a saint.
Years later, after a dozen relationships, a few women’s study classes and a hospitalization, I finally accepted that what happened was without my consent and, in fact, rape. I had to face a few uncomfortable facts about myself:
- I had married my rapist. Which meant that aside from the shame, the stupidity and the nausea that I felt about it, I knew i could never tell anyone. Even if, somehow, they chose to believe me, I feared the judgment and rejection I perceived would follow.
- THERE IS SOMETHING TERRIBLY WRONG WITH ME.
For much of the time since I’d been sexually active (also: since I had my virginity ripped away like an old band-aid) I’ve had some very dark fantasies, the kind that most (normal) people never talk about. In a word: violent. I want to be shoved against a wall with my wrists pinned behind my back and taken from behind. I think about being bound, immobile, and force-fucked until i come against my will. I think about a knife to my throat, being told what to do, how to move, when to come.
Confused? Me too.
My initial conclusion was that something was just broken. That somehow the few years of alcohol and drugs and abuse forged some permanent pathways in my brain and now I was some sexually deviant freak. I was certain, absolutely dead certain, that i was the only person this had ever happened to and other survivors would be horrified to hear my story. I even questioned my own narrative: did it really go down the way i remember it? Am I a fraud? Did I really want it, after all? I would see people say things like “all girls secretly want to be raped” and I would be angry because it was so disgustingly awful, and I would be ashamed because, for me, it was a little bit true. It’s girls like me that make people say those things, I thought.
That’s an awful, irrational burden to bear. That a survivor would see her very existence as a propagation of rape culture seems insane, but that’s what had happened. My talk about Feminism and Empowerment rang hollow in my own ears. I felt so desperately alone, unwanted, monstrous and so deeply, deeply ashamed. I didn’t dare expose the depths of my depravity to my partner. First, they might leave, suddenly realizing the extent of my crazy. Even worse, having seen my vulnerable secret, they might use it against me.
Not to mention, it was dangerous. Once, before I had my realization, I confessed some of my feelings to my then boyfriend. Specifically, I told him I would like him to choke me. The first time, he was understandably apprehensive, tentative. Still, I remember nearly blacking out before having an orgasm that encompassed my whole body. I’d never come that hard or that completely. I asked him to do it again.
The second time, he was stronger. He didn’t hold back and even after I came, he didn’t stop. I felt he would break my neck, he was pressing me into the bed so hard. It wasn’t until I finally scratched him in the face that he came to his senses. He refused to try again.
I stopped asking people to choke me after that. Bondage, sure, candle wax, but the other stuff lived in my head, a fantasy to help me along in bed.
I had never heard of hypersexuality, or of Rape Trauma Syndrome. I didn’t know that increased libido and paraphilic desires were a part of Bipolar disorder and Borderline personality disorder. I didn’t know that i was not alone.
My first therapist was the one to tell me that these feelings didn’t make me a monster. I am not the first, nor will I, unfortunately, be the last person who experiences these feelings after or as a result of a sexual attack. Hearing that from him helped, as has listening to similar stories on the podcast and seeking out some information online. That doesn’t mean that i don’t still feel it, though, the feelings of guilt and fraudulence. But I know, at least on a cognitive level, that I don’t deserve to feel guilty.
That makes a world of difference.