Browsing Tag

rape culture

Guest Posts, parenting, Sexual Assault/Rape

The Conversation We’re Not Having With Our Sons

March 26, 2017

By Amy Hatvany

I don’t remember my parents talking to me about sex, other than making it clear that opening my legs to a boy before I got married was a sin. What I do remember is thinking that I was a lesbian because I masturbated—I knew girls who touch other girls were gay, so if I touched myself, didn’t that mean the same thing? I was confused, ill-informed, and scared, so I shoplifted a Penthouse Letters magazine when I was in middle school, desperate to understand my own body and if the raging, hormonal urges that sometimes took me over were normal. But instead of validation, what I found were graphic stories of women who submitted to men’s forceful, probing mouths, fingers, and dicks. These women protested at first—some of them even said no—but soon found themselves swooning, powerless to resist the “pleasure” of violation.

Years later, I would wonder if what I learned about consent from these descriptions—that it was a man’s job to make a woman realize what she really wanted; that her “no” was simply waiting to be turned into a yes—was part of what kept me from telling anyone about the boy who unzipped his jeans and jammed his erection into the back of my throat when we were sitting together in the front seat of his car. I was on the edge of fifteen, and he was older, someone I knew, someone I’d had a crush on, and so I didn’t fight, I didn’t try to stop him. I only endured, waiting for the pain and paralyzing terror of what he was doing to loosen its vice-like grip on my chest. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, Sexual Assault/Rape

They Can’t Erase Our Voices.

October 10, 2016

By Domi J Shoemaker
I wish I could say that this thing I wrote after waking at 2:30am to take my pain meds and check my blood pressure after a hysterectomy that had only been performed so quickly because I benefit from the Affordable Care Act was an act of true inspiration. But it is more than that. It is also desperation. I have reached maximum capacity. I will tell you why.

After getting my surgery scheduled at the teaching hospital, I rolled across campus to an appointment that confirmed I would need a breast biopsy. The breast clinic did the biopsy two days later, and the .
day before my cancer surgery, a week ago today, and just before their gorgeous offices up on the hill closed for the day, someone giddy-sounding from the clinic called me and said,

“Domi, I am so happy to tell you the calcifications in your breast are benign.”

Now, with one week to go before my post-op appointment to find out the stage of cancer and whether they got all they needed to get, I listen to the presidential debate and hear that man say things like “Obamacare is a disaster. Just a disaster,” and I want to throw up.

This coming from a man who would surely try to shred me for the way I move through the world, the type of man I know all too well.

He is my old conservative “uncle” who put his hands and mouth wherever he wanted, on and IN my four-year-old body. He would zero in on the vacuum of need created in me those times when I saw my father rage at my mother and carry her down the hall by her throat.

He is my teacher when I was eleven, who carried me across the playground by my collar, with my feet kicking inches above the ground, desperate for purchase, just because I was cool-talking and called him Mr. Turkey like I was Vinnie Barbarino.

He is the man who, when I was twelve, called my mom for the hundred bucks we didn’t have to replace the passenger-side windshield of his split-windshield Dodge van aftermy feet had kicked it out, while his buddy tried to convince me not to climb back up the tree.

He is the man’s buddy who, with his hand on my thigh, tried to keep me in the van because I thought I had the power of a FLYING squirrel after he fed me PCP-laced Kool-Aid when I lied and said I was thirteen.

He is that man, when I really was thirteen, who rubbed up against me and said, “You have the most beautiful breasts I have ever seen,” when I was such a tomboy and had begged to wear cut off Levi’s and a T-shirt but got sidled with a swimsuit that pushed my breasts into the next area code.

He is the coach who, that following year, my first in high school, “hired” me to help coach the girls junior varsity basketball team. The coach who picked me up, when I was drunk, and he saw me walking alone at night. I convinced him to drop me off at a friend’s house with the promise of a kiss. He kissed me. With his tongue. I lost all interest in basketball.

He is the hundreds and hundreds of men who feel free to comment on my body whether in praise or in disgust and he is the woman who buys into that message that she deserves what she takes because she has given it for so long.

It isn’t a wonder that we all – at THE HANDS of men (and at the hands of women who follow their lead), who believe they have a right to use us at their will – have had to re-boot and readjust over and over just to be alive on this planet.

And here we all are. Speaking up! However we can.

I wish the piece posted below, which is only the 2nd thing I have written to its completion since starting all the health tests last January after an ambulance ride for what was a-fib likely due to anxiety, a symptom of my well-documented PTSD, PTSD at the hands of repeated early childhood (and beyond) trauma, were only MY story.

I feel fortunate to be alive and to have NOT killed anyone with this rage.

All that said, these words are meant to be a catalyst, not a masterpiece, because my words don’t need to be precious, they are meant to get shit done.

I wish this was just about me and my dearest friend, but it is the story of so many of us. To even pass this heinous man’s behavior off as “locker room talk” is to deny the fact that even locker room talk is designed to minimize the damage these putrid bags of bilious waste inflict upon those they treat as property.

#DedicateYourNoTrumpVote

INDELIBLE

By the time I was 6, I was at least 3 people.
I don’t know how it happened, to me instead of you.
How I split and split again and you, you had to swallow the rage.
While I grew big, then bigger, then bigger again,
You withdrew and went inside yourself.
I found safety is loudness, in bigness, and in bright!
You found solace in smallness and silence.
Our strength is born in sameness.
You at the hands of your father and me at the hands of uncle,
THE HANDS who grabbed us and groped us as though we were owned and grown to be consumed.
It is not just us, my love, it’s her, and her and him, and them,
THE HANDS, they they tried to erase us.
BUT WE ARE INDELIBLE.

#DedicateYourNoTrumpVote

And to honor the protector of those parts of me who helped me survive, I give you this-

p.s. “Listen, fucknuts, if you don’t want your rich white boys to pay for healthcare, stop creating the problem by taking whatever you want. That’s a goddamn coward’s way. Come talk to me about your excuses. See if you can earn it. I dare you.” ~Harley
And from the new me you see today-

p.p.s. Our bodies always move toward healing and homeostasis. As a species, this is how we have survived. This go-around with cancer and it’s friends, I have been using my body to create images and clips when I cannot find the words. All of the heart-shaped images are my own blood found on and in various pieces of clothing and furniture. That’s what endometrial cancer does. So I wanted to conquer my fear by calling the cancer out with images and representations of love.


#DedicateYourNoTrumpVote

Domi J Shoemaker is the founder the Burnt Tongue Quarterly reading series and they have been published in Pank Magazine, Unshod Quills, Nailed Magazine, Gobshite Quarterly, and in the Forest Avenue Press Anthology, The Night and The Rain and The River. You can hear Domi on KBOO radio’s Bread and Roses archives with Leigh Anne Kranz. Domi worries about being a name-dropping attention whore who did a scene with Fred Armisen in Portlandia. Just Google Pedicabs Are Douchebags, and it will come up. Domi’s grandest achievement aside from completing an MFA at Pacific University, is working with Lidia Yuknavitch since 2012, and is currently co-facilitating the seasonal face to face workshop series, Corporeal Writing with Lidia Yuknavitch.
Join Lidia Yuknavitch and Jen Pastiloff for their signature “Writing & The Body” Retreat in Portland March 17-19 by clicking photo.

Join Lidia Yuknavitch and Jen Pastiloff for their signature “Writing & The Body” Retreat in Portland March 17-19 by clicking photo.

 

Click photo to read People Magazine.

Click photo to read People Magazine.

Abuse, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Revolutions Have Started this Way.

October 9, 2016

By Heidi Hutner

 

Since the release of Trump’s leaked and lewd bus tapes, the Internet has been abuzz with the topic of misogyny and violence against women. Amid Friday night’s Twitter conversations, author Kelly Oxford shared the story of her first sexual assault and then requested others to share theirs. By Saturday evening, more than 9.7 million women tweeted their first sexual assault tales, according to Oxford.

One of these was mine:

My sister’s 19-year old boyfriend (naked in my sister’s bed) told me to take off my clothes. When I refused, he bullied and shamed me. I was eight.

 

While woman continue to tweet #notokay, many Clinton opponents on the left argue across social media that the eleven-year-old Access Hollywood footage of Trump was leaked “just” to divert attention from the recent Wikileaks of Clinton’s emails. Many claim, Trump’s behavior, while deplorably sexist, pales next to Clinton’s bad deeds.

 

These opponents state, however, that their dislike of Clinton has nothing to do with the fact that she’s a woman or that she’s old—yes, ageism and sexism go hand-in-hand. As Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak writes, “A woman her age is supposed to be invisible. But Hillary Clinton, who is 68, refuses to disappear — and there is no shortage of people who despise her for it.” Many Clinton opponents say the ‘feminism question’ on all counts—whether about Trump or Clinton—is just a diversion from more important issues.

  Continue Reading…

Addiction, Friendship, Guest Posts, Surviving

Black Light

December 3, 2015

Trigger Warning: This essay mentions rape. 

By Joan Wilking

The job was supposed to take just a couple of days; we’d been there four. The inside of the club had already been painted flat black like a chalkboard. We added the dayglow lightning bolts, a moon face, and a rising sun with multi-color rays meant to mind-fuck the drugged and drunk hippies who would soon be whirling dervishes on the dance floor under pulsating black lights. It all looked pretty shabby during the day, but come nighttime – magic. We cleaned up our mess and asked to be paid.

“There’s still the billboard,” the owner said.

“That wasn’t part of the deal,” my roommate said.

She was small but tough. One of her eyes was a little off. More so when she was mad.

“Three hundred bucks,” she said. “That was the deal.”

“Three fifty if you do the billboard.”

“Four hundred,” she said.

“Three seventy-five, then.”

It was 1967. She was the one who got us the job. I didn’t know the guy. He was a friend of a friend who sold her some pot. He wore fitted black shirts and gold chains and had a voice that sounded like he ate nails for breakfast. He walked us outside. The club was in an industrial building on the New Jersey side of the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia, where we lived. The highway was a truck route. Semis and tractor-trailers flew by, spewing exhaust fumes. The billboard looked homemade, the supports were rickety. It was smaller than a real billboard, more of a big rectangular sign. It was July. So hot and humid I started and ended each day soaked in sweat.

The guy said, “I want black with a big fluorescent rainbow and a yellow arrow pointing at the club. No name.” He described the rainbow’s arc with a sweep of his hand and added, “The radio ads will pull the suckers in.”

“How are we supposed to get up there?” I said.

He left and returned with a couple of wooden ladders. We each took a side.

We were just out of college, young and thin with tight tits and asses, which, in our tank tops and short shorts, were much appreciated by passing truckers who catcalled and blasted their air horns throughout the blistering afternoon. By the time we climbed down we were sun burnt and verging on heatstroke. When we stood back to get a look at the billboard I reeled, dizzy from the heat. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, The Hard Stuff

A Misguided Hunt for Answers

June 6, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

Sensitive material. Mention of rape/sexual/assault.

By Leila Bruch

I was desperate, so I called his cell phone three times in under an hour. I knew he was free. He was probably watching the phone blow up and crowing to all his roommates that the crazy bitch from a few weeks ago was looking for more.

Next, I sent a text: “You need to call me because we have a problem.” I’ve watched enough TV to know how to use a possible pregnancy to get a recalcitrant man on the line.

Lo and behold, my phone began to ring.

Once his name, “Do Not Answer,” appeared, my stomach turned on me. My brain followed suit, and pleaded for me to let the phone ring. My rage steeled the weaker parts of myself as I answered and spat, “You are one sick fucker.”

On the other end of the phone, my rapist was silent.

“When was the last time you got tested?” I snarled.

I didn’t feel remotely bad about the false pretense. I knew I wasn’t pregnant because the morning after he assaulted me, I ran across Saturday traffic dribbling both ways on a six-lane highway to buy Plan B.

This occurred back when Plan B was only available behind the Pharmacy counter, so I marched to the back of the CVS and muttered my request to the sneering white-coated pharmacist, who passed me a clipboard. I bent my head low and copied my driver’s license number, name, and other probing details on the first open line. All the while, I could feel the pharmacist’s eyes on my unwashed hair.

I pushed the clipboard back when I finished. After she examined the information I provided against my ID, the pharmacist picked up the slim rectangular box by two clawed fingers and dropped it into a bag. I swiped my card for the fifty dollar fee, and when it cleared, I clutched the bag and ran back across the street. I already knew what to do with the two tiny pills; it wasn’t my first time taking Plan B. It was, however, my first time taking Plan B without being certain I’d had inadequately-protected sex.

That’s one of the problems with sexual assault – sometimes, you don’t know what has been done to you.

~

Three days before the pills and several weeks before the call, I was in a group of undergraduate women beginning a semester away from campus with a tour of the library at one of the universities in Washington, D.C.  As we stood around the library’s entrance, we talked awkwardly about our course load, the things we missed about campus, and the internships we’d just started.

Across the hallway stood an attractive Hispanic man with a wide smile. I noticed him, and he noticed me. It didn’t take long for his fixation to become the topic of spirited conversation. “He’s cute,” someone squealed. “Oh, my gosh, he’s coming over here!”

The man sauntered over and offered his hand as he introduced himself as Arnaldo.* He asked for my number and I wrote it on scrap of notebook paper.

Later that night, Arnaldo and I spent an hour on the phone, talking about our families and his career aspirations after law school. When Arnaldo asked if he could take me out the next day, I agreed.

The next evening, plans shifted from a date to kebabs and cards. Arnaldo came to my apartment with three of his friends. I invited the two women in my group who weren’t returning to campus that weekend to join us, and we all wandered across Jefferson Davis Highway to the Kebab Palace.

During dinner, I noticed that Arnaldo’s personality was different than it had seemed on the phone. The night before, he’d talked about family and school, and now he was waxing poetic about his love of partying. I didn’t have much interest in the D.C. party scene, so I zoned out in favor of considering the various items on my weekend to-do list.

Before long, the whole group trooped back to my apartment. Soon, they were all crowded around my dining room table. One of Arnaldo’s friends dealt cards while another explained the game and the third opened a twenty-four pack of cheap, canned beer.

Meanwhile, I escaped to my room, where I scoured my email for a message I’d been expecting from my internship coordinator.

The sound of Arnaldo closing my door startled me. He walked across the room, turned me around, and shoved me against my desk. He kissed me, and I pushed him away.

“Hey, don’t do that,” I said. “I don’t want to kiss you – I barely know you.” I laughed, trying to take the sting off my rejection.

Arnaldo pouted and loitered in my room for a few minutes while I puttered around with my laptop. “Are these your friends?” he asked, pointing up at a series of photo collages taped to the white wall above my bed.

“Yeah.”

“And that’s your family?”

“Yep.”

As I walked to my door, he grabbed my waist and kissed me again. This time, I wasn’t laughing. “I’m serious, Arnaldo. I don’t want you to kiss me. Not tonight.”

Arnaldo trailed me with a hangdog look that stuck around too long.

These should have been my first clues, but I was naïve about Arnaldo’s intentions. I let him stay.

The next day, when I told an ex-boyfriend about what eventually happened, he got hung up at the same crossroads. There was a long silence, which he broke by saying my name. That’s when I knew I was in for a ration of shit; he only used my name when he was disappointed. “Why did you let those guys into your apartment?” he asked. “You hardly even knew them. What did you expect?”

In a few weeks, my ex’s retraction and apology came via Facebook message. “I just finished taking sexual assault training. I realize you didn’t do anything wrong. What he did was wrong. It was not your fault.”

Part of me still didn’t – still doesn’t – buy it. I had invited the rapist in with all his friends. I could have kicked him out at the first sign that he didn’t take “No,” as my real answer. The truth was that I hadn’t.

Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, healing

The First Time I Was Raped.

June 1, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Elin Stebbins Waldal

Sensitive material is contained in this essay. Mention of rape/sexual assault.

The first time I was raped was in the backseat of a car. I was 16.

In those days the legal age to drink was 18 and underage drinking mostly went unnoticed. It was pretty typical for all of us kids to first hit the Connecticut bars, then, once they closed, head to either Port Chester or Purchase — state line border-towns in New York where the bars stayed open past midnight.

The guy I liked was already there when my friends and I showed up at the bar that night — he was easy to spot, head up close to the low ceiling. It was a weekend night and the narrow rooms of the house-turned-drinking-hole were crowded.

Not long after he invited me out to his car.

A blue car parked in the back lot. He asked me there because he said it was somewhere we could talk. A place where the sound of music and the noise of the crowd wouldn’t reach. We would be able to hear each other and not have to shout. It would be quiet. He wanted time with me alone.

He wanted to talk with me.

When we reached the car, he suggested the back seat. Did I want to split a smoke? Sure. That all sounded great.

Truth is — I wanted him to kiss me. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, motherhood, parenting

You’ve Got it All Backwards.

January 27, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Sarah Kurliand.

The other day I was driving to the Franklin Institute with my 3 ½ year old son, X. Our windows were down to let in the crisp, fresh air per his request. As I slowed to stop at the corner, I noticed an older man standing there. We locked eyes for a moment and I smiled, as I do to everyone. And he went on, “Heyyyy guuuurl. How you doin? You lookin’ mighty beautiful today” , and I went on my way. In total, it lasted about 5 seconds.

I looked in my rear view mirror at my beautiful son, as I waited for the questions to come flooding in. I racked my brain thinking of interesting ways to spin this so he could understand it. I could see his wheels turning… 

X: Ma, who was that man? Why he say ‘Hey gurl’ like that? You know him?

Me: I don’t know who that man was X.

X: Then why he call you beautiful?           

Me: I guess he just wanted to tell me what he thought.

A few silent moments went by. I have learned through my few short years of motherhood that this is his processing time and to just be quiet because more was on its way. And then like clockwork.

X: It’s very weird Ma, his words sounded like nice words but he was not a nice man.

And there it was. The biggest truth bomb anyone had ever laid on me. Without even seeing this man, my three and a half year old little baby could tell simply by the tone in his voice that even though yes, he may have used kind words, he was not indeed, well meaning.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Continue Reading…

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