Violence. The Dark Side of Sex and Power
I am The Official Cheerleader – or would be, if I didn’t have a HUGE MOFO PROBLEM with cheerleading as an avocation, thanks TLC for that brain trauma – for love’n’sex.
Possibly I seem a little naive. Possibly, when I write happily about happy sex, I’m leaving a lot of unhappiness out.
Figleaf, the author of Real Adult Sex pointed that out:
I have to admit little winces here and caveats there — oooh, it’s not so wonderful for everyone. Oooh, he could get a disease. Ooh, she could get a reputation. Ooooh, they could be exploiting each other. Oooh, the first time isn’t so great for lots of people. You know what I mean, right? You read something as obliviously joyous as that and you find yourself thinking “that’s wonderful, hon, and sure it’s like that for some people but…”
He is, of course, right. I didn’t do that in that particular essay, and I don’t do that a whole lot here, either. I do it sometimes. But not often.
It is because I’m both resilient and an optimist. Hope just won’t leave my ass alone. I walk in love, and for the most part, I trade in love almost entirely. Every once in a while I encounter someone who is out-and-out dangerous, but not often.
That wasn’t always the case.
I mentioned it really briefly, before. From the age of 4(ish) to 11(ish), a family member – NOT my parents – molested me, and, as it unsurprisingly turns out, other girls and women in our family, too.
With him, always, even as an adult, entrances and exits required strategy. Whenever hugs were required, I tried to make myself scarce or structure an embrace like a robot – arms straight out, hands hopefully landing palms out on his chest, to keep as much distance between our bodies as possible.
When I was twenty-one, and engaged, the slow simmer-of-secrecy boiled over. I did not want this person – this abuser – to be at my wedding. I did not want to have to dodge his ever-searching lips on a day dedicated to happy kisses.
I didn’t want to have to covertly defend myself at my own celebration. But how could I not invite him? It would be a HUGE issue.
I wrestled with it. I cried over it. I started having nightmares where I was breastfeeding a baby who turned into tiger and even right now, in this minute, I can still feel the puncture wounds of my truth-talking dreams.
Still, I tried mightily to talk myself out of my instincts. After all, I’d been carrying and covering up his shame for 17 years – what did one more night matter?
And then we had a family dinner at a restaurant and we were reciting family legends. Everyone was laughing about how stubborn and wilful his now-adult daughter had been her whole life.
It all started when she was four, and dug her way under the backyard fence and took the bus downtown. A couple of police officers noticed her wandering, took her to the police station, and gave her an ice cream. She did this a couple more times.
Hilarious! She was so determined, even then! She just wanted the ice cream!
Laughter all around the table.
I turned to her and said, why would a four year old dig her way under a fence?
She said, evenly, I had my reasons.
I sat there, outwardly calm while inwardly I surrendered. I surrendered to my anger. To my overwhelming rage. To a heels-dug-in refusal to be complicit or to accept his burden as my own.
I told my parents. They were devastated. They blamed themselves. They wondered why I thought they wouldn’t have protected me.
I always knew they would protect me. I was protecting them. I was trying, in my child-knows-best way, to protect my family.
So I know. I really know. I know on an almost cellular, instinctual level how sex can be a weapon and an instrument of damage. I carry that blood-level knowledge.
After I graduated with my BA, I went to Taiwan to teach English at a kindergarten. Teachers taught in pairs. On the day of my arrival, I met my future co-teacher and we went to lunch to get to know each other.
He said things that seemed innocent but rang all the wrong bells. He kept saying, I just love kids. Just love ’em. Prefer their company to adults.
Nothing wrong with that, right?
It just didn’t sit right with me. My pedophile radar was signalling.
I went to the school administrator directly, after lunch, but what could I say? That guy creeps me out? I don’t think you should let him around kids? Based on what? You can’t make those kinds of accusations without some evidence.
Instead I said that I didn’t want to work with him and insisted they pair me with someone else.
A couple of weeks later, a group of teachers were taking the bus to Taipei. He was commenting on the barber shops: He was so surprised! The hair salons with a barber pole in front of them aren’t selling hairstyles, they’re selling sex! They’re brothels fronting as barber shops!
And he was making some kind of comment, just aghast, of course, about how he had heard that there were places like that, here, in Taiwan, where children were on the menu. And my my flash of a thought was this: he’s probing to see who is of like mind. Who is like him. Who is here to prey on children.
A month later, a mother and father came to the school and told the administration that he had been touching their four year old daughter.
That night, he was on a plane home. There was no investigation, no police, no alarms sounded. Another teacher, a retired police officer, called his former precinct and gave them the teacher’s name, but there was nothing, it seemed, any of us could do except talk about all the warning signs each of us had seen.
A lot of times, there seems like there is just not much to do. A few very damaged people cause very profound damage. They assault and beat and rape and kill people and after the fact we see the signs that were there all along.
And sometimes we let things slide because they seem inconsequential.
Like a Facebook page. A Facebook page called:
As I’m writing, this page has 17,797 fans who think it is amusing to joke about torturing and killing sex workers. To say that “hookers aren’t human”. To say to the women complaining: we’re not really talking about killing women, because hookers aren’t human therefore they’re not women either. And oh yeah, and can’t you all take a joke? This is funny.
Maybe it is a stretch to connect the sexual abuse I endured as a child to a Facebook page, but I don’t think so. A culture that creates people who think murdering women is funny is the same culture that produces adults who prey on children. It is a culture of predation. It is a rape culture, a culture that requires denial, and one that tells us to ignore our instincts so we aren’t moved to action.
Just like I did in Taiwan.
And so, if you’re feeling moved to action, please report this page to Facebook – the same Facebook that’s in an awful hurry to censor images of breastfeeding but hasn’t taken any action on this page – and ask that they take it down.
There’s an argument here about censorship, sure. But at this exact moment in time, I don’t care about censorship. I care about people. I care about sex workers, who do a very dangerous job, and deserve to be safe. Always. Unreservedly.