I don’t like being raped; Apparently, that makes me a weirdo

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Iconic “romantic” image: of a WWII vet sexually assaulting a stranger by kissing them through observable physical resistance (check the hand) and atmosphere of non-consent.

Note: this piece of writing has seen many iterations and formats. If parts of this work seem vaguely familiar it could be that you read what I first wrote about coming to terms with rape culture and my complicity in it on medium in 2014. That was both the first and most popular version, which was quite angry and raw, presented in a series of three separate posts. It is now a single living document that I tend to revisit and/or update every few years. 

Chapter 1: Revelations

Contrary to our enduring, vilifying approach to “rapists”, more and more people are coming to understand, at least in theory, that rape is not just an easily recognizable crime that select evil people commit.

Rather, it is a culturally lauded system of behavior that is connected to toxic patriarchal masculinity (kiss the unconscious princess), entitlement (“no” means keep pestering), heteronormative sexism (“there are only two genders and only one of them gets raped”), misogyny (hysterical and/or underhanded women “cry” rape), the prevailing misuse of substances and alcohol (more on this later), as well as racism (“most rapes involve black men and white women”), and virtually any societal oppression you can fucking think of, if you do think about it, which I have. A lot.

“Being considered ‘crazy’ by those who are still victims of cultural conditioning is a compliment.” — Jason Hairston

As has seemed to have been the experience of most promiscuous people I’ve chatted with, I’m discovering I’ve actually been raped by others more times than I will ever be able to count, including while sleeping. And yet, most of us don’t actually acknowledge the tit, letalone ever get to the tat, even in our private, safe space conversations about the phenomenon.

In actuality, though I was rightfully angry and hurt, 16 year old me emphatically defended that guy who fondled me in my sleep, insisting he was not a rapist at the time. It took me years, almost ten in fact, to finally write about the possibility that it could have been.

Further, that person was one of those unicorn men, one of those utterly precious few, who knew what he did was rape, and named it, and regretted it, and sought help for it immediately. He was person that wanted nothing more than to be held accountable and seek his own recovery for what he did. The circumstances for reparation couldn’t have been much better, and yet, I argued. He parents argued. His therapist argued. We all argued. A lot.

But he was right, and even as his victim, in one of the most ideal perpetrator accountability situations possible, literally in the idealized situation so many #metoo tweeters claim is is they want, I chose rape culture. And I continued to choose it throughout much of my life, again and again.

Even as I started cluing in to something being amiss in my 20’s, I spent more than a decade in a close friendship with someone (NOT a unicorn) who periodically raped me, but couldn’t fathom what he was doing as rape. Because I developed in a rape culture, it was difficult for me to transcend being good, giving, and game (die in a fucking carfire, Dan Savage) to hold someone accountable for royally violating my sexual trust.

I had a very hard time eventually confronting him, hung over a hazy morning sun with no pants on again, asking him to please not have sex with me anymore when I was blackout drunk. Only for the cycle to continue, except now, I would have the leg to stand on that I’d asked him before and I was now asking again. Because he, like me, continued to choose rape culture, until, eventually, I removed him completely from my life.

Even when I knew immediately that rape was what had happened to me, which again I’ll mention was rarely the case, it was nearly impossible to overcome my internalized misogyny to hold someone accountable for taking advantage, most especially when they had also made my clitdick hard in the process; Because, and you may be sensing a theme here, I developed in a rape culture, and that rape culture is also misogynist as fuck.

But these are only parts of my elaborate story that had locked me into this pattern of perpetration, trauma, and perpetual soul destroying harm. The key for me, it turned out, was that a lot of the sex I was initiating with others was rape, too.

My worth from adolescence and well into adulthood was completely wrapped up in others sexual interest, getting so pathological at one point that I would excuse myself to the bathroom to sob if I considered myself anything less than the most beautiful girl in the room.

I’ve pressured men who clearly didn’t want to sleep with me into sex, because I’d been groomed my entire existence to be beguiling and desirable under their gaze, much as it seems men have been conditioned to relate their value as directly proportional to whether or not they scored.

And, much like my own paralyzing victim blaming; his body responded, which meant he wanted it; so sit down, and shut up, and let me overcome and use you. That, dear reader, was rape.

I spent nearly 12 years in a relationship with a person I raped. He was visiting my city, as a friend, when I jumped him from out of nowhere while we were both shitfaced drunk in my house.

We’d discussed nothing of embarking on a sexual relationship in our multi-year platonic friendship. I had given him no time to respond or consider what was happening, let alone consent; which he wasn’t capable of doing anyway, and which I did not care.

Turned out, I found the next morning, he was a virgin – the concept of which then meant that I had a life-partner level of responsibility toward him now, another societal fallacy that perhaps I will screed about some day. Also; Oops!

Do you, dear reader, have any fucking idea how many times I told that story to our gigantic group of existing friends, or to people we’d just met, or to strangers on the internet? Told that story to people who applauded as they watched him get on his knee on New Years Eve 5 years later, and propose to me?

It was one of my favorite stories for a long time, and I told it likely hundreds. That story always got laughs. I like getting laughs. Know how many times anyone pointed out that what I was describing was rape?


That marriage, by the way, didn’t work out.

I have spent a lot of time in my privilege bubble life chatting sex and poop and bodily functions with others, generally in places like San Francisco and Seattle. From that vantage point, I am here to tell you that I am literally fucking surrounded by a dense mass of people whose lives are just like mine has been; saturated with sex that isn’t consensual.

And repeat after me: sex that isn’t consensual is rape.

People who have developed with a clear and complete, respectful value of consent are the rarity of my experience, not the norm, and those people have usually had to work very, very hard at unlearning what is considered normal.

I have come back to the conclusion repeatedly, ever since I was a teenager, that we simply fucking rape one another in this culture, even before I knew what I was witnessing was rape.

Rape is all over Hollywood, all over our media and cultural representations, most of us not even registering what it is when we see it.

Rape is represented in our success stories, in our business practices, in how our ancestors founded this country, in how our economy functions.

Rape is imbibed in the liquid that feeds our growth into sexual beings. Like thick, gelatinous air, or the water of the rising sea. Patriarchy, toxic masculinity, manufactured insecurity, our pervasive hatred and sexualization of femininity, all contribute to this culture of rape remaining a slippery, complicated mess.

We think rape is sexy and fun, we think rape is a mating dance, we think rape is courtship and romance. We think the rush we get is passion, we think it’s the fire burning, the indication of a mutual spark, while so often not having the awareness or connective skills to perceive mutuality or what our signals might actually be saying to us.

And all of us, regardless of gender, internalize and mimic these lessons.

In my experience, that rush whisking me into bed with someone was my red alert alarm. The same rush I got when I walked in on my parents having drunken, mortifying sex. It was the same rush I got as a child while I was violated while I pretended to sleep. The same rush I got when my unicorn friend re-enacted that abuse in my teens. The same rush I would get as an adult when I met someone a little too charming, a little too slick, who turned out to be a sexual predator.

That rush was not my ‘holy shit I am turned on and want this!’ response. It was the recognition and reanimation of trauma. It took me nearly 25 years to figure that out. Why? Why did it take me 25 fucking years to get this?

Because not only are we so utterly familiar and indoctrinated to rape, even when we can manage to recognize it:

We think rape is trivial.
We think rape is the victims fucking responsibility.
We think rape isn’t rape if the cells in our bodies respond in a way that’s sexualized.
We think being pressured into performing sex acts that make us uncomfortable is how to show our love.
We think being manipulated into having sex under false pretenses is par for the course.
We think that coercion isn’t rape, that pity sex isn’t suspect, and that stalking can manufacture consent.

And, again in my experience, not only do white feminist people like me who adopted contemporary models of masculinity in their rejection of oppressive feminine roles also fall into the traps of a toxic and dominating rape culture, many so-called progressive men seem to think of gracefully tolerating being raped as a part of what makes them in touch with their so-called feminine side.

Fuuuuck this, y’all.

Rape culture is a “phrase used to describe a culture in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender, sex, and sexuality.”, but the common use of “Rape Culture” and its examples are only just barely beginning to speak to how much of a rape culture we truly fucking live in.

When I first published this piece, it was mainly to share my anecdotal and observational evidence for why I was deciding to use the term rape, even for the subtle shit. I agitated a lot of people by doing that, and by responding to their pushback not by surrendering, but by writing a multi-sectioned screed, read by nearly 20,000 people, about why I will continue to use it, despite the discomfort of those around me.

Because we live in a “Rape Culture” and I think it’s about time we woke the fuck up about the role that rape quietly plays in our everyday lives, the indirect ways in which we request affection, the liberties we feel entitled to once sex enters a relationship, and on, and on, and on.

The solidification of this long coming epiphany occurred in direct correlation to having been raped in early 2014 by a casual dating partner, and being subsequently emotionally abandoned in favor of rape apology by the primary one who I had expected to be supportive of me.

In hindsight, it was, of course, really silly to think that I would have gone from being a person who casually raped people and had tolerated rape and rape apology for most of my 30+ years living, directly to having found people I was attracted to being with who were truly safe and removed from all that shit.

I’m here to remind you after deceiving myself, dear reader, that knowledge is only the first part of where toxic behavior actually stops.

The warning signs from them both kept flooding back as I wrote over that long, insomniatic weekend.

Remembering how I bullied my felt senses with my brain.
Remembering the boundary pushing.
Remembering my primaries favored catch phrase: “Can’t rape the willing!”.
Remembering my sense of not actually being safe.
Remembering my sense of not actually being supported and respected despite the cloak of ‘niceness’ they both had.
Remembering the reactionary abuses I rendered to both of those ex’s, while I avoided and downplayed my instincts that I needed to get away from them.
Remembering how I would lash out to try to protect myself and make sense of what was happening.
Remembering holding on and on and on to that false intimacy, while I stuck around those relationships for years, begging them with bricks to face themselves.

True goodness is its own kind of heroic. It takes attentive, solemn, unending work to be a good person. It requires skilled humility and having learned a firm, yet supportive self accountability. It requires self love and the honoring of ebb and flow; to be a good person is to recognize when oneself is not doing so and have the wherewithal to return to balance. True goodness can not survive unexamined shame, or the avoidance of facing growth of ones own ethic. True goodness is action, not of simply performing external deeds and favors, but of profound personal integrity, and quality apology when having drifted astray of it. True goodness requires giving up, over and over again, the compulsive circular chase for superficial proof of ones goodness. To be a good person means to be under your own constant examination, to be willfully accountable to others, and to have the willingness and ability to question your ideals, entitlements, and beliefs. True goodness is pure courage. – My Facebook, 2013

At this point in my personal evolution, I believe that sexual consent is only ambiguous when it is held up against the persisting ideals of a culture of rape.

A culture that lied to me about what rape is, what consent is, and told me since I was a child that I was supposed to be a sleeping beauty waiting for a stranger to come turn me on by taking advantage of me in my fucking sleep.

A culture that supported and encouraged me in my dangerous sexual aggression and coercion.

A culture that taught me to reward abuse, and rewarded me for mimicking my abusers.

A culture of which I wholly, and to the absolute best of my waxing and waning abilities, reject in every form it takes.

I’m also so thrilled to announce to no one in particular that I am super, SUPER done with attempting to teach “that guy” who insists he’s not “that guy” who rapes like “that guy” about how one might learn to eventually stop fucking raping like “that guy”. I have resigned my guilt and shame-marinated position as The Rapist/Rape Apologist Whisperer.

I pledge to myself that I will not again make it my responsibility to educate the intimates in my personal life about rape culture, much less ever again doing so while I struggle to heal from being raped by them.

I pledge to myself to re-evaluate this written work whenever I’ve discovered that I’ve relapsed into those old habits, to find my way back to myself through this writing and its wisdom.

I pledge to myself to hold my own safety and growth as more important than anyone’s fledgling concept of sexual boundaries, no matter who they are or what I may feel for them (or, more accurately, for their potential).

I pledge to myself the idea that sex for me is bonding, healing, deeply intentional, aware, spiritual, and sacred, or it doesn’t fucking happen.

I have wanted for my entire sexual existence to own the above values for myself, while being relentlessly steeped in the deep end of a culture which has done virtually everything it could to deny me of the empowerment of even considering it a viable option.

A culture that taught us all that being raped brings us in alignment with our womanhood, and raping brings us in alignment with our power.

A culture that presented us with the ridiculous notion that anyone could evolve a fish, in a sea, and somehow avoid ever getting wet.

From physical violence to gaslighting to emotional blackmail to being sexualized by grown men since I was less than ten fucking years old, I have undulated in time with a culture that wants me to rape and be raped.

Fuck that.

Fuck “Rape Culture”.

It’s not for me. It never really was for me. And that is no longer up for debate.

— I appreciate how many of you shared and discussed my piece. Though I felt exposed and solitary, I absolutely did not enter this foray alone, and I’d like to remind you, dear reader, that it takes a village; that you are a part of that village. What my contribution has been with this writing, essentially, is to share that I’ve found my stance, and language, in that existing debate.

What people outside my sex life view as consent in their own lives, what communities at large decide “Consent Culture” means within them, and whether laws continue to shift in the direction I have moved are out of my control.

But I know what my values are, what I want to lead by example with, and that I want to encourage others who used to think like me to consider differently. I know what I will tolerate in my own life, and which sorts of civil atmospheres I wish to endorse and participate.

Chapter 2 – “But what does consent really mean?”

Here’s my living framework for consent, updated and improved upon by Ava Mavin. ALL parameters must be met/negotiated for ALL PARTIES in order to have consent to engage sexually, and frankly, for me, in a lot of other nonsexual scenarios, too.

IDEAL Consent is:


I am fully aware that I am being propositioned, and what it is I am actually being propositioned for. I am aware of any surrounding circumstances that pose a risk to me, and am definitively NOT being presented with a request or offer that is a means to an unspoken end. I am free to ask questions, to say no, and am given clear and honest answers to what I ask.


I have communicated explicitly and emphatically through my words and/or actions that “I want this.”


I am interested in what we’re planning and I’m enrolled in that process, as well as in the results. I am decisive; even if that means I have decided that I want you to decide what it is we do.


My words and actions match up, there is no contradictions between what I say I want vs. how I am behaving. Furthermore, this activity is aligned with my values as I understand them; my overall feelings about participating in this activity are positive, even if I’m trying something I may be nervous about.


Lucid means I am awake, I am conscious, and I have control of myself.

Over the years since I co-created and adopted these stances, agonizingly unaware of the vast legacy of consent culture advocates who paved the way before me, this sort of approach to social interaction has become a bit more common and accepted.

But progress not only has to be fought for, it is also decisively non-linear.

It’s certainly not as if I wrote this, and suddenly, I was anywhere near perfect at getting and giving explicit consent every time, or even half the time. I still struggle, and must accept that as someone who developed in a rape culture I will always to some degree be struggling, with these concepts.

But there is help, and much like religions, there are many formulas out there that teach basically the same thing, and many people offering consent workshops, writing books, and providing other resources to help sooth those thousand tiny cuts, and continue moving the Overton Window along.

Chapter 3: Unlearning thousands of years of conditioning: A question and answer section

Ping: “Your definition of consent and of rape is not leaving room for developmental exploration, and for people who are just finding their way about sex.”

Pong: I am speaking to awakening from a lifetime cultural influence which tainted my sexual development and caused a lot of hurt and confusion for both myself and my partners. My point includes the nuance that the ways in which we encourage our selves and one another to explore and find our way about sex needs an overhaul — because a lot of it revolves around unconscious rape and being unconsciously raped. IDEAL consent and a much less stringent definition of rape are two powerful tools to combat this which I expand upon even further in my followup to this piece below.

Ping: “You’re being prejudice against people (like me) who like being woken up with sex/being unconscious during sex, by calling that rape.”

Pong: These behaviors are not in and of themselves corrosive when at some point a consensual agreement was made surrounding them and one lucks out by those agreements still being viable when the act is later carried out. But I also want you to consider, dear commentator, that what is consented to by saying “wake me up from unconsciousness with sex some time” or “I want you to fuck me after I’ve passed out” is not only rape play, it also puts one at great risk of actually raping their partner, as they will be unable to consent in the moment.

Perhaps all sexual developments are not as graphic and colorful as mine, but lord knows we have all been encouraged to canonize, pursue, and glorify rape, violence, and power struggle in sex, in pop culture, in relationship pursuits, in the everpressing rush to act like an “adult”.

Rape not being seen as an actual violation due to the presence of a rape culture that normalized rape is the actual issue, and it’s a subterranean problem that is effecting our society in both subtle and tremendously dramatic ways that once you allow yourself to see, you can never, ever fucking unsee.

Consider that by asking for this kind of sex you are asking to be raped by your partner. You don’t have to agree or anything; Just think about it. Over time, preferably. Lots of time. For my part, I’m gonna walk down the path of our tendency of accepting rape in even its most subtle-seeming forms as being something worth taking grave fucking issue with.

But most pointedly, and to bring my own focus back to the personal nature of this essay; rape not being seen as rape was devastating to my life, my psyche, and my development as a person. As part of my reform from that, I am drawing a very, very clear line in the sand. Sex that is not IDEAL is rape.

Ping: “The behavior you’re talking about is bad, but it’s not rape”

Pong: Arguing over the current largely accepted definition of rape is basically my anti-point — I’m saying it’s woefully lacking.

The real point of sharing my story in this public manner is to shake up some apathy, and stimulate not only this existing conversation, but to provoke those delayed reactions after being initially dismissed.

Is it rape?

If not stated in my state legislature, creative in vast part by powerful men, should I consider it rape in my own personal intimate life?

When I dig down into my guts and listen to myself about this, do I know for sure if I have ever raped anyone?

Has anyone ever raped me?

If so, do I want to continue to rape? To risk raping?

If not, do I want to continue behaviors that cause me to question whether I’m raping?

Was that time in the back of that guy’s car after he fed me shots for three hours rape?

Was that time I manipulated those two people by lying to them both about one another and withholding my STD status to ensure they would have sex with me.. was that rape?

How do my actions and beliefs contribute to rape culture?

How has rape culture contributed to me?

When it comes to combating this cult of personality on both an individual as well as broader level, I think it’s really important to take a look at how we are defining rape and what that’s been meaning for us, not just say “pfft. That’s not how rape is defined.”. Especially when it.. erhm.. actually is, in a lot of places.

At the very least, even if this level of self exploration isn’t your cup of tea, we should be asking how we are unconsciously encouraging rape that IS collectively defined. 11th principal, an organization dedicated to consent, created this handy rape pyramid to help with that.

Ping: You’re lessening the impact of the word “Rape”/I don’t like the word “Rape” therefore I will not listen to you.

Pong: Ok first of all? Fuck you.

Secondly: I’ve seen this notion in both question form and as outrage. My friend Ava has encapsulated this well, and touches on why I tend to simply say ‘rape’ rather than using ‘casual rape’ or ‘common rape’ or ‘second degree rape’ or some other verbal dilution:

“Well, there’s rape. And then there’s rape coupled with assault. Which, interestingly, is what most people think of as rape. But an absence of assault is not an absence of rape, or even a lesser degree of rape. It simply leaves less physical evidence, which also makes it more difficult to identify and prosecute.”

Here’s another way to think around the language of it: When someone punches me in the shoulder to greet me at a party, I don’t generally sneer at them in an accusatory tone out the gate “That’s assault!!”, even though that’s exactly what it is. If we have that consensual arrangement, I take the punch good naturedly (or maybe I punch them right back).

Further, in a perfect situation where power dynamics are neutral, society knows that assault is inappropriate, and we’re not all running round clocking one another in the throat and pretending that isn’t assaulting a person, if I’m vexed about how I’m being treated I’ll only use the stronger language of more extreme versions of that same violence if they don’t respond to softer language.

But we live in a fucking rape culture friends, and part of how we remain in that state is by refusing to acknowledge that rape is rape even when it’s not combined with other obviously terrible and violent things.

So I ask you then: Has defining assault in the way that we have watered down more severe versions of assault?


Has it stopped buddies from punching each other in the shoulder or rat-toweling each other in the ass as acts of consensual endearment?


Does escalating to calling it ‘assault’ tend to apply a sense of urgency associated with behavior in need of correction?


Would someone who gets whipped with a towel via bullying rather than camaraderie be capable of enrolling their community in ending the harm caused by leveraging use of accepted language around the continuum that is assault?


Would we ever have gotten here if we insisted that only being bludgeoned to near death by a particular brand of sledgehammer by a man you don’t know jumping out from behind a dumpster counted as being assaulted?

Perhaps I’ve made my point. And if not, again: Fuck you.

“When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.” — Carl Jung

Calling rape rape does not take away from the severity of other rape. It’s a ridiculous notion that plays into many of the themes I’ve already discussed in this lumbering demon of an essay; a false equivalence.

The premeditated assault type of rape being held to such an extreme degree, and overwhelmingly being the type that’s generally referred to when rape is decried, has had the unproductive side effect of stigmatizing all rape and rapists into that ‘they’re gonners, kill them with fire’ category.

All rape, or people who have raped, which is fucking ALL OF US, are not in that category.

*I* am not in that category.

Rather than lessening the impact of the word rape, I am using the truth about the existence of rape to increase the impact of the concept of consent in my life, and I’m writing about that where others can see and glean insight from my process.

Ping: “What about intent? If someone isn’t intending to rape, then how can it be rape?”

Pong: Google ‘accidental rape’ and ‘unintentional rape’ — it’s actually a thing — and/or, watch this video of a stirring rape prevention advert which speaks to the subject of this thing that does in fact exist.

I know from my own relational experiences as well as from being certified in grief recovery that our systemic misunderstanding of grief and misinformation regarding how to address that complex emotional process leads the way to unidentified feelings like betrayal, shame, and mistrust being stifled — only to pop up later looking like they’re directed at something else.

Our current stigma makes it really damn hard for a person to admit to themselves that they were raped, even when it’s confessed upon and literally named, as in my situation I talked about a million and a half years ago at the beginning of this essay.

It is my opinion that the intent of the rapist, as well as their response to being called out about the impact of their behavior, has more to do with how one might handle their future participation in the situation/relationship and less about whether or not having had non-consensual sex with someone is technically “raping” them. Because clearly, it is.

Did I intend to rape people in *my* life? No.

Did I rape people? Yes, I damn well fucking did rape people. And it is possible, nae, probable even, that any time I engage in sex outside of my outline of IDEAL consent, that I could rape someone again.

Pussyfooting around referring to rape as rape was not working to address the cultural grooming, the rape-encouraging behaviors, and the cycle of perpetual triggering of my own rape-related traumas that I needed to be looking at. I need to name rape and rape culture for what it is in order to transform how I’ve internalized it and continued to allow it to rule my relationships, my self esteem, and my life.

In a larger sociopolitical sense, the normalization of mealmouthed language also adds to the stigma of people who do have the courage to face those rapes and to speak them clearly for what they are.

I’m open to the possibility of the people I’ve sneak-attacked not agreeing I raped them. That doesn’t make it any less rape to me. Seduction is wonderful, but it ceases to be seduction if the beneficiary of that seduction does not genuinely want to be seduced. I didn’t have consent, I didn’t ask for consent, and ultimately I didn’t care to make sure I had consent. Whether they want to hold me accountable for that doesn’t effect whether or not I should.

Ping: “This [piece] is fucking deranged. You need help.”

Pong: This troll actually brought some thoughtful response to me, because he is right. I needed help, as do all the people who have developed like I did, to overcome this mass delusion.

Fuck Highlander Me was welcomed with open arms until I chose to stop her. I had pathetically little outside incentive to change, as do most perpetrators of abuse, particularly sexual. No one wanted to get involved, if they recognized it at all. No one was willing to confront me. I had to confront myself.

After doing that, I have needed every ally, therapy session, healing circle, recovery method, self help book, and care regimen I’ve ever fucking done to own and address the harm I caused; both what I’ve inflicted, as well as breaking free of the self loathing cycle which kept me enmeshed in a pattern of being re-traumatized over and over by more rape under the dominance of others.

It’s a tremendous undertaking to own and recondition something like this. To give up stealing sex as power, to learn means to sooth and validate oneself, to untangle the automatic habits developed in all the time of having done elsewise; It takes years. It takes your whole life. It takes support. It takes loneliness. It takes discomfort. And it requires the totality of a person constantly scanning, seeking, and challenging, to succeed.

A lot of people need the same help I need. Maybe even you. So thanks for mentioning it, troll. And Good luck.

Ping: “I recognize rape happening in my life. But now what am I going to do about it?”


Chapter 5 – Now, you.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” — Frederick Douglass

The sociocultural-evolutionary arc in how we ultimately resolve rape culture in its various forms and incantations all over the world, is a long and expansive process that requires many drops and ripples in the collective. We want this to go away now, to make a law and poof, a year from now, 5 years from now, it’s resolved — but it will not happen that way, and you need to get real about that right quick.

Change of this nature and complexity happens slowly, even on an individual level. As a society, it takes generations to unlearn the conditioning we’ve been taught. Contributing to that future takes intense healing and brutal honestly regarding the trauma perpetuated and maintained by that conditioning. It takes restorative, transformative, authentic means of justice that do not exist in our mainstream zeitgeist.

We have a long road ahead of us, individually and collectively, before the reality of rape culture can truly be amended from our normalized interpersonal lexicon. My place in this larger movement, other than continuing to heal myself, is to share what I’ve learned in doing so.

It took, essentially, three things

Step 1: I recognized that there was a problem.

If you’re reading this, you’re already here: Congratulations. Emotional armor is not easy to shed, and we have it for valid reason.

That armor is protecting us from feeling things that our unconscious worries we are not able to feel without dying. It is a non-trivial task to even be looking at the catalyst for putting that armor on, let alone our part of a problem which has managed to cause us, and those around us, so much torment.

Even more so when it is such a loaded, triggering issue as rape.

Even more so still when it’s an issue in which vital aspects of so many of our identities have been defined.

This was, by far, the hardest step for me. It happened long before I’d even considered what was happening in my life was rape. Knowing something was wrong was the wind at my back, before I had found the language to write any of this.

So, again, welcome.

“How we call down judgment upon ourselves is simultaneously the most horrific and the most beautiful thing about us.” —Zadie Smith

Sometimes, what it is we honestly need, is a swift kick in the ass. Those profound lessons hurt, and they are called fucking BREAKthoughs for a reason. Because OUCH!

Our breakthroughs have a violence to them that is important to recognize and have compassion for, particularly when we’re presented with ingrained pattern-oriented gets which are contributed to by our upbringing as part of a fundamentally oppressive society.

But a kick in the ass, when present, is a kickstart in the process of healing, not a constant element of that process, and this is an integral part of addressing the underlying cracks in ones integrity.

Just as we’ve figured out that we don’t heal up from a bone break by resetting our broken arm over and over until the end of fucking time, our emotional bodies can’t heal that way, either.

So if that’s what you’re doing as you’re figuring out you’re just another fish in the sea who got wet, this is your official invitation, which you can come back to any time, to stop doing that.

We also can’t heal effectively, if we keep using our just-set arm to the degree that we’d like it to be functioning again already; When we do that, we end up with a painful mangled half-healed mess, and the same too goes for our psychic healing.

So here’s another kick in the ass for you:

I could not truly transform beyond this or any engrained pattern in my life as long as I:

  • Hung on to beating myself to shit over my habitual behaviors
  • Continued engaging in/making excuses for engaging in said behaviors
  • Compulsively indulged in distracting myself with judging the patterns of others.

This healing has been about ME, and now your healing has gotta be about YOU. Not your community, not your lovers, not your ex, not the world, not your friends: JUST YOU.

Step 2: I got back in touch with my body…

It is no coincidence whatsoever that the conversation around consent and rape of which these writings piggyback began for me in the BDSM and Sex Positive communities, but the correlation might not be what one would immediately think.

One of the glorious and wonderful things about BDSM (as well as vanilla sex) is how the experience of sensation brings us into alignment with our bodies, and what wisdom our vessels have to share with us through those senses.

Experiences that bring us into safe forms of exploration, not only in developing a broader view of sexuality in general, but in developing a more profound felt-sense listening, have profoundly enabled my ability to address and regard these incredibly uncomfortable truths about myself.

As most of us who have engaged in any form of ‘alternative’ community probably know, these communities are not without their faults and failures. Often Sex Positivity is confused with Enthusiasm For Sex, and there was a tremendous amount of emotional abuse and manipulation disguised as polyamory and sex positivity in my experiences.

In this fight, it is vital for us to acknowledge that even the people we hold in our highest regards are a product of rape culture, and are inherently protected from the impacts of their abuse. None of us are immune to it and none of us are above it; if there must be an us vs. them, then let it be the us’s that have cultivated the courage and resources to challenge this about ourselves, and the us’s that have yet to get there. But we certainly won’t get there any time soon by allowing known unapologetic predators to stay in the lead, as happened so many times in my community experiences.

These faults and failures aside, the issue for me personally was that BDSM is overwhelmingly about sex, and in the context of relying upon it to wake up and break out of rape culture (which at the time I had no idea I was trying to do), it too easily serves, nae, is designed to serve, as an echo chamber for keeping things how they already are —just like any other form of sex that’s been birthed in our culture of rape. Just like, I suspect, YOUR forms of sex, dear reader.

An excellent example of a manifestation of these issues outside of the Sex Positive Culture movement is: Wanting (“needing”) your partner to want the type of sex you want to such a degree that you forgo IDEAL consent to have it with them (or provide it to them), rather than accepting your incapability as sexual partners.

My experience as a sex worker, and later a giver and taker in the Sex Positive scene, has ultimately positively shaped me. Yet the single most profound, life altering lesson I learned in my many years experiencing those things was the utter importance of having touch in my life…

…In a way that was not sexual

and would never become sexual.

Hooo shit! You can’t heal your relationship with rape culture by having more/slightly different sex?

No. You can’t. I am here to tell you: No. You can’t.

Working to stop using other people’s sex to define our Selves is one of the absolute core elements of healing from rape culture.

And since, as we’ve established, this healing is about YOU JUST YOU, and since trauma recovery from prolonged exposure is approached differently than trauma recovery from one quick, unexpected incident, and includes removal from the traumatic environment so you can actually heal, simply continuing with what you’re already doing with whoever you’re already having established rapey questionable sex with is NOT, I repeat, NOT going to work.

And neither is jumping in bed with somebody else in order to practice this treasure trove of new ideas without filtering out the white noise that obfuscated them in the first place.

I started small. I took in my naked body in the mirror, published self photographs I took in absolute solitude, and made art. I explored my reproductive system by myself with my fingers and with tools without hunting for an orgasm.

Gradually, I became more comfortable with myself, less judgmental of my body, and less afraid of the warning signs it gives me. I began experimenting with my diet, my sleep cycles, tracking my menstrual cycles , transforming what was once foreign and horrifying is now a form of intense wisdom.

Step 3: I addressed my unresolved grief.

Grief is a stigmatized and misunderstood emotional process that few people have learned the skills to maneuver. Grief — a FEELING SYSTEM, that we feel in our BODIES  (see above)— is most often automatically met with intellectualization, which takes us away from our emotions where the process is actually happening, and into our circumstantial stories; where we think around in circles about the catalyst for the process that’s happening.

What we commonly learn about navigating grief are myths that only help to stuff the experience down deeper, allowing it to linger indefinitely. Myths that encourage us to divorce ourselves from our true feelings, to stuff down the tears that help us release the physical manifestations of our emotions from our bodies, and to poison ourselves by holding on to what is meant to move through us.

We are intrinsically taught, expected, and encouraged to handle the inevitable experience of any loss, including the loss of identity that one will experience when unmasking their unconscious contributions to rape, in ways that are disorderly and utterly pathological.

Conflicting feelings over a change in a familiar pattern is the hallmark of a grief experience, and up until a few years ago, my life has been a void — a fucking crater — napalmed by an excessive, unending barrage of compounded, unresolved grief.

And rape, one of many excessive culprits in the accumulation of all that unresolved shit, as it turns out, was one of the things I was also throwing into that crater, trying to fill and satisfy it.

I came to suspect grief as a culprit in my suffering after over 10 years of psychotherapy and more conventional mental healing avenues that helped me learn skills to cope, but just weren’t getting me the results I wanted.  But with those tools, I was able to identify and resolve my grief..

… which had been hurting others, too.

“Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow” — Swedish Proverb

This proverb is a wonderful sentiment, and it is true — for the person who is sharing. Listening to a persons trauma, however, is in and of itself a second-hand injury for us.

Therefore, it is incredibly difficult to show up honestly, to offer our genuine empathy and support, if we ourselves are starving for empathy and support; But it is impossible to do so if we ourselves are also incapable of resolving our own accumulated grief.

Without grief recovery skills, our listening and our caring turns corrosive, becoming another barrier to our own healing, and another trigger for our harm perpetuating mechanisms we seek to replace with better habits.

Sometimes, avoiding our unchecked grief looks like the violence of the Gamergate doxxing, and other times it looks like my boyfriend with a pained look on his face claiming he knows what happened to me was rape, “but…”.

I continued to take these 3 steps to deeper levels:

One thing you may notice about these steps, aside from having a lack of sexual component to them, is that they were experienced by me with others baring witness. All three steps I’ve talked about here, when going a bit deeper, will have the following added to them:

…and included the presence of other human beings.

Part of the reason I am writing this and inviting you to share in my experience, and even comment and approach me about it if you wish, is that while your healing is about YOU JUST YOU, the witness of others is a fundamental requirement for the transformation, rather than simply the management or the coping of, unresolved trauma, of any origin.

Like many/most of us, I sought human witness first through intellect. I started in 1995 by writing publicly online about my deep dark flaws, which helped me clarify and berate myself for my problems, and undoubtedly perpetuated a lot of secondary trauma in my readers at the time, but did not serve to go any farther than that.

Eventually, about 10 years later and long after my website habit began producing diminishing returns, I moved forward by seeing a psychiatrist. Before I ever in a million years would have exposed myself to the indignity of fumbling through a group dance class, I was, finally, addressing the cognitive barriers that were keeping me from even considering doing so with some actual help.

And before I could do THAT, I had to get over myself enough to even go see a shrink. After nearly a lifetime of being proven over and over again to be out of my depth, I still suspected I was way too smart and clever, and already knew too much about myself, for them to contribute anything to me.

I also as mentioned above, needed to take steps in my life to get to where I could participate in healing with my whole person, not just my thoughts and ability to examine them.

One of the most overlooked elements of rape culture is how our starvation of intimate, non-sexual touch compounds the prevalence of rape in our lives.

Humans need safe touch to survive. It is part of our core programming, and touch is absolutely essential for our mental and physical health.

Yet so many of us don’t get enough of it, and when we do try to get it, usually within some amatonormative framework, we are often confronted with more fucking rape culture, as one of the aspects maintaining it is the pervasive teaching that intimate touch must be sexual, or leading to sex, to be viable.

I had also convinced myself with the help of rape culture and white supremacist neoliberal capitalism that my body literally did not know how to relax anymore without sex or drugs, and usually both. Yet after finally finding a massage practitioner I meshed with, there I was walking sober across a parking lot like I’d just slammed a fistful of vicoden.

It was in that moment, and all the tiny steps I’d taken to get to that moment, that my world, and eventually my purpose, shifted forever.

It shifted again when I discovered circus aerial and began taking classes, a physical challenge which engaged me both motivationally and creatively, the love for which forced me to re-prioritize my escapism through drugs and alcohol abuse and rape.

Eventually, that confidence grew into human witness as an athletic performance career, which for me was instrumental to my healing work, as well as other forms of art I’ve practiced.

It changed again on a fateful day at an erotic theater, of which I was a troupe member for many years due nearly implicitly to the fact that sex wasn’t allowed there, as I was body painted, naked, in public.

It shifted again more recently, when I chose to deepen my self understanding as well as my bodywork practice by taking a class in Somatic Unwinding, a simultaneously intense and utterly gentle exploration of some of our most subtle and quiet felt senses.

I started small with including others, first by sleeping naked, and then by wandering around the house naked, and then by wandering around the house naked when my partner was actually home.

What I have learned is that growth takes time, that it takes the bravery of being willing to fess up to the shit you pulled before you knew better and that profound growth requires that I be willing to be very lonely for a while.

Part of enabling ourselves to do our work is having an extreme reverence for the power of influence in our lives, and developing our sense of what is safe for us, and what simply is not.

Before I could truly begin to heal from rape culture, I had to understand that I couldn’t do it by staying engaged with the people around me who were still where I knew I didn’t want to be.

More painfully, I had to accept that most of those people would not have an interest in coming “with” me.

I’ve had to, and will likely continue to have to, turn my back again and again on a twisted flavor of unconditional acceptance that we are commonly taught is love, but which directly encourages my inhumane behaviors.

If you ever figure out a way for that not to fuckin sting, let me know. But as we learn to honor ourselves in our own lives, as we shed our learned awful and stand in our own integrity, and as we learn that our faults are not life sentences, we soften to the faults of others, we draw like-minded people to us who love authentically and do not allow us to mistreat them, and the sting of the losses that we must endure in order to transform ourselves becomes a little bit more bearable.

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” – Cynthia Occelli

Recap and final comments:

  1. Recognize there is a problem (and own that while the problem was inherited to you, the responsibility for it is yours)
  2. Get in touch with your body (through felt sense experiences unrelated to sex or procuring sex)
  3. Resolve your grief (in the presence and support of other humans)

These steps are a repeatable formula. They’re spirals I’ve come to again and again, from all sorts of different angles, as a way of approaching life that has enabled me to heal and to deepen that healing with every consecutive pass.

And I had no fucking idea what I was doing while I was clawing my way to this place I’m writing from. I recognized a problem and put attention toward figuring it out and years later here I am.

The thing about goals is that you don’t need to know how to accomplish them before committing.

The thing about healing is that you don’t know what healing is going to look like until it’s already happening.

Will it be a big jagged scar?

Will I even be able to tell a wound was there?

Will my healed wound be able to tell me when a storm is coming?

Will it make me immune to a whole host of related diseases?

Will it give me spidey senses and let me climb walls?

It is only in hindsight that I am able share this wisdom with you, and it is wisdom I earned by doing the best I could not knowing what the fuck was going on. I was fumbling toward Shavasana if ever anyone has ever fumbled toward anything, and it took a village to eventually experience this place. A village you are now a part of. A village committed to transforming our cozy relationship with rape.

Here’s a way to do it, a starting point, a structure to lean into when you need direction, a reminder, or a swift kick in the ass.

It is now your goal, should you choose: brave that jungle. Slash away a path for yourself, for as long as there is jungle to slash a path through. And then, if you’re anything like me, one day you will find yourself there, at the edge of a tremendous clearing, dumbfounded and finding yourself slashing at air.

You will be there, in your body, in your senses, with supportive humans you’ve managed to learn how to trust, with a sense of yourself that is more secure and more supportive, and it will dawn on you what that unfamiliar complex feeling is: recovery.

If you’re anything like me, the tears you cry then will be the weirdest most awkwardly human cry-chuckle tears of relief and gratitude and wt actual f ever cried in the history of ever — and they will have been worth every insufferable fucking fuckass moment that went into being capable of crying them.

Thanks for reading this. If my emotional labor in writing it down has helped you, please consider paying me for it.

Take care of you,