*Trigger warning; references made to sexual violence throughout
I was molested as I child, raped as a teen and a victim of an abusive relationship. I have been stalked, sexually harassed and experienced violent altercations with males all because I’ve said No.
I can reel these events off my tongue without so much of a tightening of my chest or a delay in speech. I always thought that once I got to this point, it would have meant I’d healed, which is far from the truth. I live with it and try to tell myself that I haven’t let my past define me; but the truth is sexual, mental and physical instances of abuse can compromise the way you navigate throughout all your relationships, be it platonic, romantic, working or familial as well the relationship you develop with yourself.
Recently I’ve been hit with this feeling of loss. It’s as if I’m mourning any opportunity I could have had to have a clean slate, or at least a healthy understanding of what sex, love and romantic desire could be. I thought I had come to grips with the way previous instances of abuse and grooming had impacted me, but it suddenly dawned on me that since my exposure to abuse started from my childhood, there was a certain vulnerability I’d been burdened with increasing my susceptibility to repeated attacks, resulting in such interactions becoming my new normal. I had been stripped of an innate understanding of my right to choose where and how things happen in regards to my body, and even who I shared my affection with.
In my previous #ChurchToo post, I mentioned that there had been a delay between my teenage experience of assault and actually realising what had happened. The thing that triggered my complete awareness of the things I’d been through, had been the first time somebody asked for my consent. The first time I felt safe enough to say no.
Had this been the first person I’d slept with?
Had he even been my boyfriend?
However, he was the first person I had chosen to sleep with, and the first to factor respect into the time we spent together. He talked me through every step and responded to my body’s reflex reactions that stemmed from fear. He’d never make me feel like he’d taken something from me but rather it was a moment of exploration and mutual exchange for both of us. The best part of it all? I didn’t have to garner sympathy from him by telling him the ins and outs of my traumatic past -a mistake I’d made before- in order to receive respect. He was just attentive which meant I didn’t have to shut down and numb myself just to get by. Now although this relationship sounds The notebook-esque this is not to say that he or our situation was perfect. But what I am grateful for was him bringing me to the realisation that I don’t really like sex.
My friends would often share details about their sexual exploits and I’d always be bewildered as I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I was so sure that I was too saved to crave or enjoy sex, to the point where my curiosity placed me in compromising situations. Up until the positive experience I mentioned earlier, my discussions with people about sex and intimacy were far from encouraging. I had the uncomfortable realisation that I’d been quite checked out, sex had only ever been a performative experience for me where my body functioned ‘as it should’ but my mind was never really there. According to friends I was too cold, guys would describe me as being too frigid. I’ve had people dictate to me that I hadn’t had my “back blown out” well enough, or that I’m probably lesbian and fighting it, I’ve been laughed at by sexual health professionals all because I identify as being asexual. I honestly never thought my sexuality would be such a cause concern for other people especially when it barely ever crossed my mind. But it’s through the constant poking and prodding that I grew firmer in my understanding of what it is I wanted.
So how exactly does my asexuality and my traumatic history intersect?
Well, I’m still in the process of making sure they don’t. I can’t deny that my continuous exposure to people exerting their power over me through the means of sex has been daunting and exhausting. I also hate that there is this rhetoric that sexual assault creates a permanent stain on your sexuality i.e. girls who were raped by men becoming sexually ‘promiscuous’ or lesbian and vice versa solely because of abuse. In my eyes that rhetoric is an example of stigmatisation. It is a further act of violence and victim shaming that traps abuse victims into normalising their negative responses to sex rather than unlearning them, while simultaneously rushing victims through the process of healing or forgetting because it’s not the next person’s baggage to handle. It acts a consistent reminder that your sexuality and your heart are no longer yours the second you have encountered any violation of your body.
My personal goal is getting to a place where I don’t feel like I have to give a whole monologue describing my history with abuse to validate me being uncomfortable, or awkward or distant.
I guess during this process of learning and unlearning, the mourning of the missed opportunity to form my very own, organic concept of choice, has lead me to the realisation that I’m tired of having to explain my no’s regardless of what part of my psyche they stem from.
So I wont.
Because my NO should be enough on its own.
Written by Nunya Gemegah