Wednesday, May 28, 2014

on vulnerability

after my last post i was quite upset, and i was taken right back into the dark space i'd been in the previous night when arguing with gd about rape, consent and gender. i remained upset until i arrived at her place and managed to get my thoughts and feelings across, which was really difficult. i only found the right words to express myself minutes before arriving and talking about one's vulnerabilities and dark places is not easy, it doesn't matter how caring and supportive the person you're talking to is.

the cause for my distress was being told that i don't get to discuss "consent" because i cannot empathize with women who're living in rape culture* as a man in a man's world who hasn't been subjected to sexual abuse. at first i was angry because while i agree that i cannot identify with victims of sexual abuse, that doesn't mean that i cannot empathize with them**. then, while on my way to gd's, it suddenly struck me that i *do* know all about consent and violation first-hand.

i've barely talked about my experiences with the men in suits (and i've hardly started labelling all the polygraph posts) but i'm going to take a moment to share the two most significant parts of the experience.

firstly, i was forced to "consent" to the interrogation and to be subjected to the polygraph examinations. sure, i could have withheld consent, but not consenting was tantamount to declaring myself a criminal and a traitor and the possible consequences included lengthy jail-time and being dishonourably discharged, which would basically have destroyed any possibility of me continuing on my career / life path. in other words, i would have been sacrificing all of my dreams if i hadn't submitted.

secondly, the violation of the interrogation wherein they demanded deeply private and personal details that i didn't want to share followed by being hooked up to a machine to confirm whether i'd been honest and forthcoming is nothing short of mental rape. full penetration, complete helplessness and having to live with the trauma afterwards. it's an experience that, no matter how much sense i manage to make of it, i have no place for in my narrative. this is something that happens to other people, not me.

just talking about it face-to-face yesterday, even with someone i trust so intimately, made my chest constrict until i couldn't breathe.
so here i am, reliving the interminable sequence of dark, ugly moments that i will never be able to forget and cannot satisfactorily fit into language, in an attempt to justify my opinions and understanding of gender inequality and how fucked up our world is.

i'm not going to share my opinions right now, that's not what this is about.

* a problematic expression. it's valid, but it's more nuanced and complex than its surface value and causes misunderstandings even before a discussion can be had. if you want to talk about rape culture with anyone, you have to sit down and establish all the terms before you begin. victims, normative men (participants and non-participants), normative women (not including explicit victims), feminists (male and female), and academics all think, speak and understand these things very differently.

**i feel strongly that there's a difference between those two concepts, i might be abusing the language though. if you don't get my meaning, leave a comment and i'll try to explain differently.

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