I know. It’s been forever. But I have to get this out of my head and into some kind of order–so here it is, and if anyone ever reads it, that’s a plus.
So this guy I was dating last year and who some of you know about and some of you don’t–he raped me. No one knows this–besides me, obviously–and it took me ages to figure it out. Not because it wasn’t obvious, but because, classic Maeve, I decided that I was over-reacting and being too sensitive and I should get over it and get over myself for being so upset. Actual thought at the time was something like, “this experience is so much like rape and yet somehow not rape because I know he’s a good person and he cares about me, and yet, it has affected me so strongly! I don’t get it.” Sometimes for a smart girl, I am very thick.
I did not break up with him over the rape. Partly because work was so insane and kept me so busy that I didn’t even have time to think about what happened to me. Partly because I managed to convince myself that it was not rape, only something much like rape that was somehow not rape because he was a good person who wouldn’t hurt me, so I should get over it.
I did yell at him, though–but not at the time. At the time, we had a very calm and mature discussion about how important it is to ALWAYS LISTEN TO A GIRL WHEN SHE SAYS NO, that I don’t say no when I don’t mean it, and he should not ever second-guess or over-ride me when I say no about anything. Would you believe there was a ton of other stuff he wouldn’t listen to me say no about either, and I still didn’t get it? I am giving you this x–I don’t want it–I want to give it to you–I do not want it, do not give it to me–here it is, it is yours–I am throwing it out–why did you throw it out?–I DON’T WANT IT. Controlling and manipulative and really just evil, all in a nice-guy cloak so he can try to manipulate people (i.e. me) into a position of obligation, and then make demands, like for sex. Which was not the situation with the rape, but did happen after the rape, when oddly enough I didn’t much want to have sex with him anymore and he was feeling hard-done-by, so lashed out at me (again under a “nice guy” guise of “but I only did it because I knew you really wanted me to”). That was when I yelled at him.
He then complained about my anger. He had to walk on eggshells, he said. I go for the jugular, he said. Why am I so rude to him? he said.
Believe it or not, this post is not about the rape.
This is backstory. It has absolutely affected me in ways I’m not yet able to discuss or even describe. Though it has taken a real toll on my dating life, believe me. Not sure what it is going to take for me to be able to trust someone again. At the very least, more time. But this is just context for the story that I am going to relate.
Recently, I was thinking about this, and giving myself a ferociously hard time, because how stupid do I have to be, to be raped and STILL blame myself for being single and unable to make a relationship work? For sticking around and trying to resolve it with someone who thinks it’s ok to rape someone? Why the hell didn’t I run for the exits? In what universe does someone deserve a second chance after they rape someone? And so on.
And I realized that I am always giving allowances for what people tell me their intentions are. If a guy tells me he’s a good guy who means well and would never hurt me, then even when he hurts me, I give him the benefit of the doubt and try not to “over-react.” Which means that in practice I under-react. I stay with a sex addict for ten years, because at least he’s not beating me, he’s not gambling away our life savings, he’s not hurting PP. Oh hey, here’s a guy who lives in his cousin’s basement and quits his job regularly to write comic books that never ever get finished, and who complains about how all the women he’s dated before were shallow bimbos because they weren’t happy to date a guy without a job or any money–he’d be a good life partner. Let’s try this out. How about this married guy? He says he loves me and if I really loved him, I wouldn’t care how miserable I am and I would wait for as long as it takes for him to decide he’s ready to leave his wife. Sounds like a plan. This one who is chasing me all over and won’t leave me alone and is monitoring my movements says it’s just because he misses me; instead of turfing him after two weeks I should date him for three months because, who knows! Maybe I can talk him into seeing reason. And now this guy, who never listened when I said no, talked about marrying me at two months, manipulated me into meeting his family and his kids much earlier than I was ready for, treated his ex-wife like garbage and tried to destroy her life–oh, and bugged her house–and RAPED ME–I haven’t given it enough time yet, maybe we can talk it out, I am so sensitive and over-react so much, I shouldn’t trust my emotions, I should totally trust him instead when he says that he would never hurt me, even when he’s hurting me.
My god. The man raped me. What did I do? I talked to him about communication. I then gave him another chance.
And the Trader. This is where it wraps up.
Even with the Trader, I thought. His stupid mean jokes, making fun of me in public, smiling at me when I was angry at him, constantly pushing my boundaries–and I kept not getting angry and not getting angry because ‘his intentions were good’ and he was a good person who cared about me, and when I did get angry because he worked so hard to make me angry–and he did–then my anger became the problem. My anger! When I didn’t yell at him, call him names, raise my voice–no. I stood there, I looked angry, I’m sure I sounded angry, but I am not hyper-sensitive and I don’t over-react. Someone stalked me and I didn’t break up with them for two months. Someone RAPED me and I didn’t break up with them for three months! Someone cheated on me for over NINE YEARS and I told myself to get over it! I have put up with this job for THREE YEARS, which is two years more than anyone else in my role has managed to tolerate it for–I do not over-react! And I need to never ever tell myself that again, because it puts me in situations where people can actually physically endanger me and I still don’t speak up. From now on and for the rest of my life, I will never ever ever use someone else’s stated intentions to excuse how they treat me, ever again. If someone does something to make me feel like shit, then it’s shit, and that’s that, and it doesn’t need to make sense to them, and I don’t care what they think about it. What someone else tells me their intentions are is now none of my business. If it feels like disrespect, it’s disrespect. If it feels hurtful, it’s hurtful. If it feels insulting, it’s insulting. And my god, even with the Trader, I did that dance for 18 months. Thank god I broke up with him.
I say all of this because the Trader and I have become friends. Or I should say had become.
I should also say that it was an explicit, stated part of our previous relationship that I must never question his intentions. The only thing that could get him angry, he said, was if I did not believe his intentions were good.
Well. It was, coincidentally, a conversation with the Trader where I was first able to put my newfound resolution (to care about my own feelings more than someone else’s stated intentions) to the test. He brought up one of the recent rape-in-the-military scandals. We have previously talked about women in the military many times, his position being that women should not be in the military, because men cannot form proper killing machine teams with women in the vicinity. Total sexist bullshit, I know. He is very sexist, but wants credit for believing in equality because “you know when I met my ex-wife I didn’t even demand that she give up her career, I supported it even!” and “I got her a nanny and a housekeeper when TraderTot was small” and “after the divorce my friends told me I should just have put my foot down, that she went crazy because I let her get away with too much,” and somehow in his mind this adds up to equality. Why, oh why, oh why, did I ever put up with this?
At any rate, we were talking about the rape scandals, and I told him how I felt about it: that the military attracts men who are trying to prove their masculinity (this has been demonstrated in some really excellent studies), and one of the ways such men prove their masculinity is by abusing women (very good studies there too–I’m not making this up, it’s not hypothetical). That a military composed so much of men with so few women in it is going to be even more hyper-masculine in this destructive way; the entire culture of the military needs to be changed. We can just swap out one Military Dude Whose Job It Is To Protect Women From Other Military Dudes, with another one. Because a military that views women as objects with which Manly Men demonstrate their virility and penis-hood by raping and beating is not, actually, going to be effective at protecting the women in that society who do after all comprise 50+% of it. You know? I mean, how is that military going to effectively protect the interests of the half of the population that they consider to be Not Fully Human? Not well, is what I am thinking.
So I said this, but politely.
He wanted credit still for not being sexist.
Sure, he said, I can see what you’re saying in how a male military might lead to an unequal outcome, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not equal. It doesn’t mean that I don’t support equality, by not wanting women in the military.
No, I said. It’s sexist, patronizing, and insulting. It is not equal, to argue that women will interfere with men’s special killing teams when that killing team is supposed to exist to protect the interests of women as well as men. (You see what I did there? He wanted credit for his intentions; I said no. First time ever. But no, his stated intentions did not get him a pass or a cookie for being enlightened and proto-feminist for not wanting women in the military.)
He then stopped talking to me.
Literally, just stopped. Walked away, and did not talk to me again for weeks. No word of explanation. Just gone.
Fine, I thought. I will wait. I am sure as hell not going to become part of his constant tornado of “women drama” that surrounds him at all times of the day and night by trying to get an explanation out of him, or talk it over. Let him go and be a sulky jerk.
He cancelled plans by saying that he was just in a really terrible place and couldn’t pretend to be happy right now. OK, sure. I was going to cancel our plans anyway, since I have no particular desire to see him, seeing as he’s a sulky jerk.
When he finally decided to tell me–still no apology or even indication that just walking away was anything other than normal or acceptable–it was about more drama from his ex-wife, another battle over time with Trader-Tot, and how this had him staring into the abyss. “What, that’s it?” is how my response can be paraphrased. “Umm, seriously? Your fancy-pants expensive arbitrator saved the day yet again, right? Everything is just the way you want it? No crisis? Right?”
Don’t think he was impressed, as he is still not speaking to me. I don’t much care, and don’t miss him.
In the not-speaking-to periods, I have done some pretty deep thinking. I remembered how nervous I was of him, how scared sometimes; how something just didn’t add up, in the story he told of himself and his divorce and who he was. His stupid mean jokes, that he wouldn’t stop. The way he constantly complains about all of the DRAMA from the women in his life, not having any clue that he causes it. (Actual conversation about his most recent break-up: Me: Well, that sounds pretty drama free. That’s nice
. Trader: Oh yes, there was no drama there. None. I would sometimes say shit like you know I do and sit there looking afraid I guess like she was going to go drama, and she’d constantly reassure me that that’s not what she does
. -and then I stared at him, perplexed and somewhat sad, as he apparently had no memory that this also perfectly describes the first few months of our relationship and how he behaved then, and how eventually he did find ways to make me “go drama,” and then blame me for them.) No complaints about DRAMA from men. How he would talk about how “scared” he is of the anger of the women in his life, including mine, when the expressions of anger were minimal to non-existent. The way, when I would try to talk to him about things he was doing that angered me, and he would just sit there with that stupid smirk on his face, as if he couldn’t care less but I sure was cute when I was being all hyper-sensitive. All of it. I re-read
I remembered a party of his I had been to recently, where he had invited a woman he hates. Don’t ask me why. But he hates her, and is constantly complaining of her immaturity, her craziness, her DRAMA. She comes to this party, and he spends the whole thing “joking” with her about how immature and crazy she is. Huh, I remembered thinking; sometimes those mean jokes are really not jokes.
I thought, well fuck, he actually did show a lot of warning signs of emotionally abusive relationships
: the boundary pushing, the mean “jokes,” the early push for too much commitment and moving much too fast, the stories of how he and his ex were engaged within six months of meeting, how he made her move across the Atlantic for him, his insistence on rigid sex roles (again disguised as a “joke”–he still jokes with me about how ‘unladylike’ I am), his broken and forgotten promises, his over-selling of what he was going to do with his life to match what he thought I wanted, his belief that he was entitled to behave however he wanted without consequence because he told me he meant well–pretty much all of the warning signs were there. The only one that wasn’t was “hypersensitivity,” which is over-reacting to perceived slights, but in the Trader’s case there was no
reaction to anything
I said of an emotional nature.
The sentient part made sense already–the mean jokes made sense in spades–but why a robot?
He’s a robot, you ninny, because he doesn’t have a heart.
I would very much like to never speak to him again. But PP would miss seeing him and TT. The only reason I have not cut him out of my life permanently, right now, is PP. And I don’t know what to do, or how to handle that. She is already very upset about the last guy (the rapist, who also let himself into my house in my absence to find and remove his things without asking or telling me–which she found out about, and which scared her). And she’s lost so much. I don’t want her to lose more on my account.
But the Trader is not a nice guy with a bad history of relationships and a crazy ex. He’s an abusive, misogynistic asshole. I’d bet you my house he abused his ex-wife, though not physically; I’d bet you anything she said he was plotting her murder because she was genuinely afraid of him. I’ll bet you that is the black box connecting the sweet, innocent girl of the courtship with the crazy lady of the divorce: an unrelenting campaign of verbal and emotional abuse that he doesn’t even recognize because he thinks that’s how you’re supposed to treat women.
And now the question is, what boundaries do I put in place so that I don’t go crazy trying to be friends with someone that my daughter would miss if I cut him out of my life?