The first time I wrote on this blog in my truest voice, it was a declaration of independence from audience. “I am done speaking to the bodies of men,” I pronounced; “To the helpmeets of men.” I decided to write first and foremost for myself and, as a distant second, to address an imagined audience of other women who had survived sexual assault. Anybody else who wanted to listen? Was certainly welcome to do so, but I would make no adjustments for their comfort.
As last year began winding down, however, I started itching to leave this stance for greener, less plundered, pastures. Tired of five years of filling-in-the-blank “current occupation: rape survivor-in-recovery,” bored with my own intimate overexposure and the incessant “I… I… I…” of confessional writing.
I wondered what else I might want to say, if I no longer felt compelled to foreground the issue of violation.
And then my country elected a rapist as president.
* * *
Regular readers may have noted the unusual absence of any political discourse on here since November 9. In the election’s immediate aftermath, I almost stole to repost here a version of the hiatus notice Laurie and Debbie posted on Body Politic: “Both of us are regrouping, forming new priorities, figuring out how to live in these times, taking care of ourselves, each other, and the more vulnerable people around us. We may well be back with a new focus to this blog—or the same focus.”
I am still deciding how (or whether) to refocus my words and resharpen my priorities in these times. Only one thing feels clear: this anointing of the Pussy Grabber-in-Chief makes speaking the truth about sexual violence an even more pressing issue than ever before.
* * *
Mine is a sexuality queered by rape. By which I do not mean ‘and so it was I came to like girls’ but rather ‘this is how as straight and pure a thing as desire becomes bent to its knees.’ Fearful of giving offense; as terrified of its own “no’s” as of its truest “yes”; forever poised to relinquish lust and resistance alike, believing that to play dead is all that can save me.
As if playing dead and being dead are all that different, in the end.
As if a silent mouth and a mouth filled with dirt are somehow opposite states, and not two ends of a rope pulled so hard away from each other that they meet again on the far side, indistinguishable.
I… I… I… I…
Speaking may or may not hold salvation, but in cleaving to silence, we are already surely damned.
* * *
I have always found prescient whatever trick of language made these two words so proximate in English.
Which is not to say I will play word games with either concept. Nor will I use “rape” as a metaphor. To call eco-protests such as #NoDAPL a stand against the “rape” of the environment is to obliterate awareness of the widespread and systemic sexual violations, both historic and present-day, of indigenous women. To call capitalism a “rape” of laborers and resources is to erase remembrance that a key source of US wealth lay in the horrifically-euphemized “forced breeding” of enslaved black women and the plunder of their bodies, their sexuality, and their offspring.
These are irreducible violations and intransitive horrors. Untranslatable, one to the other.
And one man who is both now holds supreme elected power.
* * *
Metaphors both reveal and disguise, like doors in language that both open and close meaning. Albert Camus understood the power of metaphor, when he wrote The Plague [La peste]: “All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it’s up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences.”
He also understood the non-negotiability of facts: “But again and again there comes a time in history when the man who dares to say that two and two make four is punished with death. The schoolteacher is well aware of this. And the question is not one of knowing what punishment or reward attends the making of this calculation. The question is one of knowing whether two and two do make four.”
Two and two make four. Four and four make eight.
A rape is a rape is a rape is a rape.
Against any regime that seeks to render such facts obsolete or negotiable-for-a-price, I shall choose to stand, as Camus’ character Dr. Rieux does, with “all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive their utmost to be healers.”
* * *
What if my I… I… I… I… sounds out not like a stutter but like a keening? Mourning and protest, raised up together?
Ululating that signifies as much battle-cry as grief.
* * *
The human penis is a delicate organ, as complex and miraculous as a kidney, a liver, a uterus, an ocular lens suspended by ligaments within its vitreous bath. A flaccid cock, cupped softly in a warm hand and just beginning to twitch with the blood flow of desire, is as primal and sexual as any erection.
But voracious power seeks above all to deny its own interdependence. Its vulnerability.
And so we get the turgid cock alone: the tearing thrust, the phallus, the brutalizing metaphor, the grabbing hands, the rapist’s threat, the gun, the billy club and badge, the screaming fighter jet overhead, the ominous nuke quivering in its missile silo like an attack dog barely contained by its leash. We get sex tape blackmails and ‘how many beauty queens skewered on my dick before the other guy folds in fear and admiration, raising me up on his own abasement.’ We get fascists in the White House.
An infestation of vermin, foraging for carcasses.
* * *
I have never understood the use of roofies, nor the appeal—sexual or otherwise—of penetrating the inert and comatose. No more than I have ever understood why my own rapist returned week after week to reviolate a body long since gone limp with despair and surrender.
Who wants to fuck a dead thing.
I blot from memory the fact that those who weaponize their bodies already calculate life through profoundly different algorithms than my own. “Eugenics adjacent,” Flavia Dzodan terms the ideology of this newly-ascendant extreme right, in which the new US president represents the “ultimate expression” of necropolitics: “Necropolitics being a global expression of sovereignty in which the world is divided into those who are disposable and those who are not, those whose lives can be wasted and those who cannot. In this political order a new form of control is exercised over those whose lives are considered disposable or what Judith Butler would call ‘those whose lives are ungrievable’.”
To be fuckable, in this worldview, is to be told you are already dead. Dead-adjacent, at the very least. Ungrievable.
No surprise that rape is not only patriarchy’s favorite intimate kink, but also a longstanding weapon of war and tool of genocide. If I was not opposed on principle to such metaphors, I would tell you white supremacy was born a rapist.
* * *
Like our newly-inagurated president’s daughter, I too come from a long line of white-dude daddy dick issues.
I have another genealogy as well. A line of begats more intimate and personal than even the cock and pussy that conceived me: born of that which survived from that which was raped.
Pleased to meet you.
Call me rage. Call me lamentation.
I… I… I… I…
Call me one more warrior’s raw-throated cry, raised up for the resistance.
[Image: Ratking. Photographed at Naturkundliches Museum Mauritianum Altenburg, CC BY-SA 3.0.]