Monday, November 30, 2015

Why I sympathize with Stoya

This last weekend news hit that Stoya, a famous porn star, had accused her now-ex boyfriend James Deen (another famous porn star) of raping her. In a twitter post she said:

“James Deen held me down and fu@^#$ me while I said no, stop, used my safeword. I just can’t nod and smile when people bring him up anymore.”

24 hours later, another porn star, Tori Lux, stated that she had been assaulted by Deen as well. In her recounting of the incident and in response to why she didn't call the police, Lux said, "because people—including the police—tend to believe that sex workers have placed themselves in harm’s way, and therefore can’t be assaulted." And then another woman, Ashley Fires, spoke up, saying "that he has boundary issues, basically that he tries to break women...that he is dangerous.” (He's since been accused by a total of 9 women.)

These situations in the news have been unpleasantly triggering for me. There are a LOT of rape victims out there who didn't stand up for themselves because they didn't think they'd be believed, they were ashamed, or they felt guilty. I know, because I'm one of them. And while I might not be a sex worker, mine and Stoya's experiences share some commonalities.

In 2008, I moved to Seattle, after a partner and I separated. I was raised in a small town with not a lot of exposure to diversity, culture, or alternative lifestyles and was excited to live in "a big city." About a year after moving, I met a nice girl who became a much-needed friend in the city. Making new friends is tough and I was grateful for her kindness. I was also fascinated by a sub-culture she was a part of that I knew nothing about. This friend was part of Seattle's kink community (you read 50 Shades, right?). In our time as friends, I met a lot of really interesting, genuinely nice people. I also met a few predators who used the wave of sex-positivity in Seattle to do damage to naive me.

In 2011 I met a handsome, successful, charming man who was also a part of this community. I trusted him enough to go to his house. I trusted him enough to go in his bedroom. I had no intention of having sex with him. We kissed. His hands went a few places. And, when I pulled away because I didn't want to go any further, he grabbed my hair and pushed me down onto the bed. I told him to stop. He didn't stop. I said no. He didn't listen. He held me down, called me terrible names, and punched me until 30% of my body was black and blue while he raped me. When I was frozen with fear and humiliated, he smiled and took a picture.

Here's where it gets really gray: I froze. When it finally occurred to me that he wasn't stopping and something terrible was about to happen, I just froze. I felt guilty about that for a lot of years - like it was my fault - like, because I didn't kick and scream, it wasn't rape. I didn't understand that freezing during trauma is a physiological coping response. Here's a great article explaining what happens to the brain during a traumatic experience and why some people (particularly rape victims) freeze.

I said no. So did Stoya. I asked him to stop. So did Stoya. And I willingly went into the bedroom of a man I knew. So did Stoya.

My roommate was home when I got home that night. I went straight to my room and didn't come out for 2 days. I showered a dozen times. I couldn't touch my bruised skin without crying and feeling like I was going to vomit. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't eat. I finally told a longtime friend, Ray, who came and coaxed me out of "hiding."

I didn't call the cops because I didn't think anyone would believe me. Everyone would have said I invited it. I knew he was kinky. I went into his bedroom. I was wearing a shirt that showed a little extra that night. A lot of people would say I was asking for it. A lot of people will probably say Stoya was asking for it. Those people are part of the problem.

My story doesn't end with that night. I was raped again...5 days later. I'd been seeing someone non-exclusively, that year. I thought he was a friend, someone I could trust and confide in. 5 days after I was raped, "John" called, worried, because he hadn't heard from me and I hadn't responded to any of his texts. I told him I didn't want to see anyone, that something had happened and I just needed time to process it. He asked me to come over because he was concerned. I went. I showed him what was left of the bruises and told him what happened. I cried again. He kissed my cheeks and held me. Then he started undoing my top. I told him I didn't want to. He shushed me and told me it was okay, placating me like I was a child. "John" raped me again and I just went numb. I learned later, in therapy, that this is called dissociation - where the mind can't deal with the trauma that's happening so, unlike freezing where you're present but frozen, your brain literally checks out. That's what I did. I checked out. He finished. I left. We didn't really talk after that. And once again, I didn't call the cops. This time, it was because he was a well known defense attorney. I knew better. I know how men and power in our society works and I wasn't about to bring that storm into my life. Instead, I tried to continue on with life like nothing had happened to me. And my life fell apart. I fell apart. A year after that, I moved away. I left Seattle and moved to Kitsap, met nice people, got a cute little house with an alarm system and dead bolt on my bedroom door, and I started therapy.

I've had a LOT of therapy in the years since. I also ruined a lot of relationships because I just wasn't an emotionally well person for a long time. I've been a terrible employee in a couple of jobs because I couldn't deal with male authority (although, I had one male boss who knew and was pivotal in getting me into therapy). I'm grateful for friends who were there for me when I was really ugly and manic. It took a long time to be something of a normal human being again. Here's the thing:

You never really "get well." It's always there. You're always triggered. You'll always be a little sad, a little jumpy, a lot suspicious. With very few people being the exception, I really don't like to be touched. But I finally don't deadbolt my bedroom door anymore. Most of the time, I feel safe again.

Rape effects EVERY part of your life. It's tough to talk, not talk, sleep, eat, communicate, spend time with family and friends, trust anyone at all, feel joy, sustain any kind of meaningful relationship. I don't wish it upon anyone.

Stoya and Tori Lux: I am SO sorry for what happened to you. I am SO sorry for what happened to me. I'm so sorry we still live in a society where some people assume that, just because I kiss you, I've given consent for you to do whatever you want to me. I'm SO sorry that we live in a society where men see women as objects or as something of less value than them; where some people in this world enjoy doing harm to others. I'm SO sorry that, unless we're kicking and screaming and fighting a man off of us, it's not considered rape. We shouldn't have to live in that kind of society. 

Why do I tell this story now, years later? I've never told anyone exactly what happened (and even this is a very truncated version). I shouldn't have to hide it. It's not my fault. It's NEVER the victim's fault.

"A man in a room full of 100 women is excited. A woman in a room full of 100 men is terrified."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for being brave enough to share this.