I am 14. I have opened my window, rotating it out just enough to see his headlights reflect in it when he turns down his driveway. I want him to return home, want him to come tapping on my window. I want to be his girlfriend.
He is the boy who raped me, on his couch, in only a few minutes, weeks before. But I didn’t want to call it rape. I wanted to call it love.
I wanted to have sex with him over and over and over again until I convinced myself that he was my first true love. For a few weeks that summer, I succeeded in doing that – at least most of the time.
But the tapping at the window and my subsequent hopping out of bed to glance out that window to see his face belied my true feelings. I was not Bess, the landlord’s daughter. He was not the bad boy Highwayman for whom I spent hours plaiting love knots into my long, dark hair.
Shame, dread, revulsion, … those feelings welled inside of me in between the taps on the window. The feelings’ poisonous nature sloshed around in my guts, eating and corroding my belly from the inside. Hyper-alert, unable to sleep, almost obsessive, I felt compelled to avenge my rape by pretending to control its circumstances; I couldn’t go back and control, re-do, what happened on the couch, but I could control whether it happened again, or again, or again.
I yanked out my heart and shelved it so it couldn’t communicate with my brain. In my heart, I felt this was wrong. I felt this was sick. But my brain, the clever devil, wanted to make it okay. My brain wanted to turn this nightmare into a young woman’s fantasy of finding her first love.
The realization that I consciously had sex with my rapist “on my terms” to diminish the rape is not new to me. But the prominence of his tapping on the window hit me yesterday.
I’ve mentioned that I’m in a relationship with a man, Max, who is kind and loving and, adding a new adjective, patient. I’ve felt time and time again the freedom of opening myself to him sexually, which, I once believed, wouldn’t be possible because I felt closed-in. I mean, I could have sex, I could perform the act, but I couldn’t connect emotionally or spiritually at the same time.
As time has passed for Max and me, not only have I come to trust that he is not like my abusive ex-husband, but that he is with me for my companionship, my heart and my brain, with or without sex.
And there have been times when I’ve found it difficult to want to have sex.
Until a few days ago, I didn’t have any link between my sexual feelings and what was happening in my relationship with Max. All I feel is this:
Sudden barriers surround me, springing up from the ground and walling me inside them. They are electric walls – bristling and moving, zapping me and Max into submission. While the walls are in place, I translate almost anything he says or does into insults, jabs at me, scathing remarks about my inadequacies.
He sweeps the floor and I feel that he’s commenting on my lack of housekeeping ability. He tells me he loves me and I wonder, “What does he really want?” He fills my gas tank and I assume he’s trying to buy me, and now I owe him. I feel trapped and pressured to perform sexually.
The other day, I noticed something. The walls sprung up, the prickly feelings began. I immediately despised the separation between us; I knew it was self-imposed. Although I couldn’t quite suppress the feelings and became quite irritable, underneath it all I was searching for a cause.
Right before the walls sprang up, Max told me that, later in the day, he wanted me sexually.
Despite spending years in a dysfunctional relationship, I am aware to the ways of the world. I know that most of the time, people find being told they’re attractive and desirable sets the stage for romance and sex. I know it is fun and exciting to gear up for sex, prepare for it, anticipate and imagine it.
Yet here I was, imprisoned behind walls, unable to feel loving, loved, or sexual, all because my lover indicated that he wanted to have me later.
Shame, dread, revulsion…those words came to me as I quietly named my feelings. They expressed the same sentiments I felt 26 years ago while waiting for the tapping on my window. Looking out of my window, down on the face of my rapist, I saw a man standing there with his hand held out. He asked me to let him in. He wanted me sexually. I acquiesced time and again because, for the brief moments the act took place, I was able to escape those horrible feelings and pretend things were different. As soon as he finished, the shame overwhelmed me again, but for those few minutes, the peace was priceless.
In hindsight, after my rapist left for home that summer, I avoided any boy “standing there with his hand out”. The easiest way to do that was to give them what I thought they wanted before they could ask. I was promiscuous, but I was in charge.
During my marriage, my ex withdrew from me sexually as a form of control. I was constantly wanting him. He rarely, if ever, asked for my sexual company. In the beginning I’m sure that was ideal for me. Over time, it hurt that he didn’t want me, but I didn’t experience the prickly walls during that 18 years.
It’s only now, with Max, that a new layer to my healing reveals itself. Thinking back to other times the walls sprang up, I see there was anticipation (opposing dread), sexual desire (opposing revulsion) and freedom of my sexuality (opposing shame). Similar situation, conflicting emotions. Habit and the desire to protect myself from those negative feeling memories cause the walls to appear.
I so wish I was “over” the raping summer. I so thought I had put it behind me. And yet, now that I have a clue what causes these walls to spring forth, I want to overcome them. I want to enjoy my relationship with Max, completely. I want to embrace all aspects of my sexuality; I want to know what it is like for a man to want me without feeling I must protect myself from ugliness.
I am grateful for the opportunity to become more whole.