Monday, April 23, 2007

Flashback (Not) Friday: The Second Last Stand

(Yes, I know it's not Friday... but it's been so long since I had an idea for the series that I don't want to wait...) The Flashback Friday: Feminist Edition will feature a story that has something to do with being or becoming a woman or feminist. This series will continue until I run out of stories. Thanks to Sunshine Scribe for the Flashback Friday idea.

My second last one-night stand felt like a conquest at first. The guy was tall and thin, with long reddish blonde hair, a long, angular nose with a nose ring I think, and a constant, cultivated scruffiness of facial hair. He had been involved for years with an acquaintance of mine, and they still spoke amicably so he couldn't have been all bad. From the moment I first saw him, just returned from the pilgrimage to the pot haven out west that all the cool Ontario kids were doing but which I never quite got around to, I thought he was hot, and way out of my league.

I can picture him pretty clearly, but I can't for the life of me remember his name... it flits away from me like a hummingbird, unwilling to be caught.

I don't know how it came about that we hooked up one warm August night weeks or months later. I remember it was at the Jimmy Jazz, but I don't remember how it came about that we were walking back to his place through the warm night air, our short walk alternately dark and dimly lit by the orange glow of the periodic street lights. I know what my intention was, I knew it then, and I felt pretty pleased with myself for landing such a fine specimen.

His bedroom was big, just inside the front door of one of those grand old Victorian houses with a thousand bedrooms, and he had many roommates who left us alone while they went into the living room. Someone started playing Massive Attack's No Protection, and it played on repeat all night long.

At one point, the guy went to the bathroom or something and when he came back he said there was an orgy going on upstairs. I wasn't sure whether to believe, but he seemed pretty sincere and unruffled about it. That scared me, shocked me. I made sure not to leave the room until morning, afraid of seeing a tangle of naked, writhing bodies, of being unable to identify whose limbs were whose, like so many snakes. Orgies were something that happened in Jilly Cooper novels, not real life. Surely this must be a wicked house.

I don't remember details of my exit in the morning; likely there were the usual “see you around” comments or charades of exchanging phone numbers with no intentions of ever dialing them. I think I felt some haste to get out of there.

Nevertheless, I felt like I had just made a successful conquest. So what if the sex totally sucked, if he was a lousy lay? A total hottie had wanted me. But as I walked the lonely Sunday morning streets home under a moist grey sky, I realized that my memory was darkened like the room it had taken place in, muddied and obscured by way too much drink. Details began to emerge, like approaching cars on a foggy road, becoming clearer by the moment.

He'd used an awful lot of Astroglide instead of like, um, having any interest in me. He'd taken the condom off partway through. And although he'd put one on again at my request, he took it off AGAIN. I'd been really really drunk; so drunk I don't think I could really move after a while. I think I might have even fallen asleep before he was finished. As I walked, I began to feel violated, to feel angry that he'd endangered my life, my health, for his own pleasure; angry that he'd been so indifferent to my experience.

I also felt responsible and stupid. I'd freely chosen to suck back the uncountable number of pints I'd had that night. I'd gone to his place with my eyes wide open. I mostly just chalked it up to a bad experience.

Over the next couple of months, though, that experience started to gross me out. I did have one more one-night stand, which was a much more pleasant, fun experience, but it was really that August incident that eventually pushed me to the realization that these casual encounters were not doing much for me, that I didn't really want to conduct myself that way anymore.

I never thought I would ever blog about that night. It came up in my mind pretty much as soon as I decided to write Flashback Friday: Feminist Editions, but I discarded it. For one thing, it would require sharing more details than I'd like to.

The other night a friend mentioned that every woman he knows has a creepy story about a man, or a bad sexual experience, a date rape. Every woman he knows. And it makes him worry for his 14-year-old daughter.

I thought about the man I saw by the trees late one night when I walked to the all-night convenience store, the man who I thought was just peeing but who was shaking off the last drop a little too enthusiastically. I thought of the man who sort of stalked me for a while and how the police didn't or couldn't really help. I thought of my old employer when I was only a few years older than my friend's daughter. And then I thought of my own sexual assault, the one I've just described.

I don't feel like a rape victim. I consented to the sex; I just didn't consent to the shittiness of it or the removal of the condom. I didn't suffer psychological pain afterwards. I wouldn't want to minimize the wounds of real rape victims by placing myself among them. But I was violated, and I think I consider it a sexual assault.

The other night, I realized that I didn't want to blog about this experience because of a squirmy feeling of shame in my belly. The experience makes me feel dirty. I'd swallowed this shame with my own complicity, and it has just been curled up inside me for all these years, like a sleeping poisonous worm.

Do I want Swee'pea to know about this some day? Do I want my dad to know about this? (And isn't it interesting that I am most concerned about the opinions of the men in my life? And now that I've noticed that bias, I must revise the question. Do I want my child[ren] to know about this someday? My parents? Possible coworkers?) Not really. But do I want to participate in my own silencing? In a global silence of shame?

As I write this, I have been wondering if I really want to hit publish. I've been wondering if perhaps I should make sure it's ok with Sugar Daddy for me to post this. Maybe I could publish it at HBM's basement. Like Sugar Daddy has an interest in letting this story out into the public domain. Like my sexual history has some bearing on his reputation, his honour?

I think he would be ok with this, and I'm not going to ask his permission.

I am going to own this story, this part of my learning, of my becoming. And I will not be ashamed anymore.

Anyone care to join me in the unsilencing?


Em said...

I think you are brave... and I'm glad you shared. I've never had a one night stand so I don't really have a comparable story to share, but I have had regrets about some of the men I've slept with, and you are right it is better to "own" those experiences and speak about them - rather then being silent and ashamed.

slouching mom said...

Oh, cin. Thank you for sharing this. It helps men (and women) understand.

I have a story from college. But I am nowhere near ready to tell it. Or maybe I'm just not as brave as you are.

Oh, The Joys said...

I think it is right that every woman has a story (at LEAST one if not more) and it makes me worry for my daughter too.

Suz said...

Yup. Have a story like this too, but I'm not ready yet. You're a brave woman. I think that the commonality of this experience is probably frightening and speaks not only to women who have daughters but to women who are raising sons.

cce said...

It's almost a moment of maturing that happens, a girl becomes a woman when she decides that one night stands are more hurtful than fun, more one-sided than collective. I had a few of these moments before I could really change my own behavior and exhibit self respect. I've had whole crappy, one-sided, year long relationships that, in hindsight feel like and extended date rapes. But we learn, we move on and we have these experiences to share with our children and hope they can learn self respect through us rather than through repeating our mistakes. And, on the bright side we have an understanding that helps detail our fiction with little gems of truth. So there's that.

NotSoSage said...



And that shame is part of why (a) the statistics aren't telling the whole story and (b) it's so important to share. And I will. Some day.

You're inspiring.

You've been giving so much of yourself on this blog lately and I feel honoured to be able to read it. And as a complete aside, the way in which it is rendered is incredible.

And suz is right, it's for our daughters AND our sons.

Mimi said...

o cin -- don't be ashamed of yourself. thank you for sharing this. i hope it helps you feel whole.

i have a story. not quite like this one, but one that made me feel stupid and used and complicit and ashamed. i'm not ready to tell it yet, but your story today has got me at least one step closer (for example, i've never told ANYONE that i even have a story, and it's been hard to admit it to myself.)

i worry for the kids. but i want to be honest with them, so that maybe the things we went through, they won't have to ...

Beck said...

I always avoided one night stands - a high school friend had a truly horrifying experience that basically scared me into serial dating. Of course, then I serially dated VERY often and lots of losers, but it was "safe" in my mind because we were in relationships. Yeah.

nomotherearth said...

I avoided one night stands (or they avoided me, I don't know), but I have felt used by a guy, more than once. Thanks for sharing.

(Oh, and love the new banner, btw)

Heather said...

Not comfortable enough to do so on my own blog but have been sexually assaulted. To me it's a private thing I've dealt with and reconciled my own feelings about, and it only rarely comes up. I'm fortunate enough to have a partner who is 110% understanding and thoughtful and considerate, and that is something I'm very grateful for.

mamatulip said...

You are such a strong, strong woman.

Aliki2006 said...

Oh Cin--this is just such a powerful, incredible post, really. I felt very moved by it--and envious, in an odd way, that you are able to blog about it. My blog is read by too many Other People (siblings, MIL, sometimes my mom, although she doesn't check much, which is a story in and of itself). Sometimes I really yearn to put some more stuff out there--stuff I want to unleash and free myself from.

Well done. Well done.

Bon said...

i nodded - in recognition, NOT drowsiness, don't misunderstand - through your story. i think the unsilencing matters. i think maybe - though i don't quite know how - it may be the only way to help make a decent, proud sexuality easier for the next generation of women and men. because if i ever have daughters, i don't want them to stumble and fumble their way into their early experiences like i did. i don't want them to feel the shame that i did, that you describe, that marks so many of the women i know. and i don't want O to share in that either way.

what i haven't figured out is if i'll tell him. i've thought about it. part of me thinks that a man who sees each woman he encounters (if he grows up to like women, that is) as someone deserving of the respect he accords his mother will be a man who will not be stupid or blind or selfish enough to slip the condom off, on purpose. but i'm not sure a face to face encounter with your son about date rapes is considered good parenting. i am afraid to pass on the wrong message, to pass on the damage, not the lesson about all of us being worthy of good sex. i am so much a product of my puritan culture, when it comes down to it.

i know my own stories will probably never get written about in detail ...because my inlaws and my family and my partner's coworkers read my blog. and yet, i'm with you in the unsilencing.

and i hope it's freeing, as well as brave.

Kyla said...

I'm so glad you did this. The sharing of it is important, especially in a safe space like this.

God, I'm so afraid for my little girl. Do they really have to grow up?

Mary G said...

You have really made me think. I don't know if I can tell it but, yes, I have a story. The stare at the ceiling at 3:00 am and sweat with shame kind. Now I am thinking, why am I ashamed and why do I remember it so often.
This was well written and timely and I think you're terrific.

Mad Hatter said...

How in sam hell did I miss this post!!! How in sam hell? I am so sorry to be coming at it so late when you so clearly put yourself out there in posting it. I am sorry. I really am.

Thank you for sharing this. I have a couple of stories like this I could tell--and I lived a very prudish existence for most of my younger adult life. Still, these kinds of stories abound once women start to peel back the silence. Maybe if I can find the time I will write my stories as a guest post here. Let's talk about it.

Sadly, I have a couple of stories I cannot and will not tell even though the implications of my silence are great. I so very much admire your courage and frankness here. I admire you so very much for having written this.

Thank you.

Ally said...

Hi there-- I just stopped in via Mad Hattter's reference. Thanks for this post and for your courage in writing it. I am joining you in the unsilencing. I stand in solidarity with you and shout out, "we are not ashamed."