Why Is It My Responsibility To Not Be Abused?


~*~ trigger warning ~*~

Every conversation about a woman who is abused ends up the same way. Why doesn’t she leave? Did she communicate with the guy and specifically tell him she does not want to be abused? Men aren’t mind-readers you know!

Even worse is that because porn is normalized and the majority of porn features a man being violent to a woman, there’s an expectation that hurting a woman during sex is normal. If you’re constantly immersed in a world where most sex features a man being violent to a woman, and you additionally live in a culture rooted in patriarchy and white supremacy, it’s easy to see how people might come to see violent sex (with women as the recipient of the violence) as something normal, that women need to explicitly opt out of. 

This is compounded with other marginalized people as well, the kind of pornography black women, muslim women, asian women, other women of color, fat women, trans women, and minors see about people who look like themselves is ghastly. I think the existence of some of this pornography is itself enough to traumatize people. Imagine searching for porn featuring someone who looks like you only for the search to return titles like “Old Man Makes Barely Legal Girl Cry”, “Muslim Girl Praises Ah-Long Dick”, and “Black Wives Matter”. Often the performers themselves are not told the films they agree to film will be packaged in a way that is intended to humiliate them. One black sex worker sums it up nicely as “Pornography is the least progressive industry in America.” This should trouble everyone because this industry has such a powerful grip on real-life relationship dynamics. A lot of young men and women never get the sex talk from their parents. They learn what sex is supposed to be like from porn and fiction becomes reality.

A lot of conversations about abuse are incorrectly framed as communication issues, rather than abuse issues.

There’s the expectation that women need to communicate with men what they do and do not like in bed rather than an expectation that intimacy with someone involves figuring out what they like over a period of time, as the person gets comfortable enough to give you vulnerable information. It’s reasonable to ask your partner what they like if you intend to listen, but a lack of someone saying “don’t strangle me please” isn’t an invitation to strangle someone. 

It’s reasonable to expect that two people in a healthy relationship without a power imbalance and where both people feel comfortable communicating their wants and needs and both people are going to actually listen to their partner should talk about boundaries. But does the situation I described seem like how most relationships are to you? Maybe for healthy people who are in established relationships. But in reality, many couples who have sex aren’t in a relationship like this. Casual dating is a pretty big thing. One night stands exist. Sex work exists. Trauma and mental health issues are common in our culture, and we know, objectively, that these things can impair a person’s ability to advocate for themselves or stop an abuser from abusing them. Also, I know this is new information to some people, but not every person is going to stop abusing you just because you communicate with them that you don’t like being abused.

I keep hearing about what BDSM is and what it isn’t as if it’s only practiced consensually by couples “in the BDSM community.” Either the community needs to come get its leaking  members, or there are a lot of guys pretending to be into BDSM that are actually just into abusing women. We need to be able to talk about this without the conversation being derailed into  “well if they were really in the BDSM community, it would be healthier.” It doesn’t matter if it’s “official” BDSM or not, if it’s unwanted harm intentionally inflicted on someone (especially when the power dynamics reflect larger cultural power dynamics, i.e., violence against a marginalized group like people of color, women, trans people, etc) it is abuse. If BDSM refers to a safe community, the phrase shouldn’t be used, ever, to describe violence in any relationship but one where everyone involved is an *enthusiastically consenting adult* that has agreed to the specific acts involved.  Gatekeeping whether it’s “real” BDSM isn’t the point. The fact that abuse is happening is the point.

If you are a person who claims to be into BDSM but you don’t discuss a safe word with *every* partner, don’t get enthusiastic consent from *every* partner, and don’t provide after care for *every* partner, consider that it’s not BDSM you’re into. You are getting off on abusing someone. Seek therapy.

IDK how many men have strangled me during sex but none of them have ever asked me for a safe word. I don’t know if any of them have googled how to safely strangle someone, but fun fact there actually isn’t a safe way to strangle someone and you can die the first time with no warning. Totally sounds like a reasonable risk to take for a guy’s nut. 

The number one thing I hear when I talk to someone about my experiences and fears with men is that I shouldn’t be alone with a man I don’t trust. Can someone please explain to me why this is helpful advice? Why am I responsible for the behavior men choose to exhibit?

The main reason I have been hurt by these men is because of the ***betrayal*** of someone I cared about treating me in a dehumanizing way. Obviously I would not have been alone with any of them if I knew what was going to happen. Am I on glue? Why am I being told to avoid abuse as if it isn’t obvious that uh literally no one is trying to get into a situation where they are hurt?

Do you know who is responsible for abuse? Abusers. 

Do you know who is not responsible for abuse? The person who is being abused.

Abuse is not a communication issue. It is not going to be solved by someone reading more about BDSM because the difference between abuse and BSDM is consent. If both parties truly wanted the act to happen, there already would not be an issue. If you were already a partner who listens to the person they are with and is attentive and concerned with their pleasure and safety, you would already not be abusing them no matter what kinks you are both into.

Instead of telling women that they can avoid abusive men as if this is something they are in control of, why don’t we tell abusers not to abuse people? Why are conversations about abusive violent sex framed as “well that’s not real BDSM” instead of “wow, it’s fucked up to hurt someone”? 

A few years ago I had anal sex with a guy I was seeing. I don’t get anal sex at all because most women don’t have a pleasurable sex organ there the way most men do. The guy asked me if we could have anal sex and I said no. Later on, while having normal sex the guy started having anal sex with me. I said variations of “no” and “I don’t like it” and “this hurts” the entire time. Nothing about it was pleasurable or anything other than depressing and scary to me. At some point, I just disassociated and peaced out of being present in the situation. A year or so after that event I was texting with the guy and he brought up that we’d had anal sex. I reminded him that I’d told him it was painful and I didn’t want to do it the entire time. He was shocked that I brought it up the way I experienced it, rather than (???) pretending it was hot. It became clear to me that he thought I was trying to be sexy or role-playing some kind of rape play. I don’t know why hearing someone say “no, this hurts” translates to him as being a playful compliment rather than me expressing that I don’t consent, but I’m going to guess the answer is rape porn.

This isn’t my responsibility to fix. This is not a communication issue. This is not my “fault” for being alone or having sex with someone that I obviously did not know would act this way. There are a lot of toxic forces at play here but it’s not actually that complicated. Don’t have sex with someone who says “no” unless you have explicitly heard them enthusiastically consent to doing that and you have established a safe word *and* genuinely feel like they are in a healthy place to make that decision. If this bar seems high, ask yourself why you are comfortable doing rape play with someone who isn’t as into it as you are. Relationships are a lot of work whether they are romantic or purely sexual. The more complicated the dynamic (say, one involving violence), the more work it is going to be to create and maintain the relationship. C’est la vie. 



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