This Is Not Unprocessed Anger. This is Anger That Has Been “Processed” For Too Long.
Note: I have a very belabored, thoughtfully-designed essay on these subjects that I have been working on for years now, since #yesallwomen, and that I can’t seem to finish — because I can’t strike the right tone, find the right architecture, figure out how to say what I want to say without hurting some people I love. It’s riddled with metaphors of bones and (ivory) towers and dinosaurs you are afraid will come alive. Well, that essay still exists, in draft form. But this one is for today, September 28, 2018. It’s an essay only in the sense of being a raw “assay” — a testing of the roiled waters, an attempt, in the wake of yesterday’s disaster, to speak.
Hey high school senior who stuck his fingers up my vagina while I threw up in a second-floor bathroom after getting stone drunk the night your best friend broke up with me, early summer 1989 -
Why did you do that? That was sexual assault. Did you brag about it? Did — know? Did he hand me over to you the way Jake handed Caroline over to The Geek in Sixteen Candles? I don’t think so, because when I told him earlier that spring that I was not ready, birds chirping in the trees outside the afternoon window, rolling in bed together before my parents got home from work, he said, “Okay, I get that.” And nothing happened. But maybe you thought, since he dumped me, I was newly available goods. Anyway, nothing is certain but I now think that that night let loose a growing spiral of shame and alcohol abuse. But I don’t really want to waste any more time on you, so just — FUCK YOU.
Hey R.A. from my first year at Princeton who is now a well-known history professor -
I am just writing to say FUCK YOU for seducing me when I was depressed and confused and needed professional counseling, not your dick. FUCK YOU for playing cat and mouse with me for years after, manipulating my emotions. And hey — I don’t remember what part of the fall it was when you fucked me, but if it was before November 9th — I was 17, you prick, and it was statutory rape.* Live with that.
Hey Princeton sophomore who maybe/maybe not spiked my drink in Tiger Inn and took me back to your room -
I remember looking up at you in the basement. You had thick eyebrows. I remember a hand clenching my arm somewhere on the way to where we were going — was it on the path between the tennis courts where we (women) were always told to carry our keys between our knuckles just in case of — you know — rape. Which was always out-of-the-bushes stranger rape. I remember being folded over something. Was it your bed? I remember you coming at me from behind and me not remembering how I’d gotten there. I remember crying. I remember mouthing or whispering or rasping or crying the word no, the way it quietly scraped my throat on its way forward. Somehow dragging up the knowledge that that was what I was supposed to say. No. But you not listening. You kept going. I was crying. You not listening. I remember nothing after that. Except you darting your heavy head away, not looking at me, in the Forbes dining room.
Hey graduating Princeton senior who was working the bar at the 50th reunion at the end of my freshman year -
I am just writing to say FUCK YOU for feeding me drinks all night, and FUCK YOU for the way you always looked at me — like I was prey. Also, by late freshman year I had lost the ability to know what I wanted at all — I was swirling in a personal pool of daytime overachievement, weekend blackout drinking, confusion, and silence. Which means the fact that I went with you means nothing, except that I was lost. All those confusing women bedecked in black and orange, on the arms of their husbands, even though they never went to Princeton, were not allowed to go to Princeton, didn’t help. Also, FUCK YOU for not pulling out when that was the one thing I asked you to do, the one request I could muster. I remember that, and the broom and vacuum handles, too. I got pregnant that night. Which sank me even further. FUCK YOU.
Hey McCosh Center counsellor who I went to see sometime during my sophomore year -
You just sat there, stone-faced, like my experiences equalled nothing, while I cried a river of shame. You were a woman. I expected more. I got nothing. I never went back.
Hey grad student I dated during my last year at Princeton who is now a well-known anthropology professor -
I am just writing to say FUCK YOU for not letting me talk to you about my experiences of rape, assault, and depression. It was too much, you said. Let’s not go there. I think now it probably brought up too much darkness for you around your own elite Dartmouth education, the “black room” you told me about, the drunken, drug-addled toxic masculinity of it all. And FUCK YOU for not giving a shit about my pleasure — for laying heavily on top of me after sex and asking me to run my fingers lightly on your back, and never asking me what I wanted. For being a self-aggrandizing, academic-climbing prick. For parading me around like a trofeo rubia and shutting down my voice, in Central America. And I have the journals to back that up, so don’t for a second say that didn’t happen. FUCK YOU for not even having the decency to call and break up with me after I moved back to the United States from London to be with you, because you didn’t want to hear me cry. FUCK YOU for being an accomplice to a massive culture of silencing, shaming, and victim-blaming women.
And yes, I cheated on you multiple times and I am so fucking glad I did, that some deep part of me knew I needed more than what you could give me, and just fucking took it. Because obviously that’s what women have to do in this culture. Just take. Nothing is given.
We’re making up our own fucking rules, now.
(Did you notice? None of you get a dear or a sincerely. I’m not feeling very nice.)
-Dr. Amy Elizabeth Robinson
*Note (on October 1): In New Jersey, the age of consent is 16, unless one party is under 18 and the other “has any type of authority over the victim.” I think assuming the role of Resident Adviser constitutes authority of some sort, and I know that an R.A. program on personal conduct and sexual harassment was instituted in 1987, a few years before I entered. Just for the record. Because that feels important to me, being a historian and all that.