iii.iii — your libido
My ex accused me of being sexually abusive for trying to have honest conversations about his inconsistent physical attraction. I have been sexually manipulated in past relationships and often felt like his coldness came from resentment. I also noticed that the decline in physical attraction aligned with my HRT, which he vehemently denied. I tried not to assume these things and therefore be upset about something that wasn’t even true, and so instead would try to talk to him about it, to explore answers and find solutions.
I’m not talking about not being in the mood. Often James would stiffen, refuse to kiss me back, or even physically push me away when I tried to embrace him. These are triggers. I told him these were triggers. Because I have dated people who have used physical and sexual intimacy as a reward / punishment system and i can’t help but internalize rejection because of it so can you please, please talk to me about what is going on? I would send him flirty texts, things that he would respond to in kind when we first started dating, when we were still long distance and i was still a girl, and he would ignore them or even say they weirded him out, which made me feel disgusting. i told him how these things made me feel. Why was he into me one day and “weirded out” the next? Like, what the fuck?
He told me I was wrong to feel that way, wrong to want answers beyond “i don’t know”, wrong to want intimacy from my partner and an explanation as to why the intimacy is sometimes there and sometimes not. Not just wrong, but abusive. Sexually abusive. For wanting to talk about problems in our sex life. So I asked for an open relationship to accommodate the difference in our sex drives (mine went up a lot when i started T) and his still having a romantic / sexual preference for women. Because talking clearly wasn’t working, and I was done forcing him to talk about something that maybe didn’t have anything to do with me — because I was willing to believe that, even if my gut told me otherwise.
What i’m describing isn’t sexual abuse, it’s sexual incompatibility.
I know it’s not sexual abuse because I’m a survivor of sexual assault and abuse. None of my formative sexual experiences occurred on my terms. I hate when conversations turn to high school romance and “first time” stories. I don’t know what the fuck to say. I will never, ever have the experience of mutually discovering someone i care about. That was taken away from me. I will never have a normative relationship to sex — a perception of sexual intimacy, a sense of myself as a sexual person — that wasn’t wholly forged by trauma, panic, fear, dehumanization, discomfort, regret, and shame. That was taken away from me. I will never be rid of the memories of what the fuck people have done to my body. These things still keep me awake, even 12 years later and thousands of miles away. I don’t really sleep. That got taken away from me.
Having PTSD is like being a time traveler without the ability to control it. One missing letter on a bank sign that inadvertently spells out his name, one whiff on honeysuckle and I’m back smelling the lake water in my bathing suit and rug burns hot on my back. I’m back in his bedroom looking at dried gum and poor sanding on the bottom of a table. When you have PTSD, time is not linear; space undivided. I feel the exact weight of past occurrences. A twenty minute sliver of a spring afternoon when i was seventeen, naive and Catholic enough to mistake sexual sadism for the male libido, feels no less far away than this morning. There is no haze in my memory, no gentle antique filter, no curled edges. My memories rip through me, clutching at my hair, the corners of my eyes as I try to tear the skin from my bones, to beat my brain against the wall until the screaming stops.
I know it’s not sexual abuse because even beyond these harrowing initial traumas is another 10 years of microaggressions and the near-daily open torture that is the going exchange rate for a life lived as Woman. On top of this, I was relating to guys as a guy without knowing it, which opened me up to a lot of extra manipulation and abuse, as it does for most transmasculine people, which is something we don’t really talk about. My masculinity and ease among men was often mistaken for promiscuity and desire. In my “past life” I was never really the kind of girl guys wanted to date or bring home or take out or wake up next to. I was someone to get off with. I was someone to throw away when you were done. That’s mostly been my experience of sex. A human cum rag.
The fact that James called my wanting to further a conversation “Sexual abuse” rather than “endless unjustified paranoia” (it wasnt unjustified) or “aggressive persistence” makes me fucking sick. I didnt give him ultimatums, I didn’t threaten to stop having sex with him, to go fuck other people. I just kept barking up a tree he didn’t want to deal with. And that makes me not annoying, not unkind or distrustful, but a sexual abuser. A sexual abuser. Like, someone who uses sexual intercourse and sexual contact to abuse and manipulate and hurt others.
How dare he. How dare he fucking make that comparison. How dare he accuse me of that, knowing that i’m a survivor. Knowing what I’d been through. Knowing how much I’ve worked to scrape together my self-worth. Especially when it was him kept on fucking me even after he claims to have stopped caring about me. If his claim that he never cared about me was true, then every intimate moment we’ve ever had is a lie. Do you have any idea what that feels like?
Especially when it was him who, months before he dumped me, stopped touching me, stopped talking to me, stopped taking active interest in me, stopped expressing desire in me, slept with his back turned towards me every night …. and still called me crazy and unfair for asking why he was checking out of the relationship. For the last six months of our relationship, maybe even more, he kept me around because I paid half the rent and sucked his dick when he let me. He was shitty to me all the time. Told me how little i mattered to my face. I was a roommate he didn’t really like but still fucked sometimes. A human cum rag.
It’s sad but true — my history of sexual abuse does color a great deal of my perception of the world. it does still affect my mental health and ability to form healthy relationships today and probably always will. I will never live without PTSD. I will never be free of the reverberating sensation of the traumas my body has weathered. That got taken away from me and I will never be whole again. Not really. Not the way I was before.
You see, rape does not, and will never, wholly define me as a person. I am bigger than the sum of my experiences. I rise above. But having been raped irrevocably altered the entire course of my life, and I have no choice but to accept this fact.
How dare you.