A therapist once told me that a hallmark of trauma is the inability to recognise the presence of toxicity in your life. She told me that when you’re sexually assaulted – like I was at a young age – your sense of worth and self begins to shrink and wither. Without noticing it you begin inviting the wrong types of people into your life. It can be in the guise of a relationship, or a situation; it often can go unnoticed – worse still, it can become addictive. Before you know it you’re riding an emotional roller coaster of euphoria and regret. You’ve reached levels of toxicity that traumatize your friends. You spend large portions of your time trapped in this psycho-sexual hamster wheel, chasing this absolute fuck nugget of a guy who really isn’t worth your time. But you don’t see it this way, I didn’t see it that way, because I never let what happened to me go.
I’ve had to navigate my way through many toxic relationships; I’ve even had to steer some friends through them too. Holding on anything toxic is what stops you from growing as a person. Now that I am in a space which is no longer filled to the brim with poisonous and disruptive reality, I’m able to see clearly that the relationships I’ve previously engaged in were not good for me at all. Over the last year I’ve started asking myself with child-like naivety what I want from a relationship; like an amnesia patient trying to piece together parts of his life he can’t recall. Then I remember; a sea of verbatim moments wash over me and I know with absolute clarity what I want from sex, from a guy, from a relationship. I want someone I can truly trust; a partner in the bedroom and in life. Private jokes we carry over months, moments that are exclusively ours. Someone who, every time I see him, makes me feel as though I’ve had an emotional facelift. These are all just heartfelt projections of a guy who just wants to be told he’s worth time, he’s worth touching, he’s worth loving. These are the longings of someone who is finally beginning to heal. For a while I felt that if another guy I like turns out to be a heinous asshole it might murder my belief in love and force me to move to a remote island alone. From the day I was assaulted it seems that all guys have done is hurt me. Hurt me so much in fact that I started believing that is how I deserved to be treated. Sometimes my heart felt so worn out and dog-yeared that I was worried it was going to just give out. It’s because of what happened to me as a child that I approach each romantic encounter slowly, awkwardly, like I am a China shop and he (the guy) is a bull.
I feel as though I am currently experiencing an almost cartoon-level of self-realisation. I’m finally becoming aware of what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in any relationship. I’m learning that being used for sex is dangerous emotionally and sometimes, when I hate myself, psychically. For a while I felt that because I was having on-again off-again sex with a guy that meant we were together. I got so good at going through the motions; arching myself this way and that; making sounds that were pleasing to him. Letting him play out whatever fantasy he desired because that was a concept that I lacked – fantasy. Moreover, it made me feel as though I was wanted. When it came to relationship stuff, couple stuff, they were quiet and morose, reluctant almost, but always they came alive in the bedroom. In the sexual context the guys always showed me a side of them I’d never seen before; executing manoeuvres and confidence so complex that all I had to do was lie there and consent. But I realise now that is not a relationship; that is sex; and sex isn’t a relationship, but rather just a small part of it. Whenever I’d hang out with guys I’d treat it like a date. I tried to ask them questions, about life, their mother, ideas of tattoos they may want. Then they’d reach for my belt, worn and frayed, and unbuckled it. Did I want it to be just sex? No, of course not. But I’m a horny mother fucker with the impulse control of a toddler. So, if that’s what he’s serving then I couldn’t help but dig in. But this sex always left me blank and needy. I lacked self-worth so more often than not if I didn’t like something in the bedroom, I kept silent. I never explained to my sexual partners what happened to me when I was younger; even though a lot of the bedroom behaviour mimicked the circumstances under which I had been assaulted – vulnerable, submissive, reluctant. But it felt so good to be completely engulfed by someone else, to feel wanted, it let me disappear. It allowed me to hide from the fact that I was not enjoying the sex because every encounter seemed to echo what happened when I was younger. I often wonder if I exude something, a kind of flickering neon brokenness, that guys also pick up on. That’s why they felt they can use me in that way sexually. Not speaking up about this is one of my biggest flaws, because it makes forming a healthy relationship a lot more challenging for me. There’s only so far you can go with the ‘fuck it’ attitude.
I’ve recently met someone and the structure has not mirrored that of my previous attempts at dating. Our relationship extends beyond the realms of sex; we have conversation, real conversation. He listens to me, he calls me when I’m upset. He treats me like I am an actual human being and not some disposable sex doll. I don’t know where it will go, but it’s opened my eyes to how depraved my previous attempts at romance were. He’s made me realise my flaws, and that I need to address them in order to conquer them, otherwise I’ll never be in a stable relationship. I’m not perfect, I’ve never ever held myself in any regard that could be misconstrued in such a way that suggests I think I’m better than people or more interesting. I’m riddled with flaws, especially when it comes to romance and relationships. I’m paranoid, I’m jealous. But I’m upfront about how I feel and I think that’s what puts a lot of guys off in the past. Now I don’t feel the need to be overtly forward about my emotions, or need to hear how they feel about me. The aggressive clinginess of my image would often wear guys down, but I’ve since learned to detach myself from it, to stop letting my trauma form bad habits.
Like a drunk phone call at 3am, sexual assault is a subject a lot of people tend to ignore. Strong states of denial are employed to help work through the trauma, when really the real way to conquer it is by saying it happened. That way we can truly begin to heal. You need to protect yourself, you need to let those wounds heal – like I am currently trying to do. You need to start taking steps that don’t immediately help anyone but you. What if next time you have sex you say what you really feel? What if you raise the fact you don’t like that? What if you move your hands where you want them to be to make yourself feel good, because you deserve to feel good. What if you realise that it is not okay for someone to make you feel that you are there just to get them off. Sex shouldn’t make you feel like you’re being buried alive. And what if you find someone that listens to your horror, that puts a plaster over that wound, that helps it heal?
I have no doubt that someone will write about me, saying how much of a cunt I am for telling the story of ‘us’ to the fanatic viewers of the internet. That person may say that my want, no need, to overshare is unnecessary or how I’m simply seeking attention by being this open. But they don’t know me, or why I write. I don’t do it to showcase my icicle intellect and sharp tongue, or to slam anyone that’s hurt me. I do it because I’m a writer. I may not be a rich writer or an exalted writer, or a writer that hangs out with Twitter famous people, but either way I am a writer. And because of that I feel obligated to share my voice and tackle subjects that I feel matter. I want to make people laugh about the things that are painful, that’s why I share. Who I did or did not get a blow job from is not important, but telling my story with such honest brevity makes it relatable, makes it real, so I don’t miss out details. That’s why I’m sharing this.
If anyone ever wants to talk about their experiences with sexual assault then I will always listen.