Trigger warning: Rape
When I was 16 or 17 I was in college at a school that catered to younger students. Ostensibly we were intellectually done with high school. I don’t know how many of us really were ready for college, either academically or socially. I think their main criteria for acceptance was whether students could pay tuition or not. Most freshmen were 16 or 17. I turned 16 in my freshman year.
There was a small group of boys whose parents were low-level somebodies; one of their fathers was Slim Goodbody. They were wealthy, white, NYC prep school kids, complete with the privileged attitudes, blaring-loud rap music, and baggy pants. They were snotty shits. They were also not attractive. By any stretch. But they had a facebook (an actual facebook) that they used as a catalogue for girls. They put stars next to the girls they wanted to fuck. I have no idea what their stats were. I don’t care. But I would bet that they didn’t get much action.
One night I ended up in one of these kids’ dorm rooms with a friend of mine. I’m not going to use his name, but I will say he had no neck. Like, his head ended and his shoulders just began. I can’t remember if this was in my first or second year. I feel like it was in my second year, but I’m just not sure. For some reason the three of us were watching porn. I was really uncomfortable. I didn’t understand the point of watching porn with people you weren’t planning on immediately sleeping with and I wasn’t planning on sleeping with of either of them immediately or, ever. When the, ahem, film was over, my friend said she was heading back to her dorm. I got up to go with her and the No-neck asked me to stay. I said no. I looked around for my shoes and could only find one. He told me he’d hidden the other one. My friend laughed and left. I’m going to repeat that. My friend laughed and left. She heard me say I wanted to leave, heard No-neck say he hid my shoe, and she left me there with him. She’s a therapist now.
No-neck came on to me. I said no. What proceeded was an hour or so of him talking me into having sex and me saying no and asking for my shoe. Maybe it was less than an hour. I have no idea how long I stood there telling him I really didn’t want to have sex with him and I really wanted to go home. It felt like forever.
I finally gave in. I said, “Fine,” and sat down on his bed. Then he asked me for a blowjob. And the whole thing began again: me saying no and him begging. My old roommate and I had bragged the semester before about how good we were at giving head. He said I needed to prove it. I held firm and refused. I guess he decided to quit while he was ahead and take what I was extremely reluctantly giving him.
He humped me for a few minutes and came. I felt filthy and small and filled with shame. He got up, dumped the condom in the trash, walked over to his stereo, and said, “Hold on,” and stared into space for about 10 or 15 seconds, and then said, “I was farting that entire time.” He turned his music on full blast, walked out of the room, came back with my shoe, and tossed it at me.
“It was in the freezer,” he said.
I got dressed, put my freezing shoe on, and walked back to my dorm alone.
I dropped out of school shortly thereafter, had a nervous breakdown a few weeks after that, and ended up in a psych ward. That was not all a result of the rape, there were a lot of factors, but it was definitely one of the final straws.
It took me many years to come to terms with what happened that night and admit that it was rape. I have carried around the shame of this. Even now, 20 years later, I hear myself thinking, “You could have walked home without your shoe,” “You shouldn’t have been watching porn with him,” “You shouldn’t have bragged about blow jobs,” “You shouldn’t have said yes.” I said yes. Well, I said “fine.” And even if I had eventually said yes, it would have come after many, many “nos.” No one should have to say no twice.
I can not imagine wanting to have sex with someone who says “fine” after I’ve coerced them. I can not imagine coercing someone into having sex with me. Recently I was with a woman who said she didn’t like doing a particular thing and it never occurred to me to ask her again. Why would you want someone to do something to you or with you that they weren’t totally enthusiastic about?
No-neck is not alone. Hell, he’s not even the only person who sexually assaulted me. This is common. I have an ex who’s entire m.o. was “getting women” to sleep with him. Some men think coercion is foreplay. Listening to some of the stories coming out about Harvey Weinstein, I’m not at all surprised, though it is traumatizing and deeply triggering. Listening to him beg Ambra Guiterrez to come into his hotel room and to not “embarrass” him is sickening. I started shaking when I heard it. I’ve heard those words. I’ve heard that tone. I have been Ambra. So many of us have.
Coercion is rape. Coercion is rape. Coercion is rape.
To anyone who has experienced sexual assault (and there are billions of us), I love you and I stand with you. You are not alone. It was not your fault. It doesn’t define you. You have nothing to be ashamed of.
We are strong. We are beautiful. We are warriors.
I woke up this morning to the news about the shooting in Las Vegas. More than 50 people dead and over 200 injured. I wrote that sentence and then sat here staring into space for lack of any words to possibly follow it up with.
I watched the clips of the concert from when the shooting started. I listened to Up First and they played audio of it. The rapidity with which those shots were fired is breathtaking. Aside from the horrific images that it invokes, I keep thinking, why do these weapons even exist? Not just why would a civilian have access to them, but why do they even exist in the first place? I don’t see justification for it.
I think a lot about the very beginnings of civilization. I imagine two small tribes living across a river and a few miles up and downstream from each other. One of these tribes finds their crops or their animals dying and they need help or they face starvation. I imagine a gathering of some kind, maybe the elders, to discuss what’s to be done. Someone mentions the tribe across the river. Their crops are healthy. And a decision has to be made. Do they approach the other tribe peacefully and ask for help? Maybe offering some kind of trade or help in return? Or do they ambush them and take what they need forcefully?
I know that animals are naturally afraid of the other. I know that it’s in our makeup to not be too trusting. In order to survive, it’s in our best interest to be suspicious. But humans are supposed to be intelligent. We are supposed to be able to use reason and logic to supplement our instincts.
When I think about these hypothetical early tribes, they always decide on violence. There is a small contingency advocating for a peaceful solution, but their voices are drowned out by those using fear as their main argument. “We don’t know these people. They could kill us all the moment they see us coming.” And so, they go down river and ambush this unsuspecting tribe and they feel righteous and justified because it was all done in the name of survival.
I know that if this kind of thing happened, it happened the world over. Wherever there were tribes of people, these kinds of decisions had to be made. But I think of these two imaginary tribes and the moment of decision as a turning point in humanity. We could have chosen something better. We could have taken a risk and made the decision that ultimately benefited the species not just the tribe.
And I know this sounds naïve. Clearly we, as a species, have proven that we are not that intelligent. Even if that mythical tribe had decided on a peaceful resolution, another tribe further down river would have made the opposite decision. I think it’s in our nature to destroy each other.
We are ridiculous. We are stupid and scared and we don’t learn from our mistakes. We have let those in charge, since the dawn of civilization, cultivate fear and mistrust for their own gain.
When food storage was invented the people in charge quickly realized they could use it as a method to gain more power and, even better, to pit people against each other. Before we figured out how to store grain, we had to eat what we harvested before it went to waste. And if there was extra it went to those who were in need. But then we knew how to store the extra and suddenly there was something that needed to be inventoried and guarded and doled out. And it no longer belonged to the people, it belonged to those who were keeping the inventory and paying the guards and doling it out. And there were taxes placed on it. And there were punishments for trying to take what wasn’t yours. After all, you can’t just let anyone come and take what they want or there will be chaos. The food and people were controlled for the good of the people.
I realize this seems way off point. Someone let loose a barrage of bullets into a crowd and I’m talking about grain storage.
My point is, we made this world. We had a blank slate and could have made anything we wanted. We could have designed a hedonistic, orgiastic, peaceful utopia. But, instead, we used fear, suspicion, and mistrust to guide us and we created a world in which someone can send their loved one off to enjoy a concert and never see them again because a weapon exists that can fire off dozens of rounds per minute.
Yes, yes, I KNOW this sounds naïve. And insane. I’m arguing that grain silos led to last night’s massacre. And even in a hedonistic, orgiastic utopia someone could send a loved one off to a concert and never see them again. But it’s hard to imagine that, short of a natural disaster, hundreds of people could send loved ones off to a concert and never see them again.
I could spin off into another theory about how natural disasters would have resulted in the use of assault rifles eventually, but I realize I’ve already given you a lot to swallow.
That’s all I can say.
As per usual, I haven’t been posting new blogs because I want them to be perfect. Perfection is the enemy of creativity. So, I’m lowering my own bar and trying to just get words out.
I’m in an in between place right now, having just spent a day on set, filming a small part for a TV show I’m a fan of, and waiting for my next gig to start in a couple weeks. Here's a picture of me on set:
I can’t say what gig I’m about to start as they haven’t announced the cast officially yet. I’m just waiting to suddenly get a bunch of texts and Twitter notifications to tell me the press release has gone out. They won’t even tell those of us who are already cast who else has been cast. So, I continue to wait.
I’m finally getting my room unpacked and set up. It’s stressful because I’m painfully aware of my lack of design talent. I bought red curtains in an attempt to add color to my room and I think it was a regretful choice. The good news is, I’m leaving in a month for nine months, so the curtains will hopefully be someone else’s problem.
Yesterday was the first cold day of the season. After weeks of summer-like weather; swampy, soup weather, it was suddenly fall. Cold and a bit blustery. I spent the day in-doors battling a headache and depression. I had plans with a friend that I bailed on. He’s annoyed with me. But I did get some work done on my room which I’m seriously behind the eight ball on. Walking in here for the past couple months and sidling past boxes and bins has been making me insane. So, it has to be done.
I have always been really bad at unpacking. Suitcases are left untouched weeks after I return from trips. I moved to Los Angeles in 2003 and unpacked my last box in 2005, after moving in to my fourth place. I moved this box from New York, into a house I bought in North Hollywood, into my last apartment I shared with my ex-husband, and finally into my first place by myself and when I finally got it together to unpack it I found half-burned candles wrapped in newspaper. And not expensive or sentimental candles. Just random shit you can buy at Rite Aid.
Worse than the tangled-up mess of cheap Christmas lights that don’t work anymore, and the empty notebooks, and the bottles of expired vitamins, are the notes and letters. I have learned at least to not open old diaries (that trap will have you sitting on the floor until four a.m. crying and eating Entenmann’s cake right out of the box). But I have hundreds of postcards from when I worked at a university for a few years. I asked people to send me postcards for my office wall and I got an enthusiastic response. I have held on to nearly every card and letter I have ever gotten. I have old cigar boxes full of them. But I made the decision that I didn’t need to carry most of these postcards around with me anymore. They’d served their function when I had an office, but for the past eight years they’ve been sitting in a box. So, I went through them with a largely indiscriminate fervor. I kept the ones whose images spoke to me and the ones loved ones sent and tossed the rest.
The hardest part was reading the ones Kurt sent. And he sent dozens. I had nearly forgotten how funny he was. His sense of humor was one of the things that drew me to him in the first place. He sent postcards that were images of random street scenes from the past and ascribed dialogue to the people in the photos. He wrote of the fates of the subjects of the photos. He gave horses punchlines. I sat on my floor, pouring through these, laughing and feeling tremendously sad.
He and Monty have moved into their own place near Seattle. I Skype with them twice a day on good days. At breakfast and dinner. Monty shows me the latest thing they’ve added to their apartment. They have a map of the five boroughs over their kitchen table with pins marking where Monty’s important people are. Monty is, as always, happy and well-adjusted. Kurt is shouldering full time work and parenting on his own and he never complains. The most I’ll hear is “Weekends are hard.” I tell him how terrible I feel that I’m not there and he tells me that they’re proud of me how important what I’m doing is. Is it? It’s not like I’m saving lives. I’m not doing embassy work. Or even teaching. I’m just… being an actor. But Kurt is endlessly supportive.
And I’m sad that we can’t be together anymore. I’m sad that we can’t make it work. Sometimes I think we can try to fix things, and then I remember that even if we could work out whatever emotional wrinkles we had, I’m not attracted to men. That, as far as I can tell, some switch has been flipped in me and I generally find the thought of being physically intimate with any man akin to licking the bottom of a shoe. But I’m reading these old postcards and laughing and crying and wishing things could be different. Wishing I could be different.
Maybe the upside to all this is that because there’s no possibility of a romantic relationship anymore we may be able to find a way to live together platonically and co-parent. We certainly like each other enough to make something like that work. Or, at least, I like him. I assume he likes me, too…
I want to write here about the relationship I had over the summer – with the woman who flipped my switch, as it were – but we have mutual friends and I want to be respectful. I loved her (and still do, I think?) and think about her every day, even nearly two months after it’s been over. The relationship was unhealthy for a host of reasons; we triggered each other enormously. Ultimately, I think our major error was moving far too quickly. We tried to build a house without putting down the proper foundation. So, when the house came tumbling down it did so hard and fast and we were both badly bruised in the process. I still think I’m digging my way out of the rubble.
I am overwhelmed by what’s happening in our country politically. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is doing unspeakable damage. Every day we all seem shocked at how much lower he has managed to sink, taking us down with him. The situation is Puerto Rico is devastating. I feel helpless. I don’t know how his party allows him to remain in office. I keep thinking they must have some kind of plan. Nefarious though it may be, and it most likely is, they have to know what they’re doing right? How can they just be letting him dig himself and his party (and the entire country) into this hole without some reason for it? Are they just willfully destroying their party? Are they trying to set the stage for some kind of Tea Partyesque take-over?
Honestly it feels trite to even address any of this. There are others doing it much better than I ever could. I have nothing significant to add to the discourse.
But, I don’t know how pushing policy that kills poor people is helpful to them. I understand they think poor people are detestable, but they do know they can’t continue to benefit off the labor of the poor and struggling if they kill them all off, right? Isn’t there some fine line they have to walk between keeping us sick and barely surviving and out-right killing us off? Doesn’t it seem like their policies are designed for the latter? Who’s going to clean their toilets, serve their food, and raise their children if they kill us all off?
Okay, I’m getting off my soapbox now. Mostly because I still need to unpack it. It’s probably filled more junk I’ve been dragging around with me for 38 years.