Even as I write this, I don’t know if I’m making the right decision to talk about this publicly. I know how shame works, I know how victim blaming works. But even through that, I feel that the only way to exorcise the demons of self-blame and self-degradation is to let go of all that I feel.
Right now, I feel nothing. Not ambivalence to what happened to me but that I can’t really encapsulate how I feel about what transpired the other night. Physically, I feel weak. I still have sharp pains in places that I shouldn’t. I couldn’t go to work the next day, feeling like wasted space. Worrying if I’d pass him on the street or see him in the gym. That’s how I met him, that’s how I know him.
It was Valentine’s Day night. And the texts were flowing.
“I can’t lie, I’m a sexual person. I don’t know if I could mess with someone who doesn’t f***.”
I’m used to this. Practicing celibacy has taught me some things about some men: One, there’s this predatory intrigue in trying to understand why a human being would make the conscious decision not to have sex. Especially someone who is attractive, someone who could date whoever she wanted if she had her heart set out on it. In short, I don’t.
If you know my story, you know that sex was my coping mechanism to deal with the passing of my father. I had lots of it, with people whose names I don’t even remember. I didn’t know what else to do, you know. What else could give me momentary joy in the world that felt so damn painful? One 12-hour span in particular triggered the phone call that saved my life, that sent me to Pittsburgh and away from what hurt.
I still carry that hurt.
That’s why I don’t have sex. My current relationship with sex is so unhealthy. And I carry that into every interaction I have with a man because I feel that I have to put up that wall to ensure my safety.
At least, I thought.
“It’s been four years, bruh. I don’t plan on it lol”
“We gotta change that”
“Do we? What type of magic tricks do you have, sir?”
As I walked to his car, I didn’t feel scared. I knew how to handle myself and I thought I had a grip on the situation. Men have tried me in the past four years and none of them can say that they succeeded. That’s the second thing I’ve learned about men while on this celibacy journey: I’m a walking nation to be conquered, I’m a trophy. Those other men didn’t know what they were doing.
She ain’t deny me.
I can. I have. I did.
Every moment in his car felt like a game, felt devoid of sincerity. Let me hold your hand, let me look at you, let me show you a picture of my son. Let me lie about the whereabouts of my son’s mother so you’d feel sympathy for me. Can I kiss you? I’m trying to make you mine. If I knew you back then, I would’ve been had you. These dude out here tweakin’.
I’ve heard these things since I was 18. At 29, I guess the game hadn’t changed.
I knew what he was trying to do. I knew what he wanted. But I wasn’t going to let him have it. Even if he wanted to have me.
So we drove to his office.
I kept looking around his office to make sure that it was okay that we were even there. I prayed that a custodian would come creeping around the corner or a security guard would be making a round. But it was just us. In an office smaller than my bedroom.
I kept checking for my phone, making sure that I had it. I remember telling someone before I left the house that I might have to send an SOS text. I was joking. Genuinely. 30 minutes after saying that, I actually thought about it.
My back was against the door, my arms were pushed to the side. I was told that shouldn’t deny what’s about to happen, that I should just do it because I wanted to. I didn’t, never did.
Imagine someone putting their hands down your pants and you tell them no. And they don’t stop. Imagine someone forcing fingers inside of you and you tell them no. And they don’t stop. Until they want to.
Imagine someone telling you to get on the ground and you try to tell them no. And you go down because you just want to get it over with.
Imagine getting spit on. And you jump up and they think it’s funny.
Imagine someone telling you that they’re “horny, yo.” And you’re supposed to comply but you don’t.
“I’m good, bruh. I swear to you.” And slightly laughing because I want to make sure that I can get home. Even though I knew where I was.
I laughed a lot that night. For my safety. Every beat, every moment caused me to laugh it off. To be playful through dismay. It’s a survivor technique. I do it when I’m street harassed every day. If you laugh, they’ll eventually leave you alone. If you laugh, you may not get chased down the street by multiple men, you may not have a car circle the block to curse you out. That happened when I barked back.
So I don’t bark, I laugh.
I laugh to keep from crying.
I cried when I got home. It took me a minute but it happened. I didn’t want to cry because I wanted to think I was bigger than the moment. That I could shake it off, “n*ggas will always be n*ggas.” That I handled it the best way that could, that I should ultimately be okay with the fact that we didn’t have sex.
There is not a doubt in my mind that he would have raped me. We found the condom in the hallway as we were walking out of his office.
I texted a good friend. I didn’t know who else to go to. She told that I could text her any time of the night, so I took advantage of the offer. I needed to let someone know. Somehow that made me feel worse, not due to any fault of her own. She did everything right.
I looked at a picture of me and my Dad. And I lost it.
In that moment, I wanted my Dad. I wanted that protection, I wanted that anger produced from someone hurting his daughter. He would have spazzed out. I wanted a man to spazz out.
Why I needed a man’s anger in that moment baffles me as I write this. I guess I want to still believe that men will treat me right, won’t look at me as something to be won. Will see that I hold value beyond what’s between my legs. That if he’s to ever cross that line, that sex with me would be a privilege. Because I want him to know how I feel. And that I want to feel him. Mutually.
Every day I deal with men who don’t see that. Every day, I encounter someone who wants to “get me pregnant”, who makes unsolicited comments about my body, who yells at me from car windows. I deal with men who think they are doing me a favor by trying to have sex with me. I have to avoid walking past groups of men. I have to brace myself for those inquiries: “when we f*cking?”, “I’m trying to see you”, “When’s the last time you gave head?”, “you play with yourself, don’t you?”, “so what you don’t do?”, “you’d let me eat you though, right?”
Less than five minutes after I tell them what I don’t do. It.
And in one moment, someone wanted to make sure that I would have “it”, by any means necessary.
Even if I was having sex, I didn’t deserve that. Even if I walked into that office with intention to have sex, I had every right to say no at any moment. And have it affirmed. Even if I walked into that car, I deserved respect.
I didn’t get it. And it wasn’t my fault.
What happened that night was not my fault.