i have previously been in a long term sexually abusive relationship and i support and admire people who are able to speak out against their abusers and contribute their stories to raise awareness of what should be understood as unacceptable behavior.
The rape culture continues because you let it
When I went to trial against my ex boyfriend, I lost on a technicality. Not because he didn’t admit to: being physically and psychologically abusive to me, harassing me, stalking me, or violating police orders not to talk to me. He did admit to those things- to the police- in his statement after he was arrested.
No, the reason I lost was because, when I was forced to hand over all contact I’d had between us, I failed to share a conversation we had had on gchat with the police. One in which I explicitly stated that I felt he had sometimes coerced me into sex; he denied this repeatedly, stating we had an ‘insanely good’ sex life.
I didn’t hand this conversation over because I thought that the law wanted examples of his abuse, his harassment. I was wrong.
The law wanted me to point out, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he had done wrong by me and I had never taken any agency to counter him.
And so I lost. I went home for Christmas and I tried not to think about it. I tried to stop labelling what happened to me, I tried to stop reading blogs that illuminated my struggle, I tried to put it behind me.
Every now and then, though, I’d come across something that reminded me. An ad for Mallorca- and I’m transported to a vacation we took together where he had sex with me without a condom (which I didn’t know about) and then ejaculated inside me without my consent. When I asked him why, he smiled- I was stuck on an island that did not offer the morning after pill over the counter, and he knew that. At the time, I knew that felt wrong. Now I know that was something called reproductive abuse.
But I move on, ignoring other memories that come to the surface. “Grey sex” only makes me think of this time, when I was 19 years old, and he cajoled me into making a sex video with him, even though I protested (although not strongly) against it. At one point, he switched me into a position that exposed my body more to the camera. “No,” I said softly. “Come on,” he said. “No,” I said more forcefully. “It’s my birthday video,” he muttered. I relented.
He would play that video sometimes when we had sex with the volume turned up high. I could just about hear myself saying “no, no, no.”
Rainy mornings with a drier chill remind me of a nebulous number of times, how many I can’t tell you because I don’t remember them, where we were lying in his bed. He poked at me, calling me fat- his favorite abuse was appearance-based- and asked me to have sex with him. No, I’d ask. No, I’d plead. More ‘you’re fat’ would come at me until I said yes. Then, on top of me:
"Why aren’t you enjoying this? God dammnit, why aren’t you enjoying this?"
All of these instances are examples of what the law would not hold up as rape. I sometimes even doubt myself labelling them as such; I feel guilty, lesser than someone who has been forcefully assaulted against their will. This isn’t rape. What happened to me wasn’t rape.
What happened to me wasn’t abuse, I say. In the middle of the night, I wake up and feel the overwhelming urge to email him, asking him for forgiveness for taking him to trial. It was my fault- if I had shared that gchat conversation, it would have never gone to trial, and he would just have been arrested, released, and he would have maybe been scared enough to never contact me again.
It was my fault.
It was my fault that, one day when walking down the street, he raised his hand high above my head, and brought it inches away from my face. I cowered; he laughed. “Why the fuck would you do that?” I asked. He smiled, always. “Because you were raising your voice on the street. Why do you have to be so loud?”
I tell myself it wasn’t that big of a deal that he pulled me by my hair, by my pixie cut, and told me I was a little girl. Women suffer worse, people suffer worse. It’s my fault that I obsess about it.
And when he choked me in a bush until I either passed out or blacked out from panic- well, I shouldn’t obsess about that either. I wasn’t killed. I wasn’t even that harmed- just a scraped up knee. I slept the night in a guest room in his house, and his flatmates told me they’d look after me and make sure he didn’t come home. He did, he yelled at me, and the next morning I fell asleep in his bed again while I heard him tell his flatmate, “I think I was just waiting for an excuse to break up with her for a long time.”
I tell myself it’s my fault these things happened because I went back to him. I went back to him so many times; I went back to him every second. Not because I loved him, not because I wanted him, but because I didn’t know if I had the strength to exist without him.
And so you tell me: the rape culture exists because I let it. Because my words are not enough. Because shame is not enough.
I used the law. I tried to get him the mental help he needed. I still lost.
My words to him made me lose.
So what are my words now?
Gallery installation of Jayson Musson’s “Exhibit of Abstract Art,” based on abstract art depicted in Ernie Bushmiller’s “Nancy” comic strip. More here.
"According to Musson “Iʼm drawn to Ernie Bushmillerʼs antagonistic response to modernism and mainly his vitriolic caricature of it. Heʼs turned off by Modernismʼs seeming uselessness, itʼs sophistry, itʼs ʻshamʼ quality, and its ʻeasinessʼ. Buried in his response to the ʻfadʼ of the modern lays a particular kind of fear, the fear of someone witnessing the world change and not having a place in the new order of cultural value."
I don’t know as much about Bushmiller’s Nancy as some people, but isn’t this a misreading of what he was really about? It seems like he was well aware that his comics, and all comics, were operating within the same system as “Modern Art” because comics rely on the legibility of symbols and abstraction to create a visual narrative. The joke usually isn’t so much on what modern art is as much as on the dum dums who need something to be expensive or ~meaningful~ to be important, FOR EXAMPLE, when people take what cartoonists have been doing (AND UNDERSTANDING) for a long ass time and treat it like their Fine Arts repackaging is what makes it worth looking at.