Note: this blog post was originally written in 2014 on another website, when I thought I was only interested in men,, when I wasn't as good a writer, and before anyone seemed interested in the conversation. I reproduce it here, with gratitude to everyone who has come forward with #MeToo and so radically changed the conversation we are having.
I like to go out. I like to dance. I like to wear glitter and put my hands over my head and flirt with men. It does my body good to feel strong, and it does my mind good to feel pretty, to feel desirable. Last week, I went dancing. The morning after, I started to tweet: (some tweets omitted, for brevity)
You all remmeber the last time I went out, and I wasn't able to police my boundaries, and I was assaulted?
Well, last night, I said no, and then the guy punched me in the face. Several times.
The guys around me that he is hitting, who are telling me not to hit him, are also flirting with me. They are telling me not to be emotional
They are saying "it only seems bad because you are drunk". He has punched me in the face, I'm being told I'm hysterical for punching back.
Just realised this is the third sexually motivated assault I've experienced this year. The third! That's so fucked.
[Editors Note: It's worth pointing out that the man who 'saved me' from this assault, who took me home to clear up my blood, also tried to have sex with me as I said no. He had to be physically pushed out of bed before he stopped trying to rape me. I still had blood in my hair from the first assault. He was a 'good guy', and I suppose I didn't blog about him because he'd intervened earlier.]
Three assaults in eight months. Big assaults, not just a passing grope, but punches, sexualised muggings, a “sexy” bite on the bus which broke the skin. That seems a high number. I get superstitious, I had had bare arms every time. Maybe that’s why someone thought it was okay to do that? But it’s not me. When I leave the house, I feel like I’ve stepped into a narrative that is bigger and stronger than me. Three big assaults, but little violations are innumerable. If I go out, with a body coded as “queer”, my body feels like contested land. I have learnt to say no with a smile, without a smile, with a quiet voice, a raised voice, with anger. I’ve learnt to say no with my hands, pushing lovers off me when they ignore my requests to stop, my bunched fists places against the chest of strangers in the street who refuse to stop touching me. All my nos mean nothing.
I am grateful for, and in debt to, the feminist, womanist and trans-activist writers who have given me a language to explain this to myself. They are the people who taught me what bodily-autonomy means, what victim blaming is. A demographic of men, often “straight” men regularly intrude on my body. Sexuality is either the medium or excuse for the intrusion. I recognise the massive privileges afforded to me as a cis, white male. No one is going to question my right to naked arms or drinking. Posting this will not result in rape threats. And I hope that those same authors, who have been so inspirational to me, do not find it appropriative for me to claim a place in this narrative. But I see a link between those stories and mine, sister stories about “othered” bodies punished for their “sexuality” and “agency”. I think I am describing my place in rape culture.
But if rape culture overlaps with gay culture, why aren’t we talking about it?, I’ve been groped on buses, trapped in taxis, bitten, mugged, slapped, spat on and raped. My virginity was taken in a statutory rape… a story so familiar to gay men that it doesn’t need details. I am a skinny, white, able-bodied, cisgendered man who is conventionally attractive and in possession of a higher-ish education. I’ve lucked out at the kyriachy. If this is happening to me, what is happening to other people?
I can’t believe there isn’t a conversation to have here. I would like to invite MSM and queer men to talk about this under the hashtag #gayrapeculture on Twitter, or in the comments here, or on their own blogs. I do not think I am the only one who is tired. I do think that we are the only people who can pick this apart for ourselves.