Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Dealing With The Darkness

I’m knackered. Beyond that. Multiply that up 100 times and then you’re starting to get there. Knackered to the power of 100. I can’t sleep. Those brief moments I do fall into unconsciousness I’m beset by nightmares of the worst variety. When I awaken there’s no respite, no relief, no ‘oh well it was just a bad dream’ because it wasn’t. These nightmares revolve around actual life events.

My mind and my body are completely out of sync. When the body’s exhausted, the head’s racing. When I’m detached and my mind’s set at empty, resting out there on the ether, the body’s locked in, fully functioning and awake. One rests and the other works, or else they both race together, driven by an insane energy. Their periods of rest have ceased to coincide.

I’m dealing with some really heavy shit in therapy. This is the stuff I’d not planned on telling anybody – myself included. I’d put it in the deepest, darkest, furthest corner of my mind with a great big fuck off ‘DANGER’ sign lest I forget. The mind, like a flight recorder, took it in – took it all in – the beatings, the violence, the pimping, the rapes. My boundaries broken one by one, humiliated, treated like an animal, savaged and increasingly savage. Of course, I did my best to minimize, to forget about it, to deny it, just to survive. I didn’t allow words like ‘rape’ or ‘pimping’ in my vocabulary. The drink and drugs helped and the head injuries too.

But this stuff, these memories, fractured as they are, would simply not be obliterated. Nor will they now, despite my best efforts. That’s 5 years of trying to ignore them, 5 years unable to face them. I’ve been in therapy for maybe six months now and you know what, it takes time. I find trust incredibly, painfully difficult. When people have used and abused you, done things you didn’t even know it was possible to do to another human being without them dying – and then brought you back so they could do it again – it’s hard to have faith in people. When the hand that soothed you was also the hand that hit you, it becomes confused. Safer, surely, to trust no one.

It’s massive that I’m beginning to even try and talk about this stuff.

In terms of sheer volume, this ain’t going to be quick. But things move on as they do and voila! I’ve hit the really heavy shit now. Talking through the other stuff, painful and difficult in itself, I could feel it all around the edges of my consciousness, a foreboding darkness with little darts of movement, closing in. The occasional snapshot of something, like a subliminal message in a movie – there one second but gone so quick you’re not even sure it happened at all. A lingering feeling of deep unease, an inability to concentrate, head and body starting to pull in different directions. Unnamed and unacknowledged as it has been, this stuff has a slippery, nightmare quality. Struggling to look at it directly in my waking moments, small wonder it should be invading my sleep, such as it is.

This is stuff I couldn’t say aloud – even alone - couldn’t bear to think about. I’d do the psychic equivalent of going ‘lalala not listening’ yet it remained, patiently, waiting for a moment of stillness, of quiet, to re-emerge. Bedtime is an ideal spot, hence the insomnia. I don’t want to name it, or even acknowledge it. Too real, too painful, too scary. But it is there and it is real, whether I talk about it or not. It happened. Speaking about it is the only way. When I walled this stuff in and turned my back on it I didn’t realize I’d walled myself in with it, turned my back on myself. It has remained, a threat to my recovery, an unhealed wound thinly covered over.

Head and body are mashed with it all. When I’m sat opposite the therapist I can see him, see his reactions, and I trust him. It feels safe. Comparatively. Afterwards, at home, it’s not so clear. The trust thing kicks in – my ex taught me well not to trust by both his words and his actions. I face the horror of the reality of what I have managed to say and the fear of the rest of it – all the other stuff that I haven’t said. How am I to say it? I can’t. I must! And on. No rest! When I talk, I feel as if I’ve said too much. I oscillate between this feeling, this certainty, and knowing that I haven’t said enough. I feel this massive pressure, this crushing weight of all the horror and degradation just lining up to be spoken, to be heard. My body hurts with PTSD – leg pains! Abdo pains! Wrist pains! Jaw pains! Pains, pains everywhere, and my head hurts too, full as it is with images, feelings, thoughts, emotions. The feelings are so intense, how I felt when that stuff was being done to me, how I still feel, that words seem inadequate. I grope for vocabulary but there is none. And yet words are all I have.

The emotions take me right back. Like being sucked into a vortex, I leave this body and time behind, revisiting. It’s like I’m haunting myself. The body responds to what the mind’s telling it is happening – it hurts, freezes, sweats, shakes, becomes nauseous, becomes faint. I become lost, split between two places, not fully in either.

But one thing I do know – no matter how painful and scary looking at this stuff is, it is necessary. There are no other options. It’s move forward and deal with it with help as best I can or sink with it. Sink or swim. It’s rough and it’s going to be a whole lot rougher before we’re done but I got in some little practice at surviving. My ex set out to break me and break me he did, but he could not determine the lines along which I broke. For in with the fear and the pain and the weakness there grew a cast iron will to survive. Terrified as I feel with this stuff, he has yet to beat me. Survival is itself a form of defiance. I will pull through this, somehow I will pull through it. What better ‘fuck you’ could I hope for?

Monday, 21 May 2012

On Total Denial: What it Means to Live in a Rape Culture

It’s hit the news recently about the conviction of 9 men for grooming and pimping underage girls. As ever, there’s been an outcry. But in truth, we live in a rape culture. These shocked protestations are as predictable and pointless as those in America whenever someone gets gunned down in their house or school. I mean, the link’s obvious, for chrissakes – you live in a gun culture where the ‘rights’ of the individual to own lethal weapons precede the rights of the community and children not to be shot dead. Compare the number of gunshot deaths in any non gun-toting nation and you can’t fail to make a connection. But nothing changes. The pro-gun lobby is too powerful, their money more persuasive than any amount of coherent thinking and informed argument, more valued than the lives of innocents. The media reacts with outrage and then today’s newspapers become tomorrow’s rubbish, all forgotten, business as usual.

We have the same thing going on here, but with the selling of women. We live in a misogynist culture, one in which women are bought and sold every day in pornography, in strip clubs, and it’s legal. The rights of the individual (male) consumer trumping the rights of women everywhere to be treated as equals, as human beings with thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams, not a piece of meat, a set of holes to be bought, wanked over and discarded. That in such a culture some people will be hurt is a given. Every woman knows that in this culture she is viewed primarily as a commodity, there for the pleasure and profit of others. Hell, with tv ads and programmes, womens’ magazines, movies and radio blasting out this message she could hardly miss it, or help internalizing it at least to some degree. What woman hasn’t looked in the mirror and judged herself  imperfect against the prescribed form of beauty and sexiness sold us all day long? Everywhere you look – women for sale! But again, the sex industry lobby is powerful and has endless money at its disposal. So it continues, the link between the worldview it promotes and the abuse of women and children ignored. (see www.antipornography.org for the connection between the viewing of porn and attitudes towards rape).

What makes us think that in such a culture, where girls are indoctrinated into viewing themselves as sex objects at an ever younger age, where the sex industry has adopted the empowering language of feminism, where it has become the norm to see the sale of women for sex as a good thing, we will be able to enforce arbitrary lines of age and consent? In a culture which sells ‘Barely Legal’ magazines and dvds in which ‘models’ who look underage are introduced to sex by much older men in a manner directly mirroring those of child abuse, should we be surprised when young girls are abused?

Whatever we consume, be that food, tv, books or pornography, shapes us. It has an affect. Yet with pornography, we grasp fiercely onto the lie that this is not in fact the case. Like the gun lobbyists in the US after the next murder case, we call it an anomaly when something like this child pimping ring is exposed. We label the perpetrators ‘freaks’ and ‘other’  because we’re too damn comfortable to join up the dots, to make the connection.

If the girls who were abused had been 18, there would have been no outrage. The case would not have made the papers – unless, of course, it was in the ads section, under ‘personal services’. Does a vulnerable 17 year old suddenly become invulnerable at the turn of a birthday? The percentage of women in prostitution who have backgrounds of sexual abuse or grew up in care, who wound up in prostitution before they were 18*, attests that this recent case is not an aberration. But when they turn 18 we suddenly cease to have consciences and instead reach for the excuse – she chose it. She chose to be in porn, in prostitution (though we call it 'sex work' now- so much less distasteful!). In fact, we’ll even defend her right to be abused in the sex industry and feel like the big shot, protecting free speech.  One of the 15 years olds was raped by up to 20 men a day. This is an experience, sadly, shared by many women trapped in the sex industry, seeing john after john.

It is estimated that 3 million women are currently being trafficked worldwide in the sex trade (see Demand video at www.antipornography.org). Are we outraged, lobbying our politicians, saying ‘this can’t go on!’, demanding change? No! Instead we sit at home clicking away on our computers, wanking over women being degraded in pornography, telling ourselves she likes it, she’s smiling, she chose it, she’s well paid. When you click on an image on the internet there is simply no way of knowing whether the woman is pimped, is there through economic desperation, has been coerced. There should be a public outcry! Human slavery continues in this very day and age, in this very country, in the very town in which you live.

The question is, do we care? The same people who were in uproar about the pimping of these girls were outraged by the government’s suggestion of a possible ‘opt in’ for internet pornography, something which would protect children from exposure to pornography at a formative time in their lives, the normalization of extreme penetration and aggression which are becoming ever more mainstream. Consider this: the average age of exposure to pornography is 11. 90 percent of 8-16 years olds have viewed pornography online (TopTen Reviews: Internet Pornography Statistics). The largest consumer group of internet pornography is the 12 – 17 year old age group (www.internetfilterreview.com).

Combine this information with the following analysis of bestselling porn.  R. Wosnitzer and A.J. Bridges, in ‘Aggression and Sexual Behaviour in Best-Selling Pornography: A Content Analysis Update’, a paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, San Francisco, CA, 2007 reported that:
- 89.1% of scenes contained aggressive acts, with the average containing 11.52 acts of verbal or physical aggression (physical being the most common, featuring in 88.2% of all scenes)
- 94.4% of all aggression in films was directed towards women
- women in porn are shown to enjoy or not mind being abused:95.2% of victims responded with either neutral or pleasurable expressions

We have created a rape culture, a truly toxic environment.  Pornography is not only legal, it has become mainstream. We have naturalized the unnatural. TV programmes from Friends to According To Jim to The Big Bang Theory joke about pornography, and it is accepted without question that the male characters ‘use’ it. The women are presented as having no problem with it – in fact, they share the male viewpoint, even going to a strip club (Friends)and objectifying the strippers with the men. The message that programmes such as these, which are watched by children, give, is that it is part of being a man to buy women for sex, whether that be indirectly, through pornography, or in a strip club or elsewhere. This is normal and healthy and a demonstration of masculinity. Women learn that it is the done thing to ‘be cool’ about this objectification of women. If they don’t want to be labeled ‘jealous’ or ‘prudes’ they need to adopt a casual attitude towards the selling of other women, even if this leaves them with feelings of conflict.

Pornography promotes certain views about men and women. It promotes the view that women want to be fucked – it is their nature. If they say no they mean yes, even if they say it hurts or it looks like it hurts they still say they like it. In pornography, women get hurt and they ask for more. They are called names, spat at, choked, airtighted, slapped and they enjoy it. They smile and say that they enjoyed it. Only in pornography does a human being ask someone to hurt her.

In this toxic environment, we should be more surprised if pimping young girls wasn’t going on.

Of course, whether or not anything will change remains to be seen. That is up to us, you and I. Will we continue to defend woman-hating practices for fear of seeming prudish or illiberal? Or will we take a stand and say it is not acceptable to inflict suffering and treat women as subhuman for a quick and easy orgasm and a laugh? The sex industry has at its disposal more finances than the gun lobby and many more people who have a stake in its survival – porn is our right! It’s harmless! Yeah right, harmless. Stop yanking your plank and face facts. A gun toting nation leads to gun crime. A porn obsessed nation leads to sex crime. Condemning the consequences of something you support is hypocrisy plain and simple. It’s time to get honest with ourselves. What do we value most highly: pleasure and profit or human beings? Protest all you want, the only effective solution is to take personal responsibility for our actions and their impact on others and stop porn culture.

* see www.object.org.uk for statistics

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Damaged Lives: The Hidden Cost of Pornography

There’s going to be a whole army of women out there who have had the experience of having their heads flushed down toilets as entertainment, being strangled as entertainment, being double penetrated and throat fucked ‘til they throw up as entertainment. These are women who found themselves caught up in something beyond their control, the sex industry, where the person who’s meant to be on their side, their ‘agent’ (best case scenario – or pimp), pushes and pushes and pushes them to ever more painful and degrading acts in the pursuit of money. Hard to see a human being when you have dollar signs in your eyes. These are vulnerable women, often women with histories of sexual abuse, physical abuse, substance abuse, psychological abuse, with mental health problems, financial problems. These are the women who just can’t say no, but not in the sexy way the industry would have you think. More of a Hobson’s choice situation.

Welcome to hell on earth. Lost already, you become increasingly split: detached from yourself, from what is happening to your body, from the verbal abuse directed at and over you, in which you’re made to take part - call yourself names, beg to be hurt. Alone, with no one to turn to for help, reliant on the very people who abuse you, who make money off your abuse. You become a shell: there but not there, enduring, just enduring, unable to comprehend, to compute, the horror of what is being done to you for the profit and pleasure of others. Out of your depth.

When you are hurt, people laugh or hurt you more. You stop showing that it hurts. Naked already, with cameras focused on your most intimate areas, on capturing their abuse, you become numb: this is what you do, what you are here for. They will do what they will do and it’s best not to think about it. You have to change the goalposts to survive. What was once humiliating and unthinkable is now an everyday occurrence. Unavoidable. It becomes: as long as I don’t show that I’m hurting, that they’re getting to me, give them that satisfaction. Your boundaries are broken one by one: they fuck you in the arse, subject you to double penetrations, to fisting, to speculums, to urinating and spitting and slapping and choking… Endless abuse, endless pain, endless degradation.

Total destruction.

The only thing left is your denial and your determination that they will not see how much they hurt you. Feigning supreme indifference, even enjoyment, you pretend you have some measure of control because to recognize your powerlessness is to open the gates to insanity and in all likelihood suicide.

As ever more aggressive, ever more debasing porn becomes more mainstream, the number of women who have had these experiences, who have been sold, abused and profited from, who have been tortured, grows. Everyday it grows. If they are lucky enough to get out, to get clean and sober (yeah, most women in porn have substance abuse issues – wouldn’t you drink or use to get through?), where have they to turn?

Most people nowadays if they are told that a woman has been in porn, would say ‘cool’. Cool!!! Knowing as she does the reality – wiping down after 8 sweating pigs have cum in her face, limping to the shower after being anally and vaginally penetrated for hours at a time with cocks and objects, bruised and bleeding, what was said to her and what she was made to say, the coercion, the ever present threat of violence, the powerlessness – this metrosexual, abstract notion of cool is from another planet. She has never been less understood. Hell, even the pornographers, even the cameramen, even her pimp or agent acknowledge that this stuff isn’t good on the body, is a test of endurance rather than a pleasure trip.

Hers is a great loneliness, separated as she is from the majority who believe that pornography is harmless fun, that women in it are empowered, choose it from a variety of meaningful options, enjoy it. 'Paid to get laid? Awesome!'. Her friends may hold this view, her neighbours may hold this view, her therapist may hold this view. Protective of their ‘right’ to wank over other women in similar circumstances, unwilling to hear the truth, theirs is a language far removed from the sordid realities, an abstract language of free speech and liberation. To many of the people who surround her, porn is just a concept, one with a very pleasing result, easily cleaned up with a tissue. These people, people who defend porn, project their dark desires onto her, conveniently forgetting that the reason for her being there is their demand for such images rather than her desire to engage in such acts. She wanted it! After all, she said so didn’t she, and she smiled?

A growing number of women who have been subjected to extreme physical, sexual, psychological torture. They are traumatised, they are used in ever more extreme ways for the amusement of the purchaser, unless they are lucky enough to exit, until they are too broken to be of further use. Anyone who objects to the use of the word 'torture' here might do well to look it up, and to compare some of increasingly common porn practices such as gagging, spitting, verbal abuse, slapping, and 'swirlies' to name but a few.

The pornographer doesn’t care about her.
The men fucking her don’t care about her.
The pimps and agents don’t care about her.
The guy at home with his cock in his hand doesn’t care about her. Her life is unimaginable to him, her humanity invisible to him, her hopes and dreams destroyed for him, all for a cheap and easy laugh and an orgasm.

She has quite simply no place left to go, her body battered from fucking after fucking without condom or care, her head mashed with thousands of fragmented images, sounds, scents, words, reminders of horror and pain and degradation beyond words. She has nightmares, flashbacks, PTSD. She continues to get sick, as she did when she was in it. Suicide becomes an option* Her humanity has been disregarded by every person in her life who sold her, who fucked her, who pressured her, who paid the men who did this to her and then calmly laid the blame at her feet.

We need to understand what it means to be a woman on a website called ‘Elastic Assholes’, to have people joke that ‘she might just be wearing a diaper by the time we’re finished’. To feel or to try to empathise what is is actually like to be choked so you can’t breathe, to be facefucked so viciously you throw up, to have water in your eyes and nose and mouth when you’ve been fucked every which way possible and they’re flushing your head down the toilet, the final insult. What it is like to be violently abused and traumatised, and to know that images of that abuse are being sold and generating money for the men who hurt you.

I am a survivor of prostitution – of pornography – of torture. Just. It’s been touch and go and recovery isn’t a piece of cake either. Being abused for entertainment is inhumane.

To remain desensitized is to be inhuman. If we’re not part of the solution, taking a stand against pornography, taking action, we’re part of the problem. Together we can be stronger and make a difference. We need to look past the picture the pornographer has painted for us of the women he uses.  She is not other, in some way different. There is not a subspecies of woman who wish to be abused in such a way. If it would hurt you to have two cocks in your arse, it will hurt her. Let go of the bullshit line of dismissal ‘whatever floats your boat’ and imagine yourself in her shoes for one moment. Would you like it? Would you be happy having that done to you? Would you be happy if she were your daughter or your sister or your mother? She says she likes it in the movies, maybe even asks them to hurt her because she has to, but if you look into her eyes, if you dare, you’ll see the very real fear and pain, you’ll see the truth.

Stop funding a system that destroys women. Stop porn.

* The suicide rate and death from drug and alcohol abuse in the industry is significantly above average, see www.antipornography.org