Mark My Words · mark my words

Mark My Words: Trauma, Triggers, and Taking Responsibility

[Content note: rape trauma, PTSD]

I’ve not been shy about criticising those around me for things which trigger me, for ableist bullshit, for that which I disapprove of, but I’ve never particularly been good at looking at myself and taking those same values to heart. While I strive not to hurt anyone in anything I do, and aim to be a better person as much as I can, I’m not great when certain things are challenged. I’m not very good at taking criticism for my own behaviour.

When it comes to my online interactions, I tend to be pretty damn sexual, bluntly. And it’s something I notice while I’m watching shows, too, that my first response is always a leer, followed by true appreciation for skill and ability. And I’ve been called on this, and made excuses, like the idea that a femme response to a masc person isn’t the same power differential as the opposite; and while that may be true to a point, the last thing I want to be is a harasser, a hypocrite, to do to others what has been done to me.

I think – I hope – male wrestlers I’ve actually spent time with would say that the sexual stuff burns away pretty quickly, if it’s even there at all in person. I’m affectionate, certainly, and physically affectionate with all those that I consider safe, friendly, close, but there’s nothing more than that under it. There’s a reason I chose ‘mama’ as my moniker, to touch masc friends on the shoulder and tell them how gorgeous they are in a way which is completely platonic, just the way I would with femme friends when complimenting the effort they’ve put into themselves, or their outfits, or their hair, or just how they glow when they’re happy. I don’t react with sexual comments to people because I want to sleep with them; it’s born out of stress and fear, putting up a wall between me and them.

I explained, recently, that I think of men as “large, currently friendly dogs, and the key word is currently” – and then I decided to think about what that means. Shortly, for the first time in the thirteen years since my first rape, I’ll be having treatment for my PTSD, and I wanted to look at what trauma has changed for me, and how I want to address that. And one of those ways is that, truthfully, I don’t really view men as people. Individually, yes, those I greet and hug and spend time with, they’re people, but as a whole? No. Admitting that men are people would be to admit that it was people who hurt me, people who raped me, people who held me down and broke every part of who I was and ruined years of my life, and I can’t even type those words without breaking down into tears. The idea that people – people like me, people like those I know – are the same as the men who sexually and physically assaulted me makes my breath come faster until I’m having a panic attack just sat alone in my spare room.

It’s telling that I don’t treat femmes like this, don’t react that way to women – because I’d view that as abhorrent. Because I treat women like people, with rich inner lives, personalities, with feelings – I treat them with the respect I would like to be treated. I don’t treat men with respect, because I don’t see them as intelligent human beings, because then I have to face that intelligent human beings, who knew what they were doing and knew how much they were hurting me, gave me my trauma. And that’s something I’ve suppressed for years in order to carry on with my life with zero mental health support for my trauma.

But that’s no excuse. It’s a reason as to why I’ve not thought about this much before, but it’s not an excuse. The sexual aggression may come from a place of fear, may be about taking power in a situation where I feel none, but that’s exactly the same reasoning men give for harassing women. They feel threatened, they want power, they don’t really believe women are people. That’s the last thing I ever, ever want to be a part of, and I’ve not only been doing it, I’ve been defending it. I’ve been defending the same behaviour which leads to the sort of thing that happened to me, and I haven’t been able to be honest enough to see that.

To those who’ve stepped in and commented on my behaviour, have made it clear that I’m going too far, that it’s unacceptable, and that I’ve been hypocritical – thank you. It’s not been easy, and I’ve come back with excuses a number of times, but without that, I might never have made the connections, and I’ll probably need those to help me with trauma therapy, when it starts. I’ve struggled, and I’ll probably continue to struggle, with the criticism, especially when publicly stated, because I don’t cope well with conflict, and so, I’d like to ask a favour that I’m relatively sure I don’t deserve. If you think I’ve said something that’s inappropriate, that I’ve been sexually aggressive – my DMs are open. Taking me aside privately would make things easier for me, mentally, which is a plane in which I’m pretty unstable at the moment, and will probably only get worse when treatment starts and I have to face things that I’ve spent thirteen years suppressing. I’m incredibly grateful for your help, but a private comment would be more helpful.

As for what I’m going to do – well, it probably involves keeping my mouth shut more often, responding to people only after I’ve thought it through, and reminding myself that the people I’m talking to ARE people, that they’ve got emotions and feelings like I have, and that what I’m doing is unacceptable. It’s going to be difficult to change the thought processes of over a decade, and I don’t expect it to happen overnight, but if I’m not willing to try, then what sort of person am I?
Not the sort of person I want to be.

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