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Every Day Can Be A Horror Story If You Tell It Right


I’m not talking here, deliberately, about the give and take of sexual play, of dominance, of submission. This is not about that.

Content warning: sexual violence

The other day I walked to work in a rage, for no reason exactly, except for every reason. And as I walked, I prayed for someone to say it to me. I scowled and stomped. One foot, two foot, up then down, hard and harder: Say it. Say it. Say it.

Will some motherfucker please just say it?

Tell me to smile.

And oh, how magnificent I would have blazed. The bus would’ve stopped mid turn; women pushing strollers would’ve cheered; some man would’ve called me a crazy bitch and I would have laughed. Yes, I am. Today I sure am.

But the street left me in peace. And I remembered a woman I know, pregnant and past the assigned due date, anxious, not wanting to be induced. Since I couldn’t fight, I thought I’d try and be of use, and called her. Listened. Then, she went off to finish a painting, and I walked into my school to teach Horror Writing to teenagers.

What is the thing you fear? That one thing. Write it down on the page, your eyes only.

Now, come up with an image for that thing. Write it down.

Anyone want to share?

Oh, how magnificent I would have blazed. Click To Tweet

A white room with white walls that morphs into a long white tunnel with no end. A doppelganger that is you, but not you. A locked door, without escape. Someone in your home, waiting for you when you arrive.

Now, what is the idea behind the thing? What are you really scared of?

I name mine: fear of enclosed spaces; a sealed wooden box like a coffin; fear of the loss of control.

The students nod. They write down the fear behind the fear in their notebooks. For their eyes only. In an oft-cited quote of Stephen King’s, there are three types of horror: the gross-out, the horror (aka the supernatural), and the terror — that feeling that the unknown has been made manifest; that those secret, intuited fears are in fact a reality.

One of the women who has come forward, and retreated, with charges against our president says she was 13 when he raped her. She says that at a party he tied her up (he would have had to use ropes, maybe belts, perhaps his tie) and forced his penis into her vagina over and over again until his pleasure at this act — this tied up, terrified, naked child — peaked into an orgasm and he ejaculated. I suppose he then untied her. She has said she’s repeatedly dropped the suit because of death threats, to her and her family.

Before you get all righteous and Democratic about the fact such an individual is our president, remember how very many allow it, participate, are not outraged. And think of this: When articles of impeachment were introduced in the House in December, the House, Republicans and Democrats united, voted to table the article, effectively sidelining it, 364–58.

At lunch, the female-identifying students gather in the library for our weekly affinity group. They fill me in, how last Friday, S. went to the deli and a man on the street tried to talk to her. She ignored him, and crossed the street. He followed behind her. He said, “Are you going to ignore me? I’ll punch your fucking face in.” She ran, and he chased. She made it safely into school, but said later that the fear would not leave her body.

A billboard flown across the horizon line of the beach this past summer; a headless woman in a bikini. Get this body. Now.

I was at a party yesterday, an afternoon gathering, and my two-and-a-half-year-old child wanted to nurse. There were soft couches and chairs in that room, it was un-crowded, I could have (I used to) sat on one of those couches and nursed and kept chatting and nibbling cookies. Instead, I was ashamed, and went with my son to the playroom and sat on the floor surrounded by plastic toys. It was fluorescent lit, low ceilinged, with no windows. I nursed alone with my back against the wall.

Already, I’m hearing it, disguised as inquiry. Has this gone too far? How powerful should an accusation be? How much weight should we give one woman’s word? What if they just mean it as banter? What place does flirting have in the workplace?

It’s the same as asking what she was wearing.

On the radio, a call-in for an intergenerational response to the wave of accusations, which is a disguised opportunity for older men to talk about how much they don’t understand what’s going on; that the standards have changed “so much,” and blah blah blah blah.

It’s happening again, the same again and again — the phenomenon of speaking out is the phenomenon being examined. Not the relentless physical and verbal assaults. Not what it means to live in bodies we call “girl” and “woman.” Not the fear that guides me away from the wooded path in the park, pushing my stroller towards more populated places, the hypothetical protection of more people present.

We are not talking about flirting. We know what flirting is.

It’s happening again, the same again and again. Click To Tweet

Do you know the story of Cassandra? In an attempt to seduce her, Apollo gave her the gift of prophecy. Foreknowledge of the future. But when she refused him, he spit in her mouth, cursing her; though she would always know and speak the truth of what was to come, no one would ever believe her.

I remember being a kid with my mom in the park on a sleepy city summer day, pushing our bikes up the big hill, too tired to ride them, and these teenagers, these young boys, walking by and slapping my mother on the ass. I remember the strange slow-motion stillness that followed as we all continued to walk the steep hill, the boys laughing, and how there was nothing my mother or I could do about it. It was like the taste of fluoride at the dentist, the way it made my teeth hurt, the doing nothing, the disrespect of my all-powerful mother, the assigning of status.

Have you stood and looked at the array of magazines at a newsstand recently? I mean, really looked? Do that. Notice.

I am on the couch being intimate with my partner, who has a penis, and unbidden into my pleasure flashes a series of images — cinematic, not memories — of rape, assault, violence. I’m not talking here, deliberately, about the give and take of sexual play, of dominance, of submission. This is not about that. I’m talking about images grafted into my brain against my will.

Forget the Bechdel test, try this one: Refuse to take in any images or scenes of a woman being beaten, arrested, tortured, raped, or killed. See what’s left.

(Hint: not a whole lot.)

Shall we review some numbers yet again?

1 in 6 women will experience an attempted or completed rape.

The majority of sexual assault takes place in or near the home.

The majority of offenders are people the victims know.

I don’t know any woman who has not been assaulted or threatened.

I don’t know any woman who knows a woman who has not been not assaulted or threatened.

To quote Stephen King exactly this time: “And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute.”

1 in 3 men would rape if they could get away with it.

1 in 16 men are rapists.

I know more than 16 men.