[TW: this post talks about my relationship with my abuser, and his behaviours within it; coercion and vaguely sexual grossness are discussed]
I’m honestly surprised that this has come up again in my brain, but here we are. It’s been a long time since I’ve had particularly negative emotional/traumatized reactions to thinking about my past abusive relationship (which ended nearly a decade ago now), but I’m apparently still finding new pieces that help hang the narrative together.
I’m not even sure why I’m writing about this newest mini-revelation here, other that the fact that processing the ongoing impact of this abuse, and documenting my process of recovery/rebuilding my own narrative around it this has always been one of the functions of this blog for me. I hope these sorts of posts are useful to others, too.
A quick (trigger-filled; approach with care – posts with explicit content have content notes about that at the top) reading list of the times I’ve written about this in the past, if you need to be caught up on the context here:
Early, mostly abstract/general thoughts, coming to understand that I did in fact experience abuse, and that it wasn’t my fault:
Things I have Trouble Reconciling/
The ‘asking for it” narrative
Understanding that my brain was messed up by my experiences:
Abuse-logic and memory
Writing about abuse, thinking about abuse
Getting to the meat of it: in which I discuss my experiences in more specifics:
In which I talk about my personal experiences of sexual coercion
The things I did while in an abusive relationship (but no, really ,what the fuck was that even?)
Why does my brain do this? the difficulty of recognizing first-person experiences of abuse and mental illness
And most recently, in a similar(ish) vein from this post:
Every now and then, something new shakes loose
…ok, no wait, also this one. Which I apparently failed to tag as “abuse”, but was the one I was specifically looking for as relevant to what I have to say today:
“Rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power”… except when it really is just about sex
This post is a partial rebuttal, or at least a re-contextualization of the above.
The thing is, my abusive ex’s bullying of me wasn’t limited to sex (it never really is, is it?) Today I just want to tell an illustrative story and talk through some of the implications that I found myself wondering about last night, for no apparent reason.
So, I saw the first Saw movie when it was in theatres. I think this was before I was dating the abusive ex, but it doesn’t really matter. I’m not going to look up the release dates of the movies in this series to figure out exactly which ones happened when, because it doesn’t really matter, and I don’t care to refresh my memory of which one is which.
There are… a lot of things I could say about this series as a whole, but my main point right now is, watching those movies is an intensely unpleasant experience. Of course, it’s supposed to be! this is not me criticizing the movies, at least not on that front. i just, after seeing the first one, I had no desire to watch the sequels. Not for me!
But my ex, he wanted to watch the sequels. Oh boy, did he. And he most definitely very specificially wanted to watch them with me. Because that’s what you do when you love someone, right? You do things together?
I can’t remember which one was in theatres at the time of this story, but it was the third or fourth one? In an any case, there was at least one that I had missed seeing in theatres, that I was going to have to catch up on in time for the latest theatrical one.
I didn’t want to, though. And I was definitely clear about that. And I was clear about why (see above), and even that it wasn’t that I thought they were bad. I just didn’t want to watch those movies.
Ok, obviously this story ends with me watching more of those movies. Because other people’s explicit boundaries are just challenges to be overcome, right?
But it’s somehow *even worse* than that?
So yeah. We argued. For literal hours. Eventually I caved, because watching the damn movie would be less painful than continuing that fucking conversation. And then we were in a position of getting ready to watch a movie that I knew was going to be emotionally harrowing when I was already extremely emotionally raw and worn out. Fun date night, y’all!
On our way from the movie rental place to his place, where we would be watching the movie, he… made it clear that he wanted us to be naked while we watched the movie?
Like, I think we literally just came out with “we should get naked”. I don’t anymore how this Maybe he said this once we were actually there and settling on to the couch? That would make slightly more sense to me, though it was a still a strange thing for him to say (like, even for him).
We often did watch things together naked, because we were watching them in bed or whatever, but it was extremely strange for him to explicitly request nudity when he wasn’t immediately gunning for sex – I literally can’t think of another time that happened.
It’s… telling? to me, then, that this is the time this request happened. I was not inclined to comply, for the record – the aforementioned emotional rawness and my anticipated discomfort with the movie itself meant my defenses were very much up.
But I was also too worn out to put up much more than a momentary resistance. We watched the movie naked.
I… don’t even know what else to say about this. What the fuck was any of that? Is there any reasonable explanation for his motivations here other than, “obviously he took a sadistic pleasure in making me as vulnerable as possible?”
I’m really sure he wouldn’t have seen it that way. He would framed it in terms of wanting “intimacy” of course. I no longer no whether he believed his own shit or not, though, really.
I know he was selfish. I still can’t explain the rest of it, not really. But more and more, it’s hard to deny that he engaged in very real manipulative power plays and grooming tactics, that his campaigns to violate my boundaries went well beyond what could possibly be written off as him not understanding what we was doing. The weird clairvoyance of demanding nudity, on top of having already (verbally) beaten me into submission that day just, doesn’t fit into any part of any narrative that excuses his behaviours in any way.
A lot of fucked up shit got done to my brain in that relationship. And it definitely wasn’t just accidental. I don’t know why I’ve held on to the idea that it at least kinda was, for so long, through so many other revelations and acceptances.