The Box

Warning: This post contains potentially-R-rated material, and refers to Sexytime.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I used to work at a rape crisis center.  I was visiting my former coworkers recently and commented on the blog the organization has started posting: occasionally it’s interesting, but often it’s long and dry and can’t keep my attention, and I’m someone who is interested in reading it.  How can you get the attention of people who aren’t interested if you can’t even get consistent readers who are?

Their response?  “Well, Bird, why don’t you write a guest post?”

That was weeks ago, and I have been turning it over in my head since then.  Man, it is hard to write an engaging post about sexual assault.  I’ve even tried scrapping the “try to be engaging/interesting” aspect of it and tried thinking of something just basic to write.  And I’m having trouble with it.

Here’s my first dilemma: Who do I write as?  I’m a certified rape crisis counselor (or I was, a year ago), and I’ve done some medical advocacy (going to the hospital with survivors of sexual assault and staying with them through the rape kit process), some education/outreach, and a whole lot of phone-answering, talking to survivors and friends and family of survivors.  Hell, I even talked to a perpetrator at least once. Um, thanks for calling.  I’m not here to ease your conscience.

Besides that, I am a survivor.  I am a friend to survivors, and I have been a partner to survivors.  Where to start, guys?  Who do I write this as?  Especially when it’s a topic that isn’t really fun to think about?  (Side note: I started reading wedding blogs during my time at the RCC.  Weddings, when you’re in pre-planning mode = wayyyy more fun to think about than sexual assault.)

Well, here’s what I think: when I applied to write for WeddingBee, the basis of my application was that WeddingBee didn’t offer what I was looking for: someone crunchy, or someone in a same-sex relationship, or someone who had absolutely NO CLUE how to use a sewing machine.  And I thought that there was a gap that I could fill – I could represent people like me who were looking for people like me.  It makes me all warm and fuzzy that I have a bit of a fan base – small but loyal and friendly.

So I guess that’s where I’ll start here.  Maybe this will be the first post of several – please, please tell me (in the comments, or here) if you’re interested in hearing more about this.  Otherwise this will probably be the only post on this topic… because again, not the easiest to write, and not the most fun topic to read about.

One big gap I saw in my experiences with sexual assault was around leading a healthy sexual life afterward.  It’s something that I heard a lot of people ask about and that no one really seemed to have an answer for.  It was something I spent a lot of time looking into, searching for books and exercises, and it was something I couldn’t really find.  I found plenty of books that said, “You have have experienced XY and Z, and you may be feeling AB and C,” and I was like, “Yes, yes, I know that already, but what do I do now?!”  And these books had nothing to say beyond “These various feelings are normal, blah blah blah.”  Thanks, but I knew that already, and that is not helpful right now.

I did end up finding a couple of books that seemed helpful: they had a few exercises in them, aimed at being intimate and feeling safe.  I love the ideas of these books and mostly having them available relieved my need to actually use them.  Here are a couple of books:

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (also comes with a workbook! Fun! Also, don’t let the “Child” part dissuade you: regardless of your age/situation, it has some good exercises & tips)

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse

I think that sometimes after assault, or after remembering assault (many/most survivors of childhood sexual assault are really amazingly good at dissociating and blocking the memories of their assault, which they tend to remember in their 20s, as it turns out), it can be hard to be intimate with someone and feel safe or be present.  For me, a lot of that was based on expectation: does my partner expect that we’ll have sex tonight?  Does my partner think that making out mean I definitely want to spend an hour having sex?  Does my partner think a kiss on the neck means I want to make out?  There were no parameters, and it did not feel sexy to say, “Do you think my kissing you just now means I want to have sex?”

So we invented The Box.

The Box, you guys, is kind of amazing.  Here’s what we did:

First, we sat down and made a list of intimate activities that we would both enjoy.  These activities ranged from sweet to sexy, and really ran the gamut.  Some of them are: wash the other person’s hair; kiss on the mouth for five minutes – no using your hands!; kiss the other person on their back for three minutes; give the other person a back massage; receive a back massage; take a shower together; cuddle naked for 10 minutes; share the best three parts of your week.

Second, we wrote these all on pretty little cards and put them in a pretty little box.

Third, we made rules: we each took a night to pick from the box, and we alternated nights.  If you picked something you didn’t like, you could pick something else. Then you had the option of picking between the two.  If you didn’t like either of those (for example, you’re already in bed and you don’t want to get up and take a shower), then you could pick a third card, but if you picked a third card then you had to do the third card.  Obviously, if you’re doing this then you can change the rules to whatever works for you.

Fourth: just do it.  The Box gave us parameters: if we were in the mood for something more, then something more could happen.  If we were not both in the mood for something more, we knew it would end, but could also enjoy the moment.

Hooray!  Plus, if you’re totally immature like my little brother, you can giggle over “box” whenever you talk about The Box.

I’m not really sure how to end this post in any creative way.  Are there things you guys are interested in reading about?  What would you want to read about if you read a blog by a rape crisis center?

Someone whose awesome blog I read regularly inspired me to finally sit down and write this, but so did the video I’m posting below, which I saw for the first time tonight.  I was feeling very skeptical and critical as I watched it, and then at the end I got chills.  I’m interested in thinking more about it, and hearing what you think.  Please be careful with your comments – which is not to say censor yourself *at all*, but know that there are survivors of sexual assault who read this.  Thank you.

*Note: I tried to only talk about myself and my experiences here.  Please note that I did not reference Turtle – please do not make assumptions about which friends or partners I am referencing.  If you found this triggering in any way, or would like to talk to someone who is not me (though I am totally happy to talk to you!), check out your local RCC, and feel free to call their hotlines.  Really, hotline workers are awesome, smart, and listen well.  Lastly, please tell me if you want more of this info/my thoughts/etc.  Sorry for the lack of pictures… nothing quite goes.

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7 Comments

Filed under other, Relationships

7 responses to “The Box

  1. Erica

    What you’re saying about expectation feels very true to me – the feeling that your partner wants something can make you feel alienated from what you want, even if it’s the very same thing, and that feeling somehow distances you both from your own feelings and desires, and separates you from the situation in a way that’s both protective and damaging. I love your idea with The Box, and I’d love to hear more about what your thoughts/feelings/plans/actions when it comes to this area. I say write on! Though I also feel that way about all of the things you write here, even if I never (until now!) crop up to tell you that.

  2. E.

    I don’t even imagine that I can relate to the experience of survivors of sexual assault, but I do find your issues to be very similar to what I dealt with after getting out of a relationship with somebody who used me for sex. Of course that makes me 100% awkward and I actually say things like, “I’m sorry, did my kissing you make you think that I want to have sex?”

    I really like the box idea. I think it’s fun, but not stressful. Going on the list for when bar review is over…

  3. I think this post was very enlightening and I actually think it was interesting. You succeeded!

    I like your idea of the Box, and think it might be a good idea for people who aren’t yet having sex, but are somewhere along the intimacy scale. It will work with a variety of couples. Or even with some that are sexually active, but don’t want to be pressured to do it every evening together.

    I’d love to hear more, so if you start a series about this, I would definitely read it.

  4. Anne

    I love the idea of The Box. It gives a framework to be intimate without it being too overwhelming to set limits. I think that something that many survivors struggle with is the ability to say “no”, and to ask for what they/we need. (I speak both as a survivor and as a therapist.) One book that I have found to be great is Urban Tantra by Barbara Carrellas. She’s super conscious about not assuming anyone’s gender identity or sexuality, and pays special attention to survivors, because tantra (to her) is all about asking for what you want and saying no to what you don’t want and having it be heard and respected, which is a hugely reparative experience.

    I’d love to hear more about your experiences. I love your writing!

  5. I brought up your post idea to Josh over dinner the other night. I was all, “so Bird (then I have to explain who Bird is) and I emailed and she wants to write about having a healthy sex life after assault” and that’s where I lost him- completely lost him. He nodded and acknowledged it was a good idea, but I don’t think he got it.

    Although I’ve been fairly open with him about this stuff, he has a very hard time understanding all of it. Maybe in your series of posts, you could talk about how to talk about suriving assault/sex with a partner who has not had to deal with sexual assault.

    I am most definitely going to check out those books and The Box has been added to my homework list. Thank you!

  6. *

    LOVED the post 🙂 How did it feel to write it? There isn’t enough out there on interweb about this. Maybe you could write about strategies for “staying in the moment”?

  7. C

    I love the idea of The Box! I can absolutely relate to the feeling of expectation and it can be *so* overwhelming. I also agree with Ms. Bunny that it’s a good idea for those who may not be ready for sex but are beginning to be intimate. This idea of sexual life after assault is absolutely neglected, so thanks for bringing it up.

    I’m definitely interested in the topic, difficult as it may be to both read & write about. When you asked “who do I write as?” I understand your question, but I also think your many different (and important/relevant) experiences leave your with a very valuable approach. Keep doing what you’re doing- it’s much appreciated!

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