A thought exercise for cis men, and especially straight ones:

Imagine that someone you are attracted to offers you a blowjob. You say yes. It starts out great, but right as you are getting into it, your partner bites you. Hard enough to draw blood.
You, understandably, are upset by this turn of events, and you tell your partner that they hurt you.

“Hey, you consented to a blowjob,” they reply.
Within normative heterosexual sex, a blowjob is one of the few times where the male participant cedes some degree of power to his female partner — where his pleasure comes with some degree of risk of her causing harm to him.
But if you are a woman having sex with a man — particularly “normal” heterosexual sex — most of your experience requires you to cede power to your partner in order to experience pleasure.
Allowing someone to penetrate you — whether with a penis, fingers, or toys — or even put their mouth on your genitals requires you to embrace a certain amount of vulnerability. Your partner could, at any moment, do something that causes you serious harm.
And the reason this whole arrangement works is that most of us enter into it with an assumption that there is a mutually agreed upon code of conduct: that, say, you don’t bite the dick that someone agrees to let you blow.
Most of us assume that consenting to receive pleasure is not consenting to have *anything*, even harmful things, done to us.
But in my experience, a lot of straight men *don’t* respect those unstated boundaries, and *do* assume that a license to pleasure a partner is also a license to cause them potentially lasting harm.
And should you complain about the harm that was caused — even harm that was caused without warning — the response is almost always that your earlier consent obviously gave them license to do this to you.
I had an experience in New Year’s Eve 2012 — or I guess technically New Year’s Day 2013 — that still haunts me, an experience where someone took my vulnerability as an opportunity to do something so vile to me that I cannot even bear to talk about it, even with friends.
And what’s awful is when I think about that experience, I end up wondering whether it was my fault for not objecting firmly enough, when the real question should be, “How could a person think it was okay to do something so vile and debasing to a person without explicit consent?”
I am fortunate that the only physical harm that experience led to was a UTI that cleared up after a course of antibiotics.

But the emotional and mental harm that experience — and the many many like it — caused me is something I am still repairing.
I think it’s funny that we live in a world where men see one broken heart as justification for a lifetime of violent misogyny, but where me having my boundaries and physical safety repeatedly violated is somehow not supposed to be grounds for a deep and abiding distrust of men.
PS I appreciate everyone telling me they’re sorry a bad thing happened to me, but I also have a hard time with it? I think it’s partly because I’m still in denial about the awfulness of what happened to me, and still feel culpable, like I somehow attracted this violation.
I mention that mostly because I think it’s really important to acknowledge how complicated healing from shit like this is. I *know* what happened wasn’t my fault, but I still wrestle with the feeling that it happened because I wasn’t the kind of woman men respect.
And weirdly, sympathy from people often sets of a sense of self loathing, because recognizing the badness of what happens intensifies my feeling that it means something bad about me or my worth — even as I am aware, again, that it obviously wasn’t my fault.
Healing: Complicated!
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