This is getting harder to write.
We had an obvious power differential all along, partly because I had B on a pedestal; more generally because B had a fallback position of the wife and home she never left; but also, oddly, because she was a gold star liberal feminist lesbian who had no clue what it was like for women who had sex with men to live within the patriarchy (of whose existence she had no doubt). Perhaps because she had chosen to live in a particular type of lesbian bubble for so long, she had no empathy and nothing but judgement for the political and sexual negotiations her less-Sapphic sisters were dealing with every day. In retrospect, I think it was this last qualifier that made her such a bully when it came to understanding anyone’s sexual position but her own. She had even lost perspective that the experience of sexual abuse was not the exclusive preserve of heterosexual women.
I’d like to contextualise her attitude and actions further, but can only describe some of the impact of that. In practice, her attitude manifested itself in disbelieving my experience of sexual abuse. She held me culpable. So for example, when the doctor locked me in his office, and even with the chaperone I’d requested present, (she looked away as he did what he did), he did something to me entirely unnecessary for the examination, (gloves on, gloves off…), even then, B questioned me.
Why had I let him do this… how could I be sure it wasn’t necessary … was I clear on what had happened?
She did not give me the dignity of accepting my point of view. Accepting the authenticity of my experience. And regarding sexuality, this was always the case. She made the rules, and I guess in one of these rules in her head, there was no such thing as abuse of power or coercion; if there was no blood or no black eye, everything was consensual. I was culpable.
This fits with her overall sexual modus operandi. Entirely apart from calling me a ‘prick tease’, she felt entitled to sex with me, without offering any commitment that our unsatisfactory arrangement could ever change. She called me ‘controlling’ because eventually I said I had to stop the sexual relationship because it was destroying me being only a sexual partner with no autonomy in where or when or even whether I saw her. She did not think there was anything wrong with our sexual arrangement, being solely on her terms, even though I clearly wanted something more – she blamed me wanting more, not accepting that the inequality that she had created was a manipulation. She thought that as long as a physical sexual act was taking place, and there was no physical violence, there could be no question of wilful inequality, no sense of coercion.
She was sex positive* in the way that if I slept with her, I was consenting to be the subject of her duplicity, lies and ongoing deception: ‘anything goes between women’ she said. If I dated a man, and he didn’t hit me before he did it, anything he put in my body was fine; it was my choice. In the same sense that if I’d had my clothes off and my legs in stirrups in a locked room, that doctor could do anything he wanted to me.
* I am not suggesting all these acts were ‘comparable’ ‘sexual’ acts. In B’s mind, everyone has complete sexual and physical autonomy, unless physically coerced through a violent act, and therefore, she deemed me actively culpable, if not consenting, in the acts of abuse I had described to her.
(re: Beth Orton)