BUILDING ARMOR - THE HARD WAY: Some Hard-Hitting Lessons From My HIS-Story
THE FIGHTERS - Gawking at My First Heavy Weapons Tournament
DAMSEL OUT OF DIS-DRESS - My First Time in Heavy Armor
JERRY-RIGGING - Building My First Set of Armor
~Gavin De Becker, security specialist and author of The Gift of Fear: Survival Signs that Protect Us From Violence (7)
If that inflammatory quote doesn’t warn you what we’re about to dive into, let me be explicit: #MeToo and #RapeCulture. And nope, the quote isn't true 100% of the time. Not even close. It's "only" true too often. And nope, I'm not talking about women turning a perfectly nice evening into a treaty conference when a man says NO about nag-chores, money-bitching, or attention-whining.
We're talking specifically about sexual violence, harassment, and coercion. (1-3, 5, 6) Since we're on my blog, we're not going to be talking about it gently in code either. Plenty of other people do that well. That's not my delivery system today.
And yes, I know, #NotAllMen. Truth. Contrary to false rumors and labels that have been affixed to my name, my table is NOT the place to gratuitously man-bash. I adore the men in my life, and I'm ferociously protective of them. I need male friendship as much as I need any other type. Always have, since my first best friend Johnny to two of my current besties and the masculine aspects of the one who fluctuates. (4)
Unfortunately, it's Enough Men. Certain kinds of men. Too Many Men. And boys. And too many males who think they're not part of the problem simply because they're "nice" and they don't forcibly slam their dicks into protesting or passed-out individuals.
Yet they still stand by and do nothing as overt misogyny goes on all around them, and they personally participate in its more insidious, socially acceptable forms. They "jokingly" deride their buddies and seriously disparage males they consider inferior by calling them "pussies." They don't think twice about sneering, "You BLEEP like a girl." They marry and date women who use these word, and then teach their daughters to do this to their boyfriends. They reserve the be-all-end-all of profane, nearly unutterable insults for the most intimate, sacred, and magical of my bodily cavities: the cunt. (5)
It takes proactive, purposeful conduct to change things, not merely "being nice" and refraining from violent penetration.
And yup, Too Many Women also do this shit. And girls. And people. With that said, 100% of my sexual violence, molestation, domestic violence, stalking, rape threat, and death threat perpetrators have ALL BEEN MALE. None of them were strangers jumping out at me from the bushes or in a dark alley. I once trusted all but one of them. I even loved a bunch of them. They all treated me very "nicely."
Until they didn't.
100% of the strangers who have groped me, menaced me, and cat-called me have ALL BEEN MALE. I have only experienced violence from females as a bullied child and from one martial arts instructor, and it never included sexual contact, threats, or coercion.
My experience is not the only experience, but it's the only one I have. And yes, I've witnessed violent spousal abuse committed by a female upon a male, and I know males who have been sexually abused by a female. This issue doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves. Don't even get me started about people who don't fall into the cis M/F binary. But this blog is about MY life, hence why we're sticking to the lens of my experiences.
My hands-on education in this subject mirrors the statistics, and they are so slanted by gender that it becomes really annoying having to deal with this crap over and over and over...inhaaaale...and over and over and a few times more. And ooooh, now I live in the #1 rape state in the Continental US as of 2021. I knew that figure would be high, but not this high.
🤘 Well done, Arkansas. Well done. (Alaska is #1 in the country.)
If you missed the last time I wrote about how my generation learned to grow up into "real men" and interpret women's evasive maneuvers, protests, and especially their anger, here's a prime example:
And this sucks. Because I love those movies. I enjoy Harrison Ford's characters way more than any Luke Skywalker or Superman out there. We'll get into this tricky, dark-chocolate web of my psyche in the future. For now, just understand that everything I saw and modeled as a kid--both as a "nice girl" and as a tomboy--combined with the real-time episodes of my life to create the microcosm of this toxic macrocosm.
Of course I have to wonder, if everybody reported their instances of sexual abuse, how would those statics actually stack up? Especially in places where "the authorities" are white and victims are not. Or in places where minority populations have been stripped of their power to prosecute perpetrators outside their demographic. (6)
Sexual violence crimes are vastly underreported for so many reasons. I never reported any of the ones that happened to me, and I'm white with a hefty cis presentation. Heck, I never even told my friends I'd been raped until many years later. (Don't worry. We'll get into allll sorts of why, including how three of the first people I tiptoed toward telling heaped even more damage onto the violation.)
It's also true that males have an extra stigma about reporting TheirsToo, and statistics are only just starting to include trans and non-binary figures (thankfully both of these issues are receiving more attention), so to imagine that these numbers are actually so much higher?
As you can see in the stat articles, especially the country-by-country one, it's really hard to get an accurate picture. Not every country calls rape "rape" the same way, and some have "unrapeable" exclusions like wives. Some have exclusions like females. In those places we're "just property," after all, and it wasn't terribly long ago that females and people with dark skin had that legal label slathered all over them in my own country. It still slants everything and makes it harder to get accurate numbers. (6)
The factors surrounding that difficulty itself show this for what it is: a long-lasting pandemic.
No surprise to me, given how many different times and different ways I've experienced it. Among all the women with whom I've discussed this subject, I have only met two in my whole life who answered that they had never experienced some sort of sexual trauma. Most of us have been outright raped at least once. For the majority of us, these crimes were committed exclusively by males.
It's just...I dunno. It's just how we're dealt with when we have vaginas or present like we might. Don't like something a female says or does? Threaten her with rape or do it. "That'll shut her the fuck up. Loudmouth bitch. Uppity cunt."
Go look at the internet comments on a male and a female celebrity who do the same job. How often are comments on the female's page about her body, something derogatorily sexual, or sexual assault threats? How often does the male receive, "I'll rape your wife and kids!" versus "I'll rape you!"
On the pages that I've seen, it's just a little slanted.
Using these tactics, whether in threat or deed, is so common and constant that it's scary how "Standard Operating Procedure" it seems. Ugly, yes. Atrocious and unconscionable, of course. But "SOP," especially in our younger years.
I would have to ask today's girls and young women if it registers to them the way it registered to me in the 70s, 80s and 90s: that it's one of the many things "you can't do much about" unless you're broken and bloody and a bunch of people heard you screaming, and then there's a good chance not even then, depending on how many victim-blaming factors you've got stacked against you. It was touted as "our responsibility to not get ourselves raped." Sexual abuse was just one of many things we put up with all the time because "that's how life is for a female" and WHEN it happened, it was often more dangerous to try to do something about it than to live with it in silence.
Often it still is.
Oh, pardon me. Let me clarify that. More dangerous with regard to external threats to one's body and loved ones. Festering silence is not less dangerous to one's spirit and mind, and the internal damage that this wreaks upon the body. (2)
As such, we’re also going to be taking a look at my college-age mindset--the awful and self-harming mental landscape of a traumatized eggshell-walker. An HSP abuse survivor who was the human equivalent of a longtail cat in a room full of rocking chairs. A “good girl.” A “nice girl.”
This mindset was not accurate, rational, or self-loving, much less self-protective. We'll go deeper into that later, too. But first let me show you the thoughts and feeling at war inside me as it was happening. (1, 2)
At twenty-two, I was the former punching bag who’d survived and escaped. I’d developed a longstanding habit of carving out memories and shoving them into the back of the freezer when my life circumstances were too overwhelming. I’d been doing this since I was on a changing table. I did it again when I was four. I did it over and over throughout the majority of 1992.
I did it in June of 1995.
No shit, there I was, thinking life was hunky-dory because I had escaped my childhood hometown of Hell, was approaching the end of college, and was engaged to a wonderful man (who went to school 2000 miles away). To top off my bliss, I’d just been gifted with the answer to a dozen of my prayers, hopes, and dreams all in one handy place: the Society for Creative Anachronism where the History Major played knights-in-shining-armor and drum circle dancer.
I had no clue what was going on beneath the surface of my psyche.
Remember when I wrote this about Hal Jensen’s death:
Looking back now on everything that has happened between that day and this one, I wonder who I would have become in the SCA--in my life--if Hal had been around to show me the ropes.
For me, the loss of him had far greater impact beyond the hole in my heart from missing my dear friend. That was hard enough. But there were many things Hal and I had planned to do together, and he would have been trustworthy enough to introduce me to them all. He’d planned to take me to my first event. He’d promised to teach me everything he knew about fighting.
He’d promised to help me build my first set of armor.
Ultimately, his death was like a trebuchet stone launched into my always-tenuous defenses. I wouldn't realize that right away. Not while I was in the insulated and nurturing atmosphere of our close-knit Shire. It would take less than a month for that weakened spot in the wall to come crashing down. What poured into the breach changed my life as dramatically as encountering a Viking warrior in the halls of my university.
Is that a bad thing?
Eh...define "bad." Personally, I like where it's brought me, but I never would have chosen it of my own volition.
~Audre Lorde, Warrior-Poet:
"I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We've been taught that silence would save us, but it won't." “I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and to share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigating pain.”
...and when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed but when we are silent we are still afraid So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.
~From A Litany for Survival
So let’s go back now to my first solo apartment on Third Street. It’s up on the third floor of a gorgeous brick building shaped like a U with a courtyard in the middle and a view of the hillside that leads down to Lake Superior. This apartment had numerous windows, steam heat, and lovely glass-window cabinets in the tiny kitchen.
I adored that apartment. It was mine--only mine, ahhhhh, hallelujah--for the first time in my life. That is, except for the few-month stints when my fiancé came back home to earn more money for another semester at art school in California.
Then it was ours.
This was where Satyr and I spent one Saturday afternoon and evening building my armor--on the wood floor of my bedroom because it was more conducive to pounding rivets than the carpet in the living room or my glass-top dining table.
22 years old
Once Satyr and I complete our armor-making project, and the tools and scraps have been put aside, food happens. Rest happens. And then showers and sleep need to happen. Since my armor-meister has driven for several hours to come help me, he needs what the SCA commonly refers to as “crash space.” After I brush my teeth, change into pajamas, and take a pre-slumber pee, I open the bathroom door to find all the lights out in the apartment.
All the lights, that is, except for my bedroom.
To my ice-veined shock, I find Satyr sitting on my bed with the covers pulled back.
Instantaneous hackles of alarm: engaged.
Brain function: bwow-wohh-wohhh-wohhhhh…CRASH.
From this moment on, everything happens very quickly. If you’ve ever been in one of these situations, then you know. Time doesn’t exactly work right. It definitely doesn’t transpire in any fashion that could be described as “normal.” Nothing does. All the colors go a weird hue. Not quite sepia. Overexposed.
I make mention of the couch out in the living room. Satyr snickers it off as though I’m acting really immature and reminds me that the SCA is one big puppy-pile family. Men, women, husbands, other people’s wives, everybody’s kids, everybody’s everybody and their dogs. We all curl up on somebody’s sprawling bed frame in the afternoons when the heat is too much, or we flop in piles of cushions around the campfire.
I say “we”. In truth, I haven’t yet experienced it myself because I’m still too new. I’ve only been to one event so far. But I’m accustomed to the kind of culture he’s describing from the theater, and I saw it all weekend during Castle Fever. I know he’s not lying.
(I was also too much of a newb to have yet heard one of the SCA’s most prominent nicknames: the Society for Creative Adultery.)
So after some more tries to shut this down amidst a clashing, colliding war of brain static and panicked arguing in my head, I let Satyr deride me into curling up for the night beside me in my bed. I lay there, stiffer than a tabletop with the covers clenched up to my chin, as far over against the wall as I can get. No surprise, he comes onto me. I try to deflect again. He doesn’t take no for an answer, so I flash that classic Get Out of Jail Free Card that any decent guy will never dare to cross: I remind him that I’m engaged to another man.
For a long moment, he doesn’t reply.
I pray that will be the end of it and that he’ll roll over and fall asleep.
Finally, he speaks. Quietly. With clear enunciation. “I could just take it anyway.”
Wait a--did I just--did he--?
“I could just rape you.”
*record player screeeeeeeech!*
What in the flaming--
Yeahhhhh, let’s rewind the VHS tape and slow everything down to examine, in minute detail, what brought me to this unforgettable moment hacked into my life like the descending slice of an axe, shall we?
Because as I hem and haw in the doorway with Satyr so “innocently” sitting there, inviting me into my own damn bed, I am sick to my stomach. My heart is hammering. The frigid blood surging through my brains isn’t helping me think any more clearly. All I know is that I don’t want my armor-meister in my bed no matter what kind of labels anybody might slap onto me.
I remember what people in touchy-feely cuddle-cultures label those of us who aren’t comfy with it, and it’s everything he’s saying without quite saying it.
Oh-so-immature and un-evolved.
I do not care.
It doesn’t feel right because I’m engaged to another man who is not enthusiastically part of the SCA’s culture, and Kyle isn’t here to give his opinion of it.
Mostly, I don’t want Satyr in my bed because I don’t fucking want him there.
Visual characteristics alone, he's actually a pretty good looking guy. That does not matter. I have zero attraction to him. And now? After this, I am downright sexually repulsed. I want to start demanding that he sleep on my couch. Better yet, I’d love to demand that he take his entitled, invasive self outside to sleep in the back of his car if he’s too tired to drive home.
I run the potential conversation options in my head. If I keep insisting and he shrugs, then traipses off to politely sleep on the couch, great. No harm, no foul. I won’t get any sleep tonight, but he’ll be out of here tomorrow morning and he will never get to come back here.
But what if he ups the ante and intensifies his cajoling to match my insistence? What if he says that I owe him after all that energy he just poured into helping me build my armor?
Can I tell you how often they say that we owe them?
Do I need to count it out for you?
And here I’d thought the SCA was supposed to be different. It was supposed to be safe. One big family. Isn’t that what they said? Now it’s Satyr’s primary argument for why he should be allowed to sleep in my bed. Well, he’s clearly listed the price for his services.
What if he becomes insulted when I refuse to pay up? Pissed off, even? What if he calls me a tease and shoves my hand down his pants and--
Whoa! You are not thirteen and he is not Trent. You’ve never even flirted with him, much less reciprocated explicit sexual innuendos that you didn’t remotely understand. You’ve certainly never snuck to a playground to swap spit with him. Just calm down there, freaker!
But what if he gets just as pissed as Trent did that I don’t want my hand down his pants and this time I’m not able to escape? He's not as tall as Trent was, but he's faster, and I've seen him whale on bigger guys on the field. He's certainly taller than I am, and way stronger. What if he grabs me by the throat and slams me into the wall? What if he slams me onto the bed? What if he throws me across the room and--
What in the sulfur-reeking butt-crack of Hell is wrong with you?! The guy is just tired and doesn’t wanna have to sleep on your rickety, skinny-ass, creaky couch if he doesn’t have to. You have a perfectly comfy double-wide bed all to yourself so stop being so sour-pussy, immature, and selfish.
Hey! I got that bed for me and Kyle.
Yeah, well…Satyr’s still fucking staring at you. Are you ever going to move or utter another thing out your gawking mouth? If you want him to sleep on the couch, SAY IT.
But what if he slams my face into the floor and yanks my shorts down and--
WHAT?! Wow. Paranoid much? You know, everybody was right about you. You're not only weird, stuck-up, prudish, and selfish. You truly are a fucking psycho. Calm the fuck down, shut the fuck up, shut out the lights, and go to sleep, you hyper, drama-queen, melodramatic freak. This is why everyone hates us, remember?
Yes. I remember. You never let me forget.
Because you never remember on your own. Point in case: here you are again, freaking out over nothing with someone who has only been NICE to you all day and done you a super huge favor. The least you could do is show some appreciation instead of accusing him of awful things in your mind.
This entire Mach-10 argument battles through my brain in the time it takes for Satyr’s easygoing grin to finish forming across his face after he completes the words, “one big cuddle family.” I really don’t like the look in his eyes. His smile and words might seem disarming and playful, but his eyes are already laying out price tags and guilt-laden consequences if I don’t pay up.
I have three choices right now.
I can get into that bed and pray he goes to sleep.
Since suggesting nicely and asking firmly has failed, I can turn into a bitch and point at the door, demanding that he walk through it, then pray that he doesn't become angry.
Or I can sprint out the door myself, wearing no shoes, and pray that he doesn't chase me. If I make it to my car, what would I tell the police? That I'm Princess Leia and I "had a bad feeling" about the way a guy smiled at me? Satyr hasn't DONE anything to me--except given me an entire day of favors. I have no proof of a single crime. I'm sure the police would send me back here alone with a pat on the head and a roll of their eyes about "hysterical females."
That's how they treated Marlene, and Theo has committed years of felonies against her. He just threatened me with three of them a few days ago, so what if I really need the cops someday soon here, and they think I've cried wolf about Satyr?
Shit, what if they believed me? What if they escorted me back here and he hasn't left? That would be fun. Satyr will just say I'm crazy. Even if they kept believing me and made him leave tonight, he knows where I live now. He knows I live alone, and I'll have to deal with him at every event in the future.
Every event out in the woods.
No doubt he would tell the whole SCA that I'm crazy, too. They always say I'm crazy, and people believe the worst about me so easily. Then I'd have to deal with him alone. Him and everybody he would turn against me. What else is new?
He's still staring at me, and his eyes are beginning to say it already. What the hell is wrong with you? The space between him and the wall yawns like a chasm. I have to fucking do something. I have to say something.
In fact, I don’t.
I have lost all capacity to form coherent words, so I shut my gob, shut out the light, and crawl in beside him with a hammering heart. I don't know what else to do. The last thing I want is to insult or piss him off, for many more reasons than the fact that I truly am grateful for everything he did for me today. But I’ve blundered straight into another dilemma like I always fucking do.
You are such a naive, gullible idiot. No guy you haven’t already prepaid by screwing him, or at least sucking him off, does something like this out of the goodness of his heart. You know that. What the fuck were you thinking!
That he was like Hal. Or Maghnuis. Or Michael or Robert or Diarmuid. I'd taken Satyr for another honorable gentleman of the SCA, generously giving of his time and experience because that’s what the SCA does for newbies. Doesn’t it?
Well, I guess now you know. Good job there, genius.
What! They have an entire award chain-of-precedence based on service. You can be awarded a Peerage for service. Chivalry and the configuration of households is all based on a foundation of service to others. Isn't it?
Yup. Guess it's time you got down to all that Servicing.
Fuck you. I don't want to.
So don't. Then we'll see what happens.
Exactly. If I start being a bitch now, if I try to boot him off this mattress and vehemently insist that he sleep on the couch--better yet, if I tell him to get the hell outta my apartment for being so presumptuous as to sit on my bed like that--MY BED--if make him angry and he acts on that, what can I do about it, pinned here against the wall? I don’t know how to fight yet, and everybody will say that I deserved it. That I must have wanted it.
They always say that I want it.
And now they’ve seen me dance. I was practically dressed as a jingle-bunny at that first event when Satyr and I chatted and laughed together around the campfire. I should know by now what everybody assumes about belly dancers. Plus I’ve heard the comments people make about girls who get into armor, too--that unless we’re super butch and lesbian, we’re all “really just there to get up close and sweaty with the guys.”
But I meant that, too, when I said I want to make armor and learn how to fight. I meant it as much as I mean it that I got this bed for me and Kyle.
Good luck anybody believing that. Especially Satyr or anybody he tells his side to. Hell, anybody who hears your side if you tell them the truth.
Yeah. No shit.
Because I am the idiot who opened my door to a man who is not my fiancé and spent all day with him--ALONE. I’m the idiot who accepted his help under the pretense of "doing something nice for a newcomer." And now I'm the scaredy-cat damsel, too terrified of pissing off yet another man to defend my boundaries and make him sleep on the couch.
Well, I’ve made this bed with every smile and every laugh and every rivet that I pounded from Satyr’s stash into my new armor, so now I’m going to have to squirm in it.
I'm not the person to ask for advice about this subject. These people are:
—RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) - Including the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
--UP NEXT: They train us well, don't they? To believe we deserve it. To believe it's our fault. To believe that we owe them either sex or violence if we don't pay up for how "nice" they've been. In the hopes of not "provoking" an attack, some of us become "nice" too. THE DAMSEL: Predators, Instincts, "Nice Girls" & Neurodivergence.
--OR: You can find five decades worth of tales about being a female learning the Arts of Self-Defense HERE.
--OR: Did you miss that time I threw myself under the MeToo bus by modeling what I learned from the swaggering, full-court-press template instead of the shrinking violet "good girl" model?
--THE NAVIGATION TABLE OF CONTENTS
JUST A FEW HANDY LINKS - in case you’re not as well-versed in this subject as I am
**And yes, they mostly focus on the female experience with regard to males, because those were the dynamics of this incident, and because I am a female who has exclusively had this type of abuse dealt out by males. Hence why I’m sticking to what I know firsthand. If you have experience from another point of view, you should tell it, too. Maybe if we all told our tales like this one, people would start believing us, and then maybe something could actually change.
1) Just Say NO
—Why Didn’t You Just Say “NO”?
—Before you ask why someone didn’t say “NO” or leave, CONSIDER THIS.
—Fawning is not consent. It's a trauma response like Fight, Flight & Freeze.
2) The Traumatized Mindset & C-PTSD
—Complex PTSD - how prolonged and repeated childhood trauma rewires the nervous system and manifests in personality, self-esteem, and behaviors
—8 Signs You Might Be Traumatized
—How Trauma & Dissociation interrupt the ability to form memories
—One of the best books I have ever read in my life: The Body Keeps the Score - Brain, Mind & Body in the Healing of Trauma
—Don't want to read the book? Here's the basic premise of what trauma does to the body and why talking about it, even in therapy, so often doesn't solve the problems: Short Version. Or Long Version by the author himself
—A few of the myriad healing techniques discussed in the book: EMDR, Yoga, Mindfulness & Support Network. These are only a few the book covers.
—EMDR: The technique that has given me the most success, both for immediate single-incident trauma (my big car wreck) and for C-PTSD.
3) The “Friendzone” and Using “Nice” to Get Sex
—“Friendzone” sounds better than “liar intent on sexual manipulation zone” to me.
—One man talks about using “nice” as a tactic for sex - “Women aren’t slot machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.”
—How the term “Friendzone” perpetuates rape culture and sexism
—The Dark Side of the Friendzone
4) The positive side of the Friendzone - the differences between what many women and men are looking for from coed friendships and why it’s so confusing
5) #MeToo and More Fun Feminine TomFoolery
—It’s no wonder men objectify us when our bodies are asking for it
—Schrodinger’s Rapist - why women assume the worst about that guy who's "just trying to be nice"
—Schrodinger’s Rapist - yes, we have to talk about this again
—Male sex entitlement is killing women
—ALSO: Sexual violence committed upon males hits just as hard--and it's not only done by other males. They're just silenced and stigmatized, which heaps on more damage to male survivors, and it further perpetuates the cultural "boys will be boys" myth that “males are either sexually insatiable and aggressive or pussies; females are weak, pure damsels or conniving, manipulating whores.”
6) #YouToo: A Few At-Risk Populations
—Rape Statistics by State 2021
—Rape Statistics by Country 2021 - and how difficult it is to get an accurate account. Anywhere. Because not everybody calls rape "rape". Remember once upon a time that wives were considered "unrapeable?" In a bunch of places, they still are, and even in spite of US laws it's still difficult to prove even here.
—Ooooh, and remember that time the United States conveniently labeled Black females "unrapeable" so they could do what they wanted to their slaves? That crap still trickles down into attitudes today:
—The legal system has failed Black girls, women, and non-binary survivors of violence.
—American Indian and Alaska Native women are still the highest at-risk group for violence and sexual trauma--96% from non-Native perpetrators because the indigenous Nations have been stripped of their authority to prosecute them.
—Another hidden atrocity: People with disabilities are more than seven times higher to experience sexual assault than people without.
7) Boundaries, Instincts, Self-Defense
—Another one of the best books I’ve ever read - The Gift of Fear - Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by Gavin DeBecker
—Why your boundaries are not welcome in an abusive relationship - the mindset that I was drowning in after escaping a violent and head-fucky relationship the year before I got engaged. And a few thoughts on how to rectify that.
—Setting healthy boundaries after an abusive relationship
—“NO” is a complete sentence. Full Stop.
**It should be noted that I’ve never known anyone who was nicknamed Satyr. That makes this tale a work of fiction.
Based on the pieces of my life that aren’t.