22 True Stories of non-consent

I’ll start with a trigger warning. This is a rapid-fire series of true stories from my life, each of which made me think in some way about consent. I may be a white male from an upper-middle class family but I’ve still seen some shit. Consider yourself warned.

I think all humans face enough non-consensual situations to fill a book, so we have to pick and choose which ones will be significant. These are the ones I chose.

You can jump around if you feel like it since most of the stories can be read independently of each other.

1. Circumcision

I suppose I’ll dive right into a contentious issue. I kind of have to since I wanted to tell the stories in chronological order, and this was the first.

The first time I actually looked at another boy’s penis, I was shocked. I don’t know how I knew, but I just knew something was not right. I asked him if it had been injured or something had cut it. He said no, this was just what it looked like naturally.

So I ran to my mom in a panic, telling her that someone had done something to my friend. His penis was hideous and deformed.

My friend was understandably concerned, but my mom assured him nothing was wrong, then sent him away or something. I don’t remember exactly. Somehow she got me alone, and explained the concept of circumcision. The scary part for me as a pre-school age boy was just how calm and matter-of-fact she was about it. “It’s just a part of their religion. They cut the skin off their kid’s penis. It’s kind of like a sacrifice to their god. Their holy book tells them to do it. Your dad and I aren’t in that religion so we decided we’d let you make the choice for yourself. We weren’t sure if that was the right thing to do but that’s what we decided.”

And that last sentence sent me into another panic. I remember screaming at her “Yes! Yes that was the right decision!” I felt like she had pulled out a gun and shot a hat off my head. The fact that they had even thought about it sent a chill up my spine.

It seems strange that one of the first things boys in our society experience is a violent and non-consensual act against their sexual organs. I often wonder if that has set some kind of moral precedent in the minds of many men throughout history that gets applied to other areas of their lives.

It’s also important for women and circumcised men to note that those of us who have not been circumcised often avoid talking about it because we don’t want other men to become bitter about something they can’t change. So we rarely talk about how great it is to have foreskin and how much pleasure it brings us.

As I got older and started to realize that most other boys had this done to them, I became more and more appreciative of my parents’ decision, and while I’ll admit I never showed the proper level of appreciation, I did recognize I had better parents than virtually anyone else I knew.

I think I got most of my concepts of consent from my parents. They made a real effort that I rarely see to avoid forcing me to do anything that wasn’t necessary to my health or future. I think that may be why many of these stories were so shocking to me. The rest of the world does not think like me or my parents.

2. The Hate Crime

In sixth grade, two boys were caught naked, fooling around in the bushes. A teacher called everyone in my grade together and basically had a meltdown in front of all of us, screaming about how horrible and evil it is to do anything sexual before you turn eighteen. He repeatedly stated that it had nothing to do with their sexual orientation and that he would be just as furious if it was a straight couple. I couldn’t help thinking he was lying and would have handled the situation with far more class if a girl had been involved.

He told us the identity of the two boys would always remain secret, but told us they were in our grade and they were not in the room. He knew full well that sixth graders could use a simple process of elimination to see that only two boys were absent.

The next day at recess I saw a crowd forming out in the field. Several teachers watched from a distance, but did not investigate as they would in virtually any other situation when a crowd forms. I joined the crowd to see these two boys, rolling around in the mud, clinging to each other, sobbing and pleading for mercy as the crowd took turns kicking them, shoving their faces in the mud and hitting them with baseball bats. There were even a couple girls joining in the violence.

The next day the two boys came back to school as though nothing had happened. They wore big, friendly smiles, and seemed to be desperately hiding their fear and trauma. No one ever mentioned this again. To me it was just another instance of bullying. My school was so violent that I felt this was only slightly above the norm. The teachers were clearly okay with it, so it took years before I really stopped to think that I had witnessed a hate crime.

No one ever reported this. I doubt the kids even told their parents. And that starts a theme in this story collection: no one ever reports stuff like this. I don’t mean that as an exaggeration. It’s almost literally true. Out of the dozens of illegal consent violations I’ve described here, only a couple were actually reported.

It’s not just fear and shame but a whole host of other emotions too. Everyone thinks they would report it but then when it actually happens, they realize reporting it requires them to withhold forgiveness, delay their own healing process and continue on with all the drama surrounding the event.

These days it upsets me when people try to use statistics to describe hate crimes, sexual assaults, police brutality, child abuse, and things like that. Invariably those statistics will be far lower than the actual reality. In my opinion the gap is so huge that crime statistics are practically worthless.

3. At the Counselor’s Office

When I was in eighth grade my parents decided to get a divorce. This came out of left field for me. A day or two later the school counselor pulled me out of class in the middle of the teacher giving a lesson, right in front of everyone and brought me to her office where she grilled me about my feelings. She was running “voluntary” group therapy for some other kids whose parents were getting a divorce. She kept using that word. “Voluntary.” I refused to join. Part of the issue was that I felt this counselor was anorexic and in denial about it. She was so skinny I had a hard time looking at her, which made me feel like a chauvinistic asshole but there was nothing I could do about it.

She wanted an explanation. I told her I just didn’t want to do group therapy. She said that wasn’t good enough. I had to give her a better reason. I told her I just wanted to work things out on my own. Again, she said that explanation wasn’t good enough.

I asked who else was in the group. At first she refused to tell me, citing confidentiality rules. So I adamantly refused to join, which finally convinced her to give me a list of names. It was four boys, every single one of whom was a bully who had physically attacked me at some point in the last few years.

So now I was really upset and even more adamant that I wasn’t going to join. She told me that now that she had revealed the names, I owed this to her. She claimed I had tricked her.

I was so upset that I just got up to leave. She told me I wasn’t allowed to leave. I tried to go for the door and she physically blocked me, like it was a challenge or something, which seemed crazy because I could have broken her in two.

“I can’t force you to join the group because it’s voluntary but I can keep you here as long as I need to, and I will hold you here for the rest of the day or until you agree to join us for therapy.”

So I agreed to go to “voluntary” group therapy. I had no choice. It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my adolescence. Every single session she would say “You’re all here voluntarily.” She always somehow found a way to slip that in.

This is an issue that people don’t talk about publicly. They only talk about it with other people who have been hurt by non-consensual therapy. I have heard many stories from other people traumatized by non-consensual therapy as children. I feel like I’m one of the few who didn’t learn how to lie and manipulate the therapist. If I had been there longer I probably would have.

Because of this experience and many others, I think I have become a bit of a consent extremist. I would even go so far as oppose forced therapy for suicidal people. I know that’s extreme, but that’s how dangerous I think non-consensual therapy can be. It teaches and often forces emotionally unstable people to lie, which bleeds into other areas of their life and disrupts the therapist’s ability to do her job, which affects her other patients.

4. At the Doctor’s Office

Okay, let’s lighten the mood a little bit.

Freshman year of high school I went to the doctor. My principal was in the waiting room. I wondered why he was there but I assumed patient confidentiality rules would prevent me from ever knowing.

An hour later I was in the exam room talking to my doctor and the nurse burst in, said my principal’s full name and explained that he had failed to properly shave his testicles so it was going to take a bit longer to prepare him for his vasectomy.

So my family doctor with decades of medical experience stood there and discussed my principal’s operation right there in front of me.

The nurse left. He turned around and I assumed he would pretend like nothing had happened. At this point he could at least claim he didn’t know I was eavesdropping.

But instead, he said, “That was your principal we were just talking about.”

I sat there with my mouth hanging open. “Yeah. I heard.”

“He’s getting a vasectomy. That’s the surgery to keep you from making babies.”

“Yup. I know what it is.”

“So I’m gonna cut into your principal’s scrotum after I’m done with you.”

This highly qualified doctor had blatantly violated patient confidentiality laws simply to make idle conversation with a fifteen year old kid. Fortunately for both my doctor and my principal I chose not to do anything with the information.

5. Sweet Cheeks

Here’s one more fun one before the stories turn really dark.

My first ever job was dishwasher at a retirement community. There was another dishwasher there who did a fantastic job, consistently finishing ahead of time. Only problem was that he called all the girls Sweet Cheeks and other pet names. He definitely should have known better but to be fair, his girlfriend also worked there and would defend him. He was a sixteen year old kid who didn’t know any better.

In the end, some of the girls got him fired. That in itself was not unreasonable. He should have known better. His girlfriend continued working there for a long while after this but never spoke a word to anyone beyond what was necessary for the job.

One day I mentioned to the girl who had spearheaded the charge to get him fired that because the guy was such a great dishwasher, I would have appreciated it if they had talked to him first and at least attempted to get him to change. This offended her, so to demonstrate how hurtful pet names are, she decided to start calling me Sweet Cheeks.

Over the next week or so she consistently called me Sweet Cheeks every time she saw me. She asked me if it hurt my feelings and I said no, so she upped the ante and petitioned all the other servers to start calling me Sweet Cheeks. When this didn’t elicit a reaction from me, she went to the managers (the same ones who had fired this guy) and the residents and successfully convinced half a dozen of the elderly residents to start calling me Sweet Cheeks whenever they saw me. The managers even joined in occasionally.

We also went to the same high school so when she saw me in the hall she would scream “Hey Sweet Cheeks!” I would wave and say “hi” and everyone would look at her like she was crazy, but she was still so convinced that I was the one who should be mocked. I think she even got a couple of my teachers to call me Sweet Cheeks. I swear I remember one of my teachers calling me Sweet Cheeks in front of the whole class, but I can’t remember who it was.

It didn’t bother me though. I just found the whole situation funny. She was the only one doing it maliciously and I felt like everyone else was going along with it ironically, like they were making fun of her rather than me.

We did have a brief conversation about it where I pointed out that it was hypocritical and she just laughed, saying lots of silly people had said the same thing. None of us understood. They were two totally different situations.

So I said something like, “The difference is that he was calling you names in a misguided attempt to be friendly. You are calling me names in a clearly stated attempt to hurt my feelings and get revenge on me for saying something you disagreed with.”

One day I got called into the manager’s office at work and he said, “Okay Kalin, we’ve gotten a few complaints from the residents about the whole Sweet Cheeks thing. You need to put a stop to this.”

So after all this name-calling that I never asked for, the boss expected me to clean it up. I think I pointed out the ridiculousness of that and we finally agreed that it should be a community effort to get everyone to stop.

A couple years after I had quit this job I ran into the dishwasher’s girlfriend and suddenly it was like she was a different person. She was joyful and opened up to me when I had never seen her talk to anyone. We talked for a while about our old jobs there. She claimed the other girls had deliberately made her life a living hell, taking every opportunity to say nasty things about her and her boyfriend and making her feel like shit for dating him. That’s why she had shut down emotionally when she was there. But they were still together and still in love.

6. The Breakup

This one is just plain depressing, but it needs to be told.

A good friend of mine broke up with his girlfriend of two years. She had a meltdown and started showing up at his window in the middle of the night begging him to take her back. To be fair, he didn’t handle the whole thing so great either.

One night she was out walking her dog and someone jumped out of the bushes and attacked her. He attempted to rape her but she pepper-sprayed him and got away, but not before he beat the shit out of her.

She went to my friend, her ex, for comfort but she refused to go to the police. He basically bullied her and demanded until she finally agreed. They went to the police and a big investigation ensued. It happened across the street from the old-folks home so I got to watch dozens of cops scouring the field for evidence while I was on my break.

I found myself at her house maybe a week later. I was absolutely terrified of saying something insensitive but she immediately broke the ice by saying “Did you hear about what happened to me?”

“I did,” I said.

“Crazy, right?”

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s pretty wild.”

She jumped and said, “Wanna see my bruises?”

Hearing that question, her bubbly voice and the grin on her face, when I had never before met a sexual assault survivor, was absolutely surreal. I was 17 and never talked to an assault survivor before. This was not what I had expected.

“Okay…” I said.

She ran off to her room. She came back in a skimpy swimsuit that showed off her thighs and sure enough, those were some of the nastiest bruises I have ever seen. And apparently they had already healed considerably. She showed off her bruises like she was proud of them. But I noticed her face and hands were pristine and beautiful. Not a scratch on them.

A month or so later my friend was trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to pull away from her again and really put his foot down about the breakup. One day he was picking her up to drive her to school and found a note on the door. They read it together. It was from a stalker who wanted to catch and rape her.

Again she refused to go to the police and again he bullied her until she gave in. They took it to the police and after taking their statement they pulled him aside and asked if he thought it was possible she had written the note herself. He got mad and told them they were crazy.

But later he re-read it, compared the paper to her printer paper, the font to her regular font, and the writing style. It all matched. He confronted her about it and she finally admitted that she had written it.

One night after hearing his latest update on all the drama, it suddenly hit me. It had been so obvious but I had been terrified to admit it because anyone who suggests such a thing must really be an asshole. She faked the entire thing. I was absolutely certain of this.

So I told him my theory. He got mad and told me I was an asshole. But then he thought more about it, then finally decided to go ahead and accuse her. And she eventually admitted it. She had beaten herself with a tire iron and lied about the entire thing to get his attention.

It’s interesting to wonder what ever happened to the police investigation. They certainly never heard the real story. What would have happened if they had caught someone? How far would she have taken this?

I find it extremely disturbing that so many people in our society insist that no woman could ever lie about something like this. Humans can lie about anything. It happens more than anyone wants to admit.

On the other hand, so does real rape. Since this experience my female friends (and some guys too) have told me more rape and sexual assault stories than I can keep track of, and as far as I know, this is the only one that was falsified. However, it was only one of two that was ever reported to the authorities by the victim.

7. The Jalapeno Rape

Around my junior year I went to a house party with no drugs or alcohol allowed. The host made it clear in her invitation that even though her parents didn’t know about the party, there would be absolutely no drugs or alcohol.

One guy, however, felt this violated his right to get high, so he came to the party but occasionally walked off their property to smoke pot. People started hassling him about it. But this stoner was the only person at the party with a 4.0 GPA so whenever anyone attacked him for his pot smoking he lectured them about their grades.

People kind of started getting mad on both sides, mostly against the pot smoker.

But he got more and more baked and eventually lay on the floor, drifting in and out of sleep.

That’s when out of nowhere, several guys tackled him in front of the entire party, held him down, pulled his pants down and shoved a jalapeno up his ass while he screamed and cried.

I had my arm around my girlfriend at the time. She was a passionate feminist. Half our conversations had revolved around feminism. This pot smoker was also one of her best friends, at least in the school-context. She whispered in my ear, “We’re witnessing a rape right now.” But even she didn’t help him or protest publicly. Not that I have any right to judge her. My behavior was even worse.

Then they attempted to shove a banana up his ass but it just squashed. By this point he was fighting so wildly that they gave up. He got up and wandered around in a daze, holding back tears, rubbing his butt, saying “You guys are fucking assholes.”

One sad part is that I don’t think this was rape, at least not legally. This was the 90’s so as I understand it, the definition of rape had not yet been rewritten to include male victims. The worst you could call this was bullying and in the eyes of the law, the pot smoker was the bigger criminal. He knew he would get no sympathy from the police, even if he had any desire to go to them.

The part that sickens me most about this is the fact that I kind of supported it. I thought they were justified in teaching him a lesson. That’s how brainwashed I had become by DARE and the war on drugs. I’m convinced they are fully aware this kind of thing happens.

Fortunately less than a year later this guy got me high for the first time, and a year after that I was buying my first ounce and starting my career as a marijuana dealer.

8. The Abortion Survivor

My senior year I met a girl in the lunch room who I’ll call Sam, who self-identified as a psychotic bitch. Sam’s entire life was one giant act of non-consent. She would say things like “I never wanted to be born. I never asked for this. Fuck those people who say life is beautiful.”

Sam’s mother was an alcoholic and cocaine addict. When she discovered she was pregnant with Sam she immediately scheduled an abortion. The local preacher showed up at her door, calling her a baby killer, telling her she would burn in hell, but he promised her a drug treatment program and help raising the child. He harassed her for three days until she gave in and agreed to give birth to Sam.

Sam was born prematurely with minor brain damage. Her mom had quit the coke and booze despite the church never providing treatment but a lot of damage had already been done. And now that she wasn’t pregnant Sam’s mom went right back to her addictions, spending her food stamps on cocaine. Sam was removed by the state due to starvation when she was four or five, which is well past the point when you have any chance of getting adopted by a permanent family. The church never offered any assistance.

Sam told me she had said to her mom, “Not having that abortion was the worst mistake you ever made,” and her mom replied, “I know, and I’m sorry.”

When I met Sam she was fifteen, living with her seventh set of foster parents and recovering from her fifth suicide attempt. She claimed that every set of foster parents she had ever had had molested or abused her in some way. She said she got really good at confusing and distracting one drunken foster dad so he would forget to molest her. She told a story of being locked in a pitch-black basement for two days until she tried to kill herself by slamming her head against the wall. She showed me the scar. I was still skeptical but then I met her two current foster moms. They called her a whore more often than they called her by her name. When she had spent too long on the phone with me, one of them screamed, “You need to shape up and show some respect you fucking ingrate! We rescued you from the streets and I swear we will throw you right back. You’ll be sucking dick for crack like a little whore. Is that what you want?”

She begged their forgiveness and told me she had to go.

(It’s unfortunate too that this was the first time I had ever met a lesbian couple, or any lesbian for that matter.)

Sam claimed that virtually all orphans (the ones that don’t get adopted right after birth at least) face some kind of molestation at some point. She reported one of her molestations and quickly learned that no one cared. The foster-care system just doesn’t have the resources to do anything about it. She said the vast majority of orphans just learn to live with it. It’s often preferable to being forgotten in an orphanage or dealing with the abuse and neglect of the foster parents who are just trying to collect a check from the state.

She also said that through all the orphanages she had been through she had never met a pro-life orphan. She also had never met a pro-lifer who wanted to adopt. To this day, neither have I.

Sam hated pro-lifers with a passion I’ve never seen before or since. She had told her therapist she wanted to become a serial killer, traveling the country killing prominent pro-lifers. Her therapist talked her out of this, saying she could better serve the community by telling her story and arguing her pro-abortion points. Sam said that now this was the one thing keeping her alive.

Sam didn’t care much for the feminist pro-choice perspective either, despite identifying as a feminist. She once said, “Anyone who thinks abortion is about women’s rights is a stupid cunt who should be forced to have an abortion because she’s too selfish to be a decent mother.”

Sam was not pro-choice. She was pro-abortion. She didn’t care about consent. She believed if a pregnant woman could not demonstrate that she’d be a good mother, she should be forced to have an abortion. She felt fathers should be able to force the mother to have an abortion but should have no right to prevent one. I thought she was crazy and I still don’t agree with her, but there’s a story coming later that made me understand where she was coming from.

Sam was pretty intelligent, had some very strong opinions, poor impulse control, deep depression, and a serious anger management problem.

One day we were eating lunch and we got into a heated debate about child abuse. I said verbal and emotional abuse was still legitimately abuse. She said I was an ignorant pussy who couldn’t imagine real abuse. She started screaming at me and I warned her the principal — the one with the vasectomy — was two tables away. But she didn’t care. She stood up, pulled her shirt over her head while she shouted, pointing to the scars that dotted her body from her former foster parents extinguishing cigarettes on her flesh.

The principal sprinted toward her and slammed into her like she was a college football player instead of a fifteen year old girl. He forced her shirt down, bear hugged her and dragged her out of the cafeteria while she screamed and cried and struggled to break free.

I find it hard to wrap my brain about the morals of this situation. Why was it okay for him to grab her so ruthlessly and drag her away in the middle of our conversation, just because she was having an emotional outburst and showing some skin? She still had a bra on. It wasn’t even legally indecent.

That was the last time I ever saw Sam. She was expelled from school and her foster moms sent her back to the orphanage.

I always think about Sam whenever someone complains about how misbehaved our children are these days, claiming they need more discipline. Sometimes you just can’t fathom where those kids are actually coming from or what they’re going through. I don’t know what the answer to all this is but I certainly know that harsher punishments is not it.

9. The Marine

I went to a Metallica concert shortly after moving out of my mom’s house. Afterward my friends and I camped by a river with a few thousand other Metallica fans.

A short guy who was nothing but muscle approached me and said, “Hey you want me to teach you how to kill a man with your bare hands?”

I declined but he jumped forward and grabbed my throat anyway. He got some pressure point and this horrible pain shot up my whole body and I found myself basically paralyzed. He came in real close and explained what he was doing and how he could kill me with just a move of his fingers. I screamed and he finally let me go when he thought someone nearby might intervene.

Then we got to talking. He insisted I drink some of his beer and that I let him smoke some of my weed. He told me he had just won a purple heart. He had been a sniper in the marines but had been in an explosion and got a collapsed lung.

I don’t know what it was but I said something about the military being motivated more by adrenaline and violence than by peace or national security. Admittedly this wasn’t the smartest thing to say to this guy but I like to meet my situations head-on. He had invited me to give my opinion so I gave it.

I thought he might kill me, but instead he shook my hand and said, “Dude, I have so much respect for you right now. Out of all the bleeding-heart liberals I have met you are the only one who had the balls to say that shit to my face.”

“Okay,” I said. “So I’m willing to listen to your rebuttal.”

He shrugged. “What rebuttal? You’re absolutely right. I don’t give a shit about peace. I just love killing people. I’ll own up to that. All the other marines I’ve met are the same way.”

We talked for another minute or two and I finally said, “Okay, I am going to go. My friends are down by the water and I told them I’d be down to hang out with them.”

“No,” he said. “We’re in the middle of a conversation.”

“I’m sorry.” I started trying to leave and make excuses.

“No. We’re having a conversation. You walk away from me now and I will kill you. I’m not fucking kidding.”

I tried to argue as delicately as I could. I tried to move away, but he grabbed me, doing the pressure point thing, causing horrible pain and temporarily paralyzing me again.

“I like you,” he said. “We’re gonna hang out tonight. You and me. We’re best friends now. We’re gonna drink some beer and smoke some weed. You try to run, I’ll snap your neck.”

I looked around desperately at everyone else.

“They’re not gonna help you,” he said. “Just let this happen.”

He was right. What was I supposed to do? Run to the drunk Metallica fans crying “Help! This short guy with no weapon is threatening me and making me be his friend!”

So I sighed and said, “Fine. What do you want to do?”

So we walked and talked, drank, and smoked bowls. He called some woman a bitch when she wouldn’t let him use her homemade bong after he admitted he had a collapsed lung. She went off on him and I had this momentary terror that he was going to attack her, but he backed off and left her alone.

The whole time this guy kept reminding me that he could kill me at any moment and disappear into the crowd or the bushes. He had used a fake name. I knew nothing about him. But part of me just felt sorry for him.

At one point I somehow escaped and found one of my friends. I begged him for help, tried my best to explain the situation and asked him to come up with something, I don’t know. Some excuse why he needed me or something. My friend just looked at me and said, “Dude, I don’t think you understand just how drunk I am. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Then the marine caught back up to me and ordered me to continue hanging out with him. I walked with him while he went on and on about how much he loved killing Muslims in Iraq. (The language he used was far more colorful than that though. He said his unit had been required to use racial slurs.) He even suggested I join the military or become a cop so I could understand the thrill of taking someone’s life. He insisted it’s better than sex and it’s way better than being a serial killer because you get to brag about your kills.

Then he lectured me about my homophobia. That came out of left field. I had just blindly assumed that the most racist person I had ever met would also be homophobic. But apparently not. He said it was impossible to be a good marine if you were homophobic because there were so many openly gay marines. They were only closeted when talking to the media.

But I took offense when he called me homophobic. I couldn’t possibly be since I had always supported gay marriage. I realized later that he had a good point. I was almost more upset by the fact that he was constantly putting his arm around me and brushing his lips against my ear than I was about the fact that he kept threatening to kill me.

The whole experience lasted several hours into the night. I have no idea how I made it back to my tent but I woke up the next morning thanking God that he wasn’t snuggled up next to me.

While my friends and I were preparing to leave, he appeared out of nowhere, shook my hand and thanked me for being his friend for the evening.

In a weird way, though, I’m glad this happened. I learned that I could deal with adult bullies with far more confidence than I had when I was a kid. I learned some interesting and rather shocking things about the marines, and I learned about myself and he helped me move away from my homophobic tendencies. No trauma, just a crazy story.

But it could have been really traumatizing. Honestly I’m not sure why it wasn’t traumatizing. It was more of an annoyance than anything else. Maybe it’s because it was eclipsed so dramatically by the next story.

10. The Surgery

Around this same time my parents and some dentist or orthodontist decided that I needed my wisdom teeth removed. I felt like I should wait until they actually started causing problems so I tried to refuse the surgery. At first they were just pushy but in the end they got to the point where they simply demanded that I have the surgery.

I was absolutely terrified. I’m not sure why, but this surgery was by far the most frightening thing I had ever faced. My sixth grade teacher had died in a routine surgery halfway through the school year, but even that experience couldn’t explain why I was so terrified.

When I talked to the surgeon he told me that my wisdom teeth were virtually guaranteed to cause problems in the future. He told me this was a routine surgery and I had nothing to worry about. He told me I’d be back to work in a week. But still I refused, almost getting to the point of begging.

I remember asking the doctor if I had the legal right to walk away and refuse the surgery and he wouldn’t answer. He just kept saying “You need this surgery,” over and over again.

I told him my overwhelming fear and bad attitude about the surgery would interfere with my healing process. He insisted “Your emotional outlook has zero influence on your healing. There is no connection between the mind and body.”

This was late nineties and a couple years before I got the internet so I couldn’t just go on stack exchange and Web MD to look up my legal rights and medical situation. I assumed that if I tried to run they would get a court order and force this on me. Everyone seemed so convinced that this was a serious medical situation.

I remember arguing with my mom, and she said, “You’re getting this surgery whether you like it or not.” It was so confusing. I couldn’t understand why her attitudes about consent had taken such a wild shift in the opposite direction.

So I gave in and signed the “consent” forms. At least I assume I did. I blacked out a significant portion of this experience so I’m not sure what I actually signed.

While I was waiting for my dad to pick me up to take me to surgery, I had my first ever panic attack. God started screaming at me (which is strange because I’m an atheist), telling me I was going to die, so I got up in a panic to literally flee to another state. Then everything went black and I fell into this bottomless pit and felt this incredible pain overwhelming everything.

I woke up with no idea where I was or what was going on. I didn’t know my own name. The feeling in that moment is pretty indescribable. I felt my soul slipping away from my body and sinking into an existence of pure suffering. This overwhelming fear and desperation came over me. To this day I have never felt terror that even comes close to that.

I have a vague memory, which may or may not be real, of attacking a nurse and trying to cut her throat, thinking she was taking me to be executed. She fought back, made me drop the weapon, then forgave me. She was used to irrational behavior after surgeries. At first I assumed it was just a dream. I couldn’t have done something like that. She would have reported it. But the more stories I hear and the more I learn about violence and how it actually affects people, the more I think it really did happen. She’s not the only woman I know who has forgiven a murder attempt.

When I was ready to be discharged from the hospital a couple hours later, either they didn’t bother to talk to me or they just didn’t care about my mental state… or maybe they just wanted to get rid of me because I had tried to murder someone.

Some strange lady who turned out to be my mom picked me up and took me outside. I was busy trying to figure out how to walk and looking around at the trees, trying to figure out what they were. She wanted me to get in the car but I couldn’t figure out how the door worked and could barely stand upright.

I blacked out for most of the next three days. I slept at my mom’s house. She says I woke up screaming every couple hours, rambling about horrible nightmares, which is weird because I’ve only had maybe ten nightmares in my entire life including my childhood and I enjoy them when they do happen.

The whole left side of my face turned black and blue and my left eye filled with blood so you could no longer see the white. I went back to my apartment after the three days but all I could eat was applesauce and Ensure. We didn’t have the array of protein shakes that we do now. It was a week before I could eat any kind of solid food and it took a month before I could open my mouth wide enough to eat a thin sandwich. It took three months before I could eat a hamburger.

After a week we went back for a checkup and the doctor acted like what I was experiencing was perfectly normal. I tried to yell at him about all the promises he’d made and he just told me that he hadn’t literally meant that I had nothing to worry about. I should have been smart enough to know that surgeries can always go wrong. He told me I’d be better in a week. A week later we went back and he told me I’d be better in a week. Then we did it a third time. Each time I had to call my boss and get an extension from work. When I finally came back to work I found out they had made the other cook cover all my shifts. He had worked ninety hour weeks for over a month, had a breakdown, and walked off the job.

Six months after the surgery, my jaw still did not feel normal. It was tight and uncomfortable, like a strange pressure squeezing the side of my face. That feeling never went away. I still feel that tightness twenty years later.

So I decided to never mention it again. It’s easier that way. You look at the bright side. It taught me more about how the world works and how I should take my instincts seriously. I had to remember, whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. And it is true in this case.

As soon as I got the internet a few years later I looked up laws about consent in surgery, finding that I absolutely had every legal right to refuse, and read stories of lots of other people who refused wisdom teeth surgeries and had no serious consequences.

This was the first experience I think that caused my PTSD issues. It’s mild and undiagnosed, but I have looked up the symptoms of PTSD and by one list, I have at least subtle versions of all of them, with the exception of nightmares.

On the other hand, I also looked up circumcision, and realized that my wisdom teeth surgery was clearly preferable to that. No question about it.

11. The Calm Witch

One of my Pagan or Witch friends came over one day to buy and/or smoke some weed. She was a tiny one hundred pound single mother welfare queen with a list of emotional disorders. This being a drug house I had stopped letting her bring her kid over.

My roommate burst out of his room, screaming at her that she was casting spells on him. They both claimed they could feel each other’s presence before she had even come inside, but she insisted she had merely been reflecting his own negative spirits back on him. (This was a girl who not long ago had gone to the home of a boy she liked where he lived with his mom. She had a can of gasoline and burned witchcraft designs into his lawn and cast love spells. Believe it or not, they did not wind up together. Interesting story though, a few months later he jumped off a bridge because Jesus told him he could fly. I swear to God I am not making this shit up.)

Anyway, my roommate demanded that she leave but I still wanted to hang out with her so she politely refused to budge.

So my roommate ran to the kitchen, grabbed my trusty chef’s knife (which I still use to this day), then jumped on her, held her down and put the knife to her throat.

I went into a panic, begging him to stop. She on the other hand, just calmly stared him down and explained why his behavior was inappropriate. She refused to do what he said. “I will not reinforce your behavior. That would be a selfish thing to do and I won’t do it. You’re gonna have to kill me.”

At first she just calmly refused to leave, then started lecturing him about behavior, choices and personal responsibility. She made some really good points too. Then it seemed like she got bored, and just kind of started challenging him to kill her, calling him a scared little baby. To summarize, he had all the strength, size, leverage and weapon, but she took charge of the situation and didn’t give him an inch.

So finally he melted down even further and ran crying back to his room, slammed the door and threw a tantrum from inside.

I thought my friend now would break down in tears and run to call the police but instead she just laughed, called him a pussy or something, pulled out her pipe and packed a bowl. The next time I saw her she told me that the knife had actually left a mark across her neck that didn’t go away until the next day. But she also said that she knew that deep down he was a good person who was simply in desperate need of help.

This was a girl who couldn’t hold down a job or deal with reality and she took charge of a situation like nothing I have ever seen. Sometimes people surprise you.

(I read that one woman claims that in the 1970’s Ted Bundy kidnapped her, telling her point-blank, “I intend to rape and murder you.” But unlike his other victims she calmly spoke to him, was respectful, got to know him, gave him rational arguments, and showed him compassion. In the end he pulled over, told her that she had earned his respect and let her go. Most people think she’s lying and this never happened because she would have reported it. Those people don’t understand how these things work.)

Anyway, my roommate moved out shortly after this. I tried to convince him to go to therapy but he refused because — guess why! — because he had been horribly traumatized by non-consensual therapy when he was younger… that and his circumcision… and because the cops beat the shit out of him for running away from home at fourteen after his mom refused to leave his sexually abusive step-father.

I visited him four or five years later and he was still crazy, but somehow still not in prison. On the second night he came home screaming about how his girlfriend had tried to run him over with her car. The drama just never ends with some people.

12. The Pregnancy

I started hanging out with a girl I had known for a few years. I didn’t know quite why she suddenly wanted to hang out all the time, but figured she just wanted to get away from her parents. She said she had a thing for me, that she had always found me attractive.

However, in one conversation, she told me that she was thinking of getting pregnant so she could use the baby as leverage to get her parents to buy her a car. They were Mormon and from her stories it sounded like her parents were neglectful. Her mom would pretend she didn’t exist for weeks at a time, refusing to speak to her and her dad was rarely home.

She convinced me to have sex with her. It actually took a bit of convincing on her part even though she was pretty attractive, but I finally gave in. I knew it was dumb. She was young for me, though not illegal. Not to mention crazy. I knew I should be saying no and putting my foot down but I just couldn’t.

Then she got mad when I wanted to use a condom. We went back and forth about it. I finally put my foot down. I was dumb but I wasn’t that dumb.

A few minutes after we finished I went to the bathroom to pee. Now with a clearer head, I started to realize something was fishy here. I carefully opened the bathroom door, being as quiet as I could. I peaked around the corner and saw her reaching into the garbage and slowly pulling out the used condom.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

She dropped it back in the garbage. “Nothing!”

She stopped coming around after that.

A couple months later she called and told me she was pregnant with my kid. I asked her to have an abortion, saying I would take care of everything. She told me she was pro-life. That was out of the question. So I told her I would do whatever I could. I would be there for the child and do whatever I needed to do for them. I promised her I would never be a deadbeat dad.

“No, you don’t understand,” she said. “You’re never going to meet this kid. You’re not a part of this.”

And until that moment I never knew how devastating this could be. I had heard stories about this kind of thing and always thought it would suck, but I didn’t understand just how powerfully horrible of a feeling it would create in me.

She didn’t get it. She couldn’t understand why I would be okay with an abortion but so upset about abandoning my child. “It’s not like I expect child support from you,” she said. “I don’t understand why you care.”

I asked her how she intended to handle the responsibility and she said, “I figured my parents would do most of the work.”

So I was pretty much flipping out. Deadbeat dads were, in my opinion, one of the lowest forms of life, and here I was being forced into that position and there was nothing I could do about it.

Then I asked about the accuracy of the test, and like a light from God, she told me she hadn’t actually taken a test. She was just late on her period and just knew she was pregnant, like God had told her or something.

It always makes me mad whenever people speak things as though they are facts without doing basic due diligence on them. This time was one of the worst. I tried my best to remain calm but it’s hard when you’re in that situation.

I made her promise to get a pregnancy test and actually confirm it, despite the fact that she was absolutely certain she knew her body and that it wasn’t necessary.

I called her the next day and the next and on the third day I had basically gone insane calling them over and over. Her mom would make up an excuse, refuse to talk to me or just hang up. I fully realized I was harassing them but it was either that or abandon my own child. Those three days were absolute misery. My sense of helplessness was overwhelming. I had visions of being arrested for trying to prevent his circumcision. If she was a girl, I had visions of her growing up like Sam. I envisioned her telling the child I had abandoned her. She certainly wouldn’t admit that it was her choice she could never see her father, so I would have become an evil deadbeat piece of shit in my child’s eyes. That’s likely what would have happened.

I was basically calling every twenty minutes so finally they let me talk to her. “I’m not pregnant,” she said as soon as she picked up the phone.

“Oh thank God. Did you just find out tonight?”

“No,” she said. “My mom took me to get a test right after we talked the other day.”

“You knew three days ago that you weren’t pregnant?”

“Yeah.”

“Why didn’t you let me know?”

“I didn’t feel like talking to you.”

“I’ve been in hell the last few days.”

“You were being so dramatic. It made me uncomfortable. I don’t understand why you care. I told you I wasn’t going to make you pay child support. What else is there to worry about?”

That was the last I ever talked to her.

I stopped having sex for about two years after that. It was partially by choice but mostly from the fear that something like this might happen again. Every time I got close to a woman I became terrified. I had made such good progress with my social anxiety, especially around women, and this experience made it all come rushing back.

Nobody in our culture seems to understand this kind of thing can be genuinely traumatizing for men. They complain about it all the time but no one listens. I still think actual deadbeat dads are scum, but I always wait to hear the real story before passing judgment.

13. Rape, Stabbing, Torture, and More Rape

I guess you could call this one a sampling of the rape stories that girls have told me over the years.

I once visited a friend at college. Her whole downstairs was torn apart. The carpets were gone, walls half painted, sparse furniture.

“You remodeling?” I asked.

“No, my roommate got raped.”

“You remodel the house when that happens?”

“This time we have to,” she said. “If you want the story, I left for spring break with everyone else. She was here all by herself and one night she went out to the bars and got shitface drunk. Some guy followed her home. She forgot the keys in the door and he let himself in and caught her upstairs and raped her. Held a knife to her throat the whole time. Said he’d kill her if she screamed. So when he was leaving she sneaked up behind him and smashed a lamp over his head. Split his head open. Then she kicked him down the stairs. He spewed blood all over the stairway. We had to repaint the ceiling. Then here in the living room she stabbed him a bunch of times. She refused to call 911 and refused to just kill him. Then he somehow crawled to the front door. I’m not sure if she fell asleep or she let him get away just to fuck with him. But she caught him before he was able to get outside and dragged him back into the living room. You should have seen the trail of blood they left. She kept stabbing him but the police finally showed up because the neighbors heard him screaming and begging. So now my dad is driving out every weekend to help us redo this whole place. Fortunately this guy had a history of assaults and even more fortunately he told the truth about what happened.”

She took me upstairs to show me her roommates room, the bed and the nightstand where the lamp had been, as though this were a historical tour. All her roommate’s stuff was still there but she had moved out and quit school right after the incident.

Now the way I see it, the guy in this story essentially consented to everything. The moment he put the knife to her throat, he implicitly consented to a violent situation, including everything she did to him. He made a choice to put himself there. I have another friend who murdered a carjacker instead of giving up his car. I say it’s harsh, but that’s how it works. If you deliberately and knowingly create a violent situation, then you have no right to complain if that violence doesn’t go your way. So many states and countries these days would have considered her a greater criminal than the rapist, citing the fact that she was clearly no longer in danger when she attacked him. They say that good-hearted, law abiding citizens rely solely on the police and justice system to protect them. Those of us who have seen the harshness of life know this attitude is unrealistic at best. All those years of being bullied taught me a hard lesson: you have no choice but to stand up for yourself because the authorities never will.

If I heard this story when I was twelve, and all I knew about violence was what I saw in the movies, I may have thought that she could just walk away from this. Sure it’s fucked up, but she got her revenge. If society is looking for a rape deterrent then she came up with a pretty good one. Everything’s even now, right?

Obviously that’s ridiculous. This kind of event would change everything about her personality. Nothing would ever be the same for her, but Hollywood depicts these things as being all done and over when the violence stops, when in reality, that’s when the real struggle begins.

I started really thinking about how hard it must be to talk about these kinds of things. I have such a hard time talking about the things I’ve been through and I’ve never experienced anything like this. How the hell does she bring this up with her next boyfriend? “Hey honey, wanna hear a crazy story?”

A friend of mine around this same time got raped right in the middle of the mosh pit at a Pantera concert. I don’t recall if she reported it or not. I think that she did, but obviously couldn’t do anything for her. Her older sister was so upset she pretty much had to tell me about it but I’m betting her sister would not have wanted her to do that. There were other men standing right next to her who could have done something if she had any way to cry for help. They would have beat the shit out of that guy but the music was too loud and the chaos too intense that he disappeared into the crowd before anyone knew what was happening.

Another time a friend came over and as she took off her shoes just casually remarked that one of my other friends had recently raped her. My instinct was that it couldn’t possibly be true. But after she described it I realized it totally sounded like something he could do. He basically had nagged her to death when they were both drunk. She finally got so sick of it that she gave in. I felt like she was coming to me to talk it out and decide how she should feel about it since I knew him as well as anyone. I think in the end she decided not to call it rape, but if she had, I would totally understand. Nagging doesn’t sound that serious, and I agree it shouldn’t legally be called rape, but for someone with compassion and a people-pleaser personality, nagging can be an absolute nightmare.

I’ve always been fascinated with the wildly different ways people respond to trauma. I get frustrated with the way people see the healing process, as though it’s a standard procedure. No one seems to understand just how profoundly unique the healing process is for each individual person.

A woman once told me about a guy she went out with. “He just suddenly started hitting me and shoving me around and I got so scared and confused. I didn’t understand what was happening, like I was in a daze. I just let him fuck me because I didn’t know what else to do. And ever since then I’ve really liked rough sex.”

And I said, “So basically you got sexually assaulted and kinda-sorta raped but instead of getting traumatized, you developed a fetish for it.”

“Basically, yeah.”

“What happened to the guy?” I asked. “Did you talk to him about it? Does he understand what he did?”

“Oh yeah,” she said. “He’s right over there. We’ve been together for like three years now.”

And another time I was high on mushrooms at a party and someone asked one of her friends if she wanted to take a few shrooms with us. “Nah,” she said, kind of chuckling, “the first time I ever did shrooms I got raped on the front steps of a catholic church, so now whenever I do them it makes me feel weird.”

At first I was kind of mad that she would say this. What a downer kind of thing to say to someone on shrooms. But I had to stop and remind myself that everyone is better off hearing this kind of thing. Most of society lives blind to all this bullshit but I’ve been blessed with friends who can be open about it. Despite the fact that the vision consumed the rest of my trip, I think it was good for me. But most people, for this very reason would not talk about these things. They may have shame and guilt and all the other feelings but I think a lot of people, and I certainly know this is true for me, never talk about these things for the simple reason they don’t want to be a downer.

14. The Butt Slapping

Now we’ll break for something light and fun, but don’t worry, it gets dark again real quick.

I worked in a redneck dive bar for about seven years before switching careers to web developer. During the whole time we had a weekend waitress in her sixties who would slap all the men on the butts. It was just casual and friendly but at first it made me uncomfortable. Over the first couple years I just kind of got used to it and often hardly noticed it.

Then one of the other cooks told me that he had taken her aside and calmly asked her to stop smacking his butt. She had refused.

“She was real nice about it,” he said. “But yeah, she told me it’s just something I have to deal with. She says she’s old and she deserves it.”

I found that hard to believe, so I ran an experiment and I did the same thing: I calmly and respectfully asked her to stop slapping my butt and sure enough, she refused. It wasn’t like I was asking her to stop slapping all butts. Just mine.

However, it wasn’t like it was sexual, it wasn’t like it was painful, so I only ever saw one guy get upset about it, even though she did it to pretty much all the men. I remember she smacked his butt once while we were really busy and he yelled at her angrily and even then she just politely explained that she was old and it was just who she was so he needed to deal with it. So this cook immediately started complaining to the owner right in the middle of the lunch rush. The problem was that he wasn’t a great cook and she was already thinking of firing him. I was pissed off at him too. I felt like he was just searching for things to bitch about. So she just yelled back, told him to shut up and get back to work. He didn’t stick around long after that.

I talked to the owner about it and she explained that this had been a recurring issue for the two decades this waitress had been working for her, but the customers loved her and she never missed a shift.

A year or two after I quit the job and moved onto a new career, I visited the pub and they told me this waitress had died suddenly at home while watching QVC. Once I knew she was gone, I started feeling really glad that I had chosen not to make an issue out of the butt slapping.

But I also think a lot about the double standard. She had been slapping butts for thirty years and never faced any real consequences. If a man did that it would be a whole other story.

After moving into the technology industry I wound up with a boss who had some gay porn taped to the walls in her office. She told me the story once that one of her employees had quit suddenly and refused to explain why or where he was going. Then six months later someone saw him in gay porn, looked into it and found that he was a porn star. So she took a bunch of screenshots, printed them out and hung them up in her office. Once on Halloween the parents all brought in their kids in their costumes. At the last possible moment she remembered the pictures and raced into her office to stand in front of them as the kids marched past. Even then she didn’t take them down. And it was no big deal. Nobody cared, even the parents who saw her trying unsuccessfully to hide the pictures from the children. If the gender roles had been reversed, there is no possible way this would be acceptable.

But I don’t have a problem with the double standard. Men and women are different. I know we don’t like to admit that, but it’s true. We have different values and different standards, so it makes sense that we should have different social rules. I’m okay with the fact that I couldn’t make the waitress stop slapping my butt while I will never be allowed to slap butts. I’m fine with being called Sweet Cheeks while not being able to call those names back. The double standard is not what bothers me. What bothers me is the fact that people pretend the double standard doesn’t exist.

15. The Barrel of a Gun

To back up a few years, in the late 90’s I was arrested for selling some marijuana to an undercover cop. A plainclothes officer appeared out of nowhere and pointed a gun point-blank in my face. I remember looking down the barrel and seeing the officer’s finger hugging the trigger and trembling, like it would squeeze closed if I made the slightest movement.

I went to jail for a night which for me definitely counts as an act of non-consent. Just because it was legal, didn’t make it right.

But to be fair, they put me in the sweetest, most caring jail I could have hoped for. It was mind boggling how different it was from the movies. The guards treated me with more respect than the average cashier at a store does. The other inmates were possibly the most understanding and emotionally supportive strangers I have ever met. On the other hand, most of them were in there for beating up their girlfriends so maybe it was just the fact that they had nothing better to do than to sit around and care about each other’s feelings.

A month or so later a friend went to the women’s jail for a night and she did not have the same experience. She was sexually harassed by several other inmates and believed they were plotting some kind of lesbian gang rape. By contrast, I was glad my experience had happened. I saw mine as a fun little sleepover, but she saw hers as a traumatizing event. It’s amazing how different two seemingly similar experiences can be.

Then in 1999 I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and watched a police officer tackle a naked man who was protesting nudity laws. The officer pinned the man’s hands under his body to make it look like he was resisting arrest. The officer knelt on his back, grabbed him by the hair and smashed his face into the pavement over and over again. The man screamed and cried and begged for his life until he went limp. I screamed at the officer to stop but another officer clamped a hand around my throat and shouted “Get the fuck out of here or that’s gonna be you!” and threw me backward into the crowd. There were half a dozen officers and they all made it clear they supported the brutality. I never found out if the man survived.

I intended to report the incident but first I asked my friends and family hypothetical questions about criminal justice and police brutality without mentioning what I’d witnessed. I wanted to know if they would support me if the police decided to make up lies about me. Their answers were far from encouraging. They all gave me some variation of the concept that police are always right. Sure they go too far sometimes but it’s not like criminals deserve compassion. The ironic part was half of these people were daily pot smokers. They wanted marijuana legalized but had zero interest in helping any other victims of the criminal justice system.

This was the second thing that gave me my taste of the PTSD. I pushed it down and didn’t talk about it. As horrible as it sounds, I still think that was my only choice. Those cops would have destroyed my life if I had reported it.

So then in 2002, I was walking home from a party at about two in the morning. A cop car pulled up beside me and pointed a spotlight directly at me. I stopped and waved at him. “Hi!” I shouted. “Can I help you?”

I stood there standing and waving, but the officer didn’t move. He just kept the spotlight trained on me. Finally I said I was gonna start walking again and I slowly turned back to my walk home.

The officer slowly followed me, his car creeping along next to me, the spotlight nearly blinding me. He followed me for two whole blocks like this, then finally jumped out of his car and approached me, saying “Hey guy!” Then he whipped out his gun and screamed at me to get on the ground. Again, I stared down the barrel of his gun and saw a trembling finger, hugging the trigger. I noticed another officer a half block away holding a machine gun, just glaring at me. I think now it was a rubber bullet gun designed to look menacing, but at the time, in my eyes, it was a fully automatic machine gun.

The officer accused me of stealing a DVD player and demanded to know where I’d stashed it. He wanted to see my ID and I thanked God that I always carry it. I specifically consented to him opening only the front pocket of my backpack to get my ID. He pulled my ID out of my wallet, called in my name on his radio, argued for a few moments about whether or not I was the right person, then tossed my wallet and ID on the ground and said, “Get the fuck out of here, guy.”

I slowly got up, trying desperately to not make any sudden movements. I picked up my wallet and tried to put the ID back but my hands trembled so bad that I couldn’t do it. Suddenly the officer lunged at me, raised his fist and screamed “Get the fuck out of here!”

I grabbed my stuff in a frantic bundle and just took off. It’s hard to remember exactly. I think I got to the end of the block, looked back to see the cops had all disappeared into the darkness, then I broke down crying.

I don’t remember the walk home. I awoke to find myself sitting on my couch at home, staring at the wall, like I was numb. I couldn’t think. I barely even realized that I wasn’t still back on the street, staring at that trigger finger. My brain, a couple hours later, was still desperately trying to figure out a way to avoid getting shot.

The next two days I found myself unable to really feel anything. I went to work and acted normal, but inside it was like I was dead. I couldn’t feel anything. I remember watching comedy and being completely incapable of laughing.

Then on the third day I basically snapped out of it. But I haven’t been the same since. A couple decades later I still think about this event nearly every day. I can’t escape that moment or the vision of that gun barrel and trigger finger. I’ll admit that it’s very mild and rarely impacts my life but it’s still PTSD.

The most interesting part of this story I think is the fact that before this event I supported gun control. I had always supported gun control, but now I started thinking about that cliche, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” I finally understood what that phrase meant. It’s not just an excuse to horde weapons. It’s also a way of looking at violence and wrongdoing and understanding what truly happened. It’s a perspective that helps me heal. For me, I found that shooting at tin cans in the gravel pit with friends was far more therapeutic, empowering and made me feel safer than any gun legislation could be.

I was not traumatized by a gun. I was traumatized by a police officer and all of the people and systems that cause us to think these are acceptable things to do to prevent nudity and the theft of DVD players.

16. The Party Girl

What ended my two year stint of sexual abstinence was a girl I met at a bar. I’ll call her Anne. She asked if she could come home with me so I brought her back to my apartment. We started kissing and she eagerly stripped naked and crawled into my bed. Everything was going fine, but just as I was about to reach for a condom, she said, “You know you’re not getting laid tonight, right? I don’t have sex the first time I meet a guy.”

I was pretty surprised and disappointed, but I said okay, but I also told her, as tactfully as I could, that a whole lot of guys would not be able to control themselves. I tried my best not to be a rape apologist or victim blamer, but I told her, “You’re putting yourself at real risk if you do this to very many guys.”

So we fell asleep without sex, but then an hour or two later we woke up again, started kissing, and then she said, “I want you to ravish me.” I didn’t know what that meant, but finally figured out that she did in fact want sex. I know now that ravish is literally a synonym for rape.

She called me a few days later and we started dating. It worked out okay for a couple years. Anne liked to party and was always aggressively trying to help friends have more fun. She’s the only person I can remember ever throwing me a birthday party. I always loved her for that. She was also constantly looking for ways to help her friends. Anne took in a neighbor once, even after she had called the cops on us. She was in her forties and had debilitating PTSD from an experience where she was kidnapped as a teenager and locked in an attic for seven months of brutal sexual abuse.

One time Anne threw a party and we were playing Jenga and she insisted that the loser had to run naked around the block. No one else wanted to do this but she insisted until we agreed. Anne lost the first round. We told her she didn’t have to go through with it, but she stripped naked and ran around the block. We thought it was over but she insisted on another round. She lost the second round. Again we told her she didn’t need to do it, but she ran butt naked around the block then insisted on a third round. Her best friend’s boyfriend lost and after he returned and put his clothes back on I had to put my foot down and make her stop. Someone was going to get arrested.

I bought her a basket full of liquor and fireworks for her birthday one year and she told me it was one of the most thoughtful presents she had ever gotten. I don’t know why I’m saying that. I guess I’m just establishing a sense of her character. Okay, now back to the non-consent.

We were buying beer once in a grocery store and a homeless man came in, also buying beer. He had a look to him like he was battling a deep depression. We had an awkward moment where we were all going for the same beer at the same time, then we started walking away. I never would have thought about this man except Anne stopped and walked back toward him. She said “Excuse me,” and without another word, wrapped her arms around him and kissed him straight on the lips, then turned and walked away. He just stood there stunned and speechless. Halfway down the isle she seemed to realize that she had violated his consent and she turned back and said “I’m sorry, I hope that was okay.” The man stood for another long moment then finally shook himself back into reality and replied “Yes! Yes, thank you. I really needed that.” He shouted “Thank you,” a couple more times as we walked away. We turned at the end of the isle and we never saw him again. It’s always been interesting to me to think that by some definitions, she committed a sexual assault that day. But I’ve always imagined that man had his faith in humanity restored that day by this assault. Of course I have no idea, but that’s what I’ve always envisioned.

A few months into the relationship, Anne told me the story of how she had lost her virginity at a party when she was fourteen. What she described was basically an impromptu gang rape by four guys. This sent her into a massive depression that lasted almost four years through high school. When she wasn’t in school or therapy, she was lying in bed, dead to the world. Then she said when she went away to college she just kind of snapped out of it and put the whole thing behind her.

But I always felt something was likely still buried. She was a borderline alcoholic but did a good job holding down a job. We also kept getting into arguments related to consent. We were at a party once, and I didn’t witness this, but she told me she had been sitting next to a girl flirting with a guy and heard her say “I like it rough,” so Anne leaned over and bit her. Bear in mind she had no idea who this girl was. Since she got mad, Anne claimed that meant she didn’t actually like it rough.

“Just because someone likes it rough doesn’t mean they want some stranger jumping out and hurting them,” I said. “They like it rough in the context of the bedroom, with a specifically chosen guy.”

“She needs to say that then.”

“That should be obvious,” I said.

“If I didn’t get that and I’m a feminist with years of rape counseling then how the hell is some drunk frat boy going to get it?”

I didn’t have an answer to that.

One night she nagged me for half an hour or so to go to the lake, drink beer and go skinny dipping at three in the morning. I finally gave in, but was just so worn out. I got all pouty about it but she didn’t understand why I wasn’t having fun. I complained about how she would just wear me down until I agreed to do something. Year’s later I grew to regret that. I mean, what kind of guy gets all pissed off because his girl wants to drink beer and go skinny dipping?

On the other hand, another time after a party she nagged me for nearly two hours to take mushrooms with her. I thought if I just kept saying no eventually we would just go to bed, but after two hours of repeatedly asking me, finally at three in the morning I gave in and took shrooms with her.

And immediately after I had eaten them, she asked “Are you sure you want to do this?”

And I got really mad and yelled, “No! I’ve said no like fifty times this last two hours. Were you not listening? How many times do I have to tell you when I don’t want to do something?”

“Oh, I guess it just didn’t sink in.”

I tried not to stay mad. That’s a bad way to start a mushroom trip. Instead I lay on the couch and entered what felt like a simple, intense depression. It was a terrible trip to say the least. I had done a ton of shrooms by this point and I think this was the first and only one I would actually describe as a bad trip. We went to bed at ten or noon or so and fortunately the depression was gone once the mushrooms wore off. It took a while before I could do shrooms again and ever since then I’ve been terrified of them, despite how much I enjoy them.

But I don’t want to paint Anne as a nagging bitch, which is why I have always hesitated to write all this. These were just a few bad points in the relationship. I’m leaving out a lot of the good ones because it’s just not as interesting.

But the most interesting thing with Anne was that one day, out of the blue, she said to me, “Kalin, how come you’ve never tried to rape me?”

I cracked a joke, assuming that’s what she was doing.

“No, I’m serious. It really hurts my feelings. Haven’t you noticed how every time you want to have sex I say no, and then twenty minutes later after I see you aren’t going to do anything about it, I change my mind. Why can’t you just take me once in a while? You don’t have to take no for an answer.”

So we argued. I accused her of not being a true feminist. I tried to explain the kind of position this put me in. It’s pretty damn confusing for a man when you’re told a rapist is the absolute shittiest thing you can be and you have feminist consent issues drilled down your throat, then quietly in the bedroom, where no one else can hear, your girlfriend tells you that real men ignore all that shit.

She wanted me to actually rape her. I told her we could set something up where she had a safeword and there were ground rules. She said that would defeat the whole purpose. She didn’t want to role-play.

So I put my foot down on that. I told her I would do the role-play version but that was it. Knowing her history and mine, that was something I was not about to touch. I had to respect her desire though, as twisted as that sounds. She was just like me. She wanted to take charge of the trauma and take life by the balls and experience everything it had to offer. That desire in me is exactly why I have so many stories to tell here.

17. My Feline Roommate

By this point in my life I had become so opposed to any kind of non-consent that I started to wonder if I could ever be a decent parent in our society because I don’t know how I could feel okay about forcing someone to do something, even when it’s for their own good.

Maybe in a way I wasn’t confident in my theory that the same kind of consent rules we apply to sex should apply to most of our other areas of life.

So when my boss started pushing me to adopt an elderly cat who was about to get sent to the pound, I hesitated. I told her that I couldn’t live with myself forcing a cat to go to the vet or even giving him a collar, and I sure as hell wouldn’t be keeping him locked inside my apartment. She said that was all fine. Better than being sent to the pound where he would surely be put down.

So I took in this cat. His name was Ganja. I kept his name even though I did not like it. I didn’t feel right about changing it, though now I realize I should have. I guess it helps them adjust to a new environment or something.

I kept him locked in my apartment for the first three weeks before I started letting him outside, which I felt violated my own principles but was probably better for his safety. Then I started letting him outside but I didn’t like making him wait for me to let him in and out so I opened a window and kept it open for the three years that he lived with me.

They told me he loved smoking pot, so I tried getting him high a couple times and he made it clear that he was not okay with that. I’ve met cats that loved marijuana and you can clearly tell as they’ll follow the pipe around the smoking circle. Ganja was definitely not one of them. Unfortunately that probably meant his previous owners had been forcing him to get high, claiming that he liked it.

I did go back on my promise to avoid the vet. He needed his shots and the vet told me that he was in pain from some rotten teeth, which I let them remove. The blatant hypocrisy of forcing a tooth removal on someone after what I had gone through was not lost on me. After that surgery I had to force him to take an antibiotic every night, basically shoving it down his throat with an eyedropper type of device. But I couldn’t bring myself to hold him tight enough, so I left him at my girlfriend’s place so she could force it on him.

But overall, I did everything I reasonably could to respect his rights, even if he did not understand the consequences. I never got him a collar for example.

I feel like Ganja and I had a mutual respect that I don’t see very often with pets. I had a wireless keyboard at the time which I left lying around on the bed, the couch, the floor. Just about anywhere. And Ganja was so careful never ever to push a key. He would step right over it if he needed to get anywhere but was always careful never to push a key. Sometimes he would fall asleep next to it and would even double check that he wasn’t going to lean onto the keys.

He was an incredibly social cat and loved meeting new people, which made him the perfect pet for a drug dealer. But he never demanded attention. He wasn’t like those cats you see on YouTube batting the book out of your hand.

They say that people with Asperger’s can form deeper connections with animals than with people. That proved to be true for me.

A neighbor once came over and said to me, “I just thought you should know that if I see your cat stalking the squirrels in my yard, I’m gonna get out my .22 and I’m gonna shoot him in the head. So you might want to think about making him an indoor cat.”

This was a very unique moment in my life and my reaction really surprised me as I hadn’t realized how attached I had become. I felt like beating the shit out of this guy, but instead I said, “If you hurt my cat I will burn your house down with your wife inside. If you have a problem with him you come over here and talk to me like an adult and we’ll work out a solution that works for all of us.”

I don’t know what came over me. When you’re a drug dealer, threatening your neighbors is about the dumbest thing you can do, but in that moment I wasn’t concerned about consequences. Fortunately he backed down.

But it wasn’t long before Ganja’s kidney’s started failing, which is pretty normal for a cat his age. I took him to the vet and they gave him an IV of fluids, then sent me home with my own IV and instructions on what to do. I did my best to hold him down but he fought back with everything he had. I found myself begging him to just let me do this to him, but he would just whine and twist and desperately try to get away. I think I successfully did it to him once. They claimed I could have kept him alive this way for another two years and I was more than willing to spend the money, but I just couldn’t do it to him. So I gave in and let him make his own choice to end his life.

But all the vets and virtually everyone I talked to said that I should put him down, saying he would suffer a lot less. I wasn’t so sure, but that’s what everyone told me so that’s what I did. So I forced him into his carrier and took him to the vet.

I can’t imagine why people say they suffer less this way. I think that’s a lie designed to spare humans from witnessing death. When I took him to the vet to have him put down, he was in hell. He was pissing all over himself, crying, cowering in the corner, terrified of everyone. Ganja wasn’t his happiest when he started dying, but he knew I was there for him and he was still in his home, going out peacefully, dealing with his situation on his own terms. I took all that away from him. Out of everything I’ve ever done, I think I carry more guilt over this than anything else.

Commentary

You may think from the last story that I’m an absolutist when it comes to consent and that’s not the case. I’m an extremist, not an absolutist. I have a simple method for determining moral values. If something supports the overall life satisfaction of the average person, then it’s a good thing. I loosely count people as being all humans and any animal that has an emotional attachment to a human or we feel an emotional attachment to. Despite being incredibly pro-choice, I still see a fetus as a person, unless the mother specifically states otherwise. You’ve also got to take future people into account too, so I count the next few generations as people and do my best to account for their needs in my moral choices.

So it’s complicated. The vast majority of the time I find that it’s in everybody’s long-term best interest to let everyone choose and get consent as much as possible. Sometimes there are short-term consequences to this but it usually works out in the long run. If I had a kid who wanted to touch a hot stove, I would warn him of the danger but would not restrain him unless he was at risk of permanently injuring himself. He would suffer in the short term, but in the long run, would learn a valuable lesson that would serve him the rest of his life.

But there is the rare exception to my devotion to consent and one example of that may surprise you. I actually support Sea World and animal testing, at least generally speaking. If it improves life on earth for the average human and animal, then I think it’s okay to violate consent as long as you minimize the harm.

And there’s one giant area where I’m a selfish hypocrite. I eat meat. I’m not a vegetarian. It’s strange how most people in our society don’t recognize the horrifying consent violations that happen every day in our meat industry. I’ve watched the videos and fully acknowledge the incredible suffering that we are causing, but for some reason I don’t feel guilty about it. It is what it is. I just keep eating meat. And there are countless more people like me. But there are many other people who can’t understand why anyone would care about the feelings of animals.

But we should think about that psychological process. If we can do that for the suffering of billions of innocent animals, then what else can we do it for? I think we’re capable of doing it for just about anything. And we are. We still buy products made with what is essentially slave labor and support wars against people we know logically are human beings, but emotionally see them as nothing more than numbers.

18. Another Circumcision

I was at my girlfriend’s house and her friend showed up to hang out and quickly told us, “I went to witness my first circumcision as part of my nursing program. It wasn’t what I expected.” She was smiling as she talked and had a laughing tone to her voice, which kind of offended me at first.

“There was all this blood and the kid just screamed and screamed, but it was like the kind of scream that pierces your soul. Like I’ve never heard that kind of scream before. He turned red as a tomato, then he just like died. I thought they had killed him, but no, they just pass out from all the pain and stress. And everybody just thought this was normal. I had no idea. I never expected anything like that.”

“What exactly did you think it was going to be like?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I guess I thought a rainbow would shoot out of his dick and Jesus would show up to bless everyone. Instead I walked into some kind of horror show. I’ve been in nursing school for two years and somehow it never occurred to me that slicing up a kid’s penis with no anesthetic might be painful for him.”

So I had to calm myself and recognize that I had been a hypocrite. I had always used laughter as a coping mechanism for trauma, as Asperger-type folks often do, and it always hurt me when people would attack me for that. Just because you’re laughing at something doesn’t mean you’re okay with it.

Often it’s the traumatized individuals who get the most out of a really dark joke or laughing at horrible things. We try to ban this behavior to protect the survivors, which winds up hurting the survivors more than anyone else.

19. The Kidnapping Confession

A friend of mine once told me a story that went something like this: “I learned the first time I took mushrooms that they are not right for me. I went completely psycho. I thought my girlfriend was working with the CIA to like kill me or something. I don’t know why the CIA would give a shit about me but that’s what I thought. So I went psycho. She didn’t take me seriously so I put a knife to her throat and grabbed by the hair and dragged her out into the woods. I kept screaming at her about how she was working with the government; I called her an evil cunt and all these horrible things. I kept telling her I was gonna kill her.

“But here’s the crazy part: she just kept walking along with me like it was no big deal. Every time I let go of her she would lie down on the ground and close her eyes. And I was like ‘what the fuck are you doing’ and she would say ‘I’m tired. I’m going to sleep.’ I kept interrogating her and she just kept calmly explaining that I was delusional.

“I’m screaming ‘I’m gonna kill you!’ and she says, ‘Nah. You won’t kill me. I’m not worried.’

“But I had completely lost my mind. I genuinely thought I was gonna kill her. She made me promise I wouldn’t do it until after I came down. That was enough for her. I was dragging her through the woods by the hair at knifepoint and she just went along with it like it was a game. I acted like that for a couple hours. Then I calmed down and we walked home again like normal people. I told her I was sorry and she told me it was no big deal; let’s just not do shrooms again. We broke up a couple months later but not because of that, believe it or not. I never found out if there was something wrong with her brain or she just genuinely knew me that well.”

A story like that does sound crazy, but I can believe it. I have seen people react to trauma in such a myriad of different ways. I’m not even convinced she had anything clinically wrong with her fear processing, though that is a definite possibility. It could be that she had simply seen and experienced so much violence and non-consensual situations in her life that she had become skilled at handling them.

After everything I’ve seen regarding non-consent in my life is that it never works how you think it will and it’s never like it is in the movies. Never.

20. LSD CEO

After I switched careers from cook to web developer, I found myself chatting with the CEO of a startup I was working for.

He told me a story: “I got a hit of acid once in high school and I wanted to take it but I was too scared so I figured I should test it on someone. So there was this guy who every day would hassle me to give him a piece of gum. Every day, relentlessly, give me gum, give me gum. So I stuck the hit of acid in my last piece of gum and sure enough he came asking. I argued but he kept nagging so I gave it to him. I talked to him the next day and asked him if anything strange had happened and he was so confused. He didn’t know what the hell had happened.”

“So you didn’t check up on him or anything that night?”

“Nah. I probably shouldn’t have let him drive home though.”

“Yeah. That could have been a manslaughter charge. I’m a huge fan of mushrooms and acid but they are not something to fuck around with. They can permanently alter your personality and if you do it wrong, it can be in a really bad way.”

But my boss just laughed. He just thought the whole thing was funny. He had never taken shrooms or acid himself so he was clueless to the seriousness of what he had done.

21. The Old Friend

If you remember from a previous story, The Marine, I used to be homophobic. Well, I was quite over that by now.

I would hang out with a gay man sometimes who was an old friend of mine. He had wanted me for a long time when I was straight. He was pretty vanilla and didn’t understand BDSM. By this time I had become fairly active in the BDSM scene, but he didn’t get it. Sometimes he would try though. Usually it didn’t go super well but was still fun, but one night something just clicked when I was sucking his dick. He got really aggressive, throwing me around and forcing his dick down my throat. We hadn’t really negotiated anything. I was begging him to stop, but in a way I felt was clearly role-play. I assumed he would have stopped if I started trying to be serious. I wound up really enjoying that session but should have seen it as a warning sign.

The next time I saw him we went out to the pub and I somehow got wasted on less than two long islands. Sometimes I wonder if he drugged me but on the other hand, he was the one who suggested I not finish my second drink.

Back at my place he wanted to do anal. He knew that was an absolute hard limit of mine. We had been over it many times. But in a scenario that seemed right out of an after school special, he kept pushing and soon I found myself naked on the floor with him holding me down, me clenching my ass as hard as I could as he tried to ram himself inside. I was screaming “Dude, fucking stop! I’m not fucking kidding! This isn’t a joke!” I tried to scramble, dragging myself across the floor. I tried to twist. I tried to throw an awkward punch backward, but nothing worked except my desperately clenched butt.

Finally he gave up and got off me. We talked a bit. I expressed how pissed off I was but didn’t actually use the words “rape” or “sexual assault”. I’m not sure why. I just couldn’t bring myself to use those words. He looked like he was about to cry. Anal was the end-all-be-all of sex for him and he had just been so desperate to do it with me.

We calmed down after that. He asked to trade blow jobs. I didn’t really want to, but I agreed. He was nicer after that.

Then he left abruptly, like after finishing he suddenly realized he had crossed a line.

I sat there and just laughed. I laughed really hard, in disbelief at what had just happened. Disbelief that ten years earlier I would have been more upset if a guy put his hand on my thigh. Strangely that’s the strongest emotion I’ve felt about this. I’ve thought a lot about it, but I never got angry again. He could have injured me. There almost certainly would have been bleeding had he succeeded. But I never felt hurt or angry or ashamed. It was just this crazy thing that happened to me.

But I couldn’t talk about it, for exactly that reason. Out of all the things in these stories, this may be the hardest for me to talk about with the possible exception of The Abortion Survivor or the police brutality bit. And it was the least traumatizing. I’m scared people will judge me, they’ll say something’s wrong with me for not taking it more seriously. They would call me a rape apologist, especially after knowing that we stayed friends and I even slept over at his house a couple times after this. I’m not ashamed of that. In fact I’m proud of my ability to forgive. It’s my right to forgive. But I’m scared that other people will not see it that way. Sometimes I wonder how many other survivors are staying quiet for this same reason, forced into silence by the very people speaking out against sexual assault.

22. The Company Camping Trip

Now let’s end all this insanity on a brighter note.

By this point I was well into my career as a web developer and I found myself as a senior software programmer for a very profitable internet company. They did a camping trip every year and in my second year attending, I found myself a bit drunk, standing around the campfire with my coworkers at maybe ten or eleven at night.

“Hey Kalin, you want some chocolate?” asked one of the human resource directors who was standing next to me.

Now bear in mind I did not know her name. She knew mine but that was part of her job. Our only conversations had involved coffee-related logistics and at best, small talk.

I assumed she was simply counting calories and wanted to unload some Hershey’s bar before she was tempted by it. “Sure,” I said, took it and popped it into my mouth.

But I quickly realized this was not a Hershey bar. It was some weird ball of fudge. As I chewed I tasted something disgusting but familiar.

I knew what was happening to me before I swallowed. But what was I supposed to do, spit it in my hand and call her out on a consent violation in front of my coworkers? Half of them were high too. So I swallowed and said, “What did you just do to me?”

“Are you okay with this?” she asked.

“It’s a little late to be asking me that now,” I said. “Is this always how HR people behave?” A coworker at a different company had told me a story of getting called into HR over the announcement system at nine in the morning, then when he got to her office, the HR director drew up a line of coke and insisted he do a snort.

“Well, you do drink decaf.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” I said.

So I had a second non-consensual mushroom trip. It being so late, she had decided for me that I would not be sleeping until the sun came up. (If you’re unfamiliar with shrooms it’s virtually impossible to fall asleep on them.) But she had no way of knowing I was going to be there the next day, that I didn’t have somewhere to be. She also didn’t know that I’d already had a previously upsetting experience with a non-consensual mushroom trip. Or that I liked to avoid mixing mushrooms with alcohol. And she didn’t know if I was going through some emotional trauma or something at that time. I mean seriously, she played a very dangerous game that night. If she had misjudged my personality, I could have ended her career.

Having said all that, I had a fantastic trip. The camp director had to come yell at us at four in the morning because we were playing too loud on the playground. To be fair, it was a great team building exercise. I just should have been allowed to choose it. If she had told me what was in it, I probably still would have eaten the chocolate. I think I would have anyway. I guess I’ll never know.

Conclusion

I wonder if half the people reading this are assuming that I made this stuff up because it’s so crazy. I probably would have thought the same thing if I’d read this when I was fifteen years old. And the other half is shrugging and saying “Yeah? So? That’s life.”

Oh wait, I almost forgot. My next-door neighbor when I was a kid grew up to be a Christian terrorist, murdering six people in the name of Jesus, one of them on the front lawn of the home where I grew up. I know that’s not really a consent issue — except those people didn’t consent to be murdered — but I felt I might as well mention that since I mentioned just about every other fucked up thing that’s affected me over the years.

After writing all this I feel cleansed and refreshed. I look back on all these stories and realize that I have been blessed with an interesting life. I feel like framing them in this quick, easy and fun little manner has helped me to get a better perspective on everything. For me, I feel like I chose all of this. When I was a kid, living a safe, sheltered and boring life, I constantly wished for more excitement. So I grew up and made it happen. They say to be careful what you wish for but I don’t regret any of it. Sometimes I feel like I have this amazing life, not despite the fucked up things I’ve experienced, but because of them. Whatever doesn’t kill me will make me stronger, but more importantly, it educates me and drags me into the intensity of life whether I want it or not.

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