Leaving the movie theater, I can’t get my father to walk ahead of me. He’s behind me to the left, then behind on my right. I can slow down, but he just slows down with me. As long as he’s behind me my brain signals danger. More specifically, it screams, “rape.”
It happens at home, too, as we navigate the narrow walkway around the kitchen island or the hallway, when I’m on the couch and he stands behind me to pat my back in affection. I love him and trust him utterly, but frequently to be near is to have my entire body retract. I had forgotten.
Several years ago, I shared my fear of being raped by a man with a therapist. It’s a fear I’ve carried in some form at least since my teens (my memory isn’t reliable much farther back than that). He suggested I overcome my fear of unwelcome, forced anal penetration by fantasizing about consensual male love. I tried once or twice, but as close as I’ve been able to come over the years is a recognition that stimulation of my prostrate could enhance sexual climax, but it’s not a man I want down there. (The right woman with the right equipment, perhaps?) And, yeah, you guessed it: my anxieties continued, reintroducing themselves situation by situation.
I’ve dreamed through the years about being overpowered and violated. And with apologies to my former therapist (who saw almost exclusively gay patients, thanks to our shared heavily-LGBT neighborhood) I’m virtually certain it’s not a fantasy introducing itself in predatory reverse.
A college professor I adored appeared in one of them, broad-chested (like my father) but dark-haired and black-eyed. He instructed the us — elementary-aged in the dream — in giving each other oral sex.
Interestingly, as a child of about eight or so I led my best friend into the closet and instructed him in oral sex. We were hairless, too young to have erections. I remember the taste of damp skin and pee. After, I never thought another thing about it. At least until he confided in me years later that it had scarred him deeply. I don’t have guilt about it (other than a regret that it hurt him), but I do wonder from time to time where the idea occurred to me to begin with: him standing and me kneeling before him, then changing places.
Long after my first extra-penile experience (but before my neighborhood therapist’s instruction in fantasy) a friend returned from the Big City. That’s where he had been introduced to cocaine and gay sex he told me after stopping the car in a moon-lit park on the way to dropping me off at my parent’s house after a night at the bar. He didn’t have any coke, but I remember being bored enough (not stimulated, curious, or any other number of possible reactions) to give him a chance.
We made out for a bit, his stubble irritating, uncomfortable. I went down to escape, almost instinctively. He moaned and offered compliments, but I felt nothing stir. I remember feeling dead in my actions, like a robot. Eventually it became obvious to both of us that I was not getting aroused. He kept searching for a sign; I kept not producing. He started the car again to take me home.
So here I am: Still not searching for signs, yet they keep appearing. They come from my affectionate to extremely uncomfortable interactions with my father. (My sexual response to my mother — because, obviously, I have to have one of those too… — is a fear that my sex organs are exposed. That is, that I’m vulnerable from the front.) And they continue arising in my dreams.
Yet another therapist provided possible insight during our one and only consultation. Immediately after introductions, he shot rapid-fire questions that I intuited were designed to knock me off balance, to access hidden knowledge while the patient presumably curled up in confusion. I shut down entirely, nearly ready to walk. In response, he asked me politely to draw a house.
Insulted, I drew quickly. The triangle roof. The big square. Smaller, subdivided boxes for windows. When I tossed the paper back to him, he smirked and pointed out I had failed to draw a door. How could we have an effective relationship if I couldn’t produce a door?
“So what’s the matter? Were you raped?”
I had no response. A blank stare.
“Did you see somebody raped?”
I broke down in tears instantly.
“That’s a different reaction, isn’t it?”
I never went back.