The Man in the Mirror (TW: rape)
March 14, 2018 1:16 PM   Subscribe

 
Well-written, thanks for posting.
posted by smokysunday at 1:57 PM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


That was a hard fucking read but absolutely the fuck worth it. I could tell the moment I realized that he was taking advantage of her. There was something in her words, even before she got there in the story, that were familiar and telling. The way she talks about herself, apologizes for herself, tries to make herself worth what she thought he was giving her, it's absolutely heartbreaking. I've been there (and I feel like most women have).

I would have to quote the whole damn article if I wanted to highlight the insights that hit me. I, too, have had (am having? will have?) to navigate relationships post-rape. How she frames a lie in the form of taking away her ability to say no to what is happening behind her back. It's a feeling I've had, but couldn't describe. It's hard to find the words when you've been gaslit, how do you manage to put a firm frame around the nebulousness of feelings that come when your reality isn't real?

I don’t know, anymore, where to draw the lines between more-or-less good men, more-or-less bad men, more-or-less #NotAllMen. If complicated people deserve the benefit of the doubt, mercy, and forgiveness, who benefits the most? Rapists? Emotional abusers? Gaslighters? Liars? I don’t see my tolerance for moral complexity making the world of survivors any safer, fairer, or easier.
(emphasis mine)
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:58 PM on March 14, 2018 [29 favorites]


Best of the web. Thanks for sharing.
posted by The Minotaur at 2:12 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I feel ill.

(The article was amazing. Just.... D: )
posted by Quackles at 2:21 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


The article was incredible. And also a punch to the gut.

When you have been raped, and have PTSD from it, they often recommend a course of cognitive behavioral therapy. It tells you truths you believe about the world, and tells you they are a result of your experience, and how to shed them. How to get back to believing in a world that isn't broken. I hear that it is good and works well for many survivors.

But I find myself drawn back and back to the words they have tried to get me to believe, after my rape: "the world is inherently safe. You can trust. You can trust men."

And I think of this article. I think of the men, moving through the world, that I have never been able to trust again. I think of the fact that in fifteen long years since I was first raped (and how terrible that there is a modifier there), I have never, in all that time, met a man who was worth trusting on an interpersonal level, who didn't betray me in one way or another, one lie or another, one other woman or another, one ego trying to make me small or another. I think about the fact that I am partnered to a man who 'believes in equality more than most'. I think about the fact that my previous statement is still true.

And I am brought back to this article.

Which is to say, thank you for posting it.
posted by corb at 2:40 PM on March 14, 2018 [58 favorites]


Very well written and very powerful. Thanks.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 3:58 PM on March 14, 2018


Damn.

It makes me wonder, should she be able to report this behavior to his program, that is training him to be a therapeutic counselor?

Whenever you begin to think "well, they won't know, so it won't hurt them", you are wandering down the wrong road. That's something I know for sure.
posted by allthinky at 5:56 PM on March 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


When I was a graduate student, I temped in my university's psychiatry department. One of the books I worked on had a chapter on PTSD. It focused mainly on men returning from war (don't they all), but there was a short paragraph about women who had been molested or raped. It said, "They can desensitize to their abuse and recover with the help of a gentle, caring boyfriend."

In addition to the heterosexism there, I remember wondering, What happens if a woman never meets a gentle, caring boyfriend? What happens if her boyfriend treats her even worse than her abuser did? It didn't bother to mention that.
posted by dancing_angel at 6:16 PM on March 14, 2018 [24 favorites]


Later that week, on Christmas Eve, a comment on his band’s Instagram account led to an unknown woman’s page, full of photographs of home-cooked meals, all of which J. had clicked Like on. They felt uncanny. Then I recognized the white dishes and silverware I had eaten from and washed. I recognized the speckled white countertop I had scrubbed

Oh man. I haven't lived this story, but I've lived a variation on a theme—one that was much tamer, thankfully. I could immediately see the fucking home-cooked meals on a speckled countertop. Banging my head against the things that didn't make sense, like a moth batting its wings against the glass. The full picture I couldn't put together until I saw the wrong images in the right order, until I found the puzzle pieces that made the whole thing make sense. The one who helped heal me from a relationship gone wrong (not from exactly the same thing, though) but then wrecked me—then just made me laugh with his fecklessness. Thankfully there was that, that ultimately I could laugh.


I’m afraid of ever being touched by a man again.

I’m afraid of never being touched by a man again.

I’m afraid of ever, ever trusting a man again.


This is real. I feel ashamed to identify with this on any level, but it's more real for me than it should be.
posted by limeonaire at 6:40 PM on March 14, 2018 [19 favorites]


I must admit that my hackles were up from the first moment of intersection between traumatized victim + implausibly perfect male savior [+who happens to be in a mental health profession].

If there are good tells for distinguishing genuinely heroic altruists from opportunist abusers in that kind of a helping context, I'd love to hear them; it feels horribly cynical to get that little pang of mistrust every time I hear about e.g. a single foster dad who's caring for 6 terminally ill children. But it does seem as though with above-random frequency the person offering an exceptional level of help when you're most vulnerable turns out to be the very last person you should want around just then.
posted by gallusgallus at 8:03 PM on March 14, 2018 [8 favorites]


When I was a graduate student, I temped in my university's psychiatry department. One of the books I worked on had a chapter on PTSD. It focused mainly on men returning from war (don't they all), but there was a short paragraph about women who had been molested or raped. It said, "They can desensitize to their abuse and recover with the help of a gentle, caring boyfriend."

For values of "recover" that equal "be willing to put out again". Ugh, that makes me furious.

Trusting people is overrated. Perfect trust in others is an insane unmeetable goal even if they're your spouse or blood relative. Go with your gut, you'll be happier.
posted by fshgrl at 9:03 PM on March 14, 2018 [14 favorites]


Heterosexual cis guy here.

A long time ago in Trumpian terms someone linked to a campaign ad for a woman running against two men for some elected post - I can't recall which. Anyway, one of the many, many Men Behaving Badly scandals was in the news and her campaign pitch was basically:
You don't want your representative showing his penis to women, so vote for the candidate without one. Me, I'm the only one who can guarantee I won't ever do that.
I hope she got elected. At the time her campaign pitch made perfect sense and it still sort of does. Men are jerks.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:39 AM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Wow. Such a composition.

Evocative, honest writing. Empowering, too. And the thread about taking control of the narrative, so expertly woven through. I'm going to have to re-read.

It's moving me to tell my own story, which is frightening. But it's healing to recognize myself, and the shape of my world, in her words. And it's making me reconsider that maybe there's someone who needs my words, too.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 4:06 AM on March 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Well written. Also, wrenching.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:55 AM on March 15, 2018


Then there’s the complexity of the therapist-in-training who lies, persuading a woman that reality — his own face in the mirror — is only a figment of her imagination. The complexity that never acknowledges, much less apologizes for the evidence of the spoon, except, indirectly, through later Instagram photos: he’s switched to flatware of hammered, dark, non-reflective metal. There’s the complexity so invested in the belief that he’s A Good Man that he manipulates and deceives in order to preserve the illusion.

Imagine being a trained clinical expert in the damage that gaslighting does-- and still doing it. Still looking at the wounds you've inflicted on an already suffering person and saying "no, that wasn't me, you must be confused."

So many men are desperate for women to fuck them, but become furious when women actually see them. She saw J. for who he really was, and he called her a liar, and kept twisting the knife. Kept twisting the knife and calling himself a pacifist.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:33 AM on March 15, 2018 [13 favorites]


Thank you for sharing.

Apart from the "lots of men suck, this one also sucked" I really had a gut punch about that sense of "I spent all this time trying to get over a traumatic response, only to walk into further trauma." I spent years but also an intense 7 months of pregnancy trying to retrain part of my brain to believe that I was not cursed due to not going along with cult practices, only to have my baby die due to divine retribut--I mean, biology, physics, and medical error.

It does become crushing and paralysing; where to go next? becomes a labyrinthine question. I think this essay speaks very strongly in capturing that moment, the image of mirrors and who is the artist (actor) and who is the art (object) is incredibly well balanced. I'm very glad to have read it.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:40 AM on March 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


I’m afraid of ever being touched by a man again.

I’m afraid of never being touched by a man again.

I’m afraid of ever, ever trusting a man again.


This is also my story. Different details but the same story, over and over again.
posted by twilightlost at 10:53 AM on March 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Then there’s the complexity of the therapist-in-training who lies, persuading a woman that reality — his own face in the mirror — is only a figment of her imagination. The complexity that never acknowledges, much less apologizes for the evidence of the spoon, except, indirectly, through later Instagram photos: he’s switched to flatware of hammered, dark, non-reflective metal. There’s the complexity so invested in the belief that he’s A Good Man that he manipulates and deceives in order to preserve the illusion.

This cannot be said loud enough. What an amazing, stunning piece.
posted by Violet Hour at 6:47 PM on March 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


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