Rapunzel

braidMy golden braid
Sweeps against my rump
This built-in rope
A symbol of mother
Though it sprouts from my crown
It weighs heavily
She would never let me cut the ties
Could I hang myself with it?

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair

Three braided strands: me, him, other
Me, father, mother
Three strands distinct
Yet interwoven
Fastened together
As if in marriage
Interminable bonds
If I untie the braid
Will I cease to exist?

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair Read More

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When you are a woman with a man

When you are a woman
With a man
You cannot say to him:
Oh, your belly is actually quite round
Or
I don’t like that hairy pimple
And
You can’t point out
That his breath smells
Or
That you wish he chose nicer clothes
And
Cared more about how he looks
If only just for you Read More

What if Women Were Free?

A couple of months ago I had a distinctly new, foreign though pop into my head. What would the world be like if women were free to live their lives exactly as they wished? And I mean exactly as they wished. Not within the current frameworks and the limitations that these frameworks place upon us as women. And not by accepting the pseudo freedom sold to us. It is a lie. What I mean is starting over from scratch. Imagining a new world for women. Without any historical precedents in place, without societal, cultural or political pressures. Without gender conditioning. Without misogyny.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine a world in which women define themselves? Read More

His Name is David

My rapist’s name is David
Not the one who fought Goliath
My rapist has no courage

Not the everyday Davids
The ones that you might know
I’m sorry he has the same name

I’m sorry if your David is nice
Not all Davids are rapists
But mine was, yes

The David who raped me
Is not my cousin
Who is always friendly
With crinkly eyes
His name is David too

Nor my uncle
Who tells the best stories
And has lived an interesting life

And certainly not my Dad’s best friend
Who I’ve known since birth
He is a sweet and gentle man

There are so many Davids
And only one of them raped me Read More

Body Tales II: The Concert

Before the private concert
A stranger’s bedroom
Summer 1997
I’m twenty-three
I’m the musician
The performer
The one to watch
And to hear, hopefully
I zip on silver silk cocktail dress
It fits and it flares
Over my slim roundedness
I like my body
Lovely breasts
Tiny waist
Mum and Dad arrive
An obligatory audience
Mum is always reticent
Ever-present
Ever-jealous
Ever-frowning Read More

Silence was my muse

Silence was my muse
She kept me bound
Stuffed a ball in my mouth
And covered it with tape
And when she removed them
After quite some time
I was still dead quiet
As I’d always been

Silence was my muse
She didn’t say a peep
She didn’t move a muscle
And being like her
I didn’t either
I stayed frozen and mute
I couldn’t even hear
The sound of my breath
My still-beating heart
Blood ringing in my ears
Good lord, was I dead?

Silence was my muse
But the real problem was
She didn’t say much
She didn’t say anything
I had to lip read
And pray for subtitles
A translator maybe
Some braille or a note
A key to decode
Her silent cypher Read More

Brave?

fists
Courage – what is it exactly? Since I started telling my story on this blog I have had many women (both friends and acquaintances) tell me how brave I am to be writing about my life and thanking me for doing so. And when I say my life, I don’t of course mean the entirety of my life. Thankfully, there have been many sunny and pleasant moments in my life too. What I mean is the sexual abuse and assault that I have had to deal with during the course of my life. This is (mostly) what this blog has been about: trying to write about and make sense of what has happened to me, from the hindsight of middle age and with the new-found wisdom, support and vocabulary of the MeToo movement.

These past eight months, since the news about Harvey Weinstein broke, have seen me examine, re-examine, and cross-examine my own life, honestly, and with new-found knowledge pertaining to what sexual violence actually is. I’ve been a card-carrying feminist since my early 20s, and this recent process has involved a complete overhaul of my own feminism, as well as a complete revision of my sexual history. I never realised, even as a feminist, just how much of my abusive past I had simply pushed down, how many men I’d made excuses for, or worse, still had unrequited feelings for. Abusers, coercers, womanisers and rapists alike. I sadly realised that almost every relationship I had been in with a man had involved some form of sexual abuse, coercion, exploitation, gross power imbalance, or sexual violence. Not to mention the accompanying emotional abuse, which always, always goes hand in hand. Then there are the female friends I realise I had let down: women who had tried to tell me their rape stories and I either didn’t believe them fully, or I didn’t understand why they had stayed. For these women I have written a poem called I’m Sorry. I am truly sorry that I was complicit in a culture that allowed the systematic sexual assault of women, but thankfully I now know better.

About my poetry: when I started this blog I had intended it to be a platform for opinion pieces and essays like this one. But I quickly found that poetry was the easiest, and most appropriate way for me to express all of my MeToo stories and feelings. In a poem you can capture raw emotion with a few words or lines; you can obscure and disguise identities, and you can release feelings without having to construct coherent sentences, as I am now. Writing coherent prose is helpful too, but when I write this way I am always one step removed from my feelings. I’m using the more rational, critical and analytical parts of my brain, which is satisfying, and calming too, but rarely offers the catharsis that writing a poem does.

The problem with poetry is, as I said above, it obscures and disguises. It can be cryptic and unclear to the reader. I have used it so much because it has been the only way I have been able write about some of what happened to me, especially the worst of what happened. This is why, when women friends tell me I’m brave for speaking out about my experiences, I shrink a little inside. Am I really brave? Or am I hiding behind the obscure words of my poetry? The reality is, I’ve only written clearly (in prose) about the more peripheral experiences of sexual misconduct I’ve experienced, with the exception of one piece: Not Quite Here Yet: Living in the Aftermath of Child Molestation. I’ve spent much time discussing some of the less damaging things that happened to me, for example, in my piece Why My Teeth Clench and My Shoulders Seize Up, to demonstrate that we are still living very much in a culture that hates and hurts women. These “lesser” things are not trivial, but they are far from the worst things that have happened to me. I’ve not written very directly at all about the relationships that I endured that were, actually, the most abusive. The keywords here being abusive and relationship. It is within an abusive relationship that systematic, lasting damage can be done to a person’s mind, body and self-esteem. Abusive relationships break people down, more often than not, women.

With all this in mind, and after a long preamble, today is the day I wish to be truly brave and tell you – in plain prose – about some of the more damaging relationships I’ve been in. As Australia has some of the toughest defamation laws on the planet, I won’t be naming and shaming. It is far too dangerous for me to do so in any case.

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of child molestation, sexual coercion, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, assault and rape. Please take appropriate self-care before, during and after reading this if you are likely to be triggered, or simply do not read any further.

Read More

Träum(a)rei

Pneumatic drill through concrete
Dirt laid bare and dug
Artefacts uncovered
Shards of buried memories
How deep will they go?

Peeling back onion skin
I catch its flesh with blade
Strip layer back from layer
Each stratum reveals the next
Will I ever reach the core? Read More

Shit Men Say To Me on Facebook: Gender Roles & Communication in the #metoo Era

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I quit Facebook about a year ago. I’ve never looked back: the interactions I had with most of my 300+ friends was becoming shallow and superficial. Most of the time, when I did post something that I wanted others to engage with, my words would go out into the void, echo and bounce around the walls around a bit, before fading out and sitting there lonely and unheard. It got a bit tedious talking to myself when I was seeking meaningful connection. Ah, the lure of social media to the isolated introvert! Facebook sucked me in and wasted many an hour — nay, years — of my life.

I also didn’t like that people I barely knew (or hadn’t met) had access to my photos, relationship information, and my documented history. As an early adopter of Facebook in Australia, there was a lot of history on my profile. I was reluctant to delete it, or go through the laborious task of setting up privacy filters on every single thing I did (or every album) just to prevent people I barely knew from seeing and reading about my life. Facebook makes it very difficult to set these restrictions up easily.

On Facebook I made friends with people for a variety of reasons, as we all do. Some of these connections were real friendships or family relationships, while other connections came through shared interests or were for networking purposes. I never really got into accepting requests from complete strangers – there was always a tenuous connection to the people I allowed in, nevertheless, at the end of my time on Facebook a lot of these connections felt bizarre to me. Too many (unknown) people had access to too much of my life, which made me feel deeply uneasy. As someone who had existed for a long time in the pre-digital, pre-internet era, I found exposing myself to all and sundry disturbing and not at all reflective of real-life socialising.

One of the things I liked least about Facebook was that these more distant kinds of Facebook “friends” (the online acquaintances) were able to message me whatever they liked. This was a real problem when it came to men at times: in particular men who seemed to have developed a bit of a crush on me, as happened occasionally. Combine that romantic interest with a bit of mansplaining, unsolicited advice, and alcohol, and we have a “winning” combination. I’ve come back to the archive of my Facebook messages in recent months to have a look at some of the messages I received during those ten years on Facebook, and I’m re-examining what they mean in the #metoo era. It’s even more alarming to me now (than it was then) to notice how entitled some men feel to barge on in to one’s personal space with little emotional regulation, offering themselves and their sexist “advice” in equal measure. Read More