When I first realized the type of shadow work Sekhmet was pushing me towards, I pulled a card to see what I could expect from all of this. It’s always good, I think, to be forewarned about what you can expect. That way, maybe, you can allocate resources to what you need to work on. The card I pulled when I asked her was from the Book of Doors deck and it was the “Satis” card. From my own interpretation (I eschew the book on this), it means, more or less, “inundation.” I laughed so hard after pulling that card that I cried. I can’t really say if what I’ve been dealing with for the last few weeks can really be interpreted from an outsider’s perspective as “inundation” but it certain feels that way to me. At the gist of the matter, I feel very much as though I’ve been stretched to the breaking point, given a wee reprieve, and then I have to get back to it again. I’m always waiting for that moment when I will actually break, but apparently, I know what I’m doing, or at least partially, because I haven’t broken… Yet.
When S told me that I needed to look into this, I think anyone who knows me can imagine the look I gave her. I wasn’t best pleased with how she pulled the rug out from beneath my feet to get me to admit that I had a problem regarding consent and I wasn’t particularly pleased at the prospect of yet more shadow work on any subject. But I also understood that everything is a work-in-progress, so to speak, including the souls of people under the care of the gods. I am, of course, no exception. Part of the reason I gave S such a nasty look about it was because, well, how the fuck do you assess where your issues lie? How in the world, once you admit you have a problem, do you progress to the next step in which you figure it all out? And how the fuck do you finally get to the end of all of this?
I had a basic rubric to follow – one that I’ve created myself – but I had a feeling that wasn’t really going to work here. I had to reform how I had dealt with other shadow work situations and work at it from a different angle. I couldn’t help but, almost affectionately wish that Hekate was back around to show me the ropes. Then, I snapped myself awake and reminded myself that all shadow work attempts are going to be different from one another and for all I knew, Hekate would drown me in a pool of my own blood in an attempt to “make better” the issues I was facing. Hell… that was probably something S herself could and would do, if the need arose, so I figured I should stop trying to figure how to do it and just throw myself into it. I ended up jumping into the river that is my soul and finding that I’ve always had an issue here.
Well, that kind of sucked to learn. I figured I could come to a single culminating moment in my life in which I found a neon, blazing sign with arrows pointing to it. That would, of course, be the earmarked moment in which I began having issues with consent. So, this leads me in other arenas as to why I may possibly have the problem in question (which will be discussed in another entry). But what it comes down to is that I have to, not only discern what happened and where, but I also have to discern how this has impacted my views on myself, my behavior in relationships, and how I can correct things, in future, so that I’m not an idiot for the rest of my life. This kind of feels like a really fucking tall order to fill, especially considering the fact that I don’t even know if this consent issue has impacted my across relationships.
I assume that it has, but of course, the only way to be really sure is, of course, to look through them all.
I wanted to enter this phase as logically as I could. It seemed prudent to go through all of the relationships I’ve had, since puberty, and attempt to discern where the issues were in said relationships. But as I started poking at the relationships I had early on in my high school career, I came to the conscious realization that it wasn’t going to be quite as easy as all of that.
Aside from the one-off moment when I was fifteen with a local boy, most of the boyfriends I had when I was fourteen and fifteen were in that “nice guys” kind of category, but not in that “I’m a nice guy and I finish last” jerk face category. They wouldn’t have even have moved forward with a kiss without verifying with me that it was okay. They were conscientious in a way that later boyfriends were not. In looking back, it appeared that I had discovered a certain category of boys that were aware that they needed to verify with me that permission was given or that it was merely that I had a really good radar for guys that paid close attention to my desires or that they were as fucking terrified of the prospect of having a girlfriend as I was of having a boyfriend that they wanted to be SUPER SURE that everything was okay.
These guys… the first two years in which I really started to date were the kind of guys that, I think, everyone should have dated at least once. They checked in. They verified. And in many cases, there was little more than a kiss or two. It’s possible that we were all just so unsure of what to do and how to behave and were conscientious of not being aware of where things were heading or what we wanted. Or, maybe it was just, like I said, that they were good people who verified with me. Whatever the case may be, most of my early relationships seemed to fall within what I think consent should look like. While I understand that my desires for what consent should like – the constant checking in and verifying with me and my doing likewise with them – isn’t the case for everyone, it’s what I want from my significant others.
For some reason, I went astray from these types of guys and ended up in a whole new category of other, which is probably where my present day issues stem. Or, again, maybe it was just the fact that things were so new and frightening to both parties that checking in with one another was a normal thing. In either case, things kind of went downhill when I started getting into that phase where “long term” relationships were in. Or maybe it was simply because those first relationships were just all short term. None of them lasted longer than two months. I had a thing for relationships that lasted at two something: days, weeks, months. I began to wonder if I had the ability to even maintain a long term relationship at all. Everyone else was doing it but me. Now that I think on it, if it was because we were so new and frightened and those relationships were only supposed to be pit stops on the road to a longer relationship status, then maybe I should have dated around instead of trying to be like everyone else.
My first long term relationship was that kind of relationship that, upon looking back, you’re just like, “what the fuck was wrong with me.” Don’t get me wrong; the relationship was okay in the grand scheme of things but there was so much fucking up on both sides that it’s amazing we lasted together as long as we did. I’ve thought long and hard about this relationship because it has defined me a lot in my sexual tastes and desires, but also aided me in growing exponentially at a stage in my life when I was very close to shriveling up and dying. I think that it was because I was able to screw up so badly and he was able to screw up so badly, but we stayed through it all anyway that allowed me to grow exponentially and define what I wanted out of a significant other. Then again, I could just be trying to put some positive spin on it because, well, it was my first love-love. As much as I hate to admit that he is my first love; he’s my first love. He was my first, this-is-for-real love. He defined what loving others would be like for the rest of my life and defined a lot of things.
He also let me grow, experiment, and make decisions on my own. All in all, I don’t think consent was an issue for us. He didn’t necessarily check in with me like my previous boyfriends had, but he let me make up my own mind about things. However, what I found in myself was that because I was so worried about him leaving, I would often give in to things that left me feeling uncomfortable or nervous. I think it is because of this deep set fear that I would be left in the dust by someone whom I cared for more than my hormonally charged heart could handle that I felt I needed to let things progress to various levels that weren’t something I would have considered on my own. But, since he was more interested in experimenting in things, I was able to make definitive decisions about: whether or not I could handle being in a polyamorous relationship (the answer was no); what sort of kinks I could or would not tolerate (don’t ask; it’s none of your business); and how much I really like cuddling like spoons (seriously, it’s the best fucking thing ever and I could live my whole life cuddled against someone like that).
But I also lost my voice after a while to make conscientious decisions about what I did or did not consent to. I did not consent to a threesome when I was very drunk and stoned out of my gourd; it took someone else to point that out to the boyfriend. I did not consent to having a third party enter our relationship (not in a polyamorous way) and side-seat drive the relationship boat. Part of the reason why I lost my voice was fear of his leaving and, I believe, it partially stems from my putting my foot down and saying, “I won’t be in a polyamorous relationship. You are with me and me alone or you are not with me at all.” I think, too, it was the knowledge that his feelings for me were strong enough to break up with a long distance girlfriend (they lived hours away but saw each other regularly, I guess) and also the fact that I took second place in his affections when it came to my best friend (whom he wanted to date prior to realizing I was girlfriend material). I was so worried he would leave me that I submitted to things that I never consciously consented to. And because of that, he tended to believe that I consented to things, such as the threesome, without thinking to check in with me about it.
As it was, I did consent to breaking up with him when he decided his best friend hadn’t molested me. Clearly, his friend did this as his friend admitted it to both of us on separate occasions. “Yes,” he said, “I did this thing. I was hoping to take X’s place.” (I did not have a chance to consent or not to that as I was high as fuck on muscle relaxers and drunk as hell on blackberry brandy.) I continued to remain broken up with him even though I often went back to him for affection and sex afterwards because he was still friends with this man and wouldn’t discuss it with me, either rationally or irrationally (of which I was quite capable of being at the time). Part of the reason I went back was out of fear of being alone and fear of never finding someone who loved me, even a little bit, like he did. But mostly it was something comfortable and obvious to me.
He was my defining moment in terms of relationships and it is through that relationship that, I feel, many of my later bad habits were formed.
I pushed integral parts to my personality down as low as I could so as not to rock the boat, metaphorically speaking. This is hilarious considering how completely up and down I was emotionally and mentally during our relationship. Much of that was not his fault; I was still attempting to handle the emotional and mental fall out from having been raped by a fairly popular jock in school. Not only was I trying to get a handle on the ramifications of all of that, I was still just trying to comprehend that I had been raped. I took out that emotional upheaval on my boyfriend and he handled it as appropriately as he could. Perhaps in consequence to the emotional issues my rape and its aftermath had caused, I subverted bits of myself in an attempt to keep him with me, to help me through the hardship of going to court (and that failure) as well as a reminder that I wasn’t alone.
I think, though, it was the fear of being alone to deal with the aftermath of my rape that made me stop worrying so much about consent, checking in, and had me agreeing to things that I never would have done on my own. It was a few months in to our relationship in which many, if not all things, became a sort of “inferred consent.” It was almost as though he thought that since we were in a relationship, it was okay to do whatever it was he had in mind. And in some cases, I was all right with this. In other cases, I was not. But instead of saying anything, I wanted for him to check in with me. And when that didn’t happen, I just went along with it.
I don’t know if this really means that I have a problem with consent, though. Doesn’t a sort of implied consent happen in long term relationships? According to Wiki, “Implied consent is consent which is not expressly granted by a person, but rather inferred from a person’s actions and the facts and circumstances of a particular situation (or in some cases, by a person’s silence or inaction).” This is, of course, incredibly dicey ground I’m treading. Technically, everything we undertook together could be viewed under the “implied consent” definition. I was silent about things that made me uncomfortable, submerging my emotional reactions to those things in an effort to appease him. So, based on that, doesn’t that mean that technically I always gave consent, in some form?
Based on the poking and prodding of my remembered emotional reactions to things, I have to think that just because I didn’t say “no” doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t have an issue with consent. Clearly, I have an issue voicing my feelings in regards to things and clearly, this pattern goes back to my first long term relationship. I understand the basis in why I have that issue – I had the deep set belief that if I voiced a differing opinion about much of anything, then I would be left to be own devices. My fear of being alone made me willing to submerge my own desires into someone else’s so that it seemed, almost, as though we were in tune with one another’s wants and desires. This was a myth, though. That wasn’t the case in our relationship, as is clearly the case when I look back at the stormy fights we had fairly frequently (partially caused by hormones and teenager hood, partially caused by emotional and mental hurts, and partially caused by two stubborn people – I’m a Leo and he is an Ares – getting together).
So, yes, I definitely think I have an issue with consent. And clearly, it’s an old one. The question, of course, comes down to “why,” but I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever know that. However, now that I can see the start of the pattern, now it’s time to see it in action elsewhere…