This GIF reminds me of Johanna, the daughter of one of my mother’s church friends who, in hindsight, was almost certainly sexually abused throughout her childhood.
At six, Johanna was a pretty and knew it. Around adults she adopted an affected shyness. One-on-one she was not unfriendly as long as you did exactly what she said. If you didn’t, she could be viciously mean..
I was a year older and not especially friendly with her. But kids make all kinds of alliances against boredom and it didn’t hurt that Johanna wanted to undertake something illicit.
She explained to me that although her mother had forbidden it, she wanted to rebuild her Fort.
The Fort, it turned out, was a sort of tent. It had a house shaped frame formed from interconnecting black plastic rods. Said rods needed to be smuggled from her upstairs bedroom through the living room crowded with adults and downstairs into the sun drenched rec room.
It took an hour or so to erect the frame and fit the nylon skin tattooed to resemble an idyllic suburban house over it.
Johanna told me that we were going to play house. She was the dad and had to go to work; I was the mom and she expected me to clean the house and have dinner ready when she got home.
She marched off upstairs; I opened the zippered front door and went into the house– inside it was too small for me to stand up all the way.
Johanna came in behind me and asked why dinner wasn’t ready. I said I hadn’t expected her so early.
She demanded that I come outside with her. Standing beside the Fort she told me she was going to punish me and pulled down my underwear. I tried to pull them up with both hands but she seemed to have expected this and fondled me. Her touch was clumsy; it made my insides feel strange.
She shimmied the waist of her own underwear down and told me to touch her between her legs
She guided my hand and fingers, pressing her body roughly into mine as she explored me with increasing insistence.
I started to feel like I was melting before I remembered how to move, pushed her away and ran upstairs.
Five years later, I was waiting for my mom to finish with a church elder’s meeting when Johanna shoved me into the men’s room. Inside, she quickly checked the shower area and stalls before menacing me with the chrome blade of a Swiss army knife. She pushed me back against the wall and pushed metal edge against my throat.
I will kill you unless you stick your tongue in my ass.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t scared or worried for my safety. What upset me was having no notion whatsoever of what she really wanted.
Before anything more could happen, my brother walked in on us. Johanna brandishing the knife and charged at him. He sidestepped and she spun, pointing the tip of the blade at each of us, threatening grievous bodily harm if we told anyone then disappearing into the hallway.
What happened between us failed to traumatize me. And I bear her no ill will. All she did was tell me to do something when asking would have worked– Johanna was not unattractive and in spite of my deep reservations with regard to anilingus, it’s likely I would have complied.)
I haven’t thought of her in more than a decade. And seeing this GIF my first thought was not to immediate flashback to the aforementioned incidents. I started off thinking about how there are two types of BDSM imagery: those pathologically preoccupied with power dynamics and those focused on the role trust plays in transgressing bodily boundaries. I categorically dislike the former; the latter tend to really get under my skin because I cannot help attributing metaphorical significance to them.
I know I am not normal but when I trust someone it’s not that I expect them to want to tie me up and do whatever they want with my body as much as I just would have no qualms whatsoever if they did. I sincerely feel my trust entitles them to places just as much of a claim on my body as I do. It is as if through friendship I am already completely naked, restrained and at the mercy of another–much like this boy.
It occurs to me that Johanna probably shared this feeling of base nakedness, The difference lay in her willingness to strip others to level the field.
I do not accept such wonton disregard for consent. At the same time, I don’t comprehend why it would ever not be okay to ask for something as long as it is okay to decline.
You’d think most people’s curiosity about the bodied-ness of others would thrill at such openness. Most leave you restrained and walk away. A few will willingly touch you, even fewer will admit they want you to touch them the way you want to be touched and maybe once in a lifetime someone will summon from you a certain degree of the grace which transcends mercy.