One of the greatest insecurities of my childhood and adolescence has been my volume. I’m sure a lot of women can relate to that feeling of being judged or quieted when they get excited and loud. Even the looks can be incredibly embarrassing. They can teach us that ladies do not talk that way. They can teach us that ladies do not talk at all.
Lately, I have been lucky to work with artists and passionate activists around rape culture and pedophile culture. It seems impossible and painful. While it gets surface attention in the form of blog posts and outraged Facebook statuses, there is a far deep root that has been touched for me.
It may be hard to immediately see the correlation between the volume at which I speak and rape/pedophile culture but the thread revealed itself to me as I worked through my recovery from emotional abuse. It became amplified when I started dating again and took fresh looks at my kinks and romantic desires.
I was unconsciously role playing the little quiet girl. I envied the girls that were naturally quiet and shy. I saw the kind of attention they got and it seemed to be disproportionate. The fantasy of the girl that doesn’t talk back. The fantasy of the girl that is naturally the prey to the predator.
Looking back and working through my past relationships, I was able to see a pattern. The truth of me is that I am fiercely independent, require a lot of alone time, and love being in front of, leading, and teaching people. I love to listen and learn but struggle to do so without giving feedback or validating the speaker.
These are truths that are present and evident in my friendships and professional relationships but have only recently popped up in my romantic and sexual ones. Where had those truths been hiding?
Recently, I went on and enjoyed a date with the kind of guy I would historically do that with. A dominant, well-read, tall, and sociopathic guy with a taste for saying what was "true" without any “sugar coating” (which is code for an unapologetic jerk). I noticed that in his presence, my voice was totally turned off. I patiently listened and quietly received information with little to no feedback. I did not feel myself at all.
As soon as I noticed, I kind of started calling him out on things that weren’t tasteful and making it a point to express my opinions. I even caught myself being a little bitchy. I’m not proud of that part, but it definitely woke me up to that fact that whatever this part of me that was acting out was needed to be taken care of.
I used to have an automatic submission to men I was attracted to in a way that totally changed my behavior. If that’s what I wanted for horny or kinky or really any reasons, that would have been fine. What I found, though, was that I was doing it out of a perception that they wanted me that way. Where did that perception come from? Not my truth- that’s for damn sure.
It came from a place that told me that men wanted a quiet little lady. A society that valued an image of the strong, dominant man and the sweet, powerful woman behind the scenes. I teased the sexual charge of this image apart from the damage it was causing in my mind and relationships. I noticed that there was a common theme in the men I had been attracted to. They did not feel smart or attractive or manly, but they sure wanted to feel that way.
Even though I could see their insecurity, I was delighted to play the role of the girl that they conquered and taught things to. They knew what a man was supposed to look like and they needed a woman to build that image on top of. I was quietly and excitedly that woman.
As I grow and explore my identity in a way that I am proud of, the things I am not so proud of really glow in the dark of my past. The way I would shut down and dissociate during sex and relationships is something I would gladly forget about myself. The thing is, I still fucking do it. Until I recognize and process those parts of me, they’ll keep happening. I am a prisoner to those old patterns. Changing and healing are not separate processes.
I was perfectly happy to not be present for partners. I was happy to believe the lies I had been told as early as I can remember:
I am an object.
I am there for sex.
I am there to keep men company.
I am there to impress their friends.
I am there to serve them.
I am not attractive when I am passionate.
I am not attractive when I am loud.
All of that is super hot in bed, sometimes, don’t get me wrong, but internalizing those messages destroyed my sense of identity. I am lucky to see it and now make choices about who I spend romantic time with. I walk like a newborn giraffe into conversations that I now understand I have a right to share an equal voice in.
I once feared that I would make partners jealous if I was more successful, smarter, or more capable. I feared they wouldn’t want to be a part of a relationship that they weren’t the leader of. As a loud girl constantly teased, gossiped about, and judged, I can finally step into my identity with pride rather than shame. I can also bring my full self into relationships and leave behind the relationships if my full self is not invited.