Why you should care
Because sexual violence strikes just about wherever it wants.
I’m a rape victim. I didn’t know I was, but America has convinced me I am.
When I was 18, I volunteered at the Mother Teresa House in Kolkata. At night after work, I had my first drinks and joints on the hostel rooftop. I remember topping a glass with vodka and trying to chug it.
On the wall of my hostel was a poster for Ayurvedic Indian massage. Higher than the Himalayas, I pictured a young female masseuse and sauntered there. The masseuse turned out to be the opposite: a wrinkled, lanky man with a graying beard.
But I did not want to be rude, so I paid rupees, roughly about five dollars. He asked me to strip down to my underwear so I did. I lay prostrate on a musty bed. His fingers were long and cold, but his touch on my back was soothing.
I blamed myself for my naivete. The world is not all roses.
I woke up with his penis inside my anus. I didn’t know if he had penetrated multiple times, but I shoved him off. He rushed to pick up his pants and handed me back the rupees. Fear-stricken, he pleaded with me to not report him to the police. I yelled at him to get the hell out, and he did. That was a month before my first heterosexual intercourse.
Feeling filthy and violated, I trudged my body home. I stood under the hot shower of the hostel and traced the contour of my anus. I don’t remember if I was crying, but I remember standing under the shower for a long time. I was raised in a Christian family that taught me my body is my altar, and in a Confucian society that taught me my body is my parents’ gift.
I shared what had transpired with fellow Americans at the hostel, and they sympathized by offering more weed. Curled in a ball and still high, I passed out.
For whatever reason, I haven’t been scathed. I did not turn in the old man. I blamed myself for my naivete. The world is not all roses, and the crooked timber of humanity will deflower you if opportunities arise. I returned to the Mother Teresa House the next day. I did not go through the gauntlet of sterilizing medical and legal procedures.
I don’t presume to know what it feels like to dwell in a woman’s body and psyche. But I suspect that the intensity of psychological distress may be culturally amplified. I don’t think the ancient Greek philosophers and Japanese samurais who were anally penetrated as boys developed lasting psychological traumas.
In contrast to Dionysian Greeks, Christians espoused sacrosanctity of the body and paranoia over organs of pleasure, while also preaching confession and forgiveness. The global obsession with chastity seems driven not only by evolutionary biology of genital infections and paternal uncertainty, but by the patriarchal structures that sought to ensure male domination over female bodies.
I share my experience not to challenge the authenticity of rape traumas or condone the atrocity of perpetrators. I would like to merely question the perceptions of penetration upon male and female bodies, and also upon white and colored bodies. If perceptions diverge, then these distinctions should be acknowledged in educating young males about their gender privilege. If they don’t, then may stern justice prevail over mercy.
As for me, I remain straight to this day, though I occasionally spice up my sex life with homosexual encounters. Life is messy, but I had to pick myself up from the dirt and live. So I do.