Another #MeToo Story….

I’ve been struggling with intimacy more in the past three years than at any other point in my life. I’ve spoken and written and shared about my past experiences of trauma and abuse, but I haven’t really spoken or considered the last time I had sex and how traumatic it was. It’s such an experience I feel I need to share it. Trigger warning–rape, sex, dissociation, oppression, heteronormative fantasies, #metoo.

I met a guy on OKC who seemed really nice and kind. He came from a family that seemed chill, had a diverse past that he seemed unashamed to speak about, and seemed pretty well awakened to some things he’d been through. We had a lot in common. He brought me to Cafe Gratitude for the first time.
The first few dates we went on were very innocent. He was kind and understanding, he was interesting and interested. He took things slow and seemed like a good guy.
He stopped acting like such a good guy after we had sex for the first time though.

The date after our first sexual encounter I let him take me somewhere–a surprise location. I was a vegan at the time and he decided to take me to the San Pedro Fish Market. When we got there, I was peeved. Like–who brings a vegan to a place that hella glorifies and smells of meat? (Not the first time a date had done such a thing btw) But, I went along with it and got some fried veggies–which I didn’t eat because they were definitely fried with the fish and tasted like fish oil and made me wanna puke because I hadn’t had meat in over a year.
I let this all slide, thinking I was just over-reacting or being selfish or too dramatic. I let him take me back to his place for the second time, which was a huge, disgusting mess. The understanding and helpful person I often am (to a fault in the past), I suggested that I could help him clean some things before we hung out and watched a movie.

I was washing his dishes as he picked up some stuff. He came up behind me and started touching me. I was flattered, but also annoyed like–we’re doing something here dude. Can’t you be a little more patient? He would go do some other things and then come back and mess with me–but not ME the brain in the body, the person with cognitive decision skills and autonomy… just the body. I was boobs and ass and curves and vag.
At one point, without warning, he started undressing me. It wasn’t sexy, or cute. It wasn’t slow, or kind. There was no kissing or admiration or care for whether I enjoyed it at all. It was aggressive, forceful. (It should be noted this guy was about 6’4″ and built very muscularly and big. He was easily twice my size.) He pulled my shirt off of me even though I was standing right in front of a window, at night, that was open and overlooking a street. He pinned me against the counter and laughed that I couldn’t escape him. I asked him to stop, he continued. He’d successfully undressed my top half and was working on getting my skirt off. I got more pissed off and told him to stop–which seemed to excite him more. I didn’t have the ability to be more outwardly pissed off. Patriarchal conditioning told me men didn’t like mouthy girls, and I needed a man to survive in this world.
I was seething inside, but also telling myself I’d brought this on, it was somehow sexy, it was a part of some fantasy, I just needed to learn to enjoy it, sex was always uncomfortable when it was new, this was somehow totally normal and fine and I was the one making it seem not fine. (Rape culture, internalized, at its fucking finest.)

He ended up getting my skirt off, making me stand there in his kitchen–naked and powerless, exposed by bright lights and an open window. He picked me up and brought me to his room, there was hardly any kissing. He entered me without permission or a condom or foreplay–making it very painful, dry and unwelcome. It wasn’t even slow or gentle, not even a little–it was quick and forced. I was powerless.
After, I told him it hurt and that I was pissed off and I wanted to leave. He acted sorry for a second, then brought up some girl on his facebook that he had a crush on and started talking about her in front of me. I left, saw him one more time, then cut him off entirely. He reached out once to “explain” but didn’t actually say anything. I refused to see him in person, telling him he could say what he needed to say in text, and he only wanted to see me in person to say what he needed to say. So I never heard his explanation. This was my first real point of empowerment. I didn’t want his explanation. It was an excuse, and what he’d done shouldn’t, couldn’t, be excused.

After this, I decided I was not interested in sexual pursuits unless they were with people I knew very well and trusted–but then I began the journey through my mental health and wellness that I’ve been on for the past few years so sex has been the last of my priorities. My intimacy between now and then has been very limited. I am lonely often, and I wish I could develop sexual intimacy, but I do not trust myself or others in that context so I keep pretty much everyone at a physical distance. This is hard… as a human being I need physical connection and yet I am so traumatized by it that I often reject it and deflect it from even the most platonic of friends.

The thing that was the most disturbing about this last major encounter was that it was like being in a porn or some romantic film. I was living in someone else’s fantasy. Like, I know I’d seen this all somewhere before. I’d seen someone romantically pulling the clothes off of a woman as she is doing chores and lead her to the bedroom–but to live it with someone as if he is trying to recreate something he’d seen on TV… with no warning, communication, or boundaries… it was absolutely horrific–scarring. I felt out of control. I think I completely detached, dissociated and derealized the situation before it even happened. It’s taken me years to see that this was rape, and that my silence was accepted as consent, my struggle was seen as a part of the role play he was living out with me though he hadn’t asked me, and my words were completely overlooked. I was literally an object to his fantasy. I could have been any woman. He just needed a warm and compliant body.

I don’t see the point in sex in this manner. It’s a grotesque misuse of human connection. It’s a disrespect of who we both are as individuals. However, I know there are women who might have been totally down–hell I might have if situation had been completely different. But he treated me like we were on the same page–he assumed it and acted out of that assumption. Role play is totally cool and some people like it but it must be spoken about out loud. There must be rules and boundaries established FIRST. If you can’t have the conversation, you’re not emotionally mature enough to participate in it safely, and *you’re going to hurt someone*. Period. Same with S&M, and power play, and polyamory or ethical non-monogamy. These things are all awesome–beautiful even! I am super sex positive in the means of supporting what people want for themselves. I see it working for individuals and they love their sexual lives! I know its all valid and good when done with proper consent.
But you can’t, in any situation, ASSUME that someone else is on board just because they are present. You can’t assume based on body language. You MUST have the conversation out loud. Most of the women you know, if not every one of them, have been gaslit to believe that we have no authority over our own bodies. Even politics reenforce this in our minds. If you make the assumption that someone is interested in the same sexual things as you and act on that without a conversation, you’re taking advantage of that person’s oppression. You’re abusing your own power and privilege. You are a fucking rapist and you deserve to be punished–locked the fuck up and put through extensive therapy.

I am not brave enough to reveal the names of those who have sexually assaulted me–and I don’t even remember his name honestly. It’s been years and I’ve ignored it. Maybe I’ll gain that empowerment someday in a call for justice but I know now that the world would and could do nothing for me. The law is against me in this story. The timing is against me. The patriarchal forces that be are too strong.
Still, I share this in gruesome detail because it has the ability to open some people’s eyes to the importance of verbal consent–especially (but definitely not exclusively) in heterosexual encounters. I say that because these are the encounters that we see most on TV, movies, and in real life playing out these kinds of scenarios and making the lack of verbal consent seem like some kind of romantic connection. That’s not real. You may read body language, but you read it based on who you are and how you might react. You may think you know this person, but it doesn’t mean you actually do know them as anything more than a projection of yourself. The normativity of hetero sexual abuse is so harmful.

Frankly, if you can’t talk about sex, consent, etc… you’re not mature enough to have it. You’re not mature enough to act consensually, and I guarantee you will assault someone and think it’s ok and fine because you assumed you knew them well enough and there’s no evidence to hold you accountable. You’d still be fucking rapist piece of shit though.

I know that it’s really difficult and embarrassing to talk about sex sometimes–but it is infinitely harder to recover from rape and go on with a positive or hopeful attitude about sex and intimacy. The damage you could potentially do is not worth sparing your embarrassment for a couple of seconds. Also, if your hard-on depends on the lack of consent and asking consent is going to somehow ruin the mood, you’re turned on by some fucked up rapey shit and you need mental and emotional help so you don’t act on that in a way that will hurt others. It’s fine if you’re turned on by that, some of us can’t help what turns us on. But what you can help is how you know yourself and the tendencies you have to harm others so you can be conscious and outspoken in a way that keeps others from being harmed by you. We need to protect others from our darkness sometimes too, not just ourselves. Our traumas gone unchecked, our fears gone unspoken, these things project themselves out into the world and they harm us and others. The only way we keep others from being caught in our darkness is by bringing light to it ourselves and exposing ourselves for exactly who we are. Secret secrets are no fun. Secret secrets hurt someone–and this is how.

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Compassionate Support for Children

Today, I watched an incredible interaction between parent and child.

The child came into our music school for his music lesson– crying uncontrollably. His mom told his music teacher he was in a little bit of a mood, then she turned back to him and spoke to him very calm and reasonably. She asked if he was taking deep breaths, and told him he knew what he had to do to calm down. He started breathing bigger. She encouraged him, reminding him that music lessons are only 30 minutes, and he could make it through. He listened to her and asked for water. She asked him to say “please”. Kindly, and through tears, he did. She got him water, she talked to him until he was ok (though not done crying), and she left him deal with his emotions. He proceeded calmly to him lesson and made it through the half hour without another tear.

Here’s what amazed me about this interaction:
His mother wasn’t upset that he was upset. She wasn’t shaming him, she wasn’t embarrassed by him, she wasn’t taking his mood personally. She didn’t tell him to shut down his emotions, or speak to him like he didn’t have the capacity to manage them or that they were something out of line or burdensome. She didn’t tell him they were ridiculous or that he was being dramatic. She didn’t shame him for being male and crying–she didn’t tell him he should buck up or that boys don’t cry or to be “strong”. He was not in defense mode. His ego was not triggered. He was able to help himself with her guidance, patience, and calm support. She did not compromise her role as his teacher, nor did she take a disciplinary route I’ve seen so often.

I don’t see this kindness between parent and child often. I mean, in general I don’t see too many kids crying in public since I stopped teaching in the elementary classroom, but when I do usually the parent is trying their best, but they’re also tired and worn out and so I see emotion reacting off of emotion.
Often you’ll see a child’s emotions shut down, or a parent trying to help their kid but not totally understanding how, and so growing impatient. When a vulnerable and hurting emotional self is met with ego (defense or offense) the self will harden up and get more resistant to help or helping one’s self. Ego triggers ego, especially with children. When we can be mirrors for those we love in crisis instead of judge or fixer, we give others the safety and the support to help themselves.

I don’t mean to make judgments of parents who would react any other way. This mother has her privileges, some mothers don’t and that can affect their patience. I am just pleased to see this kind of enlightened parenting happening around me, to children I care about. This woman is clearly psychologically aware, and sees her child as able to comprehend his own mind and mental awareness. This is the kind of awareness that will lift the stigma off of those suffering from mental illness, as well as those of us who just have a lot of emotions.

The story of ‘STONED by OperaHippy’

In my mind, there has always been a lot going on. It’s weaving together stories, debating itself, deconstructing and reconstructing things, performing intense and almost constant cognitive behavior therapy–spinning in circles, round and around. I struggle with major depression, anxiety and ptsd, but I didn’t know that until a few years ago so before that I was just, circling around to avoid any one thing in particular.

In addition to having a fast mind and a soft heart, I’ve endured some intense trauma–emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse, plus the normal tragedies and happenings of life (privileged as mine may be, they have had a big impact on my sense of self and mental stability as an adult). The things which have always grounded me and helped me cope through abuse and moments of adversity, even before I understood what I was coping with, were acts of creation. Music, singing, sewing, crochet, jewelry making, painting. Even as a small child, my fort-building-game was competing with the best of them. The act of making something out of other things calmed me and brought me back to some unnamable, inexplainable sense of self-truth.

Creating centers me and always has, even when my center is hurting.

In addition to my mental health and abusive history, I have ALWAYS been fat… overweight, obese, plus size–however you’d like to say it. (We all have different preferences. I personally like to turn the hurtful words into empowering ones so–I’m fat and fabulous.) I’ve always struggled with my self esteem for so many reasons, but it all seemed to manifest in self hatred over my weight and my body. When I was younger I desperately wanted to be thin, with big hips. But, I’m fat with small hips and lots of love on the handles. I don’t lose weight easily and I, frankly, have bigger battles than that. Plus, I hated the idea that I needed to change my appearance to feel better in this world. I wanted to accept myself as I was. I knew there was someone to love in here, and she didn’t need to be thin, she needed to be accepted.

In December 2014, after a series of unfortunate events and witnessing a friend’s death, I finishing my Bachelors degree in Opera Performance. Given the chance to breathe, alone, for the first time in my life–I mentally bottomed out. I was lost, confused, hurt, alone, suicidal and terrified. I didn’t know where to go, what to do, how to live or move forward or get out of bed some mornings. Plus, my mental health had been ignored for too long. I had no choice but to deal with my head and the trauma of my past.

I had to begin to get to know and accept my body, my illness, and my strange mind. I needed to switch from a state of resistance to a state of acceptance. I needed life to be just a little bit easier so that I knew it was worth living. So, I dedicated myself to a lifelong journey of self discovery, self love, and healing–a journey I am still on today.

The process of healing was very traumatic in the beginning–as healing usually is. Lost, and desperate, I painted and journaled, wrote music–anything to get through the pain I was reliving. I eventually turned to metaphysics and found my pagan roots in Wicca. This led me to wire wrapping stones and crystals as a meditative practice. From there, the progression into the jewelry I make now was natural.

About two years into that journey, and a year before starting STONED, I began crocheting again for the first time since community college. It felt different though. My mind wasn’t so clouded. I wasn’t so pressured by my perfectionist tendencies and an over-compensating ego telling me my creations weren’t worthy of being completed. (Or at least, when I was burdened by that I could overcome it). I could count stitches, focus on long term projects, and undo mistakes without destroying my motivation by insulting myself into defeat. When I started making clothing, instead of the usual scarves and hats I’d made for years, I began looking through the market–on Etsy and IG– and noticed that there are a lot of people crocheting cute clothes–but usually only for a limited number of sizes. This is an issue I’ve encountered my entire life as a “Plus size” person, and a bigger busted woman. Some of the cutest clothes are only made for thin women, or certain body types. If they are made for bigger women, they are not made with the bigger woman’s body and insecurities and comfort in mind.

I began making things for myself and my friends–who all have a variety of beautiful and diverse bodies and styles and identities. I listened to their insecurities and modified the patterns and the fit so they felt comfortable until I figured out what worked. It came together so effortlessly, I took the hint from the universe and went with it. I finally did something I’d been wanting to do for years–I started an Etsy Shop.

I wanted to make clothing that allowed people to be bold, present, and empowered by their vulnerability. The name STONED has many inspirations. Primarily, it comes from the large line, the totem of spirits who have endured the suffering of oppression long before me–the people whose stories of perseverance and strength get me through my day.  Women, men, queers, POC, differently-abled and mentally stigmatized–those who fought and lived and died in another time for me to be here, now, standing on their shoulders and fighting this newer battle… a piece of the same war. A war for money and power. A war against freedom, uniqueness, progress, truth, acceptance, equality and freedom.

Here’s one of my truths–All bodies are beautiful!!!!!

We should all be able to celebrate our selves with unlimited self expression!

I’ve created to cope for so long. Now, I’m creating for me. I’m creating for you. I’m creating to create.

I believe in the ability of handmade items to empower us to be unique, outstanding, and fearless. A hundred people could be making the same type of pieces, but they’d each have their own uniqueness because they are made by an individual human’s hands–not a machine. Every stitch is personalized. In a strong handmade economy, many artists can all be successful with their own audiences–allowing each customer to find a truly unique style instead of buying a shirt that has been mass produced for a million other people in the world. We aren’t all the same, why should our styles be?

Additionally, the expansion of the handmade market is feeding our local, working class economy (putting money in the hands of artists and makers directly instead of into the hands of a large corporate stores with billionaire CEOs who barely paid the artist for their original design before mass producing it). When you support a handmade artist you are supporting their family, their community, their daily life. That money will likely go directly back into the local economy. When you support me, you’re helping me feed myself and my fur baby (a lovely little ESA cat named Embyr) and pay my rent. You’re helping me support other local artists and farmers, since I spend my money at farmer’s markets primarily. Handmade is fiscally, economically, and communally responsible!

I believe in individuals–ordinary humans–and their ability to change the world simply by allowing their true selves to be present and make conscious decisions in it. The ability to be present in a world like ours is dependent upon an empowered sense of self, and a fearless commitment to expression of that self regardless of our socialization. I try to instill some sense of that in every wire I bend and ever stitch I complete in hopes that it will gift some of that magic onto the person who eventually welcomes the garment or piece of jewelry into their life. A world in which we are all fearlessly expressing our personal and vulnerable truth is a world in which we all, eventually, can live free and equal–happy.

Click Here to visit the Etsy shop and see STONED creations.


 

Ending the Debate on Abortion Rights

Pro choice vs. Pro life is not a political debate, and we need to stop allowing it to be. It’s an ethical debate, which does not have a place in politics–at least not with situations as specific as abortion.

Let’s go through the reasoning, because as much as we think of this as a complex debate topic, it isn’t in the context of our laws. It IS a complex ethical debate, but in regards to legal right, there is no debate here.

Allow me to elaborate…

If you’re “pro-life” because of religion, that’s cool. But also, your religion is yours and not mine or anyone else’s, so my choice is still mine and your religion does not get to make laws that take that choice away from me. Separation of church and state. That’s it. That’s where your God arguments end. You do not get to put through legislation based on individual beliefs that counter our collective laws and shared reality. We can talk ethics and morals all day, but as far as law goes—you’re done when you bring up god and religion. It has zero place in politics. Done.

Take God out of it and its still super easy. You say its a life and to abort is to take a life? It’s killing someone. Let’s completely skip the debate on when life begins for a fetus. Whether it is at the time of conception, the moment of birth, or anywhere in between is completely irrelevant to the logistics of legality. Again, this is a debate of ethics, which could go on forever. However, one thing makes all other arguments irrelevant–body autonomy.

Body autonomy laws protect us and are already in place in the medical field. I can refuse a dying person my organs because of body autonomy. It may not be easy to watch them die, but I have a choice to say, “No, you cannot use my body or my body parts to sustain your own life.” If my own mother needed a piece of my liver, I have a the choice to say no and live with the consequences of that choice–even if the consequence is the death of my own mother. It is legal for me to refuse. The ethical and moral dilemma of whether or not I could sacrifice a piece of my liver to help my mother live is entirely my own, but legally I am in no way obligated to give her a piece of my liver.

Same principal applies to the medical procedure and choice of abortion. If a fetus cannot survive outside of my uterus and I decide not to allow it to live there– it doesn’t matter whether or not it is a life. It’s still my body and I get to decide who uses parts of it for their own survival. Just like the person who will die without my liver, I have the right to refuse another being the use of my body for their own sustenance and survival if I so choose. Think me a horrid person if you will–I still have the legal right to my own body. A fetus will not live outside of a uterus. It will die. A person needing an organ transplant cannot live without a new organ. They will die. I am not required to give them my organ, even if it is my fault they need an organ. I am not required to give an undeveloped baby my womb for the same reason. Body autonomy.

The reason for becoming pregnant is irrelevant. My body, my choice. It doesn’t matter whether I was raped or just have a really promiscuous sex life and am irresponsibly about protection. Your personal opinions of the reason behind someone getting an abortion, those reasons are not relevant to the debate of legality. Not relevant at all.

Body autonomy is not a privilege of the sexually responsible. It is a natural right of all body owners. I get to decide who touches me, and who uses my body for their own survival.

It’s not a hard debate. Its just difficult ethics and morals–which you don’t get to decide for any other human on the planet but yourself–not even your own children. So you cannot, should not, and will not take away someone’s legal right to their own body because you disagree with their lifestyle, morals, or ethics. That’s manipulative. That’s narcissistic. That’s abusive. When it’s being done on as large a scale as an entire society, it is oppressive.

Also, everyone needs to stop assuming people who get abortions don’t understand the gravity of their decision. Estrogen, a side effect of owning a uterus and ovaries, makes us uterus owners very deep feeling, very self aware, and very empathetic. We understand the gravity of choice. Stop shaming people who already understand the gravity of their life decisions. The only different between the hurt they cause and the hurt you cause is that they have to acknowledge it and you write yours off with your ignorance and privilege. You’re not pro life. You’re not fooling anyone. Get off your fucking high horse and come back down to earth. Your morals don’t make you any better than anyone else. Not even a little bit.

Nobody ever said getting an abortion was an easy choice, but it is now and should forever remain a choice for the uterus owner which takes away the biological inequality of responsibility for the consequences of sex.

This is not a debate of legality. It is a debate of morals and ethics that has been mixed and confused into our laws and politics. When you take the emotions of individual perspective out of it, pro-choice is the only legal reality.