And selfishly, I did not want to pour my life’s precious time and resources into hating other people or holding them accountable for their acts. Moving ahead, if boundaries were violated, I would rather let them think they had me, without ever really having me, as punishment for their overreach.
Dissociation became essential protection from objectification, a way of leaving behind my baggage to feel lighter. Remaining carefree or unfeeling was an act of patriarchal defiance, even if it meant that along the way I lost some men who actually loved me.
Over time, I became very fluid with my sexual and romantic boundaries and had a difficult time remaining monogamous. I did turn down a lot of overtures, but I passively accepted many others. Whether I was flirted with, harassed, touched, demeaned, stalked or yes, even drugged and hit, I tried to laugh about it or embrace it, determined not to let anyone, any man or person with judgment, chip away at my joy or freedom. The more I could dissociate and detach, the more I felt I had the control to propel myself forward, vacillating between freezing and fleeing.
Several men have told me that I behaved “like a man” in my dating and romantic habits, because, according to them, I was able to have sex or date and move on without any sense of attachment, going from man to man. The truth is that I have always felt quite vulnerable, but I didn’t know how to survive an adventurous, curious or open life involving relationships with men without some level of dissociation.
Even if I did emulate what many would consider to be more of a man’s dating or sex pattern, I knew this was not the same as being a man. We are raised too differently and don’t share the same vulnerability. Men are not taught to feel shame in the same way as women. They are not typically called whores. By and large, they don’t have to worry about being butt-slapped in the street while wearing winter coats. They are not as afraid of getting killed on some random date.
Having experienced this shame and fear, I learned in certain moments to split from myself — to tell myself that this was happening to someone who is not me.