BY ISOLDA MORILLO
Behind every great man, there is a great woman. Or so the saying goes.
Throughout history, women have come to the world, shaped their identities by concepts, laws, cultural values which have subjugated them for centuries to a lesser status of that of their male peers.
Waves of feminist movements have conquered a sequel of societal rights, one after the other, the right to vote, the right to work, the right to fair treatment. Waves that have pushed the traditional patriarchal establishment on the seemingly endless quest towards equality.
Gabriela Wiener is a Peruvian writer who has been exploring the topic of women’s identity, and has been labelled one of the most interesting writers of this generation. Wiener’s work is often presented as writings on “sex.” In her first books she wrote vivid accounts on sexual experiences, immersions in swingers’ clubs, Peruvian prisons, investigated the egg harvesting industry, and challenged the notion of monogamy and fidelity in her own couple for literary, and ideological, purposes.
However, in the wake of the #Metoo movement, which quickly spread to many corners of the planet, including China and Latin America, something started to change in the persona Gabriella had previously constructed. The free-spirited, sexually-liberated person on the verge of being an advocate of promiscuity suddenly unleashed an angry and loud voice, writing blogs and organizing protests to question, and deconstruct, the values that had previously shaped her.
I decided to translate a recent article published by Gabriela to link these world-wide experiences, and voices, surging to call out for a change on a patriarchal attitude that has for too long made women the victims of violence all over the world, from Peru to China. In China, #MeToo has led to a wave of accusations against many high profile men including veteran journalist Zhang Wen and prominent non-government charity founder Lei Chuang. Like women all over the world, Chinese women are joining the global call against sexual harassment and assault, despite government efforts to suppress this burgeoning movement,
In this article, Gabriela talks about her sexuality, again, but the tone is that of someone who awakens and realizes the “freedom” she championed in her previous life was perhaps the product of a patriarchal society in which men profited from an uninhibited, unreflected attitude that women imposed on themselves and their bodies as proof of being free and independent.
Many say that the #Metoo movement is nothing but a movement of “new puritanism”, as if a world in which women could be assaulted, harassed, their bodies exploited, their words not listened, and their identities not respected, was and should continue to be the norm, the status quo.
Gabriela’s article is a deep reflection on that. It reads as a statement to say that the #Metoo movement, and the uproar that followed, does not aim at adopting new puritan values. She deconstructs her own past experiences, exorcising an old alter-ego, and echoes what many women in the world are saying nowadays: We want to claim our bodies and identities back, we want to be able to be listened to without all the stigmas (slut shaming, being called prudes or feminazies, mothers discriminated at work, single women being looked down, etc. etc.).
What we want is to be exempted from that role “behind every man…”, and also be freed from the other extreme, which became a hypersexualized era. In this article Gabriela reclaims a new voice, a new role for women, and the right to live without fear in an environment where our lives and voices are respected.
TRANSLATION BY ISOLDA MORILLO:
The sexuality of the survivor
Our sense of eroticism is a blend of porn, morality and trauma: our first experiences will draw us to eroticize certain things and not others, to countless women non-consensual sex and abusive sex has been an intimate part of that first experience.
30th of April 2018
Yesterday a female friend collapsed after talking for several hours during our #Tell-it session.
We had covered all matters, from the smallest to the most frightening experiences, we were near the end of a series of confessions and tales on our anal fissures, which have been bleeding for years, ever since we consented to have anal sex when in fact we didn’t really wanted to. Or perhaps we didn’t even consent to, or said “stop it now”, “stop it”, and they continued until our ass exploded, but we never saw them so excited as in that particular moment. At that moment she started crying unconsolably.
“Something horrible is happening to me, otherwise I don’t understand… why when I listen to the horror stories during the #Tell-it sessions I get aroused. When I read those stories, I get excited. I didn’t want to, it was completely involuntary, I started to get aroused, and I felt my vagina lubricated, and I fought that totally ill-timed feeling, I cried, I felt like a monster, and started to drown in shame…”
She was someone who had always been in toxic relationships where men abused her, forced her, harassed her, coerced her and raped her. Suddenly to her astonishment she started feeling aroused while reading those sad and infuriating stories so similar to the ones that she herself went through.
We held her hand, looked desperately for words, tried improvising warm things to say. I told her I often looked for dirty disgusting porn films to get excited, often try finding those ones that show inappropriate touching, while my entire life I have spent writing against those! I told her how seeing those scenes I masturbated but felt worse than before. Another woman told her that she masturbated while thinking about the sex she had with a partner who always manipulated and abused her. And how guilty she felt. We talked about many young girls who were raped while very young, how when they enter adulthood and remember those episodes they will cry but feel at the same time an out of place excitement. A despicable man had decided that their entire lives, sex and trauma will be linked together. Or that other girl who was raped by this father. That girl might never feel pleasure, or reckon pleasure as something healthy or sane or beautiful. Because pleasure will remind her of that betrayal, broken trust, her loss of innocence; she will learn to find pleasure in everything that is self-destructive. I suddenly imagined us all, reproducing those patterns of primal violence, which will stay in our bodies’ memories, laying inside our bodies, conditioning our libido, taking control of our will.
We talked about all those things that shouldn’t have happened, and those strange, complex sequels, which sometimes we are not even aware of, or do not dare to talk about. And now all those things were sprouting under the infinite power of sisterhood during our #Tell-it sessions. Most women during these sessions tell experiences of how they experienced sexual aggressions before age ten, many normalized those experiences, but now feel the need to speak out, work on their issues, and heal. We talk about how during our early years our view of the world is shaped, or unshaped. How our precarious sexual education is mixed with our culture, with porn culture, with morality and trauma, and that shapes our eroticism, and how all that is transformed into morbidity and fantasies. Those early experiences will shape how in the future we will eroticize somethings and not others, and how to countless women non-consensual sex and abusive sex has been an intimate part of that first experience.
At that moment I chose not to talk about my own traumatic experience. But if I had to talk about something grossly male-chauvinistic that marked my sexuality, I would say it was rejection. When I was a young girl and later an adolescent I always encountered rejection because I never fit in in the beauty canons. I was rough, I liked sex, I wasn’t pretty, I was a “chola” and I loved freedom. Even now I rarely feel I am desired, despite having a reassuring partner who is always supportive. But it is never enough. I loathed myself. In the past, my only weapon was sex. And I was stigmatized and left feeling guilty for daring to live it fully. I sought the wildest experiences, but many of those were more centered on pleasuring men instead of pleasuring myself; I wanted them to like me. I wanted them not to abandon me. And I ended up empty, broken, feeling abused, wretched, and discarded again and again when men’s appetites were placated. Leaving me far from satisfaction. With time love has healed me lots, but the body does not heal so easily and that wound still cries, it cries while I have my orgasms. And rage flourishes from them.
Sometimes I dream I am on a trip, or that we are all together on that trip, the odyssey of our telling and unchaining our own narratives. Unbinding the exquisite corpses of our history will prevent us from becoming real corpses.
During that imaginary trip, we can perhaps all imagine we have rented a blue convertible and are riding with our best friends Thelma or Louis.
I have travelled back to so many moments: the moment when my first boyfriend made me cry when I was thirteen years old because I refused to take down my pants. And then he broke up with me.
Or the moment when that guy seduced me and convinced me to go to his flat and when he attacked me I asked him to stop, and I repeated to him to stop and he didn’t listen, and I had to flee his house frenziedly.
In some corner of my mind I have also found the guy who pushed me away in disgust when he found out I was menstruating. He told me to take a shower and then shoved me out from his home.
I also remember those two guys who had unprotected sex with me while I was drunk laying in the beach and then passed me their STDs.
During the imaginary trip I have remembered the guy who once had violent sex with me on top of the roof of a building and he pushed my body to the edge of it and I thought I was going to fall down and die.
I have also found the guy who harassed my fourteen year old sister. He had followed her to the elevator, took his penis out and traumatized her for life.
And of course, I will always, always, remember that ex-boyfriend who punched my nose and broke it out of jealousy.
I also cursed at that old guy who put his hand under my school uniform skirt when I was passing by in the street.
I also decided not to forget the guy who ejaculated inside my body without asking me, and his only apology was that he couldn’t hold it, and he thought that was the most normal behavior of all, and that I could take a “day after pill.”
I am not sure where this justice seeking and feminist trip will lead us. Sisters, I am not sure we will survive, if the end of this trip will find us dead or alive. I only know that we have to do this for us and the others who are growing up. My own daughter is eleven years old and in her school some classmates already call her “tomboy”.
I do not agree with the writer Catherine Millet – who marvels at the technical possibility of a woman to orgasm during rape – she says that we only need to safeguard our mind and spirit, and that our body can independently suffer. She says that our minds aren’t affected by degrading experiences, consensual or not. I believe that we are an unity, and that the mind is the body, and that everything machismo (patriarchy) has done to our bodies has profoundly marked our souls and minds, and that we are now fighting so we will no longer be dissociated. We are fighting to rejoin ourselves, and to do that with utmost care.
Once, a Peruvian feminist, Angelica Motta, who works on issues of sexual education, said that children needed to be aware of erotic consent from an early age. She claims the reason women suffer rape is because men are eroticized since an early age. They consume porn, they have patriarchal entitlement, etc. etc. She says men have, as erotic impulses, the need to force and use violence against women. Women have eroticized attitudes of obedience, passivity, and submission. Since early childhood girls are taught to greet their uncles, and if an uncle makes a pass at them, girls are taught to keep silent. And we have kept this silence all along, until today when we started to raise our voice, and the world watches us in awe.
I would like to think about one thing: how to make sex a consensual experience, a meaningful experience, that is also playful; where we can play diverse roles, an imaginative experience, that can bring shade but also light, and go back to the light; an agreed experience dealt with carefulness; to seek sexual experiences that are a real, truthful and transcendental way of encountering the other.
To take good care of ourselves is not a prude’s attitude, it is the attitude of the survivor.
About Gabriela Wiener
Gabriela Wiener was born in Lima in 1975, and has built for herself a reputation of a “gonzo journalist,” often immersing herself on topics of her own interest including motherhood, pregnancy, and sexual experiences.
She is a prominent member of a group of new Latin American chroniclers, and is also an active feminist who writes, blogs, and uses YouTube and social media to denounce issues of violence against women.
Gabriela studied linguistics and literature at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, and has a master’s degree in historical culture and communications from the University of Barcelona.
She is the author of several books “Llamada perdida,” “Sexografías,” “Nueve Lunas,” “Mozart, the iguana with priapism and other stories,” and the book of poems “Exercises for the hardening of the spirit.”
Her chronicles have been translated into English, French and other languages. Most recently, her book “Sexographies” has been translated into English by Lucy Greaves and Jennifer Adcock.
Book Details: Paperback List Price: $17.99 ISBN: 9781632061591 • Publication: 5/29/2018 • 5.5″ x 8.25″ • 240 pages • Personal Essays: Sex / Latino Culture • Territory: World English • eBook ISBN: 9781632061607
About Isolda Morillo
Isolda Morillo is a journalist, media consultant and writer who previously reported from Beijing for The Associated Press.
About the editor
Jessie Lau is a writer, editor and researcher passionate about exploring gender, ethnicity, social policy and identity in China and other parts of Asia. Based in London and Hong Kong, she has written stories on everything from pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and solitary confinement in Californian prisons to China’s massive boarding school program targeting ethnic Uyghur and Tibetan children. Now freelancing as a video news assistant at The Associated Press, her writing has been published by the The Economist, Quartz, and South China Morning Post, among others. She is a board member at NüVoices, a collective supporting women working on China subjects, and Online Editor-in-Chief of NüStories, its feminist magazine amplifying minority voices.