Trigger warning on this one, folks.
Last night was a rough night. It was my first party with the new company, and it was a classic failure. The party was held in a manufactured home community, and that should have been my first tip-off. Now, I’ve had some good parties in some rough areas of town, so I didn’t want to judge, but that combined with the fact that one of the hosts was only 18 years old had me on edge. I was correctly prepared, although this time I was not allowed to do any gambling games (“squares” that people buy or any other buy-in for prizes, that usually pay the bills at party like that). The guests were late, rude, drunk, and my hosts (two friends) were relatively inhospitable. I wasn’t even invited in until they finished their cigarettes and stood on their porch for 10 awkward and freezing minutes while they smoked. One woman got up and left as soon as the presentation was over. There were almost two orders. It’s that almost second one that’s haunting me beyond all the other things that went wrong.
She tried to pay attention and shush the drunk girls around her. She asked questions, quietly. She was young, black, petite, and had so much curiosity. She had arrived late with a group.
She came in to the consultation room, no purse, wallet, or phone. The consultation room is an intimate place. It’s a place where women reveal their sexual secrets, desires, and ask very intimate questions to someone who is neither friend, family, nor doctor or therapist, but who has earned their trust. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly. She wasn’t “allowed” to use toys. She said she’d have to get the order “approved” by her fiancee and she’d have to call him for the card info. She had a hard time convincing him to let her go to the party. “He’s very jealous,” she told me. “That’s why we were late – he tried to change his mind after he said I could go.”
I’m not a stranger to this mindset from some cis men. They are usually patriarchal, and have unhealthy ideas about sex. They feel threatened by toys, like they’re being replaced. They feel like only being able to orgasm through vibration testifies to a problem with the relationship, the man a woman’s with, or the woman if he’s the one she’s with. Once properly educated, and once they experience a toy in the bedroom, they often change their minds. The men who change their minds are usually the men who love their women and want the best for them, but like cavemen discovering fire, never knew there was an alternative. I’d soon learn he wasn’t one of these men.
She had lots of questions about anal sex. In her circle, if it hurts, you’re not relaxing enough. But she’d done research. She learned that tearing is a thing. Her friends tell her it’s supposed to hurt. But her mom once said that some women can orgasm that way, so is there a way to enjoy it? She knew the facts abut lube and starting small, but he wouldn’t listen to her. He told her just to roll over and relax. She wanted so desperately for someone else to tell him – she felt vindicated by my words. I pointed out a book that would help get some of those ideas across. She had more questions, and wanted to know more about how to use kegel balls for vaginal tightening. She was just about ready to check out when there was a frantic knock at the door, her friend saying her name. He had called her phone. The panic on her face when she realized she’d forgotten to bring her phone into the room with her is a face I will never forget.
He. Was. Pissed. She hadn’t answered the phone fast enough. I could hear him yelling at her. He wanted to know why she didn’t answer the phone. This confident, bright, inquisitive woman was reduced to a quivering, apologetic jelly. She tried to request permission to order, stressing how it would benefit him. “It’s not a toy,” she insisted, “it’s a book. It’s for us.” No, she couldn’t buy anything and she had better get her ass home right now if she knew what was good for her.
I didn’t know what to say. Here I was watching this man verbally batter my customer right in front of me. It was clear she saw his behavior as normal, although she apologized through tears. I suggested he should go to a couple’s party sometime, and he might learn a thing or two. She liked that idea. She then told her friends they needed to leave. She didn’t have her own transportation. I’m willing to put money on the fact that the cell phone was under his name.
It was a rough night, and it’s going to be a while before his angry, accusatory voice stops haunting my dreams.
Abuse isn’t always physical. Verbal and emotional abuse are very real and very damaging, but also often accompany physical abuse. If someone you know is in a relationship like this, there are ways to support them, and there is help when they are ready to escape. For more information, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website, or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).