Author: has written 5285 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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82 Responses

  1. Momentary
    Momentary June 27, 2011 at 2:24 pm |

    Fucking amazing.

  2. Shannon Drury
    Shannon Drury June 27, 2011 at 2:31 pm |

    Wow. I really have no words, aside from agreeing with your assessment of McClelland. Holy shit.

  3. Zula
    Zula June 27, 2011 at 2:53 pm |

    What an incredibly powerful piece. I admire Ms. McClelland’s strength and bravery for sharing such a personal – but important – story with the world.

  4. Megan
    Megan June 27, 2011 at 3:18 pm |

    I find myself at a loss for words. Wow. What an incredible story. I really, really hope that she doesn’t get attacked for being brave enough to share this.

  5. Jadey
    Jadey June 27, 2011 at 3:53 pm |

    I don’t think I understand this piece. Maybe if I knew the author personally and she were telling her story to me over a glass of wine, I’d be able to integrate it properly or put it in a context that makes sense, but as it is all I feel is disturbed and confused.

    Not condemnatory, mind. I don’t think she’s bad or wrong, and I don’t think her method of coping with her PTSD is bad or wrong. I don’t have PTSD and cannot begin to speak to that experience. I also believe that what she has written about – her experiences and how she dealt with them – are incredibly complex and personal and very difficult to communicate about.

    I guess that’s where I’m at – whatever she was trying to say, I don’t think I understood it or how it could be the “best” thing I’ve read today. I don’t know her well enough and I don’t understand what she experienced at all, so I cannot connect with her story in a way to make it make sense to me. I’ve got a kink/BDSM background, but that’s not what she’s describing here. She’s talking about something far different, and I can’t understand the experience she describes with Isaac. It is… incomprehensible. Even if I can begin to understand what she wanted and needed and got out of that (because she tells us in the article, not because I can properly empathize with something so removed from my own life), I cannot begin to put myself in Isaac’s place and understand how he would go through that. How he could possibly have known under those circumstances how to act and what she wanted/needed. It sounds like he genuinely raped her at her request (not play or fantasy or even consensual “rape”), and while she can tell us why she wanted and needed that and I will take her word for it, I do not understand (and she does not or cannot tell us) why he would do that and how that wouldn’t be devastating to him.

    I guess all I see is someone describing how something horrible made something else that was horrible somewhat more bearable. “Amazing”, “incredible”, etc. are not words that are occurring to me. I cannot summon up anything particularly celebratory in myself about this, although I agree that it’s good she is no longer quite as severely traumatized as she had been.

    Again, really not wanting to condemn either the author or any of the commenters here or on the piece itself. I want to be clear that I know I don’t fully understand the piece. I guess I would like to understand it better.

  6. Jadey
    Jadey June 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm |

    Jadey: (not play or fantasy or even consensual “rape”)

    Guh, I just realized that this did not read as clearly as it should. I was trying to distinguish between rape and rape fantasy, which is why I put that last rape in quotes. I was not trying to suggest a hierarchy of sexual assault. I’m sorry. I just wanted to convey that I understand and get rape fantasy from a BDSM/kink perspective, but that I am not under the impression that that’s what the author’s point was.

  7. Momentary
    Momentary June 27, 2011 at 4:39 pm |

    Hey Jadey. I’m on the other side of the divide, I think — I’m not wired for BDSM/kink rape fantasy enactment, but what the author described made deep visceral sense to me. I don’t generally think of myself as having PTSD, but I’m definitely in the “system idles at a heightened state, and so getting more really intense input calms your system down” category, and counterphobic when it comes to fight/flight reflexes. And I’m familiar with trying to manage the state of being obsessively afraid of something that hasn’t yet happened, and recognizing that part of me is flirting with getting it to happen just so I can stop being afraid and find out if I can survive it. That can be a self-destructive impulse but it can also be the case that the only way out of the fire is through, you know? I responded to this as a really powerful story of an extreme example of that, and to her friendship with Isaac and his affirmation of her strength as something rare and amazing.

  8. AtheistChick
    AtheistChick June 27, 2011 at 5:52 pm |

    I also found the story very powerful, although hard to read at times. I am glad she felt able to share it. I guess my primary worry is that it could become fodder for the “she wanted to be raped” excuse.

  9. AtheistChick
    AtheistChick June 27, 2011 at 6:02 pm |

    Also, I think that it made sense to me because at the end of the piece, she describes a release of tension and anxiety. I can totally understand that–even though she said she didn’t enjoy the sex as she normally enjoyed sex, I totally get how it finally brought all that tension and anxiety to a head.

  10. Diana
    Diana June 27, 2011 at 6:06 pm |

    @ Jadey –

    I related to how she described how that helped her – my understanding of it, at least, is that there’s a certain paradoxical emotional freedom in being forced past limits (physical, emotional, or both) and held there by someone you trust. At a certain point, you just can’t *fight* any more, and it’s like… a rubber band that’s been stretched and stretched finally snapping and returning to a relaxed position. You’ve forcibly had your control removed, and it can sometimes take a lot to understand that on a visceral level, but once you get there it’s *all right*, and you can let some of that tension go because that other person isn’t going to use it against you.

    And he must have had some understanding of that, to be able to do that for her and not be traumatized by it, himself. (A few years ago, I could not have done something like that to someone if they’d asked me to, but now, I definitely could, because I’d know what they were asking for.)

  11. Tony
    Tony June 27, 2011 at 6:41 pm |

    I can’t say I’m as surprised by this at you might think. Anyway, it’s cool that she feels comfortable writing about this.

  12. Jenae
    Jenae June 27, 2011 at 7:19 pm |

    I like this piece because it brings to light the deep psychological relief that can happen as a result of good BDSM. However, I am deeply uncomfortable with the danger and weird consent issues in how the author played and concerned that readers will think that that’s what BDSM is all about.

  13. Jadey
    Jadey June 27, 2011 at 7:32 pm |

    @ Momentary

    I’m not one of the counterphobic types, but I am a self-flagellating type, and I guess that what I’m vibing in her story (even if it’s not accurate to her, it’s what is closer to my reality) has less to do with the calm that comes from confronting something terrifying and living and getting the fear over with, and more to do with the calm that comes from self-injury and self-punishment. I know that’s not how she describes her reasoning, but I’m seeing so much guilt there in her descriptions of what happened to the people around her as well as her feelings that her trauma wasn’t valid enough because she didn’t experience the same physical violence as others did, because she recognizes her social privilege in comparison to them.

    Fear I don’t understand, but guilt I understand too well.

    I still don’t think I’m right, but at least maybe that’s why I’m having such a hopelessly negative reaction to it.

  14. DanaR
    DanaR June 27, 2011 at 7:33 pm |

    I cannot begin to put myself in Isaac’s place and understand how he would go through that. How he could possibly have known under those circumstances how to act and what she wanted/needed. It sounds like he genuinely raped her at her request (not play or fantasy or even consensual “rape”), and while she can tell us why she wanted and needed that and I will take her word for it, I do not understand (and she does not or cannot tell us) why he would do that and how that wouldn’t be devastating to him.

    I’m going to go ahead and guess that they have safety procedures in place, given they have had sex resembling this before and a longstanding relationship.

    It hits home extremely hard for me because her description so closely mirrors my circumstances. I am mostly-functional but I have never processed the yawning black hole of horror I have inside me relating to sexual assault. And about being calm in emergency situations but not coping with day-to-day life… that’s me.

    I appreciated the article very much. It’s making me reconsider the current approach I’m taking with my psychologist; whether I should make my PTSD-like issues more central to my therapy.

  15. Ali
    Ali June 27, 2011 at 7:40 pm |

    I admire her for being a journalist and the work she does, and I think she is a great writer. Yet I don’t find this piece amazing or incredible. I find it sad and pathetic.

    Is she brave for what she does for a living? Yes. Brave for telling us about her rape fantasy and how she helped her PTSD by enacting it? I don’t think bravery is the right word at all. I think it’s a cry for help and attention, arguably. I hope she is still undergoing some intense therapy.

  16. groggette
    groggette June 27, 2011 at 7:46 pm |

    Ali: Yet I don’t find this piece amazing or incredible. I find it sad and pathetic.

    I think it’s a cry for help and attention, arguably. I hope she is still undergoing some intense therapy.

    Your concern is noted.

  17. Bridget
    Bridget June 27, 2011 at 7:49 pm |

    Yikes. I was reading that and my boyfriend came home from work, when I heard him opening the door I jumped and my heart started pounding!

    I found it powerful and disturbing…not sure what else to say. What a sad and scary world we live in.

  18. PM
    PM June 27, 2011 at 7:53 pm |

    “I’m going to go ahead and guess that they have safety procedures in place, given they have had sex resembling this before and a longstanding relationship.”

    I thought so, too. I wish she had mentioned them in the column, though.

  19. sadiejane
    sadiejane June 27, 2011 at 7:58 pm |

    I really wish I could be unbiased about this article, but I am really having a hard time. I feel like maybe I just have to leave it as, due to my own experiences (and therefore biases), I have a very hard time understanding why someone would want to be raped and experience that, as it is something I so desperately wish would stop altogether, forever. I mean obviously, this woman wanted this experience, but the thought of this man raping her and beating her with his fists is just too much for me. I hope one day I can overcome my own past enough to see this with a less biased lens.

    By the way, it is not often I comment on this blog, but this article really struck me deeply. I hope nobody thinks I’m being judgmental, I think I just had to really process what this meant for me.

  20. Jenae
    Jenae June 27, 2011 at 8:15 pm |

    PM:
    “I’m going to go ahead and guess that they have safety procedures in place, given they have had sex resembling this before and a longstanding relationship.”

    I thought so, too. I wish she had mentioned them in the column, though.

    Exactly! By not doing that, it paints all BDSM scenes with a weird brush of non-consent and violence that just isn’t there in the relationships I’ve seen or the one I’m in. I wish she’d been a little more careful how she portrayed a lifestyle that a lot of us live.

    That said, I’m glad she wrote this and I’m glad that she overcame her PTSD. It’s awesome that she’s willing to talk about it openly instead of sweeping it under the “everything’s fine” rug.

  21. Lady
    Lady June 27, 2011 at 8:53 pm |

    For all the people who don’t understand why, this is definitely reminiscent of some kind of exposure therapy. Basically, that entails exposing yourself to the thing you fear the most until you get past the fear. I think, for her, the process of actually being assaulted was what she knew in some way would cure her (as much as you can be cured of this sort of thing). She was able to sit with the terror and have that cathartic moment where she could really feel that fear and overcome it. From reading the article it must have been an immense release.

    When you have PTSD, you don’t realize how much of a toll it takes on your body until you are finally able to relax again. She seemed to make it a point to physically exhaust herself so she couldn’t hold that intensity in her body anymore.

  22. rayuela23
    rayuela23 June 27, 2011 at 9:03 pm |

    wow. what an absolutely amazing woman. (and what an amazing man, too, to be able to do that for her).
    can’t give enough respect to her courage.

  23. Kite
    Kite June 27, 2011 at 9:40 pm |

    Did she actually mention BDSM though?

    Really powerful piece, really well-written, and she is so STRONG. For writing about this too!

    It’s making me think about some of my own responses/difficulties with sex, given I idle at a heightened state.

  24. Rainface
    Rainface June 27, 2011 at 9:53 pm |

    I’m immensely impressed, not only with her strength, but with her knowledge of herself in being able to safely create and negotiate a situation that gave her what she needed to release her tension. At no point during this piece did I feel she was recommending or “prescribing” for anyone else, but simply talking about what worked for her. As a mental health therapist, and a woman who struggles with my own PTSD, I found this to be an intense and fascinating thing to read.

  25. Nahida
    Nahida June 27, 2011 at 9:59 pm |

    Reading that left me too shaky to know how I feel about it. I’ll be figuring it out for the next few days. ._.

  26. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein June 27, 2011 at 10:03 pm |

    I’m proud of Mac for acknowledging that she had PTSD and discussing what she did to recover. There’s a lot of pressure among journalists to deny those kinds of symptoms. So, kudos to her for being honest about the psychological toll of her job.

    A lot of people think vicarious PTSD is bullshit because so many of the people who suffer from it hew to an internal code of silence. The assumption is that if you don’t directly experience the violence, you’re not “really” traumatized. But the perception persists, across multiple professions, because of said code of silence. Cops, firefighters, journalists, and soldiers (amongst other occupational groups), all seem to believe that if it didn’t actually happen to you, it’s not real trauma and that’s empirically bullshit.

    That said, I’m frustrated with Mac’s essay because it glossed over the most important point of the story. She set it up as an explanation of how “violent sex” eased her PTSD, but I don’t feel the essay delivered on that promise.

    If this was a BDSM scenario, she should have explained how everything was negotiated. Did they have a safeword? If she reserved the right to call off the action at any point, she should have made that clear to the reader. If she didn’t, she should have explained that, too. Mac left that point hanging, which was the major defect of the essay.

    If you want to write thousands of words about how “violent sex” helped you get over PTSD, you owe the reader an exhaustive discussion of consent. There’s a huge gulf between engaging in consensually rough sex and giving a man (even a man you love) the power to rape you (i.e. the power keep fucking you even if you say “no”).

    Mac goes on at great length about how her partner, Isaac, could easily overcome whatever resistance she put up. So, it’s important to know what she actually signed off on.

    The standard line about BDSM play is that it can be therapeutic because it provides the illusion of non-consensual sex with the reality of consensual sex. It’s reassuring that you can play at rape and still know that you can call it off if whenever you’ve had enough. Mac’s essay doesn’t explain whether this exchange can rightly be characterized as BDSM. For her therapist’s sake, I hope so, because advising a client to go out and engineer an unsupervised, non-BDSM simulated rape scenario smacks of malpractice. At least within BDSM there’s some context for negotiating scenes like this consensually and equitably.

    Mac’s story seemed to equivocate between “How I found solace in consensual power exchange” vs. “I told my partner to beat and rape me upon the advice of my therapist.” Those are two totally different scenarios and I’m pretty sure Mac’s keenly aware of the difference. I fully support a woman’s right to pursue one or the other, but I’m not going to say that she’s brave for writing an essay that equivocates between the two.

  27. PM
    PM June 27, 2011 at 10:54 pm |

    After reading it again, I kinda wonder if it was edited at all by “GOOD.” I would guess that (unfortunately) if she had written an extensive section on consent, it would have been the first part on the chopping block.

    Either way, put me in the “she’s brave” camp. She faced her fears, then wrote about this very taboo topic with her own name and photograph at the top of the article. Her family, her friends, her future employers, ANYONE can read this. The article also has a link to her website that also has her full name and a larger photograph. If that’s not bravery, I don’t know what is.

  28. SunlessNick
    SunlessNick June 28, 2011 at 12:08 am |

    I’m no psychologist, but I wonder if there might have been some survivor’s guilt in this too. A journalist – especially one covering the places Mac talks about – sees a lot of people hurt.

  29. rayuela23
    rayuela23 June 28, 2011 at 7:06 am |

    I have to disagree with those who are unhappy with this author for ‘misrepresenting’ BDSM or for not providing an ‘exhaustive discussion of consent’. McClelland is not claiming to speak for the BDSM community: in fact her piece explicitly avoids any language that would even place this experience within a BDSM/kink framework. She is describing a very personal approach to a very extreme circumstance – I think it’s something that very few of us can relate to in terms of imagining making similar choices, but I imagine *very* few of us commenting have had comparable experiences.
    As someone who has very little experience with PTSD this was an extremely powerful piece to read. I think more than anything its value is the insight it can offer to non-sufferers about how terrifying and all-pervasive this condition can be.

    All respect to this amazing woman who has the physical and mental courage to put herself in a warzone and the social and emotional courage to expose her responses to the scrutiny of others.

  30. Eva Magdalen
    Eva Magdalen June 28, 2011 at 9:10 am |

    Regarding the issue of “consent,” it appeared to me that her PTSD was mostly focused on witnessing the aftermath of a rape. To that end, dealing with the resultant anxiety and counterphobia would have to involve re-creating a rape situation. Consent would not necessarily be a part of that. Without having had her experiences, it is admittedly hard for us to imagine a circumstance in which violent sex and/or rape would be beneficial or helpful in any way, but it’s clear (to me, anyway) from her writing that she needed a rape-like situation as part of her personal therapy.

    The piece is strong, well-written and provocative. It reminds me of my own counter-phobias around repeated pregnancy loss and the terrible anxiety and pain that my body was subjected to. Completely different experiences…yet for me it struck a chord.

  31. Matt
    Matt June 28, 2011 at 9:51 am |

    I’m upset about all these BDSM people trying to control this woman’s experience. She didn’t talk about consent because this isn’t some BDSM scene. It’s not set up, structured. There aren’t rules and boundaries.

    Why would it occur to her to discuss consent when it wasn’t involved in what she was doing? She doesn’t have some duty to explain the sexual proclivities of a community she isn’t a member of and which she doesn’t claim to represent.

    Perhaps I can clarify this, THIS IS NOT BDSM. SHE IS NOT GOING TO DO IT AGAIN. SHE SIGNED OFF ON EVERYTHING, NO LIMIT, WHATEVER THE MAN THOUGHT WOULD SIMULATE THE RAPE EXPERIENCE SHE NEEDED, NOT WANTED, TO HAVE. SHE DIDNT HAVE FUN, SHE DIDNT GET TURNED ON, THINGS WHICH ARE THE HALLMARK OF BDSM PLAY. IT WASNT ABOUT SEXUAL PLEASURE.

    I hate to use caps but it seemed like it was necessary. All the information you need is right in the piece, but somehow so many people seem to be missing it.

  32. Gretchen
    Gretchen June 28, 2011 at 10:28 am |

    Lindsay Beyerstein:
    If you want to write thousands of words about how “violent sex” helped you get over PTSD, you owe the reader an exhaustive discussion of consent…
    Mac goes on at great length about how her partner, Isaac, could easily overcome whatever resistance she put up. So, it’s important to know what she actually signed off on.

    I’d say yes and no depending on the context.

    No, simply because it seems implicit in the article that she is not discussing a BDSM experience. Her rape “fantasy” had to do with dealing with extreme psychological trauma rather than something that generally sexually arouses her.

    I think a more detailed outline of what Isaac’s boundaries were, to what length she requested/ok various violent behaviour etc. was necessary; and I certainly think there should have been mention of a safe-word.

    Although the point seems to have been the total overpowering of her physical control and discovering she could survive it, boundaries not mentioned in the article must have been in place for unintended consequences such as a broken nose, dislodged cornea or the sensation that she might lose consciousness…

    Altogether I appreciated her candid discussion of a highly personal experience necessitated by PTSD, and exactly because she was discussing such a sensitive series of issues i think she had a greater responsibility to make explicit the boundaries and rules she had in place than discussed in the article.

    I wonder about the survivors guilt aspect as well, i live in an area of conflict and often feel extreme guilt for not suffering the same as those around me (although i do not suffer PTSD), and that guilt leads into my own various (non sexual) suffering/cruelty/revenge fantasies or a dissociative robotic shutting down of all emotions.

    Ultimately though I have nothing but praise for her self awareness, knowing what she needed to do to cope and bringing awareness to the fact that there needs to be more open and supportive platforms for journalists to discuss their own trauma without threat of being blamed-for-getting-themselves-into-it or taken off the job.

  33. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin June 28, 2011 at 11:04 am |

    I would feel better about this if she’d done this with the blessing of a psychotherapist. I honestly feel that if I tried this for my PTSD, I’d probably re-traumatize myself and end up curled in the fetal position for a week solid.

    Brave to try something that might help, but she took a tremendous risk.

  34. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin June 28, 2011 at 11:13 am |

    I need to clarify. I just didn’t read in that piece that the violent sex act had the psychotherapist’s blessing. She suggested something, but I know my therapist would never recommend doing something like this by myself. She’d be more comfortable recommending EMDR.

  35. Jadey
    Jadey June 28, 2011 at 11:14 am |

    Question for the people who are assuming this was a BDSM scene that occurred between two experienced BDSM practitioners with familiarity with the social conventions of subculture (e.g., safe words, explicit negotiation of boundaries, etc.):

    What if it wasn’t?

    She never identifies it as such. She doesn’t reference BDSM at all. Sure, there are similarities – I definitely noticed them – but there’s no clear reference to it as such. Several commenters, including myself, have strongly stated that we don’t think it was a BDSM scene.

    What does this mean to you if it wasn’t BDSM? If there were no discussion, safeword, safety measures, and so forth? Does that change how you think about it? If they didn’t do anything to protect their safety in such an extreme encounter other than trust each other, do you think they were wrong? Because “should” and “ought” have come up a few times.

  36. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar June 28, 2011 at 11:18 am |

    Matt, you are imposing your own construction on the gaps in the text as much as the people you criticize. The fact is that McClellan left a tremendous amount unsaid, about what was negotiated, what happened, and how she viewed and views it. I expect that no answers are forthcoming, so we can all place our own constructions and assumptions on it, or we can simply acknowledge that she was maddeningly ambiguous, possibly deliberately.

    Whether she considers what she did BDSM or not, whether she had a safeword or not: she has not clearly said, and in fact she clearly has not said.

  37. Azalea
    Azalea June 28, 2011 at 12:18 pm |

    Can we all agree that she clearly said she needed him to FIGHT HER ON THIS (this being SEX, CONSENT)? That this isnt about ANYONE else but her and the way she was able to cope with the PTSD she experienced from being exposed to so many violent sexual assaults?

  38. matlun
    matlun June 28, 2011 at 12:38 pm |

    Jadey: What does this mean to you if it wasn’t BDSM? If there were no discussion, safeword, safety measures, and so forth? Does that change how you think about it? If they didn’t do anything to protect their safety in such an extreme encounter other than trust each other, do you think they were wrong?

    Wrong in which sense? If that was the case, I would say that may have been unwise, risky behavior.
    On the other hand perhaps she needed the lack of safe word and the feeling of a total loss of control. I do not know.

    Be that as it may, I do not see it as wrong in any moral sense.

  39. sonorous
    sonorous June 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm |

    I think sometimes our psychology can be more complex than our politics.

    Like I know in my case, I had a new partner but was still in an emotional place where it was difficult or impossible for me to say “no”. It was having this new partner realize this, of his own accord, and voluntarily pull back, that in a way gave me the permission I emotionally needed to say “no”. It was like he was lending me the word “no” that I couldn’t say myself, until I was strong enough to say “no” without him having to detect my “no” and say it for me.

    But that was a big risk because, obviously, what if he didn’t detect my “no”? What if he pushed forward anyway? It probably would have reaffirmed to me that I don’t deserve the right to say “no”. I genuinely think it was one of those make-it-or-break-it moments that could have capsized me forever.

    I certainly wouldn’t advise my risk to anyone else. But in my case, I don’t think I had any other choice. Maybe with enough community around me, I would have. But I was all alone, and I was emotionally at the mercy of another person, and fortunately this person didn’t exploit the power he had, and instead tried to give that power back to me. It’s also worth noting that this person has zero “formal” feminist politics or language.

    Now I can say “no” all by myself, which is great.

  40. Rose
    Rose June 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |

    I’ve read this article a number of times in the past 24 hours because reading it the first time around unfortunately blinded me with rage to the point that I was no longer able to process the author’s words  Perhaps more unfortunate is the fact that reading it on a clearer, cooler head doesn’t do much if anything in her favor.

    I noticed that the dissent from the few who voice it in this thread is  laced with some restraint. Her journalistic talent and courage aside, I personally will not hesitate to  say this woman is not much different from a sociopath in a certain sense.

    “I  want to have sex at gun point” “I just want to have rough sex.” These are things no woman, BDSM sympathizing or otherwise, will 
    say if she knew any iota of its reality. Not one. Coincidentally, witnessing Sybille’s terrorized shrieks wouldn’t have been the ones to make her diassociate either. If this reporter knew anything of Sybille’s reality first hand, she would have, at best, become numb at seeing a nightmare reenacted. But no. What she sees is something to brand “abominable”, something to believe “shouldn’t have happened”, yet it can and it does, constantly to women outside the “safety” of Western civilizations. 

    I am happy that she had the choice to turn to a man who will play, however well, the game she thinks rape is. But most of all I  am disgusted that she fails to consider even once  just what the hell that abomination that happened to Sybille was. I am disgusted that all she could think of was some twisted way to deal with what she imagined Sybille endured. Her little coping mechanism is Sybille’s reality and the reality of any woman unfortunate enough to find herself amidst a war. The only exceptions is that there is no therapist. There is no profession , no Isaac. There is not even any idea of what the fuck PTSD is. There is only the onslaught, the silence, and the demons of powerlessness, the physical wounds and battered spirit that follow.

    Anyone who really sees anything in this piece but the frivolous cross examination of rape turned game is a moron. Having your nipples pinched and arms pinned are things completely separate from having your jaw broken and your womb torn to shreds. Any woman who has never experienced the nauseating horror that is assault, the corrosive rage that having your only absolute threshold be forced from our control should hold her tongue about her perspectives on it. Be thankful that you aren’t part of the millions who know that horror and that rage, and shut your mouth.

    With that said, I look forward to hearing how her coverage of child 
    trafficking in Asia will cause such repercussions on her psyche so as to make her realize how much she enjoys Tantric sex.

  41. groggette
    groggette June 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm |

    Rose: “I want to have sex at gun point” “I just want to have rough sex.” These are things no woman, BDSM sympathizing or otherwise, will say if she knew any iota of its reality. Not one.

    You are wrong.

    As for the rest of your comment, please, tell us more about how it’s only rape if it’s violent and does permanent physical or psychological damage to the woman. I’m not “thankful” that my rape was nothing like I can only imagine Sybille’s was. Before I was raped I wasn’t “thankful” that I had never been raped. I will be thankful when rape is erradicated and no I will not shut my mouth in the mean time.

  42. Rose
    Rose June 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm |

    groggette: I will be thankful when rape is erradicated and no I will not shut my mouth in the mean time.

    I’ll be thankful when women as a division of the human species have complete, collective clout of themselves to have differing opinions in front of all eyes in the world , misogynist and womanist alike.

  43. Matt
    Matt June 28, 2011 at 5:57 pm |

    Thomas MacAulay Millar:
    Matt, you are imposing your own construction on the gaps in the text as much as the people you criticize.The fact is that McClellan left a tremendous amount unsaid, about what was negotiated, what happened, and how she viewed and views it.I expect that no answers are forthcoming, so we can all place our own constructions and assumptions on it, or we can simply acknowledge that she was maddeningly ambiguous, possibly deliberately.

    Whether she considers what she did BDSM or not, whether she had a safeword or not: she has not clearly said, and in fact she clearly has not said.

    Its quite clear in her language what she meant, its not my fault you have poor reading comprehension.

  44. Matt
    Matt June 28, 2011 at 6:04 pm |

    Rose:
    I’ve read this article a number of times in the past 24 hours because reading it the first time around unfortunately blinded me with rage to the point that I was no longer able to process the author’s words Perhaps more unfortunate is the fact that reading it on a clearer, cooler head doesn’t do much if anything in her favor.

    I noticed that the dissent from the few who voice it in this thread is laced with some restraint. Her journalistic talent and courage aside, I personally will not hesitate to say this woman is not much different from a sociopath in a certain sense.

    “I want to have sex at gun point” “I just want to have rough sex.” These are things no woman, BDSM sympathizing or otherwise, will
    say if she knew any iota of its reality. Not one. Coincidentally, witnessing Sybille’s terrorized shrieks wouldn’t have been the ones to make her diassociate either. If this reporter knew anything of Sybille’s reality first hand, she would have, at best, become numb at seeing a nightmare reenacted. But no. What she sees is something to brand “abominable”, something to believe “shouldn’t have happened”, yet it can and it does, constantly to women outside the “safety” of Western civilizations.

    I am happy that she had the choice to turn to a man who will play, however well, the game she thinks rape is. But most of all I am disgusted that she fails to consider even once just what the hell that abomination that happened to Sybille was. I am disgusted that all she could think of was some twisted way to deal with what she imagined Sybille endured. Her little coping mechanism is Sybille’s reality and the reality of any woman unfortunate enough to find herself amidst a war. The only exceptions is that there is no therapist. There is no profession , no Isaac. There is not even any idea of what the fuck PTSD is. There is only the onslaught, the silence, and the demons of powerlessness, the physical wounds and battered spirit that follow.

    Anyone who really sees anything in this piece but the frivolous cross examination of rape turned game is a moron. Having your nipples pinched and arms pinned are things completely separate from having your jaw broken and your womb torn to shreds. Any woman who has never experienced the nauseating horror that is assault, the corrosive rage that having your only absolute threshold be forced from our control should hold her tongue about her perspectives on it. Be thankful that you aren’t part of the millions who know that horror and that rage, and shut your mouth.

    With that said, I look forward to hearing how her coverage of child
    trafficking in Asia will cause such repercussions on her psyche so as to make her realize how much she enjoys Tantric sex.

    Because you own the word rape and no one can use it without your consent. Arrogant pisshole. Not all rapes are super violent, and in even in the cases where they are, they don’t always involve permanent eye damage, or broken bones of any kind. Did you know you can rape someone who is asleep and they won’t even know it? Not everyone, but people who are really deep sleepers, it can happen. And I guess if a girl is drugged, or acquaintance raped its because she really wanted it hmm? Rape is a spectrum. And whether your ridiculous ideology can accept it or not, the body doesn’t care how you feel about who deserves to get PTSD. It doesn’t care about your moral rantings. Its like gravity, even if you don’t believe that a certain action can cause someone to get it, it still happens. If I step off a cliff, your ignorance won’t keep me suspended in the air. You are the very people she references in the article, that don’t believe in vicarious trauma. If my mother is raped in front of me, I don’t magically get away without emotional scarring because I wasn’t the one being raped.

  45. C.
    C. June 28, 2011 at 6:43 pm |

    Rose: Thank you. Thank you so much for courageously going against the grain here and saying things that needed to be said. You aren’t alone in your take on this, at all.

  46. je
    je June 28, 2011 at 7:13 pm |

    I get what Rose is getting at, and for me the problem is that by including Sybille’s story in her own, I felt drawn to think about Sybille and her trauma – and was kind of baffled when the author started talking about how SHE felt. As someone who’s worked closely with refugees, I can relate to secondary PTSD and believe whole-heartedly that the author was traumatized by what she experienced. But I was quite turned off by the way that she talked about someone else’s experience in order to convey the depths of her own trauma. The way it was written, the article came across, at least at first read, as very “white girl in a scary jungle”. And I couldn’t make sense of what she was talking about with that UN guy coming to her apt. for sex. Was he trying to impose himself on her? Were they having consensual sex and she just dissociated during it? UN peacekeepers propogate so much sexual violence in Haiti and other parts of the world, at first I thought that’s what she was referring to. But then later, it sounded like he was just a sweet European who she couldn’t properly enjoy because of having witnessed Sybille’s plight.

  47. kate
    kate June 28, 2011 at 7:43 pm |

    the writer sounds like she was scared of being raped herself, and so she set up a situation that she told herself was the same, and now that she’s gotten through it, she is no longer afraid.
    and yeah, i think she is insulting Sybille, and many other rape survivors (of ALL types of rape) by casually equating the situations.

  48. Rose
    Rose June 28, 2011 at 8:20 pm |

    Matt: Because you own the word rape and no one can use it without your consent. Arrogant pisshole. Not all rapes are super violent, and in even in the cases where they are, they don’t always involve permanent eye damage, or broken bones of any kind. Did you know you can rape someone who is asleep and they won’t even know it? Not everyone, but people who are really deep sleepers, it can happen. And I guess if a girl is drugged, or acquaintance raped its because she really wanted it hmm? Rape is a spectrum. And whether your ridiculous ideology can accept it or not, the body doesn’t care how you feel about who deserves to get PTSD. It doesn’t care about your moral rantings. Its like gravity, even if you don’t believe that a certain action can cause someone to get it, it still happens. If I step off a cliff, your ignorance won’t keep me suspended in the air. You are the very people she references in the article, that don’t believe in vicarious trauma. If my mother is raped in front of me, I don’t magically get away without emotional scarring because I wasn’t the one being raped.

    Matt is it? I will admit I chose words poorly and for a minute it sounds like I am saying anyone who hasn’t been raped violently, hasn’t been raped. Not at all within the scope of my point, but I will chalk it up to responding to internet threads on iPhones while wandering about the town. But hey, leave it to assumptions to feed the run amok fires. That aside, don’t mistake this as any sort of backpedal from my stance.

    Number 2. This was an observation of the writer’s questionable course toward using Sybille as a stepping stone to define her own experience, which is appalling by any account, whether you agree with what I have to say on the subject or not. I don’t know where you gathered the moral rant idea.

    Now, if it seems any clearer than before that I am not saying violent rape supersedes all other forms of abuse, that I am not toting some silly idea of morality as you think, then I invite you to find a flaw in my stand. I invite you to tell me that this writer, setting her quite privileged experience side by side with Sybille’s, who had so much less to help her cope, isn’t revolting, isn’t appalling and down right cruel.

  49. LoriA
    LoriA June 28, 2011 at 8:37 pm |

    *Lets out world’s biggest sigh*

    Yeah, this conversation went exactly how I thought it would.

  50. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein June 28, 2011 at 8:56 pm |

    I think it’s critical to emphasize that Mac is describing a “treatment” she undertook on the advice of a “therapist,” not a spontaneous attempt to cope with what happened to her.

    For a reader, assuming that there’s some BDSM element here is the charitable assumption, because otherwise her therapist is committing malpractice. If the therapist and her client were both well-versed in BDSM and the therapist knew the client and her partner had the skills to pull off something like this, it might be ethical.

    However, an ethical clinician doesn’t just send some noob to negotiate her own unsupervised, “therapeutic” rape scenario. There are too many ways that could go wrong–emotionally, physically, legally–for either party.

    Mac says she already had a problem with dissociation. If so, what concerned therapist thinks it’s safe to send her out to negotiate a scenario where her partner agrees to physically overpower her? Maybe they had a safeword, maybe they didn’t. Even if they did, there was a significant and foreseeable risk that she might not be able to use the safeword if she dissociated during the encounter.
    The therapist was putting her client at a non-trivial risk of being raped in the name of therapy.

    The therapist was also putting the client’s friend, Isaac, at risk. For one thing, this encounter was presented to him as something she needed to get over an agonizing psychological problem. That’s a very different “ask” than simply proposing sex for mutual pleasure. He may have felt an obligation to do something for Mac’s mental health that he wouldn’t ordinarily have been comfortable with.

    How would Isaac, a loving friend, have felt if he later learned that Mac had changed her mind at the last minute and couldn’t tell him she wanted him to stop?

    If two adults decide on their own that this is something they need to do, BDSM or no BDSM, that’s fine. It’s risky, but we all take risks for things that are important to us.

    It’s a whole different scenario if we’re talking about “treatment” recommended by someone who’s supposed to be an expert on treating PTSD. This is not standard treatment for PTSD, not even close. Even a kink-positive practitioner wouldn’t suggest an unsupervised violent rape scenario as treatment for a patient who hadn’t already expressed a desire to do this.

  51. Valhallie
    Valhallie June 28, 2011 at 9:00 pm |

    So, are people arguing that this woman is morally wrong for experiencing PTSD because she didn’t suffer enough? Because that’s not really how PTSD works. Or is it because she wrote about it, and writing about yourself is selfish? Does it make it better that she wrote quite a bit about the victims of the Haiti earthquake in an article that wasn’t about her?

    http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/01/haiti-rape-earthquake-mac-mcclelland

    I don’t think McClelland is trying to compare or equate her experience to Sybille’s. More that Sybille’s trauma, along with other experiences in Haiti, was a trigger for her own.

  52. LoriA
    LoriA June 28, 2011 at 9:07 pm |

    “I want to have sex at gun point” “I just want to have rough sex.” These are things no woman, BDSM sympathizing or otherwise, will
    say if she knew any iota of its reality.”

    Hey, Rose? I was sexually abused as a kid, and I re-enact it in the bedroom in BDSM scenarios order to deal with it. I’m sure the idea didn’t even occur to you to listen to women who do this sort of thing, because we’re just mooooonnnsters!!!!

    There, that’s me adding something substantive to this, because that’s all I can manage without releasing an entire string of abusive epithets at Rose. Comments like hers are seriously why I can’t come to this blog anymore. I can’t imagine why they would be allowed, but then… no, I won’t finish that sentence.

    I came here specifically to see how much fail could be packed in one thread. Way to not let me down, Feministe.

  53. Rose
    Rose June 28, 2011 at 9:24 pm |

    LoriA: “I want to have sex at gun point” “I just want to have rough sex.” These are things no woman, BDSM sympathizing or otherwise, will
    say if she knew any iota of its reality.”

    Hey, Rose? I was sexually abused as a kid, and I re-enact it in the bedroom in BDSM scenarios order to deal with it. I’m sure the idea didn’t even occur to you to listen to women who do this sort of thing, because we’re just mooooonnnsters!!!!

    Cheers madam. I was sexually abused at age 5 myself, by a succession of gentlemen at that. Shall I bake us cookies and share them with you for it?

    Ha ha ha. Excuse my hostility, honestly. I frankly should have known that iPhone platforms and feminist forums don’t make for the finest conveyance of communication. My stand however, stands. If BDSM helps you work out your issues, kudos to you and I truly hope one day you master that nightmare. Doesn’t work for every one of us though, which is a violently shocking idea apparently.

    Please free to communicate every insult you have in mind for me off forum if you’re so inclined. I’m sure the email shows, and I’ll take blunt frankness any day over pseudo civilized bullshit.

    Whatever you can think of to call me, don’t forget, you and I aren’t that different.

  54. Nahida
    Nahida June 28, 2011 at 9:30 pm |

    …But no one has suggested that it works for everyone? =-=

  55. LoriA
    LoriA June 28, 2011 at 9:31 pm |

    I honestly don’t know how anyone can be this cruel and hateful and be allowed to post here. I don’t. I don’t understand this.

    I really want to be able to engage, to see if I can reach out to people, and I just can’t. I cannot deal with this level of hate.

  56. Rose
    Rose June 28, 2011 at 9:58 pm |

    What I don’t understand is how my saying don’t put a way of dealing with PSTD side by side with the experience of a woman who was gang raped, yet what is immediately noticed is “she’s saying violent rape is worse than subtle rape OMG” or how another person says “I use BDSM to deal with it but you don’t such and such because we’re such mooonsters.” By Darwin. Am I really communicating so poorly? LoriA, I wasn’t suggesting there is anything wrong with BSDM before you brought it up and after you did, I was responding with some sarcasm, but not saying I was above it, or better than it, or anything like that. You attempted to one up me with your experience on the subject because you think I’m a self righteous moron. Well, shit, I may be, but I am not here touting self righteous or preferences, I am here saying reporter woman should not place her experience side by side with Sybille’s. There is no parallel. It doesn’t matter what courage it took her to write her story. Separate it from Sybille. That. Is. My. Point.

    If you want to find something in my argument to makes me seem like a self righteous idiot, a moron, a hateful bitch, do it! It’s perfectly fine. If poor communication even after some clarification is still enough evidence for you that I am a fucking douche, then fine. But separate reporter and Sybille before anything. That, is, again, my. point. Don’t miss it.

  57. wl
    wl June 28, 2011 at 10:07 pm |

    Rose – wow. Add me to the folks who have been abused sexually and raped and deal with it in the bedroom. Some of us do. I didn’t read the article because I didn’t want it to trigger me but I understand the desire for violent sex after being violated.

  58. felixbc
    felixbc June 28, 2011 at 10:07 pm |

    LoriA–hugs to you.

    Rose, why you got to be so…barbed like a fishhook in the flesh?

  59. kate
    kate June 28, 2011 at 10:16 pm |

    Jill: I’m Gonna Need You to Fight Me On This: How Violent Sex Helped Ease My PTSD

    Yeah, you’re right – i guess she doesn’t EQUATE things. But there is still something about the trajectory that is off to me – it doesn’t seem that the violent sex was “treating” the PTSD, but rather treating her fear of being raped herself? I do stand by my earlier comment that it seems like she was afraid of rape and manufactured a relatively controlled situation that would prove to her that she could get through it. I really don’t know how to articulate what i’m trying to say, so i’m saying it badly and i apologize. i guess i wish that she had gone further into it – and i think it just seemed like this was some magical cure – and anything that seems that cut and dry raises flags to me.

    on another note – i found myself wondering how the man involved felt afterward – i wonder if it brought up any issues for him to engage in that situation..

  60. kate
    kate June 28, 2011 at 10:17 pm |

    ugh, i quoted the wrong comment because i’m super challenged when it comes to anything fancy online. i mean to quote this:

    “kate 6.28.2011 at 7:43 pm
    the writer sounds like she was scared of being raped herself, and so she set up a situation that she told herself was the same, and now that she’s gotten through it, she is no longer afraid.
    and yeah, i think she is insulting Sybille, and many other rape survivors (of ALL types of rape) by casually equating the situations.

    48Jill 6.28.2011 at 7:52 pm
    Where did she equate the situations, though? Folks are reading in an awful lot to a piece that amounts to “I went through a really traumatic experience and here’s how I handled it.”

  61. Anon21
    Anon21 June 28, 2011 at 10:17 pm |

    Rose: I guess I don’t understand what you want from the author. Should she have written the article, but declined to state what caused her PTSD? That would have just been confusing, especially in light of the “cure” that she chose. Should she just not have written the article at all?

  62. Nahida
    Nahida June 28, 2011 at 10:30 pm |

    Rose: I am here saying reporter woman should not place her experience side by side with Sybille’s. There is no parallel. It doesn’t matter what courage it took her to write her story. Separate it from Sybille. That. Is. My. Point.

    ._.

    I.. how… Okay, maybe I am reading this wrong, but it really seemed that she was only trying to write how terrible it was for her–not comparatively, just for her–and if anything was showing deep compassion for her friend, especially since the attack affected her so greatly, not using Sybille to explain anything. It’s just what happened, and what it did to her.

    This is absurd. My mother was a victim of domestic violence. Am I not supposed to mention how it fucked up my head, because she’s the real victim?

  63. Nahida
    Nahida June 28, 2011 at 10:37 pm |

    Sybille isn’t even Sybille’s real name.

    I still don’t know how I feel about the ending, or what it really did, or whether or not it cured her, or what that means… but this? To tell someone to stfu about what her friend went through and how it tore her up because it’s worse than what she went through is bizarre. She isn’t comparing herself to her friend, or silencing the victim.

  64. rayuela23
    rayuela23 June 28, 2011 at 10:58 pm |

    Nahida:
    Sybille isn’t even Sybille’s real name.

    To tell someone to stfu about what her friend went through and how it tore her up because it’s worse than what she went through is bizarre. She isn’t comparing herself to her friend, or silencing the victim.

    Yeah cosign Nahida. Again, I think people are being unfair.

    Yes, the trauma suffered by Sybille and and other Haitian women (Alina, for example, of the article linked at 52) is incomparable to the trauma of witnessing that as a journalist. But does that mean that McClelland has no right to her trauma? Does that mean that anyone who hasn’t been brutally gang-raped has no right to feeling and writing about their distress?

    I can’t get on board with that.

    You’ll notice in the article that she talks about her guilt and inability to reconcile herself with her suffering because it is second hand. Does anyone really want to pile the guilt on?

    Again, this article has some really interesting insights into PTSD. Not answers, not prescriptions for others (although it sounds like at least one commenter here can identify with McClelland’s strategy for dealing with trauma). Just a personal journey that offers those of us who have never suffered PTSD a lot to think about, and may make others who suffer from it feel less alone.

  65. Azeylea M.
    Azeylea M. June 28, 2011 at 11:12 pm |

    Loved the article (“loved” isn’t exactly the right word, but you know what I mean), hate this thread. Add me to the “What the hell, Rose?” camp.

    The author does separate herself from Sybil when she writes evocatively and repeatedly about the shame she feels about the fact that she’s even suffering from PTSD in the first place, because, hey, it’s not like she went through what the people she writes about went through: “What kind of fucking pussy cries and pukes about getting almost hurt or having to watch bad things happen to other people?”

    Her (awesome) friend’s reply: “Marines.” Soldiers don’t suffer from the same trauma as civilians in war-torn countries (hell, often they’re the cause of trauma) yet when they come back from the battlefield, they bring the war with them. Saying McClelland is equating her trauma with Sybil’s is like accusing an Iraq War vet of minimizing the suffering of Iraqis because he* talks about how witnessing that suffering has contributed to his symptoms. No he’s not, and no she isn’t.

    *or she or ey or zie, of course

  66. rayuela23
    rayuela23 June 29, 2011 at 12:14 am |

    Azeylea M.:

    Soldiers don’t suffer from the same trauma as civilians in war-torn countries (hell, often they’re the cause of trauma) yet when they come back from the battlefield, they bring the war with them.

    Yep. I think what we need in the case of individuals suffering from PTSD is more understanding, not less. That’s not about privileging one person’s suffering above another’s, it’s just about allowing people to suffer and grieve and heal in whatever way suits them.

  67. Norma
    Norma June 29, 2011 at 7:03 am |

    I didn’t at all get the impression that the author was comparing her vicarious trauma to the trauma of rape survivors. The author was traumatized, and I appreciated her raw and honest account of what that’s like.

    But I struggled to understand the relationship between McClelland, her therapist, and her simulated rape. Lindsay Beyerstein made excellent points about this above. I felt unclear about what exactly McClelland’s therapist had recommended and whether she actually advised a simulated rape as a treatment for PTSD. I wish McClelland had explained this.

  68. Emily
    Emily June 29, 2011 at 7:37 am |

    I too wish she had written more about consent and the perameters. Whether or not it was “BDSM” she did mention that she and Isaac had done stuff like this before – which clearly indicates that there was some sort of background understanding between them. Also, she at first presents it as if the bedroom/apartment was the first time she let him in on the fact that she wanted this “sleepover” to be something different – when she tells him he’ll need to “fight” her, but then says that she HAD talked to him at the bar about her PTSD. So I think all in all it is confusing and ambiguous. And the details, whether they were explicit negotiation of boundaries and safewords, or whether they were based on a more unstated desire to take what they had done before to the “next level” so to speak, it would be helpful for the reader to know. She’s talking about how this experience of violent sex helped her, but the reader is left not really knowing what kind of experience it was that helped her because the details of how consensual/nonconsensual it was were left out. So how can we really understand what about the experience was helpful to her. And contrary to what Matt says, the article is unclear about hoe much was negotiated. It kind of acts like it wasn’t at all, but then includes little tidbits – like the history of doing things “like” this in the past and the fact that she had talked about her PTSD and problem at the bar – that suggest there was more communication than the article describes.

  69. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines June 29, 2011 at 7:40 am |

    Going back to Matt’s comment @44, since when does ‘Arrogant Pisshole’ become an acceptable way for a man to refer to a woman on this site (or anyone to refer to anyone, really)?! That is hate speech and surely against commenting policy.

    It’s also the second time in as many weeks I’ve seen a man use hate speech against women in the comment sections here. I am NOT blaming the mods, I know they are vvv busy. I am just astounding at the arrogance of some men who comment here.

  70. je
    je June 29, 2011 at 8:20 am |

    So my bona fides are out on the table: I am a childhood sex abuse survivor who likes rough sex and I believe in secondary PTSD, and I’ve worked with ppl who experienced horrific trauma. My tongue is firmly in my cheek as I say these things.

    I still agree with Rose, and I think it’s more a matter of HOW this article was written/edited, not the personal message that the author was trying to convey.

    Here are the passages from the article I read, where I was like… “wow, that sounds terrib– wait! what? you keep saying “I” and “me” and this woman is curled up in the fetal position moaning?!” I’m not saying author shouldn’t have felt terrible or been traumatized, but if that was supposed to be the emphasis, it came across as…forced.

    Passage #1:
    “And the way Sybille went into a full paroxysm when we were on the way back to the post-quake tarp city she lived in was the worst thing I ever saw in my life. We were sitting in traffic and saw one of her rapists, and she started just SCREEEAMING a few inches away from my face, her eyes wide and rolling in abject terror. I have coping mechanisms for this sort of thing.

    Passage #2:
    “Unfortunately, when Sybille turned around in the front passenger seat and started wailing, flailing and slapping her chair, I lost the ability to locate myself in space and time in the backseat. It’s called dissociation, and is a common and quite unsettling response to extreme trauma. She eventually curled into a ball and grew quiet, tears still pouring down her face. But I could sense only a disembodied version of myself hovering somewhere behind me and to my left, outside my window.”

    On subsequent reflection, I know that the author is really traumatized and has a voice and a right to talk about HER feelings in that situation. But the way Sybille’s plight was thrown in there in all its horror, without context and especially given she’s probably also dissociating in that car, is traumatizing for the reader too! I want to know what’s going to happen to her – what about HER dissociation, HER trauma? The cause of the author’s PTSD could’ve been more artfully presented, in my opinion. I applaud the fact that it has sparked the conversation it has about sex and PTSD and BDSM and all that.

  71. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar June 29, 2011 at 8:24 am |

    Matt, your assertion that it’s clear is mere assertion. She talks about an old flame who would be glad to “slap [her] around” for old times’ sake, and unless she’s saying she was a victim of IPV (something I’d have thought she’d say outright), the most reasonable construction is that she has some experience with some kind of rough of kinky sex, whether she calls it BDSM or not. How closely that relates to the kind of seat-of-the-pants exposure therapy she describes is simply not stated. So you can be an insulting asshole again and again, but it doesn’t change or clarify the text, it just gets you closer to getting the banhammer for abusive posting.

  72. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines June 29, 2011 at 10:38 am |

    Thomas MacAulay Millar:
    So you can be an insulting asshole again and again, but it doesn’t change or clarify the text, it just gets you closer to getting the banhammer for abusive posting.

    Surely calling someone an ‘arrogant pisshole’ as Matt did in a previous comment is reason enough to be banned?

  73. PM
    PM June 29, 2011 at 11:19 am |

    “On subsequent reflection, I know that the author is really traumatized and has a voice and a right to talk about HER feelings in that situation. But the way Sybille’s plight was thrown in there in all its horror, without context and especially given she’s probably also dissociating in that car, is traumatizing for the reader too! I want to know what’s going to happen to her – what about HER dissociation, HER trauma? The cause of the author’s PTSD could’ve been more artfully presented, in my opinion. I applaud the fact that it has sparked the conversation it has about sex and PTSD and BDSM and all that.”

    I thought Anon21 had a good question for Rose, and I think it’s a good question to follow this comment, too. How would you have her write it? and what do you mean by “without context?” What context was necessary? If she had given a full-page interview to Sybille and then discussed her own trauma, I expect you two would say that she hijacked it at the end, or was implying that their experiences were equal. If she obliquely referred to “some things I saw in Haiti” and didn’t mention Sybille at all, she would be accused of minimizing Haitian suffering. FWIW, I, too, would like to see an article about Sybille (as much as anyone can “like” to see an interview with a rape survivor) that focuses solely on her.

  74. je
    je June 29, 2011 at 1:04 pm |

    @PM Well, I’ve thought about it a lot because I have discussed these kinds of experiences of being traumatized by someone else’s trauma with friends, and even in my own recounting, I feel concerned about reusing someone else’s trauma to add weight to my own. Maybe I just suffer from the same problem as the author, in that it’s undervaluing the very real nature of secondary PTSD in its own right.

    But if secondary PTSD is traumatic in its own right, isn’t it possible to talk vaguely about witnessing other people’s trauma without having to “prove” how traumatic / f**ked up it was in order to make your point?

    I guess my thought, in answer to your question, is that I would have liked to see her more clearly lay out the point of the article as addressing the effects *on the author* of witnessing trauma BEFORE going into someone else’s personal story. I went back and reread the article, and this is how I’d summarize what she talked about before launching into Sybille’s story:

    Para #1 – Revealing to editor that author wants violent sex
    Para #2 – Revealing to reader that author was in Haiti for 2 weeks to report on the 1 year anniversary of the earthquake, during which time someone who kept hitting on her finally got her interested by suggesting they have sex at gunpoint.
    Para #3 – Talking about how guns are everywhere in Haiti, but the guy didn’t have a safety on his, so no sex. Ends “I’m not completely nuts.”
    Para #4 – Launches into Sybille’s story by talking about her gang rape, maiming, verbal abuse by surgeons, traumatic reencounter with her rapists and complete emotional collapse – and how traumatizing all of that was to her, the author.

    For me, the connection between the first three paragraphs, which are all about how the author really wants to have sex at gunpoint, and the fourth paragraph, where she tells someone else’s extremely traumatic story comes across as very, very self-indulgent. As the story goes on, I start to see the point of it. But, to this reader, the Sybille recounting is at best not well-integrated into the story and at worst exploitative.

    It’s easy to be a Monday AM QB, but you asked, so my suggestion would’ve been to include a lead-in that talked about how the author witnessed the after-effects of lot of horrible crime, especially crime against women, about which she felt powerless to do anything. Or how this one event was the turning point (if that’s how she feels) because it took her totally off-guard, or for whatever reason. Like, just introduce herself as a character (the primary character?) to the Sybille story before start launching into it. Because the way it is now, it’s like there’s this very vivid movie, and the reader is drawn to the plight of the woman who is living this NIGHTMARE, and then all of a sudden, the camera abruptly shifts to the person in the backseat, never to fall again on the woman who was screaming. It’s jarring and unpleasant and comes across, to me, as centering the privileged person’s trauma and treating the other as just another Haitian rape victim from “the masses” or something.

  75. homitsu
    homitsu June 30, 2011 at 12:17 am |

    I guess I don’t have anything to add other than anecdata that in my experience of overcoming trauma I needed to relive the events in a fashion where I win and know that I can feel a certain amount of control. I was so disturbed by the link and the comments here I don’t think I’ll be back any time soon.

  76. Rose
    Rose June 30, 2011 at 10:28 am |

    I wonder how Sybille is doing..

  77. PM
    PM June 30, 2011 at 11:04 am |

    je, that makes sense to me now.

    “Because the way it is now, it’s like there’s this very vivid movie, and the reader is drawn to the plight of the woman who is living this NIGHTMARE, and then all of a sudden, the camera abruptly shifts to the person in the backseat, never to fall again on the woman who was screaming. It’s jarring and unpleasant and comes across, to me, as centering the privileged person’s trauma and treating the other as just another Haitian rape victim from “the masses” or something.”

    I didn’t interpret her as treating Sybille as just another rape victim, but I can see how her account is disjointed. That disjointedness can certainly lead to your interpretation so I see where you’re coming from.

  78. je
    je June 30, 2011 at 1:11 pm |

    PM, thanks for taking the time to read and respond to/acknowledge my thoughts. I really appreciate it.

  79. coverfield
    coverfield July 1, 2011 at 4:22 pm |

    Like some other commenters, I am confused in my reactions to the article. I was thinking back on my own recovery from PTSD (with the benefit of EMDR therapy; the source of trauma was not related to sex at all). Relatively soon after my traumatic incident, I had an unexpected intimate encounter with an ex who I trusted – and it was consensual and totally nonviolent. But I remember it as the most moving sexual experience of my life. I started sobbing in the midst of it, which freaked him out, but it was good cleansing sobbing. I got a vision of glaciers breaking apart (and I am not one of those people who always see things). It put me back in my body and I realized I was going to live and be OK. While my head had been processing for a while, that was the first moment my body caught up and started healing as well.

  80. Rididill
    Rididill July 17, 2011 at 8:31 am |

    Just for the record, je, Rosie, I agree with you. And am apalled by how unquestioningly this woman is labelled ‘brave’ for writing this troubling piece, particularly in light of the consent issues now raised over using Sybille’s story.

    While whatever any woman does to mitigate a trauma is her own affair, writing this, in this way, and putting it in the public domain, is not.

    To be perfectly honest, I do not think writing about how great violent sex is for you, is ‘brave’ and transgressive in any way. I certainly have heard about 10 times more accounts of how violent sex, submission and simulated rape is so fucking great for women, than anything that criticises it. And yet everyone congratulates each other on how brave and taboo-breaking they are…

    But hey, I’m not an abuse survivor so I guess my opinion doesn’t count…

  81. The Reporter and the Rape Victim: An analysis of Mac McCLelland’s controversial piece from “The Atlantic” « Repeating Islands

    […] this was about me.” The provocative article inspired a heated debate among bloggers over its treatment of rape and post-earthquake Haiti. Then, four days after the story went online, a group of […]

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