I regressed into old habits this week and started feeling like a victim again and I decided it was time for stock-taking. I also realised that this is the typical cycle. As I learn to deal with life’s offerings, the pattern of veering on and off the path is constant. It reminds me of my prayers. During my most sacred communion with God, my concentration waivers and returns and is sometimes intense and at others I find myself distracted, thinking about worldly things, but I always work myself back to my purpose, to Him. Life is like that. It’s never a smooth constant but a series of ups and downs and meandering, much like a ship making its way through the seas, subjected to different weather, currents and tides. The seas were rough for me this week, but I reminded myself that I have traversed rougher waters in the past. I looked again at my question about the world being unfair and unkind, except now, instead of projecting my misgivings upward and blaming God, I found myself looking inward and at those around me. We create our own chaos, by what we say and do. God has no part in our choices. He is entirely and especially merciful and He gives us the choice to make the best decisions for ourselves and for others. Our test is in pushing past our negative inclinations, our baser desires to self-gratify, to impose our own truths without seeking to understand the truth of others, to blame and not accept responsibility. When we make mistakes, we seek to look for the culprit. The culture of blame was entrenched in me when I was very little.
‘Don’t be a whore!’ was one of my early lessons. When I was a little girl, my father was paranoid that I would become promiscuous and his messaging to me on the subject was harsh and aggressive, causing me much consternation about something I didn’t quite understand. Sex was a topic of taboo where kids giggled and whispered about it, parents avoided it and education and awareness in those days was non-existent. The pendulum seems to have swung the other way these days, where it is promoted amongst the youth with the caveat that they have to be ‘cautious’ and ‘responsible’, almost as if they should indulge in the pleasure without commitment or care as long as they use protection. Sex is more than a moment of pleasure between two people. It is a sacred act, which should be cherished and taken lightly. It needs to be understood, contextualised and taught with great care.
Religion and the idea of monogamy is frowned of upon in modern populist culture. The value of the act itself has been denigrated to ‘pure enjoyment’ and gratification, when it is so much more than that. The merging of two souls in that manner, is God-given, and should be approached more with respect than fear or frivolity. There are many studies done on women who struggle to reach the ultimate goal of the act, and it is not surprising if we look at the context of indulgence and sexual freedom on the one hand and religious taboo on the other. Western culture places pressure on young girls to lose their virginity and young boys to be active studs, while conservative extremism forbids any talk or reference to it all. I was exposed to the latter.
I recounted my ‘sexual encounter’ for want of a better phrase in the chapter “Come ‘lie’ with me little girl”, when a grown man impeached my privacy and exposed my six-year-old body to things that I couldn’t fathom at the time. That experience was a turning point for my psyche and was the catalyst for how I saw myself and the world. His seduction was particularly deft. He built trust with me first, making me feel important. By the time I was six I had already felt like the outsider, as I recounted in my previous two chapters. Isolated and lonely, I lapped up any attention I could find because it made me feel less lonely and made me feel loved. I sadly still find myself seeking attention on occasion, but temper it, rather than giving in to it, reminding myself that attention does not equal love. I need to pay attention to me and appreciate my God-given gifts, without the need for external validation. I have to constantly remind myself that God is sufficient unto me.
At the age of six, when this grown man thought I was worthy of attention, I was enamoured. He spoke in nice soft tones to me, almost as if he knew my weakness, and I succumbed like a moth to the flame. By the time I realised what he really wanted to do, it was too late. As I described in my detailed account of the incident, the natural physical stimulus, which my body responded to did not match the mental anguish and disgust my mind was spewing. Although he did not penetrate me and cause me pain, the sensation confused me, yet I knew it was taboo. It was a bad thing. At six, I knew this. It was taught to me implicitly everywhere. However, I felt like I betrayed myself, because of the physical sensation that I felt but could not stop. I felt like I betrayed myself, because I didn’t scream out for someone or get up or run away. In my mind, I was ‘bad’ because I allowed this to happen to me. I felt betrayed by him, because he manipulated me, and I trusted him, and then he did those things and showed me his manhood and caused me the biggest trauma in my young life. I felt like the world was bad. Adults were not to be trusted, men especially. I felt like God let this happen to me, and I felt that the world was a unfair.
I wrote about the way I struggled with sex in my first two marriages, in the earlier chapters of my story. I spoke out about the pain I endured. “Don’t be a whore!”. Was I a whore if I enjoyed it, even with my husband? Was that why my muscles clenched up so tight that the coitus was almost impossible for me for so many years. Or was it because I felt shame for what happened to me when I was six years old? I also wrote about an experience in my twenties, after my divorce from my first husband, when I was “raped”, although I struggle to use that label, which is in itself a negative for women, as it perpetuates a concept of victimisation and persecution. “My Lord”, I screamed why is this happening to me again. “Why are you doing this to me?” Was God doing this to me or were human beings? In each case the emotional frailty I felt made me vulnerable and susceptible to these experiences, in which men thought they had a right to impose themselves on me.
When I was supposed to be enjoying the sexual union in a marriage, I experienced pain instead. Subconsciously the feelings of shame, guilt, disgust at the prospect of the male organ intruding caused me to tighten my inner walls and shut out this threat. When I met Shafiq, he spoke to me about the physical barriers he felt. For the first time I became aware that I created physical resistance because of my emotional trauma. A most sacred union between two people was marred by my labels that “I was bad, because sex was bad, and men were bad”. Men and their phalluses of manhood were bad, because you cannot trust them. They will hurt you. Betray you. Compromise you. I was subconsciously plagued by these thoughts. Mercifully when I met the man who had the maturity to speak to me about it, I became more conscious about the impact my emotions were having on my body, and I was slowly able to let go, until I realised the beauty of the sexual experience. With the birth of my first child the wonder of my womanhood completed the cycle and the walls had all but collapsed. I finally submitted to my femininity, to the perfect design of the human body and the flawless function of mutual giving and receiving and being a conduit for another precious human life to come into this world. I saw what God was showing me, through my traumas and pain. The release of my pent-up angst was so liberating that it opened the door to a deeper understanding of the spiritual aspects of this encounter. I am not ready to write about that quite yet.
Just talking about it with my husband, was a catalyst for healing. Why then is it so difficult for us to talk to our children about it. If I had been educated, holistically, without the taboo and the drama, I may have been able to ward off the predators in my life. It may have empowered me, freeing me of the fear of the unknown, the taboo and the negatives that impounded my mind. I decided to teach my children, and not repeat the mistakes of the past, and I pray that they do not have to learn the hard way, like I did. I teach them with openness and integrity, suitable for their ages. It is far too important an aspect of life not to talk about.
Till next time, God-willing
With love, Radia💚