It had been a joke to my boyfriend, an anecdote from a fun evening out. They even have an expression for it in locker-room Swedish–‘gut-brothers’–for those men who’ve shared a vagina. But when he saw the expression on my face, he got an inkling that something, somewhere was very, very wrong.
I can understand of course, why that always has to be the line in our culture of legal, illegal. Ethical, unethical. But language both drives and is driven by, humanity and culture. Defining polar opposites of ‘yes and no’ means simply by their definitions these opposites are reinforced. Of course they do exist but as with everything else… they exist on a spectrum. Our positions of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are only two binary values in a world full of grey.
Yet we all do it even if we don’t realise it. There are some people who are more pleasant to be around because they don’t trigger those fears and insecurities in us. I’ve fallen in love with people whose presence is, like my writing, soothing. Or those who make me laugh. Or those–like my boyfriend–who are ideologically similar when it comes to vigilance over my children. It’s less about the dopamine high and more about the euphoria of finally feeling confident and capable. Trusting that my children are safe.
Yet emotional abuse is incredibly damaging, perhaps in part because it cannot be recognised and dealt with in the same way. Emotional abuse gets swept under the carpet because it is supported and perpetuated by society as a whole.
There’s a train. It’s a superb high speed train. It’s admired, a feat of engineering. The train is chugging easily along until, let’s say, a weakened valve breaks under pressure and suddenly the train goes faster and faster. Knuckles clench around the armrests. Panic ensues. People scream. Bolts loosen.
These are the piercing secrets we whisper to one another in our late night conversations, in those moments of vulnerability, before putting our metaphorical masks on again. Life is a game. A game driven by our kinks, our fascination with power and objectification.