Do Women Abuse? by Rayanne K. Irving
I will never forget the earth shattering, panic inducing moment when my own body appeared to have betrayed me – yet again.
Roughly six months after escaping from the sex slave trade I was sitting on my mother’s couch in the middle of the night, awake and alone, watching the movie, “Bastard Out of Carolina”.
During one scene – the stepfather pulled the main character, a little girl named “Bone”, onto his lap in the car consequently raping her. Now, most people’s reaction to this harrowing storyline would be of outrage, disgust, disbelief.
My body’s reaction however was entirely of a different nature.
Privately, my body became aroused – stimulated by the sight it was processing. Such a purely primal response, initiated by the unthinkable, was an unimaginable assault on my very sanity.
And my 17-year-old logic terrified me.
Was I a sexual predator because I had become physically turned on by the rape of a little girl?
Truth for me, was that I had never taken part in sober, consensual intimacy. All I had known was coercion, rape, and prostitution up until that point in my life. The very act of my body responding to such a degree of violence despite how I mentally felt about rape and sex, shook my already collapsing core of character and integrity.
That dirty little secret was to be the first of many “triggers” that would eventually, over time, rise to the surface for me. Marred by these “quirks ” I possessed yet tried so hard to hide, sparked the recognition that I was indeed more dysfunctional than I consciously knew. This begs the question: why did my body respond to the very things I consciously believed I loathed?
Probing deeper to investigate the nature of my new paradoxical personality radically helped to change not only my own recognition of self, but also to find acceptance in my ever-shifting mental clarity. My journey opened me up to the expression of compassion for the oftentimes devastating, as well as maddening experience, it means to be ‘human’.
Personally, I feel there is much left to interpret pertaining to the female sexual predator, largely due to a case of the ‘predator’ existing in a complex field of varied degrees. Often going unnoticed, underreported, or worst of all, flat out denied. The simplified dictionary definition would have the word ‘predator’ described as a person who looks for other people in order to use, control, or harm in some way. Then there is the sexual predator definition: “A sexual predator is a person seen as obtaining or trying to obtain sexual contact with another person in a metaphorically “predatory” or abusive manner. Analogous to how a predator hunts down its prey, so the sexual predator is thought to “hunt” for his or her sex “partners.”
The majority of public opinion regarding the ‘typecast’ sexual predator has long been saturated in judgment, reducing these individuals down to vile and sick human beings in possession of no moral consequence. Yet objectively lurking behind that stance, has also been some not so subtle double standards. Such as, to be raped is often rationalized as the responsibility of the victim (ie what did she wear, how was she behaving, who was she hanging out with). Another and mayhap far more damaging standard was that rape was generally, as well as during archival times lawfully, considered a crime only committed against women by men. The delusion that women could not be predators and men could not be raped was spoon-fed to the masses by way of gender stigmatization.
Encompassing the subject of rape was the common visual association being only that of ‘penetration’. Due to gender stamping, grossly overlooked was the hard hitting actuality that overpowering to steal gratification was not the pinnacle in all abuse cases. Rather just in the reported ones. Emotional manipulation, deception, intimidation, fear, guilt, physical impairment, mental incapacity, manual stimulation and more kept the ever rising number of shame and guilt ridden victims quiet, especially boys who were raised to be men; thought incapable of being raped. To be male was to be the aggressor, the conqueror, virile, and therefore treated as invulnerable.
The human body (male and female), when placed under extreme stress, fear, or stimulus, has been known to respond physically by attaining erection and even orgasm, regardless of any true arousal. The physical responses can lead to confusing emotions that, left to grow under the tier of shame, can even call into question one’s sexual orientation. All of this allows for the female predator to slip into myth. If you look at rape throughout history, it has absolutely nothing to do with gender, the way a person dressed, the way they spoke, or even where they happened to be at the time. Rape was and is used as a way to extract submission. A way to exercise one’s dominance and power. Not just over another human being but more often than not – over the perpetrators’ very own life.
One of Psychology’s longest standing debates is that of Nature vs. Nurture. The argument takes place around whether a human’s development is predisposed in his DNA, or if the majority of it is influenced by environment and life experiences.
But what if we took out the word versus, asserting instead that Nurture creates Nature and Nature configures Nurture. Existing in harmony, they are always transforming one another.
I think that we can all agree the brain is the most complex, and often times mysterious organ in the human body. While the brain controls everything we do, not all action is conscious or voluntary. When the dynamic interplay between mind and body becomes compromised, in extreme cases it can destroy one’s whole outlook and experience of the world.
Scientifically it has been proven that trauma, at any age, is capable of compromising communication between the limbic system (the emotional brain and home of the amygdala) and the cortex system (responsible for memory, perception, attention, awareness, thought and consciousness). When a synaptic transmission is shut down due to trauma the amygdala fires up, becoming overly reactive, as you are no longer able to find reason, organize or problem solve in the manner that involves conscious perception. The amygdala engages the survival mechanism of fight or flight; creating emotional memory through perception alone. Emotional memory is subconscious, therefore incapable of introspect i.e. ‘act now think later.’
Sometimes, or during repetitive (also referred to as complex) trauma, the brain can become ‘stuck’ in the flight or fight mode. Adaption to the intricate interpretation of information regarding its surroundings includes normalizing the outlook concerning it’s circumstantial habitat while also relying solely on the emotional memory (triggers) to act as an early warning system and ensure survival.
We’ve all heard of muscle memory; we know that muscles are capable of storing ranges of physical motion. Were you aware that muscles can also store emotions, even misinterpreted ones? Emotional memory or perceptions of an experience are carried by the neurones in our brain and stored on a cellular level in our body. These emotions can create blockages of energy atop our main organs, causing stress and imbalances. If a stressor becomes ongoing, the body will attempt to ‘adapt’. Adaptation can include the borrowing of other energy resources and the releasing of hormones until all other energy is depleted. When the compensations become unsustainable, unidentifiable illnesses and more psychosomatic conditions can arise.
In summary, consistent abuse and enormous amounts of stress lead only in one direction: exceeding normal homeostatic limits, thus initiating corresponding compensations. Change in your brain and body chemistry can lead to specific, subconscious behaviour drawn from implicit memory in order to adapt to the constant stressors. Beginning an actual physical reorganization of its own wiring, entering you into a state called allostasis – the point were you find a new way of ‘being’, ‘escaping’ or in extreme cases, ‘surviving’.
You cannot have Ying without Yang, Light without Dark or Nature without Nurture, so why would the term ‘predator’ be so much more commonly appointed to man and not shared equally by the female?
To answer the question of my seventeen year old self, did my physical response to rape make me a sexual predator? No. I recognize now that rape, the act or sight of it, at that time, set off physical and mental triggers accumulated from living in a constant state of flight or fight during my time ‘in the life’.
However, having been personally recruited into the sex slave trade by a 15-year-old girl, and lastly pimped by a 30 something year old Madam taught me this short, if unscientific lesson.
Prey can learn to become Predator in an extreme act of self preservation.
If a woman, or anybody really, who comes from generational abuse, who was raised with abuse or exposed to it at any one time seeks to end the cycle of being or feeling victimized, they could or would turn into a predator and use dominance to claim back what could be seen as a portion of control over their life, even by way of becoming an accomplice, an instigator or dominant by sexually exploiting others.
Written by Rayanne K. Irving