Major trigger warnings for sexual violence and explicit detail of its aftermath. Victims of such ordeals may not need to read this. But I’m betting you almost everyone else does.
What is the Taste Bud Principle?
I define the phrase as such:
“taste bud principle, n. – the truth that no two lives are interchangeable; that our lives are our own lives and only our own; that all emotions vary; that we are truly alone; that we all live our private storms; that our pain is untranslatable.”
In other or fewer words: “We are all different.”
Any multi-celled, multifaceted organism on this planet is also a unique composite of traits, chemicals, features, and individual personalities. I identify as an INFJ and widely respect the authenticity of the Myers-Briggs theory of 16 personalities. However, I do believe in individuality, firmly, in which we may have similar characteristics to another person, but we still are not the same.
Sexual Violence & My experiences
When I say “sexual violence,” I mean any manner of sexual “trespassing.” It can be verbal or non-verbal or both. Personal privacy varies from culture to culture and also individually within that culture, but the point is this:
The body I am in is my own personal space; the body you are in is yours. You do not own my body; I do not own yours. Without my explicit permission, your sexually charged words and/or actions are not welcomed.
I was sexually assaulted at four. I do not remember the men well, but I do remember their various colognes and smells and the terror of being broken into. To lose that sense of person so young–before the development of one’s own personality even, before strong social developments outside the family occur, before your life has even really started, was and still is, for me, the very definition of going through hell.
Sexual violence can and does happen to many different people–varying by every trait in the book–at any point in their lifetimes. It is often a life-changing event (or series of events) that is so traumatic, it can create rifts or changes in someone’s personality, lifestyle, and view of the world.
PTSD & the Taste Bud Principle
PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. There are varying kinds of PTSD from various causes, although sexual trauma is definitely one of the most common events it comes from. People can develop PTSD from fighting war or living through war. People can develop PTSD from being robbed or having their identities stolen. People can develop PTSD from being in a car wreck, losing a baby, or having gone through cancer. There are a lot of sources of this illness, because different things are of different vital importances to different people. Personal body ownership, however, is generally of great importance to everyone–especially when you consider our bodies are really the only ways we get to experience this world.
My own aftermath
There is a gross and ill-informed stereotype that women who have been victims of rape are afraid of sex, of being touched, of, say even, talking to men. While this definitely occurs in some people’s stories, it doesn’t in mine.
My father, although having helped us financially for a good portion of my life, was never there. He wasn’t there for me when we lived with him, either. We moved out when I was five.
We have poor communication, and he’s never been a stable part of my life. Additionally, there are language and cultural barriers.
Even growing as a small child, I sought protection from men. Weird, right? I was literally gang-raped. But I had no father to protect me from other men, not really, and I found comfort in the idea of a “Prince Charming” who would keep all of the bad guys away. For a time, I thought it was possible. Up until puberty.
I got my period early-ish. I was eleven years old, and I remember that day vividly. That day was probably among the worst of my life. I locked myself up in my bedroom and screamed and I cried because I felt so filthy. I did not eat that night and started restricting my food intake shortly thereafter.
I won’t tell you this whole story or in too much detail, but by and large I wasn’t even able to recognize what happened in my nightmares much and although I was sure I had been sexually assaulted at some point, I didn’t know when or where or by whom and still kind of don’t, although I have suspicions.
By thirteen or fourteen I became flirtatious and outgoing with men. I was attractive and looked older than I was, but thankfully, I was weird af and so classmates and even older boys didn’t approach me. I didn’t want them. But I learned I was good at flirting, and it got me, a growing teenage girl, male attention that I had never really had.
At 16, I was raped again, and that was by and large, the last time I said “no.”
Putting it all together:
Today, I went into therapy, about to burst into tears. I’ve done it again, I kept thinking. It’s all my fault. I wish I wasn’t like this; I wish I had never been like this; that I didn’t have to be like this. I wish I could say no–and be listened to. I wish I didn’t feel like this is all I’m good for. I wish I felt I was worth better.
These are PTSD thoughts. They feel real; visceral. Alive in me. Controlling. But I know I am good at many things. I know I am a person, full of ideas and thoughts and feelings. I know I have value. I know I am not a play-thing or an object or machine. But I don’t feel like that. I’ve never really been treated as anything else by men; and at this point, I guess one could say I’m complicit in that, letting them use me. But it’s more complicated than “I was raped.” It is always more complicated than “I was raped.” You cannot understand someone from that sentence alone. There is so much that goes into any trauma. There is so much you lose or never have because of trauma. We all process it differently. We all have our different reactions. Stop stereotyping victims and furthering the shit we have to deal with.
“You said you have a high sex drive. How could you have ever been raped?”
I don’t know. Your friend told me you’re a nice guy. How could you ever be rejected?
I know I need to stop letting PTSD control me–those men at four; that man at 16. I fight back today. I’m fighting back today.