Vintage-image-of-woman-on-phone

You assaulted me, now can you please call me back?

There is a hell that opens up by the telephone. You slip into it sometimes, the agony of the glowing screen, the machine just out of sight next to you. In the eighties it was the long rotini cord; by the late nineties, the sassy cordless. Women have known this hell ever since there were telephones by which to waste away, and daytime soap operas in which to depict the wasting.

I was — somethinged the other day. I don’t know if I will understand it as rape — though I could. It was not physically violent, it was not excessively painful, and it didn’t last long. He was penetrating me, I liked it, and then I did not like it. I said, “That hurts.” I said, “Stop.” He did not stop. I did not ask again.

It’s funny how consent is so often a trick of language. The phone lines blocked; the dial tone quiet. You think: Maybe I didn’t speak loud enough. Maybe he thought I didn’t mean it. Maybe he assumed that if I did mean it, I would ask louder, or again. It is a strange terrain. At one moment, your words matter; they have meaning, they obtain results. In the next moment, the relationship between meaning and words goes sour. Meaning does not adhere to you, suddenly; suddenly, you are a being absent speech.

Afterwards, you can feel crazy doing the math. Memory becomes sparse, smoky and dry. Did I really say no? Did I say it loud enough? Did I say anything at all? Perhaps I didn’t say anything. Perhaps I wasn’t even there.

Philosophical dilemma: If you say no during a sex act and your partner doesn’t acknowledge it, have you said anything at all?

Afterward, naively, I prepare to forgive him. It was just an oversight, I thought; he will come ask me out again. I will take him back.

I recall the advice a trusted adult offered a friend of mine at sixteen after the friend was raped: “It’s the kind of thing where maybe you wouldn’t have minded so much if only he had called you back.”

Ever since that moment a couple weeks ago, I have been waiting for him to call.

As far as sluts go, I’ve been lucky. I’ve never been raped in the force-you, hold-you-down way, never been cornered in a dorm room or a public park. I’ve had a couple nice partners, orgasmed a lot. Yes: I have been a lucky slut.

But we know that violence is complex, and in some ways we are trained to be raped from the time we are born. We become intimate with disposability.

When I started having sex, disposability was the first thing on the menu. Fuck you, ignore you, make fun of you on Facebook. Even now, it is the public penance exacted from women who dare.

A friend of mine said as much at the end of our first semester of college. It was a semester in which one night stands strewed my path like so many corpses — men (specifically men; women are a whole other kettle of structurally-marginalized fish) I slept with once who never looked at me again, never smiled, never answered my texts.

It was bone-cold outside, and I —movie-girl in smudged mascara, belly heaving erotically against the sheets like a tragic Almodovar hottie — wept.

“Boys aren’t going to want to date you if you keep having sex with them,” my friend said. The words smashed against my face like ice or glass.

When smashed on the face with the ice/glass of seemingly intractable contemporary sexual mores, we have two options.

Option One: Woman, Tame Thyself. I contemplate dressing in white and festooning myself in roses as a gesture to my as-yet-restorable virginity, finding a boyfriend who can redeem me, and having him take me to prom (years late, but you get the picture). I can lose “it” on a bed of said roses, my surgically-restored hymen-blood christening the impeccably laundered sheets, my bisexuality normalized into oblivion and then shed, and then, with a conveniently placed pregnancy, I can quickly marry him in all required white-dressed splendor.

Option Two: (What I actually do.) Fuck it, just fuck it all. You got glass? Fuck you, I’ve got fists, you bastards. I’ll break the fuck through. I’ll have sex whenever the hell both of us want it, not when you tell me to, you abstract embodiment of archaic social norms, and not according to your rules — be it the first fucking date or after a year of demure courtship centered around Victorian pianos. I will do what I want and I will demand respect in the process. And if you choose to disrespect me, if you choose to take what you want regardless of what I say and pretend like you didn’t hear me when you totally did and discard me afterward like a slightly deflated sex doll and then tell all your little dick friends what nice pussy you got —well buddy, that is between you and God. If you believe in God. If not, that is between you and your empty patriarchal conscience.

That, anyway, is what I feel in my better moments.

For now, I stare at the phone.

Don’t you want to just shake those television women, the Susies and Lauries and Amalies with their frizzed eighties hair, sitting in purple and pink tracksuits by the telephone in some daytime TV movie, waiting for Larry or Robbie or John to call?

You know, anyway, that Robbie’s an asshole; that Larry made her go all the way under the bleachers even though she didn’t want to and John didn’t use a condom even though she said. You want to say, Susie, babe — come on, bitch — stop painting your nails on the beige carpet and go get some sun, go roller skating, study from your underfunded science textbook. Read Andrea Dworkin — she’s your contemporary — and start a woman’s group at your school. Acknowledge and act on the sexual tension with Stacy, your pretty best friend; she’ll be the school hottie in a year when she gets her braces off, so help her realize she’s a lesbian now.

I imagine every woman who has been waiting, every 65 year old war widow and 12 year old girl, leaving their rooms, snapping their phone cords with huge kitchen scissors, refusing to pay the telecoms, setting fire to the poles. Suddenly endowed with superstrength, contemporary women shoot slingshots at satellites, disturb the signals, and with it the indignity — oh, the indignity — boomerangs off to Mars.

Maybe we initiate our own phone lines, made, suburban-movie-style, of string and tin cans, and each time we pick it up there is the whispering voice of someone gender-marginalized, the voice of Penelope, your grandmother, every raped person who has ever waited for their rapist to call them back — whispering a little sassy pep talk, a missive through criss-crossed lines.

Maybe: He’s a bastard and he will prematurely lose all his body hair while you become the ruler of a post-apocalyptic matriarchy.

Maybe: Turn off the stupid eighties movies and go train to be an astronaut.

Maybe: Your language makes sense, you can say no and yes when you want to and mean it, open your window, you are not weak-willed or stupid, you will wait for nobody’s text messages, the world has continued its electromagnetism, and you, lucky slut — lucky winner — have a direct line to the stars.

Reina Gattuso is passionate about empowering conversations around queerness, sexual ethics, and social movements with equal parts rhapsody and sass. Her writing has appeared at Time, Bitch, attn:, and The Washington Post. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in Indian cinema, theater, and visual art at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

Reina Gattuso writes about her sex life for the good of human kind.

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