UPG and a Trigger warning: author’s personal account of sexual abuse experienced as a minor. #Metoo story.
This is the blog I was preparing to write just as we Lokeans were hit by the “Loki in the White House”/Wild Hunt kerfuffle. I jumped in, as readers here know. It’s always been easy for me to set aside personal considerations in favor of larger causes. Tilting at windmills is a specialty of mine. I’ve been doing it ever since I was a teen: protesting dress codes at my junior high school, marching against the Vietnam War, and standing in front of supermarkets handing out flyers urging people to boycott grapes in support of farmworkers in the La Huelga strike of the 60s; as a new mom on the board of the Environmental Health Network of CA, desperately trying to get people to understand the plight of people with multiple chemical sensitivity; years spent as an ally/accomplice in solidarity with people working to restore the governance of the Hawaiian Kingdom and prevent the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on sacred Mauna Kea…and now this, throwing my lot in with the Lokeans.
This tendency of mine is pertinent to the story I want to tell you now, as you’ll see why being “silenced” is so painful and how that silencing happened for the first time.
In addition to personally relating to my patron god, Loki, as “a god of pleasure, poisoned,” I also have a deep connection to the image of Loki as someone who was forced to “shut up!” by having his lips sewn together with a piece of leather. Yes, Loki’s ordeal was the result of a wager with dwarves and their retaliation for his fast talking. I know it has nothing to do with my story, but the end result, enforced silence, is what resonates with me.
So, picture a fourteen year old girl, intellectually precocious, socially somewhat behind the curve, shy unless speaking out on behalf of a cause or against a perceived injustice. That’s me. Also extremely naive with regard to sexual matters, even though I was attending hippie love-ins in La Jolla Cove Park from the age of twelve on. I’m just going to say it, I’m not exactly neurotypical. Certain things that were obvious to my peers just didn’t compute. And I was fabulously unsupervised and unprotected.
There was a horrible period, ninth grade, when my mother moved us all away from our beloved San Diego beach towns to the San Fernando…fucking…Valley. Inland. For a confirmed beach brat, “That way lies death!” (And here I am, inland now, but at least I live within a block of a giant lake). Torn away from all my friends, and from the sea, I was despondent that year.
But, there were love-ins (of a sort) in Griffith Park and the previously unencountered Hare Krishna folks would come and dance. So sometimes I’d hitchhike there with a girlfriend or sometimes my mom would drop us off and we’d hitchhike back (see what I mean about lack of supervision?).
One day a man named Steve, who said he worked at the Los Angeles Free Press bookstore, took an interest in me. He gave me and my girlfriend a ride home. I gave him my number because he said he’d be glad to take me to the beach (I hadn’t seen the ocean in months). Wow, cool!
Remember, this guy is in his early twenties and I’m fourteen.
A week later, he picks me up at the house. My mother waves bye-bye from the door. We drive. We “get lost” on the freeway and end up in a subdivision under construction somewhere near Thousand Oaks. Okay, since we’re “lost” and not going to get to the beach, Steve says he’ll teach me to drive. He has a huge, old 1930s-1940s car like something out of an R. Crumb comic (which I hadn’t read yet, otherwise I would have been more sophisticated). It has a huge backseat. He stops the car and just as I’m preparing to scoot over to the driver’s seat to get behind the wheel, he literally throws me in the back seat before I even know what’s happening.
Before I know it, his pants are unzipped and his “thing” is shoved down my throat. He holds my head in place, pretty hard, until he’s finished. Now, while this is going on, I’m baffled, “What is this?” (I’d never heard of such a thing.) “Do people even do this?” and even, strangely, “Did my mother ever do this?” These intellectual wonderments probably saved me from further harm, as it was a form of dissociation that allowed me to seem passive and not a threat after the fact.
In fact, this worked so well that he drove me home instead of burying me under a pile of construction debris. So yay, one point for me. And then, as I stumble into the house, still dazed, to take my place at the family dinner table, my mother says of my abuser, “he has such a good face!”
Yeah, Mom, you should have seen what he just did to mine. I could have said it, but I didn’t. Instead I ate my iceberg lettuce salad with the Kraft Italian dressing sold as a powder in a pouch and you mix it “fresh” in a special Kraft bottle with a plastic lid. The salad tasted real funny for some reason. I didn’t tell her what happened for two years.
Now my mother had already had another child molested, one who was sent on unsupervised camping trips with a “nice man” who went around to all the schools and showed travel slide shows to kids. She should have known better than to let me go off in a car with a total stranger. And I was fourteen and as I said, naive as can be.
No, I didn’t tell her. Instead I started to go silent. That “thing” shoved into my mouth stayed with me for a long time as a gag. I couldn’t speak on my own behalf, or explain my truth or my feelings, for a long time. I started wearing a woolen, hand-embroidered pea coat in all weather, including the San Fernando heat, wrapping it around me for protection. (I was so glad when we left L.A. and moved back to San Diego!)
My body and spirit had received a message from the universe, a forcible “shut up,” and it took a long time to begin to work my way out of it. And over the next several years I did some really weird things to regain my agency, my soul, my own disrupted eroticism, and power of voice. Working as a pregnancy counselor at a free clinic (age 16-18), and as a stripper (age 18-21), and then later getting into punk rock were the most healing things I did.
As a pregnancy counselor, I learned to advocate for women in crisis (and to examine the systems that put them there and the predatory sexism that landed me in that back seat of a car).
As a stripper I learned that I was in charge of my own sexual and gender “performance” and could play with it and manipulate it at will. (This was a creepy venue for personal growth and transformation, but working at “the clubs” also allowed me to support my suicidal childhood sweetheart while trying to attend nursing school.)
After John killed himself, I left San Diego again, this time for San Francisco. I plunged straight into the glorious scene centered around the Mabuhay Gardens. My breakfast of champions was cathartic punk snark. I snacked on bizarre juxtapositions. I dined on creative mutations of anger. And I dreamt of a new world while I worked odd jobs and spent my spare time as a dystopian “wearble art” designer whose motto was “garbage worn as fashion because that’s all that’s left.” It was a wonderful time of creating a slightly scary, oddball gender persona, combining colored duct tape with hand-drawn ameobas, and orange 1950s capri pants with turquoise heels. (Back then, when the scene was still new, punk girls didn’t get much street harassment. Joy! Bliss!).
However, the effects of trauma persist. The damage to my neck showed up in my early twenties as two deteriorating cervical vertebrae. I still live with that pain.
Men with mustaches and the name “Steve” are still triggering. (Ironically, I married a Steve and had children with him. I took me awhile to get past his first name, frankly.)
And like most people in marginalized categories, I have had frequent struggles with efforts to silence me.
I call this category of blog post “Bio Hazard” as a reference to my chemical sensitivity struggles as well as an acknowledgment of the many hazards of autobiographical writing. There will always be a few experiences I will never write or speak about. That I can now write about this one, fifty years later, startles me.
This is one of the unexpected joys of having survived this long. I no longer care very much what most people think. My career as a sexologist is winding down, due to not having clients in this area. My marriage officially ended in two years ago. So I care not, except for my children, some close friends, and the community of my new Lokean “kin.”
So perhaps you might see why Loki’s sewn lips have a special significance to me, because he knows what it’s like to be forcibly silenced–and to suffer thusly–and he knows what it’s like to have those bonds removed. I trust the Lokeans I’ve engaged with (online) because I think most of us know what it means to be silenced and shunned. I am pretty sure we’re not going to do that to each other. I hope that our god will take care that we don’t stray into that kind of hypocrisy.
So speak your truths. Hail Loki! Love to all.