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Hi, my name is Leigh.

I am a freelance writer of personal essays, poetry, and fiction living in Los Angeles. I also publish on Medium.com.

We Are Ingrained To Think Abuse is Sexy

We Are Ingrained To Think Abuse is Sexy

And that the abusers deserve our compassion

Photo by  Syarafina Yusof  on  Unsplash

Photo by Syarafina Yusof on Unsplash

If you, or someone you know is at risk for or experiencing abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1–800–799–7233.

I heard my boss at work today tell a little girl that a boy was hurting her because he liked her. Yes, we all remember our parents and/or teachers telling us something along the lines of — “He’s calling you names, pinching you, calling you gross, spitting on you, and throwing rocks at you — he must have a CRUSH on you! You should be FLATTERED!”

First off, why on earth are we still teaching our little boys that it’s OK for them to express physical attraction via demeaning behavior? Furthermore, why are we still telling our girls that they should accept harassment as a token of appreciation?

When did abusing another person become conflated with attraction?

It’s no secret that the stories that we grew up with — and worshipped as the ultimate romantic fantasies — went way beyond the typical rom-com stalker tropes.

All the media I grew up with told me that I would have the most exciting and passionate relationships if I went after the bad boys. That only they were sexy, that only they were worth desiring and coveting and sacrificing every bit of my own humanity for. That putting myself in dangerous situations made me “fun.” That the chemistry which comes from addicts and abusers and narcissists was the highest high I could ever reach.

A Few Examples….

The Phantom of The Opera taught me that even the most violent, psychopathic, obsessive men deserve my compassion and attention because their brokenness makes them beautiful. That the only way to stop the abuse and protect myself is to give them what they want — validation.

An Education taught me that my greatest dreams and ambitions are worth sacrificing in the face of assumed wealth and power. That no one will stand up for me but myself, and that nailing down an older man who can promise me the world should be my life’s greatest ambition — even if he is a thief, a liar, and a serial pedophile.

Fifty Shades of Grey taught me that my ultimate fantasy should be a contractual sado-masochistic relationship with a mentally ill trust-fund baby. It taught me that only a man needing me can make me feel special. It taught me that I have the power to change the bad boy, and that when I change him, he will love me, and no one else, for as long as we both shall live.

Anything whatsoever having to do with vampires taught me that my physical wellbeing and basic humanity is worth sacrificing in the face of complete devotion and eternal commitment. These stories taught me that the threat of danger, the risk of my life, is inherently sexual.

Lolita taught me that simply because I am a woman, my body will be sexualized from a young age. That I may need to use my sexuality as a survival mechanism. That men will use me and abuse me and I may not have the power to stop them.

The Notebook taught me that even if I’m in a healthy, stable relationship with a pretty fantastic guy, I should always go for the one who threatened to kill himself until I agreed to go out with him. Especially when he shows up in my life again and expects me to throw away my entire life simply because — again — he’s beautiful and so very damaged.

Why do we buy into these narratives??

In addition to the cultural influences that shape our world views, our expectations are set by our families and the environments that we’re raised in.

More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) in the U.S. report having experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. (CDC)

This isn’t to say that as women, we must be familiar with abuse in order to accept it as deserved, or even wanted. I am saying that the way in which our caretakers show up — or don’t — for us when we’re little has life-long affects on our own perception of self-worth.

We are built to seek what is comfortable, what is normal, what is familiar. If the relationships that were modeled for us as children were abusive, we are statistically much more likely to seek out abusive relationships as adults. Of course, this doesn’t have to present as sexual, physical, or substance abuse. It can also be reflected in parental neglect, codependence, and early childhood trauma like the loss of a family member or a nasty divorce.

But we’re intelligent, 21st century Time’s Up and #MeToo era women! We should be smarter than this! Guess what? We are not smarter than this. It has nothing to do with being smart. It’s about worthiness. If we believe that these are the types of relationships that we are worthy of, this is the type of partner we will look for.

As someone who was raised in a fiercely codependent household with mental illness and a dry alcoholic, I can’t deny that the intrigue that arises between two addicts is intoxicating. It’s a high that nothing else can match. It’s the the temptation of something that you know is wrong, and is made more electric and delicious by the wrongness of it. It’s like seeking like. It draws us in, no matter how dangerous it is.

How do we break the cycle?

We break it by basing our identity off the one thing that no one can take away from us: our being worthy of love, compassion, and belonging exactly as we were made— Glennon Doyle.

We break it by becoming aware of how we are sacrificing ourselves, which stories we’re telling ourselves, and what expectations we have about what we’re capable of.

We do it by being our own caretakers and parents — by paying attention to what we need over what we want — by understanding that the only control we can ever have over any given situation is in our reaction to it.

We accept that people don’t change unless they want to. That it is not our responsibility to change them. That we will not be more made more worthy, more valuable, or move loved by our ability to change them.

We begin to notice that pull that feels like necessity, and check why we need it. We start to believe that we are deserving of everything that we allow ourselves to receive.

We trust that we can receive the good. That we were not born broken. That we will not be made whole by another person. That connection with another can be made out of a desire for healthy connection, instead of unhealthy fulfillment.

We know that we are OK, even when we are without them.

I Didn't Know I Was Having an Orgasm!

I Didn't Know I Was Having an Orgasm!

We Can't Change For Other People

We Can't Change For Other People