Acknowledging Pain In Hopes Of Moving Forward

Acknowledging Pain In Hopes Of Moving Forward

Now is a time for us to stand together, stay angry, smash the patriarchy and stop treating women like they are "less than" or puppets for pleasure.  In light of the Weinstein sickness, I have to vent a little.

It’s been such a hard time for so many. A triggering time. A devastating time. A time for reflection and a time for rage at everything that has come to light. I can certainly look at the bright side in saying that, well, at least none of the victims have to hide in the shadows anymore. They have an outlet, they have a voice, they have the ability to share their story in hopes of a positive outcome. The wounds will never fully heal, the scars remain, but at least the truth no longer has to reside in the mind. Together as human beings, we can acknowledge the pain that we’re experiencing. To ensure the victims that they are not alone, and to ensure that future generations of men no longer repeat the vicious cycle of displays of power and poisonous intent. My question remains: why the lack of impulse control? Why do men think that their own gratification deserves to be satiated, even at the expense of consent? Why would any man be able to get off with the knowledge that the other person in the room is uncomfortable? For me, moral decency and common sense override arousal.

When the #MeToo hashtag had begun, I was allowing myself some time to let it all sink in. I wanted the women out there have their voice heard because for too long, they’ve been forced into silence. They deserve to be heard. To be brave, to manifest their truth, their pain, their disgust that any of this has happened. It is something a person lives with forever, to where it can interfere with a future intimacy of any kind. A wise man once said, “We may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us.” It is always there, lurking. Sometimes it even comes out in our dreams as we sleep, a time when we are vulnerable and susceptible to whatever our subconscious decides on any given evening. Every day, I scroll through Google News to discover another celebrity has committed an evil act against a woman, or in the case of Corey Haim, a young boy. I remember first hearing Corey Feldman mentioning long ago, that Hollywood was full of sexual abuse of all kinds. We all want to romanticize our heroes and believe stand-up comedians, musicians, filmmakers, and producers, are kind-hearted creative types that bring good into the world. They make us laugh, they make us cry, and they simply bring escapism and catharsis for us to bask in. Apparently, a wide range of them are more than eccentric: they are criminals and deviants that no longer deserve any public attention, no matter how talented they are.

I remember thinking that the live performance of Louis CK in 2016 was one of the best I had seen, but there were occasions when I felt he went too far and the audience let him know through their confused response. I think that’s the case with a lot of stand-up comedians though when they potentially say something offensive in hopes of confronting an ugly truth about themselves or the world. Of course, he talked about masturbation because it is this bizarre act that we do in order to feel pleasure. And it’s not as unhealthy as eating a cheeseburger. Maybe he was trying to make light of his impulsive compulsion. Everyone can form a fetish and it can control them to the extent of all rational thought. This does not justify his actions in any way. There is something inside of these men that say “I don’t care if the other person is upset, I still have to take my dick out and achieve orgasm.” How is this possible? Well, sex can turn some men into monsters, and they abuse their transformation to the point of inflicting permanent damage on the unfortunate victims who did NOTHING to deserve what they’ve been through.

There is undoubtedly a certain power up there on stage, knowing you are about to make a whole room of people respond to what you say. It’s not unlike a politician yet the intention is much different. Yet both are trying to sell truth with a capital T to us. Nowadays, it’s hard to believe a word that comes out of Trump’s mouth, and from this point forward, finding Louie’s work (like his recent film) to be funny and worth a damn, will no longer be an easy task. I’ve been a firm believer that you can joke about any topic or any issue, even if it creates discomfort. Although I don’t have a specific example from Louie, the one topic I could never laugh at openly was anything surrounding sexual abuse. I could laugh at the sight of him masturbating on his show because it’s clear that his portrayal of a sexually repressed man reflected an ugly truth that I know a lot of men feel. They feel that the pursuit of orgasm should be ritualistic and justified. Some can call it chronic masturbation, others can just see it as a daily stress reliever. I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with the act because it feels selfish and unfulfilling when all is said and done, yet there is still a drive there that you cannot deny. But I think the drive to connect on an intimate level with a consensual partner is far greater. That’s not to say I haven’t had lustful thoughts, but the idea of acting on them if the other person isn’t interested, truly makes me nauseous.

I know I’m far from perfect. I once dated someone far too young for me, and it became a life lesson that I will uphold for the future. I once dated someone that nearly destroyed a friendship of mine because I couldn’t honestly communicate my lack of attraction towards them. Rather, I just blocked them on social media, changed my number, and did everything I could to ignore the person. I even lied to someone I loved once, because I was even more curious about dating someone else despite the age difference and distance. But I’ve been trying to process the fact that nearly every woman I know has been sexually abused or verbally objectified. They need to be listened to, validated and believed. These are women I care about immensely of course, but none more than my own mother. Who continues to struggle to this day as a result of men that took advantage of her at an impressionable age. A lot of relatives, friends, and acquaintances of my mother find her behavior to be challenging for some reason. Well, when you have depression and anxiety, you’re not always going to be socially in tune or compatible with every personality. This depression and anxiety stem from her own history of childhood sexual abuse. She told me about this around the age of 13, as I was coming into my own as a sexual being. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to feel or how to respond. I think discovering a parent is vulnerable or human is still a bit mystifying for the child.

But to this day, on a weekly basis, I can hear my mother screaming for help as she has a nightmare about her past. It’s easy to understand why that the only fantasy surrounding murder I have, revolves around killing rapists and abusers. So to be inundated with this recent wave of news has only intensified that feeling. Now, I’m a pacifist, and cannot imagine turning into Charles Bronson suddenly, but I think it’s truly something that is unforgivable. I don’t know if it’s due to the fact that I lack empathy for rapists, but when your own mother has suffered most of her life, due to trauma, I think it’s understandable that my feelings towards rape and abuse often manifest into anger. So I’m writing this to further explore this anger as well as deconstruct this toxic masculinity that I’ve never identified with. Even in high school, or while working at a video store after high school, if I knew a female friend of mine was hurt in any way, I always felt compelled to do something that separated any sort of sexuality from the equation. It was about rescuing someone from the abuse, and any hurt I truly feel I have caused anyone is unintentional. Clearly, a lot of that stems from a wish that I could’ve rescued my mother or my sister or a close friend from their own abuse. I tried and tried to convince certain women that they could do better, that they could fill out police reports or simply walk away. Recently, I realized something though. I never spoke up to anyone about my own unfortunate encounter. Well, maybe one or two friends, but I hadn’t actually processed the fact that my low libido could simply be due to the fact that I experienced some form of sexual abuse. But what’s unusual is that I hadn’t even thought of the person who attacked me until he made headlines a few years ago.

I remember sitting in my office at an admin job in Michigan when reading that the abuser was about to go to jail. I could name him, but honestly, it makes no difference now since he’s serving a sentence and undergoing treatment. Also, we were young. Time has passed. But it happened and I guess what my own mother went through and with what I went through, I truly have always had difficulties embracing any kind of lust or sexuality. In fact, I think I actively gained weight in hopes of being less attractive so I wouldn’t have to deal with sex. Wanting sex felt wrong, watching porn made me feel guilty, and even when a woman admits attraction to this day, I question the validity behind it. What I’m getting at is this: there are men in power that think they can get away with it. Obviously, rich, powerful men like Harvey Weinstein managed to pay the right people and up until recently, did whatever he could to try and get away with his horrendous sexual violence towards others. This is a fact we all know and probably will continue to face time and time again with new names. But there’s also the reality that even young men from the suburbs with little money, can act viciously. At the time, I swept my incident under the rug.

I think I have to elaborate on it in order to acknowledge that it happened, so I can come to terms as well. But it is nothing compared to what a number of women have experienced and will experience. I was simply spending time making home movies a lot with various friends. Even before I had secured consistent friendships with close high schoolers and peers, there was a friend in junior high that came over quite often. I think he had a difficult upbringing and certainly, with what he did recently to land him in jail, has severe mental illness. None of it excuses his behavior towards me, but it’s still a part of his psyche. Sometimes lust does feel like it can turn you into a different version of a human being. There’s a reason that horror films are often a metaphor for sexuality or a film like AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON can be seen as a fascinating psychological metaphor for masculinity, primal urges and pubescent hormones that have gone awry. The fact is, my friend and I were both blossoming. Him more openly than me.

There was no indication of homosexual interest on his part, but my perception of him changed instantly one day. We were filming a scene to a movie using the video camera that I had. He went into the bathroom for a costume change (since it was just the two of us, often, we had to play multiple roles). When he came out, he burst open the door, naked, lunged at me, and pinned me against the wall. First, he grabbed my groin and started to lick my neck. Then I fell to the ground. I know he was trying to get me off, and enjoy his sudden burst of primal energy, but I was more confused and perplexed. Being a 12-year-old boy, I still didn’t know specifically what two men could do since the scrambled porn on the TV in the basement only showed heterosexual sex. I’m not sure how he managed to orgasm without any penetration, but alas, some version of dry humping occurred. Afterwards, he let go of me, apologized and went back into the bathroom. There was a stain on the carpet and I just remember trying to wipe away the evidence with a Kleenex. When he walked out of the bathroom, he told me that he was “trying to grab my thigh” and had to rub up against something because he was itchy. In other words, trying to justify or rewrite the scene to where it seemed less like a burst of sexual energy. Guys do have a tendency to wrestle and fight, and I think he even tried to write it off as “rehearsal for a fight scene.” The memory is not too clear. And again, I hadn’t thought about it until he showed up on the news, having done something even worse. About a year after the incident, I remember thinking of how I wanted to experience something more intimate and more real with someone, rather than experience some weird version of wrestling. But sex and sexuality both seemed like a puzzle to me.

The people that were very attractive and less overweight than I was, managed to have regular make-out sessions at parties or engage easily in the activity, where I was on the outside looking in. If I were to have a separate relationship with “lust,” it would be complicated. I know deep down, without reservation, that I love women far more than I do men. That’s not to say that I didn’t have an incredible relationship with my dad, because I did. I vividly remember him telling me not to objectify women, but to treat them with respect and compassion. It’s even difficult for me to engage in self-pleasure because I cannot look at videos or photos and suddenly spring into action. I have tremendous admiration for their beauty of course, but their willingness to be sensitive and emotionally attentive is what I respond to the most. There is no version of me that I can picture ever slipping up to where I suddenly crave sexual release without their consent or enjoyment. The only way I enjoy sex is if they are comfortable and equally content in the scenario. So it baffles me that many men do the opposite. They corner them, lock them in a room, physically restrain or threaten… and that in turn somehow leads to sexual release for them. How does that transform into a form of pleasure? Does the devil simply exist in most, and he comes out in furious anger towards the undeserving? When my family lived in Schererville, we learned our next door neighbor had sexually abused his own grandchildren. I imagined myself beating the shit out of the neighbor with a baseball bat, time and time again. He would ride his bike around the neighborhood, and I wanted to run him over.

I’m not a violent person, but sexual abuse taps into my own demons that mostly lay dormant inside. Obviously, I have never attacked an abuser, rapist, or pedophile. But I want to. I would pay for the opportunity to hurt these men the way they have hurt others. I would repeatedly kick them in the testicles in hopes that they could never achieve orgasm again. We each have a moral code of some kind, accompanied by free will. I know that I will never actively hurt anyone because I choose not to. I’ve made mistakes in regards to relationships and friendships, without question. There is still the choice to not take out my dick if the other person isn’t interested. To me, it’s common fucking sense. But there is a huge faction of men that think differently. That the person in the other room is only there to provide their gratification. To me, that is more than selfish, it’s evil. I’m choosing to forgive my attacker because he was young, dumb and full of cum that he chose to let out at the wrong time. Maybe it left some kind of imprint on me, but I can do my best to simply acknowledge the awkwardness and disgust, and not let it overwhelm my future.

There are so many women that have been through far worse imagery and pain that they cannot escape. Men have to wake up and learn to be more empathic, compassionate, and kind to women because they deserve all the respect in the world. They are responsible for so much greatness in my life and on this planet for so many reasons. There is no reason to degrade or inflict any harm on any of them. Or anyone for that matter. Sex should only be expressed alone in one’s mind or with consent accompanied by a partner that would actively enjoy a mutual human touch. But there has been prevailing inhumanity for far too long. The pursuit of lustful expression while enacting a sense of dominant power has to cease. Men who even think of abusing another, in any context, deserve punishment and ridicule. They should be ostracized in the ways that are finally taking place with individuals like Kevin Spacey. If you are that selfish, examine why you cannot restrain yourself. What consequences can result, particularly on what it can do to the lives and well-being of the victim?

Clearly, my mom has spent nearly 70 years dealing with trauma, anxiety, night terrors, and social difficulties as a result of a rapist. Even I was in denial about something I would consider to be minor, but at the same time, it happened. There are stories that every woman I know has to process throughout their lifetime now, as a result of some disgusting asshole deciding their needs were more important. All men out there have to call out other men on their shit from this point forward. I’m not saying that I will start carrying out a baseball bat and strike any time on these perpetrators, but to prevent any future incidents that could cause the kind of damage like the kind that has been caused on any number of women in this world, we have to have more conversations and acknowledge the darkness. That way we can find a light and learn to realize that people should be good to each other. If I could learn anything from this recent onslaught of names being shared throughout the news and social media, I want to remember to listen better. To be there more, to not make everything be all about me, and to realize there’s so much more to interpersonal interactions and relationships than an orgasm. There is a diseased patriarchy that I'm ready to see destroyed by the voices and actions of the courageous and the powerful. Women deserve every bit of justice and compassion that men have gotten in the past. They are receiving far less and that has to stop. It stops with men learning how to behave like rational, empathic human beings than ID-driven monsters. Men: keep it in your pants unless the person you are with requests otherwise. Again, common sense. Or so I thought?  Misogyny and objectification must cease from all men of all walks of life.  Until it dissipates, I will stay angry and question the humanity of men like Louis CK, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and so many others.  I've acknowledged my trauma, and intend to move forward and do whatever I can to help.  Even if it means just listening to those out there suffering thanks to prevailing toxic masculinity and patriarchy that I hope continues to cave in on itself.

James Laczkowski