The Aftermath

The King never seemed to like how I looked, always had something to say about my hair, my makeup, my clothes, wanted to change them in some way. If my hair was up, he’d want me to put it down. If my hair was down, he’d say “why don’t you ever wear it up?” When my hair was my natural colour he’d say why don’t you dye it blonde. He’d tell me how to exercise, “why don’t you go for a run around the park?” He told me that his work friends thought I was fat.

For at least the last few years of the relationship there was constant pressure from him to have sex. He wanted it all the time, three or four times a day if he could. Morning, day, evening, night. Constant harrassment. It was never enough. The King was good at sex, but it wasn’t intimate or romantic, it always felt like I was being pulled and prodded. He would put his hand around my throat, or pull my hair. Looking back I realise that he used sex as a way of controlling me. I tried to explain to him that I didn’t need it or want it as much, that I preferred it less because it allowed me time to build up my desire, but he ignored me, I don’t think he cared. When I declined he would get angry and make me feel guilty. “It’s only fucking sex,” he would say. I remember waking up with him on the weekend and thinking to myself, “just get it over with,” so he’d stop pressuring me. He wouldn’t even care if I was sore. I remember having to say that I was having a week off sex.

Towards the end, a few weeks before I had the locks changed on the flat, The King said to me, “how come you never got pregnant? All my mates girlfriends have gotten pregnant.”

The only time we were close was when we would cuddle on the couch, and there were these moments. These moments were partly what made me stay for so long. But these honeymoon periods didn’t last long. Something would happen and things would go bad. If I then complained about his treatment of me after a “honeymoon period” he would say that I was causing trouble. “Stupid cunt,” he’d say, “everything was fine”. He never seemed to remember the bad times we’d had before, and neither did I for a long time.

After any incident where The King had hurt me and then I’d tried to break it off with him and then we made up, I would always try to talk to him to find a solution to the situation, I would always try to improve things. I thought if I could just explain myself properly, maybe things would improve. He used to say that I wasn’t perfect either, and I never claimed to be. I was always open to self-improvement. He said that I treated him badly as well. I said “but what have I done? I don’t hurt you like you hurt me (this I remember saying a lot and it was one of the thoughts that helped me to realise his treatment of me was wrong). If I have, you haven’t told me. Tell me what I am doing wrong and I will change it.” But he could never tell me what I had done.

He seemed to have a complete lack of empathy for me, and for most other people. I remember trying to see if he had any feelings for anyone. I asked him to try to imagine that it was his 8-year-old niece who was in my shoes, who was living with a man who mistreated her like he did me. When I asked him what he would do, even his answer to this was violent. “I’d murder him,” he said.

I tried so many things to try to work out what was wrong – what was wrong with me, what was wrong with us, what was wrong with The King. I tried to rationalise his behaviour, allowing for the fact that “he had a difficult childhood” and his father was absent and his stepfather was violent and abusive. I tried to cover it up, I felt loyal to him, I felt it was my fault. I read self-help books on relationships and tried to be a better partner. I tried to be more interested in sex, buying lingerie and toys and books, and creating romantic nights for us. He just brought home porn. I remember thinking, if only I can explain myself properly to him, he might understand, I mustn’t be explaining myself clearly, so he doesn’t know what I’m asking for, otherwise he would give it to me, or he would let me go.

If I would complain about the relationship and the way he treated me he would say “What do you mean, I don’t hit you.” For a while this would make me feel guilty, like I was complaining over nothing, but later I realised that I deserved more from a relationship than just not being hit.

The King used to call me a mad bitch, psycho, paranoid, a paranoid wreck.
He criticised my interests and criticised my country and other Australians.
He used to say he didn’t want his children to be Australian.

What I could never understand was how someone could say they loved a person but then treat them so badly. I couldn’t understand how his words and his actions didn’t add up, and I always believed his words. He was so adept at manipulation, he could get out of everything from doing the washing up to keeping a date with me to explaining away incriminating text messages on his phone. He would twist everything around in such a way as I would get confused and doubt myself. Being with The King was like being on a rollercoaster. When things were good it was like you were flying, it was like you were the luckiest woman alive, but when things were bad, which was frequently, it was like you were so low you were nothing.

Each time I had left him over the years he begged me to come back. I tried to break it off countless times but he would say he loved me, that he’d change, that things would be better. I always hoped that he would change and that things would be better, but he never did and they weren’t. I couldn’t understand how he could promise these things and then never deliver, and I couldn’t understand why someone would bother to promise these things if they had no intention of providing them. Why wouldn’t he just let me go? But I know now why, it was so he could control me.

Sometimes when we were cuddling he used to say, “I wish I were the King and you were my slave.” I remember feeling disappointed he didn’t say, “ I wish I were the King and you were my Queen,” which is what I had thought he was going to say the first time he said it. “If I was a King I would have you as my slave,” he would say. Looking back, I realise that for eight years, he actually did.

Women are not the same as Monster Trucks

I really want to understand Helen Razer’s take on the Lingerie Football League, I really do, because I admire her writing style and her intellectual rigour so much. However, it makes no sense to me and on first reading it left me despairing. Besides the fact that I had to look up the word “syllogistic” in the dictionary (and still don’t fully understand it), I just don’t get why Razer and some other feminists seem to be falling over each other to defend the LFL. I also don’t understand their seemingly wilful dismissal of voices against the LFL as “the morals police”, when in fact we are not arguing on grounds of the moral but on grounds of the political.

I’ve read bits and pieces of Foucault and other writers Razer likes to reference, and understood even less, so I am not able to debate with her on an equal footing, but I will attempt to summarise her argument and explain why I disagree.

Razer is of the view that the LFL is not so much sexist but distasteful. She likens it to pole dancing and bar fighting, and says that it is not sexist when compared with wage disparity or, in her humorous wisdom, Neighbours. (Razer does not explain why feminism should be concerned with the “tat” of Neighbours but not that of the LFL). In effect this is where we diverge, because Razer apparently doesn’t have a problem with pole dancing and bar fighting, while I object to them (in the case of pole dancing, when it occurs in the typical strip club) not on moral grounds but on the basis of opposition to the exploitation of women and to violence in general. I’ve noticed that a lot of the feminists defending the LFL, pornography and prostitution hardly ever mention violence against women as a feminist issue. They tend to focus on safer issues such as wage disparity, the representation of women in the media, or whether a woman takes her husband’s name in marriage.

Razer goes on to say that the LFL is “cheap”, and that those who object to it do so on grounds of taste (and, presumably, morals), wrongly stating that we would rather see women in “nicer outfits playing something more wholesome”. In actual fact the feminists against the LFL don’t give a toss what women wear, as long as they are choosing to wear it themselves. According to her, women can be compared with Monster Trucks, and arguing against the exploitation of women by patriarchal market forces is not a political but a “missionary reflex”; suggesting that the players have no volition is demeaning and oppressive. Even if we accept that the players have volition, this doesn’t mean that the LFL is not oppressive or degrading. We know that some women experiencing domestic violence do have a level of agency, but we don’t use that as reason to suggest that violence against women is okay. Conversely, if a woman has little or no volition in a DV situation, we don’t say that quality feminist services designed to assist her if she chooses to use them are oppressive or “missionary”. Furthermore, when working with a woman experiencing DV, supporting her to gain information, knowledge and understanding of the dynamics, effects and risks of domestic violence (in other words, consciousness-raising), while this may remind her that she is being demeaned by her partner, does not further demean her but assists her to enhance her own safety and options.

Following from this, Razer states that the Minister for Sport’s objection to the LFL is based on snootiness and if she wants to ban it she should ban roller derby. Razer claims that such a ban would not happen because the sport is played “by middle-class women in Brunswick”. Here again I disagree. Such a ban would not be prevented because of the middle-class player’s (apparent) good taste or sense of irony. Rather it would not happen because with roller derby there is nothing to exploit. As far as I know there are no big corporations interested in profiting from having control of the roller derby; it sounds like a grassroots bottom-up women-led, not-for-profit hobby, not a top-down, multi-million dollar, male-controlled business. As far as I know there are not thousands of leering, drunken males queueing and paying to watch roller derby, and if there were I suspect the players and organisers would be none too pleased, which may suggest a little hypocrisy in Razer’s argument. Alternatively, if it happened that big business was interested in investing in roller derby, the women who control it would be in a position to chose whether they would go down that road, and on what terms this happened. I can’t be sure, but if other big corporations are anything to go by, I don’t imagine there are many women in control at the top of the LFL, and the players certainly are not.

Razer claims that volition, therefore, “is a matter of class and distinction”. (She appears to feel that roller derby is tasteful; of that I have no knowledge.) She goes on to say that “we” are okay with Scorsese, erotica and burlesque, but not video games, pornography and strippers. I’m not sure who this “we” is she refers to, but I for one find it very difficult to watch the violence and misogyny of Scorsese films. His and other films with violence tend to act as triggers for me and if I watch them I often find myself with a greatly increased heart rate and sweaty palms, a result of trauma from domestic violence. Erotica and burlesque I know little about but I suspect that the lack of condemnation of them has less to do with their tastefulness and more to do with the fact that they are not associated with the sexual violence, abuse and exploitation that is found in pornography and other parts of the sex industry.

Razer ends by saying that feminism should not be used in “the service of snobbery”, but I fear that is exactly what she herself is doing. As she is okay playing her roller derby, which she wrongly equates with the LFL on the basis of the clothes worn by the players, she dismisses the political work of other feminists as “snootiness”. Feminism, she says, has “far more important work to do”, but she does not say what. In a way I agree with her, because in the scheme of things the LFL is not a priority for women experiencing or who work in the field of domestic violence, an issue which I presume Razer deems worthy of feminism. But I wonder where people think violence against women comes from? I assume they know it comes from male privilege and men’s sense of entitlement over women. Ending violence against women requires revolutionary societal unlearning of such male privilege and entitlement. As I can’t see how the LFL assists with this in any way, and in my opinion it contributes to it, I therefore consider it a feminist issue.

“Would it be wrong for me to tell you, that I love you?”

When I first met The King I was two weeks off 21. I had been in Sydney for about two years, and was in my third year of university. I was no match for him. He was only 19, but he was worlds ahead of me in terms of experience. In time I was to find out that we were from completely different worlds, and I would nearly be subsumed into his world. But at the beginning I had no idea what was to come, and I had no hesitation in trusting him. In the end, it took me all my strength and intelligence to extricate myself from him.

But at the beginning we fell in love. He was the one to say “I love you” first, and I remember we were drunk, and we were sitting on a bench on the western side of Circular Quay, late at night. “Would it be wrong for me to tell you,” he said with his slurred Irish brogue, “that I love you?” I love you too, I said straight away. And the next morning we awoke and he was still saying it. When we got to the train station he kept saying it, and he would say it to me many millions more times over the next eight years.

I remember some time after that an evening where we must have had our first falling out, and I remember it was because The King had stood me up somewhere. I was very annoyed and upset, and I ignored his phone calls and ignored his knocking on the front door when he came around to my house. Admittedly I probably should have spoken to him about it openly and honestly, I can’t remember if I’d already tried that. When I wouldn’t open the front door or answer his pleas, he went around to the back of the building and began throwing stones at my bedroom window. Then, to avoid waking my flatmate or the neighbours, and to avoid a smashed window, I opened the front door and let him in.