"Who Hurt You?”

A couple of days ago, I was on the page of a “My Space friend” and I noticed the “name” of someone on his Top Friends list. Honestly, I don't know which emotion I felt more: shock, disgust, confusion or anger. Either way, when I read, “I Made My Gutta B**ch My Wife”, it made me emotionally nauseated.

To be honest with you, I am still processing exactly why that was the case. I mean, I don't know what irritated me more: the guy who wrote that degrading, sentimental-less crap or the girl beside him who had the nerve to let him A) marry her, B) kiss her on the cheek as she grinned with pride at such a ridiculous declaration, or C) refer to her in that way whether it be in private or public. Actually, it's probably D) all of the above.

Yet sadly and profoundly, this perverted form of praise is not something that's exceptional in today's society. I work with young women every day who find a sick form of comfort in a guy who sleeps around so long as she is one of the ones on his list---for as little or as long as he wishes; with or without child; with or without disease; with or without common sense; with or without someone else; with or without reason.

Just yesterday, a young man tried to “holla” at me and when I refused him, he replied with “Forgot you then. Ain't nobody studyin' you, girl.” (Uh, if someone happens to forward this to you, “Sweetheart, I'm grown” and you were studying me pretty hard before I rejected you, young man.)

Of course, if you spend as much time reading song lyrics as you do listening to rap beats, you will notice that some of the most popular lines in mainstream music right now include X-rated lines like, “Man I ain't never seen an a** like hers that p***y in my mouth had me loss for words”; “I juss gave her a nick name, it's wet-wet, cause when we finished she mess up all the bed sets”; “Neck bling, wrist bling, wedding ring, nah I'm playin', might light your neck and ya wrist, but cha gotta ride nice d**k and uh, take trips with the bricks”, and “I'm a stud, cuz when I leave the club I'm a f**k, ride wit the man and be givin' up the brain, little skinny I'm a ride wit ya, I don't even know your name”.

Trust me, I couldn't make this stuff up if I wanted to, although I must admit that it's pretty unbelievable that midday radio has become more graphic than some of the Cinemax porn I used to watch while I was in college. If you're even semi-conscious of pop culture then you've read articles about the pathetic temptations, trappings and pitfalls---either now or later---of such filth.

So, at the risk of over-saturating you with redundancy, let me assure you that the feckless use of sex in today's culture is not really what this article is about.

Let me also say that if you have a mother, wife, sister, aunt, girlfriend, cousin, niece or daughter (oh Lord, please spare the daughters), and you're even remotely decent, then I'm sure you have also thought about the fact that this approach to sexuality is doing absolutely nothing for a woman's self- esteem. In the September 2007 issue of Glamour Magazine, Queen Latifah said that we as women have to stop getting involved with people who chip away at our self-esteem. When God made woman, he said we were good. Men are made in God's image, which means they are created to edify us. I'm sure when God decided that it was not good for man to be alone, being a helpmate did not include being treated as some second-rate porn star, street hooker or five dollar stripper. I don't care how they try and glamorize it on HBO's “Real Sex” or in unrated independent films, that way of life doesn't help anyone. It only hurts.

No, actually my question/concern/inquiry goes a bit deeper at this point. There have been numerous magazine articles, radio shows, panels and conferences surrounding the issue of why women are being so sexually degraded by so many men in so many ways these days. A lot of us are frustrated, but this epidemic doesn't seem to be going away. And so, I find myself wanting to take a different approach.

Being that so many men are seemingly, and maybe even unconsciously comfortable harming women with such verbal venom and repulsive actions, I found myself wondering, if I could sit them all down at my dinner table (cause everyone thinks better after a good meal), if there is one thing that I would ask, what would it be?

I don't know about ya'll, but I know what my Mama taught me about sex when I was growing up. According to her, it was a beautiful, intimate and sacred gift from God that was meant for two committed individuals. Whatever you did with that person wasn't to be received or exploited, as “nasty” or “freaky” because they were designed to be expressions that celebrate love, not animalistic actions that feed into some desperate, panicked, foolish attempt for attention, affection or affirmation of one's identity or sexuality.

I held onto that idealistic theory for as long as I could. However, after multiple sex partners, four abortions and a current season of healing and self-reflection, I also know what can happen to you when someone comes along to alter what you've been told; even if what you were told was healthy and right. In my case, a man who was supposed to aid in keeping the gift of my mind, body and soul precious, worthy and divine actually played a significant role in desecrating my holy temple. After that, nothing was really the same. I didn't see sex or myself as something special or creditable of the bliss that my mother spoke of. He treated me as common and because opposite sex mentors have a huge influence on children, it wasn't too long before I believed him...and acted out on that belief.

Looking back, I see how angry I was by what he did and how that anger, that fear, that disillusionment and that lack of forgiveness motivated a lot of my sexual decisions. It wasn't about if I loved you. It was about if you could make me feel loved in the way he introduced me to the expression of love with a man: sex (or some form of the act). It wasn't about giving, but receiving; actually “taking” may be a more appropriate word. And, it certainly wasn't about intimacy. I now understand that you have to know me: my likes and dislikes, my dreams and desires, my past and my present, to be intimate with me. No wonder in the Old Testament, when a man had sexual relations with a woman, the word that was used is “knew”. Now that word has been replaced with semi-violent terms like “bang”, “hit it”, “tear it up”; descriptions for the exchange of two bodies for the purpose of climaxes, distractions or band-aids. I can “bang” a car. I can “hit” a ball. I can “tear up” a piece of paper. None of these acts require much forethought, afterthought, or “knowing” for them to be accomplished. The crazy irony is that when it comes to the object of my banging, hitting and tearing, it usually ends up pretty damaged because of my actions. After all, those kinds of words describe nothing more than the affliction of torment and pain.

And so, since I am fully aware that abuse (abnormal use) of my mind, body and soul played a significant role in how I perceived sex and the power and responsibility that comes with it, and since I also know that calling me a “whore”, “slut”, or “sick” in response to how certain people perceived my irresponsibility didn't do much good in getting me to recondition my sexual psyche, I decided to take a different approach with the men who seem to find some sick sense of satisfaction in uncovering me and the women that they are supposed to “love” or even like. (After all, fellas, at the end of the day, all women are basically made up of the same stuff---mind, body and spirit. When you put one “on blast” you put us all out there.)

I don't want to call these men names.

I don't want to hold a rally to censor what they can say or not say.

I just want to ask one question. One that I think not enough of us ask and enough of them answer.

“Who hurt you?”

Who got you to a place that you would ignore the fact that you are made in the image of God and so with every demeaning song lyric, every unsolicited booty slap, every dollar bill you put into someone's g-string or on some pimp's nightstand, every cat call, every notch you add to your belt and then refer to your boys, you are blaspheming your very birthright? Who has you so desensitized to the fact that you are a king, royalty, ambrosial even, and therefore you should spend more time walking upright in your integrity than bragging about how many “females”, queens no less, you can put on their backs. Who made you get to a point where calling us everything but our God-given names and placing us everywhere but our God-given positions is second nature to you? Anytime someone or something is out of place, it's painful and the way many of you are treating yourself and the women around you is out of place, out of sync, out of divine order and so I know you're hurting.

“So again, who hurt you?”

I mean, I know what the experts say. I once heard that we unconsciously repeat what was modeled to us in childhood and I once read that at whatever age you were violated, until you receive healing, you stay emotionally at that place. I also know what the stats say. Dr. Gene Abel, a regular CNN guest, estimates that between 1% and 5% of our population molest children. According to the National Alert Registry, there are over 491,720 registered sex offenders in the US and “A child molester that seeks out boys will molest 150 boys before being caught and convicted, and he will commit at least 280 sexual crimes in his lifetime.”

ChildMolestationVictim.com reports that “Roughly...14% of boys are molested before the age of 18, according to the U.S. Justice Department” and “only 35% of sexual abuse is reported”. Diane Russell, author of “The Secret Trauma” wrote that “29% of child sexual abuse offenders are relatives, 60% are acquaintances, and only 11% are strangers”, and “According to Charles Keating of Citizens for Decency Through Law, research reveals that 77% of child molesters of boys... admitted imitating the sexual behavior they had seen in pornography they had watched.” (Similar to the way a lot of sex acts are described in music and film these days.)

Hmm. I think about my own life and I know how sexual abuse, on some levels, derailed me on the journey to holistic fulfillment, and so I can't help but wonder how many men who approach sex in the way that they currently do can quietly---and painfully---relate to my testimony. The “Walking Wounded” is what my mother calls these kinds of people. Victims who victimize is how I choose to address it.

I remember how moved and, on some levels, even traumatized I was the first time I saw the movie, “Antwoine Fisher”. Many praises to a young, black man who would admit and not boast about a grown woman taking advantage of him. A little boy or girl should never be in some basement grinding on the body parts of some adult man or woman. In either instance, no matter what society says, at the very least, it's sexual abuse, at the very most, it's rape and either way, it's very, very wrong.

You'd be surprised (and saddened) to know how many men in my own circle can relate to Antwoine's recollection of dementedly premature sexual activity, no matter how (at the time) intriguing it may have been. IT WAS STILL A VIOLATION and no matter how much male victims may want to deny it, be too ignorant to understand it or pressured to not admit it, it still alters the way they see sex, women and especially themselves.

Just a few days ago, I saw the film, “Friends and Neighbors”. One of the characters was an attractive, built, highly sexually active man. He was so seemingly comfortable with treating women like their were disposable diapers that it almost seemed comical (in a dark kind of way). It was like the more women he got, the less satisfied he was and the more women---well sex---he needed. In one scene, he was talking to two of his friends about the best sex he ever had. His recollection was actually the gang rape of a young boy while he was in high school. Of all the women he had, his “best sex” memory was of a violent encounter of homosexual activity as a child.

The scary thing is that his distorted memory almost romanticized the experience, but the truth is that a child was raped, he was a rapist and because he never shared the story before, the way he viewed sex, sexuality, men and women had been severely altered ever since. No wonder he was taking no prisoners. He was one himself.

Oh, if only that was some random, fictional tale. I wonder how many men in our real world can closely relate in some shape, form or fashion to this screenplay. I wonder if the writer himself was using art as an autobiography for himself or someone he cares about. And, when I see how 15-year-old boys talk to 13-year-old girls in high school hallways, how men in clubs (sometimes even church) approach objects of their desire (or curiosity), how musicians refer to sexual escapades in their songs, more and more I find myself inquiring the real motivation behind what is said and done. Is it really about hyper-masculinity or a young boy crying out about his pain?

As these questions unfold, I have made a decision. Instead of always lashing out at these men for embarrassing me, degrading me, and exposing me with their words and actions, maybe I shouldn't make this just about me. Perhaps I should go back to the moments when I myself made unconscious, and, at times, even conscious rash, irresponsible, unaccountable, reckless, cyclic sexual decisions as a way to medicate my personal affliction and to scream out about my own feelings surrounding my neglect (concerning being taught the right things) and abuse (concerning being shown the wrong things).

Instead of emasculating these men by declaring how “bad” they are, maybe I should find ways to restore them by reminding them that the core of them, in spite of it all, is still very good. Maybe I shouldn't tell them what I think, but ask how they feel. Rather than harping on how they're harming me, maybe I should spend more time asking, “Who hurt you?” After all, the truth makes you free and if you are one of these men in question, the truth is that for you to dishonor your holy trinity as well as mine, for you to find marriage/commitment/covenant to be more perverted than one night stands/black books/porn, for you to find sex to be the end all to your purpose in life (there's more to being a man than what you can do in the bedroom), you have to be in agonizing distress because God created you for such much more than that and based on how you've been acting, I don't know if you really know that.

Either way, I don't want to add to the pain, I really want to help.

I know. It would be nice if I could provide an answer to this puzzling dilemma in this narrative, but I've only just begun on this quest. Besides, a part of the “ah ha moment” was realizing that I don't have them, anyway. Only the person in question can provide the answers I am looking for. To speak for these men, well, that would be just as abusive, just as disrespectful, just as degrading as some of the actions that they have taken against me and the sistahs around me. However, I will say this: I remember the first person who validated my worth by telling me that my abuse and the poor choices that I made as a result were just a part of who I am...they were not the end all; they did not have to be my fate or my destiny. I had the power to heal, to change and to be restored. In time, sex could become what it was created to be in my life.

If you're a guy reading this, I just want to send a verbal hug with this same message. Whoever hurt you to the point that you are oozing and spewing your pain onto the lives of others, you too can be healed, you too can be changed, you too can be restored. Sex, for you as well, doesn't have to be some wild, random act of passion with some anonymous body parts. You, as I, a survivor of abuse and neglect, can receive the true purpose of sex: intimacy. You deserve the right to know and be known, not just for what you have, but who you are beyond the bedroom, beyond the rap songs, beyond pop culture and its demented sense of reality.

You know, they say that an addict can spot another one no matter what the mask because they often reflect the similar symptoms or signs of recovery. You may want to call it pimping, but one sexually hurt person to another, I see it for what it really is: pain and abuse, the victim being the victimizer, the walking wounded.

You're better than that. We both are.

So, who hurt you? Trust me, the day you answer that will be the day your life can begin to get back to the way God intended for it to be---for you and the women around you. In the meantime, I'll pray that you put your energy into more worthwhile things than calling us out of our names, bragging about your sexual conquests (and techniques), putting degrading messages on your My Space page (please grow up!) and racking up women (in word or deed) like we're slot machines at your favorite casino. For a king to rule, he cannot be bound to such depravity; a slave man's diet can't compare to the royal table.

Get free. We need you. More than you know. More than we've said.

I can't speak for everyone else, but as for me, even in spite of the pain that you've caused, because I now see it for what it really is, I'll be the first to say “I'm sorry” and “I'll do better”. When you've healed, you don't want others to hurt, especially at your own hand, because you know what it, and the price of healing, really costs.

I pray you see that one day, too.

©Shellie R. Warren/2008

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