How can we evaluate the difference between communication problems arising from general incompatibility, and those resulting from emotional and physical manipulation deployed in an unbalanced power structure intended to repress the voice and needs of the abused? What does a woman do when a predator destroys her life, then turns his back to silence her voice, her story, so he has more time to play #feminist on the internet? I was gonna just lie down and die, but then I remembered: I’M the standup comedian.
It was the night of one of his big shows. You know, one where he celebrates being a jerk, how the joke’s on anyone who’s decided to trust him again, where he’s lifting up strong, funny, feminist voices in need of being heard.
And I was sobbing on a strange bathroom floor, forcing myself to learn how to touch myself again.
I’d realized I’d barely had an orgasm since I left his house — the day after International Women’s Day — the last day he welcomed me in it again, after the last time he kicked me out. It’d been over two months since he broke up with me and three months since I found out he gave me herpes.
On Valentine’s Day.
And he made a pun.
I was living in a fucking nightmare.
I was hoping to try and hit another open mic. I’d been on the road for months now, and I still couldn’t go up. I was having trouble even looking at myself in the mirror, going out in public, smiling back at men without thinking my attractiveness was now a lie, a deception. Or that they were going to hurt me. I felt like an entirely different person, trapped in an experience I had worked hard to avoid my entire life. Trapped in an experience because of a man’s lie, because someone else didn’t want to adjust the momentary carnal pleasure in his life, to ensure the safety of a woman’s being.
I tried to write a joke, but I couldn’t write a joke. I had completely lost my sense of humor.
It was terrifying.
I couldn’t imagine being on stage again because everything I had taken my entire life to build was just dishonestly taken by him. So I rubbed my now-dirty clit to the mantra of my forced, nouveau sexuality — my essence he took unconsentually: A man’s body, life, and career are more important than my own. A man’s body, life, and career are more important than my own. A man’s body, life, and career are more important than my own. Other women’s bodies, lives, and careers are more important than my own…
As it is with most traumas, it takes time to process what’s happened, once you’ve finally accepted something’s happened at all. In the aftermath of the discovery of my new disease, the crumbling of my relationship, and the chaotic, abusive nature surrounding my attempts at its salvation, became my central focus. As did finding a safe and comfortable place to sleep since I had just lost my house of six years in the era of the first anniversary of my mother’s death. There was a lot of stress surrounding me, and as an almost 39-year-old sober woman with OCD and a pick-and-choose DSM symptomatic buffet in her brain that she’s just recently learned to wrangle in, discovering I actually, really, certifiably, for really really really real, it’s not just in my head this time, have herpes now — kinda stings. It kinda makes your mental health wobble. Your self confidence. Your ability to just walk up on any stage, anywhere, and be who you’ve been — a strong, confident woman, deeply secure and knowledgable in her sexuality, funny as fuck, and no longer scared of men.
But that’s not me now.
I don’t even know who I am now. My jokes don’t make sense to me anymore. They are no longer real. Comedy is what currently is for me. It’s not just a thing to do. I was no longer Ronnie D. Ronnie D loved to fuck, but she barely fucked. She was fucking dirty, but she was clean. I’m not sitting on faces now, because it’ll make you sick. I’m not shamelessy shovin my bush in your lap during my set because I know it’s good shit, because I don’t believe that it is now. I’m literally dangerous to touch now. I can hurt people by loving them now.
It makes me sick.
Everything has to be reworked now, while he continues on. I have to take time out to recover from abuse and trauma now. I have to stave off various mental episodes now. I have to get over a broken heart now. I have to stop my brain screaming things it hasn’t screamed in years as I celebrate my seventh year of sobriety now. I have to learn how to live with herpes now. I have to remember I even want to live now. I have to relearn how to love myself now. I have to decide whether or not it’s even worth it for me to crawl back to the stage now. I have to be brave enough to go back to my own hometown now. I have to redirect my entire life, my art — my summer show and tour plans, a previously discussed April launch of a joint show with this man — in an evolutionary direction that is not even of my own personal choosing. No. I was left out of the conversation again; it’s one that’s the result of a man who said, “I don’t have anything.”
See, he’s the kind of man who loves to argue semantics, though he probably hasn’t read much Hayakawa or Osgood. Still, it’s one of his favorite things, and as a good little linguist love-fuck-friend, I usually let him win. Unfortunately though, I had no idea conversations about sexual health are a semantic game to him. In his framework, he doesn’t have herpes; he gets cold sores. He GIVES women herpes. Sometimes. It’s a technicality. So, he only brings it up if he has to: If you get herpes. That way, he can keep his secret intact unless he absolutely has to tell you, and he can leave the situation unchanged when he’s ready to, so he can go back out into the world, STD-free, sexy as can be, singing the praises of an easy, breezy, nonconventional, casual sex lifestyle. He can continue fucking other women under, “I don’t have anything.” He can keep wanting everything that maximizes risk to you, so he doesn’t have to minimize pleasure for him, or make concessions for the reality of his own sexuality — the same concessions he’s decided you’re willing to make if you happen to get his herpes — the decision he made for you when he didn’t make you a part of that conversation; when he never asked you what risks you were willing and were not willing to take with your body, even though he knew there were some; and he didn’t bother to protect your body for you either in the end.
On the morning of his birthday, after I’d been taking care of his house and cat for three weeks, after I blew him again at the breakfast table since I still couldn’t fuck him because of the herpes, after he argued for an hour with a nine-follower stranger in honor of a woman artist on the internet, after we spent the morning stroking his ego and his cock about getting older, how he used to be fuckable — look how fuckable he used to be in this pic — and I sat there literally unfuckable because of him, he let me know about my new, only-on-meds-for-four-days-now herpes.
He said, “I don’t wanna tell you it’s not a big deal, but it’s really not a big deal. I have to get back to my life now. I need my house back tomorrow.”
I’d been there three of the four nights he’d been back. I’d offered to take off, but he insisted I stay. I was happy to.
But now, he needed his house back in the morning, eight o’ clock. He’d been so concerned about me being out in the world alone without a safe place to stay while he was gone, when I didn’t have his herpes, but when life is even harder for me because I have his herpes now, and he’s home, it’s not such a big worry. He needs room in his house for other people now. He had that other comic, that heckler, and now another woman comic coming through to sleep on his couch, which, incidentally, was my couch, like most the furniture in his house that I gifted him when I lost mine.
The next morning, during an emotional goodbye because I still had no idea where I was going since my new place wasn’t ready yet, and I was confused by his actions, and I totally have herpes now, he loudly mentioned it. I asked him to keep it down because the house was full of comics, and I wanted my secret to be MY secret yet. I wanted to feel like I had control over something regarding this. It’s like the other time I felt he was talking about it too loudly with a comic in the next room. He just told me, the other comic doesn’t care. I told him, yeah, but I do. He didn’t get it.
Just like he didn’t get it that morning, he just pointed to the door and told me to get out of his house.
No one tells him what to do in his house.
I put my hand angrily to the doorknob and paused, “You want your house back? I want my body back.”
It was two weeks before I saw him again.
Sentimentality aside, a woman should be able to trust her partner, regardless of the commitment level or boundaries of their relationship, when he tells her it’s safe to fuck him. Especially if he’s been telling her it’s been safe to fuck him for years, and technically, it hasn’t been. Even moreso when she brings up the fact that she’s never fucked him without a condom before because she wanted to stay safe, and he says it wouldn’t have mattered anyways. So, ultimately, he’s saying that what a condom represents to her — increased protection from STDs — means nothing to him. He’s saying, he’s been knowingly putting her at risk for years. It gets real shady when he opens the sexual health conversation with how it might change things between them, but he loves her, always has, and he knows she loves him endlessly and enjoys sex to no end, but doesn’t fuck often because she doesn’t think everyone deserves to fuck her — to which he agrees — let alone fuck her unprotected because she has OCD and is scared of germs and STDs, and he knows men have done bad things to her body in the past. It gets even shadier when he shares he’s had chlamydia once, and he gets cold sores, so it makes it harder for him to get the other type, but he doesn’t mention the women who now have his type, but in the other type’s location, because of him. And it’s not because he’s eating their pussy like a champion either. At least, that’s not how I got mine on my ass cheek. It’s because he likes to use spit instead of lube. And you know a natural girl like me can get down with that; I’ve been quoting Jenna Jameson’s shit for years. But, if you know your spit is problematic, that it could leave scars on that soft skin you say you love so much, just invest in a bottle of lube. Or ask her to spit in your hand. There are a lot of ways to make a cock wet.
Be a gentleman.
I’d been going over and over in my head about what I could’ve done differently to avoid this whole mess — naturally, starting with never being with the man — and as I was coming out of the confusion caused by his projection’s haze, I realized: We could’ve fucked, ALL THE TIME, without a condom even, and I still didn’t have to get his herpes.
It made me wonder then:
What is considered unconsentually, sexually violent?
When does “her body, her choice” end?
I quit my corporate job because I was tired of being viewed as a human resource, human capital, something to be used up then written off in some forgotten file, far away. I didn’t like their “Fail Fast” policy, their modas apperendi of shoot now, apologize later for all the damages that could’ve been avoided in the first place. The policy was disgusting to me. It’s the same policy this man used on my body; I was nothing more than pussy capital. He used me up, then filed me away.
It’d been so long since I’d been in an abusive relationship, I’d forgotten how they operate. I’d forgotten how they isolate. I’d forgotten how they’re uniquely designed to make you forget who you are.
This is where predators ultimately win.
It’s because they’ve wrapped their prey up so tightly in emotional manipulation, layers of gaslighting and heart-tugging so deep, dualities of personality so vast, that such things can only be attributed to the “mentally ill” person being preyed upon, a psychotic reaction to unrequited love or rejection, not the sociopathic control of the “stable” one. Emotion somehow negates fact. And when the prey try harder and harder to have a voice again, but it continues to be denied, the prey looks crazier and crazier, as they become more urgent, more desperate to be heard, to have their experience matter. Such behavior pens perfectly into an abuser’s storyline.
However, the main issue here isn’t the deep sociopathy of a man who will prey on a vulnerable woman who loves him, even though he can fuck unattached elsewhere. The issue is that he’s dishonest about the status of his sexual health, risky with his sexual behavior, and dismissive of his responsibility when things turn out poorly, asserting his need for sexual freedom and autonomy, nonconventionality, oblivious to his misogynistic hypocrisy, as he walks out the door. As he projects things onto you you’re not trying to control, when the reality is, you’re just trying to start the conversation where it should’ve started in the first place:
Why didn’t you tell me you could give me herpes?
I’d been wondering the whole time if it was only me he didn’t tell. If it was only me he fucked recklessly. If he respected other women’s bodies, lives, and careers more. If it was only me he saw as a pocket pussy to fuck until he broke and didn’t wanna fuck anymore.
I got my answer when I was finally brave enough to call him on the final day in May, seven weeks after I last heard from him. He had texted me back in April, first to drop my shirt off, next to let me know the cat I came back to spend time with before she died after he kicked me out, but I couldn’t spend time with before she died because he told me to leave again, was dead now. He told me we were the best pussies ever. Then I never heard from him again.
He’d broken up with me via text in mid-March, after stringing me along for a week while I tried to get my stuff out of storage at his place. He’d shut me out again, despite all that good makeup fucking when I got back, after I told him I felt disrespected and dismissed in a professional conversation. It reminded me of feeling disrespected and dismissed in other things. And how, while I was god knows where with his herpes after he kicked me out, he was busy not calling me, working on other things. He dismissed it. The relationship was moving to off again. He acted as if our relationship was nothing more than me storing my stuff at his place now, and I had to get the last of it out right now, before the weekend started. He couldn’t help me though; he was going to get a haircut.
When he got back, he ran to my car quickly to give me one of my final effects — my Ronnie Dice D jacket — the one I accidentally left behind when I left in a hurry after he first told me to get out of his house. The one I really could’ve used when I was homeless with his herpes, cold and alone without. He never hung it up nicely for me, or any other woman to see, like the woman’s jacket that was on my breakfast chair the first morning when I got back, after he asked me to come back, two weeks after he kicked me out of his house, four days fresh into my new meds. My beloved jacket had obviously been shoved thoughtlessly somewhere in the shadows, just like he did with every other part of me. He handed it over, all wrinkled, crumpled carelessly in a ball, smelling pretty, but not like me. I died some more at how little respect this man had for the amazingness of my being, as I thought how my friends, my fans, rejoiced in the memory of that years-past set when I wore it on stage the month before at one of my small-time, local gigs.
My intent for the phone call was to try and get closure and a chance to express what I felt he had done to my body. I wanted a voice in what had happened, in our intimacy, especially since I’d had time to process more things. The very few conversations we got to have about our relationship, weren’t even about our relationship. They were about how our relationship couldn’t interfere with any potential opportunities for him; he didn’t want a conventional relationship. He needed his sexual freedom and autonomy, none of which I was objecting to. I was just telling him his need to be unrestricted and casual in his sex life was interesting, seeing that now, there are literal physical restrictions on my sexuality — restrictions that could’ve been avoided — because of him. Nothing will be nonconventional, casual, or even simple for me again. He very matter-of-factly responded, “It’s not fair,” distancing himself from his role, as if I were just chosen at random.
From there, the conversation moved on to data — how many people have herpes, how it’s surprising I didn’t already have herpes at my age — just like it did the morning after he let me go to sleep that first night thinking, oh my god, this is the first time this has ever happened to him. By morning though, he was slinging statistics, all the things we shouldn’t have done, like a Herpes’ Witness knocking at the door, one day too late for the rapture. He told me it wasn’t a big deal. He’d already been through it with other partners.
When I called, I wanted to tell him he’d dishonestly stolen my sexuality from me, the essence of my being, by withholding important information, details that would have informed me to approach our shared sexual experience differently. By doing this, he was taking the type of sex he wanted from me without asking — sex that might hurt me — for fear that asking might bring a declination. He didn’t allow me the chance to take ownership for my future experience by saying yes, that’s a risk I’m willing to take with my body. That’s a risk I’m willing to take with my life and career. Worse yet, he didn’t protect my body with the knowledge only he had.
This is an imbalance of power.
Of course, abuse patterns run deep, and I will admit, I certainly slipped into my role as the love groveler. I’m not ashamed though. And that’s not how it originally started. He asked me how I was, and I told him I was terrible, that I wasn’t well at all, I didn’t know how to get through the nights sometimes, that I missed him, and I loved him, and I was sorry for all the ways I could have loved him better through all of this. I told him I wanted to talk to him about what he did to my body, that I’d been processing some subconscious anger about what he did to my body. He told me, “I appreciate your honesty, but I’ve moved on. I’m gonna file that under ‘bad luck’ or an ‘act of god’ — I’m sorry you were angry — but you can’t just disappear for three months.”
Not sunk yet, but he got me.
It had the exact reaction he was looking for. He knows me well enough to know that’s precisely what I’d be thinking: That I fucked up. And when. It was a great distraction, because somehow this whole fiasco became about how I kept messing up and needing to make amends. How I abandoned him. How my mental illness was ruining things again. When he told me, “You can’t just disappear for three months,” I started spiraling, even though, underneath it all, I knew that timeline didn’t make sense. He was just encouraging me to believe, had I just been more proactive in April, everything wouldn’t feel so bad for me right now. He wouldn’t have been forced to move on from me. I wouldn’t still be feeling so scared, sad, and displaced after all these months. I’d still be doing comedy. We’d have launched our show together. I’d be living in the trailer I’m paying for. We wouldn’t be arguing. It had nothing to do with him, or the fact that he gave me herpes.
I told him that wasn’t fair.
I told him he broke up with me, and I wanted to kill myself just sitting there in the trailer. He told me he didn’t have time to talk about this. He was about to catch a train to teach his summer classes, helping women learn how to bring their suppressed trauma, their stifled voices, out in their writing. Time was too fleeting now, however, for him to pause and listen to the pain he inflicted on the woman in front of him. It wasn’t the right time for him. Again.
I told him he never had time to talk about it. Something really important happened between us, and he had time to talk to everyone but me. I was getting more emotional. Of course, I was getting more emotional. This was my body and life I was desperately trying to talk about. Other women’s bodies and lives.
But you know us broads, we’re always just going crazy for no reason.
I continued on. I was crying. I told him I hadn’t done comedy in three months because I lost touch with my sexuality; I didn’t know who I was anymore. I started crying harder. I asked him, trancelike, “If you weren’t gonna tell me, then why didn’t you protect my body more? Why didn’t you protect my body more?”
I was reaching my arms out slowly now, as if I were him, looking down — fucking that perfect, little pussy and that perfect, little ass — knowing I could make them imperfect this way, ”When you’re with these other women, do you protect their bodies more? Or is it just my body? Why didn’t you protect my body more?”
Tears were streaming down my face.
He insisted his time was more important than this conversation, than the time of the lives attached to the bodies he’s fucking.
I kept talking, fast, frantic, trying to get in as much as I could again before he hung up the phone. I told him I didn’t understand how someone could love someone and then rip us apart so violently before our time, and he cut in, “If you don’t understand, you haven’t been listening. I’ve moved on. I suggest you do the same.”
Move on with your new herpes, Ronnie.
From here I go into woman-in-love mode. I tell him things I never have before, not necessarily pleading to get him back, but because I need to, because I’m devastated that someone can just blow anyone off like this, let alone someone they’ve been so intimate with, someone who just wants an adequate chance to say: This is how you hurt me.
He let me know that my confessions were great, but he didn’t know what I was trying to accomplish. It wasn’t going to happen. He was referring to me getting him back. I was hearing him say: I will never listen to your story.
We said bye.
We hung up.
I cried the whole next day thinking how horrible I’d been to him in April. How he was just a prideful man trying so hard to reach out and tell me he wanted me back with those texts, and I was just so cold and callous to him when I didn’t ask to come back. I just up and abandoned him again. I chastised myself for not having better control of my emotions and just staying in Phoenix through everything. I asked myself: Why do you do this, Ronnie? How can you possibly expect to have a relationship if you’re always running away from men?
Then I remembered: There are some men I should run away from.
There are some men I’ve run away from before.
Most importantly, I remembered I went away because he told me to leave. I continued my life because he said he no longer wanted to see me, though he’d been happily seeing me for months, all of a sudden now after he gave me his herpes. I didn’t disappear three months ago; I’ve been right here. I’m within reach. I texted back every time he texted me. It’s not our personal timeline. He’s just sticking to his narrative. It’s the last time I’ve been on the internet; it’s the last time anyone’s seen me.
It’s a gaslight.
He was looking for a narcissistic feed in April, and I didn’t bite.
I started to realize, all the things I read as loving gestures, were simply him fulfilling his selfish needs. He wasn’t helping me move; he was moving my furniture to his house. That’s why I had to move all my other stuff myself while he was gone. That’s why I had to move it all out again myself when he got back. He wasn’t giving me a safe place to stay while I was homeless; he was having me housesit. That’s why it didn’t matter if I was sleeping in my car when he got home, or if I’m sleeping in my car now. He didn’t want a relationship with me; he just loved to fuck me. That’s why, after he gave me herpes, we started having problems whenever I opened my mouth, not to let his cock in, but to let my voice out. It became excruciatingly clear he’s never respected me as a comedian, writer, or artist this whole time. That’s why he doesn’t care if I’m doing comedy right now or not, even though he knows comedy saves my life. In fact, he’s even hindered my progress in the past, keeping me off shows, discouraging me from festivals, because he didn’t like an anonymous joke I wrote about us, so he censored it, along with my emotional healing, my voice, my art. I realized, we weren’t even fucking; I was just being fucked.
They take so much everything starts to blur. They don’t even know who they’ve taken from anymore. Nothing is special. Nothing has meaning. Nothing ever fills.
You’d think a Bukowski man would know that. You’d expect that when he takes love from you, he’d “make it as if [you] were “dying in [your] sleep instead of in [your] life, amen.”*
But users lose focus. Users lose function. He shook in front of me in the kitchen that afternoon we broke up, darting from corner to corner with each turning excuse for the necessary end of our relationship, each one contradicting the last, every word just him trying to get me out of the way for his next fix as he yells, “Maybe I wasn’t clear enough, I don’t want a conventional relationship!”
Yeah… and I don’t want herpes.
Jesus, I’m not even special when it comes to his STD.
Kinda makes all that hot sex we had less sexy now.
Oh well, like he said in his breakup texts when he told me he never would’ve wanted me to stay in Phoenix for him anyways, sometime around the time I just disappeared, “It’s nobody’s fault. We want different things.”
He’s right. We do.
I want a human.
He wants a cum rag.
Sure, I love him, but I can’t let that love keep me from loving myself any longer. The feminist in ME, just won’t let me do it. To “love” this man is to shut up, to accept that women’s sexual health is just a probability game to him, that my body, life, and career are nothing more than a casualty for his nut.
And I will not accept that.
To be honest, I don’t even know if I want to do comedy anymore. I don’t know if I want to write. This is simply about me starting to get my voice back. This is about me no longer letting my precious, little throat get squeezed by the big, firm hand of Stern Daddy.
*Charles Bukowski, The Shower
In Case You Were Wondering . . .
Sometimes Ronnie D writes funny stuff. Sometimes she writes desperate teenage prose. Most times she just slams her feeble, little woman-hand onto the keyboard in an attempt to feel something, anything.