Dissociation is painful.
What do we make of someone who was, apparently, at the same time, a powerful advocate for the interests of women and a serial abuser? We want him to be one or the other, to be either an angel or a monster, an ally or a foe.
Alas, as with just about everything involving sex, the truth lies somewhere in between. Even as Schneiderman accomplished much on the larger stage that helped women, he was, on the smaller stage of his personal life, beating and humiliating women (who apparently didn’t wish to be beaten and humiliated).
I read the New Yorker article, hungrily, and I felt an aching pit in my stomach.
Schneiderman, honestly, isn’t that far from me. He’s kind of like me, seen through a prism. I’ve hit a few women in the face. I’ve choked more. I’ve marked some. But unlike Schneiderman, I have always, always, asked permission first. Generally speaking, when I’m headed down anything like a road with the potential for violence beyond a slap or two on the ass, I am very explicit:
- Tell me the word you want to use to communicate that I should slow down, be careful.
- Tell me the word you want to use to communicate that I should stop.
- Tell me the word you want to use to communicate that, not only should I stop, but I should not do what I just did (ever?) again.
- May I leave bruises/marks?
- Tell me what, specifically, I may not under any circumstances do with/to you.
- (And sometimes: if I want to smack/slap/hit your face, may I?)
I don’t always ask all of these questions in this way. Sometimes, I just establish a safe word. Sometimes, I ask a subset of them. Sometimes, I don’t ask any of them. But if I haven’t asked any of them, if I haven’t gotten permission, it’s a safe bet I won’t be leaving any marks, and I won’t be inflicting any pain. (Except once.)
Schneiderman, though, didn’t ask, apparently. Rather, he told. He exerted control over women’s bodies, directing one to remove a tattoo, telling multiple women what they wanted. This is, precisely, the opposite of my form of dominance: I don’t tell women what they want. I tell women what I want, and exert tremendous efforts in identifying women who want me to have what I want, who want to give it to me.