How #metoo drove my second novella

I posted this to Instagram on Monday, September 24, my brief contribution to the #BelieveSurvivors walkout organized by the #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke:

Later that week, listening to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, I became unexpectedly enraged. I found so many memories dredged up in a way no testimony had ever done before:

I had never been harassed like Anita Hill.

My job had never been put in jeopardy. I had never been blacklisted for refusing to have sex with a man.

I had never been raped.

But I had been groped, as Dr. Ford was.

Blamed myself for not saying “no” forcefully enough — when really I was acting out of inculturation that had taught me to protect his feelings, not be confrontational, not be a bitch.

That same inculturation is how I found myself groomed by pedophiles as a teen, and by narcissists as an adult.

I had been choked as a teen when a fun moment of horseplay went horribly wrong.

“Friends” had elicited inappropriate conversations via email and text message, blamed their wives for “blue balls,” expected me to pick up the slack.

I had lost those “friends” when I refused to have sex with them. Others persisted. Just in case.

I had been grateful for narrowly dodging rape, as if that was really the standard to apply to men I found myself alone with.

I had been blamed for nearly ruining my own reputation. For being “too dramatic” for expressing my needs. Not to mention the many, many times in which I had “taken things the wrong way” or “needed to keep the peace.”

And I had listened to friends tell stories that were chillingly like Dr. Ford’s — and I had failed to really listen to them. In one case, my insensitivity failed a friend even further, by retraumatizing her. That’s how ingrained rape culture was in me, as it is in so many women: on some level, it’s about thinking we deserve what we get.

None of this has ever seemed worth talking about. In some cases I was so starved for attention, I actually appreciated it, thought it was desirable, that it meant I was (still) attractive (after 35 and two kids). In other cases I knew it would be my word against theirs, especially when women I trusted always seemed to back up the men. And in still others I was simply too tired to fight.

Because it is exhausting, after a long enough time (like 30+ years). Also depressing, especially when you do know a fair number of truly decent men who have been your island in this sea of rape culture, yet they’re the exception and not the rule. And you see the rule continue to be willfully and stubbornly enforced by those it benefits, and exhaustion turns to anger.

That’s when you write about it.

“The Kings of Babylon,” the sequel to “Sodom and Gomorrah on a Saturday Night,” comes out in less than a month as part of the Running Wild Novella Anthology Vol. 2 (Part 1). It’s told in two parts, flipping back and forth between POV character Annika’s journalism — which is illegal in her world — and the abusive relationship with a dirty cop, from her recent past, that she’s still processing as she tries to do her job.

That relationship, including many of the conversations, is based on what I thought was a friendship that had developed over the previous year, but ended up triggering so much emotional shit that eventually I had to admit it — like too many others before it — was toxic, and there were things I needed to heal.

Annika processed her relationship alongside me, and like me, she had a job to do. With Ray (from “Sodom and Gomorrah,” based on one of those truly decent men I know) as a catalyst, much of Annika’s healing comes from strong women who inspire her when she needs it most: by story’s end, when the Kings of Babylon — the men who clash over power in a domain of immorality and vice — collude in various ways to disempower her.

“The Kings of Babylon” is raw, like I was when I wrote it. If you’ve ever been involved in any kind of relationship with a narcissist, though, you’ll recognize the pattern I’ve written about, and hopefully the story can help you process, too. Meanwhile, I’m at work on the third novella in this series, tentatively titled “The Queen of Sheba,” about more strong women making their way in a system designed to keep them down.

Pre-order the Running Wild Novella Anthology Vol. 2 Pt. 1! If you’d like to read “Sodom and Gomorrah on a Saturday Night,” find it in the Running Wild Novella Anthology Vol. 1.

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