“The kind of touch you’re most comfortable with is violence.”
I had dinner with my kind-fo-dort-of-ex-boyfriend person earlier in the week, and he said this to me. I think I’d threatened to break his arm or something. I make those threats often, but anyone who knows me knows I’m just joking. Outside of martial arts and smacking my sisters when we were kids, I’ve never actually hit anyone.
I came very close to hitting someone once, probably three years ago. She verbally attacked one of my friends, and when I told her to fuck off, she came at me like she was going to hit me. My clearest memory of that incident was hearing myself shout, “Bitch, if you wanna start this fight, I am goddamn well gonna finish it!” At that point, someone more levelheaded jumped in between us, but it scared me how close I came. To this day, I’m still not sure if I actually would’ve hit her or not.
Even in college, when I started studying Yoshukai, I was scared to hit people. One of the sensei kept swearing he’d turn me into a “psycho killer woman” eventually, but he never did. I fought in point sparring an full contact, and I had to force myself to strike. Mostly, I fight defensively–I’m very good at ducking and dodging, but I’m also very good at taking hits. I guess you do what you’re most used to.
But Ex-Esque Guy isn’t wrong. I usually hate being touched, both because it scares me too much and because parts of me want it too much. Not sexual touch, as far as I can tell, just parental touch–holding and rocking and hugging. I want to be touched, but a lot of the time I can’t separate being touched in normal human ways from being touched in physical or sexual abuse. Some part of me always expects to be hurt, no matter how kind someone is being in the moment. See, my abusers were not always cruel, sadistic torturers; sometimes they were kind and gentle and loving. I think I’d be less messed up if they’d been cruel all the time. Now I find it hard to trust that there’s anybody who’s not hiding behind kindness to find the right opportunity to hurt me.
My kung fu class is the only setting in which I’m comfortable with touch. In our self-defense training, we do all kinds of holds, everything from simple wrist grips to full nelsons where you’re lifted off the floor to chokes on the ground. I willingly let people grab me, simulating attacks, and I’m totally okay with it. I attack them, too. At the end of class, we give each other high fives and shake the instructors’ hands.
But as soon as I walk out the door, touch becomes dangerous. In my mind, people only touch you if they want to hurt you or want to have sex with you or both. At best, I tolerate touch, and I’m not usually running the best-case scenario. To hide my fear, I pretend to be this fierce, ass-kicking woman who’s not afraid of anyone and knows 11 different ways to break someone’s arm. I have the knowledge, but I’m not that woman. The threats of breaking people’s bones is nothing but a facade. I’m not even sure I could hurt an attacker in a life-or-death situation. I’ve just been too well trained to submit and let other people do whatever they want to my body.
Violence is the only form of touch I’m really comfortable with, and I’m only comfortable with it when it’s aimed at me.