Making Out Like A Virgin: Sex, Desire & Intimacy After Sexual Trauma, edited by Catriona McHardy and Cathy Plourde
There is a deep and unrecognized contradiction at the heart of this book. The title of the book and the sentiment expressed by many of the authors of this book are that in coming to grips with the rape and abuse that they suffered, they can enjoy intimacy with whomever they want just like an innocent person would. Yet someone who is innocent and untouched–in stark contrast to the authors in this book and the vast majority of its readers–would not be quite as driven to break boundaries as these people are. Whatever recovery one can find after rape and incest, one thing that cannot be done is turning back the clock to restore the innocence of thinking that precedes such horrors. And these authors do not appear to be desiring that sort of innocence for themselves or, more importantly, for others. This book isn’t about recapturing innocence, but rather seeking to find those partners who make them feel comfortable enough that they can enjoy unbridled and passionate expression of sexuality, which is not the sort of thing that the innocent desire. The fact that the authors seem to equate this unbridled sensuality and sexual expression with the innocence of the pure suggests a profound lack of understanding and lack of desire for moral purity and innocence at all, which demonstrates the depth of degredation that tends to result from rape and abuse in that it damages even the ability to long for purity and innocence among those so affected.
This book is a relatively short one at just over 150 pages and it is made up of the sex-obsessed essays from a variety of survivors of rape and incest. The foreword and introduction comment that a kiss is not just a kiss and that a great deal is wrapped up in our views of ourselves. Then we have the discussions of a rape survivor who was long asexual before coming out as gay, a discussion of the struggles to have self-compassion, a discussion of the struggle to communicate longing or its lack even in marriage, a look at gender confusion, and even a discussion of how a divorced Arab woman seeks to actively corrupt her younger relatives through sexual grooming practices, though she does not recognize it as such. One of the more telling essays is from a neo-Pagan who decided to wear a red wedding dress because she did not feel innocent enough to wear a white one. Riddled throughout these essays are the frank discussions of the damage that rape and abuse has caused these people that is relatable to those who have similar experiences, but also with a startling lack of insight on how they are perpetuating the cycles of abuse in seeking to expose the young and innocent to their own deviancy.
There are darker undertones in this work that the authors may not consciously recognize. In seeking to encourage the sexual expression of young people, the authors are either consciously or unconsciously seeking to corrupt and abuse the young in the same sort of way that their innocence was taken from them due to the violence or seduction of others. The authors seem unaware of the reality that their promotion of easy and casual sexual expression harms other people, especially young people, and removes from them their innocence and optimism concerning love and relationships. It is almost as if they wish for everyone to have innocence stripped away from them and feel themselves free to do whatever they want, even though it was someone else feeling free to do whatever they wanted with them that gave them such problems that they continue to struggle with concerning mental health issues related to their abuse. Far from the authors having recovered their sense of innocence, they seek to deny others any opportunity for innocence either, not realizing that this puts them on the same side of morality and behavior that monstrously harmed them. If this book is worth reading, it is largely to measure the distance between the authors’ view of their recovery and insight with its grim reality so that one can resolve oneself to do better.