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color of passion

and every time we fight a cold wind blows our way
but we can learn, like the trees
how to bend, how to sway and say
i, i think i understand
what all this fighting is for
and baby i just want you to understand
that i'm not angry anymore
no, i'm not angry anymore
-ani difranco

sometimes i find in myself an unbearable anger. at the root of me, at the core, there is a heat, a blazing energy, an outrage. something deep within my soul, raging and screaming. sometimes i want to let my anger come roaring up through my lungs and out of the gates of my lips to pass into the air and scream out to all the world how angry i am.

one of the first times i ever expressed my inner emotional fire, i was in a poetry class in summer 1999. we were to do a freestyle writing exercise to warm up for the actual assignment, and all day long i had been raging over something a dear friend of mine had said to me. we were sitting in a café, talking about sexuality and virginity, casual sex, and so forth. i mentioned something about my own sexuality and he looked up at me over his french fries and said that he could never consider me sexually because of "what had happened." unleashing myself in class, i wrote:

seems weird, you know, like a funny kind of destiny, or, a bizarre culture that should have been disgusting where kids kiss without being aware of others around them. i wonder if i wish i'd been kissing you then, but i don't think so, because you couldn't do that to me, you could not allow your ship to rest its bow on my shore. because i am a virgin land, untouched. if only you knew how much, except for that wicked viking who came before. i guess my first will think of himself like christopher columbus, and remember the first time he touched my sand, the bark of my trees. except, far north, where that other man, unremembered by many, washed ashore and tramped around leaving little fossilized footprints, he was wrong. i was wronged, and you were wrong too because i can love again.

there was a defiance in my writing, a message to my friend that said, "you don't know what you're talking about!" because when he said that, something in me was crushed beyond repair. some small part of me had wanted very much to be beautiful and attractive to him, and the fact that my sexual abuse history had somehow altered that made me angry beyond belief.

for several days i wanted nothing but to engage in some sort of act of casual sexuality, to prove to myself that i could do it. but the more i thought about it, the more i started to realize that my friend was right in many respects. i am high needs in sexual relationships. i am not an easy girl in any sense of the phrase. in order for me to be comfortable, there has to be a long prelude to a kiss, much talking and gentleness, to help me relax and realize i am okay here. as i grow closer to people it gets easier, but not at first.

this has always infuriated me. as offensive as this may sound, i sometimes asked myself, why couldn't i have been one of the survivors who got promiscuous instead of frigid? when i honestly think about it i know it isn't what i would wish on anyone, but in passing the prospect of being a flirty, sexy girl is very appealing, especially when you've discovered that it's a struggle just to be comfortable kissing.

there had been so much anger building up inside me, about my own sexuality and also about society's treatment of sexual violence and its victims, that i finally released it into a theatre piece which i wrote, narrated and choreographed. the passion i felt about sexual violence was compacted into a five-minute-long piece about society's view of sexual violation, distilled into phrases like: how dare we even begin to suggest that a four-year-old girl can be seductive?

writing that piece has done so much for me. even now, almost a year later, when i feel upset with our culture, i will repeat lines from the piece in my head, to release my rage and frustration. i have proven to myself one way to turn anger into something positive.

if you feel anger about sexual violation, let me first say that you have every reason to! secondly, i would like to say: use it. write a theatre piece, a story, a song, a poem. paint a picture. then, show it to the public somehow. a lot of coffee shops have open mic poetry readings, and they frequently feature local artwork as well. spread your message. plant the seed in the hearts of others, and eventually, there will be no need for our rage, because there will be no more sexual violation.