Jean Paul Gaultier ‘Le Male’; I hate you. Simply knowing you existence makes me want to vomit, but actually smelling you, having your scent waft past me, in the most innocent of locations, in an entirely different place, time, and context… makes me want to perform a lobotomy on myself.
It makes me want to choke, to scream, to cry, to crumple.
When I was in a relationship with my abuser, the scent of Le Male was intoxicating. It made me want to swoon, and do all the good things described in romance novels. The scent was him, the scent was our relationship, the scent was that time in my life – a time I thought was so exciting – a time where I felt sexy, and wanted, needed.
Now that scent is symbolic of my naivety, of a time in my life I would much rather forget.
Yesterday when in town a man walked past wearing Le Male. Suddenly I was taken back to that time – to him – the memories so real they physically hurt.
It was all so vivid, and I felt the same stomach churning fear I felt all those years ago as he abused me, using me in ways I’d never agree to if I felt saying ‘no‘ was even an option. I was scared what would happen if I did say no to him. I’d seen his angry side, I knew what he was like when we had sex, and had no doubt he would continue having sex with me regardless of my protests.
At the time I didn’t think it was rape if I gave in and let him do it. If I really didn’t want him to do it I would have found a way to make him stop, right? The fact I was secretly crying as he did these things to me, the fact I had to bite my tongue so I wouldn’t scream with pain? How didn’t that register as rape to me? My mindset was ‘let him get it over with’, deciding that the less I protested, the faster it would be over. He was a nasty piece of work, and I knew if he realised how painful it was for me, he would do what he could to draw it out.
He loved control. Throughout the duration of our relationship I don’t think it was me that made him sexually excited, I think it was the control. That man completely dominated me in every possible way, and he got off on it.
I did say no to him. I do remember the word coming from between my lips several times, but as our relationship progressed, I knew it made no difference if I said no, so I just stopped. Stopped, and tried to convince myself I wanted the sex as much as him.
When he raped me in the toilets at a public park, I tried so badly to convince myself I wanted it, and that it was such an exciting, risque thing to be doing. In reality, I was terrified, and cried the whole time, trying to convince some higher power to make him stop.
When he raped me against the trolley bay in the car park of a supermarket at 2am after a night on the town, I tried to focus on the beautiful clear sky and all the stars shining down. I tried to think of a criminal act as romantic, tried to make myself feel proud I’d turned him on so much he couldn’t keep his hands off me until we got back to the privacy of his house. Really? His best friend was already home and there was a chance he’d have heard what was happening, so as well as controlling me, he controlled the setting we were in.
That same morning when we made it back to his house, I convinced myself it was kinky when he tied me up to his bed and told me we were going to play a little game where he was going to f*ck me as hard as he could, and I had to be quiet so his friend wouldn’t hear. If I was quiet he’d go down on me, if I made a noise I had to give him a blowjob. He hurt me to the point I was crying. Quietly. But according to him I ‘lost the bet’ so before he left for work a few hours later, pushed me on the bed, straddled my shoulders and forced me to give him what was ‘owed’.
And now I shake as I remember this, the pungent aroma of Le Male smothering the inside of my nose, suffocating me, and making me remember. It’s been twenty-four hours since that scent hit me, but still it is with me, it’s as if it has saturated my nasal passage. It’s all I can smell. It’s all I can taste. He might as well be right in front of me, I might as well be cowering, as I prepare to take whatever he plans to give.