Power is not a thing but a relation
Power is not simply repressive but it is productive
Power is not simply a property of the State.
Power is not something that is exclusively localized in government and the State (which is not a universal essence). Rather, power is exercised throughout the social body.
Power operates at the most micro levels of social relations.
Power is omnipresent at every level of the social body.
The exercise of power is strategic and war-like
Prior to the day of it, an agreement had been reached. There would be lunch and talk in a public place, that was what I insisted because I did not want to continue the intimacy on his terms, which was my right. I had, up to that point, accommodated his wishes. Now I was done with that.
It was, for me, the end of the affair, and it was my intention to gently tell him this over lunch in the public place, without rancour as my feelings for him remained strong, though I knew I didn’t want to maintain our situation.
There is that point one can arrive at, when it becomes undeniably clear that something is finished as it is, and must either change its form, or end. I had reached that point. All that remained was for me to speak it, and for us to say goodbye.
He would have sensed this, the counsellor said. Your insistence that the meeting take place in public. The first time you’d exerted that kind of control, up till then he’d set the conditions. You took the control away from him and he must have known it was the end.
Sexual assault is about power. He’d lost control of you. He had to get it back.
No one has set the conditions for my life since I was fifteen.
I think about this. I think about the many and varied ways in which power can be exerted, some difficult to detect. Ignoring a woman’s expressed wishes. Pretending helplessness in the face of her “irresistibility.” Driving her without permission to an unknown destination. Telling her you know you both want it, even though she has spent at least a month telling you she doesn’t.
Altering the terms of engagement without consultation and negotiation, as one would never do with someone considered an equal.
The projection of desire. She must want it just as much. He knows better than she does what she wants, and how, and where, and when.
Later, he said, scoffing, You weren’t really going to leave. You know you weren’t.
You are wrong, I told him. You don’t know how wrong.
I’m not, as an adult woman, used to my decisions being the subject of mockery, used as an expression of triumph over me. I’m not used to telling a man, I do not want to do that, and being ignored. It took me completely by surprise, that particular type of disempowerment, that specific variation of male entitlement, that denial of my humanity, and my right to be heard when I said I do not want.
It has nothing at all to do with love. That much I do know.
No man will do those things to me, and walk away without accounting for himself, keeping them hidden. That’s my power. I won’t keep his secrets.
And when he’s named, I will not care.
I wonder sometimes, what of his wife, his adult daughters, what will they make of this?
It’s possible to spend a lifetime with another, and never really know him.
I think, you don’t know anyone until you’ve seen them at their worst, their dark side, the desires they conceal, sometimes even from themselves. There’s no deep intimacy without knowledge of the dark side. There’s no real choice either.
All I can think of with regard to his family, is that I’m eternally glad I am not one of them. Predators don’t only groom their victims, the counsellor told me. They groom everyone around them to see them in a particular way. This is their cover and if they’re caught, everyone exclaims, I can’t believe that of him, he seemed so honourable, so kind, so community-minded, so unlikely to behave in those ways!
Of course she’s right. I hadn’t thought of that.
And yet…I knew I should never have let him meet you without me, shouted his wife.
Why? What did she know about him that made her think that, then shout it at me as if her lack of vigilance was somehow my responsibility? As if I should have known what she knew? As if it is an ordinary thing, that grown men may not meet women without the supervision of their wives?
This was not a custom with which I was familiar. Or one I would have chosen in my married life.
My anger remains white-hot. My eyes will burn holes in both their hearts.
Power is not a thing, but a relation