Contradictory Feelings (Miss America by Day Re-Read-16: Chapter 2 – The Night Child (continued))

(The following is the 16th in a series of posts related to my re-reading of Miss America by Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayal and Unconditional Love, by Marilyn Van Derbur.)

Adding to my previous posts on Chapter 2 of Miss America by Day, something else that stood out and that I found myself thinking of as I’ve re-read this chapter:

. . . it feels good . . . I hate the feeling.

This is how Ms. Van Derbur describes the torment of contradictory feelings a sexually abused child can have about feeling pleasure during abuse.

Ms. Van Derbur attributes her hatred of feeling pleasure during the abuse to her desire to maintain control, as much as possible, over her body and feelings in the face of her father’s onslaughts. For her body to experience pleasure was to lose control and, thereby, allow her father to “win.” I can certainly identify with such loss of control as a factor in my own contradictory feelings—including of pleasure and hating the pleasure—when being abused by my father.

There are, in addition, two other aspects to the extreme emotional-sensory dissonance I experienced while being abused that I can think of:

One aspect could be termed the “punishment guilt factor”: just before raping me, when I was nine years old, my father told me that I had misbehaved and that he was going to have to spank me for it, and then, instead of spanking me, raped me. (You can see me reading passages from Preludes, my short story, that describe this lead-up in the Preludes promo video on the top page and “Preludes” page of this site.) So I believe that, while I was experiencing pleasure during my father’s abuse, a part of me was feeling, if the feeling could have been put into words: But I shouldn’t be feeling good—my father said he was punishing me! And so this part of me would have been feeling a sense of guilt highly dissonant with the sensory pleasure I experienced during the abuse (not when I was being raped but at some other times).

The other additional aspect of emotional-sensory dissonance, for me, involved a feeling of physical pain rising up through my solar plexus that countervailed against the feelings of pleasure I was experiencing in my genitals (at least until my penis became swollen, raw, and sore from the abuse and all pleasurable sensation there vanished), nipples, and brain. As I describe it in Preludes:

At some point the boy—as his father continued to stroke and fondle—began to feel the pulses of pain rising up slowly through his solar plexus from a place that felt infinitely deep. He placed his right hand over the spot where the pain was rising, then tried to keep his body as rigid, unmoving as he could make it. If only he could achieve a perfection of stillness, it would be easier to believe he wasn’t there, in his alcove with his father; that none of this was happening. But the pain continued pulsing slowly up through his solar plexus . . .

And so on.


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