The Repression of Rape Through a Sexualized Lens

Throughout my blog post I want to address how Myriam deals with her rape through an uncensored sexual humor. Throughout the whole book, we get to know Myriam and her dark humor, but what stood out to me in these last chapters was how he she sexualizes certain instants to repress her traumatizing experience. Repression is a common mentality in all people, and the human subconscious works in ways that directs the thought through an outlet other than remembering; in this case it’s Myriam’s outlook the world in a sexualized fashion.

One-way Myriam represses her incident is by perceiving sex as an objective, which devalues the experience in a person’s life. She goes on to say “…so I gave myself a new challenge: to have sex with a married man” (p. 145), which makes the act of sex seem like a task rather than an intimate experience. By using the word “challenge,” Myriam is portraying to the audience that sex isn’t special, and just a goal for people to obtain. I feel that by devaluing sex, she is coping with her rape because the intimacy in sex was stripped away for her. She stops seeing sex as intimate, but as this tool of destruction. Another example of her devaluing sex was her experience with the drama professor. While vividly describing her sexual experience with the man, her mentality isn’t very serious. I believe that most people in this situation wouldn’t be making jokes; in this way Myriam displays that she is numb to being intimate. While in the alley with the man, he asks her “You just been diddled by a Jew. How does it feel,” to which she responds with “kosher,” (p. 149). Before I dissect this example, I want to say that this is my favorite line in the whole book. Not only is her response brilliant, but the situation is just weird. For this guy to say, “diddled by a Jew,” is just plain weird but oddly hysterical. It is kind of one of those lines where the person on the receiving end quietly laughs to themselves, and moves on, but Myriam answers with “kosher.” The reason she can respond in a witty way, while being against a wall in a sexual situation, is because of her lack of intimacy. Even if Myriam altered the situation while writing the book to make it funnier, her choosing to say or add a joke at that moment is her way of showing the reader how little sex means to her. Nevertheless, her use of satire in this situation exemplifies her lack of value in sex due to her traumatizing experience.

Even though Myriam is repressing the memory of her rape, she still gives insight to how it affects her mind. As the reader we travel through Myriam’s life, just to figure out how her trauma dictates her behavior. We analyze her dark humor, her way with people, and investigate her psyche. In these later chapters, she starts to directly connect her behavior to her experience more often than we’ve seen through the rest of the book; one instance really stood out to me. On page 153, Myriam’s use of anaphora really describes how derailed she has become due to the lose of her innocence. The repetition of “chaos” reflects how the memory of her rape is constantly bouncing around her head, as if she feels lost in her own mind. I really liked how Myriam breaks the anaphora with “the haunting.” This solidifies to the reader that her own memory is following her around like a ghost, giving a constant reminder of what happened to her. Nevertheless, Myriam is followed around by her trauma and continues to devalue sex because of her experience.


Question to answer:

Do you believe that Myriam uses the devaluing of sex to repress her trauma? What is another example of this in the text, and what significance does it have on the analysis of her behavior?

8 thoughts on “The Repression of Rape Through a Sexualized Lens”

  1. I found what you wrote in terms of her repressing her trauma interesting, because throughout the book she brings up out she tries to block out the memory and the ghosts that are haunting her, but the very act of writing the book is the opposite of repressing the memory or her emotions.
    To me the way that she seems to repress the memory of her trauma is by redirecting her focus on to something related to her experience, but not so closely that it causes her to relive it. So by approaching her sexuality in the ways she describes her encounters in terms of the variety of her conquests, she is trying to wash away or dilute the memory of her trauma and its effects on her sexuality. It seems like she uses these accounts as evidence or reasoning for why that tactic didn’t work, because she was numbed by her trauma and wasn’t able to scare of the ghosts haunting by replacing their memory with new sexual experiences.
    Where I saw moments of her repressing the memory of her rape were when she brings up Sophia and then describes the process of her trying to redirect her thoughts to something else. On page 157, Gurba writes “My brain, though, wanted to think about her. My brain was obsessed with her. It sought as surrogate. It chose the Black Dahlia.” (157). It seems like as she works through her trauma she becomes more focused on the ways in which she feels guilty for surviving, and the ghost that haunts her in that way is Sophia. At the end she basically gets to a point where she decides that what is best is to be accepting of the presence of the ghosts living through her.

    For the question you asked terms of the way she interacts with her sexuality, I don’t necessarily think she is trying to actively devalue sex, but I think she is attempting to reduce its intensity. One of the lines that stuck out to me was her usage of the phrase ‘cum laude’ on page 156. Gurba writes “I graduate cum laude with a history degree….History is the place where I got molested. History made me cum laude” (156). There are so many ways to interpret this passage and I think she means it in all of those ways. I thought it shed light on some of the points you bring up about where her head is at in the sexual experiences/conquests she describes.

  2. I really like your analysis of the reading and I think your blog post perfectly categorizes Myriam Gurba and her views towards sex. You say, “She stops seeing sex as intimate, but as this tool of destruction,” which is brilliant. In support of your claim, Gurba writes, “Males had co-opted my genitalia to prove their destructive powers, and I felt it was time to reclaim their destructive powers for my own use” (146). This really highlights what you’ve said because since a young age, Gurba has been accustomed to sex as a tool of destruction, therefore she can view it no other way. Also, as you mention, Gurba refers to having sex with a married man as a challenge. She acts as if it’s a game with no serious repercussions, due to the fact that she has been traumatized so many times by sex, so yes I agree with you that Gurba devalues sex. However, I don’t think she does it to repress her trauma. She is very aware of what she’s been through and uses it to her advantage. She doesn’t scream it from the rooftops, but she doesn’t hide from it either, or else she wouldn’t have even brought it up in the book to begin with.

  3. The way that you analyzed how Myriam copes with her sexual harassment was very interesting, especially when you mentioned the example of the Jewish man. This also made me laugh while reading due to the wording that he used, regardless of the dark situation. Another example of this is when she is talking about Macaulay molesting her and she says that, “…but, like a urinal, I also function as a vessel. I hold sadness, language, memories, and glee” (32). I found her word choice comical, as she could have described herself as many different objects that hold things. Yet, she chose to compare herself to a urinal. As for your question, I do not believe that she completely devalues sex to repress her trauma, she simply sees it in a different light. She recognizes that she was harassed, yet does not shy away from this. She is brave enough to share her stories but does not want to give gory details that may disturb readers, so she makes jokes out of tough situations.

  4. I enjoyed reading your blog post and seeing your analysis of the reading. I found it very interesting how you spoke about how Myriam deals with sexual harrassment. I felt wrong when I laughed about the part with the Jewish man but even more wrong when I laughed at the response she gave. However, I think that was the point, in order for her to cope with what happened, she made a joke of it. Another example of this is “I graduate cum laude with a history degree….History is the place where I got molested. History made me cum laude” (156) because she’s covering up the molestation by turning herself into “cum laude”.
    In response to your question, I don’t think that Gurba devalues sex to repress her trauma, instead I believe that she sees sex differently than most people and instead of seeing it as a love act, she sees it as just something that people do.
    Reading your blog post I made connections that I didn’t make before and it really interested me to see your analysis of the book. Good Job!!

  5. I liked the way you analyzed the reading and how Myriam copes with her sexual harassment as well. When she wrote about the Jewish man, I couldn’t help but laugh. The wording she used was indescribable. Thinking back on it, I believe that was the point of this section. It was supposed to feel like an uncomfortable laugh, a coping mechanism since this is her reaction to the past harassment. To answer your question, I don’t believe that she is trying to devalue sex but to lower the intensity of it. Many of the examples you have help show where her head is at with the thought of sex.

  6. Loved the post Kyle! Throughout my own personal reading of the novel, I thought the exact same thing. I realized that everyone copes differently to different scenarios, but Myriam’s coping mechanism was flat out weird. When you stated, “..which makes the act of sex seem like a task rather than an intimate experience.” , it severely brought how she dealt with her emotions to my eyes. In the novel, Myriam states, “I graduate cum laude with a history degree….History is the place where I got molested. History made me cum laude” (156). This shows how she disguises / tries to hide the molestation by calling herself a “cum laude”. Myriam’s humor and coping mechanism is weird, sick and dark, which we find out more and more by reading.

  7. Gurba being so emotionless to sex is one of the major discussed topics in this book, and in Gurba’s life. Making that one of the highlighted topics in this post is key to how important it is in her stories. “Guilt is a ghost. Guilt interrupts narratives. It does so impolitely. Ghosts have no etiquette. What do they need it for? There is no Emily Post for ghosts.”(55) This quote is proving how she is in a way emotionless. It portrays how she feels about sore subjects, and it shows how stone cold she has made herself in order to cope with her previous experiences. Another quote that shows how she constantly avoids her emotions is on page 119 when she says “Tears welled. I was determined to not let them fall.” Throughout her whole life, Gurba was forced into bad and lonely situations. But they did not make Gurba feel sorry for herself and crumble into a depression. These situations made her stronger, and made her come to see sex as what it is to her; just sex. It made her devalue the act of “making love” and it became something that doesn’t involve emotion. Overall, I think Myriam Gurba has a very original and interesting mind, and I very much found humor in mean and enjoyed reading about how she reacts on uneasy subjects.

  8. Gurba has used dark humor throughout her whole novel which to me, is an interesting way to deal with her past and her trauma. For example, Gurba writes, “…but, like a urinal, I also function as a vessel. I hold sadness, language, memories, and glee” (32). Here, she is stating how she feels, instead of saying “I hold sadness, memories, and glee”, she added that she is like a urinal. Her dark humor is how she deals with trauma like you stated in your blog post.

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