Day 12

A shivering figure in a grey coat and earmuffs trudges through the snow towards Liverpool Street Station. It is six o’clock. The station is empty except for the pigeons looking for forgotten bits of chips and chicken and the cleaners who are busy sweeping the floors with their heads down and headphones in. The figure seems to be walking slowly but determinedly towards the chemists, which is the only boutique other than the McDonald’s upstairs that is open at this time in the morning. A moment passes and suddenly, someone taps the figure gently on the shoulder.

“Miss, can I help you? Miss?”

Oh, she’s talking to me.

I am that figure.

“Hello, my name is Elliott*. You’re very exotic-looking. Where are you from?”

I am at a classmate’s Christmas party. A pre-Christmas party, more like, since it’s the twelfth. I struggled with myself for a long time before deciding to go. I barely knew anyone from this city, a couple of my friends said they would be there and it would be a great chance to network. I once heard someone say: “We gotta network to get work.” Who was it again? Nevermind. Focus.

Right now I am standing in front of Elliott, this tall, almost ridiculously preppy man, who fashions himself to be an “expert” on China because he did a year abroad there. He has a highly exaggerated Oxbridge accent that is really grating on the ears. He has been negging me and annoying the hell out of me but somehow I find myself drawn to him. If only to unmask his bullshit.

In the end, I impressed myself with my performance that evening. I was flitting in and out of the different crowds at the party, mingling and chatting as if I belonged there. Unsurprisingly Elliott and I exchanged emails AND phone numbers before he left.

Typical Otter.


I spent the next week blocking his number and throwing my phone into the Thames.

I wish that was what happened. What really happened was we spent the next week emailing banter and texting each other to see when we would meet next. In private. He spent the next week blowing me off that I thought we’d never meet again.

Then he called. It was the eve of my birthday.

“Hey, where are you? Should we meet up?”

Elliott sounded drunk.

“What? You mean right now?”

“Why not? It’s Friday night. Are you already asleep like an old lady?”

“I guess we could? Where are you?”

“Don’t move. I’ll come to you.”

“Sure. I guess we can hang out at mine.”

I gave him my address and hung up. I was berating myself already but it all happened so fast. I gave myself a pep talk about living a little, especially since I was going to turn 23 tomorrow.

Time came and went and soon he rang to tell me he’s downstairs. I see him at the reception desk, all pink and ruddy cheeked from alcohol and god knows what else. Whereas at that very moment I have never been more sober in my life. I checked him in to the building and told myself that this is going to be quick and amicable and then I’ll get him on his way.

“Is there somewhere where we can sit and hang out?”

“How about the common room?”

“Oh come on. Let’s go to your room.”

And so we found ourselves sitting on my bed as I find something nice to listen to to break the awkward silence. As it’s typical of him, he resorted to negging again by judging my musical tastes.

He put his mouth on mine so fast that I forgot what I was saying before that.

“God you are so beautiful.”

His hands were all over me, taking my top off, groping my breasts so tight that I could hardly breathe. He pushed me onto my back and climbed on top of me. I knew what was coming. This has happened before. Why is this happening again? I froze. But before I dissociated I managed to squeak something out.

“Please. Please use a condom. Please.”

I heard my voice and barely recognised it as my own.

“Yeah, yeah yeah. Don’t worry.”

And then he was in. Wait, I can feel all the ridges of his cock.

Fuck. He doesn’t have a condom on.

The more I struggled, the harder he held me down, and the harder he felt in me.

I completely forgot what happened, if he came, what position we ended in. But I remember him sweating profusely on top of me, his long curly hair hanging limply from his head and falling just above my shoulders. I remember the smell of his sweat and musk radiating off of his skin as I tried harder and harder to remove myself from my body.

I wanted to scream but I couldn’t. I just lied there and prayed to any god or holy being that would listen to make it stop.

And then it did.

“Would you like a shower?”

“Uh…why not actually. I am sweaty as fuck.”

“Hey, didn’t I tell you to use a condom. What happened?”

“Lucky for you I don’t have STIs, haha.”

“It’s a joke. God, lighten up. We just had some great sex. Just enjoy it.”

It’s the night before my birthday. It’s the night before my birthday. This cannot be happening. This cannot be happening again. And then I heard myself blurt something out.

“Uh, what?”

“It’s the eve of my birthday, you know?”

“Oh, shit. Happy birthday, I guess. Look, I am going to head out. I’ll text you.”

“Ok. Bye?”

He left as quickly as he came (haha). And I found myself sitting on bed, shaking with fear and shock. I peeled myself up and headed straight for the shower. I turned up the water as hot as I could take it and took out my brush and tried to scrub myself clean. It didn’t work.

When I came out of the shower all hot and raw, I sat myself down gingerly in front of my computer and started thinking of my next steps. What the fuck just happened?

I started googling like a demon.

Date rape

Date rape how

What is date rape

Date rape without a condom

Sex without condom “date rape”

Sex without consent without condom “date rape”

The last few search terms that I had inputted were enough to tell me that the shit had hit the fan. I found myself on multiple forums confirming my suspicions. But somehow it wasn’t quite enough of a confirmation just yet and so I found a hotline– two, to be specific– to call. I just need to talk to someone. If that someone can just confirm what had happened maybe I’ll feel less alone.

I punched the numbers in and what happened next was just an immense waste of time and did more harm to me and my psyche at that time than not. The woman on the other line was absolutely bored stiff with her job and it became clear to me that she was just there to ensure that the person on the other line wouldn’t kill themselves that night. After that one call I couldn’t bear to make another.

I dissociated again. By the time I “went back into my body” I found myself curled up in fetal position on the bed. I hadn’t had a wink of sleep all night and it was almost six.

It was then that I gathered what’s left of myself and came up with a list of actionable tasks, things that need to be taken care of. First thing: protect myself. How can I do that? By making my way to the chemists and telling them that I had unprotected sex and I need the morning after pill. Make this as vague as possible because I am not in a state to tell them everything and have them make me call the police. Where is the nearest chemists? Right, Liverpool Street. You can do this, it’s just a three-minute walk away.

Put on your coat. Put on your shoes.

Oh, look, it’s snowing. How pretty.

Put on your scarf. Put on your ear muffs. Don’t forget your money.

Happy birthday, Otter.

*name has been changed for my own protection and safety

Image: TUB─äDZIN


Day 5

My introduction to feminism came later than most. I put that down to having grown up in a traditional Chinese family in a hyper-capitalist city. Political beliefs, existential musings and philosophical discussions were something that were restricted to late evening conversations and anyone who took them too seriously were immediately deemed as radical and sacrificing their livelihood for lofty ideals.

I wasn’t introduced to the words “feminist” or “feminism” until my first year of my undergraduate. It was so new and so foreign. It made so much sense to me from the get go (of course I don’t need to feel like I need to shave, of course I should be paid the same amount as a dude, of course I have the right to call out manspreaders), but it didn’t feel like something I could grasp. It felt like it didn’t apply to me, a seventeen-year-old. I felt as if I hadn’t suffered enough, or at all, for being a woman. I felt like the gross catcalls and leery stares I got were compliments. I felt as if losing my virginity to my first boyfriend, after he got me drunk and forced me to have sex when I was blacked out, was something dirty that had only happened to me. I didn’t understand how silly it was to feel that feminism is something that one can only identify with if something had happened to them.

Even hearing the word “feminism” roll off my tongue felt like a transgression in itself back then. I still remember the day when I first became aware of International Women’s Day. It was a day off and a close friend and I were wandering around downtown. She was telling me about feminism and how important it is to her after my basically having asked: “why anarcho-feminism?” After hearing her becoming increasingly passionate as she spoke, I told her I didn’t identify as a feminist. I justified that by saying that I stand by everything that feminists believe in and identified with. But I don’t feel like I am living like one and putting what I believe in into practice yet. It’s a label that I don’t feel comfortable in owning, at least not yet. While she understood me, she accused me of being a bad ally. It is a conversation that has stayed with me and which I revisit from time to time.

“I am a woman, not a feminist.”

After the first time I was date raped, I tried to muster up the courage to go to the university police after having gone to the clinic earlier in the week. When the policeman began to question if I had had alcohol (I didn’t) and if I had invited the rapist in my home, I just wanted the conversation to end and left without filing a report. It devastated me. I tried so hard not to let it affect me and kept with the grind to pursue the career that I had dreamt of. I got a lotus tattoo as a gift to myself. A permanent one. To tell myself that like the lotus, I can also grow out of the mud and make something beautiful.

I became a more militant and more outspoken feminist. Why should I self-police the way I look when nothing mattered? Why should I play nice if what they want is to see us down, to see us weak?

Then it happened again. Date rape again, but this time when I tried to confront the rapist, I got a cease and desist. When I called the survivor’s hotline, they were bored with my trying to figure out if I had been raped or not and were only interested in ensuring that I wasn’t going to off myself when I hung up. 

I got my fourth tattoo to remind myself to stop looking for reason in what had happened to me. I tried to drown myself in work, to stop performing femininity and to fight for visibility in the workplace. But I was either too visible, by being too feminine, too Asian, too petite, too North-American, too outspoken, too loud, too much. Or I was not being seen at all. I was only one of three female postgraduates in my program. I had to fight to speak up when we had union meetings, or any meeting at all. People always assumed I was an undergraduate. It became even more ridiculous when I became a faculty member. I still remember the time when I was almost thrown out of the staff room.

A few years later, I got burn out. Like, serious burn out. It was only last year that I started to embrace it and not give myself a time limit to get out of it. I have since been using my time to take care of the kids, to nurture myself as I should have done all these years ago.

So why do I feel like such a bad feminist? Whenever I tell people I stay at home now, I get the weirdest looks from people. Where people would have usually gone on to talk to me about my work and projects, now the conversation would fizzle out and there would be an awkward silence before people talk about something else entirely and I would disappear into the background.

I choose to be a homemaker. I am not my work.

I am a feminist.

Checklist for the day:

  • Call gran
  • Expecting a package and sending out two other
  • Do the dinner shop
  • Tidy up the house
  • Feed me!
  • Move the basil
  • Pick up Little
  • Get dinner ready
  • Work out