Roxane Gay’s memoir of body image and sexual trauma is unsparingly honest and confronting. Already a woman I greatly admire for her writing — particularly for the incredible An Untamed State, which is the one constant on my ever-changing list of favourite books — and her unflinching honesty, and take-no-bullshit attitude, I’ve been looking forward to Hunger since its announcement a while back.
And of course it doesn’t disappoint. It was never going to.
Hunger is a gut-wrenching, heart-rending, personal discourse on the brutality of life in a fat body — a queer, Haitian-American fat woman’s body, if you want to be specific — in a world that shames and forgets such people.
Readers would not expect Gay to pull any punches in the telling of her own story, and she certainly doesn’t. Right at the start, she declares that her story is devoid of “any powerful insight into what it takes to overcome an unruly body and unruly appetites.” This isn’t a story about success, but about the eternal struggle she has faced, and continues to face, coping with the fallout of a terrible violation in her youth. The personal demons that haunt Gay stem from a devastating gang rape at the age of 12, which is rendered so starkly here, so incredibly powerfully, it is something I will never forget. It is harrowing, and so Goddamn fucking awful, that a young woman’s innocence and youth could be stolen in such a way. That it’s endemic in our society is shameful.
Moments of lightness — a self-deprecatory humour — punctuate Hunger; genuinely hilarious laugh-out-loud moments, such as when Gay describes her perspective on the “exceedingly thin people at the gym” with their “placid facial expressions” and their outfits which constitute “shorts so short that the material is more a suggestion than an actual item of clothing”; her relationship with her personal trainer; or how when she played soccer as a child, she’d be more focused on the grass than the game going on around her.
Gay’s account of life in a “fat body” struck a chord for me, reminding me of my adolescence as a fat teenager. I should make it clear: my body was of my own making: not the consequence of a terrible experience, just human weakness, and the continual submission to my personal deficiencies. So I can’t pretend my experience was anything like Gay’s, not really; especially in a society where it’s more acceptable for a man to be overweight than a woman. But I am cognisant of the horridness of an existence in a body society frowns upon. I endured the cruel taunts from those around me, but the most savage always came from my own mind: so many days and nights spent lamenting my body, knowing its condition was my own fault, but unable — well, in my case, unwilling — to do anything about it. At least for a time, until one day something snapped, and I made a decision to do something about my weight, before the situation was taken out of my hands. But how I was then, and what I am now — at my worst I was 120kgs, and my lightest I was 65kgs — has stayed with me. My weight still fluctuates, and if I’m totally honest, my experiences as a fat kid continue to influence — more like haunt — my life today. I run, just about every day, to chase away the memory of my past self.
Hunger is about the consequences of being gang-raped when Gay was 12. It’s about being the daughter of middle-class Haitian immigrants and not fitting into the narrative of blackness, and it’s about being a feminist. It is raw and powerful, and essential reading for everyone. It’s a book I won’t forget. It’s a book I can’t forget.
ISBN: 9781472151117ISBN-10: 1472151119Format: Paperback (160mm x 232mm x 24mm)Pages: 288Imprint: CorsairPublisher: Hachette AustraliaPublish Date: 6-Jul-2017
Before and after
Roxane Gay’s tells the story of why and how she became morbidly obese. The book explores, frankly and in detail, what it’s like to live in a body the world feels entitled to judge. In a culture that relentlessly shames fat people, it’s an act of courage for anyone Gay’s size simply to write honestly and without apology about her physical existence, but she goes much farther here, confronting the traumatic roots of her condition and revealing her ongoing struggle to make some kind of peace with her body and with her own emotional and physical hunger.
Gay was gang-raped when she was twelve years old, lured to an isolated cabin by a boyfriend, who led the assault. Out of some mixture of shame and shock, she kept the rape a secret from her devoted and loving parents for many years, though other children around her knew about it at the time and tormented her for being a “slut.” Gay, who is well known as a fiction writer and feminist cultural critic, has publicly acknowledged the rape before, but she confronts it very directly here, conveying its breathtaking cruelty in a way that’s tough to read but makes the enduring aftermath fully understandable. She traces her decades of struggle with her body to the trauma of being raped, dividing her life—in some sense, her very self—into . “My memories of the after are scattered, fragmentary,” she writes, “but I do clearly remember eating and eating and eating so I could forget, so my body would become so big it could never be broken again.”
By the time she was in high school Gay was obese, and she has remained so. Now in her early forties, and despite decades of trying to lose weight, she’s large enough to need two seats when she flies coach. It’s difficult to find clothes that fit, and she’s constantly forced to navigate a world that seems designed to punish her “unruly” body: “I cram my body into seats that are not meant to accommodate me,” she writes, “and an hour or two or more later, when I stand up and the blood rushes, the pain is intense.”
Gay’s professional success and measure of fame haven’t made people any slower to judge or quicker to acknowledge her needs. She tells an excruciating story about a publishing event where, as a featured author, she was expected to climb onto a stage and sit on a “tiny” wooden chair. It took her five minutes—with an audience watching—to get on the stage, and the chair cracked under her weight. The humiliation made her physically sick: “I threw up in my mouth, swallowed it, and then did a squat for the next two hours.”
But the primary struggle in is the one within Gay herself. She describes a continual tension between her desire to inhabit a smaller, healthier body and her desire to remain protected by the “fortress” of her fat. Losing weight thrills and then frightens her: “I get terrified. I start to worry about my body becoming more vulnerable as it grows smaller. I start to imagine all the ways I could be hurt.” She expresses deep frustration over the way the rape affected her sexuality, through both the trauma itself and the obesity the trauma helped cause. Filled with self-loathing and unable to trust, she pursued risky encounters and developed unhealthy relationships, about which she seems to feel a mix of sadness and lingering shame.
The disrespect and disregard of the culture amplifies her pain and gets in her way, but Gay makes it clear that she owns the issue of her weight and the rest of her troubles. She is, if anything, too reluctant to assign blame, though she allows herself some frank rage against the boy who oversaw the rape, stalking him online and fantasizing about a confrontation.
Even while she was drowning in loneliness, self-destruction, and difficult attachments, Gay was also pursuing her vocation, finding some measure of solace in writing and intellectual life. Her fiction, including her 2014 debut novel, is a hopeful, even inspiring book.
Maria Browning is a fifth-generation Tennessean who grew up in Erin and Nashville. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, she has attended the Clothesline School of Writing in Chicago, the Moss Workshop with Richard Bausch at the University of Memphis, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. She lives in White Bluff.
Gang-rape killer of lesbian footballer gets life
A man was jailed for life today for the murder and gang rape of a lesbian South African international footballer.
Themba Mvubu, 24, from Kwathema, was found guilty of murdering, robbing and being an accessory to the rape of 31-year-old Eudy Simelane.
Activists at the magistrates court in Delmas, Mpumalanga province, hailed the judgment as "extremely important" in drawing attention to cases of murder and so-called "corrective rape" against lesbians in South Africa.
Simelane was one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in Kwa Thema township, near Johannesburg. A keen footballer since childhood, she played for the South African women’s team and worked as a coach and referee. She hoped to serve as a line official in the 2010 men’s World Cup in South Africa.
But in April last year she was accosted while leaving a pub and robbed of a mobile phone, trainers and cash. She died from wounds to the abdomen after being gang-raped and stabbed 12 times. Her naked body was dragged towards a stream and dumped.
"Eudy Simelane suffered a brutal, undignified death," Judge Ratha Mokgoathleng told the court, where the victim’s parents sat with heads bowed. "She was stripped naked, stabbed, assaulted, raped. What more indignity can a person endure?"
He continued: "The accused has shown no remorse whatsoever. He steadfastly maintains he was not to blame for the death of the deceased. That is his right. It’s painful to send a young person to jail, but if the young person behaves like an adult with criminal conduct, he cannot expect to hide behind his youthfulness."
Mvubu, wearing a hooped brown and cream sweater, sat looking at the floor with hands behind his back for much of the hearing. Questioned by reporters, he muttered "I’m not sorry" as he was led from the dock to jeers from the public gallery.
He was the second man convicted of the crime. Earlier this year Thato Mphithi pleaded guilty to murder, robbery and being an accomplice to the attempt to commit rape. He was imprisoned for a total of 32 years.
Two more men, Khumbulani Magagula, 22, and 18-year-old Johannes Mahlangu were acquitted today of their alleged part in the attack. "God will be their judge," said Judge Mokgoathleng.
The most likely motive for the attack was that Simelane and her killers were known to each other, the judge added. "I’m told she was a famous athlete," he said. "It was an attempt to obliterate the evidence."
At an early stage the court ruled out Simelane’s sexual orientation as a motive in her killing. But lesbian political activists have regularly attended the hearings and welcomed the way it has raised awareness of their cause.
Phumi Mtetwa, executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, said today: "This judgment is extremely important. It doesn’t state that she was killed as a lesbian but because she was known.
"How did people know her in the township? She was a soccer player who was ‚butch‘ and was known. People are killed because of who they are."
Simelane’s mother, Mally, 65, said: "I’m happy. I’m released. My life will come right again."
Unhelpful myths about the sexual assault and rape of men
There are a number of commonly accepted myths that can make it difficult for a man to publicly name an experience of sexual assault or rape. These myths minimise the seriousness of the crime and help persons perpetrating sexual violence to evade responsibility for their actions. These myths can affect the way a man feels about himself following an assault, preventing him from seeking assistance and can influence the way that he is treated should he come forward and ask for help.
The following myths about men and sexual assault do not appear from nowhere; they are kept alive and circulate within our society by the way we talk, write, act, and organise service responses. Actively challenging myths or other unhelpful beliefs is something we all can do to assist men, women and children who are subjected to sexual violence. Amongst the unhelpful myths and beliefs to watch out for are:
Myth: Men can’t be raped or sexually assaulted.Reality: Men can be and are sexually assaulted. Any man can be sexually assaulted regardless of size, strength, appearance, age, occupation, race or sexual identity. The idea that men can’t be raped or sexually assaulted is linked to unrealistic, fictitious gender stereotypes that a ‘man’ should be able to defend himself against attack.
Myth: Only gay men are sexually assaulted.Reality: Any man can be raped, whether he identifies as straight, gay, bi, transgender or fluid sexuality. Rape is an act of force or coercion where someone’s personal choice is ignored. Just as being robbed does not tell you anything about someone’s sexuality, neither does rape.
Myth: It is gay men who sexually assault other men.Reality: Most men who sexually assault other men identify themselves as straight. The myth is a legacy of societal homophobia and a habit developed over the past century of seeing participation in a sexual act as a sign of a person’s sexual identity. The focus on questions of sexuality stops attention being placed on the manipulation, violence, coercion or control used to perpetrate sexual abuse.
Myth: Men cannot be sexually assaulted by women.Reality: Although the majority of sexual assaults of men are committed by men, women do sexually assault men. Sexual assault is not always enacted through overwhelming physical force: it can involve emotional manipulation whereby a man can be coerced into sexual act out of fear of potential repercussions for his relationships, work, etc. The number of men identifying sexual abuse by a woman as a boy or young man has increased over the past few years. Ideas that men should always want sex with women and that as a young man you should feel lucky if you have sex with an older woman also make it difficult for a man to publicly name sexual assault by a woman.
Myth: Erection or ejaculation during sexual assault means you “really wanted it” or consented to it.Reality: Erection or ejaculation are physiological responses that can be induced through manipulation and pressure on the prostate. Some people who commit sexual assault are aware how erections and ejaculations can confuse a man and this motivates them to manipulate their body and penis to the point of erections or ejaculation. They also can use this manipulation as a way to increase their feelings of control and to discourage reporting of the offence. Developing an erection or ejaculating does not indicate that a man wanted or enjoyed the assault nor does it say anything about sexual identity (e.g. if a man develops an erection when a cat sits on his lap, it doesn’t mean he is interested in sex with cats!).
Myth: I asked for it – He asked for it.Reality: Sexual assault is a sexual act perpetrated without full and free consent. It doesn’t matter where you go, who you choose to spend your time with, how you dress or act, it does not make you responsible for being sexually assaulted. Agreement to engage in an intimate sexual encounter does not mean you agree to anything and everything. It is within your rights to ‘NO’ at any time – even whilst in the middle of penetrative sex. This myth is supported by society’s tendency to question and blame the person who is assaulted, which in turn can invite self questioning and self blame. It is the responsibility of all persons involved in sexual contact to ensure that there is full and free consent at all times.
Myth: Most rapists are strangers.Reality: Most men know the person who assaults them in some way. Often he/she is well known to them. They may be a friend, neighbour, boss or a relative, father, uncle, aunt, brother, sister, partner or ex partner. They may be a tradesperson or a professional e.g. doctor, teacher, psychiatrist, police officer, clergy or public servant.
Myth: Some people physically can’t commit rape.Reality: A person’s physical strength, sex, sexual potency and sexual preference does not affect their ability to rape. Sexual assault can be committed through coercion or manipulation, by using fingers or objects such as sticks, marker pens or bottles. Rape is not all about physical force: young people and old people do sexually assault young and old people.
Myth: Men who sexually assault can’t control their sexuality.Reality: People can control their sexual desires if they want to, however strong they might be. No “desire” gives anyone the right to violate and abuse another person. Far from being caused by lack of control, many sexual assaults are pre-planned and involve considerable abuse of power and control.
Myth: Sexual assault and rape in gay couples does not exist.Reality: Rape in same sex relationships does occur, just as rape in straight relationships occurs. Through physical, psychological or emotional coercion, some men are forced by their partners to engage in unwanted sexual acts. The fact that the man has been in a longstanding sexual relationship with his partner does not remove his right to say ‘NO!’. Unfortunately, many men within the gay community are reluctant to come forward and name a sexual assault out of an understandable fear that they will not receive appropriate care and support. This again highlights how the problem of sexual assault of men is compounded by societal homophobia.
Myth: Male rape only happens in prisons.Reality: Rape does occur in prisons. However, rape also occurs outside of prisons, in the general community and in the armed services, colleges, universities in the city and in regional and rural areas.
Myth: Men who have been sexually assaulted will go on to perpetrate sexual assault.Reality: The majority of men who experience sexual violence do not perpetrate abuse or assault (they are horrified by such a suggestion). This is one of the most difficult myths for men: it can make men very reluctant to talk about experiences of rape or sexual abuse. There is no evidence to suggest an automatic route from experiencing abuse to going on to commit sexual offences. However, particular experiences (additional to sexual abuse) and models of masculinity are associated with an increased risk of someone perpetrating abuse.
Myth: Men who are raped are damaged and scarred for life.Reality: Men can and do survive sexual assault, physically and emotionally, and go on to live full lives, enjoying rewarding relationships as friends, partners or parents. Although sexual assault can have a profound impact on men, they can and do find a way through and live the kind of life they would like. The media and many professional publications concentrate on stories of damage, recounting horror stories of what happened and the associated problems, without providing equal time to detail how men get on with their lives.
An undated April 2017 item published by Viral Actions claimed that Atlanta man Fernando Hutchins was attacked and raped by a “gay gang” known as the “Sweet Bloods”:
THEY MAY BE GAY BUT THAT PISTOL MADE ME PAY, I GAVE UP MY MONEY, CREDIT CARDS AND MY @SS, THEY TIED ME UP, ROBBED ME AND F*CKED THE SH????T OUT ME, I HOPE THIS DON’T MEAN I’M GAY”
Said a shook up Fernando Hutchins about his encounter with Gay Atlanta gang set the Sweet Bloods.
Police responded to the W hotel in downtown Atlanta where reports of a carjacking took place. Once they arrived they found a distraught Fernando Hutchins laying on his stomach because he had been assaulted. He required 24 stitches to his anal cavity.
The sweet Bloods gang has been terrorizing the downtown Atlanta area for the last couple weeks with a string of robberies and carjackings.
The same claim had been published previously in December 2016 by Blakk Pepper, and that iteration included a clue about its dubious origins:
Fernando will have to undergo counseling for the trauma he received but he released a statement to the public:
“THESE FA**OTS IS OUT HERE RAPING EVERYBODY, ONE OF EM LOOK LIKE PINKY FROM FRIDAY SO IF YOU SEE A DUDE WITH PINK HAIR WALKING WITH A SWITCH YOU BETTER GET GHOST” — FERNANDO
Blakk Pepper credited TMZWorldNews for the recycled falsehood, though that site’s version of the story no longer appears to be live. TMZWorldStarTMZBreaking are all known purveyors of fake news and hoaxes, although none includes a disclaimer warning readers about the fabrications they spread.
In February 2016, TMZWorldNews used the same photograph that appeared in the stories about the purported gay gang rapes to illustrate an article claiming a study proved 80 percent of men in Atlanta were gay.
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Herefordshire & worcestershire counselling service announcement
It is with regret that we have made the difficult decision to close the waiting list for our Counselling service. All clients currently on the waiting list will be offered counselling support when a counsellor becomes available.
We have made numerous funding applications to support the counselling service and will continue to submit applications until this situation is resolved. We are hopeful that we will secure further funding to start accepting new referrals in the future.
Please continue to check our website for any further updates relating to the waiting list. Our next update will be 1st August 2021.
This site is designed to help you with any form of enquiries that you may have. Use the navigation to find what you need. Please note – all information available on this website is correct at the time of publication and is only valid within the United Kingdom.
© 2021 West Mercia Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre.
WMRSASC is a charitable company limited by guarantee in England & Wales – Charity Registration 1136677, Company Registration 07083844. Registered office is Kendall Wadley Chartered Accountants, 71 Graham Road, Malvern, WR14 2JS. Please note this is not part of WMRSASC premises.