[general trigger warning: abuse, sexual abuse]
Sometimes I am shocked at just how obvious and basic a lot of the ideas I write about on this blog are. Things like how every person has the right to their own body, or how not all abusers are of the same body type. Or stuff like how the definition of rape should not be limited to penetrative sexual acts only, because it erases a whole lot of people who are not heterosexual or cisgender. And so on.
Perhaps it is a sign of how deeply entrenched rape/abuse culture is; it’s so subtly insidious that people often fail to recognize the obvious. Ideas that should be Basic Human Rights 101 are totally ignored or paved over when children and adults are subordinate to others.
I had one of those obvious realizations today: that no love should be 100% unconditional. Sexual abuse, rape, emotional abuse, battering, neglect…all of these things fall squarely in the category of “beyond unconditional”. Because what is love when you lose yourself? Love is supposed to be reciprocal and safe, not liking someone even when they do horrible things to you.
The concept of “unconditional love” has been used against a lot of us. Abusers have used it as an excuse for their actions. Many survivors, myself included, have internalized this message of unquestioning love as the only kind of love that is okay, even when they aren’t okay. “They hurt me, but I still love them, because love is supposed to be unconditional”.
But love shouldn’t be self-destructive. Love shouldn’t erase a person’s right to not be hurt. Love shouldn’t remove a person’s ability to refuse consent. These are basic ideas that we should all believe in, but there are a lot of people out there who don’t. Fact is, their idea of unconditional love is really just, “you belong to me”.
When we say “unconditional love”, what we should be saying is “unconditional love, within reason”. There are some actions that go beyond reasonable love. Abuse is one of them.