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Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

To Call Myself Beloved

Eina McHugh
New Island



Slowly, slowly, a shape moulded from the going-to-die panic: the fantasy of a man trapped inside my body in the act of sexual intercourse and me reduced to unbear­able powerlessness.

J started going over a pragmatic theme, as if he was drumming in an understanding that might stand me in good stead: 'You can say "no" at any stage in sex. It doesn't matter, at whatever point, if it's not right for you, you say "no".'

And I felt moved — although I did not know why — that a man was telling me, a woman, that I had a right to my no. But it made no difference to my terror-driven anxiety.

 It is the last couch session before my third Christmas in therapy, in 1990. My fragile self feels nourished by the richness of J's interpretations.

'You have been struggling with this powerful, sicken­ing feeling, the toxic within, wrestling with difficulties in intimacy, similar to those you experience in the group.'

The group had continued on its gruelling trajectory, culminating in me walking home afterwards, in tears.

You reacted to "playing hard to get" and "tease" on an absolutist level, rather than hearing the overall sense.'

That is what two men in the group had accused me of. I had felt cut to the bone as the group's only single (i.e. 'available') woman. I was unforgiving with the other women who had stayed quiet when I had asked for sup­port, and with J, who questioned what underlay my 'superficial' outrage. I felt set up and hung out to dry as…….