Sex, Drugs & Spotify: When all else fails, at least the music is mine

(Playlist code courtesy of Spotify)

Content warning: This article discusses sexual assault.

I apologize for the length of time since my last piece. I was going through it. 

The first edition of “Sex, Drugs & Spotify” detailed my journey in the Daily Trojan newsroom, but it was silly of me to think of it as sound. 

I have since left my position as managing editor and had the worst comedown of my life following the publishing of my first piece. I was upset with myself for not sustaining it as I had planned, but I’m glad to know writing is still a much stronger drug than the other stuff. 

You can plan and draft all you want. It’s probably not going to turn out that way.

School used to be my thing (it kind of had to be) but then life happened and I learned far more while outside of the classroom. 

And yet, every once in a while, a professor says just the right thing and everything starts to make a little sense again. My “Music as Communication” class, in particular, has equipped me with words and ideals important enough to knock me out of a haze. We talk about noise and sound and music. The overlaps, the discrepancies. The power of it all. It’s been the classroom where I’ve learned the most. 

My professor once said some songs take women places men cannot follow. Beyond the limiting constraints of the binary and a general adherence toward heterosexuality, I think he’s right. 

There are some songs that are not for others and they never have to be. 

I saw the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in concert a couple weeks ago, and listening to Karen O sing “Y Control” did something to me that I’m not even going to attempt to describe. There are moments that come to feel definitive of who you are and at the very best times, it’s that one song you finally got to hear live. “Petrified” by Omar Apollo also did it for me. 

Then there are the worst of times. 

It has been almost two years since I was sexually assaulted in my hometown by a USC student. I didn’t even realize this but my body sure as hell knows.

I often don’t know where to begin when it comes to talking about this but it’s probably because it doesn’t feel like it ever ended. I do know that this week is “Sex Week” at USC, so I’ll try. 

I wanted to save this piece for later, maybe when we knew each other a little bit better, but I do not have the luxury of saving parts of myself until the third date. 

My heart, guts and insides purge out of me with such velocity at times that there is no controlling it and everyone in arm’s reach is caught in the crossfire. 

I do not have the graces to remain nonchalant or appear aloof during my casual endeavors, of which I probably have too many. 

Too many have seen the suffocating panic attacks after we’ve laid in bed together that make me go mute, and too many know I avoid the Sexual Assault Prevention training each semester for as long as I can (this semester, USC charged me $80 for not finishing by the deadline). 

I guess it feels a bit redundant to remain mysterious and “leave them wanting more” when I feel my baggage is conversely, at times, what brought us here in the first place. It’s maybe even why you’re reading this far-too-deep invasion into my life.

Just as we have words such as beginning and end despite any evidence of either, time has passed since that one October night despite my feet remaining glued to the grass field he dragged me to. 

I’ve tried to do what I can in terms of healing, but I’m not sure there is truly such a thing. Contrary to what many (and I) want to believe — that there is a time when I will have moved on — there is not.  

My assault is not who I am. But, just as the best of songs, it is woven intricately throughout my skin in the most delicate manner that any gust of wind can tear me at the seams. 

It is not in any therapy session or virtual sexual assault course that I have made sense of it all, but in that room in Annenberg where I can ramble on about chord progressions and the music I’ve been consuming with such a natural fire that I don’t have to think twice about leaving it all on the table that I feel better. 

During one class period, our professor showed us the dance scene in Steve McQueen’s “Lovers Rock” film where Janet Kay’s “Silly Games” fills the room. When the DJ pauses the song, the partygoers continue to sing, a capella style, and it’s while watching this that I felt some things click.

Yes, I might not ever feel like I did before. There are things I will continue to work on. I’m always going to be going through it. 

But thankfully, I am sustained by the music in my life that means so much more. When the right song cuts or ends or ceases, it lives on in us. 

It holds me steady, it breathes for me when I forget how to, it brings tears to my eyes when I try to hold them back. It carries me. 

There are few things that feel like my own. My body has not always been one. But the way I listen to music — at least that will always be mine.

Ana Mata is a senior writing about everything related to promiscuity and playlists.