CONTENT WARNING: This post deals with the following themes: Sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, suicide, child grooming. Reader discretion is strongly advised.
I don’t know a single person in my immediate circle, male, female or non-conforming, that hasn’t had a ‘Me Too’ moment.
I still remember the first time I was groped like it was yesterday. I was 13 and leaving a school dance. My dad had come to pick me up at the front door and I was on the phone to my mother, telling her that Dad had met me and we were heading home (on my much loved and necessary brick Nokia). As we were looking out by the gates, a boy who’d expressed interest in me in the past, came up behind me, got a handful of my bum and squeezed as he walked past us.
In front of my father. Whilst I was on the phone to my mother.
I was shocked, and though I’m ashamed to say now, a little excited by it. When you’re 13, no matter how wrong you know it is, any attention like that from a boy must be good, right? Nope. Still, I didn’t think it was right for him to do that. I wanted to catch up with him and tell him just that, but I was so shocked I just froze.
My Dad didn’t see and if he had, my God, he’d have had that boy by his collar, giving him the roasting of his life while making him apologize to me. I didn’t say anything until I got home and told my parents. My Dad said exactly that: If he’d have known, he’d have rained all Hell on that boy for groping his daughter.
From 12 upwards, I’m one of billions of people who have experienced some form of harassment to assault. From the infamous white van men shouting at you while walking down the street, approached by curb-crawlers, men and women at bars who won’t take my ‘no’ for an answer, to a former school teacher attempting (and failing) to groom me online. He was reported to police.
One of my scariest experiences was being harassed by a university lecturer when I was 18. It took me six years to report it to the police, who listed his patterns of behaviour under sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Even six years later I was shaking while telling them what happened, terrified of what he might do if he found out. The officer (male) who saw over my report was absolutely brilliant and understood why I was so scared even years later.
My case was referred to the education authority, who can, if they decide to, launch an investigation. After that, unless you press charges, it’s pretty much out of the police’s hands. Whether they have investigated or not, I don’t know as I’ve not heard from them. It’s difficult not to feel like ‘just another statistic’ at times, but I’m very thankful I wasn’t just brushed off by the police, like so many people have been in the past.
If I listed every time I’ve been harassed we’d be here forever. Seeing the responses and victim blaming to it is depressing.
In my teenage years I got the blaming a lot from people. If I had a pound for every time a 40+ year-old man has said, ‘Not get many of them to the pound!’ at me in the street I’d be a rich woman. (I’ve been a chesty girl from the get-go) Still, I’d get blamed for what I was wearing. That if I wasn’t wearing shorts or a certain kind of top (literally a regular, non-low cut top), that I wouldn’t have got that kind of ‘reaction’ from men, as I was ‘probably mistaken for being older.’
Either that or being told not to dress ‘tacky’ as I don’t want to draw ‘that kind of guy/attention.’ That essentially, look at how you’re dressed, what do expect when a man treats you like you’re only good to fuck?
At first I subscribed to this way of thinking, only to realise, that dressing ‘tacky’ or not, still doesn’t warrant getting harassed by people who should know better. Plus, it’s an insult to the majority of men who would never dream of doing this to a woman, by painting them like brainless animals who can’t control themselves.
Perhaps they shouldn’t feel entitled to my body in the first place? *Watches their minds explode*
While sexual harassment and assault is target primarily towards women, it does happen to men as well in numbers larger than you’d think. Every survivor’s story matters, and seeing pockets of the MeToo and Time’s Up movements laughing at and casting out male survivors because they aren’t women, is deplorable. They are subjecting them to the same ridicule we face on the daily. Just because you are woman doesn’t mean you are exempt from perpetrating sexism. It goes both ways.
Like women trying to break down archaic stigmas and toxicity associated with their sex, men are trying to do the same as well, i.e. stigma for mental health support, lack of support for survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence, gender bias in family courts, the biggest killer in men under 45 being suicide etc. the list goes on.
So for people supposed to be supporting each other and trying to strive for equality, we’re not doing a very good job of it if we’re shutting out the other demographic just because they’re men. While these crimes may be more predominant towards women, we can’t ignore male survivors. Every survivor matters.
I see people claiming to be all for equality saying that ‘all men are trash’, and being disgusted by it. Societal double standards need to end, yes, but we can’t generalise entire genders by the acts of individuals, making them guilty by association. It’s like the incel guys who generalise all women as whiny, leeching gold diggers, and these guys want a world like Only Ever Yours. Whichever foot the shoe’s on, it’s not the way forward.
Yes, men don’t have their bodies regulated and shamed like women have forever, they may not be subject to things that we are. But fighting fire with fire isn’t going to solve things.
No matter how you look at it, sexual harassment and assault is awful. It’s terrifying and contrary to some beliefs, is nothing to do with sex at all. It’s about asserting control and power over someone in the most dehumanizing, humiliating way possible. No one ‘asks for it’, that’s the very definition: It’s unwanted.
To roughly quote a social media post I saw recently: ‘Rape is not about sex. If you get hit in the face with the shovel, you don’t call it ‘gardening’.’
All my love,