The last few weeks have been tumultuous with reports of sexual harassment coming fast and loose, and I felt it was perhaps time for me to write down some of the feelings that have risen in me during this time. I talked to my husband about them, and he was shocked when I laid out all the times I’d been demeaned, harassed, abused, or even worse. But I’ll get to that in a bit.
In American culture, women are meant to feel “less than” men. The burden of responsibility is put upon us for so many important decisions and actions, and a lot of men take advantage of that. Some probably without knowing. I mean, every time hubs rolls his eyes at me when I ask him a normal question, he’s doing it. He’s demeaning me for being a “nag” or “bitchy”.
I’m not going to get into the gritty details of things, but I want to at least talk about some of my experiences, starting with the first, and most horrific. When I was quite young, I was stripped of my virginity on a date. He thought it was owed him after he’d taken me out for a while. It was brutal. I never reported it because my parents liked him, he was older than me, and I was just plain afraid of what would happen if I did. How much worse things could get with him. I didn’t even stop dating him. Although our relationship ended not too long after for other reasons.
I had a difficult time trusting men, but I ended up using sex as a weapon. In a very unhealthy way. I did that for quite a few years – until I swore off men completely. Then I met my husband. But that’s another story.
Some other incidents:
- A driving instructor tried to grope and kiss me.
- While working retail, an older man tried to corner and grope me, I had to run to the back room to escape.
- Working in an office, I was told to “wear skirts because the xx company dress code isn’t MY dress code”.
- I’ve been brushed against, groped, stared at, etc. on the metro innumerable times.
- Subjected to catcalls in downtown DC several times, mostly regarding my “big titties”.
- When I worked in a software store, I was patted on the butt and asked if I could get my male co-worker to help the customer.
And SO many others.
As you can see, harassment comes in many makes and models. It’s always demeaning, always deflating, always unwelcome. Women don’t WANT it. When we dress a certain way, we’re not asking for anything but to look pretty or sexy. If we say no to sexual contact, we mean NO. Take it as a fact. And if women come forward, they need to feel supported, not bullied or shamed. They should be comforted. Punish the accused. Don’t let it go unnoticed. Don’t be an enabler. Don’t brush it under the carpet.