TW: sexual assault is mentioned many times in this post, so please keep yourself safe while reading.
Today, while on a date, I was told that perhaps my “timid” demeanor and my soft voice are the reasons I have had so many “odd” encounters with men, whereby they think it is okay to ambush me with kisses on the mouth or brazenly graze my breasts or slip a hand up my dress. I was told that this makes me seem like “easy prey”, like I’m the type of person that would stay quiet. And, you know what? I am. I am that quiet woman, conditioned to stay silent. When I was little and was coaxed into playing doctor under the bed it wasn’t him that got into trouble, it was me. I was made to feel bad and dirty. When grownups tricked me into touching their “private parts” I was told that it was our secret game, that sometimes that’s how people showed each other they loved each other, how they made each other feel good. It just made me believe even more that I was bad. When I was manipulated into sitting in the neighbors lap, letting him wrestle me, tickle me, kiss me, touch me anywhere he liked, in whatever ways he liked, I told but nothing happened. When the boys at school grabbed my ass, touched my breasts, tried to put their hands down my pants, I was the one sent to the office for “making a scene.” When the son of an officer tried to put his fingers inside me on the band bus, I was told I was a liar. When a stranger walking down the street, put his hand up my skirt, in the midst of a crowd and no one did anything to stop him, I got the message. When the pizza man slipped into his daughter’s room at night to have his way with both of us, I said nothing. Because experience taught me that no body cared what happened when it came to girl’s bodies. When the son of a family friend waited until I was asleep to slip up my nightgown, slip down my panties, and slip his tongue inside me, I said nothing. When I woke up at a friend’s house, after having passed out, to find him grunting, groaning, and grinding on me, I said nothing. When my ex-husband refused to accept “no, I don’t feel comfortable with that” as an answer to his sexual advances, I said nothing. When he sodomized me and enacted his rape fantasy on me, I said nothing. When my friend’s brother climbed on top of my drunken and drugged body and forced himself inside of me, I said nothing. Time and time and time again I have let this shitty, chauvinistic society silence me. And I am not alone. Chances are, you found something familiar in at least one of those stories and chances are, at some point, someone made you feel like you had to stay silent, too.
Yesterday, I read the story Eliza Dushku told about how the stuntman on set molested her when she was a child, about how a man who was literally hired to secure her well-being took advantage of her in a vile and reprehensible way. This is our society. It is a society in which all of us, every girl, can relate in some way to each new #metoo story. Because it isn’t just #metoo; it is #ustoo. WE have been silenced. WE have been catcalled. WE have been groped. WE have been kissed and hugged and tickled and touched and penetrated. WE have been taught timidity. WE have been taught that “boys will be boys” and that ladies should be seen and not heard (or was that just me?). WE have been told that he only hit us or picked on us or popped our bra or grabbed our ass because he likes us. WE have been stared at, looked up and down, undressed by the eye’s of another. WE have been blamed. WE have been shamed and guilted. WE have been told that we shouldn’t have had so much to drink or we should have been wearing more clothes or we shouldn’t have gone out alone or shouldn’t have gotten into the elevator with that stranger or walked down that street at night. A million things that WE shouldn’t have done or should have done to prevent the bull shit actions of another. It is time for all of this to stop.
I’m glad that women are collectively ending the silence. I am glad that WE are finding our voices. I am glad that WE are standing up and saying this is not okay. WE are not objects. WE are not toys, born for the gratification of boys and men. WE won’t stand for the normalization of stalking, groping, abusing, catcalling, raping, assaulting, or any other violent -ing. It’s enough. Boys will be the kind of boys they’re raised to be. Enough excuses. Let’s place blame where blame really lies.
The real blame lies in the hands of a society that elects political representatives who make light of grabbing women by “the pussy.” It lies in the hands of fathers who teach their sons that they are entitled to the bodies of girls and women. It lies in the hands of anyone who has ever said, “she was asking for it.” It lies in the hands of men who slip things into girls drinks because they’re looking for a good time. It lies in the hands of anyone who has ever witnessed a crime or an assault and looked the other way. It lies in the hands of any man who has ever hit his girlfriend, his wife, his children. It lies in the hands of the man who rapes unconscious women at parties. It lies in the hands of a system that doesn’t teach children the meaning of consent. It lies in the hands of parents that force children to give strangers hugs and kisses. It lies in the hands of every authority figure who does nothing when they’re told by a child that she has been raped/assaulted/made to feel uncomfortable. There are so many places where we can place the blame. But on the woman, on the victim, on the survivor… that is not one of them.
I’m tired of living in silence. I am tired of carrying the burden of blame that isn’t mine to carry. I’m tired of feeling ashamed of my body, my existence. I am tired. I am tired of this society. I am tired of men looking at me like I’m just a piece of meat. I’m tired of this being the thing I have in common with my fellow woman. I am tired of this being justified, explained away, swept under a rug. I’m tired and I’m angry and I am just so, so over it.