In light of the recent Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey situations, and so many others I am realizing that these men are not the exception. That’s not to say all men are bad. In fact, some men are amazing partners, brothers, fathers and role models but something is really wrong and I never realized it until all the #METOO stories began to flood my feeds. Fundamentally, as a society, we are collectively dropping the ball.
Honestly, that part wasn’t even completely surprising to me. I’m a woman and have been living with my vagina for my entire life. I’ve always suspected that all women have been victimized to one degree or another but I never realized that part of the problem is that men don’t have a clue of how their behavior affects women.
The misconception is that if we have not been dragged into some dark alley and been violently raped by a stranger, we are lucky. We have not been victimized. But that’s not true. Many of us have been victimized and brutalized over and over again for decades.
We’ve just learned that there is an acceptable amount of assault. We’ve learned to live with it. Don’t get me wrong, we are terrified. It has left us scarred. It has left us trembling and cowering. It has robbed us of trust and safety.
We walk fast to our cars at night. We will never be afforded the luxury of a slow stroll under the stars alone to think; not without a cost of safety. We run past large groups of men. We cringe when a man pushes into us on public transportation. Cat calls give us anxiety. We avert our eyes when strange men expose themselves to us. At the end of every date, we pray that we escape without being forced against our will to perform some sexual act that men seem to feel is owed to them as payment for eating dinner with us. We don’t leave our drinks unattended. We travel in packs for protection. But you know none of this because you don’t feel any of this. I never realized it until now. I’m sorry that men have no clue how hard it is to function in the world as a woman.
The Big Guy, my husband, the man I have been with for almost half of my life is a good man. By all accounts, he is a great man, husband, father, and partner. Just ask my mom. You see, he lives his life based on the simple act of being a good person; treating others as he would like to be treated and it works. He is a kind, giving, loving man but he doesn’t understand the female condition. He’s tried but our experiences walking around in the world are so vastly different that it’s like a caterpillar and an elephant trying to understand what the other one’s life is like. It is impossible. How did I find this out? We had a conversation.
I’ve been having a lot of conversations about what’s going on in the world at dinner a lot lately. I respect my husband’s opinion and he’s very intelligent so we can have reasonable debates about most things. But painfully, I’ve realized having an honest conversation with a middle-class white man about the female condition is like talking politics with a monkey. It’s not their fault, it’s just so out of their frame of reference. What a luxury it must be.
I’ve always known that men and women are different but fundamentally, we are all human beings. We are the same species and for whatever prejudices men have about the abilities of women or their place in society, they had to concede that we are all human beings, right? I was wrong.
They know we are human beings but they can’t relate to our experience because it is so fundamentally different from their own. I was talking to a group of men who normally agree with my beliefs and politics. These are educated, feminist men and still, I was surprised at how the conversation went.
We were talking about Weinstein, who we all agree is a monster. Then, we moved on to Spacey who I feel is a definite predator; a pedophile. The group I was speaking with did more listening and less speaking. I could feel myself losing them. Then, the Charlie Sheen third-party accusations came about. We weren’t there. We have no idea what happened because the alleged victim is dead, his mother says the accusations are false and the accused denies any of it happened. Then, a new accusation about Roman Polanski that is 50 years old came up.
This is when the men took it upon themselves to circle back to Weinstein. Then it came, “Why did these women all wait so long to come forward?” I could see doubt poking its ugly head in. I could see them taking offense to the audacity of these women. I could feel myself, the lone vagina owner having to go on the defensive and have a real talk about the female condition with them.
I assured them that I believed wholeheartedly that every single woman who says she has been assaulted and shared her #MeToo story is telling the truth. I do. Maybe it feels like women are all coming forward now and maybe they are but not because it’s popular. It’s because there is safety in numbers. There is the Internet and you can tell the world without having to be given the hairy eyeball by some man who doubts you and questions your part in all of it. What were you wearing? Were you drinking? Did you lead him on in any way?
But how do you know it’s not just for attention? Why all jump on the bandwagon now!
I could feel my head about to explode. You see all of these seemingly educated, intelligent feminist men don’t know shit about living as a woman. But then again, how could they? I don’t know much about walking around in the world with a penis.
I explained to them that we women learn at a very early age that men have the power. It starts with our father; the head of the family. The provider and protector. And if you were raised in a macho Latino family like mine, you know early on that boys are prized above girls. Little girls are taught to be subservient to boys and boys are taught to take care of women, but they are also taught that they know what is best for girls. They don’t.
Then I explained that what they don’t understand is to women, the penis is a weapon, that can be used to hurt us. To defile us. To take from us. To humble us. To punish us. That’s why unsolicited dick pics from random men not only don’t excite us, they frighten us. It’s a threat.
I’m not saying women hate penises. In the right situation, when wanted, between two consenting adults, it can be magical and beautiful. It is the coming together of two as one, perfectly. It gives pleasure and life, literally.
The guys still look unconvinced. These women were grown adult women. They were strong enough to walk away. Especially in the case of Louis C.K. Why didn’t the women run screaming from the room? Why did they ever agree when asked?
I don’t know all the details but I think all women have been in some situation with a man where he has asked of her something so unbelievable that she is like, “Sure, whatever.” (because if she were to flee from the room at the thought of something so ridiculous she’d be labeled a hysterical woman who took everything entirely too seriously.) So, you say, “whatever” never expecting what follows next. I know if I was a fan or colleague of Louis C.K. and he asked if he could get naked and masturbate, I wouldn’t have taken him seriously. I would have thought it was a bit.
The men I was talking to still did not seem convinced. But I could see them rethinking some things so, I told them. I told them some of my truth. This was uncomfortable for me because these men included my husband and two of my brothers but if we don’t talk about it, it never changes. Even though we women have no part in our assaults, we feel shame that we were victimized. We feel like we should have known better because we are raised to not get raped, not get harassed and not get assaulted. Can’t we just teach our boys not to rape, harass and assault?
I told them of the time in college when I woke up in the middle of the night frozen in place to the horror of a guy I’d met earlier that night, a friend of a friend, on top of me kissing me and touching me while I slept. No, we had not gone to bed together. We happened to be staying with people in the same apartment. I pushed him off but I felt violated and I feel that I narrowly escaped being raped but in all honesty, I have no idea what he did before I woke up.
I saw my brothers cringe. They asked why didn’t I tell them. Well, one of them was 11 at the time and the other was 1-years-old. By 19, I had had men push themselves on me more times than I could count. The protocol was to escape the situation as unscathed as possible and be thankful things didn’t go worse.
Then, I told them about the time I was a teenager working at a department store and the loss prevention guys locked me in their soundproof office at the end of the night with the two of them. Then they proceeded to tell me how they enjoyed watching me on the cameras and laughed as they matter of factly told me that they could do whatever they wanted to me in that office and no one would ever hear me.
My husband asked why didn’t I report them. I was 18. They were who I was supposed to report these things to. One was an off-duty cop. Who was going to help me? I just had to stay clear and avoid them.
There are so many instances from little-nuanced things to full-on date rape antics that I have experienced, that most women experience, that our mothers had to survive, that our daughters will have to survive all because men don’t understand. This is not an excuse. This is a fact.
Yes, men know rape is rape but all the rest is murky for them. Between the forgiveness they are afforded because of the boys will be boys clause and the lack of respect they are taught for women and the lack of reverence for the female condition, we women have to appear as irrational, hysterical females jumping on bandwagons just to get the world to pay attention and reevaluate the whole damn system.
I’m sorry that you weren’t raised to truly understand how vulnerable it is to be a woman. I’m sorry we never realized that you didn’t know until now. But the jig is up. I’m putting it out here. MOMS and DADS the onus is on you. Starting with your newborn sons, teach them to do better and to be better to our girls.
How about this: no means no! No touching unless invited to do so and keep your creepy comments and dick pics to yourself. No shoulder massaging. No ass grabbing. No pushing your penises up against us when you’re standing behind us or rubbing it on us when the opportunity arises.No brushing your hands against our breasts. No disgusting comments about our mouths or what you’d like to do with our bodies. No drugging us. No having sex with us when we’re drinking or sleeping or incapacitated in any way that doesn’t allow us to give consent. How about treating us the way you’d like to be treated, with some dignity and respect?
Men, I am sorry that you feel like all the hysterical women of the Internet are on a witch hunt for sexual predators and you are uncomfortable and afraid that some woman from your past might accuse you of some wrongdoing but ask yourself, why are you worried? Why are you dismissive? Have you behaved questionably? Ask yourselves next time, would this be okay if it were happening to my mom, my sister, my girlfriend, my wife, or heaven forbid, your little girl? If the answer is no, then don’t do it.