Saturday, 14 November 2009

In general, I'm one of those people who thinks they should always shut up about their problems and experiences, because as far as I'm concerned, nobody needs to hear about my minor problems. Everyopne else has their own problems to think about, why should I dump mine on them too, etc.

Where that sort of thinking goes wrong is when you realise that you've either underestimated your problems or you're actually just covering up the true extent of what's happening. If you've experienced anything similar to what someone else is going through, telling them might even help them since they know it's not something they have to deal with alone.

So I suppose I should say this: I've always kept quiet about my experience of sexual assault and unwanted attention, and now I'm going to say something about it. It's actually very minor (there I go again) but I will explain my reasons for telling you all about it.

Firstly, the reason I've never said anything or only spoken about this as if it's not a big deal: I know people who have been raped. In comparison to that, anything I've experienced really is a minor event. I would never want to make light of what happened to them by telling them about 'this one time some guy felt me up in a crowded bar'. Nobody has ever physically hurt me or done anything to me that caused me long-term psychological damage.

However... those little things that have happened to me are signs of the attitudes that mean people get away with much worse.

I was sexually harrassed at work when I was a teenager- a guy I worked with thought it was okay to slap my arse in front of customers and make suggestive comments about me, and then had the balls to say that I should take it as a compliment. Excuse me? How is it a compliment to recieve attention like that AT ALL, let alone when you've told him that it freaks you out and that you already have a boyfriend? Anything you push on someone after they say no is not a compliment. It's an insult, because you're saying that their consent and freedom is not important to you.

At a party a friend of a friend decided to ask for a hug, and then grabbed my arse (clearly, there's something about my backside that gets morons going). Not a big deal at all, but the reason he gave for doing so was essentially that I obviously wouldn't mind because I had spent the evening with a group of guys, and I had kissed one of them. Wow, slut-shaming much? Kissing one guy out of a group which included most of my male friends apparently made me available to everyone, even if I was genuinely attracted to that one person and the others were just 'the guys'.

The one time I went to a nightclub- as opposed to a sticky-floored rock club where everyone wears DMs and leather- a complete stranger stuck his hand up my skirt. Okay, I was wearing a very short skirt, but it was fucking JUNE. And why should I have to justify what I was wearing anyway? The fact is, a man I didn't know came up to me and started to touch particular bits of me without asking. I don't even like being hugged without permission, and this person walked up to me and without saying a word started trying to get his fingers inside my knickers. I was freaked out, and got as far away from him as possible. I know now that what I should have done was told a bouncer and got him kicked out, but of course at the time I just wanted this random to stop.

So yeah, the things I've talked about here are minor compared to the things that happen to other people. But these minor things happen all the time, to all kinds of people- everything that happened to me was a straight girl and straight guys but it could happen with any combination of people, and it does happen like that. If you think it's okay to make unwanted advances, or you think someone makes themselves sexually available to everyone by consenting to the first steps of sexual contact with one person, or you think the way somebody dresses makes it okay for you to do whatever you want without asking... that is seriously fucked up. What you're saying there is that you don't see that person's consent as important.

If you don't see consent as important, you're condoning rape.

That might seem extreme. But I don't think so. If you're not going to take someone seriously when they don't want to be touched intimately in a public place, you're damn well not going to take them seriously if you're alone with them. Two of these three experiences I've shared happened with nobody taking notice of what was happening- or if they did notice, they weren't that bothered, because they never said a word. We need to start calling people out for this shitty behaviour, because if they're doing it where everyopne can see they're doing it where we can't, and that's when others get raped.

1 comment:

  1. This is the kind of post I applaud for all the right reasons. It really breaks down barriers.

    A couple of things I'd like to add.

    Firstly, it comes down to equality, which is naturally a twofold problem.

    On the one hand it is a question of values and on the other it's one of communication.

    Either we believe people should be treated as we wish to be treated ourselves and behave accordingly, or we don't.

    Either way, how we express out feelings must equate with the way we want them to be understood.

    Secondly, by no means do all men appreciate being demeaned through objectification either - I certainly haven't even though I've been socially conditioned to avoid dissent.

    It is shocking to me to discover quite how many people are covering up painful memories of this sort.