You may have seen this movement going around social media in response to the disgusting Harvey Weinstein situation.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Well, me too.
Too many times to count. Many of these encounters I do not feel comfortable talking about but there are a few I will share, because unfortunately my experiences are not uncommon. In fact, I would be more surprised to find a woman who did not experience sexual harassment or assault than one who did. So today I will add my voice to the chorus of others, because for so long this behaviour has been normalized and we need to speak out.
When I was about 8-9, I was walking home from my school bus stop and an older boy in my neighbourhood (probably around 14-15) asked me to come into the forest with him because he wanted to show me something. I knew him fairly well and trusted him, and I was thinking he wanted to show me a fort, or something of a similar cool nature. So I followed him. When we got to a clearing he dropped his pants, exposed himself to me and said some horribly disgusting things that I will not repeat on here but I will never forget. I ran away as fast as I could, and I didn’t tell anyone for 20 years. I felt ashamed and embarrassed, like it was somehow my fault it happened. Like I had brought it on myself. And my mom was friendly with his mom so I didn’t want to “make things awkward” between them. I didn’t want to be questioned about it. I wanted to forget it happened.
When I was in high school my friends and I were all on a band trip in Quebec City and a man was lurking outside of our ground floor hotel room window. He exposed himself to us and began to pleasure himself right there in front of us. We didn’t tell any of the chaperones, because we were ashamed. We actually finally told our band teacher just a couple weeks ago that this happened, and when he asked why we didn’t say anything to him at the time we all looked at each other and said the same thing. Why would we? What would have happened? We thought it was our fault. We felt like we did something to cause it. In reality it happened just because we were a bunch of girls.
The summer I graduated high school there was a big party in a university town at the house of one of our friends who had graduated before us. A bunch of us went, probably a third of our school (we went to a very small school). After the party died down I had gone to sleep and when I woke up a male “friend” of mine was situated halfway down my body, he had my jeans undone and was struggling to pull them down my hips. Alarmed, I asked him what he was doing and he said he thought I “wanted to.” Um, I was sleeping, so how exactly did I give off that vibe? This was someone I trusted. We went to elementary school together. I grew up with him. I got myself out of that situation and I told my friends who were there, who were very supportive, but I didn’t turn it into a big thing because it was awkward. I told myself that maybe it wasn’t that big of a deal. And his friends were friends with my friends and I didn’t want to make people take sides so I just shrugged it off. That was only about 15 years ago but it was a different time, and we didn’t talk about these things.
That same night one of my friends was sleeping on a couch and a strange man we had never met just started making out with her. And that is actually just the first time that same situation happened to that same friend. A couple years later we were at another friend’s university house in a different town and this time a strange man on the street happened to look through the living room window in the middle of the night, saw my friend sleeping on the couch, felt free to let himself inside, and again just started kissing her. What the actual F? If she hadn’t woken up and had such a loud violent reaction that our boyfriends at the time raced to her side and ended up chasing him down the street, I shudder to think what could have happened.
The fall before I met Evan I was in a bar with coworkers and a man reached through my legs from behind and grabbed my crotch so hard that it hurt for two days afterwards. I was wearing jeans. I don’t know why I feel the need to add that fact. I wanted to slap him or something, but it happened so quickly and I felt so shocked and violated that by the time I realized what had happened and turned around to face the person, they had disappeared into the crowded bar.
I cannot count the number of times a man has made an unsolicited comment about my body, specifically my chest. Or touched me without my permission. You get the point. And I’ve been lucky! So many women have stories that are so much worse.
A bunch of my friends and I were talking recently and every. single. one. of us had a similar story to the above. All of us. Back in the summer my friends and I were having a girls night and we were playing a game where someone made a statement, and if that statement was true for another person they had to take a drink. I made the statement: “I have seen a man’s penis when I did not ask to and did not want to.” Everyone drank. Whether it was an unsolicited and sudden surprising d*ck pic, the incident similar to the one in Quebec I mentioned above, or a man coming through the drive thru of a coffee shop with his junk exposed to the teenage girl who was working, we’ve all seen it when we absolutely did not ask to and did not want to. WHY do men think this is okay? Why do they present that like it is some sort of prized fish? Not all men, of course. But #yesallwomen.
I have never been comfortable talking about these experiences and I have largely kept them to myself, especially that first one. I opened up to Evan recently and for comparison purposes I asked him how many unwarranted, unasked for, vaginas he had seen. I’m sure you can guess his response. Zero. Not one.
Maybe #metoo isn’t going to inspire real change, and also know this:
I do agree that it is still easier not to speak. A hashtag probably isn’t going to change much. I’m still seeing comments on these “me toos” that women are only speaking out for attention and for people to ask them what happened (give me a break), or that we’re not talking about men being objectified (that’s not the point of this conversation).
But I do believe that things are slowly changing and we are starting to have the courage to more openly discuss these stories and say this is not okay. And yes it is common from regular women. We’ve been conditioned to believe that it’s our fault, we made this happen, we should have said something, we could have stopped it, we’re crazy for thinking it’s bad, or we’re thinking it’s not “bad enough” to warrant speaking out, or when we do speak out it’s because we want attention. But after seeing my Facebook feed inundated with ‘me toos’ I felt like it is finally becoming accepted that it is the aggressor’s fault, not ours. For me, hearing other people openly talk about their experiences empowered me to talk about mine, even though relatively speaking they’re not that bad, and even though they still make me feel a twinge of embarrassment. Because yes, me too. Of course me too. This movement should be changed to “who hasn’t?”