On keeping your hands to your damn self

So it happens that my first experience with someone actually touching me without my consent coincided with Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing. How serendipitous.

Disclaimer: so many women experience far worse than having their ass groped on the bus. While it wasn’t pleasant, and it made me want to take a shower, I was lucky. He never touched my bare skin. When I called him out on it, he stopped. And he didn’t follow me after I got off the bus. Honestly, I’m grateful my experience with harassment and assault has been so mild, because I know people personally who have experienced so much worse – and statistically even more people I know have experienced assault and just haven’t talked about it.

There’s a part of me that just wants to scream “Why the hell are we still having this conversation?? It’s 2018!!”

Answer: we’re still having this conversation because there are still men who grow up believing they have a right to a woman’s body – and that a rejection of that right is cause for violence.

Yeah yeah, I know, #notallmen. But enough. Enough men that I have had several separate experiences with harassment and general inappropriate behavior, and I don’t get out much. Not to mention I’m privileged. I’m a middle-class white girl. Women of color, queer women, and trans women experience harassment and assault even more often. (As do men – and I’ll be the first to remind someone that men can be assaulted as well – but that’s another blog post.)

#notallmen, but enough that I won’t use Tinder to find a date, or walk after dark on my own. If you think I’m overreacting, then you’ve never had a stranger leer at you from the shadows, or received an unsolicited dick pic.

I’ve been lucky, and here’s just some of what I’ve experienced:

-A man rubbed and grabbed my ass for several minutes, using the crowded bus as justification. Yes, several minutes. I gave him the benefit of the doubt – it was a crowded bus. And when it became apparent that it was no accident, I told him to move his hand or lose it.

-A man in a Hannaford Supermarket followed me around the store saying I was the most beautiful thing in there and I should just smile. He paid, and then went to the line I was in and tried to give me candy to get me to smile (obviously I didn’t take his creepy candy.) I didn’t say anything, because I then had to walk out to my car by myself, laden with groceries, and didn’t want him pissed off and in the same parking lot.

-I’ve had “bitch” screamed at me from a car full of men I didn’t know.

-I’ve had a man on the street comment on my “child-bearing hips.” Which is a pretty fucking weird cat call but whatever.

-Honestly I couldn’t count the number of smiles, pickup lines (and anger when I don’t respond) I’ve received just walking down the street.

There’ll be people who say that is all just a compliment, and also why I am bragging about being so fucking desirable? Lol. I’m perfectly average – and honestly I think a man perverted enough to grope someone on a bus doesn’t have very high standards. I don’t take it as a compliment. I take it as a fucking violation.

The responses to Dr. Blasey Ford (Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser, for anyone who hasn’t bothered to learn her name) are proof of how little progress we’ve made recently.

Boys will be boys.

He was a teenager, all teenage boys do stuff like that.

He was drinking, so he’s not responsible for his actions.

She was drinking, so she’s responsible for his actions.

It was so long ago, what does it matter now?

I’ve got to say, all of these make me want to vomit. What does it matter now? It matters because precedent matters. If a supreme court justice can assault a girl and get away with it, why not other teenage boys? If the president of the United States can grab someone by the pussy with impunity, why not other men in positions of power?

I don’t really know how to wrap this up, because the discussion is so far from over. I will almost surely be harassed, if not assaulted, again. So many other women will be attacked and violated. And I don’t know at what point it will be enough to change the discussion. In the meantime, I won’t be ashamed, and I certainly won’t be quiet. And I’ll stand with Dr. Blasey Ford, and all the other brave women who have shared their stories on a public stage.


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