This is a hard blog for me to write yet silence is not option anymore, it implies consent apparently and it is important to add my voice to the discourse going on.
This past weekend I too was horrified by the words used by a certain candidate, not because I have an issue w the word pussy or the idea of men talking about women they would like to have sex with (sorry gents but women talk in detail at times about the things they like and don't in this area). I was horrified at the way it was bandied about that he took, he groped, he grabbed, he was on someone like a dog in heat (bitch). All that imagery is about taking, invasive, not sex it is about power as it usually is and demeaning the recipient because their most intimate thing to give is not up to them to do so.
I have also watched a few Netflix documentaries that dealt with women in peril Women who like sex and get vilified for it, women who are survivors of sexual assault who are vilified for it, women who partake in this vilification and how men, too many not all, just don't get it. Do not get that this is not their for the taking, that we are not property (and hell if you think seeing a watch at Tiffany's is wrong to grab and go because it is stealing how do you not see it as the same to grab something on my body?).
I was a volunteer crisis counselor for 10 years in NYC for rape and domestic violence survivors. Here are things I learned during that time and seem to not have changed much since;
1) NO - means no but it is not heard as such it is heard as no..no.. maybe, the silence and fear in the eyes taken as consent but NO MEANS NO
2) Passed out or incapacitated does not equal consent
3) False sexual assault reporting is on par w false reports of robbery about 2-8% according to FBI statistics -- however, the number of women who do not report sexual assault is significantly higher than 2-8%. They seek medical help but they do not want to report it
4) Most of us have been subjected to some level of this behavior in our lifetimes, us means women I know of various ethnicity, races, religions, sexual orientation
5) It is insulting and a cop out for those who commit the attacks to use the "boys will be boys" excuse - boys and men will be boys and men with good behavior. Abusers will be abusers not due to their gender but due to their lack of compassion, empathy.
I think back upon my own life and think of the times I have excused this behavior, or laughed it off and pushed back and while I was never raped I have been in public spaces where men have touched me on my ass, my breasts and it was horrible. I have had men feel that buying me dinner meant getting something out of it and being downright nasty when this was not the case. A family friend asked me if I wanted him to teach me how to kiss when I was 12, he was in his late 30s, I feigned stomach ailments and locked myself in the bathroom avoiding him until my parents came home. I did not tell people always about this or if I did it was in a joking I am over it way, because it was shameful - what had I done to encourage this? I now know I did nothing but exist and that seemed to be enough.
I watched Donald hover behind Hillary in the last debate, or walk toward her as she sat down and I cringed because this is what happens too frequently to women. We now take it as a given too often and yet as a mother of boys I have to raise them to understand this is not so. Our personal space is not ours but there for the taking from hovering to worse.
Our male friends and partners have all seen us look away uncomfortably at parties, laugh at jokes but our eyes were not laughing but instead looking around for an escape. They have seen us get headaches, leave jobs, blame ourselves, suddenly no longer love that short skirt we so liked a few minutes before because it is not a fashion statement but a vulnerable spot. They have helped us deal with this. So boys will be boys and boys who are truly great humans understand all of this. Do not let the others taint you with their words men.
The movies I watched were the Amanda Knox story and Audrey & Daisy.
I was not convinced about Amanda Knox before seeing it, she was odd, she reacted oddly, I judged her on that. Watching the documentary though what struck me, more than the sheer incompetence of the police on the case, was that in order to make a case against her they had to make her a sexual woman, a woman who may have engaged in sex with more than one partner (not at the same time or maybe at the same time, consensual of course) so deviant, a woman whose sexual freedom was equated with lack of knowing wrong from right in terms of murder. To do this they also had to make the victim saintly, the exact opposite. The whole virgin Madonna syndrome at play. How does this happen in the 21st century? How is it that women should not like sex, should not have multiple partners, should not experiment because the message is if they do then whatever happens to them and other women is justified?! It actually goes hand in hand with "locker room" talk, the way they talked though I assume the locker room is behind bars in a sexual violent criminal section. The idea that women need you to take it, to grab, to grope and that they are not really saying no but falling in line with the notion of virtue is defined by sexual conduct.
The other documentary is "Audrey & Daisy" and it is going to be a must see now for my own sons. The stories about the assaults are truly chilling, the backlash against these girls even more so. There is a sense that girls and women put themselves in vulnerable positions and that boys well they just can't help themselves. But they can - if they can help themselves to wait for someone to be unconscious before they assault them - if they can help themselves to make a video of the assault - if they can stop and remember every detail of how drunk/incoherent she was but not if she was willing - if they are human beings who see women as human beings not tits, pussy, ass and conquest - well then I have full faith then they are just smart enough to know what they are doing is wrong. Social media can be the advocate for these survivors of the assaults but they are much too often the mob with pitchforks looking to pin the scarlet letter on the woman. I cried and then was humbled by the young women in this film, I was disgusted by the sheriff and frankly I was scared by the people of their age who would not stand up for them or worse tore them down. They survived - how do we not recognize that - when the boys in these cases did not even deny their actions.
I know why women do it - I remember years ago when the Central Park jogger was brutally raped. I, along with the city and the world, was horrified at the viciousness of the attack. Yet my first thought was "why did she go running through the park in the dark ?". Because I would never do that .. ergo this would never happen to me. That is why it happens - if we banish the victims with they were at fault, they put themselves in that situation, the what did you expects we are safe because we would not do those things and we are safe. Yet we are not - this happens in our homes, this happens with people we trust as friends and we cannot banish the monsters by just not looking under the bed.
It is not just words, it is locker room talk a place where it is still ok to have a range from "she's hot I would fuck her" to" I would grab and climb and take that". It is permissions given to one another in those settings to not be accountable but to dominate. It is about power and taking.
Words hurt for as long if not longer than physical scars - they are embedded in our psyche and impact so much of our actions. Too many religions have also decided that woman is not an equal that we cannot be trusted to make decisions about our bodies, how we cover or not, our sexuality. Women' s sexuality - it scares the weak minded among men so they use it against us to take away our power to make decisions about it through laws, doctrine, physical assault.
I love a good flirt as much as anyone and I admire a good looking man as often as I can. This is not about flirting or about who we have consensual relations with. This is about power. I cannot say it enough - power that is exerted over someone.
It's not only words it is scars.
If you still cannot tell the difference here is how I try and teach it to my boys;
You my son are at a party - you drink too much, you should not because it can lead to really bad choices or harm you from alcohol poisoning, but you do it anyway cause hey what does mom know and after all EVERYONE is doing it. You drink too much and you pass out and a group of your friends/acquaintances/strangers come in and take your cell phone, they take your watch, they undress you and take pictures and post them on line and they make fun of you and you are not quite sure what else they did. You drank too much, you had flirted, you may have even lent them your watch in the past. Feels wrong doesn't it? It should - they are awful - they took from you -- you did not matter just taking did. They are awful people. Why would sexual assault be any different - it is much easier after all to replace the watch but the trauma that would cause would be long lasting - imagine if they stole parts of your body, your self?