The accusations of sexual misconduct in all spheres of public life just keep rolling in and what a powerful shift this has the opportunity to bring about. The more women speak out, and are actually believed, the more other women will feel empowered to tell their stories. It gives a very loud and clear the message to all women regarding what behavior is not to be tolerated, and a warning to any man that believes such actions against another person are in any way acceptable.
Personally, this wave of speaking out has certainly brought additional clarity to the way in which I view the treatment I’ve been on the receiving end of throughout my life. There is no longer this gray area of doubt, an area that in the past would lead me to question exactly where the responsibility lay. And it’s helped me see, for the first time perhaps, how wrong so many of the things that were said and done were. Totally, completely inappropriate and absolutely wrong. Period. No debate required.
I had a talk with my children about this the other night. When someone asks you to stop touching them it is not up for negotiation, no is no and stop is stop and as the person doing the touching you have no vote in the matter. Who touches you – when, where and how – is completely, totally and always your decision and no has any right to argue or disagree or try to convince you otherwise. You have sole discretion over your body. No one else. Just you. And that starts in this house. For example, your sister is sitting on the couch and you come in too close, crowding her causing her hair to be pulled. If she asks you to move away a bit so that she is more comfortable with how close you are, that is her choice alone and we will begin to practice that in this house. And the same right is yours, my boy. If I get in your space and it makes you uncomfortable, you have the right to ask me to move back a bit or to stop touching you. You alone have the right over your body. If we can have that respect here, it will be excellent practice for your moving into the world. If you touch a girl’s arm at school and she doesn’t like it, you must stop, and on into college and the workplace, into romantic relationships. You will be held accountable for how you interact physically with others and it’s time that is learned and honored.
Girls need to be taught and supported, boys also need to be taught and supported. Boys get abused as well as abuse, same with girls. The only way the world will truly begin to change is through the teaching of our children, both our girls and our boys.
And to tell a story that keeps coming to mind for some reason I can’t really say, other than it has to do with a boyfriend relaying a story of his involvement in an abuse of a young woman – and that is exactly what is in the news everywhere you look like right about now. This particular man was eight years older than myself, was successful, lived in a swanky condo in the Gold Coast of Chicago he had renovated. He was one of the first men I had ever met through the classifieds, this just becoming a thing. We met, hit it off, me attracted to his success and he most likely attracted to my looks. Superficial, not the stuff of true or lasting love, but it ran strong for a little while. Until he cheated on me with a woman he met in a cooking class, then deciding to move back to the east coast to be with the previously married now divorced woman he had had an affair with at the last company he was at, while she was married. But that’s not the point of this story. Though it’s an indicator of his moral compass. The story I want to tell is one he told me one evening as we hung out at his place after going out to a show and dinner. Here it is: while in college he had been on a rowing team at an east coast school and after one meet, in another town, or was it even in England… that seems to ring a bell, he and the other teammates had met up with a girl while celebrating the afternoon’s win one night. There was a lot of drinking and flirting and one thing lead to another, the outcome of the night being every young man on the team had sex, one after the other, with the girl. As my boyfriend – (and it makes me sick to refer to him as that as I write, skin crawl, how could I have associated and even cared for this person?) – relayed the story the thing that stood out to me then, and now recounting it, is how he seemed proud of his participating in the act. Flexing his ego. Like to him it proved he was a man, a stud, a dude with sexual prowess to be admired. The other aspect that was disturbing is what he called the act they all participated in that night: gang rape.
Okay, first of all, it speaks to his mindset that this was a story acceptable to tell to someone he was dating, without remorse and in fact the opposite: with a boastful attitude.
And second. How the fuck did I not stand up, spit in his face and run is mindblowing. Well, no, it’s not. I didn’t know how to say no. I didn’t know boundaries. I didn’t know how to say, you did what? Are you insane? What does that make you? I can’t be with you for another second now that I know this about you! I didn’t have a single example around me empathically declaring any and all such acts as wrong… and in fact criminal!
That man did me a favor when he began to lose interest in me, causing him to sneak in a night with another girl. And thank god I saw a note on his desk with her name and number, causing me to ask who Romana was. I have ended up with some less than stellar men in my life, surprise surprise, but this one tops them all.