Aside

TW: sexual assault.

I’m glad the issue of inappropriate touching is in the spotlight right now. I have shoved, yelled at, stared down and spoken back to strangers who have touched me without my permission and  accepted the fact that I might be seen as a difficult or aggressive woman. On one occasion I really thought I was going to get punched in the face until a guy’s friends dragged him away as I stood with my chin held high. But even I have experienced creepy, wrong and horrible things in my teens, 20s and 30s that I haven’t called people out on for fear of rocking the boat. I think as women we are so programmed to keep everything ticking along nicely, causing no uncomfortable feelings. We’re usually concerned about hurting others – how will his girlfriend feel, is him losing his job really worth it, I don’t want him to be humiliated. Sometimes the consequences for the woman of being doubted or shunned by her community mean that these people know they can get away with it. It’s an ongoing issue and that means the conversation needs to keep happening – women need to keep seeing these dialogues to know they’re not alone and to trust their instincts – if it feels wrong, it’s wrong. The less shame and fear we feel in being honest about what socially powerful men have done to us, the better.

Sometimes the creepy thing that happens is completely out of a guy’s character and is just an aberrant, horrible thing that he did, which is not a reflection of who he is and will never happen again. In which case, do we simply resolve it in our own minds, decide to forgive and move on? Or is there a part of us that will never fully heal from it unless we talk to the person, ask what on god’s earth they were thinking and have them understand how much they have betrayed us. There is the question of ‘what makes something bad?’ I have come to think that anything that leaves you feeling like you have been used for a sexual purpose that you did not consent to, and which plays on your mind for days afterwards, is bad. Who touched what and where and how is secondary to believing the woman who knows that something bad has happened to her.
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