I know it’s odd for me, but this is a true story.
The fact is that as women we have let things happen to us because we’ve been taught not to make a scene, not to trouble. Yesterday I read a social media post about how often women have been sexually abused and I thought, well, that’s never happened to me. Then I read one account: “a man touched me inappropriately when I was …in a public place.” Another: “A man propositioned me.”
And I thought: crap, as a teenager both of those things happened to me. I was raised extremely conservatively from age 11 on after my Dad died. In my teenage years, I never dressed provocatively or got drunk or high. I barely wore makeup.
The first incident happened when I was in high school. I was on the volleyball team and practicing my wicked serve in my front yard, dressed in shorts, not sexy shorts, sports shorts, when a teenager probably my age selling candybars so he could go on some funded trip asked me if I would change my clothes in front of him for money. Say, what? I said no, I had to leave for a volleyball game. Even now I think, girl, you should have jumped up and down and screamed bloody murder at some boy even suggesting you should strip for money.
The second incident happened when I was on the metro to school in DC. I was wearing my favorite pair of brown cords, nothing spectacular, nothing sexy. They obviously weren’t short and showing anything. They weren’t tight. They were comfortable because I liked to dress comfortably. But I was slim with curves and probably had a butt and I felt a hand on said butt as I was traveling up the metro escalator. I ignored it because what could/should I do? Today I would have yelled bloody murder and knocked the man with an unholy sized messenger bag stuffed with heavy crap. Then, I just hurried up the steps to sit on the train where the man actually had the gall to sit near me and ask me about myself. I was so timid, but even then I knew stories and made one up. I pulled out my Spanish newspaper, held it in front of me until I got off at the next extremely busy stop hoping that would stifle his unhealthy libido.
The third incident happened when I was twenty-one and out jogging. I was on my route back home when a man in a sedan asked me if I knew how he could get to downtown DC. I started to tell him and then I realized that he was stroking his penis as I told him. I just shook my head, stopped talking and jogged home, thinking: effing, disgusting men.
Until the article yesterday, I hadn’t given much thought to these situations, but now, I think what a repulsive combination of events for a young woman to go through and I doubt that mine are the worst. I have never been raped and therefore I thought, well, the other things aren’t so bad. But, really, they aren’t great, are they? If you are a man, what would you think about your daughter experiencing these situations? I think that unfortunately every woman has such a story, but it would be excellent if that were not true.
While I never thought myself to blame for any of these situations, because really I was a tomboy and dressed like a tomboy but even if I weren’t, how could I be to blame for a man who was so obviously taking advantage of a situation? The thing that I realize now is that I was also brought up to be passive and many other women are brought up this way. We try not to make scenes. We try not to be drama queens. But sometimes a situation necessitates it and we don’t allow ourselves to act out. We were raised with: what would the neighbors think? But this moved beyond to: what would the woman in the third row who I’ve never seen before and will never see again think? These days I would say: who cares? Not then.
Why did a boy think it was fine to ask me to strip for money or another man to touch my butt or another to masturbate in front of me? That’s not even to mention the man who commented on my wearing a Las Vegas t-shirt while jogging and said that Las Vegas was putting on a pretty good show. wink wink. Forget construction workers, in retrospect those dudes don’t even rank in the hall of whatever.
I know that my situations are by no means the worst out there. I’ve mostly lived a quiet life and that’s why I figured that nothing untoward had happened to me until I really started to think and consider. And, hell, I swept these things under a mental rug in order not to think about them. But did that happen because a society also thought those things weren’t so bad?
I’ve no answers. Just a lot more questions.
Color me: aware.
end 10/9/2016 (5)