Like most women I know, I’ve experienced countless inappropriate situations with men. I’ve been groped, ogled, teased, ridiculed, and joked about. I’ve been uncomfortable, embarrassed, judged and scared. But nothing has been as disturbing as the times when my “friend” would take advantage of me.
Many many years ago, I was partying a lot with a big group of friends that included this guy. We’d been close-ish for a couple of years… but I won’t go into further details about him here, as I don’t think this is the appropriate forum to call him out. The parties were typically at someone’s house and we’d usually all stay up late drinking and then pass out wherever we could find a soft place to land. Several times when this guy and I were at the same party, I’d go to bed and wake up at some point in the middle of the night to find him on top of me. Kissing, groping both under and over my clothes, asking for more… I’d have no real idea of how long he’d been there doing things to me. I would tell him to stop. He would eventually accept my refusal and stop his advances… at least as far as I know. I guess unconsciousness was his thing. And then we’d go to bed and wake up the next day and basically pretend nothing happened.
At least one or two other people witnessed this happening to me. And I know at least one other person who had a similar experience this guy. But still, no real conversation ever happened to let him know that this was wrong. In the years that have passed, my friends and I have talked about it and wondered why he was just… allowed… to do that. What I’ve realized is that at the time, my instincts were absolutely telling me that what he was doing was wrong. But I ignored them, because he was my “friend”. And to make a big deal out of the situation might make me known as dramatic, or slutty, or worst of all… responsible. Because that was the underlying thing, I felt more concerned about my role in the situation than his. Like I should have done something different. I shouldn’t have drank as much as I did or I shouldn’t have put myself in close enough proximity to him to allow that to happen.
I know better now. I know that I didn’t ask for that to happen TO me. And no matter how much I did or did not drink, it was certainly not an invitation for him to behave the way he did. One thing that I tell Crosby (and will eventually tell Willa when she’s older) all the time is “your body, your choice”. Because I don’t want him to ever feel like he needs to do anything with or have anything done to his body without his consent. AND I want him to understand that he has a responsibility to respect this right in others as well. Nothing is owed to him because he’s a male. In fact, nothing is owed to anyone, ever. Consent needs to be given, not taken. And that’s the biggest thing I think about when I replay those situations in my mind, there was absolutely no consent on my part.
Honestly, it’s taken me a while to build up the courage to write this. I have thought about it for a while but wondered if my words would even matter, if they’d even be a drop in the bucket, especially given the gravity of some of the far-worse stories that women have shared. But that’s the point of the #metoo movement, to take the power away from the people who have wronged us by speaking up, to tell our sisters that their stories matter, and to show them that they’re not alone. There is power in numbers, and the magnitude of people who have come forward with their stories has proved that this number is a force to be reckoned with.