Content note: sexual assault and sexual violence
Today, Jessica Valenti wrote:
A cruel irony of sexual assault and harassment is that the traumas which frequently determine the trajectory of women’s lives are just as often unremarkable to the men who have inflicted them.
This is why, I suspect, these men become so shocked and enraged when they’re asked to answer for their actions: When they say “nothing happened,” it’s not just a denial — it’s that they truly believe the incident was not a big deal.
You can read the rest of the article here.
Women understand this all too well.
“Men are shit,” she declared while gazing out of the kitchen window as she filled her water bottle at the sink. I gathered the recycling in my arms to take to the outside bin. At almost 17, she’s already witnessed and experienced too much sexism and misogyny. I wanted to reassure her. Tell her it gets better. That boys grow up as they become men and stop treating women like objects, or lesser. That men respect women as equals.
But they don’t. Not always.
A few months ago, I opened a message as I switched on the car engine.
“Don’t message and drive or I’ll have to come down there and kiss you.”
My stomach turned. Sour bile rose in the back of my throat. I put the phone down and swallowed, anger burning in my cheeks. I’d just sent a friend a car emoji in response to his hello, a signal I was about to drive and unable to talk, and this was his reply.
“Inappropriate.” I replied when I arrived at work, my fingers banging the phone so hard I thought I might crack the screen. “I’ve explained to you before why those sorts of comments are a) generally unacceptable to women everywhere, and b) particularly unacceptable to me. Please don’t speak to me that way. I don’t like it and it’s not ok.”
Later, I received a text rant reply about how his behaviour was all my fault.
I am tired of explaining why “jokes” about sexual assault are not funny.
Imagine if he’d said “don’t message and drive or I’ll have to come down there and punch you.”
Threatening to kiss someone against their will is no less violent or terrifying than the threat to physically harm them.
I had already explained my personal feelings of dislike of that type of ‘banter’.
I had already explained my boundaries. Which should have been enough.
I had already explained my history of assault. Which I had hoped might evoke the seriousness of why that type of behaviour was problematic when my initial boundaries were not respected the first time.
But he still didn’t care. What he wanted was more important than how I felt about anything. And I’m sure, if you were to ask him, the whole thing was “nothing, not a big deal.”
I had previously explained it all twice and refused to do it again, so I used the block function to eliminate him from my friendship circle. He wasn’t interested in respecting my boundaries and I wasn’t interested in a friendship with someone who had so little respect for me.
Women everywhere are tired of men whose mouths say they respect us but show us by their behaviour that they really don’t
I am too tired to keep explaining things, so here is a memoir about how men and women are socialised into perpetrating and accepting violence.
Boys Will Be Boys