It’s 2017. Despite being a woman, I call myself a girl. I call men, boys. Other than that, I’m mostly up to date on ever evolving terminology. I hope if I inadvertently offended someone, they would tell me rather than someone who is offended on their behalf.
I’m not naming and shaming anyone here, but I do feel the need to speak up.
I was born on the brink of the 70s. I witnessed all kinds of behaviour that I can look back on and know wasn’t right. Or certainly isn’t now. It was somehow acceptable then but thankfully it no longer is.
On many occasions I saw our family doctor pull my Mum on to his knee and have her sit there a while. I never saw my Mum kick him in the nuts or tell him to stop. That doesn’t mean she liked it or wanted it but he was our doctor and she most likely didn’t know how to say it. Just as I didn’t know how to question one subsequent doctor who whilst examining my abdomen was pressing himself against me. Men in authority have power but I wouldn’t hesitate to retaliate now.
I went to a private all girls school and I don’t recall one single time that we were taught as young females to respect our bodies, to expect respect in the way boys behaved towards us or spoke to us. I doubt my Mum was ever told that by anyone which is perhaps why she didn’t impart that wisdom, either.
What’s interesting to me is I can recall more times that male friends, guys I fooled around with and boyfriends tried it on or pushed their luck and to some extent, were forceful. I even remember feeling overpowered and a little scared how it would end.
Two male friends once pinned me down and started – what seemed in jest – to take my clothes off. I wriggled and struggled to free myself but there were two of them and anyway, they were stronger than me. They were laughing. It was a game to them and though they were my friends and I somewhat trusted them, I couldn’t be sure they would stop. They did and things went back to normal and though I haven’t forgotten the incident, we remained close friends and hadn’t really thought of it again until recently.
It wasn’t the only time that a “stop” or “no” was ignored. I was constantly falling in and out of love as a teenager but was pretty inexperienced compared to the average and I let myself get into situations that were potentially stupid and dangerous.
I was seeing a gorgeous boy who was a year or two older than me. We were alone in a bedroom and things were getting heated. I wasn’t ready to go as far as things were going but he wouldn’t stop. The only reason he did was I lied and told him I could hear a car pulling in to the drive (not a euphemism).
Both were close calls and I was young and naive. I put both incidents down to immaturity both in action and reaction. What I didn’t expect was a few years later when I was in a healthy, stable, long term relationship, my drunk boyfriend ignored my plea to stop and carried right on. I was distraught. The morning after he said he couldn’t remember. I was angry and I didn’t know what to do so I did nothing.
I worked in a school for a while with many female members of staff. There were only 3 males – one was the top class teacher, the other two were the deputy and headmaster respectively. I witnessed inappropriate conduct from one of them towards a male student and reported him. I was amazed that many of the female staff no longer spoke to me for the discord it caused but I stand by that decision more than any other I have ever made.
I now work in a male dominant industry but I have seen both men and women use their positions of power. I’ve also seen a lot of horny, good looking people get off with each other when maybe it wasn’t professional to do so but hormones won over politics.
I work with men who are respectful and hopefully I always have been – to their faces at least.
I’m guilty of locker room chat with my friends & it can be downright indecent but I wouldn’t act on it.
A man I was briefly working with invited me to his hotel room to go over a few things. I was staying in the same hotel and not for one second did I question going to his room. He answered the door in a bath towel and had obviously just had a shower. I was about to leave but he invited me in. He reclined on the bed opposite me and let his towel fall open with less finesse than Sharon Stone’s manoeuvre. I just kept talking while ignoring the elephant (& its trunk) in the room.
I left and it was never mentioned again.
Back in the 90s, a girl I worked with pinched the post boy’s bottom as he wheeled the trolley by her desk. He was a handsome looking chap and I’m sure he was used to the attention. This was unwanted attention so she crossed a line and he reported her. Bravo, that man!
I’ll admit what I have learned recently with all the cases coming to light. If a hot guy touches me or says something sexual, I will see that as flattery. If an unattractive (to me) guy did the same, I’d see it as harassment. It makes me a hypocrite but the whole point of attraction is that the outcome must be consensual.
We are hearing the phrase “different times” a lot at the moment. It was and it is. Speaking up may change future behaviour but it won’t change the past.
I think the issue for me now is to speak up at the time. I’m a very assertive person but that doesn’t exempt me from feeling uncomfortable and anxious about confrontation. I’ve hardly ever told a man not to touch me or stare at my boobs and have simply accepted it as part of being a woman. The world we live in today has given me license to be heard.
That said, without wishing to make light of the subject, I’m single and would quite like some attention but it’s not likely given many men may fear being hit with an accusation…