In a fine way to start my new work-year, I got about two hours of sleep last night and have been awake since 2:15 a.m., tossing and turning before finally deciding to concede to a heavy reliance on coffee kind of day. So needless to say, it’s not even six, and already I’m grumpy.
A few weeks ago, Abby at the f-word posted a description of a disturbing incident of intimidation that had happened to her on public transit. She included a request for similar stories, with the intention of starting a blog documenting a lot of the ways that women are made aware of threats to their safety and male attempts to control their bodies/movement in public spaces. She’s now launched don’t look don’t touch as exactly that blog. Apparently, she received an “overwhelming” number of responses, including my own–I’m pretty sure this woman, mentioned in the initial post:
Having breasts was the reason why one woman was the victim of a crude and threatening verbal assault when waiting in line in a shop
is me. The only reason I’m not absolutely sure is that I’m not convinced I would be the only woman to have sent her such a story. I like the point of this blog for some obvious reasons, but also because I know that my initial reaction to the incident described above was to minimize, and it seems from the comments already there that this reaction is shared by many, many other women. Our tendency is to say “Oh, it’s not really a big deal, I’ll just hope no one notices. I wouldn’t want to make a scene”. As though we’re the ones making the scene, we’re the ones who are the problem. It also occurs to me that while the convenience store incident is one of the most extreme things that’s happened to me, reading other women’s examples reminds me of at least five other stories I could submit of events that took place in public, surrounded by people, that were disturbing and intimidating and sexualized, and that have seriously stuck with me. This is not including my experiences of rape, and it’s not including standard street cat calls/strangers’ comments on my body.
But if I were to have called anyone’s attention to the fact that I was intimidated at the time, I would have been the one making the scene, because the whole point was to get me to know who was in charge. And I was silenced, mostly because I was afraid that saying something would make it–whatever “it” was, in a given case–worse. And he–any of the “hes” in question–won. Every time.
I know a very intelligent, educated, genuinely nice man, who has told me in all seriousness that he doesn’t understand why women don’t run the world, because they can get men to do whatever they want via that whole keys-to-the-vaginal-kingdom strategy. I don’t know how to have that conversation, because I could start with the “power by proxy not being actual power” thing, or I could go into the problems with the female gatekeeper mythology, or I could have yet another conversation in which I point out that men’s worst dating-related fear is rejection, while women’s worst fear is rape, which kinda makes that “having to ask a girl out sucks” complaint seem a little trite at times. And I could point to exactly these kinds of examples of silencing tactics in order to try to make that point, but the number of them that have happened just to me makes for too long a conversation, and even this very nice guy–seriously one of the smartest people I know–wanders off as it gets too far away from the sound bytes we all understand.
So then when I read–also via the f-word–a random post from some random guy telling me that horny guys are not selective and that, in fact, they’ll fuck pretty much anything with two legs as long as s/he (he assures me that “some” guys will even fuck a guy, horror of horrors that that may be, if they’re horny enough) just asks. Oh, and doesn’t want anything else that might come along with that, like companionship, or conversation, or dinner, or generally being treated like a human being. I’m not linking to the guy, first of all because it would make my blog feel dirty and second, possibly more importantly, because he’s not saying anything that can’t be heard verbatim (check that, probably with more flare and humour) from your resident middle-aged barfly on any given night of the week. But I’m sure he really feels like he’s being a cultural iconoclast, flying in the face of the dominant feminist castration machine when he breaks the news to us that although “Women like to think of themselves as being more important to men than just a way of releasing their sexual passions”, men don’t actually care if we even shower and…well, without going out and saying it, he assures us that we’re not. Important, that is. Or human.
So you see why I’m totally sure that announcing my sexual energy to the world–and of course, to this guy in particular–is absolutely the means to stopping rape culture, yes, yes, yes. And why I’m totally convinced that the kinds of men who are intimidating and harassing women into fear and silence and constant consciousness of the risk to their physical bodies are going to be thrown for a complete loop when the revolution comes in the form of lots and lots of screaming hetero female orgasms.
And why I’m grumpy this morning.
(I didn’t make any resolutions to be less sarcastic this year, did I? Excellent. As long as we’re all agreed.)