Me Too, Duh

Me Too, Duh

I spent most of my teens and twenties trying to keep dudes’ hands off my ass. That’s not to say that I was so hot men found me irresistible— actually the opposite. My self-esteem was so low and my desire to be loved so high, I was a magnet for freaks and predators. So yeah, me too.

When I was in my late teens, I frequented this club in Manhattan called The Limelight. It was in an old church, of all places. My girlfriend’s older sister was a bartender there so even though we were underage, we’d walk right in, past the long line of beautiful people and the velvet rope and the bouncers. It felt great. The manager, at least I think that’s what he was, he was this silver-haired dude who was probably in his late 40s. I just remember thinking he was super-old. One night, he pulled me aside and asked if we could go somewhere private to talk. I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen, but as soon as we were alone he cornered me and unzipped his pants.

Somehow I managed to get away from him and back to my friend. I’m sure there were others who weren’t so lucky. Of course, I blamed myself for the incident: I shouldn’t have gone with him. I shouldn’t have been wearing such a short dress. I told one person what happened. Her response was, “yeah, that guy’s an asshole,” which didn’t surprise me. Back then, we didn’t call these men* sexual predators, we called them pervs. We didn’t talk about what happened with our girlfriends, at least not the way we do now, much less report it to anyone in a position of authority. It was just something to be tolerated. When I lived in New York City in my twenties, whistles and catcalls happened so often to my girlfriends and me, they became background noise. So I have to admit, when I first saw all the “me too” posts on Twitter and Facebook, my first thought was “duh” haven’t we all been assaulted at least once? I was kind of annoyed, like, why bother bringing up something so ugly? No one wants to hear about it. Then I realized, that’s part of the problem. For whatever reason— shame, guilt, embarrassment, anger, fear, time — many of us are silent. That’s not to say that everyone should feel compelled to tell their story, but the more who do, the more the stigma is broken.

I know women who are with men who have been physically and verbally abusive to other women. They think it’s OK because “he’d never do that to me”— and maybe he won’t, but shouldn’t the fact that he’d do it at all, to anyone, be enough? And by being with these men (or women), aren’t we further blurring the lines of what’s acceptable behavior?

To be clear, sexual assault and harassment are two very different things, but both have the ability to traumatize and both are unacceptable. Since I’ve experienced both, I wanted to talk about both here. I’m hoping that the conversation we’ve started with “me too” isn’t just a passing thing. Because we’re not just fighting one guy out here, but an entire culture that made it possible for a man who says “grab them by the pussy” to be elected president. This is a culture that can only be challenged by collective outrage, not individual shame.

And if we’re having an honest conversation, we need to acknowledge the fact that while it should be crystal clear what constitutes sexual assault, harassment isn’t often as clear—to the perpetrator. So I started thinking about the best way to explain sexual harassment to people who seem to be confused. I came across these short films. I hope these help to make the lines a little less blurry. Confused people: please watch. And learn.

 

*I’m using “men” here, but you could easily substitute “women.”

 

 

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