Some of the people I have spoken with over the past few days have been very dismissive of the apparent avalanche of sexual assault/harassment stories that have come to the forefront in recent months, but I think it finally occurred to me why that is.
Women- you’re dismissive because if you think back far enough, you’ll probably realize there have been times in your life where you were on the receiving end of an unwanted assault. You might not have known it at the time, but something didn’t feel ok about whatever you were experiencing- a hug that lasted a little too long; an inappropriate joke from your creepy uncle or family friend; being felt up by a cute guy at a party that made you feel gross when society said it was supposed to be a compliment. Maybe even sexual partners who did not rape you but applied so much pressure in the moment that you felt guilty if you didn’t say yes. We’ve all heard the lies men tell when they want to get between your thighs – If I don’t cum I’ll get sick/blue balls; Why are you being a tease?; We don’t have to do anything, just lay here naked with me. And we do because we’ve been conditioned to think that if we end up in these scenarios then it’s our fault for whatever might happen. We asked for it. Men can not control themselves. Boys will be boys. You look back on your own experiences, and now you might be feeling the dread of knowing that even if you had spoken up or out that it would have been *your* reputation that was ruined. Your family that would have turned on you. You start to remember all the times when something didn’t feel right or when something was done to you and for the first time you might feel like a victim. You might feel guilty for not reporting it. Guilty for giving permissions to men for their bad behavior for your entire life and not saying or doing anything about it. You might have some compassion for the women who are speaking out now, or you might feel resentment because you know you’ll never publicly name or shame the person who took little pieces of yourself from you that you’ll never get back. So you dismiss the accusers because you think they need to either get over themselves, get over the trauma, or you’re jealous that their voices will be heard on a level yours never will.
Men- some of you are dismissing these claims because if you think back you might have actually been “that guy” to someone in your past. Maybe you got too handsy at a party? Maybe you remember a time at the movies when you slipped your date’s hand down your pants and held it there while she tried pulling it back without making noise in the theater to draw attention to the issue. Or maybe you remember when you and a group of your guys took turns having sex with a girl at a party while she and everyone else was drunk and watching because that’s just what raucous young men do. It wasn’t rape if you were having sex with someone and you and your friend switched out from behind and the girl didn’t consent to a different partner. It wasn’t an assault when you grabbed the girls breasts or slapped her ass when walking past you and your group of friends while waiting for the bell to ring for next period. It was just a joke when you locked yourself in a room with a girl and pressured her into a sex act while she performed it with tears running down her face at a party. And it was hilarious when at school the next day you told everyone she was a slut and her reputation was ruined for high school and sullied for college. None of these behaviors from your past count as assaults to you because it was just fun and games. Kids being kids. Boys being boys. You hadn’t even thought about it in 10, 20, 30 years and it certainly doesn’t make you a monster. It doesn’t make you *like the men you hear about and see on TV.*
Parents – while going through all of the above feelings about your own pasts and the actions endured and performed, you realize you’re perpetuating the cycle with your own kids. You teach girls how not to get raped, but don’t teach your sons not to rape in the first place. You tell a girl that she was asking for *it* based on how she was dressed, and you dismiss the sexually deviant acts of young boys and men as “boys being boys.” It’s normal. It’s how it always has been. That’s why raising boys is deemed “easier” than girls. That’s why girls get the lectures and the curfews and the daddies threatening their dates with shot guns. Dads know how these boys are being brought up, so while they’re thinking of all the things that the date could do to his daughter that would drive him to murder, the conversations he’s having with his son before a date don’t have anything to do with respecting a girl’s space or her body. He’s beaming with pride at the idea of his son scoring and slipping him a condom so he doesn’t get the little “slut” knocked up. Y’all are upset because you’ve realized that you’re raising the next generation of predators under your own roof, but you are also too afraid to take a different stance because of how sexual deviancy has been normalized. You’ve probably also realized that some of the behaviors from friends and family are inappropriate towards your kids, and now you feel guilty for bringing them around but you know they “didn’t meant anything” and “that’s just how they are.” Uncle Jimmy has always been a little handsy. Your friend from work was checking out your daughter, but she shouldn’t be wearing those shorts around the house anyway. You make your daughter dress in layers when she leaves the house to make her as invisible as possible to members of the opposite sex because you “know how men are.”
None of this is normal. None of this is ok. Not all victims will tell our stories out of shame or fear or embarrassment. Men won’t own up to their behaviors because they don’t view themselves the same as the men being dragged through the media. If the assault wasn’t violent then there wasn’t ever really an assault, right? If it was as bad as the girl says, she would have spoken out earlier. Can’t she take a joke? You know how boys can be with their hormones. She was dressed like a whore in the first place, what did she think was going to happen?
That’s why y’all are so upset. And that’s why this cycle won’t end.