Content warning: this post contains discussions of sexual assault.
I hadn’t thought I had anything to contribute to the #metoo conversation. Until I thought a little harder about it.
- Age 17 my first boyfriend and I had an argument because I wasn’t enjoying a party we were at, in a charming fruit packing shed in the dead of winter, and decided to leave. He wanted me to stay. He grabbed me and kissed me roughly whilst groping my breast. It was my first kiss.
- Age 17 after leaving a pub with a friend and two men we had met (aged around 30), we ended up sitting in a well-lit park. I was quite naïve, and riding the high of getting into a pub where they didn’t check ID. When my friend started kissing the guy she was with, I did the same. After a minute the man pushed me onto my back and lay on top of me, pinning me to the ground. Startled, and realising the sudden danger I was in I said, loudly “no!”. Luckily, he got off me.
- Age 18 I was walking through a crowded bar in the city and a faceless stranger groped me from behind so invasively he may as well have inserted his hand into me. I was stunned and just kept walking, I didn’t even tell my friends.
- Age 21 another, less invasive grope in a gay nightclub. Again, by an unseen person after a dance performance I had just participated in.
- Age 25 a (different – but worse) boyfriend was high on ecstasy late one night. He nagged, whined and harassed me to have sex with him for approximately an hour and a half. He was relentless. I conceded out of exhaustion and frustration, to get him to leave me alone.
These experiences might be called misread cues, near misses or misunderstandings. They may have been deliberate mis-d, who knows. Of course, sexual assault exists on a spectrum and so many other women live through far, far worse.
These kind of experiences, for women, are so insidious it is widely accepted that this is just how things are. I absorbed them, barely recognising the gut feeling which told me ‘that was wrong’, let alone giving it a voice.
That these kind of public intrusions onto women’s bodies occurs more to young women, points to the fact men feel emboldened that they will be less likely to stand up to them or call them out.
As a younger person, I didn’t know I could set my own boundaries and decide for myself what I was comfortable with. Nobody taught me that I did not owe men my body, time or attention. I wish I had have known that.
But I know that now. And I stand in solidarity with women everywhere declaring #metoo and #timesup.