Sexual harassment? Lol, please be seated.
When I was probably 7 or 8, there were still physical indie video stores and the one in my town had an adult section that I walked into one day. This adult man wearing a Stetson (so he looked like my dad) was in there too and I remember him saying “you shouldn’t be in here little lady” but when I didn’t leave, he decided to show me his favorite porn pics on the backs of the video boxes. When someone finally discovered me in there, I got in trouble for being bad.
In 8th grade a kid I had known since we were much littler kids asked me if I would put my menstrual remains in a jar and bring them to school so he could masturbate to them. That was probably the first time I thought “this is a really fucked up conversation i’m having with a male” but it was attention and we were young, so I never brought the jar but I did pretend I thought it was funny and even sexy. I was 12.
I had an affair with a married man ten years my senior in my first full-time job out of college. I was 21 years old and making 25k/year and he was way cooler than me. I did everything he wanted me to do. He promised to leave his wife and I totally believed him. He never did.
Most of my bosses have come onto me. Not all, but most. As in, more than 50% of the male bosses I’ve had over my entire career have come onto me. Most of the time whatever they said to me was framed as a joke, and I got super good at laughing and hurling back some sort of insult to let them down but in a way that made sure they knew I was in on the joke and still cool and not a problematic woman.
I used to wear this stupid pink t-shirt with an illustration of a cat with text under it that said “pussycat” and I might as well have been wearing a shirt that said “comment on my actual pussy” because that’s what strange men at bars always wanted to talk about. A guy once followed me out of a bar and put his hands on me and I was drunk and trying to get a cab (pre-uber) and I just let him because I needed to go home and didn’t know what else to do.
I once considered suing a really toxic boss for sexual harassment but decided against it after coming to the conclusion that he might be able to ruin my career. I consulted several lawyers who told me I could get rich off him, but I was too afraid about my personal reputation being sullied to go through with it.
I once briefly thought about killing myself after a man cheated on me because I felt so unlovable. Men throw themselves at me regularly, so why would a man shut me down unless I was worthless? The moment passed, but it happened. I vomited into a toilet, that’s how bad it was. I hadn’t eaten in days. It was just tears and saliva.
I’m currently in therapy (a truly wonderful thing) and the more I recount certain things out loud, the more I realize that shit is messed. The good news is that I know life is also beautiful and none of these things will break me. I just hope other women also understand shit is messed and don’t feel alone. And if you want a friend, I got you. Please reach out.
None of these stories are going to be very surprising to my female peers, but if your jaw drops at all, welcome to reality. I hope it helps us all get on the same level, or even just slightly closer to it.