17. When I was in high school, I dated a guy who wanted me to do something I’d never done and wasn’t comfortable doing. He kept pushing and I kept deterring and showing reluctance, until one night I finally gave in. That same night, I broke up with him claiming that maybe I was a lesbian, then drove to a nearby parking lot and cried for hours.
20. In college, I lived in the same building with someone who would regularly come into my room and make advances towards me. I didn’t feel comfortable saying no, so I just gave in. I thought it was easier than making things awkward.
22. At one company I worked at, I had a coworker who would physically box me in at my desk and regularly touch my arm or shoulder. At a team social event, he cornered me to whisper in my ear: “You’re only with your boyfriend because you’re too afraid to be with me.” After I left the company, he showed up uninvited to one of my house parties and stuck his hand down my pants.
25. There was a time in my life when my friends and I went to Bootie SF almost every weekend. One night when I was dancing with a girl friend, a guy passing by suddenly grabbed my face and tried to kiss me. I pushed at his hands, but I couldn’t loosen his grip or stop him. I stopped going dancing. I only started going to clubs again after beginning Krav Maga.
26. I met a friend of friend on a dating app and after the first drink I knew I wasn’t interested. But every time I tried to leave or said no to his increasing asks, he would belittle my feelings, telling me I “needed to chill”. Despite my reluctance, I thought maybe I was being unreasonable, maybe I should let the date continue: until I stood in my hallway, a good distance from him, demanding he leave and ignoring the half insults he threw at me.
28. At a friend’s birthday drinks, a guy was hitting on me, when he suddenly forcefully grabbed the back of my neck while half-stating, half-commanding that we were “going to hook up later”. Despite having the training to defend myself, I physically froze up and de-escalated with false promises, leaving with friends as soon as he let go.
None of this accounts for the common place experiences: being catcalled, strangers trying to touch you on public transit, having your ass grabbed in random crowded or dark places. The countless forms of sexual harassment that individually don’t seem like a big deal, but are an endless wave you endure for most of your life.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I am a feminist; but I wasn’t always one. It took me time to understand the ideas of slut shaming, victim blaming, rape culture. And despite all that, it’s not enough. Every time something happens, I blame myself. I didn’t say the word “no”. I didn’t say “no” strongly enough. I didn’t know how to defend myself. I knew how to defend myself, but couldn’t bring myself to use it.
I think back on everything I’ve done, all the ways I’ve grown and evolved to be stronger. It makes me wonder if any of these men have changed. Aside from the ones I felt safe enough to confront, has anyone called them out on their actions? Have other women? Have their friends? How many people who know them are aware of their behavior? Too often I hear “I would have never suspected that, he’s such a good guy.” Even worse is when I hear “You know him, that’s just the way he is.”
I know that for some, this is an uncomfortable read; but I will live with these moments forever, and you just need to take one look at Twitter to know so many live with much, much worse. Too often these memories stay hidden and we deal with them alone, while the rest of the world stays oblivious. So, yeah.