My Colleague Spanked Me at a Business Retreat

Are we desensitized to public displays of sexual violence?

Nadège
Nadège
Aug 12 · 4 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.

I was nineteen and had just achieved the position of Director thanks to my sales record. This allowed me entry into a prestigious retreat with adults twice my age.

It was three in the afternoon. Everyone was mingling in suits as the wine was being poured. Since I was too young to drink but old enough to work, I felt the full weight of imposter syndrome as I sipped my coke.

I remember being deep in conversation with Ellen as a group of men from the downtown office took a seat at a table next to us. I was standing beside their table. Since I vaguely knew them, I provided a cordial nod before returning to my conversation.

With no warning, Michael, a man pushing forty, slapped my ass.

I froze. Then I felt the anger boil. I turned to him and asked why he did that. I saw that his eyes were clear, he was sober.

“Dunno, I felt like it,” he shrugged, then offered a lazy grin as he turned back to his conversation. Ellen, meanwhile, scooted along to talk to someone else.

I remember standing alone and experiencing the hot feeling of being on display. Two thoughts permeated in my brain: did anyone see? and does no one care?

Regaining composure, I walked away. To this day, I can barely remember anything that transpired after that.

When fourth-wave feminism started trending in 2012, each personal essay from a survivor was a form of recognition. I felt seen. I felt empowered. I felt like I had someone in my corner.

Being assaulted in public while others turn a blind eye is an additional trauma. It wraps around the violation just done to your body and suffocates your emotional intelligence. Being assaulted in public can make us believe that the assault wasn’t a big deal, because if it was an outrage then observers should’ve been outraged.

But anger, when doused in femininity, is conditioned to be quiet. It is boiling water in a broken kettle. We don’t know that we have the right to scream.

Today, I wonder what we must do next in this slow, grueling fight against harassment. You see, to fight against sexual violence is to fight against what is normal. It is normal for women, and all other genders, to be seen as subordinate to men and suffer diverse consequences. It is normal for the legal system not to work in our favor.

I even see it becoming normal to read personal essays like this one and interpret them as run-of-the-mill rather than necessary or urgent.

Our activism, big and small, gets lost in what is morphing into a new normal: injustice happens, people shout, and then society moves onto the next one. We shake our heads, we agree that “something has to change!” But we don’t actually challenge the roots of what is insidiously normal.

By reading this carnage on a regular basis — are you desensitized to my trauma? Do you actually care?

Here is the truth: as a thirty-year-old woman, I still need to read stories from survivors brave enough to speak. I need to know that these people are still in my corner because I will be harassed again even though I’m an empowered adult who trains in martial arts.

I also do not think stories written by survivors of sexism, assault, racism, and homophobia are run of the mill. But I worry that, in today’s day and age, I am becoming a minority in this belief.

Do you care enough to realize that what is normal needs to be made abnormal?

Do you feel, in your bones, the truth that it is still normal for a nineteen-year-old girl to be spanked at a work retreat after she received a promotion? That this same nineteen-year-old would be felt up by her supervisor months later, and shrug it off because this behavior is normal?

I need you to understand that embodied knowledge, which is the intelligence our bodies cultivate through the experience of living, is intelligence that should be honored. That because the legal and academic system fails us, queer and trans people, people of color, folks with disabilities, and women rely on their embodied knowledge to form movements.

I need you to recognize that to be a vulnerable person, a minority, means that our body is the subject of knowledge production. That this intelligence is just as substantial as a statistic or a scientific study. I need you to tell the “devil’s advocate” to shut the fuck up; because that person is not listening and has become too desensitized to care.

I need you to care. I need you to understand. I need you to act.

And if you see your vulnerable colleague, roommate, friend, sibling, fellow human, in a state of injustice; I need to know that you will act. Because action, in the face of adversity, needs to be normal. And that change looks like a choir of experiences singing together and the population caring enough to do something about it.

Nadège is a sex scholar and spiritual mentor who uses her knowledge to bring warmth to heavy topics. Click here for two facts that empowered her sex life.

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories…

Nadège

Written by

Nadège

Berkeley Sex Scholar. She/her. I write articles for feminine people who want to feel sexually empowered. Stay educated → https://nahdejj.com/newsletter ✨

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories, and share our lives together. We will not be silenced. We will be fearless. And we will write.

Nadège

Written by

Nadège

Berkeley Sex Scholar. She/her. I write articles for feminine people who want to feel sexually empowered. Stay educated → https://nahdejj.com/newsletter ✨

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories, and share our lives together. We will not be silenced. We will be fearless. And we will write.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store