A boy’s experience from the #MeTooMovement
How a childhood friend taught me about sexual harassment, from a male’s point of view
“Can I see your penis?”
When my teenage friend asked this question to a cute boy in our neighborhood, my eyes bugged out and I cackled. Danielle was a wild girl. She was the kind of girl who loved to get attention from boys our age with her T&A*. She once put a bunch of stuffed animals in her shirt to see if any guys would notice. They didn’t. That was just how heavy-chested she was. My best friend and I thought she was comical, and there was never a dull moment when she was around boys our age (around 13 or 14).
But this particular question and the response to it taught me a valuable lesson about how some girls (and grown women) can stereotype the other gender. When she asked him this question, we were all standing near his porch, people-watching as Metra train riders got off at their stops. He’d crack a joke about where they were going or some random comment about their apparel. And we’d move on to looking for the next train. But for whatever reason that day, Danielle was just in a horny mood. And she was adamant about seeing this guy’s member.
I just knew that was going to be her new boyfriend (or at least add to her body count) with the way she approached him. In my teenage mind, boys liked basketball, girls, wrestling/fighting and video games (and not even in that order). And if the nerdy ones added “books” to the list, they still liked the other four things, too.
Although I was not sexually active in high school, pretty much all of my friends (female and male) were. Minus one childhood crush who I turned into Lucy van Pelt over, I was way too chill to come on this strong. It just wasn’t in my nature to be this forward. My idea of a perfect Schroeder (at that age) was someone I could kiss, not what she was asking to see. Still though, it just didn’t occur to me that something was wrong with her question.
He ignored her the first time. And she asked a second and a third time. And slowly I noticed his member was rising. My best friend and I exchanged glances, knowing exactly what was happening below his waist. But what caught my attention far more (because I forced my eyes to look above his neck) was the look of discomfort on his face. Instead of him enjoying this attention from three girls, he looked mortified. And that just made Danielle ask even more. She started walking toward him. He stumbled backward, awkwardly shifting his jeans.
And at that moment I went from amused to nervous. Regardless of what his body was saying to her, it was his vocal reaction that mattered far more. It was also pretty clear that he was just not into her. Although he was an attractive young man who a lot of girls liked, he seemed to pride himself on being equally comedic and charming. Danielle was throwing him off his game. When he dodged eye contact with her and tried to change the subject to other topics, me and my best friend did our best to get Danielle off the topic of his penis, too. But she smiled and kept looking longingly at it. He claimed he needed to go in his house because his mother was calling him. The three of us nodded, with me exchanging a sympathetic glance at him. We left. She claimed he was “playing hard to get” and she was “going to get that dick sooner or later.”
Less than a week later, my best friend and I were walking home. We noticed him at the end of the block and decided we’d go say hi. As soon as he saw us, a look of panic crossed his face. He asked if it was just the two of us. We smiled and said, “Yeah.” And the look of relief on his face made me feel sorry for him.
Danielle had no right to make him feel uncomfortable in front of his own home or out in public — period. We sat on his porch and chatted for hours easily. I found out later on down the line that he had a wee bit of a crush on me. I thought that was interesting. I’d played it cool and done nothing to really impress him. I just let life happen. We never did end up dating. I thought it would be rude considering I knew Danielle liked him. And in my mind (at the time), I wouldn’t date anyone my friend liked. (I learned that lesson the hard way as an adult, too.)
But a better question is this: For men reading this post, imagine that Danielle was you. Have you ever laughed and thought it was funny to make unwanted advances at someone who was clearly uninterested? Was it amusing to you that Danielle put him on the spot, indifferent to him being embarrassed? Or, did you feel like Danielle was coming on way too strongly and needed to cease the aggression?
If you’ve never understood why the #MeTooMovement was so very necessary — even for those who have not been the victims of sexual assault or rape — here’s hoping this story helps you understand. No one under any circumstances should be made to feel uncomfortable just from the sight of you. Once you see someone is uncomfortable by your “interests,” it’s time to fall back immediately. Know where the line is. Stay on your side of it.
* T&A is short for titties and ass
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