Thursday, May 3, 2012

Why I'm A Feminist (Part Two): My Sexual Assaults Were Not My Fault


I was 12 the first time.

I was in the kitchen with two boys from school, both in my grade, although neither in my class.

Don't ask me who they were, or why they were there, because it doesn't matter.

I was getting a drink when I heard them walk in. I turned around and said hello. One of them leaned over and poked my breast, my beautiful, budding, barely B-cup breast.

He poked it, said “Boobies!” and burst out laughing. The other boy started laughing too.

I was mortified.

Humiliated.

Ashamed.

I have no recollection of what happened next. I don't know if I yelled, or darted out the room, or cried.

But I remember exactly how it felt for my breast to be poked against my will, for my young body to be violated. I remember exactly how the two boys looked as they laughed at me.

I remember exactly how I felt.

I felt ashamed of my poor pubescent body. I felt ashamed of how easily two boys had humiliated me, turning my own body against me. I felt ashamed for not preventing it from happening.

This is the first time I've ever told anyone what happened.

This is why I'm a feminist.

  "Shake It Out," Glee

I was 22 the second time.

I was at the TechnoParade in Paris with some of the other au pairs. This one guy was funny and yelling into the crowd. We yelled back at him and started joking around. He asked us for a kiss on the cheek, but when each of us acquiesced, he turned to give each of us a quick kiss on the lips. I wasn't the first girl, so I knew it was coming and didn't care. A quick little kiss on the lips is nothing to me, but only when I am a willing participant.

So then Ali* asked the guy and me to take a picture together. We posed for a picture together, and he put his arm around my shoulders. Again, this was fine, because I knew it would happen and chose to allow him to loosely, appropriately drape his arm around my shoulders for a picture.

But.

As Ali snapped the photo...

This jerk suddenly tightened his grip on me, pulled me into him, and forced his tongue into my mouth.

I immediately shoved him away from me, absolutely disgusted. I forced out a laugh because I didn't know how else to react. It was only my second weekend in France; I had only known these girls a few days. But inside I felt violated. How dare he force me to kiss him like that?

The worst part of it?

I was so excited to make out with a French man.

But I wanted him to be a French man of my choice, not some rando who thinks it's funny to assault young women.

This is why I'm a feminist.

I was 22 the third time.

Jane,* Ali, and I had made a big, drunken mistake.

We left the club when it closed. Jane had been making out with a cute French guy in the club, and somehow, without talking to each other, we ended up in a car with this guy and his friends.

Don't ever do this. Sadly, I'm actually grateful I was “only” sexually assaulted, not raped. Getting into a car with people you don't know is a horrible idea. We made a rule the next day never to do it again.

Ali and I were squished into the back seat with two (three? I was really drunk) guys.

Guys who thought it was fine to run their hands along our thighs and underneath our dresses. Guys who wouldn't stop when we tried moving their hands.

When we got to their apartment, we pulled Jane aside and told her we wanted to go. She grabbed her French cutie (who wasn't a jerk), and I explained to him en français que ses amis étaient louches (that his friends were sketchy). I asked him to tell us où se trouve le metro (where the nearest metro was).

Should we have gotten in the car with the strange French men? No. That was a stupid, dangerous, drunk mistake.

Was it our fault they touched Ali and me without our permission?

NO.

This is why I'm a feminist.

I was 23 the fourth time.

After an amazing, epic night, celebrating New Year's Eve in Montmartre with my friend Kara,* we took the metro back to our hotel. It was jam-packed, with people all shoved up against one another. Accidental boob grazes happen, especially since they were hidden underneath my winter coat.

This wasn't an accident.

Some creep took advantage of the situation to fondle my butt. I couldn't tell who it was, but I loudly said, “Arret!” (Stop!). He dropped his hand.

But then another hand (maybe his again—I had no way of knowing) moved back to my butt. Again, I very loudly said, “Arret! Ugh, vraiment!” (Stop! Ugh, really!). It worked this time.

I didn't find out til later that night, as I held Kara while she cried in my arms, that another man had had his hand up her dress and had refused to move it.

Why am I a feminist?

Because I've been sexually assaulted FOUR fucking times.

Because this first happened when I was a preteen, barely more than a child.

No, I haven't been raped. No, I haven't been violently assaulted. In fact, compared to what happens to other women every single day, one could even argue I “got off easy.”

But sexual assault isn't “just” rape or violence.

From wikipedia (bolding my own):

The term sexual assault is used, in public discourse, as a generic term that is defined as any involuntary sexual act in which 
a person is threatened, coerced, or forced to engage against their will, or  
any sexual touching of a person who has not consented.”

I did not consent to any of these violations of my body. I did not ask for these humiliations.

It was not my choice.

And my sexual assaults were NOT my fault.

This is why I'm a feminist. Because sexual assault is a horrible reality for too many women. Because our culture blames the victim. Because our culture teaches women to avoid being raped, but doesn't teach men not to rape.

I want better for my son and daughter one day.

This is why I'm a feminist.