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.



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.


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?


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. 

Source: Who Needs Feminism?
 *Pseudonyms, as always


  1. I feel sorry for any future boyfriend (or more likely girlfriend) you might get.

    Looks like they're going to need written and recorded permission to get close to you.

    Why don't you just get yourself a nice feminist girlfriend and you can just both ask each other's explicit permission any time you ever want to do anything with each other.

    1. Dear Troll,

      Thank you for stopping by! I appreciate the time you've taken to read my post in which I open up about my history with sexual assault. I noted that you've only been on Blogger since November 2012. Wow, did you create an anonymous account for the sole purpose of trolling me? I'm honored!

      I'm a little confused by your comment, so I thought I should clarify a few things for you. Let me know if I use any words that are too big for you.

      1) My boyfriend and I have been together for over a year, and we plan on getting married. I am a bisexual woman, though, so having a girlfriend would be a distinct possibility if I were single.

      2) I've been very specific verbally with my boyfriend about what is and is not appropriate in regards to sexual intimacy, but at your suggestion, I'm having my attorney draw up some legal documents to protect both my and my boyfriend's reputations. I would hate for anyone to slander our names by thinking either of us are behaving outside of the sexual intimacy to which we've already agreed.

      3) Consent is sexy. You probably aren't aware of this, because I doubt any woman has ever begged you to cum on her breasts, or told you she was eager to give you a blow job. I've told my boyfriend these things, and more, on numerous occasions. He LOVES when I'm explicit with him. It turns him on, with the comfort in knowing we're both consenting to everything we do together.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Gros bisous, Belle

    2. I concur! Consent IS sexy.

    3. Thank you, Anon! I don't know why people seem all worked up about consent *not* being sexy. It totally is!

    4. Belle, your original reply to that troll is amazeballs. Seriously, where have you been all my life?! :)

    5. Thanks, Sara! It was my first troll, so I was pretty excited about it. I mean, that's basically the sign that I've made it in the blogging world, right?

  2. I think said people get all worked up about consent not being sexy because, at some point in their lives, they've probably done things without the other person's consent. They then misconstrue the other person's silence for something less than fear, confusion or any other emotion that makes some women not fully react to being sexually assaulted. Defending it, then seems like some sort of justification or normalisation of despicable behaviour.

    1. Replying to this the day after the Super Bowl, with the horrible Audi ad. Seeing the amount of excuses, almost exclusively from men, makes me think you're 100% right.

      Apparently the ad does not depict sexual assault because there could be a "back story" that we just "don't know about."

      Or it's totally legit because unexpected kisses happen all the time! It's part of growing up!

      Or how do we know she didn't want it? No, the ad doesn't really show her before or after reaction at all, but it's totally okay to kiss her without asking because who needs consent before kissing someone!!!!

      Seriously pissed at the internet right now.

  3. I love the fact that you choose to look at consent as being the awesome, sexy, and powerful thing that it is. I love that. Sharing this and hopes it reaches as many people as possible.

    1. Thank you, Ali! For whatever reason, consent is seen as awkward and cumbersome and unromantic. No, it's not!!! Consent is about being confident with your own sexuality and being interested in & respectful of your partner's sexual needs.

  4. Greetings, Belle. Found this link on the recent discussion on Wired re: preventing rape in the military.

    Awesome post. I believe MOST women (and many men) can come up with at least one time they were groped or touched against their will, usually in a sexual way.

    Because I honestly don't think rape is or should be shameful for the rape victim, only for the rapist, I blogged about my experiences HERE. Would welcome your comments and sharing - will be tweeting this post.

    1. Hi, Beverly. I've only been talking about my own experiences for about a year now, and what saddens me is the number of women who have confided in me with their own stories since then. From my friends who suffered the "milder" forms of sexual assault like I did to a friend who was violently raped and in the hospital from her injuries. It's happened to so many of us, and it's WRONG.

      Thank you for talking about your own experiences. I hate that you've had to deal with two asshole rapists.

  5. HI Belle,

    I've been directed here from your verbal assaults on "chauvinists" from outside blogs. Allow me to reiterate that society does not have any sympathy for what some mean old 12 year olds said to you or what minor transgressions you run in to while drunk at clubs. Some guy touched your butt? Some french guy kissed you? Well, you're in France for one thing... And they stopped when you told them to? Many women at clubs allow and respond favorably the behavior that you feel is "assault," thus a problem that you should perhaps discuss with your own gender.

    I can empathize with women who become the target or drunken or otherwise doltish men who think it is charming to fondle. Yet, the request that consent somehow be obtained is completely absurd. You are a radical authoritarian type, the kind that in the past would be burning people at the stake for whatever is not right according to you. This meaningless blog fills some other void for you which you should try to discover within yourself instead of staging some pseudo-crusade against men. If one finds themselves in the poorest area of town, one expects the worst in human nature. Just as one who dances in the most morally bankrupt arena in town..and all this over a butt slap

    1. No, really? Your idea is that it's entirely okay for men to randomly grab women, grope them, kiss them, etc, and women can object if it's a problem and the guys should stop... but the grabbing and groping without checking in first is okay?

      Dude, first off, it's assault. Legally and morally. Second, it's being an asshole. Stop it.

      Strangely enough, a large majority of my partners have had no problems checking in about consent (and the ones who didn't were dumped) - and for that matter, I haven't found it particularly onerous to check in with folks before I grabbed their bodies and started molesting them. It's not that hard.

      If it really is that hard for you, please seek help.

    2. Thanks for the back-up, Tylik! Everything you just said is 100% correct.

    3. So by your logic, if you find yourself in the poorest area of town and you get shot, as long as they stop shooting when you say "STOP SHOOTING ME" it's all OK right?

    4. There are so many things wrong with your comment that I don't know where to start and others have said what I would, so I'll keep it simple:

      "the request that consent somehow be obtained is completely absurd"

      ...yeah, that makes you a rapist.

  6. Hi, Anon. Let's break down your post from the beginning.

    1) I rarely use the word "chauvinist," so I'm pretty sure you're just a troll making shit up. But if you'd like to direct me to the post in which I wrote "verbal assaults on chauvinists," that would be great.

    2) Reread my post. More slowly this time. You seem to have missed my breast being touched when I was 12. Do you have a daughter by any chance? Or a niece? Are you okay with boys grabbing her breast in your home and then laughing at her? You also missed the fact that I wasn't in a club when I was sexually assaulted.

    3) "Drunken or... [entitled] [assholes] who think it is [okay] to [sexually harass women.] Fixed that for ya.

    4) How am I a radical authoritarian? Is believing I have the right to my own body really that radical? Please, tell me how you would feel if you were sitting next to a gay man, and he reached down and grabbed your penis. Are you okay with that?

    5) Please point to my pseudo-crusade against men. I love my boyfriend, my father, my brothers, my uncles, my male cousins, and my guy friends. It was my feminist influence that helped my younger brother date his girlfriend, even though she's older than he is. My boyfriend loves dating an independent woman who pays her own bills and lives her own life. Amazingly, when I ask my guy friends questions about street harassment and hitting on/picking up women, to find out more from the "male perspective," I find out that they already agree with me on the difference between the two! Maybe because most men are great guys, not sleazeballs. (This might be difficult for you to understand, as I think you're the latter and not the former...)

    6) "Poorest area of town"? What? Have you BEEN to Paris? I'm guessing not. Don't worry your pretty little head about the geography of the city, but I was far from the "poorest area of town," in any of those situations.

    7) YES, ALL OF THIS OVER A "butt slap." If by "butt slap," you mean "a strange man reaching under my knee-length coat, using his entire hand to grab and fondle my ass for a prolonged period of time," then yes, a "butt slap." Again, if you're on a train, or a bus, or even, let's say, a crowded concert. Somewhere with a lot of people, close together. And a gay man reached down, stuck his hand in your back pocket, and started squeezing your ass, how would you feel? I'm guessing NOT GOOD.

    Don't worry about me, dear Anon. I think you need to spend less time online and maybe more time discovering why you're either morally corrupt or you think women don't have rights to bodily autonomy.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this. Reading through the comments I'm in disbelief of how horrible internet trolls are (although you've handled it well.) You're drawing attention to things that so many people would write off as 'not a big deal', but they so are and the fact that people think they aren't is just another example of why we need feminism so badly.

    I have had an experience of sexual assault while I was drunk on a vacation. I had a boyfriend at the time. I never told him what happened. I was too scared that he wouldn't understand and would think I'd cheated on him. Part of me was scared that I had, and was trying to convince myself it had been nonconsensual to relieve the guilt. The worst part is that to this day I still feel guilty when I think about it.

    It could have been worse. He could have followed me to my room when I jumped up and left. He could have been straight up forceful rather than just far too persistant even as I moved his hand every time. But that doesn't mean it was okay.

    I don't think about that night very much, but when I do I still feel like shit. Thank you for sharing this post, because reading it I feel backed up, like you're telling me that it was a big deal, wasn't my fault, I wasn't cheating.

    1. I'm glad I could offer some reassurance. No, if some man doesn't back away, if some man keeps touching you, if some man does anything towards you without your consent, that is definitely NOT cheating. I understand that feelings of shame/guilt can't always be talked away with logic, though. Trust me, I have tried before!

  8. Speaking of inappropriate touching in France, I'm an American living in France, and my husband & I watched an hour long special the other day about "Les Frotteurs" on the Metro in Paris. Apparently, police try to track them down and stop them.

    But basically, it's men who take advantage of the crowds on the Metro and rub themselves on unsuspecting girls from behind. The girls usually don't even notice, because so many people brush up against you in the metro, and they usually target girls who are wearing layers so that they're less likely to feel it.

    The sad part is that the police often catch people because of cameras on the metro. But they can't do anything serious about it unless a woman comes forward and makes a complaint.

    Women need to be more vocal about this sort of thing!

    1. That's disgusting! I'm glad the police are at least trying to do something about this, but I hate that some men are doing this in the first place.

      Yes, women definitely need to speak out about their experiences if they can, and men (and other women) need to not dismiss these experiences. They are still WRONG, even if they are not as abhorrent as other forms of sexual assault.


Thanks for reading and commenting!

Anonymous commenting disabled while my mom is sick.

Comments are moderated because I receive a lot of spam, and I think CAPTCHA is annoying. I reply to most of your comments within the comment section because it inspires discussion between readers. For first-time commenters, I try to reply by email.

Yes, you can comment anonymously. Yes, you can disagree with me. However, as of 05/31/2013, if you are commenting anonymously, and your words are hateful or abusive, I will publish these at my discretion. I like that my blog can be a forum for discussion, but anything that blames or mocks survivors of sexual assault will NOT be tolerated.


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