Last week was difficult for me, like it was for so many people, in ways I don’t understand. Because of my brown-skinned children, because of my physically disabled child, I am gutted by the results of the election on a profound physical level. I’ve heard how this election affected other women on a purely female basis, the fact that an “alleged” assaulter has been voted into office, the fact that the most qualified candidate in our lifetime who happened to be a woman was passed over by the *least* qualified candidate in history because he was a “man”, the repeated objectification of women by the “man” who ran for president. My fears as a mother overwhelmed those other feelings.
But the other night, as I was looking for ways to connect with people, to take action to stop this animal from ruining our country, I was confronted with a healthy dose of male privilege and a wallop of objectification. A longtime friend, someone I trusted, sent me a private message that was innocuous at first, opening a discussion–I thought–about what we could possibly DO about this mess, given our respective positions in life. It quickly turned from “well, what can I do?” to a boorish, vulgar, demeaning, unwanted verbal sexual assault, including details on what he wanted to do to me (not *with* me, it was clear). He informed me that he was aroused, and demanded that I “take it from there”, as if his pleasure was my responsibility.
He said some other things too, but the full transcript isn’t necessary.
I tried, as I have been conditioned, to do a soft-rejection, to deflect with humor, but it wasn’t effective. My history with this person made me reluctant to cut him off, as I would any other douchebag who spoke to me this way. But I did eventually put an end to the conversation.
The next day, I asked if he was drunk. This kind of thing has happened before, and that was the excuse then. I spoke to my husband about it, telling him how unsettled I was by the whole thing. We discussed strategies, and he said he’d support whatever I chose.
I demanded an apology.
Two days later, I received one.
Yes, he HAD been drinking, and the election had upset him, and (hand to god, he said this) he had a head cold.
But I just now realized how fucked up that conversation was. This guy decided, in his drunk state, that he NEEDED something, something visceral and distracting, something to make him feel–I dunno, strong? Powerful? Less impotent in the face of tragedy? He was hurting, he was lost, so he NEEDED something, and goddamnit if he wasn’t going to make a woman provide what he needed. No thought to what was going on for me, just “I’m going to make her relieve this discomfort because it’s too much to bear.”
And here I am, still reeling from the nationwide train derailment that is the election results, trying to figure out how to get myself on my emotional feet, and this guy just dumps his shit all over me. “I’m hurting, I’m going to use your body parts to FIX IT.” Because I serve no purpose in his universe except to serve his needs. Because the languages men know are rutting and fighting; this guy’s not much of a fighter, so his form of relief comes from rutting.
In his sober hours, he may well believe we have some kind of enduring relationship that could withstand this kind of contraction.
What this guy did made me feel like there wasn’t a safe place left, like I couldn’t trust anybody except my husband and kids. I wasn’t safe with him; he treated me like I was an assortment of parts assembled and available for his needs.
So I don’t much care what he believes.
Because I’ve decided that my days of allowing “boys to be boys” are over. Men have expected–and received–gentle handling of their foibles for eons, but I’m not playing that game anymore. Women have always been the stronger sex, but we’ve wasted that strength on just handling the bullshit that men ladle out; on coordinating our actions around men’s desires and approval and feelings, avoiding their upset and anger and rejection like doing so would keep us alive. For many of us, for too many of my friends, that’s no joke; learning how to respond to a man’s demands without making him angry literally DOES keep them alive.
What this campaign has been good for has been to reveal this nasty, slithering underbelly of humanity, the rotting maggot-filled corpse inside the shiny face of our “civilized” discourse. Women have shared their stories of degradation and disrespect in great numbers, showing that nearly all of us have been treated as simply a “p*ssy” to be grabbed by some noxious, flaccid, skin bag. This isn’t a secret anymore, the fact of these sexual assaults, not something concealed in our shame bubbles, sure we did something to cause this behavior or earn it or deserve it, or certain that there’s nothing that can be done because this is the way of the world.
There IS something we can do, and I’m doing it. The person who “won” the election is the face of that maggot-filled corpse, and his continued presence is the target for my considerable, organized and connected ire. This week, I joined a couple of organizations taking activist steps to thwart his power.
But on a smaller scale, interactions like this one will be met with a verbal nut-punch, no more special handling. My antennae are up, listening for the cues, and I won’t hesitate to stop that shit dead in its tracks. No more humor, no more gently demurring, no more carefully working my way out of conversations. Full, in-your-face confrontation, blow-his-ears-back detonation: no forgiveness, no understanding, no patience: I will reduce them to a shriveled, sad little nut sack, worthy only of contempt and dismissal.
Your days as the coddled special class are over, guys. We’re onto you.