#Metoo by Beth Nintzel
I look around and I’m the only one on this section of a very crowded Hollywood Blvd dressed as a cat. Another “Hey Kitty!” is yelled, presumably at me, and so I turn towards the (pardon my expression) catcall and stare into the eyes of some man I don’t know.
“I’ll be your Veterinarian!” he purrs at me.
“Good one,” I laugh back and then turn around to blend into the crowd of other humans dressed in their costumes for Halloween.
“Hey!” he shouts back. “I’m real good. REAL good!”
I didn’t scold him for his comment, or even get angry at the insinuation that my only purpose to him was for his pleasure. No. My first thought was that it was a good joke, except that statement wasn’t a joke for him. It wasn’t until I walked a few more paces into the throng of people that a second thought dawned on me--
Has my dirty sense of humor been shaped by my experiences of assault and harassment from men, so that I can blend in and go relatively unnoticed?
This question, honestly, has blown my mind a little bit. And not only that notion, but also this--
My experience with assault has completely shaped the way I interact not only with men, but with the world around me.
Recently, I’ve been dealing with the emotional aftermath of my own sexual assault--
I was 16 and 17 years old and was molested by a man who was older than I was (several times);
A man that I had a huge crush on;
A man that I trusted and from whom I wanted positive attention.
It took me years to acknowledge that what happened was assault, and even a few more years to begin to realize that it wasn’t my fault. Though, there is, and will always be, a small part of me that will always believe it was (my fault). This experience has sent me down a spiral of negative and complicated relationships with men. I chose men that resembled him either physically or mentally up until my most recent ex boyfriend. I’ve been fortunate enough to not only have an amazing therapist, but also that I’ve been able to have tough conversations about this exact thing within myself, so that I can break these hurtful habits.
The garbage human who assaulted me informed me, without words, that who I was wasn’t enough-- that anything I had to give, he could take, even for a decade afterwards, without asking, and keep for himself. It isn’t until recently, that I’ve been putting the pieces of my broken self-worth back together.
My freshman year, I saddled up to a man who was the same age as my assaulter, and become best friends with him. He was a sexual beast, and now that I’m truly thinking about it, quite a predator himself, though he’d never admit to such a title. I turned to him to learn about sexuality, because he was the best and only option I saw fit-- he reminded me of HIM, and I needed to know why I had been “chosen” as a victim.
However, my new best friend couldn’t provide me with those answers. Not only because he wasn’t my assaulter, but because I couldn’t articulate the questions. All I could do was take a side step and learn the behavior of a man that could flirt his way into any woman’s bed. I studied him in such a way that I didn’t even realize until now. I picked up on a very sexual, dark and dirty, sense of humor and have adjusted it to fit different scenarios and even to fit me as I grew as a woman. It was, and has been, used as a shield in social scenarios to protect me from any impending harm.
(And look, I wouldn’t change my sense of humor for the world-- I love that I can “bro-out” with the best of them, but it’s important to me to know where it stemmed from and why.)
My best friend in college was the first person I told that I thought I had been molested. When I explained that I had really liked this guy (the assaulter) but then he proceeded to stick his hands down my pants and force himself onto me; Pull his dick out and force my hands down his pants, as I crossed my legs frozen in fear-- My best friend promptly told me that I hadn’t been molested. I had liked him, so I was wrong.
(My best friend was complicit in this type of sexual aggression, as are many people. Maybe because he, too, was still young (he was 25 at the time), and hadn’t fully developed as a human male, but that is kind of where the problem lies, isn’t it? The complicitness that we teach each other at a very young age, and especially with little boys. They see their girl counterparts as “flowers” and “less than” something to be taken advantage of; This viewpoint is mainly learned subconsciously by viewing the actions of the people around them. So the thing to teach boys and girls is that consent is always mandatory and that respect and kindness for all people doesn’t make you weak, and to show them by example. But, I digress… )
I believed my best friend. It HAD been my fault after all. I had wanted my assaulters attention, because I liked him, so he gave me his attention and then I thought I had been molested? Several times? How dare I accuse a man of such a thing!
Except, I WAS molested. I had wanted his attention, yes, but the type of gentle kindness one should show another human, especially when that other human is a child or a teenager. Not the kind where he tried have sex with me and make me feel his penis or shove his hands down my pants trying to finger me. I never wanted those things. I wasn’t able to process those things until now-- 16 years later.
I cringe at the memory of his hot breath on my neck.
So, I studied the behavior of men like him. I became friends with them, good friends, best friends, so that I could feel “safe” around predatory men. Who would bother a sheep in wolf’s clothing, you know? Which raises the question--
How was/is this type of self-defense my best defense against such aggressive behavior?
It wasn’t, and hasn’t, always been, but it’s been the closest thing to keeping me safe. Any time I’ve encountered such aggressive behavior since those teenage moments when I became frozen from fear of a much larger man, I have performed exactly the same; If a man I know becomes physical with me, my defense is to make a joke in self-preservation so as to not make it awkward for him (WTF?), or worse, to freeze and let whatever happens happen. Just. Get. It. Over. With.
But I’m tired of that.
I’m tired of using the “giggle” all of us women have as a way to excuse ourselves from a scary situation. The “giggle” is a self-preservation tactic we use to get out of uncomfortable and potentially scary situations. It shows men that we don’t want to have them feel bad (BUT THEY SHOULD) for putting us in such a precarious position and to show that we are okay (WE ARE NOT). And now that you know about this men, pay attention for it.
I’m tired of feeling trapped and I know all the women around me feel the same way, or some variation of it:
We are done feeling the shame that has been put upon us for so long.
We are tired and angry for having to deal with aggressive behavior, be it physical, sexual, mental, and/or emotional.
We are saddened that we have had to hold this burden of responsibility solely by ourselves.
We are furious that we’ve had to sit back and “take it” for so long.
We are taking steps to gain back our self-respect, because we deserve equal, and heaping, amounts of it.
We have put up with sexism, gas lighting, degradation, and humiliation for far much longer than we ever should have (AND WE NEVER SHOULD HAVE HAD TO).
We are glad people are listening and finally holding men accountable for the actions they feel the need to powerfully exude over us.
We are not backing down.
We will get them. We will get them all.