CONTENT WARNING: This post will contain discussions of rape, sexual/physical assault and predatory acts. If these issues are likely to trigger you, I highly recommend not continuing. Also, this post mainly refers to cis-het men and women.
In 2019, I read a book called Boys Will Be Boys by Clementine Ford. She wrote that 1 in 5 women will have experienced some form of sexual/physical abuse in their lifetime. That number astounded me. Soon after, I spoke to the women in my life and they all had a different story to tell. Similar to racism, some people believe that only the overt/extreme deeds are inexcusable. However, the subtle things that others brush off can be just as bad. Rape doesn’t just equal stranger in an alley. It is any form of sexual act without verbal consent. This could be the boyfriend that refuses to stop during sex despite the girlfriend saying no. It could be the drunk person at the party that isn’t coherent enough to avoid being taken advantage of. Sexual assault is a suggestive, unwanted physical act. This could range from groping, pinching and even catcalling. It is a violation – plain and simple. When I learnt about sex education in school, I was shown a confusing cartoon of cats humping. What I didn’t see were any discussions about consent. Girls are taught from a young age not to walk certain places at certain times in certain attire otherwise men will have no choice but to rape them as they just cannot control themselves. It isn’t often that boys are taught not to touch without permission. There needs to be more of this and less instructing females/non-binary people to be aware of predators.
Today I am going to share my own stories…because I have a few.
Story #1 – As early as 10 years old, I sprouted breasts. Unfortunately, I was the first of the girls at my school to sport them. Some of the boys in my class were so fascinated by them, they started groping me and trying to pinch my nipples. I was so uncomfortable. This led to me trying to hide my chest as much as possible due to the unwanted attention it continued to receive later in life. Now somebody may read this and say: oh boys will be boys – they didn’t know better. What they fail to realise is that at the ripe age of 10, these boys learn to grab and take what they want without a female’s consent. Boys need to be spoken to about these things much earlier than you would expect. I can bet you a large amount of money the parents of these particular males did not have the talk. It took me reading Clementine’s book to realise that this incident in elementary school was something I brushed off because I always thought rape was the only thing a woman should report/discuss. That is not true. We should talk about everything.
Story #2 – At 16 years old, I went to my uncle’s 50th birthday party. One of his friends (a man of 50 himself) was very friendly and I, in turn, was friendly back; not thinking anything of it. Why would I? At one point, I went into the living room to message my boyfriend and he followed me. He told me that he felt there had been something between us all night and invited me to his home. Shocked, all I could think to say was: ‘but I have a boyfriend…’ He said that didn’t matter. Scared, I ran off and when I got home, I told my mother. She took it seriously and called up my uncle who was furious. He immediately cut the man out of his life. I want to mention how grateful I am that my mother believed me. As sad as it sounds, when a female generally reports being sexually assaulted, she’s either told she’s lying or asked a series of gas-lighting questions eg, ‘what were you wearing.’ ‘did you go there by yourself,’ ‘were you flirting?’ We are made to feel as though it is our fault. Like we were ‘asking for it.’ We need to start listening to women instead of turning the tables on them. It doesn’t matter if they were strutting down a dark street completely naked…it never gives any man, any right to violate them.
Story #3 – When I was 20, I was working at an Italian restaurant as a waitress. One evening, one of the chefs (who was in his 40’s – not that it matters) offered to drive me the pub next door. We had a couple of drinks with some of the other staff and when it was time to go home, he asked me if I would have sex with him. When I said no, he angrily left me stranded in the parking lot and didn’t speak to me again. He might’ve bluntly asked permission but his reaction to my rejection was disgusting. It told me exactly what type of person he was. If I didn’t give him what he wanted then and there, I wasn’t even worth being escorted safely home. I didn’t owe him anything but he made me feel like I did.
Story #4 – At a party, a guy who had a girlfriend was sitting on the couch next to me. He started groping me in different places without my consent. I reminded him that he had a girlfriend to which he replied: ‘what she doesn’t know…’ I ended up getting off the couch and avoiding him the rest of the night. I recently told my husband that I’m still scarred by that incident.
Story #5 – In University, I dated a guy who refused to go on dates in public. He only wanted to see me behind closed doors. When we did meet up, he did everything he could to get into my pants. I refused to sleep with him so he dumped me. Later on, he was reported to the police for the attempted rape of another female. Should I count myself lucky I wasn’t raped? I guess? When I hear men say, ‘not all men’, they are trying to assert that they would never treat a woman that way…and I’m sure a lot of men out there wouldn’t. However, as a woman, I have to live by the ideology of ‘all men’ because I don’t know who to trust. If I am friendly, a 50 year old man will assume I should go to his house alone. If I agree to get drinks with a staff member, they will expect me to sleep with them. Women shouldn’t have to be so cautious but that is the world we live in. We never know which one is an attempted rapist or a boy that was never taught consent at the age of 10.
Story #6 – Finally, I want to say that some of my ex-partners did things in the bedroom without my consent. They assumed that certain acts didn’t warrant a conversation beforehand because we were already intimate. This is not the case. It doesn’t matter that you love each other and have been together for years…you need to talk to each other if you wish to try something new and unfamiliar. It’s as simple as saying: ‘is this okay?’ I want to briefly discuss pornography because this ties into a lot of what I have been writing about. Boys in particular begin watching porn at a very young age. There is nothing inherently wrong with this but what they are viewing is not realistic and a lot of it is quite disrespectful towards women. Because the women in these videos are so adept at making it seem like they are enjoying what is happening on screen, the boys attempt to recreate these things in the bedroom with real people. Let me educate any male reading this here and now. Women do not look like porn stars and the majority of us do not enjoy being choked, spat on and sodomised. It’s okay if you’re a woman that does, but please understand a lot of us have gone along with these things in order to please the men we are sleeping with…not because we enjoy it. You may think having a conversation about sex ‘takes the fun out of it’ but it is never ‘boring’ to want or deserve respect.
I know this has been a particularly long post but it’s an important one. I want other women reading this to feel seen and understood. I hope to educate and shed light on how disgustingly common sexual/physical assault is. It happens all the time in many different forms. You may think ‘my mate would never do that.’ How do you know? You never know…and unfortunately neither do we until it’s too late. If you have been a victim of rape/sexual assault in Australia, you can always call 1800 RESPECT. More information can be found here. As a mother of a daughter, it is my biggest fear that she will have her own story to tell one day…
Thank you for reading. I hope this wasn’t too upsetting. Please leave any comments or message me privately if you wish to discuss anything.
Treat yourself with kindness and compassion.
Peace & Love xoxo