Me Too.CATEGORY / words AUTHOR / Fox DATE / November 17, 2017
These tales of mine are by no means as tragic or horrific as most that I’ve heard from fellow women. In all honestly, most women on earth experience far far worse than I.
Rather than simply rattle off the acts themselves, I wanted to explain the circumstances that lead to my “me too” incidents in the hope you non-women might be able to better understand how/why these things happen, and the stigma and emotions that allow such situations to flourish. It’s not just that men can be creepy assholes, it’s that our lives as women are so often and so easily constructed in such a weak way that we lack the belief in ourselves and in those around us to deny the sexual predation of others.
My life involved an understanding of sex from an early age. My mother married my stepfather before I started kindergarten. They had an oversexed lifestyle with a bedroom that sported mirrored ceiling panels, a mirrored headboard on their massive waterbed, statuettes of people having sex, posters of sexual content, and a corner of the room with low cushioned seating. I often knocked on the bedroom door without answer. I spent a lot of time playing alone. At age 13, before I’d ever been kissed, I was given my mother’s edition of The Joy of Sex, in case I “had any questions left.” For my 16th birthday, I was given a trilogy of BDSM erotica books by Anne Rice. I’d already read through most of my mother’s raunchy erotica books. I’d still never kissed someone. This was my upbringing. This was part of the result of the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s that brought us the sexualization of Brooke Shields, and of being OK with the statutory rape of young girls by musicians and movie stars (Roman Polanski, Jimmy Page, Indiana Jones, etc). The sexualization of my early childhood might be more extreme than most, but I think these sexual attitudes still pervade American society even in the most prudish homes.
When I was around 5 years old, my youngest stepbrother (roughly 14) made me jerk him off. I told on him to my mother and stepfather, but they just grounded him and then continued to let him babysit me regularly, and it continued to happen. They never told my father, who hand wanted primary custody of me but was only granted weekends, and who would have brought me to a safe and healthy environment at my grandparents’ house. It never occurred to me that my father wasn’t aware of these transgressions until I was sixteen years old.
At sixteen, while my mother and stepfather were on vacation in Italy, I was kicked out of high school for the completely wrong suspicion that I’d been on drugs. As a result, my life was soon flipped around and by the time my mother returned home, I found myself living with my father, enrolled in a different high school, and visiting my mother on weekends. It was during this time that I realized my father had been kept in the dark about my childhood abuse. I freaked the fuck out. I told my Dad about the abuse. He freaked the fuck out. My father sued for sole custody of me. I was lonely, sad, and literally suicidal without my friends, especially having just experienced the suicide of a friend over the previous summer. Even though my mother had sold off or thrown away all of my belongings while I’d been at my father’s (my bike, my posters, my skis with my name engraved on them, my bedroom furniture, my childhood toys, my stereo, etc), I moved back in with her for my senior year of high school, because I didn’t think I could survive the loneliness for another year. In response to having me back, my mother sued my father for MORE child support (of which I was unaware of at the time), which she pocketed for herself and her lavish lifestyle as her husband’s income was waning.
The whole situation forever damaged my relationship with my family. This kind of fall out after sexual abuse is exposed is common. It destroys relationships, and breeds feelings of betrayal. Children don’t know who to trust, nor the gravity of the situation. They choose what they know and understand, which is often the unhealthiest option available.
At around 12(?), on the way back from a summer trip to Myrtle Beach, the 14 year old brother of an in law shared the back seat with me on the long drive home, slept with his head on my lap, and spent quite some time with his hands up my shorts and in my genitals. I didn’t have any pubic hair yet. I was frozen. My early life had been so sexualized that I thought that sex was what you were supposed to do, regardless of how I felt about it individually. I told my mother when I got home, and she called his family. I never saw that side of the family ever again. As the victim, I was the one who created the issue.
When I was 21, I was again living with my mother, who demanded I see a psychiatrist in order to be permitted in her home. The first visit, the psychiatrist told me that my mother seemed like a good and caring mother. In turn, I told him about the abuse at the hands of my stepbrother as a child. As a result, the doctor had my mother and stepfather come in to speak with him privately. I arrived home from work one afternoon, to find my stepfather crying and begging my forgiveness, not having realized the damage such actions had had on me, because he’d done similar things with his own relatives as a child, and thought it natural. My mother did not ask forgiveness, but stood in the corner looking defensively concerned she’d be blamed for something. She then wrote a letter to said stepbrother (now married with kids of his own) upset that she’d been made the villain in his wrongdoing. He, in turn, wrote a letter to me, both apologizing for, and vaguely denying his abuse of me.
When I was 24, I was living with my then girlfriend in Brooklyn. I was supposed to visit family in NJ for Christmas Eve, but waited at home for my girlfriend to leave so I could arrange the apartment to look like a cruise experience as part of her Christmas present (a wall sized sea scape, ocean sounds, lounge chairs, champagne, etc). As a result, I got to my family’s late. I missed dinner, and they were all rather cross with me. I got a ride back to the PATH station with a man I’d known all my life, a friend of my father’s from high school. I spoke to him about my issues with my dad, my issues with my girlfriend, happy to get to speak to someone about these things. As we arrived at the Hoboken PATH station, he told me he wanted to take my girlfriend and I out for a drink. I called my girlfriend, who was already back at our apartment, but she opted to stay home. So, he and I had a few drinks in Manhattan. I only realized he was hitting on me when he tried to kiss me. I was horrified at the realization, and started to feel sick. I remembered I’d not eaten dinner, and realized what has happening. The liquor slowly overtaking me as quickly as the disgust, I stumbled out of the bar desperate to get home, but he followed. I couldn’t stop him when he climbed in behind me as I crawled in the back seat of a taxi. I faded out. When I came to, we were parked outside my apartment, and his hand was down the front of my shirt. I ran into my apartment, crying and upset. My girlfriend blamed me for not knowing any better, was upset that I created such drama, kicked me out of bed, and broke up with me.
Christmas Eve is my birthday. I spent Christmas alone.
I waited until the day after Christmas to tell my father, to not ruin his Christmas as well. When I told him, he asked me if I’d led his friend on in any way, if I’d “given any signals”. He had stern words with the fellow, who apologized, but claimed that he thought I was “into him.”
No, I was not into him. I was talking about my romantic relationship most of the night, and he was a pervy dude who was turned on by the idea of lesbians and couldn’t control himself. But it was easier to believe that I was the culprit. I didn’t fight the issue. This family friend continued to be welcomed at Christmas and other family events, so I avoided them when possible. It was damaging to my sense of self worth.
A few years later I brought a woman as my date to a black tie New Years Eve party my aunt was throwing. He was there. With regards to my date, he told me “she’s lovely.” He followed she and I around all night, leering at us, chatting us up. I didn’t know what to do. I was polite, because… clearly, his behavior towards me was considered acceptable to family, right? We were at a formal family event, and I didn’t want to cause a scene. At the end of the night, while my date and I retired to our room, there was a knocking at the door. Somehow he’d found out our room number, and he was at our door with a bottle of liquor, trying to push his way in. We literally slammed the door in his face. Every time I see him, most recently at my aunt’s funeral, his eyes follow me incessantly, and he loiters strangely, hoping to get a moment alone with me. It’s just become another layer of uncomfortable background noise I have to navigate.
In 2011, I had an experience with someone who I’d known since I was in high school. It was some kind of breaking point for me. Being raised in an oversexed Narcissistic family structure had left me with no real understanding of boundaries or acceptable sexual behavior or warning signs. (If you read up on the inappropriate behavior of Thinx CEO Miki Agrawal, that’s quite similar to my mother.) By my 30’s, I’d finally started to grow more self possessed and wary of others, but was still easily led to fall into old habits, especially with people from my past.
Here is my account of what transpired six years ago between this old friend and I, via excerpts of the email I wrote him shortly after the incident.
… You suggested that we both sleep in your bed, to which I responded with some reticence, not sure if that’d “be weird” (which is not the response of a person who is keen on fooling around with you, by the way). You assured me that it’d be fine.
Then you said that if I was going to sleep in your bed, we must cuddle. You continued at every opportunity to push the envelope a bit further, to touch me a more than I’d told you I was ok with, to go further than I’d allowed.
After telling you I wasn’t interested, wasn’t into it, had no interest in any heavy interaction, you continued. You kept trying the same advances after they’d been refused.
Even pleaded for a “few more minutes”.
You did not miss any opportunity to try and coerce and connive.
You went to far as to climb above me and pry your body between my legs. Let me repeat that. While I was continually trying to minimize your advances, you pushed me to my back, and climbed above me, sliding yourself between my legs which I’d already told you I was not interested in. And you did this fucking repeatedly. After I’d told you “no.”
There’s no way you can possibly frame that where it’s acceptable and respectful.
This is fucking pathetic, sad, and disappointing.
I wish I’d been more forthright at the time. I wish I wasn’t sitting here typing and cursing myself for not being the confident and secure person that I am instead looking back at the naive pushover that spent two days with you.
You won’t hear from me again.
And he never did.
There’s the guy twenty five years my senior who gave me pills when I crashed at his place, and I woke to him with his hands down my pants. I blamed myself for this, for perhaps leading him on, and taking barbiturates without knowing how they would affect me; that is, until I then heard a woman at the bar we both frequented telling a story almost exactly the same as my own about the same guy. That’s not an accident, that’s modus operandi. Even my male friends who considered his behavior “kind of rapey” maintained friendship with him. As did I, in a cautious way. It was only when his crazy online posting revealed rampant racism that I thought to finally give him the boot. Sexual attacks on my person were not enough.
There’s the random wasted dudes in my ‘hood I walked past around midnight, who, when I politely told them I had a boyfriend, told me “You gotta man an’ you walkin out here by yo’self?! You gonna get RAPED out here! YOU GONNA GET RAPED!”
There’s the three men in the span of three months who masturbated at me on the New York City subway.
I’m sure there’s dozens more that I’ve forgotten; moments that cruised right by me without thought, because of how normalized this predatory behavior is.
This is just what it’s like being a woman in the world. We all have these stories.
We are all “Me too.”
ADDENDUM: As a testament as how pervasive this issue is in the female life, I’d originally posted these words on my facebook, and it took DAYS for me to realize that I’d not even considered the “Sexy Story” video I’ve got on my website and vimeo.