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 Sparta 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 highschool, 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. I was not allowed back in Sparta, and 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, 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 wrote a letter to said stepbrother (now married with kids of his own) upset that she’d been made the villain in his wrongdoing.
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, and 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 waited until the day after Christmas to tell my father, to not ruin his Christmas as well. When I told my father, 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. Do I blame my father? He wanted to believe the good intentions of his friend (as implausible as they were to me), or perhaps in some form of redemption. 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, as written in a letter to him:
I’d written this a few days after I’d visited you, then sat on it for a while to make sure I wasn’t just being… reactionary. New Years makes a person take stock of themselves, their actions, and the actions of those around them.
On one hand, I am thankful for your hospitality. Meeting me on a snowy night, wandering the wonderland of white, allowing me to stay in your home for two days, indulging my need to smoke to keep away the nausea, etc etc etc…
On the other hand, I can’t help but look back at the way things transpired in your bed without feeling shame and disgust. Here’s why.
Knowing that I’ve a number of health issues, knowing that I rarely drink, and in spite of my recurrent reminders of both, you’d spent the hours leading up to our retiring in bed egging me on to drink and drink. That is…. well, not such a cool thing to do in general, and even less cool to do once I looked back and realised how likely it’d been part of a ploy to make me more morally malleable.
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 was really only wiling to partake in the comfort aspect, but had no sexual desires – 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.
Sad and disappointing that I found myself in a situation where I caved in to that pathetic and ill-mannered display. I’m rather ashamed of myself. You deserved a slap in the face, not pity-kissing.
Pathetic and sad and that you are a person who’d try to coerce a woman into drunken physical interaction, and enjoy the half-hearted results. To hold the philosophy that a woman needs to be talked into it and needs some convincing, that it’s acceptable to push things further than comfortable, these are of a selfish, sexist, and slimy outlook.
Maybe it’s not an attitude you display with all women. Maybe this is just how you saw the sort of relationship we’d had between us. That’s depressing, and not at all what I’d thought of our past. Maybe that’s the kind of behavior you’d grown to think is acceptable in how you treat me. That’s depressing as well. It’s offensive. It’s utterly disrespectful.
I’ve no desire to befriend someone who’d enjoy trying to talk an inebriated woman into acts she isn’t readily willing to do; someone who’d revel in glee with the response of “sigh….. fine.” That’s gross.
And that next night, afraid of making the trek home, hoping you’d gotten it out of your system, feeling beat, spending another night…. just the cavalier manner in which you said “I should warn you – I’m gonna try and make out with you again.” Really?! With no care as to how much I clearly wasn’t into it, knowing how much coersion was used last time?
Christ, and I laughed in response! What an idiot.
Then following my explanation as to why i really REALLY couldn’t, that I’m still dealing with being heartbroken, you said at least three times “well… I’m not going to try and talk you out of it….. but…”
How OLD are you that you’d devolve into such tactics? And with me? Someone you’ve known for (over 16) years?! It’s not acceptable. It’s not the way to deal with women in a way that makes them comfortable. It’s not cute.
All of this, the sexual interaction, the social interaction, it’s all crystalized in my head, and it’s not what I want in my life. This isn’t the behavior I want from those who are a part of my existence. Maybe this is how I’ve always used to be. Maybe I was too easily swayed in the past. Maybe I have not orchestrated my life in an admirable way. Maybe your actions are totally understandable, given your the interpretation of who I was (or who you thought I was, more appropriately) years ago.
These are some sad realizations I’ve come to.
But the manners with which I was treated by you are no longer ways that I’m accustomed to being dealt with. I demand more respect. It’s suddenly clear to me that this is how I have been treated in the past; that my complete acceptance of your rude and presumptive actions during those recent days together – something quite uncharacteristic in the direct way I interact with people currently – was only because you exist like some teenage time capsule of my own low self esteem and limited understanding of personal space.
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 barbituates 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.