My Facebook and Twitter feeds often offer more interesting news than the newspaper ever did. Today, this article crossed my path, about sexual assault in the music industry:
Here’s my response.
So the problem isn’t just that this happened once, although even once is a major problem. The problem is that this is part of a continuum of inappropriate boundary violation, especially sexual and body-related boundary violation, that starts much closer to home. Even people I like, love, and respect, who like, love, and respect me (and I don’t doubt that they do–or did), have ignored my explicit and clear requests not to do something. Not just the absence of consent, but the explicit statement of nonconsent. They are good people. But somehow our culture teaches them that they will not get what they want if they ask for it–indeed that asking is somehow wrong.
I’m not making this up. Because these are people whom I like and love, I’ve had the conversation with them, more than once, about what happened. I’ve stayed in relationship, stayed in conversation, stayed at the table, because these aren’t strangers, these aren’t scary bosses and obnoxious people on the street (I’ve met them, too, but I have never found an effective way to engage. I’m scared, usually. That’s another post.) What they have somehow come to believe is that if they gently edge their way into the thing they really want, that that’s okay, because they’re going slowly, because they’re giving time for me to say no, because they know that the minute I DO say no, they’ll stop. They’re not Those Guys Over There who rape people. They stop, right? They stop when they hear no.
when they hear no
when they HEAR no. They stop.
gentle does not work. Subtle does not work. Sometimes you have to shout.
That is, sometimes you have to shout at your friend and lover who loves you to get them to stop.
Imagine how it feels when someone who is NOT your friend and lover starts bending the boundaries toward the quick of your spirit. If you shout at them they might stop.
Somehow our culture is teaching our kids, especially boys, that wanting is bad, asking is bad, and that it’s better to just “ask” by gently pushing until something gives.
Add a little power, take away some ethics, and not-so-suddenly, right there, is another step on the continuum. Nice guys breaching boundaries gently become bosses and supervisors breaching boundaries obliviously becomes sexual assault. It’s all of a piece, and it’s all interconnected and it all stacks on itself. So the tiny little comments eat away and eat away and eat away. They’re not microaggressions, they’re something else, but they’re aggressive. And they hurt. And they’re exhausting.
This is more than just a grope.
This is the tip of an iceberg.