I was 16 when someone took something from me for the first time. Men have been taking pieces of me ever since.
Not just in relationships, but in life.
Men have taken jobs, opportunity, and even my mind away from me.
Let’s get this out of the way, shall we? This isn’t misdirected anger or misandry. Actually, I really like men. No, I don’t have daddy issues and my dad is my hero. Yes, a lot of my friends are men. I enjoy the easy company of men, and it’s true that I’ve loved them and hated them at times.
I don’t like all men and quite clearly, some men don’t like women. At all.
Not all men are allies, and some of them are non-believers. But this isn’t a case of girls crying wolf.
Following a series of high profile sexual assault and harassment allegations, many people took to the Internet to declare this a witch hunt, to say we had gone too far. Every day there were new claims against accomplished, rich (often famous) men, but in our own lives we were waking up to status updates, stories and secrets from the women we know and love.
We were all angry, really damn angry. We were angry that only 15% of sexual violence incidents are reported, and that women are subjected to sexual comments and harassment in offices, bars, and on the pavements outside their homes. It doesn’t matter if we’re at work, buying a drink or waiting for an Uber, we’ve always been fair game.
In the space once owned by silence, trauma and truth collided. Vibrations pulsed through until voices were pushed out of their prisons. Our collective rage broke the glass.
Silence was the ultimate secret keeper, but now, it’s shattered.
We want men to know that we don’t hate them, we just want them to do better.
Look, we understand it’s hard for some of you to accept. When someone we know has been accused of something terrible, we want to believe them when they say they’re innocent. False allegations do happen, but the truth is that they only account for 2% of all rape cases.
Many men have spoken out online, about how they’re starting to feel uncomfortable with physical contact with female friends or colleagues. They’re starting to feel afraid. Here’s the problem, they’ve made it about them.
For most of human history, men have benefited from the greatest weapon they have, patriarchy. Men were born with privilege, so much so that they don’t see that we’re not trying to take something away from them. What we’re doing is demanding that they stop taking something away from us, instead.
Not all men are actually aware of what is and isn’t acceptable, so let me help you out with that because awareness is critical, and education needs to continue.
This isn’t about us taking things too seriously, or overreacting.
Listen, boys, no one is trying to ruin your fun- but if your fun involves sexualising women and “having a perve”, then maybe you need to reassess what it is you actually think women are here for, because it certainly isn’t for your general viewing pleasure.
From my experience, I know that some men find it absolutely hilarious and equally diabolical to expose themselves in the workplace, and some of the women I’ve known have laughed in response.
I know from my days on the bar that some men find it okay to grab body parts, slap my thighs and lurk with their drinks while I, arms filled with glasses, was unable to remove their hands.
I know that I was told “it’s just part of the job”.
Some of you need reminding of what is and isn’t okay, so let’s continue.
None of us are asking you to stare up our dresses when we’re walking up glass staircases, and none of us want you to push up against us in the queue outside Peppermint.
If we flinch when you touch us, it’s because we think you’re about to take something from us. Our reactions make you jumpy, and you think there’s something wrong with us. It’s suddenly our fault that we’ve reacted to something that you have done, because you have been privileged enough to live in a society that allows it.
If we move when you get closer to us, it’s because we want space.
If we turn our heads when you start whispering words about sex and bedsheets, it’s because we don’t want to hear it.
Most of the time, we just think it’s incredibly disrespectful, so please get your hands off us.
Notice how I just said ‘please’?
I just said please for something I shouldn’t even have to ask for, and I felt like I needed to.
I know that men expect to be able to feel my skin, so I have to ask them not to. It’s not okay.
Women are not here for your enjoyment, and they’re not here to stand by and let you sexually violate them in whatever way you choose, whether that’s verbal harassment, physical assault, catcalling, or rape.
You do not get to discuss a woman’s anatomy, touch it, or treat it as if it’s a token that belongs to you. Women are not collectibles for you to polish.
Sure, we might have dressed up to go out, but we haven’t done it for you. I have not done a terrible tan job to get your attention, so it’s not for you to comment on it, thank you very much.
I love a compliment, but not from someone who hasn’t even asked my name. Goodbye.
I mean, if I whistled (not that I can whistle) at a man on the street, he would call me ‘insane’. Women don’t do these things, because it’s not an acceptable interaction between strangers. People do not possess sexual ownership over other human beings.
Here’s some advice:
Not sure whether we’re giving you the green light? The only consent that matters is “Yes”.
Worried about our reaction to something? Communicate with us, ask questions, and ask us to define boundaries.
Listen to us and pay attention to the stories we’re sharing about our experiences. A lot of us have been mistreated by men, and you can learn from what came before you.
When we want you, we’ll let you know. It will be very clear.
Help us overcome the blame pushed onto us by others, and discuss these things with each other.
Talk to one another about how we’re blamed unfairly because of what we wear, and how men tell us we wear too much lipstick, so they can ask us “What does that mouth do?”
Remember that an outfit is not consent. Neither is flirting, or a quick smile across the bar. You’ve bought us a drink? Thank you, we appreciate it. We need you to know that we don’t owe you our bodies because of it. We’re not items for exchange.
Romance isn’t transactional, and neither are we.
Someone told me that I should expect this when I go out, because it’s what happens when you go to a club and there may or may not be alcohol involved. Men have always looked at women, right? Because it’s always been this way, we should be used to it. We should ignore it and accept it. Nope, sorry, we’re not taking the blame for this.
If you think catcalling and touching is okay but forced intercourse isn’t, let me say it louder: these are all conditioned parts of rape culture. You have a part to play in stopping it.
We don’t want you to know what it feels like, and we don’t want you to be afraid of approaching us. We want you to hold yourselves accountable, and for crying out loud, stop touching us.
Until it happens to you, you don’t get to say what you’re allowed to do to another human being. You don’t get to say you’re entitled to feel us, or that we got what we deserved.