I want to say “me, too.” But I’ve been wrestling with it all week.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve been very fortunate that my experiences with men have mostly been harmless. I say mostly harmless because I haven’t been put in danger or physically harmed — unless you count that time my brother accidentally hit me in the head with a wrench when I was 5. But I have experienced the joys of being female on more than one occasion:
Have I earned less than a man doing the same job as me? Yes. Was I told he had more experience? Yes. Did he actually? Nope.
Have I told a patient/customer/client something, only to be rebuked, and have the same patient/customer/client become compliant after a man literally tells them the same thing I said, and when I’m annoyed by it, have I heard, “Well, sometimes they just need to hear it from a man.” Yes.
Have I gotten a job because “We had a tall redheaded woman in here before and she did the job just fine,” even though I had more than enough skills/qualification? Yes.
Have I been told “You can’t have a water cooler because there’s not a man here to change the jugs.” Yes.
Have I been told that my gynaecological health wasn’t important until I started having sex? Yes.
Was I told that I’d be used for sex the first chance a guy got? Yes.
Have I been told not to wear tops that showed my bra strap or my midriff or skirts and shorts that showed too much thigh or high heels because it’d make me a target? Yes.
Have I walked through dark parking lots clutching my keys because I just knew someone would be after me? Yes.
Did I hear “You’re on the pill? Cool, that means we can fuck without a condom.” Yes. (Did that one statement ensure we never did anything remotely close to fucking? Also yes.)
Have I assumed the primary contraceptive responsibility for my entire sex life, because I’m the one who’d get pregnant? Yes.
Have I listened to the “women can’t be president because they have PMS and therefore can’t be trusted month-to-month to make rational decisions, it’s science.” from both ass-ignorant backwater dick bags, and very educated, normally respectful and like-minded men? Yes.
Have I read articles limiting coverage for birth control, and cutting funding for Planned Parenthood with my fists balled up in rage? Yes.
Did I flirt with a guy I’d known and kinda liked for a while all night, accept a ride home from him, and let him inside to use the bathroom? Yes. Did he ask if he could crash at my place because he didn’t feel like he could drive safely? Yes. Did he insist on sleeping in the same bed? Yes. Did I state emphatically, without a question that we wouldn’t be having sex? Yes. Did he try incessantly to have sex? Yes. Did I kick him out after the third no? Yes. Did he call me a cock tease, and try to guilt me into letting him stay? Oh yes. Did he ever fully acknowledge me in public again? No. Did he ever apologise? Also no.
So I’ve been put in unfair and infuriating situations based on my sex. But I have I been physically assaulted, grabbed my strangers, catcalled, been in a position of sexual intimidation? Nope.
I’ve been molested before, but not by a guy. I was 5, maybe 6? I was at a girl’s house who was a year or two older than me, she had a Power Wheel and I wanted to ride in it. That was the only reason I was friends with her. I can’t remember her name, what she looked like, or literally any other detail about her. But I vividly remember sitting in her room in the dark and her telling me, “I’ll let you ride my Power Wheel if you kiss me.” I didn’t want to kiss her, but I wanted to ride that power wheel. But I remember very well that feeling of agony, the grip of should I? Shouldn’t I?
I can’t remember if I kissed her or not. I do have a vague memory of hands and her really trying to kiss me. I remember my dad came to take me home not long after because I didn’t feel well. And I do remember I never got to ride the Power Wheel.
I was never pressured into sex — by a guy. When I was 13, a shocking number of girls I knew were already having sex (or at least claiming they were). And these girls were champions at putting me down because I wasn’t having sex. It wasn’t “Nah, nah, Audrey’s a virgin!” taunts while they threw tampons at me. It was more sinister. “He dumped you because Jackie puts out.” “They had sex. He said he likes her a lot more than you.” “He told me he’d like you if you had bigger boobs. Or if he could ever see yours.” It laid the foundation for years of subconscious “he won’t like me if we aren’t having sex/we aren’t having sex he doesn’t like me/only valued for my orifices.” trains of thought that plagued me for most of my adult life.
So it’s not just men who’ve put me in compromising situations. I’m luckier than most in that my compromising situations didn’t leave lasting scars – emotional or otherwise. As I see more and more people I know sharing #metoo sentiments and stories, I think, “well, me too… but not really.” And it makes me feel like it’s inappropriate to share my side — like I’m trying to milk the situation for attention. Yes, I’ve experienced the frustration, the bewilderment and the WTF-ness of it all, but I haven’t lost anything as a result.
But then, that’s not the point.
It’s not a competition.
It’s not “I’ve been through worse than you, I win.” There’s no winner in sexual abuse, intimidation, or harassment.
It’s “You’re not alone. It wasn’t OK what happened to you. And I stand with you.”