Today is my 14th wedding anniversary. 15 years and 4 months together. Mark is assigned to a job in Kodiak, so I flew down here on the 3rd to spend a week with him. A week without kids to celebrate our anniversary, our life together.
While I was packing, I chose a dress I never wear. He bought it for me 3 years ago. It’s a beautiful dress. It drops low in the back and shows off most of my tattoo (but not so low as to show my ass). It’s short, (but not so short as to show off anything above my mid thighs). It’s a sexy dress. He bought it, because he loves to see me dress sexy. I don’t wear it, because it scares the shit out of me.
No, I don’t have some sort of strange paranoia about dresses. What I am afraid of is strange men. But, I have the dress with me, to wear out tonight for our anniversary. I was so proud of myself because I put it on and wore it on the plane (he has a fetish for me stepping off planes looking sexy) and I didn’t have a full blown panic attack and besides forgetting my phone (no pockets) I didn’t have any problems either. The problem is, I’m having issues now. Yes, I want to be sexy for him. Yes I want to do something special for him. But, I don’t want to wear the dress now.
I flew in on Wednesday and we went 20 miles out to the middle of nowhere on 4 wheelers to go camping with his coworkers and their families. We stayed until Sunday. I was geared up in Carhartt winter (lined) overalls (I get cold very easy).
It shouldn’t much matter what I was wearing. In all honesty, I should be able to wear anything at all and not worry that any person is going to believe they have the right to touch me without my permission. But, let’s be honest, the truth is that we live in a culture that promotes the idea that women are created for men’s personal use. We live in a culture that promotes the idea that women should be careful of what they show-or they may be “asking for it”. We live in a culture that promotes the idea that if a guy does something inappropriate, intrusive, invasive, unwanted to a woman, it’s her fault OR “it’s just not a big deal” and can be excused by his level of intoxication or some other bullshit.
The last night of our stay, the friend of a coworker showed up. They were all drinking, partying etc. I was already uncomfortable before anything “untoward” happened. The party atmosphere is simply not my scene. Four years working in the bar scene, I have a really good idea of what happens when you put alcohol and guys together. I don’t care for the drama or bullshit. So, I tend to avoid putting myself in environments where there’s going to be groups of men getting sloshed.
But, where do you go when you are out in the freaking middle of nowhere, at night, without a clue how to get back to town, no vehicle, no friends in the town if you did get there? I don’t live in Kodiak. I don’t know anyone in Kodiak. So, there I was, camping while a group of guys gets shitfaced drunk, one passing out and being re-awakened repeatedly to drink some more. Another one was getting loud and obnoxious, setting off fireworks and firing the various firearms off into the ocean.
Meanwhile, I was standing by the fire trying to get warm. The drunk, loud firework guy comes up behind me and grinds up against my ass. I (autopilot) elbowed him in the stomach. But, he is significantly larger than I to say the least. To say it didn’t affect him would be a lie, it entertained him. He didn’t move away, he repeated the action, moving in even closer. I yelled at him to get off me and I yelled at Mark (Because the guy did not back off of me). To be clear-this guy has NEVER MET ME. He doesn’t know me from Adam and Eve. I sure as fuck don’t know him…. THAT is rape culture.
To say I was upset, would be putting it far too mildly. It’s been 3 days and I’m still shaking mad. He continued to be obnoxious, presumptuous and getting in my personal space. I left. I couldn’t “go home”. I don’t know my way around this place (much less how to get TO the airport from there and pay for a ticket home). But, I left on Marks 4-wheeler (that to that point I had never ridden alone) to at least get away with him. Bear country-no firearm on my person. But, I chose to leave in the woods on a 4-wheeler and take my chances with bears over sticking around the camp and taking my chances with him….. THAT is rape culture.
We weren’t alone at camp while this was happening. There were people there INCLUDING my husband. My husband who tends to be overly possessive of me… But, everyone was willing to make excuses for this guy accosting me. “He was drunk”, “He gets stupid when he’s drunk”, and “he doesn’t know what he’s doing”….. THAT is rape culture.
AS IF the fact that he CHOOSES to get drunk and getting drunk makes him stupid somehow makes it ok for him to TAKE AWAY MY RIGHT to CHOOSE who gets to touch me? HOW THE FUCK is it that someone else’s choices give them the right to take away MINE? That is rape culture!
At some point; He went after me on his 4 wheeler. After expressing concern that if he didn’t leave me alone I was going to start swinging fists; Mark followed on someone else’s 4 wheeler. They both found me at the same time. My headphones on, screaming to some pissed off music and racing the 4 wheeler through the mud in an effort to work through my rage, my hurt and my fear. It had been well over an hour, but I was nowhere near calm or ready to deal with this guy. I didn’t want to “play nice” with an asshole who can’t respect me as a person and keep his hands and body to himself unless invited. I didn’t want to “keep the peace” for people who think it’s excusable. But, I didn’t want to upset my husband or “ruin” things for him with his coworkers either… THAT is fucking rape culture.
We came home the following day. I couldn’t let the subject go. I tried, but it kept burning through me and I had to talk. Mark made a comment near bedtime, not in any way trying to be disrespectful, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. He said, “I have a hard time getting fighting mad with someone, when I know they aren’t doing something on purpose.”
I KNOW what he meant. But, that IS the problem. This guy didn’t mean to get himself in trouble. But, he quite certainly meant to take advantage.
- He used his size (tall, large guy) to his ADVANTAGE (read size privilege) to intimidate and take what he wanted.
- He used MALE PRIVILEGE to take what he wanted.
- He used drunk privilege (who fucking knew that asinine shit exists) to get away with sexual harassment and arguably was pressing into the realm of rape when he started grinding on me…..
He WAS doing it on purpose. He believes it is his RIGHT, his PRIVILEGE to behave that way with women. That is rape culture.
I’m not the only woman he’s done it to-the other woman at the camp has had issues with him repeatedly and yet, he remains a part of this group of “friends”?!?!?!?! WTF?!?!?!? THAT IS RAPE CULTURE!
Yesterday, Mark had to return to work. I was left at the apartment alone for the day. I was ready to just stay here doing laundry and staring at white walls where I felt moderately safe and secure, with locked doors. But, the sun was shining (rarity in Kodiak). I forced myself to go to the shop with Mark, check my emails and then walk the 2 miles to the home of the only person I know here. On my way, the same guy drove through honking his horn and hanging out his truck window hollering at me. I ducked my head, turned up my headphones and struggled to keep my anxiety and tears in check. It took all of my resolve not to hide out in the gas station. I checked every dark truck that went by, I checked every cross road for the whole two miles in fear of him stopping. That is rape culture.
Now, I’m sitting at the table in the apartment where Mark stays while he is down here working, alone, near tears. I’m going to go take a shower, put on my jeans and a long sleeve shirt. Then, I’m going to force myself to walk up to town, same as I did yesterday, through the anxiety attack. Because I am NOT going to be stuck groveling in the apartment because some dumb mother fucker doesn’t get punished for re-creating the scenario of treating me like “just a piece of meat”. I’m not going to sit in the “safety” of a bedroom in order to avoid re-living the rapes that I have lived through. I’m not going to avoid having a life because of the risk of running into him-again. That is rape culture.
Tonight is our anniversary. We’re supposed to go out to dinner, and then out for a drink. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to wear the dress for damn sure. I just want to crawl into bed in the quiet of our little room and cry. I want to go home, where the people who are closest to me (physically), are trust worthy and know better than to touch someone without permission. Where they don’t take such liberties and they don’t create such fear. I want to feel safe again. But-I don’t. THAT is rape culture.
More than anything, I want to be the one who is physically capable of fully defending myself (and others) against guys like this-and I want to be the person who speaks out on behalf of women like me. I want to be the one who stops others from making excuses for assholes mentally, emotionally and physically raping and abusing others. I’m not exactly sure how to accomplish that. But, I figure, like everything else, it starts with speaking up.
How I should have responded: http://aafteota.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-sexologist-my-most-wtf-sexologist-moment-to-date-an-open-letter-to-the-guy-who-called-my-parents-regarding-whether-or-not-i-have-raw-dog-sex-with-my-husband/