Thursday, 23 January 2014

You don't get it

Trigger Warning - sexual assault, harrassment, rape. Don't read this if you're unsure about it.  

   When you are a creature of routine, you tend to see the same people over and over again. Monday to Friday, doing the school run, I see the same people, the same cars, the same cyclists. The Blondies and I have developed a game where we assign nicknames to them and play nickname bingo to try and distract us from the monotony of our cold and damp trudging. Pretty Red-Haired Girl, Grumpy Granny, Teenage George Osbourne, The Count…

     The Count. A nickname that I settled on because he looks exactly like the Count in Sesame Street. I always saw him on my way back home after dropping The Blondies off. There’s one road that I usually walk along, very straight and flat, and I would pass him walking in the opposite direction, presumably on his way to work. Norwich is a friendly place, and most strangers smile at you, sometimes even a ‘Good morning!’, especially if you see each other regularly. We’d fallen into the habit of greeting each other as we passed, but… So very British of me, but it was starting to get a bit awkward. The road is so straight that I would be able to see him approaching a good five minutes before we actually drew level with one another, and we would have to do that slightly baffling thing of pretending we hadn’t really spotted each other until we were close enough to smile and make our acknowledgement. It’s not that he seemed creepy or weird, just a slightly awkward situation that one can only understand if one comes from the UK.

     Then on the last day of term, I spotted him walking towards me again, big smile. But this time, instead of continuing past me, he stopped, extended a hand and started talking. ‘Hi, nice to meet you, I’m Andrew, what’s your name? Just thought I’d say Merry Christmas to you, do you have any plans?’ I was initially polite, said nothing much, just at home with the family, yes, I’m walking home after dropping my kids at school, yes, I have children, no I’m not single, I have a partner, no, I don’t want to meet you for a drink, no, please let go of my hand, I said let go of my hand, FUCK OFF.

     Happily for me, I have a plethora of other roads to walk home along in the morning, so I haven’t walked back that way since term started back. I’ve told a few people about it, and the difference in reactions is telling. Before I even get halfway through it, the women are already rolling their eyes and saying ‘I know where this is going.’ The men seem quite stunned by it. Men, it seems, just don’t get it.

     Men don’t get ogled when they’re walking down the road. Men don’t get pinned up against the wall at a PTA ceilidh and groped. Men don’t have to fend off wandering hands in the pub. Men don’t have a car pull up alongside them and ask ‘How much?’ when they’re 16 and on their way to take their RE GCSE exam. Men don’t get their arses grabbed in the middle of a busy street. Men don’t have to step in and physically remove unwelcome hands that are fondling their friends when they’re out for the night. Men don’t feel intimidated when they have to walk past a group of people of the opposite sex, and steel themselves for the shout that will inevitably come. 

     Men don’t have the experience of being chased through an underpass by a group of drunk people they thought were friends, the ‘friends’ shouting that they’re ‘going to fuck you up good and proper.’ Men don’t get confronted by flashers when they’re out walking  in Earlham Park. Men don’t  have people offering to light their cigarettes and holding the lighter too low so their top can be looked down. Men aren’t confronted with images of other semi-naked men in national newspapers on a  daily basis, and being told ‘it’s just a bit of fun’. Men don’t get their clothes torn in a hotel room, trying to get away from a hotel employee, when they’re 14. Men don’t get followed around Valley of the Kings when they’re 17. 

     Men don’t get a penis pressed into their back on public transport. Men don’t get rape threats online. Men don’t get told not to wear certain clothes.  Men don’t get told not to go out alone after dark. Men don’t get told not to get drunk in case someone takes advantage of them. Men don’t get told to take it as a compliment. Men don’t get raped on a beach when they’re five years old, and then asked why they didn't shout or scream at the time.


     Men don’t get it. But women do. The above is only my experience to date. If you think I’m exaggerating, have a look at Everyday Sexism and see for yourself. See what women get. And if you’re a man, you might just get it.

20 comments:

Meeshie said...

And this is why most of us in the US do not do the smile and wave thing or greet our neighbors. At least, not those of us that live in large cities.

Lucy Benedict said...

Really? I was always under the impression that NYC aside, Americans were more friendly than in the UK. Norwich is a fairly small city, and it runs on wheels oiled by smiley nice things.

Sam said...

I got groped on an extemely packed tram in Istanbul when I was 23. Boob grabbed in a swimming pool by complete stranger when I was a teenager. Dragged down a flight of stairs by my feet and forced into a bath full of cold water (fully clothed) at a house 'party' when I was a teenager - very scary but done as 'a joke'. These are probably my worst experiences of this. Did all this happen to you or other people on the 'everyday sexism' page? X

Lucy Benedict said...

Sam, all of the above is only my experience, no one else's. And what you've written just confirms it. So many horrible experiences, and it becomes part of daily life. We get it. They don't.

I forgot the time I had someone force their tongue down my throat at NYE. And the endless, sleazy 'grab you by the elbows so you can't pull away' embrace that some men use.

JallieDaddy said...

Some of us do: I had a female boss who sexually harassed me then subjected me to exclusion, victimisation & other forms of bullying when I ignored her advances. Not all sex bullies are male, & I suspect most abuses by women go unreported because men are too embarassed to say anything

Lucy Benedict said...

I'm sorry you had that experience. But if you can read about my and other women's experiences, how horrific and relentless this can be for a lifetime, and your only response is to say 'But what about the poor men?', then wow. You *really* don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Your experiences are bad, very bad.
Most men aren't on the recieving end of such experiences.Absolutely.

So Andrew talked to you. How is that a big deal? He either fancies you or he's being friendly. If it's the first, then you've put him off. If it's the latter, what's the harm?
Surely it should only be a problem if unwanted attention continues?

Lucy Benedict said...

Gosh. You wouldn't be... MALE by any chance, would you? There's friendly, and then there is a whole other world of unwanted attention, including, but not limited to, continuously pestering a woman to meet you and refusing to let go of her hand when she has asked you to several times.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I did't get that he was holding your hand all that time, nor that you'd asked him to let go several times. That's different. Sorry.

Lucy Benedict said...

No problem. And thank you for taking the time to come back and explain. Not many people do.

Sam said...

I'm so sorry that all of this happened to you Lucy. What happened to you when you were five...it beggars belief. I started reading about Ian Watkins yesterday and as I work in the law enforcement arena I'm aware that this is becoming more and more common - particularly with the way the internet has changed the landscape in the last two decades. Sometimes I read stuff at work and I think, gosh, some people report things that most of us wouldn't even consider because we are so indoctrinated into accepting our lot and assuming that 'that's just the way things are'. If I didn't do the job I do I wouldn't even realise that 'common assault' was a crime - which can be as little as someone laying a hand on you, however minor.

Meeshie said...

Ummm.. no. People in the midwest are friendly.. but that area of the country is low crime.

Major cities? It's normal to not even know who your neighbor is.

When I was living in Vegas I was raped and my neighbor heard me screaming and didn't call the cops because it 'wasn't his business'. And no one I know is shocked by that.

The US is.. umm.. interesting.

Lucy Benedict said...

Sam, I think two things made me write this. The first was a man asking me if I'd reported being groped at the ceilidh. I snorted to myself and thought 'Jesus, if I reported every time I experienced or saw something like that, I'd live in the Police station!'

Second thing was walking in Earlham Park with The Guest. She reminded me of the time we got flashed at when we were walking my dog.

And I thought 'Know what? This shit happens too often, and I'm fed up. I know it's a minority of men who do it, but the majority of women experience it. And most men don't understand it, because they're not the ones who live with it.'

I'm a bit stunned by the reaction to this post, really. Aside from the mansplaining. That was kind of expected.

Lucy Benedict said...

Jesus, Meeshie, I'm so, so sorry. And I understand. I really hope this post hasn't upset you. You've been wonderful to me, and I don't like to think of you reliving a terrible experience because of what I've written.

Meeshie said...

It's okay hon. I learned to talk about things like this because not talking made me a crazy person.

Life is what you make of it, ya know? You don't choose the horrible things that happen to you but you do choose how you deal with it.

You did an excellent post and it's something that more people should be aware of.

Iguana Mom said...

How do you know this doesn't happen to men? It does. a lot.

Take a look at rape statistics sometime. Even less men report because of the shame of it.

Not to discount the danger that you might have been in, and the fear, but the staking a claim on victimhood is pretty damned gross.

Iguana Mom said...

How do you know this doesn't happen to men? It does. a lot.

Take a look at rape statistics sometime. Even less men report because of the shame of it.

Not to discount the danger that you might have been in, and the fear, but the staking a claim on victimhood is pretty damned gross.

Iguana Mom said...

Lucy Benedict says: "I''m sorry you had that experience. But if you can read about my and other women's experiences, how horrific and relentless this can be for a lifetime, and your only response is to say 'But what about the poor men?', then wow. You *really* don't get it"

This is like some kind of surreal joke.

You are not sorry, you are patronizing, and dismissive.

The post is polarizing, and your comments are narcissistic.

You just don't understand how "we" feel.
guy:: yes, it happened to me.
Oh. No.
Now you really don't "get" it.
"we" are the ultimate victims, you are the perps.
Jesus christ.
'
This is similar to what I'm seeing a lot of online, with twitter feminists, between women of color dismissing white women's and making them the enemy, as if you carry guilt in your dna, and they now have the right to abuse.
https://twitter.com/marstrina/status/428196034339033088

There isn't just men and women, there is a whole slew of people in between. transwomen. preops. I'm so old I don't know all the terms, but I do know they are just as vulnerable as cis women,

You should stop speaking for all women as far as I'm concerned.
You're carrying a grudge against men. They are not all the enemy as a group.

You have one in this thread that is trying to share his experience, and that is really rare that he has the guts to talk about it and you just dismiss him. He's not dismissing your experience, and it doesn't lessen the wrong that that done to you, but sharing a common experience.

Since you have a hard time seeing this try swapping out the sex or race of the victims and the perps.

Just makes me angry to see this.
Claiming the trophy for biggest viciim is no prize, because this post has no other point. It's not empowering, its wallowing. Using it as an excuse to dismiss another person's experiences is propagating abuse.

Lucy Benedict said...

Thanks for commenting twice, very much appreciated. I'm sorry you missed the wider point I was making.

Sam said...

I think the main point that may have been missed is that men are, on the whole physically stronger than women and driven by testosterone-fuelled urges which, given the addition of alcohol or a sudden opportunity pops up (like a crowded tube train for example) then its more likely to be the women who end up the victims (and of course that is not tarring all men with the same brush). Not to say there aren't male victims but I get where you're coming from.