Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Something to Get off my Chest

Weeks ago I read the series from The Sexist on groping. They talked about why men grope, women's reactions to being groped and so on. They did a thorough job covering a topic where men seem to think they have indeterminable rights to a woman's body, that our bodies are without boundaries, seen or unseen.

I have been dating a guy-type ( J*) for almost a year now. J* likes to pretend the world is a happy place and nothing bad happens. He also has a daughter who is going to be 10 very soon. I've often mentioned he should talk to her about the birds and the bees, but most importantly, enforce the notion that her body belongs to her and no one else.

As J* and I started getting serious, and my conscious self began to comprehend I could one day be partially responsible for his daughter's well-being, all the times I have been touched by strange boys/men began to resurface. Call it PTSD or whatever diagnosis you want, realizing her life experiences with the opposite have a 50/50 chance of being similar to mine brought on a sense of urgency.

Because J* is male and hasn't had the pleasure of experiencing intense vulnerability with a dose of feeling out of control over his own body, he doesn't understand why I push him to talk to his daughter about her body. I could do it, and I've offered, yet ultimately it would mean so much more coming from him as he represents the gender who might very well become the offender.

So I started sharing stories of my experiences with him.

I told him of the time I was about 11 or 12 years old and playing in this large area of dirt and trails (eventually condo's were built and the dirt was taken away). This area was only a few blocks from my house. On that particular day, me, my sister and our friend rode our bikes so we could travel faster and get the rush from going up and down the "hills". At some point we stopped and 3 boys joined us for whatever reason. We chatted, they bragged, then one of them got off his bike and walked around our group, grabbing my ass in the process. He and his friends chuckled, his friends high-fiving him when he returned to his original spot. What happened next I'm not sure, because all I remember is feeling very afraid. I got on my bike and hauled ass home, the boy who grabbed my ass hot on my tail. As my house came into view, I remember feeling relief when I saw my dad was outside. I rode into my driveway and the young pervert rode off to find his friends. To this day I wonder what would have happened if he caught up to me or if my dad hadn't been outside.

Unfortunately, my experiences with groping didn't stop there. Throughout my life beginning at that point I've been poked, prodded, picked on, touched, felt up and then some all because boys' (and eventually men) have believed they have that right to my body. It hasn't happened nearly as much these past handful of years, but it still happens.

Another story I shared with J* was when I was in the 7th grade. We were allowed to hang outside for 30min or so after lunch and since we are kids, many of us partook of this luxury. One of the boys who apparently had taken a liking to me, decided to graze my not-quite-formed breast as he walked passed. I believe it was when he threatened to do it again that I took off running, hiding behind trees and eventually near a group of teachers, hoping that would stop him. It did. I did not move from that spot until it was time to go back inside.

I've tried expressing in words the intense loss of control, and huge vulnerability, having a stranger or friend grope you presents. I think it's much more damaging to one's psyche when someone you know does it because you live in fear that it could happen again.

A few weeks ago, me, J* and the kids were leaving the roller skating rink. J* had my keys in his pocket and I kept asking for them as I wanted them in my hands before we got to the car. He couldn't understand my urgency which is understandable because I realized I was freaking out due to the vulnerability I felt for not having my keys in my hands ready to unlock the doors once I got to the car. Because for a woman, this hesitation could get her raped and even killed.

And then I realized I hate that I have to at-risk myself for a dude's inability to control urges to which I did not contribute.

Yet I still cannot seem to impress upon J* that girls grow up experiencing life in a completely different way because, very simply, we have vagina's. His daughter has a personality that makes her more susceptible to this type of thing happening as she is more introverted and keeps a lot to herself.

So I worry. And worry. And worry some more.

Then today I sat in on a MDT (Multiple Disciplinary Team) meeting where 6 cases were discussed, all of them girls who had been sexually molested or assaulted by their mothers' SO's, 5 of them under the age of 7.

So I worry. And worry. And worry some more.

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