A lifetime of being sexually pressured, used and discarded, pestered, objectified, shamed, harassed, and assaulted is a common theme amongst most women I know. Many of us share some of our stories with each other privately, but now with the #metoo movement it’s being shared publicly. I know I’ve told some of my own horrors over the years – usually in a light-hearted manner, laughing it all off instead of showing rightful anger. But, bottling it all up only leaves it all festering inside, especially if it all just keeps on happening, over and over again. I hope this is a wake up call for all of us. Enough is enough.
Reading everyone’s awful experiences brought so many memories flooding in for me. Similar to what news events (Ailes, O’Reilly, Trump, Weinstein) over the past year keep doing. This is all very upsetting to have to keep reliving these things like this. But, hopefully by putting it all out there we can begin to heal and change as a society to where none of this is acceptable anymore.
By the way, I would like to open up a day of Bag Lady shoots for any women who might find it healing to share their “me too” stories (photo and essay) in a safe and anonymous outlet. So, if this sounds like something you would want to participate in, please let me know, and if there is enough interest, I will set up a date and location.
I’ll start with a few of my personal experiences that stand out for me and that I feel most comfortable sharing publicly:
- When I was 8, I remember being at a new custom t-shirt shop. Remember those back in the day? They were all the rage in the mid to late 70’s! My friends and I were so excited with this new store in particular, inside the Meadows Mall in Vegas. Well, one day I was squatting down sorting through shirt designs on the rack on bottom row, completely focused on the clothes there, when I felt a man bumping into me, crowding me out as he stood next to me. I looked up to see what his problem was and he was twisting and thrusting his hips toward me as he pretended to be looking at shirts on the top row. He was wearing short jean cutoffs (this was the 70’s, remember) and he had his penis pulled completely out and displayed right in front of my face. I was shocked. Horrified. Ashamed. I felt dirty, timid and very afraid. I didn’t tell anybody.
- I had a step-brother for about a year when I was 13 or 14 who stole one of my bras and used it to regularly ejaculate into. My mother found it hidden in his underwear drawer. He had also removed an electrical outlet cover on the wall that separated our rooms to spy on me. This was a teenage boy who hid a fetish book that included instructions on how to hog-tie women. He was promptly sent back to live with his mother.
- Walking through the park one day as a preteen, I was confronted by a man masturbating.
- When I was 15, I was walking along the beach road in Malibu, a car pulled up slowly and it’s passenger powerfully and unapologetically grabbed my ass in front of so many people. he was laughing. I was absolutely humiliated and felt violated.
- Another time that year I was sitting on the beach alone on a foggy day. I would go there to clear my head and have some solitude while taking in the beauty of the ocean. Suddenly, a figure appeared through the fog and began running towards me. Before I knew it he was standing right in front of me, ever so close (definitely infringing on my personal space), asking for the time. He was completely naked, his penis ever so close to my face. Not cool. Yet again I felt vulnerable, unsafe, confused, shocked and humiliated.
- Also at 15 years of age, a group of men in their 20’s began rough-housing with me, captured me, bound my hands and pulled my pants down to my ankles, and held me there while they circled around me, pointing and laughing. My friend witnessed this and laughed with them. Seemed like the thing to do when you were out-powered like that in an effort to try to diffuse the situation.
- Grown men (many in the movie industry) were all too keen on trying to get me and my friends drunk back then, in our teens.
- Around 19 years old, an abusive boyfriend videotaped me in bed with him without my permission and then flaunted the tape in front of me before hiding it. I am haunted by that tape to this very day, some 20 years later. In fact, when we came close to having our own reality show, I feared that tape would resurface then.
- Once, in a pretty desperate emergency situation I had to take a full, red-eye Greyhound bus. I had been lightly dozing off, only to be startled awake to find the creepy man next to me who was masturbating while staring at me and smiling. I was stuck, pinned in at the window seat and terribly frightened. I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening for the next hour before we arrived at our destination and I was able to get the hell away from him. He was gone before I could even report him.
- Had a netflix and chill date (before netflix) with a stunt man in CA in my twenties. My date excused himself to go get drinks, leaving me in the dark watching the movie. A silhouette appears in the doorway after a few moments. I realize it isn’t him. It’s his naked roommate instead. Before I could say anything, he lunged at me and pinned me down. I somehow fought him off of me, scrambled for my belongings and ran to my car. He followed me pleading with me and begging for my forgiveness. He was CRYING, literally crying, howling about how his mother would be so disappointed in him over what he attempted to do to me. I was LIVID! But, let’s not forget there was another man involved here. This was obviously coordinated.
- At one of my first real jobs as an adult, I had a boss who “expected” sexual favors. He tried pulling me into his office for a blowjob. I told him that he might have more luck if he offered cunnilingus instead of demanding blowjobs. He left me alone after that.
- In LA in my 20’s, a male friend invited me to go out with him and some other friends that evening. We were to meet up at his friends house first, a man in the music industry that I had met previously. I arrived there first and ended up waiting and waiting for my friend – he never showed up. In the meantime, I was drugged (GHB) and violated sexually. I remember being unable to move or say anything while it was happening. It was as if I was paralyzed. I was horrified and ashamed. I blamed myself completely and never told a single soul until many, many years later when I could just shrug it off. I didn’t talk to the “friend” who had invited me for around 10 years after that. I knew it had been a set-up and I was ashamed for falling into their trap and of course, very angry. When I did finally speak to him, I brought it up – he confirmed to me that he had had no intention of showing up that night. He knew what was going to happen to me. Yes, another man enabling his buddy to take advantage of me.
“Lighter” Transgressions examples that only add to it all:
- I was later secretly drugged by a boyfriend I trusted. This doesn’t count as sexual abuse, I don’t think. But, it definitely made me feel violated and betrayed. He also took compromising photos of me sleeping, while sprawled out, spread-eagled and naked as can be. In fact the only types of photos he seemed to take of me were blackmail type photos. He never wanted any other types of photos with me in them. I thought this was strange and hurtful.
- I flirted back and forth with a well-respected photographer at WPPI, the big photography conference, one year. He began pressuring me to go get a hotel suite with him. I kept saying no. A friend was present and was worried about me with him. He called her a cock-blocker. I brushed her off and said I was fine, no need to worry about me! She went on her way and I tried saying my goodbyes to my new photographer friend. It ended with him literally dragging me in the MGM hotel lobby towards the registration desk. I remember digging my heels in to the marble floor, trying to put the brakes on while saying, “no” and “stop” repeatedly. But, I was also laughing because this was in a public space in my city and it embarrassed me plus I didn’t want him to get into trouble. I forgave him of this, as there was drinking involved. But, it reminds me of all of the times I have said no to men only to have them pressure the fuck out of me…sometimes literally. There seems to be some confusion for many of these men where flirting equals consent. It does not. Especially when we say “no”. STOP PRESSURING US!
- Speaking of flirting or the lack of it… the harassment on social media and online dating is just insane. It can be utterly shocking and violating. But, also the “little things” begin to build up there too. For instance, many, many, many men you don’t know will friend you on Facebook. I normally won’t add any of them unless they are friends with people I trust (usually female friends). Then they will start messaging you privately, sometimes innocently enough. You may or may not respond. If you are NOT interested in them, you will show ZERO signs of interest. But, they will keep messaging and messaging anyway. Many of them assume you would want to date or meet them for drinks (as if facebook were a dating app) even though you have shown no interest, outside of maybe just being polite to them as a human being. It begins to feel like just because they have an interest in you, they think you should obviously want to date them too, with no regards to your opinion or desires whatsoever. Oh, and many of these same men will begin “collecting” other women on your friends list. It’s really odd and quite disgusting to watch really. But, it starts to feel like you are being harassed when you show no interest and they will not stop messaging you. I get some that message on a daily basis even though I do not respond to them whatsoever. What kind of crazy shit is that? I wonder if they are doing this to the other women they have “collected” on Facebook too? I know this is not as big of deal as other instances of harassment, but it all begins to add up and I’d like to see changes here too, where we are treated with respect as human beings, not as objects to be acquired.
These are just some of my stories, of course. It all happens far too often. Crazy how normal it all began to seem to me. But, while it is common, we must not normalize it any longer.
Responses to “me too” Facebook posts that I thought were interesting:
I saw some men post about how shocked they were by all of the posts they were seeing from women recounting their awful experiences. A couple of the men promised to be better with how they treat women from now on. I couldn’t help but wonder if they acknowledged their own past deeds though. Would they reach out and apologize to the women they pressured or abused in some manner? Are they just trying to look like our “protectors” (which is insulting in so many ways really)? What will they do to try to correct their bad behavior, if anything at all, besides posting a blanket statement? I don’t know!
A male friend private messaged me after being shocked by my own “me too” public admission to share a story where he was willingly seduced by a woman and wondered if that had been reversed if it would have been rape. He also noted that if she had been a 300 pound fat woman he definitely would have protested. If the lines are this blurred for men between what constitutes sexual harassment or assault compared to seduction, is it any wonder so many women are being assaulted and harassed? Is it really this difficult for them to understand?
But, the worst responses I saw had to do with either dismissing the issue altogether, politicizing it, or were statements that encouraged the myth that these horrors only happen to women who were weak….that a strong woman could prevent all this somehow.
“Harassment is not something that happens because a person isn’t strong. It happens because some creep wants to exert power.“
“Similar to the myth that women will succeed at work if they just lean in hard enough (not. true.), there’s this completely maddening myth widely circulated in the media that goes something like: “Strong women don’t get sexually harassed at work; strong women stand up for themselves at work, and so they are protected.” We wish. Instead, it’s well-established that strong women are in fact one of the most at-risk target groups of sexual harassment in the workplace.
It’s pretty simple. Sexual harassment and violence against women are very often power plays. And guess who is the most threatening of all to men interested in exerting their power and dominance? You got it — Strong. Women.”
“Often the target of the harassment has low power in the workplace, whether by dint of a temporary or precarious contract or being young.
The victims of harassment are often framed as “vulnerable” for this reason, which is true in the sense that a lone shed on a moor with no surrounding buildings is vulnerable to a very strong wind. But this has become a way of saying that if only women were a bit more robust, it wouldn’t happen. In fact, there is nothing inherently fragile about a woman who is young and can’t afford to lose her job.
What it tells us is that cultures of masculinity that are interested in sexual abuse of women, they create the context in which that powerless woman is accessible, and in any subsequent moment, will continue to be powerless.
Powerlessness has no single source – Terry Crews has recounted his harassment by a senior Hollywood executive, as has James van der Beek; the operative vulnerability was race and age, respectively. The harassers are overwhelmingly male, and in a position of authority over the target.”
Let me tell you, in case there is any confusion otherwise, I have NEVER been a weak woman. And, yet, it happened to me, time and time again. Men have used an interesting word to describe me throughout the years – “powerful”. And, many powerful men have confessed to me that they wanted to completely dominate me in bed specifically because of that power they saw in me. I always found that very curious and didn’t truly understand what it meant until recently. So, if you have the temptation to think of me as weak because of my past experiences, you would be sorely mistaken. In my case though, I do sometimes wonder if perhaps they also preyed on me due to my life circumstances through-out the years…young, poor, single mother, fatherless, no support system, etc. So, I do agree that maybe some women may be more vulnerable to being targeted but it’s not because they are weak. In fact, none of the women I see coming forward are weak. They are strong and resilient! It’s time to stop blaming the victims. Let’s point the finger where it really belongs…towards the perpetrators of these acts.
We will remain silent no longer…