TW: discusses sexual assault
World, we have a problem and I am sick to death of it. Sexual assault of women and girls is rife in our community and it’s got to stop.
Almost every woman I speak to has been sexually assaulted and/or physically abused by a boy or man. The incidents may have happened when they were a child or an adult but the stories are appallingly and insidiously common. Strangers at parties, boyfriends and husbands, older men when they were kids, on and on and on the stories go. They are everywhere and they are never-ending.
If you’re reading my words and thinking, “Lucretia is exaggerating, it’s not that common,” I want to invite you to do the following.
If you are a man reading this, put down your device and go talk to the women in your life – the women you care about. Ask them about their experiences of assault in the workplace, at home, on nights out. I dare you to ask and I dare you to listen and accept what you hear about their experiences. If a woman has escaped sexual assault and abuse, she is a lucky exception.
Then I suggest you take walk through the comments sections on posts by women like Clementine Ford who speak out about abusive male behaviour, feminism and women demanding better treatment. As you scroll, I want you do look out for the misogynistic commentary that some men still think is acceptable – comments like, “I’m going to rape you if you don’t shut your hole” or “No man will ever have sex with you because you’re an ugly pig.” This type of commentary is remarkably common and even more interestingly, when women shine a spotlight on these ugly comments that men send to their DMs, people (men and women) defend the abusive pricks who sent them in the first place. Women are still expected to play nicely and smile politely even in the face of abuse – we mustn’t cause waves or be disruptive.
Well, I am sick of this shi!
I’m sick of hearing of young women who are assaulted yet, when they tell adults, police and others, they are disbelieved and met with words like, “He comes across as a really genuine guy” or “Maybe he didn’t know that you weren’t into it.”
I’m sick of reading about how, even if a woman bravely and tenaciously, goes to court to tell her story, juries are still more likely to believe the man’s story even when evidence shows that women are unlikely to lie about this stuff. If you want to learn more about this, I highly recommend you read the words of Bri Lee in her book, Eggshell Skull.
I’m also completely devastated when I hear women and girls describe their assaults and in the next breath they doubt themselves and ask, “Was that wrong? Am I over-reacting? Was it my fault?”
If you are a girl or a woman and you feel like you have been sexually assaulted, then it’s highly, highly likely you have been. It wasn’t your fault.
If you said no and then he coerced you, didn’t listen, forced himself on you, you have been assaulted.
If he touched you sexually without your consent, then you have been assaulted.
If he pushed himself on you and you froze (which sadly, many women do in these situations because we are terrified), then you were assaulted.
If you have had any of these or related experiences, I want to say this directly to you:
“Sweetheart, none of that was your fault. When things happen and they feel wrong, they are wrong – trust yourself. It’s not your job to teach men and boys how to treat you respectfully – they know the difference between right and wrong.
“You are a courageous and beautiful person who deserves so much more than this. I believe you can find your way out – sometimes it’s just about finding the right person to help you.
“Don’t give up. I believe you.”
As for those of you who continue to say, “It’s not that common”, “She shouldn’t have worn that dress/gone to that place/been with that guy” or “He just misunderstood and thought she consented”, my response is “Do better”.
“I love you, but I love me more.”
I’ve been thinking about this quote all day. It’s from Sex and the City – the iconic series about women, sex and friendship that many of us loved during the 90s. The quote is from Samantha Jones when she realises she has sacrificed her goals and independence for the man she loves. She has upended her life to help him follow his dream so he can be a success. With her talent and skills, she has taken him from unknown to superstar. But one day, she realises she can’t do it anymore. Although she loves him, she loves herself more.
Somewhere along the way, she willingly chose to lose herself in help him create his dreams. So she leaves and returns to the life that fills her up rather than living a life that ensures his needs are met, rather than her own.
Many years ago, while I was still married, my then-husband’s interests were increasingly divergent from my own. He wanted to stay home, watch the football several nights a week and renovate our house. Increasingly, I wanted to socialise, travel and expand my world. As time went by, and he refused to join me, I chose to go out without him. A female family member told me I should stay at home.
“Even though he won’t go out at all, I should stay home with him because that’s what he wants?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she said.
I left my marriage a year or two later. Clearly, I felt differently to her.
A lot of years have passed since then but I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to women and the men they love.
I’ve heard women say things like, “Oh, he doesn’t like me to do things without him, so I don’t [insert her dream or passion here]” or, “I just know that he has all this potential so I’m going to help him [insert his dream].”
These are good women who love their men. But I wonder if they realise what they are doing to themselves and their relationships when they shelve their own dreams and desires so they can help their partners achieve theirs.
In partnerships, there are absolutely swings and roundabouts. As we progress through our lives, there will be times when one partner needs more support to help them achieve and reach for their goals. But too often it seems like the woman does a lot more heavy lifting in this department than the man. And we do it voluntarily because that’s what a good wife/girlfriend/partner does. Therein lies the challenge.
In this modern age, there is no reason for women to believe they must put their needs second to their male partner. There is no reason why men shouldn’t do 50 percent of the housework and child-rearing when their female partners also work full-time. But the statistics tell us that women are consistently taking the heavier load.
Mothers still frequently do more for their sons than their daughters. I’ve heard friends with sons and daughters talk about how much more difficult it is for boys than girls. Girls must fend for themselves more because they’re more capable while the mothers are just that bit more protective of their sons. The daughters see this behaviour and carry it forward into their intimate relationships later on.
Culturally, we’re still shown messages every day that women should make more allowances for their men. Female celebrities forgive their male partners for all sorts of indiscretions (including abuse) while their men and their careers still flourish. Just take a look at some of the sportsmen and musicians of the world for examples where women and the man’s adoring fans forgive all kinds of appalling behaviour. Mind you, a woman is unlikely to get away with similar antics without being called a myriad of names and probably losing her income.
The common theme parroted by women throughout all of these situations, is love. Too often it’s the narrative of unconditional love. “You must love unconditionally,” we’re told. But I think women have misinterpreted this message.
Telling a woman she should stay home all the time and shrink her world because that’s what her husband wants, is not love.
Prioritising his dreams and desires over yours, is not love.
Continuing to pick up more of the home and child-rearing tasks, is not love.
Ensuring sons are treated with more care than our daughters, is not love.
Making allowances for disrespectful and sometimes abusive behaviour, is not love.
We must love fiercely – we must set boundaries and say no, this is not okay. We must love ourselves fiercely and refuse to enable poor masculine behaviour. We must only only accept equality because that is what we deserve.
We must demand respect, not beg for it.
We must love fiercely with boundaries and accept nothing less.
If we learn to do this effectively, we will empower ourselves as women and also empower our men, instead of demeaning ourselves and emasculating them.
Love fiercely. And know you can love them but you need to love yourself more.
Unconditional love doesn’t mean giving away your power. We need to stop believing it does.
“She’s a cougar,” he said, smiling with amusement.
Davy* (not his real name) was dismissing the romantic interest of a woman at the speed dating event – she was an attractive 52-year-old.
“How old are you?” I asked. Davy looked like he might be quite close to 50 himself.
He looked surprised for a second then answered, “I’m 47.”
“But you’d go out with a woman five years younger than you, right?” I queried.
“Yeah, of course,” he said offhandedly before changing the subject.
Davy’s comments shouldn’t have surprised me but they did. I keep hoping that when it comes to gender politics, we will have evolved more. But too many men seem to be stuck in some weird dimension located around the 1950s where double-standards are still in residence and remain quite comfortable, thank you very much.
Over the past year or so, I have watched:
- Tony Robbins (a supposedly evolved thought leader) disparage the #metoo movement and use his physicality to push a woman back (into her box?) at an event in front of thousands of people
- legislation be passed in some southern states in the United States to control women and their reproductive choices by preventing their access to abortion (even in the cases of rape and incest!). No surprises that the legislators have frequently been white men and religious doctrine has played an influencing role.
- increasing commentary on social media about how abortion shouldn’t be permitted in Australia either – once again with a lot of men and religious rhetoric leading the discussion (men + religion often doesn’t always work out so great for women’s rights)
- Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius (following the murder of yet another woman in Melbourne this week) state, “The key point, is this is about men’s behaviour, it’s not about women’s behaviour. Every time I hear about woman being attacked – for me as a man – it gives me some pause for reflection about what it is in our community that makes men think it’s okay to attack women, or take what they want from women”.
Some public commentators subsequently bleated the same old “but not all men” statement in response to Luke’s words instead of doing some of their own reflection and saying, “Well, yeah, I can see that men are doing this and I’m a man, so I guess I have a role to play. What action can I take?”
- Tanya Plibersek pull out of the Labor leadership race stating she could “not reconcile” the “important responsibilities I have to my family with the additional responsibilities of the Labor leadership” (Sydney Morning Herald, May 26, 2019) clearly indicating that perhaps Australia’s parliament isn’t the most family friendly or supportive place for women
- Australia’s prime minister give a speech on International Women’s Day saying “We don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.” In other words, women can’t rise if it means others [men] will be displaced. Despite the fact that many women haven’t risen because they haven’t received the same advantages as men.
Let’s just say, as a woman, a feminist and someone who supports equality, these events have been disappointing to say the least. We’re not in the 1950s anymore, so why does it feel like we’re still there?
I understand these are tricky times. Men don’t always know these days what their role is. Most want to do the right thing but there is, I’m afraid, a large degree of apathy when it comes to standing up and saying to other men, “Mate, that’s not how we do things anymore. Women deserve our respect. We don’t control them. And we don’t dismiss their opinions just because they don’t align with our beliefs about how things should (and have always) been.”
There also seems to be a degree of reticence by some men to genuinely reflect on their own behaviour and consider that their ‘normal’ treatment of women is no longer acceptable (not that it ever was). Instead of being calm and less emotional (as they often tell us women to be), some men jump to angry defensiveness at the very mention that they may have a role to play in addressing the issues women are experiencing at the hands of men. It’s much easier it seems to point back to women and somehow blame them for being the problem than take a look at their own behaviour.
Some don’t like the thought that they may not hold exclusive power for much longer and are using their influence to try to retain the status quo. I think this explains the swing to the right we are seeing in the US particularly, and also in other nations globally where governments are increasingly seeking to stifle women’s voices and rights.
For example, a woman’s right to decide if she is going to use her womb to procreate is one of the few things that men cannot directly control – it is one of the few things women have exclusive power over. Yet, we are seeing moves in some places to remove our rights to this body autonomy. If we ever needed a sign that some men were very fearful – then this is a big one. Let’s not delude ourselves. If those men were really concerned about unwanted pregnancies, they would be legislating to make it unlawful for men to have sex without birth control (vasectomy anyone?) or legally ensuring they had to be 100 percent involved post-birth (both financially and in person) and provide adequate flexibility in workplaces, etc. But of course, they’re not doing that. Forcing birth control on men (which would definitely prevent abortions because their would be no accidental pregnancies in the first place) is out of the question yet forcing women to procreate against their will is acceptable, apparently. Double standards anyone?
Women are standing up and demanding more. And I won’t lie, a lot of us are angry about the way things have been going. We’re angry because things aren’t changing and, in fact, sometimes it feels like we’re going backwards.
I believe that when we work together, women, men or however you identify, we can achieve great things. But at the moment, many men are sitting on the sidelines and allowing the status quo to be maintained through their silence.
You need to get into the game gentlemen. We need you there. We want you there. We want to hear you standing beside us saying things like:
“It’s not good enough. Women deserve to have autonomy over their bodies, just like I have over my body.”
“Mate, don’t speak about women disrespectfully. No means no and she doesn’t have to stroke your ego and worry you might become abusive just because she hurt your feelings by saying no.”
“We need more flexible work arrangements so parents can work and take care of their children, so I’m going to make that company policy.”
“Being violent towards women is never acceptable and if I know that you are intimidating or being violent towards a woman, I’m going to pull you into line, report you and let you know very clearly that it’s not acceptable behaviour.”
Good men, we need you to do this because a lot of your peers don’t seem to be listening. We need your help. If you want to know what your role is nowadays, this is a big part of it. This is how you help provide for the safety and rights of the women and society you care about – you make sure women have a non-negotiable, equal voice at the table.
This is how we work in partnership to create a better world.
Men, this is your cue.
#metoo #feminist #menthisisyourcue #equality #equalrights