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’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.
I want to talk to you about, what I believe, is one of the greatest and cruellest ironies of our time – that you can love someone with every part of your being but they don’t have to love you back.
That’s right, they don’t have to love you back.
You can be willing to put up with all kinds of shit for them – bust open your pelvic floor giving birth to their children, put up with their toxic relatives, mates and exes, support them while they work their “shit” out, move past the fact they have sex with people who are not you!, have them bruise and batter your body, denigrate your values, abandon you for a younger model, drink too much, have addictions that you try to help them get clear of, accept that he would rather watch porn than have sex with you, or know that he’s going to make you have sex whether you want to or not, pay all the bills and get the laundry done, and so on, and so on.
And you will say it is because you love him.
I mean, how many times have you heard a woman use those four words, “But I love him” as she excuses another piece of appalling behaviour. Your best friend could tell you the same story and you would say, “Get the hell out of there!”
But for you, it’s different because you love him. And somehow that makes it okay.
You may even convince yourself that despite all the challenges you are facing in your relationship, you will make it through because you love him and he loves you.
He might even tell you that he does. And you will let yourself believe him because you want him to love you, so much. Even if the way he shows that love isn’t exactly how you would ever dream of showing it. In fact, you would never treat him the way he treats you. But somehow, in your heart, you tell yourself that it’s okay.
You love him.
Because the alternative is that he doesn’t love you back and that can’t possibly be.
I mean your love is so powerful it can move mountains, right? And if you feel this way he must feel it too, right?
No. And ladies, this is where we get to the true crux of the matter – we can love with every fibre of our being and he will never, ever love us back in the way we deserve or in the way we love him.
But we keep on hoping don’t we? Hoping he will change? He will choose us first over her, his work, his mother, or his amateur drinking championships with his mates every Friday night.
The question of course is, why do we keep thinking it’s possible when it is patently and blatantly…a lie.
Well, I have a couple of theories about this and I’m willing to share them with you. And I’d like you to think them over and maybe drop me a line later and let me know your thoughts.
My first one is this…
We believe that men deserve more than us, so we accept less.
Let’s face it, in today’s society women are still earning less than men, have less money when they’re old, are more likely to be single, and more likely to do most of the child rearing in amongst everything else they’ve got going on. But still nothing changes? It’s not as if this stuff is news. It’s been happening for a long, long time. And yes, things are changing for the better, of course they are. But those changes look a bit glacial to me sister!
I mean seriously, why are men still not paying child support when they get women pregnant. He can sign away his parental rights and never have to be responsible for the child he helped to create in any way because, after all, he wanted her to get an abortion and she didn’t so, it’s down to her. Never mind the fact that he was probably the one who didn’t use any birth control. Seriously, talk to any single woman who is sexually active and she will tell you that, yes, even in the year 2020, men still carry on about having to wear a condom because it interferes with his pleasure – even though cumming is pretty much a given for him whether he has a rubber on or off while, for women, yeah, it’s still not a sure thing is it? But still, men don’t like it so it’s down to us women to pump our bodies full of hormones that make us moody, gain weight, may or may not work, have other side effects and don’t protect us from STDs at all. But hey, we take the hit because we accept less. And then if we get pregnant and don’t want to terminate because we don’t believe in it, have fertility issues, it might be our only chance or whatever the reason, he can just walk away because he doesn’t want it.
Now, to be clear, I am pro-choice because you know, the woman’s body is going to be the incubator for that new life and it’s her pelvic floor so I feel like that is her business, no one else’s. But equally fellas, if you can be “man enough” to put your dick in then you can be man enough to catch the baby when it falls out nine months later. And yes, that does mean financial responsibility even if you can’t manage the emotional support a child requires.
But still, we accept less because that’s our job right, to carry the baby? So often we literally do.
And while we’re on the subject of accepting less, why do women often accept less money in their financial settlements when their marriages breakdown? If the woman leaves she feels too guilty and doesn’t want to fight it, so gives him more. If he leaves, you’re too broken to fight it, so you accept less.
We believe we deserve less. So we get less.
And then there’s the thing where we pursue men who aren’t really into us and who quite frankly, don’t deserve us because of that very reason. If someone finds you unattractive and doesn’t want to invest time in getting to know you and doesn’t value you highly, then that should instantly make them look less attractive to you. It should be a turn off!!
But it’s not, is it? No, invariably it makes us want them more. We love him so he just has to see how amazing we are. He doesn’t get it…yet. We loooovvvve him. Let’s see if I’m thinner, wear more make-up, change my clothes, starve myself, get breast implants, get a Brazilian so my vagina looks like it belongs to an eight-year-old …maybe that will do it. Then he will see.
Ha! But he doesn’t, does he?
Now at this juncture, some male readers who have misguidedly stumbled upon this post may be tempted to begin the “Whataboutery parade”. Some female readers may be similarly tempted.
If that’s you I’d like to say, please don’t. This post isn’t for you. Let us agree to part ways and go on with our lives. I bear you no grudge, this isn’t meant to attack anyone. I’m just telling you like I see it. So please, thank you, now move on.
There are a few other things I’d like to cover about this topic including the influence of religious doctrine and the whole downfall of Adam being due to Eve not being able to control herself and leading him astray – which of course goes to the continuing emasculating concept that men are a bunch of halfwits with limited self-control who women need to take care of and make allowances for – but I don’t have time for that right now. I’m too busy learning how to not accept less than I am worth and hoping to help other women do the same.
I’ve been thinking about love today. This is unsurprising because I’ve been working on my next play and of course, like most of my writing, it is about love and all that goes with it – the good, the bad and the ugly.
The question of whole-heartededly showing up for love in a partnership is coming up and I wonder if many people still believe in that concept.
I see so many relationships that are not based on whole-hearted love. Instead they rely on obligation, financial security, fear of being alone, convenience, public image and even that old deluded adage about staying together for the children’s sake. Why people are still using that last excuse is beyond me – isn’t it abundantly clear that when people stay together for the wrong reasons they sentence their children to an adulthood where they will repeat and then try to break those negative relationship habits modelled by their parents?
But I digress. Back to whole-hearted love.
Whole-hearted love to me, means showing up openly and vulnerably. It means coming together with one other person and connecting in a way that is sacred to you both.
My play explores this concept of whole-hearted love and more controversially, love in open relationships. I have to say, when it comes to whole-hearted love, I find the open and polyamorous dynamic problematic.
To be clear, have sex with whoever you want, with however many people you want and of whatever gender you desire. As long as it’s between two consenting adults – who cares. It is certainly none of my business or anyone else’s for that matter.
But it’s the whole-hearted piece that plays on my mind.
Whole-heartedly loving someone else, to me at least, means showing up for one person and proudly too. It’s not about giving a bit here then giving a bit over there and then returning back here. That isn’t whole-hearted love.
And before you say, but it’s just sex and only a physical act, I have to say no – that’s not all it is.
You can’t get any closer to someone energetically than when you have sex – there is a merging of your energetic fields and when you detach, part of that other person’s energy stays on you. Then you take it with you when you return to your other lover. Then you end up with someone else’s energy in your bed with both of you.
Is that whole-hearted love – to carry energy from one to the next and contaminate the sacred space between you?
I can’t believe that it is.
This brings me to my next question – do we not desire whole-hearted love anymore? Is it considered a mute point in society? Is it redundant and perhaps unneeded? Is it old-fashioned?
I can hear that song playing in my head by Iva Davies when he sings,
“I don’t know where to be begin Don’t want to hear it again I don’t believe anymore This is all I know I know I’ve heard it before.”
Have we simply stopped believing that whole-hearted love is possible?
Now, I’m not saying I believe whole-hearted love is easily found or easily kept. Sometimes it arrives for a limited period of time then disappears as quickly as it came. I’ve lived long enough in the world to understand that whole-hearted love doesn’t guarantee longevity.
But I do believe it demands through its very nature, exclusivity.
Part of me wonders if some people have given up on it altogether because they don’t believe they deserve it in the first place. If you don’t believe you deserve something then why would you expect it? Certainly, from my own personal observations and conversations, it’s clear that some people agree to polyamorous partnerships because their partner convinces them it is necessary for their relationship to survive. So one gives in to the other because they fear losing them altogether.
I even read an horrendous article recently that gave instructions on how to convince your “unwilling partner” to change their mind – it read like a narcissist’s handbook by encouraging the person to persistently undermine their unwilling partner’s values and beliefs until they finally gave in. I found this horrifying and deeply disturbing.
Now I’m definitely not suggesting this is how all people approach polyamory with their partners. But I have noticed people who give in or are pressured to be in these types of relationships because they fear losing their partners are devastated as a result. The impacts on their self-esteem, feelings of self-worth and being deserving of love can be emotionally catastrophic.
Sex is an amazing and wonderful thing. It can be liberating, fun, stress-relieving and great exercise. It can also be a divinely intimate and sacred act between two people who are showing up whole-heartedly for each other and that connection.
I can’t help but feel sex in a polyamorous dynamic, can’t co-exist easily or at all with whole-hearted love.
Last year I found myself discussing my sexual history with a man I really liked. Actually, a more accurate description would be I found myself talking about my sexual history completely by accident and then desperately tried to dig myself out of a bottomless pit while feeling like a completely foolish woman who should’ve known better than to get herself into that situation in the first place.
Let me go back to the beginning. This man (let’s call him Nate) and I were talking about my book and I was sharing my mother’s reaction to reading a recent draft. You see, my Mum has been a strong supporter of my writing journey and I’d finally decided my manuscript was ready for her eyes.
You can read my full description of her response here.
Anyway, Nate was always interested in my writing so I began telling him about her reaction. Basically Mum said, ‘I thought it was very well written but I don’t think I really want to read about all the men you’ve had sex with.’
It was as these words tripped off my tongue that I realised I’d put myself into a sticky corner by even beginning the conversation with a man I liked. And then I made it worse. My following comments were along the lines of, ‘I explained to her that I haven’t slept with all the men in there and that’s why it’s called The Men I’ve Almost Dated…not that there’s been that many anyway. Not that it would matter if there was…’
I also realised that I’d begun telling a man I liked (who I hadn’t even dated yet) about my sexual history. I believe the following words travelled through my brain at this point, ‘Oh fuck. This is not good.’
My words continued to vomit from my mouth as I dug a hole further into the ground. You see I’m a feminist and firmly believe my body is mine to do with what I wish. I’m not a prude about sex and I believe you should have as much or as little as you want whether you are male or female. I don’t believe in antiquated notions of one night stands making you a slut or that I should ‘keep myself nice’ and wait for the right man. I’m too old, too independent and far too open about who I am to buy into any of that stuff.
Yet there I was, a grown-up of 42 years, suddenly stumbling over my words like an embarrassed schoolgirl as all the limiting cultural conditioning that still permeates our society about women and their sexual choices arched over me like a tidal wave and threatened to engulf me.
Before I knew it I’d said, ‘…not that there’s been that many’ again at which point he turned to me and said calmly, ‘You’ve said that three times now.’
With his eyes fixed firmly on my mine I honestly wanted to flee the building.
‘Um, look, I can’t be having this conversation,’ I said. The unspoken words ‘with you’ hung in the air after I uttered this sentence. ‘Can we please talk about something else,’ I added (I daresay there was more than a hint of desperation in my tone at this point).
Nate studied my face for a moment with what can only be described as an inscrutable expression (something he does amazingly and annoying well; I swear he’d make a killing at poker) and then obligingly changed the subject.
When I thought about it later I was seriously disappointed in myself. There I was, with all my modern beliefs about sex and women’s sovereignty over their own bodies, and I jumped immediately into justifying my sexual history. It’s not as if I would ever have expected him to do that, or anyone for that matter.
So why did I take what was simply an amusing story about my mother’s reaction to my book and expand it into this awkward, lumpy ball of discomfort?
‘Well obviously, duh! I liked the guy so I didn’t want him to get the “wrong impression” of me,’ I thought. This was followed swiftly by a, ‘Hang on a second, when did I become a 1950’s version of myself and why on earth would I feel the need to apologise or justify my sexual history to anyone?’
The truth is I don’t think I’ve had the ‘sexual history’ talk with anyone I’ve dated. I’ve only ever had it with my former husband and, as he was my first sexual partner, you can appreciate it was a fairly short conversation.
However, I know that not everyone has my liberated views about sex. I’ve had conversations in social situations where a man has told me that his girlfriend had been a ‘good girl’ (i.e. not slept around a lot) while the complete reverse was true for him!
I’ve also had men tell me that a woman who would have a one-night-stand with them wouldn’t be a woman they’d marry. Yet those same men believe they themselves are eminently marriageable…even though they’d had one-night-stands.
The double standards of these men (and some women who agree with them) still pervade many parts of our society. So I guess in that moment of nervousness, in that conversation with Nate, I reverted to reflecting some of the restrictive and outdated attitudes still expressed by some people about women and sex. However, I think it also arose from a very genuine desire on my part to not have my history misinterpreted by someone in my present (not that it should’ve mattered anyway!).
Nate and I never did get around to discussing that conversation further. It was simply superseded by other topics and was never raised again.
I would love to know what he was thinking that day. I’m sure it must have been an interesting and perhaps entertaining sight to see someone who is usually so confident start to spin herself into a rather undignified and tongue-tied mess.
Perhaps I’ll never know what was going on in his head behind that inscrutable mask. But just for the record, I haven’t had sex with all the men I talk about in my book. Not that it matters anyway!
The Men I’ve Almost Dated is now on sale through online retailers. Find out more>
‘…Let’s talk about sex, baby Let’s talk about you and me Let’s talk about all the good things And the bad things that may be Let’s talk about sex Let’s talk about sex Let’s talk about sex Let’s talk about sex
Let’s talk about sex for now to the people at home or in the crowd It keeps coming up anyhow Don’t decoy, avoid, or make void the topic Cuz that ain’t gonna stop it Now we talk about sex on the radio and video shows Many will know anything goes Let’s tell it how it is, and how it could be How it was, and of course, how it should be…’ Let’s Talk About Sex, Salt ‘n’ Pepa.
Mum has always been very supportive of my writing. She’s the one in my family who asks how it’s going, wants to read my work and encourages me to follow my writing dream (even when the going gets tough).
Last year, I showed her a chapter from the latest draft of my book and she loved it. She said it made her feel emotional and she wanted to cry a little. This was high praise coming from Mum.
Fast forward a year and that draft has morphed and changed into a far more refined version. And Mum’s been supportive the whole time. ‘When do I get to read your book?’ has been her regular refrain followed by, ‘Is it finished yet?’
About a month ago I was finally able to say, ‘Yes, it’s ready enough for you to see it. I’ll email to you.’ Would she like it or hate it, I didn’t know. But it was time.
Four long days crept past with no word from Mum. Was my book complete crap?? My fears started to bubble a little. Surely all was fine. Maybe she was busy and hadn’t read it yet.
Finally, I rang her on another pretext and as the conversation drew to a close she said, ‘By the way, I read your book.’
‘Oh?’ I said. ‘What did you think?’
‘I thought it was very well written,’ she said. ‘But I don’t really think it’s for my generation. And, as your mother, I don’t really want to read about all the men you’ve had sex with.’
Oh. My. God.
‘Mum, you do realise I haven’t slept with all the men I mention in the book. That’s why it’s called The Men I’ve Almost Dated. And besides, even if I had, it wouldn’t actually be many by most people’s standards…for my age.’
‘Well, that’s not always very clear,’ she replied. ‘But I thought it was good and very well written,’ she added hastily.
Now, my Mum knew the subject matter of my book before she read it. Lord knows she’s been privy over the years to many of my ridiculous dating and male-related stories. And trust me, there really isn’t much graphic content in my book. But I think Mum was a little shocked and, as I now look through some of my stories, I guess I can understand why. My writing is pretty open and I tend to say it like it is. If you’re single and you’re dating (or not dating), the subject of sex is going to come up. It is 2015 after all.
But my Mum is 70 years old and from another generation; a generation that definitely wasn’t as open about things as we are today.
When I next saw Mum, she made a point of saying (again) how good she thought my book was and I know she is still really supportive, regardless of the content. But, as I plan its launch for later this year, I’m starting to wonder if I need to include some sort of age-related warning label like, ‘Contains some semi-shocking content and should only be read by people aged 18-60 years.’
Hopefully my second book (planned for early next year) will be a little less shocking for Mum and she’ll feel comfortable handing it out to her friends. For obvious reasons, I’m guessing it’s unlikely she’ll proudly distribute copies of The Men I’ve Almost Dated to her friends in the mostly 60+ age group at her weekly yoga class.