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The Rot Starts from the Top

The Rot Starts from the Top

TW: Sexual assault

It’s been a shocking week in the news or, at least, that’s what a lot of people have said online. They are shocked and appalled by the news of a female Liberal Party staffer, Brittany Higgins, being raped in our nation’s Parliament (there is now a second report from another woman). They are shocked by the flood of sexual assault and rape reports from girls and women who were assaulted by boys from private schools in Sydney. The shock is compounded by the one-year anniversary of the horrific murder of Hannah and her three children at the hands of her estranged husband.

Everyone is shocked. Except we’re not really shocked because that word suggests an element of surprise, and I’m sure most women aren’t surprised at all. We’re not surprised when it’s reported the Prime Minister and his staff may have covered up Brittany’s rape or that the alleged perpetrator went on to a cushy job in the private sector. We’re not surprised that all those private school boys who assaulted their female peers have apparently gone on to live their lives without any repercussions whatsoever. We weren’t surprised when poor Hannah and her children paid the ultimate price in a society where women are still not safe from predatory men.

Perhaps a better word would be sad. Incredibly sad. A heartbreaking sadness that sits in your chest and never leaves because you feel so helpless, particularly as a woman who wants every woman to be safe no matter where she is or what she is wearing.

In response to the rape allegations, the Prime Minister released a statement saying: “Jenny [his wife] and I spoke last night, and she said to me, ‘You have to think about this as a father first. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?”

“Jenny has a way of clarifying things. Always has. And so, as I’ve reflected on that overnight and listened to Brittany and what she had to say, there are a couple of things here we need to address.”

It was only when he thought about Brittany as a woman attached to him genetically that he could see her as a human. Anyone who knows this man is record was not surprised at his lack of empathy (remember the bushfires) or support for women,

“We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse. We want everybody to do better, and we want to see the rise of women in this country be accelerated to ensure that their overall place is maintained.” (International Women’s Day, 2019).

Meanwhile, social media posts call for more teaching about consent in schools, starting with younger children than we do now. The calls seem to asks our schools and hard-working teachers to take on even more of the social responsibility for how our children turn out. Over-burdened teachers with heavy workloads reply, “Really? When will parents and the rest of society take on the load? How much more do you want us to do?”

Some mutter about porn being the cause and, yes, porn has negatively shaped expectations for many men and boys when it comes to what sex, and girls and women should look like and enjoy. But porn isn’t to blame for the ongoing violence towards girls and women. This violence happened to my generation and all the ones that came before. It continues even now.

What we’re doing to stop violence against women is not working. Women and girls are still not respected as equal, sovereign beings worthy of the basic respect and decency that men and boys take for granted.

There is a saying that rot starts from the top and in this case, I believe the change we need must also start there as well. Unfortunately, for women, this change is something men must initiate – the men who hold leadership roles in our government, schools and communities.

The perpetrators of this violence are male. Boys look to men for cues on how to be men so it is men who must speak up.

Wouldn’t it be great if the Prime Minister stood up and said loudly with no spin or prevarication: “Any man who has sex with a woman without her full, eager and willing consent is a rapist and a despicable human being as far as I am concerned. As such, I would expect them to be pursued and prosecuted within the full scope of the law, and if that didn’t happen, I would want to know why.”

Wouldn’t it be great if teenage boys were also told that by their male teachers and by men in their homes and communities?

Wouldn’t it be great if every man in a leadership role in a football code did the same?

Wouldn’t it be great if they said it, meant it and followed through so every woman or girl could feel safe and know that “good men” really do exist?

Wouldn’t that be shocking and surprising?

“I don’t think I’m the right man for you.”

“I don’t think I’m the right man for you.”

Why don’t we believe that men know their own minds? When they say things like, I don’t think I’m the right man for you or I’m not good enough for you, we usually argue with them.

We seek to put a salve on their egoic wounds and build up their confidence. We argue with them when we should accept what they are telling us and show them the door.

When we ignore these statements from men, we do them and ourselves a disservice. Firstly, our refusal to believe his words dismisses his knowledge of who he is and where he is at in life. This is kind of condescending when you think about it.

Women often step into a more encouraging and dare I say it, mothering role at this point in the conversation. We seek to build him up and focus on his potential much as we would do with a child. But he’s not a child. He’s a man. And you actually want to be in a relationship with a man who will meet you as an equal…don’t you?

Not valuing his words and listening to them leaves the door open to being screwed over. If you convince him to stay in the relationship at this point, he’s given you fair warning about what may be ahead. He might simply spend more time with you until he meets the right woman or he might try to be good enough for you (and succeed in this quest, or not). Either way, it’s not a solid foundation for your relationship.

I’m not saying he can’t become the right man for you. Maybe he can. But that’s something he will need to work on, grow into and choose for himself. Propping him up during this period is unhelpful and emasculating.  

When he says he’s not the right one or he’s not good enough, believe him and let him go. If the situation changes, he will be back. If he doesn’t return, he’s done you a favour and helped you move towards the right man who is still out there, looking for you.

Lucretia Ackfield is a modern explorer of love and a passionate advocate for establishing equality through love for the self and others. She helps women all over the world to fall in love with themselves so they can find the deep and powerful love they deserve. Her first book, The Men I’ve Almost Dated, covers all the antics of a single life from online dating to lackluster sexual adventures and dysfunctional relationships. Now available in eBook and PDF >> Get your copy.

Promising Young Woman: A few thoughts

Promising Young Woman: A few thoughts

TW: This post discusses sexual assault and rape.

A heavy sadness has been growing in my heart for some days now. It arrived when I opened Laura Bates’ Men Who Hate Women and read about the vicious and violent threats she has received from men throughout her career, simply for voicing her opinions.

My heart grew heavier still as I watched Promising Young Woman at the cinema last night.

A book and a film both released in the past 12 months. Both cover the abuse of women. Both shining a blinding spotlight on what women know to be true – we are not safe.

The fact I need to put a trigger warning at the start of this post demonstrates just how unsafe we are – almost every woman I know has experienced some kind of abuse at the hands of man. And when many of us write about women standing up for themselves, we also include the words – if it’s safe for you to do so. We write this because for many women, it’s not safe to speak up.

I had to put Laura’s book down after reading the first 20 pages. I will pick it up again but I need to steel myself to proceed (and I haven’t even got to the really confronting parts yet).

However, I did watch the entirety of Promising Young Woman and I would describe it as brilliantly written, incredibly confronting and disturbingly accurate. It shows what women know to be true and also how men and some women dismiss, cover it up and justify it to themselves.

The film centres on Cassie, a young woman who dropped out of medical school to care for her best friend, Nina. Nina was raped while drunk during college and her rapist got away with it.

Cassie is on a mission to seek retribution.

Promising Young Woman could only have been written and directed by a woman. Its realness is unavoidable. I also feel it should be compulsory viewing for every girl, woman, boy and man over the age of 16.

The frequent refrain of “but I’m a nice guy” provided many teachable moments. Male characters knowingly took advantage of a woman who was drunk yet, when caught out, excused themselves with “but I’m a nice guy” and somehow reasoned away their culpability. Men and women dismissed rape as no big deal with comments about how the victim was drunk and asking for it.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

It reminded me of when I was at my post-formal party. It was the end of high school and my whole year went to a school mates’ property to get drunk and celebrate. I was a fairly naïve 17-year-old but even so, for some reason, I asked a trusted male friend if he would look out for me. I knew he would be sober but I wouldn’t be. Later that night, I remember one of the guys from my year (a seemingly nice guy) with his hands all over my breasts and the rest of my body. If it wasn’t for intervention of my sober male friend, things could have got out of hand very quickly.

Interestingly, back then, it didn’t register as an invasion of my physical space or assault. I don’t think I mentioned it to anyone and I certainly didn’t confront the perpetrator when I was sober at school the next day. Instead, I felt like it was just one of those things that could happen and you lived with it – having a guy put his hands all over you, intimately, when you were drunk was something that could happen and you lived with it. There was also an underlying theme that, somehow, you should feel good if a guy noticed you in that way – like you should be grateful for their attention.

No one had ever talked to me about how vulnerable women can be in those situations, what could happen and what my rights were to protect my own body. Clearly I knew enough to ask a friend to look out of me but that wasn’t from any direct conversation. I guess it was a more innate understanding of what kind of world I lived in as a young woman. It was just what we lived with.

But I’m sick of living with it and I’m tired of hearing people say that a woman asked for trouble because of what she was wearing or because she drank too much. Equally, I know that just because some guy shows you attention doesn’t mean you should be grateful for it. I’m also so sick of perpetrators getting away with their crimes because everyone thinks they are “nice guys” and “women often lie about these things”.

Women don’t often lie about these things. Why would we when, by making a formal police report, we open ourselves up to condemnation for being a slut and somehow asking for it? Or worse, victims are dismissed by police because a perpetrator “comes across as decent guy” when interviewed. Yes, it happens. Still.

There’s no doubt Promising Young Woman rips the scab off and exposes the darkness beneath. It’s a darkness we all know is there. Some of us try to ignore it, some of us feel powerless to stop it, many of us have been victims of it. But. We. All. Know. It. Is. There.

So please, take your brother, husband, boyfriend, father and male friends to see this film. Have the difficult conversations that arise afterwards. And for God’s sakes, all you men out there who sincerely want to help women: start listening to the experiences of the women you are supposed to care about, believe them and step up. Because women are still being raped and assaulted by “nice guys” and we need your help to stop it.

And as for you “nice guy” perpetrators out there. I hope you meet a woman like Cassie very soon.

I’m so sick of this sh!!

I’m so sick of this sh!!

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 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.

Loving him is no excuse

Loving him is no excuse

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.

Why indeed?

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.