If you’ve experienced the power dynamics inherent in most workplaces and in our society at large, then the allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Harvey Weinstein may come as no surprise. Our bodies have always been subjected to the whims of men at the top. They’ve also been subjected to the whims of men at the bottom and anywhere in between — a stranger exposing himself to you on the street, your creepy uncle, your friends, your clients, your colleagues, your lovers, your mentors. We asked you to share your stories with us. Here they are.
About a year or so ago man exposed himself to me and several other women across a subway platform. Emboldened and encouraged by the female rage around me, I went upstairs to alert the police. I relayed my story to the officer on duty and was told that there was nothing he could do since he couldn’t leave his post. He asked if the flasher was being aggressive and said he would file a report. I returned back to the platform to inform the rest of the women around me, and we stood there helplessly while the flasher continued exposing himself. Eventually our train came and we got on, leaving him behind to do this to the next group of women. I felt shame in this moment, because I thought I did what I was supposed to do, that I alerted who I was supposed to. I felt ashamed for how briefly empowered I felt representing the women on that platform, and how helpless I felt returning to them empty-handed.
I once let a boy I never met grope me on a bus. I was young, maybe junior high school age. I was so mixed with emotions – I wanted to gain sexual experience like many of the girls around me (at this point I had never even been kissed) but simultaneously I knew this was not the way it should happen. I eventually stopped him and he was angry and I apologized. He changed his seat. The feelings of shame stayed with me for at least another year or so, until I realized that I had nothing to be sorry for. I don’t think I even knew his name.
I’d been hooking up with a male friend for a few months. It was very “when we’re both in the mood” and only happened every so often. One night, we went out and partied with friends. We came back to sleep on our friend’s couch. We were both really drunk. I was talking to someone new, and I didn’t want to hook up with my friend because I wasn’t feeling it anymore; I wanted to focus on the possible relationship I was building. He was drunk and kept pushing it. I was drunk and got tired of saying no over and over. I left him do stuff to me and I came, then we went to bed. I’ve never felt grosser about something, and I felt guilty and as though I had no right to complain since it was one sided toward me. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay. I never told anyone. I can’t tell my husband. So the story had just existed inside me. I am sharing it here in case it can help someone. Remember: It can be a friend you would have willingly hooked up with another time. In any situation, no means no. Drunk or sober. Friend or stranger. That word is enough.
I used to work at a school where I would respond to behavioral crises. Part of my job was to make sure all of the students got on and off their buses safely and were all accounted for. Several bus drivers would make frequent comments about how “sexy” I was, how much they enjoyed watching me, and one even told me that I “needed to be spanked”. I didn’t want to report any of this to my boss, because he had once let it slip that he had passed me over for a promotion before because I was a woman. I was afraid that he would feel justified for discriminating against me, because this wouldn’t have happened to a man. (And if you’re thinking that I should have gone to HR with my boss’s comment…..our HR representative had made flirtatious comments to me and several other female colleagues and had actually sexually harassed a woman who used to work there. Didn’t seem like a great source of support for issues facing women).
When I was in high school I had a boyfriend who clearly valued the sexual part of our relationship above all other aspects. I considered it normal; we were hormonal, sexually active high schoolers and he was the guy, the guy is always hornier than the girl, right? I really cared about him as a person and enjoyed being in a relationship, so I’d brush it off when all I wanted to do was cuddle and watch a movie but every five minutes I’d have to push his hands away from creeping up my shirt or down my pants. First it was laughingly, then more exasperatedly, but no matter what he persisted. Usually I’d give in and we’d fool around – he was my boyfriend, after all. Sometimes I wouldn’t and he’d get upset about it, the implication always being that it was owed as part of the pact of our being “boyfriend-girlfriend”. I fear that this is still typical, that we teach ourselves and our daughters that they owe something to men. It took many years for me to learn that we don’t.
I compartmentalize these moments so well that at first I thought I didn’t have any Weinstein-like stories to share. The worst has not yet happened to me. I’ve never been raped. But I’ve been made to feel unsafe. When I worked late night shifts, I would choose work shoes based on how well I could run in them to outpace men who followed me home from the subway. After one bad OkCupid date ended up with me reading up on state stalking laws, I bought mace. When dates invite me over for the first time, I remember their floor plans for exit strategies. These are all terribly ordinary calculations women walking home alone at night have to make. I barely realize I’m calculating the equation of how to have fun and live life without getting killed by a man over it, but it’s math I solve for constantly.
Most recently, I had someone I barely knew expose nudes of mine without my consent or knowledge. She gained access to my nudes by violating the rules of a sex pos group that’s full of survivors of assault (myself included), and she violated the trust of that group by exposing me to her friends at a bar, for fun, all while body shaming me. A friend of mine who was there when this happened told me what happened almost immediately, and I flipped out.
How can these people talk such a big game about allyship and feminism and STILL be friends with this person, knowing what happened? It’s just so funny. It’s so goddamn easy to to drag someone that you don’t know for something like this, but then it’s your friend or best bud, the person you’re probably MOST responsible for holding accountable outside of family, and suddenly you’re making excuses for them. Hold your friends accountable. Don’t make posts about fake allies when you’re one yourself. Sorry if this is incoherent. I’m just disgusted out of my fucking mind right now.
I was a freshmen in college when I met a boy through my roommate’s boyfriend. We went out a couple times and one night I brought him back to my place. We were on the couch in the living and I was *very* clear that I only wanted to make out. As we were making out he started talking about wanting to have sex. I said absolutely. I think he thought I was a virgin because he started saying “don’t be scared, it won’t hurt.” I kept saying no. At this point he was on top of my and had me pinned down on the couch. As I was saying no and he was telling me not to be “scared,” he started undoing his belt buckle. I tried to push him off of me but I wasn’t strong enough. At that very moment, my roommate walked into our apartment with her boyfriend. Jose immediately got off of me and sat up straight. I made him leave. We never talked or hung out again. The most fucked up part of all of this is that while I was afraid in the moment it was happening, I laughingly brushed off the whole incident as “boys will be boys.” It wasn’t until years later that I not only remember what happened, but also realized how close I had been to being raped.
My ex decided to Photoshop me into nude pictures and send them to my family and friends and posted them online in an all male group. It has been a rocky road since then, i am blessed to have supportive parents and friends but the effect it has on my mind is irreparable.
I was abused by my mother’s father as a child. I didn’t say no because I was raised knowing you have to respect your elders…that good girls don’t disrespect their elders and do as they are told. Even though in my gut I knew what was happening was wrong – I didn’t know how to stop it. I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I finally turned to a guidance counselor at school. I have little to no memory of the few years immediately after that time in my life…its just a blank spot in my memory. In the days and years since I first spoke up, it was made clear to me that I needed to protect my secret – and my abuser – from others finding out. Who would want to marry me if they knew? From a young age, I learned people would judge me before they would judge my abuser.
On a trip overseas, I was shopping for jeans at the mall with my cousin. We went into a store and the shopkeeper asked me my size. I didn’t know what my size would be, so he said he would measure my waist. As he wrapped the tape measure around my waist his hands “jumped up” to caress my breasts. I was 14. I was so shocked and embarrassed, my cousin and I made eye contact and neither of us knew what to do. I paid for the jeans and we quickly left. I never stood up for myself. I didn’t know how to.
On the night of my college graduation, my alcoholic ex got extremely inebriated, as he often did. We were on the dance floor. As we were dancing, he kept getting more and more aggressive, trying to shove his hands up my dress. He assaulted me on the dance floor of the club we were at with his friends. No one stopped him. I’m sure they saw me trying to get him off of me. No one intervened.