Last night, my girlfriend was accosted, live on national television, by two boys who thought it would be cool to touch her inappropriately, get in her space and yell the sexually aggressive phrase "fuck her right in the pussy." Apparently it's a popular viral internet thing to do if you're a rapey pissed up fuck boi. It's funny some say. Despite having boys she didn't know touch her without permission and embarrass her on TV, I thought she played it pretty cool live on air, laughing it off as girls the world over seem to learn to do in our culture. The thing is, they shouldn't have to.
Just as upsetting as what transpired, was reading many of the comments, from both men and women in support of the two guys who did this. "Legends" was a term I saw used on social media to describe the two guys who think women shouldn't report from music festivals . Harden up, you're being unprofessional, just laugh it off type comments abounded. Why should women and girls learn to laugh it off? Why is that an even a thing, that it's ok to make someone feel shitty and females should just deal with it? Why aren't boys and men learning not to sexually harass and intimidate women and girls?
While on one admittedly stupid, alpha male level, the whole thing angers me (love those boys to come do some sparring with me at the gym - you're always welcome Sean Phillips and Terry Insull, I'll go a round with you each one after the other), it also got me thinking about sexual harassment, street harassment and about what women and girls put up with in our society. I wanted to know how commonly females are made to feel uncomfortable, solicited, touched without consent, and generally treated badly. So tonight, when I was teaching my women's Muay Thai class, I got chatting to some of the students who turned up and came up with an impromptu interview. Shout out iPhones! I'm not claiming by any means an exhaustive body of journalistic work, it's just a random group of women from a range of backgrounds, just recounting their experiences authentically.
"I feel scared because I've had men chase me."
"I feel worthless. I hate when guys just look at you for your body."
Now I don't know any of these interviewees especially well, we didn't have a script and all the interview subjects did it on literally 5 minutes notice with little time to prepare their thoughts after a training session, but I think these short stories speak really powerfully about just how common and severe a problem harassment is. 16 year old girls should be able to go for a walk or a run without having grown men yell at them out of their cars. 37 year old mothers should be able to take their infants for a walk in a pram without getting hassled. Your work place should be a safe place where you feel comfortable. Snapchat shouldn't be a place females are receiving unsolicited sexually explicit videos.
"If you're one of those people who tell women to laugh it or ignore it, you should stop because really we can't be so blasè."
May I just pause to publicly say thank you all so much for sharing with me, and allowing me to put it online. The internet can be mean and people are thoughtless bullies online, so I think you're all really brave and cool AF to open up like this.
Now you might think I'm just upset because something happened to my girlfriend, but the fact is, this isn't the first story I've heard about harassment, sexual or otherwise. This sort of shit is, as you can see in the video above, routine, and this is simply the most recent example of it that's close to home. It makes me think of the girlfriend who told me she lost her virginity, by being raped when passed out drunk. Or one of my best friends who woke up naked at age 15, not sure where she was and what the boy who she'd been with had done to her, but she was dressed when she went to bed. How's that related, you might scoff and ask, and to that I say google rape culture. Nothing happens in a vacuum. We continue to live in and create a culture which, basically treats women like shit. Women get paid less, suffer dramatically higher levels of domestic violence and sexual assault than men. It's the daily sexual innuendo, jokes, harassment and verbal abuse and intimidating behaviour that is a backdrop which helps create the environment for all of this to happen in.
Men, bros, bruhs, dudes, we need to look at our behaviour. We need to stop laughing at and humiliating women. Treating their bodies like public property that you can grab when you feel like it. We need to call other guys out, challenge them on the language they use, the porno they watch and what it's teaching them, the jokes they laugh at. It's up to us to question others, because next time it might not be 'just a joke' and it might not be my girlfriend, it might be yours. Or your daughter. Your sister. Your friend. Will it be so funny then?