Have I ever had “ANY unwanted/undesired physical or sexual contact”?

Earlier in this pregnancy, I filled out my “Initial Health History” form for prenatal and birth care. You know: check the box if you’ve experienced severe headaches, diabetes, all sorts of things. After the usual “Emotional abuse,” “Physical abuse,” “Sexual abuse,” I got to this very interesting item: ”ANY unwanted/undesired physical or sexual contact.”

And I almost went blithely on without checking the box that means I’ve experienced it. Because nothing has happened to me, really, right? I’m supposed to feel lucky, right, given that I’m a woman in a culture where horrible things very often happen to girls and women? But then I actually thought for a second, and reality hit me.

I have been grabbed and forcefully kissed, open-mouthed, by a stranger while walking through a crowded club behind friends.

I have been groped and rubbed on while dancing at parties in college, at bars, at clubs: a parade of hard penises I most certainly did not want to feel. For a while, I went dancing at a bar where women could dance on the bar, because it was the only place I could figure out to enjoy dancing without getting felt up: being ogled and treated like I was likely to strip at any moment felt safer and less disgusting than the alternative. And I like dancing.

I have felt my ass grabbed and pinched and stroked on crowded city streets and public transit, from early adolescence on.

When I was fourteen, I hemorrhaged while menstruating, leading to a very early first gynecological exam. After putting her fingers inside my body as I lay–abjectly terrified and deeply ashamed, feet in stirrups–on the table, the doctor asked whether I was sexually active. And when I said no, she assumed I was lying. That was my first experience of another person touching my genitals, and while technically she had my consent, let’s just say it didn’t go well. Many years of nightmares, body shame, and bouts of anxiety ensued.

Between the ages of twelve and nineteen, I attracted a great deal of ‘fatherly’ attention from middle-aged men who stood too close to me, touched my shoulders for no apparent reason, moved me physically where they wanted to go rather than using their words.

I’ve had boyfriends repeatedly touch me sexually in ways they knew I didn’t like. Because they wanted to.

There was a professor in grad school who would stand way too close to me (and lots of other young women) at department functions, doing odd things like stroking my arm, leaving me quite unsure how to respond without harming my future as a student and as an academic.

When I was twenty-one, a married acquaintance in his forties asked me to meet up with him and a group of friends for a drink one evening. He was drunk when I got there. He licked my neck. When I left for my car (to get the hell out of there and see my new boyfriend, who incidentally was Eric), the man followed me outside, scaring the shit out of me. He stood there towering over me in the dark parking lot, me backing away from his closeness, as he tried to convince me to go with him to his car.

Just for instance.

I’d never envisioned these little experiences as part of a larger pattern before filling out that form. They’re just so ordinary. My mother and stepmother and friends and, I’m sure, students have experienced all of this shit, and are continuing to experience it–and much scarier and more scarring shit, too. Many of you have, and do, and will. In many senses I am lucky. Yet despite my comparatively good fortune and my considerable privilege–which I totally acknowledge–the truth is that each of these ‘little’ moments in my life articulated what quickly became a powerful theme:

Your body is not for you. Your body is for men’s pleasure.

And you are at risk, all the time.

When I checked the box next to this item on the form, curious five-year-old Noah asked what it meant. I read it to him, and he asked what it meant again. I said something like “Well, Erin wants to know whether anyone’s ever touched me in a way I didn’t want, like kissing me when I didn’t want that, and unfortunately that has happened to me. A lot. But not recently.”

He looked at me very seriously.

Then he gave me a serious smile and slowly, slowly, maintaining eye contact, gave me the gentlest kiss in the world, on my mouth.

I refuse to do the happy dance because I was fortunate enough not to be molested as a little girl and have not been violently raped. I refuse to be abjectly grateful for ‘getting off easy’ with the experiences I’ve mentioned here.

Because I deeply resent that they are normal.

Because I can hardly stand the thought of these constant erosions of personhood seeming normal to our daughters and sons.

But for this love and gentleness and compassion, I am infinitely grateful.

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100 Comments

  1. Posted 27 January 2012 at 6:24 PM | Permalink

    Hey Molly,

    I just wanted to say thanks for writing this and making the effort to de-naturalize unwanted sexual touch (that sounds super clinical as a phrase, but you know what I mean). I think it’s really easy for us (especially for women?) to minimize their own experience by saying “well, someone else had X experience which was worse, so I shouldn’t complain” … well, it might be an argument for compassion, or perspective, or learning from others about resilience … but it shouldn’t ever be an argument for ignoring your own pain entirely. Or imagining it doesn’t count. I go through this with my partner, a lot, who struggles to identify her past relationships as emotionally and physically abusive in a lot of ways. She feels like it’s appropriating the framework of intimate partner violence, somehow, to identify what she experienced as abuse.

    Anyway. Long comment. But I appreciate that you took the time to write about this and say, “None of that shit was okay!”

  2. Posted 27 January 2012 at 7:28 PM | Permalink

    Excellent piece! I agree with everything you said and I most definitely will share your profound words!

  3. Skada
    Posted 27 January 2012 at 7:32 PM | Permalink

    Thank you so much for posting this. It’s extremely validating to hear someone else speak about these kinds of experiences. And thank you for pinning down why it bothers me so much — these shouldn’t be *normal.* It shouldn’t be par for the course that you’ve experienced this, and that I’ve experienced other things. And when you or I speak up about these things, we shouldn’t be silenced, but we so often are. So many times, people will crawl out of the woodwork and say, “Well, it wasn’t like it was RAPE,” or “You’re fine now,” or “You should get over it,” or “People are raped every day in the Congo.” (Which, they are, but again, us speaking up for what people have done to us is not a competition with and or a diminishing of others’ experiences). Thank you for writing this, Molly.

  4. Posted 27 January 2012 at 11:31 PM | Permalink

    Chiming in to say I LOVED this. All these little patterns of someone else treating your body as their own build up. This piece reminds me in my life to renew my commitment to respecting others’ boundaries, especially when there is a power differential that makes it easy for me to cross lines without even noticing.

  5. L. Steed
    Posted 28 January 2012 at 12:02 AM | Permalink

    Thank you for writing and sharing this. Your words have helped me to understand why something that happened to me long ago left me feeling very confused. Confused about my body and it’s power and confused about myself and wondering how much my body is really truly my own.

    Thank you again, for writing this.

  6. Posted 28 January 2012 at 12:51 AM | Permalink

    Thank you for writing this. It IS so normal, and the way to make it not normal is to talk about it. Thank you!!

  7. Holly
    Posted 28 January 2012 at 2:17 PM | Permalink

    I can identify with almost all of the instances you recount. Thank you for the eye-opening observation. It’s not okay that this is considered normal.

  8. Posted 28 January 2012 at 9:42 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for writing and sharing this.

  9. Molly
    Posted 29 January 2012 at 3:10 PM | Permalink

    Thanks, everybody, for these affirming comments. This post feels important to me, somehow, like just saying it matters.

  10. Katrina
    Posted 29 January 2012 at 4:17 PM | Permalink

    This is NOT NORMAL. None of these things has ever happened to me, and I am deeply grateful for that. I get your point, but you weaken it by calling these behaviors normal. THEY ARE NOT. Many, many women go their entire lives without being subject to such atrocious behaviors. I would not have hesitated to slap any one of those men in the face.

    • Molly
      Posted 29 January 2012 at 4:45 PM | Permalink

      Katrina, my point’s that our cultural narratives (at least the ones I’ve grown up around) tend to normalize those sorts of experiences and also compare them to the Really Bad Things that could have happened instead, making them seem (comparatively) innocuous and therefore making me seem whiny or self-important in complaining about or resenting them. I don’t mean to suggest that any experience is universal, certainly, but this is mine … and not just mine, by any means.

    • Christy
      Posted 13 March 2012 at 11:23 AM | Permalink

      Katrina, even if you had slapped any one of these men for doing this…..it would still have happened. I am happy for you that you NEVER experienced anything like this but the truth is that it is NORMAL. It is COMMON. It does happen to MOST women. You, Katrina, are one of the lucky ones.

    • Janers
      Posted 9 May 2012 at 3:14 AM | Permalink

      I tried slapping a guy assulting me once… that is what provoked him into slamming my head repeatedly into a brick wall.
      I do NOT suggest anyone else try this.

      1. It could provoke the assailant
      2. You could possibly be charged with assult (if you can not prove self defense)

  11. Katie
    Posted 29 January 2012 at 4:50 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for this piece. I relate so much – have you read Latoya Peterson’s essay, “The Not-Rape Epidemic?” It speaks to this as well.

    • Molly
      Posted 29 January 2012 at 5:35 PM | Permalink

      No, I haven’t–but I will–thanks for the rec! For others who are interested, Peterson’s essay is available here.

  12. david
    Posted 29 January 2012 at 5:56 PM | Permalink

    I think the word “unwanted” automatically makes some things seem worse than they really are. There is such thing as a proper sexual advance. In some cases, how can you know if the other “wants” sexual contact until you give it a try? In my opinion, if someone asked someone to have sex, that would not fly. But I think if they were getting along over a drink and one rubbed the other’s arm, it might be a nice hint or flirty thing to do. No matter what, if it’s unwanted or unwelcome, SOMEONE has to try it before they know it’s unwanted or not. The onus is also on the recipient to say “no” or make it clear in some way.

    Most of these experiences, as you put them, do sound awful and worse than the action I described above. I’m sorry you’ve experienced so much discomfort. When it comes to strangers kissing you open-mouthed or rubbing their hard penises on you, it is clearly an invasion. As a guy, I’ve experienced it by strange women and their wet vaginas (in response to your quip about “hard penises”) and it’s not cool at all, but I am of the belief that certain places (like clubs, college parties, etc) are filled with people who are drunk, horny and looking for anything from true love to a one-night stand. Feelings and urges become uncontrollable and it is to be expected in those particular places. In those instances, objectifying between both sexes is (IMO) normal and it is the way of the primal urge in us. We are expected to be civil all day, every day, everywhere. But the clubs and parties are where we get stupid! So you and I don’t go to those places =) The challenge starts when people like you and me (who don’t want to be objectified) seek a good, clean place to dance but we’ve chosen (or were forced by friends) to be in a not-so-good, dirty club or college rager. As we grow and learn, we start going to better places and better parties of our liking, which I’m sure you agree with. Our daughters and sons will learn the same things and I hope it ends at just getting kissed (closed-mouthed) or rubbed on (inclusive of penises and vaginas) with pants ON.

    I am also interested in knowing the other side of some of these scenarios you’ve described. As a person who has made some dumb moves in the name of courtship, I am interested in knowing how my moves are perceived by the other.

    Married Acquaintance: Licking your neck = bad move, for sure! Bad, bad, bad. Following you to the car and towering over you, trying to get you to go to his car = maybe you were so pissed off from the neck-lick that you thought the worst of him? I can certainly picture myself accompanying someone to their car to see them off and then hinting at hooking up in my car but for me it would be a normal (albeit dumb/drunk) advance to which a clear “no” would send me packing back to the restaurant. I’ve heard that I am bad at taking hints. Clear messages are nice.

    Professor: Could it be that he just loves being around pretty ladies? As long as he never went further than standing too close or touching your arm, could he be forgiven for just being a touchy and lady-crazy guy? Did he leave you concerned about your status as an academic because of a an actual previous happening or were you just uneasy and over-worried the way we all were when we were in Uni or college? College was when I was my most insecure self about my career, my sexuality, my family, friends, everything!

    Boyfriends: Yes, lots of baddies out there, for sure. However, how clear were you about certain touches? I have certainly done things that were unclear to me as unwanted by the other. Sometimes my ex would say she wasn’t in the mood night after night but then I find out in a later argument that she just didn’t like it at all, ever! So, it previously kept me guessing as to whether she was “in the mood,” when in fact it could have helped us both if she said she didn’t like it at all in the first place. In that case, I was torn between feeling like an asshole and feeling like we had bad communication. I feel like I do my best to listen. In your case, were you always clear? Was there any possibility of confusion? If they were just plain assholes, fair enough!

    Fatherly attention: I hate to ask for more detail, but the moves that you described (IMO) could be perceived a number of ways. How can you know for sure? I just don’t want men or women who take a parently role with children to be too easily demonized. As a guy who has many little cousins and friends with kids, I would hate to find out that some kid grew up scared of me because I put my hand on their shoulder for no apparent reason. For example, I always ask the kids to help with dishes or the like and I generally put a hand on their shoulder as a way of making eye contact and getting them to listen. To them, it may be for *no reason*, but to me there is a good reason. What do you think?

    Strangers: grabbing someone’s ass in public is just uncivilized. I’ve had it happen to me and I feel less assaulted and more sorry for the other person for not having grown up.

    I am not saying you overreacted or exaggerated, but some more details would help me understand both sides better. Hindsight can be clear or skewed. I am always interested in a full story before concluding that some of these things are abnormal sexual advances or worse.

    Thanks for an eye opening blog post.

    • Posted 29 January 2012 at 7:18 PM | Permalink

      how can you know if the other “wants” sexual contact until you give it a try?

      Easily: You communciate by asking first. My mother used to say “don’t talk with your hands” when I was little — meaning, don’t reach in and do something to/for someone until you’ve checked with them first. I’d like to think that not “talking with your hands” is a fairly fundamental baseline for non-asshole like behavior.

      • CClay
        Posted 9 May 2012 at 3:24 PM | Permalink

        When I read this, I instantly thought of my first date with my now Husband. We had dinner and walked in a park and stopped after for coffee, while we sipped coffee he asked me “may I hold your hand?” and I about burst into tears, except that I was too happy for that.

        It was the first time in my life a man ever asked outright to hold my hand.

        The fact that this man was my friend first and managed to ask me on a date and went through the entire evening before *asking* for something as simple as holding my hand should answer any questions men may have about boundaries.
        Seriously, use your words!

      • Molly
        Posted 9 May 2012 at 3:45 PM | Permalink

        Aww. You made me smile!

    • Posted 29 January 2012 at 7:26 PM | Permalink

      David, involving men in the general discussion about sexual assault/unwanted advances experience by women is an important. Inserting yourself as an analyst into Molly’s personal experiences, devoting your reply to dissecting her accounts and generally insinuating that she is misinterpretting situations by men who are simply acting ‘normally’ or perhaps even attempting to romance her is not only insulting, it’s disgusting. Why you end your paternalistc, dimishing rant with ‘I am not saing you overracted or exaggerated’, you might as well have simply gone on to say ‘…but without MORE details than the obviously PAINFUL ones you have already shared, let’s assume you are a silly woman who was either wrong/too upset to judge/too young to know her feelings.’

      Thanks for an eye opening reply.

      • Spilt Milk
        Posted 29 January 2012 at 7:33 PM | Permalink

        I wish I had something to add but Lane has said it all. Co-signed.

        Lovely post about unlovely things Molly.

      • Sarah
        Posted 9 February 2012 at 12:58 PM | Permalink

        Yes, thank you. That post by David just goes to show everything that is wrong with men’s perception of women. Thank you for making the point of the article, David.

      • Molly
        Posted 9 February 2012 at 1:13 PM | Permalink

        I certainly agree that David’s response (along with a few others) inadvertently illustrate the dynamics that I was writing about in the first place. But I want to point out that “everything that is wrong with men’s perception of women” is, thank goodness, an overgeneralization–as we can see from the men who’ve commented with kindness and nuance here, and from cool folks like my husband and son. I’ve thought about this a lot because the angry commenters who say I’m refusing to explain my experiences kindly on David’s terms tend to represent this as a “otherwise, you’re excluding men from the conversation, and then how will you ever get anywhere?!?” thing. But really it’s not–it’s more like a distinction between people (of both genders) who’ve experienced and/or thought deeply about this stuff, and people (of both genders) who perpetuate it and/or have zero experience and considered study in the area. I guess I’m more inclined to see it as “everything that is wrong with the patriarchy” or “everything that is wrong with our society’s understanding of gender roles”–though admittedly those structures encourage a lot of men to hold and express deeply harmful ideas about women, our responsibilities to them, our place in the world.

      • Posted 25 February 2012 at 1:06 PM | Permalink

        No, dudebro, you DO NOT get to make sexual advances on a woman without their permission. Or stand in their personal space. Or touch them. Anywhere.
        You have no right to our bodies. You don’t have a right to our bodies because we had a nice conversation with you over a drink. You don’t have a right to our bodies because you “love the pretty ladies”. You don’t have a right to keep pushing and pressuring and asking because we said no, not in the mood, and then tell us we didn’t say no clearly enough.
        Honestly, the whole fucking tone of your post is “silly women. don’t you know that doesn’t count as unwanted sexual advances? it doesn’t matter if you didn’t want it. if the man ‘didn’t mean to’, you’re just overworrying.’
        Only yes means yes, and no means no, even if you think licking someone’s neck is socially acceptable.
        Gah fdaskljalka;sdfjla fuck this guy and fuck the patriarchy.

    • MKP
      Posted 29 January 2012 at 7:40 PM | Permalink

      Did you really ask someone cataloging ways she’s had her personal space invaded “how can you be sure”? She’s sure because it happened to her. Period. Please don’t assume women don’t know how to read intent. Lots of guys I was interested have initiated physical contact with me and it was fine. I don’t make a mental note of “normal” interactions. They don’t keep me up at night.

    • Jenny
      Posted 29 January 2012 at 8:02 PM | Permalink

      Just a random passerby dropping in to say two things:

      1. Molly: awesome post.

      2. david: commenting on posts about women’s experiences — YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.*

      *VERY VERY WRONG. Do not post a comment like this ever again.

      • Tom
        Posted 3 February 2012 at 9:29 PM | Permalink

        Saying “Do not post a comment like this ever again.” isn’t exactly the most ideal thing either.

        I think many guys genuinely feel unsure about how to act towards women. I’m not making excuses or trying to justify anything that Molly has talked about because they are obviously wrong but shutting him down like that doesn’t achieve anything (roll modeling of appropriate actions is almost non-existant).

        We need more people (both male and female) to talk about the issues regarding sexual assault and unwanted advances.

        But it can’t be patronizing or demonizing towards men! For every “bad” guy out there I’m sure there are several who would be willing to listen, discuss and then make changes both in their actions and the action of those around them.

        Seeing comments like “*VERY VERY WRONG. Do not post a comment like this ever again.” are just going to turn guys off and scare them away from any kind of discussion.

        David doesn’t seem like a bad guy who makes a lot of good points about male perceptions (not going to go into whether or not they are right or wrong).

        Try not to treat him the devil because I’m sure he is not. The mere fact he has read the post and is willing to talk about his own opinons and thoughts proves that.

        Thank you Molly for your eye opening post :).

      • Posted 11 May 2012 at 10:04 PM | Permalink

        Hi Tom.
        Things to keep in mind when discussing sexual assault and the experiences of women:

        Sexual assault and the experiences of women.

        Things that do not matter at all, AT ALL, when discussing sexual assault and the experiences of women:

        The feelings of men who might be reading.

        Men are smart, capable, and literate—if they care, they can educate themselves, or nicely ask someone to educate them. But they don’t get to come onto a thread about women’s experiences, a safe space for women who will spend most of their lives NOT being believed or taken seriously by men, and make it about themselves and their skepticism about “what really happened”. Furthermore, it’s never a woman’s job to be nice to someone who is, intentionally or not, being oppressive and modelling sexist behavior just in the hopes that this person will change. In fact, asking nicely for people to stop stepping on your throat almost NEVER works—people, men, rarely listen to women in the first place, because they’ve been socialized to disregard our experiences from day one. Why should we swallow our rage—and we have very, very good reasons to be angry—because it might ALIENATE a “potential ally”?

        Feminism should stand on its own merits. If you abandon feminism because a woman didn’t walk on eggshells around you and *hurt your feelings* and *alienated you*, then not only are you a shitty ally and probably not really ever a feminist in the first place, but you are PART OF THE PROBLEM.

        In short, I am not sorry women alienate some men in their efforts to build community, share experiences, and deal with the oppression we face daily. Our entire culture, in which men benefit from the subjugation of women whether they are aware of it or not, ALIENATES ME.

    • Posted 29 January 2012 at 8:07 PM | Permalink

      In addition to what I said earlier, and by way of co-signing with Spilt Milk on Lane’s response: To comment on a deeply personal post about having one’s boundaries violated without consent and offering a shit-ton of uninvited opinionating on experiences which you didn’t witness or otherwise have any part in is essentially replicating the asshole behavior she’s described. No, it’s not physical touching — but it’s intrusive and offensive. You have no grounds to ask Molly to justify her experience to you. None. Yet you feel entitled to do so. That’s perpetuation of the very culture of casual sexual harassment that Molly describes above.

    • n.
      Posted 29 January 2012 at 8:38 PM | Permalink

      Sir, the onus is certainly NOT on a student to inform their instructor that touching their arm is class is unwelcome. The administrative policies the instructor is well acquainted with inform him of that. Your “maybe he just likes pretty ladies,” is PRECISELY what the author of this post is describing: the pervasive sense many women experience their entire lives that man’s pleasure and thrills come before our physical safety and will over our bodies. I’m sure Professor Pervey does like “being around pretty ladies.” But women do not enroll in college courses to be enjoyed, anymore than men do.

      • Forsythia
        Posted 29 January 2012 at 9:14 PM | Permalink

        Adding to the above, David, there is a difference between a man your own age flirting with you or making an awkward advance, and a man much older with power over you and authority over your grades and career doing the same.

        Rejecting the awkward peer carries little or no risk. Rejecting the person with control over your life is VERY VERY DIFFERENT, regardless of them both just “liking pretty ladies”.

        Now put on your big boy pants and learn some empathy, rather than pathologic excuse making. Big girls don’t need explanations or rationalizations from men. We don’t need your “permission” before we are “allowed” to feel violated.

    • Amy
      Posted 29 January 2012 at 9:04 PM | Permalink

      I think David needs to learn what “gaslighting” is. Because he’s doing it.

      Gaslighting is all about creating doubt in a victim’s mind about their own experiences and perceptions. Basically, it’s when someone (often a someone in power) says, “Oh, it’s not that way, it’s actually like this…,” which serves to discredit someone’s emotions or perceptions about a situation. And it’s not cool. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

      • Posted 30 January 2012 at 2:24 PM | Permalink

        Amy, yes – thanks for naming this. All too often women who face this harassment and unwanted attention, touching, etc, etc, etc feel like they were over reacting or underplay it. I think that Molly’s blog addresses the ways in which women are harassed throughout their lives in ways that might not be categorized as such, but very much are harassment. I can’t tell you the many times I’ve been harassed, reacted instinctively strong, and then felt guilty about my reaction afterwards because I’ve internalized the idea that this kind of behavior (the harassment) is normal. And David, clearly you don’t live your life with the possibility of sexual assault/harassment/rape in the back of your mind, for women – we do, and if someones says she dosen’t, she’s underplaying her fear because of this exact kind of gaslighting crap that you’re spouting. You can’t underplay power and you can’t ignore fear.

    • Sarah
      Posted 30 January 2012 at 3:28 AM | Permalink

      David, I really think you are missing the point here. The point is that our culture normalises intrusions upon the bodies of women. You have just proved that yourself in your response.

      I think this article is important for you to read: http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%E2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/

      It’s also pretty damn problematic that you’re victim-blaming when you talk about clubs. Intruding upon somebody’s body is not acceptable under any circumstance. Clubs and parties are not ‘off-limits’ or places to break away from common respect, and to suggest that we should just accept them as such and accept what happens is pretty misguided.

    • Lauren
      Posted 21 February 2012 at 11:44 PM | Permalink

      I would advocate cutting David some slack. The point that everyone, I assume, is making is that sometimes people are unaware how they come across. Many times, guys don’t *mean* to look scary and creepy and looming. Sometimes they forget that they’re taller and heavier than the woman they’re talking to, and they often don’t grok the whole wary mental stance woman are taking since nobody has ever properly explained it to them and it’s generally not a thing they have ever experienced the other way around (and perhaps they’re not great at reading body language, or the other person isn’t great at transmitting body language–my face is unfortunately permanently neutral, so I’m one, and I’m not saying it’s a failure that someone can control or be blamed for, just that it happens). People, as a general rule, assume that other people feel/think the same as them. That’s how empathy works, absent external information. You assume that everyone else feels the same way you feel if you’re in their situation (and you’re turned on from being drunk and dancing, so why wouldn’t everyone else be?). Now, of course, this is the very problem. Everyone should be taught better empathy and interpretation and should be presented with varied instances of how people frame events that happen to them even if they seem completely at odds with how that person experiences life. How are you supposed to know women walk around scared and worried and defeatist if people never talk about these things?

      I’m not saying many of these behaviors aren’t clearly wrong, period. But many of them are situations where the man in the situation could likely have no idea how the woman in the situation is interpreting everything. She has every right to her feelings and to her body and its integrity and its proud, untouched place in the world, but I think David’s right that that doesn’t *necessarily* make the male party a bad person. (He might well be, but “unwantedness” is a difficult criterion to base that on.) But, of course, “badness” isn’t really the issue, and what we need to do is educate men who really don’t want to intimidate, hurt, scare, scar, make nervous, or infringe upon women that these kinds of things do in fact often do that. Posts like this help bring it up to people who may never have thought about it from the other side. I think the idea that it’s a cultural problem more than a personal one is spot on. It’s a problem based in ignorance and, yes, the patriarchy, not (generally, or at least always) in actual malice. So obviously it’s not right, and it’s not good, and it shouldn’t be “normal,” but it’s also not inherently necessarily the case that anyone who’s ever touched someone in a manner that turned out to be unwanted should be vilified. Much less anyone who’s clearly trying to actually understand.

    • anna grace
      Posted 8 May 2012 at 10:52 PM | Permalink

      This comment doesn’t exemplify everything that’s wrong with men, it exemplifies everything that is wrong with the social constructs of our culture. When movies, TV, music, the media, and even real life role models encourage men to “step up”, “take charge”, or “make the first move” that is what they will believe is right. We are only just beginning what will surely be a long and difficult discussion on what is and is not acceptable when it comes to flirting and courtship, and because what is right conflicts so obviously with what is popular, it’s normal for men (and women) to be confused. From what he’s said, it seems that David’s intentions are generally good, but he is a victim of these out-dated and appalling societal mores. The only remedy we have is to continue the conversation, and I want to thank Molly for allowing us all a catalyst to do so.

  13. Posted 29 January 2012 at 7:45 PM | Permalink

    Wow. Thank you for this post. No, seriously. Thank you.

  14. Linette
    Posted 29 January 2012 at 8:31 PM | Permalink

    Thank you for such an articulate post on such a sadly common occurance in every woman’s life. Reading it makes me remember all of the similar occurances in my own life. For me, the seeds of acceptance of this behavior began at home. I recall my mother being angry at *me* any time a man flirted with me, or stared. (I was always wearing the wrong thing, or I shouldn’t have made eye contact first.) And it helped start an ongoing theme of loss of autonomy and self-blame. I am determined not to do this do my daughter. She will know her body is her own. She will know she does not exist to bring pleasure to men. I promise.

  15. macsimcon
    Posted 29 January 2012 at 9:06 PM | Permalink

    Nearly a decade ago, I was working in IT at a mid-sized company, and I stopped by an employee’s desk to assist her with her computer. She was very grateful, and although we had only met a half-dozen times before, she showed her gratitude by giving me a very nice neck and shoulder massage while I worked on her computer.

    Now, the IT department was composed almost entirely of men, while most of the rest of the company was composed of women. This woman was a few years younger than I, and attractive, but married. My first thought was, “what if someone sees this?” I was always cognizant of the number of women around, and always did my best to be polite and non-threatening.

    Thankfully, she stopped on her own after a few minutes, but after discussing this with my wife (whom I met years after this event) this evening, I realized that I had no choice but to accept her attention. If I had called her on it, she could’ve claimed I was taking it all wrong, and been offended. If someone else had seen it, they might have assumed something was going on between us, which management would’ve frowned upon (these users were essentially our customers, after all).

    As a man, this has only happened to me a few times in my life, and it’s never been a big deal, but I’m not a woman. I’m tall, and of medium build, so few women would be in a position to physically threaten me. Had I complained about this to my cohorts in IT, they wouldn’t laughed. Men just aren’t supposed to see something like this as harassment, but instead we’re supposed to be delighted that a woman paid attention to us.

    If this happened to me regularly, even as a man, I’d be frustrated. But if I lived in a world where I was often smaller than my aggressors AND this happened with regularity?

    I’d be pissed off.

    • Megan
      Posted 8 February 2012 at 5:13 PM | Permalink

      Thank you for seeing the difference, and despite the difference, I hope it doesn’t happen to you again.

    • Sarah
      Posted 9 February 2012 at 1:03 PM | Permalink

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for getting it.

  16. Posted 30 January 2012 at 1:35 PM | Permalink

    This is such an important and powerfully written post, Molly! As you know, I recently delved into my third round of therapy. At the end of my first appointment, I asked my therapist if it’d be okay if I did not go into too many details about the past. I didn’t tell her, but I was particularly thinking about the sexual abuse. Talking about sexual assault unless you can say gang rape or incest as an infant to me just feels, I don’t know, trite or like I’m a cry-baby. And that’s WRONG. But then you think about the people in Congo who’re raped everyday … and I feel ashamed for being so wounded about what happened to me. (I really appreciate Skada’s comment about this!)

    ANY form of unwanted touch or body shaming is just plainly wrong and it requires our attention.

    I agree that it is important to get men on board this discussion but David really does get it all wrong (macsimcon, on the other hand, is more onto something). I co-sign the many sharp critiques he has already received. Other than being exceedingly insulting, his comment reflects the delusion that “men just can’t help themselves.” Real men can.

    @ annajcook: I love the not “talking with your hands” lesson!

  17. Posted 30 January 2012 at 1:35 PM | Permalink

    P.S. Happy belated birthday!

  18. Posted 30 January 2012 at 2:13 PM | Permalink

    Great post. Yes. All of it. Normalized. So much danger and doubt. No one else thinks this is a big deal…maybe I’m too sensitive. Reminders, all the time, that were are not entitled to our bodies and our space.

    It’s one of the big, huge, overarching reasons that one of the first things we started to teach Kidlet is that he must ASK his friends if they want to be hugged, or to hold hands. I witnessed a little boy on the playground a year or so ago, being encouraged by his father to “go give so-and-so a kiss.” And so-and-so’s mother responded with, “She might hit him, ha ha.” And little boy’s dad said to little boy, “She’ll change her mind once you do it.” Me? Dead on the floor, right there. THAT is rape culture. That is why so many people don’t feel safe.

    Makes me ragey.

    • Molly
      Posted 31 January 2012 at 11:34 AM | Permalink

      Oh yuck. What a telling little anecdote, huh?

    • lucy
      Posted 10 May 2012 at 10:33 AM | Permalink

      it is really wrong how men ‘encourage’ themselves to do such things to women, or just let away their desires with no respect for the feeling of the woman, and encourage kids?? what on earth is this father thinking?

  19. Kay
    Posted 31 January 2012 at 10:00 AM | Permalink

    Agreed. 100 percent.  I recently said, “I don’t know one woman who hasn’t been in appropriately  touched, or assaulted.” A guy involved in the conversation scoffed, saying. “I don’t know THAT’S true at all.”. I spoke up and asked the women within talking distance, “Which of you has this happened to?”  Every woman had their hand in the air.  It’s a sad fact, and the general thinking needs to change.

  20. Chris
    Posted 31 January 2012 at 9:53 PM | Permalink

    Hi, male here. I was once a teenaged “twink” that identified as gay, for a time. Got enough unsolicited attention (mostly from older men) for a lifetime. It’s not just straight males doing it to women, FYI (not to downplay original post in any way, of course, I wholeheartedly agree with it).

    Some of the men that I’ve encountered assume that ‘anything goes’ with other guys and think “asking for consent” is just for dealing with women. That is to say, it almost seems like a number of people I met were thinking, “Why would you hang out with other gay people and tell us you were gay if you DIDN’T want us to engage in sexual contact with you? Thus, clearly, your identification as gay is implied consent that you want other men to touch you.” There were even times when I felt like I was “bad at being gay” if I didn’t welcome it.

    Fortunately, that’s not the majority of people I’ve met, and I’m definitely not riffing on the community at large (since I’m a huge supporter of LGBT in general, and in many ways still identify as ‘queer’ to a large extent), but it WAS something that I noticed in my own personal experience, going to parties/conventions/etc. where “gay males” was a large demographic. If that is what it’s like to be a woman in normal society I’m deeply sorry and sympathetic.

    • Laura
      Posted 1 February 2012 at 9:31 AM | Permalink

      And I’m sorry for what you’ve experienced too, Chris. Many friends have similiar stories to tell, and it sucks and makes me very angry and sad.

    • Molly
      Posted 1 February 2012 at 12:22 PM | Permalink

      Thanks so much for this comment. Although this post is pretty much restricted to my own experience (as, among other things, a woman), it’s really important to say “It’s not just straight males doing it to women.” It’s totally not.

      I’ve also been thinking about how children–boys and girls–are another group to consider in this light. Children are subjected to SO MUCH unwanted touch, and their attempts to establish boundaries are often totally ignored or turned into jokes. The touch is often not sexual, but patterns of unwanted nonsexual touch also contributes to feelings of confusion about how to control and live in our own bodies, how to feel that our bodies are for us.

      I’m a thin person, and my body mostly conforms to our culture’s conventional standards of prettiness. So that’s part of the dynamic of my experiences and responses, too. (The lovely David, above, seems to assume that “young women” = “pretty ladies,” interestingly.) But Natalie Slaughter at Fatshionelle wrote an awesome post that links to this one, about how all of this crap can manifest for fat women, and everybody should go read it.

      Rape culture (and that’s really what we’re all talking about here) isn’t good for anybody.

    • Sarah
      Posted 9 February 2012 at 1:07 PM | Permalink

      Thank you so much for that perspective – it is really needed and I am so glad that it is part of the conversation. And I am so sorry that those things happened to you and that you were made to feel that way.

  21. Posted 1 February 2012 at 4:07 PM | Permalink

    This blog post was linked on Facebook where I shared it and got some comments. I’m so glad you wrote about this and shed light on a situation that most women (if not all) have experienced. Thank you.

  22. Erin Kaspar-Frett
    Posted 2 February 2012 at 9:50 AM | Permalink

    Great writing Molly! And well said. It’s exactly the kinds of things I want to know when I ask that question. And the impetus comes from the culture which you so aptly describe. Thank you.

  23. Gabe
    Posted 3 February 2012 at 12:36 AM | Permalink

    These responses I’ve read to Dave’s politely worded, obviously tiptoeing response- the all caps, the accusations, and most of all the no-win set of rules of engagement unique to men approaching this topic- are precisely why men in general avoid candidly discussing these problems with the people who invest a good deal of thought into this discourse and are likely to have the more progressive insights. Without participation, nothing gets better. You really have to ask yourselves: in the end, what is it you really want out of all this- progress for our society as a whole, or a desert island where you can look disapprovingly at the rest of the world from a safe distance?

    • Molly
      Posted 3 February 2012 at 10:45 AM | Permalink

      Gabe – I think you’re reading David’s response quite differently from many other readers (and from me). To me, David sounds like someone who has never read my writing before and hasn’t taken the time either to explore the space (there’s lots about me here!) or read the original post carefully (from little errors like I was a doctoral student in the Icky Professor episode to big ones like how Dave spends much of his comment defending these mostly-men from accusations of “abnormal sexual advances or worse” when my entire post was about my own feelings–the fact that I did not want these touches that were part of a huge pattern in my life and in our culture–and not at all about the individual touch-ers’ motivations, intentions, or culpability). So, he seemed to pop over from a link, skim the post, and then attack point-by-point my own life.

      The rhetorical moves that are couched in fairly polite language–the mansplaining, the gaslighting, the victim blaming (men and women who go to clubs are asking for it), the ‘uncontrollable sexual urges’ defense–are rhetorical moves that we face every day. They wear on a person. They are a HUGE part of the rape culture that this essay is really about. And they do not come off, at least to me, as earnest and candid and basically well-meaning.

      This is a pretty personal blog about the intersections of feminism and pregnancy/childbirth/parenting, and about my own life and family. I hope that it is a safe space for people who feel threatened and abused and misrepresented by much of mainstream culture–a space where women, mothers, queer people, fat people, young people, and various other groups are not going to encounter all the nasty shit we constantly encounter, without that shit getting deconstructed. I don’t have a huge platform, and I cannot, from here, effect large-scale cultural change. (I’m not sure, when you ask “what is it you really want out of all this,” what “all this” is–but if it’s my blog, I think “progress for our society as a whole” would be, er, rather overreaching as an immediate aim.) But I can host a really meaningful community that’s safe and that shares some basic values. One of those basic values is that victim-blaming, shaming, questioning others’ deeply-felt personal experiences, and so forth are unhelpful rhetorical moves and just plain mean.

    • Sarah
      Posted 9 February 2012 at 1:12 PM | Permalink

      If you will notice – a couple of posts down from David’s insulting and disgusting post, is a post by another man. A man who is compassionate, understands the topics and issues at hand, and doesn’t try to blame women or defend men by saying that can’t tell what is inappropriate or not (which is an excuse, men can tell). That post was met with welcome and approval. Maybe you should look at your own beliefs and why you also feel the need to defend men who attack women. Because what David wrote was an attack.

  24. QwertJohnson
    Posted 4 February 2012 at 12:55 PM | Permalink

    Hey I just wanted to say I’m a guy and that I wholeheartedly agree. I hate the way that our society is concerning gender relations. I know I’ve heard stories from my girlfriend that are almost too hard for me to cope with sometimes, though I know they could be a lot worse.

    I know I’m not perfect and at times towards the beginning I would start to push things a little to far with where my hands went to which she would promptly stop me. I would feel awful after this, partly because I did it and partly because it would make me start to think. Think about how I wish things could happen in reverse so I could relate and feel like things were equal. But I feel like this wouldn’t happen because I couldn’t see myself stopping her from trying something.

    To a considerable degree I resent this. That guys are taught to take what they can get, and that gender relations are framed as how far the guy can get with the girl. As if the girl is something to be made progress on. This is evident in comments like “did you get to second base” or “what did you let him do.” With the women depicted as a passive party simply controlling how far things go before she stops it. and I hate that I cannot relate to what it is like being on the other side. I wish things could just be equal.

    I am sorry for the rant there. But I want you to know that you are right. Nothing will ever make any of that OK. Our society has a lot of growing up to do in the name of equality

    • Molly
      Posted 4 February 2012 at 9:07 PM | Permalink

      Thanks for this thoughtful response. I think many, many of us (women and men) have found that our culture has fed us a load of crap and that we have to unlearn and/or renegotiate a whole lot of tricky stuff just in order to have a meaningful relationship with another human being as though both partners were whole human beings. My (male) partner and I have both had to do that in various ways. It sucks to be the ‘gatekeeper’ and it sucks to be sexually open and present with a ‘gatekeeper’; it sucks to feel you’re supposed to want all sex all the time; it sucks to feel you’re supposed to be guilty and ashamed about having sexual desires or speaking them (rather than waiting for someone else to, like, guess?); it all sucks. I resent it too, and not just as a woman or for women but also for my partner, my son, you, everybody.

  25. Some guy
    Posted 8 February 2012 at 12:19 AM | Permalink

    I was very moved by your post. I told someone about it and came back to read it again today. Unfortunately, I read the comments as well and wish I had not. I didn’t agree with david at all but to see how some of the commmenters responded to him made me remember why I used to stay away from the subject feminism. As a guy who knows little to nothing about the struggles women face every day, I need to be taught about it. I have my perspective and I won’t know yours until you share it with me. David was asking questions from his perspective and, although very wrong, he could have been talked to in a better way and might have been shown why he was wrong. I do understand the highly emotional nature of this subject but I also understand that nothing will be changed when people attack rather than try to teach. After reading your response to Gabe, I am sorry to say that I won’t be coming back to read more.

    • Sarah
      Posted 9 February 2012 at 1:18 PM | Permalink

      Men don’t need to be taught step by step what is wrong and what isn’t. If someone were actually interested in learning what it is like from the women’s perspective, they would be able to read that post and understand it. They would not need to dissect it and defend the perpetrator’s actions. Two men responded inappropriately to this post and were told so, many more men responded with insight and compassion – you seem to have missed those comments and their positive reception.

      • Molly
        Posted 9 February 2012 at 1:24 PM | Permalink

        Yup! Totally. In my experience, most men are intelligent and kind and able to exercise empathy, curiosity, etc.(just like most women) … and shouldn’t be underestimated like that, including by other men.

    • Allison
      Posted 11 February 2012 at 8:34 PM | Permalink

      ‘After reading your response to Gabe, I am sorry to say that I won’t be coming back to read more.’

      Good riddance, honestly. If those two heartfelt, patient comments in reply to Gabe are what is making you bow out? You were a pretty crappy ally to begin with.

  26. Posted 9 February 2012 at 12:05 PM | Permalink

    Great post, Molly. I know I’m late to the conversation, so there’s not too much to add. Just wanted to let you know I think you wrote this well. Thank you!

  27. Anonymous
    Posted 12 February 2012 at 11:20 PM | Permalink

    I have had these same issues and experiences but they have gone much deeper.. not to mention I just got out of a relationship that resulted from a man wanting to continue the one night stand I had in mind. Most of the other incidences throughout my life ended in sex for one reason or another, whether it was my reluctant consent due to fear or other irrational reasons, or actual rape, and in my earliest remembered incident, which was my first that I remember, child molestation. And the ammount of guys who seem good people and turn creeps, or just creeps in general is astounding. I’m still in college, in my early 20′s and still am on my toes almost 24/7. I even live with guys only and have had bad sexual/relationship/friendship/”fatherly” issues fully sexual with past room mates just within the last year. If I go to a guys house or place of residence and stay over, I wont sleep in the bed because I feel obligated to do whatever he asks sexually so he’ll at least let me sleep, instead of bugging me or turning angry towards me. I hardly go out anymore on weekends or with friends for these very instances or reasons.. 3(

    • Molly
      Posted 13 February 2012 at 7:39 AM | Permalink

      Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry these things have happened to you and are happening to you, I’m sorry people have been cruel to you and ignored your autonomy and full humanity, and I’m sorry you and so many people end up living in anxiety because of all this shit. I hope you’re getting good support through campus counseling (the college where I teach, at least, offers lots of kinds of help for free), support groups (online and/or in person), friends, family, and/or whatever you need right now. And I hope you are able to find a living situation where you feel truly safe and at ease–I know it’s not possible for everyone simply to move when they feel like it, but feeling good at home is so important.

  28. Rhea
    Posted 16 February 2012 at 11:06 AM | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this, I’d never put much thought into ‘these little things’ that people do and after reading this, it’s true, it happens alot – but it shouldn’t. This is excellent, thank you for writing it.

  29. david
    Posted 16 February 2012 at 1:46 PM | Permalink

    So, it’s me again. To start, I just wanted to apologize for offending anyone with my post. It was not intended as an attack on Molly. In situations like this, it’s clear to me that my choice in writing style was inappropriate. I had a genuine question and I approached it robotically. I meant no harm.

    As I read through the comments, I’m thankful for all the input that Molly and some of the responders have included. I’m trying to ignore the ones calling me “disgusting” and how “That post by David just goes to show everything that is wrong with men’s perception of women.” Those are funny.

    I’d like to respond to Molly’s: “One of those basic values is that victim-blaming, shaming, questioning others’ deeply-felt personal experiences, and so forth are unhelpful rhetorical moves and just plain mean.” and “my entire post was about my own feelings–the fact that I did not want these touches that were part of a huge pattern in my life and in our culture”

    I appreciated having that point driven home to me. You were talking in your article about HOW YOU FELT and I missed that point–the point of your article. My intention was never for you to prove anything to me (and please don’t assume it’s because I’m a MALE and I want FEMALE to prove to MALE bla blabla) but more to ask if gender perception can have an effect. My language and tactics may be soaked in typical male’ness, but I genuinely wanted to explore perception from both sides–I clearly did that very poorly. Hell, even getting accused of having typical male language, to me, was eye-opening! There is a commenter here that explored the issue of how an office massage would be perceived by either side and I thought he did a great job of bringing up the same’ish topic. I feel really bad about how I was received! I’m starting to even feel bad that I didn’t know how bad this all was. It’s a fun little cycle of bad feelings, woohoo.

    In regards to: “Children are subjected to SO MUCH unwanted touch, and their attempts to establish boundaries are often totally ignored or turned into jokes. The touch is often not sexual, but patterns of unwanted nonsexual touch also contributes to feelings of confusion about how to control and live in our own bodies, how to feel that our bodies are for us.”

    That is incredibly interesting to me. I’m a little envious that it couldn’t have been a response to my post.

    And more from Molly: “So, he seemed to pop over from a link, skim the post, and then attack point-by-point my own life.”

    Yeah, it does seem that way and you’re right. I don’t know your writing, I don’t know your site and I very much did pop over and dissect the article. I did NOT however just skim the post. I want you to know that I re-read it at least a dozen times. I put myself in the same situations and asked myself about how I make others feel. It made me think. You should know that. Please know that it was not my intention to attack, but to raise question (albeit in bad fashion). I still have some questions about my own actions and how it trickles into society’s brain into the generations but I’m getting the feeling that I’m just going to get bullied by many people into “either he gets it or he doesn’t.”

    SO, to end my response, I just want to say that I’m sorry for offending anyone, it was not my intention. I know this is all well intended and deeply emotional and that my post was misguided. I understand that I’m probably not going to dig myself out of this very easily, but I’m all ears for more discussion and comments. Molly, your article meant more to me than a mere skim-and-attack opportunity.

    • david
      Posted 16 February 2012 at 3:26 PM | Permalink

      PS. Molly, I want to add that my purpose was never to defend anyone’s actions, victim-blame or cast doubt for the purpose proving you wrong. I have a genuine curiosity about how two people in a form of relationship see each other and relate. Molly, you responded to a guy here about “gatekeeping.” His topic was not so different about my question about how I am around my past girlfriend and how to have sexual openness. At the moment, I understand that it was specifically about your feelings, nothing more. Fine! What I felt was a chance to open up in a safe place about being that guy on the other end turned into something else entirely–I’m not sure what, but it doesn’t feel great. My approach is partly to blame. Somewhere in here, I was told I was uninvited. I hope it’s not a case of accepting praise and rejecting outsider questions. I hope the analogy of being on a “desert island where you can look disapprovingly at the rest of the world from a safe distance” is not true of your blog because I see this link re-posted a lot on facebook and you are in a great position of power and reach.

      • Molly
        Posted 16 February 2012 at 4:31 PM | Permalink

        I appreciate that you came back and read the rest of the comments here; among other things, it makes your questions seem more like questions and less like a hit-and-run. I do understand that it’s difficult to express tone in written comments when you don’t have a strong sense of your audience (as in, you don’t know me and haven’t read much of my blog and regular readers’ comments on other posts, let alone their own blogs, etc.).

        In terms of thinking through other perspectives on sex that don’t pit men (hunters/scorers/active) against women (prey/gatekeepers/passive), I’d really encourage you & others to read the first three articles linked from this post, especially “Rescripting Sex”, as well as exploring the always-excellent sex ed site Scarleteen, perhaps beginning with “To Slide or to Slice: Finding a Positive Sexual Metaphor,” “Driver’s Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent“, and “Be a Blabbermouth! The Whys, Whats and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner.”

        The big takeway is that most sex-positive writers, activists, and educators disagree with your stance that “if someone asked someone to have sex, that would not fly.” My own personal experience is very much at odds with that claim, too. I mean, yeah, that would be really awkward if asked out of the blue (“Hello, my name is Carl. Will you have sex with me?”), but I’m sure that’s not what you mean. “Asking is Sexy” is another awesome (& brief) read on this topic.

        You say you’re sure I agree that clubs and certain types of parties are unwise places to be because they are the site of uncontrollable sexual urges and to go to them is to open ourselves to unwanted touch. I don’t agree with that at all, though. I disagree about the uncontrollable sexual urges, and I disagree with the implication that it’s a potential-victim’s responsibility to protect herself, and most of all I disagree with the idea that–by staying in appropriate places and behaving in a mature and thoughtful fashion–it’s possible to prevent ourselves from being harrassed or assaulted. What you’re suggesting is a really normal line of logic in our culture, but I urge you to rethink it. For a funny take on why, you might check out this image.

        I’m not going to answer your original set of questions that basically asked whether each of my experiences of unwanted touch was actually partly or wholly my fault, in part because I don’t think you’re asking that anymore and in part because I am not comfortable sharing the painful details of some of those experiences publicly. But I hope this comment responds to the actual heart of what you were trying to say, which I totally didn’t get from the original comment/phrasing. Does it?

      • Katie
        Posted 7 May 2012 at 6:50 PM | Permalink

        I just want to touch on a (small) portion of this – I frequent a couple clubs, and I STRONGLY disagree that they are the site of uncontrollable sexual urges. Why? Because some of the clubs I frequent are FETISH clubs, and they are the clubs I feel SAFEST at. The rules are clear and strictly enforced – “NO unwanted touching. Touching without consent will result in you being removed.” And those rules rarely NEED to be enforced because the atmosphere is such that everyone agrees if they were violated, it wouldn’t be a fun place for anyone any more.

        If I can feel safe in highly sexual atmosphere like that, and if people can control their urges and behave respectfully in that atmosphere, I’d say that makes it clear that it is not clubs that are the problem, but the persistent idea that men, for some inexplicable reason, have no control over their own behaviour.

        This says to me that it is not clubs that are the problem, it is the mindset that is the problem.

  30. AS I am
    Posted 16 February 2012 at 2:05 PM | Permalink

    I was diagnosed at an early age with Asperger’s syndrome; part of this is not understanding nonverbal communication particularly well, and since it’s such an important paft of human connection I find myself worrying constantly – what messages am I, as a man, sending? What responses am I missing? Am I far enough away to not be invading someone’s personal space? Am I, in short, making anybody uncomfortable?
    So to read so often and to see so prevalent these stories by women of men who do have the privilege of a natural understanding of all this, and then ignoring it(!!!) makes me so angry.

    The other day I was on a tram, and though it was not crowded, most of the seats were taken; I found myself looking at a young woman in a way I was afraid she’d be uncomfortable with, and I was frustrated by the way my eyes were
    drawn back to her. So I looked for a seat where I couldn’t see her; the only one available was directly in front of hers, so reluctantly I took it. From there I couldn’t see her at all, not even her reflection. But I did spend the rest of the trip worrying about whether or not I was too close
    physically; if she might have felt her personal space oppressed. I hoped that by putting her in a position to observe without being observed, and from which I would not notice if she moved, I was not going to be intimidating. I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable.

    • Emma
      Posted 2 May 2012 at 11:11 PM | Permalink

      I had never thought about it from a man’s perspective (that of wanting make sure women aren’t made uncomfortable and trying to prevent misunderstandings) and I can only imagine that Asperger’s would make it that much more difficult. I applaud your thoughtfulness in trying to avoid making the women around you uncomfortable. As a young woman, I have been socialized to be wary of men; I get worried when a man is following me, even by coincidence, I try not to be alone with men I don’t know, all the things young girls are taught, either intentionally or unintentionally, to do to keep from being hurt. I never thought that men may have been taught to try to avoid situations like that so as not to come across as being creepy. I wonder if it is a worry for most men or if you ae more sensitive to it because you can’t read women’s signals. It would be interesting to know.

  31. Molly
    Posted 16 February 2012 at 4:56 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing this perspective and experience. And yes, I can totally see why it would be anger-inducing to see others choose not to bother allowing others to feel comfortable and safe when you’re trying so hard to do that from a much more challenging position and with no intention of taking advantage of anyone.

  32. Posted 19 February 2012 at 5:26 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for the link back… and I’m so glad I saw this post and discussion. Great writing Molly. I can relate so so so much. It still amazes me that these experiences are so common for women and so invisible to men.

    • Posted 9 May 2012 at 10:45 AM | Permalink

      Oh, what scares me is that they are not invisible to men. Men just don’t want to see it, the good ones. The bad ones, they for sure see it and do it, because they can. And they want it to continue the way things are.

  33. Lauren
    Posted 22 February 2012 at 12:04 AM | Permalink

    This…has never happened to me, at least not in any vaguely sexual way. (I imagine as children we all were touched, hugged, picked up, etc. when we didn’t want to be.) The closest thing (less intrusive, but the same mental attitude, I think) is when random men on the street tell me to smile as I walk by. Apparently my face is permanently angry- or sad-looking when I’m not intentionally trying to make it look pleasant. Because they deserve for every person they see to look pleasant. Because if I’m not smiling (at them!) I’m not looking at them and not relating with them the way they want. Because I exist to make them feel that their presence invokes pleasure in other human beings. Or even because, what, I’m not allowed to be sad or pissed off or just not-happy if I want to? (Well, I probably don’t want to, but that makes it worse.)

    Of course you could flip it around and say I’m demeaning them as people by not even deigning to make eye contact (an editorial in my college paper said as much, minus the gender aspect; he thought it was disrespectful for people to pass him and not say hey, even if they were strangers…say what?!), and maybe it feels that way to them (although the absence of something desired is never as problematic as the presence of something undesirable, I’d say). It still makes me want to scream every time. I think at this point I’ve thought about it enough that I’ll have the words to explain to the next one exactly why that’s a problem, though.

  34. river
    Posted 19 April 2012 at 1:05 AM | Permalink

    thank you for this post. it is one of the most true and honest things i’ve ever read and it really resonated with me on a personal level. i am a trans man and when i was living as a woman i was constantly approached and touched in really creepy and unwanted ways by strange men – my whole life. i always wondered “why me? why does this always happen to me?” and i always wore big baggy hoodies and baggy jeans and it just boggled my mind how it happened all the time when i was just standing at the bus stop listening to music or whatever. it made my dysphoria with having a female body even worse. those experiences still bother me and i think about them a lot and you very successfully articulated my own feelings in this article…thanks…

  35. Sylvester-Ghana
    Posted 8 May 2012 at 1:53 AM | Permalink

    Great piece and thanks for sharing. This goes out to the voiceless who have been abused sexually one way or the other without couse to complain or make thier voices heard! I do appreciate u for this piece!!!

  36. Posted 9 May 2012 at 10:43 AM | Permalink

    Just LOOK at the responses here. I know I’m not the only one, but *LOOK AT ALL OF THEM.* There *is* a War On Women, and it’s been going on for-fucking-ever. This stuff is so *common.* Thank you, Molly, for your bravery in posting this article. oxox you’re not alone

    http://www.unitewomen.org

  37. Posted 9 May 2012 at 11:32 AM | Permalink

    So I have read your post (and not all the comments o-O) and I have to say you are totally right about your discomfort and disgust for what happened.
    I would like to “give my point of view” on the matter, a male point of view.
    I am a 25 year old guy. I am not a really sociable person, and I usually dislike human contact if it’s not with someone I’m comfortable with. This include a really LOW amount of persons.
    Still, since I’m a guy, apparently girls feels like it’s “ok” acting ways they would hate if done towards them.
    Examples I can give:
    At the swimming pool, age around 15, a girl friend of mine pulled down my swimming trunk in the water. When I tried to do the same she claimed I wasn’t allowed to, that was molesting.
    A girl collegue of mine, at work, touch my ass without any problems, and sometimes my chest, things that of course I am not allowed to do, nor I even think about doing to a girl if she doesn’t want me to.

    But, if I ever mention I don’t like those things, people start saying I’m not man enough and things like that.
    So, even if those things can’t be compared to your experiences, how can this be worked out?
    Women are not to be touched if they don’t want to, but they can touch men cause they are men and should not care, or they should feel flattered?
    I think it’s not about sexes
    It’s about personal space
    I don’t want you to touch me. That’s it, you simply shouldn’t.
    More so if I tell you not to explicitly.

    Hope not to have angered anyone with my thoughts :)
    And really liked the last part about the young boy!

    • Molly
      Posted 9 May 2012 at 1:07 PM | Permalink

      No unwanted touch is okay–in the comment thread, some of the implications of this shit situation for men (and boys and girls) are hashed out a bit, too (totally not criticizing for not reading it … it’s gotten looong). I would suggest, though, that your examples are sound illustrations of how our current gender norms make it really hard for *anybody* to demand respect/kindness/gentleness/understanding, not of the irrelevance of gender roles. The response to a woman who experiences unwanted touch is often ‘you shouldn’t have been in that place / wearing that / acting like that’ or ‘oh, that’s just how men are.’ The response to a man, as you’ve unfortunately experienced, might be ‘you should be thrilled!’ or ‘you’re not a real man.’ Although women are more commonly sexually assaulted, men are also sexually assaulted, and male victims/survivors are placed in a horrible position by these narratives about ‘what men are like’ and ‘what women are like.’ It’s extremely sad, for everybody.

  38. What the what.
    Posted 9 May 2012 at 12:58 PM | Permalink

    I read and reread this post. So many of the comments justifying and defending your arguments against this guy commenter “david” and others like him discuss how the interactions should involve communication. Once told “no” a man should back down. AGREED. However, I saw no indication that you, a woman who’s obviously had a ridiculously large number of unwanted advances, ever told someone “no”. Not that I think this excuses the behavior of these men. Aside from the bar seen, the behavior is appalling. However, if you go to a mating ritual (ie. the bar) you have to expect the mating dance. And your solution: Go to a club where you can dance on the bar. What?! I’ve never had a problem when telling a guy to back off. I just find it odd that you seem to just come up against this problem time and time again with no real indication that you’ve tried to stop it other than fleeing from Sir Licks a Neck. As for the professors, “powerful” people, both men and women, have wielded that power over “peons” as long as the existence of the human race. Insecurities should not stop you from halting unwanted advances. My prerogative as a human being (and a PhD student) has always been that if they don’t want someone stronger than the idiocracy you describe in my chosen field, then they don’t want me. It’s silly to believe that refusing someone’s advances will cost you a particular position, especially now. Standing up to these creeps and being successful in the process chips away at the issue until it is almost non-existance. In fact, if our cyclical history as humans tells us anything, it’s that there will be a man writing a similar blog post about women in the not so distance future.

    • What the what.
      Posted 9 May 2012 at 1:22 PM | Permalink

      Rereading my comment, I realize I might sound a bit harsh. Maybe it’s because I want to hear that you gave an affirmative NO to these people. I want to know that, yes, even tough it sucks that people throw unwanted advances your direction, that you are standing up for yourself. This is not me saying that you are at fault for the situations…I just hope that you will provide affirmation that you and others experiencing the same things are standing up for themselves.

      • What the what.
        Posted 9 May 2012 at 1:30 PM | Permalink

        Also, interesting thing….I’ve actually stopped men (and a woman once) in clubs that have just groped myself or a friend and talked to them about this problem. Some just walk away. However, it’s pretty impressive that most will actually stop and discuss this with you. Do they learn something?? Who knows. Regardless, it’s better than doing nothing.

      • Posted 9 May 2012 at 2:32 PM | Permalink

        Hmm. A part of me understands what you’re saying about the desire to see people stand up for themselves. But I think, like forgiveness, energy for constructive confrontation really needs to come from inside the person who has been wronged. Only they know when they have the time/energy/safety/headspace in the moment of injury to address the instance of harassment.

        There are many reasons why power dynamics in the moment may contraindicate calling the individual on their behavior. Personal safety and well-being should always come first (in my opinion) in the moment, ahead of the broader social justice goals. I’m glad that the people you’ve talked with/confronted haven’t reacted with further violence or harassment, but it’s impossible most of the time to predict the reaction one will get beforehand.

    • Molly
      Posted 9 May 2012 at 1:28 PM | Permalink

      Well, there are a lot of problems here. I’ll just hit on a few of them:

      It’s very difficult to say no to someone you haven’t seen approaching you and who hasn’t spoken to you. So I was only able to say no to the unexpected mouth-kissing and penis-rubbing *after* the physical touching had commenced. It’s also awfully tricky to say no to passers-by on streets and on public transit, as many many city-dwellers know: they’re not exactly trying to be visible to the people they’re groping. That’s like criticizing someone for not saying no to a pick-pocket: after all, how was the thief to know you didn’t want him/her to take your wallet, if you didn’t say?

      I disagree rather strongly that clubs’ sole purpose is for sexual exchange and that people who do not want to be sexually touched without their consent shouldn’t go to them, but that’s been covered pretty extensively in the comments already. Chatting someone up is an entirely different thing from touching someone sexually without consent (or, like, warning even).

      I’m not sure what you take the “arguments” of the post to be. It’s an exploration of my personal experiences and expresses sadness and anger about the normalization of violations of women’s bodily autonomy in our culture.

      I’m glad you’ve never had a hard time getting someone to take no for an answer. That’s just not the experience of a lot of people, and it’s not because of your superior personal strength.

      Similarly, your assertions about ignoring power structures, not being cowed by them, assuming that you can’t be hurt by pissing off people by behave inappropriately, just leaving if a professional/educational situation involves a troubling element, etc. show a great deal of privilege. They are really not true for a lot of people, and all the personal dignity in the world won’t pay the rent.

      • What the what.
        Posted 9 May 2012 at 1:48 PM | Permalink

        Well, after reading the post, reading all the comments, and now reading the comment to my own post, I realize that this is not really a place for discussing a different viewpoint. I am not proposing you magically say no before anything ever happens. But saying no, even post contact is better than doing nothing, keeping things inside, or taking them out on people who might have a different view point than you.

        It’s also interesting that you assume I’m speaking from a place of privilege and that I would “just leave” a(n) professional/educational institution due to an inappropriate situation. Leaving a situation is far different from leaving a goal and there are laws that protect our end goal even if we must leave a particular supervisor/major advisor. I’m talking about fighting, not lying down. That you would assume otherwise, while, at the same time mocking what you deem “superior personal strength” is quite the paradoxical judgement.

        As a positive aside:
        I do hope that, in time, the wounds that these unwanted sexual advances have caused you and others will fully heal, whether you think I do or not. It seems that this blog is a method with which you express the negatives from these experiences, get them out of your head and into the fresh air and that’s good. I also failed to mention how much I enjoyed the vision of your sweet child kissing you, erasing all the unwanted pain that the other situations flooding through your mind caused.

      • Molly
        Posted 9 May 2012 at 2:11 PM | Permalink

        The part of your comment to which I was responding w/r/t work situations was As for the professors, “powerful” people, both men and women, have wielded that power over “peons” as long as the existence of the human race. Insecurities should not stop you from halting unwanted advances. My prerogative as a human being (and a PhD student) has always been that if they don’t want someone stronger than the idiocracy you describe in my chosen field, then they don’t want me. It’s silly to believe that refusing someone’s advances will cost you a particular position, especially now. The “should” and “silly” and “if they don’t want someone stronger than the idiocracy you describe in my chosen field, then they don’t want me” suggested that things seem easier/simpler from your perspective than from that of many people in various work situations, including my own previous department’s culture. Perhaps you were just typing quickly and didn’t really mean the blitheness those words implied to me.

        You can disagree here. I published your original comment, which as you suggest in a follow-up comment was easy to read as blaming. (I had not received/read the follow-up comments when I wrote my response.) But I still get to have had my own experiences and interpretations, too.

      • What the what.
        Posted 9 May 2012 at 2:28 PM | Permalink

        I don’t know that I was typing too fast. In fact, I’m a voracious re-reader, especially in dissertation writing mode (hence the follow up comments). I guess, being a graduate student, what I considered as finding a solution to the situation (ie. advancements of a professor) was to go to the provost with said situation and, in turn, find a different major advisor, professor, etc. Additionally, most educational and professional institutions will take legal action against these people.

        Just typing this, and thinking of a few friends who have had one experience or another with advancements from even world-renown scientists also highlights an even scarier trend…the student that caves to the advances of the professor or whatever those roles might be (supervisor/admin. asst., manager/employee, etc.).* Maybe it’s not just that society stresses the male dominant role, especially in situations of power, but that the experience of the dominator is one of success? Yikes. Especially, I think, if we go back to the club example, maybe we could both agree that those advances that you and I have experienced have worked on a number of people. So, why would these people not use the same methods again?

        * [I should mention that none of my friends did this.]

      • Posted 9 May 2012 at 2:49 PM | Permalink

        I guess, being a graduate student, what I considered as finding a solution to the situation (ie. advancements of a professor) was to go to the provost with said situation and, in turn, find a different major advisor, professor, etc. Additionally, most educational and professional institutions will take legal action against these people.

        What the what, as much as I’d like to believe in a world where the words of a graduate student would be taken seriously on par with the words of a tenured faculty member, this is often not the case. Sometimes speaking up does work. In my own circle, I know of at least once case where speaking up was successful and the faculty member who had transgressed was dismissed on the basis of violating the school’s sexual harassment policy. So yes, in cases where the safe-guards operate successfully, hooray! But given the way victims of sexual harassment and rape are pilloried, the knee-jerk victim-blaming behavior that happens, etc., I think it’s important not to belittle people who choose to keep their heads down. We might wish for a world where it didn’t make practical sense to stay silent, but we’ve created a world in which it still is often the pragmatic option for those who experience unwanted touch.

      • What the what.
        Posted 9 May 2012 at 3:04 PM | Permalink

        The more the legitimate cases of inappropriate sexual conduct are brought to light and the less “crying wolf” that occurs THEN we will see a real change in dynamic. You are correct, annajcook, the decision on what to do in/with the situation is solely up to the victim. I hope more people choose to come out about their unsavory encounters, especially when they concern people in places of authority. I have heard more stories of success rather than failure when sexual misconduct cases are actually reported, but, they HAVE to be reported for anything to be done.

    • lucy
      Posted 10 May 2012 at 11:07 AM | Permalink

      i think you are missing the point. you cannot blame the victims because they didnt say NO strong enough to creepy guys, sometimes they just dont take no as an answer, and i must say that victim blamming is the most common logic failure that you see these days and people still keep on doing it. but i just didnt expect it from a PHD student. you have to consider the original intend of the post, which is actually on morality of socieity making sexual harrasment OK, and it is scary how often it happens in our society. and you should think about, if you have a daughter and she is treated like this, are you OK with it?

      • What the what.
        Posted 10 May 2012 at 6:29 PM | Permalink

        I’m not blaming the victim.

  39. George
    Posted 9 May 2012 at 6:37 PM | Permalink

    “parade of hard penises…” lol

  40. Lupin
    Posted 11 May 2012 at 7:05 PM | Permalink

    I think maybe I should just apologize for the entirety of man. I know I didn’t do that to people, but at the same time, it shouldn’t have happened. Maybe I can help make it better in some way.

    So I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have been treated like that, and you have never and would never deserve any sort of action like that being done against you. We were born in a broken world, and it’s up to us to fix it. Guys like me need to learn to look past this backwards misogynistic view we grew up with and accept that other people have their own thoughts, views and opinions. It’s difficult for alot of people to do, and they really just need someone to lead by example.

    It’s up to the people alive now to make sure equality actually means equality, that our actions match our words, and that people won’t have to put up with that kind of treatment. And not just women, anyone. Everyone deserves the same basic rights that we were all born with.

    A man should be a gentleman, one who politely holds the door while acknowledging that the lady he holds it for is more than capable of taking care of herself. So far as the whole, “Men are stronger than women” thing. I think it’s crap. While men were off fighting or hunting, who built the homes? Who raised the kids? And how many of those roles were reversed in other tribes? It doesn’t matter. Women are as strong as me, and they’ve proved it. They have the right to be paid the same, given the same rights, and let to do the same things as men.

    The groping disgusts me more than anything. I’m a nineteen year old guy, and the way I was raised just screams inappropriate. No one deserves to have someone else put their hands on them if they don’t want it. It’s wrong for that to happen and it’s wrong for anyone to think different. I’m not talking about opinions, I’m talking about facts. People do not deserve that treatment, and the fact that you had to put up with it is disgusting.

    Saying someone’s body belongs to someone else is like saying that I don’t have the right to listen to music, or breathe. It’s wrong, and a blatant lie. You are your own person, with your own thoughts, feelings, opinions, and motivations. You deserve to be treated like it, not like something that should be seen and not heard.

    I’ve had friends I see as sisters, and other older women that have a sort of mother-like relationship with me. I have never treated them any differently than I would someone I love. And I do love them, and I have told them. They are beautiful people who I am always happy to see. And sometimes I get a bit too close to my friends but I treat everyone the same unless they ask me differently. Like my friend with PTSD. It took her awhile to get used to me. In fact, she would almost scream if got close enough to shake her hand. But eventually she got used to me, and even helped me out of a depression. Now we are best friends, who I regularly check up on and try to keep in touch now that she’s in college a few states away.

    I know the world is a grey area, but I try to keep it simple (treat everyone the same, generally be a nice guy, help where you can, offer where you’re not sure, etc.). I think everyone has the right to marry, get paid the same, and just be treated the same way. I’m sorry but arguing over things like women’s rights and gay rights is pointless. Everyone deserves the same rights that men have, and they deserve it now. Saying that gay marriage is against your religion is irrelevant. Saying that contraceptives for women is irrelevant. America was built with the principle of separation of church and state. Your religious views do not matter. Your god may say that gays marrying is wrong, but the one getting married may worship a god that doesn’t think it’s wrong. You forcing your views on them is religious oppression, not religious freedom.

    I tend to think of things like religion and sexuality similar to the way I think of someone’s PIN number. Yeah it’s not my business. Unless you want to tell me, but other than that it doesn’t matter. Ever. It doesn’t change you as a person, and it doesn’t mean you’re any better or worse as a person. I’ve got friends who are gay, muslim, wiccan, and I’m a mormon. None of us care about anyone else’s sexuality or religion. It doesn’t matter. We are all people, separate but equal, and we all love each other.

    I think that statement kind of sums this up pretty well. Separate but equal. That’s what we all are.

    Thanks for the thought.

    • QwertJohnson
      Posted 16 May 2012 at 1:00 PM | Permalink

      Here here that was a wonderfully written post. Though might I add that I don’t believe a man should be a gentleman that holds doors open for ladies. In fact I say screw the whole notion of being a gentlemen or a lady. They are just fake presentations put on to appease a narrow gender ideal and are often used to oppress. Instead of teaching our daughters and sons to act like “ladies” and “gentlemen” we should just teach them to be polite responsible people who will hold doors open for others around them independent of the gender of either party but simply by whoever gets there first. Haha it’s a silly point to make but I thought I’d put it out there. Keep going brother we are on the right side of history

  41. hilah
    Posted 20 May 2012 at 1:06 AM | Permalink

    This article made me so sad. It almost brought me to tears thinking about how I would probably had checked that box with out even thinking about it. I have been a victim of sexual assault. But then, I remembered that since then, every time any one has initiated unwanted contact with me has gotten some unwanted physical contact back, normally in the form of a punch to the chest or a slap. And I smiled to myself.

  42. Erin
    Posted 22 May 2012 at 2:05 PM | Permalink

    While acknowledging the greater meaning of the article, I couldn’t help but identify so strongly with this part:

    “When I was fourteen, I hemorrhaged while menstruating, leading to a very early first gynecological exam. After putting her fingers inside my body as I lay–abjectly terrified and deeply ashamed, feet in stirrups–on the table, the doctor asked whether I was sexually active. And when I said no, she assumed I was lying. That was my first experience of another person touching my genitals, and while technically she had my consent, let’s just say it didn’t go well. Many years of nightmares, body shame, and bouts of anxiety ensued.”

    I experienced almost the same thing with a male gyno at age 12. I had issues through my teens that put me back in that situation over and over again, specifically with regard to not being sexually active. I’m 25 now and have moved past the shame enough to love and enjoy it (just this year) but I still can’t make myself go back to the gyno. That’s Valium and Mom’s job. I guess I’m saying all this because I wanted you to know that it gives me some measure of comfort to know that, sadly, I’m not alone and that I hope it somehow comforts you to know that you aren’t either.

    • Molly
      Posted 22 May 2012 at 2:48 PM | Permalink

      Thank you, Erin–and you’re definitely not alone. It’s really rough. Loving and respectful midwifery care during my two pregnancies and births has helped me a *great* deal, as has learning to talk about it (I used to be ashamed of being ashamed, if that makes any sense: it was supposed to be so normal and neutral, why did it bother me so much???) but there are still wounds.

  43. Molly
    Posted 8 June 2012 at 12:20 PM | Permalink

    programming note: I’m turning off commenting for this post, because rather too many of the responses involve cursing at me and/or various rape-culture-supportive rhetorical moves. Apologies if you were hoping to say something substantive! I just don’t want to keep moderating this crap nearly five months after posting.

11 Trackbacks

  • By Bodies as Property « Fatshionelle on 30 January 2012 at 4:24 PM

    [...] This article does a fantastic way of explaining what the day to day life of a woman can be like. How constantly on-edge you are about the fact that if you aren’t diligent you might be assaulted. And even if you are diligent you might get assaulted anyway. If not assaulted,your body will most certainly be used against you. Your personal space will not be respected. Your consent is not necessary. I will force my body and my words and my power on you and your opinion and your want and your need is not important. Only mine is. I will sit on this subway and I will talk at you whether you want to hear it or not. I will move to sit beside you, and I will touch your shoulder. I will put my hand on your arm and look down your chest, smiling appreciatively at your cleavage. Why else would you be showing it off if you didn’t want me to admire and notice it? [...]

  • [...] @ first the egg | Have I ever had “ANY unwanted/undesired physical or sexual contact”?. Molly writes about how she reflexively indicated “no” for this question on some [...]

  • By On Being A Woman Today | Nik Bunting on 17 February 2012 at 12:49 PM

    [...] entry here and hop on over to read first Fatshionelle’s “Bodies as Property” and then over to First The Egg for the post that inspired it. I also recommend checking out Skepchick , which is a great overall [...]

  • [...] Check out the rest of the post here. [...]

  • [...] have noticed you otherwise…” Another like-minded blogger at firsttheegg.com, posted about the concept of a “typical women’s” experiences with unwanted sexual touch. It’s so common place, getting grabbed on the subway, professional men standing too close and [...]

  • [...] Have I ever had “ANY unwanted/undesired physical or sexual contact”? Earlier in this pregnancy, I filled out my “Initial Health History” form for prenatal and birth care. You know: check the box if you've experienced severe headaches, diabetes, all sorts of things…. [...]

  • By Common « prairiesister on 9 May 2012 at 1:11 PM

    [...] awful feelings are brought to you by Have I ever had “ANY unwanted/undesired physical or sexual contact?” The article is excellent. It’s moving, important, and brave. I counted, including mine, [...]

  • [...] behaviourHere’s a post written by a woman who came across a question on a health history form that should have been easy to answer, but maybe isn’t (trigger warning):I filled out my “Initial Health History” form for prenatal and birth care. [...]

  • By Dealing with ‘Rape Culture’ « Fad Culture on 6 June 2012 at 12:44 PM

    [...] I came across this really thought-provoking article tonight and just thought I’d share it with you guys. The author couldn’t have said it better. She basically compiled the thoughts of many females out there.     READ. [...]

  • [...] They are helped by a culture of violation – more commonly called rape culture – and it’s this that the value of consentfulness stands against. (Some activists have been popularising the phrase “consent culture”, but I won’t use that here – it’s too closely bound to sex and in particular too often used within BDSM spaces to be useful here.) Because we live in a violation culture, in which violation is normalised, a lot of everyday things – big and small – are also violations. [...]

  • [...] Molly Westerman, Have I ever had ‘ANY unwanted/undesired physical or sexual contact’? [...]

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