A week ago I was assaulted.
Honestly, I've been torn about calling it assault. I don't want people thinking that it was worse than it was, or that I'm being a drama queen. At the same time, I'm a little tired of us qualifying sexual transgressions against victims, because we want to downplay the impact. As I often do when I'm torn about word choice, I turned to the dictionary, and this is what I found:
The second definition of assault is "a concerted attempt to do something demanding."
The definition of sexual assault is "unwanted sexual contact."
Those both sound like what happened.
So, yeah. I was assaulted a week ago.
Here, in brief, is what happened:
I invited a guy to come watch Jessica Jones with me. We were supposed to hang out, the series had just dropped, we were both MCU fans--it seemed like a natural fit. Because I'm cautious, I actually invited him and then immediately followed it with this message;
I am not inviting you over for the colloquial "Netflix and Chill." This is a genuine Nerd meetup. I actually want to watch Jessica Jones.
He responded with agreement and I thought we were good. I made popcorn. He brought whiskey in a brown paper bag (which, if you're not familiar with the show, is actually thematically very amusing). We settled in to watch.
Then, about fifteen minutes into the second episode, it happened.
Honestly, I'm not sure what prompted it on his part. I wasn't watching him; I wasn't really engaged with him in any way. I was watching Jessica Jones, seriously focused on the drama unfolding before me.
That is, until I felt him shift on the couch, and then his hands grabbed my face, and he tried to stick his tongue down my throat.
It's weird, but I don't remember if he actually kissed me or not. My mind is completely blanking on what happened for about three seconds. I have a vague feeling that he did manage it? But, seriously, the memory of the moment is gone. So, I can't say for sure.
I jerked away from him, and gave him what, I'm sure, was a look of utter bewilderment.
"Whoa! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat are you doing?"
"Oh," he said back with a sheepish smile. "Sorry. Sorry."
"No." My voice got stronger as my brain started to process what had just happened. "Seriously, dude, what are you doing?!"
"Sorry," he said again, still smiling in that genial, calm way we do when we think sorry covers it and it wasn't that big a deal. "Let's just watch."
"Uh, no." Normally I'm a pretty animated person, but now my voice was flat and dead. "You need to leave. Now."
The smile slid off his face as he realized I was serious. That he wasn't just going to be laughingly forgiven. That I was legitimately kicking him out of my house.
He moved with agonizing slowness, getting ready to leave. He kept saying "sorry, sorry, sorry," until finally I said "I heard you. I don't really have anything else to say." Then he looked at me with hurt and bewildered eyes, like he couldn't believe I was refusing to forgive him. Absolve him. Just let it go.
At one point he said, "I can see that you're upset." I didn't know what to say to that. Couldn't figure out how to put what I was feeling into words. Couldn't express how angry it made me that he'd touched me, and how much more angry it was making me that he didn't understand why I cared.
As he finally--finally! After what felt like an eternity!--pulled on his coat, he said "I'm sorry I ruined things."
I didn't answer.
I was waiting for him to get out.
I spent the rest of the night vibrating. I was furious, and miserable, and I wanted to vomit, but I didn't know why. After all, it wasn't that bad, was it? One unwanted kiss is not that big a deal. I wasn't hurt. I wasn't raped. He left when I told him to.
Why was I so angry?
It's taken me a week. A week where I've told almost everyone I know about this event, and talked it over with them, and gotten a lot of insight from others. But I finally know why I was so upset. Why I'm still upset. Why, even as I'm typing this, my stomach is churning and I want to grind my teeth. Basically, it boils down to this:
He didn't treat me like my desires had any impact on what should happen.
After all, I'd told him I wasn't inviting him over to hook up. And I was clearly watching the TV, not giving him inviting glances. But he'd decided the time had come for his tongue to be in my mouth, so that was what was going to happen. Not because he was trying to assault me, just because, in his world view, it's not my decision to make.
Because women don't own themselves. Our bodies are not our property. They belong to whomever chooses to claim us.
We see it over and over again. From our President, who treats women (including his own daughter) like their most significant trait is how much he wants to bang them; to that psycho that shot up a sorority house in order to "punish all women for the crime of denying" him love; to those "nice guys" who get angry when they're put in the "friend-zone"; to schools that insist that girl's wear concealing clothing so as not to distract the boys.
It's not just the "bad guys" or the "creeps." It's everyone.
When women are assaulted, we often tell them that they should have been more clear in their rejections. That their non-verbal cues weren't enough. That they should have been explicit about saying no. But I was clear, and it didn't help. Because the problem is not that we aren't clear about what we want. The problem is that, when your body is considered public property, what you want is less important that what the man looking at you wants.
And this is so universal, so widely accepted, that if you get angry when they treat you like public property, it actually confuses them.
I'd said I wasn't inviting him over to hook-up. I'd been in the middle of watching something on the TV. He clearly, unequivocally, treated me like I had no agency over myself. But when I got upset, he could not figure out why.
And he was hurt that I wouldn't forgive him. Because, just like I owed him my body and my attention, I also owed him my forgiveness.
And, in the end, the final thing he apologized for was "ruining it." Not assaulting me. Not treating me as less than a person. Not ignoring my right to choose for myself.
No, he apologized for the part he wished hadn't happened. The part where the date wasn't going to happen anymore. Because that's all he could see that was wrong.
You know, the funny thing is, I'm sure he wouldn't have wandered into my house without an invitation. But he felt free to put his hands on my body without one.
Because my house, obviously, is mine.
But my body? Not so much.
A week ago I was assaulted.
And I'm still fucking angry.
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