this guy like two years ago took pictures up my friend’s skirts at a party while they were drunk and dancing, and when we confronted him about it he smirked and laughed and said “don’t be like that” and “your skirts are really short, just look at you!”
and my friends were crying and so shaken up, makeup all over their faces, face down in the bedroom crying, and we kicked him out of the party. but a month or so later he released a “skate video” with some of that footage in it of my friends dancing. we went public with it then, and told everyone what he did, and how he reacted. this guy is really popular and “cool” and has that whole mac demarco skater boy thing going on. we thought that once we told everyone what he did and how he refused to apologize and laughed in the face of my sobbing and humiliated best friends he would be ostracized. instead, his female friends called us bullies. they told us he did it because he’s an ARTIST and a “documentary filmmaker” (literally a direct quote.) People we considered our friends told us to “calm down.” A girl who did a big anti rape-culture art show in town that year, who we were friends with, got angry with us for talking about it. she showed up at one of our parties in our house with him, and when we kicked him out she rolled her eyes at us, left with him, and stopped being friends with us entirely. people we considered our friends shared his video on facebook with that awful footage in it. almost no one seemed to care.
this year, another Popular Guy who runs in the same circles as him was accused of sexual assault. yes, there is no hard evidence, but I wasn’t surprised and I fully support the women who came forward. This time though, I wasn’t surprised that his friends - women and men - came to his defense, that he was still invited to parties, that the news faded from everyone’s mind as soon as they heard it.
But now I don’t go to parties anymore, because I don’t feel safe!!! Everyone wants to invite “cool guys” and everyone wants to see and be seen, and I absolutely feel like a cr*zy person, because if you say “hey this isn’t right” no one gives a fuck!! really and truly, someone will be pro-women all over twitter, a feminist in their art and their conversations, they’ll post shitty Vice Broadly articles on facebook about periods or empowerment, but when it comes down to the actual matter of dealing with men accused of harming women, men simply have more social clout than women. that’s all.
I think there are a variety of reasons for this. I think one reason this seems more common in “alt” circles or “artsy” circles or whatever is that there’s a considerable shortage of “artsy men,” so if one is around he is treasured and posted on a sort of pedestal. he doesn’t “look” like a predator the way a frat guy or a creepy old man with big thick glasses does. he doesn’t fit into our narrowly conceived stereotype of masculine dominance. maybe he’s “sensitive,” and he’s an artist, he writes songs, he’s a fucking “documentary filmmaker,” he’s always there for you, he’s never ever done something like that to you.
And besides, couldn’t girls just make up assault? never mind that they have nothing to gain from it at all, that even while speaking out they know deep down that he will likely be defended, that it takes a lot of bravery to come forward. never mind that a woman coming forward is risking her social standing and knows it.
the idea is that a woman who speaks up is simply too sensitive and dramatic. this is a myth that is enforced to keep women quiet, and it works. It works too well. It works when I get dressed for parties in shapeless clothes, when I try to be invisible because it is the only thing I can think to do in defense. it works when I don’t go to parties at all. It works when I don’t bring up these stories anymore because I feel like I’m the only person on earth who really cares either way. It works when girls i once considered friends start to date a man who has harmed women I love, and I watch, and I know it is not my place to say anything, and that even if I did it would go in one ear and out the other. It works because I know she’s already heard this story before, and it doesn’t matter who tells it or how they tell it, because it is always Our Word Against His, and his word always wins.
I can still hear him sneering and I can still picture his face when we kicked him out of that party. I have dreams sometimes that faceless men tie me up and film my naked body or paint it, and they tell me it is just for their art. I stopped wearing skirts to school.
To know that our body belongs to us alone is such a simple thing, such a tiny thing to ask for, but I know that isn’t the case when I am out in public. I know these men are out here, men who have never faced consequences for their actions against women, men who really truly feel entitled to our bodies, and that every time women defend them the idea is reinforced in their head that they can do anything they please. In this climate, I feel extremely unsafe.
The worst of it all is, after we confronted this man for taking pictures up our skirts, everyone kept telling us “well it isn’t that big of a deal, he didn’t touch you, he didn’t hurt you, it’s only underwear!” and you know what? In a sense, they’re right! If, when we asked him what he was doing, he would have responded respectfully, if he would have apologized even once, we would have forgotten about it. If he had told us then and there that he’s a “documentary filmmaker” and he didn’t realize we were uncomfortable with us filming him, if he had deleted the video like we asked, the whole thing would have been dropped. But he didn’t do that. He laughed. He rolled his eyes. He openly mocked us. He sent his friends - people we considered our friends - to tell us how wrong we are. He never once apologized, only said “I am sorry that you’re upset” a few months later. He never once acknowledged that what he did was absolutely not okay. No one did, and no one ever will. This man learned that he can access a woman’s body without her permission, laugh in her face if she and her friends resist it, be defended, even praised, and get away with it. He learned that the women he violates will be ostracized if they speak out about it, and since that makes him and his friends uncomfortable she won’t be invited around anymore, so that he can continue to live his life free of consequences.
But to tell you the truth, I would honestly rather never go to a party or a house show or an art exhibit again, I would rather stay home. The fact that this bullshit is allowed to happen so often makes me angrier than I have words to say, and I just want to live in a world I feel safe in, I want women to be safe, I want men to be held accountable, I want my body to be mine again. That’s it.